Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Dr. Helena P. Schrader

Dr. Helena P. Schrader

Dr. Helena P. Schrader

Award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader has a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg. She has published numerous works of historical fiction and non-fiction. Visit her website  for a complete description and reviews of her publications, or follow her blog for updates on current works in progress, recent reviews and excerpts. For more on the crusader kingdoms and Balian d’Ibelin visit: Defender of Jerusalem or follow her blog on the Crusader Kingdoms at: Defending Crusader Kingdoms     

Helena is a U.S. diplomat currently serving in Africa.

Hello, Dr. Schrader. Thank you for talking with me today about your book, Knight of Jerusalem. Please give me a brief description of your book.

“Knight of Jerusalem” is the first book in a three part biographical novel about Balian d’Ibelin, who defended Jerusalem against Saracen in 1187. Many readers may remember the Ridley Scott film “The Kingdom of Heaven” that featured Balian as the protagonist played by Orlando Bloom.

What was your motivation to write this biography?

Well, I have to admit it was that Hollywood film because when I went to the history books to find out just how much of it was true, I discovered that the known facts about the historical Balian d’Ibelin were (in my opinion) much, much more interesting that the Hollywood character and plot. So I got fired up to tell his true story, and the more research I did the more fascinated I became with both this exceptional man, his society and, indeed, many of his contemporaries as well — such fascinating historical characters as the “Leper King” Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the “rogue baron” Reynald de Châtillon, and all the characters the film skipped over like Balian’s real wife, a Byzantine princess, or his elder brother, who gave up his barony rather than serve Guy de Lusignan and Guy’s far more competent elder brother, who would one day be King of both Cyprus and Jerusalem.

Knight of Jerusalem BRAG

Your story is set in the last three decades of the 12 century (1171-1199), what was some of the research involved and how much time did you spend on this?

That’s a difficult question to answer because I first visited Cyprus roughly 20 years ago and that trip sparked an interest in the crusader kingdoms and crusader culture that has stayed with me ever since. As a result of that trip, I wrote a trilogy set in the Kingdom of Cyprus in the early 13th century (unpublished) and a novella set during the 7th Crusade (i.e. mid-13th Century), St. Louis’ Knight. The research I did for those earlier works was very helpful and left me with a solid foundation of basic understanding for the crusader kingdoms, 13th century warfare, social structures etc. that I could build upon. The differences between late 12th and early 13th century aren’t that great and it’s easier to learn by noting differences to a familiar baseline than to start completely from scratch.

Next you have to understand I have PhD in History, and while such PhDs aren’t terribly useful in the job-market, they do teach you how to do focused research, how to sort good sources from bad, how to watch for bias or inconsistencies in source material, and all sorts of other tricks that make it possible to conduct research more efficiently and effectively. I rapidly identified key primary and secondary sources, acquired and read them. I then mined their bibliographies for more sources etc. and within 6 months I had a strong grasp of the key issues, personalities, and controversies. But that would have been utterly impossible without the knowledge I already had, the castles, museums and churches I’d visited, the books I already owned and could rapidly refer to, and the discipline I’d learned in earning a PhD with a biography.

What is an example of Balian playing an important role in the crusades?

Without doubt his most important historical role was in saving the lives/freedom of an estimated 50,000 Christians by negotiating with Saladin at a time when the Sultan’s forces had already brought down a large segment of the walls of Jerusalem. At the time, Balian had already withstood 7 days of almost continuous assault by Saladin’s large and victorious army with no professional soldiers among the defenders in the city except himself. Nor should we forget that Saladin had vowed to slaughter all the Christian inhabitants. Yet Balian talked Saladin into sparing the lives of those he’d vowed to slaughter and enslave at a moment when the city was no longer defensible. That’s quite a piece of diplomacy!

However, technically, this wasn’t during a crusade. It was the destruction of a Christian army under King Guy and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem that prompted the West to launch a new crusade, the Third, led by Richard the Lionheart among others. Balian’s most important role in a crusade proper was serving as Richard the Lionheart’s chief negotiator with Saladin, when Richard realized he could not capture Jerusalem and had to return to his hereditary territories in England and France.

