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Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt
Publisher: Harper Collins (Sept. 27, 2016
Category: Historical Fiction,
Tour Dates: October/November, 2016
Available in: ebook, 554Pages
“Written in the Ashes is one of those rare novels that sets ‘history’ afire, to bathe readers in the glow of a greater, hotter truth. Fans of The Mists of Avalon will find this romantic/alchemical/feminist/spiritual epic equally captivating.”—Tom Robbins, bestselling author of Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. and Villa Incognito
In the bloody clash between Christians and pagans in fifth-century Alexandria, a servant girl becomes the last hope for preserving peace in this evocative and thrilling tale—a blend of history, adventure, religion, romance, and mysticism reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon.
After she is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai, Hannah is enslaved and taken to Alexandria, where she becomes the property of Alizar, an alchemist and pagan secretly working to preserve his culture. Revered for her beautiful singing voice, the young slave is invited to perform at the city’s Great Library, where she becomes friends with the revered mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, as well as other pagans who curate its magnificent collections. Determined to help them uphold pagan culture and traditions, Hannah embarks on a dangerous quest to unite the fractured pieces of the Emerald Tablet—the last hope to save the pagans and create peace.
On this odyssey that leads her to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra and to rediscovered ancient cities and rituals, Hannah will experience forbidden loves, painful betrayals, and poignant reunions. But her efforts may be in vain. Returning to Alexandria, Hannah finds a city engulfed in violence, even as her own romantic entanglements come to a head. Now, it’s not only her future, but the fate of all Alexandria that is at stake.
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I was slow to learn to read as a child, but I loved books. When I finally started reading and writing in the second grade, I immediately wrote a novel, THE DUMB WITCH. It was a 3 chapter, who done it Halloween mystery, with a big surprise party at the end. (I still love a book that ends with a party.) So I guess you could say writing was instinctual for me. It was a private world to escape into and explore, and a safe place to be myself. Stories have always affected me profoundly. I recall at eight years old finally finishing the last book in the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and crying my eyes out in the dark of my bedroom. I felt like people I knew and loved dearly had tragically left my life forever. Writing then also became my attempt at holding on to things and enshrining them: memories, pictures, people. It still is that for me. Much of my writing is an ode, including my first novel, WRITTEN IN THE ASHES. I didn’t start writing it until my mentor, author Tom Robbins, prompted me to allow my topic to find me. Once it did, I never looked back. Writing is my third lung.
How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?
I managed a charming independent bookstore in Malibu back in the early 1990s, and part of my job was to read as much as I could to make recommendations to the local customers. I would hold each book, press my nose into it to smell it, dream of the day I might be holding my own book. When I would dust the fiction shelves upstairs after closing I would always pause at the Vs, for Kurt Vonnegut and Gore Vidal, and picture the spine of my books there with pride, as though I could already see them, even though I wouldn’t begin writing seriously for another five years. At that time, all I did was write in my diary, which was excellent practice for writing regularly, although everything I wrote back then was utterly useless later—whole books of feelings and dreams with not a single fact of my life written down. But that is how a writer learns what matters to her, by reading, and by realizing.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I hope my readers feel like the characters are their friends. I usually write about women, and about the unspoken pain of being a woman, and I also hope this lends understanding to both women—as empathy for the burdens we each inwardly carry, and to men, to illustrate our challenges and inner lives. In WRITTEN IN THE ASHES my protagonist is abducted and sold into slavery. While this sounds antiquated, it actually happens every day in our world. And even for a woman who isn’t physically captured, she probably knows what it’s like to have a predatory boss she has to appease, or the challenges she faces in realizing her dreams simply because the world is not yet as open to the championship of women as it could be. I suppose my work is a love letter to women.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Writing a beautiful sentence that evokes an emotion from the reader. And hearing from my readers. It’s painful for me when a book is finished because it’s no longer part of my psyche. It goes from being something alive to an object. So when readers enjoy my novel and write to me to share what moved them, I get to relive the story through them and with them and all the joy floods back into me. There is nothing either as lonely, or as wonderful as being a writer. We can touch people deeply. And we can heal ourselves in the process.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
That lonely bit. Being a writer is a permanent class in Solitude 101. Sometimes I feel it as a physical pain in my body, an ache in my chest that only subsides when my son comes home from school. But as Kafka wisely said, “I am in chains; don’t touch my chains.”
What advice would you give to people want to enter the field?
Do not fucking enter the field. It’s a profound agony that will either push you to take your own life or to sit down and work every day. Do not be a writer unless without writing you would go insane. That is the only way to know if you should write seriously. Anything else is just alphabetical masturbation. And there’s a lot of that out there. Writing it not like painting in that everyone believes they have a book inside them. People don’t go around insisting they have a painting inside them; they’re aware of the years of practice and technique to acquire the skill it really takes to make something that would hang on someone’s wall or in a museum. Writing is no different, only people perceive it as easy. Anyone who tells you writing is easy has never constructed one worthy sentence. Ask Hemingway. He could spend an entire day re-working one paragraph. That’s writing.
What ways can readers connect with you?
I love connecting with readers! You can email me at email@example.com or find me @kaiavanzandt anywhere on social media. Thank you.
Praise for Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt
“In her captivating debut novel, Written in the Ashes, K. Hollan Van Zandt brings to life a fascinating and forgotten woman of history: Hypatia of Alexandria, who may have been one of the greatest female minds of all time. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk the streets of long ago Egypt, then look no further. You will be enthralled!”– Michelle Moran, international bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter
“Van Zandt’s vivid description of the Great Library instantly transported me to a lush fifth century Alexandria. Her lyrical writing style and breakneck storytelling kept me riveted to the very last page.”– Robin Maxwell bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Signora da Vinci.
“Going back so far in time leaves an author with little written record to rely on for fact. The burning of the Great Library at Alexandria was a monumental loss to humanity. The facts of the matter aside, this novel was truly arresting and I had a hard time putting it down to get anything done.
Ancient history fascinates me. Religion fascinates me. This book manages to tie both together in a story that resonates through time.
The book was fascinating. The characters were well developed and I really didn’t want to leave this world of ancient Alexandria. The imaginary, magical priests and the beautiful goddesses created by Ms. Van Zandt lent themselves to a mystical world that was quite believable within its context. As the story unfolded I was rooting for Hannah to fulfill her destiny and find peace with her past. I am looking forward to the next chapters in these characters lives.”-Patty Woodland, Broken Teepee
About K. Hollan Van Zandt
Kaia Van Zandt is a celebrated author and teacher whose novel, Written in the Ashes, chronicles the events that led up to the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Kaia’s spiritual journey began at age 14 when she founded the youth division of the Humane Society of the United States. Then as a junior in high school, she traveled to the Earth Summit in Brazil, where she taught meditation, and was given the opportunity to work with world leaders on the challenges facing humanity and the planet today, an experience that profoundly influenced her work.
She’s a graduate of Antioch University, where she focused on the intersection between the ancient Goddess traditions and modern culture. Her fascination with healing-both personally and collectively – led her to yoga. During her career she’s worked with thought leaders like Marci Shimoff and Deepak Chopra, actors like Ashley Judd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Garry Shandling, as well as Sony ImageWorks, UCLA Medical, and the San Francisco 49ers. Her beloved writing mentor is bestselling novelist/humorist, Tom Robbins.
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