I have been gone for so long that I feel as if I ought to re-introduce myself, or at least thank you all for being so patient with my prolonged absences.   I hope that life will get back to normal once I’ve been able to evict the Deadline Dragon, though I would not bet money on that.  I only have three chapters left to do in The Land Beyond the Sea, but since one of them will have me fighting one of the most momentous battles of the Middle Ages, please send me lots of positive vibes; I suspect I’ll need them.
With apologies again for the long delay, Stephanie Churchill and I are happy to announce that the winner of her book giveaway for her new novel, The King’s Daughter, is Colleen MacDonald.  Colleen, congratulations.   Please contact either Stephanie or me to arrange to receive your personalized copy.    I am sure you will love it.   I know I did!
Now, I am delighted to welcome one of my favorite writers to my blog.  My Facebook friends and readers know how much I love Dana Stabenow’s superb Kate Shugak Alaskan mystery series.   Dana’s books have it all—suspense and surprises and colorful locales and fascinating characters, leavened with lots of humor.    Dana is remarkably versatile, for in addition to her acclaimed Kate Shugak series, she has another series set in Alaska, a number of riveting stand-alone thrillers, and she has made a highly successful foray into the world of historical fiction with her Silk and Song saga.  In her trilogy about Johanna, the grand-daughter of the celebrated Marco Polo, she introduces readers to an unfamiliar and exotic world, taking us from Cambaluc, today’s Beijing, to the legendary lagoon city of Venice, fabled Queen of the Adriatic.     I cannot imagine anyone reading that last sentence without wanting to read the books, too, and Dana’s British publisher, Head of Zeus, has made that easy for new readers, publishing an omnibus edition which contains all three of the Silk and Song novels: Everything under the Heavens, By the Shores of the Middle Sea, and The Land Beyond.   It can be ordered from my all-time favorite bookstore, the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, with signed copies available.  Here is the link.

And for my British readers, here is the link to, where it will be published on December 14th.

Now, without further delay, I’ll let Dana speak for herself.
Where did the idea for Silk and Song come from?

I read The Adventures of Marco Polo and by his own account he loved
the ladies. He was all over eastern Asia for twenty years in service to Kublai Khan
and he had to have scattered some seed around.
I wondered what happened to those kids.
Silk and Song is the story of one of them.

What did you do in the way of research?

One of the joys of writing is research.
It can also be the perfect excuse for travel (if you need one).
I went to China in 2005 specifically to do research for Silk and Song.
Trips to Turkey and Morocco also found their way into the books.
I spent a week in Venice, another in Paris, and a third in London.
Only Venice made it into the book. That’s one thing about research;
inevitably you only use about 10 percent of what you research in the work.

I also read fa-aaar too much in the way of historical studies.
After a while you wonder what on earth historians are thinking,
because they all contradict each other,
and the farther back in time you go the worse they get.

Why a female protagonist?

Whenever I’m asked that question I’m tempted to say “Why not?”
and leave it at that, but seriously folks.

At about the same time as I was reading Marco, I stumbled across
a Book of Days (basically a daily diary) in a bookstore.
It was illustrated with drawings from medieval manuscripts,
and each illustration featured a medieval woman doing a job
—a baker, a shoemaker, a carpenter, a stone mason (yes, really!)
And then I read Margery Kempe’s autobiography.
Those two works thoroughly disabused me of the notion,
A, that medieval women only worked in the home,
and, B, that in the Middle Ages nobody ever traveled a mile from their homes.
Both of which notions teachers had worked hard to beat into my head in high school.

I determined from the beginning that the child was going to be a girl,
and that she was going to have a real job.
And of course coming from China she could wear pants. Heh.

Why publish the books separately at first?

No one wanted me to write Silk and Song. For sure no one wanted me to publish it.
“We don’t want to have to re-invent the Stabenow brand,” quoth my editor,
and suggested I write another five Kate Shugak novels instead.
So I wrote SAS anyway and self-published it in the US in three e and TP volumes.

And then lightning struck!
My UK publisher, Nic Cheetham at Head of Zeus
read it and loved it and now he’s publishing it in a single volume
in the most beautiful edition that has ever had my name spelled correctly
on the cover (gold leaf on the title! squee!).

What’s next?

After Silk and Song I wrote the 21st Kate Shugak novel,
Less Than a Treason.
Now I’m working on what I hope will be the first of a series of novels set in
Alexandria in the time of Cleopatra featuring Cleopatra’s fixer, job title the Eye of Isis.
And then follows the 22nd Kate Shugak novel.

Like much of the western world, I am fascinated by Cleopatra, so I am already looking forward to Eye of Isis!     Thank you, Dana, for agreeing to this interview and for giving us so many hours of reading pleasure.
December 6, 2017


  1. Lisa lutes Says:

    When will there be another Liam Campbell book?

  2. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Hi Sharon! So excited to see that I won the book, thank you! I messaged you with my email and address, hope you got it.

  3. skpenman Says:

    You mean via Facebook, Colleen? I’ll go and check. I had your e-mail address but I lost my entire address book during one of my computer Demon Spawn’s epic meltdowns. You can also reach me via the Contact Sharon option on my website. I was so pleased when Stephanie told me you’d won the drawing.

  4. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Hi Sharon, yes I messaged you on Facebook, did it come through?

  5. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Also sent it through “contact Sharon ” link.

