Day 3 of my blog tour – it’s been great to talk to so many readers online. Today I’m over at “Tanzanite’s Castle,” with a guest post on the books and movies that first got me hooked on that drug known as historical fiction. Number 4 – the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”
“Something about the combination of sweeping scenery, haunting music, violent battles between European soldiers and Indian tribes, and passionate love story between a frontiersman and a courageous English miss just stabbed me through the gut. Still does.”
Fellow HF addicts, come on over to Daphne’s castle (thanks for having me, Daphne!) to read the rest and share your gateway drug – you might win a free copy of “Empress of the Seven Hills” in the giveaway!
Day 2 of my blog tour, and today I head over to Passages of the Past – one of my favorite book blogs, and Amy has been kind enough to let me be her guest blogger. My topic: sexuality in ancient Rome, and why the GOP would fall over in a dead faint. A sneak peek . . .
“With all the heated debate going on right now about gay marriage, there’s been a great deal of revisionist history. Pundits and politicians cry out for a return to the ways of the past, when men only slept with women and marriage was sacred and inviolable. This might have held true for some eras of the past, but certainly not all . . . I can tell you now that if Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney were suddenly transported back to A.D. 102, as undivorced heterosexual men they would find themselves in the distinct minority. ”
Click here to read more! Amy is also hosting a giveaway; two copies of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK) to be given out!
My third book Empress of the Seven Hills is finally out! You’d think this whole process would get easier, but nope: I’m still gnawing my nails and pacing. Fortunately I have learned a few things since Mistress of Rome was first published and I nearly drove myself crazy sitting around waiting for that first review to pop up. I now know enough to keep myself away from my Amazon sales ranking (ok, almost), have another book on hand to read for distraction (thank you, Elizabeth Loupas, for publishing The Flower Reader today), and most important of all – drink lots of champagne with a husband and some dear friends who are under firm instruction to keep me away from my computer should my willpower falter.
It’s also the kickoff of my blog tour, and the lovely Vera has been kind enough to have me over to her blog “Luxury Reading” for a guest post. A sneak preview:
“Funny,” my husband commented when he read through my first draft. “Your hero Vix is a lot like me.”
Me: “No, he’s not!”
Husband: (raising an eyebrow) “So it’s a complete coincidence that both your husband and your fictional hero are left-handed and quick with a sword, have freckles and a short temper, snore like a chain-saw, can’t sit still without one foot jittering, get easily irritated with idiots, turn to putty when one particular muscle under the left shoulder blade is massaged, are in the military, and have a habit of pissing off superior officers?”
Click here to read more! Vera is also hosting a giveaway, so be sure to enter to win a free copy of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK).
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 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.
Imagine a dark movie theater, and a deep cheesy voice intoning “In a world where heroes were few . . .”
Yep, it’s Preview of Coming Attractions time: one month till publication date of my third book Empress of the Seven Hills (or in the UK, Empress of Rome). As promised, I’m posting Chapter One as a sneak peek. This is the sequel to Mistress of Rome, and in the first chapter you’ll see plenty of old friends from my first book: Marcus and Calpurnia, even a glimpse of Arius and Thea. But most of all, this is the story of the two resourceful children in Mistress of Rome, brash Vix and thoughtful Sabina, now all grown up and looking for trouble.
When I was thirteen, an astrologer told me I’d lead a legion someday, a legion that would call me Vercingetorix the Red. Astrologers are usually horseshit, but that funny little man was right about everything: I got the nickname, and I even got the legion, though it took longer than it should have. But why didn’t that astrologer tell me any of the important things? Why didn’t he tell me that Emperors can be loved, but Empresses are only to be feared? Why didn’t he tell me I’d have to kill the best friend I ever had–on the orders of the worst man I ever knew? And why the hell didn’t he tell me about the girl in the blue veil I met the same day I got all these predictions?
That bitch. Not that I guessed: we were just children, me a skinny slave boy, her a pretty girl in a blue veil, all bruised up (never mind why). The first girl I ever kissed, and she had a sweet mouth. I suppose that made me soft when I met her again later, after we’d both grown up. If that astrologer was so good, couldn’t he have warned me about her? “Girl in blue, beware.” What would that have cost him? She cost me plenty over the years, I can tell you.
But that’s getting ahead of things. I’m Vercingetorix: “Vix” to my friends, “the Red” to my men, and “that pleb bastard” to my enemies. I’ve served four Emperors: killed one, loved one, befriended one, and maybe should have killed the other. I’m Vercingetorix, and I have a story to tell.
