Male Protagonist Rhys Griffin

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Meghan Holloway is currently working on a story about a WWI veteran and on a desperate search for his son in war-torn France in 1944. His name is Rhys Griffin and Meghan is here today to tell us a little about him. I don’t know about you, but I am delighted to meet him and look forward t0 reading more about his story when it comes out! Please help me welcome, Meghan.

Meghan, who is Rhys Griffin?

Rhys is a veteran of the Great War. He is a son, a widower, a father, and he followed in the footsteps of the men of his family and took over the Griffin sheep farm when his father died. He is a simple man of quiet depth, more at home in the hills in Wales than in the streets of Paris in the wake of the liberation in 1944, when my story begins. He is down to earth, calm and stalwart, not prone to temper or to effusive emotions. He is really a man of his time, and in my story, he is a man on a desperate journey.

 What are his strengths?

He is a man of great perseverance. This is a man who survived the horrors of the Somme and who spends his days toiling as a sheep farmer. He doesn’t let difficulty or exhaustion or physical pain stop him when he sets his mind to something. Once he decides to do something, he is tireless in that pursuit.

His faults?

Rhys is stubborn, and he is not very tolerant of those whose opinions differ from his. I wouldn’t say it’s a fault, but an important aspect of his character is that he is not a man who believes in forgiveness. He is searching for his estranged son not to ask his forgiveness–he still thinks what his son did was wrong–but to recapture the bond they once had and to heal the chasm between them.

What is your personal opinion of him?

Rhys Griffin is a character I greatly admire. He is masculine without having to say so, strong without having to prove it. He is a man with whom you could traipse silently and comfortably through the heathered hills. I appreciate his traditional ideals and his staunch perseverance in life. He is absolutely my favorite character I’ve written.

About Maghan Holloway

“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.

Meghan’s Website

Interview with Best-Selling Author C.S. Harris

me-iiI’d like to welcome C. S. Harris today to talk with me about her new release, Good Time Coming, novel of the American Civil War. C.S. is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series and the standalone historical Good Time Coming. Under her own name, Candice Proctor, she is also the author of seven historical novels and a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution. As C.S. Graham she writes the Tobie Guinness contemporary thriller series.

A Former academic with a PhD in European history, Candice has also worked as an archaeologist at a variety of sites around the world and spent much of her life abroad, living in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans with her husband, retired Army intelligence officer Steve Harris, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

Hi, Candice! Thank you for talking with me today about your newly release novel, Good Time Coming. It is a true honor to be talking about what I think is the most important work of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year and in a long time. Please tell your audience about the premise of your story?

c-s-harrisHi Stephanie, thanks so much, and thanks for having me! Good Time Coming is the story of Amrie St. Pierre, a young girl forced to grow up fast in Civil War-torn Louisiana. This is a side of war we don’t often hear about—the struggle faced by the women and children left alone to survive in the face of starvation, disease, and the ravages of an invading army. War looks very different when seen through the eyes of a child learning hard truths about personal strength, friendship, and the shades of good and evil that exist within us all.

Rarely do I hear people talking about what the women endured during this war. I believe many are uncomfortable talking about it for many reasons. Neither do many people realize the starvation that was taking place because of the blockades and soldiers taking food for their own needs. You really touched on this and I am glad you did. Were there any moments while writing about this that you thought that it might not be well received? Also, what were your own emotions about this while writing your story?

When I first started thinking about this book, I simply wanted to tell a story about a dramatic, compelling aspect of the Civil War I felt had been neglected for some strange reason. (Yes, you can call me naive!) I’d never lived in the South until I moved to New Orleans shortly before Katrina, so I had no idea just how horrible the war was for the women and children of Louisiana until I started reading their surviving letters, diaries, and memoirs. Although I’m a historian and therefore should have known more than most about the brutal realities of warfare, I was frankly stunned. I was also disturbed to realize just how effectively the truth has been glossed over and hidden.

All nations mythologize their past, but I have a sneaky suspicion Americans do it more than most. The brutal realities of our Civil War don’t fit well with the stories we Americans like to tell ourselves, so we tend to ignore them—or try to. Slavery was a vile institution, and anyone who tries to excuse it (as some, amazingly, still do) by saying most slaves were well treated hasn’t read the numerous extant journals and letters of the period, or the Slave Narratives from the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project. The simple truth is that slaves worked because they were whipped. Full stop. And because a statistical percentage of any population has sociopathic tendencies, any institution that allows one group of people absolute power over others is a recipe for sadism. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the North did not go to war against the South to end slavery. Their war aim was to preserve the Union, and their motive was the same one that led to the Mexican-American War and the virtual extermination of the Native Americans. The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

But breaking that taboo and telling a story that portrays what really happened is dangerous for a writer. I knew the book would probably provoke discussion; I didn’t realize it would be so controversial that it would be hard to get published. As for its effects on me, writing this book was a wrenching, highly emotional experience. It’s a powerful story and I still cry when I reread it. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and I am not the same person I was before I started it—it was that life altering.

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I believe you have truly captured the diversity of people and social standings and showed different views of the war in a concise way. The attitudes of the war and government were so complex. It wasn’t as straightforward as people would like to believe. Without giving too much away will you tell your audience a little about how you portrayed people’s attitudes during that time?

I carefully studied the people who were living in St. Francisville and Bayou Sara before the war and made a determined effort to be true to their profiles (many of the minor characters in the book are real historical figures). A surprising number of residents were recent immigrants either from the North or Europe. There were a few wealthy, large plantation owners, but most people were small farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen who owned no slaves. Some, inevitably, were eager for war (as was the case at the outbreak of WWI, most people assumed the war would be over quickly and their side was sure to win). Many were swept up in a patriotic fervor that sounds eerily similar to that of the Revolution. Others, like Amrie’s father, opposed secession but felt compelled to step forward and defend their homes and families. And some, like Amrie’s uncle, a West Point graduate, made the agonizing decision to remain in the Union army and fight their own people.

And then there’s the fact that a huge percentage of the people in the area were enslaved. The antebellum South was also home to over a quarter of a million gens de couleur libres or “free people of color.” Louisiana, especially, had a large population of free African-Americans. Some owned plantations and slaves themselves. Some formed units that fought for the Confederacy; others formed the Corps d’Afrique and fought for the Union. As the war continued and more and more slaves walked off the plantations, those numbers increased.

