Chat with Sarah Angleton

One of my favorite reads last year was Launching Sheep & Other Stories, which is a collection of humorous essays about history from the perspective of everyday life. It was written by Sarah Angleton, one of amazingly talented writers in the writers guild we both call home—Saturday Writers. To say I laughed my way through reading each of the stories wouldn’t do them justice. They are funny and thought provoking (in a tickle-my funny-bone kind of way) and I think I might have even learned a few historical facts. Should I ever be called up as a contestant on Jeopardy I might be able to hold my own.

Since Sarah’s debut novel released last week, I decided that now would be a good time to introduce her to my readers. Her new book, Gentleman of Misfortune, is historical fiction. I’m about a third of the way through it and have to keep making myself get up to take care of all those other things life demands. That means I’m loving it.

J: So Sarah, tell us a little about yourself.

S: I’m a writer, blogger, wife, mother, book nerd, and history enthusiast from St. Louis. I love rooting for the Cardinals but don’t care for the pizza.

J: Ha! I’m just the opposite—I love pizza, but don’t care much for baseball. Which isn’t a good thing when living in the home of the Cardinals.

J: I love books that bring me to tears. Is there a book that made you cry?

S: I recently read Like a River from its Course by Kelli Stuart, a World War II novel that focuses on the effects of German occupation in Ukraine. It’s a beautiful, gut-wrenching read. It’ll clear out your tear ducts for sure.

J: I’ve heard good things about that book, but haven’t read it yet.

J: What genre(s) do you write and why? Is there one you’d like to try?

S: I primarily write historical fiction because I really love the process of researching. I also sort of stumbled into writing humor as my blog developed. What started as a history blog morphed into part history, part humor, and part personal narrative. I also read broadly and have a soft spot for dystopian fiction. I have written the first in a dystopian trilogy that for the foreseeable future will likely only see the inside of a drawer in my writing office, but it captures my imagination, which for now is enough.

J: Ah ha … the ole book in the drawer. Well, I for one, hope it sees the light of day sometime.

J: Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

S: I tend to plot, with a loose, flexible outline that inevitably changes a lot as I work through the first several drafts. If I don’t have some idea of where I’m going, I find I can’t move forward enough to get anywhere.

J: I’m more of a pantser—I get an idea and jump, hoping there’s something to grab hold of.

J: Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

S: This is always a tough question to answer because of course there are so many. But I love Anne Tyler for her wonderfully quirky, yet totally relatable characters. I love Graham Greene for his unapologetic use of allegory. No one puts together a sentence like John Updike or is as thorough in his research as James Michener. These are a few of the bigger names I admire. Right now I am fairly obsessed with the YA author Neal Shusterman, whose dystopian light horror is intriguing and chilling and brilliant, and I think the dark and luscious work of Dianne Stretfield is just amazing. I have never intentionally mimicked another author, but I do believe that everything I read influences how I write, and that the more I read, and the more widely I read, the better writer I become.

J: I totally agree with that—I also read widely and deeply in a variety of genres. Doing so improves my skills. Interesting you should mention Neal Shusterman. I had the delightful privilege of meeting him at a writing conference in 2017 where he was one of the keynote speakers. I purchased his novel, Challenger Deep, which is one of the best depictions of mental illness I’ve ever read. He wrote it after his own son was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was only 16. The artwork in the book is his son’s.

J: How much of yourself do you put into your books?

S: My books certainly reflect my interests and my general personality and sense of humor. I think if they didn’t, I’d have a hard time communicating with my readers. But I have never knowingly based a character on myself or anyone I know, or based a plot upon any part of my real life.

J: I actually have in a couple of instances. In my debut novel, there’s a dog named Cooper, who I developed after a friend’s dog’s story. And there’s also an Italian gentleman who is loosely based on a friend. But he knew I was including him and was cool with it.

J: Do you have a favorite Indie author?

 S: I admire the work of J.J. Zerr. His writing has a snappy sort of rhythm that’s really fun to read and he spins fascinating tales.

J: I’ll have to check him out.

So, tell the readers about your latest, Gentleman of Misfortune.

S: Gentleman of Misfortune is the story of nineteenth century gentleman swindler Lyman Moreau, who finds his next big scheme and loses his heart among a shipment of mummies bound for the most successful prophet in US history. I was delighted when Jeff Guinn agreed to review it.

