Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Olivia Hayfield Interview - Wife After Wife

Photo Credit: © Helena Copsey

Olivia Hayfield is the pseudonym of British author Sue Copsey. Sue is usually in her office editing other people’s books, while Olivia is often in her writing hut at the bottom of the garden. After several years in London Zoo’s press office, Sue became an editor at Dorling Kindersley. She later moved to New Zealand, where she continues to work in publishing. Sue has written several children’s books, including The Ghosts of Tarawera, which was a Storylines Children’s Literature Trust Notable Book. Wife After Wife is her first adult novel. She is married with two children.


What inspired you to pen your first novel
I usually write for children and teens – Wife After Wife is my first novel for adults. The train of thought that led to this book was sparked by the #MeToo movement. I was pondering on the behaviour of certain high-profile men – one in particular – and Henry VIII, who has always fascinated me, popped into my head. He’s behaving just like Henry! I thought. But firing people rather than beheading them, obviously.

I took this thought forward. (Actually, it went of its own accord. Once it took hold, there was no stopping it.) What if Henry were alive today? What if he were reincarnated – the same person but with different influences. What if his wives were reincarnated too. How would they react to his behaviour? Strong, intelligent, forward-thinking women like Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr. Wouldn’t it be interesting (and fun) to see how things would play out in modern times? Perhaps I could give Henry VIII his come-uppance, by pitching him against modern versions of his six wives.

Tell us your latest news
As I write this I’m just weeks away from the launch of Wife After Wife. It’s incredibly exciting being published worldwide and seeing the response from readers to the advance copies Penguin have been sending out. Meanwhile I’ve been writing the sequel, Sister to Sister, which is told mainly from the point of view of Harry Rose’s daughter Eliza (Elizabeth 1st), but with Harry’s voice in there too. Eliza has a big influence on Harry, and we see him continuing his journey towards redemption.

While I wrote Wife After Wife mostly for fun, and was as surprised as I was delighted when it was picked up by two major publishers, writing the sequel has been a very different experience as there were deadlines – and I have a full-time day job and a family. So it’s been an intense year, and I’ve only just completed the second round of rewrites (I have a brilliant but demanding editor!). I’m thrilled with how it’s come together, and can’t wait to share it with readers who’ve enjoyed the first book.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I’m a book editor (the day job), and I continue to learn so much from working with good authors. Things like how to inject emotion into a scene, how to keep up the pace, how to make your characters believable and relatable (and loveable! Quite a challenge when it came to Harry Rose …)

For research into historical characters, I read Antonia Fraser, Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory. I love the insight of these female writers into those characters’ relationships and how they fared in the context of the times in which they lived.

As a reader I’ve always enjoyed contemporary fiction; books about relationships, moral dilemmas and so on. Recently I loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; other favourites are Sebastian Faulkes, Jojo Moyes, Deborah Moggach, and David Nicholls. I like stories that sweep me away, that make me think deeply, and while I don’t read a great deal of literary fiction I do love those moments when the writing is so beautiful it stops me in my tracks, or makes me think about something in a new way. While I aim to make my writing accessible (publishing speak for not too taxing) I do try (hard!) to touch the reader’s heart, to make them think about things, perhaps even open their mind a little more. It’s up to us as writers to help change attitudes, to get readers to see things from another point of view. This seems particularly important at the moment.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Being contracted to write the sequel to Wife After Wife meant I could take a month off from my day job and hide myself away in my writing hut at the bottom of the garden, and do nothing but write from dawn to dusk (and beyond – sometimes past midnight if I was on a roll). Having always been a snatcher of writing time, this was a dream come true. I usually start my day with a walk (ideas come only when I get away from the computer). I live in the beautiful subtropical city of Auckland, and striding along the beach, letting those characters fill my head, imagining what they’d be like if they lived today … then coming home, ducking into my little hut and letting it all spill out, those characters coming alive on the page, the story pulling together – it was the most rewarding experience of my writing life.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like them to be on the lookout for the parallels with the historical events mirrored in Wife After Wife. I think those who know something of Henry VIII and Tudor history will get more out of it than those who don’t, however, as I was writing the book I also wanted it to be a good read for those who know little or nothing of this period in English history. So there are nods in there to make Tudorphiles smile knowingly, e.g. Harry’s love of tennis (Henry VIII invented the game); Katie singing ‘I had a little nut tree’ to her baby (‘The King of Spain’s daughter’ is Katherine of Aragon) and I hope many readers will pick up on these.