What is Balian’s religious beliefs?

Balian was a very devout Catholic.

Please tell me a little about Amalric I rule in Jerusalem?

Amalric was an energetic and effective king who defended the Kingdom of Jerusalem by trying to break the Islamic encirclement of the kingdom by conquering Egypt. Furthermore, recognizing the advantages of strong allies, he continued the pro-Byzantine policy pursued by his predecessor and elder brother Baldwin III. This included not only marrying a Byzantine princess, but conducting joint military campaigns with the Byzantine Emperor against Egypt.

I do not know much about Maria Comnena but she is someone I would like to learn more about. Could you tell me a little about her?

Gladly! Maria Comnena belonged to the Imperial royal family in Constantinople and as such she would have been very highly educated and well-read in classical as well as contemporary literature and theology. At the age of about 13, she was selected as the diplomatic tool for cementing an alliance between Constantinople and Jerusalem by becoming the bride of the King of Jerusalem. Amalric I was at the time of their marriage a divorced man with two children by his previous marriage. He was also more than twice Maria’s age and already very fat. Maria appears to have played an active role as a patroness of the arts, fostering a Byzantine influence that is particularly evident in the sculpture and architecture of the period. She may also have encouraged her husband to go to Constantinople and effectively vow allegiance to the Byzantine Emperor. However, she gave King Amalric only one child, a daughter, Isabella.

She was roughly 21 years old when Amalric died. Her dower portion was the very rich barony of Nablus, and so she became a very wealthy widow at a young age. The laws of the Kingdom of Jerusalem did not allow for adult widows (those older than 15) to be forced into remarriage, so the fact that Maria chose a landless younger son, Balian d’Ibelin, as her second husband means that she did indeed choose him. I.e. it was a love match — at least on her part.

With Balian she had four children, and she lived to see her eldest daughter Queen of Jerusalem, and sons by Balian Constable of Jerusalem and Regent Cyprus respectively.

What is one of the historical facts of the period starting with Baldwin IV’s leprosy? And what sort of man was he? How did he treat his subjects?

Baldwin IV was diagnosed with leprosy at a very early age, but it initially manifested itself merely as a lack of feeling in his lower right arm. At the time of his father’s death, Baldwin IV was only 13 and probably looked completely normal. At 15 he was deemed mature and at 16 he led a dramatic, lightning campaign against an invading Saracen army led by Saladin that resulted in a dramatic Christian victory. Unfortunately, this campaign, which inevitably entailed sleeping in the open and not tending to minor cuts properly, probably induced the deterioration in his initially turbuculoid leprosy to lepromatous leprosy. Two years later, he was twice unhorsed in combat and thereafter led his armies from a litter. He died just before turning 24.

Throughout Baldwin’s reign, Saladin was increasing his power by defeating one after another of his Muslim rivals until he controlled a vast empire from Syria to Egypt. Baldwin, despite his leprosy, retained the loyalty of his vassals and under his leadership they repeatedly defeated invading forces led by Saladin. Twice Saladin retreated before Baldwin IV at the head of his feudal army without even risking battle. However, Baldwin’s domestic policies were far less effective. Early in his reign he came under the influence of his unscrupulous and grasping maternal relatives, his mother Agnes de Courtenay and his uncle the Count of Edessa. Under their bad influence he was persuaded to allow his eldest sister and heir to a Western adventurer, Guy de Lusignan. Although he later realized his mistake and tried to have the marriage annulled, it was too late. His domestic legacy was bitter internal divisions and an incompetent successor, who would lose the entire kingdom within less than a year of coming to the throne.

Nevertheless, I like to think of Baldwin IV as an immensely courageous young man, who must have had intangible charisma to retain the respect and loyalty of his barons and subjects despite his debilitating and increasingly disfiguring disease.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Through fellow indieBRAG honoree Charlene Newcombe, author of “Men of the Cross.”

