Interview with Award Winning Author Justine Avery

justine-avery-bragI’d like to welcome award winning- B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Justine Avery to Layered Pages today.  Professionally, Justine Avery first traversed the murky corporate world of writing and designing technical documents to navigate through writing countless travel stories, reviews, personal essays, and articles. She is now the multi-award-winning author of numerous short stories and novelette-length works.

Personally, she has been writing since first falling in love with reading and words themselves, always viewing everything happening around her—and in her imagination—in the form of images translated into poignant phrases and intriguing sentences. She has written under many different names in many different genres, and is finally coming “home” to write, as herself, the stories that transcend genre.

Avery has lived countless stories, takes note of the infinitely more all around, and loves and appreciates every kind. As an avid reader of all genres, both fiction and non, she knows we, as readers, may have preferences, but we’re all—just as naturally—fans of every genre… when we find the stories with real intrigue that have no bounds, that have universal appeal. Those are the stories she prefers to find… and write.

“Story’s in everything we say and do. Story’s what drives us, scares us, changes us. We live stories, imagine them, fear some of them. They’re who we are. I’m a story reader, writer, and seer. I find everything about life and in this big, wide world (and beyond) utterly fascinating. Stories should be the same. I hope you enjoy the hell out of mine.”

Thank you for chatting with me today, Justine! How did you discover indieBRAG?

Thank you for the invitation!  I discovered indieBRAG by relying on a Google search to lead me to award programs or other recognition offered for independently published books and authors—if there were any at all.   I was so glad to find there are organizations, readers, reviewers, etc. devoted to discovering, critiquing, honoring, and publicizing indie books.  And indieBRAG is and does all of these!

the-end-bragPlease tell me about your story, The End.

The End is a novelette-length psychological suspense story with a bit of mystery, drama, and adventure tied in with a techno-thriller element.  It comes to life around a particularly eerie “what if” question: What if you find you’ve actually filmed the scene of your own death—actually caught it on camera?

How is Trevor influenced by his setting?

Trevor’s a “weekend warrior.”  His choice extreme sport is freeride mountain biking.  He spots a line, makes his own path, cuts across the canyonlands of southern Utah.  It’s his much-needed escape from the monotony of corporate life.  In the great outdoors—risking his life, using his learned skills and his own fitness—he temporarily frees himself from the suffocating chokehold of an unfulfilling life.

What are some emotional triggers for Trevor and how does he act on them?

Trevor’s biggest emotional trigger is feeling stifled, caged in, as situations and events in his life are not what he really wants them to be: his job, his marriage, his first child on the way, being confronted with his own mortality in the midst of it all.  He’s constantly striving to juggle his personal needs with his commitments.  And, being a naturally caring individual—often thinking of others before himself—his quest is all the more challenging.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I love a great “what if” question, and many, if not all, of my stories have begun just that simply.  The question popped into mind one day: “what if someone’s death was actually caught on camera—if they had the opportunity to witness their own death?”  A “what if” instantly leads to more questions, the answers being the story: how would the character feel, what would they think, could it actually happen and what would cause it, would they think it was then guaranteed to happen or would they try to fight it, to change fate?  The characters, their own stories and motivations, the mysterious circumstances, all unfold from there.

Will you share an imagery of what Trevor captures on video?

To not spoil the read, I’ll set the scene a bit.  Trevor always wears a helmet-mounted GoPro video camera when he goes for a ride.  He captures every jump, slide, and swerve, all from his point of view.  As The End begins, Trevor sets out on just another Saturday ride as the sun comes up over the canyon.  The reader rides along with him, through every thrill and a spectacular jump.  Only later, does Trevor take a moment to casually play back the footage, relive every exciting moment amid the beautiful setting, and find the video ends in a completely different way than he remembers.

What are the challenges of writing a thriller?

There are many!  A thriller is intensely fun to write as it’s just as thrilling for the writer, in the moment, as it is to read.  But that’s also part of the challenge: to get the pace right, to build up the tension, to make the moments that are most intense, frightening, and urgent for the character to feel the same for the reader—and to try not to give away the ending!  And hopefully, none of the little realizations along the way.

How long did it take you to write this story and what was your process?

Great question.  I keep a record of my daily writing—what I’m working on, how many words written—just to find how my writing habit evolves, and it’s great to recognize when I reach some achievement, such as the most words written in a single month.  There’s also a nice little phone app, Wordly, for keeping track of writing time, goals, rate, etc. for different projects.  So, apparently, The End was written over 13 days, in about 22 hours, but there were many gaps between writing sessions.  I really struggled with the beginning, with creating a character whose hobby was not one of my own.  There were many additional hours spent researching mountain biking itself: the gear, the lingo, the specially designed bike, the entire experience of it.  Luckily, the setting of southern Utah was one I’ve visited and explored myself!

Where can readers buy your book?

The End is available at all Amazon sites, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, iBooks, Smashwords, etc.  My personal site links directly to the book at all retailers: http://justineavery.com/books/the-end.

What are you currently working on?

Another great question!  …because I’m personally so excited about the answer.  I’m currently writing my first novel-length work, a huge idea in the speculative fiction genre.  I’m fighting to finish the first draft by the holidays.  Currently, the novel is over 110,000 words, which will be edited down in revisions—guaranteed.

Please share what you love most about telling a story.

The best question of all!  Hands down, I love the discovery most of all.  Sure, the “magic” of storytelling—how a simple notion, single character, or very tiny idea turns into an entire tale—is terribly fun and a thing to behold; but I love going on an adventure myself, as author.  I love laying down one sentence that leads to another, then another, the whole story unfolding as I type, discovered in the moment by me, and hopefully, just as exciting for the reader-to-be.  What we can’t or wouldn’t or just won’t get around to experiencing in “real life,” we get to experience, learn, and discover as writers.  It’s a never-ending adventure.

Be sure to check out The Life—and Art—of Writing: Justine Avery Interviews Film Director Devon Avery, here!

Justine Avery loves to connect with fellow readers and writers, explorers and imaginers. You can find her at JustineAvery.com, on Twitter.com @Justine_Avery… and between the lines of that new book you’ve been reading.

Justine’s website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Justine Avery who is the author of, The End, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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 End, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.M. Aucoin

jmaucoin-author-photo-1-bragI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.M. Aucoin to Layered Pages today to talk with me about his book, Honor Among Thieves. J.M. Aucoin is the product of when a five-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s ‘Zorro’ grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with ‘The Three Musketeers.’

When not writing, J.M. Aucoin practices historical fencing and covers the Boston Bruins for the award-winning blog, Days of Y’Orr. He lives in Heraldwolf’s Stone with his fiancee Kate and their dire-beagle, Rex.

Hi, Justin! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats o the B.R.A.G. Medallion! What is the premise of your story?

Thanks, Stephanie!

