Interview & Giveaway: Song of Songs by Marc Graham

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Today on the blog I am so excited to be hosting Marc Graham, author of Song of Songs. His blog tour with HF Virtual Book Tours kicks off today and I will be hosting an interview this morning and then posting my review later of this fabulous novel!

Please enjoy my interview with Marc and don't forget to enter our giveaway to win a paperback copy!

Hello Marc and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Song of Songs!

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

I’ve been a storyteller most of my life, beginning with really awful science fiction when I was a kid, but began seriously writing and honing my craft about 15 years ago. My first novel, Of Ashes and Dust, came out in 2017, and my third novel, Son of the Sea, Daughter of the Sun, will be released this coming Fall. While my focus is on historical fiction, I have a few contemporary story ideas I’m kicking around, as well as a handful of nonfiction books.

What inspired you to write Song of Songs?

I’ve known about the Queen of Sheba story most of my life, then became involved in Freemasonry (whose founding myth is centered on the building of King Solomon’s Temple) in my mid-20s. Shortly after joining, I discovered a story that told of a love triangle between King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and the builder of the Temple. That started my creative wheels spinning, and soon I had a story I had to pursue.

What research did you undertake when writing Song of Songs?

Marie Kondo would be horrified at the number of books I added to my library. From history to archaeology, philosophy and religious history and ancient initiation rites. Before I put a word to paper, I spent about six months getting settled into the world of Palestine, Southern Arabia, and Egypt around 1000 BCE. Part of the challenge was that the most popular written accounts (the Bible, Koran, and Kebra Negast) were written hundreds or thousands of years after the events surrounding the story (assuming they ever happened at all), and carry very specific religious or cultural biases that twisted the story to suit those ends. So I had to look backward through those lenses and reverse-engineer the stories to arrive at a likely account of what “really” happened.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Probably my temple-builder Yetzer’s initiation ritual. I put the poor guy through the wringer, but it was a lot of fun to consider how my own Masonic initiation might have been inspired by his experiences. (Don’t worry, I don’t give away any secrets protected by my oaths. Promise.)

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Without giving too much away, there is a scene involving a sexual assault that was very challenging. Based on popular legends, the scene had to be there to fully address the story. But writing from the victim’s perspective, and getting deep enough into the heads of the perpetrators to make their actions perfectly justifiable to themselves--those dark places can be pretty disturbing.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Like I said, I’ve been at least trying to write most of my life. I first got the idea for Of Ashes and Dust, my first novel, in 1998. It took me quite a while to complete it, but by the time I was done and I had several other stories starting to line up to be told, I knew this was going to become a lifelong passion.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I generally get up 2-3 hours before I need to leave for my day-job. On weekends, I usually get to sleep until our Greater Swiss Mountain Dog wakes me up. I meditate for an hour or so, then get in my writing time. I write by hand, and find that early morning gives me the best connection to my source of creativity. Editing and the other business aspects of writing I usually reserve for evenings and weekends.

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

Justified procrastination. For a long time I bought into my own lie that I needed a significant block of time (at least an hour, maybe 2 or more) to really get into the zone and have productive writing time. The result, of course, was that my writing was sporadic and undisciplined, because it’s very difficult to find that much uninterrupted time while also working a full-time job. Then I discovered Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, where author Rosanne Bane talks about habits and micro-commitments. She stresses the importance of forging very small but non-negotiable commitments as a means of overcoming resistance and procrastination. So I commit to getting in 15 minutes of writing every day, no matter what. If I manage more, great, but that short period of time is a must-do. Since making that commitment, my word-count has shot up dramatically and the Muse--seeing that I’m serious about actually showing up--keeps those ideas flowing.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Bernard Cornwell is my literary hero, in terms of storytelling, commitment, and sheer volume of output. JK Rowling set a great example for persistence and refusing to give up. And, really, every author who makes just one more submission than they receive rejections is a true inspiration.

What was the first historical novel you read?

The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas.

What is the last historical novel you read?

War of the Wolf, by (surprise!) Bernard Cornwell is the latest new release I’ve read, though I’ve just reread his Warlord (King Arthur) series and am restarting his Grail Quest series.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I almost always spell grey with an ‘e’. I’m not a huge dessert guy. I once had a pet Petoskey Stone (named Pete, of course).

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I’ve always been fascinated by history. My grandfather was an avid reader and storyteller, and he could make personal family history or some obscurity of the distant past really come alive. In historical fiction, we have the opportunity to explore events of the past and connect them to our present experience. I find that old nugget, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” really rings true, as well as “History is written by the victors.” By digging into these ancient stories, by getting into the minds of the characters, peering behind the official history, and trying to get to the real story behind it, we can learn a lot about how the mind works and how we can course-correct to avoid the missteps of the past.

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

I’m really all over the board. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular time period that appeals to me more than any other. It’s more about the theme of the story. Give me an exciting story of personal honor, courage, and sacrifice in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and I’m on board.

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

If I’m not trying to get a book out, I’ll generally be working on a musical theatre production. And I’ve just gotten into drone piloting and aerial photography.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m wrapping up edits on my next novel, Son of the Sea, Daughter of the Sun, due out Fall 2019 from Blank Slate Press. And I’m developing a set of creativity tools for storytellers, along with a companion book, that I hope to have out in the next few months.

Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba
by Marc Graham

Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Blank Slate Press
Paperback; 400 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings.

When Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father's titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people's survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people's prosperity.

On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Marc Graham studied mechanical engineering at Rice University in Texas, but has been writing since his first attempt at science fiction penned when he was ten. From there, he graduated to knock-off political thrillers, all safely locked away to protect the public, before settling on historical fiction. His first novel, Of Ashes and Dust, was published in March 2017.

He has won numerous writing contests including, the National Writers Assocation Manuscript Contest (Of Ashes and Dust), the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest - Historical (Of Ashes and Dust, Song of Songs), and the Colorado Gold Writing Contest - Mainstream (Prince of the West, coming from Blank Slate Press in Fall 2019).

He lives in Colorado on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and in addition to writing, he is an actor, narrator, speaker, story coach, shamanic practitioner, and whisky afficianado (Macallan 18, one ice cube). When not on stage or studio, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found hiking with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schdule

Tuesday, April 16
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 17
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Feature at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Thursday, April 18
Review at Bookfever
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Friday, April 19
Feature at What Is That Book About
Guest Post & Excerpt at To Read, Or Not to Read

Saturday, April 20
Excerpt at Spellbound by History

Monday, April 22
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, April 23
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, April 24
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, April 25
Feature at Let Them Read Books
Guest Post at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Friday, April 26
Review at Red Headed Book Lady

Tuesday, April 30
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Wednesday, May 1
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Friday, May 3
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Monday, May 6
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, May 7
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, May 9
Excerpt at Kimber Li

Friday, May 10
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, May 13
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Tuesday, May 14
Review at Amy's Booket List

Wednesday, May 15
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 17
Review at Coffee and Ink
Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away two paperback copies of Song of Songs! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Song of Songs

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