Review: The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage

The Prodigal Son

He risks everything for his faith – but will he be able to pay the price? Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition. In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a heavy price and Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden. Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety he puts their marriage under severe strain. The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing. Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons. How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose? The Prodigal Son is the third in Anna Belfrage’s historical time slip series, which includes the titles The Rip in the Veil and Like Chaff in the Wind.


My review:

I really admire Belfrage’s use of voice and language. She makes it so that the characters are well developed and thought provoking. And I admire how her characters interact with each other and does a good job expressing their emotions. Her dialog is also engaging and flows really well.

She gives wonderful details of the domestic life of the time the story is written in and details of what they had to endure in the regards to the government’s (Charles ll of England) unreasonable rule. There were laws or should I say-Charles ll required his subjects to conform to the Church of England- on how they were to worship which as you know made it extremely difficult on the people. And that is putting it mildly.

Mathew Graham has risked much to support and protect his minister, Sandy Peden. And his family has suffered for that. I did not always agree with him and was often times frustrated with the decisions he was making. But having said that, he is one of my favorite characters in this story. I believe Mathew truly loves his family and has adjusted quite well to the fact that his wife-Alex-is from the future. I’m sure he is more tolerate to her ideas and beliefs than what most men during that time would have been.

Sandy Peden is a pious and fanatical minister who I actually enjoyed reading about in this story. He is opinionated- thinks women have their place and feels Mathew should put his wife in that place and has no problem telling him so. It is obvious he does not approve of her one bit. But she certainly matched wit for wit with Sandy. I do admire how Sandy is a survivor and he stands by what he believes and does not give into being told how he is to worship and what organized faith he is lawfully suppose too follow. Very entertaining….he adds a lot to this story.

Alex is a strong woman who is from the future and I believe her knowledge has really helped her and yet sometimes it was a hindrance for her, I think. I do however think she adapted quite well in the 17th century for someone being so forward thinking and modern of course. She does have a stubborn streak to her but so does her husband. I really enjoyed seeing the way they interacted with each other. Their relationship is really dynamic. And I do admire their strong sense of family and values. Alex does something in this story that I truly respect her for. But I cannot tell you! You will just have to read the book to find out!

I really have enjoyed this series so far and I look forward to continuing to read them! The Graham family are definitely among my favorite families to read about! I am giving this story a four and a half star rating and I highly recommend this whole series to people who are looking for a quality written time slip.



Layered Pages


About the Author

anna belfrage


I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favorite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s WEBSITE.

Layered Pages latest interview with Anna Befrage :

Links to where you can purchase her stories:


Interview with Author Mona Rodriguez

Forty years in a day book cover

Hello Mona! I read Forty Years In A Day and was absolutely intrigued with your story. Could you please tell your audience about your book?

Mona: Thank you, Stephanie, for hosting us today. It’s a pleasure. Our story begins in Italy, 1900. After years of torment and neglect, Victoria and her four small children immigrate to Hell’s Kitchen, New York, to escape her alcoholic, abusive husband. On the day they leave, he tragically dies, but she does not learn of his death for several years—a secret that puts many lives on hold.

Quickly, they realize America’s streets are not paved with gold, and the limits of human faith and stamina are tested time and time again. Poverty, illness, death, kidnapping, and the reign of organized crime are just some of the crosses they bear.

Victoria’s eldest son, Vincenzo, is the sole surviving member of the family and shares a gut-wrenching account of their lives with his daughter during a visit to Ellis Island on his ninetieth birthday. He explains how the lives of he and his siblings have been secretly intertwined with an infamous Irish mob boss and ends his unsettling disclosure with a monumental request that leaves Clare speechless.

The story takes the Montanaro family through several decades, providing the reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in search of their hopes and dreams. It is layered with the struggles and successes of each family member, illuminating the fact that human emotions have been the same throughout generations; the difference is how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.

Stephanie: Is this story based on anyone you know or who you have come across?

