Interview with Author Rich Samuels


Stephanie: Hello Rich! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me a little about your book, “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain.”

Rich: “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain,” is the story of 13 year-old Alexander and his outrageous (and unfounded) fears about everyday life in middle school. He sees danger everywhere – and bullies around every corner. He thinks of himself as “prey in a sea of predators.” He even wrote a smartphone app, BullyTrack, to share his bully-avoiding skills with other kids. Though his fears are entirely in his imagination, they spiral out of control, and he’s convinced an evil bully plot is unfolding. He sets up what he imagines to be a huge public showdown with a boy he perceives to be his arch-enemy. Alexander thinks he’s on the way to a great victory, but the reality is something else.

Stephanie: Bullying is a constant problem in our children’s schools and your premise is really interesting and different from other books I have read on bullying. Alexander’s fears and anxiety of being bullied has made him paranoid it seems. Please tell me about his strengths and weaknesses.

Rich: Alexander is a good kid at heart. He appreciates his friends, and he can be compassionate. His friends would say that he’s funny and clever. Most people around him would think of him as likeable, but he doesn’t understand that at first.

On the other hand, he can also be judgmental, tending to categorize those around him unfairly, often based on little more than their looks. He can be stubborn, and tends to first look for the worst in people.

Creating a protagonist that was at once engaging and borderline obsessive wasn’t easy—but I’m told—particularly by younger readers—that this is what makes him authentic. He wants to be the hero, but he discovers that it’s not always easy to do the right thing. His friends see the best in him, and are loyal to him even when he makes mistakes.

Stephanie: Having a child I middle school, I hear and see what is going on every day at my child’s school and can’t believe some of the things that goes on…..and what kids are so focused on and how it effects the people around them. Including themselves on a daily basis. Middle school is tough and to add to that, the drama can affect their education. Does your book explore how a kid can avoid bullying and help them to make the right decisions?

Rich: Alexander’s greatest problem isn’t bullying, or other kids. It’s himself. His perception of assumed danger grows into fears that control his relationships with friends and classmates. He’s so convinced that he’s a victim that he begins treating nearly everyone else as an enemy. Without being aware of it, he becomes exactly what he believes he’s fighting: a bully.

Kids take away from the book a sense of just how prejudice and fear can control our lives and actions. Alexander’s assumptions about the world around him begin to impact even his closest friends.

Stephanie: This question is pretty obvious but I will ask it all the same…..what was your reason for writing this and have you written or will write any other books on this subject?

Rich: I thought this was a worthwhile twist on the bullying genre. Alexander’s problem isn’t bullying or being a bully – it’s his lack of self-confidence.

I’m excited to be putting the finishing touches on a follow-up to this book, which continues Alexander’s ongoing efforts to feel comfortable in his own skin. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and at the same time, emphasize the importance of developing a positive self-image. (by the way, I have an email list for those interested in following Alexander’s saga: )

Stephanie: Were there any challenges with writing this story?

Rich: I’m told that one of the most entertaining aspects of the book is the opportunity to follow Alexander’s misguided logic. All of his actions make perfect sense to Alexander, but they’re all based on his skewed perception of the world around him. At thirteen, we make our way through the world with a fairly intricate belief system—however imperfect it might be. Maintaining that perspective was the greatest challenge I had, but it was also the key to the humor and heart of Alexander’s story.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Rich: Steven Novak provides quality, affordable cover design for many independent authors. He came recommended from another author, and took my rough concept and worked with me to create something I think is really special.

Stephanie: What do you think about the self-publishing industry?

Rich: I’m still trying to get my bearings as a self-publisher. There’s definitely a learning curve, especially in learning how to properly market a book. In theory, the self-publishing industry—and internet-based entrepreneurship in general—make it possible for all of us to directly connect with our intended audience.

In practice, determining the best way to market to that intended audience still takes a great deal of trial and error. Contemporary marketing, especially in the self-publishing industry, is in constant flux. It’s a struggle to put it into practice. A good friend described marketing my book as a “slow burn;” it’s going to take time, but eventually, if I have a good product, it will take off.

Stephanie: I noticed in your bio you have won a few awards and have been recognized for your screen plays. Can you tell me a little about that?

Rich: I work professionally as a producer of non-fiction video—documentaries, corporate videos and the like. I’ve won numerous awards at film festivals, and at the Los Angeles area Emmy Awards. My first Emmy, in fact, was for “Children and Youth Programming,” for a video I produced promoting youth involvement in the electoral process.

“My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain” actually began as a screenplay a decade ago. It won “Best Comedy” at the International Family Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was quite well received, and I was gratified by the award and the reaction to several public readings. Though I never sold the screenplay in that original form, the characters always stuck with me. The book is a much more evolved and nuanced, but the basic concept remains the same.

Stephanie: How has your life defined you as a writer?

Rich: I first began to think of myself as a writer at nine years old. Though this is my first novel, I’ve been writing short stories and screenplays all my life. Most of what I’d done professionally as a video producer and editor relates directly to my storytelling skills. At the same time, my experience in visual media, and having the opportunity to see how audiences respond to my work, taught me some valuable lessons about the process of creating for an audience. My love of storytelling has always been the guiding factor in everything I’ve done professionally, and everything I’ve taught in youth workshops I’ve had the honor to lead over the years.

Stephanie: Where is your book available?

Rich: My book is available in ebook and paperback worldwide through all of the popular channels: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble/Nook, and many of the less-popular channels, too. It’s beginning to appear in libraries across the country.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Rich: I discovered IndieBRAG through my association with BookBaby. I’m trying to absorb and pursue all the opportunities I can discover to help promote my book and my future work. This seemed like a good fit. The fact that it’s a reader-curated program was particularly attractive.

Stephanie: Now on a lighter note. Tell me about what you like to read and who your influences are.

Rich: I have pretty eclectic interests. I enjoy great fiction of course, sometimes in the genre in which I’m writing, but not exclusively. I also enjoy well-written historical biographies and historical novels, thrillers and science fiction.

My influences/inspirations include Charles Dickens, whom I’ve always admired for his dedication to social consciousness; Mark Twain, the great master of accessible, character driven American literature, and Jean Shepherd, American humorist best known today for writing and narrating “A Christmas Story,” but also a writer and a massively popular East Coast radio fixture when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

Stephanie: Which format do you prefer? Print or ebooks?

Rich: I enjoy both, but I’m not a purist. I’m a firm believer that story comes first. I have to admit, though, that an actual paperback still has a more personal meaning to many readers. When my book launched last year, the e-book was released a month before the paperback. I showed my eight year-old nephew the iBook edition. He looked at it, shrugged and said, “Nice, but it’s not a real book.”

Stephanie: Are you a buyer/collector or do you borrow/swap?

Rich: I’m more a buyer/collector.

Stephanie: Rich, it was a pleasure chatting with you today. Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Rich: I chose self-publishing for my first novel because I wanted to immediately connect with an audience. I’m gratified and thankful for the feedback, support and encouragement I’ve enjoyed. Especially as a first-time novelist, it’s hard to express how important my readers are to me as I move forward and continue to develop my craft.

 Rich Samuels

Rich Samuels is an Emmy-winning non-fiction producer and editor, and the author of “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain,” a middle grade in ebook and paperback, available at all popular online retailers.  His production work has earned three Emmy Awards and recognition at film festivals and competitions worldwide.   He’s also a social media enthusiast, and writes about the relationship between traditional and newer media platforms at World according to Rich.

 From 2006-2010, Rich served as Director of Production for FreshiFilms LLC, providing guidance and production expertise in the development of commercial, promotional and instructional media for teens, including the DVD series,  “Freshi Reel: How to Make Movies,” and a selection across the new media spectrum, including webinars, distance learning, podcasts and video-on-demand.


I wrote my first short story in fourth grade.  It was called “The Lost Puppy,” and told the story of a puppy who felt displaced when a kitten joins the household.

 Of course, by the end of the two-page tale, the two became fast friends and everyone lived happily ever after.  From that point on, I considered myself a writer.  By eleven years old, I also considered myself a filmmaker, and decided That’s What I Wanted To Do.  I studied filmmaking in college, and set off on a career focused primarily on non-fiction media – producing or editing documentaries, promotional and educational programming.  

