I will be part of a lot of book events in the next few weeks, and would love it if people would come meet me (and even buy a couple of books if you’re so inclined.) I will have plenty of paperback copies of both Acre’s Bastard and The Count of the Sahara.
October 15 Hometown Reads and Centuries and Sleuths presents #readlocalshoplocal I’m proud to be hosting this gathering of Hometown Reads authors at Centuries and Sleuths in River Forest, IL. We will read and share our books with pretty much everyone who pops in. If you enjoy meeting and discovering new writers, this is the event for you. If we need to bribe you, there will be snacks.
Please stop by and say hello. I love meeting readers (even those who don’t buy my book, although I may steal a lock of hair for a voodoo doll–you won’t even miss it)
Readers of historical fiction tend to gravitate to certain periods. There are huge clumps of writers and readers fascinated by The US Civil War, World War 2, and One of the hottest trends the last little on both TV, the movies, and novels has been the Tudor period. Cable TV is littered with torn bodices. I will confess somewhat ashamedly, I have somehow missed the boat. If sheer numbers are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who find that time more fascinating than I do.
Enter Samantha Wilcoxson, and her Plantagenet Embers trilogy. The latest installment, Queen of Martyrs is now out.
Samantha, you and I are both members of the Historical Novel Society (join us on Facebook here). What else should we know?
I’m the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, I live in Michigan with my husband and three teenagers.
Three teenagers? That explains your obsession with family blood-letting and intrigue. What’s Queen of Martyrs about?
Queen of Martyrs is biographical fiction that transports the reader into the life of Mary Tudor. The story begins with her receiving the news of Margaret Pole’s execution in 1541 and follows her through the rest of her life as she struggles as a bastardized princess who finally becomes queen. My objective was to humanize the woman that many people today dismiss as ‘Bloody Mary’. There is so much more to her character, and many of the ‘facts’ people believe about her are no more than myths. My research made it shockingly easy to find sympathy for Queen Mary I.
As England’s first queen regnant, Mary faced many challenges, which she was, quite frankly, unprepared for. She failed to realize how great the outcry would be against her choice of Prince Philip of Spain as a husband. She did not recognize the great religious changes that were taking place throughout the world and that could not be ignored or reversed. Mary was a devout, caring woman, but she was no politician. In this intimate portrayal of her, readers are invited to enter her world, share her heartbreaks and victories, and gain understanding of this complex sixteenth century woman.
I confess I’ve kind of missed the whole Plantagenet/Tudor thing. What’s your fascination with this period?
Some readers might be surprised to discover that the Tudor era is not my first love. It was the Wars of the Roses that captivated my attention, but I was looking for a new angle that had not already been written about. That was how I began with Elizabeth of York in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen. I had not planned a trilogy, but the story of the York remnant unfolded in front of me, ending with Reginald Pole at Mary’s side in Queen of Martyrs.
The fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are interesting not only due to political upheaval, but the impact of religious changes that forced people throughout Europe to evolve in their thinking and way of life. The heavy influence of faith on daily life is difficult to wrap the modern mind around, but that is just what I appreciate about studying the medieval and reformation eras.
Without giving away the good bits, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
One of my favorite scenes in Queen of Martyrs takes place during the reign of Edward VI. This was a turbulent time for Mary as she watched the country she loved falling into heresy. At that point, she had no reason to believe that she would become queen. She was her brother’s legal heir, but he was much younger. In this scene, Mary has the opportunity to escape England with the help of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This is when Mary decides that she must remain in England and do what she must to save her brother and all Englishmen, though she may be forced to pay the ultimate price.
It is a great misconception that Mary’s attempt at counter-reformation was based on bitterness or a need for revenge. Mary truly believed that she was doing what was necessary to ensure that her people enjoyed eternal life in heaven, and I think this scene gives readers a poignant view of Mary’s true motivations.
Where can people learn more about your work?
The best place to find me is on my blog. I also invite everyone to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. Besides bookish news, I share a wide variety of history articles and images of historic places that I visit. I love to share my tendency toward bibliophilia and wanderlust with friends!
