The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall: A gripping novel of family, secrets and murder by Kathleen McGurl

The daughter of red hill hallWhen Gemma discovers a pair of ancient duelling pistols encrusted with rubies in the basement of the local museum, she is immediately intrigued…

On a fateful night in 1838 two sisters were found shot in the cellars of Red Hill Hall. And when Gemma begins to delve deeper into their history she begins to realise that the secrets of that night are darker than anyone had ever imagined.

As the shocking events of the past begin to unravel, Gemma’s own life starts to fall apart. Loyalties are tested and suddenly it seems as if history is repeating itself, as Gemma learns that female friendships can be deadly…

My Thoughts:

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall has dual story lines that weave together wonderfully. This story has a great plot and the pace was perfect. There are some surprises and twist along the way and I found myself emotional invested in the characters. I really admire McGurl’s focus on the relationship between Rebecca and Sarah. She also shows that not everything is what it seems and what resentment and jealousy can do to people. I wondered just how far she would go with this and I was really astounded the way things turned out.

An old case of dueling pistols is brilliant! My hats off to the author.

I’ve rated this book three and a half stars.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie N. Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins

The Tory WidowI absolutely adore American History and how this great nation was founded. I am really looking forward to reading this book and I LOVE the book cover! I think it’s perfect for the story and I am delighted to see a picture of a woman without her entire head missing from the layout! Okay, okay… I have to admit something. This book falls under the Genre-Romance as well as 18th Century Literature. I am not a fan of romance stories. Having said that, because of the cover and the historical influence of the story, I’m willing to give it a go.

Book Description:

On a bright May day in New York City, Anne Peabody receives an unexpected kiss from a stranger. Bringing news of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of Liberty, abruptly sweeps Anne into his arms, kisses her-and then leaves her to her fate of an arranged marriage…

1775: Nearly ten years have passed and Anne, now the Widow Merrick, continues her late husband’s business printing Tory propaganda, not because she believes in the cause, but because she needs the money to survive. When her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, Anne once again comes face to face with Jack and finds herself drawn to the ardent patriot and his rebel cause.

As shots ring out at Lexington and war erupts, Anne is faced with a life-altering decision: sit back and watch her world torn apart, or stand and fight for both her country’s independence and her own.

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Flashlight Commentary’s latest cover crush here

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

Wish-List 5: A Little of This & A Little of That

This month I am not sticking to any particular theme. I am in the mood to add a variety of stories to my never ending wish-list. The question is, will I ever get to my list? I think so. Matter of fact I have read a few already this year. Not bad but I need to read more. As they say, there is never enough time in the day. There is night time of course but one must get some sleep every once in a while. I hope you enjoy checking out this list and I hope some will be of interest to you. Enjoy! 

The Whole Art of DetectionThe Whole Art of Detection

Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

by Lyndsay Faye

Expected Publish Date: March 7, 2017

Internationally bestselling author Lyndsay Faye was introduced to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries when she was ten years old and her dad suggested she read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” She immediately became enamored with tales of Holmes and his esteemed biographer Dr. John Watson, and later, began spinning these quintessential characters into her own works of fiction—from her acclaimed debut novel, Dust and Shadow, which pitted the famous detective against Jack the Ripper, to a series of short stories for the Strand Magazine, whose predecessor published the very first Sherlock Holmes short story in 1891.

Faye’s best Holmes tales, including two new works, are brought together in The Whole Art of Detection, a stunning collection that spans Holmes’s career, from self-taught young upstart to publicly lauded detective, both before and after his faked death over a Swiss waterfall in 1894. In “The Lowther Park Mystery,” the unsociable Holmes is forced to attend a garden party at the request of his politician brother and improvises a bit of theater to foil a conspiracy against the government. “The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel” brings Holmes’s attention to the baffling murder of a jewel thief in the middle of an underground railway passage. With Holmes and Watson encountering all manner of ungrateful relatives, phony psychologists, wronged wives, plaid-garbed villains, and even a peculiar species of deadly red leech, The Whole Art of Detection is a must-read for Sherlockians and any fan of historical crime fiction with a modern sensibility.

