Interview with Author Ayelet Waldman

03_Love & Treasure

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War.

In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love and Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.

Stephanie: Ayelet, it is a wonderful to be chatting with you today and what a fascinating period in history your story takes place in. Is Love and Treasure based on a true story?

Ayelet: The specifics of the locket are all made up, as are the characters. The events surrounding the Gold Train, however, are all true. It existed, and was in fact turned over to US Forces in Austria at the end of the war.

The Women’s Suffrage conference took place in Budapest when I said it did, but I made up all the characters.

Stephanie: What made you decide to write this story and what were the challenges?

Ayelet: I have always wanted to write about the Holocaust, but I always resisted, because of the danger of being exploitative. I hate those books that use the calamity of the six million as a trick for easy emotion. If I read one more book about the “One Good German,” my head will explode.

But there are books that illuminate without exploiting. Books like W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. I was afraid for many years to approach this subject, but once I found the story of the Gold Train, I realized that that story – one that I’d never heard before – could be a way in to the material, a way that I could avoid the perils of exploitation.

Stephanie: What about this period in history that fascinates you the most?

Ayelet: What fascinates me is not the fact of the tragedy, not the incomprehensible loss. What fascinates me is the world that existed before, the world where Europe had this vibrant, exciting Jewish community. It wasn’t a community of shtetls and rabbis, like you might think if you looking only at the photos of Roman Vishniac and sang along with Fiddler on the Roof. It was a diverse society, throughout different countries and cultures. The Jews of Budapest were assimilated and successful, no less so than we are now. It’s that vanished world that is my obsession.

Stephanie: Why have you chosen to write Historical Fiction and what are the rewards?

Ayelet: I love the research. It’s so much fun, because it’s work, but it’s not the difficult, draining work of writing.

Stephanie: Will you write other stories in this era?

Ayelet: I’m working on one now!

Stephanie: Who are your influences and how much do you read?

Ayelet: I keep a booklog with everything I read. Check it out! http://www.ayeletwaldman.com/booklog/

Stephanie: How often do you write?

Ayelet: I write 5 days a week, from carpool to carpool, while my children are at school.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

Ayelet: I don’t really have one off the top of my head. I guess if I had to choose one. F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

About the Author

02_Ayelet Waldman Photo Credit Reenie Raschke

Ayelet Waldman is the author of the newly released Love and Treasure (Knopf, January 2014), Red Hook Road and The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Vogue, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have appeared on “All Things Considered” and “The California Report.”

For more information please visit Ayelet’s website. Her missives also appear on Facebook and Twitter.

Her books are published throughout the world, in countries as disparate as England and Thailand, the Netherlands and China, Russia and Israel, Korea and Italy.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 27 Review at Kinx’s Book Nook Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 28 Guest Post at Passion for Novels

Thursday, May 29 Review at Mari Reads

Friday, May 30 Review at She Reads Novels Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, June 2 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, June 3 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, June 4 Review at Seaside Book Corner

Thursday, June 5 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Friday, June 6 Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Monday, June 9 Review at Closed the Cover

Tuesday, June 10 Interview at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, June 11 Review at A Bookish Girl Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, June 13 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, June 16 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, June 18 Review at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, June 19 Review at Book Nerd

Friday, June 20 Review at Curling Up with a Good Book

Monday, June 23 Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, June 24 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, June 25 Review at Lit Nerd

Thursday, June 26 Review at The Little Reader Library

Friday, June 27 Review at Man of la Book

Monday, June 30 Review at A Bookish Affair Review at Just One More Chapter Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, July 1 Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, July 2 Review at From L.A. to LA Review at Mina’s Bookshelf

Thursday, July 3 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Honoree Author Jane Steen

  CloseDoors 

Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British Accent according to just about every American she meets. Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Around the edges of her professional occupation and raising children, she struck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she has the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author. She has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.

Stephanie: Hello, Jane! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your story, The House of Closed Doors? And how you came up with such a fascinating title.

Jane: The House of Closed Doors is set in the American Midwest in the 1870s, and is the first book in a series. Nell Lillington is a spoiled seventeen-year-old who does not want to have to find a husband, the normal fate for girls of her age in her small hometown of Victory. Unfortunately, Nell is also pregnant, through a disastrous combination of flirtatiousness and ignorance. She refuses to name the father of her child, prompting her stepfather Hiram to send her to the Poor Farm of which he is a governor to have her baby, which will then be adopted. Nell is happy to go along with Hiram’s plan, and works at the Poor Farm as a seamstress, until a door is opened during the inspection of an unused wing of the Women’s House and two small bodies fall out.

Nell is the only resident of the Poor Farm who doesn’t believe that unwed mother Jo and her baby Benjamin were shut in the padded cell by accident. She begins asking questions—and also realizes she won’t let her own baby out of her sight. This means she has to escape the Poor Farm before the adoption takes place—but home turns out to be far from the safest place . . .

I’m not sure where the title The House of Closed Doors came from. It popped into my head early in the writing process, and I never changed it. Interestingly, as I edited the first draft of the book I realized that the title could refer to Nell herself, as her life is determined by the secrets she decides to keep.

Stephanie: Why did you decide on American Midwest in 1870 for the location and period of your story?

Jane: I live in the Midwest, and am fascinated by the rapid growth of settlement in the Chicago area. People came from all over America (and the world) to settle an area that offered enormous riches but was challenging in terms of climate and distances. I settled on 1870 for reasons connected with the more enlightened way ‘feeble-minded’ people were being treated at that point—advances that took over a century to return—but once I started researching the era I found it fascinating. The Civil War was a recent memory and the country still bore many scars; growth was tremendous due to a huge influx of immigrants, but there were still several international crises and periods of severe economic depression. And it’s a time not many writers cover, which made it more interesting to me.

