Kate Quinn's Blog: Ave Historia, page 6

June 26, 2014

Do any of these 10 things seem familiar? Then you were (or have given birth to) a bookworm child.

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.
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Published on June 26, 2014 11:31 • 806 views

June 21, 2014

Guest blogging over at Writers Read - what books are in my top stack? Lots of HF (no surprise) but some surprises in there too. Seriously, give Lexicon by Max Barry a try, and Rachel Caine's Romeo-and-Juliet spin-off Prince of Shadows: some of the best books I've read this year.

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Published on June 21, 2014 09:44 • 339 views • Tags: elizabeth-loupas, giles-kristian, guest-blog, max-barry, rachel-caine, stephanie-thornton, writers-read

June 17, 2014

It's the Page 69 Test today: namely, what would any reader think if they opened your book to page 69?

Anybody who did that that for "The Lion and the Rose" would walk into the crossfires of a lethal female cat-fight. When a powerful man's current girlfriend locks horns with his ex-girlfriend, sparks quite often fly . . . but what if the man in the middle is His Holiness the Pope?

Don't worry - not THIS Pope!

To read more, click here!
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Published on June 17, 2014 08:38 • 242 views • Tags: guest-post, page-69-test

June 13, 2014

There are a billion blog posts out there about how to write a book, how to market a book, how to sell a book. How to up your word-count; how to make your characters pop; how to hook an agent. There's not so much about how to be happy as a writer. How to live your life, write books, and stay sane.

I certainly don't have everything figured out along those lines, but I've written six books in six years, and I'm not in the nut-house yet. (Barely. Last book came close.) For what it's worth, here are a few things I've figured out, through trial and error, about keeping a word-count and keeping balanced. Because it ain't easy.

1. Figure out how you write best.
Forget the people who say you'll never succeed if you can't crank out at least 4,000 words a day. Forget the people who say longhand is the only way to go. Forget the people who say writing out of sequence is the key to keeping it fresh. How do you work best? Can you churn out a book in a few minutes here and a few minutes there throughout your day, or do you need a solid block of time? Do you write best with notepad or laptop, at the crack of dawn or the dead of night? Can you manage 2,000 words a day, or does the word-count thing stress you out and you'd rather measure your progress in scenes completed? Figure out what works for you. I've found that I work best in the afternoons, need at least five hours, and can produce about 3,000 words on an average day—but everybody's different. My system probably won't work for you, and yours wouldn't work for me.

2. Now that you know how you write best, arrange your life to make it happen.
Not easy, I know. Especially when you've got the demands of kids, family, and day job. I need uninterrupted time to work, and in the days when I had a full college class-load and three jobs, all I could do was carve out my weekend afternoons for writing. I have a friend who writes around three kids, and she'll whip out her laptop while waiting in the carpool line or the pediatrician's office. Whatever you need, make it happen.

3. Realize that something's gotta go.
I always thought that once I was writing full-time, I'd have time for everything: research, writing, housework, two-hour stints at the gym, and cooking gourmet dinners every night. Nope. No matter whether you're writing around a day job or not, there is never enough time. To carve out that space in your day to write, you will have to give something up. Maybe it's your Dr. Who marathons that go bye-bye. Maybe it's that extra hour of sleep in the morning. Or maybe you didn't see your daughter score the winning goal because your spouse took her to her soccer game so you could stay home and work. But something's going to the wayside. I have very little social life and the only show I watch on TV is “Game of Thrones.” So be it.

4. That being said, make time to get outside.
Let's face it, writers are pretty much glued to their computer screens. We have to make ourselves unplug, and getting outside is a good way to do it, even if it's just a five minute stroll around the block with the dog. Besides, I've found that a brisk walk away from my Facebook updates and stack of emails is just about the best way to think through a knotty plot problem.

