Why don’t we just dive in and talk about your latest novel?
The Lady of the Eternal City presents a unique perspective of the events surrounding Emperor Hadrian’s era. Why did you choose to present the story from varying points of view?
I’ve done multiple POVs in all my books. It opens up the world much more—one character might not get out of the palace much, or the army camp—but that doesn’t matter when you have other characters who can show new settings and perspectives.
How did you weave the perspectives together? Did you write from one character’s point of view, doing each separately or did you write the story from the start switching viewpoints through out?
I nearly always wrote the story linearly, swapping POV scene to scene depending on whose eyes were the best for showing what was onscreen. With one exception, for “Lady of the Eternal City”–the POV of the hero’s son Antinous wasn’t added in until about six weeks before my deadline! He’d been in the story before, but not as a viewpoint character, and I realized the book needed him. So I ended up writing all his scenes at once back to back, and then threading them in.
What was it that piqued your interested in telling these characters’ stories?
Hadrian is such a fascinating man—one of the “Five Good Emperors,” and yet during his lifetime he was loathed. And the people around him (his Empress with her mysterious rumors of a Praetorian lover, his beautiful doomed Greek boyfriend whose death remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the ancient world) were just as interesting.
Samuel Johnson once said that, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Tell us about the research you did for this book?
Anthony Everitt’s splendid biography of Hadrian was my bible—I wore it to tatters. I wish I could have gone in person to see the various sites Hadrian traveled and built, visiting his famous villa and his even more famous wall, but I couldn’t—so I settled for as many images, videos, maps, and other visuals as I could find.
How much of this story is realistic? How did you balance the historical aspect with the fictional aspect of this story?
I tried to cleave as much to the history as possible when it came to the known points of Hadrian’s reign: his travels, his monuments, his power shifts and political appointments. The reasons why he did things are my own to play with, because history may tell you what but rarely why. Hadrian’s complicated sometimes-enemy/sometimes-ally relationship with his bodyguard Vix (a character I made up) allowed me to provide the why for many of his actions that history leaves mysterious. Hadrian’s wife Sabina and his lover Antinous are both real historical figures, but much about their backgrounds and lives is unrecorded or lost to history, so those are places where I also felt free to fill in the gaps in a way that suited my story.
What was the (a) most challenging, and (b) the most rewarding part of writing The Lady of the Eternal City?
There were a lot of challenges in LEC, and a lot of “firsts” for me: my first m/m romance, my first child narrator, my first villain-to-hero-redemption arc; my first book covering 20+ years of history, my first book covering so many countries/settings . . . The most rewarding part about writing LEC was that most of my reviews seemed to think I did ok with all those firsts! (Whew.)
That’s a lot of firsts! And yes, you did expertly presented them. I wouldn’t have ever known you had tackled so many firsts in one novel. That is very encouraging for others to risk. Not to hold back.
Titles are so critical for novel. I find choosing the title of a novel daunting. How did you choose the title?
I didn’t! My editor picked it, I believe. I’m terrible at titles. I like this one very much.
Wow! Way to go Editor! Think she’d help me out? Just kidding…sorta.
Some people think writing is easy. You sit down and just write and voila! A couple of days, maybe a week tops, and you have a book. But Hemingway once said, “There’s nothing to writing. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” How long did you “bleed” out this novel, including research and editing?
More than a year, I think—it’s one long blur. This book, frankly, was the book from hell. Books are like babies; some are sleeping through the night right from the start and giving you no trouble; some are colicky little trouble-makers who scream the house down. LEC was a problem baby from beginning to end.
Ha!Ha! I love this analogy. I guess you can say your problem child has finally settled down 😉
I was particularly drawn to Sabina’s daughter. I loved her tenacity, her red hair, and the fire in her personality and her ability to run (I use to run until an injury took me out of my running shoes and onto a road bike.) Which character, if any, is most like you?
All my characters have a bit of me in them, I suppose. Though Vix is based very much on my husband! Sabina is probably the most like me, at least of the characters from LEC: a perpetual observer and world-traveler (if I only could have her travel schedule!) I wish I were a runner like Annia, but I’m not. Writing characters like that gives me a bit of wishful fulfillment.
