Category Archives: Author Interviews

Interview with C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

Please welcome C.W. Gortner who graciously agreed to answer a few questions regarding THE QUEEN’S VOW: A Novel of Isabella of Castile, which releases TODAY!!

For your newest novel, The Queen’s Vow, what is the biggest message about Isabella that you are trying to convey?
As with my previous novels, my original intent was to uncover the flesh-and-blood woman behind the legend. Isabella of Castile is most often known as the queen who sent Columbus to America and the fanatic who unleashed the Inquisition. But few of us know the tumultuous, fascinating story of her rise to the throne or understand the complex choices she had to make as a woman in power in a time when women rarely ruled. So, for THE QUEEN’S VOW, I decided to explore how Isabella became the woman and queen we think we know. My biggest message is that, like all of us, she was first and foremost a human being.  She had both extraordinary qualities and terrible ones; she was an exceptional woman and a fallible one, molded by her particular circumstances and the era in which she lived. Perhaps more so than any of my other characters, Isabella’s contradictions ultimately define her.
Is there something you came across in your research for this novel that took you by surprise? Interesting facts about the characters?
I was very surprised to discover how passionate Isabella was. When we think of her, we get this mental picture of a staid, unyielding queen; certainly, the trajectory of her later years, which I cover in my first novel about her daughter, The Last Queen, shows a woman dedicated to protecting Spain and stoic in her faith and personal tragedies. However, the young Isabella sparked a civil war in her determination to marry Fernando of Aragón! I also had had no idea she was so forward-thinking in terms of women’s education. Isabella was born into a Spain fragmented by discord; bitter antagonism and private feuds had sowed near-total disorder. Even the most noble men were barely literate, and women scarcely at all. Isabella herself had no formal education, save for basics. Comparing her schooling, as it were, with that of Elizabeth Tudor, born eighty-two years later, offers startling contrast. Here we have two of history’s most famous queens, each of whom became a symbolic personification of her particular land, yet while Elizabeth enjoyed an impressive training that prepared her, even if accidentally, to rule, Isabella had none. She lamented her lack of education and in her early thirties, dedicated herself to mastering Latin. She also championed a decree that facilitated women’s entry into universities. She was the first queen of her country to allow women to earn degrees and become professors; she also brought the first printing presses to Castile, thereby sowing the seed of Spain’s golden era of letters in the 17th century.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Definitely, the scenes related to the Inquisition. I write about people who lived in the past and thus I strive to stay true to their way of viewing the world, but I rarely share their beliefs. Religious intolerance, cruelty to animals, any kind of human-phobia: these are hot-button topics for me, and yet the 16th century is defined as much by its injustice as its glamour. You can’t really write about a Renaissance person without touching on these unsavory traits, and it was challenging for me personally to get into Isabella’s skin and see the world as she did, when she was contemplating these deeds. But, part of being a writer is being able to disappear into your character, so I had to find that dark place inside me that we all have, though few of us admit it—that cellar in our minds, where anything different from what we find familiar frightens us and can lead us to condemn it. Hell and Heaven were not abstract concepts to the 16th century mind: most people genuinely believed in a retributive God and an afterlife of glory or eternal damnation, dependent on what, and who, you were in life. Saving your soul was therefore paramount to a woman of Isabella’s deep convictions.
Was there a scene that your editors made you cut that you wish could have stayed?
No, not really. I mean, there are always those scenes that we are fond of that our editors don’t particularly love and therefore must be sacrificed, but in the end editing is part of creating a final product that is accessible to readers. With my other books, yes, there were scenes I’d have loved to retain but with this novel, very little was actually cut. It came together in unexpected ways but never overflowed the perimeters that I had defined for it. It was orderly, much like Isabella herself.
Your historical novels have featured strong female figures. Is there a male monarch who’s story you would consider writing someday?
Absolutely, but the market is defined by readers and publishers, and so far, male lead characters have not proven as successful within the area that I’m currently writing in. With my Tudor spy series, I’m very fortunate to have a male lead and it makes for an exciting change for me as a writer. And of course, there are several kings I’d love to write about; perhaps, I’ll be able to one day. Certainly, I am always exploring ways to tell different stories that will appeal to my readers and my publishers.
Tell us about what you’re working on now. What is the time-table for your Spymaster Chronicles books?
The second book in the Spymaster Chronicles is titled The Tudor Conspiracy. It is finished and currently with my US and UK editors. Publication will be in 2013; I know these things always take longer than we like, but books have to be edited and covers designed; the text has to be set, and then there’s the daunting process of scheduling and marketing. However, I think the wait will be worth it: Brendan’s next adventure is a dark quest set in the winter of Bloody Mary’s reign, shortly before the Wyatt Revolt.
Now, I’m writing my next historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia, tracing her so-called Vatican years, from her youth as the illegitimate child of an ambitious Spanish churchman to her thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter and savage struggle to define herself as a woman even as she battles her family’s lethal ambitions and her own dark heart. Lucrezia is my first ‘non-queen’, so to speak, though it could be argued she was regarded as royalty in her era. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who has been vilified by history. I am enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope you will be.
Thank you so much for having me. I sincerely hope readers enjoy THE QUEEN’S VOW. I’m always available to chat with book groups via Skype or speaker phone; to learn more about me and my work, please visit me at:
 Also, join us at HF-Connection where we will have a Read-Along of this novel, begining July 7, 2012. See the announcement here.


Filed under 15th Century, Author Interviews, Author Post, C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile

Q&A with Geraldine Brooks, author of CALEB’S CROSSING

Q&A with Geraldine Brooks, author of CALEB’S CROSSING

The publisher has provided permission to The Burton Review to post the following interview with author Geraldine Brooks. Geraldine is the author of several prize winning novels, such as March, and Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague.

A richly imagined new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, People of the Book.

Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

The narrator of Caleb’s Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island’s glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe’s shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb’s crossing of cultures.

Like Brooks’s beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha’s Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb’s Crossing further establishes Brooks’s place as one of our most acclaimed novelists. 

