Tag Archives: writing historical fiction

Author Nancy Bilyeau Speaks: Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels, What Makes a Historian?

Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels: What Makes a Historian?
by Nancy Bilyeau, Author of The Tapestry

02_Nancy BilyeauI AM NOT A HISTORIAN

There. I said it.

I’m still alive. 😀

More and more, it appears that historical novelists are positioning themselves as historians. Readers demand accuracy in their fiction set in the past—authors certified in history can supply it.

Philippa Gregory’s website begins with this statement:  “Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a TV drama and a major film.”

I’ve seen other websites and interviews and book jackets in which the novelists either proudly proclaim it or weave the word into their background: “historian.” It’s become something of a magical word, and not just because it was the title of one of my favorite books: Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  (That book mixed digging for obscure historical facts in quiet libraries with…Dracula!)

I’ve never made this claim for myself because I believe I lack the necessary credentials…don’t I?

Let’s take a look at the description in Merriam Webster: 1. “a student or writer of history; especially: one who produces a scholarly synthesis. 2.: a writer of compiler of a chronicle.”

Another definition: “historian: an expert in or student of history, especially that of a particular period, geographical region, or social phenomenon.”

  1. I studied history for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan. After I “broke the curve” of a test given in the early 20th century American history class taught by Professor Sidney Fine, himself a nationally known historian and a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Fine invited me to his Ann Arbor house. He offered me lemonade and we drank it on his elegant wooden porch as he suggested that I pursue a master’s degree in history. I realize now that this was it: the secret handshake, the door opening to the chamber in which dwelled historians.

But I didn’t pass through the door. I was eager to launch myself on the world of work, not remain at the university, pursuing another degree. (I know: Nuts!)

Without advanced degrees in history, one cannot claim to be a historian. At least, that’s what I’ve always assumed. If you read those definitions above one more time, they don’t specify any sort of degree. Still, I shy away from putting this word on my website, bio, book jacket or facebook page. Just doesn’t seem right.

01_The Tapestry

Here’s the experience I do offer readers of my work:

Journalist—at newspapers and then at magazines, I learned on the job how to assess facts, assimilate information and structure a story. I’ve always had an image in my mind of being trained by a historian—a distinguished older man, bearded of course (looking like Professor Fine!), leans over a student at work on the thick table, chiding, “No! Can’t you tell that those are discredited documents? What am I going to do with you??” But I do seek accuracy and practice skepticism. In my years in media, if I made a mistake it did more than earn the disfavor of the bearded professor. It could lead to a printed correction and maybe the boot!

Working as a reporter also made me rather…assertive. When I was frustrated with my research on The Crown, trying to find elusive details about being confined in the 1530s in the Tower of London, I decided to go to the source. I used the “contact” email on the website for the Tower and didn’t stop bothering them until they referred me to someone with access to documents. I’ve since worked my way through two curatorial interns. One emailed me a PDF of Edward Seymour’s diet sheet while he was imprisoned, another pulled together every contemporary fact about the beheading on Tower Hill of Thomas Cromwell. (Don’t let anyone tell you he died at Tyburn!)

History lover—I did like my study of history at the University of Michigan. But since I was 11 years old I have loved reading on my own about centuries past, primarily stories set in Europe and, of course, Tudor England. I pored over every biography I could find on Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The historical fiction that first captured my heart was written by Norah Lofts, Jean Plaidy, Mary Stewart and Anya Seton. Later on, I devoured Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Margaret George, Bernard Cornwell, C.W. Gortner, Kate Quinn, Patricia Bracewell and Mary Sharratt.

Storyteller – As a writer of narrative nonfiction for 20 years, I learned a great deal from my editors on clarity, pacing and the need for the right descriptive detail. I’ve tried to pass these lessons on to the writers I edit too. I also wrote three screenplays before beginning The Crown, and learned from teachers such as screenwriter Max Adams how to write visually and describe characters with the right evocative phrase.

I always wonder what other historical novelists feel about the “historian” question. For this blog post, I decided to ask a few. (Remember, I am assertive 😀 )

******

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Erika Robuck, author of fantastic historical fiction like Hemingway’s Girl and the soon-to-be-published The House of Hawthorne, says, “”I think a historian is an expert in a time period or culture, and holds a degree to support that level of expertise. I am an enthusiast, not an historian.”

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Eva Stachniak, who has written two of my favorite historical novels, The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night, says, “As a writer of historical novels, I have to know my history, in and out, understand it on many levels, political, social, cultural. I have to be able to imagine how everyday life was lived at the time when my novel is set. For my two Catherine the Great novels, I studied the life of the Russian court, not just its politics, but also its everyday routines. I researched spies and spying, dressmaking, bookbinding, medical procedures and the ins and outs of 18th century renovations. Does it make me a historian? I am not convinced. But it makes me a student of history. It makes me re-imagine the exiting research in a creative way. However, even if I make no claims to being a historian, I claim my passion for history and my ability to make it seem alive for my readers.”

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My friend Sophie Perinot, author of Sister Queens and Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois (pub date: December 2015), has thought about this question even more than I have. She had some fascinating things to say:

“I am not a historian, despite having a BA in history–at least when I have my novelist hat on–because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it.

“I’ve had to give serious thought to the line between what I call “H”istory (academic history) and history as portrayed by novelists. I’ve discussed the subject in a pair of lectures given to university history students during their unit on the uses of undergraduate history degrees after graduation.  And I think most historical novelists grapple with the “who is a historian” question because Historical Fiction is undeniably a pop culture way that people today consume history, and those of us who write it are keenly aware that lots of  fans blur the line between NON-FICTION HISTORY and the FICTIONALIZED HISTORY OF HISTORICAL NOVELS.

