Monday 30 March 2015

Blog Tour: The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

Title: The Tutor
Author: Andrea Chapin
Published: 25th March 2015
Publisher: Penguin

Today I am delighted to kick of the Blog Tour for The Tutor by Andrea Chapin with a Guestpost and Giveaway (see below for more details)

Guestpost with Andrea Chapin
The Gift

The idea for my novel, The Tutor, arrived on Christmas day in a present under our tree.  

Over a dinner one night at my in-laws, talk turned—as if often does—to books.  My brother-in-law, who works in the theater, recommended James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, a riveting account of the history, politics and plays of a single year in Shakespeare’s life.  The following month, while doing a mad dash of last minute Christmas shopping, I saw the paperback of Shapiro’s book on my way to the cash register at my local bookstore.  I paused, picked up the book, rifled through the pages, and then threw it on top of my pile.  Back at home, I wrapped up the book and put it under our Christmas tree.  I was an editor, wrote regular book reviews, and that year was on the jury for a fiction prize, so I had many looming deadlines, but I decided I would give myself the gift of spending the day reading what I wanted to read, not what I had to read. 

Most of William Shakespeare’s life is undocumented.  We know in 1582 at the age of eighteen he married a woman eight years his senior, and by 1585 they had three children.  But there is much speculation about what he was doing between 1585 and 1592, when he emerged as an actor, playwright, and poet in London. The wide-ranging theories as to what he might have been up to during those years include: deer poacher in Stratford, handler of horses for London theaters, soldier, sailor, schoolmaster and actor-musician employed by a recusant Catholic family in the country.

That Christmas Day, reading about Shakespeare, I was immediately and obsessively struck by how his “lost years” were the perfect terrain for fiction.  As a writing teacher and a private editor of more than two hundred novels and memoirs, I’d worked with many authors on their first books, and I began to imagine what it would have been like to work with Shakespeare on the first piece of writing he ever published.  I was not a Shakespeare scholar, and I knew if I were to embark on writing such a story, I would have a ton of research in front of me, but I couldn’t let go of the idea.  What if, I mused, in 1590 a brilliant and bookish young widow lived on a country estate in Lancashire where Shakespeare came to tutor the children and to finish his first poem?

Records show that by 1592 several of Shakespeare’s early plays had been staged but not published.  In September of that year, the theaters in London were closed because of an outbreak of the plague, and the following June, Shakespeare’s long narrative poem Venus and Adonis appeared in an elegantly printed volume—it was his first published work.  It was an enormous success, a “bestseller” in our modern terms, and went through at least ten editions in Shakespeare’s lifetime.  

I was familiar with Shakespeare’s plays and his Sonnets, but not his narrative poems: when I read Venus and Adonis for the first time, I nearly swooned.  It was the perfect poem—racy, juicy, and brimming with wit, eroticism, dazzling language and genius imagery—for my protagonist Katharine and Shakespeare to work on together.  It was the perfect poem—another gift—to use in telling a tale of love, passion and ambition set amidst a troubled Elizabethan household in a country rife with turmoil. 

Andrea Chapin’s novel, The Tutor, was published last week by Penguin Random House UK.


Enter to win a paperback copy of The Tutor. UK and IRL only (Ends 6th April 2015)

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