Caleb Cheeshahteamauk is an extraordinary figure in Native American history. How did you first discover him? What was involved in learning more about his life?
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah are proud custodians of their history, and it was in materials prepared by the Tribe that I first learned of its illustrious young scholar. To find out more about him I talked with tribal members, read translations of early documents in the Wopanaak language, then delved into the archives of Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially the correspondence between colonial leaders and benefactors in England who donated substantial funds for the education and conversion to Christianity of Indians in the 17th century. There are also writings by members of the Mayhew family, who were prominent missionaries and magistrates on the island, and John Cotton, Jr., who came here as a missionary and kept a detailed journal.
There is little documentation on Caleb’s actual life. What parts of his life did you imagine? Do you feel you know him better after writing this book, or is he still a mystery?
The facts about Caleb are sadly scant. We know he was the son of a minor sachem from the part of the Vineyard now known as West Chop, and that he left the island to attend prep school, successfully completed the rigorous course of study at Harvard and was living with Thomas Danforth, a noted jurist and colonial leader, when disease claimed his life. Everything else about him in my novel is imagined. The real young man—what he thought and felt—remains an enigma.
Bethia Mayfield is truly a woman ahead of her time. If she were alive today, what would she be doing? What would her life be like with no restrictions?
There were more than a few 17th century women like Bethia, who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence. You can find some of them being dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defending their unconventional views in court. If Bethia was alive today she would probably be president of Harvard or Brown, Princeton or UPenn.
 The novel is told through Bethia’s point of view. What is the advantage to telling this story through her eyes? How would the book be different if Caleb were the narrator? 
I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures. So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world. I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race.
Much of the book is set on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also your home. Did you already know about the island’s early history, or did you do additional research?
 I was always intrigued by what brought English settlers to the island so early in the colonial period…they settled here in the 1640s. Living on an island is inconvenient enough even today; what prompted the Mayhews and their followers to put seven miles of treacherous ocean currents between them and the other English—to choose to live in a tiny settlement surrounded by some three thousand Wampanoags? The answer was unexpected and led me into a deeper exploration of island history
You bring Harvard College to life in vivid, often unpleasant detail. What surprised you most about this prestigious university’s beginnings?
For one thing, I hadn’t been aware Harvard was founded so early. The English had barely landed before they started building a college. And the Indian College—a substantial building—went up not long after, signifying an attitude of mind that alas did not prevail for very long. It was fun to learn how very different early Harvard was from the well endowed institution of today. Life was hand to mouth, all conversation was in Latin, the boys (only boys) were often quite young when they matriculated. But the course of study was surprisingly broad and rigorous—a true exploration of liberal arts, languages, and literature that went far beyond my stereotype of what Puritans might have considered fit subjects for scholarship.
 As with your previous books, you’ve managed to capture the voice of the period. You get the idiom, dialect, and cadence of the language of the day on paper. How did you do your research?
I find the best way to get a feel for language and period is to read first person accounts—journals, letters, court transcripts. Eventually you start to hear voices in your head: patterns of speech, a different manner of thinking. My son once said, Mom talks to ghosts. And in a way I do.
 May 2011, Tiffany Smalley will follow in Caleb’s footsteps and become only the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard. Do you know if this will be celebrated?
In May Tiffany Smalley will become the first Vineyard Wampanoag since Caleb to receive an undergrad degree from Harvard College. (Others have received advanced degrees from the university’s Kennedy school etc.) I’m not sure what Harvard has decided to do at this year’s commencement, but I am hoping they will use the occasion to honor Caleb’s fellow Wampanoag classmate, Joel Iacoomis, who completed the work for his degree but was murdered before he could attended the 1665 commencement ceremony.

Stay tuned to The Burton Review for the book review of Caleb’s Crossing!!


Filed under 2011 Releases, Author Interviews, Geraldine Brooks



Eleanor of Aquitaine has been an intriguing historical figure as she was a Queen of France, and later a Queen of England who was famous for helping to maneuver her sons against her husband King Henry II. One of her famous sons was Richard the Lionheart, who is touted as her favorite. This year has been a fabulous year for novels on Eleanor and her famous family, and today, August 3rd, brings us the newest one titled The Secret Eleanor:

Please welcome to The Burton Review Cecelia Holland, the author of the new release The Secret Eleanor.

Eleanor of Aquitaine seized hold of life in the 12th century in a way any modern woman would envy!

1151: As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor grew up knowing what it was to be regarded for herself and not for her husband’s title. Now, as wife to Louis VII and Queen of France, she has found herself unsatisfied with reflected glory-and feeling constantly under threat, even though she outranks every woman in Paris.

Then, standing beside her much older husband in the course of a court ceremony, Eleanor locks eyes with a man-hardly more than a boy, really- across the throne room, and knows that her world has changed irrevocably…

He is Henry D’Anjou, eldest son of the Duke of Anjou, and he is in line, somewhat tenuously, for the British throne. She meets him in secret. She has a gift for secrecy, for she is watched like a prisoner by spies even among her own women. She is determined that Louis must set her free. Employing deception and disguise, seduction and manipulation, Eleanor is determined to find her way to power-and make her mark on history.

See the end of this interview for giveaway details of the book!

Q: You have written over twenty historicals based on very intriguing characters. Was there one book that was more difficult to research than others?

The hardest book to research was THE BELT OF GOLD, for which all the primary data was in Greek, and most of the better commentary in German or Russian. It’s not my favorite book. The California books were fabulous to research, everything right here, in English and very close in time. JERUSALEM, which is my favorite book, covers a time period (1180’s in the Holy Land) with lots of available primary material, which I prefer (the sources written closest to the actual event are primary sources), and a lot of controversy; I like to twinge an event, try to see it from a whole different slant than the usual, question the pre-assumptions. These days when so few readers actually have much background in history this has its own issues; it’s hard to play off the note when nobody knows the song.

Q: Your newest novel, The Secret Eleanor, features a time period that has been recently been written of Eleanor’s life. What was the inspiration for you to write about the relationship of Eleanor and Henry?

This nine-ten months’ time, from her first meeting with Henry of Anjou until she married him, is the turning point of Eleanor’s life. What I find missing in most accounts is the awareness that she was the mastermind: it had to be all her decision. Nobody else was in a position to see what she could make of the marriage with Henry, or that she would be able to make the marriage at all. I wanted to develop the idea of this passionate and willful woman seizing control of her life in the face of all the entrenched powers of male privilege and female submission. I don’t think anybody else has done this.