Honor Among Thieves is a historical adventure novel set in the early 1600s, during the Henri IV’s reign in France. We follow Darion Delerue, a former soldier turned highwayman, who has only two things of value in life—the hope in his heart and the steel at his side. After a heist on a royal ambassador goes wrong, he’s is thrown into a political plot to undermine the crown, pitting his old life as an honorable soldier against his new life as a thief and bandit. His actions could send France back into civil war.

There’s plenty of swordplay for folks who love a little action and adventure, but wrapped in real historical events for those who want to learn some history in the process.

honore-among-thieves-bragWhy Historical Fiction and how did you choose you setting and period?

I’ve been a fan of swashbucklers since I was a little kid. Every week I’d watch reruns of Guy William’s Zorro on Disney. I also fell in love with Disney’s The Three Musketeers as a child. Both stories captivated me. The idea that you could right wrongs and fight injustice with little more than a sharp blade and your wits was a powerful message that resonated with me as a kid – and has followed me into my adulthood.

I chose the early 17th Century France as an homage to Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. But since he took a sizable portion of France’s 17th Century historical events, I decided to turn back the clock to a time before the Mousquetaires du Roi were formed. By 1609, the French Wars of Religion had come to a close and France was on the rebound. It was a transitional time, free of war but with the threat of it around every corner. It seemed like an untouched setting and era, and a fun playground to work in.

Tell me a little about Darion Delerue strengths and weaknesses?

Sure. Darion is a complicated fellow – like most of us, I’d imagine. He’s an exceptional swordsman. Prudent and courageous, and with a relatively strong moral compass despite his life as a highwayman.

But he’s also stubborn and proud, and a bit raw around the edges when it comes to more diplomatic measures. He’s lived a rough life and it shows in his demeanor, but deep down he wants to evolve into something greater than he is – he’s just not sure if he’s capable of it.

What is an example of political intrigue in your story?

In 1609, Spain was struggling with its war with the United Providences, and France was working hard on an alliance with Dutch against Spain. In a desperate effort to keep the alliance from happening, they sent an ambassador to France to secure a double marriage between the two countries. Of course, Henri IV’s goal in life was to humble the Spanish Hapsburgs, so you can imagine how well that went.

So readers will get to see the interactions between Henri IV and Don Pedro de Toledo. But next to that is a fictional plot line that twists and wraps itself around some of these historical events. And not to give too much away, but an old enemy of Henry IV rears its head because of it all.

How much research went in to writing your story?

A decent amount, but finding good resources was actually difficult. I was surprised to find so little information at my local library (*shakes fist at Boston Public Library*), so I had to get creative. I found some nice (albeit older) research books online via Google Books that were free to download.

I must’ve spent a year and a half or so just researching to give myself a base level of knowledge of the times. I still research while I write, mostly detail stuff to give the story that authentic feel, but I feel pretty comfortable to power ahead as need be.

Who designed your book cover?

A good friend of mine – Graham Sternberg. We know each other via our love for practicing historical swordsmanship. Just so happens that he’s a professional artist. So I tapped him to be the artist for the Hope & Steel series. It was a lot of fun to work with him on the cover – collaborating ideas and seeing it come to life. The book cover creation process is one of my favorite parts of self-publishing.

Where can readers buy your book?

Like 99.9% of self-publishers, you can find Honor Among Thieves on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. For people who hate to give their cash to Amazon, they can buy an autograph copy via my Facebook store for the same price.

What are you working on next?

I’m about half way through the sequel to Honor Among Thieves (currently untitled). I’m also plotting some short fantasy adventures, too. Always seems to be more ideas than there is time to work on. Can I buy a few extra hours in the day? I’d really love to write all the things.

Thank you, Justin!

Thank you!

Justin’s social media links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

instagram

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.M. Aucoin who is the author of, Honore Among Thieves, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Honor Among Thieves, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

 

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Ginger Bensman

Ginger BensmanI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Ginger Bensman today to talk with me about her award winning book, To Swim Beneath the Earth. Ginger is a life-long student of the human condition with a deep interest in philosophy and ecology. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Development/Child and Family Studies from the University of Maine in Orono and has spent more than 25 years working in family support and child abuse prevention programs.

She lives with her husband in Salem, Oregon. This is her first novel.

Hello, Ginger! Thank you for talking with me today. Please tell me how you discovered indiebrag?

A couple years ago, I discovered a wonderful book, After the Sucker Punch by Lorraine Devon Wilke. Wilke’s book was a recipient of the Indiebrag award, and after I read her book, I began to notice and appreciate that little gold medallion as an indicator of quality. Two years later, when I published my own book, I knew I wanted to submit it to the Indiebrag process. The possibility of winning a medallion was an exciting but secondary motivation, mostly, I wanted a straight up evaluation of my novel. Indiebrag is a gift to readers and independent authors, helping readers find high caliber indie books, and supporting writers to produce their best work.

To Swim Beneath the Earth BRAGTell me about your book, To Swim Beneath the Earth.

To Swim Beneath the Earth is a literary novel about the possibility of reincarnation. Megan Kimsey, my protagonist, is a young emergency room physician from a small town in South Western Colorado. Since early childhood, she has been haunted by premonitions and dreams that, in the context of her life, make no sense. Her mother sees these experiences as evidence of a psychological disorder and brings in a psychiatrist to cure Megan of her hallucinations. But her father, with whom she shares a close and loving relationship, tries to help her understand and explore what’s happening to her. When he is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Megan is devastated, but the memory of his love and his belief in her, and the belated birthday gift she finds from him after his death, give her the courage to embark on an expedition to Colombia and Ecuador, determined to face her phantoms and piece together the riddles in her dreams.

Describe the La Plata Mountains.

I spent my growing-up years practically in the shadow of the La Plata Mountains. Geographically, the La Platas are a range of mountains in Southwestern Colorado, about a 14 mile drive from Durango, the setting for the first half of my novel, and the town where I was born. When I think of the La Platas, I think of snow-fed rivers, forests of aspen and evergreens, cool mornings, and clean pine-scented air. I spent a lot of time in those mountains. My grandfather was a hunting guide, my uncle was a forest service trapper, and my dad was an avid fly fisherman. My family spent several weeks every summer hiking and camping in the La Platas, and sometimes packing into remote areas on horseback. I learned at an early age to love and respect the Colorado mountains in a very intimate way.

Will you tell me one of the images that Megan is haunted by?

Throughout the book, Megan is haunted by sightings of the puma in both her waking and dreamlife. The puma is at once fearsome and comforting, and the she-cat often appears when Megan is stressed or at a transition point. The puma is a vestige from Megan’s former life and self (her power animal) meant to urge Megan toward some necessary but unknown (to her) future. In native mythology, the puma, the condor, and the snake make up the Incan trinity, and I give each of them their moment in the book. For the Incas, the condor represented sky—capable of taking messages to the gods and a being that does not hunt but feeds only on the dead; the snake travels to the underworld to shed its skin and be reborn; the puma represents earth and signifies patience and strength, characteristics Megan will need if she’s going to find what she’s looking for.