Stolen BeautyStolen Beauty

A Novel

by Laurie Lico Albanese

Expected Publish Date: Feb 7, 2017

From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, #1New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.

The Orphan's TaleThe Orphan’s Tale

by Pam Jenoff

Expected Publish Date: Feb 21, 2017

The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II, by international bestselling author Pam Jenoff.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

A Deadly ThawA Deadly Thaw

by Sarah Ward

Expected Publish Date: Sep 27, 2016

Lena Grey is found guilty of murdering her husband, who was found smothered in their bed. She offers no defense, and serves fourteen long years in prison. But within months of her release nearly two decades later, his body is found in a disused morgue, recently killed. Who was the man she killed before, and why did she lie about his identity?

Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his Derbyshire team try to discover how such a well-orchestrated deception could have occurred. DC Connie Childs is convinced that something greater than marital strife caused the murders, but before Lena can be questioned further, she vanishes. Back in Lena’s childhood home, her sister Kat, a therapist, is shocked by her sister’s duplicity. When she begins to receive mysterious packages from a young man claiming to know her sister’s location, Kat is drawn into her own investigation of her family’s well-hidden secrets. As her inquiries begin to collide with the murder investigation, a link to the sisters’ teenage lives emerges, and the line between victim and perpetrator becomes blurred in this tightly-plotted, compelling novel perfect for fans of Deborah Crombie and Sharon Bolton.

The Trial of Marie MontrecourtThe Trial of Marie Montrecourt

by Kay Patrick

Expected Publish Date: May 28, 2016

1899 and Marie Montrecourt arrives in Harrogate from France, an eighteen-year-old, penniless orphan, facing an uncertain future and knowing little of her past. Meanwhile in London, Evelyn Harringdon is dealing with the death of his father, one of the most influential men in Parliament and a hero of the first Boer War.

It would seem that these two events have little in common but they are linked by a scandal, one that is deeply buried in the past.

As Marie struggles to find a place for herself in her new life she is drawn into the fight for women’s rights, while Evelyn discovers that political corruption threatens to ruin his family’s good name. It is his obsession with discovering the truth that brings him into contact with Marie – a meeting that will prove dangerous for them both. They are prisoners of the past, and Evelyn’s attempt at atonement sets Marie on a path which will lead her into making a terrible choice. It’s one which will transform her from an innocent young woman into the central player in a notorious murder trial…

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court 

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary 

 

Review: The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann

02_The-Ninjas-Daughter-1Book Description:

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

My thoughts:

The Ninja’s Daughter was a real treat to read. I don’t think I have read a story that takes place in Japan during the 16th Century before. The culture, social norms, customs, class distinctions during that period are really fascinating and Spann really shows that in this story. Not only that but the political and social conflicts were interesting as well.

Spann does a great job in keeping her readers engaged with the story and the mystery of who killed Emi. The Kyoto police do not feel that her death is worth an investigation and Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo are determined to find the killer. What a dual those two make. I loved the interaction between them and how they uncover the killer and so on.

This story makes a good stand-alone but I look forward to reading more Hiro’s and Mateo’s life from the previous books.

I rated this story three stars.

About the Author

03_Susan-SpannSusan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. . When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

For more information, please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

 

Interview with Andrea Zuvich

Andrea ZuvichAndrea Zuvich is visiting me today to talk with me about her book, The Stuart Vampire and about the period in history she focuses on. Andrea is a seventeenth-century historian specialising in the House of Stuart (1603–1714), as well as a historical advisor and author of historical fiction. She is the host of the popular ‘The Seventeenth Century Lady’ blog. She has degrees in History and Anthropology. Zuvich has appeared on television and radio discussing the Stuarts and gives lectures on the dynasty throughout the UK. She was one of the original developers of and leaders on the Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace. Zuvich, a Chilean-American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now lives in England with her husband.

Hi, Andrea! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, The Stuart Vampire. Tell me a little about the premise.

Thank you for having me on this great site! The Stuart Vampire follows the brief life of Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who was the youngest son of King Charles I (and therefore the youngest brother of King Charles II). Henry historically died from smallpox when he was twenty, and my story takes a decidedly paranormal turn from that point on and takes us along on Henry’s journey as he copes with his forced transformation into a vampire and he embarks on a mission to try to make something good out of this horrible curse. Along the way, he meets Susanna, the shocking inhabitants of the isolated village of Coffin’s Bishop, Sebastian (originally a mediaeval stonemason), among others.