  6. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I hope that my Facebook friends and readers living in California have been spared those terrifying wildfires that are once again devastating the state. I heard it described as a “hell-storm,” and that says it all. Those who would like to help can contact the Red Cross.
    This is a sad day for me and my fellow Eagles fans, for we lost our star QB yesterday when Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury, a torn ACL. Also, on a personal level, I am still being harassed night and day by that pesky Deadline Dragon, and will likely remain MIA until I manage to get rid of this unwelcome houseguest.
    I do have some good news, though, about a series that I absolutely love, David Blixt’s imaginative and suspenseful and just plain fun to read Starcross’d novels. They are set in fourteenth century Italy, with a major character who has impressive bloodlines—he is the son of the celebrated poet, Dante. When I first discovered David’s books a few years ago, he wreaked havoc with my routines and deadlines, for real life came to a screeching halt while I lost myself in his world. So I am very pleased to announce that there is a revised edition of the first book in this riveting, swashbuckling series, Master of Verona, available in print and e-book format and, for the first time, as an audio-book. I feel as if I am giving new readers an early Christmas present! Here is the link to David’s website, where you can learn more about the Starcross’d series and about some of David’s other books.

  7. Dana Says:

    Reply to Lisa Lutes–I don’t know that there will be another Liam Campbell novel. I don’t know that there won’t be, either. Sorry to waffle, but I can say that if a good idea pops up I’ll jump on it. Has to be a good one, though.

  8. Joan Says:

    What a great lot of books you’ve been recommending, Sharon. I now have Stephanie Churchill on my list, Silk & Song Saga by Dana Stabenow, & David Blixt’s Master of Verona. This could be a long cold winter in the prairies, so what better way to spend it!
    I worry for my niece & her family who live in California too close to those fires. She has told me some very sad stories of her neighbors’ families & friends in the affected zones.

  9. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It is awful for those living in California this year, Joan. I hope your niece and family will not be affected buy the fires.

    A quick bulletin from the battlefield. First of all, I belatedly want to wish a Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and readers. And congratulations to my fellow football fans who will be lucky enough to have their teams advance to the playoffs. Now I have good news for all those who share my admiration and appreciation of Bernard Cornwell’s writing. He has a new book about to come out, to be published in the US in January. For lucky readers in the UK, it is already out. No, this is not another entry in his superb Saxon series. In an intriguing change of pace, this one revolves around the younger brother of one William Shakespeare, a rather successful playwright. The title is Fools and Mortals and I am looking forward very much to reading it.

  10. Joan Says:

    Whoa, something tells me this new Cornwell book is going to be smashing!

  11. Joan Says:

    The Medievalists website features a very timely article on Eleanor of Aquitaine……”Well behaved women rarely make history”

    Very timely indeed!

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    My readers posted the link, Joan, on several of my Facebook pages. If anyone is interested, I can post it here, too.

    As many of you know, I have not been well lately, and I’ve had to severely cut back on my Facebook and blog time. I hope to be able to resume contact once Land Beyond the Sea is finished and turned over to my publishers’ tender mercies. Thanks for your patience and for not turning my Facebook pages into cyberspace ghost towns while I’m off-stage.
    I hope that those of you caught, as I was, in the frigid blast of Grayson have thawed out by now. I don’t object to the new trend of naming winter storms, but couldn’t they have done better than Grayson? That sounds like a butler on Downton Abby, not a blizzard that paralyzed almost half of the US. Let’s pray for an early spring or, Down Under, for an early autumn since Sydney has been suffering under the sort of soaring temperatures normally found in Death Valley. And I am sure my readers share my sympathy for the miseries that have been inflicted upon California recently; first the worst wildfires in the state’s history and now those horrific mud-slides. So many of us had hoped the new year would be an improvement over 2017, which too often felt like penance for our sins. Speaking just for myself, I’m not overly impressed with 2018 so far.
    Before I fade away into the shadows again, I wanted to offer a progress report on Land Beyond the Sea. I finally finished fighting the battle of Hattin. Battle chapters are never easy to write even though I’ve spilled enough fictional blood to turn the Dead Sea crimson. But Hattin was particularly challenging, for the contemporary sources were often contradictory or muddled and I had to spend a lot of time pouring over maps and photos since the topography of the area played a major role in the outcome. While I’ve always tried to visit the battlefields I’ve written about, assuming they still survived, it was usually not an absolute necessity, more like a reason to take a tax-deductible trip to England or France. With Hattin, being able to see the battlefield for myself was a huge help, for I did not need to rely upon imagination to conjure up images of the desolate, barren hills and stark rock-strewn slopes. I could draw upon memories and my own photographs, thanks to my Israeli friend, Valerie Ben David, who so generously offered to be our guide. I did have to make active use of my imagination in one aspect of the battle, though. It was fought on a brutally hot day in early July, with men and horses suffering greatly from thirst and the unrelenting heat. Whereas if I looked out the window, all I saw was a blinding swirl of snow and it was so cold that I half-expected to find polar bears in my back yard. But the battle is over at long last, I have begun to wash all that blood off my hands, and now there are just two more chapters to go!
    Thanks again for all the understanding and support. I shall return!

  13. Mac Craig Says:

    Congratulations on Eagles’ win, Sharon. If your team should face New England’s in Super Bowl, you and I will be at cross purposes. Keep at the writing. We are all waiting patiently but anxiously.

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