One of the perks of having hosted New Books in Historical Fiction for more than ten years—as long as I’ve been publishing novels, although both twists along the road of life seem like turns I took yesterday, not in 2012—is that once in a while I get to shift gears and talk with one of the other hosts about a new book of my own. With Song of the Storyteller officially released as of January 17, the time has come to let the world know of its existence. G.P. (Galit) Gottlieb, the host of New Books in Literature and the author of three charming contemporary novels collectively known as the Whipped & Sipped Mysteries, offered to conduct this interview. It went live just before January gave way to February, and you can find the results at both the New Books Network (NBN) and various podcast subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
This isn’t my first interview for the New Books Network. I previously talked with Joan Schweighardt about The Swan Princess and with Galit about Song of the Siren and Song of the Sisters. You can find those previous conversations, if you’re interested, by searching for C. P. Lesley on the NBN site. Each time, I gain more insight into how my guests may feel when it’s their turn at the far side of the microphone—or, more often, just the receiving end of a telephone call. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I was shy as a teenager, and although I thought I had conquered that particular source of anxiety, my first forays into podcasting terrified me.
That was 140 or so interviews ago, and I have long since learned to take the host position in stride. But I was surprised by how nervous being a guest still makes me. That was especially true this time, because it was my first wholly unscripted conversation: I had no idea what Galit would want to know. And like many historians, I tend to ramble, so I worried that I would go down a conversational rabbit hole and emerge twenty minutes later to the online equivalent of glazed eyes.
Of course, none of that happened. Long before we actually started recording, I had relaxed into chat mode. Galit was as delightful as ever; she asked wonderful questions, and I mostly managed to rein my naturally discursive tendencies while answering. I didn’t say everything as perfectly as I would have liked, or tip my hat to every nuance, and I hem and haw more than I would have thought possible. But I did manage to get at least a few big points across. And the next time a guest forgets what she meant to say or tells me how nervous she is, I will be able to extend my condolences and assure her that I know exactly what she’s going through.
Galit and I talk mostly about the historical backdrop of the novels: the boyar politics, the religious differences, the bride show itself, a few of our favorite characters, what’s next for the series. So whether you listen to the interview first (you can find it at the link above) or read the book and then listen, I hope you’ll enjoy them both for different reasons.
You’ll also find out a little more about me, my background outside fiction, how I came to write these novels, and why I use a pen name to do so.
Image: Song of the Storyteller ad © C. P. Lesley; Ivan IV’s first bride show, from the 16th-century Illustrated Chronicle Codex (Litsevoi letopisnyi svod), public domain via Wikimedia Commons; covers for G. P. Gottlieb’s novels © D. X. Varos, reproduced under the fair use doctrine.