“Quality fiction and real history make a great match, and Sarah Angleton’s Gentleman of Misfortune offers the best of both. This is an engaging story with surprises on every page”.  — Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Gunfight and Manson.

It came out October 2018 and is available for purchase at your local bookstore or online at:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO

J: What inspired Gentleman of Misfortune?

S: It’s historical fiction, so it follows a real story in which eleven mummies were shipped from the Valley of the Kings to New York. The shipment was claimed by a man who identified himself as the nephew and heir of the Egyptologist who discovered the mummies and died shortly after. The supposed nephew, Michael Chandler, displayed the mummies across several states, and eventually wound up in Ohio with four of them and a few pieces of papyrus covered in hieroglyphs. This remaining collection, he sold to Joseph Smith, founder and prophet of the Mormon Church.

The problem is that no one has been able to find a connection between Chandler and the Egyptologist or explain how he came to possess the mummies. When I came across this story, I had already written a related novel and in it, I had a minor character named Lyman Moreau, who was screaming that he had a larger story to tell. As I thought about it, it made a lot of sense to let him step in and assume Chandler’s identity and carry a novel as the leading man he seemed born to be. The other novel was unfortunately caught up in a conundrum with a small publishing house and so will be arriving on scene second instead of first, which I imagine makes Lyman pretty happy.

J: I’m sorry to hear about the snafu with the small publisher, but delighted that Gentleman of Misfortune has hit the shelves. I’d be reading it right now except that I need to get this done.  J

J: What is your favorite quote from Gentleman of Misfortune?

“Elegant crime takes commitment and capital.”

J: What  are you working on now?

S: I am currently knee deep in research for a historical novel that will explore the stories of missionaries to Liberia in the 1830s and 40s.

J: I love how you find such interesting topics to write about.

J: Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

S: I don’t know that I hide secrets, but because I am writing historical fiction, I try very hard to do all my homework and place the little tidbits that will allow someone who really knows the specifics of the era or the historical details I’m using to understand and appreciate the work that has gone into creating the appropriate world for the story. Of course there’s always going to be that expert who catches the one mistake you make, but a little extra effort goes a long way to toward balancing out the inevitable errors.

J: Sarah, thank you for spending some time with my readers today. I believe you have a special giveaway to announce? 

Yes, I do. For those who might find my work interesting, if you’ll follow me on Goodreads I’ll enter you to win an ebook copy of Gentleman of Misfortune. Check out the book trailer at:

https://videopress.com/v/NylnfYo6

Where can readers follow you and your work?

My website at: https://sarah-angleton.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13504508.Sarah_Angleton

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahAngleton

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sangletonwrites/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/angleton.s/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sarah-angleton

 

 

 

Chat with Katie O’Rourke

A few months ago, I was delighted to receive an invite from Katie O’Rourke to try out the audio book version of her novel, Finding Charlie. I took her up on it and listened to my very first audio book. I am now OMG hooked on audio books and listen to them all the time.

But enough about me. I’d like to introduce you to Katie. Katie writes contemporary women’s fiction, so I figured I’d love her from word one, and I was right. I’m sure you’ll love her work as much as I do.

First off, Katie has extended an offer to my readers. The details were in my August 2018 newsletter, so if you missed it, drop me a line at jeannefelfe@gmail.com (put Katie in the subject line) and I’ll get you hooked up if it’s still available.

Katie, what is something readers might want to know about you.

I’m a hybrid author. My debut novel, Monsoon Season, was traditionally published along with A Long Thaw, which I later rereleased on my own. Finding Charlie, was chosen for publication by KindleScout in 2015. My fourth book, Blood & Water, was released last year. I write family sagas with overlapping characters, so they’re all connected.

Hmm… now I’m wondering if this one is about blood being thicker than water. I can’t wait to read it — it’s coming up on my TBR list soon.

Name a book that made you cry.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I haven’t read that yet, but want to.

How long have you been writing seriously?

My first book was published in 2012. Since then, I’ve written with a more serious eye toward publication.

What are you currently reading?

The Baggage Carousel by David Olner

Another  one I haven’t read yet. I just checked it out—looks like a debut novel that I might have to take a peek at.

What was the hardest part of writing Blood & Water?

I started Blood & Water in 2016, but it’s set in 2017. Once Trump won the election, I didn’t know how to write a story set in America, especially in a border state, with what felt like such a volatile, precarious future.

I bet that would be difficult.

 

Tell us about your main characters? Were they inspired by real-life?

