Interview with Author Stuart S. Laing

Stuart Laing

Born in 1966 and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife. Stuart has been married to the love of his life for 20 years and they have blessed with a daughter. Completing the household is a cat which is also female leaving him heavily outnumbered. He has always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh and has spends most of his adult life studying Scottish history in all its aspects but always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Stephanie: Thank you for chatting with me today, Stuart. It is always a pleasure. You have written so many wonderful stories. Today I want to talk with you about, The Children in the Shadows. Great title by the way. Tell me a little about your story.

Stuart: While Robert and his friends and family attend an engagement party the murder of a young girl casts a grim pall over the evening. Everyone seems convinced that the woman who carried the body into the town Guardhouse is guilty and no investigation is necessary. Robert is pressed to do what he can to help the woman and by doing so he opens up a can of worms that certain people in high office want closed for their own reasons.

The story also allowed me to shine more of a light on the female characters who come to the fore in this. I have always sought to allow them to be as strong and outspoken as they wanted to be and in TCiTS they seize the opportunity with both fair hands.

Alice Galbraith especially truly came into her own when she decides she is going to solve the crime. While this decision places her in great danger as she is kidnapped by the murderer she is not the type of girl who is prepared to set back and wait to be rescued.

Faith also plays a strong part in the book. It serves both as comfort at times of sorrow and inspiration to stay the course and bring the guilty to justice.

Stuarts book cover

Stephanie: What was your inspiration?

Stuart: There has been much said in the British media over recent years regarding ‘people trafficking’ and ‘economic migrants’ from Eastern Europe coming to our shores in search of a better life as though this was something new. Throughout the 18th Century people from the Scottish Highlands had been trickling southwards to find hopefully a better life in the cities of the central Lowlands. Glasgow and Edinburgh had probably hundreds of Gaels struggling to eke out a new life for themselves by 1745 alone. I took that fact and mixed it with my fictional creation of a heartless man who lures children from the Highlands with promises of a happy and wealthy future only to put them to work in the worst sort of brothel.

It was the sad fact that such places existed and the fact that the victims were hidden from sight that gave me the title. That and the fact that certain people wanted the children to remain hidden in the shadows so that their own sins would remain unseen.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Captain Travers.

Stuart: Charles Travers is a young man aged 25. Formerly an officer in the regular army who sold his commission and returned to his hometown where he was able to secure the position of captain in Edinburgh’s Town Guard. He is looked upon as a popular figure but other than Robert has no’one he can call a true friend. His single interest is solving crimes and this has been to the detriment of his social life. He has allowed nothing else to come before that and it was through work that he first met and then became close friends with Robert. Romance has never really figured in his thoughts.

His parents died when he was a child and he had been raised by an elderly relative who passed away while he was in the army so has no family left.

It was while he was attending Kitty’s to make an arrest that he met Miss Estelle Cannonby who he fell in love with at first sight. He is convinced she is his soul mate and the woman he wishes to make his wife.

Stephanie: What is the most dangerous encounter that Robert Young, Captain Travers have had?

Stuart: For Charles it is when he corners the murderer in A Pound of Flesh in the climactic scene when he finds himself unarmed facing a desperate man armed with a pistol. He tries to persuade him to surrender but…

Robert has largely managed to avoid placing his life in real danger, although like Charles he is there when the killer is confronted in ApoF. However his luck runs out dramatically in The Children in The Shadows when he discovers the identity of the man responsible for exploiting children. Rather than wait for Charles and the Town Guard he attempts to capture the man himself trusting in his own skill with a rapier. His skills may not be all that he hoped however!

Stephanie: Out of all the characters you have written about, which one are you most partial to?

Stuart: Arghhh! Does it have to be only one? Obviously I have to say Robert Young himself as the driving force of the stories but I love his wife Euphemia who has to deal with worrying about him when he is investigating a dastardly crime while looking after two young children. I also have a real fondness for Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard who believes in ‘traditional’ methods of policing while dear Captain Travers prefers a modern, analytical approach to a crime scene. One character who is always an absolute pleasure to write is Alice Galbraith, a high class prostitute who delights in causing mischief for Robert and Captain Travers whenever she speaks to them. She is not a malicious character in any way, more just a saucy minx with a wicked sense of humour. She really came into her own in the most recent book The Children in The Shadows where she revealed herself to be much more than just an amusing supporting character. Even as I wrote her scenes I was cheering her on.

Stephanie: Is there a scene you wrote where you burst out laughing? If so, do tell.

Stuart: There is a short scene in A Pound of Flesh where Captain Travers and Robert visit Kitty’s (a gentleman’s club for games of chance and meeting young ladies of negotiable affections) to arrest a dubious character. He is busily engaging with two ‘ladies’ in a bedroom and while they arrest him the women, naked as the day they were born, applaud their efforts while they cringe with embarrassment. It was just one of those little scenes that is both important as it leads to a break in the investigation and just amusing for the sheer awful embarrassment for the men as they try to arrest the villain while doing their best not to stare at the naked flesh on display.

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when you write?

Stuart: Normally my armchair with my netbook perched on my lap. I like the small size of the netbook compared to a full size laptop when I am writing. Now, coffee or tea? The eternal conundrum! I tend to stick with coffee when writing but a mug, never a cup, of strong tea is always welcome. Just don’t add sugar!

Stephanie: I write at my desk, living room, kitchen and sometimes in my bed early in the morning. When writing, what is your process?

