An Interview with Adam Mitzner: Author of A Case of Redemption

amitznerJoining me on the blog today is author Adam Mitzner.  I’ve had the pleasure of reading two of his novels now, A Conflict of Interest and more recently A Case of Redemption.  Adam has generously agreed to participate in an interview to learn more about him and his works.  Enjoy!

What made you choose a new character instead of continuing Alex’s story from A Conflict of Interest?

When I finished A Conflict of Interest I thought that Alex Miller’s story arc had come to a resting place, at least for the time being. I wanted to start with a new character who was also in the midst of crisis, but one that was different than the kind of struggle that Alex went through. I actually wrote an article on my feelings about stand-alones and sequels, which has more on my thinking, and can be found here.

What made you choose this particular plot line?  I know that in your acknowledgements you mention that both this book and A Conflict of Interest are very loosely autobiographical.  How much of it was based on your own cases?

I’ve never worked on a murder case, so that’s not the autobiographical part. The part that’s from my own life is more about the struggles the characters face. In Dan’s case it’s that sense of loss that he feels. I’ve thankfully never suffered anything as dramatic as he encounters, but I think everyone has those moments in life when things look particularly bleak. I was trying to tap in to that feeling of despair and write about someone trying to seek redemption for past mistakes.

redemption-pressWhat was your favorite part about writing Dan’s character?

The most interesting part was trying to get inside Dan’s head and understand that feeling of hitting rock bottom. Having everything one moment and then losing it all. And then going the next step to capture what it must be like if you thought that, on some level, you deserved it. The question I wanted to address was — how do you come back from that?

What was your favorite scene to write?

One of my closest friends is named Matt Brooks, and so I enjoyed writing the scenes with the Matt Brooks character. My friend Matt is a card player, and so I consulted him about the black jack scene with Matt Brooks.

And now a few questions about you as an author:

I can see from your bio that you didn’t start writing until after you began practicing law.  Was writing   always your first passion or did it develop over time?

I’ve always been interested in writing, and of course I write a great deal as a lawyer. However, it wasn’t something I studied in college and never actually tried to write any fiction until a few years ago. It is truly a passion now, however. As my family will attest, I’m writing all the time that I’m not practicing law.

What’s your favorite part about being a writer?

Truth is that I love so many different things about it. First, there’s nothing like hearing people tell you that you’ve entertained them. Just thinking about the fact that people are enjoying something I created is a remarkable, almost surreal, experience. But I also find the process of writing exhilarating. The combination of crafting the story, delving into the inner psyches of the characters and using language to make it come alive is something that’s exciting every time.

I see that A Fall From Grace will revisit Cromwell Altman, the law firm in A Conflict of Interest.  Can you tell us anything else about this upcoming work?

My next novel does indeed return to Cromwell Altman, this time following the head of the firm, Aaron Littman. As the title implies, the story focuses on his potential downfall. There are twists and turns a plenty, but what I’m most excited about is that my wife thinks it’s the best writing I’ve ever done.

Thanks again for joining us, Adam!

You can connect with Adam on his facebook, Twitter, or Website

An Interview With Paul Cornell: Author of London Falling

Recently I was given the awesome opportunity to interview Paul Cornell.  You may know him best as one of the writers of Doctor Who, who has won several Hugo awards for episodes that he has written.  Now, he is taking on a new project, an urban fantasy novel, entitled London Falling.  As a massive Doctor Who fan myself, I am very excited about this interview in general, and thankful that Paul has taken time out of his busy schedule to give us a glimpse into this new work.  So, without further adieu, here it is!

Hi Paul, thank you so much for agreeing to the interview! First, a few questions about you as a writer and London Falling:

Author Paul Cornell outside New Scotland Yard in London

Photo credit: Rob Monk

What inspired you to write London Falling?

I wanted to talk about modern life, and have fantasy onside when I did it.  I like the idea of professionals, in this case undercover Metropolitan Police officers, trying to use their training against something beyond them, in this case, magic and monsters.

What’s the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?

The research, but that was made easier by knowing several police officers and intelligence analysts I could ask about their work.

How did you get into writing professionally?

I flunked out of an Astrophysics course, and had to find some way to make a living. There followed years of poverty, but I recommend it as a learning curve.

Do you base your characters off people in your actual life?

Bits here and there.  Very rarely a whole person.

If you could write for any series, what would it be and why?

You mean a TV series?  I’d love to do a Game of Thrones. But that’s trying to get onto a very small team.

sb10063436a-002Who are your literature inspirations?

Christopher Priest, Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison, a lot of the New Wave of SF in the UK.

Now, a few questions about you as a sci-fi fan:

Are you a geek at heart, or does science fiction just come natural to you?

Is there an ‘or’ there?  I am a geek, and I try, now I have the luxury of that choice, to only write SF and fantasy.

I have to ask as a huge Doctor Who fan, who is your favorite Doctor?

Complicated.  I love Matt Smith.  Back in the day, it was a choice between Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy.  That’s as close as I can get to an answer.

Do you enjoying writing literature more than you do for the screen?

Hugely.  Books are where the writer has sole responsibility.  Prose is my favourite way to write anything.  I hope to end my career as a novelist.  Hopefully not soon.

What did you think of The Avengers film, and can you see yourself ever doing any work in the Marvel cinematic universe?

I loved it.  Cracking shape.  Characterful and even arty, which is what we should expect of Joss. If they ask me, yeah, of course I’d do that.

Finally, a few general questions:

What is your favorite novel of all-time?

Light by M. John Harrison.

Do you have any feature films in the works?

No.

How do you spend your time when you aren’t writing?