The longer the war went on, life became increasingly desperate, and society simply broke down. What happened to the people of the area during those years had repercussions that lasted for generations. For many decades after the Civil War, the Feliciana Parishes (in Louisiana, the civil administrative districts known elsewhere as counties are called parishes) had by far the highest murder rate in the country—higher even than the wild, wild West! To be frank, in a very real sense I don’t think it has recovered yet.

What are some emotional triggers for Amrie and her mother and how do they act on them?

One of the things that made the war particularly hard on Southern women was the fact that nineteenth-century Southern culture really did treat women differently—and expected them to behave differently. For example, it was not unusual for women in the North to become schoolteachers and nurses, but that was not true in the South; in fact, it was powerfully discouraged. So when the men all marched off to war (and died at a shocking rate: something like a quarter of the male population) it was even more of a stretch for their women to take over the farms and start running shops. Amrie St. Pierre is what we would today call a tomboy, while her mother defied expectations as a young woman by attending medical lectures in New Orleans (women were allowed to attend lectures even though they could not be licensed as doctors). Yet despite these advantages, they still face enormous hardships in an increasingly dangerous world. And of course one of the truths this story confronts is the reality of rape in war and how Southern women handled that. Two important themes are women finding strengths they don’t know they possess, and the bonds that can form amongst a community of women undergoing hardship together.

Please tell us a little about the supporting characters.

One of the most interesting characters for me to write was Amrie’s mother, Kate St. Pierre. At the beginning of the book Amrie sees her the way all children tend to see their mothers, with little understanding of the hardships and strains Kate is facing. But as the war goes on and Amrie grows up, their relationship subtly shifts, and Amrie begins to realize just how much there is to admire about her mother—and the ways in which they are and are not alike. The mother-daughter dynamic is always a powerful one, and when it is played out against the strains of war and extreme hardship, it’s fascinating.

A very different character is Adelaide Dunbar, Amrie’s grandmother. Adelaide is a hard woman who has done some terrible things in her life (Amrie discovers just how terrible as the story progresses), and yet she has an inner grit that can’t help but inspire respect. She forms a distinct contrast to Castile Boudreaau, a freed slave who serves as something of a mentor to Amrie. He’s an evolved soul who has already lived through so much pain and hardship that he has the calm and wisdom that Amrie lacks—and sorely needs as the war progresses. I could go on and on, talking about Finn, Amrie’s childhood friend, and Hilda Meyers, the enigmatic German shopkeeper; they’re all so real to me that since I’ve finished the book I find I miss them the way you miss friends you haven’t seen in a while.

For those who are not familiar with Civil War battle sites like Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, and Camp Moore, could you talk a little about that?

It’s hard to overstate the strategic importance of the Mississippi River in the Civil War. The Union knew that if they could take the river, they would effectively cut the Confederacy in two and stop the influx of cattle, horses, and other vital supplies coming into the South from Texas. Once New Orleans fell, the last two Confederate strongholds on the river were Port Hudson and Vicksburg, which became the scenes of horrific sieges. The once prosperous town of St. Francisville and its port, Bayou Sara, lay in between the two, so they suffered grievously from the depredations of Union troops trying to overrun both those two fortifications and Camp Moore, an important Confederate training ground that lay just to the east. The entire area was constantly raided and burned, and guerilla attacks on Union supply lines led to brutal acts of retaliation against area civilians. The things done to the women and children of Louisiana were abominable.

This is a big leap from your Regency England St. Cyr series. What prompted you to write this story and will there be any more like this from you? I hope so!

One of the hazards of keeping a series going for years and years is that there’s a risk of the writer becoming complacent or bored working always with the same characters, setting, and types of stories. For a while I was also writing a contemporary thriller series (under the name C. S. Graham), but I’m a slow writer and it almost killed me trying to keep two series going at the same time. So for me, standalones like this are a better solution.

I’ve actually wanted to write this book for over a decade, ever since I wrote a historical mystery set in occupied New Orleans (Midnight Confessions: currently out of print but due to be reissued soon under my real name, Candice Proctor). That’s when I first learned something about how hard the war had been on the civilian population of Louisiana, and I started thinking about looking at those events through the unblinkingly honest eyes of a child. Then Katrina hit, and one of the ways I survived those first horrible months of living in a devastated city was by reminding myself of how the residents of other destroyed cities throughout history pulled together to survive and rebuild. And that experience put a new spin on the story I wanted to tell.

I’m currently writing a novella set in Kent during World War II that will be part of an anthology by four authors called The Jacobite’s Watch. This is a new venture for me in two ways: it’s a time period I’ve never tried before, and I’ve never written a novella. I do think it’s important for a writer to keep challenging herself.

How would your characters describe you?

Ha! That’s an interesting question. I guess it would depend on the character. Amrie and I have much in common—she has a lot of my faults along with a number of characteristics I’d like to have but don’t. Ironically it wasn’t until I was reading the galleys for the published book that I realized Amrie’s mother is in many ways a blending of my own mother and grandmother with parts of me, too. I suspect all writers do this—put parts of themselves in their characters, including parts they don’t have but wish they did.

How much time and research did you spend on Good Time Coming and what was the process in getting a publisher to take it on?

I researched this book for years. I read hundreds of letters, memoirs, and journals, along with countless histories on various aspects of the war. I visited the historic sites that are important in the story—Port Hudson and Camp Moore, Jackson and the site of the vanished town of Bayou Sara. I even bought a weekend house not far from St. Francisville, between Jackson and Clinton! I went to Civil War battle reenactments, toured plantations and slave quarters, and spent days and days in dusty museums learning everything I could about how things were done and what objects actually looked like. And then I sat down and wrote the manuscript in five months in a white heat of eighteen-hour days, seven days a week. I’m normally a painfully slow writer, but this book just came pouring out of me.

Because I’d never written anything like this before—a coming-of-age story told from the first person viewpoint of a young girl—I was more than a bit apprehensive about my ability to do the story justice. But I honestly believe it is the best book I have ever written, and my agent was so excited when I sent it to her. Then she sent it out, and we received the most glowing, lyrical rejection letters ever penned. The problem was the subject matter—the effect of the Civil War on Southern civilians, plus, oddly, the issue of rape. New York editors were afraid to touch it. There’s a reason this book was published in England.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

As a professional historian, I find it frightening how little so many people know about the past. History has so much to teach us, not only about past events but also about human nature. As the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme (a truism attributed to Mark Twain although he actually wrote something slightly different). For those who may not enjoy reading nonfiction histories, well-researched historical fiction offers an accessible window to the past.

