Tag Archives: historical thrillers

Interview with Medieval Thriller Author E.M. Powell

What can I say, I just love E.M. Powell. She’s a great writer and a wonderful person. A lot of research goes into her books! The third book in her medieval thriller series released recently so I caught up with her to talk about The Lord of Ireland. If you missed my review of this stellar book, you can read that HERE. Enjoy the interview! (P.S. Love this cover!!)

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Hi Elaine, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we visited, and invited Paddington Bear, but this year I think we will go a bit more Irish, since most of your third book, The Lord of Ireland, is placed there. Just like your roots! (And besides, my name is Erin…Ireland!) So welcome, come in and have a seat, I’ll put on the tea or coffee? Your choice today, just let me know your preference? And I’ve baked up some of my Irish soda bread as well so I’ll bring that in.

Elaine: Hi Erin—and yes, it feels like some very nice stars have aligned to have you talk to me about my book on Ireland. Coffee as always, please, though tea is the drink of choice in Ireland. And that bread smells so good!

Erin: Wonderful choice of course as I love coffee (but I also like tea hehe). I’ll pour and bring in a tray of soda bread fresh from the oven.

Let’s get started, as I have some interesting questions to ask you. How exciting is it to now have your third book in your series published?

Elaine: First, I must say, your soda bread is the best. You’ve passed the taste test with a genuine Irish person! As for exciting, having The Lord of Ireland out there in the world is hugely exciting but also deeply fulfilling. It’s been the book of my heart.

Erin: I really enjoy how you’ve switched the setting of this book to somewhere new, and to a place that doesn’t really seem to get as much historical fiction attention in the 12 century. Your details and descriptions were lovely. What gave you the idea to follow this track and how much research was involved?

Elaine: I had a launch of the first book in the series, The Fifth Knight, at the Irish world heritage Centre in Manchester in 2013. That book is set in 1170 England, featuring my fictional eponymous Sir Benedict Palmer, and it centers on the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. A member of the audience asked me if I would ever write a book about medieval Ireland. I said no, but even as the words came out of my mouth, I think that seed was planted.

In continuing the series, I wanted to stay with the theme of using a known historical event and providing my take on it. In the second book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer was charged with trying to figure out who was intent on murdering the Fair Rosamund, the young mistress of Henry II. This was set in 1176, again in England.

As I started to look for another hook (yes, the hook of a book!), I came across an account of Henry’s youngest son, John (he who would be Bad King John), going to Ireland at the age of eighteen and insulting the Irish chieftains who came to welcome him by pulling them by their beards and mocking them. This rang a bell. But further research told me John had an eight month campaign there. And that it was a disaster. And that he went there with his very first title: Lord of Ireland. I was in- and I was going back to Ireland, the land of my birth.

I have to confess, the research commitment to this book was huge. I had to research from the perspective of English/British history and of course Irish history. As you’ll appreciate, these don’t always agree on a consensus!

Erin: In deciding to feature Lackland in this novel, and his adventure to lead Ireland, you seem to have moved somewhat more away from a mystery element to more of an historical thriller. Would you say this is correct? Why did you decided to do so or did your muse and characters dictate the plot?

Elaine: In a way, it was a return to a thriller. The Fifth Knight was a thriller, The Blood of the Fifth Knight was more mystery and then I came back to thriller again. And both have elements of both! The mystery/crime/thriller genre(s) often has huge overlap between all three. I think ultimately The Lord of Ireland was more thriller because of the historical events that took place.

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Erin: Yes, that’s true I can see that, reading all three. Speaking of Lackland, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, you seemed to prove all the previous writings and rumors of him in history to be true and presented him as such in your novel—cruel and spiteful, and yet, modern historians have tried to paint him more as hard working and more able bodied as a leader. What are your thoughts and why/how did you prove enough to stand behind how you presented him as a character?

Elaine: I read many, many books and articles about John. While there are a few voices that paint him in a more positive light, most are still very much agreed that he was dreadful. One of the most recent biographies of King John is English historian Marc Morris’s 2015 King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta. As one might guess from the title, Morris is not a fan. It’s a wonderful read. As for John’s first trip to Ireland, the eminent Irish historian Seán Duffy sums it up thus: ‘If, as few would dispute, John’s 1185 expedition was a military failure, it was disastrous too in a political sense. ‘

Erin: I always enjoy your characters and you have superb character development that gets deeper with  each novel, both your main characters becoming more complex and your newly introduced sub-characters being created with more depth. I’m always glad to see Palmer again, but I’m very glad you endeavor to give his wife more of a role now. Did you plan that or is her character speaking to you? Why is she becoming such an important asset to Palmer and to the books?

Elaine: I’m so pleased you should say that! Characterization was my Achilles Heel pre-publication and I’m always aware of that. Theodosia, Palmer’s wife, had a more active role in this book because I planned it. In the second book, she was the mother of very small children and I couldn’t allow her to step away from that role as I truly believe most women wouldn’t. And (no spoilers!), she actually had the final say in that book too. A shrinking violet, she ain’t!

Erin: Your series, The Fifth Knight, is in its third book now with The Lord of Ireland. Where will the series go from here? Do you have more planned?

Elaine: I have a Book #4 in the works, which will be the last in the series. I also have a very exciting project linked to Book #2, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, that I can’t discuss yet. Stay tuned!

Erin: What authors influence/influenced you in writing medieval thrillers and who do you enjoy reading?

Elaine: I love Robert Harris’s Pompeii above all else when it comes to historical thrillers. To me, it’s the gold standard. It’s got a wonderful hero- a water engineer (yes, you read that right!) and no one knows that the big old mountain is about to blow. Except the reader. It’s compelling and exciting and above all, you’re THERE. 

Erin: What types of places have you visited in doing your research, either in person or by Internet, that you’ve loved? And why? And did they end up in your book(s)?

Elaine: Part of my research for the Lord of Ireland involved a research trip to Ireland. I know—a tough job, but someone had to do it. I had a clear itinerary as I had the good fortune that Henry II had sent his royal clerk, Gerald of Wales, with John. Gerald wrote an account of John’s campaign and mentioned many of the events that took place as well as the locations John visited. So I started at Waterford, scene of the beard pulling, where John landed. Much of what was present in 1185 still exists—even some of the buildings. Where buildings such as wooden fortresses had long gone, in parts of Co. Tipperary and Co. Kilkenny, I still had the lie of the land to go at. And then there were places that were ancient even when John arrived, like a Durrow in Co. Offaly. There’s a High Cross there that dates from 850 AD. Seeing things like that helped me to put the history into its correct perspective. It might have been a new land to John—but not to the Irish.

Erin: If not writing mysteries or thrillers, what other types of historical fiction, time periods, or genres would you attempt?

Elaine: I wouldn’t! The first version of The Fifth Knight was very heavily weighted on the romance side and it won several times in RWA contests. It still has romantic elements, as do the other two books. But I’m a thriller writer at heart.

Erin: If you could meet one woman from history, and then write a book about her, who would it be?

Elaine: It would have to be Emmeline Pankhurst, the leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote— the suffragettes. She fought tooth and nail and refused to give up. And she won.

Erin: Yes! Good choice. More coffee to go? I’ll wrap up some bread for you to take home. It’s been a pleasure to interview you again and you’re welcome anytime. Thanks for coming by, my friend, and for continually writing excellent books! Best wishes for a great year.

Elaine: Any chance you could make that two loaves? And it’s been an absolute privilege, as always—slánleatagus go raibhmaithagat!

02_The-Lord-of-IrelandTHE LORD OF IRELAND (THE FIFTH KNIGHT, #3)

by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Thomas & Mercer
Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook; 370 Pages

Series: The Fifth Knight
Genre: Historical Thriller

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.

Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

Praise for The Fifth Knight Series

“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review

“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY |CHAPTERS

Author E. M. Powell, Biography

03_E.M.-Powell-197x300E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.

Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.

Find more information at E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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The Blood of the Fifth Knight is Destined to be One of Top Historical Mysteries/Thrillers of 2015

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddI’ve recently read The Blood of the Fifth Knight, which is the sequel to The Fifth Knight, a historical mystery thriller set in the times of Henry II and written by E.M. Powell. If you missed my review last year of The Fifth Knight, you can check it out by clicking on the title. Though the sleuth is the same in both books, you can be assured that you can read the sequel as a stand alone as well, though the first book was quite excellent and would provide further background information you might enjoy.

As for The Blood of the Fifth Knight, I absolutely loved reading this novel. I do love a good mystery, but in all fairness I must disclose that sometimes it takes me a few times to get “into” some mysteries, even if I liked them by the end. With Powell’s sequel, this wasn’t so at all. I was grabbed by the first few pages and read fervently as she entertained and thrilled me page by page. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t have distracted syndrome.

Why? I think it’s her sentence structure, her formation, her details….but beyond that, I think it’s her characters. They are so dimensional and crafted with an exquisite hand. I love Powell’s touches of humor, which always come lightly and just at the right time, and she’s one of few that makes action sequences exciting. She uses a whole cast of characters with different attributes that come to life off the page, making them easy to visualize within my head.

She did an extreme amount of research for this novel and it shows, as well as her vivid imagination for the time period. I love her glorious descriptive details, rich and full of life and zest. Her writing is never brooding, but fun and uplifting even in some situations that would be given a heavy air by others. Her historical basis was authentic and plausible and she wound her plot intricately and with care, weaving her characters and their motivations together like she had seen it all right before her eyes.

I love her choice of Sir Benedict Palmer as her sleuth, even if most everyone does not know that Henry II has called him in as an investigator, not a gardener. He seems very observant, but does get himself into some precarious situations which are quite humorous for many reasons. That added a flair to the story. Also, with her juxtaposing back to Palmer’s own wife, Theodosia, and his children, who were left behind in the home, it really gave the story depth and showed us societal levels and nuances of the time period which added to the plot. In regards to this, I especially enjoyed the character she introduced in Joan, Palmer’s long-lost sister. I liked her attitude and her strength, and her ingenuity, which set up an alternate mirror in regards to Theodosia’s moral compass.

I really liked Powell’s portrayal of Henry’s mistress, Rosamund Clifford, for whom Palmer was secretly called in to snuff out the assassin who tried to kill her. She didn’t regurgitate any historical story here just for legend sake, but instead she played upon their known affair in order to create a suspenseful mystery that was full of intrigue and drama. Talk about a damsel in distress! Surrounding this entanglement was, of course, Henry II’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, of whom he wished to divorce, and her lover, who had his eyes on the crown. Where Rosamund seems ignorant and in need of attention, Eleanor seems to know what she wants and won’t give up her place easily.

My FAVORITE part though was how Powell integrated the “zoo” into the novel, the grouping of animals that were secured or given as gifts to the crown which were kept at the Tower (later to be the London Zoo). The description of the animals, from the lion to the leopard, were amazing. The sequences with the animals made me wonder if Powell had ever been a zookeeper! I was enthralled by their use in the plot and felt that it was very original in comparison to almost anything else I’ve read in the historical medieval thriller genre.

I’ll be hard pressed to find many other mystery novels that I’ll love as much this year as The Blood of the Fifth Knight. Whether you have a flair for the medieval period or not, this mystery is for any reader who loves a thriller that sends them on a visual chase, as it treated me to an evening of escape and entertainment, and had me turning pages faster than I truly wanted to….I didn’t want to leave the characters behind!

Highly recommend as one of the top mysteries of 2015!

EXCERPT!!!!

Chapter 1

Canterbury, Kent, England, 12 July 1174

A king’s flesh tore like any man’s. Sir Benedict Palmer knew it would, but still it shocked him to see it.

He stood among the many hundreds of pilgrims and gawkers that crammed the winding streets of Canterbury, watching the penitent King Henry make his tortured way towards the cathedral. The shouting crowds stood ten deep, twenty in places, pushing for a better view.

‘Can you see him?’ came the close whisper from Palmer’s wife, Theodosia.

He met her fear-filled grey eyes. ‘He’s nearly here.’ Though Palmer could see with ease over the crowd, his small-boned Theodosia could not. Not yet, but very soon. And the sight would horrify her.

The broiling sun overhead lit the red that remained in Henry’s greying hair, and he wore the blackened ash mask of the sinner. The sweat on his face carried dark streaks of ash and a different red down his naked upper body. Blood stained the royal flesh, flesh white and soft as a turnip root. A line of sweating, black-robed monks followed him, scourges in hand, delivering this brutal public penance for the murder of the cathedral’s Archbishop, Thomas Becket.

Theodosia’s hand tightened on Palmer’s arm. He knew she had longed desperately for this day. Longed for it as much as she dreaded it.

Another crack echoed above the noisy mob, and the black coils of a scourge striped Henry’s bare chest and shoulders again. Folk gasped, women screamed. A group of white-robed monks raised their voices in a noisy hymn.

Theodosia gripped harder.

‘Confiteor Deoomnipotenti, istisSanctis et omnibus Sanctis.’ Henry continued to recite his penance, his thin voice cutting through the horde’s buzz.

‘Beg for forgiveness!’ yelled an unseen man. ‘Saint Thomas Becket is all forgiving!’

A new din of yells, whistles, and cries broke out.

‘By the glorious Queen of Heaven and the angels, repent!’ A hatchet-faced man flung up his hands.

‘Beg for the mercy of the Almighty!’ wailed a pockmarked priest.

‘Repent!’ A woman held tight to the cloak of her witless, drooling son, a cross shorn into his hair. ‘Repent now!’

All in this mob blamed Henry—blamed him as surely as if he had held the sword that had smashed Archbishop Thomas Becket’s skull on that freezing December night three and a half years ago. The night that Palmer and Theodosia had both witnessed, that had near cost them their lives too. The night that the cathedral had become Becket’s tomb, where his lifeblood had been splashed across its stone floor.

But today, the huge grey cathedral towers stood against a searing sun in a blue sky, marking Becket’s triumph from Henry’s martyr to a holy saint. Today, Henry the sinner stumbled low on the hot, brutal streets of Canterbury, begging for forgiveness from the man he’d had cut down, his own flesh shredded and torn. Already he looked as if he might fall.

‘A godly dead man is worth more than a living knave!’

Another rage-filled scream.

Palmer licked the salt of sweat from his top lip and held his reactions in check. The King was no knave, yet the world had to think so.

Palmer glanced down at his silent wife, fearing her collapse more than the King’s. The high buildings trapped the stink from the near-solid run-offs from the privies, as well as the noise and heat. He hadn’t wanted to come to witness this ugly spectacle, but she’d insisted.

They’d travelled for weeks from their distant village of Cloughbrook in Staffordshire. Weeks without much food, as they walked in a praying, singing throng of every kind of pilgrim, which grew with each day they neared Canterbury. Now they stood here as the sun climbed, fiercer by the hour, without the relief of shade or water. Fiercer still, the mood of those watching Henry’s agony. The fierceness of the righteous. Palmer knew it well.

And Theodosia stood beside him, with her stomach big, the baby she carried expected by autumn. But he needn’t worry about her fainting. Despite her heat-cracked lips and freckled skin, he saw the clamp of her jaw, the firm set of her gaze. She wouldn’t yield: she waited for her King. Yet her gaze flicked to their small red-haired son, edging forward through the knot of legs and skirts, curious to gape too.