But I still considered myself a writer. I worked in a creative field, after all, and everything I did was related to storytelling.  I still wrote as a hobby, though, creating screenplays and short stories over the years.  I won a few awards and recognition for several of my screenplays, and even adapted one or two into short films.  My current novel, “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain,” in fact, first came to life as an award-winning screenplay in 2005.  It even won best comedy in a scriptwriting competition.

You might assume that I would take that success, and others like it, as motivation to shop the screenplay around Hollywood for a couple of years, just to see what would happen.  I didn’t though.  As much as I enjoyed writing, the idea of spending years working on a project, and then years more shopping it around, hoping that a publisher or producer might find value, simply held no appeal.  I had no interest in being a starving artist.

But now, things have changed. If I want to bring my work to an audience, I can. There are no excuses.  Self-publishing has made it possible to reach readers through an international network of online retailers.  I am my own gatekeeper. If I create quality content, and can create word-of-mouth marketing to help promote that content, then I have the ability to bring my work to a wide audience.  That’s why I finally wrote “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain,” and created

Let’s see what happens.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Rich Samuels, who is the author of “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain”, one of our medallion 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, “My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.





Guest post with Author Peni Jo Renner


They slogged up Gallows Hill, forming a somber and silent queue as they took their places beneath the shade of the great oak tree. Dounton and his men lashed the two ladders together while the spectators assembled at the base of the hill. The hem of Rebecca’s mud-coated shift clung to her legs. Even without the chains, her feet felt as though they were leaden. These are my very last footfalls, she thought glumly. Ascending this cursed hill. Lord, let not my last thoughts be those of hatred and vengeance. The militia assembled, sticks poised above their snare drums as Ned dropped the ropes into a careless heap at the base of the tree. Then he clambered up the ladder and straddled the sturdy limb. Reverend Noyes again officiated, his voice resonating in the crisp autumn air. He invoked the name of God and then signaled the waiting militia to begin the execution call.

Martha Corey stepped forward with as much dignity as possible. She mumbled prayers as Dounton, puffing casually on his pipe, secured her arms and legs. Flinging her over his shoulder, he ascended the ladder and placed the noose around her neck. As she stood upon the wrung and Noyes asked for last words, she locked eyes with Rebecca. “God be with you, Martha Corey!” Rebecca cried, and Martha smiled sadly. The condemned woman proclaimed her innocence a last time before she was turned off the ladder.

So goes one of the darker scenes in Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, my debut novel! Not only is it my first published book, but it is a true labor of love. Rebecca Blake Eames, my ninth great-grandmother, was one of over 140 people accused and imprisoned during the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. We are fortunate that several documents of the times survived 2 fires and are still in existence. But unless one happens across Rebecca Eames in a genealogy search, her name is not as well-known as some involved during that horrific episode in American history.

It was during a genealogical search that I myself stumbled upon Rebecca and her story. Through, I got in contact with a third cousin. We began emailing and immediately became close. She was the one to tell me about Rebecca Eames’ involvement with the Salem Witch Trials, a subject that always intrigued me. I told my cousin how I “used to write,” and I said, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore; that would make a great novel!”
“So write one,” she said (or words to that effect.) And just like that, my love of writing, which had been dormant for nearly 25 years, was reawakened!

Puritan Witch has gotten several good reviews on, and I wrote it for those of us who have a rather short attention span; its 242 pages, less than 60,000 words and can be read in an afternoon. I’m really hoping others discover Puritan Witch and I hope they enjoy it. Like I said before, it was a labor of love to write, and a tribute to a beloved ancestress whose real-life ordeal was more horrific than I can ever imagine.

About Author:

03_Peni Jo Renner

Peni Renner is the author of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames”, an award-winning historical novel based on the true-life account of Peni’s 9th great grandmother. The book is Renner’s first published work, and follows Eames’ life and struggles in 1692 Massachusetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Writing historical fiction has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I was discouraged for many years after receiving multiple rejection slips, and turned to other creative outlets like crocheting, quilting and cross-stitch for many years. Then I met a 3rd cousin of mine online who is also into genealogy and history. She told me we shared a common ancestor who was involved in the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, and her story had never been told. My love of writing was rekindled and I began to research this ancestor, Rebecca Blake Eames. In August of 2012 I had the privilege of visiting her grave in Boxford, Massachusetts.

After months and months of research, writing, rewriting and revising, Puritan Witch came into being, featuring a lovely sketch done by my sister-in-law, Jane Sisk.

I have several other story ideas I am working on at the moment, all pertaining to interesting ancestors my 3rd cousin has introduced me to.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Facebook Page. You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

Virtual Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 28 Book Blast at Broken Teepee Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Tuesday, April 29 Book Blast at The Lit Bitch Book Blast at A Book Geek Book Blast at The Musings of ALMYBNENR Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Wednesday, April 30 Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover

Thursday, May 1 Book Blast at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, May 2 Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Saturday, May 3 Book Blast at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Sunday, May 4 Book Blast at I’d Rather Be Reading

Monday, May 5 Book Blast at Kincavel Korner

Tuesday, May 6 Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, May 7 Review at Books in the Burbs Book Blast at Kelsey’s Book Corner

Thursday, May 8 Book Blast at Curling Up with a Good Book

Friday, May 9 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Book Blast at Carpe Librum

Monday, May 12 Interview at Flashlight Commentary Book Blast at West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, May 13 Review & Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 14 Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, May 15 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Review at Impressions in Ink

Friday, May 16 Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, May 19 Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, May 20 Review at 100 Pages a Day Book Blast at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 21 Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 22 Guest Post at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Friday, May 23 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer Book Blast at Reviews by Molly

Saturday, May 24 Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, May 26 Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, May 27 Review at WTF Are You Reading? Guest Post at Layered Pages

Wednesday, May 28 Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, May 30 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, June 2 Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

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Guest Post with Author R.L. Syme

02_The Runaway Highlander

I would like to welcome, R.L. Syme to Layered Pages today. Author of the The Highland Renegades Series.

When I first conceived of The Runaway Highlander, I had one basic plot point. I knew that two minor characters escaped from the dungeon at Berwick. I knew that there was someone there to help them, but I didn’t know who that someone was yet. Then, I started writing character sheets and the connection between Anne de Cheyne became clear.

The de Cheyne family are a real historical family who really did have power in the Caithness region of the Highlands during this time period. There were some discussions in my research about fealty to England being the deciding factor for some of these lorships, and given that the Sinclair family already had ties to the historical de Cheyne family, I decided to flesh them out and meet them.

Anne de Cheyne was born out of the knowledge that, in The Outcast Highlander, Broccin Sinclair was engaged to Anne for most of his childhood. It made sense that, when she found out he was in Berwick and she was about to be sold into marriage, she would consider helping Broc escape from prison in exchange for his helping her escape from her bad marriage contract.

The research for this book was partly done when I researched the first book, because their timelines overlap and I wanted to stay true to the real events (big events) that were happening during the wars of Scottish independence taking place at the time. For the first book, I spent about six months buried in books and maps and library catalogs. So much fun. For this book, I reprised some of that research, but did a lot of locational searching.

I’d discovered the “Street View” version of Google Maps, so once I figured out exactly where these things were set, I used the street view to look at the surrounding areas in order to get a sense for the setting. That was a lot of fun. But lots of work. It’s amazing how much time it takes to go even just a mile or two in that kind of street view.

This particular genre, Scottish romance, requires a good amount of detail, so the discovery of Google Street View was really a fantastic one for me. However, this Fall, I’m going to be making my first research trip to Scotland and I’m absolutely ecstatic. I feel like the more authentic details (things like smells and touches) can really only be known if you’ve physically been in the space.

Of course, that provides a huge challenge to write well in this genre, because I haven’t been to Scotland yet. But I’ve done so much research and have been reading Scottish historical romances since I was a kid. So I definitely love the genre.