Who are your influences?

I’ve long believed that the books we read as children influence us the most, and as a child I read Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Alexandre Dumas. Plus we lived in Europe when I was young, and our weekends and summers were spent crawling around crumbling castles, abbeys, and Roman ruins. So it’s no surprise I grew up fascinated by history, and that when I started writing I gravitated to historicals.

Other writers that undoubtedly had an influence on this book are James Lee Burke, both because of his insight into human nature and his lyrically beautiful prose, and of course Harper Lee. It’s impossible to write about a young girl coming of age in the South without consciously or unconsciously referencing Scout.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration?

I’ve never been one of those writers who makes collages with photos of characters, houses, clothes, etc. But I do like to go to the places I’ll be writing about and look at objects—a Civil War surgeon’s instruments, for example, or a real nineteenth-century homemade bow (I was so excited when I actually found one hanging on the wall of an outbuilding of a St. Francisville plantation house; they were common in the South in the years after the Civil War because former Confederate soldiers were not allowed to own guns).  I tramped all over the extensive battlefields of Fort Hudson, waded through the swamps of Cat Island, and stood in St. Francisville’s churchyard to watch the annual reenactment of what they call the Day the War Stopped (a commemoration of the time Federal and Confederate Masons joined together to give a Union captain a Masonic funeral). When I sit down to write, those are the things I draw on.

What is your writing process and how much time during the day do you write?

I do the bulk of my research before I start writing because I find my plots and characters grow out of what I’m reading and learning. I’ve heard some authors say they plot first and then research only what they need as they’re writing, so they don’t “waste time” learning what they’ll never use. The problem with that approach is that it risks turning history into mere window dressing. When I’m writing, if I come upon something I need but don’t know, I will stop and look it up. I’ve spent half a day chasing down information to get one word right—it’s the hazard of having been a history professor.

Ever since Katrina (when I had no choice) I’ve learned to love writing my books by hand in a legal pad. Recent studies have shown that there is something about holding a pen that stimulates the creative parts of your brain, so I’m not just imagining it. When I finish a chapter, I type it up, print it out, then find a comfortable chair to reread and edit. I constantly go back and edit the chapters I’ve written, so that by the time I finish a manuscript it is virtually in its final state. Yet I have a good friend who composes entirely on her computer, never edits until she’s finished, and never prints out her manuscripts. À chacun son goût.

As for how much of my day I spend on writing, I feel as if I’m always working, that I’m never free to just relax the way someone with a 9-5 job can. The problem with working for yourself is that you feel as if you should always be working. And yet because you’re operating on this long deadline—in my case, usually a year to write a 440-page manuscript—it’s all too easy to waste time, to tell yourself you need to think more about your plot or that the article about sociopaths you want to read is “research.” And then there’s the Internet. Publishers push their writers to be active on Facebook and Twitter, but I think it’s a mistake—soooo many writers I know are now locked in a constant battle against the distraction of social media. It’s a huge time sink.

There was a time I was rigorously self-disciplined. Now, not so much.

What is up next for you?

The twelfth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, Where the Dead Lie, will be out in April 2017, and I’ve almost finished #13 (which unfortunately still doesn’t have a title). Then I’ll be moving on to #14, which does have a title: Who Slays the Wicked (love that title!). The anthology with the World War II novella I mentioned will probably be out in 2018. And I’ve also been revising four of my out-of-print historicals; they should all be available early next year.

Where can readers buy your books?

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is available in virtually all outlets in the States and online elsewhere. Good Time Coming is available in hardcover and e-book through various outlets online and can also be ordered through independent bookstores.

Author Links:

Website

Twitter:  @csharris2

Facebook

Amazon

 

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Lisa Brunette

me-iiI’d like to welcome back two time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Brunette today to talk about her award winning book, Framed and Burning. Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne du Maurier and Taylor Caldwell. 

A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.

Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.

With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Hi, Lisa! Thank you for chatting with me today. First, I HAVE to ask you how you came up with the name “Dreamslippers” for your series.

lisa-brunette-ii-bragThat’s a great question. Before I published the first book in the series, Cat in the Flock, I’d been mulling over what to call the psychic dreaming gift that my characters possess. I had used the phrase “slip into your dreams,” and one of my BETA readers, Chrysanne Westin, suggested I call it “dreamslipping.” When I released the first book with the old cover (which my husband and I designed) in July of 2014, it ran under the series title “McCormick Files,” after protagonist Cat’s last name. But when I updated with a professional cover, I decided at that point to call it the Dreamslippers Series. It’s perfect for a family of sleuths with the unique but limited ability to slip into other people’s dreams.

Tell me about Framed and Burning. By the way, I love the title.

Thank you. I agonized over the title for quite some time, testing a few with BETA readers. I settled on Framed and Burning because, like the title for book one, it contains a double entendre. Someone gets framed in the book, and there’s a lot of different kinds of burning in the book, that of the fire in the first scene but also burning ambition, passion, truth… The story opens with a fire in Mick’s studio, killing his assistant, Donnie Hines. The evidence shows its arson, and the police suspect Mick. His sister and grand-niece are PIs, and they work to clear his name.

By the way, it used to be part of my job description to name mystery games at Big Fish; I’ve named hundreds of games. It’s never easy, but it can be fun!

Will you give me a little background on Mick Travers?

Sure! He’s often the only dude in the room, since my series is very female-centric. Mick is a fellow dreamslipper, but he uses the images he picks up from other people’s dreams as inspiration for his art. His older sister, Amazing Grace, and his grand-niece, Cat McCormick, use it to solve crimes.

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

Mick is very jaded after living most of his life in Miami, which can be a plastic-y, materialistic place. Grace is a dyed-in-the-wool Seattleite: politically liberal, spiritually open, self-directed, and very DIY. Cat is like a lot of people from the Midwest: practical, skeptical, grounded. But she’s also adventurous and curious, which draws her to the other two locations.

What are the habits of your protagonist?

Grace’s habits form the basis for much of Cat’s apprenticeship. Grace is a lifelong yoga devotee, a practitioner of several different spiritual paths, including Buddhism and New Thought, and she regularly meditates. In book three, she takes up a holistic, barefoot dance practice called Nia. And she does all of this in her 70s! You can tell I have a lot of fun with her. Cat is a Millennial who’s tied to her tech, never without her cell phone and adept at online research. But she allows her grandmother to take her under her wing, learning the value of yogic breathing, for example, and using it.

