Interview with Author Florence Osmund

Florence Osmund


Stephanie: Florence Osmund grew up in an old Victorian home in Illinois, complete with a coach house, the same house she used as inspiration for her first two books. She earned her master’s degree from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and has obtained more than three decades of experience in corporate America. Her notable website is dedicated primarily to helping new authors—offering advice she wishes she had received before starting her first novel. Osmund currently resides in Chicago where she is working on her next novel.

Florence, thank you for chatting with me again and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your story, Daughters. Please tell me about your book.

Florence: The year is 1949, and twenty-four-year-old Marie Marchetti has just discovered the identity of her father, Jonathan Brooks, the father she never knew. She hopes the invitation from him to spend two weeks with her newfound family over Thanksgiving will help uncover vital truths about herself. Discovering who her father is also means discovering her own ethnicity, and her strong need to understand who she really is and where she belongs drives her to seek peace and truth in her life. A lot happens as a result of Marieʾs Thanksgiving visit. But the most life-altering consequence of it unexpectedly grows out of an encounter with a twelve-year-old girl named Rachael.

Why did you chose 1949 to write your story, and what interests you about writing period pieces?

Florence: The reason I may be drawn to that era is because I like developing a story without regard to modern technology. Cell phones, the Internet, iPads, iPods, and the like add a dimension in life’s situations I don’t care to consider. I would rather develop characters who use their raw talents to approach what life throws at them, without the advantage (or encumbrance, depending on the situation) of technology. But I also like the romanticism of that era— the music, the movies, the way people dressed up for the theater, and the way men courted women.




How long did it take you to write your story, and were there any challenges?

Florence: Oh, there were challenges, alright. The first book I wrote (which was later cut in two, resulting in “The Coach House” and “Daughters”) was written without any training whatsoever. I made just about every mistake an author can make. After taking a few classes, reading every article and book I could find on how to write a novel, and scrutinizing other authors’ works, I spent so much time fixing the mistakes, I think it may have been easier to start over. As a result, it took three and a half years to publish my first two books.

Please tell me a little about Marie Marchetti. What are some of her strengths and weaknesses?


Florence: I created Marie to be a woman before her time. Marie worked her way up to manager of Marshall Fields’ flagship store in downtown Chicago, when back then, only men held the higher level management positions. I created her to be strong, intelligent, and perseverant, yet vulnerable and sensitive.

What inspired you to write this story?

Florence: Long before I started writing, I had a myriad of thoughts about what could make a good novel. My inspirations came from everyday life —in business meetings, observing strangers out and about doing their business, listening to friends talk about their lives, etc. Every time I had an idea, I wrote it down. Then when I retired and was ready to start writing my first book, I gathered all these scraps of paper I had accumulated, sorted them into piles, and before long Marie Marchetti’s story emerged.

What genre does it fall under, and who designed your book cover?

Florence: I have been categorizing this book under literary fiction. I believe it could also be classified as mainstream fiction, women’s fiction, and in some cases, historical fiction. The cover was designed by Rachael Mahaffey.

Where can readers buy your book?

Florence: There are four ways to purchase this book.



What is your next book project?


Florence: I am currently writing a novel titled “Red Clover.” Lee Oliver Winekoop is born into exceptional wealth, but despite having been given extraordinary opportunities, he struggles with even the smallest undertakings. The increasing feeling of inadequacy he endures as a result eventually affects everything in his life. What Lee does on his journey into manhood is surprising; the variety of roadblocks he confronts is unnerving; and the implausible cast of characters he befriends along the way is amusing. This book is about Lee’s life journey to success—as he has exclusively and creatively defined it.

How often do you write, and where in your home is your favorite spot to do so?

Florence: I write just about every day at my desk that’s nestled into a bay window of my bedroom overlooking Lake Michigan. I find the water and the activity on the lake both thought-provoking and calming.

What do you like most about writing?

Florence: In addition to stimulating the creative side of my brain, writing gives me the opportunity to make sense of things that trouble me and then share my views with others—vicariously through my characters.

Thank you, Florence!


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Amazon author page:


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Florence Osmund, who is the author of, Daughters, one of our medallion honorees at . 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, Daughter merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



No Greater Evil by R.A.R. Clouston

No greater evil

For only the second time in American history, the nation teeters on the verge of civil war as home-grown extremists threaten to do what foreign terrorists were unable  to accomplish; destroy the Republic. And now, like Abraham Lincoln before him, the President must suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus and let slip the dogs of war. However, this time it is not an army that marches into battle; it is an elite group of covert professionals known simply as the Section. Their mission is to capture or kill domestic terrorists, although few of their targets will be brought in alive.