Mona: The characters are based on family members, both deceased and living. I’ve had this particular story churning in my head for many years, sparked by the stories of my family’s past. Forty Years In A Day begins in 1900 and follows the incredible journey of a young mother and her four children as they escape from Italy into the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. That woman was my grandmother. The story ends with a woman who knows the father of her children is living a double life with another, but she loves him so much that she overlooks the arrangement rather than forfeit the man. Those were my parents. In between are the stories that I had heard from family members, intertwined with a twist of fiction and sensationalism to have some fun.


Stephanie:  Were there any challenges you faced while writing this story?

Mona: There were many challenges that I had faced undertaking this project. First and foremost, I had the idea of the story in my head before I had the skills to share it. I’m a mathematician and an environmentalist so this challenged the other side of my brain. While writing is something I always admired, to me, the passion was in the story and the writing was the vessel to get it told.

Second, people ask me how much of our book is realistic; especially family members who want to know if this is the actual story of what had happened. They try to draw a parallel between family members’ personalities and our characters’ personalities. The truth is that no one can totally piece together that puzzle of tales; there are parts to every family’s story that were pushed under the rug for fear it would tarnish the family’s reputation. The elders think they are doing their family justice by taking some of the more scandalous stories with them to the grave. When, as a writer, you realize all this, you are forced to conjure your own conclusions from the pieces of stories that you gather.

Third, I coauthored the book with my cousin Dianne Vigorito. She gave me the support and validation I needed to pursue this project. I was lucky to find a family member to work with, and she had an immediate interest in the idea. She grew up hearing the same crazy stories, some of which were almost unbelievable, that were told by our ancestors.  Working with another has taught me the power of more than one and the art of compromise.

Stephanie: Was there a particular scene you felt difficult to write?

Mona: The story of Vinny and Ava represents my parent’s story and the story that resonates closest to my heart. When they were alive, I had discovered secrets about their past that they didn’t want my siblings and me to know. When they died, I felt more compelled to delve into their past, but no one could (or would) tell me the whole story. I realized that I should have asked more questions when they were alive, been more adamant to learn the truth. I questioned aunts and uncles, but I sensed there were bits of their lives, and everyone’s in our story, that would never be unearthed. The story of Vinny and Ava is conjured from the pieces of stories I had put together, and my interpretation, especially emotionally, of what had happened between my parents.

Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story?

Mona: We don’t realize what our ancestors went through to make life better for themselves and for us. What they faced was incredible—the living conditions, poverty, disease—and their work ethic was admirable. Although I had started with the intention of writing a story about my father’s family, it turned into a novel. There was so much more I wanted people to know about this fascinating era.


Stephanie How long did it take to write, Forty Years In A Day?

Mona: I started by writing down the stories I had heard and interviewing the elders that were still alive. It took seven years—researching, attending seminars, workshops, conferences, and reading everything from books on how to write dialogue to reading mainstream fiction and rereading classics. I also studied the history and lifestyles of the era.  Dianne and I worked on our own, and we also worked together several days a week, collaborating, rewriting, and editing. I had a story to tell and I knew it had to be told.


Stephanie: You did a fantastic job with your research. It’s truly a beautiful and thought provoking story. And I believe it’s written in such a way that the story transcends you into that period and gives you a wonderful picture of the human conditions.  


Is there a sentiment you hope readers come away with after reading your story?

Mona: Forty Years In A Day is more than an immigration story about an Italian family; it epitomizes the immigration experience and coming to America in the early 1900s. It reignites curiosity and admiration for what our ancestors had endured and accomplished to make our lives better. There are many themes that run throughout the story—the loss and rebound of hope, honesty, perseverance, forgiveness, survival, the list goes on—but I think the main theme is the importance of family. Forty Years In A Day also reminds us that every family has hidden secrets and that the choices one person makes echoes through generations.

Stephanie: The different themes in your story was well written and I felt that some of them hit home with me. Your story has given me a lot to think about. Especially about family and relationships.


Is there a character that you feel connected to in any way?

Mona: I have a connection to all the characters, but the one I admire the most is Victoria. She was an amazing woman who wanted to do the right thing for her children. Without giving away the story, I often wonder how she summoned the strength to do what she did, and if I would have been so courageous. She did it not so much for herself, but for her children. She was the ultimate mother.

