A Greater World by Clare Flynn

A Greater World -BRAG Book

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree  

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She crossed the world to marry a man she’d never met

When Elizabeth Morton’s father asks her to travel from England to Australia to marry a complete stranger, she thinks he must have lost his mind. This is 1920, and a woman has rights. But when her brother-in-law shatters her comfortable world, she has no choice but to travel across the world.

When Michael Winterbourne, a lead miner, battle worn from the trenches of the First World War wakes up with a hangover after his engagement celebrations, he has no idea he is about to cause a tragedy that will destroy his family.

When Michael and Elizabeth meet on the SS Historic, bound for Sydney, they are reluctant emigrants from England. They may hope their troubles are over, but they’re only just beginning.

A Greater World moves from the docks of Liverpool to the beautiful Blue Mountains of Australia, from coal to cocaine, from drawing rooms to courtrooms.

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Interview with Diann Ducharme

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I’d like to welcome Diann Ducharme today to Layered Pages to talk with me about her book, The Outer Banks House. Diann was born in Indiana in 1971, but she spent the majority of her childhood in Newport News, Virginia. She majored in English literature at the University of Virginia, but she never wrote creatively until, after the birth of her second child in 2003, she sat down to write The Outer Banks House. She soon followed up with her second book, Chasing Eternity, and in 2015 the sequel to her first novel, Return to the Outer Banks House.

Diann has vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of three. She even married her husband of 10 years, Sean Ducharme, in Duck, North Carolina, immediately after a stubborn Hurricane Bonnie churned through the Outer Banks. Conveniently, the family beach house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina provided shelter while she conducted research for her historical fiction novels.

She has three beach-loving children and a border collie named Toby, who enjoys his sprints along the shore. The family lives in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, counting down the months until summer.

For more information visit Diann Ducharme’s website. You can also follow Diann on her blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Diann, please tell me about your book.

Its 1868, the era of Reconstruction in North Carolina, and times are tough. Yet the barren barrier islands of the Outer Banks offer a respite for the Sinclairs, the once-wealthy plantation owners. The family of five and three servants plan to spend the summer in the newly constructed cottage, one of the first cottages on the ocean side of the resort village of Nags Head.

There, on the porch of the cottage, the 17-year-old daughter, beautiful, book-smart and boxed-in Abigail, teaches her father Nolan’s fishing guide, good-natured, ambitious and penniless 19-year-old Benjamin Whimble, how to read and write. The two come to understand, and then to love each other, despite the demands of their parents, the pursuit of prim and proper medical student Hector Newman, and Ben’s longtime relationship with sour-tongued net-mender, Eliza Dickens.

But as Abby and Ben come to learn, tackling the alphabet is the easy part of the summer. Against everything he claims to represent, Ben becomes entangled in Nolan’s Ku Klux Klan dirty work, and Abigail’s mother Ingrid, unexpectedly pregnant, reveals facets of her personality to Abigail that shed light on her growing madness and inability to mother. As Abby and Ben venture from the cottage porch to a real schoolhouse—a schoolhouse for the slowly dwindling Freedmen’s Colony on nearby Roanoke Island, they soon come face to face with her father, dressed in KKK robes and hunting a man that the entire colony of freed slaves has come to love and respect. It becomes doubtful that Abby and Ben’s newfound love will survive the terrible tragedy and surprising revelations that one hot Outer Banks night brings forth.

The Outer Banks House is the first historical fiction novel set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the mid-19th century. It combines history, romance and coming-of-age drama, as Abby tries to adjust to life in a post-war South. Each chapter begins with a pertinent quote from Robinson Crusoe, the novel that sparks such controversy (over slavery and racism), and finally appreciation and love, between Abby and Ben.

What are some of your interests in the Civil War?

During that post-Civil War Reconstruction era, vacation homes were starting to be built along the ocean side of the Outer Banks. The questionability of such endeavors—something at which the local “Bankers” looked askance, due to the cottages’ dangerous proximity to the sea–captivated me. I wanted to write about people that would do such dramatic things. I also enjoyed imagining women in hoop skirts, fresh from the war, hanging out at beach cottages. I didn’t know much about the Civil War, nor Reconstruction in North Carolina, but I did know about hanging out at the beach, so I learned as much as I could about that time period and blended what I knew with what I had learned.

What is some of the research that went into this story?

During my research, I read a terrific book called Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Patricia Click, about the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island during and after the Civil War. The book taught me everything there was to know about the Freedmen’s Colony, of which I had previously heard nothing. Learning about such a unique and unheard of aspect of the Outer Banks piqued my interest enough to use it as a major point of reference in the novel.

I also learned during my research that many residents of the Banks were pro-Union during the Civil War. As much as North Carolina is considered a southern state, it was interesting for me to know that the people of the islands didn’t necessarily hold the beliefs that were championed by people of the mainland. This fact helped me to form Ben’s character, as well as create a picture of the independent-mindedness of the people of the Banks.

