Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree D.S. Allen

Blood for Blood BRAGBorn in County Antrim, N. Ireland, D. S. Allen worked in various professions before settling on a career in teaching. He only recently decided to devote his spare time to writing, and Blood for Blood was his debut novel. While living in Germany with his wife, Sonja, he wrote his second novel, The Headmaster’s Cave, while teaching. D S Allen is now busy writing the sequel to The Headmaster’s Cave.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I am always on the lookout for ways to promote my books, and I think I came across indieBRAG on Google.

Tell me about your story, Blood for Blood.

Blood for Blood is a story about revenge. How embracing revenge leads to inevitable and disastrous consequences, not just for that person who is seeking revenge, but also for that person’s loved ones and family. The reader watches on as the tragedy unfolds. We get to see how each character reacts differently to their tragic circumstances and how they deal with the consequences. Manfred Hugo’s desire for revenge is in stark contrast to Daniel Davenport’s need to save his sister, Johanna. But it is Johanna who recognizes that there are things more important that even one’s life. For when you lose your soul, when you lose yourself, you lose everything.

Tell me a little bit about the Battle of Worcester. What importance does it play in your story?

The Battle of Worcester, 1651, was the final and decisive battle of the English Civil War. Cromwell’s New Model Army destroyed Charles’ Royalist army, and, with it, his remaining hope of regaining the crown through a military victory. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams visited the site in April 1786 and, likening it to a place of pilgrimage, chastised the locals for not knowing its importance in the struggle for liberty. For the purposes of the story, The Battle of Worcester leads to the inciting incident that shapes the destiny of the main characters.

I’m curious about your thoughts on what sort-of of man Cromwell was. There are so many different opinions.

Even to this day, Cromwell is a controversial figure, but I think it’s important not to judge him according to present day standards. He was a man of his time. And it was a time of social and religious upheaval. There was a proliferation on new sects and political movements all jostling to be heard. There were the Quakers, the Fifth Monarchists, the Diggers and the Levellers, and many more besides. And only Cromwell, with the support of the army, was strong and respected enough to hold everything together. In fact, after his death in September 1658, there was one else who held the power base in either the Army or Parliament to be able to hold the Republic together, and this was the main reason for the Restoration.

Tell me a little about Daniel Davenport. Is he based on a real person or is he fictional? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Daniel Davenport is a fictional character. I would say he is an honorable man, with a deep love for his sister. He is very protective towards her, and he is loyal and true towards his friends and the soldiers under his command. But his love and protectiveness for Johanna, which partly stems from guilt, also leaves him open for attack. The question is: how far will he go to save Johanna?

Why did you chose to write this story?

I wanted to write a story that reflected the times, but which could be told in any time period. I had a vague idea to write a story about a witchcraft trial and it developed from there. Sometimes I think I didn’t really chose to write this story, but that it developed organically from that original idea and almost wrote itself.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can buy the paperback directly from Createspace  .Or buy the Kindle EBook version or the paperback from Amazon.

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

I write in the spare bedroom and try to write when I have both spare time and some energy left after work.

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

I usually don’t eat while at the computer, but I’ll often have a cup of coffee close by to perk me up!

Who designed your book cover?

The cover art for the paperback edition was by ebook launch . For the EBook cover I used a painting called The Wounded Cavalier by William Shakespeare Burton.

What are you working on next?

I am currently working on the sequel to my children’s mystery novel The Headmaster’s Cave.

Do you stick with just genre?

I am currently writing a Middle Grade mystery novel, but my debut novel was historical friction.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

When I am not writing, I enjoy reading and watching television series.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

The first title I had settled on was Interregnum. But I thought the title wasn’t involved enough and after a lot of thought, I came up with Blood for Blood. I thought the new title was catchy and really illustrated the main theme of the novel.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

When I am stuck on a scene, I really try to visualize it—almost like watching a movie. I then try to sketch out what I am seeing through my words, only later fleshing it out. But I think that thorough planning is the best way to avoid these problems.

Author Link:

Website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview D.S. Allen who is the author of, Blood for Blood, 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, Blood for blood, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Vinnie Hansen

Vinnie Hansen BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Vinnie Hansen to talk with me about her book, Black Beans & Venom. Vinnie fled rural South Dakota the day after graduating from high school. She worked her way through UC, Irvine (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA).

A Claymore Award Finalist, Vinnie Hansen writes the Carol Sabala mystery series (misterio press) as well as literary works. Her story Novel Solution appears in Fish or Cut Bait, an anthology of Sisters in Crime Guppies (Wildside Press), and Critical Mass has just come out in Destination: Mystery (Darkhouse Books). Vinnie has also been published in Porter Gulch Review, Transfer Literary Magazine, Lake Region Review, phren-Z, Web Mystery Magazine, Crime & Suspense, Mysterical-E, Alchemy and the Santa Cruz Spectacle. A collection of her short stories was a semi-finalist for the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction and her latest Carol Sabala mystery, Black Beans & Venom, received a B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Retired after 27 years of teaching high school English, Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz, California, with her husband, abstract artist Daniel S. Friedman. She is currently basking in the glow of her Golden Donut Award from the Writers’ Police Academy.

 Vinnie, how did you discover indieBRAG?

 A member of the NorCal Chapter of Sisters in Crime received a B.R.A.G. Medallion. That sparked my curiosity.

Tell me about your book, Black Beans & Venom

An odd, wealthy woman hires P.I. Carol Sabala to track down her daughter who has fled to Cuba. Carol must find the young woman before her cancer or her abusive boyfriend kills her. The book is a race-against-the-clock thriller with a psychopathic villain named Eric Mars.

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM

Could you please share an excerpt?

Eric Mars stared at Mr. Duarte. He didn’t like the man. He didn’t like anyone who got in his way. But if he killed him with the coffee mug, he’d have to dispose of the body, and the son would be returning to the lab at any second. There was nothing to be gained beyond personal enjoyment by bashing in the guy’s skull. The idea of telling the man he was getting a drink flitted through his mind, but no tourist would take water from the tap.

 Tell me about Carol Sabala.

Award-winning author Cara Black described Carol as “quirky, gutsy, and my kind of gal.”

Carol has two internal conflicts that arc through the series. She’s Mexican-American, but has no memory of her father and looks like her mother, completely Anglo. Even her last name is a corrupted version of the fairly common Hispanic name Zavala. So, no one sees or recognizes the Mexican part of her. Carol’s search for that piece of her identity underpins the seven books.

Carol also has a flawed love life. She wants a partner, but she’s obstinate and independent. She can’t stand protectiveness. It feels stifling to her. Yet she constantly engages in activities bound to make any caring person worry.

You mentioned to me that you have a colorful cast of minor characters. What is a voodoo babalao?