‘Tom.’ Her quick order brought him back to Palmer’s side.

Palmer laid a hand on the lad’s slender shoulder. ‘Stay with us, eh? Can’t have you getting lost.’ Not much chance of that. Becket himself could come down from the clouds, and Theodosia would still have an eye on the boy.

There was a crack as another scourge met the royal flesh. The crowd let out a fresh roar, drowning Henry’s cry of anguish.

Hands, fists and staves pressed at Palmer’s back, tried to force past him to gape closer. He swung his son off his feet and plunked him on his shoulders as he held Theodosia to him with his other arm.

He turned to those behind him. ‘Stop your shoving, you hear me?’

A fat pilgrim with an even fatter wife glared at him. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ With his breath a blast of tooth rot, the man’s face shone with rage and heat. ‘I can’t see past you and your—’ He caught the full force of Palmer’s look.

And shut his noise.

‘Benedict.’ Theodosia pulled at his arm. ‘Not here. We are on a holy pilgrimage.’

Palmer gave the silenced man a final glare and turned back to see the King’s approach along the street. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ Yes, he resembled one in his worn, patched clothes. He had to. If the pilgrim knew—knew who he really was, what he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had done: half those here would run screaming from him; the other half would tear him to pieces. No matter that King Henry knew the truth, that Henry would say Palmer’s actions had been justified. Henry himself was so close to losing his kingdom, losing his crown. Many said the King did this penance to make amends with God, before he lost power to Queen Eleanor and her ferocious sons, rising in rebellion against him. And all Palmer and Theodosia had been through would have been for nothing.

‘Make way for his Grace. Make way!’ Canterbury’s guards forced the watchers back with drawn swords.

Shoved aside too, Palmer took a half step to steady his stance.

Tom’s small hands clutched tightly at Palmer’s hair.

‘Alright, son?’

‘Yeh.’

His son’s high voice hardened his resolve. Forget knighthood, kingdoms, battles. The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the murder that Henry now did penance for. The murder that he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had been present at. What mattered now was to keep his family safe.

But if a king could fall, if a king could be swept aside, then where did that leave him?

The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Synopsis~

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddPublication Date: January 1, 2015
Thomas & Mercer
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 368p

Genre: Historical Thriller

A triumphant sequel to Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight. A desperate king trusts a lone knight to unravel a web of murder.

England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.

Review Praise for The Fifth Knight

“Powell does a masterful job. Highly recommended.” Historical Novels Review

Author E.M. Powell, Biography~

????????????????????????????E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller THE FIFTH KNIGHT which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) she now lives in the north-west of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She is a reviewer of fiction and non-fiction for the HNS.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/heirtoaprophecyblogtour

Hashtags: #TheBloodoftheFifthKnight #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt

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C.W. Gortner Discusses Tudor Era Writing, Intrigue, and Strong Women of History!

Today we have an interview with the fabulous C.W. Gortner, the author of the The Tudor Conspiracy (the second book in his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles), which went on sale yesterday!  You can see my review by clicking HERE.  Among other novels, he’s also the author of The Queen’s Vow, which just went on sale this season in paperback.

We featured Christopher on the site last year with an interview during the first launch of The Queen’s Vow. We’ve taken that interview and UPDATED it for his book tour!  Now, we get more in-depth on the Tudors and on his Spymaster series (less for now on Isabella-though that interview is still available on this site and we do still talk about his writing of strong women in history).  Enjoy the discussion!

The Tudor Conspiracy US

Christopher, THANK YOU so much for joining me on my blog, Oh for the Hook of a Book! I absolutely love your writing and you make historical fiction a joy to read. I am so excited to virtually chat with you about your life as an author, your writing, and your books.

Hi Erin, it’s lovely to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your kind words. I’m honored. 🙂

You’re certainly welcome anytime.  Let’s get started then! We’ll brew some tea and have a seat in these comfy chairs….

Q: You’re a historical fiction author, so you must love history. I’ve always loved history myself and really delved into foreign history in college, ultimately then majoring in it out of pure love!  That’s my story, but when did you first become fascinated with it and how have you fueled that passion over the years?

A: I’m half-Spanish by birth and was raised near the city of Malaga, which is the site of one of Isabella’s more terrifying experiences in The Queen’s Vow.  There was also a ruined castle (now fully restored) close to where I lived, so I basically grew up with history all around me. It wasn’t just in school and in books; I could see its palpable remnants. I was always intrigued by the personalities, too, especially the fascinating women with such controversial reputations. My fascination never abated; throughout my formative years, I read everything I could and became interested in what lies underneath the veneer of what we call ‘fact’; the stories hidden within stories, so to speak. That fueled my desire to both uncover and write these secret stories.

Q:  You often write about fabulously strong women from the past such as Catherine de Medici, Juana of Castile, and Elizabeth I. What spurs this interest? What inspires you?

A: I have found that historical women, in particular those I’m attracted to as a novelist, have not had much of a say in how their history was depicted. As I studied history, I began to see a repetitive pattern  of stereotyping: Elizabeth I is the virgin; Catherine de Medici  the crone; Isabella of Castile the fanatic; and Juana, her daughter, subject of my first novel, the victim; and so on. It was easier— certainly, simpler— to relegate these complex women to clichés. However, the truth is much more interesting. All of these women were fallible, extraordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings. Their motivations aren’t so simply defined; the challenge for me, the inspiration that spurs my writing, is the desire to get underneath their skins and try to discover the actual person they may have been.

Q:  How do you decide which women move you enough emotionally in order to write about them? How do you begin your research for your books?

A: She must have a controversial element in her life that captures my attention. I’m not really that interested in straightforward characters: I’m attracted to complexity, contradictions. Inevitably, these women’s lives aren’t easy, in some instances, but they do defy the norm. Research can begin years before, often in preparation for another book. For example, it was while writing The Last Queen, my first novel, about Juana of Castile, that I became engrossed in her mother, Isabella. I portray Isabella’s last twelve years in that novel, so I focused my research on that particular portion of her life; however, I also researched her earlier years, to get a better sense of who she had been and how she developed as a woman and queen. For me, research is ongoing; I gather bits and pieces, tucking away what I don’t need at that moment for possible future use.

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Q:  Do you have to travel frequently to do your research? If so, what is the best experience you’ve had?

A: Yes, I always travel to the countries and extant places where my characters lived; it’s important to me to get a feel for the landscape and experience it, even if a lot has changed. There really is no substitute for “being there.” One of the best experiences I had was dancing a galliard in the great hall at Hampton Court; I was touring the palace, and was unexpectedly invited to dance with a group who was re-enacting Tudor dances. I took a quick 5-minute lesson and was then led into the dance by a lovely lady with long dark hair, clad in a dark green dress. I have to say, it was amazing to realize I was dancing in the very place where Anne Boleyn must have danced with Henry VIII!

Q:  Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet? Where do you want to go back to?

A: I’d love to visit Russia. I have a fascination with Russian history. And I’m always happy to return to Rome; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

Q:  Will you ever write a book following Russian history you think? Catherine the Great was a powerful woman. Have you had other ideas in this vein?

A: I do have some ideas, but I cannot say more right now.

Q:  What intrigues you the most about Elizabeth I? Then, what intrigues you most about Mary I? In your research to pen The Spymaster Chronicles, did anything stand out and surprise you?