My favorite part of writing Scottish historical romance is actually the community of writers I belong to who all write Celtic romance. In the national Romance Writers of America organization, we have created a little home called Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, where we all love Celtic romance of all kinds. I’ve been the President over at CHRW for almost three years now, and on the Board for five. I adore Celtic Hearts and I’m so happy to get to have research conversations with my favorite Celtic authors, and hear about their work process and take workshops from them. It’s so rewarding.

The Highland Renegades Series

Book One: The Outcast Highlander Book Two: The Runaway Highlander Book Three: The Pirate Highlander — Coming Soon!

Buy the Book

Amazon UK Amazon US Barnes & Noble CreateSpace

About the Author

03_Becca Syme

R.L. Syme works at a youth theatre, teaching kids performing arts and musical performance classes/camps when she’s not writing. Otherwise, she’s putting her Seminary degree to good use writing romance novels. Let not all those systematic theology classes go to waste…

For more information please visit R.L. Syme’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 14 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 15 Review at Bibliotica

Monday, May 19 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, May 20 Review at A Bookish Girl (The Outcast Highlander)

Wednesday, May 21 Review at A Bookish Girl (The Runaway Highlander)

Thursday, May 22 Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Girl

Friday, May 23 Guest Post at Layered Pages

Monday, May 26 Review at My Not So Vacant Bookshelf

Tuesday, May 27 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 29 Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, May 30 Review at Lily Pond Reads Review at From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 2 Review at The Mad Reviewer Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, June 3 Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, June 4 Interview at The Most Happy Reader

Thursday, June 5 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Friday, June 6 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Monday, June 9 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, June 11 Review at Fic Central

Thursday, June 12 Review at Reviews by Molly Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, June 13 Review & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read

04_The Runaway Highlander_Tour Banner_FINAL

Interview with Author Teresa Grant


Teresa (Tracy) Grant studied British history at Stanford University and received the Firestone Award for Excellence in Research for her honors thesis on shifting conceptions of honor in late fifteenth century England. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her young daughter and three cats. In addition to writing, Tracy works for the Merola Opera Program, a professional training program for opera singers, pianists, and stage directors. Her real life heroine is her daughter Mélanie, who is very cooperative about Mummy’s writing. Tracy is currently at work on her next book chronicling the adventures of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch.

Stephanie: Hello Tracy! Thank you for visiting Layered Pages again for a nice chat. Today I would like to talk a little about your book, The Berkeley Square Affair. Will you please tell me about your story?

Tracy: The Berkeley Square Affair opens in late November 1817 with my protagonists, Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, settled in London and theoretically retired from the espionage game, though even they know they can’t really leave it, and Suzanne is still haunted by the secrets she is keeping from her husband. Late one night, their friend, playwright Simon Tanner, climbs through the library window of their Berkeley Square house. Simon is bringing them a manuscript that appears to be an alternate version of Hamlet. He was attacked on his way to their house by men hired to recover the manuscript. For Malcolm and Suzanne a lost Shakespeare play is like touching Excalibur, but it soon appears the manuscript may also have more recent secrets encoded in its pages.

Stephanie: Malcolm and Suzanne face many dangers. What is their closest call in this story?

Tracy: Probably danger that is more psychological than physical. Malcolm learning that Suzanne was a Bonapartist spy during the Napoleonic Wars and working against him. It shakes their partnership to the core.

the berkeley square affair

Stephanie: Describe Malcolm in five words for me.

Tracy: Honorable spy in dishonorable game.

Stephanie: What are Suzanne’s strengths and how does she use them in helping people?

Tracy: Suzanne is very good at playing roles. She’s played one for her entire marriage to Malcolm, while at the same time in some ways she is more able to be herself with him than with anyone else. She is able to change roles quickly in the course of an investigation, whether subtly by shifting from political wife to mother of young children or more dramatically by donning a disguise. She has a knack for getting people to confide in her. She also has nerves of steel and is excellent at picking locks, both of which come in handy

Stephanie: Will there be another story involving Malcolm and Suzanne?

Tracy: Yes! I’m working on the next book in the series which takes place a few months after The Berkeley Square Affair and involves Laura Dudley, governess to the Rannoch children. Laura is found holding a gun beside the body of a duke she seemingly did not know. Malcolm and Suzanne are still dealing with the revelations in Berkeley Square and how their marriage and views of each other have shifted.

Stephanie: What advice could you give to writers on how to keep the suspense in a story?

Tracy: Try to put a reversal -at the end of each chapter.

Stephanie: Now let’s talk about your writing process a bit. Do you work with outlines or do you just write?

Tracy: I lay out my story on index cards (I used to use actual cards, now I use the corkboard in Scrivener). With Scrivener, I find I can start writing as I plot, because I can write scenes out of order. I always layout some of the plot and the major turning points before I start writing, but then I can begin to write scenes I know I will need and move them around as I work out the rest of the plot. I do multiple drafts.

Stephanie: Do you use visuals when writing? Like pictures to inspire you? Or do you listen to music, like some writers do?

Tracy: Yes to both! I find “casting” actors as my characters really helps me not just with how they look but with mannerisms, voice patterns, etc… I even use actors as images for real historical figures in my books. When I was writing Vienna Waltz, I find that really make the historical figures like Talleyrand come to life. I also look at a lot of pictures of settings. And I love to listen to music – usually classical (a lot of opera) and film scores along with some musicals.

Stephanie: How often so you write and how many words do you write at a time?

Tracy: I try to write every day or at least five days a week (some of those are weekend days), and I try to write at least 1000 words a day. A blank computer screen can be daunting, so when I sit down I tell myself I just have to write 100 words. Then I can take a break and look at Facebook or check email. I can pretty much always come up with 100 words. Then a quick break, then another 100. By the time I get to 400 or so I’m usually on a role. Breaking it up like this is also helpful for writing with a young child (my daughter is currently two and a half). I do work in bits and pieces at the play park, in a café, while she naps…

Stephanie: Now l have a question about reviews. What are some of the nicest things people have said about your books? What are some of the negative and how has that impacted you?

Tracy: One of my favorite reviews said my book read like a combination of Jane Austen and Len Deighton, which was so perfect because those were two inspirations for the series. I’ve also had some references to The Scarlet Pimpernel, another inspiration. I love it when reviewers enjoy the characters and the twists and turns of my plots. I try not to pay attention to the negatives because not every book will be to everyone’s taste and I need to focus on telling the kind of stories I like to tell in the best way I can.

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

Tracy: I’m so grateful to the readers who have taken Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends and family to heart. The support of those readers means to world to me – I love sharing these characters and the world I’ve created for them. And I love the fact that new readers are discovering the series with each book. Hearing from readers really can keep an author going on those days when (even 100 words at a time) the blank computer screen seems overwhelming.

Stephanie: Where can people buy your book?

Tracy: They should be in Barnes and Noble and other book stores and are also available on line through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound IBooks, etc…[links are on my website if you can pull them or just refer readers there].

Stephanie: Thank you, Tracy!

Tracy: Thank you so much, Stephanie, for having me! It’s a treat to get to talk about my books!

Book Review: Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

02_Sinners and the SeaPublication Date: April 2, 2013 Howard Books Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audio CD

The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a haven for outcasts. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons. But living in this wicked and perverse town with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than to her takes its toll. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite its pious upbringing, develops some sinful tendencies of its own. While Noah carries out the Lord’s commands, she tries to hide her mark and her shame as she weathers the scorn and taunts of the townspeople.

But these trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women. Drawing on the biblical narrative and Jewish mythology, Sinners and the Sea is a beauti­fully written account of the antediluvian world told in cinematic detail.

My review:

I have to admit I grew up with the story of Noah but never really thought about his wife or what they might have really gone through while in the ark during the great flood. In the story of Noah, God sees great evil in the world and decides to wipe out mankind. However he found righteousness in a man named Noah. God wanted Noah to build an ark for him, his family and two of all living creatures so they could replenish this earth after the flood. And from the story in the Bible, we know Noah obeyed God’s commands given to him.