A babalao, or babalawo, is a high priest. In Cuba, the type of voodoo is Santería, a complicated mix of Catholicism and beliefs imported from Africa with the slaves. In 1992 Cuba revised its Constitution removing references to the country as Marxist-Leninist, allowing for a resurgence of religious worship. Santería has grown in popularity since that time.

The patron saint of Cuba, La Virgen de la Caridad, Our Lady of Charity, is linked to African roots and the orisha Ochún, a goddess of love and dancing represented by the color yellow. One can see Santería initiates dressed in white walking the streets of Havana. It’s not uncommon to see a Santería altar tucked into a living room corner with a statue of a saint surrounded by offerings of rum, cigars and flowers.

In my book, one of the main characters visits a babalao. For this scene I had to rely on a friend’s first hand experience, right down to the sacrificed goat and pigeon on the altar.

Why did you choose Cuba as the main setting for your story?

In 2010 my husband and I traveled there on our own for a month. The experience was so rich it demanded to be used.

What is one of the challenges that Carol faces?

In Black Beans & Venom Carol faces the challenge of traveling illegally to Cuba shortly after 9/11 when airports and security are on high alert. Getting caught would mean a fine, possible jail time, and certainly an end to her career.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Carol Sabala started as a baker/amateur sleuth, so with the first book I wanted the title to suggest food and the genre. The result: Murder, Honey. After that, all the titles contained a food word and something to suggest menace. Black Beans suggest Cuba, and Venom, in this book, is both a possible cure and a vehicle for murder.

Who designed your book cover?

Melinda VanLone at Book Cover Corner.

What are you working on next?

Craze. It’s a stand-alone. Craze means to develop a mesh of fine cracks.

San Domingo, California, present: An interrupted burglary, a tossed handgun, its retrieval by two boys, and the craze that splinters from the crime.

I also have the first few chapters of a new series set in South Dakota, featuring Frankie Palmer, retired schoolteacher turned investigator.

Do you stick with just genre?

I write literary fiction too. Some of my short stories have been published in reviews and journals. I plan to pitch Craze as a novel, rather than as crime fiction or suspense.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

Anything else. I let my subconscious chew on it.

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

I write at my office desk on my computer when my husband is at the gym. I have some general ideas about a book and then I launch into the abyss. I figure it out as I go, looping back to add foreshadowing, clues and red herrings. My first drafts are stark. I flesh out scenes as I rewrite and edit. Then I get input from my critique group. I rewrite some more. When I have a workable manuscript, I get feedback from a beta reader or two or fourteen. Then the ladies at misterio press critique and proofread and I rewrite some more. After the book is formatted, I do another read through and drive my formatter crazy with my hundred or so fixes. Then I receive a proof, and reread again. . .

Favorite food or drink while writing:

Whiskey. Nah, seriously Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut Yogi Tea and dark chocolate.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

I’m an accomplished yogi. I also play keyboards with two ukulele groups: the Sons of the Beach, which is anybody who feels like coming to my local beach on Saturday, usually 100-200 people, and All in Good Time Orchestra, an organized group that occasionally plays gigs (non-paying, so far).

Author Link:

Website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Vinnie Hansen who is the author of, Black Beans & Venom, 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, Black Beans & Venom, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Book Review: The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

The Serpent Sword Cover

BRITAIN 633 A.D. Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice. Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall. As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour … or even his soul? 

My thoughts:

Seventh Century Britain has been a deep fascination for me of late and there are few authors who write about this period-in my opinion-that really draws me in. Three comes to mind and Matthew Harffy is one of them. The setting in this story is Northumbria and it is made up of two Kingdoms, Berninia and Deira. I really like those names for some reason. To give you a picture of how small these Kingdoms were, Deira was probably smaller than the county I live in the USA. Civilization at this time was so untamed, wild and dangerous. Savagery was not uncommon. While reading through this book, I couldn’t help but keep thinking that just to survive in a single day in the Dark Ages was a challenge to put it mildly.

In this story, you will find Beobrand’s challenges greater still. What he came against is-what’s the word I’m looking for-brutality more times than not it seemed like. His will to survive and find his brothers killers were extremely courageous and admirable. Especially during those times. You saw him become stronger not only in his resolve to bring justice for his brother but he had to grow up quickly. He really didn’t have a choice. He was a man of conscious and that is often put to the test in this story. One example is when he witnessed violence towards women. Those scenes were hard to read but I felt in this story it was relevant and I was able to get through it. Maybe I was little scathed…

There was a battle in the story that was a significant time in Britain and I really enjoyed reading about it. Matthew has a knack for writing historical events with such imagery and clarity. One can only think he portrayed this as if he was actually there. A sign of a good historical fiction writer is to take the reader to the setting, period and have them believe they’re actually witnessing it for themselves.

This story is a great achievement for a debut and it was well worth investing my time reading. Harffy pursues his writing endeavors with zeal, passion and creativity. So much so, you will be swept away to Dark Ages. A powerful story, rich with history, conflict, politics, religions of that time, intense situations, danger, powerful characters and historical figures. If you are interested in the Dark Ages or looking for a first read in this period, this book is for you.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Wendy Percival

Wendy Percival BRAGWendy Percival was born in the UK and grew up in rural Worcestershire. After training as a primary school teacher she moved to South West England to take up her first teaching post and remained in teaching for 20 years.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompting her to start writing seriously. She won the magazine’s 2002 Summer Ghost Story Competition and had a short story published before focusing on full length fiction.

The time honoured ‘box of old documents’ in the attic stirred her interest in genealogy. When she began researching her Shropshire roots she realised how little most of us know about our family history.  This became the inspiration behind the first Esme Quentin novel, Blood-Tied.

Wendy continues to be intrigued by genealogy, its mysteries and family secrets and writes about this in her family history blog.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I heard about indieBRAG when a fellow SilverWood author, Alison Morton, was awarded a BRAG Medallion for one of her alternative Nova Roma novels.

Tell me about your story, The Indelible Stain.

My ‘genealogy detective’, Esme Quentin, stumbles upon a dying woman at the foot of cliffs. While the police dismiss the death as accidental, Esme continues to be troubled by the woman’s final words and the origins of an old sepia photograph she was clutching. When the dead woman’s daughter comes to ask Esme to help with her own unanswered questions, the subsequent trail leads Esme back into the brutal history of convict transportation and a long forgotten mystery surrounding a local girl who was exiled to Australia for her crime in 1837.

It’s a story of how disturbing events in the past are capable of impacting on the present with devastating consequences.

Indelible Stain BRAG

Please tell me a little about the period and setting for your story.

The story is set in the present day, in a small village on the North Devon coast in South West England. Events take place over a 6 week period during August and early September.

