Interview with Author Helen Hart

I would like to introduce Author Helen Hart, winner of the BRAG Medallion for her book, “The Black Banner.”

Helen, I’m delighted to be interviewing you. Thank you! I would like to begin by asking you questions about your reading interests. What are you currently reading?


Thank you for having me on Layered Pages, Stephanie. It’s a genuine pleasure to be here. Reading is a real passion for me and I can so easily lose myself in a book. I have a fairly ‘magpie’ approach to the books I choose – if I like the look of it, I’ll read it! I return regularly to historical fiction (Bernard Cornwell does this so well) and historical romance (I’m a big fan of Sergeanne Golon’s ‘Angelique’ series which was so popular in the 60s and 70s). Interestingly, until recently I would have said I don’t read a lot of fantasy novels but I’ve been completely swept away by the world created by George RR Martin and his ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series (which TV viewers will know from HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’).



What do you plan on reading next?


I’m working my way through George RR Martin, but am also trying to read other books too. I plan to read ‘The Athenian Murders’ by Jose Carlos Somoza, and also to finish another book I began on holiday called ‘The Untied Kingdom’ by Kate Johnson. It’s an alternative history novel which explores what might have happened if the UK’s history had followed a different path over the last few centuries (and there’s a bit of romance for the lead character Eve Carpenter too!).



What’s your favorite literary genre?


 I tend to enjoy historical novels, but also thrillers, some crime, and some romance. I enjoy Young Adult books too, as they seem so much more exciting than a lot of novels intended for adults… and of course as a YA author myself, it’s important to keep up with trends.


When and where do you like to read?


I read anywhere I can – on the bus, on the train, in bed, in the bath. I’ve even been known to read while cleaning my teeth when I was very captivated by a book!



Do you have any bad book habits? Do you tend not to finish books? Skim? Scribble in margins? Fall asleep while reading?



I always finish a book. I feel that if the author had the stamina to complete their book then I should at least have the courtesy to try and finish it. I’ve only ever broken that rule once, and that was with a really bad book. I’d rather not say what it was. My only bad habit is falling asleep while reading. I always try not to, but after a long working day (I also work as a publisher and writing mentor when I’m not writing) it’s so hard to stay awake, however good a book is!



In which format do you prefer to read in? Paperback or e-book?


I actually like both, although if you’d asked me this question a year ago I might have given a different answer. I was quite resistant to reading on a e-reader, but as I work in the publishing industry I thought it was important to try them out and be aware of how technology impacts us as readers. I now read books on Kindle and iPad (and sometimes on my phone), but also read print books just as much. I think e-books are great for trying out new writers but I’ll often buy a print copy if it’s something I really enjoyed, because I want that sense of permanence. I also want to be able to share books, show them to friends, and lend them. It’s harder to do that with e-books.


Please tell us a little about your book, “The Black Banner.”


‘The Black Banner’ is historical fiction for young teens. It’s set in the early 18th century and features penniless Becky Baxter who disguises herself as a boy and escapes to sea. Her adventures begin when the ship she’s on is captured by pirates, and Becky (along with some of her new friends) has to join the pirates if she wants to live. It’s a swashbuckling tale that was exciting to write, and now it’s getting a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon which is wonderful. Becky learns a lot by living with the pirates – that some people can be trusted, but others can’t; that to survive in a rough world you have to be resourceful and live by your wits; that family, support, respect, and love can come from the most unexpected people.



How long did it take you to write your story?


I actually wrote ‘The Black Banner’ in 7 weeks. It was a tough deadline, and self-imposed by accident. I hadn’t written all of the book but sent the opening pages and synopsis to literary agents thinking it would take months or even years to get anyone interested. The first agent rang 4 days later and said she wanted to see the rest. I was terrified of losing her interest so didn’t like to admit there wasn’t much more… and instead just wrote day and night to get it done. Later, when I told her, she laughed and said she wouldn’t have minded waiting because the book was so good. The lesson I learned there was twofold: first, always be honest with your agent (she’s mother, best friend, advocate and cheerleader all rolled into one), and second, don’t send off your work until you have most if not all of it completed, polished, and ready for publication!



