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:

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Amazon Profile Page  

Facebook

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

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L.A.P. it Marketing LLC

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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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.”

Author Links:

Facebook Page

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Website 

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

Instagram 

 

A Conversation with Author Rhys Bowen

The Tuscan Child_300dpi

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: 

Rhys Bowen_(c)John Quin-Harkin_72dpi

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.

Interview with Award Winning Author Alison Brodie

Author photo

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Alison Brodie to Layered Pages! Alison is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side.

Brodie is an international, best-selling author.  Her books have been published by Hodder & Stoughton (UK), Heyne (Germany) and Unieboek (Holland). 

Hi, Alison! Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

It’s hard to miss!  I regularly see the BRAG Awards everywhere on social media: writing blogs for indie writers, and highly-acclaimed books with the BRAG medallion on their covers, etc.

What is your book about?

Brake Failure

Brake Failure is about Ruby, an English debutante who ends up in Kansas City.  Far from home, she transforms from Miss-Perfectly-Correct to criminally insane as she breaks the bonds of her rigid upbringing.  Sheriff Hank Gephart tries to reel her in but she’s out of control and she ain’t hitting the brakes.

Who are your secondary characters in your book?

Ruby’s snobbish step-sister, Claire, who continually belittles Ruby.  Rowdy the stray mongrel.  Idabel, a Survivalist, who teaches Ruby how to shoot a gun and dig a man trap.

Do you take personality traits from real people and use them for your characters?

No.  My characters come into my head fully formed.

Why did you choose to write your story leading up to the Y2K Meltdown?

Because it was fascinating!  This was something that had never happened before in history.  I lived through Y2K in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  Television reports veered from “Just stock up as if for a tornado” to “run for the hills!!”

Nobody knew what was going to happen when the date on computers changed to four zeroes.  The US government had a command center and spent $150 billion on preparing for Armageddon.  I’m surprised nobody has written about this time in American history.

Why did you choose the romance genre to write in?

I like to write what I, myself, would choose to read.  And I always like a little romance.

Which character in your story are you particular to?

Idabel, the tough Survivalist, who is preparing to battle against hordes of ravaging looters.  When Ruby gives Idabel a box of blonde hair-colorant and cherry lip-gloss, Idabel stares at them wordlessly.  Then she says: “Well, if we don’t survive, we’ll die real pretty.”

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

Off and on for a fifteen year.  I made notes before and during Y2K.  When I got back to England I wrote the skeleton of the story and forgot about it.  I finally wrote it a couple of years ago.  (Sometimes it’s better to write a story long after an event because the things you remember are usually the sharpest, and most interesting.

Where can readers buy your book?

Brake Failure is on Amazon kindle.  I hope to be publishing all my books in paperback by the end of the year.

What is up next for you?

I’m releasing ZENKA on 6 Nov.  Here’s my first review:  “Top of my list for best fiction this year” –Lauren Sapala, WriteCity.

ZENKA is not a romcom.  It is a darkly comic crime thriller/suspense with a hint of romance.  Zenka is a Hungarian pole-dancer, capricious, devious and loyal.  When London mob boss, Jack Murray, saves her life she vows to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not.  With shocking consequences.

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

I never start my books with a BANG!  I build slowly at first, then gather speed – faster and faster – while injecting twists and turns, until that rug-pulling moment.  I usually have multi-strands in my stories so I make sure that these strands all come together in the end, like someone pulling tight the purse-strings of a pouch.

News Press:

Reviews for her debut, FACE TO FACE: “Fun to snuggle up with” –GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Pick of the Paperbacks.  “Vane but wildly funny leading lady” -Scottish Daily Mail.

Brodie has now gone “indie”.  Here are some editorial reviews for her recent books. 

BRAKE FAILURE: “Masterpiece of humor” -Midwest Book Review

THE DOUBLE: “Proof of her genius in writing fiction” -San Francisco Book Review.

