Interview with Author Sharon Sala

I would like to introduce Author Sharon Sala, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion for her book, “A Field of Poppies”

Sharon, thank you for the pleasure of this interview. I would first like to ask you about your interests in reading. When and where do you like to read?

I read when I get a chance and anywhere there’s a book and a place to sit down. I care for my 92 year old mother full time in my home. She has dementia and no short-term memory left so it’s quite a challenge. And I’m still writing full time, so me time is rare.

What was the last truly great book you have read?

I’ll tell you the book that has stayed with me the longest, although it’s not the last book I’ve read. It was called THE LAST CHILD, by John Hart and when I had finished it, I went back and bought and read everything he’s written to date. It was THAT compelling.

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

I don’t like self-help anything and I don’t want to read someone else’s opinion of how life should be lived, sooo having said that, any good book is a distraction and I love it when the writer can make me cry on one page and laugh my head off on another.

What are you currently reading?

Unfortunately, the only work I’ve been reading for the past few months is my own. Of course I read newspapers and the occasional magazine, but no time for that, seriously no time.

What do you plan to read next?

I’m waiting for the next Robert Crais book to show up on Kindle. I’m a huge fan.

Sharon, could you please tell us a little about your book, “A Field of Poppies.”

Field of Poppies is out of my usual genre of romantic suspense. It’s straight women’s fiction and a story about a young woman’s journey through unbelievable sadness . Finding out that nothing you knew about yourself is real, and the only people with the answers have just died on the same day… devastating. So it’s her journey through sorrow, betrayal, and ultimately a growth and acceptance within herself that she would never have believed possible. Yes, there’s some mystery. Yes there’s a bit of romance, but it’s basically a book about life.

Did you have to do any research for your story?

In this book, very little. It’s set in contemporary time. I read up a bit on some specific details about coal mining, a little geographical info, but the town in the book is as fictitious as the characters, which always gives me leeway to create. I live with stories inside my head. I dream the majority of them, in color and with dialogue. It’s like going to the movies and then coming back and trying to put in book form what I just saw. When I was little, I thought everyone could plan what they wanted to dream and then dream it. I can and often do. I can’t explain it. I came this way.

What is your next book project?

Actually the book I’m working on at the moment, that’s thankfully almost done, is a book called WINDWALKER. It’s going to come out under my pen name, Dinah McCall. Dinah hasn’t written a book since The Survivors, which came out in 2006. And, it is a paranormal Native American romance, which my readers have been bugging me to write for some time. I will also self-publish this book.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Know your market. Submit to the people who publish your style of work and join a writer’s group. The writer’s group will, in the long run, become your shoulder to cry on, and every writer needs one. <g>

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote isn’t actually from fiction. It’s a verse from the bible, but it became my favorite BECAUSE of a book written by Dale Evans (the wife of cowboy star, Roy Rogers) many years ago. It was called Angel Unawares and it was a story about their daughter, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. That book touched my heart in so many ways, and the bible verse that was the basis for the title, became my favorite as well. The verse is from Hebrews 13:2

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby ye may have entertained angels unawares.

Thank you, Stephanie,
It’s been a pleasure,

Sharon Sala

Author Bio & Link:

Sharon Sala is a long-time member of RWA, as well as a member of OKRWA. She has 85 plus books in print, published in four different genres – Romance, Young Adult, Western, and Women’s Fiction. First published in 1991, she’s a seven-time RITA finalist, winner of the Janet Dailey Award, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Magazine, five time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, and five time winner of the Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence as well as winner of the Booksellers Best Award. In 2011 she was named RWA’s recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books are New York Times , USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly best-sellers. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate.

