13 February 2022

Special Guest Interview with V E H Masters, Author of The Conversos (The Seton Chronicles Book 2)


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Europe 1547. The rising tide of the Reformation threatens bloody revolution. And the terror of the Inquisition grows, even for those who have converted. Bethia, newly married tries to find her way in Antwerp, both the city and family she now belongs to a constant source of confusion – and sometimes fear. While her brother Will, enslaved on a French galley, doubts there will ever be an end to his torment.

I'm pleased to welcome author V E H Masters back to The Writing Desk:

Did you plan to write a series?

From when I was twelve years old and our history teacher took us on a visit to St Andrews Castle I was enchanted by the story of the siege. When I finally came to write The Castilians, which is what those who took the castle and held it for 14 months called themselves, 

I had no idea of writing more than one book. But as I neared the end I began to feel there was a story there about what happened next. And so The Conversos emerged and it turns out that Antwerp and a galley were both fairly dramatic places to be in 1547-9. I’m now writing book 3 and there’s two further planned – so what started out as one book has become a five book series!

Where did the title The Conversos come from?

In 1492 Spain expelled all Jews and many fled to Portugal where they were ‘persuaded’ to convert to Christianity. Some may have been willing to do so but they were never considered ‘true’ Christians and were treated with suspicion and spied upon to make sure they didn’t relapse. 

By the 1540s the Portuguese Inquisition made that country increasingly perilous and an escape corridor was created by sea to Antwerp. A very wealthy converso called Gracia Mendes helped many flee. Much of my novel is set in Antwerp within a family of Conversos which Bethia, a young Catholic Scots girl, has married into without fully understanding how perilous life will be.

The Castilians is set in Scotland of 1546 during the siege of St Andrews Castle. Does Scotland feature in The Conversos?

St Andrews Castle was re-captured with the help of the French at the end of the first book, and the prisoners were taken away as galley slaves including John Knox. These French galleys were out during the summer fighting season patrolling up and down the Scottish coast helping to ward off attacks from England. 

16th Century Galley

Will and Knox have the agony of seeing their country from the galley but are unable to step foot on it. Mary Queen of Scots even pops up transported in the summer of 1548 to France and safety by galley. So yes, some of the book is set in the coastal waters surrounding Scotland, then called the German Ocean but renamed the North Sea during WW1.

Religious conflict is a theme within your first book, how is this explored within the sequel?

Whatever faith you followed if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time you were at risk. And yet where trade was concerned cities like Antwerp, then the most powerful city in Europe, had special ordinances allowing merchants from different faiths and different countries to live and trade there unhindered.

Merchants arriving

So there’s a melting pot of Lutheran Germans, Portuguese Conversos, English Protestants and Catholic local merchants. Money was the determiner, for at the same time Anabaptists, who tended to be poor people, were burned at the stake.

Then there’s Will on the galley with Knox who will not kiss the Madonna nor take Mass and the French sailors are baffled rather than brutal with them (all of which will change when Huguenots become an issue many years later). Religion is a central theme in all five books of the series, as it was in the lives of everyone living through those times.

And whatever religion is being followed has a huge impact on sense of place. I’ve found it absolutely fascinating to write about and hope my readers will too!

V E H Masters 

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About the Author

VEH Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews and still lives nearby. Her first novel The Castilians tells the story of the siege of St Andrews Castle in 1546 and The Conversos continues the story. She writes about events in history with which she feels a strong connection, working to understand how and why people acted as they did.  Many of these significant moments have led to who we are today, which she finds endlessly fascinating and hopes her readers will too. Find out more at Vicki’s website https://vehmasters.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter at @VickiMasters9

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for inviting me to be your guest. I enjoyed visiting with you again.

    ReplyDelete

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