Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Monday, October 31, 2016

Meet the Character: The Hero, Mudarra

Who will everyone be dressing up as for Halloween next year? 

Mudarra, the hero of my epic novel of medieval Spain, has been gracious enough to sit down with me for an interview, and it will appear on Seven Noble Knights' release day, December 15, at History Imagined. Today, get a few of the details about this fascinating individual. 

1) What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?

Mudarra González ibn Zaida is a fictional character with a lot of history. He’s the talented but reluctant hero who rises up in the second part of Seven Noble Knights, which is based on the lost medieval epic poem Los siete infantes de LaraThe first part of the story includes some verifiable historic characters, such as the Count of Castile, García Fernández, and the members of his court, Gonzalo Gustioz and his wife Sancha (Prollina in the history books). The inciting incident also has a whiff of truth to it. It leads to such widespread destruction that in the second part of the story, no historical person remains to carry on the cause and complete the revenge. Because a sense of eye-for-an-eye justice was so important to medieval storytellers, they resorted to making up a character from (semi-)plausible circumstances in order to deliver the ending their audience craved. Mudarra is that semi-plausible hero.

In the medieval epic, Mudarra is one-dimensional, so it has been my pleasurable task to make him complex and sympathetic. In the end, his doubts and decisions cast new light on all the events of the first part and make it, I hope, worthwhile and enjoyable.

2) When and where is the story set?

It might have been interesting to try and transfer the characters and worldview to another time period, but because I love medieval Spain so much, I researched what the most likely year for the inciting incident was in real life, and settled on 974. I’ve since done more research, and that date could be a tad too early, but in planning the sequel, it actually works better for the story than a more accurate historical date would have.

In 974, Castile was not yet the dominant kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, it wasn’t a kingdom at all. The most powerful earthly authority was the count, and technically he owed allegiance to the Kingdom of León. Other kingdoms battled for dominance in the north at the same time that they maintained complex, on-again, off-again diplomatic/warring relationships with al-Andalus, the unified Muslim caliphate that occupied more than half the peninsula in the south.

3) What should we know about him?

Mudarra grows up in the Andalusian capital, far from the Christian lands he’ll have to take a vested interest in during the course of the second part of Seven Noble Knights. Although intensely trained in the arts of war from both the theoretical and the practical standpoint, his life of sensuality, peace and privilege has not prepared him for the trials that await in the barbaric north.

The crest of Salas de los Infantes shows Mudarra 
holding the ring that brings him back to his father. 
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

The overarching conflict in the second part is the feud that started in the first, which insinuates itself into Mudarra’s idyllic life. He must reconcile whether or not to answer the call to revenge with his own sense of right and wrong, and puzzle over exactly how these decade-old events have affected his life.

The conflict becomes intolerably complicated when Mudarra meets the daughter of his supposed enemy and falls head over heels in love with her.

5) What is Mudarra's personal goal?

Once he meets Blanca Flor, Mudarra’s only goal is to be with her. His life has been turned upside down, and he’d like to start over again with his true love by his side. He needs constant reminders of his obligation, what should be his goal, to take revenge against her family. It’s all tremendously confusing for him. In the end, only one of these goals is accomplished, and I’m working out how he’ll overcome obstacles to meet the other one in the sequel.

6) Where can we read more about Seven Noble Knights?

You can read much more about it and how I came to write it and complete it at its web page and at this retired blog.

7) When is Seven Noble Knights available?

Seven Noble Knights will debut from Bagwyn Books in softcover and ebook December 15, 2016! I hope to share preorder links soon.

In the meantime, consider entering for a chance to win one of ten Advance Reader Copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Noble Knights by Jessica Knauss

Seven Noble Knights

by Jessica Knauss

Giveaway ends November 13, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Prolific Spanish Author and the State of Publishing

He should smile, with all the money he made from
writing! Maybe the mustache is too heavy. 
Manuel Fernández y González (1821–1888) used words to gain notoriety and to finance what his contemporaries considered a “bohemian” lifestyle. He wrote dramas, poetry, and more than 300 (300!) novels. Although he doesn’t quite reach the level of infamy of Edward Bulwer-Lytton in English (the “It was a dark and stormy night” author), his Spanish Wikipedia article describes his writing this way: “a feverish imagination, a certain Andalusian grace and genius, excessive verbosity, especially in dialogue… a defining lack of solid learning, bad taste, and a lack of self-criticism.”

Anyone who wrote (or in later years, dictated) 300 novels can’t be hampered by self criticism. King of the episodic novel (novels published in newspapers over the course of several weeks and, only later, bound as a book), Manuel Fernández y González put the words out there. Period. He worked in an atmosphere of incessant creation because he was paid per page. Of course he wrote a lot of dialogue—it fills up a page faster than anything else. Revision or even just reading over what he’d written wouldn't have contributed to the bottom line. It’s unlikely if not impossible for great literature to come out of such an atmosphere, but I can’t help but stand in awe before that way of doing business.