Something I only realized when I’d finished is that Blood & Water is very much a love letter to the deepest friendships of my life. The character of Ally serves as a composite of those real people.

Don’t you just love it when your writing surprises you like that? I know I do and my characters are always throwing new twists my way.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about Blood & Water?

I like when I’ve created characters who connect to the reader. One of my recent reviews for Blood & Water said she was sad to see them go. That’s what I like to hear.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

I read all my reviews. I don’t understand writers who don’t. Isn’t the point of writing a book to connect with readers and hear their response? I think negative feedback can be helpful and I don’t expect every reader to love my work so it never really hurts my feelings.

I’m kind of like that so far in my writing journey. Each review makes me think about how I can improve in my future writing. And I feel like if someone is going to take the time to leave a review, I should acknowledge that by reading it.

Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yep. Sometimes it’s a nerdy writing reference that only other writers will get. Most often, it’s something I’ve worked hard to make subtle and then get frustrated when nobody notices. In my last book, I repeated certain lines in different character’s POVs. I worried readers might think it was accidental, but—so far—no one has noticed.

Ha! Now I’m going to be watching for it.

Katie, thank you for taking a little time to chat with me. 

You can learn more about Katie and her work at the following:

http://www.katieorourke.com/

https://www.facebook.com/katie.orourke.78

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/katie-o-rourke

https://twitter.com/katieorourke78

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5806453.Katie_O_Rourke

https://www.instagram.com/katieorourke78/

 

Chat with Jean Gill

I recently fell in love with audio books and the 2nd one I listened to was Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence (The Troubadours Quartet) by Welsh author Jean Gill. To say I was enthralled wouldn’t do it justice. Once I accustomed by ear to the narrator’s thick brogue (Scottish/Irish?) I was pulled into a world so totally foreign to me I hung on every word, wondering how much was history and how much was fiction. I still don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. I believed every word.

 

Jean—tell us a little about yourself

I’m a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750, a beehive called Endeavour and a man. We escaped the rain in 2003 when my husband retired and I took the chance to write full-time. My claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales and I loved my work. If only you could lead 10,000 lives! I’m also mother or stepmother to five children so life was very hectic.

Five? Wow—I had trouble keeping up with one. Now I have two grown steps and two grandkids, so there are times my house is overflowing.

What genre(s) do you write in? Is there one you’d like to try?

I started as a poet (traditionally published) then turned to prose when I was forty. I had an idea for a second-chance romantic novel and was determined to complete it. That same year I decided to give up sugar, which was harder than writing the novel. No Bed of Roses was not only completed but published by Gomer, which motivated me to continue writing novels.

Since then I’ve written historical fiction, a dog book, YA fiction, memoir, military history and a cookbook. I’ve also translated dog training books and a biography of Edith Piaf from French to English.

I love that you follow your heart.

Not to mention the time I won a place on a HTV course in writing for television and spent a couple of years writing scripts and submitting them to various theatres and television companies. I reached the second round for a job as an Eastenders scriptwriter. The British TV soap was the highest-paying job in script writing but thank goodness I didn’t get it – I’d have had to watch an episode 😊

Although I know that commercially it’s better to stick with one or two genres, stories find me and insist on being written, in whatever form suits them best, so I follow my capricious muses into whatever adventures they lead me.

I totally understand. Reading or writing only one type of story would get boring. Like you, for me, the muse wants what the muse wants. When I try to force her to stay on the path, she sits in the corner and sulks, saying, “No words for you.” When I give her the lead, magic happens.

Perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised to know that after nineteen books in different genres, I do have ideas for other genres and might surprise my fans in the next couple of years. I’ve been asking my readers what they would like me to write next and a frequent reply is ‘fantasy’. They will get their wish! As fantasy is my favorite genre as a reader, I think the move is what one reader called ‘a natural sidestep’ from The Troubadours Quartet, which has been described as ‘Game of thrones with real history’.

I’m a huge GoT fan, and yes, I think your reader is correct. I often thought of that series while listening to Song at Dawn.

Do you write to music/create play lists?

I often listen to music when I write, a wide variety, from Metallica to 12th century troubadour songs. As the troubadours have been described as ‘the rock stars of the middle ages’ I think my penchant for heavy rock sets the atmosphere for writing just as well as my much-loved collection of medieval music.

That’s interesting. I find I can’t write if music with words is playing. The lyrics create story ideas and it’s hard to focus on what I’m already writing. I have an entire novel plotted out based on a song I heard one day. In a flash, the story appeared.

