Interview with Author Scott Nicholson

I would like to introduce Author Scott Nicholson the winner of the IndieBRAG Medallion.

Scott, please tell us about your book, Too Many Witches.

I did IF I WERE YOUR MONSTER with Lee Davis and really liked his art, so I kicked around for another “monster” type of book.

What inspired you to write this story?

I liked the idea of “too many cooks spoil the kitchen,” so I wondered what would happen if little witches tried to out-do each other on a wicked potion.

Is there a message in your story you want young readers to grasp?

It’s a story about friendship and working together, but also inspiring children to be creative.

Who or what inspired you to become an author?

All the great books, art, and music I’ve been lucky enough to find have inspired me to be creative. Ever since I was young, I have always been making up stories, songs, and pictures. Dr. Seuss was probably one of my strongest early influences.

What are your goals as a writer?

I’ve fulfilled my only real goal of wanting to create for a living, but now I want to meet even more readers, get out books in foreign languages, and experiment with new types of storytelling.

What is your next book project?

I’m working on a post-apocalyptic series called AFTER, and I am developing another kids’ book with Lee Davis.

What is your favorite quote?

“Life isn’t fair.”–three billion parents

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Dare to dream. Ignore all the people who say no or put up walls. Be relentless and uncompromising in your creative vision.

Author Bio:

Scott Nicholson is author of 20 novels and eight story collections, as well as four children’s books. His website is He is also a partner in the book promotion and giveaway site

Scott Nicholson
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We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Scott Nicholson who is the author of Too Many Witches , one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 Too Many Witches merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Thank you Scott for this wonderful interview. It was a pleasure!

Layered Pages

Review: Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones

From the award-winning author of the controversial international bestseller The Jewel of Medina, a historical novel that chronicles the lives of four sisters, all daughters of Beatrice of Provence—all of whom became queens in medieval Europe. When Beatrice of Savoy, countess of Provence, sends her four beautiful, accomplished daughters to become queens, she admonishes them: Family comes first. As a result, the daughters—Marguerite, queen of France; Eleanor, queen of England; Sanchia, queen of Germany; and Beatrice, queen of Sicily—work not only to expand their husbands’ empires and broker peace between nations, but also to bring the House of Savoy to greater power and influence than before. Their father’s death, however, tears the sisters apart, pitting them against one another for the legacy each believes rightfully hers—Provence itself.

Told from alternating points of view of all four queens, and set in the tumultuous thirteenth century, this is a tale of greed, lust, ambition, and sibling rivalry on a royal scale, exploring the meaning of true power and bringing to life four of the most celebrated women of their time—each of whom had an impact on the history of Europe.

Book description from Goodreads

Introduction to my review: Have you ever read stories you enjoyed so much that when you sat down to gather your thoughts, you didn’t know where to begin? Or it seems that anything you want to say or write doesn’t quite do it justice? I feel this way about Four Sisters, All Queens. I don’t believe there is anything I dislike about this story except that it ended!

I mentioned to Sherry yesterday that I’m having to re-write my review because I felt I was giving too much away. My review below will be nothing but praise and I hope it will encourage you to read this brilliant story.

My review: This poignant and powerful story is about four extraordinary sisters. Who-due to their mother’s ambition-became queens. What is so intriguing about them is their distinctive personalities and how they shaped and molded Europe during a fascinating time in history.

There are several complex issues happening in this story but Sherry gives us a perfectly balanced and evenly paced story that will keep you enthralled to the very end.

Sherry does a wonderful job capturing the culture of the era, so good, in fact that one can tell she did extensive research. Historical accuracies is what avid readers of Historical Fiction such as myself want to see. I highly recommend this story to all.

I gave this novel five stars.

Layered Page

Interview with Author Tui Allen

I would like to introduce Author Tui Allen, the winner of the the B.R.A.G Medallion.

Please tell us about your book, “Ripple.”

Ripple arose from my fascination with two facts:
· Dolphins were fully evolved 20 million years before humans came down from the trees.
· A dolphin brain has ten times the capacity of the human brain for processing sound.
It made me realise how little we really know about dolphins, how great is their mystery and how presumptuous we are to consider ourselves worth more than them. I want my readers, to wonder if this story might really have happened and then to want to give all cetaceans the benefit of the doubt and accord more respect to all those life-forms which humans, through their own limitations, cannot possibly fully understand. The book had a working title, “Ripple of Sound.” The story brewed in my brain for twenty years before the novel emerged. The poem version was the first incarnation of the story. The poem is included at the end of the book. It’s about twenty years older than the novel

What were some of the challenges you faced while researching for your story?

