Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Karen Aminadra

Karen A BRAGI’d like to welcome back award winning Karen Aminadra to Layered Pages! Karen is a multi-genre author who writes novels within many different genres; Historical Romance, Historical Crime, and modern Chick-Lit.

She can usually be found sat at the computer either writing a novel, writing down new ideas or on social media chatting!

 Her love of reading, writing short stories, and her childhood imaginary world led quite naturally to writing novels. Encouraged to read by her bookworm father and grandmother and by winning a writing competition in just her first year of secondary school, she was spurred on, and she has been writing stories ever since. Her love of mystery and plot twists that she put into that first story continues today.

She has travelled to and lived in many countries, not just in her imagination, and has gained an insight into people’s characters that shines through in her work. Today, with her feet firmly back in the United Kingdom, she travels the world, the universe and in time through her imagination and her novels.

 Hi, Karen! Thank you for chatting with me today! Tell me about your story, Wickham.

Hi Stephanie, it’s a great pleasure to be interviewed by you once again. Wickham is a great book. I know I’m the author and I know I’m supposed to think that, but I have been rereading it lately in order to get the timeline straight in my head to write the next book, and I really like it! It takes place during the Napoleonic Wars about one year after Lydia Bennet and George Wickham were married in Jane Austen’s pride and prejudice. As you can imagine, if you have read pride and prejudice, they are not the most ideally suited couple. George is a libertine and is always on the lookout for more money. Lydia is extremely selfish and childish. Therefore, their marriage is not likely to be very happy. My novel Wickham takes the couple through a new stage of their life. Lydia has a child and Wickham is sent off to France to fight—new situations and adventures await them both to get, literally stuck into.

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

Lydia is extremely selfish and childish and that has quite a negative effect on those around her. In the opening lines of chapter one, I state that Wickham is bored. He is bored with his regiment is bored with the North of England and he is, most certainly, bored with his wife. A man like him is bound to be, isn’t he? He has wondering eye and I did not want to change that trait but wanted to see where it might lead him. As you read the book, you’ll see it get him into some hot water. Lydia, on the other hand, goes back to stay with her family in Hertfordshire, where her immature and self-centred behaviour leads to some very interesting situations. Of course, Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley are there in Hertfordshire, and the addition of these two… shall we say, stabilising characters, helps to continue the vein that Jane Austen started in revealing the true nature of Wickham’s character.

Wickham BRAG

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

George Wickham and Lydia are both very emotional characters. For George, his emotional triggers are that he is very lusty, and is controlled by those urges. Lydia, however, is also controlled largely by her opinion of herself being the centre of everyone else’s universe. As you can imagine, if she doesn’t get her own way, she is likely to throw a tantrum or two. I found them very interesting to write about. I decided at the beginning I would not redeem Wickham but I wanted to see how his character played out and where it would eventually lead them both to. I do think, however, that Lydia does mature a little bit throughout the book, thankfully.

Describe England during this era.

England during the Napoleonic Wars is a place of great juxtaposition which I have tried to show in my novel. On the one hand Wickham is in France fighting a formidable enemy, and on the other, Lydia is back in England, and everything is all happy, and tea parties, and you wouldn’t think that there was an enemy not very far away bent on the invasion of the whole of Europe. I found this quite fascinating as I was writing it, because whilst Wickham was dealing with defences, soldiers, long marches, and living in tents, Lydia was living at her parents’ house in Hertfordshire in relative luxury. They have everything they need, and even have guests to stay with them. The two parts of the story are worlds apart. And that’s exactly how it was during those times, which does seem rather strange to us. They had no news reports or internet to tell them every five minutes throughout the day what was happening and so lived in ignorance. They had, of course, the newspaper reports, but they were often months out of date. You could read about some terrible battle happening somewhere in Continental Europe thinking how awful it was, but in actual fact it was long since finished and the soldiers have moved on to the next battle. Wars would last for years and were fought in an almost hand-to-hand fashion. Yes, there were cannons and cavalry etc. but we have no notion of what it was like. Wars today are all computerized and ground troops, although needed greatly, are not as vital as they were in the Regency period, where they were the main force. That kind of warfare is something that our generation can barely comprehend.

