Thursday, May 22, 2014

L. K. Hill - Citadels of Fire & Rocket Cats

L. K. Hill
16th Century
Today The Blog Mansion welcomes L.K Hill, who I will call Liesel, because that’s her freakin’ name - what’s with all the initials lately? Anyway, her new book is CITADELS OF FIRE an historical fiction set in medieval Russia at the time of Ivan the Terrible. It was the perfect chance to walk her through the hall of portraits. I don’t get there nearly enough. It’s hard to find.

Liesel: Are all these your relatives?

Johnny: Mine or somebody else’s.

L: These look are very old.

J: This is the 16th Century corridor. I thought it the most fitting since that’s the setting for your book. The 16th Century, not my corridor of pictures.

L: I knew what you meant.

Ivan the Terrible
J: Why was Ivan called Ivan the Terrible?

L: Terrible actually didn't have quite the same connotation in the 16th century as it does now. Back then, it meant awe-inspiring or amazing. It's like in old English when they talk about great and terrible deeds. His name came from all the great things he accomplished for his country. His subjects were in amazement of him.

J: Is he a character in your book?

L: Yes. He's a secondary character, but the story is set against the backdrop of his reign, which was often quite bloody.

J: That one is Jason the Miserable. He was miserable. And that over there, that’s Susan the Big Boned. But I don’t know. Could have been carbs.

L: Agreed. They weren't big on nutrition when these people were alive. Hopefully she had a big husband, unlike Agatha the Bigfoot who married Pipin the Short.

J: What’s the attraction of 16th Century Russia for a fiction?

Barbara the Loose-Bladdered
L: It's such a different time and culture. There are things that will be quite alien to readers, but also the same human problems that many face today, which they will be able to identify with.

J: Yeah, okay. So tell me about it.

L: This is a world where there are profound extremes. The nobles lived in gluttonous excess while the poor were ground into the mud. Saying one wrong thing could get you killed, and nowhere and nothing is safe. Just surviving was a grueling feat, and nothing was fair. Yet, people still lived, loved, raised their children, and tried to make lives for themselves. They still battled themselves, their enemies, and other people around them, trying to make their lives better. Meanwhile, battles were fought around them, and the great Kremlin wall overshadowed them all.

J: Cool. Do you like that one there? That’s a portrait of Larry the Liver-Spotted. And that one next to it is of Barbara the Loose-Bladdered. He never married. That’s Neal the Plague Breath. Hey is there plague in CITADELS OF FIRE?

L: No. It's mentioned because it was a part of life back then, but it's not a huge part of the plot. There are other things, though. Namely fires, wars, illness, and other deadly situations.
J: Tell me about the characters in your book. Do they have cool titles too? Inga the Protagonist maybe? Or Taras the English Dude in the Russian Court?

L: Those sound like awesome titles to me. Because Inga is a maid, she isn't in a lofty-enough position to hold a title. In fact, at one point she has a conversation with Taras about how she doesn't even really have a surname. She refers to herself as Inga Russovna, which simply means 'daughter of Russia.' It's a fitting title for her. Taras doesn't have a formal title because he's seen as a foreigner, but he's ambitious and quickly moves up in the Russian court.

J: How did you mix your fictional characters into actual historical events without altering the current time-line and throwing us all into a trans-dimensional paradox?

L: Very carefully, Johnny. Actually, I do mess with the timeline a bit. I collapse it. Many of the events I cover in the trilogy take place over 20+ years of Ivan's life. I wanted my characters to go through them as well, but I didn't necessarily want them to age that much. So, I collapsed the timeline, making it so that instead of five years passing here and twelve years passing there, it was only one or two in each case. Because of that, dates and important events won't necessarily match up with history, but that's okay with me. I tried to keep all the actual events as accurate as possible. I didn't give much thought to the trans-dimensional paradox, though. *shudders* Hopefully the universe doesn't implode when my book hits shelves. How will I ever make the NYT Bestseller list if it does?

Tad the Compensating for Something
J: CITADELS OF FIRE is the first book of the KREMLINS Trilogy. I didn’t know you could plural Kremlin. That’s how much I know. Anyway, how’re the other books coming along?

L: Other than the famous place, a 'kremlin' in Russian is simply a wall. This is a story about people who cripple themselves by putting up walls that keeps them from being happy. That's why I pluralized it. Not sure if it's grammatically kosher, but that's why the term "dramatic license" was invented, right?

Book 2 is written and in the capable hands of my publisher. It's coming along great. Book 3 still needs some work, but I've got plenty of time. No worries. I'll have it out exactly when people need it.

J: That’s Pat the Dubiously Gendered. She, er uh, he that one there was an inspiration for an old Saturday Night Live Skit. What inspired you to write Kremlins now? Did Vladimir Putin put you up to it?

Pat the Dubiously Gendered
L: Er, No. In college, I was a history minor. To accomplish my degree, I simply had to take so many credit hours of upper level history classes. I stumbled upon Russian history and thought to myself that I knew very little about it. I sort of fell in love with it, taking three full semesters. It was those classes that inspired the story. The depravity of the country's history simply fired up my imagination, and my story was born. Putin may be a big part of Russia's present, but I give him no credit for her past, or my imagination.

J: Tell me your tale of publishing success. How did you go from writer to author?

L: Perseverance. Plain and simple. I took me several years to write my first novel. Incidentally, it was this one. Of course, being my first full length book, it was terrible. But I continued to learn and grow as an author. Every time I learned something new, I would go back through the manuscript and revise. You hear a lot of authors say that their first books fell by the wayside because they were crap and when they realized it and moved onto something better, it's the best thing they could have done for themselves. Not so with me. I loved this story. I fully recognized that my writing needed honing, but it's a story I desperately wanted to tell. So, after several years and many, many revisions, Jolly Fish Press picked up the book, split it into three volumes, and put me on the road to publication.
In the meantime, I've also published a dystopian book, Persistence of Vision, and put out a crime fiction novel, Street Games. Becoming an author has less to do with talent and more to do with hard work and perseverance. You just have to keep working hard and moving forward.

J: Here’s Riley the Slightly Annoying, Eric the Butler, Susan the Threatener,

L: Riley the Slightly Annoying?

J: We can’t all be terrible. How terrible is Dr. LaRae Larkin? I’m calling her LaRae the Forward because he wrote your forward. Think she’ll like that?

L: She's amazing. Incidentally, she's the one who taught me Russian history, so I'll always be in her debt. This book wouldn't exist without her. Which is one of the reasons I asked her to write the forward.

J: We’re about done here. Where can people find out more about you?

J: And lastly here’s Tyrone the Sedentary, Mas the Dyslexic and Fluffy the Adorable and Flammable Military Device.

L: You have cat pictures? From the 16th Century?

J: I have a whole wing dedicated to 16th Century Rocket Cats.

L: That was a thing?

J: Yes. The Rocket Cat was a real thing.

Fluffy the Adorable and Flammable Military Device

CITADELS OF FIRE: Book Description:
In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth.

As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers.

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

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