Today marks the release of the third collaborative novel I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in! First time around my co-authors and I explored the destruction of Pompeii; the second time around, Queen Boudica’s rebellion against Rome. For our third endeavor, the team (mostly the same lineup, with some delightful new faces replacing those too deadline-slammed to join this time around) tackled the Trojan War.
The result? “A Song of War: a novel of Troy.”
Our third collaborative was bigger, longer, and darker than either of our previous efforts–we like a challenge! And in the process of its creation, 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, debating everything from the political complexities of the Bronze Age to the knotty issue soon known as “that effing Trojan fleet problem.” We’re all very proud of “A Song of War,” and we hope you enjoy it too.
Buy your copy here!
It’s here: the cover AND the Pre-Order info for the Trojan War project! We are all super excited how it turned out, and we hope you will be, too!
Title: A Song of War: a novel of Troy
Authors: Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield, with an introduction by Glyn Iliffe.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.
A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.
A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.
A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.
A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.
A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.
A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.
A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.
Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?
I have been LONGING to share this new project, and finally I can: the H Team is back with a fabulous new collaboration. Vicky Alvear Shecter, Simon James Atkinson Turney, Russell Whitfield and I are joined by new team members Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, and Stephanie Thornton in a seven-part tale of the Trojan War.
You know the story of the Iliad . . . but not like this.
Expected release date: October 2016
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.
The historical genre can sometimes abound with wafty heroines – moody princesses and soulful courtesans and sighing queens. If you’re tired of reading about these virginal ninnies, then Stephanie Thornton is the author for you, because her historical heroines rock. I loved her Theodora in “The Secret History,” a tough-as-nails girl who rose from street urchin to courtesan to Empress – and I couldn’t wait for Stephanie’s second book on Hatshepsut, the badass of ancient Egypt who took the Pharoah’s double crown for herself.
Wait no longer – Hatshepsut in “Daughter of the Gods” is here, and she’s a gem: whip-quick, smart-mouthed, unabashedly sensual, driving a chariot like a hellion and dreaming a man’s dreams of power. Have you ordered “Daughter of the Gods” yet? You should.
Stephanie Thornton was nice enough to drop by the blog today to answer some questions! Ok, some one-sentence answers to give some context . . .
1. First project?
My first finished novel was actually “Daughter of the Gods,” but in a strange twist, “The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” was the first published.
2. Current project?
Up now is “Daughter of the Gods,” the story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut and her tumultuous path to Egypt’s throne.
3. Next project?
My next book to hit the shelves will be “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan,” followed by a novel about the sister, wives, and assorted lovers of Alexander the Great. (Let’s just say he was a busy guy…)
4. I’m seeing a pattern here. Publishers talk a lot about an author’s “brand,” and a lot of the time it seems like BS – most of us don’t have an over-arching thematic arc for all the books we’re going to write in our lives! But with successive novels on actress/courtesan/empress Theodora, Pharoah Hatshepsut, the wives and daughters of Genghis Khan, and a current work in progress on the women of Alexander the Great, you really do seem to have a clear brand of “Badass Unexplored Women of the Past.” Was that deliberate?
Heck yes! I’m a high school history teacher by day, and I get so tired of the lives of ancient women being summed up as their being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. There are a number of mostly ignored, but incredibly badass women in history that should be household names along with Cleopatra and Elizabeth I. (Okay, I realize most households probably don’t spend a lot of time talking about historical women… That might just be my house.)
5. What was your favorite scene to write out of Hatshepsut’s extraordinary life? Most difficult scene?
The battle scene where Hatshepsut is out collecting hands from the dead Nubians is my all-time favorite. I could visualize that scene before I ever wrote the book’s first page. Not only that, but there’s historical evidence that Hatshepsut might have done exactly that in real life, which goes to show that she’s a true badass.
The most difficult scene was definitely the one where Hatshepsut breaks the news to Aset that she’s going to be pharaoh [not Aset’s son]. Depending on who was reading, I was told to make her meaner, have her cry more, or find a really good excuse for why she felt she had to be pharaoh. In the end, there was a good reason for her to seize power, but I also didn’t want her falling all over herself in apology for taking the crown. After all, she deserved it!
6. She sure did! I loved that about her; that she didn’t apologize for being ambitious. Ok, what was the weirdest, whackiest thing you learned in the course of your research?
