Friday, October 24, 2014

Interview/Giveaway: C.W. Gortner of The Spymaster Chronicles

Review of The Tudor Vendetta posted on this blog on October 22, 2014.

C. W. Gortner


1.  What draws you to this period of history?

I’ve always been drawn to the 16th century and the Renaissance; it’s a time of great upheaval and astonishing accomplishment, when we began to question the rigid dictates of the medieval era and expand artistic boundaries. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Holbein – and so many others – can only be products of the Renaissance. That said, it’s also an era of unparalleled corruption, drama, intrigue, and astounding royal personalities. The Tudors’ relatively brief reign seethes with all these qualities; it’s not surprising that hundreds of years later, they continue to fascinate us. But they’ve also been quite well covered in fiction, so for the Spymaster Trilogy, I wanted to explore crevices in Tudor history, building my stories around isolated events that had significant impact on those who lived them. For The Tudor Vendetta, I depict the first troublesome and dangerous weeks of Elizabeth I’s reign, when she came to the throne to claim a realm plagued by religious and social discord, penurious and uncertain as to how she could hold onto the crown she’d fought so hard to achieve. A secret returns to haunt her, and her intimate spy, Brendan Prescott, must contend not only with the young queen’s betrayal, but also his own.

2.  How did you become involved with animal advocacy?

I’ve loved animals since I was a child growing up in southern Spain. At the time, Spain was still under Franco’s dictatorship, and many people were not kind to dogs and cats, as well as other animals. I began rescuing dogs that were abused and neglected; at one point, I had ten dogs living with us and ran around with a pack at my heels. There was no Advantage or other flea and tick preventives; I hand-groomed my dogs and bathed them. Many were in terrible shape; riddled with ticks, malnourished and anemic from flea infestations, but they responded to love; they were so eager to be cared for, to forgive – but they never forgot the injuries inflicted on them. It’s been a lifelong passion of mine to fight for animal rights because we share this planet with millions of species who have as much right as we do to exist, to have safe territories and not be subjected to our destruction. What we do to our fellow creatures appalls me. No animal demonstrates the callous savagery of man; we’re also at a crossroads in history. Either we change the way we live or we will destroy the only home we have. Recognizing that animals are sensitive, emotional beings is key to repairing the immense damage we’ve wrought upon our Mother Earth.

3.  Where have you visited to which you would most like to return?

I’d like to return to Poland. I was there on tour recently for The Queen’s Vow and I found the country incredibly beautiful, with a warm and generous people. I didn’t get the chance to see as much as I would have liked. Also, I always love visiting Rome. Something about the city entrances me; it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I could easily live there (I think .
4.  Which Renaissance Faires have you attended?

The Northern California Renaissance Faire when it was held at Blackpoint Forest was one of my favorites; I went every year as a teenager, dressed in appropriate garb, of course. I’ve also attended the South Lake Tahoe Faire on occasion, and it’s a lot of fun.

5.  If you lived in the time of the Tudors, what would you be doing?

Probably writing! But I’ve never wanted to live in the past except when I write about it. I enjoy visiting it, but I find it a very frightening and bewildering place. No washing machines or antibiotics, no civil rights: it’s not at all what we envision when we see movies and television depictions. The Tudor world was quite brutal; even the affluent suffered from common ailments, like gout, lice, and rancid food—things we rarely consider whenever we imagine it.

6.  If you get nervous speaking in public, how do you deal with that?

I pretend I’m speaking to close friends. I used to get very nervous during public engagements, but after six novels and countless appearances, I’m more comfortable. In Poland, I did several interviews and bookstore events with a translator; that was challenging, because I tend to be an impromptu speaker, and had to remember to talk slow, as he was translating everything I said.

7.  Describe your favorite meal.

Whole-wheat pasta with sautéed spinach and asparagus, and lots of sourdough bread. When I’m in the throes of writing a book, it’s my staple dinner. I live on it.

8.  What's next for you (as an author)?

My next novel is Mademoiselle Chanel, about the dramatic, intimate life of the iconic designer Coco Chanel; it will be released on March 17, 2015. It’s a dream come true for me; I began my professional career in fashion publicity and my thesis project while at college involved reinterpreting her designs, putting my spin on how I would market her in the current industry. She changed not only the way women dressed but also how they saw themselves; she influenced the world around her, one of the first entrepreneurial women to create a global empire that endures to this day. Her personal life was also quite tumultuous and controversial; she was complex, engaging, and demanding as a subject—and I reveled in her story. Also, it was refreshing to write a character who could actually call her friends on the telephone!

9.  What advice would you give young (school-age) writers?

Write what you love. We’re often told to write what we know, but when I first started, I knew very little; I research to acquire knowledge, but I always write about subjects I feel passionate about. Writing is how we interpret the world and answer the questions we all carry inside. To write well, we must be utterly committed to it—and to be committed, we must write about those things that we cannot forget, things that obsess us.

10.  Do you speak any of the 20 other languages in which your books are printed?  If so which?  If not, which would you most like to learn?

I’m fluent in Spanish and can defend myself somewhat in Italian and French. I’d like to learn more Italian; I always say, Spanish is the language of passion; French is the language to seduce; but Italian is the language of love. Everything sounds warmer in Italian.

Thank you for spending this time with me. I hope your readers enjoy The Tudor Vendetta. To learn more about me and my work, please visit me at



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  1. Fabulous interview. I love Christopher's work. He is very talented. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. It's my first read from him, Cheryl, but now I've got to read his other work as well! And who doesn't love a giveaway that involves books! ;)