16 June 2013

Guest Blog: Lisa J. Yarde

This week, we're welcoming author Lisa J. Yarde with the third book in her Moorish Spain series, Sultana: Two Sisters. The author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

In fourteenth-century Moorish Spain, two survivors of a devastating tragedy become captives sold into the harem of Sultan Yusuf of Granada. Once bound by a deep friendship, both slaves vie for Yusuf's heart and the future of his kingdom. 

A young Christian girl with a hidden heritage forges a new identity as Butayna. She becomes the mother of Yusuf's firstborn son and a beloved first wife. A Jewess forsakes her past, embraces the name of Maryam and bears Yusuf several children. A clash between former friends is inevitable, as each finds diverging paths in a dizzying rise to power. A deadly rivalry lies ahead for Butayna and Maryam. Only one heir may inherit Yusuf's throne and only one woman can claim the revered title of Mother of the Sultan.

**Q&A with Lisa J. Yarde**

You are terribly obsessed with Moorish Spain. Why have you chosen to write a six-part series set in that period?

It is beyond fascinating, a turbulent and bloody period in history where two faiths clashed over the destiny of a country, yet the fusion between them created the most stunning architecture, a rich gastronomic heritage and some of the most beautiful and friendly people in the world. Who wouldn't want to explore or write about such an amazing culture?

What's the inspiration behind Sultana: Two Sisters? 

I never envisioned writing a series. When I finished the first two novels and started connecting with readers, my standard response to questions about a  sequel was always, "Let's see how well these two do." Sultana and Sultana's Legacy have done pretty well; I'm awaiting the Turkish translations of both books beginning autumn 2013 and hope the audio books will be completed this year. My obsession with the history of Granada's rulers inspired me to write Two Sisters, but the characters of Yusuf's wives begged to have their story told.

Tell us about these women of Sultana: Two Sisters.

Both are based on historical figures, Butayna and Maryam, who were the slaves and later wives of Sultan Yusuf of Granada, the grandson of the protagonists in the earlier novels. Many of the women of Moorish Spain's last dynasty are unknown, but these two were noted for their vicious rivalry. Each bore Yusuf an heir; Maryam actually had two sons in quick succession, the first born ten months after Butayna's son entered the world. Before Yusuf died, he never named an heir. The stage was set for a showdown between these ladies. It didn't end so well.

In my telling, the women begin their lives as friends, but desperate circumstances drive them apart. Maryam blames Butayna for dreadful losses and allies herself with a powerful harem faction to ruin her rival. Butayna finds joy with her eventual husband, after some significant adjustments to a Moorish way of life, but she's never completely secure in Yusuf's love. Maryam is always watching for an opportunity to destroy the relationship between Yusuf and Butayna, and advance her eldest son's interests.

What's next for you?

Would it surprise anyone if I said more on Moorish Spain? Sultana: The Bride Price will be out in the coming winter. It's the story of Yusuf and Butayna's son, Muhammad. He married his first cousin to seal a breach within the family. Things pretty much went to hell right after that. Anyone who knows me well or has read some of my work understands that I don't write HEA stories. In the rare instance my characters do have a HEA, trust me, they have earned it after some serious tribulations. Once The Bride Price is done, it's on to a trilogy about Prince Dracula of Wallachia's father and two of his brothers in The Order of the Dragon and Sons of the Dragon. I'll come back to Moorish Spain in 2015 and finish up the last two books in the Sultana series.  Ambitious, I know. 

What surprises you most about your journey as a writer?

How much I still have to learn and how exciting it's been. The first time I received an actual email from a reader in 2010, I cried because the person wrote to me. I still respond to each reader inquiry I receive, just because I am always so thrilled and grateful to anyone who's taken a chance on my work. To have readers share their likes and dislikes, that's just the frosting on my cupcake. Every day brings new connections and opportunities to grow as a writer, and I'm excited by the challenges on the horizon. 

Lisa J. Yarde writes historical fiction inspired by the middle ages in Europe. She also moderates the Unusual Historical blog.