March 1, 2016
I am SO proud of this book, having been lucky enough to get an early peek as critique partner: a fabulously-researched story about the founding of the country, finally available for readers wherever books are sold.
In this compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
About the Book
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
Buy AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER:
Learn more about the book
Advanced Praise for America’s First Daughter:
“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.” (Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat)
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress)
About the Authors:
STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
Stephanie’s Book Club |Stephanie’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter
LAURA KAMOIE has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye
. Her debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.
Laura’s Website |Facebook |Twitter |Newsletter Sign-Up
November 23, 2015
As I wrote A YEAR OF RAVENS with my six co-authors Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, Eliza Knight, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Simon Turney, and Russell Whitfield, we were often asked about the collaborative process. How exactly does one go about writing a book-in-seven-parts? Well, it involves a lot of emails, a lot of Skype sessions, a lot of back-and-forth Facebook chats--and we undertake it with a great deal of seriousness, as you see from this collection of direct quotes as we moved through the stages of collaboration this year.
As We Outline Our Stories
Simon: “I have an eight-page outline, anyone want to have a look?”
Kate: “My entire outline is eleven words.”
Stephanie: “I want to talk over-arching themes. What are we trying to say with this book? What’s our overall message?”
Vicky: “Why are we talking overarching themes before we even know what happens?!”
Ruth: “My heroine’s name--Ria or Narina? Oh well, I’ll decide by the time I’m done.”
Eliza: “Really?! I can’t move forward at all until my heroine has a name.”
Russell: “Hey guys, my story’s already finished!”
All of us: (outwardly) “Wow, you’re so motivated!” (Inwardly) “Bastard.”
As We Research
Ruth: “This poem I’m reading on Celtic wooing practices, `The Wooing of Etain . . .’ Not a lot of wooing in it. Sparky bunch.”
Stephanie: “Russ, you walked Hadrian’s Wall in full Roman armor--does chain-mail really go thunk-scratch
as you walk?”
Russell: “It’s actually more wunk-thunk-kitch, wunk-thunk-kitch
As We Research Some More
Stephanie: “My Roman procurator's villa is in Narbo. But I might need to change the color of the grapes in his vineyard. Maybe we can't be sure of the climate in that specific place for whatever variety of grape existed before modern variations 2000 years ago.”
Kate: “Don't mention the color of the grapes. Just say they're ripe. Nobody cares what color the grapes are.”
Stephanie: “I'm putting in the color of the grapes! You can't stop me. I've gone rogue.”
Kate: “Is that the mulish streak of an author thinking "I looked it up. I researched it. It's going in the book or time is wasted?"
Stephanie: “Absolutely! I don't even drink wine. I don't know the difference between a Syrah and a Chardonnay. You think I researched grape regions in France for my health? No, Madam. I did not.”
As We Write
Stephanie: “The f*cking king still isn’t burned.”
Ruth: “So many Iron Age names are completely unusable. Corotica, Auumpus, Aessicunia . . .”
Russell: “My hero can’t keep his willy in his subligares.”
Vicky: “All right, break for lunch, then back to the slaughter.”
Eliza: “My muse today is a bitchy bitch who bitches.”
Simon: “I've managed to put two tines of a fork into my hand.”
Kate: “I love you guys.”
As We Procrastinate
Kate: “Hey, look at this! `Buzzfeed quiz to find your Celtic name!’ I got `Floraidh, the Gentle Petal.’ Jesus. What are you guys getting?”
Simon: “`Muireann, born of the sea.’ For a man who has to travel 50 miles to the ocean, I find that amusing.”
Russell: “`Aidan the Fiery Rider. The ancient Celts would have seen you as the bringer of light.’ And I’m a complete slacker . . .”
Vicky: “I got Muireann too. And I live 250 miles from a beach.”
As We Finish Our Rough Drafts
Stephanie: Slept for ten hours straight after writing 22,000 words in 4 days.
Eliza: Pulled four all-nighters and is now drinking wine straight from a jar.
Vicky: Cross-eyed from maneuvering her mind around the mental contortions needed to plausibly excuse a massacre.