How long did it take to write your story, and what was your process? Did your process for this book change from Cat and the Flock?

Framed and Burning came out in a rush over two months. But that was just the first draft. I spent another six months polishing it. My process for Cat in the Flock was much different, as I took two years to craft the story, but I was working 50-70-hour weeks at my day job during that time and couldn’t concentrate on it as much as I did with Framed and Burning.

Tell me a little about the quirky Miami art world in your story. What does art mean to you, personally?

I didn’t grow up around art or museums, but as soon as I left home and was free to explore on my own, I made art discovery a priority, visiting museums in every city I went to and covering my walls with inexpensive art poster prints. In college, I made it part of my curriculum in American Studies, and I worked for a time at the St. Louis Art Museum (selling memberships), where I spent hours staring at paintings, especially in the modern and contemporary galleries, coming to think of them as my friends. My first husband was an artist who worked out of our home, so I was surrounded by paint and canvases for eleven years, with artists of all types traipsing in and out, and I acquired numerous pieces of my own through that experience.

That doesn’t really answer your question, though, does it? I guess you could say I fell in love with art on my own first—and then I fell for an artist. Even though the ex and I have been apart now for seven years, the art is very much still with me.

Who designed your book cover?

I work with Monika Younger, a super pro with more than a decade of experience designing covers for Harlequin (both their romance and mystery lines). I highly recommend her.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just launched the third book in the series, Bound to the Truth. It’s about the murder of a brilliant Seattle architect. Her widow hires Cat and Grace to investigate a man she suspects as the killer, a well-known conservative radio talk show host.

Thank you, Lisa! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lisa Brunette who is the author of, Framed and Burning, 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, Framed and Burning, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Justine Avery

justine-avery-bragI’d like to welcome award winning- B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Justine Avery to Layered Pages today.  Professionally, Justine Avery first traversed the murky corporate world of writing and designing technical documents to navigate through writing countless travel stories, reviews, personal essays, and articles. She is now the multi-award-winning author of numerous short stories and novelette-length works.

Personally, she has been writing since first falling in love with reading and words themselves, always viewing everything happening around her—and in her imagination—in the form of images translated into poignant phrases and intriguing sentences. She has written under many different names in many different genres, and is finally coming “home” to write, as herself, the stories that transcend genre.

Avery has lived countless stories, takes note of the infinitely more all around, and loves and appreciates every kind. As an avid reader of all genres, both fiction and non, she knows we, as readers, may have preferences, but we’re all—just as naturally—fans of every genre… when we find the stories with real intrigue that have no bounds, that have universal appeal. Those are the stories she prefers to find… and write.

“Story’s in everything we say and do. Story’s what drives us, scares us, changes us. We live stories, imagine them, fear some of them. They’re who we are. I’m a story reader, writer, and seer. I find everything about life and in this big, wide world (and beyond) utterly fascinating. Stories should be the same. I hope you enjoy the hell out of mine.”

Thank you for chatting with me today, Justine! How did you discover indieBRAG?

Thank you for the invitation!  I discovered indieBRAG by relying on a Google search to lead me to award programs or other recognition offered for independently published books and authors—if there were any at all.   I was so glad to find there are organizations, readers, reviewers, etc. devoted to discovering, critiquing, honoring, and publicizing indie books.  And indieBRAG is and does all of these!

the-end-bragPlease tell me about your story, The End.

The End is a novelette-length psychological suspense story with a bit of mystery, drama, and adventure tied in with a techno-thriller element.  It comes to life around a particularly eerie “what if” question: What if you find you’ve actually filmed the scene of your own death—actually caught it on camera?

How is Trevor influenced by his setting?

Trevor’s a “weekend warrior.”  His choice extreme sport is freeride mountain biking.  He spots a line, makes his own path, cuts across the canyonlands of southern Utah.  It’s his much-needed escape from the monotony of corporate life.  In the great outdoors—risking his life, using his learned skills and his own fitness—he temporarily frees himself from the suffocating chokehold of an unfulfilling life.

What are some emotional triggers for Trevor and how does he act on them?

Trevor’s biggest emotional trigger is feeling stifled, caged in, as situations and events in his life are not what he really wants them to be: his job, his marriage, his first child on the way, being confronted with his own mortality in the midst of it all.  He’s constantly striving to juggle his personal needs with his commitments.  And, being a naturally caring individual—often thinking of others before himself—his quest is all the more challenging.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I love a great “what if” question, and many, if not all, of my stories have begun just that simply.  The question popped into mind one day: “what if someone’s death was actually caught on camera—if they had the opportunity to witness their own death?”  A “what if” instantly leads to more questions, the answers being the story: how would the character feel, what would they think, could it actually happen and what would cause it, would they think it was then guaranteed to happen or would they try to fight it, to change fate?  The characters, their own stories and motivations, the mysterious circumstances, all unfold from there.

Will you share an imagery of what Trevor captures on video?

To not spoil the read, I’ll set the scene a bit.  Trevor always wears a helmet-mounted GoPro video camera when he goes for a ride.  He captures every jump, slide, and swerve, all from his point of view.  As The End begins, Trevor sets out on just another Saturday ride as the sun comes up over the canyon.  The reader rides along with him, through every thrill and a spectacular jump.  Only later, does Trevor take a moment to casually play back the footage, relive every exciting moment amid the beautiful setting, and find the video ends in a completely different way than he remembers.

What are the challenges of writing a thriller?

There are many!  A thriller is intensely fun to write as it’s just as thrilling for the writer, in the moment, as it is to read.  But that’s also part of the challenge: to get the pace right, to build up the tension, to make the moments that are most intense, frightening, and urgent for the character to feel the same for the reader—and to try not to give away the ending!  And hopefully, none of the little realizations along the way.

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

Great question.  I keep a record of my daily writing—what I’m working on, how many words written—just to find how my writing habit evolves, and it’s great to recognize when I reach some achievement, such as the most words written in a single month.  There’s also a nice little phone app, Wordly, for keeping track of writing time, goals, rate, etc. for different projects.  So, apparently, The End was written over 13 days, in about 22 hours, but there were many gaps between writing sessions.  I really struggled with the beginning, with creating a character whose hobby was not one of my own.  There were many additional hours spent researching mountain biking itself: the gear, the lingo, the specially designed bike, the entire experience of it.  Luckily, the setting of southern Utah was one I’ve visited and explored myself!

Where can readers buy your book?