Stuart: I generally work out the full plot from beginning to end before I write the first word, I even work out a chapter by chapter guide of who does what, when and where in advance. However…pretty much as soon as I get past the first chapter things start to move, if not in a completely different direction, then in a way which I had not planned in advance. Generally only the very beginning and the end will remain unchanged. The crime and the criminal will be as I planned but anything else between the first and last page tends to weave its own path. Characters have a bad habit of doing their own thing. When I am actually writing though I prefer to have the TV switched off and have music playing in the background. Mumford and Sons, Marillion and the Scottish band from the 1980’s Big Country all feature fairly regularly on my writing playlist.

Stephanie: Yes, I agree. Characters do tend to do their own thing. I have noticed a lot of writers like having music on while writing. I’m must be strange, because I need complete silence and no distractions. How many books a year on average do you read?

Stuart: A rough estimate would be somewhere in the region of 50-60 full length books a year on average. I generally read at least one novel a week and goodness only knows how many short stories!

Stephanie: That is about the amount I read. Good number of books. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try their hand at writing?

Stuart: Do it! Work out your basic storyline, plot and main characters and then just write. It doesn’t matter if you miss words or letters or even have gaps in the plot in that first draft, just get your idea down on paper (or on the computer screen these days) Once you have written that first draft then you can go back over it and catch the things you missed first time around. The single most important piece of advice I could possibly give is simply this. Do it! And have fun while you are doing it! Is that two pieces of advice? Do it and have fun!

Stephanie: Agreed!  

What is up next for you?

Stuart: I am nearing completion of the fourth Robert Young tale, so I think it is safe to say he doesn’t die when he confronts the cad in TCiTS. It has the working title of Major Weir’s Dark Legacy and is about an ongoing argument between two elderly booksellers. When one is murdered and the other found standing over the body with a knife in hand Charles is prepared to see things as an open and shut case. His attention is focussed on an upcoming wedding and he doesn’t want any distractions to get in the way of that. Robert, at his wife’s insistence agrees to do what he can for the accused. Meanwhile a sneak thief is plaguing the town, Robert’s adopted daughter Effie has discovered boys and a demon raising lunatic from the past haunts the dark rooms of an empty mansion.

 Stephanie: How exciting!  

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

Stuart: I think the only message I would dare try to give to my readers is that no matter how grim things may seem at the moment, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. With some of my characters that light is provided by their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Others settle for the contents of a bottle! What I hope readers would take from my books is that our troubles, even on the darkest days can be overcome. I would suggest that faith was a better source of hope than a bottle though!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Stuart: All three novels are available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. A short story featuring the regular cast is also available for the Kindle.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stuart-S.-Laing/e/B007B5H19U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

 

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Interview with Karen Aminadra

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Karen Aminadra is an English author who was born in London, and grew up in Hertfordshire, England. As a teacher, she worked in academies, schools, and universities in Ecuador, Russia, and Spain as well as the U.K. She returned to England in 2005 where she met the man who was to become her husband. They settled in Northamptonshire where Karen embarked on a writing career to fulfil a life-long ambition. She is now the author of five novels, Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues, Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2, Relative Deceit, The Uncanny Life of Polly, and It’s a Man’s World. In 2012 she received a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for her debut novel Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues and in 2013 she was once again honoured with a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2. More information can be found on her two blogs http://kaminadra.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://karenaminadrablog.wordpress.com/  

Stephanie: Hello, Karen! It is always a pleasure to chat with you and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. First off I would like to say that your stories are fantastic and I have enjoyed them very much. They are not only engaging but your character development is brilliant. Please tell your audience about your book, Rosings.

Karen: Hi Stephanie.  Thank you so much for interviewing me and thank you for the compliment—for me the characters are the most important part of any story. If they cannot engage me and I cannot love them, how can I expect my reader to?

Rosings began when a few readers asked me to write a little something about Anne and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  I was happy to oblige and Rosings was born.  The story is about poor Anne the downtrodden daughter of the inimitable Lady Catherine De Bourgh.  We know from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that Anne, in her mother’s opinion, is sickly and of a delicate constitution, and that Lady Catherine had intended Mr. Darcy to marry her.  Well, we all know how that turned out. I turned my imagination to wondering what Anne’s life would be like once the prospect of marrying Mr. Darcy was no longer an option.  The De Bourgh family had to continue so Lady Catherine hatches a plan to marry off her daughter.

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Stephanie: I absolutely love your portrayal of Catherine De Bourgh. How long did it take you to write your story?

Karen: Catherine De Bourgh is a favourite of mine too.  She comes from a different time, her sensibilities are different to her daughter’s. I guess it is like trying to get your Nan to understand today’s society. It is almost alien to her generation and Lady Catherine doesn’t like change at all! The book took me about three to four months to write out the first draft, of course, after that there are weeks of editing etc.  However, once I have a story planned out, I really like to crack on with it and get it written.

Stephanie: I don’t blame you. Getting your story down is the most important. Editing can come later. Is there a scene you wrote that had you bursting out laughing? 

Karen: The scene with Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins in the drawing room was funny.  He’s such a great, fun, and bumbling character to write.  I may well have to slip him into one of my other books just for the fun of it.

Stephanie: Who is your favorite character and least favorite character? If you have any. 