Ruth: “Mightily glad I finished my story when I did, because seconds later a huge spider ran across the desk. I'll be decamping to the kitchen until it's died of old age. Or possibly until I have.”
Simon: MIA. Apparently fled all the way to Wales to get away from the non-stop barrage of Boudica emails.
Kate: Killed approximately 80,000 fictional Celts and has used every synonym in the book for "slaughter."
Russell: Smiling like a cat in the cream because he finished his story first and didn't skate across the deadline over-caffeinated, under-slept, and hooked up via IV to the nearest alcoholic beverage like his co-authors.
As We Edit Each Other
Stephanie: “Kate, don't have your hero kick the severed head. Soooo disrespectful.”
Eliza: “Two stories to edit AND another book out this week . . .”
Vicky: “Wait, you guys feel sorry for my story's homicidal maniac?”
Simon: “______ ______ _____!” (Editing while on holiday, bumping down a Welsh country road in the passenger seat of a Vauxhall Zafira, going 25 mph behind a horse caravan).
Ruth: “Well, my heroine's unconscious through all of THAT story, so that saves me writing her any dialogue . . .”
Kate: “Russ, editing your foul-mouthed optio is having a deleterious effect on my vocabulary. I just told my cranky old plug-in coffeemaker to `Hurry up, you dozy f***ing cow.’”
Russell: “You're welcome, luv.”
As We Fact Check
Stephanie: “Eliza, stop looking up etymological roots! You can’t FIND a word that’s old enough! That’s the beauty of writing in the ancient world; you don’t have to do this!”
Eliza: “I. Can’t. Stop.”
Ruth: “I’ve spent the day only leaving the computer to hunt out books I haven’t used in years. I must go remind Husband that I’m still alive.”
Kate: “Russ, you say Gaulish, but should we go with Gallic?”
Russ: “Gaulish. Gallic brings to mind berets, stripy shirts, Gauloise cigs and accordion music.”
As We Fact Check Some More
Kate: “So, state funeral in the morning and then the pillaging starts . . . you think it could be done by 3pm or so?”
Ruth: “You know, I’m not sure how long pillaging takes. It’s not something I’ve ever given a great deal of thought to.”
Kate: “If the funeral is done by morning we have just enough time to kick off the pillaging. If that’s done by mid-afternoon, we can schedule the flogging . . . I sound like a demented event planner trying to rent a hall.”
As We Make Continuity Changes
Kate: “The blond slave girl mentioned in Story #3 cannot suddenly become a brunette in Story #5; the queen in Story #1 cannot possibly make it all the way north by Story #2 unless we involve a TARDIS; and that Druid cannot die in Story #4 by drowning AND in Story #7 by evisceration.”
Stephanie: “We need to decide on `Mona’ or `Ynys Mon,’ or the history police will crucify us.”
Ruth: “Crikey, don’t the history police have anything better to do?”
Several voices in unison: “No.”
As We Work On Promo
Vicky: “Ok, everyone pitch in on this Q&A.”
Stephanie: Talks overarching theme.
Ruth: Talks archaeological evidence.
Simon: Talks character development.
Russ: Makes hilarious rude jokes.
As We Celebrate Book’s Launch
Ruth: “Really, this was wonderful. It’s been like a crash course in writing combined with group therapy, only funnier.”
The rest of us in unison: “AWWW . . .”
(Then the Yanks wonder: “Do the Brits hug?”)
(As the Brits wonder: “Five hour time difference . . . too early for the Yanks to pour celebratory drinks?”)
November 17, 2015
Today marks the release of the second collaborative novel I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in! Last year, five other authors and I collaborated to write a novel-in-six-parts about the fall of Pompeii; it was titled "A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii"
. This time around my co-authors and I (most of the same bunch, plus some delightful new faces) tackled the Boudica rebellion against Rome. The result? "A Year of Ravens: a novel of Boudica."
Our sophomore collaborative proved to be a bigger, darker, far more complex book than "A Day of Fire." What can I say, we wanted to up our game! And in the process, we had about as much fun as is legally possible to have while still calling it work. Approximately three million emails passed between the seven of us as we wrote, mostly hilarious - I adore every one of my co-authors and would work with them again in a heartbeat. We're all very proud of "A Year of Ravens," and we hope you enjoy it too!