Why did you chose a small village in North Devon as your setting?

It’s a place I know and love well, having lived in North Devon for 35 years. The village is steeped in history, which is always a pull for me, and its location is stunning. Dramatic cliffs with strange rock formations tower above small coves along the coast and waves come crashing in from the Atlantic – the perfect place where you might conveniently ‘help’ someone over the edge if you wanted to get rid of them!

What are a few of the historical aspects to your story?

The story has its roots in the brutal history of Britain’s penal policy of exiling its criminals. Having lost its usual ‘dumping ground’ following the American War of Independence, Australia became a penal colony in 1787. At this time a vast number of what we would now regard as petty crimes, were punishable by death, but amid mounting unease the law was changed to allow judges to commute the death sentence to transportation, generally for 7 years, 14 years or life. The conditions on the convict ships which transported the prisoners were dire and life was extremely hard when they reached land. But as Australia began to develop and grow as a country, its authorities demanded the end of transportation. By the time the final convict ship arrived in Perth in 1868, the number of British and Irish prisoners transported to Australian shores had reached in excess of 160,000.

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

The convict ships I mention in the book were all real transport ships, the prisoners’ harrowing experiences on board are from true accounts and incidents concerning the Irish are genuine historical events. As many of Devon’s own criminals were transported to Australia, I also used material from local archives to give a sense of reality to the background story.

Tell me a little about your main protagonist, Esme Quentin.

Esme is an unconventional sleuth. She’s a mature woman whose journalist husband, for whom she was a researcher, was killed some years ago in dubious circumstances while on an investigation. Traumatised by the event, Esme turned away from the world of the investigative reporter and retreated into what she assumed to be a safe area of research – genealogy. An assumption which proves to be ill founded when she discovers digging deep into the past carries its own dangers.

But Esme is a tenacious character with an inherent need to get to the truth. Motivated by her concern for others, she has realised that by applying the same skills, resilience and methodology as she employs in her work as a genealogist, she is capable of exposing and solving the crimes she inadvertently stumbles upon, despite the risks.

Who is Vince Munroe?

Vince is a mortuary attendant and a bit of a wannabe. Once, early on in his career, he was on duty when a murder victim was brought into the morgue. He’s bored people rigid with his “claim to fame” story ever since. As a consequence no one has ever taken his observations seriously. Until now.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Until recent times, having convict ancestry in Australia was considered shameful, a ‘stain’ on one’s heritage. I’d been playing around with the words ‘stain’ and ‘tainted’ when I noticed an episode of a favourite TV crime series was called The Indelible Stain. It fitted perfectly.

Who designed your book cover?

The excellent design team at SilverWood Books designed my book cover, working on a rough brief from me about key aspects of the story. I love what they do!

Do you stick with just genre?

At the moment I’m happy sticking to the crime fiction/mystery genre. I like the structure it gives me and as a family historian (see below) I’m regularly inspired by uncovering of secrets from the past.

What book project are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my third Esme Quentin novel, which is inspired by clandestine activities during World War 2. That’s all I’m saying at the moment!

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

I write in an open plan area of our living room which is like a small study. Books line one wall and I can look out from my little corner across the room and see the garden through a pair of glazed doors.

My novel writing process involves scribbling heaps of written notes in notebooks and on bits of paper, as well as lots of reading, researching the era of history where the solution to the mystery will lie. I also write a detailed backstory of the secret from the past which will be revealed in the contemporary story of the book. I need to know what happened and how, in detail, in order to know the trail my protagonist, Esme Quentin, will undertake to uncover the truth.

Once I have a reasonably firm plan of where I’m going with the story, I start writing the first draft. But no matter how much I pre-plan it’s only when I start the actual writing process that new (better!) ideas occur to me so I always end up having to do lots of re-writing.

A first draft can come together fairly quickly and once I’m in the zone, I can be pretty prolific but I have to make time for my other writing commitments – my blogs, background reading (which I continue to do during the first draft), family history research, social media and, of course, ‘life’!

As I get closer to completing the final draft my days become intense and I’m an exhausted wreck by the time I get to the finishing line!

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

When I’m stuck on a scene, one way to clear the log-jam is to go off and do something which uses a completely different part of my brain such as gardening, walking or even ironing, allowing my subconscious to work on the problem. Another method I use is to sit down with a pencil and notepad and ‘discuss’ the issue by writing a conversation with myself. Often, before I’ve written down the burning question, the answer has popped into my head.

Is there a favorite food or beverage you like to enjoy while writing?

Eat? Drink? If I’m not careful I can do neither if I’m on a roll. Fortunately my husband drags me away from my desk at intervals and ensures I don’t die of thirst or hunger!

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

As well as family history research, mentioned above, my other interests include reading (of course) and gardening. Our garden is an English Country Cottage style where we grow vegetables as well as flowers. Also we have a small campervan (a very mini RV!) which we use to explore coast, countryside and historical locations right across the UK, though as there are plenty of beautiful places in south-west England where we live, often we don’t need to go far to find an inspiring location.

Author Link: 

Website

Blog

Facebook

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A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Wendy Percival who is the author of, The Indelible Stain, 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 Indelible Stain, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree David Hartness

Amani's River BRAG

DAVID HARTNESS is a freelance writer and English teacher working in an international setting. An avid traveler, inspired by many cultures, David enjoys using this subject in his blog “A Small Perspective.”

Raised on Vashon, a small island in Puget Sound, Washington, David learned the values of life and hard work to pursue his ambitions. This led him to travel internationally, serving a small school in Ebukolo, Kenya. While in Kenya, he lived in a mud hut with no running water or electricity. Mr. Hartness had ambitions to make lasting change while in Kenya but ended up learning more from the experience than he gave back.

He later served in the U.S. Peace Corps as an education volunteer stationed in Namaacha, Mozambique. Upon leaving service, David continued his education, receiving an MBA from Walden University, and currently enrolled in a DBA program.

Amani’s River is David’s first full-length novel.

David, how did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG through researching other blogs and awards to enter. indieBRAG was linked on another site, but I can’t honestly remember which one.

Please tell me about your story.

Amani’s River is a Historical Fiction novel that follows 10 year old Aderito through the turmoil of the Mozambican Civil War. The novel follows a five year span, and much of this time Aderito is a child soldier, desperately trying to escape the violence, but is held back by his captors. Amani’s River is a story of triumph. It is about a child over coming amazing odds to be a descent adult. The story is as much about the civil war, and educating people on that piece of history, as it is about the use of child soldiers.

