A Cromwell Adventure – Part 9: Author Q+A3 – The Classic FAQ’s

Eight days from now, SHAKING THE THRONE will be available! Today is part three of a ten-part series, letting you into the world of King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell, and his master secretary Nicóla Frescobaldi, as they embark on part two of THE QUEENMAKER SERIES.

Part one of the series, FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, is out now, covering Cromwell and Frescobaldi in 1529 – 1533,  SHAKING THE THRONE, covering 1533-1536, will be available worldwide on October 1st. NO ARMOUR AGAINST FATE shall cover 1537 – 1540 and will be released September 2019.

Let’s jump right in, with answers to the most commonly asked questions about the adventures of Cromwell and Frescobaldi, in order of most common FAQ’s, but first, the synopsis –

November 1533 – Thomas Cromwell and Nicóla Frescobaldi have their queen on the throne. The Catholic Church is being destroyed as the Reformation looms over England. Cromwell has total power at court and in parliament, while Frescobaldi wins favour with the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

But England’s fate is uncertain. The nobles still despise Cromwell and his Italian creature. Anne has not given the king a son. Queen Katherine refuses to give up her title, and Thomas More and Bishop Fisher defy their king. The final Plantagenets think they should hold the throne, while the Catholics want Princess Mary named as heir.

England can be reformed, but Cromwell must dissolve all the monasteries and abbeys, and with the King on his side, the plan to change religion will sever heads. Queen Anne is losing Henry’s love, but Cromwell could suffer if Anne loses her crown. Frescobaldi creates a daring plan to replace Anne and regain the Pope’s favour, but Cromwell must execute the plans on his own. Schemes will go astray and the wrong heads will be severed to satisfy a vengeful sovereign.

Kings will rise, Queens shall fall, children will perish, and the people of England will march in a pilgrimage to take Cromwell’s head, but Frescobaldi will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Read part 1 and part 2 of the FAQ’s here, otherwise here are the final FAQ’s…

WHY DO YOU LIKE THOMAS CROMWELL SO MUCH?

What’s not to like about my book-husband, Thomas? It is often said that Shakespeare ripped off everything he ever wrote, and his rags-to-riches genius life story was even a rip-off… of Thomas Cromwell’s story. Cromwell started with a standard life, born into a simple family in 1485, and yet managed to get himself into Europe as a soldier in the French army to fight the Italians, in a time when a large portion of the population never left the village they were born into. Cromwell managed to survive a slaughter, and make it to Florence, where he started a new life, educating and enriching himself enough to return to England and into the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, England’s most powerful man. Cromwell rose as Wolsey rose, and managed to escape a brutal fall from grace upon Wolsey’s death. Cromwell then went on to create and destroy queens, rush the Reformation into England and completely changed the laws of England, all in the same decade. He went from common to Earl in a handful of years, only to be spectacularly hacked to death on the block. Who else can claim such a great story?

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF ROMANCE IN YOUR TUDOR NOVELS?

I am surprised how often people ask this question. There is an element of love in the book, but it’s all PG rated and only an undercurrent, part of a strong political life. Romance is not a big theme of the series.

IS IT HARD TO WRITE HISTORICAL FIGURES AND EVENTS, SINCE YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW AN EXACT STORYLINE?

I have an awful lot of freedom within the timeline of Cromwell’s life. While the people and events are real, how Cromwell and Frescobaldi can view it, can feel, can react is still free to explore. From the outset I knew how the story had to end, but everything that happens is seen through a new Cromwell and also through Frescobaldi.

WILL IT BE HARD TO KILL CROMWELL IN THE LAST BOOK?

I accepted from the beginning that I had to kill Cromwell in a brutal, violent, vicious end. I have devised a way to get through that without feeling as bad. I will feel very bad for Cromwell, and even worse from Frescobaldi. I thought I would feel bad killing Anne Boleyn, but that was quite easy.

WHAT FUN THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU WRITE?

I write a pretty serious series at the moment, so characters are usually killing people, imprisoning people, torturing people, watching people suffer. Finding fun moments can be hard to come by, so I have to add in little jokes where I can. One fun thing that happens? When I write a character is feeling tired, I tend to start yawning. Now I’ve written yawn, I’m yawning.

Tomorrow – themes in the novel: Who is Henry Fitzroy?

FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, the first edition in the Queenmaker trilogy, is available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle now.

