Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by for my Author Focus! All throughout the week you can learn more about The Kiss of Death and its characters, read a free chapter, play some games, plus enter a drawing to win your own copy.
Are you ready? Awesome. Let’s get started.
The Kiss of Death encompasses a struggle for survival amidst a backdrop of deadly plague in 14th century London, with a hint of romance. This is my debut. I probably would not have attempted a book-length historical fiction on my own, but it was an assignment in my senior creative writing class at Crystal Lake Central High School. Since the class was only offered to seniors, I had waited three years to take it. It was my first class in creative writing. On day one, my teacher, Mr. Jerry Thiel, announced our end-of-semester project which had to be a historical fiction – he called it a “docu-drama.” It was not assigned yet; he was just giving us a heads up. From that moment on, I knew the topic I wanted: the bubonic plague.
Overall, it was a challenging class. Mr. Thiel was very strict and particular about what he wanted, so my biggest fear was not getting my topic approved. He went down the line asking everyone in the class their ideas and writing them on the board, refusing many students because the topic was too broad or narrow. I prayed that mine would be approved and was ecstatic when it was. Then began the research.
This stage was so much fun. Since I was very passionate about the topic, this was easily the hardest and best part of the assignment. Mr. Thiel had a set rubric detailing what he required. We had to incorporate enough elements of accurate history, but still weave it into a story. This was definitely a challenge. The assignment was 7 to 10 pages minimum, but mine quickly grew far past that. Needless to say, it was the longest in the class. My inspiration for the plague era stemmed from a fourth grade book report which ultimately served as my initial interest in the time period: Mary Hooper’s At the Sign of the Sugared Plum. Its subject was the 1600’s plague era before the great fire of London raged through the city, essentially cleansing it of disease. I was intrigued by ability of a biological illness to cause so much destruction and to decimate 1/3 of Europe’s population.
I asked Mr. Thiel for advice on whether to choose the 14th or 17th century outbreak of plague for my project, and he recommended the 17th because it would be easier to find information on the time period. However, I ultimately chose 1348 because I wanted the challenge. It was harder to find information on it, but when you did, it was more rewarding. I found that the medieval era – the dark ages of Europe – held more avenues for story conflict than the bustling ingenuity of the Renaissance. In The Kiss of Death, I incorporated a lot of the medical knowledge of the time. Much of the time it was very counterproductive. For example, people didn’t bathe often because it was believed to be dangerous. Thus, The Kiss of Death was born. I remember Mr. Thiel writing on one of my stories: “You have a sophistication of style that eclipses countless published authors. You will be published. You must be published.”
Later that school year, The Kiss of Death went on to win a literary award. I received the 2014 Helen Wright Scholarship from the Woodstock Fine Arts Association in May. I was one of ten recipients – the only writer. The rest were musical (singing and instruments), save one artist. The very first time I gave a reading from my story was there on the historic Woodstock Opera House stage where I delivered an excerpt. Audience members approached me afterwards at the reception wanting to know what happened next. I jokingly told them that they would have to wait until it was published! Little did I know that only seven months later, I would be on the path to publication. That same month I graduated from high school and spent the summer submitting The Kiss of Death to literary agents. I received piles of rejections, and with my first year of college approaching, I decided to step away for the time being.
It was during winter break that I came across small press Kellan Publishing seeking exactly the type of book I had written. I was prepared for submission; that was key. I received my first contract on Christmas Eve, and The Kiss of Death was set for publication. I couldn’t have asked for a finer Christmas gift!
Now, The Kiss of Death is available in print and eBook from Kellan Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Kobo. It can also be found on display in my local Barnes & Noble in Crystal Lake, Illinois as recommended reading from the manager. If you pick up The Kiss of Death and are thrilled that you did, by all means leave a review! That way, you can help direct other readers to share in the great experience you had. I appreciate any means you have of spreading the word.
For a sneak peek of The Kiss of Death, be sure to watch the trailer:
~ Sarah Natale