Interview with Sophie Schiller & Island on Fire Giveaway

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to be have Sophie Schiller here to talk about her latest book, Island on Fire! Check out our interview & enter to win a copy!


Hello Sophie and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Island on Fire!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and Island on Fire?

Thank you for having me! I am a writer of thrillers and historical adventure tales set in exotic locations. Island on Fire is my third novel, and is set in Martinique during the deadliest volcanic disaster of the 20th century. It’s a story that I believed deserved to reach a wider audience, so that’s why I set out to tell this tale.

What inspired you to write Island on Fire?

I love telling the untold stories that no one has ever told before, and I love telling them in a suspenseful way with lots of interesting, colorful characters and exotic settings. I thought Island on Fire would open up a whole new world to readers of historical fiction: in setting, in characters, in culture, and in history. I thought the story was so similar to Pompeii that it would appeal to readers of “Pompeii” and other books and movies set during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
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What type of research did you do for writing Island on Fire?

I read every book I could find on the subject. I explored the volcanic ruins in St. Pierre, Martinique, studied the culture first hand, talked to the descendants of survivors, explored the cobblestoned streets of St. Pierre, and immersed myself in the culture. I also taught myself geology and volcanology from a Victorian Era perspective. Finally, I translated old books in French about the voodoo practices in the French West Indies. This part of the research was the most fascinating.

Did you find anything in your research that was particularly fascinating or that helped shaped the novel?

While scouring news sites from Martinique I would always come across articles about voodoo ritual objects that are discovered in public places, scaring the population. I decided that a book set in Martinique had to include voodoo as one of the themes. That’s when I created the character of the “Grand Zamy”, who was modeled after a real voodoo witch doctor who lived in the early part of the 20th century and killed himself out of remorse for the large number of people he allegedly killed.

What was your favorite scene to write?

It was hard writing the mudslide scene that kills some of the important characters, but I was happy with the results. I used all my thriller writing techniques to get the scene just right. That scene also set the stage for the next part of the novel, which puts the heroine in even more peril.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Love scenes (for me) are very hard to write. But I’m happy with the results in this book!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to live a full life with lots of interesting experiences, traveling to faraway places and meeting fascinating people. It wasn’t until all my kids were in school that I pursued my dream. So it took several decades for the vision to become reality.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Finding one’s voice is the greatest challenge for practically every writer. The best way to overcome it is to write a great deal, hundreds of thousands of words. Eventually the voice forms on the page.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I love great 20th century writers like Graham Greene, Leon Uris, Lionel Davidson, Ken Follett and Robert Harris. They have enormous shoes to fill!

What was the first historical novel you read?

My first real adult historical novel was “Exodus” by Leon Uris. My father gave it to me when I complained about being bored during a summer break in high school. That book literally changed my life.

What is the last historical novel you read?

I am reading “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes as preparation for my current project. It should be required reading for every aspiring historical novelist.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I can speak 3 languages. I love studying foreign cultures and foreign languages so much so that when I went to college my original goal was to become a diplomat.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love immersing my readers in the past; I love making the past come alive. I love making discoveries about our past that no one has ever heard of before. I love learning new things. There is so much yet to discover!

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I usually work in the period 1880-1918, but now I’m working in the 18th century. While I never read that much in this period, I’m immersing myself in it now for my current project. It’s good to stretch oneself in life. We have no idea our brain’s full potential but I believe it is incumbent upon us to grow in life.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I love listening to music, reading, cooking, traveling, and writing poems. I love interacting with my friends on Facebook. I love exploring new places and making new discoveries.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m working on a fictional diary of a founding father during his turbulent youth. I hope to return to Passages to the Past in the near future to talk about it!

It's a date, Sophie! I'm excited to hear more about it! Thank you so much for spending time with us today. Congratulations on the release of your new book!



Island on Fire by Sophie Schiller

Publication Date: March 15, 2018
Paperback & eBook; 270 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1986210782

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Thriller


In the lush, tropical world of Martinique where slavery is a distant memory and voodoo holds sway, Emilie Dujon discovers that her fiancé, a rich sugar planter, has been unfaithful. Desperate to leave him, she elicits the aid of a voodoo witch doctor and is lured into a shadowy world of black magic and extortion. When the volcano known as Mount Pelée begins to rumble and spew ash, she joins a scientific committee sent to investigate the crater. During the journey she meets Lt. Denis Rémy, an army officer with a mysterious past. At the summit, the explorers discover that a second crater has formed and the volcano appears to be on the verge of eruption. But when they try to warn the governor, he orders them to bury the evidence for fear of upsetting the upcoming election. As the pressure builds, a deadly mudslide inundates Emilie’s plantation and she disappears. With ash and cinders raining down, chaos ensues. Left with no choice, Lt. Rémy deserts his post and sets off on a desperate quest to rescue Emilie. But with all roads blocked, can they escape the doomed Pompeii of the Caribbean before it’s too late?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


About the Author

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews called her "an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer”. Her latest novel is Island on Fire, a thriller about the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

For more information, please visit Sophie Schiller's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, August 7
Review at Oh, October

Wednesday, August 8
Review at Bri's Book Nook
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, August 9
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Friday, August 10
Feature at Books and Wine are Lovely

Saturday, August 11
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, August 13
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Tuesday, August 14
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of Island on Fire to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Island on Fire


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