Book Launch Party! The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby

TODAY’S THE DAY…The Book Launch Party is now in full swing for The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby – stop by my blog and learn how to join in the fun. Lots of prizes and giveaways – including a $25. Amazon Gift card. Check it out http://wp.me/pNOkn-r7

www.betteleecrosby.com

Stephanie

Interview with Author Sherry Jones

1. Please tell us about your novel, “Four Sisters, All Queens.”

“Four Sisters, All Queens” is the story of the lives and careers of four remarkable women, all sisters from the illustrious House of Savoy, daughters of the Count of Provence, who became queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily. Told from alternating points of view of the four sisters, it provides the splendor and intrigues of four courts, each very different and yet, in terms of the frustrations and limitations on women’s power, all very much the same. And yet Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice worked together to broker peace between England and France for the first time in 200 years. They were among the biggest celebrities of their time – more famous than the Kardashians! Beauty, wealth, adoration – they had it all, until a family dispute threatened to tear them apart.

2. How did you research the lives of the historical characters of your story?

I read as many books as I could find, plus perused the pipe rolls from the reign of Henry III. I had been to England and France, and recently returned to France for further research. I listened to music from the era and read the literature of the age, including the songs of the troubadours, which play a big role in the book, and the Arthurian legends.

3. What was your biggest research challenge?

Finding specific information about the women, which is usually the case. It’s a man’s world, and most of the contemporary chroniclers as well as the historical research and writing has focused on the men.


4. What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing Four Sisters, All Queens?

How little we have changed as human beings! Xenophobia swept England in the 13th century, spurring anti-immigration measures aimed, in particular, at the French.  Today, we still see widespread fear of, and resentment toward, “foreigners” who come to our own countries to live. Also, anti-Semitism was growing. I was very surprised to learn of the mysterious death of Floria, the wife of Richard of Cornwall’s Jewish employee, Abraham. What happened to her is still unknown, but what happened to him – the false confession he was forced to sign, denigrating the Jewish race – is atrocious. Islamophobia – and the Crusades, in which thousands of Muslims were killed out of greed which was justified by religious bigotry, ran rampant, as it does today. And women struggled then as now for power, personal as well as political, amid patriarchal attempts at infantilization and objectification.


5. What is your next book project?

I’m under contract with Simon & Schuster for a novel about Heloise and Abelard, the famous 12th-century Parisian lovers. It’s going to be an erotically charged love story and a feminist tale at once, for Heloise dared to live on her own terms and lost everything that mattered to her – but what she found, instead, may have been even more precious.


6. Who or what inspired you to become and author?

My love for reading, which started very young. By the second grade I knew I would be a writer someday.


7. Who is your favorite author and why?

I have many more than one! Eudora Welty, Alice Hoffman, Jane Smiley, Anne Patchett, Ellen Gilchrist, Rose Tremain, Hilary Mantel, Edith Wharton, Debra Magpie Earling, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Salman Rushdie, Rick Bass, Cecelia Holland. I love beautiful writing and stories that make me want to keep turning the pages. I especially appreciate literature written about women, for women.

8. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

In this age where e-publishing allows anyone to publish anything at any time, the temptation is great to put out your work before it’s ready. Resist that temptation. Remember: The first draft is always shit (Hemingway said this). The second draft usually is, too. Even the third draft may not be good enough yet. My advice is to read as much good writing as you can – “Garbage in, garbage out” – and find a really good freelance editor to help you polish your work. It’s well worth the money. And when you feel discouraged, remember this: the late, great John Gardner wrote that if your book is good, someone will publish it. This I believe to be true.

