The following is an interview from my virtual book tour at Unusual Historicals.
Q: For those who are unfamiliar with your trilogy, can you give us a brief overview of it?
A: Yes, it’s set in the turbulent 13th century, which saw the massive Mongol invasions, the last desperate Crusades, the final era of the Assassins, and the establishment of the dreaded Inquisition. The story unfolds in a memoir written by a former princess of Kievan Rus’. Her life parallels these epic developments since she was so affected by them, but the story isn’t just about historical events. It also explores a journey of the heart: what keeps her sane and loving in a world ruled by greed, aggression, and willful ignorance.
In lots of ways, my heroine Sofia’s journey speaks to questions we may ask ourselves today, especially since a lot of our current world politics stems from that violent time. On the other hand, there’s plenty of room for romance in the story!
Q: The first novel was The Grip of God. Tell us a little about the second novel, Solomon’s Bride.
A: Solomon’s Bride begins where The Grip of God leaves off, with Sofia having fled the Mongols for Iran. There she expects to find safe haven and a way to get west to her uncle in Constantinople. What she discovers is that she has fallen out of the frying pan into the fire. The Mongols didn’t just invade Europe; they invaded all across Asia and the Middle East. Iran was one of the early victims, and it was a mess there just from that. Plus there was sectarian warfare within Islam, just as there is today, with the added chaos of the Assassins, who were expecting the Apocalypse and were happy to help it arrive.
And beyond Iran, the Crusader states were fighting for survival and still hoping to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem someday, adding more mayhem into the mix.
Q: It sounds like a terrifying time to live. Was there anything good going on?
A: Yes indeed! Sofia herself finds many kind people of differing faiths who help her both in her travels and on her life journey. One thing I wanted to show was how much goodness there is in the world, even in the midst of terrible times. Much of the novel is about her relationships, and there’s not so much visible violence as what she witnessed in the Mongol camps. So it’s not an action book so much as it is an exploration of how people keep sane in crazy times.
And as I say, there’s also romance and falling in love, which is a really good way to get either very sane or very crazy. But I don’t want to give the plot away.
Q: Tell us a bit more about Sofia.
A: She’s so young and unformed when the story starts, so her mind isn’t yet set when she encounters so many different cultures and outlooks. She’s bright, curious, and naturally kind, but she also is pretty arrogant at first. So the reader sees her growing up into a complex woman with simple goals: Sofia wants love, to give and to receive, and she wants a home again. Her entire journey can be seen as a quest for those two things, but what she means by love and home begin to change as she matures.
Q: What was your favorite aspect of writing these books?
A: ‘Meeting’ so many different, interesting people. They are mostly fictional, but to me they became so real. I didn’t just want caricatures of points of view; I wanted the readers to care about them the way I did, with all their quirks and ways of viewing their world. And I enjoyed how Sofia kept growing and changing; all I had to do, in one sense, was record it just as she was recording her adventures in her journal.
Q: And last, where did you get the title for this novel?
A: It comes from an Islamic legend about an aged Solomon and his young bride: she had to choose to come into his tent or be frozen to death on a mountain. In much the same way, Sofia’s life was full of challenge and the choices she made to survive.