Interview with Author Joe Perrone

I would like to introduce Author Joe Perrone
Thank you Joe for the pleasure of this interview. Could you please tell us about you book, Opening Day.

Opening Day is the second in the Matt Davis Mystery Series, and is set in Roscoe, NY, a small fishing village where I used to be a fly fishing guide. Matt Davis is a former NYPD homicide detective who has taken early retirement following a near-death experience on the job, and has taken a relatively laid-back position as Chief of Police of a three-man department. While out fishing on the opening day of trout season, he stumbles across the badly deteriorated body of what turns out to be a young woman. The body is unclothed; there is no physical evidence or apparent motive; and the victim’s identity is unknown. As the story unfolds, readers are introduced to three different young women at a time prior to the murder, any one of whom might be the victim. Their stories are interwoven with the ongoing events and investigation, until eventually two are eliminated, leaving the remaining woman as the victim. Suspects are numerous and diverse, and murderer’s identity is not revealed until the final chapter of the book.

Were there any scenes you found more challenging to write than others?

The most difficult scenes to write were those that introduced possible suspects. I wanted to give readers clues, but none so obvious as to actually give away the identity of the murderer. They were a real challenge.

Is there a character in your story you are partial to? Please explain.

I am most partial to two characters: Matt Davis, the Chief of Police, and Frank Kuttner (based upon an actual person, a friend of mine who permits me to use his real name and character in all the books of the series).

How long did it take you to write, Opening day?

Opening Day took approximately a year to write.

What is your next book project?

After I published Opening Day in 2010, I wrote the third Matt Davis Mystery, Twice Bitten, which I published in January of this year. I’m now writing the fourth Matt Davis Mystery, Broken Promises. When that is finished, I will resume work on a literary novel I began about six years ago, entitled Changes, which is about a man struck by lightning and the conflicts arising as a result of his experience.

What do you think contributes to making a writer successful in self-publishing?

Aside from the obvious requirement of producing a good, solid book that readers want to read, I believe it mostly boils down to a lot of very hard work. This involves editing, cover design, and promotion, through networking, word-of-mouth, and paid advertising. I also believe it is critical to keep writing and developing your “brand” or identity as an author. The more work you have out there, the better chance of developing a following and of selling lots of books.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Be patient, don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to take chances. This includes exploring every possible opportunity to promote your work. Most of all, hone your craft and develop your own unique style. Develop good work habits, such as scheduling a portion of each day to write, part of which should be devoted to editing and re-writing what you’ve written in your previous writing session. Also, now more than ever, if you’re a self-published writer, it’s imperative to network. Fellow authors and readers are the best allies you can have. Treat them with respect, and always be willing to go the extra mile to help other authors. Last, but by no means least, if you’re a writer of fiction, learn how to write effective dialogue; without it, you might as well be writing non-fiction.

Who is your favorite author?

I have a number of favorites, among them are William Goldman, Truman Capote, and Harlan Coben.

Is there part of the day you feel most inspired to write?

Without a doubt, I prefer to write very early in the morning, often as early as 4 a.m. Otherwise, I try to write after breakfast on most days. However, I want to stress that the best time for me (or anyone, for that matter) is whenever I really feel like writing. It’s important to at least “try” to write every day, but for reasons that only writers will understand, that is not always possible. So, if the spirit moves you, write!

What is your favorite quote?

Carpe diem! (Latin for Seize the day!)

Author Bio & Links:

Joe Perrone Jr. worked as a sportswriter for the Passaic-Clifton Herald News in New Jersey, as well as a freelance advertising copywriter. He is perhaps best known for his Matt Davis Mystery Series, which includes As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, and Twice Bitten (published in that order). Opening Day was recently awarded an Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion. Joe’s first novel, Escaping Innocence (A Story of Awakening), was published in 2008, and is an evocative coming-of-age novel set in the turbulent ’60s. In addition to his four novels, Joe has authored two non-fiction works, A “Real” Man’s Guide to Divorce (First, you bend over and…), published in 2009 and Gone Fishin’ with Kids (How to Take Your Kid Fishing and Still be Friends), co-authored with Manny Luftglass, and published in 1997. As The Twig Is Bent was translated into Portuguese as Pau que nasce torto in 2011 by Rafa Lombardino of Word Awareness, Inc. of Santee, CA. Plans are underway to also translate Opening Day and Twice Bitten in the very near future.

Joe was a professional fly-fishing guide for ten years in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and has had several fly-fishing short stories published in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. Both Opening Day and Twice Bitten are actually set in Roscoe, NY, the small Upstate New York fishing village where Joe was a guide. He is currently at work on a fourth Matt Davis Mystery, Broken Promises, which is scheduled for publication in early 2013.

Joe’s future plans include completing a literary novel, entitled Changes, an examination of the life of a man who is struck by lightning and the resulting conflicts he must resolve within his circle of family and friends. The book was begun in 2006. All of Joe’s books are available in paperback or in Kindle editions on

Joe lives in Western North Carolina with his wife, Becky, and the couple’s two cats, Callie and Cassie. He enjoys fly fishing, cooking, music, and of course writing. Joe also enjoys interacting with his readers, and can be reached with comments and questions via Email at: or by visiting his website at

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Joe Perrone who is the author of Opening Day, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Opening Day merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you,

Interview with Award Winning Author Michael Prescott

I liked to introduce Michael Prescott, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion
 Michael, please tell us about your book, Riptide.
I came up with the idea for Riptide pretty much by accident, when I was writing an e-mail to another author. I was spit balling far-fetched story ideas, and one of them concerned a woman who finds the diary of Jack the Ripper hidden in her cellar and realizes there may be a family connection. After typing a few words about that, I sat back and thought, “Actually, that’s not bad.” I strengthened it by adding the idea that the woman’s emotionally troubled brother may be re-creating the Ripper’s crimes in the present day. I set the story in Venice, California, which of course posed the challenge of trying to explain how a killer from London’s East End could wind up on the West Coast of America. The story was a little different from some of the others I’ve done–a little higher concept. I thought it worked out well, but when I tried to sell it to traditional publishers, I hit a wall. Although I had published twenty previous novels, by the time my agent submitted Riptide the publishing industry was in disarray, and it was very difficult to sell a work of fiction unless people thought it was the next Da Vinci Code. Eventually I decided to self-publish the book, not expecting it to sell many copies, but mainly just wanting to get it into print. As things worked out, the e-book edition sold extremely well, as have the digital editions of my other titles. At this point, surprisingly enough, I’ve become one of the bestselling e-book writers in the United States, with about 1.1 million ebooks sold so far, and I’ve even hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. It’s a whole new world.

riptide-bragRiptide looks like an intense read. Was there any scenes you found challenging to write due to the subject matter?
Well, I’ve been writing this kind of thing for a long time now—I wrote my first thriller, a horror novel, in 1986—so I’m pretty much accustomed to the challenges posed by rising action or suspense scenes. The research required to do the historical flashbacks was an unusual feature of Riptide, and probably the aspect of it that I enjoyed the most. The most challenging thing was trying to make the central character, Jennifer Silence, interesting and relatable. Some characters come together very easily, and others come together only with great effort or not at all. I’m not sure Jennifer ever came to life as fully as I would have liked. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen the matter how hard you work at it.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Riptide went through quite a few drafts over a period of about three years, but I wasn’t writing it continuously throughout that time. The actual writing may have taken a year or year and a half–it’s hard to say. I revised it extensively before self-publishing. I changed the ending and rewrote or added many scenes.

