Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Interview with Karin Welss

Please welcome Karin Welss to my blog today!

Alisha: What type of books do you write? Is there a reason you write (for instance) historical romance rather than hard science fiction or erotica?

Karin: I write historical fiction, both historical romance and historical fantasy. I love history, and researching the time periods for my books is nearly as much fun as writing them. In the past few years, I've learned about the politics of Prohibition, early twentieth century winemaking techniques, court politics in the 13th-century Egyptian Sultanate, Venetian shipbuilding factories, the medieval Flemish cloth trade, Sumerian religion, and what Mongols were really like.

What interests me most as a writer are the periods of transition in history...when did the great shifts in thinking, technology, or social culture occur? My first published book, Sweeter Than Wine, takes place right after World War I, during the real beginning of the twentieth century--women's rights, the shift from states' rights to federal regulation, the effect of the automobile on popular culture.
The House of the Rose vampire series takes place in the mid-thirteenth century, and deals with the end of Crusades and the beginning of the end of feudalism in Europe. Although I touch only lightly on these issues, I'm fascinated by the effects of huge transitions on the people who have to live through these periods.

I believe in continually challenging myself as a writer. My current work-in-progress is pure fantasy, set in an alternate world that bears a resemblance to Europe in 2nd century AD. One of the challenges (and one of the things I've found to be the most fun) about writing in this new-to-me genre is the world-building.

I ended up writing a series of short essays about how magic works, the economy and political situation of my world; the history and culture of the hero's people (who are based on the medieval Japanese), as well as the history and culture of the heroine's people (who are based on the Germanic tribes of pre-Roman Northern Europe). It was important for me to figure out these things, since one of the many obstacles standing in the way of the hero and heroine's romance is a clash of cultures.

Alisha: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Favorite memories?

Karin: I had a very happy suburban childhood growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents are German immigrants, and some of my best childhood memories come from summers I spent in Germany, visiting my grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

One of my favorite memories: when I was fifteen, I spent six weeks traveling through Germany with my eleven-year-old sister. We had a rail-pass, and went from relative to relative, starting in Frankfurt, then traveling down to Stuttgart and Waiblingen, then up to northern Germany, to Hamburg and Luebeck.

Traveling without my parents was my first taste of real independence (and it also infected me with the traveling bug). Being a history geek, I was thrilled to visit my first Roman ruins in Trier that summer, and I spent hours in the medieval churches of Luebeck. And I got my first kiss! His name was Andreas and he had dark, curly hair.

Best of all, my sister and I ended the trip as best friends. We still travel together when opportunity permits--our last trip was to Japan, about four years ago.

Alisha: How lovely! Tell us about the hero and heroine in your latest release.

Karin: Twist of Honor is a departure from my usual bent towards historical fantasy and paranormal. It's a historical romance set in Restoration England during the spring and summer of 1666.

Christopher (Kit) Fitzgeorge is the illegitimate son of an English nobleman. For years, he earned his keep as a mercenary soldier on the Continent. A widower with a young daughter, he's forced to return home when an injury puts an end to his soldiering career. Once there, penniless and on the verge of starvation, he's forced into a dangerous scheme by his half-brother, who wants to force a rich, widowed countess into marriage.

The countess, Antonia, though still young, is shying away from remarriage, especially since most of her suitors are more interested in her wealth than in her. She's smart, brave, and virtuous, and the survivor of a smallpox epidemic that claimed the life of her beloved older husband. Having lost her looks, she's living a relatively secluded life on her country estate, throwing all of her energies into managing her properties and tenants. But her suitors are persistent and devious--even the King gets in on the remarriage schemes when he orders her to come to Court and serve as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine.

With the aid of her spunky maid, Mall, Antonia foils an attempted rape and abduction, but the incident makes her seriously consider hiring a bodyguard.

When Kit comes to her aid during an attack by highwaymen, Antonia decides that he's the man for the job. Little does she know that this likeable, down-to-earth, much-too-attractive man is secretly plotting to kidnap her!

I was lucky enough to get a work assignment for a half-year in London while writing this book, which gave me the opportunity to visit most of the locations mentioned in the story, as well as visit a number of historic houses from the Restoration period.

Alisha: I'm adding this to my reading list! If you could go anywhere to tomorrow, where would you go?

Karin: That's a hard question! I love traveling and there are still so many places I haven't been!

It's January in Northern California, which means cold and rainy, so if I were to hop on a plane tomorrow, it would probably be to travel somewhere warm.

I would love to see Australia again (and it's summer there right now!). I have fond memories of the two years I spent in Sydney in my early twenties, working for a major software company. It was a beautiful city, and I did a lot of traveling while I was there, venturing up as far as Darwin in the Northern Territory (home of Crocodile Dundee!) and going scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Alternatively, I'd like to return to Turkey with my co-author Marian in tow, since we did so much research on medieval Byzantium and the prehistoric civilizations of the Black Sea region for our House of the Rose vampire series.

She's never been to Turkey, but I was there on an archaeological tour this past summer, and I loved it! Such a treasure-trove of human civilization, from the Neolithic farming settlement of Çatal Hüyük, and the hilltop Hittite capital of Hattusas, to the Greek and Roman cities along the coast, to the beautiful Byzantine churches, and exquisite Ottoman mosques and baths. The people were friendly, the countryside gorgeous, and food delicious! It was one of the best trips I've ever taken.

BROKEN GODS, the third novel in the House of the Rose series (co-authored under the pseudonym of Michaela August) takes place in 13th-century Turkey, primarily Constantinople, but with a brief jaunt to Mongol-occupied Konya. I had the chance to visit both Istanbul (the modern name for Constantinople) and Konya on my trip, and it was a lot of fun to compare the mental images I'd gained of the places from my research with the real things!

Alisha: Wow! You certainly are a world traveler! If you could see anyone tomorrow (dead or alive), who would it be?

Karin: Ooooh, that's a great question to ask a history geek! Where should I start?

I'd love to have a chance to chat with Queen Elizabeth I--she's always fascinated me.

Roman empress Galla Placidia would be another historical figure I'd love to talk to. She ruled the late Roman Empire for twelve years as regent for her son, Emperor Valentinian III, and she had quite the adventurous life, including being abducted into a forced marriage with the King of the Visigoths and becoming the empress-consort of Roman emperor Constantius III. I've always wanted to write a novel about her, and hope to do so one day. She's a lamentably obscure historical figure for being such a strong, accomplished, and ruthless woman.

About Karin Welss:

Karin, who makes up one-half of the award-winning Michaela August writing team, was born in Montreal, Canada. She grew up in California and has traveled extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia (including a stint in Sydney for two-and-a-half years, first as a university exchange student and then while working for a well-known database software company).

Besides traveling, Karin's other great interests are reading, anime, history, and archaeology. Family members accuse her of writing historical fiction as an excuse to buy books and do research! Karin currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is owned by a small but very bossy parrot. She pays for the birdseed by working as a technical writer.

Karin's novels include the award-winning Michaela August historical romance Sweeter Than Wine, as well as the Nebula-nominated historical fantasy novel, Glass Souls (the first book in the House of the Rose vampire series). Under her own name, she is also written Twist of Honor, a critically-praised historical romance.

Visit the Michaela August website (http://www.michaela-august.com) for more information about the books, as well as photo tours of the places mentioned in Sweeter Than Wine and the House of the Rose Novels.

1 comment:

ddurance said...

What fun, interesting research! That should make for rich, authentic novels full of historical details.