Monday, March 25, 2024

A MODERN TUDOR MYSTERY: Guest Post by Karen E. Olson

In 2014, I was on a panel at the Long Beach Bouchercon moderated by Hank Phillippi Ryan, and she asked each of us to reveal something about ourselves that no one—at least in the mystery community—would know about us.
I might as well have said, “I’m Karen, and I’m a Tudorphile.”
My decades-long obsession with all things Tudor—Henry VIII, his wives, his children, and their various relations like Lady Jane Grey and Mary Queen of Scots—came tumbling out. I don’t generally read fiction about the era—the exceptions being Hilary Mantel’s brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy and Elizabeth Fremantle’s Queen’s Gambit—rather, I collect biographies and books about the Tudor era (The Private Lives of the TudorsThe Tudors in LoveThe Hidden Lives of Tudor Women) that line my bookshelves. In recent years I’ve made more trips to the library for books because there are just so many in my house, but I make an exception for anything Tudor related, mainly because they’re denser and longer and require far more time than the three-week borrowing period.
For years, I wondered what I could do with all of my “research.” I’m not a historian and not particularly interested in writing historical fiction—although I love reading it. But I felt that I had to do something with all of these Tudors taking up residence in my head.
Bringing Henry and his wives into modern day was something I’d never seen before—and the more I thought about it, the more I thought they could easily be as relevant now as they were 500 years ago. The wives were all strong and progressive in their own ways. Henry was a serial husband. While he was king of England back in the day, why couldn’t he be a billionaire CEO of a corporate empire now? I abandoned the idea that Henry would be obsessed over having a son; that wouldn’t work in today’s world. In the same vein, religion and destroying monasteries were ditched in favor of corporate takeovers and stockholders who ran scared when murder surfaced. Wives had to interact with each other and deal with other wives’ children.
It was a story that we’ve heard before, but new.
Because I write murder mysteries, that had to be the direction I headed in. Funnily enough, I started writing a police procedural, beginning with the discovery of a headless body—how else could it start?—being investigated by a state trooper. The bones of the story began to take shape, but I found myself drawn even more to the wives—not just as potential witnesses or victims. While all my other books are written in first person from one point of view, I changed it up to have multiple points of view in third person. The state trooper is still there, but he’s now a more peripheral character. 
I struggled with how close I wanted to stay to the history, but I found it was a bit too confining so I took liberties with the facts and decided I was okay with it, hoping a diehard Tudorphile would be as well. 
By the time I was done, I had transformed the narrative into a domestic suspense homage to the Tudors.

Karen E. Olson 
is the winner of the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award and a Shamus Award finalist. She is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries, the Tattoo Shop mysteries, and the Black Hat thrillers. Karen was a longtime editor, both in newspapers and at Yale University Press. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut. 
Karen E. Olson's latest mystery, An Inconvenient Wife: A Modern Tudor Mystery (Pegasus Crime – April 2nd, 2024), is the first in a new crime series inspired by the Tudor era. This story takes the reader into the world of Kate Parker, who has just married billionaire Hank Tudor when a headless body is discovered near their summer home . . .


Deborah Ortega said...

Sounds so fun Thank you

Kim Hays said...

If there were ever a family that belonged in a murder mystery, it's the Tudors. Henry VIII's father almost surely killed the two York princes in the Tower. Great idea to modernize them!

Kim Hays said...

The Tudors are an excellent fit for a murder mystery. Henry VIII's father killed the two child princes in the Tower. I look forward to meeting all six wives in modern guise.