Tag Archives: Author Interviews

Blog Tour: Drawn by Chris Ledbetter

drawn by chris ledbetterTitle: Drawn
Author: Chris Ledbetter
ISBN: 978-1772333763
Publisher: Evernight Teen
First Published: 5 June 2015 (Kindle) / 3 June 2015 (paperback)
No .of pages: 282

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron hopes he can win her heart through art. After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request. To impress Farrah, Cameron sketches her portrait into a mysterious sketchbook. He nearly jumps from his skin when the sketch moves and communicates with him. Farrah is now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her sucked her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book. If he fails… they both die.

I don’t read an awful lot of teen fiction, but when I do, I only enjoy it if the premise is original and daring and grabs me from the get-go.

Let’s just say, I enjoyed this book!

Chris Ledbetter has done something few have done, and that is to write a teenaged boy with whom I, as a woman (and once, a teenaged girl) can relate. I felt for Cameron, I felt for him deeply, and was able to sink into his emotions and passion for art quite effortlessly. Farrah wasn’t quite so well, ahem, drawn as Cameron, but as she was not the main character, only the focus for Cameron’s growing affections, this was understandable – she was attractive, but as a reader I knew little about her, which was pitched very well, as Cameron didn’t really know all that much about her beyond the basics and his attraction for her.

The premise for the story was cleverly thought out and written with a light touch that lifted it above the ordinary – a heavier hand would have thrown everything out of balance and crushed the plot entirely. Its an unusual take on a Pygmalian-type of fantasy, where an artist brings his work of art to life, and falls in love with her, only Cameron is already falling for Farrah before he creates her Echo.

There was a tinge of sadness about the tale too – Ledbetter doesn’t shy away from the darker and more upsetting trials of teen and family life, and the complications inherent in relationships, whether familial, platonic, or romantic – and that’s refreshing. Yet, it never becomes maudlin – that lightness of touch and tone keeps things buoyant and ensures the reader doesn’t sink into depression while turning the pages. It’s a fine line, but Ledbetter walks it well.

Even if you don’t read young adult/teen fiction, don’t discount this book – it’s worth the effort and may just change your mind!

An interview with the author

chris-ledbetterI am happy to share this little interview with Chris Ledbetter, author of the book, Drawn. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your time and thoughts with us!

What advice would you give budding writers?
Read in the genre in which you wish to write. Read to discover the accepted norms and the rule breakers. Read to find out what you like and what you don’t. Read to discover what you can offer that will be distinct from the current voices. The worst thing is thinking you have this uber original story only to find out it’s been run through and no editors will ever buy it again. But then, also read craft books and articles. I hate to say it, but you could get an MFA’s worth of craft information on Pinterest. You really can’t read enough craft posts. And join supportive organizations like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) or an appropriate group to your genre. And go to conferences. I’m constantly learning about worldbuilding, dialogue, structure, etc. And find a good group of critique partners who don’t hold punches. It may hurt to get your work torn apart by your critiquers, but as long as it’s leveled constructively, you’ll learn and grow… and be closer to the brass ring.

 Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
I typically don’t have writer’s block per se because I know pretty much where the story is going. The only time the process slows for me is when I’m really trying to dig the deeper level emotions out of a character.

 Do you have another profession besides writing?
I am the assistant manager at a Vitamin World. Health is a passion of mine.

 What is your next project?
I have a few projects on the horizon. The one I’m am most excited about involves research about the history of Stradivarius violins. That’s all I can say about that project at the moment.

 Name a quirky thing you like to do.
I like to worship and make wishes upon the full moon. I mean, who doesn’t?


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BLOG TOUR: An interview with M J Rose

mj-roseAs part of the blog tour for The Collector of Dying Breaths, I asked the author, M J Rose, a few questions which she was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule to answer. Thank you, Ms Rose!

