What is Steampunk? with Monica Fairview, author of Steampunk Darcy

Joining us on the blog today is Monica Fairview, author of the recently published Steampunk Darcy.  Monica’s agreed to come on the blog to discuss what the steampunk genre is, and how Pride and Prejudice influenced her latest release!  Please join me in welcoming Monica!

Steampunk Darcy Cover SMALL AVATARThank you, Kimberly, for inviting me to join you here on your blog as part of my Steampunk Darcy release blog tour. Steampunk Darcy is special to me because it’s different from anything else I wrote. It was born out of an urge to do something creative to Pride and Prejudice.

“Something creative?” you might ask. “But we already have plenty of creative rewritings: JA mashups, spinoffs, parodies and paranormals. Do we really need something else?”

When I say “creative,” I mean something different from what I was writing before. My other JA writings are what you would call traditional sequels, set clearly in the Regency era, and carefully following the path set by Jane Austen. Steampunk Darcy, on the other hand, takes a giant leap into the future and projects Darcy into a post-apocalyptic, retro-Victorian world. It’s by no means traditional. It’s not exactly a parody, but it has elements of parody to it. It’s not a mashup, but it’s a mixture of different genres. And yes, it’s based on Pride and Prejudice, completely. But it doesn’t exactly follow Pride and Prejudice. It’s more of the wink, wink type of novel, where fond Janeites will recognize elements of the novel, but perhaps not in quite the same order as they would expect. It’s a novel that’s made up of different elements woven together, so in that sense you could call it a mashup, but it doesn’t quote Jane Austen, so it isn’t quite a mashup either.

So what is Steampunk Darcy?

Perhaps the best way to introduce it to you is to separate it into the difference genres it’s made up of, and explain how each of them works.

  1. Jane Austen-inspired: Steampunk Darcy would be a completely different novel if it wasn’t solidly based on Pride and Prejudice. William Darcy is a descendant of the original Darcy, and he’s very proud of his predecessors. He looks up to his ancestors and models his behavior after them. In the novel, Jane Austen was the Darcys’ biographer, and both Darcy and Seraphene want to conduct research to find out more about the couple. At the same time, many of the characters echo characters in the original novel. Wickham is there, as is Georgiana. Lady Catherine is now Darcy’s step-mother. There are other parallel characters, but it’s up to you to find those out. The events of the novel, while based on Pride and Prejudice, often have a twist to them so they don’t necessarily follow the same plot-line, but there are points where the two plots intersect.
  2. Post-apocalyptic: Steampunk Darcy takes place several years after a disastrous environmental flood caused by slime rain. Darcy is involved in reclaiming the land and protecting Bostontown from slime rain. Seraphene is involved in research into the past. Her concern is the social aspects of the new society. The two of them have a similar objective, which is to help build a society that looks toward the past for inspiration, but their perspectives are so different they inevitably clash. Because of the environmental disaster caused by fossil fuels, the new society has reverted back to the Age of Steam, but again with a difference – the source of energy is solar rather than coal-based. In effect, people have been thrown back into a second “Victorian” era. The positive aspect of it is that it’s a period of high creativity as society is forced to adapt to a new environment. Oddly enough, it’s an era of optimism. There is a sense of a pioneering spirit in a way, which is why I set Steampunk Darcy in the US.
  3. Steampunk: Steam is the key here, as well as the energy and inventiveness of the Victorians. It’s not an easy genre to define, because it’s highly individualistic. Steampunk is a form of alternative reality fiction which features the Victorian period, but it also includes actual Victorian fantasy. Some of the earliest novels that have been called Steampunk are HG Well’s Time Machine and Jules Verne’s writings, but Steampunk isn’t limited to novels. It’s in fact more widespread in fashion, art and décor than in writing. You’ll recognize it when you see it. It’s more common than you think.
  4. Romance: Darcy and Lizzy? The sparks must fly. William Darcy is no less arrogant that Fitzwilliam, and no less powerful. He is worth as much as the original Darcy if not more. On top of it, he’s a rather splendid specimen. William Darcy is a delicious hero. But that doesn’t mean Seraphene’s going to swoon at his feet. When he proposes to take her on as an employee, she says no. Seraphene, like Lizzy, is sassy, sharp and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. She’s a heroine that gives Darcy a run for his money.

