Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Queen's Guard: An Interview with Author Traci E. Hall

Please join me today in welcoming multi-genre author, Tracie E. Hall from Florida. From YA Paranormal to Historical Romance, Traci has nearly a dozen books to her name and it doesn't look like she's slowing down! Welcome Traci!

Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Traci Hall, I am a Gemini, I detest broccoli and deliberately make up words to rhyme with orange.

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen? 

As a kid, I was always telling stories - sometimes downright lies to get out of trouble, lol, and sometimes entertaining my little brother and younger cousins. I would do just about anything to get a laugh, or see a look of pure terror in their eyes.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day? 

I work at Starbucks, twenty hours a week for full insurance benefits. I spend 5:30 to 9:30 am selling/drinking coffee, and spend the rest of the day writing. I had to train myself to take a nap, but I do, an hour a day so that I don’t fall asleep in the spaghetti. Entertaining for the family but hard to get the pasta out of your hair!

If you had to sum up The Queen’s Guard: Violet in 30 or less words, what would you say?
The Queen’s Guard: Violet is a medieval romance set in Constantinople during the second crusade. Isabella de Lacey is a spy, and Raoul Laskaris is her target.

What inspired the idea behind your book?

The idea for the book came from research I did for my Boadicea series. One of those little nuggets that claimed Queen Eleanor and her ladies dressed as Boadicea, or Amazon warriors, before leaving on crusade. That always stuck with me. I wanted to write a series about the women on crusade.

Do you have a favorite character in the book? Who and why?

Queen Eleanor fascinates me. She held power through so many kings and in her own right for decades – she had to have a huge network of spies! She is the main character throughout the Queen’s Guard series, though each individual book is named after the spy. For example, Isabella de Lacey goes by Violet. The next book is Peony, and the one after that Rose. Eleanor is the master mind!

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? 

The challenging part of writing this series was staying true to real life/real time events. Queen Eleanor really did go on crusade, and she really did bring a group of ladies with her. What I have them do is completely fictional.

What kind of research was involved for The Queen’s Guard: Violet? 

The research is very intense because I try to stay within the reality of what happened back then, even so far as to check words and phrases in use at the time. That said, I admit that I freely use creative license. I don’t want to write in medieval French, and readers wouldn’t understand it, lolol

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write? 

I prefer quiet, but once I am in the zone it doesn’t matter. I could be in the middle of an airport and still write.

As a multi-genre author, how do you juggle going back and forth between the different genres? Do you have a preferred genre? 

 I write YA paranormal as well as medieval romances. I don’t have a hard time switching because the books are so different, and for me it is about being in the character’s head. This year I’ve been a Boston Socialite turned reluctant miner in 1881, an 18 year old virgin in a dystopian future, a female spy in medieval France, and a teenage girl with psychic powers and a Wiccan family. At this moment I am in the head of a thirteen year old girl with a camera and an orange skateboard – wish me luck!

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?   

 I love fan mail. Love it!

What type of heroine do you like best? 

The spunky kind! She can be shy, or outgoing, or a bookworm – so long as she has grit, then I am a fan

Is there any place and time in the world and in history that you would like to visit? 

Egypt. I would love to go back to the time of Cleopatra…

How do you unwind after a long writing session? 

A glass of wine and reruns of Storage Wars. The mind just rests, lol.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? 

Never quit!!

When did you write your first book and how old were you? 

Five, and I used crayons and a pen. I had a pet ant named Blip, who looked like a baked potato, lol

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing? 

I need them all at some point in the process. Notebook for notes that I keep in my purse. Laptop for editing and marketing. Desktop for Serious Writing. 

What do you have in store next for your readers? 

I just finished writing the second Queen’s Guard book, QG:Peony, which will be available January 2013. I am writing a middle grade mystery, and next I am writing the second book in my Mile Post 42/zombyre series, which comes out 10/31/2012. After that is Wiccan Dream, the fifth book in my Rhiannon Godfrey series, which should be available before December.

