Monday, June 2, 2014

PUYB Chats with J. Boyce Gleason, author of 'Anvil of God'

With an AB degree in history from Dartmouth College, J. Boyce Gleason brings a strong understanding of what events shaped the past and when, but writes historical-fiction to discover why. Gleason lives in Virginia with his wife Mary Margaret. They have three sons.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Visit his website at
Welcome to the PUYB Virtual Book Club today, Joe!  I would love to start out the interview by having you tell us how you got started writing historical fiction? 

Joe: I always had an inkling that I would one day write novels.  It took me a
while as life got in the way and I had to provide for my family.  I also didn’t much confidence when I was younger and wasn’t sure that I had anything worthwhile to say.
I got my start when my boss offered me a sabbatical and I had six weeks paid vacation.  I figured that if I was going to write it had to be then or never.  At the end of the sabbatical I had a draft of the first three chapters of Anvil.
Is it the genre you have always wanted to write?  Do you have any favorite authors of that genre?
Joe: I’m a big fan of science-fiction and I originally wanted to write Anvil in that genre.  But when I started to write, I realized that the story didn’t feel real to me.  So I backed off and just tried to write the “why” to what happened in history and the characters rushed onto the page. If I had a favorite author of historical fiction it would be James Clavell.  I loved Tai-Pan.
Your book, Anvil of God, sounds absolutely awesome.  Where did you get the idea to write this? 
Joe: I had studied Charlemagne in college under a great professor named Charles Wood who really brought the period to life for me.  We read The Song of Roland, an epic poem along the lines of the Illiad, and I thought it had the makings of a great novel.  But, when I sat down to do the research, I couldn’t find a starting point of the novel.  I ended up moving ever backward in time – from Charlemagne’s parents to his grandfather Charles the Hammer – until I found the right place to start.
Can you tell us more about your main character, Charles the Hammer?
Joe: Charles the Hammer is best known for conquering much of what is now Europe and for stopping the march of Islam across the continent.  The Saracen (as they were called back then) had conquered most of Spain and portions of Southern France.  When the Saracen armies crossed the Pyrenees in 732 to march on Tours (where many of Christianity’s holy relics where kept), Charles rallied the Franks to defeat them at the battle of Poitier.
More important to the story, however, is that Charles was never king.  He was the power behind the Merovingian throne and longed to usurp it for his own family.  Only one thing got in his way: he was dying and ran out of time.
The primary focus of Anvil revolves around what happens next.  The entire continent roils with the vacuum created by Charles’s death.  And his family, although grieving, struggles with the challenges created by the new world order. Brother is pitted against brother, Christianity is pitted against paganism and Charles’s daughter must choose between love and her families ambitions. 
I’d love to speak to Charles if I can?  Can you get him for me?
Joe: He’s always around here somewhere.
Hi Charles…or do I call you Charles the Hammer?
Charles: If you have something to say, I’d be quick about it.
Charles, you are in such a dilemma.  You are dying and you want peace in the land and all that.  Do you ever get tired of all the bureaucratic crap and just want people to leave you alone and let you have the throne and run the kingdom the best you know how?  How do you think you can make it happen for you?
Charles:  Power always comes with cost.  Great power comes with great cost.  I have been at war since I was nineteen years old and the bastard son of Pippin of Herstal. I have conquered the Neustrians, the Austraisians, the Alemans, the Burgunidans, the Saxons, the Sweves, the Bavarians, and the Gascons of Aquitaine.  As “Mayor of the Palace” I am the force behind the throne. 
But, the Merovingians have become weak since the time of Clovis.  They are called “roi fĂ©ants” or “puppet kings.”  It is time for those who bear the costs of power to wield it.  When the last Merovingian died, I didn’t bother to raise another and have ruled in his stead for four years.  If I only had more time to ensure that my sons will inherit the throne, I would die a happy man.
Charles, are you happy with the way the book ended without giving anything away?
Charles: Nothing happens as it is planned and the story and history never ends.
That was fun, Joe!  Tell Charles thanks for us!  Now I’d like to ask you a question.  In a book of fiction, there’s always that pivotal point where readers just have to keep reading.  Can you tell us what yours is?
Joe: I think Charles’s death is that pivotal point.  His carefully laid plans begin to unravel even before he dies and the reality of his death sends shock waves across the continent.  Each of his children must chart their own course and his widow must take strong steps to protect her life and her interests.
Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?
Joe: Although history is usually told through the eyes of the men who inhabit it, I chose to tell much of Anvil through the eyes of Charles’s wife, Sunni and his daughter, Trudi.  Each played a pivotal political role in the history and brings a fresh perspective to the story.  In addition, the struggle between the dominant religion, Christianity and the struggling pagan faithful plays a powerful role in shaping the story.  Anvil is a big, sweeping epic of a story.  I think you’ll have a fun read.

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