“Let me start by saying that I have a background in history having graduated with a BA in that subject—but I don’t write BIG “H” history, nor, in my opinion does any other writer in my genre.  Professors write BIG “H” academic history ( I have a sister who is a professor of history so I have tremendous respect for academic historians).

“Why do I say this?  Well first and foremost a novelist’s work is not driven by the overt goal of educating readers on a particular period or by presenting an overview of a historical issue or time. The historical novelist’s work is driven by considerations of plot and theme—by the desire to tell a universal story that is set in the past but transcends it.

“So, I am not a historian, at least when I have my novelist hat on, because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it. BUT if I write first rate historical fiction – and I’d like to think I do – then in telling my story I want to be true to historical facts as we know them.  Good historical novelists use the same sorts of resources that students of history would use to write an academic paper—JSTOR, scholarly journal articles, primary sources, and secondary sources (biographies, prior histories).”

*****

I hope that when you read my historical thrillers, or the fiction by Erika Robuck, Eva Stachniak or Sophie Perinot, you’ll relish not just the story but the awareness that we take our history very seriously—even if we don’t call ourselves historians.

Of that, I think, even Professor Fine would approve.

Check out Nancy’s newest book, The Tapestry, which is the third in her Joanna Stafford Historical Mystery Series! If you haven’t ready any of Nancy’s trilogy, The Crown is book one and The Chalice is book two. 

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The Tapestry, Synopsis and Info~

US Publication Date: March 24, 2015
UK Publication Date: April 24, 2015

Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn

into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Praise for The Tapestry~

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” – Bestselling Author Alison Weir

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

Purchase The Tapestry~

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Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

02_Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY released March 24, 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

Giveaway~

To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the giveaway form below.

Direct Link to ENTER: https://gleam.io/iyF4a/the-tapestry

RULES

  • Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01 a.m. EST and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3rd.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in North American and the UK.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
  • Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
  • Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

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

Hashtags: #TheTapestryBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #NancyBilyeau

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Chatting Virtually with Historical Novelist Donald Michael Platt about Writing and Research

Today, I have an interview with Donald Michael Platt, author of many wonderful historical novels, the most recent being Bodo the Apostate. You can read my review HERE if you missed it!

Hi Donald, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book. Always a pleasure to have you and Bodo (the cat, in this instance) on the blog. I have cat treats, I hope they fit to his appetite. And speaking of Bodo, you’re here today because you’ve released another new historical fiction novel, called Bodo the Apostate. How are you keeping up?

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Donald: Thank you for the greeting, Erin. I am holding up well, polishing a “dark” novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN or continue the Rocamora saga.

Erin: It’s cold in Ohio, though less chilly in Florida. I’d normally come to warmer climates for interviews, but I’m leaving my slippers on and not leaving the house today. I’ll welcome you here, just be sure to wear your scarf. I’ll put on hot coffee today, or tea if you prefer, just let me know what you’d like. I’ll be having coffee with 2 sugars and cream. What would you like?

Donald: Thanks for the invitation, but I do all I can to avoid climes where snow is the norm. That is why I currently reside in Winter Haven, Florida.

Erin: OK, then we’ll have to discuss virtually, which means tea only for myself. lol! Let’s talk about your writing and books.

Donald: We shall do it as holograms in cyberspace.

Erin: Let’s get started! If Bodo ever wants to answer, I speak meow as well.He will be certain to interrupt, all 14 pounds of him.

Q: You’ve written several historical novels, and one dark fiction, across multiple time periods of history. I find that many historical writers tend to migrate within same themes. How do you decide what to write and keep all the timelines straight? What inspired you to write Bodo the Apostate set in the 9th century?

A:I write what I am inspired to write. Writer’s hell for me is to be stuck in the same place because a publisher or producer wants one to write the same stuff with the same characters after the writer has milked the period and no longer has the inspiration to continue. Here is why I wrote Bodo, the Apostate:

Little-known historical individuals who led interesting lives arouse my interest. Sparse documentation about them gives me more freedom to create character motivation and an entertaining story line. I encountered Bodo, the Apostate while research for Rocamora, Scholars still disagree regarding his motivations, so as a creative writer I decided to resolve that problem once and for all.

Q: Your novels are always so well-researched. What kind of research did you have to do for this particular novel? What was your favorite moment of research and your least favorite?

A:I always begin by looking for any book titled Daily Life During/In …. as a starting point. Because all documentations about Bodo’s apostasy were written by his adversaries in the Church, I had to research the times, the historical personages, and as always the flora, fauna, clothes, customs, and food in the 9th century Carolingian Empire.

The least favorite moments of research was sorting out the changing sides during the four rebellions against the emperor by his sons and allies without confusing the reader.

The best moment was researching for Carolingian humor. The site Questia offered all the information necessary to lighten Bodo, the Apostate when necessary. Germanic humor was coarse, but the literate few loved riddles and the writings of Martial, Catullus, and others of that era. One example: What is the best woman to wed? A rich widow who will die soon.

Q: Is your book more non-fiction written as historical fiction due to dialogue and assumptions or is your book loosely based on historical inspiration and predominately fiction?

A: The main events and characteristics of Emperor Louis and his wife Judith as well as minor historical personages who appear in the novl are well documented. Everything about Bodo himself, his actions and utterances are my creations. 67 lines of his post-apostate polemics have survived, which I incorporated in the proper place. As usual, I created fictional characters and events to fill gaps in the historical storyline.

Q: What types of history book lovers would like this book and why? What types of elements and themes does this particular novel explore?

A: Those who enjoy being immersed in other and unfamiliar times and places will enjoy Bodo, the Apostate. I like to play detective and solve mysteries about and motivations for my historical MCs. One theme is best expressed with a question: How can one live a satisfying life of choice against opposing authoritarian forces?

Q: Many of your books seem to deal with men in history who travel far and wide, take great risks, and are not well-known but deserve a place in history. Do you purposely strive to showcase their efforts with lasting legacies in book form, or do you just like a good story?

