An award-winning writer along with professor, Michael Livingston holds degrees in history, medieval studies, along with English. He teaches at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He has also added a pair of fantasy novels to which impressive C.V.: last year’s The Shards of Heaven along with the just-released sequel, The Gates of Hell. We recently got a chance to talk to Michael about secret histories, name alterations, along with the challenges of writing the second novel in a series.
For those readers not familiar with you, could you please introduce yourself?
For those who don’t know me, in my day-job I’m a professor of medieval matters at The Citadel, where among additional things I do a lot of research on the military history of the Middle Ages. In my spare time, though, I write fiction. My first novel arrived last year through Tor Books: The Shards of Heaven, a historical fantasy set against the war between the future Caesar Augustus along with the famed lovers Mark Antony along with Cleopatra. along with right now here we are with its sequel, The Gates of Hell—an amazing journey!
So. Second book from the series! For some which’s the hardest. What were your challenges in writing the book? What did you learn through writing The Shards of Heaven in tackling the second volume? What are you carrying forward to the next book?
Writing a second book from the series presented quite a few challenges, for sure. At a genuinely basic level there’s the issue of how to get fresh readers up to speed on everything which happened in Shards without boring my many fans who read along with loved which book. the idea’s a genuinely fine line to walk.
Beyond which, though, there’s the challenge of timing. I wrote Shards over the course of years in no hurry at all. With Gates I had about four months. which was a tremendous challenge, yet I learned a lot about creating the muse work for me, which was a mighty useful thing not only just for This kind of book yet for the coming book three — along with hopefully many more books to come!
Back when we last spoke, the name of The Gates of Hell was The Temples of the Ark. Why the name change?
Yeah, creating sure which’s a funny thing. When Tor offered me a three-book contract I had only written Shards, yet they needed titles for all three books for the contract. I knew the basic gist of my plot — a necessity given how densely woven the plots are with history along with with each additional — yet I hadn’t thought through titles. So I made up some place-holder titles: for book 2, which place-holder was “The Temples of the Ark.” I discarded which title on my end pretty early, yet the decision didn’t quite percolate through the systems at Tor, with the result which my turned-in manuscript said Gates yet the first edition of Shards said “Temples” along with for a time I myself didn’t know which the idea would certainly be.
Anyway, This kind of spring I decided to resolve the confusion (or perhaps contribute to the idea!) by writing a short ebook entitled “The Temples of the Ark,” which can be a prequel to Shards which features part of the backstory of Alexander the Great along with the founding of Alexandria. Since which story arrived afterwards — the idea’s available right now for you ereaders out there — “Temples” sorta follows Shards just like which first edition of which book says — even if Gates can be genuinely the sequel novel.
While Marc Antony along with Cleopatra are at least vaguely familiar to most readers, Augustus’ campaigns in Spain are genuinely known only by Roman historical enthusiasts. What prompted you to use which part of Roman history to continue the story of the shards? How do you handle historical figures which aren’t which well known?
So much of the Shards series can be about filling from the gaps of history, giving an explanation of events where our sources fall short. This kind of can be true across the whole trilogy, which has been a blast as the story moves through time along with across the ancient world: book three, for instance, finds the story in Jerusalem along with Petra, among additional places, which was tremendously exciting.
Anyway, when I’m doing my research I’m looking for those intriguing gaps, along with among them can be just what’s going on in Spain during those campaigns. We know which Augustus became very ill during which campaign, for instance. yet what was the illness? We know the legend of the outlaw Corocotta. yet how did which genuinely happen? along with while archaeology appears to have revealed the probable whereabouts of the siege of Vellica, the idea also has given us questions — like why so much battle seems to have taken place outside the town’s walls. I’m honestly addicted to those kinds of puzzles as a historian, along with the Shards series gives me the opportunity to have a lot of fun with creating up possible solutions.
As for the characters, I obviously do everything I can to build through our primary sources. Where those fail, I try to triangulate through any additional historical contexts we have at hand. along with barring which … well, I just do what I think would certainly be best for the book.
The characterization of characters feels to me evolved along with grown since the first novel. Augustus, for example, feels much less like a villain as he came across to me in Shards of Heaven. How did you find growing along with evolving the characters over the time between the first along with second novel from the time frame of the book, along with from the real time in writing the book.
I’m genuinely glad to hear which the idea felt which way, because I absolutely intended for them to evolve — a process you will see continue in book three. Part of which can be because I think a lot of fantasy writers in particular invite their readers to jump into a “Great versus evil” dichotomy in their plots, along with I wanted to push against which as the plots unfolded over time. Hardly anyone in history can be truly evil, after all: relative to their own perspectives, most villains see themselves as heroes. In addition, Augustus in particular was a truly complex figure who very much grew into his own sense of self upon the entire world stage. I wanted to reflect which as best I could within the confines of my adventure plot.
Writing secret historical fictional fantasy can be a tough high wire act to keep up. How do you balance the secret historical background with the real history?
So does which mean you think I pull the idea off? (Laughs.)
Honestly, navigating the path between the immutable signposts of history along with the action-packed plot which I’ve built out of mythology has been both a joy along that has a headache. On the one hand, history can be a magnificent source of inspiration. The story of Corocotta welded so perfectly with my plots which at times I half-wondered if my fantasy was rediscovering a lost history. On the additional hand, history could also get in my way: no matter how much I love a certain character, his or her fate can be sealed by those same inspiring histories.
from the end, I think the idea’s a wash. All writing can be hard, along with I wouldn’t dare to say which what I do can be any more of a difficult act than anything else from the novel-writing circus. the idea’s just different.
What was your favorite real thing you just had to have from the book?
I’ve got such a great answer just for This kind of for book three, yet the idea contains spoilers!
which said, Gates also has some great historical Easter eggs for folks who do the research. My favorite can be probably an artifact called the Meroë Head of Augustus, from the collection of the British Museum. the idea’s the bronze head of a statue of the Caesar, excavated in 1910 through beneath the steps of a Kushite temple in Meroë – far up the Nile beyond the borders of Rome. the idea’s an absolutely stunning artifact, along with how the idea got to be buried in Meroë was something I enjoyed incorporating into the book. There are a lot of these little tidbits from the books, explaining artifacts, legends, along with even features of the earth.
the idea’s certainly not necessary to know all the real stuff I’ve used to build the novels, yet having the idea all in there gives the series an extra dimension along with texture for those who can see the idea.
So what’s next? What convention appearances do you have coming up? How fares book three?
I am very pleased to report which book three, which can be entitled The Realms of God, can be complete along with in Tor’s hands. Expected Discharge can be This kind of time next year.
With the Shards trilogy complete, I’ll be moving on to the next project, which may well be an epic set in a rich along with dynamic fantasy world which I’ve constructed over time. I have a few additional irons from the fire, though, so we’ll just have to see where things stand when the dust settles.
As for conventions, I will be at JordanCon This kind of year, along with hopefully I’ll be creating the idea to DragonCon along that has a few additional events besides. If folks follow me on Twitter @medievalguy or check out my website, they’ll know when along with where I’ll be.