Tag Archive for: Thornleigh Saga

My One-Eyed Hero: with Barbara Kyle

 by Barbara Kyle


Readers love book series. No
wonder. We get to know the continuing characters so well, we’re eager to find
out what happens to them in the next book.
For the author, though, the terrain
of a series can be a minefield.



My Thornleigh Saga is a series of
seven historical novels that follow three generations of an English family over
sixty-five years (1517 to 1582), so in writing them I would sometimes
forget things that happened to characters in the previous books set years before. 


example, in Book One the hero, Richard Thornleigh, loses an eye, but in writing
the next book I would start to write things like, “Richard’s eyes were drawn to
. . .”


The solution? I created a series “bible”
that recorded important facts like characters’ ages, marriages, children, and
physical details like color of hair and eyes – and missing body parts!


Here are three more things I
learned in writing a series.


1 Every Book Must Stand Alone


An author can’t assume that
readers have read the previous books in the series. So each book must give
some backstory about what’s happened to the main characters in the preceding
books, but not so much that it bores readers who have read them all.
Getting the balance right is tricky.


TV writers are lucky. An episode will often start with a helpful recap: “Previously on The Crown
…” I wish a
plummy-voiced British announcer could give a recap at the beginning of my Thornleigh books!


2 Let Characters Age


It’s hard for readers to believe that a hero fights off bad guys like a young stud if, over the decades-long
timeline of the series, he’s become a senior citizen. Author J. K. Rowling was
smart. She let Harry Potter and his friends grow up.


I enjoyed letting my characters age slowly throughout the Thornleigh Saga series. The seven books take the main
character, Honor Larke, from precocious seven-year-old child in Book One, The Queen’s Lady, to
astute seventy-year-old grande dame as Lady Thornleigh in Book Seven.

Likewise, her stepson Adam Thornleigh
is a young seafaring adventurer in Book 3 but by Book 6 he’s a mature man, a
loyal champion of his friend Queen Elizabeth I. He’s been through a loveless
marriage, adores his two children, and falls hard for the latter book’s appealing
main character, Scottish ship salvager Fenella Doorn. (Pic: Christian Bale, my fantasy casting as Adam!)

3 Embrace Cliff-Hanger Endings


Each book in a series must be a
stand-alone story, with an inciting incident, escalating conflict, turning
points, and a satisfying climax. 


But if, after the climax, the author can end
each book by opening up a new, burning question for the characters, it sets up
the conflict that will be tackled in the next book. Readers then eagerly look
forward to that next story.


For any author, writing a series can
be a joy, forging an enduring relationship with readers – just as long as, when
creating one-eyed heroes, that “bible” is kept handy!


Do you have a favorite book series? 


Barbara Kyle
is the author of the bestselling
Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of
acclaimed thrillers. Her latest novel of suspense is The Man from Spirit Creek. Over half a million
copies of her books have been sold. Barbara has taught
hundreds of writers in her online Masterclasses and many have become
award-winning authors.
Visit Barbara at https://www.barbarakyle.com/  

Priceless: The Author-Reader Bond by Barbara Kyle



Priceless: The Author-Reader Bond 

Barbara Kyle 


of us vividly recall a book that touched our lives, whether as young adults or
at a crucial moment later in life. The moment makes us feel a special kinship
with the author. It’s a meeting of minds, even of souls. It’s a bond, and a
potent one. (Painting above by Daniel F. Gerhartz.)

Any author will tell you it’s a happy day when a reader gets in touch to say
how much the author’s book has meant to them. Sometimes the message is moving,
like the museum curator in Yarmouth, England who wrote to tell me that The
Queen’s Lady
helped him as he mourned the death of his father. 



Sometimes the message brings a laugh, like the lady
who cheerfully told me she got The Queen’s Captive from the library
because she remembered having loved a similar book – and then realized, as she
was enjoying The Queen’s Captive, that this was the very book she had
read and loved!



Here are three readers whose messages about my historical thrillers were
very special.


The Colonel

Years ago I was in England researching The Queen’s Lady and spent a day
exploring Hever Castle in Kent. This was the home of the Boleyn family, and
Henry VIII came here to court Anne. That tempestuous affair changed the course
of England’s history. 


I strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination, I picked up an acorn.
What a lovely feeling to hold in my hand something living from the so-called
“dead” past. I squirreled the acorn away in my pocket and brought it
home to Canada, and it sat on my desk beside my computer, a sweet reminder of
its place of birth as I wrote The Queen’s Lady. The acorn was still on
my desk when I wrote The King’s Daughter. It had become a touchstone
that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it.

Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.

A few months later I got a cheery email from a reader telling me he was on his
way to England for an Anne Boleyn Tour during which he would be visiting Hever
Castle. There would be dinners in the Great Hall where Henry and Anne ate, plus
lectures, plays, and demonstrations – “A once in a lifetime experience,” he
said. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. He is a
retired air force colonel and lives in Tennessee.

Four weeks later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from the
Colonel. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost
but couldn’t find one. I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone.
He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. “It’s from the area where Henry
courted Anne, according to the castle staff,” wrote the Colonel. 

was so touched. In the following years the pine cone had pride of place on my desk beside my computer
as I wrote six more books in the “Thornleigh Saga” series. Thank you, Colonel, for what you gave
me. A once in a lifetime experience.


The Embroiderer


A music educator in Ontario emailed me
with praise about my books and told me she was part of a sewing club of about
three dozen ladies who get together at a shop with the delightful name The
Enchanted Needle. She said they were working on Tudor period sewing techniques,
and she attached images of historic Tudor-era embroidery. Now, I know little
about sewing, but I know beauty when I see it, and these works were stunning.


As she waxed lyrical about bygone sewing techniques like “stumpwork”
and “Assisi,” “blackwork” and “bargello,”
“cross-stitching” and “the morphing power of color,” I
could only, in ignorance, try to keep up, but when she said my books inspired
her in this Tudor-era needlework I was moved again by how glorious and various
are the connections between author and reader.

The Boy

That’s what I’ll call him, the gangly kid who showed up at a public
reading I did from The Queen’s Gamble and listened so intensely. He
looked about fourteen, the only person there who was so young. After the
reading I saw him at the edge of the knot of people I was chatting with. The
others all asked lively questions, but he said nothing. He looked like he
wanted to, but he never took a step nearer. When I finished talking to the
people, I noticed the boy was gone.

About a week later I found a package in my mailbox: a slender book and a note.
The writer of the note said he’d been at the reading, and was a high school
student who loved history, and he hoped to one day be a history teacher. My
novels were his favorites, he said. The book he’d enclosed was The Bloody
by Valerie Wilding, a young adult novel in the form of a Tudor girl’s
diary. It had meant a lot to him, he said, so he wanted to
share it with me. 



There, now I’ve shared it with you. That’s what the writer-reader bond is. We
share what moves us. And that connection is what makes the writer’s work a joy.





Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of
historical thrillers (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA Today) and of acclaimed
contemporary thrillers. 


Over half a million copies of her books have been sold. 



Her latest book
is The Man from Spirit Creek, a novel of suspense. 



Barbara has taught
hundreds of writers in her online classes and many have become award-winning authors.  Page-Turner, her popular how-to book for writers, is available in print,
e-book, and audiobook. Visit Barbara at