Jericho  Kerk, a wealthy CEO, ex-Marine, and former member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, is recruited into the Section. He is given a license to kill, which he does with ruthless and seemingly invincible proficiency. However, a dark side to Kerk’s complex persona soon emerges. He is tormented by dreams filled with the image of a terrifying beauty who wants to take his soul.

No Greater Evil is currently free on Amazon Kindle until the 13th. Please get your copy today!  You don’t want to miss this wonderful offer! Here is a review from a reviewer in Amazon about the book:

Link to download for free:

Interview with Author Steven A. McKay

Steven Mckay

Stephanie: Steven A. McKay is a writer from Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow in Scotland, heavily influenced by the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Doug Jackson, Anthony Riches, and Robert Low et al.

His first book, Wolf’s Head, is set in medieval England and is a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. His take on the theme is quite different to anything that’s been done before. It is available NOW on Kindle as well as paperbacks from Amazon.

The second book in the trilogy is coming along and should be available not too long after Wolf’s Head…

Hello Steven! Welcome and thank you for chatting with me today. So tell me about your book, Wolf’s head. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about your story.

Steven: Hi Stephanie, thanks for having me on your page! Wolf’s Head is my reinterpretation of the Robin Hood legend, but rather different from other versions of the tale. It’s set in Yorkshire, rather than Nottingham, and in the 14th century rather than the 12th. The old familiar characters are mostly there, but hopefully I’ve given them a fresh new slant. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and it’s showing up incredibly well in the Amazon charts so I really couldn’t be happier with things.

Stephanie: Really interesting that you change the dates. I’m looking forward to reading your story. When did you fist become interested in this legend and when did you know you wanted to write your story?

Steven: To be honest, I was never particularly interested in Robin Hood. I mean, I thought he was an interesting character, but I wasn’t drawn to him any more than other mythical figures. I wanted to write a novel about someone like King Arthur, I just couldn’t think who should be the protagonist. Literally two minutes after I started to think about it, I drove into a street and saw a house called “Sherwood” and, well, my decision was made for me! I couldn’t ignore a sign like that.

Stephanie: That is great! You definitely couldn’t ignore a sign like that and it looks like you made the right choice. There seems to be quite a lot of historical aspects to your story. What is some of the research you did and what fascinates you most about the period this story is written in.

Steven: Again, like the previous question, I didn’t really choose the period to set the story in. My first task was to look back at the very first, original stories about Robin Hood and his men. I was surprised to find these ballads said he lived in Yorkshire, around Barnsdale Forest, and the evidence suggested he lived around the time of King Edward II. I didn’t want to simply tell an interesting story – I wanted to make it as realistic and historically accurate as I could, so my period was chosen for me by those ballads.

I read whatever non-fiction books on Robin I could find, watched a lot of “Robin of Sherwood” which was great fun, and I read general history books. Two of my favourite sources were Ian Mortimer’s “Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” and Terry Jones’s (of Monty Python fame) “Medieval Lives”. Both are scholarly history books, but they’re also fun, with lots of silliness and bizarre facts, I highly recommend them!

Wolf's Head

Stephanie: That is clever you chose your period by those ballads. And I had not realized that he lived around the time of Edward ll. How fascinating. I adore Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveller’s guide! Fantastic read! I will have to check out Terry Jones’s book.  

In the blurb on Amazon about your book it says, “Wolf’s Head” brings the brutality, injustice and intensity of life in medieval England vividly to life, and marks the beginning of a thrilling new historical fiction series in the style of Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow and Anthony Riches.” What fascinated you about these three men and how do they impact your writing?

Steven: I wouldn’t say I’m fascinated with them – I just thought comparing myself to them might sell a few books! No, seriously – the biggest inspiration for me to write a historical novel was Bernard Cornwell and his King Arthur books. I just loved how he took a well-known old legend and made it fresh, vibrant and somehow REAL. He continues to lead the way in the genre with his Saxon books – he’s the MAN when it comes to this sort of fiction. Simon Scarrow and Anthony Riches both write quite straight-forward ass-kicking books with interesting characters, in interesting locations, and in a contemporary style. I’ve greatly enjoyed their books over the years. I had one of my early reviewers telling me what I’d done with Wolf’s Head reminded them of Simon’s stuff, and another suggested if Bernard tried writing Robin Hood it would be something like mine. I wouldn’t class myself among those guys, but I was very pleased to get compliments like that.

Stephanie: I really want to read Cornwell’s King Arthur books and his Saxon books. The other two authors sounds intriguing. I will check them out. Well, I’m sure your book is among the class of theirs from what I hear. 