Four genres in one. Quite a blend, but that’s why writing Steampunk Darcy was such a wonderful challenge. The nice thing about it is that it could be read on any of these levels alone and it would still make sense. However, when reading it on all levels you are able to get the full creative experience.

Steampunk DarcyA Pride and Prejudice-Inspired Comedy Adventure

William Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.

Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.

But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?

Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this whimsical Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Darcy (of course) Wickham, dirigibles, swash-buckling pirates and a heroine with a pair of fine eyes and an attitude.

Monica FairviewAuthor Bio:

Monica can be described as a gypsy-wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.

Monica’s first novel was An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine). Steampunk Darcy is her latest novel.

Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child.

If you’d like to find out more about Monica, you can find her at http://www.monicafairview.com, austenauthors.net, www.monicafairview.blogspot.com on Facebook and on Twitter @Monica_Fairview

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/

The Joys and Perils of Adapting Austen by Claire LaZebnik, author of The Trouble With Flirting

I’m super happy to have author Claire LaZebnik on the blog today.  Claire is the author of several YA, women’s literature, and parenting books.  I had the pleasure of reading her first YA book Epic Faila modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, back in late 2011 and remember being so impressed with her ability to keep Austen’s works fresh and alive for a new audience.  Claire’s latest book, The Trouble With Flirting, is a modern adaptation of Mansfield Park.  Please join me in welcoming her as she discusses the joys and perils of adapting Jane Austen!

efI’ve had the great honor and pleasure of loosely adapting and modernizing three Austen novels for a young adult readership. I found different challenges in each book—plot twists or character traits that felt out-of-place in today’s world, and which I had to reimagine—but the romances and the emotions ring as true today as they ever did. (Which makes me think of Elizabeth Bennet’s line about Darcy: “In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was.” Applies to human nature, too.)

Epic Fail is my update of Pride and Prejudice: I set it at a Los Angeles high school, and most of it felt right at home there. Take for example Lizzie Bennet’s refusal to swoon over Darcy like the other girls, just because he’s rich and attractive, a stance which leads her instead to believe the worst about him.

Jumping to unfair conclusions about someone you barely know? Yeah, I think we can all admit to doing that at least once or a thousand times back in high school.

Equally relatable is Elizabeth’s horror when her family embarrasses her out in public. We’ve all been there. There’s a reason we used to jump quickly in the car when our mother or father came to pick us up—we were hoping to close the door before they could actually say anything our friends might hear.

But some parts of P&P didn’t update so well. The first was the horror of Wickham and Lydia’s running away together. Let’s face it: an unmarried young man and young woman spending time alone (presumably having sex) isn’t quite the earthshattering event it was back in Austen’s day. I had to find something sleazy and disturbing and high school appropriate for Wickham to do that wasn’t that. My other challenge was finding a way to make Darcy a target of excessive attention and fawning: we don’t have the same kind of class system in America now that England did in the early 19th century.

In the end, I solved both problems at once: I realized that in modern-day Los Angeles, no one gets fawned on (or hounded) as much as celebrities and their children. The Darcy character became the son of two movie stars, and the Wickham character became someone determined to exploit that family’s fame—in some very icky ways.

ttwfWhen I turned my attention to Mansfield Park, I found a very different challenge. The storyline totally worked in today’s world—what teenage girl  hasn’t at some point felt overlooked and underappreciated by the object of her affection?—especially when I set it at a summer acting program where the main character has to work while everyone else gets to act and play.

But while Elizabeth Bennet feels very much like a girl who would be at home in today’s world, Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price most decidedly does not. She’s long-suffering, quiet, patient, faithful, weak, devout . . .

Yawn.

I’m sorry—I do honestly love little Fanny. Whenever I reread the novel, I root for her to be noticed and appreciated with every fiber of my being, and I wanted my own readers to feel equally passionate about my Franny (I added an “r”).  But for that to happen, I felt like I had to make some changes.

The original Fanny lived in a world where a poor girl’s only power came in attracting the right suitors and rejecting the wrong ones. I think we can all agree that times have—thankfully—changed. In my novel, Franny is very much a modern woman: strong, funny, self-sufficient, and capable of forging her own destiny.

