Interview & Giveaway: Imperial Passions by Eileen Stephenson

Today on the blog I am super excited to be hosting an interview with Eileen Stephenson. She is currently on Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for her latest novel, Imperial Passions. I also have a giveaway for a beautiful Byzantine-style Sterling Silver bracelet, so be sure to enter!

Hello Eileen and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Imperial Passions!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I grew up loving history and stories about far off places, and I had a dream about being a writer, but could not decide what to write about. Eventually, I got into a day job in finance, married and had three daughters before I found my subjects – Anna Dalassena and the Byzantines.

What inspired you to write Imperial Passions?

I was amazed when I first started reading Byzantine history that there were so few novels about this fascinating civilization. I began to think about writing one (or more) myself, but it was when I found a lengthy posting by a New Zealand historian about the life of Anna Dalassena that I found my subject. For a woman who lived a thousand years ago that few outside of academia had heard of, there was a great deal of historical information about her – more than enough to craft a novel (or two) around.

What other research did you undertake when Imperial Passions?

I travelled to places with a Byzantine connection. Some of them were fairly close by – the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Eventually, though, I had to go overseas – in Italy to Venice, Ravenna and Palermo; to Istanbul; and to Athens and a few of the Greek islands. I’ve brought along my husband and other family members to these places, and I’m glad to say that they all seem to have enjoyed the sights!

Did you come across anything in your research that surprised or fascinated you?

The research on eunuchs came up with a few interesting bits of information. These men tended to grow taller than the average, and were sometimes left incontinent by the surgery when it was done badly. Also, depending on their age when the surgery was done, they might still be capable of sex, if not of fathering a child.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Imperial Passions?

I’d like readers to begin to see the Byzantines as more than just a footnote or reference in a dusty history textbook. These people were educated and sophisticated far beyond the levels found in Western Europe at that time. The Byzantines ate using forks, they had women doctors, and literacy was common even in the middle classes. The rest of Europe took many more centuries to reach what Byzantium had in the 11th century.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I think it was the scene where Anna Dalassena confronts her cousin’s widower while she is staying with his wife’s body the night before burial. It took a while before I acknowledged that this would have to be the pivotal moment in Anna’s life that would start her on the path to the throne. I spent a lot of time trying to structure it, before coming up with what seemed to work.

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

The biggest challenge is learning how to write fiction. It isn’t the same as the analytical writing I do at the day job. I have taken a number of writing classes and joined a writers’ group and eventually it came together. But it wasn’t easy and it really takes persistence.

What is the last historical novel you read?

That was the marvelous “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. I had wanted to read it for a while but had not gotten to it until a friend lent me her copy. It was unique, thoughtful, fun, and a book I didn’t want to put down. I can’t recommend it enough.

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

I tend to prefer distant time periods rather than more recent ones, or failing that, more exotic settings such as Russia or China in the 20th century. The American Civil War era is too modern for me, and even the Revolutionary War period is barely acceptable. The Byzantines from a thousand years ago nicely combine both the exotic and long past criteria.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I am working on a couple of projects. One is a brief introduction to 11th century Byzantine history that I’d like to publish. The other is, of course, the next book in the story of Anna Dalassena’s life. As exciting as the first book was, we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet!

Thank you so much for the interview!

Thank you, Eileen! I'm excited to finish Anna's story and see what is in store for her!

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Blachernae Books
Paperback & eBook; 387 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the mepire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeing a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before the are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward a throne for her family - too big a gamble?

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but after a peripatetic childhood ended up in the Washington, DC area, where I attended college, married, worked a day job in finance, and raised three children.

My first book, Tales of Byzantium, contains short stories taking place in the middle years of the Byzantine Empire. My second book and first novel, Imperial Passions - The Porta Aurea, introduces Anna Dalassena, the extraordinary mother of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, and an unstoppable force in her time.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 19
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 21
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, November 23
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 27
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, November 28
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Monday, December 3
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, December 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 6
Excerpt at Introvert Booklover

Friday, December 7
Feature at Jathan & Heather
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, December 10
Review at Bookramblings


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a beautiful Byzantine-style Sterling Silver Bracelet! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– 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.

Imperial Passions

1 comment:

  1. Reading about your historic research is fascinating. I also would love knowing more about the Byzantine Period.


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