Following cricket, matters Fortean, looking after my little boy.

Are you currently reading any books or following any television series?

Loads!  Listening to Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal and Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman.  I consume most books on audio these days, on long walks with the baby.  My two favourite TV shows right now (apart from Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, which are more lifestyle choices), are Arrow and Person of Interest.

What advice do you have for us aspiring writers?

I sum it up in a sentence: ‘Your job is to seek out harsh criticism of your work and change as a result’.

Thank you for having me along!

Learn more about Paul Cornell by following him via:

Twitter: @Paul_Cornell
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaulCornellOfficial
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/63341.Paul_Cornell
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/paulcornell/
The Web: http://www.paulcornell.com/

An Interview With Marie Brennan: Author of A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

Marie BrennanJoining me on the blog today is Marie Brennan, author of A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent. We discuss DRAGONS!

Your book, A Natural History of Dragons, is a fictional memoir of a dragon naturalist. Why did you decide to tell this story in the style of a memoir?

It fit the setting, which is modeled after the real-world nineteenth century. But mostly, it was that I started writing in the first person, and it naturally fell into a retrospective mode — Isabella as an old woman, talking about what she did in her youth. Approaching it that way lets me play the two timelines off one another, taking advantage of her later perspective while also exploring the recklessness and energy that comes with being young.

Were any of the characters in your book inspired by historical figures?

Not directly, no, though I was definitely influenced by a variety of women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who distinguished themselves as scholars — Ada Lovelace, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Elizabeth Carter, and so on.

Ironically, there’s one person who should have been an inspiration, but I only became aware of her after I’d already started writing: Isabella Bird. She wasn’t a scientist, but she traveled all over the world and published a number of books about the places she visited, which included Hawai’i, Japan, Malaysia, and the American West. You might think my own Isabella is named after her, but the truth is that it’s just serendipity; my protagonist was originally going to be called Victoria. Very early on, though — possibly before I even started writing; I don’t quite remember — I decided that just didn’t feel right. On impulse, I changed it to Isabella . . . and then later learned about Isabella Bird, who bears so many similarities to my protagonist.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?

aNHoD Cover 300dpi

Illustrations by Todd Lockwood

Making the world work. I’m an anthropologist; I don’t mind researching cultures and so on, and I did a lot of period research for the Onyx Court books. But with my protagonist being a natural historian, I needed the natural environment to hang together. Which meant spending a lot of time with a climatology textbook, trying to figure out what kind of weather my geography would produce (and how to create geography for the weather I want), then looking up the animals that would be part of that ecology, and so on. It was enough to make me wonder from time to time whether I’d rather go back to writing in the real world after all . . . .

What is your favorite character or moment in A Natural History of Dragons?

Most of the answers to that would be spoilers! For those who have read the book, though, I’ll say my favorite moment is probably the bit in the cavern — that seems like a relatively discreet way to refer to it. For those who haven’t read the book, I’ll say that a close second is the menagerie scene early on, where she meets Jacob. That scene is the first point at which you really get a full-bore dragon showing up in the story, and back when I was first playing around with this idea, it really brought the whole world to life in my mind.

How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

I watch a fair amount of TV and movies — usually while doing other tasks that require less of my concentration — and recently I’ve started playing piano again. My main hobby, though, is role-playing games. Stories are my favorite form of entertainment, and that’s a way to enjoy them with friends. Which is important when you work from home, and can easily go all day without seeing anyone other than your husband!

Is there a historical era you are especially drawn to that you enjoy researching and reading about?

Several. Obviously I have a fair interest in English history, having covered the Elizabethan period up through the Victorian in the Onyx Court books, and then branching sideways into the pseudo-Victorian setting of Isabella’s memoirs. But I’m also very much interested in pre-Meiji Japan, and Republican/Imperial Rome, and Mesoamerica (the Mayans and the Aztecs), and Viking-era Scandinavia . . . I could keep going, but I won’t. I want to learn more about China and India, too, but haven’t gotten very far with those two yet.

What book(s) are you reading now?

Spirit’s Princess, by Esther Friesner, which is set in prehistoric Japan; Farah Mendlesohn’s excellent Rhetorics of Fantasy; the YA Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis; and Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver. Plus back issues of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies (I fell behind while finishing the next book of Isabella’s memoirs), which makes for little bite-sized bits in between work sessions.

Would you care to share your favorite books from your childhood?

Laboratory

Illustrations by Todd Lockwood

Diana Wynne Jones — very nearly everything she ever wrote, but especially The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Homeward Bounders, Eight Days of Luke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Fire and Hemlock, which is the book that inspired me to become a writer. Also The Secret Garden, which I sort of persistently read as fantasy even though it isn’t; I had that tendency a fair bit, with books like The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (another excellent children’s writer overall).

Do you have a current book obsession—one that you shove in the face of your friends and demand they read?

The same one I’ve had for a while now: Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. They’re historical fiction (set in mid-sixteenth-century Europe), but they’ve influenced a lot of fantasy writers — and they’re really just brilliant. Not easy to get into, mind you; Dunnett’s writing style is very dense and kind of opaque, and it took me a while to learn how to process it. But once I got the hang of it, she blew the top of my skull off.

Lastly, which dragon would you most like to hang out with: Elliot of Pete’s Dragon, Puff the Magic Dragon, or The Reluctant Dragon?

I’m going to have to go with the Reluctant Dragon. Apart from my fondness for English folklore (and the fact that I’ve been to the hill where George is said to have killed his dragon), who doesn’t love a dragon that likes to read books?

If you’re interested in learning more about Marie or her novel, see the links below! If you would like to download a copy of the book cover as wallpaper for your computer, you can click here.

