This week for Indie Spotlight I would like to introduce you to Judith Arnopp. Welcome to my blog, Judith!
A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.
She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but she is currently writing a novel from a male perspective, that of Henry VIII himself.
Her novels include:
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII: the Aragon Years (coming soon)
The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers
Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria, and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter @juditharnopp and Instagram @judith_arnopp
Author page: author.to/juditharnoppbooks
Hi Judith, you have certainly written an impressive number of novels. What made you decide to publish your books independently?
When I was ready to publish my first novel, Peaceweaver, back in 2009, I was already nearing fifty so I didn’t have decades to waste chasing publishers and agents. The advent of home computers brought so many aspiring authors out of the shadows, all eager to make it big and as a result,competition was huge. I made a few attempts to find a traditional publisher but when Amazon introduced kindle and several people suggested that independent was the way to go, I decided to give it a shot. Things were slow to start but over the years I’ve built up a following and now my sales are good enough to enable me to write full time.
That’s fantastic, congratulations on your success! What do you consider to be the benefits of being an indie author?
As an indie you work at your own pace, you don’t have to make changes to please the publisher so you can’t write the book you want rather than the book your publisher wants. That doesn’t mean you can cut corners though. You still need to engage a professional editor and if you lack the skills to do it yourself, a book cover designer or formatter. As an indie you also receive a larger share of royalties but of course, you will probably make fewer sales than authors with the big publishers. I enjoy the creative freedom of being indie but my husband says that is because I am a control freak.
It sounds perfect, but I’m sure there must also be drawbacks. What particular challenges do you think independent authors face?
Getting noticed is the biggest challenge. Many readers avoid independent authors and it is hard to change that mind set. Independent authors are wrongly categorised with hobby authors, and there are some who should never have put pen to paper but in the main independent authors are brilliant. Independent publishing allows an author to take greater creative risks, offer bigger thrills, break down barriers that traditional publishers would never sanction.
It is a battle to be taken seriously. To sell someone a book you must first encourage them to pick it up, so the cover needs to be eye catching, the blurb needs to hook them and the first few pages must make them want to take it home. But it mustn’t stop there. You should strive to make your content even better than a traditionally published book. We don’t get away with even tiny flaws and there have been a few independent authors who let themselves (and the rest of us) down.
In the past I’ve bought books with fabulous covers and blurbs but a few pages in, there are typos, repetition, page after page of dull narrative that should have been rewritten or scrapped altogether. But these days, most books written by indie authors are totally enthralling and professional in every way.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?
Don’t take short cuts. Work on your writing and only when it is good enough, acquire a thorough education in formatting and production skills. Use a professional editor, find a team of beta readers, and don’t rely on your auntie’s opinion that it is the best book she’s ever read. No matter how great your story is, there is no point in publishing a sub-standard book. It is a tough world out there, and readers and reviewers will not let you get away with cutting corners. Bad reviews hurt, they slash your confidence and hamper your creativity, so get it right and if you don’t know how to, then ask a fellow indie author for advice. The Independent writing community is brilliantly supportive, and they want you to do well.
That’s nice that everyone helps each other out. What have you learned from being an indie author?
Everything! My first attempt at a paperback was bad. Nothing wrong with the story but I had no idea what I was doing. The resulting book was huge because I’d used double spacing and a large font, which made it expensive because of the number of pages. It also had a terrible cover but, as with other skills, I learnt as I went along. Back then, there were fewer places to turn to for help and I had zero budget. I learned to keep it simple but tidy. There is no point in lashing out on expensive covers and fancy formatting if your punctuation is terrible – an editor is essential, even if you do have an A in English Language. I set aside the budget for an editor before anything else.
I also learned that we all make mistakes but (in writing anyway) mistakes can be corrected. If you spot a typo don’t beat yourself up, just go in quietly and fix it. It is simple on Kindle, not so simple for paperbacks but it can be done.
I’ve also learned not to respond to reviewers and to be wary of troll reviews. Read your reviews, take on board the valid points but ignore the silly or abusive.
Good advice for preserving a positive frame of mind, I’m sure. OK, final question as we are approaching the end of 2020, what can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?
I’m working on my thirteenth Historical Fiction novel. This one is called A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII: The Aragon Years. It is written from Henry’s point of view, in his voice and is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far. It should be published early 2021 so keep your eyes peeled.
My last book The Heretic Wind; the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England has done brilliantly this year but there have been horrendous delays with the audible version. I am not alone in this and many other authors and narrators using ACX are seeing the same thing. Hopefully, The Heretic Wind audio version will finally become available very soon.
I will also be working on a non-fiction title for Pen and Sword Books about Tudor clothing. This is my first foray into non-fiction since university so it’s an exciting challenge. While writing and researching for this book I will also be working on Book two of my Henry VIII series but due to other commitments, this one might take a bit longer to reach the shelves.
