Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blog Tour Q&A: A Song of War by the H Team

Please join me in welcoming the H Team to Let Them Read Books! Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield are touring the blogosphere with their third fabulous collaboration on a novel in parts, A Song of War: A Novel of Troy. I had the chance to ask them a few questions about writing as a team, and we had a little fun imagining movie casting and deserted-island scenarios. Their answers are hilarious! Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of A Song of War!

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

Amazon | Amazon UK | Kobo

Hello, H Team! Thank you so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!

Russ: Thanks for having us :-)

What inspired you to write a novel about the Trojan War?

Simon: Coming up with an idea that can be tackled by several authors from several points of view seamlessly sounds troublesome but in actual fact it is really very easy. There are so many great tales waiting to be told. After A Song of War came out, in just one conversation there were a dozen or more ideas bandied about. Some were discarded as unsuitable or too divisive, but most were intriguing enough to hook at least one of us. Troy was just the idea that hooked the most people’s imagination, but some of the other ideas were not so much discarded as put on the back burner for future projects.

Libbie: I was brought into the project later than the others, as one of our good writer friends had to bow out of A Song of War due to some conflicting deadlines. So Troy was already the decided-upon topic when Kate Quinn approached me about filling the empty space. I’d never thought of writing anything having to do with the Trojan War before, but I immediately wanted to do it as soon as I heard about the project. It’s such a big, beefy chunk of history. It’s very hard to resist.

Christian: I was late to the party, but the Iliad has always inspired me. Really, almost anything to do with Greece, from Achilles to Byron.

Russ: I think it was Kate or Simon who came up with the idea of Troy… it sort of made sense as the first H Team project was took place over one day, the second covered the events of a year… so a decade seems like a natural progression from there. Handily, the Trojan War lasted ten years so that was that.

How did you determine who would write each part?

Simon: I can’t speak for the others, but for me, as soon as we decided on Troy I knew I had to write Aeneas. I am first and foremost a writer of Roman novels, and so with Aeneas being the mythological Pater Familias of the Roman people, the opportunity was too good to miss.

Libbie: By the time I came on board, I believe there were only two “songs” still unclaimed. The one I ended up choosing was the one where two major characters have to die (Paris and Achilles), and I knew I had to take that part. I love killing characters in the most pathetic and heart-rending ways possible. Plus Penthesilea had to die, too. Bonus! In addition, we cast Paris as the villain of the piece – or if not the villain, then the guy everybody really wanted to kick. So it was kind of fun to orchestrate his demise.

Vicky: My initial choice worked better for someone else so I ended up with Odysseus, kind of at the last minute. Which worked out just fine because if I’d thought too long and hard about it, I would’ve been terrified about taking on such an iconic figure. But put a deadline in front of my face and nothing else matters.

Kate: I’ve always loved Andromache, so it was easy. And Hellenus, a lesser prince of Troy, made a wonderful Everyman foil to all these larger-than-life Capital-H heroes.

Russ: We bandy around suggestions, but most people I think knew who they wanted to write from the get go. Agamemnon was a bit of a challenge to be honest because he’s almost universally despised, but it was one that I fancied taking on because I don’t think that many people wake up in the morning thinking, “How can I be eeeevil today?” So the thing was to try to find something in Agamemnon that would explain why he acts the way he does. I don’t think that anyone reading his story will like him at the end of it, but I’m hoping that I did enough for readers to maybe understand him a little more.

What's the most challenging aspect of collaborating on a novel like this? The most rewarding?

Simon: Most challenging I think is to try and make your story shine when you know darn well that the others in the team are all doing the same and you have the sneaking suspicion that even on their worst day they write better material than you! The most rewarding is to look at the first reviews and feel that glow that shows you go it right. (IF you got it right!)

