Spying and Romance in C. S. Johnson’s ‘Night of Blood and Beauty!’
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C. S. Johnson’s new novella Night of Blood and Beauty features spies and romance. Better yet, it debuted today—Valentine’s Day! She gave The Loftus Party some exclusive comments about it. She also gave us some insight about her forthcoming nonfiction book, Should I Go to College? What about Student Loan Debt?
Here now is C. S. Johnson in her own words about her new work. Read what she has to say, and be sure to check out the interview we did with her in November. (And, of course, don’t forget to buy her books!)
Night of Blood and Beauty is a shorter tale that is set in 1845, before The Order of the Crystal Daggers series officially begins with Kingdom of Ash and Soot (which begins in 1870). While the main series focuses on my main character, Eleanora, it is her mother’s life that provides both the drive and the stumbling for her story.
Eleanora’s mother, Nadezda, was the daughter between two spies, and raised to become one as well, even after her parents had a substantial falling out. She is spirited and smart, and she has never tried to hide it unless she needed to. When it comes to working with Amir Qureshi, who works with the Order of the Crystal Daggers thanks to her beloved “Uncle” Harshad, Nadezda is especially forthright—except when it comes to how she really feels about him.
As a spy, Nadezda has been taught by her mother, Lady Penelope, that there is no place for love in her life. Love only leads to disaster. For Amir, a Turkish Muslim, falling in love with a woman—a spy, a British-raised Bohemian, and a Christian—is obviously complicated. Complicated, but irresistible, and for him, inevitable.
When Nadezda and Amir are sent out into Constantinople to find a missing shipment of weapons that was supposed to go to King Ferdinand V of Bohemia, they run into a variety of surprises, and when Nadezda is kidnapped, Amir has to find her before it’s too late.
This book is best read between book 2 (Prince of Secrets and Shadows, released December 4th, 2018) and book 3, Heart of Hope and Fear, which will be coming out later this year. There are a lot of familiar faces from book 2 that don’t make much sense without book 2’s introduction. It adds to the fun of the series, of getting to see the different characters earlier, and understanding how the Order and its part-time allies all fit in together.
I started writing the book, first and foremost, because I had a lot of requests from some of my bigger fans to tell them about Nadezda and Amir’s fate. Since the trouble Eleanora faces with the Order members is her own quest for the mother, I thought it was a good idea. And I am my mother’s daughter myself, so if I had to grow up without her, and under a cruel stepmother to boot, I would have been desperate to find any connection to her I could. When Lady Penelope presents Eleanora with the chance to be a spy like her mother, Eleanora does not stop to think her mother might not have wanted that for her.
I like exploring these types of questions about the relationships between kids and their parents. I know I’ve disappointed mine in different ways—not huge ways, really, but I definitely turned out differently than from what they were expecting. We have had a lot of misunderstandings over the years, too, and some of it is generational, but also a lot of it has to do with unrealized expectations. Now that I have my own kids, I wonder how they will turn out, and I have a lot more sympathy and understanding for my parents pushing certain things that ultimately I did, like going to college for education instead of art or English or something else (really anything else).
That is part of the reason I am excited for my next book. My nonfiction book, Should I Go to College? What about Student Loan Debt? is launching in March. The book’s proceeds are all going to help people with student loan debt. I am hoping to gift a monthly payment to qualifying new graduates from college (any level) between $50-500 with the proceeds.
I know from my own student loan experiences how stressful and sad the situation can be, and I’m hoping to turn my idea into a 501c3 one day, working with community partners, individual donors, and investments to help fundraise for student loan debt.
I taught college for a couple of years, and I know that it is something that should be paid for based on my first-hand observations and my interactions with students. I don’t think college should be free; I also don’t think that it needs to be as expensive as it is. While I can’t do a lot about that, I know I can still do something. So for now, offering the proceeds of this book every month to someone who is facing down uncertainty and fear, and maybe even regret (as I well know), is something I can do, and I’m happy to do it.
I always look and see at all these lobbyists and politicians raising money for political reasons, and I think, how hard can it be to do that for student loan debt? And how much better would it be, to do that?
Mother Teresa once said if you wanted to change the world, go home and love your family. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Raising money for student loan debt is something that I’d really love to do, because I know how much it would mean to me as a new grad. And there is a need for it, for sure, with student loan debt at $1.4 trillion this year.
My $50-500 a month might not seem like much in comparison, but it would have meant so much to me as I got out of college.
Giving Back — C. S. JOHNSON
There is no denying we live in a fallen world. There are a lot of problems in the world, and sometimes there are so many that it makes it even harder to do something to help. After all, where do we begin?
I hope my readers will be excited for Night of Blood and Beauty, and the rest of the series, too, but I also hope they will up for helping me make the world a better place, one heart at a time.
Thank you to C. S. Johnson for the exclusive insights into Night of Blood and Beauty and Should I Go to College? What about Student Loan Debt?