The End is available at all Amazon sites, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, iBooks, Smashwords, etc.  My personal site links directly to the book at all retailers: http://justineavery.com/books/the-end.

What are you currently working on?

Another great question!  …because I’m personally so excited about the answer.  I’m currently writing my first novel-length work, a huge idea in the speculative fiction genre.  I’m fighting to finish the first draft by the holidays.  Currently, the novel is over 110,000 words, which will be edited down in revisions—guaranteed.

Please share what you love most about telling a story.

The best question of all!  Hands down, I love the discovery most of all.  Sure, the “magic” of storytelling—how a simple notion, single character, or very tiny idea turns into an entire tale—is terribly fun and a thing to behold; but I love going on an adventure myself, as author.  I love laying down one sentence that leads to another, then another, the whole story unfolding as I type, discovered in the moment by me, and hopefully, just as exciting for the reader-to-be.  What we can’t or wouldn’t or just won’t get around to experiencing in “real life,” we get to experience, learn, and discover as writers.  It’s a never-ending adventure.

Be sure to check out The Life—and Art—of Writing: Justine Avery Interviews Film Director Devon Avery, here!

Justine Avery loves to connect with fellow readers and writers, explorers and imaginers. You can find her at JustineAvery.com, on Twitter.com @Justine_Avery… and between the lines of that new book you’ve been reading.

Justine’s website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Justine Avery who is the author of, The End, 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 End, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Michael Jay

michael-jay-bragI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Michael Jay today to talk with me about his book, DOG WATER FREE. Michael grew up in Detroit, where he raised himself from the age of 15. A graduate of Harvard College, he earned his MBA at Northeastern University in 1983. His coming-of-age memoir, DOG WATER FREE, is dedicated to his college roommate, Tom Wales, who plays a pivotal role in his story, and who many believe to be the only Federal Prosecutor in U.S. history to have been killed in the line of duty. Michael lives in Idaho.

Hi, Michael! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, DOG WATER FREE.

First, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Hi Stephanie. I am happy to join you.

Thanks so much for this opportunity. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added a few youtube hyperlinks to provide some multi-media context (Music ft. Bob Dylan) to this interview, since music is integral to my story. I hope that’s okay? (Ft. Artists are in parentheses behind each hyperlink so anyone can pick and choose, by the way).

Absolutely. No worries, Michael. Bring it on…great!

Thank you for that, Stephanie.

I was encouraged to submit my memoir to IndieBRAG by an internationally renowned pediatric ophthalmologist (Dr. Ed O’Malley – whose friendship has changed my life more than once).

Ed had learned about IndieBRAG from a friend in Chicago.  A few months later, IndieBrag CEO Geraldine Clousten kindly let me know that my story (Music ft. Moby) had been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, which has significantly raised exposure for my years of work.

For that, I am incredibly grateful and proud.

How has your story been received and how goes the battle for exposure, Michael?

Of course, exposure is one of the reasons I am with you today. It’s great of you to ask, Stephanie. By the way, any readers of your post are welcome to message me at MichaelJay@DogWaterFree.com . . . Just an FYI..if you would like to schedule a Skype with me and your book group or classroom, just so you know.

Now. Back to the basics of exposure. I credit my success to date to exquisite eBook formatting by BookBaby for Kindle and iTunes and Kobo.

I also credit a seasoned professional line editor in Los Angeles, Kathleen Marusak, who gave me the confidence to self-publish my memoir, (Music ft. #1 Hamilton) in order to share some truths about an adolescent’s star-crossed journey to make sense of a confounding series of unfortunate events.

And if that sounds like a real life Lemony Snicket saga…you are spot on…because it is!

Anyway, since it was published, DOG WATER FREE has enjoyed “Top Rated Best 100” status in the category of “Family Relationships & Motherhood” on Amazon for more than 75 weeks.

I’m sure my fellow authors will attest that all news is good news when it comes to gaining exposure after years of hard work writing – especially when it’s a personal magnum opus.

Equally gratifying, a past President of the Women’s National Book Association (Lynn Henriksen, San Francisco Chapter) calls DOG WATER FREE, “A mother-son coming of age memoir of lasting consequence.

That makes me very proud, as does this blurb from Amazon, which I share to orient your readers:

“A family saga at its core, DOG WATER FREE is an uplifting story of discovery that will appeal to fans of The Glass Castle and Angela’s Ashes as it pulls back the curtain on adolescent bewilderment while celebrating a remarkable hero in the person of an ordinary mom who is thrust into an extraordinary situation, the likes of which few could imagine.”

DOG WATER FREE  (Music ft. Gil Scott Heron) also made the 2015 Top Ten Book Club Recommendation List at the Canton, Michigan Public Library along with Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN; Robin Sloan’s MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE; Petra Durst-Benning’s THE GLASSBLOWER; and Ken Follett’s FALL OF GIANTS and WINTER OF THE WORLD.  Being included on that top ten list was an incredible honor.

Exposure & validation like that is so critically important – as I know you know, Stephanie.

So, needless to say, the opportunity to do this interview with you today makes me very proud as well, as I seek to gain traction with high school teachers and administrators who create reading lists, as well as with college instructors who may choose to recommend my story (Music ft. Sam Roberts) to undergrads, since it explores subjects like adolescent bewilderment, (Music ft. #2 Hamilton),  spiritual befuddlement, and an elusive emotional truth called Closure while fostering spirited discussion.

dog-water-free-bragTell me about the premise of your story, Michael.

The premise, Stephanie, can be explained with two questions:

How does a widow who has a year to live – and who is blessed with a spiritual passion for life, the arts, and culture – prepare her young son for life on his own without her?

And how does her dumbstruck soon-to-be orphan middle-son, (ft. Damien Rice) Mikee, respond to her timely wisdom and insights, knowing all the while that each next morning might be her last?

Most engaging, readers have kindly told me, is the pace with which events unfold.

I’m also so honored that so many of my reviewers have read DOG WATER FREE more than once – and that they let me know they did! I dare say that is one of the best compliments an author can receive.

What is the setting?

The story is set in Detroit (Music ft. God Choir with Eminem) and subsequently Boston and on the Island of Nantucket, where readers are rewarded with a most satisfying dénouement that ties it all together, a few years after Mikee finished his high school academic and athletic (music ft. Shakira) career playing hockey, baseball and running track & cross country back in his hometown.

Who is your primary audience, Michael and what is the premise?