I needed to know what life was like in this part of the world twenty million years ago, but I had no idea before I started. I had a lot of help from people in the geology department of the Otago University, both from their writings and even in person. I soon learnt that in that era, New-Zealand itself was not even here yet. It was mostly still underwater. Dr Ewan Fordyce at Otago University showed me a real dolphin skull from my era and a case full of marine fossils and shells which were all from that time. It was utterly inspiring. I have a photo of my hands cradling that skull. To me it was the real skull of Ripple herself. It was an emotional moment.

Is there a message in your book you want readers to grasp?

Oh definitely. A very similar message to the one Samuel Taylor Coleridge sent us all those centuries ago. Respect for all living things, great and small, because when we kill, we do not understand the enormity of what we have done and may never know until it is too late.

What is your next book project?

A story called Rigel’s Prayer which continues on with some of the characters from Ripple, including another incarnation of Ripple’s mother Pearl on a distant world. I’d also like to resurrect an old children’s picture book of mine called “Captain Clancy the Flying Clothesline” but with different illustrations.

Who or what inspired you to become an author?

I am heavily influenced by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and can recite The Ancient Mariner by heart. It takes half an hour to recite. I love our NZ kiwi children’s authors. I’m convinced we have the best in the world right here in NZ.

What is your favorite quote?

I am not a religious person, and not a creationist, but I somehow still agree with Coleridge when he says, in his famous poem:
“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

It’s all about the story. Find one that’s truly worth telling, that has never been told before and then tell it to the very best of your ability. Never waste your time on a second rate story.

Author Bio:

Although Tui Allen was born in the rural New-Zealand town of Te-Awamutu, she grew up in a sailing family in Auckland. She rode horses in her teens and was a keen sailor as a young woman during the 1970s, when she cruised the South Pacific under sail in the small wooden yacht, which was her first marital home. She met many cetaceans during those voyages.
Since then she has worked as a teacher, a children’s author and a web designer. In her thirties and forties she became a long-distance athlete and completed half marathons and marathons as well as some half-ironman and ironman triathlons.
At the turn of the millennium, she returned to live close to the place of her birth in the rural Waikato area of Te Pahu, close to Mt Pirongia and Te Awamutu, where she continues to enjoy both road cycling and mountain-biking in her spare time.
She chooses to refrain from eating fish or animal flesh because of her love of animals and her concerns about the negative environmental effects of the fishing industry. She is the mother of two grown children. Ripple is her first novel.
Ripple has been selected to help showcase NZ literature at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October where NZ is the 2012 Country of Honour.
Tui Allen
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Tui Allen who is the author of Ripple, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 Ripple merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Thank you for this wonderful interview

Layered Pages

Interview with Author Hardy Jones

I would like to introduce Author Hardy Jones the winner of the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion.

    Please tell us about your book, “The Voice of the Dolphins.”
    The Voice of the Dolphins is the story of more than thirty years of filming and research among dolphins around the world. In 1978 filmmaker Hardy Jones was swept into the universe of dolphins. In his work as a filmmaker he came to know many of these magnificent animals as individuals. “I know when I’m with them that I’m relating to creatures as intelligent, social, and imbued with emotion as I am.” Hardy’s life became even more closely entwined with dolphins when he learned that he and the dolphins share a genetic trait that imperils both his life and the survival of dolphins worldwide. Starting with the film that came from his first life-changing encounter with spotted dolphins in the Bahamas, he’s made over 70 documentaries for PBS, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and foreign broadcasters. “Filming became my entrée into the world of dolphins but not my ultimate purpose there. My true aim was to get inside the minds of these enormously intelligent and friendly animals.” His book tells many stories of interactions with dolphins that could not be captued on film. In coming years Hardy would apply what he had learned with dolphins to killer whales in the Arctic fjords of Norway, and sperm whales off the Galapagos and the Caribbean Island of Dominica. “I became a pioneer in a parallel universe inhabited by highly intelligent, friendly, curious aliens. I came to love them and felt an intense need to protect them.” The Voice of the Dolphins covers more than three decades Hardy has fought to end the slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen and tells the inspiring story of how he was instrumental in converting a dolphin hunter to a dolphin watch tour leader. In the late 1980s Hardy became aware of a threat to dolphins even more insidious that the blades of dolphin hunters – rising levels of chemical toxins in the oceans that were impacting marine life and human beings. Over succeeding decades these contaminants have reached crisis level. In 2003 Hardy was diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer that is linked to chemical toxins. “I’ve struggled with the side effects of medications, but my first lab tests after beginning treatment brought stunning results. My burden of monoclonal cells had been reduced by ninety-eight percent.” The diagnosis spurred Hardy to seek the sources of the pollutants in his own body and to document their impact on marine life and human beings. Hardy continues treatment and maintains an active life traveling the world to campaign for dolphins, the oceans and the welfare of humanity.