I also dragged my family all over the island in the name of research. A pivotal scene occurs on the large dune system called Jockey’s Ridge, located in Nags Head. My family and I climbed the dunes several times, and it never failed to amaze me just how high they were—a giant hill made of sand! And too, a much smaller dune system exists to the north of a unique maritime forest called Nags Head Woods. The dune system, called Run Hill, is pretty much a secret to most visitors of the Banks—eerily quiet in the dead of summer. This is where I found the trees—the northernmost beginnings of Nags Head Woods—whose trunks were buried in sand. Just as my characters stumbled upon these feats of nature, so did I explore them for the first time as well. I think such exploration made the writing more believable.

Please tell me a little about Abby’s father’s work with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 as a way to reassert white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies that favored politician and economic equality for the newly freed blacks. The Klan extended into every southern state by 1870, including North Carolina. Nolan Sinclair, being a wealthy plantation owner, was a politically connected man before and after the war; these during Reconstruction these humiliated and temporarily hobbled politicians and former slave-owners set about righting a white supremacist agenda which eventually made its way into many southern legislatures.

Why did you choose the Outer Banks of North Carolina for your story?

The Outer Banks is a long, skinny chain of barrier islands that run along a good portion of the coast of North Carolina. One the one side, the ocean crashes against the naked sand, all drama. On the other side, the sounds caress the maritime thickets and marshland, more forgiving. I knew that I wanted to compare the two ecosystems, similar to the way in which I pit the “Bankers” against the mainlanders who build their vacation homes there.

Also, nothing there stays the same—everything is dynamic, fleeting—yet the tiny strip of land still hangs on, facing the wild weather year after year. The concept of change suited my characters as well.

I have vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of 3, so it is a very special place for me.

Please tell me a little about the Sinclair family.

Nolan Sinclair, the once wealthy and powerful planter from Edenton, North Carolina, is fearful of losing his plantation in the Reconstruction aftermath of the Civil War. In a desperate act of assertion, he moves his family to the unusual house on the sand for the summer of 1868. His connections with the KKK threaten his otherwise peaceful summer plans at the seaside. His fiercely intelligent and aloof wife Ingrid is in the early stages of pregnancy, but she fears that her body cannot safely bear any more children. And their eldest child, 17-year-old Abby, misses her Uncle Jack, dead from an illness contracted during the Civil War. Their faithful servant, Asha, travels to the beach with them for the summer.

What are some of the fictional aspects of the story?

The setting is very real, but I had to imagine what it must have been like in 1868. Not a lot was written about the area during this time period.

What was your writing process and how long did it take to write your story?

It took me about 3 years to complete the first draft of the novel. I wrote during my second child’s naps and on weekends when my husband took over the household duties. But I was thinking about the novel at all times of the day and often at night!

What are you working on next?

I am working on a present-day novel about a once-beautiful woman, now scarred, who struggles to overcome her agoraphobia in order to regain custody of her two children. During her recovery, a love interest with a deer hunter ensues when she moves to her blind aunt’s home in the mountains of western Virginia.

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 The Outer Banks Series Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 25 Spotlight & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, May 26 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, May 27 Review (Book One) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 28 Review (Book One) at In a Minute

Friday, May 29 Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, May 30 Spotlight at Becky on Books

Sunday, May 31 Review (Book One) at Book Nerd

Monday, June 1 Review (Book Two) at Let them Read Books Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading

Tuesday, June 2 Review (Book One) at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, June 3 Review (Book Two) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 4 Spotlight & Giveaway (Book One) at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, June 5 Review (Both Books) at Bibliotica

Sunday, June 7 Review (Book One) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 8 Review (Book One) at Ageless Pages Reviews Guest Post at Curling Up With A Good Book

Tuesday, June 9 Review & Giveaway (Book One) at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, June 10 Review (Both Books) at Unshelfish Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 11 Review (Book Two) at Book Lovers Paradise Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, June 12 Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, June 14 Review (Book Two) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 15 Review & Giveaway (Both Books) at Genre Queen

Tuesday, June 16 Interview at Books and Benches Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, June 17 Review (Both Books) at Luxury Reading

Thursday, June 18 Review (Book One) at Books and Benches Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, June 19 Review (Book One) at Build a Bookshelf Review (Book Two) at Ageless Pages Reviews

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Historical Fiction & Meaning with Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy

Historical fiction is important as a way of seeing the past in new ways, and since I’ve always had an interest in “real” history, I have mixed feelings about how rigorous historical novelists must be in recreating their periods. For example, I get frustrated with steam-punk because the historical inaccuracies too often seem, well, silly, and I’m not really interested in alternative histories—except as social commentary. Historical fiction, however, allows for imaginative re-creation of a distant place and time that provides a new perspective on the present—while staying firmly rooted in the real world.

When I began my fictional series, The Cross and the Crown, I wanted to present Tudor England from the perspective of a woman who was not noble, not royal, not famous—but who is intelligent and resourceful. Staying away from the famous characters, whose stories we all already know, gave me some wiggle room to create Catherine Havens, my heroine. I wanted to see what might happen to a “regular” woman who is confronted with the upheavals of Tudor England under Henry VIII.

