Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Rona Sharon, Author of Royal Blood, Interview...
I would like to introduce you all to Ms. Rona Sharon the author of critically acclaimed historical novels, My Wicked Pirate and Once A Rake. Her third novel Royal Blood a Tudor romance/thriller was released in bookstores April of 2009. Ms. Sharon lives on the Mediterranean Coast in Tel Aviv. Her first book My Wicked Pirate was published in 2005 followed by Once a Rake in 2007. Royal Blood, although still a romantic story is far more than just that. Intrigue, politics, lust, betrayal, well defined characters, history and much, much more make for a very good read in Ms. Sharon's third novel. I haven't finished it yet, but have enjoyed the journey so far, I'll tell you this, be prepared for surprises. Her historical accuracy is right on, you will appreciate all the research that went into this book.
I am privileged now to introduce you to Ms. Sharon:
Hello Susie & daughter! Thanks for inviting me over. I’m excited to be here.
1. Have you always lived in Tel Aviv?
Yes. I was born in Tel Aviv and make my home here, but I am an enthusiastic explorer and hop on a plane whenever I get the chance. I have spent a few months living in New York City and in Rome. I have traveled across the amazing US and Canada, toured the magnificent European continent, and even journeyed to the exotic Far East.
Last week I got to be a tourist in Israel. An author friend of mine was visiting from Rome. We drove to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and to Nazareth, joking about her being the vanguard of the Pope’s entourage, and discovered an awesome spice-market in an ancient Templar settlement (the locals live in carefully restored and preserved Templar houses!) called Bethlehem of the Galilee. Jasmine rice and the famous Verbena herb, which according to tradition was applied to Jesus' wounds, are a sample of the treasures displayed in the spotless indoor market.
Check out our photos from the trip here:
2. How has living there helped you as a writer?
Versatility is an important quality in a writer. I feel that growing up in Israel, an ancient, multi-faceted country that is a melting pot of cultures, where east meets west with a direct link to antiquity, has given me a broad and fascinating perspective of the world I live in.
Just imagine, not only do I live in the land of the Bible, surrounded by sacred, intriguing places, Alexander the Great was here, Julius Caesar was here, King Richard the Lion Heart was here, even Napoleon was here… and they have all left their marks.
In Israel time has a broad meaning. We have cultural treasures that make ancient Rome seem like a young civilization – and the most awesome thing is that the Hebrew language remains as it was more than 3000 years ago, which allows me to read supremely old inscriptions.
Now add the immense American and European influences, the leading High-Tech industry, the emphasis on education, and our deep-rooted beliefs in democracy and free thinking, and the result is an unequaled fount of inspiration.
Then there are my own life experiences. I served in the army during Desert Storm, have close friends who were combat soldiers, and know what it means to be at war. I’ve lost family members, people whom I loved most in the world, and knew the deepest grief. My personal journey hasn’t always been easy, but it enables me to pen colorful stories.
3. When did you decide to become a writer?
I have always known I would become an author, but it took some time for me to collect the courage needed to leave a “normal” career and take the road less traveled.
4. What was your family’s reaction to this decision? Were they supportive?
I think they were worried at first. Art is a risky business. You sacrifice so much for a dream… Nevertheless, they were and still are very supportive of me, especially my brother and sister.
5. What time period is your favorite to write and study about and why?
There are so many time periods, events, and historical characters that intrigue me. I have whole shelves dedicated to different themes, and I am constantly falling in love with new ideas.
Currently I am writing about Renaissance Rome. I have been fascinated with this period for many years. (More on the subject in the last question!)
I am also contemplating writing about:
1. Queen Margo and the St. Bartholomew massacre in Paris in 1572
2. The Crusades
3. The Viking invasion into Ireland
4. The Knickerbockers’ society in New York of the late 19th century
5. The life and times of the Italian painter Caravaggio (late 16th century)
The list goes on…
6. What was your profession prior to becoming an author?
I worked as an accountant and tax specialist with the Treasury Department for almost six years – and was all too happy to leave this profession behind me. Bye, bye…
7. Are you a full time author?
Full time is the appropriate word. It takes months of hard work and concentration to research a historical period and write a book about it. This leaves little time for anything else.
