When I first found Amy Bruno’s book touring company for book bloggers in the Autumn of 2013, I remember finding C.W. Gortner had recently toured with her and that struck an interest to seek out a way to host blog tours with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, as I have always had a keen interest in the historical past as much as I love finding new timescapes inside history to explore! There is such wicked joy in the adventure of seeking out stories either based on living persons and/or original characters drawn out of the imagination of the writers, which tethers me to convicting narratives and exciting time travelling rendezvous points!
When I saw Mr. Gortner was going on tour with The Tudor Vendetta, I realised I had come full circle from being a 1st Year Book Blogger gaining foot and ground within the opening months of going live to the world of readers and book bloggers, carving out my own little niche in the book blogosphere and taking up the conversation with other bookishly engaging spirits as I would come to find them — that now, a full year later, I have the honour of conversing with and hosting the original author who sparked my eye to turn interest into being a host(ess) for Amy Bruno!
How lovely, isn’t it how magical our lives can become whilst we are seeking out stimulating stories and drawing a connection to characters who lived such heroic (at times) and difficult lives?
Winter, 1558: Elizabeth I has ascended the throne but the first days of her reign are already fraught with turmoil, the kingdom weakened by strife and her ability to rule uncertain.
Summoned from exile abroad at the new queen’s behest, Brendan Prescott arrives in London to face his shattered past. He soon finds himself pitted in deadly rivalry with his life-long foe, Robert Dudley, but when a poison attempt overshadows the queen’s coronation, Elizabeth privately dispatches Brendan on a far more dangerous assignation: to find her favored lady-in-waiting, Lady Parry, who has vanished in Yorkshire.
Upon his arrival at the crumbling sea-side manor that may hold the key to Lady Parry’s disappearance, he encounters a strange, impoverished family beset by grief, as well as mounting evidence that they hide a secret from him. The mystery surrounding Lady Parry deepens as Brendan begins to realize there is far more going on at the manor than meets the eye, but the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he becomes the quarry of an elusive stranger with a vendetta— one that could expose both his own buried identity and a long-hidden revelation that will bring about Elizabeth’s doom.
From the intrigue-laden passages of Whitehall to a foreboding Catholic manor and the prisons of the Tower, Brendan must risk everything to unravel a vendetta that strikes at the very core of his world, including his loyalty to his queen.
The Tudor Vendetta is the third book in Gortner’s Elizabeth I Spymaster Trilogy.
What I found incredible is how when you were having trouble with your stories gaining traction and acceptance, you found inspiration to start to create mysteries; even though you did not have a lot of experience in writing mysteries prior to the Spymaster Chronicles series, which writers and/or tv/movie mysteries were you attracted to and why?
Gortner responds: Honestly, I rarely watched TV mystery series or read mystery books. I did love Alexander Dumas’s historical novels as a boy, like The Count of Monte Cristo, and Rafael Sabatini’s adventures, like Capitan Blood. But mystery wasn’t a genre I read a lot of. The idea for the Spymaster books just came to me one day out of the blue; I didn’t intend to write a mystery but more of an adventure novel in the spirit of the old swashbucklers that I’d grown up with, a homage to the stories of ordinary men thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
What is the most challenging part about writing a story hinged to the historical past and curates an intriguing mystery for historical fiction lovers to draw themselves into as if our era and the era your writing are not so far apart?
Gortner responds: I think it’s always challenging to convey the mindset of a person who lived 500 years ago for a modern-day reader. A Tudor person saw and interpreted the world very differently than the way we do, and of course, lived in a world that bears little resemblance to ours. As a writer, I have to find ways to bring the past to life that remains authentic yet doesn’t utterly alienate a modern reader. Many of the things that a Tudor person wouldn’t have frowned upon, such as baiting a chained bear with dogs for entertainment, are repugnant to 21st century sensibilities, so in some ways, my lead character Brendan is more enlightened than his counterparts; he loves animals, for example. This is one of the methods I employ to make him accessible to the reader, while still depicting his staunch loyalty to Elizabeth, which is a very 16th century trait. Brendan’s ultimate reward is not money or power: it’s the chance to serve and protect his sovereign.
