Interviews with Writers

Historical Fiction | A Phoenix Rising | Vivienne Brereton

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I’m delighted to be welcoming Vivienne Brereton to my hot seat today chatting to us about A Phoenix Rising, Book One in the House of the Red Duke.

Vivienne is chatting to us about her inspiration for A Phoenix Rising, her research (very inspiring!) and more. Watch out for Laura’s review coming soon!

Book cover for A Phoenix Rising by Vivienne Brereton

     “If I have anything to do with it, we Howards will live forever.” 

Thomas Howard Charismatic head of one of the most powerful Houses in Tudor England. An indomitable old man approaching eighty: soldier, courtier, politician, a ‘phoenix’ rising from the ashes. After a calamitous period of disgrace, the Howards, renowned for their good looks and charm, are once more riding high at the court of Henry VIII.

Set against the backdrop of the extraordinary 1520 ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’, it is a tale of ambition, love, and intrigue, with Thomas at the centre of this intricate tapestry

Will Thomas’s bold vow be fulfilled? Danger stalks the corridors of the royal courts of Europe. Uneasy lies the head beneath a crown. Every other ruler – a fickle bedfellow…or sworn enemy.

 The action takes place in England, Scotland, and France. On either side of the Narrow Sea, four young lives are interwoven, partly unaware of each other, and certainly oblivious to what Dame Fortune has in store for them.

Nicolas de La Barre laid his lute to one side, hardly bothering to stifle a yawn of boredom. Nevertheless, he couldn’t escape the fact he’d agreed to take on a new wife….”

Explosive family secrets are concealed behind the ancient walls of castles in three lands. But… “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”

A Phoenix Rising by Vivienne Brereton is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats. | Amazon UK | Amazon US |


Hi Vivienne, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.

What was the idea/inspiration for A Phoenix Rising?

I’ve been obsessed with the Tudors for as long as I can remember. Discovering the Howards was a natural follow-on from that. I read somewhere that the Tudors were attracted to the Howards like bees to nectar. And so it was. Two of Henry’s queens were Howards by birth and connection. Once I discovered Thomas, the head of the dynasty, a true phenomenon to still be alive and in full health at nearly eighty, my story began to take shape. I set it against the background of the Field of Cloth of Gold, a massive extravaganza (and waste of money), that took place in 1520 just outside the English Pale of Calais and Ardres, on French territory. Next year, it will be five hundred years since it took place so what better time for a novel?

Did you do any research Vivienne? What resources did you use?

For me, using all six senses was very important to propel myself back in time to the Tudor era. I read very (very!) widely, visited the British Library to poke through original documents; toured stately homes such as Hever Castle and Saint Michael’s Mount to breathe in the same air as my characters; stood in front of portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, for example, and Chantilly, near Paris. For me, something quite magical happens when I stand in front of a portrait. The flat historical image you find in books is left behind and the subject comes to life and yields up all their secrets. That’s the sixth sense part of my research. It happened with Henry VIII, his father, Henry VII, Thomas Wolsey and Francois I of France. Anne Boleyn was the only one who refused to play nicely. I attended medieval festivals, watched jousts; listened to early modern music; watched TV shows such as ‘The Tudors’ (fabulous) and movies. I baked like a Tudor (to complaints from my family) so I could include recipes. I visited costume exhibitions such as the one at Barrington Court for the costumes used in the TV series, ‘Wolf Hall’.  To be able to touch the fabric. I bent down to smell the wonderful herbs and flowers in the gardens of Hampton Court. I watched original medieval dances on YouTube and used the music from them for my four little book trailer videos you can find on there.

What scene did you enjoy writing the most?

It has to be the one set on Saint Michael’s Mount, where Cecily Tredavoe and her best friend, Nan Bullen (Boleyn) are. One of the little videos on YouTube shows this. I love Cornwall. My husband is from Saint Ives and many a happy holiday has been spent crossing the Causeway and climbing up to the fabulous castle jutting out of the water. I find the place both mysterious and enchanting. It was a fun scene to write because, of course, the reader knows exactly who Nan is going to marry. I got so caught up in the scene and could imagine myself sitting right next to those two little girls, totally unaware of the future Dame Fortune has planned for them.

