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Book Release Day for "Beasts of War" by Sarah E. Zilkowski

The Historical Fiction Company welcomes Archangel Ink's Sarah E. Zilkowski as she stops by with the book release of her novel "Beasts of War", a book excerpt, and an author interview!

Enjoy!!


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An expert and enthusiast of Anglo-Saxon language, literature, history and culture, Sarah's first novel (translated and adapted from theold English Judith poem) launches December 1, 2022, and will appeal to fans of historical fantasy, adventure, medieval and folk tales.


"Beasts of War: A Retelling of the Old English Judith"


Sarah's published everything from short stories for children, to travelogues. But her true passion lies in the dark ages. She has amassed 10 years of expertise in Anglo-Saxon language, literature, history and culture. Beasts of War is her first novel, based on her master’s thesis on the Judith poem. She resides with her family in Cleveland, Ohio.




Book Blurb:

Few people in life are lucky enough to fulfill their destiny. And even fewer have the privilege of recognizing it as it happens.

An evil warlord is wreaking havoc across England. His trail of destruction razes the land and decimates people left and right.


He must be stopped. At all costs.


When young Judith is recruited to vanquish him, she uses her beauty and her charm to get close.


But once he’s within her reach, all is not as it seems.


His magnetism and alluring promises weaken her. And she begins to question whether she’s on the right side of this war.


If she is to escape his pull and save her people from his sinister plans, she’ll need true love and unfaltering friendship to do it.


And a little touch of fate wouldn’t hurt either. . .


From author Sarah E Zilkowski comes Beasts of War, featuring the Ango-Saxon heroine Judith who must protect her people from the wrath of an evil warlord sweeping his armies across England.


He’s ruthless, he’s evil, he’s absolute. He is Holofernes. After effecting a bloodbath on the land, he arrives at the great wall of Bethulia. To bide his time and chip away at the defending city’s forces, he initiates a ruse siege.


When he finally attacks, it will be a complete massacre. So, he must be stopped, at all costs.


Enter young, beautiful maiden Judith. She is charming but also fierce, and she is the only one who can get close enough to kill him. But this is a mission she may very well fail, because as soon as he locks eyes with her, he falls in love. And turns on his deadly charm.



Book Excerpt


Prologue


The smoke grew thick around the town. The farms and fields that had gone up in flames hours before were now smoldering. Many of the thanes had been killed. Only a few remained, boldly facing their enemies as they continued to clash swords and swing battle axes. They were exhausted after two days of fighting.

Their lord had fallen at the end of the first day. A swinging sword had slashed his neck wide open. Grasping at his wound, he lost his balance and fell off his horse. The great man who had won countless battles and lived a life of valor was trampled by an enemy stallion.

The lord died bravely, as all lords should, unafraid of the men threatening his home. He had fought valiantly, but he was an old man past his prime. Nevertheless, he stared death in the face, knowing he had done his duty for his people.

His thanes saw his defeat and rallied. They continued to fight to avenge their lord until they, too, perished. By the end of the second day, the remaining thanes were outnumbered five to one, and the odds of victory were slim. The soldiers fought on honorably as the dead piled around them.

When the last of the defending army was cut down, the enemy turned its attention to the town where the farmers and tradesmen were protecting the women and children. The townspeople had heard rumors of a terrifying lord traveling across the country, destroying everything in his path. The stories said his army was large enough to destroy whole villages, killing both women and children. Now they saw firsthand that the rumors were true, but they did not live long enough to warn others.

The enemy destroyed all cities and towns that offered resistance, and they killed everyone, beginning with the men. As the children and women ran to hide, the soldiers made a sport of hunting them down. Houses were turned upside down as the men searched the far corners for those in hiding. Despite their fatigue from the battle, a dozen thanes rode into the forest to track down those who tried to run. They showed no mercy. To them, everyone was an enemy, even those who could not defend themselves. Children were killed as brutally as their parents. Women were raped and left with their throats slashed open.

