Interview with Author C.M.J. Wallace

Sing the Midnight Stars

C.M.J. Wallace is the author of the Rift series and is also a medical editor. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and, being a lover of language and not laboratories, promptly transitioned from lab wretch to editor. In 2001, she took a medical editing course taught by the Journal of the American Medical Association’s director of manuscript editing, who then recruited her. She is now a freelance medical editor.

In 1992, she created the rudiments of the Rift series, which she began writing in 2008.

She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and is currently working on another novel in the series.

Her web page can be found here

Stephanie: Hello C.M.J.! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Sing the Midnight Stars”. Please tell me about your story.

C.M.J.: Thanks, Stephanie!

First, allow me to return the sentiment and give you an accolade. The B.R.A.G. Medallion award is a wonderful service for self-published authors and their readers. There’s a groundswell of demand for some type of indie-book gatekeeper, and indieBRAG is at the forefront of this movement.

And now for my book…

In 1992, I came up with the rudiments of the series, many of the characters, all of the unique magic elements, and the history of Carvel and Torvia, which are the primary country and city in my books, respectively. When I started writing Sing the Midnight Stars in 2008 (yep, I’m a slow starter!), I hadn’t yet created some of my main characters, including my protagonist, Andrin Sethuel. He developed as a result of my asking the question, who is the killer and why? The answer demanded that someone be searching for the murderer, which led to my needing a detective of sorts; Andrin was the result.

I thought it would be interesting to make him flawed. I think it’s more believable to readers and allows them to readily empathize with characters, love them, despise them, etc. Andrin is a drug addict, but not by choice. When he was a child, he was kidnapped by slavers who brutally murdered his parents in front of him. The slavers’ modus operandi is to snatch village children, kill the adults, and immediately dose the kids with mordizánte, a drug that’s instantly and irrevocably addictive. But Andrin is different. His body doesn’t react the way every other addict’s does.

As an adult, he battles with hostility, prejudice, and suspicion on every front, and even though the addiction wasn’t his doing, it leaves him entrenched in self-loathing. Despite everything, he becomes head of the Torvian kingdom’s criminal investigative forces. The story opens with a murder related to others he’s been investigating and follows his hunt for the killer, who scythes magic from his victims to reap power. In theory that’s impossible. But the murderer is growing more powerful with each successive killing, leading him to believe that he’s right about the killer’s motives.

For added fun, someone’s trying to kill him as well, and one of his subordinates is keeping a secret that might be the key to solving the murders.

While all this is going on, Carvel’s ancient enemy is bringing war to the very gates of Torvia, and her king is sinking into madness and is on the verge of betraying his country.

A major plot line involves the rise of unfettered magic (enchantment that isn’t bound by any prosaic means) simultaneously in disparate settings. I carry this theme of magic being freed of its catalysts of stone and sigil throughout the first and second books, but I can’t elaborate because it would entail spoilers!

Stephanie: I love the title of your book. Tell me how it blends in with your story.

C.M.J.: Astromancy is among the types of sorcery that are becoming unfettered, and the way it happens was my inspiration for the book’s title. One of the main characters is an astromancer who has just been granted the gift of unfettered magic. The book cover shows her joining with and learning from the enchantment in the form of a star bolt from the constellation she worships.

Stephanie: I noticed your book falls under the Fantasy genre. Does this story take place in the present time or future and please tell me about why you chose to write in the genre.

C.M.J.: The story takes place in the present.

I love fantasy because it was the first genre to transport me to other worlds through the sorcerous portal of words on paper. I’ve been a reader since I was four years old and was exposed to the likes of Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne.

Fantasy is my preferred genre because it gives me the freedom to make implausible things happen, and I can envision them just as I did when I was a child entering the realms of the improbable. I really like suspense and intrigue, but genres such as thrillers and horror are constraining to me as a writer and often not as interesting as fantasy. With the latter, I can take any elements I choose, such as intrigue, and blend them with my story (which I do!) any way I like.