What is the most surprising thing you learned in creating your story?

The various facts I learned about Jack the Ripper surprised me. The Hollywood version of his crimes is not very accurate. His victims were not young, beautiful women but mostly older, badly malnourished, and alcoholic. He does not seem to have shown any particular surgical skill. Most—possibly all—of the postcards and letters attributed to him were hoaxes. The nickname Jack the Ripper was probably a hoax and not the killer’s name for himself. There were also many small details that I found interesting. For instance, the first sneakers were invented by the London police. In an effort to dampen their footsteps and make it easier to sneak up on Jack, they attached strips of rubber to the soles of their boots.

grave-of-angels-bragWhat is your next book project?

After Riptide, I wrote Grave of Angels, another novel set in Los Angeles. Grave of Angels features a security consultant specializing in celebrity protection, whose most troubled client, a teenage star, is abducted by a homicidal psychopath. The book was picked up by Thomas & Mercer, a division of Amazon Publishing, and comes out on August 7.

What books have most influenced your life?

I’ve always been a big reader. Even as a small child, I tried writing a “novel” about a couple of birds who are captured and put in a cage and must arrange their escape—twenty-five pages of big, childish handwriting in block letters. I read a lot of science-fiction and pulp fiction when I was growing up–Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series, as well as the Shadow and Doc Savage. I went through an Ayn Rand phase in college. Later I became interested in thrillers and horror fiction–Ken Follett and Stephen King were two of my favorites. At a certain point in my adult life I decided to brush up on the classics and devoted a lot of time to reading ancient literature, such as the Greek tragedies and epics, the Bible, and the epic of Gilgamesh; I also read the plays of Shakespeare and other major works of English literature. These days I mainly read nonfiction and the occasional classic. From a practical standpoint, Stephen King’s early horror novels like Cujo and The Shining had the most influence on me because they inspired the horror novels I wrote at the beginning of my career.

What do you think contributes to making a writer successful in self-publishing?

I think it’s helpful to get professional feedback, if possible. A freelance editor can greatly improve your work. An experienced proofreader or copy editor can also make a big difference. I’d advise creating the best cover art you possibly can; if your Photoshop skills are limited, hire a pro to do it for you. The same holds true for formatting. Just because an e-book or print on demand book is self-published, it doesn’t have to look amateurish. I’d also advise promoting the book on Facebook and in’s Meet Our Authors discussion forum.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

These days the stigma of self-publishing is rapidly disappearing. Rather than spending a lot of time and effort trying to obtain a literary agent and then a traditional publisher, you might be better off going the self-publishing route. If your self-published books find a big enough audience, agents and traditional publishers will be contacting you.

What is your favorite quote?

“The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” — Sir James Jeans

Author Website

Facebook Author Page

Author Bio:

Born in 1960, Michael Prescott grew up in New Jersey and attended Wesleyan University, majoring in Film Studies. In 1981 he moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote scripts for independent producers and worked as a magazine freelancer, archival researcher, and editor. In 1986 he sold the first of five horror novels, then moved on to suspense novels, some of which appeared under the pen name Brian Harper. Praised for “brilliant elements of psychological horror” (Publishers Weekly), Prescott ‘s novels have sold more than one million copies in print editions, and have found a new audience among ebook readers. At last count he had sold more than one million ebooks, making him one of today’s bestselling ebook writers.


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Michael Prescott who is the author of Riptide , one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Riptide merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Thank you Michael and indieBRAG for this lovely interview.

Layered Pages


Wednesday Reviews

Quintspinner: A Prates Quest by Dianne Greenlay

A Pirates Quest is the beginning story of 16 year old Tess Willoughby, a world sheltered yet intelligent daughter of a Doctor in 1717 London. Through a series of unpredictable events, Tess comes into the possession of a collection of rings called Spinners and she is drawn into a destiny that she may not have wanted and definitely did not expect.

This book is a mixture of light and dark, funny and serious, originality and predictability, farmers and pirates. Right when you think you have a grasp of what it’s going to be like, some big and unexpected event will sweep you along further into the story.

Overall this book was a fun ride with an appeal for young adult and adult audiences. The writing style, while a bit simplistic, is easily overcome by the intrigue of the story. The story does fluctuate between predictable and unbelievable and the characters were a bit unpolished, but this was a wonderful debut novel to just kick back and relax with over the weekend.

I rate this book 3 and a half stars.

Mary McAllister

The Blood Upon The Rose by Tim Vicary

This book deals with the story of the Irish Independence and the formation and activities of the IRA and effectively brings out divided personal loyalties in the bigger picture of political unrest. The time period has been well researched and the characters fit well into the background.

The feel of Ireland in the 1920s is very strong, and is the mainstay of the entire book. The despair of the local people, the determination of the British authorities to stamp out Irish nationalism and the anger of the IRA in dealing with such high handedness is very realistic and interesting. The characters are well etched out and the middle of the book becomes very interesting as the plots start to twist and turn and the characters get more complex. The book was suspenseful and kept me wondering what was happening next. Until the very finish, there was no indication of how it would end. The love story fits snugly into the background and flows very naturally.

However, on the downside, there were some clichéd stories. The war torn assassin, the radical idealist who is in love with a rebel girl, an aristocratic girl rebelling against her destiny are all ideas that have been explored before countless times, but the author manages to breathe fresh life into them. At some points in the story, there is a show of misogyny that could have been avoided.

I give this book a 3.5 of 5 stars. This is highly recommended for anyone interested in a fictional depiction of the background of the Irish – English conflict in the last century.


Carolina Rain by Nancy B. Brewer
“Open the pages of Carolina Rain and step on to the streets of an era gone by.

Carolina Rain is not just a read, but an experience. You will smell the magnolia trees, feel the sun on your face and taste the bittersweet tears of a beautiful young girl coming of age at the dawning of the Civil War.

Theodosia Elizabeth Sanders, “Lizzie” was born October 6, 1842, but in many ways, she is no different than a modern young woman of our era. Her open heart is filled with hope and a desire for love. Yet, her innocence makes her a target for the less than trustworthy. See how this remarkable young woman rises above all prejudices to embrace the hearts of her true friends.

Carolina Rain a fiction novel based on history, is a real page turner, filled with the intimate details and an eyewitness accounts of The War Between The States.”

Carolina really touched home with me. Not only because of the subject matter but because I feel so connected to Lizzie. She is Southern, loves her family and friends, she never gives up, she cares deeply about helping others and loves the South.
Nancy truly has captured the essence of the South and the way of life during the 1800’s. I felt as if I was transported in time and experienced the 1800’s for myself. The character building is so strong I believe there is not one character I dislike, even the unsavory ones. I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series.
Saint Maggie by Janet R. Stafford
Saint Maggie, by Janet R. Stafford, is an intriguing story of scandal with believable and colorful characters. This Antebellum Period piece introduced many controversies that continue to be relevant to this day: woman’s rights, race relations, controversies in the church, and how society responds to life events.