It's inspiring, in a way. The words are out there for the writer to seize!

Some might consider the current self-publishing atmosphere to be similar to the nineteenth-century word machine. I haven't found a way to follow the volume model, so instead I do a lot of revision in an attempt to ensure that the writing is actually good.

The only reason I've heard of Manuel Fernández y González is that one of his 300 novels was Los siete infantes de Lara (1853), based loosely on the same legend I took inspiration from to write Seven Noble Knights. The novel is almost 150,000 words in the original, many of them uncalled for. But within that haystack, there are plenty of exciting and amusing needles. Twists and turns and surprises. It was first released to the reading public chapter by chapter in a Madrid newspaper that cost one peseta per issue. 

If I had a lot more time on my hands, I would do an edition of Los siete infantes de Lara and present a "good parts" translation (à la The Princess Bride) here in installments, just like the first time it was published. 

As things stand, there already exists in English a much more carefully researched and developed version of this tale with fewer words, a modern storytelling pace, and irresistible medieval details: Seven Noble Knights. You can get it December 15, or you can try your luck at getting it earlier in the Goodreads giveaway! Even sooner than that, you'll be able to see the cover. Thanks for sharing my excitement!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Noble Knights by Jessica Knauss

Seven Noble Knights

by Jessica Knauss

Giveaway ends November 13, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Friday, October 14, 2016

Character Interview with Sorcha Faye from Cara McKinnon's Fay of Skye Series

Q: Tell us a little about where you live.

A: I have spent nearly my entire life on the Fay House grounds on the isle of Skye in Scotland. The house sits up on the cliffs above Loch Fay, near the village of Kinlochfay on the River Fay.

Q: That’s a lot of Fays!

A: My family has lived there for over a thousand years, although the name “Fay” is a recent addition, brought in by a French ancestor. But that was long enough ago that everything in the area bears our name.

Q: What is your family like?

A: Large, and loud! When we get together for clan gatherings, births, weddings, and wakes, everyone talks at once and we sound like a barnyard. We squabble sometimes, but we love each other very much. I don’t spend much time with them, though, as they live all throughout the Highlands and I am almost always on Skye. Recently one of our far-flung members, a distant cousin, returned to us from America. Her name is Etta.

Q: If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?

A: At the moment, I would like to have money to help improve Fay House. While there was no Duchess of Fay, the funds for the house were tied up by solicitors and trustees. While they’d release money for major repairs, the house has very few modern amenities, and I would like to refurbish some of the ancient furniture and repaint and paper several of the rooms.

Q: Do you have any special magical talents?

A: I have very strong magical intuition. I can often tell what other people are thinking and feeling, and I get hunches that warn me not to do some things, or help me decide to do others. I also have frequent visions of the future.

Q: Last question—You can see the future. Is there anything you can tell us about what is coming?

A: Magic visions don’t need to come true. There is no such thing as fate, or destiny. My visions are based on possibilities—things that might happen, or are likely to happen. But I can say that what worries me are the choices we make for dark reasons, for jealousy or envy, for hate or anger. Those lead to dark futures. Love, acceptance, understanding, and empathy are the ways to the light, and peace.

Q: That’s good advice. Thanks for answering!

A: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me!


Cara McKinnon wrote her first fantasy romance at the age of six, about a unicorn couple that falls in love and has adventures (there is also pie). Now she writes about humans falling in love and having adventures, but she can't quite stop including magic.

She loves history and historical romance, so she decided to set her books in an alternate Victorian era where magic is not only real, but a part of everyday life.

Cara attended the best writing school in the world, Seton Hill University, where she received an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and found her writing tribe. She lives on the East Coast of the United States with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.

Visit her on her website, where you can find more information about the Fay of Skye series, writing and romance, and ways to get in touch!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Get Ready for Seven Noble Knights: A Giveaway!

Seven Noble Knights is still faceless,
but not the in same way a lot of
historical novel covers are.  
Although it looks, to my dismay, as though Seven Noble Knights is still faceless to the world because the cover is not yet finished (it's being perfected as of this moment), today us still the start of something wonderful. The first Goodreads giveaway of Seven Noble Knights is open today!

Because the cover is not yet finalized, these ten prepublication copies have a cover that will not see print beyond this contest. That's right, it's an edition of ten, count 'em, ten copies only. That's what you call a bibliographic rarity. Go ahead, put your name in the hat for the book that's been 1000 years in the making—and still doesn't have a cover! Just click on "Enter Giveaway!" below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Noble Knights by Jessica Knauss

Seven Noble Knights

by Jessica Knauss

Giveaway ends November 13, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Enter for your preview copy now! If you subscribe to my newsletter, you got a nice little present today with much more instant gratification. More such goodies to come in November, so it's not too late to sign up here or type in your email address at the top of the page!

UPDATE 10/13/16: The cover has been finalized. All will be revealed near the beginning of November.

My newsletter subscribers will be the first to see it! Become a part of this exclusive group here.