If you travel, what was your best (or worst) experience?

In the last few years I have been privileged to learn from several professional photographers as I improve (I hope!) in my own work. Thanks to my contributions to Getty and istock collections, I’ve met fellow-contributors online and some of us have managed to meet up and shoot together. These meet-ups have been amazing for my professional development and fun for the friendships formed. There are so many photographers I admire, and have worked with, that all these occasions have been special, from my first shoot led by brilliant lifestyle photographer Nils Kahle, in Bad Aussee, Austria to one I organized in Paris.

The shoot in Paris was special because of a previous disappointment. I’d set up a shoot in Malta for a dozen photographers, with top fashion photographer Kurt Paris. Two days before we were due to travel, my husband was rushed into hospital for an emergency appendectomy, so I had to cancel. Obviously I missed the shoot.

Oh no. I’m so glad it wasn’t more serious, but still…an emergency is just that.

When Getty Images set up an event in Paris (which is only a three-hour train ride from home) I asked Kurt if he would come so I could achieve my ambition and watch him at work. Three other photographer friends said they’d join us, so we had our own shoot the day before the Getty event. I hired four models for the day, chose the location (under the Pont Neuf) and we had a great time. I finally got to watch Kurt work and, what’s more, a photographer friend from Wales was with me to celebrate her birthday in Paris. That is what I call fun!

Sounds delightful. I’ve often thought I would enjoy travel writing and photography, but then I go on a long trip (the last was Africa—Tanzania and Rwanda in 2017) and realize I’m a homebody at heart. I love to travel, but couldn’t do it all the time.

Tell us about your latest work

The Troubadours Quartet is now complete. The story begins in Song at Dawn, Book 1. Here’s what reviewers have said:

‘One of the best historical novels I’ve read in a long time.’ Paul Trembling, Dragonslayer

‘Believable, page-turning and memorable.’ Lela Michael, S.P. Review

Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice Book 1 of the award-winning Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet
Winner of the Global Ebooks Award for Best Historical Fiction
Finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards and the Chaucer Awards


1150: Provence
On the run from abuse, Estela wakes in a ditch with only her lute, her amazing voice, and a dagger hidden in her underskirt. Her talent finds a patron in Aliénor of Aquitaine and more than a music tutor in the Queen’s finest troubadour and Commander of the Guard, Dragonetz los Pros.

Weary of war, Dragonetz uses Jewish money and Moorish expertise to build that most modern of inventions, a papermill, arousing the wrath of the Church. Their enemies gather, ready to light the political and religious powder-keg of medieval Narbonne.

Set in the period following the Second Crusade, Jean Gill’s spellbinding romantic thrillers evoke medieval France with breathtaking accuracy. The characters leap off the page and include amazing women like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Ermengarda of Narbonne, who shaped history in battles and in bedchambers.

What inspired The Troubadours Quartet?

I was reading medieval troubadour poetry, which was composed in the area of France where I live, and I came across this sentence in an introduction. ‘Rumour says that there was a female troubadour touring the south of France with a big white dog.’ As a poet and fan of Great Pyrenees dogs, how could I not write this woman’s story?!

I’ve seen pictures of your dogs—they are amazing and mystical in themselves. So, do you think the rumor was true?

Tell us about your two main characters? Were they inspired by real-life?

Dragonetz is a master troubadour and a master swordsman, a born leader who has honed his talents through experience and hard work, but who is afraid of his own effect on others.

Like his Damascene sword, Dragonetz was forged in the Holy Land. In the disastrous Second Crusade, he was Commander and troubadour to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his idealism died in the war although he did not. Racked by guilt, he tries to keep others at a distance, for their own sake.

And then he forgets, driven by his own passions; for the invention of a watermill, for a crazy tournament against a Viking Prince; for a woman.

Like Estela, I am fascinated by this complex man and I want to keep up with him, be his partner in song and in love. Like the men who ride with him, I would follow him without question. He is that rare being; a charismatic leader who never loses his sense of responsibility, his quest for what is right and honourable. He lied to himself. His idealism never died; he just learned to hide it.

Estela is a girl on the run from an abusive family, who is determined to become a troubadour. She is young and unformed when she sings to save her life at the start of Song at Dawn but her beautiful voice and musical talent affect anyone who listens.

