Good morning everyone! I have the opportunity today to host author J. Boyce Gleason at The Maiden’s Court. His book Anvil of God was released this past July and he is on currently on tour with HFVBT. I asked him a couple questions, and you can read the responses below. Also, stay tuned at the end for a giveaway.
The Carolingians are not a subject that receives a lot of attention in historical fiction. What was it about this time period/people that inspired you to write about them?
I studied medieval history in college and was drawn to the story of Charlemagne and, in particular, an epic poem (much like the Iliad and the Odyssey of ancient Greece) called The Song of Roland. It is a great story and I was surprised that it was so unknown to the general public. I thought it would make for a great novel one day and I put it on my life’s “to do list” (which we now call the “bucket list”).
Years later, when I finally sat down to write, I began to study the story in earnest. Like the story of King Arthur, there was so much legend surrounding Charlemagne that I had to make a choice – write a story based on the history or a story based on the myth. In researching the history, I discovered Trudi’s story, which historians and the Church described as the “scandal of the eighth century.” I knew instantly that I didn’t need the legend. The story I had to write began with her.
Your novel, Anvil of God, is set in 741 surrounding the death of Charles the Hammer. For those of us who are not very familiar with the time period, can you give us a little bit of backstory?
After three hundred years of rule, the Merovingian Kings of France (recently made famous by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code) had become little more than figureheads, so much so that historians refer to the last of their kind as “puppet kings.” The true power behind the throne rested with a number of military chieftains throughout the kingdom known as “mayors of the palace.” Charles Martel (The Hammer) was the bastard son of a powerful mayor, who, through conquest, united much of what is modern Europe under his authority as mayor. He ruled for nearly forty years and became so powerful that when the last Merovingian died, he refused to raise another to the throne, intending to take it for himself. His unexpected death sets the stage for Anvil of God.
Charles is most famous for stopping the incursion of the Islamic armies into Europe. Throughout much of the seventh century, the armies of Mohammed and his Caliphate successors had swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Early in the eighth century they invaded Spain and parts of Southern France (Avignon, Lyon and Narbonne). In 732, the Islamic armies crossed the Pyrenees into France and marched towards the city of Tours, where the holy relics of St. Martin were kept. With the help of Eudo of Aquitaine, Charles halted the advancing armies at Poitiers and later routed them in a surprise midnight attack. The victory was, for many centuries, credited with saving the existence of Christianity in Europe.
The rise of the Carolingians is a fascinating story and pivotal to the development of western civilization. In the midst of the dark ages, the Carolingian family rose to power, seized the throne from the Merovingians, beat back the incursions of the Saxons in the east and the Muslims in the west; united Europe under one rule, and -- for a brief period -- restored the glory days of the Roman Empire, with all its patronage of the arts and literature. It was a renaissance before the Renaissance and it would serve as a standard against which rulers would measure themselves for a millennium.
Anvil of God is the first book in a planned series. What can you tell us about this upcoming series? (Will we follow the same characters, other members of the dynasty, etc.?)
Book Two starts two months after the end of Book One. So, yes, you will see many of the same characters as the story unfolds. I had originally planned it all as one book, but the story was too long to tell in one sitting. Much of what comes next is foreshadowed in Anvil of God and will continue the story of this generation of the Carolingians.
What has the writing experience been like for you? Is it something that you always wanted to do or something that came up more recently?
As I mentioned above, I had always planned on writing a novel, but life got in the way. A writer’s life is not a lucrative one and I didn’t have the heart to subject my family to a life of poverty. The career I chose, however, was one that required a lot of writing, so I was always honing my craft, even if it wasn’t in novel form.
As an experience, creative writing is somewhat scary. To do it well, one has to let go of your inhibitions and let the characters take over the story. That has, on occasion, taken me to some dark places that I’m not sure I want to revisit.
Overall, however, it has been a great adventure. On my worst days, I sit and stare at a blank page; on my best, the words pour out of me and I can’t wait to find out what happens.
When you are not reading books related to your own works, what do you like to read?
I’m a big fan of science fiction -- Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen R. Donaldson, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Greg Bear, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman (I could go on). When I was young, I always imagined that I would compose science fiction/fantasy. When I sat down to write, however, I discovered I don’t have the imagination required.
After a 25-year career in crisis management and public affairs, J. Boyce Gleason began writing historical fiction and is publishing his first novel ANVIL OF GOD, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles. With an AB in history from Dartmouth College, Gleason brings a strong understanding of the past to his historical fiction. He is married, has three sons and lives in Virginia.
You can visit his website for additional information.
I also have a giveaway to offer of one paperback copy of Anvil of God to a US resident. The giveaway will remain open until November 17th. Simply complete entries in the Rafflecopter below. Good luck.
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