To get us started can you tell us a little about what you are working on or have coming out?
My next novel to be released will be Claimed by the Enemy, a historical romance set in ancient Mesopotamia. The heroine is a princess, and the hero is a farmboy-turned-soldier. The two have nothing in common except their beloved home city, which was destroyed by Sargon the Great. Neither has recovered from the trauma, yet now both are again in a city conquered by Sargon. This time, however, she is on the losing side, doing all she can to protect her children from Sargon’s army, while he is a member of that army and the new governor of the city.
This will be my first self-published novel. I’m very excited to try out indie publishing, which is a wonderful way for those of us who write about unusual times or places to reach our audience, who are not well served by traditional publishing.
How would you describe yourself using only five words?
Stubborn, introverted, curious, resilient, resourceful
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Dark chocolate! I love it and eat it every day. I have to admit, though, that I don’t feel particularly guilty about it. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, and it gives me the energy and clarity of mind to write.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would move back to New Orleans if I could (and one day I will be able to). It’s a wonderful, walkable city full of music, beautiful houses, and friendly, open-minded people. You can eat at a different great restaurant every week and not repeat yourself for months. There are so many festivals that one can’t possibly get to every one.
Where do you find the inspirations for your stories?
What is not an inspiration for a story? I’ve gotten inspiration from, among other places, history books; other short stories and novels; calls for submission; dreams; creativity exercises; talking with friends; biographies; my own life; myths and legends; and folk songs.
What is coming up from you in 2014? Anything you want to tease us with?
My fantasy novel Ice Magic, Fire Magic will be coming out sometime this year. Unfortunately, Hadley Rille Books’ publisher, Eric Reynolds, has been ill, so the HRB publication schedule is temporarily up in the air.
As for teasers, Ice Magic, Fire Magic has a heroine incapable of doing wrong, a hero who has renounced magic, an antagonist whose magic is broken, and another antagonist who is a millennium-old evil spirit. There are also two species of humans, women’s magic based on needlework, a sentient land, and a landscape inspired by the fascinating geology and natural history of southwestern Ohio, a beautiful place (contrary to the common perceptions of Ohio).
Is it hard coming up with titles or characters names?
Yes! I have trouble with both. For 24 years, I was a nonfiction writer, and I never developed a knack for headlines. Now that I’m a fiction writer, I still can’t come up with good titles without a lot of thought.
Character names are hard for me too, and unfortunately I stall out when I try to write a story peopled by characters temporarily named AAA, BBB, CCC, YYY, and ZZZ. I need to know the characters’ names to write about them.
What do you feel is the most important thing that a first-time author should know?
Not to rely on or wait for “muses,” inspiration, or talent. What matters are sitting down to write regularly and working hard and joyfully. (Joy is optimal but optional.) Many, many methods of sparking creativity exist. To wait around for ideas to show up on their own wastes time and reduces output.
When and where do you like to write? Are there any favourite places you like to go?
I have never understood how people can write in coffee shops, where their ears are assaulted by blaring music, and they are constantly being jostled by other customers and having to squint at half of a tiny document on a laptop screen.
I much prefer to write in my office. All my books, printouts, and other background are at hand; so is my large library of reference books. The perfect music plays at the perfect volume. The temperature is perfect. I can see two full-size pages side by side at a readable size on my computer screen. I can read scenes out loud or act them out. I can walk away from the computer with no worries about it disappearing into a thief’s knapsack. My favorite drinks and snacks are footsteps away. My chair is at exactly the right height, and I don’t have to put on shoes. Or any clothes, for that matter.
How do you like to relax after a day writing?
I have so little time to write that I often write outside my scheduled writing hours, and I’m researching or editing when I’m not writing. However, I can’t go to sleep if I go directly from my office to bed, so I usually get in an hour or so of reading at bedtime.
Also, I take a day off now and then to decompress and fill the creative well. On those days I usually read or work in my gardens or take photographs.
What is one fun fact about you that readers don't know?
I bellydance. I’ve been taking classes for fun and exercise for five or six years.
What is the last song you've had on repeat?
“Liberty Elephant,” the last track on Betsy Tinney’s Release the Cello. The rest of the CD makes great background music for writing, but “Liberty Elephant” makes me want to get up and jump around. (Sometimes I do.) One day I’ll choreograph a bellydance routine to “Liberty Elephant.”
What is the best trick to overcome writer's block?
I never have writer’s block, but I do have days when writing feels harder than usual. I find the best remedy is to have a writing schedule and a standard place to work. Routines and habits make it easy to stay at my computer when the words are dripping instead of flowing.
What is the next book you'll write?
I have two books in the researching-and-making-notes stage.
One will be a romance novella set in modern France in Bordeaux and its wine country, the first in a two-book series that I’ll self-publish. The heroine is a travel writer doing an article on Bordeaux wines, and the hero is the manager of a vineyard who wants her piece to reflect well on the château where he works. I love writing about interesting and beautiful places; the second novella in the series will take place in Provence and star the first heroine’s sister. And lavender.