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Stephanie: Your story sounds so intriguing. After reading the list of characters you sent me, I have to say that Nell and Martin stand out to me the most. Could you tell me a little something about them? Their strengths and weaknesses?

Jane: Nell starts out as a very self-centered character, but she learns responsibility and caring through her role as a mother, as Tess’s protector, and through her determination to bring about justice for the murders at the Poor Farm. Her strengths are her loyalty, her devotion to those she loves, her strong sense of fairness and her lack of prejudices.

Martin, on the other hand, has been given too much responsibility too early, and as a result has learned to hide behind his image as a purveyor of silks and satins, so much so that many are led to assume he’s gay (he’s not, and woe betide the man who says he is.) And yet his upbringing has made him into an astute businessman, and he has considerable financial acumen, a skill that’s going to stand him in good stead as the series progresses. He shares Nell’s commonsense practicality and her love of doing things right.

Stephanie: What exactly is the “Poor House”?

Jane: The County Poor Farm was a place where the authorities put those who had nowhere else to go: elderly people suffering from dementia, alcoholics, people with no financial resources, and what they called the ‘feeble-minded’ and we’d call people with cognitive disabilities. And, of course, unwed mothers, who were considered to have shown a complete lack of moral sense and were therefore not fit for good society.

The Prairie Haven Poor Farm in my novel is fictional, and probably a lot kinder than some of these places were. It follows the principles of a physician and educational thinker called Edouard Séguin, who advocated the education and rehabilitation of the cognitively disabled to make them into independent, self-reliant members of society. My novel portrays an ideal Poor Farm that allows its residents to pursue healthy outdoor work within their capabilities, and thus gain back their self-respect.

Stephanie: I always wonder how writers come up with names for their characters. The fictional ones that is…. How did you come up with yours?

Jane: Nell’s proper name is Eleanor, which has always been one of my favorite names. Some of the other names were ones I liked; others were chosen from lists of popular Victorian names I found online (such as Hiram, which you never see now but was a popular American name) or from random name generators. I just keep looking till I find the name that fits the character.

Stephanie: How long did it take for you to write your story and what was your writing process like?

Jane: I wrote the first draft of The House of Closed Doors very quickly, in just a month—during National Novel Writing Month 2010, in fact. As I had an ambitious writing goal, I had to be very disciplined about hitting my daily word count, but in fact it was easy as I was really enjoying the story and the characters.

But then the hard work started—I spent a year editing and rewriting, getting input from readers and rewriting again. Quality is very important to me, so I took the time I needed to get the novel the way I wanted it.

Stephanie: I understand this is part of a series? Are you currently working on the next book and when can readers expect it?

Jane: I’ve been working on the second book in the series, called Eternal Deception, for more than two years! It is my problem child book, as the first draft never worked for me and after spending a year trying to get it to work, I scrapped it and rewrote it completely. I like the current version a whole lot more, but it ended up too long in parts and I’m currently working on editing it again. Fortunately I have great writing buddies who are willing to read the drafts and give me their input. I wish I could give a release date, but to be honest after the problems I’ve had with this book I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. Let’s just say I’m working hard at it.

Stephanie: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? And who are your influences?

Jane: I always loved writing and have had a number of jobs that involved writing, but I didn’t seriously consider writing fiction till 2009. I wrote in my early twenties, but let’s just say I wasn’t in an environment of encouragement just then, so I gave up and wrote my stories in my head for more than twenty years until they just refused to live there any more.

Stephanie: How often do you write and where in your home is your favorite place to do so?

Jane: I write every day. I’m lucky enough to have an office as I’ve worked from home a lot, so that’s where I spend my working day, combining writing with my role as ‘executive assistant’ to my disabled daughter. I find it very easy to work for myself—the problem is usually dragging myself away from my work to tend to my house and family, although my daughter is very good at keeping me on task.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Jane: I saw IndieBRAG mentioned on a blog. I’d been looking for some kind of selective process for self-published books, and IndieBRAG was a great step in the right direction.

Stephanie: Where can readers purchase your book?

Jane: The ebook is available online through all the major outlets. There is an audiobook available through Audible, iTunes and some other online retailers. I’m working on a print edition that should be available soon online and, eventually, through the usual distribution channels.

Stephanie: Thank you, Jane!

Jane: You’re welcome – that was fun.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jane Steen, who is the author of, The House of Closed Doors, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, The House of Closed Doors merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Review: Murder by Misrule by Ann Castle

02_Murder by Misrule Cover

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

The Francis Bacon Mystery Series

This series of historical mysteries features the philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon as a sleuth and spymaster. Since Francis prefers the comfort of his own chambers, like his spiritual descendent Nero Wolfe, he sends his pupil, the handsome young Thomas Clarady, out to gather information. Tom loves the work, not least because he meets so many interesting people, like Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. Murder by Misrule is the first book in the series.

My review:

I’m always up for an elaborate crime thriller and an historical one to boot. Funny thing is, as I was waiting for this book in the mail, I kept on thinking this was going to be a Victorian one! *laughing* I’ve been on a Victorian era kick lately and I guess that is why….and wow was I surprised when I started reading the story!

The premise intrigued me and the colorful cast of characters amused me. They all played an integrate part in the story, even the minor roles. It was entertaining seeing how they interacted together solving the crime and I really developed a fondness for Tom Clarady.

