E.M. Powell’s novels have been described as “car chases with chainmail.” With that tagline, you know you’ll be in for a wild ride. I am delighted to welcome E.M. to my blog today. She writes historical fiction with a mystery/thriller twist. Her current series is set in 12th century England.
E.M., congratulations on the upcoming release of The Blood of the Fifth Knight. Can you tell us a bit about the new book? Is it a sequel to The Fifth Knight, or a stand-alone?
Thank you, Char! The Blood of The Fifth Knight is indeed the sequel to The Fifth Knight. It’s set in England in 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for attempting to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign. Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Yes, it’s the return of Sir Benedict Palmer!
Sir Benedict is a great character – a mercenary with a conscience. You put him through the ringer in The Fifth Knight. When you penned the opening of that book, did you know you’d be writing a sequel? If not, when did you figure that out?
Not at all! I intended it to be a standalone book. But when I was signed by my amazing agent, Josh Getzler, he encouraged me to think about one. He was right!
What was the most surprising thing you learned while doing the research for your books?
There are so many things that are so surprising about the medieval world, which you of course will understand, Char. Probably my favourite discovery when researching The Blood of The Fifth Knight was that of an earlier menagerie kept by the king than the one kept at the Tower of London. The collection of animals at the Tower of course was the foundation for London Zoo. But Henry I had established the very first menagerie at Woodstock, his hunting lodge. It included camels, lions, lynxes, a leopard and a porcupine. I certainly did not expect to find that in 12th century England! But such finds are gold to a novelist.
So true, E.M. Those ‘nuggets’ bring the people and the times to life. Do you have a favorite scene from one of your books? Which one & why?
Most of my favourites would be spoilers so I can’t mention those! But I have a particular fondness for those I write from the point of view of my villains. That would be Sir Reginald Fitzurse, leader of the knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in The Fifth Knight. In The Blood of The Fifth Knight, it’s Raoul de Faye, uncle of Eleanor of Aquitaine. And I just love his name – perfect for a villain, though he was a real person.
What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What has been the most challenging?
I (weirdly) love editing. I love it because the story and the plot is all there. Editing means I can really dig into the writing and make it the very best it can be.
Tell us a little bit about your life. When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first novel in 2002 and was convinced it would be an instant bestseller. I had an awful, awful lot to learn. But learn I did! Ten years on, I got my agent and a publishing deal.
Which historical person would you want to meet and why?
Archbishop Thomas Becket, canonized after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. I would want to ask him why he refused to run from the murderers and how he remained so brave when he knew his life was about to end. I’d also ask him what he thought of Henry II, king and his one-time friend.
Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Why do you stay with them?
Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. I stay with them because they are an invaluable source of advice and support. Without RWA, for instance, I would never have learned my craft and it would have taken me even longer to understand the industry. With the HNS, I have gained friends as well, both in person and online. We all like our chainmail!
How do you handle reviews (good and/or bad)?
With good reviews, I want to meet that reviewer and shake them by the hand and thank them personally. They mean so, so much! With the bad, I read them to see if the reviewer is making a legitimate point about a historical fact or perhaps a plot issue. If it’s purely an ‘I hate this book’ review, then fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Do you have a particular time of day for writing? A special writing place?
I try and get in the writing seat by 9 a.m. and pack up at 7 p.m. Of course there’s tons of interruptions and life generally getting in the way. When I had a day job, I used to write between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. I loved that slot. I’m a real owl and it’s so much quieter then. Place is my laptop!
Are there certain types of scenes you find harder to write than others?
The hardest ones are always the ones where you want to release some information to the reader but still keep your twists hidden. Doing a spoiler on my own plot is one of my nightmares. Action scenes are by far the easiest for me and always have been. And they’re still hard!
What book are you reading now?
I’m a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and get all sorts of wonderful books through that route. I’m currently reading Dan Jones’s magnificent The Hollow Crown, which is his non-fiction work on the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors.
On the fiction front, I have the late Ariana Franklin’s Winter Siege. She was a writer of wonderful historical thrillers and sadly passed away before finishing this book. her daughter, Samantha Norman, completed it. I can think of no more wonderful tribute to her mother.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
What are you working on now? Will we see a sequel to The Blood of the Fifth Knight?
The next book in The Fifth Knight series – working title is The Fifth Knight: Lord of Ireland. It’s based on John’s (youngest son of Henry II who will one day become the despised King John) disastrous campaign in (yes, you guessed it!) Ireland in 1185. Palmer is sent by Henry to keep watch on the impetuous John. But Palmer uncovers a plot by John to make his mark on the Lordship of Ireland by appalling means. John has to be stopped at all costs, with only Palmer standing in his way…
Sir Benedict against John – *rubs hands together* – I am already intrigued! Thank you for stopping by to chat, E.M.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Char. I look forward to returning the favour!
E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. Learn more about E.M. Powell on her website. She is a regular blogger on English Historical Fiction Authors and a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01. 2015. Find The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Amazon CA.