4 bestselling authors and I talk C.S. Pacat’s ‘Captive Prince’ series

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As most of you know, I recently fell in love with the Captive Prince trilogy written by the amazing C.S. Pacat. It’s a high fantasy adventure, both sweeping and intimate, with two princes at its center—two rivals—who battle their intensifying feelings for each other while also battling cunning enemies to reclaim their thrones. This is the ultimate enemies-to-lovers story emblazoned by vivid world building, unraveled by flawless pacing.

Once I finished the books, I couldn’t stop talking about them and thankfully I had a group of willing friends to gush with, including some other incredible authors like the ones I’m featuring today. Lo of Christina Lauren and I messaged pretty much daily as I devoured the books, pouring over scenes as we traded expletives and quotes and OMGs. Before long, we decided to bring in some more friends to talk about Laurent and Damen too, and this informal but super fun interview pretty much wrote itself. Here’s who I called…

Interview

For those who have not yet read the series, please be careful with what you read below.
Read the question and make decisions on what you are okay with knowing.

First question. VERY IMPORTANT! Damen or Laurent? Obviously BOTH (because who can truly choose between a noble, dark-haired warrior and a beautiful, enigmatic and brilliant golden prince?) But if you really really really had to choose or someone like Jord would die, who would you choose and why?

Sara: Laurent. Totally. But in like a I-just-want-to-follow-him-around-and-be-his-groupie way, because I know he’d have zero interest in me. And that’s fine. I just want to bask in his maliciousness.

Vilma: LAURENT. I love his quiet intelligence and depth. I love that he’s cunning, but so vulnerable too. So yeah… I’m so with you, Sara. We can buy matching cuffs. Is that a thing? Because it should be.

Lo: Laurent is seriously my OG. At first, I thought I would be a Damen girl forever, but there was something about Laurent that was so . . . meticulous, and brilliant (hello, Cat’s brain). The truth is that I love them as characters more together, though, and that is a real triumph by an author, when you love who they most when they are interacting with each other.

Victoria: Aghhh okay, Laurent. So much of what I love in Laurent comes through when he’s with Damen, but at the end of the day, Laurent is just such an incredible–and incredibly nuanced–character. I want to put him in a comfy chair and give him tea.

Sarah: So, I’m totally in the minority here, but… DAMEN. Agh. I literally can’t even talk about him without breaking into the goofiest/creepiest grin. Obviously, I love them both, and Laurent managed to break my heart about 2000 times, but…if I had a type, it’d 100% be Damen (aka my sweet, noble warrior-prince).

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What was it about these books that made them so special? (pre-answers: EVERYTHING)

Sara: The moment I first knew these books had utterly hooked me was right after a certain monumental twist at the end of Prince’s Gambit. It literally made me bolt upright, going “No no no NO” while my husband just kind of stared at me. For a book to take me so completely by surprise in such a perfect, well-executed way . . . suffice to say, I will follow CS Pacat into the dark.

Lo: The scene that hooked me, and made it impossible for me to put CP down was when Laurent brilliantly works Torveld at the dinner. I thought–This character is the real magic here. She is setting us up to be devastatingly devoted to him. Beyond that, I think what really slayed it for me wasn’t only the prose, but the pacing, and the motherf*cking patience Cat displayed in telling this story the exact way it needed to be told, beginning at page 1. To be that patient as an author is stunning. It’s why I’ve proposed several times. I’m waiting on her answer.

Vilma: I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been moved enough to write her a love letter!!! o_O But yes, everything about these books is magic. The characters are so incredibly well developed, their arcs so meticulously planned. I was just in awe of how well plotted and executed the whole series was.

Victoria: I first fell in love with the world-building C.S. so expertly crafted, specifically the idea of a society in which same-sex relations were the accepted norm. It created, in my opinion, a perfect framework in which to explore the power dynamic, tension, and relationship between Damen and Laurent without the more tried taboo angle. From there, I fell in love with the writing, the characters, the story, pretty much every aspect. But I kept coming back to that framework she created, and the freedom it gave her, and her readers to explore such a complicated relationship without the constant “other”ing so often present in same-sex stories.