There were a lot of great scenes that grabbed my attention and a few in between that didn’t so much, I would have liked the momentum of the story to have been a little stronger. That is what I want in a mystery thriller.

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the story and learned a lot about Gray’s Inn….and Frances Bacon in how he must have been. And there is more to the story than meets the eye and leaves the readers imagination to explore that.

Praise for Murder by Misrule

“Though the plot keeps the pages turning, the characters, major and minor, and the well-wrought historical details will make readers want to linger in the 16th century. A laugh-out-loud mystery that will delight fans of the genre.” – Kirkus Starred Review

“Murder by Misrule is a delightful debut with characters that leap off the page, especially the brilliant if unwilling detective Francis Bacon and his street smart man Tom Clarady. Elizabeth Tudor rules, but Anna Castle triumphs.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare

“Well-researched… Murder by Misrule is also enormously entertaining; a mystery shot through with a series of misadventures, misunderstandings, and mendacity worthy of a Shakespearean comedy.” – M. Louisa Locke, author of Bloody Lessons

“Historical mystery readers take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life.” — D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

Buy the Book

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About the Author

03_Anna Castle

Anna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.

For more information please visit Anna Castle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 2 Review at Flashlight Commentary Book Blast at Mari Reads

Tuesday, June 3 Interview at Flashlight Commentary Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, June 4 Book Blast at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

Thursday, June 5 Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Friday, June 6 Review at Book Nerd Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer Book Blast at A Dream Within a Dream

Saturday, June 7 Book Blast at Kelsey’s Book Corner

Sunday, June 8 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 9 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, June 10 Book Blast at West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, June 11 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, June 12 Review at Curling Up By the Fire

Friday, June 13 Book Blast at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, June 16 Book Blast at Closed the Cover Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

Tuesday, June 17 Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day Book Blast at A Book Geek

Wednesday, June 18 Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 19 Review at Bibliotica Book Blast at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, June 20 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Interview at All Things Girl

Saturday, June 21 Book Blast at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Monday, June 23 Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway at A Bookish Affair Interview at Jorie Loves a Story Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 24 Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, June 25 Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing

Thursday, June 26 Review at A Bookish Girl Review at Layered Pages Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, June 27 Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Monday, June 30 Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, July 1 Interview at Starting Fresh

Wednesday, July 2 Review at Kincavel Korner

Thursday, July 3 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please

Friday, July 4 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Murder by Misrule_Tour Banner_FINAL

 

Review: Nightingale by Juliet Waldron

03_Nightingale-200x300

18th Century Vienna was glamorous and corrupt, and the pathway to fame could not be trodden in innocence. Count Maximilian discovers Klara in a Nightingale Cage, an orphanage for the abandoned children of musicians. He educates her, fosters her remarkable vocal talent and initiates her into the art of love, intending to create the perfect mistress. The Count controls every aspect of Klara’s life, until Fate, in the form of handsome Akos Almassy, takes a hand. The tall, dark Magyar violinist can make beautiful music and healing potions, too, but can he rescue Klara from the Count—and live?

My review:

First off when I began to read this story, I had to adjust my mind to a bit of romance…..I’m not used to reading historical romance. As I got through the first few pages, I was a bit worried about the story line. As I continued reading, I became intrigued with Klara and her situation. She is in a sticky situation-If you will and she owes so much to her patron for basically saving her from a life of poverty. Alas, he does this for a reason and one not out of respect and kindness towards her. His plans for her to become his mistress.

I think I fell in love the moment she met Akos Almassy! Lol. The way the author would describe their attraction towards each other was electric-thrilling if you will. As the story unfolds I was cheering for those two and wondering what the outcome of the situation with her patron would be…..

I love music and I love singing, so this story was right up my alley and although I don’t normally read in the sub-genre or period, I enjoyed it very much.

I recommend this story for a wide range of audience. People like me who normally read straight Historical Fiction, non-fiction and history. And to those who read straight romance or people who like both!

Buy the eBook

Amazon (US) Amazon (AU) Amazon (CA) Amazon (UK)

About the Author

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“Not all who wander are lost.” Juliet Waldron earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after the boys left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine time travel experience for herself–and for her readers. She loves her grand-girls and her kitties, likes to take long hikes, and reads historical/archeological non-fiction as well as reviewing for the Historical Novel Society. For summer adventure, she rides behind her husband of 50 years on his “bucket list” (black, and ridiculously fast) Hyabusa motorcycle.

You can find more information at www.julietwaldron.com or connect with Juliet on Facebook.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, May 5 Interview at Layered Pages

Thursday, May 8 Review at Just One More Chapter (Mozart’s Wife)

Friday, May 9 Spotlight at Closed the Cover (Genesee)

Monday, May 12 Review at Closed the Cover (Genesee) Spotlight at Tower of Babel

Monday, May 19 Interview at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, May 21 Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, May 26 Review at Book Lovers Paradise (Mozart’s Wife)

Tuesday, May 27 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession (Genesee) Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise (w/Kathy Fischer-Brown and Louise Turner)

Monday, June 2 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Nightingale)

Tuesday, June 3 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession (Roan Rose)

Thursday, June 5 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 9 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time (Roan Rose)

Tuesday, June 10 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views (Nightingale)

Thursday, June 12 Guest Post at Closed the Cover

Monday, June 16 Review at Just One More Chapter (Roan Rose)

Tuesday, June 17 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 23 Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Mozart’s Wife)

Tuesday, June 24 Review at A Bookish Affair (Mozart’s Wife)

Wednesday, June 25 Review at Layered Pages (Nightingale)

Thursday, June 26 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Roan Rose)

Friday, June 27 Review at Broken Teepee (Mozart’s Wife)

Saturday, June 28 Review at WTF Are You Reading? (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 30 Review at The True Book Addict (Mozart’s Wife) Review at WTF Are You Reading? (Nightingale)

 

Interview with Author Bob Van Laerhoven

02_Baudelaire's Revenge

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

Stephanie: Hello, Bob! Thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me what compelled you to write this story?