With fantasy, I’m also free to use beautiful imagery, which you can’t often find in other genres and which seems to be rare in books published now.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Andrin and his strengths and weaknesses.

C.M.J.: As I said earlier, Andrin is a drug addict, and he views himself as part of the dregs of society. Because of his addiction, he feels constrained to uphold truth. He sticks to his principles, but to the point of rigidity and blindness in regard to the shortcomings of doing so. He’s a loyal friend, but his unrelenting demand that nothing violate his ethics costs him greatly. He’s an excellent detective, loathes liars, and protects underdogs.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved for your book?

C.M.J.: I’m a medical editor, which means I edit articles written by physicians and other health care professionals for medical journals, so I already had a good understanding of disease, wounds, and violent death before I started writing. But I didn’t have the same expertise with medieval terminology and customs, so yes, I had to do research on weaponry, clothing, typical architecture, and the like, although the setting is early enlightenment rather than traditional medieval (Torvia is a huge city).

Stephanie: Is this your first published book and are you currently working on another?

C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars is my first published work. I’ve published two others since, the sequels Flight of Shadows and This Darkling Magic, and am about to publish the fourth, This Strange Magic, which completes all the arcs of the first four books in the Rift series.

Stephanie: Do you work with an outline or do you just write?

C.M.J.: Because my books have many layers of intrigue and several primary plot lines, before I start writing I outline the plot and each chapter. Both outlines are fluid; by the time I’m done tweaking them and writing notes, it looks as if I sacrificed some hapless chicken over them.

Stephanie: Is there a particular writer who has influenced your own writing?

C.M.J.: Stephen R. Donaldson is my favorite writer. I used his Mordant’s Need series to create my writing style, dissecting the books and then emulating what made me love them. Pat Conroy is another author who uses rich prose. And although Thomas Harris’s writing isn’t exactly beautiful, it has the ability to draw the reader right into the story, and his characters are well rounded.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

C.M.J.: I found out about indieBRAG on a Goodreads thread, probably in the Goodreads Authors/Readers group. It includes a lively bunch who discuss many, many issues pertinent to indie authors.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars, book 1 of the Rift series

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Flight of Shadows, book 2 of the Rift series

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

This Darkling Magic, book 3 of the Rift series

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.M.J. Wallace, who is the author of, Sing the Midnight Stars, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . 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, Sing the Midnight Stars merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

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The Covenant Within by R.A.R. Clouston

The Covenant Within

Most people dream, many experience déjà vu; some believe in reincarnation. But what if it really was possible to relive the lives of your ancestors?

American CEO, Jack Sinclair, is tormented by dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he’s never been, making him wonder if he is going insane. A phone call from a psychiatrist in Edinburgh wakes him out of another dream. She tells him that his estranged twin brother has committed suicide. Filled with mixed emotions, Sinclair travels to the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland to attend the funeral and soon discovers troubling circumstances surrounding his brother’s death. To uncover the truth, he journeys into the shadowy world locked behind the veil of consciousness via what the psychiatrist calls genetic memory. This vast ancestral inheritance is passed down through DNA and surfaces only in dreams, déjà vu, or visions of past lives. With the doctor’s help, Sinclair relives dramatic events from his distant past and discovers a dark secret about his family that traces back to the hill called Calvary. Throughout, he is pursued by unknown killers, and by another force of evil from which he cannot escape: the beast of his onrushing insanity.

Available for purchase on Amazon

Interview with Author Jo Sparkes

Jo Sparkes

A well-known Century City Producer once said that Jo Sparkes “…writes some of the best dialogue I’ve read.”  Not only are those words a compliment to Jo’s skills as a writer, but a true reflection of her commitment to her work as a screenwriter.