How did the idea of your story come to you?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique for three years. I learned about the war through many contacts. It was a story that I felt the world didn’t know, and needed to understand that the war effected 5 million people, physically and emotionally and lasted 16 years. It was also one of the most violent wars, yet people had no idea the war even happened. I needed to tell the story, for the Mozambicans. On a side note, I decided to use the subject of child soldiers, because it is a global issue that is relevant today. I wanted people to be emotionally attached to the main characters, in hopes that the story would make profound differences in others’ lives, and perhaps help the 250,000 current child soldiers fighting around the world.

Could you please share an excerpt?

Happiness escaped, and fear entered. The peacefulness of the day’s events passed, and the harsh reality of the world away from the river came flooding in, and I could think of nothing else but the dark sounds of the guns ringing throughout the valley and the fear the people must have felt.

The children waited for half an hour before, without any preconceived idea or warning, they started to tear up the hill as if they had a hunch that the men with guns had left. Time to scope

out the damage and make sure that the families were okay. Victoria grabbed my hand and pulled me along. During the shooting and after, my feet and entire body went numb; and when she grabbed me by the hand, my legs didn’t walk. But once the recognition and shock left, the only thing I could think of was my family. I felt that the children understood the dangers, and yet they still ran up the hill.

Even though I just met them, I felt protected, and so I ran beside them. My feet began to pound in a strange rhythmic bold pattern. There were deranged emotions that I had never felt. There was this sense of fear that hovered around me. I think it was fear for my life as well as my families. Yet covering the fear was this strange sense of heroism sweeping into the village with my friends ready to fight and willing to sacrifice my life for a greater purpose.

We reached the edge of the road just before entering the village. The other children hid behind a line of bushes to scope out the land. I stood erect, wondering what they were doing. Would I have to continue our epic deed by myself? Let us see what has happened, how we can help. Confusion started, and thoughts raced through my mind when reality struck, and Victoria yanked me by the hand with enough force to knock me to my knees. I think they may have been smarter, willing to cower behind a bush to ensure security. In the act of war, a hero that stands to live another day is better than a foolish man who runs into a battle blinded by his own sense of epic being.

We sat behind a bush, trembling with fear as we saw an average pickup truck turn a corner and head toward us. The driver had his hand dangling from the truck. The man gazed in our direction as if he saw the once-brave kids trembling behind the bushes, but he did nothing. In the back of the truck were men, each with AK-47s in one hand and a machete in the other. Some men had their weapons drawn in the air while others satisfied their anger with yelling and screaming. One man sat on the cab of the truck while another had one leg in and one out, sitting on the tailgate. One person looked over, but he didn’t see us, but the mask he wore was that of darkness.

The man’s eyes squinted in the falling sun, and his face squished together. In his right hand, he held the gun tight, and I could see his veins bulge out from his forearm. As the truck passed, my eyes glued on the man. The man raised his AK-47 and pointed it in our direction. The man held it there for a second. Could he see us? I looked at his dark eyes and saw his right eye wink at the gang and me. Trepidation made my body wobble, and I fell backward to land on the rocky path. My mouth widened, and my chest and stomach ached of pain. My body shook as I saw the man show off a half smile. The smile was mischievous, one that resonated in my memory for many days to come. The man lowered the gun and did nothing. I watched as the car turned another corner and sped up toward the setting sun. We stayed in that spot, watching the truck get smaller and smaller until it vanished.

What can you tell me about the Mozambican War that is portrayed in your story?

The Mozambican war was violent, and destroyed many homes and life. I also hope that readers get the part, that even with the destruction of the war; Mozambique has risen to be a success story for Africa. It is peaceful now, but many lives were destroyed for the democracy to become a part of their culture.

What is the relationship like between Aderito and Victoria?

Aderito comes to Homoine, Mozambique at the age of 10 and befriends Victoria. They are both captured together and try and escape the compound together.

Who designed your book cover?

I designed it as far as I could take it with my knowledge of Photoshop, and then a professional polished it up a bit and made it more presentable.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Amani means peace in Swahili. I felt it was a powerful word to name a child during the time of war. The wish for peace, when all you see is destruction. The hope for a brighter and better world.

What are you working on next?

I have actually just started my next novel. This novel will deal with bullying. I worked with the National Burn Foundation while working at Waskowitz Outdoor School, and I remember the pain they had and the stories they shared. I wanted my next character to deal with these issues, and deal with severe bullying at school. I then wanted to bring in another character who is blind, and who is able to understand the inner beauty in everyone, and is not consumed by the physical presence of others. The story was inspired by the Burn Foundation, but also a Mark Twain quote, “kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” It is a work in progress, but I think very few novels dive into this subject matter and bring these two complex characters together to face their fears and issues. It would be an honor to bring this to the literary community.

Do you stick with just one genre?

I like Historical Fiction, but I am more interested in a good story that can change people’s way of thinking and perhaps make profound changes in our world.

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

I like to write on the patio. I map out the entire story, including the characters and setting. Then each day I like to go through one specific scene and really work through the details of the scene. Once I feel that I have story done, I then spend several days/weeks/months editing. I like to finish the entire story, before I start editing. I find if I spend too many days on a single chapter, I lose interest in the story.

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

I large cup of coffee to start, and usually water for the rest of the day.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

Leave it. I simply walk away. I go play basketball, take a nap, and spend time with my son. I do anything but write. I find that when I clear my mind, and come back to the issue, often times, the solution is easier.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

I am an avid basketball player/watcher. I also enjoy photography, although my SLR camera broke. I also like white water rafting.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can buy the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or on my website . There are also links to various bookstores that sell copies of the book.

 

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview David Hartness who is the author of, Amani’s River, 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, Amani’s River, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Historical Fiction & Meaning with DM (Diane) Denton

Diane Denton

I’d like to welcome DM (Diane) Denton to Layered pages to talk with me about the importance of Historical Fiction and why she chose this genre to write in. DM is a native of Western New York, is a writer and artist inspired by music, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit. Through observation and study, truth and imagination, she wanders into the past to discover stories of interest and meaning for the present, writing from her love of language, the nuances of story-telling, and the belief that what is left unsaid is the most affecting of all. Having first gone to the UK to study English literature and history at Wroxton College, an overseas campus of Farleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey, Diane remained in England for sixteen years surrounded by the quaint villages, beautiful hills, woods and fields of Oxfordshire’s countryside. She eventually returned to Western New York State and currently resides in a cozy log cabin with her eighty-something mother and a multitude of cats. Her historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, which is set in 17th century Genoa and imagines an intimacy with the charismatic composer Alessandro Stradella, and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, which takes place in late Restoration England, were published by All Things That Matter Press, as were her historical fiction Kindle shorts, The Snow White Gift and The Library Next Door. Diane has done the artwork for the covers of both of her novels and published an illustrated poetry flower journal, A Friendship with Flowers. She is currently working on a collection of novellas featuring writers Anne Brontë, Christina Rossetti, and Mary Webb.

