Sunday, 8 May 2011

Author interview with Theresa Breslin

Theresa's historical books are a pleasure to read because they are full of characters making mistakes and having people suffer as a consequence. You can find my review of The Nostradamus Prophecy

here. Theresa's latest book, The Prisoner of the Inquisition first came out last year (click on the title for the review) (this is the cover for the latest edition) 

Theresa has kindly answered a few questions, so let's get started on them! 

1) Normally when spoilt little rich girls make a mistake, it's very minor and can be fixed. Zarita's mistake wasn't so little, and cost someone their life, which she has on her shoulders from that point on. Was there a particular reason why you wanted the mistake to be so monumental, or was it an idea that sprang up as you were brainstorming about the book?

Most times when we're growing up and we makes mistakes they can be fixed. But when you get older and parents, teachers, and mentors are not there and teenagers can find themselves in a situation where they make a wrong decision. It's not because they're being particularly bad, they might get caught up in the moment, or not have the chance or the time to think things through. And then they have to live with the consequences of their actions. Sometimes as you say it's trivial but sometimes very serious, as in what's happened recently, someone seriously injured during the student demonstrations riots, a tragedy at a party etc etc  Most of my books for young adults deal with the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. It doesn't really matter when or where these books are set that central theme reflects real life for all of us as we life those life changing years. So it came to me that it would be a good way to start the book with the one major incident that shatters the old life and starts the two young people on that journey.  

2) Prisoner of the Inquisition explores character flaws in both Zarita and Saulo. Neither of the flaws are minor little things. However, they are forgiveable flaws whereas the evil surrounding Father Besian can't be excused. He really is a psycho. Had you intended to make him so vile and cruel or did it develop from the punishments of that time period? If he had been a fraction kinder at times, would this have changed his role in the book? 

Among other things the book is about belief which can be powerful and dangerous. I think every cause attracts "psychos" but I think these type of people would be like that anyway. They just find a convenient outlet for these inhuman emotions to vent. It's a big problem because I think it can be good to be passionate about something - for instance I'm passionate about  libraries and their value to the community- but if one starts to forget that every human deserves respect then no matter the justice of the cause it can lead to bad outcomes. Having read up extensively about the subject and that time in history I felt the story needed a character like that but I honestly think that he thought he was doing the right thing, and in fact actually being kind. In those days for many people the belief in God was absolute and one's reward in the afterlife was completely dependent on what one did on this earth. There are actual quotes saying that it was better to suffer a terrible death to mitigate suffering after death. It's seems astonishing to us but all of this takes place against a backdrop of everyday extreme violence and even in the UK execution for petty crimes was carried out into the late nineteenth century.     

 3) One element I really enjoyed was having the history of Christopher Columbus coincide with Zarita and Saulo's life. Initially when I thought about it, that story line felt a bit odd that amongst the horrendous trials there was this explorer wanting to go on adventures. When you first got the ideas for the story, had you planned to include Christopher or was he a character that developed on his own?

I wanted him there from the beginning as a key element because the exploration and reaching out that began at that time in Europe and developed into the Renaissance was not just physical exploration but mental too. And so Columbus is essential to point up what was happening away from power grabs and battlefields. He's there to show literally and figuratively what was developing in people's minds.  
4) An easier question now: what do you like to eat and drink while you are writing?

Water, fruit and ( very appropriately ) crackers

5) Are you able to reveal what your next project is, and which time era it will be looking at? 

Well, I've been looking at significant woman in history. Lucrezia Borgia in The Medici Seal (Italy) Catherine de' Medici in The Nostradamus Prophecy, (France)  Isabella of Castile inPrisoner of the Inquisition (Spain).  I'm Scottish and there was a certain tragic Scottish Queen.... 

Thank you Theresa - you're a role model when it comes to writing snacks!  Will be keeping an eye out for your next book. 

You can learn more about the book and Theresa on her website.

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