Kell: Throughout your Reincarnationist series, your characters visit various different time periods. Which, so far, has been your favourite, and why?
MJ: Ancient Egypt because it has always been my favorite period and the one I most wish personally I could go back in time and visit – the culture was so rich and mystical yet intelligent and innovative in so many ways.

Kell: There is so much detail about the art of creating perfume, both modern and ancient. What drew you to weaving that into a plot involving reincarnation?
MJ: When I was in advertising I worked on a perfume account for four years. I’d already loved wearing perfume but learning about how it is made and how much of an art it is drew me to it. I am fascinated by how evocative a scent can be and how it works on our memory – that was really what sold me on the idea – since when we talk about reincarnation we focus so much on remembering the past.

Kell: How long does it take you to research your novels, and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?
MJ: I do enjoy it tremendously – and it can take from six years to a few months.

Kell: How do you manage to keep track of the threads of the story in different time periods, and does that make it more difficult to write?
MJ: I made a lot of chart so its not difficult.

Kell: Can you tell us a little about any other forthcoming novels on which you’re working?
MJ: The Secret Witch of Rue Dragon will be out March 31 and takes place in 1894 in Paris and there’s no reincarnation in it:)

My thanks, again, to MJ Rose for taking time out of her busy schedule for this little interview!

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BLOG TOUR: An interview with Andra Watkins

to-live-foreverTo Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis has been described as a genre-bending novel. How would you describe it and on which bookshop shelf would you place it?
I call it a genre-bending novel. It’s a mix of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense/adventure fiction. Some readers have described it as magical realism and as young adult. At the end of the day, I fear we are too hung up on categories. I just tried to write a book I’d always wanted to read, and I hope other readers will feel the same way.

The novel is a great concept – what first gave you the spark of an idea to write the story, and what was your greatest inspiration when writing it?
Thank you! I first thought about writing the book when I was working in Nashville. I was rushing to a meeting in the West End. When I looked to my right, there was the Parthenon, this historic end of the Natchez Trace. I looked to my left, and there was a tiny road sign that read “Natchez Tr.” I started thinking about how Meriwether Lewis died on the Trace, and my imagination took it from there.

Research is a large part of a writer’s work. How long did you spend on research for this novel, and do you enjoy that side of writing? What do you enjoy best of all when writing?
I read academic works and biographies for several months as research for this novel. I also drove the entire Natchez Trace over two separate trips, and I spent time in New Orleans, both touring sites for the book and interviewing people who’d lived there for decades. I’ve always been a history geek, but I never wanted to write straight historical fiction. A book like To Live Forever gives me the ability to dive into research and still make up a new story, which is the kind of writing I enjoy best of all.

Do you enjoy the promotional side of things, such as public readings and signings? If so, which has been your most enjoyable experience?
I’m a former stage actress (Ooh, me too! How exciting!), so promotional things are really fun for me. Parnassus Books in Nashville hosted me for an author event and book signing, and I was honored that they chose me. I loved meeting readers and hearing their stories. That’s the best thing about writing: meeting the people whose lives are touched by my words.

Can you tell us a little about what other work you have in the pipeline?
To launch To Live Forever, I was the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. I did it in 34 days. Because my novel is about a girl’s relationship with her father, I took my almost-80-year-old father along on the trip. I’m writing a memoir called Not Without My Father, about the importance of taking the time to have a five-week adventure with my father at the end of his life. It will be available Fall 2014. I’m also working on a sequel to To Live Forever, which will be available Spring 2015.

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An interview with Jeannie Ruesch

cloaked in danger by Jeannie RueschCloaked in Danger is filled with intrigue, but also the opulence of Regency London society. What is it about that time and place, and the Ton, of course, that attracted you?
Thanks so much for having me today! There are so many eras of history that I have hopes of setting stories in, but the Regency era worked so well for these books. It was a natural fit to set this family into an era where the rules were incredibly restrictive—knowing my characters would have a difficult time living in between those lines. I enjoy flipping their world upside down and finding out how they’ll respond, how they’ll push the boundaries even when they’re trying to abide within them. It’s a golden path for conflict.

