First person narrative

I did not intend to write The King’s Mistress in first person.

It’s confining. I find it more suitable for short pieces with a twist rather than for novels. A first person narrator is to a greater or lesser degree unreliable. She presents only her side of the story. My students in both creative writing and literature classes were challenged by first person narrative, rushing past the clues regarding to whom the story was addressed, forgetting the limitations of one pair of eyes, all of which is part of the story the author is presenting. So I’ve become quite wary of first person narration.

But every time I sat down to write the first draft, no matter in whose voice I began I wound up in Alice’s “I”. We struggled for months. At last, worn down by Alice (or my subconscious), I considered what I might gain by limiting myself to Alice’s voice. More empathy. A focus on what she was experiencing, which was what I’d set out to explore. Giving her a voice at long last—for centuries she’d been silenced by Walsingham’s venom, which went unquestioned. Even in her time, she was forbidden to respond to parliament, to present her own defense.

So I gave Alice her voice.

I’m intrigued (and amused) by the relief I feel as I work now in third person, in a variety of voices. I have a sense of space. I suppose I did experience Alice’s confined world.

Creativity is one of the most profound mysteries.

5 Comments on “First person narrative

  1. I am so excited to read your book, congratulations on your recent US publication day. I find it interesting that you had to cut 100 pages and now I think I’d like to read the version already published in the UK!


    • Thanks, Joanna!

      I always prefer the latest version of whatever I’ve written–had a chance to tighten, clarify, even change a wee bit. I suspect most authors would agree–any authors out there want to comment? That said, I’m proud of the UK edition as well. Your choice!


      • That is an excellent point, and I hadn’t thought of that before. I’m glad to know that you, and other authors, like the shortened version. It’s just really interesting to me that you have to shorten it, and by a specific amount. I know nothing of the world of publishing! I think, if I can get my hands on them, I would prefer to read both – I’m a curious creature by nature and just knowing that there was more would make me wonder, even if you did tell me it was only good enough for the editing room floor! I suppose that’s also why I love outtakes from movies so much! Thanks for replying!


      • FYI, foreign publishers wanted it cut about that much for budgetary reasons concerning translation costs. My US editor fought to minimize the cuts, but that, too, seemed to come down to a budgetary issue she couldn’t win. So I decided I could either mope or make the most of it, and chose the latter.


  2. I’m enjoying the ARC that I have of the King’s Mistress and plan to review it on my blog. I would love it if you would do a guest post about the book. I feel that when readers know the mind of the author and how they came to write the book they did, it adds depth to what you read. I didn’t know about Alice and find her story very interesting. I didn’t enjoy history as a child, but enjoy reading historical fiction. Thank you for introducing me to this fascinating woman. Good luck with the book.

    Page Inman


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