Karen: My least favourite would have to be Monty, without a doubt.  He doesn’t address Anne correctly, he takes liberties, and you just want to slap him in the end. If there was ever a character that you want to fail in his endeavors, it’s him. My favourite is probably Mr. Watkins senior.  He’s a really nice chap, the kind of friend you’d want to keep close.

Stephanie: He sounds like and interesting character. Who designed your book cover? 

Karen: I had an idea of what I wanted for the cover but I passed the mechanics of it over to Moon Rose Covers.

Stephanie: Where there any scenes that you found a challenge to write?

Karen: There were a couple of scenes where Lady Catherine is angry, and in my mind, she became someone whom I know and has always behaved in such a way.  As a writer, your life and experiences often come out in your work and I was surprised to see Lady Catherine take on this person’s personality, but it fit so well.  Those scenes were difficult to write but I felt so good after they were down on paper.

Stephanie: I agree. Those scenes are difficult to write. What do you love most about writing?

Karen: Hmm… I love spending entire days, weeks, and months in my own imagination.  It’s such an escape.  I write first thing in the morning, while it’s dark outside and the rest of the world is sleeping.  I find that I get the most done at that time of the day and I love that aspect of my work.  I also love the freedom it brings.  If I am unwell, then I don’t have to work.  I have no nagging boss and I never have to deal with rush hour traffic.

Stephanie: Your love for writing sounds just like mine. J Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when writing?

Karen: I actually don’t have a desk.  I used to write in the living room but that gave everyone an excuse to interrupt me.  Now I sit on my bed with the laptop on a tray over my legs – glamorous, eh? I like working in my bedroom actually. It’s a sanctuary.  No one, apart from my husband, is allowed in.  It’s private.  As for what I drink, I sometimes have a juice of some sort, but I don’t drink coffee – it gives me palpitations. However, I am a huge tea fan.  I’m English, of course I have tea by my side when I write. I drink a decaffeinated blend of tea, either PG Tips or Tetley, and I drink it with soya milk (most Brits have white tea.)

Stephanie: My bedroom is where I write often. Sometimes in the living room. But only when I’m the alone. Sometimes early in the morning, I will get up and write while in bed. Some of my best ideas are in the morning. I’m not a coffee drinker all that much. I do love tea however. So funny how similar we are, Karen. I use soy for my tea as well.  What is up next for you?

Karen: That is strange how similar we are. I’m glad I’m not alone 😉  So, what’s next for me? Since receiving a B.R.A.G Medallion for Rosings, I wrote and published a spin off from my novel Relative Deceit called It’s a Man’s World. Right now I’m taking a few days off to collect my thoughts before I dive into another project. I know my readers are desperate for book three in my Pride and Prejudice Continues series, so doubtless that will be on my ‘to do’ list. I also have a few other ideas in mind. I have been planning a children’s series for a while now and I’d like to get working on that too.

Stephanie: Can’t wait to hear more about your children’s series! Is there a message you would like to tell your readers?

Karen: I would like to say thank you for coming on this fantastic journey with me.  It’s been so much fun and it’s made even better by the support and loyalty of my readers. I love the emails I receive from you all and I especially love your thoughts on the characters’ lives in my books. From time to time, I’ve even been asked to write something particular and that’s how Rosings was born. So, I cannot do it without you – thank you all, again.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book? 

Karen: Rosings is available in ebook version from Amazon, Kobo, and Xinxii. It’s also available to order in paperback from all major stockists.

Stephanie: Thank you, Karen! Please come back to Layered Pages and chat with me again soon! 

Links – Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CM4QZ4W/ Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/rosings Xinxii – http://www.xinxii.com/en/rosings-p-343468.html

Paperback – Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/1490492291

Twitter – @kaminadra Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/karenaminadra

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Karen Aminadra, who is the author of, Rosings, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Rosings, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with David Ebsworth

David Ebsworth

Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009, and maintains a strict daily writing and marketing routine – though he still manages to find time for a regular morning swim, as well as for sailing.

Apart from that, he still does some voluntary work for the TUC (Britain’s union confederation), representing them in the organizations… Migrant Workers North West, Justice for Colombia and the Manufacturing Institute.

Dave is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the International Brigades Memorial Trust, the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Praise for David Ebsworth’s debut novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice – critically reviewed by the Historical Novel Society who deemed it “worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf.”

David,  thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me a little about your book, The Assassins Mark.

Thanks, Steph. It’s really great to be here – another stop on the book tour for Assassins. And a bit of an irony too, since the book itself is a political thriller, following the trials and tribulations of some eccentric travellers taking part in a factually-based battlefield tour towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, while the war was still raging. It’s a bit Christie-esque, a bit Graham Greene.

The Assassins Mark

What was your inspiration for this story?

Mainly my own interest in the Spanish Civil War, I guess. Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of people who fought there between 1936 and 1939. Lots of historians see the Spanish Civil War as the prelude to World War Two. Or worse, that it was a major cause of the Second World War, since Germany and Italy used Spain both as a military training ground and a source for much of the raw materials that helped them build their tanks and guns – while Britain and France effectively sat back and watched. So it’s a key bit of history, but one largely neglected by fiction writers, with a few honourable exceptions.

