An interview for the ages

Today I’m excited to be interviewing Irene Soldatos, author of the wonderful book, Bad Bishop.  It really is a fabulous read, and I jumped at the chance to learn more about it.  Share my curiosity?  Then pull up a chair, relax, and get ready for a little fun with history!

KK: What inspired you to write this story?

IS: That’s a difficult question. There was no one moment of inspiration, rather an idea that slowly developed. I read a lot of history. And there are three historians in my family, so I’ve grown up steeped in it, and I suppose I am more conscious than most of the enormous differences, cultural, social, ideological, technological between the people of one historical period and those of another, but also the very many similarities. I found myself often wondering what someone who was born and grew up in classical antiquity would make of the middle ages, for example, if he or she could somehow see it. I suppose this book is a thought experiment on that concept. I wanted to bring together and juxtapose people from various different time periods, in one story. One way to do that would be time travel.  But I didn’t like that idea, because it would mean they would have missed the process of history. And the process is even more important than the time period they would arrive at, i.e. the one I set the story in.

KK: The amount of research needed for this book must have been incredible.  What did that process involve?

IS: I admit that it was. It took many years of very wide reading, university libraries: books, scholarly articles, primary sources. I managed to make my life ten times more difficult than that of the average historical fiction writer, because I was bringing together people from many different time periods, and different geographical locations, in one story that skips around four different countries in Europe. For example, every time someone travelled somewhere, I had to know how they got from A to B, where the roads where, what they were like, how long it was likely to take and what towns or villages they were likely to encounter. The research was ongoing, literally, until the week before I handed in the final draft to the publisher for publication. I was double-checking facts.

KK: This book could have been set any time, even today – there seems to be no end of intrigues and back-parlor deals in modern politics.  What made you choose to set the story in the 1100s?

IS: I can’t answer this question as extensively as I would have liked, because it would involve spoilers. So I will just say that I picked the 1100s advisedly. It was part of the thought experiment involving the conflict of cultures.

KK: How did you decide on the title, and how does it relate to the book?

IS: The title has a double meaning. In essence it’s a pun. I use the imagery and symbolism of chess very extensively in the book to highlight both characterisation and plot. Bad Bishop is a (modern) chess term; but it might also simply refer to a bad ‘bishop’. It’s not a direct reference, since there is no ‘bishop’ as such in the book. But there are words that have a related meaning to ‘bishop’. Again I won’t say which these are. I chose it because of this double meaning. It is not a matter which of these meanings apply, but rather that both these meanings apply, in different ways.

KK: What are some of the challenges you faced in writing this story?  How did you overcome them?

IS: The greatest challenge was the sheer magnitude and volume of the research that needed to be done.

KK: What is your favorite part of the writing process?  Why?

IS: My favourite part is creating layers in the story. Crafting a story that can be read on many levels, and in which each level I embed information that is not easily recongisable at first glance, but is there, and if someone reads again, or comes to the book with the right background, might be able to spot it.

I also hugely enjoy planting clues, important clues from the very beginning, again and again, but in such a way that, hopefully, it won’t all come together until I want it to; and then, suddenly, all the previous clues will fall tidily together into place in the reader’s mind.

When I read a book that successfully does this, I find it immensely satisfying, so I hope that, assuming I succeed, my readers will find it so too.

KK: What is your least favorite thing about writing?  Why?

IS: The endless pursuit of accuracy for all details. Even minute details. It is immensely time consuming and tiring, but absolutely vital.

KK: Which of the many and varied characters is your favorite?  Why?

IS: I couldn’t possibly choose. 🙂 I love them all. Even the less pleasant ones. In any case, I wouldn’t want to prejudice the reader. I would much rather they read the story and choose their own favourites without the bias of knowing who the author is particularly fond of.

KK: Will there be a sequel?

IS: One is being written. Slowly, but it is. I hope that’s good news. 🙂

KK: Good news, indeed!  I can’t wait.

To find out more about the author herself, you can check out her blog, Incipit, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.  To get your own copy of Bad Bishop, check out Amazon (.co.uk in the UK or .de in Germany) or Smashwords.  Happy reading!

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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