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

My study — which, in every house I move into, has to be made operational rapidly! (As a diplomat I move every 2 to 3 years usually into housing I have never seen and was assigned to by the Embassy Housing Committee.) My study consists of a desk with very good, natural lighting and floor to ceiling book-cases for my reference books — and internet connection, of course. My retirement home on a Greek island was built to ensure my study on the second floor had views both to the next (Byzantine) village, and across the Straits of Maleas to the snow-capped mountains of Taygetos behind (and so vital to) Sparta.

Who designed your book cover?

A wonderful artist I discovered on elance, Mikhail Greuli.

What are you working on next?

As I said earlier, this is just the first book in a three-part biography. I have completed the second book in the series, “Defender of Jerusalem,” that covers the dramatic ten years prior to the crushing defeat of the Christian army at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The book ends with the subsequent desperate defense of Jerusalem against Saladin’s victorious army in September/October of the same year. “Defender of Jerusalem” has been to beta readers, revised as a result of their in-put, and gone to the editor for a second time. It is still on track for release in September this year. So, as the process of revising Book II winds down, I am preparing to work on Book III, the final book in the biography, which will be titled “Envoy of Jerusalem.” This book will cover the Third Crusade and the founding of the Kingdom of Cyprus, during the period 1187 – 1199.

Do you stick with just genre?

My first publications were non-fiction books on women pilots in WWII, the Berlin Airlift and the German Resistance to Hitler — and, of course, writing diplomatic dispatches is the bread-and-butter of my “day job.” In terms of fiction, I’m very much a historian and so historical fiction is my genre; I have no patience for time-slip or mystery, much less romance or fantasy.

I’ve written several novels set in WWII, and in Ancient Sparta. However, whereas my earlier fiction works had fictional heroes, who interacted with historical figures, I’m increasingly drawn to serious historical biography.

Historical biography is considerably more rigorous than general historical fiction as you must remain true to the historical record from start to finish — not just at the intersection with historical personages and events. Essentially, the historical record is the skeleton of your work, and while the flesh and blood — the emotions, dreams, and fears — are extrapolated from the known facts, it’s not acceptable to add extra fingers or toes, or remove limbs or organs altogether. Historical biography is not just about entertainment; historical biography is a medium that can turn a name in the history books into a person so vivid, complex, and yet comprehensible that history itself becomes more understandable.

Thank you, Dr. Schrader! It was a pleasure talking with you. Please visit with me again.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Dr. Helena Schrader who is the author of, Knight of Jerusalem, 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, Knight of Jerusalem, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Interview with Award Winning Author Roxanne Reid

Roxanne Reid

Roxanne Reid is an independent travel writer, blogger and book editor with a passion for Africa – anything from travel to people, culture & heritage, wildlife & conservation. She’s happiest in the middle of nowhere, meeting the locals, trying something new, or simply watching the grass grow.

Travels in the Kalahari is her third book, but the first to be independently published. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, who is her favorite traveling companion.

Hello, Roxanne! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Travels in the Kalahari.

As the title suggests, the book documents my travels in the Kalahari, which sprawls across the border between South Africa and Botswana. It’s an ancient and enormous semi-desert of red dunes and star-crammed skies where African animals like lion, leopard and cheetah run wild.

I wrote Travels in the Kalahari as a travel narrative that even people who never planned to visit might enjoy – an armchair travel book, if you like. It tells stories of the people, places and creatures of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, inviting readers to tag along on my adventures as I walk with a Bushman tracker, drive a 4×4 trail, track cheetahs across the dunes, camp out under the stars and taste Kalahari truffles.

Over the years many travelers planning their first visit to the Kalahari have asked my advice about where to stay, what vehicle to drive, how safe it is, what the climate is like, and so on. So I wrote the last chapter in a more typical travel guide format, giving advice on all the practical issues you need to know if you want to plan your own Kalahari adventure in Africa.


How often did you go to Africa for research?