What are the periods of history focused on for your writing?

My two published novels, A House Near Luccoli and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled are set in late 17th century Genoa and Oxfordshire, England respectively. I’ve also published two kindle short stories set in the late 19th century and the 1930s. My current project is a collection of three novellas about obscure women writers, covering the mid-1900s up through the 1920s.

Why Historical Fiction?

In hindsight, my journey towards writing historical fiction began in my early teens when I developed an insatiable appetite for classic literature, period films and plays, and Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and traditional music. I’ve long had a fascination with the clothes, customs, social and political issues of the past, and I’m attracted to the lives of writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, and innovators, but, also, ‘ordinary’ folk like gardeners and domestics. All in all, it’s more comfortable for me to write within a historical context; I feel I can reveal myself and still remain hidden. I can indulge my old-fashioned sensibilities yet still oblige my progressive tendencies, because history isn’t static, somewhere dead in time, but a life force for the present and future.

When did you know you wanted be a HF writer?

Following on the previous question, I really can’t say I made a conscious decision to be. I’ve loved history and been writing since I was a child, and, eventually, this genre of fiction brought the two together.

To A Strange Somewhere Fled cover rfs front only

How much time do you spend on research? What sources do you use?

I do still work a day job, so the four to six months I spend on research before I begin writing is a weekend activity. As I’m the sole caretaker of my elderly mother, travel is not viable for me and I’m very grateful for the internet that takes me where I need to go and supplies much of what I need to know—or be refreshed on, if the setting is somewhere I have been, as with my last novel. I search out books, letters, essays, images, videos, music, every significant and insignificant thing; reading, watching, listening, assimilating, believing, belonging, and imagining. Of course, the research process continues even once I begin to write. I particularly like letters or personal diaries as they often reveal the secrets and nuances of a person or an event. I try to uncover as many viewpoints as I can and then choose which I think is the most viable, interesting, or even blend them. For instance, I’m presently writing about Anne Brontë and various biographies differ on whether or not she had a romantic attachment with her father’s curate William Weightman. There is a comment by Charlotte Brontë in one of her letters that gives an indication of an attraction between them, and a from-the-heart poem Anne wrote some time after his death expressing love and possibility lost to her, but there is no way to know for certain. My imagination relishes these uncertain areas and I especially enjoy weaving them into the facts of the matter.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

At its best it makes the past present for its readers, going between-the-history-book-lines to focus on the nuances of events, issues, and specific lives, stimulating curiosity, the senses and imagination. In my view it’s important to the understanding of history because it divulges rather than instructs and offers an intimate view that engage readers with the story consciously and emotionally. This is how it speaks to the human experience that can never completely disconnect from the past. Not least, it has the potential to bring more obscure stories and personages to the forefront.

Who are your influences?

My main influences have been classic writers, especially novelists like the Brontës, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mary Webb, DH Lawrence, H.E. Bates, Colette, and Jean Rhys. As far as any more contemporary writers, specifically in the Historical Fiction category, I would say Tracy Chevalier—Girl With a Pearl Earring really inspired me to write my novel A House Near Luccoli—and, also like Chevalier, because of their very sensory and lyrical focus on artists and musicians, Susan Vreeland, Susanne Dunlap, Stephanie Cowell, and Laurel Corona.

House+cover+front[1]

How much fiction (in your opinion) is best to blend with historical facts?

I think it varies according to how much factual information is available. The more obscure an event or character, the more interpretation and imagination are necessary. The fictional aspects flesh out the facts, humanize the characters, detail the vague, fill in gaps, and bring the unknown alongside the known, and the insignificant into the significant. Writing any kind of fiction needs the fertility of the imagination. With historical fiction, when the imagination comes in so does the magic of blending fact, supposition, and invention into a believable, breathing narrative.

How do you feel the genre has progressed in the last ten years?

It does seem to have gained more popularity through television and film adaptations. Unfortunately, popularity encourages repetition and discourages originality. In my opinion, writing, like all art, should take the less traveled road, one that is uniquely the writer’s or artist’s. All art needs to expand, progress, even be turned on its head. I’m glad to see there are other writers willing to produce as their creative spirits direct them rather than fall in line with a current trend, what the media machines determine readers want. In my mind, progress is more room for individuality and more appreciation of it. I do see a little glimmer here and there of that happening with historical fiction.

What are the important steps in writing HF?

I can’t help but think of the quote by W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.” But, in respect of the question, I’ll offer five components—not steps because they aren’t linear but on-going: connection, characterization, context, creativity, and commitment. Passionate connection to the subject; convincing characterization; in-depth knowledge of the context; creativity of expression; and a commitment to seeing it through.

What must you not do writing in this genre?

One thing that bothers me when reading historical fiction is the insertion of a history lesson that immediately puts me outside of the story and reminds me it’s somewhere I’m not. I think there is more harm done by too much information rather than too little. Another thing is the lack of relief from tragedy in some historical fiction. For me, a satisfying read, no matter its context, needs the everyday, the simple pleasures, a little humor, if just a fleeting awareness that life, even in its darkest moments, offers the consolation of, for example, a sunset or the scent of a flower. And just as with any writing, I don’t think the entertainment value of historical fiction should be ignored; even writers of historical non-fiction—and film producers like Ken Burns—realize readers become more engaged with and empathetic to history when they are entertained as well as informed by its presentation.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration? Such as historical pictures of people, castles, towns and such? What about historical objects?

I’ve sculpted stories in drawing, painting, and even doll making as well as with words. As an artist-writer, visualization is extremely important for me. Portrait and landscape paintings, photographs, virtual tours, and movies are all part of that visualization. Personal objects, even pictures of them, have an energy that transcends space and time, lifting a veil on the most private moments of the past. In my current research of Anne Brontë, I’m reading a recently published book called The Bronte Cabinet, Three Lives in Nine Objects by Deborah Lutz, which explores the concept of continuing “selfhood” in possessions of the dead.

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Historical Fiction & Meaning with Rosanne E. Lortz

Rosanne Lortz

I’d like to welcome Rosanne E. Lortz (“Rose”) to talk with me today about what Historical Fiction means to her and the importance of the genre. Rosanne is a history lover, a book addict, a mom to four boys, and a native of Portland, Oregon. When she’s not writing, she teaches Latin and English composition and works as an editor at Madison Street Publishing. Her latest book, To Wed an Heiress, is a Regency romance/murder mystery loosely based on the characters and events of the Norman Conquest.

What are the periods of history focused on for your writing?

I write historical novels set during the Middle Ages or the Regency Era in England…and sometimes novels based on medieval events with Regency characters.