A: I’m fascinated by Elizabeth for many of the same reasons that I’m fascinated by Isabella of Castile, whom I depicted in The Queen’s Vow. Though very different in temperament and outlook, each had a difficult youth and challenging rise to power, as no one expected them to rule. Both inherited divided, impoverished kingdoms that they dedicated themselves to strengthening and both made sacrifices for what they believed was the welfare of their subjects. Both also ruled as independent monarchs, though Elizabeth never married and Isabella did, and each gave her name to her reign: Elizabeth’s time is known as the Elizabethan period and Isabella’s as the Epoca Isabellina.  These women defined their very eras by their presence, queens who made a lasting impression and transformed their countries.

I’m intrigued by Mary because she is, in truth, a tragic figure who fell prey to her circumstances. Mary Tudor went from being the adored daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife to witnessing the horror of her parents’ separation. Like so many children caught up in acrimonious divorce, she was used as a pawn and marked by it forever. Mary never transcended the trauma she suffered during that time and when she came to power (an event I depict in the first Spymaster novel, The Tudor Secret) she went from being a stalwart, courageous woman to one driven by fear and near-paranoiac hatred. Mary was not born a monster but in time she became one, as she felt compelled to mend the wounds inflicted on England by her father’s break with Rome. It is sadly ironic that she had far more of Henry VIII in her than she cared to admit and that in the end, it destroyed her.

I’m always surprised in my research by how much is known about the Tudor era. I had thought I’d find little, for example, about the brothels of Southwark but instead I discovered a wealth of information that helped me re-create the brothel that Brendan must infiltrate. I’m also often surprised by how little we know about Elizabeth’s motivations during her sister’s reign, which of course only adds to her mystique.

Q:  What types of traits do you feel that women from the Renaissance period had that allowed them to overcome the issues of the day?  Do women today have the same strengths? Why or why not?

A: I think that all of us, men and women, have the same inner strengths that our antecedents had, only those of us who have the luxury of living in developed countries and cities tend to get indolent; we forget just how fortunate we are in terms of our access to medicine, domestic comforts, food, etc.  Women of the Renaissance faced death every day on a very real level:  there were no antibiotics and a crude understanding of how disease afflicted the human body:  infections, viruses, even childbirth could kill. Women had to be strong and vital to overcome the obstacles of daily life; it was a question of survival, even if you lived in a palace. The wealthiest were as vulnerable as anyone else to catastrophe. It’s the same today, to a certain extent: all it takes is one natural disaster for us to realize just how vulnerable we are. The main difference is, people of the Renaissance knew it all the time. They incorporated mortality into the fabric of their existence, whereas we, as a whole, tend to avoid it.

Q:  The first book I ever read by you was The Tudor Secret and I loved it. Now, I was thrilled to continue the journey with The Tudor Conspiracy.  Taking place in the time right prior to Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, it was the tale of a male servant’s role as a spy at court. What made you decide to write a mystery/suspense historical series and what are the future plans for this series?

Tudor Secret

A: I decided to write The Tudor Secret, really, because no one wanted my stand-alone historical novels! It was written years ago, after both The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici had been rejected by more than 20 publishers. My agent at the time suggested I might have better luck breaking into the market if I wrote a mystery. Of course, I decided instead to do a thriller /adventure about a Tudor spy with a secret of his own, and it didn’t sell, either. So, I self-published it under its original title, “The Secret Lion” and it eventually attracted the attention of my current agent. After she sold my first two books to Random House, an editor at St Martin’s Press, who’d loved my work for years but been unable to acquire it, bought the spy thriller and re-titled it The Tudor Secret. He also wanted two more in the series, which we called the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. So, it goes to show, you never know when that door will open.

I love writing the Spymaster books because I get the chance to play with fictional characters, interacting with historical ones. I also like that my lead character, Brendan, is a man of shadows, caught between two opposing world. I hope the series continues to grow and find its readers. THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY takes place a few months after the events in The Tudor Secret. During the harsh winter of 1554, Brendan must return to court, where Mary Tudor is now queen, and go undercover to help save Elizabeth from a treasonous plot in which the princess may be a willing participant. It’s a darker novel than the first one; Brendan has matured and must contend with the consequences of his decision to be a spy.

Q:  What feelings did you hope to evoke from your readers with this Spymaster series?

A: These novels are intended to be fast-paced, adventurous, and suspenseful. I hope readers are excited by the ride, so to speak; that they enjoy discovering an alternate world to what we usually find in books set in the Tudor era.

Q:  How did you form the character of Brendan in your novel? What is your secret for well-developed characters? Did any of them “speak” to you in a way to get noticed when you least expected it?

A: I read a lot of historical mystery series before I began to work on the Spymaster novels and decided I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a fictional character who becomes a reluctant spy in Elizabeth’s secret service, which was one of history’s first sophisticated spy networks. The idea gave me so much to work with, the opportunity to blend fiction with history, real characters with imaginary ones, and to explore the crevices of history, those empty spaces between major events when so much could have happened that we don’t know about and affected how those major events came to pass.

For me, a well-developed character is one we can relate to, no matter how different we are. Brendan is an ordinary person who yearns for an ordinary life; he must work to survive and hasn’t been given much privilege. Yet he carries a secret that could be his undoing and separates him from everyone he loves. We all know what it’s like to hide something that makes us vulnerable, to find ourselves trapped in situations beyond our control. Brendan is an everyman who must become more than he wants to be.

All of my characters must speak to me in unexpected ways in order to become real on the page. I never feel as if I’ve truly found a character’s voice until he or she does something I did not anticipate. When that happens, I know the character has come to life and claimed their personality. There were several instances while writing THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY when something happened that was driven by the character’s decision to act or not act in a certain way; that is one of the mysteries and joys of being a novelist. It feels as though you are simply writing a story that your characters are living inside your head.

Q:  How do you train your mind to creatively write in a voice from the time period you are working in? How do you make it sound so authentic and not forced?

A: It’s truly a matter of silencing my ego and perceptions of the world, of disappearing into the time period and people I’m evoking. I undertake massive research when I first prepare to write a novel; I read all the extant documentation of the era I can find, as well as biographies, social histories, specialized books on fashion, furniture, weaponry, etc. I have to become fluent in the language of the era for it to become natural to me, yet not grow so rigid in my authenticity that I lose the ability to make the past understandable to modern-day readers. It’s a delicate balance, finding that common thread between us and them. The process is almost impossible to describe. A historical novelist is part-scholar, actor, sleuth and investigator. After all the facts are learned and research is done, we must employ our imagination to breathe life into the past without making it seem stilted or overdone.

Q:  People seem to love mystery and intrigue, so I am not surprised why this type of novel might work, especially during a time period that seemed to be drenched in espionage. How do you break past the barrier of it being a Tudor-era novel to sell it as a spy thriller anyone can enjoy?

A: Well, I can’t completely break past that barrier because it is, after all, a Tudor-era story. But readers who know little or nothing about history can enjoy these books without feeling swamped by facts, while readers who know a lot will find something unique about how I interpret characters and events. Above all else, I try to sell these books as stories that everyone can enjoy, full of twists and thrills.

Q:  What other historical time periods or people intrigue you? Why?

A: I’ve mentioned Russia. I’m also intrigued by ancient Egypt, and the early medieval era in Europe. I like Edwardian and Victorian England, too.

Q: How do you keep your writing voice flowing so well? You seem to write non-stop and are very successful at turning out books each year. What is your recipe?

A: I’m disciplined, even when I’m not inspired. Writing is my job. I write for pleasure too, naturally, but not every day is a party at the keyboard. Like everyone else, there are days when I’d rather go shopping. But I write 5 days a week, regardless. I’m under contract; I’ve been given a portion of an advance and I have a daily word-count to meet. And I’ve learned that even if what I write is awful at first –and it often is – it can always be improved during revision. The tough part is just getting that first draft out. Everything can be fixed, except a blank page.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors about how to manage time and balance life with writing and research?