Stephanie: I admired Victoria as well. She certainly pulled at my heart strings. What book project is up next for both?

Mona: There are six cousins at the end of our story. The idea is to take that next generation into the next era.

Stephanie: Ooo…I’m really looking forward to reading your next book! What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Mona: Read the works of authors you enjoy and respect, study and practice the craft, and try to develop a personal style and formula for success.  When reading a diverse collection of books, you take away, along with the story, a little of each author’s craft.

Thank you, Mona!

About the Authors

Mona & Dianne


Mona Rodriguez coauthored Forty Years in a Day with her cousin Dianne Vigorito.
Throughout their lives, they had heard many stories from family members that
were fascinating, sometimes even unbelievable, and decided to piece together
the puzzle of tales. Through research and interviews, their goal was to create
a fictional story that follows a family through several decades, providing the
reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in
search of their hopes and dreams. What they realize in the process is that
human emotions have been the same throughout generations – the difference is
how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.

Mona Rodriguez has her MS in environmental Management from Montclair State
University. She is presently a trustee on the board of directors of a nonprofit
foundation created to benefit a local public library and community. She lives
with their husband in New Jersey, and they have two grown sons.

For more information, please visit the official website.


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Interview with Award Winning Author Gael Harrison

Gael at Nottinghill I would like to introduce Gael Harrison. Winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion. Gael was  born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1954, where her father was a rubber planter. At the age of eleven, she returned to Scotland to complete her schooling at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff.

She qualified as a teacher in Dundee in 1975, and married in the same year. She and her husband moved to Singapore and later to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia. Together with their three young children the family moved back to Scotland and lived for the next eleven years in an old manse in Glenelg, on the west coast of Scotland.

 After her divorce Gael moved to Edinburgh and worked as a teacher. In 2001 she took the VSO challenge with Save the Children UK, and spent a year in the north of Vietnam working as a pre-school teacher trainer. After that assignment, she spent the next three years at the United Nations International School in Hanoi and during that time she met her husband, John. For the last ten years they have been working in Kiev, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand. They are now back in Scotland and settled in Edinburgh.

 Gael: “I’ve been lucky, in friendships and in my children, and in the ability to have white hot passions for a variety of intellectual and not so intellectual pursuits. I have pursued everything I have undertaken with a sense of optimism and happiness, and I hope that will continue for a long time to come”.

Gael’s website

Stephanie: Tell me about the Highland Games.

Gael” ‘The Highland Games’ is a ‘tongue in cheek’ observation of a small village in the West Highlands of Scotland. Not much happens there, but each small thing becomes a drama. It is the story of Suzannah, who goes to Drum Mhor for a few months before she starts a new teaching job in Kiev. She meets all the local characters, is subjected to their scrutiny and gossip and is swept off her feet by James MacTavish. The story covers all the local fun and games, and has a little twist in the tail, in the form of the Ukrainian lover that Suzannah brings back from Kiev.

The Highland Games

Stephanie: What genre does it fall under?

 Gael: I would say it is Romantic fiction, although the real focus of the book is the village itself.

Stephanie: Is this your first published book?

 Gael: No, I have also published ‘The Moon in the Banyan Tree’ with Athena Press in 2005. It is the story of my time in the mountains of Vietnam, working as a pre-school teacher trainer. It seems to sell quite steadily.

I have also published the sequel to ‘The Highland Games’ –  ‘The Highland Rocks’ which is set again in the village of Drum Mhor but does not focus on James and Suzannah, but instead on Dolly McBride.

I have also published ‘Where the Golden Oriole Sang’. This novel is set in 1950s Malaya, during the time of the Emergency. The story features the lives of the rubber planters at that time. It is in the historical fiction category and has had some very good reviews.

 Stephanie: Why did you decide to self-publish?

 Gael: I had an agent for ‘Where the Golden Oriole Sang’ and she asked me to make so many changes in the novel, then the publisher asked me to change other things. In the end I wondered who was in charge of the story. I also felt that they expected me to write in a certain way for a certain market, so I decided to self-publish. I was so happy with all the staff at SilverWood, and they were supportive all the way through.

 Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and was there any research involved?

