Andrea @ Reading Lark: Why did you decide to tell Alexander the Great's story?
Eleanor: Alexander the Great was one of the world’s most pivotal characters. There was the before Alexander, and the after, sort of like Jesus, though in a cultural way rather than religious. Once Alexander opened a door between east and west, the world hasn’t been the same. The reason that today there are blond, green-eyed Afghanis is because 2,300 years ago Alexander’s men chose to stay and colonize the area. He opened up Europe to silk, spices, new ideas of government, science, medicine, religion, and architecture. Likewise, the east absorbed western culture, and Indian statues of Buddha suddenly started to look a lot like Apollo. Alexander was a brilliant, trailblazing meteor across the canvas of world history. So very bright, so very brief.
Andrea @ Reading Lark: Why did you choose to focus on Alexander as a teenager?
Eleanor: Alexander’s teen years offer the novelist fascinating possibilities as almost nothing is known about him until he became king at twenty after his father’s assassination. But we know some things about his family, which was, um, troubled. His beautiful, manipulative mother was considered a witch. His father was gruff and distant and often away. His sister wanted to be an Amazon, and his brother was mentally handicapped. Until his father’s death, Alexander had no power, and it’s safe to say that King Philip and the Council didn’t listen to a teenager.
Based on everything written about him once he became king, I could imagine who he was at sixteen—brilliant, ambitious, personable, and trying to find his footing in a world he would, in a few years, change forever.
Andrea @ Reading Lark: What sort of research did you do for this novel?
Eleanor: Years ago, just for my own personal enrichment, I read an entire library of books on the ancient world, attended numerous seminars on various aspects of it, and visited dozens of ancient sites in Europe and the Middle East. So I had a thorough knowledge to begin with, but to capture Alexander’s world, I read some new books and re-read some old ones.
Mary Renault’s ancient Greek historical novels resonate with the tone, the thinking, and the culture of the time: The Persian Boy, Fire from Heaven, the Mask of Apollo, The Praise Singer, The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea, and Funeral Games. So I reread all of them.
To boost my knowledge of certain elements I wanted to include in Legacy, I read several non-fiction books. Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World helped me understand Princess Cynane’s role as a female warrior. For Kat’s sea journey, Travel in the Ancient World was quite helpful. To explore the possibilities of bringing in more diverse characters—which are only briefly mentioned in Legacy but will play greater roles in the series—I read two fascinating books by an African-American classics scholar: Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, and Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience.
For a quick dose of philosophy, I reread Plato’s Republic. But the bulk of my reading centered on ancient warfare. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs explained the amazing tricks and surprises the ancients used in battle: it was a lot more than arrows, swords, and spears! I also re-read books written by ancient authors on warfare and politics: Frontinus’s Military Stratagems; Histories by Herodotus; The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides; and Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition.
Andrea @ Reading Lark: Which character was the most fun to write?
Eleanor: They were all fun! As an author, each character gives me an opportunity to explore a different part of myself. Because if it’s not inside me, it’s not going to get out on the page; it’s as simple as that. Having said that, the most fun were actually the evil ones—Princess Cynane and Queen Olympias—because that nasty, manipulative part of myself lives in a state of continual repression since I want to be a nice person. Writing those two witchy characters gave my evil side a chance for expression without actually resulting in anyone’s brutal death.
Andrea @ Reading Lark: It's a tradition to ask - What is your favorite bird?
Eleanor: I love blue jays for being big, beautiful, loud, greedy, and nasty! They don’t put up with any other birds standing in their way. I also love crows for their cawing beady-eyed blackness, and the fact that they own any tree they land in!
About Eleanor Herman:
Before the Game of Thrones craze swept the nation, Eleanor Herman was hard at work entertaining readers with her extensive research on courtly intrigue and romance. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings, as well as three other works of nonfiction: Sex with the Queen, Mistress of the Vatican, and King Peggy.
Obsessed by all things royal and historical, she lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and four extremely dignified cats. Legacy of Kings is her first novel.
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.
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