10 Questions with Nicole Evelina
About her debut book Daughter of Destiny
About her debut book Daughter of Destiny
1. Where did you get the idea for this book?
When I was in college, a friend of mine gave me a copy of The Mists of Avalon for Christmas. I LOVED it, but I hated the author’s portrayal of Guinevere as meek and well, boring. That made me seek out other books about Guinevere and I read Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which tells the story of what happened to Guinevere after the fall of Camelot. That made me wonder what happened to her before and after Arthur, which is something you don’t hear much about. Then Guinevere came into my head, telling me she wanted me to write her story (which I thought at the time would be all one book). The rest, as they say, is history.
2. How long did it take you to write Daughter of Destiny?
All told, about 15 years. I started it in September of 1999 while I was in college. It was a hobby, something I did when I got bored. I had no plans of publication. Then in 2008 when I read Twilight (go ahead and laugh), I thought “hey, if she can do it, so can I” and I started taking my writing much more seriously. I think I finished the first draft in December 2009. After that there was a lot of editing and some significant re-writing. That was when I realized it was long enough to be the first of three books and I started researching the publishing industry. I had an agent for two years and this book went to acquisitions three times, but with no offer. Then when my agent and I parted ways and I decided to go indie, I knew it would be the first book I’d publish.
3. What traits do you share with your main character?
Guinevere is interesting. On one hand, she’s intelligent, independent and driven, but she can also be very naive and judgmental. I share all of those traits with her, plus her tenacity. Neither of us will let go of something we want until we get it or are forced to give up, but only if there is no other alternative.
I think we are different in that she is very duty-driven and that’s not really part of my life. I have to go to work, pay my bills and obey the law, of course, but I don’t have that sense of expectation dogging my every move. I actually really admire her for ability to submit when she needs to.
As far as other characters, Isolde is a bit of wish fulfillment in that she’s the type of carefree woman I wish I was and Elaine’s darkness is partially based on me. Morgan and Father Marius have no relation to me, but they are the kind of evil characters I love to hate. And of course, Aggrivane is my fantasy man.
4. Did any of your inspiration for this book originate in your real life experiences?
Some of the character dynamics and relationships are based in real relationships. For example, I was able to draw upon my four years at an all-girls high school to create the bond of sisterhood among the girls and women of Avalon. Likewise, Guinevere’s close relationship with her mother is modeled on my own (but thankfully mine is still alive). The interplay between Lyonesse and Pellinor and Guinevere and Elaine are based in reality, but I won’t say who.
I was also fortunate to spend two weeks in England on an Arthurian legend tour, which helped me better get the lay of the land in southwestern England, where much of the second book takes place. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Much love to Jamie George and my three Aussie travel companions for putting up with me for two weeks! (I chronicled the trip on my blog. Here’s the first entry. The links at the bottom should take you to the rest. There are 10 total.)
5. Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?
Well, I mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradley above. I was fortune to get to spend two weeks in England on an Arthurian Legend tour with Jamie George, one of the people who helped Ms. Bradley research her novel. Her epic style was certainly influential, as was that of Jacqueline Carey.
I’ve been told I have a writing style reminiscent of Stephen King, which is weird because I’ve never read any of his books (other than the non-fiction, On Writing). I’ve also been compared to Elizabeth Chadwick and Susanna Kearsley by agents and editors.
I am fascinated by religion and spirituality, especially the mystical side. I think that comes through clearly in this book and likely will in everything I write. I have a strong background in Catholic and Wiccan/neo-pagan studies (especially the mystical) due to years of personal research.
My fascination with the Celts came from a 1993 TV show that almost no one saw called Roar. The premise was about the conflict between an Irish community and the invading/ruling Romans. I quickly found out how historically inaccurate that was (the Romans never made it to Ireland), but the research bug had bitten me and I spent roughly the next 15 or so years absorbing everything I could about the historical and mythological Celts.
6. Why historical fantasy?
Believe it or not, I originally set out to strip Arthurian legend of all of its magic and tell the historical story of Arthur and Guinevere. It didn’t take me long to realize that without some magic, the story loses some of its appeal, its life-spark, if you will. So I decided to take a studied approach to the magic my characters use. The Celts believed in magic as part of their everyday lives, so I was careful to make it subtler than you see if high fantasy stories. I also wanted it to reflect the Celts’ deep reverence for and connection to nature, so I chose to have my priestesses perform elemental magic. Between that and The Sight, which is also part of Celtic belief, I felt like I had enough fantasy to do that part of the story justice without making it so historically impossible as to overshadow that aspect of the story. Historical fantasy is a nice balance of two genres that I love.
7. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you researched for this project?
Oh gosh, there are a lot of things. You know how they say most authors’ search engine histories could get them locked up? Well, it’s true. For this book, I think the most interesting thing was trying to find out about the beliefs of the Druids, which is really hard because there’s not a lot of concrete evidence. The strangest thing was probably Celtic burial practices and their views on death and dying.