Do you feel that Wickham has any redeeming qualities?

Actually Wickham does have redeeming qualities, believe it or not. He does in truth have a conscience. We see it developing throughout the novel and it’s actually quite interesting to watch. He also develops a sense of loyalty and of duty. These are things that we don’t see very much in Jane Austen’s pride and prejudice. However, they naturally developed in my novel and I was quite happy to see where they went. Perhaps one day, if I were to hypothetically continue the novel, Wickham would be a redeemed fellow. Or maybe that’s too much to ask.

I’d have to say that Lydia’s view on life is quite extraordinary and exasperating. Tell me about the emotions you experienced while writing about her.

I literally wanted to slap Lydia more than once and this was a character I was writing myself! She drove me incessantly crazy. I knew I couldn’t change her without upsetting Jane Austen’s original character drastically and I didn’t want to do that. If she was to change it had to happen slowly and naturally. Lydia, thankfully, does begin to very slowly grow up in Wickham. There is a sudden shock at the end of the novel, which may or may not help to mature her in the next instalment that I’m writing now, but I’m not going to give away any clues!

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

Yes, the French had to be perfect. Although I did study French at school and I did very well, I knew my French wasn’t good enough for the novel. Thankfully, I knew two people in Lyon, France who are experts in old French and how it is correctly spoken. They were a great help! Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the process. I really do like delving into history books and doing the research necessary for a historical novel. I haven’t, however, yet visited Scarborough Castle. I have planned to do that many times, and unfortunately it has never happened. I am hoping this summer to make it there finally, and take some photographs to put on my blog for my readers.

How much time did you spend working on this story and what was your process?

Wickham took me longer than usual to write. I think there were many factors involved in that. I was under a lot of pressure at the time, the characters themselves are not the most lovable, and I had to make sure that the history was correct. As it was written in two thousand fourteen, I cannot actually remember how long it took specifically, but I know it was most of the year.
To date, Wickham is the longest book that I have written, and having re-read it recently I’m really pleased with it. In the past, and at that time, I would sit down and I would not get up from my computer until I had written a minimum of one thousand words every day. I have to admit to being a bit of a perfectionist and if I don’t do my minimum word count every day, I get a little bit cross with myself. Back in 2012, my process was a lot different to what it is now. I take far more breaks than I used to, and probably drink far too much coffee as well! But, I am more productive now.

I make a notes document and I keep both documents open on the computer. I write down everything I need to know in the notes document, for example, eye colour, hair colour, height, the name of a particular weapon or gun, and details of a town or city. On a separate document, I will begin the novel. I’m quite a linear writer—I write from the beginning all the way to the end. It is very rare for me to add a chapter randomly somewhere in the book. My head just does not work that way. I usually know that somewhere along the line I will find that one particular passage that will be my prologue or my opening scene, and I always make space for it at the beginning. So, when I finally get to the end of the story and I type the end it really is the end of the whole story for me.

Where can readers buy your book?

Wickham is now available through all major stockists. Here is the Amazon link (that’s a universal link and it will take you to the Amazon store in your country)

What’s up next for you?

I’ve just put the finishing touches to the last in a three-part clean Regency romance series called The Emberton Brothers series. Now, though, my thoughts are turning towards book 4 in my pride and prejudice continues series. It takes place almost 6 months after the end of Wickham, so for those of my readers that are keen to know what happens next, this next book will tell that story. Many of my readers have messaged me in some form or another to ask me to tell Mary and Kitty’s story. That will be my focus for this next book.

For next year, I am planning to step back into women’s contemporary fiction and chick lit, as well as something new in the pipeline. I am thinking of delving into a genre I haven’t visited before as a writer but am a fan of as a reader 😉 I have a few books planned for next year as well. It’s an exciting time! I am extremely motivated right now!

More About Karen:

She is now the author of seven novels;

Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues,

Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2,

Relative Deceit – Death in the Family,

The Uncanny Life of Polly,

It’s a Man’s World – Lettie Jenkins Investigates,

Wickham – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 3,

The Spice Bride – The Emberton Brothers Series book 1.