I lived in the Caribbean as a child and wanted to set a book there, but in the Caribbean of the past (because I’ve always loved historical fiction). Pirates and highwaymen have always fascinated me – they’re the ‘bad guys’ in reality, but in fiction they’re a good way to explore adventure, morality, and living outside of society with its rules.


Were there any scenes that were a challenge to write?


Quite a few scenes in ‘The Black Banner’ were challenging. In the past, people lived differently to the way we live now – life was rougher and customs more barbaric. There was no health & safety, or human rights. In order to be true to historical reality, some scenes needed to be violent or shocking… for instance, before the ship is taken by pirates, the captain has one of the ship’s boys whipped to death, and later in the book Becky kills for the first time. Those scenes were hard to write, but are an important part of the historical accuracy of the story.


What is your next book project?


I’m currently taking a break from writing to develop my publishing business, SilverWood Books ( where I use all my own experience to help other writers improve their manuscripts and then either submit to literary agents, or to self-publish (but self-publish to a high standard so that the resulting book is well-edited and beautifully produced). It’s great fun, and I’m really enjoying playing ‘midwife’ by supporting other writers and helping them develop their skills and knowledge.


 What advice would you give to an aspiring author?


Write what you know, and write what you love. Readers can always tell if you’re faking it, so write the kind of thing that gets your fingers tingling as the words flow onto the page. That way, your enthusiasm will shine through and you’ll captivate your readers.



What is your favorite quote?


What a great final question! I haven’t been asked that before, but I do have an answer:

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” (William Faulkner)



Helen Hart has been a published author since 1999. She has written a number of novels under pseudonyms for Scholastic, Virgin Books and HarperCollins, and one of her books, ‘Sisters of the Sword: The Warrior’s Path’ (with Helen writing as Maya Snow) was shortlisted for a major UK book prize. Helen also runs a publishing consultancy, SilverWood Books, regularly reviews indie and self-published books for the Historical Novel Society, is an Associate Editor for the interactive reader/author site, and for the past two years has been publishing tutor at the prestigious Marlborough College Summer School.




General links…

Helen’s author website:

Helen’s publishing website:

Social networking…

Facebook Black Banner Book:

Twitter @SilverWoodBooks:!/SilverWoodBooks


‘The Black Banner’ links…

Amazon (UK) paperback (buy):

Amazon (UK) Kindle (buy):

Amazon (US) paperback (buy):

Amazon (US) Kindle (buy):


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Helen Hart who is the author of, The Black Banner, 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 Black Banner merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

BRAG Medallion is owned and operated by indieBRAG LLC, a privaltaly held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, throughout the United States, Canada, and the European Union. IndieBRAG’s mission is to recongnize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both in print and digital books.

For contact information please visit indieBRAG at You can also find indieBRAG on Facebook,!/Indiebrag , Twitter @IndieBRAG, & Goodreads

We also have a new and up-coming project that is under way. More information coming soon. Your single source for quality self-publishing books.

Thank you!



Wednesday Reviews

Wicked Sense  by  Fabio Bueno
On the Goodreads scale: 4 out of 5 stars.
I really enjoyed this book, which was surprising to me. I am usually not a fan of anything that falls within the paranormal genre. This book was definitely a paranormal book that I can enjoy. It is a cute story about two kids, Skye and Drake. Skye is a witch, sent to Seattle to track down the “Singularity”, a super witch. Drake falls for her, and together they try to save Skye’s coven from untold harm. I really appreciated the fact that the book wasn’t 100% supernatural stuff, and what was there was written very well. It was easy for someone like me to really enjoy this book. I liked the story, which I thought was very cute, but not the typical annoying sweetness of most YA books. It took me no time at all to get into this book, and it was a quick read. What helped me to be able to enjoy this book was its setting. It is set in Seattle, not some mystical world. The characters act like everyday people with the exception of a few having magical powers. It wasn’t so far out there that I couldn’t get into it. I also enjoyed that it was written from both Drake and Skye’s perspectives. This is a great YA book – easy to read, and easy to enjoy.
By Laurin Hawkins
Layered Pages Review Team Member

Folville’s Law by David Pilling

Folville’s Law is a book set in 13thCentury England and describes the advancement of Eustace Folville, an outlaw who grabs power due to the dismal law and order situation in the country. He and his rivalry with John Swale, a knight working for the Despensers are the focus of the series. With a background story of the return of Queen Isabella with Roger Mortimer to England and King Edward’s downfall, this is a fast paced story that manages to hold the reader’s interest constantly.