Bio:

Sherry Jones is perhaps best known for her controversial debut novels, “The Jewel of Medina” and
“The Sword of Medina,” international best sellers about the life of  A’isha bint Abi Bakr, the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Her new novel, “Four Sisters, All Queens” (Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books) tells of four sisters in 13th century Provence who became queens of France, England, Germany, and Italy. This tale of love, lust, intrigue, and sibling rivalry on a royal scale follows Jones’s recently released e-novella, “White Heart,” about the formidable French “White Queen” Blanche de Castille.
When she’s not working on her next book – about the famous 12th century French lovers Heloise and Abelard — Sherry is traveling the world as a speaker on topics including free speech, Islam, the middle ages, and women’s rights. In particular, Sherry aims to empower girls and women with her tales of extraordinary women in history.

Learn more about her and her books at http://authorsherryjones.com.
Thank you Sherry for this wonderful interview!
Stephanie

How I Review Books..

When I review a book I look for a number of things. Character, plot, style and editing. Is the character interesting, do they fulfill their purpose and are they believable. Is the story creative and interesting. How does the story flow and does the story end properly. I look at the mechanics of writing as well. The dialogue, description and if the story is true to its time and place. I look at the overall professional layout and the cover design. I think this is what makes for a good reviewer, professional one or not.

Stephanie

Interview with Author Elisabeth Storrs

1.      Please tell us about your novel The Wedding Shroud.

The Wedding Shroud is set in 406 BC.  To seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs. Leaving behind a righteous society, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a mystical, hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as a chance to persuade the Gods to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies.

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

My aim was to explore how ancient societies treated women through the stories of a Roman maiden, Greek slave girl, Etruscan matron and Cretan courtesan. Caecilia comes from a time where women were second class citizens without the right to vote or hold property. Their primary purpose was to bear children to ensure the continuation of their husbands’ bloodline. Furthermore, women’s identities were defined by their relationship to men as either daughters or wives and they weren’t given the opportunity for education or social and sexual freedom.

The more I read about the lives of ancient women, the more I realised that gender inequality is still prevalent today and varies only by degree. Many rights that women of the western world take for granted such as education, suffrage, the ability to practise a profession and property ownership have only been acquired in relatively recent times. Certainly the concept of women being either ‘damn whores or god’s police’ is still held by many cultures. Caecilia comes from a society where ‘virtues’ are strictly defined and duty to family and State come before love. She is introduced to a ‘free’ society which challenges everything she has been taught to believe. This resonates with the divide between fundamentalism and liberalism that the modern world is facing. I hope my book makes people consider the concept of tolerance and prejudice in that context.

3.  How did you research the lives of the historical characters of your story?

The story of the war between Rome and Veii is chronicled by ancient historians such as Livy and Plutarch. My challenge was to take the bare bones of their telling of the conflict and give flesh to the story. And so I sat up reading history books into the night about the Etruscan and early Roman cultures. Most of these I borrowed from libraries but I couldn’t resist buying those ones which I found the most useful. I also had access to the JSTOR database which gave me access to dozens of articles in academic journals. Google Scholar was a great resource, too. Of course, the internet provided a plethora of information which I always tried to corroborate from a couple of sources.

4.  What are your goals as a writer?

I hope to continue to enjoy writing and never forget that this is far more important than marketing. I also want to improve my skills and always savour the pleasure of researching ancient cultures.

5.  What books have most influenced your life?

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault and The Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil.

These books gave me an abiding sense of how history can teach us that emotions and human relationships never change even if ancient societies have different mores and beliefs. I don’t know if these authors influenced my life as such but they certainly inspired me to write historical fiction.

6.  What is your next book project?

I have recently finished the sequel to The Wedding Shroudand am in the process of editing it. Ultimately it will be a trilogy. The Wedding Shroud ends with war being declared between Rome and Veii. The sequel continues with Caecilia’s journey as the two enemy cities endure a ten year siege. I have also introduced two new female characters: a Roman grave whore who seeks to become the concubine of a general, as well as a young Etruscan artisan who comes to live in the House of Mastarna. All three women’s ability to cope in war is explored together with the lives of their men.