Please tell me about your character, Jack Telford. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Well, Telford was born in the early 1900s. His father, a banker, committed suicide rather than return to the trenches of the Western Front, and this helped to deeply engrain pacifism into Jack’s psyche. But like most of his characteristics, his pacifism was both a strength and a weakness. His beliefs cost him several good jobs in his early career as a journalist, for example, before he finally landed on his feet as a correspondent for Reynold’s News, the well-known Sunday weekly of the 1930s. It was Jack’s editor, Sydney Elliott, who sent Jack to Spain in ’38 to cover the bizarre but true tale of the battlefield tours established by rebel General Franco, as a propaganda tool, while the war was still raging. It was a good testing ground for Jack’s language skills (French, Spanish and Esperanto) but the pressures of that strange trip sometimes triggered the worst of his traits – his occasional arrogance and his double-edged, cat-killing curiosity. His most troublesome characteristic, however, was always an abiding juvenile self-deception that any woman showing him the slightest interest must, somehow, be smitten by his charms. Famously, Jack appeared in the late-Seventies, towards the end of his life, on Desert Island Discs – and many of these characteristics were still evident, even then.

(A transcript of the programme was featured earlier during David Ebsworth’s book tour on the Lily Lives Indie blog last Saturday – http://lilylovesindie.co.uk/?cat=5)

What was some of the research involved and how long did it take to write your story?

There are always at least two separate blocks of research for Historical Fiction writers, I think. The first involves all the “big” factual subjects – in this case, the background to the Spanish Civil War itself, the battlefield tours that took place in Spain between 1938 and 1945, and the detailed progress of the war along Spain’s north coast. The second requires a real understanding of all the “small” stuff that gives a book its sense of period and location. So, in Assassins, for example, one of the ‘characters’ (for me, at least) is the yellow Chrysler 14-seater Dodge bus that carries my travellers on their journey through the story. But what did a 1938-vintage Dodge bus sound like? How did it smell? Could they keep the inside cool in all that Spanish heat? How? What was it like to drive? What road conditions could it cope with? It’s the sort of research that you undertake as you go along, maybe when you’ve finished the first outline draft. Because otherwise you’d never get the book written. I now always allow a year for each novel. That’s usually a couple of months planning and doing the “big” research. Then up to eight months for the main writing. And a couple more months for re-writes and polishing.

I do not know a whole lot about the Spanish War. Could you give me some insight?

You have to remember that, in 1930, Spain was still largely stuck in the Middle Ages – a state controlled almost entirely by an autocratic monarchy, the Catholic Church and feudal landowners. The country finally tried to throw all this off by declaring itself a Republic in 1931, and this triggered further turmoil, with power and control swinging violently between Left and Right. Then, in February 1936, a Popular Front Coalition Government was democratically elected. This was intolerable to the Right-wing establishment and, in July that year, one of Spain’s leading army generals, Francisco Franco, launched a coup in an effort to establish a military dictatorship. But he badly under-estimated the spirit of the Spanish people – ordinary workers and campesinos – who resisted him. Franco called in support from his fascist friends, Hitler and Mussolini, and a bitter civil war waged until 1939. Franco finally emerged victorious, largely due to German and Italian involvement. Poor Spain paid the price by remaining a Dictatorship until 1976, after Franco’s death.

Is this your first published novel? What book project are you currently working on?

No, Assassins is my second. I published my first novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice, in 2012. My third, The Kraals of Ulundi, is due to publish later this year and it’s a novel of the Zulu War that picks up, basically, where Michael Caine left off. My current project is a story about the Battle of Waterloo – but told from the French perspective and centres on the women cantinières who were formally part of Bonaparte’s battalions and went into action alongside the troops. Their exploits were legendary and almost unbelievable.

Where is your favorite place in your home to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when writing?

We have an old box-room that’s now basically been commandeered as my “office”. Computer, of course. Work desk. Wall to wall books. Lots of bric-a-brac – old clay pipes, 18th century tea caddies, 1930s cameras, antique maps. But, oddly, I very rarely drink tea or coffee (or anything else) up there. Instead, when I’ve done my first block of writing, between 7.00 in the morning to about 9.30am, I take myself off for a long swim, then head to Caffè Nero to revise and write my next batch of word-count. So my favourite drink there? Espresso Macchiato normally – with a decent piece of cake, naturally.

Who are your favorite authors?

This is really difficult. I just have a passion for books – anything from the classics to Science Fantasy or contemporary fiction. But over the years, I suppose it’s been historical fiction to which I’ve returned most often. I was a huge fan of Rosemary Sutcliff when I was a teenager. Then it was John Fowles and Timothy Mo. More recently, my main influences have probably been Steven Pressfield, Hilary Mantel, and Patrick O’Brian. And I’d have to add Bernard Cornwell to the list, naturally. Yet I’d still put Dickens right at the top – simply because I feel like I grew up with him. My dad was in the Royal Navy for most of his life, was entirely self-taught and had always carried pocket versions of Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield or Great Expectations with him through many circumnavigations of the world and the dark days of the Second World War. So if we ever needed to be given a lesson about life or morality, it was usually through the medium of a verbatim rendition from one of the Dickens novels – and it’s Dickens that I still “hear” most frequently, chiding me when the writing gets a bit sloppy.

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

Mainly to thank them for all their support. I try to make sure that each book is unique, written as well as I can manage, and each better than the one before. I also appreciate all the feedback I get from readers – particularly through my monthly e-newsletter. This just keeps family, friends and supporters updated so, if anybody wants to receive the newsletter, just drop me an e-mail: davemccall@talktalk.net.  Alternatively, I also post it on my website: http://www.davidebsworth.com/page4.html

Where can readers buy your book?