It was a joy to watch Estela grow in the four books, from an awkward girl into a woman I admire tremendously. As a girl, she is unaware of her beauty, finding fault with her unfashionable olive skin and curves, and she is unaware of her effect on men. Her discovery of what it means to be a (medieval) woman is a journey that faces her with challenges and questions and her choices are inspiring.

I spent a year on research before writing each book and was both amazed and angry at what fulfilling professional lives many medieval women pursued in Occitania (now southern France). They inherited titles in their own right (Eleanor was the ruler of Aquitaine, a duchy bigger than the kingdom of France) were doctors, philosophers, bakers – and troubadours. This made me angry because I’d accepted the notion of medieval women as submissive wives, whose sole purpose was childbearing, and it’s just not true. There were such roles for women but there were also daring, talented, powerful figures in history. In The Troubadours Quartet you’ll meet Ermengarda of Narbonne, The Queen of Jerusalem, and Stephania of Les Baux – all rulers in their own right.

Estela’s character remains true to my research and everything she does was possible in that time and place – and brings history to life!

I love that you spent so much time researching. It really bugs me when authors don’t take the time to get the details accurate. Yes, we write fiction, but all fiction holds a kernel of truth. Getting those kernels right makes the entire story believable.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about The Troubadours Quartet?

I have to mention two readers who have gone far beyond most fan activities. Writer Anita Kovacevic is a big Troubadours fan and as well as reviewing the books on her blog.  https://anitashaven.wordpress.com/?s=song+at+dawn&submit=Go

She has created beautiful adverts with quotes from the books, which she has tweeted while she was reading each book. She’s in the middle of reading the last book so my fingers are crossed that she likes it! Here are a couple.

 

 

 

 

Another keen supporter is author and blogger Brian Wilkerson, of Trickster Eric Blog. He created a page for Song at Dawn on TV Tropes. I was touched that somebody would put in so much work for my book and I think writers can get interesting ideas from the way that the TV Tropes site analyses books.

 What are you working on now?

I was invited to write a short story on the theme of the Black Death for an anthology by ten historical novelists and I have just finished my contribution. I chose Venice in 1567 and the death of a very famous painter. I was determined not to make it miserable, despite the plague background. We’ll see what readers think when the book comes out and I can’t wait to read the others’ stories!

 

 Questions of interest to other authors

 What is the best author resource you can recommend?

For Indie authors I highly recommend Alli membership, which not only offers trustworthy information on publishing and services, but also gives discounts with recommended partners, editors, cover designers and marketing services. The Facebook forum is a closed group where you get answers immediately to all the tricky questions that can arise, from experts.

 

I second that. I love Alli and have been a member for about two years. I’m still learning and they are still helping. Truth be told, they are even a good resource for traditionally published authors. Even they have to do a lot of book promotion and marketing and some of the info Alli provides crosses publishing choices.

 Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes 😊

Hahaha—so now I’m wondering what I might have missed.

How do you select names for your characters?

I have written a whole blog post on the subject of names in The Troubadours and didn’t even cover how Nici the dog gained his name. For real characters I still have choices to make between the different spellings and versions in different languages. In Song at Dawn four of the real historical characters were all called Raymond, so I used their titles and nicknames to distinguish between them, as well as the different possibilities of Raymond – English; Raimon – Occitan and Ramon – Catalan. For the audiobook, I asked the narrator to pronounce them all differently.

Ah, NOW I understand. At first I was confused, wondering why the difference. I realized quickly that they were different characters, so the narrator did a great job on that.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born and raised as Aliénor and, as my book is set in what is now France, I kept to the French name for her.

For fictional names, I use online suggestions for medieval names but I also search by nationality/region and by faith background. Lord Dragonetz los Pros is an Occitan name Dragon, which has pleasing fantasy vibes, with the suffix etz, meaning ‘little’, like the French ette or the American Junior. Los Pros is ‘the Brave’ in Occitan and such a nickname was a common medieval device, useful when there were so few given names!

Thank you for clearing that up. Not being French, I made an assumption (a correct one) that it must be like Junior.

A medieval Jew living in Provence would have had a Jewish name and the Moors would have had Arabic ones, so I checked the structure of these names and languages. Every character name has a historical background.

I absolutely loved the Moorish character (his name escapes me, but I recall it being perfect for him) and was totally surprised by his role.

And the dog is called after the Occitan word for ‘useless, stupid’ because Estela, his mistress, is taking out her feelings about herself on the dog when she names him. When she ran away from her abusive family, Nici followed. He’s a Great Pyrenees who was ‘useless’ at his job of guarding sheep, and who follows Estela as her great protector. Neither of them are useless, far from it.