5. Hit the gym.
I know this is starting to sound like one of those health-and-wellness posts, but hear me out: working up a sweat can really help your writing. Writers over-think everything; the book is never “off” in your head—but that isn't always a good thing. Try taking an hour away from that chapter that's driving you crazy and focus on your sprint time or your downward dog—your brain just might present you with the “bingo” solution as you're sluicing off your gym sweat in the shower. It's like seeing something clearly only when you look slightly away from it. So if you're stuck, try working out—my friend C.W. Gortner swears by yoga, my friend Stephanie Thornton trains for half-marathons, I like to hit a punching bag. Whatever works for you.

6. Try to physically separate writing from your ordinary life.
Maybe your brain is never entirely “off” when it comes to the work-in-progress, but you'll find it a lot easier to relax after your daily stint if you have an office or working sanctum to physically exit when finished. Ideally, of course, this would be a wood-paneled private library a la Downton Abbey complete with fireplace, desk the size of an air-strip, and Carson The Butler bringing you fresh coffee whenever you ring the bell. In real life, we make do with what we've got: a spare bedroom made over into an office; a corner of the living room with a makeshift folding desk; a laptop designated as work-only. Don't have even that much space? I've got friends who made the local Panera their office. Anything that separates writing from life, so you can close the door on it when you're done. If nothing else, it's a helpful cue for family members: the kids will learn very quickly that Mom is not on call to wash soccer uniforms or make Kool-Aid freezer-pops until she is back from Panera or has exited the spare bedroom and shut the door behind her.

7. “Be regular and orderly in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Flaubert said that, and good old Gustave was right. I know the pervasive stereotype of a writer's life is hard partying alternating with all-night writing binges . . . but you'll be more productive with a steady routine, whatever that routine is. (If blowing off steam at a party relaxes you, then make that part of your routine.) When I was working a 9-5 day job, my routine was “Day job Monday through Friday, write all day Saturday, write all day Sunday. Rinse-and-repeat.” These days it's “Get up, walk the dog, go to the gym, shower, eat lunch standing up in front of the fridge, go to spare bedroom-turned-office and write for the next six hours. Rinse-and-repeat.” It's mindless. It's repetitive. It's certainly not glamorous. But it's soothing. Soothing is good for your word-count.

8. Speaking of stereotypes, don't be the substance-abusing writer.
I know; plenty of geniuses like Fitzgerald and Hemingway wrote masterpieces around drug-and-alcohol problems. Still don't recommend it. Most writers probably have a bit of a self-destructive bent built in—after all, our job is not just to nourish the voices in our heads, but talk back to them. Still, it's probably wiser to soothe the crazy with routine rather than vices. Stephen King is the most successful author in the history of the published word, and what does he attribute his success to? “Staying sober, and staying married.”

9. Speaking of married: toxic relationships are toxic for your word-count.
It's tough living with a writer—my husband could tell you all about the midnight scrambles to write an idea down before it fades into sleep; the wild-eyed work binges at deadline time; the fact that some part of my brain is always, always on the work-in-progress. But we're happy, and happiness = productivity. Nobody should settle for less. If your significant other condescends about your cute little hobby, tells you to get a real job, or just plain resents having to do more of the dishes when you're on deadline, kick 'em to the curb and watch your word-count rise in your new-found solitude.

10. Make friends with other writers.
Even the most loving spouse won't know deadline agony quite as intimately as a fellow writer. Friends like this will literally save your sanity, not just by reading your entire 500 page manuscript in 3 days over Christmas week when you really need feedback fast, but by understanding where you're at. When my last book had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown, my husband brought me flowers, made me dinner . . . and arranged for my nearest writer friend to take me out to coffee and talk me off the ledge. It worked. Whether these people live in your hometown or are a Facebook PM away, know who you can reach out to.

This list is by no means complete—it's just a few things that help me stay the course so far, and I know I'll keep learning as long as I keep writing. Because there's no end in sight. This profession is a race with no finish line. Once you hit one goal (You got an agent! You got published!) it's instantly replaced by another one. You're always learning, always working, and there's no magical point at which it becomes easy. Diana Gabaldon with her millions of readers, multi-city book tours, myriad bestseller lists, and Starz mini-series still had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to finish her galley edits, according to her Facebook update. Margaret George still stresses about getting her historical research accurate. Nobody gets a pass on the ups and downs of this life, no matter how successful. I have days when I cry into my coffee and contemplate a career in burger flipping, and I guarantee you, so does Hilary Mantel or Philippa Gregory or Bernard Cornwell. Just remember to keep an even keel. Keep sane. Keep writing.