My primary audiences are moms (of all ages) who know what it means to parent. I am also reaching out to mature adolescents/young adults (Music ft. Jill Scott) who understand all too well what it means to be bewildered.

I think I may have cornered the market on that front.

Thematically, the mosaic of my story’s puzzle includes issues of Fate; Life & Death; Happiness & Sadness; Hopes & Dreams; Shame & Despair; and finally, Survival & Redemption.

As I say this, it sounds way too serious…mine is really a happy, uplifting story, believe it or not, evidenced by the fact that I’ve gotten feedback that some readers could not stop laughing through their tears, which makes me know that we have a connection.

Regarding my premise, the very beginning of DOG WATER FREE is the foundation that allows me to offer an homage (Music ft. She & Him) to my mom, Marge. The first sentence consists of six words:

“Legends are born to every generation.”

The story builds from there as readers eventually come to know, through Mikee’s first-hand experiences, a host of powerful & famous icons of culture who have shaped the mindsets of nations, which is just how Marge would have wanted.

Set the stage for us. How does it all begin for Mikee?

Mikee (Music ft. Robben Ford) is eleven when his world turns upside down.

His mom is sharing news with Mikee from her doctor.

She has a year to prepare her family for her death.

Her passing will leave the man she loves and the four children she cherishes alone to fend for themselves.

“At least you’ll always have your dad,” she comforts them.

Still on her mission fifteen months later, her focus heightens when her husband drops dead.

With that, Mikee’s improbable coming-of-age journey (Music ft. #Hamilton) begins.

DOG WATER FREE puts the reader in the room when Mikee learns of his mom’s terminal illness; learns of his dad’s sudden death; and subsequently learns about his mom’s hopes and dreams for him as she shares her wisdom (Music ft. Faith Hill) and insights, knowing that each next morning might be her last.

In Forrest Gump fashion, Mikee would come to land front and center before England’s Queen, Elizabeth II; (Music ft. #3 Hamilton/King George) America’s Maestro, Westside Story composer Leonard Bernstein (Music ft. the Maestro); the first non-Italian Pontiff in more than 400 years, Pope John Paul II (Photo); and a young college coed who would become the first woman in history to be elected to lead an Islamic nation, Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (Photo). In the moment, all of it seemed so natural and not so much a big deal. Looking back, it’s funny how that works in real life, Stephanie.

Oh yea, readers are treated to front row seats for each and every encounter, by the way.

What a powerful story. When did you decide your story needed to be told and what were your experiences writing this story?

Each night at bed time at our home near Lake Tahoe, my two beautiful daughters would ask me to tell them a true story from my childhood, (Music ft. The National) which helped keep my memories alive.

My girls, Claire and Rachel, are now both UC Berkeley Grads with graduate degree honors from Columbia and UCLA. I am so proud of them both.

I also was the beneficiary of a lifelong friendship with Assistant US Attorney Thomas C. Wales, who was one of my roommates in college https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMGh3Ts5-WQ (Music ft. Damien Rice) and to whom my book is dedicated. Over the years, he became close with my girls, as well.

Relentless, Tom knew my history and he kept encouraging me to publish my stories, God love him.

For that I am eternally grateful.

“Just keep me posted and be sure to let me know when you publish your memoir,” my friend Tommy kept telling me.

A proponent of trigger-locks on handguns in order to protect at-risk families all over America, Tom Wales is believed to be the only Federal Prosecutor in US history to have been killed in the line of duty. He was murdered by an assassin with a handgun.

A $1 million reward from the Office of the Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice has gone unclaimed since his assassination in Seattle, thirty days after 9-11.

James Fallows, former Chief White House Speechwriter and National Correspondent for The Atlantic, remembers Tom Wales with a kind mention of DOG WATER FREE in The Atlantic (Article).

The morning of September 11, 2001 was the last day we spoke, my friend Tommy and me.

What was the hardest part of this book to write?

The hardest part of writing my story was overcoming the urge to editorialize, Stephanie. Ultimately, that’s why I chose to write in first-person/present tense. Even with that, I had to remind myself every day that I needed to trust my readers and simply stay true to each moment. I’m so glad I approached it that way.

By my reckoning, when a story is worthy, events speak for themselves – so there is no need to spell things out by editorializing.

The bottom line is that readers are smart – and they like putting pieces of a puzzle together.

So if I were asked about lessons learned from the experience, I would have to say, “Trust your readers. (Ft. Nina Simone & some Cool Cats”)

Tell us about Mikee.

Here’s a story that sums up young Mikee in a nutshell, Stephanie.

As a boy, Mikee learned to compartmentalize his feelings. Some would call that a defense mechanism.

At the age of ten, he became angry after asking his dad if his family could “pretty please get a puppy.”

His dad all but said beat it. “What do ya think, Dogs come cheap, Mikee? Don’t you know that nothing in life is free? Anyway, I’m allergic to dogs. End of story.” He lied.

It broke Mikee’s heart to hear his dad say that.

All the while, his mom took care to comfort her children in the wake of her terminal diagnosis.

“At least you will always have your dad, long after I’m gone.” She promised.

Obsessing, Mikee couldn’t help but wonder.

What good is it to have a dad if he won’t even let you have a dog?

Then it hit him.

Maybe God would make his dad change his mind, now that his mom was dying?

Maybe that’s God’s plan. He believed.

“His will be done.” Mikee prayed.

Despite his dad’s stubborn indifference to Mikee’s request that their family get a dog, Mikee dropped to his knees every night to try to strike a solemn bargain, praying harder than he had ever prayed in his life.

Night in and night out, he told God that he would endure anything – if only he could have a dog.  Amen. Woof-woof. Bow-wow.

Meanwhile, his mom stayed true.

Knowing each morning could be her last, she took one day at a time to prepare them all for life on their own without her.

Months later, still battling her illness, her focus heightened when Mikee’s dad dropped dead.

And the following Christmas brought another surprise. (Music ft. The National)

Marge could not contain her excitement.

“Look, you guys.  Look what Santa brought us!”

At long last, Mikee had his puppy!

Uh-oh.  Dear Lord in Heaven. Were those my prayers God answered?

Mikee shivers as if some lame little imp is dancing a jig atop a grave that is somewhere in his own future.

What in the world have I done?

On that miraculous Christmas morning, it made him ache to wonder.

