Bird in a Snare (The Lord Hani Mysteries Book 1) by N.L. Holmes
Publication Date: March 21, 2020
When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Amenhotep III and IV, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new king’s religious reforms, which have struck Hani’s own family to the core. Hani’s mission is to amass enough evidence for his superiors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the king’s protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? I once visited Dante’s house in Florence. He was one of the most sustaining writers in my life. But then I found out that it wasn’t really his house at all! I’ve seen Turgenev’s house in Paris as well.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? It definitely energizes me. Once I get into something, I hammer away, whether I know where I’m going or not. And it’s usually not: I’m a “pantser.” My husband’s out-of-town relatives recently spent a month and a half with us, and I found writing to be my happy place, my defense against loud conversation and all sorts of distraction.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers? I can’t imagine that a big ego helps any human endeavor, because, after all, it’s based on falsehood. On the other hand, a healthy sense of one’s own worth is necessary to weather the bruising criticism and rejection that is sure to be heaped on one along the way. But taking criticism well is really humility, not ego.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I do write under a pseudonym. As a professional in the history of the ancient world (archaeologist), I wanted to make a distinction between historiography and fiction writing—in my own head, if nowhere else. The novelist is constantly making different choices than the historian. So I do research like Niki and write like N.L.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I write what I want to read. Setting my story in the Bronze Age may be the kiss of death to book sales, but I feel there are stories to be told there about people who were like us under all the differences. Admittedly I undertook the Egyptian mysteries in the hopes that it would appeal to a broader audience. I know those people are out there, because they used to throng my class. If there’s one thing I hated about querying agents, it was the demand to say “This is like X book meets Y book.” Who wants something that’s trying to cash in on the success of something else?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? I suppose there are novels that are more cerebral or plot-driven which don’t demand such passion from the author. But the novels I love to read are those with strongly crafted characters and intense emotions. One of the worst criticisms I can think of is to say a book is bland.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? My work falls into two series and two kinds of series. The Empire at Twilight series is loosely connected, all set in the same world. I have taken a peripheral character from one book and then told their story in the next. Sometimes that means we revisit an event from several viewpoints. The Lord Hani Mysteries is a more conventional series, in which the protagonist remains the same throughout. In addition to the arc of each book, there are overarching arcs for various characters.
About the Author: N.L. Holmes is the pen name of a professional archaeologist who received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. She has excavated in Greece and in Israel, and taught ancient history and humanities at the university level for many years. She has always had a passion for books, and in childhood, she and her cousin (also a writer today) used to write stories for fun.
The inspiration for her Bronze Age novels came with an assignment she gave to her students one day: here are the only documents we have told us about a certain royal divorce in Ugarit in the 13th century. How much can we say about what happened? It quickly became apparent that almost anything we might come up with was as much fiction as historiography!
Today, since their son is grown, she lives with her husband, three cats, and a dog. They split their time between Florida and northern France, where she gardens, weaves, plays the violin, dances, and occasionally drives a jog-cart. And reads, of course.