Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Post: Kate Quinn author of Daughter of Rome

Hey everyone! Hope you are all having a wonderful Thursday. Today at All Things Historical Fiction I have the honor of welcoming a very special guest. Please help me give a warm welcome to Kate Quinn the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome. Kate is here today to discuss something we all probably wish we had, a time machine and where she would go if she were to have one within her grasp at this very moment. Stay tuned for my review of Mistress of Rome, which I hope to post tomorrow.

The Time Machine Game

When I was little, there was one thing I always wanted in my Christmas stocking, but I never got it.  “They aren't selling time machines at Toys R' Us this year,” my mom told me.  Somehow, they never were.  But I never stopped wishing I had a magic wand, a magic spell, a magic machine that could fax me back to the past.  I've been fascinated by history all my life, and that fascination has become full-blown obsession now that I'm a historical fiction novelist.  I still have the time machine fantasy every time I pick up a great new historical fiction novel that gets me interested in some new era.  My current top 5 travel destinations . . .

  1. Rome under the Borgias, as seen in Sarah Poole's The Borgia Betrayal, Jean Plaidy's Madonna of the Seven Hills, and Showtime's new series The Borgias.  I want to walk those twisty bloodstained streets in a fabulous velvet gown, join a riot at the latest papal election, buy myself a hollow ring with a poison pellet, and flirt with Cesare Borgia to see if he really is as sexy as pretty much all novelists seem to portray him.
  2. Elizabethan England.  My favorite era as a kid, when I couldn't sit down on the steps in elementary school without pretending I was Elizabeth I refusing to enter the Tower of London.  I want to spend a week as one of Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, swishing around behind her in emerald green satin, watching to see how the real queen stacks up against all her fictional portrayals by Margaret George, Philippa Gregory, C.W. Gortner, Fiona Buckley, and countless others.  And I may take the opportunity, during my week in Elizabeth's employ, to slap that sly Lettice Knollys in the face for daring to steal Robert Dudley away from my queen. 
  3. Ancient Egypt, which I regularly visit in the novels of Michelle Moran, Margaret George, and Pauline Gedge.  I plan to ride a barge down the Nile, watch the great pyramids being built, and maybe adopt one of those sacred cats with gold hoop earrings.  And let's settle this question once and for all:  did the real Cleopatra look anything like Elizabeth Taylor? 
  4. Gilded Age New York.  I'd like to be one of those American heiresses I was always sighing over in Edith Wharton novels, heading off to Europe in an ocean liner with ninety new dresses by Worth, intent on bagging myself an English lord. If I can marry a duke like Nan St. George did in The Buccaneers, I may just take a look around my Cornish castle and my coronetted stationery marked “Katharine, Duchess of Tintagel,” and decide not to come home. 
  5. And finally – ancient Rome.  I write about ancient Rome, so it should be no surprise I'd like to go there.  Specifically, I'd like to visit the Year of the Four Emperors, which provides the setting for my most recent book Daughters of Rome.  It was a turbulent time, emperors falling to the side like ninepins as one usurper after another went after each other with private armies – but it certainly wasn't dull.  And I'll risk all the danger just to see if I got it right in my book.  Was Emperor Galba really such a sour old crank as I ended up depicting him?  Was Emperor Otho really such a metrosexual-party-boy-opposite to his predecessor?  Was Emperor Vitellius really a bulimic over-eater who used a vomitorium in between dinner courses?  Was Emperor Vespasian's son really a psychotic little creep?  Daughters of Rome contains all my best guesses on those questions.  But I'll never know for sure, unless Toys R' Us starts selling time machines. 

How about you, readers – what's the historical era that makes you wish for a time machine? 

Author Bio:
Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching I, Claudius at the age of seven. Still in elementary school when she saw the movie Spartacus, she resolved to someday write a book about a gladiator. That ambition turned into Mistress of Rome, written when she was a freshman in college.

“I was alone in a brand-new city – I knew no one and nothing about Boston, so I escaped into ancient Rome instead. I didn’t even have a computer, but I didn’t let that stop me.” Mistress of Rome was completed in four months, written in six-hour stretches in the Boston University basement computer lab while listening to the Gladiator soundtrack on repeat. It has now been translated into multiple languages and has been followed by a prequel, Daughters of Rome.

Kate is currently working on her third novel, set during the reign of Emperor Trajan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband live in California, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox. 

Mistress of Rome Synopsis:

A.D. 69. Nero is dead. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything—especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome…

Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more withdrawn, content to witness history rather than make it. Even so, Marcella has her share of distinguished suitors, from a cutthroat contender for the throne to a politician’s son who swears that someday he will be Emperor.

But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, Cornelia and Marcella—along with their cousins, one a collector of husbands and lovers, the other a horse-mad beauty with no interest in romance—must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor…and one Empress.

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