But mostly I want them to entertained, and perhaps be inspired to learn a little more of the real story of Henry VIII and his wives. It’s fascinating how his impact has rippled on down the centuries, for example his split with Rome (mirrored as Harry’s pro-Brexit stance in Wife After Wife). And in England, there’s still no escaping the man. Every gift shop, every castle – there’s Harry in his power pose, legs apart, those broad shoulders, that mean little mouth. On trips home to the UK, my kids would say, ‘Who is this man? He’s everywhere!’

In your new book; WIFE AFTER WIFE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it
The premise of Wife After Wife is that Henry VIII is reincarnated in the 20th century, but instead of being a prince, Harry is heir to media giant Rose Corp. He’s the same person, but with vastly different influences.

I asked myself the question, What turned Henry VIII from a handsome, intelligent, golden king into an obese tyrant? The most important factor to me was Henry’s absolute power – no one dared say no to this man. The other was his ill health later in life, which was the result of a nasty leg injury that wouldn’t heal, exacerbated by his burgeoning weight.

So … what if he didn’t have absolute power, modern medicine healed his leg, and his wives kept an eye on his diet? One consequence would be that he would remain hot! Harry Rose is pretty damn irresistible. But in these days of #MeToo, would his wives, who in this modern version are strong, independent women, stand for his behaviour? Would they stay with him if he strayed?

What part of Harry did you enjoy writing the most?
I don’t have the words to describe how much I enjoyed creating Harry. If I had to choose which part of him I love most, it would be his wit. Harry has an acerbic, quintessentially British sense of humour, and I hope this appeals to readers as much as it does to me!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
This is such an interesting question! I’d like Harry Rose to meet a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice). She’d think Harry was far too full of himself, but he’d wear her down, and she’d discover that he’s sweet underneath, and she’d visit his enormous Richmond mansion and that would probably swing it; they’d fall in love and there would be no wife number two, three, four, five or six.

  • Harry Rose (Henry VIII). Loves tennis, London, women, fast cars, but most of all himself. He’s bad. But he learns from the women in his life how to be less bad. His character arc continues into the sequel. Will he learn his lesson?
  • Kit Marley, a main character in the sequel. Based on Elizabethan playwright and Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe. Enigmatic, outrageously sexy, wild – even badder than Harry. Random fact: he’s the only character in either book who gets what’s really going on.
  • Terri Robbins-More. Potty-mouthed editor of The Rack; a working-class Yorkshire lass who loathes upper-class schoolboy types (Harry) on principle. Based on Sir Thomas More, in that she’s the voice of Harry’s conscience and stands her ground on the things that matter. Random fact: Thomas More wrote Utopia, about an imaginary ideal island nation.
  • Eliza Rose (Elizabeth 1st). Harry’s kick-ass feminist daughter and heir to Rose Corp. Beautiful, vivacious, brilliantly clever; loves glamorous men but won’t let them close. Random fact: Elizabeth 1st received a marriage proposal from Ivan the Terrible. She turned him down – he’d already had seven wives. Even more than her dad. No wonder she remained a virgin.
  • Ana Lyebon (Anne Boleyn). My trickiest character. Even today, nearly five hundred years after her death, Anne divides opinion. Take a peek into the Tudor Facebook groups and read the pro- and anti-Anne spats! Ana’s ambition is her downfall, but my 20th-century version won’t put up with Harry’s behaviour. Random fact: Anne Boleyn’s ‘sixth finger’ was a myth perpetrated after her death. Her body was exhumed in the 19th century and there was no evidence of a sixth digit.
  • Rob Studley (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester). Eliza’s love interest in the sequel. A drop-dead-gorgeous metrosexual; exuberant, clever, a real wide boy. He reminds us of Harry, in many ways. But he has a problem with Eliza being the boss – and also with her friendship with the wild, beguiling Kit Marley. Tension! Every author’s favourite tool. Random fact: Robert Dudley’s castle is just up the road from where I was born.
  • Clare Barr (Catherine Parr). Harry’s beloved sixth wife, so wise and calm and intelligent – does Harry deserve her? Is she in fact perfect? Does she have any vices? Random fact: Catherine Parr had a fondness for black satin lingerie.
  • Sue, the Press Officer at London Zoo who organises Harry’s family photo shoot. A brief appearance, but a favourite character, because this is me (Olivia Hayfield is her pseudonym). Random fact: Sue once kept a giant panda company in the back of a van on the way to Heathrow Airport.
  • Will Bardington (William Shakespeare) – another main character in Sister to Sister. A real sweetheart and best friend of Eliza Rose. Has a tendency to overdramatize things, and gets into regular creative spats with Kit Marley, with whom he’s secretly in love. Random fact: my ancestors in Warwickshire were neighbours of the Shakespeares. True!
  • Maria Rose (Mary Tudor, ‘Bloody Mary’): troubled, socially awkward eldest daughter of Harry Rose. Sets out to improve the moral landscape of the British media, sparking conflict with her father and sister. Falls for US TV evangelist Phil Seville (King Philip of Spain) with tragic consequences. Random fact: Elizabeth 1’s coffin was placed directly on top of Mary Tudor’s in Westminster Abbey, symbolising how Mary was in life overshadowed by her younger sister. While Elizabeth got a monument, Mary only got an inscription.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
I worked for a year as an editor on a children’s encyclopaedia so I’m a mine of useless information. Longest river, biggest carrot, fastest-swimming fish – I know it all. One that I always enjoy surprising children with is that starfishes can turn their stomachs inside-out – they send their stomach out to engulf their prey then bring it back inside.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
In a maharajah’s palace in India I was horrified to see a hollowed-out elephant’s leg used as an umbrella stand, while its ear and trunk had been turned into a hall table.

