Interview with Michelle Diener + Giveaway of The Emperor's Conspiracy

Please welcome author Michelle Diener to Passages to the Past! Michelle is here as part of her virtual tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for The Emperor's Conspiracy and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me! 

Be sure to check out the schedule of stops for her virtual tour below, as well as enter to win a copy of The Emperor's Conspiracy!

What was the inspiration behind writing The Emperor’s Conspiracy?  And what drew you to set it in Regency London? 

I really find it hard to nail down a favorite historical period, because I love so many, but the characters for this story, specifically Charlotte, arrived in my mind complete with setting, and the very real plot by Napoleon wormed its way into the story, so that defined the actual date of 1811. As for insprication, I started out writing The Emperor's Conspiracy more than five years ago, and in those early days it was much more light-hearted. As I researched the life of a London sweep and a child labourer, I realized the whole story would have to be grittier and darker, and I mulled things over for years before actually rewriting what little I had already written, and finishing the story. 

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? And why historical fiction? 

I've always wanted to be a writer. I love reading, I love books, but I always wanted more stories, and I wanted the stories to go a specific way. I didn't always agree with the author. LOL. What choice did I have but to write stories of my own? If I can keep someone up late, transport them away to another world, just like I do when I'm reading a wonderful book, then I consider myself sucessful. As for historical fiction, well, I love history. I absolutely love it. I studied it at high school and university, and read all historical non-fiction I can find. But I have to admit I love fantasy and sci-fi, too. And you may be seeing some books from me in those genres in a year or so. :) But I'll never not write historical fiction. I have way too many historical fiction stories in me for that to ever happen. 

Can you take us through a day in your life while you are writing a novel? 

I get up and get the kids ready for school, then I walk them over, and keep going on my walking route, which is roughly 5 kms. Then I get home and shower, and then if I'm not expecting any urgent email, I go straight to writing for a couple of hours. I do some chores, open up my email, and attend to the other business of being a writer that isn't writing, then try to fit in another couple of hours of writing before I fetch the kids and take them off to their after-school activities, homework, etc. At night, if I have the energy, I'll try to write for another hour when the kids are in bed. 

What authors inspire you? 

Oh, so many! My critique partners, Liz Kreger and Edie Ramer, inspire me for their dedication to their craft, their perseverance and their generosity of spirit. Authors such as Jayne Anne Krentz, Dick Francis, Terry Pratchett, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, Iain M. Banks, Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Patricia Briggs, Sulman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood inspire me with their consistent excellence and ability to totally lose me in their worlds. And they are just the ones that leapt into my mind this minute, I'm sure there are plenty I'll think of later. 

What book would you like to read again for the first time? 

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. It has such a twist at the end, any re-reading you do, you can't help but read in the light of that final revelation, which changes the way you see so many characters. So you can never re-read with the same sense of discovery. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

Understand that it is hard. It is supposed to be hard. And when you've finished something, I highly recommend leaving it for at least a month, before taking it out and doing a final edit. You won't regret it! 

What project on you working on next? 

I just finished a book that is a sequel to The Emperor's Conspiracy, tentatively entitled Banquet of Lies. Charlotte and Edward are secondary characters in this book, but it stands on its own, like The Emperor's Conspiracy. To give myself a break, I'm working on writing a full length novel inspired by my short story contribution to the Entangled Anthology. Breaking Out, my contemporary paranormal contribution, has resulted in a barrage of emails from readers asking me to continue the story. I'm obliging. I will probably put a book together which includes Breaking Out as the first four chapters, and carries on from there. 

About the Book

Publication Date:  November 27, 2012
Gallery Books


From nineteenth-century London’s elegant ballrooms to its darkest slums, a spirited young woman and a nobleman investigating for the Crown unmask a plot by Napoleon to bleed England of its gold.

Chance led to Charlotte Raven’s transformation from chimney sweep to wealthy, educated noblewoman, but she still walks a delicate tightrope between two worlds, unable to turn her back on the ruthless crime lord who was once her childhood protector.

When Lord Edward Durnham is tapped to solve the mystery of England’s rapidly disappearing gold, his search leads him to the stews of London, and Charlotte becomes his intriguing guide to the city’s dark, forbidding underworld. But as her involvement brings Charlotte to the attention of men who have no qualms about who they hurt, and as Edward forges a grudging alliance with the dangerous ghosts of Charlotte’s former life, she faces a choice: to continue living in limbo, or to close the door on the past and risk her heart and her happiness on an unpredictable future.