What tips help you do that? I'm all ears.
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Published on June 13, 2014 09:56 • 851 views • Tags: writing-advice

June 6, 2014

Some of you may have heard me hint over the past few months about a fabulous secret project coming up after "Lady of the Eternal City." Secret no longer--here are the deets.

It's a collaboration between six authors of historical fiction. All about the fall of Pompeii.

Everything began on my last release day, when Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot dropped by in their standard Release Day effort to keep me distracted from my Amazon Sales Ranking by any means up to and including handcuffs. At some point over the champagne, somebody mused "We should write a book TOGETHER. Not just a collection of stories; a book-in-three parts. Romance authors do it all the time, why not historical fiction authors?"

Six months and eight billion emails later, we had a subject - the last days of Pompeii - and a lineup of contributing authors. Six authors, not three; representing all shades and flavors of historical fiction from guts-and-glory star Ben Kane to historical YA phenom Vicky Alvear Shecter; historical family drama expert Sophie Perinot and historical fantasy maven Stephanie Dray and romance-bestseller-turned-historical novelist E. Knight.

At the end of 2014, we will be excited to bring you:

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 escaped the mountain's wrath, some died as heroes . . . and these are their stories.

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 staking his future on a gladiator bout destined to be fatally interrupted.
A crippled senator whose only chance of escape lies with a beautiful tomboy on horseback.
A young mother faced with an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore looking for redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

A novel in six parts, overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross paths during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?
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Published on June 06, 2014 11:43 • 869 views • Tags: a-day-of-fire, ben-kane, eliza-knight, pompeii, sophie-perinot, stephanie-dray, vicky-alvear-shecter

May 23, 2014

I'm over on Andrea's blog today, talking about beta readers and why they make your book better. It's my belief beta readers come in six flavors: the Expert, the Nit-Picker, the Language Reader, the Big Picture Person, the Ideal Demographic, and crucially, the Dark Side. That's who I've got in my stable of beta readers, anyway, and I would move to another continent to follow them if they ever left me.

Want to read more? Click here!

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Published on May 23, 2014 07:47 • 360 views • Tags: q-a, writing-advice

May 9, 2014

The historical genre can sometimes abound with wafty heroines - moody princesses and soulful courtesans and sighing queens. If you're tired of reading about these virginal ninnies, then Stephanie Thornton is the author for you, because her historical heroines rock. I loved her Theodora in The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, a tough-as-nails girl who rose from street urchin to courtesan to Empress - and I couldn't wait for Stephanie's second book on Hatshepsut, the badass of ancient Egypt who took the Pharoah's double crown for herself.

Wait no longer - Hatshepsut in Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt is here, and she's a gem: whip-quick, smart-mouthed, unabashedly sensual, driving a chariot like a hellion and dreaming a man's dreams of power. Have you ordered "Daughter of the Gods" yet? You should.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository

Stephanie Thornton was nice enough to drop by the blog today to answer some questions! Ok, some one-sentence answers to give some context . . .

1. First project?

My first finished novel was actually "Daughter of the Gods," but in a strange twist, "The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora" was the first published.

2. Current project?

Up now is "Daughter of the Gods," the story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut and her tumultuous path to Egypt's throne.

3. Next project?

My next book to hit the shelves will be The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, followed by a novel about the sister, wives, and assorted lovers of Alexander the Great. (Let's just say he was a busy guy...)

4. I'm seeing a pattern here. Publishers talk a lot about an author's "brand," and a lot of the time it seems like BS - most of us don't have an over-arching thematic arc for all the books we're going to write in our lives! But with successive novels on actress/courtesan/empress Theodora, Pharoah Hatshepsut, the wives and daughters of Genghis Khan, and a current work in progress on the women of Alexander the Great, you really do seem to have a clear brand of "Badass Unexplored Women of the Past." Was that deliberate?

