An Author Interview in Literary Titan Magazine


A Compartmentalized Life

A Compartmentalized Life

The Reversible Mask follows an ambitious man deeply devoted to the Catholic church who becomes a spy for the church before changing his mind and becoming a double agent serving patriotism and religion. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I was fascinated by the notion of a compartmentalized life, an inner conflict that could not be reconciled. Most of us deal with pulls in opposite directions. As an insurance agent I occasionally felt torn between the need of the institution and the needs of my clients. Today, most work and personal conflicts are resolvable. I sold my practice and now write.

But my spy, Edward Latham, couldn’t achieve resolution. He’s loosely based on a double agent of the time, Sir Anthony Standen. His was a pure lifetime experience of compartmentalization. Crawling around in his psyche was irresistibile, then I put Latham at the center of the iconic struggles of the turbulent Elizabethan era. My take on Standen from his letters is that he spied out of a principle of wanting the opposing sides to moderate their violence. Which drew me into an absorbing exploration of moral choices. Being a spy requires some level of betrayal; becoming a double agent doubles it. So how does an idealistic spy construct an individual moral code with individual red lines. Latham achieves this through his adventures.

I was helped in this framing by an interview I saw with a modern spy. In the video The Green Prince, the son of a Hamas leader who spied for Israel for 10 years talks about his new red lines.

What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of the story’s theme?

Many years. A lot of primary sources and secondary sources, Standen’s letters and dispatches to his handlers. There’s still no biography of Standen to the best of my knowledge. There are several academic articles and the authors have diverging views of him, some as a near traitor, self-deluded opportunist, others as one of Elizabeth’s most enterprising and courageous spies abroad. Again, irresistible to get my fix on a fictionalized spy inspired by him.

What is it about the Elizabethan era that makes it a great setting for your spy story?

To me it’s a time that resonates today. Upending of the Catholic Church’s dominance, the discovery of the New World, the beginning of science, traditional alliances between states and between mercantile organizations like the Hanseatic League and the emerging nation states, and the beginning of the idea of the companionate marriage that went beyond property acquisition. Excitement, anxiety, backlashes of violence and superstition. What’s NOT relevant? How can anyone not love the Elizabethan era?

What is the next book that you are working on, and when will it be available?

Thank you for that question. A totally different adventure. I’m just back from a long trip to Papua New Guinea and Australia. My novel (just retitled) Beyond the Bukubuk Tree: A World War II Novel of Love and Loss is due for release in June also by MadeGlobal Publishing. The protagonist is an Australian Jewish doctor who volunteers to join the Army and is posted to Rabaul, the capital of Australia’s Mandated Territory of New Guinea, in 1941. He’s part of Lark Force, the lone and under-resourced battalion defending the town and its strategic environs. They face the full Japanese invasion. It’s a tale of love, betrayal, redemption and heroism. Lots of battle scenes, tropical medicine and polio treatment, two forbidden love stories, and diverse characters drawn from the complex society that was Rabaul in 1941. It won an International Firebird Book Award for War Fiction in July 2023.

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For fans of Philippa Gregory, John le Carré, Alison Weir, and C. J. Sansom:Summer 1566. A glittering royal progress approaches Oxford. A golden age of prosperity, scientific advances, exploration and artistic magnificence. Elizabeth I’s Protestant government has much to celebrate.But one young Catholic courtier isn’t cheering.Conflicting passions–patriotism and religion–wage war in his heart. On this day, religion wins. Sir Edward Latham throws away his title, kin, and country to serve Catholic monarchs abroad.

But his wandering doesn’t quiet his soul, and when Europe’s religious wars threaten his beloved England and his family, patriotism prevails. Latham switches sides and becomes a double agent for Queen Elizabeth. Life turns complicated and dangerous as he balances protecting country and queen, while entreating both sides for peace.

Intrigue, lust, and war combine in this thrilling debut historical novel from Loretta Goldberg.

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