I have the great pleasure of welcoming national bestselling author of DAUGHTERS OF ROME and MISTRESS OF ROME, Kate Quinn. I met Kate at the Historical Novel Society Conference last June in San Diego. She was delightfully witty with a streak of sarcasm (my fav), and happy to answer any questions newbie authors had for her. I knew I had to read her books! And what a feast they are–packed with well-drawn characters, page-turning action, and lush descriptions of ancient Roman times. Her latest, EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS debuted this month. To read a sample chapter on her website click HERE.
She is reluctantly a native of southern California. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching the original “Spartacus” in elementary school and getting a tremendous crush on Kirk Douglas. She attended Boston University, where she studied Classical Voice while writing books in her non-existent spare time. Her first novel, written her freshman year while trying to retreat from a Boston winter, was later published as “Mistress of Rome.” A prequel followed, titled “Daughters of Rome,” and then a sequel written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East. “I realized that my Roman legionary hero in `Empress of the Seven Hills’ was fighting in the same part of the world where my husband was deployed. I swear it wasn’t intentional!” Kate is currently writing her fourth novel, and hopes never to work in an office cubicle again. She and her husband live with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox. Kate be found at her website: KateQuinnAuthor.com
WHEN DID YOUR LOVE FOR ANCIENT ROME BEGIN?
I’ve adored ancient Rome as long as I can remember. My mother had a classics degree, so my bedtime stories were all Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon and Marc Antony vs. Octavian at Actium, not Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I was watching “I, Claudius” by the time I was seven or eight (protesting vigorously when I was sent out of the room for the gory parts) and my first movie-star crush was Kirk Douglas in the old Stanley Kubrick “Spartacus.” He ruined me for boys my own age – I was so disappointed that there were no cleft-chinned gladiator-trained freedom fighters in my class at school.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH PROCESS.
Since “Empress of the Seven Hills” is my third book set in ancient Rome, I now feel very comfortable in the era. I have a library full of Tacitus and Suetonius, most of the books so well-thumbed they are falling apart. I did have to do a lot of special research into the Roman military this time around – campaign life and legion structure and so on. My two previous books had fairly minimal military stuff, but “Empress of the Seven Hills” has a legionary hero working his way up the ladder, so I needed a lot more specific information. It turned out to be fascinating research – my husband is a sailor on active duty in the US Navy, and if anything I found more similarities in the military experience than differences. Whether they fight in 1st century legions or 21st century destroyers, the fighters of the world still hunker down off duty to complain that their feet hurt, confess that they miss their families, grouse about superior officers, observe that the local alcoholic beverages are swill, etc. Some human experiences are universal.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PART OF NOVEL WRITING?
Working at home! Office jobs are allergic to me: I hate suits, I get claustrophobic in cubicles, I’m terrible at company politics, and I miss my dog. I wake up every day happy and grateful that I can do my job on the couch in yoga pants, with no one to tell me that my “Tell Me Again How Lucky I Am To Work Here” coffee mug is not in line with the company mission statement. Aside from working at home, the best part of novel-writing is that head of steam that builds up when the words are flowing and the fingers are flying – there’s nothing like it.
WHAT’S YOUR VICE THAT GETS YOU THROUGH THE STRESSFUL TIMES?
Yellowtail chardonnay and the Boston Red Sox! There’s nothing better, after five hours of hammering away at the latest novel, than pouring a glass of wine and collapsing in front of a baseball game. Watching David Ortiz swagger up to the plate with the game on the line and Fenway Park screaming their collective heads off – that’s a foolproof way to forget all about your plotting problems!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
Don’t spend your hard-earned cash on classes and instruction groups. They can be good, but why pay money when there are wonderful online groups like Goodreads and www.onfictionwriting.com, free of charge and chock full of valuable advice and experienced people? Besides, the best way to learn to write is to read all the good fiction you can get your hands on, and keep plugging away at your own writing. That will give you an ear for what good prose is, and trial and error will teach you how to produce it. Find a few intelligent readers – friends, relatives, anyone you trust to read your work and give you an honest opinion about it – and listen to them. Learn to edit your own work; that sinks a lot of new writers. I think it really comes down to those three things: read, write, re-write. And keep at it! It takes a long time to write a book, a long time to get an agent, and a long time to find a publisher, so don’t get discouraged if the whole thing takes years. Just keep plugging.
From the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome comes a tale of love, power, and intrigue spanning the wilds of the Empire to the seven hills of Rome.
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 protégé 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 . . .