Aria Whitney is an unconventional character living in a society where flying in the face of convention could, and would, completely ruin a young woman’s chances in life. What made you write such a modern character and set her in such a restrictive situation?
In every era, there’s been a “modern” version of women, those who weren’t afraid to be themselves, even if they didn’t fit the mold. Aria was born out of believing that no matter the era, no matter the restrictions, there have always been –and will always be—women who look at life differently. I thought how incredible would it be for a young woman who had lived a very free existence to suddenly be forced into London society? How would she react? How would she find her way in this world that she wanted nothing to do with? How would she feel about falling in love with someone in this world?

Aria was raised in a very unconventional way, traveling the world with her father, living in encampments, seeing every aspect of different cultures around the world. Her priorities were completely different and for her, finding her father was far more important than what society thought of her. But it also made her path to success that much more difficult.

jeannie reuschWhat inspired you to historical fiction? And why do you think this genre appeals to so many readers? Are there any other genres you plan on trying?
I have been a long-time reader of historical fiction and historical romance. I imagine for many, it’s the peek back into our history, learning about how life was different and the escape historical fiction brings from today’s technology-filled world. (And I say that even though I read books on my Kindle…) I love the books that I learn tidbits of history from, and I love reading a book and then researching the facts to know what the author has taught me or what they’ve created. So being on the flipside of that is incredibly fulfilling.

My other favorite love is suspense, and Cloaked in Danger is a historical romantic suspense – a smushing together all the things I love about historical romance and romantic suspense. There have been murders, serial killers and all levels of the crime that are more typical in contemporary romantic suspense books since the dawn of time. I find it fascinating to blend the opulent with the darker sides of history, especially without today’s modern abilities to solve things. Beyond this series of books, I have plans for other eras from Victorian to World War II, but always in the wonderful blended historical suspense genre. Great stories ahead, I hope!

How long does it take you to research an historical novel, and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?
I love research. Love, love, love it. I am continually fascinated by history, and I pile up the nonfiction books as much as the fiction. One of these days, I will find the right story to honor the Elizabethan time period. It just hasn’t come to me yet.

I don’t know that I could say how long it takes to research but I love to immerse myself in the times. Learning the secrets of a past time is incredible. Reading the stories of everyday life, the journal entries and letters of ordinary people and extraordinary ones. Pouring over maps.

Digging for the secrets, skeletons and the shocking crimes that existed. One of the books I got for Christmas was a Definitive History of the Phenomenon of Serial Murder, and it includes the history of a sadistic Countess from the 16th century. This stuff fascinates me.

Can you tell us a little about any other forthcoming novels on which you are working?
The novel I’m currently finishing involves another of Adam’s sisters, Lily and her path to happiness and love. I can’t give away too much about the story without telling secrets about Cloaked in Danger, so mums the word until that book is out. But I can say that Lily’s story picks up about three years after Cloaked in Danger and her life has taken a turn she never expected…

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An interview with Anna Belfrage

anna belfrageThe Graham Saga has been set in 17th century Scotland and has since switched to  Northern America. What attracted you to these two locations and era?
In reply to your first question, my historical interests are diverse, but I have always found the Early Modern Age fascinating, this period that bridges the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Suddenly, old truths were questioned, men took to arms to defend their right to worship as they pleased, all of it culminating in Locke’s famous document, the Bill of Rights, in 1689.

As to Scotland, this is very much due to the rather ferocious Scottish Kirk and its political impact during the period, both during the English Civil War, but also after the Restoration of Charles II, when being a member of the Kirk became something of a liability. North America – well, the Americas in total – during colonial times exerts substantial pull on my imagination, awed as I am by all those people who took the drastic decision to leave everything they had and start anew, in a continent they knew nothing about and from where they would never return.

