Saturday, April 13, 2024

Q&A with J. Boyce Gleason



J. Boyce Gleason is the author of The Carolingian Chronicles series. He spent 25 years in the field of crisis management and public affairs, and he lives in Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write The Carolingian Chronicles?

A: I had studied the epic poem “The Song of Roland” in college and had often thought that if I ever wrote a book, it would be about Charlemagne and his greatest knight. I felt that it was an underserved story and period in history. 


Q: Did you know from the beginning that you’d be writing a series?


A: No, I just started writing and when I was about a third of the way through the story, my editor asked when Charlemagne was due to appear.  I told him “Not for a while."  


He laughed and said, “You’re going to have to wrap up this portion soon.  No one will print a 600-page novel.” 


I realized that ending the first book at that point had a lot of advantages (some characters were due to be less central to the plot moving forward) so I ended it. At that point, I knew it would take three books to tell the whole tale. And in the end, I didn’t even get to Roland’s part of the story.

Q: How did you research the books, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I found several great books on the period (which is not well-documented) and chose one whose version of the history is the most comprehensive. That said, other sources played a big role and I often had to choose between different versions of the events as they were recorded.


What surprised me was that I couldn’t find a starting point for the novel. I kept moving backward in time, hoping to find a compelling story on which to hang the book. 


I eventually found it a generation before Charlemagne was born when the great Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) was dying. 


Charles's daughter fled his court in the middle of the night to escape an arranged marriage and traveled halfway across the continent for the love of one of his enemies. It was considered the scandal of the eighth century. 


Once I read that, I knew I had my hook for the story. Everything flowed from there.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the series?


A: Most of all, I hope they’re entertained. It’s a compelling story of love, honor, sacrifice, and betrayal. And while there is plenty of war and politics, the story is really about the struggles of a family dealing with an impossible dilemma.  


Readers should also come away with a better knowledge of the period which is very relevant to why our world exists the way it does today.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just finished a story on young Ben Franklin and four critical years that shaped him into the man he was destined to become.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes. I took great care to ensure that the women in the story got equal billing. While the traditional view of that time is that men ruled and women spun thread, I found the premise a little naive. Women have always influenced the course of history and I wanted to portray them in a way where they drove a significant part of the story.


I should also warn readers that this is an adult novel. There are graphic scenes of intimacy as well as violence. They are an integral part of the story and I chose to follow in the steps of some of my favorite authors (Pat Conroy, and John Irving) who don’t let the reader look away.  


One final caution, despite the title (Anvil of God) these books are not about the Christian faith. They do, however, tell the true story of Christianity’s efforts to rid the medieval world of paganism and the moral implications that surround it…a very different story.


I hope your readers will pick up a copy and give it a try! They won’t be disappointed.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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