What I didn’t realize was that changing her personality would also force me to alter the ending of my novel, which originally followed Austen’s closely. I don’t want to ruin The Trouble with Flirting for anyone who hasn’t read it, so I’ll just say that I couldn’t let Franny end up with someone who took too long to appreciate her.

Most recently, I finished up my third Austen-based YA novel, a tribute to Persuasion, tentatively titled The Last Best Kiss (due out from HarperTeen in summer, 2014). Ironically, this wistful novel about regret and lost youth was in many ways the easiest Austen to translate into today’s high school world. After all, who feels more pressure from her peers to go out with the “right” kind of guy than a teenager? And, while Anne Elliot may, like Fanny Price, watch helplessly from the sidelines as the man she loves chases after someone else, she’s also a very smart woman with a good head in a crisis. She actively redeems herself, while Fanny just waits. And waits . . . So that, too, made this adaptation easier than the previous one.

It’s been fascinating to see which aspects of Austen’s novels transcend time and which ones don’t. Communication has changed drastically in the last two hundred years: we no longer have to wait days for precious information. We entertain ourselves differently: no more balls, with their elaborate rules and customs; instead we group ourselves around a computer and watch YouTube videos. We don’t defer to our “superiors” in wealth and class—in fact, we’ll fight anyone who would even dare to call himself our superior. And women’s control over their destinies is no longer limited to whom they choose to marry.

But when it comes to our emotional lives—to the ways in which we fall in love, experience regret, feel embarrassed and also cherished by our families, and nurture hope for our futures—in those, we are in essentials, very much what we ever were.

DSC_0395_2Author Bio:

Claire LaZebnik has written two novels for HarperTeen, Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting, with a third (tentatively titled The Last Best Kiss) due out summer 2014. She has also written five novels for adults, including Knitting under the Influence and The Smart One and the Pretty One. With Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, she co-wrote the nonfiction books Overcoming Autism and Growing up on the Spectrum. She contributed to an anthology play called Motherhood Out Loud, and has been published in The New York Times, Self, Vogue and other magazines. She currently lives in the Pacific Palisades with her husband Rob, who’s a co-executive producer for The Simpsons, and their four kids. Her website is www.clairelazebnik.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
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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.

Lucinda Riley and The Inspiration Behind Her New Novel, The Girl on the Cliff

Joining us today is Lucinda Riley, author of one of my favorite books of 2012, The Orchid House.  Riley’s newest novel, The Girl on the Cliff is finally being released in the US on October 30th.  She’s been gracious enough to stop by the blog today to talk about the inspiration behind The Girl on the Cliff. Please join me in welcoming her!

It’s always a location, or a house and the atmosphere surrounding it, that inspires inside me those first seeds which eventually germinate into a book. This was very much the case with The Girl on the Cliff. I was born and lived in Ireland on the West Cork coast and I loved its wildness and isolation. ‘Extreme’ locations are always exciting to me because they are dramatic and of course, romantic. The thought of a vulnerable child, barefoot and alone during the Atlantic storms that used to break with such fury when I lived there with my own small children, gave me the character of ‘Aurora’, the narrator of the book.  I wanted to make her ‘other-wordly’ and ephemeral, almost part of the intense, dramatic scenery which surrounded her when she was born.

I will confess that Aurora is the first character I’ve ever written who is basically ‘me’. I poured my soul into her – something I’ve never done before in one of my books. All my beliefs, hopes and fears;  a lot of my life – I’m an ex-ballerina who got so sick I was bedridden and had to ‘use my mind, not my body, to express myself’ – is in there . Yes, like her, I’ve seen ghosts and angels and believe in the ‘afterlife’. I’ve suffered terrible loss , as most of us have at some point in our lives, but still believe, as Aurora says, that ‘love and faith and goodness and hope’ will win the day. And that human nature, for the most part, is intrinsically ‘good’. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here on the planet – we’d all have murdered each other thousands of years ago! This book is so personal, it’s painful. Basically, if readers reject Aurora, they are rejecting me!

Some readers may find Aurora’s spiritualism and endless positivity in the face of adversity irritating. But, the US dollar bill itself has ‘In God We Trust’ written on it … yet, to my knowledge, no-one has ever managed to take a photograph or interview him! As Aurora says, ‘just remember, there’s no proof either way. So I choose to believe. It’s much the best option.’