What is the most challenging thing to write about Historical Fiction and what advice would you give someone who is considering writing in this genre?

Steven: I read a lot of histfic and it seems many authors either don’t put in enough of the historical background, or, more often, too much. Ultimately, a reader wants a great STORY, not a history lesson. But if you’ve researched your period it can be tempting to throw in random facts here and there, just to prove you know what you’re talking about. To an extent, I think that’s fine – but I’ve read books recently that must be about 140,000 words long and they could have been told much better in 100,000. One of them in particular started with a description of a Templar going down some stairs to an underground meeting – the walk took him about three chapters!

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to do your research, but never lose sight of the fact you’re telling a story, and don’t “over egg the pudding” with too many words.

Stephanie: Three chapters?! Oh, my! That sounds like it would be daunting to read. And I completely agree with your advice.  


How long did it take you to write, Wolf’s Head and who designed your book cover?


Steven: I started researching the book about three years ago. At the time I was doing an Open University degree, so I waited until I completed that, then I started writing my novel. I work full time, and my daughter was only 2 or 3 years old at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of spare time (or energy!) to write. Then, during that period we suffered some very difficult and upsetting events and, at times, nothing seemed important, especially not writing. But the closer I came to finishing it, the more determined I became to do something with it, especially after I hired a highly-respected editor to go over the manuscript.

In comparison, I’ve been working on the sequel, The Wolf and the Raven for about six months and its half-finished already, so fingers crossed that will only take one year rather than three!

The cover was by the guys at GB Print (you can find them on Facebook). I loved Gordon Doherty’s cover for Legionary and he told me who’d done it for him, so I contacted them with a basic idea of what I wanted and they came up with what you see now. It was, I think, worth every penny. It’s eye-catching, striking, and looks professional which is important for a self-published author I think.

Stephanie: Crossing my fingers it won’t take that long for the sequel and I’m sure it will be great! Well, they did a great job on the cover! And I agree, the cover is important!


How often do you get a chance to read for pleasure and what is the name of the book you have just read?

Steven: I try to read at least a little every day. I’m re-reading Glyn Iliffe’s King of Ithaca just now, since his newest book is due out soon, and I’m also reading Ben Kane’s Spartacus, after just completing Robert Southworth’s great book of the same name! All are highly recommended.

Stephanie: Goodness my reading list is getting longer from our chat! But I’m not complaining one bit!  


Are you a paperback or e-reader sort-of guy?


Steven: Well, if you’d asked me a month ago, I’d have said paperback every time. But I own Ben’s Spartacus on both formats and the weird thing is, I haven’t touched the paperback, I’ve been reading it on the Kindle app on my tablet. So, I suppose I’m a convert to e-readers.

Stephanie: Wow! You’re the first I have interviewed who has said that about what format they prefer to read in.


Do you write reviews for all the books you read?

Steven: I try to now that I’ve realized how important it can be to an author. Although there have been times recently where I just didn’t enjoy a book very much so I haven’t left a review, rather than giving it a kicking. Obviously I don’t have a great deal of free time, so if a book doesn’t grab me within at least the first third I’ll move onto something else. Leaving a review for a book I haven’t even finished wouldn’t be on. I’m not saying no one should leave bad reviews- just that- as an author, I don’t think it’s my place to do that. However, if I genuinely enjoy a book, I’ll be more than happy to tell everyone that will listen about it!

Stephanie: I agree. Where is your favorite reading/writing spot in your home?

Steven: Bed! Beds are great places for all sorts of fun things – like watching TV or sleeping. I put my earphones on so I can’t hear “Big Brother” or whatever other nonsense the wife’s got on the TV and lose myself in another world for a while.

When I’m writing I do it in the dining room, where I can see our back garden which is mostly flowers, bushes, trees – nature basically. When you’re writing about life in a medieval forest it’s nice to be able to look out at a nice view like that and I’m thankful to have it.

Stephanie: I like to write and be able to see out a window as well. I have a really big maple right outside my window. It’s nice….

What are some of your thoughts on the self-publishing industry and where do you see it in five to ten years?

Steven: Before I published Wolf’s Head I was desperate to find an agent and a publisher, but none of them were interested and at first I found it crushing. It feels like you’ve wasted years of your life working on something no one wants to know about. However, since I self-published the book I’ve been blown away by the response. People DO want to know about it, and, unlike what some agents suggested, there IS a market for Robin Hood. Without the ability to put Wolf’s Head out there myself the manuscript – and my dreams of becoming a writer – would have been forgotten. I think writers today are very lucky to have the opportunity to do this sort of thing and they should grasp it with both hands.