My books are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. They are also free with Kindle Unlimited!
Whenever I’m speaking to people about writing historical fiction, the question of “How much of it needs to be exactly true?” arises. For a long time I hemmed and hawed and couldn’t really define it. At long last I have an answer. Does it pass the “North by Northwest” test?
Allow me to digress a bit and I promise I’ll get to the point. One of the major points of contention in my marriage to the Duchess is Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, North by Northwest. (Not for nothing, but after 25 years if this is the biggest bone we have to pick with each other we’re doing just fine.) My bride loves that movie. After all, it’s got peak Cary Grant, a stylish Eva Marie Saint, and amazing visuals, including a rousing finale on the top of Mount Rushmore. What’s not to love?
Plenty. I don’t care for that movie and the reason is simple. There are two scenes that ruin the whole experience. First, there’s no cool Frank Lloyd Wright house on the top of Mount Rushmore. Secondly, crop-dusters make really inefficient murder weapons. Actually, the crop-duster is mainly the reason I don’t enjoy that film: I remember thinking, “oh come on,” when that scene came on and Grant was pursued through the Indiana cornfield by the airplane. By the time I got to the mid-century modern house placed on top of a national monument, which I know darned well doesn’t exist, I had detached emotionally from the movie and didn’t believe any of it. The spell was broken.
Still with me? For historical fiction to work, we have to stay in the moment. We have to believe that the story is taking place in the time, place, and with the characters the author has established. All authors manipulate events to make a good story. Often this doesn’t matter. In Acre’s Bastard, I have Lucca watch events from the top of a hill where he couldn’t possibly have been, but I made it work and unless you’ve been to Hattin, and seen the Horns, you wouldn’t know, and it’s not a critical detail. No harm no foul. On the other hand, I had to make sure that the famous characters did what we know they did, and acted believably or I’d have lost readers along the way. I couldn’t just have Lucca bump into Richard the Lionheart 7 years before he got there.
All historical novelists face this dilemma. Does your character say or do something that isn’t true to that time period? If so, your readers (and HF fans tend to be smarter than most, if I may be so bold) will say “oh come on,” and you’re dead in the water.
So here’s my guide to how true to the facts your book needs to be. Does it make the reader say, “Oh come on?” If so, you’ll lose credibility and your story won’t ring true.
In Count of the Sahara, the excursions and characters are well documented- heck, one of them is still alive. I had to be as accurate as possible. With Acre’s Bastard, the general facts of the time are known, but the characters are mostly fictional and there’s plenty of room for imagination.
Trust me, I pushed the boundaries but it’s not like I had a crop-duster chase Lucca all the way back to the city walls, or had Byron de Prorok snap a selfie (which the arrogant SOB would have, if he could have.)
I hope you read my stories and enjoy them. If so, let me (and Amazon!) know.
As much as historical novelists like to talk about the “reality” of their characters and times, I suspect there’s one area in which we don’t do the job we should–when it comes to the role booze plays in great events. It stands to reason that if rebellions start in Taverns (and there’s enough proof of that from almost every corner of the world) the key players weren’t exactly sober during those discussions. As a comedian friend of mine (I think it was Boyd Banks, but memory fades) used to say, “without booze and bad judgement, most of us wouldn’t be here.” That leads us to Morgan Wade, and his novel “Bottle and Glass.”
After all, if you’re going to write about displaced soldiers, you’d better catch them in their natural habitat–the bars and taverns of Upper Canada in this case. The story also has an interesting development as a stage play, which is very cool.
Here’s the Morgan Wade story…
Morgan Wade’s debut novel, The Last Stoic, edited by Helen Humphreys, was released in June, 2011 by Hidden Brook Publishing and it made the 2012 ReLit Awards long list. His short stories and poems have been published in Canadian literary journals and anthologies including The New Quarterly and The Nashwaak Review.
