Interview with Award Winning Author Kandi M. Siegel

Kandie S BRAG

I’d like to welcome multi award winning author Kandi M. Siegel today. Kandi graduated from University of Central Florida is 2006 earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and was also certified in Special Education.  She received the Editor’s Choice Award for outstanding achievement in poetry by the National Library of Poetry in 1997.  She has been a member of the Space Coast Writer’s Guild since 2012. In 2008, Ms. Siegel was hurt on the job while working with special education and was unable to continue her job.  Her love for children brought her back to her earlier career of storytelling.  She finds writing books for children and meeting people at book signings a very rewarding experience.

Hello, Kandi! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Hello Stephanie, My editor of My Summer Triumph was actually the one who suggested I submit my book to IndieBrag and I was so honored when I found out that the book won the BRAG Medallion Award.

Tell me a little about your book, My Summer Triumph.

My Summer Triumph is based on a true life experience from when I first went to overnight camp.  All of the actual events in the story really did happen to me, though some of them were exaggerated a bit to make for a better story.

My Summer Triumph

What are Kalia’s strengths?

Kaila is a good person with a huge caring heart, which may have been one of her biggest downfalls as she was an easy target for being bullied.  She knew right from wrong, however, she wanted so much to fit in with everyone that she was easily lured into bad situations.  Her true strengths really didn’t come into play until the end of the story when Kaila’s dancing lessons gave her the encouragement she needed to be the center of attention, in a positive way.

What is an example of how Shayna helps her?

Shayna was always very positive towards Kaila.  She would encourage her to stand up to the bully, Mean Michelle.  Shayna even came up with a way for Kaila to get even with Mean Michelle, but unfortunately it backfired and on Kaila.  Shayna’s biggest plus was when she loaned Kaila some of her clothes to wear to the camp social, which made Kaila feel a whole lot better as her clothes were not exactly the most stylish in comparison to everyone else’s.

Your premise has a strong message, what would you say to encourage readers to read your book?

My Summer Triumph is a book that should encourage all young adults to be proud of who they  are and to stand strong and never give up.  The reader should learn from Kaila’s mistakes such as she knew it was wrong to smoke yet instead of walking away, she let the girls talk her into trying a cigarette.  Bullying is unfortunately a big part of today’s society, but if everyone joined forces to stand up to these bullies, rather than watching someone get made fun of, maybe we could wipe out bullying once and for all.

How did you get into writing young adult books?

I have been writing children stories since I was in elementary school.  My teachers all told me I had a very creative imagination and that I would make a good story teller someday.  I started keeping all my stories in a box and little by little, I am building on each story to turn them into actual books.

What is your writing process?

When I am about to write a story, first I jot notes.  I make an outline of the different chapters and what I want to write about in each one.  I list all the characters I am going to use in the book and I decide how each one is going to look and what their names will be. I keep the outline close by to use as a guide.

What advice would you give to inspiring writers to write in this genre?

Advice I would give to inspiring writers is to create a story where the reader can actually imagine him or herself in the book.  Make the sounds, scenes and characters come alive by the way you describe them.  For example, if you are writing about a cherry pie, don’t just say cherry pie, but rather exclaim that it is a sweet, juicy cherry pie.  By describing the pie in depth, it makes the reader able to actually taste it.

What is next for you?

I am currently working on a series of books, something I actually started writing in the third grade but never really did anything with the stories until now.  The main character is the same in all the books with a lesson to be learned from each story.

Where can readers buy your book?

My Summer Triumph is sold on Amazon in paperback form and on kindle.  Here is the link:  Amazon

Be sure to stay tune for my next interview with Kandi about her latest B.R.A.G. Medallion coming soon!  

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kandi M. Siegel who is the author of, My Summer Triumph, 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, My Summer Triumph, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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A Shout Out To indieBRAG Readers!

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I’d like to give a shout out to all our hard working readers at
indieBRAG.

They come from all over the globe and are enthusiastic about their love for books. Many people have asked, “Who are your readers?” Well, we have readers with PHDs, who are book bloggers, book reviewers, editors, teachers, students, designers, business men and women, and much more. We are proud of our team and the hard work they do in discovering the next B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Coming soon to the indieBRAG Blog I will be talking about what authors should do before submitting their books to indieBRAG and what our readers expect. Stay tuned and be sure to give a shout out to our readers on twitter @IndieBrag or on the indieBRAG Facebook Page. Their voice matters and where would we be without them?

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Scott D. Prill

Scott Prill BRAGI’d like to welcome Scott Douglas Prill today to talk with me about his book, Into the Realm of Time. Scott was born in Iowa and received a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa in 1977.  His subsequent career choices have reflected a strong interest in natural resources.  Since graduating, Scott has held positions as a limnologist and environmental consultant.  He also has a M.B.A. and is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.  For the previous twenty-six years, Scott has been an in-house environmental consultant for the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Scott resides in Bayside, Wisconsin, with his wife, Marcie.  He enjoys spending time with their three adult children and writing.  Into the Realm of Time is Scott’s debut novel. 

Hello Scott! Thank you for chatting with me today. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Stephanie – thank you for the opportunity for me to be a part of the indieBRAG interview process.  I am pleased to answer your questions.

I discovered indieBRAG through a work colleague who recommended I submit Into the Realm of Time to indieBRAG for review.   I am pleased I listened to his recommendation.   This is the first book I have written and I am learning about new literary groups such as indieBRAG and Goodreads and the positive ideas such groups offer to independent writers like me.

Into the Realm of TimeTell me about your book, Into the Realm of Time.

The story takes place during 372-375 AD.  The Roman Empire is on the brink of its great decline.  The fierce Roman General Marcus Augustus Valerias contemplates his future.  Though at the peak of his success and power, through victories against both external and internal enemies of Rome, the General is weary of the brutality of continual war and yearns for a different life away from his legions and battlefields.  At the same time, Claire, the widowed queen of a kingdom in Britannia, risks everything to protect her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.  A priest, named Joseph, tries to hide his dark past as he pursues salvation in the Christian faith.  Flavius, a Roman officer who deserted his legion, seeks redemption for the cruel actions he has inflicted on behalf of a corrupt tyrant.

All the while, two Hun brothers, Uldric and Rao, are ruled by their ambitions to ruthlessly establish and expand a Hun empire.  The story of these intertwined destinies unfolds against the backdrop of love, power, greed, religion, valor and sacrifice in this turbulent period.  Fates are not foretold and events lead to a climactic epic battle.  Each character must make choices and it is these crucial decisions that decide their ultimate fates.