FROM NOW UNTIL OCTOBER 1ST, GET BOOK ONE FOR 50% off on Kindle.

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW OCTOBER: ‘Hell and Good Company’ by Richard Rhodes

This book skims the basics, which, in theory, should be good for newcomers. But with the omissions of this book, those new to the subject won’t get the full picture. Bonus point from me – New Zealand journalist Geoffrey Cox gets a mention, someone often missed. This book is suited to those looking for something specific, and in the style of the author. To enjoy, make sure that is you before you buy.

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW AUGUST: ‘Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí – Forbidden Pleasures and Connected Lives’ by Gwynne Edwards

Lorca, Buñuel and Dalí were, in their respective fields of poetry and theatre, cinema, and painting, three of the most imaginative creative artists of the twentieth century; their impact was felt far beyond the boundaries of their native Spain. But if individually they have been examined by many, their connected lives have rarely been considered. It is these, the ties that bind them, that constitute the subject of this illuminating book.

They were born within six years of each other and, as Gwynne Edwards reveals, their childhood circumstances were very similar, each being affected by a narrow-minded society and an intolerant religious background, which equated sex with sin. All three experienced sexual problems of different kinds: Lorca, homosexual anguish, Buñuel sexual inhibition, and Dalí virtual impotence. They met during the 1920s at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, which channelled their respective obsessions into the cultural forms then prevalent in Europe, in particular Surrealism. Rooted in such turmoil, their work — from Lorca’s dramatic characters seeking sexual fulfilment, to Buñuel’s frustrated men and women, and Dalí’s potent images of shame and guilt — is highly autobiographical. Their left-wing outrage directed at bourgeois values and the Catholic Church was sharpened by the political upheavals of the 1930s, which in Spain led to the catastrophic Civil War of 1936-39. Lorca was murdered by Franco’s fascists in 1936. This tragic event hastened Buñuel’s departure to Mexico and Dalí’s to New York and Edwards relates how for the rest of his life Buñuel clung to his left-wing ideals and made outstanding films, while the increasingly eccentric and money-grubbing Dalí embraced Fascism and the Catholic Church and his art went into steep decline.

cover art and blurb via amazon

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I can’t remember where I got this book – probably on one of my book buying binges (say that three times fast) – but it has sat unread on my shelves for to-reads. Since I wrote my Lorca 80th anniversary article just over a week ago, I thought I could dedicate this month’s book review to the man as well.

Federico García Lorca, Manuel Buñuel and Salvador Dalí are three very well-known men. All born wealthy around the turn of the century, by the early 1920’s they were already established in their fields: Lorca with his writing, Buñuel with plays and film creation and Dalí with his painting. Each was rare and unique in a world filled with many artists exploding onto the European scene at the time. All housed at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid to study, these three artists came together to bond, collaborate and touch each others lives forever.

This book doesn’t necessarily reveal any new information about the trio, rather tells details, big and small, in a clean, easy-to-read way. Four pages in I was already enjoying the book, with its interesting yet gentle flow of the lives of these men. The book does lean on info about Lorca a lot, but he was always a strikingly interesting soul. The book discusses Lorca’s love for Dalí in the 20’s, and doesn’t suggest impotent Dalí ever accepted any of the advances, but it doesn’t clearly say he didn’t either. These men have intensely interesting sex lives, each forever influenced (scalded?) with the Catholic faith. Lorca and his homosexuality interwoven with his depression, and pain of never having children, Buñuel and his religious thoughts that sex was sinful, even when married, and Dalí with his impotency, voyeurism and his wife’s need to find sex elsewhere. Every aspect of their lives is deeply shaped by what Spain was, and wanted to become.

Things became strained with the threesome in the late 20’s and early 30’s with Lorca leaving the country for some recuperation. Buñuel continued to live his strict, regimented lifestyle while pursuing films and abusing his wife, and Dalí continued to be a real dick (literally incapable of being a functional adult after a weird childhood), and showing off, plus his desire for fame and fortune totally went to his head. Lorca meanwhile continued to produce incredible works and establish his career. Then the war came along.

The outbreak of the civil war, and the state of Spain is well covered to the point the book needs, to show what the men faced. Lorca’s last weeks are well covered, from the moment he decided to leave Madrid for Granada to save his parents. Buñuel begged him not to go, as it would not be safe. Lorca’s time there and his attempts to help his beloved family are covered, along with his mysterious and tragic execution in the forest. There are many places in which to read about Lorca’s last days, but this book does a great job on the subject.