They’re stocked in quite a few Waterstones and Foyles stores but, if you can’t find them there, any bookshop will order them for you. Otherwise, they can be ordered online, either in paperback of eBook formats through sites like…

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/david+ebsworth/the+assassin27s+mark/9662668/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Assassins-Mark-David-Ebsworth/dp/1781321000/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389799287&sr=8-1&keywords=the+assassin%27s+mark

http://www.amazon.com/The-Assassins-Mark-David-Ebsworth/dp/1781321000/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389799374&sr=8-2&keywords=the+assassin%27s+mark

http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781321003/the-assassins-mark

And thanks once again, Steph, for organising this stop.

Thank you, David!

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Interview with Author Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake

J.A. Blake (Jennifer) has been working in school public relations and marketing for more than 15 years. Her areas of strength are in feature and press release writing, publication design, speech writing and presentation, special event planning, and meeting facilitation. She has won numerous commendations from professional organizations, including awards from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals. In addition to her work with schools, Jennifer is the owner of Blake Communications, a small company specializing in writing, design, and editing services.

Jennifer received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Neumann University and a Master of Science in Management from Rosemont College. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Public Relations Society of America. She is a lifelong writer and reader who, in her spare time, enjoys traveling with her husband, Kai, and playing with their dogs – two pugs named Calvin and Lucy.

Stephanie: Jennifer, congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion! I absolutely love the title of your book, “They All Fall Down.” Please tell me a little about your story.

 They All Fall Down Book Cover

Jennifer: They All Fall Down is about London Drake, an aspiring musician with a haunting past. When he was 11 years old, London came home from school to find the murder/suicide of his grandparents. As an adult, he is diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and has difficulty coping with his past and the memories around his family. He is unable to form lasting romantic relationships and tends to use people, particularly women. As he becomes more and more successful as a musician, he becomes less and less able to cope, almost caving under the pressure. But London is a complicated character. He is very aware of his shortcomings – to the point that he’s in therapy for them. He longs to be a stronger, kinder person, but seems unable to make any significant change and often falls back into his familiar habits. He struggles with the love he feels for his family and the anger that his family’s past causes him. He must reconcile those feelings to find the happiness for which he longs.

The title, They All Fall Down, is actually a play on words for some of the themes in the novel:

First, we see in the novel that even the perceived strongest things are fallible. There’s a scene in the novel that references September 11 and the fall of the twin towers. London’s father, looking out the window of a hospital, points at the skyline where the towers once stood and says, “As big as they are, as tough as we build them, as strong as the walls are…they all fall down.” This line was written to give the reader pause … to consider whether London’s father is talking about the towers, or his own failing health. He could also be referencing the death of his own father, which is a main theme of the book.

Secondly, the idea of letting things fall away is the predominant theme for the book. For London, he needs to let the anger he feels for his family fall away. It consumes him and controls him. In addition, he has to let down his guard and trust in the goodness of other people. For any of us to connect with each other, we need to let our emotional walls fall down.

Stephanie: I can tell your story is heartfelt. What was your inspiration for writing it?

Jennifer: I co-wrote this novel with Nick Moccia, a friend and musician who I’ve known for almost 15 years. Many of the events in They All Fall Down actually happened in his life and his story is what inspired me to want to write the novel. While the book is a work of fiction, many of the scenes and characters are inspired by real people and events.  

In addition, They All Fall Down includes an original music soundtrack, written and performed by Nick Moccia. Many of the songs on the soundtrack are reference in the novel. So as one reads about the music, he/she can also listen to it and experience the character’s voice and emotion. I found this connection to music very inspiring.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved?

Jennifer: Yes! This book took three years to write! Because the book is based on real life events, Nick and I spent a significant amount of time talking about the events that happened in his life. I learned about his family and his upbringing, and I visited many of the places referenced in the novel. In addition, Nick took a recorder to his actual therapy sessions where many of the themes in the novel were discussed. He recorded these sessions (with permission from his therapist) and we listened to them together. Then we wrote. In total, there were about 30 therapy sessions which represent almost 30 hours of conversation.

In addition to the therapy sessions with Nick, we also researched places in New York where some of the scenes are set and we looked into police records from events referenced in the novel.

Stephanie: Sounds like your research was really in-depth and rewarding. As a writer, what are some of the challenges you face and what are the awarding moments of writing for you?

Jennifer: As a writer, my biggest challenge is actually finding time to write, as writing is not my full-time “day” job. It is important for me to keep my relationship with characters going and to make the story move forward. I am also not a linear writer (I don’t write chapter one, then chapter two, etc.). I write as ideas and inspiration come to me and then I have to piece those paragraphs together. When I’m engaged in writing a novel or story, the characters I am developing live with me. I consider them in every situation I’m in … trying to determine how they might react.

The biggest reward for me is when readers respond favorably to my work. More importantly, when they tell me that they’ve been able to connect with my story or with one of the characters, I am just thrilled. My goal in writing is always to connect with other people … to shed light on some shared human condition and to encourage readers to think about how they might react. When a reader says that the saw themselves or those they love in one of my characters, it makes all the hard work worth it!

Stephanie: I can so relate to finding the time to write and you have a clear picture of what it is like for the writer. To connect with other people and to encourage the reader to think about how they might react. When a writer can do that….the writer has written a good story. Have you written other stories?