Into the Realm of Time is a fictional narrative of timeless personal struggles set against an unsettled Roman Empire.  Christianity had eclipsed paganism as the state religion and Britannia was an orphaned and wild Roman province.  The Huns were emerging and pushing the panicked barbarian Goths into the eastern edge of the Empire.  It is a tumultuous time as Rome tenuously clings to its status as a dominant power – the time of General Marcus Augustus Valerias.

What are the habits of your protagonist(s)?

I’m not sure if the book describes the habits of my characters as much as it does the character’s own qualities.  I consider Into the Realm of Time to have one protagonist and several sub-protagonists and antagonists.

Marcus Augustus Valerias, the main protagonist, is a highly successful military general.  He is the emperors’ enforcer and is counted on to defeat the emperors’ enemies both outside and inside the Empire.  Valerias is strong willed, a brilliant military strategist, and a leader of men.  He never lost a battle.  He demands much of his men, but he maintains a strong bond of loyalty with his legions.

Yet, the military is all he has known in his life.  Thus, even though he won’t admit it, he has doubts about the path he has taken in life and wonders if there is something more than serving in the army.  He yearns for a new life and whatever that life offers.  He retires from the army and searches for a new meaning. He finds that new life but also discovers he cannot leave his past behind him.

Self-image is important in characters, how is this important to your characters? 

Developing the characters within the storyline was my most important aspect in writing Into the Realm of Time.  I wanted to write a book where the characters were not super heroes and super villains; good versus evil.  The main characters have positive characteristics as well as flaws.  General Valerias, for example, is a complicated man.  He is a highly successful Roman General.  He is a brutal man in a brutal time.  Yet he has a strong inner turmoil.  He is searching for contentment and when he finds contentment, he learns it is only a fleeting feeling.  He has never had children and yet children are drawn to him.  Another character, Claire, puts aside her title as queen to save her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.   Joseph, the Christian priest, has much to learn about the meaning of Christianity.

Into the Realm of Time is a book of character development. The interactions of characters with others and events defined their self-images.

What fascinates you most about the Roman Empire?

I have enjoyed watching movies and reading about the Roman Empire since boyhood.    The Robe, Ben Hur, Spartacus and Gladiator and others have influenced my thinking of the Empire.  On the other hand, the information (facts) in books I have read tends to bring the magic of movies to reality.

I think the fact that the Empire lasted several centuries is remarkable.  Although the Western part of the Empire collapsed around 476 AD, the Eastern part lasted almost one thousand more years.  The Empire was a dichotomy: the Empire provided culture, order, law and security for its habitants.  Yet it could be very brutal to outsiders and even its own citizens.  It is interesting to note that Christianity emerged during the Empire.  Several times Christianity and Christians were persecuted by the Romans; however, eventually Christianity became the state religion.

Another item of note is that some historians have referred to the period after the fall of the Western Empire as the Dark Ages.  Thus, despite its shortcomings, the Roman Empire provided a well-defined civilization for hundreds of years.

Describe the Hun Empire.

During the period of 372-375 AD there was little knowledge of the Huns.  The Huns began to appear at this time from the steppes of central Asia. Their appearance westward caused a panic among the Goths who migrated into the eastern part of the Roman Empire. These events form the basis for the historical time frame for Into the Realm of Time.

The story in the book takes place well before the appearance of Attila the Hun by over half a century. In 372 AD the Huns were largely an emerging mystery force.

There were a lot of events happening during this period, did you face any challenges while writing about this?

When I prepared to write Into the Realm of Time, my first decision was to settle on a time frame on which to base the story.  This decision was critical to me.  I wanted to write a story that takes place towards the end of the Western Roman Empire, but not at its very end.   I also wanted the time to be a period of the Empire that was not as well-known as other periods.  I wanted to avoid having anything to do with Attila the Hun and King Arthur as there have been a multitude of books written about these men.  Finally, like most periods towards the end of the Empire, 372-375 AD was a time of turmoil.

What was some of the research you needed to do for the story and what was your process?

I read several books that were based on the fall of the Roman Empire.  Based on the information in these books, I settled on the time of 372 to 375 AD.  The Roman Empire was still formidable and had two emperors.  Christianity was the established religion of the empire.  I also read Gore Vidal’s novel, Julian, to get a feel of the time that was different from the other books I read which were more fact based.

I list my reference sources at the end of the book.

Where can readers buy your book? 

You can purchase the book on Amazon in either hard copy (paperback) or through Kindle.  It is also sold at several bookstores in southern Wisconsin. I sell an occasional book myself, which I sign.  I must also note that the book is at several libraries.  Please check my website for sales/library locations.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on the sequel to Into the Realm of Time.  When I finished Into the Realm of Time, I knew there was more to the story and I wanted to complete the saga.  This will be a two-book series.  The sequel will hopefully be finished within two years – no guarantees!

I enjoy discussing Into the Realm of Time with anyone as that has been part of the “fun” of writing the book.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Scott Prill who is the author of, Into the Realm of Time, 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, Into the Realm of Time, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lambert Nagle

lambertprofilepicl’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lambert Nagle today. Lambert is the pen name of co-authors Alison Ripley Cubitt and Sean Cubitt – British/Irish/Kiwi co-writers of international thrillers.. Revolution Earth is their debut thriller, part one of the Stephen Connor series. Sean is Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths College, University of London. He writes about media for leading academic publishers. Alison worked in film and TV production for 15 years for companies including Walt Disney and the BBC but always wanted to give up the day job to be a writer. She had a column on screenwriting for Writing Magazine, has had two lifestyle and travel titles published and wrote the screenplay for Waves, a short film drama and winner, Special Jury Prize, Worldfest, Houston. Serial expats, Sean and Alison have lived in Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and are now based in leafy Hampshire. Find out more about the author and future books here

How did you discover indiebrag?

I discovered IndieBrag through one of my fellow writers via ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors.  I’m so glad I did! It was very important to have our work peer reviewed and our IndieBrag approval made me proud.

Revlution Earth BRAGTell me about your book, Revolution Earth

It is a story with a circular structure, where an event in one part of the world will have an impact in another.  This is played out across the world as we move from the UK to New Zealand, Antarctica, Australia, ending up back in the UK.

Please tell me about Stephen Connor

Stephen is an Irish cop working in London for the Metropolitan Police. He’s an outsider, a maverick and headstrong.

