Nick Martell is joining us today to talk about his novel, The Two-Faced Queen. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Hollows is gripped in unrest and on the brink of civil war as an insurgency of anarchists rise, and brother and sister vie for the throne in the second novel in the critically hailed Legacy of the Mercenary King series which Brandon Sanderson called “excellent.”
Michael Kingman thought he was going to die by the executioner’s axe, forever labeled as a traitor. Still alive, and under the protection of the Orbis Mercenary company, Michael and his family and friends are deeply involved in the seemingly rival conspiracies that are tearing The Hollows apart. With the death of the King, both the Corrupt Prince and his sister Serena are vying for the throne, while the Rebel Emperor is spreading lies amongst the people, and all of them want Michael dead. This is a story of betrayal, murder, and rebellion, and in this direct sequel to the debut novel The Kingdom of Liars, also some hope for justice.
What’s Nick’s favorite bit?
Relationships are messy. Especially ones that start from childhood and then continue into adulthood. People grow up, interests change, and the people you spend all night talking to may not be around in a few years, but the memories of them will linger with you for the rest of your life. One of the main themes The Two-Faced Queen explores is how the relationships from our youth affect us years later once we’ve grown up. Which leads us to my favorite bit—the very messy and complicated relationship of Michael Kingman and Serena Hollow described in this scene:
Because of this supposed destiny, our parents had never been surprised how close we became, even for a bonded pair. There were times that we could communicate without speaking, glances and smiles substituting instead. We were perfect together, inadvertently covering each other’s flaws and highlighting our strengths. The princess was intelligent and artistic but quiet and nervous in large crowds, while I was confident and talkative, drawing in people with what she had affectionally dubbed my poisonous tongue. She had also been the only person able to see through my lies—no matter how big or small . . . She always knew the truth. And now, with me being blamed for the king’s death, she was about to be my greatest enemy.
When I was creating The Two-Faced Queen, I knew I wanted a major part of it to be about two people who grew up together but had been forced to become enemies after finding themselves on the opposite sides of a conflict. I was drawn to this sort of opposition because I was always curious what had happened to those I had grown up with but lost contact with after moving from one country to another. Had they accomplished the dreams they talked about when we were children? Were they still alive? Had they prospered or fallen on hard times? Would I even recognize them if I saw them again? I didn’t have answers for some of these questions, so I explored them while writing.
It’s easy to think that the kids we grow up with won’t be similar at all to their adult counterparts, but I’m not sure if that’s true. When we were children, we saw the world through a limited scope, but we still engaged with it. We made friends, went on adventures, developed skills, learned what we liked and didn’t like, and made decisions that would affect us for the rest of our lives.
Serena and Michael are two people who haven’t seen each other in ten years. They’ve both become something very different than what they thought they would be when they were children. Serena thought she would be a smart and just royal advisor to her elder brother, the future king, while instead she’s become the heir apparent to the throne. Michael thought he would be by her side for all time, protecting her from those who wish her harm as her unwavering knight and instead became known as a King Killer. Turns out, it’s hard to predict the future when you’re a kid.
The interesting part about their relationship is that they still know each other very well despite losing contact. They know of the other’s fears and dreams, likes and dislikes, and no matter what each of them try to do to show the other they’ve changed…they find themselves almost reverting back into the people they were as children. Tensions from current affairs make it almost impossible for them to go back to how things were, but they might be able to find a relationship with each other amidst the madness. Assuming, of course, Serena doesn’t kill Michael first.
She thinks he’s different. A killer without remorse. While he thinks she’s a potential tyrant who lost sight of their lofty goals of change once it was clear she would inherit the throne. Are they both wrong or right? Is one wrong while the other is right? Either way, their relationship is the core of The Two-Faced Queen, and it’s my absolute favorite part. Because there’s no easy answers when it comes to growing up and finding out who we are, as opposed to who we want to be. Let alone who the others around us truly are.
Nick Martell started writing novels in fifth grade, and his debut novel, The Kingdom of Liars (summer 2020), sold when he was 23 years old. Currently, he lives in Pennsylvania.