Bob: Thank you, Stephanie, for having me on your blog. Your first question throws me into a time-warp. I have to go back to when I was seventeen – which was in 1970 – and discovered the poem anthology “The Flowers of Evil” of the French poet Charles Baudelaire. Never before had I read such intense, dark and morose poetry in a language that almost seemed magic with its rhythm that made me dream of becoming a poet. Fate has decided otherwise: I’m an epic writer by nature and my poetic talent is too small. Many times I tried but I wouldn’t dare publish one verse. But then: I dare to publish “cross-over” novels between literature and the crime novel that are very provocative and shocking, but never cheap. And already at the tender age of seventeen, something in me said: “Once upon a time you’ll write a novel about this Baudelaire and his tormented soul, you’ll seek the seeds of “The Flowers of Evil.” Once upon a time…37 years later the fairy tale became true: I published “Baudelaire’s Revenge” which won me the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year 2007 in Belgium, and now the novel is translated into French, English and Russian and an Italian translation is in the making.

Stephanie: I have yet to read your story but I can imagine there are some pretty dark and gruesome scenes. What was the hardest scene for you to write?

Bob: On the whole, “Baudelaire’s Revenge” was difficult to write and many times I tried to resist the story because I was afraid of what readers would think about me. But something, a force, urged me on. I truly wanted that the novel mirrored the seeds of “The Flowers of Evil”. So there were a lot of harsh scenes to write. Don’t forget, the novel is set in different times then today. Morals and ethics weren’t the same as now. Moreover, it was a time of war – Prussia and France waged battle – and we all know that in wartimes the most atrocious things can happen. All this said, the hardest scene to write was when Baudelaire makes love to his own daughter in a brothel without knowing that she is his daughter. Immoral blood ties is one of his themes in his poems, but veiled in strange and yet alluring metaphors, so it was a theme I had to explore. Before you throw me out , let me say this: it wasn’t a scene I conjured out of nothing or as a pervert way of shocking readers. It’s well researched and carries great symbolic value in the novel. First, many men in that time didn’t know their own offspring. Condoms existed but were very cumbersome and dulling and almost no man, in spite of the threat of syphilis, the AIDS of the nineteenth century, used them. (Moreover, many physicians of that time thought syphilis wasn’t contracted, but hereditary). As a Second, the scene is not sexual, on the contrary, it’s a sad and bleak account of a man, an artist, who wanted to overstep “all borders of civilization” and be “totally free without the burden of conscience or law”, but perishes as a broken man without hope. Baudelaire and his allies, all artists who considered themselves geniuses, tried to be ecstatic about “forbidden desires” but in fact they were only hiding their despair and loss of their Self through the use of opium, laudanum and absinth, “the green faerie”, underneath eloquent theatrical words and gestures. What Baudelaire and his daughter have in that brothel is not sex – it is the culmination of the lust for destruction of an artist whose debauchery has at that moment left him with syphilis at the last stage, causing delirium, delusions and the sinking of the brain in a fantasy-world full of demons and twisted emotions. You know, it is said that the great French writer Victor Hugo wrote a scene with the same background (father and daughter having sex without knowing it from each other) for his classic novel “Les Misérables” but that he shied away at the last moment when the novel was about to be published. I almost did too.

Stephanie: Please tell me about the research that went into this book.

Bob: Lots and lots and lots of it. I’ve always been a great admirer of the classic French and Russian writers of the nineteenth century and I still consider Flaubert as one of the greatest stylists ever. So it was not that I began the novel as a “novice”, but rather as someone who had already read a lot about the period around 1870. Nevertheless, when I actually started writing “Baudelaire’s Revenge” the need for numerous details – details shape ambiance in a novel – prompted me to read and research a lot more than I thought would be necessary. I have published more than 30 books in The Netherlands and Belgium but “Baudelaire’s Revenge” was one of the hardest to write. But all the way through, painstakingly searching for small but telling details and being in doubt if I would succeed in pulling it all through, it remained a fascinating experience. But…I wouldn’t do it every year, it exhausted me, and now, being 7 years older, I don’t know if I could muster the energy again.

Stephanie: What do you find most fascinating about the period this story takes place in?

Bob: Due to my background – I was a travelling writer in mostly conflict-ridden countries during the nineties – I tend, as a novelist, to focus on social upheaval, war and social injustice. It’s 1870. Napoleon III, the “puppet emperor”, leads France into a disastrous war with Prussia. The Prussian troops are already surrounding Paris. Famine, chaos and upheaval of the working classes are the result. Armed French civilians create a guerilla force, the so called franc-tireurs, civil society frays at the seams, rumors have it that in the poorest quarters the workers are eating their own dead. The socialist Paris Commune, a revolutionary “government”, which later on would influence the thoughts of Karl Marx, was in the making. The chasm between nobility and the working class had become so outrageous that violent revolt was inevitable. Please note that “Baudelaire’s Revenge” holds a warning for present-day times. Everywhere, we see the gap between rich and poor growing. It would be an illusion to think that this injustice won’t lead, sooner or later, to intense strains between the social classes. In this fashion, it’s also a “modern novel”. One of the themes is indeed “modernity”. Individualism began to change the society, arts and science took the place of religion and there was a great thirst for the exotic, the “unusual”.