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about Eleanor or Henry that you came across in your research?

Not in the research (contrary to popular belief, the real data–the primary material–on both these major figures is pretty piecemeal, as you would expect, given the 900 years between us and them) but in the writing, when Eleanor became a fully-functioning character in a story that was leaping away out of my hands, she really did and thought and felt things I hadn’t expected. She scared me sometimes.

Q: Eleanor is typically portrayed as a domineering, strong willed woman who was able to defy both the King of France and the King of England. How do you think women thought of Eleanor at that time in history? What do you think was Eleanor’s greatest trait?

The prevailing opinion of Eleanor at the time, and for centuries afterward, was dominated by what Ralph Turner calls her Black Legend, the image of an adulterous headstrong evil queen whose husband was probably right to lock her up to keep her out of trouble. Shakespeare doesn’t help with his portrait of her in KING JOHN. I think a lot of women probably agreed with this assessment at the time–it was in the interests of many women to buy into the male view that women should be firmly subordinated to their husbands. Certainly the Empress Matilde, Henry’s mother, disapproved of Eleanor immensely. (Matilde however was a pretty aggressive woman in her own right .) But I imagine some women saw Eleanor as showing the way to a new respect and power–her daughters were active and independent minded, and the whole popular attribution to Eleanor of the Courts of Love (which seems a later amendment to her story) indicates people at the time saw her as presiding over a kind of revolution in women’s lives. Whether they appreciated this or disapproved depended a lot on their own circumstances.

Q: With three daughters and a menagerie of animals, how do you find the time to write so much? Does writing seem like work to you, or is it still something that you enjoy doing?

I love to write. Writing gets me through the bad times. On the other hand the girls ground me in real life. They’re all grown up now with families of their own but I am deeply grateful to have had them and to have them now. When they were little, finding time to write was hard, and I learned to break the work up into little pieces that I could think about while doing dishes, or hanging up diapers–bits of dialog, starting sentences, the like. I got a major flash on the end of FLOATING WORLDS for instance while I was hanging up diapers–maybe the white sheet before my face worked like blank film, on which I could project something.

Q: Have you been able to travel abroad to conduct your research? If so, what have been some of your favorite historical places to visit?

I’ve gone around a lot, the more now that my children are grown. I like Constantinople. I know it’s called Istanbul now but if you go with some information and maps and look, you can still find bits of what was for close on to 1000 years the greatest city in the Western World. I’m trying to get to North Africa now, and to Central Asia and the Silk Road, but there are political problems.

Q: Do you have any current writing projects that you can tell us about?

I’m finishing a novel about Richard the Lionheart’s Crusade. Richard of course was Eleanor’s son so this continues some of the research and ideas I did for THE SECRET ELEANOR.


I am looking forward to that new work in progress, also! Thanks SO much to the author for visiting The Burton Review and answering my questions!! And another treat for my followers, the publisher is offering one copy of The Secret Eleanor to you!

To enter, please comment on the interview or tell me something about Eleanor that intrigues you. What books have you read regarding Eleanor or her family?

Some sort of response regarding the above is mandatory, and you must leave your email address so I can contact the winner.

For extra entries, leave me a link to your advertisement of this post:
+2 Post this on your blog, Facebook or Tweet this post

Good Luck!!
Giveaway ends August 14th, open to USA only courtesy of the publisher.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Eleanor of Aquitaine



His Last Letter, available August 3, 2010

One of the greatest loves of all time-between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley-comes to life in this vivid novel.

They were playmates as children, impetuous lovers as adults-and for thirty years were the center of each others’ lives. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give her “Sweet Robin” what he wanted most-marriage- yet she insisted he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, their love survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations, and political machinations with foreign princes.

His Last Letter tells the story of this great love… and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled.

Please welcome author Jeane Westin to The Burton Review! Her previous Tudor novel The Virgin’s Daughters came out last year and now I am reading His Last Letter where it portrays an entirely different point of view than I am used to reading regarding Elizabeth I. See below for the giveaway of the above pictured book, His Last Letter, by Jeane Westin.

Your bio states that you have been intrigued by historical fiction since you were a child. What do you think is the key to the continuing fascination that you have for the Tudor period?

Although my mother told me family history stories throughout my childhood, my fascination with historical fiction started when I was six years old and she took me to the library for the first time. Out of all the choices and shelves, I pulled The Little Cave Boy and Girl. The whole idea of it…another time and other people that I would never know must have called to me. I don’t remember now, but I continued to read YA historical fiction until I was old enough to take out books from the adult shelves where I discovered Daphne du Maurier, Jean Plaidy and so many others.

I’ve continued to read and write in the Restoration and Tudor periods because there is so much we know and yet don’t know…gaps that can only be filled by a novelist.

In your research, what are some of the things that you have come across that surprised you about Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley?

For one thing, their staying power. They knew each other for almost five decades and their mutual fascination really never waned, while fighting and loving and suffering the ups and downs of most long relationships. What that must have been like for both Elizabeth and her Robin is the basis for my novel His Last Letter.

What is your personal opinion on the death of Robert Dudley’s first wife, Amy: accidental, suicide, or murder?

It’s very hard for me to have a personal opinion. Although two inquiries exonerated him, many thought and still think Dudley guilty of having engineered Amy’s accident. Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth ‘s councilor certainly did, just as he thought Elizabeth and Dudley were lovers even into 1572. Remembering that Dudley was Elizabeth ‘s favorite and therefore unpopular with others, their suspicions were not surprising.

It is likely that Amy had a breast tumor and modern medicine tells us that a metastasis could weaken bones so that a minor fall might well have broken her neck. She could have commited suicide, which is what I believe Dudley thought, though he protected her to insure her Christian burial.
The possibilities are many and it was so long ago there is no way of putting an end to the speculation.
Surely, Dudley was smart enough to know that if he were suspected, he could never marry Elizabeth , which was what he wanted more than anything.

So like most people, I go back and forth not able to make up my mind. If he were guilty, he paid a great price. He knew she was dying and so did Elizabeth . They were brilliant people. I have to believe they would not have taken such a risk.