Libbie: I think we all felt like the others in the team write way better on their worst days. I know I did! My piece had to tie a lot of its specifics in with Christian’s, so I couldn’t even start effectively on mine until his Song was written, and then I had to read it to get all my timelines and details straight. And it’s SO GOOD, and I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, there is no way I can follow this without looking like a total goober.” So there’s a lot of intimidation involved in a project like this, but on the other hand, I learned a ton just by reading the others’ rough drafts. So it was worth the intimidation, to grow as a writer.

Vicky: I agree with Libbie – It can be terribly intimidating to work with such terrific authors. But I think, as professionals, we all push through. The excellence of everyone else’s work ends up elevating our own writing in the end.

Kate: Amen to all this! And I had to edit this bunch, which was all kinds of intimidating. It’s hard to edit a story (or six) when you’re not thinking critically, you’re just thinking, “I’m not worthy . . . Oooh, that metaphor is sensational . . . I’m not worthy . . . Swoon, that plot twist . . .”

Russ: Chariots were a challenge for me; they were a massive part of the war and sometime I felt like writing those parts was kind like an episode Top Gear, only presented by Chris Cameron who’s an expert on all things Ancient Greek (ha-ha – he’s an Ancient Geek!). I really knew nothing about chariot warfare or the vehicles themselves, so I had to learn about those – I knew that Agamemnon was going through a mid-life crisis, so I thought it’d be fun to have him order a new chariot to be made (we called it “The Ferrariot”) but it had to be bigger and badder and faster than everyone else’s.  Fortunately, we had Chris on hand to say what would work and what wouldn’t, so Agamemnon still got to be pretty fly for a Mycenaean guy in his new ride.

Working on a project like this IS really rewarding. I know that that’s probably cheesy, but I love being involved, love the collaborative aspect and its wicked working with your literary heroes. Also, I get to read their stuff for free before it’s out! Result!

As I was reading, I could not help but picture the cast of the movie Troy in my mind. If you were making a movie, who would each of you cast as your story's lead character(s)?

Kate: I did cast Eric Bana as Hector in my mind! And after I saw Captain America: Civil War I imagined Chadwick Boseman/Black Panther as Hellenus – he had a princely gravitas that was just like my solemn outsider prince. Andromache is still very young in my story, more irreverent than the tragic heroine she later becomes, so I cast a freckled teenaged actress from Justified who has considerable quiet presence.

Simon: I mentally cast a Turkish actor, then foolishly showed a photo of him to the group in which he was all exotic and handsome, when I should have shown another photo I later found of him looking more pensive, older and considerably less "celeb." Aeneas to me needed to look Anatolian and world-weary. I think if I cast it now, post-writing, I would select Oded Fehr.

Stephanie: I picture Cassandra as being a slightly younger version of Thandie Newton, who plays Maeve in the new HBO series Westworld. She’s dark, haunted, and sort of brooding, which is perfect for poor Cassandra!

Libbie: I knew from the start that I pictured Philoctetes as Liam Cunningham, appearing and behaving exactly as he does as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones. Sadly, I’m not familiar enough with the world of theater and film to know who my pick for Penthesilea would be. I loved the character and could feel her presence very strongly in my imagination while I was writing, her – I could even see her face – but I don’t have anybody to compare her to!

Vicky: I had a distinct image of Odysseus based on Homer’s description – short, barrel-chested, dark-haired and handsome but in a maybe not-so-obvious way. I remember sharing a photo of someone who fit that description with the group but I can’t find it now and I don’t remember the individual. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this has resulted in me getting lost in the web trying to find my original inspiration photos. My search images history is, at this point, a little embarrassing (i.e., hot, dark, Greek, man, etc.).

Russ:  No Way! We actually did that before we started writing *lol*. Firstly – because it’s brilliant fun.  But more importantly it really helps the process for the rest of the team because everyone knows what the characters look like. In that way, we don’t have someone being described as “tall and willowy” in one story and “short and muscular” in another. I had Adrien Brody as Agamemon: http://www.lionsgatepublicity.com/uploads/assets/527eb258-19c9-11e5-9ce3-005056b70bb8.JPG and Kelly Brook as Chryseis. Which I’ll admit was one of the best parts of the research I did.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, which character from the book would you want to have with you and why?

