Sunday, June 17, 2012

At Road's End by Zoe Saadia: Interview & Excerpt

Historical Fiction

He was a warrior from the distant Mexican lands, escorting a group of traders.

He did not want to follow the ancient road into the Southwestern desert; but he had no choice.

When he rescues a girl from the ransacked village, he thinks nothing of it. He just wishes the traders would sell their goods in a hurry, so he can return to his homeland.

But the fate had planned differently, for the warrior and for the girl alike.

How did you start your writing career?

Oh, I was an avid - not to say obsessive - reader of historical fiction, since I knew how to read. As a child I was always busy making up my own stories to prolong a good book. Curiously, this inclination survived even the difficult teen I was (at those times I was writing covertly, so no one would notice and take me for a nerd :D).

In a meanwhile, my other obsession with misunderstood pre-Columbian Americas kept making me argue with everyone who would dare to say a word “Indian” in my presence, up to the point that people were careful with what they say around me.

At some point, when I had a few years to myself to research whatever I like, I knew how I would combine both my passions, although it took more than a decade to evolve into a worthwhile writer J

Tell us about your current release.

Currently I’m about to release the forth, the last, book in my “Pre-Aztec Series”. Which I’m very excited about as it closes the series most nicely.

Not that I will leave the poor Aztecs alone after that. No, they will not get off so easily.

Tell us about your next release.

Following the previous statement, I’m now working on the first two books of the next trilogy (or, more likely, series, the way it goes with all the boiling politics of this restless Mesoamerica).

The series will be called “The Rise of the Aztecs” and will deal with just that, showing the way the Aztecs had turned into such a great empire.


Who is your favorite author?

No need to deliberate.  James Clavell, the author of “Shogun” and Collen McCullough, the author of “Masters of Rome” would have to share the laurels.  


What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?

Oh, they are extremely supportive. Aside from reading all my works, aside from cheering on and reading every chapter of any work-in-progress as it comes off my laptop, my parents, for example, can be found checking the Amazon ranks of my books almost hourly. They remind those gamblers in Vegas, helplessly addicted to horseracing, to Amazon ranking system in their case :D 

Does your significant other read your stuff?

Oh yes. He is my first beta-reader, great in catching all sorts of mistakes, starting from grammar and finishing with an occasional switch between north and south or when a sun would sink in the east (happened once :D). He has a great eye for a storyline and so much common sense it makes me green with envy. He is responsible for many twists and turns in my stories that would not have taken place otherwise. Enough that he pulls a face and says that the story is nice, but… to send me rewriting whole chapters.


How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

While writing historical, I have a general outline of what happened in this or that place at a certain time to rely upon.

But more than that, I never know what will happen with the characters on the personal level. Sometimes I put a new character in, to make nice diversion for the main ones, then find myself with that person taking a bulk of the whole story and spilling into the next book. Some of these characters are really too pushy :D

What are you passionate about these days?

Oh, this question is better to avoid, unless you are ready for a passionate outpour on the neglected history of pre-Columbian Americas.

The stigma on various cultures of this continent is appalling and so utterly wrong. I would love to change it as much as I can. I hope my historical novels would do this.

I want our modern society to discover North America and the people who'd populated it, before the famous contact with the other continents was made. It's a big part of history that has been horribly overlooked. Ancient Americas had a strong history. It did not sit with its hands folded, waiting to be discovered. 

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

Write. Write, write and write and hone your skill.

It’s so easy to get sucked into this promotional frenzy, trying to sell your first book, dedicating all your time to that end. People often forget what being an author is all about.

Being an Indie, you have to balance these two, the writing and the promoting. It’s a really difficult feat, but if the scales should tip, as it always happens, it would better tip to the uncontrollable bout of writing, as this what makes a writer.

Ah, and of course, get a good editor, preferably two. And a proofreader. I learned my mistakes the hard way with my first novel and would love to spare the badly edited first book to any other beginning Indie.

How do you react to a bad review of your book?


It’s not easy to accept a bad review. I’m always trying to see the good points and to accept the bad ones.

But it’s not easy. A bad review can haunt you for days L

So far I received not many bad reviews and all of them criticized the technical side, arguing about my use of the italics or an occasional grammar slip. So my reaction was to get another proofread in a hurry. 

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?

The names in my novels are a problem. Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and their neighbors, is completely tongue-breaking and I can’t do this to my readers. So when I pick names for my characters, I pick simple words that would sound nice to our western ear. Should I pick a meaningful name, I would never be able to pronounce it aloud myself. 

Who should play you in a film of your life?

Drew Barrymore should be able to handle my character easily J 

Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?

Absolutely morning. Frustratingly so. When people all around me used to have fun deep into the night, I would doze away well before midnight, losing all spark in the middle of a party.

Then I would be up with the birds, trying to crawl under the pillow and fall back asleep - with no success, of course! - while the rest of my friends would sleep happily into the high noon.

In short, I wish I was a night person :D  

What is the next big thing?

As I stated earlier, “The Rise of the Aztecs”, with the first book, “The Highlander” already on its way to the editor.

If I came to visit early in the morning would you impress me as being more like a chirpy bird or a grumpy bear?

All chirpy, unless the kids making trouble getting ready for school (and then it’s a roaring beast)

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

At this point, Central Mexico and the Highlands.

