25 February, 2014
Roberta Rich, author of MIDWIFE OF VENICE and its thrilling sequel, THE HAREM MIDWIFE (out today!), talks shop – a.k.a what it takes to write bestselling historical fiction:
I have been thinking about the writing process a lot lately―for the past eight hours to be exact. I am writing this piece on the bus from San Miguel Allende to the town in Mexico where I live during the winter, Colima.
I just finished giving a workshop called Writing the Historical Novel, a Guided Hallucination. For me, writing is for me, at least when it is going well, is a trance-like walk through the imagination. Someone once asked me how I felt when I was writing and I said it was as though I had a movie going through my head, a movie in which there are a lots stops and starts, and replays. I watch this mental movie and try to think of the best way to describe it.
I tend to write in scenes and not necessarily in the order they will occur in the finished novel. While I usually start with the first chapter, I might write a middle and last chapter next and then go back to the begining again. It is a bit self indulgent to write this way. I always feel I should be more ‘left brained’. And it is sometimes hellish to arrange the chapters in the proper order when the time comes. I once read that Flannery O’Connor, the great American short story writer, used to cut up her manuscripts, spread them out on the bed, and then with dressmakers pins, join them together. I like that image. Next time I will try it myself.
Don’t miss THE HAREM MIDWIFE – out today!
The Imperial Harem, Constantinople, 1579
Hannah and Isaac Levi, Venetians in exile, have set up a new life for themselves in Constantinople. Isaac runs a newly established business in the growing silk trade, while Hannah, the best midwife in all of Constantinople, plies her trade within the opulent palace of Sultan Murat III, tending to the thousand women of his lively and infamous harem. But one night, when Hannah is unexpectedly summoned to the palace, she’s confronted with Leah, a poor Jewish peasant girl who has been abducted and sold into the sultan’s harem. The sultan favours her as his next conquest and wants her to produce his heir, but the girl just wants to return to her home and the only life she has ever known. What will Hannah do? Will she risk her life and livelihood to protect this young girl, or will she retain her high esteem in the eye of the sultan?
An adventurous, opulent and deliciously exciting read, peopled with fascinating, unforgettable characters (a court eunuch; the calculating sultan’s mother-in-law; the beguiling harem ladies; and a very mysterious young beauty from Venice who shows up on Hannah’s doorstep, causing much havoc), this novel is sure to please fans of The Midwife of Venice and extend Roberta’s reputation as one of Canada’s most loved historical fiction authors.