Why 17th Century?

For me, the seventeenth century has it all and is yet grossly overlooked by both readers and authors (though I’m pleased to say I’ve seen a steady surge in interest from both in the past couple of years). The century was pretty controversial and one can still get heated arguments about topics from that time (i.e. whether or not it was lawful to execute King Charles I, what we should call the English Civil Wars, if we should recognize William and Mary as true sovereigns or usurpers… the list goes on and on). I love the aesthetics of this time period as well – the Baroque style is sometimes criticised for being over-exuberant and outrageously flamboyant – but I love it as, to me, it’s stunning and unashamed of displaying the gamut of human emotion.

The Stuart Vampire

Tell me a little about Charles II.

Ah, Charles II, hands-down the most popular of the Stuarts. Often called the “Merry Monarch”, he is best remembered for his rather prolific love life and for the Great Fire of London rather than for the political events during his reign – which included the Popish Plot of the 1670s, the Rye House Plot of 1683, the Secret Treaty of Dover with Louis XIV of France, etc. Charles II appears occasionally in The Stuart Vampire because he was an important figure in Henry’s life.

What are the emotional triggers of Contessa Griselda di Cuorenero and how does she act on them?

Griselda is the main antagonist of the book. Her biggest flaw is her obsession with her looks. She’s been fortunate to have beauty, but naturally this fades with time and it is the lengths to which she’ll go to in order to maintain this beauty that shows the depths of her vanity and evil. I can’t comment any further without giving anything away!

What is the courage and strengths of Henry Stuart? -and possibly the isolation he may feel with these attributes.

Henry has a strong sense of morality, and I think this is his strongest point. When he is around Griselda, she is a despicable individual and he knows he does not want to be like her. His longing to maintain his humanity is touching but at the same time makes him lonely. His devotion to and love for Susanna is another strength, and it’s the same for her. After a secret is revealed, Susanna tells Henry that “Our love will be the light and the darkness shall perish beneath the weight of it” – and that’s the strength of their relationship in a nutshell.

How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

At one point, Henry leaves London and goes into the countryside, which does influence him – I think characters, like real people, do get influenced by their surroundings and those who surround them. The town of Coffin’s Bishop is a negative influence on Susanna, who does need to get away from that horrid place just for some peace of mind.

What is the greatest challenge of writing a story with Vampires in it?

Believability, especially from those who know me as a more serious historian. Most of my days are spent writing nonfiction history, but I’m very keen on making history accessible to as many people as possible as I don’t think it should only be for the academic community. When some people hear that I’ve written “a vampire story” they have a rude tendency to roll their eyes and/or chuckle, but the fact is, this story has made Henry Stuart known to a lot more people – people who have subsequently gone on to read more about the Stuarts, the English Civil Wars, the seventeenth century, and so on. I had one teenager contact me saying that solely because of The Stuart Vampire, she decided to get books about the Stuarts from her library to learn more about them – which is great! And that’s certainly nothing to snigger about.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Stuart Vampire is available in both paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, iBooks, Google Books, signed copies are available through my website, and the book will soon to be released as an audiobook on Audible. My other books are also available in these formats, but the two nonfiction books, A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain (hardback, 2016) and The Stuarts in 100 Facts (paperback, 2015) can be bought from any good bookseller.

Please tell me about yourself as an Historian.

History has been a very important aspect of my life since I was a little girl. I remember I was in the fourth grade and I knew I wanted to be a historian. I went to a community college during high school and then got my AA in History, and then I went to the University of Central Florida where I obtained two BA degrees – one in History and the other in Anthropology. After this, I got married and moved to the UK, and continued my history studies with Oxford University and Princeton University. That being said, there was absolutely no better training for me than actually delving into archives around the world – handling documents from the seventeenth century brought the history to life in ways that could never be done in a classroom. Indeed, by the time I had finished studying history in university, I was burned out, I almost couldn’t stand it anymore as formal study and the somewhat politically biased teaching wasn’t right for me. I had time off and fell in love with history again, by self-teaching with primary sources. Whilst living in London, I volunteered at Kensington Palace and later was one of the creators and leaders on their Garden History Tours, which was a very enlightening experience for me. Since 2010, I’ve run The Seventeenth Century Lady website which is devoted to all things seventeenth-century, with an emphasis on European history. I’ve been giving lectures on the Stuart period of 1603-1714 for several years now, and it’s a delight to do so.

