Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Clare Flynn today to talk with me about her book. Clare is the author of A Greater World and Kurinji Flowers. Born in Liverpool, the eldest of 5 children, Clare read English Language and Literature at Manchester University, although spent most of her time exploring the city’s bars and nightclubs and founding the Rock n’ Roll Society. For many years she worked in consumer marketing, as International Marketing Director for big global companies selling detergents, diapers, tuna fish and chocolate biscuits. This included stints in Paris, Brussels, Sydney and Milan.

A Greater World, set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, was begun back in 1998 after the first of many visits to Australia. Having almost completed the first draft, burglars stole her computer. Determined that they would not get the better of her, she sat down and wrote it all again. Her second novel, Kurinji Flowers is set in a tea plantation in South India in the 1930s. The inspiration for the book came during a sleepless night in a hotel in Munnar in Kerala. The kurinji flowers of the title grow across this region and are renowned for only flowering once in every 12 years. People travel across India to see the flowering – the next main one is due in 2018.

Both novels are about people being displaced. In A Greater World Elizabeth Morton and Michael Winterbourne are unwilling emigrants from England for Australia, driven away by tragic events. Ginny Dunbar in Kurinji Flowers, following a scandal that wrecks her future, is catapulted from her life as a debutante into the world of colonial India. None of these people is equipped to deal with what lies ahead.

Clare loves to travel and always takes a sketchbook and a set of watercolours with her, but makes no claims to being any good at it.

First I’d like to say it was a real pleasure meeting you at the Historical Novel Society Denver Conference/2015 in June. Could you please share a little of your experience and what you got out of it? Who were some of the authors you met there?

Great to meet you too, Stephanie. I had a wonderful time at the HNS conference and met so many interesting people. I’d been to the London conference last year which was great, but everyone staying on one hotel made Denver so much easier to meet people – and Americans are so friendly!

I did the Larry Brooks workshop on the first morning – his exercise on concept and premise will be one of my holiday tasks while I’m away in Bali for a month.

The range of panel discussions and workshops was excellent and the quality of the presentations first class. I wanted to cut myself in pieces and go to several at the same time! I thought Chris Gortner was a hoot – I ended up in 2 or 3 of his sessions and have just ordered one of his books to add to my holiday reading.

From cold reads to after dinner sex scene readings, from discussions on the gender divide in historical fiction to addressing HF to modern audiences, there was so much to take in. I wasn’t feeling too energetic after my transatlantic flight – so passed on the sword fighting workshops and the regency dancing – both of which were apparently brilliant. I loved the session with Chris Humphreys, Gillian Bagwell, Leslie Carroll and David Blixt – a real privilege to hear novelists who are also professional actors reading dialogue. My favourite was the extract from Margaret Rodenburg’s novel on Napoleon – I can’t wait for it to be published.

There was so much packed into a weekend – I have food for thought to keep me going for a while. I hope to see lots of the new friends I made at HNS Oxford 2016 – which I am sure will also be brilliant.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I noticed some other indie authors had BRAG Medallions and investigated and liked what I found. The editor of my second book also recommended it. A quality endorsement is very important when there are, sadly, so many poor books out there – especially those “written” by people who view it as a way to make money rather than a vocation or a passion.

Please tell me about your book, A Greater World.

A young English woman, Elizabeth Morton, has lost her fiancé in WW1 and looks destined to be a spinster. Out of the blue she is summoned to join her father in Australia where he has lined up a husband for her. She has no intention of going but after being raped by her brother in law and thrown out of the family home by her sister, she has no choice. On the voyage to Australia she meets Michael Winterbourne, a miner, fleeing England after a family tragedy. Love blossoms but fate, in the form of Edward Prince of Wales, conspires to keep them apart.

The book is about being displaced – having to adapt to a life very different from the one intended. While Michael seems to land on his feet, Elizabeth has a tough time adapting to her new life and her loveless marriage to an older man.

A Greater World -BRAG Book

Why did you chose the early 1920s, a period of transition between the old pre-World War 1 way of life and the post-War for the period of your story?

I think it’s an interesting time because it’s a time of change. When I started writing it I had in mind that it would be set in the 19th C but I quickly switched to 1920. Michael’s life in a secluded valley in the Northumbrian dales is radically impacted by the First World War and his experiences there which widened his horizons. He wants to see the world and live a bigger life in “a greater world” than the one he has known until now.

Elizabeth is happy as a single woman, living in a post suffragette world – until her comfortable world is shattered. She just wants things to be the same but knows they never can be and she must therefore make the best of a life for which she has been completely unprepared.

What were a few of the major social changes during this period?

Women’s suffrage is the obvious one. English women had the vote – but only those over 30. Women were no longer prepared to accept what was dished out to them – Elizabeth is unwilling to accept the status quo, and doesn’t want to be a chattel for a man.

The period post war in Australia was also a time of change – men coming back from the war in Europe struggled to find work and the depression was starting to bite. The novel is set in the Blue Mountains in a coal mining town – where the seams were already becoming exhausted and unemployment threatened.

Divorce was also becoming easier – at least in Australia – where New South Wales was very advanced in its divorce laws.

What are the settings for your story and why did you chose them?

