Kate Quinn's Blog: Ave Historia
December 15, 2014
Books make great stocking stuffers!
1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. A quirky and unabashedly intellectual book about smart people thinking smart thoughts. Renee is a Paris concierge, hiding her passion for books and art behind a concierge's stereotypical surliness; Paloma is a twelve-year-old genius being driven mad by school, life, and the stupidity around her. She's planning to kill herself when she turns thirteen, more or less out of boredom—but a cautious friendship with the prickly Renee and a contemplative Japanese businessman changes all three lives in astounding ways.
Buy for: that ultra-smart kid in your life, whether it's your bookworm daughter or your genius little brother or that eleven-year-old you babysit for who gets bullied because she's already reading Jane Austen. That kid will see themselves in Paloma, and like she did probably develop a passion for French art and Japanese calligraphy.
2. Blood Eye by Giles Kristian. I found Kristian's Viking series after going into serious withdrawal from Bernard Cornwell's “Saxon Stories,” and it doesn't disappoint. This story of a boy named Raven swept up into the crew of a Viking longship is everything you want from guts-and-glory historical fiction: bone-crunching shield-walls, pulse-pounding adventures, and prose of blood-stirring action and sometimes lyrical beauty.
Buy for: your mother, if she's like mine and absolutely adores a good skull-crushing with her evening glass of chardonnay.
3. Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. I know nothing about Caine except that she has a YA vampire series, so this book was an expected shock of deliciousness: Romeo and Juliet retold with a surprising twist. The hero and heroine here are Benvolio (Romeo's steady best friend) and Rosaline (Romeo's first infatuation, ditched for Juliet). This pair is smarter, older, and far more savvy than their more famous counterparts, and they struggle to stop the inevitable—all the while feeling like the "curse on both their houses" may be a literal catalyst for all this disaster, and not just a poetic conceit.
Buy for: your office-mate whose cubicle is pasted with Shakespeare quotes, and who can be heard muttering “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day” as she watches the clock move toward 6pm. She'll geek out on the way Caine weaves Shakespeare's lines into her own dialogue.
4. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. A feel-good book which also manages to be whip-smart and side-splittingly funny—no small feat to pull off. Ed is a tech-head millionaire currently on the outs for unwitting insider trading, hiding from his family and looking for new purpose. New purpose storms into his life in the form of Jess, a blue-collar single mom with a giant farting dog, a sullen teenage stepson, and a genius daughter who has to get to Scotland for a math competition if she has any chance of getting into an elite school and out of the cycle of poverty. Ed ends up driving the band of misfits to Scotland, and over the next week as his car and his life are systematically dismantled, something else starts to form—a rag-tag little family.
Buy for: that friend who's been a bit battered by life lately, and really needs a smile on her face. Reassure her in advance that the dog doesn't die.
5. Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. Sequel to his fabulous “The Given Day,” and centering around a cocky Irish boy who starts low on the rungs of the Boston mob during Prohibition, and rises steadily through the roaring 20s until he is running the Florida division of the mob's liquor business. Shifts effortlessly from 20s-era Boston to Florida to Cuba in a whirl of crime bosses, hit men, bathtub gin parties, good girls gone bad, bad girls gone good, and the inevitable consequences to a life of crime. Seedy, violent, glorious.
Buy for: your dad who has a passion for gangster movies. Tell him it's “The Godfather” and “The Departed” rolled into one.
6. Speaking of living by night, try The Quick by Lauren Owen. This is Bram Stoker-style Victorian gothic at its best; buttoned-up London suits and properly closed doors, and the horrors that sometimes live behind them. A shy young poet comes to London and is introduced to a secret society of London's most lethal men—a society that will have to be fought with blood when the poet disappears, and his determined sister comes to town looking for answers. A brave heroine, a band of eccentric vigilantes, and a villain named Doctor Knife—this will have you reading far into the night, and falling asleep with all your lights on.
Buy for: your gay bestie, because there is a tender and wonderful m/m romance tucked into all the supernatural tension.
7. The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, by Stephanie Thornton. Four narrators handing the torch to each other in turn: the Khan's seeress first wife, his brash tomboy daughter, a Persian captive turned councillor, and finally a watchful daughter-in-law who will seize the reins when the great Khan's empire begins to fracture. Other women have roles to play as well: a tough-as-nails adopted daughter; a rape-ravaged princess whose madness will have unspeakable consequences for one of the four narrators. These women are fascinating, and there isn't a weakling among them.
Buy for: your sister, so you can speculate how the two of you would have fared managing a ger and drinking fermented mare's milk.
8. Joyland by Stephen King. No one can write a coming-of-age story like (ironically) the master of horror. This beauty has it all, a bittersweet and moving tale of a college boy whose summer stint at an old-fashioned carnival turns out to have a lot of firsts: first love, first heartbreak, first real job, first sex partner—and since there is both a ghost and a serial killer on the loose in the carnival, first brush with death and the supernatural.
