Olivia Hayfield had a crazy idea in the shower and then she turned it into a blockbuster book. And then she wrote a sequel. Why not, she said, re-tell the story of Henry VIII as a 20th century media mogul?
The end result was first, Wife After Wife, the tale of Harry Rose, a Richard Branson style magnate who’s a lot more likeable than Henry VIII but does manage to notch up multiple wives. One reviewer described it as “rich people behaving badly”, and now there’s the sequel.
Hi there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler, and in today’s Binge Reading episode Olivia tells us about Sister to Sister, the story of Harry’s two daughters, paralleling the virgin Queen Elizabeth I and her sister Mary Tudor, rivals for the English throne like the modern-day sisters are rivals to run the media company.
Six things you’ll learn from this Joys of Binge Reading episode:
How Donald Trump helped inspire Wife to WifeHow much has changed for women in 500 years?Making Elizabeth the First a modern mogulCombining high concept fiction and soap operaRemembering Jilly CooperChildren's books a second love
Where to find Olivia Hayfield
What follows is a "near as" transcript of our conversation, not word for word but pretty close to it, with links to important mentions.
But now, here’s Olivia.
Jenny Wheeler: Hello there, Olivia and welcome to the show. It's great to have you with us.
Olivia Hayfield: Good morning. Thank you for having me. I'm delighted to be here chatting books.
Introducing Olivia Hayfield, author
Jenny Wheeler: This is a real novelty because you're in Auckland, in the same city as me. That happens very rarely in these podcasts and we are both back in a very short lockdown. Hopefully, it's going to be rescinded before the end of the week, so we're stuck at home in a Zoom chat. It's just great.
Olivia Hayfield: I was supposed to have my book launch tomorrow, and that's the most appalling timing, so I’m a bit sad about that but hopefully it will be postponed, not cancelled.
Olivia Hayfield alias Sue Copsey, author
Jenny Wheeler: Absolutely. All the arrangements and all the booking of premises and things. How annoying.
Olivia Hayfield: I know it is. But these things can't be helped. There are lot of people worse off. I keep telling myself that.
Jenny Wheeler: You have done two very popular and clever women's fiction books. You could put them in the category of Rich People Behaving Badly, which is one little tagline a reviewer gave one of them, but you describe them as modern retellings of historical tales. It was a very high concept idea: take Henry VIII as if he was a 21st century womanizing media mogul rather than the King of England. How did that idea form in your mind?
Olivia Hayfield: I think, like all the best ideas, it came out of nowhere. If I sit down at my computer and think hard, it doesn't happen. It tends to be when I'm in the shower or when I'm out for a walk.
Trump - a modern-day Henry VIII?
With the Henry idea, it was back in 2018, and I was thinking about Trump. I was thinking, he's turning into a bit of a tyrant. I think we had just had the whole ‘grabbing women by the pussy’ episode and I was thinking, how is this man still in power?
Then I had this progression of thought – the gingery hair, the temper tantrumy things going on, and I thought, he's really just like a modern-day Henry VIII.
(With apologies to Hans Holbein the Younger) Pic: Courtesy of Foreign Policy.com
I've always been fascinated by Henry VIII. Then the idea came to me. What would Henry VIII be like if he lived today? Would he be like Trump or would he be a bit different? I thought, somebody's got to have done this, so as soon as I got out of the shower, I Googled modern day retelling Henry VIII and no one had.