Talk about the courage and strength of Megan—and possibly the isolation she may feel with these attributes.

Because of Megan’s innate sense of what she knows to be true, the memories she has that are foreign to her own lifetime and culture, and her visions (past and future) that, if known, could make her seem strange and even dangerous, she has to be courageous and strong just to be herself. She has to keep secrets and tell lies, or else suffer assaults from the people (her mother, her friends, everyone but her father) and institutions (her church, medical community, etc.) that are supposed to protect and take care of her. She’s in a true double bind, and that makes her reluctant to trust or get close to other people.

I find your premise really fascinating. What inspired you to write this story?

To Swim Beneath the Earth really came about as an accumulation of ideas and images. For years, I was haunted by two different news stories. One, a newspaper article I’d read about a little girl from the American Midwest who died on the front porch of her family’s home during a snowstorm; the other, a feature with glossy photographs in the National Geographic about an Incan child that archeologists found sacrificed near the summit of El Plomo in Chile. The two children lived centuries and worlds apart, yet, in my mind, they kept converging.  Those two images became foundational when I began to pull together ideas to write a book about a young woman who has experiences that put her in conflict with the concrete “realities” of her life. At one point in the novel, Megan’s father says to her, “Just because something’s crazy doesn’t mean it isn’t true,” and, at least for me, that statement is the fulcrum of the novel.

Where can a reader buy your book?

It’s available as an e-book from Amazon, and from both Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

I think, like most writers, my aim is to write the kind of story that I enjoy reading. I want the story I’m telling to be able to be experienced and understood on many levels. I’m an avid reader and I have author heroes whose work thrills and inspires me; I’d like to offer that same kind of reading experience to my readers.

Define your writing style.

I would say my writing is character driven and descriptive. I give my characters a lot of latitude to do what they will, and language is important to me. I love to parse words and create images.

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on a novel about two aging sisters coming to terms with each other and the indignities of growing older.  I hope to have it published next spring.

Thank you, Ginger!

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Ginger Bensman who is the author of, To Swim Beneath the Earth, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, To Swim Beneath the Earth, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

 

Interview with Best-Selling Author, Kristen Harnisch

author KHKristen Harnisch is back with me today to talk with me about her book, The California Wife.  Internationally published, Kristen drew upon her extensive research and her experiences living in San Francisco and visiting the Loire Valley and Paris to create the stories for THE CALIFORNIA WIFE and her first novel, THE VINTNER’S DAUGHTER. Ms. Harnisch has a degree in economics from Villanova University and currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and three children.

Welcome back to Layered Pages, Kristen and thank you for chatting with me today about your book The California Wife. Please tell me about your story.

Thanks so much for inviting me back! The California Wife is the stand-alone sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter, and tells the story of a Franco-American winemaking family at the turn of the twentieth century. In The California Wife, the Lemieux family strives to establish an American winemaking dynasty. Sara and Philippe’s ambitions carry them from pastoral Napa to the Paris World’s Fair and into the colorful heart of early 20th-century San Francisco. Marie Chevreau, the midwife, returns just when Sara needs a friend. Marie enrolls as the first female surgical candidate at the prestigious Cooper Medical College in San Francisco. The California Wife is rich with intrigue and drama, and culminates in San Francisco’s Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

The majority of my characters are earnest and action-oriented. This keeps the story moving at a quick pace. Back in the nineteenth century, the average life expectancy was below fifty years of age and there wasn’t a great deal of time for self-reflection. My characters know they have a short time to realize their ambitions with their God-given talents. They are hardworking—pioneers in American winemaking and medicine—but equally passionate about their relationships because they know that their time is finite.

Print

What are Sara’s weaknesses and strengths?

Sara is a determined character, but she can be single-minded to a fault! She has suffered through the loss of two beloved family members and has worked tirelessly to reclaim her family’s nineteenth-century Loire Valley vineyard. These struggles have contributed to her determination to follow in her father’s footsteps as a master winemaker. However, Sara is young and doesn’t have the business or relationship experience that Philippe has acquired and she’s so focused on her own family and farm in Vouvray that she often fails to see the big picture. In The California Wife, Sara is challenged by circumstance to grow and mature.

What is some of the research you did for your story?

For The California Wife, I continued my research in the vineyards of Napa, touring wineries like Hess, Beringer and Bouchaine, and sampling the wines of the area. Winemakers, historians and wine experts all reviewed the manuscript to ensure that I was accurately portraying Napa vineyard life from 1897 to 1906. Old photographs of Napa City, San Francisco and articles from trade papers, like The Pacific Wine and Spirit Review, offered insights into the layout of the downtown area, the damage from the earthquake and fire, the wine price wars and life in general back then. For example, in Chapter 8, the characters attend a grand party in Asti at the Italian Swiss Colony. Here, on two thousand acres of land, the Italian-Swiss immigrants cultivated all kinds of fruits and in May of 1898 invited over two hundred fellow winemakers and San Francisco notables to attend a party inside a gigantic underground wine cistern that they’d just emptied of Chianti. This actually happened, and it was so much fun to discover a full account of the event while conducting my research!

What fascinates you most about the period you write in?

Where do I begin? By 1900, after suffering through the devastation of the vines from the phylloxera louse, California vintners were determined to protect and bolster their wine industry. They made scientific innovations in grape growing and winemaking—and invented creative ways to brand their wines to compete with the Europeans. In the late 1800s, women traded in their kitchen chores for important roles in their family businesses or factories. They marched for better working conditions, fair wages, equal opportunity and the right to have individual bank accounts. Temperance advocates, who favored the prohibition of alcohol, were the early driving force behind the suffrage movement. In The California Wife, this creates trouble for Sara, who is a winemaker and women’s rights supporter. These are just a few of the economic/cultural shifts during this era that I explore in my novels!

Define your writing style.

My agent likes to describe my writing style as “literary-meets-commercial,” or “upmarket fiction.” Readers and reviewers generally describe my stories as fast-paced, rich in history and rife with conflict. Book clubs often choose my novels because they pair well with wine!

What are your goals as a writer?

As a writer, my goals are to captivate the reader and to share some memorable historical moments in a subtle, but entertaining way. It’s also very important that the reader feels like he/she is present in the scene with the characters—seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, hearing everything as the characters do.

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing my research for the third book in the series, which will take the Lemieux family through World War I in France and Prohibition in California. I’m also writing a women’s contemporary novel about friendship and reinvention and mid-life survival, which is so much fun because it doesn’t require nearly the amount of research that I’m used to doing!