Marie Brennan Bio: Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as WarriorWitchMidnight Never ComeIn Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com

A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS: A Memoir by Lady Trent
By Marie Brennan (WebsiteTwitterGoodreads)
A Tor Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3196-0
Available here:
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An Interview with Paige Dearth: Author of Believe Like a Child

believelikeachildHi everyone!  As you may remember, a little while ago I reviewed a book entitled Believe Like a Child by Paige Dearth (review link is here).  Paige has graciously agreed to an interview about the book and being an author in general.  At the end of the interview she’s provided information about her upcoming work, When Smiles Fade, which comes out in February.  Be sure to look out for it!

Again, many thanks to Paige for participating in the interview.  Here it is:

What made you decide to write this work in the first place?  Did you originally set out to write a character like Alessa?

The reason behind writing Believe Like A Child was my desire for people to understand the darkness children are forced to live when they are being sexually abused.  It’s difficult for anyone to imagine that an adult can do such horrible things to children.  But they do and it happens more than we care to believe.  I wrote this book as fiction so that I could weave a story of real-life and make-believe in an effort to convey an important message while entertaining readers.

Before I put a single word on paper I knew how I wanted to portray Alessa.  She was after all, the most important character to me.  Alessa, like so many abused children possessed an inner strength that just needed some encouragement to help her reach her potential.  I worked hard on Alessa to strike the right balance in making her a victim and a survivor.  Years before I actually wrote this novel, I envisioned Alessa exactly how I depicted her.  The response from readers about Alessa has been heartwarming for me.

Throughout the book there are many moments of despair that Alessa faces, yet there are also occasional moments of hope.  Were Alessa’s experiences (good and bad) modeled after your own?

The first part of the novel, at the point where Alessa runs away from her home, were based on my own experiences.  For the remainder of the story, I took the feelings that I had experienced throughout my life and created situations for the protagonist that would evoke those same emotions in my readers.  So, you could say that I backed into the scenes of despair and hope based on the emotional response that I wanted to get across.  I should also mention that Ebby, Lucy and Remo are exaggerated versions of real people who saved me from what could have been a horrible fate.  Today, the three of them remain as pillars of strength in my life.

Besides Alessa, who did you think was the most interesting character to write?

The cameo appearance by Denise, the Rope Bully, was especially interesting for me.  As children and adults, there are people who come into our lives that prejudge us.  Denise believed that Alessa’s life was perfect because she didn’t show her miserable existence outwardly.  There is a character like Denise in just about everyone’s life.  Some of us knew him/her as a kid and some of us knew him/her from the workplace when we became adults.  Denise was so busy trying to establish her status and importance, making herself feel powerful, that she alienated everyone and had no one who really cared about her.  People associated with her out of fear rather than respect, which says little for the character of that person.  Denise represented the intolerance and lack of self-awareness that is needed to embrace humanity and is a character that most of us knew at one time or another.

How did you decide to end the book in the way you did?  Was it because you wanted to convey a sense of realism as to how the stories of many people like Alessa end?

The ending of the book was purely cathartic for me.  Alessa’s actions were based on her emotions that she no longer had control over.  She finally reached her limit and did the only thing she could do to fight the demons that had been such a significant part of her life.

What’s your favorite part about writing?

When I’m writing my stories and they begin to play like a movie in my head, but one where I can make happen what I desire.  When I write, all time stands still and I get to live moments of heartache and joy as the scenes unfold.  There were times when I was writing Believe Like A Child and I was laughing out loud or typing the words through gut wrenching sobs.  There is no greater joy than being submerged in a sea of words and stringing them together to create a story that gives rise to a deep emotional connection in readers.

What made you decide to become a writer?  Are you inspired by any other authors?

Even at a young age I kept a journal.  Honestly, I love to write…it doesn’t matter if it’s a grocery list, addressing cards or developing a novel.  Writing feels natural to me.  I really believe that I have stories in me that people will want to read.  I love to keep readers on the edge of their seat and wanting to know what will happen next.  When a reader tells me how much they loved my book I feel as though I’ve shared a piece of myself with them.

I’m inspired by several authors…the first book I ever read, A Woman Of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford, is my favorite book of all time.  Maybe it’s because it was the first novel I had read but, I think it’s more likely because the protagonist of the story was able to rise above her dismal circumstances and humble beginnings.

Another author that deserves a huge shout out is James Patterson.  Having read many of his novels I think he is clever and engaging.  In an interview with the New York Times, on January 20, 2010, Patterson said something that resonated with me: “If you want to write for yourself, get a diary. If you want to write for a few friends, get a blog. But if you want to write for a lot of people, think about them a little bit. What do they like? What are their needs? A lot of people in this country go through their days numb. They need to be entertained. They need to feel something.”

I agree with James Patterson and am inspired to make people “feel” something when they read my novels.

Do you have any new works planned for the future?

Definitely!  My second novel, When Smiles Fade, will be released in early February 2013.  This novel is about a young girl named Emma who was unloved from the moment she was born.  Her earliest memory is being severely beaten by her father, Pepper Murphy, when she was eight-years-old.

Emma’s father’s cold-blooded beatings and the ultimate abuse to which he subjects her, lays the foundation of the person she becomes. As she matures into a resourceful teenager, she is unwilling and unable to stifle her desire for revenge.

In addition to my second book, I have just finished the outline of my third novel.  I have a book title in mind, but it’s still too early to know for sure.  My third book is about a young child who is kidnapped from a mall and forced into human trafficking…that’s all I can share…for now…

Please check out my website at www.paigedearth.com to read the beginnings of Believe Like A Child and When Smiles Fade.