Jo Sparkes graduated Magna Cum Laude from Washington College, a small liberal arts college famous for its creative writing program.  Some years later, she renounced life in the corporate world to pursue her passion for writing.  Jo went on to study for two years with Robert Powell; a student of renowned writers and teachers Lew Hunter, and Richard Walter, head and heart of UCLA’s Screenwriting Program.  The culmination of those years of hard work was the short-film “The Image”, which Jo wrote and produced single-handedly.

Since then, Jo hasn’t looked back – having written seven feature film scripts.  Jo’s body of work includes scripts for Children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, commercial work for corporate clients, as well as a being a feature writer on ReZoom.com.  As a contributing writer for the Arizona Sports Fans Network; where she has been called their most popular writer, she was known for her humorous articles, player interviews and game coverage. Jo was unofficially the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he arrived in Arizona to play for the Cardinals.

She has served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and even made a video of her most beloved lecture. More recently she has teamed with a Producer and a Director on a low budget thriller. Her book for writers and artists, “Feedback: How to Give It” was just released last year.

When not diligently perfecting her craft, Jo can be found exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon, with her Husband Ian, and their dog Oscar.

Stephanie: Hello, Jo! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. It is a pleasure to be chatting with you today. Tell me about your book, The Birr Elixir.

Jo: When a young apprentice makes a mysterious elixir from a recipe in an old book, she’s suddenly the talisman for a daring Gamesman – and the weapon in the conspiracy against a prince.

It’s really an adventure fantasy.

Birr-Elixir-Optimized

Stephanie: What was your inspiration for this story and what genre does it fall under?

Jo: Sometimes stories are like cooking. There’s this big bubbling pot on the stove, and you stumble across really great ingredients and start tossing them in. Eventually it’s ready!

In this one there’s herbs and potions, the kidnapping of a Prince gone awry. And a band of Gamesmen who ordinarily would never notice a poor girl in a tiny shop. Add in a mysterious old book of handwritten recipes, which gets her noticed – by everyone. And, well, dinner is served!

Stephanie: Is fantasy a genre you have always been interested in? Have you written in others?

Jo: Yes, I love a good fantasy. To discover a whole new world with new parameters is exciting.

I love blurring the line just a little between what’s possible and what’s not. Especially if you’re like me, and suspect that what’s been taught is possible may truly be just a little short of what’s really possible.

I’ve written stories in script form.

And also written books in horror, thriller, and even romance. But those were earlier works – and won’t be published. They were good practice and great fun.

Stephanie: Were there any challenges you faced while creating your story?

Jo: Yes! Creating a world is fun – but quite a challenge.

As you add more and more detail, you suddenly realize one idea is not consistent with something you did earlier. There’s so much thought and care, smoothing and polishing. Sort of like laying a rug – you have to be very careful in ironing out all the wrinkles. Sometimes flattening one area makes another bunch up.

Stephanie: Please tell me about, Marra. What is her strengths and weaknesses?

Jo: Marra was left by her mother with an herb mistress, to apprentice in her shop. Having lost first her father, and now her mother, Marra quietly works hard. And then the mistress died, leaving Marra with the mistress’s brother – who is not exactly a nice guy.

Marra has never really known why the mistress even took her as apprentice. She’s quiet, unassuming. And prefers fading into the background. But she also is smart, has a great ingenuity, and when confronted with danger discovers courage through her own sense of honor.

Stephanie: What were your writing process for your book and what advice would you give to a new writer on writing?

Jo: For me, I begin creating the story points – the basic turns, if you will. What is going to happen?

And then I create the characters. Who is Marra – what does she believe, how does she think? What will she do when confronted by the situations, the fears, the threats? Who is Drail, who is Tryst?

And then I close my eyes, and put these people into the story. At that point the characters themselves do all the work. I’d planned to have a man threaten Marra – but Marra herself reacts to him. All I have to do is record what she does.

The characters always do some amazing things I could have never have thought of. They’re much more ingenious than I am.

Stephanie: Is this your first published book? If not, please list your other book titles.

