Some Thoughts with ... Marian L. Thorpe

3 Mar 2023

The Author/s

Marian L. Thorpe

Marian L. Thorpe

My books are historical fiction of an imagined world, one that is close to Britain, Northern Europe, and Rome, but isn’t. A world where a society evolved differently after the Eastern Empire left, where one young fisherwoman answers her leader’s call to defend her country, beginning a journey into uncharted territory, in an Empire of the edge of history.

The Interview

Hello! And welcome to a new post in my favourite section of the blog. Today we are accompanied by Marian L. Thorpe, author of historical fantasy, novels such as Empress and Soldier.

Let's dive in!

1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
My first book, Empire’s Daughter, was accepted by a small and ambitious publishing house which unfortunately couldn’t sustain its dreams, and went out of business before it could publish my book. Luckily I had a contract which returned my rights to me immediately.  I had just been diagnosed with a rare and advanced form of cancer, and figured I might not have another two-to-three years left to query again: if I wanted to see my book in print, I’d better do it myself. Long story short, that was almost 9 years ago, I’m still here and healthy, and I like the control and freedom of working with my indie publishing collective, Arboretum Press, which is a group of independent authors working together, sharing skills to produce quality novels.

2.- All your Empire series are situated in Casil. Why did you create this world?
Actually, only three of the books take place partly or completely in the city of Casil: part of Empire’s Exile, almost all of Empire’s Heir, and most of Empress & Soldier. But it is a presence, first a legend and then a reality, in all the books. The long-past presence of the Roman Empire in Britain is hard to avoid if you are interested in Britain’s early history and/or archeology, and as I am very much interested in both, I just took that mix of legend and fact and placed it, more or less intact, in my created world.

3.- What inspired you to create Casil and the Empire?
I wanted a world in which I could explore the themes of the books: the conflict between personal desires and responsibility to the society in which you live; love of place versus love of an individual; and the possibilities for both individuals and society if we opened our hearts - and our politics - to greater understanding and acceptance. But I also didn’t want to distract readers with an unfamiliar world and complex (or even simple) magic systems: I wanted familiarity, with a twist.

4.- Empress and Soldier started as a novella to introduce Druisius past. How did it evolve into the full fleshed novel we have now?
I was just beginning to work on it when I realized Druisius, who lives in the minute, doesn’t do a lot of analysis of himself or his situations, and isn’t communicative about anything but the immediate, needed a counterpoint - someone who would show the bigger picture of the Empire and its politics. A way to place Druisius in a larger context, and when I realized I wanted to overlap the story with part of Empire’s Exile, then it had to be Eudekia. She was a fairly enigmatic character, and I wanted to know what had made her who she was; her privileged upbringing and education was a perfect contrast to Druisius’s life - so she became the other half of the story.

5.- At this point, we could call you a total veteran in the writing/publishing process. How would you say it has changed your process since you started?
As far as writing, I’m far more a planner than I used to be. That’s as much about age and energy than anything: more thinking means less rewriting. And if anything, I’m slower now, even with the planning, but I have less editing to do, so it balances. 
With regard to publishing?  More realistic expectations, I’d say. I’m satisfied with knowing I have readers who love my books and my characters. That’s enough. 

6.- Eudekia is an interesting character. Would you say you were inspired by a real-life figure, or it was a total result of your imagination?
Eudekia is inspired by, but not based on, the 8th Century Empress Irene of Byzantium. First  empress consort to Emperor Leo IV, then regent during the childhood of their son Constantine VI, any similarity to Eudekia ends when Irene decided she liked ruling and eventually had her son blinded and likely killed. But I used the basic idea of a bride chosen from relative obscurity rising to a powerful Empress as the framework for Eudekia’s life.

7.- How would you say it is different to write a standalone from a series of books?
The story has to be self-contained, complete in the one book, although there can be unanswered questions. World-building doesn’t have any other books to build on, so it also has to be clear and complete. I complicated things for myself with the overlap with Empire’s  Exile, but from two different points-of-view, so those events had to be presented in a way that was completely different from the previous version in Exile, but also completely consistent with them for those readers who’d read Exile first.

8.- What can we expect from Marian L. Thorpe in the future?
One more book in the Empire’s Legacy series, Empire’s Passing, which I’m just beginning. And then? Perhaps a book (books?) set in the same world, but about 500 years later. Or more Druisius. Or maybe something completely different. (But I doubt that last suggestion.)