8. Why do you write?
Because I have to. I know that’s a clichéd answer, but it’s true. For me, writing is like breathing. I have these characters in my head who talk and demand their stories be told and I think if I didn’t write, I’d be crazy. I know when I don’t, I get cranky and irritable. Even if only my friends and family ever read my books, I’ll be happy because I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do.
9. What made you decide to be an indie author?
It was a combination of things, and a decision that I took a long time in coming to. One of the main factors was that it was time for me to get my work out there. It had been four and a half years – and six books – since I started querying agents. My work was just stacking up with no place to go, even though I had people telling me through my blog and social media that they wanted to read it. I wanted to be able to learn from it, which I can’t do unless others can read it. That, combined with wanting to have my historical fiction book Madame Presidentess published before the November 2016 Presidential election (which was by then impossible to do traditionally because of the time it takes to produce a book), and a desire to have more control over my career, led me to start my own publishing company. However, I am open the possibility of traditional publishing in the future. I haven’t ruled anything out.
10. Who is part of your publishing team?
I have a fabulous editor in Cassie Cox, who runs her own freelance company. She is constantly pushing me to dig deeper into the why behind what I write, which makes the books so much stronger.
I use Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial as my cover and social media designer. I love working with her. She has great vision (pardon the pun) and can manage to summarize the entire book in single image.
Liz and Morganna at The Editorial Department handle my interior layout, for which I am immensely grateful. Not only to they make the books look eloquent, they have a strong attention to detail and have save me from making mistakes on more than one occasion.
And there’s also my audio book narrator, Serena Scott Thomas. She is signed on to record all three of the Guinevere books, and I hope she’ll be available for Morgan and Isolde’s stories in the future. She has an uncanny knack to breathe life into these characters exactly (if not better) than they sound in head. And she’s fun!
Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.
In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.
Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.
You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.
Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.
I am Guinevere.
I was once a queen, a lover, a wife, a mother, a priestess, and a friend. But all those roles are lost to me now; to history, I am simply a seductress, a misbegotten woman set astray by the evils of lust.
This is the image painted of me by subsequent generations, a story retold thousands of times. Yet, not one of those stories is correct. They were not there; they did not see through my eyes or feel my pain. My laughter was lost to them in the pages of history.
I made the mistake of allowing the bards to write my song. Events become muddled as ink touches paper, and truth becomes malleable as wax under a flame. Good men are relegated to the pages of inequity, without even an honest epitaph to mark their graves.
Arthur and I were human, no more, no less, though people choose to see it differently. We loved, we argued, we struggled, all in the name of a dream, a dream never to be fulfilled. Camelot is what fed the fires that stirred us to do as we did. History calls it sin, but we simply called it life.
The complexity of living has a way of shielding one’s eyes from the implications of one’s role. That is left for others to flesh out, and they so often manipulate it to suit their own needs. To those god-awful religious, I have become a whore; Arthur the victim of a fallen Eve; Morgan, a satanic faerie sent to lead us all astray. To the royalty, we have become symbols of the dreams they failed to create and Arthur is the hero of a nation, whereas to me, he was simply a man. To the poor, we are but a legend, never flesh and blood, a haunting story to be retold in times of tribulation, if only to inspire the will to survive.
We were so much more than mute skeletons doomed to an eternity in dust and confusion. We were people with a desire for life, a life of peace that would be our downfall. Why no one can look back through the years and recognize the human frailty beneath our actions, I will never understand. Some say grace formed my path; others call it a curse. Whatever it was, I deserve to be able to bear witness before being condemned by men who never saw my face.
It ends now. I will take back my voice and speak the truth of what happened. So shall the lies be revealed and Camelot’s former glory restored. Grieve with me, grieve for me, but do not believe the lies which time would sell. All I ask is that mankind listen to my words, and then judge me on their merit.
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Nicole Evelina is St. Louis-born historical fiction and romantic comedy writer.
Her first four books are coming out in 2016:
- Daughter of Destiny (January 1 - This is the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere's life story from her point of view)
- Camelot's Queen (April, exact date TBD - The second book in the trilogy)
- Been Searching for You (May 16 - an award-winning contemporary romantic comedy)
- Madame Presidentess (July 25 - Historical fiction about 19th century American Presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull, the first American woman to run for President)
She hopes to have the final book in Guinevere's Tale available in late 2016 or early 2017.
She is one of only six authors who completed the first week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness in 2014. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy
Camelot's Queen (Guinevere's Tale: Book 2) available March 23, 2016
Been Searching for You (formerly titled He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) - Winner of the RWA 2015 Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests - available May 10, 2016
Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America's first female Presidential candidate, available July 25, 2016
Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr: Nicole Evelina
Member: Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America (PRO), Women's Fiction Writers Association, Women Writing the West, Alliance of Independent Authors