I live in Africa and had visited the Kalahari about 25 times over 20 years before I wrote the book.

Were there any hardships you faced while there?

I’m used to rustic, remote destinations so I don’t find travel in the Kalahari a hardship. People more used to high-end luxury travel might find the long distances, the gravel roads and extreme temperatures (up to 50oC/120oF and down to -12oC/10oF) a challenge. The Kalahari also has a severe shortage of water and the quality of what’s there isn’t good, so I’ve found it best to carry all my drinking water with me.

Are there any challenges to writing a travel/nonfiction book?

The first challenge is to travel to a place yourself, not rely on second-hand accounts that are often out of date or inaccurate. Once you have all the information to hand, you have to present it in an interesting and approachable way. No one wants to read dry, dusty facts; readers want to enjoy themselves while they learn about a world so different from their own. I try to ‘tell stories’ and include gentle humour to balance informative details. That way, readers can soak up new knowledge without really noticing because they’re so absorbed in the story. I don’t use big words or long sentences; I write as if we’re just swopping stories around the campfire.


Is there a particular experience you had in Africa that impacted your life? Something that really stood out to you the most?

I suppose being born in Africa is the most important thing that has shaped my life and my interest in African travel, safari and wildlife. As far experiencing the Kalahari itself, it was making friends with a Bushman tracker about 10 years ago and learning to see it through his eyes. He features in the book, so readers will be able to learn about his amazing abilities.

I’m sure you took pictures. Is there a couple you can share with us?

I’ve attached two photos to show readers the Kalahari landscape. Anyone who wants to see more pictures can visit the online photo gallery web page for Travels in the Kalahari.

How long did it take you to write your book?

In a way I’ve been writing it since I first visited the Kalahari more than 20 years ago, getting to know the area, its environment, its wonder and its small frustrations. Actually putting fingers to the keyboard and then shepherding it through the publishing process took about 10 months.

Who designed your book cover?

I briefed professional designer Elinore de Lisle to create the cover for me. I’ve been a book editor for 15 years so I know how important that first impression is. The cover is one of your best marketing tools, either enticing or repelling a potential reader. Readers rely on it to get a sense of what the book is about so it’s certainly not somewhere to skimp on costs.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I’m always browsing websites and blogs that deal with tips and resources for independent publishers and it was on one of those voyages of exploration.

Where can readers buy your book?

They can buy it from Amazon worldwide. It’s available only as an e-book, but they don’t need a Kindle reader; they can download free apps to read it on their PC, Mac, tablet or smart phone.

Buy the book

Amazon US (ebook)
Amazon UK (ebook)

Visit Travels in the Kalahari‘s web page for more info, photo gallery and book reviews
Add Travels in the Kalahari to your Goodreads to-read page
Find Roxanne Reid on her website, her African travel and wildlife blog, on Twitter and Facebook.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Roxanne Reid, who is the author of, Travels in the Kalahari, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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, Travels in the Kalahari merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Interview with Author Kaylene Johnson


Kaylene Johnson is a professional writer and long-time Alaskan who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She has written five books about Alaska and the people who live there including her memoir A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska.  Her award winning articles have appeared in Alaska magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Spirit magazine, Parish Teacher. Winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion for her book, Canyons and Ice. She holds a BA from Vermont College and an MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Stephanie: Hello Kaylene. Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion and thank you for chatting with me today. I see that your book is non-fiction and I do enjoy reading in this genre. Please tell me about your book, Canyons and Ice.

Kaylene: Canyons and Ice is the biography of Dick Griffith, a legendary wilderness traveler who has traversed more than 6,000 miles across the continent alone and unassisted. He is also a pioneer of river rafting on the Colorado and Green Rivers long before rafting the Grand Canyon became a recreational pursuit. Until the book was published, most of his travels were unknown except to people who know him personally. He recently received a commendation from the Alaska State Legislature for embodying the spirit of adventure on the Last Frontier.

Stephanie: How amazing and inspiring!  


How did you come upon this writing project?