The book opens in England. Michael comes form the dales of Northern England – lead mining country – but like the coal in the Blue Mountains the lead is running out. He sees the writing on the wall – but his fiancée, Minnie, won’t. They had been extracting lead there since the Romans were in Britain so it seems inconceivable that the mines might close. Originally I planned for Michael to be a Welsh sheep farmer – but I saw a photograph of some lead miners’ cottages in a book about Northumbria – and immediately thought “That’s Michael’s house”. The area is at the conjunction of three Northern counties, Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria. I know the area from the ten years I lived in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Elizabeth lives in a place called Northport – loosely based on Southport near Liverpool – and the latter is the scene of their departure from England. The ship they sail on, the Historic is closely modeled on a real ship called the Ceramic – which had just been converted back into a passenger liner after serving as a troop ship. It was a single class ship – thus making it easy for Elizabeth and Michael to meet, even though they come from different social classes.

I have visited Australia many times and was lucky enough to work in Sydney for six months. The bulk of A Greater World takes place in a fictional town, MacDonald Falls in the Blue Mountains. I based many aspects of it on Katoomba – but by the time of the book there was no longer any coal mining in that town. I went back to Australia in 2011 to research the locations in the books.

Tell me a little about Elizabeth Morton. What are her likes and dislikes?

Elizabeth has led a quiet, privileged life, but latterly a sad one after her fiancé is killed in the war and her mother dies soon after. The family has fallen on straitened times since her mother’s death pushes her father into gambling, but Elizabeth uses her skills as a violinist to supplement her income by taking pupils.

She loves to play tennis, adores her violin and going to concerts – particularly Elgar’s music. She reads a lot – her first conversation with Michael is over a book. She’s independent, spirited, determined to make the best of what life throws at her and is not afraid of hard work – even though before arriving in Australia she had never experienced it.

Nothing has prepared her for what happens to her in Australia. She thinks her life has been destroyed but finds inner strength and grows into a different person from the girl she had been in Northport.

Where can readers buy your book?

The e-book is available at Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google, iBooks etc – all the usual e-retailers and the paperback at the moment is just on Amazon.

Who designed your book cover?

The fabulous Jane Dixon-Smith of JD Smith Designs – she’s done four covers for me and I love them all I give Jane a brief synopsis and key themes and some images (I have a Pinterest board for each book so I can save images as I write and research) then she develops some options. I always get input from friends and family and via my facebook pages – but ultimately I decide. For my second novel Kurinji Flowers the overwhelming majority preferred one cover (it was beautiful) but it didn’t fit with the brand look I am trying to create.

What are you working on next?

I’m having a pause from my third book, Cynara’s Shadow, set in Victorian England and the USA, before the final editing stage – and I’m working on book number 4 – as yet untitled – just mapping out the skeleton.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I write at the top of my house – in a large sunny room which is my dedicated workspace. I write on an iMac at a small wooden desk – and look out over the roof of a gin distillery. I have lots of trees to look at and in the evening get some wonderful sunsets – even here in London – as I can look west in the afternoon. The room is full of bookshelves and also houses all my painting and drawing materials, as well as a sewing machine and fabric stash – but 90% of the time it’s just me writing. I also have my music collection up here – but mostly work in silence. I start around ten in the morning – but have been known to leap out of bed at dawn, eager to get words on paper. I work until about seven pm (usually aided by a large glass of wine once the sun has crossed the yard-arm! I always stop for lunch and try to get out for a short walk each day.

I mostly get my initial inspiration from a place – and imagine who might have been there and what they did. I’m about to embark on my fourth novel and I had no idea what it was going to be about until I made a trip to Dorset last week (Thomas Hardy country) and after visiting a house I was thinking of buying, the idea just rushed up on me when I wasn’t expecting it. I sketch out a rough outline so I have a clear idea of what the book is about – but as soon as I start writing the characters take over and often lead me in another direction. I usually edit the previous day’s work as a way of warming up for the current day. Once I have a finished first draft I work on it some more, then send it to three or four readers and when I have their feedback I do more editing to get it the best I can before sending it to be professionally edited/ proofed.

I also spend a lot of time (more than I’d like) on marketing and social media – plus briefing the designer, formatting, planning etc. I try to write 1500 words a day – I often miss that target – but sometimes do significantly better than that. I try not to beat myself up about it. One of the joys of no longer having to answer to clients or employers.

Do you stick with just genre?

I don’t really like the idea of genre – so far I have written books set in the past so I have classified them as historical fiction. A Greater World could also be classed as romance. But none of my books are classical romances – and I reserve the right to an unhappy ending – or at least not a boy gets girl ending. I write about displacement – my books so far have all involved people being plucked out of their familiar surroundings and transplanted into a challenging new environment where they are tested in some way. I also write about tough topics including unwanted pregnancies, alcoholism, child abuse – my next book, Cynara’s Shadow has all of those plus Catholicism. I do get why genre is important – to help people discover you – but I may well one day decide to write in a different genre – I’m toying with the idea of a psychological thriller – my pet project for Bali. You’re unlikely to find me writing biographical historical fiction as the research burden is too heavy – I love research but for background, not as the end in itself.

Author Links:

Twitter

Facebook

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Pinterest

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Clare Flynn who is the author of, A Greater World, our medallion honoree 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, A Greater World, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

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Doctor Margaret in Delhi by Waheed Rabbani

02_Doctor Margaret in Delhi_Cover

Publication Date: May 5, 2015 /Historical Novels Publishing/ Formats: eBook, Paperback 308 Pages

Series: The Azadi Trilogy Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

Doctor Margaret in Delhi is Book 2 of The Azadi Series and a sequel to, Book 1: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest. This historical fiction novel continues with Margaret’s journey from the time she and her Canadian husband participated in the 1854 Crimean War.