What are the emotional triggers of your characters and how do you act upon them?

Stephen is loyal but allows his heart to rule his head, which gets him into trouble. For Cara, we wanted to create an idealistic character who believed so passionately in a cause that she doesn’t think through the consequences.

What was your inspiration for the story?

Some years ago I had to drive to work past an oil refinery. In the daylight, it was dirty, grey and grimy, but lit up at night, it was spectacular. And then I began to invent a story about using it as a background for an environmental thriller.

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

Too long! Our process was picaresque where we had scenes but with no plot. We made the mistake of evolving the novel rather than structuring it. We sent the first draft to an Australian literary agent who advised us to tighten the plot. That was very good advice.

What do you like most about writing thrillers?

I like the challenge of plotting and structure, while my writing partner Sean loves playing with the language.

Who designed your book cover?

Andrew Brown at Design for Writers. It was a real challenge as we wanted an image of an oil refinery, but needed it to look attractive.

What are you working on next?

We are currently writing the follow-up, Nighthawks which is the second in the series to feature detective Stephen Connor.

 Amazon Author Page 

Amazon UK

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lambert Nagle who is the author of, REVOLUTION 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, REVOLUTION EARTH, 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 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Elle Jacklee

Elle-Jacklee BRAGI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Elle Jacklee to talk with me today about her book, The Tree of Minala. Elle’s professional titles have included software programmer, bilingual sales rep, and proposal specialist. But her favorite title, besides wife and mother, is author! It’s the only one that lets her call daydreaming “research”. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two young sons, none of whom are in a hurry to grow up, and that’s just fine with her!

Thank you for chatting with me today, Elle! Tell me how you discovered indiebrag?

Thanks very much for having me! I discovered indieBrag when I was book shopping online and saw a book listed as a B.R.A.G. medallion honoree. I’d already read the book so I knew the high quality of it, and I’ve since gone on to read other wonderful titles that have earned the same distinction.

Please tell me a little about your story, The Tree of Mindala and how you came up with the title.

Sure. The main character, Miranda Moon, has always had a vivid imagination, and it’s had a way of getting her into trouble. But when she and her younger brother are mysteriously thrust into Wunderwood, a world they never knew existed, a world where magic flows through the trees, and everyone knows their family name, where an evil villain has a score to settle with every branch of their family tree, Miranda realizes everything she’s imagined may not be fiction after all. When she discovers her own role in the villain’s sudden release from a long banishment, she knows it’s up to her to stop him before he destroys the entire realm. The only problem is, the one thing that could save it has just as much chance as dooming it forever.

The name “Mindala” is actually an anagram of a name in my family.

What was your inspiration in creating your character, Miranda Moon?

I always had a vivid imagination as a child, and I think most kids do. (Some of us never grow out of it, apparently 😉 I think it’s one of the best things about being a child, and it’s also the reason I think kids will find Miranda easy to relate to. Who, during their childhood, hasn’t been in that position? Of believing in something so deeply even though other people, especially people older than them, think is silly or couldn’t possibly be real? I think the moment we stop believing in those things, when some of that wonder starts to fade, is a bit sad. So Miranda’s story explores the question of “What if it’s not just your imagination?” And I hope her story is also a reminder to always look for those things in life that are magic in their own way. The idea is that what’s real is magic and what’s magic is real. It’s all just a matter of perspective.

The Tree of Mindala BRAGDescribe Wunderwood.

Imagine flowers and leaves and trees in shapes, colors, and sizes you’ve never seen before. Then imagine animals, some familiar, some unlike any you’ve seen before, that stand on two legs and speak in your language. Imagine, not lightning, but black, jagged bolts that rip through the sky. And people who use magic and have other unique abilities. I hope this gives you a taste of it, but there’s much more to discover in the pages of the book…

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

The characters are all different, each with their own characteristics that can be to their advantage or not, depending on the circumstances. Though serious topics and important questions are raised for the readers to ask themselves, the tone is humorous and sometimes whimsical, so that it’s all easy for them to digest.

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

Miranda is sensitive about her active imagination so it’s no wonder that she’s driven to find out everything she can about Wunderwood. It validates her position that just because something seems “unbelievable” or “fantastical” or “impossible”, doesn’t mean that it is, that it can’t be real.

I can imagine you had great fun writing this story. Did you face any challenges?

I had a blast writing this book and its sequel! My main challenge was finding time to write it. I’m a mom of two rambunctious young boys who keep me very busy! But I have recently made the commitment to writing full-time (or as close as a busy mom can get to “full-time” 😉 so I’ll be able to produce much faster than I had in the past.

Could you share an excerpt?

““Where are we?” Marcus whispered.

Miranda took another slow look around. “I don’t know exactly… but it seems like we may be inside the globe I found under the floor in our bedroom at the cabin… or maybe the globe is a replica of a real place, and we’ve somehow been transported there.”

Marcus crossed his arms and rolled his eyes at Miranda, which was his usual reaction to her storytelling.

“Well, look around you!” Miranda’s arm swept their surroundings. “This doesn’t look like the bedroom we were in a second ago, does it? But it does look like the scene in this water globe. You explain it!” Miranda held the globe up in front of Marcus for emphasis, and at that moment, the ground rose beneath them. She slowly pulled the globe back toward her, and the ground beneath their feet fell at the same rate back to where it had been.

“I think this world is being affected by what happens in this world!” Miranda whispered, pointing to the water globe. Slowly, Marcus approached the curious trinket while Miranda gazed at it from above. That’s when they discovered the miniature versions of themselves inside. Something else was different, too. A candle’s flame flickered orange through the little house’s door, which was ajar.

“That’s strange,” Miranda said. “I’m pretty sure that door was completely closed the first time I saw it through this thing.”

That’s strange?!””

Where can readers buy your book?

“It’s currently available on Amazon, and will soon be available at all the major retailers.”

What is up next for you?

I’m continuing to work on the Wunderwood Series (I’ve planned for 4 books in all). I am also working on two other projects. One is the conclusion to my Etchings and Embers series (a Muirwood fan-fiction series, the first of which you can find here .) The second is also unrelated to Wunderwood, but my muse insists it require my immediate attention J But Wunderwood Book 2, The Triad of the Tree, is now available!

Thanks again, Stephanie, for having me! It was a pleasure!

