Wednesday, September 26, 2018

King David's Rise to Power

I'm trying out something a little bit different on my blog today. Author Uvi Poznansky has joined me for an interview about her Biblical era David Chronicles. Welcome, Uvi!

~ Samantha


Tell us about The David Chronicles? 

My books are about the story of David in a way you have never heard it before: from the king himself, telling the unofficial version, the one he never allowed his court scribes to recount. In his mind, history is written to praise the victorious—but at the last stretch of his illustrious life, he feels an irresistible urge to tell the truth. 

The series includes three novels about the youth, prime of life, and old age of the king. Rise to Power is an account of David’s early years, leading up to his first coronation. How does he see himself, during this first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives? This is followed by A Peek at Bathsheba, the most torrid tale of passion ever told: David's forbidden love for Bathsheba, and his attempt to cover up the scandal. Finally, The Edge of Revolt tells the story of a father’s love for the son who betrays him. The last thing he expects is that he will topple him from the throne. Who among them will remain by his side? Who will be not only loyal, but also eager to continue his legacy?

In addition, the series includes six collections of art by the masters around the story of David. 

What inspired you to write about David? 

I am fascinated by the complexity of this character. At many points along the way he finds himself at a crossroad, torn between his political ambitions and the divine call of his inspired work, as a poet and musician. 
At the same time, I found myself intrigued by the role of history in this story. David sees the struggle between himself and the king he succeeded as a struggle between two contending versions of history. An excerpt demonstrates this struggle:

What is at stake here is the virtue of the office, the sanctity of the crown, which I tried to preserve most of the time—but certainly not always… My appetite for sin would get out of control, and threaten to undermine my best efforts to establish myself, establish my glory for all to cherish. Even so, future generations must revere my name. 

Hell, I made sure of that. 

At the time I gave orders to imprison quite a few of my court historians, for no better reason than a misspelling, or a chance error in judgement, for which they tried to apologize profusely. Of course, to no avail. They never saw the light of day again. I knew I was right, because who are they to strive for something as misleading as reporting the bare facts? 

Both Saul and I were anointed to rule the nation, which without fail caused a civil war. We fought over something larger than the crown. Ours was a battle between two contending versions of history. The outcome would decide who would be called a hero and who—a villain. 

And having won that struggle, I was not about to allow the scribes in my court to report any faults in me, any wrongdoings. My record would be clean. There was, I decided, no truth other than mine.

How has art inspired your work? 

The story of David has inspired artists throughout the history of art, and my writing has a lot of highly visual references to many of these art pieces. Here, for example, is a reference to Michelangelo’s David:

“I catch sight of the reflection, my reflection in his eyes. In a flash I know Saul sees me as a danger to him. He fears me, he prays for my demise, and at the same time he adores me, too. In me he hopes to capture the fading image of that which is lost to him. His youth. 

I ask myself, what makes him so jealous of me? What is he thinking? 

Perhaps this: there is David, a young boy with a glint in his eyes. Morning breeze plays with his curls. It breathes words of hope and promise in his ear. 

Yet unscarred by battle, his skin is smooth. His muscles are flexible, his hands strong. They are large, larger than you would expect for such a slender body. They are the hands of a killer.

There is David. Narrowing his eyes to focus them at the enemy, the boy is searching for a way to change, to become that which is not: larger than life. There he stands, ready for the kill. 

I smile at Saul. He is slow to smile back.”

And here, a reference to Bernini’s David:

I must have lost my mind, because I leap over the brook and run quickly towards him. And I put my hand in my bag and take out one of my pebbles and sling it. 

It is now that time starts slowing down. With sharp, heightened senses I feel the morning breeze playing with my curls, brushing them this way and that, down to the nape of my neck. Here I am, twisting over my legs, wringing my body in a tortuous effort to gather momentum, to let a pebble fly. This, I tell myself, is no dream. This is for real. I am aiming to slay a giant. 

If I live, someone should sculpt me in this pose, just so.

I am often inspired by the art when writing a specific scene. For example, the execution of Amnon, as orchestrated by his brother, Absalom, is imagined here by his father, David: 

This was no murder. There is no other name for it but execution.

I stare at the darkness of the palms of my hands and at once, images of that feast—for lack of a better term—light up in my mind. I hear every sound in that place, and take in every smell, as if I have witnessed the entire affair myself, as if I own the senses of the killer and of the victim at once, as if I am possessed by them, because they are, both of them, my own flesh and blood. 