ZENKA  (to be released 6 Nov, 2017): “ZENKA is top of my list for best fiction this year.  If Tina Fey and Simon Pegg got together to write a dark and hilarious mobster story with a happy ending, ZENKA would be the result.”  -Lauren Sapala, WriteCity

Book Links:

Brake Failure – BUY LINKS

Amazon USA

Amazon Uk

Amazon CA

Author Link:

Twitter

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Brodie who is the author of, Brake Failure, 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, A Dog for Leo, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Multi Award Winning Author Kandi M. Siegel

Kandie S BRAG

I’d like to welcome back multi award winning author Kandi M. Siegel to Layered Pages. Kandi graduated from University of Central Florida is 2006 earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and was also certified in Special Education.  She received the Editor’s Choice Award for outstanding achievement in poetry by the National Library of Poetry in 1997.  She has been a member of the Space Coast Writer’s Guild since 2012. In 2008, Ms. Siegel was hurt on the job while working with special education and was unable to continue her job.  Her love for children brought her back to her earlier career of storytelling.  She finds writing books for children and meeting people at book signings a very rewarding experience.

Hi, Kandi! Thank you for visiting with me again! Congrats on your second B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree! That is wonderful! Please tell me about your story, A Dog for Leo.

A Dog for Leo BRAG

It is my absolute honor to be a part of the B.R.A.G. family!!

A Dog for Leo was written for my Uncle Leo.  He was the best uncle in the whole world but died too soon from throat cancer.  I wanted to do something to honor his memory so I wrote a book about him.  In the book, the other main character, Marty, is actually my other uncle, who is still very much alive.  They were brothers.  Other family members are also mentioned in the book, such as my mom Sylvia.  I remember hearing stories of when my uncle was a boy and he wanted a dog so that’s where I got the idea from.  It’s actually a made-up story from an idea of him wanting a puppy (which he actually won from a boy scout contest).  Anyway, A Dog for Leo, is about a young boy who wants a dog but his parents don’t think he’s responsible enough because of certain situations that come out throughout the story.  Leo is going to have to prove that he is responsible enough to care for a dog.

Is there a special message you would like to give to your readers to encourage them to read your story?

Yes, the story is all about being responsible.  It also proves that no one is perfect and although Leo tries to be responsible, he goes through several bumps in the road, to get there.  This book is perfect for any preteen to read who really wants something, but what they want isn’t just going to be handed to them on a silver platter.  In the book, Leo has to work hard to obtain his goal.  He will realize that being lazy isn’t going to get him what he wants.  He needs to prove not only to his parents, but to himself, that anything worth having, is worth working for.  This book is specifically designed for young adults.

Who designed your book cover?

I hired Debbie Johnson to illustrate the cover of A Dog for Leo.  I was very specific with the pictures I wanted on the cover and throughout the book.  I wanted the two main characters to look like my two uncles.  I gave her pictures of them and she really made them come alive in the book.  I also have a puggle and I wanted her to be on the cover with Leo.  I also gave Debbie a picture of my dog and I actually cried when I saw the cover because the boy looked so much like pictures of my uncle when he was a young boy and she totally captured my dog Layla. I was so happy with her work that I’ve actually hired her to illustrate other books of mine and I have passed on her name to other authors looking for an illustrator.

Where can readers buy your book?

Kandi II

My book is available on Amazon

In our last interview, together, you talked about when you were a child you would keep all the stories you write in a box. How many stories did you write and what has the experience been like for you to give your stories to the world?

My book, “My Summer Triumph,” is a story about me at about 11 years old and it was my first time at overnight camp.  I was bullied there and the story talks about what I went through and how I was able to triumph over defeat.  The story is very inspirational to anyone that has ever been bullied or who has bullied someone.  It shows how heart wrenching it can feel to the person who is being bullied.   This particular book also showed the bully having a turnabout with her feelings too.  This book is on the same reading level, young adult, as “A Dog for Leo.”

Another story I wrote, “Looking Back, No Regrets, Memoirs from the Heart,” is a collaboration of short stories of different relationships I had throughout my life from my first kiss, to a high school crush, online dating, etc.  It’s filled with all kinds of emotions.  This book is actually for ages 18+ although some parents have bought this book for their 16 and 17-year-old daughters who were in dating mode. A couple stories in the book actually makes the reader more aware of red flags to look for in relationships.