    Were there any challenges in the research for this book?

    The book is based on life experience. Challenges to research were hurricanes, boats sinking, lung searing heat in the Galapagos, frigid temperatures in Norway. Where there was research in the classical sense of the word, finding epidemiological connections between contaminants and disease in dolphins and humans is tricky work.

    What is the most surprising thing you learned in creating your book?

    My greatest surprises in the field revolved around the astonishing level of curiosity and friendliness expressed by dolphins and whales for me and my fellow divers. My greatest surprise in marketing my book was how useless it was to advertise in the New York Times Book Review.

    How long did it take you to write, “The Voice of the Dophins?”

    If you exclude the false starts – I made several stabs at writing it in the 1980s and 90s – it took just over a year to write the book.

    Who or what inspired you to become an author?

    I wanted to go into detail that is not possible in film. There are surprisingly few words in a film narration and the major focus is on picture. In my my book I was able to express in detail events and emotions that could not be portrayed in film. And writing a book – especially when you do it independently – you get to say exactly what you want without someone overriding you.

    What is your next book project?

    I’m looking at writing a short book in electronic form on the experience of covering the mass mortality of dolphins in Peru and the mystery behind this tragic die-off.

    What is your favorite quote?

    “Gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves acursed they were not here..” Henry V

    What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

    Be clear that you are as much a marketer as a writer.

    Thank you so much!

    Author Bio:

    Hardy Jones has spent more than thirty years investigating and working to save dolphins. He began unique research on dolphins in the Bahamas in 1978 that has led to internationally broadcast films and many awards. In 1979 he broke the story of the slaughter of dolphins at Iki Island, Japan which led to international outrage and helped shut down the killing of dolphins in several villages in Japan. Since then Hardy has worked at Futo and Taiji to stop the last vestiges of slaughter on Japan’s main island. Hardy has covered the increasing levels of toxic chemicals in the oceans and their connection to disease in dolphins and human beings. He has most recently been investigating the mass mortality of dolphins along the coast of Peru. Hardy is a former journalist with CBS News. He attended Tulane University and studied law at Columbia University under a CBS Foundation Fellowship.

    Websties: for my book

    We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Hardy Jones who is the author of, The Voice of the Dolphins one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 asThe Voice of the Dolphins merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


    Thank you to Hardy Jones for this wonderful interview and to IndieBRAG.

    Layered Pages



    Review for The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

    Book Discription:

    January 1067. Charismatic bishop Odo of Bayeux commissions a wall hanging, on a scale never seen before, to celebrate the conquest of Britain by his brother, William, Duke of Normandy. What he cannot anticipate is how utterly this will change his life-even more than the invasion itself.
    His life becomes entangled with the women who embroider his hanging, especially Gytha-handmaiden to the fallen Saxon queen and his sworn enemy. But against their intentions, they fall helplessly in love. Friends become enemies, enemies become lovers; nothing in life or in the hanging is what it seems.

    From Goodreads

    My Review:

    I was captivated by this story and The Needle in the Blood is the first historical fiction novel I have read about the Bayeux Tapestry. It has left me wanting to know more of it’s history. I enjoyed the characters in Sarah’s story and felt she did a wonderful job with the character building. I also felt her secondary characters really helped support this story and I enjoyed reading about their lives. I have to admit I’m not fond of reading a story in the present tense, but I feel Sarah pulled this off and I was intrigued with Sarah’s explanation to me of why she wrote the book this way. She said the story is written this way because it’s the way she “heard” the story coming to her. That on reflection she found it interesting as a means of making long distant history seem more immediate.

    I recommend reading this story and hope that each reader finds a little something to come away with and would want to explore the history of this time period a little more. I rated this story three and a half stars.

    Layered Pages

    Interview with Author Richard Denning

    Layered Pages has the honor of introducing Author Richard Denning. Two time winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion! -Stephanie

    Richard please tell us about your book, The Last Seal.

    The Last Seal is a historical Fantasy set during the Great Fire of London in the year 1666 – a fire which destroyed the heart of the city and made 70,000 people homeless. I started reading up on the fire when I was designing a board game I published a couple of years ago AND for a scene in a Time Travel novel I also wrote. When I read about the fire I came across a lot on what beliefs and superstitions people had. I found about the widespread paranoia about foreign plots and conspiracies that people had at the time as well as their belief in magic being real. All that came together very quickly into a idea. I asked myself what if the fire was not just an accident, what if there really were secret societies involved and a supernatural explanation behind the great event?