Doctor Margaret travels alone to India to be with her parents at the American Presbyterian Mission at Futtehgurh, and then on to her posting at a hospital in Delhi. There she has to not only overcome work pressures, but also deal with her intimidators and intrigues of the Mughals, at the Delhi Red Fort.

Margaret’s tormenter since her childhood, Captain Albert, also joins a British regiment bound for service in India. The Russian, Captain Count Nicholai, whom Margaret had met in Crimea, also arrives in India under the guise of a French physician. The events leading up to the Indian Mutiny/Rebellion that breaks out in 1857 profoundly affect not only Margaret’s life, but also of those who love her and others’ who wish her harm. Also, mixed-up in the bedlam is one of the Delhi King, Shah Zafar’s, Red Fort’s Guards sepoys, Sharif Khan Bhadur, the grandfather of Doctor Wallidad, an American doctor.

The Azadi Series covers the exciting events and turmoil that enflamed India from 1857 to 1947, and led to her independence. Those incidences engulf the characters of this story at that time, and then later their descendant’s lives, again in the 1960s.

Praise for Doctor Margaret in Delhi

“Excellent historical fictional setting, voice and tone. Not my normal reading diet, but your voice is compelling. Overall impression: it seems to be a novel one may settle into and relax for a delightful journey–(Spoiler alert) with a cobra and lots of new Indian vocabulary in store. Interesting bit about Robert Clive and the East India Company. Seems it’s a story that should be told.” – J.T.Bleu

Doctor Margaret in Delhi Available at

Amazon   Smashwords  iTunes

 About the Author

03_Waheed Rabbani

Waheed Rabbani was born in India, close to Delhi, and was introduced to Victorian and other English novels, at a very young age, in his father’s library. Most of the large number of volumes had been purchased by his father at ‘garage sales’ held, by departing British civil service officers, in the last days of the Raj.

Waheed attended St. Patrick’s High School in Karachi, Pakistan. He graduated from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England, and received a Master’s degree from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. While an engineer by profession, Waheed’s other love is reading and writing English literature, which led him to obtain a Certificate in Creative Writing from McMaster University and start on his fiction writing journey.

Waheed and his wife, Alexandra, are now settled on the shores of Lake Ontario in the historic town of Grimsby. More information is available on his website.

You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Doctor Margaret in Delhi Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 6 Spotlight at Genre Queen

Tuesday, July 7 Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, July 8 Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, July 9 Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, July 10 Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, July 15 Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Thursday, July 16 Review at Just One More Chapter Guest Post & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Friday, July 17 Interview at The Writing Desk

Sunday, July 19 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Tuesday, July 21 Review at Diana’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 22 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, July 23 Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, July 28 Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, July 31 Tour Wrap Up & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

04_Doctor Margaret in Delhi_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree L.R. Trovillion

false gods

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree L. R. Trovillion to talk with me about her book, False Gods. L.R.’s love of the written word began at the early age of ten when she penned her first mystery “novel.” Since then she’s pursued degrees in Russian language and literature and has earned a living as a translator, teacher, reporter, and editor. When not writing, she’s at work training and showing her horses or caring for her Maryland farm which she shares with her husband, daughter, and two dogs who think they run the place.

Lisa, how you discover indieBRAG

My friend, critique partner, and fellow writer, Susan Yanguas was awarded the indieBRAG medallion several years ago. It is a great program and I’m proud to be an honoree.

Tell me about your story, False Gods.

On the surface, False Gods is the story of a teen, Cory Iverson, with some confidence issues taking a run at qualifying for one of the country’s most prestigious horse shows on a mysterious horse rescued from an auction. Along the way, Cory has to grapple with her own “demons,” which are urging her to just give up, along with some other very troubling events including a ruthless competitor, loss of faith in her trainer, and some disturbing actions taken by family members. Beneath the surface layer, however, it is really a story that examines the nature of desire—whether it is a force for good or bad.

What should readers know about Cory Iverson

From Cory Iverson’s point of view, she’s been ripped out of her home in Massachusetts and stuck living in a new town in Maryland and attending a new high school because of her parents’ recent divorce. She lives with her mother, who is still obsessed over the split and spends most of her time and energy finding a man to fill the void, and her sister, a driven ballet dancer who has her sights set on winning a spot in a top dance company. Cory doesn’t see herself as particularly talented at anything—unlike her perfect sister—and fears her mother’s criticism when she isn’t good at something or worse, when she doesn’t stick with it. Cory is a chronic quitter. It’s not out of laziness, but rather out of insecurity that she just won’t measure up to her own standards, or anyone else’s. But there is one thing she knows she’s rather good at—riding.

Please share an excerpt

This is a scene when Cory goes to visit her sister, Jess, in the hospital after she’s collapsed. Cory has guilty knowledge that her sister has a severe eating disorder, but hasn’t spoken to anyone about it yet. Jess has completely given up and is bitter and depressed. Here’s their exchange:

 *****

“Okay, so what do we talk about now?” Jess’s voice was flat. “Weather? How’re your classes going? And what about them Orioles?”

Cory struggled against the gravity of the chair to move forward. She perched on the edge, her feet flat, ready to bolt if she had to. She didn’t want to upset Jess, but she also didn’t want to be goaded into her sarcastic game.

