Books Magazine

Spotlight Author: C.W. Gortner

By Anovelsource @thenovellife

Some authors are simply classy…in a way that you want to hang-out-at-the-bar-talking-the-night-away kind of classy.  C.W. Gortner fits that bill completely.  As the author of The Queen’s Vow and The Last Queen {click on links to read my review}, and quite a few more best-selling historical novels, Gortner has made a name for himself within this genre.  His research is impeccable and the voice he gives to his characters makes them leap off the page.  I’m so happy to have Mr. Gortner here today!

Mr. Gortner you write so eloquently about women in history that I feel as though I know these characters from the inside out – what influenced you to write about controversial women rather than the men in history?

A combination of things draw me to controversial women, such as the fact that I was raised in Spain in a family of strong women who were storytellers. As a child, I’d sit entranced at the kitchen table, as aunts and cousins spilled secrets and shared joys. It made me realize that there are hidden stories within stories. While growing up, I also became fascinated with history, and some of my favorite characters happened to be controversial ladies, like Catherine de Medici, Juana of Castile, and Juana’s mother, Isabella. I always wanted to know more about them: Why was Juana accused of being mad? Why did everyone hate Catherine? Why did Isabella send Columbus to America? I’m sure I drove everyone nuts with my incessant questions. Now, I realize the reason I was asking is because popular history, as it was taught to me, didn’t. No one seemed curious as to whether or not Juana was truly crazy or what motivated Isabella to heed a man who wanted to sail an ocean. No one seemed to care if Catherine had really poisoned her foes or not.

Controversial women are also often pigeonholed into cliches: we have Catherine as evil crone, Juana as victim, Isabella as fanatic. Yet nothing these ladies did was particularly unusual, in that there are men in history who acted in very similar manners. However, these controversial men are explored in depth; though they too can suffer from a certain level of stereotyping, they have more of a “voice” in how their history is presented. Not surprising, given that men have written most of the history we know. I am therefore deeply attracted to uncovering the secrets of these controversial women because I think that in my own small way, I want to give them a voice. I want to hear them tell their stories. 

This isn’t to say that I’m not attracted to the controversial men: I absolutely am. There are, in fact, several kings I’d love to write about. Perhaps in time, I’ll be able to. Some of the constraints are market-driven. Publishers are leery of male leads in historical novels directed toward women readers; however, my Tudor thriller series has a male lead, albeit a fictional one, and I think many of my readers like that. For the moment, however, there are still several women in history who excite me as a writer.

The hidden story within the story makes perfect sense! especially in light of growing up in the South where stories are the life’s blood of our culture.  C.W. Gortner’s next controversial woman to give a voice is Lucrezia Borgia ~ all the rumors I’ve read about the Borgia family, I can’t wait to read this one!  Thank you so very much Mr. Gortner for taking a moment to answer your fans! You are uber-classy!

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