Please welcome Guest Author K.M. Pohlkamp to the blog today!
How a Roman Poisoner Inspired A Tudor Thriller
Inspiration is all around us and sparks uniquely in each person. That is the beauty of individualism and creativity. So when I read an article about a Roman poisoner, I’m guessing I’m the only one who envisioned her in Tudor England.
Locusta was a female poison assassin from Rome (Gaul) and is considered to be the first serial killer. Days of research later, I discovered there is not much known about Locusta, but that only incited my imagination. The fact the first serial killer was a woman also struck me. As a female engineer, I relate to the challenge of going against traditional stereotypes. I imagined the challenges Locusta must have faced and wondered if her gender ended up being an asset in a field where surprise would provide an advantage. And with the little historical bits I could find, a story began to weave in my mind.
During this time, my priest gave a sermon about how easy it is to fall into a cycle of sin and penance. How often we realize our actions are incorrect and then feel guilt and perform penance. But after a while the guilt wears and it becomes easy to commit the sin again. Of course he was talking about minor offenses, but as a matter of reductio ad absurdum, I applied this concept to a murderer. My main character, Lavinia, believes she can continue to murder because confession forgives the sin.
Inspired by the notion confession could provide a source of false permission, I lifted Locusta’s inspiration out of Rome and placed my novel at the height of the Catholic church in Tudor England, my favorite period of history. The exact year is open within the book, but I imagine it to be ~1520. During this time, the priest was a powerful official at the local level and the historic practice of “indulgences” helps bolster why Lavinia may (falsely) think she can simply go to confession to be forgiven for mortal sin.
APRICOTS AND WOLFSBANE follows Lavinia’s career as a poison assassin, however Lavinia could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves. When the magistrate uncovers her ruse, he pressures her priest into breaking her confessional seal. Lavinia must decide between the magistrate or her love of her craft, but the betrayals are just beginning. This Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice novel was also shortlisted for the 2018 International Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction, among other awards and honors.
If you do decide to google Locusta for yourself, you’ll discover she was ultimately executed for her crimes. I do not believe the lore she was raped to death by a giraffe, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination . . . (Now you want to google her, don’t you?)
K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife, proud mother of two young children, and an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control. She operated guidance, navigation and control systems on the Space Shuttle and is currently involved in development of upcoming manned-space vehicles. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her award-winning historical fiction thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane, is published by Filles Vertes Publishing.
Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane
(Or watch the book trailer!)
Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.
At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s revengeful instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. The dilemma distracts her struggle to develop a pledged tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.
With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrays are just beginning.
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