On behalf of National Dog Day that took place yesterday, tell me a little about the qualities you like in dogs and how you believe dogs are important to society.

Kandi I

I have always been a dog person as I grew up with dogs in the house and to this day, I still am never a dogless house.  As a child, it helps with teaching responsibility and to care for something else other than yourself, from things as simple as feeding the dog to walking the dog.  The dog depends on its owner to care for them but there are so many rewards given back.  A dog has a very keen sense of when something is wrong.  For instance, when I’m sad, my dog always seems to be able to pick up on that and will come over to me and lay her head on my lap.  It’s so comforting and after sitting with me just for a few minutes and cuddling, I start to feel so much better.  Dogs are also great protectors of their masters.  They seem to know when the situation changes and will jump right in to protect their master at all cost.  That’s why it is so important to give that love right back to your pet.  I have no tolerance for people who abuse their animals.  They are there to love and protect you and you need to honor, care for and love them back, always!!!

How often do you write during the week?

I always have some sort of writing project in the works, so I usually write just about every day in some form.  Whether it be writing an outline for a new book, or scribbling notes for a new book idea that I’d like to write about.

What is your current writing project?

Currently, I am finishing up my cookbook that I’ve been working on for the past year.  Several of my friends had asked me to put my recipes into a book and honestly, I did not realize what an undertaking it was to write a cookbook.  I have two more recipes that I will be making tomorrow and then taking pictures of the finished product for the cookbook and I’m happy to say it will be completed.  I will be sending the book off to my editor next week and I’m planning on a mid-September release date.  The book is going to be called, “Cooking with Kandi.”  I’m really very excited and pleased with the outcome of this book.

You can check out all of my books my going on my website

Thank you, Kandi!

I thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kandi M. Siegel who is the author of, A Dog for Leo, 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, A Dog for Leo, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Joan Fallon

Joan Fallon BRAG

I’d like to welcome Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Joan Fallon today. Joan was born in Dumfries, Scotland but spent most of her adult life in England. Teacher, management trainer and business woman, she moved to Spain at the beginning of the new millennium and became a writer. Her first published work was a social history, ‘Daughters of Spain’, inspired by the women she met in her adopted home. Her subsequent books too have grown out of her experiences living and working in Spain. She is especially interested in Spanish history and has set her novels in periods as distinct as the Golden Age of the Moorish conquest and the Spanish Civil War.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

 Hi, Joan! Thank you for visiting with me today. Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

 Well actually it was Helen Hollick, the lady who set up Discovering Diamonds, who recommended IndieBRAG to me. I first got to know her when she was working for the Historical Novel Review Society a few years ago.

I love your book cover! Tell me about your story, The Shining City.

THE SHINING CITY BRAG

The novel is set in southern Spain in the mid tenth century. The country is ruled by al-Rahman III, who is celebrating the fact that he has just pronounced himself caliph of al-Andalus by building a new palace/city, Madinat al-Zahra. Many of his subjects have flocked to this new city looking for work and among them is a potter called Qasim and his family. Qasim is running away from his past and hoping to build a new future in Madinat al-Zahra, where he has taken on a new identity. Even his sons do not know his history.

The woman on the cover of the books is supposed to represent one of the leading characters in the novel. She is Jawhara, one of the caliph’s concubines. She was originally from Saxony and was captured by Viking raiders and sold as a slave to the caliph of al-Andalus. She is very beautiful and one day she is spotted by Omar, the youngest son of Qasim the potter. He falls desperately in love with her and becomes obsessed with seeing her even though he knows it is forbidden on pain of death.

One night he breaks into the harem to meet her but it does not go well. His father is horrified at what he has done and the consequences for everyone are severe. I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the story for you.

What fascinates you most about the period in history you have written about?

As you know, I live in southern Spain and over the years I have become fascinated with the country and its history. The Moors lived in Spain for 700 years and their influence is everywhere – in the architecture, the language, the food and the culture. So naturally I was drawn to learning more about them. I chose the tenth century because it was the Moors Golden Age. Never before nor after, did the country have such a reputation for wealth, culture and learning, nor was it so egalitarian. It was the most educated country in the western world and people flocked from all parts of Europe to its universities and libraries.