Jo: This is my first fiction. And the second book is due out in June.

I’ve previously written a book for writers (and actors) on feedback – how to spin it into pure gold. It’s called Feedback: How to Give It How to Get It. It’s a special talk I gave to my students in film class, where feedback and criticism are just part of the industry. If you employ the proper method, you can take your career to the next level – or two.

I’ve also written a short piece on How to Read a Hollywood Screenplay. It was created for certain friends. It’s available for those who need to read a script, or who want to understand the basics.

Stephanie: On average how long does it take you to write your stories and do you use a timeline or just write?

Jo: Like everything else, there’s an ebb and flow. I find I work best in the early morning – and can be ten times more productive. This book probably took nine months – and the new one is the same. Writing is quick for me – but the rewriting, editing, and then more rewriting takes time. It’s very hard for me to let it go – I want to keep polishing forever.

Plus, frankly, paying work intrudes. When a producer calls, I answer. It’s that work that puts food on the table at the moment.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

When I was first releasing The Birr Elixir, I wanted to find various ways to promote it. And indieBRAG seemed ideal – it tells your audience about the quality of the book.

I had no idea how great the people there would turn out to be. Sometimes things like that are more about making money off of writers without real value in return. But indieBRAG is the opposite – they’re genuinely concerned with helping writers get noticed.

It’s really a great thing. If you’re an independent publisher, I’d highly recommend it.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Jo: Oh yes.

It took me by surprise, people actually reading the book, and the great comments, reviews, and pure kindness. It’s humbling, and greatly appreciated. I want to thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Website

B.R.A.G. Medallion

Amazon

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jo Sparkes, who is the author of, Birr Elixir, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . 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, Birr Elixir merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Author Paul Monk

Paul Monk

Paul C.R. Monk was born in Exmouth, Devon, grew up in the south east of England then spent over 20 years living in France with a 3-year stint in Spain. Monk is a qualified linguist and has been writing scripts and storyworlds for videogames for over ten years and has authored an interactive language learning course. Influenced by the works of naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre, Monk has been an entomology enthusiast for many years. A former resident of the house of Villeneuve where his novel is set, he now lives in England with his French wife and their three young sons.

Stephanie:Hello Paul! Welcome to Layered Pages and thank you for chatting with me today. I hear a congratulation is in order for winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, Strange Metamorphosis. Please tell me about your book.

Paul: Well, first of all thanks for having me here. I’d also like to thank IndieBRAG for the honor. It is not only rewarding but stimulating to know that your book has received approval from such a rigorous reading group.

About the novel, a boy facing a difficult life decision is magically turned into a bug by a giant oak tree, forcing him to take an extraordinary journey that brings startling changes to himself and those around him. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Strange Metamorphosis is a YA fantasy adventure story about shedding fears, escaping from family pressures and spreading wings.

Stephanie: What an interesting premise. What was your inspiration for your story?

Paul: It was really a melting pot of inspiration composed of an idea, a good dose of entomology, and an old house. It was my wife’s grandmother’s house in the south of France and had been left vacant for a long time. It was a great rambling place surrounded by tall trees, a meadow and it is where we lived for a few years when we were younger and broke.

In the bookcase I came across the works of the late 19th/early 20th century naturalist, Jean-Henri Fabre. Fabre has an extraordinary way of recounting his observations. He would speak about bugs as if they were characters or personal acquaintances.

I had been noting down the broad lines of the story as well as character traits a good few years before this, so when I encountered Fabre and the house, not to mention the great oak tree, everything just fitted into place.

Stephanie: I saw that your book is written in the Fantasy Genre? What are the high points in writing in this genre and what are the challenges?

Paul: To be honest, I didn’t write Strange Metamorphosis with its genre in mind. I simply felt compelled to write it no matter what, for my sons. And by the time I had finished the book I had three! The book is dedicated to them. So it was categorized afterwards. In this case the challenge is to write the best book you possibly can. That said, when you create any parallel world one of the greatest challenges is to make it all plausible.