Stephanie: Tell me about Commissioner Lefevre. And what drives him to investigate the sinister side of human nature.

Bob: Nowadays, Commissioner Lefèvre, a veteran from the Franco-Algerian war of 1847, would be considered as suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The atrocities he has committed during that war still haunt him all those years. His war-experiences have had a huge influence on his view of life and humanity. A man of innate violence, but also of a poetic longing for beauty and serenity, he nurses a death-wish while at the same time his longing for “cheap women” betrays his lust for life. A contradictory man, difficult to understand, also for himself, with compassion hidden under his rude behavior and carrying a predisposition for melancholy. The sinister side of human nature fascinates him because he senses it in himself and he wants to unravel the why and the how. Being a lover of poetry, but especially of the sinister verses of Baudelaire’s “Flowers of Evil”, he relentlessly chases a killer who uses verses of Baudelaire, deceased three years before the novel starts, as a signature for his gruesome murders.

Stephanie: Who is Charles Baudelaire exactly?

Bob: Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is one of the greatest French poets ever. He led a dramatic and twisted life with growing sadomasochistic overtones, due to syphilis, during his later years. “Les Fleurs du Mal” (The Flowers of Evil), his most famous collection of poems influenced generations of poets and writers. He was also an essayist who wrote compellingly about the obligation of art to comment on “modernity”, the ephemeral experience of life in a fast-changing society. To this day, “Les Fleurs du Mal” remain a standard for poetic genius.

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

Bob: Recently, while giving another interview, I learned a new word: pantser. I’m truly a writer “by the seat of my pants”. I’m not a plotter, I don’t do story-boards, I let the story carry me away, sometimes against my own will. I also don’t have fixed hours for writing. I’ve been a professional author for 22 years now in Belgium and I always wrote when the Muse urged me. It took me one year and a half of hard work before I completed “Baudelaire’s Revenge”.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing historical crime?

Bob: You know, I’m not a historical crime writer pur sang. And also not a pure crime writer too. I have the tendency to mix genres and to alternate literary novels with a thriller touch with thrillers with a literary touch. I also alternate present-day novels (or set in the immediate past like the eighties or the nineties) with historical fiction. My interest is vast, I’m a very curious guy. Growing older, it seems to me that the amount of historical fiction in my oeuvre is growing. I’m currently writing “The Shadow of the Mole”, a novel set in 1916 in the Argonne-region of France, but also in 1895 and other time-frames, in Vienna and Paris. What I like about historical fiction is that we learned the great outlines of history in school but are mostly unaware of the nuances of life in past times. Historical fiction can recreate them in the guise of a “thrilling” novel. Don’t forget: its history that ultimately shapes us.

Stephanie: Is this your first published novel?

Ehh…No…It was my…I lost count….Let’s see, if my counting abilities are still sound, I think it was the 27th or 28th. They say I’m a prolific writer but don’t forget that writing is my fulltime job. I don’t have anything else to do except tending for our four horses, my darlings, my Princesses, noble beings of whom we can learn a lot if we just open our eyes and consider them not as “mopeds with feet” but as creatures whose intelligence is different from ours but definitely there. I love them with all my heart.

Stephanie: What advice could you give to an aspiring author who wants to write in this genre?

First, there has to be curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, but it will hugely help when writing historical crime fiction. Secondly, there has to be the talent and patience for researching. Not everyone has that. And thirdly, you have to possess a devious mind and a nose of seeking out sin, betrayal, vileness, and yet also for that elusive, dangerous but exhilarating emotion love. And then…You have to write, write, write, and write (X 1000)….

Thank you, Bob! It was a pleasure chatting with you.

Bob: Thank you, Stephanie, likewise….

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About the Author

Bob Van Laerhoven

Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.

For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 9 Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, June 10 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, June 12 Review & Giveaway at Words & Peace

Monday, June 16 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, June 17 Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, June 18 Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, June 19 Review at A Bookish Girl Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, June 20 Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Girl

Monday, June 23 Review at Flashlight Commentary Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, June 24 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, June 25 Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, June 26 Review at A Book Geek Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, June 27 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, June 30 Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, July 1 Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, July 2 Review at Layers of Thought Spotlight & Giveaway at Books and Movies

Thursday, July 3 Review at Impressions in Ink Review, Interview, and Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf Feature & Giveaway at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Honoree Jennifer Petkus

Jennifers book cover

With the invention of the AfterNet, death isn’t quite the end to a literary career it once was, and Jane Austen, the grande dame of English literature, is poised for a comeback with the publication of Sanditon, the book she was writing upon her death in 1817.

But how does a disembodied author sign autographs and appear on talk shows? With the aid of Mary Crawford, a struggling acting student who plays the role of the Regency author who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Emma and Sense and Sensibility. But Austen discovers her second chance at a literary career also gives her a second chance at happiness and possibly even … love.

Stephanie: Hello Jennifer! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on receiving the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Jane, Actually.” What an interesting premise for your story? First off please tell me what the “AfterNet” is exactly.

Jennifer: Thanks very much, Stephanie, for the opportunity to be interviewed at Layered Pages. It’s very much appreciated, as was the BRAG medallion. As an indie author, I rely on the kindness of many people on the Internet I’ve never met.