Readers can find me on Facebook as Sharon Sala or on my page, also as Sharon Sala, which deals only with writing news, etc


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Sharon Sala who is the author of A Field of Poppies, 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 A Field of Poppies 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


Wednesday Reviews

From Sarah Bruce Kelly, author of award-winning Vivaldi’s Muse comes another historical novel, this based in post-Great War Pittsburgh and focusing on the early teen era of jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams. Written for roughly the same age group as its protagonist, Jazz Girl is told from Mary Lou’s perspective, no mean feat considering the writer essentially must enter the mind of her subject, speaking for and thus representing a real person, as opposed to imparting biographical details. Arranged in chapters, titles indicative of their focus, the novel’s prologue, “The Sign of the Caul,” introduces us to a piece of family lore Mary Lou must have heard hundreds of times before she repeats it for us: Born with a caul, a piece of amniotic membrane covering the newborn infant’s head, she is thus gifted with a second sight that turns out to be, as she herself recognizes, more burden than prize.
Her mother, not naturally inclined to parent or hardened by years of drinking, or perhaps both, repeatedly rejects Mary Lou through her childhood. She is taunted mercilessly by neighborhood children who follow their parents’ lead in ostracizing Mary in particular because of her black skin darker than most of her other family members’. Plagued by a stutter, her music saves her from misery, even if it is imprisoned inside her, owing to her “night squalling of an old alley cat” voice and lack of piano. “So most times the music stayed inside my head, leaping and dancing around like the spirits who used to play with me in the Georgia woods around our old house.”
Mary Lou’s fortunes, as so often happens in life, rise and fall. She has her Grandpa to share company and interests with, and he is sympathetic to her sensitive, artistic nature. To the extent that he can, he makes up for her lack of a father figure, despite the family divide linked to her mother’s alcoholism. A stepfather and piano later come into her life and the girl who at age three had played tunes following her mother’s example—indicative of her mother’s own talent lost or squandered—wastes no time in becoming a neighborhood sensation. “The little piano girl” begins to earn money for her music, enduring humiliation and deception on many occasions from those jealous or contemptuous of her. She loses a soul mate in her cousin Max, who moves away, her Grandpa dies and her stepfather threatens to sell the piano he gifted her. Her kind and beautiful teacher leads her to a standing gig playing for the other teacher ladies. Overjoyed that she finally has made her mother proud following an invitation to play at the teachers’ special tea party, she is distraught when her mother fails to show up, engaged as she is at home with the gin jug.
How Mary Lou not only gets through life but also manages herself, endures and thrives is not just a testament of the human spirit, an indicator of the resilience that brings some of us past misery and on to greatness. It also speaks to the idea that the individual indeed can rise above collective negativity, whether it be cultural or imposed, from strangers or one’s own family. This may be one of the caul’s gifts to her, as well as her strength in making choices: what to do, where to go, even how to respond and whether to become angry or upset. She has a special ability to understand people’s motives even if they themselves do not, and because she is naturally inclined to build bridges rather than tear them down, she is capable of compassion even in the face of utter meanness. A series of these choices leads her to play alongside Fats Waller and other jazz superstars, before she moves on to her own successful career, where she can build love and bring people together.
For a relatively short book, and a fairly easy read from my adult perspective, Kelly has packed a powerhouse into these 195 pages. Staid as it may be to enthuse over economy of words, it is a talent the author imparts with a grace like magic—I came away from and looked back upon the book in awe: How could she have said so much when saying so little? Moreover, the authenticity of Kelly’s dialogue captures perfectly the voice of someone whose life circumstances make her vulnerable, talent raises her to heights few other children even know the existence of, and early maturity helps navigate her through pathways both perilous and extraordinary.
The quality and style of her verbiage reflect authentically the time as well as speakers, who display awareness of this as well. “’You slay me, Nannie,’ [Mamie] said, acting all uppity with her teenage slang.” Mary Lou occasionally refers to acts or behavior this or that person won’t abide, a phrase often still heard used in contemporary black English. Kelly also utilizes styles typically identified with this speech, unencumbered by the weightiness that wears readers down in other books seeking to replicate, say, Southern or Cockney accents. But more than just Kelly’s authentic use of language, Mary Lou herself keeps it real, to turn a modern phrase. She even seems to reach out to us, the readers, telling an inclusive story that acknowledges our presence and part of it all: “Can you believe [what Hugh said]?”
Through the novel runs a train motif, sometimes used to reflect on the rail that brought Mary Lou’s family from Georgia to Pittsburgh, a new life, a fresh start. She reasons that trains bring people together, hence her long admiration of them, and linking her music to the rhythmic railway sounds, she reckons she can do the same with what she produces. The connectedness she yearns for herself and to pass to others links also to a re-creation, in turn opening like a bloom to more of the novel’s other pleasures for the senses. When her Nanny calls her “contrary” and refers to a poem she once knew that featured a garden, Mary Lou reflects on why she likes it: “Because it is about growing a garden. And that’s what my music is to me. All the time I spend at the piano is like planting seeds I hope will grow into beautiful flowers.”
Like the creation of new life, this book establishes in a number of ways connections with readers, from the cover art and information presented to the narrative itself and further references at the end—and in my experience these connections are no small matter. The easy-to-find cover credit for Maria Termini’s Piano Jazz Plant to go with the vision of a keyboard juxtaposed on the vibrant, filled-with-life colors of a plant, a synesthesiac sensation that causes Mary Lou’s fingers to itch as she lets loose with that strong left hand. The Author’s Note addressing some unanswered questions, and link to hear Mary Lou’s music and see some pictures. All invitations to stay connected to Mary Lou Williams past the time when the cover closes. Sarah Bruce Kelly has made us heirs to a brilliant legacy.
 Jazz Girl by Sarah Bruce Kelly
2010, Bel Canto Press
ISBN 978-0-615-35376-0
by Lisl Zlitni
Review Team Member
Line by Line, by Barbara Hacha, is a historical fiction piece that explores the life of a young woman during the Great Depression in the United States. The story’s plot examines the desperation, independence, and opinions of many Americans of the 1930s. These themes are a constant in history and I found the story interesting and eye opening to many events that aren’t covered in a standard history class about the Great Depression.

