Author Interview with Janet Stafford -The Great Central Fair

I’d like to welcome back Janet Stafford to Layered Pages today! Janet has several books published including the historical fiction novels, “Saint Maggie Series”.  Hi, Janet! Please tell everyone a little about your Saint Maggie Series as a whole.

Hi, Stephanie! Thank you for talking the time to talk with me about my novels.

The Saint Maggie series is about love, hope, forgiveness, strength, and faith during difficult times. It is set in Civil War America and focuses on Maggie Blaine Smith and her unconventional family. Maggie learns the value of compassion and love after she is disowned by her family for marrying the son of a rival businessman. Fortunately, she and her husband are taken in by her husband’s Aunt Letty. After her husband and young son die, Maggie is encouraged by Aunt Letty to start a boarding house to make ends meet. Maggie does this and takes in people who need help, who need love, and who cannot pay her very much in the way of rent.

That’s her situation at the beginning of the first novel, Saint Maggie. The story is set in a fictional town called Blaineton in Warren County, New Jersey. Maggie has two teenage daughters (Lydia and Frances) and runs a rooming house with struggling boarders. She is best friends with her cook Emily Johnson and Emily’s husband Nate. The town’s folks look askance at Maggie and Emily’s friendship, since Maggie is white, and Emily is black. Eli Smith, owner and editor of the Gazette, a penny weekly newspaper, is sweet on Maggie. And Nate, Emily, Maggie, and Eli are station masters on an Underground Railroad stop, something the town may suspect, but cannot prove.

Maggie and her family of “blood relatives” and fictive kin take on the issues, dangers, and heartbreak of the American Civil War. They do it earnestly, compassionately and passionately, but also with humor. The series gives me an opportunity to look at the issues of their time through their eyes. Over the course of four full-length novels, I have been able to dig into the how the exposure to battle changed soldiers and civilians; slavery, race relations, and the work of the Underground Railroad; women’s rights; the treatment of mental illness; medicine’s first notice of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the first hints of the Gilded Age that will come. The fifth book, which is my current work-in-progress, deals with segregation in education, as well as the power of the press and attempts to suppress the it. Lest you think my stories are all issue-oriented, I assure you that my characters also fall in love, have children, try to understand each other, and have moments of silliness and fun.

Please tell me about your latest book in the series, “The Great Central Fair.”

The Great Central Fair

The Great Central Fair is a novella. It had its roots in A Time to Heal: Saint Maggie Series 3 but I removed it because I realized that I had enough side plots going. I tried inserting it into my current work-in-progress, but again it just got in the way. Finally, I said, “Enough! Why don’t I make it a short story or a novella?”

The story is a solidly a romance, and I got to leave most of the social and political issues of the time behind. The Great Central Fair is about being young and in love during a time of war (1864). One of the relationships is well-established and looking toward the future. The other relationship is new and evolving. The city of Philadelphia serves as the catalyst for some of the changes that occur for the couples and the interaction among the characters in the story.

I love the title and how it stands out to grab the reader’s attention. Will you please tell your audience about the Fair and an example how it ties into your story?

I’d love to do that! When I realized I was bringing my characters to Philadelphia, I did a little research about what was going on in the city at that time. I thought it would be fun if they could engage in something that also was rooted in history. Well, I ran across a comment about the city hosting a “sanitary fair” and that stopped me dead in my tracks. What on earth was a “sanitary fair?” A showcase of bathtubs? An exhibition of the latest in sanitized drinking water? A display of modern sewage systems?

The answer both surprised me and made me slap my head and shout, “Duh!” A “sanitary fair” was a fair held to raise money for the Sanitary Commission, a civilian-run organization approved by the U.S. government. The Commission provided medical help and sanitary assistance (regarding food and general health issues) to soldiers and, sometimes, civilians. It also sent nurses and cooks to regiments and helped set up field hospitals.

The Commission was a huge effort initiated by the people to make life bearable for their soldiers. To support the Commission’s work, Sanitary Fairs were held throughout the Union and raised, by the time of the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair, over two million dollars. All the donations seemed to come from the Union’s citizens. The Philadelphia Sanitary Fair also was known as “The Great Central Fair” because it reached beyond its city and state to include people living in New Jersey and Delaware.

The connection of the fair comes into the story after the two young couples ask Chester Carson to be their chaperone on a three-day, two-night trip to Philadelphia before their young men report for duty at Mower General U.S. Hospital. It is Carson who mentions the fair a place to visit during the trip. The fair then provides a new experience for the couples, as well as (I hope) for readers. It is an 1864 exhibit of past and present during wartime that contains the hope that the Union will win the conflict and become whole once again at some future date. Within that environment, the characters all look toward their own futures.

Who are the characters in your story?

The novella revolves around Maggie’s daughters, Lydia and Frankie. By 1864, they are young women aged 22 and 18 respectively. That they are leaving the childhood behind is not lost on Maggie, who is feeling the tug of “empty nest syndrome,” especially when Frankie’s beau, Patrick, arrives at the household for a week’s leave from the army before he reports for duty as a steward at Mower General Hospital. She sees their relationship and knows it will lead to marriage. Maggie’s husband Eli also finds his stepdaughters’ maturing to be difficult. As Frankie’s in loco father, he goes a wee bit overboard to guard her purity. In Eli’s eyes Lydia is older, a widow, and the sensible sister. So, he figures he does not have to worry about her. We find out whether that is true.

Lydia’s friend, Philip, an army doctor who had been serving at Harwood General Hospital in Washington D. C., has also been ordered to report to Mower. He, too, arrives at in Blaineton to spend a week’s leave with his friend and her family.

The story follows the young couples as they become reacquainted. For Frankie and Patrick, that means making plans. For Lydia and Philip, it means a shift in their relationship from friends to something more. Both couples decide to have a holiday in Philadelphia before the men must report and, since it is 1864, they choose Chester Carson, Eli’s senior editor and one of the boarding house family, to accompany them.

For the readers who are not familiar with Eli Smith, can you talk a little about him?

Eli Smith – dark hair and eyes, short, portly, rumpled, and bespectacled. An incident in the first novel has left him with an unsteady left leg and his needs to use a cane to help him get around.

By 1864, Eli has been married to Maggie for nearly four years. He and Maggie are the parents of Bob, whom they adopted, and infant Faith, who was a surprise.

When we first meet Eli in Saint Maggie, he is a newspaperman who owns and prints the Gazette. He was raised as a Quaker but abandoned his faith and has become a free-thinker. I wanted him to be a free-thinker because Maggie’s strong Methodism needed some balance on her mate’s side. However, throughout the series, God clearly is not interested in abandoning Eli, and the newspaperman experiences the occasional bewildering supernatural intrusion. Eli also retains some of his early training as a Friend: he is anti-violence, anti-war, and a strong abolitionist. He’s an intriguing mix of a free-thinking agnostic, a man being shaped by his wife, and a man being chased by Something Else.

If Maggie is, as one of my beta readers puts it, someone who experiences ten different emotions at once, Eli generally tends to have one at a time and they’re usually strong: angry, remorseful, sorrowful, tender, thoughtful, questioning, and… funny. He’s good comic relief.

Over the course of the Saint Maggie series, Eli loses his precious Gazette weekly newspaper to an arson fire. He tries to continue to make a go as a war correspondent for the New York Times but loses the job when he writes something other than what the editors demanded. The experience demoralizes him and feels like a failure, professionally and personally. Fortunately, Tryphena Moore (Blaineton’s richest and most intimidating citizen) decides to start a paper of her own called The Blaineton Register. She invites Eli to be her editor-in-chief because she hopes he will create “controversy of the best kind.” So, in The Great Central Fair, Eli now oversees a growing newspaper and is living his dream. He may be in a smallish western New Jersey town but now he is a miniature version of his hero Horace Greeley.