Why Historical Fiction?

I love the distance created by the past that brings heroic actions and important events into focus.

To Wed an Heiress Kindle Cover

When did you know you wanted be a HF writer?

Historical fiction was my favorite genre throughout childhood and my teen years. I always knew I wanted to write, and when I fell in love with historical research during college, it became apparent that becoming a historical novelist was inescapable.

How much time do you spend on research? What sources do you use?

For my medieval adventures, I typically am following the life of a real historical figure, so that requires more research than my Regencies (which are romance/murder mysteries). I start with secondary sources to orient myself and from there move on to the important primary sources which give the color to the novel. I usually do reading on the topic for a couple months ahead of time and then continue doing research as I’m writing.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

Historical fiction is the best way to excite interest in the past. It’s the gateway drug to history.

I Serve

Who are your influences?

Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Renault, Edith Pargeter, Howard Pyle.

How much fiction (in your opinion) is best to blend with historical facts?

It depends on the story. I would never change a known historical fact to something incorrect, but anything plausible to fill in the gaps is fair game!

How do you feel the genre has progressed in the last ten years?

I enjoy the diversity of storytelling with first and third person narration, and it’s wonderful how historical fiction is now available about so many parts of the world and ages of history. I don’t appreciate that soft porn has become the norm for historical fiction and that it’s unusual to find a historical novel without explicit sexual situations.

What are the important steps in writing HF?

It’s important to orient yourself to the world you’re writing in before you begin writing so that you don’t make an important plot point hinge on something anachronistic. Other than that, I would say write it as you write best. If you’re a plotter, then write a detailed plot. If you’re a pantser, just go for it!

Road from the West

What must you not do when writing in this genre?

Never say never! All of the rules I’ve heard about writing can be broken effectively by someone skilled in the craft. But I suppose one thing I would caution against is judging historical characters by the culture that we ourselves live in instead of on their own terms.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration? Such as historical pictures of people, castles, towns and such? What about historical objects?

Yes, maps are very important for my medieval novels. I need to know where things are to be able to describe them accurately. I also look at pictures of places and people—whatever is available can be of great help.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree DV Berkom

DV Berkum BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree DV Berkom to talk with me about her book, The Body Market. DV is a slave to the voices in her head. As the bestselling author of two award-winning thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones), her love of creating resilient, kick-*ss women characters stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, mysteries, and thrillers, and longing to find the female equivalent within those pages.

Raised in the Midwest, she received a BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Many, many cross-country moves later, she now lives near Seattle, Washington with the love of her life, Mark, a chef-turned-contractor, and several imaginary characters who love to tell her what to do.

DV, How did you discover indieBRAG?

I’d seen the medallion on several books and had hosted a group of B.R.A.G. honorees on my blog, so was curious. I submitted The Body Market and was thrilled to learn that The Body Market had been selected.

Tell me a little about your book, The Body Market.

Former assassin Leine Basso is hired by a wealthy Beverly Hills power couple to find their missing daughter, Elise, last seen partying with her boyfriend at a club in Tijuana. At first, police believe the two teenagers are the victims of a carjacking. But when Leine finds their missing vehicle with the boyfriend’s mutilated body inside, and the local cartel warns her away, she knows if Elise isn’t already dead, she will be soon, or worse. In the lethal world of organized crime, there’s always a worse. As Leine races to uncover the reason behind Elise Bennett’s disappearance, she must also battle the powerful interests fighting to keep her from the truth.

Who designed your book cover?

I created the first cover myself. I wanted a dark and moody feel, and was pretty happy with how it turned out. That being said, I’ve just re-branded the Leine Basso series with a professional cover artist from Deranged Doctor Design. Each of the 4 covers are completely different from the old ones and have a uniform feel to them, making them instantly recognizable. It’s exciting to see another person’s vision of the series.

The Body Market

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Titles are either really easy or really hard for me—never anything in the middle. Since I was having a hard time coming up with a title for this book, I asked my writing group for some ideas one night at dinner. A fellow thriller aficionado came up with The Body Market and it stuck.

Tell me about Leine’s strengths and weaknesses?

Leine’s been trained as an assassin and has worked all over the world perfecting her craft, which, at the outset, seems like it would be a strength. But after taking a on a job that went sideways due to her deceitful former boss, she vowed to never again work in that arena, thereby turning the strength into a perceived weakness. In Serial Date, the first book in the series, she agrees to act as security for a hugely popular reality show, and ends up having to use her training to try to outwit a serial killer. This allows what she views as a weakness to once again turn into a strength. She also finds it hard to allow herself to love. Burdened by guilt for what she did as an assassin and not feeling worthy of love, she struggles with her attraction to homicide detective Santiago Jensen.

Leine seems to get in sticky situations with unsavory people. Could you give an example of how she deals with those challenges?

Being a trained assassin Leine tends to look for a more straight-forward approach to resolving problems, and is no stranger to dealing with unsavory types. Often, her past gets in the way of a peaceful resolution, and she’s forced to match her enemy’s methods, including the use of lethal force. I set out to create a female character who could go head-to-head with the Jack Reachers of the world. Judging by the response from readers, it worked.

How did she get involved in solving crime in the first place?

In Serial Date, Leine is pulled deep into the twisted world of a serial killer when he kidnaps her daughter. In the second book, Bad Traffick, Leine finds what appears to be her true calling, and a way to fight the guilt she feels for having been a hired gun. In this novel, while acting as security for an A-list actor, she becomes caught up in a search for a missing runaway and uncovers a human trafficking network. By the third book, The Body Market, Leine is working full-time for SHEN, an anti-trafficking organization, and is hired to search for the missing daughter of a Beverly Hills power couple. Cargo, the latest release in the series, deals with both human and animal trafficking, and takes an unflinching look at ivory poaching and canned hunts, as well as the greed, corruption, and deadly methods prevalent today in the trafficking of endangered species. In this fourth book, Leine has come full-circle and she’s starting to understand herself and her role in the world, using her talents and abilities to right wrongs and fight crime.

Why did you choose Los Angeles and Tijuana as the settings for your story?

In The Body Market, Leine was living Los Angeles in order to be close to her daughter and her love interest, Detective Santiago Jensen. I was having dinner with a writer friend and discussing story lines, when we came up with the idea of having a spoiled teenager from Beverly Hills cross the border into Mexico to party, and end up on the wrong end of a criminal organization. I’m familiar with Mexico, having lived there for a time, and enjoyed writing about it again. Mexico figures prominently in my other series, The Kate Jones Thrillers.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Body Market is available online at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and KOBO.

What are you working on next?

