Today, I am happy to welcome Ms. Thornton to my bookish blog, because her beautiful style of historical fiction not only grabbed my attention as soon as I soaked inside Daughter of the Gods previously this year, but I appreciated our serendipitous conversations alighting on Twitter! As they were predominately about our shared love of Doctor Who! I always like finding a connection with an author I am appreciating reading, and seeing where the shared interest might lead a random joy convo in the twitterverse! Most writers today, like Ms. Thornton are very engaging with their readers and I have a heart full of gratitude each time I am able to chat with a writer I admire!
Her stories are extensively researched and her pen not only carves out a truism for the historical past, but she gives her characters (who are based on well-known living persons of their eras) the flexibility to remain raw, untamed, and completely honourable to who they were in life. She gives them the benefit of living off the page in the same manner we might expect to greet them if we were to transport ourselves back to their time, which is both frightening at times and rejuvenating for the adventurous at heart!
I love dissolving into her worlds — she educates us on what we might only have speculated about previously and she convinces us that the lesser known bits of our world history not only deserve to be shared, but the deserve to be understood!
In the late twelfth century on the sweeping Mongolian grasslands, following a violent feud between blood brothers, the victor Temujin ascends to power, declaring himself Genghis Khan. But behind one powerful man stand many strong women…
After her mother foretells an ominous future for her, darkness looms over Borte’s life. She becomes an outcast among her clan and after seeking comfort in the arms of an aristocratic traveler, she discovers he is the blood brother of Temujin, the man she was betrothed to years ago but who abandoned her long before they could marry. And he will only leave her behind again.
Temujin will make Borte his khatun, his queen, yet it will take many women to safeguard his fragile new empire. Their daughter, a fierce girl named Alaqai, will ride and shoot an arrow as well as any man. Fatima, an elegant Persian captive, seeks revenge against the Mongol barbarians who destroyed her city and murdered her family, but in the end will sacrifice everything to protect the Golden Family. Demure widow to Genghis’ son, Sorkhokhtani positions her sons to inherit the Empire when it begins to fracture from within.
As Genghis Khan sets out to expand his conquests and the steppes run red with blood, Borte and the women of the clan will fight, love, scheme, and sacrifice, all for the good of their family and the greatness of the People of the Felt Walls…
Why do you think Mongolian History has been overlooked as a focal point in historical fiction which focuses on ancient history?
Thornton responds: I think not a lot was known about Genghis Khan, (aside from the view of him as a slavering, long-haired beast of a conqueror), due in large part to the fact that the Soviet Union extended their influence over Mongolia during the Cold War. Nationalism was frowned upon and therefore, all mention of Genghis was suppressed, save the sources from the cities he’d brutally conquered. The Secret History of the Mongols, the main historical text for the time period, wasn’t even translated into English until 1982. And virtually nothing was known about the women in his life until recently. I’m hoping now there will be more novels about this totally intriguing period of history!
As Khan had such a large family, what stood out to you during your research to pick the women you choose to focus on in “The Tiger Queens”? I imagine it might have been a bit difficult to sort out which women would provide a clarity of voice and inspiration?
Thornton responds: It was indeed tricky! I knew the story began with Genghis’ wife Borte (although his mother was also tougher than nails) and would be carried forward by his daughters. However, as I began researching, the story of the Persian captive Fatima captured my attention. She was an outsider whose life was destroyed by the Mongols and yet she came to be a loyal adviser to one of Genghis’ daughters-in-law. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to portray the Mongols through her eyes, and Sorkhokhtani is really the hero of the story so the story had to end with her.
Do you think it was natural instinct for Genghis Khan & his counterparts to always attack in such brutal scrimmages that took not only a violent throttle of moving them forward and through their obstacles, but as a clue in to how they were battle thirsty and enjoyed warring with each other?
Thornton responds: I think Genghis had a natural talent for sensing his enemies’ weaknesses and striking where they’d least expect it. He also didn’t tolerate disloyalty so if you crossed him, you could expect him to hit you back a hundredfold. (Just ask the Persian governor who had to drink molten silver!)
Sorkhokhtani takes her time to come into the forefront of the story-line, what do you think might have made her feel she was being overshadowed by everyone else?
Thornton responds: I don’t think Sorkhokhtani minded being overshadowed, especially while everyone else was in self-destruct mode. She was born a princess and raised to rule, but was married to Genghis’ youngest (and often drunkest) son Tolui. Sorkhokhtani realized that she needed to bide her time while the second generation of Mongols destroyed each other and then position herself and her sons to pick up the pieces. She survived and the others didn’t, which would have been the ultimate reward for her.
What is a part of Mongol cultural heritage that you were surprised about uncovering whilst you researched “The Tiger Queens”?
Thornton responds: The most interesting thing that I discovered was the horse slaughter during the first winter snow. Rural Mongols continue this practice to the modern era, waiting until the last possible chance to fatten up the old horses and geldings before killing them. Mongols rely on their horses for transportation and food, and many of them wouldn’t survive the brutal winter without this massive slaughter which provides them with enough food to eke out an existence during the long, cold months ahead.
I was curious if you are looking forward to seeing how Jet Li portrays Genghis Khan in “Night of the Museum: 3” coming out this December? I like how humour and adventure have been tied into the historical story-lines giving a lighter side to history in the two previous films.