Buy your copy here!
Amazon US (print and Kindle)
| Amazon UK (print and Kindle)
October 4, 2015
It's here: the cover AND the Pre-Order info for the Boudica project! We are all super excited how it turned out, and we hope you will be, too!
Title: A Year of Ravens: a novel of Boudica's rebellion
Authors: Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield, with an introduction by Ben Kane.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: November 17, 2015
| Amazon UK
Prefer paperback? No problem - hard copies aren't available for pre-order, but "A Year of Ravens" WILL release in paperback as well, on November 4th!!!
Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Briton . . . and these are their stories.
A calculating queen foresees the fires of rebellion in a king's death.
A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.
An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.
A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.
A conflicted young warrior finds himself torn between loyalties to tribe and to Rome.
An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.
A pair of fiery princesses fight to salvage the pieces of their mother’s dream as the ravens circle.
A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Britons who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?
August 14, 2015
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie are both wonderful friends of mine, and I've been hearing about their epic joint project since its conception! The cover has come out at last . . . and it's a beauty. Speaking as a beta reader who read every page of "America's First Daughter" when it was still in rough draft form, I can say that the story behind this cover is every bit as epic. Congratulations, Stephanie and Laura!
Tasty Book Tours is Pleased to Present...
AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER
Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Releasing March 1st, 2016
In a compelling, richly
researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources,
bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating,
untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson
Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and
shaped an American legacy.
From her earliest days, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson
knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his
country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes
his helpmate in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he
becomes American minister to France. And it is in Paris, at the glittering
court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that she learns of her
father’s liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age.
Patsy too has fallen in love—with her father’s
protégé, William Short, a staunch abolitionist intent on a career in Europe.
Heartbroken at having to decide between being William’s wife or a devoted
daughter, she returns to Virginia with her father and marries a man of his
choosing, raising eleven children of her own.
Yet as family secrets come to light during her
father’s presidency, Patsy must again decide how much she will sacrifice to
protect his reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson’s political
legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
LAURA CROGHAN KAMOIE is a historian specializing in colonial
and revolutionary America, Virginia history, and the history of slavery. She
holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from The College of William and Mary
and has published two historical monographs, including Irons in the Fire: The
Business History of the Tayloe Family and the Virginia Gentry, 1700-1865
(University Press of Virginia, 2007). Laura is an Associate Professor of
History at the U.S. Naval Academy. In her fourteen years of college teaching,
she has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate courses on colonial America,
revolutionary America, African-American Slavery, as well as seminars on Thomas
As LAURA KAYE, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling
author of over a dozen titles in contemporary and paranormal romance. Her books
have won numerous industry awards, including the EPIC eBook Award, the Golden
Leaf award, the PRISM award, and the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit. She is a
frequent panelist at national writing conferences and a frequent instructor of
craft and social media workshops. Laura lives just outside the nation’s capital
with her husband and two young daughters.
Find Laura Here
DRAY is a bestselling and award-nominated author of historical women’s
fiction. Her series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into six
different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. As
STEPHANIE DRAVEN, she is a national bestselling author of paranormal romance,
contemporary romance, and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a
frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near
the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game
designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to
inspire the young women of today.
Find Stephanie Here
July 11, 2015
Ever since publishing "A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii" last year with five other historical fiction authors, I and my writing mates have all been asked "Are you doing another novel together?" Today I can finally tell you: Yes. The H Team (historical fiction authors unite!) is riding again with a new project.
We have some changes to the lineup this time around. Ben Kane and Sophie Perinot both had to reluctantly back out due to crowded writing schedules and deadline conflicts (we're gutted to lose them) but we've been joined by three new players, every bit as wonderfully quirky, hugely talented, and fun to work with as Ben and Sophie: Russell Whitfield of the Gladiatrix trilogy, S.J.A. Turney of the Marius' Mules series, and Ruth Downie of the Medicus series have officially joined myself, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Dray, and Eliza Knight on the upcoming collaborative novel.