I’ve received several emails and Facebook messages from readers to write another Kate Jones thriller, so am playing around with the timeline for what will be the eighth book in that series. I love writing from Kate’s point of view, so am really looking forward to revisiting her and the rest of the characters! After that, I’m planning a possible prequel with Leine Basso that will answer some of the questions raised regarding her early years and her work as an assassin.

Do you stick with just genre?

I have, yes. I love thrillers in particular and suspense in general, and doubt I’d be any good at writing sci-fi, or fantasy, or romance. I’d probably end up putting a grisly murder in with the romance, and couldn’t promise a happily-ever-after

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

I have a dedicated writing office with a big window. I used to be a seat-of-the-pants kinda gal (start writing with just an idea and no outline), but after attending a workshop on plotting a few years ago I’ve become more of a hybrid writer. I don’t really use an outline, per se—I plot out a timeline, making notes of scenes I’d like to use, working things out so I keep the tension building throughout the book. It’s like a road map and makes my job easier. If I can come up with 15-20 scenes I know it’s an idea that will sustain a book. I’ve found I write much more quickly that way, with way fewer dead ends and plot holes.

When I’m working on a book, time spent writing varies between 5-6 hours every weekday, less on the weekends. The rest of the time I’m answering emails and working on promotion. I go over what I’ve written the day before, checking for typos and incorrect grammar before I continue on. Then I go over it again before I submit sections to my critique group, all of whom go over it yet again and will usually find things I need to address. Once the first draft is finished, I run through it at least twice more before I send it out to beta readers for their input. After I receive their suggestions and I’m satisfied with the draft, I send it to a professional editor.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

Stop writing and do something else. Getting stuck is just my subconscious telling me it’s still working on the story and to give it time, or that I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. I trust my process, so usually don’t get too worried if I’m “blocked.”

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

I’m one of those boring, healthy writers J I drink water and on occasion snack on carrots or something salty with some crunch.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

Anything that involves the outdoors like hiking, kayaking, camping, snorkeling, swimming. My husband and I love to travel, so we plan our trips wherever those activities are prevalent. I used to be a professional photographer, and enjoy doing that, as well.

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A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview DV Berkum who is the author of, The Body Market, 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 Body Market, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Elisabeth Marrion

Elizabeth Marrion BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Elisabeth Marrion to talk with me today about her book, Liverpool Connection. Elizabeth was born August 1948, in Hildesheim Germany. Her father was a Corporal in the Royal Air Force and stationed after the War in the British occupied zone in Germany, where he met her mother Hilde, a War Widow.

As a teenager she enjoyed reading novels and plays by Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder and never lost her love of reading novels by Ernest Hemingway, or short stories by Guy de Maupassant. More recently she felt inspired by Rabbit-proof Fence, a true story written by Doris Pilkington.

Elisabeth moved to England in 1969, where she met her husband David. Together they established a clothing importing company. Their business gave them the opportunity to travel and work in the Sub Continent and the Far East. A large part of their working life was spent in Bangladesh, where both helped to establish a school in the rural part of the Country, training young people in trades such as sign writing, electrical work and repair of computers and televisions.

Elisabeth discovered her love for writing relatively late, but the good thing is, now she doesn’t seem to be able to stop.

For inspiration she put on her running shoes for a long coastal run at the New Forest, where she now lives.

How did you discover IndieBRAG

First of all, I must thank you Stephanie, for taking time to talk with me.

I discovered indieBRAG through several ways really, but I will just mention three, which are: through my wonderful publishing team at SilverWood, who encourage each writer to spread themselves as far across the spectrum as possible; through writer Debbie Brown, from the English Historical Fiction Authors; and of course writer Helen Hollick from the HNS. Both Debbie and Helen provide the writers with updates via the Social Media to ensure they are aware of all the possibilities out there.

Tell me about your book, Liverpool Connection

Liverpool Connection is Annie’s story. Annie, like her sisters before her, leaves Ireland together with her ever-optimistic friend Flo, to find a better life in Liverpool. Only things do not turn out they way she had imagined. Soon Annie falls in love, marries and starts a family of her own. But with the onset of World War II comes tragedy and loss, testing Annie’s strength to her limit. Little does she realise that the salvation of one of her loved ones, lies with Hilde, a German woman, whose life and situation mirrors Annie’s own.

Why did Annie and her friend chose Liverpool to find a better life?

There was very little work available in Ballyshannon at that time. Yarn and Textile Mills were in decline. Annie dreamed of life in a big city and had the security of her sisters living and working there already. So what could possible go wrong ?

Why did you chose 1926 as the opening period for your story? Is there any historical significance?

Liverpool Connection is based upon a true story and Annie left Ireland in the 1920’s. I then picked the year to be 1926, which was the same year as Hilde, the German woman, leaves the security of her home in Prussia to work in a household in Berlin.

Liverpool Connection BRAG

Tell me a little about the German woman, Hilde, that Annie meets.

Annie and Hilde never meet in person but the connection between them was through Joseph, a young Corporal in the RAF, who is looking for his friend, Annie’s brother-in-law. His plane was shot down over Hildesheim where Hilde lived. Hilde was my mother and Joseph was my father.

Could you please share an excerpt?

“Dorothy. Run!” She managed to shout before she started to cough.

Aircraft noises drowned out Annie’s instructions. She hurried after Dorothy. A whistling sound, silence, then a massive boom, which seemed to be really close by. The earth shook under her feet, and Annie fell to the ground, dropping Derek when she fell.

“Derek!” Nobody heard Annie’s cry for help. She was alone, lying on the ground, unable to move. From fear or shock, she did not know, but her legs refused to carry her weight. There was burning rubble near to where Derek had fallen. He managed to get up by himself. Covered in dirt, he toddled over to where she lay. He did not cry, just sat on the ground next to Annie. The planes came back. She imagined them to be somewhere right above her in the dark sky. She pulled Derek over by his arm. And covered him with her body as best she could. One arm over Derek and with the other shielding her head. Noises, threatening noises. Deafening sounds. The earth underneath would not keep still. And hot, so hot. My children, I hope they are safe. She must have said it out loud. She felt somebody pulling her at the back of the coat.

Who designed the cover of your book?

The wonderful creative team from SilverWood. I was asked whether I had my own idea and supplied just a tiny bit and then ‘voila’ the cover arrived.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Since the story runs side-by-side with my first book, ‘ The Night I danced with Rommel’ and the connection between the two books is Liverpool, the title could only be this one.

Where can readers buy your book?

It can be bought via Amazon, printed, kindle and audio.

Barnes & Noble

Plus Bookstores in the UK.

When you get stuck on a scene what do you do?

I get up and walk around. In extreme cases, I put my running shoes on and go for a run on the coastal path. This is something I have always done when I have had to solve a problem.

What you working on next?