Maddy is the strong female protagonist in Line by Line. Through her voice and experiences, the reader learns much about the life of hoboes jumping the train rails, the Prohibition, the Bonus Army protest movement, the growing independent and strong woman of the 1930s, and the shear desperation and will of the people that endured the Depression. Whereas Maddy is the main character, her story could not be told without the many colorful and endearing characters that Ms. Hacha creates in her story. These characters provide growth to Maddy’s development as a character as well as providing insight to the life and times of the Great Depression. For instance, Francine and Phillipe lend to the story of Maddy’s continuing development as an artist and her determination to stand up for her beliefs. Rita, Maddy’s best friend, lends to the story’s plot of the Bonus Army protest movement in the 1930s as well as the difficulties posed by riding the train lines. Henry, the WWI veteran and hobo, serves as an ongoing mentor and protector for Maddy throughout the story. Despite his infrequent appearances in the book, his impact on the main character is evident.

With regard to style, Line by Line, is historical fiction piece that flowed well and was quite a page turner. The descriptions are detailed but the dialogue is the strength of the story. The diction was contemporary and easy to read. The majority of the characters were well developed. In fact, I found the only lacking piece to be a more strongly developed relationship between Rita and Maddy.

The book’s cover design of a person walking along the train rails provides the reader with what is to come in the book. When it comes to the layout, I thought the book should have had a reference section for Ms. Hacha’s research on the Bonus Army movement, life on the rails, and the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform.

I greatly enjoyed Line by Line and learned a great deal about portions of the Depression. I would look for more works by Ms. Hacha in the future.
by Jennifer Schusterman
Review Team Member
I’ve always been intrigued with Marie Antoinette. she was such a complex women, I wanted to shake her at one moment, then hug her the next. She bore a tremendous amount on her shoulders and yet at the same time made very bad decisions. Out of all the books I’ve read about her, I would say that I have really enjoyed Juliet Grey’s two novels, Becoming Marie Antoinette and Day’s of Splendor, Day’s of Sorrow the most. Keep in mind this is Historical Fiction but I believe Grey stayed true to the events in this story.