The main plot of the story is the scandal of a minister and the effects of the scandal on the towns’ people and their faith. In addition to the main plot, various subplots were introduced that enriched the story and increased my interest in the characters. Ms. Stafford, wrote on the relations between African Americans and whites during the Antebellum Era including the Underground Railroad, abolition, and prejudices. In addition, Ms. Stafford briefly touched on the beginnings of the woman suffrage movement in the US.

Ms. Stafford weaves a story where well developed characters give life to the story. Maggie, the main character and narrator of the story, is an independent woman that struggles with social conventions. Through her eyes and journal we learn of the many other characters in the book: Jeremiah Madison, the young local minister that is defeated by his demons and becomes the scandal of the town; Eli, Maggie’s supportive and spirited Quaker husband; Emily and Nate, Maggie’s dear African-American friends; the rest of Maggie’s family from her strong and intelligent daughters to her spoiled niece and pompous then humbled brother; Cassie, the troubled maid with a checkered past; and the ‘outcasts’ of the boarding house. Cassie was for me the most intriguing of characters with the limited development of her checkered past, I will certainly look more into antebellum Five Points, NYC to learn more of the lives of the people inhabiting the area.

With regard to style, Saint Maggie is a fiction work with a story that flows well excepting the few segments that included a great deal of scripture quotes, I found the quotes redundant and distracting from the point of the storyline. The descriptions are well detailed. The dialogue varied from comical to dramatic with additional insights to the story via Maggie’s journal. The diction was contemporary with some hints to the Antebellum Period that were shown in descriptions of mannerism and the dialogue between characters.

The book has a rather simple cover design, an image of books, a candle and a desk, that didn’t necessarily paint a picture to what the story is about. With regard to the layout, there is no table of contents, which I think the book would benefit from since there is a reference/definition section at the end of the novel that is helpful to a reader with limited knowledge of Christianity.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. In the future, I will look for more pieces by this author.

Rated four and a half stars.

Jennifer Schusterman

The Last Seal by Richard Denning

The Last Seal, a YA novel blends historical fiction with horror and fantasy. This unusual combination produces a fast paced thriller where the protagonist wrestles against Dantalion, the sinister demon. This enemy of heroic proportions seduces followers with the promise of limitless riches and power. The admission price? Only their immortal soul. After a gruesome opening, the story unfolds with plenty of twists, turns, red herrings, and gore.
Ben Silver an orphaned, angst-ridden teen makes an excellent protagonist against this formidable adversary. In early September, 1666, after a particularly humiliating caning by the headmaster of his boarding school, Ben decides to run away. His escape places him in a vortex of danger, intrigue, and confusion. He encounters a young thief, a bookseller, and a physician and struggles to determine who is friend and who is foe. I particularly enjoyed the character of the thief and how Ben comes to rely on the youth’s hard-scrabble skills, ingenuity, and determination.
The Great Fire of London provides a vivid backdrop of tension. As the conflagration inches closer, the stakes increase. The heat, smell, sound, and taste of the fire thrum with heart-hyping tension. Difficult circumstances force expedient choices. Denial, fear, wishful, thinking and fanaticism cloud judgment.
Will the legacy of evil defeat the legacy of integrity? Will Ben make the heroic sacrifice? Or, will he too fall under the demon’s spell? Read the Last Seal to find out.
I give this book 4 stars.
Gayle Swift
A Cold Snow in Castaway County by John Lindsay Hickman

A Cold Snow in Castaway County by John Lindsey Hickman is the quintessential murder mystery mixed with a dose of life learned lessons. Dell Hinton leaves the Boston PD for the quite forests of Castaway County, Maine. His old friend and the local minister convinces him to run for the position of sheriff. Dell quickly learns that being a sheriff is a great deal different from being a police officer. He inherits more than just a fiery secretary and a department full of deputies, Dell also inherits a ten year unsolved murder case.

Hickman creates a quick read story that jumps from murder mystery conspiracy theories to the love life of a man who is learning to become a county sheriff. Hickman creates characters that are easy to understand. The reader will know about the characters likes and dislikes. A Cold Snow in Castaway Country has a plot that will leave the reader wondering if Dell will ultimately solve the cold case. While there were some slow parts in the story that I felt did not support the overall plot, but I know that Hickman wrote the story so that the reader really knew the life that Dell Hinton was building for himself in Castaway County, Maine. I thought he did a great job of bringing the reader into the cold case. Hickman made me want to keep on reading to find out if Dell will help put the Billy Snow murder case finally to rest.
Rachel Massaro
(Picture unavailable for, A Wrench in the Plans by RaeAnne Hadley)-Review below

Josephine Lingenfelter or “Jo” to her friends is a mechanic and horse breeder, but somehow she and her boss Steve end up in the middle of a murder and start investigating to find out who killed their friend. The book takes them to Mexico, London, Russia and Italy and throughout their investigation Jo and Steve are admitting they’ve fallen in love with each other.

I enjoyed the book, even though I would have liked more dialogue. There was too much description of everything, which slowed the story down, and quite often a similar description was repeated a few pages later. This was the second book in the series and since I didn’t read the first one, I didn’t feel as if I really got to know the characters. There wasn’t enough back story since it’s assumed that the reader already knows about them.

There were several spelling mistakes that were distracting at times, but overall I liked the book.

I give this 3 stars.
Wendy Nelson

(Picture unavailable for, Mystique Rising by Karen Magill)-Review below

I liked the premise of this book, with or without the small amount of a paranormal aspect, and it was a quick read. Unfortunately, there were way too many characters introduced throughout the book and too many points of view to really be able to care about any of the characters. I spent a lot of time trying to remember who everyone was and how they fit into the story.

For example, the author introduced character names without any explanation as to who they were, until much later in the story. This led me to back track in the book and try to find where this character had been initially introduced, and in most cases I was unable to find an introduction.

I believe the author’s intention was to have Kaya be the center character, but there wasn’t enough information about her, and her thoughts and feelings to give her center stage. By changing the point of view, especially mid page, I was unable to learn enough of her thoughts and feelings to care about her, or anyone else. A limited number of characters, and different points of view restricted to chapters rather than mid chapter, might allow for a more consistent story.

A lot of Deus ex machina was used by the author, so there was no real struggle, as every problem automatically had a solution through some kind of divine intervention. When Kaya struggled with something, or was faced with challenge, she either had a vision, she all of a sudden could speak to her deceased father who gave her the answers, or someone automatically showed up to save her. The conflict in the story was lacking since every issue was resolved quickly and easily.

As a reader, I like having that edge of your seat feeling, waiting to see what might happen, but half way through the book, I knew I wouldn’t have that since every issue had an automatic intervention. I wasn’t anxious to turn the page and see what happened next since I already knew it would be resolved in a sentence or two.

The author tried to convey timing by putting a few headings on top of the chapters as to when something occurred. I believe this made things confusing. For example, instead of “12 months previous” the author might try including a year at the beginning of the chapter, such as June 1999 in California

Some of the chapters didn’t have a time frame, and I was unsure as to when the event was really happening. Were we in the past, present or future from the previous chapter’s events? If the event order is important, then the reader should be told exactly when it was happening to avoid confusion.

The events weren’t really believable, even within the paranormal framework. The author didn’t do enough world building to make me believe that this could truly be happening. There wasn’t enough background information and detail on past events for the extremeness of the book. For example, when and how did PARR become so big that they had the right to execute people for listening to Rock and Roll? There may have been a sentence or two about it, but that was it, and since listening to rock and roll is hardly an executable offense, there needs to be a detailed reason for it, or at least a detailed build up of how it came to be, even if there isn’t a good reason or excuse logically.