Jean, I’ve enjoyed our little chat. It’s so great to have another author to add to my favorites list.

 

Bonus! The Troubadours Quartet Boxset was just published on kobo only.

https://jeangill.com/books/the-troubadours-quartet-boxset/

 

 

Where can people find you?

Contact jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

Sign up for Jean’s Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5

Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPvXZBW-VLBibveKhXA-QZQ

IPPY Award-winning ‘Best Author Website’ www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

Twitter   https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writerjeangill

The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619468.Jean_Gill

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/writerjeangill/

Interview with Jamie Beck

During the summer of 2017, I had the delightful privilege of becoming an advanced reader for Jamie Beck, who writes heartwarming stories about love and redemption. The kind of stories that draw me in like honey to bees. Before the end of the first chapter of the first book in The Cabots series, Before I Knew, I was hooked. Jamie tells stories in a way that makes me feel like I know the characters. Like they are my best friends, family, classmates, or neighbors. I have since read book 2, All We Knew, and have the 3rd, When You Knew, in my line-up to read before its release on June 26, 2018 (it’s available for pre-order). In addition to this series, Jamie has several other series, and stand alone novels. Although I haven’t read them yet, I know they will be just as endearing and compelling. So settle back and learn about an author I know you will love as much as I do.

Jamie, tell us a little about yourself.

My journey to becoming an author was winding and unexpected. I have two graduate degrees (JD/MBA) and spent the first decade of adulthood as a commercial real estate and lending lawyer. When I had my first child, I was fortunate to have the choice to stay at home with her, so I did. Two years later, we had a son. When they both hit grade school, I found myself with too much free time. I didn’t want to go back to full-time legal practice, yet volunteering locally didn’t fill up enough of my time, so I sat down and wrote my first manuscript in secret (to fulfill a childhood dream). That one is still under my bed, but it got me started and, two years later I had an agent and a publishing contract. When I’m not writing, I’m listening to music (sometimes my own daughter’s original songs), cooking, skiing, hiking, or reading. Recently, we bought a puppy we named Mo, who gets me out of the house for daily walks these days.

** I’ve heard that lots of authors have that first, second, or third manuscript hiding in a drawer somewhere. I’d love a peek inside one of them.

What do you like to read? Are there books that have made you cry?

I could name many, but the first three that come to mind are My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, and Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas. I love, love, LOVE books that bring me to ugly tears. A central question in each of these stories is about what choices/sacrifices we are willing to make for the people we love. When characters make heroic sacrifices, I’m always moved to tears.

** Ah ha! I knew there was a reason we clicked. We have a lot in common in what we like to read. Ugly tears – yep, that’s me, hands down. If a book doesn’t yank at my heartstrings I’m not sure I have time for it.

What genre(s) do you write in? Is there one you’d like to try?

Technically, I write contemporary romance because each of my books is centered on the development of a romantic relationship and each ends happily. However, my books incorporate a lot of women’s fiction elements (family sagas, realistic everyday conflicts, etc.), so I refer to them as romantic women’s fiction. I feel fortunate that my publisher has given me the latitude to write these genre-blended books. On the downside, hardcore romance and hardcore women’s fiction readers alike will probably be a little less satisfied because their expectations might not be fully met. There is, however, a healthy section of crossover readers, and that group contains my ideal reader.

I would like to write a straight women’s fiction/general fiction novel some day (if I can find the time between the books under contract). I have some ideas kicking around, so we’ll see!

** Again, a reason I love your work. Although there are exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of hardcore romance—most simply don’t satisfy my deep longing for more of some unnamed quality. I’ve found the blended Women’s Fiction/Love Story novels to be the most compelling. My own debut novel, The Art of Healing, is very much in a similar vein—not pure Women’s Fiction, not pure romance.

Do you have a favorite Indie author?

I believe Colleen Hoover is (or at least started out) as an indie. Her books really grab me. They are always page-turners with fresh concepts and wonderfully drawn characters. In particular, I loved It Ends With Us. I thought she did a tremendous job of portraying how and why someone might end up in an abusive relationship (and stay there too long).

** She sounds like an author I’ll have to check out. I just added it to my TBR list.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about anything you’re written?