A: I try to do both. Researching is a pleasure in itself, and the greatest delight is to find that my educated guesses are correct.

Q: You always write with such great location details. Without traveling everywhere, or back in time, how do you create such wonderful visuals in your novels?

A:During my travels decades ago and my training as an historian I learned that contemporary visits to the areas I write about did not look the same as they would have in the 9th and 17th centuries.

As an example, my research discovered two physical phenomena that altered weather and geography. My educated guess is that great volcanic eruptions most likely from Iceland created chunks of ice, some fifteen feet long and thick to fall throughout the Carolingian Empre and affect climate change to the degree winters did not end until April. One year the Thames froze and snow fell on the Nile. Also, there was a great earthquake in 823 that damaged the royal palace in Aachen, caused rivers to alter courses, villages to disappear, and lakes to appear. That is why I prefer to rely on research rather than travel – except when I write a contemporary novel. We lived exactly where every scene in my horror novel,A Gathering of Vultures, takes place in Brazil and Florida.

Q: Speaking of good stories, you’ve written for the screen and TV, what would be your dream type of movie or show to work on now? Are you like me and miss the sweeping historical movie epics?

A: Yes, I fantasize about having each of my novels translated to film or a TV miniseries. A few Hollywood producers have told me my epic historicals would be too expensive to produce. We can’t go to Spain or Yugoslavia and have a real cast of thousands as when the dollar was favorable. When I was in Spain in 1956, I was shaved every day for 2.5 cents, my pension at the beach on Mallorca cost me $18/week, a gourmet meal in Barcelona about three dollars max. The mark was 25 cents to the dollar, and I had a London cabbie at my disposal. New Years Eve 1955-56 from 8PM to dawn for $5 including a generous tip.

Q: What is your favorite historical TV series at the moment? What is the best that has ever been shown?

A: Whatever appears on Masterpiece Theater.The best ever? That is difficult. I Claudius stands out, but so do The Keith Michel Henry VIII series, Downton Abbey, the originalUpstairs Downstairs, Poldark, Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, and the dramatized biographies. I yearn for a channel devoted solely to Masterpiece Theater and Mysteries. I do not subscribe to HBO and the other premiums so I know I am missing some HF series.

Q: I know that you are writing a sequel to Close to the Sun, your WWII novel. What else will you write? What other time periods or people interest you?

A:All time periods interest me. As I mentioned above I am polishing a “dark” novel set in 1946.

Q: If you could have coffee/tea with anyone right now, besides yours truly, who would you wish to join us? Why?

A: Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain for wit. Talleyrand, Elizabeth I and TR for political acumen.Lily Langtry and Eleanora Duse for both beauty and to entertain.

Q: Do you have some favorite authors or books you enjoy? Any good recommendations?

A:Too many to list from the Golden Age of HF, but I’ll include Sabatini, Costain, Shellabarger the American author Winston Churchill, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Ben Ames Willliams, Viña Delmar, and Dorothy Dunnett. Historical research takes up too much time for me to read current HF, and I fear reading novels set in the same eras as mine because I may unintentionally plagiarize.

Q: What are you buying Bodo (the cat) for Christmas? (He’s listening, so be smart)

A:Bodo the Cat will receive a few cuts of rare filet mignon, plenty of attention, which he demands, and permission to cuddle.

Q: Where can people contact or stay abreast of your work?

A:On Amazon, friend me on facebook, and my web site www.donaldmichaelplatt.com

Erin: Oh, Donald, it’s always wonderful to talk to you and pet Bodo. I do believe that photo of you and he is the best photo I’ve ever seen. He’s quite regal. I do enjoy your sweeping historicals and will continue to read your books as long as you create them. It’s so nice to know you.

Donald: Thank you, Erin, always a pleasure to chat with you. Hope to see you in Denver at the HNS Conference in June 2015.

02_Bodo the Apostate CoverBodo the Apostate, Synopsis~

Publication Date: September 29, 2014
Raven’s Wing Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

“… in the meantime, a credible report caused all ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church to lament and weep.” Prudentius of Troyes, Annales Bertiniani, anno 839

On Ascension Day May 22, 838, Bishop Bodo, chaplain, confessor, and favorite of both his kin, Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and Empress Judith, caused the greatest scandal of the Carolingian Empire and the 9th century Roman Church.

Bodo, the novel, dramatizes the causes, motivations, and aftermath of Bodo’s astonishing cause célèbre that took place during an age of superstitions, a confused Roman Church, heterodoxies, lingering paganism, broken oaths, rebellions, and dissolution of the Carolingian Empire.

Author Donald Platt, Biography~

Here is Bodo, the cat, with Donald!

Here is Bodo, the cat, with Donald!

Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted 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, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he 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, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.

For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Hashtags: #BodotheApostateBlogTour #HistoricalFiction

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @donroc

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Judith Starkston Writes: Archaeology and Imagination, On Building a Fiction Scene Set in Ancient World

Archaeology and Imagination:
Building a scene of historical fiction set in the ancient world
by Judith Starkston, Author, Guest Article

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Judith and her writing buddy, Socrates

I open my novel, Hand of Fire, with an emotionally charged moment: a young woman trying to save the life of her dying mother. That’s a universal experience that transcends any particular historical period, but for this opening scene to succeed, I also had to place the reader in Bronze Age Anatolia since my book is set within the Trojan War.

So I had two jobs. First, to bring my reader inside the young woman, Briseis, as she fights against her fears—an act of imagination, of living inside the reality of a another human being. That’s the core of what any fiction writer does, historical or not. Second, to include precise details which make the reader see, hear and smell the physical world of this far away place and time. These two processes have to work in balance, with the emotional content being what the reader is aware of and the world-building slipping in concretely but surreptitiously. In this post I’m going to look at the world-building side of this equation, particularly at how I use archaeology in that process.