Gael: I lived for twelve years in a small highland village, and I have so many memories of the fun characters and the small things that made life worth living. I haven’t written ‘about’ that village but I did draw on many of the happenings and spun a tale of fiction around the daily events.

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

 Gael: No, not in this book. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially some of the repartee between the acerbic- tongued women! I also loved writing about the Ghillies’ ball.

 Stephanie What book project are you currently working on?

 Gael: I am writing a final book about the Highlands, called ‘The Highland Curse’ and have also started a novel about East Malaysia, called ‘The Fish in the Tree’. I seem to have two ‘voices’ in me. I like to let both have their say! They are very different styles but I like them both.

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

 Gael: Definitely. I really liked the experience with SilverWood. The only downside is the marketing. I am not very good at that!

 Stephanie: How did you discover Indie B.R.A.G?

Gael: I discovered them through SilverWood and then was delighted to win the B.R.A.G medallion. If you go to my webpage, you will see that I have the medallion proudly displayed on the first page as well as on The Highland Rocks page!

Thank you, Gael! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

Thank you so much for everything. Bye for now,


A message from BRAG:

 We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Gael Harrison, who is the author of, the Highland Games, one of our medallion honourees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Highland Games merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Review: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow

No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Praise for The Queen’s Vow

“A masterwork by a skilled craftsman . . . Make a vow to read this book.”—New York Journal of Books

“A beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction . . . Gortner’s vivid details blend with his deeply intensive research to re-create Isabella and Castile in a way that the reader will find compelling and immersive, bringing not just the Queen but the whole nation to life.”—RT Book Reviews

“A fascinating story . . . Through his creative and spellbinding storytelling, Gortner’s readers come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny.”—Wichita Falls Times Record News

“A novel of triumph as Isabella vanquishes her enemies one by one . . . [She is] a very human and appealing character.”—The Roanoke Times

“Politically charged, passionate . . . [a] well-researched, intriguing historical.”—Bookreporter




If you are looking for the perfect introduction to Isabella of Castile, then this is the story for you. At an early age she shows such potential of being the women she has yet to be become. She is an extraordinary women who often faced danger, betrayal, and uncertainties of who she can trust. I greatly admire her intelligence and determination. There are bigger forces at work in this story that I was drawn to other than Isabella becoming Queen in my opinion. I often wonder if later on in her rule of Spain, if she wasn’t so much influenced by the men around her- would she still have acted on the decisions that were made about the Jewish people. Would have all that have been prevented? But I believe she struggled with this greatly and did not relish in the killings of the Jews. Religious persecution started long before her time and has continued through the ages. This is definitely an intense period that Gortner writes about and I believe he has given us a realistic and brilliant portrayal.

There is a banner I posted on a review group saying. ”There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.” That is exactly how I feel about The Queen’s Vow. I highly recommend this novel and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.


Layered Pages


Interview with Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland


Award winning author Tahlia Newland writes contemporary fantasy and magical realism with a metaphysical twist.

When not reading, writing, reviewing or mentoring authors you may find her being an extremely casual high school teacher or making decorative masks. Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. In 2012, she set up the Awesome Indies List to showcase quality independent fiction. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney. Creativity is her middle name!

Stephanie: Hello, Tahlia! Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! That is great news! Please tell me about your book, “You Can’t Shatter me.”


Tahlia: Hi Stephanie, thanks for having me over.


You Can’t Shatter Me is magical realism, so it’s like a contemporary fiction but with very extended metaphors. Many readers say that the main characters have a great imagination, for others it’s like a cross between contemporary fiction and urban fantasy. So, it’s different in style to most YA books.


It’s about a couple of sixteen-year-olds, a girl, Carly, and a boy, Dylan. The girl steps in to save another kid from a bully, but the bully turns on her and starts hassling her. Dylan takes a stand with her, and that begins a relationship between them. The rest of the story is about them trying to find a way to handle the situation without Dylan punching the guy. The story deals with the emotional struggles of the two in their budding romance and their daily life as teens as well as with the bully.


Stephanie: Is there a message you want your readers to grasp?


