Interview with Amazon bestselling novelist James Shipman

Today I’m happy
to introduce Amazon best-selling historical fiction author James D. Shipman. We’re
talking about his novel, Constantinopolis.
Bio:
James D.
Shipman is a historical fiction author published by Lake Union Publishing. His
current title, Constantinopolis will
be republished on March 15, 2015. His next title, Going Home, will be published in July 2015. Mr. Shipman is a
practicing attorney in the Pacific Northwest. He graduated from the University
of Washington with a degree in history and from Gonzaga University with a law
degree. Mr. Shipman has published a number of short stories and poems in
addition to these novels and is currently writing a World War II novel set in
small town Washington State. He lives with his wife and family north of
Seattle.
Welcome, James. Please tell us about Constantinopolis.
Constantinopolis is a historical novel about the fall
of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
For over a thousand years, the medieval city of Constantinople has been
the jewel on the crown of the Roman Empire. Now, the once-mighty metropolis is
broken down, with its defensive walls in shambles. Long have the neighboring
Turks wanted to claim the city, and Mehmet—the impetuous new Turkish
sultan—thinks he and his legions might finally have their chance. In defiance
of his late father’s advisors, Mehmet vows to be the first leader in a
millennium to wrench Constantinople from the Christians. He is determined to
take the city from the weakened but beloved Emperor Constantine—even if he
loses his throne and his life in the process.
An epic historical military adventure, Constantinopolis plots out
the future of civilization as shaped by a number of fascinating characters,
including one leader desperate to save his people from destruction and another
determined to lead his nation to glory.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always
been intrigued by medieval history. I found the story of Constantinople
particularly fascinating, particularly the epic struggle pitting several
hundred thousand Ottoman Turks against less than ten thousand Greek and Italian
defenders. The conflict between Islam and Christianity echoes down through the
ages and still finds application today.
Excerpt from Constantinopolis:
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1452
Mehmet
held the twisting adolescent tightly while he drove the dagger deeper into the
boy’s throat. Blood pumped from the wound, but Mehmet was behind the body and
most of the hot liquid splashed onto the cobblestones. The boy’s muscles
convulsed beneath his hands, trying to break free, but Mehmet kept his left arm
wrapped tightly around the boy’s waist while his right hand gripped the knife.
Soon the body went limp, and he let it slide gently to the ground. He knelt
down and wiped the dagger clean on the boy’s robes, then walked on casually
into the darkness.

Mehmet waited a moment in the shadows,
listening for voices or footsteps, then continued prowling the midnight streets
of Edirne. He was dressed in simple clothing that hung loosely on his frame. He
was tall, with dark features, a thin hooked nose, and full, almost feminine
lips. He was twenty-one, although he appeared older, particularly his eyes,
which held a cautious wisdom.

He enjoyed his walks in the dark. He
liked Edirne. The city formerly called Adrianople still contained a large Greek
population but also was home to an increasing number of Ottomans. The narrow
stone streets ambled through mixed neighborhoods with closely huddled
residences, opening periodically to the impressive churches and cathedrals now
largely converted to mosques. Edirne had served as the capital of the Ottoman
Empire since its capture in 1365, taking the distinction from Bursa, in
Anatolia. Bursa continued to serve as the religious center of the empire, and
contained the tombs of the Ottoman founding fathers: Osman, for whom the empire
and people were named, and his son, Orhan.

As Mehmet walked through the sleeping
city, he let his thoughts wander, trying to relax. He loved the night—his quiet
time to escape. He could mull over the questions and issues he had experienced
during the day without the multiple interruptions and problems he was typically
forced to address. He needed peace and quiet. He did not trust people, particularly
those closest to him. Out here he could let down his guard. He also liked to
eavesdrop, seeking information in the shadows that he would never learn
otherwise.

At a crossroad, he came across a
street sweeper who growled at him to move aside. As Mehmet turned, the sweeper
looked into his face and gasped, falling to the ground in prostration. Mehmet
sighed in annoyance and again drew his dagger, plunging it deeply into the
sweeper’s neck. The man struggled, surprised, blood gurgling from the wound. Mehmet
held him to the ground with his knee until he stopped moving, then again wiped
his blade clean on his victim’s clothes and continued on. Two tonight. More
than typical. He hated these interruptions. Why wouldn’t people simply leave
him alone?

As he walked, he strained his ears to
pick up conversations that would sometimes emanate from the thin walls of the
closely crowded houses. He was searching for the thoughts of the city. He
paused at a number of locations to pick up conversations, but he heard nothing
of interest. Then, as he passed the outside courtyard of a wealthy merchant’s
home, he discovered what he sought.

“Times have changed,” stated a deep
voice, speaking Turkish. Mehmet could speak Turkish and Greek, as well as
Persian and Arabic.

“What do you mean?” answered another
man, with a slightly higher voice. Both spoke the educated Turkish of the
middle and upper classes.

“Murad is dead. I think our days of
glory are over. At least for now. For a hundred and fifty years our sultans
have expanded our empire at the expense of the infidel Christians, but we can
hardly expect that to continue.”

“Yes, Allah has favored our people.”

“Until now. We have conquered Anatolia
and driven our way far into Europe. We have defeated the Italians and
Hungarians and every crusading army sent by the infidels. But how can we hold
these gains? With a young sultan who twice had to give power
back to his father? Who could not win control of his own household guard? I am
afraid he will be driven from power, and we will return to the bad days of
civil war among our people.”

“Come now, Ishtek, you are hardly
being fair. He was only ten or eleven when he was made sultan the first time. Murad should
have kept the sultanate until the boy was ready. I do not agree with you. I
think he will do fine. Perhaps he will even be greater than Murad.”

“Bah! You are ever the optimist. I
will be content at this point to live out my life in Edirne, without being
driven back to Bursa or farther by the Hungarians. Can Mehmet stand up to John
Hunyadi? Murad hardly could. I would not be surprised if Hunyadi’s armies were
massing in the north right now, ready to strike against us.”
What exciting story are you working on
next?
My newest
novel is Going Home. Going Home is a Civil War novel based on
the true story of Joseph Forsyth. This book examines the effect of codependency
and living as the child of an alcoholic in nineteenth century America.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
That may
have a few different definitions! I thought of myself as a writer in high
school when I was writing short stories and poems and had a few published in
our school creative writing book. I reached another level in college when I had
a couple of poems and short stories published in some small magazines. Fast
forwarding quite a bit I felt even more like a writer when I self-published a
couple novels and was lucky enough to sell some copies. Finally, I really felt
like a writer when I was fortunate enough to be picked up by Lake Union
Publishing.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I don’t
write full time. I am a full time attorney and mediator. I shove writing into
every nook and cranny I’m able to locate. My writing is done mostly with a
shoehorn.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I would say
how I fit in my writing is pretty quirky. I do much of my writing hunched over
my laptop in my car waiting for my kids’ sporting events to start. In the
summer I will also sit out at the sports fields in my camping chair and type
away. I’m sure the other parents think I’m out of my mind. I just don’t have a
lot of other time to write. I usually take one vacation where I’ll try to write
as much as possible, but other than that I’m fitting my writing in wherever I
can jam it.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
I wanted to
be a military officer, a history teacher, a writer and an attorney. I ended up
with a history degree and went to law school. The only thing I missed entirely
was the chance to serve in the military, but three out of four is pretty good!
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I encourage
anyone who is interested in writing to jump into the fray and live out their
dreams. Just remember it’s a little like making sausage, particularly at first.

Thank you, James!

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