Guest: Bestselling Author C.W. Gortner

Posted by Heather on Jul 16, 2012 in GUEST POSTS |

Today, please welcome C.W. Gortner to Between the Sheets.  He is the bestselling author of several novels, including his latest  that was released this summer titled THE QUEEN’S VOW. C.W.’s gripping new novel follows young Isabella of Castile’s dramatic ascent to power, as she transforms from the defiant passionate daughter of an exiled widow into the famed warrior-queen who irrevocably changed the future of Spain and the world.

We’re thrilled to have you, Christopher! And now a few questions from your fans.


Why do you write about strong women from the past? Are there any intriguing men that pique your interest?

In Spain, I grew up around strong women in my family. I listened to their conversations, overheard their secrets; I was always underfoot in the kitchen when they sat down to smoke, drink coffee and gossip. I also grew up hearing stories of strong queens, like Isabella of Castile, whose ruined summer castle was near my house, and her daughter, Juana, who is legendary in Spain. I always asked questions about them, always wanted to know more. In school, I read history constantly: I was introduced through my reading to Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Lucrezia Borgia. These women, who had so few freedoms compared to today, who strived to survive in a male-dominated world – they fascinated me. When I started writing historical fiction, it just seemed natural to explore their stories. There are definitely also strong men who intrigue me, too; unfortunately, thus far the market has not proved as receptive to men as lead subjects in historical novels. I’m hoping that will change.

 If there is one place you could visit during the Renaissance, where would it be?

Oh, that’s a tough question. There are so many places I’d love to see! I would definitely want to visit Leonardo da Vinci’s studio in Florence and be one of his apprentice painters. Or just clean his brushes. He is one of those men in history who fascinate me.

When you’re slogging through revisions is there a favorite vice or reprieve that gets you through?

I actually don’t slog through revisions: I like them. Is that odd? Refining a book is always the fun part for me; it’s getting out the first rough draft that slays me. To get through it, I love to watch movies at night, to refresh my imagination. I’m also an avid tea drinker and addicted to dark chocolate. Book shopping always lifts my spirits, too. So do expensive shoes.


Do you have a critique partner or group, or do you run solo?

I used to have a wonderful critique group that I went to for years but the leader passed away and we never re-grouped. Now, I run solo. Well, let me re-phrase that: I have my agent, her assistant, and two editors, so I actually get plenty of feedback!


What would you say is the single most effective marketing tool for writers?

Writing the very best book you can.  These days, there are so-called “easy” options for writers. Alternative publishing is exploding; the obstacles to becoming an author are crumbling. I love it that writers have choices, I really do. But in all the hype and tearing down of walls, we forget that writers also need editors. Nothing I’ve written that I thought was good was really as good as it ended up being after my editor took a red pen to it. And not just any editor: we need professionals who know the market; who’ve edited other authors; who respect craft and how books are sold and keep a pulse on the readership. That kind of editorial input can’t be replaced. Yet many writers are forgoing it in the rush to get their work out there into readers’ hands. We’ve become a microwave culture: we want it all now. Impatience is a writer’s worst foe (after bad grammar). You cannot get around it: Writing is re-writing. The very best book requires it.


Do you have any advice for newbie writers?

What I said above, plus learn about the market. Know who your reader is, to the best of your abilities. You don’t have to be a slave to trends but realize who you hope to appeal to and how you’re going to reach them. These days, getting an agent is tough and finding a publisher is tougher.

For Historical fiction writers in particular?

With historical fiction, bring a fresh perspective and unique angle; it’s getting more challenging than ever. The genre is popular; subjects are being overwritten; while conversely, publishers prefer the tried-and-true to a certain extent. It’s a delicate balance between appealing to a proven marketplace while presenting a story that readers haven’t heard a hundred times before. Perseverance is key, too; it’s important to remember when the going gets rough that most writers experience years of failure before they find success.


Thank you for joining us today, Christopher.



C.W. Gortner is the bestselling author of four novels, including his most recent, THE QUEEN’S VOW.  His books are published in 14 languages. He travels extensively to research and is always available to chat with book groups. You can read more about him on his website:

To find out more about him and his work, please visit



Arabella Stokes
Jul 16, 2012 at 9:37 am

Great interview – and it sounds like a fascinating book. I’ve always been a Catherine of aaragon fan, and I think her Mother’s strength was her model on withstanding all that Henry did to her. I’ll definitely put this one into my TBR list.

Julianne Douglas
Jul 16, 2012 at 11:22 am

Thanks for all the great advice! (And another amazing novel. :) )

Janet B Taylor
Jul 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Mr. Gortner,
I was mesmerized by The Queen’s Vow- Couldn’t put it down- and that’s often rare in historical fiction. Reading this book–even obviously knowing the outcome–I worried about Isabel. I hurt for her. I rejoiced for her. Again, an unusual quality in this genre. That’s because your writing offers up these women’s souls for us to examine. It’s a joy to read your work.

C.W. Gortner
Jul 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thank you, Heather, for this terrific interview; I had fun answering these questions. And thank you to all who commented; it’s so lovely to hear. I do hope Heather’s readers enjoy THE QUEEN’S VOW.

Susan Spann
Jul 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Thank you for giving this interview – and Heather, thank you for hosting it! It’s great to hear an established author’s advice and thoughts on writing and on the importance of knowing the business side as well as writing. Bringing a new perspective is also so, so important – as an author and a reader, I always appreciate hearing something new!

Marci Jefferson
Jul 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one from CW Gortner since he talked about it last year at the Historical Novel Society in San Diego…must get my hands on it asap! Wonderful interview!

D. D. Falvo
Jul 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with your viewpoint regarding editors. There is a terrible lack of good editing in many current books, especially in those by beloved authors whose popularity gives them the clout to say no.

I look forward to reading your new book and wish you much continued success. :)

Candie L Campbell (@candiecampbell)
Jul 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Awesome interview! Thank you both.

Mr. Gortner, thank you for this “Writing is re-writing” I just started a huge rewrite and I’ve been chanting it all day. Your little words of brilliance may save a character I truly love.

C. C. Cedras
Jul 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I’m really looking forward to “A Queen’s Vow”, Christopher! Thank you for your wisdom and guidance for writers — even though my collaborators and I are all obsessive about editing our own and each others’ work, I’ve been thinking that it’s worthwhile to pay for the services of an independent editor before we e-publish our novel(s).

Leah Weller
Jul 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm

The Queen’s Vow just went onto my “To buy” list. I could feel your passion for the history in this interview. Thank you for taking the time to let us get to know you a little better. :)

Jackie Buxton
Jul 30, 2012 at 2:06 am

Great interview! I was intrigued as to why a male writer would choose female protagonists from the past and loved your personal reasons, Mr Gortner! Thanks also for the thoughtful comment on marketing, or rather, editing. I have been so disappointed by some (not all!) self-published novels by writers I’ve met in writers’ groups where I’ve been previously so impressed with their ability. It isn’t that they suddenly can’t write but that they haven’t recognised that EVERY writer needs an editor. We cannot possibly spot everything, nor can we ever really know how our words jump off the page to those not inside our heads.



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