Author Links:

Amazon

Website

Facebook

Twitter

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Elle Jacklee who is the author of, The Tree of Mindala, 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 Tree of Mindala, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Annie Daylon

Annie Daylon BRAGI’d like to welcome back Annie Daylon to Layered Pages! Annie is a Newfoundlander, born and raised on the Avalon Peninsula, the main setting for OF SEA AND SEED which is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Annie, after many years teaching, delved wholeheartedly into writing. Her novel Castles in the Sand won the 2012 Houston Writers Guild Novel Contest and received the B.R.A.G. Medallion for excellence in indie publishing. To date, she has penned forty short stories and has won, or been short-listed in, several contests. Annie’s short fiction appears in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States. She has also recently released a picture book titled The Many-Colored Invisible Hats of Brenda-Louise.

Annie is a member of the Federation of British Columbia Writers and the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador. She lives in British Columbia.

Hi, Annie! Thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your latest B.R.A.G. Medallion! First, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Happy to be here! Thanks for the invite!

I discovered indieBRAG on Twitter when another author tweeted that she had received the B.R.A.G. medallion. I followed the indieBRAG link and, impressed with what I read, I submitted my novel, Castles in the Sand, for consideration. Castles in the Sand became a B.R.A.G. medallion honoree. Due to the numerous benefits of indieBRAG—Amazon and Goodreads ratings, tweets, Facebook feature, Pinterest posts, Stickers, and an interview with Layered Pages—I was eager to submit my current release Of Sea and Seed for indieBRAG recognition. I am thrilled to have received the honor a second time.

I must say, I adore your book title and cover. Please tell me a little about your story and the inspiration behind it.

Of Sea and Seed

The Story Of Sea and Seed is set on the island of Newfoundland in the early twentieth century. At its helm is Kathleen Kerrigan, in life a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and storyteller. In the afterlife she is set adrift, doomed for eternity like some ancient mariner to atone for mortal sin by telling repeatedly, in the same order, without hope of altering the outcome, the story of her life. This she does both as watcher and through the eyes of her children, Kevin and Clara.

The Title… Throughout, the sea is a metaphor for Kathleen, the seed is a metaphor for her offspring.

The Inspiration… The story sparked during a phone conversation with my father who remembers the earthquake and ensuing tsunami of 1929. He told me the following: a little girl was on the second floor of her house when the tsunami took that house out to sea. On the returning wave, the ocean planked the house down a few hundred yards from where it was supposed to be. The little girl survived.

I was hooked.
The research began.

Who designed your book cover?

Since Of Sea and Seed has at its core the tsunami that hit the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland on November 18, 1929, I envisioned an image of the sea for the cover.

When I finished Book I, I realized that each of the three point-of-view characters had experienced a life-or-death situation in a small, traditional fishing boat, called a dory*.

*Wikipedia: The dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 metres or 16 to 23 feet long. It is usually a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats, both in coastal waters and in the open sea.

I hunted through tons of pictures and chose the cover image from Shutterstock (© Andrejs Pidjass .) From there, I worked with the design team at Create Space.
The traditional dory, as depicted on the cover, has a yellow base and dark green gunnels. When I asked the design team to make the green more visible, they reversed the colors, putting the green on the bottom. No can do! Why? The traditional Lunenburg dory is painted yellow on the bottom because the yellow is visible against the water; the gunnels are dark green because that color is visible in fog.  When I explained that to Create Space, they were more than happy to change the design.

Please tell me a little about Clara. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Of Sea and Seed follows Clara from age six to age twenty-two. Although Clara is limited by the rules of religion and a male-dominated world, she is strong-willed, free-spirited, and adventurous. Her weakness, one which she fights throughout, is her selfishness: she wants her daughter and cannot claim her.

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

One way in which an ominous mood is portrayed is through the use of the Atlantic Ocean as character. (“It begins, and ends, with the sea.”) The residents of the rugged island of Newfoundland are at the beck and call of the sea, which is ever-present, all powerful, and, as stated on page one of the novel, both “matriarch and murderer.”

Of Sea and Seed has three Point of View Characters:

Kathleen (a joy to write, by the way) is poet, storyteller, and historian. She is also victim and conqueror. Although she has no limits of language in the afterlife, she is limited by the way she must tell her story, repeatedly and in the correct order, “like some ancient mariner.” When she says, “Heaven does not open its gates to women of my ilk,” she immediately sets in motion the mood of mystery which pervades the novel.

Clara (Kathleen’s daughter) overcomes the limitations of a church-dominated and male-dominated world. She is a source of optimism, determination, and hope.

Kevin (Kathleen’s son) believes that “the job of a man is take care of his own.” Faced with the devastating loss of his home and family, he rallies, relying on his faith and his surviving child to see him through. An underdog, a diligent worker, a loving father, Kevin represents uncertainty, a life on the cusp.

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

The story took root in 2009. However, I did not write it immediately. I completed another novel and a children’s book, all the while doing research for Of Sea and Seed.

I like to write at home. In my writing room, there is an armoire which opens to a desk. The beauty of that is, when it’s time to take a break, I close the armoire, lock it, and hang my “Sorry Closed” sign on the door.

Please tell me a little about the period and setting of your story.

The Kerrigan Chronicles are set on the island of Newfoundland in the 1920’s, at a time when Newfoundland was not a part of Canada, but an independent dominion within the British Empire. Although the characters are totally fictional, they are walking through or affected by historical events: the Irish potato famine,
the 1929 tsunami, Prohibition/rum running, all of which are dealt with in Of Sea and Seed.
The next book of the series will deal with World War II. When WW II began, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave territory in Newfoundland to the United States. In return, President Roosevelt gave Great Britain fifty warships. On the land given to them, the U. S. built military bases. One piece of land (and this is true…my father worked there) was the community of Argentia where the fictional Kerrigan family lives. Almost overnight, their homes were burned and bulldozed to make way for a strategic U.S. naval base.

What is an example of the undercurrents of suspense in your story?

This is a tricky question…no spoilers here! But I can say the following:

  1. Hinted at, and unraveled, in Book I is the mystery around the death of Kathleen’s baby, Jimmy.
    2. Hinted at, and unanswered, in Book I is the dubious nature of Clara’s husband, Robert. Is he hiding something? If so, what? (Stay tuned!)

What is your writing schedule like?

My philosophy is Write First and I do that six days a week. I get up around 4 a.m. and, after coffee, crossword, strength-and-stretch exercises, and walking my dog, I set in. My goal is three hours on my work-in-progress. All else—twitter, FB, Goodreads, Blog, business—is relegated to later in the day, as time and energy permit.

Where can readers buy your book?

