Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest is a book Stephanie Cowell published in 1993 to great reviews. It is now available in the Kindle version, and Stephanie kindly accepted to talk about it here at  FLY HIGH! If you love historical fiction set in Elizabethan England, you'll be definitely interested in this book. What about getting a chance to win a free kindle copy? Leave your comment or a question for Stephanie Cowell, add your e-mail address and good luck! It's as simple as that. This giveaway is open internationally and ends on October 18th.

I first fell in love with 16th century England when I was very young and read everything I could about it.  I especially fell in love with Shakespeare and the theater of his day.  So it was likely that the first novel I ever published was about a brilliant boy who grows up as an actor in Shakespeare’s theater group and follows his extraordinary adventures from one difficulty to another, from one love to another, until he eventually becomes a physician and Anglican priest. The novel is Nicholas Cooke: actor, soldier, physician, priest. It was first published to wonderful reviews in 1993 and has just been re-published as a Kindle e-book.

I first traveled to England at the age of 23 quite alone with almost no money, stayed in student lodgings and cheap hotels and ate a lot of greasy sausage rolls with tea. I visited Westminster Abbey and stood before Queen Elizabeth’s tomb. At the Tower of London, the guide pointed out the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. In Canterbury I had an unbelievable adventure with another girl on the
same bus tour. Perhaps because we were young and attractive, some official person took us to see the Archbishop’s ceremonial robes and draped one over my shoulders. I was very small and still recall the enormous weight of it.

The Globe Theatre
Searching for Elizabeth’s England, I went of course to Stratford and was surprised that Shakespeare’s birthplace rooms were so little. Many years later when Nicholas Cooke was about to be printed, I returned to London and was given a tour of the new Globe Theater, then in construction. (The original had been burned in 1611 and then torn down in 1642.) My husband and I returned again to see a performance there and when we walked into this theater I am imagined for so long, it was overwhelming.

In Nicholas Cooke, the 19-year-old Nicholas runs away from the actors to enlist as a soldier in the Irish Wars and soon realizes what a bad choice he had made. Only with the help of his mentor Shakespeare does he managed to be taken on by the actors again in the original Globe which Nicholas himself helped to build.
Every time I travel to London I walk to the old City; it is the original medieval London, and in the time of my novel it was still a walled city with seven gates. Parts of the walls remain even now with a few churches and buildings which escaped the Great Fire of 1666. In St Andrew Undershaft in Aldgate Ward is the burial place and memorial status of the great Elizabethan London historian, John Stow; there is a quill pen in his hand and each year it is replaced by the Mayor of London. The Guildhall you will find is the same one built in 1441.

Nicholas Cooke was a creation of my imagination, based on several brilliant 16th-17th century men.His fascinating story is a trilogy spanning 1593-1666. The second book The Physician of London won an American Book Award and I am currently writing the third book called In the Chambers of the King.  What was once streets filled with half-timbered houses of course is now the financial district of London. When I go there I always walk to Wood Street where Nicholas lived. I don’t see what is there now; I see what was there in 1593. Any moment I expect all the tall buildings to turn back to the way they were four hundred and twenty-one years ago, build out over the street and almost touching, that any moment my characters will be hurrying down the street to meet me.

The imagination of the novelist, I suppose…and the magic of Elizabethan England.

Stephanie Cowell

About the author: Historical novelist Stephanie Cowell is the author of Nicholas Cooke, The Physician of London, The Players: a novel of the young Shakespeare, Marrying Mozart and Claude & Camille: a novel of Monet. She is a recipient of an American Book Award. Her work has been translated into nine languages. Her website is http://www.stephaniecowell.com

About the book 

NICHOLAS COOKE: ACTOR, SOLDIER, PHYSICIAN, PRIEST, the story of a brilliant but hot-tempered boy who grows up as an apprentice in Shakespeare’s theater troupe 1593 and to whom Shakespeare is a life-long mentor, was first published eighteen years ago by W.W. Norton. It was called “immensely moving,” by the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, “compelling reading” by the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, “brilliant, bawdy, and utterly delightful,” by MADELEINE L’ENGLE, and “a detailed portrait of Shakespearean England,” by KIRKUS which gave it a starred review as did PUBLISHER’s WEEKLY. THE NEW YORK TIMES wrote, “Cowell has poured heart and a great deal of intelligence into her first novel about an impetuous, inquisitive young man in an impetuous, inquisitive age,” and LIBRARY JOURNAL called it “An exquisitely drawn portrait of a robust age and a complex man at war with himself.”
The talented but conflicted Nicholas Cooke wanted to be an Anglican priest since he was a child, yet his fiery temperament consigned him to far different apprenticeships. His adventures lead him to become an actor, a soldier, and, as he grew older, a physician. During his lifetime Nicholas encounters Shakespeare, plague, the secret life of the Queen, many loves, marriage and children, the joy of the theatre, and the troubles of war. He serves his master, John Heminges, who teaches him the craft of acting; but it is the master's wife who teaches Nick about love. Yet he never can forget his early call to be a priest until in the depths of losses he cannot face, an unexpected door opens to him at last. 
From the dramatic opening lines to the inspiring conclusion of this first book of this trilogy, Nicholas Cooke grows, stumbles, presses on, and eventually becomes a man whom others respect and recognize as a brilliant mind and a sensitive, loving soul. But there is much more to Nick's story, and, as Nicholas himself might have understood, an end is but a beginning.
NICHOLAS COOKE was a choice of the History Book Club. It is the first part of a trilogy which will take Nicholas from 1593 to 1666, from his boyhood through the fall of the monarchy and its eventual restoration. The next novel, THE PHYSICIAN OF LONDON (which will be available as an e-book late 2012) won an American Book Award. The last book of the trilogy will be published towards the end of 2013.
Stephanie Cowell is also the author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET (Crown), MARRYING MOZART (Viking Penguin) and THE PLAYERS: A NOVEL OF THE YOUNG SHAKESPEARE (W.W. Norton).



Literary Chanteuse said...

I would love to read this! I can't get enough of the Tudors!


Amanda said...

I'd love to read this too! I love the tudor period and since the main character is a physician, and I am very interested in medical history, I am keen to read this! Added it to my wishlist........

nellista at yahoo dot com dot au

Stephanie Cowell said...

Amanda, here is another article I wrote about learning to write Elizabethan medical history! http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2012/09/17th-century-medicine-and-me-a-novelists-unlikely-tale-2.html

Historical Reminiscing with Marilyn said...

Was there an Actor in your research that in particular you found with the Shakespeare Actors that inspired more than another? I love the imagery!

Marilyn (ewatvess@yahoo.com)
for the Kindle entry

Stephanie Cowell said...

Mari, Nick was a combination of many people..if any other young actor made as much trouble as Nick, it has not come down to us! I studied the life of every actor of the period, as much as I could as information is limited but I have been studying Elizabethan theater all my life.

Christy K Robinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy K Robinson said...

Stephanie, based on my admiration for your Marrying Mozart novel, I'd surely enjoy winning a Kindle copy of this one. Wish me luck!

My email didn't show up in my previous comment, for some reason, so I deleted it and am trying again.

editornado at gmail dot com

Nancy said...

I'm totally unfamiliar with this area. Would love to read this. Thanks for the chance to win.

nanze55 at hotmail dot com