A Genealogy How-To Guide by Maria Sutton, author of The Night Sky

I was recently given the chance to read an inspiring memoir, The Night Sky. (Review here) Author Maria Sutton takes us on her journey across the ocean to find out more about her family’s history.  Upon finishing the novel I asked Maria if she would put together a piece for the blog  helping those of us out there trying to search for our family’s genealogy.  She happily obliged and below are her ideas! Thanks again Maria!

How does one begin the search for their family’s history?  (A How-To Guide)

First of all, I would like to thank Kim for inviting me to do a guest post on her awesome blog.  The reviews and author interviews are quite entertaining, and I am truly honored to talk about something that most people take for granted: Family.  Kim wanted me to give a primer on how to go about finding your family’s history, and I will do so, but first, I think a reader should ask themselves:  Why search for your family’s history?  Besides the obvious medical history info, I think most people are curious about “from where they came.”  Also, it’s nice to fantasize that you’ve descended from royalty or an international celeb.  Dreams and discovering your place in history are an important part of why people should search for their roots.  Along the way, readers will find heroes, villains, and fascinating characters and probably learn they are fulfilling the dreams of their ancestors.

So, how do you begin searching for your family’s history?  First, the most important thing to remember is to LISTEN very carefully to your family stories.  We’ve all sat around the kitchen table at family gatherings and inevitably the conversation will turn to Aunt Betsy winning a prize for baking the best mince meat pie in Hanover, Pennsylvania, or Great Grandfather Bill who joined the circus when it came to Iowa.  Those are CLUES to places they’ve been.  Write down those clues and put them in a shoebox, or wherever you keep your special cache of information about family.

Second, don’t dismiss anything as being irrelevant.  When I was searching for my biological father, I had hundreds of conversations with my mother, and she mentioned an overwhelming number of towns in Germany.  I wrote down every single town, followed-up with each one of them, and, after decades of getting “no record” responses, almost decided to discontinue that line of research.  During one casual conversation, my mother mentioned the town of Augsberg in Germany.  My initial reaction was that it would be just another town of hundreds I had contacted that would have no record of Jozef.  I decided, what the heck, sending an email to one more town would only take a few minutes, so I nonchalantly sent that email, and, to my utter astonishment – that message is what solved the mystery of my father’s whereabouts!

Third, get your relatives involved in conversations about family – while you still can.  Once they’re gone, they take the family stories and history with them and you won’t be able to ask those vital questions needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  When I was in my twenties, I listened to many family stories, many of which did not seem to be significant.  Decades later as I was creating my photo albums and doing write-ups of each family member, I was struck by all the dots I hadn’t connected, and wished I could ask Aunt Ida about the love of her life, or Uncle Claude about his service to America during WWI.   They had their triumphs and tragedies and I wished I had captured that long-ago history.

Once you gather the basic Who, What, When, and Where, the documents you need to get, and where to get them, are:

  • Archives at the County and State Vital Statistics agency will give you Birth, Marriage, and Death Records.  You can find their addresses just by Googling them.
  • Maps
  • Telephone Books
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • Ellis Island
  • Cemetery Records
  • Church Records
  • Immigration Records
  • Gazetteers
  • Military Records
  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Family History Center of the Church of Latter Day Saints
  • Prison Records
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Professional Organizations (Any profession requiring a license, e.g., physician, attorney)
  • School Records
  • Google

You don’t have to be a certified, professional genealogist to track down your family.  Nor do you need to be a trained investigator.  All it takes is perseverance.  Happy hunting, and I’m sure you’ll find the stunning legacies your family has left behind for you.

Leftovers with C.S. Marks, Author of Elfhunters

Guest posting for us today is C.S. Marks, author of the graphic novel Elfhunter!  Sea Lion Books will be releasing the first part of the series in June of 2012.  The staff and I are eagerly awaiting its release!  Special thanks to C.S for joining us today, and giving us this hilarious post on what it’s like for an author to have their work edited! We also want to give a very special thanks to Hope HooverElfhunter’s illustrator for the custom drawn design (see below) she did for this post!

The first time an author turns a work over to a content editor is a bit of a traumatic experience. The author, having heard all sorts of blown-out-of-proportion horror stories from colleagues, imagines red pencil-marks all over his/her beloved manuscript which, as every author knows, has been carefully crafted so that not a single, perfectly-crafted word should be deleted. Yet it’s more than likely that the editor (if professional and worthy) will  not only suggest some re-writes, but will actually recommend trimming the work down, omitting superfluous lines, scenes, dialogue…even a sub-plot or two!

Superfluous? There must be some mistake!

Now, if you are an experienced author, you’ll no doubt be smiling right now, older and wiser being that you are. Yet you still dread hearing the words refinement, streamlining, and, yes, delete! (‘What? Delete Fluffy’s big death scene? But…but that’s one of my favorites! I weep every time I read it!)

I’ll fess up now–I’ve got a book in the hands of a content editor at this very moment. I’ll also admit that it’s not the first time; my fourth novel has been through two content editors, who made a few very worthwhile suggestions for re-writes. The flow and clarity of the story was improved immensely as a result, so…

…why do I still fear content editing?

Because the novel in the hands of the editor at the moment is my first one. I know it needs more editorial input than my successive works–I’ve improved with each book I’ve written. What if this editor, who is highly competent and professional (therefore I will have little defense) decides to delete, streamline, and refine away some of my favorite early prose? I must now remind myself of an incident which took place many years ago, and I still have not admitted it to my family. It seems to fit this situation.

Hope Hoover's drawing for Reflections of a Book Addict!!

As anyone who knows me is aware, I am a dog lover. No…take that back. I am a dog SOOK! I have owned and loved many dogs in my life; currently there are no fewer than a dozen bouncy canines sharing the farm with my husband and me. At the time of this incident, I had a beautiful, intelligent, sensitive Dalmatian named ‘Siren’, who was the light of my life (other than my horse).

I was in graduate school, working on a Master’s Degree. I had come home for Thanksgiving break to share my favorite holiday with my family, accompanied by Siren, the dog. My family knew there was no point in trying to thwart me–I was always going to bring a dog (if not the horse) to any family gathering. Didn’t mean they were happy about it, my sister in particular. (She was always a ‘cat person’.)

The usual strategy for Thanksgiving dinner was this: We set the table, then my sister and I would bring in dishes of food as they were made ready in the kitchen. Usually someone was in the dining room doing something every couple of minutes. But this year, something (I don’t remember now, as subsequent events dominate my recollection) drew the family outside in the back yard. All except me.

The turkey had been carved and heaped on a platter, then placed in the center of the oblong table. I had carried in a bowl of steaming hot vegetables and set them down (near my sister’s plate), when I noticed that the table-cloth had been pushed up in front of the turkey platter, half of which was not only bare, but licked clean. To my horror, I realized that Siren had eaten HALF the turkey in five minutes.

A glance under the table confirmed my suspicions–my now-bloated, unrepentant Dalmatian was wallowing in a tryptophan-induced euphoria. She was Lassie in the Sky with Diamonds, man! I was dead.

Nothing induces swift action and abandonment of ethics like the threat of withering remarks from ‘cat-people’. I could hear the family tramping back into the kitchen through the rear door! Hastily, I picked off the short, black-and-white hairs clinging to the platter and tablecloth, wiped things down with my napkin, and rearranged the turkey as best I could. Smoothing out the rumpled table-cloth, I then pretended to be quite busy with a nearby pair of candlesticks when my sister appeared bearing a basket of bread. She set it down, scanning the table with beady, suspicious eyes looking for imperfection (no doubt promulgated by the ‘dog person’) but found none.

The family sat down to dinner, and I, of course, pretended as though nothing had happened (occasionally punctuating my probably-far-too-jovial demeanor with surreptitious nudges of the offending dog, which were in fact suppressed kicks. At first, no one noticed. Then my mom, who was sharp (but thankfully not very suspicious), examined the turkey platter.

‘I could swear I sliced more turkey than this,’ she said. I held my breath.

‘Well, it’s really good turkey this year,’ said my Dad. ‘I think it’s even better than last year!’

‘Uh, yeah!’ said I, utterly abandoning what was left of my ethics. ‘It’s so good, we must’ve eaten more than usual already!’

The cat person stared at me with her beady, cat-person eyes and said nothing.

As mom got up and returned to the kitchen to slice a little more turkey, I ‘kicked’ the now-comatose dog again. But no one ever knew what had happened, and the worst outcome was that we had fewer leftovers. Everyone loved the meal–they all said it was the best turkey they’d ever had.

We’re all afraid the dog will eat our most beloved bits of turkey while we’re out of the room; that our manuscript will come back to us a half-empty plate strewn with dog hair. We’ll have to rearrange it and hope for the best. But the truth is, we didn’t need all those words any more than my family needed all that turkey.  An experienced (and talented) pair of eyes can help us weed out that which is unnecessary, keeping the essence of the work, the ‘voice’ of the author–you know. All that ‘good stuff’.

I guess I’m not really afraid of the editor, after all. When you think about it, the only real consequence is fewer leftovers.

The Inspiration Behind The Sounding, With Author Carrie Salo

Hello readers! Please give a warm welcome to today’s guest post by Carrie Salo, author of The Sounding.  She’s written a fabulous post about her inspiration behind her debut novel. 

Carrie thank you so much for being with us today!!
Hello my fellow Book Addicts!   I hope each of you received a nice stack of all new books over the holidays to feed your addiction.  I am pretty excited by my own pile, including: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, and Brain Rush by Richard Bard.  Perhaps my new novel The Sounding even made it into a few of your handsIf not, that’s what Amazon and Kindle gift cards are for!  😉

As a new author, one of the most surprising things I have discovered is how curious many people are about the idea behind a book – even a fiction book.  “Where did you come up with that?”  “What made you want to learn about that?”   “What inspired you to envision it this way?”  There seems to be a great fascination as to how a fiction writer’s imagination works – and often the assumption that it must be a remarkably orderly thing in order to organize itself into a novel.  I am always a bit hesitant to admit that my inspiration is an odd love story between meticulous research and editing – and fanciful disarray.

Though I write supernatural fiction, research is still a huge part of how I get my story.  I want to know about relevant real places, real time periods…I like to dig for plot elements large and small.  I found the idea for The Sounding while taking a religious studies class at college.  We were reading the Bible as if it were a piece of literature.  We took it apart theme by theme, just as you would in any English class.  And two themes kept coming up for me again and again, because they simply don’t go together: prophecy and free will.  Many things that happen in the Bible are prophetic – they are fated.  And yet, the Bible gives each of us the free will to make our own choices, sometimes, even at the expense of prophecy.  Eve in the Garden of Eden, of course, is an obvious example, but there are many others.  So, when we came to the final prophecy (which leads up to Armageddon) and began discussing it, I couldn’t help but ask: what if we could change it or make it happen early with our own choices?  And that’s what The Sounding is all about.