SPRING a.d. 102
I won’t bore you with my beginnings. They weren’t so illustrious anyway–my mother was a slave, and my father was a gladiator, and you can’t get much lower than that. If you follow the games in the Colosseum, then I can guarantee you’ve heard of my father, but I won’t tell you his name. The world thinks he’s dead, and that’s the way he likes it. He ended up on a mountaintop in the northern-most part of Britannia, torturing a patch of ground he calls a garden, and he’s happy. My mother’s happy too, singing at her work and producing babies to fill up the villa she got for doing an empress a favor (don’t ask what), but when I hit eighteen after nearly five years in Britannia, I got bored. It was better than what we’d come from, but I’d gotten used to excitement, and a mountaintop house filled with babies isn’t much excitement. Plus there was a girl in one of the neighboring houses who was starting to give me the eye, and we might have had some fun behind the barn once or twice but I didn’t want to marry her, and I didn’t think much of my chances if my father decided I should marry her. I was big at eighteen, but my father was bigger, and weapons might come easy to me but I didn’t stand a chance against him. So I lit out for Rome, the center of everything, and my father was dubious but he gave me an amulet to keep me safe and a purse to keep me fed. My mother cried, but that might have been the baby she was starting.
Not much use describing the journey. It was wet, it was long, I lost my purse to a bastard of an Armenian sailor who cheated at dice, and I lost my dinner countless times over the bow. I hated boats. Still do. But I got to Rome. My parents hate Rome with all their hearts, and maybe they should after what they lived through. But I took one step off that reeking shit-hole of a boat and took in a deep breath, and I knew I was home.
Everyone describes Rome. Everyone fails. It’s not like anything else on earth. I hitched my pack higher on my shoulder, turned a circle, and gawped. I’d been raised in Brundisium, back in the days when my mother was still a slave, and had come to the great city itself only later. I hadn’t been able to do much exploring back then, and I’d never gotten to know the city well. Nothing to keep me from drinking it all in now: the stink, the noise, the crush; the whores in their dark robes and the sailors in their brass earrings; the vendors waving wares under my nose and the urchins trying their best to get grimy fingers into my purse. It was life, raw and noisy life as fresh as blood flowing right out of the vein.
The dock swayed under my feet. I lurched my way up the wharf, keeping one hand on the knife at my belt. Plenty of people in Rome willing to stick a knife in you first and figure out second if you had anything worth stealing. “My kind of city,” I said aloud, and got a dirty look from a housewife with a basket on her arm. I kissed my fingers at her and she hurried along. I watched her hips in the rough dress–hips like barrels, but I’d been a month on that shit-hole boat without a woman in sight, and I wasn’t picky. Even more than food I wanted a girl, but I didn’t have enough coin in my purse even for a cheap one.
Girls would have to wait. “Where’s the Capitoline Hill from here?” I asked a passing sailor in rusty Latin, and was promptly told to go screw myself. But a vendor hawking brass pans was more helpful, and I slung my pack over my shoulder and set off whistling.
Strange how much of the city I remembered. I hadn’t seen it since I was thirteen, but I felt like I’d left only yesterday. The crowds thinned once I got past the Forum Romanum with its spicy smells of meat and bread, and I let my hand loosen on the knife hilt and my feet wander. I spent some time staring at the marbled expanse of palace that covered half the Palatine Hill, remembering a black-eyed madman and his games, until an irritable Praetorian guard in red and gold told me to move along. “All palace guards look as pretty as you?” I shot back. “Or have I been on a boat too long?”
“Move along,” he growled, and helped me down the street with his spear haft. Praetorians: no sense of humor.
I spent a little longer staring up at the vast marble roundness of the Colosseum. Not the first time I’d seen it by any means–but I’d forgotten the sheer looming menace of it. No place on earth looms like that one, with its arches and plinths and statues in niches that stare out with blind arrogant eyes. That stretch of sand inside held all my father’s nightmares, and a few of mine. I’d never told him that, but he knew. Anyone who’d ever fought for their life in that place knew.
It’s many years later now, and I’m well into middle age. I’ve been in more fights than I can count, but none of them come back to me in my sleep like the ones that happened in the Colosseum. I’d killed my first man on those sands, back when I was just a child. A big Gaul who hadn’t really wanted to kill me, and maybe it made him slow enough so I could kill him first. Not much of an initiation into manhood.
I stared up at the arena a while longer, fingering the little amulet my father had given me and wondering how men could build such fantastical places just for the purpose of mass killing–and then I shrugged and wandered on toward the Capitoline Hill. A quieter place, the streets smoothly paved, the women in silk rather than wool, the slaves wearing the badge of one illustrious family or another as they hurried about their errands. I passed the massive Capitoline Library, where a half-dozen senators in togas hurried in and out with distracted frowns, and I slowed my steps. My mother had said the house was somewhere around here…
“Yes?” A slave in a neat tunic looked me up and down dubiously. “Can I help you?”
