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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘The Tuscan Child’
In Conversation With Author Rhys Bowen

My thanks go out to the lovely Katie Olsen from ‘Little Bird Publicity‘, who organised for me to read this intriguing and interesting sounding book and who arranged for me to ‘meet’ with author Rhys Bowen as part of the promotional tour for ‘The Tuscan Child’.

So, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Rhys…

Hi! My Name Is RHYS BOWEN

Image Of Author Rhys BowenI was born in Bath, England, of a family that was half Welsh, half English. I was educated at London University and then began my career with the BBC, where I became a drama studio manager.

The British climate forced me to escape to Australia, where I worked for Australian Broadcasting before meeting my future husband, a fellow Brit who was on his way to California, which is where I settled, raised my family and have lived ever since, although I now spend my winters in Arizona.

My books have made bestseller lists, garnered many awards, nominations, and starred reviews. I am a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards and have been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel.

When I am not writing, I also love to travel, sing, sketch, hike and play my Celtic harp.

Keep up with all the latest news on my website

Connect with me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

THE TUSCAN CHILD‘ is my latest stand alone novel

Cover Image Of 'The Tuscan Child' By Rhys BowenIn 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

Image Of Author Rhys Bowen

IN CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR RHYS BOWEN

Q: This novel takes place in both the 1940s, where readers get glimpses of Hugo Langley’s experience as a soldier in World War II, and the 1970s, where we follow Hugo’s daughter Joanna as she tries to unpack the mystery of her father’s life. Where did you get the idea for this two-part, multigenerational narrative, and how did you go about balancing the narrative between the two difference eras?

A: I have always loved books that take place in multiple time periods, but this was a challenge for me, as I’d never tried to write that kind of story myself. But I’d been dying to write about Tuscany, where I was writer-in-residence last summer and will be again next summer. So the place is already special to me, and I thought it would be fun to write a mystery about what happened to Joanna’s father in WWII.

As to balancing the narratives: I wrote Hugo’s story first, then Joanna’s story. Then I physically placed the chapters in Joanna’s story all the way down my hallway and decided where to slot in Hugo’s chapters. It worked well!

In fact it is Hugo’s story which opens the book, so here are the opening lines which ‘Fiction Books’ shared in ‘Book Beginnings On Friday’

Cover Image Of 'The Tuscan Child' By Rhys BowenHUGO – December 1944

He was going to die, that was quite obvious. Hugo Langley tried to examine this fact dispassionately.

The left wing of the Blenheim bomber was on fire and flames licked at the cabin. Behind him, his navigator, Flight Lieutenant Phipps, lay slumped forward over his instruments. A trickle of blood ran down one side of his face, seeping from under his flight helmet. And Gunner Blackburn was already dead, shot in the rear gun bay by the first wave of Messerschmitts.

Hugo wasn’t sure whether he himself had been hit. Adrenaline was still pumping so violently through his system that it was hard to tell. He stared down at his blood-spattered trousers, wondering if the blood was his own or came from Phipps.

..

Q: Joanna is a wonderful female protagonist. What was your inspiration for her character, and how does she differ from some of your other leading ladies?

A:  Some of my leading ladies have been feisty and had great support groups. Joanna is different in that she’s more vulnerable: she has grown up without a mother, in a difficult environment, and we meet her at a low point in her life. So the challenge was not to make her a victim but to allow her to rise and triumph through her own efforts.

..

Q: Much of this book takes place in Tuscany in the 1940s and 1970s — what kind of research did you have to do to write about this area and those time periods authentically? Did you travel to Italy while doing research for the novel and if so, what did that involve?

Image Of A Valley In Tuscany - Source Wikipedia

A: I’ve been to Tuscany several times, starting when I travelled with my aunt first in my teens, then my 20s. So I had actually been in Italy around the time Joanna visited. I stayed with my husband in my college friend’s flat near Cortona one year and played at being an Italian housewife (which worked well until I went to the butcher to order a chicken, and I got the whole bird, including head and feet!) And as I mentioned, I was writer-in-residence conducting a workshop in Chianti last year. The professor who runs the workshop is from an old Tuscan family, so I used him to check my facts.

As for getting everything right about WWII, I stayed with other college friends in Lincolnshire and visited WWII airbases that are now museums. I looked at planes, parachutes, letters home, helmets, and flight suits, and I met experts who told me more than I actually needed to know about the Blenheim Bomber (experts are always keen to share their subject!).

..

Q: Your last novel, In Farleigh Field, also focused on World War II. What do you find so fascinating about that period in history, and why do you think it makes for such a rich setting for writers of historical fiction?

A: I have always found the era fascinating, I suppose because I was born in the middle of it and my family had to endure it. I grew up with tales of bombings, of my father’s experiences in Egypt with the Eighth Army, and I was always impressed with how matter-of-fact the stories were. People were so brave and took it for granted that they should do “their bit” to win the war, whatever it took.

