Today I’m talking with N. Gemini Sasson, author of The Bruce Trilogy and Isabeau.
Martin: Hi Gemi, nice to see you. Before we talk about your writing I wonder if you could tell us which authors have had the greatest influence upon you.
Gemi: In my youth, it was Jean Plaidy, Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas who sparked my imagination. More recently, I’d say Bernard Cornwell and Philippa Gregory in the historical category, but I probably read more mainstream contemporary fiction than anything else. Mitch Albom is a particular favourite of mine.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was there a specific event that made you decide?
I was probably 13 or 14 when I got this wild idea that I wanted to be a writer. Books provided me with the excitement that you don’t get in small town Ohio. They made me dream of bigger things, like defeating the enemy and rising triumphant. Clearly I was bored and spent too many hours alone. I wanted to give other readers what the writers I’ve read have given me all my life – an escape. A good book makes you look at the world around you a little differently. I wanted to make people think and feel something through words.
You write historical fiction. Why this genre in particular?
Some people like to escape into the magic of a fantasy world, or the passion of a romance, or the excitement of a thriller. For me, I’ve always been intrigued by the past – not only by the differences in daily life, but by the similarities of the human experience.
What attracted you to writing about Scotland and England in this period?
I have Scottish roots on my mother’s side, tracing all the way back to a branch of the Bruce family in the 14th century. The amazing thing is that I didn’t learn this until very recently, long after I’d written about Robert the Bruce. When I travelled to the UK with a friend over a decade ago and we first landed in Scotland, I had this really odd sensation – that I’d been there before, that I was home. After that, I decided to pursue an idea I’d had for awhile – to write about one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes. Robert the Bruce’s story is so closely tied to that of England’s that my research just naturally carried me there, as well.
If you could spend time with your favourite character who would it be and what might you do?
Well, if I wasn’t married, I’d hang out with James Douglas and just stare at him. He was Robert the Bruce’s right hand man. He was known for his furtive means of taking castles. I have a bad boy crush on him.
Which research tools, sources and web-sites did you find most useful?
Since I’ve been writing biographical fiction, I tend to collect a lot of biographies in paper book form, so I can highlight to my heart’s content. After taking a LOT of notes, I write a timeline on posterboard and from that I select the events that will be included in the storyline. I use web sites for small tidbits of information as needed. One of my favourite sites, which has served as a source of information on various castles, is Undiscovered Scotland (http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/).
What’s a typical writing day for you? Do you have set times, spaces, routines or rituals?
I allow myself flexibility, or I’d go insane. With two active kids, several pets and home improvement projects always going on, I cram in my writing time when I can, working in chunks. I tend to get more writing done in the winter, but if I could describe a typical day, it would be to start by checking e-mail, then reviewing the previous day’s edits or writing, write from 9-11 a.m., let the dogs out, eat, check e-mail again, let the dogs back in, write, let the dogs out, write until the dogs start barking, put them back in… I usually close my files for the day when my husband gets home from work and we go for a run or bike together, but I do sneak in some more editing in the evening when he’s watching his favourite TV show.
What’s been your favourite moment in your writing career?
Getting my first fan mail. If your family or friends say they bought your book and liked it, you tend to think they’re just being kind, but when a total stranger takes the time to look up your e-mail and write to you, that’s a shot of adrenalin. I now save every fan mail I get and tape it to the wall in front of my desk. The unbelievable thing is that I’m running out of room and will have to start on a second wall soon.
Spring, summer, fall or winter?
Travel by car or on foot?
Sea-shore or mountains?
Finally, Gemi, could you tell us about your next writing project?
I’m almost finished with the first full draft of a novel on Owain Glyndwr in 15th century Wales. He fought against Henry IV for Welsh independence, but he was sort of a reluctant hero initially. It’s entitled Uneasy Lies the Crown and should be out before the end of 2012.
Thanks so much for having me Martin!
And thanks for coming, Gemi. Good luck with Uneasy Lies the Crown.
You can find out more about N. Gemini Sasson at these places:
- Talking with Robyn Young. (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- #TheReadersVoice An invitation to readers (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)