And what historical event do we have in our cross-hairs this time around? Only the most bad-ass red-haired rebel queen who nearly brought Rome to her knees.
Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.
A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.
A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.
An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.
A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.
A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.
An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.
A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.
A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?
Coming to you in November 2015!
January 1, 2015
Limited time only - but "A Day of Fire" is just 99 cents on Amazon and Nook! If you've got an e-reader and a buck, now's the time to snap it up
and start your 2015 reading list!
November 4, 2014
It was on another Release Day that "A Day of Fire" was first conceived, the champagne-fueled brainchild of myself, Stephanie Dray, and Sophie Perinot. We were having a celebratory lunch in honor of my latest Borgia book, and swapping idle ideas for future projects. "Continuities," Stephanie mused, and was met with blank looks. "Basically, a novel in four parts, written by four authors, or however many are working together. Romance authors do it all the time."
"Why haven't historical fiction authors jumped in?" Sophie wondered. "We could pick a historical event and go to town! What event?"
"Sinking of the Titanic? Downton Abbey tie-in . . ."
"Field of the Cloth of Gold? Tudor tie-in . . ."
"Destruction of Pompeii . . . ?"
Eyes gleamed. And this project was born.
It's been a wild, sometimes rocky, always exhilarating ride. Our original trio was swiftly joined by three more musketeers. I screwed up the nerve to approach Ben Kane, whose work I adore (after being wowed by the gorgeous mayhem he wreaked with the Spartacus legend, I knew he could tear the top off a mountain in style). Vicky Alvear Shecter already had a hit YA HF novel in the works about Pompeii ("Curses and Smoke," highly recommended!) but didn't mind revisiting the lava fields with us. And self-pub goddess E. Knight joined the Good Ship Pompeii and firmly took the tiller, steering the rest of us self-pub newbies through the waters of the Indie Ocean.
I am uniquely proud of what I and my five co-authors have put together in "A Day of Fire." I think, frankly, that it's awesome. Some of that was planned (the careful plotting we did to interweave characters; the careful research into the latest Pompeii archaeological findings), and some of it wasn't (how did we get such a perfect cross-section of Roman society in our protagonists? Sheer luck). But we worked hard, and it was worth every moment.
And at long last, our story about the final days of Pompeii is available in e-book and print!
“This truly is the finest book I have read this year, an emotional roller-coaster that educates while it entertains. Its impact will stay with me for quite some time.” ~Parmenion Books
“Despite knowing what happens in Pompeii and to the majority of its citizens, A Day of Fire is a book full of suspense, fear, and unexpected bravery.” ~Ageless Pages
“I can’t praise this book highly enough. It’s a rattling good tale of disaster, death, resolution and rebirth.” ~Dodging Arrows
“I LOVED this! The writing style, the choice of stories told, the evolution of characters, the drama. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” ~The Maiden’s Court
"Each one of these authors deserves a huge amount of praise for putting this impressive piece of art together.” ~Steven McKay
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories:
A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
September 16, 2014
It's here: the cover AND the Pre-Order info for my Pompeii project! We are all super excited how it turned out, and we hope you will be, too!
Title: A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
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
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . .
Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:
A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets;
An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire;
An ex-legionary who stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished;
A crippled senator welcoming death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue;
A young mother facing an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls;
And a priestess and a whore seeking redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
June 6, 2014
Some of you may have heard me hint over the past few months about a fabulous secret project coming up after "Lady of the Eternal City." Secret no longer--here are the deets.
It's a collaboration between six authors of historical fiction. All about the fall of Pompeii.
Everything began on my last release day, when Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot dropped by in their standard Release Day effort to keep me distracted from my Amazon Sales Ranking by any means up to and including handcuffs. At some point over the champagne, somebody mused "We should write a book TOGETHER. Not just a collection of stories; a book-in-three parts. Romance authors do it all the time, why not historical fiction authors?"
Six months and eight billion emails later, we had a subject - the last days of Pompeii - and a lineup of contributing authors. Six authors, not three; representing all shades and flavors of historical fiction from guts-and-glory star Ben Kane to historical YA phenom Vicky Alvear Shecter; historical family drama expert Sophie Perinot and historical fantasy maven Stephanie Dray and romance-bestseller-turned-historical novelist Eliza Knight.
