Friday, February 25, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Author Michelle Moran shares some thoughts about the subject of her new novel, MADAME TUSSAUD.
MADAME TUSSAUD: The Woman
by Michelle Moran
When most people hear the name Madame Tussaud, the first thing that comes to mind are the eerily lifelike waxworks which crowd her museums throughout the world. But who was the woman behind the name, and what was she like in the flesh?
Madame Tussaud’s story actually began in 18th century Paris. While most people know her from her famous museum in London, it was in France, on the humble Boulevard du Temple, where Marie first got her start as an apprentice in her uncle’s wax museum, the Salon de Cire. At the time, the Boulevard du Temple was crowded with exhibits of every kind. For just a few sous a passerby might attend the opera, watch a puppet show, or visit Henri Charles’ mystifying exhibition The Invisible Girl. The Boulevard was a difficult place to distinguish yourself as an artist, but as Marie’s talent grew for both sculpting and public relations, the Salon de Cire became one of the most popular attractions around. Suddenly, no one could compete with Marie or her uncle for ingenious publicity stunts, and when the royal family supposedly visited their museum, this only solidified what most showmen in Paris already knew — the Salon was an exhibition to watch out for.
But as the Salon’s popularity grew, so did the unusual requests. Noblemen came asking for wax sculptures of their mistresses, women wanted models of their newborn infants, and – most importantly – the king’s sister herself wanted Marie to come to Versailles to be her wax tutor. While this was, in many ways, a dream come true for Marie, it was also a dangerous time to be associated with the royal family. Men like Robespierre, Marat, and Desmoulins were meeting at Marie’s house to discuss the future of the monarchy, and when the Revolution began, Marie found herself in a precarious position. Ultimately, she was given a choice by France’s new leaders: to preserve the famous victims of Madame Guillotine in wax, or be guillotined herself.
Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution is the story of Marie’s life during one of the most tumultuous times in human history. Her survival was nothing less than astonishing, and how she survived makes for what I hope is a compelling read.
Check out Michelle's blog at michellemoran.blogspot.com
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
a lonely kid.
an orphaned baby possum.
a dad that says no way.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Author Karen Harper has just released her new historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS. Yesterday, I presented the book; today, Ms. Harper answers some questions about her research, her writing process, and her heroine.
Q: You are known for your Tudor era historicals, and THE IRISH PRINCESS fits that category, but has a different “feel.” Why an Irish heroine during the reigns of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I?
Karen Harper: While I was reading about Queen Elizabeth’s friends and confidants, I found one of them was an Irish woman Elizabeth (nicknamed Gera) Fitzgerald, a woman renowned for her beauty. What gives? I thought. The Tudors had trouble with the Irish, and
Q: Was the research of
A: As usual, when researching most Tudor-era noble women, I had to glean information about
Q: Were you able to travel to the sites used in the book?
A: I’ve been to English Tudor sites many times, so that part of the novel was easy for me to envision. My trip to
Q: As in many of your novels, King Henry VIII comes off as quite a villain.
A: I usually sum up Henry with the quote, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The older he got, the more paranoid he became about ruining any family that could threaten his power. I’ve just completed a book with his parents as the focus, so I see where he got this obsession, but for a supposedly religious leader and protector of his people, his tactics are horrible and inexcusable. THE IRISH PRINCESS begins with
Q: What are your work habits? I know you also write in another genre, contemporary suspense.
A: Yes, for the last ten years, I’ve had a split personality as a writer, doing a historical and then a suspense novel and so, working with two different publishers. I must admit, it has been a challenge. I need to be careful that I take a break between each genre, because I need an entirely different voice for each as well as vocabulary, culture, even sentence structure. However, both “voices” seem to come easily to me, once I immerse myself in the characters and settings. Settings are very important to me. One of my author talks is “Setting As Character." As for my work habits, a lot of my ideas obviously come from my research, whether I’m writing about the Irish or the modern day Amish. (My website, www.KarenHarperAuthor.com starts out, “from the Amish to the Irish…”). In short, I’m a plan ahead author. I’m an early riser, so I get a lot done in the mornings and fade mid-PM, when it’s time to answer e-mail or just get away from the laptop for a while. At least my days are varied, sometimes 5 – 6 hours of writing, sometimes editing, research, promotion… I write, then revise about 6 -7 times, then print out my chapters, then revise again from there.
Q: Do both of the genres in which you write sell about the same?
A: Alas, no. Any book that has a contemporary setting (and in my books, mystery/suspense) has a broader audience than historicals. Some of my suspense novels have been New York Times and
Q: All of your books seem to have a heroine who rises above terrible circumstances. Is that intentional?