Hopefully the market will continue to grow and in five years readers all over the world will be able to buy affordable books – lots of people aren’t able to pay £20 for a hardback, so it’ll be good for everyone to have access to the same book on an e-reader for £2 or £3 or even less. Let’s get the whole world reading!

Hopefully they’ll all buy Wolf’s Head…


Stephanie: I feel that publishers/agents don’t always know that readers want and I’m so glad you decided to publish anyways and congrats on a good job well done!

Steven: Thank you!

Thanks for having me, and for such interesting questions, it’s been fun

Steven’s link:

Interview with Author Elizabeth Fremantle

Elizabeth F

Elizabeth Fremantle holds a first class degree in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College London. She has contributed as a fashion editor to various publications including Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times. QUEEN’S GAMBIT is her debut novel and is the first in a Tudor trilogy. The second novel, SISTERS OF TREASON, will be released in 2014. She lives in London.

For more about Elizabeth and her future projects see  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Hello Elizabeth! Welcome and thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me about your book, Queen’s Gambit. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about your story.

Elizabeth Hello to you, and thank you so much for hosting QUEEN’S GAMBIT on your blog. I’m obviously delighted that you have heard such good things about it. When you launch a first novel it’s impossible to imagine how people will react, so the lovely things people have said are a source of great joy.

QUEEN’S GAMBIT tells the story of Katherine Parr, the wife who ‘survived’ Henry VIII, describing the period from when she first catches the eye of the King until the demise of her disastrous fourth marriage. It is told from three points of view: that of Katherine Parr, her doctor Robert Huicke and her maid Dot Fownten, giving a prism of perspectives on the Tudor court at a time of great turbulence.

When did you fist become interested in this period and when did you know you wanted to write your story?

I have always enjoyed reading history and read Jean Plaidy voraciously as a child, which is when the seeds were sown for my own historical fiction. It was when I first read Stephan Zweig’s two wonderful historical biographies (of Marie Antoinette and Mary Queen of Scots) in my early twenties that my desire to discover more about the lives of women from history was born. However having studied English as a degree, I felt I wasn’t qualified to write about history. So my first (unpublished) novels were contemporary fiction but I failed to find my voice, until I decided to try my hand at writing the past. Once I began work on QUEEN’S GAMBIT everything seemed to fall into place – it was as if I’d unlocked something in myself and began to realize that much of what I had learned reading English was also history. It all comes down the study of texts.

Queens Gambit

What is some of the research you did and what fascinates you most about the royal court surrounding this story?

So much of my research is textual and there are some extraordinary biographies of Katherine Parr but I also explored renaissance etiquette books, recipe books and social histories as I felt it was of great importance to create as close to an authentic world for my characters to inhabit. I spend a great deal of time wandering around old houses and castles, trying to imagine myself back in time. A course I took in Tudor and Stuart clothing, looking at all aspects of dress, from its construction to its symbolic value, was invaluable as I have used clothing to represent the restricted lives of women in the book. Research is an on-going process and inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. A documentary series about Amish women, for example, gave me insights into the lives and beliefs of Tudor women, as they operate under some of the same social restrictions.

As for the court, it is the constant sense of impermanence and danger that I find particularly fascinating. These people, however privileged, were living on a constant knife-edge and I wanted to articulate that in QUEEN’S GAMIT.

You have certainly done a lot of research and I’m sure it’s paid off. I love visiting old homes and hope to visit castles one day. I often wonder at times how the people at court could stand it for so long and the pressure they were constantly under….

Katherine Parr is my favourite among King Henry’s wives.  What sets your book apart from others about her? And were there any challenges writing about her?

Katherine Parr was a gift in the sense that her life is a perfect narrative arc with drama, romance and ultimately tragedy. I have tried to show her as the vibrant, politically astute and intelligent woman she was, rather than the dull nursemaid that history has remembered her as. But one of the things that interested me most about her is the essential contradiction in her character, in that she, a clever, canny woman, makes a disastrous decision in the name of love. For me this is what makes her story resonate with modern women.

To be honest, I have never read another novel about Katherine Parr, only historical biographies, so I am not the person to ask about comparisons, but each novelist will have created her in her own particular way. What I have tried to do is get beneath her skin and understand how she might have thought and felt (how might it have truly felt to be the wife of such a tyrant) whilst adhering as much as possible to the historical facts as we know them.

What is the most challenge thing to write about Historical Fiction and what advice would you give someone who is considering writing in this genre?

