Book Spotlight: A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Susan Meissner

A birdge across the ocean

About the book:

Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.
 
February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMSQueen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

Available on Amazon

Author Website 

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Characters in Motion with Cryssa Bazos

When I first started writing, I took a historical fiction course and I still remember the advice that the instructor gave us, which can apply to any fiction: Consider how the character moves around the page. This breathes life into the character as he/she goes about the business of achieving their personal story quest. I quickly found out that it was not enough for them do random actions; instead, the action should do double duty to reflect back on character.

Traitor's KnotTraitor’s Knot, is the story of two fictional characters, James Hart, a former Royalist officer, and Elizabeth Seaton, a herbalist, who fall in love against the backdrop of the English Civil War.

James hasn’t been able to put the war behind him. After the execution of King Charles I, the regicide Parliamentarians are now in control of the country. James refuses to swear allegiance to the new regime, nor will he return home to Coventry to repair his severed relationship with his father. Everyone in Warwick knows him as the ostler of the Chequer and Crowne, but few realize that he’s the highwayman who has been preying on Roundheads.

The first scene that I wrote with that advice in mind is still in my novel today. The scene has been modified through subsequent drafts, but this particular piece survived as it initially written:

“The war’s over, lad. Put it behind you, and look to the future before it’s too late.”

 James studied his chipped tankard. “You have tables to clean.”

 Henry merely snorted and left.

Put it behind him? He’d have to accept defeat first. James traced his thumb along the    hairline cracks in his cup, then rotated it until he found a smooth, unblemished curve. If only he saw this section, would he fool himself into believing the tankard was undamaged? Frowning, he took another swig of ale. The brew failed to wash the bitterness away.’

Here is a man who spent long, bitter years fighting for the king, but now he’s forced to accept that the usurpers have taken over the country. James has had to pretend to pick up the pieces, but he can’t let go of the past. He’s had to swallow his pride while biding his time for the return of the new king, Charles II, to regain his crown. James’s apparent compliance to the new regime is as precarious as that tankard, and any moment he will shatter.

James’s frustration is manifested in many ways. After being rejected by Elizabeth and having to deal with annoying enquiries from the new constable, Lieutenant Hammond, James’s agitation escalates through the scene. At first, as he’s grooming his horse, his brush strokes are harsher than normal:

‘James reached for a brush and started running it through Sovereign’s coat with brisk strokes. He made several passes before the horse tossed his head and took a step back. “Easy,” James said, and grasped him by the halter. When the horse continued to agitated, James grimaced and eased the pressure.’

Later on the scene, when Henry tries to drill into his head, ‘The war is over, and nothing you do will change the fact that these Roundheads control our lives, from that horse brush you’re holding to the ale that flows through my kegs.” James’s temper boils over:

“I will not accept that,” James snapped and whipped the brush into the bucket. The tin rattled and nearly tipped. “If I could, I’d have gone back to Coventry, belly exposed, to take my kicks there. I am not a beaten dog…’”

He then kicks the bucket and sends it clattering across the straw.

But it’s not all teeth grinding frustration for James. Even in a quieter moment of reflection, I use his actions to demonstrate that:

‘Through there were a number of chores he needed to finish in the barn before he turned in, he couldn’t muster the will to leave. Instead, he picked up a long twig and started drawing shapes in the ground with its tip. It was only when the door opened and Elizabeth stepped outside that he realized he had been waiting for her.’

My heroine, Elizabeth Seton, is a young woman who has had her family ripped apart during the war. She and her mother have been shunned in her community after her father was killed during a failed Royalist uprising. After her mother passes away, she is determined to carve out a new life out for herself and moves to Warwick to live with her aunt.

Elizabeth is subtler in how she walks around the page, but her actions reflect her character. Being a healer, she’s keenly attuned to the sense of touch. When she first sees her aunt’s stillroom, she connects to the wonders through touch.

‘Elizabeth’s fingertips brushed over the labels: monkshood, foxglove, and sweet woodruff. I could lose myself in this place. A thrill rippled through her.’

Even her aunt’s coveted collection of herbal recipes is handled with reverence, and as she examines the volume, she’s careful not to crease the pages.

The first time that Elizabeth finds herself alone with James, she’s on a riverbank working out her frustration by throwing rocks in the river. Later, when he’s managed to take her hand, she responds to the awakening of new emotions:

‘His touch was warm and stirring, the contact intimate. His fingers explored her palm, following the gentle curves to its hollow, then lingering on the tips of her fingers. The way his fingers brushed over her skin felt as she imagined a kiss to be.’

Elizabeth is a woman who has to maneuver between living within the rigid constricts of society and expressing her individuality. I often show this in a number of ways, from the way she dresses (she opts for a blue woolen skirt, over more serviceable greys or browns) to even how she deals with her hair.

Women at that time would have worn a coif with hair sedately bound. Elizabeth is no different, however, there is always one dark lock that will not be pinned back or confined, and she is often trying to tuck it behind her ear. I intended this to represent Elizabeth’s streak of independence. While she attempts to subdue it, its nature is otherwise.

