Interview with E.M. Powell, author of The Blood of the Fifth Knight

E. M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society (HNS), International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America, as well as a reviewer of fiction and nonfiction for the HNS.
Her latest book is the historical mystery/thriller, THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT.

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About the Book:

 England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry's traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell's acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is the sequel to my medieval thriller, The Fifth Knight. The infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 provided the backdrop for that first book. History relates that there were four knights present at the murder, sent on the orders of King Henry II. I added a fictional fifth, Sir Benedict Palmer.

I had intended it to be a standalone novel. But it had huge success, becoming a #1 historical thriller on Amazon in the US, the UK and Australia. So Henry summons Palmer to fight for him again. It’s now 1176 and someone is trying to murder Rosamund Clifford, Henry’s beautiful young mistress. Henry trusts only Palmer to find out who’s responsible.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Harder than a drilling diamond. I think my tip should be a big, flashing red light that says ‘Sequel!’ I had heard of Second Novel Syndrome, in which, following a successful debut, a novelist falls flat on their face. So the pressure was already on.

I hadn’t heard the advice that says successful sequel writing is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Let’s ramp that pressure up, shall we? And just in case I hadn’t made it difficult enough for myself, the history of the period I was writing about was hugely complex with some major events that could not be shifted in the way I needed for my plot.

Okay, I thought: I can handle this. The Blood of the Fifth Knight will be The Empire Strikes Back, a fabulous, worthy sequel that manages to retain much of the original, develops much-loved characters and is still an incredibly exciting story. I wrote Jaws 2.

Agent and beta-readers were politer than they needed to be. But the main message was: ‘It’s not you.’ I have never been so relieved to lean on the delete button. Out went a famine and in came a leopard and all was well again.

And is it now TESB? Well, at the time of writing, The Blood of the Fifth Knight topped the entire Historical Fiction chart on Amazon’s UK site, where it is first being released.

 Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publishers are Thomas & Mercer, who are the crime/mystery/thriller imprint at Amazon Publishing. I would love to claim credit for finding them but that has to go to my agent, the peerless Josh Getzler at Hannigan Salky Getzler.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Short answer? Everything. I had been writing for ten years, with three completed unsold novels and numerous false dawns. To just have a real agent, who sold my book to a real publisher who gave me real money for it was astonishing.

Then it sold so well. The absolute high point for me were the wonderful reviewers and readers who acted as cheerleaders for my work. There is nastiness aimed at reviewers by some authors and vice versa. Sadly, that tends to get all the publicity. What doesn’t get the publicity are the lovely people who read novels, who love them and then tell the world with hugely enthusiastic reviews. That was my experience and it was the biggest compliment my writing could ever get. I owe so very, very much to every single one of them.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

The next book in The Fifth Knight series- working title is The Fifth Knight: Lord of Ireland. It's based on John's (youngest son of Henry II who will one day become the despised King John) disastrous campaign in (yes, you guessed it!) Ireland in 1185. Palmer is sent by Henry to keep watch on the impetuous John. But Palmer uncovers a plot by John to make his mark on the Lordship of Ireland by appalling means. John has to be stopped at all costs, with only Palmer standing in his way.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I like Twitter best. Some people say they find it impersonal but that’s not been my experience. It’s also the best way to find the incredible resource that is writing bloggers. One of the most supportive things for a writer is to hear of other writers’ experiences of say, Second Novel Syndrome. You then realize that perhaps it isn’t just you, and you can get back to work.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

It’s a thriller, so the message is of course the (mostly) victory of good over evil. And beware of the leopard.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I’ve had some great reviews for The Blood of the Fifth Knight from readers who had never read historical fiction before and loved the genre. So if anyone’s not tried it, please come and join in. You’ll have the best time.
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