But I’ll never know.

One of my favorite Tudor historical figures is Lettice Knollys, and I loved how she was portrayed in Victoria Holt’s My Enemy The Queen. What is your opinion of Lettice? Did you gather any fun details about her while researching for your novels?

In His Last Letter Lettice Knollys is a villainess. I apologize if I have wronged her, but Elizabeth did hate her. She was a Boleyn cousin and prettier than Elizabeth, a rival for Dudley and given to wearing gowns to court much finer than the queen thought suitable. Although Lettice was one of the queen’s early ladies-in-waiting, I think it was an example of keeping your enemies closer than your friends. After Dudley, by then Earl of Leicester, married her, Elizabeth refused ever after to see Lettice or have her back to court. The queen got even (as only queens can) by nearly bankrupting Lettice after the Earl died, by calling in all his debts.
Lettice lived on into her 90’s an almost unheard of age at the time and I suppose that was some revenge.

Why do you think that Elizabeth and Dudley never married?

Elizabeth would never share her rule, nor place herself under the power of a husband which at that time was supreme. She also needed to remain single to use herself as a bargaining chip in the wars for dominance between the continental powers. She brilliantly prolonged marriage negotiations with first one and then another until she had wrung all the benefit she could out of them. Even when suitors withdrew, they were never sure that they couldn’t go back and try again, or that she wouldn’t change her mind.

What has been your biggest challenge with your writing of historical fiction?

With Tudor fiction, Elizabeth herself has presented the biggest challenge. She was powerful, yet needed admiration…strong and active, yet sickly…refusing to marry, yet needing men to adore her. I’ve read an historical psychoanalysis of her behavior. Disturbed, domineering, fearful, brave and needy are only some of her personality traits.

In His Last Letter I’ve tried to show all of these through the prism of Elizabeth ‘s love for Dudley.

Over the past few years do you think that the market has been saturated with Tudor novels? What are the pros and cons to the continued popularity of the Tudor period?

Although popularity runs in cycles, Elizabeth and Henry VIII continue to fascinate and will for some time, Edward and Mary less so. (The English still vote her their favorite ruler.) Movies, theater dramas and books, both fiction and non-fiction appear regularly to feed this fascination without ever seeming to satisfy it completely. In the last three or four years, the internet has become a feeding ground for Tudor information and reviews. Recently I watched a program on the History Channel about Henry’s medical problems, which made me wonder how he could have lived as long as he did, and partially explained why he became such a monster. Now who would think that such a program would interest without proof positive. We continue to speculate about this father and daughter because there are so many gaps in our knowledge and they are so real to us that we want to know more. As a novelist, I’m thankful for that.

What is next for you on the writing front?

I’ve already contracted for my next book, which is tentatively titled The Queen’s Lady Spy. It is a thrilling story of Lady Frances Sidney, the ignored wife of England ‘s favorite love poet and the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Brought to court when her husband is sent overseas, Lady Frances is eager to put her brilliant mind to good use. She becomes a secret intelligence and aids in foiling deadly plots against the Queen while working closely with her father’s man Robert Pauley. A forbidden love blossoms between the married noble woman and the commoner all while Lady Frances is being pursued by the queen’s handsome new favorite and notorious pleasure seeker, the Earl of Essex. The earl does not know Lady Frances is a secret intelligencer, but is determined to have her in his bed. But her own servant, Robert Pauley, secretly in love with her is determined that he will not.
Frances is a distant ancestress of mine and her interest in cryptography mirrors my own. I’m very much looking forward to writing this book Thanks for asking me to answer these interesting questions.

Thanks so much to Jeane for visiting The Burton Review and answering my questions. And now for my lucky readers, I have a question for you, and I will choose among one of your answers a winner for the new novel, His Last Letter, by Jeane Westin.

Who is your favorite Elizabethan figure, and why?

To enter for the giveaway:
Please comment here with your answer to that question, leaving your email address. This is a mandatory entry.
For extra entries:
+2 for a graphic link to this post on your blog (sidebar or post)
+2 to those who Facebook this post
+1 for a Twitter Post
+1 for another Twitter Post on another day.
Please leave links to any of the extra entries posts that you are entering for.
Good Luck!!
Contest available to USA residents only courtesy of the publisher. Ends August 14, 2010.


Filed under 16th Century, 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Jeane Westin

>Author Guest Post by Catherine Delors.. HFBRT Event!


As part of the Round Table event this week, Catherine has obliged us and fashioned many many guest posts for us at The Round Table. What a sweetheart she is to take her time and compose all of these original essays, we all very much appreciate the dedication she has to her work. Let it not go to waste, please leave a comment letting her know you were here. Without further ado, here is Catherine and her newest guest post:

FOR THE KING: Meet the Assassins

Let us begin with Joseph de Limoëlan, the head of the conspiracy to assassinate Napoléon Bonaparte in Paris. He was 34 years of age at the time of the attack, a tall, handsome man with blue eyes and dark hair, gold-rimmed spectacles and an aristocratic air. After years spent as a Chouan, a royalist insurgent, he is the one who planned to detonate the bomb, placed on a horse-drawn cart, in the midst of a busy street. All the busier that evening because people wanted to see Napoléon Bonaparte’s carriage on its way to the Opera. It was also Christmas Eve, the shops and cafés were still open, and many were headed for the houses of friends to celebrate the holiday.

That did not give pause to Limoëlan, though he had to know that the collateral damage would be atrocious. There were dozens of casualties, and so many houses were blown up that the street itself was later condemned and destroyed in its entirety. Limoëlan himself had found a little street vendor, a girl by the name of Marianne Peusol, to hold the bridle of the horse that drew the carriage. He had to know that the child, closest to the bomb, was sure to die.

The man was the coldest of cold-blooded killers. Yet he was engaged to a young lady, a friend of his sisters, and every clue I found pointed to an attachment that was mutual, and very deep. I also found out that his father and several of his relatives, prominent members of the nobility of Brittany, had been guillotined in Paris a few years earlier as royalist conspirators. That is no excuse, of course, but it puts Limoëlan’s hate for the city and its inhabitants in perspective.