I use Eli in the first chapter to introduce the characters and the setting in The Great Central Fair.

Were there any particular scenes you found challenging to write?

Good question! The chapter at the fair was quite challenging for me. Research-wise, I was lucky to find copies of the fair’s visitor guide online and in paperback form. I also found a great many black and white photos of the Philadelphia fair at the Library of Congress. But when I tried to bring the fair to life, that was rather tough. Sometimes it was difficult to imagine the black and white photos in color and teeming with the people. Also, the way people in the 1800s mounted exhibits is quite different than way we do today. From what I could observe, fair’s displays simply were hung on walls and set up on tables. I saw none of the installation methodologies we are familiar with today. My head kept thinking, “wow, all this stuff was just sitting around and hanging on walls. Boring!” And I had to remind myself that this was all new for my characters and therefore exciting. I think the easiest thing to imagine was the Floral Department because the guide book was bubbling over with nineteenth-century enthusiasm about all the flowers and displays.

Imagining the physical scope of the building was tough, too. It took up all of Logan Square! Trying to get the feeling of the walking in the space was next to impossible, but I gave it my best shot. Again, the pictures with some of the descriptions from the guide books helped.

What is some of the research that goes into writing an historical fiction novel?

I generally start with secondary sources – people who are writing about an era, its events, and people from a distance. That gives me context and a general understanding. But I love to get hold of primary sources – things written at the time the event or person lived. Frankly, I would love to be able to go and hang out in an archival library for a week, but I have another form of employment other than writing, so taking the time off to do that is not possible. That means I need to rely on books and the articles on the internet. However, I am fortunate to have a solid background in the 19th century, thanks to a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. So, that background plus the research starts me on my way. And yet research also occurs while I’m writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped to look something up because I’m not sure what I’m doing is true to the era. That goes for everything from language to laundry to the type of press Eli’s newspapers have and what they look like.

Some friends have been encouraging me to write a YA (Young Adult) fantasy and I tried to put them off by saying that means I’d have to create a coherent world of my own. They immediately responded by saying that wasn’t a problem, it was a benefit. All I had to do would be make stuff up and make sure it makes sense. I wouldn’t have to research every little thing. Really? I don’t know about that. One of the authors I know has written a fantasy series and it looks like hard work to imagine a coherent, detailed world. I’ll probably take a stab at writing a book like that but I believe it will be every bit as difficult as historical fiction.

Reading your novels, it is apparent how much the 19th Century interest you. What are some of the misconceptions people might have about the time period?

We’ve talked about this on the phone, Stephanie, so you know what I’m going to say! The big misconception about the time period is that we see it as so much simpler than it was. An extreme example of this is the Civil War: North=good, South=bad. Wrong! The politics before, during, and after the war were complex, the emotions were complex, the beliefs were complex, the situations were complex. People did not march in lock-step physically, nor did they march in lock-step emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.

A good example of this is my home state of New Jersey. It was part of the Union during the Civil War, but it was not overwhelmingly pro-war or anti-slavery. In fact, my state was the last to outlaw slavery in the Union and even then, we did it gradually. We also had many “Copperheads,” people who were anti-war and anti-Lincoln. In my series, I try to point out the conflicts that are peculiar to New Jersey.

We also like to think that 19th century Americans were basically the same in their ethnicity and religious beliefs. But even in the 1860s United States was a varied place. Living in the nation were Native peoples, people enslaved and free whose background was African, people from Ireland, England, France, Germany, and other European nations. Religions were diverse, too: Judaism, Islam (10-15% of African slaves were Muslim when they arrived & struggled to practice their faith in secret), native religions from Africa, Native American religions, Christianity (in all its diverse forms), and Mormonism. And I’m sure I missed more examples.

I firmly believe that the roots of who we are today and the issues with which we struggle today have their roots in the 19th century. Why? Simply because we haven’t dealt with them.

Will you continue to write more books in this series?

I’m thinking of ending the series in 1865, shortly after the war. However, Maggie and Eli may let me know that their story goes on beyond that. So, all I can say is that my plan is to end it in 1865, but I may get out-voted by my characters.

In the meantime, I am “spinning off” a series for Frankie and probably one for Lydia. The Great Central Fair and The Enlistment are my first attempts at focusing more closely on Maggie’s daughters.

Where can readers buy your book?

Once it is published, you may buy The Great Central Fair (or any of the other books or short stories related to the Saint Maggie series) at the following places:

Squeaking Pips Press, Inc. This is my micro publishing house. The website is Squeaking Pips  and I have a convenient Store page on it. I sell only the paperbacks there.

Amazon carries the books in paperback and on Kindle. You’ll also find the books at Barnes & Noble, and other online distributors.

You might find them in a bookstore or a library. If you don’t see them, please request them!

The one store that I know you can find two of the series in is the Lahaska Bookshop, Peddler’s Village Store, 162 Carousel Ln & Rte 263 A, Lahaska, PA 18931. Dolyestown & Lahaska Book Shop

Thank you for the interview, Stephanie. I really enjoyed the questions!

About Janet Stafford:

Janet R Stafford

Janet Stafford is a Jersey girl, book lover and lifelong scribbler. She readily confesses to being overly-educated, having received a B.A. in Asian Studies from Seton Hall University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. Having answered a call to vocational, but non-ordained ministry, Janet has served six United Methodist Churches, working in spiritual formation, communications, and ministries with children, youth, and families. She also was an adjunct professor for six years, teaching college classes in interdisciplinary studies and world history.
Writing, history, and religion came together for Janet when she authored Saint Maggie, an historical novel set in 1860-61 and based on a research paper written during her Ph.D. studies. She thought the book would be a single novel, but kept hearing readers ask, “What happens next?” In response, Janet created a series that follows the unconventional family from the first book through three other novels and three short stories, all set in the traumatic years of the American Civil War. Janet also ventured into the contemporary romance genre, going closer to home (the church) for her source material. Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll tells the story of 40-year-old Lindsay Mitchell, who led a rock band in college but for the past fifteen years has worked as an assistant minister. Besieged by mid-life crisis, Lins wonders if perhaps she isn’t called to something new. But could that “something new” be a relationship with Neil, a man with a messy life and a bar band called the Grim Reapers?

Links:

Website

Amazon

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

Instagram

Facebook

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Q&A with Melika Dannese Lux

I’d like to welcome Melika Dannese Lux, the author of Deadmarsh Few, to Layered Pages today!  Melika, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk with me today about our upcoming book release, Deadmarsh Fey. Please tell me about your story and the period the story is set in.

fey_promo

The story takes place in England at the tail end of the 19th century. I should explain that Deadmarsh is not only the name of a family, but also the manor on the English moors which they call home. The main protagonist of this novel is Roger Knightley, a ten year old boy, who is the cousin of Havelock (Lockie) Deadmarsh, the heir. For nearly every summer of his young life, Roger has gone to Deadmarsh to while away the days with Lockie. He doesn’t expect anything to be different this year, but as soon as he crosses the threshold, he realizes that everyone has changed, especially Kip, the family cat, who has inexplicably grown and altered in other alarming ways. After several terrifying encounters with creatures from a death-haunted world called Everl’aria, Roger begins to understand that something evil has been awakened within the halls of Deadmarsh, something that is not only after Lockie and his older sister, Travers, but Roger, as well. A tapestry of secrets and lies has woven itself around the Deadmarshes, and Roger now finds himself in the position of having to unravel the mystery of why a being called the Dark Wreaker has bedeviled his family for 700 years, just what exactly the Deadmarsh connection to Everl’aria really is…and how his ancestress with the unpronounceable name, whom Roger has always called Bloody Granny B, fits into the grand scheme of things. All this, he must unravel before Lockie’s 11th birthday, two days hence. If he doesn’t, blood will drown the earth. And that’s not an understatement.

