INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE CHURCHILL, AUTHOR OF THE KING’S DAUGHTER

INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE CHURCHILL, AUTHOR OF THE KING’S DAUGHTER

I need to start with an apology for the long, long delay since my last blog was posted.  You are getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a writer’s life when that writer is cornered by a voracious Deadline Dragon; survival takes first priority and all else falls by the wayside.  But since I only have four more chapters now to do, I feel that I can afford to surface for air.
I am delighted to relaunch my blog with this interview with my friend and fellow writer, Stephanie Churchill.  Those of you who visit my blog and Facebook pages on a regular basis know how much I enjoyed Stephanie’s first novel, The Scribe’s Daughter.  I tease Stephanie that she has created a new genre—fantasy that reads like historical fiction.  My readers will feel very comfortable in Stephanie’s fictional world, for her novels are rooted in a gritty medieval reality.  They are considered fantasy because you cannot find this kingdom on any map, just in Stephanie’s head.  But there are no supernatural elements; no vampires or ghosts or monsters, although I personally would not have minded a dragon or two.     Her novels are character-driven, but they offer action and suspense, too.
I was hooked from the first sentence of The Scribe’s Daughter: “I never imagined my life would end this way.”    Kassia is an intriguing character and so well-drawn that readers immediately care about her.   For those of you who have not yet read The Scribe’s Daughter, the e-book is being offered on Amazon at a bargain price, just $2.99.   It is also available in paperback, but I confess I have become addicted to e-books for pleasure reading, seduced by the convenience, the ability to increase the font size, and the instant gratification, of course.
Because I found Kassia’s story so compelling, I am eagerly anticipating reading The King’s Daughter, in which her older sister, Irisa, takes center stage.  My game plan is to tackle my To Be Read List within moments of evicting the Deadline Dragon and applauding as he sulks off down the road to haunt some other unfortunate writer.   Today, though, I get to spend some time with Kassia and Irisa’s creator.  Before we begin the interview, Stephanie is offering a book giveaway for The King’s Daughter; anyone who posts a comment to this blog will automatically be eligible to win a personalized copy.

SKP:  You have just released your second book, The King’s Daughter, which is a sequel to The Scribe’s Daughter.  There may be readers who haven’t read the first book yet, so why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about it.

The Scribe’s Daughter is fantasy, though it will appeal to historical fiction readers because everything about it echoes the historical without actually being historical.  I used my comfort and familiarity with history and historical novels to recreate a world that would be similar in feel.

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Kassia, a seventeen year-old orphan who is faced with a tough decision in her daily quest for survival.  She is a younger sister but finds herself in the position of providing for both herself and her older sister, Irisa.  The sisters cannot afford to pay rent, and when their landlord gives them an ultimatum — pay up or become whores — Kassia must decide what to do.  Very soon after, a stranger enters the scene, hiring Kassia for a job that is ridiculously outside her skill set.  Not seeing much other choice, she takes him on.  Before long, Kassia finds herself embroiled in a fast-paced journey, sometimes treacherous, other times humorous.  Everything about the plot involves mysteries of Kassia and Irisa’s family history, a history they never knew existed.

SKP:  Tell us a little bit about The King’s Daughter.

The King’s Daughter is a sequel of sorts to The Scribe’s Daughter, though much of this book overlaps the timeline of the first one as the sisters’ perspectives weave together to form a more complete view from what was learned earlier.  Kassia and Irisa part ways early on in The Scribe’s Daughter.  The first few chapters of The King’s Daughter follow that overlapping timeline as Irisa learns much of the same information Kassia learns.  However, Irisa’s story continues on from there, and she discovers more truths.  The original mysteries from The Scribe’s Daughter are deepened, even twisted sideways so that they take on new life again.  Ultimately it is a character-driven book.  Irisa grows and develops as a person, but in her strength, she helps the development of the other significant protagonist in the story as well.

SKP:  One thing that is immediately noticeable is that even though they are sisters, Irisa and Kassia are very unlike one another.  Physically they are different, but also in the way they approach the world.  Can you talk about this?

Yes!  I am a sister; I have a sister.  And while I can’t say that Irisa and Kassia are necessarily modeled after my sister and I, at least not consciously, the idea of writing about two sisters was definitely inspired by the fact that I have a sister.  I see Irisa and Kassia as two sides to the same coin.  Both sisters are strong, though neither of them knows it at first.  One of the themes of both books is the journey to discover internal strength.  Each sister just comes at this from a different direction.