The SoundingGrounded in real history and real prophecy, The Sounding takes everyday events in today’s world and manipulates them to bring on the circumstances of the last prophecy in the book of Revelation.  Besides taking a Biblical studies class, I read dozens of books on Catholicism, Judaism and Israeli History.  The Sounding, I feel, is truly a book about both good and evil.  So, my research had to include both sides.  I read the Bible and its counter – The Apocrypha (those books that were once a part of the Bible but were eventually banned/discounted).  I read through books that catalogued the angels, as well as demons.  I discovered spells reportedly spoken by Moses.  I read of demons that would supposedly appear if I so much as whispered their name (I did not…).  I even traveled to the Vatican where I gained access to the underground catacombs that the Church is built right on top of.  I tried to immerse myself in as much history as I could in order to bring it to life in my pages.

But once the research is done, I like to leave formal structure behind.  The actual writing itself is highly unorderly, and sometimes almost random.  I do not sit with large outlines, character sketches, or even detailed notes about what I want a scene to be like.  If I planned out the whole book before I wrote it, I am afraid it would trap me to follow only those initial thoughts.  Instead, I like to keep the plot and even the characters loose and fluid.  As the story evolves, everything else should be evolving too.  The most natural way to do that (at least for me) is not to plan it – let it happen.  That’s not to say that the manuscript is not carefully edited (for me – writing and editing are two totally separate processes).  When the storytelling ends and I put on my editor’s hat, my classic Ivy League university education takes over and I eventually bring order to the dark creativity. When I write a novel, I want everything – the plot, the characters, the settings, the writing and the research – to work together seamlessly.  I never want the reader to see what’s going on “behind the curtain.”  For me, it’s all about taking you away for some deep thrills, and that means getting past any glitches produced by an unorthodox writing style.  The Sounding went through seven drafts before hitting the shelves. I expect my next novel to do the same.  But I also expect it to go through that free-flowing, just follow-the-story imagining that inspired me to make writing my life’s work in the first place.

So, if you are ever curious about where I came up with anything in particular, feel free to ask, but expect a winding answer.  I am a pretty frequent Facebook poster, and I would love to hear from you as you read on a scene-specific or character-specific question.  Seriously – ask away!  Just be prepared for something that goes, “first I heard about this, and then I read more about this, and then there was this, and then there was this other thing… and then I traveled there…and then…”

An Interview with Karen Wasylowski; Author of Darcy and Fitzwilliam

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Please help me in welcoming author Karen Wasylowski to the blog.  Karen recently answered some questions for us! Karen, welcome, and thank you so much for doing this!

So a little getting to know you as a person, as opposed to you the author:

If you could read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

That would be a dreary prospect, wouldn’t it?  Couldn’t I pick just one author – nope that would grow tiresome too.  I suppose my favorite book to date has been Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I love historical novels, especially that early period of English history.   But, to read only that for the rest of my life?  I think I would go insane without a lot of books to read.

 If you had to describe your writing with a color, what color would you choose and why?

I keep thinking green, maybe because of the cover of my book, but more than likely because I am so new to this whole thing.  I have no discipline when I write, none whatsoever.  I run for coffee, I play the chess game on the computer, I feed the dog (my dog’s name is Darcy, naturally).  The process of writing is still a mystery to me.  I find I become obsessed with word count, terrified I’ll never conjure up enough of a story to fill a column and then suddenly I have several chapters done – but they don’t fit in with the beginning chapters, so then I must go back and change the beginning.  It is completely unscientific and arbitrary; it’s frightening.  It’s hell on earth.  My career when I worked for real was accounting.  There you had clear-cut goals and columns to check and balance.  With writing it’s just you and your imagination.

If you had all the money in the world and could only travel to one place, where would it be and why?

I have always wanted to go to Great Britain.  It’s such a simple desire but it’s not necessarily the money holding me back, it’s fear of flying and since my husband hates to fly too, there is no one pushing this.  We figure we’ll have to take a cruise over and a cruise back.  That’s two weeks gone already.  Then we would need another two weeks at least to cover all of England with Britrail, another two weeks for Ireland, then Scotland…  You get the idea.  And, this is getting very expensive, isn’t it? Whoa!  It IS the money holding us back.

If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I think if I could meet any one person, dead or alive, I would have to pick Jesus – he kind of covers both of those life conditions.  I am not going to get holier than thou here but, who else in history has ever affected the lives of so many millions and millions of people and wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear what he has to say directly and not filtered through our own prejudices?

On to you, the author!

Did you always wish that you would someday become a published author?

Not at all.  It was a thought I entertained occasionally, like wouldn’t it be nice to be a movie star, or a park ranger, or a TV chef.  I had never written anything before Darcy and Fitzwilliam, not a short story, not a letter to the editor – nothing.   I started writing because my husband was nagging me to all the time.  I think he wanted to be left alone with the remote on Duke basketball nights.

It’s obvious in reading Darcy and Fitzwilliam that you enjoy humor. Where do you find the inspiration for your humor?

Thank you very much.  I love humor.  I wish that they had mentioned something about humor on the jacket of the book.  I don’t know why they didn’t because the first thing my editor said to me was, “You are wicked funny!”  I had no idea what that meant exactly.  I was afraid I had written something dirty in the book and forgotten about it.  Then I was told that’s an east coast expression.  Of course they didn’t even put an accurate description of the story on the jacket so any mention of it being funny as well was obviously not going to happen.   My favorite type of humor is gentle and not cruel.  I remember when I was younger we all thought really sarcastic humor was the best – we called it Acid Mouth.  Unfortunately, that type of humor loses it’s appeal when it’s directed back at yourself.