Your book cover is amazing! Who is your cover designer and age group this story geared to?

Thank you so much, Stephanie! The designer is Ravven (ravven.com), and she is brilliant! I had a very specific vision for the cover, and she was able to bring every single element of it to life in ways that still astound me.

Even though the main protagonist is a young boy, Deadmarsh Fey is not a children’s book. It is geared to anyone who enjoys an intense and detailed genre-bending story with a supernatural twist—a tale that entwines elements of dark fantasy, mystery, horror, and the inexplicable. As for an age group, I think those 14 and older would be able to appreciate and enjoy this story the most.

What is the research that went into for the setting and period of your story?

My last two novels were also set in the late 19th century, so I was already very familiar with the mores, history, vernacular, etc., of this era. For Deadmarsh Fey, my main research centered on folklore, specifically that of Wales and Norway, which are the two branches of myth that flavor the events of this and the subsequent books in my Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light series. I love exploring mythology, then coming up with my own legends and histories for my characters. Names and their meanings have also always played a huge role in my novels, but never more so than in Deadmarsh Fey.    Returning to myths…the backstories of Everl’aria and the beings who populate it, especially the Guardians, were my favorite parts of the novel to write.

Please tell me a little about the Deadmarsh name and how you came up with it. 

About 16 years ago, I was watching a sporting event on TV, only half paying attention to what was going on, when I heard the announcer call out the name Deadmarsh. My first thought was, “Wow! What a fantastically creepy and portentous name that is!” And so it stuck in my head all those years until I finally found a story to build around the family which bore that name.

Will you tell me about the Jagged Ones?

Yes, of course! Their identity is rather sensitive, but I can tell you that Carver, the blue menace on the book’s cover, is their leader. There are many reasons why they are called Jagged Ones, and the main one is not revealed till a few chapters from the end of the novel. Basically, these creatures are the servants of the Dark Wreaker, and use their power and mesmeric qualities to trick their victims into doing their bidding, which opens the door for these creatures to have a rather horrifying rite of access to said victims. I really can’t say more without revealing the entire rationale behind the Jagged Ones’ existence!

How did you get into writing Dark Fantasy?

I’ve always been fascinated by writing fantasy. It was my original love, actually, since my first (as yet uncompleted) novel, which I began writing at 14, was a fantasy novel with a decidedly dystopian flair. You won’t be surprised to hear that sharks played a large role in this book. I revisited the novel in 2012, and wrote a prologue and three chapters before realizing it still wasn’t the right time to be working on this project.

About a year later, I began work on what would be the fourth novel in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light. At the time, I thought it would be the first. I’m glad I wrote that novel, though, because the myths that were explored in it helped me tremendously when writing Deadmarsh Fey, which I quickly realized had to be the inaugural book in the series. So, in 2014, I began working on it in earnest. Deadmarsh has actually been with me for a very long while, albeit unknowingly. It turned out to be the prequel to a fantasy trilogy I started writing in 2003, in which Roger was a grandfather! Life and other projects intervened, and I put that story on hold, but the idea of exploring why Roger’s life had turned out the way it had done became too insistent to ignore, and I decided to go back and create an entire foundation for why the events in that trilogy even happened. Needless to say, it’s been a tremendous amount of work, but great fun, as well, because there were story arcs and strands of legend that I’d only scratched the surface of that I got to reveal in Deadmarsh Fey in all their (sometimes hellish) glory.

And that’s where the dark part of dark fantasy came in. The seeds for writing horror were sown in my last novel, Corcitura, which is dark Gothic horror, along classical lines. Think Dracula instead of Twilight. I’m not a person who enjoys writing “sweetness and light” books, although there are always elements of comedy and sarcasm in my novels. Authorial confession: I can’t separate that from my own personality, so it finds its way into my characters! I have to be engaged when writing, and how this happens for me, I’ve noticed, is placing characters into situations, often dire ones, in which life and death are at stake, then having them battle their way out by using their wits, engaging the help of allies, and sometimes, through a confluence of events that saves them from imminent destruction through no doing of their own. They also don’t always find happy ways out of these situations, just to be clear. It depends on where the story tells me to go.

Who is your antagonist and what is a redeeming quality he or she has?

I have several antagonists in the book, but there are five main ones who wreak the most havoc on Roger and his allies. Two I can mention by name, because the identities of the others are revealed gradually. The first is Trahaearn Coffyn, who we meet in the opening chapter. His redeeming quality, though twisted, is his intense loyalty to the evil powers he serves, specifically to a woman he’s been faithful to for, well…for a good long while.

The other is Carver, the blue fiend on the cover. As I mentioned before, he is the leader of the Jagged Ones, and not someone you’d want to run across in real life. And yet, although I despise him…I also like him quite a lot! I think it’s because he’s so comfortable in his own evilness that he oftentimes came out with lines that cracked me up, even though he was being his despicable self! For quite a while, I was mystified by my being able to laugh at them, until I understood that the reason I could was because Carver knew he was irredeemable, and had no qualms about being so. And, yes, you’ve probably noticed that I’m talking about him as if he is a flesh and blood entity. Well, that’s how he, and all the characters in this book, feel to me. I was just the facilitator who was writing down what they wanted me to say. It sounds crazy, I know, but that’s how it was throughout this entire novel!

On a personal level, how does this story resonate with you?

Writing Deadmarsh Fey was a very intense experience for me. Corcitura was an incredibly complex novel, yet I think that because Deadmarsh Fey is not only its own complete story, but also lays the groundwork for the other novels in the series—it required me to plumb depths I never had before as a writer. I also became very attached to these characters, even growing fond of the villains in some strange way, which surprised me!

But the main thing for me when writing this novel was the gamut of emotions I experienced, especially in regards to Roger. The entire book is told from his perspective (third person), and because of that, I felt like I became Roger in this story. I discovered things as he did, saw things through his eyes, which meant that everything he endured, everything he felt—pain, fear, excitement, terror, disappointment, panic, elation—I felt  intensely, too. It was exhausting and rewarding at the same time. And made it very hard to put him through the ordeals I had him undergo. Very hard, but not impossible, and I did feel terrible afterward, but what the story called for, the story got.

Story wise, the events in Deadmarsh Fey resonated with me because they are about fighting for the ones you love. That is the main impetus that propels Roger’s actions, and the actions of his allies. It’s not just about survival, or stopping the evil of the Dark Wreaker and his servants from  being unleashed upon this earth, but about saving the very souls of those who are most important to you, those you’d give your life for. And that is something that has always appealed to me, not only in storyweaving, but in reality.

Please share with me your writing process and your favorite spot to write in your home.

After writing Deadmarsh Fey in chronological order from beginning to end without deviating, I have become addicted to this process, so that is how I now work. I cannot see myself going back to writing novels piecemeal after this experience.

I’m a rover when it comes to my favorite spot to write in at home. I do have a designated office/study/library, with a lovely writing desk, but I don’t like to stay in one place for too long. I feel like I become stagnant if I don’t have a change of writing scene every now and then. So, since I work on a laptop, I take it all over the house, and settle where I’m most comfortable.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Kindle edition of Deadmarsh Fey is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com  (HERE). The paperback edition will also be available for purchase (through Amazon) on May 2nd, the book’s official release date.

About the Author:

Melika

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write novels that incorporate a variety of different genres, including historical fiction, suspense, thrillers with a supernatural twist, and dark fantasy. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Website: Books In My Belfry

Twitter  @BooksInMyBelfry

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Interview with Elisabeth Marrion

The Wight Thing_REVISED COVER PROOF 20 FEB II

Interview Questions for Elisabeth Marrion -The Wight Thing

I’d lie to welcome award-winning author Elisabeth Marrion to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her upcoming new story, The Wight Thing.

