Episode 145: Writing the Epic Quest Novel — Interview with Katherine Neville

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I’m pleased to have Katherine Neville on the show.

Katherine’s colorful, swashbuckling adventure novels, in the epic “Quest” tradition, have graced the bestseller lists in forty languages. In fact, her works—including The Eight which we discuss in the interview—have “paved the way” for books like the The Da Vinci Code and others in that genre.

In our interview, Katherine and I dive into her book The Eight and the craft elements she used in writing the expansive quest novel.

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In this episode Katherine and I discuss:

  • How influences as varied as The Odyssey, the French Revolution, and chess inspired The Eight’s intricate plot and kept readers turning pages.
  • What defines a quest novel, and how Katherine adapted this structure in her writing.
  • Katherine’s unexpected strategy for introducing the main protagonist in chapter two, and why draws readers into the story.
  • How to hook readers and build tension with a subtle but powerful opening line.

Plus, Katherine’s #1 tip for writers.

About the Author

Katherine Neville’s swashbuckling adventure novels have graced the bestseller lists in forty languages. In fact Publisher’s Weekly described Katherine’s works, such as her book The Eight which we discuss in the interview, as having “paved the way” for books like the Da Vinci Code.

Neville herself has been dubbed “the female” Umberto  Eco, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, and Stephen Spielberg. Her work has been reviewed and has received awards in categories as diverse as Mystery, Thriller, Historical, Romance, Science Fiction as well as classical literature. Despite writing across many genres and categories, Neville’s books remain hard to pigeonhole.

Katherine Neville has been an invited speaker at many universities and other venues around the world, including the Today show, National Public Radio, and the Library of Congress. In a national poll by the noted Spanish journal, El Pais, her novel, The Eight, was voted one of the top ten books of all time.

She is the co-creator of several awards and grants, including most recently: Art in Literature: the Mary Lynn Kotz Award presented by the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Grant presented by the Smithsonian Libraries.

Neville resides in Washington DC and Virginia, where she is restoring a fabled Japanese house from the 1960s while writing her new novel set in the art world of the 1600s.

To learn more about and connect with Katherine Neville check out her website here:www.katherineneville.com

The Eight

New York City, 1972—A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm. Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller. The woman warns Cat of danger. Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer: He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria. If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward.

The South of France, 1790—Mireille de Remy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortress like Montglane Abbey. With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life—and their means of escape is at hand. Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne. Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power. But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase DIY MFA makes a small commission at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

The Smithsonian

Katherine Neville is honored to be the first author chosen to become a member of the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, DC. The board works to preserve and maintain the twenty-one libraries of the Smithsonian. Their Adopt a Book Program, discussed in this interview, is an excellent way to aid in the preservation of these collections. If you are interested in learning how you can adopt a book follow the link highlighted above.

Link to Episode 145

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