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can buy my book at their local bookseller, at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million or anywhere! The California Wife is available in trade paperback and e-book. I also enjoy Skyping/FaceTiming with book clubs, if my schedule permits. Readers and book clubs can contact me through my Website .

Find Kristen Online:

Webite

Facebook

Twitter

Be sure to check out my interview with Kristen about her book, The Vintner’s Daughter, here!

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly

Garrith OReilly BRAG II’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly to Layered Pages! By day, G. J. Reilly is a teacher of (mostly) ICT and Computing in the South Wales valleys, where he lives with his long-suffering wife and 2.4 cats. 

He has an eclectic selection of hobbies, from playing a number of musical instruments with varying degrees of competence to learning the art of contact juggling and teaching sword-based martial arts. Having gained his degree, he spent ten years working in industry, before deciding to change career and head into education.

With an interest in high fantasy, contemporary fantasy and science fiction from a young age, it comes as no surprise that his first work falls into the young adult contemporary fantasy genre.

Hello, G.J.! Welcome back to Layered Pages. It is a delight to be chatting with you again and congrats on another B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell your audience how you discovered indieBRAG and self-publishing in general.

Hi Stephanie and thanks very much for having me again, it’s great to be back.

I decided to follow the self-publishing route mainly because I was completely new to the industry. I’ve been writing on and off since I was young, but ‘Inquisitor’ was the very first full-length manuscript I’d ever produced. When a friend got in touch to tell me that there was an exciting open submission opportunity a few years back, I jumped the gun a little and sent it out unpolished and unrefined. What really surprised me was how long it went un-rejected! Of course, with the huge number other submissions, I finally received my very first ‘no’ and was surprised to find that it was incredibly polite and sincere. That’s when I discovered the indie writing community. But until I joined the Goodreads Kindle User Forum in early 2015, I had no idea how vast that community was. Well, one thing led to another and I soon noticed indieBRAG’s name on my screen time and again.

After looking at the quality of work submitted by other honorees at the time, I didn’t think that ‘Inquisitor’ would stand a chance of being accepted, so I put it out of my mind. Then, sometime during that summer, another writer friend brought indieBRAG up in conversation again and persuaded me to send my details. So I did. Then I forgot all about it again, so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed when it was rejected.

Well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone who’s received that confirmation from Geri how it feels! Now I visit the site every day just to marvel at the company I’m keeping and to check out the blog and read the interviews.

Piper_altTell me about your story, Piper.

‘Piper’ continues the Book of Jerrick story two years from the end of part one. Now a Grand Inquisitor in training (under the watchful eye of the ever-present Mr Catchpole), Tamara learns that Michael is alive and begins to form a plan on how to rescue him from the clutches of the Elder Council.

Meanwhile, having fled from their home at the old Masonic temple, Michael, Anna, and their friends learn that the Flayers – grim, half-dead shadows that lurk in the world between the mirror portals – have been growing in number and that the Piper of legend has returned to settle a score with an old enemy.

When Jerrick is forced to take refuge, things inevitably take a turn for the worst. In his absence, the more militant elders of the Council decide that the time is right to break with their passive traditions and take the war to the Inquisition. Having been ordered to guide a team of would-be assassins back to the academy, events take an even darker turn for Michael, as a heart-wrenching mission becomes a battle for survival.

Please tell me about the new Grand Inquisitor and what is the mood or tone he/she makes and how does this affect the story?

Although Tamara Bloodgood is the new Grand Inquisitor, she is very much the puppet monarch of the Inquisition in Britain until she’s eligible to take up her reign at 16.  In spite of the fact that Tamara’s story seems to take more of a backseat in ‘Piper’, she’s perhaps more important than Michael to the tone of the story.

Tamara’s decisions impact the story from the very first page, bringing the Inquisition closer to open conflict with the Council than we’ve ever seen them. Her intentions are absolutely clear and she even goes as far as brokering a deal with the Piper to achieve her goals. Even when she discovers the truth, Tamara’s still intent on the destruction of the Council once she’s rescued Michael from his ‘captors’.

‘Piper’ takes a very much darker, broodier tone than ‘Inquisitor’, but it’s not all Tamara’s fault. It was intended to reflect the changing moods most of us experience during our teenage years. But I didn’t want it to be the angst-ridden melodrama of some other coming of age stories either. Michael’s rite of passage comes in a single incident, where we can tell the kind of person he’ll be later on, but Tamara’s is drawn out for almost the entire length of the book.

Her attempts to break out from under Catchpole’s shadow only serve to draw unwanted attention from some important people. In a way, her drive to succeed forces the magister’s hand towards the end of the book and leads us into the next part of the story. For me, that’s where the most dramatic change happens. I don’t want to reveal the ending, but I wanted there to be an icy feeling to it that reflects what happens to Tamara. Hopefully, readers will feel the full impact of that change in the next book.

Who is Jerrick and what are his motivations?

Simply, Jerrick is the genie of the lamp. His story is a mishmash of the original ‘nights’ legend and the story of Solomon and the Djin (with a few embellishments). Unfortunately, because of the nature of his imprisonment, he decided long before the beginning of the series that he couldn’t lead the Elder Council any longer and now only serves as an advisor.

His motives for everything from the time we first meet him at the end of ‘Inquisitor’ are driven by guilt. To a certain extent, he was responsible for the beginning of the war and for the creation of the Inquisition. When we next meet him, we learn about his part in the Pied Piper’s tale and why he carries a share of the burden for the missing children of Hamelin.

‘Piper’ reveals a little more of Jerrick’s past, and of how a once compassionate idealist becomes the vengeful trickster of many folktales. He’s is a paradox in that his actions seem to be for the good of the Council and for the people he cares for, but his motivation is his own redemption for past mistakes.

Please share with me something suspenseful in your story.

I’d love to, but rather than hearing about from me, here it is:

“ Michael closed his eyes again, centering on the Inquisitor closest to him. Extending his will, he let it wander until it met the warrior’s defences, feeling an unpleasant tingling in his brain as he came into contact with the barrier. Tracing the line of the wall upwards until the tingling subsided, Michael pushed his mind over the top until he came into contact with the barrier’s caster. The Inquisitor’s head snapped upwards immediately. The sickening renewed tingling broke Michael’s concentration.

Okay, he thought. I can’t attack, but perhaps I can disarm.

Just as he had done time and again, Michael began to draw on his target’s power. He willed it upwards until the ribbon of energy arched over the Inquisitor’s shield and wound towards him. Risking a glance, he was elated to see that his attack had gone unnoticed. He stopped, knowing her suspicions would be raised if she suddenly ran out of power.

Is it possible to do more than one at a time? Michael wondered.

Stretching out again, he began with the woman and spread his attention to the next Inquisitor in the circle. As both streamers rose, Michael felt a noticeable difference in the ease of his endeavour, but it was still manageable, so he moved on to a third. The tricolour of energy felt like a sack of wet sand on Michael’s mind, and when it reached him, the squirming of it made him blanch. His stomach felt like he’d eaten an eight-course meal, and his head spun from the effort of moving so much weight so far.

