Erotic Historical Novel
Dignity is an erotic Tudor historical romance novel portraying the tragic and short life of Henry VIII’s fifth and youngest wife, Katheryn Howard. Although written in a romantic style, Dignity contains explicit sexual content and disturbing themes such as incest, child sexual abuse, and male privilege within the context of 16th Century Tudor history. The dark secrets of Katheryn’s childhood are exposed explaining the commonplace result of over-sexualization and promiscuity. Her lascivious lifestyle was to become her eventual demise as her pre-marital history was uncovered during her short reign as Queen of England. The story explores the viewpoints of many of the characters involved with Katheryn both historically and romantically as she searched for love through the only thing that she felt she had some control over, her sensuality. In the time of Katheryn’s short life, women were considered little more than property in a male dominated world. Dignity does nothing to sugar coat this fact and because it is written in a romantic fashion, it can draw the reader in and be quite stimulating yet in some instances, it can be quite disturbing.
Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?
Yes, Christian Ashley is my pen name. In the early 1990s, a dear friend of mine (who also happens to have been raised a Prince in
), “Prince” Raja Harindra
Singh, told me that I would become a famous writer and that I was to use the
name, Christian Ashley. India
What can you tell me about the writing of Dignity?
When I was a little girl, I loved, more than anything, to spend the night with my great grandmother who was born and raised in
The youngest of eight children, she was born on May first and had been named,
Martha May Howard. She was always called May, and she’d been told by her family
that the May Pole celebration on May Day was for her. As I fell asleep, she’d
tell me the stories of her childhood; how she’d run barefoot through the
wildflowers and loosen her red hair so that it cascaded down her back. She’d
speak softly about playing with her Shetland pony and how her older brothers
and sisters spoiled and protected her. I was transported, through her words, to
her childhood. At some point, she told me that one of her aunts, long ago, had
actually been the Queen of England and that her name was, Katheryn Howard. England
From my early years, I have always had a vivid imagination and would play with pretend brothers and sisters rather than real people. Similarly, I’d dream of children running and playing and see myself as a golden haired child running through the yellow wildflowers of my great grandmother’s youth. I woke disoriented after nightmares of dark places with cold walls, and became afraid of the dark. I remember that my mother got me a nightlight. My great grandmother died when I was about nine; however, my dreams of
In the early 1970s, when I was about twelve, a book arrived in the mail about the
. I felt chills
climbing up the back of my neck as I opened the book to a random page and saw a
picture of a block of stone. The inscription read that the block had been carved
for Catherine Howard and that she had practiced laying her head upon it the
night before her execution. I believe that I decided then that someday, I’d
write her story. Tower
I started working on it in 1994 as an outline in which I told the whole story. Then I put the outline, which was hand written, away. I began writing “Dignity” in 1995 and changed it in 1996 to make the main character older. However, in 2002, I realized that it had to be rewritten to how it was originally because, historically, it was the only way that it would be accurate. I worked on “Dignity” off and on and then completed my first draft in 2007. The first manuscript was submitted in 2008 and it was recommended that more dialogue be added. So it was re-written to include more dialogue. I then revised “Dignity” in 2010 to add the full names of many of the historical characters as there had been so much written about Tudor history that it made sense to do so. Much of this story is historical including the names of her family members which I did not know were accurate until researching post hoc in 2007. The parts that are not came through me from somewhere otherworldly. Also, after writing the story, I found that many of the events depicted, such as the gentlewomen’s chamber, were actually historical though they are hard to believe.
I never looked at the hand written outline again. I wrote Dignity straight through and remembered the story from heart. I found out, when I began researching online in 2007, that the name of Katheryn Howard's oldest brother (10 years her senior) was Henry. Harry is the nick name for Henry, and his wife's name was recorded as being Anne (all facts that I did not know until after the story was written). Many of the letters in Dignity are real and were paraphrased, by me, from Old English including the statement that Katheryn made at her death.
There’s been quite a bit of controversy concerning Dignity. Tell us about it.
When I sent my finished manuscript to be edited, I half expected them to tell me that it was too sexual. But they didn’t. They told me that Dignity was well written, but that it needed more dialogue. So I added more.
I realized that Dignity was disturbing, and I thought that I had clearly explained that it was, but I guess that it wasn’t enough. I finally came out with a disclaimer about it. INTENSE-DISTURBING-EROTIC-EXPLICIT-TRAGIC-COMPELLING-DARK-PASSIONATE… DIGNITY
But apparently that warning wasn’t enough either. In the majority of reviews that I’ve received, they rave about the weaving of a well written, compelling story with history. However, I’ve had some reviews where they are raging that the story disturbed them in some way.
How do you react to a bad review of your book?
The negative reviews say nothing about my lack of writing skills, on the contrary, they actually say that I describe sex too explicitly or that some of the scenes are too upsetting. I’ve decided that for Dignity to have such a profoundly disturbing impact on someone that they would go to the trouble to write a negative review, that it must be a positive acclimation to my writing ability.
Why should we read your book?
I’ve thought about adding a statement saying something like, if you have any sexual hang ups – do not read Dignity… But seriously, for those that can get past the very real portrayal of the horrific and sexualized life of a sixteenth century girl, Dignity is an amazing story.
A descendant of Katheryn Howard, the author's maternal great grandmother, Martha May Howard, was born and raised in Kent England, and was descended from one of Katheryn Howard's brothers. The author was raised in
There are two book trailers outlining Katheryn’s story: