The Dreaded Day Job and a Really Good New Book

Much as I’m trying to carve a niche for myself as a novelist, my first books–and the business that pays the bills–are non-fiction and center on business communication. That’s why I’m really proud to announce that (co-written with Kevin Eikenberry, peace be upon him) the new book is at the pubishers.

The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership is now available for pre-order. It’s from Berrett-Koehler publishers, and we couldn’t be happier, both with the book and our partnership with B-K.

This book takes the communication skills i wrote about in “10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations” and “Meet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings” and blends them with Kevin’s years of Leadership Development expertise to take a totally fresh, new look at how we are really working today.

If you manage a remote team, or work in a place where your co-workers are at home or spread around the globe, I invite you to check out the book. Since publication date isn’t until the end of April, you’ll be hearing more as the date gets nearer. In the meantime, I blog and write regularly at The Remote Leadership Institute site. Check it out or follow us on Twitter @LeadingRemotely

Check out the book, or my Amazon author page. If you know my work because of my fiction, you’ll find lots of information to help your business life. If you only know me through my day job, I invite you to check out my novels, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard. Heck, if you’re bored, check the Stories section on this page for some of my short fiction work.

More to come, I look forward to continuing to share with you. Have a great week.

 

Alternative History- Rome in the 21st Century w Alison Morton

About  a year ago, I asked, “why does it seem everyone’s working on a novel about ancient Rome?” Then this year has gone by and I think the question should be more like, “why isn’t EVERYONE writing about it?”  The notion of history holding perhaps some answers for why our own nations act like they do is an old one, as is asking, “what if?”

That’s where alternative history comes into play, which eventually leads us to Alison Morton’s “Roma Nova” series, and her latest installment, “Insurrectio.” Not only does it ask “what if the Empire survived until today?” It also plays with roles of gender and class.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilization. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.

The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine, which is a good gig if you can get it.

Okay, Lady. In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

INSURRECTIO is about a rising nationalist movement led by a charming demagogue who wishes to overturn an established political system at a weak moment in a country’s history. (Any resemblance to persons living or dead, is completely coincidental and fully denied – I started drafting this first).

But it also charts the lifelong struggle between Aurelia, our upright and complex heroine, and Caius, an amoral charmer determined to destroy her and all she stands for. She’s an ex-Praetorian officer and now imperial councillor, utterly loyal to the imperatrix, the ruler of Roma Nova; he’s a wastrel, just released from prison where she put him nearly thirteen years before.

So it’s about sex, power and revenge in a small piece of the Roman Empire that’s survived into the 20th century. Until now.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I stepped onto my first mosaic pavement at age eleven. As I listened to my father (senior Roman nut) explain about senators and soldiers, farmers and traders, power and occupation, I asked what the mummies and children did. Being the daughter of a feminist mother I was dismayed about the reply that mummies stayed indoors looking after the children and had no public life, vote or independence.

Maybe it was the hot sun in that Spanish sky, budding feminism or merely a smartass kid asking a smartass question, but I asked him what it would be like if women ran Roman life instead of the men. He shot back, “What do you think it would have been like?”

I held that thought throughout most of my life until I sat down to write my first Roma Nova thriller. I brought the story up to the modern age as although women exerted influence, they weren’t able to hold power in antiquity in the way I wanted them to in my stories, so I plunged into alternat(iv)e history. We’re still fascinated by Rome; just suppose a Roman society had survived with forums, temples, a Senate, a strong military but with an innate state service ethic and well-developed personal responsibility and it was run by women…

That’s a lot of ifs… Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favo(u)rite scene or event in the book?

I’d like to choose two types, if I may. Firstly, all the confrontations between Aurelia and Caius. They spark personality and supressed sexual tension, but most of all, the struggle for power. Very Roman! He winds her up, but can’t dent her inner core; she refuses to bend her principles and can’t understand why he has no conscience.

Secondly, Aurelia will do anything to protect her frail and, to be honest, light-minded daughter; they struggle to understand each other although there is no doubt about their mutual love. Writing their scenes together was an emotional experience as was Aurelia’s frustration with, and deep passion for, the elusive Miklós.

Where can people find you and your book (links to Amazon page, Goodreads, Twitter, Blog whatever)?