Best date you've ever had?
For our wedding anniversary a few years ago I was expecting dinner at a favourite Auckland harborside restaurant, but my husband walked me straight past it and onto a pier where a beautiful boat was waiting, along with our best friends, fabulous catering, champagne, a playlist of my favourite music … We sailed up the harbour; the moon was up and the night was warm. Doesn’t get much better!

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
There’s a cafĂ© called Buoy, down at the local yacht marina, where we’ve been going for brunch for years. There’s something about seaside cafes. The sound of tinkling ropes on masts, the seagulls, the turquoise water of Auckland Harbour. And damn fine coffee.

What did you do for your last birthday?
It was a bit different, in that my husband and son were overseas so it was just me and my daughter, who’s nineteen. But it was fun! We phoned up for a curry and watched my favourite movie (Out of Africa). I couldn’t wait to share it with her, but she said Robert Redford was ‘old’ and was generally underwhelmed by the story. Disappointing.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
That time when Netflix asked who I thought should play Harry Rose in the movie adaptation of Wife After Wife, and I said Henry Cavill, and they said would I like to attend the screen test, and he and I got along so well and went for cocktails … yes, it’s my job to make things up.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
When my agent phoned to tell me Penguin Random House in New York had made an offer for Wife After Wife. I may have screamed a little.

If Philippa Gregory and Jackie Collins went out for cocktails and wrote a book, they'd come back with Wife After Wife.

A wickedly entertaining and utterly absorbing modern take on the life and marriages of Henry VIII...if he were a twenty-first-century womanizing media mogul rather than the king of England.

Master of the universe Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation, number eighteen on the Forbes rich list, and recently married to wife number six. But in 2018, his perfect world is about to come crashing to the ground. His business is in the spotlight--and not in a good way--and his love life is under scrutiny. Because behind a glittering curtain of lavish parties, gorgeous homes, and a media empire is a tale worthy of any tabloid.

And Harry has a lot to account for.


“You don’t have to be a Tudor aficionado to adore Wife After Wife, however, those in the know will be especially delighted with this modern-day retelling of the six wives of Henry VIII. For all others, Hayfield’s clever novel is a delicious read for anyone looking to sink into a big juicy story about love, lust, betrayal and other unfortunate consequences of the heart.” —Renee Rosen, bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer

“This page-turner will delight both Tudorphiles and readers who love a dishy tellallabout rich people behaving badly.” —Booklist

“This story will resonate with readers, even those less familiar with British royal history. For fans of updated Jane Austen books, such as Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, and those who are ready to branch out.” Library Journal

You can purchase Wife After Wife at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you OLIVIA HAYFIELD for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield.


  1. "If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?" I can think of several days that could be improved!

  2. The day I was permanently injured by a drunk driver.

  3. I couldn't pick just one if I could. I say you just can't go back, look forward always.

  4. If I could go back in time, I would change nothing and live my life as I lived it. Relive the moments of joy and sadness and feel it all over again. I think each time we think about “If only…” Moments it makes us regret our current situation and our past decisions.

  5. I don't think I would change anything if I could because God has taught me so much through the good and bad.