Alex is a feisty, modern woman who is very much of her own time, and yet she has managed to carve her own place in a time when women didn’t really have a voice of their own. Given similar circumstances, how well do you think you would fare, and what time and place would you most like to visit?
I think Alex shows a commendable ability to adapt – but then I believe most humans are good at adapting, it’s sort of a prerequisite to survival. Yes, she is feisty, but she has learnt some circumspection over the years. Besides, I’m not sure I believe women were less feisty back then – it took tough women to raise children in the 17th century, even more to help them prosper.

Personally, I would have major problems coping with the lack of hot water and clean clothes, and between the two of us, Alex has a constant fear of picking up lice or fleas from her less than clean contemporaries.

You know, I still keep on hoping that one day I will stumble upon some sort of time travelling device, complete with blinking gadgets. If I do, I’d be like a chocolate addict in a candy shop – spoiled for choice! But places/times I would definitely want to visit are Troy before the Greek attacked them, Rome when Nero set it on fire (but at a safe distance), Neolithic Europe when those bearded druids set about building Stonehenge, England when Henry II was at the peak of his powers, Spain when Ferdinand and Isabel united multiple realms into one, Scotland, June of 1314 when Robert Bruce defeated the English at Bannockburn, England again, with Henry Bolingbroke usurping Richard II’s crown, when Elizabeth I almost lost her life to her sister, when Charles I was beheaded, when… Scotland at the tragedy of Flodden, Edinburgh during the upheaval of 1689. Oh dear; so many places and times, right? One thing, though; I would never as much as touch a dial unless I was guaranteed a return ticket – I am far too fond of the creature comforts of my present life. (I mean, who can survive without chocolate?)

How did you go about researching for The Graham Saga? How long did it take and did you enjoy that aspect of writing it?
Research is an ongoing pleasure. There I am, reading a book about unfaithful royals through the ages (and there were plenty of those) and suddenly I find a little footnote, referring to how a young woman set off unchaperoned to 17th century Batavia (present day Djakarta, Indonesia) and suddenly I’m reading everything I can about the Dutch East-India Company. So far, this specific reading spree has not found its way into my books, but who knows? The specific research for the Graham Saga has been going on for years – a decade at least – as I find yet another aspect of the 17th century I need to understand better.

Fortunately, I love this aspect of writing, but the challenge lies in being selective as to how much of your knowledge you should include in the finished text. In one of the earlier drafts of A Newfound Land, I have a detailed description of how Alex makes lye, all the way from setting the water to trickle through the collected ash, to the final product. A great description, showcasing just how much I’d researched this aspect of early life, but did it really bring all that much to the story as such? Nope.

The use of artwork as a portal to the past is so innovative. What first sparked the idea? And which came first – the story, or the means of traveling to the past?
When I was a child, we lived in South America. My father was a hardworking manager who left the house well before eight in the mornings and rarely made it back before we were asleep in the evenings. But in the weekends, the manager in strict suits was replaced by a man in a colour-splattered shirt, with an old hanky stuck into the pocket of his jeans, and a bright light in his eyes as he stood before his easel, palette in one hand, brush in the other.

I knew better than to disturb him when he was in a painting mode, but he didn’t mind me being in the room while he did his artist thing, and I remember just how immersed he became as he leaned towards his work-in-progress, brush held high to add yet another minute speck of green to whatever it was he was painting.

Obviously, my father didn’t disappear into thin air. (Phew!) Nor did he create paintings that whispered and beckoned, urging you to come closer and look. But for the few hours when he allowed himself to escape into his art, he was definitely somewhere else, far away from the humdrum reality of his day-to-day life. So when I decided to write about time travelling, having magic paintings play a pivotal role was a given. Besides, I find it rather tantalizing, the idea that maybe one could paint a window through time. In actual fact, isn’t that what great artists do, trap a moment of time and make it eternal, sort of?

