Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Author Interview with C.W. Gortner, author of The Tudor Secret

Hello everyone! Today I am thrilled to bring you my Q&A with C.W. Gornter, author of The Tudor Secret . If you haven't done so already, you can read my review of this enthralling novel HERE. Now, let's get to the exciting part of this post!

What was your inspiration for writing the Spymaster Chronicles?

Years ago, while researching the Tudor era for my first unpublished novel I came across information about the espionage system developed to keep Elizabeth I safe. We often don't realize it today, but during her long reign Elizabeth was besieged by enemies, both in England and abroad; I was immediately intrigued by the idea of ordinary men and women who risked their lives to defend the monarch. I loved the idea of creating my own spy to serve Elizabeth, but it wasn’t until I started writing the outline for the book that I began to conceive of this young squire, connected to Elizabeth through his master, Robert Dudley, who unwittingly carries his own secret and fosters a lethal rivalry with the future queen’s favorite. I was also fascinated with the idea of delving into the years before Elizabeth takes the throne; I felt that while much of her later life had been covered in previous novels, the events surrounding her brother Edward VI's death were rife with possibilities, the perfect scenario to set my story.

So far, your books have been set in Spain/Flanders, France and now England. Do all of these settings captivate you completely, or is there a particular one that stands out as your favorite?

I am captivated by all, for different reasons. But I must admit, Spain is my favorite because I'm half Spanish by birth and was raised there; the history of Spain is quite complex, full of drama, and relatively unknown to many readers of historical fiction. There are so many stories that beg to be told. However, I feel similar about France, where the Revolution and demise of the monarchy often overshadow its vibrant Renaissance period and enthralling medieval era. Flanders has an incredible history, too, with a strategic importance that made it a prize and one of the most cultured courts in Europe. And while England is perhaps most well covered in historical fiction, the sheer number of larger-than-life characters who shaped its destiny remain a constant source of inspiration for writers. Few dynasties, for example, offer the diversity and drama of the Tudors.

When did you first discover your passion for writing historical fiction?

As a child, I first fell in love with the historical novels of such writers as Rafael Sabatini, Alexander Dumas, Daphne du Maurier, and the venerable Jean Plaidy. Reading their books, I became enthralled with the idea of creating my own interpretations of these people who lived and died so long ago; they became intimate to me through historical fiction. I started writing my own stories but didn't discover the actual passion for writing historical fiction until I was in my twenties and embarked on my first attempt to complete a novel. Historical fiction is a demanding and quite difficult genre to master; the research is not always easy or particularly clear, and there are many directions a writer can go. But I love finding my stories in those very places where the facts differ, to excavate possibilities in the opaque corners of history.

In The Tudor Secret, Robert Dudley is definitely a questionable character. What is your opinion of Robert, and has it changed throughout your research?

I've been so interested by readers' reactions to Robert Dudley in my book. As I mentioned earlier, we develop these intimate relationships with historical figures through our reading and we all have our favorites and those we like less. For me, Robert is one of those polarizing characters. The Tudor Secret is the first book in a planned series, so as every other character evolves, so will Robert—though not necessarily in ways others have described him. Lest there be any doubt, I both like and admire him; he was a strong man who survived the downfall of his family to become one of the greatest people of his age, and, if some sources are to be believed, the lifelong love of Elizabeth. But I don’t think he lacked a dark side. His own actions show him to be complex in his motivations and I think he was motivated, at least in his initial years, by ambition, like most men of his birth. He was the son of a powerful family close to the throne; he wasn’t inclined to be gracious to inferiors or sacrifice his sense of entitlement. I present Robert when he is still quite young, privileged, and resolved to succeed. I do think this most likely is who he was, until fate brought down his world and he learned what the price of his ambition might entail. Nevertheless, as anyone who’s studied Elizabeth and Robert knows, it didn’t stop him. Theirs was never a simple relationship.

What captivating reading experience will you bestow upon your readers next?

I’ve just finished my third biographical novel, this time about Isabella of Castile, to be published in 2012 by Ballantine Books. In this novel, I depict a different Isabella from her ascetic legend; we will meet a young, defiant princess who engaged in a tumultuous fight for her throne as well as a remarkable forbidden love for Fernando of Aragon. The book covers the dramatic years of her reign leading to the fall of Granada, during which she went into battle against her nobility and the Moors to forge a single kingdom and set Spain on the path to becoming a world power. I also explore her oft-conflicted responsibility for the Inquisition, her dark association with Torquemada, and her inspired relationship with the then-unknown navigator, Columbus.

Currently I’m writing the second book in the Spymaster Chronicles, tentatively titled The Queen’s Hunt. This time, the story begins in the winter of 1554, a few months after the conclusion of The Tudor Secret, At Cecil’s behest Brendan reluctantly returns to court, where Elizabeth has been residing amidst mounting rumors of treason. Brendan becomes embroiled in a deadly plot against the princess, concocted by the Imperial ambassador. This time, however, he believes he knows what he’s up against. He’s in for some very troubling surprises

And the trade paperback release of my novel The Confessions of Catherine de Medici comes out on May 24 from Ballantine, with extra Reader Group Guide material.

Thank you so much for inviting me. To find out more about me and my work, please visit me at Happy reading!

Thank you, C.W. Gortner, for honoring this blog with your presence, once again!


1 comment:

Arleigh said...

Thank you for clarifying your view of Robert Dudley. He was a sketchy character in the The Tudor Secret. I didn't quite get his quick turn-around with Brendan, when he had been so haughty toward him before, but it looks like his personality will unfold in the next book.

I'm very intrigued by the upcoming Isabella novel! While I haven't read Plaidy's trilogy on the Spanish monarchs as yet, there is much about her in the ones on Katharine of Aragon. She was an inspiring woman, but of course with her faults.