Ben Kane

10 Things About Writer Pals

A selection of my favorite author pals from the last Historical Novel Society conference: Sophie Perinot, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Dray, and Eliza Knight, with Ben Kane photoshopped in for the complete “Day of Fire” team!

1. You can name every book they’ve ever written, describe their fictional heroes and heroines down to eye color and childhood traumas, and know their writing schedule as well as your own—but aren’t 100% sure how many children they have. (Laura Kaye—it’s two, right? We’ve only known each other 4 years . . .)

2. You’ve beta-read so many of each other’s rough drafts that your margin notes look like Sanskrit and you have long lost the need to be polite. (Stephanie Thornton’s “The Conqueror’s Wife,” page 337 of the rough draft: “Seriously, another severed head? Does nobody in this book ever bring anything else to a party? Have they never heard of house-plants?!”)

3. Your lunch dates scare the civilians. Because the waiter invariably walks up as one of you is saying brightly “I killed a baby today!” and collecting high-fives and exclamations of “Omigod, so happy for you!” from around the table. Waiter invariably sprints off white-faced before he hears the accompanying “So, this was in Chapter 9 . . .” (Sophie Perinot and I have probably been banned from most of the restaurants in the greater DC metro area.)

4. You’re more accustomed to seeing them in some kind of costume or historical rig than out of it. Especially true of the hist-fic pals. If I ever met Ben Kane, Russell Whitfield, or SJA Turney at a conference where they were in normal clothes rather than Roman breastplates and mail, I’d walk right past ’em.

5. You get the emergency call to show up with ice cream and wine for some serious weeping and wailing. But the drama is all over deadlines, not love-lives. (Eliza Knight and I killed a bottle or two as we cried over our collaborative stories in “A Year of Ravens,” and the impossibility that we would ever get them finished in time.)

6. You’ve had in-depth discussions about everything under the sun, and you each know what the other thinks about life and death, love and work, politics and art, history and pychology. But three years into the friendship you’re turning around in amazement and saying “I had no idea you had a sister!”

7. You know each other’s writing so well, you can eyeball a crutch phrase from a mile away and hone in on that sucker like a sniper. (Stephanie Dray knows I will carp like a fishwife the moment I see the word “tresses.” Christi Barth beats me over the head about not using enough commas.)

8. Your spouses commiserate over deadline stress. My husband and Lea Nolan’s had old home week at the last dinner party. “Yeah, so my wife’s curled in the corner gnashing her teeth this week.” “Why, she copyediting?” “Yep, for two more weeks.” “Yeah, that’s rough at our house too . . .”

9. They’re some of your best friends on earth—and you’ve met face to face twice. C.W. Gortner and Donna Russo Morin and I only see each other at conferences roughly every other year, but we always fall on each other with cries of joy and proceed to gab more or less nonstop for three days.

10. You have standing dates, not for book clubs or lady lunches or anniversaries, but for book-release days. Writer friends can be counted on to keep you away from the Refresh button on your Amazon Sales Rankings. They WILL use handcuffs if necessary.

Thank God for writer pals. There’s no one quite like ’em and without ’em you’d be in the funny farm.

Collaborative Writing: An Irreverent Look Behind The Curtain

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, youre 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?)

Happy Release Day for A YEAR OF RAVENS: A NOVEL OF BOUDICA!

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) | Apple | Nook | Kobo

Happy Release Day! A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii

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

 

DESCRIPTION:

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?

Buy Now:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Sneak Peek At “A Day of Fire”

Four weeks out from the launch of “A Day of Fire,” the novel-in-six-parts I’ve written with Ben Kane, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, and Vicky Alvear Shecter. The novel is already available for pre-order at Amazon, but in honor of the countdown to release, I’d like to share some lovely illustrated quotes to give you a taste of the tales inside! (The quote from my story is #4!)

A Day of Fire: Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

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

Pre-order today!

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.

The Next Project: Something Secret, Different, and Fabulous!

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: a novel 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?

Trailer for THE ALICE NETWORK!