Tag Archives: Sophie Perinot

Author Nancy Bilyeau Speaks: Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels, What Makes a Historian?

Taking History Seriously When Writing Novels: What Makes a Historian?
by Nancy Bilyeau, Author of The Tapestry

02_Nancy BilyeauI AM NOT A HISTORIAN

There. I said it.

I’m still alive. 😀

More and more, it appears that historical novelists are positioning themselves as historians. Readers demand accuracy in their fiction set in the past—authors certified in history can supply it.

Philippa Gregory’s website begins with this statement:  “Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a TV drama and a major film.”

I’ve seen other websites and interviews and book jackets in which the novelists either proudly proclaim it or weave the word into their background: “historian.” It’s become something of a magical word, and not just because it was the title of one of my favorite books: Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  (That book mixed digging for obscure historical facts in quiet libraries with…Dracula!)

I’ve never made this claim for myself because I believe I lack the necessary credentials…don’t I?

Let’s take a look at the description in Merriam Webster: 1. “a student or writer of history; especially: one who produces a scholarly synthesis. 2.: a writer of compiler of a chronicle.”

Another definition: “historian: an expert in or student of history, especially that of a particular period, geographical region, or social phenomenon.”

  1. I studied history for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan. After I “broke the curve” of a test given in the early 20th century American history class taught by Professor Sidney Fine, himself a nationally known historian and a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Fine invited me to his Ann Arbor house. He offered me lemonade and we drank it on his elegant wooden porch as he suggested that I pursue a master’s degree in history. I realize now that this was it: the secret handshake, the door opening to the chamber in which dwelled historians.

But I didn’t pass through the door. I was eager to launch myself on the world of work, not remain at the university, pursuing another degree. (I know: Nuts!)

Without advanced degrees in history, one cannot claim to be a historian. At least, that’s what I’ve always assumed. If you read those definitions above one more time, they don’t specify any sort of degree. Still, I shy away from putting this word on my website, bio, book jacket or facebook page. Just doesn’t seem right.

01_The Tapestry

Here’s the experience I do offer readers of my work:

Journalist—at newspapers and then at magazines, I learned on the job how to assess facts, assimilate information and structure a story. I’ve always had an image in my mind of being trained by a historian—a distinguished older man, bearded of course (looking like Professor Fine!), leans over a student at work on the thick table, chiding, “No! Can’t you tell that those are discredited documents? What am I going to do with you??” But I do seek accuracy and practice skepticism. In my years in media, if I made a mistake it did more than earn the disfavor of the bearded professor. It could lead to a printed correction and maybe the boot!

Working as a reporter also made me rather…assertive. When I was frustrated with my research on The Crown, trying to find elusive details about being confined in the 1530s in the Tower of London, I decided to go to the source. I used the “contact” email on the website for the Tower and didn’t stop bothering them until they referred me to someone with access to documents. I’ve since worked my way through two curatorial interns. One emailed me a PDF of Edward Seymour’s diet sheet while he was imprisoned, another pulled together every contemporary fact about the beheading on Tower Hill of Thomas Cromwell. (Don’t let anyone tell you he died at Tyburn!)

History lover—I did like my study of history at the University of Michigan. But since I was 11 years old I have loved reading on my own about centuries past, primarily stories set in Europe and, of course, Tudor England. I pored over every biography I could find on Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The historical fiction that first captured my heart was written by Norah Lofts, Jean Plaidy, Mary Stewart and Anya Seton. Later on, I devoured Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Margaret George, Bernard Cornwell, C.W. Gortner, Kate Quinn, Patricia Bracewell and Mary Sharratt.

Storyteller – As a writer of narrative nonfiction for 20 years, I learned a great deal from my editors on clarity, pacing and the need for the right descriptive detail. I’ve tried to pass these lessons on to the writers I edit too. I also wrote three screenplays before beginning The Crown, and learned from teachers such as screenwriter Max Adams how to write visually and describe characters with the right evocative phrase.

I always wonder what other historical novelists feel about the “historian” question. For this blog post, I decided to ask a few. (Remember, I am assertive 😀 )

******

erikarobuckauthorphoto

Erika Robuck, author of fantastic historical fiction like Hemingway’s Girl and the soon-to-be-published The House of Hawthorne, says, “”I think a historian is an expert in a time period or culture, and holds a degree to support that level of expertise. I am an enthusiast, not an historian.”

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Eva Stachniak, who has written two of my favorite historical novels, The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night, says, “As a writer of historical novels, I have to know my history, in and out, understand it on many levels, political, social, cultural. I have to be able to imagine how everyday life was lived at the time when my novel is set. For my two Catherine the Great novels, I studied the life of the Russian court, not just its politics, but also its everyday routines. I researched spies and spying, dressmaking, bookbinding, medical procedures and the ins and outs of 18th century renovations. Does it make me a historian? I am not convinced. But it makes me a student of history. It makes me re-imagine the exiting research in a creative way. However, even if I make no claims to being a historian, I claim my passion for history and my ability to make it seem alive for my readers.”

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My friend Sophie Perinot, author of Sister Queens and Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois (pub date: December 2015), has thought about this question even more than I have. She had some fascinating things to say:

“I am not a historian, despite having a BA in history–at least when I have my novelist hat on–because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it.

“I’ve had to give serious thought to the line between what I call “H”istory (academic history) and history as portrayed by novelists. I’ve discussed the subject in a pair of lectures given to university history students during their unit on the uses of undergraduate history degrees after graduation.  And I think most historical novelists grapple with the “who is a historian” question because Historical Fiction is undeniably a pop culture way that people today consume history, and those of us who write it are keenly aware that lots of  fans blur the line between NON-FICTION HISTORY and the FICTIONALIZED HISTORY OF HISTORICAL NOVELS.

“Let me start by saying that I have a background in history having graduated with a BA in that subject—but I don’t write BIG “H” history, nor, in my opinion does any other writer in my genre.  Professors write BIG “H” academic history ( I have a sister who is a professor of history so I have tremendous respect for academic historians).