Marie and Louis have ascended to the French throne and they have yet to consummate their marriage. Meanwhile, Marie began to fall out of favour with the French people (such as the royals) as the gossip and propaganda about her outrageous and extravagant spending was well known.She was spending more than her allowance had allowed and was in considerable debt. But that did not stop her as she continued to spend money on jewels, gowns and running up gambling debts among her peers. Even after her mother and brother’s warning and advice she could not see what she was doing was wrong and couldn’t see that it would cause serious trouble for her and her husband.

Marie was also under considerable stress to produce an heir for France and Louis suffered from a physical deformity it seems and finally after almost seven years of without consummating their marriage, he underwent a procedure, and they were finally able too. Soon after they had their first child, a daughter. Louis and Marie loved their children and I felt such sadness knowing what was to come. Louis troubled me at the end of this book. It’s like he couldn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of their situation and I think he felt that the French people would not turn on their King.

I enjoyed the pace of the story and Juliet Grey’s style of writing appeals to me.The book is written in beautiful detail and one can tell that Grey did an extensive research for her novel. There are so many aspects to this story and I was enthralled with every part, but I would like the reader to find out more for themselves by reading this novel. I highly recommend that you do.

Layered Pages

Wow! The Covenant Within by R.A.R. Clouston is a brilliantly written novel that divulges into the mind as well as into the imagination of the reader. The Covenant Within is centered around Jack Sinclair, an American CEO, who is thrown into mystery and adventure when he is suddenly called back to the Orkney Islands off of northern Scotland after his brother Thomas’s untimely death. He soon discovers that surrounding his brother’s death trouble and mystery lies. Before traveling back to the Orkney Islands Jack is plagued by tormented dreams of people he doesn’t know and places that he has never seen. He must travel deep within these dreams to unlock the secrets of his family’s past, present, and future.

R.A.R Clouston creates and novel that has the reader thinking about what could be. The dreams that Jack Sinclair has are called genetic memory and they are vast ancestral inheritances passed through the DNA, the reader will live Jack Sinclair’s life as well as memories of his ancestors. The story is created to keep you guessing about what has happen to Thomas as well as the dark secret of the Sinclair family that dates all the way back to the hill of Calvary. Although the story was a little slow at the beginning, I was glad that I kept reading because the adventure that I encountered in The Covenant Within was one that I won’t soon forget. Clouston creates a land of mystery and suspense on the Orkney Islands that will leave the reader wanting more. The characters will take the readers on a roller coaster of emotion and suspense that they won’t want to end. Overall, a fantastic read!

I am giving this book four stars!
Rachel Massaro
ReviewTeam Member

If you are interested in Layered Pages Review Team reviewing your book, please email Stephanie at

Thank you!

Interview with Author R.A.R Clouston & Giveaway

Bob, thank you for the pleasure of an interview. I would like to begin by asking you about your reading interests. What is your favorite literary genre?

There are several fiction genres that I enjoy reading including historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers; however, if I had to choose only one it would be the latter, especially political thrillers. In non-fiction, I like military history with a focus on the U.S. Civil War and World War II, as well as books about wildlife, notably those that deal with the plight of whales and dolphins.
A few of your literary favorites are among mine as well. What are you currently reading?

I usually read several books at one time across a wide range of genres. Currently, I am reading the following books; The Winter Chaser by Christopher Holt, The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, and Mapping Human History by Steve Olson.

What do you plan on reading next?

The next books to be added to my reading list are Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell and John Bruning, and When Elephants Weep by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy.

Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?