Hello. Elisabeth! Thank you for chatting with me today at Layered pages about your book, The Wight Thing. First, tell me about your story and how is it different from your other books?

Hello Stephanie, it is me who has to thank you.

This latest novel is what we call a –‘chick lit, you know, the type of book a reader likes to take away on holiday. My previous books are historical novels. The Night I Danced with Rommel, Liverpool Connection and Cuckoo Clock-New York.  Family life (my own family mainly) before and during WWII). In The Wight Thing, six retired friends find it hard to imagine living without each other’s company, since they have been friends from their uni days, and come up with the obvious solution. How about all moving in together? And their search for the ideal place begins.

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

This is a very varied group, each with their own desires and problems, Very different characters. Maybe that makes them such great friends.

Please tell me a little about Christine.

Oh dear, Christine, she involuntarily always finds herself in charge. She is a great ‘doer’. A fact her friends had on caught onto at an early stage in their relationships. Somehow, she stumbles into situations not realising she has yet again has been set up. No different on this occasion.

Who is Isabelle and can you tell me a little about her relationship with Christine?

Isabelle is one of the group. Altogether there are six of them. But Isabelle has recently lost her husband, Patrick. Maybe that was the instigator for their new venture.

Describe the setting of your story.

The friends live and have worked in the South of England, but that does not mean the story does not go further afield. It goes back and forth from the late sixties to today, therefore, quite a few actual happenings from the early part for their lives together.

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

Difficult to say. The characters sort of come to me and then develop a life of their own, they just grow. I can see them and watch them whilst I go along.

Was there any research or fact checking that went into your story?

Funny, you should ask that. A lot of places in The Wight Thing are actual places and I have either lived there or know them well. A lot of little ‘incidents’ in the book also really happened. Not of course, to the characters I allocated them to, because I made those up.

How has this story impacted you?

This might sound crazy, the story has become part of my life. But not surprising really since I know the places and little stories within.

How has your environment and upbringing coloured your writing?

I write from the heart and like to tell a good story. I was brought up in Germany right after the end of WWII. I know from that time in History how important it is to have a good group of friends you can rely on.

Were there any challenges writing this story? What was your process?

I had the idea about the story for a very long time. It that was something my friends and my husband on myself had contemplated at some time. All of us living together.

How did you come up with the title?

It was supposed to be called ‘No laughing out loud’. But then with comedy comes also tragedy, so the title did not really fit. And when the Characters decided to have a look for a place on the Isle of Wight, and we later find out Christine has a ‘thing ‘about the island, well, the title could not be anything else.

Where can readers buy your book?

I am glad you asked me that. You can already pre-order a printed copy from my Publisher

Elisabeth Marrion BRAGELISABETH MARRION 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 child Elisabeth 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.

In 1969 she moved to England, where she met her late 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 they 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.

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

Author Website

Elisabeth Marrion’s book The Wight Thing is expected to be released sometime in March and Layered Pages has an interview with Elisabeth on March 9th! Don’t miss it!

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Book Blogger Spotlights of The Wight Thing:

 

Interview: MARY –Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

I’d like to welcome best-selling historical fiction author, Tony Riches To Layered Pages! 

Thank you for chatting with me today, Tony! Please tell me about your latest book, MARY –Tudor Princess.

Mary Tudor Princess

 Hi Stephanie, thanks for inviting me. I researched Mary Tudor’s early life for my last book, Henry – Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy. In the Tudor Trilogy I’d moved forward one generation with each book, so it appealed to me to write a ‘sequel’ which did the same. I’d become intrigued with Mary’s story of how she risked everything to defy her brother, King Henry VIII.

How did you come to write stories about the Tudors and what captivates you about them?

I was born in Pembroke, within sight of the castle where Henry Tudor was born, so I’ve always been keen to know more about how he became King of England. My research has taken me to some amazing places. I followed the footsteps of Jasper and Henry Tudor to their exile in remote Brittany and visited Henry’s magnificent tomb in Westminster Abbey. I’ve become an expert on the Tudor dynasty and want to help readers understand the true stories behind the myths. Last year I was part of a community group which raised the money for a statue of Henry Tudor in front of Pembroke Castle, so his importance to the town will never be forgotten.

Henry Tudor statue at Pembroke Castle

 Please tell me a little about Mary’s relationship with her brother Henry VIII

 Mary was Henry’s closest living relative, as neither got on well with their sister Margaret, (who’d been married off to the King of Scotland at the age of fourteen). Mary didn’t seem to mind when Henry married her off to the fifty-two-year-old King Louis XII of France. Although Mary was barely eighteen at the time, Henry saw his younger sister as a small price to pay for a treaty with France. The problems between them began when Henry turned his back on Queen Catherine, as Mary was one of the few who dared to speak out against Anne Boleyn.

What sets your story apart from other Tudor Stories?

This book has the benefit of the three others in the trilogy which explore how Mary Tudor’s world developed from the beginnings of the Tudor dynasty. Although Mary – Tudor Princess can be read on its own, the Tudor Trilogy means I’ve had the opportunity to explore her life in much greater depth. The same real people and places connect all my books and I’ve worked hard to ensure they are as historically accurate as possible.

How do you flesh out your characters greatest sorrows?

 There is a famous quote by Pulitzer prize winning poet Robert Lee Frost ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.’ I become so immersed in the lives of my characters that something like the loss of a child can be quite emotional. Mary Tudor was a princess and Queen of France, but she suffered greatly after the death of King Louis, so I had plenty to work with.

Was there a scene you found humorous to write about?

 Mary was one of the guests of honour at the spectacular meeting between Henry VIII and King Francis I of France in June 1520, which became known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The two kings did their best to outdo each other in every possible way. Although it was a serious diplomatic meeting, there are stories about the two kings wresting each other to the ground, playing tricks and even seeing who could sing the loudest. Hall’s chronicle notes that ‘When dinner was over, some time was spent dancing in the banqueting hall. Before he started to dance, the French king went from one end of the room to the other, carrying his hat in his hand and kissing all the ladies on both sides – except for four or five who were too old and ugly’.

Tony Riches in front of castle

What are Mary’s attributes you find most intriguing to write about?

 I wanted to explore Mary’s vulnerability as well as her strengths. I was intrigued by the complex relationship with her brother Henry VIII, and she had a strange dependence on Henry’s right hand man, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey was always doing her favours and lending her money. Of course, she knew he had ulterior motives, but she wept when she heard of his death.

What are some emotional triggers for Mary and how does she act on them?

There are many in this book, from the consequences of her decision to marry for love, to the trials of medieval childbirth. Although Mary shows exceptional courage and resilience, in the end they take their toll on her. Then she emerges from her sanctuary in Suffolk to challenge her brother’s decision to divorce her lifelong friend, Catherine of Aragon.

How is Henry influenced by his settings?

Henry used his father’s fortune to create his own settings and filled them with like-minded people. He was constantly on the move, in what was known as a ‘royal progress,’ and often took over a thousand people of his household with wagons carrying everything he might need. Even when he went to France he created a tented palace at huge expense. This could be seen as tremendous self-belief but in truth it veiled a deep insecurity.

How much research went into your story?

I’ve been researching the early Tudors for the last five years. When I began the trilogy I had little information about Owen Tudor, (Mary’s great-grandfather). The amount of information increased exponentially by the time I reached the story of Mary’s father, Henry Tudor, as he kept detailed legers of his finances. This time, I had the advantage of a fascinating book The French Queen’s Letters, by Erin Sadlack, which includes all Mary’s surviving letters, many with replies, as well as an insightful analysis of her state of mind at the time. I prefer primary research and found her letters offer an evocative ‘voice’ for Mary, as well as revealing how she felt about people and events.