I shudder to see so many daggers drawn out of metal holsters. Their harsh grating noise penetrates me. A gasp, a last gurgle of surprise escapes from Amnon’s throat, as many hands grip him, and twist his arms forcefully behind his back. 

The bleating of sheep is heard faintly in the background as blades rise, flashing in the air. Then they plunge upon his throat, clinking against each other, and the first of them slashes the vein. 

His bloodied corpse is thrown, like leftover meat, by the side of the bench where he has sat. Overhead, birds of prey start hovering. Flies are buzzing, buzzing all around, sensing the sweet taste of blood, which is spurting from his neck. 

His eyes turn. They go on turning in their sockets, nearly flipping over in an unnatural way, as if to see the man standing directly behind him. Absalom. There, there he is, striking a victorious pose: legs wide apart, arms crossed, giving him what he has wanted: a nod, a final nod of recognition.

Oh, my son, Absalom.

How much of your writing would be considered history versus fiction? How heavily did you rely upon Biblical accounts? 

Studying the biblical story in the original language, rather than in translation, made the story very direct for me. In Hebrew there are no ‘versions’ of the bible--there is the one and only text where every sentence, every word is the same across all illuminated manuscripts and printed books. Translations are interpretations, but growing up in Israel, what I studied is the original.

Connect with Uvi

Read The David Chronicles

The complete series:

Volume I: Rise to Power
AudiobookAmazon US ★ Amazon UKiTunes
PaperbackAmazon ★ Barnes&Noble

AudiobookAmazon US Amazon UK iTunes 
PaperbackAmazon ★ Barnes&Noble

Volume III: The Edge of Revolt
AudiobookAmazon US ★ Amazon UK ★ iTunes
Paperback: Amazon ★ Barnes&Noble

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It's Who You Know

Cardinal Reginald Pole
While researching Reginald Pole in order to write his story in Prince of York, I was astonished by the number of famous friends he had. Lacking the ambition so prominent in most men of the sixteenth century, Reginald did not take advantage of the fact that he was well-known and respected by cardinals, kings (well, not THAT one of course), and men of all stations.

He had the perfect opportunity to do so when Pope Paul III died in 1549. Pole was expected to become the next pope. Vestments were tailor made for him and those who gambled found the odds heavily favored him. However, Reginald Pole refused to press his advantage. As others bribed, schemed, and negotiated, Reginald prayed that God would guide the outcome of the conclave. He fell short by one vote.

The throne of England was another possibility for Reginald Pole. His mother, Margaret Countess of Salisbury, was a friend and confidant of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Both women liked the idea of their children wed to one another. Later, after both women were dead, the idea was considered again by those who looked to the Tudor succession and found only women available. Reginald could be the perfect spouse for Mary, uniting York and Tudor blood and giving Mary an acceptable husband to rule the kingdom.

As far as we know, Reginald never seriously considered this possibility. He considered himself a man of God above all else, and never would marry. Instead, he returned to England when Mary became queen and was invested as her Archbishop of Canterbury.

Cardinal Pietro Bembo
Throughout his life, Reginald built fortuitous relationships but did not use them for his own advancement. Besides his royal Tudor cousins and fellow churchmen who wished to raise him to the highest earthly office, Reginald was a close enough companion to the artist Michelangelo that he had at least one portrait from him that he made a gift to the Bishop of Fano.

Reginald also had a close relationship with Vittoria Colonna who is not as famous as she should be. A devout Catholic who, like Pole, was not afraid to consider the worth of the tenets of faith brought forward by reformers, Vittoria was also a published poet. A feat in itself for her time, she was talented enough to be admired and consulted by the likes of Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

The fact that Pole spent his life surrounded by amazing historical figures is one of the many aspects of his character that made him a joy to write about. In the following excerpt, he shares a quiet evening with a man who was a scholar, Templar knight, poet, and cardinal: Pietro Bembo.

Excerpt from Prince of York

June 1543 - Rome

He realized the extent of the stress his brother’s presence placed upon him when he finally had the opportunity to relax for an evening with Cardinal Bembo. It was a beautiful summer evening, so they were seated on a rooftop veranda with a decanter of wine between them.

Reginald released a sigh as tension left his shoulders and the sun cast a riot of color into the sky.

“You have not been reading your Cicero,” Pietro observed.