At its best, creating an ancient world without distracting the reader from the action and emotions of the story is a magic trick, a sleight of hand that never calls attention to itself. No reader should stop and think, “My, what a great deal this writer knows about palaces of the Late Bronze Age.” Historical fiction writers don’t hit the goal of invisible magic all the time, but that’s where we should all aim.

For this opening scene what did I have to work with? How could I show my reader that we’re in a small sleeping chamber upstairs on a nobleman’s estate outside the city of Lyrnessos not far from Troy in about 1200 BCE?

Mt Ida view to Aegean Sea

Mt Ida view looking out to the Aegean Sea

After a few paragraphs I used a violent storm blowing in to give the larger geography. Briseis imagines it “blowing in from some distant, dangerous place like Greece, blowing across the Aegean Sea and flinging itself against Mount Ida’s flanks.”

But how to “build” the room itself? From archaeology, what did I know about a room like that? I’d seen fragments and reconstructions of beds, and they are different enough from what you and I sleep on to make a quick point that, reader, you’re not in Kansas anymore. So in the first paragraph I said, “Briseis…adjusted the fleeces cushioning her mother’s shoulders from the leather straps pulled across the bed’s wooden frame. She got no response.” The bed description is tied closely to the actions and emotions, so I’m hoping the reader gets a picture in her head without stopping.

Bed fragments

Bed fragments, in the National Museum, Athens

Briseis’s worried brother is twisting his tunic, a small ancient detail, although that didn’t take much archaeology since everyone knows about tunics—but that’s the point here; it’s an easy way to ground a reader.

To bring the larger context of the room into focus, I added “the flickering light came from clay oil lamps, causing the geometric patterns frescoed on the mud-brick walls to lunge and recoil.” Then I remembered the many ceramic braziers I’d seen in museums, so I brought one in.

Corum Museum portable braiser

Corum Museum portable brazier

Central to my understanding of this world are the cuneiform tablets that have have been dug out of the ground in the thousands. So next up, Briseis prepares a sulfur and beeswax poultice on a portable brazier that was lit by a coal brought up from downstairs in a long handled bronze cup, and then she consults the clay tablets she and her mother use in their work as healers.

Corum Museum cuneiform tablet

Corum Museum cuneiform tablet

By now, several paragraphs in, I’m hoping my reader has left the modern world behind, but is mostly focused on the growing crisis. None of Briseis’s measures to save her mother has worked and this room is full of frightening, recoiling flickers—not unlike the flickering life Briseis is so determined to save.

Much later in Hand of Fire, Briseis participates in a daylong festival to their gods. Sometimes archaeology tempts a writer to include something so beautiful or so strikingly different that we have to work very hard at making sure we are not gratuitously including it, the dreaded “info dump.” There’s a silver libation cup in the Metropolitan Museum in New York that calls to me. It’s shaped like a kneeling stag with delicate branching horns, a checked collar and, around its middle where the lip of the cup is, a relief scene of priests making an offering to a god who stands in good Hittite fashion on the back of a stag. ( Stag Rhyton at the Metropolitan Museum )

I’ve never heard an explanation of why it so appealed to the Hittites to perch their gods on the backs of various animals as a sort of throne. It’s quite regal, showing the god’s power over nature, and I guess that’s the point. While full of wine, the nose of the stag would point down and gradually come upright again as the libation is poured completely out. I think this object perfectly expresses these particular people’s devotion to the gods, and it keeps the reader in a Bronze Age Hittite rite. There won’t be a mental blend with a Catholic chalice, for example, because it’s so different. The trick is to slide it into a scene that the action and emotions of the novel absolutely require and not to go too crazy with other details of sacrifice and offerings. It’s tempting—some of the translations from tablets of these rites go on for pages and pages prescribing different kinds of grain, beers, animals, types of priests etc. But sometimes you have to trust the one perfect detail to place your reader in this far away world, and I chose the stag rhyton cup.

This blending of small historical details into the emotional fabric of a novel is the heart of the historical writer’s job. I hope I have built a picture of daily life at the time of the Trojan War in a compelling way that allows the reader to enjoy the story without distraction.

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Hand of Fire, Synopsis~

The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.

Judith Starkston, Biography~

Author Photo(1)Judith writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities.

She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.

Find an excerpt, Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website www.JudithStarkston.com.

Follow Judith Starkston on FB and Twitter

Visit on Goodreads Hand of Fire

 Buy Links

Amazon 

Amazon UK  

Nook

i-Tunes  

Link to the tour schedule: Hand of Fire Fireship Press Virtual Tour

Advance Praise~

“But what is the difference between a good historical novel and a brilliant one?
I suggest you read Judith Starkston’s Hand of Fire and you’ll discover the answer.” Helen Hollick, Historical Novels Review Editor and author of Forever Queen

“In Hand of Fire, Starkston’s careful research brings ancient Greece and Troy to life with passion and grace. This haunting and insightful novel makes you ache for a mortal woman, Briseis, in love with a half-god, Achilles, as she fights to make her own destiny in a world of capricious gods and warriors. I devoured this page-turning escape from the modern world!” — Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The World Beneath

“In her portrayal of Briseis, Judith Starkston has cast a bright light on one of the Iliad‘s most intriguing sub-plots. With her fast-paced story, three-dimensional characters, and fascinating cultural details, Starkston has given historical fiction fans a tale to remember.” –Priscilla Royal, author of Covenant with Hell

 

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Talking with Ruth Hull Chatlien about Betsy Bonaparte, Women in History, Writing, and Dream Vacations

Hi Ruth! Thank you for joining us today at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy to have you. Hopefully spring is around the corner for all of us, at least here in Ohio, we are hoping. How has 2014 treated you and your book, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, so far?