“Why do I say this?  Well first and foremost a novelist’s work is not driven by the overt goal of educating readers on a particular period or by presenting an overview of a historical issue or time. The historical novelist’s work is driven by considerations of plot and theme—by the desire to tell a universal story that is set in the past but transcends it.

“So, I am not a historian, at least when I have my novelist hat on, because my work isn’t driven by history, or entirely limited by it. BUT if I write first rate historical fiction – and I’d like to think I do – then in telling my story I want to be true to historical facts as we know them.  Good historical novelists use the same sorts of resources that students of history would use to write an academic paper—JSTOR, scholarly journal articles, primary sources, and secondary sources (biographies, prior histories).”

*****

I hope that when you read my historical thrillers, or the fiction by Erika Robuck, Eva Stachniak or Sophie Perinot, you’ll relish not just the story but the awareness that we take our history very seriously—even if we don’t call ourselves historians.

Of that, I think, even Professor Fine would approve.

Check out Nancy’s newest book, The Tapestry, which is the third in her Joanna Stafford Historical Mystery Series! If you haven’t ready any of Nancy’s trilogy, The Crown is book one and The Chalice is book two. 

01_The Tapestry

The Tapestry, Synopsis and Info~

US Publication Date: March 24, 2015
UK Publication Date: April 24, 2015

Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn

into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Praise for The Tapestry~

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” – Bestselling Author Alison Weir

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

Purchase The Tapestry~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound

Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

02_Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY released March 24, 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

Giveaway~

To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the giveaway form below.

Direct Link to ENTER: https://gleam.io/iyF4a/the-tapestry

RULES

  • Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01 a.m. EST and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3rd.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in North American and the UK.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
  • Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
  • Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetapestryblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheTapestryBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #NancyBilyeau

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @tudorscribe @TouchstoneBooks

03_The Tapestry_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

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Review of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. Gripping, Emotional, Authentic!

It’s been a month and a week anniversary of the launch of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii! In celebration of the release of the historical novel, I just completed a “Ring of Fire” series for the last six weeks where I tossed the fire torch to each of the authors every Wednesday or Thursday in order for them to answer a few quick questions about the book. All of the authors were given the same two questions! You can see a link to that six-week series of micro-interview below.

What this seventh week brings us is my review! But first, some tiny bits of background…

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

In case you were hiding under an umbrella tree and missed the hell fire and brimstone, leaving you to not have read the past posts in the series, this book was written by six top historical novelists who joined forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. It’s a combined novel by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran, in which each takes on a character and intertwines them into the story.

Review~

Originally upon hearing about the novel, I was thrilled because it sounded like such a unique idea surrounding a topic that I’ve always been extra curious about: Pompeii. Throughout historical lessons, we learn of how they died, population numbers, and hypotheses (and in recent years the sad decay of the ruins). We’ve even learned a little of who they were based on graffiti, art, agriculture, and DNA testing (super amazing, right?).  The idea of the authors to write six different stories, with each author focused on a different type of person that might have truly existed in Pompeii (in fact, some of them did and then they fictionalized their story based on research and educated guess) was really intriguing.

Though I figured it would be well-written, what I hadn’t realized was how mesmerized the stories would leave me. I had started to read and didn’t have a choice but to put to the side for a little while, so when I picked it back up and started over, I read straight through in one night and I was left wanting more. Each story played into or on another story, characters over-lapped, and plots intertwined in such a way that even the characters didn’t know it was happening. It made me so happy I’d probably walk on coals for it! Ok, maybe not, but I would trade my chocolate bar to have time to read it over again. The layers within the stories and the plots kept my mind at work, immersed in the stories completely, while taking me on the highs and lows of this emotional roller coaster.

When at first I read the stories by Vicky and Sophie, I thought they were just going to be stories about individuals and how their life ended once Vesuvius erupted. I didn’t quite put the pieces together yet, I just enjoyed the stories. Vicky’s story caught me off-guard by her twist and I was surprised by the ending and who one of her characters turned out to be. Her characters of Prima and Gaius Plinius were so dimensional; they set-up very well the rest of the stories in the book in a way that carried all the way through to the end. She even introduces the nobleman Pansa, who keeps a thread, or a pulse, on the rest of the characters throughout the book. But I can’t give spoilers! It really gave us a glimpse into the society and culture within Pompeii and how they interacted together.

Sophie’s was a wonderful thought-provoking piece on marriage, love, lust, defying labels, father/daughter relationships, and the independent female. I did like Aemilia, but I admit, I felt more a connection to Sabinus in the story. I also felt like shouting, “why is no one paying attention to what this expert is saying about the tremors!” I like how Sophie’s story set-up for us some of the pre-currents of rumbling, which created suspense. We sense that just as their lifestyle was a dichotomy, so was their attention to the disaster. However, I truly I fell in love with Diana of the Cornelii in this story!! I loved her interaction with Aemilia, the symbolism she inserted, and the lovely details. I found I was hoping Diana would re-appear later in the story.

In Ben’s story we meet quite a different set of men living in the city of vacation. We meet retired military man Rufus and are reminded of the Roman gladiators. He gives a great explanation of how they were bought, used, and kept. He brought to us, in the grand style that Ben usually does, some of the element of their military and their entertainment (as awful as it was) but with a more behind-the-scenes look at the arena. He shows us how vulgar the practice was and made us feel sorry for the gladiators, such as Pugnax. It slipped us away for a moment into another realm of their society and reminded us further that many Romans vacationed in Pompeii, enjoying the sea, brothels, and this amphitheater form of entertainment. Later, when this element of the story reappears, he had already created depth of sadness for them so that we become mournful in a way that might not have been triggered otherwise.

