Hi guys! In my hometown of Paris, TN, today we are holding the parade for the World’s Biggest Fish Fry! If you don’t know what that is, it’s a week-long festival where we eat a bunch of catfish, go to the carnival, and watch the two to three hour-long parade! Fun fact: some of our Grand Marshals include Verne Troyer, the actor who played Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies, and Hannah Robinson, a local who was Miss Tennessee a year or two ago and made it to the top 7 in the Miss America pageant! Small town represent! Today, we have a blog tour for Amanda McCrina’s newest book Blood Road! Hope you enjoy!
Title: BLOOD ROAD
Author: Amanda McCrina
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Format: Paperback, eBook
Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.
Someone inside the provincial government is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a personal war against the Empire.
Determined to save her life, Torien sets out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.
Now, Torien is no longer sure where his own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny, political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in blood.
Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy, taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages, and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a winning fantasy-hockey season.
1. What is your book Blood Road about?
Blood Road is a political fantasy about a young Imperial army officer who sets out to solve a kidnapping and uncovers a vast trafficking plot whose roots go much deeper than he originally thought.
2. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
I love writing because it makes me see my own world in a new light. I’ve been making up stories for just about as long as I can remember (really embarrassing stuff, some of it)—probably because I’ve been reading for just about as long as I can remember. I think the key to developing as a writer is to read.
3. Who are your favorite authors, and which ones have had an impact on you? Who has affected your writing style the most?
Three long-time favorites are Ernest Hemingway, Rosemary Sutcliff, and George Orwell. I deliberately tried to imitate Hemingway when I first started writing seriously, and it’s taken me a long time to unlearn that and develop my own voice. But I still appreciate Hemingway’s minimalistic, dialogue-driven prose—and, equally, Rosemary Sutcliff’s beautiful descriptions.
4. What are your favorite genres to read and write? What are your favorite books?
I read a lot of historical fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy (and owe a lot to) fantasy, but at this point it takes a really fresh spin to get me interested. I love a good mystery, too, but I’ve never tried writing one.
From the three authors I already mentioned, my favorite books are, respectively, A Farewell to Arms, The Lantern Bearers, and Homage to Catalonia. Other all-time-favorites include Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity (the voice is incredible), Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, and Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia.
5. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
Writing is currently a part-time job. My full-time job is teaching middle- and high-school English at an international school in Madrid. Between those two things, I don’t have a lot of free time!
6. Is your book based off or inspired by the Roman Empire? If so, how much research did you have to put into it, and are there any parallels between the Roman and Vareno Empires?
There are definitely parallels between the Vareno Empire in Blood Road and Ancient Rome. I note in the book that it’s not an analogy that should be taken too far, since the Vareno Empire doesn’t perfectly resemble Rome at any one point in time. It’s most similar to the Christianized Rome of the 300s and 400s CE, but even that starts falling apart if you look at it very closely. (For example: the people of the Vareno Empire practice a religion that resembles Christianity, but the military also practices decimation as a punishment. In real life, the Roman army hadn’t really used decimation for several centuries by the time of Christianization.)
A lot of the research I did for Blood Road overlapped with research I’d done for my undergraduate thesis, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone.
7. What was your process for world-building your fictional empire’s geography, social structure, characters, etc.? There’s so much depth put into the social and governmental structures of the Vareno Empire, which can be found on your website!
I did incorporate some specific elements from real Roman history—for instance, my Imperial Guard is pretty blatantly based on the Praetorian Guard. I also turned to other time periods for some things. The signi, criminals sentenced to military service, were inspired by the penal battalions of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in WWII.
It’s always potentially problematic to pick through real-world history and recycle it into a fantasy world; you have to be aware of the ramifications of detaching history from its context. But I do think studying real-world history is one good way to enrich fictional worldbuilding. (Also, food. Start with food. I mentioned this in another interview: knowing what your fictional people are cooking and eating is often key to understanding their world.)
8. If you had to choose, would you rather read and write historical fiction or fantasy for the rest of your life, and why?
If I had to choose, I’d pick historical fiction. Blood Road is fantasy in that it takes place in a secondary world, but there’s no magic, so really it reads like historical fiction. I’m terrible at writing magic systems.
9. How is it like living in Madrid, Spain? What are some of your favorite things about the city?
Madrid is a great city—eclectic, very walkable, with perfect weather and a good mix of cultural sites, shopping and dining destinations, and green spaces (plus a random Ancient Egyptian temple). I sound like a travel brochure, but really I am thankful for the opportunity to be here!
10. Your main interest of research is the Christianization of the imperial Roman Army. Could you share with us any fascinating facts you have stumbled across in your research? Why do you like studying and writing about this topic?
I think it’s fascinating that an essentially religious institution, the Roman army, could adapt so quickly to a drastically different belief system. The Roman army camp was an inviolable sacred space, and ritual was (and always had been) an integral part of camp life—so what does it mean that the army adopted Christianity so quickly when Constantine converted?
There’s so much I find fascinating, but one thing that surprised me when I first started researching was that by 400 CE or so pagans were actually prohibited from joining the army—you had to be a professing Christian. (Of course, how strictly that prohibition was enforced is a matter for debate.)
11. If you could take three things along with one book with you on a deserted island, what would you bring?
I’m going to assume the three things can’t include a boat or a satellite phone, so I’ll say: 1) Ryan North’s Time Traveler Essentials cheat sheet. The situation isn’t exactly the same, but most of the information still applies. 2) Seed potatoes. It worked for Mark Watney. 3) A volleyball.
My book would be War and Peace. I still probably won’t have finished it by the time rescue arrives.
12. Whenever you encounter writer’s block, what is your go-to cure?
Either a bike ride or a hot shower, or both, in that order.
13. Have you written any other works? What are your current plans with your writing career?
I’ve finished the first draft of a sequel to Blood Road. I’m also currently working on a YA WWII novel set in Poland/Western Ukraine, about a Red Army sniper.
14. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?
At the risk of repeating myself—reading is so important. Also, because I wish somebody had told me this a long time ago: don’t beat yourself up over making a certain word count each day. It’s OK to have days where you only write two sentences. (If it isn’t, I’m sunk.)
Thanks so much, Amanda, for coming onto our blog! Glad to have you!
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I hope you enjoyed today’s interview/blog post/giveaway! Certainly check out Amanda’s book!
Happy Fish Fry!