With my next MEET THE AUTHOR post, I’m pleased to introduce John D. Cressler, as this week's guest author and share his newest novel. John’s stopping by to share an excerpt of Fortune's Lament, part of his Anthems of al-Andalus series set in Moorish Spain and to offer insight on his writing. Given my own obsession with the place and time he's written about, John's work has been of particular interest to me, so expect to hear more about him on this blog. As a bonus, John has generously offered to give away up to TEN Kindle versions to those who leave a comment on this post! So, please do comment and INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in the comment.
Here's an excerpt from the novel:
Interview with John D. Cressler
Welcome John, thanks for being my guest at The Brooklyn Scribbler. Please share some insight on your Anthems of al-Andalus series and the latest installment, Fortune's Lament.
Thanks for inviting me, Lisa! Let me give some background on this amazing period of history, and then zoom-in on each of my three novels in the Anthems of al-Andalus Series.
As you know, much of modern Spain was under Muslim control for nearly 800 years (from 711 to 1492 C.E.). Medieval Islamic Spain was deeply influential in world history, for a multitude of reasons, including the rediscovery, translation, and dissemination of the lost works of medicine, science, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks. The Muslim Umayyads (with roots tracing back to Syria) were lovers of books and learning, and helped launch a cultural revolution in Córdoba, which transformed the western world. An exceptional 200-plus-year period of peaceful coexistence occurred between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam under Muslim Umayyad rule, providing a powerful lesson in the practice of multiculturalism for our twenty-first-century world. This time period was both deeply influential in world history and riveting, and I have fallen in love with all-things-al-Andalus! All three of my novels are love stories interwoven into this rich history.
Emeralds of the Alhambra, my first release, is a love story set in the resplendent Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, during the Castilian Civil War (1367-1369 C.E.), a time when Muslims took up their swords to fight alongside Christians. Emeralds tells the story of William Chandon, a Christian knight captured and brought to the Alhambra to be used by the Muslim sultan as a political pawn, and the Sufi Muslim princess Layla, daughter of the sultan’s chief counsellor. As Chandon’s influence at court grows, he becomes trapped between his forbidden love for Layla and his Christian heritage, the demands of chivalry and political expediency. Chandon and Layla must make choices between love and honor, war and peace, life and death, choices which ultimately will seal Granada’s fate as the last surviving stronghold of Islamic Spain.
Shadows in the Shining City, my second release, is a prequel to Emeralds of the Alhambra, and immerses the reader in Islamic Spain’s Golden Age. Shadows tells the story of the forbidden love between Rayhana, a Muslim princess of the royal court, and Zafir, a freed slave. Young love blossoms in 975 C.E. in Madinat al-Zahra, the Shining City, Caliph al-Hakam II’s magnificent royal palace located just outside of Córdoba. Their love story is set against the backdrop of the epic rise to power of Rayhana’s ruthless father, Ibn Abi Amir, a man history will come to both celebrate and revile for the role he plays in the collapse of Islamic Spain.
Fortune’s Lament, my latest, is again set in Granada, 120 years after Emeralds of the Alhambra, and sets the stage for the final collapse of Muslim Spain. It tells the story of Danah, a young Muslim woman who aspires to be the first female physician in the city. Love unexpectedly blossoms between Danah and Yusef, a valiant prince of court from a rival clan, during the bloody final conquest of Granada by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Christian Spain. As the light of Islamic Spain dims, the Inquisition looms large on the horizon, as does the coming voyage of Columbus to discover the Americas.
When you first began writing, did you have a series in mind? If not, what changed your thoughts?
Yes, I intended to write a series from the very beginning. There is just too much fascinating history to be told. I envision the series stretching to at least 4 books, maybe more.
The women of Al-Andalus exhibit surprising behavior in your novels, moving beyond the traditional roles readers may expect of women in the medieval period. Where you surprised by the role of medieval Muslim women as you researched the period?
That is true, yes. I discovered many surprising elements to this history, including the strong role women often played in decisions that influenced pivotal outcomes (by a variety of means; some good, some bad), as well as the unusual social mobility women sometimes enjoyed. I wanted to highlight this nuanced piece of the history. Actually, there are three deeper themes present in all of my novels, themes that greatly interest me: 1) How strong young women cross the artificial boundaries society imposes. 2) The nature of love and its power to transform us. Yes, these are love stories! And 3) The importance of religious tolerance, and the beauty of multiculturalism. All of these themes firmly anchored to a riveting historical context, but are also highly relevant to our modern world.
Do you have favorite characters from each of your novels in the series? If so, tell us why you prefer that character above others.
Well, definitely my young female protagonists! Layla, in Emeralds, Rayhana in Shadows, and Danah in Fortune’s Lament. All are bright, all are strong-willed, all are determined to break out of the traditional roles and expectations assigned to them. AND…..all unexpectedly encounter love along their journeys… which changes everything (as love is wont to do!).
Do you plan to write more novels set in Al-Andalus? If not, where will your writing adventures take you?
Definitely! Novel # 4 in the series has already commenced, and it will be a sequel to Fortune’s Lament, telling the story of the final collapse of Granada in 1492. Beyond that, time will tell―but one thing is certain: there are plenty of stories left in the 800 years of al-Andalus that still beg to be told! Stay tuned.
Thanks again, John!