Thursday, October 3, 2013

Renee Duke: The Disappearing Rose

Children’s author Renee Duke visits The Plain today with something special: The Disappearing Rose, a time travel story based on the mystery of the young English princes, Edward and Richard, who disappeared in 15th century London. (Renee is giving away an eCopy of her book. See below for details.) Stories that teach kids history, whether they like it or not, are always a favorite for me. If they are for you, read on!

Welcome, Renee. Tell us a little about your writing. Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
I set my books where the story requires them to be set, but I’ve travelled a great deal and lived in three different countries. Any specific place I’ve written about, I have actually been to.
How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
Character-wise, not much, although some characters might be composites of people I know. Events, yes, some scenes are based on something I’ve experienced or have been told about, but most of the ones in this book are purely fictitious. The next one’s set in Victorian times, and I had a LOT of great-aunts and uncles from that era whose reminiscences I was able to appropriate.
How did you come up with the title?
The disappearing rose referred to in The Disappearing Rose is Edward V, who did disappear, and whose family emblem was a white rose. Additionally, the medallion the children time travel with has a rose on it, and since this is a series, the word ‘rose’ will appear in every title. The next book, The Mud Rose, deals with children who are Victorian mudlarks and the third book, the one I’m currently working on, is called The Spirit Rose. And my rose is the ancient five-petal one, not the more common multi-petalled variety.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
Just that things are not always what they seem, and just because something is presented as fact doesn’t mean that it is.
When you first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
I started writing when I was about seven. At that age you don’t have much experience of the world, so you just do what you do and expect to figure everything out as you go along. Writing no longer ‘flows’ from me like it did when I was a child or a teenager, however. Leastways, not often. Adults stop and analyze too much.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
As my editors can no doubt attest, I never really finish a story. Being borderline OCD, I would, if permitted, ‘tweak’ it forever. Fortunately, they won’t permit it.
Give us a mini-tour of your writing space.
I work in a small living room with a computer desk, office chair, computer, two printers, a couch, a bookcase, and an entertainment centre containing a television, VCR ,and assorted knick-knacks. The walls and curtains are blue, as is the carpet, but you can’t see much of that because there are books, boxes, and papers over most of it. There are also two cat baskets, which cats occupy when they’re not out, or sitting in the picture window, or walking across my keyboard demanding attention.
Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
Browsing would take you a while. There are more bookcases in our house than any other type of furniture. I’ll just go (alphabetically) with a baker’s dozen of favourites, that I’ve read over and over: Crocodile On The Sandbank (Peters), The Chrysalids (Wyndham), Little Boy Lost (Laski), Little Fuzzy (Piper), A Long Way To Go (Deal), Lost Horizon (Hilton), The Mouse That Roared (Wibberely), The Prince & The Pauper (Twain), The Prisoner Of Zenda (Hope), The Revolt of Sarah Perkins (Cockrell), Room For One More (Perrot-Rose), To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee), and The Wooden Horse (Williams). I have a lot of children and young adult books, too, that I really enjoy. Moving between countries, I sometimes lost books, but have managed to find copies of most of the ones I liked best. There’s just one I doubt I’ll ever find again, since I was quite little when I had it and I know neither title nor author. All I remember is that it was a small book, with smooth, shiny pages, and it was about a caterpillar named Caleb who was on his way to a party when he was picked up and put in a matchbox by a little girl named Penelope. How he got away, I don’t recall. And if anyone out there recognizes this book and does know the title, PLEASE let me know.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
Other than at the altar rail, I don’t drink wine. My favourite beverage is actually cocoa. And the author I’d most have liked to have chatted to would have been P.G. Wodehouse. No one could (or can now) turn a phrase like Wodehouse.
Have any new authors caught your interest?
Well, they’re not exactly new, but they’re new to me. I have Penny Estelle’s Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare and Marva Dasef’s Witches of Galdorheim on my KOBO, and closer to Christmas, I’m looking forward to reading Nancy Bell’s Christmas Storm. (I’m one of those people who like to read ‘in season’.) I like the look of your Band of Roses series, too. I’ve been to Ireland twice. It’s a lovely country, where both history and mystery abound.
They do indeed, Renee. What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
The Mud Roseis due out from MuseItUp in January. I don’t know when The Spirit Rose will materialize. I’m not a fast writer, and it’s not as straightforward as the first two were, or the last two will be. It’s the pivotal ‘middle book’, and as the title implies, it’s a more spiritual book – the one that really gets into the medallion’s background, and reveals more of its mysteries and objectives.
Who supports your writing activities most?
My mother and my son. My father would, too, if he were still alive. I also have friends who are very supportive.
What does your family think of your writing?
If you mean actual writing output, they like what I write. If you mean the act of writing, well, I think they just see it as an aspect of who I am, like the addiction to chocolate, the aversion to exercise, and the grouchy early morning disposition.
Wonderful interview, Renee. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. And now, let’s have a look at The Disappearing Rose.