What are you working on next?

When I was writing about Mary Tudor I researched the life of her second husband, Sir Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and visited his tomb at Windsor Castle. He was Henry VIII’s best friend and a champion jouster and adventurer, leading an army into France even though he had no military experience. Then he breaks his promise to Henry and secretly marries Mary. I’m now writing Brandon – Tudor Knight, which will tell the story from his point of view.

Where can readers buy your book?

All my books are exclusive to Amazon and available worldwide in eBook and paperback. The Tudor Trilogy is also available as audiobooks and an audiobook edition of Mary – Tudor Princess is now in production.

(Book links)

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon AU

About the Author

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

 

Q&A With Janet R. Stafford

I’d like to welcome Author Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her stories. Janet, thank you for talking with me today. Please tell me about your, “Maggie Series”.

Saint Maggie

Thanks for interviewing me, Stephanie! I’m delighted to be working with you and LAP It Marketing.

The Saint Maggie Series happened accidentally. When I wrote Saint Maggie, the first novel, I saw it as a single entity. But after visiting a few book clubs, I kept hearing the question, “What happens next?” People liked the characters and wanted more. So, I started to think about a follow up book… and the next thing I knew I was writing a series.

Essentially, the Saint Maggie Series takes an unconventional New Jersey family through the turbulent years of the American Civil War. Maggie’s family is unconventional in a few ways. Her boarding house is made up of men who can barely pay the rent but with whom she has developed familial relationships: a failed author, an old Irish immigrant (called Grandpa), a struggling young lawyer, and an undertaker’s apprentice. Maggie’s daughters are trending toward lifestyles outside a woman’s sphere: her youngest daughter, outspoken Frankie, has a growing interested in theology and ministry; and her older daughter, Lydia, is the family nurse – but, as the town doctor discovers, also has a gift for medicine. Maggie’s friendship with and eventual marriage to Eli Smith also causes consternation in the town. Eli publishes a penny weekly newspaper called the Gazette and is an abolitionist and a freethinker. Everybody readily knows his opinions. Finally, there is Maggie’s friendship with Emily and Nate Johnson. Nate owns a carpentry shop, while Emily works primarily as the cook at the boarding house. All that would be fine were it not for the fact that Nate and Emily are black, and Maggie is white, and Emily is not simply an employee, but has become Maggie’s closest friend. And then there are rumors about Maggie, Eli, and the Johnsons’ involvement in the Underground Railroad.

The series follows Maggie and the boarding house family through life during the American Civil War. They are subject to the war and its violence, the attendant anger and hatred, daily uncertainty, emerging societal changes, and more. The first book, set in the year before the war, focuses on a town scandal and forgiveness is a major theme. The second takes the family to Gettysburg. As Confederate troops invade the town, Maggie and family must answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” In the third book, the family remains in the Gettysburg area as they struggle to recover, forgive, and hold on to their values of mercy and compassion. And in the fourth novel, they return home to Blaineton to find that their town is changing: there is a woolen mill and uniform factory owned by a wealthy industrialist to its south, and to the north a hospital for the insane run by a compassionate superintendent. How “the least of these” are perceived and treated in the two settings are part of the story, as is Eli’s struggle with the trauma he suffered while serving as a news correspondent in Virginia.

Please tell me about your short stories?

The Christmas Eve Visitor

Both “The Christmas Eve Visitor” and “The Dundee Cake” are Christmas stories. Set in 1863, “The Christmas Eve Visitor” starts with the family exhausted from their experience in Gettysburg, struggling with economics, and burdened with a mysterious fever that has stricken the young children in the family. Things are about as dark as an early winter night until a mysterious little peddler shows up at their door. Maggie invites him in from the cold and feeds him a bowl of soup. In gratitude, the stranger proceeds to give members of the family an array of odd gifts.

 

“The Dundee Cake,” set in December of 1852, finds a grieving widow Maggie struggling to pay bills and facing a bleak Christmas. The story recounts how Maggie and Emily become friends, and how Maggie moves beyond her sorrow and into joy.

“The Enlistment” is a novella that puts Frankie Blaine center stage. It is August of 1862 and Frankie’s beau Patrick (the undertaker’s assistant) has enlisted in the army. Frankie is afraid for Patrick (and her own heart) should he be injured or killed in battle, and wonders why only men can do the fighting. She wants to participate, not sit at home and sedately roll bandages. So, Frankie concocts a scheme to disguise herself as a boy and enlist in Patrick’s regiment. (Historical note: quite a few women actually “passed” as men and served as soldiers in both armies during the Civil War.) However, Frankie discovers she doesn’t have a Plan B when things don’t go as she expects. What to do next?

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m working on the fifth book in the series. It is set in 1864 and tentatively titled “The Good Community.” The title comes from a class I took at the Theological School at Drew University (Madison, NJ). The Professor was the late Dr. David Graybeal and together we explored what it meant for a community to be “good,” and looked at different models of living communally. It came to me recently that the Saint Maggie Series is very much my own search for the good community and I wanted to honor Dr. Graybeal somehow. Even if the title of the novel changes, the spirit of his class is very much in the series – not to mention in the name of the house Maggie and family now live in (although spelled a bit differently): Greybeal House. The plot is still in the works.

Tell me a little about Maggie Blaine in your story, “Saint Maggie.”

Oh, my gosh, Maggie Blaine! I love the woman. I think she is what I aspire to be in my own time. Maggie is a nineteenth-century Methodist, and like many evangelical women of the 1800s she keeps a journal. She is serious about practicing what she believes and earnest, yet not so earnest that she has no sense of humor and does not enjoy life. In the first book, she experiences an overwhelming sense that she is an “outsider” not only to her community but also to her brother, from whom she is all but estranged. But one day at camp meeting (which is a religious camping experience lasting one or two weeks), Maggie has an epiphany. I’ll let her explain it: “I knew in my heart – and not merely in my head – that I was free and that the only one to whom I was accountable was God. I resolved then and there to live a life of love without regret and never mind what anyone said.” It is not an easy path to take; but Maggie is determined to follow it. She is balanced by husband Eli, is a lapsed Quaker who is full of doubts and questions, but who shares common values with Maggie: respect for all people, mercy, compassion, and a hunger for justice and truth. Thus, while I would like to be more like Maggie, I find that I often have more in common with Eli.

Why did you choose the 1860 period for your story and please share a little about the research that went in to that exploration.

The germ for the first novel came from a research paper I wrote while pursuing a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture (Drew University, again). My essay involved a young Methodist minister by the name of Jacob Harden who was appointed to a church in Warren County, New Jersey in 1856. He reportedly was handsome, charismatic, and a fine preacher. He also liked the ladies. However, when one of the local families invited him to spend New Year’s Eve at their house, they all vanished upstairs and went to bed, leaving him alone with their eligible daughter, Louisa. For a man and a woman to be left unchaperoned was a huge no-no, especially if that man was a clergyman. Long story short, Harden ended up in an unhappy shotgun marriage. Sadly, the Rev. Harden responded in a manner that was more than a bit inappropriate. In fact, it was so inappropriate that he was arrested, put on trial, and hanged in 1860.

As I worked on the first novel and learned more about the period of 1860-1861, I began to see connections between the Civil War era and our own point in time. There was a great deal of divisiveness in the antebellum years. It carried over everywhere, even into the churches. For instance, the issue of slavery divided the Methodist Church in 1844, and the Baptist Church split over it in 1845. Abolition and slavery were the “hot button” topics of the day. While many Northerners pointed their finger at the institution of slavery in the South, they turned a blind eye to the fact that until the early 1800s slavery was also legal in the North. Black people living in the North were not treated as equals, either. Many areas of New Jersey, including Hunterdon and Warren Counties, were “copperhead” strongholds – that is the majority were anti-war and anti-abolition. When the nation was physically divided in 1861, in addition to being emotionally and intellectually divided, the fighting began.