“Sure, school. We can talk about that. Not much new there, though. That skater kid who always wears the knit cap is still dealing in the lot behind the donut shop, and Charlene, the Color Guard Captain, is still a big—”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m not going back,” Jess said, staring at the ceiling.

Cory wasn’t sure what she heard. “What?”

“I’m not going back. I decided. Especially not after this.” She held out her arms, connected to tubes.

“Okaaaay.” Cory grabbed a gossip magazine off the nightstand and thumbed through it. “What are you going to do, then?”

Jess sat up, propped on one elbow. “You know what? I don’t care. For once, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have anything I have to do, and I’m enjoying it. I’m not going to intensive dance camp in Massachusetts this summer—that’s for sure, especially not since dad refuses to let me live with him, for God’s sake. It’s not like I asked to move in with him forever.” Jess slumped back against her pillow. “Asshole.”

“That’s what mom says.”

“She’s right. What a selfish prick.”

“You could maybe still find somewhere to stay in Mass. We do have other relatives…”

“No.” Jess slumped down. “I’m done with that.”

“Done with what?” This conversation was taking a strange course.

“Dance.”

“What do you mean? You can’t be done with dance.” The words ended, but the unspoken question, can you? hung in the air. Jess turned her face toward the wall with the high windows. The sucking air noise of a machine filled the silence.

Cory shifted in her chair. The fake leather squeaked. “Jess…” She didn’t know how to finish. She didn’t know how to start. She chewed on her bottom lip. “Jess,” she began again, “I know you must feel really bad right now, but—”

“Actually, I don’t.” Jess turned back to Cory, her chin lifted high. “Actually, I feel great. I feel like a huge ton of crap has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel light, like I don’t care about anything anymore and I can just sleep all day or get hugely fat or quit school or do whatever it is I feel like doing.” She took a deep breath. “And I don’t feel like doing anything anymore.”

“But after all the work, all the stuff you’ve been though, you can’t just quit!”

Jess let out an explosive laugh. “That’s funny! You telling me not to be a quitter. Huh”—she tapped her bottom lip with an index finger in a mock gesture of deep thought—“guess I’ve finally seen the wisdom in your approach to life.”

Cory slid away from Jess’s physical presence as if her words, like small ice pellets, had been flung in her face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, Cory, don’t act all hurt and everything.” Jess flipped the covers back and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her feet, her horribly scarred and calloused dancer’s feet, didn’t touch the floor but hung like bruised fruit at the bottom of her stick legs. “It’s not like you’ve never quit anything before,” she continued. “Oh, except for when you never even try because you’re scared of the consequences. Doing nothing is the same as quitting. Maybe worse.”

Cory sat in silence. Her throat felt tight. The nurses’ voices carried down the hallway. Laughter. Finally, Cory tossed the magazine she held rolled up in her hand back onto the bedside table. The dark ink had bled and stained her palms. She wiped them down the front of her pants.

“Okay.” She slapped her knees and stood up. “Guess I’m outta here. I’ll talk to you later.”   She headed to the door and pulled it open but hesitated. Jess sat resolutely silent.

“Bye,” Cory said and left.

Outside Jess’s room, the corridor seemed abnormally bright. She walked slowly past the open doors of other rooms, past the nurses’ station, toward the exit sign.

Doing nothing is the same as quitting.

Jess’s voice echoed in her head. Cory turned and went back to the desk where several nurses had gathered. A woman with a long gray braid looked up from the computer. Her black nametag was etched in white letters. She had a dimple in her right cheek when she smiled. Every detail seemed burned into Cory’s mind as she opened her mouth to speak.

“I need to talk to someone. It’s about my sister…”

 *****

What is Cory’s relationship like with her sister, Jessica?

Cory admires her sister’s dedication to the ballet and her single-minded goal of becoming good enough to some day land a position in a national ballet company, but at the same time she is annoyed by what she thinks is Jessica’s self-obsession, her unsubstantiated worry about her career future, and her all-consuming drive. Cory wants to be more like her, deep down, but at the same time she takes every opportunity to ridicule Jess for those same qualities she envies. They are close in age but are total opposites: Jess is blond and thin, focused and confidant whereas Cory is thickly muscled, flits from one activity to another, and lacks self-esteem. They bicker and snipe at each other, but despite their differences, when challenged, the sisters will stick together and help each other out.

What is the history of The Enchanted Forest nursery theme park where a scene in your story takes place?

The Enchanted Forest in Maryland is the second oldest theme park in the U.S. after Disneyland. Opened in 1955, the park expanded at the height of its popularity when 300,000 visitors came annually. It appealed to families with small children because of its nursery rhyme theme, featuring fairy tale buildings and characters. Track rides were later added, including the Alice in Wonderland ride with teacup shaped cars. (The ruins of this ride are described in False Gods). In 1988 the park closed and a large part of it was used to build a shopping center. Interestingly, in 1990 it was one of the film locations for the movie “Cry Baby,” starring Johnny Depp. For years, the buildings sat in the woods behind the shopping center, falling into decay and being swallowed up by vegetation. I knew about the park and had even visited once when it was open, so one day I went behind the stores of the shopping center and pressing against the fence, I could make out the eerie turrets of “Cinderella’s castle,” lines of gingerbread men holding hands, a decaying candy-covered witch’s house and more. It was such a sad and poignant scene, symbolic of lost childhood. Everything was suspended in time, as if the caretakers just walked away and left it. I knew I had to find a way to include this Maryland icon in the book. Just this month, coincidentally, the last of the many buildings that could be salvaged have now been removed and restored at Clark’s Elioak Farm nearby.