Ruth: To be honest, 2014 got off to a rough start for me. Not only was it the coldest winter in northern Illinois’s recorded history, but I was also diagnosed with early stage breast cancer on New Year’s Eve, so for the first three months of the year I had to undergo surgery and radiation. But I’m finished with all that now, and as an official cancer survivor, I’m looking forward to the future. The book has been one bright spot in all of this. It’s been well received by readers, which gives me great joy.

Erin: Oh, Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that you went through that, and so recently as well.  We have dealt with that with some of our family members and in the previous two years I was President of the Board of a local Cancer Association where I live and we worked and assisted many patients, more than half with breast cancer. I know what a struggle that can be and I am glad to hear you made it through. Best wishes to you to continue on your road to recovery. What a joy to have your book launched and well-received! I certainly enjoyed it!

It’s a bit chilly here, so I’ll still opt for a pot of tea. Would you like some tea or coffee? Then we can have a seat and discuss your novel and your writing. Let’s show the cover first, which I believe you helped illustrate.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Ruth: Coffee would be great as long as it’s decaf. Oh what the heck. Since it’s virtual coffee, maybe I can splurge and have the caffeinated kind.

Erin: That is so true about it being virtual, that said, why not throw in a scone or cookie as well. No calories on the computer screen! Let’s get started then!

Q: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, your debut novel, is about the American wife of Jerome Bonaparte. Being that your specialty in your non-fiction work is U.S. history and world history, it was interesting that you were able to tie the two together. How did your idea for your book come about?

A: I first learned about Betsy and Jerome from watching the Horatio Hornblower series that showed on A&E in the 1990s and early 2000s. The young couple’s struggle to get to France to obtain the emperor’s approval of their marriage was portrayed in the last episode. When I googled their names to find out if the episode was based on historical fact, I learned that Betsy’s story was far more complex and interesting that the snippet shown in the TV show.

Erin: Yes! I forgot that. That was a great series….cool!

Q: I have never heard much about Betsy Patterson Bonaparte. How much has she been spoken about in the history books? For non-readers (who haven’t yet read your book), how well-known is her story?

A: Betsy was a well-known celebrity throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, and there were several biographies and even novels written about her. After the 1960s, her story fell off the radar, but her reputation is making a comeback. Two academic biographies have been published about her within the last few years (one of them after my novel came out).

Q: What kind of research was done for your novel? Did you have any challenges or find out anything extremely interesting?

A: I used six different biographical sources for Betsy alone, some of which contained excerpts from her letters (which are held by the Maryland Historical Society). I also read about Jerome, Napoleon, Dolley Madison, the Caton sisters, the War of 1812, Baltimore architecture, period clothing, and an early explorer’s expedition to Niagara Falls. My husband and I traveled to Baltimore to visit period homes, a 19th-century ship, and Fort McHenry.

Erin: Very interesting. My son just did his historical research project on Dolley Madison. I would love to visit Baltimore, exciting.

I learned a lot of interesting things while researching. For example, Betsy carried a porcelain bourdaloue with her when she traveled. A bourdaloue is basically a fancy, French porta potty shaped something like a gravy boat—a handy thing to have for those long 19th-century carriage rides. I find it difficult to imagine Betsy hiking up her skirts and taking a tinkle in a public coach, but maybe she used it in the shrubbery during stops along the way. And she and Jerome did travel extensively in their own privately owned coach, so theoretically, she could have used it there.

Erin: Oh my goodness, too funny!

Q: Betsy Bonaparte seemed like an extraordinary woman. What types of things do you think that women of today can relate to in regards to her? Does she teach us any lessons or hold admirable qualities that should be remembered more fully?

A: I think some of the forces Betsy fought against haven’t gone away completely. We still have religions that teach women to be subservient to men. We’re still seeing attempts to limit women’s ability to plan the size of their families. Perhaps reading about the struggles of Betsy—and her poor mother—will help remind women not to be complacent about our own rights. In addition, women can learn from Betsy’s example about prudent financial planning. (I know I could learn a thing or two from her in that regard!) I also think women of today can learn a negative lesson from Betsy. In my opinion, the friends who urged her to try to use her talents to find happiness were right, and her life might have been more satisfying if she had focused on doing some type of meaningful work instead of seeking after rank.

Erin: That is such a wonderful answer, thank you!

Q: What kinds of struggles did the wives that married into the Bonaparte family have?

A: To be honest, I haven’t done much research into the other wives who married into the Bonaparte family. I’m planning to write a non-Bonaparte book next, so I’ve been away from this subject for a while. I do know, however, that Napoleon tried to impose political alliances on many members of his family. Josephine’s daughter Hortense, who married Napoleon’s emotionally erratic brother Louis, was very unhappy in her marriage. There were even rumors that her son, who became Emperor Napoleon III, wasn’t a Bonaparte at all.

Q: How long did it take you to write this novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of your pants)?

A: It took me a little over two years from the beginning of research through the final edits before publication. I’m mostly a plotter, although I will deviate from my outline if my characters insist on taking the story a different way. (For instance, in one chapter, Bo has a tantrum, which came as a complete surprise to me.) With this book, the events of Betsy’s life were already laid out for me, but I did fill in the known events with a lot of fictional episodes. I decided most of those ahead of time, but a few came to me as I was writing.

Q: You’ve written a long time for your day job. What other types of interesting people do you speak of in your educational materials? Who else might make an interesting book?

A: One interesting project that I did a few years back was a young adult book that included the biographies of several modern American Indian leaders, both men and women. I really enjoyed learning about their different ways of leading their people. I also did a fascinating unit on Magellan’s voyage a couple of years ago. It’s one of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever come across and would make a fantastic novel, but it won’t be written by me. I’m more interested in writing about women who live during times of conflict or change.