At the end of 2014, we will be excited to bring you A Day of Fire: Stories of Pompeii.
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens escaped the mountain's wrath, some died as heroes . . . and these are their stories.
A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary staking his future on a gladiator bout destined to be fatally interrupted.
A crippled senator whose only chance of escape lies with a beautiful tomboy on horseback.
A young mother faced with an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore looking for redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.
A novel in six parts, overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross paths during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?
March 24, 2014
If there's any TV show I get a kick out of, it's “Castle.” Nathan Fillion plays a bestselling novelist, and to watch him you'd think a writer's life is all red-carpet events, research trips to exotic and dangerous places, and the occasional hour or two of staring pensively at a spiral-bound notebook. No writer I know has ever worked that way—just take a look through this cyclical blog tour “My Writing Process.” Christy English
tagged Stephanie Dray with the four questions below, and Stephanie
in turn tagged me—and among all our answers, you won't find a single a red-carpet event or a spiral-bound notebook!
1) What am I working on?
I'm working on the long-awaited sequel to “Empress of the Seven Hills,” which is titled “Lady of the Eternal City” and will be released March 2015. This has been the book from hell, but it's also been hugely rewarding. I'm revisiting my rough-edged Roman legionary Vix, who is caught in a tangled triangle with Hadrian, the brilliant and sinister Emperor of Rome, and Hadrian's elegant wife Sabina who is both the love and the bane of Vix's life. Throw in poison, plotting, rebellion, a trip down the Nile and the building of Hadrian's wall, and you have yourself a wild ride!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books will make you laugh. A lot of historical fiction has gotten very serious lately—all these moody princesses and grim battlefield epics! And I love books like that, but history can be zany, absurd, and wonderfully whacky as well as deadly serious. And I like showing my readers the fun side.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Search me—I'm not sure we can ever figure out exactly why we are fascinated by the things that grip us body and soul. For me, it's always been the past. Maybe because of my mother's degree in ancient and medieval history, which had me watching “I, Claudius” instead of Disney cartoons, and listening agog to bedtime stories of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon rather than the Billy Goats Gruff crossing the troll bridge. But historical fiction is always where I gravitated.
4) How does your writing process work?
The two key ingredients for me are black coffee and a black dog. The coffee keeps me alert through the seven hours or so I'm sitting at my laptop (I work longer hours at this than I ever did at an office cubicle). And the little black dog at my side gets me off
the laptop, insisting not so gently that I take him for his morning stroll—and that's where I do some of my best thinking. It's good for a writer to unplug, get away from the Facebook updates and the editor emails and online researching. And somehow, my mind always manages to wander usefully while my feet are moving—I can come back from an hour of romping with the dog in the snow, and I'll have solved that plotting problem that was giving me headaches an hour ago.
My friend Sophie Perinot
has agreed to answer the same questions for me—I love hearing how other writers work (and I'm betting no red-carpet events or spiral-bound notebooks for her, either!) Check back here next Monday March 31st, and I'll link to her site so you can see what her answers are.
January 29, 2014
Nobody really likes Thursdays, do they? Not quite Friday, sigh, sigh. So tomorrow, come hang out on Facebook with me instead--I'm joining a really impressive array of historical fiction authors and bloggers, hosting a Facebook party in honor of historical fiction, the 2,023rd anniversary of the Ara Pacis, and the release of my friend Stephanie Dray's newest book, Daughters of the Nile: A novel of Cleopatra's Daughter.
Readers can win free books, lunch at the next Historical Novel Society meeting, swag, gift cards, and other prizes from some of the best authors in this genre. Please join us, and RSVP
May 15, 2013
Here's a shout-out to those of you in northeastern Maryland and southeastern PA--I will be appearing with my marvelous friends-and-colleagues Sophie Perinot and Stephanie Dray at the FREDERICK BOOK FESTIVAL this coming weekend (Saturday, May 18th). Our panel on "Prejudice and Preconceptions - What you think you know about historical women" (at 11 a.m.) always brings down the house. Come out and see us!