Intellectually curious, God loving and Devil fearing, young Mikee (Music ft. Robben Ford) is growing up on a street called Faust (Music by Bruce Springsteen ft. Jennifer Nettles and Ben Harper) in the heart of Detroit’s Westside, where he discovered that the name of his street referred to a mysterious German legend, none of which he was quite old enough to fathom nor quite young enough to ignore.

According to a centuries-old fable, the story of Faust had something to do with a scholar who makes a deal with the Devil to exchange his soul for limitless knowledge and pleasure. As a cradle Catholic who fancies himself as somewhat of a scholar, it is one more bit of evidence for Mikee that the Devil is real and that actions can have irreversible consequences, which is a dominant theme of the story.

Never let the Devil (Music ft. REM) in the door. At least that much young Mikee knows first-hand.

Just prior to the death of his dad, Mikee is appointed to be President of a contingent of Altar Boys in his neighborhood parish as a tribute from the elementary school nuns to his dying mom.

With that, he continues to serve daily mass.

He schedules himself to serve weddings on Saturdays in order to earn a couple of bucks.

He also arranges to serve as many funerals as possible for the chance to miss a few hours of school while traveling to far away cemeteries in cushy Cadillac’s with the Monsignor, while enjoying fine second-hand cigar smoke.

Through it all, he dutifully recites the Liturgy in Latin – phonetically – from rote memorization. Such was the custom for most Altar Boys during the era of MadMen.

It’s not long before Mikee begins to suspect that he might be suffering from something called impostor syndrome for having spent way too much time in church without actually praying, since he has no clue as to the meaning of his perfect Latin utterances.

Please tell me a little about his mom.

Mikee’s mom is Margaret Mary, (Music ft. Kim Carnes) aka Marge, who is a graduate of Detroit Cooley High. She is a statuesque auburn-haired beauty who hails from the tribe of actress Maureen O’Hara, with whom she bears a striking resemblance.

An unflappable muse, motherhood becomes her. She tackles matters mundane with the passion of a virtuoso (Music ft. Bonnie Raitt & Norah Jones) preparing for Carnegie Hall.

She loves her neighborhood and she loves her budding brood (Music ft. The National) of four, three sons (Nino, Mikee, Patrick) and her first-born daughter (Kathleen).

But for the size of her heart, the Irish (Music ft. The Gloaming) in her bones, and the grace of God, she might never have evolved with such consummate charm.

It complements her all too disconcerting intuition, which allows her to know exactly what Mikee is about to do before he can even think it.

She is the daughter of Robert Denny, an Orangeman (strict Protestant) whose family hails from Belfast. Her mother Claire is from County Cork.

Marge (Music ft. Mose Allison) would marry an alcoholic, and become an alcoholic herself until the day she joined AA, on the occasion of the birth of her baby Patrick.

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

Mikee’s dad Tony is a high-school drop-out who becomes the chef for the executive dining room of a silk stockings ad agency in downtown Detroit. With a client list that includes Heinz 57, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, and Chevrolet, business is booming.

Work hours are over by 3pm. In the late afternoons he bowls in winter; he plays golf in spring and summer in Northern Michigan at an executive retreat where he cooks for the Ad Executives and their clients. He also moonlights as a bookie, (Music ft. Pomplamosse) in a town with no patience for slackers slow to play – or for bookies slow to collect. As Tony later tells his sidekick (young Patrick), he works on the side “for an influential family business.”

Who designed your book cover?

I love my book cover, Stephanie. Thanks for asking. The cover is by Tovey Call, a design professional in Eagle, Idaho. Tovey is a fabulous collaborator.

Where can readers buy your book?

DOG WATER FREE is available at AmazonUSApple iTunesKobo, AmazonUK and LoveReadingUK

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a children’s book  (Music by Nena) at the moment, Stephanie…and as I do, I am always available to skype with book clubs or classrooms for discussion, by the way.

What are the challenges of writing non-fiction, especially memoir?

Great question. I subscribe to the adage “show, don’t tell, and be truthful, always”.

Also, writing memoir should never involve settling scores or grudges with mere mortals. Settling one’s differences with the Almighty, however, is noble and fair and worthy of effort, in my humble opinion.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

Given the circumstances of the journey I’ve been on, I seek to earn my reader’s trust by sharing relatable, true stories that provide insights for young adults who know all too well what it means to feel bewildered. I am also seeking to reach moms and dads who know what it means to parent.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

Most rewarding is when my writing spawns conversations between friends; between kids and their parents; between students and teachers. That’s when you know your writing has struck a chord. And feedback via reviews is the absolute best = especially when reviewers share that they have read your story more than once!

I am so proud of that, too.

I hoped to touch one life with my true story and based on reviews so far I have been blessed to have touched many.

What would/could a reader or reviewer say about this book that shows they “get” you as an author?

Great question, Stephanie. Without giving away any spoilers, ‘getting me’ as an author would involve simple acknowledgment that my story touched their heart – and that coming to terms with an issue like closure can be an emotional truth unto itself.

As one publishing industry pro recently put it in a private note to me:

“Bravo, Michael Jay. Your readers may not remember your precise turns of phrase or exact words, but if they are anything like me, they will never forget how your story made them feel.”

Responses like that make me forever grateful that I stuck with it.

Thank you, Michael! It was a pleasure chatting with you and thank you for sharing such a wonderful story with our readers.

Author website 

 A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Michael Jay who is the author of, DOG WATER FREE, 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, DOG WATER FREE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 indiebrag-team-member

Interview with Andrea Zuvich

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

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

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

Why 17th Century?

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

The Stuart Vampire

Tell me a little about Charles II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can readers buy your book?

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

Please tell me about yourself as an Historian.

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

Will you write other stories related to the paranormal?

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

What are you currently working on?

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

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

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

Thank you, Andrea!

Thank you, Stephanie!

Please visit Andrea’s site here

Other Links:

Amazon Profile

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Scott D. Prill

Scott Prill BRAGI’d like to welcome Scott Douglas Prill today to talk with me about his book, Into the Realm of Time. Scott was born in Iowa and received a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa in 1977.  His subsequent career choices have reflected a strong interest in natural resources.  Since graduating, Scott has held positions as a limnologist and environmental consultant.  He also has a M.B.A. and is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.  For the previous twenty-six years, Scott has been an in-house environmental consultant for the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Scott resides in Bayside, Wisconsin, with his wife, Marcie.  He enjoys spending time with their three adult children and writing.  Into the Realm of Time is Scott’s debut novel. 

Hello Scott! Thank you for chatting with me today. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Stephanie – thank you for the opportunity for me to be a part of the indieBRAG interview process.  I am pleased to answer your questions.