He adapted his second novel, Bottle and Glass, into an immersive, site-specific play that, in conjunction with Theatre Kingston, had a sold-out run during the 2016 Kingston WritersFest. Audience members pursue the story through the streets and pubs of Kingston, drinking along with the characters and experiencing the city’s history like never before. The production is set to be expanded and re-staged for a three week run in the summer of 2017. When not writing, Morgan earns his keep as a software engineer. When not busy writing or programming, he plays soccer or spends time with friends and family in beautiful Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Editor’s note: Kingston Ontario contains a federal prison, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. It’s safe to say that while it’s beautiful, but has its share of bad-ass bars and poor decisions influenced by booze.
In a nutshell, what’s the story of Bottle and Glass?
Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of
two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812. The story focuses on Jeremy and Merit, two young fishermen from Porthleven, Cornwall pressed into service aboard a Royal Navy frigate. They are forced to leave their native England for Canada and eventually Kingston, where they are stationed as Royal Marines. They spend much of the novel attempting to escape and return home, but by the end, having attained their freedom, they are resolved to stay and make a new life.
Inns and taverns figured prominently in Upper Canada’s frontier life. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of 2250 plus 1500 soldiers, it could boast 78 taverns. Many of these, including “Old King’s Head” and “Mother Cook’s,” are mentioned in the newspapers and correspondence of the time. This novel is structured so that each chapter takes the title of a historic Kingston tavern and each tavern is featured in the chapter in some significant way. The novel’s title is taken from the infamous watering hole, “Violin, Bottle, and Glass.”
I notice a rise in Canadians writing about the Loyalist era. What is it about that time period that fascinates you?
Kingston, Ontario, is a city rich with history, especially relative to many other cities in a country as young as Canada. When my wife and I moved here in 2001 we were struck by the historic architecture, national monuments, and wealth of other historical artifacts (e.g. Kingston is the final resting place of our first Prime Minister). It was on a visit to Fort Henry, now a world heritage site, that I realized I wanted to write a historical fiction novel based on the Kingston of 200 years ago. Standing behind the old rifle loopholes or in the underground escape tunnels, I imagined what it must have been like for a young, raw recruit, thousands of miles from home, stuck in this cold, damp, forbidding place. I wanted to explore what a young man would have felt and experienced and to walk a mile in his shoes. It would be a way of delving deeply into the stories all around us just waiting to be discovered.
I’d originally wanted to set my novel within the Fort. I liked the idea of all the main characters in the book saying something like “it’s fine, don’t worry, they’ll never attack Fort Henry,” and then three quarters through the story the American forces would stage a huge attack. It would be a big shock and I thought it would be interesting to see how the characters would deal with that. But, as I dug deeper into the research, I realized that Fort Henry was never once attacked in its entire history, so that ended that. Nevertheless, I’d done a good deal of research by this time. In my research I was struck by how prevalent drinking was in this rough frontier town two hundred years ago. I’d loved the names of all the old taverns I’d come across. So, I decided to set the story in the town instead, winding itself in and out of the many, many inns and taverns of 1814 Kingston.
Do you have a favorite (or favourite, I’m still a Canuck at heart) scene?
There is a scene early on in the book that takes place at a so-called “work bee”. I think many people have this conception of an old-fashioned work bee as a standard, sedate affair in which friends and family and neighbours come together to clear some land or erect a barn. I did, at least. I imagine fifty or more Mennonites coming together to put a structure up in one day. These early tenant farmers in Upper Canada were living on the margins and barely eking out an existence from some formidable countryside. It was a boon, if not a necessity, to get the help of neighbours and friends and to, one day, return the favour. But, in my research, I discovered that the work bees didn’t always go so smoothly. Often there was chaos and idleness. It was an all day affair usually with a lot of drinking involved as a reward for hard work. The “work bee” sometimes devolved into brawls as drunkenness increased and tempers frayed.
In Bottle and Glass, some of the main characters decide to host a work bee. When men arrive from the Kingston taverns Badgley’s and Metcalf’s, Beach’s and Brown’s, thirsty and having nothing better to do, the work bee which had started out so well takes a turn. What happens has serious repercussions for the rest of the novel. I like how the bucolic scene of the work bee curdles over the span of the chapter and I hope that the reader feels, as the scene unfolds, the growing sense of menace from the interlopers and the increasing desperation of the hosts. It turns the romantic idea of the work bee on its head!