Social media links

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton

Amazon author page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon

 

Buying link for INSURRECTIO (multiple retailers/formats):

http://alison-morton.com/books-2/insurrectio/where-to-buy-insurrectio/

INSURRECTIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/eXGslRLjv6g

 

Nzinga: African Warrior Queen- Moses L Howard

I will be the first to admit that when I think of “African history” my mind immediately goes to Victorian Englishmen in pith helmets. That, of course, is both wrong and stupid, but so much of real African history is only found in oral tradition. So I was absolutely delighted to stumble across a novel called “Nzinga- African Warrior Queen,” by Moses Howard. It’s a great read about a young woman in what’s now Angola, and her fight for her people and culture against the Portuguese in the early days of European exploration. It neatly fits two of the important tenets of this blog: 1) It’s hard to be a badass woman in a corset and 2) Swords are cooler than guns.

When I read about his own personal journey to writing the story I knew I needed to learn more.

What’s the Moses Howard story?

Dr Moses Howard, author of Nzinga: African Warrior Queen

I started out on a farm in Mississippi. With a biology degree in hand, I was in the first wave of the Teacher Education for East Africa project out of Columbia University in the 1960s, where I spent ten years training medical technologists and teachers in Uganda. Back in the States, I’ve been a biology teacher, assistant high school principal, community college dean, and counselor/mentor for students at risk. I began writing children’s chapter books while in Africa, and have been writing fiction for children and adults ever since.

What’s “Nzinga” about?

“Nzinga” is really about a child who at an early age learns to decipher her environment, understanding what she needs to survive. She treats her father, the king of Ndongo, as a beacon of light that she follows to know how to be in the world. As an adult, Nzinga masters the elements of her society and the ways of her enemies—and uses her enemies’ ways against them. She uses their animals, guns, language, and especially religion. But she achieves what she does through empathy and understanding.

What is it about that time period and character that appealed to you most?

I had a whole different idea about Africa until I learned about Nzinga. I had the idea that old-time African “chiefs” thought of Europeans as gods, that they’d fight for a little bit, then capitulate and become corrupted, selling their people as slaves. But that all came from a European outlook, with no understanding that tribes were as different from each other as French or Germans in language and culture. Competing tribes went to war with each other and sold their enemies defeated in war—the same as Europeans and Mediterranean cultures had done for centuries.

Nzinga’s story is attractive because she faced and overcame such overwhelming odds. It was unheard of for a woman in her culture to do what she did, with only her father as a model for leadership. She had a quick mind and mastered languages and advanced an enormous sense of justice. I felt compelled to learn how Nzinga did what she did, which took years of research.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is the one where Nzinga is in the greatest danger—when she goes to observe slaves being loaded on the ship. She witnesses scenes of horror, and I felt immense fear for her while writing it, because she could have been taken away as a slave. I carry a strong sense of that horror, of course. When I was a teacher in Uganda, I was walking with my students, and we passed some old women who were disturbed that I couldn’t speak with them (I wasn’t rude; I didn’t know the language). My students told them I came from the people who’d been captured and taken to America. One woman walked around me, examining me, and said, “I know this is true, because there’s a tree in my village where they used to tie them up, the people who were sold as slaves.”

We went to the woman’s village, and she showed us the tree. All that remained were flakes of rust issuing from a hole in the tree, which of course had grown in the hundreds of years since then. But I turned my back to the tree, and put up my hands to see how it would be—would I fit?—to be chained to that tree. The feel of that tree, and the old women’s words, have stayed with me for more than fifty years. (Editor’s note, if you read the book you have to read the epilogue where Dr Howard relates this story. It gave me chills- and you know what an unemotional grump I can be.)

How can we learn more about Nzinga and your other books?

The best place to find what’s new with me is on Facebook (@MosesLHoward).
You can find all my books at amazon.com/author/moseshoward
We have extra essays and insights on my website at jugumpress.com/moseshoward

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about Nzinga!

2 Upcoming History Talks and Book Signings

Now that Acre’s Bastard is out in the world, we have two events coming up. Please join us for some fun, conversation and a chance to get your hands on a signed copy of my latest novel.

Saturday, February 11, at 1 PM at the Museums at Lisle Station Park, I’ll be part of the Chicago Authors Series. Join us as we talk about “Putting the STORY in History- How writers turn history into great historical fiction.” I’ll also be selling and signing both my books, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard.