Pierre de Saint-Régent, who was Limoëlan’s second in command, was no less interesting. He was also a nobleman from Brittany, though from a minor and impoverished family. His pointed nose gave his face the look of a ferret, and he did not have the elegant manners of his comrade. Hardened by years of combat, first in the Royal Navy before the Revolution, and later in the royalist insurgency, he was the one who actually lit the fuse that detonated the bomb.

Nevertheless, in the days that led to the attack, Saint-Régent took great pains, and great risks, to purchase a pug, and order a sterling silver dog collar to present to his “lady.” Who was she? The real investigation never uncovered her identity, but trust a historical novelist to fill in the blanks… Of course the lady in question is one of the fictional characters of FOR THE KING.

The third assassin, François Carbon, nicknamed Le Petit François, Short Francis, is quite a different sort of character. I discovered someone totally repulsive, physically and morally. Squat, fat, abusive, vulgar, garish in his dress, and yet fancying himself a great favorite with the ladies… Also a Chouan, Carbon accompanied Limoëlan to Paris as his valet and jack-of-all-trades, and he helped the two other men drive the cart on which sat the bomb to Rue Nicaise. Comical as he may seem at times, he too was a killer. I could not find any portrait of him, though he is easy to picture from the descriptions of witnesses.

“How to” manuals purporting to teach the craft of writing warn the would-be novelist to stay clear of characters devoid of any nuance. But in this case I couldn’t help it: the real François Carbon was as I describe him in FOR THE KING. And actually some readers tell me they found him totally compelling, repellent as he is.

Thanks so much to Catherine for writing such a fun historical novel that was steeped in mystery with even a bit of romance! Read my review of the book here, and enter for your chance to win your very own hardcover of FOR THE KING, which is available for purchase July 6, 2010.

For the rest of the Events of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table group, please visit the Calendar of Events page where you will find all the links to other posts. There are many opportunities to win the gorgeous book as well.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Catherine Delors, France, French Revolution, HF Bloggers Round Table

>GIVEAWAY! Mitchell Kaplan’s ‘By Fire, By Water’ Author Post


Available today for purchase!
Other Press (May 18, 2010)
The Burton Review is pleased to announce the virtual presence of Mitchell Kaplan, the author of the new novel By Fire, By Water. May 18th is it’s official release date and I wanted to help promote this spectacular piece of work with a giveaway and a guest post! I recently reviewed this book (linked here) and I recommend this novel to anyone interested in the dynamics that the Spanish Inquisition had on the common folk of the times. Read further for the details on how you can win a copy of this inspiring novel.
The Pope and the Spanish Inquisition
by Mitchell James Kaplan

In the late 1470s, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand approached Pope Sixtus IV with a request to establish an inquisition in Castille. The purpose of this tribunal would be to root out the “judaizing heresy” among so-called New Christians. Many of these New Christians descended from Jews forced to convert to Christianity two generations earlier.

The pope refused to authorize the establishment of this special inquisition. Isabella and Ferdinand answered by threatening to withdraw their military support for the pope’s crusade against the Ottomans.

This crusade was Sixtus’s most important project. The Islamic Ottoman empire had been slowly expanding since the 13th century. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was felt as an earthquake throughout Christendom. During the following decades, the Ottomans took the Balkans, Greece, much of North Africa, and even parts of present-day Italy. From where the pope sat, it looked like Rome was next. His primary responsibility was to protect Christendom.

Although wealthy New Christians effectively made their case to the pope, all their eloquence and gifts were worth little compared to the possibility of Spain’s withdrawal from the pope’s crusade. Yielding to Isabella and Ferdinand’s pressure, Sixtus IV finally allowed them to establish an inquisition in Castille. In a break with tradition, he even allowed them to appoint the inquisitors themselves.

To understand what Isabella and Ferdinand did with this historically unique opportunity, and why, you have to understand who they were.

In my view, Isabella of Castille was a usurper. She invented the myth that her half-brother Henry IV was “impotent” and/or a “sodomizer” and that Henry’s daughter Joanna, to whom he willed the throne, was illegitimate. She waged war on Henry and Joanna and ultimately prevailed, but only by marrying Ferdinand and adding the power of Aragon’s military to her own.

Isabella and Ferdinand were conquerors. Once they consolidated power in their own lands, they were not inclined to stop. In attempting to retake Granada from the Moors, they appealed to their soldiers’ religious zeal and patriotic fervor. But where had that zeal been when Isabella and Ferdinand had threatened to withdraw from the pope’s crusade? Surely the Ottomans represented a far greater threat to Christendom than the tiny Nasrid emirate in Granada.

The Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I, of Castile and León

In order to carry out their plan and achieve the greatness for which they believed they were destined, the monarchs needed capital. The fastest way to acquire this capital was to steal it from New Christians, who as a class had acquired sudden wealth since leaving their ghettos. By weakening the New Christians, Isabella and Ferdinand were able to appease their aristocratic supporters, many of whom felt threatened by the rapid rise of an “upper middle class” of New Christian traders, physicians, legal advisors, and cartographers.

In By Fire, By Water, I hinted at the struggle between the New Christians, the pope, and the monarchs of Spain. In one of the early drafts, I developed this thread further. But I came to feel it distracted from the thrust of my story, which needed to be focused on Luis de Santangel and Judith Migdal even while suggesting the complexity of their world. By Fire, By Water is not a book about the Inquisition per se. It is the story of a man whom the Spanish Inquisition scorched but did not burn.

Thank you so much to Mitchell for providing us with more insights into his novel.

The publisher is generously offering two copies for a giveaway (US/Canada only). To enter for this random drawing, you must comment with your email address, discussing anything related to the topics above, such as Isabella of Castille or Ferdinand of Aragon, Christopher Columbus/Colon (a character in the novel), or the Spanish Inquisition.

Edited to change the Giveaway date to May 28th. Good Luck!


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Isabella of Castile, Mitchell James Kaplan, Spain, Spanish Inquisition

>The Sunday Salon~ a two book giveaway twice


The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Sip along with your lukewarm coffee from this morning, click the pics to visit other virtual reading rooms.. tell us..what are you reading this week??

Let’s tell you what I’ve been reading and where I am online today.. Yes, I’ve been interviewed! The fabulous blogger Maria Grazia interviews bloggers most weeks, and she has selected me to be her Blogger Buddy this week. Visit the interview at her blog and enter to win the Double Book International Giveaway I am offering.