Kassia is sort of like a caged tiger.  She is emotionally ragged and lashes out at the world in response to trouble.  At the beginning of her story, she is very fragile and therefore acts recklessly.  Her defense mechanism is anger.  Irisa, on the other hand, is softer, gentler.  She is quiet and observant.  She has less emotional turmoil inside her even if she is also fragile at the beginning.  Irisa approaches the world with a more measured, thoughtful manner and is exceedingly practical.  She already has a quiet strength, but as the book progresses, she learns to spread her wings a bit.  By the end of their respective stories, both sisters have arrived at a similar place despite the dissimilar methods of getting there.

SKP:   Your book reads like historical fiction.  Did you base any of the plot or characters on any real figures from history?

Without giving too much away for the sake of the plot, I’ll say that Edward IV and his daughter Elizabeth of York, who married Henry Tudor, were probably the biggest influences on two of my characters, though only loosely.

SKP:   Did you plan to write multiple books when you started The Scribe’s Daughter?

When I began work on The Scribe’s Daughter, I had no long-range plan.  It was simply an experiment in writing first person, and I hadn’t even intended the experiment to turn into a book in the first place.  Once I started writing Kassia however, I fell in love with her character and couldn’t stop.  Kassia kept whispering in my ear, telling me about her life and the realities of her world.  When the first mystery took shape on the page, I had to see where it led.  Once I got nearly half way through writing the first draft, I realized that Irisa had a tale of her own to tell, and it was going to be very compelling.  I was intrigued by the idea of perspective and the differing views multiple people can have of the same events.  This was really the seed idea for the second book.  Once I got writing it, I discovered another selfish perk: I found that I missed Kassia terribly, and creating a book for Irisa allowed me to revisit the same world while taking off in a new direction even while inventing new people and places.  I can totally understand now why so many authors write a series!

SKP:   Should readers read The Scribe’s Daughter first, or can The King’s Daughter be enjoyed alone?

One of my advanced readers thought The King’s Daughter could be read as a stand-alone.  It’s hard for me to judge that as the author since I can never read the book with new eyes.  I would say however, that if a person wants to read it without having read the first one, it’s probably doable.  My caution to them would be that they would miss out on a lot of depth.  The second book weaves many tiny details from the first book: characters, places, mysteries, back stories, etc.  In fact, there are so many connections that many of the details may even be missed by most readers!

SKP:   Who should read your books?

I have found that my audience is more women than men, but both audiences have very dedicated fans.  The books were written for adults, though I tried to be sensitive to a wide audience so wrote it with that in mind, including teens.  Genre is difficult to pin down.  As I said earlier, the books read like historical fiction but are no doubt fantasy, even if not traditional fantasy.  There is no magic, no dragons or other fantastical beasts.  Everything is based in reality.  Readers of historical fiction should feel right at home with the books however, because I love history and historical fiction and attempted to inject the feel of that genre into my writing.  I often tell people that my books echo historical fiction even if they aren’t history.  More than that though, if you love deep characters, evocative settings, and a good plot, it doesn’t matter what genre you read.  You’ll enjoy the books!

SKP:   What’s next for you?

I have a plan for a third book, the story of Naria, Irisa and Kassia’s mother.  I left some dangling threads at the end of The King’s Daughter, and I really want to tie those up for readers.  This third book will have even more connections, ties, and connections to characters and events from the first two books.  I could take the story in many different directions, so I intend to take my time developing it, wanting to be as thoughtful and thorough as possible.

After that I have a completely new series in mind, one that will be much more traditional fantasy.  I’ve actually been researching the background material for several years now, and I’ve got a significant amount of the initial draft of the first book finished, though it still needs a lot of work!

The King’s Daughter released on September 1 and can be ordered from Amazon.  It is available both in the e-book and paperback format.

SKP:  Stephanie, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.  I know there is an overlap between our readers and I know, too, that they are in for a treat.

September 4, 2017

19 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE CHURCHILL, AUTHOR OF THE KING’S DAUGHTER”

  1. Cynthia Fuller Says:

    Congratulations on your second book, Stephanie!

  2. Stephanie Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia, and thank you SKP for hosting me here!

  3. Beth Says:

    Sharon, you’ve never steered me wrong yet. I think I need to read these books, too.

  4. Teri Soares Says:

    These books come up on my Amazon recommended list all the time, so I will take the heavy hint (you have to hit me on the side of the head sometimes to het my attention) and start on the first one. Thanks, Sharon!

