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Once upon a time, Captain Hellion stumbled upon a book, beautiful and richly colored, with a woman in repose. It was titled QUEENMAKER, and intrigued by the title, Hellion settled into a chair and began reading…and reading until she finished, so enchanted by the author’s voice and the way she weaved a story about Queen Michal, the wife of King David. It is a magical person, Hellion thought, who could make a modern pirate feel she has so much in common with a queen of an ancient world. It is a magical person who can make the reader feel as much a part of the book as the characters. It was exactly this sort of person Hellion wished she was more like, the sort of author who could enchant readers so, and so it was then Hellion decided to find India Edghill, author of such enthralling books, and find out her secrets….
Hellion: India, I want to thank you for agreeing to interview with the pirates on the RWR. I imagine we’re not the typical crew you’d rub elbows with….
India: I work in a library. I’ve dealt with my fair share of pirates, never fear. Thank you for offering to interview me—and of course, for serving my rum in a clean tankard rather than straight out of the bottle.
Hellion: Yes, we don’t do that for just any author. Actually I’m not sure we’ve done it for any other author. In fact, we made the last author share a bath with Jack Sparrow.
India: Yes, I’m really sorry to have missed out on that.
Hellion: Your newest book, Delilah, is set to come out with St. Martin’s Press in November. It is loosely connected with two other books you’ve written, Queenmaker and Wisdom’s Daughter. Will you tell us more about Delilah, and how you came about writing this trilogy?
India: The first book I set in ancient Israel was QUEENMAKER, a novel about King David's first wife, Michal. That led into WISDOM'S DAUGHTER, about David's son King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Then St. Martin's wanted another book about a Biblical woman, and since I've been fascinated by Delilah ever since I saw Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 movie SAMSON & DELILAH when I was about twelve, I decided on Delilah for my heroine.
(If you haven't seen the 1949 SAMSON & DELILAH, produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, you're missing one of the best splashy, vivid movie epics ever filmed. I think what fascinated me most was Delilah's peacock feather outfit. Edith Head was the costume designer for the movie, and she stripped DeMille's peacocks of their tail feathers to create Delilah's most dazzling costume.)
And at the end of DELILAH, you'll see how Delilah and Samson's story weaves into the events of QUEENMAKER.
Hellion: I'm sorry; I'm still snickering that the costume designer denuded DeMille's peacocks for a movie. [laughs] This trilogy all features strong, though perhaps little known women of the Bible. How do you go about researching and developing these women into fully fleshed characters we can all relate to? How do you decide which Old Testament woman to write about?
India: I try to find a woman whose life interests me, a woman with a life full of unanswered questions. For instance, after Michal mocks David for his ecstatic dancing when the Ark is brought into Jerusalem, David rebukes her. "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death." (2 Samuel 6:23) And that's all we ever hear of Michal. What happened to her? There's no answer to that in the Bible, so it's up to tellers of tales to give Michal a life.
Hellion: That is the ultimate ‘what if’ fantasy. On your website, it says you love history—which considering the subject matter of your novels goes without saying—in particular Ancient Near East, Victorian England, and India. Any chance you may set an upcoming novel in either England or India? What are you working on now?
India: I'm currently working on the revisions of my next book for St. Martin's: a retelling of the story of Esther -- and of Queen Vashti. No one can resist writing about that beauty contest used to find a new queen after Vashti is banished for refusing to appear at a banquet so the king could display her to all his drunken guests. After that, Vashti vanishes from the Book of Esther. What happened to her?
(By the way, the best book ever written about Esther is BEHOLD YOUR QUEEN! By Gladys Malvern. You may be able to get it via interlibrary loan, or be lucky enough to spot one at a yard sale.)
And I'm also working on an epic romantic historical novel set in India during the Raj -- a great excuse for having lunch at the local Indian restaurant. It's research, right?
Hellion: A Biblical beauty contest? I swear the Bible has more drama than a Desperate Housewives episode. The Indian novel sounds wonderful, too, and yes, everything’s research. Or at least that’s what I tell Jack when I come home with another set of furry handcuffs. [crickets chirping] Moving on. What is a typical writing day like for you? What sort of advice would you offer other writers?
