Monday 22 July 2019

The King’s Furies Blog Tour

Today on the blog I have the great pleasure to welcome author Stephanie Churchill. Stephanie has been a long-time fan of the Bernicia Chronicles and it is always a joy to read her review of each book. Her reviews are long, thoughtful and insightful in ways that make me wonder if she doesn't know more about my books and characters than I do myself!

Like me, Stephanie is also writing a series of novels (Crowns of Destiny), which started back in 2015 with The Scribe's Daughter.

Stephanie’s writing draws on her knowledge of history even while set in purely fictional places existing only in her imagination. Filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal, her writing relies on deeply drawn and complex characters, exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world. Her unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy ensures that her books are sure to please fans of historical fiction and epic fantasy literature alike.

The Scribe's Daughter was followed by The King's Daughter.

The third novel in the series, The King's Furies, is out on 30th July.

MH: Welcome to my blog, Stephanie. Before we start the interview, something to drink?

SC: I’d love a nice craft beer, thanks. What do you have on tap?

MH: I don't have any craft beer on tap, but how about a pint of Wadworth Game of Stones? It is brewed just down the road in Devizes and I think you'll approve.

SC: Thanks, that sounds great. And thanks for letting me stop by for a chat finally. Looks like all that harassment has finally paid off.

MH: Well, it was either give in or face a legal battle, but I decided this was easier. But before you get all smug about it, can we talk about genre for a minute? You and I have talked about this a few times in the past, but I know you like to be clear for readers on the topic of the genre of your books. They are categorized as fantasy, but they are lacking in magic, creatures, and other fantastical elements.

SC: Yeah, thanks for bringing this up. It’s as good a place to start as any.

I love history. Always have. I know a lot of historical fiction authors, and I read a lot in the genre. For people who know this about me, it’s very common for them to ask me why I didn’t just write historical fiction since it seems the most obvious choice. The answer I’ve given most often is that, quite honestly, I am scared off by the research. I know what it would take to do the kind of quality research I’d demand of myself, and I don’t feel like I want to commit to it.

But as I’ve thought more deeply about what motives me to write, I’ve discovered another reason. As much as I love history, the history itself isn’t what draws me to writing; it’s the storytelling. Story moves me more than the history, and I think I knew this intuitively when I started off. I wanted to be free to tell a story any way that worked without being constrained by facts. I read a lot of historical fiction (and much less sword and sorcery fantasy), so a historical-feeling setting became the narrative device that felt most comfortable to me.

Sorry to be so long-winded about it. It’s just a good question.

MH: So historical-feeling. Got it. Let’s talk about your world a bit since there isn’t any real history in your books. What were your influences for the setting?

SC: I’m most comfortable with medieval history and culture, so that was definitely the period I drew upon to create most of the world for my characters (medieval with a smattering of early Tudor). A couple of locations in the books, Elbra and Pania, have some Eastern European influences in language and social ranks of aristocracy as well as some vaguely Mediterranean settings. I created an entire people group in The King’s Furies based on Ethiopian culture. Generally speaking, the worlds will feel familiar to people in Britain and North America. I live in Minnesota, USA, and we have brutally cold winters with comfortable but humid summers. Like Britain, it’s temperate, though quite a bit more extreme on either end of the seasons. It’s easy for me to imagine my characters bundled up in furs and cloaks while tromping through the snow just as much as it is to have them bake in the sun.

MH: How about historical influences on plot and characters?

SC: Historical events and individuals definitely inspired some of the characters and events in my books. Nothing original here, but I’ve always been interested in the Wars of the Roses and the idea of York vs. Lancaster. I know that history has inspired a lot of books, and I can’t say I’m much different. I also can’t help but admit that many of the historical novels written by Sharon Penman have influenced me: the historical events, her characters, her descriptions, and settings, etc.

MH: You’ve made it no secret that you love Beobrand. Are there any similarities between him and any of your characters so that my own readers might find him or her familiar?

SC: Yes, I might love Beobrand. But that’s supposed to be a secret. Can’t we just keep that between the two of us? So… Beobrand tends to brood a bit. He’s dark and moody and broody and conflicted. Just like the main character in my new release, Casmir Vitus, King of Agrius. Like Beobrand, leadership rests uncomfortably on Casmir’s head. He never wanted to be king, but the job is his, and he has to make the best of it. Unlike Beobrand, Casmir was raised to the role forced upon him though, so he performs the task admirably when he remembers he’s not meant to do the job alone. It’s when he acts out of a spirit of entitlement typical of kings (contrasting to Beobrand’s more plebeian upbringing) that he lapses into his imperious and haughty tendencies. Nothing extreme, but readers will sense it. I used this part of his character to explore the dark places of his soul as the events in the book push Casmir to the limits of his strength and test his character.

MH: I’m guessing Casmir doesn’t wield a sword and smite his enemies in the same way Beobrand gets to?

SC: Casmir lives in a peaceful time. Or at least peaceful in the sense that there is no warfare. Agrius has been at peace since his father took the throne. Well, all is peaceful on the surface anyway. Even if Agrius had been at war, kings in his time don’t actually get to fight. So no, he doesn’t get a chance to show off his combat skills except at the pell. His book has more relational tension and political intrigue rather than violence. Courtiers can be very deceitful, so the palace is more viper pit than a gladiatorial arena.

MH: Before I let you finish your [craft beer brand], can you give us a little snippet from The King’s Furies?

SC: Certainly! Here’s a short scene that demonstrates part of the beginning of Casmir’s inner conflict. From the King’s Furies, chapter 53:

It took a moment for me to realize it was the scriptstóri who had spoken. I swung around, taking a menacing step toward him. “What did you say?”
The young man backed up, nearly colliding with the wall at his back. “A-Anton Mathiasen... Your Grace.”
“Irisa, who is this?” I asked, not breaking my visual hold on the scriptstóri.
“This is Annor, the one I told you about. He has been helping me in the evenings while you were away.”
“How do you know that name?” I asked Annor.
Irisa must have sensed my rising fury and reached out a hand for my sleeve. A pallor of sickness washed over the young scriptstóri, and he cast terrified eyes on Irisa. Rather than step in to help him, Irisa stood resolute, waiting for his answer.
“I... I overheard it.”
I pounced like a cat on a mouse. “Where? Where did you overhear the name?”
“In the Bibliotheca.” Annor struggled to find air, grimacing as he sought the words while fighting off his terror. He fumbled with his hands, his fingernails digging into his palms in his anxiety. He could not bring himself to look me straight-on.
“Where in the Bibliotheca? Is it conspiring scriptstórii again?” Annor blanched once more as I grasped a handful of his robe in my fist and twisted, pressing my face so close to his that he had to turn to the side to avoid having his nose crushed. “Who has betrayed me?”

SC: Thanks again for letting me stop by. Now that we’re done here, I’m going to go play with Blue. He’s the real reason I wanted to come visit.

Blue says Hi!
Next on her blog tour, Stephanie is chatting with the fantastic Sharon Kay Penman. Don't miss that!

You can find Stephanie's books on Amazon.

Purchase The Scribe’s Daughter:
Purchase The King’s Daughter:
Pre-order The King’s Furies:

Find out more about Stephanie:

Stephanie’s website:

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