The book constantly presents the story from different viewpoints with each chapter. But this does not confuse the reader and adds to the charm of the book. The characters are well etched out and have a strong background and give an impression of going somewhere. The author has a way of writing that manages to keep the reader reading.

There are however some weak points in this book. Even though the characters are well developed, I did not empathise with any of them or even develop any strong feelings for them. This might result in some readers not able to sustain interest beyond a certain point in the story.

The book seems well researched and gives a good feel of the times it is based in. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the period, or this genre.

My rating 3.5 / 5

Layered Pages Review Team Member


Interview with Melanie Rose Huff

I would like to introduce Melanie Rose Huff, the winner of the BRAG Medallion for her book, Ashford.

Thank you Melanie for the pleasure of this interview. I would like to ask you questions about your interests in reading. What was the last truly great book you have read? I would have to say The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. Beautifully written and meaningful.

What were your favorite books as a child? Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Jolly Postman, The Phantom Tollbooth… I also loved fairy tales and pretty much anything with Arthur Rackham illustrations.

What is on your night stand? Lamp, Kleenex box, clock, lip balm, several books, tonic water, a sweatshirt, and, of course, a notebook and pen. It’s kind of a mess.

What do you plan to read next? I just ordered my copy of Victoria Dunn’s Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies. Zombie books are generally pretty low on my reading list, but I’ve been following Victoria’s blog, Handmade by Mother, for over a year now, and I’m a huge fan of her writing style and snarky sense of humor.

What’s your favorite literary genre and why? I like a little bit of everything, but historical fiction probably wins. Most of all I like writing that reads like music, in any genre. It can be Mozart or The Beatles (I prefer it if it’s not Justin Bieber) but it should have a rhythm, a melody.

Melanie, please tell us about your book, “Ashford.” Well, it was kind of a happy accident. I was between writing projects, and I wrote the opening scene…then I liked the characters so much that I had to see where the story went.

 Did you do any research for your story? If so, were there any challenges? I did a lot of research. I had a stack of books on WWII, and timelines all over the place, but I really wanted it to be a story about ordinary people, the people at home trying to carry on with their normal lives through the chaos, and my best help with that came from the BBC. They’ve compiled an amazing online collection of firsthand accounts of the war years. You can type in pretty much anything you want to know and there will be a long list of stories, written by the people who experienced it. It’s amazing. There’s so much color and personality to them, and reading them is such a perfect way to find those little details…smells and sounds and emotions. For a writer, or really any sort of storyteller, it’s like opening a treasure box. I used them again for my new novella, Violet Shadows, which just came out.

Was there any scenes you found difficult to write? Many. I always procrastinate over writing intense scenes, like the scene with the young man in the wheelchair, or the Christmas scene in the hospital. It’s not even that I find them difficult to write, per se, but that they take me over. They’re very fulfilling scenes to write, but they’re also very scary and exhausting. You’re channelling the actions and emotions of everyone in the scene: anger and fear and love and hate and God knows what else. When you’re done you’re bound be exhausted. That’s how you feel sometimes: triumphant and bone-weary.

Is there a character in your story you feel most connected to? Definitely Anna. I think it would be very difficult to take three years writing a novel in first person and not feel connected to your protagonist. I also feel very connected to Violet, which is part of what led me to continue her story in Violet Shadows. Neither of them is me, but there are parts of me in both of them. I think as writers we all pull from our own experiences, and then inject those experiences into the context of another life. I never lived through war, but I survived cancer ten years ago. It’s all there: fear, threat to life, the finding of strength and serenity inside yourself. It doesn’t matter where you got the emotions. They’re yours, and you can use them to express the feelings of others whose lives are outside your experience.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Don’t be afraid of rejection or criticism. Use it, but also trust yourself, because only you can write your book.

