Last year I had the absolute pleasure of reading Kate Quinn's debuet novel, Mistress of Rome (my review), and hosting her on my blog (my interview with Kate). All year I have been eagerly awaiting her next novel, and now, the time has finally come! With her latest novel, Daughters of Rome, released last week, Kate is touring the blogosphere and I am thrilled to have her here today! And now, I give you the very talented author, Kate Quinn:
So Which One Are You?
Even if you write fiction, people tend to assume your work is autobiographical. Meeting an author they like for the first time, the handshake is accompanied by a certain penetrating glance, the stare that says, “Which character in your book is YOU?”
For my first book Mistress of Rome, that question was fairly easy. My heroine was introspective (so am I), had a beautiful singing voice (I trained as an opera singer), and was prone to sarcastic inward comments about the people she met (no comment). She definitely had a splash of me in her, unlike my villainess who was such a monumental psychopathic b*tch that I dearly hope we have nothing in common. (My husband jokes that it makes him nervous I had it in me to invent her at all.)
Now that my second book Daughters of Rome has been released, I foresee this question of “Which character is you?” coming up a bit more often. Daughters of Rome has four girls as central characters, all very different – so which one of them is me?
All of them.
Cornelia is perhaps the central heroine: responsible, serene, a lovable prig, a traditional Roman wife who yearns to be a mother. Nothing like me. But she has my never-ending flow of small talk – I can spin a conversation about the weather out to infinity when those awkward silences start to fall during Thanksgiving dinner, and so can Cornelia. She also has my freckled snub nose, and it's a great dismay to her just as it is to me. It's very difficult to look dignified when you have a freckled snub nose.
Marcella is Cornelia's sister, and she's got even more of me in her: an antisocial booklover who would rather be writing up in her study than partying any day of the week. Marcella was not a stretch for me to write. And we share something else besides a passion for scribbling – an hourglass figure, which is a great inconvenience to a smart girl. It's hard to be taken seriously as a brain when you're over a C-cup. “Contrary to popular opinion, breasts do not preclude a brain,” Marcella tartly informs a man in Daughters of Rome who is surprised to find she has actual ideas. I remember telling a boy in high school the same thing.
Lollia is a cousin to my first two heroines, and she's my frivolous side – a girl always ready to pour a glass of wine and settle down to some serious giggling and girltalk. My girlfriends will tell you I am a champion listener, and absolutely unshockable. Whether I am on my first martini or my fourth. There's something else I wish I had in common with Lollia, and that's her wardrobe – in Daughters of Rome, Lollia is one of the richest girls in Rome so her clothes are spectacular. Lots of pleated silks and emerald necklaces, sigh. No, I don't have those.
And my last heroine? That's Diana, another cousin to the first three, and she is me at ten years old: absolutely and completely horse-crazy. She's a beauty, and she's got my blond highlights which unlike mine don't require monthly trips to the salon, but all this Roman girl cares about is chariot races and the horses that star in them. I was the little girl who thought boys had cooties and wanted to marry Man O'War, so Diana was a trip down memory lane for me. And she's a die-hard fan of the Reds faction chariot racing team, just as I am a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox. Any baseball aficionado who reads Daughters of Rome will notice that Diana's hated rival team is the Blues faction chariot team, whose handsome charioteer is named Derricus and wears a striped blue tunic. I'm not saying that the Blues are the navy-blue pin-striped New York Yankees and Derricus is Derek Jeter . . . actually, I am saying that. Yankees, die now. Diana, who is also my inner sports fan, is yelling “YANKEES SUCK” all the way from first century Rome.
So that's my four heroines. I didn't deliberately set out to make them all into some version of me, but somehow it happened anyway. Of course, there are plenty of ways they aren't like me, but I wish they were – wish fulfillment being a key ingredient when writing your fictional heroes. All authors live vicariously through our characters, who stay slim without ever going on a diet and have perfect love lives and otherwise get to do all the things we wish we could. Don't tell me Tom Clancy doesn't yearn to be a Special Forces badass after all his Jack Ryan novels, or that Diana Gabaldon doesn't wish she could time travel through various centuries on the arm of a hunky red-haired Highlander. I envy all my heroines in one way or another. I dearly wish I could be tall like Marcella – so much easier to look imposing at five-ten than five-one. I want Diana's naturally white-blond hair, and I wouldn't mind having her quartet of lightning-fast chestnut stallions either. I want Cornelia's unflinching gravitas, and I really want Lollia's jewelry. And I wouldn't mind being Empress of Rome either, just like - Well, I won't tell you which one. I hope you'll read and find out.
Svea, thanks for having me again this year! It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you, Kate, for honoring Muse in the Fog with you presence, as always, it has been a delightful experience!
The intrigue doesn't end here... my review and a lovely giveaway will be coming later this week!