Tahlia: The message is one of empowerment, that you can make yourself strong by learning to stay calm and clear (through the practice of mediation) and by taking a compassionate view of the situation. There are informal mediation instructions in the story as well as more formally in an appendix, so in some ways it’s a self-help book written as a novel.


Stephanie: There is a problem with bullying in school-everywhere in fact. Was there a particular situation that happen to inspired you to write this story?


Tahlia: I’m a high school teacher as well as an author and I have seen enough bullying to give me plenty of material to work with. I’ve also used the ideas in the book to help kids to handle bullying, and they’re very effective. A large part of the reason I wanted to write a book like this was to share these methods. I use analogies to help kids to remember an effective way to handle a situation and these form the magical elements in the book.


The worst bullying episode in the story is based on an actual event.


You Can't Shatter Me


Stephanie: What are the challenges to writing in the Young-Adult genre?


Tahlia: Getting the teen-speak right. Luckily my daughter checks everything and soon tells me if I’ve written something that a teen would never say.  I think that some authors have trouble with making the characters real; some of them come across as an older person’s idea of what a teen is like rather than what a teen is actually like, but I don’t think I have that problem because I’ve been surrounded by so many teens that I do know what they’re like. At the same time, it’s hard to satisfy every reader in this, because there’s a wide variety of levels of maturity in kids at any age, so what seems right for me for the age may seem young for someone else. My characters are quite innocent, but that’s not unusual for sixteen-year-olds where I live.


Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story?


Tahlia: About 6 months


Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?


Tahlia: Kindle US

Kindle UK

Other Kindle stores



Barnes & Noble

Apple US or search for Tahlia Newland in other stores


Or in paperback through all bookstores

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book Depository (world wide)


Stephanie:  What is the current book project you are working on?


Tahlia: I’ve just published Demon’s Grip, book three in the Diamond Peak Series, and am working on the fourth book for that series. I hope to have out at the end of September. This series is a contemporary fantasy, but some also call it magical realism because much of it as an analogy for a person’s path of self-development and in this case emotional maturity. The big question in the first book, Lethal Inheritance, is how do you kill a demon that feeds on fear?


Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?


Tahlia: An author friend of mine posted something on Facebook that said she’d won a BRAG medallion so I looked it up.


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


Tahlia: Don’t be in a rush to publish. I advise everyone to try the traditional route for their first book because it makes you wait, and if you read lots of other books and don’t look at your ms for several months while you’re waiting to hear back, then when you look at it again, you’ll find lots of ways to improve it. An absolute must buy for all fiction authors is ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print


Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?


Tahlia: ‘Be spacious.’  It’s from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.


Stephanie: Thank you, Tahlia!  


Thank you.





A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Tahlia Newland, who is the author of, You Can’t Shatter Me, 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, Mom, You Can’t Shatter Me merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Review: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

the chalice

Nancy Bilyeau is building a solid series with her second book centered around Joanna Stafford, a novice who is forced to build a new life for herself after the dissolution of Dartford Priory. While the first book was very good, The Chalice is brimming with even more intrigue and insight into the clash of religion and state during the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII.

Bilyeau is able to bring the great struggle to life through her creation of conflicted characters trying to maintain their principles and beliefs in a time that is at best confused and at worst at odds with the wish of her heroine to live a simple life of devotion. The author’s scholarship is evident in the vivid detail and entwined plot lines of the story.

This last book has left me even more interested to see what will become of Joanna Stafford as she follows a tenuous path through the upheaval of her personal life in the political landscape.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Peterson Seidle

Layered Pages Review Team Member

Interview with Author Trini Amador



Hello, Trini. I am currently reading, Gracianna and it is a beautiful story. Please tell your audience a little about it and what inspired you to write it.

Hi Stephanie and thanks so much for inviting me to Layered Pages. I really appreciate your work.  I was inspired to write Gracianna because my great-grandmother, Gracianna, used to say to be “thankful” when I was little. At four-years old how can a little boy understand that concept? But over the years I wondered about its meaning. As I say, to many folks, one may not be able to fully understand what “gratitude” really means until we are in our 40’s or 50’s or even older.  

What are some of the true aspects in your book?

