I want to welcome Nicole Evelina - First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
Hi everyone! I’m an award-winning historical fiction/historical fantasy and romantic comedy writer from St. Louis. Camelot’s Queen, which I’m here to talk about, is my second book. I have two more coming out this year, a romantic comedy set in Chicago called Been Searching for You and a historical fiction called Madame Presidentess, which is about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman who ran for President in the United States in 1872.
Tell us about your latest release.
Camelot’s Queen is the second book of my Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view. This one focuses on the story we think we all know – Guinevere’s time as queen. (Her early life before King Arthur is told in Daughter of Destiny, the first book in the series.) All the familiar elements are there – the battles, the infamous affair, the Holy Grail – but they are told in a way that’s different from the medieval legends we’re familiar with. Guinevere is a battle queen who rules side-by-side with Arthur, rather than being in his shadow; her affair with Lancelot doesn’t happen simply out of lust – it’s actually Arthur’s fault; and the Grail is different than you’ve ever seen it. Plus, Morgan is a disrupting influence in a way I don’t think any other author has ever shown her. And I delve into the dark side of Arthurian legend surrounding Guinevere’s kidnapping which is something many authors have shied away from. No matter the situation, this is a Guinevere with agency, perfectly willing to rescue herself.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Oh I do love Klaus from the Vampire Diaries and The Originals. He’s cold and arrogant and oh so violent, but there’s this tiny vein of vulnerability that makes you think maybe, just maybe, his humanity can be reached and redeemed. Joseph Morgan plays unapologetic evil so well! Joseph/Klaus was actually my inspiration for the character of Malegant in Camelot’s Queen, so be prepared for a bit of Klaus to show through! (He was so much fun to write!)
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Out of this one it’s all my villains: Morgan, Malegant and Marius. I think some sick, twisted part of me likes the villains because it’s fun to see what machinations they will think up next, how they will twist the plot to suit their own needs, and what lengths they will go to in order to get what they want.
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
I mainly write historical fiction (the romantic comedy was never intended; it just kind of happened). I’ve always loved history and I’ve found there are so many stories, particularly women’s stories, that have either never been told or aren’t know by a broad audience. My mission as a historical fiction author is to rescue little-known women from being lost in the pages of history. While other writers may choose to write about the famous, I tell the stories of those who are in danger of being forgotten so that their memories may live on for at least another generation. I also tell the female point of view when it is the male who has gotten more attention in history (i.e. Guinevere to King Arthur).
4.) What are you working on now?
I’m doing final edits on my July release, Madame Presidentess, which is about Victoria Woodhull, a real woman who was the first to run for President in the US in 1872. Despite that distinction – and the fact that she was the first female broker on Wall Street (along with her sister, Tennie), the first woman to speak before Congress, one of the first to run a newspaper and a powerhouse in the suffrage movement – she’s largely been written out of the history books. This book is my way of lobbying to get her back into the public consciousness, especially in year when we may see our first female President.
5.) What got you to start writing?
I’ve been writing as a hobby since I was little and started writing the first Guinevere book in 1999, but I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until about 2008. What changed? I read Twilight. (Go ahead and laugh.) There was something about it, about Stephenie Meyer’s story, that made me think, “hey, if this ordinary woman can do this, so can I.” And so my time as a serious author began.
As far as what got me going on Guinevere, I’ve been a fan of the character since I was a little girl. She was and still is a hero of mine. When I was in college, I read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I LOVED that book (it changed my life in many ways), but I hated her portrayal of Guinevere as an agoraphobic, simpering Christian. So I wrote my own version where she is pretty much the exact opposite. Parke Godwin’s book Beloved Exile made me wonder about the unknown parts of Guinevere’s life (the beginning and later years after Arthur) and with the two together, my trilogy was born.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
I feel like my characters pick me. I am inspired by TV, music, movies, books, and Pinterest but I really believe that finding little-known historical personages to write about isn’t something left to chance. I believe these people want their stories to be told and pick authors to help that happen. (Yes, I’m getting all woo-woo on you. But Elizabeth Gilbert says something similar in Big Magic, so I’m using that as my excuse even though I believed it long before she wrote about it.) That would explain why you often see a proliferation of books about the same people/subject at the same time. A few years ago Hemmingway and his wife were all the rage, and at one point everyone had a book about Anne Boleyn. My beloved Victoria is even having a small resurgence at the moment.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
I guess given that many of the characters in this series are pagan and I don’t exactly portray the Catholic Church very well, you’d be surprised I used to want to become a nun. I was actually voted Most Likely to Become a Nun in high school and went so far as to study with the secular Carmelites for a year. But that was not the path I was meant to follow. However, religion and spirituality remain very important to me, something you’ll likely see at least as a faint thread in all my novels, depending on the needs of the story.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Writing is my big talent. But if you want something off the wall – I can belch as well as any boy. I went to an all-girls high school and we were really, really good at teaching each other. My dad swears that that was all I learned in four years. (He kids. I learned so much more and my alma mater actually had a huge influence on my portrayal of Avalon in these books.)