No matter the above, the story came first. Alex popped into my head, dug her fingers into my brain and just wouldn’t let go until I committed her story to paper. She is one stubborn lady, she is!

Can you tell us a little about what other work you have in the pipeline?
How long have you got? One of the dilemmas for a writer, is that there are always so many ideas bouncing about in your head. Some ideas have developed further, of course, and first and foremost I have some more instalments in The Graham Saga to get through. Other than that, there’s a trilogy about Jason and Helle. They met for the first time three thousand years ago, but things ended badly, with Helle dead and Jason drowning in remorse, which is why Jason since then has been tumbling through time, trying to find Helle and make amends. And then I have started on a novel set in 17th century Sweden, starring a young woman who falls in love with a collection of jewels that belong to someone else. The resulting hullabaloo has her fleeing for her life, ably aided by disgruntled royalist Jon Darrow.

Visit Anna Belfrage’s website HERE

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An interview with Kate Forsyth


bitter-greensWhat was it that drew you to writing about Charlotte-Rose de la Force as your main protagonist for Bitter Greens??
I stumbled upon the life story of this extraordinary 17th century writer quite by chance. I had set out to rewrite the Rapunzel fairy tale but felt it utterly essential that I wrote the story as if it had truly happened, a story that resonated with historical veracity. In other words, I wanted to write it as a historical novel for adults rather than a fantasy for children. I wondered – who first wrote the tale? I set out on a quest to find out, and discovered the first version of the tale as we know it was written by a French noblewoman who had been banished to a convent for her wild and wicked ways. In my search to find out everything I could about her, I found myself deep in the opulent and corrupt court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who was Charlotte-Rose’s second cousin, and realised with joy that her life story was full of drama, scandal, intrigue, romance and heartbreak. Once I had discovered Charlotte-Rose de la Force, I wanted desperately to bring her to life, and then she ran away with the story and I ran gladly with her. Her life was a wonderful gift for a novelist!

The action in Bitter Greens switches back and forth between different timelines and the stories of very different characters. How did you keep track of all the branches of the story and make sure they wove together so well?
I wrote Bitter Greens like three separate novels, and then I wove them together. The novel braids together three stories, three lives, like the plait that is the most memorable motif of the original fairy tale. I wrote Charlotte-Rose’s story first, from opening line to closing line, breaking at the key points where I knew the other stories would intersect. Then I wrote Margherita’s story, my maiden – from first line to last line – and then I interwove her narrative thread with Charlotte-Rose’s. I then wrote the story of the witch, who in my book is a Venetian courtesan who is the artist Titian’s mysterious red-haired muse. I found this section the most difficult to write, because it is the darkest, and then when I tried to interweave it with the other two strands, I found it weakened the power of her story to keep breaking it up. I changed my plan, and made the witch’s story the dark heart of the novel. Charlotte-Rose and Margherita’s story weave into it … and then out of it … and when we return to their entwined narratives, it is to find the story utterly changed. Or so I hope.

 How long did it take you to do all the research on the real historical figures in the book, and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?
I love researching. It’s simply reading with a purpose. And I LOVE to read.

I must admit the research for Bitter Greens took me a long time. It was seven years between first setting to work on the novel and it finally being published. However, there were long gaps in this time when I was working on other novels or projects so it wasn’t all the hard slog of researching. I mainly research at night, and so I spent many long happy months reading everything I could find about Renaissance Venice, Paris and Versailles  under the rule of the Sun King, and the psychological impact of solitary confinement in a small tower.

What was it about the story of Rapunzel that made you want to write about it? Are there any other fairy tales you find yourself drawn to and do you think you’ll write anything based on them at any point?
It’s hard for me to explain why Rapunzel so haunted me because I don’t fully understand it myself. I think it was because I first read Rapunzel as a little girl in hospital. I had been attacked by a dog as a toddler and, among many other injuries, had lost my tear duct which regulates the body’s ability to control tears. My left eye wept all the time, and nasty abscesses would form, making me very sick. Rapunzel is a story about a girl locked away from the world against her will, as I was incarcerated in that lonely hospital ward. And Rapunzel is a story about a young woman who heals the prince’s blindness with her tears, as I so desperately wished to be healed. I think this is why it resonated with me so powerfully.