Tell me a little about Qasim. Was he a real person in history or fictional? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

No, Qasim isn’t a real character but he is based on real people. For example, the past he is hiding is based on a real man called Omar ibn Hafsun, one of the rebels who fought against al-Rahman III. Qasim is a potter who moved to Madinat al-Zahra, as many other artisans and workmen did at the time. The caliph encouraged people to move out of Córdoba and settle in Madinat al-Zahra by offering them the money to build a house. It was an offer too good to miss and thousands of people moved to the new city. So, I made Qasim one of them.

Qasim’s strengths lie in his strong religious beliefs and his love for his family. He is a man of honour. He treats his wife as an equal – almost. His weaknesses are that he is not flexible enough when faced with his son’s mistake.

Describe the city for me.

Madinat al-Zahra is in ruins now. But it is believed to have been a wonderful place with street lighting, paved roads, running water and public bath houses. I think the best way I can describe it to you is to let Omar tell you what he related to his nephew when he was an old man:

‘Our ruler, Abd al-Rahman III, wanted to build a city-palace worthy of the title of Khalifa so he sent his engineers and architects out to find the perfect location.  And they did.  They found a spot in the foothills of the Sierra Moreno, green, fertile, sheltered from the north winds, with as much water as you could wish for, yet set high enough above the plain so that you would be able to see anyone approaching.  From there you could see across the valley of the Guadalquivir to Córdoba and beyond.’

‘It was indeed the Shining City.  When visitors entered through the Grand Portico, passing beneath its enormous, red and white arches, when they climbed the ramped streets that were paved with blocks of dark mountain stone, passing the lines of uniformed guards in their scarlet jackets and the richly robed civil servants that flanked their way, when they reached the royal residence and saw the golden inlay on the ceilings, the marble pillars, the richly woven rugs scattered across the floors and the brilliant silk tapestries, when they saw the moving tank of mercury in the great reception pavilion that caught the sunlight and dazzled all who beheld it, then they indeed knew that they were in the Shining City.’

How did you come to write this story?

Back in the year 2000 I went to an exhibition in Madinat al-Zahra. I knew nothing about the place before that and I was fascinated by its history, and particularly by the fact that the city lasted no more than 75 years. I knew that one day I would write a story about it.

What is a tradition the people have in this civilization?

At that time Moorish civilisation was far more advanced than the rest of Europe. The majority of people were educated, including women. Women were allowed to work, to go to universities, to own property, to have careers such a doctors and scribes.

It was a multi-religious society. The ruling class were of course Muslims, but both Christians and Jews were allowed to worship their own faith, pursue careers in government and live their own lives. They were not however allowed to try to convert any Muslims to their faith. It was a society that also relied on slaves – but the slaves were non-believers. If a slave converted to Islam he regained his freedom.

Who designed your book cover?

A delightful woman called Rachel Lawston of Lawston Designs. She has designed a number of covers for me now and has a knack for getting just the right feel for the book (without having read it!)

Where can readers buy your book?

The Shining City is the first book in The al-Andalus series. All the books in the series are available on Amazon, from Barnes and Noble and other bookshops, both on-line and in the High Street.

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

Only this. Whether you prefer to read ebooks or paperbacks, never stop reading and encourage any children in your lives to read as much as they can. I worry that people are drifting away from the written word now that there are so many alternatives available to them. I’d like young people to realise that there is nothing so satisfying as reading a good book and becoming completely engrossed in the characters and the story.

Thank you, Joan!

Thank you, Stephanie, for inviting me to talk to you.

other links: Facebook

Website

Twitter

Facebook Author Page

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Joan Fallon who is the author of, THE GOLDEN CITY, 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 GOLDEN CITY, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Jim Andersen

Jim Andersen BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Jim Andersen to Layered Pages today. Shortly after the walk Jim quit his job at the paper mill and moved to Austin, Nevada where he lived for 32 years. While in Austin–chronicled in his first book ‘Lost in Austin’ (University of Nevada Press, 2009)–he worked various jobs, finally settling into positions of deputy sheriff for eleven years and Justice of the Peace for twelve. Jim is currently retired and living in Pahrump, Nevada, with his wife of 30 years, Val. He has one daughter, two stepsons and a cat.

