By Brian Knight
Ash will do anything to restore her father, King Jared II, to the throne. Her younger sister, Naiva, will do anything to save her family from destruction. When Akish, the man who is commissioned to assassinate their grandfather, falls in love with the younger sister but chooses to marry the older sister, their hearts are divided. The conquest of power and greed blend together in this haunting new thriller.
H.B. Moore’s new historical thriller was recently released by Covenant Communications, and I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to visit with the author about DAUGHTERS OF JARED, her life and work, and her love of historical fiction.
Tell us a bit about your latest release, DAUGHTERS OF JARED.
DAUGHTERS OF JARED is about two sisters, one who will do anything to restore her father’s throne, which includes plotting the assassination of the current king who happens to be her grandfather. The younger sister, Naiva, lives in the shadow of her older sister—always second best at everything because she is the second-born. When Akish, the man who the older sister has chosen as the assassinator, comes to the exiled court, Naiva falls in love with him. But the prize for bringing back the old king’s head is marriage to the oldest daughter and eventual rule of the kingdom. Akish chooses the oldest daughter, dividing the sister’s hearts. His willingness to assassinate the old king leads the family into a deeper abyss of evil. He has the current king, his father-in-law, murdered, and eventually his own son, so there are no more threats to the throne. The two sisters are caught in the middle as their kingdom crumbles around them.
What is it about historical fiction that gets your authorial engine purring?
Modern people are boring? Not really, but history is so interesting, and I want to know what really happened behind all those closed doors (or curtains). And what were the motivations behind them? I look at it like a spider web. You have the main story at the center, but there are so many linking threads that build upon each other, going back in time, that give you a greater picture of the era. Everything comes into play: government, religion, architecture, social status, education, human rights . . .
Can you tell us a bit about the research that goes into a historical novel? How much fresh research do you do for each new book, and how much of your specialized knowledge is usually already in your head?
DAUGHTERS OF JARED is my 5th novel set in Mesoamerica, although it’s the most “ancient.” So I’d done quite a bit of research on the Mayan culture, and had to switch over the Olmecs—a contemporary culture of say, the Queen of Sheba. So this book I wrote pretty much straight through, highlighting things to go back and research. Most of what I researched was ancient village names, topography, historical figures, religious climate, and actual climate, which are all specific to the location.
You’ve got an impressive backlist leading up to your current novel, DAUGHTERS OF JARED. Each story has its unique challenges and gratifications. What did you find most challenging, and gratifying, about DAUGHTERS OF JARED?
The greatest challenge with historical fiction is weaving a story, and coming up with enough fresh conflict, on historical events/people so that the readers who already know most of the story are still drawn into it. DAUGHTERS OF JARED was no different. The bare bones of a plot were there, but I had to make it compelling and fresh. The most gratifying part of the process was when I read it about a year after submission when it hit editorial and realized that I really liked the story and became caught up in the emotion of the characters.
You tell your stories in the fairly uncommon first person point of view. I do the same with some of my stories, when I think it is especially important to create a closeness between the protagonist and reader. What is your reason for using the first person POV?
I have several books written in first person, but this is the first to be published so far. I actually really love writing in that point of view because it becomes very intimate like you mentioned. So my reasons are the same as yours. For DAUGHTERS OF JARED, I felt that the entire story could be told from Naiva’s point of view and there wouldn’t be anything missing from the reader experience. It was so strongly her story that changing it to third person would have taken away from that journey.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What are the things you think make you the unique individual and writer you are, but can’t fit into the short space of an author bio?
I lived in the Middle East as a teenager and I think that did several things for me—opened my eyes to new cultures, new people, and new friends. In the US, we are always trying to blend religious beliefs and ethnicity so that we “all get along and we all understand and love each other.” In the Middle East, it’s the opposite. Even the color of your license plate trumps who you are to everyone. Kids as young as three are throwing rocks at whoever is “different”. Okay, that wasn’t really what you asked for. But realizing how important religion and culture is in other parts of the world, meaning life and death, had a great impact on me and definitely helps me as I create historical novels.
