I am pleased to welcome Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills, back to Peeking Between the Pages. Kate has guest blogged here several times and I have reviewed her first book Mistress of Rome and I loved it (my review) and Daughters of Rome is waiting for me. I am reading Empress of the Seven Hills right now and it is fantastic – exactly what I expect from Kate – be sure to check back for my review on Sunday. I always love to be taken back in time to Ancient Rome through her wonderful stories. Today Kate joins us to talk about “A Day In The Life Of A Writer”…
If there’s any TV show I get a kick out of, it’s “Castle” starring Nathan Fillion. He plays a bestselling crime novelist, and frankly, Hollywood’s idea of a writer’s daily schedule cracks me up every time. Nathan Fillion spends all his time running around solving crimes, attending red-carpet premieres of the movies made from his books, and playing poker with James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, and all his other New York Times bestseller buddies. Very rarely is he ever seen writing – just staring pensively at his laptop screen right before the murderer bursts in with a gun.
There’s a reason why Hollywood doesn’t put out realistic movies about writers: our lives aren’t that cinematic. Shots of people typing and muttering at a computer screen wouldn’t hold an audience for eight minutes, much less the eight hours a novelist might actually work over the course of a day. Which is not to say a writer’s life is boring – on the contrary, I find it fascinating. But cinematic it ain’t. Here’s a typical day in my life while I was writing Empress of the Seven Hills, and don’t say I didn’t warn you it’s not “Castle.”
7:36am Lurch out of bed and stumble straight-armed and zombie-like to the kitchen. Mornings chez Quinn are always like Night of the Living Dead. Only instead of “Brains . . . brains . . .” the resounding moan is “Coffee . . . coffee . . .”
8:10am Page through emails, feeling marginally more human. An offer for low-price Viagra, an urgent request from my publisher that we talk titles today, an invitation to send a blurb for somebody’s new book on Empress Theodora, a note from the eighteenth reader to point out that the mention of “vomitorium” in my last book is incorrect. Yeah yeah yeah. More coffee.
9:02am The dog wants to be walked. I explain earnestly to the dog that if I don’t knock out 3,000 words today, there will be nobody to keep him in rawhide chewies, gourmet dog food, and those squeaker toys he can de-squeak within eight minutes of removing the $16.99 price tag. The dog remains unimpressed. Throw on shoes, take dog for walk.
9:31am An email from my publisher waits for me when I get back. My proposed title Sons of Rome sounds too masculine and bloody for my target female readership, and anyway isn’t this “of Rome” thing getting old? I promise to brainstorm; settle down to work instead. 3,000 words, 3,000 words. I am not moving till I have 3,000 words.
9:44am Spend an hour reviewing and polishing what I wrote yesterday. Doesn’t suck too bad. Chapter starts draggy, though. Re-write until smooth.
10:53am My hero arrives at his legion. Did junior officers have their own quarters in Roman legions? Rifle my faithful copy of The Roman Empire: A to Z, plus my well-thumbed Tacitus. No dice. Hop over to post a question on RomanArmyTalk.com. Ben Kane hangs out there a lot; he’s bound to know if junior officers have their own quarters. Keep going, keep going. 2,067 words left.
11:29am My mother calls from work – my beta reader for the book’s first half. “Don’t shoot me,” she says, “but I think it might work better to take it out of 1st person and put it all into 3rd.” “I don’t want to shoot you,” I groan. “I want to shoot myself.” Pour more coffee, muttering obscenities.
11:32am My agent weighs in with a list of possible titles. Ideally for this process, you hit a bottle of champagne and scribble down anything that comes into your head. Is 11:32 in the morning too early to hit the champagne? So far we’ve got: Empress of Rome, Empress of the Seven Hills, Empress, A Stint In The Legions, Uncaring Gods, Fortuna’s Luck, To Conquer The World, The Tiber Foaming, and They Change The Sky. I weigh in with my standard line at this point: I don’t care what the book is called as long as it sells. I suck at titles.
11:39am My hero and I hit a brick wall. How the hell am I supposed to get him through four years of Parthian Wars until Emperor Trajan dies??? Will anyone notice if I move Trajan’s death up a bit? 1,822 words left . . .
11:43am I take a quick minute to email my husband, currently hunting baddies in the same part of the world where my fictional hero is hunting baddies, only with two thousand years between them. Life imitating art, or art imitating life?
