JoAnn Spears spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether she wanted to major in English or History in college. Life stepped in, and she wound up with a Master’s Degree in Nursing instead. A twenty-five year nursing career didn’t extinguish that early interest in books and history. It did however stoke a decidedly gallows sense of humor.
The story of the six wives of Henry VIII was JoAnn’s favorite piece of history. She read the classic variations and the feminist variations, the tragic spins and the vindicating spins. She witnessed the success of the pop culture, soft-core Tudor offerings of recent vintage. It occurred to her that the one thing that hadn’t been brought to a full length novel about the Tudors was a gallows sense of humor. The Tudors certainly qualified for it, and JoAnn had plenty to spare.
The first ‘real’ book JoAnn ever read was “The Wizard of Oz”. She returned to the Yellow Brick Road for inspiration for a new kind of Tudor novel, and “Six of One” was born.
“Six of One” was begun in JoAnn’s native New Jersey. It was wrapped up in her new Smoky Mountain home in northeast Tennessee, where she is pursuing a second career as a writer. She has, however, obtained a Tennessee nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son Bill thinks she should be sensible and not quit her day job.
While “Six of One” is a different kind of historical fiction novel, JoAnn is a downright stereotypical lady author. She admits to all of the cats, flower beds, needlework, and obsessive devotion to Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that you’d expect.
“Six of One” is the ultimate ‘girls’ night in’…with the six wives of Henry VIII. It’s the most fun you can have with your nightdress on! Join Dolly, the Tudor-obsessed heroine of “Six of One”, on a Yellow Brick Road journey to the alternate reality of an all-girl Tudor court.
It all begins when Dolly loses consciousness on the eve of her marriage to the six-times-divorced Harry. She awakens in the company of the Tudor women she’s studied all her life. They have a mission to accomplish, and Dolly may be just the girl who can help them do it.
As a warm-up to her life-changing interview with the six wives of Henry VIII, Dolly gets to dish with lots of the other fascinating females of the Tudor era. She learns things she never guessed about the Princes in the Tower from their sister, Elizabeth of York…Henry VIII’s mom. She talks sex with Henry’s sisters and scholarship with his daughters. She even gossips with the help, since Kat Ashley and Bess of Hardwicke are among the ladies on hand.
Of course the heart of the story is in Dolly’s interview with the six wives of Henry VIII. It turns out there’s something to each of the wives’ stories that’s been held back all this time. You won’t believe what really happened…or will you?
“Six of One” offers no tragedy, no excuses, and no apologies. It does have lots of broad humor, not to mention tons of puns. And—for a change—a happy ending.
Q) What inspired you to write this story?
It was important to me, when writing the story, to have Henry VIII’s wives emerge from at least one story as victors, rather than victims. Everything I’d ever read about them always came down to sad endings. I wanted to change that for once, even if only fictionally. Since my natural bent is toward comedy rather than drama, I chose satire as the way to do it.
Q) How long did it take you to write?
Arguably, 40 years. The idea was swimming around in my head from the time I started reading historical fiction at age 13. As much as I love reading, I didn’t think I had it in me to write a book. Then, while sitting in a hot tub in Vermont one night with a friend who was writing a book of her own, I was talked into giving it a whirl. From then, it was about two years.
Q) What is your favorite thing about writing?
The characters. Writing about them is like birthing fully grown people. And you can bring them up the way you want them.
Q) What is your least favorite thing about writing?
I actually think I have resolved my least favorite thing about writing. Once a manuscript gets long, cross-checking things from opposite ends of the book means scrolling up and down a computer screen a lot. There were days the scrolling actually made me nauseous. My new laptop-only a few days old--has one of those new Windows touch screens, so I can leaf instead of scroll. I am very excited about this! #thelifeofawriter
Q) If you could be any famous person for one day, who would you be and why?
Louisa May Alcott. She was a writer, a nurse, a klutzy brunette, a smart-ass, a single lady, a reader, a devotee of the classics, a feminist, outgoing and shy at the same time. She is my home girl and I would love to spend a little time in her head.
Q) What is the oldest thing in your fridge and how old is it?
I just gave my fridge its fall cleaning, so it is looking pretty good at the moment. However, my record-breaking old fridge thing was a box of currants. There is only one recipe I use currants for, Country Captain Chicken. So as you can imagine, a box can last a pretty long time. The box in question was discarded during a 2004 fridge cleanout. It was dated for 1997.
Q) What can readers expect from you in the future?
A second-generation Tudor sequel and a Tudor cookbook. Also, possibly, a guide for single women on retiring to the southern US.