How did you discover indieBRAG? A fellow author in an Indie Author group I’m part of mentioned that his book had been chosen for the B.R.A.G. Medallion. It sounded interesting, so I looked it up.

What is your favorite quote? “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” -Martha Graham


Melanie Rose has been writing since childhood. She currently resides in Chewelah, Washington, with her husband, singer/songwriter Aaron Gabriel, their dog Leo, and a hedgehog named Ferdinand. She loves to dance and travel. Her debut novel, Ashford, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion in 2012. Her most recent book, a novella titled Violet Shadows, was released in July of 2012.


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Melanie Rose Huff who is the author of Ashford, 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 Ashford merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!

Layered Pages

Interview with Author Karen Aminadra

I have the pleasure of introducing Author Karen Aminadra. The winner of the BRAG Medallion at
 Karen, what book had the greatest impact on you that you have read? What book made you want to write?
 I don’t think that any one single book made me want to write. I’ve always been a storyteller and loved to write as a child. As a child, I loved a couple of books in particular; When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr and The Amazing Mr Blunden by Antonia Barber. Both of them are historical and they blew me away, I’ve read them over and over again, and still love them today.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?

Well, Charlotte is my first book that was published, so it’s my baby, but Relative Deceit was the first book I actually started writing about 10 years ago. So, my answer is that both Charlotte and Relative Deceit are my favourite.



 What book is on your night stand?
 Now I am reading El Rey by Ginger Myrick. I don’t have a lot of time to read, at the moment unfortunately. I have too much on my plate! I need to change that.
What do you plan on reading next?

That’s a good question! I haven’t got a clue. After answering some of the above questions, I’d like to read some of those books again actually.

Of course I would want to meet the obvious ones; Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens etc. I’d love to meet Thomas Hardy, I absolutely love his book The Mayor of Casterbridge and would like to talk to him about that. If you haven’t read it, it starts amazingly; a man gets drunk and auctions his wife off! Another writer I love and would like to have a chat with is Roald Dahl, he had the most amazing imagination, and I wish I could write like him!

Roald Dahl

 Please tell your audience a little about Charlotte?

 Charlotte Lucas was the best friend of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She was a plain but smart girl, and she knew her marriage prospects weren’t good. When Elizabeth’s silly cousin, Mr Collins, came along, he asked Elizabeth to marry him. That was a repulsive thought to Elizabeth; she declined, he left the house and stayed with the Lucases. Well, Mr Collins, being daft, thought himself in love with Charlotte and proposed to her. Charlotte, knowing herself to be almost a spinster, and worried that she wouldn’t get another offer, accepted him. My book Charlotte continues as Pride and Prejudice ends. Life would not have been as rosy as she tried to convince Elizabeth that it was. She was isolated from friends and family, and had to live with Mr Collins, after all! Then to make matters worse her neighbour, Lady Catherine de Bourgh sticks her nose in where it’s not wanted.

 Of the scenes you have written for your story. Which is your favorite?

 I loved the scene of the card party. It seemed to write itself. Mr and Mrs Abbot took control of that from me completely. But, I loved thinking of Mr Collins reading a romance novel – that made me laugh.

Who is your favorite character in your story? Your least favorite?

 Of course, Charlotte is my favourite. However, I do love Louisa too. As for my least favourite, that’s easy – the Grande Dame of Rosings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
 What is your favorite event and time in History?
I love the Victorian Era. Despite all the war and the poverty, there was a lot happening at that time. If I had a time machine, that’d be one era I’d visit. (As a rich woman, of course.) I’d also like to find out the truth about the Vikings. There’s so much evidence that they weren’t marauders, I’d like to see that for myself.
I have also traced my family tree, so I’d like to go back in time and sneak a peek at my ancestors. One of them was Sir John Vassall, Alderman of London and the owner of the Mayflower. I’d like to find out about him too, and the true story behind that history.