Thank you for talking with me today, Jim. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Purely by chance.  I was looking into ways I might promote the book and just came across indieBrag on one of the searches.  It looked and sounded professional, and their function was clearly stated, short and to the point, all of which appealed to me.

How has your self-publishing journey been thus far?

Swift.  My other book was published by a University Press and took three years from the time it was accepted to the day it was printed.  I mean we’re burnin’ daylight here, and none of us know how much daylight we’ve got left to burn so that’s certainly a consideration.  The other thing I liked was the latitude I was given.  I really did have the final say on everything from the cover design to the punctuation.  The only thing I would have changed would be the photos accompanying the text.  For some reason, I thought the publisher would edit them a little as to focus and lighting.  However, I had total control over that too even though I wasn’t aware of it, so it wasn’t their fault.  The pictures are acceptable, they just aren’t as grabbing as they could have been.

Please tell me about your book, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much.

Sometimes a Great Notion

The ‘Great Notion’ was to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, a fad that swept the nation in the manner of the ‘pet rock’ craze or the Macarena dance.  In the late sixties, everybody was talking about the record book and trying to find some way to get listed.  I came up with the idea of walking from 14,496′ Mt. Whitney to Death Valley’s Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level; until Alaska joined the Union in 1959 those were the highest and lowest points in the entire United States.  My book documents the seven-day 143-mile trek I and three of my friends made, with the help of a support party and a lot of moleskin.

Would you undertake a challenge like that again?

Not likely.

What is one of the high points of this journey?

Mt. Whitney.  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)  I suppose the high point would be early in the walk, on the second day from Whitney.  We’d hiked a bit off course to get to a phone booth located in the old town of Keeler, where I called home and my stepdaughter told me the Oakland Tribune newspaper had run a Sunday article on our trip.  It was from an interview done a couple weeks earlier and contained our picture and these final words which I still know by heart because they made such an impression on us; “If all goes well, four figures dressed in ghostly white will emerge from the shimmering desert near Badwater in eight to ten days.”  Any thoughts of quitting that might have been skittering around the corners of our thoughts were expunged by that beckoning vision, at least for the time being.

Describe Death Valley.  

It’s well-named.  The summer heat out there itself holds a world record in the Guinness book–134° logged on July 10, 1913.  A person can’t function very long, if at all, in that kind of heat.   We didn’t measure the air temperature on our walk, but we did take a reading of the ground temperature with a meat thermometer in Panamint Valley and it was 165° just before noon.  I would say the heat we encountered was just short of debilitating in Death Valley, even at night.  And the walking surface out there was the worst on the trip–jagged rocks and salt pinnacles.  If you’re already beat half to death, it’s a bad place to put yourself.

Did you and your friends meet others along the way and what was that like?

We met very few people once we hit the Mojave Desert.  And outside of a ranger on Mt. Whitney, I don’t recall talking to anybody except a few drivers while we were walking the roads. They kept offering us a lift.  You have no idea how hard that was to turn down.   Our campsites we just set up whenever we got too tired to walk.  We’d scouted the route and had several wide spots scoped out and we even used one or two of them.  Nobody ever came around our camps.

What was your learning experience while writing this story?

Well I intended to keep a daily journal the entire trip so I wouldn’t have to trust to memory, but that sort of went by the wayside after a couple days, when the focus somehow shifted from keeping a record to just keeping upright, period.  So, I did have to trust to memory which can be a little scary if you’re really concerned with getting the right happenings in the right order.  I am sure of the book’s overall accuracy but I wouldn’t want to swear to the details.  You just have to recall things the best you can and get on to the next page.  So, I learned you should keep good notes if you intend to write about some event in particular.

Do you have any new writing projects in the works?

Not at the moment.  My wife and I are in the process of moving to a new house in Nevada so I’m just too busy.  There.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon is about the only place at this time, but we hope to place them in both Mt. Whitney’s lodge and the visitor’s center at Furnace Creek.  Hopefully, this interview may even help with that stuff.

Thank you, Jim!

To purchase this book, click HERE to the Amazon links.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jim Andersen who is the author of, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, 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, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member