Another example, somehow Kaya and LUPO have a ton of money to use to fight this cause, although the reader has no idea how or where it came from. They just have it to do with what they please. Do they have corporate backers? Is Kaya independently wealthy? These are just a few of the things that make this story hard to believe.

There were enough grammatical errors in the book to be distracting. Missing words, tense issues, and spelling were the biggest examples.

This book has a lot of potential, and the premise was very interesting, given the fact that we spend a lot of our time, in the real world, fighting for specific rights. With more world building and character development, I’d really like to see more of Kaya and her group of rock and roll advocates.
Wendy Nelson

Q&A with Author Donna Aviles


I would like to welcome Author Donna Aviles to Layered Pages. Donna please tell us about your book, Peanut Butter For Cupcakes.

Hi Stephanie! Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my book with your readers.

Peanut Butter For Cupcakes is the true story of my Grandfather, Oliver Nordmark, and his struggle to raise his six children during The Great Depression after the sudden and tragic death of his wife Estella. May, Bud, Oliver Jr, Margaret, Jim and Benny are all under the age of 10 as the story begins. With their mother gone, they will learn their life lessons from their Dad, who never had a real parent of his own – having been orphaned at age six.

It is a social history of this very difficult period in America and puts a real face, specifically on the children, of that era. It is also a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and proof that “boys will be boys” regardless of money, possessions or position – or the lack thereof. Although rightfully sad at times, there are also many lighthearted moments and tales of shenanigans that will have the reader laughing along and perhaps recalling similar hi-jinks of their own! The story ends in 1940, however there is an epilogue for each character so that the reader is not left with unanswered questions.

Did you face any challenges researching for your books?

Research for Peanut Butter For Cupcakes was not a challenge per se, however it did take a bit of time. This book is written based on many hours of recorded oral history obtained from Oliver’s surviving children and there were many references given to the happenings of the day. For example, Oliver’s oldest son Bud joins the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) at 17 and travels to New Mexico to work in one of their camps. I researched to verify that indeed the CCC – one of many programs established as part of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” actually had a camp in NM at that time. There were many such reminiscences that needed to be researched and verified to keep the story factual. Amazingly, I found very few variations from the stories that Oliver’s children – now in their 80’s – remembered. The difficult times of the 1930’s have left indelible marks on most Americans who lived the struggle.

Your story takes place during the late 1920’s. How does that time period appeal to you?

This story begins just prior to the stock market collapse of October, 1929 and continues until 1940. I grew up listening to my father, Oliver’s youngest child, telling the stories of his childhood and marveled – especially as I grew older – at just how difficult childhood really was at that time yet my father spoke of fun and adventures with his brothers as though it was all very normal. To him, it was. Shooting his .22 rifle down the cellar steps to kill the rats that lived there, keeping adult sized galoshes tied onto his brother’s feet with rubber bands because he had no shoes of his own, making snow skis from old barrel slats to play in the snow….all that and more seemed so foreign to me. I would often wonder if I could have found similar joy dealing with so many hardships.

Is there anything new you learned about the Great Depression while writing this story?

Absolutely! I knew nothing of the tuberculosis sanatoriums where people, young and old, were sent when it was suspected that they might have TB. Two of Oliver’s children were removed from their home for a time, simply because they were small and thin which possibly indicated TB. I also learned more about the individual programs of the “New Deal” as well as the history of the New York Worlds Fair of 1939.

Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?

I think the message of Peanut Butter For Cupcakes is timeless. Your life is your own and although difficult and sometimes tragic things may come your way, it is up to you to decide to make the best of it and move forward making a better life for yourself and your family. Although Oliver and his children lived a “peanut butter” type of life….. plain, simple and without any extras…. they each grew to find the “sweetness of cupcakes” through hard work, love of family and faith in God. Oliver himself bettered his own life compared to his childhood. He was orphaned at age 6 and traveled west on an Orphan Train out of NYC at age 8 only to find himself separated from his young brother and living and working on a farm in Kansas. He never had the childhood he imagined and tried to make sure his own boys knew the joy of adventure. Incidentally, Oliver’s childhood years are the subject of my first two books which have enjoyed a bit of attention of their own including an option contract from a Los Angeles screenwriter.

What is your next book project?

I spend a lot of time visiting schools and community organizations speaking about my books, the Orphan Train Movement, and The Great Depression. Only recently have I begun work on two new projects. One is a collection of stories illustrating the unique “normal” of raising a child with severe disabilities. The other is historical fiction for children about a Romani family (also known as Gypsies) living in the United States. I am very excited to be getting back to writing after a much too long hiatus. 

What do you think contributes to success in self-publishing?

I think the definition of “success” when it comes to self publishing, also referred to as indie or independent publishing, has to be determined by the writer. It will often mean different things for different people. Some writers just want to get their story in book form, hold it in their hand and feel that sense of accomplishment. Others will not feel successful until a certain number of books have been sold. Still others define success as having a huge presence on the web, tens of thousands of book sales, hundreds of 5* reviews, a potential movie deal, speaking engagements, and ultimately connecting with an agent who will take their book and sell it to a traditional publisher. That is a very broad spectrum. Regardless of how you define success, there are some things that must be in place. Number one in my opinion is a well written – WELL EDITED – manuscript. I cannot stress that enough. Invest in yourself and your work and have your book professionally edited. It adds much needed credibility. Additionally, self promotion is a must. For many writers, this is truly the most difficult part. Finding ways to promote your work and getting your book – and yourself – out there are what it will take to find success as a self published author. If you can find a way to tie in your book with a presentation/lecture, you can promote your talk followed by the opportunity for audience members to purchase your book. By way of example, I am invited to schools and senior communities to speak on the history of The Orphan Train Movement and then sell copies of my first two books, Fly Little Bird, Fly! and Beyond The Orphan Train. My talk on The Great Depression is followed by a book signing of Peanut Butter For Cupcakes. I have a friend who wrote a picture book about being a Nana. She promotes it at Grandparents Day in elementary schools. Finding a topic to speak on, in addition to the standard “What it’s like to be an author” talk, will give you a wider potential audience.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I don’t have a favorite author, but love to read historical fiction and memoirs. I especially loved The Glass Castle and Angela’s Ashes.

What is your favorite quote?

“Life is short; break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.” This quote is generally attributed to Mark Twain.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

In addition to the tips for success, my best advice would be to write from your heart about things that matter to you, develop a thick skin, remember to pay it forward, and most of all, believe in yourself and your work!

Author Bio & Links:

Donna Aviles lives in Pike Creek, Delaware. She has worked in several fields including foreign exchange, social services, and business. After raising three children, she returned to her early love of writing and published her first book in 2004. Donna is a member of the DE Humanities Forum Speakers Bureau, the National Orphan Train Historical Society of America, and a founding member of the Independent Authors Guild. Her books are read and enjoyed by older children and adults and have been used in 3rd-8th grade classrooms as well as by home-school families. She enjoys traveling throughout the U.S., gardening and teaching piano.
Website Links:

Layered Pages

Sunday Tip: Proper Use of the Adjective

The reason why I became a book reviewer was not only because my love for reading but because of my concerns for this age of immediate publication and the quality of the books that are being written and published. I fear that this will lower the reading standards of our future generations. I feel as a reader and a parent ,that we must filter out these poorly written books and find the gems! They’re out there but we must stumble over many to find them.