It’s just like the trials, he reassured himself. If I can move an anvil, I can do this. What did Rupert say: “let’s kick some serious booty,”?

This time, he took a deep breath and let his shoulders drop. Watching through closed eyelids, he drew on the nearest Inquisitor once more, splitting his attentions in both directions. The weight of it was much easier to bear as he directed the ribbons to a space above the centre of the circle and held it there. Extending his will to the next in line, Michael felt a jolt of pressure as he watched the fresh colours mingle with the others.

By the time he had completed the circle, his shoulders were shaking and sweat poured down his face.  He groaned with effort, trying to control the ball of energies that hung in the air above the Inquisitors. Unlike the dull, cold iron of the anvil, the ball felt white hot in Michael’s head, as though he were trying to lasso the sun. It struggled against him, wriggling and twisting in Michael’s mental grasp. At last, he cried out in anguish, shuddering with pain as he let it go.”

(From ‘Piper; The Book of Jerrick – Part 2’; by G. J. Reilly)

What are the mirror portals?

Mirrors have been used in stories for as long as there have been fairy tales; either to see over great distances, tell the future or, most famously, to fuel the jealous rage of wicked queens. But as well as for spying, I use them as doorways that magically interconnect like a vast subway system. The rules for using them are a little complicated, but I hope they’re as realistic as they could be under the circumstances. For example, people can only travel between mirrors they can fit through, so your average car rear-view would be great for putting a hand through to steal something, but no good for travelling from London to Paris. Only highly reflective surfaces can be used for travelling; shop windows are good for spying, but not reflective enough to support a stable connection over long distances. Most importantly, however, the heavier the weight travelling between two destinations, the further apart the portals become, making solo travel almost instant, but group travel a much longer journey.

Will there be another book for this story?

Yes, two in fact: The Cull; The Book of Jerrick Part 3, and the final chapter (no official name as yet). I have outlines for character stories in this universe as well – one for Catchpole and one for Jerrick so far, but I’m planning on a well-earned break in another world before I put pen to paper on those.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers in the UK, you can get both parts at: Amazon

Readers in the US can visit:
Amazon

Or visit any of the other Amazon stores supporting Kindle worldwide.

Thank you, G. J.!

You’re very welcome, it’s been a pleasure!

Be sure to check out G.J. Reilly’s B.R.A.G. Interview for his book, The Book of Jerrick-Part I here

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to G.J. Reilly who is the author of, Piper, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Piper, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

Interview with Author Laura Powell

Laura PowellI have the great pleasure of welcoming Laura Powell to Layered Pages today. Laura is a Features Commissioning Editor at the Daily Telegraph. She has written for The Guardian, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and various magazines. She was awarded a New Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and was named as one of Amazon’s Rising Stars. She grew up in South Wales and now lives in London. The Unforgotten is her first novel.

Laura, thank you so much for talking with me today about your book, The Unforgotten. What a stunning debut! I enjoyed your story and I love the complexities of your characters. Tell me how you came to write this story?

Thanks so much – it still feels funny to hear that other people have read about the world that lived in my head only for so long. I started writing it one Sunday afternoon when my then-boyfriend was in football practice. I’d been on Facebook and had seen an old face that brought back so many memories. Out of the blue I started writing a dark, sort-of love story about someone who was in a relationship but was never sure whether her feelings were returned or not. By the end of the day I’d written two chapters. I’ve since weaved in lots of other elements – murder, mental illness, moral dilemmas. But that bittersweet love story remains the core for me.

What is the premise of your story?

It’s a forbidden love story between a 15-year-old girl Betty and a 30-year-old journalist Gallagher set in 1950s Cornwall. They’re from different classes, different worlds – but their relationship becomes very deep, very fast. They meet when Gallagher arrives in the fishing village where Betty lives to report on a series of murders – but they soon make a discovery related to the murders. And they are each faced with a huge dilemma that tests their feelings for the other and questions their morality. The devastating consequences of that decision unravels over the next 50 years.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

It is very dark, bleak but there is also a hopefulness and a lightness to it, which I hope shines through. Though ultimately I’m a sucker for a weepy book or film so…

How is your character(s) influenced be their setting?

The main character, Betty, is 15 and has hardly ever left her hometown of St Steele – a fictional Cornish fishing village – aside from going to the occasional dance in the neighbouring town. She travels outside that area for the first time in her life in the book – first to St Ives, a real Cornish town. And later, to London. Taking her away from that setting makes her even more vulnerable than she always has been, but also really tests her, as she has been so insulated (geographically speaking) all her life.

The Unforgotten

How did you choose a Cornish fishing village of St Steele as the setting of your story? Is it a real place? And why did you choose the 1950’s as the period for your story?

I chose to write about Cornwall because it’s my favourite part of the country. I’m Welsh. I now live in London. And I studied in the West Midlands (Warwick). Yet I’ve been to Cornwall – usually St Ives – every year since I was born, sometimes twice or three times. I love the town, it is full of happy memories with friends and family, so it was wonderful to ‘live’ there in my head for so long when writing. Yet I didn’t want to be tied to a real place so I invented St Steele. It’s loosely based on a teeny cove called Porthgwidden in St Ives that is just gorgeous. Making it a fictional place gives you a lot more freedom to move around, and to pick up a building or a street and drop it elsewhere if that benefits the plot, rather than being tied down to the truths of history.

Please tell your audience a little about Dolores Broadbent.

Dolores is the third main character. She is the mother of Betty, the main character. And she runs the guest house in St Steele. She was by far the easiest character to write and I had such a clear vision of her – a little like Julianne Moore’s character in A Single Man (the beautiful Tom Ford-directed film with Colin Firth.) She is beautiful and glamorous and whimsical but damaged and broken. She once had any man she wanted, she wafted about and was carefree. But now she is older, widowed, with little money, failing looks and a daughter of 15 who is not at all as she was, she is finding it hard to come to terms with her lot and as a result, can be quite violent and brutal. I loved her complexity. I hope people have the same sympathy for her that I do.

What are the changing emotions you have as a writer?

I’ve probably gone through every feeling on the spectrum. But if I’m honest, the one thing I always feel is disappointed. I wonder why I wrote that terrible line, why this or that isn’t working as well as I’d like it to, I’m constantly critiquing my writing and pulling it apart. I’m a bit of a malcontent. But I’m teaching myself not to be. Slowly.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

To inhabit the world as clearly and fully as I inhabit the ‘real’ world.

What are you working on next?

Another book. I don’t want to say too much in case I jinx it but it’s dark and historical and layered with mystery that unravels over the years, based on a catastrophic fictional event in our pasts. The idea has been bubbling in my head for years and I’m really enjoying delving in!

