Sharon Penman's afterword to The Sunne in Splendour

02 July 2014

By Pan Macmillan

Author Sharon Penman explains how she came to write The Sunne in Splendour
 
I was a college student when I stumbled upon the story of Richard III, and the more I learned, the more convinced I became that he’d been the victim of a great injustice; transformed by the Tudors into a soulless monster in order to justify Henry Tudor’s dubious claim to the throne. While I’d always realized that history is rewritten by the victors, I was taken aback by how successful this particular rewrite had been, and I began telling my friends how unfairly Richard had been maligned. I soon discovered that they did not share my indignation about the wrongs done to this long-dead medieval king. I got a uniform reaction, a ‘Richard who?’ before their eyes would glaze over and they’d start to edge away.

So I decided I needed another outlet for my outrage, and it occurred to me that I ought to write a novel about Richard. I had no idea how that casual decision would transform my life, setting me upon a twelve-year journey that would eventually end in the publication of The Sunne in Splendour. It took twelve years because the manuscript was stolen from my car during my second year of law school. It represented nearly five years of labour – and it was the only copy. The loss was so traumatic that I could not write again for almost six years. And then one rainy California weekend, the log-jam suddenly broke and the words began to flow again. I ended up moving to England to research the book, and three years later, I was lucky enough to find a publisher and editor willing to take on a novice writer and a thousand-page manuscript about that ‘long-dead medieval king’.