Sunday, February 26th 12-4 PM at Barnes and Noble in Downtown Naperville, IL I’ll be talking writing and reading historical fiction, then signing copies of Acre’s Bastard. B and N is anxious to support local writers, so if you’re a fan of historical fiction, or are thinking about writing it yourself, come on down. Bring your questions and book recommendations for the others. There’ll be lots of Q and A, as well as a chance to help convince Barnes and Noble that supporting local authors is good business.

The Murder of Becket Spawns a Series- EM Powell

I came across today’s author when I was searching for an agent. I found a very good story teller named EM Powell, and really enjoyed her first book. (As for the agent, I’m still looking, and yes that’s an obvious cry for help.) Her novel, The Fifth Knight, began life as a serial but then became one of three novels. This is her story, about her story…. you know what I mean.

E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers THE FIFTH KNIGHT and THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT have been #1 Amazon bestsellers and a Bild bestseller in Germany. Book #3 in the series, THE LORD OF IRELAND, was released in 2016. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com.

What’s “The Fifth Knight” and the series about?

THE FIFTH KNIGHT is the first of my Fifth Knight series of medieval thrillers. It’s my take on the infamous brutal murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral on December 29 1170. The history with which many people is familiar is that long-standing disputes between Becket and his king and one-time friend, Henry II, had reached a critical point. Henry is said to have exploded in one of his typical rages, ending with the words: “He has…shamed my realm; the grief goes to my heart, and no-one has avenged me!” Unfortunately, a group of knights who were listening took him at his word. They set off for Canterbury to avenge their king with fatal results. In my book, I add a fictional fifth knight, Sir Benedict Palmer, to the group. And the reason they go to Canterbury is not to avenge Henry, but because they know that Becket has hidden a young nun in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral. They need to find her and the secret she holds.

Tell me about writing the book as a serial story first, then turning it into a novel. How did that impact how you put it all together?

My fictional story must have appealed to some people as it has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide. Yet it had an unusual route to publication. My publishers are Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. THE FIFTH KNIGHT was first released in the US only as a Kindle Serial back in 2012. It was published in six episodes, with each episode being delivered to readers’ Kindles every two weeks. So I had to break the story up, making sure that each episode ended on a cliff-hanger and making sure that each one balanced out. Then would come the wait to see if readers liked the new instalment. As I say, it was unusual, to say the least!

Fortunately for me, readers loved it and it was released as a complete novel in 2013. I also followed it up with the next two Palmer books in the series. In THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT, Palmer is called back to find out who’s trying to kill Henry’s mistress, the Fair Rosamund. In the third, THE LORD OF IRELAND,  Palmer is sent by Henry to a warring Ireland with John, Henry’s youngest son and future Bad King John. No spoilers, but John being John, all does not go well. Neither of these two books were released as Kindle Serials. The Kindle Serial program has been discontinued but all the books that were released through it are still available as complete works.

What is it about that time period that intrigues you? I mean, I share your fascination but we’re not exactly  the majority…

I think that the medieval period is one of the most interesting, exciting and downright bizarre historical periods of all. It isn’t the most popular for readers of historical fiction, but I think people are missing out. What other period gives you banquets that serve peacocks, breath-taking illuminated manuscripts, gatherings with the Devil, leech collectors and chainmail?

Right? I mean frickin’ leech collectors!  But I digress. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It’s no spoiler to say Becket’s murder. ‘Favorite’ isn’t maybe the right word but it was certainly the most challenging to write. We have eye-witness accounts from the time and it was truly horrible. Becket was utterly defenseless against the armed knights. Even though I had to write it in the context of a fictional story, I had to stay true to what we know to make it credible. I actually caught myself at one point wanting to rewrite it so he got away! But this book is speculative historical fiction, rather than true alternate history, so I had to do it. I can only hope that I gave Becket the proper respect to his memory and the terrible end he suffered.

How can people learn more about you and your exciting series?

Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/EMPowell-Author

Website: www.empowell.com

Blog: http://www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/empowellauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/empowellauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583496.E_M_Powell

Manhattan Before Hudson with Harald Johnson

I have mixed feelings about New York City, but there’s no argument it’s changed the world like few places before or since. Harald Johnson has tackled the history of the island of Manhattan in a series of novellas. The first Manhattan Novella: 1609, is out now.

Sometimes I feel like such an underachiever when I do these interviews. What’s the Harald Johnson story?

