Published by Balzer & Bray
Published on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.
Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.
Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?
When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.
Which do you find the hardest to write, the first or the last line of your novels? Why?
First of all, thanks so much for having me! And I have to say that I LOVE the name of your blog. :)
For me, the hardest is the first line because I want to start the story on the right note and pull the reader in right away. That’s a lot of pressure riding on that first sentence!
Which comes first in your writing process, the title, or the content of you story? (Do you always know what your book’s title is going to be?)
I come up with the content first. When I’m outlining the story and before I start drafting, I usually figure out the title—although the working title of my first two books didn’t stick. Prisoner of Night and Fog, my debut novel, was originally called Night’s Edge. (The title came from a scene in which the main character, Gretchen, feels like she’s trapped on the edge of night, the sliver between darkness and dawn.) As for my second book, I knew I wanted “blood and smoke” in the title but I couldn’t figure out what the first word should be. My editor and her assistant came up with “conspiracy” and as soon as I heard it, I knew that needed to be the title. Traitor Angels is the only one of my books so far that maintained its original title!
Let’s talk character names. How do you go about selecting names for characters in your book? Do the names you pick have any significance to you, or do you ever feel inspired by a name?
Many of my characters were real people, so I’m stuck with their names. As for my fictional characters, though, I like to hide secret messages in their names. For example, the main character in Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is named Gretchen, which means “pearl.” Pearls start off as specks of sand in an oyster and eventually grow into something beautiful and strong. I think that Gretchen’s journey is similar—at the beginning of Prisoner, she’s a brainwashed Nazi and by the end she’s a strong young woman determined to fight for what she believes is right. I named her brother “Reinhard” because it means “fox”—and I wanted to tie this character to Hitler, whose first name, Adolf, means “sacred wolf.” Both animals are predators…just like the characters.
As for Elizabeth and Antonio, the main characters in Traitor Angels, there’s a certain reason why I chose their names—but I can’t reveal what it is or I’ll give away an important clue! You’ll have to read the book to find out the secret behind their names. ;)
What’s in your “Author Survival Kit”? (Pens, Caffeine, iPods, Prozac?)
Oooh, I love this question. A bottle of water, my laptop, a notebook, pens and pencils, and music—lots of music. I have to listen to music when I draft. The playlists I compile for my books are the actual songs I listened to while I was writing them.
Do you have a favorite place to write? Tell us about it!
We recently moved to Richmond, VA, and in our new house I have an office all to myself. It’s wonderful! I love having a dedicated writing space. I have a desk with my laptop, an easy chair, and two bookcases. Posters of my books, including the foreign editions, hang on the walls. Seeing those gives me a boost whenever I come into the room.
What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
Visit Carolina and Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, which is where my paternal ancestors are from. I’ve only been to San Juan, and I’d love to walk the same ground that my ancestors did.
One of the main tenets of Juadism is “tikkun olam,” which means “repair the world.” I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, but somehow I want to make this world a better place before I leave it.
Before I had my daughter, most of the items on my bucket list would have been traveling and doing activities like skydiving or bungee jumping. Now my goal is simpler, but much harder: I want to raise my daughter to be a good person. I can’t imagine anything better than that.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Granny Smith apples! Yum.
What is something you never leave home without?
My purse. My whole life is in that thing.
Do you have a favorite hobby/pastime?
Other than reading, I adore running. I just don’t feel right unless I’ve put in my daily five miles.
Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
I rowed varsity crew in high school and college. Not only is it a great sport where I made lots of friends, but it taught me discipline….and to be comfortable with my figure, because we had to compete in full-body unisuits. And yes, I have the pictures to prove it, and no, I’m not going to share them with you. ;)
This or That?
Sunrise or Sunset?
Sunrise! Five mornings a week, I’m up before dawn to run, and I love seeing the moon and stars fade.
Coffee or Tea?
Tea. I used to live in England, so really, could I say anything else? J
Hot or Cold?
Hot…which might explain why I grew up in New York but moved to Virginia.
PC or Mac?
By Land, or by sea?
Sea. There’s nothing like sitting on the beach listening to the waves .
Half-empty or Half-full?
Autumn or Spring?
Spring. I love the sense of the world waking up after the winter.
Summer or Winter?
E-book or Print Book? (Preferred reading)
I love e-books when I’m traveling, but I prefer a physical book the rest of the time. You just can’t cuddle in bed with a screen—or at least, I can’t.
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4/29: No BS Book Reviews – Q&A
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