I applaud your tenacity for research and your ability to carve out realism of actual events and/or hobbies to fuse directly into your character’s lives; of all the research you’ve conducted have you uncovered something that implored you to keep it alive in your own life? Such as organic gardening or something else that whet your fancy more?
Gortner responds: I always learn something unique when I research a book; I think that learning is a reward in of itself for me. I do find myself actually appreciating more the many comforts and advances that we take for granted in our century, while fearing our gradual alienation from nature, which was very present and a constant in the 16th century. So, in a manner of speaking, my advocacy on behalf of endangered species and animals rights in general stems from the realization that we must defend and protect our natural world. I’ve also have become a strong supporter of maintaining historical sites extant and safe from modern depredations, mainly because through my research, I’ve discovered that many of the castles and palaces I have visited contain incredible history within their walls and it behooves us, as their curators, to ensure that the history these sites represent is protected for future generations.
I love how you took the era of the Tudors and created your own niche, where the hidden aspects of their reign might shed drama and light on a new incantation of a series. Why do you think the Tudors have suddenly become highlighted with such frequency in recent years and why do you think the Queen herself wedded herself to the job to such a degree as to almost eclipse a chance for a life outside the crown?
First, I think the Tudors captivate us because in a relatively short span of time for a ruling dynasty, they represent so much upheaval and drama. Their accession marks the shift from the medieval era to the Renaissance, with Henry VIII being the first true Renaissance prince of England. Despite the murderous rampage of his later years and his obesity and overall bad temper, as a young king, Henry was dashing and keenly invested in importing the artistic delights of the Renaissance to his kingdom. He was well educated and, while somewhat lazy, he did love to learn; he surrounded himself with equally erudite men and women, including several of his wives. I think he represents both the best and the worst in a sovereign, and the tumult following his death that led to his daughter Elizabeth’s long reign is more fascinating than anything a fiction writer could make up. As for Elizabeth, I believe she learned the hard way that if she ever managed to survive long enough to become queen, she had to hold absolute power. She understood the dangers that marriage entailed, both personally (over 40% of Tudor women died in childbirth) and in the sharing of her throne with a man. She devoted herself to her kingdom because it was her destiny; she believed, as did most rulers of her era, that she’d been directly anointed by God to rule, and she took that responsibility very seriously. I also believe she was traumatized emotionally by her mother’s beheading, her father’s subsequent forays into marriage which saw a Howard relative also beheaded, and by her ill-fated adolescent liaison with Admiral Seymour. Elizabeth must have equated sexual surrender or submission with potentially fatal consequences and steered clear of it as best as she could. Yes, she did sacrifice personal happiness to become a queen, but she wouldn’t have seen it that way. She only did what she felt she had to do to keep her realm safe.
I appreciated what you said in a recent interview (on Back Porchervations) about genuinely intrigued with the historical past but rather only as a visitor through your pen and not as inclined to jaunt back to a time and place where the quality of life would be subject to ailments & issues we may or may not take for granted today. Is there any era in the historical past you haven’t yet written a story inside that might tempt you to return?
Gortner responds: I’m keenly interested in many eras, and I hope to write about all of them before I die. I time-travel to the past through my writing; but I wouldn’t want to actually live in the past for any length of time. History is my obsession, yet the realities of daily life before our century are just too daunting for me. I’d not survive more than a week, I’m sure!
How did you find the balance between the historically renowned figures, the elements of adventure, and the mystery which acted as an underfoot to your Spymaster Chronicles series?
Gortner responds: The concept of these books was to create adventure stories set in the crevices of history, highlighting one event that was of great importance at the time it occurred but now is often just a footnote, such as the succession crisis following Edward VI’s death and the Wyatt revolt. Unlike my stand-alone historical novels, these books are not meant to faithfully recreate a historical personage’s life, but rather take the reader on a hopefully fun, suspenseful and exhilarating journey into the Tudor world. I don’t deliberately distort the historical people who populate the Spymaster books, but I do interpret them in different ways. For example, Robert Dudley is often depicted as Elizabeth’s devoted suitor, but in my books, we meet the son of an ambitious family, the courtier determined to win power for himself and win Elizabeth’s hand, as well, if he can. He’s also Brendan’s main antagonist.
What creative outlets inspired you as a child to become a creative economist as an adult?