This week I have finished reading Jane Feather’s newest historical romance titled “All The Queen’s Players”. The review also qualifies for the Tudor Mania Reading Challenge, which is my review #2 for the challenge and therefore I am winning so far =)

I am now reading Catherine Delors For The King which is to be released early July 2010 and is another Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Event. And I am really enjoying this read which is very much written in a mystery format which I do enjoy. The last one I read I had devoured in a day, which was 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan. That was set in New York in 1857, and For The King is set in France after the revolution in 1800. I have seen comments where some readers were not enthralled with Delors previous novel, which was written in a first-person narrative in a memoir style, but this style is entirely different so don’t let the opinion of her first book sway you from reading this one. Of course there were some that loved her Mistress of The Revolution and I have no doubt that many will enjoy For The King as well. It is fast paced and includes the details of the period without reading like a textbook. It is all put together very well.

This week I will host an author guest post from new author Mitchell James Kaplan on May 18 in honor of the release day for By Fire, By Water. This was an inspiring read that dealt with the political and emotional turmoils of the Spanish Inquisition as seen through two very strong characters. Read my review here, and then come back soon to enter for the two book giveaway with the author post.

The giveaway of the autographed copy of the new release for D.L. Bogdan’s Secrets of The Tudor Court goes to the very lucky winner of Jennifer of Rundpinne! Congrats to her.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Sunday and gets prepared mentally for another Monday to come. I am not ready.


Filed under Author Interviews, The Sunday Salon, Why I Blog

>Giveaway and Interview: Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins series


The Darcy Cousins


One might reasonably expect that a young lady dispatched in disgrace across the Atlantic to England would strive to behave with decorum, but Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning! And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin. And Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper,” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply… vanishes.

In this tale of friendship, rebellion, and love, two young women entering Society forge a strong connection. A connection that is sorely tested when they both set out to win the heart of a most dashing—and dangerous— gentleman.

Book One: The Other Mr Darcy (2009)
Did you know that Mr. Darcy had an American cousin?!

“In this highly original Pride and Prejudice sequel by British author Monica Fairview, Caroline Bingley is our heroine. Caroline is sincerely broken-hearted when Mr. Darcy marries Lizzy Bennet— that is, until she meets his charming and sympathetic American cousin…

Mr. Robert Darcy is as charming as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud, and he is stunned to find the beautiful Caroline weeping at his cousin’s wedding. Such depth of love, he thinks, is rare and precious. For him, it’s nearly love at first sight. But these British can be so haughty and off-putting. How can he let the young lady, who was understandably mortified to be discovered in such a vulnerable moment, know how much he feels for and sympathizes with her?”

Please welcome Monica Fairview to The Burton Review, again!
See a guest post written by Monica for her previous release of The Other Mr. Darcy
Monica Fairview is Regency romance writer. As a literature professor, she enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really, really wanted to do was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. For more information, please visit

 Monica Fairview Interview, author of The Darcy Cousins:

1.Welcome back to The Burton Review, Monica! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I truly enjoyed your second book that follows the Darcy cousins (my review is here). Tell us about what the reaction seems to be from classic Austen fans who are new to adaptations and sequels?

The reviews of The Other Mr. Darcy have generally been very positive, and The Jane Austen Centre in Bath will be taking up the paperback edition (which just came out in the UK) of The Other Mr. Darcy to sell in their gift shop, which is quite delightful. Beyond that, there isn’t any way to know if Jane Austen purists are interested in Austenesque sequels in general. I do hope they’re out there reading The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins.

2. Rest assured that I am one of those who are reading and enjoying your sequels! What have been your favorite Austen movie adaptations and why; fave actors and actresses. If your books were made into movies, who would you choose to star?

I’m a Colin Firth fan through and through, because I think he captures the hauteur of Mr Darcy very well. Macfadyen does a great job as a tormented soul, and he’s more expressive, but he doesn’t convey repressed-passion- simmering-under-the-surface as Firth does. Jennifer Ehle is a playful Elizabeth with a twinkle in her eyes, and I love that aspect of the film. Keira Knightly’s pouting is a bit overdone, I find. However, the 2005 film has the advantage of being more realistic, and more accurate historically. There are wonderful subtle touches like the fact that at Netherfield we see only male servants, which of course conveys wealth, since male servants were more expensive to keep. Lydia is more of a typical teen, which I think goes a long way to explain her behavior, and absent-minded Mr. Bennet is very appealing.

If The Darcy Cousins were made into a movie, I would love to see Jonny Lee Miller as Gatley (he was brilliant in the new production of Emma). Emma Watson fits in with my image of Georgiana, and Carey Mulligan (with darker hair) would be very effective as Clarissa.

3.I adored Miller in the new Emma as well. I quickly became a new fan of his and would love to see Miller play Mr Gatley, he would be delightful! Back to books, tell us some reliable resources as research for your books.

Because of the way I write my books, I tend to go for primary rather than secondary sources. For example, because I wanted to get a sense of how an American would be perceived in England, and how she would perceive England for The Darcy Cousins, I was fortunate enough to find a memoir by Joseph Ballard called England in 1815 as seen by a Young Boston Merchant. This was a wonderful resource as it outlined some of the important events of the year, and really gave me an insight into what things would stand out to someone coming from Boston to England. It was perfect for its purpose. I also went through a diary written by a young school-girl in Boston, Anna Green Winslow, written in 1771. It’s set quite a few years before Clarissa was a schoolgirl, but it gave me a very good sense of how differently the young ladies in Boston were raised from their counterparts in England, since the Puritan ethic was very clearly visible, despite Anna Green’s interest in fashionable pursuits. I don’t emphasize this in The Darcy Cousins, but it’s there, as a background to Clarissa, a reminder that young ladies of Boston were not actually any freer than those in London.

I’m giving these sources as examples because I wanted to illustrate why the references I read wouldn’t necessarily be of general interest. I wouldn’t recommend them for casual reading, though they’re of great value for a historical writer. I’m a big fan of primary sources. Ultimately, if you want to know Jane Austen, it’s good to read books about her. It would certainly reveal aspects of her life or writing that you wouldn’t get to know otherwise, but nothing beats going over her novels with a fine tooth comb.