 What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Just do it. Go for it. Keep focused, and don’t get distracted. Surround yourself with people you can trust, editors, proof readers, cover artists etc. That’s important, as there are a lot of charlatans out there. If in doubt, there are a lot of author groups that will offer advice. It’s hard work, but worth it in the end.
What is your favorite quote?
I’ve always loved Shakespeare’s line from A Comedy of Errors; “Many a man hath more hair than wit.” That’s so true


 Author Bio & Links
Karen Aminadra (pronounced Amin-ah-dra) is an author and teacher who lives in Northamptonshire, England with her husband. She was born in London and grew up in Hertfordshire ‘the land of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice’. She has travelled, lived and worked all over the world including Ecuador, Russia and Spain. She still has the ‘wanderlust’ and loves to travel.
At the age of 11, Karen won a writing competition at school with a horror story which had a twist in the tale and ended comically. This produced much needed encouragement from her teachers, spurred her on, and she has been writing stories ever since.
She not only writes Jane Austen Continuation Novels, but other types of Fiction Novels with a good helping of historical romance, crime and mystery. She loves to read, loves history, Georgian architecture and learning about other cultures.
To find out more please visit
Follow me on twitter @kaminadra and Facebook
And learn more about me and my work on my blog.


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Karen Aminadra who is the author of Charlotte, 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 Charloote merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!
Layered Pages

Wednesday Reviews


I haven’t read many books that take place during the Italian Renaissance and I was delighted to receive this book from Donna Russo Morin for review. I believe this period of time the arts were at its strongest and most sought after. Great artist come from this period. Donna does a brilliant job showing this. This story takes place in Florence. Battista an “art collector,” is really an agent for King François of France. Battista is collecting sought after pieces of art for François that leads him to Aurelia.

Aurelia is a lady of privilege who longs for freedom and adventure. She gets her chance when she helps Battista escape the palace she lives in after he tries to steal a piece of art. Together they embark on a journey for the relic he must find for the King of France. Throughout the story they travel to other cities in search for clues while visiting an artist, Michelangelo, a friend of Battista along the way.

This story is enchanting. There is a particular scene that reached out to me. It was a scene where Battista and Michelangelo were toasting and they raise their goblets and Michelangelo says, “True painting never will make anyone shed a tear. Good Painting is religious and devout in itself. Among the wise nothing more elevates the soul or raises it to adoration than the difficulty of attaining the perfection-with sculpture-which approaches God and unites itself to Him.”  So eloquently put.

Donna has such a way of words and writing about her characters. You feel like your right there beside them. You experience the same adoration as they do for art.  I admire their passion and their sense of adventure. Her descriptions of the arts and the palaces are breath-taking. So much that you can imagine them as described

I especially enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. For example, “In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words,” Here beginneth a new life.” –La Vita Nuava.

 I stumbled on a few words I was unfamiliar with and had to stop to look up a few pronunciations and definitions. I almost rated the story three and a half stars. However, since the story-line and plot was solid, and I love the characters, I rated it four stars!
Layered Pages

Jo Ann Butler’s debut historical fiction novel, Rebel Puritan, is inspired by her 8th great-grandmother, Herodias Long. Butler blends historical fact and fiction in Rebel Puritan so seamlessly the reader never feels the novel is semi-biographical.

Herod Long is 12 years old when tragedy strikes her family. Her family, farmers in Burlescome, England, are near destitution when her father and oldest brother perish from the bubonic plague. Herod, her mother and brother, Will, are left with a holding they cannot work by themselves.

This dilemma is resolved by Herod’s mother, who invites her oldest daughter and her family to work the farm. Unfortunately for Herod, her mother’s plans do not include her. Herod and her mother have an acrimonious relationship. Herod is a bit of a dreamer and her mother has no fondness for dreamers.

Herod, another mouth to feed and an unreliable worker, is sent to London to serve her mother’s sister. Herod knows what happens to girls who are bonded out or sent away – few return home.

Herod arrives in London to discover Alice Clark, her mother’s sister, is a cold woman. Herod is considered little more than a slave 6 days a week, working from dawn til sunset for a woman who complains incessantly and threatens to turn her out penniless for the next infraction. Servitude to this miserly and cruel aunt is Herod’s future for the next five years.