That is a difficult question to answer because whenever I finish a book I am so deeply involved with the story and characters that it is my favorite; at least until I start the next one. Having said that, although it is not my most recent work, I would have to say that The Covenant Within is my favorite because of my strong personal ties to Orkney and my Viking ancestry. At the risk of sounding maudlin, as I sat before my computer keyboard, I felt as if someone else’s hands were guiding mine.

I was delighted to read and review your book “The Covenant Within”. Could you please tell your audience a little bit about your story.

This is the perfect story for anyone who has ever had a riveting but disturbing dream that haunted them for days afterwards; or who have experienced a déjà vu incident that was so vivid, so powerful that it sent chills down their spine; or perhaps even more extraordinary, who are convinced that they have had past lives. Indeed, any of these may be signals that the person who experienced them is one of those special few who are capable of reliving the lives of their ancestors. Controversial? Yes. Improbable? Perhaps. Impossible? No. Not at all.

The reason can be found in epigenetics, which is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Since the 1960s, scientists have known that it only takes a tiny percentage of our DNA to build the human body with all its precision and complexity. But now there is growing evidence that the genetic code contains a vast memory bank of our ancestral past that can affect more than simply our physical being. This may play a critical role in our disposition to certain diseases such as cancer; or affect our behavior, our attitudes, and the way we live our lives. But there is another controversial aspect of this ‘genetic memory’ that is more intriguing than its physiological or behavioral counterparts; and this forms the basis of my story.
Specifically, some researchers believe that there is an inherent genetic recollection of the memories and experiences of our ancestors buried deep within our DNA. The Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, proposed these were memories common to everyone, which he called the collective unconscious. However, my story suggests that the significant life events of our ancestors are stored in our DNA and some people can, and do, relive snippets of the past lives of their distant relatives via these unique genetic memories. In effect, they experience time travel! 

There are very few books that grab me from the very beginning but your story did. How did you come up for the idea of “The Covenant Within”?

Several years ago, my wife and I visited my ancestral home in the Orkney Islands, a remote archipelago off the northern coast of Scotland. I had never been there before but as I walked the narrow streets of Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, or stood in awe inside the nine hundred year old St. Magnus Cathedral, or touched the weathered tombstones of my ancestors in a tiny cemetery in Orphir overlooking the wind-swept waters of Scapa Flow, I was overcome with a feeling that I had been there before: that I had lived and loved, laughed and cried, and fought and died there in a that wild and lonely land of my Viking fore bearers.
It was a profoundly moving experience. The feeling was compounded several days later, when my wife and I traveled to Edinburgh and I happened to read an article in the newspaper about the work being done in the field of epigenetics at the University of Edinburgh. It didn’t take long for my imagination to be unleashed, and as soon as we returned to the United States The Covenant Within began to take shape.

Were there any scenes in the book you found more challenging to write than others?

There were several: first, were the scenes that embody the negative effect upon my protagonist’s mental well-being as he relives events from his ancestors’ lives. The force of evil, which pursues him throughout the story, manifests itself in the beast of his onrushing insanity, and I found writing these scenes both challenging and unnerving.

And second was the final scene of the book, which as you know, presents a surprise ending that I believe will stun the readers and give them something to think about long after the story ends.

I loved the Historical aspects of your story. Please tell us about the research you did for that.

As you might suspect from my earlier comments about my trip to Orkney, I drew heavily upon the history of my ancestors, blending fact with fiction, to create the genetic memory incidents, or GMIs as I call them in my story. To do this, I was assisted by a comprehensive history and genealogy of the Clouston family that was prepared by a distant relative of mine. Through it, I was able to trace our family’s history in a virtually unbroken line all the way back to the first recorded Earl of Orkney, Rognvald the Powerful, a Norseman who lived in the 9th Century A.D.

Another source that helped me create the GMIs is a book titled The Orkneying Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney, written around 1200 A.D. by an unknown Icelandic author, and translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. The book represents the only medieval chronicle written about Orkney and it is replete with the history of events where my ancestors actually were present or might have been.