I suppose the challenge is getting the balance of fiction and history. For me it was important to remain faithful to history but it is the inner worlds of characters that make for good fiction and creating characters, even those based on real people, is an act of imagination. I find having a restrictive framework of history to work within forces you to explore different narrative possibilities more deeply, but it can be frustrating at times. In QUEEN’S GAMBIT, for example, a main character dies half-way through the narrative – that is something I couldn’t change and had to find a way for that death to make sense within the arc of the story.

My advice is to do all your research, then set it aside and write your story without trying to pack it full of evidence of your knowledge. One of the greatest complements I have received is that QUEEN’S GAMBIT wears its research lightly.

How long did it take you to write your story? Will you write others that take place in this period?

From start to finish QUEEN’S GAMBIT took about eighteen months but it came at the end of a ten-year period of writing fiction (an MA in Creative Writing and three unpublished novels). I had said to myself that I would have to stop if I didn’t find a publisher for it. Happily it has worked out for the good and I have realized that the wilderness years all contributed to honing my skill as a writer.

I have written the second in my Tudor trilogy. SISTERS OF TREASON is out next year and is about the two younger sisters of Lady Jane Grey, a pair of girls who were born dangerously close to the throne at a time of great instability. It begins in Mary Tudor’s bloody reign but when Elizabeth comes to the throne things become increasingly difficult for the Grey girls. In SISTERS OF TREASON, though we don’t revisit any of the main characters from QUEEN’S GAMBIT we are reacquainted with some of the characters in the background, and of course the two Tudor princess, watching their rise to the throne and the consequences of this.

Tough question. What are your thoughts on the Reformation and how the Church of England was established?

I find it impossible to have a straightforward opinion on this because in many ways the Reformation was a force for good, in that it counteracted a deeply corrupt Catholic church and offered ordinary people a way to think, read and learn about faith in a personal and intimate way. Some of the violent acts perpetrated in the name of religious reform though, were unconscionable. But then again religion and politics were inextricably linked in those days and faith was used as a means to control people. You only have to think of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition or the 280 odd Reformers who were burned in Mary Tudor’s reign to understand that terrible things were done in the name of both Catholicism and reform, but such acts were political at heart. It does make me deeply sad though, when I visit the ruins of the great monasteries and abbeys in England and wonder about the violent erasure of a tradition that had persisted for centuries and all the beauty and tradition that was lost forever.

I agree with you. How often do you get a chance to read for pleasure and what is the name of the book you have just read?

All reading is a pleasure for me, even if it is work, but I am on holiday at the moment, with a stack of novels on my Kindle to read without having to make notes.  The book I am reading today is Blood Royal by Vanora Bennett, about Catherine de Valois and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Are you a paperback or r-reader sort-of gal?

Elizabeth: I have a reader for convenience and for reading when I’m traveling but I do prefer a good paperback if I’m honest.

Same here. I love my e-readers but prefer a paperback. Do you write reviews for all the books you read?

If there were time enough…

Also, if I particularly enjoy a book I often want to share that with other people even if it’s just via a Tweet. I don’t think wholly negative reviews are helpful, unless there is something very specific to say. But then I’m a writer so I would think that.

Where is your favourite reading/writing spot in your home?

I have a study, filled to the gunnels with books and I sit at my desk beside the window to write, with my dogs by my side to keep my company. As for reading, my favourite place is in bed, in the morning!

Stephanie: I to have my desk by the window. It’s a beautiful spot to write. There is a beautiful Maple Tree right outside my window and just beyond that great big Holly Bushes….and love all my books around me and my dog loves to sit beside me when writing.

 Elizabeth it was a pleasure chatting with you! Thank you!


Interview with Author Sheri Fink


Sheri Fink is a #1 best-selling, award-winning children’s author, creator of “The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink” children’s brand, and an international speaker. Sheri writes books that inspire and delight children while planting seeds of self-esteem. Her first children’s book, The Little Rose, was a #1 best-seller on Amazon for over 60 weeks, became the #1 top-rated e-book on Amazon, and received a gold medal in the 2012 Readers Favorite International Book Awards. Her subsequent books have all been #1 best-sellers. Her children’s book series recently received the Gold Mom’s Choice Award for excellence in family friendly entertainment. Sheri was recently selected by CBS Los Angeles as one of the top 3 authors in her local area, a distinction she shares with Dean Koontz.

Stephanie: Hello, Sheri. Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, The Little Gnome.