I admit to being conflicted about westerns. One man’s heroism is another man’s racism, sometimes what’s seen as exciting is really borderline pathological and probably criminal behavior. Still, there are few environments more ripe for a good adventure story. And romance too, I suppose, although the lack of running water, overabundance of vermin, and the constant smell of horse sweat probably makes stories like that better on paper than in reality.
Either way, that brings us to this week’s featured author, DB Woodling. While she writes in a number of genres, her latest book, Shannon’s Land, is about a plucky (but then what heroine worth her salt isn’t plucky?) Irish immigrant alone in Missouri.
Okay, lady. What’s Shannon’s deal?
Abandoned by her abusive husband in Missouri’s wild frontier, Shannon — an Irish emigrant — must learn to fend for herself and quickly. While she’s accustomed to rattlesnakes and the threat of both Indian and coyote attacks, she’s unprepared for Jack Marsh, a psychotic banker with a decade-old grudge.
Hungry, frightened, and concerned for her infant son, Shannon seeks assistance from the townsfolk. Because her father absconded with a great deal of their money some years before, they extend only harsh words and pent-up condemnation. Discovering Jack (a villain so evil his gun belt’s just an accessory) now owns the deed to her land, Shannon is ready to accept defeat . . . until she encounters a mysterious stranger offering friendship and a risky proposition. I’m currently writing the sequel, Shannon’s Revenge.
So historical fiction hasn’t been a thing for you til now. What is it about this story?
After relocating to a rural 1870 farmhouse, well, I wouldn’t say I became possessed — nothing nearly that dramatic — but I did feel an overwhelming urgency to write this desperate and lovely young woman’s story.
I know authors hate answering this one, but it’s my blog darn it. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
There are a few; decidedly foremost is when Shannon meets Luke Richards, a tormented range boss running from devastating loss, a misguided frontier philosophy, and the U.S. Army’s retribution. He’s a complicated guy, suddenly confronted by a woman who has long ago grown tired of wild, angry men. The sexual tension is palpable.
Love me some palpable tension. Where can people learn more about you, Shannon’s Land, and your other books?
Shannon’s Land is available in several digital formats as well as paperback:
Okay, full disclosure. I love pirate stories. Like a little kid, I dig all sailing stories, although I get violently seasick and wouldn’t last two days on a real sailing ship. Doesn’t mean they’re not fun to read, which brings us to this week’s interview with Harry Nicholson, about his newest book, The Black Caravel.
So, Harry. What’s your deal?
I live in Eskdale, near Whitby, in North Yorkshire. My first career was in
the British merchant navy as radio officer on cargo ships sailing the huge triangle between Europe, India and the USA. A second career followed in television studios. I now spend time on art, poetry, storytelling, and the teaching of meditation.
I believe the word is eclectic. At any rate, what’s the story about?
‘The Black Caravel’ is my second historical novel. It is double stranded, but intertwined. It centres on a farming family in the North of England at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the year 1536, when the North rose in rebellion against Henry VIII’s seizure of the abbeys and monasteries. The head of this large family, Tom Fleck, is married to an illegal immigrant, a Jewish woman; a dangerous situation in 16th century England.
We meet his daughter, a blind girl with her dog, on the Durham shore. At home, her mother has a letter from London. Husband, wife and blind daughter must journey to London through the chaos of rebellion. Meanwhile their two eldest sons are crew of a venerable and worn out trading ship, at risk of wreck and the violence of pirates.
It’s funny, I don’t care about the Tudors at all, but love me some pirates. These are the “Barbary” (Moorish) kind. What’s the draw for you?
I’m attracted to this period of history. It is just prior to the recording in English parish registers of the events in the lives of ordinary people. Unless individuals were noble or notorious we have no means of knowing of their existence. I try to bring life, at least a fictional life, to lost generations who are the ancestors of many today.