One of the concerns I have is I’m seeing more and more stories that contain adjectives in front of almost every single noun. I find that it hurts the integrity of the story and distracts the reader. If the adjective helps the quality of the word, then fine. In my opinion a strong writer knows when to use the “perfect” adjective. Another issue I have with adjectives is the use of what I call, “cliche” adjectives. I find them useless and again it lowers the quality of the story.

I hope that writers take what I say with a grain of salt , really consider my input as a reader and put it to good use.

Layered Pages

Interview with Author Nancy Johnson

I would like to introduce Author Nancy Johnson, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion

Nancy I read your story, Her Last Letter and enjoyed it very much. Could you please tell us a little about your book?

Hi Stephanie!

Her Last Letter is my first published novel, though not my first novel. I wrote two novels previous to publishing this one. It is a romantic-suspense mystery, and the setting is Glenwood Springs, Colorado, near Aspen. In the story, Gwyn, an artist and photographer, finds a letter written by her youngest sister Kelly, murdered two years before. Kelly writes that she was having an affair with her sister’s boyfriend, and is scared for her life. Gwyn and her remaining sister Linda have since married their boyfriends. Gwyn hires a private detective to find out the truth, stirring up old secrets and new danger…. After trying for many years to get traditionally published, I decided to form my own publishing company, and published Her Last Letter. I wanted the years I’d spent writing and hoping to come to something, to at last see my words in print, and to hold my book in my hands. My daughter is a graphic designer and my son-in-law works in the printing industry, so I knew together we could make it happen. I was determined to get my book in front of readers. Finally, I did!

Were there any scenes in the book you found more challenging to write than others?

I would say the ending gave me the most problem. The original ending to my novel did not end up in the book. It just didn’t seem exciting enough to me. It wasn’t bad, just not quite good enough. I put the book away for a while, and one day a better idea finally emerged and I rewrote the ending. The love scenes were difficult too, trying to make them romantic without being too graphic. Of course, I knew I couldn’t please everyone, only myself.

What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing your story?

I did a lot of research while writing Her Last Letter. One of the things I learned while researching the location for the book, Glenwood Springs, was the probable origin of the Teddy Bear, named after former president Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. According to local Glenwood historians, the first Teddy Bear came to be as a result of a hunting expedition in Glenwood Springs that didn’t go well for the president.

Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?

I didn’t intend to write a message, just what I hoped would be an entertaining story. Looking back though, I think one message in the book would be that no matter how much you love someone you can’t change them, or save them. They have to do that for themselves. My character Gwyn blamed herself for not seeing her sister Kelly as she truly was, and not being able to do more for her.

How long did it take you to write, Her Last Letter?

The first draft took me about 5-6 months, fast for me. But then I rewrote the novel, changing it from the 3rd person to the 1st person, based on the advice of a professional editor. I also added and deleted sections, including completely reworking the ending. I would say I put at least a year and half into the project.

What is your next book project?

I’ve been writing a sequel to Her Last Letter on the advice of my agent. It is close to completion, though again I am struggling to give it the best ending I can manage. I do have something in mind. I’m just hoping it will work as well as I think it will. I also plan to rewrite my very first novel and get that out in the not-too-distant future. I’ll, of course, revise it as needed. I did rewrite the second of my previously written novels. It is out as an e-book and titled, Twice Cursed. It is more Stephen King-ish. (I was reading a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz back then. And of course, I still enjoy their books!) I wrote Twice Cursed for readers who enjoy both romantic suspense and horror.

What books have most influenced your life?

It would be difficult to pinpoint one or two books. One of the first books I remember reading as a child was Charlotte’s Web. I cried reading that one, and viewed spiders differently from that day on. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Jane Eyre was a favorite novel, along with The Haunting of Hill House, and Gone with the Wind. I also read many books by Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Orwell. I love Ira Levin too, and especially enjoyed his A Kiss Before Dying, along with Rosemary’s Baby, Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, and his other works. I enjoy reading and rereading Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark. Lately I’ve been reading more self-published novels, and I am more than impressed at the quality and entertainment value of each one. My Kindle is jam-packed! Each and every book I’ve read over my lifetime has taught me something, and influenced how I live my life.

What is your favorite quote?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I would say to enjoy the process, and write what you love! Of course, writing is hard work, so you won’t always love it, and some days you really won’t love it! I would get some basic training, take writing classes, read books on the subject, and just read a lot in general. Reading itself teaches you so much! Rejoice that today we have so many options, so many ways to reach readers, and to publish our books. I envy those just starting out. I wasted countless years trying to gain the attention of big publishers. I came closer than most, found a great agent early on, but still didn’t get that elusive first contract. So much of it is luck. Do your best, but whichever way you choose to go, enjoy the journey!

Thank you so much for this blog interview!


Author Bio & Links:

Nancy is a resident of Michigan, and has been writing for many years. She is married and has one daughter, Angie, a graphic designer who helped her to publish her debut novel, Her Last Letter. (Angie also designed the beautiful cover!) The book became a top-hundred bestseller as an e-book on Amazon, and eventually a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Link to Her Last Letter on Amazon

Link to Nancy’s website

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Nancy Johnson who is the author of Her Last Letter, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Her Last Letter merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you Nancy & IndieBRAG for this wonderful interview!
Layered Pages

Layered Pages Wednesday Reviews

The King Stag by David Pilling
With Edward II (poor guy) out of the way, Mortimer (the horrid man) and Isabella (I still wonder about her) now rules England. Isabella’s son, the King, Edward III (hope he turns out good), is now a young man and wants to rule England. His rightful place. Meanwhile, Sir John Swale (my hero) and Elizabeth Clinton (lovely lady) are in exile and Swale wants to return home to England. The King Stag is a fantastic lead up to Exiles (The John Swale Chronicles) #3.

As I was reading this story I was thinking about how Mortimer is not good for Isabella and why doesn’t she see right through him? And I was thinking too that Isabella is not stupid in the least, she probably knows what she is doing by using Mortimer for her own agenda. It could really go several different ways I guess. That is one of the great things about reading. One can broaden ones imagination about the characters and what their real motives are. There are only a few authors I think writes Historical Fiction-Medieval to my liking and David is among them. Where was I? Oh, yes! Back to my review…

The character building is fantastic! There is a lot of action in every corner! David wonderfully portrays Medieval England, the royal family and court life. Castles and sword fighting, and royal intrigue! What’s not to love?

I highly recommend The King Stag!

I rated this book four stars.

Layered Pages/Team Leader
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie will tug at the heart strings of all who read it. In his debut novel Crosbie has written a coming of age story that shows how not only the main character, Malcolm Wilson but those in his life, can rise above neglect, abuse, and bullying. I enjoyed reading the story and getting to know the characters. My Temporary Life is set both in Scotland and in Canada so it was interesting for me to read about the differences between the two countries from the way the natives talk to the way they dressed, to the way the landscapes and the buildings look. Crosbie did a great job of really putting the reader into the story.

