Saturday, 9 March 2013

Guest Post - Kathryn Kopple

Today I would like to welcome Kathryn Kopple, whose title Little Velasquez takes readers to 15th century Spain and the court of the united Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel. Kathryn is here to talk about the novel and offer a copy to a lucky winner. Please leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win. Here's the blurb:

Five years of war between Castile and Portugal have come to an end.

A new queen, Isabel I, sits on the throne of Castile. Her consort, Fernando of Aragón, suspects that the child she is carrying is illegitimate. A dwarf by the name of Velasquillo journeys from the pestilent-stricken lands of Catalonia to the imperial city of Toledo in search of fame and fortune. He rises to the highest circles of power, where he learns what it means to sacrifice his will and dignity to the ambitions of great men and women.

Little Velásquez is a work of historical fiction set in 15th century Spain, and a tragic-comedic exploration of political intrigue, religious persecution, foreign conquest, and personal exile.

Kathryn, How did you become interested in writing about 15th century Spain?

First of all, I’d like to thank you, Anita, for giving me the opportunity to talk about Little Velásquez.  It means a great deal to me.  As for your question, I spent long stretches living and studying in the north and south of Spain.  I felt confident that, knowing so much of the history, and being fluent in English and Spanish, I could take advantage of sources in both languages. The writing of the novel proved more difficult. How does one translate a very complicated period in history into fictional form? It took a lot of trial and error, as you well know Anita (thank you again for all your input during the seven years I struggled with writing the novel) but I kept at it because the period in which the novel takes place (the thirteen years leading up to 1492) were of pivotal importance in world history.

Where did your sources come from and was the research difficult?

The research was a joy for me. Libraries are some of my favorite places. When you are dealing with the Middle Ages and Renaissance history, it’s important to realize that much of what was written (the chronicles) are not history in the modern sense of the word. Chronicles are not necessarily objective; they are homages for the most part and easily romanticized. I wanted to actually show that in the novel. I also thought it important to list all of my sources—historical and current research.

Why did you make Velasquillo, a dwarf, the central protagonist?

It was serendipity to discover Velasquillo, who is an actual historical person. I found him in footnote and I began to imagine what could have brought him to the court of Isabel and Fernando. Also, it was wonderful to write from the “fool’s” point of view, but difficult to try to keep up with a character who is quick on his toes, a wit, and also perceptive enough to recognize the dangers and intrigue of palace life.

This is your first work of historical fiction. What were some of the difficulties you encountered turning history into fiction?

The novel went through dozens of revisions. Some early feedback I received from those who critiqued the novel (again, Anita, you were fantastic in that sense) caused me to recognize just how challenging it is to write historical fiction--remarks such as, “You’ve done a wonderful job with historical detail but what about the story?”  I had loads of research, details that could fill a filing cabinet—but where was the story?  The more I thought about Velasquillo, questions began to arise—because you have to remember I only had a footnote, just a mention of this court dwarf.   How had he arrived at the court of Isabel I and Fernando II?  What made it possible for him to gain the favor of two of the most powerful monarchs of the era?  How had he survived all the intrigue, tumult, revolts—and the crusade that led to the conquest of Granada?  These questions soon became the basis for the story. 

What are some of your favorite historical fiction titles?

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is a gem, and I recommend it to anyone. I also admire the works of Luis Alberto Urrea (The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America). And then there are Latin American writers such as Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and many others.

Do you write only novels—or do you work in other genres as well?

I am a translator of Latin American poetry and prose. I also write essays, book reviews, and poetry. The Threepenny Review recently included my poem “Sloth” in its 2012 Fall Issue. I’ve also published poetry in The Hummingbird Review, Philadelphia Stories, Sleet, 322 Review and Danse Macabre, among other magazines.  The Hummingbird Review will publish a short story I wrote about the Countess Bathory (due out this spring.)  I am also a featured poet on the Sayitatyourwedding website.

What is your favorite part of the novel?

Finishing. After seven years of research and writing, I felt that I had finally crossed an endless finishing line—and I hope the book, with its historical details, larger than life characters, and tears and laughter will take the reader across the finishing line as well.

Thank you, Kathryn, and best of luck with Little Velásquez.


For a chance to win a copy of Kathryn's novel - leave a comment on this post and look out for the announcement of the winner

Find Kathryn Kopple on Facebook and Twitter.

Little Velásquez is available now on Amazon and similar vendors.


Diane Scott Lewis said...

The novel sounds fascinating, and told from an unusual character's point of view. I love lush, historical novels from this era.

Jen Black said...

Maybe it's time I learned something about Spanish history!

Lisa Yarde said...

Please don't enter me into the drawing, as Kathryn knows I already have a copy of this great book. I just wanted to add that the winner of this title is in for a real treat. Kathryn writes with authenticity about a dramatic period of change in Spain's history.

kathryn said...

Gracias mil for your support. Please Diane, Jen, and Anita send me your addresses at and I will ship out of copy of Little Velasquez asap. And Lisa, you are a gem.

Again, many thanks. A thousand thanks.


Historical Writer/Editor said...

This book sounds like quite an undertaking, and done under expert hands. That was an interesting era of history as well! Congratulations on your release. -laura

kathryn said...

Gracias, Laura. All comment-ers receive a free copy. If you are interested, please email me at The book is print--haven't make the jump to Kindle yet--so it must go out snail mail.


Jennifer Pittam said...

Really enjoyed the interview with Petrea. It's absolutely true that internet friends are 'real' - I've now met some of mine in person, and received great support and encouragement from strangers I may never meet. Excellent blog I shall be back. Regards, Jennifer Pittam