Of Sea and Seed is available, in print and e-book, at Amazon

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Annie Daylon who is the author of, Of Sea and Seed, 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, Of Sea and Seed, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree James Cardona

James Cordona BRAGI’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree James Cardona today. He has won multiple awards for his young adult science fiction and fantasy novels including the gold medal from the Wishing Shelf Awards, honorable mention from Reader Views Awards, and the Independent Book Readers’ Appreciation Group Award, all for Community 17. He has also been a finalist for the Wishing Shelf Awards and received the Independent Book Readers’ Appreciation Group Award for Santa Claus vs. The Aliens and been a finalist for the Wishing Shelf Awards for Under The Shadow Of Darkness. He is planning on writing many, many more. 

James received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Delaware with a minor in Religious Studies. He lives in Southern New Jersey and works as a Senior Test Engineer for the Laboratory and Testing Services group of the Public Service Electric and Gas Company.

 James, how did you discover indiebrag?

Goodreads. Indiebrag is one of the book awards sites that independent authors have been boasting about on the Goodreads forums. While there is a plethora of book awards for writers associated with the big five publishing firms, unfortunately not much exists for indie authors. Goodreads is such a great information sharing social platform not only for readers but also for writers. It has been a pleasure dealing with Indiebrag and now I have become one of those boasting authors.

Commubtiy 17 BRAG Tell your audience a little about your story Community 17.

 Let me start with the book’s blurb:

In a dark future, Jessia and Isaias, two pleb teenagers scraping a living by selling metal out of the dump, want to program, become citizens and escape the fetid slum lanes of Community 17. But if they don’t both make it, they will be eternally separated.  Can Jessia share her feelings with Isaias and risk their friendship? Can she allow herself to love a man that might remain a pleb forever? Can he?

Living in Community 17, Isaias is exposed to a constant push-pull struggle. He wants to escape the fetid slum lanes by becoming a citizen—if he can only pass programming. He has a dream: a small home in the city, married to Jessia, surrounded by his children at his knees. Is that life even in his grasp?

So in the world of Community 17, some cataclysmic event has destroyed the earth and a large number of people are living—quite well, in fact—clustered in a heavily defended city. The people of the city expel their trash, their criminals and any foul, unwanted citizens out of the city forever. Additionally, people fleeing the wasteland have accumulated outside of the city’s tall, concrete walls, forming trash-strewn communities, living in homes constructed of found items, refuse, plastic sheeting, rotting wood and cardboard. It is in this backdrop that Jessia and Isaias live.

The City Women have a charitable program that allows children and teens of the communities to become citizens if they complete an arduous classroom-style training called Programming. It is every plebs hope and dream to pass programming and this hope is something that halts outright rebellion. But almost no one has passed programming and those that have were never seen again.

All Jessia and Isaias want to do is escape the slum lanes and become citizens; they desperately want the dream to be true. Quite a number of other characters seem to have completely different ideas for them.

The book is dystopian, but not in the style of the current crop such as The Hunger Games or Divergent or even The Maze Runner. I like to think Community 17 is more “classically” dystopian, like 1984, Brave New World or even A Clockwork Orange in that it is a critique of societal norms and, hopefully, makes people think and perhaps even—gasp!—change.

Please tell me a little about Jessia and Isaias.

Jessia and Isaias are two teens born and raised in the fetid slum lanes outside of the beautiful, walled city. They both dream of achieving the rare feat of passing programming, becoming citizens with a home, a job, nice clean clothing, and edible food. The two are best friends and certainly have strong feelings for each other, but at some level don’t want to become too close because, in the back of their minds, they know there is a strong possibility that one of them won’t advance and they will be separated forever.

Isaias lives alone with his mother since his father had been taken away to be Harmonized by the Agency Men some years ago. If only he had kept his mouth shut and his eyes pointed down at the oil-soaked ground!  Isaias no longer sifts through garbage at the dump looking for scrap to sell. Now he attends programming in the city where he learns about citizen’s values. They even give him food pellets! He sneaks a few out each day so his rail-thin mother doesn’t starve. His mother says he must program; he must go on, live his life, even if it means leaving her behind. She says she’ll be able to make it without him. He is not so sure.

Jessia is one of the few teens in Community 17 to have both her parents. Their shack sits close to Sewage Lake. It smells dreadful there, unnatural, chemical, but the sunset across the shimmering, mercurial, translucent orange-green haze is beautiful and if you scrape the cancer cysts off the fish, they don’t taste half-bad. Her parents are Freethinkers and take her to secret meetings where they can speak their minds, openly and honestly, without fear of being rifle-butted and dragged away by the Agency Men. They are a smart, cautious and careful people. They’ve seen too many taken to be Harmonized, never to be seen again. Jessia has a lifetime’s experience living such a guarded life under her parents’ watchful eyes.

Jessia’s parent’s hopes and dreams rest with her. She is the one who is supposed to make it. She is the one who is supposed to get inside so she can change things and somehow, some way, save her parents from dying in the filth. She knows better than to risk everything. Especially for Isaias.

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

I like to think Jessia and Isaias behave as would any teen today who was thrust into such a situation. The two are cautiously optimistic that they will pass programming and one day become citizens yet they also see the reality of not making it and how their future could abruptly end. It’s as they are straddling two worlds.

Each morning they walk through the checkpoint and step into the city. They see the beautiful city, the buildings covered in glimmer-glass, the flying cars, the gorgeous women wearing white pencil skirts with bright red painted lips, the rose gardens and the bright, clean streets. It seems as if it is there, in their grasp, for the taking. It’s not so much the city itself but opportunity. The possibilities seem endless. It is a future. It is hope.

At the end of the day they leave the city and return to the fetid slums and reality comes crashing down around them. If they don’t make it, they will be trapped there forever. They can see it in the slack-faced adults lying in the gutters getting blind drunk on poisonous moonshine, in the people missing fingers and limbs caused by small cuts at the dump, people with no medical care, in the jealousy, venom and mistrust in everyone’s eyes.

Can they make it? Can they turn their backs on everyone they ever loved to save themselves? What are they willing to do to save themselves? Are they willing to become that which they hate to escape the slums?

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

Isaias loves his mother deeply and with his father gone he feels it is his responsibility to protect her, no matter how bad she verbally abuses him. So it is insanely difficult for him when his mother pushes him to do things that he patently feels are wrong.

