Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE TUTOR. Andrea Chapin

I am breathless, having just finished reading this sumptuous novel which as well as giving us a totally new version of Shakespeare the man, it is also a magnificent account of his poetical genius. But is he as wonderful as he appears?

'Since meeting you, dear lady, I have put quill to page every day. I write and write and write.'

Headstrong young widow Katherine de L'Isle lives a comfortable but solitary existence in her uncle's Lancashire home of Lufanwal Hall until events conspire to shatter her tranquillity. First, the family priest is murdered—for his Catholic sympathies—causing her uncle and protector to flee the country. Abandoned by their father figure, the Lufanwal residents struggle to cope and old rivalries fester beneath the surface. Into this midst of this upheaval, there arrives a new schoolmaster from Stratford by the name of William Shakespeare.

Rude, flirtatious and wickedly witty, Will appals Katherine. Yet the discovery of a mutual love of poetry draws them together and Katherine finds she can never stay away from him for long. First she is seduced by his words, then by his passion. Beneath her excitement, Katherine knows that Will already has a wife. She becomes his muse but will she ever be his true love?
Alone, vulnerable and entangled, Katherine is plunged heart and soul into a passion she cannot control. Meanwhile scandal and intrigue are growing around her family: murder, witchcraft, adultery and high treason loom on the horizon. Worst of all, the more she learns of charming young Will Shakespeare, the more it seems that he is not who he claims to be...

Newly published in the UK by Penguin, it has been already been critically acclaimed in the US. So I am honoured and thrilled to welcome an author new to me of a historical novel that has swept me away and ask her about THE TUTOR.

Welcome, Andrea. How does it feel that your novel that has already been published to acclaim in the USA is now being published here in the UK? Confident or apprehensive?
 AC: I feel excited and apprehensive.  A few weeks ago I did a radio spot here—the audience for which is considered high brow - and before the taping, when we were writing the introduction about my book, the producer said, We have to remember that half of these people will have never read or seen Shakespeare.  I may be wrong, but I feel that is not something that would be said in the same situation in the UK.  So, I’m fully aware that with the book launching in the UK I’m in Shakes-country, which is thrilling and yet anxiety producing at the same time.  The good news is, so far, The London Daily Mail called The Tutor, “hugely enjoyable,” “erudite” and “emotionally intelligent,” and the Hello Magazine Literary Loveliness blog described my writing as “brilliant” and said The Tutor has “politics, religion, romance, and literature, so whatever your favourite genre is, chances are this book will appeal.” While I’m still not confident, and maybe that’s my nature, those early reviews have been very encouraging.

William Shakespeare is many things to many people. Your portrayal of him is both eccentric and fascinating. I found myself falling in love with him like Katherine did! How do you see this enigmatic genius? 

AC: I see him as brilliant, extremely ambitious and fairly narcissistic.  I see him as sexy and seductive.  I see him as the type of person who is hard to ignore and who has an intrinsic need to dazzle, then to conquer and finally to feed on those who might be vulnerable to his charms.  In their review, Kirkus Reviews said: “Shakespeare is, ultimately, a sort of emotional vampire. He requires adoration, and he uses women—many women—as raw material for his art. This is an audacious move, but Chapin makes it real, and the scenes in which Katharine defends Will to her doubting lady friends will ring true to any woman who has ever uttered the words, “You just don’t understand him!” I love the way the reviewer brought the dynamic from 1590 right into 2015.  I wanted to convey a type that we all—or let’s say many of us—have fallen for and who in the end may break our hearts.

I love the witty and intelligent conversations about the art of poetry between William and Katherine. Were they as much fun to write as they are to read?

AC: I had so much fun with the conversations between William and Katharine, and to tell you the truth, most of the time I was shocked when they emerged and would ask myself, Where did that come from? They were some of the easiest parts of the book to write, so they come from deep within me.  I was talking to a friend recently about this, and the only thing I could come up with is that I went to very top-notch schools from 9th grade on that had been all-male and had just accepted women, become co-ed, so maybe all of Katharine’s ability to express her wit and intelligence came from my not feeling that I could all those years with the male teachers and classes where I was often the only female.  I didn’t even see it or mind it then, but in retrospect, I see why some women prefer all-women schools until they go to university. 