I’m not into any particular organised religion, by the way, I just believe in a power higher than us humans, and am humble enough to realise there is so much we can never understand. Who/what energy created the Big Bang in the first place …? No-one knows.  So, it’s pretty obvious this book is not for ‘cynics’ who don’t believe in a ‘higher level’, or that the world is fundamentally a bad place. Redemption and some level of forgiveness is always a possibility, if not an actuality in some cases. And that is the rock-bed from which all my stories and characters come.

And besides Aurora, there is a huge, intricate family story, spanning over 100 years. There are characters, good and bad, that pepper the plot. Also, in The Girl on the Cliff, I’ve explored the fact that, as one grows older, the seesaw of pain and joy of the human condition become more stark. During the writing of the novel, I became fascinated by ‘the fairy tale , which all modern romantic novels are a derivative of. In particular, the ‘happy ending’, which every fairy tale contains and is in fact, an integral part of their beauty.

Yet, what happens after the ‘Happy Ever After’? And how to write an ending, given the depth of the characters involved in The Girl on the Cliff, in which the conclusion is both satisfying and moving? In conclusion, The Girl on the Cliff has all the ingredients of The Orchid House: the ‘big story’, a dual narrative and locations which fire my imagination, yet I hope I have added a new dimension, a depth and realism in the storyline which isn’t trite or contrived. In this book, more than any other story I’ve written, the characters demanded to be heard and I gave them their voice.

An Interview with Amanda McNeil: Author of Waiting for Daybreak + GIVEAWAY

Hi Everyone!  Please join me in welcoming Amanda McNeil to the blog.  She is the author of the post-apocalyptic drama Waiting for Daybreak and has graciously agreed to a Q&A session as part of the blog tour for her novel.  Additionally, she also agreed to send us a copy of Waiting for Daybreak to give away on the blog!  Details follow the interview below:

The first set of questions pertain to Waiting For Daybreak: 

What made you decide on writing a novel about a zombie apocalypse?

It’s interesting, really.  A lot of people have asked me that (both in the tour and in person), and it’s not like I really decided. The idea just came to me. I was walking home from the bus stop. I had to work over Thanksgiving, and Boston is a city that empties out for that holiday. The streets were empty.  I thought to myself, “This is what Boston would look like after an apocalypse.”  That day at work I had been reading about how fMRI scans show that people with Borderline Personality Disorder actually have a different sized amygdala from people without BPD.  I thought, “Hey, what if there was a virus of some sort and having the different brain made the mentally ill immune?”  The zombies just flowed from there.

What was your favorite part about writing Frieda? What was your inspiration for a character like her?

I think my favorite part about writing Frieda was writing someone who grows from trying to conform to gender norms and roles before the apocalypse to letting herself just be herself whether what she’s doing is considered feminine or not.  I think by the end of the novel, she has grown out of the confinement of gender norms entirely, and that was very enjoyable for me.

As far as my inspiration, I think sometimes characters in post-apocalyptic novels are written at a super-human level.  There’s nothing wrong with that, a lot of people enjoy it.  But I got to thinking what if the survivor isn’t abnormal in a “good” way like she’s a sharp-shooter or something.  What if she’s abnormal in a way that was seen as a hindrance before the event and isn’t a clear advantage after?  Since I also was currently learning a lot about mental illness at my job at a psychiatric hospital’s library, it just seemed natural to me to make that be Frieda’s issue.

Both Frieda and Mike struggle with mental health issues, which seem to be a background theme for the novel. What made you decide to focus on mental health?

There were a few reasons, some personal some less so.  I’ve loved multiple people, whether as friends or as a significant other, who have a mental illness, and it’s not something that is often given an even-handed depiction in literature or movies.  The mentally ill person is either just crazy nut-job like the main character in “Fatal Attraction” or their mental illness is actually some aspect of something enviable in them such as the genius of the main character in “A Beautiful Mind.”  Neither of those are generally the experiences of either the person with the mental illness or the people who love them.  I wanted to show that people with a mental illness have good qualities and bad qualities just like everyone else.  I also wanted to give readers with a mental illness a novel featuring someone like them where the illness wasn’t the entire focus.  That’s why I decided to combine the mental illness with something very genre like a zombie apocalypse.  It’s not fair that these real people should be constantly relegated to “issue” novels.