The Book
In 1147, Queen Eleanor and King Louis VII traverse to Jerusalem for the Second Crusade. Along with her fancy bedding and wine, the wily, young queen brings five lovely and talented women—spies identified by a signature garden scent. Among them is the beautiful widow Isabella de Lacey, aka Violet, whose duty is to infiltrate Emperor Manuel’s inner circle and skillfully extract information. Will he aid the queen’s cousin or betray the alliance for one with the Turks? To find out Isabella must woo the emperor’s man, Raoul, whose soul is as black as his eyes and passion both terrifies and captivates her. Set in Constantinople, this historical romance is the first in a series about the clandestine network of female spies beholden only to the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Excerpt

The Queen’s Guard
Second Crusade, 1147

Chapter One

The relentless October sun beat down on Isabella de Lacey’s head, and for a fleeting moment she wished she’d never left France.  Though barely twenty, she felt as old as Methuselah.  Oui, she was a dried, tired husk who couldn’t spare the moisture to cry.
In the past four months she’d traversed France, Hungary, Bulgaria and now Greece with King Louis and his strong army of Crusaders as a member of the Queen’s Guard.  Bella squinted ahead to see if she could find the King’s Standard, but the limp banners were indistinguishable from her position so far back in line.
She and the other ladies in the queen’s retinue had discovered crusading to be less of a romantic adventure to save the Holy Land from the heathen Turks, and more of a pain in the derriere.  Adventure promised; blisters gained.
Shifting uncomfortably in her saddle, Bella thought longingly of a violet-scented bath and a cup of Bordeaux wine.  She licked her dry lips and urged her mare onward, letting her mind wander to past pleasures.  Honeyed almonds.  Crisp, tart apple slices.  Whispers with a dream lover beneath the oak tree in Queen Eleanor’s castle garden.
A familiar masculine voice intruded on her thoughts.  “Not long now, Bella,” Jonathon said as he rode toward her from the front of the caravan.
“You lie, monsieur.”  Isabella attempted a smile, but it tugged at the sensitive skin around her mouth.  Grit crusted her brows and lashes, yet Jonathon seemed impervious to the dirt.  Not a single smudge of road dust marred his handsome flesh.
She glanced at his lean, muscled form as he turned his mount, taking his place at her right.  His blond hair shone in the sun, and his hazel eyes crinkled with laugh lines at the corners.  “I would never lie to a lady,” the knight said in such exaggerated chivalric tones she laughed despite her dry throat.  There was much to admire about Jonathon.
“What news, then?”  Bella’s stomach tightened with anticipation.  Adventure was one thing; danger another.  She’d walk if it would hasten the end of this journey.  “Are we close?”
On behalf of the Pope, Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux had preached for France to take up arms against the Turks so convincingly that it was no surprise King Louis and Queen Eleanor had agreed to wear the red cross and gather an army of vassals and soldiers to save Edessa.
What was surprising was how fast she had gotten caught up in the whirlwind of it all, pledging her loyalty to Jerusalem and God.  And above all, to Queen Eleanor.  She would give her life for the queen, although Bella hoped it wouldn’t come to that.  At the moment, I haven’t the strength to save a kitten from drowning.
“Oui,” Jonathon said.  “We’re close.  Breathe deep, and you will catch the scent of ocean water instead of foul corpses.”
Isabella took a hesitant sniff.  Their army had the misfortune to follow the land route behind Emperor Conrad III.  The devastation the German Crusaders had wrought left the inhabitants of the Eastern Roman Empire wary of soldiers, no matter what banner they bore.  Some Greek towns had barred the French Crusaders completely, while others charged exorbitant amounts for what food and water they would sell, not honoring the even exchange rate promised by Emperor Manuel Comnenus.
Worse, the Greek natives had killed straggling German soldiers, and left the bodies unburied by the roadside as a sign of their contempt.  Queen Eleanor, during her evening wine with her ladies, said that the king’s chaplain, Odo de Deuil, feared sickness, and possible treachery.  Yet King Louis remained faithful as he led them toward Constantinople and Emperor Manuel, who he hoped would remain an ally.
“Doubtless the emperor has cleared the stench away from the city walls,” Bella said.  “Did King Louis send someone ahead to announce our arrival?”
“No need.  Just wait until you see the city, Bella. The towers on the wall are so high the guards have most likely been watching our caravan since yesterday.”
Isabella shielded her eyes and stared toward the front of the slow moving line as if a miracle would appear in the form of shady trees and a picnic.  “Would that we were there already.”
“My beautiful petite belle,” Jonathon whispered for her ears alone, sending a delicious shiver up her tired spine.  “Your courage will soon be rewarded with a bath, fresh food and drink, and a real bed.”
“I’m not brave,” she scoffed.  “Determined, perhaps.”  Her life in the preceding years hadn’t been about beauty or courage but survival.  She found it ironic to be praised for what amounted to a roll of destiny’s dice.
“You guard the queen with skill, and beauty.”
Bella glanced at Jonathon and acknowledged the gallant knight’s pretty words with a slight smile.  “I am one of five, and we but complement the queen’s strength.”  Before meeting Eleanor, Bella had honed her ability to hit any target in her deceased husband’s dungeon, where she’d thrown rocks at mice before they could nibble her toes. Now she proudly carried a quiver of arrows at her back.
“Calling you tenacious isn’t very romantic,” her attentive knight teased.
Bella’s hand immediately went to her dry cheek as she remembered the quick kiss he’d placed there a month before – but not since. “Romance?”  She fidgeted in her saddle.  “This is not the place for it.”  Besides, she’d been given a duty more important than playing at love.
“Ah, but does the queen not advise chivalrous behavior at all times?”  Jonathon leaned closer, so that his leg brushed hers.  “A knight must always honor his lady fair.”
Bella decided a subject change was prudent.  Jonathon’s words led to confusion, when she had need of a clear head. “Why do you think the king is so certain Emperor Manuel can be trusted?  If the king’s advisors seem suspicious, should he not listen?  What will happen if Manuel has changed his mind? After what Emperor Conrad has done to his country, he could imprison us, or worse, have us killed.”