11:53am Late for my kickboxing class. I throw on gloves and pound a heavy bag into oblivion, highly therapeutic when working out writing frustrations. That goddamned Emperor Trajan, he couldn’t have died four years sooner and not given me this plotting headache? Inconsiderate bastard.
1:14pm Come back spent and sweaty to another flurry of title emails. My publisher comes out in favor of Empress. My agent likes Empress of Rome. My publisher’s boss likes Empress of the Seven Hills. My husband weighs in from the Gulf of Oman with The Gladiator’s Girl. NICE TO KNOW YOU’RE ALIVE, I email back, BUT YOU AREN’T BEING HELPFUL. He comes back with When I Was A Boy In Parthia. Nice to know the flying bullets haven’t dented his sense of humor.
3:53pm Two and a half hours dragging my hero through the Parthian Wars. If I kind of cram the campaigns together, crunch everything down with some nifty time-passing narrative . . . yeah, might work . . .
4:01pm Another title suggestion from the Gulf of Oman, this one paying homage to my husband’s nerd roots: The Flux Capacitor Conspiracy. YOU’VE BEEN READING STAR TREK AGAIN, HAVEN’T YOU? I email back.
4:10pm Answer from RomanArmyTalk.com: “Not known if junior legionary officers had their own quarters.” In other words, I’m free to make it up. Excellent.
4:37pm Another flurry of title emails. I suggest How I Spent My Summer Vacation. This is not appreciated. Finally we all settle on Empress of the Seven Hills. Fine by me.
5:11pm Oh crap, I need to do a blog post. Haven’t done one in ten days. My New Year’s resolution “Blog weekly!!” didn’t even make it out of January. Blog topics, blog topics – copyediting? Advice to spouses of writers? Screw it, I’m 500 words from 3,000.
5:42pm 2,998 words. I scroll down to the next page and write “Chapter Nineteen” just so I can meet my quota. 3,000 words, seven hours of work (give or take).
6:01pm Stagger to kitchen to pour large glass of Yellowtail Chardonnay and turn on the Red Sox game. Still don’t have a blog post. Maybe I can get to it tomorrow. If I can finish tomorrow’s 3,000 words a little faster . . .
That, in a nutshell, is my day. Nothing like Nathan Fillion’s on “Castle:” I don’t have people running up to me in the street for autographs, I don’t play poker with Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon on Friday nights, I don’t live in a seven-figure penthouse or go to red-carpet premieres. I type a lot, pretty much all day every day. I tear out a lot of hair. I drink a lot of coffee.
Not too cinematic, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Thanks for the fantastic and funny post Kate! I can certainly relate to the need for coffee and the persistence of a pooch! As always, thanks for your wonderful books! I’ve posted both the US cover and the UK cover. I’m partial to the US cover but I like them both!
About Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn (from Kate’s website)
From the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome comes a tale of love, power, and intrigue spanning the wilds of the Empire to the seven hills of Rome.
Powerful, prosperous, and expanding ever farther into the untamed world, the Roman Empire has reached its zenith under the rule of the beloved Emperor Trajan. But neither Trajan nor his reign can last forever . . .
Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator’s daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Trajan’s ambitious Empress has her own plans for Sabina. And the aristocratic Hadrian — the Empress’s ruthless protégé and Vix’s mortal enemy — has ambitions he confesses to no one, ambitions rooted in a secret prophecy.
When Trajan falls, the hardened soldier, the enigmatic empress, the adventurous girl, and the scheming politician will all be caught in a deadly whirlwind of desire and death that may seal their fates, and that of the entire Roman Empire . . .
About Kate Quinn (from Kate’s website)
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. She wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome, and it was later published as “Mistress of Rome.” A prequel followed, titled “Daughters of Rome,” and then a sequel written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East.
“I realized that my Roman legionary hero in `Empress of the Seven Hills’ was fighting in the same part of the world where my US Navy husband was deployed. Life imitating art, or art imitating life? I have no idea!”
Kate is currently working on her fourth novel, set in the Italian Renaissance. 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 now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.
I have one copy of Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn to share with my readers. To enter…
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This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, April 28/12. Good luck everyone! And don’t forget to check back for my review this Sunday!