We recently sat down for a chat with author M J Woodman who has released her debut novel, Divine.
Divine is set an alternate reality and asks the question what would have happened if Rome never fell? It’s a project very close to M J Woodman’s heart as she has been working on it since she was 13.
In an alternative reality, the Roman Empire never fell, and the world was never the same. Present-day Appia, real-world North America, fractured by a mythical war in recent history has been divided into five Imperial fortress states. These states, shielded by an invisible forcefield and known as Havens, are designed to protect inhabitants from the world beyond. What lies beyond? Electa Steel wants to know.
Electa, on the cusp of womanhood, faces an uncertain future in Latia, the capital state in Appia. While sun-drenched Latia may be a paradise for some, it is a prison for others. Feeling suppressed by her society’s rules, expectations, and religion, she rebels quietly in the only ways she knows how – drinking, smoking, fighting, and partying. Her youthful but futile resistance cannot last for long. Her seventeenth birthday looms and with it, the Choosing. This rite of passage promises wealth and happiness for a chosen few but Electa, as a plebeian faces an almost certain fate – expulsion from her Haven and homeland.
Electa’s fate takes an unexpected turn when, against all the odds, she is Chosen to remain in her society for the rest of her life and to compete in Imperial Panore, a once in a generation event to find a wife for the future Emperor.
A mysterious terror organisation, Spartaca recruits Electa to overthrow the tyrannical Latian regime. Electa is tasked with winning Imperial Panore and assassinating the future Emperor. Radicalised by witnessing the world beyond the Havens, ravaged by the war waged by her own people, Electa devotes herself to the Spartacan cause. Her talent for deception is the only thing keeping her alive, for now, but if Electa is anything, it’s defiant, and she will defy the path fate has laid before her and the will of men who try to control her until her last breath. Electa’s fight started as one for survival and freedom, but revelations about her own nature will change her and Appia forever.
In order to get to know the brains behind our latest book obsession, we asked M J Woodman a few rapid-fire questions.
Favourite genre/ trope?
Fantasy and enemies to lovers.
Favourite 2021 debut novels?
Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint, and Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews.
Favourite author and book you’re obsessed with?
Daphne du Maurier and The Song of Achilles.
Favourite movie/series adaptation?
It’s a toss-up between Netflix’s recent series adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, Shadow and Bone, which was excellent, and the Harry Potter movies, which hold many fond childhood memories and are my go-to comfort watch.
First-ever piece of writing?
A short story inspired by Norse mythology
If you could be one character from your book?
Unusual writing quirk?
I can’t usually write off the bat; I have to do at least half an hour of procrastination which involves creating Pinterest boards, listening to film scores and drawing maps.
Key ingredients that make a good story?
A unique, strong voice, memorable characters, and passion for what you are writing about!
You can get a copy of Divine, M J Woodman’s debut novel, here!