Soon, death covered the village. It was then that Holofernes, the great leader of the savage army, came forward, surveyed the wreckage, and gave out his orders.

“Collect the town’s gold, silver, jewelry, and all valuable items. Butcher what animals you can, save the horses, and burn the pens. Pillage the huts and burn the town to the ground when we leave. You,” he barked to Knut, one of his bravest thanes, “torch the mead hall. We’ll use its light to work. Go. Now.”

At his command, the men scattered, and the mead hall was set alight. It had been a dry season and the timber shot up in flames at once.

Acwel was one of the thanes assigned the task of going from house to house looking for valuables. As he reached a home in a far corner of the town, he paused. From inside he could hear the faintest tune… someone was singing, and the voice was beautiful. He set aside his torch and entered the home, which appeared empty.

“Who’s there?” he called, but he was met with silence. He began a search of the house. It did not take long to find two children under the bed—a girl, no older than five, who was clutching a rag doll, and an older boy, who looked nearly identical to her. Acwel guessed him to be about ten. Around the same age as my boy, he noted. The children stared at him with tears in their eyes.

“Were you singing to her just now?” he asked. The children had matted, bloody hair, terrified eyes, and ghostly pale skin. Only hours before, they’d witnessed a man plunge a dagger deep into their mother’s heart, and they were afraid of the fate that awaited them.

“Answer me,” he screamed in their faces.

The boy gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

Without another word, Acwel grabbed them by their red hair and dragged them out into the open. On their way out, he picked up the torch and lit the roof on fire. Then he brought the children to the center of town for all the men to see.

The children began to kick and scream, but the thanes tied their hands and feet together and presented them to their lord. The girl dropped her doll and wet herself at the sight of the man. Not only was he a giant by comparison to most, but his sly smile and the gleam in his eyes were terrifying to behold. The boy was brave, and though his body shook with fear, he met the lord’s gaze without backing down. With a laugh, the warlord picked the girl up and threw her into the mead hall fire.

“Mayda!” the boy screamed, but Acwel held the boy tightly so he was unable to move.

The great lord looked down at the boy. “What a lovely name she had. What’s yours?”

The child barely heard him as he stood in horror watching his sister burn. Holofernes grabbed his shoulders and shook him hard. “What’s your name?” he roared, inches from the boy’s face.

“Rowe,” the boy just managed to whisper.

“Ah…” the lord muttered and turned back to the fire. He laughed as the flames engulfed the small maiden and stifled her cries. The army stood by, laughing at her torture too. It did not take long for the girl to inhale the smoke, and she was dead. Her body was left roasting in the mead hall, the place that was supposed to offer comfort and security above all others.

Holofernes made a move to grab Rowe next, but the ache in Acwel’s heart at missing his own son overcame him. “My lord,” he said, causing the army leader to pause. “This one can sing. I overheard him. His voice is beautiful. Perhaps he can be of use to us.”

The lord looked down at the terrified child. “Is this true? Sing for me now.”

Rowe looked from Holofernes to Acwel and back again.

“If you want to live, boy, sing,” Acwel demanded.

Rowe was just about to answer when a whiff of his sister’s burnt flesh reached his nose, and before he could stop himself, he retched down the front of his clothes. Anger flashed in the lord’s eyes.

Still shaking, Rowe wiped his mouth and began the song Acwel had heard earlier. It was only a simple lullaby, but it was clear his voice was angelic.

“Hmm…” Holofernes said as he studied him. “Do you know any war songs? Epic tales? Bawdy drinking songs to entertain my men?”

Rowe looked down at his hands sheepishly.

“Come now, your mother isn’t here. You won’t get in trouble. In fact, it might save you,” Acwel encouraged.

Finally, Rowe found his voice. “Yes. My father was a thane, and I would often sneak into the mead hall on nights when he ate with his lord. I learned such songs as I watched and listened in the shadows.”