How do you balance motherhood, work, and writing?
Frankly, I’m always off balance. I’ve been known to get up at 4 am to write, other times, finding 15 minutes snatches here or there. Theoretically since all of my kids are in school now, I should have a luxurious 6 hours a day. It’s amazing how fast that time goes. I also own a freelance editing company (Precision Editing Group), so that fills in if there are any stray minutes. I’ve become very good at ignoring weeds in the flower beds and letting the milk almost run out. I’m also the fastest shopper in the world. And of course, I almost always ignore the phone (my kids know to text me).
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, how have you overcome it?
I’ve definitely battled with writer’s block, which I’d like to rename character block. Once I know who my character is, I can start a book. In my genre, the historical plot basics are there, and filling in can be tricky, but the characterization of historical people is difficult because of the pre-conceived notions of your readers. I’m no historian and that’s not my goal in writing. I need to know enough about who the character is in order to get started and that includes creating motivations, etc. Discussion with friends/critique group helps, some research, and sketching out character arcs. Other times I’ve felt stuck, I’ve taken a break from that particular manuscript, written something else or done something else. Or if I know what will happen later, I’ll jump to that scene.
How long does it typically take you to finish the first draft of a new novel? Do you edit and revise as you go, or do you blast out a first draft as quickly as you can and revise only after the story is told?
I spend about four months on a first draft, although DAUGHTERS OF JARED was about three (I gave myself permission to write a shorter book. Yay.). I used to blast through, but I’ve found it works better for me to read/edit the scene I wrote the day before, then dive into new writing. Once the first draft is done, I take a few days off, then do a full read through, editing as I go and filling in the research holes I left, and crossing fingers that it all works together.
Who are your influences, both old and new?
I read Mary Higgins Clark’s autobiography, KITCHEN PRIVILEGES, and was impressed that while working on her first novel she wrote from 5 am – 7 am each morning before going to work. At the time she was a widow, raising 5 kids on her own. It really demonstrated the discipline that we need in order to produce a manuscript, slowly, but consistently. And a lot of times sleep may be the sacrifice. Anne Perry, a mystery writer, can create description and setting like few others—an area that I struggle in (mostly because I always skim over that when I’m reading, and I like to go for the dialog and action, then move on). Maeve Binchy is a master at characterization. With only a few lines about a character, she has pulled you in and connected the reader. Oh, and I’m a sucker for anything Jodi Picoult and Harlan Coben.
Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?
You might think I’m ADD when I tell you about my current projects. Submitted to publishers: a novel on Adam & Eve (yeah, those guys), a non-fiction book on Divine Women (the good & the bad), and coming out in November 2012 is my first contemporary women’s novel (about a Greek woman living in Newport Beach). Shopping: a YA speculative series (think end-of-world, apocalyptic), and an international thriller based on the hunt for the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. Writing: a historical romance novella for an anthology, a historical novel based on my 10th great-grandmother who was hanged as a witch in Salem, and the companion novel to the Newport women’s book . . . and that’s it for now!
Thanks for this opportunity, Heather. You’re a fascinating and talented woman, and DAUGHTERS OF JARED sounds like another winner.
Thanks, Brian. I feel like I’ve learned something about myself, which is kind of weird, but cool-weird.
“H.B. Moore has written an engaging page-turning thriller.” –Diony George
“First, the author certainly knows Meso-American culture and history. Having read a couple of her other works set in the same general area and time, I wasn’t surprised, but I must say that her research here really shines.” –Tanya Mills
“Daughters of Jared is a thrilling tale of a young woman caught in a web of evil spun by her sister. The story follows the journey of these two sisters – both searching for something different. One for glory and power, the other for peace and faith.” –Nashelle Jackson
To learn more, please visit her website.