In regards to other fairy tales, I love so many! Six Swans is a favourite, and Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty and so many more. At the moment, I’m particularly drawn to a very beautiful version of Beauty and the Beast which appears in the early editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s called The Leaping, Lilting Lark and its one of the most romantic and  heart-breaking tale I’ve ever read.

wild-girlHow did you first come across Dortchen Wild and what was it that drew you to writing about her in The Wild Girl?
When I was writing my novel BITTER GREENS (which retells Rapunzel), I began researching the sources of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales to find out who had first told that particular story. One of the books I read was ‘Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales’ which examined the forgotten female oral storytellers who told the brothers many of their tales. I was very intrigued to hear that one girl in particular – Dortchen Wild – had told so many of my favourite stories. Then, when I read that she and Wilhelm had fallen in love and eventually married – well! I knew I had to write about her. I was electrified by the story. It had everything I most love – romance, passion, heartbreak, drama, tragedy, triumph … and of course, the fairy tales! I’ve been mad about fairy tales since I was a child and here was a way for me to discover their sources and bring them to life in narrative. I could hardly sleep that night for excitement.

The covers of your books is gorgeous. How much say do you have in choosing the cover art, and what kind of input do you like to have?
I’m so glad you love the covers! I think they’re so beautiful and striking and unusual. I’d buy them in a heartbeat. I always have ideas and suggestions for the cover art, and I always share these with my publisher. However, I know it’s not my area of expertise and I always trust my publisher and the cover designer to know their market and to do something amazing. I’d never have come up with something so gorgeous on my own!

The Wild Girl is about the girl who was the muse for one of the best-known and best-loved storytellers of all time. Who or what is your muse and how have they inspired your writing?
Such an interesting question. I have to say I think the story itself is the muse, as I feel strongly – in a strange mystical way – that the story exists beyond me and that it is my responsibility to bring it to life in the best way I can. I know this sounds a little peculiar, but it’s like I discover the story, not create it … as if it already existed and was waiting to be told. When I am writing a novel I make the most extraordinary serendipitous discoveries and connections, and I have learnt to trust implicitly in this and wait for the story to reveal itself to me.

Do you have a favourite Grimm Tale? If so, what is it about that particular story that captured your imagination?
I have a number of favourites. Rapunzel, of course, which so troubled me from childhood I became obsessed with bringing it to life (which I eventually did in my novel BITTER GREENS). Beauty and the Beast. Six Swans. Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella. Snow White & Rose Red. I think what I love about all these books is the atmosphere of peril and danger and beauty and romance, all twisted together. And the happy ending, of course. I always want a happy ending.

Can you tell us a little about any other forthcoming novels on which you’re working?
At the moment, I’m writing a children’s fantasy series called ‘The Impossible Quest’ and researching another historical fairy tale retelling. I plan to retell one of Dortchens’ tales actually – ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ which is a ‘Beauty & the Beast’ variant. I plan to set it in Nazi Germany – the idea is thrilling me to bits.

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An interview with C W Gortner

authorphotocwgortnerWhat was it that drew you to writing about Isabella of Castile in The Queen’s Vow?
I’ve always been attracted to controversial personages in history, particularly women. In part, I believe it’s due to the fact that I grew up in southern Spain during the last years of Franco’s regime and was taught censored history when it came to the role of women. I’ve since discovered that often, popular history is, in fact, censored. I learned about Isabella in school, of course, but always found her forbidding— a staid matron blindly devoted to her faith. It wasn’t until many years later, when I wrote my first novel, The Last Queen, about her daughter, Juana, that I discovered an unknown side to Isabella, the rarely told story of her youth and tumultuous rise to power. Her struggle to become a sovereign queen is rife with danger and drama, and shows such a different side to her. I knew then it was a story I had to write. I love working with characters who transform in unexpected ways, and Isabella is one of those. She did not start out as the somber queen she’s so often portrayed as; in THE QUEEN’S VOW, I depict how Isabella evolved into the queen and woman that she was, and how her passions, tragedies, triumphs and doubts shaped her. 