I try to honour ordinary people, their landscape and the wild creatures that live in it; so perhaps my style has a touch of the poetic and heartfelt.
It’s an unfair question, but what’s your favorite (or favourite, I’m bilingual) scene in the book?
I most enjoyed writing of the ancient merchant ship drifting lost, through dense fog, and the response of her crew when the fog suddenly lifted to unveil the danger they faced.
Where can people find The Black Caravel?
‘The Black Caravel’ is listed on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
One of the most intriguing novels I’ve read in a while is Gary Lindberg’s “Ollie’s Cloud.” It’s a big (and a bit messy) sprawling book that takes on Islamic Messiahs, American Revivalism, and even the birth of the Mormons, as seen through the eyes of a young Anglo-Persian man. If that sounds like an ambitious undertaking, well I agree. I had to reach out and ask him exactly what he was thinking.
So what’s the Gary Lindberg story?
I traveled around the world to research The Shekinah Legacy. As a writer and film producer/director, I won over one hundred major national and international awards, and was the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman.
As an author, I’m fascinated by the power of belief, and how strong beliefs are often indistinguishable from facts in the mind of the believer, possessing the power to shape behavior and sometimes wreak havoc. I’ve published four consecutive #1 bestselling novels and lives in Minnesota with his wife, Gloria, and his Jack Russell terrier Joey.
Not for nothing, but Gary is also the founder and CEO of Calumet Editions. a publisher of quality fiction and non-fiction.
So, this book is about a lot of things, but what’s the basic story?
This is the story of the spiritual journey of two nineteenth-century Persian boys who both want to grow up to be great mullahs (Islamic clergy). Best friends since birth, Jalal and Alí become separated when Alí, who is only half Persian, is kidnapped by his English mother and brought to London for rearing by his as a
proper English Christian gentleman. Left behind, Jalal becomes a follower of a young prophet who has established a new religion in his native Persia.
In England, Alí is christened “Ollie” by his mother and grows up as the scion of a wealthy newspaper family. But after suffering a string of great tragedies he comes to despise God and dedicate himself to the persecution all men of the cloth—Christian and Muslim—who perpetrate the “lies” of religion. In Persia, Jalal becomes a leader in the new religious movement and helps recruit hundreds of thousands of new adherents, which causes the Persian leadership and Islamic clergy to launch fierce persecutions; the authorities eventually kill over 200,000 followers of the cause.
After many years, Ollie makes his way back to Persia, finding himself on the side of the Persian army in an epic battle between the Persian army, 10,000 strong, and a comparative handful of the new religion’s adherents led by his previous best friend Jalal.
Those are a lot of big themes. What is it about that time period (The mid- 19th Century) that’s so interesting?
In doing some personal research on religion I came cross the fascinating and adventurous account of the birth of a new religion in Persia in 1844. The details were stunning though not well-known to the general public. I was taken with how the story of the prophet-founder of this new religion, which is now recognized as a new world religion, echoed the same storyline of previous founders of religions such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. I decided right then to write a novel inspired by this account, and chose one of the religion’s primary leaders on which to base the character of Jalal. The character Alí is wholly made up, as I felt there needed to be a more westernized character to attract the interest of western audiences.
I was caught up in how Ali/Ollie whipsaws between angry atheism and a need for faith… any faith. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
Perhaps my favorite scene is the story’s pivot point that takes place early in the book just prior to Alí leaving Persia for London. Prior to this scene we have learned that Alí is the son of the mayor of Bushruyih, who had purchased a slave girl—actually the captured daughter of an English missionary—and married her. This girl is Alí’s mother. In this scene, Ali’s mother, encouraged by a travelling Englishman, kidnaps Alí from the harem and escapes across the desert to a port where they board a ship bound for London. I like this scene because it is not only very dramatic, but such a turning point in the story. Everyone’s life changes because of the action of Alís mother, and on the following pages we get to see the surprising consequences.
Where can people find your books and Calumet Editions?