    So here is a synopsis of The Last Seal. September 1666: a struggle between two secret societies threatens to destroy London. Three hundred years previously the Praesidum defeated and incarcerated a demon beneath the city. Now the Liberati aim to release it and gain its power for themselves. Meanwhile agents of the King are seeking four suspected foreign spies who are, in reality, disparate and unlikely heroes: GABRIEL, the sole remaining member of the Praesidum, crippled by his fear of failure; FREYA, a young thief orphaned by the Great Plague, driven by poverty and self-interest; TOBIAS, a cynical physician, obsessed by his desire for vengeance against the Liberati cavalier who killed his father, and finally and most vitally, BEN, a Westminster schoolboy, whose guilt over his parents’ death threatens to destroy him. Thrown together by chance when Ben finds an ancient scroll revealing the location of arcane seals that bind the demon beneath London, the story launches into a battle between the Liberati and Praesidium, a battle which takes place within the Great Fire of London. These four must overcome their personal problems and work together if they are to foil the plans of the Liberati, protect the city and gain the means to defeat the demon.

    Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

    I don’t consciously write books to get across a message to readers. I enjoy books where fantasy is blended with reality. I have to deal with gritty reality in the day job – I am a family doctor – so I really never watch or read stories about real life dramas if I can avoid it. Give me a good bit of escapism please! Thus I loved Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko – where fantastical events and creatures live alongside us. So it was that I decided to write a novel where the real historical background of 1666 and of the fire was the back drop to a story of sorcery, entombed demons and secret societies.
    Having said all that it is a tale of good vs evil, courage and having to face one’s own demons and deal with them.

    What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

    Historical research. I wanted the reader to FEEL like they were walking around London in 1666. I wanted the fire to seem real too and the scenes involving the fire to be accurate and believable. All that took time – and perhaps that is the challenge of historical fiction – fantasy or real history. You have to spend hours visiting locations, reading about the clothes and weapons, food etc. Fortunately I enjoy all that.

    What is your greatest strength as a writer?

    Folk who give me good reviews usually say that I inject a good pace to my books, that they are fast moving and exciting. I also write a good battle. Not too much blood and gore but hopefully again a feeling of being in the middle of the action. I think I am also good at descriptions – particularly of locations.

    Who or what inspired you to become an author?

    Reading a lot. I spent my teens, twenties and thirties reading – devouring is a better word – anything historical and fantastical I could find. Gradually I got ideas for my own stories. So it is really my favourite authors who are to blame 😉

    What books have influenced your life the most?

    I am a fan of historical fiction such as by Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. I also enjoy fantasy and I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan as well as having devoured The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad by David Eddings and most of the works of Raymond Feist for example. Lately I have enjoyed Helen Hollick’s Harold the King and her Pirate Trilogy and of course have read all the Harry Potter books.

    What is your next book project?

    Shield Maiden – which should be out about the time of this interview – is historical fantasy which blends the historical world of Early Anglo Saxon Britain with the mythology those people believed in. It is the first of my Nine Worlds Series aimed at top primary schools.

    What is your favorite quote?

    Roads go ever ever on,
    Under cloud and under star.
    Yet feet that wandering have gone
    Turn at last to home afar.
    Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
    And horror in the halls of stone
    Look at last on meadows green,
    And trees and hills they long have known.
    JRR Tolkien
    As a doctor I have seen my share of horrible things – both in Africa as a student or even here in the UK. If times are tough that poem reminds me that home awaits me at the end of the day.

    What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

    Read a lot. Then write, rewrite and rewrite. Then get an editor. Only an editor can help take your book and mould it into something worth publishing. You won’t always agree with them, you may have the odd row but they are usually right!! (Hope Jo Field , my editor, is not reading this 😉 )

    Many thanks for the interview.

    Richard Denning
    Author of Young Adult Sci Fi and Historical Fiction:
    On Twitter:
    On Facebook:

    Author Bio and Links

    Richard Denning was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire and lives in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, UK, where he works as a General Practitioner (family doctor). He is married and has two children. He has always been fascinated by historical settings as well as horror and fantasy. Other than writing, his main interests are games of all types. He is the designer of a board game based on the Great Fire of London.