Kaylene: I met Dick Griffith at a Sunday dinner at his house after someone suggested he and I meet. (I wrote another biography of a famous Alaskan.) When I saw his journals and diaries, I told him he MUST compile them into a book. The stories were riveting and the photos were captivating. Eventually he decided rather than edit his journals, I should write his biography in third person. It was a privilege and I thoroughly enjoyed the task. I describe our weekly meetings which took place over the course of a year as “Tuesdays with Morrie” meets “Into Thin Air.”

Stephanie: How fascinating and what an honor to be ask to write his biography.

 canyons and ice final

Griffiith must have had a substantial about of writing from his experience. How much of it was recorded?

Kaylene: He used a diary. He had more than 500 pages of typed, single-spaced journal entries from which to draw. I also interviewed him weekly as I wrote. I was fortunate to have this kind of access to my subject. I also interviewed people who knew him and researched the history of the times. He grew up in the Great Depression, an era that helped shape the person he would become.

Stephanie: Where there any challenges writing about his adventures? 

Kaylene: Mark Twain wrote, “Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography itself cannot be written.”  Those words gave me courage when at times the task seemed overwhelming. I told myself that if I could not capture the essence of Dick Griffith, then I at least hoped to write the clothes and buttons that suited him.

Stephanie: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Kaylene: I learned a great deal about independent-publishing and the amount of time it takes to get the word out, fulfill orders, and be a publicist and appointment secretary for a person who was suddenly in high demand as a speaker. That’s a great problem to have, of course. The book sold out of the first printing within six months of publication. More than a year later, Griffith continues a rigorous schedule of speaking engagements. Along with having walked and skied farther than possibly any person on earth, he is a self-effacing and entertaining speaker.

Stephanie: Did you have to do any traveling concerning your book? 

Kaylene: Not specifically, but I fortunately had been to some of the places that Griffith traveled prior to writing the book, specifically the Brooks Range of Alaska. I had a keen appreciation for the remote beauty of the place and felt a kinship to the landscape that he so loves. One place I longed to see first-hand was the Grand Canyon from the viewpoint that Griffith saw back in the late 1940’s. I was fortunate enough to raft the Grand Canyon with Griffith himself this past October (2013). At 86 years of age, Griffith is the oldest living river runner on the Colorado River. We had a remarkable time as he narrated the places he and his late wife had explored along the way. With a cigar clenched between his teeth, Griffith was at the oars for most of the 226 miles of river that we rafted.

Stephanie: What are you expectations for this book?

Kaylene: My hope is that the book will find a wide reading audience and that Griffith’s amazing accomplishments would be recognized beyond circles of the outdoor adventure elite. Griffith is a remarkable man and his story is a testament to a person’s ability to push the limits of human possibility. He walked and skied all of those miles not for accolades or to achieve any kind of notoriety, but as a personal quest, a drive that he himself did not fully understand. His story is inspiring not only for his achievements but also for the ways in which he failed (sometimes spectacularly) only to return and try again.

Stephanie: What is your next book project?

Kaylene: I am finishing up a book about the Alaska Railroad in time for Anchorage Centennial Celebrations in 2015. I will start a new biography in 2014 about another Alaska pioneer with a different kind of story. (Stay tuned!)

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG? 

Kaylene: I read about indieBRAG online.

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

Kaylene: Yes. I’ve learned so much and may as well put that learning to good use. I now have a number of distribution outlets in place for future publishing endeavors. Book publishing is undergoing big changes, and independent publishing is one of the biggest movements in the industry. In many ways, it has democratized publishing, allowing voices that might not otherwise be heard a chance at the podium. The challenge is to stand out in a sea of new work by new authors. That takes a commitment to excellence and determination to get the word out about one’s book. Many thanks to indieBRAG for choosing Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith as an indieBRAG medallion winner!