Buñuel went into exile in Paris, much different from Lorca’s need to jump headfirst into Spain’s crisis. Dalí was the opposite; he turned his back on his country and went off making money from rich Americans. When he was ready, Dalí and his wife returned to Spain as fascism lovers, supporting Franco, since that was the in-vogue thing to do. His life fell apart, and being so, well, douchey, Dalí had it coming. Buñuel too had moments of bad behaviour, though his art never suffered for it, continuing to create films on his own terms. In many, many writings and interviews, Buñuel continued to talk of Lorca, his work, and their time together, forever touched by their connection. After Lorca’s execution, Buñuel and Dalí unsurprisingly grew apart, and Dalí’s feelings for his murdered friend never really made sense, or could be trusted.

As I said, this book covers the lives of well-known men, so information isn’t necessarily new, but it does bring all very important parts together in one book, and shows the intertwining links of these three men, and the things which separated them. Never has Spain had such a generation of artists, and maybe never will again. A wonderful read.

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: June – ‘Everybody Behaves Badly’ by Lesley M M Blume

everybody-behaves-badly

The making of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the outsize personalities who inspired it, and the vast changes it wrought on the literary world

In the summer of 1925, Ernest Hemingway and a clique of raucous companions traveled to Pamplona, Spain, for the town’s infamous running of the bulls. Then, over the next six weeks, he channeled that trip’s maelstrom of drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals, and midday hangovers into his groundbreaking novel The Sun Also Rises. This revolutionary work redefined modern literature as much as it did his peers, who would forever after be called the Lost Generation. But the full story of Hemingway’s legendary rise has remained untold until now. 

Lesley Blume resurrects the explosive, restless landscape of 1920s Paris and Spain and reveals how Hemingway helped create his own legend. He made himself into a death-courting, bull-fighting aficionado; a hard-drinking, short-fused literary genius; and an expatriate bon vivant. Blume’s vivid account reveals the inner circle of the Lost Generation as we have never seen it before, and shows how it still influences what we read and how we think about youth, sex, love, and excess. 
Cover and blurb via amazon
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This month, Spain Book Review goes a tad off-road, with Everybody Behaves Badly. Not strictly about Spain or written in Spain, but since it’s about Ernest Hemingway getting his Spain on, I figured it works just fine. The book covers both Spain and Hemingway’s time in Paris. By 1921, Hemingway was already on his way to literary famousness, but was in need of the great American novel. So when handsome young Ernest headed to Spain with a troupe of friends in 1925, their trip would end in the genius that is The Sun Also Rises.
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The book starts out with the early years in Paris and how Hemingway felt the desire to add a novel to his career, since he had only published short stories at that point. Hemingway and his new wife Hadley go to Paris, as members of the lost generation, and the author goes into full detail of the lifestyle of a man in need of literary success. The book focuses heavily on details of Hemingway’s early life, telling both a story and writing a biography in one.
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Everyone knows the story of The Sun Also Rises (this link has my review if you don’t) – a group of friends go to Pamplona, enjoy some bullfighting and a random fishing trip, have affairs, drink waaaay too much and the whole escapade turns to hell. Everybody Behaves Badly is the real life excursion. Hemingway and wife Hadley went to Pamplona in 1923 and 1924, and in 1925, went with a group of friends – Harold Loeb, Duff Twysden, Bill Smith, Pat Guthrie and Donald Ogden Stewart. What unfolds is what Hemingway could later turn into his famous novel. Hemingway, now famous for womanising, was with his wife but was interested in Duff Twysden, as was writer Harold Loeb. And we all know how well romantic rivalry mixes with alcohol and bravado. The back story of the fateful 1925 trip is spelled out in great detail as the members of the lost generation explore sexual freedom and creative processes on what was supposed to be writing trip about bullfighting but ends up with jealousy and fist-fighting.
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The last portion of the book is dedicated to the editing and publishing of The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway’s life is really taking off, and his wife (and now young son) are not fitting in with his choices. Hemingway nicely starts an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway ruthless cut and edited his book to create a great piece of work, and decides to also edit out his own wife. Hemingway needed to get in with a new publisher, Scribner’s, a challenge in itself, all while working greats of the day, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, to create a book which has been in print for 90 years now.
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Hemingway’s life has been viewed from every angle, but this, while not all new info, tells the story of the pivotal time of Hemingway’s life. Much is made of his life during the Spanish Civil War, but this gives us a new insight to Hemingway in Paris, his early romantic life and his lifestyle in these early days. My dream Spanish road trip (a game played a few years back) was with Hemingway and Dalí, and reading this book made me even more convinced I made the right choices. My own bullfighting research trips don’t get this wild (thank God), and I’m glad to have read this behind-the-scenes moment in time. Perfect for lovers of Spain, the 1920’s, Hemingway, or like me, all three.