A: Persevere. Publishing is a tough business and is in transition; though there are more options than ever before, with each option comes the responsibility of being true to your vision for your work. No one can say which way is best: you have to decide that for yourself. Whatever you do, give it your all and write the very best book you can. Write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph; stay in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of the craft itself. Have a life, as well: know when to stop and let things steep. Writing benefits from time away to gain perspective, especially when the going gets rough. With research, remember it is a master seducer. We can research for years, without ever actually writing a word of the book. Learn only what you need to know to get writing and pick up the rest as you go.

Q:  I thoroughly enjoyed working on a writing project for charity with you. I know that charity work with animals is near and dear to your heart (a compassionate heart by the way). What types of animal protection issues do you feel are important currently? How do you feel people can assist more in environmental and animal security?

A: We all need to be more conscious of how we, as a species, impact life on our increasingly fragile planet. We share our mother earth with beautiful, irreplaceable animals that cannot defend themselves against our relentless encroachment and consumption of resources. A little change can go a long way: don’t buy or wear any type of fur. Know where your food comes from, to the best of your ability. Get involved in local charities and protect wildlife in your area. Likewise, please adopt all pets, and of course, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every single day because of overpopulation and irresponsible breeding. An animal has the same noble heart, whether purebred or mixed. My cats are rescues; if everyone adopted a rescue animal, shelters wouldn’t be overcrowded or desperate for funds. And if you can’t adopt, foster, volunteer time, donate money and supplies. Get involved.

Q:  You also enjoy art. What are some of your favorite artistic flavors or pieces of work from the time periods you write about?

A: I love the works of Leonardo da Vinci and portraiture of the Renaissance, especially paintings of people by Hans Holbein and the French court painter, Clouet. The portraits of people who actually lived in the eras I write about— their clothing, poses, and expressions— inspire me. I often find my character’s voices when I look at portraits, as if the paintings themselves could speak.

Q:  What other books are you working on currently? What is the idea behind them and what made you choose the topic?

A: I’ve just finished an historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia’s Vatican years. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia had to embark on a savage struggle against her family’s ambitions. Once again, I found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I was completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Q:  Do you have any future historical figures in mind to make come alive on the page for your readers?

A: I do, but it’s a secret! 🙂

Q:  And the most important question of the day, your favorite ethnic dish?

A: Fried plantain.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Of course, in most physical bookstores. If they don’t have the book in stock, they can always order it. Please buy via independent stores online here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780345523969

Or via the usual online suspects:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tudor-Conspiracy-Elizabeth-Chronicles/dp/0312658494

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tudor-conspiracy-c-w-gortner/1113011984?ean=9780312658496

Q:  What is the best way for readers to connect to you? List all you would like.

A: Via my website here: http://www.cwgortner.com/contact.html

Erin: Always a pleasure to discuss your work with you, Christopher.  I love your novels and they are always the ones I look forward to the most. Best wishes for much future success with all your writing.

Christopher: It’s always a delight to be here. Thank you for hosting me and I hope your readers will enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY.

THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, Synopsis~

The Tudor Conspiracy USUS Publication Date: July 16, 2013

St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

For those needing the UK Version:

The Tudor Conspiracy UK

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy

“The Tudor Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . . Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

CWGC.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetudorconspiracyvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TudorConspiracyTour

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Exclusive Interview with the Master of Thrillers, Author David Morrell

Today I have an INTERVIEW with the fabulous David Morrell, author of First Blood, and many other titles, that have given him the legacy of being the master of the action thriller. With many decades of books under his belt, he is an amazing author still to this day, writing, mentoring, and inspiring many other authors. Currently, he just published Murder as a Fine Art. Very happy to feature him today and I hope you join us for this exclusive interview…..

Murder as a Fine Art

Hi David, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of Book! I am thrilled and honored to have you stop by to discuss your writing and books with me! As one of the best loved thriller writers and trailblazers in the business, I can’t wait to delve into your thoughts. So how are you?

David: Great. I’m halfway through my tour for Murder as a Fine Art and glad for a chance to sit down and take a breath.

Erin:  In that case, by all means let’s sit down and get started…….

Q:  You’ve had quite the career, David! I love your story of how you caught the writing bug by watching the TV show Route 66 in the 1960s.  How do you think this changed your life?

David MorrellA: I was seventeen and going nowhere.  My high-school principal once told me that I wouldn’t amount to anything because I watched so much television. How ironic that television showed me the way. Stirling Silliphant’s scripts for Route 66 were a combination of action and ideas that absolutely inspired me. I sent him a hand-written letter that basically said, “I want to be you.” He actually responded and encouraged me. I never looked back. Years later, we were able to work together when he was the executive producer of the miniseries based on my novel, The Brotherhood of the Rose.

Q:  How did your writing career first get started then?

A: To the surprise of many, I decided to finish high school. Then I went to college so that I could read the best of what had been written. By then, I realized that not many people earn a living as a writer and that I ought to get a day job. I went to Penn State for an M.A. and Ph.D. in American literature—again to the surprise of many—with the intent of becoming a professor. All along, I kept writing, and finally, twelve years after I first watched Route 66, at the age of 29, I published my first novel, First Blood.

Q: You mention having some fabulous mentors, such as Philip Young who wrote the first critical study about Ernest Hemingway. How did they work with you or effect you in order to make such a profound difference in your life? What did they teach you?

A: Philip Young is important because his book about Hemingway is what made me decide to go to Penn State and study with him. Eventually I became his graduate assistant. But another Philip—Philip Klass, whose pen name is William Tenn—made the difference in terms of my fiction writing. For three years, from 1967 until 1970—he taught me the basics, not only about writing but about being a professional. I explain his theories in my writing book, The Successful Novelist. Klass had a couple of mantras. One was that everyone has a dominant emotion. He believed rightly that mine was fear, the result of a rough childhood. He encouraged me to use my dominant emotion to write a book that only I could write because of the forces that made me what I am.  He described this as “self-psychoanalysis,” and it had a powerful influence on me.

Erin Comments: Writing a novel myself, I like this advice. It’s an ever bigger step than “write what you know.” Emotions are very powerful.

Q:  Your debut novel, First Blood, which introduced the character of Rambo and was adapted into a hit film, has made you a household name. How did you first come up with the idea for First Blood, and then, its series?

First Blood coverA: At Penn State, I earned my tuition by teaching composition classes. In 1967, several of my students were veterans newly returned from Vietnam. They described the problems they had adjusting to peacetime. Nightmares, sweats, difficulty sleeping, reaction to loud noises, problems relating to people. The phrase “post traumatic stress disorder” didn’t exist then, but that’s what they had.  At the same time, the United States was experiencing massive protests against the war, coupled with hundreds of race riots (which in an indirect way were related to the war because a disproportionate number of Blacks were drafted). There seemed a risk that the country would fall apart.

One day, I had the idea of a Medal of Honor winner returning from Vietnam to the U.S. The war, it turns out, had radicalized him because his experiences had taught him that he had a talent for killing and he hated himself because of that. Wanting to be left alone, he inadvertently finds himself in a version of the Vietnam War in the mountains outside a small American town. It’s an anti-war novel that led to a series of films, the second and third installments of which had a reverse theme.  I had nothing to do with the later films, but I think that the first movie is very well made.

Erin Comments:  Amazing.

Q: Were you surprised by its reception with readers? I’m sure that having such success with a novel completely changed your world. Can you put it into words?