Now that Strange Metamorphosis is out there, it has to be marketed. That is at present the biggest challenge as the book goes against the current trends of fantasy. There are no unnatural elements in it like dragons and wizards (which, incidentally, I love too), instead it features dragonflies, giant hornets, a Brimstone inchworm and a legendary tree.

strange metamorphosis cover final with indieBRAG

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

Paul: I hope people take something away from it, whatever that is. As for the characters, they have to learn to look inside themselves, confront their conscience and follow their heart. They must also take a step back sometimes and rectify their stance, and keep striving towards their goal even when life sets innumerable obstacles in their way.

Not taking ownership of your life for the sake of doing what is expected of you will only lead to incomplete metamorphosis. Between the known path and one that requires a leap of faith, I would go for the second. It makes for a more interesting life. So, I suppose the book is saying, don’t be afraid of change.

I would also like to bring awareness to the tiny but all-important part of wildlife that all too often gets overlooked.

Stephanie: When did you know you wanted to be a writer and what is your process?

Paul: When I was a little boy I used to love words, not just story books. I wrote poems as a hobby that I would hide under my mattress. Then, becoming a teenager I started writing lyrics to songs until one day it struck me that I should write a book, so I wrote novels and plays too, which, incidentally, I have yet to publish.

Anyway, that passion led me on to getting a great job in the videogame industry and I spent the next ten years writing scripts and story worlds for various videogames. To help create the pre-launch buzz I also wrote short stories that were published in weekly installments. I remember the thrill of publishing on a Friday and the stories being translated into French and German by fans of the game just a few hours later.

But I was still writing my own work and dreamed of one day getting a book into print. And now that has happened I don’t intend to stop there!

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Paul: I wrote the layout for the design and went through CreatSpace who worked with one of their illustrators. Unfortunately, I only know that he was called Tim. I actually tried to get a massage to him asking if I could put his name on the inside of the cover but to no avail.

The cover for the accompanying short story, though, was commissioned by yours truly, so I was able to add the illustrator’s name, Nahuel Ventura, which is important. By the way, that short story, which is titled Subterranean Peril, is being serialized on Wattpad right now so that anybody can read it for free.

 

Stephanie: Is there a book project you are currently working on and will you self-publish again?

Paul: I am currently writing another novel which features the main human characters of Strange Metamorphosis a few years on, which means it takes place during WWI. I would definitely self-publish again. The next time, though, with the benefit of hindsight, I would start marketing a few months before the publication date.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Paul: Being self-published means that your book is tossed into an ocean of books of varying quality. So I was wondering how I could get some sort of seal of approval so that readers could fish my book out, and I came across IndieBRAG on the web. It was a great surprise when I received the email a few months later, announcing that I had won the medallion. It gave me a terrific boost.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Paul: As I mentioned earlier, I am serializing a short story, set in the storyworld of the novel, which you can read on Wattpad for free. Please feel free to vote, follow and comment, I’ll always be glad to get back to you.

And I’d like to say a BIG THANKS for reading Strange Metamorphosis.

Stephanie: Where can people buy your book?

Paul: The printed version can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers. The ebook is available at Amazon. It will soon be available on other platforms.

Contact:

Paul C.R. Monk

E-mail: paulmonk at bloomtree.net

Author website: www.pcrmonk.com

Book website: www.strangemetamorphosis.com

 In-text links

Strange Metamorphosis on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1hlwnDP

Subterranean Peril on Wattpad: http://bit.ly/1iahsuj

Book trailer on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1oABQYn

 A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Paul Monk, who is the author of, Strange Metamorphosis, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . 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, Strange Metamorphosis merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

My Guest, Author Anna Belfrage

Stephanie: Hello, Anna! Thank you for chatting with me today. It is always a pleasure and I am honored you have taken the time to visit with me again. With all the wonderful stories and articles you have written, you are one busy lady! I’m in the middle of reading your book, A Newfound Land and I’m enjoying it very much! The Grahams sure do keep you on your toes! Please tell your audience a little about your new book.