The Suitable Bride – The Emberton Brothers Series book 2 – out Friday 15th July.


In 2012 she received a B.R.A.G Medallion  for her debut novel Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues.

In 2013 she was once again honoured with a B.R.A.G Medallion for Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2.

In 2016 she received another prized B.R.A.G Medallion for Wickham -Pride & Prejudice Continues book 3.

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Karen Aminadra who is the author of, Wickham, 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, Wickham, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Maria Grace

Maria Grace BRAG

Today I’d like to welcome B.RA.G. Medallion Honoree Maria Grace to talk with me about her book, Remember the Past. Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily, reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six new novels in various drafts, waiting for editing, will attend her seventh period ball in 2016, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and published her tenth book in 2015.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I have been following its development from the beginning

Please tell me about your book, Remember the Past.

Remember the Past BRAG

Remember the Past is a take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which instead of a landowner, Mr. Bennet is a successful naval admiral, who retires and tries to enter London society. Unfortunately, things do not go exactly according to plan. The Bennet’s long-awaited first season in London proves a disaster, and the resulting scandal sends the Bennets fleeing to the wilds of Derbyshire.

Widower Fitzwilliam Darcy, the master of Pemberley, wants for nothing, most especially not a wife. From the moment the Bennets arrive in Derbyshire, Darcy’s neatly ordered life turns upside down. His sons beg to keep company with their new playmates, the young Bennet twins. His mother-in-law sets her cap for Admiral Bennet. Worst of all, Darcy cannot get his mind off a certain bewitching Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but she has sworn never to let another gentleman near her heart.

Darcy’s best efforts to befriend and assist the Bennet family go horribly awry, alienating first Miss Elizabeth, then her father, and finally endangering what both men hold most dear. Can the two men Elizabeth loves most set aside their pride to prevent catastrophe for their families and win the love they seek?

Will you give me an example of one of the Bennet’s mishap during their first season in London?

Jane and Elizabeth, first with their mother, then after her death, their step mother, followed their father all over the world, growing up in port cities and experiencing far more than the typical young lady, or even typical gentlemen of the era. Their beauty, connections, and fortunes make them very attractive as potential wives, but neither suffers foolish young men gladly. Rejected suitors spread malicious rumors, and the Bennet sisters are not shy to stand up for themselves.

Tell me a little about Elizabeth.

She is the bolder, more outspoken of the two sisters. She has also taken the brunt of the problems during their London Season, culminating with having to fight off a too aggressive suitor and leaving him with a scarred face. She has become a bit cynical and weary of the whole marriage mart, ready to give up the whole notion of marriage, as she is in the enviable position of not needing to marry.

What do you like most about the Regency era?

I love the wealth of primary resources available through digitized books that allow me to read about the era directly in the words of those living then.

Please tell me a little about the naval service of the era.

The navy offered greater potential for social mobility than most institutions in Regency era society. Generally only the sons of gentlemen or perhaps wealthy middle-class parents could enter the path to becoming an officer, but the way was not entirely closed to others. Once a lieutenant, a man could rise through his own merit to a high position, even above those with higher origins. Unlike army officers, naval officers did not purchase their commissions, they earned them.

Naval service was dangerous, though, with nearly 100,000 casualties between 1793 and 1815. Battle at sea accounted for less than 10% of naval casualties. Accidents and disease accounted for 80%.

Naval wages, even for Captains were notoriously low. Prize money was the only way to wealth and came in various forms. If an enemy ship was sunk, ‘Head and Gun’ money (calculated by the numbers of men or guns on the enemy vessel) was awarded. Until1808, a 3/8 share went to the captain and the remainder was divided on a diminishing scale, according to rank, among the other officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and the ordinary members of the crew. After 1808, a slight change was made to the allocation of these shares.

If they captured an enemy ship, the Admiralty was often prepared to buy it from them and resulted in higher rewards. The best payouts came if the captured ship was carrying a valuable cargo. This kind of prize money was divided up so officers received more than the ordinary crewmen. It was possible for officers to earn substantial wealth in prize money.

