Thank you Florence for the pleasure of an interview and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your story, “The Coach House.”
1. Forbid her from riding astride
2. Hide her dueling sword
3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers
4. Frisk her for hidden daggers
5. Don’t get distracted while frisking her for hidden daggers…
Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. Regardless of how fetching she looks in breeches.
Promised to the Earl of Plump Pockets by her impoverished father, Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and…ridiculously handsome.
It’s a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is…who’s taming whom?
The premise for your story is intriguing. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been a blogger for about ten years now, so I thought it would be fun to make blogging the occupation of the main character. Once I determined that, I asked myself, “What does this character blog about?” The idea of blogging about unsolved cold cases came to mind, and I decided then that I would enjoy reading such a blog, so it just seemed like the perfect start to developing an interesting character who finds herself embroiled within one of the cold cases she is researching.
The easy answer would be to say that I was born and raised in South Louisiana, so it’s less challenging to write about familiar territory. However, while that’s true, it’s not the entire reason. South Louisiana, with its many bayous and its haunting past, provides a natural setting for a mystery / suspense novel. In addition, the Cajun population naturally contains its share of “quirky” characters, and I wanted to infuse the tense drama with some lighter, sometimes funny, moments. Finally, I believe readers enjoy learning about new places and cultures, without having to think too hard or being made to feel as though they are being educated. South Louisiana provides plenty of rich experience through landscape, history, and culture that keeps readers engaged and interested.
The biggest challenge in writing The Grave Blogger was my own propensity for second-guessing myself. Since this was my first novel, I was constantly wondering if this thing was any good or not. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to distance myself enough from my writing to be a completely objective judge, but hopefully, the second-guessing will lessen to some degree over time.
The other main challenge is one that I’m sure is all too common – time – or the lack thereof. My “day job” and life in general makes it difficult to devote much time to writing, so the majority of the book was written late at night. I suppose the late night writing sessions may have even contributed to some of the darker moments in the book.
The Grave Blogger is the first in a series. I’ll be writing several more that involve the same main cast of characters. Each subsequent book, however, will focus on a different character than the others. So, for example, The Grave Blogger’s main character was Raya. While she will still play a significant role in every book of the series, she won’t be the main focus. Nick, Dustin, Sharon, Elise, and perhaps others will get their share of the spotlight in future novels.
Absolutely! That’s not to say I would necessarily turn down a publishing deal, but I do love the control that comes with self-publishing. There are benefits and drawbacks to both traditional publishing and self-publishing, but I don’t regret taking the self-publishing route at all. It’s been a very positive experience for me.
I love a good mystery! I’m not terribly picky about the sub-genre. Traditional mystery, hard-boiled detective, police procedural, suspense, or thriller…I’m happy with them all.
My sister told me about it. I have no idea how she discovered indieBRAG, but obviously word of mouth is still a powerful force in marketing.
“You’ll never shine if you don’t glow”. This is a lyric from an old Smash Mouth song called “All Star”. The video is a little silly, but the lyrics really do pack a lot of meaning. This particular quote is actually my motto; it’s definitely one of my life’s guiding principles. That line can probably be taken any number of ways, but I interpret it this way: Find the spark within you; the joy, the life, the wonder of yourself and let it out! Share those special parts of yourself with the world, and you’ll find that the tiny spark begins to glow, eventually resulting in a light that shines brightly in many positive ways.
A message from BRAG:
A deeply moving and masterfully written story of human resilience and enduring love, The Plum Tree follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath.
“Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books—and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.
Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job—and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive—and finally, to speak out.
Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake.
Ellen, as I read your book I was so touched and brought to tears by your story. What was the foundation for your story?
The Plum Tree is loosely based on my family’s experiences during WWII. My mother grew up in Nazi Germany, the eldest of five children in a poor, working-class family. When WWII broke out, my grandfather was drafted into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Russian front, where he was captured and sent to a POW camp in Siberia. Eventually he escaped, but for two years, my mother and her family had no idea if he was dead or alive until he showed up on their doorstep one day. During the four years my grandfather was off fighting, my grandmother repaired damaged military uniforms to bring in a small income. She stood in ration lines for hours on end, made sugar out sugar beets, and bartered beechnuts for cooking oil. She cooked on a woodstove, made clothes out of cotton sheets, and raised chickens and vegetables to keep her children fed. Under the cover of night, she put food out for passing Jewish prisoners and listened to illegal foreign radio broadcasts—both crimes punishable by death. She put blackout paper over the house windows so the enemy wouldn’t see their light and when the air raid sirens went off night after night, she ran down the street to hide with her terrified children inside a bomb shelter.
