Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony (Interview, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Iris Anthony to Debbie's Book Bag today. Iris is here promoting her latest book, The Miracle Thief. Enjoy the interview, along with my review of her book and a giveaway!

DEB: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
IA: I’m a proud graduate of the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington where I became a true-blue fan of Starbucks coffee at a time when there were only two stores in the entire world (both of them in Seattle). Most of my life-before-writing was spent working for government at the local, state, and federal levels. In 1993, I started toying around with an idea for a novel. Ten years, four manuscripts, and 153 rejections later, I finally sold a book! I’ve been writing ever since under my pseudonym, Iris Anthony, and under my own name, Siri Mitchell.


DEB: What was your inspiration for your latest book, The Miracle Thief?
IA: I was researching The Ruins of Lace, when I ran across a synopsis for Furta Sacra by Patrick J. Geary. It mentioned the theft of relics (mostly by monks or other religious people) during the Dark and Middle Ages. The idea of being able to rationalize the stealing of a sacred relic was too good to pass up and soon a story was born.

DEB: Is it a single title or part of a series? 
IA: The Miracle Thief is a single title, although my other Iris Anthony title, The Ruins of Lace, is also set in France and examines different aspects of the concept of worth.

DEB: What drew you to writing about St. Catherine's relics? 
IA: I wasn’t sure, when I set out to the write the book, whose relics I would be using. I did want them to be from a female saint and there are several females among the Catholic Church’s Fourteen Holy Helpers. Saint Catherine of Alexandria died prior to my time period, so she seemed like a logical choice. It was only after I made that decision that I discovered she was the patron saint of maidens and, according to her hagiography, she was martyred when she refused to accept a royal marriage. Not only that, but her finger, found its way to Rouen where part of my story takes place. It’s amazing how many times the choices I’ve made for my stories have turned out to be exactly right in just this way. Miraculous? Maybe…!

DEB: Explain what you think the significance of relics in history. 
IA: I think, as humans, we have always searched for a connection to the divine. In the Dark Ages where there was so much turbulence and tragedy, God must have felt distant. Praying to a saint and being able to kiss one of their relics must have offered 1) the confidence of confiding in a sort of trusted go-between who had lived through much worse than you had, 2) a tangible way to connect with the spiritual realm, 3) a role model for spiritual living, and 4) the hope for some reward, justice, and a better life after death. That power and politics co-opted the practice of prayer and the veneration of relics is truly regrettable. During the heyday of the Middle Ages, pilgrimages became quite lucrative for the churches and merchants located along their paths. When relics were stolen during this period, it was in hopes that those streams of wealth could be channeled in new directions. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that Man quickly figured out how to use the promise of supernatural power to help achieve personal goals of power, fame, and wealth. Even today, relics are stolen from churches. Last month, Time magazine published a timeline of notable thefts of relics. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same! Sadly, human nature hasn’t evolved much over the millennium.

DEB: Is historical fiction something you've always been interested in or is it a new passion? 
IA: I’ve always loved history and most of my favorite authors write in the genre (general historical fiction or historical mysteries). At the time I picked up my first publishing contract, contemporary fiction was the top-selling genre so I wrote contemporaries before the resurgence of historicals allowed me to make a change.

DEB: Do you have a favorite author or genre you like to read for your own pleasure? 
IA: My guilty pleasure is the WWII and Cold War spy-thriller. Can’t get enough of them!

DEB: Do you have advice for new writers? 
IA: Just do it. Stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. All the workshops or conferences or how-to-write books in the world won’t get your novel written. Only you can do that. And so much of writing is learned in the doing.

DEB: Tell us something readers may not know about you. 
IA: Though Iris Anthony is my pseudonym, the iris actually is one of my favorite flowers. It’s also the anadrome for my real name, Siri. (And yes, I find it extremely annoying that iPhone stole my name!) I used my husband’s first name as my pseudonym’s last name since I use his last name as my own in real life.

DEB: What are you working on right now? 
IA: I’m currently editing next spring’s Siri book, Like a Flower in Bloom, which is set in 1850s England during a period of great friction between faith and the growing science of botany. I’m also writing the 2015 Siri release which I’m setting at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, also in the 1850s.

