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: 

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.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Alison Brodie

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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

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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.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Molly Greene

MollyGreeneHeadshot2

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Molly Greene to Layered Pages today. Molly writes the Gen Delacourt Mystery Series, which includes Mark of the Loon, The Last Fairytale, Paint Me Gone, A Thousand Tombs, Swindle Town, Lock the Cellar Door, Midnight at Half Moon Bay, The India Archives, and, out soon, Burn Rubber. For freebies, giveaways, and news about upcoming releases, join her Reader’s Club.

Thank you for talking with me today, Molly. Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Hello Stephanie, it’s a pleasure to join you, thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about myself and my books! I heard about the indieBRAG program through my friend Virginia King, author and fellow B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. Virginia is a staunch supporter of the program, and suggested I apply when I inquired about the Medallion on her book’s cover. I’m thrilled to have been chosen.

Please tell me a little about the premise of your book.

Mark of the Loon

Mark of the Loon is about a single, semi-isolated, thirty-something female real estate agent who falls in love with a cottage, side-steps a potential relationship and several obstacles to buy it, then slowly discovers that the house is so much more than it appears to be on the surface. As she and college friend Gen Delacourt unravel the mysteries attached to the property, she examines her personal issues and (better late than never) embarks on a new chapter of her life. Every title in my Gen Delacourt series involves a mystery, but also reveals some level of personal growth on the part of the characters.

Tell me a little about Madison and her strengths and weaknesses.

Madison is strong, disciplined, knowledgeable, and resourceful, but afraid of getting too close to a man. She has great relationships with smart, supportive, funny women. She does what she says she will do. She’s not afraid of taking risks, unless that risk involves her heart.

What is some of the history that surrounds this story?

The plot involves WWII, an Irish spy, Nazi looting, and Hitler’s plan to destroy the economics of the US and the UK by flooding the market with counterfeit bills.

How did you come to write this story and how many books will be in this series?

I’m an avid reader of mysteries and I love great writing, but over the years I grew tired of all the graphic gore and serial killers and child predators and unnecessary sex that so many authors depend on. So I set out to write a book that did not incorporate those things. The plot grew in my mind while my dog and I were on our daily walks, something I still rely on to hash things out as I’m writing.

Since then, I’ve grown the series to include eight titles with plots that avoid all the above-mentioned elements. I’m planning at least twelve Gen Delacourt Mysteries, then I’ll write a few standalones and/or another series that spin off a couple of Gen’s secondary characters I’ve grown to love.

What is the easiest and most difficult part of writing a series?

The most fabulous part by far is getting to know and understand characters so well that I know exactly what they’ll say and how they’ll react in most situations. It’s like having invisible friends! The challenging part, especially since I avoid many typical plot situations (sex, cursing, gore) is coming up with plausible cases and situations for my characters to react to. So far I’ve had great good fortune making this happen. I have two future book ideas in my head, and I also keep a file of real-life articles about weird and wacky stuff that might prove interesting for future story lines and characters.

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

I began LOON in 2009 when I was working full time, and it took a year to complete the first rough draft. A dozen full-book edits later it was published in 2012, then I edited the manuscript again in 2013. From 2014-2015 I wrote like a madwoman, publishing four more titles, then slowed a bit. Eight are available at this writing. My goal now is to publish two new titles a year.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon, of course, and other major online booksellers.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I have a marketing background and have always done a lot of business-related writing. I wrote narrative poetry when I was in high school. I never planned to be a writer of fiction; not until I sent Mark of the Loon to a friend to read and she told me she couldn’t put it down. I chose to believe her and embarked on a new path.

What are some of the writing tools you have learned along that way that has helped you?

I’m a panster at heart, which means I don’t know how a book will end until I’m at least halfway there. At first, I wrote knowing nothing about future events in the plot. But having a clue about what’s going to happen before it does helps an author write faster, so now I do a bit of outlining before each book, usually the first 10 chapters or so. That way I have to backtrack less, revise less, and it gives me an opportunity to think up cool scenes I might otherwise miss. Outlining is one of the best production-boosting tools I’ve learned.

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

I write mystery novels that include elements of cozy mysteries and women’s fiction. So far, all these stories are set in California. They each feature strong, independent female characters who are professional and/or amateur sleuths. My novels are both character and plot-driven, include both friend and romantic relationship elements, but no graphic sex or gore. My protagonists are flawed and smart and imperfect but manage to improve, both personally and professionally, in some way, through every story line. Think whodunit suspense solved by smart women!

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Links:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Molly Greene who is the author of, Mark of the Loon, 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, Mark of the Loon, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner

Marlo B BRAGI’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner today. Marlo is the award-winning author of THE GHOST CHRONICLES, her debut book which was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim. The book won the 2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best First Book, was named FINALIST in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Young Adult Fiction, received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was named one of the “best indie YA books we have seen in the past year, from both self-publishers and small presses” by IPPY Magazine. Marlo is represented by Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency and she writes young adult, women’s fiction, and short stories. Her second book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES BOOK 2, will be released in August 2017. Visit her at marloberliner.com or on Twitter and Instagram @marloberliner.