The sly smile once again returned to Holofernes’s face. “If you are lying, I will soon find out. If you are telling the truth, you may sing for us, and we will feed, clothe, and shelter you. Release his ropes.”

As Rowe’s ropes were cut, he fell to the ground to grab his sister’s doll. The lord took it from him and threw it to Acwel, who caught it one-handed and looked at it with sadness. In all the excitement one of the doll’s eyes had come loose and fallen to the ground. As Acwel stooped to pick it up, he noticed both eyes were made from small, lopsided garnets in a color so deep red they appeared nearly black. What an odd thing, he thought.

“Get rid of the doll and kill him if he tries to run,” Holofernes commanded. Then the lord surveyed the damage that had been done and gave a nod of approval. “In the morning we march.”



Author Interview


1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?


- When I was a freshman in college, a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly and the loss I felt from the situation affected me to the point where I had to take my spring semester off and go home. I was back to school the following fall, but while away, I had a lot of free time on my hands and found myself turning to books for comfort- something I did often growing up but too. In 15 weeks, I’d read 20 books, most of them classics like Moby Dick and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and some of my personal favorites… books by Alexandre Dumas. Reading helped me cope with my friend’s death and made life feel less painful. Overtime my grief got better but looking back it was those books that pulled me through. I think too, reading so much so quickly gave me a crash course in creative writing. When it came time to sit down and write my own novel, I had no trouble painting a picture of a scene or even the way a person looked, and I think it largely had to do with the types of books I read during this time- the old literary classics that do such a good job with description.

2. Tell us the best writing tip you can think of, something that helps you.


- My best tip is don’t assume that you must sit down at a computer to write. No two writers have the exact same writing process, so find out what works for you. I started writing my book in a spiral notebook on my couch early in the mornings before work because my laptop was so big and clunky, I didn’t like it resting in my lap. Then I realized writing by hand was too slow a process for me, especially when my thoughts moved more quickly than my hand. I switched to typing on the computer instead, but realized I type more quickly than I think. I was frustrated by the whole process for a long time before my sister suggested I try recording myself talking first and then transcribe it to my computer. This has become the system that works for me. In 10 minutes, I can speak at least 1000 words, and it takes me about than 20 minutes to record those words on paper. If I wrote by hand, I’d have only about 300 words in 30 minutes (on a good day) and maybe 500 to 600 typing. So, find a system that works for your style. I think of myself as a storyteller more than an author, so speaking the words comes most naturally to me. It’s a system I’ve told other writers about but no one I know does it this way. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches, even if they sound awkward… I still feel awkward speaking my drafts into my phone sometimes, but I do it anyway because it’s the fastest and easiest way to write. So, focus on getting the words onto the page in a way that works for you.

3. What are common traps for aspiring writers? Advice for young writers starting out.


- I started writing before I could read. When I was about 3 and 4 I always wanted to type on our computer. It was a typical 1980s computer with a black screen and green letters, so my mom would open up the program where I could type, and I’d sit and plunk away at the keyboard. Once I was in school I started making books of all kinds on my own and entered a book contest at the age of 6. I didn’t win the contest, but I had the best time writing my book, The Unicorn and the Tree. My mom helped me sew the pages into the carboard binding and typed the words of the story as I spoke them to her since I still couldn’t write most words yet. I still have the book, and I love that I have that memory with her. I bring this all up because when I was 3, 4, 5, and 6 I wrote because I loved it. I didn’t care how it sounded to others- every story I wrote was a good one to me. Once I got older, junior high and up, I started to really get into my head whenever I sat down to write. I thought everything I wrote was terrible and constantly second-guessed myself. Finally, around 16 years old I took a creative writing course and realized my writing was no worse than other people’s, and sometimes it was even a little bit better. At that point, I learned to relax a bit and not overthink writing. So, my advice is to get out of your own head and turn off all the negative noise when you write. Put something on the page… anything… you can always make it better later. Just don’t let your insecurities and judgements on your own writing get in the way of telling your story. I taught English writing courses for years, and every single student always had something they did well when it came to writing- every one. You have something you’re good at too, so don’t assume it’s all bad or ugly. Just write, and the good things will surface and you’ll be able to see where you need more practice.

3. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

- I’d say thank you. Thank you for following your heart and discovering what you love. Thank you for taking the time to read and write and find your way in the literary world. Thank you for being unapologetic in the genres and historical periods you were interested in. In high school I was always reading something, and it was usually something more classic or in the literary canon. There was one time I walked around the halls with a copy of The Canterbury Tales and another where I carried around The Great Dialogues of Plato. I read both books cover to cover, and got a few inquiring looks, but I didn’t care. When it came to reading, I didn’t worry so much what other people thought. I was involved in a lot of different things when I was growing up- ballet, theater, music, youth groups, some sports and clubs, but I always came back to reading and writing. It was where I felt most comfortable and what I loved best. I felt like I was different growing up; I think most kids do, and I wanted to fit in, but I wanted to be myself more… and that included my reading choices. So, I’d say thank you for having the courage to stay true to myself. I think that’s the most important thing you can do at any age, and it will always lead you to where you are meant to go.


5. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?


- I don’t have any friends who are authors, as my degrees were in English literature, not writing, and over the years, most of the writing I’ve done has been completed more quietly and on my own. However, I have a few people who have been instrumental in keeping me motivated. My high school Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Laird, taught me so much about writing. I remember most of the lessons even almost twenty years later. I also have a signed copy of a novel of his, and seeing it on my shelf has often given me the motivation to keep going- if someone I know can publish their writing, maybe with some hard work, I can too. Mr. Laird made his students submit one story each to a magazine every semester, and I sent mine to a small children’s magazine in Texas called Elements. The magazine is no longer running, but I got my first acceptance letter from their editor. Bernard Washington wrote me back a handwritten letter on a small legal pad. It’s a wonderful letter saying “Congratulations” and “we’ve accepted your story for publication.” But the one other thing that I have clung to over the years is that he wrote “Please continue to write wonderful prose.” That letter is framed and on my desk. I have read it thousands of times and it, more than anything, has been what has kept me coming back to my work. It has reminded me that I am good at writing, even after a hundred agent rejections, or just my own self-doubt. I don’t know Mr. Washington personally, and I never had any correspondence after that message, but his words have helped me keep going even when publishing my novel seemed nearly impossible.

6. Can you give us a quick review of a favourite book by one of your author friends?


- I don’t have too many author friends, but one person who’s was pivotal in setting me on the path toward studying Old English is Nancy Bond and her book A String In the Harp. This book was first published in 1976 and is a Newberry Honor Book. I read it in the third grade when I wanted to read a bigger book (it’s 370 pages) to get extra points on a book report. I picked the book at random, based solely on the number of pages it had, but I fell in love with it quickly and it is still my favorite book. It introduced me to the ancient world of Britain, and I began to read more and more ancient texts as grew older. I read everything from all countries, but time and again was brought back to Britain and the early stories of the countries found there. By the time I signed up for a college course in Old English, I was well-versed in literature and stories of ancient cultures but the Anglo-Saxon stories, and the ones that ran parallel to it, resonate with me most deeply. A String in the Harp is a children’s novel that tells the story of Taliesin, a Welsh bard from sixth-century Wales. The story centers around Peter and Jen, a brother and sister, and their family as they are transported from New England to Wales for their father’s work. While there, Peter struggles to fit in and stumbles upon an ancient harp key with magic powers that transport him back to the time of Taliesin. As the story progresses, Peter learns more and more of Taliesin’s story and begins to understand the harp key desires to be reunited with its owner. All the while the adults in the book struggle to understand Peter, and once the harp key is discovered they insist it be added to the Welsh museum collection, giving Peter little time to find Taliesin’s grave and return the it. However, the key’s magic is powerful, and in the end both Peter and the harp key find their place in the world.