A: I wrote my Masters thesis on Hemingway’s style.  When I wrote First Blood, I kept remembering the way Hemingway wrote about action in novels like To Have and Have Not and For Whom the Bell Tolls. He always made it fresh. He never resorted to tired, pulp phrases like “A shot rang out.” I began wondering if it was possible to write an action book that wouldn’t feel like a genre book. In 1972, there’d never been a non-genre book that had that much action.  First Blood changed the way action could be written. Its techniques—and the timeliness of the subject—led to very positive reviews in just about every major magazine and newspaper. First novels seldom get that kind of attention. Then came a big paperback sale, and the movie sale (although the movie didn’t get made for ten years). It was all very bewildering.  Fortunately I was a professor. Teaching the great books every day put everything in perspective for me. 

Rambo

Q: Over the course of the years you’ve written many more novels in the thriller genres and even co-founded International Thriller Writers organization. Are all your books in the same genre? How are they similar, or are any different (besides Murder as a Fine Art that we’ll get to in a minute)?

A: This is my 41st year as a published author. That’s an eternity in the publishing world, where many successful careers end after 15 or at most 20 years. What can happen is that an author finds something that works and repeats it until the author and the author’s readers get tired. In contrast, I thought of my career as a way to grow and evolve, a way to find new methods of showing what a thriller can be.  In fact, I also wrote a western, and I have a large following in the horror community. My work doesn’t have anything supernatural in it, but it often has an eerie tone, which earned me three Stoker awards from the Horror Writers Association. 

In the 1980s, I wrote a series of influential espionage novels that began with The Brotherhood of the Rose. They were the first to combine the authentic espionage tradecraft of the British tradition with the action of the American tradition. I’m always looking for new ways to tell an exciting story, to the point that my friend Steve Berry keeps kidding me about how often I re-invented myself.

Erin Comments: But that is the way to keep yourself fresh and able to sell books!

Q: What do you love the best about writing thrillers?

A: I was destined to write thrillers. My father died in combat just after I was born. My mother couldn’t hold a job and take care of me at the same time, so she put me in an orphanage.  Later she remarried, but my stepfather disliked children. He and my mother fought so much that I lived in fear. I often slept under my bed. In the dark, I made up stories to distract myself. They were adventure stories in which I was the hero.  It’s no wonder that I became a thriller writer. I feel fulfilled every time I sit down to write.

Erin Comments: I am very sorry to hear this, but I’m glad that you took your experiences and used them to motivate your writing. I’m guessing you like to write Captain America comics (I know you’ve done some in recent years) since he was such a hero!

CA

Q: You might have already mentioned research. I know you’ve been able to allow yourself some extensive outside training in your research…raceways, survival training, getting a pilot’s license….what have been some of your most memorable adventures? What do you feel you gain by immersing yourself into these types of training situations?

A: Too many thriller writers take their details from movies and TV shows, which almost always are in error. In a movie, someone will shoot the gas tank of a vehicle, and the fuel tank explodes. In life, that doesn’t happen. Or a character will shoot a tire, and the tire will explode. That doesn’t happen either. Early in my career, I realized that to respect what I was writing about, I needed to have hands-on experience. I interviewed the kind of people I wrote about.

I trained in various activities, such as spending a week at the Bill Scott Raceway in West Virginia to learn how to handle cars the way the Secret Service does. For a wilderness survival sequence, I once lived in Wyoming’s Wind River mountains, receiving training from the National Outdoor Leadership School. I once broke my collarbone in a knife-fighting class. 

For the airplane sequences in The Shimmer (about the mysterious Marfa Lights of west Texas), I took flight lessons until I earned my private pilot’s license.  The research is a way of respecting my material and doing my best to make it believable.

Erin Comments: And very exciting as well! I love how you bring true details and action to your novels.

Q:  I tend to try to be humorous, but the question comes to mind—do you feel you would have been some kind of FBI, Fighter Pilot, or some other risky profession if you hadn’t gotten your break as an author? (Even your picture makes me think you might be undercover –*smiling*)

A: There’s no question that I lead two different lives. Mostly, I sit at a desk and write. But every year or two, I head off for training of various types, and often it’s dangerous.  I look like a mild-mannered professor, but someone who looks like that can be an effective, unsuspected operative. I’m reminded of training I received at the G. Gordon Liddy Academy of Corporate Security.  For three weeks, he brought in ex-government agents who taught a version of what CIA recruits receive at the Farm.  It was invaluable experience, and in our street exercises, following people etc., I was amazed by how invisible a trained operative can be.

Q:  You’ve had a busy year, besides finishing up Murder as a Fine Art, being an archivist and doing all things organizational to assist readers. Can you explain what’s been happening with your titles? Are they all available in e-book form now?

DM 2A: When the e-book revolution occurred in 2009, I started preparing some of my out-of-print titles in digital format. I’ve been publishing for so long that I have the e-rights to the majority of my books. I also began digitalizing short stories and essays that were published decades ago.  Nearly all my work is online now (millions and millions of words), with a few exceptions, such as Extreme Denial, which I’ll release this summer when I’m finished with the release of Murder as a Fine Art.

Erin Comments: That’s exciting!

Q:  Stemming from this, how do you feel that the publishing and book selling industry has changed? What do you find positive, and in comparison, negative, with all that has transpired in the last decade?

A: For most of my career, an author needed to go through the gatekeepers of an agent and an editor. I still think that this is the way to go—because the work is better for having their help. But sometimes a writer finishes something that doesn’t fit what agents or editors are looking for. It can be a beautifully written book, but it just doesn’t fit current trends. In former decades, that would have been the end, but now an author can take charge and release the book digitally. In that sense, there has never been a better time with more opportunities for authors. That’s the good news. The bad news is that some books are so poorly written that they deserve not to be published, but without gatekeepers, an awful lot of those poorly written books are flooding the e-market.

Erin Comments: Spot on. I agree.

Murder as a Fine Art

Q:  Now that you’ve tried to challenge yourself with your writing and take on a new era, how did you find it writing about Victorian England in your newest book, Murder as a Fine Art? How did you come up with the idea?

A: A 2009 film about Darwin’s nervous breakdown (Creation) had a brief bit of dialogue in which someone says, “Charles, people such as De Quincey are saying that it’s possible to be influenced by thoughts and emotions we don’t know we have.” I wondered if the reference was to Thomas De Quincey, an 1800s author whom my long-ago college professor dismissed as being a mere literary footnote. But that bit of dialogue intrigued me. It sounded like Freud, except that Freud didn’t publish his theories for a half-century after De Quincey.  I felt something tugging at my mind.

After the film ended, I opened one of my college textbooks (I still have them). I started reading De Quincey and fell down a Victorian rabbit hole. He invented the word “subsconscious.” He also invented the true-crime genre in his Postscript to his sensational essay “On Murder Consider as One of the Fine Arts,” which is about the notorious Ratcliffe Highway murders. He influenced Edgar Allan Poe, who in turned influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes.  This guy was major, I discovered, and I couldn’t wait to write a novel in which he appeared at the start of the detective tradition.

Q:  What kind of research did you put into Murder as a Fine Art? Certainly you didn’t become a serial killer, and likewise, it was probably hard to time travel in order to become a member of Scotland Yard. So how did you “get into costume” so to speak?

A: Again, I became a Method author. The first step was to read and re-read the many thousands of pages that De Quincey wrote. That wasn’t hard—his work became more brilliant with each reading. Eventually I felt as if I was channeling him.  Then I accumulated a vast amount of books about Victorian culture in London in the 1850s. After that, I read and re-read novels from the period. Truly, I began to feel that I was actually there, and my goal became to make readers feel the same way. The reviewer for Entertainment Weekly was especially complimentary about the vividness of the historical details.

Erin Comments:  I agree, the historical details in your novel are fabulous.

Q:  Is history something you are interested in, or was it the literary works of Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle what most influenced you?