No one knows what happened to the little Princes of the Tower. That’s what Dane, Paige, and Jack are told when they start working on a medieval documentary for Dane and Paige’s filmmaker father. But then an ancient medallion transports them back to the fifteenth century and gives them a chance to discover the truth about the mysterious disappearance of young King Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard, Duke of York.

But they’d better be careful. The princes are definitely in danger, and the person responsible for their disappearance just might decide that their new friends should disappear as well.

The front of the medallion had a solid, perfectly formed five-petal rose projecting from its otherwise flat surface. The back was completely flat, but when Mrs. Marchand turned it over, a stamped image was revealed. One of the two human figures depicted was a weary-looking old man with a long beard. He was seated on the back of a huge eagle with his right hand resting on the shoulder of a young girl. The girl stood before him, her own hands cupped, reaching up to receive the single rose he held in his other hand. Both wore simple robes, and beneath their sandal-clad feet were the words ROSAE ADULESCENTIAE OMNIA TEMPUS REVELAT.

"That’s Latin," said Jack. "It means, ‘To … to the rose of … youth …time reveals all’."

Dane looked at him admiringly, but the translation failed to impress Paige, who frowned and said, "That makes about as much sense as the verse on the box."

"I expect they both made sense at one time," said Uncle Gareth. "Unfortunately, the meanings of such things tend to become obscure as generations pass."

"How do you know they weren’t obscure to begin with?" said Grantie Etta. "This little gewgaw has mystical connections. Its powers weren’t meant to be available to all and sundry."
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And Now, to Win a Copy of The Disappearing Rose, Please Share Your Opinion:

The bones found under a car park in Leicester last year were officially identified as those of Richard III by using the DNA of a descendent of his sister, Anne.  The same DNA could be used to identify (or not identify) the bones now interred in Westminster Abbey – the bones that were discovered under some stairs in the Tower of London in 1674 and supposed (but never proven) to be those of his nephews, who went missing two centuries earlier.
If DNA testing were to determine that they were indeed the bones of the little princes, it wouldn’t shed any light on who killed them, but would at least prove someone did, thus ending speculation about their survival. And if testing were to reveal that the bones were not those of the princes, well, that would be very interesting, wouldn’t it?  (And a bit of a problem for Westminster, which would then have anonymous bones on its hands.)

Regardless of who they belong to, however, they are the bones of children, and should perhaps just be left to rest in peace. What do you think? Should these bones be DNA tested? Vote yay or nay, and leave a comment as to your reasons. You’re not likely to change Westminster’s mind (they say nay), but you could win a free copy of The Disappearing Rose.
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About Renee Duke:
Renee Duke resides in Kelowna, B.C. Canada and is a citizen of both Canada and the United Kingdom. She has been writing professionally since 1979, but as she also worked in the field of education, it is only recently that she has been able to write full-time. Now mostly retired from teaching, she still sometimes does interactive history units with children in out-of-school care. Other interests include reading, travelling, and supporting the work of such organizations as Families For Children (FFC). She also likes watching films and TV and going to the theatre, which is only to be expected as her son is an actor/filmmaker. She is even an associate producer for his short film, Fighting Free, the conception of which she believes she can claim at least partial credit, since she was the one who spent ten years taking him to the karate classes and tournaments that inspired it. (The trailer can be viewed at
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The Disappearing Rose / eBook Available from


  1. Yes. DNA test the bones. Everyone deserves dignity in death, and a part of that is telling the truth of who they were in life.

  2. True. Love him or hate him, Richard III's body was not treated with respect after he was killed at Bosworth, and his remains should not have been lying in obscurity.

  3. I wonder why Westminster (and also the Queen) won't let the bones be DNA tested? The 1930s examination of the bones proved nothing, IMO (too many inaccuracies/guesswork because of the limited scientific knowledge at that time). If DNA proves they are the Princes, it would end the speculation (though won't of course prove their 'wicked uncle' killed them! That's a totally different issue). However, if they are not the Princes, we have an interesting conundrum. Maybe they did escape to Burgundy - and maybe there's a descendant somewhere who has a greater claim to the throne than the present Royals. Perhaps that's why The Queen has said no to DNA testing?

  4. Yes, I think it's the possibility that they might NOT be the princes' bones that's in play here, but I'm not sure why. If it's because the Abbey then wouldn't know what to do them, well, why not just keep them there as 'Anonymous Tower Victims'? Since there were probably quite a few of those, they could stand in tribute to them all - like the Unknown Solider.

  5. Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Pat. Enjoy you time in Ireland.

    1. My pleasure, Renee. Such a fascinating topic! Best of the best to you and The Disappearing Rose!