About the Author

Michelle Diener has always had a passion for reading and writing. She began writing stories when her parents gave her a typewriter for her twelfth birthday, and she hasn’t stopped since. Born in London and raised in South Africa, she now lives on the west coast of Australia with her husband and two small children.  

She is the author of Dangerous Sanctuary, In a Treacherous Court and Keeper of the King's Secrets.

Connect with Michelle Diener: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

The Emperor's Conspiracy Virtual Tour Schedule

Monday, November 26

Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, November 28
Review & Giveaway at Books Devoured

Friday, November 30
Author Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, December 3
Review & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Review, Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Tuesday, December 4
Review at Historical Tapestry & The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Wednesday, December 5
Review & Giveaway at Book of Secrets

Friday, December 7
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading   

Monday, December 10
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair 

Giveaway (US ONLY)

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway). 
- +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page
- +3 additional entries follow PTTP on Twitter
- +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook or Google+. You can use the SHARE buttons below. 
- Giveaway ends on December 10th.

Good luck to all!

TEC button

Sign up for the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop, hosted by Passages to the Past!


Welcome to the sign up post for the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop at Passages to the Past! 

The winter holidays are my favorite time of year and what better way to celebrate than by hosting a blog hop!  Blog hops are great ways to find new and awesome blogs, meet fellow bloggers, build your readership and give away fabulous prizes!   

*This is my first blog hop, so please bear with me as I learn as I go :)

Blog Hop Instructions/Rules

- To sign up: please add your blog URL to the Linky List below and note in parenthesis after your blog name if your giveaway will be open to US, US/Can or Internationally.  

*When the main Blog Hop post is live on December 10th at 12:01am EST you will need to add your link again, but this time you enter in the URL to your direct Blog Hop Giveaway post.

- The blog hop will run from December 10th to 17th.  Posts must be up and accepting entries by 12:01am EST on the first day of the hop and end at midnight on the last day.

- Since this hop and the blog are focused on Historical Fiction, all giveaways must be either a historical novel, history/non-fiction or gift card.  You are responsible for the shipping of your own giveaway.

- Please include in your post:
        - Linky list or link to this post
        - Blog hop button
        - List of Grand Prize giveaways 

 - If you have any questions or need to cancel your participation, please email me.

Historical Holiday Blog Hop Grand Prizes

- $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card

- Prize package(s) of historical novels (titles will be added as authors sign up)

1. Oleanna by Julie Rose (pb)
2. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (pb)
3. Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell (Audio Books)
4. The King's Daughter by Barbara Kyle (pb)
5. The King's Concubine by Anne O'Brien (pb)
6. Royal Romances: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe by Leslie Carroll (pb)
7. The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell (pb)
8. The September Queen by Gillian Bagwell (pb)
9. The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate
10. The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate
11. Sea Witch by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate
12. Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell (pb)
13. Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (pb)
14. The Queen's Vow by Christopher Gortner (pb, UK edition)
15. Into the Path of Gods (Book 1, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (pb)
16. In the Shadow of Dragons (Book 2, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (pb)
17. The Anvil Stone (Book 3, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (hc)
18. A Land Beyond Ravens (Book 4, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (hc) 
19. Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth (pb)
20. The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth (pb)
21. A Dance of Manners (A Regency Anthology) by Susan Flanders, Cynthia Breeding, Kristi Ahlers, Gerri Bowen and Erin Hatton (pb)
22. The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose (hc)
23. The Sumerton Women by D.L. Bogdan (pb)  
24.  Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland (signed pb)
25.  The Master of Verona by David Blixt (hc)
26. Before Versailles by Karleen Koen (pb)
27. Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones (pb)
28. At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Barnhill (pb)
29. What You Long For by Anne Barnhill (pb)
30. Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara (signed hc)
31. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift (pb, UK edition)
32. The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman (signed pb)
33. The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd (pb, with Tower of London Tea Sachets)
34. The Mischief of the Mistletoe (2 copies - 1 pb, 1 hc - both signed)
35. The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot
36. The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton (pb w/bookmark)
37. The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith (pb)
38. Illuminations by Mary Sharratt (hc)
39. Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice (2 copies - 1 pb, 1 eBook)
40. A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath (2 copies, pb)
41. Rebel Puritan by Jo Ann Butler (pb)
42. The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen (audio cd's)
43. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan (2 copies, pb)
44. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (ARC, courtesy of Penguin Publishing)
45. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout (ARC, courtesy of Penguin Publishing)
46. The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh (ARC, courtesy of Penguin Publishing)
47. Movement of Stars by Amy Brill (ARC, courtesy of Penguin Publishing)
48. Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri (ARC, courtesy of Penguin Publishing)
49. The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (hc)
50. The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase (pb)
51. Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase (pb) 
52. Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn (pb) 
53. The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan (ARC)
54. The Sign of the Weeping Virgin by Alana White
55. A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick (pb)
56. The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau (signed pb)
57. Second Lisa by Veronica Knox
Call to Authors:  If you would like to participate by sponsoring one of your books (or more) for the grand prize packages, please email me.