Sarah: Totally agree with Victoria–I knew this was going to be a special, unforgettable series as soon as I realized what a unique and vivid society/world Cat was building. But more than that, Cat’s deft writing was what really dazzled me. There’s such restraint (and patience, as Lo said) in her prose, and I was so, so wowed  by the richness Cat managed to convey in so few words. I found myself taking mental notes throughout about not just how she was able to set up a world with minimal description & fuss, but also how much character-building she was able to deftly establish in so few words. There’s so much implied backstory and motivation behind every word of dialogue and action, and there were times when I just marveled at what Cat was able to do in the span of a few lines (especially when it came to building Laurent’s past).

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What was your favorite scene? Because I know I experienced so many moments which made me want to drop the book in a state of “I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO PROCESS THE BRILLIANCE OF THIS SCENE.”

Sara: Chapter 19 of Prince’s Gambit. But not just because, um, SEX (though that is a large part of it . . .) — Pacat seamlessly wove Laurent’s history into that scene without ever outright mentioning it, and every word and action from Damen was exactly what Laurent needed without Damen even knowing why. It was the culmination of 1.5 books of build up, and it SO delivered.

Vilma: Goddddd Chapter 19. Of course. But I love all their intimate moments that seemed so loaded with emotion… when it’s just a look, or when they giggle together. I also love that fighting scene.

Lo: I can’t. Like, I actually canNOT pick one. I agree that Chapter 19 is breathtaking, and I’ve read it (and the bonus extra chapter 19 scene) a shameless number of times. But I might have to put forward all of PG, then, because I feel like the transition of these two characters as they trained Laurent’s men and traveled together, and how they got to know and trust each other was outright stunning. If pressed to choose, think I might have to call out (and because they’re all blended into one story for me, I can’t recall if this was in CP or PG) the moment when Laurent tells Damen that Jokaste chose his brother because Kastor was the weaker man, not stronger, and she could control Kastor in a way she couldn’t control Damen. I felt like that was one of the first moments of vulnerability between them and I ate it up like cake.

Victoria: I mean, obviously Chapter 19. But I adore the scene where Laurent’s drink has been poisoned and he’s fighting for control, and then, Damen and Laurent in the tavern where Laurent is playing the part of pet, eating from Damen’s fingers. I just…*swoon*

Sarah: Obviously, Chapter 19 (and the delightful, lovely bonus scene). But I seriously lost my freaking mind when the Patran troops arrive on the battlefield in Chapter 15 of Prince’s Gambit, and Laurent’s plans unfold with such epic brilliance. It was this unforgettable moment of going from utter despair/terror into something SO badass and triumphant (it actually reminded me of one of my favorite moments in Return of the King, when Rohan finally arrives to save Gondor). And the image of everyone turning to gape at the Patran army except for Laurent, who then makes one of the most epic speeches/FUs to Lord Touars… Ugh. I had full body chills, then had to reread the scene like 20 times before I could move on.

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Let’s take a break and just recall this part…

“I miss you, too,” he said. “I’m jealous of Isander.”

“Isander’s a slave.”

“I was a slave.”

The moment ached. Laurent met his gaze, his eyes too clear.

“You were never a slave, Damianos. You were born to rule, as I was.”

Lo: Literally me

Mountain View

Sarah: I will never be over this moment. NEVER.

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What do you think made two seemingly opposites like Laurent and Damen so perfect for each other?

Sara: The fact that they ARE opposites! It was such an amazing parallel — to have Damen taking care of Laurent in Prince’s Gambit, giving him what he needed (keeping the guards away from him, making sure he had space, etc) and then showing Laurent doing exactly the same thing for Damen in Kings Rising. They both have this delicious ability to anticipate the other’s needs, which probably comes from a place of being so opposite — they’ve spent an ample amount of time studying each other for just that reason, so they “get” it.

Lo: Agree with Sara. Damen is skill and brute strength, Laurent is a brilliant mastermind. But, at the same time, Damen is incredibly observant and aware of Laurent’s vulnerabilities, and Laurent has worked his ass off to be ready to face Damianos when the time came, so they meet each other as equals, and grow together as complementary parts of a whole. I think what works for them, as a romantic read (and yes, this series is so far beyond just the relationship) is when they give in to it, they give in. Damen is there–at least outwardly–before Laurent is, but when Laurent gives in, he’s done for. And it’s so, so beautiful to watch.