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

Author Websites:

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kaylene Johnson, who is the author of, Canyons and Ice, one of our medallion honorees at . 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, Canyons and Ice, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Award Winning Author Conrad Taylor


Conrad Taylor is one of the first two Guyanese admitted to West Point. He attended the highly-regimented United States Military Academy on a scholarship in 1969, as one of ten students from Latin America and the Caribbean. He studied and trained there at the height of the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict, and the 60s counterculture upheavals, before returning to Guyana, South America. Conrad lends the unique perspective of that life-changing opportunity – and eventual hasty emigration – to his award-winning memoir, PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance.

The former Guyana Defense Force officer and semi-retired executive uses his extensive business experiences, including as a CEO, as an adviser on Strategy, Leadership, and Change Management. He holds a Master’s degree in Management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, a Bachelor’s in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an Executive Program certification from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. An avid soccer fan, Conrad represented ARMY on an undefeated freshman team and in three NCAA playoffs. The husband, father, and grandfather has also been an Assistant Coach to four Illinois Youth Soccer State Championships teams.

Stephanie: Hello Conrad! It is an honor to be chatting with you today. Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. Please tell me about your book, “Path to Freedom.”

Conrad: Hello Stephanie! Thank you for making time for this interview. I am honored that indieBRAG’s book enthusiasts chose to award a B.R.A.G. Medallion to PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance.

“PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance” is an uplifting coming-of-age memoir with a subtle love story. It charts a sometimes-humorous journey from a remote mining town in the jungles of Guyana, South America to the wind-swept plains of West Point, New York – and back. It is set during the controversial Vietnam War, the fractious counterculture of the late 60s, and the geopolitically-charged Cold War era. The historically-accurate narrative sums up rude awakenings, especially after West Point – because of West Point. Pro-American and democratic when I left to attend the highly-regimented United States Military Academy, my government had turned repressive, anti-American, and paranoid by my return after graduation. The new Soviet-leaning dictatorship feared regime change. Its power-hungry leaders obsessed about my being a spy for the United States. Mine was the impossible task of proving a negative!


Stephanie: What is the message in your story that you would like readers to grasp?

Conrad: The message that I would like readers to grasp from my story is that each of us has a greater capacity to deal with adversity than we think. So, Stay the Course!

Stephanie: Were there any challenges you faced while writing your story? Was there a scene or subject in your book you found difficult to write about?

Conrad: Yes. One of my challenges was developing, or maybe discovering, a writing style that I could sustain comfortably for a whole book. Until PATH to FREEDOM, most of my writing were occasional short essays for company newsletters. My most significant writing project had been researching and completing a master’s thesis in business school.

I found it difficult writing about my first moments at West Point. It took me a while to find the right words to adequately convey the shock of the rude awakening that followed. I had known very little about West Point, when I arrived there. I believed that it was merely a place to receive a college education!

Stephanie: Based on your life experiences, looking back would you have done anything differently or would you do the same?

Conrad: I would be less reluctant to ask for the help, before adversity struck.

Stephanie: What was the most profound moment for you at West Point?

Conrad: My most profound moment at West Point was the long collect call, which I made from West Point to my parents in Guyana, South America. My purpose was to complain about the difficulty of being a Cadet at West Point – and to say that I wanted to quit. I made the call during a particularly physically and mentally demanding period of rigorous training at the United States Military Academy aptly known as – Beast Barracks.

Stephanie: The Vietnam War was controversy at best. What are your thoughts and do you feel that the US made the right decision in getting involved?

Conrad: The Vietnam War severely damaged the psyche of America. The trauma was so deep that feelings about it placed husbands, wives, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends on different sides of the argument. Many of my classmates lost girlfriends because of their decision to attend West Point. Death announcements of fallen West Point graduates was an all too common occurrence during my four years as a Cadet!

I believe that the nature and extent of US involvement in Vietnam was more the issue, than the actual decision to get involved.

Stephanie: Are you working on another book project?

Conrad: Yes, I have started another book. The working title is, “ARE WE THERE YET? My Immigrant Journey of Assimilation.” I am in the early stages of that project.

Stephanie: What advice could you give to an aspiring author?

