Island of Gold
(Sea and Stone Chronicles)
By Amy Maroney
1454. A noble French falconer. A spirited merchant’s daughter. And a fateful decision that changes their destiny forever.
When Cédric is recruited by the Knights Hospitaller to the Greek island of Rhodes, his wife Sophie jumps at the chance to improve their fortunes. After a harrowing journey to Rhodes, Cédric plunges into the world of the knights—while Sophie is tempted by the endless riches that flow into the bustling harbor. But their dazzling new home has a dark side.
Slaves toil endlessly to fortify the city walls, and rumors of a coming attack by the Ottoman Turks swirl in the streets. Desperate to gain favor with the knights and secure his position, Cédric navigates a treacherous world of shadowy alliances. Meanwhile, Sophie secretly engineers a bold plan to keep their children safe. As the trust between them frays, enemies close in—and when disaster strikes the island, the dangers of their new world become terrifyingly real.
With this richly-told story of adventure, treachery, and the redeeming power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life.
This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited
Universal Link: mybook.to/IslandOfGold
Amy, welcome! It’s brilliant to have you here today.
Let’s get started — if you could go anywhere for a year to be inspired for your next book, what setting would you choose and what would you write?
This one is easy. I’m at work on Book 2 in the Sea and Stone Chronicles. Like Island of Gold, it’s set mostly in Rhodes. So I would go back to Rhodes and settle in for a long stay—it would be incredible to absorb the history and culture over a period of a year. During that time I would also visit Cyprus, because the third book in the series takes place there. I would also try to visit some of the other locations that play a role in the Sea and Stone Chronicles: the Greek islands of Symi, Kos, Tilos, and Nisyros, and possibly Bodrum in Turkey. Because many scenes in Island of Gold and the subsequent books play out at sea, I would love to spend time sailing on the Aegean and Mediterranean to get a taste of what my characters experience. A three-masted wooden ship would be ideal!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal and why?
My spirit animal is the dragonfly. They are magnificent creatures, beautiful and otherworldly. They look so delicate, but they have unmatched power—they are the most successful insect predators in the world. Every time I see one I catch my breath and feel as if Dame Fortune is smiling upon me. That combination of beauty and strength is something I aspire to in my writing. I aim to write transporting stories that brim with adventure and have an emotional impact, too. During my research, I learned that the island of Rhodes is home to an unusual ruby-red dragonfly, so of course I had to give it a cameo in Island of Gold.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My first research always come informally, mostly through travel and reading. It’s when I’m traveling that I have the best, most creative ideas for fiction. Reading is like traveling in that it takes me to different worlds, so ideas are often sparked that way, too. With that initial idea or inspiration percolating, I start to dig into the historical record. I rely heavily on Academia.edu, Interlibrary Loan, and the kindness of researchers all over the world. As I explore history, I begin to imagine characters inhabiting the distant past. After a few months of intense research and reading, I start to make connections that lead to plot ideas. Then I start playing around with character vignettes and drafts of scenes. Usually I begin with dialogue because it comes easily to me. My characters start to leap off the page. I continue to read/research, and new discoveries point me and the characters in new directions. I’m still figuring how to do all of this in a streamlined fashion, but I’m working on my fifth novel now and it seems to go a little faster each time.
Tell us more about your latest book, Island of Gold. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
This is an interesting question that I ask myself a lot. I write mostly about imagined people. All of my books have featured real historical figures, but in minor roles. My books are set six hundred years in the past, and there is very little known about most of the real people I write about. In Island of Gold, the most prominent real figure is Jacques de Milly, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller. We know little about his personal life or his personality. But I found a few snippets from historians praising his wisdom and fairness in both military matters and societal issues in Rhodes. And the most tantalizing bit of history I dug up about him concerned his tomb. After he died, his tomb was opened so the body of a four-month-old prince could be interred alongside him. The prince was the only known child of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, a woman who had come to Jacques de Milly for aid many times during her short reign. That she would have her baby entombed alongside him makes me think their bond was deep, as was his character. A later book in the Sea and Stone Chronicles will feature Queen Charlotte.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I love picking names for characters, but it takes me a long time to get it right. Sometimes I start with names that seem fine at first but become obviously wrong over time. I guess as I get to know the characters I realize what their names really should be. For this book, I made up a few names and honored some people lost to history by using their names. In Island of Gold, I named my hero Cédric de Montavon after a name I often see on a mailbox while out walking. I’m planning to give the homeowners a copy of the book to thank them for the inspiration. Two of the villains in the book—Nicolau Baldaia and Dragonetto Poulis—were named for real people who lived in Rhodes and Cyprus in the 15th century. Baldaia was an infamous Catalan pirate, an excellent role model for a villain. The real Dragonetto was a wealthy landowner and I found no evidence that he was a dastardly fellow, but how could I not use that name?
What was your hardest scene to write?
I seem to struggle the most with action and fight scenes. Describing people moving their bodies around a space is hard for me, and throwing a few weapons into the mix makes it even more difficult. This book has several action and fight scenes and they took me forever to get right. I revised them so many times I lost count. But I got help, luckily. See answer below…
Give a shout out to a writing buddy or fellow author; how did they help you with this book?
Historical novelist Cryssa Bazos writes the best action and fight scenes I’ve read. She understands intuitively how to move people around the way they do in real-life situations. So for instance, if someone thrusts a sword at an opponent with their right hand, she knows how their opponent would probably react in response. Or if someone on a horse is attacked by someone on foot, the horse and the rider would both have a series of likely reactions, none of which would ever occur to me! Luckily for me, Cryssa is one of my cherished writing critique partners. So every fight and action scene I wrote went through the Cryssa-o-meter. It was painstaking work to understand how to engineer these scenes, but Cryssa showed me the way.
I loved chatting, Amy. Thanks for sharing, and good luck with the new release!
Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. To receive a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, join Amy’s readers’ group at www.amymaroney.com. (Just copy and paste into your browser.)