And if you're busy on Saturday, stop by Barnes & Noble at the FSK Mall on Friday, May 17, 2013 from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM. I'll be there for a signing with lots of other wonderful authors and friends!
April 18, 2012
Coming this Saturday: panel discussion and book signing for three historical fiction authors: Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, and myself. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. Stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a great time!
Here are the details:
Date: Saturday, April 21st
Time: 1-3 p.m.
Location: Barnes & Noble, Spectrum Center, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Hope I see you there!
March 28, 2012
Under a week till publication day for “Empress of the Seven Hills.” Who's nervous? Well, me. This might be my third go-round, but somehow this never gets any less nerve-racking.
Fortunately, I've got company for my first in-person event this time. Mark your calendars – a historical fiction triple threat is set to hit the Washington DC metro area on April 21st!
Book Signing and Discussion
The marvelous Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot will be joining me for an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. If you're a fan of Stephanie's whip-smart series on Cleopatra's daughter Selene (“Lily of the Nile” and “Song of the Nile”) or Sophie's cracking debut novel on the medieval version of the Middleton sisters (“The Sister Queens”), stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a wild time!
Barnes & Noble
1851 Fountain Drive
April 21st, 1-3pm
As soon as pub day hits I'll also be hopping aboard a two-week whirlwind of a blog tour, guest blogging on everything from sexual mores in ancient Rome to the various books and movies that first turned me into a historical fiction junkie. If you'd like to follow me around the web for a few laughs and a chance at a free book (giveaways galore!) then see below.
April 3rd – Luxury Reading blog
Topic of the day: What really happens when you end up putting your husband in a book by accident?
April 4th – Passages to the Past
Topic of the day: Why Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would have a heart attack if they ended up in ancient Rome.
April 5th – Tanzanite's Castle
Topic of the day: The books that got me hooked on historical fiction; what are yours?
April 6th – Peeking Between the Pages
Topic of the day: A typical day in a writer's life, and it's NOTHING like “Castle”
April 9th – The Maiden's Court
Topic of the day: How women in ancient Rome managed to get what they wanted despite all the laws against it.
April 10th – Historical Fiction Connection
Topic of the day: How to make historical characters a) interesting, when your readers can jump on Wikipedia to find out what happens to them, and b) sympathetic, when they have a documented historical taste for bear-baiting and slavery.
April 11th – Muse in the Fog
Topic of the day: still undecided. Hey, I'm a bit behind on my blog posts!
April 12th – Judith Starkston Book Blog
Q&A: Sample question: which of my characters would I choose to be, if I had a chance?”
April 13th – Historical Boys
Q&A: C.W. Gortner and I chat about everything from dream movie adaptations to the eternal dilemma of historical fiction novelists.
April 16th – The Secret Writer Blog
Q&A: Find out why I have a fridge door full of Post-It notes with jottings like “Headless Romans in York?”
April 21st – Enchanted by Josephine
Q&A: Who knows what she'll ask, but Lucy always has great questions!
A huge thank you to all the book bloggers, reviewers, and readers who have invited me onto their blogs! I can't wait to get started. Who's nervous?
Well, still me.
January 2, 2012
Apparently a federal mandate was handed down from the White House, or possibly the Borg, to all book bloggers at the turn of the New Year: You must post a “Top Ten Books I Read in 2011” blog post, or you will be assimilated. Surrender immediately. Resistance is futile.
Who am I to resist Obama, or the Borg Queen? Here's my Top Ten List of books I've read this year (though some were published far previous to 2011). More original post coming next week, assuming I haven't been assimilated.
Best Books I Read In 2011, In No Particular Order
1.“Death of Kings” by Bernard Cornwell
Ah, the master himself with his latest installment in the Saxon Stories, a bloody and exuberant tale starring acerbic warrior hero Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Cornwell provides his usual stream of dry one-liners, battlefield heroics, and gorgeous writing – all wrapped up in one lovely package with a hero so hunky that I would time-travel back to the Dark Ages, risking an existence of dismemberment, violence, and no deodorant, for a single chance to meet him in person.