Is there a message you would like readers to grasp?

The message of the book is a simple one: Be determined and go after what you want in life, just be sure it also feeds your spirit. And, it’s okay to try different things until you find it. As one character in the book says, “You quit out of fear. You change course out of self-knowledge and wisdom.”

Who designed the book cover?

My cover was done by a very talented artist and photographer, Regina Wamba, of the company Mae I Design.

Where can readers buy your book?

False Gods is available on Amazon in both ebook and print versions. I also sell copies when I appear at book events or speaking engagements, which I love to do! In particular, I enjoy going to Pony Club, 4H, or other youth oriented clubs to meet young readers.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on something very different: the story involves a young woman’s suspicious death in Baltimore hunt country in 1928. The investigation reveals plenty of people had sufficient motivation to want her dead, but was it really murder? Three individuals launch a quest for the truth, each with their own agenda. It’s a detective story with a real twist!

Where do you like to write in your home and what is your process?

I have a nice room all set up for myself with writing books at hand and other inspirations, but more often than not I migrate to the dining room table to write. I like to be able to look out the French doors to the pastures to watch the horses while I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. More truthfully, the real reason is perhaps that I like being nearer to the coffee pot and refrigerator. As far as process goes, I find that I still gravitate to pen and paper when sketching out the story line and characters’ backgrounds. I like to jot down scenes when they come to me, even if I’m not sure how they’ll fit into the novel. I also make notes in the margins and draw arrows and generally scribble a big mess that somehow gets transcribed into the computer. From that first draft, I work on the edits. Over and over.

Author Links:

website

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview L.R. Trovillion who is the author of, False Gods, our medallion honoree 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, False Gods, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Michelle Eastman

The Legend of the dust bunnies

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Michelle Eastman to talk with me today about her book, The Legend of the Dust Bunnies. Michelle loves kids’ books, especially children’s picture books. She enjoys getting lost in the magic of the words as they flow into the illustrations. She loves picture books so much, that she wrote her own: The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale. Her debut book was recently named a BRAG Medallion Honoree, and it has been a #1 Kindle book on Amazon’s Best Sellers list.

Michelle is also the founder of the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On which encourages people to donate new or gently used books to kids in need. She recently launched a special initiative called MARCHing Books to Kids. Throughout the month of March, she is encouraged people to donate books to the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project. The program provides new books to children of incarcerated parents. Each month, a volunteer records the parent reading a book. The CD and the book are then given to the child to keep. Book lovers and children’s authors from around the country donated books. And authors in Greece and Australia and the UK have also donated books to the project. More than 300 books were collected.

Michelle began her career as an elementary teacher in the West Des Moines School District. At Iowa Public Television, she wrote educational content for the K-12 Connections Team, serving teachers and students in two-hundred Iowa school districts. Her dream to publish a children’s picture book began on a “fairy-wing” and a prayer. With the encouragement of friends and family, she is now living her dream as a children’s author. When she’s not chasing dust bunnies, or her cat, she likes to cuddle up with a good book and her son. Michelle and her family live in Waukee, Iowa.

Thank you for talking with me today about your book, Michelle. How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indie BRAG while researching the indie publishing world.

Please tell me about your book, The Legend of the Dust Bunnies. A cute title by the way…

The Legend of Dust Bunnies will open your eyes to a world of dirt and dust that you never knew could be so magical and fun! Did you know that Dust Fairies come into our homes at night and sprinkle dust, spread spider webs, and even spit crumbs into the carpet? They do! It’s true! Well, not all fairies. Artie is different. He doesn’t like messes, and he doesn’t fit in. At first, Artie is lonely and unsure of what to do, but then he takes matters into his own hands. When given lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? This story does one better, it turns DUST into DUST BUNNIES. The Legend of Dust Bunnies is the story about how and why a misfit Dust Fairy turns dust into cuddly dust bunnies and the joyful aftermath that follows. It will have families looking at dust bunnies in a new light, and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms. Artie’s tale helps kids realize that we all have unique gifts, and not everyone fits in with the crowd.

What genre does this fall under and what is the age group for this?

It is a rhyming picture book for ages 4-8.

Tell me a little about the Dust Fairies.

The dust fairies are a mischievous bunch of fun-loving sprites. While we sleep, they frolic and play, leaving behind dust and debris. That’s why no matter how often we clean our houses, the dust always finds its way back. Sometimes, a fairy will accidently leave behind his/her beloved dust bunny. If you find one, be sure to treat it with care. Whatever you do-don’t toss it out. The dust “…fairy who lost it will be worried sick and rush back to claim it, “lickety-split.” The Legend is a handy excuse for kids to avoid cleaning their rooms. It works for grown-ups too.

What is the main message in your story you want readers to grasp?

The main idea is to be true to yourself, and beauty can be found in unexpected places. Artie was unique among his peers, and his talents didn’t quite match what a dust fairy should do. He saw the beauty and value in things his peers discarded, and he used them to create something wonderful. Although my stories have a message or a moral, I like to gently sprinkle the lesson throughout the story and let the reader interpret it for him/herself. Kids are smart cookies; it’s always fun to hear what they think is important about Artie’s experience and how it relates to their lives.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I generally write in our home office. But, I take a pad and pen with me wherever I go. I have come up with some of my best ideas while sitting in the stands at my son’s swim team practices. I also take advantage of my hands-free phone. When an idea comes to mind while I am driving, I email myself a quick note. Hopefully, I understand what the note means by the time I get home. I learned long ago that ideas I am positive I will remember later, are always the ones I forget!