8. Why did you choose Historical Romance for your beginning?
I have read historical romance novels since I was fourteen years old. My first book began as a leisure pursuit. Then, before I knew it, I had a two-book deal for MY WICKED PIRATE, a dagger-edged love story of an Italian desperado and an English lady, and ONCE A RAKE, the haunting story of a scarred cavalry commander returning from the Napoleonic wars.
9. Where is your new direction in writing taking you?
Historical fiction. That is not to say that I am through with romance. There will always be a major love story in my books but the emphasis on historical accuracy, actual events, and noteworthy personages will grow considerably.
10. You mentioned that Royal Blood was somewhere in the middle of your new direction and historical romance, can you explain this?
ROYAL BLOOD is a transition book, of sorts. To quote Lee from CHASING HEROES, “From the beginning, I thought ROYAL BLOOD was a romance. It read like a romance, it moved and felt like a romance, but what clearly blasted it out of the genre is our hero and the one thing he did…”
ROYAL BLOOD was an enormous challenge due to the tremendous amount of research involved. I love the Tudor era and wanted to recapture it the best I could. In doing so, I passed a lot of STOP signs, broke out of the mold of historical romance, inserted ferocious and very Tudor-ish vampires, and strayed deeply into the historical fiction genre.
My heroine, Renée de Valois, would get voted off the island of pure romance books. She is edgy, shrewd, determined, and doesn’t apologize for it. The hero, Michael, is the villain who is not a villain. His character amazed me as I wrote him. Then there is the colorful cast of historical characters such as King Henry, Cardinal Wolsey, the dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk, Queen Katherine’s ladies, each with his or her own voice and agenda.
As for scenes, I took a gamble and ventured deep into male territory, with bloody tournaments, backstabbing moments in the Privy Council, midnight escapades in the bawdy stews, the prison chambers in the Tower of London. Every detail – the people, the practices, the places, the speech, and the descriptions – was meticulously researched.
I really think readers will appreciate and enjoy the book.
11. Why the vampires?
Ha. That was my editor’s idea – and was so far removed from my usual playground that it grabbed my attention and sparked my imagination. Do not expect a spin-off of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA. I approached this theme as I do every other subject I write about. I dug into dusty archives and researched the vampire legend all the way back to its ancient origins. I’m talking Ancient Mesopotamian myths, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Kabala. I had so much fun writing about super-powerful, ancient creatures. Readers are in for one surprise after another.
12. You mentioned being able to see all 10 of the Crusader forts, can you give us some idea of what that felt like and how it motivated you with future ideas?
Years ago, I asked my Roman friend, “How does it feel to walk by the Colosseum on your way to work every morning?” and was shocked by her casual shrug.
Clearly one does not get excited on a daily basis by something that is so much a part of your childhood, of your cultural foundation, of who you are – even if it is a grand monument.
The Crusades era is in our school curriculum, which involves yearly class trips. One of the forts, known as Arsuf or Apollonia, a French fortress built upon the remains of a natural harbor on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is but a few minutes’ walk from the house where I grew up. Who was there? The Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Hasmoneans, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Muslims, the Crusaders (King Richard the Lion Heart met the great Muslim leader Saladin there in battle – a very tempting subject for a future book!), the Mamelukes, and even the British had built a police station there to watch over the coastline and catch illegal Zionist immigrants (1920-1948).
To read more about this beautiful place and see some pictures (the view from the cliff is spectacular!), visit here:
I became excited about the Crusaders’ forts as I rediscovered them as an author. I traveled around the country, collecting data and reading every book and document I could lay my hand on. The remains are powerful sites that tell the story of people who fought for their faith, for their homes, for an ideal. As an author, it is impossible not to be moved by monuments that bore witness to the shedding of so much blood in the name of God and of freedom.
13. Tell us what it was like to actually have a book published, then two now three?
The sense of achievement is beyond uplifting. When I got THE email from my agent, telling me that Kensington Books would publish my first book and another, I could barely read it. I was thrilled, beside myself with excitement.