7.  What is your favorite Quote?

‘Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.’-Thomas Alva Edison

8.  What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Follow the three ‘P’s: perseverance, practice and passion. It took me four years to write the first version of The Wedding Shroud; another three years to completely rewrite it with a different style, voice and altered plot at the suggestion of an agent, and another three years of editing to reach a publishable standard. So never give up and always be prepared to ‘murder your darlings.’

Bio: Elisabeth Storrs has long had a passion for the history, myths and legends of the ancient world. She graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts Law, majoring in English and having studied Classics. She lives with her husband and two sons in Sydney, Australia and over the years has worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer, senior manager and corporate governance consultant.

Stephanie’s review for The Wedding Shroud:

This fascinating story that takes in early Rome before they were the most powerful. It’s beautifully written, rich in detail with what life must have been like during those times. I don’t believe I’ve read about early Rome so this was the perfect book to start with. The plot is engrossing and the character building is inspiring. The author depicts Caecilia in a light to admire. She is a heroine I would like to read more about. One can tell Elisabeth did extensive research for this book. I hope there will be a sequel to this fabulous story.

Thank you Elisabeth for this lovely interview!

Stephanie

Betrayal by Michele Kallio

Interview with Michele Kallio-June 4th
When you read a story this good, you always wonder if the next book will compare.

Lydia a modern day women who lives in Canada with her boyfriend begins to experience dreams after her father’s death. Dreams of another time, place, and about a women whom she soon discovers her name, Elisabeth Beeton, a servant of Anne Boleyn during the time of King Henry VIII in sixteenth century England.

Lydia desperately wants to know why she is having these dreams and what they mean. Meanwhile her mother’s (who passed away) family who lives in England has been searching for her and makes contact. After receiving her mother’s journal from her aunt and uncle in England, Lydia comes to realize this might be the key to solve why she is having these dreams. While her relationship with her boyfriend hangs in the balance she goes to England to solve this mystery and to unite with her mother’s family.

The premise for this story is fascinating and the transition between present-day and the sixteenth century is masterfully done. The character building is excellent and the story leading up to Anne Boleyn execution is so believable, one might actually think these events could have happen this way. I highly recommend this novel to all who loves historical fiction with a contemporary flare.

Interview with Author Mari Passananti

1. Please tell us about The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken.
I wanted to write a self-discovery novel about a smart woman in her early thirties – that age when so many of us seem to make peace with who we are and what we want, both personally and professionally. Zoë is on the cusp of that moment at the start of the book.
The early thirties tend to be watershed years for so many professional women. What a cruel biological joke that the clock ticks most insistently at the very time you’re hitting your stride in the workplace. Some lucky people can have it all. Others, like Zoë and her friend Angela, make choices they never would have dreamed of making ten, or even five, years earlier.
I made Zoë a headhunter, because I worked in legal search for several years and amassed so much great material. A former colleague used to joke that someone should write a book about headhunters. I decided that he had a point. The profession attracts its share of extreme personalities and many of the supporting characters and work place drama were built on composites from my experiences.
2. What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing your book?
That even though I set out to entertain, to write a beach book, if you will, I couldn’t resist the urge to add a dark twist.
3. What is your next book project?
A suspense novel called THE K STREET AFFAIR.
In the wake of a massive attack on Washington, DC, the FBI recruits a young lawyer, Lena Mancuso, to investigate her firm’s links to an international terror finance ring whose key players include a celebrated K Street lobbyist, a notorious Russian robber baron and a high-ranking Saudi diplomat.
Lena agrees to pass along documents to the agents, but soon realizes that helping the FBI could cost her everything. Lena finds herself hunted by enemies known and unknown.