The AfterNet is a both a technology, a semi-governmental agency and a social network. The technology comes in the form of an AfterNet terminal, a device that can detect the thoughts of a disembodied person and turn those thoughts into text. An AfterNet terminal can be a standalone unit and are often found at public locations, or it can be a device connected to or built into another electronic device like a smartphone, tablet or computer. The AfterNet is also a semi-governmental agency under the auspices of the United Nations. It maintains the AfterNet network, develops new technologies to improve how the disembodied can communicate, and also maintains the AfterNet social networking site—think of it as facebook for the dead. The AfterNet assures that every disembodied person can go online, have an email address and also certifies the identity of those who use the network.

Stephanie: In your answers to the questionnaire I sent you, you said that you are not a spiritual person, despite writing about disembodied souls. So why this story and how did it come to you?

Jennifer: I’m not a spiritual person but I still like to think there is something that defines me as a person. I personally see no reason why that something should survive my death, but technology may one day make it possible for an algorithm to approximate that something. It’s possible that a computer simulacrum of me might reasonably claim to be me. With the AfterNet, I’ve just made the process a little more direct. As I mentioned before, the literary inspiration for the AfterNet came from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but I first encountered the idea of a disembodied intelligence in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, about a computer that achieves awareness. Then in the 1980s I wrote A Feeling of Electricity in the Air, a short story about an intelligence that awakens during an electrical storm and stores itself in computer bulletin boards before it dies. So I’ve been working on this concept for a very long time.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Mary. What is her relationship-so to speak-with Austen?

Jennifer: Mary Crawford is, of course, the character in Mansfield Park who unknowingly threatens poor Fancy Price’s chance for love with Fanny’s cousin, Edmund Bertram. She’s also the person in Jane, Actually who is employed as an avatar to represent Austen on the author’s book promotion tour. Mary hears Austen thoughts translated into speech via the portable AfterNet terminal she carries (it also doubles as a smartphone). She can also talk to the author directly by manipulating the AfterNet field of the terminal, an ability few living people possess. My Mary Crawford, however, more closely resembles Fanny Price. She’s unsure of herself and doubts her choice to become an actor, but her association with the famous author gives her confidence. Mary finds in Jane the same wisdom Jane found in her older sister, Cassandra. In return, Mary makes sure that Jane does not ignore a chance at happiness.

Stephanie: Without giving the plot away can you tell me what or one of the purposes that Austen has for coming back?

Jennifer: The reason Austen reclaimed her identity is her need to see her completed Sanditon published under her own name. She could have been content to remain one of the many claimants to her identity, but then the authorship of Sanditon would be in doubt. In her lifetime, she never saw one of her books published with her name, which was her own decision, and she has had a long time to regret that choice.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Albert Ridings and how he is introduced into the story. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Jennifer: I’m a little bit in love with Albert Ridings. He’s undoubtedly modeled after Dr. John H. Watson, who is married at least twice in the Canon (and by some estimates, up to six times), and I have no doubt he loved each of his wives equally. Albert Ridings had a great love in his wife, whom he left when he died during the Great War. He’s never found her on the AfterNet and has sadly assumed she has gone insane. So he carries a great deal of guilt when he realizes he’s fallen in love with his Jane Austen, whom he does not know is the Jane Austen. I specifically introduced him into the story as a loss prevention specialist at a clothing store because I wanted to show that some of the disembodied find employment. The disembodied don’t need to work to survive, but if you want to buy Jane Austen’s latest novel as an ebook, you do have to have some money.

Stephanie: What do you admire most about Jane Austen?

Jennifer: I most admire Austen’s skill as a storyteller. Even now, after having read her books many times, I still sometimes find the language difficult. Reading Emma late at night, I’ll realize I’ve read a paragraph without understanding it and have to read it again. But her stories come through, despite the many differences between the situations of her characters and the realities of my life and times. My best friend wonders why I should care about the matrimonial prospects of the Bennet sisters, but I understand the choices before them. I love the practicality you find in Austen’s romance and I really enjoyed letting my Jane Austen ignore all that. Of course I also know the challenges Austen faced as a woman author during the Regency. She’s the very model of the self-published indie author (she paid, with a loan from her brother Henry, for her first novel to be published), and she did it before the Kindle.

Stephanie: Which book of hers is your favourite?

Jennifer: I like best whatever of her novels I’m currently reading, but I probably like the story of Emma best (although it’s the most challenging to read), the perfection of Pride and Prejudice is staggering and the story of Persuasion—a second chance at love—is the most personal to me. As this year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, it’s a current favorite.

Stephanie: What are the titles of your other two book and do they have a connection with Jane, Actually?

Jennifer: My first book was Good Cop, Dead Cop, and it’s the first book about the AfterNet. Its 99.99% Austen free, but obviously related to Jane, Actually. It’s about a disembodied cop and his living partner. My second book was My Particular Friend, a Sherlock Holmes-Jane Austen inspired mash-up set in Bath, England at the beginning of the 19th century. The main character is Charlotte House, who solves mysteries of the heart with her friend, Jane Woodsen.

Stephanie: What do you think it is that keeps people intrigued and inspired with Austen?

Jennifer: I have no idea why Austen appeals to me and so I’m not a good person to speak to why others find her appealing. I grew up reading science fiction and then hard-boiled detective stories as an adult and it’s only recently that I’ve started reading the classics I avoided in high school. I have no idea why the matrimonial prospects of young women from the lower orders of the landed gentry during the English Regency should be so fascinating to me. My only guess is that as I grow older, I feel the need for romance, but I’m too cynical to accept it on face value. I think Austen’s mix of head and heart must appeal to me on a level I couldn’t appreciate until now.