Conrad: Just do it! When I started writing PATH to FREEDOM, my goal was merely to provide my kids and grandkids with a glimpse of their cultural heritage – and the mayhem of Third World politics – in an interesting, readable way. I had put off tackling such a project for many years for a myriad of reasons, including not knowing where to start. One day I just started writing, progressing by trial and error. I will readily admit that my approach may be inefficient and frustrating for some. However, it proved effective for me. I enjoyed finding the perfect word or turn of phrase to convey my thoughts. Surprisingly, the process has produced a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner. So, just start writing and see what happens!

Stephanie:  How did you discover indieBRAG?

Conrad: Bookbaby.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

Conrad: A mistake made, corrected, and learned from, is a mistake well made.

You may visit Conrad’s Website

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Conrad Taylor, who is the author of, Path to Freedom one of our medallion honorees at . 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, Path to Freedom merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Barbara Ann Mojica



Stephanie: Hello Barbara! Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE.


Barbara: Little Miss History Travels to Mount Rushmore is the first in a series of books using the Little Miss HISTORY character as a guide. She looks like a wannabe park ranger with pig tails and hiking boots three sizes too big. With her as your child’s guide learning about people and places of historical importance will be fun and educational. The aim of these books is to whet your child’s appetite to learn more about history and perhaps even visit these landmarks with you. Little Miss HISTORY presents information in a whimsical and factual way while amusing your child. I hope you will invite her into your home and enjoy this first adventure, and those to follow, with your loved ones.


Stephanie: What genre does this fall under?


Barbara: This book is children’s non-fiction. In the US it would be generally be aligned with fifth grade core curriculum which studies American history.


Stephanie: What inspired you to write children’s books?


Barbara: I am a historian with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in history who has New York State teaching certifications in elementary, special education and educational supervision. I spent several years as a principal of a special education preschool special education supervisor. Now that I am retired, I write biweekly historical articles for a local news magazine, but I also wanted to stay involved with children. So I married my love of teaching with history by using the Little Miss HISTORY character to inspire children to learn about historical people and visit landmarks such as the one covered in this book,

Mount Rushmore.


Stephanie: Are there any challenges writing children’s books?


Barbara: There are two challenges. The writer needs to make the text clear and concise. In my books, the pictures are really important in displaying the message as well as adding a level of humor and fun.


Stephanie: Is this your first published book?


Barbara: This is my first published children’s book. Previously I have published my master’s thesis and historical magazine articles.


Stephanie: Is there a message you would like your readers to grasp?


Barbara: I would like children to understand and appreciate our connections to our past history and its relevance to our future. At the same time, I want them to appreciate them as part of our heritage not a dull collection of facts.


Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

My husband, who is a talented illustrator and writer, designed the cover, the illustrations and all the computer set up for the book. We sit side by side and align the text with the illustrations.


Stephanie: What book project are you currently working on?


Barbara: My second book in this series in which Miss HISTORY visits the Statue of Liberty will be released shortly before this interview. I am already working on final editing of the third book to be released before the end of spring 2014.


Stephanie: Will you submit it to indieBRAG?


Barbara: My second book is already on its way to indieBRAG, and I do plan to submit the third book when it is released.


Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?


Barbara: I discovered indieBRAG while surfing online and doing research on independent authors and websites. So glad that I did!


Again, I would like to thank you Stephanie for the time you took to chat with me and get to know more fellow indie readers and writers out there on the internet!


Barbara, it was a pleasure! Thank you!


Barbara Ann Majica


About Author:


I have two children and four stepchildren. My husband and I are also blessed with six grandchildren including two sets of twins! We live in Columbia County, New York where we write and draw daily in the studio located in our home. I spent many years studying history and have traveled extensively. My teaching career has involved working in the classroom and being a principal and administrator. Being able to combine my love of history, travel, and teaching in writing children’s books with the Little Miss

History character is a dream come true for me.


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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Barbara Ann Mojica, who is the author of,   Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE one of our medallion honorees at . 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,  Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE  merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.