Buy for: your nephew going off to college for his own coming-of-age story. Write your phone number on the inside: “If a girl dumps you and you get as depressed as the hero in this book, don't sit there listening to the Doors and thinking about suicide the way he does. CALL ME.”
9. The Magicians Trilogy Boxed Set by Lev Grossman. This is the book for you if you ever wished you could go to Narnia or Hogwarts. Quentin is a brilliant student with a fanboy crush on a series of books clearly based on CS Lewis's Narnia; the kid who never got over the fact that he didn't open a wardrobe and find a fantasy paradise. But he does get his Hogwarts letter, finding himself accepted to a college called Brakebills which trains the gifted few in the arts of magic. Quentin is a bit of a prat through the first two books, but the world-building is wonderful: Brakebills is like Harry Potter with drinking, screwing, and swearing.
Buy for: your older brother, so you can reminisce back to the days when he played Peter, you played Lucy, and you both just knew you were going to open a door to Narnia someday and become High King and Queen of Narnia.
10. The Complete Unwind Dystology: Unwind; UnWholly; UnSouled; UnDivided by Neal Shusterman. YA dystopia stories are a dime a dozen these days, but this quartet is a cut above the rest, envisioning a world where the abortion debate and most of the world's diseases have been solved in the most horrific way possible: abortion is illegal, but from the ages of 13 to 18, parents can elect to have their problem teens Unwound, their bodies harvested as replacement organs and parts for the nation's diseased and wounded (it doesn't count as murder, the argument goes, because all the dead teen's parts are still alive, just in separate bodies!) The book starts with three teens on the run from this grim fate, but spans out to encompass many more characters. A horrifying, thought-provoking, unflinching read through four unputdownable books.
Buy for: your bookworm grandma who thinks YA has turned into nothing but sparkly vampires and love triangles. Be prepared for a long thoughtful discussion on the social ramifications of organ harvesting.
And for a final bonus book . . .
11. A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Vicky Alvear Shecter and, yes, me. Normally I wouldn't list one of my own titles on any best-of list, but I only wrote 1/6 of this collection—I had no idea what my collaborators were going to come up with, and I was as agog and delighted as any strange reader when I got to read the whole collection A-Z. Vicky's heart-breaking boy on the cusp of manhood; Sophie's quiet engineer hero; Ben's disreputable ex-soldier with his dogged loyalty; Eliza's young mother-to-be and Stephanie's pair of lion-brave whores—these characters didn't come from my brain, and they combined into a wonderful whole to tell the story of Pompeii's last fatal day, so I feel justified in pimping my fellow authors.
Buy for: everybody you know. Absolutely everybody. Because I want to see this book on the NYT list, don't you? Let's make it happen.
November 4, 2014
"Why haven't historical fiction authors jumped in?" Sophie wondered. "We could pick a historical event and go to town! What event?"
"Sinking of the Titanic? Downton Abbey tie-in . . ."
"Field of the Cloth of Gold? Tudor tie-in . . ."
"Destruction of Pompeii . . . ?"
Eyes gleamed. And this project was born.
It's been a wild, sometimes rocky, always exhilarating ride. Our original trio was swiftly joined by three more musketeers. I screwed up the nerve to approach Ben Kane, whose work I adore (after being wowed by the gorgeous mayhem he wreaked with the Spartacus legend, I knew he could tear the top off a mountain in style). Vicky Alvear Shecter already had a hit YA HF novel in the works about Pompeii (Curses and Smoke, highly recommended!) but didn't mind revisiting the lava fields with us. And self-pub goddess E. Knight joined the Good Ship Pompeii and firmly took the tiller, steering the rest of us self-pub newbies through the waters of the Indie Ocean.
I am uniquely proud of what I and my five co-authors have put together in "A Day of Fire." I think, frankly, that it's awesome. Some of that was planned (the careful plotting we did to interweave characters; the careful research into the latest Pompeii archaeological findings), and some of it wasn't (how did we get such a perfect cross-section of Roman society in our protagonists? Sheer luck). But we worked hard, and it was worth every moment.
And at long last, our story about the final days of Pompeii is available in e-book and print!
“This truly is the finest book I have read this year, an emotional roller-coaster that educates while it entertains. Its impact will stay with me for quite some time.” ~Parmenion Books
“Despite knowing what happens in Pompeii and to the majority of its citizens, A Day of Fire is a book full of suspense, fear, and unexpected bravery.” ~Ageless Pages
“I can’t praise this book highly enough. It’s a rattling good tale of disaster, death, resolution and rebirth.” ~Dodging Arrows
“I LOVED this! The writing style, the choice of stories told, the evolution of characters, the drama. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” ~The Maiden’s Court
"Each one of these authors deserves a huge amount of praise for putting this impressive piece of art together.” ~Steven McKay
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories:
A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?
