30 March 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Rebecca Hazell on THE GRIP OF GOD

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Rebecca Hazell with her latest novel, THE GRIP OF GOD. The author will offer a free copy of The Grip of God to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Rebecca Hazell's The Grip of God, the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, is available on amazon.com  and its affiliates and by special order through your local bookstore. The subsequent two novels in the trilogy are scheduled for publication later this year. The saga’s heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. Clear eyed and intelligent, she recounts her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol hordes that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is haunted by a prophecy that catalyzes bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family. She must learn to survive in a world of total war, always seeking the love she once took for granted.

Sofia's story is based on actual historical events that determine her destiny. Readers will delight in this very personal and engaging tale from a time that set the stage for many of the conflicts of today's world.

Praise for the trilogy

“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on Amazon.com.

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

**Author Interview with Rebecca Hazell**

Welcome to Unusual Historicals. You certainly have an unusual setting for your novel. What gave you the idea for this series?

Thanks for hosting me. I was literally gripped by the plot for this trilogy when I was about twenty years old, and I still have the first, very crude pages that I wrote way back then. I thought I was going to write only one novel, The Grip of God, but it naturally became three.

My interest in this era actually started when I was assigned to learn Russian instead of German in high school. I got hooked on Slavic culture and majored in Russian history at university. Somehow Kievan, or Kyivan Rus’ interested me more than any other period. It was such a dramatic time, so much happened and spilled over into today’s events, but I didn’t know that yet. I had a rather simplistic idea about the whole thing that got shattered when I did the almost 17 years of research that went into the three novels.

What kept you going when it took so much research? 

It was fascinating! It had never occurred to me that so much was happening simultaneously in Europe, Asia and the Middle East: the Mongol invasions, the final years of the Assassins, the final Crusades, the occupation of Constantinople, and the French Inquisition. And St. Thomas Aquinas and Jalaluddin Rumi were writing great works while Marco Polo’s uncle and dad were traveling to China. What an era!

That was partly why it took so much research because historians generally specialize, and I had to consult many sources for each element of the story. It took me three years of research to find out a single thing about occupied Constantinople. That was a bit discouraging, but I persevered and found out enough to write about it.

How did your main/secondary characters come by their personalities? 

There were several characters that I plotted into the novel from the very beginning, like the Persian merchant, Selim, who has a secret that I won’t give away here, but whose help forms the context for the second novel. Others appeared spontaneously along the way, like Sofia’s young Hungarian servant Anna. In fact, I had to really control Anna and her doings because they threatened to swamp my heroine. On the other hand, Anna’s experiences growing up allow the reader to learn a lot about differences in rank and therefore learning, as well as lots of the superstitions and prejudices of the day.

Other characters like Lady Q’ing-ling popped up out of nowhere to tell side stories, or to help Sofia grow up. I feel that there have always been people of good heart who keep the world afloat like that while the big names start wars and sign treaties; and my secondary characters, with their personalities are like that. They are both unique and also represent their cultural heritages, so the story becomes a sort of rich stew typical of that time.

How hard was it to make the switch from writing for youngsters to writing for adults? 

I was lucky in that as my own children grew older, I started writing for older children. And Sofia was still a child by today’s standards, though twelve was considered adult by medieval standards. Then as she matured, I could show her inner journey quite easily.

What can we look forward to in the other two novels?

Sofia continues her outer and inner journey, crossing paths with many of the important people of her generation. She encounters Persian culture, Crusader culture, and the Inquisition, each challenging her to adapt to outer circumstances, some of them quite dangerous, while not becoming callous or selfish. Though she is tempted! Also tempted by love, as she meets a special someone who is as much trouble in his way as Anna is in hers! There’s lots of adventure and real history interwoven in her story. I cried at the end, and not only out of relief. I think my readers will feel the same.

About the author

Rebecca Hazell is an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

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