You clearly know the works of Shakespeare through and through. How much background research did you do? Your love and appreciation of his words shine through this novel so you must have done a great deal. I find myself marvelling your use of 'quotes' of his well known (and even obscure) lines. Tell me about when and how your love for the poet, playwright - and the man himself began.

AC: When I was nine years old, my class at my local community school in New Hampshire put on Macbeth.  I was Lady Macbeth.  We built a theatre-in-the-round in the gymnasium, and we performed an edited version of the play.  We loved it.  I’m an advocate of teaching Shakespeare to children—the earlier the better!  I had seen most of Shakespeare’s plays by the time I started writing The Tutor, but while writing it I immersed myself in his Sonnets—spent months with different editors versions and notes spread out before me.  I felt I needed to get under the poetry, deep into it, to be able to have scenes where they spoke about it, and where Katharine acted as his editor. It was daunting—I took one whole summer with the Sonnets, much of those scenes landed on the cutting room floor, but I had to do it, to attempt to understand and to create his writing process.  And the same goes for his narrative poem Venus and Adonis, that racy, juicy, and delicious poem that Katharine and Shakespeare work on together.  I cut over two hundred pages from my first draft—and in that first draft I had fallen in love with the verse, had gorged on it, put much too much of it in the book.  Same goes for the other poets’ work in the book: Ovid, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser—I had pages and pages of their verse, but had to snip most of it because it got in the way of the pace and the plot.

I have read before that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic. Have you come across  'In Search of Shakespeare,' by Michael Wood, a well-regarded UK historian? What particular historian or Shakespearian scholar research influenced your novel. 

AC: James Shapiro’s excellent non-fiction book, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare is what got me started on this journey.  When I read about Shakespeare’s “lost years” in Shapiro’s book, I was immediately and obsessively drawn to the idea of how the mystery of what Shakespeare was up to during those years would be the perfect territory for a fiction writer.  I did watch Michael Wood’s terrific ‘In Search of Shakespeare.” And I read books by other scholars and writers, including Jonathan Bate, Stephen Greenblatt, Charles Nichols, Peter Ackroyd, Rene Weis, two great short books by Bill Bryson and Frank Kermode, and Germaine Greer’s book, Shakespeare’s Wife.  I found a worn paperback on a friend’s parents’ bookshelf that I love, Shakespeare of London by Marchette Chute, published in 1949.

Your next novel? Can you give us some insight into its subject matter. 

AC: I can.  My next novel is called Lord & Lady Strange—that glamorous, golden real-life couple, who glide in and out of The Tutor, are getting a whole novel for themselves and their three daughters.  In 1590, their life seems near perfect, but just four years later all that comes crashing down, and I’m interested in that fall, and the mystery that still surrounds it today.

Thank you, Andrea. It was a pleasure to 'speak' to you. I wish The Tutor the success it deserves here in the UK. ( The Tutor is available now in paperback and e-book format in the UK, published by Penguin.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Waiting for Spring to finally arrive. I know that most of you already have daffodils brightening up you garden borders and roads but I live in the north east of England. Our daffs have been raring to go for what seems like ages. Their buds are tipped with yellow but will they flower? They. Will. Not. What are they waiting for?

Waiting for the very first stage of the very first Tour de Yorkshire to race 100 yards from our house on May 1st! We're having a bit of a party. I only hope and pray it doesn't rain. Hooray for Rosedale Abbey. If you're watching on TV, don't blink or you'll miss it. Just think of us next week as they finally resurface the main road through the village in anticipation.

So what else am I waiting for? You name it. I'm waiting for everything to happen. The eclipse this morning was pretty amazing. I have no pics because I only caught a quick glimpse of the actual crescent sun but the way the light dimmed to dusk and I felt really weird was something I'll never forget. (I hear the south of England did not really see it. But here there was only wisps of cloud which soon cleared into a very nice day. Yes, the sun does shine in Yorkshire! (Sometimes.)

No, not the moon, but the sun.

Oh and I'm waiting to see whether the partial I submitted to a certain publisher is successful. No name or details as I refuse to tempt fate. I've had too much bad luck lately to face it again.

Sorry. That's it for now. As you can tell, I have no fascinating facts to reveal. But I'm okay. I am merely waiting for things to happen - eventually. And for out phone to be fixed. As we have no mobile signal here, it's a complete pain in the proverbial.


As you've probably realised, my blog has been dormant for far too long - well, it's been a long winter.  Although this blog has b...