Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
This has to be one of the most amazing author interviews I have ever had the pleasure to host. I’ll leave you to read on to find out just why as you discover the responses Ayşe Osmanoğlu made to my questions and find out more about her and her debut novel, The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus.
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is the book that I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I was a little girl…
Many books have been written about the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, but few tell the intimate story of the members of the Imperial family. Fewer still give an account of the private life of the sensitive and enlightened Sultan Murad V, my great, great, great grandfather. For nearly thirty years he lived in enforced confinement in the Çırağan Palace, his Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus, shut away and forgotten by the outside world after being deposed. He found great comfort in the love of his family, who endured this harsh life of captivity with him – they were my inspiration.
It was never my intention to publish the book – it was written to encourage my children’s interest and sense of pride in their heritage, and to teach them the forgotten customs and traditions of my family. So, one day, I simply started to write. I also wanted to record some of the many stories and memoires that my grandfather shared with me of his life in the Çırağan Palace before they are lost forever. And I wanted to discover more about the characters and personalities behind the faces in my faded old family photographs, so as to keep their memory alive. (My father persuaded me to publish the book once he had read it and I just couldn’t refuse him. The paperback was then published on his 80th birthday!)
What is your writing process? Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
This is the first book I have ever written, and the whole process has been a very steep learning curve for me. I planned no plot outlines, made no chapter summaries and I had never even heard of the Three Act structure! (During lockdown I did an online creative writing course, so the sequel should be written in a much more structured way!)
Firstly I spent months doing the historical research. I studied History and Politics at university, so I found this part of the process not only easy, but also interesting and the most fun. I make all my research notes using pen and paper, but once I started writing the book itself I used Word on my rather dated Mac laptop – I have recently bought Scrivener which I think will make writing the next book far easier! I need complete silence to write. Not easy with five children, so I only write when they are at school / university. I am not naturally creative and need to escape to the sanctuary of my study, surrounded by shelves of books and piles of research material, before being able to immerse myself in the story and journey back to Imperial Istanbul. I must also have a cold Diet Coke, and a tube of Pringles within reach!
What is your favourite character out of your story and why?
That is easy. It is my grandfather! Prince Ali Vasıb. I absolutely adored him. I named my first son after him, and I miss him enormously. The story begins with his birth in October 1903. He does not feature hugely in this first book of my planned series, since he is only a baby, but I hope he approves of how I have portrayed his mother and father, his grandparents and his aunts and uncles… Whenever I had trouble imagining what might have taken place in a particular scene, I would close my eyes and often sensed my grandfather’s presence – he seemed to whisper into my ear the words I should type.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
Oh goodness… This is extremely hard as I know the fate of each of them. They all experienced such great hardships and immense suffering, that I would not like to be any of them. However, I probably identify most with Princess Fehime. She was the middle daughter of Sultan Murad V, and my grandfather’s great aunt – a strong, independent woman, who fiercely resisted the restraints of tradition and convention.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
All my main characters are real people, so I did not have to choose their names. What I did have to decide upon, however, was how they should be spelt! English-speaking readers understandably struggle to pronounce Turkish names. I know this from my own experience – no-one can ever pronounce my name right when they first meet me! So, the decision I faced was to either spell the names correctly or spell them phonetically. Since I wanted to be as authentic as possible I chose to spell them the Turkish way, with a note on the pronunciation included at the back of the book. For example, Fehime is pronounced Fe-hee-mé. I just hope that readers do not get too confused!
Thank you so much Elaine, for inviting me to answer your probing and interesting questions and for hosting me on your Blog, and thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising my Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the 1st Birthday of The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus.
You are very welcome, Ayşe, you have an amazing family history and what a fantastic way to share it! Thank you for answering my questions in such detail, you have me totally intrigued about your book now and I hope others will feel the same!
Read on for more information about Ayşe and her book . . .
For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?
Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.
Evocative and utterly beguiling,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.
Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.
Social Media Links –