Today we will be hearing from author Marian Thorpe, who wrote a book I am very excited to get to, Empire’s Daughter.
“But the world changes. In all the women’s villages of the Empire, this week or next, a soldier like myself will arrive to ask to live in the village, to take up a trade.” Casyn paused, for a breath, a heartbeat. “And to teach you and your daughters to fight.”
With those words, the lives of Lena, fisherwoman of Tirvan village, and her partner Maya change irrevocably. Torn apart by their responses to this request, Maya chooses exile; Lena chooses to stay to defend her village and the Empire, although the rules of the Partition Assembly many generations earlier had divided and circumscribed the lives of men and women. Appointed to leadership, Lena’s concepts of love and loyalty are challenged as she learns the skills of warfare, and, in the aftermath of battle, faces the consequences of her choices. Leaving Tirvan to search for Maya, Lena is drawn into the intrigues and politics of the Empire, forcing her to examine what she most truly believes in.
1. When did you first decide that you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t remember actually deciding. I learned to read very young, and it seemed to me writing stories was an extension of reading them. I wrote all through my childhood and teen years, and onward. I’ve probably started half-a- dozen novels over the years; Empire’s Daughter was the first one I finished.
2. Were there any events or inspirations that provoked Empire’s Daughter? Was there any particular reason you decided to create a world where men and women live apart?
There was no one event, just a curiosity about interpreting history in unconventional ways. When military service is compulsory, as it was in Britain in WWII, then who farms? Who fishes? I took the concept of the land girls, the corps of women who worked on the land to produce food in the UK during the Second World War, and extended it into a society similar to that of colonial Rome, and made it more extreme. I drew on the society of Sparta, where all men were raised to be soldiers, to some extent, and added bits and pieces of other cultures and cultural norms. I wanted the complete separation of women’s and men’s lives to be the starting point for Lena’s exploration of other possibilities, and the price paid in any society by those who don’t conform to the standards of the time.
3. Empire’s Daughter seems to deal with some pretty strong women. Was there a goal you had in mind while writing such a strong female lead? Is there anything specific you want readers to gain from your book, or know before going into it?
There actually wasn’t a specific goal. The women in Empire’s Daughter are strong because I grew up surrounded by strong women, and to me that was and is normal. Going back to the early 1900’s, my father’s aunts and mother were nurses and teachers at a time when that was not typical; one of my aunts and my mother both served in WWII, stationed with the British Army in France; another was an active member of the Danish resistance who could disassemble (and reassemble) a Bren gun in the dark. My sister gained her law degree in the early 1970’s, still fairly early for women in law. Even my own education and career path forged new ground; you have to see it in the context of the times – when I was in high school in the mid 70’s, I was still being told I would be an excellent executive secretary, and I was outright laughed at for saying I wanted to be a scientist. Not that it stopped me – I have an M.Sc. in plant genetics and if you Google me deeply enough you’ll find my scientific publications – another life, that! But all of that, I suppose, coloured my attitude and opinions of what women are capable of, and what normal could look like, under differing circumstances.
As for what I’d like readers to know? That the world of the Empire is, and yet isn’t, Britain in the years after the fall of Rome.
4. Is this the only book you’ve written? Are you working on any other projects?
I just published a small book called Spinnings: Brief Fantasies in Prose and Verse, which consists of two urban fantasy short stories linked by one poem. It’s very different from Empire’s Daughter; it’s also very short! It’s currently available as an e-book only from Amazon. I’m also working on the sequel to Empire’s Daughter. Empire’s Hostage takes Lena far from her village in the service of the Empire, creating new conflicts and testing her loyalty even further. And in a completely different vein, I’m writing a non-fiction study of the ‘spirit of place’ of west Norfolk (in the UK), where I spend part of each year, some of which can be read in draft form here: https://marianlthorpe.com/reverse-migration/
Other than that…I have two blogs: one is my writer’s blog where I publish book reviews, updates on my own writing, poetry, and other writing-related bits and pieces (marianlthorpe.com); the other is my reflections on life in middle age (twosimplelives.wordpress.com). I also provide editorial services to a very few writers; I’ve just finished two projects and am in the middle of a third – this one being my husband’s debut police procedural novel, and editing your spouse’s work has very different challenges than editing a stranger’s, believe me! Most of my life revolves around writing in some form. Whether it’s actually writing my own work, writing reviews, reading or editing, I’m working with words most of the time.
Indie writer of young-adult adventure, short stories and verse; editor, reviewer, part-time student of archaeology, artist, birder, walker, cook. I explore landscapes of the past and of the mind, and experiment with how the digital world allows art, writing and knowledge to be shared and disseminated in non-traditional ways.