“Is this the house of Senator Marcus Norbanus?”
“No beggars here–”
“I’m not a bloody beggar. Is this Senator Norbanus’s house or not?”
“Good. I’m here to see him.” The slave was big but I was bigger, and I shouldered past into a narrow hall where a dozen marble busts stared down at me in censorious disapproval. “Quit your squawking,” I told the slave, who had flapped after me. “The senator knows who I am.”
Ten minutes of arguing got me shown to a small atrium to wait. “It may be a while,” the slave sniffed. “The senator is very busy.” One last dubious look, as if the slave were wondering whether it was safe to leave me alone with the valuables, and he finally backed out.
I tipped my head back and surveyed the place. Sunlight poured through the open roof, the floor had a mosaic pattern of rippling vines, and a quiet blue-tiled pool was sunk in the middle of the room. A carved nymph looked over her shoulder at me from the corner, and I’d been long enough without a girl that even her marble breasts looked tempting. I slung my pack on a marble bench and dropped to one knee, plunging my hands into the pool and splashing my face. I looked up to find a pretty little girl gazing at me, clutching a carved wooden horse and sucking her thumb.
“Hello, sprat.” She looked four or five, the same age as my own little sister. “Who are you?”
She gazed at me solemnly through a fringe of blond hair.
“Don’t suppose you belong to Senator Norbanus?”
She inspected her little thumb for a moment, then went back to sucking on it.
“Could you get me in to see your father?”
“Could you at least tell me where the lavatorium is? I could use a piss.”
“There’s one down the hall,” a voice said behind me.
I turned and saw another girl, this one about my own age. Thin, brown hair, blue dress. “I’m waiting for Senator Norbanus,” I said.
“There’s time.” She picked up the little girl, parting her gently from the thumb, and moved down the hall with that blind confidence all aristocrats seemed to have, not needing to look back to know that I would follow. I followed her to the lavatorium.
“There’s water if you want to wash,” she said, and I took the hint. Romans took a lot more baths than anyone in Britannia. I used a basinful of water and washed the shipboard grime off my face and neck.
“Better?” The patrician girl smiled as I came back into the hall.
“Much, Lady.” I tried my best bow, rusty since I hadn’t used it in a while. Not many baths in Britannia, but not many people to bow to either. “Thank you.”
She studied me a moment longer, then smiled suddenly. She had small teeth, a little crooked but nicely so. “Ah,” she said.
A sturdy blond woman in yellow silk came swooping down the hall, bearing a baby on her hip. “Sabina, have you seen–oh, there she is.” Swinging the little girl up onto her other hip. “Faustina, you’re supposed to be with your nurse! Who’s this?” The woman gave me a distracted glance, juggling the two round-eyed children.
“This is Vercingetorix,” the girl in blue said tranquilly, and didn’t that give me a jolt. “He’s waiting to see Father.”
“Well, don’t keep him long,” the woman advised. “My husband works very hard. Faustina, Linus, it’s time for your bath–” She moved off in a bright spot of yellow, the children crowing over her shoulder.
“How did you know my name?” I demanded as the girl in blue moved back into the atrium.
She glanced back over her shoulder. “You don’t remember me?”
“Never mind” She brushed that away. “Why are you waiting to see my father?”
“I’m just back to Rome from Britannia. My mother said he’d likely help me–look, how did you know–”
“You were right to come here. Father helps everybody.” She summoned the steward and spoke a few quiet words. “I’ll jump you to the front of the line.”
And just like that, I was in.
“[An] epic, sexy romp–the long-awaited sequel to Mistress of Rome ….Readers will delight in the depictions of historical figures like Hadrian and Trajan, as well as the engrossing and dramatic relationships that drive this entertaining story.”
— Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)
“The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect…. Quinn handles Imperial Rome with panache.”
— Kirkus Reviews
I am so head down in a new book that my blog has been sadly neglected. I was planning on a post about the top ten books I’m looking forward to in 2012, or maybe a post filled with helpful advice for the spouses of writers (on the other hand, my husband could probably write this one, starting with “When they are writing a new book, it is totally normal for `How are you?’ to be answered with `Do you think anyone will notice if I move the siege of Sarmisegetusa up a year?'”)
So no blog post today, but I am offering a teaser line from my upcoming book “Empress of the Seven Hills” (titled “Empress of Rome” in the UK). This one comes from Chapter 1, and is spoken by the hero Vix, who some of you might remember as an obnoxious little boy in “Mistress of Rome.”
“If I’d known the trouble that small-breasted off-limits patrician girl would make for me, I might have choked her to death in the middle of that atrium rather than watch her walk away.”