I relive this excitement every time another book of mine hits bookstores.
14. What can we expect from you in the future? Would you ever consider doing a series?
My current project is about the notorious icons of the Italian Renaissance: Cesare Borgia, the legendary Duke Valentino, bastard son of Pope Alexander VI, who put off the cardinal hat to pursue his dangerous ambition; and Fiammetta Michaelis, the lowborn enchantress who used her courage and wits to become Rome’s grandest courtesan, as well as Valentino’s lover and confidante.
They were brilliant and terrifying meteorites, the greatest dissemblers Rome had ever seen – coldblooded chess-players, creatures of intense passions, baffling in their inner contradictions, and driven by all-consuming desires to which all else was subordinate.
Their formidable exploits, conquests, ribald banquets, and light-fast acts of brutality inspired Machiavelli’s treatise THE PRINCE, considered to this day the cornerstone of political science.
After this book, the sky is the limit. Series is definitely an option when the right subject matter comes along.
15. Who are your favorite authors?
To name a few: Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers), L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), Honore de Balzac (Pere Goriot), Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Robert Graves (I, Claudius), the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain… The list is long.
If you are curious about my private library, please visit my profile page on www.goodreads.com – I welcome new friends!
16. If you died and were able to come back, which author from the past would you choose to be and why?
I would like to be Josephus Flavius (AD 37 – 100), historian and author of THE JEWISH WARS. Maybe I could influence the leaders of the Great Rebellion of 66–73 AD to put down their arms. It would be fascinating to see how the world would look if Jerusalem hadn’t gone up in flames, if the Hebrews of Judea had not scattered all over the world but remained on their land to tend to their vines, herd sheep, make olive oil, and of course study the Book.
Then again, would Christianity have spread so widely if these tragic events had not taken place? Interesting, don’t you think?
17. Do you visit the places you are going to write about and how long is your usual visit for?
I have visited most of the places I wrote about.
For MY WICKED PIRATE, I visited: Rome, Versailles, the Caribbean, Tuscany, and Milan. I could not visit Algiers and Morocco, so in order to recapture the ambiance, I relied on my impressions from coastal citadels like Jaffa and traditional Moroccan houses and restaurants in Jerusalem.
For ONCE A RAKE, I visited London and traveled to Belgium to explore the site of Waterloo.
For ROYAL BLOOD, I visited London again. Greenwich Palace had been burned centuries ago, so I had to go by documentations (maps, blueprints, accounts).
Now I am planning a road trip to the Emilia Romagna regions in Italy to visit the fortresses Cesare Borgia conquered.
The trips are shorts, days or weeks. The lion’s share of the research is done in libraries, but I like to see the sites with my own eyes, smell the air, and get a feel of the places I write about.
18. When working on a particular book or subject do you ever have anything like a paranormal experience, maybe when you visit a particular place your working on, etc.?
This may get me institutionalized but I confess I did have several bizarre experiences.
My strongest happened in Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome in 2002. I visited the castle as a first time tourist, starting in the dungeons and working my way to the magnificent frescoed chambers upstairs. I stopped to glimpse at the Tiber River through a loophole and was suddenly overcome with a mixed feeling of pride and despair, as though I were a prisoner overlooking a city where I had been king. At that moment I became obsessed with the castle’s history and upon my return home I researched it meticulously until I found my proud, desperate prisoner – Cesare Borgia.
I’m expecting orderlies to come get me and put me in a straitjacket any moment now, so I’d better say goodbye fast.
Thank you, Susie and Susie’s daughter for inviting me over today. Your blog is one of the most charming on the net. Your questions were fresh, exciting, and challenging. I had a great time!
Tudor Daughter’s friends, I invite you to visit my website at www.ronasharon.com where you may find interesting features such as excerpts, videos, articles, and a contest offering a boxful of fantastic goodies to the winner! Feel free to drop me a line. I love to hear from readers.
Thank-you so much Rona for sharing with us this morning. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know my readers have as well. I look forward to 2011 when your latest project on the Renaissance is finished, and the many more books you still have left to write.
All the best wishes,