    By the same author:

    Northern Crown Series
    (Historical fiction)

    1.The Amber Treasure
    2.Child of Loki

    Hourglass Institute Series

    (Young Adult Science Fiction)

    1.Tomorrow’s Guardian
    2. Yesterday’s Treasures

    The Praesidium Series

    (Historical Fantasy)

    1.The Last Seal

    The Nine Worlds Series

    Coming soon: Shield Maiden


    Book Links:



    We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Richard Denning who is the author of The Last Seal, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 Last Seal merits the investment of a reader’s time and money


    Thank you Richard for this wonderful interview! It was a pleasure!

    Layered Pages

    Interview with Author Juliet Grey

    Juliet, I really enjoyed reading Becoming Marie Antoinette. Could you please tell us a little about Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, your second novel in this wonderful series?

    Becoming Marie Antoinette charts the story of Marie Antoinette’s life from her tenth to eighteenth year; beginning on the day she learns she is to wed the dauphin of France, the grandson and heir of the reigning king Louis XV. The narrative ends with the death of Louis XV on May 10, 1774, the day she and her husband technically became the new monarchs—although Louis XVI would not be formally crowned until the following year (a scene that is in Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow). In Becoming Marie Antoinette, readers are given a rare glimpse at Marie Antoinette’s childhood in Austria (many people either forget or don’t realize that she was an Austrian archduchess, the youngest daughter of the formidable Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa) and the incredible “makeover” she had to undergo in order to be deemed acceptable to the French. I don’t want to include any “spoilers” here, but Louis XV had learned that Marie Antoinette was neither smart nor pretty enough to become the wife of the future king, so she required an army of Pygmalion’s to transform her. The first half of Becoming Marie Antoinette takes place in Austria; the second half takes place after her arrival at Versailles, when Marie Antoinette, all of fourteen years old and married to a shy fifteen-year-old boy she’d never met until their wedding day, is compelled to navigate the treacherous waters of the French court. She doesn’t know who to listen to and naively gets caught up in other people’s internal rivalries, all the while trying to establish her own footing as the highest lady in the land. Meanwhile, her husband the dauphin for some reason won’t consummate their marriage. Royal marriages were not love matches but political alliances, and none was more so at the time than the union of Marie Antoinette of Austria and Louis Auguste of France. If she didn’t present the French with an heir (and only a male could inherit the throne, which made her job even harder, as there are obviously no guarantees of what gender she’d produce!) she could risk being sent back to Austria and the delicate political alliance could collapse.  So much was riding on her slender shoulders.

    Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrowopens where Becoming Marie Antoinette leaves off.  The teenagers (only 18 and 19 years old) are now the sovereigns. Their subjects love them. In fact, Louis Auguste, now Louis XVI, is nicknamed “Louis le Desiré”—the Desired—by his people.  Theirs will be a young and glamorous court.  But the new queen’s alienation of the “toxic” (as we would call them) courtiers who snubbed or mocked her when she was dauphine—and her desire to surround herself instead with a few trusted friends and eliminate some of the court etiquette that she considered antiquated, angers those whose aristocratic families had for centuries earned the perquisites and privileges of being in the queen’s entourage, will eventually come back to bite her. As time goes on, Marie Antoinette goes from being adored to reviled, but there are also deeper, age-old prejudices at work. France and Austria had been enemies for 950 years before Louis and Marie Antoinette were wed. Their marriage could not erase this institutional enmity and mistrust. Propaganda becomes king instead. And when the couple remains childless for seven years after their wedding, the whispers and rumors abound and Marie Antoinette is accused of having lovers of both genders. No one is as disconsolate about her celibacy as the child-loving queen. And of course the fragile international alliance remains at stake as well. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow charts the fifteen years of Marie Antoinette’s reign from May, 1774 to the fall of the Bastille in July 1789, as she does indeed experience highs and lows (the splendors and sorrows), childbirth (finally!), a passionate clandestine love affair, and becomes the unwitting victim of the nation’s largest swindle.  Meanwhile, the drums of Revolution are beginning to rumble. Some of the seeds were planted when the French crown helped to fund the American colonists during the War of Independence, including sending some of the French navy, as well as noblemen to command mercenary regiments in North America.

    How did you research the lives of the characters for your book?

    I read nearly two dozen biographies of the principal characters as well as books on Versailles, Le Petit Trianon, Schönbrunn and the Hofburg, the palaces where Marie Antoinette mostly lived, read books and countless articles about the period (on such subjects as food, costumes, customs, hair, interior design and the early days of the French Revolution); and I also walked in my characters’ footsteps whenever possible. I have been to Vienna and visited both the Hofburg and Schönbrunn (which was on the outskirts of the city in the 18th century: it was the Hapsburgs’ summer palace); and I have been to Paris and Versailles, walking several miles in Marie Antoinette’s shoes, even performing the “Versailles Glide”—the walk unique to the noblewomen of the French court—on the parquet in the halls of the Château de Versailles. Picture books, photos, biographies, and the Internet are great research tools, but nothing beats being there and allowing the atmosphere to wash over you and your imagination to run wild.