The divisiveness of the era, the “hot button” topics, the disjuncture between what was believed or said and what was done, and the difficulty in navigating such an environment resonates with my experience of living in late- 20th and early-21st century America. In addition, I am intrigued by the other challenges of the 1800s: women’s rights, race relations, industrialization, urbanization, technological revolutions, advances in medicine, and traces of the emerging the Gilded Age. It’s fascinating. While the 1800s does not line up exactly with our currently situation, its echoes are eerily similar. Perhaps that is because as a nation we have not come to terms with the 1800s generally and with the Civil War particularly. Or maybe it’s just my way of trying to process life now by exploring life in another century.

Will there be more stories in this series?

There probably will be a few more. I’ve been thinking of ending the Saint Maggie series after 1865. Some readers have indicated that they would like me to “spin off” a couple of the other characters, particularly Frankie and Lydia. In fact, I wrote “The Enlistment” to see if Frankie could carry a complete story, which she can. I feel the same way about Lydia. They are both strong characters. In addition, Frankie’s desire to serve as a pastor and Lydia’s growing competence as a physician presage the movement of women into these fields in the later 19th and 20th centuries.

I love the title for your book “Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll: A Mid-Life Love Story. I’m sure you had lots of fun writing it. What are some of your readers saying about this story and is there a message you would like your readers to grasp?

Heart Soul & Rock 'N' Roll A Mid-Life Love StoryThat was a fun book to write. I mean, the band in the story is seriously goofy most of the time. But the book also takes a serious turn about half way in.

I started Heart Soul to give myself a break from the nineteenth century. My central character, Lins Mitchell, is an assistant minister in a central New Jersey church. As a college student she fronted a rock band, but gave it up when she was called into ministry. Now, at the age of 40, she is having a mid-life crisis and wonders if she’s not being called to something new. I drew her environment directly from my experience as an assistant minister in the United Methodist Church. And, yes, I really do serve a church in central New Jersey, but no, I am way beyond the age of 40 and never have fronted a rock band in my life – although I did go through a singer/song writer phase in my 20s, and I do love rock, the harder the better! In the story Lins’ good friend Patti invites her to Point Pleasant Beach for a vacation to clear her mind. At the Shore, Lins meets Neil, front man for a bar band called the Grim Reapers. Neil is a divorced dad who lives in a studio apartment over the music store that he manages. He comes with a load of baggage, the least of which is his agnosticism and antagonism toward the church.

I’ve had some interesting comments from readers and prospective readers. Strangely enough, I’ve had two men tell me that they loved it, which to me is kind of strange since the book is a romance and men are supposed to run screaming away from romance novels. Both the guys said it made them cry. Without giving too much of the plot away, Neil has a troubled sister and feels pulled between his sister’s issues and his ability to have a sustainable relationship. Maybe the fact Lins is the strong one and Neil is the vulnerable one touched a chord with my male readers. I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask, “Okay, precisely what did you like so much? What made you cry?” I didn’t, though. My loss!

In addition, I had one prospective reader buy the book because she was in seminary and her husband was in a rock band, and another bought it because although she attended a church, her husband was an agnostic. They saw my art as imitating their lives!

As for a message, Christians are perceived negatively these days. However, the circles in which I travel are far from the bigoted, tribal, intolerant stereotypes out there. The church people in the book are like the people I know. They care, they listen, they try to help. But they don’t walk around with halos over their heads, much less pretend even to have halos! So, it’s no surprise I made Lins like that, too. She looks for the good in people, she listens, she cares. She finds another community in the band, but it pulls her out of her comfort zone. And maybe that’s a message in the book – we are invited to leave our comfort zones. When we do, we encounter challenges, but also encounter God and one another in a deeper way than imagined.

What is your writing process and where in your home do you write?

My writing process… do I have one? Just kidding. To start with, for the Saint Maggie series, I get a general idea for a story, which may or may not survive the writing process. I then will research an idea or issue. I wish I had the money and the time to install myself in an archival collection and research for a week, but that’s not possible. Instead, the internet has become my friend, as is any online place where I can purchase books for research.

Next, I write scenes in which my characters interact with one another. Sometimes they set the tone and help me find the storyline. After that I will write a broad outline, which can (and usually does) get jettisoned at any point during the writing!

Bit by bit the story grows until I have it where it should be. Although, when I was working on Seeing the Elephant, toward the end I had trouble figuring out just where the core of the story was. So, I closed my eyes and asked myself about it. In my imagination, up pops Eli, who grabs my shoulders and yells, “It’s my story, dammit!” The guy apparently had been hijacking the novel all along. But in all seriousness, it made complete sense. It was primarily Eli’s story.

There’s always LOTS if editing involved, but once I get to the point that I feel I’m shuffling words around, I know it’s time to let others read the book. I give or send drafts to three or four beta readers. They then invariably and lovingly let me know when a character is not acting as they should be acting, when something should be cut, when peaches are or are not in season in Gettysburg, etc. It’s a messy process, but it works for me.

I write in the family room. Usually, I have the TV or a movie on. If I really need to work out something difficult, I’ll write in silence. Sometimes, as in the case of Heart Soul, I might create a play list and listen to that as I write.

How has your journey been in the self-publishing industry and what advice could you give to others who are considering self-publishing?

I went from knowing nothing about self-publishing in 2011 to learning to use publishing platforms, running a small company, writing blurbs, designing covers, publicizing my work, and much more. I’m not great at everything, not by a long shot. Marketing and publicity have always been difficult because I’m not good at tooting my own horn. Also, I already have a career in the church, in addition to the writing – or is that the other way around? Using social media to market my work can be a whole other career! I discovered social media could cause me to lose hours of precious writing time. Since it is still impossible to clone oneself, I was relieved when you, Stephanie, created LAP It Marketing. It answered my need to get the word out. Next, I’d like to hire a good copy editor and proofer to go over my work after the beta readers are through. I need one more set of eyes to get things right.

So, the biggest thing I’ve learned in doing self-publishing is to identify the areas where I need help and to try to find that help. Amazing, isn’t it? It only took me six years to learn that!

To someone who is considering self-publishing, I’d say don’t expect to become a best seller. I’m not being Debbie Downer, but very few people get there. You’re writing because you have a story to tell. So, tell it. Then, if you cannot afford to hire an editor, find people to be beta readers who will tell you the truth. Learn to use social media until you can afford to get someone to help you with marketing. In old-time traditional publishing, the author had all sorts of help: editors, printers, developers, designers, you name it. But self-publishing puts all that on you. Learn where your strengths are and get help with the rest.

Now a little general advice. First, learn to write. That sounds obvious, but the drive to tell a story is one thing and the writing of it is another. Reading helps immensely. Although I have written all my life, I also was a voracious reader, especially when I was young. Reading teaches you how to write. Writing also teaches you how to write, as does having other people read and comment on what you have written. Second, collect stories. They’re everywhere. That’s why I love history. Once you get past the events and dates, it’s about people’s lives. Third, be observant. Become a people watcher. That will help you develop characters. Quirks and qualities are beautiful things. They are what set your characters apart from one another.

Where can readers buy your books?

I haven’t cracked the brick and mortar bookstores that I know of, so everything right now is online. You can find my novels at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. My publishing/printing platforms (Lulu and Amazon) also distribute my books to other places, like Barnes and Noble online.

Finally, you can go to Squeaking Pigs , my micro-publishing company. Copies of all my novels are there as well as links to Amazon paperback, Kindle, and Lulu.