Isaias is more of an idealist, I think, than Jessia. He wants to do what is right. He wants to believe the Agency has the plebs best interests in mind; he wants to believe the propaganda even though, deep down, something in the Freethinkers arguments ring true. Yet, he can’t trust the Freethinkers, either. They’re murderers, after all. If he could only keep his mouth shut, only just close his eyes and blind himself to the chaos and strife all around him, just go to program and one-day escape. Maybe then he wouldn’t have to choose; he wouldn’t have to do something to sacrifice all his ideals; he wouldn’t have to become like either the Agency Men or the Freethinkers.

Jessia has never really been alone, like Isaias. She never had to take a patriarchal role and provide for someone else. She has always had both of her parents. And her friends—Jessia has lots of friends. But life in Community 17 is tenuous. People die. People disappear or are Harmonized. If they return—and that’s a big if—they seem… different, very different, indeed. As Jessia becomes more and more alone, she starts to see her world unravel and comes to the point where she needs to make a decision. It is this decision that could change everything.

Describe the fetid slum lanes of Community 17.

When my eyes scan across the landscape of Community 17, I see shanties loosely constructed of found material, cobbled together with rope and tape and nails. Galvanized sheet metal and plywood if they are lucky; cardboard and plastic sheeting if they are not. They are mostly one room affairs, stacked upon each other and sharing adjoining walls and packed thick with people. The rooms are tiny, overcrowded, dark and hot. It burns like the devil in there; the air is stifling. Everyone stays outside, crowding the narrow, zigzagging, mud-filled streets.

In Community 17, you must be careful what you say. A thin plastic sheet separates Isaias’s shack from another’s and the old hag there and her eight children have big ears. A secret, a bad word about the Agency, a good word about the Freethinkers, any word, even a lie, is worth a day’s meal if sold to the Agency Men. Even if it isn’t true. Even if it gets someone Harmonized.

The raked-dirt slum lanes are rutted and puddled with oily water and trash. Still, everyone is outside. Children play in them. Eppo’s wild runtling pigs charge down them, squealing, chasing the rotten food he feeds them. The place is thick with black flies. Still, everyone is outside.

I see drunks lying, strewn face down on the ground, sleeping off the effects of the dark yellow moonshine that made several men go blind, an oily concoction sold from a hut two doors down from Sewage Lake. Still, everyone is outside.

I see old women arguing as they cook in the hard-packed dirt over small fires built between two stones; I see young girls flirting in the fetid slum lanes, their faces dirty, their hair caked with mud; mothers bathing their children in washbasins; men tending goats; others squatting in the curb to gamble coins at card games; boys playing pelota. And still, everyone, everyone is outside, crowded into the dirt lanes.

Community 17 is not without its conveniences, though. Some years ago, the Agency Men installed a single metal pipe and some few hours a day clean, cold water flows from it. They never know when, so there is always a line of people with an assortment of plastic containers and old whiskey bottles waiting anxiously for the Agency to turn on the water from the single Community 17 pipe. They wait for hours. They wait every day. Wait. Wait. Wait. Always waiting, them.

The Agency also built a wooden platform that extends out onto Sewage Lake, bless their hearts, so the fishermen could fish and those feeling the need could relieve themselves without wading out into the water.

In order to maintain order, the Agency installed cameras and screens throughout all the communities and even in each home. Each night, the plebs are expected to watch the report, to nod at the proper time, to sing the praises of the Agency. Then, each night, potential citizen candidates record their video diary, a vlog, into the screen. A teen disappeared the other day, Harmonized, Malekai had said, because she didn’t use exactly the right words. The Agency had questions, he said. Maybe she will return.

What was the inspiration for your story?

I spent six years in the military, served in the war, and visited many countries that have levels of poverty that would be deemed completely unacceptable in the United States. Living in the so-called first world, many don’t realize that this kind of poverty exists, poverty that is similar or even worse to that described in Community 17.

After spending some time trying to understand why things are so, I realized there is a (human) tendency to subjectify others. So much so that we even do it to ourselves! People who are in such a condition, living in slums, sifting through garbage to find food or a few scraps of aluminum to sell, diseased and infected, even label themselves and embrace such a lot in life as if it were preordained. It is almost as if division and classification of humans is part of the natural order of things.

Of course, it sounds as if I am trying to raise the alarm of the condition of the poor. Those who have read the book know that is not exactly the case. I am also sensitive to the needs of government, scarce or limited resources and the need for order. Just because a city is surrounded by the poor and destitute does not mean that they have the means to do something substantial about it. The current refugee crisis occurring in the EU is a prime example. There are countries who have accepted refugees equal to ten percent of their population. How can they be expected to take more? If a city of one thousand was surrounded by millions who are starving, what can they do but be selective about who and how many they let in?

These are the types of issues I like to raise and the types of things I want people to discuss. Inciting dialog, then, is my first and foremost goal. I like to present both sides of an argument, fully and thoroughly, and let the reader think about what he or she would do in the same situation.

This is but one of the subjects I wanted to address with the book. Controlling influences in human relationships is another thread that flows throughout the book.

Truly, If I have been successful, at the last page the reader closes the book, stunned.

How did you get in to writing Science Fiction?

I have always loved to create. In fact, I do not so much call myself a writer or an artist as a “creative.” I have always drawn, painted, made music and the like. I also like nontraditional forms of creativity such as building robots and writing computer code. It is only in the last ten years or so that I have pursued prose writing.

I still create graphic art, but instead of painting with a brush or drawing with a pencil, I use Photoshop and DazStudio. For me, writing is just another outlet to attempt to create something beautiful, deeply meaningful, something that resonates in the soul.

What were the Science Fiction books you read growing up?

I was a voracious reader as a young kid. Mainly I read whatever books my parents had around the house. Mom was into both romance and horror-suspense, so I read all of her Stephen-King-type books but none of the Harlequin stuff. Dad was sci-fi junkie but also read spy novels. I read both the classics and the pulp: Heinlein, Asimov, PKD, John Le Carre, Len Deighton, Ian Fleming, and the like. I especially liked the robot short stories that Asimov penned.

My auntie was a librarian, which was convenient because whenever Mom went to visit her sister I could run around the cavernous, two-story, Lorain Public Library. It seemed like great things, secret, hidden things of great value were lurking undiscovered everywhere in that building.

As a teen and young adult, I started buying my own books. I grew up lower middle class—maybe poor, I don’t know—so I always felt like my school system was sub-par and I was under-educated. In retrospect, I am not sure if that was true or, at least, one might say that about a larger swath of America’s education system. Anyway, I had decided I was going to do something about that and bought pretty much every book in the classic literature section of the B. Dalton’s bookstore and plowed through them. Funny how so many of the recurring themes and insights in classic literature appear prominently in the best science fiction.

