About a year ago, I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn. It'll come as no surprise to fans of my books that I LOVE anything set in the ancient days, and Mistress of Rome certain fit the bill nicely. Ever since then, Kate Quinn has been on my reader-radar, but when her first novel about the Borgias, The Serpent and the Pearl, came out, I resisted reading it in spite of how much I'd enjoyed Mistress. I had never before felt much of a draw to Borgia fiction -- maybe because it's so tied up in religious issues, and that tends to be low on (but not entirely off of) my personal list of intriguing fiction topics.
However, one day as I was pottering around on Audible, searching for a way to spend my monthly audiobook credit, I came across the audio edition of The Serpent and the Pearl. "What the heck," I thought. "I liked her ancient stuff. I should give her a chance to rouse me from my Borgia ennui."
Rouse me Kate did! I was sucked into The Serpent and the Pearl instantly; I couldn't stop listening for a moment, even stuffing my phone into my bra so I could listen as I painted the walls of my new home, and the moment Serpent ended, I sprang for the sequel, The Lion and the Rose. My Goodreads review of Lion says it all -- seldom before has a follow-up novel felt so deeply satisfying and so right for its characters.
Well, my experience with Kate's two Borgia novels launched her from my "pretty darn good author" list straight to the top of my "READ ALL BOOKS THE INSTANT THEY APPEAR" list. This is one writer who gets historical fiction, from top to bottom. One of the things I love so much about both reading and writing this genre is the way it can (if done well) show us how little humans have changed in a hundred years, in five hundred, in ten thousand years. It makes all people, regardless of their culture, their beliefs, or even the time during which they lived, feel more poignantly alive and precious. Kate Quinn seems to really understand not only how to deliver that feeling of universal brotherhood to her readers, but why such an experience is important. In my opinion, she's one of the strongest and most talented voices in the current HF milieu, and that's why it was such a treat for me to interview her recently for the New Books in Historical Fiction podcast.
I had the chance to chat with Kate about her experiences writing The Serpent and the Pearl, some of the incredibly strange and fascinating history behind the novel, and where she's headed next with her career. You can listen to the podcast right here.
I strongly encourage everybody to pick up The Serpent and the Pearl (especially the audiobook edition if you can -- the performances are wonderful!) and delve into this wonderfully strange, vivid, unforgettable story... even if you think the Borgias really aren't your thing. But if you prefer to stick to the olden days, Kate has plenty of magnificent ancient-Rome historical fiction for you to explore, too. You can find all her books on her web site, as well as more information about Kate and her career.
Kate, thanks for the opportunity to interview you! I'm looking forward to more books, which I will read the instant they are published. :D