Simon: Well it’s clearly going to be Odysseus, and probably for all of us. A man who could think his way out of a locked safe with just an elastic band and a Duran Duran CD. A sort of ancient MacGuyver meets John Rambo. Within a week the island would be a paradise with running water and central heating. Probably Wifi too…

Stephanie: Yep, probably Odysseus for practical reasons. I just finished watching Castaway, and I have to admit that Odysseus would probably be a whole lot quicker than Chuck Noland at getting off the island, and his Trojan Horse certainly beats Wilson. (Even if Wilson is pretty fabulous!)

Libbie: Thirding Odysseus, for obvious reasons. Though Helenus is such a nice, respectable guy. I don’t think I’d get annoyed with him, even if we were marooned together. Helenus is my backup co-strandee.

Vicky: How could I not say Odysseus? A mind like his would likely be constantly searching for a creative way to get us off the island. Also, his humor would make the time go faster. My second choice would be Cassandra so I could get her to prophecy how the hell to escape! Not sure how I’d get around the “not believing her” curse, but after a while I imagine that I’d go ahead and follow her lead just for something new to do.

Kate: If not the Big O, Achilles. Because he couldn’t McGyver his way off the island, but he’d kill anything that tried to eat you until his sea goddess mother arrived to get you back to town.

Christian:  Well, for me, I'd take either Helen or Cassandra, because I'd never be bored.

Russ:  So I just told you that I stunt-casted Kelly Brook as Chryseis and now you’re asking me who I’d like to be stuck on a desert island with? Hmmm. Well, I think Chryseis as she’d be prepared as it seems from all the research that I did, she mainly wears swimsuits or bikinis, so that’d be useful. No – Odysseus – because with him around, you’d probably not be stranded for very long, I’m sure he’d think of a way out of it. Trouble is, while he’s great at getting out of hot water, he’s rubbish at directions and it’d take an age to get home.

Can you give us a hint of what the H Team might be working on next?

Simon: Can’t say for sure. There were some cracking ideas spoken of. The year of the Six Emperors is one I’d love to tackle, as is the English Civil War.

Stephanie: We’re still tossing ideas around. I would give my two front teeth to do something set in Egypt. Okay, maybe not my two front teeth, but something big. Because, EGYPT! *swoons*

Libbie: Stephanie, yes! Egypt! (For those who aren’t familiar with our respective bodies of work, Stephanie and I are both big Egypt fans.) I think the Harem Conspiracy in the court of Ramesses the Great could be a fun story for multiple authors to tackle together. I also really love the Sultanate of Women in the sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire. But if the H Team doesn’t do either of those, I’ll put them on my list to write someday, so eventually I’ll get to play in those worlds… maybe not for a long time, but eventually.

Vicky: I’d be game for something set in Egypt too since my first novel was set in both Rome and Egypt. At some point, we will all converge for a group email chat about our options and then decide as a group.

Kate: It’s looking like I may not be able to do a collaborative next year, because deadlines. In which case I will look on at all the fun from the sidelines and cry with envy, then start scheming for next year.

Christian:  If Kate can't do it, I vote we take a year off; she is the glue, or the captain, or what have you.  But my vote is that we stay literary and each take one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tale characters and tell a tale…

Russ:  Not The Hundred Years War – Quinn has threatened death by arrows to anyone that suggests that. Honestly, I don’t think that has been decided yet… there were a few ideas bandied about as we closed out A Song of War – but nothing concrete.


To win a paperback copy of A Song of War: A Novel of Troy by the H Team, please enter via the Gleam form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Song of War
About the Authors:

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.

LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”

STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.

SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.

RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

A Song of War is on a blog tour!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments! Getting feedback on my posts makes my day! Thanks for being here!