Oh, what wouldn’t I give to do just that!

What I do now is stating over and over that for my 40th birthday (a few years off still, but who is counting? ;)) I want to go on a big trip, only me and my beta-reader, no kids. I hope everyone involved got that message by now. 

Do your friends think you are an introvert or an extravert? Why?

A complete extravert. Being friends to a chatter box like me would leave people with no doubts.

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

My historicals are fun and educative, with the educative part coming in unnoticeably. Every historical is an outrageous trap, if you think about it J

Entice us, what future projects are you considering?

It’s hard to predict, as I have plenty of plans which keep being interfered all the time. I crave to write a trilogy covering the Northeast and a very significant time in the history of the Iroquois. But the pushy Mesoamericans keep getting on its way.

I still hope to get to it, after the Aztecs are well settled, coming to power through my current series at long last. I hope they would not try to push it on and on. I won’t deal with Cortes. It won’t be pre-Columbian Americas anymore.

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

My husband keeps finding too much traits of me in the main female character of my pre-Aztec series, but I swear I don’t see that much resemblance.

While some other characters were definitely ‘stolen’ from some people close to me J  

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Sometime people surprised that, with all this obsession over pre-Columbian Americas, I’m not even am American myself, no Native and no otherwise (although, of course, I did live on this continent for years, doing my research).

I was born in San Petersburg, and then brought to Israel when a teenager. And here I am, living in the hot Middle East, caring for nothing but 600-hundred-old history of the continent I don’t even live upon J 

Do you have a Website or Blog?

Yes. I run a blog where I put an occasional article, which is, how suprising, dedicated to all things pre-Columbian :D

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

While writing you get to live so many different lives, going through thousands adventures, and all this without actually endangering yourself :D Rewarding and comfortable, I’d say J

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?

I don’t think I would go for this exchange. They are always in trouble, always fighting and struggling and getting into all sorts of crazy adventures. No. I think I’d prefer my cozy life over theirs :D

An Excerpt from “The Young Jaguar”, book #2 in “Pre-Aztec Series”

Book 2 in the Pre-Aztec series

She was pleased, he could see that. Her eyes glittered against the flickering light of the torch. A long tendril slipped from the fashionably pulled hair, sliding down her high brow, fluttering against the gentle curve of her cheekbone. He wanted to reach out and touch it. He closed his eyes.
“It’s good you came.” The husky voice rang near his face, soft and warm. “My father will be here shortly. He’ll know what to do.”
“Here?” He straightened abruptly, causing the slave to spill some of the ointment. “Not the Revered First Son surely!”
She laughed, straightened up, and the magic was gone. “Yes the Revered First Son. How many fathers do you think I have?” Her grin widened, became unbearably smug.
”I have to go,” he said, too frightened to get angry with her.
“Calm down. Don’t panic. I agree you are in not the best of conditions to meet the mighty Emperor, but it will happen tonight. So make the best of it.”
“Your father is not the Emperor.”
“He will be.”
He fought his rising panic. “Why would he bother meeting me? I’m not even a warrior yet. I’m not of any significance.” He swallowed. “How does he know I’m here?”
“I sent him word.”
“What did you want me to do? Make you climb down and over the wall with this cracked head of yours? You came here uninvited, remember? Now you have to face the consequences.” She leaned forward once again, but there was nothing girlish or soft in her features this time. The large eyes bore at him, strangely alight. “Many important events are happening all around us. Didn’t you notice that? And I think it’s time you grew up. You and your friend were used to climbing walls and running around the markets, I can tell. But this time you went too far. There is no going back this time, you see? The crime of breaking into the Palace is punishable by death. But you knew that, of course.” Her smile was as cold as the tiles of the marble floor. “You knew it, but you did it all the same. Well, now you can only try to make the best of it. My father needs good warriors. You will make such one. But you will have to be loyal, completely loyal. Do you understand me? He may help you out of your trouble–I hope he will–but he’ll expect much loyalty in return. Loyalty and hard work, of course. You can give him both. Oh, you can be sure to be rewarded for these. I’ll make sure you will be.”
There was a promise in her eyes. How quickly she was changing. One moment girlish and playful, the next–cold and threatening, then again so playful his imagination went wild. He took a deep breath.
“I can still climb down this balcony, you know?”
She was taken aback, surprised. “You wouldn’t!”
“Want to see?” He rose to his feet, slow and reeling, but managing not to fall.
“If you step onto this balcony, I’ll scream.” Her voice took a shrill tone.
They glared at each other.

Zoe Saadia is the author of several novels of pre-Columbian Americas. 

Having researched various pre-contact cultures of this continent for more than a decade, she is convinced that it’s a shame that such a large part of history was completely overlooked, by historical fiction most of all. 

Both Americas has an extremely rich, diverse, fascinating history long before this continent was discovered by other civilizations. 

So her professional motto is set. America has not been discovered; not yet. Not in her novels :) 

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Book 3 in the Pre-Aztec series

One Gifted Kindle copy of At Road's End


Rachelle Ayala said...

Hi Zoe, so glad you have the support of your family. I agree. It won't be much fun once Cortez comes onto the scene. Although I suppose that could be your final chapter?

Nice interview!

Darlene said...

I love reading about the ancient civilizations. Thanks for the giveaway!