Sheri: The Little Gnome is a charming story about a garden gnome experiencing the wonder of the four seasons for the first time. At first he doesn’t understand and resists the changes in his environment. That just makes him grumpy. Once he begins to understand the seasons, he finds something good in every change. The book helps kids ages 5-10 learn to embrace change. Published in March 2012, The Little Gnome debuted at #1 on the Amazon best-seller list.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and to write in the children’s genre?

Sheri: I’m inspired by my experiences and how I feel about them. I love taking something that feels like a negative and helping kids discover a way to see it in a different light, one that can be truly positive and beneficial. My goal is to inspire and delight kids while planting seeds of self-esteem.

The idea for The Little Gnome came about when I was thinking about moving from Virginia to California. I moved to Southern California 12 years ago and the seasons are much milder here. I was wondering what it would be like for a kid who’s only known Southern California to live in Virginia and what that first year might be like. And, there are things that I miss about each season. Those are the things that are highlighted in the story.

the little Gnome

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?


Sheri: My books are available on, Barnes & Noble online, the iTunes store, my website (, and in select children’s boutiques and bookstores throughout North America.

Stephanie: Are you currently working on another children’s book?


Sheri: My current work in progress is the next book in The Little Series. It’s called The Little Seahorse and it’s about a bashful seahorse who learns to speak up for himself and ask for help. I’m really excited to explore the underwater world for the first time.

Stephanie: Are there any challenges you face when writing in this genre?

Sheri: I think the biggest challenge is telling the story in a meaningful, engaging way with so few words and pages. It’s like creating and solving a puzzle. I enjoy it!

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?


Sheri: Yes, I’m very happy to be an independent author and publisher. I hold the rights and get to make the decisions about my books and my brand. I’m not opposed to the traditional publishing path, I just find that independent entrepreneurship is very rewarding. I learn new things every day and enjoy the journey.

Stephanie: Where do you see the self-publishing industry in five to ten years?

Sheri: I’m really not sure. It’s easier today than ever before to independently publish your work and reach your target readership. It’s an exciting time in the industry. My guess is that it will continue to grow as more authors become empowered to pursue their dreams of publishing through non-traditional paths.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Sheri: I believe I first heard about it on Facebook when another author was celebrating her book winning an indieBRAG award. I love the power of social media.

Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Sheri: My advice is to continue writing and keep dreaming. There are so many opportunities now for writers to get their work out into the world. I’m living proof that independent authors can be successful and make a positive difference for their readers. It’s a great time to be a writer!

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

Sheri: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” ~ Confucius


Find Sheri’s books on Amazon:

Connect with Sheri on Facebook:

Visit Sheri’s website for free coloring pages, lesson plans, & activity sheets based on her best-selling books:

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Sheri Fink, who is the author of, The Little Gnome, one of our medallion honorees at . 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, The Little Gnome merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author C.W. Gortner

Stephanie:  Hello, Christopher. It is a pleasure to be chatting with you today. I have read your books, The Queen’s Vow and The Tudor Conspiracy and have thoroughly enjoyed them both. Please tell your audience a little about, “The Tudor Conspiracy.”

C.W.: Hi, great to be here! The Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Series, about a young man with a secret past who becomes Elizabeth’s private spy in the years before she rises to power. In this book, the hero, Brendan Prescott, is recruited by his mentor Cecil to return to court, where Queen Mary Tudor now reigns, to help save Elizabeth from a conspiracy hatched against her by the Spanish ambassador. While at court, Brendan becomes entangled with a mysterious woman and suffers a personal tragedy as he races against time to uncover a wide-reaching plot that may be Elizabeth’s downfall. This is a fast paced suspense novel that explores another side to life in the Tudor court, as seen through the eyes of Brendan.

the tudor conspiracy

Stephanie: There are many stories of the Tudors. If a reader were to ask you what sets your book apart from the rest and what inspired you to write this particular story. What would you tell them?

C.W.: I’ve always been interested in the intelligence network that Cecil and Walsingham developed to protect Elizabeth. It was essentially the first modern spy system, in which countless men and women worked, and often sacrificed their lives, to defend the queen. I also am fascinated by the Tudors, but I felt as though the years of Elizabeth’s later reign were quite well covered in fiction, as were the years of her father, Henry VIII. However, that crevice in history between Henry and Elizabeth – when Edward VI and later Mary I became rulers— had not been written about as much, though it’s such fertile ground for a novelist. England was in tumult after Henry’s death, the religious and political situations unstable, and Mary, in particular, has a terrible reputation that obscures the reality of who she was as a person. Her bitter relationship with Elizabeth is truly a tragic one, in that these half-sisters who had lived together suddenly found themselves in opposing camps. I think my Spymaster books are different from other Tudor novels because I explore the underworld of the court and feature fictional characters, like Brendan, interacting with historical ones. Also, these are adventure stories with mysteries at their heart that explore the price of secrets—they are not biographical accounts but rather moments in history when everything hinges upon one crucial event.

