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The latest game for authors in the blogosphere is to tag each other for The Next Big Thing. Once tagged, an author answers a few questions, then tags other writers, with their permission.

Maria Grace, who writes Regency era fiction, tagged me. If Grace’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she recently did a guest post on laundry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

What is the working title of your book?

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

As I researched my first book, The Cross and the Dragon, I found mentions of the bitter Frankish-Saxon wars that took place, on and off, for decades. I could only touch on it in The Cross and the Dragon and wanted to explore it further. Originally, my Saxon characters, a peasant family sold into slavery, were going to be secondary, and the novel would focus on two nuns, Elisabeth and Illuna.

I couldn’t make it work with Elisabeth and Illuna, unless I had something really bad happen to them, and I didn’t want to do that. They’re very nice nuns. In the meantime, the Saxons were saying, “Tell our story,” and I gave in.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Like Grace, I have a hard time envisioning specific actors for a movie. Perhaps it’s because I’m at my computer for hours on end, mentally centuries and an ocean away, that I don’t keep up with Hollywood.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Only one sentence? I’m still refining this, but here goes. After losing her faith, her home, her husband, and even her freedom in Charlemagne’s 772 war in Saxony, all Acha has left are her children, and she will do whatever it takes to protect them and seek justice against the kin who betrayed them.

OK, it’s a compound, complex sentence, but still only one sentence.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My first priority is to polish the manuscript. Some of the issues my editor pointed out in The Cross and the Dragon exist in this one, and I need to research some details like whether playing dice was a common past-time. I’m also considering changing my heroine’s name, since it is similar to Alda, the protagonist of The Cross and the Dragon.

I’ve not yet decided on a path to publication, but I am leaning toward the small press route. Querying agents is as fun as a root canal, and I’ve not had the pressure of “This had better do well in the first two weeks or else” that Big 6 authors experience. I am happy with how The Cross and the Dragon turned out. I had much more control than I thought possible. My editor’s suggestions improved the story, the cover is beautiful, and people who’ve seen the print edition like the quality.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This is difficult for me to calculate. I spent a few months on the version with Elisabeth and Illuna as main characters and threw it away. I’m guessing it was a year after that, but that is only the first draft, which was shoddy, as all my first drafts are. I do many drafts before submission.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This book is unusual in that it gives a voice to pagan medieval peasants. Usually historical fiction, especially set in the Middle Ages, have royalty and aristocrats, people whose names get written down. However, readers who like Mary Stewart or Gillian Bradshaw might also like The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar—and The Cross and the Dragon, for that matter.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to give a voice to history’s losers. The Saxons ultimately lost the wars and lost their religion.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I didn’t have room for this in the one-sentence summary, but it is essential to the story. Allow me to introduce Hugh, a young Frankish solider who slays Acha’s husband, Derwin, in battle. He befriends the Saxon family, especially daughter Sunhilde. They don’t know he killed Derwin, and Hugh doesn’t know the name of the Saxon who died.

Hugh saves Acha’s son from a fanatical Christian and offers to be the champion for Sunhilde, who sees Hugh as a love interest. So the family’s greatest dilemma becomes what to do when they find out Hugh is Derwin’s killer.

If you would like to learn more about Ashes, visit my website for drafts of an excerpt and the first chapter.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Maria Grace—author Regency era fiction, including the Given Good Principles series, prequels to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Caulfield Felt—author of Syncopation: A Memoir of Adèle Hugo and The Stolen Goldin Violin. You might also remember a post she did about Syncopation’s title character.

Jessica Knauss—author of short stories, including the collection Rhinoceros Dreams, and novels Tree/House, Sail to Italy, and Sail from Italy. Jessica also edited The Cross and the Dragon.

Lisa J. Yarde—author of historical novels set in the Middle Ages, including The Burning Candle, On Falcon’s Wings, Sultana, and Sultana’s Legacy.

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