The other book will be a long historical novel set in ancient Mesopotamia at the beginning of the world’s first empire. It will be a fictionalized biography of Enheduanna, one of the most important and influential women in the ancient world. Born a princess of Akkad, Enheduanna was appointed by her father as high priestess of Ur, an important political and religious office. She wrote poetry that lasted centuries, and she signed her works—the first literary writer in the world to do so. I’m eager to explore her younger years, the time that prepared her to fill so many roles so capably. I’m not sure yet how I’ll publish this book.
Do you have a list of movies like me that you are itching to see or have seen? What about ones coming up? Any that draw your eye to it?
I rarely go to movies at the theater. It seems a waste of time because I get nothing else done. At home, I always do chores—exercise, pay bills, sort the mail, write grocery lists, etc.—while the TV or a DVD plays. Right now, I have a stack of new-to-me DVDs I’m eager to watch that includes Girl with a Pearl Earring, Goya’s Ghosts, Queen Margot, Lady Hamilton, Molière, Restoration, and Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown.
Claimed by the Enemy
Crown Princess Nindalla knows the terrifying power of Sargon of Akkad’s army: Ten years ago, it destroyed her home city and killed her parents. Now the nightmare is happening again. The Akkadians conquer her new home, Susa; make her a widow; and strip her of her rank. Nindalla vows to protect her children from her enemies by any means necessary, including marrying whoever can shield them best. With plots and subplots swirling around her, can she trust her instincts to tell friends from foes? Farm boy Ur-sag-enki was forced to become a soldier in the Akkadian army ten years ago after it destroyed his home and left him with nothing. When the Akkadians conquer Susa, he is awarded its governorship. He looks forward to settling down to the normal family life he craves. First, though, he must keep control of Susa despite enemies who exploit his inexperience, and he must gain legitimacy by persuading beautiful former princess Nindalla to marry him. But can he win her heart when it was his hand that struck down her husband?
Panting, Nindalla bolted upright, rocking the bed and nearly dumping herself on the floor. Her sweat-drenched shift clung to her. Not again. Not now. She had finally stopped dreaming of the destruction of Eridu two years earlier. Now the dream had returned. She bent her knees and rested her arms and head on them.
The slap-slap-slap of bare feet broke the silence of her chamber. No servant woman walked so loudly or with such long strides. The Akkadian soldiers have come for me!
She kept herself from jerking upright. She would be dignified, as befitting a princess; she would not show fear no matter what they threatened.
A sigh escaped from her lips. It was Ur-sag-enki, a worried look on his face. He stopped beside her bed, standing too close. She dared not pull away.
“Sister, you’re soaking wet. Are you ill? Has the demoness Dimme cursed you with childbirth fever?” He put his hand on her forehead. His brow furrowed. “You’re hot. I’ll go fetch an incantation priest.”
His kindness caused a strange fluttering in her stomach. “Brother, do not worry. I dreamed, that is all.”
His face lost its creases, and he nodded. “Ahh. I understand. I still dream of Eridu burning too.” He pulled over a stool and sat next to her bed. “Sometimes the dream visits when I’m awake. I see the flames and smell the smoke and hear the screams.”
“While you are awake?” She shuddered. Her hand reached out of its own accord toward him. She stopped it before it reached his skin, yet it was near enough to feel his warmth.
His gaze fell to her suspended hand. He reached for it and wrapped his own around it. “I dreamed while awake just this morning.”
Had he noticed how she had acted without thought to comfort him? She must be careful. After all he had done for her, gratitude came easily and wariness did not. “To suffer nightmares while awake must be terrifying.”
He looked embarrassed. “Not anymore. Not after so long.”
She did not believe him. She had never gotten used to her nightmares. Even now, talking about them with him made her heart race. She changed the subject. “Thank you for finding a wet nurse for Enki-kiag. I tried to feed him myself last night.”
She looked away, embarrassed. “It is harder than it looks.”
“Another way women are different from sheep,” he murmured.
His face reddening, he shook his head. “Never mind. I come with bad news. The high priestess of Inshushinak insists that you return to the birthing hut for eight days to finish out your confinement. You can’t stay with your daughters despite the danger in the city.”
Shauna Roberts writes fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and romance. Since graduating from high school she has lived in Philadelphia; Evanston, Illinois; Chicago; Iowa City, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; Vienna, Virginia; New Orleans; and Riverside, California. She was a copyeditor and an award-winning freelance medical and science writer for 21 years before retiring to write fiction.
Hadley Rille Books published her historical novel Like Mayflies in a Stream in 2009 and will publish her fantasy novel with romantic elements Ice Magic, Fire Magic in 2014.
Shauna is a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop and a past winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Older Writers’ Grant.
She invites you to visit her Website at http://www.ShaunaRoberts.com or to write to her at ShaunaRoberts@ShaunaRoberts.com.