Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Changing Horses Mid-Stream: An Ancient World Author Jumps To The 20th Century - Guest Post by Kate Quinn, Author of The Alice Network

I am so happy to wish the enigmatic Kate Quinn a hearty Happy Book Birthday to her newest gem, The Alice Network!! I'll be reviewing this book later on in the month but didn't want the day to go by without sharing all about the book with you. In turn, Kate is sharing a lovely guest post with us on her switch from writing about the ancient world to the 20th Century. So sit back, enjoy, and go out and get yourself a copy of The Alice Network!

“What's a girl like you doing in a time like this?”

It's a question I've grown familiar with, as a historical novelist who has made a recent, monumental jump in time periods. My first love was the ancient world, and that was where I gravitated when penning my first novels, eventually writing four set in early Imperial Rome. I made a two-book jump after that to the Italian Renaissance and the delicious cesspit that was the rule of the Borgia pope, but that wasn't too big a leap: it was still Italy, still Rome, still comfortably pre-modern. But my latest book “The Alice Network” pole-vaults all the way into the 20th century, telling dual storylines of World War I female spies and an unraveling post-World War II mystery with its roots in the previous war's spy ring—and a jump that big will give you whiplash, believe me. Why, readers asked, did I make such a big change in subject and research matter?

Part passion, and part practicality. I have always been a writer with far more story ideas teeming in my head than I can ever get round to writing, and there were always some 20th century notions lurking among the plots about Roman empresses and Renaissance courtesans. I started giving those fledgling ideas some serious consideration when I looked at the market and saw that the ancient world and the Renaissance, much as I love those historical eras, weren't selling as frequently as they had in years past. This didn't bother me particularly; reading tastes come and go in cycles, and in a few years what is unpopular or oversaturated now will cycle back around into style. But in the meantime it made sense to shelve Imperial Rome and the Renaissance papal states, and take a look at what was really selling . . . and what was selling was 20th century historical fiction.

Now, I can't write what I don't love—I don't think any author can—but the question here wasn't “Can you write in an era you don't love?” It was “Can you learn to love a new era?” Had the answer been “no” I would have junked the 20th century idea and gone to something else, but the answer turned out to be “yes.” I like the 20th century a lot, and once “The Alice Network” bloomed into a full-fledged story in my mind, it positively begged to be written.

Making a jump this big does have its scary moments, though. After writing four books in ancient Rome and two in the Renaissance, I'm very comfortable in those worlds. I know the courtship customs, the vocabulary, the period-appropriate coinage and clothes and food, and I have it all at my fingertips without needing to look much of anything up. Writing in a historical era you know well is like lounging around in your favorite Pjs, or dog-paddling through the shallow side of the swimming pool. Taking on an entirely new historical era feels like being tossed head-first into the deep end: I was researching everything in a frantic effort to acquire the kind of familiarity with the era that novel-writing requires. Because it isn't getting a battle's date wrong that will sink your story; concrete dates and bare-bones facts are for the most part easy to look up—it's the tiny details like not knowing if a zipper would be on the back or the side of a woman's dress in 1947, or how much afternoon tea would cost with rationing laws in place. Those are the things that are hard to dig up, and I sweated bullets researching “The Alice Network.”

But it was worth it. I'm proud of this book, and I hugely enjoyed writing it. I still love ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance, and I plan to pen more stories set there . . . but for the time being, I'm enjoying my jump to the 20th century, and have no plans to leave just yet!
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: June 6th, 2017
Pages: 528

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.

Praise for The Alice Network


“Told through the lens of two very different women, the eras unfold separately and then collide with shocking results. Lovingly crafted and brimming with details, readers are sure to be held in Quinn’s grip watching as the characters evolve. Powerful reading you can’t put down!”—RT Book Reviews, 4.5 star, “Top Pick”

“Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!”—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter

“The Alice Network... perfectly balances a propulsive plot, faultlessly observed period detail, and a cast of characters so vividly drawn that I half expected to blink and see them standing in front of me. This is historical fiction at its best--thrilling, affecting, revelatory.”—Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Moonlight Over Paris

“Kate Quinn delivers an enthralling tale filled with breath-taking narrative that will make the reader feel as if they’re in the back of the roadster, riding along with the raucous Eve and courageous Charlie on their clandestine adventures. Suspenseful and engrossing, THE ALICE NETWORK is a must-read!”—Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover

“A ring of daring female spies known as the Alice Network left a legacy of blood and betrayal. Two women suffering the losses of two different wars must join forces, one to find her voice and her redemption, the other to face her fears and her oldest enemy. Kate Quinn strums the chords of every human emotion with two storylines that race over continents and through decades to converge in one explosive ending.”—Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris

"A powerful story filled with daring and intrigue, The Alice Network will hook readers from the first page and take them on an unforgettable journey."—Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana

Buy the Book


About the Author

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

To learn more about Kate check out her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


  1. Congratulations on the new release and change of time periods!


  2. Ha! I had wondered why the era switch -- and was initially alarmed -- but The Alice Network is sooooo good. Quinn's trademark style works in this era, and her characters are just so tough and tender in equal part.

    1. I am sooo excited to read it! I should be starting it next week, once I get through my current read, and am beside myself to see how Kate's witty and heartfelt writing style fits within this new timeframe.