Victoria: Ah the tension of opposites. Brute strength versus inner strength. Brashness versus cunning. Outward passion versus carefully restrained desire. As Lo says, it’s just perfect to watch them break through each other’s walls, and find common ground. Or, really, for Damen to lure Laurent to his.

Sarah: I think all of you pretty much covered it. I think Damen’s nobility & honesty (in regard to most things, at least!) is also what makes Laurent unable to keep away. Laurent has grown up in a pit of vipers, not daring to trust anyone–Damen’s honesty, his simple goodness was like a ray of sunshine. On the other hand, Damen’s downfall was ultimately brought about because too trusting of those around them–to the point of blindness. So, the way they balance each other out in that regard, the way learn from each other’s own particular style of operating and seeing the world, was one of the loveliest things about their relationship. I also adored that even after all Kastor did to him, even after all Laurent revealed to Damen about court scheming, he still gives his half-brother another chance. That unbreakable goodness and trust is 100% what made me fall in love with Damen (and part of why Laurent eventually can’t resist, either).

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If Damen realized he had fallen for Laurent in the rooftop chase, when do YOU think that Laurent realized he was in love with Damen? (C.S. Pacat won’t give up the scene, but she does have one in mind!)

Sara: That was SO MEAN of her not to give that away!! Oh god. I can’t even begin to pretend to understand Laurent’s mind, but I don’t think there was one moment where Laurent can point to and say “There.” It was probably just a culmination of a lot of little moments, all those things adding up until one day Laurent looked at Damen and went “Oh shit.”

Lo: I think with Laurent it was a slow build, where his initial fury and disgust were replaced by surprise, and curiosity, and then respect. I think the respect surprised Laurent the most–and I think that happened toward the end of CP, when Damen saved Laurent, and then didn’t take advantage of him afterward. But I think what was begrudging admiration and attraction to Damen turned into love for Laurent in Chapter 14 of PG, when Damen tells him that even if Damen had been a pet, and Laurent had gifted him out of his contract, he would still be here to see the border dispute through to the end. And Laurent questions why, not understanding, saying he knows how much Damen doesn’t like this, how much he hates feeling powerless, and how much he wanted to punch someone the day before. And then Damen reaches up and touches Laurent’s face, saying, “The man who did this to you.” Laurent’s shock is plain. Damen quickly apologizes. He turns to leave and Laurent stops him, and confides him him and says Damen reminds him of his brother – and to me, that was huge. I think that was the moment that Laurent felt more than curiosity, and respect, and admiration. I think that was when he felt the confusing twist of love, honestly, though he might not have been able to name it at that moment. Ugh, someone shut me up. I can’t stop.

Victoria: I have such a hard time imagining it was one scene, just because he seems like the kind to resist and resist, being slowly worn down by his own desires until he faces them. I think every time Damen has the chance to run, and chooses to come back, it wore Laurent’s resolve to hate him.

Sarah: Oh, man. It’s so hard for me to pinpoint one moment, since (as these ladies have said), Laurent’s slowly shifting feelings were the product of so many little incidents, and Laurent fought that admission of love (and his desire) until he literally couldn’t anymore. Chapter 19 of PG was a physical and emotional culmination in so many ways, but… I’m basically dying for Cat to tell us when Laurent knew for sure! (PLEASE HAVE MERCY ON US, CAT.)

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Do you have a favorite supporting character?

Sara: Nikandros. Bro.

Vilma: And Jord! 

Lo: Jord. I loved Jord. But I have to admit, I also loved Jokaste! What a sassy bitch. She and cast-iron-bitch Laurent could be the Statler and Waldorf of the shared kingdom (#MuppetReferenceFTW)

Victoria: Jord all the way.

Sarah: Jokaste. She was a scene-stealer for me in KR. And I totally want to write Jokaste/Damen AU fanfic about that the other life/world she mentions in her letter. (I put the book down and WEPT at that part.) Her role in KR took that book to a special, special level.

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If we could magically convince C.S. Pacat to write an epilogue, what would you want to see?

Sara: Um, I’m SO hoping that short story she’s writing IS an epilogue! I would go into a full on fangirl fit if it was some kind of Daddy Damen/Papa Laurent scene. I want them to get a kid so baaaaaaaad.