What is your writing process?

I’m afraid it’s an approach I can’t recommend for others but it works for me – ‘feast and famine’ is probably the best description. I spend weeks obsessed with writing the book; I think about it, write every spare second I have, late into the night and early into the morning, I write bits on the Notes of my phone, on my laptop when I’m on buses and trains, on scrawled napkins in cafes, then back to my laptop that night. Even when I’m with friends I’m thinking about the book… Then I crash. And spend a few weeks sleeping, reading, working, living etc – before I begin writing again. This is just for the first and second drafts I should add – I’d go mad if I was like that permanently. The later editing processes are much more methodical and orderly and calming. But that early writing stage is all a bit, well, obsessive!

Where can readers buy our book?

Amazon, Waterstones or Freight Books. Here are the links! If you read it, I’d love to know what you think – I’m on Twitter @laurapow1

Sites:

Waterstones-The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

Amazon UK

Freight Books-The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Susan Appleyard

susan appleyardI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Susan Appleyard today to Layered Pages. Susan was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history, and now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting. Writing will always be her first love. She was fortunate enough to have had two books published traditionally and is very excited about soon publishing her fourth ebook.

Susan, how did you discover indieBRAG?

Hello, Stephanie, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself and my work.

I first came across IndieBrag through an author posting in one of my groups about her success in winning a Brag Medallion. I submitted one of my books and soon I was the one doing the ‘bragging’.

Tell me a little about your story, Queen of Trial and Sorrow.

The book I submitted relates the story of Elizabeth Woodville, mother of the Princes in the Tower. The story juxtaposes Elizabeth’s happy marriage to King Edward IV with the perilous years of war. When death removes the King’s shielding hand, Elizabeth is unable to protect her family from the enmity of those who regard her and her family as upstarts.

Queen of sorrow

Please tell me a little about the period in which your story is set.

My book is set in the fifteenth century during the turbulent period known as the War of the Roses. The war encompassed all of Edward IV’s reign and Elizabeth was inevitably caught up in it.

What fascinates you the most about Elizabeth Woodville?

To a large extent Elizabeth was a typical medieval queen, in that she sat in her palaces and received news of the exciting events going on beyond. Nevertheless, her life provides a wealth of drama, from her controversial marriage to her ultimate capitulation to the man she believed murdered her sons. It must be admitted that Elizabeth’s story is enriched by the people who moved through it: her handsome and charming husband, whose reign is marked by war and treachery; her two brothers-in-law, the volatile faithless Duke of Clarence, and the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. Supporting characters include the matriarch, Cecily, Duchess of York, whose tragedy was to outlive all her sons and all her legitimate grandsons; and the Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’. In this list I must also include the two doomed princes, whose lives, though short, contribute so much to the fascination of Elizabeth’s story. I doubt there was a queen who suffered such tragic losses as Elizabeth Woodville.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

I hope the mood of my characters in the beginning of the book is one of optimism, with a new and idealistic king on the throne and a new marriage for Elizabeth, but as the story progresses and storm clouds gather, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future. When the king dies the mood foreshadows the tragedies to come.

What are the emotional triggers of your characters and how do they act on them?

As queen, Elizabeth is motivated above all by the need help her family rise in the world and to avoid the impoverishment she suffered with the death of her first husband. She believes with wealth and power comes safety. But it is fatal reasoning. The more wealth and power her family accrue, the more they are resented by the old nobility. The Woodvilles pay a high price for Elizabeth’s elevation to the throne.

What is your personal opinion of Richard III?

My personal opinion of Richard III is expressed in my book. It is not a popular opinion these days. Nevertheless, I hold that he usurped the throne and then realized that as long as the princes lived they would be a danger to him and his son, and had them murdered. I have read extensively on the subject, fiction and non-fiction – I was even a member of the Richard III Society for a few years – and I have engaged in debate with those who hold the opposite view, but I have never read anything to make me change my mind.

Why do you love English history so much?

The period of the War of the Roses has been overwhelmingly popular with authors, and no wonder. Although it is my favourite, there are so many others, all with their share of drama, surprises, interesting characters, triumphs and tragedies. English history in incomparable, and it is all around in ruined castles and abbeys, in museums and libraries. Wherever you travel it is impossible to avoid reminders of England’s wonderful past.

How long did it take to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?

I always write in the mornings at my antique roll top desk in my office/spare bedroom. I cannot tell you how long it took to write my book. It went through several versions over several years before I arrived at the present one. I’ve become a little quicker since.

Where can readers buy your book?

In the U.S. my book can be found here

In the U.K. here

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Appleyard who is the author of, Queen of Trial and Sorrow, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Quuen of Trial and Sorrow, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money

Stephanie M. Hopkins -indieBRAG Interview Team Leader 

indiebrag team member

Interview with Meredith Allard

Meredith, thank you for chatting with me today about your book, When It Rained at Hembry Castle. Does Hembry Castle exist and if not, was there a real castle that was your inspiration?

Hembry Castle is very much a figment of my imagination, though two real life places served as the inspiration for the exterior: Scotney Castle and Wentworth Castle, both in England, of course. The picture on the book’s cover is of Scotney Castle. The interior of Hembry Castle was largely influenced by Pittock Mansion, which can be found in Portland, Oregon. Primarily, I used photos I found on Pinterest to help me describe the interior and exterior of Hembry Castle.

02_When-It-Rained-at-Hembry-Castle

Please tell me a little about your story.

When It Rained at Hembry Castle is a love story set in Victorian England. The novel is about Edward Ellis, a rising author, and Daphne Meriwether, the American niece of the 9th Earl of Staton. Daphne is new to England and she must learn how to live in the Downton Abbey-like world her father’s family lives in. It’s a blossoming romance for Edward and Daphne, and there’s some mystery thrown in involving Daphne’s uncle, Richard, the 9th Earl of Staton.

What are the common movements your main characters make?

All my novels are about characters who are or see themselves as outsiders in one way or another. In When It Rained at Hembry Castle, Daphne is very much an outsider, being an American in England who is unfamiliar with the aristocratic world her father grew up in. Edward is also an outsider of sorts. He’s the grandson of servants who is working hard to make his way as a writer. I think all of my main characters mean to do the right thing, but whether their choices are correct or not always remains to be seen.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

I think both Edward and Daphne are largely positive people. Neither one of them are prone to complaining and they try to make the best of whatever is thrown their way. I hope this adds a positive, hopeful tone to the story.

What are the emotional triggers of your characters and how do they act on them?

For Daphne, she’s triggered by her grandmother’s insistence that she conform to the aristocratic way of life. For Edward, he’s triggered by his love for Daphne and his frustration at the obstacle that is keeping them apart. Daphne humors her grandmother and on the outside she seems to be conforming, though she’s a bit of a rebel and isn’t as complacent as her grandmother thinks. Edward, in typical man fashion, does nothing, hoping the problem will go away.

