This Sunday I have Ian Mortimer/James Forrester over for an interview and you can win his new book Sacred Treason.
1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
I write history as ‘Ian Mortimer’ and fiction as ‘James Forrester’ – the latter being my middle names. I have written eight history books and three novels to date. I am forty-five, talk a lot – mainly but not only about history – don’t have much hair, make up for lack of hair by wearing hats, have three public appointments, three children, four university degrees and seven guitars; hardly ever sit down in front of the TV but work hard, very long hours, and get out as much as I can, whether that be to a bar or friend’s house, or to speak about history publicly, which I love doing.
2. Your new book, Sacred Treason is out now, what is it about?
It’s a story set in 1563 about William Harley, called 'Clarenceux King of Arms', an officer in Elizabeth I’s household. He is a herald – which means he is in charge of who has the right to bear coats of arms. He is also a Catholic – and 1563 is not a good time to be a Catholic, especially not if you are a royal servant. One night he is given a book by an old friend and asked to guard it with his life. Very soon he realises it’s not just an ordinary book. All the said old friend tells Clarenceux is that the fate of two queens depends upon it. The story unfolds around him - as he soon becomes aware people will kill him to get their hands on the book.
3. Have you always been interested in history?
Yes, more than anyone else I have ever met. It comes from sharing a surname with some of the most powerful individuals in English medieval history. I was a history enthusiast by the age of six.
4. What made you chose this period in time to write about?
My PhD is in 16th and 17th social history. But really it is because this was a period of such uncertainty. At a deeper level my book is really about loyalty and betrayal. It is about disloyalty to one’s wife (or infidelity), disloyalty to the state (or treason) and disloyalty to one’s religion (against conscience, heresy or both). To write about these things today, in a modern setting, is hardly earth-shattering. But in the sixteenth century you could be publicly flogged and humiliated for adultery, hanged or beheaded for treason and burnt alive for heresy. That backdrop makes this story just so much more dangerous and challenging.
5. If you could go back to any period in time, which one and why would you chose that place in time?
I don’t have a preferred time. I’d like to meet Shakespeare and see Francis Drake, so I would not complain if someone sent me back to the late 16th century; but I’d also like to meet Byron and Jane Austen (early 19th) and Edward III, Henry IV and Geoffrey Chaucer (14th). Send me back in time and I’ll find someone interesting to talk to!
6. What’s coming next from you?
The full Clarenceux trilogy (of which Sacred Treason is the first) is now complete. The second volume - The Roots of Betrayal - with by published by Sourcebooks in the States next spring. Right now I’m back in Ian Mortimer mode and working on a three-hour-long TV series for the BBC based on my non-fiction book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, which has been a hardback bestseller in the UK. I’m also about to start a history book about change in the western world over the last ten centuries. As for my fourth novel – I'm not sure when I will begin it, but I have a theme in mind, and, sorry, it’s remaining a secret!
And I certainly look forward to the BBC series
1 copy of Sacred Treason
1. Open to US and Canada
2. Ends Nov 11
3. Just go ahead and enter :)