A: Yes, because that’s what not only makes a rousing good story but inspires the reader—at least I hope so. I do look for several things in a historic heroine before I spend months and years researching and writing about her. First of all, her life must impact some well-known figures. Also, I’m looking for a good love story in her life—and Gera Fitzgerald definitely has that. Her love for sailing and her forbidden love for sea captain Edward Clinton give the novel a swashbuckling feeling ala Johnny Depp and Liam Neeson—even Errol Flynn—movies. I also need some sort of resolution or triumph, in short a happy ending. And I do tend to say with English, Irish or Scottish heroines, since those countries and their pasts are my passion.
Thank you, Karen, for this peek into your book and your life as a writer! Give it time -- your historicals are bound to become bestsellers, too.
Karen has offered a complimentary copy of THE IRISH PRINCESS to be given away here at Writing the Renaissance. If you are interested in the book, please leave a comment below with an email contact. Entrants must have domestic US mailing addresses. Contest closes at 10 pm PST Saturday, February 19. Winner's name will be posted Monday, February 21. Good luck to all! Look for THE IRISH PRINCESS online or at your neighborhood bookstore.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Interweaving Fact with Fiction: On Writing THE TUDOR SECRET
by C.W. Gortner
In my latest novel, THE TUDOR SECRET, Book One in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, I set myself to a challenge that proved more daunting than I originally thought. Despite its shorter length, compared to my other novels THE LAST QUEEN and THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, THE TUDOR SECRET is deceptively complex, interweaving three storylines—a factual one; a “What if?” one; and a fictionalized one. This was also the first time I decided to work with fictional characters interacting with historical ones, and these interactions were both unexpected and exciting.
My first storyline is factual, based on the tumultuous events surrounding John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and his familial conspiracy to replace Princess Mary Tudor in the succession following the untimely death of Mary’s brother, Edward VI. Though this event, known as the Succession Crisis of 1553, has often gotten short thrift in both biographical accounts of the lead players and in other Tudor-themed novels, I’ve always found it fascinating— a dramatic coup d’état staged by a powerful courtier, aimed at the Catholic heir to the throne, who was herself an embattled survivor of her father’s rupture with Rome. Northumberland had risen through the ranks to the pinnacle of success. In control of the realm after the execution of Edward’s uncle, he was resolved to protect his interests at any cost. Northumberland’s frantic race against time to secure the throne offers riveting contrast to Mary’s emergence from the shadows as the stalwart granddaughter of the famed warrior-queen, Isabella of Castile. Though many initially thought her cause hopeless, history proved differently.
My second storyline focuses on: “What if?” Though it’s established that Mary did in fact visit court to see her ailing brother several months before his demise, less is known about their sister, Elizabeth. Many believe Northumberland refused Elizabeth the same privilege, thus relegating her to her country manor, isolated from the events about to unfold. But my imagination was stirred by the idea of what if she’d ignored Northumberland’s refusal. Hindsight is everything when reconstructing historical events; we now know what Northumberland planned, yet what if Elizabeth, unaware of the extent of the duke’s plot, arrived unannounced in London, determined to see her brother? Rumors of Edward’s demise ran rampant and Elizabeth was known for being both headstrong and fiercely protective of Edward. The possibilities that opened before me as I envisioned this bold nineteen year-old princess descending upon Northumberland and his clan proved irresistible.
The last storyline is fictional. The idea for this series was to explore the birth of the grand era of Elizabethan espionage. I also wanted to envision this world through the eyes of an ordinary man, a foundling (as many were) who is brought to court to act as a squire. My lead character, Brendan, only seeks to persevere in his new post, perhaps even gain his freedom from servitude. Disdained by the noble family with whom he has spent his life, still mourning the death of the woman who cared for him, but also keen and observant, if ignorant of the treachery of the court, Brendan is the perfect vehicle for my story: a seemingly every-day youth who, unbeknownst to him, carries a secret that could overturn everything he believes in. His fateful meeting with Elizabeth as she seeks an answer to her brother’s disappearance throws these two characters into a labyrinth of deceit that will test their mettle and forge a lifelong alliance.
Lastly, THE TUDOR SECRET pays humble homage to my lifelong admiration of the spirited historical adventures of Alexander Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Lawrence Schnoover, and the swashbuckling films of the 1950s. I hope you enjoy this foray into the underworld of the Tudors— a place where dukes battle princesses, betrayal is rife, and one man fights to save a future queen from destruction while unraveling the secret of his own mysterious past.
Thank you so much for spending this time with me. To learn more about me and my books, as well as access special features, please visit me at: http://www.cwgortner.com. Happy reading!