Vilma: I just want to see them be badass, happy kings together… SO MUCH TOGETHERNESS! And they should totally have a kid Sara, yes, because they need heirs.

Lo: I’m sorry, I am a pig and I need to see Laurent on top. It was hinted at in KR, when they talked about it, and let me be clear: I AM HERE FOR IT.

Victoria: CONCUR WITH LO. Um, also with Sara. And Vilma. Basically just give me more.

Sarah: ALL OF THE ABOVE. Especially seeing them as parents. MY HEAAART.

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For the poor souls that have yet to read these amazing books, describe the series in three words.

Sara: Three words?? THREE? — I thought about just leaving that as my answer, ha, but that feels like cheating, so: “Slow burn yumminess.”

Vilma: Brilliant. Epic. Tension.

Lo: Perfectly paced brilliance.

Victoria: Dynamic. Rich. Stunning.

Sarah: Lush. Brutal. Unparalleled.

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Thank you Sara, Lo, Victoria and Sarah for having
some fun with me and agreeing to this interview!

Reading Order

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Exclusive interview with ‘Riders’ author Veronica Rossi

RIDERS BANNER

Strap in for an action-packed adventure with Riders—bestselling author Veronica Rossi’s latest fantasy, out today!!! I’m thrilled to welcome her to the blog to talk about the novel and what readers can expect as they meet War, Conquest, Famine and Death… the four horsemen of the apocalypse!

Buy NowAmazon Kindle | Amazon Hardcover | iBooks ✦
✦ Read my review on USA Today HEA ✦

Synopsis

Feb-16For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Interview

Vilma: So happy to talk with you Veronica… on Riders’ release day too! Congrats!

Veronica: Thank you so much! Happy to be here!

What inspired this story? The myth of the four horsemen is an exciting topic to explore.

Veronica: Honestly, I’ve always been a little terrified by the four horsemen. But, if you take a close look at Revelation, they’re actually instruments of God. The idea always fascinated me – such seemingly dark forces as positive agents. I saw a real parallel with what we ask of our servicemen and women. A soldier or a police officer might have to do terrible things in the name of protecting ideals, or innocents. It just seemed like really rich territory to explore. We ask so much of our protectors. We ask them to live in this really gray area. I couldn’t resist delving into that.

Vilma: The novel begins with Gideon bound, bloodied and interrogated by the government. Through his perspective, we get to know him, as well as what’s transpired. It was a really interesting framework to employ… what made you choose to tell the story this way?

Veronica: Every book I had written prior to RIDERS had a linear narrative. Things happen synchronously. With this novel, I was ready to try something different. There’s so much I want to learn as a writer. I always want to keep challenging myself. So this storytelling delivery method was one way to do that. As for a specific point of inspiration, you could say I drew from THE USUAL SUSPECTS, one of my favorite films, which is also framed as an interrogation/questioning.

Vilma: Gideon has lots of anger inside of him, much of it connected to the death of his father, with whom he was particularly close. How would you describe Gideon and his journey in this novel?

Veronica: I think he finally allows himself to properly grieve in this novel. He resisted doing so for a long time and lived in a space somewhere between denial and numbness. In RIDERS he can’t do that any longer. He has to face the pain – and he does. And, if I might add, I believe he carried a lot of anger but that he also carries a tremendous amount of loyalty and love for his sister and mother. He feels intensely on every emotional front.

Vilma: Let’s talk about the horses. How awesome were they?! What kind of research did you do to bring both the horses, and their horsemen, to life?

Veronica: Thank you! I did spend some time around horses. I took riding lessons and spent a week riding in Wyoming about a year and a half ago. Also, I’d had some experience with horses growing up. That said, I didn’t restrict myself to what I learned or know. I wanted to be creative with the horses. In the story, I flipped the prey mentality that horses typically have to its opposite: predator. These are bold, aggressive creatures when they want to be. Rather than getting scared, they get mean. But that’s only one aspect. They have distinct personalities and they’re emotionally wise, too. Almost soulful – and that soulfulness corresponds to their rider. War’s horse, for example, matches War in many aspects. His personality, his fire. His pride.