Thanks to all who participate, let's have fun and make the inaugural Historical Holiday Blog Hop a success!


2013 Release: Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant

Lucky us, there are 3 exciting new releases on the Borgias next year! The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn (which I posted about the other day), The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer (non-fiction) and this release....

Bring on the Borgias!

Blood & Beauty
by Sarah Dunant

UK Release Date:  May 2, 2013
US Release Date:  July 16, 2013


Acclaimed novelist of the Italian Renaissance Sarah Dunant now takes on the era's most infamous family: the Borgias. 

By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and in the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: he is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women and power must use papacy and family to succeed. 

His eldest son Cesare, a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest - though increasingly unstable - weapon. Later immortalised in Machiavelli's The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. His daughter Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages: from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player. 

Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.


2013 Release: Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Just came across a future release by debut author Elizabeth Fremantle.  Her novel Queen's Gambit features Henry VIII's last wife, Katherine Parr.  Isn't the cover to die for?!

Queen's Gambit
by Elizabeth Fremantle

Release Date:  June 18, 2013
Simon & Schuster


For fans of Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, Elizabeth Fremantle's first novel, "Queen's Gambit", is a riveting account of Katherine Parr, the Tudor queen who married four men and outlived three of them - including Henry VIII. Widowed for the second time aged thirty-one, Katherine is obliged to return to court but, suspicious of the aging Henry and those who surround him, she does so with reluctance. Nevertheless when she finds herself caught up in a passionate affair with the dashing and seductive Thomas Seymour, she believes she might finally be able to marry for love. But her presence at court has attracted the attentions of another...Captivated by her honesty and intelligence, Henry Tudor has his own plans for Katherine and no one is in the position to refuse a proposal from the king. With her charismatic lover dispatched to the continent, Katherine becomes Henry's sixth wife. Passionate about religious reform, and ever aware of the fates of his previous queens, she must draw upon all her instincts and intellect to navigate the treachery of the court. With the Catholic faction once more in the ascendency, reformers burned for heresy and those around the dying king vying for position in the new regime, her survival seems unlikely - and yet she has still not quite given up on love...Rich in atmosphere and period detail, and told through the eyes of Katherine and her young maid Dot, "Queen's Gambit" is the story of two very different women during a terrifying and turbulent time.

More 2013 Releases...Drool, Baby, Drool!

2013 is looking Historical Fiction-tastic...get ready to drool over some really fabulous releases due out next year!    

Venus in Winter
by Gillian Bagwell

Release Date: July 2, 2013

SYNOPSIS:  Armed with nothing but her razor-sharp wit and fetching looks, twelve year- old Bess of Hardwick arrives at the glamorous court of King Henry VIII and is thrust into a treacherous world of politics and intrigue, a world she must quickly learn to navigate. Eventually she discovers that, for a woman of substance, the power and the possibilities are endless.

The Serpent and the Pearl
by Kate Quinn

Release Date: August 6, 2013

SYNOPSIS:  Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous—or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.

by Nicole Galland

Release Date:  July 2, 2013

SYNOPSIS:   Everyone knows the legend of Lady Godiva—the woman who (in)famously rode naked on horseback through Coventry to relieve her people from unfair taxation. But why would a lady of the court take it all off and risk everything, including husband, home, and well-being?