These stories and more were the inspiration behind The Plum Tree.
Your character Christine has inspired me to be a better person and to stand more firmly in my faith and my walk of life. Is there a person in your life/family that inspired you to write about her in your story?
I guess I would have to say my mother. She always inspires me to be strong. She lived through WWII in Germany, came to America alone at the age of 21 to marry an American soldier, and survived and escaped an abusive marriage. Then, after my sister suffered a severe head-injury in a car accident that left her unable to communicate in any way, my mother took care of her at home—for twenty-three years. Through it all, my mother was, and still is, the first person to take food to a sick neighbor, the best mother and grandmother anyone could ask for, and the strongest woman I know. Even while her heart was breaking, she gave me a rock to stand on.
There is clearly several messages in your story that readers will grasp. Is there a main message that you want readers to come away with that might change their lives?
One of my main intentions in writing The Plum Tree was to get people to realize that retrospective condemnation is easy, that collective guilt as opposed to individual guilt is senseless, that being German doesn’t mean you were a Nazi. Few people know that at its peak, the Nazi party consisted of only 10% of the German population. My hope in writing my novel was that people would begin to look at the Germans of that time on a case-by-case basis, instead of painting them all with the same brush. I think that lesson might be even more important today as our world is getting smaller and more diverse. Everyone should stop and realize they don’t know what other people have been through before they pass judgement.
There are many deeply and emotional scenes in your story. Which scene did you find most difficult to write?
I would have to say the most difficult scenes to write were in the concentration camp, specifically when Isaac and Christine first get to Dachau and families are being separated by the guards. I can’t imagine how utterly devastating it must have been to have your child ripped from your arms. I’m not sure I would have survived it.
Where there any research challenges?
No challenges really, but it was a little bit of a trick to get the timeline of the war and the Holocaust right, due to the story covering nearly seven years. I guess the only real challenge was trying to keep myself from getting lost in the research because I was fascinated by the subject matter. I had to make myself stop reading and get back to writing!
What book project do you have coming up next or are currently working on?
Right now I’m working on my second novel. It’s about a young woman who discovers a former insane asylum attic filled with suitcases left behind by patients who checked into the institution but never checked out.
What are you currently reading?
The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith.
What do you plan on reading next?
The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White
E-book or Paperback?
Coffee ot tea?
Author Bio & Links:
Ellen Marie Wiseman was born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in Northern New York, A first generation American, Ellen has traveled frequently to visit her family in Germany, where she fell in love with the country’s history and culture. She lives peacefully on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and three dogs.
Thank you Ellen!
Here are just a few of the Novels I want to read this year! Of course there are so much more titles I want to read, too many to list! But I will be adding to this list throughout the year. I have listed them in no particular order. Some of these I’m reading for review. If your a Historical Novel Author and would like me to consider reviewing your novel, you can contact me at email@example.com
4. Bianca’s Vineyard byTeresa Neumann (for review)
5. The Sister Queen by Sophie Perinot (for review)
6. Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth
7. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
8. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
9. Saint Maggie by Janet R. Stafford (for review)
10.The King’s Grace by Anne Easter Smith
11.Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
12. Ripples in the Sand by Helen Hollick (for review)
13. The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones
14. Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
15. Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara
16. Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown
17. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
18. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
19. The Nine Day Queen by Ella March Chase
20. The twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer
21. Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
22. The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson (UK Release)
23. Illumination by Matthew Plampin
24. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
25. 1356: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell
26. The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas
27. Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhol
28. The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
29. Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio
30. Summerset Abbey by TJ Brown
31. The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan
32. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff
33. The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau (for review)
34. A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
35. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
36. Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
37. Exiles by David Pilling
38. Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd (for review)
39. The Queen’s Vow by C.W Gortner
40. Seduction by M.J Rose (for review)
Paula, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion and I’m delighted to be interviewing you for the second time! You have written a story that involves one of my favorite persons in history, Harold Godwinson and you have introduced people in your book that I’m not familiar with. Please tell your audience about your story.