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Jennifer: I’m writing the sequels to my first two books—The Background Noise of Souls and Our Mutual Friends—and also another Jane Austen-inspired science fiction story, On Mars There Are Books.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Jennifer: I discovered IndieBRAG because of another author, Karen Aminadra, who snagged a BRAG medallion for her book, Charlotte—Pride and Prejudice Continues. I enjoyed her book a lot and it inspired me to submit my book to IndieBRAG.

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

Jennifer: I’m not big on messages, other than the general admonitions to do no harm to others and to practice tolerance and understanding. And keep buying books.

Jennifer Petkus

Jane, Actually is Jennifer Petkus’s third boo. Previously she wrote Good Cop, Dead Cop (the first book about the AfterNet) and My Particular Friend (a Sherlock Holmes/Jane Austen Mishap). Her next books will be The Background Noise of Souls (the sequel to her first book) and Our Mutual Friends (the sequel to her second book). Ms. Petkus is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Doctor Watson’s Neglected Patients, The Wodehouse Society and Rocky Mountain Ki Society. She has a first-degree black belt in aikido but refuses to test for a second degree because she’s too old. She has been a reporter and a web designer but can now be best described as an unsuccessful author. Her friends derisively call her a kept woman. She is happily married, thanks to being kept. She watched Neil Armstrong walk the moon live. She likes to make furniture and model starships, but is not very good at either.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jennifer Petkus, who is the author of, Jane, Actually, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Jane Actually merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Honoree Author Richard Due

RDueAuthorPic

Richard Due is mystified by the suggestion that he bears more than passing resemblance to Ebb Autumn. Additionally, he wishes to put to rest the rumors about his necklace he has been wearing of late, the one with the coin that spins in the brooch. It is not THE moon coin. It is a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Just google it if you don’t believe him! The author would also like to take this time to dispel the absurd notion that the three long-furred cats who live with him and his family are pocket Rinn, or that they can speak as well as you or I. Lastly, he would like me to assure you that these silly rumors an stories are nothing more than tales. (The taller the Better.)

Stephanie: Now to our delightful interview. Hello Richard! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. First off, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and how you feel about the self-publishing industry.

Richard: I discovered indieBRAG while attending the 2012 Self-publishing Book Expo in Manhattan. And as to the self-publishing industry, I have mixed feeling. On the one hand, I’m thrilled about the digital color presses available today. I’d never have been able to create books with full-color illustrations without them. And I’m happy that Amazon is there for the ebooks. Amazon understands books in a way that the other e-sellers don’t. And Amazon is only getting better. When I started selling ebooks, in 2011, Amazon sold close to ninety percent of my ebooks. Now they’re responsible for about ninety-eight percent. That’s really been a surprise to me. On the other hand, marketing an ebook has been a challenge for me. Sure, I reach more readers every year. Yes, fans ask to be put on my mailing list every week. But when you’re trying to reach an audience, and you’re starting with a base of zero, that means beginning with very small numbers. And even if you double a very small number, you still have a very small number. Still, the future looks bright.

Stephanie: I noticed your book, The Moon Coin is part of a series. How many books are in this series and will there be more?

Richard: There are currently two books in the Moon Realm series, The Moon Coin, and The Dragondain, which I see as two halves of a larger book. It’s the same for the next two books, The Murk, and the Ninth Embasea. I tend to write these books two at a time. After those four books, there are more planned. I can’t wait to get to them.

Stephanie: Please give me a description of your story.

Richard: I don’t like giving too much away. That said, it starts in present day Pennsylvania, on an old tree nursery. Lily and Jasper Winter grow up listening to their uncle’s fantastic bedtime tales, about a place called the Moon Realm. When the tale starts, Lily are 13 and 14, and their Uncle Ebb has recently disappeared. While searching Uncle Ebb’s unusual house, they stumble on a coin embedded in a pendant that Uncle Ebb always wore at the end of a necklace. That night, Lily is unwittingly transported to the Moon Realm, but not the one from the bedtime tales. The Moon Realm she finds herself in is a dystopian version of the bedtime tales she and her brother grew up on. Here, all of the heroes from the tales are myths, and civilizations they encounter are shattered and broken. Even the magic that was such an important part of the tales is weakened or non-existent. And on one of the moons is a terrible villain, named Wrengfoul, who didn’t appear in any of Uncle Ebbs tales. So Lily’s first task becomes trying to get back home, which is going to be difficult, because she doesn’t know who to trust, nor does she understand exactly how she got to the Moon Realm in the first place.

The Moon Coin by Richard Due

Stephanie: You have an impressive cast of characters. Which one is your favorite and do you have a least favorite?

Richard: I like to read books with lots of characters, so it’s not surprising that I like to write books with lots of characters. One of my favorite characters to write is a malignant spirit that lives in a cursed sword, whose name is—fittingly—Curse. Curse makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to say much more, but Curse is very old, and has a very specific agenda that’s rarely beneficial to those unlucky enough to pick him up. But I think I’m going to have to say Nimlinn Goldenclif, of the clan Broadpaw. She’s the Queen of the Valley Rinn. The Rinn are cat-like, only on a much larger scale (think draft horses). Her mix of royal bearing (she’s so darn proud) and spunk always makes for an exciting dynamic—she plays by her own rules.

Stephanie: What are some of the relationships like between your characters?

Richard: Lily and Jasper are brother and sister, born one year apart. They live with their mother and father on the family farm, which in this case is an old tree nursery named Treling. Their uncle Ebb lives on the farm, too.