What made you want to take on writing about Darcy and Fitzwilliam specifically, as opposed to the other characters in Pride and Prejudice? To take it one step further, why characters from P&P?

I had just seen the 2005 movie for about the tenth time, I thought Matthew Macfadyen was gorgeous, and I loved the scene at the dining table, where Aunt Catherine is quizzing Lizzy while Darcy squirms in his seat.  You couldn’t help but think she was as bad in her way as Mrs. Bennet was in hers.  Anyway, there is a brief exchange of looks between Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and Fitzwilliam looks as if he’s thoroughly enjoying his friend’s discomfort.  I thought that was cute.  That’s it.  I knew that the relationship between the two men was more than the movie showed, much closer.  They were cousins, Fitzwilliam shares guardianship of Georgiana with Darcy due to the will Darcy’s father had left.  My mind just started to buzz.

 In P&P, both Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine are eccentric on opposite ends of the crazy spectrum. In your work, it was extremely humorous to read their eccentricities magnified. What other characters (not just Austen’s) would you like to take and give similar treatment to?

What an interesting question but I can’t think of another book I’d care to continue or other characters whose lives I would want to live.  Pride and Prejudice is so iconic, it’s so funny and it’s so sweet, the characters so normal!  What other book is there like that?  It is the original romance story.  Those people are very, very dear to me, so much so that I felt comfortable letting them take over my head.  I can’t think of any other characters that I love that much.

As Darcy and Fitzwilliam is your debut novel, what lessons have you learned about the publication process that you’d like to pass on?

It’s not like the movies.  I didn’t have lines of people clutching copies of Darcy and Fitzwilliam at book signings.  My Publisher never called, never begged me to fly out to New York for drinks, I wasn’t pursued by the media to my log cabin home in California in the mountains by a lake overlooking the Pacific Ocean (I realize that’s impossible but I think I saw that in one Nora Roberts movie).   I also found I am very thin-skinned when it comes to criticism, I cry easily and I couldn’t look at my Amazon page for six months.  It was an incredible roller coaster ride where I was on top of the world one minute and then running to the doctors with stomach problems the next.  It was both one of the best and one of the worst experiences of my life.  A person would have to be insane to want to go through it more than once.

What can we expect from you in the future? Any writing projects you can tell us about?

Yes.  I am writing a sequel to my sequel.  I am insane.  So far it’s titled ‘Darcy and Fitzwilliam – Fatherhood’ and follows the two men through their lives first as sons and then as fathers themselves, seeing the problems from both sides as it were.  There have been so many books about motherhood and how sacred that role is, but I don’t think there are many about fathers.  We may take our dads for granted a little.  They are so often in the background, tired and crabby from working.  I admire them tremendously.  My dad worked until his death at 73.  I think he was afraid not to work, afraid that without his work he would be less of a man.   I see Darcy being that noble and Fitzwilliam being that stubborn.

Karen, thank you so much for spending Thanksgiving with us!  My review for Darcy and Fitzwilliam will be posted tomorrow, so check back in!  In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with lots of turkey and books!

 

An Interview With Mary Lydon Simonsen; Author of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning

Very good friend of the blog, Mary Lydon Simonsen, recently gave me some time out of her busy schedule while promoting Mr. Darcy’s Bite to do a little interview (you can find my review here).  I recently started writing some “getting to know you” questions at the beginning of each of my interviews.  It gives readers a chance to get to know the author as a person as well as an author! 

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Lonesome Dove.  It’s a wonderful epic adventure of the closing days of the American frontier.  The characters are so perfectly drawn that you care about all the good guys and hate all the bad guys and are ambivalent about everyone in between.  It’s the American equivalent of Homer’s Odyssey.

If you had to describe your writing with a color, what color would you choose? Why would you choose that color?

I would choose a soft yellow because I think that color makes you smile, and I like to have people laugh or chuckle or smile at some point while reading my stories.

If you had all the money in the world and could only travel to one place, where would it be? Why?

This one is easy.  I would go to Italy.  I’ve been twice, and it’s addictive.  I love the architecture, art, history, language, people, food, and, most especially, the gelato.  I once stood outside a church built over a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva with a Michelangelo sculpture inside behind the Pantheon facing an Egyptian obelisk on a Bernini pedestal.  Where else in the world could that happen?

If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

George Washington.  He put everything on the line when he took command of the Continental army.  After the war ended, he could have seized power and made himself an emperor, but, instead, he served his country and then retired like Cincinnatus and not Napoleon.

On to your books!!

I’ve read almost everything you’ve written, and see that you’ve written a multitude of different genres from historical fiction, to Jane Austen fan fiction, and now with your newest book, a paranormal romance.  What would you say was the most fun genre for you to write?  What genres have you not written yet that you’d like to try your hand at?

I love writing parody.  The most fun I’ve had as an author was writing Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  All the rules went out the window on that one.  Despite the comedy, Anne and Frederick stay true to their basic characters. 

Next up is a British procedural mystery.  I’m nervous about this because it requires that I write an outline.  I’m a writer who usually flies by the seat of her pants.  You can’t do that with a mystery.

You and I have talked about the inspiration behind some of your novels.  Would you care to share with our readers which inspirations have been the most influential?

Writing historical fiction is my greatest love.  My first novel, Searching for Pemberley, was very personal because its roots are in the little coal-mining town where my parents grew up during the Depression and their experiences during World War II.  I admire people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps or, in the case of Elizabeth Bennet, someone who will not compromise on her core beliefs, even if it costs her Mr. Darcy.

I think it’s safe to say that you’re a widely popular/successful author in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  What type of JAFF is your favorite to write?  Which of Austen’s original books do you most enjoy writing about?