The book is completely different from THE HAZARDS, and I’m both nervous and excited about that

fact.
THE K STREET AFFAIR puts a young, smart everywoman in an impossible situation and forces her to use a combination of wits and grit to save herself.
Lena faces an international cast of villains driven by enormous political and economic ambitions. I’m fascinated by the idea that an worldwide class of outrageously privileged individuals is quietly consolidating power. It’s already happening in certain sectors of the business world. The political arena seems like the logical next step. Is it ultimately futile to fight such giants? Or is the struggle for justice a moral imperative, regardless of the cost?
4. Who or what inspired you to become an author?
I’ve suffered from an over-active imagination for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wanted to write a book.  For years, authoring seemed like a pie-in-the-sky, bucket list aspiration.  Then I found myself facing a big birthday. I had one of those what-do-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up-because-this-isn’t-it moments.
I realized I was grown up so I’d better get on with figuring it out.
Countless contemporary women writers inspire me, and so many of them had other careers before they started writing novels.  
Years ago, I tore through Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin while on vacation.  I remember thinking it was the most fantastic beach book. She had this way of making the reader cheer for her characters even when they were doing questionable things. I flipped over the cover and saw that Ms. Giffin was a lawyer, too, and she’d made the leap to author without trying to contort herself into a new John Grisham (a futile exercise so many people seem to expect lawyers turned writers to perform).  That was my a-ha moment. I realized I can write about contemporary women and I don’t have to drop them into a courtroom setting. Although I reserve the right to do so sometime in the future. 
5. Who is your favorite author and why?
Hardest question ever.
 Harder even than “Who is your favorite child?” 
 (Because I only have one kid.)
 I’m going to cheat and take the dead folks out of the running.
My favorite living author is Margaret Atwood. She’s a masterful satirist and entertainer and whatever she writes, I buy and devour. If I’m limited to one answer, I need to go with her. I’d love to see her win a Nobel.
 For lighter fare, I wish Helen Fielding would write another book.
For newer writers, I’m eager to see what J. Courtney Sullivan and Erin Morgenstern come up with next.  Ms. Sullivan is an astoundingly astute observer of female relationships. Ms. Morgenstern has this amazing ability to create dreamscapes. Reading The Night Circus was like luxuriating in a wonderful, vivid dream and not wanting to wake up.
6. What is your favorite Quote?
 Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
7. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
 First, it helps to have thick skin before you get started. I think my years in legal search really helped with this “skill.”  Basically headhunters get rejected for a living.  Alright, maybe that’s not entirely true. Headhunters make their money on acceptances, but the accept to reject ratio in that business is kind of stomach turning.
Sorry. I’m digressing. My point is that even if many, many people love your work, someone will always hate it, dismiss it, claim their “gifted and talented” kindergartener could do better, etc. 
Second, when you think your manuscript is done, put it away for a few weeks. Then take it out and revise it. Then show your work to experienced editors. Make peace with the fact that you will probably spend more time revising than creating.
Third, if you want to be a writer, own that ambition. Being an aspiring author is fun. You have a blank canvas and anything is possible. How awesome is that?
Bio:

Mari Passananti has practiced law and worked in a major legal search firm. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island and Georgetown University Law Center, she divides her time between writing and trying to keep up with her toddler.

Mari lives with her partner, their aforementioned toddler, one largish rescue dog and two cats in Boston’s South End. Her interests include the outdoors, anything to do with horses, travel, cooking and reading.

Stephanie’s review for The Hazards Hunting While Heartbbroken:

Zoe is dumped by her fiance’ close to their wedding date. She is heartbroken but as time goes by her friends and co-workers encourage her to get back into the dating scene. While struggling with her job and dealing with her crazy, high-strung boss. She meets Oscar Thornton. A successful, handsome business man. He almost seems to perfect to be true.
This contemporary sophisticated story is well written and I enjoyed the interactions between the characters. Many women can certainly relate to Zoe and her man troubles. I recommend this book to women who enjoy chick Lit. You will not be disappointed.
I gave this story four stars!
Thank you so much Mari for this wonderful interview! It was a pleasure!
Stephanie