Noah had three sons named Shem, Ham and Japheth. And the Lord told Noah and his sons, “Be Fruitful and increase in number and fill the Earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

Sinners of the Sea is told in Noah’s Wife’s point of view. She shows a side of Noah that we might not often think of. We see him as he might have been with feelings, faults and so on… He wasn’t perfect but he did obey God and wanted to do right. But if you think about it, maybe those faults (that an ordinary person would think) that are portrayed in this story is due to his sole focus on God. And I think in many ways he could have been tormented by what he knew would happen to the people of the earth and this story shows that….

When Amy Bruno approached me about participating in the book tour, I have to be honest and say that the book cover is what first caught my eye and then as I read what the book was about and the fact it was fiction, I was more intrigued. I wanted to see how the author portrays Noah. And she portrays him a man of God and I was happy she did…..

I also admire the author’s character development and I believe she really captured the true culture and human conditions of the period. Many will read the book and feel the pace is a bit slower than they are used too but will find it intriguing all the same.

There were a couple of scenes towards the end that bothered me a little but I got through it okay. I’m not one for mythology added to bible stories, fiction or not. But I’m sure many will find it interesting…

I recommend that every adult read this book. I believe you will come away with something and that is for you to find out what it is on your own journey through this story.

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Praise for Sinner and the Sea

“Rebecca Kanner has created an autobiography of Noah’s wife, and an imaginative one it is.” – American Jewish World

“[Kanner] gives an intelligent voice to Noah’s wife.” – Jewish Book Council

“First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly.” – Historical Novel Society

“A fascinating look into a feral civilization of turmoil and hardship.” – Historical Novel Review

“A stirring, fascinating story written beautifully.” – Historical Fiction Connection

“Kanner beautifully evokes life on the claustrophobic, smelly vessel. Riveting… It will certainly spark hours of book club discussions.” – St. Paul Pioneer Press

Buy the Book

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About the Author

03_Rachel Kanner

Sinners and the Sea is Rebecca Kanner’s debut novel. Rebecca is a Twin Cities native and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft mentorship Award and a 2012/2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review.

Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.

You can learn more about Rebecca, and find links to selected stories and essays, at You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 14 Review & Giveaway at West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, April 15 Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, April 17 Review at A Bookish Girl

Friday, April 18 Review at Reading the Ages

Monday, April 21 Review at Booktalk & More Review at Judith Starkston

Wednesday, April 23 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Friday, April 25 Spotlight & Giveaway at Caroline Wilson Writes

Monday, April 28 Review at JulzReads

Tuesday, April 29 Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, April 30 Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, May 2 Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, May 5 Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 6 Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 7 Review at Ink Sugar Blog

Friday, May 9 Review at Our Wolves Den

Monday, May 12 Review at The Calico Critic

Tuesday, May 13 Review at From L.A. to LA

Wednesday, May 14 Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, May 15 Spotlight at The Tower of Babel

Friday, May 16 Review at Layered Pages

Monday, May 19 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 21 Review at My Reader’s Block

Friday, May 23 Review at Seaside Book Corner

Tuesday, May 27 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 29 Review at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog

Giveaway Link

To enter to win one of 2 copies of Sinners and the Sea or a $25 Amazon Gift Card, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form by clicking on the link above. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on May 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on May 30th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Interview with Author Judith Arnopp

Judith Arnopp

In 2007 Judith Arnopp graduated from the University of Wales, Lampeter with a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Medieval Studies; she now combines those skills to write historical novels.

Her early books; Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd concentrated on the Anglo- Saxon/ medieval period but in 2010 she published a short pamphlet of ‘Tudor’ stories entitled, Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens. Some people loathed it but many loved it and she received endless requests for full length ‘Tudor’ novels.

For a while Judith buried herself once more in study, refreshing her already extensive knowledge of the period. The result was The Winchester Goose, the story of a prostitute from Southwark called Joanie Toogood whose harsh existence is contrasted with that of Henry’s fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. The Winchester Goose is a multi-narrative illustrating Tudor life from several, very different perspectives; a prostitute, a Spy, and a Lady-in-Waiting at the royal court.

Judith’s next book The Kiss of the Concubine details the life of Anne Boleyn, told in the first person- present tense, the story takes you to the very heart of England’s most talked about queen. She is currently working on a third Tudor novel Intractable Heart, the tale of Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr.

Judith also blogs about the Tudor period, both on her own blog-page and on the English Historical Fiction Author’s website. Her work reaches a world-wide audience and her following is steadily increasing.

As a self-published author Judith maintains direct control of her work and avoids the hassle involved with agents and publishers. Self-publishing speeds up the process but accuracy and attention to detail is paramount. Her small team is made up of three proof readers, an editor, and a cover designer all of whom work with Judith toward a finished product that is as polished as they can get it, but still they seek ultimate perfection.

Stephanie: Hello Judith! Welcome to Layered Pages and thank you for chatting with me today…I think it is fantastic you have been writing stories that take place during the Tudor era. My interest lie in that area currently and your latest book, “Intractable Heart” looks fantastic! Please tell me about your story?

Judith: I have tried to imagine how it might have felt to be a woman married to Henry VIII. With five of Henry’s ex-wives before her, Katheryn must have been all too aware of what becoming queen might entail yet she faced it bravely. She put aside her own desire to marry Thomas Seymour and instead married an ageing, cantankerous and dangerous man. She injected all her energies into becoming a good wife to Henry and a good Queen Consort for England and I think she did amazingly well. I wanted to illustrate that. I am not really interested in the rich trappings, the glitz and glamour of being royal; I like to strip that all away and reveal the person beneath, her thoughts, feelings, and desires. I hope I have managed that with Intractable Heart.

Stephanie: Next to Katherine of Aragon, Katheryn Parr is one of my favorites of Henry VIII wives. What are some of the misconceptions people have about her?

Judith: While I was writing The Kiss of the Concubine I couldn’t help but be drawn into reading about the other wives. Of course, I knew about Katheryn Parr from my student days and was surprised to discover she wasn’t the placid nursemaid type figure that she’d been depicted. The woman I read about at school entirely lacked the vitality of everyone’s favourite queen, Anne Boleyn, but the deeper I looked into Katheryn’s life, the more I liked her.

She was much younger than I’d thought, only thirty six when she died. She was also a strong woman and Henry respected her enough to set her up as regent over England when he went to war with France. Katheryn also was the first English queen to become a published writer; she wrote two books on religion and the church and was a strong supporter of the reformation. The title Intractable Heart is a phrase taken from her book Lamentations of a Sinner. Another aspect of her character that really stands out for me was her ability to ‘manage’ Henry.

Judith Arnopp latest book

Stephanie: As your story opens, Katheryn and her step children are held hostage at Snape Castle. What are some of the hardships she had to endure during her confinement?

Judith: To be perfectly frank, we don’t really know very much about it. History tells us there was a siege at Snape while she and her step-children were in residence but few written details of it remain. I had to research other recorded instances to learn of the deprivations and suffering of siege warfare. There were many instances of violence but we don’t know that anything like that occurred at Snape. That is my invention, as a writer of fiction I have to include some fictionalised events to enrich the story and to illustrate character development. In this case I was creating an answer to some of the mysteries of Margaret Neville’s life. As a girl she was betrothed to Ralph Bigod whose father, Francis, was hung in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace. She was never betrothed again, or married and she died quite young of an unspecified illness. I came up with my own fictional ideas as to why that might have been.

Stephanie: Treachery ran rabid in the Tudor court, what is the one thing that made Katheryn different from the other queens?

Judith: Her intelligence I think, although I don’t mean to say that the other wives were thick. I alluded earlier to Katheryn’s ability to ‘manage’ Henry, and she was the only queen to wriggle out of arrest and possible execution. A warrant was written out and signed by Henry but she got wind of it and managed to see the king before the arrest could be made. She seems to have sweet-talked her way out of it, and when Wriothesley and the guard came to take her to the Tower, Henry sent them about their business and her life was spared. I think Katheryn had the ability to keep her emotions in check and maintain a cool head in a heated situation.

Stephanie: Many have different opinions on Thomas Seymour. Whether they like him or not. What are your personal opinions of the kind of man he was?