2.“The Second Duchess” by Elizabeth Loupas
The best debut I've read in a long time: a clever and level-headed Austrian princess newly married to the same Duke of Ferrara who stars in the famous Browning poem. Cautiously, the new duchess investigates the mysterious death of her predecessor while negotiating the snakepit of Renaissance politics and the attentions of her sometimes attractive, sometimes terrifying new husband. Deliciously twisty plotting, sensuous prose, and unforgettable characters.
3.“The Last Queen” by C.W. Gortner
A much sadder historical fiction read which I nevertheless devoured in a single hot summer day. The life of Juana of Castile makes for gut-wrenching reading as she travels from exuberant young princess to the woman who will be walled up and unfairly dismissed by history as a madwoman, but it's like watching a car wreck – you can't look away for a minute. Read with a large plate of Spanish tapas and a glass of sangria for consolation, preferably under the loggias of the Alhambra palace where Juana grew up.
4.“Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher
Just to prove that I don't only read historical fiction. Jim Butcher's urban fantasy series about a lanky wise-cracking wizard operating in modern-day Chicago is as addictive as crack. This one is no exception. Harry Dresden, wizard and wise-ass, is one of the best fictional heroes around – and this is one of the few books I can think of where the narrator spends pretty much the whole book dead.
5.“Song of the Nile” by Stephanie Dray
I love an unabashedly ambitious heroine, and Dray's Selene really fills the ticket – Cleopatra's intelligent daughter who does her best to claw, scheme, and manipulate the Emperor of Rome into giving back her birthright of the throne of Egypt. If only the Emperor of Rome weren't a first-class creep who wants waaaaaay
more than a girl should reasonably have to give up in pursuit of power. Sequel to “Lily of the Nile,” and altogether a darker, harder, more grown-up read.
6.“Major Pettigrew's Last Stand” by Helen Simonson
A gem – if Masterpiece Theatre doesn't snap this book up for a movie remake starring Derek Jacobi, it would be a crime. A gentle but hysterically funny romance about a reticent English widower who finds himself, to his considerable inconvenience, falling in love with a charming Pakistani widow. Humorous, understanding, and sweet – and how lovely to see a passionate romance between a Romeo of sixty-eight and a Juliet of fifty-eight. As if only the young and beautiful are entitled to star in great love stories.
7.“Dance With Dragons” by George R.R. Martin
The long and not very patiently awaited installment in Martin's iconic and massive “Song of Ice and Fire” series. I won't bother recapping the plot of this thousand-page doorstopper, since your screen would explode, but it was worth every hour of sleep I lost over it.
8.“11/22/63” by Stephen King
Another doorstopper on the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, and worth every penny of the doctor's bills you will incur for the wrist strain that settled in after hours of holding this brick up close enough to read. A teacher in 2011 finds a mysterious portal that takes him back to 1958 – and he decides to stick around and see if he can't prevent the Kennedy assassination from happening. The answer may surprise you – Stephen King has not one whit lost his touch for horror, creativity, and poignancy, sometimes all in the same sentence.
9.“Mr. Rosenblum Dreams In English” by Natasha Solomons
Middle-aged Jack Rosenblum is a German Jew who escaped Nazi Germany by moving his family to England - and for twenty years, Jack has devoted himself to becoming the perfect English gentleman. He has the tweed suits from Harrods, the pipe and the Jaguar, but one thing eludes him: membership to a golf club. When every good golf club rejects Jack (no Jews allowed! Germany certainly didn't corner the market on anti-Semitism) Jack decides with grandeur that he will build his own golf course. What a bad idea – and what a funny, moving, satisfying book about the results.
10.“Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain
How to classify this book: Memoir? Expose? Humor? Its author is easier to pin down: a hard-drinking, hard-swearing, hard-living executive chef (and now Travel Channel star) who can't write a sentence without being funny, poignant, or offensive, often simultaneously. Bourdain's macho testosteronal voice would be unbearable if he didn't make just as much fun of himself as he does of everyone else. I can't walk into a restaurant now without wondering if the crew making my food is the kind of swaggering foul-mouthed batch of borderline psychos who are depicted so vividly in the pages here.
So there it is – my top ten list, along with everyone else's. Now please, Mr. President or Ms. Borg Queen, can I pretty please go back to my book and not be assimilated?