First, that ancient Egyptian women used a pessary of crocodile dung as a type of birth control. I’m sure it was highly effective at keeping the men away, simply because that’s pretty foul. Second, I am now an expert on stampeding hippos and how best to sacrifice a bull. (Always make sure you have their back legs secured.) Thank the gods for YouTube, because their videos were my go-to for research!
7. Hatshepsut carries her story all on her own, but she’s got a great surrounding cast: her icky-but-sympathetic brother/husband Thut, fellow wife Aset with whom she strikes up a surprising friendship – and of course, charismatic common-born architect Senenmut who alone out of pretty much all of Egypt has the guts to flirt with an all-powerful female Pharoah. Who plays your ideal cast in the multi-million-dollar HBO mini-series? (Because surely Alan Ball and David Benioff are leaving you messages, right?)
So many messages–that’s why I’ve had to hire secretaries! (See Question #9.) I would dearly love to see Hatshepsut played by a dark-haired Emilia Clarke and Senenmut MUST be played by a pre-Voldemort, English Patent-era Ralph Fiennes. *swoon* I’ve always seen Aset as looking like Penelope Cruz and although I’m not sure about Thut, I’m thinking someone like Alfie Allen… someone you could possibly like, but prefer to hate.
8. All your heroines come to dinner–Empress Theodora, Hatshepsut, the wives and daughters of Genghis Khan. How does that evening progress?
First, I hope Theodora’s cooks are in charge of the meal because no one wants to eat food from ancient Mongolia. (Boiled mutton, raw horsemeat, and lots of fermented mare’s milk… Far from a culinary paradise.) I’d daresay there would be some serious gossip on their men’s idiosyncrasies, followed by a rowdy shouting match over who had the greatest obstacles to overcome in order to rule their kingdoms. “I ordered 30,000 people killed after the Nika riots!” v. “I had to marry my brother and then steal the throne from my stepson-nephew!” v. “Dude, my dad is Genghis Khan and he threatened to pour molten silver down my throat if I didn’t clean the ger!”
9. We all know a writer’s life is exactly like you see it on “Castle,” so take us through a typical day for you: the red carpet premieres, the private jet to the 19-city book tour, the weekly lunches with Diana Gabaldon and Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, the publisher-funded research trips where they rent out the Valley of Kings so you can walk in Hatshepsut’s footsteps all by yourself . . .
Actually, I’m writing this in a vintage Chanel suit while on board my private yacht while my army of secretaries sort through the details of my book tour and fend off offers from HBO to turn all my books into mini-series. All in a day’s work…
A girl can dream, right?
Actually, my terribly glamorous day starts at 6AM as I stumble out of bed and head off to teach an assortment of history classes. Then I pick up my daughter, rush home for a flurry of afternoon activities, and throw dinner on the table. Only after my daughter is in bed do I get to change into my yoga pants (the required writer uniform, right?), and sit down to scribble a few pages before falling asleep on my laptop.
However, I did get to travel to Egypt a few years ago in order to research Hatshepsut’s story, although that involved traipsing through her mortuary temple and the Valley of the Kings with all the other throngs of gawking tourists. In August, at mid-day. ‘Cause I’m insane like that.
10. What sets your books apart from other historical fiction out there on the shelf?
My whole goal in writing historical fiction is to bring to light these kick-ass, forgotten women and to tell their stories in a way that makes modern readers appreciate all the nasty, gnarly obstacles they had to overcome. I also revel in all the cringe-worthy details that reveal how brutal life in the ancient world could be. Consider yourself warned.
And finally, a fun bonus question: everybody asks writers “Where do you get your ideas?” We both know there’s no meaningful answer to that, so here’s your chance for a snarky response. Where do you get your ideas (and I don’t care where you say as long as it’s not true!)
I drink a lot of wine, study my cats for hours on end, and indulge in marathons of Doctor Who in order to find my inspiration. There’s nothing better than a Syrah-induced haze and the idea of a time-traveling cat to stir the imagination about ancient Byzantium, Egypt, Mongolia, or Greece.
Oh wait… drinking, staring at my cats in a comatose state, and mega-Doctor Who marathons are what I do after my writing deadlines…
Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at www.stephanie-thornton.com.