If you could choose to be one of the characters Vivienne, who would you be?

  Difficult question to answer but I think Nicolas. Just to see what it would be like to be a man for a while. Young, attractive, sporty, a magnet for women. But aloof like a wolf too. Strangely enough, when I wrote I didn’t base any of my characters on any living person. Just as well being the mum of three young men. I read that the writer is all of the characters at the same time. Seeing as I had to dip in and out of so many heads, I can see that makes sense.

Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?

From the start, I wanted to be very involved in every aspect of the book production. I’ve long loved the wonderful Codex Manesse, to be found in the library of Heidelberg in Germany. The images to be found in this extraordinary collection seemed perfect to portray the themes of my novel. For the cover, I stipulated to the designer that I wanted a cover that was red and gold, with gold lettering and the image of Konrad von Altstetten embracing his lover. Luckily, I found a wonderful designer who waved her magic wand and came up with exactly the cover I wanted.

Do you have a favourite place you go for inspiration or a favourite activity?

Water. It has to be that every time. I’m a Taurean with a Scorpio ascendant so I’m the happiest either in the midst of nature or wallowing in water. It can even be doing the washing up. Inspiration comes at the oddest of times and the oddest of places. Swimming up and down a pool is a great way of freeing your mind and planning the next scene. Cecily, one of the characters is part mermaid, according to her father.

Do you have a most creative time of day?

No. I think it would be fair to say that I just feel my fingertips tingling when the Muse is ready to go. For example, I thought Shaz’s questions were so brilliant, I just had to write the answers immediately, even though she gave me a couple of weeks.

(thank you!)

Do you have a favourite movie adaptation Vivienne?

‘Gone with the wind.’ Scarlett in red at the table. Rhett about to go upstairs. Changing his mind. Cue next morning. Scarlett purring like a kitten. Enough said.

Finally, who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book was optioned for a movie?

I’m going to be a bit sneaky here and include actors who have outgrown my characters age-wise. As well as those who are sadly no longer with us.

The Dream Team:

  Henry VIII and Anne.

Jonathan and Natalie from ‘The Tudors’.


The late great Heath Ledger in ‘A knight’s tale’.


 Francois Arnaud in ‘The Borgias’.


  The gorgeous Michelle Mercier from the old Angelique series.


  Emma Stone. Perfect with her red hair and green eyes.

  And finally, last but definitely not least.

  Thomas Howard

  David Bradley. The very wicked Walter Frey from the Red Wedding scene of GoT.

Or the wildly sexy, no longer with us, Nigel Davenport, father of Jack. He played Thomas Howard’s son in ‘A man for all seasons’ in 1970. not my duke but his son. He would have had exactly ability needed to play the blunt, no-nonsense, plain-speaking, clever, calculating Thomas.

Thank you for being my guest today Vivienne. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.

Thank you so much, Shaz, for allowing me to appear on your page and giving me the chance to rummage around in my Tudor head for the answers to your inspired questions. It was a real pleasure.


Vivienne is offering a paperback giveaway which is open Internationally. Please read the Terms and Conditions on the Rafflecopter. Click here to enter. Good luck! Shaz

Author photo Vivienne Brereton

I’ve always loved the Tudor period from a very early age and have a degree in medieval history. I’ve lived in six different countries in my life and soaked up the history in each one. I now live in France which made writing about three different countries much easier. I’m married with three sons so plenty of scope for the Nicolas and Tristan characters in my novel! Anne Boleyn was the only character I found slightly elusive. All the others were so vivid I had no problem getting into their heads. Of the kings, James IV was my favourite. After all my research on him, I’d like to think I did him proud. All were brilliant men. Renaissance men. So cultured. What would they make of our royals today? Harry could easily pass for Henry’s naughty little brother. William is more like Prince Arthur, the lost Tudor heir. Not sure Henry would have much time for Charles though. Find me on my website and connect with me on Twitter @VivienneBreret1.

I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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