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Checkmate: Waynesboro author novelizes Showtime’s ‘The Tudors’

Story by Chris Graham

the-tudors.jpgThe cook had been blackmailed into poisoning a high-ranking bishop, then naturally was caught for his crime and sentenced to execution.

To deter future such crimes, and to distance himself from any apparent involvement in the poisoning incident, Henry VIII arranges to have the man boiled to death.

The scene in the opening episode of the second season of the Golden Globe-nominated Showtime series “The Tudors” goes by rather quickly. Elizabeth Massie, the Waynesboro-based writer who authored the novelization of “The Tudors” season, King Takes Queen, published by Simon & Schuster, went into a bit more detail.

“It surprised me how quickly they went in and out of that scene. I would have thought that – not that they would belabor it to the point where people were just not able to watch, but it was very quick,” said Massie, whose book is due out in bookstores next week.

When Massie, an award-winning horror writer, envisioned the scene, “I did it from the cook’s point of view. He’s the one that’s going to be boiled in oil,” Massie said.

“When the scene opens on the TV show, he’s there, he’s all tied up, and he’s ready to get dunked,” Massie said. “The way I handled the scene in the novelization, I have him coming into the room, and he’s looking at the floor, and he can hear what’s going on, he can feel the heat in the room, he can hear the people talking, the gears creaking, the men stoking the fire under the cauldron. And then he looks up, and I describe what he sees to the reader.

“I initially describe it as a scene from hell – fire dancing off the wet walls, men making sure that the fire is really blazing, and the reflections on the faces of the people who are there to watch him die. It’s really intense, because I can only imagine if it was me that it would be really intense,” Massie said.

Massie had an intense few months working on King Takes Queen. She wrote the book during filming with scripts for the 10-episode run in hand and a box set of DVDs from season one that she took in during a marathon weekend of TV-watching.

“That’s where the imagination comes in,” Massie said. “The scripts have the dialogue and a brief description of the setting, and then pretty much I was on my own. I knew how their characters looked, because I had seen the DVD of the first season. But there were some new characters, and I had no clue what they looked like. And actually I was writing the novelization as they were filming in Ireland. It was all happening at the same time. So there was no way for me to see clips as it was being filmed.”

The biggest challenge, Massie said, “was the research on the clothing and technology and the specific settings that they had, because the number of castles are mentioned in the script, and I had to make sure that if I was going to describe this castle, I wasn’t going to do it wrong, I was going to have it in the right place, and it was the right size, and was it on a hill, or was it in a valley.”

The most fun “was dealing with the emotional aspects of the novelization,” Massie said. “Each scene I write, I do it from a particular point of view. I’m the kind of writer that doesn’t like a lot of back and forth between different points of view within a certain scene. To me, that gives me a headache. I want to get in one person’s shoes and experience that particular scene with him or her. So as I got to each scene in the scripts, I had to decide whose point of view do I want to approach this from. Do I want to do it from Henry’s, do I want to do it from Anne Boleyn’s, do I want to do it from Cromwell’s, Thomas More? Whoever was in the scene, I had to pick one person and go with it.”

I was able to screen the season premiere with Massie Sunday night. I asked her if she was at all nervous to see how her novelization matched up with the presentation on the small screen.

“It’s not at all nervous. It’s more excited. Because I know that not only was my novelization approved by my publisher, Simon and Schuster, but it was approved by the writer of the script, Michael Hirst. He was the creator of the TV show, and he gave his stamp of approval as well,” Massie said.

“It’s more to see how will mine match up, and of course there will be some differences. I was expecting that. I was curious to see that a couple of the scenes in the novelization were dropped from the TV show, but I guess with time they have to make a couple of last-minute decisions about what really needs to stay and what doesn’t,” Massie said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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