And finally, as with other authors of historical fiction, I immersed myself in the history of the time and place of my story, which in my case were the actual events in Viking and Scottish history that that appear in my GMIs. In every case I tried to be as historically accurate as my sources, both print and digital, would permit.

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

Yes. Simply this: there is more to who we are and where we come from than science can explain, and the human mind represents a vast, uncharted territory where heroes live and monsters dwell.

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

My imagination. It is my greatest strength and perhaps my greatest weakness because it knows no bounds.

What is your next book project?

Building upon my answer to the previous question, my imagination has taken me on a journey across a sprawling landscape of genres and storylines. The five books I have self-published―the fourth of which is The Covenant Within―cover such highly-charged topics as gun control (the Where Freedom Reigns series), ocean conservation (The Tempest’s Roar), and rancorous, partisan politics that jeopardizes the security of our nation (No Greater Evil).

A common theme throughout all my work is the eternal struggle between good and evil. How and where this will lead me in my next book is not yet clear.

What books have most influenced your life?

I don’t know that I can point out any books that have most influenced my life, beyond the Bible, a copy of which my grandmother gave me on my seventh birthday and which I still have today.

However, I can tell you that there have been several books that have most influenced my writing: they are Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway; The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald; and last but certainly not least, On Writing by Stephen King.

What do you think contributes to making a writer successful in self-publishing?

Although there are exceptions, as evidenced by several top-selling books currently listed in the New York Times Book Review, I believe that to be successful an author must be a good writer. And to be a good writer you must do three things; 1) read, 2) read, and 3) read. It is only by reading the work of others that you can learn how to write well.

If you do not do this, you are doomed to be a bad writer. One only has to look at the vast majority of poorly-written self-published books available today to see that most indie authors take the easy way out.

Finally, to be a truly great writer, like the authors I mentioned above, is a God-given gift that few of us possess or can ever hope to achieve.

What do you think of this immediate age of self-publishing?

I think it is a great time to be a writer―arguably the best of times―because we are finally, and forever, freed from the narrow-minded, mercenary, and self-serving arrogance of traditional publishers.

What is your favorite quote?

I have so many that I am hesitant to pick just one. However, the quote that applies best to being a self-published author in a world where everyone is a critic is from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act II, scene ii, line 1)

“He jests at scars that never felt a wound.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?


Author Bio:

R.A.R. Clouston is a retired corporate executive whose career as a business professional has included roles as the president and CEO of several international consumer products companies. He has also been a guest lecturer at a number of graduate business schools in the US and Canada; however, his passion has always been writing. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from McGill University, and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. He is a member of the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance and also holds a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.


His website can be found at

R.A.R. Clouston is offering his novel, “The Covenant Within”, forFREE on Amazon for five days! Make sure you get your copy!

Review: The Covenant Within

An inheritance is passed down through DNA and comes in dreams-deja vu-of the past. The protagonist, Jack, is tormented by this family inheritance and begins to think he is going insane. At the same time his estranged brother has committed suicide. So Jack travels to Scotland to attend his brother’s funeral and discovers troubling circumstances surrounding his brother’s death. He feels compelled to find out the truth and as he does his life and the people helping him, becomes in danger. He discovers a secret about his family that goes all the way back to Christ’s Crucifixion.

Jack is a complex character and at one moment I felt drawn to him and the next I was infuriated and irritated with him and the decisions he was making. He could be so caring and sympathetic, then the next, he was uncaring and withdrawn. When his life or the people’s life that he cares about are in danger, he would become strong and courageous.

There are some developments in the story that I did not see coming and that is what makes for a good thriller novel. Not knowing what is going to happen next. I felt Clouston did an excellent job tying the events of the past and present together and Jacks, “dreams” of the past is a believable and solid foundation for the plot. I’m really impressed with the concept of this story and as a avid reader of historical fiction, I enjoyed the historical aspects of it.