Will you write other stories related to the paranormal?

It’s funny because I was never before interested in paranormal stories until The Stuart Vampire. That being said, I’ve had numerous readers who have responded favorably to this and many have asked for a continuation of Henry’s story – which does indeed interest me!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing a short story set during the plague outbreak of 1630s Venice, and I’m also recording the audio version of The Stuart Vampire. I’m expecting a child due in October, so I hope to finish off two more historical fiction novels that I’ve been working on over the past few years (I started my novel about William and Mary in 2010, and my novel about a Restoration actress’s adventures in 2014) – we’ll see how that goes!

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

I write historical novels based on historical fact, and there are unknowns in any biography and I use my imagination – strictly based on in-depth study on that person’s behavior and character – to flesh out the story. I rather see the whole process as though the facts are the bones of a fish, and my job is to give educated guesses as to the rest – to flesh out the fish. Every author has their way of going about it, but I’m comfortable with this so I’ll keep on trucking.

Thank you, Andrea!

Thank you, Stephanie!

Please visit Andrea’s site here

Other Links:

Amazon Profile

Goodreads

 

Cover Crush: The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

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First off I’d like to say I LOVE the title! What book junkie wouldn’t? Anyhow, the cover sets the tone for the story, I think. From what I gather about the story, Jasper is a young boy who has a bird’s eye view of his surrounding and sees things a person as young as he shouldn’t see or experience. Or anyone for that matter. I take it from the focal point of the farm on the cover is his Uncles. One can just imagine his life there from what the book description reads. I am totally digging the tinted, dark, and subtle tones of the cover. The title and premise makes for an interesting book. Looking forward to diving in soon and can’t wait to see how the title plays into the story.

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The Buried bookWhen Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he’s left on his uncle’s farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It’s 1952, and Jasper isn’t allowed to ask questions or make a fuss. He’s lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle’s good graces. No one knows where his mother went or whether she’s coming back. Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands. From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he’s drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother—and now it’s chasing him too.

Kindle Edition, 412 pages

Expected publication: August 23rd 2016 by Lake Union Publishing

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Flashlight Commentary’s latest cover crush here 

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

 

Review: Arrowood by Laura McHugh

ArrowoodArrowood is the most ornate and beautiful of the grand historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa, where the days are long and humid and communities are small and closed. It has its own secrets and ghostly presence: It’s where Arden’s young twin sisters were abducted nearly twenty years ago—never to be seen again. Now, Arden has inherited Arrowood, and she returns to her childhood home determined to establish what really happened that traumatic summer. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

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My thoughts:

As Arden returns to her ancestor’s home-Arrowood- in Southern Iowa the author describes an imposing second empire style with three stories in a town called, Keokuk that had once seen grandeur in its days. A town that was once was and now is where great houses had/has its own distinctive architecture mark on it. Where lingering pain inflicted on the family long ago and still holds deep, dark secrets.

This story has such a strong sense of time and place. I contribute that to the author’s impeccable description of imagery, the landscape and the emotions she invokes from her characters. Where tragedy and secrets from the past haunt the present.

The tragedy of Arden and her family losing her twin sisters was gut wrenching and Arden needing to find out what really happen to her little sisters and putting to rest some of the heart ache that came afterwards is brilliantly told. What is even more heart breaking is discovering that everything you thought turns out not what you imagined happened to them. How Arden deals with that is extraordinary.

Laura McHugh has really breathed life into her characters and brings her readers a captivating story. One I will never forget and one I would like to revisit again one day. I can’t say enough about this book and how it impacted me emotionally. I highly recommend this story and have rated it five stars.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree S.L. Dwyer

Sharon Dwyer BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Hi, S.L. Dwyer to Layered Pages today! S.L., thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your B.R.A.G. Medallion Book, The Fantasmagorical Forest. Please tell me about your story.