Stephanie: Yes, I agree that Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth is a tragic one and I do wish the outcome could have been different for them. You did a fabulous job exploring the underworld of the court and you blended the fictional aspects splendidly. And the intelligence network of Cecil and Walsingham is fascinating.

 Brendan Prescott is a wonderful character. What inspired you to create his character?

C.W.: The genesis for this series sprang from a conversation that I had with a friend years ago. We were talking about what it might have been like to be a Tudor spy and who might have actually been recruited into this type of service. So many of those who fought to defend their country and queen are lost to us; we don’t know anything about them. Brendan is a composite character, based in part on one particular man, but also enhanced by my life-long love of the novels of Alexander Dumas, in which the main character often has a terrible secret he must hide because it could destroy him. I also wanted to create a hero who is both fallible and reluctant; Brendan doesn’t choose the missions he embarks upon. He yearns for an ordinary life, yet finds himself involved in danger and making split-second decisions that carry repercussions for him and those he loves. His service to Elizabeth exacts a personal toll, as I believe it must have for anyone who dedicated their lives to protecting her. Through Brendan, I can also explore how common people lived, as well as how different social classes and power structures in Tudor England played a role in people’s survival.

Stephanie: That is really cool.

 Even though his loyalty lies with Elizabeth, he seems to have a soft spot-if you will-towards Mary. He seems not to wish her any ill will. He is respectful and polite to her. In a way I wonder if he feels a bit sorry for her. What is your personal opinion of Tudor Mary and do you carry over some of your thoughts of her to Brendan?

C.W.: I think Mary was a product of her time and circumstances. She went from being the adored daughter of the king to being branded a bastard; she witnessed the chaos and tragedy that ensued from her mother and father’s acrimonious separation, and was, in modern-terms, abused psychologically and emotionally at a very impressionable age. I’m quite fond of Anne Boleyn, but accounts of her treatment of Mary are not nice. She saw Mary as a threat to her own position, and that of her child, Elizabeth, and she made certain Mary was denigrated. I don’t think people are born monsters; I think they are created. Mary believed in holding fast to the faith that had sustained her, both in memory of her mother Catherine of Aragon, as well as her fervent belief that Catholicism was the only path to salvation. Stepping into Mary’s shoes is always important when writing about her, because it’s too easy to condemn her otherwise. Brendan’s relationship with Mary begins in the first novel, The Tudor Secret; he meets her as she’s fighting against Northumberland for her throne and she impresses him with her valor and perseverance. There are hints even then of the queen she will become, but Brendan sees her as a woman who’s trying to do good even as she is misled by those around her, as well as haunted by her past. Mary could not forgive what had been done to her and her mother; it was, in essence, her downfall.

Stephanie: I agree with you your portrayal of Mary and how she was misled by those around her.  

 Will we see Brendan Prescott again in another story?

C.W.: Yes, absolutely. I’m currently writing the third Spymaster novel, tentatively titled The Tudor Vendetta. In this novel, Elizabeth has just assumed the throne and a near-fatal attempt on her life brings Brendan back to court. The new queen, however, has a special mission for him surrounding the disappearance of a trusted lady-in-waiting, which sends Brendan to Yorkshire. There, he becomes entangled with a strange family as he hunts for an opponent from his past, even as he begins to realize that Elizabeth may be hiding a catastrophic secret of her own.

Stephanie Oh, how exciting! I can’t wait to read it! Sounds wonderful.

Were there any challenges you faced while writing your story and how long did it take to write it?

C.W.: There are always challenges, because I combine three different plotlines in these novels: the historical event I’m depicting and historical characters involved; the fictional plotline involving Brendan; and the “what-if?” plot line, in which I look at the events and extrapolate an alternate scenario from the one which history has recorded. It’s like a puzzle. I have all the pieces but in order to create a cohesive whole, I have to figure out how they fit together. Like my stand-alone biographical novels, the Spymaster books take about eight months to research and a year to write, including the editorial and publishing process.

Stephanie: Well, you did a fantastic job!

 What is your writing process like? And where in your home do you like to write?