4.What are the ultimate goals for you if the sky were the limit?

Well, my goal is to be a very successful writer. I wouldn’t mind being on a few bestseller lists 🙂 But really, I’m very pleased with the way things have been working so far.

5. You are on a great roll with your recent sequels! Besides Austen, who do you like to read for fun?

I’m an avid but eclectic reader. For Regency, I love Georgette Heyer, Julia Quinn, Jo Beverley and a host of others. Other “popular classics” I enjoy are Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and Anya Seton. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, especially classic authors such as Ursula Le Guin and CJ Cherryh. I pick up current bestsellers arbitrarily – I’m drawn as much by their style as the content. I just read Paullina Simon’s The Bronze Horseman and loved it, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Outlander, Winter in Madrid. If I could read all day I would, but alas, the day is too short.

6.You touched on the Book Blogger Mantra there! So many books, etc… Please share with us, who is your muse?

It depends on what I’m writing, really. Style and rhythm are important to me, and often a particular writer will strike a cord so I’ll keep one of the books next to my bedside to dip into arbitrarily. When I’m writing Austenesque, I immerse myself in Austen, books, films, audios – anything to make sure that voice stays in my head.

7.What has been your greatest obstacle in your writing endeavors?

Wanting to do too many things and ending up doing a bit of each. I’d like to write in a variety of genres, though Regency is my favorite. I also would like to write children’s books, futuristic romance, and humorous contemporary. Impossible to do everything.

8.What has been one your accomplishments that you are proud of?

I graduated from college when I was 19, and I got my PhD when I was 24. I’m pretty proud of that.

9. A wonderful accomplishment! That definitely is something to be very proud of! And finally… please tell us what you are working on next for us readers!

At the moment I’m taking a break from Regency and Austenesque and working on a novel from a different time period. Once that’s done, I have plans to continue the story of Clarissa Darcy, and maybe of Frederick as well. My mind is full of plans. It’s a matter of finding the time to write!

So little time.. again I thank Monica for sparing us some time in her busy life! I would love to read what is in store for Clarissa! 

And now for the bonus: Sourcebooks is sponsoring a giveaway of Monica Fairview’s newest release, The Darcy Cousins : 2 winners, US and Canada only! (no po boxes please).

Please enter for the giveaway by leaving me an answer to the following question with your Email Address:
What has been your favorite Austen-inspired Sequel or Adaptation (movie or book)?

+2 for leaving a graphic link to this post on your sidebar.

Ends April 30th. Good luck!


Filed under 2010 Releases, Austen Sequels, Author Interviews, Author Post, Monica Fairview

>Interview: Kate Quinn, author of Mistress of Rome & Giveaway


Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn just came out to rave reviews on April 6, 2010. We have an opportunity for my readers at The Burton Review to score a copy of this book for themselves; details are at the end of the post.

Please welcome author Kate Quinn as I ask her a few questions:

I’ve read that you started to write at an early age. What authors helped to inspire you as a child? Did you grow up wanting to be an accomplished writer?
I read everything I could get my hands on as a child – C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, all the L. Frank Baum Oz books, Edith Hamilton’s Greek mythology, countless others. But what inspired me the most was history itself: I read biographies of Julius Caesar, Elizabeth I, Peter the Great, and it astounded me that such fascinating people really lived. My first straggling hand-written story (at age seven) was all about the assassination of Edward II, full of sex and murder long before I understood what either one was. I can’t say I ever made a decision to become a writer; I just was one. I was writing a novel by the time I was ten and haven’t stopped since. A lot of those early novel projects were absolute disasters, but it was a learning experience.

Tell us about your writing journey and your inspiration behind Mistress of Rome?
Ever since seeing Kirk Douglas in Spartacus when I was about eight, I’d wanted to write a book about a gladiator – I just didn’t get around to it until I was nineteen. I had just gone three thousand miles off to college in Boston, and I knew absolutely nobody. So I percolated a story and escaped into ancient Rome instead. I didn’t have a computer, so I had to pack up my books and notes and head to the university computer lab to work. It wasn’t the most harmonious of settings – a huge underground basement filled with ominous neon lighting and tight-lipped graduate students all trying to finish a thesis and hissing at you if you made a sound. But at least there wasn’t anything to do there but work, so I’d just crank up the Gladiator soundtrack on my headset and hammer away. By the end of the semester I had a book – though getting it published was a different journey. That took a few more years, and a query letter I probably re-wrote twenty different ways.

What books were the most useful while researching for this novel?
Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars was my most valuable primary source. He was an Imperial archivist in early Imperial Rome who wrote a biography of the first twelve Emperors. It’s a terrifically entertaining read, because Suetonius threw scholarly objectivity completely out the window and wrote a rumor-packed, scandal-laden, twelve-part gossip column. He gives details of each Emperor’s appearance, their character, their personal habits, who they slept with, who they worked with, who they had killed. Who knows how much of it is true? All I could do was guess. Nowadays Suetonius would be working for Us Weekly or maybe Gossip Girl.

Most of your characters in your novel are portrayed as cruel and heartless. While writing and being immersed within your storytelling, did this bleed over into your personal life and affect you mentally while writing the story?
Well, I hope not all of them are cruel and heartless, just trapped in bad situations! Fortunately, I can say that no matter how much time I spent with the psychopathic Emperor Domitian or the monumentally self-absorbed Lepida, I never felt any crossover from their lives to mine. (And a good thing too, since I’d be arrested for murder, assassination, conspiracy, incest, rape, and worst of all, cruelty to animals.) Villains are fun to write in fiction – you get to explore what it’s like to be a despot or a man-eater without actually doing wrong yourself.

