Friday 3 April 2020

Virgin And Child by Maggie Hamand @DrMaggieHamand BLOG TOUR @BarbicanPress1 #RandomThingsTours #VirginAndChild

Newly elected Irish Pope Patrick has plans for his future church. The he is attacked in St Peter's Square. Leading cardinals turn against him, and he doesn't know who he can trust, doubting even his private secretary. Then he makes a discovery that overturns everything he has previously thought, undermining not just his papacy but his faith. Will the cardinals succeed in removing him? And what lengths are they prepared to go to to achieve their goal?

As the pressure on Patrick ramps up, the story becomes a battle for his survival both as pope but also as a person, as we move between the power struggles in the Vatican to Patrick's uncovering of family secrets back home in Ireland, secrets that will affect his actions and inform the difficult choices he will soon have to make...

Virgin & Child by Maggie Hamand was published on 2 April 2020 by Barbican Press. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome the author today with a fabulous guest post.

Easter is a time of betrayal and loss so it’s very appropriate that my new novel, Virgin and Child, is being published on 2 April. It’s a novel that was five years in the making because I knew that I would have to do an enormous amount of research to make it convincing. I was writing from the point of view of an Irish Pope - someone so completely unlike me on the surface that I knew it would take a long time to work out how to portray him convincingly, let along get all the Vatican details right. 
I visited Rome in April, attended the Pope’s Wednesday audience in St Peter’s Square, went round the Vatican museum and gardens, and a friend took me to the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Strange to be visiting these beautiful places with half my mind on how an assassination attempt on my Pope might take place. In particular I went up onto the roof terrace of an Institute near the Vatican, working out the right firing angles and distances! Through a brilliant scheme called Monastery Tours I was able to stay in a little convent right outside the Vatican walls, which later became a location in the novel. (This is a very cheap and comfortable way to stay in Rome and other Italian cities for those on a budget!) I walked for miles through Rome checking on locations and journey times and soaking up the atmosphere, and selecting the right locations for scenes in the story. I was also lucky to know an Italian journalist in Rome who arranged for me to speak to a couple of a Vatican insiders. 
There is a section in Ireland too, and because I have a cousin in Cork I went to visit her and all the locations I needed for my Irish Pope’s childhood and his life as a priest. The south-west of Ireland is so beautiful, like my own North Wales merged with Cornwall. As I walked down a street in Cork, a busker was playing a haunting theme on an old piano and as I listened two priests walked past, deep in conversation - that snapshot in time went straight into my novel unchanged. You only get such details when you visit a place, you can’t get them from guidebooks. 
Why did I write the book? Because, despite being a scientist, a feminist, and a liberal, religious faith does matter to me. There’s a mystical dimension to Easter, a sense that since the dawn of time people have held special sacred ceremonies to welcome the spring. I hope some of my sense of the mystery of life and faith has come through in a novel which is also a criticism of dogma and the misuse of power, wrapped in a suspenseful narrative.
© Maggie Hamand

Maggie Hamand is a journalist, novelist, and creative writing lecturer. 
She was the first winner of the World One-Day Novel Cup and her novel, The Resurrection of the Body, was published by Penguin and has been optioned for film and television. 

She was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press. 
Maggie has a degree in biochemistry, a Masters in theology, and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Hull. 
She has taught in a range of institutions including Holloway Prison and is author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies. 

She lives in East London.
Twitter @DrMaggieHamand

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