Finally, I made the horses…super horses. There’s really no other way to describe it. They have the ability to transmute to elemental forms—fire, light, shadow, and ash. That was really fun to play with.

Vilma: Because you had to set up the story and its characters, we get to know Gideon the best. Will we get to know Marcus, Jode and Bastian more in subsequent novels?

Veronica: You’ll get to know the others a little better. The next book, SEEKER, is actually told from two points-of-view: Gideon (I couldn’t give him up) and Daryn. I have imagined books for each of the other horsemen, told from their perspectives, but at this time it’s only a two-book series. So, to answer your question properly, yes, you’ll get to know the other horsemen better, but Daryn is the character you’ll really see more of in the next installment, which will be released in about a year.

Vilma: Overall, what can you tell readers about Riders? What can they expect from the novel as they dive into it today?

Veronica: If they are readers coming to RIDERS from my other series, the first thing I’d tell them is that it’s pretty different than Under the Never Sky in terms of the voice (since it’s in first person, present-tense, and a “modern” character, versus the third person, past-tense feel of the UTNS series.) I truly hope readers will find that an enticement. Rather like a favorite chef whipping up a new course, perhaps! Different ingredients, but hopefully something familiar and delicious in the handling and the flavor. 🙂

Also, I’d tell them to strap in for laughs, adventure, some romance, some scares…and a lot of fun. I loved writing this book and I absolutely love these characters.

Vilma: Thank you so much for giving us the scoop about Riders! And see you in a few weeks at ABF! 🙂

Veronica: Thank you for having me, Vilma!

About Veronica

Veronica RossiVeronica Rossi is a New York Times bestselling author of fiction for young adults. She completed undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons. When not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, and counting down the minutes until she can get back to making up stories about imaginary people.

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Exclusive Interview with Eleanor Herman (Legacy of Kings)

ELEANOR HERMAN INTERVIEW BANNER

Legacy of Kings, the first full-length novel in the Blood of Gods and Royals series by author Eleanor Herman is receiving lots of buzz, and rightly so. This book, which is a magical mix of history and fantasy, was highly anticipated and then promptly devoured by readers like me. And this week, we received exciting news that Warner Bros Television is working to develop the book into a television program… read the news here!!!

I’m honored and so very excited to share with you an exclusive 5-question interview with Eleanor. I loved her answers! She’s insightful and so very funny! Plus… get the opportunity to cast your vote via the IF list on who you’d like to see play these characters on the small screen!

ReviewAmazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble ✦

Synopsis

Legacy of KingsImagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

Interview

First off, there’s been much discussion on why you chose to write a YA fantasy novel, as you are already a renowned historical novelist (see answer here), but I want to discuss Alexander specifically. Have you always been interested in him as a persona in history? What inspired you to choose him as the central figure for your series Blood of Gods and Royals?

I’ve always been fascinated by Alexander. He was incredibly inspirational in his own time, and still is. Julius Caesar, three hundred years after Alexander, studied his life and his battles and tried to do in western Europe what Alexander did in the East. Alexander’s battle strategies are still taught at West Point and military academies around the world. On a cultural level, he was the first person to open up the flow of trade and ideas between East and West in a major way.

Kings were a dime a dozen in the ancient world. Most of them stayed put in their own little territories. I’ve often asked myself, What made Alexander so special? So far-sighted? So successful? He was so unusual that many people—including Alexander himself—believed his father wasn’t Philip of Macedon at all but a god, Zeus, perhaps.

Who was this godlike visionary at sixteen? It’s a fascinating question. Mix in my knowledge of history, some magic, several brave and determined characters, their conflicts, revenge, ambition, love, and hate. Stir. Bake at 340 BC for 411 pages. Voila! Legacy of Kings.

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How long did it take you to write the story and what was the process like? Lots of research? Travel? Was it slow going or faster than usual since the fantasy/fiction element allowed your creativity and imagination to take flight? 

It took me about a year to write Legacy of Kings, whereas it always took me two years to write non-fiction, one year of research and another of writing. I already had a thorough knowledge of the ancient Greco-Roman world and had traveled extensively visiting ancient ruins and temples so I could start writing Legacy immediately and research various topics along the way. At first there were a lot of google interruptions to the writing—what were ancient Greek shields made of? How did they get the horsehair crests to stand up so straight on their helmets? Did they eat peaches? How long did it take to sail from Macedon to Halicarnassus? What would the ship have looked like? I read books on ancient witchcraft to get the incantations historically accurate, and on ancient warfare to write the epic battle scene at the end.

