Today I am very excited to welcome L C Tyler to the Blog in celebration of the publication of his second John Grey historical novel 'A Masterpiece of Corruption', which is Published TODAAAAY. The novel takes us back to 1657 where lawyer John Grey receives a mysterious invitation leading him to a mysterious meeting where he gets caught up in a conspiracy if lies, corruption and a plot to kill the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell! Its a great way to get your history buzz going in the new year and you can check out our full review of the novel HERE.
And without further a do....
First up something visual (and something I've really enjoyed seeing from different authors)...can you share with is a picture of where you like to write?
What is your research process like?
I knew a bit about the seventeenth century before I started but, of course, the more you read the more you discover you don’t know. In this case, I did a lot of general background reading on the period before I started book one in the series – how they lived, what they wore, what they ate, what they believed. Then as the story progressed I went back and looked at specific topics as required by the plot. The simple premise that somebody in the story had had their estate sequestrated by Parliament, for example, meant going back and finding out how estates were sequestrated and how this differed from simple confiscation. I was briefly quite an expert in the process, but I think that in the end it resulted in a single reference to the topic, then the plot moved on to other things! Just as well perhaps – you can dwell too much on obscure detail that is of interest to nobody but yourself. In additional to reading of course I’ve tried to visit houses of the period, look at the weapons, cooking pots, surviving costumes and so on. The problem with research is not it never quite ends …
Can you share with us some of the more interesting or strangest facts you’ve uncovered whilst writing these books?
One of the many myths about early modern times is that nobody drank water. Then you read Pepys and he’s drinking it all the time.
How do you go about writing a character like Cromwell that is so well historically known.
A bit of research and a bit of imagination! He wasn’t the rather grim figure that many people assume. He rather enjoyed practical jokes and had a nice line in irony. Generally, with Cromwell and other real figures you include on the book, you take what you can find, preferably from contemporary sources, and extrapolate. Powerful men of any period have a lot in common. One mistake that you should not make however is to assume in doing this that your character was simply a twenty first century man plonked down in the seventeenth century. What he or she believed about God or witchcraft or democracy would have been shaped by their own time. They’d probably think our own beliefs on a lot of things were odd, verging on the blasphemous.
What is it about this period that appeals to you and that still appeals to people?
It was a time of remarkable contrasts – the moral certainties of the republican period set against the laxity in every respect of the Restoration, the burgeoning of scientific enquiry set against the persecution of witches, a society in transition. And some of the strangest men’s fashion ever – wigs, ribbons, petticoat breeches – it had the lot.
How important is it to maintain a balance of historical fact and historical fiction?
I think you can go for whatever balance you like, but the reader has to know what is real and what you’ve made up. If you have a framework of real events, real people, then they have to be as true as you can make them.
Who was your favourite character to write?
Probably Samuel Morland, John Thurloe’s scheming deputy. He was a smooth operator and, though he is remembered mainly for his part in running Cromwell’s spy network, he was a notable scientist and inventor. But he did not make himself popular. Pepys wrote of him at the time of the Resoration: ‘Mr Moreland, now Sir Samuel, was here on board, but I do not find that my Lord or any body did give him any respect, he being looked upon by him and all men as a knave.’
If you could have dinner with one historical character who would it be?
Lady Castlemaine, King Charles’s mistress. Pepys was fascinated by her. And she’d have plenty of stories to tell!
If you were able to go back to one period of time, where would you go and why?
Probably to the seventeenth century so that I could check a few of my facts!
What next can we expect from John Grey?
The first two books in the series have the young John Grey, just down from Cambridge and frankly a little too naïve and trusting for his own good. The next in the series will be
set in 1665, the year of the Great Plague. Grey is a little older and a little wiser, and is starting to develop a profitable law practice. But Lord Arlington, the new royalist head of intelligence, has a job that he thinks may interest him …
We have one copy of A masterpiece of corruption to give away. To enter comment below amd let us know which historical figure YOU would have round for dinner and why.