I think historical fiction can present a “what if . . ?” that can change the way readers view the past, and in so doing change the way we look at the present. (I believe good science fiction does this as well—just in the opposite direction in time!) I do blend fiction with the facts of my Tudor series, though I wouldn’t change the details of the monarch or well-researched historical figures. I’m more interested, generally, in the development of character than in plot, so I have chosen to create Catherine as a fictional character who has only passing (though significant) interaction with the famous people.

Of course, I love the famous people. My interest in Tudor England comes from an inherent fascination with turbulent times in the past and in charismatic leaders. My doctoral work focused on the late Renaissance, so I have a long personal background in reading and teaching Tudor literature, and that’s probably why I set my story in the 1500s.

But when I turned to fiction after seven books of poems, I wanted to “flesh out” the culture, and so I created Catherine Havens. She’s entirely a fiction. She’s a novice who is thrown out of her home when the convents are closed. She is given permission to marry. Did this happen? Not that I’m factually aware of in any particular instance. Could it have happened? It certainly could have. The laws of England were firm, but they were also subject to interpretation—and to twisting by clever lawyers and courtiers.

These ideas have been explored by novelists like Phillippa Gregory and Alison Weir, and they’re influences, of course, but I wanted to think about how this changing power system affected ordinary people, who must have struggled to understand how and why the new religion and the court could control their everyday lives. People revolted. They challenged authority. They went on with their lives, sometimes in spite of the king (or queen).

Half of these ordinary people were women. We have many more records about men, but women worked and prayed alongside their brothers, husbands, and fathers, and I wanted to re-imagine these invisible foremothers into flesh-and-blood life. They raised families, healed wounds, treated the sick, and washed the dead. They oversaw households and undermined expectations.

I travel frequently, and I love to be in the spaces where people lived, because I can feel their lives when I can see where they lived. Even ruins seem to talk to me, and though I rarely take photographs (I prefer my own faulty memory) these places change the way I think about the lives women lived. I particularly like looking at kitchens (Hampton Court and Sutton House are favorites), because I can see the women and men who sweated and labored in them to feed the people above, who might not even know their names.

The ease with which research can be done on the internet is probably the biggest change I have seen in the genre in the last ten years. Both writers and readers can check up on facts and details, and this puts greater pressure on the writer to be accurate. Happily, online research also makes it easier for the writer in a moment of forgetfulness; I always know I can find images that I need to put me back into a moment or a location.

I’ve recently become interested in genealogical research, as a result of my daughter’s questions about our family’s past, and I’ve found yet another instance of “historical fiction”—oral histories. In many ways, finding out about one’s family is like writing historical fiction—one changed detail shifts the whole picture. Will I always write historical fiction? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know, however, that we hunger for answers to the past, to understand the people who came before us and in doing so to better understand how we have come to be who we are today.

Sarah Kennedy

About Author:  

Sarah Kennedy is the author of the novels The Altarpiece (Knox Robinson 2013) and City of Ladies (Knox Robinson 2014). Her third novel, The King’s Sisters, will be released in September 2015. She has also written seven books of poems, including The Gold Thread, Home Remedies, A Witch’s Dictionary, Consider the Lilies, Double Exposure, and Flow Blue. A professor of English with at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and is currently a contributing editor for Shenandoah.

Author Website

City of Ladies

It’s midwinter in 1539, and Catherine Havens Overton has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of the Overton lands, and Catherine’s husband William owns the properties that once belonged to her mother’s family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, Catherine’s life as the mistress of a great household should be complete.

Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses, and Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies.

Catherine’s own past haunts her. Her husband suspects that Catherine’s son is not his child, and his ambitions lie with service at court. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear, and though one of them is found brutally murdered nearby, William forces Catherine to go to Hatfield House, where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives, to improve the family’s standing—and to ensure, for her own safety, that she is as far away from connections to her old convent as possible.

Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire mount up and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and keep her dream of a City of Ladies alive.

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Masking The Truth by Stuart S. Laing is Now Available at Your Amazon Store

Masking the truth II

Edinburgh 1746

Robert Young and Captain Charles Travers once again join forces to investigate a vicious attack on a young actress. Despite being convinced of the guilt of the four young men responsible, wealth and family connections means that their trial is a mockery of justice. While they believe themselves to be untouchable, and can treat the poor with utter contempt and immunity, it soon becomes clear that Death is no respecter of wealth or rank. Robert and Charles now have to find a killer before he can strike again, even though they know the victims are far from innocent.

About the Author:

Stuart Laing

Born in 1966 and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife. Married to a wonderful woman for 19 years and we have been blessed with a beautiful daughter. I really have to say thank-you to my wife for allowing me to spend so much time in the 18th Century when there are jobs in the 21st Century probably requiring my attention! I have always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh and have spend most of my adult life studying Scottish history in all its aspects but always find myself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. I would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes/alleys running off from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

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