Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interview with C W Gortner & The Last Queen Giveaway

I'd like to welcome C W Gortner, author of The Last Queen, to The Eclectic Reader and thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. I hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about Christopher and his work.

Teddyree: How long did it take you to research and write The Last Queen? 

C W G: It took five years for me to write THE LAST QUEEN. My research included several trips to Spain, including one in which I undertook the very journey Juana made from Burgos to her last home in Tordesillas. I visited the Alhambra and the castles associated with her, and read every contemporary account about her that I could find, including letters from her custodians to her son Charles V. 

Teddyree: I thought, given the chance to rule Juana would have made a good queen, do you agree? 

C W G: I think it’s very unfortunate that we’ll never know. Certainly, with the right councillors to guide her, she might have been. She certainly had a precedent in her mother and judging from the evidence she was intelligent and educated enough to assume the throne; she was also kind and loyal. So much distortion accompanies her legend it’s quite difficult at moments to separate fact from fiction. But I like to think that she would have been a good queen. 

Teddyree: Did you find it difficult slipping into the skin of a female to write Juana’s story in first person? (for me personally, if you found it difficult, I couldn’t tell. So even though at times I thought ‘ wow a male is writing this’ I thought it was brilliantly done).

 C W G: Thank you. That is high praise for me, as my biggest difficulty was getting over my own fears of doing it! At first, I just didn’t think I could. I felt publishers wouldn’t be interested in a first-person story of a queen, written by a man; but after much soul searching and some trial writing, it came down to the fact that first-person POV was exactly what the book required. And once I started, I enjoyed the challenge. My first drafts were in third person and something elusive was missing. It was only after I allowed myself to slip into Juana’s skin, so to speak, that I began to experience her emotional complexity. There’s a general fallacy that men cannot write women as well as women can. I disagree, just as I disagree that women cannot write from the male perspective. Writers must inhabit their characters in order to bring them to life. We are not limited by gender or appearance. We are invisible. There are no limits other than our imagination.

Teddyree: I love reading a differing viewpoint about infamous people in history. I believe many women such as Juana and Marie Antoinette were maligned by their detractors, encouraging prejudice & misunderstanding that has remained through the ages. Are there other historical figures you feel fall into that category and would love to write about? 

C W G: I’m very attracted to these types of historical figures, yes. I always say, that I look for secret histories, the stories that are never told, and my next novel falls right into that category. It’s called The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, and it traces Catherine’s life from her tumultuous childhood in Florence to her rise to power as queen-regent of France and mother of the last Valois kings. As I researched, I discovered that, much as with Juana la Loca, there was far more to Catherine than I thought. She was a leader, a devoted wife and mother, and a rare voice for tolerance in a time when Europe was in the grip of severe religious chaos; she fought to save her sons and France from destruction at the hands of a ruthless nobility; and, perhaps most interestingly, she was considered a seer in her own right, who had visions of the future and patronized Nostradamus. I believe Catherine has been greatly misunderstood by history, made into a lurid stereotype that does not begin to do justice to her historical significance as both a complex woman and queen. There are other characters that I also feel fall into this category and hopefully I will get to write them, as well.
Teddyree: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when you’re writing?

C W G: Right now, setting aside the time, for one! I still hold a 36-hour a week day job and it can be very challenging to come home after a long day at the office, walk the dog, have dinner, and tear myself away from my partner and the television to write. My schedule is that I write every night from 9 to 11 pm, all day on Friday, and I take weekends off. But it doesn’t always work that way, and some week nights I’m too tired and so I have to make up the time later. However, the reward is that by being disciplined, I can write a book. Writing is a passion, so I make the sacrifice. I’m hoping that in the next year or so, as I build my readership, I’ll be able to cut back my office hours and/or write full time. The other big challenge is choosing what to tell and what not to tell. As we know, these historical figures had complex lives, just like ours, and a novel contains a finite amount of words. It can be very challenging to be confronted by a long, eventful and often tumultuous life, such as the one Catherine de Medici had, and realize you cannot include all of it. Making choices over what to include and what not to include is often a historical novelist’s biggest dilemma.

Teddyree: What’s next on the table for C W Gortner?