An enjoyable and intriguing read that I recommend to anyone!
By Stephanie

Layered Pages

Interview with Author Jane Gray

I would like to introduce Author Jane Gray, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion. If you have any enquiries about IndieBRAG and you are a self-publishing author please visit our website at


 Jane, please tell us about your book, “The Bitti Chai.”

The Bitti Chai is basically a story about an endless love between two teenagers from very different cultures. It explores family emotions and ties, loyalty and love. It deals with bereavement and the grieving process and how the family pulls together to support and cherish their loved ones. I hope it portrays an accurate and positive image of Romany culture rather than the negative stereotypical image often portrayed by the press and some television programmes. There is an occult element which runs through the story and this is something I have always been fascinated by.

Was there any research you did for your story? If so, please explain.

The research for my book was limited with regard to the Romany aspect as I was brought up by my Romany grandfather and our culture and family values are central to the background of the book. Being heavily involved with horses myself this aspect of the story was second nature to me. However I have had to carry out research on Traditional Witchcraft and folklore but this relates more to the follow up novel as the story expands.

How long did it take to write Bitti Chai?

Not long really perhaps I had the bones of the book down in a few months, learning to hone it into a readable book without continuity errors and head hopping was a different story. I am basically a storyteller not yet a writer.

Is there a character in your story you feel connected too?

Yes undoubtedly Reigneth. She is named after my great aunt who was born on the road side at Rainworth (pronounced Renath). I feel very drawn to her character in all ways, she epitomises what I myself value in a young woman, strong and determined with good values.

Who is your least favorite character?

Initially Grace as she is such a cold fish but she is getting better and improving thanks to Reigneth but Jed Cummings is so obviously the most vile character, a wife beater and generally not a pleasant fellow.

What is your next book project?

The follow up to The Bitti Chai called The Lost Souls, it’s pretty much complete and just needs the finishing touches. Minimising head hopping is a problem for me I want to tell the reader everything and from everyone’s viewpoint. My editor Jo Field is amazing I’d be lost without her.

What books have most influenced your life?

Aside from the obvious classics like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Rebecca etc. I tend to like books with a strong female lead. Plays – Taming of the Shrew again strong female character. I like what my friends jokingly call “boys books” Conn Iggledon Conquerer Series (Ghengis Khan), Lian Hearne Tales of the Otori (Samurai) etc. Generally though my taste is very varied with the exception of spy thrillers I’m not too keen on them.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Be tenacious! Short and sweet I know but the writing is the heavenly part when for a short time you can be anyone you want to be. The marketing that’s a whole different ball game and not one I am particularly good at. You need to learn to network though whether you like it or not and that is time consuming in itself. If you’re not good at it, learn quick.

What is your favorite quote?

I’m still waiting to discover it! Although Winston Churchill takes some beating with: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”



Jane Gray Bio & Links:

The Bitti Chai, a love story for young adults, is my first novel and the first in a trilogy. The second, The Lost Souls, will be coming out later this year.  The novels are based on the cultural background and Romany heritage of my own family.  It has long been a tradition in Romany families to story-tell and my family were no exception.  I just see myself as carrying on that tradition.

The youngest of a family of ten I was brought up by my Romany grandfather and Gauja(non-Romany) grandmother. I live and work in Nottinghamshire.  Besides working part time, I ride and breed Native ponies, so my writing provides a less active pastime for me. I am married and have three grownup children.

I am a keen family historian and have had a number of factual articles on genealogy and tracing family history published in the Romany Routes journals.

I draw a great deal of inspiration from music while I’m writing. Much of my literary interest revolves around areas of the occult and spirituality, so it seemed natural for me to introduce this element into Johnny’s and Reigneth’s story. Often when I am working in the fields or with my ponies an idea will develop and sometimes, when the house is quiet or I am unable to sleep, ideas come to me so I keep a notebook next to my bed. 

As yet I consider myself to be more of a storyteller than a writer and am conscious that in developing my writing technique I still have much to learn, but I hope that eventually I will have enough confidence to think of myself as a fully-fledged author!