As I started to read the latter stories, I saw how the characters in these first sections were brought back into the plots making them part of an overlying arc of characters. I was thrilled to see Diana return in full force in Kate’s story and I loved her even further for her courage, wit, and stubbornness. How interesting to find out that Diana and Marcus Norbanus are characters from Kate’s novel Mistress of Rome. I had meant to read that anyway, but now I’m sold. Kate’s story in A Day of Fire was so very hilarious that it gave a good break from what we know as a very sad situation. It really lifted the book before the climax (which Kate would certainly chuckle and say I made a play on words about Pompeii society), but it’s true. My favorite part was the page, when Diana was medically helping him with his hurt knee, and what she proposed he bite down on!! She gives us a captivating back story for each of these characters, and is one of the best stories in the book. The dialogue between the couple was priceless. Sometimes we exasperate those we like the most right? What do they say about those couples who bicker are the most likely to stay together? She also  shows us the side of Pompeii culture with the brothel/whorehouse (an unlikely place they ended up), the sexual graffiti on the walls, and then all the funny, but authentic, phallus symbols found on statues, frescoes, adornments, accessories, etc. At that point, I also eventually become sad again realizing how people were used for sex and what variation of deviations really went on.

Eliza’s story takes us back to a well-to-do family, with some characters re-appearing of course, such as Julilla. Eliza takes a credible view using a family, and one that actually existed in Pompeii, and re-creates what their final moments were like. It was an extraordinary story based on facts, giving us ideas as to what is still not known about that family. She uses her motherly instincts and lets us into the feelings of a mother about to give birth, of a sister who cares for her brother, as a new wife. As a mother  myself, it was extremely painful to read and this made it the most emotional and gripping story of the novel. I had trouble wiping away all the tears and I think that it will always haunt me–the knowing that they were real and what happened to them. I’ve read other things by Eliza, but this has to be the best thing I’ve read by her yet.

And then Stephanie finishes it up by bringing another favorite character of mine back, Sabinus, as well as Capella. Their relationship was interesting. Not really love, or forbidden love, or family, but a dedication of sorts. And I was so looking forward, with all the little foreshadowing previously of Isis being a religion practiced by some in Pompeii, to Stephanie bringing that into the story. Learning of Capella’s ancestry, seeing her relationship with her sister (which how this ends us will surprise you, so I don’t want to spoil), and then her use of the Isis Temple for the spiritual end of the story was nothing short of amazing. I have never forgot Stephanie’s books on Cleopatra Selene, the third showing us a little of how Isis was still practiced in Rome. She truly took me back there again, so much so that I could “feel” Capella’s spiritual energy. Her amazing spirit and peaceful demeanor. Her destiny. Stephanie told such a redemptive tale, and one of embracing life after death, that she seemed to give all the people of Pompeii a lasting legacy of worth. I truly am always absorbed in Stephanie’s writing, and this time didn’t have me faltering from that. She was the perfect author–with the perfect story–to finish out the novel.

Overall, I loved not only how they weaved the character’s lives together, but also I enjoyed all the many details and descriptions, such as the wine production and the drinking of the wine (and that it was more available than even water once the disaster started). I liked the symbolism of the grapes sustaining life. I enjoyed the depictions of the art and architecture, the portrayals of life among the classes and how they interacted with slaves (and how various people became slaves), and the nods to the infrastructure and sustainability of the society. It was intricately well-researched and explained in a way that was accurate and authentic, as well as a joy to read. I could go on and on about the nuances and the characters, but really I can’t do justice to explain them. It’s just something special to read it for yourself.

I highly recommend this book not just to read, but as a keepsake; you’ll want to read it over and over again, burning each time for it when it has to sit on your shelf. It’s pages are alive with people of the past who don’t want to be forgotten. This book would be a miraculous gift for anyone who enjoys ancient history. A truly original tale and perfectly plotted feat of magnificent stature, even the Romans would applaud! Definitely one of my best historical reads of 2014!

Series of Micro-interviews with Author Bios:

Vicky

Sophie

Ben

Kate

Eliza

Stephanie

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii released on November 4, 2014. Order now!

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter,
with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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E. Knight Catches the Torch in A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii Series

In celebration of the release of the historical novel A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, I’ve been doing a “Ring of Fire” series where I toss the fire torch to each of the authors every Wednesday or so for SIX WEEKS in order for them to answer a few quick questions about the book. All of the authors were given the same two questions!

Remember this Doctor Who episode in the fires of Pompeii?

Hey! Remember this Doctor Who episode in the fires of Pompeii?

Today, the E. Knight is in the hot seat, but there are links to the four past micro-interviews too. Follow along and see what each has to say about their experience! I’m going in order based on where their part of the story falls within the book. My review will be posted during the six weeks as well, mostly likely next week. I’m planning some additional reading over the holiday weekend.

In case you haven’t heard, or read my past posts, this book was written by six top historical novelists who joined forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. It’s a combined novel by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran, in which each takes on a character and intertwines them into the story.

Take it away, E. Knight…..

Q1 : What did your character bring to the volcano gods for the book (i.e. what voice did they bring to the volume)?

A: Julilla brought the voice of a young, happily married woman well into the final stages of her pregnancy who is forced to make one of the most difficult and painful choices of her life. Having lost her first baby, she is extremely protective of the one in her womb. But with the impending destruction of Pompeii, and her family trapped in their home, she is now not so sure she wants to deliver her child into the world—for its first precious breath to be that of ash. Julilla’s story, THE MOTHER, is an emotional journey in which we see her turn from compliant Roman wife to a mother willing to do anything to protect her child from pain.

Q2: What is one of your favorite moments from the collaboration?

A: I myself traveled along an emotional journey right with Julilla. I cried, I mourned, I was lost. Having the group to take that journey with me was a blessing. So that, in itself, is one of the best parts of working on a collaboration. But, one of my favorite moments out of all was the Roman naming process—and the joy my writing pals had teasing me about it. Coming from medieval/Elizabethan fiction, it was quite a bit different! All children are named for their pater familias. I had the hardest time comprehending that EVERY ONE of Julius Polybius’ children would be a Julius (or Julia for girls). But, I felt like Julilla was different, and so I didn’t want her to be Julia. She was, is and always will be a Julilla to me.