Puritanism, the tentacles of which were newly arrived in Burlescome, is firmly entrenched in London. Herod attends church all day Sunday with her aunt and uncle and chafes under the extremism.

It is important to understand Puritanism as it effects much of Herod’s life. Puritans were a group of Protestants who were unhappy with the Church of England. They believed in following the laws set out in the Bible without deviation. They also believed in the doctrine of predestination – God has chosen at birth the Elect who will enter heaven and those who are not of the Elect are damned for eternity. No one knows whether they are the chosen, therefore, Puritans worked hard for the glory of God.

It was a harsh lifestyle. The premise of Puritanism was to strip away all material and traditional aspects of the Church of England and practice extreme piety. Puritans were under constant scrutiny by fellow congregation members. Deviation from piety was dealt with swiftly by disapproval and discipline. Hell, fire and brimstone was the primary sermon.

Persecution in England prompted a massive immigration to New England, where communities were formed. These communities adhered to principles of Puritanism strictly. Those found in contravention were subject to banishment, corporal punishment and even, in some cases, death by hanging.

Now back to Herod. Her aunt and uncle operated a tailor’s shop. One day when she was minding the counter, a young man came in. Herodios was enthralled and contrived to establish a relationship. This is the man she would marry in great haste (without divulging her true age of 13) so she could escape and immigrate to New England.

Life in New England and with her husband isn’t the deliverance she craves. Scraping a living off the land is harsh and her husband, John Hicks, brutal. Puritanism reigns. Herod becomes friends with dissenters within the community, liaisons with repercussions.

Rebel Puritan is a novel of a young girl who struggles to find dignity and freedom within her world; a world in which women have few rights and are subject to male domination. Her efforts bring both success and tragedy. But her determination never fails.

Herod and her world come to life through Butler with her imaginative and gritty details. For example, I felt I lived through Herod in a dugout home on a treed lot in a small community in New England where every action was scrutinized.

Butler is skilled at evoking the realisms, hardships, hard-won victories and inevitable decisions a woman faced in 17th Century England and America. The numerous characters who populate Rebel Puritan have flesh and bones.

I recommend Jo Ann Butler’s Rebel Puritan without reservation. I eagerly await receipt the continuation of Herod Long’s life in Reputed Wife, to be released later this fall.

My rating: 4.5/5 Stars (Most Excellent)

 Darlene Elizabeth Williams

My first impression of the books was that the farm looked charming, but boring. I’m glad I was wrong! Lost Nation, Iowa is everything you would expect from a small farm town in Iowa. It’s a town where everyone knows your name and your business. However, that doesn’t stop the dynamic Francesca from dancing to the beat of her own drum. Lucinda Sue Crosby has created a memorable set of characters with depth and style for this summer love story. Francesca’s granddaughter relives the best summer of their lives with colorful flare as the duo embark on adventures completely unbecoming a lady of the 1940’s. At the same time, the book also gently probes the cultural taboos of the time while the young Sarah begins coming of age.

The story is well developed and engaging. As a summer beach read this is wonderful and I was moved to tears by the close of the book. I found the descriptions to be full and vivid. The mystery within the story adds a nice touch. It was well constructed and not completely predictable. The cover art however, was a huge disappointment. I think that this was a missed opportunity. After all the wonderful events that unfold within the pages, a more engaging cover would have been good. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a lite beach read, as well as those with an interest in the 1940’s.
Brandy Strake 



Interview with Author Roy Pickering

I would like to intruduce Author Roy Pickering, the winner of the BRAG Medallion for his book, Patches of Grey. 

Roy, thank you for the pleasure of this interview. First I would like to ask you questions about your interests in reading. What are you currently reading and what do you plan on reading next?

Thank you, Stephanie. I’ve just started Tinkers by Paul Harding. One
of my reading goals is to notch as many Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
winners as possible, so Tinkers will move that along. My progress is
being charted at my blog A Line A Day:

 Lately I’ve been plowing through my To Read List via trips to the library, but I
happen to own an autographed copy of Tinkers that was won in a
contest. Next up I plan to check out Pym by Mat Johnson, unless
another title grabs my attention and jumps ahead of it in the
never-ending line.

