His Last Duchess - My Review Here
When sixteen-year-old Lucrezia de' Medici marries the fifth Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este, she imagines life with her handsome husband will be idyllic. But little does she know that he is a very complicated man. The marriage is fraught with difficulties from the start, and, as time passes, Lucrezia becomes increasingly alienated. For Alfonso, the pressure mounts as the Vatican threatens to reclaim his title should the couple remain unable to produce an heir. Only his lover Francesca seems able to tame his increasing fury. But Alfonso's growing resentment towards his duchess soon becomes unbearable, and he begins to plot an unthinkable way to escape his problems. Originally inspired by a Robert Browning poem, His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara. It is a story you are unlikely to forget for a long time.
So Gabrielle its so great to have you here on the blog, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing style?
I'm delighted to have been invited on to your blog - thank you for having me! A bit about me and my writing style ... well, I first wanted to write a novel when I was twelve (I still have several pages of that first attempt ... it was rubbish!) and I hankered after the idea right the way through my teens, twenties and thirties, but only in a vague 'Oh, I wish I knew how to do that' sort of way.
But then a few years ago, I began to NEED to write a novel, rather than want to, and it sort of took over! I did an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester between 2005 and 2007 (an utterly wonderful experience) and learned SO much both about the craft of writing, and also about good writing practices. Just after finishing, I was taken on by an agent, who then found me my wonderful deal with Little Brown.
I write every day - sometimes (given my family commitments and my part time teaching) there is only time to, say, edit a few sentences or something, but at other times I might blast my way through the first draft of a couple of thousand words. But always something, every day. I write in a little upstairs bedroom converted into what is known as 'my writing room' (by me, that is - my kids call it 'that tip' as it is usually very untidy!) and I write directly onto the computer.
In terms of style, that's a hard one to answer. I suppose I can just say what people tell me - that my writing is visual in quality. I've been told it's filmic. When I write, I tend to picture the scene I want to create, (dress the set, if you like) I try to 'inhabit' it, and then attempt to create on the page the stuff that has been going on in my head. Does that make sense? A bit like directing a play, but with my fictional characters rather than actors.
Whats the best comment you have recieved for His Last Duchess?
I think the nicest comment I can possibly receive is one several people have already given me - that they haven't been able to put it down!
What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?
You ask such difficult questions! In some ways, of course, it's all challenging: creating three dimensional characters who have a convincing interior life, creating a plot that functions properly on more than one level, avoiding glaring mistakes (hopefully!), making sure that you maintain reader interest all along the line - there's always something to worry about! But I do absolutely love all of it.
Other then historical is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
I sort of fell into writing historical fiction because of the Browning poem, which set my book in a specific time and place, and then discovered I just loved writing it, and so I've stayed with it. I'm not sure what else I might try one day - I've been a teacher (on and off) for twenty years, so I might try a contemporary novel set in a school. Perhaps. But not just yet. I write the sort of fiction I like to read, so I would never write in a genre I don't choose to read. I won't say what those are - because I don't want to alienate any readers of those genres
What's next for you?
I'm currently editing my second novel 'The Courtesan's Choice' which comes out with Sphere next July (2011). That is a follow-on from 'His Last Duchess', in that it takes one of the secondary characters (Francesca, the duke's long-suffering mistress) and gives her her own story, but it's not a sequel. There is no plot progression from the one to the other - they are separate stories completely. In 'The Courtesan's Choice' Francesca has moved to Naples, and has set herself up as a courtesan. As the novel opens, she is what would have been described in the nineteen-eighties as 'upwardly mobile' and she is chock-full of complacent confidence, but (fiction being what it is) I have to admit that she's in for a bit of a tough time!
Are there any author/'s that inspire you? Who?
There are many, many authors whose works I admire enormously. In terms of the classics, then Austen, Shakespeare of course, and Dickens for his fabulous plot-crafting abilities. I love Olivia Manning's 'Fortunes of War', and Jean Rhys's wonderful, wonderful novel 'Wide Sargasso Sea' which is a prequel to Jane Eyre. Recent novels I've loved have been Sarah Waters's 'The Little Stranger', 'The Behaviour of Moths' by Poppy Adams and Chris Cleave's devastating book 'The Other Hand' which is still haunting me, some weeks on after finishing it! I've also just read and loved 'The Devil's Music' by Jane Rusbridge, Isabel Ashdown's book 'Glasshopper' and a new book from a fellow historical debut writer, Deborah Swift, called 'The Lady's Slipper'. As an English teacher, I read quite a lot of children's fiction, too - there are some truly wonderful contemporary novels for kids out there.
Can you tell us 3 books on your to be read pile right now?
I'm very busy writing at the moment, and tend not to read so much when I'm in full writing mode (too knackered!) but I am currently reading 'Lion's Head, Four Happiness' by Xiaomei Martell, and have Chris Cleave's first novel 'Incendiary' to start when I have a moment. I'm also planning to read 'Wolf Hall' (Hilary Mantell), but that's a big one, and I need to be a little further on with my editing before I start that!
Wow thank you Gabrielle it seems you truly have your hands full with all your work good luck with the editing as I can not wait for the release of 'The Courtesan's Choice' :o) If you have not purchased His Last Duchess yet then I highly recommend it as its GREAT!
Now for the YUMMY giveaway
For your chance to get your hands on a copy of His Last Duchess
all you have to do is Follow my blog(if your not already a follower) then spread the word, leave a link to your post in the comments section.
This Giveaway is INTERNATIONAL
Giveaway ends Wednesday 1st September 2010
Good Luck All