I must say I was ready to hate Hadrian, but then you did something masterful, and I found myself actually feeling for the guy. Here I was fully prepared to boo and hiss him as the villain and then, through your story-telling sorcery, I actually felt sorry for the guy. Your characters are so complex and deeply layered, how did you achieve this? (Yes, tell us your secrets J)
I don’t know. I remember looking at my outline which blithely said “Start with him as a baddie, turn it around so the reader likes him by the end” and thinking “So . . . how do I do this?” I suppose I tackled it by trying to show the man behind the mask—Hadrian was a man who wore many masks; he was very complicated and very contradictory as a historical figure. I’m glad you were able to like him a bit by the end! I did, myself.
What are you most proud about in this HF novel?
Writing my first in-depth m/m romance—and two of the most famous gay lovers of all time, no less! The famous love affair of Hadrian and Antinous had to be all kinds of complicated and yet also all kinds of perfect, and I just loved writing their scenes.
You have a keen passion for Ancient Rome, why is that?
My mother has a degree in Ancient and Medieval History—I was getting stories about Antony and Cleopatra rather than Cinderella and Prince Charming, and watching “I, Claudius” instead of the Disney Channel. It seemed natural to start writing books in the era that I’d loved since I was a kid.
If you were to pick another era to write an HF novel about what era would that be and why?
I’ve written two books set in Renaissance Italy, which is a wonderful time period and another obsession of mine! Those are “The Serpent and the Pearl” and “The Lion and the Rose,” a duology about the early years under the Borgia Pope.
I know many of my readers aspire to be an author, myself included, but we have busy lives. Can you tell us how do you balance writing, book tours, and family life?
I am lucky enough that I write full time now, but that was not always the case—I wrote the first of the Rome novels, “Mistress of Rome,” around a full college class-load plus a part time job. The only thing I could do there was write more or less all day on my weekends. Now that I write full time, I jam things like the gym, the errands, and the dog-walking into my mornings, write all afternoon, and save my evenings for my husband and my leisure time. Writing is very time-consuming, no getting around it—realize that to make room for it, something else is going to have to go (your Dr. Who marathons, your Pinterest time, your weekly movie nights or soccer games—something). I don’t have kids, but I know many writing moms who do everything I do plus take care of children, and I am absolutely in awe. I don’t know how they do it.
This fits with the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Looking back, what is the one thing you wish a seasoned author had told you about writing and publishing?
Writers nowadays are expected to be full-time marketers as well as writers. You’ll be marketing online, doing promotion, going on blog tours, maintaining newsletters and Twitter handles and Facebook pages—it all takes time, and it can be tough for writers to put themselves out there. Let’s face it, we’re often introverted people, and asking us to present ourselves perfectly online as witty-but-humble, confident-but-self-deprecating, wry-but-inspirational types who always have the perfect Tweet or blog post about our craft which is always funny and out-there but never remotely controversial in case you might offend someone . . . finding that line is hard for people who would rather live in the writing cave. But writers, thanks to social media, are more accessible than ever before to their readers, and while this is a wonderful thing, it also means your work bleeds more and more into your life.
Are you working on a new project you can tell us about? And if so, when do you expect it to be ready for the public? (We need our Quinn Fix!)
I’m working on a collaborative novel with six friends! It’s my second: the first was a novel-in-six-parts about the Pompeii eruption called “A Day of Fire,” and now I’m working on a second with most of the same crew, all about the Boudica rebellion in Roman Britain. It’s called “A Year of Ravens,” and I just finished my story. We’re planning a November release.
On a personal note, you lost your home not too long ago. Have you been able to salvage anything from the fire? Have you rebuilt?
Our house is being renovated now—hopefully we’ll be moved in by Thanksgiving. And thank goodness, we were able to save quite a lot! Most of our clothes, books, and knick-knacks survived with a good cleaning.
I am so glad to hear you were able to salvage many of your belongs. It would be wonderful if you could be in Thanksgiving. Fingers-crossed you are.
From your tragedy, what did you learn or discover you hadn’t expected?
It is entirely possible to write while wildly emotional, frequently exhausted, and sometimes depressed. I was back to my daily word count within about six weeks of the conflagration, working on a brand new project that was hugely different from anything else I’ve ever done before . . . and I’m afraid I can’t tell you about that one, because it’s still with my agent!
This sounds very exciting! I can hardly wait. I hope you give me a sneak peak before it hits the shelf. And , Thank you Kate for sharing with us today. I know you have much on your plate and we appreciate your time with us.
To learn more about Kate and her novels please visit Kate Quinn
Praise for The Lady of the Eternal City:
“Gorgeously wrought.”— C. W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow
“Deeply passionate.”—Kate Furnivall, author of Shadows on the Nile
“[An] epic, sexy romp.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)