Hi guys! Today I have Aussie author extraordinaire Karen Miller stopping by for an interview!! We’re celebrating the release of The Falcon Throne, the first book in her new series called The Tarnished Crown. My review of The Falcon Throne went up earlier this week. You can read it here.
Karen is one of my auto-buy authors, and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her. I was (and still am) excited to get an advanced copy of the book for review, and then to be asked to interview her! Before we get to the interview, however, here’s a little about the book:The Falcon Throne (The Tarnished Crown #1) by Karen Miller
Published: August 26th 2014 by Orbit Books
Format: ARC, 528 pages
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When kingdoms clash, every crown will be tarnished by the bloody price of ambition. In a divided kingdom, some will do anything to seize the crown.
A BASTARD LORD, rising up against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for.
A ROYAL CHILD, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father's stolen throne.
A DUKE'S WIDOW, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who would control them both.
AND TWO BROTHERS, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery.
All of this will come to pass, and nothing will remain as it once was. Royal houses will fall, empires will be reborn,and those who seek the Falcon Throne will pay for it in blood.
Hi Karen, welcome to Speculating on SpecFic! Congratulations on the publication of The Falcon Throne, the first novel in The Tarnished Crown series.
Thanks so much for having me!
1. I love the story-world of The Falcon Throne! All the dukes and lords, ladies and princesses, with their complicated alliances and motives. Is this series inspired by a particular event in our history, or is it more generally inspired by human behaviour, past and present?
Thank you! The book, and indeed the entire series, is inspired by the history of medieval Europe, from around 900 to the early 1500s. Those six centuries were astonishingly tumultuous, and there were so many extraordinary men and women who lived then — both great and terrible. Their real lives and times provide endless inspiration for epic historical fantasy. What never ceases to amaze me is how people just don’t change! Fashions change, technology advances, but people? Not so much. All the primal emotions can be found in the history of our world. It’s fabulous!
2. What kinds of research did you do for this novel? Was there any travel involved?
Travel is a big part of the research process for me. I’ve done a castle crawl in England, a river cruise from Vienna to Amsterdam (which involved many many medieval towns, a lot of them in Germany, and my favourite castle ever so far in Cesky Krumlov, a Heritage listed town in what was known as Bohemia) and a flying trip through Italy, where I fell desperately in love with Venice and the Duomo in Sienna and a great many very old doors. There is also an enormous amount of reading (and I haven’t scratched the surface!) as well as hours of watching history dvds, which are crucial in helping me to ‘see’ the past. Shortly I head back to the UK for a closer look at Canterbury and Winchester, and some time in France exploring a few key castles there.
3. What’s your writing process like? Do you plan as much as you can before you begin, or start somewhere and let the story go where it wants?
This series, The Tarnished Crown, is so staggeringly complicated I have no choice but to get far more disciplined with my planning/outlining process. Whenever I write I need to know where the story starts, where it ends, and what the emotional high points are as we travel from beginning to end — but now I’m doing things I’ve never done before. Moving on to book 2, I’m plotting the story scene by scene, laying it out on index cards so I don’t lose track. I’ve got a range of family trees pinned to the wall, detailing the various familial relationships, who married whom, whether they married in-country or chose a foreign husband/bride, and then working out what that means for the political situation. I keep a master list of potential character names, and a running count of the names used, the ages of each character at each stage of the narrative — it’s like a whole separate job just keeping everything straight! Basically it was writing The Falcon Throne that showed me I needed to be this organised, or I’d lose what’s left of my mind. Which some days doesn’t feel like much.
4. What comes first, the characters or the world they live in?
Absolutely for me, always, the characters. For me, if I don’t care about the people I couldn’t care less where they live. But of course, character, plot and world are inextricably entwined. Where we live, when we live, how we live, all these elements shape us as human beings and put us on a particular path. Who we are as human beings determines the ways in which we’ll impact the world we inhabit. So it does become a kind of fusion, but in the beginning, when I start thinking about a story? It’s the people I think about first of all.
5. Your characters, regardless of gender, always have agency and a strong narrative purpose. Do you have any advice for authors on writing characters of the opposite sex?
Again, thank you! For me, writing male characters is kind of like writing any character who isn’t me. There’s no such thing as the definitive female character, because women are individuals first. The same goes for men, or little green aliens from Alpha Centauri for that matter. Everyone who isn’t ‘me’ is by definition ‘the other.’ So I think it’s important that, as writers, we work hard to put ourselves into our characters’ skins, never forgetting that they are not us. Having said that, when it comes to thinking about my male characters, thinking about what it means to live as a man in the world, I ask men I know what it’s like to be them. I read books written by men about men, and male fitness magazines, and blogs written by men. I pay special attention to tv dramas written by men, about men, so I can hopefully get a handle on how some men experience the world and express those experiences. Men and women don’t often speak the same language, even though they feel the same emotions. And I always make sure I get some men to read my early drafts, so they can tell me if I’ve fallen into the trap of feminising my male characters. It happens, and I hate it, so I work hard not to make that mistake. If readers of this interview are male, and emerging authors, I encourage them to do the same. Pretend you’re an actor faced with playing a female part. Change your filters. Notice how women live in the world, listen to them, read women’s fiction and non-fiction and blogs and magazines. It’s a fabulous experience.
Rapid Fire Round:
1. Nutella or Vegemite? Nutella
2. What are you currently reading? A new biography of Joss Whedon, by Amy Pascale.
3. What is the most unique or unusual thing on your desk right now? My cat, Editor Barney.
Thank you very much for making the time to answer these questions 🙂 My pleasure!