I discovered indieBRAG through a work colleague who recommended I submit Into the Realm of Time to indieBRAG for review.   I am pleased I listened to his recommendation.   This is the first book I have written and I am learning about new literary groups such as indieBRAG and Goodreads and the positive ideas such groups offer to independent writers like me.

Into the Realm of TimeTell me about your book, Into the Realm of Time.

The story takes place during 372-375 AD.  The Roman Empire is on the brink of its great decline.  The fierce Roman General Marcus Augustus Valerias contemplates his future.  Though at the peak of his success and power, through victories against both external and internal enemies of Rome, the General is weary of the brutality of continual war and yearns for a different life away from his legions and battlefields.  At the same time, Claire, the widowed queen of a kingdom in Britannia, risks everything to protect her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.  A priest, named Joseph, tries to hide his dark past as he pursues salvation in the Christian faith.  Flavius, a Roman officer who deserted his legion, seeks redemption for the cruel actions he has inflicted on behalf of a corrupt tyrant.

All the while, two Hun brothers, Uldric and Rao, are ruled by their ambitions to ruthlessly establish and expand a Hun empire.  The story of these intertwined destinies unfolds against the backdrop of love, power, greed, religion, valor and sacrifice in this turbulent period.  Fates are not foretold and events lead to a climactic epic battle.  Each character must make choices and it is these crucial decisions that decide their ultimate fates.

Into the Realm of Time is a fictional narrative of timeless personal struggles set against an unsettled Roman Empire.  Christianity had eclipsed paganism as the state religion and Britannia was an orphaned and wild Roman province.  The Huns were emerging and pushing the panicked barbarian Goths into the eastern edge of the Empire.  It is a tumultuous time as Rome tenuously clings to its status as a dominant power – the time of General Marcus Augustus Valerias.

What are the habits of your protagonist(s)?

I’m not sure if the book describes the habits of my characters as much as it does the character’s own qualities.  I consider Into the Realm of Time to have one protagonist and several sub-protagonists and antagonists.

Marcus Augustus Valerias, the main protagonist, is a highly successful military general.  He is the emperors’ enforcer and is counted on to defeat the emperors’ enemies both outside and inside the Empire.  Valerias is strong willed, a brilliant military strategist, and a leader of men.  He never lost a battle.  He demands much of his men, but he maintains a strong bond of loyalty with his legions.

Yet, the military is all he has known in his life.  Thus, even though he won’t admit it, he has doubts about the path he has taken in life and wonders if there is something more than serving in the army.  He yearns for a new life and whatever that life offers.  He retires from the army and searches for a new meaning. He finds that new life but also discovers he cannot leave his past behind him.

Self-image is important in characters, how is this important to your characters? 

Developing the characters within the storyline was my most important aspect in writing Into the Realm of Time.  I wanted to write a book where the characters were not super heroes and super villains; good versus evil.  The main characters have positive characteristics as well as flaws.  General Valerias, for example, is a complicated man.  He is a highly successful Roman General.  He is a brutal man in a brutal time.  Yet he has a strong inner turmoil.  He is searching for contentment and when he finds contentment, he learns it is only a fleeting feeling.  He has never had children and yet children are drawn to him.  Another character, Claire, puts aside her title as queen to save her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.   Joseph, the Christian priest, has much to learn about the meaning of Christianity.

Into the Realm of Time is a book of character development. The interactions of characters with others and events defined their self-images.

What fascinates you most about the Roman Empire?

I have enjoyed watching movies and reading about the Roman Empire since boyhood.    The Robe, Ben Hur, Spartacus and Gladiator and others have influenced my thinking of the Empire.  On the other hand, the information (facts) in books I have read tends to bring the magic of movies to reality.

I think the fact that the Empire lasted several centuries is remarkable.  Although the Western part of the Empire collapsed around 476 AD, the Eastern part lasted almost one thousand more years.  The Empire was a dichotomy: the Empire provided culture, order, law and security for its habitants.  Yet it could be very brutal to outsiders and even its own citizens.  It is interesting to note that Christianity emerged during the Empire.  Several times Christianity and Christians were persecuted by the Romans; however, eventually Christianity became the state religion.

Another item of note is that some historians have referred to the period after the fall of the Western Empire as the Dark Ages.  Thus, despite its shortcomings, the Roman Empire provided a well-defined civilization for hundreds of years.

Describe the Hun Empire.

During the period of 372-375 AD there was little knowledge of the Huns.  The Huns began to appear at this time from the steppes of central Asia. Their appearance westward caused a panic among the Goths who migrated into the eastern part of the Roman Empire. These events form the basis for the historical time frame for Into the Realm of Time.

The story in the book takes place well before the appearance of Attila the Hun by over half a century. In 372 AD the Huns were largely an emerging mystery force.

There were a lot of events happening during this period, did you face any challenges while writing about this?

When I prepared to write Into the Realm of Time, my first decision was to settle on a time frame on which to base the story.  This decision was critical to me.  I wanted to write a story that takes place towards the end of the Western Roman Empire, but not at its very end.   I also wanted the time to be a period of the Empire that was not as well-known as other periods.  I wanted to avoid having anything to do with Attila the Hun and King Arthur as there have been a multitude of books written about these men.  Finally, like most periods towards the end of the Empire, 372-375 AD was a time of turmoil.

What was some of the research you needed to do for the story and what was your process?

I read several books that were based on the fall of the Roman Empire.  Based on the information in these books, I settled on the time of 372 to 375 AD.  The Roman Empire was still formidable and had two emperors.  Christianity was the established religion of the empire.  I also read Gore Vidal’s novel, Julian, to get a feel of the time that was different from the other books I read which were more fact based.

I list my reference sources at the end of the book.

Where can readers buy your book? 

You can purchase the book on Amazon in either hard copy (paperback) or through Kindle.  It is also sold at several bookstores in southern Wisconsin. I sell an occasional book myself, which I sign.  I must also note that the book is at several libraries.  Please check my website for sales/library locations.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on the sequel to Into the Realm of Time.  When I finished Into the Realm of Time, I knew there was more to the story and I wanted to complete the saga.  This will be a two-book series.  The sequel will hopefully be finished within two years – no guarantees!

I enjoy discussing Into the Realm of Time with anyone as that has been part of the “fun” of writing the book.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Scott Prill who is the author of, Into the Realm of Time, 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, Into the Realm of Time, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member