    What was your biggest research challenge?

    Deciding when to stop researching and start writing!  I amassed so much material that determining what to include and what was really germane to the story I was telling (usually from Marie Antoinette’s first-person point of view) became a real challenge. I’m a history wonk and a research junkie and I would find great nuggets of information and think “I have to include this!” But there wasn’t always an organic place for everything I found. Another challenge was how to incorporate the information about the things that were going on outside Marie Antoinette’s scope of knowledge because I felt that it was imperative for my readers to have the full picture, especially if they knew little to nothing about the history of France during the second half of the 18th century. My editors wanted me to focus on fashion in some respects (and her fashion choices did indeed contribute to her downfall). But that was propaganda and I wanted to incorporate the real reasons France was bankrupt. It was a challenge to delicately weave my research on the politics of the day, both foreign and domestic, into the books as well.

    After you finish this wonderful book series, what is your next book project?

    Ah! Your guess is as good as mine!  My editor, agent, and I are batting around some ideas, but nothing is finalized. It’s possible that I may embark down an entirely new path in the historical fiction arena with an idea that’s been rumbling around in my brain for some time, now.

    Who or what inspired you to become an author?

    I had two mentors. My grandfather, Carroll Carroll, was a copywriter and humorist. He wrote for all the big stars (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, to name a couple) during radio’s Golden Age; and in the 1960s he was an advertising guy—yes, one of the Mad Men, working at one of the premier agencies in New York City, where I grew up. I laugh because my grandparents’ apartment number (17B) when I was a little girl is the same as Don Draper’s. My grandfather inspired me to become a writer. He was also a poet and he taught me all the classical forms (sonnets, ballades—I remember when I was a little girl and first read Rostand’s drama Cyrano de Bergerac and asked “Papa” to teach me to write a ballade. He would read all my writing when I was a schoolgirl (and would give me pointers). My other mentor is a dear friend and fantastic author in his own right, a real Renaissance Man: M.Z. Ribalow—writer-director-professor. It was his suggestion during the summer of 1998, after I lamented that I wanted to be paid to write, as I balanced a trio of survival jobs while trying to thrive as a professional actress, that I turn my hand to fiction. I dedicated Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow to him.

    Who is your favorite author and why?

    Different authors for different reasons. No one so deeply and universally understands the human condition the way Shakespeare does. Jane Austen’s wit and tone are unparalleled—she can write the best “love story” in the world without a single ounce of treacle. F. Scott Fitzgerald always breaks my heart. And for economy of language that never sacrifices elegance and emotion, I can’t think of anyone who does it better than Hemingway. I was reminded today of the world’s shortest short story, Hemingway’s six-word: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

    What book(s) have most influenced your life?

    I often find that if I write things down (quelle surprise!); it helps me clarify my thoughts and goals, wishes and dreams. At one point when I was at a crossroads in my artistic career I bought a copy of The Artist’s Way and used it as a workbook and found that helpful for a while. And a friend once recommended that I read T.D. Jakes The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord, when I was in a self-defeating place in a romantic relationship that was getting in the way of the rest of my life. I’m not a Christian, so I had difficulty relating to the “her Lord” part, but the first two elements gave me some insight into restoring my self-esteem and I realized that to be in a solid place creatively, you have to at least like yourself, if not appreciate or even love yourself. All that said, I’m not really into self-help books. It’s only in the course of answering this question that my memory was jogged and I recalled the places I’ve been emotionally that led me to where I am now. I think, too, about the books I read over and over, year after year, like putting on a favorite old sweater: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises—three “perfect novels” that I fell in love with in high school. Shakespeare’s plays continue to influence my life, both as an author and as an actress. No other author understood the human condition as he did. And I’ll always have a soft spot for Brian Hooker’s translation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

    What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

    If you want to be taken seriously as an author by publishers (and readers), then take yourself seriously by getting a good literary agent to represent you from the start.  Writing is a business as much as it is an art and a craft. The publishing world is competitive enough, even in this new world of e-pubbed and self-pubbed manuscripts where, sure, anyone can publish a book, but unless you also happen to be a marketing genius, it can fall through the cracks and never be seen again. Agents are still viewed as the “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” by publishing houses (assuming that an aspiring author still wants to go the traditional route with an established, top publisher who can publish your book in all formats, market and promote it.)  Agents know which editors are looking for the type of book you have written and can get it on the right desk, saving an aspiring author a lot of angst.  They will also work with an author to hone her work and will never risk their own reputations as literary agents to submit a sub-par manuscript to a publisher. Without an astute agent in her corner, an aspiring writer might not realize that her manuscript is not yet ready for publication and may get discouraged by rejection—heck, even stellar books are rejected all the time, but at least you would know you had an A+ book on your hands and that someone down the line will accept it.

