Giveaway & Guest Post: The Past is Another Country by Sarah Hoyt, author of No Will But His

Sarah Hoyt, the author of No Will But His: A Novel of Kathryn Howard, is here today at Passages to the Past to talk about writing historical fiction.  Welcome Sarah!

I believe it was L. P. Hartley who said “the past is another country, they do things differently there.”

No one is more aware of this than an historical-fiction writer. It’s actually worse than that. Not only is the past another country in which they do things differently, but we have to speak of them to the present, who will judge them by the values of today and often be horrified.

I think the first time I understood the magnitude of the task I was undertaking was while working on my first set of novels (Ill Met By Moonlight, All Night Awake, Any Man So Daring, now long out of print.) I was immersed in Elizabethan mores when my Father in Law asked my husband’s help in verifying his genealogy research. And my husband, while doing a search on line, came across a fact he just couldn’t accept. He came and told me and I said, “yeah, normal at that time.” He looked at me in utter disbelief.

You see, he’d found out one of his ancestors had married five sisters, in turn, as each of them died in childbirth. I believe this type of marriage was forbidden in England, but this was the early colonial period and things must have been more relaxed in the colonies. At any rate, when this man was forty he married the youngest sister, who was eleven at the time. This eleven year old (not at that age but not many years later) became my husband’s ancestor.

I’m trying to explain to him how it was believed an aunt would be kinder to the child and, anyway, since these were people of relative substance, there might have been lands and money tied up in the marriage, and this was easiest. And my husband is looking at me in horror and going “My ancestor was a pedophile.”

This made it starkly clear to me – and in good time – how different modern perceptions are from the past. Which catches historical writers between two pits. One of them is to be completely inaccurate, to prettify the past, to make it just like the present, acceptable. In other words, to lie to people. The other pit is to make the past grittily and achingly alive in all its unloveliness.

I’ve seen authors do both. The first revolts me on principle. To lie to people about the past is to lie to them about the present. If you don’t understand how brutish, how... blunt life could be in Tudor England, all you’ll see is the clothes and the pageantry and you’ll wonder why we changed. On the other hand, the other side risks repelling the reader. Making the reader uncomfortable is a good way of losing reader.

So I try to tread the path between two precipices. Part of what helps me is my reading a lot of mystery and writing some, even. You learn which events to highlight and which others to still have in but not highlight, so the reader knows about them but doesn’t fully realize she does.

The other part of what helps me is that before I was a writer I was a multilingual translator. You learn to fudge and slur the meaning and yet be true to the spirit of the sentence. A literal translation is as much a violation of intent as a complete fabrication.

And in that way, when faced with the need in No Will But His, of telling the story of poor Kathryn Howard, who probably was no more than fifteen when she married Henry, I have to highlight that people did mature earlier then – not physically but in every other way. And that she was probably more mature than current day college students. I try to give an impression of how young she was and how vulnerable, but I make her a woman aware of her own fate and making her own path.

And hopefully translate enough of that strange and wonderful country so that modern day readers can get their visa franked for a few hours there, and can come back enriched but not scarred by the experience.



Thanks to Penguin Publishing I have 2 copies of No Will But His up for grabs!  Open to US and International entries.  Only one entry per person.  Giveaway ends on April 29th.

SYNOPSIS:  As the bereft, orphaned cousin to the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard knows better than many the danger of being favored by the King. But she is a Howard, and therefore ambitious, so she assumes the role Henry VIII has assigned her-his untouched child bride, his adored fifth wife. But her innocence is imagined, the first of many lies she will have to tell to gain the throne. And the path that she will tread to do so is one fraught with the same dangers that cost Queen Anne her head.

Good luck to all!  Thank you to Sarah Hoyt for stopping by PTTP!




  1. Please enter me. Thank you! =)

  2. Thank you for hosting (as usual) a wonderful giveaway. Please count me in.


  3. I really enjoyed the author's post about mores and customs in the past. I often come across bits about laws drafted many years ago and still on the books and some seem so strange to us these days that we eonder what inspired. The same sort of thing.

    Makes one wonder how people will view our customs in say 100 years time !

    I would love to see how the author has handled this in her book which sounds like a fascinating read, so please enter me in the giveaway.

    Thanks very much for making it worldwide.

    Carol T ( South Africa)

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  4. I'd like to enter!

  5. “My ancestor was a pedophile.”

    This made me smile a little bit, because I often hate the same thing Sarah talks bout here. The past is the past, and no matter how hard you try to prettify it, there's still wars, famine, illnesses and violence. And yes some women did wear pretty dresses! :)

    Please count me in for this book. This author made my day! Thank you for making the contest international.

  6. I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

  7. Great post--really interesting. It certainly did make me want to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. Oh yeah! Another book on my TBR list!

    Please enter me in the giveaway!

  9. I would like to enter.

  10. Thank you for the guest post and the give away! Please enter me - mclean416(at)gmail(dot)com

  11. Interesting post - please enter me!


  12. Please count me in too. ori simple tech com .

    I see a lot of this in Halacha (= Jewish religious law). Many of the laws make no sense in a modern society.

  13. I really enjoyed what Ms Hoyt had to say about the past and how it plays into the way we think about the books we read. Catherine Howard is undoubtedly misunderstood and I'd love to read this novel. thanks for the giveaway.

  14. I just finished reading Brandy Purdy's The Boleyn Wife & would love a chance at this. Please accept my entry. Thanks!


  15. Very interesting guest post. It was very interesting to hear of the discovery that her husband made while doing his research, but like Sarah mentions, it was probably very normal for the time.

    I would love a chance to win a copy of this book, so please enter me in your giveaway!