So the process was much faster than non-fiction. The creative fantasy element is a great deal of fun. But when you can do pretty much anything, what do you pick? The possibilities are endless and can make your head spin. Luckily I have the greatest editors who gave me amazing guidance.

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[Pictures courtesy of Eleanor Herman]

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One of the elements I found interesting was how you explored the various sides of our protagonists… both dark and light characteristics. Some characters made bad decisions with good intentions, some made them to escape their fate, and others, like Queen Olympias, seemed wholly heinous until we learned more about her past. The lines are certainly blurred when making judgments on good and evil. Was that intentional? What can you tell us about this?

Call me a moral relativist and I will see it as a compliment. I think life is far more complex than throwing people into a basket labeled Good or Evil. We as humans all have enormous potential for both, and a lot of factors influence which we choose on any given day. Who among us hasn’t made a bad decision with the best intentions? (I’m thinking here of my first marriage!) What heinous people like Queen Olympias don’t have horrible things in their past?

One thing I love about multiple-POV novels is they allow you to get into the minds of the dark characters and learn to sympathize with them. We can certainly judge whether actions are good or bad, but the people who commit them? That’s more difficult.

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On Monday, we received big news that Legacy of Kings was optioned by Warner Bros Television, for the development of a TV show (read news here). What an exciting project as they work to bring the novel to life! What excites you the most about the project? Is it also a little bit nerve racking?

I am so excited about the TV series! No, it’s not nerve-wracking because I believe the producers know what they’re doing and will do it well. I will, however, need to make sure the series is as historically accurate as possible—Hellions aside. If they use candles instead of oil lamps, I will have to kill myself.

My poor husband hates watching historical movies with me because I give a running commentary on what is correct and what isn’t: Going into battle without a helmet? Puh-lease! And they didn’t have stirrups until the eighth century! But oh, those cups are so authentic-looking! Old people didn’t have blazing white perfect teeth until the 20th century! And women didn’t have their hair hanging down their backs in the 1890s unless they were wearing a nightgown. And no one went outside without a hat or bonnet. And 18th century men didn’t leave the house in their shirts and vests; they would have worn a jacket in 100 degrees, and… ”Shut up, Eleanor.”

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Empire of Dust is the next book in the series. Have you already started writing it? Can you give us a tiny sneak peek at what we can expect?

I’m finishing up my first draft! This book is going much more quickly than Legacy because I know the characters so well now. In Legacy I struggled at first to figure out who they were. So, let’s see what I can tell you without spoilers. Alex discovers there’s a traitor in his close circle but doesn’t know who. Kat and Heph go on a dangerous journey to procure military assistance for Macedon. Olympias starts to get her come-uppance. Zofia’s journey to the Eastern Mountains to find the Spirit Eaters and change her fate meets with shocking twists and turns. Jacob learns the astonishing truth about the origins and purpose of the Aesarian Lords. Cynane will do anything to wield real power.

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Dream Cast

Click the image below to cast your vote on which actors should play the protagonists on television. We want to hear from you and see who you imagine!

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Reading Order

Voice of Gods is a FREE prequel novella.
You DO NOT have to read before Legacy of Kings. It can be read after.

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Exclusive Interview with Renée Carlino

BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS BANNER

I absolutely fell in love with everything about Matt and Grace’s story. Before We Were Strangers is a touching romance about second chances and a missed connection. The novel is out August 18th, and you can read my big 5-star review here, but for now, I’m so honored and excited to interview bestselling author Renée Carlino. Read below to learn more about this amazing forthcoming novel and what’s coming next!

Before We Were Strangers: Amazon | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | iBooks ✦
Read my review ✦

Synopsis

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M

Interview

Before We Were Strangers is a novel about second chances at love and a life-altering missed connection. What inspired this story?