I invent a new career for myself every 7-10 years, like a memory-challenged

The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.
The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.

cicada. Over the past 40 years, I’ve been a magazine publisher, Hollywood art director, ad agency creative director, photographer/filmmaker, marketing consultant, and of course, a writer across all those trips around the sun. And recently, I’ve turned my focus back to something I’ve kept hidden for a long time: fiction writing. Oh, and did I mention I like to swim? A lot. Not only did I win that around-Manhattan swimming race mentioned here, but I continue to swim regularly as much as I can. So water and swimming are recurring themes in my life, and in my writing.

What’s the story behind Manhattan: 1609? And don’t say it’s about Manhattan in 1609 because that’ll just tick me off…..

If historical fiction is your thing, you might also want to check out my own novels, The Count of the Sahara and the newest, Acre’s Bastard.

 

 

J D R Hawkins Civil War Drama

The US Civil War (actually, given the current mood in this country maybe I need to start referring to it as Civil War 1.0) is a great backdrop for drama. Patriotism, family squabbling, technology-enabled massacre–all come together in one time period.  Today’s author takes all that very seriously.

j-d-r-hawkinsJDR Hawkins is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines, and blogs. She is one of only a few female Civil War authors, and uniquely describes the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Her Renegade Series includes A Beautiful Glittering Lie, winner of the John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and the B.R.A.G. Medallion, A Beckoning Hellfire, which is also an award winner, and A Rebel Among Us, which has just been published. These books tell the story of a family from north Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war. She’s a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, Pikes Peak Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. (Editor’s note: Showoff.)

What’s the idea behind A Rebel Among Us?

After David Summers enlists with the Confederate cavalry, his delusion of chivalry is soon crushed when he witnesses the horrors of battle. Shot by a Union picket, he winds up at a stranger’s farm. Four girls compassionately nurse him back to health. David learns his comrades have deserted him in Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg, but his dilemma becomes much worse. He falls in love with the older sister, Anna, who entices him with a proposition. To his dismay, he must make a decision. Should he stay and help Anna with her underhanded plan, or return to the army and risk capture?

So if you’re a Daughter of the Confederacy and all, I’m guessing you’ve got a deep family interest in the war?

I have always been intrigued with the Victorian era. Living in Colorado, I became enthralled with the old mines and mountain towns. When I visited Gettysburg, I saw for myself the enormity of the battlefield, and was inspired to write a novel about it. However, I wanted to write something from a typical Southern soldier’s perspective; something I felt hadn’t really done before. So I wrote A Beckoning Hellfire. I decided the book was too long, so I cut it in half. Thus, A Rebel Among Us was created. The story wasn’t finished, though, so I wrote another sequel (yet to be published). And then I went back and wrote a prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I have enough material to write a fifth book in the Renegade Series as well.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?rebelamong

My favorite scene in the book has to do with a secret. And a wedding. That’s all I can say!

Spoilsport. You’re a social media junkie. How can people reach you (and the rest of us should be making notes. I haven’t even heard of some of these!)

Find the book on Amazon here.

·         Websitehttp://jdrhawkins.com

·         Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jdrhawkins/

·         Twitter – @jdrhawkins

·         Newsletter http://jdrhawkins.com

·         Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/jdrhawkins/   

·         Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1238370.J_D_R_Hawkins

·         Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jdrhawkins/?hl=en

·         Google +https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JDRHawkins

·         YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC12gW5kbv5FLDH6Qxd9duzw

·         Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/user/jdrhawkins

A teaser about the newest book, Acre’s Bastard

Lookie what I have here. I finally found a map I’m happy with for the beginning of the new book. I will probably know by the second week of November what’s happening with it. Til then, imagine what kind of story takes place in Acre, and the Horns of Hattin…..

holy_landrev1brighter

By the way, if you’re a Fiverr user, may I recommend Michael J Patrick

History, Fantasy, Mystery- why can’t you have it all? Barbara Barnett

As I’ve said before, what qualifies as historical fiction is open to debate. For some writers it’s slavish devotion to the facts. For others it’s a setting that opens up room for the thousand “what ifs?” that make a great story. In the case of Barbara Barnett it’s kind of all of the above. Her newest book, The Apothecary’s Curse checks the “all of the above” box.

Barbara Barnett
Barbara Barnett

So Barbara, is a busy, busy girl….

