Fortune’s Child and Too Soon The Night are two novels about Empress Theodora by James Conroyd Martin that trace the remarkable life of the woman who willed herself out of the lowest rungs of society to the very top of an empire. Dancer, actress, rape survivor, prostitute, mistress, mother, and empress. It had to be based on real history. Nobody would believe it as fiction.
In the interest of full disclosure, Jim is a friend. We are in the same critique group. I had the pleasure of watching a masterful author at work while both books evolved. Like many before me, I fell under Theodora’s spell and became madly in love with her early on. Relentless, scheming, brilliant, beautiful, seductive, and always dangerous.
Jim, tell the truth, weren’t you in love with her too?
-Most days, yes.
How long have you been writing?
How many years passed between the idea for these two books and publication?
Wow, persistence really pays off.
I know you’ve won awards for The Boy Who Wanted Wings and your Polish Trilogy.
- The Independent Publisher Book Awards for The Boy Who Wanted Wings in 2017 and The Polish Trilogy Box Set in 2018. I felt honored.
With all the fascinating people in history, how do you decide who to write about?
- The Polish Trilogy started with a friend’s asking me to do something with the diary of his
ancestor, a Polish countess in the 1790s. That was Push Not the River. St. Martin’s Press asked
for a sequel and that got the trilogy going. The Warsaw Conspiracy completed it. In all my talks
at Polish clubs and festivals, the Battle of Vienna kept coming up. King Jan Sobieski leading the
winged hussars down Vienna’s mountainside to save western Europe from the Turks left such
an indelible imprint on people and history that I determined to create a story about it. To make
it different and establish the theme of “the other,” my main character a Tatar raised by Poles
The reviews are great. Have these books earned your best reviews?
- The duology about Theodora has probably brought the best reviews. In Chanticleer’s 2019 book awards, Fortune’s Child not only won its category’s (Chaucer) Grand Prize, but it also won their Overall Best Book Award over a total of seventeen categories. Amazingly, Too Soon the Night followed that up with another Chaucer Grand Prize, 2021.
KIRKUS REVIEWS: "A meticulously researched historical account presented in the form of a thrilling political drama."
OVERALL GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2019 Best Book, Chanticleer International Book Awards
Too Soon the Night
Chaucer Grand Prize Winner, 2021 Chanticleer International Book Awards
IPPI Bronze Medal Winner
Palace eunuch and secretary Stephen records Empress Theodora's life as she navigates wars, political and religious crises, a citywide rebellion, and the first world plague pandemic, all in a male-dominated world. "A gorgeous tapestry of impeccable research and intricate worldbuilding." ~Kate Quinn, Author of The Empress of Rome Saga and The Alice Network