Anna: “A little about my new book” – you are a hoot, Stephanie! I have a problem abbreviating my books, but if I try, I’d say that A Newfound Land is a story about attempting to recreate yourself in a new land and realizing you can’t, as you are much more defined by your past than by the place you live in. It is also about the inherent conflicts between a 17th century man and a 20th century woman – as you know, Alex Graham is a time-traveler, having had the misfortune (or not, depending on what you think of Matthew) of being propelled three centuries backwards in time. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

Anyway, in A Newfound Land, the Graham family is struggling to set down roots in their new homeland, the Colony of Maryland. Religious strife forced them to leave Scotland behind, and while the life of a settler is harsh, Alex is hoping that life will become less fraught with conflict in their new home than it was in their old.

Things happen, as they say, and suddenly both Alex and Matthew have to confront spectres from their past. Old enmities blossom into new life, Matthew’s defense of the Native Americans make life-long enemies of the Burley brothers, and just like that Alex is yet again thrown into an existence that very much revolves around her fear that someone will kill her husband.

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Stephanie: What are some of the different challenges they face in America versus Scotland?

Anna: To start with, they have to settle land. Sometimes I think we have a very romanticized version of what it must have been like to ride out into unknown forests and attempt to create a home, a working farm. The sheer work involved was enormous, and while 17th century Scotland had little amenities compared to the present day and age, it was substantially more civilized than the Maryland hinterlands.

Further to this, we have the Native Americans – or Indians, as I call them in the book, just as the white settlers did. If you push people off their land, you cannot be surprised when they start to retaliate, and the threat of a native uprising was always there. In Maryland, things turned very nasty in the 1670’s, affecting Matthew’s and Alex’s life.

Then there was the isolation. Living out in the woods, with well over an hour’s ride to the closest neighbor, required that you be very self-sufficient. It also helped if you liked each other, as there was no other company to be had. Fortunately, Matthew and Alex do like each other. A lot.

Stephanie: How do Alex’s children adjust to the new world?

Anna: Having experienced what it is like to move around to various parts of the globe as a child, I can tell you that as long as there’s a mother and a father around, most children have no problem in adapting to new circumstances. If anything, they have it much easier than the adults, being unburdened with such emotions as nostalgia and homesickness.

Stephanie: That is true!

What is the research that was involved for this book? What have you learned about America that maybe you didn’t know before?

Anna: Well, I obviously learned a lot about the Susquehannock – much more than I knew before, but still very little, as the tribe left very few traces of their existence. My Qaachow, the Susquehannock chief that befriends Matthew and Alex, is a homage to a people that no longer is, but that once were, a powerful tribe that controlled a large part of northern Maryland into Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Then I had the pleasure of learning more about present day Annapolis, founded in the 1650’s by Puritans fleeing persecution in Virginia and at the time named Providence, which is the name I use throughout the book. I believe, you see, that the original Puritan settlers would prefer holding on to this name rather than that of Anne Arundel’s City, which was its official name. Not a name that would go down well with Puritans, as Anne Arundel was Catholic.

Stephanie: Why did you choose Maryland as the colony they moved too?

Anna: Maryland has the proud distinction of being the first place in the world that implemented an Act of Toleration.(One could argue the Muslim kingdoms in Spain were as – if not more – tolerant, but their tolerance came at a price, as Jews and Christians paid extra taxes to be allowed to practice their faiths) Maryland’s Act of Toleration was restricted to Trinitarian faiths – i.e. to such faiths that believed in Jesus Christ, and it was expressly forbidden, under pain of death, to question Jesus’ divinity. Not much of an Act of Toleration, you might think, but if you set it into context (a century marked by religious strife, where Catholics were persecuted in some countries, Protestants in others, and Puritans in very many) it is a remarkably foresighted piece of legislation, brought into place by Lord Calvert, who was a Catholic grandee that owned the colony outright. Maryland’s Act of Toleration is in many ways a precursor to the First Amendment in the American Constitution. In a world full of religious strife, it was an innovative attempt to heal rather than breach.