Judith: I have a soft spot for Thomas, it probably shows. I think, as far as I can ascertain, Seymour wasn’t as bad as he was painted. After his execution there was such a public outcry that the council had to issue defamatory statements to convince the people that his death was deserved. So anything written after his death needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

I think he probably had a good dose of ‘second son syndrome’ and was jealous of his brother’s power. He was so determined to get that which he didn’t have, that he failed to appreciate what he did possess. Lord High Admiral is not something to be scoffed at and he had manors and lands a plenty. It seems he was never satisfied and continually strove to climb higher and become ever richer and more powerful.

Whether he loved Katheryn or not is open to debate. He mourned her death and went a little crazy afterwards. His alleged relationship with Elizabeth is no worse than that of any other extra marital affair. I think we have to be careful not to judge him by modern day standards and remember that it wasn’t child abuse; Elizabeth was of marriageable age. His crime was messing with a royal princess; she was too close to the throne. I tend to agree with Elizabeth’s summing up of Thomas Seymour: ‘a man of great wit and very little judgment’, if indeed, she ever actually said that.

Stephanie: Katheryn’s work was published and she very devout in her faith. Is her work available today to the public? And what can we learn from her?

Judith: I know some of it is available because I have a copy of Brandon G. Withrow’s book, Katherine Parr: a guided tour of the life and thoughts of a reformation queen. It has excerpts and some insightful notes on her beliefs. Most of it is pretty dry reading but I think it is quite revealing of her opinions and the inner workings of her mind. If nothing else, reading her book (or skimming if I am honest) did provide an excellent and very personal title for my novel.

Stephanie:What was Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth’s relationship with Katheryn really like? I hear so many different opinions.

Judith: Well, we can never be entirely sure but I think it was very good. All Henry’s children spoke well of Katheryn and illustrated love and a consideration that there was no need to express if they hadn’t wished to. There were many letters and gifts exchanged, all of which illustrate a strong bond. There was a cooling off between Katheryn and Mary due to religion and the speed with which she remarried after the king’s death but they were reconciled later. With Elizabeth in particular, especially if the reports of her and Thomas Seymour are true, she seems to have been particularly close. We don’t know what was said in private but after Elizabeth was sent away from Chelsea they continued to communicate regularly, there doesn’t seem to have been a major breach. In my opinion this again shows she was a strong woman, able to rise above such things, or perhaps able to understand that Elizabeth was young and vulnerable. It seems to be Thomas that she was not able to wholly forgive.

She educated Henry’s children, finding eminent tutors for Edward who leaned to toward Lutherism. She tried to get Mary change her traditional methods of worship but didn’t push her. She also took Henry’s niece and Seymour’s ward, Jane Grey, under her wing. But, most interestingly of all, Elizabeth was with Katheryn during the regency and it may have been the queen who showed the young Elizabeth that women could rule alone in a world of men. Something which would stand her in very good stead.

Stephanie: What were some of the influences Katheryn had over Henry that his other wives didn’t?

Judith: She read to Henry, and soothed him when his leg was playing up; that much is true although she would never had changed his dressing or put salve on his wound as I have read in some novels. I think her ability to take his mind from his problems was her greatest influence over him.

She was also very clever. When her life was on the line, instead of weeping and wailing or tearing out her hair, she outwitted him. Accused of trying to instruct the king, she argued that on the contrary she had been trying to take his mind off his painful ulcer. The next time Henry tried to trick her into argument she claimed that, as a woman, she was in no position to argue theological topics with someone so obviously her intellectual superior. Very shrewd move.

Also, instead of resenting his children, she embraced them and showed him that, actually, the family he already had was made up of three rather brilliant people. Her influence on them was much greater than she is given credit for. In their later years they may have displayed what we see today as tendencies toward megalomania but they were monarchs, and Tudor monarchs at that. We shouldn’t judge them.

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Judith: A holiday I hope. Even just a home break from work for a short time. I hadn’t intended to begin writing Intractable Heart until this summer but when our house sale fell through in the middle of last year, I was so miserable I buried myself in work without a proper rest after publishing The Kiss of the Concubine. I am due a lovely long luxurious break but I am sure while I am taking it I will be plotting. I have thought about Elizabeth of York and the Perkin Warbeck affair …but time will tell.

Stephanie: How has your career as a self-publishing author been and what advice could you give to others who are thinking of taking this choice in how they publish their work?

Judith: It has been hard work but it certainly got easier once I stopped looking for agents and publishers. I had an agent for a while but they all want to change you into a commercial entity. I don’t want to be a puppet; I don’t write to make huge sums of money, I just want to make a living doing the thing I love to do for the people who love my work. I like to keep it real. For me, by far the hardest thing is the marketing. I am naturally very shy and to push my work under people’s noses and make them read it is the most difficult thing ever.

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

Judith: Read an independent author, even if it is only once a month. Give them a chance. Read the free sample on Amazon before you buy it, what is there to lose? Maybe start off with trying one of mine. J

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Judith: Amazon is the best place to start, or direct from the FeedaRead website. Since I have a great regard for trees my books are print-on-demand and also available on Kindle (for a much lower price.)

Stephanie: Thank you, Judith! It has been a pleasure chatting with you today.

Judith: Thank you for having me, Stephanie, I hope we can do it again soon.

Amazon links to, “Intractable Heart.”

UK Link

US Link

Judith Arnopp’s published work includes:


The Forest Dwellers

The Song of Heledd

The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens

A Tapestry of Time

Intractable Heart

Other Links:



Amazon Author Page

English Historical Fiction Authors

Interview with Author Pauline Montagna


Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After obtaining a BA in French, Italian and History, she indulged her artistic interests through amateur theatre, while developing her accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces culminating in the Australian film industry. In her mid-thirties, Pauline returned to university and qualified as a teacher of English as Second Language, a profession she pursued while completing a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. She has now retired from teaching to concentrate on her writing. As well as The Slave, she has published a short story collection, Suburban Terrors.

Her website

Stephanie: Hello Pauline! Welcome to Layered Pages and thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me a little about your book, ‘The Slave’?

Pauline: ‘The Slave’ is an historical romance set in fourteenth century Italy, the story of Aurelia, the sheltered daughter of Francesco Rubbini, a rising merchant with political ambitions. One day he returns from a buying trip to Venice with Batu, an Asian slave boy to whom Aurelia is inexorably drawn. In a bid to win a seat on the city council, Rubbini gains the patronage of the aristocratic de Graziano family by negotiating a lucrative marriage between Aurelia and their eldest son, Lorenzo, a man with a dangerous reputation. Batu insists on joining Aurelia in her new home for her protection, but his presence rouses violent passions in Lorenzo that Aurelia cannot understand, and which bind the three of them in an inescapable triangle of love and hate.

Stephanie: What made you choose fourteenth century Italy as your time period and place?

Pauline: If you had all the time in the world, think of all the stops you would love to make as you travel from Florence to Venice – Siena, Milan, Mantua, Bergamo, Verona, Padua, and so many more. These were once independent, democratic, mercantile city states which flourished from as early as the eleventh century. Unlike the political and economic basket case that Italy is today, back then it led the world and laid the foundations for the flowering of the Renaissance. I studied this period in university and it made me proud to be Italian.

However, this dynamism came at a price. Throughout this period, the city states themselves were volatile places. The towers of San Gimignano weren’t built for aesthetic reasons, but as defences against enemy families. Families fought against families, cities against cities. However, with their limited populations, the city states didn’t have the resources to support full-time armies so they hired mercenary armies. Before too long the mercenary leaders were fighting on their own account. By the fifteenth century, most of the city states had been taken over by one petty tyrant or another, but it was these petty tyrants who became the patrons of the Renaissance.

I chose to set my story in the fourteenth century in particular as it was a time of political and economic upheaval that saw the country ravaged by financial collapse, mercenary armies and the Black Death – all elements I needed to tell my story.

Stephanie: What was your inspiration for this story?