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
The first author I ever met was YA author Alyson Noel. I had just completed my first draft of my first book and was so excited to begin querying agents. She told me “Don’t count the ‘no’s’ because it only takes one ‘yes.’” That is so true. This industry is so full of rejection and words like hers really helped me through the dark days. I can’t tell you the number of times that has gone through my head over the years: when I was querying and on submission especially. Then eventually when I decided to become an indie author, I expanded it to include “sometimes you have to be your own ‘yes.’”
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would love to talk to Christopher Marlowe. He’s always fascinated me and I am of the belief that he didn’t really die in that bar fight so many years ago. (I think he was Shakespeare, a subject I plan to novelize in the future.) I would want to know what really happened to him, what it was like being a spy in Elizabeth I’s court and what the deal with Shakespeare really was. (Can you tell I was an English major in college?)
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
“Wonder” by Natalie Merchant. I was born three months premature, weighing less than two pounds. No one thought I would survive. But here I am, 36 years later. I truly believe I was put on this planet for a reason and it has something to do with my writing.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
A beloved housecat. I LOVE cats. I only have two (Conor and Caitlyn, twin sable Burmese), so I don’t know if I really qualify as a crazy cat lady, but I like cats more than I like people. I’m convinced they have a direct connection to the Divine or can at least see beyond the veil to the other side, so I’d love to know what that is like. And to have someone love me as much as I love my cats would be an honor.
I made it to my room and slammed the door. Alone at last, I leaned against the door, struggling to catch my breath. Tears spilled over as the enormity of the day finally sank in. I slid down to the floor and ran my hands through my hair. How could my life have changed so much in only a few hours? I thought Arthur had grown to love me, but he had just accepted a former lover back into his confidence after only having been reunited with her for a few hours. What did that mean for my marriage?
I didn’t know how long I spent contemplating my situation, but just as quickly as the tears had come, I started laughing. I was being ridiculous. Arthur had had to learn to live with Aggrivane at court long ago. Granted he’d sent my former betrothed on missions away from Camelot as often as possible, but he had still learned how to cope with his presence. I was behaving like a child. Galen had been right the day we argued in the forest so many years before. I really was worse than a fisherman’s wife. And worse, I had changed little with the passage of time. I stood, straightening my dress and mentally preparing myself to apologize to them both.
After a few deep breaths, I went back down to the meeting room, expecting to find Arthur and Sobian discussing the finer points of her new role. But to my surprise, the room was empty. Octavia came in, holding a tray to collect the ale pitcher and our used glasses.
“Do you know where Arthur went?”
She eyed me carefully. “He is in his room. Alone.” She emphasized the word, knowing I would wonder. “They told me about her new role. Are you in agreement that it is wise?”
“I will be,” I reassured her.
Octavia made a noise indicating she wasn’t so certain then busied herself cleaning up the table. That was when I saw the lone sheet of paper. Thinking it to be notes from Arthur and Sobian’s discussion, I bent over the table to get a better look.
My blood turned to ice. The letters were formed of patterns made by varying lengths of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines. It was written in Ogham, the ancient language of the Druids, so it could not have come from Arthur. He hadn’t studied with them long enough to have learned it. Plus, its message was not one a husband leaves his wife.
I ran to Arthur’s room, rubbing my hand over the goose-pimpled flesh of my arm. “You may wish to rethink your decision,” I said as I entered.
He looked up. “Why is that?”
I held the paper out to him. “This was left in the meeting room.” I shivered again.
He plucked the paper out of my hand and turned it in several directions, trying to figure out how to read it. “Ogham. That’s unusual. What does it say?”
I grabbed it back, irritated beyond decorum. After what had happened with the madman and Sobian, I didn’t think I could take much more.
“That’s the problem. I think it’s a threat. ‘My queen, you may close your eyes to the one you scorned, but that will not keep me away. I will breathe your last breath so that you will live on forever in me.’”
Arthur’s face darkened. “Only one man could claim such a thing.”
I looked at him quizzically, brow furrowing. “How do you know Sobian isn’t party to this? It appeared right after she did in the very room she last occupied.”
Arthur sighed, clearly frustrated that I didn’t trust Sobian implicitly as he did. “Because this isn’t her way. As she said, if she wished you dead, you would be. She has no need for idle threats.”
“Think about the message.” His tone took on a condescending air I did not care for. “Someone you once rejected? Who did you give up to marry me? You may not want to see it, but the answer is right in front of you.”
He didn’t have to say the name. Suddenly I knew exactly who he blamed. His menacing gaze was fixed on my former lover.
Guilty or not, Aggrivane was in serious trouble.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/camelots-queen-nicole-evelina/1123624182?ean=9780996763141