Interview with Michael Livingston, Author of The Shards of Heaven
Today, I am excited to share an interview with Michael Livingston, the author of the Chronicle of The Shards of Heaven, which released November 24, 2015. If you missed my review, I found it to be an captivating and incredibly fun read. I definitely recommend checking it out.
[interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]Hi Michael, I loved your book The Shards of Heaven and am excited for the opportunity to ask a few questions. Thanks so much for joining us today!
You’re welcome! Thanks for having me![/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q] Could you tell us a bit about The Shards of Heaven in your own words? [/interview_q][interview_a] The Shards of Heaven is hard history and mythic fantasy colliding at the rise of the Roman Empire. The children of Caesar fight to locate and control the legendary artifacts of gods both old and new, and a new myth is forged in the struggle. As one reviewer has put it, the series is “Indiana Jones meets Game of Thrones.” I can’t disagree. [/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]Seeing that you have a background in Medieval Studies, what made you choose this particular timeframe for The Shards of Heaven? [/interview_q][interview_a]It’s hard to study any period in history and not become interested in the one before it. I may be a professor of medieval studies in my day job, for example, but it’s hard not to be fascinated by the Roman roots of the Middle Ages. So part of the answer is that I simply like the period. More than that, though, the rise of the Roman Empire provides the perfect backdrop for the kind of mythological soup I’m playing with in the book. The last decades before the Common Era were truly an age of wonders — not least because of the larger than life figures who walked through it all. [/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]What made you choose this particular set of POVs? Do you have plans to add more in the sequel(s)? If so (and you are able to share) can you tease us with a little bit of information on them?[/interview_q][interview_a]The main characters in the cast are all real people, and I chose them because they were deeply fascinating to me: none more so than Selene, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Her life is simply remarkable, and it deserves to be far better known. The same is very much the case with Juba, too, who was one of the greatest men of his age but now almost wholly ignored. Book Two continues to follow the POVs from The Shards of Heaven, but it does indeed add at least one more that I can tell you about: the astrologer Thrasyllus of Mendes. Keen eyes will actually spy him in a bit role in Shards, but he plays a much bigger part in the sequel. [/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]Can you share with us a fact or piece of trivia about ancient Rome that you find fascinating?[/interview_q][interview_a]That’s a great question, as there was a lot of research behind the writing of this book. For whatever reason, though, the bit of trivia that has really stuck in my mind is the fact that the Romans divided the day into 24-hours, but they were not standard units of time: how long an “hour” took would adjust throughout the year so that every day had 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. It may not change much in the grand scope of things, but it’s the kind of quirky fact that I adore. [/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]What authors do you feel influence or inspire you as an author? [/interview_q][interview_a]I teach in an English department, so I have a rather eclectic set of ongoing influences on my writing. That said, I think the modern authors who inspired me the most as I was cutting my writing teeth were J.R.R. Tolkien, Dan Simmons, and Parke Godwin. The last of those is a writer whose work very much deserves a wider audience. His retellings of medieval legends like Robin Hood and King Arthur are just marvelous. [/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]I love the way you blend the fantasy element with history in your book. What influenced your decision to write The Shards of Heaven this way versus writing it as strictly historical fiction? (OTHER THAN FANTASY BEING AWESOME, OF COURSE) [/interview_q][interview_a]I love that you love it! There were a lot of reasons for this decision, but I think it really goes back to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which sets out to create a mythology behind our mythologies. Though I find his legendarium endlessly interesting, it has nevertheless always bothered me that for all his remarkable work in creating a mythic past, his Middle-earth fails as a historical past. What happens in Minas Tirith fits well with our myth of Troy, for instance, but it doesn’t fit at all with our reality of Troy on the shores of the sea. I wanted to make the two parts fit more seamlessly, and I wanted to really attack the division of fantasy and history along the way.
[/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]If you could break the laws of physics and history to pair two characters from different time periods and places to go on adventure together, who would you pick and why? And would you choose to join them?[/interview_q][interview_a]I think I’d have to take Harald Hardrada, the last great Viking king, because anyone who had hacked his way from Norway to serving Yaroslav the Wise, the grand prince of Kiev, and then left in order to hack his way down to Byzantium to become the chief of the emperor’s Varangian Guard — and then reversed to go all the way back and become king of Norway — would surely be an able companion on an adventure. Beside him, I think I’d choose Geoffrey Chaucer. Brilliant and witty, he may well be one of the greatest poets and storytellers. Great for passing any lulls along the way. Plus, if things went bad with Harald, I think I could outrun Geoff.[/interview_a][interview_id][/interview_id][interview_q]And lastly, because we all love talking books, I’d like to ask a question I ask of pretty much anyone, author or not: What are you currently reading?[/interview_q][interview_a]Right now I’m reading the fourth volume of Jonathan Sumption’s massive history of the Hundred Years War (for my day job), and I’m just polishing off Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings (for sheer pleasure). Thanks for the great questions! [/interview_a]
About the Author
MICHAEL LIVINGSTON holds degrees in history, medieval studies, and English. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Citadel, specializing in the Middle Ages. His short fiction has been published in Black Gate, Shimmer, Paradox, and Nature.
About the Book
The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world
Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.
Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods—or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.
Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.
The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.