C W G: My book on Catherine de Medici will be published in the summer of 2010 by Ballantine Books. I’m hoping to write about early 15th century Italy next, followed by a return to Spain and the court of Philip II.

Teddyree: Do you have other passions or does writing ‘do it’ for you?

C W G: I used to paint quite a lot, in oil, but since my writing career began to build, I haven’t had much free time to paint. I hope one day to get back to it, as I enjoy painting and it puts me in a meditative state. I’m still an avid reader, of course; and I’m involved with animal rights and environmental organizations. I also love to hike with my partner and our Corgi, Paris, in South Lake Tahoe, where we have a second home, and we both love to travel to Europe.

Teddyree: Tell us a secret, something the blogosphere doesn’t know? (can be about yourself or your books)

C W G: As a child, I had a strange obsessive compulsive disorder: I collected books and was so afraid of damaging them in some way I’d wear white gloves whenever I touched or read them. My mania eventually passed, but for a while my family thought I was nuts.

Teddyree: Do you have a favourite book from childhood?

C W G: Fernando the Bull.

Teddyree: What would you read to your 5 year old children, nieces, nephews?
C W G: Fernando the Bull and Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Teddyree: 10 year olds?

C W G: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Teddyree: What are you reading now?

C W G: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant.

Teddyree: A little-known author or book you like and would recommend?

C W G: She’s not little-known but I’d love to recommend Robin Maxwell’s Signora da Vinci, a marvellous evocation of Renaissance Italy and the woman who gave birth to the genius, Leonardo da Vinci. I also love her novel about Elizabeth I and the pirate Grace O’ Malley, The Wild Irish. Mary Sharratt’s The Vanishing Point is a gorgeously rendered tale of two English sisters caught up in the turmoil of wild America, and David Blixt has written a stupendous tale of feuding Renaissance families, Master of Verona.

Teddyree: When you were little what did you want to grow up to be?
C W G: A writer; I always wanted to be a writer. I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s the truth. My mom still has notebooks of stories that I wrote and illustrated myself, making covers for them with my own publisher logo. Yes, I was a freakish child :-)

Teddyree: If you could be dropped into any book as a character, who would you be and why?

C W G: I’ve never been asked this before. Hmm . . . I think that if I could be dropped into any book as a character, I’d want to be one of the rabbits who go on pilgrimage to find a new home in Watership Down. I wouldn’t want to be human; I think the world must be an incredible place as seen through the eyes of a wild rabbit.

Bookmark or Dog ear? Bookmark, always! (Remember the white gloves . . .) 

Fine dining or take-away? Fine dining.

Bungee Jump or Parachute drop? Parachute drop. 

Favourite junk food? Potato Chips. 

Favourite way to relax? In bed, with a book. 

If you could go anywhere for a holiday, where would you go and why? Spain, because it’s my home.

3 must-have items if you were stranded on a tropical island? Fresh water, the collected works of Daphne du Maurier, my partner. 

Anything random you’d like to add? 

Thank you for inviting me to your blog! I love meeting bloggers and readers; the blog world has been instrumental in helping me get word out of my books, and has shown me so much enthusiasm and generosity. If you want to find out more about me and my work, or invite me to chat with your reader group – which I can do via speaker phone or Skype – please visit my website at:

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: I am thrilled to be able to offer readers a chance to win a copy of The Last Queen thanks to the generosity of C W Gortner. Christopher will be be posting to the winner personally so this one is only open to US readers. 

 HOW TO ENTER: leave a comment with an email address to be entered in the giveaway 
 + 2 if you are a follower 
+ 3 for my long-time followers 
+ 2 comment on The Last Queen review & let me know 
+ 2 if you post this on your blog, sidebar, etc & leave me a link 

 Competition ends Friday August 7th and winner will be announced on this blog. Good luck to all! 


  1. What a great interview - I loved the random questions! I would like to be entered into this giveaway. I have been a follower since May, I commented on the review yesterday, and have posted on my sidebar


  2. Awesome interview.
    Please count me in.

    + 3 for my long-time followers

    + 2 comment on The Last Queen review

    + 2 if you post this on your blog, sidebar

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

  3. Wow - an I thought I was obsessive over the covers of my books. Never ever thought of wearing white gloves.
    I can't believe it took five years to write - I think I would have been despondent after the first one.
    Great interview. Nice to see into the lives of authors.

