Monday, May 4, 2009

Why I Love Writing About the Renaissance

C W Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, which is being released in paperback on May 5. We are very pleased to be the first stop on his blog tour to celebrate that release.

The Renaissance was a brutal, splendid, quixotic era. The art, music, architecture, and people who populated this diverse time have enthralled me since childhood. Whether it’s a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the terrors of Henry VIII; Juana of Castile’s haunting struggle, or the opalescent chateaux of Fran├žois I, if it took place in the Renaissance I’m hooked.

Writing about the Renaissance isn’t something I chose; I actually feel as if it found me. Growing up in southern Spain during the final years of Franco’s reign, television was not a significant element of my life (we had few channels and sparse programming). Books, on the other hand, abounded in my world, and many of those books were about people who lived, fought, loved and died in the Renaissance. I grew up with Elizabeth I declaring she had the stomach of a king; with Queen Isabel’s crusade to unite Spain; Catherine de Medici and her mad sons; the Borgia princes, the Este sisters, Imperial Habsburgs, Martin Luther, the popes, the revolts of the Low Countries, and the narcissistic Valois. These people and events became as familiar to me as my own history; their vicissitudes and triumphs as real as anything going on around me. As a boy, I’d read about them and find out reading wasn’t enough: I wanted to embody their personas, live as they did. The abyss of the centuries separating us seemed to dissolve when I wrote; and thus writing became my time machine for traveling into the past. Once I started, I never wanted to stop.

Renaissance life could be incredibly opulent and incredibly cruel. Death was always a threat; but unlike people of today, the Renaissance seemed much more aware of it and thus lived all the more for it. Today, we have forgotten or neglected on many levels our vital link to nature, our part in a scheme that is much larger than us. The Renaissance re-discovered the paganism and wisdom of the ancient world and reshaped it for a time that was awakening from the shackles of medieval repression; and its celebration of the world’s beauty, of life and nature and all its gifts, infused its people with a robust vitality. Writing about their lives and their world requires dedicated research in order for me to bring this complex time alive, but the effort is always worth it. I don’t share or condone many of the Renaissance’s more unsavory aspects, such as the oppression of women and gay people, the cruelty to animals and religious fervor, the classicism, prejudices, xenophobia, warfare and racism that are all part of the time; but I do celebrate its incredible achievements, for it was a time whose beauty and contradictions will never be seen again.

Check back here over the next few days for further information, and at the following stops on his blog tour over the next few weeks:

Monday, May 4, '09 - Historical Tapestry
Tuesday, May 5, '09
- A Bookish Mom
Tuesday, May5, '09 - The Burton Review
Wednesday, May 6, '09 - A Bookish Mom
Wednesday, May 6, 09 - Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 7, '09 - Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, May 8, '09 - Savvy Verse & Wit

Monday, May 11, '09 - Ramya's Bookshelf
Tuesday, May 12, '09 - A Girl Walks into a Bookstore

Wednesday, May 13, '09 - Introducing Writers! Radio Show Podcast with Kim Smith
Wednesday, May 13, '09 - Medieval Bookworm
Thursday, May 14, '09 - Jo-Jo Loves to Read
Friday, May 15, '09 - Bookgirl's Nightstand
Friday, May 15, '09 - Medieval Bookworm
Monday, May 18, '09 - Jenn's Bookshelf
Monday, May 18, '09 - Jo-Jo Loves to Read
Tuesday, May 19, '09
- Sam's Book Blog
Tuesday, May 19, '09 - The Bluestocking Society
Wednesday, May 20, '09 - Popin's Lair
Wednesday, May 20, '09 - The Epic Rat
Thursday, May 21, '09 - Marta's Meanderings
Thursday, May 21, '09 - The Epic Rat
Friday, May 22, '09 - The Book Connection
Monday, May 25, '09 - Book Addiction
Tuesday, May 26, '09 - The Book Faery Reviews
Wednesday, May 27, '09
- Cafe of Dreams
Thursday, May 28 - Cafe of Dreams
Friday, May 29 - A Book Lover


  1. This. Man. Can. Write. One of my reviewers emailed me last night telling me that book is GOOD. I have no reason to doubt it. Christopher, you're just a marvelous human being and a gifted writer. Great guest post. And, Marg, thank you so much for hosting him on his virtual book tour today!

  2. :)to Dorothy.. I love how you put that.. He definitely has a gift with his words, and such a fascinating subject as well; I loved this book!
    I am so happy that the tour has finally started.. I am going to be following along to each stop. My review posts later today and then he has an awesome guest post scheduled for tomorrow!

    Thanks for posting all the Blog Tour links, I'll have them up on the Gues Post tomorrow as well.

  3. Excellent guest post, Christopher. I just finished The Last Queen yesterday and oh, it was so wonderfully moving, tragic, and eloquent. I'll let you know when I post my review.

    All my best,


  4. I have got to find some time to read The Last Queen. So many good books out there and so little time to read. Great guest post.

  5. I tried to get into this book tour a little too late and missed my chance to read The Last Queen. It sounds so wonderful. The Renaissance is, without a doubt, a wonderful and contradicting mixture. But it's so, so beautiful.


  6. Thank you to all for your warm comments and praise, and thank you to Marg for hosting me! This is a wonderful blog and a terrific way to start my web tour. Visiting blogs is always great fun for me.

    Valorie, I'm sorry we missed you. I'll keep you in mind for 2010 when I tour with Catherine de Medici. In the meantime, I do hope you'll get a chance to read The Last Queen.

  7. Thanks for the guest post CW, and thank you to everyone who stopped by and left a comment.

  8. Thank you for this guest post. I'd read about life in Spain under Franco and I found CW Gortner's description of his world growing up particularly interesting.

    This sounds like a fabulous book - now in the TBR pile!