Previously posted in the series:

Vicky

Sophie

Ben

Kate

E. Knight, Biograpy~

Eliza KnightEliza Knight is the award-winning, multi-published, Amazon best-selling author of sizzling historical romance and time travel erotic romance. She runs the award-winning blog, History Undressed.

When not reading, writing and researching, she likes to cuddle up in front of a warm fire with her own knight in shining armor. Visit Eliza at http://www.elizaknight.com or http://www.historyundressed.com

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii released on November 4, 2014. Order now!

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter,
with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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Filed under Feature Articles, Q and A with Authors

A Day of Fire: Pompeii Series: Kate Quinn Next Under Fire

In celebration of the release of the historical novel A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, and all the time this writing clan of six authors put into it, I’ve been doing a “Ring of Fire” series where I toss the fire torch to each of the authors every Wednesday or so for SIX WEEKS in order for them to answer a few quick questions about the book. All of the authors were given the same two questions! I thought it would be fun to see each of their respective answers. Now, I wish I would have put them in the hot seat a little longer and asked them some additional questions.

fire heart

Day of Fire: A Novel of Pomeii is on Fire

Today, the amazing Kate Quinn is featured (a fellow Boston Red Sox fan!), but there are links to the three past micro-interviews too. Follow along and see what each has to say about their experience! I’m going in order based on where their part of the story falls within the book. My review will be posted during the six weeks as well, mostly likely within the next two weeks.

In case you haven’t heard, or read my past posts, this book was written by six top historical novelists who joined forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. It’s a combined novel by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran, in which each takes on a character and intertwines them into the story.

Ready for the torch pass?……take it away Kate!

 Q1 : What did your character bring to the volcano gods for the book (i.e. what voice did they bring to the volume)?

Kate’s Answer: Pompeii is a story all about escape – as soon as Vesuvius goes up, everyone is fighting to leave. I had a chance with my narrator to flip that on its head: he is a senator battling serious depression (not that he would have a name for it at the time), and unlike the fleeing masses, he has no intention of trying to escape the disaster. He welcomes this chance for an honorable death, but a girl with a foul mouth and a fast horse is trying to drag him to safety whether he wants to go or not. I also had the chance to bring humor to this book (I’m not sure I know how to write a story without it!) Strange to say you can find humor in a tragedy like Pompeii, but my diacritically-opposed characters played off each other like a buddy cop movie, and hopefully provide some much-needed laughs before the big tragic finish!

 Q2: What is one of your favorite moments from the collaboration?

Kate’s Answer: Collaborative writing! For the scenes where the protagonist from one story made a cameo in another, we found it was most effective to crank up an interactive Google document, and for the two authors to write the scene together, each writing the dialogue of their own protagonist so that every character stayed true to their voice. It was like an improv acting exercise but with writing – huge fun.

We’ve already heard from Vicky, Sophie, Ben. Check out their answers by clicking on their name!

Kate Quinn, Biography~

kate quinnKate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written three novels set in ancient Rome: “Mistress of Rome,” “Daughters of Rome,” and “Empress of the Seven Hills,” all of which have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate made the jump from ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, “The Serpent and the Pearl” and “The Lion and the Rose,” detailing the early years of the Borgia clan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii released on November 4, 2014. Order now!

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter,
with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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Sophie Perinot Talks About Working on A Day of Fire with Her Writing Friends

If you haven’t heard, six top historical novelists have joined forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. They have called it A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. It’s a combined novel by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran, in which each takes on a character and intertwines them into the story.

In celebration of the book, and all the time this clan put into it, I’m doing this SERIES. Yes, some sort of “Ring of Fire” series where I toss the fire torch to each of the authors every Wednesday or so for SIX WEEKS in order for them to answer a few quick questions about the book. All of the authors were given the same questions! Follow along and see what each says! We’ll be going in order based on where their part of the story falls within the book. My review will be posted during the six weeks as well.

Sophie Perinot is next on the list. So, take it away Sophie……

Q1 : What did your character bring to the volcano gods for the book (i.e. what voice did they bring to the volume)?

A: My characters brought love to the volcano gods: both imagined love and the real thing. The tricky part for my main character, Aemilia, was recognizing the difference. Aemilia is only fifteen, an age at which infatuation is common. She is a very smart young woman but she can’t be wise—because that is something that generally comes with age. Alternately, extreme circumstances can lead to tremendous personal growth. What if you were a young woman on the cusp of a major life event—your wedding—and suddenly your process of growing up was accelerated and focused by a shaking (quite literally) of the world as you knew it? What might you become? That is the situation Aemilia experiences.

Q2: What is one of your favorite moments from the collaboration?

A: Writing can be a solitary business which is a shame because most of the writers I know are a heck of a lot of fun. “A Day of Fire” took the loneliness out of being a novelist. Because “A Day of Fire” is a continuity—a collection of stories that overlap and build a larger plot arc—a tremendous amount of back-and-forth was involved between participating authors. We got to hang out, both virtually and in real life. I think my favorite moment was our first in-person get together. Four of us (Eliza Knight, Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn and I) gathered at Kate’s house for a day long planning session. Our number one goal was to finalize the book’s timeline and start a “bible” full of characters and details that could continue to grow as the project did. Most of us arrived with a sense of who our characters were and where our story fit in the overall destruction of the city. But as we sat together around a table (see picture) ideas began to catch fire. There was so much energy and discussion. It was fantastic! I felt like I was watching my own story and the stories of the others take solid form right in the air between us. I believe all of us left that session feeling our work had been changed for the better by the encounter.