What do you like most about writing stories that take place in the past?

I’ve loved history since I was in school, and I even toyed with the idea of majoring in history in college. Writing historical fiction is perfect for me because it a combination of the two things I’m most interested in—history and writing. I have a funny habit of writing stories set in times I’m not all that familiar with, which is fine because that’s part of the fun for me, researching the history. When It Rained at Hembry Castle is actually the exception to that because I was already pretty familiar with Victorian England.

Describe Victorian England in your eyes.

My knowledge of Victorian England came from my love of Dickens’ novels, which started for me in college, but when I researched the era as I was writing Hembry Castle I realized that the time was much more complicated than I first realized. Yes, there was the poverty and the darkness of Dickens’ descriptions, but it was also a time of great change. The Victorian era spanned nearly 70 years, and England in 1901 was very different than England in 1837. By the end of the Victorian era, we can begin to see inklings of the modern era that we live in today. Since Hembry Castle takes place from 1870-1872, the story is happening right in the middle of the Victorian era.

What are some of the romantic parts to the story readers can expect?

My stories tend to focus more on the falling in love aspect of romance. Edward and Daphne have a few obstacles they have to overcome in order to be together. Even acknowledging that they want to be together is the first hurdle. After they admit to themselves that they care for each other, Edward has a big secret he’s keeping from Daphne. How Daphne reacts to the secret remains to be seen.

How long did it take to write your story and where in your home do you hone in your craft?

Hembry Castle took me two years. I returned to college in 2014, and of course that takes a lot of my time. I had a lot of research to complete for this book, and it took me a little time to figure out the point of view. Normally, I write novels with either a one person or two person point of view, but I finally realized that Hembry needed to allow more characters their moment in the sun. Since I live in a small apartment, my computer is set up in my bedroom. I know they say don’t keep your work where you sleep, but oh well. I have a nice view from my bedroom window so it works for me.

What is up next for you?

Fans of my Loving Husband Trilogy will be happy to know that I’m writing the prequel to the series, called Down Salem Way. Like the first book in the series, Her Dear & Loving Husband, it takes place in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials.

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES | KOBO

03_Meredith-Allard

About the Author

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling novels The Loving Husband Trilogy, That You Are Here, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle. Her newest release, the historical novel When It Rained at Hembry Castle, is a great read for fans of Downton Abbey.

Visit Meredith online at www.meredithallard.com. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

A Writer’s Life-Part II with Valerie Biel

Valerie Biel BRAG II

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Valerie Biel to Layered Pages to talk about-further in-depth-her life as a writer.

Valerie, what are your goals as a writer?

Initially, I had no goals. I had a far-off idea that someday I would write all the stories building up in my mind, but I put it off. I was busy. I had a job. I had kids, a husband, a house, laundry . . . I meant to write but I let all these things override that desire, along with the self-defeating voice in my head that told me my writing was unimportant in the vast sea of amazing writers in the world.

Then in 2003, my oldest sister died after a one-year battle with terminal cancer. At the time, of course, we were just devastated, but never thought that this very rare cancer would recur in our family. Fast forward to 2008 and a second sister is diagnosed with the same terminal cancer. My siblings and I quickly realized that this cancer had a genetic component, making us all potentially susceptible. Even without the possibility that this cancer could strike at any time, the loss of two siblings caused me to reflect on my priorities.

I made a life-affirming decision to embrace my writing, and all the opportunities in front of me. I decided that my dreams couldn’t wait any longer. I decided that it didn’t matter if I ever made the New York Times’ Bestseller list. I would write for me—just for the satisfaction of sharing my thoughts, my ideas, and my stories.

In 2009, I made this vow and began that elusive novel. I didn’t tell anyone other my closest family members I was writing it. Internally, I had a five-year plan to publication, but I didn’t voice this either. I completed the novel in 2010. I was encouraged by early critiques and contest accolades and kept going. For the next three and a half years, the manuscript was alternately being edited and marinating while I wrote two middle-grade novels. Finally, in 2014 I achieved my goal of publishing my debut novel Circle of Nine – Beltany.

Now, my goal is to write as much as possible every day. I have story ideas stacked up and waiting for my attention.

What are the boundaries you push as a writer?

I wouldn’t have said that I was pushing any boundaries (other than the amount of sleep I need each night) until I received a few mixed reactions from particularly religious friends. My Circle of Nine series highlights a Celtic pagan culture akin to modern-day Wicca. Some of my plot-lines also address the conflict between the early Christian church and pagan customs and the subjugation of women by a patriarchal society. Oh yes, and there’s magic! Lots and lots of magic. What’s funny is that I never set out to push boundaries. I set out to tell a certain story the best way that I could.

What are the changing emotions you have as a writer?

Ha – this is funny. I once saw a cartoon that highlighted the emotion of an author throughout the day and it went something like this.

I really suck.

Hey, this isn’t so bad!

This is brilliant. I rock!

Nope. My writing sucks.

That about sums it up. In seriousness though, we all go through bouts of self-doubt no matter what occupation we’re in, but I think it is harder in the arts when you are creating something that is so personal to you. I am much more confident at promoting myself and my writing now than I was when I first started. And I have a much thicker skin when it comes to criticism. You will never please everyone! When I get down about things, I can look to my successes and feel quite good about what I’ve accomplished. I know writers always say they write because they have to write. A better way for me to put this is that I am my whole person when I write. Allowing myself to embrace my need to be creative, brings a lightness to my world and a feeling of self-worth that is different from the other areas of accomplishment in my life.

Circle of Nine Valerie Biel II

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

My main motivation is to write the very best story I can, which means that I work hard to create something that is both entertaining and intriguing and possibly makes the reader see the world just a little bit differently.

Define your writing style.

That one is hard for me. Hmmmm – define my writing style.

When writing fiction, I try to keep my modern-story style very true to the rhythm of current conversation patterns – particularly teen dialog when writing YA. The historical portions of my stories require more thought. The formality with which I construct the sentences becomes much more deliberate to convey the correct sense of time and place. I am very particular about word choice in my historical stories and double check that certain phrases would indeed have been used in that era.

I have this “thing” about including educational-type details in my stories . . . mostly this is a matter of good research and (I feel) gives my stories an authenticity about the era.

I use the word just too much and usually take out half (or more) of the “justs” when editing.

I don’t use commas enough. Thank goodness for my critique partners who are excellent grammarians.

I like writing in first person and third person equally well, but I always write in past tense. I’ve written one piece of flash fiction just recently in present tense and it won an award, so maybe I should try that more.

I wish I lived in England so I could spell favourite and colour this way because it looks so much cooler. And, because I want to call my cell phone my mobile.

Five sentences that describe your craft.

I have a vivid recollection of what it felt like to be different ages, which is why I like writing for teens and tweens so much.