She is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine, 
(blogcritics.org) an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, She has published more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, as well as essays and criticism. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the hit show. She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention (author’s note… Cool. Also, showoff!), where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” This autumn, she will reprise her MENSA appearance with “The Conan Doyle Conundrum.” She is a member of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), and is current president of the Midwest Writers Association.

So give us the Readers Digest version, what’s the book about?

History meets fantasy meets science meets Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Apothecary’s Curse weaves Celtic mythology, the science of genetics, alchemy, life in early Victorian London, and the world of Arthur Conan Doyle into a historical fantasy-mystery, steeped in an apothecary’s cauldron.

The Apothecary’s Curse moves between early Victorian medical society (and the dregs of London’s worst neighborhoods) and a modern North Shore Chicago community, as a gentleman physician an enigmatic apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting an ancient book of healing that made them immortal centuries ago.

There’s a lot going on there, and purists might cringe a bit (screw’em). What inspired the story?

History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary's Curse.
History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary’s Curse.
I’ve always been fascinated by British history, especially where the lines between legend and reality blur. So many of the supernatural ballads of the British Isles seem to have the grain within them of real history, like the story of  Thomas the Rhymer, a real Scottish Laird and confederate of William Wallace who’d been (according to the legend) abducted by the queen of Elfland to be returned with the gift of prophecy and then some. I explored a few “what ifs” with the myth of the man, connecting him with the Tuatha de Danann—again a real people of the 12th Century, who were said to have magical healing powers, so much so that they became to the Irish, Celtic deities.
I brought into the early Victorian era another period that fascinates me; the story of Thomas’s descendent, a brilliant apothecary and the inheritor of Airmid’s (the Celtic goddess of healing) magnificent book. But use of the book, with its powerful medicine, has rendered my poor apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune with curse of immortality.  It is in Victorian London, in the squalid neighborhood of Smithfield Market that my apothecary meets gentleman physician Dr. Simon Bell (a relation of Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical mentor), It is here that 19th Century British medicine as practiced by gentleman clashes with the practical, earthier medicine of the brilliant Erceldoune.
Without giving the game away, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It takes place in Bedlam in 1842. Simon is seeking insight into his own mortality when he learns of a prisoner in the infamous asylum who, like him, seems to be indestructible (at least physically). Arranging to see this prisoner, who has for five years been tortured and has been the subject of medical experimentation by a proto-Mengele figure—a “mad” doctor, Simon discovers that it is Gaelan, who had supposedly been executed five years earlier at Newgate Prison for murder.

The reunion, fraught with tension and bad feelings is a pivotal moment in the novel. (I can’t say more than that without spoilers 🙂 )

Fair enough. Now that we’ve baited the hook, where can people find your work?

The Apothecary’s Curse will be available October 11 at most online and brick and Mortar bookstores. Here are the pre-order and information links. City Lit Books in Logan Square is hosting a launch party of the book on October 20. If readers are interested in receiving an invitation, they can email me at barbara.barnett@barbarabarnett.com

Website: barbarabarnett.com

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236424-the-apothecary-s-curse

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Apothecarys-Curse-Barbara-Barnett/dp/1633882330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457895155&sr=8-1&keywords=apothecary%27s+curse

Twitter: Twitter.com/B_Barnett

Facebook: Facebook.com/BarbaraBarnettAuthor

The Crusades and the Envoy of Jerusalem- Helena P Schrader

Most of you know by now that I have a fascination with the Crusades. No surprise, then, that I look for fiction about that time period. That led me to Helena P Schrader’s book, Defender of Jersualem, and its sequel, Envoy of Jerusalem. While our books are very different (as, I suspect, are our feelings about the period in general) it’s an epic tale about an interesting character.

Helena P. Schrader earned a PhD in History with a ground-breaking biography of

Helena Schrader is the author of the "Jerusalem" series
Helena Schrader is the author of the “Jerusalem” series

the mastermind behind the coup attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944. She has published numerous works of non-fiction and fiction. As a novelist, she has focused on historical and biographical fiction. She is a career diplomat currently serving in Africa.

So your first book starts a few years before mine, and the new one ends after. What’s your series about?