Thank you again, Stephanie, for all the great questions and the opportunity to introduce myself! I’m looking forward to working with you throughout 2018!

A pleasure, Janet and I look forward to working with you! Thank you!

About Author:

Janet R Stafford

Janet Stafford is a Jersey girl, book lover and lifelong scribbler. She readily confesses to being overly-educated, having received a B.A. in Asian Studies from Seton Hall University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. Having answered a call to vocational, but non-ordained ministry, Janet has served six United Methodist Churches, working in spiritual formation, communications, and ministries with children, youth, and families. She also was an adjunct professor for six years, teaching college classes in interdisciplinary studies and world history.

Writing, history, and religion came together for Janet when she authored Saint Maggie, an historical novel set in 1860-61 and based on a research paper written during her Ph.D. studies. She thought the book would be a single novel, but kept hearing readers ask, “What happens next?” In response, Janet created a series that follows the unconventional family from the first book through three other novels and three short stories, all set in the traumatic years of the American Civil War. Janet also ventured into the contemporary romance genre, going closer to home (the church) for her source material. Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll tells the story of 40-year-old Lindsay Mitchell, who led a rock band in college but for the past fifteen years has worked as an assistant minister. Besieged by mid-life crisis, Lins wonders if perhaps she isn’t called to something new. But could that “something new” be a relationship with Neil, a man with a messy life and a bar band called the Grim Reapers? 

Links:

Website

Amazon Profile Page  

Facebook

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

Instagram

L.A.P. it Marketing LLC

What is L.A.P. it Marketing?

LAPit Logo

L.A.P. it is a social media platform that applies to a variety of professions-such as-Literature, Art and Photography. The practicalities of Internet life can be tricky for many, not everyone is computer savvy and would prefer to solely focus on their craft or they have a tight budget but need help in this arena. How does one market their own work if they have little money or they don’t understand how the market works or both? There are so many entities out there charging fees that are not doable for most or they promise what they cannot deliver. L.A.P. it has created a new concept of social media marketing and provides a unique service to showcase writers, artists and photographers work. L.A.P. it will also work with publishers, independent presses, artist/photographer galleries and other entities that involve the three areas mentioned.

L.A.P. it Marketing Website

Twitter: @lapitmarketing

Facebook Page

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Q&A With Alfred Woollacott, III

Alfred with book resized to 300

I’d like to welcome Alfred Woollacott, III to Layered Pages today. Alfred retired from KPMG after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Being “45 minutes from America” and with a 50 – 60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So, he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from “just the facts ma’am” to a fascinating narrative style. Thus, with imagination, anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins.

When not writing, Al serves on several Boards, and keeps physically active with golf, tennis, and hockey. He and his wife of 44 years, Jill, have four children and ten grandchildren.

Thank you for talking with me today, Alfred. Please tell you how you got into story-telling?

My blessing to spin a good story comes from my namesake, Alfred Sr., sprinkled, at times, with humor — genes from my maternal grandmother, Gracie. Beneath an extemporaneous exterior, lies a logical, results-oriented mind that spent a career at KPMG, an international accounting firm, researching facts and forming conclusions. So when I retired, dabbling in genealogical facts came naturally, and I got hooked. For a few on my ancestral tree, the facts cried out, “There’s a story here, add more leaves to the branches.” So I allowed the extemporaneous to spin a yarn around the facts and brought an ancestor to life

Tell me about your book, The Immigrant.

The Immigrant

The Immigrant is a fictionalized account of my seven-greats grandfather, John Law, who came to The Colonies in chains, a Scottish prisoner of war captured during the Battle of Dunbar. Upon his arrival in the winter of 1651, he began his indenture at the Saugus Iron Works and concluded it as a public shepherd for the town of Concord. Freed from his indenture, he began life anew to endure a Puritan Theocracy, English bigotry, and Native American dangers. Throughout all his ordeals, he wondered if God ever heard him. One day, he did.

 

Tell me about your book, The Believers in The Crucible Nauvoo.

The Believers In The Crucible Nauvoo

The book is the second of a planned trilogy, whose protagonist, Naamah Carter, like me descends from John Law. After enduring early parental deaths, she discovers renewed meaning to her strong Christian beliefs through Joseph Smith’s testaments. His following in Peterborough, New Hampshire flourishes, yet Naamah, her beloved Aunt Susan, and other believers suffer family strife and growing community resentment. She leaves her unfriendly situation and journeys to Nauvoo to be among thousands building their Prophet‘s revelation of an earthly Zion on a Mississippi River promontory. There, her faith is tested, enduring loss of loved ones and violence from those longing to destroy Nauvoo. With the western exodus imminent, she faces a decision that runs counter to her soul and all she holds sacred – whether to become Brigham Young’s plural wife.

The novel weaves the momentous events of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and Brigham Young’s succession with Naamah’s story and offers differing perspectives to create a mosaic of Nauvoo, the crucible out of which arose today’s Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

In your story, The Immigrant, you introduce an historical figure John Law, a young Scotsman captured by Cromwell’s forces during a well-known battle “The Battle of Dunbar.” For those who have not heard of John Law, can you please tell us a little about him historically and what his faith is?

Yes, John law is a historic figure, yet deemed too insignificant for the historian’s lens. The Immigrant has brought him to life and, since he’s symbolic of 10,000 Scottish men at Dunbar 3 September 1650, their lives have been discovered in some way.  His father died in 1649 when John was thirteen. An only child, he and his widowed mother managed for a year until the War Councilor appeared in summer of 1650. “He’ll be back in time for harvest,” was the Councilor’s remark as John left. John would never see his mother again, and she would never know John’s fate.After John’s capture, he endured a ‘death march’ into northern England, a horrific six week incarceration at Durham Cathedral, and a life-changing, Trans-Atlantic crossing to the Colonies. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was established with a wave of English, the great Migration 1630-1640. Except for the indigenous, they owned a virgin paradise to craft to their liking until John Law and a few Scots trickled in as immigrants. Since then, waves of immigrants have come, even still today. Each new wave has encountered prejudice, but far less blatant or extreme than what John endured. In 1660, Mary Dyer and William Leddra were hanged on Boston Common because they were Quakers. We all are aware of Salem and 1692 witch trials.

Since John was fighting with The Covenanters against Cromwell, he was most likely a Presbyterian.

How much research went into The Immigrant?

I am a CPA turn genealogist, so a lot! Some of John Law’s genealogy down to myself has been published in two-parts in MASSOG, a genealogy-register — 16 pages with over 200 footnote. Dry as dust, yet available on my website if you’re interested. John is presumed to be a Scottish POW, which I attempted to prove through research on early Scots at NEHGS, reading books on the Saugus Iron Works, reading 1600s Middlesex County court reports including John’s will, and perusing passenger lists of the Unity and the John and Sara ships that brought Scottish POW to The Colonies. And while I know of his life from 1655 on, I can neither prove nor disprove how he got here.

I visited the Saugus Ironworks, learned how iron was made, and romanticized while at the intersection of Lawsbrook Road and School Street in Acton, MA, where John lived.  The influence of my Lawsbrook visit are the concluding scene in The Immigrant.

Who are your secondary characters in your story?

Obviously, Lydia Draper, John’s wife. During my research, I found more snippets about the Drapers than I did about John Law to wrap a story around. Lydia’s POV occurs often, particularly during the birth of their first born, later with the loss of an infant son, and during King Philip’s War. Mary Rowlandson’s capture and release had a profound effect on Lydia.

Nagoglancit, a Nashobah Native, is complete fiction. Like John, he is an outcast, and ironically unlike John, an outcast in his native land. But these two ‘outcast’ form a unique bond, tested, at times, when Lydia reveals a past encounter with natives and during King Philip’s War.