And here are some pictures of the women of the Pompeii novel working away….they don’t look like they are having fun at all, do they? WINK!

head 2

L-R: Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, and Eliza Knight working on A Day of Fire.

pompeii ladies

The ladies of Pompeii: L-R Kate Quinn, Sophie Periot, Stephanie Dray, and Eliza Knight

Sophie Perinot, Biography~

Sophie Perinot writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, The Sister Queens,(March 2012/NAL), was set in 13th century France and England and wove the captivating story of sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who both became queens. Perinot’s next novel, Medicis Daughter, (late 2015/Thomas Dunne) travels forward three-hundred years to the intrigue-riven French Valois court, spinning the tale of beautiful princess Marguerite who walks the knife edge between the demands of her serpentine mother, Catherine de Medicis, and those of her own conscience.

Ms. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. She left the practice of law to pursue artistic interests, including writing. An avid reader, especially of classic literature, and life-long student of history, it seemed only natural that Sophie should write historical fiction. As someone who studied French abroad and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point. An active member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times.

When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband. To learn more about Sophie and her work, visit http://www.sophieperinot.com.

The FIRST STOP on the RING OF FIRE, and she survived, was Vicky!

The THIRD STOP will be Ben Kane, so stay tuned!!

 A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii released on November 4, 2014. Order now!

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter,
with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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See the COVER for A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, by SIX AMAZING TOP Historical Authors…NOW!!

In historical book circles, we’ve been waiting impatiently for news of a certain book’s arrival from a group of tremendous historical fiction authors who’ve been working to release their newest endeavor called A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii! It’s a unique way to pen a book, so you don’t want to miss it! It’s on FIIIIIIIRE!!! (Yep, you can sing that in your best vocally loud and unharmonizing voice, I just did *wink*)

Today, I am excited to reveal the cover for A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii! This book is not just FOR your TBR pile, but for the TOP of your TBR pile, and should be moved quickly to your READ pile!  Six amazing authors create one volume, which creates the gripping story of Pompeii’s final days.

And now you can PRE-ORDER your copy, so come November 4, you won’t have to wait! And now, you don’t have to wait any longer for this amazing cover either, catch a glimpse NOW!!! Leave your impressions in the comments below!!

DRUM ROLL with FLAMING DRUMSTICKS and cue HOT SHIRTLESS Italian male dancers…..or maybe Ben Kane will rush in with full Roman garb and chariot…….

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by six historical authors:

Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii releases on November 4, 2014. Can’t wait? DON’T—make a date with destiny and don’t go down with the smoke. Make sure you receive your copy immediately on Nov. 4 by pre-ordering A Day of Fire in the format of your choice:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

ABOUT THE AUTHORS (I mean you’ll faint after reading this!)~

STEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at http://www.stephaniedray.com

BEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers.Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net/

E. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, MY LADY VIPER, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at http://www.elizaknight.com.

SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at: http://www.SophiePerinot.com

KATE QUINN is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar. Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon–set in Rome and Egypt–“magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main/

Pre-order today~

OR try for the GIVEAWAY COPY by clicking HERE—->  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sophie Perinot’s The Sister Queens Debuts to Acclaim of Historic Proportions

Do you love historical fiction like I do? Then Sophie Perinot’s debut novel, The Sister Queens, is a novel you won’t want to miss out on! It’s fantastic! This delicate, yet strong prose is a work full of detailed imagery so intense that you’ll feel vividly as if you are actually one of the two sisters~Marguerite and Eleanor~who were raised at court and bred to take substantial places in politics and history. I honestly couldn’t put the book down, and when I had to, I found myself counting the time until I could pick it up again. I loved the moving picture I was experiencing in my head so much that I gorged myself on it, reading way more than I should have in an insane amount of time, and still was famished to learn far more about the life of these sisters.

In The Sister Queens, the sister’s father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, positioned all his daughters to deserve nothing less than royalty.  Their beauty, wit, demeanor, and piety are above reproach and their social standing high as the daughter of a mother from Savoy. 

Marguerite becomes a young Queen of France upon marrying Louis IX at age 13, while simultaneously Eleanor, age 12, becomes Queen of England upon her marriage to Henry III.  The novel is a story which is loosely based on the letters they penned to one another during that time (note: the author made up letters they might have written, though they did indeed write to each other) and the book alternated chapters between the present voices of Marguerite and Eleanor, each starting with a letter to the other.

The writing of Sophie Perinot, so intricately researched and brought to life on each page, is a must read for everyone, especially for those enjoying historical drama. How was this story not told before? I’m certainly glad that Perinot uncovered them and gave us their story.  It’s an amazing tale of  two sisters who loved each other so much, yet also had differing personalities and competed with one another, supported one another, and challenged one another. It’s one to mark down for the greatest of novels list and reads visually as a theatrical movie. And Perinot delivers this kind of hype on each page even more than we could begin to imagine.

Marguerite is the perfect one, who tends to conform to the need of others out of necessity and extreme patience. She endearing. She tries very hard to be the wife that Louis IX, a monarch considered to be one of the best of his era, wants her to be. But she hides in the shadows of his extremely toxic mother, Blanche.  None of Marguerite’s family or waiting staff are allowed at court and she is all alone, being very careful who she can trust.  As Louis becomes increasingly withdrawn to matters of state, and with his own pious intent turning increasingly to religious zealotry, Marguerite struggles as a woman alone in a country who does not love her as she deserves to be loved.  This includes her husband who turns her love away in order, as he sees it,  to please God.  It’s this desire for love that sends her down a path of forbidden love.

Eleanor, in contrast, is stubborn, passionate and very strong, and has a marriage where her family is allowed at court, is engaged in the politics of England, and in which her husband is so dutiful to her he makes it very clear at every opportunity how much he loves her and respects her opinion.  He isn’t the greatest of monarchs, but he is a good person.  England suffers for his rule and his failures, but England also gains from her inherent political sense and resolve.

