Meet My Main Character

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gentleman of fortune

I was tagged by Evelyn Tidman, respected author of historical fiction novels Gentlemen and Fortune, The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts – Pirate and One Small Candle, The Story of William Bradford and the Pilgrim Fathers. Her assignment to me is to join a growing list of historical fiction authors around the world in introducing the main character of their works in progress or a soon to be published novel. This was an interesting challenge for me, because I am not a novelist. My work in progress is a collection of short stories with a variety of main characters from Tudor Era English history, some famous, others infamous, and still others fictional. Consequently, I will focus the answers to the assigned questions to the historical figure I am most known by people to write about, and likely one of the least common lead characters of well known Tudor Era historical figures highlighted in fiction.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? 

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)

The historical figure I most commonly write as the lead protagonist in my short stories is Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Most history lovers think of Thomas Cranmer as the man plucked up from obscurity to become Archbishop of Canterbury for the specific role of settling King Henry VIII’s “Great Matter” once and for all, a task he dutifully committed by finding the King’s marriage to Catalina de Aragon invalid. Others think of Cranmer as the ever cautious reformer, who, hiding behind the front man and principle driver Thomas Cromwell, helped pave the way to the Henrican Reformation and introduction of an English language Bible. Then there are those who also look to him as the lead and principle change agent for the sweeping Protestant reforms that ravaged through England during the reign of King Edward VI. Arrested for treason shortly after the ascension of Queen Mary I, he was convicted and then sent to Oxford, where he remained imprisoned and also charged with heresy. Cranmer was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church on December 4, 1555, soon after found guilty of heresy, and then burned at the stake on March 21, 1556.

For more information, go to: Thomas Cranmer’s Lasting Legacy ~~ Poetic Prose.

2. When and where is the story set?

There are a variety of short stories that feature Thomas Cranmer throughout his adulthood beginning with his first marriage to Joan Black. That story is set at the Dolphin Inn, a tavern and inn located in Cambridgeshire, England. Another story featuring Thomas Cranmer is set near the battlefield in a war between Spain and the Ottoman Empire, while others are set in Nuremberg, Bologna, Lambeth Palace, the Tower of London, the Palace of Placentia, Bocardo Prison, University Church of St. Mary the Virgin and other well known Tudor Era locations in England.

3. What should we know about him/her?

The Burning of Cranmer

Obviously, Thomas Cranmer is a famous historical figure whose professional life is well documented, particularly by historian Diarmaid MacCulloch in his award winning comprehensive biography, Thomas Cranmer, A Life. Readers should keep in mind that Thomas Cranmer’s personal life is highly speculative. Very little is known with any certainty, in particular his two marriages. Through the comprehensive work of historians and also from Thomas Cranmer’s own words, much can be gleaned about his personality. Thomas Cranmer was a politically naive man who was appointed into a position he had limited prior qualifications to prepare him for. In addition, he was highly conflicted, cautious and compelled to compromise his principles throughout his career in order to comply with his strong belief in the absolute supremacy of the monarchy. His theological beliefs developed over time from humanist Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, and his life choices over time were influenced heavily by his developing theological belief system.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Although each story has a differing main conflict, there is a general conflict that carries across all the stories. Thomas Cranmer continually needs to make decisions and take actions that leave him choosing between his personal desires, religious beliefs, and moral values and those of the reigning monarch (or in the case of King Edward VI, the lord protectorship and privy council).

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

cranmer hands

In my stories, Thomas Cranmer has several overlapping personal goals that carry through most plots. 1. He wants the love and affection that comes from family, a wife and children. He is highly opposed to clerical celibacy. He is willing to live in a secret marriage to achieve this personally, and lays a blind eye as Archbishop to where he knows of it in other clergy, despite stating publicly the expectation of clerical celibacy during the reign of King Henry VIII. 2. He is committed to insure all people in England have access to scripture through English translation and a uniform English language liturgy. 3. He genuinely wants to be a good, morally grounded person. Thus, he also becomes a very conflicted person, weighed down with guilt. 4. He is committed until his religious beliefs grossly are in conflict with the monarch to abide by the supreme authority of the monarch over the clergy, even when his moral values are compromised. 5. He comes to genuinely believe the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is the Antichrist and desires Roman Catholicism driven from England.

6.  Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

revelations book cover to make small (156x200)

Yes, the working title of my short story collection is Revelation. This working title was selected because all of my stories are written from a first person very deep point-of-view that focuses on what the narrators were thinking and feeling during a twist or turn in Tudor History. I also am interested in exploring little known seemingly common events with major historical ramifications, such as the death of Thomas Cranmer’s first wife in child bed. You can read an example story here on the website at: Black Joan of the Dolphin.  The book cover design used as a button here on the website is courtesy of the brilliance of Hans Holbein the Younger and QAB’s website designer, Colleen Daly of Chloebell Designs.

7.  When can we expect the book to be published?

My goal is to have a complete manuscript ready for publication by April 1, 2015.

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Jess Goften
Jess Goften

Thanks for visiting the post! Keep your eyes open for this chain of work in progress main character highlights among historical fiction writers across the internet. Now it is my duty to tag another writer to join in. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Jess Gofton! She is currently working on a historical/paranormal novel titled Bloodroot and Bracken. Jess Gofton, tag you’re IT!

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Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. The author of "Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

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