I think if I had to pick my favorite authors, they are ones who write “hybrid” books that people tend to classify as literature set in a science fiction world or perhaps science fiction written with a literary lilt, authors such as Ursula Le Guin or Margaret Atwood. I love a great science fiction tale, but if it does not address the human condition, I am typically left feeling empty. I guess I aspire to be like those two. Who knows? Maybe one day I will be.

What is up next for you?

I have an assembly line sort of work ethic to my writing, so I always have about three or so books in the pipeline: one in the editing-releasing stage, another being written, and another that is more or less in the idea stage. I expect to published the third book in The Apprentice Series in the next month or so. The Worthy Apprentice follows several apprentice magicians as they battle giant spiders, try to track down a murderer, and attempt to uncover a plot to steal one of the most powerful magical stones in all the lands.

The draft for the fourth book in the same series, Into Darkness, is nearly finished being written and I am just fleshing out the plot line for a new science fiction novel called Rebirth. I am super-excited about that one. For a taste, one of the Laws of Rebirth states:

HUMANS. We look like them. We act like them. We live among them. But they can never, ever know.

 Into Darkness should publish in late 2016 and Rebirth maybe sometime in 2017.

 Where can readers buy your book?

I am currently exclusive to Amazon with almost all of my books. Readers can buy my books in print or ebook there. Just search by my name. Also, readers who have Kindle Unlimited can download my books for free.

Additionally, I am currently working with a British company that formats books for the visually impaired, so those versions should be available soon. Check my blog at Goodreads or my website for updates.

If your readers are curious about any of my books or if a student might like to write a book report on me, please check out my website. In addition to detailed information about me and my books, you’ll also find some of the graphic art that I created depicting scenes from my books. You can also contact me there.

Other links:

Amazon

goodreads

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview James Cardona who is the author of, Community 17, 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, Community 17, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money

indiebrag team member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Eva Flynn

03_Eva FlynnI’d like to welcome back to Layered Pages, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Eva Flynn. She worked as an editor and non-fiction writer for twenty years before turning to fiction. When Eva Flynn discovered the incredible true story of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President, the first female stockbroker, the first woman to testify in front of Congress, and the first American to publish the Communist Manifesto, she knew her mission was to give Victoria a voice that history had denied her. While Eva did not know the research would take her to the very beginning of the American struggle for equality, she did know that she had stumbled upon one of history’s greatest unsung heroines. Winner of the 2016 IPPY Gold Medal, The Renegade Queen has been called “energetic…a page turner” by the Historical Novel Society and the U.S. Review of Books has written that the novel is “fascinating from beginning to end.”

Eva enjoys hearing from readers, and you may reach her at eva@rebellioustimes.com.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Thanks for having me Stephanie. It’s great to be here. Actually, I discovered indieBRAG on your blog. You were kind enough to do a spotlight on The Renegade Queen when it first came out and I saw the picture of the BRAG medallion on your page and looked into it, and now we’ve come full circle!

Please tell you audience about your book, The Renegade Queen.

The Renegade Queen follows the extraordinary life of Victoria Woodhull from her childhood in the 1840s to when she was forced to live abroad in the late 1870s. Although she grew up in a poor and dysfunctional household and was even sold into marriage, she managed to influence the course of social and political events. She was the first female stockbroker, the first woman to testify in front of Congress, one of the first women to run a newspaper, and the first woman to run for President. She ran for President in 1872, approximately fifty years before women could even vote. Victoria had powerful friends and enemies. For example, her “frenemy” was Susan B. Anthony and they were close before they had a powerful rivalry. She was friends with robber baron Commodore Vanderbilt and U.S. Representative Benjamin Butler. And she made enemies of Henry Ward Beecher and Anthony Comstock, who are akin to the religious right of our age. Her best friend was her sister Tennessee who in later years’ eclipses Victoria as a woman’s activist. Her second husband, James Blood, was very supportive of her efforts. The book is meticulously researched and all the events are true. One reviewer said that the story is “implausible” and I would agree except that it is all true.

One of the themes in your story deals with abuse in several forms. What are the emotions you experienced while writing about them?

Thank you for asking that question. It was difficult to portray those situations, but I felt that I needed to be honest about Victoria and her life. She talked publicly about how her father “made her a woman before her time” and she talked publicly about her first husband’s treatment of her. Life was so difficult for women during this time period, and I do not think any of us who have comfortable lives, in part due to their sacrifices, can truly appreciate how little respect women were treated with in society. For example, in researching the amount of rape and incest in this country at that time, the numbers were sickening. During the 1870s and 1880s, two-thirds of the rape cases had victims between 11 and 18.  There were more than 500 published reports of incest in New York between 1817 and 1899. And it is still a widespread problem with The Atlantic recently reporting that one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused, and most of those cases are by family members.  I remember writing those scenes with tears streaming down my face, but I knew that I must include them not only to be honest but to show that Victoria’s journey is all the more remarkable due to her being a survivor.

Rengade Queen BRAG

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

Most of my characters are intense for it is a stressful time to be an American, and I think many of us can relate to some of those feelings today. The U.S. Civil War which claimed 600,000 men is over but the South is in tatters.  No one knows how to handle the political rights of the newly freed slaves, the immigrants, or the women and all of these groups are becoming political and asking for their rights. The economy is a mess with a few wealthy men owning the majority of the assets and money while the majority are struggling; this is when Karl Marx and communism first comes on the scene in America. Victoria Woodhull has a little bit of ADHD in that she wants to right every wrong, and combat all these problems at once and feels that she was chosen by God to do so. Susan B. Anthony is more pragmatic and want to accomplish reform by moving slowly. And then other characters, such as Tennessee, see the problems but are just trying to enjoy the moment and have a bit happier outlook on life.

Tell me a little about, Tennessee and how the situations in her life have molded her into the person she becomes.