The story centers on 15-year-old Katelin who has not been able handle her grief over her father’s death. She is devastated when told she will be spending part of her summer, along with her younger brother, at their great-grandmother’s home in the Appalachian Mountains. With no malls, no TV, and no cell phone service, she not only brings her physical baggage, but her emotional baggage. Thinking her life is a total mess now, she fights the beauty of magic they find in the forest that surrounds Nana’s home. But not her brother Simon, who drags her along, willing or not, on his adventures exploring the wonders of the land. Faeries, talking birds, and gentle trolls fail to bring Katelin out of what her brother calls her “baditude”. When Nana is kidnapped, Katelin must organize a race to save her using all the magical beings they met even though she has been rude to all of them.  It’s a story about how a teen reacts to the death of a parent and the road she must travel to realize she still has the love of the rest of her family and it’s okay to grieve.

Describe Katelin and Simon’s great-grandmother’s home in a valley in the Appalachian Mountains.

Nana’s home sits alone in a valley surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and a lush forest. The house is wood with a large front porch and a smaller back porch facing the forest. Although the house seems small from the outside, once you step inside it appears much larger due to Nana’s personality, with a living room filled with family pictures and a rocking chair next to a large window looking out onto the valley, a rarely used dining room and a cozy kitchen where everyone spends most of their time. There is always fresh lemonade on the table and the aroma of fresh baked goods.  Near the house is a shed made from the remnants of the original log cabin her parents had built and the old well where, as a child, she drew water. Although alone in the valley, the house is cozy within the environment it sits.

The Fantasmagorical Forest BRAGHow did you come up with the name, Fantasmagorical?

The original title was Nana’s Enchanted Valley, but the more I wrote the story the more I didn’t like the title. I wanted the title to reflect the main characters. During one of my writer’s group meetings we threw some words around to get an idea of a new title. The Fantasmagorical Forest was born and it fit great with the young characters. Simon always makes up words (baditude, awesomity, fantasmagorical) so it fit with the story.

What is the world of Dhumfeld like?

The land of the gentle trolls, where everything is big, is bordered on three sides by tall, formidable mountains, cut in half by a river filled with giant snakes, and covered for as far as you can see with tall, golden grass. Warm with a mild breeze, it has subtle beauty intertwined with danger. Green, cool woods shaped like circles plunked down in the plains are inviting but deadly in the truest sense. There are no houses or villages as the trolls live in a huge cave within a mountain. Their mountain is the portal between the two worlds.

What is the mood or tone your characters portrays and how does this affect the story?

Katelin is consumed with grief and it shows in everything she does and says which plays well off Simon’s, happy personality. They bump heads at every turn with Katelin’s need to take her pain out on all those around her and force the story by creating situations that they must work together to resolve. As with all opposite personalities, they come to a point where they must confront each other and say what is in their hearts – good and bad. This becomes the turning point in which the story goes from fighting with each other to joining together, heart and soul, in their race to find Nana.

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

I become each character as I write their actions and dialogue, especially in this book and my previous book, Dirt. Writing about young characters gives me the opportunity to forget about how adults would react to situations and go back to how I dealt with emotions as a teen. It’s amazing how our mind never forgets all those years spent becoming an adult.  Emotions are like freckles; they may fade but never really go away. I can’t believe I just thought about freckles, they bothered me as a teen and I couldn’t wait for them to disappear. Memories tend to show up in our writing without us being aware of it. Back to the question… as I become that young person, I get to say what I want and do what I want and not care or worry about what anyone thought. The abandonment of thinking about doing things right (or being PC) sets me free. I go back to when I was a teen and think about how I would react in the same situation, or at least how I thought I would react, if I want to be angry and not care who got hurt, or be a daredevil and never think about the consequences. I become that character.

Personality helps to drive the plot because as I know my character I am able to put them in positions that require some action, whether it be passive or active. They become three dimensional by using good and bad traits. I love writing young adult stories. Young teens have such a great way of dealing with situations. They are so “in your face” with their emotions. I try to make the characters as real as possible and hope I get it right.