Thornton responds: I really enjoyed the last two Night at the Museum movies so I’m sure this one will be great. I love how they’ve incorporated historical figures into the storyline, but even more than Genghis Khan, I’m a HUGE fan of Theodore Roosevelt. I have a life-size cut-out of him in my classroom so it will be great to see two of my favorite guys from history side-by-side.
As I am participating in Sci Fi November concurrent to this blog tour, I wanted to ask you what originally drew you inside the world of Doctor Who? And, what endeared you to your favourite Doctor the most?
Thornton responds: I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and the idea of a time-traveling space ship just couldn’t get much cooler. The Ninth Doctor was nifty, but it wasn’t until the first episode with David Tennant that I knew I’d found my Doctor. I mean, come on, he was dueling creepy red space aliens in his pajamas!
As your fourth novel centers around the wife of Alexander the Great (set to release in 2015) is there something inside this fourth novel that might surprise your readers who have read your previous releases where the focus on women is strong & poignant?
Thornton responds: The Conqueror’s Wife is my first book that includes a male narrator (although Daughter of the Gods was originally told from Senenmut’s point of view as well as Hatshepsut’s). Hephaestion is a cross of Tyrion Lannister’s wit, Captain Jack Harkness’ sex appeal (to men and women), and Maximus’ brawn (Russell Crowe from Gladiator). There are still three other awesome female narrators—Alexander’s sister Thessalonike, his wife Roxana, and a Persian princess named Drypetis—but I often feel like Hephaestion steals the show!
I applaud your efforts to bring out not only the strength of women in history but by centering your stories on the lives of the women your choosing without sacrificing their story to shift over to a man who lived at the same time; equal in importance. Do you foresee yourself always writing from the perspective of the women in history or are you going to branch out and perhaps have a lead male protagonist?
Thornton responsd: After writing Hephaestion in The Conqueror’s Wife, I can pretty much guarantee that there will be more male leads in my future books. I’d clone him and put him in all of my books if I could, he’s been that much fun to write!
What was the impetus which gravitated you into writing? And, when did this occur? Who was your best cheerleader?
Thornton responds: It was Hatshepsut’s story in Daughter of the Gods that got me started writing about seven years ago, simply because I couldn’t get her amazing story out of my head. I’d say my eight-year-old daughter is often my best cheerleader. When she was three she offered to print my books and sneak them onto the shelves of Barnes & Noble so I’d be “published.”
What are your favourite tools to use whilst writing? And, where do you write to gain the most inspiration?
Thornton responds: I couldn’t get anything done without my laptop, but my family travels a lot so I often bring a writing journal on our trips, especially when I’m in the early stages of drafting. A huge chunk of The Tiger Queens was written on journals full of inspirational quotes. I actually do some of my best writing on airplanes. There’s something about being in a confined space with no other responsibilities is quite conducive to good writing!
What is your favourite go-to resource to starting to dig through historical data and pulling out the beautiful inspiring stories you give us to devour?
Thornton responds: My resources differ from book to book. I typically start out reading the main primary source from the era—The Secret History of the Mongols or Plutarch’s Alexander the Great—and then plow my way through several biographies. That all helps me get the plot and characterizations down, and then I can move onto the fun stuff—researching the details of what the characters wore and ate, and all of their strange customs. That’s my favorite part!
Outside the sphere of writing and research, where do you find your serenity? What lifts your spirit the most when you are not creating?
Thornton responds: I love to run and have also been doing yoga since I was fifteen. That keeps me sane on a day-to-day basis, but it’s traveling that I really love. This year we’ll actually be headed to Iceland, England, and then on to a Mediterranean cruise, which is definitely something to look forward to!
A note of gratitude is extended to Ms. Thornton for not only giving such a nice introduction to The Tiger Queens, but for giving such a wicked good impression of how the stories curate inside her own heart & imagination are driven by such impressive historical (icons) of the past! As soon as I had read Daughter of the Gods, I realised I stumbled across something remarkably special in this historical fiction author! She had such a breadth of insight into Ancient Egypt — I quite literally felt I had jumped into my own TARDIS and carted myself off to the land of the Pharaohs! I love absorbing myself into such a warmly lit world where not every character you meet is friendly and where you know quite literally part of your excursions within that realm are going to be a bit dangerous due to the nature of the time & the place in which you are being transported; but ohh! The joy of finding yourself able to snuggle up to such dynamically strong historical persons is quite something to cherish as a reader!
I couldn’t help but ask about her fond affection on behalf of Doctor Who, being that I am participating in Sci Fi November concurrent to this blog tour stop!Esp since I opened the topic on behalf of my own journey into the Whovian world last SFN: 2013! I also asked about the upcoming Night at the Museum movie both for personal curiosity and as a secondary question as to me, part of the joy of that film has a few science-based theories happening inside it!
I am hopeful both my Historical fiction readers AND my Speculative readers will find something alluring in this interview!
The Virtual Road Map for “The Spoils of Avalon” can be found here:
Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
Lateron today I will be posting my thoughts on behalf of “The Tiger Queens”!
Previously I had the pleasure of reading “Daughter of the Gods” which sparked an appreciation for Thornton’s style of Historical Fiction! So much so, that I asked for a copy of her first novel “The Secret History” for one of my birthday picks this past Summer 2014! I cannot wait to discover what awaits me inside her debut novel when I can set aside time to read it in early 2015! I am thankful to HFVBTs for inspiring me to find new historical fiction authors such as Stephanie Thornton!
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— Jorie Loves A Story (@JLovesAStory) November 18, 2014
— Jorie Loves A Story (@JLovesAStory) November 18, 2014