Needless to say, he has a complicated relationship ahead of him.
I feel like Christmas came early: not one but two wonderful blurbs for Empress of the Seven Hills, and from authors I adore: Michelle Moran and C.W. Gortner.
Disclaimer: yes, I am friends with both Michelle and Christopher. But this wasn’t a backscratching arrangement among buddies. My copy of Cleopatra’s Daughter was already well-thumbed and highly appreciated long before I met its author and discovered she was a smart and funny lady with a raucous laugh and an infinite supply of both good jokes and stunning print shifts. Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici had already kept me up past my bedtime long before I discovered that Christopher was a first-rate dinner companion with a stream of sotto voce one-liners that would keep Oscar Wilde in stitches. It’s such a relief when you meet the authors of books you love, and like the authors as much as you do their work.
I was astounded to find that both Michelle and Christopher liked my work as well–and were kind enough to read an advance copy of my next book, Empress of the Seven Hills. Michelle is tearing through a first draft of her new book about Napoleon’s second wife, and Christopher is head down in research on the Borgias, but they both took time out of their busy schedules to write me cover blurbs. And what blurbs!
“Power and betrayal were never so addictive than in this gorgeously wrought tale of star-crossed lovers caught in the turbulent currents of Imperial Rome. Kate Quinn deftly contrasts the awesome splendor of torch-lit banquets with the thunder of the battlefield. EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS is a riveting plunge into an ancient world that is both utterly foreign and strikingly familiar – where you can feel the silken caress of an empress and the cold steel of a blade at your back.”
– C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI and THE LAST QUEEN
“In her latest book, EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS, Kate Quinn outdoes herself with a story so compelling that the only complaint readers will have is that it ends. From the moment Vix and Sabina appear on the page, readers are taken on an epic adventure through Emperor Trajan’s Rome. No other author brings the ancient world alive like Quinn – if there’s one book you read this year, let it be this one!”
– Michelle Moran, bestselling author of CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER and MADAME TUSSAUD
Wow–that’s all I’ve got to say. They make me want to run out and buy a copy of the book, and I already know how it ends. Michelle, Christopher–thank you both! Drinks on me the next time I see you.
Well, this is a nice surprise: halfway through researching my next book and trying not to rip all the hair out of my head, I receive the official, finalized UK cover for my third book! And may I say, it is GORGEOUS.
Please note that the UK publication of “Empress of the Seven Hills” has a different title: “Empress of Rome.” Same book, two titles – so please don’t buy “Empress of the Seven Hills” and “Empress of Rome” thinking they are two different books! It was a marketing decision made in-house by my publishers – if it had been left up to me, this book would probably still be called “Rome Book 3” because I am terrible at titles.
Call it “Empress of the Seven Hills” or “Empress of Rome,” my third book is a sequel to “Mistress of Rome.” My US cover features Vix and Sabina, who you may remember as children from “Mistress of Rome,” now all grown up and having adventures of their own. My UK cover here just features Sabina. I love both, and hope you will too.
Guest blogging again today! And this time I’ve got a Q&A with Stephanie Thornton over on her blog, where the motto is “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Today’s questions cover ancient-era birth control, the Red Sox, and some really disgusting Roman food. A snippet:
“Rabid fans, beer in the stands, `We’re #1!’ chants and those guys who show up at the stadium in team-color face paint–ancient Rome is probably to blame for the modern sports team. Only in Roman sports, people died a lot more frequently. A tradition I could completely support as long as it only applies to the New York Yankees . . .”
To read the rest, click here!
I have the more-or-less-finalized cover for my third book, the sequel to Mistress of Rome which has been titled Empress of the Seven Hills. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it looks!
Empress of the Seven Hills begins about five years after the events of Mistress of Rome finish off, picking up with the adventures of Thea’s brash son Vix and Lepida’s adventurous daughter Sabina. Both will get caught up in the wars and politics of beloved soldier-emperor Trajan, along with one or two new players who might be enemies or might be allies.
Here’s the official blurb:
Powerful, prosperous, and expanding ever farther into the untamed world, the Roman Empire has reached its zenith under the rule of the beloved Emperor Trajan. But neither Trajan nor his reign can last forever . . .
Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator’s daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Trajan’s ambitious Empress has her own plans for Sabina. And the aristocratic Hadrian–the Empress’s ruthless protege, and Vix’s mortal enemy–has ambitions he confesses to no one, ambitions rooted in a secret prophecy.
When Trajan falls, the hardened soldier, the enigmatic empress, the adventurous girl, and the scheming politician will all be caught in a deadly whirlwind of desire and death that may seal their fates, and that of the entire Roman Empire.
See you in April 2012. If I finish the book on time . . .
And back to work I go.