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2 November 2018

Novel Conversations with Stephanie Churchill and Kassia

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...


Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Stephanie Churchill’s novel, The Scribe’s Daughter. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?
A: Hello, Helen, and thank you for inviting me to talk with you today.  I will definitely help myself to some wine.  And, the fruit.  And, yes, the chocolate too.  The wine smells very expensive.  Is it?

Q: Well, it’s...
A: Never mind.  It’s okay. I don’t get to drink wine often enough for it to matter.  Sorry, what was your question again?

Q: I simply asked if you would like to introduce yourself, and then whether or not you are a lead character or a supporting role?
A: My name is Kassia, and my older sister, Irisa, and I grew up in the city of Corium in Mercoria, a vast land west of the Sidera Mountains. My mother is dead, and my father... well, it’s complicated. As for my role in the book, I much prefer to stick to the shadows in general, but my life took an interesting turn, and events spun a bit out of control. I felt that I needed to tell my story.  So yes, you could say I am the lead character.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Of course I’d call the novel a memoir, because it’s me telling my own story.  The scribe who helped write the novel tells me it’s fantasy, but I wouldn’t know.

My story begins when a man shows up at my market stall to hire me for an unusual job.  I’m a tinker, but he wanted me to fix some silver jewellery – an unusual request. At first I thought he was a madman, but Irisa and I were orphans. Money was scarce. With nothing to lose, I took him on. As is often the case in life, nothing worked the way I’d planned.  Very quickly I found myself entangled in a mystery involving a foreign land I’d never heard of, a usurped throne, and a vengeful nobleman. Even though I faced a lot of hardship, I kept going because of the discovery of tantalizing clues about the disappearance of my father.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: It depends on who you ask! My sister has always called me reckless, and with good reason, I suppose. But I am most definitely a good person.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: That’s a hard one! How to choose just one? I could tell you about Swine, my slimy landlord. His name is really Sveine, but I love to call him Swine because I know it irks him, the spongy, swag-bellied son of a hedge-pig.  I could tell you about my sister, Irisa, but she has her own book. So I’ll tell you about Jack. I met him and his father, Rem, early on as a result of a slight misunderstanding.

Q: What kind of misunderstanding?
A: Oh, it was a little thing. He hit me over the head then tied me up, and I may have called him some names when I woke up. We became very close friends, as one does! [Kassia flashes a devilish smile and laughs quietly to herself before sobering.]  The reality is a little more indirect.  Initially we were wary of one another, but over the course of time, as we shared our stories with one another, we found that many of the threads of our lives intertwined. He became a companion and friend, and I would never have made it to Islay Bay without him. But I get ahead of myself.

Q: (laughs) He sounds interesting! Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: I am in a second novel as well, The King’s Daughter, though only briefly. The second novel is my sister’s.  Irisa and I had become separated early in the first novel.  She wanted the chance to tell her own story, so she got her own book.  We will both be in the third novel, but that one isn’t finished just yet.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
[Kassia’s look turns suddenly dark, and she sits silent and unmoving.]
[Helen reaches out and, concerned, lightly touches Kassia's hand.] 
Kassia? Shall we move on to the next question?
A: No, it’s okay. This is just really hard for me. I experienced many things on my journey, some of them beyond horrible. Afterwards, I locked away my emotions, buried them deep down to protect myself. I told no one about what happened for a very long time, and it’s still not easy for me to discuss it. Have you ever experienced something so disturbing that it changed not only the trajectory of your life, but who you were as a person?  I did. But what happened also made me stronger, like steel forged in my spine as a result. I think that’s all I want to say about it.

Q: That's fine - I have a personal saying 'Those who have survived darkness and danger are strong people because they know they can survive." Let's move on, eh? How about your favourite scene? Is that easier?
A: [nods and smiles.] There were many good moments, but my favourite scenes are the ones in which I insult Swine.  Irisa never liked it when I openly insulted him.  She thought it would anger him and make our situation worse.  But he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and I couldn’t help myself! Usually I’d fling a verbal barb at him and be away before he’d managed to work out that I had insulted him.  Later in my story, when I held a little more power over him, I insulted him to his face and he had to take it. It was cathartic.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?

A: Well, as I said, she wrote a second book about my sister, but my book was her first.  She actually never intended it to turn into a full-length novel.  She just wrote a “practice scene” for fun, and my quick wit and sharp tongue intrigued her enough to keep writing my story.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Yes, she is working on a third book that follows the first two.  The first two are “parallel” books, meaning they cover the same events from two different perspectives, mine and my sister’s.  The third book is more of a traditional sequel, continuing the story of our family after the second book ends.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: I have often heard her say that reviews are the best gifts authors receive from their readers. I think that’s pretty normal coming from authors? Books aren’t common where I come from, you see, so I can’t speak from personal experience. But I am pretty sure she takes the feedback from reviews very seriously.  In fact, some of that feedback influenced her writing of the third book.  And social media! We don’t have such things where I live, but we do have a public square where announcements are posted on walls and on columns. I think Facebook works similarly? Anyway, however readers can talk about the books they have read then share the news with their friends, that’s the best thing. She loves book bloggers and book clubs too.

