ReadingRoom

BookBubble podcast: Sue Copsey

Nicky Pellegrino and Stacy Gregg continue their podcast series of interviews with popular New Zealand authors. Today: Sue Copsey, who casts wife-chopping Henry VIII in modern life.

Children’s author Sue Copsey had the germ of an idea for her first adult novel while in the shower, thinking about Donald Trump and how he resembled an equally unpopular figure from history, King Henry VIII. That led to Wife After Wife – written under the pen name Olivia Hayfield – a romp of a novel and a modern re-telling of the story of the famously much-married Tudor.

Her background as a book editor means Copsey is a meticulous researcher and teller of stories. With Wife After Wife she has managed to reinvent a genre that seemed long gone, the old-fashioned bonk-buster with its money, sex and glamour, giving it a fresh outlook and a clever twist. In the modern-day version of his life Henry VIII becomes Harry Rose, a ruthless but charming media mogul, and a womanising rogue. "I wondered how he'd fare in modern life," she says in her BookBubble interview, "with feminism, with #metoo, with mental health care..."

Extract from Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield

Harry was walking the short distance to Hampton Court station, on his way to catch the seven twenty-five into Waterloo. Already the day was warm; it looked like his thirtieth birthday was going to be a scorcher.

He bought a copy of the Times and stood in his usual spot on the northbound platform. Dotted around were other commuters, the men in similar suits to his own (cheaper versions, obviously), reading the same newspapers they read every day. Many faces were familiar – they were the same people he saw each time he caught the seven twenty-five. The only difference today was that most had taken the risk of going umbrella-free.

He had a sudden memory of driving to work from the Fulham house in his red TVR, top down, music blaring. Now look at him, like Mr Banks from Mary Poppins. All that was missing was the bowler hat.

He was thirty.

The train clattered into the station and he made his way to his usual seat, then read the same paragraph of the newspaper three times before registering he was taking none of it in. He lowered the paper and stared out of the window.

Thirty years old.

What was he doing with his life? Workwise, everything was going swimmingly. Company profits were now so healthy they were looking at diversifying, and Harry was considering moving Rose Corp to brand new premises. Maybe a tower. Something like Canary Wharf. But taller.

Business was going well, but his personal life was a shambles. He needed to take control, do something about it. Katie would always hold a special place in his heart, but the love was gone. All that remained was a vague fondness, which gave way to exasperation whenever they attempted a where-to-next conversation. Katie became so upset when he suggested living apart for a while that inevitably he backed down, fearing sending her back to the darkest days of her depression. So things stayed as they were. Going nowhere.

As for Merry, the sooner he could shake her off, the better. The breathy voice he’d once found so alluring now set his teeth on edge.

Meanwhile, his obsession with Ana had strengthened its grip. He’d been biding his time, watching, waiting. Would his gamble pay off? Percy’s exile to Dublin would surely be the catalyst for a meltdown in that relationship. Ana was hugely ambitious; any fool could see that. She wasn’t going to give up her skyrocketing career for art editor of Catholic Weekly, or Irish Homes and Gardens, or whatever the good people of Dublin liked to read.

He shifted in his seat as the image of Ana’s coal-black eyes and willowy body filled his head, as it so often did. She’d be his, he was certain. He just needed to time it right, plan it carefully.

Harry smiled. There really was nothing like the thrill of the chase.

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield (Hachette, $34.99) is available in bookstores nationwide.

BookBubble is made with the support of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa

Previous BookBubble interviews have been conducted with Damien Wilkins, Kyle Mewburn, Nalini Singh, Christine Leunens, Elizabeth Knox and Brandy Scott.

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