Oh my goodness!  Thanks for the compliment!  In my Jane Austen re-imaginings, I like to keep it light, and that is why I introduced the character of Antony, Lord Fitzwilliam, Earl of Stepton, Darcy’s bad boy cousin.  He can break all the rules and get away with it.  We all love a rascal.  We just don’t want to be married to one.  As for my favorite Austen book, it’s a tie. I have loved Pride and Prejudice since I was a teenager in the 1960s, but as I have grown older, I have fallen in love with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s much more mature love story in Persuasion.  I have a novella coming out in November, Captain Wentworth: Home From the Sea.

What can you tell us about your upcoming works?  (I hope you tell us that you’re working on a sequel to Mr. Darcy’s Bite)

After the Persuasion novella, I will have a time-travel P&P romance coming out in December titled Becoming Elizabeth Darcy. This one will be somewhat controversial because a modern woman from New Jersey goes back to Darcy’s Pemberley and ends up in Elizabeth Bennet’s body. Although there are lots of light-hearted moments, it is my most serious work since Searching for Pemberley.

As for Mr. Darcy’s Bite, so many people have contacted me about a sequel that I think I might just do it.  It would take place early in the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth.  Wickham may be back!

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your work with us!

Thank you for having me.  It’s always a pleasure to visit with you.  This was fun!

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for my review of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning!  For more information on Mary and her novels check out her website here.  Check out my reviews for her other novels: A Wife For Mr. Darcy, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park, and Darcy on the Hudson.

An Interview With Debra Brown; Author of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Debra Brown, author of a new historical fiction novel, The Companion of Lady Holmeshire.  Debra was kind enough to share her time with me and answered the following for us!

Debra thank you so much for sparing me your time and for answering all my questions!  The following questions are to give our readers a chance to get to know you better.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

The Bible.  Besides teaching us about God and being full of good advice, it is a deep study.  For example, many historical points were once considered to be false, but over the years, have been proven true through archeological research.  I’d love to visit the sites written about thousands of years ago, especially Solomon’s Temple and palace, if they still existed.

If you had all the money in the world and could only travel to one place, where would it be and why?

Now I’m going to sound like a hypocrite.  But since I have been to Hawaii and soaked up the antiquities there, my next choice would be to the British Isles.  I would want to have a good long visit and see everything there is to see and to feel the awe of the past.

What is your favorite food/type of cuisine?

I love pasta with spicy sausage, though I don’t eat it often because of the difficulty of keeping my weight down.  And I really go for whipped, creamy cakes with cherries or other berry fillings.  Safeway has an out of this world Rum Cake.  Oh, dear, you had to bring this up, didn’t you?  I’m trying to lose twenty pounds right now!  Lol.

If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Oh, there are soooo many!  To select one, I would want to do research about what kind of person they are or were.  And I’d want to know how long I could spend with them.  I think that if I was in control of the situation and could say that I would want lots of time and could go back in time, I would go traveling with the apostle Paul.  He was obviously a good guy and traveled far and wide, much of it on foot, so he was able to see the real life in those ancient times.  I would learn much about survival in the traveling situation of that time, and I could come home and write volumes.

Now that we have some insight about you, tell us more about your book!

It’s obvious in your writing that you did a lot of historical research on the Victorian Age.  What about this particular historical period intrigued you enough to want to set your novel in it?

I love the ladies and gentlemen lifestyle.  Though the rules and expectations were way overblown, in my opinion, a modest version of it would make for a lovely life.  Gentlemen, for example, did not turn their backs to a lady without excusing themselves.  On the other hand, if you lived in certain neighborhoods and hung your laundry out to dry, you might be shunned for the rest of your life.  That was so “not done”.  I also find it interesting that we today think of the Victorians as prudish, but they felt progressive.  In early Regency times, waltzing was called fornication on the dance floor.  But Victorians waltzed late into the night without shame.  So the Victorian era was just a step in the direction of “progress”.

The multiple storylines that you create for all your characters really intertwine well with each other.  Did you find it difficult to hold back some of the revelations in each of their stories?

Yes, it took some very careful writing.  There is a huge secret revealed in the last pages that I would hope readers could believe, upon reflection.  The hints had to be there without spilling the beans.  Certain emotions could not be revealed without giving it away.  The rules and customs of Victorian society thankfully assisted me in keeping the secret.  I am so happy to hear from readers that they never guessed and were very surprised.  I hope that they could sit back and put it all together in their minds afterward, saying, Ah, yes, it makes sense!

Which authors have influenced your writing?

Mostly Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

What is your favorite part about being an author?

Although I start with an outline and stick to it, I love the outpouring of new things that develop as I go from point A to point B.  It is truly as if the characters make things happen that you did not plan, and these things fit into the story and make it more lively.

Are you currently working on any other writing projects? Can you tell us a little bit about them? 

I am now writing a Regency story about some twentyish twins, a gentleman and lady, and their eccentric mother.  It is very different from Companion, swirling with emotion.  The mother keeps mostly to a dusty, octagonal attic room, where she obsesses over a trunk with a brass plate that reads “For the Skylark.”  She is quite distant from her twins and has rules that they are to strictly follow.  The young man, Dante, begins to want to break the rule about staying away from the gate (meaning never leave the property) and the girl is terrified of what might happen if he does so.  She wants him to stay home and leave well enough alone.  The question develops, what is behind the mother’s behavior?  Both my books are sweet romances with mystery and humor.

               -Thanks so very much!

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for my review of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire and a chance to win a copy for yourself!  For more information on Debra and her novel check out her website here.