Hi Stephanie, thanks very much for allowing me to tell your readers about my book. Sons of the Wolf is set in 11thc England in the years leading up to the Norman Invasion. Many people know the date 1066 heralded the end of Olde Engla-lond and swept in new masters from across the sea, the dawn of the Norman Age in Britain. Much has been made of the ‘Usurping Godwin’ whose comeuppance on the field of battle was delivered by the ‘righteous’ William of Normandy. But do they know the story from the English point of view? In Sons of the Wolf, the preceding events that influence both sides are explored and in the sequels that follow the reader will be able to take in the factors that culminate in the Battle of Hastings. The story looks at the events of the 1050’s through the eyes of Wulfhere, warrior, husband, father and loyal subject of his king Edward the Confessor. Holding his lands directly from the King, his position demands loyalty to Edward himself, but Wulfhere is duty-bound to also serve Harold, a bond forged within Wulfhere’s family heritage and borne of the ancient Teutonic ideology of honour and loyalty. Wulfhere is a man with the strength and courage of a bear, a warrior whose loyalty to his lord and king is unquestionable. He is also a man who holds his family dear and would do anything to protect them. So when Harold demands that he wed his daughter to the son of Helghi, his sworn enemy, Wulfhere has to find a way to save his daughter from a life of certain misery in the household of the cruel and resentful Helghi, without comprising his honour and loyalty to his lord, Harold. On the battlefield, Wulfhere fights for his life but elsewhere the enemy is closer to home, sinister and shadowy and far more dangerous than any war.
The hardest scene I had to write was a scene where the town of Hereford is razed and sacked by an army of Welsh and Norse-Irish. There are some horrific threads throughout the chapter and although I didn’t want to write something too graphic that would leave the reader feeling sickened, I did want the reader to get a sense of the terrible thing that raids like this must have been. It was probably the most difficult scene I had to try and get it right.
One of my reviewers wrote in her review, “Paula’s characters feel like real people, with complex human emotions, motivations and sometimes failings.” How did you research the lives of your characters and please explain to your audience if there were any fictional characters to your story and who they are.
My main character is fictional but he is plucked from the Doomsday book into my story and created anew for Sons of the Wolf. Wulfhere was the thegn that owned the land around Little Horsted near Uckfield in Sussex. Nothing is known about him apart from the fact he had 5 hides and 30 virgates of land, 16 tenants and 7 and a half plough and oxen between them. I have created his story, his family and his personality for him. I hope he doesn’t mind! He is a very flawed character and all my characters are complex just like real people are. His family and the other fictional characters are written the same and even in the 11thc, you can tell by their writings and their tales that the Olde English were just like us, they loved, they laughed, they cried and they fought. They wanted the best things in life and above all to belong in their place whatever that might have been according to status. Poems like The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Deor, the Wife’s Lament are just some that give us a glimpse of their nature. The riddles from the Exeter Book show us their bawdy side. Through these writings, the Anglo-Saxon English come alive. There are also the usual historical characters in the book too and Harold Godwinson and his family make plenty of appearances as their story runs parallel with Wulfhere’s.
What would you like readers to come away with after reading your book?
I want them to care deeply about my characters. I want them to feel what they feel, sense what they sense. I want them to hate them, love them and be cross with them when they muck up. I want my readers to care what happens to them, whether they understand them or not. My characters don’t always follow the goody-two-shoe type mould you might get in some books. To me they had to be real and how can characters be real if they are perfect? I actually love all my characters, even the nasty ones, because they are my creations.
How long did it take you to write, Sons of the Wolf? Will there be a sequel to Sons of Wolf and when do you plan on the release if so?
It took me 6 years to write Sons in its entirety which included the sequel The Wolf Banner which I am currently editing. It was originally meant to be one volume but I had no idea how big it was until I approached my publisher. The Wolf Banner I am hoping will be out some time in the Spring.
What are you currently reading?
I have been reading a very large epic book called The Jacobite’s Apprentice. It’s about the rivalries between the Hanoverian and Jacobite factions in Manchester in the 18thc. Well researched and reads like a classic. I’m reviewing it for my friend the author David Ebsworth. Thing is I’m very busy and only read when I am in bed really so it’s taking me such a long time. I’ve also just read and reviewed the Norman Conquest by Marc Morris which was great.
What do you plan on reading next?
Well, I first found out about BRAG on Facebook and hoped that one day I might get an award too one day! So pleased I did!
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.
A message from BRAG:
The Half-Hanged Man is about the French Chronicler Froissart who comes to England in search of tales to add to his life’s work of chivalry and so on. He visits a tavern to gather himself after he was robbed in a alley and runs into a man who claims to be Thomas Page, a famous soldier of fortune. Froissart challenges Page to tell his story of adventures and so the story begins.
This captivating tale is set in the late 14th century and is laced with action, intrigue and will entertain you from beginning to end and leave you wanting more. Pilling’s characterisation of Thomas Page is genius and Pilling has a flare for writing dramatic and vivid battle scenes. So well-written in fact you feel like your right in the thick of it. I rated this story four and a half stars! I highly recommend!