I’m thrilled to have Kathryn Amurra, author of the Soothsayer’s Path historical romance series, on the blog today. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn, and I learned a lot about her, her books, and Ancient Rome!
Getting to Know Kathryn Amurra:
QUESTION: Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and your road to becoming an author?
KATHRYN AMURRA: I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was in elementary school. I would sit in my room for hours and write (no, I did not have much of a social life). When I was in bed trying to go to sleep, I would come up with stories that I could write down someday. Although writing was my passion, I took my father’s advice and went to college for engineering. I was an engineer for four and a half years, during which I met and married my husband, and then we both quit work and went to law school. I wrote for fun, on and off, until I graduated from law school and got a job as an intellectual property attorney. My plan was to write when I retired, but after a 10-year break from writing, during which I had my three girls, I decided there was no point in waiting. What if I died before I retired? So, I researched how to write a publishable book, and I started writing my first real novel (in my free time—I still needed my “day job”!).
Kathryn Amurra has been making up stories for as long as she can remember and writing since grade school. She found her own hero just after graduating college and married him, and they have three girls together. Although her characters live inside her head all day, she writes at night, when she has logged off from her “day job” and her kids are asleep.
Q: Which books and/or authors do you feel have most influenced your writing?
KA: When I was growing up, I read a lot of Lois Duncan books. In high school, I loved Dean Koontz. I found that my favorite parts were the romantic bits, and when I first perused my mother-in-law’s book collection, as a twenty-four-year-old married woman, I discovered the romance genre. I couldn’t believe it—people wrote books that consisted entirely of my favorite parts!
Q: I read in your bio that you’re also an attorney. How do you utilize your background as an
attorney in your writing and story development?
KA: A lot of the characters I wrote in my first books (which aren’t published yet) are lawyers. In my second published book, Admonition, there is what I like to think of as an Ancient Roman courtroom drama scene. That was fun to write. But on a more abstract level, being a lawyer, especially a lawyer at a big law firm, I think, exposes you to a lot of politics, rumor and innuendo, and real-life drama. All of these things find their way into my stories—modified, of course, to fit a given time period and a completely different scenario.
About the Books:
SOOTHSAYER: Aurelia has always valued love and happiness over titles and power. Though her kind-hearted father has allowed her to turn away suitor after suitor in pursuit of a love she cannot yet define, when he dies her choices die with him. Knowing that marrying the elderly governor of a neighboring province can secure her mentally challenged brother’s safety, she gives up on her dream of finding love in return for his protection.
Cassius is the ill-fated captain of the governor’s guard tasked with escorting the Lady Aurelia and her unpleasant aunt to the governor’s estate. Since the soothsayer Tullia foretold an early death for him, Cassius wants nothing more than to keep his hands busy with labor and his heart free from any connections to the world he believes he will be leaving soon. As they work through a series of misfortunes on the road to the governor’s province, the words of the soothsayer start to make sense, but can they find the courage to allow their true destiny to unfold?
ADMONITION: Sabina is a young noblewoman who, based on her soothsayer aunt’s prediction, believes her words are dangerous and will hurt those she loves. Following the death of her beloved husband, she takes a vow of silence to protect others from suffering the same fate. Ignored and scorned by those around her, who believe her to be cursed by the gods who took her voice, she is content to live in the shadow of her former life, avoiding society as best she can and staying away from the politics and drama of Rome’s inner circles.
Lucius is an unwilling front-runner to inherit the title of Emperor from Rome’s childless leader, Trajan. Although the soothsayer warns him to steer clear of a pretty face that hides a cursed soul, Lucius cannot help but be drawn to the silent and beautiful Sabina. After learning her secret, he is as determined to help her shed her cloak of silence as she is to keep him at a safe distance. But when Lucius becomes the target of a political plot, Sabina must decide whether breaking her silence will save his life or merely seal his fate.
BIRTHRIGHT: The daughter of a patrician woman who chose to marry beneath her class, Nerilla has witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of following your heart. Determined to correct her mother’s mistakes, she has carefully selected the perfect patrician man to wed. The fact that the man is only marrying her to obtain her father’s legendary sword Ceres, which is to serve as her dowry, is of no consequence–that is, until that very sword is stolen right out from under her nose by a handsome thief with a charming smile and innocent eyes.
