Today I welcome author Marian Thorpe to my blog. Her latest book, Empire’s Daughter (Empire’s Legacy Book 1) was released last year.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
What may come as a surprise to some readers will be my age; I’m nearly 58. I’m married, no kids – two cats, though -and retired after twenty-six years in education, although my original degrees are in plant science. I’m currently studying archaeology part-time through on-line courses, and I review and edit books as well as write fiction, non-fiction, verse, and two blogs. And I’m a birder. I think that’s everything!
Please tell us about your current release.
Empire’s Daughter is a coming of age story, set in a world that isn’t quite Britain, in the centuries after the fall of Rome. Generations before, conflict between the Emperor and the headwomen of the villages led to a divided society: militaristic for the men, pastoral and trades for the women. Men and women live apart, coming together twice a year at Festival. But an external threat of invasion leads the Emperor to ask for the help of the women’s villages in repelling the invaders. Lena, the protagonist of Empire’s Daughter, votes to fight; her partner, Maya, chooses exile instead. Both sets of choices lead the two young women to different paths and different understandings of love, loyalty and loss
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I’m working on the next book in the Empire’s Legacy series; this one is titled Empire’s Hostage. It too takes historical truths about Europe – the Viking incursions into Scotland, the border raids between Scotland and England, the Justinian plague – and weaves them, not historically accurately, into the world created in Empire’s Daughter.
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
My plots are based on history and ‘what if?’ In the case of Empire’s Daughter, that ‘what if’ was: what if, when Rome fell, that message never got to Britain? What would happen to a last outpost of an Empire who loses contact completely with its centre? The world of Empire’s Daughter isn’t (quite) Britain, either historically or geographically, but that question was at the heart of its creation.
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write more or less full-time now; I retired about a year ago, which allows me this freedom. Every day is a bit different, because as well as writing Empire’s Hostage, I also have two blogs to write posts for, book reviews to do, editing, plot notes…oh, and my course work in archaeology. As well, the business of living – house cleaning, shopping, a daily walk – has to fit in there too. But generally I’m at my laptop by about 8 in the morning, beginning the day with a list of what I’d like to accomplish, and work on-and-off till about 5. I try not to sit for more than an hour at a time, and when I’m working at home that’s easy, because there is always laundry to put in, or a cupboard to clean, or it’s time for a walk; it’s harder when I work at my writer’s group or at the university library, which I do on weekends when my husband watches soccer almost all day. I like soccer, but not that much!
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
With Empire’s Daughter I didn’t outline it – it just evolved over ten years. (I was working in a very demanding job during that time so I didn’t have much time to write.) With its sequel, I mapped out the story arc of the book – but as I write new characters and situations keep appearing, so the outline and the finished story will have significant differences.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
A lot, but only in hindsight. My husband and I travel to Britain frequently – we both hold dual UK and Canadian citizenship and have family in England and Scotland – so the geography was well known to me. I read a lot of history, so again I was using facts I knew from that reading, and way back in university I’d taken a course (for fun) on Celtic History, so that helped as well. Towards the end of writing Empire’s Daughter and beginning to think about Empire’s Hostage, my husband and I spent some time on Hadrian’s Wall again; I took a course on the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall, and read a lot of books about the history of Rome, Britain, and the Viking era.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
Only one. The character of Turlo, a major in the Empire’s army, is based almost entirely on Ted Cowan, my Celtic History professor at university and now Emeritus Professor of Scottish History and Literature at the University of Glasgow. I think he’d appreciate it!
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
Almost all my focused writing on Empire’s Daughter, and much of Empire’s Hostage, occurred in a study carrel on the fifth floor of the university I attended; we still live in the area, and as an alumna I have library privileges. It’s the same study carrel I wrote most of my M.Sc. thesis at thirty years earlier! Now I’m retired I also have joined a writer’s group that meets every Monday morning at a local bookstore-cum-restaurant that reserves the space just for us from 9 – 12. At home, I write in our library, or in the sun-room, usually with the ‘help’ of one of the cats.
“But the world changes. In all the women’s villages of the Empire, this week or next, a soldier like myself will arrive to ask to live in the village, to take up a trade.” Casyn paused, for a breath, a heartbeat. “And to teach you and your daughters to fight.”
With those words, the lives of Lena, fisherwoman of Tirvan village, and her partner Maya change irrevocably. Torn apart by their responses to this request, Maya chooses exile; Lena chooses to stay to defend her village and the Empire, although the rules of the Partition Assembly many generations earlier had divided and circumscribed the lives of men and women. Appointed to leadership, Lena’s concepts of love and loyalty are challenged as she learns the skills of warfare, and, in the aftermath of battle, faces the consequences of her choices. Leaving Tirvan to search for Maya, Lena is drawn into the intrigues and politics of the Empire, forcing her to examine what she most truly believes in.
About the Author
I am an indie writer of young-adult adventure, short stories, verse and non-fiction nature writing; editor, reviewer, part-time student of archaeology, artist, birder, walker, cook. I explore landscapes of the past and present, and of the mind, and experiment with how the digital world allows art, writing and knowledge to be shared and disseminated.
I hold an M.Sc. in plant agriculture and a B.Ed. I’ve worked as a university research associate, taught high school science and horticulture for twelve years, and then became a special education coordinator for another fourteen before retiring, specializing in autism education and educational technology. Birding has taken me to all seven continents, and to places on them most travellers never see. I live in a tiny hamlet in southern Ontario with my husband and two cats, in a 105 year-old house backing on to a maple swamp. Writing has been part of my life since early childhood, and I have published sporadically over the last thirty-five years.