About Honest Fame
On a summer night in 1812, a boy sets fire to a house in Paris before escaping over the rooftops. Carrying vital intelligence about Napoleon’s Russian campaign, he heads for England. But landing in Kent, he is beaten almost to death. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, is desperate for the boy’s information. He is even more desperate, however, to track down the boy’s assailant – a sadistic French agent who knows far too much about Castlereagh’s intelligence network. Captain George Shuster is a veteran of the Peninsula, an aide-de-camp to Wellington, now recalled from the continent and struggling to adjust to civilian life. Thomas Jesuadon is a dissolute, living on the fringes of society, but with an unrivalled knowledge of the seamy underside of the capital. Setting out to trace the boy’s attacker, they journey from the slums of London to the Scottish coast, following a trail of havoc, betrayal, official incompetence and murder. It takes an unlikely encounter with a frightened young woman to give them the breakthrough that will turn the hunter into the hunted. Meanwhile, the boy travels the breadth of Europe in the wake of the Grande Armee, witnessing at first hand the ruination they leave behind and the awful price of Napoleon’s ambition. This companion to M.M. Bennetts’s brilliant debut, May 1812, is a gripping account of deception, daring and determination, of intelligence and guile pitted against brutality. Bennetts brings to vivid life the harrowing devastation wrought on the civilian populations of Europe by Napoleon’s men, and the grit, courage and tenacity of those who stood against them.
You can visit M.M. Bennett at the tour page at Pump Up Your Book http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2010/10/14/of-honest-fame-virtual-book-tour-november-december-10/
Buy the Book at Amazon,
Interview with M.M. Bennett
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
I got the first scene of the book—a boy in a garret in Paris preparing to dispose of a body. And this scene settled there, so I just let it grow and percolate and expand and then I wrote it. And it was such a ‘hook’. I didn’t know the boy’s name, who he was, or anything at first…but from there, it grew into this spy thriller and war novel, Of Honest Fame.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
Well, I let my imagination weave the story and I research the history against which the novel is set. And at that point I believe I know where it’ll all end up. After all, the history is fixed. But once I begin to write, the story and characters grow of their own accord, and often that’s completely the opposite of what I’d imagined was going to happen when I first began.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
I’d love to say I do. But actually, once the characters have grown through the novel and you as the author have grown with them, the ending grows out of that. So I knew—kind of—what the ending of this novel was, but until about a week before I wrote it, I didn’t know the details. There were a couple of things which could have gone one way or the other and I had to fully explore both options before understanding what worked and what didn’t.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
I let them brew. I do everything I can to become so quiet in their presence that they just talk and I hear them. And when I can get that quiet, and stay that quiet, that’s when they become wholly alive. And after that, they write themselves.
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
If anything of me creeps in it would have to be my sense of humor, my love of horses and nature, and also my musical side. I have a highly developed (and not always appropriate) sense of the ridiculous and occasionally I can’t help myself and that gets in. But also, I’m a musician and that way of thinking, that way of perceiving the world as orchestrated, always with music in my head, that comes out in at least one character per book.
What is your most favorite part about this book?
I love the character of the boy. I love his drive and ‘old eyes’; I love his honesty and fierce courage. I also appreciate his wry sense of humor, which only surfaces rarely, but it’s a delight when it does.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
Well, when I first started working on it, I was already looking for a publisher for my first book, May 1812. And frankly, because the first book took so much work in terms of research and writing, I’d resolved I would not write this book unless I had that one published. However, once I had a publisher for the first one, and a publisher moreover who loved Of Honest Fame as well and wanted to publish it, well, then, I had to put my actions where my mouth was and get writing. So I did.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
What struggles haven’t I had? I think I have about fifty rejection letters from agents and publishers. Maybe more. After a certain point, you stop counting. And these were even though I had testimonials from some of the top historical editors in the country about the awe-inspiring quality of my research. But the late nineties and early noughties were just a wasteland for historical fiction, so I couldn’t get anyone to even read me. I’ve also had agents who have been terrible, who didn’t do anything at all of what they said they’d do. That said, I did have one superlative agent, but she became ill and had to resign, so that left me high and dry again. But I’ve also had offers to publish if only I’d cut out all the history and write romance; or, could I turn this latest novel into kind of historical James Bond series with a different girl in each book. That last one made me feel a bit ill, to be frank.
What has been the best part about being published?
The best part of being published? It was probably different a year ago, but now I’d have to say seeing this collection of characters and ideas and scenes that I’ve loved into being, that I’ve been nurturing in my head all these years, turned into this beautiful book, with this beautiful cover, there, to be read—from my mind to the reader’s, the most intimate relationship on earth.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
Heavens, I don’t know! The unflagging goodness of a handful of men, their courage in the face of adversity and war.
Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes, the next book has been brewing in my mind for about a year now. So I’ve begun the research and started the listening process.
Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
It’s been kind of fun/different. We have nothing like this in Britain, so everything is new to me and to that degree very exciting. Though because it’s all new to me—even the terminology—occasionally I feel quite dazed by it all. I live in the country—I understand dogs and horses and old things, like how to load and shoot a flintlock rifle—and the kindest way to describe me would be techno-useless, so it’s all quite dazzling and more than a little scary.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
It’s released in the US in December, but in the meantime it’s available in the UK at Hatchards in Piccadilly, at many bookshops, on Amazon in the UK, and also from the Book Depository, who do free worldwide delivery, and will also charge customers in US dollars if they prefer. (http://bit.ly/ohfusa)
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
I do. I keep a blog which features bits on writing, music, horses, but also a lot of historical ‘little known facts of doubtful value’. That can be found at www.mmbennetts.com and there’s also information on the book at www.ofhonestfame.com.
Thank you, M.M., for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have a successful virtual book tour.
About M.M. Bennett’s
Educated at Boston University and St Andrews, M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in the economic, social and military history of Napoleonic Europe. The author is a keen cross-country and dressage rider, as well as an accomplished pianist, regularly performing music of the era as both a soloist and accompanist. Bennetts is a long-standing book critic for The Christian Science Monitor.
The author is married and lives in England.
Bennetts’ latest book is Of Honest Fame.
You can visit the author’s website at www.mmbennetts.com.