Shadow Work

Posted Sun, 07/01/12

The idea and formation of In the Shadow of the King came to me about ten years ago. I was contacted by the wife of a descendant of Sir Francis Bryan, curiously because of our shared interest in the classic book Bledding Sorrow by Marilyn Harris. Our contact was through email at first, were we also learned about our mutual love of Tudor history. It was then she mentioned her husband was a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bryan, who was a rather mysterious confidant to King Henry VIII.

All of that aside, the story idea and first several chapters for In the Shadow of the King came rather quickly for me. I developed the blend of modern day fiction into Bryan's life at the court of Henry VIII, giving real-life characters distinct personalities and voices. Unlike straight fiction, however, the book requires a great deal of research and historical accuracy. I have two large file boxes full of material - books and other documents - as well as confirmation of Bryan's burial place in Ireland from a local parish priest via fax. It was also easy for me to become consumed by the story because of my nearly lifelong interest in all things Tudor, specifically Henry VIII and his children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.

My association with Bryan's descendant ended shortly after I began writing In the Shadow of the King, mainly because she was under the mistaken impression she could dictate the storyline and my writing methods. I'm not sure where she got that idea. I've never written any of my books at the behest or direction of anyone else. It's impossible for me to work that way. Stories and ideas come straight from my head, frankly, and I never let anyone into the mix (aside from suggestions by editors). Another factor that ended the "Bryan descendant" association was her veiled hostility toward my husband Wilbert at the time, whom I believe she regarded as less than human because of his Mexican heritage – no matter that he was born in Indiana! The attitude sickened and enraged me, more so than any of her misplaced literary assumptions. I have no room in my life for bigots on any level.

"In the Shadow of the King" by Deborah O'TooleI shelved In the Shadow of the King for quite awhile, taking it out on occasion to write a few scenes or entire chapters. My interest in the book and the story itself has not lessened with time, but my writing schedule has been crowded with so many other projects for the last several years it was impossible for me to settle in. The time and concentration needed for research was my main stumbling block, obviously. I've had little spare of either since leaving Washington in 2007. For example, between then and now I've finished full-length novels such as Celtic Remnants, Mind Sweeper, Bloodfrost and all eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga, not to mention the thirty-four titles in the Food Fare Culinary Collection and several cookbooks. Sometimes I get exhausted just thinking about it.

Last month was also incredibly busy for me, with the release of three books and all the prep-work each one entailed. The Potato came first on June 3rd (the latest book in the Culinary Collection); followed by Bloodfrost on June 12th (written under my pseudonym Deidre Dalton) and on June 22nd Club Lighthouse Publishing released Enthrallment, the fourth book in the Collective Obsessions Saga.

As much as I love writing, I truly needed a short break from it. At the end of last month, I took some time and dipped into the research pool for In the Shadow of the King. Unlike my previous forays, the project I took on was reconstructing Bryan's family tree. I went as far back as 1497, piecing the genealogy up to 1852. The names and dates were garnered from several internet sources, along with print material I've gathered over the last several years. The Bryan family tree is not yet complete, but I made a huge dent in the accumulated data. The task was made easier by Fam-Tree software, which allows me to track and connect family members whenever I need to add or correct statistical information. With the software, I'm also able to view charts in compact form or a full-blown family tree, along with family-wide groups, ancestry charts and the ability to define a relationship between any two people on the tree.

Fam-Tree software screenshot of the Bryan Family Tree (compact version). Click on image to see bigger size in a new window.

Pictured above: Fam-Tree software screenshot of the Bryan Family Tree (compact version). Click on image to see larger size in a new window.

It was a nice break from the dawn-to-dusk writing schedule I've had myself on for the last few years. Ironically, it also inspired me to write several new scenes for In the Shadow of the King on Friday night.

As with my other lengthy endeavors, In the Shadow of the King will cross the finish line in due course. It took me nearly twenty years to write all eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga (with several pit-stops in between as I lived my life), and three years to finish both Celtic Remnants and Mind Sweeper. Longer stories take longer to write – at least in my case – especially when they involve multiple characters which span many fictional years. For me, it's all about starting out with an idea, developing the idea, keeping the details organized and then allowing the creativity to flow.

On the bright side, Bloodfrost only took me seven months to write.

We'll see what happens . . .

Irish Eyes: In the Shadow of the King

Related Post: Brief Detour (08/22/20).

Tags: In the Shadow of the King; Writing