Today’s Author Query has a very distinguished guest. Edward Glover is a decorated diplomat who after ending his service turned his hand to writing historical fiction. This shift and the setting and subject of his novels, a young British gentlewoman and a German officer in the eighteenth century, intrigued me and I was happy to have to opportunity to ask Edward some questions about his writing process, how his career influenced his writing and the origin of his Herzberg trilogy, the final book of which A Motif of Seasons was published this month.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Edward Glover?
A former career diplomat: but I haven’t put my feet up. I sit on several boards and I go to the Foreign Office twice a week. Most enjoyable of all, I have begun a new career as a writer of novels, drawing material from my long experience of the vagaries of human nature and my love of history. The next novel is already on the stocks. Noel Coward once said that working is more fun than fun. I certainly agree with that.
How would you introduce people to the Von Deppe and Whitfield families?
All families are fascinating: beneath a façade of bonhomie there often exists stress, strain, secrets, inherited quarrels and disputes, lies, deception, jealousy. The von Deppe and Whitfield families are no exception to this rule of human nature. Linked by an unexpected marriage in 1766, the ensuing generations are riven by its never-ending consequences. The mutual suspicion between the two families – despite the efforts of three women to leave the past behind – mirrors the deepening mistrust between England and Germany, leading eventually to war in 1914 and tragedy for both families.
The story of how you came to write the first book in the Herzberg trilogy, The Music Book, is fascinating. Would you share it with my readers?
Leaving diplomacy and Whitehall behind in 2012, I wanted to write something for myself and possibly for others – not a stuffy memoir but a novel. A portrait of Frederick the Great, a British passport issued in 1853 and my knowledge of German history gave me an idea – write a story linking all three and with a young woman as its central character – musical, feisty and determined to overcome all odds in a man’s world but feminine and sensual. And there had to be lots of action. I wrote the story during the cold Norfolk winter of 2013; and then asked a journalist to read it. He said it was a page turner. And so, I published The Music Book.
How did you decide to move from Arabella’s eighteenth century all the way to the First World War? Was there an era in-between you were tempted to stop off at?
But Arabella, its central character, would not leave me alone. So, I decided in Fortune’s Sonata to tell the rest of her story – with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars as the backdrop – but in periods of time to make the tale more digestible for the reader. The third book A Motif of Seasons skips a generation because I wanted it to start with the return of Robert Whitfield from Berlin in 1853, the starting point of the first book – Whitfield going to Germany to trace his ancestor’s footsteps. I had no doubt the Herzberg story should end in the First World War, given the tragedy that the conflict brought indiscriminately to so many families in England and Germany. But there is loose end in the book. So, who knows, perhaps one day…
As a diplomat, you’ve served all over the globe. How has your service and your familiarity with such a diversity of cultures influenced your writing?
My diplomatic career took me all over the world – Washington DC the seat of global power; divided Cold War Berlin prior to 1989; international negotiation at the UN; the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. What I saw, what I experienced and the many people I met – and did business with – over the years have undoubtedly had an impact on my writing. I can draw on a rich personal treasury of the good, the humorous and the bad side of human nature in a complex, chaotic and unpredictable world. But we diplomats are always cautiously optimistic and I hope this too is reflected in my novels.
One of my favourite things is asking people about their research habits when writing historical fiction. How do you structure your research? Do you immerse yourself in the time period and get as much detail as possible before writing or do you research facts as needed while writing?
I decided it was more important to write first – immersing myself in the storyline; drawing on what I had already learned in my career about England and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries; and using my love of classical music knowledge frequently to inspire the musical backdrop in each of the three books. With the first draft of each manuscript finished, I then checked facts. The only thing I did do while writing concerned dates. All the dates in each book, used to mark the passage of time, are drawn from the actual calendars for the year in question.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Yes. I love to keep myself busy. I sit on several boards; I go to the Foreign Office twice a week; and I run as often as I can to keep fit and make sure our large garden does not get overrun by weeds and remains a paradise for grandchildren.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
My recommendations are not so much about books to look out for in the coming months but books I missed first time around, such as Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, next on my list to read. Also, waiting in line to be read are Nightmare in Berlin by Hans Fallada, just published in English for the first time; Anthony Beevor’s Ardennes 1944; and The Crossing by Samar Yazbek (about the Syrian Revolution). I have also earmarked as subsequent priority ‘reads’ Julia Baird’s book on Victoria: The Queen; and on a topical subject All Out War by Tim Shipman (the Brexit story).
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I shelve my books by genre. If I had more time, I would do them alphabetically by genre but I keep putting it off. The pleasure of writing gets in the way.
A Motif of Seasons by Edward Glover is out now. Available to order here.
Bio: Edward Glover is a decorated diplomat, who turned his hand to writing after leaving the diplomatic service. His work is inspired by his love for 6th- and 18th-century history, baroque music and 18th-century art. His first book, The Music Book was published in 2014.
Edward lives in Norfolk with his wife, Dame Audrey Glover.