When she’s not writing or editing, Marlo loves reading, relaxing at the beach, watching movies, and rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions. After having spent some wonderful time in Pittsburgh and Houston, she’s now back in her home state of New Jersey where she resides with her husband, two sons, and a rambunctious puppy named Max.

Thank you for talking with me today, Marlo! Tell me about how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed an indieBRAG medallion on another young adult book and thought, “I’d like one of those, too!”

Please tell me about your book, The Ghost Chronicles.

The Ghost Chronicles BRAG

The book is about a young man who dies tragically and is trapped in the afterlife, where he falls in love with the ghost of a beautiful woman who died just as tragically as he did. The only trouble is falling in love and binding oneself to another soul is forbidden, for it may keep one or both of the souls bound to earth for longer than they should be.

To make matters worse, there’s also a danger in going too far with Sarah, because the “joining” of two souls in the afterlife is also strictly forbidden and they don’t know what will happen if they do go that far. Each time they touch they can feel the boundaries of their energies slipping perilously into one another.

Things get even more complicated as Michael learns he’s being pursued. Demons are after him because he’s a marked soul, a soul the devil wants very badly for some unknown reason.

So, maybe falling in love in the afterlife isn’t such a good idea.

What audience are you targeting with this story?

I designed the story with upper young adults in mind, but also tried to give the book that crossover appeal for the adult audience.

Tell me about Michael’s strengths and weaknesses.

Michael’s main strengths are his bravery and his inherent goodness. His major weaknesses are his impatience and his impulsiveness.

Give me an example of the relationship between Sarah and Michael.

Their attraction is magnetic from the very beginning. They have a lot in common – they both lost a parent young and they both lost their own lives way too soon. They’re also both free-spirited, fun-loving and have big hearts. Once Michael meets Sarah and gets to know her, he realizes they were meant to be together.

How long did you work on this story and what was your inspiration for it?

I worked on and off on the story for more than five years, but most seriously in the last two of those years. Inspiration for the best stories lie at the intersection of truth and imagination. The Ghost Chronicles began this way, as well. I had my ‘eureka’ moment one day while reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my son. Chapter Eight, The Deathday Party, deals with the ghosts in the Hogwarts Castle and what it might be like to ‘live’ in the afterlife, so that provided the spark that ignited the fire to write The Ghost Chronicles.

At the same time, I was also thinking about a truth from my past. When I was seventeen I was in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. An accident that almost took my life. The thought of ‘what if I had died’ has been one that has haunted me ever since. So immediately I knew I wanted The Ghost Chronicles to be not only a story of what it’s like to be stuck in the afterlife, but I also wanted it to be about a boy who dies tragically through no fault of his own. The kind of story ripped from the headlines about a promising young person who has their life taken away far too soon. It won’t be completely apparent until later in the series, but I wanted it to be a story of great hope for anyone who has lost someone tragically, particularly someone young. I’m also hoping readers will take away the theme embodied in this quote from the book – “Cherish life, it’s absolutely precious.”

The final piece of the love story in The Ghost Chronicles fell into place after I stayed at The Angel of the Sea, an award-winning bed and breakfast in Cape May, NJ. This spectacular inn has been featured on several television programs and in magazines throughout the world. Most notably, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as one of the “Best Vacations in the World” and included in her television talk show. The two buildings of The Angel of the Sea are so iconic, that it is one of the most recognized Victorian structures in the United States. Legend has it that in the late 1960’s, a girl did fall to her death at the Angel of the Sea and did at one time, haunt the inn. The story of the girl has been included in several non-fiction books about ghosts in Cape May. Sarah’s character in The Ghost Chronicles was inspired by this legend and after staying at this romantic inn, I also decided to make The Angel of the Sea the setting for the book.

How many books will be in this series and will you introduce new characters in each one?

I’m planning to have three books in the series and will introduce many new characters along the way. I love bringing historical characters, both well-known and lesser-known, into the books.

Who designed your book cover?

My cover was designed by the very talented S.P.McConnell.

Where can readers buy your book?

The book is available at all major retailers – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Walmart.

Tell me about how you got into writing.

I began seriously writing in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even had teachers and professors who told me I had true talent and begged me not to stop writing. I continued writing in college, but largely gave it up once I graduated because I was simply too busy with life. I picked it up again many years later when my kids were young and I was struck by the idea for THE GHOST CHRONICLES. This book just wouldn’t let me not write it!

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

I always intended THE GHOST CHRONICLES to be a thought-provoking story, and I hope the story touches your heart the way it touched mine.

Thank you, Marlo! It was a pleasure chatting with you! Please visit with me again soon at Layered Pages!

AUTOHR LINKS:

Amazon –
US

UK

Barnes & Noble

 Indiebound

Walmart

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Marlo Berliner who is the author of, Ghost Chronicles, 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, Ghost Chronicles, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member