So when Matthew was obliged to flee his home country due to religious issues, Maryland would have seemed a good choice. Virginia was not an option, being fiercely Anglican (and Matthew would no more return to Virginia than he would have amputated his foot, having spent several humiliating months as a slave on a plantation), Massachusetts was far too Puritan, even for Matthew (who also had to consider his opinionated and vociferous wife) and besides, he had a friend in Maryland, Thomas Leslie.

Stephanie: Can you give us some background information on the Susquehannock Indians? A without giving too much away, their role in the story?

Anna: To write a novel set in Colonial America and gloss over the consequences of white man’s arrival to the original inhabitants would be to misrepresent history. In the area where Matthew and Alex make their home, the Susquehannock used to reign supreme, so of course this was the tribe they would encounter.
In general, the story of the Susquehannock follows the depressing pattern of what happened to very many of the indigenous tribes in the wake of European colonization, both in North and South America.
Upon the arrival of white man, the Susquehannock controlled most of the region round the upper parts of Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehannock welcomed the settlers and traded with them, but inevitably tension spread as the new arrivals claimed more and more land. Despite this, the relationship with the Susquehannock remained amicable – until the Indian wars of the 1670’s, when the Susquehannock were dragged into the conflict between the Powhatan and the Virginia settlers.
The colonist militia made no difference between Susquehannock and Powhatan: an Indian was an Indian, full stop. On one occasion, a band of militia snuck upon a group of unsuspecting Susquehannock and murdered them all in their sleep, and after that the previously good relationship deteriorated into open war.
Today, the Susquehannock are no more. Decimated by epidemics and forced to flee their homelands in the conflicts of the 1670’s, many of them joined the Mohawk. A small group of Susquehannock Indians settled in Conestoga Town in Pennsylvania and survived into the 18th century, but were brutally massacred in 1763 by the Paxton Boys in the aftermath of the French and Indian Wars. One of the little boys killed was called Qaachow, which is how my Susquehannock chief got his name.

In A Newfound Land, Qaachow and his tribe befriend Matthew and Alex, and a tenuous relationship is established whereby Matthew will keep Qaachow’s back and vice versa. I wanted there to be personal feelings involved and invested when Matthew interceded on behalf of the Indian women he saves from abduction. Why? Well, it will become clear as the Graham saga proceeds.

Stephanie: Matthew, never ceases to amaze me. He is always finding himself in danger. He is quite the character. What are his weaknesses and strengths in this story?

Anna: Well, in my book, Matthew has very few weaknesses.
“Hmph!” snorts Alex. “And what about that soft spot he has for rabid preachers, hey?” Yes, she does have a point. Matthew’s somewhat over-tender conscience sometimes leads him into the company of narrow-minded little bigots, such as Richard Campbell, and this, I suppose, is a weakness, as is his desire to revenge himself on Dominic Jones, the overseer who treated him so badly all those years ago on a plantation in Virginia.
Another little weakness – at least according to Alex – is his continued affection for Kate Jones, Dominic’s wife. Alex drowns in bright green jealousy whenever she sees this elegant and attractive woman anywhere near her husband – and even worse, Alex can understand what Matthew sees in her, given that Alex finds Kate quite likeable too.

His strengths are manifold; integrity, perseverance, courage – and a big heart, large enough to accommodate his sizeable brood of children and his wife, whom he loves to the point of distraction. A good fighter, an excellent shot, he is also intelligent, steadfast and generally good at keeping his temper in check, although his wife can at times rile him to the point where his rage boils over.
Mostly, though, I like his tenderness. Not a man given to grand gestures or endearments, Matthew loves quietly, patiently – well, except when the passion he feels for his wife surges through his veins, scorching him, but even then, he is mostly gentle.
Stephanie: Will there be a fifth book in this fantastic series?