As an orphan with no memory of his birth parents, Jovian has been searching for the truth about his parentage for as long as he can remember. When a soothsayer tells him that to uncover the key to his past he must seek out the sword called Ceres, he can hardly believe his luck, for he has already stolen that sword from its owner. Unfortunately, he has also already sold it to a man bound for Neapolis.
A chance meeting between Nerilla and Jovian results in what they both know is an ill-advised arrangement. As they work together to find the sword, they discover secrets from their pasts that make them question everything they thought they knew. And they find themselves having to choose between pursuing the perfect plans they’ve laid or risking failure for the chance of achieving their true birthright.
Q: It’s not often that I read historical romances set in ancient Rome. What compelled you to use this setting as the backdrop for your series?
KA: When I started writing the first book in the series, Soothsayer, I knew I wanted the heroine’s motivation to be that she had to protect her autistic brother from compelled military service. That idea meant I had to pick a different setting than modern day America, and at first I thought I would come up with my own Ancient Rome-type of world in which to set the story. Upon the advice of a best-selling author, from whom I had won a critique of the first 50 pages of my manuscript, I decided to use a real historical setting for my story and did some research to identify the right setting—Ancient Rome in the last few years of Emperor Trajan’s rule. I think it worked out much better than me building a whole new world for my characters—history had done all the work for me already!
Q: What kind of research did you do to bring the Soothsayer’s Path series to fruition?
KA: A lot of my research was done on the Internet, on my laptop, from my bed, between the hours of 11PM and midnight (my prime writing time). There are a lot of resources on the Internet—from modes of transportation to weaponry to hierarchy to how people dressed in Ancient Rome. I even found a website that calculates the travel time between two places by land and sea according to various ancient forms of transportation based on the time of year. That came in very handy for my third book, Birthright.
Q: What is the strangest or most interesting piece of historical information you learned while researching?
KA: The way people kept themselves clean in Ancient Rome is fascinating to me. Although there were bathhouses, most of the time people rubbed oil on themselves, then scraped it off. I don’t think I would have survived back then! Clothes were washed in urine (the ammonia in urine removed dirt, stains, and oils). Perhaps not very interesting, but something I’ve found to be an obstacle sometimes, is that in Ancient Rome people didn’t yet dance together as a couple, as we are used to seeing in Regency romances, for example. Dancing was done by hired dancers in front of a group, for entertainment. Sadly, this means no dances between the hero and heroine in Ancient Rome.
Q: If you could spend the day with any character from the series, who would you choose? What would you do?
KA: This is a difficult question. I fall in love with each hero I write (they are, of course, all modeled in some way after my husband, so I don’t feel too guilty), so it would have to be one of my heroes. If I had to choose, I would pick Cassius, the hero from the first book, Soothsayer. He is so tortured, convinced he is going to die soon because of the Soothsayer’s prophecy. I would sit in front of a fire with him in the woods and tell him stories until he smiled.
Q: What messages do you hope to convey in your books?
KA: I think the two themes that seem to have found their way into the stories in this series are hope and courage. Things look bleak sometimes, but you have to find the courage within yourself to persevere and get to the other side. It helps to have someone at your side—be it a friend, a family member, or a person who loves you—but even when you feel you are alone I believe God or Providence or whatever you want to call it sends you what you need to overcome the darkness and find your light once more.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?
KA: I am currently working on Book 4 of the Soothsayer’s Path series. This next book is called Guardian, and it focuses on Priscilla, the stepsister from Book 2, Admonition. I hope to publish that by the end of 2023. I am also re-writing the first two books I wrote (when I decided I can’t wait until I retire to write), because I’ve learned a whole lot since then about the craft of writing, and I plan to publish those books and two more in a new series that’s more paranormal romance/romance with mystical elements. The first book in the new series is called Amulet, and it is about a magical necklace, or amulet, that has been passed down from generation to generation and is said to have the power to grant the owner his or her heart’s true desire for as long as the person has the amulet. I hope to publish Amulet during the first half of 2023, followed shortly thereafter by the second book, called Timeless.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your writings (i.e., website, Twitter, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)
KA: My website is https://kathrynamurra.wixsite.com/mysite, but it is still in its early stages (farther along than it would have been otherwise, thanks to my oldest daughter). I am on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kathrynamurra/), Twitter (@AmurraKathryn), and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20280375.Kathryn_Amurra), and I would love to hear from folks via email as well (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don’t be a stranger!
I want to thank Kathryn for taking the time to answer my questions. It was such a treat to be able to interview a fantastic historical romance novelist!