India: Like most writers, I don't support myself by writing. I have a day job: I'm a librarian. A typical writing day goes like this: come home from work; feed and walk dogs, try to get in two hours at the computer working on the current book. Explain to the dogs that it's my bed and I'm entitled to half of it….
Hellion: [snorts] Good luck with that….
India: I have two pieces of advice for other writers. One: learn to write to music. Have a particular piece of music that fits the book you're writing and play it when you write. I turn on the music I write to long before I'm ready to sit down at the computer. And the music pulls me to the computer, because my brain is trained to know that MOON RISE OVER THE SILK ROAD means It's Time To Write and there's no getting out of it. (I've written my last three books to MOON RISE OVER THE SILK ROAD by Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Khan.
Two: Get a good solid civil service job. Don't try to get a "creative" job -- you're apt to find that you've used all your creativity at work, and your brain has shut down for the night…
Hellion: Excellent. I have a good solid civil service job, and there is absolutely no creativity there. [laughs] Now I just need to do the music thing more. [mischievous look] I bet your third piece of advice is don't have the internet at home, am I right? Sorry, I have a weakness. What’s your call story? The pirates always love a good story of how one got published….
India: Well, I finished QUEENMAKER in 1991, and got a wonderful agent, Anita Diamant -- not the Anita Diamant who wrote THE RED TENT. I then collected the most flattering rejection letters you ever saw, saying things like "Everyone in the office loves it, but we have no idea how to sell a Biblical novel, so we're passing on this one." So after a couple of years, I put QUEENMAKER in a box in the closet. Then Anita died, and her agency didn't have any interest in me as a client. Time passed, and two things happened: Print On Demand technology became easy and cheap -- and St. Martin's Press published a book called THE RED TENT.
Print On Demand (POD for short) revolutionized self-publishing. It meant that I could publish QUEENMAKER myself, and have a real book to hand my mother. THE RED TENT became the best-selling darling of the book groups. And then I had a stroke of amazingly good luck. THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review did an article on POD -- and one of the two books Xlibris (the POD company I'd used) handed the NYT writer was QUEENMAKER. Which got a favorable mention in the article. Which meant I got a new agent (the wonderful and talented Anna Ghosh of Scovil Galen Ghosh) who sent QUEENMAKER to St. Martin's. Which bought it!
Hellion: Holy crap, that’s a total Cinderella sort of story. I love it! And I’m so glad they bought it—Queenmaker totally rocks. I also noted you mentioned you have some Spaniels and cats who keep you company. Who are they and which one is the most spoiled?
India: Alas, the cats are no longer with us; the last one died this past spring. It's only dogs now. I have Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Bella, Stephanie, Harry, Bevil, and Amy. Bella, Steffie, and Harry are Blenheims (chestnut and white); Bevil and Amy are Rubies (solid red). It's hard to say who's the most spoiled -- they're all absolute darlings. In case you care, here are their official names:
1. Harry: Britt Tax Deduction at Mooncoign CD, C-CD, RN, C-RN, C-RA, CGC
2. Bella: Britt Silver Bell at Mooncoign, CGC
3. Stephanie: Britt Sugar Plum at Mooncoign
4: Bevil: Wystar Heir Jordan at Mooncoign, RN, C-RN
5: Amy: Wystar Feel That Fire
I'm sure your Pyrate Crewe can easily figure out why Britt Sugar Plum's call name is Stephanie!
Hellion: I can definitely guess. Please tell me Stephanie has a mysterious boyfriend named Ranger? No? That’s a lot of puppies. [laughs] No wonder you have trouble commandeering your own bed. India, I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to visit us today, and I can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with Delilah. Is there anything you wish to ask the crew?
India: Only how to find a Pyrate ship heading for balmy southern climes…and to thank you all for having me aboard!
Hellion: Okay, crew, you heard her—her civil job may keep her busy for quite a bit of the day, but I’m sure she’ll try to stop by when she can. In the meantime, have any of you read Queenmaker or Wisdom’s Daughter? Do you read historical fiction about women [i.e. Phillipa Gregory’s books about Tudor England; Diamant’s The Red Tent; Robin Maxwell’s Signora di Vinci, etc]? Are there any historical women and settings you would love to see in a fictionalized history? Any Bible babes you’d love to read about?