Anna: Thank you for the compliment, dear Stephanie! There will be four more books in the series, all of them written, all of them planned for publication. And when the eighth is published I’m going to crawl up in an armchair and cry my eyes out, because how am I to survive without writing (or re-writing) new anecdotes from Matthew’s and Alex’s life?

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write?

Anna: At my desk, especially purchased for this purpose. It sits in a corner of our living room, which means I can submerge myself in my writing while still keeping a fond eye on my husband.
Stephanie: Coffee or tea?

Anna: Tea. Real tea, not that rooibos stuff. I like it black, I like it green, I like it iced but I never, ever take milk.

Stephanie: I like green tea as well, with two sugars, no milk. I especially need it while writing.

Where can readers buy your book?

Anna: Anywhere where books are sold, Stephanie. It’s available on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and a number of other e-retailers, plus in quite a few bookshops.

Stephanie: Thank you, Anna!! XX

Anna: Thank you for hosting me, Stephanie. It is always an honour to pop by Layered Pages.

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I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, I aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

Review: Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith

Royal Mistress

Anne Easter Smith is one of my favorite authors. She writes stories that take place in one the time periods in England I enjoy reading about. When I saw this book as a goodreads giveaway, I was so excited to discover I had won it. As soon as I received it in the mail, I was literally jumping for joy. This story takes place during Edward IV rule of England. For those who know the history, even though he was married to a beautiful woman and had many children by her, he had an appetite for woman and he often strayed…..

This story is about a silk merchant’s daughter, Jane Lambert. Who is beautiful and marries the man her father has chosen for her. It is an unhappy marriage and her husband focus is solely on growing his business and he neglects nurturing his relationship with Jane.

Alas, her marriage does not stop her flirtation with other men and she soon captures the eye of Will Hastings. Will is captivated by her and knows that his King will be as well.

So begins Jane’s and Edward’s affair and soon after their relationship gets in the way of Edwards leadership. There is so much more to this story and I loved the characterization and how the story flowed. The author gives you a real sense of the court life and how people lived in England during that time. This book will not disappoint you. I highly recommend.

Review: Forty Years In A Day by Mona Rodriquez and Dianne Vigorito

Forty years in a day book cover

A woman name Victoria who lives in Italy with her children and alcoholic husband decides one day to escape her marriage after years of abuse by him and immigrate to Hell’s Kitchen, New York. She didn’t know until years later that her husband had died on the day she and her children left.  After finding out he was gone, she finally could move on with her life. This story captures their lives and takes you through the hardships they face.

It is not often I read books where the story takes place in the early 20th century and I was truly captivated by the character’s lives.  The scenes in this story explore family bond, loss, poverty, abuse, survival and new beginnings. You will be drawn to the character’s inner strengths within themselves and to their dealings with family and life situations.

The central character Victoria is a brilliant example of how woman of her time fought for survival and how she gave everything she worked and struggled for to her family. The authors, Mona and Dianne- give a realistic picture and wonderful insight into how Hell’s Kitchen was during this period.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Author Mona Rodriquez for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour back in 2013 and I was kindly given a copy of the book. Before reading this story, I was not familiar with Hell’s Kitchen, New York City or have I ever visited the city before last year. Back in November 2013, I went to New York for the Self-Publishing Expo to represent indieBRAG. My sister who has worked in the city, knows her way around and came along with me. Our last day there we were sitting in a restaurant down the street on the corner where our hotel was, to my surprise and amazement she told me that this area we were in is known as, Hell’s Kitchen.  So I began to tell her a little about Forty Years in a Day and how much the story impacted me.

You can learn more about this book by read my interview with Mona here