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History Buff is a site
for history lovers everywhere. It is also a site very interested in women
of the past. Although I (sadly) no longer have time to continue these interviews, here is an archive of Q&As about women's lives
in history. And please feel free to stop by History Buff's
sister site for archaeological discoveries making news today. Enjoy!
historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the
past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
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Monday, February 2, 2009
Q&A With Historical Fiction Author Karen Harper
*In your latest novel, MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE, you explore an aspect of William Shakespeare’s life that no other historical fiction writer has delved into. What fascinated you about William’s love affair with Anne Whateley?
Other writers have used Anne Whateley in two dramas I know of, but no one—as far as I can find—has written her story in a historical novel. However, the “other Anne” theory has had its scholarly champions over the years. Proof of Anne’s deep involvement in Will Shakespeare’s life hangs mostly on the fact that an Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton is recorded in a still extant marriage bond as betrothed to Will previous to the entry that he would wed Anne Hathaway of Stratford. (My website www.karenharperauthor.com has more on this, including a link to the marriage bonds, which are in Latin.)
Also, I see Anne W’s footprints other places in Shakespeare’s life. In his will, he left Anne H. his “second best bed,” and there has been much discussion over the years about who got the first best bed. Also, Shakespeare arranged for a friend to inherit the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse where he lived in his heyday in London—in other words, neither it nor its profits went to Anne H. And who was the Dark Lady of his sonnets and the inspiration for many of his feisty, bright female characters? I love writing mysteries and detective stories, and in this case, clues point to “Will’s other wife” having a great impact on his life.
Let me emphasize that I think Anne W. would see herself as Shakespeare’s wife and not just his mistress. They might well have married secretly. In that era, of course, the word mistress meant Mrs. or wife, not only lover or kept woman.
But to your question—everything fascinated me about Anne Whateley. If people can argue about what Will did in his “lost early years” and even whether or not he really wrote the plays, let them take a look at my novel and then argue Anne Whateley.
*How much of MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE is based on fact and how much is fiction?
*Tell us something surprising about women in 15th century England.
*How did you go about researching Anne Whateley’s life?
*What are you working on next?