October 25, 2014
2. Page 81: That's the fourth misspelled word . . . and those are just the ones I caught. Wait, how many am I missing?!
3. Start over.
4. Send panicked email to writing buddy begging for one more reread of that problematic eighth chapter.
5. This book is terrible.
6. Realize you said the Roman eagle standard was silver, when Imperial-era eagles were gold. Make change, exhale, then grow cold. That was just the historical error you caught. HOW MANY AM I MISSING?!
7. Incorporate Chapter 8 changes from writing buddy, who read your pages at 11:30 at night on what was supposed to be a dinner break in the middle of their own deadline crisis. Hit the Vatican website and start petition to have writing buddy canonized.
8. Spend four hours untangling the timeline inconsistencies pointed out by your copyeditor, then realize it's all because you miscalculated your hero's age, i.e. you can't count.
9. Get the shivers when your primary source says the Chapter 19 lightning strike happened fifteen years earlier than you placed it in your story. Ransack research materials wildly looking for that vindicating second source, which is missing. Finally found under sleeping, resentful dog who has not been walked in days.
10. Compose email offering your editor your first born child and a kidney if you can have another week to finish this. Delete email, go back to work.
11. Deadline Day. Writing buddy comes to your house, handcuffs you to the sink, and presses Send for you.
12. Thank writing buddy. Set a date next week to do the same for her when she needs to press Send.
13. Start drinking.
October 7, 2014
September 17, 2014
Title: A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii
Authors: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Eliza Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: November 4, 2014
US readers can pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NI5CBXI
UK fans here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI
Prefer paperback? No problem - hard copies aren't available for pre-order, but "A Day of Fire" WILL release in paperback as well, on November 4th!!!
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . .
Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:
A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets;
An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire;
An ex-legionary who stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished;
A crippled senator welcoming death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue;
A young mother facing an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls;
And a priestess and a whore seeking redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
September 13, 2014
Now, he's not a slob—the faucets in our bathrooms are shined to pass a Navy inspection, and he actually reproaches me if I do the vacuuming without him—but clean and tidy are two very different things. The man I married leaves a swathe of discarded objects in his wake wherever he goes, and I notice it immediately now that he has been transferred overseas, has departed for pre-training, and will not returning home for more than a year.
My carpet is tidy. There is no scatter of boat-sized shoes across the living room, lying everywhere but in the actual shoe bin. It's less of a tripping hazard—if you tossed his shoes into the sea, they'd have to be registered as shipping hazards—but this shoe-free carpet makes me sad.
My dining room table is tidy. No scatter of Dr. Pepper cans, Red Bull cans, and water bottles, all opened and drunk down to exactly the 1/3 mark.
My kitchen counters are tidy. No enthusiastic-amateur-chef's mess of spice jars, onion peelings, Wusthof filleting knives, and garlic in every permutation in which it can possibly be sold (whole, cloves, peeled, diced, coarse powder, fine powder, and in a paste).
My bedroom is tidy. No clothes that have been dropped on the carpet exactly six inches from the laundry basket. No random pairs of sleeves that have been hacked off yet another t-shirt which he has decided will be more comfortable if sleeveless. No torn and paint-spattered cargo shorts hanging up next to the immaculately pressed Navy whites.
My bookshelves are tidy. There are now gaping holes where his massive and varied collection of Asimov, Heinlein, Shakespeare, and Calvin & Hobbes have been packed for the Middle East.
My driveway is tidy. No screaming-red speed-demon of a Subaru with its “Skydiving: My Drug of Choice” bumper sticker, its exhaust which can be heard from three blocks away, and its horsepower upgrades which probably only the motorheads on “Top Gear” would call street-legal.
My walls are tidy. One third of the weapons collection is packed into sea-bags, since it would be sheer sadism to ask my sword-mad spouse to pass a year without his replica Legolas daggers, his Japanese short sword, and his combat-grade-steel bastard-length broadsword. At the very least.
No tangle of extra car keys. No Rise Against CDs or vintage Varitek baseball jerseys or thick science textbooks bookmarked to the section on black holes. No emails with links to The Colbert Report or George Takei comics or recipes for truffled lasagna (“Dinner tonight?”)
I'm a tidy sort—my shoes are always in the bin, my clothes are always in the laundry basket, my eight varieties of garlic are all put away. I groan at the man I married for all the reasons above, though it's a humorous groan. The year ahead of me is going to be very tidy. Not lonely—I have a ferociously protective and loving dog, a vast circle of friends, and more attentive neighbors than I can count, all within arm's reach.
But it's going to be a very tidy year.
I will welcome the mess when it comes home.