  16. Please count me in :o) Kristen

  17. Thanks for hosting this giveaway-I'd love to win!

    stephaniefleischer889 AT gmail DOT com

  18. Great guest post Amy, any I'm still thinking about the comment on girls maturing, emotionally back then, more quickly than they have to do now. That is, not sure if I agree...especially when it comes to sex. All teenagers quickly learn the power of sexual attraction at an early age and I think it's just how God made us for the sole purpose of procreation. Now-a-days it's the same...just not as discreet and tasteful I'd have to say with the technology and internet especially. I think little Miss Howard was a victim of her own immaturity with her sexual powers...just like Anne Boelyn who soon lost the King's favor once she gave in and slept with him and then continued to loose his interests when she failed to produce a male heir. Somethings never change :D
    Great giveaway and sounds like a great book...count m in please!
    Fondly, Roberta

  19. Great and interesting interview! Please count me in for the giveaway. Thanks.

    Nunezbella at hotmail dotcom

  20. This was such an interesting period of history. Please include me.

  21. I'd love to read this!
    And thank you for making it international!


  22. I'd love to be entered to win this! It sounds really good! Thank you!
    mittens0831 at

  23. would love to read this book...thanks for the chance :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  24. Count me in please. This one looks good.

    I follow on gfc

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  25. Thank you.
    Please enter me.
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  26. It's interesting to think of what was common place many years ago may seem horrific to us now. And I wonder what we do now that will seem horrible to future generations. Please enter me in this great contest.


  27. Thanks for the giveaway!

  28. Wonderful post. I am one who wants history the way it really was. It is one of the reasons I read historical fiction. I want the feel of the peoples' lives and the events that transpired. I don't want the Disneyland version of what is was like hundreds of years ago.
    Life is far from perfect today and not acknowledging that doesn't help anyone either.
    I think your idea of including the fact and details but not highlighting them is very good. A serious reader will pick up on them and those who don't want the romance of the period disturbed will most likely not really notice them. We have to learn not to judge people in a different historical or cultural context by the same rules and expectations we have in our own society. It doesn't mean that what was done was necessarily right or totally acceptable, but it was the way things were done.
    Tell your husband to relax (I'm sure you have) and not stress over his ancestor. The man is not alive today and should not be judged by our standards.

  29. I think I forgot to put my email address in with my comments.
    It is:
    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  30. This book sounds so fascinating. I have read a couple books about Katherine, but I aways find my self wanting more - because her relationship with Henry was similar to Anne's, I think that is what draws me in. I loved this post - it is so true, especially for newer readers to the genre. Those who have been around for awhile understand that history is different than the present and expect different things from it. Thanks for this great guest post.

    Please enter me in the giveaway Amy! dolleygurl[at]hotmail[dot]com

  31. Thanks for a great giveaway.I'd really love to read this book. Count me in.[@]gmail[.]com

  32. The past is another country -- as is the future, I suppose. Childhood, age, gender, and all those others -- wow, we're surrounded by foreigners! Time to learn diplomacy, I suppose...
    I'd love to be in the giveaway, and enjoyed the interview, too. Thanks!

  33. this sounds so good. Its been intersting reading about her writing process.
    please enter me!
    thank you

  34. What an interesting interview. I'd love to read the book.


  35. Great guest post! That sounds like my kind of book! Katherine Howard is an interesting character for authors as the records don't give a clear picture of her character, and she can therefore be presented so differently, from the innocent pawn to family ambition, to the floozy of loose morals and lacking in intellect.

    Please enter me in the draw, and thanks for making this an international affair!

    nellista @ gmail dot com

  36. Wow very interesting post! I've been a huge Tudor fan for years Anne Boleyn being my fav. but I have just started reading about Katherine Howard.

    Please enter me in the giveaway

  37. Great guest post! What an interesting story about her husband's ancestors.

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  38. Would love to enter this giveaway please

    rubs.escalona [at]

  39. This book sounds so wonderful! Please count me in!

  40. This sounds like an excellent book and I'd love to be entered. :D


  41. If it wasn't for Henry VIII my life would be dull. Who doesn't like a good scandal? Enter me too!

    chellebcool at hotmail dot com

  42. Would love a chance to read this book :) Please include me in the drawing

    rubs.escalona [at]

  43. Sounds interesting!

  44. This seems like a book I'd really enjoy. Please enter me. :)


  45. I would absolutely love to be entered. Thanks~ :)

  46. PLEASE ENTER ME. I love all things Katherine Howard. She fascinatea me and probably the only wife of Henry the 8th I can relate to. Seriously, barely 15 and married to an old fat man. Shame she died so young.

  47. Poor Katherine Howard she really did have no will but his. Forced to marry, and forced (allegedly to have an affair all to please a king so sad. Please enter me in this giveaway I'm always in for a refreshing new view on KH story.

  48. THanks for a wonderful giveaway!

    shhhimreading at hotmail dot com

  49. Love this giveaway!


  50. How in the world did I miss this post??? Please enter me in the giveaway!

    robinbird_79 AT hotmail DOT com

  51. Thanks for the giveaway - please count me in.

  52. I would like to be entered for this book.. Please and thank you!!! Thanks for letting the history 'geek's know what is forthcoming in the historical world of fiction...


  53. Hi. Historical fiction I relish. It's always wonderful to learn a little bit about history while enjoying a good read.

  54. Please enter me in this giveaway!

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

    (I'm entering in the Pacific Standard Time zone and am unsure which time zone you're in so as to make the midnight deadline.)


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Passages to the Past
All rights reserved © 2013

Custom Blog Design by Blogger Boutique

Blogger Boutique