Do you prefer a book that makes you laugh or makes you cry? Or one that teaches you something or that distracts you?

Out of every 10 books I read I’d say 8 – 9 of them will be in the
“teaches you” category and 1 – 2 will be a “distraction” read to
change up the pace. The best books will make me both laugh and cry,
but finding a novel that makes me laugh consistently throughout is a
somewhat rare feat. The gold standard is Portnoy’s Complaint. Laugh
out loud humor is difficult to put on paper and I bow down to anyone
who can pull it off on a regular basis.

What were your favorite books as a child?

My transition from beloved kid books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume
and Donald Sobol to novel for adults began with Jules Verne. I didn’t
remain strictly a Sci-Fi reader or stick with any other genre for that
matter. As a teen I became fixated on certain authors for a time,
such as Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King. Part of my maturing process
was realizing that great books/authors are all over the place, so best
to mix it up. The purpose of my journey in reading is now simply to
move from one great book to the next. I find the majority of them
within the confines of so called Literary Fiction, but wonderful
novels can be found in and out of all the genres so I’m always jumping

 Is there a writer you consider to be a mentor or model in some way?

I wouldn’t say that I have a particular mentor, and definitely not a
model. I’m not sure I’d be adept at copying someone else’s style no
matter how hard I tried. Mastering the style that comes naturally to
me is enough of a challenge. There are certain authors whom I favor
above others such as John Irving, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni
Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy. And when I decided to
write Patches of Grey I chose a novel rather than a writing class to
serve as guidepost, and that book was Judith Guest’s Ordinary People.
But if I have a mentor it isn’t a particular author, but rather, the
lifetime of reading that has shaped me and inspired my pen.

 Roy, please tell us a little about your book, “Patches of Grey.”

I’m much better at telling a lot about my book than a little. But I
suppose the length of this interview should be less than that of my
novel. So beyond what you can find in the synopsis at Amazon or my
web site, I’ll just say that “Patches of Grey” is about a young man
being confronted with life lessons that seem to suggest that his
optimistic view of the world is faulty. He wants to believe that
color blindness is superior to bigotry in any direction, that book
learning leads to a smoother path than the school of hard knocks, that
the love to be found within family should be unconditional. His
convictions are shaken along the way, changing how he thinks about
certain things, but not who he is at heart.


Did you have to do any research for your story? If so, please explain.

Not very much. I was writing what I knew or could imagine easily
enough so other than to flesh out some cosmetic details I didn’t need
to spend much time looking things up. Instead I was able to focus
almost exclusively on putting things down, and then editing the
initial shape into the final product.

Which of the characters that you created is your favorite? Who is your least favorite?

I don’t pick favorites except that obviously the majority of
attention/affection is invested into the main characters. With
Patches of Grey I would say that Tony, who is the character I was just
talking about, is the one I most closely identify. But several
readers have told me that the character they connected with to the
greatest extent is his brother, C.J. Although the central storyline
revolves around Tony and his relationships with his father and his
girlfriend, considerable attention is given to his mother and sister

as well. That’s why I have a bit of trouble summing the novel up in a
line or two because it can seen as Tony’s story, but it can also be
viewed as the story of the Johnson family.

Is there a scene you found a challenge to write?

Some scenes just pour out of the pen, others come out in fits and
starts. The trickiest to feel confident about is the first one
because of the pressure to capture attention immediately. It doesn’t
matter how amazing chapter 2 is if readers aren’t compelled to move
past chapter 1. As a reader I don’t put that kind of pressure on a
book. Once I sit down to read I’m willing to let a novel unfold
however best suits the story. As a writer, particularly one who is not
already a Best Seller with a built in audience, that first chapter,
first paragraph, first sentence carries a ton of weight.

What is your next book project?

I’m currently editing my second novel, Matters of Convenience. Teen
angst was left behind in book #1 to deal with strictly adult matters
in #2.

How did you discover, indieBRAG?

