July 19, 2013

Q&A With Author C.W. Gortner

Today I am so excited to welcome author C.W. Gortner. You may recall that I reviewed his latest release, The Tudor Conspiracy, here, earlier this week. He has graciously offered to answer a few questions for you today!
Author C.W. Gornter. URL.
Thank you so much for sending me the book for review, and joining us here today to answer my questions! I’m going to start off with a few book/writing related questions, then jump into a few fun ones!

1. What is your writing routine? (i.e. cup of coffee early in the morning, etc.)

I’m not much of a routine person now that I write full-time, but I do write every day. Usually, I get up and deal with the daily avalanche of e-mails, followed by breakfast. I then feed my spoiled cats, go to yoga class, and come home for lunch. I sit down to write after lunch and work through until 5 PM or so. In the evening, I do an hour of revisions.

2. You did such an amazing job of bringing Mary Tudor’s reign to life. How did you get inspired or get in the right mindset to capture it so well?

I’ve always been intrigued by the so-called “forgotten Tudors” who came after Henry VIII and before Elizabeth. It’s a time of great instability and change in England, especially after Edward VI dies and Mary assumes the throne. Mary is a tragic figure, who fell prey to her own circumstances and initiated a terrible reign of persecution. She’s challenging to depict yet quite a complex character for a novelist: a woman who was courageous and steadfast in her right to claim the throne, but became a paranoid ruler determined to wrest her subjects back to the Catholic faith even as she struggled to fulfill her duty to bear an heir. I research extensively before I start a novel to find my inspiration and become fluent in the customs and feel of the time. Part of my process is to mute my ego and perceptions of the world, so I can disappear into the time period and people I’m evoking. 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. The era in all its diversity must become natural to me, yet I cannot 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 the common thread between us and them. After all the research is done, I must use imagination to breathe life into the past without making it seem stilted.

3. Brendan’s mission is to find proof against Elizabeth. Do you think she was guilty or an innocent bystander?

If I answer that, I’ll give away the plot! Suffice to say, I think we can never know for certain how much Elizabeth knew or did during this tumultuous time, when her life was clearly in danger, and that’s part of her allure. She was certainly determined to survive, as events proved.

4. What inspired you to focus on this time period for your mysteries?

As I said earlier, I’m fascinated by the years after Henry VIII’s death and didn’t want to set these mysteries in an era that was already being covered. Other excellent novelists are mining Henry VIII’s reign as well as Elizabeth’s later years, but the time before her coronation is unexplored to a certain extent, though it is rife with opportunity. I also wanted to explore my fictional character Brendan’s rise as a spy in service to Elizabeth before she became queen, in order to develop an intimacy between them that could cause potential chaos because of the secret he carries. In fact, in the third installment of the Spymaster series, which I am currently writing, I’m setting the plot in the tenuous weeks following Mary’s death, shortly before Elizabeth’s coronation, when so much was at stake and no one knew how Elizabeth would fare. We tend to think of her as the fully fledged juggernaut of her Gloriana years, when she had England at her feet, but the first years of her reign were fraught with peril and deep uncertainty as to whether she could hold onto her throne.

5. What other time periods do you enjoy writing about?

I love history and have a wide range of interest in eras besides those I’ve written about. I cannot say more for now, but I do hope in the future to write books set in other time periods.

6. Was your main character, Brendan Prescott, inspired by any historical figures?

He’s inspired by the many anonymous men who were recruited into Elizabeth’s secret service and dedicated themselves to defending the queen against her foes, often at the cost of their lives.  I wanted to create a character who becomes her intimate spy and confidant, yet who is forced to hide his true identity, which pits him against the life he has been thrust into and the life he yearns for but feels he cannot have. Brendan is an everyday man who must become more than what he wants to be, because of the circumstances surrounding him and his past.

7. What historical figure inspires you the most?

I am inspired by Francis of Assisi because of his love for animals; and by President Lincoln, because he had the courage and resiliency to fight against injustice.

8. What event in history would you have liked to witness?

Elizabeth I’s speech rallying her troops against the Armada; it must have been an amazing moment when the future of the entire kingdom hung in the balance.

9. Have you visited any of the locations in your novel? How did it feel being there?

I always travel to the sites I write about. Doing research with books and documents is very important but to get an actual feel for a place is equally vital for me. Though much may have changed, the texture of the stone, sweep of the landscape and hue of the skies are details that bring a story to life; nothing can equal that special moment when you step into a palace or site where your character once lived and you realize it bears silent witness to the passage of the ages. I’ll always remember the first time I visited Hampton Court and had the chance to dance a galliard in the great hall. Just knowing that there, under the gorgeous gilded ceiling, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and later, their daughter Elizabeth, once feasted before the court— it was an exhilarating sensation that for a brief moment collapsed the veil between their time and ours. For THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, I spent some time in the Tower of London, and had the chance to see the rooms where the Dudleys were imprisoned and the leads where they took their exercise. That visit inspired the scene in the novel when Brendan looks out to see them walking there together, and realizes how much his situation has changed.

10. What do you do to celebrate a finished novel?

Sleep. A lot!

11. Do you have anything new in the works?

Yes, I’ve just finished my next historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia. 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.

Thank you for spending this time with me. I’m delighted to be here and hope your readers will enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY. To find out more about my work, please visit me at my website at: www.cwgortner.com

A huge thank you to C.W. Gortner! Be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of 'The Tudor Conspiracy' here!

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