  4. Great interview. It's nice to know others can be even more obsessive about books than me - white gloves :)
    Please enter me
    stacybooks at yahoo

  5. I've wanted to read this. Fascinating interview. Please enter me! Oh, and I follow in Google Reader.


  6. Great interview! This sounds like such an awesome read. I have had it on my pbs wishlist forever. I am a follower and really enjoy your blog.

  7. What a wonderful interview. You ask such fun questions and I loved reading Gortners responses. He's so likeable.

    Please enter me for the giveaway. I would love to win a copy of this book.

    booklogged AT gmail DOT com

  8. I am a long-time follower of your blog. Yay!

    And I did leave a comment on your review of The Last Queen.

    booklogged AT gmail DOT com

  9. Don't count this comment for the giveaway but I thought I should thank Gortner for his book recommendations. I ordered 2 from amazon just now and look forward to reading them.

  10. Hey Teddyree:

    Wonderful interview with Mr. Gortner. I love well researched historicals so I'll be sure and add his wonderful book to my list.

    Don't enter me in the contest because I live in Canada.. But, I'll be sure and pimp the contest in my sidebar. ;)

    Best to you.

  11. I've watched the film Juana, La Loca, and it expressed an interesting (and very different from this book's) viewpoint of what Juana's life was like. I'd like to compare the two. Please enter me!

    +2-3 I follow, and I have for a couple of weeks, but I don't know if that's qualifies me for 'long-time' status. :-)



  12. Great interview! count me in!

    +3 long time follower

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  13. I love author interviews!

    I'd love to win a copy.


    I'm not sure if it counts, but I just started following you, about 5 minutes ago when I entered your other contest :)

    I'm about to comment on your review and I will and a link on my sidebar.

  14. Shawna Lewis

    +2 Follower
    +2 Left a comment about the review
    +2 posted on my blog at

  15. This interview rocked! I really loved your questions and the answers were fun to read. The biggest thing that stands out to me is the research that was down. I so admire authors who write well researched historical novels.
    Oh...loved the book recommendations.

    I am a follower (for a bit now on GoogleReader and just added my mug to your follower list)

    Commented on The Last Queen Review

    Posted a link about this giveaway on my sidebar.


  16. Great interview I found it very interesting. From a painter to an author!

    I do follow you and have for awhile now. :)

  17. I enjoyed reading your interview! I am a follower and would love to enter for this book!


  18. Awesome! This sounds like a good book!

    I already follow

    I blogged it:

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  19. Great interview! Wish I could enter but I do have a copy to read from the library! Will have to read it after The Gargoyle.

  20. Thanks for this great offer here! The interview was great. I am a follower and have been for a while (don't know if I'm long-time or not). :) I have posted your giveaway in the sidebar of my blog at:

    Thanks for this great offer!

  21. Hi Teddyree! I'm new to blogging and recently discovered Royal Reviews, and The Eclectic Reader. Very good stuff!! I have joined your site as a follower. I also commented on your Last Queen review and posted this giveaway on the sidebar of my blog at I hope you will come check out my site sometime =)

    My e-mail address is

    I really hope to win this one!! Sounds like an incredible novel.

  22. I would love to be entered to win! :)

    +3 I have been following for a while
    +2 I have added this to my sidebar

    lovejessicamarie [@] gmail [.] com

  23. I am a long time follower.

  24. Great interview!

    Would love to read this book!
    I am a long time follower!
    Posted on Twitter:

  25. Thank you for the great interview and thanks to all for your delightful comments. I wish I had more books to giveaway! Best of luck with the contest. I hope to visit again soon.

    Fond regards, C.W.

  26. Thanks for this great giveaway. I enjoyed the interview greatly and look forward to reading this fabulous novel. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  27. ZPlease enter me for the giveaway.
    I'm glad that I found you., I'm following you now!


  28. Thanks everyone for your interest, this competition is now closed. The winner will be announced shortly.

    Thanks Christopher, you are welcome on The Eclectic Reader anytime!

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