26 August 2012

Guest Blog: Ginger Myrick

This week, we’re welcoming historical romance author Ginger Myrick, whose novel El REY, is a 16th century story of love set in the Iberian Peninsula. Ginger is here to talk about the novel and offer a copy to a lucky winner. Leave your comment with an email address for a chance to win. Here's the blurb:

Winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012 from a field of worldwide submissions, the soul-stirring novelette, The Converso: A Tale From Renaissance Iberia, was adapted from a chapter in this stunning work of historical fiction by Ginger Myrick. Written in the the tradition of classic period romance from such authors as the Bronte sisters, Anya Seton, and Jean Plaidy, and set against the backdrop of 16th century Portugal and Spain at the dawn of the dynamic Age of Exploration, EL REY boasts an inspiring cast of courageous characters that will touch your heart and capture your imagination. At its core is the turbulent love story between Inez García and El Rey.

Inez is the outspoken, independent daughter of a wealthy merchant who fled the Spanish Inquisition and a domineering mother of English noble stock with secrets of her own. At a dinner party in his honor, she falls in love with El Rey, a dashing, charismatic sea captain with a golden voice who has spent his life expanding the Portuguese empire. He is nephew of the King of Portugal with blood ties to the illustrious royal houses of Castile’s Queen Isabella and England’s King Henry VIII.

Inez and El Rey strike up an immediate friendship and discover that they have much in common. Inez has spent her childhood in the shadow of her beautiful elder sister, Serafina, so when El Rey befriends her based on her own merits, she vows that she will never love another. Captivated by her spirited charm and mesmerized by her bewitching silver and gold eyes, El Rey promises to one day return and ask for Inez’s hand in marriage. Though misfortune, class prejudice, and El Rey’s foolish pride conspire to keep them apart, life’s disappointments only make Inez more determined to seek out the elusive happiness in which she has never stopped believing.

But it is much, much more than just a love story.

EL REY is a sweeping family saga worthy of Colleen McCullough or James Michener. Interwoven in the main body of the work are four meticulously researched narratives representative of the time. Spanning three continents and two centuries in the history of the warring kingdoms of medieval Portugal and Castile, the vignettes chronicle the heroic struggles of three families to overcome racial discrimination, murder, plague, war, and the Spanish Inquisition. Filled with food and travel, and tempered with humor, tenderness, and tragedy, this intriguing story tells the timeless tale of the triumph of true love and the resilience of the human spirit.

EL REY has something in it for everyone. You will laugh, and you will cry. No one who reads this book will remain unaffected.

**Q&A with Ginger Myrick**

What inspired your story?

I was exploring an idea for a short story about a Welsh girl growing up during the reign of King Henry V of England. I had spent the day scouring old folklore books, because I wanted to add an element of magic to her tale. I needed a break, so I turned on the computer to search for a new recipe or knitting pattern. I found myself reading some posts about my old favorite, Katherine by Anya Seton. I have always had a keen fascination with the Plantagenets, and this time John of Gaunt’s bid for the Castilian crown struck my fancy. After contemplating the relationship between England, Castile, and Portugal—the Portuguese lent their support to John, resulting in the marriage of his oldest daughter, Philippa, to King Joao I—the entire storyline for EL REY flashed into my mind in what I can only call ‘Divine Inspiration’. It took a couple of days to pinpoint a suitable location and significant events that fit the setting, but for the most part, the story flowed out of me more or less in its finished form. The biggest challenge was finding the time to write it all down.

What do you think about the label “unusual”?
I suppose that because the whole idea of writing a novel seemed so foreign to me, that the rarity of the setting was not enough to warrant notice. I was warned at the outset of this venture that anything outside of the accepted Britain, France, and sometimes Italy would be a hard sell, but it’s not like I wrote the book in Portuguese or Spanish! The thrones of Portugal and Spain have ever been entwined with those of England and France. Beyond that, there is enough in El Rey that is relatable and familiar. The love of a mother for her child, a wife for her husband, sibling rivalry, for anyone who has ever loved an animal or had a childhood crush on a movie actor or rockstar—these themes are timeless and universal and transcend any gap of language or setting.

El Rey is a love story. Why is it not classified as historical romance?
El Rey is more a work of historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core than a romance. Part of my intention in writing El Rey was to give a fairly thorough representation of the relationship between the neighboring nations of Castile and Portugal. I did my very best to give a basic understanding of the events of the time, especially the ones that had a lasting impact on the face of our modern world. Of course without the human element it would have been quite dry. After all, the history would have been meaningless if it had had no bearing on people.
But, although I cringe at the classification of romance and the implication of what that label has come to signify, El Rey is a love story. I am a Christian, and I hope to show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion. I very much like the classification coined by a fellow author, Emery Lee—romantic historical fiction—and I use it on my website.

Which historical events are touched upon in El Rey?
On the Portuguese side I cover Vasco da Gama’s first and final voyages to India, discovery of China, occupation of Northern Africa in effort to subdue the Moors, the executions of the Dukes of Braganza and Viseu, and Portuguese settlement of the Azores. On the Castilian side are the continual pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the Castilian Inquisition, and the Wars of Succession between the two nations. These are all subjects that I explore. It may sound like a lot, but believe it or not, there was so much history that occurred during the 200-year period covered by El Rey that I struggled to contain the story to only these events.

A story from your book took first place in a literary contest. Tell us about that.
From the very beginning El Rey cried out to be translated into Portuguese and Spanish, but at over 500 pages the cost is prohibitive. I submitted an 11,000-word section from El Rey to the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012. It is a story about a family of conversos who escape from the Inquisition. Out of a field of worldwide submissions THE CONVERSO won first prize, which was translation of the story into Spanish and a professional book cover. At the very least, potential readers will know that my writing has some merit.

How have you handled the lukewarm reception of your unusual setting?
Sometimes when I watch my sales ranking tumble or see a mediocre review of El Rey, I look around me and see the blessings that abound in my life. When I cook a big family meal and my loved ones are all lying around the living room digesting their food while a roaring fire blazes in the fireplace, or when my cat, whom we affectionately but fittingly call Mr. Stinkerpuss, climbs up behind me in my computer chair, or when I head out to the backyard to play catch with my eager, scruffy-faced puppy—I often find myself asking, “Do I really need anything more than this to be happy?” Of course the answer is no, but if any of you ladies were interested in reading my book, that would be nice, too!

What is your current work in progress?
I am currently working on the story that I was researching when the inspiration struck for El Rey. It is another work of historical fiction, also a love story, tentatively titled The Welsh Healer. It takes place in 15th century England and is about a young girl who comes from a long line of healers. She is the fulfillment of a prophecy and is destined to eventually preserve the Tudor bloodline. It covers the time period from the reign of Richard II through Henry V, from the Welsh rebellion through the conclusion of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses.

Thank you, Ginger, and best of luck with El Rey.