Those two sound very interesting – I will keep an eye out for them! Thank you so much for taking part in my Indie Spotlight feature, Judith, and good luck with your future projects!
The Beaufort Chronicle (three book series)
The Beaufort Chronicle comprises of The Beaufort Bride, The Beaufort Woman and The King’s Mother, tracing the life of Margaret Beaufort from her nursery days to her years as the advisor to her son, King Henry VII in The King’s Mother.
The Beaufort Bride:
As King Henry VI slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war, a child is married to the mad king’s brother.
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, takes his child bride into Wales where Margaret must put aside childhood, acquire the dignity of a Countess and, despite her tender years, produce Richmond with a son and heir.
As the friction between York and Lancaster intensifies 14-year-old Margaret is widowed and turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor.
At his stronghold in Pembroke, two months after her husband’s death, Margaret gives birth to a son whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king.
Margaret is small of stature but her tiny frame conceals a fierce and loyal heart and a determination that will not falter until her son’s destiny as the king of England is secured.
The Beaufort Bride traces Margaret’s early years from her nursery days at Bletsoe Castle to the birth of her only son in 1457 at Pembroke Castle. Her story continues in Book Two: The Beaufort Woman.
Add The Beaufort Bride to you To Be Read list here:
Buy The Beaufort Bride here:
The Beaufort Woman
As the struggle between York and Lancaster continues, Margaret Beaufort fights for admittance to the court of the victorious Edward IV of York and his unpopular queen, Elizabeth Woodville.
The old king and his heir are dead, York now rules over England and the royal nursery is full.
But Edward and Elizabeth’s magnificent court hides a dark secret, a deception that threatens the security of the English throne … and all who lust after it.
In 1483, with the untimely death of the King, Margaret finds herself at the heart of chain of events that threaten the supremacy of York, and will change England forever.
The Beaufort Woman: One woman’s selfless struggle for the rights of her son.
Add The Beaufort Woman to your To Be Read list here:
Buy The Beaufort Woman here:
The King’s Mother
Richard III is dead. With the English crown finally in his possession, Henry Tudor’s reign is hindered by continuing unrest.
While the king is plagued with uprisings and pretenders to his throne, Margaret in her capacity as The King’s Mother oversees the running of his court.
The warring houses of York and Lancaster are united but as the royal nursery fills with children Margaret’s expectation of perfect harmony begins to disintegrate.
As quickly as Henry dispatches those whose move against him, new conflicts arise and, dogged by deceit and the harrowing shadow of death, Margaret realises that her time for peace has not yet come.
Intrigue, treason and distrust blights the new Tudor dynasty, challenging Margaret’s strength of character and her steadfast faith in God.
Add The King’s Mother to your To Be Read list here:
Buy The King’s Mother here:
The Heretic Wind; the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Adored by her parents and pampered by the court, the infant Princess Mary’s life changes suddenly and drastically when her father’s eye is taken by the enigmatic Anne Boleyn. Mary stands firm against her father’s determination to destroy both her mother’s reputation, and the Catholic church.
It is a battle that will last throughout both her father’s and her brother’s reign, until she is almost broken by persecution. When the ailing King Edward dies, Mary expects to be crowned queen.
But she has reckoned without John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, who before Mary can act, usurps her crown and places it on the head of her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey.
Furious and determined not to be beaten, Mary musters a vast army at Framlingham Castle; a force so strong that Jane Grey’s supporters crumble in the face of it, and Mary is at last crowned Queen of England.
But her troubles are only just beginning. Rebellion and heresy take their toll both on Mary’s health, and on the English people. Suspecting she is fatally ill, and desperate to save her people from heresy, Mary steps up her campaign to compel her subjects to turn back to the Catholic faith.
All who resist will face punishment for heresy in the flames of the Smithfield fires.
Add The Heretic Wind to your To Be Read list here:
Buy The Heretic Wind here:
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
Each night, after dark, men flock to Bankside seeking girls of easy virtue; prostitutes known as The Winchester Geese.
Joanie Toogood has worked the streets of Southwark since childhood but her path is changed forever by an encounter with Francis Wareham, a spy for the King’s secretary, Thomas Cromwell.
Meanwhile, across the River, at the glittering court of Henry VIII, Wareham also sets his cap at Evelyn and Isabella Bourne, members of the Queen’s household and the girls, along with Joanie, are drawn into intrigue and the shadow of the executioner’s blade.
Set against the turmoil of Henry VIII’s middle years, The Winchester Goose provides a brand new perspective of the happenings at the royal court, offering a frank and often uncomfortable observation of life at both ends of the social spectrum.
Add The Winchester Goose to your To Be Read list:
Buy The Winchester Goose here:
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Next Thursday 17th December I will be welcoming Terry Tyler to Indie Spotlight. Hope you will join us.