Jennifer: I have been a writer since I was a child. I wrote mostly poetry as a child and young adult and I have written some short stories. They All Fall Down is my first novel.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Jennifer: I designed the book cover. I also have a background in graphic and publication design. The images on the cover represent elements in the book.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Jennifer: After we published They All Fall Down, I was doing some research on the internet about ways to promote/market the book. I came across the web site for indieBRAG and was immediately drawn to its mission of promoting self- published authors.

Stephanie: Please tell me what your writing schedule for the week is like?

Jennifer: I write something every day, even if it is just in my journal. I just started my second book and try to spend at least a few hours on that every week. But I also started blogging recently (www.jablakewrites.wordpress.com) and am really enjoying that. I also am trying to spend more time every week reading. I believe that strong and frequent readers make strong writers.

Stephanie: Is there something you like to say to your readers?

Jennifer: I guess I would say thank you to those who’ve already read the book and have shared their feedback. I appreciate the interest readers have taken in London and his friends. I also appreciate constructive criticism. I believe it makes me better. Readers can follow me on Facebook (TheyAllFallDown2012) and on Twitter at prjenntacular or theyallfallbook. I’d encourage them to connect with me and share their thoughts about They All Fall Down or any of my writing.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Jennifer: They All Fall Down is currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a number of independent web sites. It is available for Kindle and Nook as well. Direct links can be found on our web site at www.theyallfalldown.net

LINKS:

www.theyallfalldown.net

www.facebook.com/TheyAllFallDown2012

Twitter @theyallfallbook or @prjenntacular

www.jablakewrites.wordpress.com

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jennifer Blake, who is the author of, They All Fall Down, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, They All Fall Down, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author David Beasley

David Beasley

David Beasley was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and graduated from McMaster University with a BA in Arts. He worked, studied and wrote in several European countries for five years and then In Manhattan, New York for 35 years, where he worked as a research librarian in the New York Public Research Libraries for much of that time. He organized a union for library workers and used his experience to write a trilogy of mystery novels—The Jenny, The Grand Conspiracy, Overworld/Underworld. He earned a Masters Degree in Library Science and a PhD in political economics from the progressive New School for Social Research. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing. He has written much fiction, including historical fiction novels, but has been recognized by the award of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his non-fiction and biographies. His blog on his website http://www.davuspublishing.com features the Major John Richardson Newsletter which gathers information on and controversies about Canada’s first novelist, whose biography he wrote. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing in Simcoe, Ontario.

Stephanie: Hello David! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Sarah’s Journey.

David: Sarah’s Journey is historical fiction based on true events. Sarah, born on Brown’s Island in the Ohio River by the Virginia panhandle [now West Virginia] was the daughter of her owner, Colonel Brown and his slave whose father was a white slave named Kinney and a black slave. At 16 Sarah marries a black man, Lewis, who says he is a free man and is hired by Col. Brown. She has two children by him. When col Brown dies, her husband is captured by bounty hunters and taken back into slavery in Kentucky. Sarah and her children are sold to a neighbor who is a cruel taskmaster. Sarah is taken advantage of by white men including her owner and has three white children, with whom she escapes through Ohio to Upper Canada in 1820 where slavery has been abolished. A young Scots entrepreneur falls in love with her and brings her to Simcoe where she has his child. Her life and the lives of her children in that community of freed and escaped slaves take her through tribulations, including the Duncombe Rebellion, to her death in 1862. Her son by the Scots entrepreneur becomes one of the richest men in New York City.

Sarahs Journal

Stephanie: Many people are interested in this period of time in our American history. What inspired you to write your story?

David: I was inspired by the many aspects of slavery and freedom in the story. Sarah could pass for white and had three white children. Her black children had to be left behind but they escaped 18 years later on the underground railway, their conductor marrying Sarah’s black daughter and setting up a barbershop in Simcoe from where he could continue conducting escapees and fight bounty hunters. The relationships between the white and black communities, the loyalty of the blacks during the rebellion because of fears that American invasion would bring back slavery, the conflict among races in the mill town of Brantford, and the extraordinary success of Sarah’s youngest son, who being the son of a slave was a slave and had to hide his past.

Stephanie: I noticed this is considered, Literary Fiction. Was there any research involved? What are the factual events or people in your story?

David: The story is factual and most of the people are from real life, except for those who helped Sarah escape, who, of course, could not be revealed and whom I had to imagine. When the rich son died in an accident, curious New York lawyers discovered that he came from Simcoe and the affidavits and testimonies taken in Simcoe about the family were in the archives in the Norfolk county Museum across the street from my home. I went to West Virginia and found court records and interviewed descendants of Sarah’s owner. I also researched the history of the areas in Virginia, Upper Canada, and Simcoe.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

David: I picked the illustration I wanted and my stepson Eric Rustan designed the cover.

Stephanie: What do you find most challenging about writing?

The hardest part of writing, according to Erskine Caldwell, is attaching the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. I have written for so long that it is not a problem now. But most challenging is knowing what you want to write will not be accepted by a publisher. Of course one can find out what a publisher wants and write to his measure but that is not the mark of the artist, rather of the hired man.

Stephanie: What is your next book project and will you self-publish again?

David: I have three future projects in mind and presently writing my memoirs. Since I have self-published about 20 books, I shall probably continue the practice.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

David: IndieBRAG discovered me, I think. Someone must have recommended Sarah’s Journey to it.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

David: My favorite quote is a short poem by Ezra Pound:

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens
She is dying piecemeal of a sort of emotional anemia
Round about her are the filthy, unkillable infants of the very poor

They shall inherit the earth

In her is the end of breeding
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive

She would like someone to speak to her

And is almost afraid that
I will commit that indiscretion.