Erin: I am interested in reading book about the women too. I hope you write more! So many stories to tell!

Q: Who do you feel are the most instrumental women in U.S. and/or world history?

A: The word instrumental throws me a bit because it seems to imply someone who was a major player in leading the nation. However, as a writer, I’m not especially drawn to people in the political sphere, so I’m going to take this in a different direction. Some of the women who stand out for me in U.S. history are the ones who really tried to make a difference in the lives of others: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (fighting for women’s rights), Harriet Tubman (leading hundreds of slaves to freedom), Jane Addams (working to educate immigrants and help them adapt to their new communities), and Eleanor Roosevelt (helping the disadvantaged and promoting equal rights). A similar figure from world history is Florence Nightingale with her work to improve hospital care. Each of these women fought to make the world a better place.

Erin: Yes, I feel these women were instrumental. Elizabeth Stanton has come up in so many interviews lately, I think she needs some attention! I do think that the legacies all these women left behind were instrumental in making American culture what it is today or where it still need to go. And Eleanor is a personal favorite of mine, as I am from the same family tree as she and very proud of her work.

Q: What is your best advice for writers? Maybe name three important things.

A: I think the first thing all writers should decide is why they want to write. Some people want to gain commercial success, while others write primarily for self-expression or to create art. Either goal is fine, and the two can overlap, but usually one dominates. A writer needs to be clear about his or her primary goal because the career strategies and standards of evaluation for each will differ. The second piece of advice I’d offer is to listen to the work. You have to pay attention to what’s going on in the story and be willing to change your preconceived ideas about it if they aren’t working. Finally, find a support network because writing can be lonely and difficult. I was fortunate; I met my husband in a writer’s critique group, so we provide great support for each other because we know what the process is like. Even so, I still seek support from other writers I’ve met through blogging and online discussion groups.

Q: Do you have plans to write any other books in the near future? If so, what will they be about?

A: Yes, I’m in the research stage of another historical novel based on the true story of a woman taken captive during one of the most brutal Indian wars in U.S. history. Her story will be very different from Betsy’s, but the two women share the quality of being fiercely determined survivors.

Erin: I love stories such as these, I would really like to read that when you complete it.

Q: For fun, what is your dream vacation? Maybe a perfect writing spot?

A: That’s easy. Seven years ago, my husband and I took a month-long writing sabbatical by renting a beach cottage on Amelia Island, Florida. It’s in the northeastern part of the state, and there’s a quaint town called Fernandina Beach. We love it there. I’ve been itching to go back lately, but it will have to wait. Our next vacation is going to be a research trip for the novel I’m working on.

Q: What books have you read lately that you enjoyed? What are some of your favorite all time books?

A: I recently read Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle and was very impressed with the book. It tells the story of Henry VIII’s last wife. And I’ve recently become hooked on Louise Penny’s Inspector Armande Gamache mystery series. My favorite all-time books are Little Women, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and The Lord of the Rings. Nothing too out of the ordinary there I’m afraid.

Erin: Ah, yes, but classics. I love all of those. I liked Queen’s Gambit too, I reviewed it here. She has a new one coming out looks good too.

Q: Where can readers and writers connect with you?

A: I’m on Twitter using the handle @RHChatlien, I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ruthhullchatlien, and I blog at ruthhullchatlienbooks.com.

Erin: Thank you so much Ruth! We certainly enjoyed you stopping by for a hot cup of coffee with us. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.

Ruth: Thank you, Erin, for putting together such a comprehensive and interesting set of questions. I enjoyed spending time with you.

Erin: Feel free to come by anytime!

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, Synopsis~

The Ambitious Madame BonapartePublication Date: December 2, 2013
Amika Press
Paperback; 484p
ISBN: 978-1937484163

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

Watch the Book Trailer

LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUOymzEHBLY&feature=player_embedded

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Buy the Book

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Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
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Author Ruth Hull Chatlien, Biography~

Ruth Hull ChatlienRuth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for twenty-five years. Her specialty is U.S. and world history.

She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders and has published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is her first published novel.

She lives in northeastern Illinois with her husband, Michael, and a very pampered dog named Smokey.

When she’s not writing, she can usually be found gardening, knitting, drawing, painting, or watching football.

Connect with Ruth Hull Chatlien at her website or on Facebook.

 

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

Tour Hashtag: #MadameBonaparteTour

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Article by M.J. Neary About Her Quest to Write Irish History, While Not Being Irish…

The author M.J. Neary offers a book called Never Be at Peace, which surrounds the Irish uprising against the British on Easter 1916.  Today, she is featured here with an interesting article about how people viewed a non-Irish person writing about a major Irish historical happening. Take a look and then view her book and author bio below. I’ll be back around with a review later this month!

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“Who Gave You Permission to Write about Ireland?”
by M.J. Neary, author

As every other young author, I kept hearing the same advice: “Write what you know.” But what you know is not necessarily what you grew up with. Five novels later, if I could have a penny for every time someone asked me why a Russian-Polish continental Euro mutt like me would write about Irish history, I wouldn’t need a day job.  Over the course of my Celtic adventures I have discovered that the Irish as well as Irish-Americans split into two categories: those who are very welcoming and eager to share their culture with the world, and those who are rather defensive and hostile towards outsiders. I guess same can be said for all people who have a strong sense of ethnic identity.

When I signed up for an Irish language course in college, my professor, a Dubliner no less, said to me, “I think are n the wrong place.  Eastern European women’s studies are down the hall. This class is for Irish-Americans who want to learn about their heritage.”  It’s a miracle he didn’t call me a bloody communist.  Thank God I did not have a cup of coffee in my hand, because it would have ended up all over his shirt. I continued with his class and had the best Gaelic pronunciation.  By the end of the semester, I was his favorite student, though he was reluctant to admit it.

