Guest Post: Questions with Hana Cole

I’m so excited to be writing this. Not only is it my first guest post but this author is fabulous!

Hana Cole is a novelist and historian. Born in Essex to an Anglo-Italian family, she studied Economics at the London School of Economics and Medieval History at Oxford where she gained her Masters. After living in Turin for several years, she travelled widely in the Middle East and India before returning to the UK. She has worked as a film subtitle translator, financial analyst and a yoga teacher. She now lives in Manningtree, Essex, with her husband, daughter and two demanding cats.

Can you tell us a little about your first book, The Devil’s Crossing?

The Devil’s Crossing is a historical adventure set in the thirteenth century. It tells the story of Gui, a troubled priest, Agnes, a falsely-accused heretic he freed from the Inquisition, and their son Etienne, who is unaware of his father’s true identity. After years spent shielding his family, Gui is forced to abandon his compromises and fight for those he loves when Etienne joins the Children’s Crusade and is sold into slavery. The couple set off on an epic journey in search of Etienne, only to find they have not left the past behind: they are being chased by Inquisitor Bernard de Nogent and his ally, the venal Amaury, Lord of Maintenon, who threaten to hunt them down before they find their boy. 

What made this era so intriguing to you?

I took medieval history for A level (senior year) at school. I remember being quite disoriented at first as I had mainly studied modern history or the Tudors, but luckily, our teacher had an infectious passion. We went on all sorts of field trips, including overnight stays in medieval monasteries, and the whole mysticism of it really began to grow on me. When we got the Crusades era, I remember seeing a picture of Krak des Chevaliers, the crusader castle in Syria, and that was it – I fell in love and promised myself at aged 17 that if I did nothing else I would go and visit that castle! (Which I did in 2005.)

How long have you been writing and what made you decide to write a book?

I’ve always loved writing ever since I was little. I think as I got to a certain level with history as an academic subject, I found there was so much that I just couldn’t say. It seemed to me that some of the most important lessons could only be expressed in fiction. When I was doing my Masters degrees, I remember being asked by the head of department how much I thought someone would learn about me by looking at my bank statements – and I guess that sums it up! The sources always hint at something more profound and interesting than the facts reveal – and it’s that speculation I find so intriguing, so that sparked my motivation to embark on writing fiction.

If you could have a conversation with any individual from history, who would it be and why?

Oh wow.  I’m really not sure I could just give you one – I have so many questions I’d like to ask different people. I certainly have a few questions to ask Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo about what his intentions were when he left for the Fourth Crusade. I would also love to chat to Dante too, particularly about his interest in astrology. If I had to choose just one person though, it would be thirteenth-century Andalusian mystic, Ibn Arabi. I’m not even sure I’d have anything to ask him – I’d just love to soak up whatever he had to say!

What are your must reads for fiction and non fiction?

In no particular order: Steven Runciman’s A History of the Crusades 3 vols, which changed the direction of my life. Thomas Harrison’s, 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance about artistic precognition of the First World War, which I think we could do well to re-examine at the moment. Dante’s, Divine Comedy, for all its levels, it remains, to me, one of the greatest literary works of any European of any age.

Have you read any fantastic books during lockdown?

I’ve read Roberto Tiraboschi’s The Apothecary’s Shop, which is his follow up to The Eye Stone – these are murder mysteries set in twelfth-century Venice, so atmospheric. I’ve also loved Kate Innes’s The Errant Hours, set in thirteenth -century Shropshire, and I’m on Sarah Dunant’s, In the Name of the Family, right now, her tale of the Borgias – she’s a super writer.

Any tips for those currently writing their first book?

I know it’s a bit of a cliché – but don’t give up. I’d also say make sure it’s really ready before you send it out.  It’s such a great feeling to type “the end” and tempting to rush to send out the manuscript, but I think you can save a lot of disappointment it you let things sit for a bit, maybe even move on to something else, before you return with a more critical eye.

9. Any plans for future works you are able to share? Will we be seeing any more of the characters from The Devils Crossing?

Well, it’s possible that we will see Etienne again although not just yet! My work in progress is a thriller set in Italy around the rise and collapse of the first merchant banks in the run up to the Black Death.

First of all I would like to thank Hana for being such a fabulous sport and answering all those questions, from those answers there’s so much more I’d like to know! It’s also given me more reading idea’s which I am always happy to receive!

Hana’s book, The Devil’s Crossing is out now! I already have my copy, review to follow but I’d certainly recommend everyone go get theirs!

You can find Hana on Twitter @HanaScribe

The Devil’s Crossing is currently available on Kindle unlimited: Amazon UK or £2.99 to buy!

What a fabulous cover!

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