October 20, 2011
So last week I had a blog post on meeting the lovely Stephanie Dray for the first time after mutually reading and enjoying each other's books, and the fun that ensued. Stephanie has her own take on our afternoon out:
"Kate offered to drive, so I climbed into her little red sports car. It wasn’t until she revved the engine that I remembered her heroine, Diana the charioteer, who had a mad love of racing. Now, I realize that authors don’t always resemble their characters. But when Kate Quinn punched the gas pedal to the floor, I started to remember just how many of her characters were wild berserkers."
Ahem. I would like to state for the record that no laws were broken in the course of the afternoon in question - at least no important laws. And the nice policeman was really very understanding about the whole thing, and thank God his radar gun was off by 10 miles per hour.
For the rest of Stephanie's account, as well as some trenchant and very true observations about the crises of nerves that come with writing a second novel, read here
October 12, 2011
I met historical fiction novelist Stephanie Dray for the first time last week in celebration of her second book's release, and frankly I am getting nervous. She is kind and witty, self-deprecating and sassy, a sparkling conversationalist and an eager listener – just like a lot of the writers I've been lucky enough to meet. Are there no trolls in this business? Or am I just lucky enough only to meet the the nice ones? I've had the great privilege of meeting Michelle Moran, Margaret George, Diana Gabaldon, C.W. Gortner, Sophie Perinot, Anne Easter Smith, Christy English, Gillian Bagwell, Sandra Worth – and they were all delightful.
I think people have the wrong idea about how writers interact. For one thing, they assume we don't interact at all; that we spend all our time huddled in our solitary libraries over a computer, and for a large part we do. But there's Facebook, there's email, there are conferences where we can meet face to face – I met most of these people at the Historical Novel Society Conference this year. However we do it, lots of us get to know each other, and for the most part there's no backstabbing and jealousy (another popular assumption about writers). The people I've met were all sincerely rooting for each others' success – after all, the more of us who sell books and make historical fiction popular, the bigger the audience is and we all benefit.
The other popular assumption is that if we don't hate each other, we cheat. Write blurbs for each other just to get a blurb back, talk up each other's books when we haven't read them – a big incestuous group all scratching each other's backs just to get a scratch in return. I haven't seen much of that, either. If anything, there's a slightly nervous look on both faces when two writers meet for the first time. I like your books so much; what if I don't like you? I like you but I haven't read your books; what if I hate them?
It's a great relief once you can relax, realizing that you like both an author and
The other relief in meeting a fellow historical fiction author is that here at last is someone who understands.
Here is someone who nods unfazed as you start reeling off the family tree of the Julio-Claudian emperors; who gets your toss-off reference to the Wars of the Roses; who shares your interest in Egyptian mummies. Those of us with a passion for history are resigned to blank stares or rolled eyes from those who think we're weirdos for knowing more about the wives of Henry VIII than the husbands of Elizabeth Taylor. Meet another HF writer and after a while there is a great internal shout of “Yes! She GETS me!”
Finally, there's a relief in knowing you aren't alone. Writers do spend a lot of time alone, and most of us like it that way – but at times one misses the cameraderie of an office or worksite, work friends to bitch and moan with about work problems. With only two books published, I'm a relative newbie in the author scene – I went at it alone for the first few years. Now my circle is expanding, and I've realized that I do have work friends. They may be scattered all over the country, but they're as supportive as the office friends I used to meet around the water cooler.
So what do two authors of historical fiction do when they meet up? Stephanie Dray and I hit an Indian restaurant for lunch where, yes, roast goat was on the menu. We agreed it was something both her Egyptian heroine Selene and my Roman heroine Thea would have eaten, and we'd be fools not to follow suit. So we ate goat and dished on Isis worship, Roman emperors, plotting problems, and snarky reviews. Lunch turned into coffee; Stephanie wheedled a couple of spoilers from Empress of the Seven Hills
out of me, and I wheedled a few from her on the next Selene book (sorry, we're both sworn to secrecy). Stuffed with goat and coffee, we parted good friends.
Stephanie, congratulations again on the launch of "Song of the Nile." Next lunch is on me.