A Novel Blog – Part 3: Sorry, Readers, I Ran Away With The Circus

cricket world cup

Okay, I didn’t join a literal circus, but it has felt that way. I have been MIA on my blog for the last few months with good reason. Last year, I was chosen as a Cricket World Cup volunteer and got a snazzy colourful uniform (as you can see from the pic above). I figured this little project wouldn’t be too much work, right?

Don’t know what the Cricket World Cup is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone (Hey, only a BILLION people watch). It’s a once-every-four-years cricket tournament with the top 14 cricketing countries. It was being hosted between New Zealand and Australia, which also ended up as the teams in the final match. I got to work at Eden Park stadium, and witnessed two of the biggest matches – NZ v Australia, and NZ v South Africa. As a huge cricket fan, I got to see some of the world’s greatest players, and New Zealand has been gripped with cricket fever for February and March. I never even looked at my desk, or my books, in all that time. Imagine yourself, surrounded by your heroes, and other people who love them, and then think… would you be busy working, or busy living it up? I got asked out on more dates at those games than I have been in my whole life, didn’t see that coming.

Plus alas, is that a good reason for ignoring my readers? It was not the only life-changing thing going on. Rolling into town was the juggernaut which is the Volvo Ocean Race. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably become an accidental expert on the subject. I was chosen to work as one of the teachers for the Volvo school programme, showing children all about boats and the activities surrounding this round-the-world adventure. Once the schools had gone, I was charged with a massively fun job of guarding the boats and sailors from the public each day. Boring? HELL NO. It was amazing. I talked boats all day while out in the sunshine, getting invites to go sailing, touring boats that thousands wished they could look inside, was at the forefront of all the prep-work the yachts needed, danced all night, sipped drinks in VIP lounges…. this was work. Old friends, new friends, free stuff, and that odd, powerful, feeling you get from having an all-access pass dangling around your neck, making judgments as to who is fit to go near the gazillion-million dollar yachts. Back to my desk to write? Hardly, it was all day in the blazing sunshine, and three weeks just flew by before the boats left for Itajaí (that’s in Brazil).

Every little kid has dreams, plenty of them. As a child, all I wanted was to travel the world with the Volvo Ocean Race. I have been involved several times, and this time, and being able to work as port crew for the stopover was an unexpected delight. It has changed my life in a number of ways, which I don’t need to bore anyone with here.  Here is a little video about one of the boat here in Auckland. (At 2-ish mins, I caught one of the balls, a fun souvenir. Is it cheating when you’re on the dock with the sailors?)

Also, a look at what it’s like to sail around the world (the school kids love this one)

What’s the point here, Caroline? The point is, I have been highly disinterested in writing since about Christmas. I lost my focus, I lost interest in the finishing and preparing Death in the Valencian Dust for sale. So I took time away from writing, with the intention of never bothering to write another word ever again. I have also worked in the sports arena. Sailing is what I live for, as hungry to achieve my dreams as I was as a kid. For all the work I’ve done in these last few months, I have received so much back in reply. When it all died down, about a week and a half ago, I had suddenly found hidden desires to finish my book. Not only will Death in the Valencian Dust be ready come May 8, so will its companion, the Secrets of Spain trilogy all together in one (HUGE) book. Editing, cover art, promos – I’ve been onto everything and, what’s more, I’m proud of what I’ve produced.

So, all I had to do was have nothing to do with writing or Spain, and I’ve found the energy and drive to finish a trilogy about Spain. Who knew? And yes, my next book is already underway, and the cover art is already back from the artist, I’ll share that really soon!

(Just don’t ask me about Luna Rossa withdrawing from the America’s Cup in Bermuda. I’m still gutted about that life change)