  5. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    This sounds intriguing, will have to check these out.

  6. John Robinson Says:

    Sold. Thank you Sharon and Stephanie. Amazon, here I come.

  7. Libby Millard Says:

    Sounds like a fabulous read

  8. Thomas Greene Says:

    Congratulations on both books and good luck with number three. One thing you touched on in this interview was that you loved the character Kassia and wanted to reconnect with her in the sequel. I wondered if writers develope affection for their characters as they are fleshing them out. I know as a reader that I often encounter a character but feel kind of a sense of loss when the novel is finished and I realize I will never meet that person again, even though they are fictional. Does this make sense? I ‘m not sure if I am expressing what I really mean. Well I look forward to reading your novels even if they are mainly for women. At my age I pretty much read whatever strikes my fancy. And Sharon, get back to work!

  9. Kim morss Says:

    Eager to read your new book! Loved Kassia, and look forward to more.

  10. Mary Glassman Says:

    It’s on my Kindle and waiting to be read as soon as I finish up reading about the French Revolution!

  11. Barbara Bellatti Says:

    I will have to get the first book, it sounds so up my alley. I love historical fiction and fantasy both. I look forward to both of them. Thank you Sharon Kay Penman for this interview and insight into these novels. And thank you to Stephanie Churchill for writing them. Good luck on their success.

  12. Anita Galt Says:

    What a great interview! Congratulations on the new book and the books to come sound intriguing. I downloaded The Scribe’s Daughter onto my Kindle some time ago and it’s been languishing in the midst of my ‘to be read’ pile. This interview has made me want to bump it right to the top, and to download the second book without having read a word of the first ….. yet! I’m looking forward to getting started with them - all of the reviews I’ve read have been so complimentary.

  13. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and well wishes. I am so excited to get this next book out into the world, and I really, really look forward to hearing from readers after they’ve finished it! It’s fun to write, but it’s more enriching to hear from readers as they engage or have engaged with the story.

    And Thomas, good question! Yes, writers absolutely DO feel a sense of loss when a story or character is finished. I guess it depends on the writer, but I do a LOT of background development for my characters while I’m writing them. For me, they have to be real people with depth and texture in order to make them appear to have depth and texture on the page. So yes, that does tend to make you close with them when you write their stories. Kassia was so very fun to write because she is very fragile inside while simultaneously being very volatile. It meant that she could react to her world in a way I just don’t in real life. It made the writing fun, and it became effortless because I knew her so well. I really do think it might be why some authors continue to write a series that probably should have been stopped earlier. :-)

  14. Margaret Skea Says:

    Well done, Stephanie - looking forward to meeting you in Scotland next year :)

  15. Stephanie Says:

    Thank you, Margaret! Hearing you say it makes it feel real!

  16. skpenman Says:

    First Harvey and now Irma. This may turn out to be one of our worst hurricane seasons ever, a very scary thought. I hope and pray that Floridians will heed the warnings, especially the mandatory evacuation orders in some places. This is not a storm to take lightly and most certainly is not one to be dismissed as “fake news” as certain despicable radio personalities are doing. I have friends who suffered through another category five hurricane in Florida, Hurricane Andrew, and even after twenty-five years, those memories still haunt their nightmares.
    I went to college in Texas, getting a history degree from UT at Austin, so I have a personal interest in the welfare of Texans and I am so proud of the way they have responded to that tragedy. Very little looting has been reported; instead, people continue to volunteer to help friends, neighbors, and total strangers. I can even offer a story of a canine hurricane survivor named Otis that is sure to make you all smile.
    Many of you may have already heard of Otis, who was photographed carrying home a bag of dog food in the aftermath of the storm. It turns out that Otis was accustomed to strolling around town and visiting places where he knew he’d get a warm welcome and a treat. So when he somehow escaped his family’s porch, he decided to follow his usual routine, including a stop at a lumber yard where they kept a bag of dog food for him. When he got there, it was closed, but hey, he knew where the dog food was kept, so why not help himself? And he did, carrying the bag home in case he got hungry later, I guess. When the photo was posted on-line, naturally it went viral, and when the back-story came out, that made it even better. Some tongue-in-cheek posters pointed out, of course, that Otis was not really a hurricane victim; he was a looter. But he gave us all a reason to smile and for that alone, he deserves all the treats he can steal….er, borrow. He has an interesting family story, too; he was adopted by his family eight years ago when a stranger offered him to them, saying he was going to dump the puppy if they did not take him. So they did and the rest is history.
    http://www.cnn.com/videos/weather/2017/08/29/otis-dog-hurricane-harvey-viral-picture-ebof.cnn/video/playlists/hurricane-harvey/

