Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest post from David Blixt: My Queen

Four years ago, I conducted an interview with David Blixt about his debut novel, The Master of Verona, a standout historical epic that interweaves the origins of the Capulet-Montague feud from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet with the life of poet Dante Aligheiri in 14th-century Italy.  I published it on two separate days (see part 1 & part 2) because it was so informative and entertaining I hated to leave anything out.

As part of the interview, I asked David about Dorothy Dunnett and her influence on his work.  In his reply, he stated: "Dunnett is, to me, the pinnacle of the genre. I have never felt an emotional punch the like of hers."  In the following guest post, he expands upon that statement.

"My Queen"
by David Blixt

The Star-Cross’d series (The Master of Verona, Voice of the Falconer, and Fortune's Fool) is set in early Renaissance Italy - the world of Dante and Giotto, of Popes and Emperors, of the highest hopes for chivalry and knights, combining Shakespeare’s Italian characters with the real people of Italy. This series owes a huge debt to my wife, Jan. Not only for all her support and eagle-eyed advice. She also was the one who introduced me to the works of Dorothy Dunnett.

To me, Dunnett is the pinnacle of our genre. She touches every base, and does so with unforgettable characters, romantic settings, and history so vast and deep that one could easily drown, were her stories not so amazingly good. Jan loves to tell the story of me reading the third novel in the Lymond series, seeing what was about to happen to one of my favorite characters, and throwing the book down. For two years. I refused to let that character die. It was only my need to finish the series that brought me back again – and again. I truly adore Dunnett’s writing, her stories, her mind.

While I’ve not attempted to emulate her (a pointlessly futile effort), Dunnett is in my head whenever I have a choice to make about the action. She plays a long game, and she’s brave in what she does to her characters, the same way that George R.R. Martin is brave – no one is safe. But there’s more hope in Dunnett than in Martin, and the threads are even tighter.

Dunnett also knew what I have to constantly remind myself – research is the key. She would let herself steep in research, allowing all the elements to merge and meet, then pour them into a single chapter. I’m continually astonished when the answer to a writing problem is answered by some obscure bit of historical trivia – death doors? Saddle tricks? Deadlines? A quirk of falconry? These things have not only saved me, they’ve become lynchpins for my stories.

It was my realization that my hero was too much an Italian Francis Crawford that led to the huge reveal at the end of The Master of Verona, which was as much a surprise to me when I wrote it as it was to the many readers who’ve contacted me in a rage. Since then I’ve tried not to be so obviously influenced by her. Yet her storytelling is in my bones, the same way the stories of Colleen McCullough, Bernard Cornwell, and Rafael Sabatini are in me.

I’m drawn to grand stories, vast and world-exploring stories, tales of brilliant people in dark times. Dogged heroes struggling to maintain their integrity. Clever villains who think they’re the heroes. Intrepid soldiers and statesmen, clever and dangerous women, and a complex world where nothing is what it seems. These are the stories that I love to read, so these are the stories I try in my own humble way to write.

I hope they’re stories you’ll love to read.


The Master of Verona and its long-awaited sequels, Voice of the Falconer and Fortune's Fool, were published via Amazon Kindle in May at $2.99 apiece.  (Yes, you should read them in order, and yes, there will be more to come in the Star Cross'd series.)  Visit David Blixt's website for more on these and his other newly released novels, including Colossus: Stone and Steel, first in a new series set in Judea of 66 AD, and Her Majesty's Will, a zany Elizabethan romp which a reviewer called "Shakespeare's summer page-turner."  Looks like fun plane reading for my trip to ALA.


  1. This very engaging, honest post had me sold. Then I saw the dreaded word "Kindle". Sniffle. I don't have an e-reader and reading books on my laptop unfortunately does not work for me. Fingers crossed the books will do well enough to make print editions viable in the future - especially the Judean series!

  2. Hi, Danielle! If it helps, Master of Verona was published first by St. Martin's Press in hardcover and trade paperback, and Amazon has the trade pb in stock. I hope print versions will eventually appear for all of them, too. I have a Kindle, but I'd also like a full set of the Italy novels on my shelves!