Kathryn Johnson Interview

November 5, 2010

HistoricalNovels.info interviews
the author of The Gentleman Poet

Author Kathryn JohnsonIt was great to welcome Kathryn Johnson to the blog on November 5, 2010. She's the author of The Gentleman Poet, the heroine of which is a resourceful maidservant shipwrecked on the Bermudas in 1609 along with William Shakespeare, who has been traveling incognito.

The heroine of your novel is an exceptionally creative cook. Do you share that trait with her, and if so, what's the most unusual dish you ever cooked?

I do love to cook! In fact, I lived in Italy for three years, and a love of Italian food rubbed off on me. Quite a change from my mother’s sturdy New England cooking. She made very simple dishes with few seasonings, and garlic was unheard of in our house when I was growing up. LOL! Later I became fascinated with Mexican dishes. I once made a pot of Sopa de Tortilla y Acelgas (Chilied Tortilla Soup). Lots of exotic ingredients including pasilla chiles, lime juice, Chihuahua cheese and chard leaves. Delicious! But my dear mom would have passed on it. Too spicy for her.

The bounty of food on the Bermudas, where the Sea Venture passengers were shipwrecked, was impressive. Do you think some of these people, in real life, actually ate better on the islands than back in England?

Absolutely, they did eat better--at least the servants, sailors, and many of the less affluent. You could tell how amazed the writers of the journals were at the choices and quantities available to them. Fish, fowl, shellfish and turtles and their eggs, wildflowers and a few edible vegetables. But of course things were very different in Jamestown, their destination. The colony was literally starving.

Your novel takes a leap of the imagination in sending Shakespeare to the Bermudas. In the course of exploring this premise, is there some detail about him you feel you really got right?

Well, there really is very little evidence of where the man was in 1609-10, so he could have been in Stratford, in London or Europe…or just about anywhere within the ability of people to travel in those days. I think I got his appearance right, based on the portraits identified as his. But it’s his personality I really worked at. I believe he had a special fondness for young people. He’d lost his son not many years before, and that was hard for him. And we know that he helped his landlord’s daughter and a young apprentice get her father’s approval to marry. He used the theme of young lovers often in his plays too. So acting as a kind of match maker in my story seemed fairly logical.

Review of The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson

See listing for The Gentleman Poet at Powell's Books

See listing for The Gentleman Poet at Amazon.com

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