C.W.: I try to write at least 5 hours every day, except on weekends. Before I was a full-time writer, I wrote whenever I had a moment to spare; now, I write Monday through Friday, anywhere from between 11 pm – 5 pm, with an extra hour or two of revision in the early evening. I keep to a specific word count that I do my best to hit every day, but I’m flexible as well, because stories have their own ways of coming to life and you cannot force them. However, no matter what, I do sit down at my appointed time to face the page. Some days are easy, some days not, but that’s how novels get written. I have a studio in my house that is set aside for writing. My research books are on shelves around me and I just hunker down to work without distractions. I turn off my internet connection, too, when I write. Otherwise, I’d be tempted to shop online for shoes instead! I have found that the internet can be an impediment to creativity, so I remove it until I have my word count for the day and feel I have made satisfactory progress with the book.

Stephanie: Great writing strategy. I like my books around me as well when writing…however I tend to be bad about turning off my internet connection when writing. I need to be better about that.

Have you travelled to research for your stories? If so, where and what was your most favorite journey?

C.W.: I always travel for research whenever possible. To me, it’s vital to get a feel for the landscape, even though it’s usually changed radically from the time I’m writing about. I have many favorite journeys; one I most treasure is the time I went to visit Hampton Court. We happened to arrive on a day when performers in Tudor costume were offering a dance lesson in the great hall and my partner volunteered me. I found myself dancing under the very eaves where Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and even Elizabeth herself had once danced. It was magical.

Stephanie: Sounds absolutely wonderful! Yes, indeed! That is magical. I would love to visit those places. One day!

 When did you first begun to write?

C.W.: As a child, I wrote stories in spiral-bound notebooks and illustrated them. I even made cover art. I’ve always written; but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I decided to undertake my first historical novel and I wasn’t published until my late thirties.

Stephanie: That is really inspiring.

 What were your favorite books as a child?

C.W.: Curious George and Babbar. Growing up, I also loved the stories by Enid Blyton.

Stephanie: Those are great books!

 Is there a particular writer that inspires you?

C.W.: Every writer inspires me, because it’s a tough and lonely path. We create these worlds in our heads and spend years putting them into words, often without knowing if anyone will read them. It’s not a job we choose; writing by and large is a compulsion, something we simply must do.

Stephanie: I agree.

What is your favorite quote?

C.W.: “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.”

Thank you for spending this time with me. I hope your readers enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY. To find out more about me and my work, please visit me at:

Stephanie: Thank you, Christopher!

About Author:

C.W. Gortner

C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in  Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and  half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at for more information.  You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy

“The Tudor  Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a  vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of  characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light  you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never  looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and  deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero  into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle  Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come  to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and  courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . .  Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this  swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The  Crown

“Suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and deadly rivalry: what more can you ask for? From the serpentine halls of the court to the vicious back  alleys and stews of Tudor London, Gortner has brewed a swashbuckling,  perilous adventure that you simply can’t put down!” —M.J. Rose, author  of The Book of Lost Fragrances

“C.W. Gortner has an unmatched talent for bringing the past to life. The Tudor Conspiracy is historical fiction at its best: a compelling  story masterfully told, vivid characters fully drawn, and an accurate  depiction of history of the time. A novel not to be missed.” —Tasha  Alexander

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Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gornter

the tudor conspiracy


Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.



This sixteenth century Tudor spy thriller was absolutely captivating and superbly well crafted. I’ve never read a Tudor story quite like this one before and I was immensely impressed with the intrigue, mystery, imagery, and the portrayal of the Tudors. The character, Brendan Prescott was a wonderful and clever addition to the story. I believe I formed a little crush on him from the beginning of the story. I can only imagine how exhausting and intense it must be to be a double agent. Gortner gives you that intensity perfectly.

I was really drawn into the story and the portrayal of the characters and their plight. Here is an example of the beautiful, vivid and suspenseful imagery: “The water carried me, tumbling, down an incline. I grappled with debris, clutching at anything I could, and then I was tumbling headlong into the conduit that spilled into the river, the sky wheeling above, scattered with stars, the moon in its cradle of cloud.” Just Stunning!

His portrayal of Queen Mary is one I have not seen before. She of course is pious and zealous of her religion and is obsessed with returning her country back to the Catholic faith. But at the same time…..Gortner shows a softer ‘almost’ forgiving or empathic side to her-if you will. Maybe that is because this story takes place in the early reign of her throne.

The Tudor Conspiracy is filled with beautiful and powerful historical detail and the characters are engaging and vibrant with personality. You will be swept away and not wanting to return to our present time….I am really looking forward to more of Gortner’s spy-thrillers and I’m crossing my fingers he brings his readers lots more of these wonderful stories. I highly recommend this story and I’m giving it a five star rating.

Be on the lookout for my interview with C.W. Gortner tomorrow on Layered Pages.


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