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:


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.


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.


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:


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: 





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.


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.

 Book Cover Images and Links:

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Historical Fiction Links:

A House Near Luccoli Amazon

Barnes & Noble

To A Strange Somewhere Fled Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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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