Book Information:

The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
ISBN-10: 1402285310
ISBN-13: 978-1402285318

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Iris Anthony on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Excerpt from, The Miracle Thief, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:


Do you believe in miracles?
Sister Juliana does. She's seen miracles happen as she tends Saint Catherine's altar and guards her relic. Yet she doesn't quite dare to believe that even Saint Catherine could help her atone for her wicked past.
Anna does. And she so desperately needs one. In a time when a deformity is interpreted as evidence of a grievous sin, in a place where community is vital to existence, Anna has no family, no home, and no master.
Princess Gisele wants to. A miracle is the only thing that can save her from being given to a brutal, pagan chieftain in marriage.
For those who come in faith, saints offer the answer to almost any prayer. But other forces are plotting to steal Saint Catherine's relic, to bend the saint's power to their own use. Penitent, pilgrim, princess — all will be drawn into an epic struggle where only faith can survive. But in a quest for divine blessing, only the most ruthless of souls may win the prize.

Thoughts:

Iris Anthony's second novel, The Miracle Thief is a tale that will leave readers wondering if they really do believe in miracles. This is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the Dark Ages, a time period that has not been over saturated by other writers. Anthony tells the story of three very different women and their search for a miracle. The nun, the princess and the pilgrim, all looking to the relic of St. Catherine to save them. Historical fiction readers will quickly fall in love with the vivid, descriptive writing of Anthony who has obviously researched her story well and created a novel that readers will be talking about for a long time.

What I liked:

One of the things that I really liked about this novel, was the point of view. Each of the three women in the story, Juliana the nun, Giselle the princess, and Anna the pilgrim all take turns throughout telling the story. It was still very well told and easy to understand. Each character got a certain amount of chapters to tell part of their story before the point of view switched. It definitely kept me interesting in seeing what happened next to each character. I liked the way Anthony allowed each one to tell their story in their own way, but still kept each on intertwined with the next.

Iris Anthony chose a time period in the Dark Ages, that not too many writers write about, even in the historical fiction genre. The 900's were not exactly a hot bed for historical writing and I thought that required Anthony to be a lot more creative with her storytelling. She didn't have a lot of historical background to go and the way she filled in the blanks was simply amazing. The plight of women during the Dark Ages was drastic, especially if you had a deformity like Anna. Anthony was able to bring the stark realities of the time into clear focus in this book. She also did a great job of showing how the politics and the church were interrelated and relied on each other. 

Each of the three women this novel focuses on was so different and unique in her own way. Juliana is charged with taking care of St. Catherine's relic, but in truth she is seeking her own miracle. She is praying for forgiveness for what she believes is her greatest sin. Giselle is a princess. Many would think there would be no reason for her to be looking to St. Catherine for a answers or a miracle, but she is being forced to marry a man she doesn't love. Anna, is young woman who has been sequestered away from the world due to a deformity that some would characterize as a punishment from God. Now she is on her own and need's St. Catherine to heal her if she is to survive. Such great characters, all with remarkable depth and easy to relate to. Anthony does a spectacular job with them and brings them to life in such an understanding way. 

What I didn't like:

The time period is the Dark Ages. But had not the author come right out and said that, I might have had my doubts as to when the story took place. She goes into great detail about her characters and their plights, but not so much about the political climate and signs of the times. It was not a big deal breaker, but it did bug me a little bit.

Bottom Line:

This story is worth the read for the characters alone. Anthony does a spectacular job with characterization and her research into St. Catherine and her relic was well done and brought into the story. An historical fiction reader would love this title.

The Miracle Thief is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:

Iris Anthony is a pseudonym. The writer behind the name is an award-winning author of eleven novels, including The Ruins of Lace. She lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Learn more about Iris at www.irisanthony.com


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, May 1st.

1. Please leave a comment about what you think about religious relics and their historical significance.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

7 comments:

Lisa Brown said...

I think religious relics are interesting and have much significance in history and how people think.

traveler said...

I think religious relics are significant to those who are interested in them. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Carl Scott said...

Religious relics are quite important historically as a record of significant people and events. Sometimes they are extremely valuable as well.

Brooke Bumgardner said...

Religious relics are important, and not just to the religions they come from. They are historically significant as well.

bn100 said...

think they're interesting

Texas Book Lover said...

I think relecs can be beautiful and are very important to our history.

lag123 said...

Religious relics are intriguing to me. I love the historical significance and the art they bring to the world.

lag110 at mchsi dot com