(first published in Two Sides to Every Story 2019)
A few facts
Stephanie Churchill grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and earned a degree in political science and history at a private college in the wilds of Iowa’s cornfields. After graduating, she worked at a small boutique law firm in Washington, D.C. in the fields of international trade and antitrust law. Marriage took the family to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked in another law firm until her daughter was born. From reading Stephanie’s blog on Facebook, it is quite evident that her daughter is already a brilliant pianist. In which case, maybe a future with lots of travelling is waiting for Stephanie and her daughter.
I never imagined being a writer. It was something that came so naturally to me that I took it for granted. It was the advent of social media and the ability to interact with people not geographically close to you that was the key for me. I was an early user of Facebook and had joined the Sharon Kay Penman Fan Club sometime thereafter. I was beyond thrilled when Sharon made appearances, talking to us “mere mortals” and seemingly enjoying herself. In 2011, she published the book Lionheart. Being the geeky fan girl that I was, I wrote a ridiculously long review of the book for her. She took notice, and we struck up a friendship. As a result of that book review, Sharon suggested I try writing myself. Because she was who she was, her suggestion carried more weight than nearly anyone else’s would have. She took up the mantle of mentor, editor, and friend, and in 2015 I published my first book, The Scribe’s Daughter.
Do you also write for magazines or write short stories?
For now, I have only written the three novels. I do intend to try my hand at a novella at some point, but that project is a bit down the road yet.
What genres are your novels?
Oh, genre… what a tricky little monster you are!
The bookstore marketing genre is fantasy, though that beast has trailed me, breathing its hot breath down my neck the entire time. Really though, I find that most of my readers are more comfortable with the historical fiction genre, and I agree, since they contain no actual history.
The second and third books in the series would fit fairly well in the romance genre as well.
What was the inspiration that led to your writing this series?
I smile to think of it now, but I actually began The Scribe’s Daughter as an experiment in writing from a first person point of view. I had written another book but just didn’t love the voice. Thinking of the 1990 Disney movie Aladdin, I imagined the scene where Aladdin was running away from the guards in the city market after he’d stolen an apple. He sings the song “One Jump” and I imagined a similar scene involving a young woman instead. I started writing it without any particular direction in mind and instantly fell in love with Kassia as a character. I needed to know more about who she was and why she was going what she was doing.
Do you self-publish or use a publishing house?
Since Sharon Penman was a mentor and friend, she asked her own agent to take a read of my manuscript which she happily did. The book was not for her, so I sought other representation. Not surprisingly, the book didn’t find any takers because of its ambiguous genre and marketability. I ended up self-publishing. To be honest, I’m quite content now because I believe self-publishing is the best spot for me at this point in time. I’ve grown to love the autonomy of the publishing process as an indie even with the challenges it represents.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I write very, very part-time, and combined with the fact that I am a SLOW writer, it takes me a long time. My first three books took two years each from beginning to publication. If really pressed to it, I could probably knock 6 months off that total. But since I’m not under the pressure of a contract, I’ve never felt the need to rush.
And what about Writer’s Block
I’ve never really experienced debilitating writer’s block. But I do get into what I’ll call sticky spots when I’m just not clear about the next step for my characters. I always have a general story arc before beginning a book, so in the broad sense, I’ve never had a problem for the global story. It is difficult for me to come up with the minutia of the chapter events frequently. Most of these problems can be solved for me by taking a shower or coloring or doing anything that allows the “periphery of my brain” to work on it without thinking about the problem directly. When worst comes to worst, I simply skip that section and keep writing. When I begin editing, those problems usually work themselves out.
How many words does your book usually contain?
Fantasy readers generally expect around 100,000 words. All three of my novels have come in somewhere around 120,000 words.
Note: from Barbara: In which case 2 years isn’t bad – in fact it’s pretty quick.
And to finish? This is what Stephanie says about history:
I love history, particularly the medieval era. While my books are not historical, there are quite a few historical reflections in the stories themselves. Let’s just say the House of York may have influenced several characters and plotlines and leave it to the reader to discover the specifics.
Note: Stephanie also created the covers for books 2 and 3.
The Scribe’s Daughter
Seventeen-year-old Kassia is an orphan and a thief. Armed with only reckless wit and sheer bravado, she barely scrapes out a life with her older sister in a back-alley of the market district of the Imperial city of Corium. When a stranger shows up at her market stall, offering her work for which she is utterly unqualified, Kassia cautiously takes him on. Very soon however, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving a usurped foreign throne and a vengeful nobleman. Most intriguing of all, she discovers clues to the disappearance of her father three years prior. When Kassia is forced to flee her home, suffering extreme hardship, danger and personal trauma along the way, she feels powerless to control what happens around her. Rewarding revelations concerning the mysteries of her family’s past are tempered by the reality of a future she doesn’t want. In the end, Kassia discovers an unyielding inner strength, and that contrary to her prior beliefs, she is not defined by external things — she discovers that she is worthy to be loved.
“The Scribe’s Daughter is not an easy book to categorize. It takes place in another world, but the reader will encounter no dragons or vampires. Its major female character is in her teens, but her story will appeal to readers of all ages. Kassia’s life could easily be rooted in the Middle Ages, but it isn’t. It is simply a very well written book about a character that readers will care about, amused by her dry humor, admiring her courage, and wincing at her recklessness.” -Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times best-selling author of Lionheart and A King’s Ransom
“An entertaining, page-turning read. If I was an editor building a list of my own authors for a publishing house, I’d offer for this one for my fantasy list.” -Elizabeth Chadwick, The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion
“This book is hands down the best medieval fantasy novel I’ve read in years.” – Lauren Sapala
Are there any secrets in your novel that we can share?
Twists. Lots of twists. Just know that nothing is as it seems.
How can we buy your books?
The ebooks are sold exclusively with Amazon, but print copies can be purchased through most online retailers of books. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+Scribe’s+Daughter+by+Stephanie+Churchill&i=stripbooks
Award Winning Author of ‘The Year the Swans Came’