I read The Adventures of Marco Polo and by his own account he loved the ladies. He was all over eastern Asia for twenty years in service to Kublai Khan and he had to have scattered some seed around. I wondered what happened to those kids. Silk and Song is the story of one of his grandchildren, Johanna, who travels the Silk Road west from China to England during the years 1322 to 1327.
Uh, major problem: My traditional publisher in New York didn’t want to publish it. “I’d be happy if you wrote five more Kate Shugak novels,” my editor said hopefully. Kate Shugak being the main character of twenty-one crime fiction novels, which I’ve been writing since 1993 and which have sold pretty well for the house.
I get it; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But Silk and Song was an itch I had to scratch, so I wrote it anyway and self-published in e and in trade paperback.
And then lightning struck! My UK publisher, Nic Cheetham at Head of Zeus, read Silk and Song and loved it and published the trilogy in a single volume in the most beautiful edition that has ever had my name spelled correctly on the cover. Seriously, you should see this book—silk bookmark, gold leaf on the cover, high-rez map, a gold leaf dragon on the spine—! If I’d known historical novels were this beautifully produced I would have written one a lot sooner. “If we can’t make beautiful books, why are we in this business at all?” Nic said. No publisher has ever said anything like that to me before.
He shouldn’t have encouraged me, because now I’m writing what I hope will be the first of a series of novels set in Alexandria in the time of Cleopatra featuring Cleopatra’s fixer, job title the Eye of Isis. And then I’ll write the twenty-second Kate Shugak novel, because I’m not done telling her story yet.
Which only shows how important it is to follow your bliss as a writer, and how lucky we writers are to be alive right now (Hamilton reference!) to take advantage of current technology to do so.
Dana Stabenow is the author of thirty-three novels and a bunch of other stuff. She lives in Homer, Alaska.