Pauline: I studied the Medieval Italian City States in my second year at university. However, I was actually majoring in French, and in our second year we attended lectures on French literature in French. The lectures were also being attended by a handsome Asian boy. Not actually enrolled in the subject, he sat at the back of the auditorium in regal isolation. I imagined he was an aristocratic refugee, forced out of Laos by the Communists, attending our lectures just to hear a familiar language. Though I certainly fancied him, I was much too shy to approach him, so instead he became fuel for my romantic fantasies where an Asian boy found himself a slave in Medieval Italy and in love with a nice Italian girl like me.

The story remained a fantasy to be revisited now and again over the years, but I couldn’t take it seriously as the basis of a novel until I discovered from a passing mention in Neal Ascherson’s book, ‘Black Sea’, that, in fact, though not as prevalent as it had been in Roman times, a slave trade still existed in this period under the auspices of the Venetian empire. Suddenly it had become plausible that an Asian boy could find himself a slave in Medieval Italy, and my adolescent fantasy could become a credible historical novel.

Stephanie: What are Aurelia strengths and weaknesses?

Pauline: With her sheltered upbringing in which she has been trained to be nothing more than a dutiful wife, Aurelia starts out as a naïve and timid girl. She feels intimidated by her ambitious father and neglected by her distant mother. Her only support is her nurse, Rosetta, who loves her as much as any mother could, but has no say in her fate. However, although she acquiesces to her father’s plans for her, even at an early age, Aurelia displays compassion and a quiet strength and courage. It is this strength and courage which maintains her when she is faced with situations that are frightening and incomprehensible to her in her innocence.

Stephanie: What are some of Aurelia father’s political ambitions?

Pauline: As a self-made man from the peasant classes, Rubbini’s only pathway to prestige and power is by rising up through the ranks of the government of his small city state. However, despite their exclusion from office, the old aristocracy still has the power of influence and patronage, and it is this patronage that Rubbini needs if he is to succeed. Succeed he does, but he finds his duties almost too onerous to bear when the Black Death strikes and his colleagues are loath to do anything about it that might interfere with trade. (Doesn’t that scenario sound familiar?)

Stephanie: What was some of the research involved for your story?

Pauline: As I already had a good grasp of the period from my university studies, most of the research I had to undertake was for specific information as the need arose – such as the Black Death and the events surrounding it, marriage practices, dance, dress, food, hunting, sword fighting, and, of course, Mongolian warriors.

However, it was this research that forced me to kill one of my favourite babies. For some reason, I had named my Asian boy Fet and, of course, over the years I had become attached to the name. However, as I read up about Mongolia I slowly came to the realisation that there was no ‘f’ in their language. In the end, not only did I have to change his name, but while I was at it I decided to change the names of almost all the characters. It called for a very careful and meticulous use of ‘Find and Replace.’

Stephanie: Was there a particular scene you found a challenge to write?

Pauline: The sword fighting scene was quite challenging as I’m not an aficionado of ‘derring-do.’ I not only had to learn the basic principles of fighting with the broad sword, but also try to work out the moves in the fight and then how to describe them in a comprehensible way.

However, by far the hardest scene for me to write was the first sex scene. In my first draft I skirted around the details, but my workshop group wouldn’t let me get away with that. They had waited until Chapter 42 for some action and they wanted more, thank you very much. So they sent me home to do it all again. I remember prowling about the house all afternoon trying to get into the right frame of mind.

Stephanie: What inspires you to write historical fiction?

Pauline: I write historical fiction because I’m inspired by history. I always have been and I can’t really explain why. I could take a punt and say that it’s because I was born in Australia, which has very little history, but my cultural roots are in Italy, which has, perhaps, too much history. I love doing historical research. I love spending time in libraries and reading old books, the older the better. I get exciting by finding odd titbits that I’ve never come across before, or making connections no one else has ever made. And I guess I love it because history is about people, and people are endlessly fascinating.

Stephanie: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write in this genre?

Pauline: When it comes to historical fiction, I’m a stickler for accuracy and authenticity. There are enough gaps in the records on which we can exercise our imaginations without warping the known facts. But accuracy is more than getting the date of a battle correct or the name of a piece of clothing. It’s also about how people thought and behaved.

We cannot impose on the people of the past our own sexual mores because we think restraint is boring, just as we can’t impose our modern attitudes to gender roles because we don’t like the way women were treated back then. If that’s how you feel, stick to writing contemporary romance, or if you must clothe your sexually promiscuous and feisty women in long skirts, be honest and call it Fantasy.

So I would advise someone who wants to write historical fiction to do their research. Go back to the original sources, go to a library and read books. Don’t rely on the internet, and other historical fiction for your information. If you must read fiction, read what was written at the time to get a sense of what your characters actually valued and thought, and not what you wish they did.

Stephanie: Who are your influences?

Pauline: I would say my biggest influence is the historical fiction of Mary Renault. Not only is her writing beautiful in itself, but she enters so thoroughly into the mindsets of her characters that a world completely different to our own seems perfectly natural. I have long nurtured an ambition to write about the Etruscans as well as she writes about the Ancient Greeks. I also love Ursula Le Guin, again for the beauty of her writing and her ability to create in her fantasy and science fiction profoundly real people in a real world. If I could write as well as these two I would die happy.

Stephanie: What book project are you currently working on?

Pauline: At the moment I’m focussing on self-promotion so I haven’t been writing for a while. However, as soon as ‘The Slave’ is properly launched, I hope to get back my writing.

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

Pauline: Well, as you did ask, I do have a special offer out now. Join my mailing list by May 31 and get your own free complimentary ebook copy of ‘The Slave.’



Interview with Award Winning Author Ginger Scott


Ginger Scott is a writer and journalist from Peoria, Arizona. Her debut novel, “Waiting on the Sidelines,” is a coming-of-age love story that explores the real heartbreak we all feel as we become adults throughout our high school years. The story follows two characters, Nolan (a Tomboy with a boy’s name) and Reed (the quarterback she wishes would notice her) as they struggle with peer-pressure, underage drinking, bullying and finding a balance between what your heart wants and what society says you should want — even if you aren’t ready. The sequel, “Going Long,” follows these characters through their college years. You can buy both now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and more. Her newest novel, “Blindness,”is a new-adult romance that follows two broken souls who are barely living and dealing with tragedies of their own, until they meet and their hearts come alive. “Blindness” is also available on all platforms.

Scott has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns.

 When she’s not writing, the odds are high that she’s somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her 10-year-old field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork ’em, Devils).

Stephanie: Hello, Ginger! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Waiting on the Sidelines”. Please tell me about your book.

 Ginger: Thank you for hosting me! It’s an honor.

“Waiting on the Sidelines” is told through the eyes of an average teenage girl with a boy’s name. My protagonist, Nolan, is a tomboy who’s comfortable in her own skin until she enters high school. On her first day, she meets the boy—quarterback Reed Johnson—the one everyone, including herself, wants. But then she overhears him talking with some other girls, making fun of her, and suddenly she’s thrust into this awful adolescent rite of passage—where you no longer want to be yourself, but you’re mad at yourself for giving in. The book follows Nolan through her four years of high school, and readers get to feel everything right along with her—her first love, first kiss, her first heartbreak, the cruel things girls do to one another and her triumphs. Through it all, Nolan continues to listen to her heart, and a real, though not always easy, love begins to grow between her and Reed. The question in the end: Is true love enough?

Ginger Scott's book cover

Stephanie: What age group is your story written for and is there a message in your story you hope readers will grasp?

Ginger: I have heard from readers of all ages, and I think it’s a story that any woman, no matter her age, can identify with. I have heard from several mothers and daughters who have read it together, and hearing that is the greatest compliment. There are a lot of lessons to take away, but at it’s core, “Waiting” really highlights how girls treat one another, and I hope it tips the scales a little, encouraging us to support rather than tear down. It’s also one heck of an angst, swoon-worthy romance, so anyone who has ever sighed at a John Hughes movie should be pleased.

Stephanie: Being a teenager is tough. What are Nolan Lennox weaknesses and strengths and how does this affect her life?

