Interview with Author Elisabeth Storrs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  What are your goals as a writer?

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

5.  What books have most influenced your life?

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

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

6.  What is your next book project?

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

7.  What is your favorite Quote?

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

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

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

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

Stephanie’s review for The Wedding Shroud:

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

Thank you Elisabeth for this lovely interview!

Stephanie

Betrayal by Michele Kallio

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

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

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

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

Interview with Author Mari Passananti

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie’s review for The Hazards Hunting While Heartbbroken:

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

Hiram’s Honor by Max R. Terman

This deeply moving story describes Union soldier Hiram Terman’s experiences during the American Civil War. Hiram joins the 82nd Ohio Regiment in 1862, where he meets two men, Seth and Isaiah, and they become fast friends. As they leave for the first march, they are excited but apprehensive about what lies ahead.

Hiram, Seth, and Isaiah face many challenges as they march from battle to battle and camp to camp. At the battle of Gettysburg, Hiram, his friends, and hundreds of soldiers are taken prisoner by the Confederates and sent to Belle Island. Death is a real possibility in the prison, so they quickly learn how to survive under the most vile conditions. Hiram is eventually transferred to Andersonville and other camps as well.

The misery of the prison camps is heart-breaking and many of the men perish. This story highlights one soldier’s admirable strength, courage, and perseverance to withstand the horrors of war, and the author does a wonderful job of describing this. The book is well-written and the character building is excellent. Max Terman offers the reader a realistic and detailed account of the battles and what camp life was like for the soldiers. I felt as if I were there witnessing first-hand what they were going through. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover the author is a descendant of Hiram, which made the story all the more interesting to read. I highly recommend this book to readers who are interested in this period of time in U.S. history.

Stephanie

You also may see my review on HNS: http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/hirams-honor/

Interview with Author Paula Lofting




1. Tell us about your book “Sons of the Wolf”.
Sons of the Wolf is the first in a planned series of books about the Norman Conquest of England. The first book shows what life was like in England in the 12 years leading up to the Battle of Hastings seen through the eyes of King’s thegn, Wulfhere and his family. Their lives interweave with those of historical characters such as Harold Godwinson and King Edward the Confessor. Wulfhere’s family is caught up in a blood feud with the neighbouring landowner, Helghi, and when his wilful daughter Freyda forms a relationship with Helghi’s son against her parent’s will, Harold, Wulfhere’s Lord, forces Wulfhere to agree to a betrothal between Freyda and the boy to end the feud between their families. Wulfhere reluctantly agrees but is unable to accept the idea that his daughter will be married to the son of his great enemy. He and Helghi’s hatred for one another has run deep for many years and he is determined to find a way to extricate himself from this alliance without compromising his honour and relationship with his Lord.

2. Who or What inspired you to become an author?

I have always wanted to write, as soon as I could hold a pen I think. I got most of my inspiration as a kid from great authors like Rosemary Sutcliffe who wrote The Eagle of The Ninth and Leon Garfield who wrote Smith and Black Jack. I loved those books. I loved the history concept and the fact that you could really get into another world, one so different from your own. Later I got side tracked in life and didn’t feel that I had what it takes to write a book. Then as I got older, I found the books by Sharon Penman so inspiring that I started imagining my own stories in my head.

3. What are your goals as a writer?

To finish my Sons of the Wolf series , the second book is completed but needs a good edit. Also I want to finish a book I have been working on , a thriller called Killing the Sandman and I’d love to write a book for my Grandad set in the first World War.

4. What dreams have been realised as a result of your writing?

When I first started writing Sons of the Wolf, I had never thought I would see it published until a couple of friends read the first chapters and suggested I go for it. It’s been my dream now for about 6 years to have it published which it will be in August. That would be a dream come true for me.

5. What books have most influenced your life?

I would probably say the books that made big impressions on me were: The Sun in Spleandour and The Reckoning by Penman. With the Reckoning, I was so moved by the story of the Welsh Princes and the oppression meted out to the Welsh people as a result of English domination. The story of Ellen de Montfort and Llywellyn touched me also very deeply.

6. What is your favourite Quote?  

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill.

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

Make sure as you write each chapter, you keep a record of what has happened and highlight salient points. Doing this really helped me with the flow and consistency and time frame. Also I kept a file on each character, documenting their descriptions and ages. Finally, ensure that you learn about Pont of View and not to Head Hop, a complete nono in the writing world.

A little about Paula: Lives inWest Sussex, United Kingdom .Mother of 3, psychiatric nurse, author of Sons of the Wolf and damn funny woman! Seek not evil Seek not to gain but Seek only to give and live just in the day.

Website: http://paulalofting-sonsofthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/synopsis-to-sons-of-wolf.html

Paula, thank you so much for this lovely interview! It was an honor!


Stephanie