What part did you enjoy writing the most?

That is a real toss-up between Frieda’s trek to the MSPCA to get the medicine for Snuggles or the climax.  The former let me envision actual neighborhoods I frequent in a post-apocalyptic setting, which was just fun.  The latter, without giving anything away, was cathartic for me.

The second set pertains to you as an author:

I see that you have a special place for our furry friends in your novel. Do you have a pet currently?

I do!  I have a gorgeous tortoiseshell cat.  Her name is Ayla, and I adopted her as an adult from the MSPCA.  She’s about four-ish now (her exact age has always been uncertain).  She always greets me at the door with a meow, and she loves watching the birds from the windows in my attic apartment.

We also adopted an abused pit bull mix when I was in highschool.  He’s named Bruschi after the Patriots player.  He lives in Vermont with my brother (and sister-in-law and nephews and niece) currently, but I get to visit him.

Did you ever imagine that you would become an author?

Oh it’s basically been all I ever wanted. The hard part was figuring out what career to do to survive, since we all know how hard it is to live off of your writing!  When I was around the age of four, I wrote a book about a grasshopper, illustrated it, bound it, and forced it upon my family. I kind of see that as the early version of what I do now, lol.

What is your favorite part about writing?

I used to say that it’s seeing this whole world come from my head to exist on the page and going, “Wow, I can’t believe that came from my head!”  But now that I’m actually getting readers, I also really enjoy seeing someone say, “This part really touched me” or “How I think about the world changed after reading this.”  It’s a real toss-up between those two.  The writing the first draft is really for me. Publishing it is hoping that it will affect someone somewhere in the way that reading has affected me my whole life.

Finally, if you had to survive a zombie apocalypse, and could only carry three things with you (other than basic supplies), what would they be?

Oh jeez what a tough question!  I know I would want a journal, so definitely a notebook and pen.  (That counts as one item, right?)  Something to read of course. And that’s all I can think of.  Perhaps I’m counting too many things as basic supplies?  I’m also not a person who really needs much either though.

Thank you for having me and for the great questions!

Giveaway
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a digital copy of Waiting for Daybreak by Amanda McNeil.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Wednesday, September 5, 2012.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Thursday, September 6, 2012.  Good luck!

Payback’s A…..- A Guest Post by Holly Bush, Author of Train Station Bride

Help me in welcoming author Holly Bush to the blog today! Holly is the author of Train Station Bride a new historical romance novel.  (Look for my review tomorrow!)

Payback’s a . . . .

My oldest daughter, and mother to my two perfect grandsons, one a five-year-old entering Kindergarten in the fall, called me last night in a bit of a panic to ask me what a benefit auction was. I said something stupid like it’s an auction to benefit something which she did not find funny at all. I told her there are all kinds of auctions like silent ones and Chinese and ones with an auctioneer. She asked if I’d ever worked or helped with one over the years. I said yes that I had been involved in auctions over the years mostly for whatever organization I was involved with at the time and asked her why she asked. In a panic I could sense over the phone, she started telling a story that made me laugh and again she did not find it funny at all.

“I got an email from Parker’s principal that they were looking for volunteers to work on the 35th Annual BBQ and Auction that benefits his school. I emailed back right away and said I would be happy to. I thought I’d be selling lemonade or setting up tables but I just talked to the principal and I’m the new Chairwoman of the Auction. Do you know what I’m supposed to do? You’ve got to help me!”

“Do I know what you’re supposed to do? I might have some experience since I coached your soccer team when you were eight, sold poinsettias and wrapping paper for fifteen years over the course of you and your sister’s grade school years, served on the Building Committee at your school and volunteered at the Salvation Army. Maybe I learned during the seven thousand years that your sister played competitive softball and I schlepped hot dogs and raised money for uniforms and trophies and arranged the annual dinners. Yes I know what to do and you will too once you are done being the Chairwoman of the Auction.”

“I forgot about all that stuff,” she said. “You ran the Uniform Exchange at school too.”