This is how I remember it. Pound gives one a hint of his meaning by the epigraph from the end of first line of a poem by the French Symbolist poet Albert Samain “. . . . en robe de parade.” The full line is “Mon ame est un enfant en robe de parade.” My soul is a child in a fancy-dress costume. Thus the artist’s soul.

But when a poem becomes too strange for a listener, I like to quote the Duke of Gloucester: “Another damned, thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?”

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

David: Readers can buy my books from my website: www. davuspublishing.com in paper
or as an e-book, some of which are on kindle.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview David Beasley, who is the author of, Sarah’s Journey, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Sarah’s Journey, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

The Life of Henry VII: Part I

As many of you know, I am currently writing a story of the Tudors, titled “Poison Letters” It is an alternate story about Prince Arthur of England. The story will be told in the present time but the letters revealed in the story take you back to the Tudor dynasty. But first, in order to learn  about Arthur I felt I needed to go back a little further and learn all I could about his father, King Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor. Going forward, as I research the Tudors, I will be writing articles on this subject and I am honored to be able to share with you some of my discoveries. I will also be writing other articles about the Tudors that you might find interesting. To start off, I would like to say from the various books I have read, I find the different opinions historians/historical fiction writers have on the subject to be compelling, and gives the reader the chance to form their own opinions of the facts and what-ifs. It gives you the perspective that history is open to interpretation and is often told by the victors or the people in power as well.

Henry VII

Henry VII

There seems to be a diverse of information about Henry VII’s life and reign. For example, some say his mother Margaret Beaufort was the only one with royal blood. Others say both his parents could claim royal ancestry. Another example, Henry VII worked hard early on in his reign to build a myth claiming to be the rightful royal heir to England. (He wasn’t the only one to take the throne by force or questionable right. A prime example of that is Cnut and William the Conqueror. But out of all three maybe Henry had more justification then the two I just mentioned. Something I look forward to exploring.) Having to basically build the monarchy in his own right-he seemed obsessed –but who could blame him– with it and later on was described as a paranoid and suspicious ruler. But we won’t start with this intriguing speculation, we need to go further back.

On his father’s side, Henry’s uncle and grandfather, Jasper and Owen Tudor were staunch supporters of the Lancastrian cause. (If you want to know more about Jasper and Owen, read about the War of The Roses. A war between 1455 and 1485, fought between rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. Or you can check my website for upcoming articles on them as well). By the time of Henry Tudor’s birth, power of the Lancastrian monarch was slipping, making the youngest member-Henry Tudor- a valuable pawn in some dangerous games of politics. But, wait a minute, you see there, here I go again getting ahead of myself! I will stop there and take you to the time of Henry’s birth, his early childhood and his mother’s side of the family.

Lady Margaret Beaufort and Son

Margaret Beaufort who was born on May 31, 1443 or 1441 (the year of her birth is uncertain) was a direct descendant of John Beaufort, first Earl of Somerset, who was the illegitimate child of John of Gaunt- Duke of Lancaster and the third son of King Edward III. Margaret was also a key player in the War of the Roses and matriarch of the house of Tudor.

Margaret Beaufort

Margaret Beaufort

The Beauforts were tainted with illegitimate blood but were legitimized by a statute of Richard II. However, in 1407, Henry IV wrote letters confirming their legitimacy, adding that the Beauforts could not inherit the throne of England. To this day it is still in question whether the Beauforts had the right to succession or not.

Margaret was just twelve years old when she married Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond in 1455. He got her pregnant soon after. Edmund died of the plague the year after in 1456, leaving Margaret a thirteen year old widow.  On January 28, 1457, Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke castle and spent his earliest years with his mother there, under the protection of Jasper Tudor.

The pregnancy birth was traumatic for Margaret, as a result of that, she only bore one child. It is no wonder, giving birth at such a young age is incredible. It is amazing she survived.

*****

Roughly two years before the time of Henry Tudor’s birth, Henry VI’s right to the throne was challenged by Richard Duke of York. Henry VI and Richard both laid claim to the throne as descendants of Edward III. York was respected and experienced in warfare and was considerably wealthy. Henry VI was to be considered a schizophrenic and was in and out of a depression. In 1450, Henry VI was basically useless in governing and in three years’ time was seen as unfit to rule, Richard became regent and began the work of changing the government. This did not last long, when Henry was- again- in his “right mind” so to speak, his authority was back in his hands and under the influence of his advisors. Richard feared he would be arrested for treason and in 1455 was summoned to appear before the King’s council, he began to raise an army in the north and this marked the first battle in The War of the Roses. Although, from what I am reading in my research, this conflict goes back even further.

*****

Pembroke castle one

In 1461 Edward IV became king and Pembroke Castle fell to the Yorkist. About this time Henry was four years old. With his Uncle Jasper now in exile, a Yorkist noble Sir Henry William Herbert gained control of Henry. He was well received in Herbert’s family’s home in Southeast Wales. This however was the start of a long separation from his mother. I can imagine how painful that was for mother and son and how confusing Henry’s childhood must have been for him.