Are there any surprising revelations that you came across during your research?
What I found most surprising (and gratifying) was the number of personal quirks attributed to Domitian. Many were reported by Suetonius, so it’s doubtful if they’re all factual, but it makes a portrait of a very odd Emperor. According to the rumors of the time Domitian threw all-black dinner parties, speared flies out of the air on the point of his pen, and wrote a manual on hair care. He made his niece into his mistress, but had a popular Roman actor killed on suspicion the man was having an affair with his Empress. He hated children, getting rid of both his own two nephews and an unborn child by his niece, yet was accompanied at the Colosseum by a boy in a red tunic with whom he chatted non-stop about the gladiators in the arena. The more cheerful his jokes got, the more likely it was that people would start dying. He asked his astrologer to predict his death date, and the man got it right down to the hour of day. Who knows if all of this is true, but it was reported as true at the time, and created a splendidly quirky villain for me.

Which of the characters were your personal favorite to create and why?
That’s like trying to pick a favorite child – I love them all for different reasons, even the villains. Probably my favorites are Thea and Arius, my slave heroine and gladiator hero. They are very damaged people in their ways, but they deserve happiness with each other. Thea has endurance and humor even in the worst situations, and Arius has been brutalized all his life but has a huge capacity for love. And I have a special fondness for Marcus, the intelligent Senator who always knows more than he lets on – based, I’ll admit, on Derek Jacobi’s wonderful performance in the mini-series I, Claudius. Jacobi’s Claudius had a lot of bad luck in his life, so I made sure Marcus got a happier ending.

How excited are you that you have now become a published author? What’s been the best part of the journey? Is there a bad part to the journey?
Publication has been the world’s best roller coaster. There is not one day I don’t wake up and think how lucky I am to be in this position. From editing to copy-editing, searching for blurbs to searching for the perfect cover, this has been an education and a blast. The best part of it all has been working with the team of people who really put this book into motion – my agent, my editor, my copy-editor, the Berkley sales team; I was lucky to find such incredible people who adored my book and worked so hard to make it the best they could. There hasn’t been much of a bad side yet, unless it’s reading the inevitable negative reviews. You go into this knowing you won’t please everybody, but it can still be a bit squelching when you find someone online who hated your baby. Still, I have a rule of thumb about negative reviews: if the reviewer is incapable of using “its” vs. “it’s” or the various forms of “there” correctly, I do not have to feel bad that they disliked my book.

What is the topic of the next novel that you are working on?
I’m not done with ancient Rome yet, or maybe it’s not done with me. Currently I’m working on both a sequel and a prequel to Mistress of Rome. It wasn’t intended to be a trilogy, but as I was writing I started to wonder about the lives of some of the smaller characters. The prequel reaches back to the Year of Four Emperors, and features Emperor Domitian’s extremely enigmatic wife as a young woman. The sequel focuses on two characters who are just children in Mistress of Rome: a senator’s daughter who grows up with a yen for adventure, and a gladiator’s son who ends up serving in Emperor Trajan’s wars. The prequel is in the editing stage and the sequel is about half finished, so who knows when they’ll be out.

Thanks for having me!
I loved learning about Kate’s journey with this novel, and I am so glad that it seems to be a big success already! I hope I get to read this soon myself, my fellow historical fiction bloggers have already written of how much they have enjoyed this one.

For my USA followers, I am offering a chance to win one copy of Mistress of Rome directly from the publisher.

To enter:
Comment with your email address and:
Tell me what your favorite “Roman” themed book or movie has been so far.

+2 add a graphic link to your blog sidebar linking to this post
+1 Share this link via twitter or facebook, paste the share in your comment

Good Luck!

Giveaway ends April 23rd.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Kate Quinn, Rome

>HF Bloggers Round Table: Author Stephanie Cowell: Growing up to write a novel about Claude Monet (Giveaway!)


Please welcome Stephanie Cowell, author of the new release of Claude and Camille, as it is the main attraction for this month’s event at the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table.

Growing up to write a novel about Claude Monet

By Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille

When I look back, I feel I was destined to write a novel about a painter and somehow settled on Claude Monet.

Bazille Studio

My parents were both artists. I grew up in the shadow of the easel, passing carefully by marmalade jars full of delicate sable brushes for pen and ink drawing, sturdier bigger ones for oil paint and colored pencils. My parents took me to museums and art exhibitions since my earliest memories when about all I could see were grown-up people’s legs and the bottoms of picture frames. Artists came to the house. The air always smelled of oil paint. And I learned the stories of the struggles of the great painters.

My mother taught at the famous Art Students’ League in New York City and one evening she took me with her. I was less than five years old and, quickly bored with her class on fashion illustration, wandered off down the hall to peek into another classroom. I was amazed at what I saw and rushed back crying, “Mommy, there’s a woman on the model stand and she has no clothes on!”

At age fifteen or so my mother also drew me half nude and hung it in the hallway, to the great amusement of my boyfriends when they came to see me. (Claude Monet did not paint nudes!)

But painting was the center of my life and even now, when I am tired of words as novelists can sometimes be, I wander in the Metropolitan Museum which is near my house and feel so enriched.

I discovered when I was very young, however, that I had no talent to draw or paint. One day my father let me try at his easel. I expected to have his skill but discovered no skill at all. It was rather embarrassing because, as I became a teenager and a young woman, people always asked me, “Do you draw like your mother?”

But one thing my parents admired of me was my ability to tell stories. And at one of my early readings, a woman turned to my mother and asked, “Do you write like your daughter?” My mother shook her head with a smile. And I think from that I learned that we all feel and love a great deal but the gift with which we express it is different: cooking, writing, sewing, gardening.
I still have my mother’s marmalade jar but now it is filled with pens.

Thank you so much to Stephanie for sharing with your readers the story behind your inspiration of your latest novel, Claude and Camille, which is available for purchase today!

Please visit the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table main page for the Calendar of Events featuring Stephanie and her novel Claude and Camille!

Here at The Burton Review I will have a review, a post on Camille and a goodie giveaway! (*And it’s not just a book!!)
There are many other fantastic giveaways that will be occurring, which are Monet related.. so be sure to keep up with the fantastic events this week! Today you will have two more chances for a giveaway at Passages to The Past and

If you would like to win your very own copy of this book, then please comment on this post telling us anything you have previously learned about Monet or impressionism or if you have seen any of his paintings at a museum. LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.

For an extra point, tweet this post or facebook post it, leaving me a link to your status.
Book Giveaway open until April 16th to USA residents only.

Good Luck!

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Filed under Author Interviews, Author Post, HF Bloggers Round Table, Stephanie Cowell