In the beginning, Lily and Jasper are quite close to their parents. But very quickly, they begin to wonder if maybe their parents have been holding back important information. They would love to confide in their uncle, in order to try and learn a little more about what’s going on, but he’s missing. They know they can’t go to their parents for answers, and so that complicates matters. For Lily, who has a lying problem but is trying to reform, dealing with the idea that her parents are lying to her is something she can handle. For Jasper, though, it’s going to be much more difficult. The idea that his parents might have been lying to him for his whole life, kind of pulls the rug out from under him. Who can you trust if you can’t trust your parents?

Stephanie: Your main character Lily and her brother, Jasper grew up believing they’re ordinary kids. How are they different from other children’s childhood and what are some of the challenges they face?

Richard: Like my own children, Lily and Jasper grew up on a farm. When farm kids are growing up, that distance to the nearest subdivision may be just a few miles, but it may as well be a hundred. As a result, Lily and Jasper are highly independent thinkers. They also understand chores, hard work, and that if they want something they may have to go out and do it themselves.

Stephanie: What are Lily’s weaknesses and strengths?

Richard: Lily has a lying problem. A problem that, for a very long time, she’s embraced. Only now she’s trying to stop. But it’s easy for her to slip back into it without even thinking about it because it works so well for her and she’s good at it. She’s understood, from early on, that people lie. That insight is good and bad. It allows her to sniff out deception more easily, and get at the truth. But that insight can also be detrimental when she gets her signals get mixed up. Lily is also a big picture person. Big picture people tend to think longer on complicated problems before acting. But when they do, they act decisively. Jasper, on the other hand, thinks tactically, and in the moment. This is great for solving immediate problems, or even medium-range problems, but he’s not a big picture person. Also, Jasper is unscrupulously honest. You would think that living with a sister like Lily that he’d have figured out a little more about liars. But Lily has been far too good a liar to give him any real practice.

Stephanie: What is it that you like best about this tale?

Richard: I like that the Moon Realm is this big, sprawling place, and that the characters who live in it are more connected than they realize. Like a lot of people who are struggling, they have everything they need but hope.

Stephanie: Please give me an example of what readers might come away with this story.

Richard: Hopefully, they’ll understand that one of the best ways to get things done is to get organized and work with others. When I read books where the main character saves the day single-handedly, it makes me cringe

Stephanie: Why did you decide to write children stories and what is most rewarding about it?

Richard: I have no decision in the matter. I write because I can’t not write. I wrote this series because the tale landed in my head, unbidden, and screaming to be told. And I am not motivated by rewards. Which is not to say there aren’t any. To date, my most rewarding moment came one day when I sat on our porch glider, with my wife and kids, as we paged through the bluelines for The Moon Coin. Bluelines, for those who don’t know, are what a printer sends you before the book goes to press. They’re generally printed on a slightly yellow stock, with the text in light blue (hence bluelines). Each page is loose, but exactly the same size as it’ll be when printed. It was also the first time I got to see a full-color paper mockup of the cover (I’d done black and white ones, of course), and the first time I got to see the illustrations printed in full color. Every time I would turn to one of Carolyn Arcabascio’s amazing illustrations, we would all make that sound people do when they see a really impressive fireworks go off. It was a magic hour. The other big rewards I get come in the form of the astonishing emails written to me by fans of the series. Not a week goes by without someone completely flooring me.

Stephanie: How long have you been working on this series?

Richard: I began in February of 2005.

Stephanie: Who designs your book covers?

Richard: Me.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about your writing process and what advice would you give someone who wants to write in the genre.

Richard: If you want to write in this genre, you have to read in this genre. As for my process, I start with a sentence or two for each chapter. During that time, ideas for whole chapters appear and disappear rapidly. When I’m really happy with what I have, I bring each chapter up to the length of a paragraph or two. The outline is still very malleable at this stage. It’s very easy for me to see what works and what doesn’t. I don’t move past this stage until I’ve created an idea I’m ecstatic with. I then relax my structure, writing two-page treatments for each chapter. But if a given chapter treatment wants to be longer, I let it go longer. If whole bits of scenes, descriptions, and/or dialog flow, I let it go and get it all down. At this point, I’m ready to make a draft. I open Scrivener (a popular novel-writing software) and create all the chapter files, putting my treatments in bold text at the bottom. I then get to the work of drafting. I look at that first sentence and write it out above. Sometimes a sentence can translate into whole pages of material. Other times, it’s just copies verbatim. After translating a sentence from the outline, I then delete it and go on to the next. As the outline disappears, the chapter forms above. When I delete the last sentence of the outline, the chapter is now complete. From there I move on to the next chapter.

After finishing a draft. I set it aside for as long as I can. Which isn’t hard to do. My first drafts are horrible things to look at, so I’m ready for a break. When I start editing, I make four or five passes in the computer. Then I print out onto paper (or a tablet), and make several more passes. Then it goes off to my first editor. We make another three to five passes, all on a tablet, and then it goes off to a second editor. When that comes back. I sit down with my first editor and we go over every single edit suggestion by the second editor. I have two really great editors.

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

Richard: Thanks for picking up my books and giving them a read. I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Moon Realm.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Richard: You can order the paperbacks from your local Barnes & Noble or independent bookstore. Amazon and Second Looks Books have them too. The ebooks can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes (although sometimes, when The Moon Coin is part of an Amazon promo, The Moon Coin will be temporarily unavailable on B&N and iTunes).

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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Richard Due, who is the author of, The Moon Coin, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, The Moon Coin, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.