Writing allows me the freedom to indulge my love of history through the research needed for my stories set in different eras.

Asking the question “why?” is as important as asking the question “why not?” whether in life or in story construction.

I attempt to create accessible stories that transport the reader to another world or place or time, entertaining and possibly enlightening them along the way.

I write the stories that I want to read.

Valerie Biel’s love for travel inspires her novels for teens and adults. When she’s not writing or traveling, she’s wrangling her overgrown garden, doing publicity work for the local community theatre, and reading everything she can get her hands on. She lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and three children and dreams regularly of a beautiful cottage on the Irish coast where she can write and write and write.

Her debut novel Circle of Nine – Beltany has been honored as a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist, a finalist in the Gotham Writers’ YA Novel Discovery Contest and the Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest as well as being a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

 Author Websites:

Website/Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Book Trailer

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.K. Thorne

TK THorne II

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.K. Thorne today to talk with me about her award winning book, Noah’s Wife. T.K.’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district, City Action Partnership, as the executive director. Both careers and a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama provide fodder for her writing, which has garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book, Last Chance for Justice gives the investigators’ perspectives of the 1963 Sixteenth Street church bombing case and was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Rave reviews have followed her newest historical novel about the unnamed wife of Lot, Angels at the Gate, which has just been announced as a finalist for IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin awards! She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons and writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.

 How did you discover indieBRAG?

 At the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference, I happened to sit next to Geri Cloustan, the president of indieBRAG, and we started talking.  I was excited by the concept of having a way to screen a book’s quality for readers who love discovering good indie books, so I took her card, looked into it, and submitted Noah’s Wife.

Tell me about your book, Noah’s Wife.

Noah's Wife II

This is really the backstory of the tale of Noah’s flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife. The Bible only mentions her with one sentence, so I decided to make her the focus and tell her story. I wanted the retelling to be supported by what was known about the science and history of the time period.  Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a beautiful young shepherdess in ancient Turkey who has what today we would term Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. Na’amah sees the world through unique eyes. Her first words are, “My name, Na’amah means beautiful or pleasant.  I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful.” Her only wish is to watch the sheep on

her beloved hillside, a desire shattered by the hatred of her brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash, and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s epic journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the disaster only she knows is coming.

 What are some of the historical facts or significance about your book?

 Noah’s Wife is based on four years of studying Asperger’s Syndrome, historical, archaeological, geological, and cultural information about the land and time period, as well as a fabulous trip to Turkey!  Here are a few highlights:

  • Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the sunken Titanic discovered a lost civilization under the Black Sea, confirming that it was once a fresh water lake that flooded in a cataclysmic event around 5500 BCE.
  • The oldest known worshiped deity was female.  The role of the feminine in the divine was also entwined with early Judaism and keeps reappearing throughout history.
  • One in every 88 persons has a form of autism.  The choice to make Noah’s wife an Asperger savant stemmed from personal experience in my life and gives the story a distinctive perspective.

Please describe the setting and period of your story.

Several theories about the flood that inspired the Noah’s ark episode in the Bible. It seems very likely that the story was actually borrowed from what is the earliest known written tale—the epic poem of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was unearthed in the cities of Babylon and Ur in Mesopotamia.  In the Bible, Abraham is said to have come from Ur. As I mentioned, scientists have discovered that a cataclysmic event during the Copper Age changed a fresh water lake north of Turkey into a salt water sea—the Black Sea—causing it to overflow its banks, reverse the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and flood the Middle East as far as the Mesopotamian cities of Ur and Babylon. Adira’s adventure begins in the green hills just south of the Black Sea. Her journey takes her across the expanse of Anatolia and some of the land’s natural wonders.

For those who do not know the meaning of the Copper Age, could you please explain?

The Copper Age (also called the Chalcolithic Age) is the period of human history that occurred after the Neolithic (Stone Age) when mankind had discovered how to make implements with copper. Interestingly, this discovery did not happen at the same time across the world. For this part of the world, it occurred between 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. Villages and communities nestled in the hills just south of the Black Sea (where Noah’s Wife is set) were very advanced in the technology, even ahead of Egypt. In fact, archeologists have traced the path of those peoples fleeing the Black Sea flood by the pottery they left behind, and believe the spreading of their culture stimulated the technical advancement of Europe as well as other areas, significantly affecting the entire world’s history.

Please tell me a little about the cultural experiences you had in Turkey.

Turkey is an amazing place. The city of Istanbul, which straddles two continents, is full of history, stunning architecture, and an eclectic mixture of old and new, but the majority of Turkey stretches out in a land mass to the east of the Mediterranean known as Anatolia. The word means “Land of the Mother.” In ancient times the mother goddess was worshiped there, and even though 98% of today’s population is Muslim, there are tribes who trace their roots back thousands of years for whom treating women with respect and giving them status is so important that they advise their girls not to marry outside the tribe, lest they be unhappy. All over Turkey, I was welcomed warmly. The people in the Anatolia countryside live

connected to the land and produce beautiful rugs, pottery and other crafts with family designs that go back many generations.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I stole the idea from the international bestseller, Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund, because I liked the simplicity of the title and the concept of taking one line from a famous book and building a totally new story around the old one. After it was published, I had the opportunity to meet Sena for tea while she was in residence in Fairhope, Alabama. She “blessed” my title, read the book and gave me a lovely review.

What are the challenges of building a new story around an old one?

Both of my novels are taken from biblical stories involving an unnamed woman (Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife in Angels at the Gate) whose life is skipped over in the text. In Judaism, writings or oral stories that further enlighten or enrich the primary text is called midrash. In a loose sense, these novels are midrash, or reinterpretations. I wanted to tell the woman’s story, to make her a real, whole person in what I felt was a historically accurate time and culture, leaving moralistic or religious interpretations to the reader to add or not. It was often fun to twist the traditional, such as deciding the white dove in the flood story might have actually been a white parrot with his own personality. The challenge was the several-year journey of research needed to authentically represent a time period that existed before any written material and to make an ancient story both familiar and new.

Who designed your book cover?

My sister, Laura Katz Parenteau, who is a graphic artist, designed the beautiful cover. We wanted to avoid a religious connotation that might misrepresent the story and settled on a composition she drew—a woman with flowing hair lying on her side, facing the sunrise. It can also be viewed as a scene of mountains with water. I love the fact that the cover has layers of meaning, just as the story has, and the fact that my talented sister designed it. She has created and crowned herself “Queen” of the T.K. Thorne Super Fan Club, which she has a lot of fun with. Any fans out there can contact her at Laura@TKThorne.com.

Thanks so much for letting me be a part of Layered Pages.  I’m proud to be associated with IndieBrag! And I love hearing from readers.

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview T.K. Thorne who is the author of Noah’s Wife, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Noah’s Wife, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money