  17. skpenman Says:

    I know all our hopes and prayers are with the people of Florida today. They do seem to have heeded the warnings of their governor and local officials and many, if not most, have evacuated, so that may keep the death toll from this monster storm down. As I have said before, we are so fortunate to get advance warnings of hurricanes. The most horrific example of a stealth storm is the one that destroyed Galveston in September of 1900, killing between six and ten thousand people. It is still possible for a hurricane to hit without warning; I was in one in England, of all places, in October of 1987. But thankfully, they are very rare.

    Here is a story that brought tears to my eyes. A woman had gone to a Lowes storm, desperate to buy a generator for her elderly father, who needs oxygen to survive. She’d waited in line for hours, only to have the supplies run out just as it was her turn. She was weeping when a stranger tried to comfort her and when he learned why she was crying, he put the generator he’d just bought in her shopping cart, saying she needed it more than he did. A local reporter was on the scene, looking for hurricane stories, and they captured it on video. The woman was overwhelmed, calling him her angel. The next day Lowes received an unexpected generator and the manager remembered the Good Samaritan; the store contacted him and gave him the generator free of charge. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/09/09/before-irma-hit-a-stranger-gave-the-last-generator-to-a-crying-woman-for-her-ailing-father/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_stranger-1240p%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.a8c03596ef37

    It feels like forever since I’ve posted about anything historic, so this is long overdue.
    Yesterday was the birthdate 857 years ago, September 8th, 1157, of the most famous of the Devil’s Brood, Eleanor’s favorite son, Richard. I couldn’t resist posting from a scene in Time and Chance, a scene frozen in amber, in which Henry and Eleanor’s marriage was still whole and happy and they still thought the world was theirs for the taking.
    Time and Chance, page 53
    * * *
    Somewhere along the way from the castle, Henry had found a garden to raid, for he was carrying an armful of Michaelmas daisies. These he handed to Petronilla, rather sheepishly, for romantic gestures did not come easily to him. Crossing the chamber in several strides, he leaned over the bed to give his wife a kiss. (omission)
    “Are you hurting, love?”
    Eleanor’s smile was tired, but happy. “Not at all,” she lied. “By now the babes just pop right out, like a cork from a bottle.”
    Henry laughed. “Well….where is the little cork?”
    A wet nurse came forward from the shadows, bobbing a shy curtsy before holding out a swaddled form for his inspection. Henry touched the ringlets of reddish-gold hair, the exact shade of his own, and grinned when the baby’s hand closed around his finger. “Look at the size of him,” he marveled, and as his eyes met Eleanor’s, the same thought was in both their minds: heartfelt relief that God had given them such a robust, sturdy son. No parent who’d lost a child could ever take health or survival for granted again.
    “We still have not decided what to name him,” Henry reminded his wife. “I fancy Geoffrey, after my father.”
    “The next one,” she promised. “I have a name already in mind for this little lad.”
    He cocked a brow. “Need I remind you that it is unseemly to name a child after a former husband?”
    Eleanor’s lashes were drooping and her smile turned into a sleepy yawn. “I would not name a stray dog after Louis,” she declared, holding out her arms for her new baby. She was surprised by the intensity of emotion she felt as she gazed down into that small, flushed face. Had God sent him to fill the aching void left by Will’s death? “I want,” she said, “to name him Richard.”
    * * *

  18. Julie Huston Says:

    I am so looking forward to reading this new author! Especially with an endorsement by Sharon Kay Penman! How can it not be good? Thank you.

  19. skpenman Says:

    Let’s hope and pray that Irma will be the last major hurricane of the season. Please help the residents of Florida and let’s not forget the people in the Caribbean islands that suffered, too, from Irma.
    For Americans, September 11th will always call to mind the most devastating terrorist assault upon our country. I find it hard to believe that sixteen years have passed since then, for those are memories that will never fade.
    In medieval history, September 11th, 1161 was the date of death of a very interesting woman who is not very well known today—Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem in her own right, strong-willed widow of Fulk of Anjou, our Henry II’s grandfather. For anyone who’d like to learn more of her unusual history, I recommend Sharan Newman’s biography, Defending the City of God. September 11th was also the date in 1297 of the battle of Stirling Bridge, in which William Wallace defeated an English army. It was dramatized in Braveheart—well, except for the bridge and the battle tactics.

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