Reginald had closed his eyes to soak up the peaceful feeling, but he opened them to peer at his friend. “How can you tell?”

“Ha! It is easy to see that you are far too filled with anxiety to have been studying the ancients. You are stuck firmly in the present with all its worries,” Bembo waved his hands as though this was all as clear to see as if Michelangelo had painted it on the wall.

With a grin, Reginald admitted, “As usual, you are correct, Pietro.” He took a deep draught from his glass and refilled it before speaking again. “It is my brother.”

Bembo nodded solemnly. “It can be a heavy burden to be our brothers’ keeper as is commanded by our Lord. Geoffrey has many demons.”

“He does,” Reginald agreed. “I must have greater patience with him.”

“Ah, Reynaldo,” Bembo said affectionately, leaning over to pat Reginald’s knee. “You would take on the world believing it was your duty.” Shaking his head, he continued, “The Bishop of Liege is in need of a man to see to duties of which I believe your brother would be capable.”

“Send him to Flanders?” Reginald asked, sitting upright, his muscles tightening with the discussion of his brother.

Before he could disagree, Bembo cut him off. “Yes, Flanders would be ideal. You may send him an allowance if it eases your conscience, but you are not obligated to keep him at your own table.”

“What if he….” Reginald realized he did not know what he was afraid of Geoffrey doing. Saying the wrong thing? Ending up in prison?

“Reynaldo, your brother is his own man, not your child. You will arrange this agreeable position for him and consider your obligation fulfilled.”

He nodded and lifted his glass to his lips, the matter closed.

Prince of York is available on Kindle for only 99c. It is also available in paperback as part of a combined Plantagenet Embers Novellas volume.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Another Missing Son of York

Tower of London
The infamy of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower gives the impression that these two are the only noble children to be lost upon entering the Tower complex. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, a few decades later, another young boy, a cousin (1st cousin, twice removed) to Edward V & his brother, Richard, was also lost to history within the Tower walls.

Henry Pole, Baron Montegue, was the son of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. When they, along with several others were arrested as part of the supposed Exeter Conspiracy in 1538, young Henry Pole, son of Lord Montegue, was taken to the Tower as well. His birthdate is unknown (believed to be between 1520-1527), but he was not more than teenaged when imprisoned. Another young person with connections to the royal family was also arrested at this time. Edward Courtenay was imprisoned along with his parents, who had allegedly conspired with the Poles.

Modern memorial to those executed at the Tower of London
Little proof of any treasonous plot was ever discovered. However, executions of Henry, Baron Montegue, Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, and Sir Edward Neville were quickly carried out. Others, including Gertrude Courtenay and Geoffrey Pole, were released for giving testimony against the others. Margaret Pole's execution did not take place until May, 1541, but the young sons of Pole and Courtenay remained imprisoned.

The fate of Edward Courtenay is well documented. He remained in prison until the accession of Queen Mary I in 1553. She released him from the Tower, and some hoped that she would chose to marry him, uniting Tudor blood with that of the noble York remnant. Edward, who had spent half of his life in the Tower, was not a desirable husband to the Queen or her sister, Princess Elizabeth. He was sent to Europe, where it was believed that he could cause less trouble for the royal family. He died in Padua in 1556 under somewhat suspicious circumstances.

Tower of London
Henry Pole the younger has a less certain story. All that remains are snippets of evidence that imply a tragedy similar to that suffered by his earlier cousins. In April 1540, King Henry VIII issued a general pardon that specifically excluded Margaret Pole and her grandson, Henry. In July 1540, a message by French ambassador Charles de Marillac mentions 'the little nephew of Cardinal Pole, who is poorly and strictly kept and not desired to know anything.' We may infer that Henry had not yet reached his teens based on the ambassador's term 'little nephew,' but this is not certain. Eustace Chapuys, Imperial ambassador, remarked upon Margaret's death that Henry was 'placed in close confinement, and it is supposed that he will soon follow his father and grandmother.' Henry is only thereafter mentioned in the payments for his food, which ends in 1542. He is not mentioned at the accession of Edward VI in 1547. Surely, had he been alive in 1553, Queen Mary would have released the nephew of her closest advisor, Cardinal Reginald Pole.

As with his cousins sixty years earlier, it is most likely that young Henry Pole met his demise within the Tower for no reason besides the royal blood running through his veins.

Additional reading: Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 by Hazel Pierce
Photo Credit: Samantha Wilcoxson