Eleanor competes with Marguerite on a political level, as country is pitted against country, and as Eleanor sees it, sister against sister. But all Marguerite competes with Eleanor in is in being loved. Marguerite encourages her husband in his pursuits only in hopes of increasing his love quotient for her, but Eleanor competes with Marguerite in wanting England to be a strong political power as much as France.  Due to the nature of writing letters and not wanting them to fall into the wrong hands, Eleanor never gets to read her sister’s true angst with Louis IX or his increasingly brutal piety.

Both sisters seem to take on the traits of the other throughout the book as their life unfolds. Eleanor becomes more patient and Marguerite becomes more bold. It was so inspiring to me to see these sisters go through their life trials. I think it’s amazing how various life events can completely compel us to take on different attributes in order to survive them. I enjoyed seeing how they evolved.

I found myself pulling for Marguerite throughout the book. I could relate to her husband’s moods and increasing OCD personality based on some experiences of my own. I wanted her to be able to be free with her forbidden love. I didn’t understand Eleanor not understanding it, but I remembered that Eleanor didn’t get to see what we as readers saw from Marguerite. I wish she had, she might have understood the change in her sister in a more patient manner. Or maybe not, given the time period. But I found myself wanting to explain “why” to Eleanor. To Eleanor, Marguerite was perfect and anything less was shocking, but all Marguerite wanted was to be happy.

The novel gives a resounding rendition of Louis IX’s strides and failures of going on Crusade. It gives an alarming picture of what the Crusades were actually like, from the French perspective. It also gave me a thought about how medieval Europe came to begin to punish so harshly for crimes on the crux of religion.

I loved The Sister Queens for so many reasons. It ends with the sisters in their 30s being reunited and starting a new phase of life.  The result of this time in history is also the Treaty of Paris 1259, as through these sisters, England and France vowed to be peaceful.  It was a wonderful ending to this book and shows how a sister’s love can transcend miles and years apart. Both lived into their 70s, which was practically unheard of back then. I would have liked to continue reading about them. At 500 pages, I felt I still could have read more. It wasn’t enough! I didn’t want to stop reading, which I guess is what makes it a really good book.  I wanted to keep reading about the rest of their lives. I vote for Perinot to do a SEQUEL!!! Please, Sophie!!

I recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction, romance, politics and really anyone who just wants to try  a new book. I can’t wait to read more novels in the future from Sophie Perinot.

Interview with Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Perinot about her writing, her book, and her life as an author!! Much to my pleasant surprise, I found out that we grew up in the same area. Though she lives in a big city now, I still felt inspired by the fact that she came from the same rural area as I. If she can do it, I can do it is the kind of mantra this knowledge inspired in me! I am so happy for Sophie and wish her great success in the future.

Here is our interview….

Hi, Sophie! Welcome to my blog and thank you for doing an interview with me! I loved your debut novel and hope this is the start of many more for you.

Q1:  Your debut novel, The Sister Queens, is so vivid and detailed. What gave you the idea to write this book? Why does it differ from other historical fiction novels?

A1:  I was probably destined to write about Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence.  I’ve always been a sucker for stories about sisters, right back to the March sisters in Little Women.  I suspect that’s because I am half of a pair of incredibly close sisters.  My first childhood memory is of my sister coming home from the hospital and we have been best friends ever since.  We were even college roommates.  I know with certainty that my relationship with my sister has been formative in my life.  If she had never existed, I would not be the same person I am today.  These types of very primary relationships interest me and I am attracted to characters and situations that allow me to explore them.

It was in that frame-of-mind that I stumbled upon the amazing daughters of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence.  I was researching a 16th century project and there they were in a book on the history of Notre Dame de Paris (Marguerite’s image is carved over the church’s Portal Rouge).  According to a footnote, all four sisters made politically significant marriages with Marguerite and Eleanor becoming the queens of France and England respectively.  I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of them.  I began to research the women further and it quickly became clear there was a sister-story to be told.  That got me REALLY excited and resulted in The Sister Queens which is, after all, a sister story first and foremost.  Yes, it is set in the 13th century and the atmosphere, politics and history are richly detailed and appropriate to that time period, but the true focus of my novel is on that which is timeless—the way our sisters shape us whether by challenging us or by supporting us.

The second part of your question intrigues me.  Does my novel differ from other historical novels?  I have to say I’ve never thought about that.  When I write I write in a vacuum (no reading while I am writing).  When I read I read widely and enjoy a huge variety of authors and styles without comparing them to each other or to my own work.  It certainly is important to me as a reader that a story is vivid and that it sucks me fully into the world of the novel.  So I am very glad that my novel came to life for you 🙂

(Erin comments: It really did come to life for me and it intrigued me. Growing up an only child, I enjoyed examining their relationship. I can imagine it must be amazing to feel, with a sister as you have, to know you always have someone there for you.

Second part: I suppose where I was going with that question was how you go between each sister’s story chapter by chapter. I haven’t seen that very much in other novels. I like how you presented both of their stories so we got to know each one, yet we could also see how they fit together as well. I liked how it was a double story rolled into one.)

Q2:  How does it feel to be a published author? What are some of the best moments you’ve had from the experience?

A2: It feels fantastic.  Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional wallop of seeing The Sister Queens on the “new releases” table at Barnes & Noble on my launch day.  Pure bliss.  I will never forget my launch day lunch with amazing fellow authors Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray either.

In addition to the satisfaction of achieving a major personal goal, the process of writing and launching The Sister Queens brought me into contact with so many wonderful and supportive people.  Some of the best moments of my writer’s journey include: interacting with fellow writers through the on-line community of AgentQuery.com and social media; connecting via Facebook and Twitter with fellow writers and early fans (folks who were enthusiastic about the book even before it ever hit shelves); hanging out with fellow historical writers at HNS 2011 (North American Historical Novel Society Conference); and, of course, talking (and lunching) with my wonderful agent and editor.

Q3:  What were some of the challenges you had when writing The Sister Queens?

A3:  The biggest challenge was time.  See the next question and answer.

Q4:  What is it like for you to be a mom, as well as an author? How do you find the balance?