Actually, some of my most special fan letters have come from people who’ve read my debut novel, In The Cards. Two stand out in my memory. The first was from a woman who, like Levi, the hero in that story, was abandoned by a parent. She told me that, for most of her life, she’d never been able to articulate her feelings about her situation until she read it in one of Levi’s scenes in which he confronts the parent who left him. Because we writers often write about things beyond our own experience, I was proud to have “gotten it right” in that sense. The other note was from someone who was drifting through life without real self-satisfaction, unsure of who she was and what she wanted. Lindsey’s journey gave her hope that, no matter her age, it wasn’t too late to start something new. I felt great that something I made up actually helped someone feel hopeful about confronting a real-life problem.

** What an honor to have a reader tell you that. To know you’ve touched a life is the highest compliment.

Tell us about the book currently available for pre-order.

Late June 2018 marks the release of the third and final novel in my Cabot series, When You Knew, which is a set of love stories set in Oregon against the backdrop of a dysfunctional blended family. While there are some heavy topics addressed (mental illness, infertility, single-parenthood), the ultimate message in each book is one of hope and second chances. The series in order, along with blurbs can be found at http://jamiebeck.com/books/cabot-novels/

WHEN YOU KNEW (Cabot Three)

Gentry Cabot’s rebellious life comes to a screeching halt when a one-night stand leads to a sobering new reality: motherhood. Exhausted and overwhelmed, the former wild child struggles to raise an infant on her own. After a lifetime of feeling like the odd Cabot out, Gentry knows that what her son needs most is family. For his sake, she plans to rebuild bridges with them, but first she needs a little help on the home front.

Humanitarian worker Ian Crawford has devoted his life to service. Forced to temporarily return stateside, he’s eager to head back to Haiti to expand the nonprofit he just founded in his late father’s honor. He can’t do that without money, so when Gentry offers a hefty paycheck for a short-term gig as a live-in nanny, he can’t afford to say no. Ian expects to deal with a barrage of privileged problems. What he doesn’t expect is how quickly being a makeshift father transforms him.

Despite his growing attachment to Gentry and her child, Ian still has his dreams, and Gentry wants a full-time dad for her son. When the baby’s father reenters the picture, will Gentry and Ian embrace the family they’ve formed or end up worlds apart?

What are you working on now?

I’m super excited about my upcoming series, the Sanctuary Sound novels, which are based on three childhood friends (the Lilac Lane League), all of whom have suffered a separate trauma, and who are returning to their coastal Connecticut town to heal and begin again. The first book, THE MEMORY OF YOU, releases in late October of 2018. It’s a high school sweetheart reunion love story, and I truly adore its characters. I hope readers will fall for them, too. It’s available for pre-order—here’s the blurb:

After a brutal assault leaves Steffi with puzzling memory lapses, she returns to her coastal Connecticut hometown to rebuild her life the best way she knows how: with her hands. But starting a remodeling business with one longtime friend puts her in the middle of a rift with another. Worse, being hired by her ex-boyfriend’s mother forces her to confront old regrets.

Public defender Ryan Quinn wasn’t shocked when his wife left him, but he was floored when she abandoned their daughter. With his finances up in the air, the newly single dad returns to his childhood home in Sanctuary Sound. The last person he expects, or wants, to see working on his family house is Steffi Lockwood—his first love who shattered his heart.

Although Steffi and Ryan are different people now, dormant feelings rekindle. But when Ryan’s concern for Steffi’s mental health prompts him to dig into her past for answers, will what he learns bring them together or tear them apart for good?

**That sounds like one I’ll have to read.

Questions of interest to other authors 

  • Do you believe in writer’s block?

I don’t know that I believe in writer’s block, per se, but I do believe it’s easy to get stuck in the middle of a story, or to write yourself into a corner and need to regroup. This is when having a great support system (critique or plotting partners) comes in handy. When I find myself spending a few days spinning my wheels, I send out a virtual SOS to my MTBs (my plot partners), who then all weigh in with fresh ideas or fixes. Even when I don’t use something they suggest, the exercise usually jogs my brain into coming up with a fix. Another way I loosen plot knots is by taking long walks. I swear by this one. It works every single time.

** I’m so happy you have your MTBs. Critique and plot partners are crucial. I can’t even imagine trying to write a novel without them.

