Traditional history lessons focus on the “great men” of the past, but often neglect the powerful women whose stories also deserve to be told. Creating an informative and enchanting story—while keeping factual details intact—can offer fresh perspectives that would not be permissible to a historian, but that “have a value of their own,” says Weir, describing her novels as “psychological journeys” that attempt to get inside her subjects’ heads to make sense of the facts from their perspective. The result offers women from the past an important voice.
Last year, Weir announced she was working on a series of novels that would breathe new life into the dramatic stories of the wives of England’s most notorious king, Henry VIII. Her first novel in the series tells the tale of Katherine of Aragon—Henry VIII’s first wife—and arrives in stores this spring. For this series, Weir followed new leads and dug up new clues for a fresh take on the the King of England’s ill-fated wives: divorced, beheaded, died… divorced, beheaded, survived.
Weir asserts that all of her novels are underpinned by decades of meticulous research, but admits that this hasn’t always been reflected on the jackets of her novels. “I can see how some may perceive the genre as lowbrow,” she explains, a perception unaided by the images of sexed-up women in period gowns and corsets that cover of many of the genre’s novels. “I don’t like history being romanticized in this way: I think it dumbs it down,” she says. Weir maintains that there’s no justifiable reason to distort the facts because the truth of these women—or what we know of it, as history is always developing—is even more enthralling. “Their lives are dramatic and tragic,” she explains. “They have all the elements of pure theatre.” The first of Weir’s forthcoming Six Tudor Queens series, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, is available May 31, 2016.