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful?

A: There is a wide-spread misconception out there that traditionally published = quality, and indie = substandard.  Whether it’s fair or not, indie authors have to prove their worthiness for the reading public’s attention.  Groups like IndieBRAG do the hard work and are a filter for readers, offering only the best as a curated list.  It gives potential readers a standard by which to judge a book. If a reader sees the IndieBRAG Medallion on a book, they know it’s a worthy purchase.  If only the mainstream marketplace would catch on to these hidden gems!

Helen: Thank you, Kassia. It was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt?  While she's sorting that out... chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill of that drink…?
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!


I never imagined my life would end this way.  Not today.  And certainly not in this place.  Yet here I was.  It was midday, and had I the ability to tilt my face toward the sky I would have been blinded by the early summer sun, a silent observer of my murder.  As it was, I could do no such thing.  The beefy arm around my throat immobilized me, and as I clawed at it ineffectively, I felt my life drain away bit by bit, with each unsuccessful gasp for air.
    It had all started as a misunderstanding.  Yes, I had stolen the apple, of that there was no doubt, but the fact that I stood in the middle of paradise, embraced in a powerful death grip by this clay-brained slab of meat, had come about only by mischance.
    The merchant was a tawdry man, odious and duplicitous, with a false sense of his own appeal to those of the opposite sex.  However unsavory these traits made the man, they served my purposes perfectly.  I had come to the market, specifically to this sheltered niche between a crumbling stone wall and a wagon just a stone's throw from the fruit seller's stall, for breakfast.  I knew full-well the man’s reputation for lewdness as well as the opportunities it had provided me in the past, and I was certain another chance at thievery would present itself if only I was patient.  I wasn't disappointed.
    She was a very young and very unfortunate wife of a fishmonger from the quay.  She didn't know she was unfortunate, but I smiled to myself, knowing that her naiveté heralded my success.  The merchant noticed her immediately, and this was my cue to act.  Stepping out from the shadows, I snaked my way across the mud-packed alleyway and lightly brushed past a barrel filled to overflowing with apples, sending several cascading to the ground.  It wasn't enough of a commotion to distract the merchant away from the poor girl cornered behind a crate of berries, yet it was all I needed.  Bending casually as I breezed past, I picked up one of the orphaned apples.  It was as I did so that the man happened to look up, saw me take a bite.  He was angry, yes, though not sufficiently so to warrant the loss of his prey to chase me.  I smiled at the man over my shoulder and waved.  My theft was successful.  It was the next thing I did however, the afterthought, which got me into trouble.

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  1. Great interview and a wonderful excerpt - thank you!

  2. I well remember reading and reviewing this book and admiring the character of Kassia, a testament to the writing which belies the myth mentioned above. I especially loved the way Kassia automatically gave 'nicknames' to the people she met before she knew their name or characters! I felt that was inspired!!

  3. Thank you, Annie, Richard, and Helen! It means a lot to me that you would take the time to read Kassia's interview. It's her first personal interview, and she was a little (a lot) nervous about it. She doesn't really like to be in the spotlight, as she said. And Richard, she really loved your review too. Those nicknames were a way for her find some control in situations she had very little. Well, that and she's sassy. :-)

  4. Great interview--just enough intrigue to make us want to buy the book!

  5. A feisty young lady, isn't she. I think it bodes well for her survival despite the hints in her interview of uncommon hardship.
    I like the perfect tone of Kassia's voice. It fits her character. Quite intriguing, Stephanie.

  6. Thank you so much, Florence and Inge. I truly appreciate your taking time to stop by and read what Kassia has to say. (She made me say this because she wasn't about to get back out here on her own. She's still recovering from her vulnerability up above.)

  7. I love You Kassia, you have the most amazing spirit and I live your wit and sarcasm.

  8. Another great interview Helen! I have not read a great deal of fantasy but this interview with Kassia has propelled me to add it to my must read list. Thanks so much...

    1. Geri, this brand of "fantasy" was written with fans of historical fiction in mind as that's what I read so much of. It's definitely not your typical fantasy by any stretch of the imagination. I hope you enjoy it!

  9. I think a Blogger Blooper struck again. I'll try it again! Thank you, Geri, for stopping by to read Kassia's interview. She appears in a book which is labeled fantasy, but it is really not quite like what most people think of when they hear the genre fantasy. I wrote it with historical fiction readers in mind since that is the genre I read most. I think the voice and style will be very familiar to readers of HF! I hope you enjoy it, but as my mentor often says, "If you don't like it, feel free to lie to me!"

  10. That was a fun interview! Kassia, I'm looking forward to seeing you again in the next book. :)


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