How long did it take for you to write your story?

I took my time writing this one. I think it took about 10 months.

Did you keep to the personalities of Austen’s characters?

After a fashion. What I tried to do was to consider the character in light of the new circumstances. I tried to figure out how the different situations would change the characters and wrote them from that perspective. So I started with the original and tried to make realistic changes from there.

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

The title is a quote from Pride and Prejudice, which inspired the story, that embodies the overall theme of the tale.

Who designed your book cover?

I designed this cover. The current one is the second version of this cover. The changes were inspired by the word of the cover designer I hired for another project. I learned so much from her! Since I had to add the B.R.A.G. Medallion to the cover, it was a good excuse to put what I learned into action.

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Austen Variations

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A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Maria Grace who is the author of, Remember the Past, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Remember the Past, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Melanie Kerr

Follies PAst

Stephanie: Hello, Melanie! I am so delighted to chat today with you about your book, Follies Past, which has been awarded the prestigious B.R.A.G. Medallion. First, I would like to ask you how you discovered indieBRAG and what would you like to say about this company?

Melanie: I have so much to say about this subject that I am sure would test the bounds of this interview. Quality control is the missing link in the self-publishing world, and IndieBRAG is really stepping up to fill that void. They are providing precisely the service that I, as an independent author, need in order to get the attention of readers, booksellers, media, even agents and potential publishers. I can only imagine that they will grow in notoriety and importance in the publishing world as self-publishing becomes larger and it becomes even more important for readers to be able to identify the really good books from among the myriads.

Stephanie: I am completely thrilled about your book. I love anything Jane Austen and when I read your book description, I knew that I need to read this story as soon as I can. Please tell your audience a little about this book and what sets it apart from the other.

Melanie: Follies Past is a book I wanted to read, but hadn’t been written, so I wrote it. It is a story entirely grounded in Pride and Prejudice, and designed after the style of Jane Austen’s novels in general. The essentials of the story are taken from the letter that Darcy gives to Lizzy, setting out his history with Mr. Wickham. I used every bit of information that Austen gave us, about the characters, the facts, the circumstances, etc. and I applied my linguistics training to imitate the language that she wrote in, which is quite different from our own in terms of vocabulary, structure and style. My intention was just to give Austen fans more of what they love, to allow them to linger a bit longer with her characters, her world, as she wrote it. I have also fleshed out the story with characters of my own invention, so that the plot would hang on something that resembled a Jane Austen style love story. And there are a few surprises with respect to some minor P&P characters, which I hope readers will enjoy.

Stephanie: I am so delighted you decided to write a story of Georgiana and Wickham. I have to admit Georgiana is one of my favorite Austen characters and I’ve always wanted to read more about her. Please tell me a little about what her relationship with her best friend Clare is like. How do they complement each other and what is their favorite past times together?

Melanie: The story is about Georgiana, but it is Clare who is the heroine. Georgiana is very shy, very unsure of herself though she has a very tender heart. It is suggested in P&P that she comes off as a snob, but in fact is just reserved. This makes it difficult for her at school. She is rich, to be sure, but she doesn’t make friends easily. Clare is not rich. She is an admiral’s daughter and has no dowry. She has a high moral character and is very caring. She and Georgiana are drawn to each other because they both feel they don’t fit in. Clare takes care of Georgiana in a way, and Georgiana, with her sweet sincerity, gives Clare permission to go easy on herself. I imagine Georgiana showing Clare how pretty she is by doing her hair for her and lending her jewels, and Clare making Georgiana sing in public, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. They encourage each other, and they really do admire each other and think that the other is everything they wish they could be.

Stephanie: Please tell me about Lord Ashwell. His weaknesses and strengths and what is an example of his part in the story?

Melanie: Lord Ashwell is Georgiana’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s elder brother and heir to an Earldom. He is refined and charming and sickly and he may or may not be a rogue of the worst kind. It is very easy to fall in love with him, but the reader does not know whether to heed the scandalous stories about his past. He lives very near to where Georgiana lives in London, and they meet quite often. He is instrumental to several points in the plot, but it would be giving away too much to tell you what they are!