So much for the Unbroken Bonds series being a trilogy. It is my late husband David’s fault really. When I read the final chapter and epilogue to him from Cuckoo Clock-New York, he asked me what was happening to Thomas. Yes, you may well ask. You will have to find out in Welcome to Singapore, the prologue of which will be in the forthcoming book.

Are you sticking with just one genre?

No, I had already started with a totally different idea. But now, thanks to David, I will have to tell Thomas’s story first.

Where do you write?

I like to get up early, usually around 5am. I make myself a cup of really strong coffee and take it into my office. I first go over the chapter I wrote the day before and make adjustments. I then start on the next chapter. I write about 800 – 900 words a day. I have this habit of getting up every so often, walking around.-to clear my head a presume. Then I sit down and carry on.

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A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Elizabeth Marrion who is the author of, Liverpool Connection, 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, Liverpool Connection, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Historical Fiction & Meaning with Margaret Porter

Margaret Porter with book

I’d like to welcome MARGARET PORTER to Layered Pages today to talk with me about Historical Fiction and what it means to her and the importance of such a fascinating genre. Margaret is the author of A Pledge of Better Times and eleven more British-set historical novels for multiple publishers, in both hardcover and paperback, including several bestsellers and award-winners. Many foreign language editions have been published.

She studied British history in the U.K. and returned to the U.S. to complete her theatre training, and after earning her M.A. in Radio-Television-Film worked as a freelance writer and producer for film and video projects. She worked on location for three feature films and a television series.

An occasional newspaper columnist and book reviewer, she has also written for lifestyle magazines. She contributes articles on British history and travel to numerous publications and blogs, and her photographs (travel, architectural, and nature) appear in a variety of print media and on websites. At national and regional writers’ conferences she presents workshops on historical research and writing techniques. A member of the Authors Guild, Novelists, Inc., Historical Novel Society, London Historians, and other organizations, she is listed in Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in Authors, Editors and Poets; and Who’s Who in Entertainment.

Margaret returns to Great Britain annually to research her books, and is an avid world traveler. She and her husband live in New England with their two lively dogs, dividing their time between a book-filled house in a small city and a waterfront cottage located on one of the region’s largest lakes.

Margaret, what are the periods of history that you focus on for your writing?

My first eleven novels were all set in the second half of the Georgian era, late 18th or early 19th centuries. A Pledge of Better Times, my twelfth novel, takes place in the late Stuart era, from 1684 till about 1704, with a brief glimpse at the opening year of the George I’s reign. My historical work in progress (biographical) covers the individuals’ lives from 1770s to 1790s. The one following that is 1740s to 1760s.

Why Historical Fiction?

Because I’ve been reading it all my life, almost since I learned how to read. I enjoyed children’s stories set in the past, and I devoured YA historical biographical fiction. My first attempts at fiction, as a very young person, were all historical. Later, as an undergraduate, I studied Tudor and Stuart history in Britain—never realising that I would one day write a novel of the Stuart era. Later I became a specialist in the Georgian era as well, and the Regency.

When did you know you wanted be a Historical Fiction writer?

I think I must have been 10 years old or thereabouts. Some of my relatives were writers—scholars and academics and historians and biographers—so becoming a writer didn’t seem that far-fetched. I was the first novelist in our family, but now there are others.

PledgeCover400x600

How much time do you spend on research? What sources do you use?

I spend great quantities of time and effort on research. It can take years to thoroughly research my novels. Sometimes when in the process of writing one, I will research for a future one. Most of my sources are primary, many of them are in manuscript form (letters, memoirs, diaries, newspapers) and located in the great libraries of the world—the British Library in London, the library at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and various local history or institutional or private collections.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

First and foremost, a novel should entertain. It should also enlighten—about the human condition, about historical events, about the lives lived in the past and the choices individuals made based upon their circumstances in life and their needs. Immersion in past times is the reason I write and read historical fiction. Often historical events have a resonance with current events, and though the parallels might not be overtly drawn in a book, as writer and reader I am often aware of them.

How much fiction (in your opinion) is best blended with historical facts?

I inevitably follow the historical timeline. To me, it’s not constraining. Within it—for conversations, incidents, motivations—I use my imagination to the fullest. Because of my intensive study of history, I don’t particularly enjoy novels that mess about with past realities, with or without an Author’s Note explaining what was altered. (Unless it’s intended and marketed as alternate history—although I don’t really read in that genre.) I can’t begin to say what’s optimal, I just know what I prefer and I tend to seek out authors who basically do as I do.

How do you feel the genre has progressed in the last ten years?

There’s more selection. Still not enough choice in certain time periods. The emergence of many wonderful contemporary authors of historical fiction—my peers and friends and colleagues—has been a great gift. I appreciate the attention to subgenres—historical mystery, biographical historical fiction, military historical fiction—which is helpful from a reader perspective. Good marketing is key, and though for historical fiction it’s not fantastic (yet), certain publishers have tried hard to reach out to what is still a niche readership.

What are the important steps in writing Historical Fiction?

Determining what the writer most likes to read, because that’s where her or his enthusiasm will be greatest, and storytelling most effective. Choose an era that you love and understand, not just because it’s popular. Do the necessary research to make your novel reflective of the times, with regard to social history and lifestyles. Create characters—real or imagined—who are dynamic, conflicted, sympathetic, or the love-to-hate kind. Make them relatable to a modern readership without being anachronistic.

What must you not do when writing in this genre?

If you want to please this reader, your novel doesn’t have 21st century characters in historic costume. If you are writing about Tudors, don’t give them a Victorian sense of morality. Don’t neglect research. Don’t rely on cardboard characters. Don’t write down to your reader—those who seek out historical fiction are some of the smartest readers out there. They want to be immersed and swept away, so don’t disappoint them!

Do you use visuals to give you inspiration when writing? Such as historical pictures of people, castles, towns and such? What about historical objects?

Whether or not I am writing real people, I rely on portraits of people and places as they were at that time. When I visit locations featured in my books, I take hundreds of detailed photographs. I study maps of locations, floor plans of castles and houses and cottages. When I’m able, I try to find objects connected with my real-life characters, I study types of clothing worn by them. My theatrical training was helpful, I have performed in the costumes of every era I’ve written about. Sometimes I will re-create dishes or drinks they would have consumed. I listen to music of their time, discover what songs were popular, which poets and authors they would’ve read. My process is more than visual!

Who are your influences?

Any number of historical novelists. Anya Seton, Norah Lofts, Diana Norman, Jean Plaidy, Ken Follett, Georgette Heyer. I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve been influenced by Hilary Mantel, but I admired her work well before Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. I don’t think I’m directly influenced by any current authors of historical fiction, but I certainly enjoy reading their books!

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