C.W. Gortner Interview
May 5, 2009
the author of The Last Queen
It was great to have C.W. Gortner visit the blog on May 5, 2009, to answer some questions about his fascinating novel about Queen Juana of Spain, The Last Queen, just released in paperback.
As a schoolchild in Spain, you grew up hearing about Juana la Loca. Did your research turn up anything surprising that changed your impression of her?
Almost everything! What I heard about her growing up was that she was this tragic, unstable woman who ignored her responsibilities as queen. What I discovered during my research was quite the opposite. I was especially startled to find out Juana once escaped her captors, while almost six months pregnant, by jumping on horseback over a crumbling Roman-era wall! When I read this, I thought: This woman has guts. She is not some helpless victim, as she's so often been portrayed.
Which of the castles Juana lived in did you find most interesting?
Her childhood home of the Alhambra is of course breathtakingly beautiful, one of the wonders of the world. A sense of magic permeates the Alhambra. But in terms of research, I actually found the Castle of La Mota in Castile, where Juana lived for months during her first trip home to Spain from Flanders and where she staged a spectacular act of defiance, the most interesting. La Mota remains almost exactly as it was in her time; from the ramparts you can look across the vastness of Castile. Juana must have stood at those ramparts many times; it was thrilling to be in a place where she had experienced such tumultuous emotions, a place that also defined her in legend.
Major publishers in England and the U.S. published your novel only after you had successfully self-published. What advice would you offer others who may be considering self-publishing?
It's very exciting to self-publish - and very demanding. I self-published because I felt I had no other options. I'd had 13 years of rejections followed by a brief stint with an independent micro-publisher, so I decided to take the plunge. It ended up being a wonderful and informative experience; I helped set up a company with a group of like-minded friends and we published our books, as well as a few others. Of the four original partners, three of us went on to secure commercial publishing contracts with established houses.
My advice to other writers who are thinking of self publishing would be to evaluate all options. There are lots of books and websites that help writers approach self-publishing. Doing all your research beforehand is essential; like any business enterprise, self-publishing should be undertaken with a thorough understanding of the potential risks and benefits. Despite the many companies out there that cater to self-publishing, making it look easy and profitable, the truth can be very discouraging if your expectations are not grounded in facts.
Review of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
See listing for The Last Queen at Powell's Books
See listing for The Last Queen at Amazon.com
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