Ginger: Being a teenager is tough. It’s a wonder we all survive! I think Nolan’s strength probably starts with her connection to her family. She has parents that are present in the book, and she talks to them—not always, but when it counts. She also has a backbone and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself. But as much as she puts on a strong face, underneath she still has doubts, and she battles anxiety and low self-esteem. I really wanted to make Nolan feel real and honest, so I focused on her flaws and her anxiety, because I think even the most popular girl in school gets her feelings hurt sometimes, and girls that read this need to see themselves and know it’s okay.

Stephanie: What is one of the examples in this story that explores, “young love to the fullest”?

Ginger: Your first love is a powerful one, and those feelings are so raw and new and uncharted. Because this story follows the main characters through four years, readers get a unique perspective on a real high school romance. It’s not an instant-love story, but one that starts with friendship and makes a stop at every emotion along the way—jealousy, rivalry, lust and adoration. There’s a scene where the main characters, Reed and Nolan, are a little bit older, but they still don’t know how to just say what they feel. So instead, Reed tries to evoke a reaction from Nolan, making her jealous by being affectionate with another girl in front of her. Of course Nolan reacts, and they yell and fight and say hurtful things to each other—but they also chip through that armor we all wear in high school, and this scene is the first time we see them start to be honest. It was one of my favorite to write.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and is this your first published work?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” was my debut, and it is the story I always wanted to write. I still remember the first time I read Judy Blume’s “Forever.” I had never read a book that felt exactly like me before—anxiety, shame, fear, desire. That book is probably the reason I wanted to be an author, but I took a detour through journalism to get here. After years of reporting real stories, I finally felt brave enough to get the one out of my head onto paper (e-book paper in some cases). I was inspired by my reaction to “Forever” many years ago, and I also was inspired by the young girls in my life, goddaughters, who have faced adversity in high school through bullying and broken hearts. I wanted to write a fairy tale that was also a tribute to their strength, and I think this is it.

Stephanie: What are the challenges to writing in this genre and with this particular content?

Ginger: I love romance, and I love coming-of-age stories, so I think for me, the biggest challenge was to add something I was truly proud of to a larger body of work I admire so very much. Personally, though, the biggest challenge was writing real. What I mean by that is that I didn’t want to tell a story that felt like it couldn’t really happen. I wanted readers to picture every feeling and detail, smell the same air and want to have the same friends. And I also wanted my characters to sound like real teenagers, which meant that sometimes Reed—my prince charming—was a real jerk. Sometimes the cute boy isn’t nice, because he’s still learning how to be a man, and it was a challenge to make Reed say and do some things that I made him do. But I’m glad I did, because he’s very real to me.
Stephanie: When did you first began to write?

Ginger: I know this isn’t a unique answer, but I really have been writing since I was a kid. I picked journalism as my course of study when I was maybe 10 or 11. I wanted to see my byline in a magazine and a newspaper, so I wrote fiction, poems and reported on real people every chance I got until someone started to pay me for it. I went to ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism, and I was a reporter for the Arizona Republic and several magazines and newspapers in Arizona. I think every story I ever wrote on a real person has helped me to better tell the make believe ones aching to get out of my head.

Stephanie: How has writing affect your life and what advice would you give to someone who is inspired to write their first story?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is my first of now three titles—one a follow up to “Waiting” called “Going Long” and the other a stand-alone romance called “Blindness.” I was always afraid to put myself out there—afraid no one would notice or care, and terrified of rejection. But finally doing it is one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I regret letting fear hold me back for so long. My advice is to not be afraid—write without abandon. Just write. Your heart will thank you later.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Ginger: I was looking for other independent reads to add to my reading list, and someone had posted a Medallion book on Twitter. I followed the links back to the indieBRAG site and was impressed with the list of titles. Then I saw a call for books for consideration, and I decided to send in “Waiting on the Sidelines” and try (again, a huge step for me as I fear rejection—seriously, it terrifies me). When I heard from indieBRAG that “Waiting” was a medallion honoree, I was thrilled. The honor is tremendous, and I’m so touched.

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

Ginger: Just, thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. I do not take the time you give to me, and my words, lightly, and I will always work my tail of to write heartfelt stories that make you feel something. And I hope you continue to like how my stories make you feel. Because writing for you is the greatest joy of my life…well, second greatest. Being the baseball mom is always number one.

Stephanie: Here can readers buy your book?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is available for Kindle and print on Amazon. It is also available as an e-book on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Sony and more.





Author Website


Twitter – @TheGingerScott


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Ginger Scott, who is the author of “Waiting on the Sidelines”, one of our medallion 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, “Waiting on the Sidelines” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Interview with Melanie Karsak

The Harvesting“The world, it seemed, had gone silent. It was something we knew but did not talk about. We were alone.”

While Layla Petrovich returns home to rural Hamletville after a desperate call from her psychic grandmother, she never could have anticipated the horror of what Grandma Petrovich has foreseen. The residents of Hamletville will need Layla’s cool head, fast blade and itchy trigger finger to survive the undead apocalypse that’s upon them. But even that may not be enough. With mankind silenced, it soon becomes apparent that we were never alone. As the beings living on the fringe seek power, Layla must find a way to protect the ones she loves or all humanity may be lost.

This exciting new dark fantasy/horror hybrid blends the best of the zombie genre with all the elements a fantasy reader loves!

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up undead!

Stephanie: Hello, Melanie! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. You have written a story in a genre that is seems to be all the rage right now. What sets your book apart from others?

Melanie: Thank you so much for having me today. I am so delighted to be a BRAG Medallion honouree and grateful to be asked to stop by to talk about my novel!

So what sets this book about from all those other zombie novels? Well, in The Harvesting, I wanted to consider what the death of humanity might mean if there were, in fact, other being living in our world. What if there really were vampires, and shape-shifters, and fey people . . . all the beings of folklore? If mankind died, what might the impact be on the unknown world that lives in tandem with us? As an academic, the symbolic nature of the zombie trend really intrigues me. I believe it speaks to an inner deadness we feel as a society. I started playing with how other being might symbolically represent other feelings and attitudes about our world. At the end of all this debating and thinking, I ended up with The Harvesting.

Stephanie: Really interesting…I have to admit I’m not into the whole folklore of Vampires fey people and Zombies but your idea to explore a world where they actually live with us is intriguing.

Please tell me about Layla. What are her goals and the conflict she faces?

Melanie: Layla is interesting. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by a psychic grandmother who was the town’s resident medium, oddball, and “witch.” Layla always felt a bit ostracized as a child. While she did have a very passionate first love (with Ian), she ran away from Hamletville as soon as she could to better herself—education, a career, life in Washington DC. The end of humanity finds her returning to Hamletville, a place she’d rather not visit. In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, she finds herself reunited with her first love, Ian, but slowly begins to understand she is not the same girl who once loved this hometown boy . . . Ian’s brother Jamie, however, is an entirely different story. Of course, Layla also has to face zombies, and vampires, and her budding psychic ability. Most of all, Layla has to learn how to trust the right people. This is a major struggle for her.

Stephanie: Layla sounds like a fascinating character that I think many can relate to.

Is rural Hamletville a real place?

Melanie: Hamletville is my play on words; I was trying to describe the smallest of small towns. The town, however, is inspired by an amalgam of my hometown (a very Hamletville kind of place), Tidioute, PA as well as North East, PA where I worked.

Stephanie: Small towns are always cool to use in stories…

What is Layla’s occupation in this story and how did she learn to use the weapons she wields?

Melanie: Layla picked up a sword at a young age and fell in love. She learned fencing and went on to study the ancient art, becoming a state champion. She studied medieval history in college and is working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC at the beginning of this book. I took fencing as a student at Penn State, and the experience always stuck with me. A reviewer called Layla pretentious because of her esoteric education and skills, but it is those university-born skills that allow her to become a great leader during this catastrophic event.

Stephanie: Is this a stand-alone story or will there be others?

Melanie: I am planning to release The Shadow Aspect, the second novel in this series, in the summer of 2014. There will also be a Harvesting Series novella, Midway, that will release this summer. The novel will conclude with a third book titled The Green World, which will release in late fall 2014 or 2015.

Stephanie: How does your title tie into the story?