A4:  “School is my friend.”  I bet every parent out there who works at home can identify with that, lol.  When I have a deadline, the hours between dropping off and picking up my children are devoted 100% to writing.  This can have some unfortunate side effects—usually in the form of dinners cobbled together from a dwindling pantry or the plaintive cries of family members claiming they are wearing their last pair of clean underwear.  When I am not facing a looming deadline, my rating as a wife and mother goes way up.  I have to admit though that I ALWAYS give myself permission to surrender completely to special family moments (as opposed to laundry which is not special).  My oldest went away to college last year and in her sudden absence I realized that my memories of times I’d dropped what I was doing to run the school Halloween party, or hear about her day were golden.  So when I am doing a science fair project with my little guy, or hanging with my high-schooler, I try to be fully present and in that moment.  I try not to think, “Oh my God, you should be writing.”

(Erin comments: It is all about the balance. I agree. I am always telling myself, “they are only this age once, I’ll never get it back” and though I don’t want to put off everything in life, I also know that before I know it I’ll have time when they are pursuing their interests. I still have one at home, but she’s going to school soon so I hope to have more writing time. I just hope that time doesn’t slip away from me, but when you are entering another century in history, sometimes you just get lost!)

Q5:  How did you “sell” your book to get it published? What is your advice for other aspiring authors?

A5:  I am old-school.  I knew I wanted a traditional publisher and that meant finding a literary agent.  That’s not as easy as it sounds.  It involves “querying” agents with a one-page letter that captures the essence of your book.  After that if they are interested they will ask to see part or all of your manuscript.  I was amazingly fortunate to attract the attention of and receive an offer of representation from my agent—a long-time industry veteran with a “career-building” philosophy.  It was his job to pitch the book to editors.

My advice for aspiring authors is write, write, write.  But remember it’s not enough to hone your craft you have to learn the business (unless you are just writing for your own satisfaction).  While you are polishing your manuscript, take some time to learn about publishing.  That way when the happy day arrives and you have an agent and a book contract, the facts of life (e.g. authors need to be involved in marketing and promotion) or simple definitions (do you know what it means to “earn out”) won’t stop you in your tracks.  If you haven’t taken the time to learn about the business then you shouldn’t be looking for an agent or a publishing deal no matter how ready your manuscript is.

 Q6:  Which sister did you identify with the most? Why?

A6:  Oh, you’ve touched upon a bit of a family controversy here.  When I wrote The Sister Queens I really grew close to Marguerite.  I started to identify with her and started to “own” her voice.  Then my sister read the manuscript for the first time and said, “Oh my gosh, you are SO Eleanor.”  I am SURE she is right but still, just once I’d like to get away with thinking of myself as the patient, forbearing type without getting called on it.

In all seriousness, I think I was moved by Marguerite’s story—her struggle to find love with her husband, her struggle to be recognized as a person of strength and political intelligence—but my own marriage (like my outspoken personality) is much closer to Eleanor’s.  I am not saying my husband is professionally inept (do you hear that, dear?) as Henry III clearly was, but he is a man who, like Henry, cares deeply for his wife and children and delights in their happiness.  I also have always felt like an equal partner in my marriage and I think Eleanor, like her mother Beatrice of Savoy before her, was valued as a political player by her husband.

Q7:  I know you did a lot of historical research for this novel. What was this process like? The highs and lows? The hours involved?

A7:  You are correct; I did a substantial amount of both primary and secondary source research for the book.  But that’s not as onerous as it would have been even five years ago.  One of the great things about life in the Internet age is improved access to information right from your desk—everything from the contents of scholarly journals to digital copies of manuscripts.  Being able to search WorldCat from home rather than going to a reference librarian. . .who doesn’t love that?!  Of course I have stacks of old-fashioned books as well which I am constantly tripping over.

Q8:  After the research, how did you formulate the development of the characters?

A8:  My approach is to digest and digest material until my brain is swimming in it.  At some point—and the timing varies depending on the project—I get a flash of insight into a particular character and what I think makes her/him tick.  After that I keep an eye open for further facts and events that support that theory.  The characters don’t come fully alive, no matter how well researched they are, until I start writing.  There is a moment almost, like the part in an old Frankenstein movie, when the characters come to life (“It’s alive, It’s alive”).  That is a spectacular moment and that’s when I am certain there really is a book inside the mounds of research I’ve done and all the timelines and plotlines I’ve made.  The funny thing is once characters get minds of their own they often take the story off in new and interesting directions, saying and doing things I didn’t plan on.  I think that’s okay (it’s better than okay) as long as I am confident their actions/thoughts are consistent with their historical actions.

Q9:  I felt somewhat of a Christian undertone to the novel (besides the steamy parts!). Did this undertone just come out within the plot or did you want your readers to think on the indiscretions?

A9:  When I slip into the skins of my characters I try very hard to make certain that they remain true to their time periods and to their personal histories.  Marguerite and Eleanor were raised in the church (13th century so remember there was only one).  Their father was known for his piety, and at any given time one or more of their Savoyard uncles were likely to be in holy orders (true the Savoyards–and many other noble families of the time–considered the church hierarchy as a promising career path, but that doesn’t mean they were not genuinely pious).  Thus both girls would have been imbued with the moral and spiritual views of the Church of Rome by the time they left their Provencal home.  And, because both married devout men (Louis being arguably too devout), there would have been little reason for them to question their religious convictions after marriage.

Just as we do today, my sisters viewed the world through the filter of their personal moral convictions—convictions that were shaped by medieval church doctrine and practices.  They relied on their faith as a touchstone in coping with adversity and making decisions.  Since the book is written in the first person, readers witness the sisters contemplating and applying their religious principles.

Q10:  You say you have three grand passions:  writing, family and history. Tell us a little about why you are so passionate about these topics (well, family we can guess, but please feel free to expound on all and everything).