A: Most of my novels have a strong element of history. Back in 1977, I even wrote a historical western, Last Reveille, about “Black Jack” Pershing’s hunt for the Mexican bandit, Pancho Villa.  The Brotherhood of the Rose is filled with history.  And so on. But this is easily my most historical book. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes weren’t a factor for me. I admire the character, but Holmes shows up three decades after the events of Murder as a Fine Art. In fact, the chronology is interesting. De Quincey inspired Edgar Allan Poe, who in turn inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Holmes.  And then there’s Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, one of the first detective novels (two decades before Holmes). Its climax uses De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater to solve the crime, so De Quincey can truly be found at the start of the detective tradition.

Erin Comments: That is very interesting!

Q:  Do you feel this book also stretched your writing style beyond just the time period? How did the narrative and POV come into play?

A: In graduate school, I was trained to believe that the best novels combine form and content. That meant if I was going to set a novel in 1854 London, I needed to write an imitation Victorian novel, one that was true to the period. These days, the omniscient viewpoint is hardly ever used, but it was used all the time by people like Dickens. Every chapter of Murder as a Fine Art begins with an omniscient narrator. The technique is true to the era, and as a bonus, it allows me to explain the weirdness of Victorian culture, which I would otherwise not have been able to do.  Many Victorian novels also use first-person journals, so I used that device also. It was great technical fun.

Q: Do you have in writing process, or have you thought about, any other types of new novels?

A: The response to Murder as a Fine Art has been so positive that many people asked me to write another book about De Quincey. My publisher was very happy when I said that would be my next project. I don’t normally write sequels, but De Quincey has really grabbed me. I have plenty more to say about him and 1854 London.

Erin Comments: Wonderful news (in my review yesterday, I said I had hoped you’d be writing more)!

Q: Who are your personal favorite thriller writers? Who are your favorite writers overall? And why?

A: The thriller writer who most influenced me is Geoffrey Household, whose classic 1939 novel Rogue Male is about a British big-game hunter who stalks Hitler on the eve of WWII. That book and Household’s Watcher in the Shadows showed me what thrillers can be.

Q: Do you feel all your dreams have come true? What is one thing you’d like to do you haven’t done yet?

A: Truly, I try not to have expectations. That way I don’t have disappointments. My 15-year-old son Matthew died in 1987 from a rare bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. In 2009, my 14-year-old granddaughter Natalie died from the same disease. Only 200 people get it each year in the United States.  My many years have taught me that the only thing of value is time. When I start a project, I always ask myself, “Why is this project worth a year or two or three of your time?”  Writing fulfills me in a mysterious way. I choose projects that have something about their theme, their technique, and their research that will make me feel fuller. Murder as a Fine Art more than did that for me.

Erin Comments: I am sorry to hear that, please accept my sympathies.  I agree with you, time is valuable. Each and every minute and writing, to me, is a lasting legacy.

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: www.davidmorrell.net.  It’s a very informative website, with information about Route 66 and Rogue Male and Rambo and video interviews and free essays about writing.

Erin:  Thank you so much, David, for chatting with me. You are quite an inspiration and I am proud to have had this opportunity. I appreciate it and wish you continued success and best wishes!

David: I enjoyed my visit. Thanks.

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Murder as a Fine Art Review~

You can read my review of Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art HERE!

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Giveaway~

You may enter to win one (1) copy of David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art by leaving a comment at the end of this blog post or on a Facebook link. Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from the date of this post. Open in the United States only, this time.

For +1 extra entry, follow my blog. For +2 extra entries, please “like” the Hook of a Book Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

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MURDER AS A FINE ART, Synopsis~

Murder as a Fine ArtPublication Date: May 7, 2013
Mulholland Books
Hardcover; 368p
ISBN-10: 0316216798

GASLIT LONDON IS BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES IN DAVID MORRELL’S BRILLIANT HISTORICAL THRILLER.

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey’s essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

In Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer, whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

Praise for MURDER AS A FINE ART

“Murder As a Fine Art by David Morrell is a masterpiece—I don’t use that word lightly—a fantastic historical thriller, beautifully written, intricately plotted, and populated with unforgettable characters. It brilliantly recreates the London of gaslit streets, fogs, hansom cabs, and Scotland Yard. If you liked The Alienist, you will absolutely love this book. I was spellbound from the first page to last.”

—Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author of The Monster of Florence

Author David Morrell, Biography~

David MorrellDavid Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.

He’s written numerous novels and been an Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee as well as a three-time recipient of the distinguished Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. The International Thriller Writers organization gave him its prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master Award. His work has been translated into twenty-six languages.

For more information on David Morrell and his novels, please visit the official website. You can also follow David on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/murderasafineartvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #MurderAsAFineArtTour

Murder as a Fine Art Virtual Tour FINAL2

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First Blood Author David Morrell Sensationally Smashes onto Historical Thriller Scene with Murder as a Fine Art

Murder as a Fine ArtMurder as a Fine Art, a novel of 1854 London, took author David Morrell out of his usual sub-genre of thrillers (he’s commonly known as the father of the modern action novel since publishing First Blood–the novel that started the Rambo movie series with Sylvester Stallone–in 1972) and into a new realm (and time) of literature.

He tried his hand at creating a historical crime thriller with Murder as a Fine Art and he practically perfected it on his first try! However, I never doubted that this book would not also be as fantastic as his others. He’s the type of author that completely immerses himself in his research, throughly detailing each aspect, and creates with vivid images and superb dramatic sequences an entertaining and intelligent novel. 

Since I love history from the Victorian Era, and have always enjoyed the classic mysteries and dark literature of the 19th Century, I was excited to read this novel. I was pulled into it page by page, immediately from the start when it began with a brutal murder and a look into the mind of a killer.  The action is exciting, the character development is spot on, and the continuation of the plot thickening throughout each chapter all works well together to create a page-turning novel. It reads like classic literature.

His look into mid-Victorian London, the struggle between the classes, the glimpse into the psyche, the introduction and beginning of professional crime detection….a mystery written amid the sickness, sights, sounds, smells of the crowded Lond streets…..the addictions and vices….creaky carriages, cobbled streets, street lamps, and alley ways….all used to allude to the human condition confounding England during this dark period while we are held in suspense deciphering as if we are a “sherlock holmes” ourselves.

It was extremely interesting how Morrell came across the work of Thomas De Quincey, who wrote true-crime essays during the mid-1800s and, as well, about his own opium addiction. De Quincey’s work isn’t as forefront as writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens who wrote classic novels we all can list on our fingers, but when Morrell discovered De Quincey had written thousands of works, he also realized he’d truly influenced the onset of the “sensation” novel. Uncovering new literary works is engaging to me, as much as it must have been to Morrell.

Morrell utilizes De Quincey’s sensation imaging technique, mixed with particular details, to bring 1854 alive to the reader.  Then he further weaves in some witty, unconventional forensic crime detection, all to create Murder as a Fine Art. Of course, his decision to utilize De Quincey as the detective was instrumental in making this book a great historical read.  The fictional 1854 murders were a copycat to a murderer who committed crimes earlier in the century that were written about in an actual essay by De Quincey (“On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”) so Morrell has De Quincey, with daughter Emily alongside, set-out to learn the truth. Mixing truth with fiction, or creating fiction out of truth, makes Morrell’s book a true intellectual mystery read.

MURDER-AS-A-FINE-ART-1

I am completely interested now in the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway murders, which were the most notorious mass killings of their day. They caused so many citizens living in London and its outskirts to live in fear since they were more random murders, unlike the later and more frequently written about Jack the Ripper cases, which targeted prostitutes. I was thrilled that Morrell brought light to De Quincey and the 1811 murders, as well as the true lifestyle of mid-Victorian Londoners.