Pembroke castle two

At this time, Margaret was grown and was known to be pious, a woman with a strong mind and character. She married Henry Stafford in 1464 and moved with him to England.  I believe not by her choice but duty. Henry’s separation from his mother had to be incredibly hard for both of them. Margaret’s separation from Henry makes me wonder if she may have been angry and resentful. However, I believe (and this is purely speculation) this marriage to Stafford was the start of her being treated as a person of royal blood and maybe sparked hope in her heart that her son one day would be king and as we know this hope changed the destiny of Margaret and Henry….

So there you have it. My first installment of a series of articles on the Tudors. Now, for all you history enthusiast out there, I know I have left out a LOT of detail.  It would take several books to cover all that occurred during that time. My goal is to give a series of small overviews of what I have researched and to share some of those findings hoping that this will intrigue many of you to want to find out more. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope you enjoyed it!

By Stephanie M. Hopkins

The pictures of Pembroke Castle are courtesy  of Marsha Lambert.

A few sources I researched from: The Tudors by Jane Bingham; The Tudors by G.J. Meyer; The Tudor Age by Jasper Ridley; Winter King by Thomas Penn; Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir.

Disclaimer: I checked historical facts and crossed checked, some of what I wrote is solely my opinion and speculation. For example: There are different opinions on how Edmund Tudor died. I went with what I felt was factual.

Interview with Author Nicky Penttila

Nicky Penttila

Nicky Penttila writes stories with adventure and love, and often with ideas and history as well. She enjoys coming up with stories that are set in faraway cities and countries, because then she *must* travel there, you know, for research. She lives in Maryland with her reading-mad husband and amazing rescue cat.

 About An Untitled Lady

Publication Date: December 20, 2013
Musa Publishing
eBook
ISBN: 9781619375963

Shocking family news forces Madeline Wetherby to abandon her plans to marry an earl and settle for upstart Manchester merchant Nash Quinn. When she discovers that her birth father is one of the weavers her husband is putting out of work—and a radical leader—Maddie must decide which family she truly desires, the man of her heart or the people of her blood.

An earl’s second son, Nash chose a life of Trade over Society. When protest marches spread across Lancashire, the pressure on him grows. If he can’t make both workers and manufacturers see reason he stands to lose everything: his business, his town, and his marriage.

As Manchester simmers under the summer sun, the choices grow more stark for Maddie and Nash: Family or justice. Love or money. Life or death.

 Untitles lady two

Stephanie: Hello Nicky! Thank you for chatting with me today. What was your inspiration to write this story?

 

Nicky: I wanted to do a Regency story that was in a city that wasn’t London. Then I found all this great history around Manchester at the time: the birth of factory mills, changing status of people in towns versus the countryside, women in the “official” workforce, and more. So the story grew from a simple romance to more like a Dickens story, with lots of characters and stories swirling around a strong backbone of the main love story.

Stephanie: Is there a character in your story you feel most connected to in any way?

Nicky: I love them all, of course—all of them share bits of me. I started off firmly in Maddie’s camp; she is thrown a half-dozen curveballs and she perseveres and grows in a lovely way. But by the fourth draft of the story, I’d fallen for Nash, who has to straddle the interests of the merchants, the workers and his brother, the Earl. He is a practical sort, and forgets to be romantic from time to time and then scurries to make up for it, somewhat like this author.

Stephanie: What is your favorite scene in your story?

Nicky: So many! One I really like is a series of scenes where Nash does not do the expected at the wedding chapel (see ‘forgets to be romantic,’ above) and has to deal with the fallout later.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved?

Nicky: Tons. It took me about a year of reading and searching for information before I had the basics to make sure the story I wanted to tell would work. I couldn’t rely on my mental index of London, or all the stories set there. As I was writing questions kept coming up that I would need to go find the answer to – how many hours does it take to walk from Salford to Manchester, and so on. I also traveled to Manchester, taking walking tours and getting a feel for the space and light.

Stephanie: As a writer, what are some of the challenges you face writing a story?

Nicky: The rough draft is always terrible! It’s shocking how far from the goal the first draft is, and I catch myself thinking I can never get it to be as good as in my head. While that is true, I do get it pretty darn close by the last drafts.

Stephanie: How long did it take you to write An Untitled Lady?

Nicky: In real life, five or so years. After researching and outlining, I wrote the first draft as a National Novel Writing Month project in November 2009 and it was published in December 2013. In writer life, it’s harder to say: I write a drafts of one story, and then set it aside and write something else. Maybe I’ll return to the first one then, or maybe I’ll write a third thing. Some stories, like An Untitled Lady, go through many drafts (I think 6-7 for this one); other stories (especially novellas) are two drafts and out the door.

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Nicky: Currently I’m working on a contemporary story set in New York City that may involve a cuddle club, and a story set in Spain 1808 that includes British, Spanish, Galician, and American characters.

Stephanie: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Nicky: Thank you, thank you and thank you! I thought I was writing for fame and fortune, but it turns out that what really hits my heart when readers tell me what touched them about one of my stories. I like to talk about books and writing, and I love when we’ve read the same books and you point out something I haven’t ever thought of about them, and vice versa.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Musa Publishing (Editors’ Pick!) http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=715

All Romance eBooks https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-anuntitledlady-1381901-162.html

Amazon http://j.mp/AMZaul

Barnes & Noble/Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-untitled-lady-nicky-penttila/1117767096?ean=2940149047758

Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/390135

Link to Tour Schedule:  http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/anuntitledladytour
Twitter Hashtag:  #AnUntitledLadyTour

An Untitled Lady_Tour Banner _FINAL