My process has changed a bit over time. I used to write everything by hand on notepads. It got to be quite messy and inefficient. Now, I write most of my drafts on Word. I print out every revision with a time and day stamp, so I can keep track of the changes I’ve made. Sometimes I go back and rescue a scrapped idea, but I generally don’t look back once I have deleted or abandoned something in the manuscript.

Have you ever gotten stuck on a scene? What did you do about it?

Writing in rhyme presents its own unique set of challenges. I tend to get a bit obsessive about getting the rhythm just right while moving the story along in a natural way. I have learned that it is best for me to take a break when I get stuck (easier said than done).

How did you decide on a title?

Initially I wanted the story to be about magical dust bunnies. As I began fleshing out the story, the dust fairies took over. I had to come up with a title that represented both elements, so I decided to create a “legend” about how dust bunnies find their way into our homes. The story is about a misfit dust fairy named Artie. So, that’s where the “a fairy’s tale” part of the title came in.

Who designed your book cover?

The book’s illustrator, Kevin Richter created the cover and the entire layout and design of the book. I connected with Kevin via Elance. He is an incredibly talented guy, and he’s a pleasure to work with. He is in the UK, and I am in Iowa. All of our communication has been via email. Despite the distance, it has been a wonderful collaborative partnership.

What are you working on next?

Kevin and I are in production of our newest book in the Dust Fairy series. The second book is about a misfit fairy, named Aggie, who plays the bagpipes (I know-it sounds crazy. That’s why I love the picture book genre.). Aggie wants to join the dust fairy band. She is not as dainty and graceful as the other band members, so she struggles to fit in by striving to be “perfect”. In the end, she discovers that she does not have to be perfect to find her perfect fit.

Do you stick with just genre?

The Legend of Dust Bunnies is my first published book. I stick mainly to the children’s picture book genre. I would like to tackle a non-fiction picture book at some point.

Where can readers buy your book?

I sign and ship copies via my website

You can find it on Amazon

It’s available at Barnes & Noble

Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience. I am always happy to answer questions or lend a hand to indie authors. People can contact me via my website or through my blog.

 A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Michelle Eastman who is the author of, The Legend of the Dust Bunnies, our medallion honoree 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 Legend of the Dust Bunnies, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble

02_Maud's Line_Cover

Genre: Historical Fiction

A debut novel chronicling the life and loves of a headstrong, earthy, and magnetic heroine

Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. Government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma’s statehood. Maud’s days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice. Soon she finds herself facing a series of high-stakes decisions that will determine her future and those of her loved ones.

Maud’s Line is accessible, sensuous, and vivid. It will sit on the bookshelf alongside novels by Jim Harrison, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and other beloved chroniclers of the American West and its people.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK) | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND

PRAISE FOR MAUD’S LINE

“Maud is refreshingly open and honest about her own sexuality though conscious of her place as a woman in a sexist society, always careful not to insult the intelligence or manhood of her male friends and relations. Verble writes in a simple style that matches the hardscrabble setting and plainspoken characters. Verble, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, tells a compelling story peopled with flawed yet sympathetic characters, sharing insights into Cherokee society on the parcels of land allotted to them after the Trail of Tears.” —Kirkus

“Writing as though Daniel Woodrell nods over one shoulder and the spirit of Willa Cather over the other, Margaret Verble gives us Maud, a gun-toting, book-loving, dream-chasing young woman whose often agonizing dilemmas can only be countered by sheer strength of heart.” —Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses

“I want to live with Maud in a little farm in a little valley under the shadow of a mountain wall. Maud’s Line is an absolutely wonderful novel and Margaret Verble can drop you from great heights and still easily pick you up. I will read anything she writes, with enthusiasm.” —Jim Harrison, author of Dalva, Legends of the Fall, and The Big Seven

“Margaret Verble gives us a gorgeous window onto the Cherokee world in Oklahoma, 1927. Verble’s voice is utterly authentic, tender and funny, vivid and smart, and she creates a living community – the Nail family, Maud herself, her father, Mustard, and brother, Lovely, and the brothers Blue and Early, the quiet, tender-mouthed mare Leaf, and the big landscape of the bottoms – the land given to the Cherokees after the Trail of Tears. Beyond the allotments, it opens up into the wild, which is more or less what Verble does with this narrative. A wonderful debut novel.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Margaret Verble

MARGARET VERBLE, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has set her novel on her family’s allotment land. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and Old Windsor, England.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, July 13 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 14 Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, July 15 Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, July 16 Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Friday, July 17 Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Review Plus More

Saturday, July 18 Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, July 20 Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, July 21 Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 22 Interview & Excerpt at The Old Shelter Excerpt & Giveaway at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, July 23 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, July 24 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

 04Maud's Line_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree H.N. Wake

A Spy Came Home BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree H.N. Wake to talk with me about her book, A Spy Came Home. H.N. spent 20 years overseas working in Africa, Asia and Europe, mostly with the US government.  She is married and lives on the East Coast with her husband and their dog.  She follows politics and international relations passionately, loves to travel, can spend hours in her garden, and will dive at any chance to scuba.

To date, she has written two screenplays in addition to A Spy Came Home and Ghosts in Macau: A Mac Ambrose Short story.  She is in the throes of writing her second Mac Ambrose novel.  You can find her at here where she blogs, on Twitter: @hnwake and on Facebook: HNWake

Hello, H.N.! Thank you for chatting with me today! How did you get into writing screenplays? Did that lead you into wanting to write books?