Overall, My Temporary Life, was a compelling story some parts of the story were a little slow for my taste but there were parts that I couldn’t stop “turning the pages”. Malcolm Wilson wants to be the hero of his life and struggles throughout different situations to do just that. Malcolm shows the reader that no matter what hand that life deals you there is a way to rise above your circumstances and to help others. Malcolm proves to be the hero by the end of the story and also shows the reader that no matter how “temporary” a situation may be, you never forget where you come from or where your home is.

I rated this book three and a half stars.

Rachel Massaro
Layered Pages Review Team Member

Layered Pages Review Team

I have the pleasure of introducing Layered Pages new review team members! What a great group of ladies & gentleman.

My name is Mary and I am 21 year old from Austin, TX. I’ve lived here most of my life but was born in San Bernardino, CA. I’m an avid reader with a penchant for Juvenile and Teen books as well as any mystery or fantasy I can get my hands on. Really though I’ll read anything. 😉 My aspiration is to earn enough to own a home and then fill it with books~

My name is Kavita, and I love reading all kinds of books, but I prefer some genres more than others. The topics I find most interesting to read are:

Ghost Stories
Historical Fiction
Historical Non-fiction (certain eras)
Women’s Issues
Feminist history
Political history
Murder mysteries
Crime thrillers

In addition, I am also open to experimenting with reading new genres, and new authors. I have two blogs for which I have to read a lot in order to research. One is on Henry VIII, whom I consider one of the most intriguing men in history and the other is on social institutions either imposed on women or developed over the years.

I welcome this opportunity to be able to discover new authors and great books. Thanks to Stephanie!

Lois Houston: I’m so excited to be joining the Layered Pages review team!
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I love getting lost in a story, immersing myself in the characters and whiling away the time in another world. I was one of those kids in school who loved reading the classics we were assigned – one of my favorites was The Count of Monte Cristo, which I have read many times since then. I love to read all sorts of books, however historical fiction, mysteries and action/thrillers seem to be my current favorites. Authors I love: Phillippa Gregory, Steve Berry, James Rollins, P.B. Ryan, Sara Addison Allen, Diana Gabaldon, Elizabeth Peters (love Amelia Peabody!), Margaret George, Susan Carroll, the list goes on and on…

With two pre-teen daughters and a full-time job, I don’t have as much time to read as I would like, but I manage to squeeze in some time every day. My favorite way to read is snuggled up under a warm blanket with a kitty on my lap. And my cats always seem happy to oblige, although they do get a little jealous when I am reading and not petting them! I also love to take pictures, scrapbook, hike and spend time with my family. I have a blog and post many of our adventures there, as well as reviews of books I’m reading and recipes I’ve tried. I’d love for you to stop by and say hello some time! (

Lisl Zlitni’s background until recently was a mixture of legal and medical, including time spent in the U.S. military. Following a degree in English Literature, she earned a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate, specializing in early childhood with studies of boys in education. A devoted reader since childhood, Lisl enjoys a variety of topics including brain studies, faith & sustainability, Richard III, medieval history, the paranormal, memoir, travel narrative, children’s literature, anthropology/sociology and, thanks to the inspiration of a math department professor, history of mathematics. She lives with her nine-year-old boy, a reading, math and drawing devotee, in Alaska.

Lisl enjoys road trips and amateur photography, research and writing, and recently has been trying to break into canning as a hobby. Having finally finished (“for now”) the downsizing of her house and its contents, she has returned her attention to founding a local chapter of the Richard III Society, and in her spare time is working on a novel that has become, in part, a ghost story.

Jennifer SchustermanReading has always been a very special part of my life. My mother and grandmother shared their love of books with me at a young age with theatrical readings of all my favorite stories, some of which were made up by family. Since we didn’t have a great deal of money while I was young, my mother took both my sister and I to the library frequently and we were lucky enough to have a bookmobile that came through the neighborhood once a week. What a joy to find such wondrous adventures in books and for free! I continued to love books as I grew older, reading what I could to escape the daily grind of life, and still do to this day. When it came time to decide on my college degree program, I chose history since I absolutely loved learning and reading of the stories of our past. Choosing history as my degree program also opened up a whole new genre of interest to me in historical fiction. I’ve read so many of the great authors that have written spectacular stories of real events and continue to peruse the shelves at libraries for other great historical fiction authors. I’m not just limited to reading historical fiction, I have found joy in the classics, fright in suspense, intrigue in mysteries, and wonder in children’s literature.
Besides escaping in a great book, I love to travel, participate in many outdoor activities from camping to kayaking, and spending time with my husband.

Wendy Nelson, I am an instructional designer for a large corporate company. I love to read, and own well over 1000 books. I have 2 adult children, and my husband and I love scouring the used bookstores!

Roseann Broz– When she is not busy studying for her degree in Library Science, Roseann can be found with a book in her hands and her faithful
Pomeranian dog “Spike” by her side. From non-fiction to YA to literary fiction, no book is safe from her grasp. In her new mountain
home she reads and loves to share her joy of her new-found worlds with others.

Brandy Strake-Having recently completed her Masters of Public Health, Brandy is now finding more interesting ways to fill her spare time. With a toe in many ponds, Brandy is an avid sewist, novice knitter, voracious reader, fumbling cook and floundering gardener. A busy wife and mother, she carves out time for her other loves after the children are in bed. Raising the next generation of bookworms has expanded her reading list, but she continues to remain faithful to fantasy, paranormal, young adult, and contemporary fiction.

Beth BulowI’m a southern girl that lives in the Tennessee valley, and I love seeing mountains all around. My family and my faith in God are the most important things in my life. I love to read, of course, but along with that I enjoy journeying and making jewelry. I also enjoy poetry, antiques and own a ridiculous amount of shoes. I hope to be a life-long learner, and I love collecting and logging away random facts. I want to own a home one day that has a real library. Shelves built into the walls, a comfy chair, and a writing desk. Preferably antique. One of my favorite pastimes is to read a book while indulging in a cup of hot coffee.

Rachel Massaro-I am a brand new college graduate who dreams of growing up to be an elementary school teacher with a library full of books. I love reading and will give any book a shot. My dream library looks like the one in Beauty and the Beast!!

Elizabeth Peterson Seidle-I’m a Graphic Designer by day, knitter and reader by night.

Stuart MacAllister– I am writer, living in Bristol, England. I’m currently writing the first, in a series, of novels charting the history of the City of Bristol. I’m a passionate supporter of literacy and reading, I promote the world of Historical Fiction.

Gayle Swift is an adoption coach, an adoptive mom and former foster parent. She writes fiction for adults and children and believes that a good story creates community, healing and promotes change.

Laurin Hawkins-  I’m studying to be an accountant. I’ve been reading since I was 4 years old. I used to stay up all night reading, and my parents would wake up to a mountain of books piled on my floor from the night before. I still love reading to this day. Not many people my age like to read, but I couldn’t imaging spending my free time doing anything else. I love to learn, and you can’t do that without reading! I would love to visit some of the places that I’ve read about, especially the Secret Annex where Anne Frank stayed. It is not abnormal for me to stay up until 4 am (when I have to go to work at 830!) just because I’m so engrossed in a book that I can’t possibly put it down. At first I was hesitant about ebooks. I love the smell of a real book, the feel of the pages, the sound it makes when you turn the page. I have come around to the dark side, but I will never give up my paperbacks. I’m addicted to buying them! I have at least 30 books sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.

