Launch: Rebekah Simmers’s The King’s Sword

INTERVIEW BY JODI McMASTER

Rebekah Simmers’s Metzlingen Saga, set primarily in 15th century Germany, begins with the newly published The King’s Sword.

Can you give us your elevator pitch?

A foot soldier begins an epic journey to retrieve a princess in exchange for his freedom. From battlefield to court, Alps to tournament grounds, their fates entwined, and loyalties tested, they’ll find the hardest battle is the one we fight within ourselves. The first in a saga, the book honors friendship, found family, and the lengths we go to for those we love.

Do you have tricks for getting to know your characters?

I spent a lot of time taking craft classes and reading blogs such as K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors—writers are so giving with their advice if you are willing to listen and put the time in. I’m a very visual person, so when I’m writing I see the scene playing like a movie in my head. I also have a Pinterest board where I keep folders for each character with their GMCs (goal, motivation, conflict), their values, etc. I read a tip a while ago about inviting your character to your dinner table and thought that was rather creative. Sometimes I just need to think of them in a fresh way like that to get them to become chatty.

Could you explain a little about the real-life analogs to Metzlingen, Leuceria, and Ewigsburg and approximately where we’d find them on a map?

Sure! Leuceria is a city-state on the coastline west of Genoa. I modeled that after a city I read about that had existed for centuries, then fell from power and was absorbed by another. Metzlingen and Ewigsburg fall within Southern Germany. I definitely took literary license with their placement and a bit of the geography. Both are in Baden-Württemberg. Ewigsburg is nestled into the rolling lands east of Stuttgart when you travel towards Bavaria. Metzlingen is in the Swabian Alps, Alb, and Black Forest region. Several of the castles and towns in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria influenced the creation of my cities.

It’s refreshing to find a historical novel that’s not set in England or France—I tend to think their prevalence is because English speakers find more easily accessible sources for those countries. Were you able to find sources in English, or do you speak and read German, or did you have some assistance?

I’ve always done better with reading and being able to understand when someone is speaking to me in German, than in being able to speak back to them. Fortunately, people were quite patient with me! I picked up a lot of reference materials while we lived there—in English when I could find them or German when I couldn’t. I am kicking myself honestly that I didn’t buy more. I can work my way through it and when I can’t, I’ll use something like Google Translate. It’s hard to find sources in English that deal with the time period that I’m looking for in Germany, so I’m always thrilled to find things when I can. Most of what I’m ordering these days is in German. It takes me longer, but it’s worth it.

Your protagonists are relatively frequently described as “smirking,” which I found surprising because of the connotations I associate with the word. How do you view the term?

A smirk to me can have several different meanings—really depends on the character and the situation. I have some characters who are rather smug, so for them it’s a condescending expression. For others, such as when Matthias and his brothers are having a raucous conversation, it’s more playful and in jest. To me, it’s kind of like a grin—you have to look at everything else that’s going on to see what’s behind it.

Matthias and Avelina are followed in close third person, and sometimes chapters from one point of view to the next reiterate some of the action. How did you decide what to explore from both characters’ points of view and when to leave it to one or the other of them?

Well, one of my writing friends told me when it comes to point of view (if you are telling a story with more than one) to look at who has the most to lose in that situation. Sometimes it was quite clear who should be carrying the reader through that scene and there would be no reason for the other character to refer back to it in another chapter. Some scenes carry so much weight for each character and their development that it only seemed natural to refer back to show what the other was going through.

You mention hiking in the author’s note as an activity that helped you visualize the action. Were there any other activities or hobbies that helped bring the story to life in your head?

Oh yes, that was such a huge one. Our family enjoys museums and traveling to historic places to explore and go on tours. You can’t go on a long drive in Germany without seeing a castle, so I was determined to see the ones that I could and learn about them. Going to the flohmarkts (flea markets) in Germany was another fun hobby. We liked to pick up little treasures, some of which helped me describe things that I could touch in real life. At one flohmarkt, I found a small prayer book with clasps on the side, stuffed with smaller drawings and notecards, which helped me with Avelina’s prayer book. I also found old photo albums with pictures from inside castles that I had visited, which helped me describe the interiors.

What life experiences shaped your writing most?

Definitely the opportunity to live abroad and meet people in other countries and cultures, being part of a military family, and being a mother of special needs children. Even though my story is set in the past, it’s really important to me to give an authentic account of that experience that honors the sacrifice, the service, the commitment, the perseverance, the depth and range of emotions, the brilliant triumphs along with the struggles that are involved. Military service doesn’t only affect the soldier, but the entire family, which I am exploring further in a future book in the series.

What is the last great book you read?

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

 

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