Heck yes! I'm a high school history teacher by day, and I get so tired of the lives of ancient women being summed up as their being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. There are a number of mostly ignored, but incredibly badass women in history that should be household names along with Cleopatra and Elizabeth I. (Okay, I realize most households probably don't spend a lot of time talking about historical women... That might just be my house.)

5. What was your favorite scene to write out of Hatshepsut's extraordinary life? Most difficult scene?

The battle scene where Hatshepsut is out collecting hands from the dead Nubians is my all-time favorite. I could visualize that scene before I ever wrote the book's first page. Not only that, but there's historical evidence that Hatshepsut might have done exactly that in real life, which goes to show that she's a true badass.

The most difficult scene was definitely the one where Hatshepsut breaks the news to Aset that she's going to be pharaoh [not Aset's son]. Depending on who was reading, I was told to make her meaner, have her cry more, or find a really good excuse for why she felt she had to be pharaoh. In the end, there was a good reason for her to seize power, but I also didn't want her falling all over herself in apology for taking the crown. After all, she deserved it!

6. She sure did! I loved that about her; that she didn't apologize for being ambitious. Ok, what was the weirdest, whackiest thing you learned in the course of your research?

First, that ancient Egyptian women used a pessary of crocodile dung as a type of birth control. I'm sure it was highly effective at keeping the men away, simply because that's pretty foul. Second, I am now an expert on stampeding hippos and how best to sacrifice a bull. (Always make sure you have their back legs secured.) Thank the gods for YouTube, because their videos were my go-to for research!

7. Hatshepsut carries her story all on her own, but she's got a great surrounding cast: her icky-but-sympathetic brother/husband Thut, fellow wife Aset with whom she strikes up a surprising friendship - and of course, charismatic common-born architect Senenmut who alone out of pretty much all of Egypt has the guts to flirt with an all-powerful female Pharoah. Who plays your ideal cast in the multi-million-dollar HBO mini-series? (Because surely Alan Ball and David Benioff are leaving you messages, right?)

So many messages--that's why I've had to hire secretaries! (See Question #9.) I would dearly love to see Hatshepsut played by a dark-haired Emilia Clarke and Senenmut MUST be played by a pre-Voldemort, English Patient-era Ralph Fiennes. *swoon* I've always seen Aset as looking like Penelope Cruz and although I'm not sure about Thut, I'm thinking someone like Alfie Allen... someone you could possibly like, but prefer to hate.

8. All your heroines come to dinner--Empress Theodora, Hatshepsut, the wives and daughters of Genghis Khan. How does that evening progress?

First, I hope Theodora's cooks are in charge of the meal because no one wants to eat food from ancient Mongolia. (Boiled mutton, raw horsemeat, and lots of fermented mare's milk... Far from a culinary paradise.) I'd daresay there would be some serious gossip on their men's idiosyncrasies, followed by a rowdy shouting match over who had the greatest obstacles to overcome in order to rule their kingdoms. "I ordered 30,000 people killed after the Nika riots!" v. "I had to marry my brother and then steal the throne from my stepson-nephew!" v. "Dude, my dad is Genghis Khan and he threatened to pour molten silver down my throat if I didn't clean the ger!"

9. We all know a writer's life is exactly like you see it on "Castle," so take us through a typical day for you: the red carpet premieres, the private jet to the 19-city book tour, the weekly lunches with Diana Gabaldon and Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, the publisher-funded research trips where they rent out the Valley of Kings so you can walk in Hatshepsut's footsteps all by yourself . . .

Actually, I'm writing this in a vintage Chanel suit while on board my private yacht while my army of secretaries sort through the details of my book tour and fend off offers from HBO to turn all my books into mini-series. All in a day's work...

A girl can dream, right?

Actually, my terribly glamorous day starts at 6AM as I stumble out of bed and head off to teach an assortment of history classes. Then I pick up my daughter, rush home for a flurry of afternoon activities, and throw dinner on the table. Only after my daughter is in bed do I get to change into my yoga pants (the required writer uniform, right?), and sit down to scribble a few pages before falling asleep on my laptop.

