20 November 2011

Guest Blog: N. Gemini Sasson

This week, we're welcoming historical author N. Gemini Sasson, as she celebrates the release of THE HONOR DUE A KINGthe third book in her Robert the Bruce trilogy, set in 13th century Scotland. The novel is available now.  Gemi is here to talk about her novel and give away a copy of her latest, AND the two prior books in the series, THE CROWN IN THE HEATHER and WORTH DYING FOR! Here's the blurb:
In the dawn of a kingdom, 

loyalties and lies collide. 

The truth will change England and Scotland forever.

In the triumphant aftermath of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce faces unfamiliar battles. His wife Elizabeth, held captive in England for eight long years, has finally returned home to Scotland. With his marriage in ruin and hopes for an heir quickly fading, Robert vows to fulfill an oath from long ago—one which will not only bind his daughter to a man she does not love, but challenge the honor of his most trusted knight, James Douglas.

While Ireland falls to the Scots, King Edward II of England must contend with quarrelsome barons. Hugh Despenser is the one man who can give him both the loyalty and love he so desperately craves. War with France looms and Edward’s only chance at peace rests with his queen, Isabella—a woman who has every reason to seek her own revenge.

Tormented by his past, James returns to a solitary, ruthless life of raiding into the north of England. When a bewitching spy promises him the ultimate victory, James must weigh whether to unveil the truth and risk losing her love—or guard his secrets and forever preserve Robert’s faith in him.

**Q&A with N. Gemini Sasson**

What inspired you to write about Robert the Bruce?
For years I’ve been a fan of Celtic music.  Nothing stirs my soul more than the skirl of bagpipes.  I also have Scottish ancestry on my mother’s side.  The first time I went to Scotland, I felt like I’d come home, even though I’d never been there before.  It was a very surreal feeling.

After seeing the movie Braveheart (yes, I know it’s full of inaccuracies, but it was great storytelling), I was inspired to write something epic.  My curiosity about the rest of the story, beyond William Wallace, had been piqued and so I began to read, and read, and read . . . Four years later I had three books (The Crown in the Heather, Worth Dying For and The Honor Due a King) about the lives of Robert the Bruce, James Douglas and Edward II, although they’ve since undergone many revisions. From conception to the publication of the final installment, it’s been a journey of ten years.

Did you set out to write a trilogy?
Heavens, no. My original plan was just to write one epic, standalone book. But to cover 30+ years and do the characters justice in one shot would have been an injustice. I thought about narrowing down the timeframe, but there was too much worth writing about in the years between Robert’s early adulthood and his death. Writing it as a trilogy gave me a chance to get to know the characters and take them each on their own journey.

You’ve written these books in first person, from three different points of view. Was that difficult and what are the advantages and disadvantages of it?
As a reader and writer, I enjoy the intimacy of first person. It’s easier to understand the characters because you’re inside their heads. The drawback is that a single character POV is limited in scope. Initially I was going to write the story entirely from James Douglas’s viewpoint, but Robert kept creeping in, and eventually Edward II was clamoring to be heard. I can completely understand why some readers might not like switching from one character to another; other readers feel like it makes the story more well-rounded.  While I’m aware that my choice of presentation may not appeal to some readers, I think it has also garnered some diehard fans. It’s just what felt right to me. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Why do you write historical fiction?
In high school, I thought history class was boring. All we did was spit back names, dates and places. Thankfully, I’d discovered historical novels at the library. They were my escape when teenage life got too dramatic.

One of my goals in writing historical fiction is to make history feel real and accessible, not academic and boring.  Hopefully, readers will get a sense that history is more than just dates and names.  It's also about more than costumes and weaponry.  It is about real people who had some of the same fears and dreams, flaws and ambitions that we do today.  My sincere hope is to get new readers hooked on the genre. To do that, I think you have to present a story in a new and exciting way that today’s readers can relate to.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the sequel for Isabeau, tentatively entitled The King Must Die. It takes place in England, beginning in 1327, and is about the early years of King Edward III’s reign and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his father, the deposed Edward II. After that, I’m not sure. The 15th century is calling to me, but I also have ideas floating around for other projects, some non-historical. 

Thank you, Gemi, and best of luck with THE HONOR DUE A KING. Readers, please leave your comment to win a copy of this exciting conclusion to Gemi's Robert the Bruce trilogy, or the previous books in the series.