The story is bookended… the very open of the story and the very end are factual. And interspersed throughout the book are many, many factual elements.  When I was a very young boy I was found walking around my grandmother’s living room with a loaded German Luger in my hand.  While doing research for the book I learned that my aunt met her grandmother Gracianna’s sister, who I had not heard of and remembers seeing the “mark,” the “tattoo” under her forearm.  She remembers the whispers and that it was not polite to point it out.  My grandfather was a shepherd when he came to the US with his wife. The story of the coin (as an IOU) in the book is all true.

Was there research involved?

Yes, there was tons and tons research! Everything from learning the myth of the Pyrenees Mountains to learning details of World War II, the French Resistance and Auschwitz. I traveled to the Basque Country – my great-grandmothers homeland to get the feel of the topography, (steep) culture (hard work, food and wine) and feeling (a contradiction of the old and the new). That took me to Paris. I learned about the occupation and the attitude of the Parisians and France as a whole. It was depressing.   I sat in the middle of the city taking it all in and then imagined the panzers and half-tracks rolling down the streets. I studied the Le Meurice Hotel, a grand dame hotel whose history is undeniable. I wanted to ensure readers considered what it must have been like for frolicking glitterati of Paris to have been there one day and the entire European Nazi Command rattling through its halls the next.

Then there was Auschwitz. My research took me to Warsaw and Krakow. It was bitter cold. The day I arrived at the concentration camp it was sunny but still bitterly cold. Everyone I came in contact with had a red nose and cheeks. One’s breath fell from the weight of its moisture. The area was devoid of emotion. It was sullen, silent and sunny…but frozen. I could not imagine the desperation. But I tried to convey the feeling I had that day.

What is the most challenging thing about writing stories that take place in the past?

For me writing about to day or the past is the same. Am I able to convey the emotion appropriately? Can my reader appreciate what the character is feeling?  Am I appropriately delivering an evocative scenario? Is it real? Is it relevant? Believable? Does it move the story forward? Is it compelling? Is it interesting?

What was the most challenging scene you wrote and why?

Wow, there were several but one that comes to mind, without spoiling the story line was the very traumatic experience that Gracianna experienced when she was eight years old. Born, “Father Unknown,” Gracianna’s mother was her only link to the future. But when her mother had complications in childbirth everything changed. I dug deep to find an experience that I could relate to in my own life that helped me to express the depth of fear, anger and hurt that she may have experienced.

 Is there a character in your story you relate to the most as far as personality?

It’s funny. Readers that know me have recently told me that they see me in Gracianna. I did not write the story from that perspective. In reality I think I am reflected in parts of each character.

What is your next book project?

Why Stephanie… you are incorrigible. My publisher and others are encouraging me to write the sequel to the Gracianna story. But I have already written an outline for a book that depicts an experience that I had when I was in the music business in Hollywood in the early 90’s. My editor, Hillel Black, who has edited 20 New York Times best sellers has also expressed his interest in working with me again as well. What a joy! I may have to write another book just to have the chance to collaborate with Hillel again.

What genre do you like most?

I enjoy reading short stories. I enjoy to feeling a story develop quickly and get to the point. The opposite of what I just wrote. I knew the story I was telling but I purposefully tried not to get there too fast. This piece need a long introduction to clearly understand the characters and their motivation. I wanted the reader to fully appreciate why they would act the way they would in the future.

What is the truly last great book you have read and that inspired you?

I am inspired by anything that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote. I love the pacing and the clarity and the delivery. There are some linkages between Gatsby and my story. Constance, Gracianna’s sister had many of the characteristics of Daisy Buchanan. She was an attractive and bubbly, shallow and selfish unaware how her actions could affect anyone. Both became acutely aware of their actions along the way.

What is your favorite quote?

…from Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage, Alaska, “Where we cheat the other guys and pass the savings on to you.” 🙂

Thanks for inviting me, Stephanie!

Thank you, Trini!




Trini Amador  vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in  Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the  memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.  This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut  novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination.  It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a  sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand  how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values,  motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15  years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack  Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of  Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg,  California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on  through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at:, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.


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