We sat down with New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman to chat about her new book, Legacy of Kings, which tells the story of Alexander the Great as a teenager. Mixing her love of ancient civilizations and rich drama, Herman brings to life the early years of this fascinating king while drawing her reader into the mystical world of ancient Macedonia. Keep reading for our exclusive interview with the author and get a sneak peek into Legacy of Kings!
You’re a historian, so you’re familiar with so many intriguing historical figures. Why Alexander the Great? And why his life as a teen?
Alexander is one of the most fascinating characters in all of history, and almost nothing is known about him before he became king of Macedon at the age of 20. Luckily, much was written about Alexander’s exploits during his extraordinary reign. So using this information, I could travel back a few years and imagine who he was at 16. It helps to remember myself at that age: bright but frustrated because no one valued my opinion, ambitious but wondering how I would forge a path for myself.
We love how you seamlessly blend historical facts with high-drama fantasy. Are all the main characters real historical figures? If not, which are fictional and which ones are real?
Alexander’s best friend Hephaestion was real, though I have taken some liberties with his past. Alexander’s mother, Queen Olympias, is also fairly true to history. She was beautiful, nasty, selfish and scheming. She hated her husband and doted on her son. Alexander’s father, the gruff, one-eyed King Philip, is portrayed accurately. And his half-sister, Cynane, really was a wild Amazonian warrior woman. The fictional characters are Kat, Jacob and Zofia, though I worked hard to create their worlds as historically accurately as possible.
The book is cinematically rich in both action and descriptions—like the gladiator fight scenes, Zo’s newly popular Persian green leather slippers with curled toes, and the green pool with blue tiles. How did you make the settings so detailed that they come alive in the reader’s mind? Did you research locations, fashion, etc?
Yes, I researched everything as much as I possibly could. Some facts were more accessible than others. For instance, there’s a ton of information on ancient warfare written by ancient Greek and Roman generals, but very little written information of any sort on the Persian Empire of this time. For Zo’s green leather slippers with curled toes and the green pool with blue glazed tiles, I borrowed from somewhat later periods in Persian history. But remember, in those days before the internet and the printing press, styles didn’t change very quickly. I used these historical details to strongly differentiate between Alex’s world and Zofia’s; when you are in a Zofia chapter you know you are not in Kansas anymore. Or Macedon.
Legacy of Kings is narrated from multiple POVs—a teenage Alexander, two princesses, three commoners and a queen. And it’s packed with non-stop action! How did you keep their personalities, storylines and perspectives all straight?
Queen Olympias always stood out of the crowd, but making all the teenage characters different people was a huge challenge at the beginning. I had three gorgeous, brave guys, and three hot, courageous girls, and when I first started writing I thought I was going to pull my hair out trying to make each one unique. But the more I wrote, the more the characters developed into wildly different personalities. It’s as if they told me who they were and I just listened. Now I feel that I have six children and know everything about them. Let me tell you, Book 2 is going a lot more quickly than Book 1 of the series!
Magic plays a big part in the book. Is it based on magical religious beliefs held at that time or it is of your own creation?
Blood Magic is mostly fictional, but it is based on the historical belief that gods and goddesses mated with humans in past ages and their descendants were endowed with special magical abilities. Hercules, Achilles, Helen of Troy and even Alexander himself were supposedly the offspring of gods, which explained how superhumanly awesome they were in strength, warfare, beauty and cleverness. In terms of the magic rituals performed by Cynane and Olympias, and the information Kat reads in the magic archives, these came from books written in ancient times on Greco-Roman magic.
Legacy of Kings has been compared to epic, large-cast, historical saga Game of Thrones. Any thoughts on the comparison?
The two are quite similar in terms of the multiple points of view, the fast-paced scene-shifting action, the palace intrigues, the scheming queen, the characters you love and those you love to hate. But Legacy is YA, which means sexual situations are only alluded to, and the violence in Legacy isn’t random or gratuitous as in Game of Thrones. It’s on a battlefield or in the arena, places where you would expect bloodshed to be. Believe me, I sometimes watch Game of Thrones through my fingers. I want the Legacy world to have its thrills and spills, but overall, less gore and sex.
Do you have a favorite character in the series or one you particularly love to write?
I love them all. As I said, they’re my kids. But I have particularly enjoyed writing the nasty ones: Queen Olympias and Princess Cynane. Look, a writer can’t write what’s not inside her. So there are these kernels of nastiness that we all repress because we want to be nice people. I have four rescue cats. I volunteer for the local Department of the Aging taking elderly people to the doctors and cleaning their houses and gardens, I have to say that with the vacuum I own from the Vacuum Sealer Research it was very easy. For instance, you need a help for rat removal for rat infestations in a house, look for onpointwildlife.com. Rodent control is a major issue for many homeowners but On Point Wildlife Removal in Melbourne Florida helps solves these problems with unwanted rodents. Getting rid of rats is always best left to professionals. There is really no quick and easy fix when it comes to rodent removal and control so rat deterrents and rodent repellents are not an option. Get rid of rats in the attic by contacting a profession rodent exterminator.
I pay the school fees for several kids in Africa. I work for fair and free elections. Which means that to fully allow myself to express pure, selfish nastiness—on the page, without hurting real people—just feels so darned good!
A few more quick questions….
The historical person you would love to have dinner with? Jesus. There’s so much I’d like to ask him. Plus, one advantage of having dinner with Jesus is that you can both order water and end up drinking the best wine without it costing you a dime.
Your favorite book when you were a teenager? The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read it every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and just sank into its multi-faceted magic. We could set up an entire religion based on those books: the saviors, the saints, the sacrifice, the morality lessons, the good and the evil.
Legacy of Kings in three words? Magical, Gripping, Intricate
The outfit you would like to see most in real life from Legacy of Kings? Here we come back to the green leather slippers with curled toes, part of Princess Zofia’s outfit she put on to have breakfast with her uncle, King Shershah of Sardis. She was also wearing an emerald green robe and matching trousers tied at the ankles, gold amphora earrings, a diadem over hennaed hair, and gold armlets, anklets and rings. Sigh.
The time in history you would like to live in most other than the present? Ancient Greece or Rome. If reincarnation is a real thing, I must have spent many lives back then. One must have been as a general—I have been fascinated by their warfare for as long as I can remember, which is weird considering how I love make-up and dresses and shoes–and another life must have been as a jeweler. I actually have some ancient jewelry that I wear, hoping somehow to absorb the energy and the memories of those who wore it thousands of years ago. Whenever I go to an ancient temple or city, my heart beats fast and I feel like I am going to float with joy at being… home. Those places feel like home.