A10:  Family.  You know the line from The Godfather, “never take sides against the family?”  Well that could have been written for me.  I was raised to place family and duty to family before all.  So was my husband.  I view my family as the touchstone and central support system of my life–a place of love (sometimes tough love), advice, and acceptance.  Whether it takes the form of my dad turning up and staying six months to help me renovate my house when I bought it, or my husband flying overseas on a moment’s notice when a sibling was ill, I know that the family safety net is always in place.  And I make sure to tell my children everyday “I love you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.”  Friends come and go, jobs come and go, money comes and goes, health comes and goes.  Only family is forever.

History.  I am a history geek from a family of history geeks.  My undergraduate degree is in history; so is my husband’s.  My sister has her doctorate in history and is a college professor.  My childhood was filled with visits to historical places here in the U.S. and as I got older I had the opportunity to visit many historical sites throughout Europe (first while studying abroad and later through leisure travel).  History has always been my thing.

Writing.  Writing lets me share my love of history with readers.  Since The Sister Queens came out more than one person has said to me, “I only started your book because I know you.  I don’t usually read historical fiction and I expected it to be dry, but it wasn’t.  I loved it.”  This always surprises me because history is real people, facing real challenges (many of which are still relevant today) and navigating real relationships (the same types of relationships we treasure and struggle with in the modern world).  How could that ever be dry or boring?  Books offer us so many things—escapism when we need it, reassurance, excitement, the ability to travel to times and places not our own, and even a background for tackling issues in our own lives with the benefit of a little distance.  It’s a dream come true to be part of that; to write something that moves me and find that it moves other people as well.

Q11:  It sounds like you left the field of law to pursue your passions. How did this evolve for you? Can you talk about your experience leaving your career to pursue a new one?

A11:  I did leave the law.  Being a lawyer for a number of years taught me something important – being good at something is not the same as enjoying it.  So I decided to take a leap of faith, to trust that I could find something to do with myself that would also make me happy.  Writing became part of my reinvention because of my sister.  I was on the phone angsting about what I was going to do next and she said, “I know you are making up a story right now in your head, pick up your dictaphone and start saying it out loud.”  My sister knew I was a storyteller because I’d spent most of our childhood entertaining her with “continuing sagas” on our way to and from school.  So rather than “get a life” my sister basically advised me to “write a book.”  The book that resulted snagged my agent.  My agent found me my audience.

I’ve blogged about this transformative sister-push if anyone is interested in reading more.  [http://www.sophieperinot.com/blog/2012/02/02/gifts-my-sister-gave-me-%e2%80%93-part-i ]

(Erin comments: I think it was you that once said (if I am correct) that lawyers do a great amount of writing themselves. I’ve met several writers as of late that stopped their demanding law careers and wrote fiction novels. I think women attorneys, maybe men, too, but it seems less likely somehow, are so full of passion and that is why they go into law and they can use that passion to spur creative thought and write also.)

Q12:  What are your favorite historical time periods and places?

A12:  I am a nut for the 16th century, particularly Valois, France.  But I am a “character-driven” writer rather than being driven by a particular setting or time period.  I would be delighted to revisit the 13th century, and a certain 17th century Cardinal (a nephew of the Pope) and musician are calling me to Rome.  Have laptop, will time-travel—that’s me.

Q13:  What is next for you? Any plans for another novel?

A13:  Oh I am working on another book right now—and probably not as quickly as my ever-patient agent would like.  This one is driven by the mother-daughter relationship.  It is set in the 16th century and my main character is Marguerite de Valois, sister to three kings of France (Francis II, Charles IX, Henri III) and wife of a fourth (Henri IV).  Here is the tagline I am using to drive my writing:  “The mother-daughter relationship is fraught with peril—particularly when your mother is Catherine de Médicis.”

Seriously, I plan to do this until someone tells me I have to stop 🙂

(Erin comments: Sounds good to me! I actually read a little on her as of late, I’ll be waiting to read your interpretation.)

Q14:  Where can readers connect with you?

A14:  I am everywhere (very social).  At my website www.sophieperinot.com, there is a lot of additional information about my work as well as a contact form that allows people to write substantial messages to me.  I am also on twitter (as @Lit_gal) and I have an author Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sophie.perinot.author ) and a Facebook page specifically for The Sister Queens (https://www.facebook.com/thesisterqueens).  I am generally pretty good about responding to comments and questions.

Q15:  The Sister Queens is available at what locations?

A15:  The novel is available on-line through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indie Bound and The Book Depository (probably more places too but those are the ones that come to mind).  It is also available in stores.  At Barnes & Noble in particular it is currently on the “new releases” table.  So if readers are looking for The Sister Queens they can’t miss it—I sure hope they are looking for it!

Thank you, Sophie, for an amazing interview.  I wish you much success with The Sister Queens and your future endeavors!

The Sister Queens, book jacket~

Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals.  They were also queens.

 Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

Bio: Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens~

I’ve always been passionate about history. I was the first member of my college graduating class at The College of Wooster to declare a history major (first quarter of freshman year – not that I was over-eager or anything). I next attended Northwestern University School of Law, where I served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Law and Criminology. Whatever else can be said about lawyers (and please, spare me the bad jokes), we get a lot of practice writing. It’s a much larger part of the job than most people realize. After practicing law in Washington DC, I left the legal side of things to my husband (aka my law-school-sweetheart) and retired to the happier job of raising my children and pursuing artistic interests, including writing.

It’s often said writers are readers first. I am no exception. I have always been an avid reader, especially of the classics. Deciding what to write was easy. As a life-long student of history, from a family of history-nerds, historical fiction was destined to be my niche. My attraction to French history was equally natural — I studied French abroad, and I am a hopeless devotee of one of the grandfathers of the genre, Alexandre Dumas, père.

I live in Great Falls, Virginia surrounded by trees and books. My books are time machines. Currently I travel daily to my own little corner of the 16th century were I am delving into the challenges and rewards of the mother-daughter relationship – a subject as timeless as the sister-to-sister rapport explored in my debut novel.

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