However, I did get to travel to Egypt a few years ago in order to research Hatshepsut's story, although that involved traipsing through her mortuary temple and the Valley of the Kings with all the other throngs of gawking tourists. In August, at mid-day. 'Cause I'm insane like that.

10. What sets your books apart from other historical fiction out there on the shelf?

My whole goal in writing historical fiction is to bring to light these kick-ass, forgotten women and to tell their stories in a way that makes modern readers appreciate all the nasty, gnarly obstacles they had to overcome. I also revel in all the cringe-worthy details that reveal how brutal life in the ancient world could be. Consider yourself warned.

And finally, a fun bonus question: everybody asks writers "Where do you get your ideas?" We both know there's no meaningful answer to that, so here's your chance for a snarky response. Where do you get your ideas (and I don't care where you say as long as it's not true!)

I drink a lot of wine, study my cats for hours on end, and indulge in marathons of Doctor Who in order to find my inspiration. There's nothing better than a Syrah-induced haze and the idea of a time-traveling cat to stir the imagination about ancient Byzantium, Egypt, Mongolia, or Greece.

Oh wait... drinking, staring at my cats in a comatose state, and mega-Doctor Who marathons are what I do after my writing deadlines...

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at www.stephanie-thornton.com.
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Published on May 09, 2014 07:52 • 576 views • Tags: daughter-of-the-gods, q-a, stephanie-thornton, the-secret-history

April 15, 2014

I've gotten tagged for another blog hop, and this one is “Meet My Main Character.” I'm currently writing the sequel to my ancient Rome novel “Empress of the Seven Hills,” and if you've read that then you won't be too surprised to know that the main characters there—gladius-swinging legionary Vix and his rival's subtle wife Sabina—will be back for many more adventures.

But I have another heroine who will be elbowing Vix and Sabina out of the way so she can have her share of page time, and I've been keeping her quiet up till now. Want to learn a little more about her?

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Her name is Annia, a young heiress of ancient Rome. And she is a historical figure, but I'm not giving you her full name because I don't want you running to Wikipedia and finding out what happens to her before the book is even out.

2) When and where is the story set?
Second century Rome, under the reign of the fascinating, mercurial, ever-traveling Emperor Hadrian. The same guy who built that big wall across the top of England because he took one look into Scotland and said, very sensibly, “Hell no.”

3) What should we know about your main character?
“She had big blue-gray eyes with red lashes, like a sword-blade with a fan of blood on it and every bit as piercing.” That about sums Annia up. She may be a rich girl in a silk dress, but she's tough as nails and no one to mess with.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Annia will find herself embroiled in all kinds of Imperial hot water—plots, assassinations, poison, and mayhem. She's just a young 'un, but she'll find herself having to put her life on the line to save the Empire when the adults have totally screwed things up.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
She has an arch-enemy she'd love to put in the ground, because he's been bullying her all her life. And she has a bookworm best friend who has been proposing marriage since she was four, and she really wishes he'd knock it off.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
“Lady of the Eternal City” is the title, but there's no blurb yet because I haven't had time to write one!

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
March 2015, if I can meet my deadline. Which is rushing at me like an oncoming train, so I'd better get back to work.

Paula Lofting tagged me, and now I've tagged three authors to follow and post about their main characters . . . which I happen to know include at least one fascinating and famous set of historical lovers, so be sure to check them out on the 22nd!

1. Sherry Jones
2. Christy English
3. Donna Russo Morin
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Published on April 15, 2014 04:17 • 869 views • Tags: blog-hop, christy-english, donna-russo-morin, lady-of-the-eternal-city, paula-lofting, sherry-jones

April 1, 2014

I'm giddy—Elizabeth Loupas has a new book out today. This is her third,
The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence, and normally I'd be sprinting to the bookstore for my copy, but I've already got one. One of the nicer parts of being an author is getting sneak peeks at the books you're dying to read—and a few months back, Elizabeth contracted me to see if I might be willing to read her upcoming Medici romp and offer it a quote.

Did I, ever.

