A PROMISE KEPT!
AmeriCymru: A year or so ago, when we interviewed Mari Griffith on the publication of her debut novel 'Root of the Tudor Rose', she promised that Americymru readers would be among the first to know about her new novel. And are we, Mari?
Mari: Yes, absolutely! You're certainly among the first because the book has only recently been published. And, by the way, thank you for inviting me back - it's a pleasure to be here.
AmeriCymru: Now, this is your second novel, isn't it, so just before we hear all about it, can you tell us whether the first one did well?
Mari: Very well, I'm pleased to say, particularly in the US which I wasn't really expecting. But perhaps that had a little bit to do with this very web site - who knows?! And I was particularly pleased by its success because Root of the Tudor Rose was a story woven around the little-known Welsh origins of the Tudor dynasty. Essentially it was about the clandestine love affair between Catherine de Valois, the widow of King Henry V and the Welshman Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur. I was filled with a missionary zeal to point out that the most famous dynasty in English history wasn't really 'English' at all - there was a strong element of Welsh in there, too.
AmeriCymru: And is the second book a sequel to it?
Mari: No, not exactly and neither does it have any particular Welsh flavour though it does continue the story of one or two of the characters we've already met, particularly Eleanor Cobham who became the Duchess of Gloucester during the course of the first book.
AmeriCymru: So what made you want to write this one?
Mari: Because it's such an astounding story. Let me give you a flavour of it ... and perhaps giving you the title is a good place to start. It's called The Witch of Eye and it's the story of the events leading up to the most sensational treason trial of the fifteenth century. Now, the Duke of Gloucester, who was so very nasty to Owen Tudor in the first book, is heir to the throne of his young nephew, King Henry VI. The king is a troubled teenager, spotty and a bit dim, who is by no means suited to the position he's inherited as supreme sovereign of England and France. To the Duchess of Gloucester's way of thinking, her husband, Humphrey, would make a far, far better King of England. She also realises that if anything should happen to King Henry, then her own husband would inherit the throne and she, Eleanor, would become Queen of England. A delicious prospect and she becomes obsessed with it!
AmeriCymru: Don't tell me she tried to bump him off!
Mari: Who, the King? No, not exactly, but she did gather around her a group of advisers, some of whom could interpret certain astral signs and not only read her horoscope but also tell her what the future held in store for the young King. And one of those advisers was the witch of the title - 'The Witch of Eye'.
AmeriCymru: 'Eye' as in 'I Spy'? That's an odd name.
Mari: Yes, isn't it? In fact it was the manor farm of Eye-next-Westminster, the monastic estate which belonged to Westminster Abbey and its Benedictine monastery. If you happen to be a tourist in modern-day London, it's difficult to imagine that in medieval times, a thousand acres of land to the west of the Abbey was prime farming land. It was a cattle station, too, where drovers from Wales and the West of England would take their bullocks to be fattened up before being slaughtered and sold at Smithfield Market to the townsfolk of London who had no room to farm crops and keep animals of their own. The whole of the area now occupied by Hyde Park and Mayfair to the north, right down through Belgravia to Sloane Square and Pimlico in the south, was once part of that farm. The old name of 'Eye' changed down the centuries and became Eybury and, finally, Ebury, which is now seen only in street names. One of these is Ebury Bridge Road which leads on to Buckingham Palace Road and the palace itself stands on land which was once part of the great monastic estate of Eye-next-Westminster.
AmeriCymru: So tell us more about the treason.
Mari: Well, in a sense, poor old Eleanor was more sinned against than sinning because, above all else, she wanted to be able to give her husband a son and heir so that, in the event that he did inherit the throne, at least he'd have legitimate heirs of his own. The only problem was that she sought help from Margery Jourdemayne, a so-called 'wise woman' whose husband was the yeoman-farmer in charge of the Eye estate. Eleanor consulted Margery in her desperate search for magical potions to help her conceive a child. Not such a terrible thing in itself but when the Duke's enemies got hold of the story they blew it up out of all proportion and it all got very nasty indeed. The sensational trial at which they were accused of treason against the King was the biggest cause célèbre of the fifteenth century!
AmeriCymru: Not much chance of a happy ending, then!
Mari: There is a happy ending, as it happens, but only because I invented it! It's the only part of the story which isn't absolutely based on fact. I decided to create a new character, a young Devonshire woman called Jenna, who could provide me with a positive love story which would make things turn out all right in the end. Oh, and there's a little girl in there, too, whom readers seem to dote on. She's called Kitty, or sometimes 'Kittymouse', which is Jenna's pet name for her.
AmeriCymru: It sounds as if the characters really came alive for you.
Mari: Oh, they did. It was almost as though they lived right here in the Vale of Glamorgan - around the corner from our house! I think you've got to believe in your characters before you can expect readers to enjoy your book.
AmeriCymru: Well, from what you've said about it, Mari, it sounds as though readers are already beginning to enjoy it.
Mari: It does seem that they are because it's already picked up several five star reviews. And I'm delighted at that because I've got a bad dose of 'second book syndrome' at the moment, just hoping that people will like the second book as much as they liked the first!
AmeriCymru: So, just remind us of the title again ...
Mari: The title is The Witch of Eye and it's published by Accent Press. You'll find it on Amazon as an ebook and it's out as a paperback too, so it should be available through most US bookshops and via the Americymru web site of course. And by the way, thank you for making that possible and for letting me tell you all about it. But in case anyone has any problems, I'll leave you with some links you might find helpful: