Monday, January 5, 2015

PUYB Chats with E.M. Powell, author of 'The Blood of the Fifth Knight'

E. M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society (HNS), International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America, as well as a reviewer of fiction and nonfiction for the HNS.
Her latest book is the historical mystery/thriller, THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT.
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About the Book:

England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry's traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell's acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.

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Welcome to the book club, E.M.!  I’d like to start out by asking you when this crazy writing life started for you?

E.M.: Thank you so much for having me! Hard for me to believe, but I wrote my first novel in 2002. It was 150,000 words of absolute drivel, and no, it will never see the light of day. But I was hooked as soon as I wrote word #1 and was still hooked at word #150,000.

Your book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, is a historical mystery/thriller, one of my favorite genres!  What is it about the genre that led you to write your book?  Was it something you liked to read?  Are you a historical buff?

E.M.: I’m so pleased you’re a fan of historical dark deeds! It is indeed a genre I love to read too, as well as historical fiction and thrillers of all sorts. I love it when I find the perfect intersection like Robert Harris’s Pompeii and C.J. Sansom’s Tudor Shardlake series. It’s amazing the way those writers bring you completely into the worlds of a different time and make them utterly believable and compelling. The murders are usually pretty creative, too! I’m also a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. I get first look at all sorts of great historical fiction and non-fiction through them.

Can you tell us a little about Sir Benedict Palmer as he’s one of the most important characters in your book, right?

E.M.: Sir Benedict Palmer is the hero of this book and of the first in the series, The Fifth Knight. In that book, he joined (as a knight-for-hire) the group of four knights as they brutally murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. But Palmer hadn’t signed up for that: he was purely on the mission for a handsome payment to arrest Becket. He helps the knights’ prisoner, a young nun called Theodosia, escape as he can’t countenance her torture and murder. The rest of their story is their quest to outrun the pursuing murdering knights and to find out why Theodosia is their quarry.

As The Blood of The Fifth Knight opens (three years later) with the married Palmer and Theodosia and their son watching King Henry II’s penance for Becket’s murder, we know things turned out okay! But Henry’s throne is under threat again and someone is trying to murder his beautiful young mistress, the Fair Rosamund. Palmer is summoned to Henry’s aid as the only man the King trusts to find out who is responsible.

What are his flaws and what are his weaknesses?

E.M.: Palmer has a temper and can rush to judgements and action. Just as well he’s a really gifted and accomplished fighter! He isn’t well-educated and uses bluster to cover up his shame at that, though he has really quick wits in a tight corner. The idea of failing at anything bothers him and he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent that. His drive can lead him to make some pretty big mistakes. With that comes his deep sense of loyalty and duty: he’ll fight to the death for those he loves. Many readers fell in pretty hard for him, so I guess he works!

During the writing of your book, did you have to do any research and if so was there anything interesting that you found that you’d like to share?

E.M.: Any historical fiction writer will tell you that yes, research forms a huge part of what we do. There’s events/timeline research, such as who was alive when and doing what. I see that as the outline.  Then to colour it all in, there’s the social and personal side. What fabric were people’s clothes made from eight hundred years ago in England? What colour was it? How did people live their day? What was the roof of a cottage made from? The list is endless!

But research can be huge gift as well in terms of presenting plot ideas. I think my favourite discovery when researching The Blood of the Fifth Knight was about Woodstock, the hunting lodge where Henry carried out his affair with Rosamund. Many people know that London Zoo had its origins in a medieval menagerie of exotic animals that was kept at the Tower of London. But the first menagerie of gifts of animals from foreign rulers was housed at Woodstock, which was established by Henry’s father. Records state that it contained camels, lions, lynxes, a leopard and a porcupine. I think you’ll agree that finding out something like that is like an early Christmas present for a writer of historical thrillers. And in response to a question from a friend of mine: no, I never considered calling the book ‘Attack of the Killer Porcupine’!

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

E.M.: Something very simple: you are the absolute best! I see so much negativity directed at readers, who after all, are the reason we writers can do this thing we love. I have had so many, many wonderful reviews for The Fifth Knight. I’ve had such nice e-mails, messages on Facebook and Goodreads, tweets, contact through my website: you name it. And every one of those people has not only taken time out to read my words, but then to take even more out by saying how much they’ve loved them and the characters I create. I think that is the most generous thing to do. I love to get lost in a book and the idea that I’ve made that happen for someone else just makes my day.

What’s next for you, E.M.?

E.M.: I’m working on Book #3 of Sir Benedict Palmer’s series. Working title is The Fifth Knight: Lord of Ireland. It's based on John's (youngest son of Henry II who will one day become the despised King John) disastrous campaign in (yes, you guessed it!) Ireland in 1185. Palmer is sent by Henry to keep watch on the impetuous John. But Palmer uncovers a plot by John to make his mark on the Lordship of Ireland by appalling means. John has to be stopped at all costs, with only Palmer standing in his way.

Although I live in the UK, I was born and brought up in Ireland. Medieval Ireland was a very different place to medieval England. The research is very challenging but it’s a very exciting project.

It’s been so nice to stop by. Many thanks, Dorothy, for hosting me!

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