Morrell did a supreme job of creating and setting scenes using various points of view in his writing as well. I think that using Emily’s voice through her journal entries really added to the novel and gave it a classic feel. It was a novel written in an historical voice, not just in a historical setting.

Still a complete model author for any creative writing professional, especially thriller, suspense, and action genre writers, Morrell stands the test of time by utilizing his seasoned skills as a base and starting his own line of historical mysteries.

Readers will be astounded by Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art and crave more historical detective stories in this vein from his pen. I hope he plans on writing futher novels such as this, even using De Quincey or Inspector Ryan, because I am afraid it will be demanded of him! He needs to fill our reading requirements as quickly as possible! His stirring details, witty humor, sensationalized action, beautiful and emotive prose, and historical depth will leave you settling in and not wanting to arise until you’ve completely finished the novel hours later.

This is truly another historical favorite of this year for me and I’m certain it will be high on my list at my year end review of the top reads! I welcome more historical thrillers from David Morrell!

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Please don’t miss my exclusive interview with David Morrell tomorrow, May 14!! And there’s a giveaway of this exciting novel!!

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MURDER AS A FINE ART, Synopsis~

Murder as a Fine ArtPublication Date: May 7, 2013
Mulholland Books
Hardcover; 368p
ISBN-10: 0316216798

GASLIT LONDON IS BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES IN DAVID MORRELL’S BRILLIANT HISTORICAL THRILLER.

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey’s essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

In Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer, whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

Author David Morrell, Biography~

David MorrellDavid Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone.

He’s written numerous novels and been an Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee as well as a three-time recipient of the distinguished Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association.  The International Thriller Writers organization gave him its prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master Award. His work has been translated into twenty-six languages. 

More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.

For more information on David Morrell and his novels, please visit the official website. You can also follow David on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Praise for MURDER AS A FINE ART

“Murder As a Fine Art by David Morrell is a masterpiece—I don’t use that word lightly—a fantastic historical thriller, beautifully written, intricately plotted, and populated with unforgettable characters. It brilliantly recreates the London of gaslit streets, fogs, hansom cabs, and Scotland Yard. If you liked The Alienist, you will absolutely love this book. I was spellbound from the first page to last.”

—Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author of The Monster of Florence

“London 1854, noxious yellow fogs, reeking slums, intrigues in high places, murders most foul, but instead of Sherlock Holmes solving crimes via the fine art of deduction, we have the historical English Opium-Eater himself, Thomas De Quincey. David Morrell fans — and they are Legion — can look forward to celebrating Murder As a Fine Art as one of their favorite author’s strongest and boldest books in years.”

—Dan Simmons, New York Times bestselling author of Drood and The Terror

“Morrell’s use of De Quincey’s life is amazing. I literally couldn’t put it down: I felt as though I were in Dickens when he described London’s fog and in Wilkie Collins when we entered Emily’s diary. There were beautiful touches all the way through. Murder As a Fine Art is a triumph.”

—Robert Morrison, author of The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

“I enjoyed Murder As a Fine Art immensely. I admired the way Morrell deftly took so much material from De Quincey’s life and wove it into the plot, and also how well he created a sense of so many dimensions of Victorian London. Quite apart from its being a gripping thriller!”

—Grevel Lindop, author of The Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

Murder as a Fine Art Virtual Tour FINAL2

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/murderasafineartvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #MurderAsAFineArtTour
Thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

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Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt is Rich in Historial Detail of 17th Century Spain

RocamoraRocamora, by Donald Michael Platt, is the amazing story of Vicente de Rocamora circa 17th Century Spain. A tumultuous time in Spanish history full of intrigue, corrupt aristocracy, and religious zealots, the story begins when Vicente is just a handsome 16 year-old.  It vigorously follows his life during this period of political and religious upheaval.

A man of many interests and talents, as well as a critical thinker and visionary, Vicente questions the treatment of people during the Inquisition, a time where the King of Spain is endorsing laws and committing atrocities in the name of keeping and creating a pure blood Christian race (no tainted blood from Jewish, Moor, or recent converts).

Vicente is at the center of the drama that surrounds the country, the court, and even the question of his own blood. (review continued after synopsis)

Rocamora, Synopsis~

*2012 Finalist International Book Awards for Historical Fiction*

Publication Date: September 26, 2011

Raven’s Wing Books

Paperback; 408p
ISBN-10: 1618070150

Rocamora, a novel of 17th century Spain, is based on the life of Vicente de Rocamora, who struggles to make his place in a Spain obsessed with limpieza de sangre, purity of blood untainted by Jew, Moor, or recent convert.

Poet, swordsman, and master of disguise, at the insistence of his family, Vicente enters the Dominican Order and is soon thrust into the scheming political and clerical hierarchies that at Court.

Vicente becomes Confessor and Spiritual Director for King Philip IV’s teenage sister, the beautiful Infanta Doña María, five years younger than he, protégé and possible successor of Inquisitor General Sotomayor, and an invaluable assistant to the King’s chief minister, the Count-Duke de Olivares.

Vicente needs all his skills and cunning to survive assassination by a growing list of ruthless foes in both Church and Court, solve a centuries-old riddle to quell rumors of his own impurity of blood, and above all suppress his love for the seemingly unattainable María.

(review continued)

Little seems to have been known about Vicente de Rocamora probably due to much being burned after that period of history. Platt does a phenomenal job with his research and I have no doubt that his novel will assist in keeping Vicente from being wiped from the history books. The novel is loaded to the brim with historical detail, much of it fact mixed with some fictionalized characters and supposed happenings.

Though the Inquisition was first established by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Castile to combat heresy and keep newly converted Catholics to the faith of their Catholic kingdom, that was in the late 1400s and by the 17th Century, with Spain under rule by King Philip IV and the tribunal taking on trying and murdering people for a whole myriad of reasons (including just being Jewish), the Inquisition became a time of terrible angst and blood shed. Platt leaves nothing behind as he writes with all the horror the time period brings. His detail helps to document a period of time that has been swept aside in most common historical literature.

His characters are very highly developed, and as I stated, his historical detail intricate. This book is for serious historical fiction/non-fiction readers that will connect to it and commit to educating themselves through an entertaining and insightful novel.  I would imagine this might be a book on the college reading list for students learning Spain’s history, genocide, or religious history.

Not only is Rocamora informative, it’s thrilling. The life, trials, and successes of Vicente will leave you entertained and the mysteries and avenues explored will leave you breathless. I highly recommend this well-written novel for fans of historical fiction literature, whether you love reading about 17th Century Spain or you endeavor to educate yourself, as it will fascinate you.

Rocamora Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6OtI

Donald Michael Platt, Biography~

Donald Michael PlattBorn and raised inside San Francisco, I graduated from Lowell High School and received my B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley and won a batch of literary cash awards while in graduate school at San Jose State.

When I moved to southern California, I began my professional writing career. I sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted YOUR HAIR AND YOUR DIET for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, and Al Ruddy as well as Paul Stader Sr., dean of Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. Also, options were taken on my unpublished WWII fighter ace novel and several treatments.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of my horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, Dark Hart 2007, Briona Glen 2012, I moved to Florida where I wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, I reside in Winter Haven, Florida. My magnum opus historical novel, ROCAMORA, set in 17th century Spain and Amsterdam during their Golden Ages, was released by RAVEN’S WING BOOKS at the end of December 2008. It has been republished by Briona Glen, September 2011. My completed sequel HOUSE OF ROCAMORA was published by Briona Glen November 2012, and I am polishing a completed novel set in the 9th century Carolingian Empire about another unusual historical character, Bodo, the Apostate.

www.donaldmichaelplatt.com

Link to Tour Schedule for more surrounding Rocamora and House of Rocamora: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/donaldmichaelplattvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #DonaldMichaelPlattVirtualTour

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