7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?


- When I first started writing my book I had no idea how to write a novel. I’d only ever published academic papers, newspaper articles, and short stories. When it came time to publish my novel, I had even less of an idea of what needed to happen. But, in working with Archangel Ink they did an amazing job of giving me a crash course in publishing while also doing all the complicated tasks for me. I have found a greater appreciation for the publishing process and recognize it is vastly different from the writing process. I love writing, but I’m not such a fan of publishing… which is why it has been wonderful to have such a great team to work with. Now that I have published my story I have a much clearer understanding of the entire process and a solid timeline to follow for myself as well. So, going into my second book, I can look ahead and see the projected dates for moving from one phase of the writing process to the next- all the way through to publication, and that is exciting to me. To see I can complete my next book in the fraction of the time it took to complete the first. Obviously too, the second time around everything will be less scary and confusing as I’ll know what to expect.

8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?


- After writing my first (couple) of drafts, I sent my book to many agents and publishers. I was ultimately rejected by all of them, and I got quite discouraged. Family and friends suggested joining writing groups to get feedback, but I’d been in writing groups for school and knew that sometimes having too many people give opinions can, for me, set me back in my progress. So instead, I invested in a professional editor. I figured that if I found one who was good, he/she could teach me more than any writing group or writing class ever could, and I was right. David taught me so much, gave valuable feedback, and helped me take my own words and rearrange them in a way that made them sound as good as any book on my bookshelf. He even gave suggestions for plot and characters including telling me my main villain was too nice. That was not an easy thing to hear and an even harder task to fix. I spent the summer of 2020 in front of my television watching Netflix shows and movies that depicted villains the way I wanted mine to show up. I took notes on them all and spent many hours reviewing those notes with my siblings to get their feedback. I read books for the same reasons and had pages filled with ideas to make a villain more evil. Then I sat down with Holofernes (my villain) and got to work. I showed my editor the changes, and he approved of them, and recognized the hard work that went into making those changes. The amazing part to me was that the changes I made were subtle- a word or two here, a sentence there, and I was able to transform my villain into a more evil version of the original character. It was my editor who taught me the art changing just a word or two to transform my writing into something of a higher caliber.

9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?


- I think I knew from a very early age that words were powerful, but I was a shy child and it was often hard for me to speak up, especially at school or when there was something important I wanted to say. However, I also learned that even when I couldn’t get my voice to work, I could write out what I wanted to say and it came out better than when I spoke. So, I wrote important things often, no matter who it was to or where I was. Writing was the best way for me to get my point across, and over time ,especially in college, I discovered that a story is often a much more palatable way of sharing information than something that is strictly factual. This is what gave me the idea to share the Anglo-Saxon world with others through adaptations of their original stories, legends, and writings.

10. What’s the best way to market your books?


- This is still a process I’m still learning, but one thing that has worked so far is to do what feels most comfortable. I do not spend much time on social media, and I almost never post anything to my accounts, so the idea of creating an author account on social media was not something that appealed to me even though it is an avenue that works for many authors. Instead, I sat down with my publisher and we talked about what I feel most comfortable with. We decided running a few targeted ads, having an email list with bi-weekly blogs, and planning only a few posts to social media was a better route for me to take. Additionally, I have been emailing friends and family to make them aware of my publication date. Also, doing things like this- interviews or book give a-ways- has been another route that I find more effective. But I would tell others to go with their strengths and what they feel most comfortable with. It doesn’t mean you won’t still have to put yourself out there- but do it in a way that fits your style and the way you want to present yourself as a writer.

11. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?


- I love this question, because when I write I often forget to calculate the time I spend researching as part of the writing process. But it is perhaps, one of the most important parts of my writing process and it began years and years before I started writing my novel. It started very young, with me just naturally drawn to the time and place surrounding the Anglo-Saxon period, and I read everything of interest to me and studied what I wanted to outside of school. In high school and college I took 7 years of Latin, and once I discovered Old English I took 4 semesters of it (3 of which included independent studies). Grad school was focused on Old English as well, but the entire process happened very organically, and I think that is the key to why I have maintained my interest in the time period. I didn’t walk into a library and pick the first history book I found, my love for the time and place I write about grew over time- decades even, and I have all those years of research (most specifically from college) to back up what I write about now. This first novel stems from my master’s thesis on the same text, and you can find my own translation (done as an undergrad) at the back of the book. That being said, I still actively research the time period. I have many bookshelves at home, and most are filled with Old English textbooks, history books, and literature books that I use when writing. When I’m getting ready to write a new novel, I spend a good amount of time researching the events and literature that relate to it. However, I do this as I am writing my first draft, otherwise I find that I’ll intentionally post-pone my writing indefinitely… even now my brain still tries to come up with excuses to avoid that intimidating blank page that you see when you work on your first draft. So, instead, I am always researching and writing at the same time. The research never really stops for me- but I also don’t want it to, and I’m intentional making sure it is ongoing.

12. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?


- To me writing is tactical, logical, and practical, and being an author is the title for what I do. However, storytelling is the artform and it is who I am- a storyteller, always first and foremost. And there is absolutely a spiritual component to it just as there is in any form of creation. When I tell my stories, it can feel like the pieces and details fall into place almost without my planning. They come together on their own, and I’m on the outside watching it all take shape. When it happens that way, it often feels like the story is there, it’s taken shape on some plane of heaven and I’m just the one who is able to move it onto the page. But that’s the thing about storytelling… it’s not whether or not the words are uniquely yours, it’s the delivery of them that is the main focus. And when I can get swept up in that creative process of delivering my story to the world, it really does feel like I’ve tapped into the spiritual side of writing.

13. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?


- The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles was a novel I read in school. I was surprised by the multiple endings, and the fact that the endings could be seen from more than one character’s perspective. Depending on the character my emotions changed too. That book showed me how an author has the capability of directing the story and showing the reader exactly what they want them to see, and ultimately feel. Another book was Stephen King’s On Writing. It is a nonfiction book about how to write, and it is beautifully written. I took a lot of great lessons from it, but more than anything I learned that writing is an organic process and despite the power an author has in shaping a story there is a delicate balance, and sometimes you must let the characters direct where you are going. The two books together taught me two very different lessons, but it’s the blend of the two that has made my writing process work for me. I always have an outline of my story before I write it, but I also let the characters surprise me. In drafting Beasts of War more than one minor character transformed into a more major one with their own storyline, and occasionally Judith or others would do things that surprised me, but it ended up being material that worked well with the overall outline and the emotions I was trying to convey, so I kept it and made it a part of the final version.

14. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?


- When it comes to fiction, I think the ethical lines are blurry, because you can always go back and say it’s just made up… it doesn’t have to be realistic. So, when I set out to start this book I had to ask myself what I was willing to compromise on for the sake of creativity, and what I absolutely wanted to keep true to the original text. I decided that I wanted my setting to be as authentic as possible, and I wanted most of the cultural elements to be true to the time period as well. Where I diverged from the original text was in the development of the characters. In Old English literature the stories are told as poems and most of the characters are purposefully one-dimensional. Judith is nearly perfect and Holofernes is as evil and barbaric as it gets. They are written in extremes because they perfectly balance each other. Beowulf is like this too, he’s the epitome of what a hero should be and Grendel is the perfect monstrous villain. However, that doesn’t work for a novel. The characters need depth and emotion, so that is where I took substantial liberties. However, I always come back to the question “is this authentic to the Anglo-Saxon world?” Another question I ask is if the Anglo-Saxons were alive today, how would they feel about how this story is written? They took great liberties in storytelling- far more than we do today, but to them it was an artform and a performance that was meant to entertain. If I think they would be comfortable with my embellishments or diverging details than I keep them. If they seem too far off, I adjust them to make them fit better.

15. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?


- Yes, I do read my book reviews, and the bad ones are never fun to read, but I try to understand the criticism or complaint and use it to do better in the future. I also know that my books are not going to please everyone, and that is how it is supposed to be. I write about a unique place in a genre bending way, part historical fiction/part historical fantasy. However, I am proud of what I write, and I know it does resonate with some people.

16. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?


- For me it’s the parts that are less creative. The outline and first draft process is very fun for me. The editing has moments that I love, but it does get more technical and practical. Still it’s in my realm of expertise, and I enjoy it most of the time. When it comes to publishing- creating the cover image, finalizing the title, and things like that are enjoyable. However, the technical side of publishing has been a big a challenge for me- even with my own limited involvement in it. I love creating every component of my book, but when it comes to the technical work, I leave that to the experts and do my best to keep up with them.

17. Tell us about your novel/novels/or series and why you wrote about this topic?


- I write about Anglo-Saxon England and most of my books are based on the literature, legends, and historical texts of the time period. I studied Old English in school for five years both as an undergraduate and graduate student, and I have continued my research since graduating. From the first week of Old English class I fell in love with the culture and their language and stories. However, all their stories are written as poems, and they can be challenging to read because they are not in a style that modern readers are familiar with. Additionally, only four volumes of work survive from the period, so the stories we do have are few and many are incomplete for one reason or another. I decided to take the poems and other texts written in Old English and adapt them into novels to make the Anglo-Saxon world and their stories more accessible to modern readers. I started with the Judith poem because it is the text I have spent the most time studying and the story I am most familiar with.

18. What is your favourite line or passage from your own book?


- “Few people in life are lucky enough to fulfill their destiny. And even fewer have the privilege of recognizing it as it happens.” I love this line because these words were spoken to Judith when she was hesitant about her role in helping save her city from Holofernes and his army. However, once her maid and friend, Nerienda, said this to her, she was able to find the courage to move forward and do what she knew she must. Still, knowing her destiny did not make the situation easier for her, but it gave her a sense of purpose she had been lacking and sometimes, as she found out, when you take that first step that you are pushed to take it can show you strength you didn’t know you had and lead you somewhere far greater than you ever imagined.

19. What was your hardest scene to write?


- The hardest scenes for me are ones involving physical intimacy. I can write battle scenes and fight scenes without a problem- they are face-paced and full of large movements and vibrant descriptions but trying to write an intimate moment between two people is a challenge for me. I’m forced to slow down and focus on describing the very subtle details and, often, big emotions that are involved. For me writing about emotions and internal events, thoughts, and conflict is much trickier.

20. Tell us your favourite quote and how the quote tells us something about you.


- “She was beautifully / Out of place. / Sometimes I believe / She intended to be. / Like the moon during the day.” — D.R.

I’ve never learned who D.R. is, but this quote was one I came across several years ago, and it immediately resonated with me. For much of my life I have felt different from others. In many ways my interests and values have been unlike those of people I know. It never seemed one was better or worse, only that I was unique, but I often struggled to find a place where I fit in. Those close to me know I love the moon, and one of my earliest memories is of the moon as it was rising one night. So when I saw this quote, it spoke to me. The moon during the day is no better or worse than at night. It is not right or wrong, only perhaps a little different/unique, but also very intentional. After reading this I realized I could be in control and intentional about being different. I could be comfortable with being sometimes “out of place.” It changed my whole perspective and made me far more accepting of myself. It also gave me the courage to go for the things I wanted and valued, including writing a novel.


*****

Thank you to Sarah and to Archangel Ink for reaching out to The Historical Fiction Company to announce the release of Sarah's book Beasts of War!


Dee Marley

HFC CEO

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