Thanks for having me, Stephanie!  This is fun!

When I moved home, I spent some time in Los Angeles surrounded by professional ‘creative’ types.  As a group, they had an amazingly unique world perspective that was really free-flowing–always talking about their stories, their characters, and their latest scripts.  One night over some wine, one of my friends explained the traditional structure of a movie.  Suddenly the thought of constructing a story wasn’t so intimidating.  I had a few narratives thumping around in my head from my life overseas and I thought ‘that seems like a great way to release them.’

The next day I downloaded Scrivener (highly recommended) and started banging away.  Naiveté with a splash of bravado, I guess.  Six months later I had my first draft of a script and sent it to my friend.  She called me early the next morning, said she’d stayed up into the night to finish it, and told me ‘you have a real voice.’  I had no idea what that meant.  None.  It just sounded awesome.  I was elated.  I took my poor dog on a three-hour walk around the neighborhood in a trance, repeating, “I have a real voice.”  It was one of the most powerfully uplifting moments I’ve ever had; I think I may have even cried behind my sunglasses.  That sounds horrendously corny.

I submitted that first script in a contest and it did fairly well—don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make it to the quarterfinals—but I was hooked!  And my second script was much better.

Then I realized I had to pursue them somehow or they’d languish on my computer.  I approached a few LA friends about getting an agent but it felt very salesy–taking meetings, making pitches–and what I honestly wanted to say was, “here it is, I’d be balls-out ecstatic if you liked it.”  It felt very unnatural to sell myself or the scripts.  When I heard about self-publishing I realized that route fit me way better because the story is out in front.  So I started working on A Spy Came Home.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

When I finally hit publish on that first novel, I took a break from writing and did a lot of internet snooping.  There is a ton of helpful information for self-publishing.  A ton.  indieBRAG was one of the first I stumbled across and I was just really, very impressed.  Now I’m thrilled I found them!

I am so delighted you found indieBRAG as well! The title of your book (A Spy Came Home) is an eye catcher. Please tell me a little about your book.

The protagonist, Mac Ambrose, is a gritty, gutsy, solitary character who’s been a very successful CIA operative for her entire career.  She is asked by her closest friends to come back home and take down the gun lobby so new legislation can pass the Senate.  Initially, she’s lured back by her friends’ request and the intimidating thought of rekindling a romance she broke off years earlier when she first went deep cover.  We see her roll out a complex web of traps, all the while eluding a dogged ATF agent who is hot on her heels, shoring up the nerves of her co-conspirators, and conducting surveillance on her lost love.  It has lifelike corruption, cagey sabotage, compelling mystery, tense pursuit, and some romance.  Huffington Post called it ‘taut’.  I mean, what a superb adjective – love!

Does your interest in politics and international relations inspire you to write your story? And how do you feel that it helped you?

The mood of A Spy Came Home is based on my experience returning back to the US after 20 years.  It can be an isolating period: you don’t have a lot of common reference points for conversations with your friends.  At the same time, you observe the US through a lens that has evolved, has matured.  Everything seems different, a lot of it seems new.

One of the many things that shook me when I returned was the pervasiveness of gun violence.  It’s extraordinary.  This just doesn’t exist overseas.  Given my tendency to dig into politics, I read a lot about it.  What struck me was the duplicitous nature and inordinate power of gun-rights lobbying groups (aka hired thugs for the gun industry), despite the fact that a very significant majority of Americans aren’t fanatical about guns.  It seemed natural to write something–even fictional–with a theme that elicited such a strong emotion in me.

Please tell me a little about Mac Ambrose.

She’s solitary, gritty, gutsy, strong, patriotic, and ethical.  She has an issue with authority figures and the CIA bureaucracy has chafed her for a long time.  She’s super ballsy: she sees something that has to be done and she just does it.  She doesn’t hesitate.

But she’s got some cracks: she’s lonely, she has bouts of anxiety, she’s conflicted.  A childhood with an emotionally abusive mother hangs like a shadow just over her shoulder, driving her perfectionism, her idealism.

Despite outward appearances, she’s also a lot like everybody else.  She wants to be understood, accepted, and ultimately loved.  Which is hard when you’re a spy.  So she buried that side of her.

What is an example of a conflict she faces and how does she deal with it?

Mac’s CIA handler in Langley is a timid guy named Frank Odom.  He sits in a dark basement office, thwarting her at every turn.  We get the sense he’s been a thorn in her side for years.  At one point in this novel, he blatantly threatens her.  She sees him coming and very effectively blackmails him.  It’s tremendously gratifying.

Their conflictual relationship runs through this novel and the other Mac Ambrose stories.  My beta readers love to hate Frank Odom.

Did you ever get stuck on writing a scene? What did you do about it?

I had written 95% of the book and had filled in most scenes and chapters, but I had one scene toward the end that had a single note on the blank screen: “Mac – anxiety attack.”  If/when you read the novel, you’ll know why this scene is important and inevitable (hint: it has to do with her finally approaching the old flame.)  Boy, I avoided writing that scene for months.  Like a lot of people, I know anxiety intimately.  Eventually I sat down and really sunk into the emotion because I wanted to do it justice.  The first cut was about two pages long!  It ended up only being a paragraph.  But if you’ve ever had anxiety, I think you’ll recognize it.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon!

