The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.
Following find an interview with author Tim Darcy Ellis.
What is the name of the book, and when was it published?
The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives, Published August 14, 2020
What’s the book’s first line?
‘With a slap on the table and a clap on my back, Johannes, the dazzling student, slams down this leather-bound book of nothing.’
What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives chronicles the epoch-making adventures of the real-life great Spanish humanist, Juan Luis Vives.
Here’s the pitch…
It is 1522. Vives hides out in self-imposed exile in Bruges, the Spanish Netherlands. His family have been devastated by the Inquisition in Valencia, Spain. When England’s Thomas More invites him to England to tutor princess Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, he eagerly accepts.
Once in England, he navigates the murky politics of Tudor court; trying to save his family, and people, languishing in Spain. He walks a swaying tightrope between a fractious king and queen and is torn between the love of two women. He must betray one to help the other – knowing his life hangs in the balance. Whom will he decide to support?
Vives is the embodiment of the cosmopolitanism of the intellectual elite during the Renaissance. He is a genius and a philosopher who has a lot to say (he has since been dubbed ‘the godfather of psychoanalysis,’ and the ‘father of psychology’). He is prepared to risk everything to say it, but can he save his own neck at the same time?
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?
My love of history began when he was four years of age; spending hours pouring over history books in his childhood home in Surrey, England. I became especially fascinated with the Tudors: Henry VIII and his six wives, the rise of the Renaissance. I worked extensively on sites throughout England and Wales, he held posts at the Museum of London, and he was a tour guide at the British Museum. It was during this period that I developed a lifelong fascination with England’s immigrant communities—their struggles, conflicts, failures and, ultimately, their successes.
Years later, living in Australia, I gifted a Spanish friend The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture’ by Henry Kamen (2008). I thumbed through the pages before passing it on, and by chance, I stumbled upon the incredible story of Juan Luis Lives. To my surprise, there were no films, no novels, and no recent biographies of this astonishing man and his life, and so I got to work.
What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?
A reviewer described it thus: ‘A love letter to another time, The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives is both eloquent and accessible for all readers.’
So it provides an ‘in’ to the Renaissance period. The reader can root for a character they probably don’t know, and they get a really fresh take on the Tudor court. This was a time when, despite persecutions and horrors, great men and women emerged, and they shaped the world to come, for the better. Vives was one of those great men.
What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?
He’s remarkably driven and persistent, he survives numerous internal and external conflicts; whatever turmoil life throws at him.
IndieReader wrote: ‘Ellis draws his characters so wonderfully, and none is better than the lead. The smart, charming, and earnest humanist is depicted as the embodiment of a better world to come…he is the embodiment of the cosmopolitanism of the intellectual elite during the Renaissance.‘
Vives is kind of unique. Someone who reminds me of him so would have survived accusation, racism, loss of status and done it with dignity. They would have an unwavering sense that they could still make the world a better place. It would have to be someone with patience and an unfaltering determination to get back on top. Perhaps Nelson Mandela.
If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?
It would have to be somebody who could paly erudite, and yet have fun at the same time. It would have to be somebody who is fluent on Spanish and English and is around 30 years odd age. Perhaps Anglo-Argentinian actor Ben Cura.
When did you first decide to become an author?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I’ve written health and wellness for years, and I have a magazine, Excel Life. I’ve also written academic papers. Still, it was always my life’s desire to write a novel. There is something deeply personal and cathartic about the process. It has taken me a long time to get there, but it has been well worth it!
Is this the first book you’ve written?
What do you do for work when you’re not writing?
I am a physiotherapist, business owner, and I was once a professional archaeologist and tour guide. I currently work in my own business, Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness, and I am chief writer and editor of Excel Life magazine.
How much time do you generally spend on your writing?
It can be very addictive. I feel creative and imaginative in the mornings and can easily put in a few hours before 10AM. I don’t like to be distracted during that period. In the afternoons, I can add another couple of hours researching and checking my story for plot, character and direction, that’s before I get to correspondence and marketing.
What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?
I actually love having complete creative control. I occasionally get tired of having to drive everything. However, along the way, I can select the people that I want to work with. My learning curve is incredibly steep: that makes me feel that I am expanding my horizons and abilities, which is deeply satisfying.
What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?
You need to get the balance between ‘don’t give up on your day job‘ and ‘don’t give up on your dream.’ You have to accept feedback and criticism but not to the point where it breaks your heart – or spirit- and undermines your goal of getting your work published. If you believe in your book, you must push it all the way through to publication: it’s your duty and your destiny.
Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling? If so, why?
Probably, after some serious discussions. The big publishers know the industry in ways that an indie can’t possibly know the industry. They have the marketing and distribution channels at their fingertips. I’m happy that I have had the indie experience, though.
Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)
Renown and respect. I never gave up my day job, and I love my work in health and wellness. However, I do want to be respected as a distinguished writer.
Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?
Great question, there are so many!
I take my hat off to Hilary Mantel for persevering with her Wolf Hall trilogy, and for expanding all of our horizons with historical fiction. That said, my favourite contemporary writer is Kazuo Ishiguro, his sublime versatility and ease of style is a joy, and his prose is impeccable.
Which book do you wish you could have written?
I’m just glad that I wrote the Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives, that’s the book that I’ve always wanted to write, and I finally did it!