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jane Gray who is the author of Bitti Chai, 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 Bitti Chai merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Thank you!

Interview & Giveaway with Author Traci E. Hall

I would like to introduce Author Traci E. Hall.

Traci, please tell us about your book, “The Queen’s Guard.”

The Queen’s Guard: Violet is the first in my medieval romance series about women spies for Queen Eleanor during the crusade. Each woman brings something a little different to the table, and each would willingly lie, cheat, steal or die for Eleanor.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing about the past?

Language. I can stay within bounds of what happened, and how they travel and eat etc. but what is always hard for me is how they talk. The truth of the matter is that what is written probably wasn’t how they spoke in casual day to day conversation. I imagine they had slang and contractions too. A lot of words we use weren’t invented yet, either, so I just do the best I can while keeping the story flowing for the modern reader – and add an author’s note explaining what I’ve done, and why.

What is your favorite/least favorite character you have written about and why?

They are all my favorites at the time! Just like a mother can’t have a favorite child, I like all my characters, and want the best for them. During the writing process, they become family, best friends, confidants.

How long did it take you to write The Queen’s Guard?

I am a prolific writer with a supportive family. They understand when the story keeps me in a different room. I plot, and do character sheets so that when I sit down, I really know what is going on. Prep time cuts down at least two months writing for me, and I can then finish my story in three or four months.

Who designed your book cover?

Medallion Press has a wonderful Art department!

Who is your publisher?

Medallion Press. They’ve been really great to work with, and published my Boadicea series. Love’s Magic, Beauty’s Curse and Boadicea’s Legacy

Who or what inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always told stories to myself, or my cousins and little brother. I read to escape. It seemed a good fit!

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Never give up. My publishing journey has been filled with ups and downs. If you have a burning desire to write a story, then do it. Find a way to make it happen. Publishing right now is intense and crazy, and a lot of interesting projects have come from the chaos. Don’t be afraid.

What is your favorite quote?

“to write is human, to edit is divine”
― Stephen King, On Writing

Only because I didn’t use to think this, I dreaded revisions ad edits, but really, edits are smoothing the work to a shiny finish, knowing you’ve done your best. Thank you so much Stephanie


Author Bio & Links:


Award winning author Traci Hall writes paranormal romances for teens as well as historical romances for adults. She’s co authored a non-fiction book about adoption, and written a coming of age story. Traci has been interviewed on the radio, web tv, and Fox and Friends. She lives in South Florida with her husband and children, reading, researching and writing.

Traci is graciously giving a e-book of the Queen’s Guard for a lucky winner. Please leave a comment below and your email address and a winner will be chosen. The giveaway ends on September 4th.

My review for, The Queens’ Guard is here:


Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

A refreshingly original piece of literature, The Miracle Inspector will spur you to think in new ways. Helen Smith has created a world where women are so marginalized in futuristic London that they cannot leave their homes without full body coverings. Although the setting is in the future, the story is not set so far in the future as to be unbelievable or unrecognizable which only serves to further invest the reader in the journey.

While weaving the separate strands of this story into a cohesive tapestry Smith endears us to the main couple through her descriptions of their everyday lives, thoughts, and dreams. Simultaneously, an understanding of Lucas’s family history evolves among the pages revealing a tumultuous, if slightly scandalous, past. The details of Lucas and Angela’s planned escape from this new London smacks of accounts of refugee outflows from war torn third world countries. It is this rendering of a modern western society reduced to “an oppressive place where poetry has been forced underground, theatres and schools are shut, and women are not allowed to work outside the home” which spurs thoughts on how life could change in an instant if we allow fear to overcome rationality.

Smith has won a well-deserved Arts Council Award for The Miracle Inspector. I would recommend this book to readers looking for an unconventional love story, or those interested in themes about overcoming oppression. Also, for the descriptions of poetry and art, this book would appeal to those with an interested in performing and activist arts.

Brandy Strake
Layered Pages Review Team Member