Gortner responds: Even as a boy, I loved to read and write. And living in southern Spain, where history was all around me, tangible and very present, inspired my fascination with the past. I took school trips to Granada and Sevilla; I studied history in school, and was always keen to learn more about the people I read about, their struggles and tragedies, their triumphs and achievements. More than the facts, I wanted to delve deep into their emotional and personal lives, which no doubt prepared me for becoming a historical novelist. I also loved to draw, and I taught myself to paint with oils in my twenties.
I have a fond affinity for animal rights & adopting animals from rescue shelters/organisations and I know this has a central role in your own life. What do you think makes it quite quintessential and awesome to have a cat when your a writer? As cats tend to be the companions of writers moreso than dogs.
Gortner responds: I actually had my beloved corgi, Paris, for eleven years, before my cats came to me. I’d always considered myself more of a dog person, though I liked cats, because since I grew up with dogs in my family. My cats came to me unexpectedly, in fact. They were feral, living in a nearby park where I used to walk every day with Paris. She found them hiding under a bridge and I began feeding them twice a day. They became tame with me over the course of five years, until my male cat, Boy, was injured by either an off-leash dog or a coyote. I took him to the vet and he required stitches on his paw; I had to keep him indoors for a few days while he recovered, so I returned to the park to get his companion, his mother, Mommy Cat. I never intended to keep them indoors; the feral cat program advised me that no matter how tame they were with me, most feral cats would never adapt to being indoor pets. But as it turns out, they loved being with us and so they stayed. When I lost Paris two years later, the grief devastated me. Yet she had left the cats with me, the ones she found, and for me, they carry a bit of her with them – her gift, so I wouldn’t be too desolate without her. My cats bring me great joy and are full of love; I think more than a perfect companion for a writer, every human being should experience the immense love that having a pet brings to our lives. They can teach us so much about being in the moment, about forgiveness and unconditional love; animals do everything for the first time. Unlike us, they do not dwell on the past or fret about the future. They are always in the moment, which is why animal cruelty is, to me, a terrible crime that not only preys on innocent beings who cannot defend themselves against us, but also reveals how truly savage we can be. I have no patience or tolerance for animal abuse in any form. I detest it.
What centers your joy when you’re not creating or working professionally.
Gortner responds: My pets, reading, my husband, my home, and my love of the ocean; put me on a beach with water warm enough to swim in, and I’m happy.
Thank you for sharing this time with me.
I hope your readers enjoy THE TUDOR VENDETTA.
To find out more about my work, please visit me at www.cwgortner.com
I would like to thank Mr. Gortner, for his time and his ability to not only speak on behalf of the Tudors, but to give the impression that the Tudors were far more complex than any of us might have first reckoned possible at first glance! I appreciated the chance to get to know him a bit more whilst I am hosting him for this blog tour, as much as I have found myself inclined to read more of his novels as time moves forward. I had attempted to read the Spymaster Chronicles series in order, however, there was a bit of mix-up on my part of confusing one of his stand-alones with this particular series, therefore I wasn’t able to ILL the second book in time to read nor was I able to borrow the first book ahead of this past week — which of course, did not allow me time to read it prior to The Tudor Vendetta.
I am always attempting to be mindful of series, and to read each series in order, or if at the very least, the first novel ahead of the third in a trilogy or successive series as it allows a rooting of a foundation to occur for me, as to help myself settle into the story and the breadth of what the last book in the series will reveal. However, after receiving this beautifully in-depth interview from Mr. Gortner, I must confess that any misgivings I might have had about what I might not have understood fell away, as he gave such a nice background as to how the characters not only interact with each other, but how they would have seen their own lives if they were reflecting back on themselves today!
In this case, I think I might have lucked out and not have missed a step with a series already in progress! How lovely! I hope that if you have previously read this series and/or were considering to start reading it, this interview gave you as much joy to read today as it has given me to post it! Lateron this evening, I will be posting my thoughts on the novel and how the series concludes!
The Virtual Road Map for “The Tudor Vendetta” can be found here:
See what I am hosting next on my Bookish Events for:
Similar to blog tours where I feature book reviews, as I choose to highlight an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog. I provide the questions for interviews and topics for the guest posts; wherein I receive the responses back from publicists and authors directly. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them; I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers.
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.
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— Jennifer Weltz JVNLA (@JVNLA) December 3, 2014