14 September 2014

Author Interview & Ebook Giveaway: Kim Rendfeld on THE ASHES OF HEAVEN’S PILLAR

This week, we're pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals contributor Kim Rendfeld with her newest release THE ASHES OF HEAVEN’S PILLAR. One lucky blog visitor will receive an ebook. 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.

Can love triumph over war?

772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family instead sell them into slavery.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion - but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

**Q&A with Kim Rendfeld, author of The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar**

Your first book, The Cross and the Dragon, was also set in eighth century Europe. Why write in this time period again?

After I finished writing The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press), a tale of love amid wars and blood feuds, I went through an odd form of grief. I missed my characters, and the only way to deal with that feeling of loss was to write another book. I chose this era again because it fascinates me. It’s a society where the king’s decision on whom to wed can mean the difference between peace and war, where medicine, magic, and religion intersect, and where real-life gutsy women tried to shape the events around them. I simply couldn’t fit them all in one book.

In particular, two pieces of information rattled in my mind:
·         In 772, Frankish King Charles destroyed the Irminsul, a pillar holy to the pagan Saxon peoples.
·         Slavery was alive and well in this era, and war captives often ended up in servitude.

I wondered what it would be like to have your faith literally go up in smoke and what it would be like to be a freewoman one moment and a slave the next.

Why did you make a pagan, peasant woman your heroine?

At first, I was going to feature a couple of nuns I met in The Cross and the Dragon, but I couldn’t quite get a plot together, and the Saxon family with their back story of loss and betrayal captivated me. I surrendered to them and made that back story the main story.

My interest in featuring a common woman also stems from spending almost two decades in Indiana newsrooms. When I was a journalist, I believed one of my duties was to give a voice to people who did not have a lot of influence otherwise, and that instinct has followed me as I write historical fiction.

Early medieval sources, written when few people could read and even fewer could write, mainly concern themselves with the wars (of which there were many), affairs of royalty, and the lives of saints. They are not objective accounts – there simply was no such thing. To them, pagans are oath-breakers and brutes, and captives, if mentioned at all, are spoils of war. So medieval peasants and slaves rarely have a voice in history. With the pagan Continental Saxons, it gets even more complicated. They had no written language as we know it.

Fiction is one avenue to show what their lives might have been like.

What was the most surprising or fun fact you found in your research for this book?

Cabbage was not the same 1,200 years ago - it did not form heads. When I started writing fiction, I knew not to include New World foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, but I took for granted that vegetables stayed the same over the centuries. Was I wrong on that! I was surprised to learn that heading cabbages are not mentioned until the 13th century. If you are researching food history, check out foodtimeline.org.

Many of the historical events in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar are the same as The Cross and the Dragon. Did that make it easier to write?

Surprisingly, no. The basic facts remain, but the characters’ perceptions yield a very different story.

King Charles is a hero to Alda, the protagonist of The Cross and the Dragon, but a monster to Leova and her children.

Another example comes from three emirs’ visiting the Frankish assembly in Paderborn in 777 to secure an alliance with Charles to conquer territories in Hispania. Alda has a premonition of disaster. But Leova’s son, Deorlaf, sees an opportunity for his people to retake Saxony, and he ponders that if he had even a fraction of the emirs’ riches he could buy his family’s freedom.

Same historical event, but vastly different reactions.

Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (August 28, 2014, Fireship Press). To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, connect with her on Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld, check out her Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.