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I wake up very early and get the coffee going: I can’t work without coffee.  I let the dog out.  Then I retreat to my empty, second floor office (where we just redid the floors by ourselves-–not recommended).  I have a big comfy armchair in front of two huge windows where I sit with my laptop.  Bliss.

I do a lot of research in the beginning.  It gives me confidence.  I’ll start sketching the story, throwing down notes on dialogue and scenes, and setting plot ‘beats’.  This eventually turns into structuring: I’m definitely a plotter.  Finally I’ll start filling in with stream of consciousness.

I learned in my primary career that you can’t edit enough.  Ever.  I can deconstruct and shine a sentence indefinitely.  I spent months editing A Spy Came Home and there are still sentences I don’t like.  But eventually you have to let go.

The process is exciting: I feel I learn every day.  My second novel is coming together faster, easier.

Who designed your book cover?

Sheepishly: I did.

What are you working on next?

Mac Ambrose got crazy reader response.  I knew I liked her when I was writing her—lots of agency, some vulnerability, she’s the real deal—so I knew I wanted to keep going.  Mac Ambrose novel two is on the way!

I really like thrillers/suspense myself.  And my ideal reader is very clever and trying to outguess me.  I suppose that means I’ll keep writing in this genre since I am most comfortable here.  (Shout out to my Goodreads ‘A Good Thriller’ group – newcomers welcome!)

It’s also a stupendous time to be a writer who explores topical, current issues via sharp, sassy women.  Recently, I read two items that clicked.  First, a great blog post noted that there’s a gap in literary awards: few awards go to women writing about grown women.(1)  Secondly, a striking number of Millennials consume news, but in a way that is woven into their connection with the world through social media, social action, or entertainment.(2)  That sounds like the perfect storm for just my kind of storytelling!

Do you stick with just genre?

So far, yes.  But I like taking risks and I love the adrenaline rush of trying something new.  So, never say never.

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview H.N. Wake who is the author of, A Spy Came Home, our medallion honoree 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, A Spy Came Home, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Charlene Newcomb

Charlene Newcomb-BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Charlene Newcomb to talk with me about her writing. Charlene is the author of Men of the Cross, Book I of Battle Scars. A tale of war’s impact on a young knight serving Richard the Lionheart and of forbidden love, this historical adventure is set during the Third Crusade. Book II, For King and Country, will be published in 2015. Visit Charlene’s website and find her on Facebook at CharleneNewcombAuthor, and on Twitter @charnewcomb.

Why do you write?

Growing up, I was the youngest of three children. With an 11-year age difference between my brother and me, I often was on my own. As early as I can remember I had stories floating around in my head. But it wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I seriously put pen to paper. Back then, I carved out writing time to escape the pressures of family, work, and graduate school. Now the children are grown and on their own. Work and life remain busy, but I have more free time for writing. Not enough, mind you, but it’s a great feeling to see that blank page – or screen – take shape with words. Writers are told to write for themselves, but in all honesty, I have a great desire to share my journey with readers.

For the last few years, that journey has been to the 12th century. I don’t remember learning much about that era when I was in school: there were crusades, Thomas Beckett was murdered, John would be king, and Magna Carta would inspire 18th century colonists on this side of the Atlantic to write a Declaration of Independence. History was little more than names and dates. The way it was taught created little lasting impression on most students. My classmates called it boring! I had one or two teachers who introduced a human element and that brought the past to life for me. If I can do that for a few people through my historical fiction I am thrilled. Names and dates, politics, culture, and religion, are critical to the backdrop of the story. But through the characters in our stories – whether real persons or fictional ones – we can let readers experience all the joys and heartaches of those past lives and times while we entertain and educate.

How has writing impacted your life?

Writing has given me friends for life, both in-the-flesh ones and virtual ones. These folks encourage me to write and offer valuable critiques. It’s brought imaginary people to my life, too, who sometimes talk to me in the strangest places. You sing in the shower? I have conversations there. In the car: it’s good we have hands-free cell phones, else the folks sitting next to me at a stoplight might wonder about the animated conversation I’m having with myself.

The research I do for my medieval fiction has been so much more eye-opening than anything I learned in school. I feel I have a much broader perspective of events that have shaped our 21st century lives. I am much more aware of bias in reporting, now and then. I have grey shades on. Nothing is black and white, is it?

Men o

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

I still feel like a beginner myself though I published my first short story 21 years ago. I am still learning and honing my craft. But I am happy to share with other beginners how I approach this writing life, what works for me. I write. I revise, but not until I have written “the end” on the first draft. My most productive writing time is in the morning, and I try to write at least 5 days a week even if it’s only for 30-60 minutes. I do my research. I accept that I cannot possibly know everything about the time period, but I do my best to read multiple sources of information. I write the story I want to write, though it may not be the most popular genre or era. I don’t plan to retire from my day job. And lastly, I hang out with people who encourage me to pursue your dreams.

If you plan to self-publish

  • read
  • find good critique partners; listen, and don’t be defensive
  • revise, revise, and then revise again
  • use beta readers
  • get editorial help
  • pay professionals to design your cover art unless you are skilled with graphic design
  • be prepared to become a business manager
  • use social media to engage other writers and to find readers but DO NOT do the hard sell. “Buy my book, buy my book, buy my book” will only turn people off
  • submit your book to reputable reviews and awards sites

Keep writing! And now, for me, back to final edits on Book II of Battle Scars.