Now that I have an Irish married name, people don’t second-guess my devotion to Irish culture so much and my decision to write about Irish history.  Then I open my mouth at book signings, and people ask me, “You have a bit of a brogue. County Galway?”  I smirk.  County Chernobyl more like it.  I don’t really have an accent.  After 22 years in the US, I sound like a typical corporate New England bitch that I am during the day.  If we’re selling medical equipment, people wouldn’t think to ask me where I was from.  But when you do explore the question of ethnic identity in your books, your readers try to place you as an author and as a person in an ethnic context.  They start scrutinizing your every opinion through the prism of your ethnicity.  “Oh, look, she parts her hair in the middle.  Never seen that before. That’s how they must do it … over there … in County Galway.”

One common misconception that has been a source of great frustration for me is that you need to be ethnically Irish in order to write about something as sensitive as the Anglo-Irish conflict.  My college professor held that belief.  He gave me an A, but he discouraged me from writing fiction set in Ireland, because “it just wouldn’t come out authentic.” According to him, you have to be born there, or at least have parents who were born there, in order to fully understand the melancholic long-suffering collective Irish soul.  What a bunch of elitist boloney! It’s like saying that white people should not attempt to play jazz, or non-Jews should not attempt to write about the Holocaust.

I believe that being a genetic outsider gives me a certain advantage, that of healthy detachment and objectivity.  There are benefits to embracing a cultural tradition as an adult on your own accord as opposed to being born into it. One benefit is that you cannot be accused of taking sides and spreading propaganda.  As a historical novelist, I do not engage in propaganda or apologetics. That would make me a politician, and that’s the last thing the world needs. I can always throw my hands up and say, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just a dumb communist Polack. This is my impartial view of another country’s past.”  With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin just around the corner, there is a great deal of revising and reevaluating happening.

Truth be told, I am no stranger to the idea of nationalism.  Growing up, I was exposed to a fair amount of it at home.  My biological father was a Polish nationalist, who had perceived Russia as Poland’s cultural and political oppressor. Like his Irish counterpart Patrick Pearse, whose speech inspired the title for “Never Be at Peace”, my father believed in the power of a good spectacle, the bloodier and messier the better.  He believed that if you cause enough commotion on the streets in the name of your Cause, that’s half the battle already.  Winning is not required. Victory in a military sense would be the cherry on top.  Attracting attention is good enough.  You cause a skirmish, and that will automatically put you on the map.  It will give you credibility, and your enemies will know that you mean business.

While I retain considerable amount of admiration for my biological father, I harbor no illusions about his motives.  Was he really fighting for the interests of an oppressed nation, or was he merely fighting for limelight?  I’ve grown to realize that nationalism in various countries unfolds according to the same formula. You just need a bunch of eager barricade-climbers.  Many of them don’t understand what they are fighting for.  They love the idea of being martyrs for a noble cause.

I can write about Irish rebels, because I’ve seen that euphoric fanatical light in my own father’s eyes.  Unlike Patrick Pearse, my father survived his flirtation with martyrdom. still alive. He was not shot on the barricades or executed by the authorities.  Now he looks back on his escapades with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. Had he been born in Ireland at the turn of the century, his fate might have been different.  So yes, I feel qualified to write about the Easter Rising of 1916, because I believe that I have enough insight into the psyche of a revolutionary.

Here’s the author, red hair and all….I mean she has red hair, doesn’t that qualify?

Neary photo

Never Be at Peace, Book Blurb~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom.

Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

Here is a picture of Helena sent by M.J. Neary:

Marina 1

Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Praise for Never Be at Peace~

“M. J. Neary’s Never Be at Peace is a gripping and intense tale of Ireland in the thick of revolution. Told from the perspectives of the brave and uncompromising men and women involved in the fight for independence, it will delight fans of women’s history and Irish history. Meticulously researched and boldly-written, Never Be at Peace is a masterful story that breathes life Edwardian Ireland and illuminates the hearts and minds of these unforgettable Irish patriots.” –Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade

“Neary’s Helena Molony is a storm of a character who comes to life along with a cast of the giants of early 20th century Ireland. Helena’s story will stick with you long after you turn the last page.” –Meghan Walsh, The Recorder, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society

Links~

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Townsfolk Caught in 17th Century Strife and Crafting a Proper Mystery: Interview with D.W. Bradbridge

I’m excited for this interview today with D.W. Bradbridge! His book, The Winter Siege, is a well-told 17th Century mystery with the background of local history during a very tumultuous time. You can see my review from yesterday, HERE. He was a pleasure to talk with and he’s given us some very inside knowledge of his research, his book, his writing, and much more. Enjoy!

Hi D.W.! Thanks for coming by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I have been looking forward to talking with you! The Winter Siege has been the perfect read for me right now, as in Ohio we are covered in snow! How are you faring overseas?

D.W.: Thanks for inviting me, Erin. I appreciate it. I think the weather in the UK has been a lot milder than you’ve had it in the US. Nevertheless, we had our annual battle re-enactment celebration in Nantwich on Saturday and we were hit with thunder, lightning and a huge hailstorm. I think I prefer, the snow, to be honest.

Erin: I’d prefer snow to that too!! And I don’t mind a soft snow much, but we’ve been having temps in the -40 degrees with wind chill and my kids are working on the fourth day missed of school! Yes! I’d love to have a sit down in your favorite bookstore, with a cup of steaming tea and discuss some fabulous topics…history, books, writing…and certainly YOUR book!

D.W.: You’re very welcome, my local bookstore in Nantwich is very friendly and makes a great cup of tea!

Erin:  Wonderful. I’d love an English Breakfast Tea. Let’s get started!

The Winter Siege

Q:  I know you have a long-standing love of genealogy and local history!  How did that inspire you to write your book and are either one of those two things involved in your storyline in The Winter Siege?