    An aspiring author has to ask herself: do I want to be a writer or a one-woman publishing industry? And most of us barely have the time to write our books while we juggle the rest of life, let alone handle all the other things that go into birthing a book.  And frankly, what you get from agent representation and being published by a major publisher as I always have is all the support staff that goes into editorial and production. No one’s book is perfect when she submits it to an editor. That’s why editors exist. To see the things, we don’t and to make our work stronger. It’s why I still passionately endorse the traditional publishing route.

    Extended Questions I have for Juliet asked by a few of her readers:

    Was France too far gone? Did they hate her because she was Austrian?

    France was indeed too far gone and had been for several decades, starting with the reign of Louis XIV, long before Marie Antoinette was born.  We can go back even farther, because historically the first two of the three Estates—the Clergy and the Nobility—the Third Estate comprising everyone else [bourgeoisie, peasants, laborers, etc]) didn’t pay taxes, and it was the Clergy and Nobility that had all the land and the money!  The gentry and working classes were the only social strata being taxed and often an act of Nature, such as a bad harvest, or two in a row, could bankrupt them!  Plus, you had nobility who never deigned to pay their tradesmen’s bills, for example—so what were the tradespeople supposed to use to pay their share of taxes? And every time the king (it happened during the reigns of Louis XV and XVI) had a progressive Finance Minister who suggested even moderately taxing the Clergy and Nobility, there was a hue and cry and the Parliaments (the judicial bodies comprised of nobles and clergymen) who ratified the laws would refuse to sanction the king’s proposal to tax them!  So the kings tried, but got nowhere.  Sort of like an American president today trying to tax big business or millionaires but having the special interests in Congress vote down the proposal; and then the populace blames the president and not the lawmakers for the fact that the people who can least afford it seem to be paying the most, and those who can most afford it have dodged taxation yet again.  As I was writing Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, the political parallels were really hitting home.

    Prior to Marie Antoinette’s arrival, the French treasury had also been emptied by Louis XV in order to fight the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). Marie Antoinette was only a year old when this war, fought both on the European continent and in North America, began.  Plus, there were a number of bad harvests during the late reign of Louis XV. Mother Nature did not cooperate, either.

    And yes, they did hate her because she was Austrian. France and Austria had hated each other for 950 years before Marie Antoinette wed Louis Auguste—which is even longer than France and England had been enemies. So there was an institutionalized hatred and mistrust of Austrians in France. In fact, a nasty nickname for Marie Antoinette, invented (although she didn’t know it at the time) by Louis Auguste’s own aunt Adélaïde, was l’Autrichienne, a pun on her nationality as well as the French word for a female dog or bitch, a chienne.

    What do you think would have become of Marie had she made good on her escape?

    Excellent question!  I assume you mean the flight to the frontier than ended at Varennes when the royal family was stopped and brought back to Paris so ignominiously. The family had never intended to leave France. Louis had even refused to cross into another country to get to Montmédy, the frontier town that was their final, intended destination, because he never wanted it said that he fled his kingdom, even temporarily, to access another part of it safely from a different country. He was an astute student of history and recalled what happened when James II quit England for France at the start of the Glorious Revolution in 1688; James’s subjects viewed it as abandoning his throne and forfeiting his kingdom.  And throughout their various ordeals—after the Bastille was stormed and the royal family considered fleeing Versailles, after Versailles itself was stormed in October, 1789, Marie Antoinette insisted on doing whatever Louis chose to do. They were a family and would stay together as one. She was forever reiterating that she was just his consort and not a decider. And time after time, Louis refused to countenance the bloodshed of his subjects; he would not give his guards or armies orders to fire against his own people. So, even if they had made it safely to Montmédy and had received sanctuary in the fortress there, even though they were operating under the assumption that the frontier was a royalist stronghold and they would be among friends and could amass a defense, it’s still doubtful that Louis would have ordered his soldiers to attack the revolutionary troops in Paris.

    And what was the King and advisors doing? Surely they were aware of the people’s opinion?