I first swooned for Loupas's talent when I devoured her debut, The Second Duchess, featuring a whip-smart Duchess of Ferrara investigating the mysterious death of her husband's first wife. Gorgeous prose, a fabulous mystery, and one of the sexiest, scariest heroes around. (I got the chance to meet Elizabeth at my first Historical Novel Society conference shortly afterward—a lovely lady who listened to me rave about her Alfonso d'Este ad infinitum. He really is very rave-able.)

Sophomore novel The Flower Reader was another hit with me; a lady-in-waiting to a young Mary Queen of Scots, caught in a hellish court conspiracy. But
The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence might just be Loupas's best yet—I devoured it in a matter of days. My review:

“Machiavelli meets The Brothers Grimm: a dark fairy tale with the addictive allure of a poison dream. Renaissance Florence springs to life in all its gorgeous, treacherous glory when a brave street urchin finds herself neck deep in Medici blood-lust. A dash of magic, a maze of murder, a heroine to root for, and a villain who needs to die--this is historical fiction at its most compelling.”

Buy this book. You will not regret it.
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Published on April 01, 2014 07:17 • 550 views • Tags: elizabeth-loupas, red-lily-crown, the-flower-reader, the-second-duchess

March 24, 2014

If there's any TV show I get a kick out of, it's “Castle.” Nathan Fillion plays a bestselling novelist, and to watch him you'd think a writer's life is all red-carpet events, research trips to exotic and dangerous places, and the occasional hour or two of staring pensively at a spiral-bound notebook. No writer I know has ever worked that way—just take a look through this cyclical blog tour “My Writing Process.” Christy English tagged Stephanie Dray with the four questions below, and Stephanie in turn tagged me—and among all our answers, you won't find a single a red-carpet event or a spiral-bound notebook!

Yeah, a writer's life is really nothing like this.

1) What am I working on?
I'm working on the long-awaited sequel to “Empress of the Seven Hills,” which is titled “Lady of the Eternal City” and will be released March 2015. This has been the book from hell, but it's also been hugely rewarding. I'm revisiting my rough-edged Roman legionary Vix, who is caught in a tangled triangle with Hadrian, the brilliant and sinister Emperor of Rome, and Hadrian's elegant wife Sabina who is both the love and the bane of Vix's life. Throw in poison, plotting, rebellion, a trip down the Nile and the building of Hadrian's wall, and you have yourself a wild ride!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books will make you laugh. A lot of historical fiction has gotten very serious lately—all these moody princesses and grim battlefield epics! And I love books like that, but history can be zany, absurd, and wonderfully whacky as well as deadly serious. And I like showing my readers the fun side.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Search me—I'm not sure we can ever figure out exactly why we are fascinated by the things that grip us body and soul. For me, it's always been the past. Maybe because of my mother's degree in ancient and medieval history, which had me watching “I, Claudius” instead of Disney cartoons, and listening agog to bedtime stories of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon rather than the Billy Goats Gruff crossing the troll bridge. But historical fiction is always where I gravitated.

4) How does your writing process work?
The two key ingredients for me are black coffee and a black dog. The coffee keeps me alert through the seven hours or so I'm sitting at my laptop (I work longer hours at this than I ever did at an office cubicle). And the little black dog at my side gets me off the laptop, insisting not so gently that I take him for his morning stroll—and that's where I do some of my best thinking. It's good for a writer to unplug, get away from the Facebook updates and the editor emails and online researching. And somehow, my mind always manages to wander usefully while my feet are moving—I can come back from an hour of romping with the dog in the snow, and I'll have solved that plotting problem that was giving me headaches an hour ago.

My friend Sophie Perinot has agreed to answer the same questions for me—I love hearing how other writers work (and I'm betting no red-carpet events or spiral-bound notebooks for her, either!) Check back here next Monday March 31st, and I'll link to her site so you can see what her answers are.
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Published on March 24, 2014 06:12 • 1,070 views • Tags: christy-english, sophie-perinot, stephanie-dray, writing-process

Ave Historia

Kate Quinn
An irreverent look at historical fiction today: books trends, historical tidbits, and random tangents.
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