|Titled as Empress of Rome in UK |
Due in UK July 2012
SYNOPSIS: 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...
Please welcome to HF-Connection author Kate Quinn, on her blog tour for Empress of the Seven Hills:
Sometimes I fantasize about quitting historical fiction and writing young adult instead. This usually happens when I am wrestling mightily with some historical figure who is sauntering through my latest book as a character, and I am faced with one of the following dilemmas:
1. How to make my character likeable even when they have some historically-accurate-but-distasteful opinions from their time period such as “Hey, I think slavery's just fine, want to go out and shop for a masseuse?”
2. How to ramp up the story's suspense for a historical figure when the reader already knows, thanks to Wikipedia, the history books, or the latest Showtime TV sensation, exactly what happened to them.
This is generally when I think about going into YA. In YA, I muse, I will no longer have these problems. My characters will all be modern and made-up, not longer meticulously documented historical figures with Wikipedia entries that I must fact-check for every detail of their lives. Sure, I'll have to plop them my YA characters down in some dystopian horrorland or, even worse, high school. But at least I won't have to figure out how to make their marriage to a 40-years-older man into a palatable romance, or explain away their historical fondness for bear-baitings.
That's the headache with making historical figures into book characters. You must work within the given facts: birth dates, marriage dates, death dates, and everything in between. You must re-interpret the character without twisting them out of all recognition: no turning Julius Caesar into a pacifist rather than a warrior. You must find out a way to make their less savory traits – a king's tolerance for brutal border expansion, a mother who marries her daughters off at twelve – into something a modern audience can relate to. And you must figure out a way to ramp up the tension in your story, even though everybody on the planet already knows, when picking up your Anne Boleyn book, exactly where Anne will end up in the last chapter and how she ended up eight inches shorter.
Making historical figures into book characters is a process I enjoy hugely, despite my occasional head-banging urge to relocate to YA. Knowing the facts about a historical figure is rather like having a skeleton standing in the room: it's up to me to put flesh on the bones. My latest novel set in ancient Rome abounds in historical figures: Emperor Trajan, his wife Empress Plotina, and her protégé and adopted son Hadrian. Some of these characters were easy to flesh out – according to all my research Emperor Trajan was likeable and easy-going, a hearty man's man beloved by almost everyone. Hadrian was harder to pin down; a brilliant scholar and visionary world traveler who wasn't always a nice guy to his friends. Plotina comes across the centuries as a prim-and-proper woman, the very model of one of those political wives who sits behind her man on the campaign platform and smiles for the cameras – but one or two odd rumors have descended through the centuries about Plotina, enough for me to mold her into a splendid tooth-gnashing villainess.
One of the most crucial things to keep in mind when writing historical characters is that they are products of their own time, not ours. An upper-class Roman woman from the era of Empress of the Seven Hills owned slaves, submitted to her arranged marriage, was ruled over by an all-powerful emperor, went to the arena to watch both animals and human beings slaughtered for entertainment, and accepted all of these things as the natural course of life. If I make my heroine more politically correct – if she thinks the gladiatorial games are cruel and unjust, rails against her arranged marriage, and believes people deserve to govern themselves rather than submit to a despot – then I no longer have a historically authentic heroine. I have a 21st century feminist in a dress on rent from the Spartacus: Blood and Sand wardrobe department, running around a paper-mache mock-up of ancient Rome.
But still . . . another equally important thing to keep in mind is that people are still people. Human beings are subject to the same desires and hopes and feelings, no matter where or when we are born. Love, friendship, ambition, revenge, hope – some human emotions are so universal that they drive us all, from Emperor Trajan and Empress Plotina of the Roman Empire, to the readers devouring books about them in the 21st century. My heroine in Empress of the Seven Hills might accept her arranged marriage, but she still yearns to find real love just as much as any modern girl who secretly tears up at the end of The Notebook. My hero, when dumped by his girlfriend for the second time, has exactly the same impulse as most modern guys: he goes out, gets hammered, and feels sorry for himself. The only difference is that he goes to a Gallic tavern with cold mead and dice games, rather than a sports bar with Bud Lite on tap and a Steelers game on the flat-screen.
In the end, that's why I love writing historical fiction. It's deeply satisfying to strip away the differences, the strangenesses about these people who lived in the past, and make them relatable to readers today. If I can make you wish you had Emperor Trajan for a boss even though he was a ruthless conqueror, then I feel I've won. If you want my heroine for your BFF even though she owns slaves, then I've really won. It's the fun part of my job.
Besides, if I really did give up historical fiction and start writing YA, I'd have to write about dystopian horror-scapes or God forbid, high school. Which I think might be even worse in the long run than writing about arena executions, arranged marriages, and slavery combined.
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USA residents only, and giveaway will end on 4/21/12. The winner has 24 hours to respond via email with their mailing address. Good Luck!
Visit Kate Quinn's guest post from her last release
Visit Kate Quinn's site to learn about the entire Rome series.