    Louis was extremely aware of the propaganda that was being printed about the queen, some of which (the earlier libelles) was being printed right in Versailles by disgruntled aristocrats who felt snubbed by the queen because she had eliminated them from her intimate circle and her entourage, perquisites they had always enjoyed and expected. Ever since the time of the Sun King, who invented the arcane system of court etiquette and brought the nobility of France under his roof and under his thumb so they couldn’t spend time in the countryside considering rebellion or raising armies against him, certain members of the aristocracy had come to expect various sinecures. They even expected the same pastimes and routines to continue as they had during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV because with their proximity to the sovereign came favor and political appointments and salaries. Marie Antoinette despised the rigid etiquette and hated having dozens of people following her around all day. So the first people she angered were the aristocrats, not the common people.  Ironically, the aristos would bring the guillotine down on their own necks when the revolutionaries expanded the issue into one of class warfare, rather than anger at the monarchy alone.

    Louis tried to stop the publication of the pamphlets, etc., and he did have one of his ministers declare the printing of them to be seditious, and some of the small presses were confiscated, but there was such a flood of material that he was powerless to halt it all. For one thing, his cousin, the prince of the blood, the fabulously wealthy and politically progressive duc d’Orléans, who descended from the branch of the family related to Louis XIV’s brother Philippe, secretly financed the printing of many of the libelles, and many of them were published right in his Parisian mansion, the Palais Royal. Thousands of other publications were impossible to stop because they had been printed in other countries, primarily England and Holland, and then smuggled into France.

    Even today the French are against the aristos, so what in your opinion was the true turning point?

    The French can’t have it both ways. You visit Versailles or the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her last days, and they are selling busts of her in the gift shops.  In the Conciergerie—where she last wore her head on her shoulders?  That takes gall in Gaul! There is a cult of Marie Antoinette that is very strong in France in the places where she lived or spent time and some of the French are coming around to call her la reine martyre—the martyred queen—and realize that what they did to her was on the wrong side of history.

    I think the true turning point was the scandal known as l’affaire du collier or the affair of the diamond necklace, that came to a head in 1786 with the trial of the perpetrators and of the real target of the world’s greatest jewelry swindle, the greedy Grand Almoner, Cardinal de Rohan, a distant relation of Marie Antoinette.  The scam was the brainchild of the impoverished comtesse Jeanne de Lamotte-Valois, her husband and her lover; and it was their intention to convince the cardinal to purchase from the court jewelers an ostentatious diamond necklace on the queen’s behalf.  The cardinal craved nothing more than Marie Antoinette’s good regard (she detested him and refused to say a single word to him throughout her reign because he had publicy insulted her mother). And yet he was persuaded by the comtesse, who claimed to be the queen’s intimate (in fact the two women had never met) that Her Majesty would forever be in his debt if he acted as the middle man, because she didn’t want Louis to know she was making another extravagant purchase.  I’m already including too many “spoilers” here because the whole unspooling of the necklace swindle and the trial are part of the narrative in Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. But it was Marie Antoinette’s insistence that the matter be tried in public by the Paris Parlement, rather than kept within the confines of Versailles, that, ironically, proved to be the beginning of her downfall. As I mentioned earlier, propaganda was king and the defendants’ lawyers were clever. The queen was not on trial, and yet her reputation was made the subject of debate as much as the facts of the case. In a way, she was tried in the court of public opinion and because of all the vicious pamphlets that had been disseminated about her for years, the people found it hard to believe that she knew nothing about the necklace transaction.  I don’t want to add too much more about it here, because it will spoil the readers’ enjoyment of the events as they unfold in the second book in the trilogy.

    Do you think Marie was a pawn for the French Revolution?

    Not a pawn, but I believe the revolutionaries used her as a scapegoat. She was blamed for every bad thing that had ever befallen France from bad harvests to men who beat their wives because they’d overspent on clothing purchases. But even before the drums of Revolution began to rumble, Marie Antoinette was the kingdom’s punching bag. Seditious propaganda about her abounded, beginning during her days as dauphine, when she wasn’t getting pregnant. It was assumed she must be deriving her sexual pleasure elsewhere than the marriage bed and so she was accused of sleeping with her brother-in-law the comte d’Artois, with her friends the princesse de Lamballe and the comtesse de Polignac, with a number of courtiers, and even with her modiste, Rose Bertin. But certainly after the execution of Louis XVI on January 21, 1793, when Marie Antoinette was no longer even a consort (and queens of France did not reign alongside their husbands; they were purely ornamental), she remained a scapegoat and a symbol of the monarchy as evil tyrants and oppressors for the radical elements that by then had seized control of the Revolution.