A: I was brought up in Bolton, which is about 60 miles from Nantwich, but my mother always used to tell me about her Cheshire ancestors. When I moved to Nantwich 14 years ago, I started to research our local history and it was then that I realized that the English Civil War battle that took place in these parts provided a fascinating story that needed to be told. Genealogy itself does not play a role in the story, although I do have a Cheswis in my family tree.

Q:  Why do you think it is important to share and tell the ‘lost stories’ of people in history? As many as have been told, there are still so many to draw upon. What can their stories teach the next generation?

A: I think the character of a town can be moulded by the inhabitants’ collective experience over time. The events that took place in Nantwich during the winter of 1643-44 must have been incredibly traumatic for the people who lived there, and it’s worth pointing out that, had things turned out differently for local populace, Nantwich would probably be a very different place today. What I got most out of discovering this story was tremendous respect for the fortitude of the townsfolk of Nantwich during the siege. I think it’s worthwhile thinking about the contribution previous generations have made from time to time.

Q:  How much research went into The Winter Siege?  What interesting tidbit did you come across that surprised you?

A: Historical accuracy was important to me, so I read just about every contemporary account of the battle, as well as carrying out other research such as looking into the role of the village constable in the 17th century, the structure of the salt trade in Cheshire and the history of Cheshire cheese. I think the aspect of the English Civil War that will surprise most people is the fact that support for King or Parliament was never black and white. Although Nantwich was largely parliamentarian in its sympathies, there were still plenty of royalists about.

Erin: Did you say Cheshire cheese??! Yum! And yes, that is true and I see your point. It seems many took the side that best ensured their survival. All lines were muddy.

Q:  Is your book fairly historically accurate or does it run more as a fictional crime drama set during a point in history?

A: What I’ve tried to do is to create a very accurate and detailed historical framework to the novel and then weave a fictional murder plot around the real events. History offers only a partial snapshot of what happened at any given point in time, and is often seen through eyes that are biased in some way. So what I’ve tried to do is to create a “what-if” scenario. Many of the episodes in the book – even some of the minor ones, actually happened, but it’s for the reader to decide what is real and what is fiction.

Q:  In reality, how did the people within Nantwich fare during this ‘lockdown’ period of their life, where they were caught between two intense factions vying for power?

A: The siege itself must have been a pretty miserable experience, especially towards the end of the siege when food began to run out. But at least they had roofs over their heads. The besieging royalists would have largely camped out in the open air in freezing temperatures. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what happens, but I think, in retrospect and given different circumstances, things could have been much worse for the people of Nantwich than they actually were.

Q:  How long was your process to complete your novel? What were some of your challenges and some milestones or success you had in working on it?

A: It took about two years from start to finish. For my day job I run a small publishing company producing business magazines for the tire industry, so my biggest challenge was seeing whether I could transpose the skills I had learned as a journalist into a completely different kind of writing. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether I’ve been successful .

Erin:  It seems you have! I struggle with that myself quite a bit actually. I have an issue getting into my creative writing due to my structured journalist style. I am also curious to hear how others make the transformation.

Q:  How did you create your lead protagonist and his characteristics? Was he based on someone from history, a person you know, did he just appear to you….?

A: It was important to me to create a lead character who the reader would care about and, indeed, who I would care about, but he had to be a real character with flaws – so Daniel is somewhat reserved, wants to please too many people at times and has some obsessive-compulsive traits. He also compromises himself professionally out of misguided loyalty to one of his friends. To be honest, the basis of his character was formed at the start of the creative process, but he developed naturally as the book went on.

Q:  What do you feel worked for you well in terms of preparing and completing your historical novel? How did you keep the historical aspect and the plotted mystery all straight in your mind and on paper?

A: All writers are different in how they prepare their work. I spent the weekend with two other writers who told me they don’t prepare a structure to their novels at all – they just let the plot flow. I’m a planner though, so I prepared a template of the plot split into chapters, then filled in the historical details in note form before sitting down and writing the story. This helped me with the convoluted plot line as well as with the pacing of the novel. For me it was like filling in a tapestry.

Q:  What other time periods or situations in history do you favor?  Have you thought about writing on any of them?

A: I have plans to write a novel set in Mauritius during the Napoleonic Wars but that’s a long way off. My plans for the next few years are to follow the fortunes of Daniel Cheswis and his friend s and family as they negotiate the rest of the English Civil War. The sequel to The Winter Siege will be called A Soldier of Substance and will hopefully be published towards the end of the year.

Erin: I like the sounds of both of those!

Q:  You seem like you’ve been having a great time publicizing and promoting your book at bookstores and so forth. Very creative! How does it feel to have completed a goal or fulfilled a dream?

A: Fantastic! It’s a real sense of achievement, especially talking to people who’ve read the book. But the job is only half done. Being a self-published author, I now have to take on the task of marketing the book properly.

Q:  Where can readers or fellow writers connect with you?

A: Via my website http://dwbradbridge.com or via e-mail at dw@dwbradbridge.com. I’m always happy to connect with readers or fellow writers.

Q:  Where can you books be bought in the US, UK, and internationally?

A: In the US via Amazon and Smashwords. The book is also available through a number of independent bookstores in the UK and those are listed on my website.

Erin:  Thank you so much, D.W., for sharing a bit of your world with me and my readers! And I love the cover of your novel too, by the way! Very attention grabbing! I wish you best of luck in future writing endeavors. Stay in touch!

D.W.: Thank you. I certainly will. It’s been great talking to you.

The Winter Siege, Synopsis~

The Winter SiegePublication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.

While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.

When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

The Winter Siege_Tour Banner _FINAL

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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.

QueensVowUS

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

The Tudor Conspiracy Tour Banner FINAL

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