Tennessee is Victoria’s younger sister and she was named after the state Tennessee because her father mistakenly believed James K. Polk, the President from Tennessee, was a relation. Victoria and Tennessee’s father, Reuben “Buck” Clafin was a con artist in addition to being abusive. He was a postal carrier and he stole people’s mail and kept any money, items sent through the post. He operated Homer’s only grist mill which the town needed to make bread, and he burned it down to try to collect on the insurance money. When he discovered the “Fox Sisters”, young girls who were spiritual mediums were making a fortune by communicating to the dead, he refashioned his family into healers and mediums. Not only did he sexually abuse his daughters, but he also forced them into a state of “delirium” by forcing them to drink alcohol and opium. He thought they could better communicate with the dead that way. Victoria was the medium, communicating with the dead and Tennessee was a healer. They went from town to town selling their services and they made quite a bit of money as young girls, but their father kept the money. Then after Victoria was sold into marriage, Buck opened a center that claimed to cure cancer. Some of the patients died or became disfigured, and Buck blamed Tennessee and she was charged with manslaughter and then went on the run. Tennessee was also married briefly at this time, but her husband left her when he surmised she was being paid for sex. Tennessee did say in a court case that James and Victoria “saved her from a wretched life” and she also often spoke out in defense of prostitution. So Tennessee was abused by her father on a number of levels, and she spent her life trying to find love and she was sexually promiscuous as a result. I found several sources, not only newspapers, but also testimonies from court cases that reference her promiscuity. She wanted to marry super wealthy Commodore Vanderbilt who was more than forty years her senior, but that plan did not work out. After she broke up with Vanderbilt, she maintained her carefree attitude towards sex. In her later life, she found love with a wealthy English businessman which I will cover in my sequel. And it was at this time that Tennessee matured in terms of her political ideology and eclipsed her sister as an activist. She wrote books, gave speeches, and often travelled to America to demand the right for women to vote.

Is James Blood a fictional character?

Colonel James Blood is real and was a Civil War hero. When Victoria meets him, she pulls out an article about the Battle of Vicksburg and his bravery from The Harper’s Weekly and it is right next to an article about Lyman Beecher. That newspaper exists and you can read it here. When I found this paper I was astonished because none of the biographies I had read of Victoria mentioned the details of Colonel Blood’s bravery or this article. Everything in the novel about James Blood is true except for the conversations they had, no one can know their precise conversations I’m afraid. He remained in politics after he and Victoria divorced, and then he went to Africa to find gold.

Who is Susan B. Anthony?

Susan B. Anthony is what I would call one of our “founding mothers.” She was a reformer that fought on many platforms for women. It was Anthony who in 1848 first publicly raised the issue of equal pay for equal work. She was a school teacher at the time and one of her male colleagues disclosed that he was being paid three times what she was. She addressed the school board and there was an hour long debate before people could even agree that women had the right to talk. While she was working on behalf of women, the Civil War broke out and she became a great abolitionist and was instrumental in not only abolition but also in the Underground Railroad. Then at the end of the Civil War, she alienated African American leaders when she argued that women should have the right to vote before African Americans and she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton both made what we would now see as racist remarks. This event caused a schism in the woman’s movement with Anthony and Stanton on one side, demanding women have the vote and Henry Ward Beecher and his supporters on the other side, saying that the African Americans should get it first and that women should not “dirty” themselves with politics. Anthony then travelled from state to state to campaign for women to get the right to vote, finding success in Wyoming and Utah, but defeat elsewhere such as in Kansas. With the backing of rich entrepreneur George Francis Train, she started the newspaper The Revolution which was the first American newspaper run by a woman and the first to focus on women’s issues. She and Victoria Woodhull became allies and then had several disagreements over the course of the movement which caused another schism in the woman’s movement. In 1872, when Victoria Woodhull was running for President, Anthony broke the law to vote against her and vote for incumbent Ulysses. S. Grant. Anthony was released from jail, against her wishes as she wanted to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but was fined. She refused to pay the fine. She spent the rest of her years working tirelessly for women. The Anthony Amendment, which was the original name of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, was introduced by an Anthony supporter and debated annually in Congress for forty years before it passed. By the time it passed, Anthony was dead, so she never was able to witness the fruits of her labor.

How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

All of the characters in The Renegade Queen are real and most of them had published volumes of information in terms of speeches, memoirs, letters, and political arguments. For example, Benjamin Butler not only wrote a 1200-page memoir, but we also have several volumes of his correspondence readily available. This information along with the newspaper articles made him fairly easy to flesh out. James Blood gave interviews and was politically active so I had his words as well as impressions about him published in old newspapers to access. I even read several accounts of minor characters such as William Howe, Victoria’s attorney, to ensure all the details were correct. I was fortunate to have such an abundance of historic primary resources to help me with the characters. My only struggle was with Susan B. Anthony as I am personally more sympathetic to Anthony than Victoria Woodhull was, but the story was from Victoria’s viewpoint as it is first person so I had to take on her attitudes towards the characters.

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

As you can probably tell from my answers, I find great inspiration in the sacrifices our ancestors made on behalf of women and all Americans. It makes one wonder how many people today would go to jail, spend all their money, and face ridicule to launch a fight that would not be over during their lifetime? Susan B. Anthony, for example, risked everything not only for women but also risked her safety for slaves when she supported abolition. I am humbled by the battles they fought daily so that we could have a better life. And while many historians call this period of American Reconstruction a failure as reforms were not fully realized until after the death of the reformers, I find something beautiful in the grand failures. Sometimes change is a relay race and you have to carry the baton as far as you can and hand it off to the next generation, and that perseverance throughout the generations is astonishing.

Describe the social revolution in your eyes.

The period after the Civil War in this country was chaos. The country was still divided, many families were grieving the dead, the President was assassinated, and immigrants and African Americans are flooding the large cities in the north. Women who have had to “keep the home fires burning” are realizing that they are capable in surviving without men and they want their rights. The women do not understand how they can give body and soul in support of their men during War and then still be denied their rights when the War is over. The social revolution was all of these groups demanding their rights and asking for a new world order to be established, overturning the age of American patriarchy. While it was not a quick process, and we still have battles, this was the beginning of American minorities finding their voice, being vocal through newspapers and protests, and organizing into groups to put pressure on the majority.

Who design your book cover?

I’m so glad you asked this. Alan Clements designed my cover. I’ve known Alan for about eighteen years now, and he is a super talented graphic artist. He just started his own freelance business, Spin Cycle Creative and would love new clients. His email

Where can reader buy your book?

It should be anywhere books are sold for I have an e-book version and a paperback version.

Thank you for chatting with me today, Eva! It was a pleasure.

Thank you!

Links:

Twitter: @evaflyn

Website

 

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Eva Flynn who is the author of, The Renegade Queen, 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 Renegade Queen, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money

Stephanie M. Hopkins -indieBRAG Interview Team Leader 

indiebrag team member

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