Calumet offers authors the benefits of traditional publishing with a unique business model that provides authors more flexibility, support and financial rewards. With a proprietary Twitter Network of 3,200,000 Followers who are book lovers, Calumet also has an unparalleled ability to help authors achieve exposure and name recognition, which are keys to selling books.
While I can’t think of any time period that’s been better documented than the Second World War, there are still stories to be told. Today’s interview is with A P (Paul) Martin, who shares the story of a British student who becomes a spy at the outbreak of the war. The new novel is Codename Lazarus, the Spy Who Came Back From the Dead.
So who is A P Martin, and why do we care?
I’m an Anglo-Swiss academic who retired in 2013 to live with his wife in the
Bernese Alps in Switzerland. I’ve always read a great deal of fiction and for the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed writing my first novel. I’ve found the whole experience a lot of fun and very rewarding, though not, so far, financially! (Editor’s note… we feel ya.) It’s amazed me how ideas and solutions to plot and writing problems can pop into my head when I’m hiking up a mountain. Good job a writing pad and pencil are always in my pocket!
What’s the book about?
Codename Lazarus is basically a spy story and its principal action takes place between 1938 and 1940. It concerns a young academic, who is approached by his university mentor to play the lead role in a daring plan to deceive Britain’s enemies in the run up to and first years of the Second World War. Without giving too much away, I can say that, as the plot unfolds he not only finds himself in frequent danger, but also his past comes back to threaten him in a completely unexpected way. So the book weaves together conflict and betrayal at the national and personal levels.
I’m a sucker for a good spy story. What inspired you to write this one?
Actually, having grown up in post war Britain and having had a father and uncles, all of whom fought in the Second World War, I’ve always been interested in that period. I also speak German fluently and really like both Germany and its people. But I must say that what inspired me to write the novel was the true story, from which it has been adapted. As soon as I read about this case, in the files released in 2014 by the British National Archive, I knew it would make a great basis for a gripping story.
Of course, my work is fictional, rather than an accurate account of the case, but I hope that I have paid some sort of tribute to the real heroes of the true story. In fact, I was very happy to learn recently that one of the journalists who wrote about the original file release in 2014 is now planning to publish a historically accurate account of the case in 2018. He’s even bought my book to see what I made of the case!
Do you have a favorite scene?
I’m not sure that I can pick a favourite scene or event, but I would like to say that what pleases me greatly is how the plot gathers momentum as it progresses and how its various threads come together at the end in what I think is a very satisfying conclusion. Reviewers have said that they’d have liked more and I’m taking that as a compliment!
Those who are interested in finding out more about myself, Codename Lazarus and the actual wartime case that inspired it are invited to look at my website : www.apmartin.co.uk
It is possible to leave comments and greetings on each page of my website and I’d love to hear directly from readers! I can also be followed on Twitter as @APMartin51
One of the beauties of historical fiction is finding yourself in a different time and place and totally making yourself to home. Just like in life, that rarely involves huge battles and famous people, sometimes you’d just like to live in a time when people don’t tread across your yard staring at their phones while looking for invisible creatures. A good writer can make you feel at home anywhere, even in a Scotland older than Sean Connery.
Lexie Conyngham, What’s the deal on you and the Letho of Murray series?
I’m a historian living North East Scotland, in the shadow of the Highlands. My Murray of Letho novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities and universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but I’ve been writing since the day I found out that people were allowed to do such a thing.
Beyond teaching and research, my days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky – and I’m fitting this interview in after a morning baking multiple batches of muffins for a church sale! (Editor’s note… that may be the single most Scottish sentence written since Robbie Burns declined killing that mouse.)
In a nutshell, what’s Death in a Scarlet Gown about?
It’s set in 1802. St. Andrews in Fife, an ancient Scottish university, is
wracked by murder. A vindictive professor, an uncouth student, and a man seeking ministry lie dead, but who wanted to kill them? Charles Murray, a student with enough problems of his own, is drawn into the mystery, where neither innocuous accidents nor good friends are all they seem. Death in a Scarlet Gown is the first in the Murray of Letho series, set in Georgian Scotland.