the-queens-vow-by-c-w-gortnerAre there any other characters in The Queen’s Vow from whose point of view you might like to tell the story?
I think the story could have been told from the point of view of Isabella’s best friend and loyal lady in waiting, Beatriz de Bobadilla, who is indeed a strong secondary character in this book. She’s almost like Isabella’s opposite, her effervescent twin sister. Impulsive, rash and opinionated, she spurs Isabella and counters the princess’s caution. I did in fact toy with this very idea, until I realized that one of the main attractions of telling the story through Beatriz is that she’s more approachable, as compared to the controversial aspects of Isabella’s personality. Because of this, I discarded the idea, as it would have resulted in a different novel, not one that focuses on Isabella. Beatriz also had a marvelous life in her own right, and while she remained at Isabella’s side throughout the queen’s life, save for a few brief absences, it would have been a disservice to use her as a vehicle through which to relay Isabella’s story. Beatriz truly deserves her own book.

How long does it take you to research an historical novel, and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?
My research takes years. Bibliographies for each of my novels number in the hundreds, from countless biographies to multiple volumes about the era, architecture, music, costume, gardening, medicine, hunting, etc. I also research in libraries and consult what we term primary sources, whenever possible— the extant letters, ambassadorial accounts, dispatches, and court paperwork. I seek out everything and anything that will help me flesh out the details of a vanished time. I often start researching several years before I’m under contract to write a novel. I “store up” my research, so to speak. In the case of Isabella, I began researching her while writing The Last Queen, though this initial research focused on her later years. Because research is so time-consuming and I enjoy it so much, I have to impose limits on myself. I could literally spend years digging around without ever actually writing a word of the novel, so I only research enough to gain a strong base on which to start writing. When I encounter blocks along the way, I go back, research again, and continue writing. I find it easier to ferret out details later, rather than know everything upfront. It’s a haphazard way to work, for some, but it works best for me.

You seem to be drawn to writing about very strong women throughout history (Juana la Loca, Catherine de Medici, etc), what is it about them that attracts you to them? Are there any others about whom you’d like to write?
I find that I’m drawn to controversy, to characters who made their mark in history with deeds that inspire debate. I’m not as attracted to the easy popular characters, the ones who’ve had simple lives or are plainly “good.” Human beings are complex; it’s our complexity, indeed duality for some, which inspire me as a writer. Juana, Catherine, Isabella— these are quite different women, both in their view of the world and how they lived their lives, yet they share a common trait of not being “model women” for their era. Each defied the rules in some way; each made her own fate, for better and worse. Their passion and strength, fallibility and courage, make them endlessly fascinating. And yes, there are other women I’d like to write about, as well, some of them lesser known yet who also bucked the societal restrictions to carve their own way.

The Tudor ConspiracyThe Spymaster Chronicles are set during the Tudor period, focusing on the legitimate children of Henry VIII. What drew you to that particular period, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I find that while the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are, to a certain extent, well covered in fiction, the so-called forgotten Tudors, Edward and Mary, are far less so. I have always loved the Tudor era, ever since I was a child growing up in southern Spain. I read voraciously about the Tudors and found the tumult, the drama, and far-reaching consequences of this relatively short-lived dynasty fascinating. I decided to set the first two books of the Spymaster Chronicles in Edward VI’s and Mary I’s reigns because the realm underwent significant upheaval in a short span of time. Issues of faith, economic, social and political uncertainty were all at play, and Elizabeth herself – a major figure in these novels— found herself in some of the most perilous situations of her life, without recourse to her power yet as a queen. This time-period offers a wealth of situations for a novelist with a fictional spy to engage with; it just seemed the perfect milieu for Brendan and his friends.