Melanie: Layla has a dream in the novel where the figure of a grim reaper takes her to a graveyard, telling her they are there for the harvest. This scene actually comes from a vivid dream my own grandmother once had and shared with me. In a way, a zombie apocalypse is the harvest of mankind. Our time is done. Those who survive have a big job ahead of them.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing in this genre and when did you first become interested in it?

Melanie: I have always written fantasy novels, but I think I always took myself too seriously. I wrote The Harvesting for fun. I wanted to play. I wanted to pick a topic that was both light and deep all at once and just enjoy writing it. Zombies seemed like fun. I think that makes me sound weird, lol!

Stephanie: Writing fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I’m working on an alternate history one right now that fits pretty close to fantasy. It’s wonderful that you enjoy writing in this genre and are having fun.

Please tell me about your writing process.

Melanie: I’m a planner. I have to know how the novel will go from A-Z before I sit down to write. I usually map out a narrative arch on paper then go from there. My actual writing process doesn’t take that long because I plan so much.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing?

Melanie: I love to live in my worlds. I love my characters. They are like real people to me. I enjoy spending time in their heads and seeing the world through different points of view. In the case of my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, I love that I can invent an entirely magical and different world and give it verisimilitude!

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Melanie: Shelley Adina, a steampunk author whose work I admire, is a BRAG recipient.

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

Melanie: Regarding The Harvesting, if they would like to try a zombie novel that is a bit different (I might even say quirky), they should give the book a try. Many readers say that while they aren’t into zombies, my book is so different that they really enjoyed it! I’ve gotten fabulous feedback on this novel from the book blogger community. It’s a fun, action-packed, book. It’s a fantasy-filled read with a kick-butt heroine, great for a Sunday afternoon.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Melanie: The Harvesting and my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, are available at!

Stephanie: Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

About Melanie:

Melanie KasakMelanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania and earned a Master’s degree in English from Gannon University. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and zombie whisperer, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.


Interview with Author Marsha Cornelius

Losing It All-final with AIA

Frank Barnes is content living on the streets of Atlanta. A soup kitchen and a makeshift shanty sure beat his days as a POW in Vietnam. But Chloe Roberts can’t handle the eviction that sends her into the hell of homelessness. With no family or friends to turn to, Chloe and her children are sucked into the traumatic world of night shelters, and dangerous predators.

When they bump into each other at the soup kitchen, Frank offers Chloe a glimmer of hope that she can pull her life back together. She rekindles his lost sense of self-worth by taking his mind off his own problems. But they will not meet again until Frank is riding high as a working man, and Chloe has hit rock bottom.

By helping Chloe rebuild her broken life, Frank banishes the demons from his own past. Unfortunately, the past comes strolling back into their lives, threatening to destroy the happiness they have finally found.

Stephanie: Hello Marsha! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Your book, “Losing it all”, sounds fabulous and can you believe, I live in the Atlanta area! So I’m even more intrigued. Please tell me about Chloe. What are her strengths and weaknesses? What is an example of how Frank helps her?

Marsha: Chloe is a loving, caring wife and mother. Unfortunately, she’s too naïve, so she trusts people she shouldn’t: people she works with, family, even her husband.

After a while, she begins to doubt herself because she has trusted the wrong people. Frank is the one who helps her regain her faith in herself.

Stephanie: What genre does this fall under and what do you like most about writing in this area?

Marsha: Losing It All crosses a couple genres. It’s basically a drama about two people struggling to keep afloat. It could also be considered women’s fiction because I think a lot of women can identify with Chloe’s struggle. And then of course, it has romance. Although this is not your typical girl-meets-rich millionaire or strapping cowboy.

All of my books seem to cross genres. The one thing they have in common is that I love to explore the relationships between people, whether it is husbands and wives, parents and children, or even two strangers who are thrown together.

Stephanie: What are some of the emotions you experienced writing this story?

Marsha: There are a lot of scenes where it didn’t seem like things could get any worse, and then they did. I felt bad about putting Frank and Chloe through all of that. But it isn’t called Losing It All because someone loses their keys. They have lost EVERYTHING.

I did manage to get some chuckles in, to break the tension. And there are some very heart-warming scenes between Frank, and Chloe’s children. I tried not to get to maudlin.

Stephanie: Generally when a person reads, they read with a purpose. It might be just to have fun. Other times it is for specific information, knowledge or an escape from reality. What is your purpose for writing, “Losing it All” and what do you hope the readers come away with reading your story?

Marsha: I guess I’m hoping readers will step back from their own troubles and see that other people are suffering, too. I’m on Facebook (too much) and I see lots of posts from folks who are way too absorbed in their own lives.

From time to time, I catch myself in a pity party, and it helps to remember how bad my life can get very quickly.

Stephanie: What was your writing process for this book and how long did it take to write your story?

Marsha: This was my first baby, really. And it probably took 20 years for it to see the light of day. When my first son was born, I decided to stay home until he went to Kindergarten. Then the second son came along, and I was getting really bored. I missed the contact with other people. So I created Frank and Chloe to keep me company while I was changing diapers and picking up toys.

On weekends, when my husband was home, I would park myself at my little laptop and write like crazy.

Even when I went back to work, I never had time to write except on weekends. That was usually from 5 am until the kids got up, or we had to be at the ball field for a game.

Then I got the idea for my second book, H10 N1, and I put Losing It All on a back burner. A couple years ago, I pulled the manuscript back out, dusted it off, and here it is.

Stephanie: When do your best ideas for a story come to you?

Marsha: That’s a tough question, with no real answer. I can just be taking a walk, driving in the car, watching the news. And Boom! an idea pops into my head.

I will say that my best ideas for a book, once it’s started, come when I’m out walking.

I live in the country, so I take long strolls with my little notebook and pen. My neighbors have gotten used to seeing me talk to myself, or stop in the middle of the road to jot down an idea. They wait patiently until I move out of the way so they can drive by.

Stephanie: Are you currently working on a story now? If so, what is it about?

Marsha: My latest book is speculative fiction (as opposed to science fiction) about a college girl who is tired of taking pills for everything from appetite suppression to memory enhancement.

I came up with the idea because it seems like every year, we become more and more dependent on drugs to ‘regulate’ our lives. I can’t help wondering where it will all end.

Stephanie: Who designs your book covers?

Marsha: Jun Ares. He’s a freelance artist in the Phillipines. He was referred by a friend, and I love his work.

Stephanie: What are some of the comments you have received about your book?

Marsha: One of the best comments was from a woman who had actually lived in her car for a while. She liked the authenticity of the book.

A lot of the reviews mention how once the reader got started, they couldn’t put the book down. That’s the best compliment you can get.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Marsha: A fellow author had posted on Facebook that she received a BRAG Medallion, so I decided to check out the website.

So glad I did. Indie authors definitely need some recognition. We are drowning in a sea of published works.

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

Marsha: Hire an editor. You can’t rely on friends or family to read your manuscript with a critical eye.

Any book you pick up – from Nora Roberts to James Patterson – when you flip to their acknowledgments, I guarantee they thank their editors. If they need one, you do too.

Thank you, Marsha!

About Arthur:

Maraha Cornelius

After working for fifteen years as a cafeteria manager in an elementary school, Marsha Cornelius turned in her non-skid shoes for a bathrobe and slippers. She now works at home, writing novels, acting out scenes with her cats, and occasionally running a Swiffer across dusty surfaces.

Like thousands of others, she thought she could write romance, but soon discovered she was a dismal failure. She did increase her repertoire of adjectives such as throbbing, pulsing, thrumming, vibrating, hammering, pumping . . .

Her first novel, H10N1, is a thriller about a flu pandemic gone awry, and her second endeavor, The Ups and Downs of Being Dead, tells the story of a man who chooses to have his body cryonically-frozen rather than face death. And now she has released her third novel, Losing It All, a drama that follows a homeless man as he helps a mother and her two small children get off the streets.

Cornelius resides in the countryside north of Atlanta with her husband. Her two grown sons occasionally visit for clean laundry and a hot cooked meal.





Amazon Author Page

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Marsha Corneluis, who is the author of “Losing it All”, one of our medallion 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, “Losing it All” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.