Today's guest author is historical fiction novelist N.Gemini Sasson as she tours her newest book, The King Must Die.
She also has a giveaway to a lucky commentor. Details follow the interview.
N. Gemini Sasson is the author of The Bruce Trilogy (The Crown in the Heather, Worth Dying For, and The Honor Due a King), Isabeau (2011 IPPY Silver Medalist for Historical Fiction) and The King Must Die. She holds degrees in Education and Biology from Wright State University where she ran cross country on athletic scholarship. She’s also an avid gardener, serial remodeler, dog sport enthusiast and gradually decaying 40-something runner.
Welcome, Gemini. Please tell us about your current release.
The King Must Die begins in 1326, when King Edward II of England has been dethroned by his queen, Isabella, and her lover, Sir Roger Mortimer.
Isabella’s son is installed as King Edward III at the callow age of fourteen. Young Edward, however, must bide his time as the loyal son until he can break the shackles of his minority and dissolve the regency council which dictates his every action.
When the former king is found mysteriously dead in his cell, the truth becomes obscured and Isabella can no longer trust her own memory . . . or confide in those closest to her. Meanwhile, she struggles to keep her beloved Mortimer at her side and gain yet another crown—France’s—for the son who no longer trusts her.
This is a story about secrecy, treason, conspiracy and revenge, as well as accusations of murder.
What inspired you to write this book?
When my agent was shopping around The Bruce Trilogy for me, more than one editor said that historicals about men didn’t sell well and what they were looking for was historical fiction with female protagonists. One of the viewpoint characters in the Bruce books is King Edward II of England, so I had to do a lot of research about him and his wife, Isabella of France. More and more, I found myself drawn to Isabella’s story and it was one of those comments from an editor that made me say, “All right, then. I’m going to write a story about her, because it hasn’t been done before.” After all, who could resist the intrigue of a queen who takes a lover, invades her husband’s country and overthrows him to put her son on the throne of England? You can’t make that stuff up.
Excerpt from The King Must Die
Edward III – Stanhope Park, July, 1327
Praying it was only a nightmare, I slapped at my cheeks to bring a rush of blood to my hazy head.
Hooves clattered. More shouts. Then ... sword clanged against sword, struck flesh. Chaos. The cries of the wounded.
My heart clogged my throat. The realization struck me with the deadly force of one of Sir John’s cannons: we were under attack. Swallowing hard, I groped in the darkness for my sword. Frantic, I flailed my hand in a wider circle, my palm swatting at a mat of crushed grass. Then, my fingers smacked against my shield. My bones screamed in pain. Great, burning throbs. I pulled my hand to my chest and tried to move my fingers, but couldn’t.
The sounds were coming closer, growing louder.
“Kyrie, eleison,” I chanted. “Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie —”
A dull glint caught my eye. I flexed aching fingers, wrapped them around the hilt and pulled my sword to me. Then I grabbed at the edge of my shield, dragging it over a crumpled shirt, and slipped my left arm through the loosened straps. No time to pull them tight. Rolling over onto my knees, I scooted around the center pole toward the opening. My blade clunked against metal—my helmet. Tucking my sword on my lap, I reached out, grasped it, and settled it snugly onto my head.
The shrill neigh of a horse ripped through the night air. Hooves crashed to a halt just outside the opening of my tent. I froze.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I have another epic historical that is printed out and scattered on my living room floor right now. It takes place in the 15th century and is about Owain Glyndwr, the last Welsh Prince of Wales. When Henry Bolingbroke usurps the throne from King Richard II of England, Owain is caught in the middle. A peaceful family man and country esquire, he has no wish to become involved in England’s upheaval, but circumstances compel him to lead a Welsh rebellion. He’s forced into hiding, separating him for long periods from his beloved wife, Margaret, and his eleven children. Little by little, though, he takes control of critical strongholds and turns the tide of English domination – but not without a cost.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was actually a gradual metamorphosis. In grad school, I’d written scientific articles and later I wrote editorial articles for dog breed journals. Then, while my kids were still young and life was often chaos, I wrote to escape, to be in control of something. But I never really felt like a ‘writer’ then. It was just a hobby and a dream.
When I got my very first e-mail fan letter, I finally thought, “Holy cow, I really am a writer! I have a reader.” To this day, I print out every letter I get from every reader and tape it to the wall behind my desk.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do! But my work day is highly variable. I always have a hard time starting a new book, because I don’t know the characters yet. It’s like sitting in a room with strangers, trying to make conversation. I avoid writing by reorganizing the basement or pulling weeds in the garden. My house and yard look great at that stage!
Gradually, the further along I get the longer my work days become. I drive towards the end like a Wall Street stock trader on crack. At that point I forget my family even exists. The computer goes on at 8 a.m. and I don’t shut down until midnight. This is when my house is overrun by piles of dirty laundry, stacks of bills and shin-high grass in the front yard. It’s exhilarating and exhausting and is usually followed by a weeklong emotional meltdown when I’m nearing completion of a book.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Maybe that I write with a fish tank gurgling behind me, two dogs at my feet, a cat on the windowsill, a TV on my desk, and a CD playing a continuous loop of Florence and the Machine . . . and yet I can’t write a single word if there’s a family member in the house within eyeshot. Too distracting. I know – it makes no sense.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At one point, I thought I’d become a veterinarian. On a job shadow, we watched a vet neuter a cat. Ergh. Okay, next plan. Writer? I parked a little metal desk and a 1950’s Royal typewriter in my closet, closed the door and turned the light on. Then I disappeared into my own little make-believe world. Yes, perfect.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I think many readers shy away from historical fiction because they remember history class in high school as being about dates and dry facts – boring, in other words. But historical fiction is about finding the ‘story’ in ‘history’. It can be adventure, romance, mystery . . . I try to make my characters matter as much as the setting and the period in time. The greatest compliment I can get from a reader is when they say the cried at the end – not that I want to make people cry, but it’s so rewarding to know they got attached enough to the characters to care about them that much.
Thanks so much for having me, Lisa! I really enjoyed talking.
My pleasure, Gemini. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing so much with us!
Readers, Gemini is awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commentor during the tour. All you need to do is comment below. And if you want more chances to win, check out the other tour dates and comment on other stops. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win!