“Defender of Jerusalem” and “Envoy of Jerusalem” are two parts of a biographical novel about Balian d’Ibelin. Some readers may remember that Balian was the hero of Ridley Scott’s film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Indeed, it was the Hollywood film that sparked my interest in this particular period in history. After seeing the film (while working on a completely different project), I started wondering how much of it was true. A quick check revealed that Balian d’Ibelin was not only a historical person (who did some of the remarkable things portrayed in the film), but also that he (the historical Balian) was a more important historical figure than the film character made him out to be. My curiosity ignited, I did more research and was soon intrigued and captivated by the man, his age, society, and his contemporaries–such as his royal Byzantine wife, the Leper King, the near-pirate Reynald de Chatillon, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. While I follow the historical record and alter no known facts, the books go beyond those facts to give the reader insights into a whole cast of fascinating historical characters and a complex society at a critical moment in history.

The Second Crusade in particular was a bit of a mess. What is it about that period that fascinated you?

Balian lived in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the decade immediately before and after the devastating battle of Hattin. That was the battle in which the Muslims under the Kurdish leader Saladin virtually obliterated the Christian fighting forces in the Holy Land. This victory paved the way for the capture of Jerusalem and occupation of the rest of the kingdom, triggering the Third Crusade.  The Saracen leader Saladin – in contrast to what Hollywood would have you believe – was a devout Muslim, who had declared jihad against the crusader states and vowed to drive them into the sea.  He was opposed, not by fanatics ala “The Kingdom of Heaven,” but by ethnically diverse states with Christian – not a Muslim – majorities.  Furthermore, these states were highly urbanized, economically dynamic and characterized by a sophisticated legal system and flourishing culture.  Although almost obliterated after Hattin, these states recovered and re-established themselves to survive another hundred years.  Saladin failed to destroy them in part because of the strategic genius of Richard the Lionheart – but even more because of the tenacity, resilience and courage of the natives and lords of Jerusalem–led by Balian d’Ibelin.  Indeed, while the King of Jerusalem was taken captive and later marginalized and deposed, Balian fought his way off the field at Hattin, commanded the defense of Jerusalem, and ultimately negotiated the truce between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.  He was referred to as “like a king” by Arab sources, and his descendants would marry royalty and be regents more than once.  This was an exceptional man who proved his worth both as a warrior and a diplomat. His story is relevant today because we again find ourselves confronting jihadists and so forced to define who we are, what our values are, and which of our values we can sacrifice for security and which we must be prepared to defend with our lives.  These books are as much about who we are today as about Balian d’Ibelin, the Leper King or Saladin.

What are your favorite parts of the story?

The first book in the series
The first book in the series

There are no spoilers in books based on history. Everyone knows the plot and the ending – or can find out – without reading the books. And there are so many great scenes in both books because history is so full of surprises and moments of great drama!  Balian arriving in Jerusalem unarmed on a safe-conduct from Saladin to remove his family–only to be tumultuously received by a population expecting him to take command the defense, is one such historical moment,  or the (true!) moment when Saladin’s banners are tossed down from the walls of Jerusalem just as Saladin says he won’t negotiate for a city he already holds. But if I have to choose one scene from “Defender of Jerusalem,” a scene that is based more on my exploration of historical events and personalities than the naked facts, it would be the moment after Balian leads a break-out at Hattin and crashes over the steep slope to the Sea of Galilee–only to realize that barely 3,000 men are with him and on the plateau behind him the king, the bulk of the army and the True Cross are being slaughtered or captured.  He realizes that the kingdom is lost, but 3,000 mostly wounded and desperate men are looking to him for leadership. He doesn’t have time to grieve; he has to keep leading. As for “Envoy of Jerusalem,” my favorite scenes are those in which two worlds clash—not Christian vs Muslim, but native of the Holy Land vs. crusader, i.e. the scenes in which Balian and Richard the Lionheart confront one another with incomprehension at first, but gradually with greater and greater respect and trust.

 

The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem
The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem

Interesting.  One of the things that I find interesting is the tension between those Franks who came from Europe on Crusade and those living and making their lives in “Outremont.” 

Defender of Jerusalem is available in paperback or ebook format on Amazon by clicking here.

 Envoy of Jerusalem will likewise be available for order in both formats from online or local retailers.

Find out more about the about the crusader states, Balian and his contemporaries at: http://defenderofjerusalem.com or follow my weekly essays on the same topics at:http://defendingcrusaderkingdom.blogspot.com

For more about Helena P. Schrader’s full range of books go to: http://helenapschrader.com