Who designed your book cover?

The picture is actually a photograph of a forest in Nettuno, Italy by Moyan Brenn. I came across it on the internet and realized this was my Fantasmagorical Forest and contacted the photographer. He is a great photographer and gave me permission to use it. Joleen Naylor did the title work. I guess you can say I designed it with a great deal of help by these two wonderful people. I’ve already picked out one of his photographs for the cover of the next book in the trilogy.

How long did it take to write your story and what was your process?

I took about a year since I wrote while taking care of my 91-year-old father 24/7. I really can’t schedule a specific time to write since I never know what will be happening that day. An idea comes and I think about it for awhile until a see a story forming then I take 3×5 cards and use one for each chapter writing the main scene and notes for things I want to include in that chapter. As I’m writing, if I find something I want to include in a previous chapter, I write a note on the corresponding chapter card in red and use them when I edit and rewrite. This system works for me because I don’t have to go back to previous chapters to put something in and end up losing my train of thought as I write.

Favorite food or drink while you write?

Anything I can eat or drink with one hand. When I’m on a roll and the writing is flowing, I don’t want to stop and fix something that stops my train of thought.  Lots of water and yogurt. If I’m energetic, I’ll make a plate of cheese and crackers.

Are there any new writing habits you have developed with each book you have written?

Absolutely. As writers, we all hope to grow as we tackle each story, find new ways to work that produces our best writing. I never plotted or wrote an outline for my first two books.  I sat down and wrote until I felt the story was complete. I knew the beginning, middle and end. This worked only up to a point. I ended up throwing out over one hundred pages and totally rewrote the first two chapters in my first book.  It was a good learning experience.  By the time I got to my third book, Dirt, I used the 3×5 cards for the first time and realized how much easier it was to keep the story on track and to go back and add things or take them out. When I wrote The Fantasmagorical Forest, I used the cards but left out the last chapter thinking I wasn’t happy with what I had envisioned at the start and waited until I was almost finished before deciding on the ending. The second book in The Fantasmagorical Forest trilogy, I used the 3×5 cards and left the last few chapters open. As it is, I’ve already deviated from my cards by chapter 3 and now I am catching up to the original story line.  That’s the good thing about using the cards, I can move away and catch up without losing the story I originally envisioned. I never used to go over any of my chapters until I finished the story. I am now going back over the last chapter I wrote, rereading it and doing a little editing before writing the next chapter. This gets me into the story faster.  I’m evolving.

Where can readers buy your book? 

All my books are on Amazon. I’m getting ready to add them to Barnes and Noble.

What are you currently working on?

Book 2 of The Fantasmagorical Forest. I love this story because Katelin is now almost eighteen and her views of the world are a little different. She makes decisions and worries about the consequences later.  It seems as if some of her brother, Simon, has rubbed off on her.

Thank you, S.L.! A pleasure to talk with you today.

About Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Florida, I still consider myself a New Englander and miss the scenery. I’ve worked at several different professions from nursing to engineering to finance until I realized writing is what makes me the happiest.  The joy of taking a single idea and turning it into a story people want to read is exhilarating.

People ask me where I get my ideas for my books. Well, as most writers will tell you, they come from observing life around you. I am a people watcher and find stories where ever I look. I am also a day dreamer – which sometimes gets in the way of my writing.

I am currently working on my third YA book and having fun staying in the heads of a fifteen-year-old and eleven-year-old. The freedom to shape these characters is enormous and I have fun going back in time and being that child again – without all the problems inherent to teenagers. I would never have thought this is where I would settle in my writing. My first book was action/adventure; shoot-outs and chases were fun along with exotic locales. My second book was mainstream drama and left me feeling drained from the emotional baggage that came with the story.

So, putting those books behind me, I have embarked on a wonderful journey writing stories with children being my main characters and finding all sorts of trouble for them to get into. And, I plan on sticking with teen and YA stories, at least for now.

Links

Website

Amazon   

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview S.L. Dwyer who is the author of, The Fantasmagorical Forest, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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 Fantasmagorical Forest, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 indiebrag team member