Stephanie: I’ve always considered Caroline a bit devious. What is one of the ways she tries to get in Darcy good graces to marry her? Though I must say he probably has never given thought to marry her. Or am I wrong? And in what you have told me about her in the questionnaire I sent you-without giving the main conflict away, do we see her in a false light? Is she really different then she comes across? I think many people will be surprised about her in your book and that is one of the things I look forward to reading about in your story.

Melanie: Caroline is quite awful. Let us make no mistake. I do not pretend otherwise in my book. The first part of the book does really focus on her story though, and for reasons I cannot explain, that propels the rest of the story in a way. I will say that she experiences real love for the first time in my book, and that this softens her a little, as it does with so many people. Her ambition makes her detestable, and when she is distracted and buoyed by her mutual affection for another, she becomes much more likeable. I noticed when I was studying P&P for character descriptions, that Caroline and Lizzy are often described in the same terms. Both are witty, light in their form, confident and playful. When you take away Caroline’s mean-spiritedness, she is surprisingly like our favourite Miss Bennett. Of course, this is only fleeting, and all the more tragic for being so. We see the possibility of her character, which is lost forever by the time P&P opens.

Stephanie: I see that Mrs. Young is in Follies Past. Does she have the same characteristic traits in this story as we all know her to have?

Melanie: She is in cahoots with Mr. Wickham, and in fact is the one behind the scheme to marry him off to Georgiana. She is perhaps the most evil character in the story, but she is also a victim of her circumstances. She reminds me a bit of Becky Sharp, from Vanity Fair. She is intelligent and driven, but as a woman, she is limited in her means of advancement and she does what she must to reach her own aims.

Stephanie: Will you write other stories like this?

Melanie: I hope to. I plan to write a prequel to Sense and Sensibility next. It is all planned in my head. I just have to find the time to sit down and type it out, which is no small task in my life. I work full time and have 2 small boys, so my time with my word processor is limited.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write, Follies Past and what was your process?

Melanie: I worked the whole thing out in my head before I started. I travel a lot for work, so driving is my thinking time, and I figure out how the plot is all going to fit together. It took me just under 2 years to get a final draft.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Melanie: Alberta artist Angela Rout did the art work. We discussed the design together, and came up with the concept. It is a paper cutting, which is an old art form. I liked that it was both graphic and traditional. I didn’t want something that looked like a romance novel, or the usual floral imagery. I wanted it to stand out from other Fan Fiction.

Stephanie: What advice would you give to a beginner writer?

Melanie: Listen to criticism. It is hard to take, but you have to swallow it. You have to assess objectively whether there is anything you really should change. Sometimes people are wrong, but often they have identified something that could improve your writing, and you should genuinely try and figure out what it is, even if the way they have articulated it doesn’t resonate with you.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Melanie: eBooks can be downloaded on Amazon. The Paperback is also available from CreateSpace. I would also love it if people would check out and share my book trailers on YouTube. They were a lot of fun to watch and have some great eye candy in the form of Mr. Wickham. My channel is called Follies Past, and the link is on youtube.

Stephanie: Thank you, Melanie! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please visit with me again soon!

About Author:

Melanie Kerr

Melanie Kerr studied linguistics, English and theatre at the University of British Columbia and law at the University of Alberta. She is a regular attendee at meetings of her local chapter of JASNA, and has numerous times arranged for large groups of Canadians to join her in attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. Kerr is a reckless lover of clotted cream, a staunch defender of the semi-colon and a fierce opponent of unpleasant music. She wooed her current and only husband with false promises of skill at word games and eternally good hair. She lives in Edmonton, where she raises her two sons, sews her own Regency costumes, organizes Regency costume events, blogs on all things old and English, endeavours to take over the world and occasionally practices law. Follies Past is her first novel.

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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Melanie Kerr, who is the author of, Follies Past, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Follies Past, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.