My editor and I were looking for a story for a while. We were scouring Post-secret and Craigslist- missed connections for ideas, especially anything that took place in New York because I wanted to write about New York again. She found a missed connection that was different than most because it was a plea for a second chance. I built the story around the idea that it might be hard to ask someone in your past for a second chance, if you can even find that person to begin with. But for me, BWWS is also about how people, not places can color your experiences. So the twenty-one year old Matt sees New York differently than the thirty-six year old Matt, and it’s because someone is missing.

In your previous books, there has always been something… an external backdrop or passion, that plays into the story, adding depth and originality. In BWWS, there are several aspects of the novel that come into play as integral elements. New York City. Photography. Music. Does this approach arise from the characters or do you start with the elements you want to integrate?

I try to write about what I know and what will hold my interest for three hundred pages. So it’s usually subjects that I don’t mind researching further. With BWWS, I experienced college at the same time as Matt and Grace. It was also around that time that I first traveled to New York City and fell in love. Music somehow works its way into every book of mine because I’m a music junkie. The musician aspect of Grace’s character was inspired by a youtube video I had watched of Lori Goldston playing the cello and talking about her instrument. She played for some of my favorite bands like Cat Power and Nirvana. I was so moved by this video and the sounds in it, that I had to write a character who felt a connection to music in the same way. In my mind, despite Grace’s childhood and experiences, she was born to play. The photography component comes more from what I already knew. I had minored in photography and have a BA in film with an emphasis in cinematography, so writing about shooting and print making was easy, I just had to go back to my darkroom days. I didn’t mind doing that at all. Most of the time I have these pieces figured out. What usually arises from the characters themselves or the process of writing are the specifics, like mannerisms–the way Grace smells her food or how she’ll swing a door open wide to accommodate her cello case, even if she’s not carrying it.

Tell us a little bit about Matt and Grace.

I think when we first meet Matt, he has become a pessimist, someone who is always holding a half-empty glass. But when he reflects on a different time in his life, he remembers seeing a more vibrant world and being hopeful about it. Which, for a photographer is kind of key since he’s trying to capture life through the lens. Grace in the same way has lost her effervescent spirit –the bounce in her step. They’re both looking for what they found each other. In the beginning, Matt and Grace have surrendered to fate and have become complacent, but when they run into each other on the subway, they’re reminded of how inspired they felt in college.

Without revealing too much about what happens, despite these two people falling in love deeply, something happens and they split for a number of years. They have a second chance at love when they run into each other unexpectedly. And because we had already connected with them already, there are so many feels. I was even moved to tears (which rarely happens). Did you get emotional as the story developed? Were there any surprises?

I always get emotional when I’m writing. It is the best release for me. I don’t think I would do this if I didn’t feel something. It would just seem like work otherwise. While writing BWWS I was only surprised that I related to Matt’s character more than Grace’s. It became his story very early on, even though I had outlined it more from her POV. Both voices are there, but his came through easier for me than hers.

Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to write?

The hardest scene for me to write would give too much away but let’s just say I’ve had a nightmare where I wake up from a coma and realize that years have gone by and that I had missed out on certain things. That idea is terrifying to me.

Matt and Grace seemed like soul mates. Destined to be together, perhaps. But in life, they also loved other people, a fact that raised the question in my mind on whether there is one person out there that is our other half, or perhaps many who we are able to love. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in soul mates?

Sadly, I don’t believe in the idea of having one soulmate. It’s a romantic notion. I think that Grace and Matt were well matched. They inspired and supported each other when they were young until circumstances tore them apart. The relationships that they had in between were not as fulfilling to them. So soulmates? Maybe. I guess I think about the word more literally, like if our bodies can have many mates, then why not our souls? And I only think about that for people who have either lost a spouse or have been betrayed by someone they thought was their soulmate. But generally, I think a lot of people find someone who they really feel is their person and my response to that is “hang on for dear life.”

What’s coming next? Do you already have a next project in mind?

I actually have the next two novels finished. My publication schedule slowed down but my writing didn’t. So the next one, titled Swear On This Life is slated for a March 2016 release. And the novel to follow, tentatively titled Wish You Were Here is slated for fall 2016. So I’ve turned my focus on a few television writing projects until it’s time to start revisions on Swear and I’m enjoying the summertime with my boys.

Thanks so much, Renée! Already looking forward to your next books!

Thank you so much, Vilma!

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About Renée

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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