As a graduate of St. Andrews myself, I loved going back through the history of
that little grey town by the cold North Sea which its alumni miss so much.
Though the university is much bigger now, the centre of the town has not really
changed much in two hundred years! The later books are mostly set in Edinburgh and other parts of Fife, and in one case my hero heads off for India, but in the next Murray book I hope once again to return to St. Andrews (which of course is an excuse for a ‘research’ visit).
Whatever you have to tell yourself, Lexie. What is it about this time period that fascinates you?
I was living in Edinburgh when I first started to write the series, and working
in Edinburgh’s New Town which is a Georgian architectural wonderland. I’d had a Georgian dolls’ house when I was a teenager for which I tried to make furniture, and the styles and fashions had always fascinated me. When I started to look into the people of the period I was hooked: think somewhere between Jane Austen, Walter Scott and (the much-later of course) Dorothy L. Sayers for culture and manners. There was so much going on, too: the Napoleonic Wars, the aftermath of the Jacobites, massive advances in science and medicine, the British involvement in India, the madness of King George III: there’s almost too much! Without spoilers, what’s one of your favorite scenes in the book?
About halfway through there’s a nice little fist fight, which like all
unprofessional fist fights does not go smoothly. Writing action scenes doesn’t
come naturally to me, and I greatly admire those who can convey the detail of a
fight without losing the force of the action, but I think this one went quite
well in the end. Though the conflict is based on a massive misunderstanding, it
says a good deal about the characters involved without much in the way of
dialogue, and is, I hope, also quite funny, though I don’t generally do much
slapstick! I prefer one-liners. There’s one terribly sad scene, too, and while I
was quite pleased with it, it is too sad to be a favourite. It still makes me
Where can people find you and the Murray of Letho series?
Gods with the heads of Dogs and Storks? Pyramids? Who doesn’t love them some Ancient Egypt? It’s also (and personally I blame Gerard Butler for this) not something that’s been explored a lot in novels or films (seriously Gerry? A Pharaoh with a Scottish accent and pasty Celtic skin?)
Lethbridge, Alberta, author Erin Chase, though, has written a romance set in the time of Ramses. Of course, I’ve spent time in Lethbridge. Fantasizing about another time and place is pretty much the local industry. I asked her what her book was all about.
What is “Behind Palace Walls” about?
Behind Palace Walls is an historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt. Sheshamun is an adopted fourteen-year-old girl living in a village along the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s Royal Wife takes a special interest in her, Sheshamun is chosen to be a member of Pharaoh Ramses’ harem. Once situated in the palace, she soon discovers the luxurious lifestyle is not at all how she had once imagined.
The strong-willed teenager must choose between family and royalty; pride and duty; honor and her own life.
What is it about Egypt that inspired you to write the book?
Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me. It’s a very exotic and unique culture that is completely different from today’s society. Between the polytheistic deity worship, exquisite structures (i.e. Abu Simbel and the Great Pyramid of Giza), and innovation of the time, I felt a need to learn as much as I could about the time period.
In 2010, only months before the Arab Spring, I traveled throughout Egypt. The beauty and complexity of the statues, hieroglyphics, and temples left me awestruck. What I had always pictured in my mind’s eye paled in comparison to what I actually saw. I just HAD to write about it!
Without giving away too much, what’s your favorite scene in “Behind Palace Walls?”
…Sheshamun was inexplicably drawn to a small, dark stall. Out of the shadows appeared a stooped, elderly woman. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sheshamun could not hear her. She beckoned the young girl to come closer. Being only inches from the woman’s face, Sheshamun could smell death and something else she could not quite put her finger on. Though repulsed, she refused to move away, knowing deep inside this old woman had something important to say. “Sheshamun, daughter of Hury and Nefra, you are venturing into great danger. Beware of those with the same blood, as all is not what it appears to be. Heed my warning and take solace in those pure of heart, or you will certainly bring forth your own demise.”
Where can we learn more about the wonder that is Erin Chase?