Irene Lucas- I am a veracious reader. Being single and childless makes it easy to find time to read. I love to bake, garden, try new wines savor good food and did I mention read? I live in north western Pennsylvania where I work for a Catholic parish as Director of Lifelong Faith Formation. I have a BS in biology and an MA in spiritual theology. I am at that awkward age, not young enough to be casual about it and not old enough to be proud of it.

Sara Giacalone- I still remember the Christmas I received the E. B. White three-book pack withCharlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. I was so pleased with my present and immediately began reading Charlotte’s Web. I stayed up way past my bedtime
Christmas night, reading under the covers with a flashlight. I loved the way the story unfolded,
learning about each character and their varied personalities. I thought Fern’s brother Avery was horrible (and I could relate since I had three older brothers) and loved the friendship that developed between Wilbur and Charlotte. I cried at the ending, yet felt happy too – and learned a little about life along the way. Pretty amazing stuff for a six year old. Since that wonderful discovery, I don’t believe I have been without a book. I read in class, after I finished my homework. I read on fishing trips instead of fishing. I read in the bath and while watching television and had a very big vocabulary that I couldn’t always pronounce correctly. I felt anxious without a book close by. My interests have varied throughout my life. During my teen years, I read a lot of young adult, ‘lite’ horror, and romance novels, then moved into fantasy and science fiction. During my college years I became very fond of supernatural horror while also reading more classic literature. Later, I began experimenting more and discovered a great
love for Latin American magical realism. Currently, I enjoy reading historical fiction and romance, as well as discovering new authors from many genres. My work history centers around business writing, research and marketing, with a focus on commercial real estate business development. Currently, I act as a consultant for companies and individuals who want to expand their market presence and win new business. But what do I really live for? Books, of course!

Stephanie Moore Hopkins/Team Leader is an avid reader of Historical Fiction and a book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society and IndieBRAG LLC. She is also, Co-Founder of the Goodreads book club, “Ladies & Literature”, which has over 1,600 members globally and is a Freelance Interviewer.

Author of
Co-Founder of Ladies & Literature:
Book Reviewer for Historical Novel Society (on-line):
Book Reviewer & Interviewer for IndieBrag LLC:
Contact Stephanie:
Freelance Interviewer

Guidelines to submit a review request:

For authors to submit a review please contact Stephanie at

My review team gives their honest opinion of the book they review and it doesn’t mean we always guarantee reviews the authors expect. Layered Pages reserves the right to reject any books given for review at the discretion of the reviewer and the team leader.

At anytime the reviewer cannot continue to read or review the book for any reasons, the team leader will contact the author.

We do accept ARC copies, paperbacks, e-books (Kindle & Nook)

When submitting a book for review please send a blurb about the story & publish date.

Please keep in mind we have a large amount of request coming in and we will get to everyone as soon as possible. Layered Pages reserves the right to omit any of these guidelines at anytime.

Thank you

Interview with Katherine Ashe

I would like to introduce Author Katherine Ashe the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion for her novel, Montfort.

Katherine, please tell us about your novel, Montfort the Founder of Parliament the Early Years.

Montfort The Early Years is the first of four novels, all now in print, on the life of Simon de Montfort. The book begins with his arrival in England from France as a near penniless youth in the winter of 1229, and it follows his rise as he becomes the closest friend of King Henry III, the son of the notorious King John.

Few people have experienced the “spin of fate’s wheel” as dramatically as Simon, and this first book follows him from hapless petitioner to favored courtier, to exile, to candidate for Viceroy, to hapless petitioner again, to military hero and ultimately back to high favor with King Henry III. All this in fourteen years.

This is not a fictional character. Simon was very real and these things, beyond question, really happened to him. Why his fate during this period was so tumultuous has been a matter of speculation from his lifetime onward. I offer a theory, which I cannot and do not claim as fact, but which, if it were true, would go far to explaining King Henry’s erratic behavior toward him—behavior that sent him into exile. His own extraordinary abilities and meticulous conscience account for the rest.

Montfort The Early Years is, of necessity, the most speculative of the Montfort books, but I’ve supplied each volume with a thorough bibliography and an Historical Context section that gives my sources, page citations and the reasons for my interpretations – which are at times unconventional but are the products of my 34 years of research.

When did you first become interested in Simon de Montfort?

I discovered Simon in 1976 while doing a little research for my first book, which I was writing as an escape from the demise of my fine art print publishing company. That book, a fantasy titled The Fairy Garden, was inspired by my visit to Salisbury and its cathedral. The date of the cathedral’s consecration was 1258. I thought I ought to know what was happening in England that year. Out came my old Britannica, and there was an article on The Barons War led by Simon de Montfort. I looked up Simon and thought the article on him oddly hostile for the Britannica. Soon afterward, accidentally coming across more about Simon in the 19th century, multi-volume Greene’s History, I was stunned that so little was commonly known of this man who apparently was pivotal in the founding of modern democracy, and I decided the next thing I would do was seek more information on his life. That search hasn’t ceased.

How did you research the historical characters for you story?

I began with 19th and 20th century histories and monographs in the New York Public Library and quickly found that no two historians agreed. Some even confused him with his father, who had the same name. And the tone of hostility permeated many of the entries and the monographs.

Later I did find a fine, in depth study of his life by Charles Bemont and another helpful book, though confusing in its organization, by Margaret Wade Labarge. Perhaps the most helpful find was J.A. Giles’ translation of the Chronica Majora of Matthew Paris, who was Simon’s contemporary and became well acquainted with him. A letter sent to Simon is bound in Matthew’s book, and he describes events he could only have gotten first-hand from Simon. Brother Matthew’s monastery was one day’s ride north of London, on Simon’s direct way from Court to his home. The New York Society Library lent me the Chronica for nine years – for which I’m eternally grateful. During that time I acquired two early 17th century reprints of the Chronica in Latin to compare with the Giles translation.

By the time I had read what was available from easily accessible historians, the questions regarding Simon’s life had grown knottier. I had to have a look at the original documents. I received funding to study them at the British Library, the British Public Record Office and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. And there was also funding for me to travel to most of the sites relevant to Simon’s history. Historians Dr. Henry Pachter, and Dr. Madeliene Cosman who founded the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City University of New York, guided and oversaw my work.

What of the 13th century might be significant for the 21st?

In the 13th century the rights of kings were not yet established. Magna Carta (1215) and then the Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of Westminster (1258) seriously challenged those rights and the latter two, promulgated when Simon was in control of England, actually established the template for a government elected by the people and with power over the king. It was Simon who made that government a reality from 1258 to 1260 and from 1263 to 1265.

The theology of Thomas Aquinas proposed a divine hierarchy, with the Pope and then kings the unquestionably highest-ranking creatures on earth. In 1263 the papacy embraced Thomas’s views, out of obvious self-interest, and the result was five hundred years of the “divine right of kings.”

Yet the parliament created in Simon’s time, with its prototype of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the king an executive branch guided by the other two, was never entirely forgotten. It was reinstated, in part or in whole, time and again in England. Now most governments all over the world have some variation of this early model which Simon de Montfort brought into being.

You deal with religion more than most authors of historical novels do, why is that?

It was religious ideas: the belief in a coming New Era of justice and egalitarianism, as proposed by the theologian Joachim de Fiore, that enabled the creation of an elected parliament; and it was the theology of Thomas Aquinas, specifically aimed as an answer to Joachim, that suppressed it.