August 14, 2014
I think a little more laughter—a little more humor—is something we could all use, in this never-ending debate about book reviews. So here it is, my semi-annual “I hated your book!” blog post: the top ten oddball reviews or nutty emails I've received this year, along with the responses I make in my head. As always, details have been changed to keep the reviewer/commenter anonymous, but all remain true in essence.
1. “Interesting book about Julius Caesar, his lovers, and his enemies.”
But—but—none of my books are about Julius Caesar, his lovers, OR his enemies.
2. “Everybody loves Emperor Trojan in this book, and I don't get it. Trojan crushed other cultures without mercy.”
Ok, maybe you didn't agree with his expansionist policies, but do the man the courtesy of getting his name right. He's an emperor, not a condom.
3. “The Borgia's might be an interesting clan, but this book about the Borgia's put me to sleep.”
And your misuse of the apostrophe is driving me mad, so I'd say you got the better end of the deal.
4. “The historical inaccuracies made me wince. I mean, the heroine was cooking strawberries in the winter!”
This book has a mummified saint's hand that moves around under its own power, and it's strawberries in winter that snaps your suspension of disbelief?
5. This book seemed good, but it had a depiction of adultery and I'm sorry, but I will not read anything with a depiction of adultery.
That depresses me. Not so much that you're missing out on my book, but that you're missing out on “Anna Karenina,” “Madame Bovary,” and Anya Seton's “Katherine.”
6. Would have given this book four stars except for the fact that the hero and the heroine didn't end up together. Why couldn't they have a happily ever after?
Um . . . because history says they didn't get one?
7. “I liked this book about the Borgias, but in the end I'm looking for something more serious, like the Showtime series.”
Howls with laughter.
8. “Can't believe Margaret George said this was `literary.' Then again, considering what Margaret George writes—”
Now wait just a minute. Call my books whatever you want, but if you start running down my idol Margaret George, you and I are going to have WORDS.
9. “A bunch of stuff in here is wrong, like the pimp.”
I assume you are objecting to the slang term pimp and not the concept as a historical job occupation? Because I assure you that while the Romans might have had their own Latin terms for a procurer, the career of exploiting women in the sex trade was a lucrative and time-honored lifestyle choice in A.D. 100.
10. “Crappy story about Julius Caesar.”
Oh, for f*ck's sake.
July 8, 2014
National bestselling author Kate Quinn returns with the long-awaited fourth volume in the "Empress of Rome" series, an unforgettable new tale of the politics, power, and passion that defined ancient Rome.
Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.
Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .
Praise for the Empress of Rome novels
“Gripping.”—Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series
“Quinn handles imperial Rome with panache.”—Kirkus Reviews
"A masterful storyteller.”—Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I: The Novel
June 26, 2014
1. An advanced ability to walk while reading. Forget those skits where the kid walks book-first into a glass door. A true bookworm child can navigate a full schoolbus route including steps, greeting the driver, finding a seat, successfully locating their stop, and walking the mile and a half home without ever running into anything, wandering into oncoming traffic, or lowering the book from their nose.
2. The inability to pass even a 1-minute waiting period without reading. True bookworm children will whip out the Kindle while waiting for their coffee to finish its 60 seconds of heating, rather than spend that 60 seconds just, you know, waiting.
3. Bookworm children are drinking coffee by 11.
4. A complete inability to pace themselves when reading. Bookworm children will pack seventeen books for a week-long family vacation in Cabo, read all seventeen by day four, then complain bitterly that the only books available are crappy Gothic romances or Harry Potter y la orden del Fénix. Will spend the rest of the vacation plowing grimly through Barbara Michaels, and come home with the ability to cast Unforgivable Curses in Spanish.
What tropical paradise? I'm reading here!
5. Will read anything. You probably imagine your bookworm child adorably curled up with War and Peace, but in truth they will read anything. They will read 2009 editions of “Popular Mechanic” if there is nothing else available in waiting rooms. They will read books they don't even like: a paperback R.L. Stine surreptitiously read under a desk is still better than geometry.
6. Detention slips for being caught three times during class reading an R.L. Stine under the desk.
7. Stores of arcane knowledge. Bookworm children soak in everything. They'll tell you what a turbo engine and how it works at age 12—because they remember that 2009 issue of “Popular Mechanic.”
8. A dour expression. This originates from dealing with adults routinely demanding “What are you going to do with all those books?” (Use them for firewood?)
9. A hatred of reading programs. Most bookworm kids will avoid librarians with summer reading lists like the plague. They're not interested in filling out the form, getting the sticker, or being a Gold Star Reader. They simply want to be left alone to read, dammit.
10. The ability to sneak. Sneak Dad's library card out of his wallet, that is, so they can get around the librarians who refuse to let “I, Claudius” go out on a kid card. The true bookworm child also has a practiced doe-eyed expression as “My dad told me to get this for him when I got my Babysitter Club Books” trips innocently off the tongue.
And yes: I did pretty much every one of these growing up.