I’m an active member at and belong to a number of groups
there. The moderator of one of them mentioned indieBrag as a group
that was on the look-out for excellent indie books to promote and
honor. Sounded great to me and I was thrilled when they informed me
that “Patches of Grey” had made their cut.

What is your favorite quote?

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – G.K.

Author Bio:

Roy Pickering’s debut novel Patches of Grey is published by
M.U.D. House Books and has received stellar reviews. His novella
Feeding the Squirrels is published by SynergEbooks in electronic
format and was also well received. Roy’s cyber presence includes the
website and the blog A Line A Day. At present he is
hard at work on a second novel, Matters of Convenience, and is working
in collaboration with his wife (who is a fantastic artist/illustrator)
on a series of children’s books. Roy’s short story publication
credits are extensive and anthologies featuring his writing include
Proverbs for the People (Kensington Books), Role Call (Third World
Press), The Game: Short Stories About the Life (Triple Crown
Publications), Prose to be Read Aloud: Volume One, Ménage à 20: Tales
with a Hook, Forever Travels, and IAI Short Story Compilation, Volume
1 (SolaPress Publishing).

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Roy Pickering who is the author of Patches of Grey, 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 Patches of Grey merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

For information on how to become a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree, please visit indieBRAG’s website:

Thank you!

Layered Pages

Review: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

The Secret Keeper is the first of Sandra Byrd’s books I’ve read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sandra brings a new and rare story of Katheryn Parr. She is a person in English history that I have not read much about and now I’m intrigued by her. This story is told by Juliana St. John’s perspective, a daughter of a Knight.

Juliana’s mother expects her to marry the son of one of her father’s business men. But when Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, comes to town in regards to the affairs of her father’s estates and happens to pass by a church and sees Juliana reading, he feels that she would be perfect as a member of Katheryn Parr’s household, the lady he loves. He sends her to Katheryn Parr’s household and she accompanies Katheryn to King Henry VIII court. They quickly become friends and Juliana becomes a loyal ladies maid to her. She looks to Katheryn as a sort of mother and Katheryn is kind and loving towards her in that regard.

Meanwhile King Henry VIII falls in love with Katheryn and wants to marry her. Despite loving Sir Thomas Seymour, she marries Henry and becomes the sixth and final wife to Henry and is doting to his children. She loves them and in many ways brings them closer to their father. She is a good Christian, intelligent, delicate yet strong, elegant, kind and very giving. It is her desire to influence Henry in matters of the realm and religious beliefs and she gets herself in a sticky situation when she supports Anne Askew, a reformer. This puts herself and her ladies in danger.

Juliana is also vulnerable to the court life, less noticeable, and less protected. She fall’s victim to a man at court who basically threatens to lie, spread harmful gossip about her and her mistress if she told anyone about his assault on her. Juliana also keeps a secret that could possibly bring her harm if the wrong people found out, a secret of prophecy.

 Sandra writes about Juliana’s assault, sensitively and doesn’t go into great detail. She leaves it to the reader to imagine what happened and I’m glad she wrote it this way. I’ve read scenes in books before were it was so graphic; I had a hard time picking up the story   and continuing on.

 I found that I liked Sandra’s portrayal of King Henry in this story. I saw a side of him I don’t normally see in other books that I’ve read. I don’t know if it was because by the time he married Kate, he was completely worn out or he felt he didn’t have to worry anymore because he had an heir? Or was it because of his health? He seemed to focus more on his beliefs and the reformation during this time and had a softer side towards his children. He even goes off to war and leaves Katheryn to rule in his stead while away.

I rated this story a solid five stars! I absolutely admire Sandra’s style of writing, the story was easy to follow along and she did not go off on long-winded details that I find tedious to read. She gives you a wonderful view of the court life during the time of the English Reformation. The story-line is believable, the plot engaging. All of her characters gave support to the story and was well developed. They all played a special part, even the ones that were in the background, which I find helps to make the story flow better. She has done extensive research for her story and it shows. I highly recommend this story to anyone who wants to read about Katheryn Parr and this period of time in England’s History.
by Stephanie
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I have an interview with Author Sandra Byrd on October 22. Make sure to mark your calendars! You won’t want to miss it!