The court intrigue and political upheaval of the Tudor period always make for an exciting setting. How long did it take you to do all the research on the real historical figures in the book, and how many liberties (if any) did you take with factual evidence?
Research for every book I write can take years. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been studying and exploring this era for most of my life, so some of the heavy research work has already been done. Elizabeth is such a charismatic yet enigmatic subject; as much as has been written about her, we still don’t know many telling answers, such as, in The Tudor Conspiracy, how involved was she in the plot to depose her sister? It makes for amazing conjecture. With the Spymaster books, while I ground the events in actual historical incidents, I do take liberties with the time-line and circumstances surrounding them, mostly to facilitate the ease of the reader, as things can get very confusing. These books are spy thrillers and my lead character Brendan must uncover secrets that are not recorded for posterity. However, that said, I strive to remain true to my actual historical characters and what is known about them, while fitting them into the plot. In particular, I do my best to show them in their complexity, as fallible flesh-and-blood people with weaknesses and vulnerabilities, as well as strengths. I also want to show the brutality lurking under the glamour of the era. The Tudor era was not an easy time to be alive and the court was often a snake pit of rivalries and machinations, where power was the only coin. Everyone had an agenda and you had to tread very carefully in order to survive. Brendan learns this the hard way.

Brendan Prescott is a very likeable and “normal” kind of guy whose sensibilities often seem very forward by the standards of the time (possibly very contemporary to our own modern day sensibilities). Is he based on anyone you know? Or is he a composite of real historical figures? How did you go about blending such a modern personality with an historical setting?
He is purely imaginary, though I suppose he does share some of my personality traits. For example, he likes animals and is loyal, often to a fault; he doubts his own abilities and wonders if he’s doing the right thing. He’s a stranger in his own land with a deadly secret, a permanent outsider who has to cultivate a keen eye and ear. I wanted him to be a 16th century man with a modern-like sensibility because he offers a fascinating juxtaposition to those around him. I do think there were some men like him in the Tudor era, albeit rare ones; and he is the exception to the rule, which is the principal reason he gains Elizabeth’s trust. She sees in him someone she can depend upon, who is not like anyone else she knows.

Do you enjoy the promotional side of things, such as public readings and signings? If so, which has been your most enjoyable experience?
I do enjoy promotion. It can get tiring, particularly as you’re often writing the next book at the same time as you’re doing events, but meeting readers is always a joy and an honor. I feel very privileged to be able to write for a living; it’s never a guarantee that every writer will make an impact, much as we wish otherwise. One of my most enjoyable experiences was the Historical Novel Society’s conference in the UK in 2012. I had not been to a UK-based conference before and had the honor to speak there. I also met many UK historical writers I admire, and I always love visiting London.

What inspired you to historical fiction? And why do you think this genre appeals to so many readers? Are there any other genres you plan on trying?
Growing up in southern Spain, there was history all around me. I lived near a ruined castle that had belonged to Isabella of Castile and visited many historical sites in Europe as a child. I read voraciously, as well, in particular historical fiction, so when the time came to try my hand at a novel, historical fiction seemed the natural choice. I think the genre appeals to so many readers for the same reasons it appeals to me: historical fiction clothes the skeletons of the past with emotion, dramatizes the bare bones of fact and allows us to experience the past in a visceral way. We find that these people who are either just names in books or legendary figures veiled by myth are, in fact, human beings like us, who suffer and aspire and yearn for many of the same things we do.

As for other genres, I do hope one day to write a supernatural thriller, as well as a family saga. I already have some preliminary plot ideas, so let’s see how they develop.

Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here. To learn more about me and my work, please visit me at my website at www.cwgortner.com.

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