Even a first meet market scene provides an opportunity to show her individuality. When James sees Elizabeth wending her way through the market, he notices what draws her attention amongst the stalls:

‘While fancy ribbons and laces had not attracted her interest, a stack of pamphlets and chapbooks made the difference.’

Literacy was growing amongst women during this century, but her interests would have still marked her as unique, and James was struck by this.

I believe it’s important to reveal characters through a variety of different ways, not just through dialogue. How they walk around the page and their reflective actions often reveal more than any declarations they make.

About Author: 

Cryssa

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelist Association and is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press. For more stories, visit her blog.

Social media links:

Website

Facebook

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

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Traitor’s Knot is available:

 

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Susan Appleyard

I’d like to welcome back award winning author Susan Appleyard today. Susan was born in England, which is where she learned her love of history and writing. She has applied these two loves ever since in writing historical fiction. Her first two book were published traditionally and she also has five ebooks with another to be published soon after Christmas. Susan is fortunate enough to spend half the year in Ontario with kids and grandkids, and the other half in Mexico with sun and sea and Margaritas on the beach. (No prizes for guessing which months are spent where!)

susan-appleyardHi, Susan! Thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your award winning book, In a Gilded Cage. Please tell me the premise of your story and the era your story takes place.

Hello, Stephanie, as an avid follower of your blog, I’m delighted to be here. My novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century in Austria, Germany and Hungary. It is something of a fairytale gone wrong. Having had a carefree and somewhat undisciplined youth in the hills of Bavaria, Sisi is married to Franz Josef at the age of sixteen, not against her will, but certainly against her instincts. Surrounded by luxury, she feels her independence slipping away under a barrage of court protocol.

What is one of the struggles Sisi faces in her new life as Empress of Austria besides being often ill and anorexic?

One of the struggles that I believe many can relate to is her natural wish to have a voice in the way her children were to be raised. They are taken from her at birth and her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, has complete charge of them, even insisting Sisi make an appointment when she wished to see them to avoid disrupting their schedule. This, naturally, had the effect of increasing Sisi’s feelings of inadequacy.

What are some of the strict protocols she endured?

I think for her the worst would have been the restrictions on her privacy. She couldn’t even walk through the palace without attendants following her and of course it was a jealously guarded privilege. Many of these undoubtedly spied for her mother-in-law. When she went riding she was accompanied by guards, although she was such an excellent horsewoman that sometimes she was able to leave them behind. Whenever she and Franz Josef were outside the palace, even in their gardens, they were watched by policemen. Somewhat like the Secret Service of today, I suppose. She was also obliged to wear gloves while eating dinner and couldn’t wear shoes more than six times.

Who is patriot, Count Andrassy?

In 1848 revolution swept Europe as the masses demanded a voice in government. Count Andrassy fought for Hungary against Austrian repression and fled to France to avoid the reprisals. He was sentenced to death in his absence and hanged in effigy. Sisi felt a special affinity for Hungary, for its tragic and romantic past and its yearning for freedom. When she and Andrassy met they found they had much in common. Undoubtedly, they loved each other. Whether they had an affair is debatable.

in-a-gilded-cage

How are your other characters influenced by their setting?

Although related to the Bavarian royals, Sisi’s family are very provincial and easy-going. All her life, Sisi loved the outdoors, riding, hiking, even mountain climbing. These were the kinds of activities frowned upon by the Viennese court. Franz Josef was raised in the court and finds it quite impossible to break out of the iron-bound rituals of his ancestors in order to give Sisi the kind of love she needs and the support that would help her through the difficulties presented by her new life. Above all, Count Andrassy is shaped by Hungary and its past.  He is fiery revolutionary or resolute politician as needed. As he says: Scratch a Magyar, and you will find a fierce horseman from the Steppes underneath.

What are some of the political themes in your story?

The revolutions of 1848 influenced the events of those times in ways that form a thread through my story from beginning to end. I have also been able to bring out how the fluctuating relationship between Austria and Prussia impacted the rest of Europe and led to three wars within the space of ten years.

Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story?

O.K. I will admit it. Without being deliberately dishonest, I have portrayed Sisi’s mother-in-law in an unsympathetic light. However, I found toward the end that I began to understand her better and to admire her.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

The truth is I haven’t any. It’s a compulsion. Years ago I decided to give up trying to get published after being let down by my publisher and agent. But I was never able to give up writing. Every now and then the urge would come over me and I had to write something – anything, not to any purpose, just to get it out of my system.

What are you currently working on?

A novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. I just finished the first draft recently and I’m taking a break until after Christmas.

Where can reader buy your book?

Author Profile Page on Amazon

Amazon UK

Smashwords

Thank you, Susan!

Thank you, Stephanie, for the interesting questions.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Appleyard who is the author of, IN A GILDED CAGE, 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, IN A GILDED CAGE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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