For most of the people I write about in Montfort, their faith was an essential part of their lives and their thinking. To ignore the style of their thinking is to deal with these people superficially as figures in fancy dress moved through a series of events like puppets with modern words and ideas put into their mouths.

Since Freud undertook to study Moses in modern terms it’s been fashionable to try to interpret the past in terms of the present. In my view, if the aim is to understand a person who lived far in the past, that approach is wrong-headed. I try to bring the reader into a sense of the period to see what motivated these real people who died 750 years ago.

Why did you self-publish?

Before turning to publishing fine art prints I had published art books. My agent, Malcolm Reiss at Paul Reynolds Agency, was delighted I was writing an historical novel and took the outline and first chapter to Playboy Press, presenting me with a contract from them within a week – and answering my raised eyebrows with “they pay the most.”

Frankly, I didn’t want to touch Playboy with a barge pole. I had no intention of writing a salacious book and figured I had better finish the draft before offering it again. The first draft wasn’t complete until 1985, and I got an offer first from Random House. But since the manuscript was some 1650 pages long they needed the paperback rights as well. The paperback division came back saying they loved the book but I would have to change the main character to a woman. My advisor Dr. Cosman laughed hysterically, “We’ll rename him Simone de Montfort!”

But it turned out not to be a joke. Montfort was rejected over and over again because it lacked a central female character. From time to time I sampled the mood of the publishing world and carried on with my research while writing plays, screenplays and historical plays for radio. By 2008 my then agent Jacques de Spoelberche could get no one to even look at the book.

I was quite ill in 2009 and considered that if I died my years of work would have gone for nothing. But research was still turning up new material. It was beginning to seem that hoping for completion was naïve.

I contacted a self-publishing firm called Booksurge and was preparing the first volume of Montfort for publication when Amazon bought the company, merging it with their own Createspace. My contract went to Createspace and I was able to continue working with the excellent Booksurge editors and designers.

Only by self-publishing have I been able to publish Montfort as I see fit, free from the categories and marketing requirements of trade publishing.

What do you see as the future of trade publishing? Self publishing?

Since the1960s I’ve had many friends in trade publishing. I saw the sale of most of the houses that had conducted the literate, gentlemanly business that brought us the great American writers of the early and mid 20th century. They were sold to large conglomerate corporations. Editors who had a genuine interest in finding brilliant new writers took second place to the accounting and sales departments. New literature ceased to be of central concern. Having a book just like some other firm’s best seller was the goal. Many editors left, new ones came for whom this new business model was taken as a norm. Book publishing was following the Harvard School of Business dictum that all businesses were really the same and what counted was the “bottom line.” I believe this has been a disastrous error and the results are becoming visible now.

Fiction hardly qualifies as a category any longer at these houses. Publishers churn out non-fiction much of which originates in their own conferences or their editors’ phone contact lists . They seek costly contracts with celebrities for ghost written bios. They publish look-alike books in a handful of accepted modes, among them the historical novel, but they’ve restricted the historical novel to a romance genre with nearly identical covers, an exception being the “war book” for the male market.

And now we see independent and chain book stores closing. Amazon has proven this is not because there are no readers out there. Readers are there in the millions. But the once-great publishers have failed to attract sufficient of them to support their business model, and they’ve failed to adapt their model to the changing modes of purchase.

Self -publishing frees authors from the constraints of editors’ dictating what text must be. And Amazon enables them to find a market with no need of a publisher’s sales staff. Add that Amazon pays authors a royalty of 70% while trade publishers pay 10% to 15% and you have a very persuasive argument in favor of self-publishing.

Authors, publishers and readers tend to be conservative. That familiar colophon of the borzoi or the house – whichever publisher you favor, still has power and appeal. The self-published author has a challenge in doing without it.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Both my parents were writers. My father was a staff screenwriter for Cecil B. de Mille; my mother wrote poetry. I began writing at the age of seven with a murder mystery called “A Thousand and One Uses.” But my parents were neither of them happy as writers and encouraged me to become a painter, so I concentrated on painting through my early 20’s.

What is your favorite quote?

…the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

With the combination of easy and inexpensive self-publishing and the world-wide marketing facilities of Amazon, this is the most exciting time ever for beginning writers.

Write as well as you can, and then copy edit like a sculptor chipping and smoothing a block of stone to perfection. Professionalism is in the copy editing. Read fine writers to develop your sense of what language can do.

Katherine’s bio, links:

Born in Hollywood, I spent my infancy and teenage years with my grandparents in the east, and age 4 to 12 with my unhappy parents in California. I attended NYU in the 60’s but, dissatisfied with the curriculum, I enrolled at the New School where I could attend classes and accumulate credits from every university in New York. It was an unusual opportunity to treat the city like a medieval university, hearing lectures by the foremost professors of philosophy and history wherever they were teaching in the city.

I became a painter and showed my rather surrealistic paintings at the Dorsky and the Braverman Galleries in New York. But the art world was not for me and I began researching and writing books on Chinese ceramics – to understand the collecting impulse in a field remote from my own prejudices about painting.

I published fine art limited edition prints by Red Grooms, Fairfield Porter and other major artists for a while, after one of the periodic debacles in the publishing world brought some of my book contracts to cancellation.

Interested in China, I became enthusiastic about “peace through trade” and in 1972, after studying what products the US was strong in and China was weak, I founded a company to sell Agway’s quick-frozen bull sperm to the Inner Mongolian Grasslands Institute, but the Texas Cattle Breeders Association saw a good thing and swiftly moved me out of that business. It was fun party conversation while it lasted. “Oh, yes, a canister of glass ampules by Aeroflot via Ulan Bator…”

I turned to writing in 1976. First was The Fairy Garden, a philosophical novel that, yes, is actually about fairies, and which I will finally get around to publishing later this year. Then I began Montfort. While doing my decades of medieval research I also wrote stage plays, screen plays and founded the Jefferson Radio Theater at Public Radio Stations WJFF and WVIA. My play “An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe”, originally commissioned by the New York City Historic House Trust, ran for two and a half years, and “Johnny” on the miners’ strike of 1902 was the prize commission play for American Labor 2000.


Blog: Katherine Ashe’s Longview

Montfort The Early Years:

Montfor The Viceroy:

Montfort The Revolutionary:

Montfort the Angel with the Sword:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Katherine Ashe who is the author of Montfort one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Montfort merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Thank you Katherine and IndieBRAG for this lovely interview.

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Sunday Tip for Self-Publishing Authors/Readers

I believe today’s tip and advice for self-publishing author/readers is so important. I will be talking a little about the self-publishing industry and a company whose goal is to shine a light on those self-publishing authors whose books are really good and is deserving of an audience.

The self-publishing book industry is still exploding. From 2009 to date, millions of books were  and still published to little or no regard for any standards set by the main-stream publishing industry. I’m very concerned about this age of immediate publication. But it is what it is and book reviewers and companies such as IndieBRAG are trying to form a quality control to set in place.

IndieBRAG is a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers throughout the United States, Canada and the European Union. Their mission is to recognize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both in print and digital books.

IndieBRAG selects authors that they believe deserve to be considered for the B.R.A.G Medallion. The Medallion is then awarded to those who merits the investments of the reader’s time and money.

Would you like to join IndieBRAG as a reader? Are you an author who would be interested in being awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion and recognized? If you do, please visit their website at:

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