John Hoare – during my research I came to love this guy, so he is throughout the book. He counsels John to do the right thing and make an honest woman of Lydia Draper, rescues Mary Rowlandson, and builds a dormitory for the ‘friendly’ Nashobah during King Philip’s War much to Concord’s dismay.

How long did it take to write your story?

Excluding the research, which seems continual since I can be a bit anal, about a year or so.

In your story, The Believers in The Crucible Nauvoo you introduce Naamah Carter. What a beautiful name! Could you please tell us a little about her?

Naamah, wife of Noah, meaning pleasant because Naamah’s conduct was pleasing to God. Naamah Kendall Jenkins Carter was named for her aunt who died three weeks before she was born, which created an immediate bond and early interest in the afterlife.

We first meet Naamah, age 6, placing flowers on her father’s grave. There, she asks her grandfather, Reuben Law, a question, the answer to which comes years later as Naamah grapples with a life-changing decision. Precocious in her Christian beliefs, she soon found traditional teaching uninspiring until she meets Elder Eli Maginn, a Latter-day Saint missionary. The strength of her faith continues to ebb and flow as she endures life until she finds lasting solace in Temple life.

Her life is mostly among women – her mother who dies early, her sister, and her LDS sisters. Like all the women of Nauvoo, she has the resiliency needed to endure the pain and suffering that was the crucible Nauvoo. While inexperienced in dealing with men, she marries only to have her husband die soon afterward. Thus, when she meets the powerful ‘lion of the Lord’, Brigham Young, she’s at first ill-prepared, yet perseveres to forge a unique relationship.

Where can readers buy your books?

At Amazon, or discerning book stores like Bunch of Grapes, Vineyard Haven, MA, or on my website

What is up next for you?

Reuben Law and the trilogy’s last book. You have met Reuben in the first and last chapters of The Immigrant. He’s on Jarmany Hill in the opening scene of The Believers In The Crucible Nauvoo and sprinkled throughout. He’s the lynchpin between the two novels. For more about Reuben, visit my website. I sensed John Law’s presence when I paused on Lawsbrook Road, but I sensed Reuben even more. Here is a link to what I experienced in September 2009.

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Historical novelists research and pour their heart and soul into their writings, as do I. But my heart has a few drops of their blood and my soul has part of their DNA. My characters bore witness to King Philip’s War, The American Revolution, and Joseph Smith’s Martyrdom and encountered prejudice for being a Scottish POW in a Puritan Theocracy or a believer in a scorned prophet. I trust that the tingles I experienced at Lawsbrook Road or on Jarmany Hill came from erstwhile dormant DNA exploding thoughts that coalesced to say, “There’s a story here.”

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What is L.A.P. it Marketing?

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L.A.P. it is a social media platform that applies to a variety of professions-such as-Literature, Art and Photography. The practicalities of Internet life can be tricky for many, not everyone is computer savvy and would prefer to solely focus on their craft or they have a tight budget but need help in this arena. How does one market their own work if they have little money or they don’t understand how the market works or both? There are so many entities out there charging fees that are not doable for most or they promise what they cannot deliver. L.A.P. it has created a new concept of social media marketing and provides a unique service to showcase writers, artists and photographers work. L.A.P. it will also work with publishers, independent presses, artist/photographer galleries and other entities that involve the three areas mentioned.

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A Conversation with Author Rhys Bowen

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Q: The Tuscan Child takes place in both the 1940s, where readers get glimpses of Hugo Langley’s experience as a soldier in World War II, and the 1970s, where we follow Hugo’s daughter Joanna as she tries to unpack the mystery of her father’s life. Rhys, where did you get the idea for this two-part, multigenerational narrative, and how did you go about balancing the narrative between the two difference eras?

A: I have always loved books that take place in multiple time periods, but this was a challenge for me, as I’d never tried to write that kind of story myself. But I’d been dying to write about Tuscany, where I was writer-in-residence last summer and will be again next summer. So the place is already special to me, and I thought it would be fun to write a mystery about what happened to Joanna’s father in WWII.

As to balancing the narratives: I wrote Hugo’s story first, then Joanna’s story. Then I physically placed the chapters in Joanna’s story all the way down my hallway and decided where to slot in Hugo’s chapters. It worked well!

Q: Joanna is a wonderful female protagonist. What was your inspiration for her character, and how does she differ from some of your other leading ladies?

A: Some of my leading ladies have been feisty and had great support groups. Joanna is different in that she’s more vulnerable: she has grown up without a mother, in a difficult environment, and we meet her at a low point in her life. So the challenge was not to make her a victim but to allow her to rise and triumph through her own efforts.

Rhys Bowen Landscape PictureQ: Much of this book takes place in Tuscany in the 1940s and 1970s — what kind of research did you have to do to write about this area and those time periods authentically? Did you travel to Italy while doing research for the novel and if so, what did that involve?

A: I’ve been to Tuscany several times, starting when I travelled with my aunt first in my teens, then my 20s. So I had actually been in Italy around the time Joanna visited. I stayed with my husband in my college friend’s flat near Cortona one year and played at being an Italian housewife (which worked well until I went to the butcher to order a chicken, and I got the whole bird, including head and feet!) And as I mentioned, I was writer-in-residence conducting a workshop in Chianti last year. The professor who runs the workshop is from an old Tuscan family, so I used him to check my facts.

As for getting everything right about WWII, I stayed with other college friends in Lincolnshire and visited WWII airbases that are now museums. I looked at planes, parachutes, letters home, helmets, and flight suits, and I met experts who told me more than I actually needed to know about the Blenheim Bomber (experts are always keen to share their subject!).

Q: Your last novel, In Farleigh Field, also focused on World War II. What do you find so fascinating about that period in history, and why do you think it makes for such a rich setting for writers of historical fiction?

A: I have always found the era fascinating, I suppose because I was born in the middle of it and my family had to endure it. I grew up with tales of bombings, of my father’s experiences in Egypt with the Eighth Army, and I was always impressed with how matter-of-fact the stories were. People were so brave and took it for granted that they should do “their bit” to win the war, whatever it took.

I think it resonates with readers particularly now that we are going through a troubled time. Many people feel insecure, and we don’t know where our world is heading. So it’s comforting to read about a period when the good guys did win!

Q: While this book is part historical fiction, it also involves a mystery and a long-buried family secret. What do you most enjoy about blending genres like mystery and historical fiction, and why do you think they pair together so well?

A: History and mystery are a perfect blend! Think of the foggy streets of old London, misty castles, the terrific motives for murder: “I love another, but I am not free!” In this case we have the heightened drama of war: small human interpersonal conflict against the background of world conflict.  The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Q: When people think about World War II, they often think about it in terms of what happened in Britain, Germany, or France. Italy, on the other hand, is often considered the forgotten front of WWII — what made you want to write a novel that dealt with WWII Italy in particular?

A: I remember visiting a small town that had a memorial to the townspeople massacred by the Germans for hiding partisans. A whole town gunned down! That stuck with me.  And I think we tend to forget that Italy suffered twice. Under Mussolini they were sent to fight in Africa and were invaded by the Allies, and then when the population turned and refused to help the Germans, they were literally starved to death and had awful punishments inflicted upon them, while their towns were bombed by the Allies.

Q: We have to ask — what are you working on next?

A: In the New Year I begin yet another stand-alone novel for Lake Union. This one is not about WWII but about WWI. It’s about a young woman who becomes a land girl, against the wishes of her parents, and about a group of women who have to adapt and take over men’s jobs after their husbands and sons are killed on the front. Its title at the moment (which might change) is The Healing Garden.

About the Author: 

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Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thrity mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900’s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930’s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhy’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthoony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at her website.