In this richly imagined retelling of an oft-told ancient tale, Nicole Galland gives us Lady Godiva in all her, um, glory, as she and her best friend (the Abbess Egdiva) and husband (Leofric, Earl of Mercia) embark on an adventure filled with courtly intrigue, deceit, back-stabbing, and romance.

Call Me Zelda
by Erika Robuck

Release Date:  May 7, 2013

SYNOPSIS:  From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a richly imagined tale of Zelda Fitzgerald’s love, longing, and struggle against ever-threatening insanity.

From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, but those who really knew them saw their inner turmoil.

Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband.  She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius.  But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended.

In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness.

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
by Stephanie Thornton

Release Date: July 2, 2013

SYNOPSIS: A compelling debut about the early life of Theodora, who rose from obscurity to become Empress of Constantinople.  In sixth-century Constantinople, one woman defied every convention and rose from a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. As she gained a back-door entry into the halls of power, surviving starvation, heartbreak, and betrayal along the way, she could never have predicted that one day she would find a great man to love and be handed a crown... or that she would be shrewd, bold, and strong enough to keep it.  Theodora, the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic, was a defiant, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose story is as surprising as any ever told.

Which titles are you most excited for?

2013 Release: Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent

Lady of Ashes 
by Christine Trent

Release Date:  February 26, 2013
Kensington Publishing


In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.

Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both.


2013 Release: Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith

Royal Mistress
by Anne Easter Smith

Release Date:  May 7, 2013
Touchstone Publishing


From the author of A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York comes another engrossing historical novel of the York family in the Wars of the Roses, telling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the final and favorite mistress of Edward IV.
Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible. 

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance. 

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.


New Release: God Save the King by Laura Purcell

Thanks to Jenny Q from Let Them Read Books and Historical Editorial for posting about the release of God Save the King by Laura Purcell, a novel which Jenny edited!  I already ordered a copy for my Kindle and can't wait to read it! 

God Save the King
by Laura Purcell

Publication Date:  11.7.12
Nightflame Books


London, 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. Her beloved husband, England’s King, has gone mad. 

Left alone with thirteen children and a country at war, Charlotte must fight to hold her husband’s throne in a time of revolutionary fever. But it is not just the guillotine that Charlotte fears: it is the King himself. 

Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no Prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it – with devastating consequences. 

The moving true story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed. 


giveaway winners

Hello dear readers!  It's time to announce some giveaway winners!  Please help me in congratulating the following....

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift....................Blodeuedd
Before Versailles by Karleen Koen.................Kim Cree

The Purple Shroud by Stella Duffy...........Angela, Debbie & Emma

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey.......................Margaret

Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony................Heather Webb

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley................Rhonda

The Kingmaker's Daughter. by Philippa Gregory................Carolyn & Kendal

Sacred Treason by James Forrester.....................April H.

Jane by Robin Maxwell.....................Mama Munky & Becca

The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle..................Charissa

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt....................SidheKist

Emails have been sent to the winners.  Thank you to everyone who entered and spread the word and thanks to the publishers and authors for sponsoring the giveaways!


2013 Release: The Tudor Conspiracy (Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner

US Cover
The Tudor Conspiracy (Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) 
by C.W. Gortner 

US Release Date:  July 16, 2013 
UK Release Date:  July 18, 2013


Bristling with betrayal, death and intrigue, THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY is as fast-paced and thrilling as THE TUDOR SECRET, its predecessor in the ELIZABETH'S SPYMASTER series.

Winter 1554. Brendan Prescott, spymaster to the Princess Elizabeth, has discovered that he is connected to the Tudors by blood as well as allegiance. Though his secret is known only by a few, it could be his downfall as he is called to London to protect the princess. 

UK Cover

Accompanied by his young squire Peregrine, he reluctantly leaves his sweetheart Kate
behind - but in the city he discovers that no one is quite what they seem. What fate does Queen Mary intend for her sister? Is Robert Dudley somehow manipulating the princess, even though he is locked in the Tower? And should Brendan trust the alluring Sybilla, Mary's lady-in-waiting, who professes to be on his side?

As he tries to unravel the mysteries of the Tudor court Brendan's life will be put in danger many times, and along the way he learns more about his own past.

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