I think it resonates with readers particularly now that we are going through a troubled time. Many people feel insecure, and we don’t know where our world is heading. So it’s comforting to read about a period when the good guys did win!

IN FARLEIGH FIELD

Cover Image of 'In Farleigh Field' By Rhys BowenWorld War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

..

Q: While this book is part historical fiction, it also involves a mystery and a long-buried family secret. What do you most enjoy about blending genres like mystery and historical fiction, and why do you think they pair together so well?

A: History and mystery are a perfect blend! Think of the foggy streets of old London, misty castles, the terrific motives for murder: “I love another, but I am not free!” In this case we have the heightened drama of war: small human interpersonal conflict against the background of world conflict.  The stakes couldn’t be higher.

..

Q: When people think about World War II, they often think about it in terms of what happened in Britain, Germany, or France. Italy, on the other hand, is often considered the forgotten front of WWII — what made you want to write a novel that dealt with WWII Italy in particular?

A: I remember visiting a small town that had a memorial to the townspeople massacred by the Germans for hiding partisans. A whole town gunned down! That stuck with me.  And I think we tend to forget that Italy suffered twice. Under Mussolini they were sent to fight in Africa and were invaded by the Allies, and then when the population turned and refused to help the Germans, they were literally starved to death and had awful punishments inflicted upon them, while their towns were bombed by the Allies.

..

Q: We have to ask — what are you working on next?

A: In the New Year I begin yet another stand-alone novel for Lake Union. This one is not about WWII but about WWI. It’s about a young woman who becomes a land girl, against the wishes of her parents, and about a group of women who have to adapt and take over men’s jobs after their husbands and sons are killed on the front. Its title at the moment (which might change) is The Healing Garden.

Image Of Author Rhys Bowen

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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6 comments
  • An interesting post from a very interesting author! I love the visual image I was given on how the two stories (past and present) came together. 🙂 I’ve admired the cover each time the book has been featured here and I may well have to add it to my wish list!

    Honestly, when WWII is mentioned, I think of the Pacific Theater as quickly as Europe since that’s where my father served…. but will admit I don’t know much about the war in Italy. (which is part of the appeal of this book)

    Thanks for a great guest post, and thanks for hosting, Yvonne.

    • Hi Kelly,

      I remember bits and pieces about Italy’s role in the war, but only from my school history classes, so I am definitely in need of some additional education on the subject. I have never visited Italy either, although hubbie used to have business dealings there on a regular basis and had a base office in Milan, so knows quite a few different areas and landscapes of the country.

      I really like the idea that this story is set in two different decades and that Rhys has personal travel experience to the area, which in some ways mirrors that story telling. She obviously sets great store on carrying out thorough and comprehensive research of her facts and ideas, to make sure that everything hangs together nicely – even if that does involve a good long hallway floor space!

      Thanks as ever for engaging with the author guest posts, I always look forward to reading your comments 🙂

    • Hi Nikki,

      Yes! I remember your love of writing and receiving letters – almost a dying art these days, except for real enthusiasts like yourself – and, I might add, myself.

      I read a BBC report recently, which said that in the very near future, the authorities would be removing handwriting skills and the need to know joined up writing, from the school syllabus. They anticipate that going forwards, there would only be the necessity for children to need to know how to form basic individual letters and master rudimentary spelling!

      As there are so many story lines which feature hidden and secret letters, I wonder what these premises will hold in the future … secret text speak emails printed on paper which fades with time … memory cards which will be obsolete and unusable by the time they are discovered? – It doesn’t bear thinking about and I am pleased that hopefully I shan’t be around to find out!!

      Thanks for the comment, I know I took it a little off track, but it does give me food for thought 🙂

  • Thank you both for the wonderful post! The Tuscan Child sounds very good and I agree history and mystery are a perfect mix.
    Tuscany must be so beautiful. It’s funny about the butcher/ chicken story. It reminds me of my grandmother. When I was little I’d go with her to the butcher and she’d bring home a chicken as well, but she’d butcher it at home. It sounds rough, especially since you could just buy a packet of chicken at the store, but she was old school and she made the best chicken soup!
    I hope you both have a nice weekend.

    • I’m afraid that my meat and fish only ever comes prepared and packaged from the supermarket. If anything more than that was required, then I’m afraid we would both be going vegetarian!

      I can always remember as a child, my father bringing home a whole chicken for Christmas dinner (it was already dead I hasten to add). By the time he had plucked and gutted it, the rest of us were all so upset and feeeling sick, that we just couldn’t eat the meal!

      I am really looking forward to reading this book, as like yourself, the mix of history and mystery is very enticing and I am also hoping for a large dollop of social history, just to wash the story down.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, the picture of your grandmother butchering a chicken at home, is lodged firmly in my mind 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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