“Yes. I did and am glad I did it and you will be too in twenty years or so.”

“My life is virtually over till the youngest is out of college.”

“It was over when you had sex,” I said gently. “There’s no turning back. There are no do-overs with childbirth.”

We hung up and I settled down to my computer with a smile on my face hoping to finish writing a historical romance novel I’d started back when my daughter was about two years of age. Ah . . . the virtue of payback!

The Female Hero with K. Hollan Van Zandt, author of Written in the Ashes + GIVEAWAY

Joining us on the blog today to discuss her new novel Written in the Ashes is author K. Hollan Van Zandt!  Please help me in welcoming her as she discusses women and feminism in books!  (I reviewed Written in the Ashes yesterday, so make sure you check out that post too!)

I will tell you a something not many people know about me.

I am a feminist. Gloria Steinem is one of my greatest heroes.

So for my first novel, Written in the Ashes, I wanted to write a story that would illustrate the female hero’s journey, because what we have everywhere in literature is the example of the man’s hero’s journey.

Even Harry Potter, bless him, isn’t Harriet Potter.

So what is the heroine’s journey? I think, as women, it isn’t so much about riding out to slay the dragon. We don’t really do that sort of thing very often. Most women are nurturers. We would ride out to heal the sick dragon. We would risk our lives and being scorched to be sure the dragon got its medicine and could be well enough to take care of its dragon family.

That’s what women do.

But yet, our dying world does not reflect that value. The world is being conquered to death. Her valuable resources raped to death. And we are in the eleventh hour.

So I wrote this story about ancient Egypt that is really a tale about one thing:

A woman who is silenced. A woman who must find her voice.

Why? Because all women are silenced. We are silenced by our governments first and by our families second and by ourselves third. And by history. There was a time when having a voice got you burned at the stake. So there are generations of silenced women behind many of us.

We simply do not speak up. If all women spoke in chorus, there would be no war and plenty of green energy to go around.

Now, I’m exaggerating on purpose, because as a storyteller, that’s what we do. We paint the world a certain way to invite a hero into it.

And my heroine, Hannah, is a woman who is silenced by the tragedies that happen to her. Rape. Slavery. And so her journey is to find her voice.

And it doesn’t happen to her suddenly. She has to practice speaking up. It’s uncomfortable for her, and she must learn a new language. And she is a singer. She is a woman practicing using her voice throughout the entire book.

And at pivotal points in the story, she finds her voice and uses it and the curtains part and she sees her own power. And her power grows the more she uses her voice.

This is not just one woman seeing her own power. This is the woman inside each of us seeing her own power. This is the woman inside of men and women seeing her own power. The Great Woman. The archetype of the nurturer brought back to life to save us from the brink of destruction.

You can read this novel as a romp. And it is. It’s sexy and wild and everyone says how they stay up late reading and they are late for work and miss their train stops. And that’s great for my ego, and hopefully it will help send my son to college one day. But it isn’t what’s really important to the soul of the story.

See, if you really study the intention in the book, and you meet the Hannah inside yourself, you will find a suffragist. You will find an Alice Paul. You will find a Gloria Steinem. You will meet the woman who wants to risk everything to heal the dragon.

And she’s saying, “Hey, what’s the big idea? Haven’t we slain the dragon enough? Shouldn’t we be making sure it has enough to eat so there are baby dragons in the future?”

Because every human should be asking these questions now for the dragons. For the lions. For the elephants and the whales. For the polar bears. For the most beautiful species that are all facing extinction.

I for one wouldn’t know how to explain to my son that I stood by silent while the last lion was killed by poachers. Could you?

And so this novel is really about that. It’s about freeing the voice in us that has been made a slave to the establishment. It’s about defending our bodies and the body of the Earth. It’s about defending justice even when that stance could make you an outcast or get you killed.

Women fight. My women fight. The woman inside each of us must speak up and fight for what matters to her. If all women chose just one cause, the world would change in a decade.

So when you read the novel, know that this is a book that is meant to help you ask what is worth fighting for in your life, so you will go out and risk everything for that.

Giveaway:

One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Giveaway open to all! US residents have the option of a paperback or eBook, entrants from other countries are eligible for an eBook. Good luck!