 The Author

Best selling author Traci Hall believes in happily ever after.  She likes mystery, thrills, chills and love songs so whether she is penning her adult historical romances, or her teen paranormal novels, or her coming of age stories, one thing is guaranteed – a happy ending.

Connect with Traci!
Twitter: @tracihallauthor

The Queen’s Guard: Violet is ebook only, most of the others are available in print or ebook.

Also from Traci E. Hall

18 year old Lolita Howard is one of the last uninfected humans on earth, and Valdric has six hundred years of vampirism under his cloak when he faces medical evolution, or extinction. He chooses to survive and becomes part vampire and part zombie. His duty is to protect the human race. He wants to save the world. She wants a boyfriend who doesn't think of her body parts as appetizers. Zombyre, My Love is a post apocolyptic survival story about a girl and a new breed of monster – or hero?


  1. Thank you so much for joining us today Traci! I've had some interest in Queen Eleanor, but haven't had the chance to read the books I bought on her. Sounds like I should!

  2. Great interview - I love this idea of women in crusades. That time period always fascinated me, but I didn't know about the women!
    Your excerpt is fabulous! Can't wait to read more.

  3. Tracie, I had no idea that women physically joined the Crusades. Fascinating. And Queen Eleanor sounds like someone I should know more about. Thanks for the tantalizing excerpt.

  4. I wasn't aware of women's involvement in the crusades either. It sounds like a fascinating topic and book!

  5. I loved the part about women on crusade, Traci. I wasn't aware Eleanor took her ladies on crusade with her. Your except was lovely!

  6. Jennifer (JC Page)July 5, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    Love the excerpt Traci! You are a natural story teller...from a young age. Interesting interview too! Congrats with your success. p.s. I confess-still use my crayons...

  7. Love your excerpt. Ca't wait to read the rest.

  8. Great interview. Congrats on the book.
    Deb Andrews

  9. This sounds like a fun series. I love the idea of female spies. How do you keep up with writing in so many different genres?

  10. Nice to meet you today, Traci. WOW your story really sounds exciting. I love that part of the world and the stories you can spin around that time. Best of luck with lots of readers.

  11. Traci, You are an inspiration to us all...vert interesting about the female that idea. And, your YA's are always very good too. Keep up the good work. Ona

  12. Terry, MK and Gerri - This is the trouble we can get into with research, isn't it? Just plodding along and all of a sudden something shiny happens and we're off on a tangent!! There will be a few more books in this series, and then I will be on the hunt for another medieval-ish woman to write about!

  13. Thank you, Patrice, and thank you Jennifer! I buy crayons. There is something about an un opened box that screams untold possibilities

  14. Thanks, Shelley and Deb! Nancy,like you, I think I have a fertile imagination...thanks for stopping by!

  15. Thank you very much Paisley! I really appreciate you visiting the blog, Ms. Ona!