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

Negative reviews are one of the most difficult parts of being an author. I used to torture myself by reading them, but now I don’t read any reviews, not even the good ones (although I certainly appreciate each and every one of them). When I have to go on Amazon or Goodreads for some reason, I’ll note the number of reviews and the average score. I figure as long as 80% of the people like (or love) the story, I’m doing my job as well as I’m able. There is no way I can write a book that will please each and every reader. I understand that better now, and so I feel that, if someone gets some satisfaction out of ripping my work to shreds in public, that’s her right, but I don’t need to dig for pain and read it. And honestly, if a book is well-written and edited, chances are it isn’t a bad book so much as a bad fit with that particular reader. This is also why I don’t pay too much attention to reviews of books I’m considering reading (unless the reviewer is someone whose taste I know aligns with my own).

Where can readers learn more about you?

It’s easiest to simply go to my website, where links are available for each book on my bookshelf. An added bonus: check out my Extras page, with links to Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists for each book!  www.jamiebeck.com

You can also find Jamie on any of these social media sites:

Amazon page

Facebook page

Goodreads page

Bookbub page

Audible page

Twitter page

Instagram

Pinterest

Jamie, thank you for your time today. I look forward to reading many more of your books.

 

 

 

Interview with Nicole Evelina

I’m really excited to interview Nicole Evelina, my first interview of an author I actually know in person. I first met Nicole when she gave a talk to the writers’ guild I belong to, Saturday Writers, in St. Peters, MO. I was so impressed, I immediately purchased her romantic comedy, Been Searching For You. I absolutely loved it and have since read Daughter of Destiny. Being a long-time fan of Marian Zimmer Bradley, I felt right at home with this Guinevere tale and highly recommend it. I proudly present this interview so more people can become acquainted with her books. She is definitely a rising star author to be watched.

Nicole — Tell us about yourself

I’m an award-winning author who writes historical fiction, romantic comedy, women’s fiction and non-fiction. My four books have won nearly 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations.

Yes, I’ve been watching your awards roll in. It’s mind blowing, but all well deserved. 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

By day I work in marketing for a health care company. I have two superpowers: a really sensitive nose I call the Super Sniffer and, according to my boss, I work very quickly and can accomplish twice that of the normal person. If I wasn’t a writer, I would be a historian or a makeup artist. Oh, and I am a huge cat person. I only have two, but they are my children.

What would you like to tell readers about your books?

My first two books, Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen, are historical fantasy that tell Guinevere’s story from her POV. Daughter of Destiny covers her early life before she meets and marries King Arthur, when she was a priestess of Avalon who was in love with someone else and had no dreams of being queen. Camelot’s Queen covers Guinevere’s time on the throne, including her infamous affair and tumultuous relationship with Morgan, neither of which unfolds like you might expect. My third book, Been Searching for You, is a contemporary romantic comedy set in Chicago that chronicles a modern woman’s search for her soul mate after age 30. My most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, is biographical historical fiction about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in the US in 1872. She was born dirt poor, the daughter of a con-man and religious zealot, and yet managed to also become the first woman to own a stock brokerage on Wall Street, the first to speak before the House Judiciary Committee of Congress, and one of the first to run a weekly newspaper. Despite all of this, she’s not in the history books.

If you could collaborate with any author (living or dead) who would it be and why?

It’s tempting to say Shakespeare or Marlowe, but if I was going to work with an author from the past, I think it would be Daniel deFoe. I’m a huge Moll Flanders fan. I would want to learn how he came up with such an outrageous storyline and yet managed to make it believable. I could teach him a thing or two about spacing in modern novels (the original Moll Flanders has no chapter breaks and very little distinction between narrative and dialogue).

If you travel, what was your best (or worst) experience?

You know, I think my best and worst came on the same trip. Last year I went to Oxford, England, for the Historical Novel Society Conference. The journey there was the trip from hell. My flight from St. Louis to Chicago was delayed three times and then ended up being pushed to the next day, which messed up my schedule and resulted in me paying for a night’s hotel that I didn’t use. Then they lost my luggage. Everyone I talked to told me something different regarding where it was and when I would get it. It ended up taking six days (I was only there for eight) so I had to buy everything new from toiletries to clothes and shoes. It took six months after I got home to get the airline to reimburse me. Needless to say, I will not be flying them again.

But once I got settled in England, aside from falling out of the bathtub at my first hotel (did I mention I am VERY clumsy?), everything was great. I fell in love with Oxford (which is tied with Glastonbury as my favorite English city) and had fun creating my own Discovery of Witches tour based on places mentioned in the book. I got to stay in St. Anne’s College during the conference (a dream come true). I learned so much and met so many wonderful people. To top it off, I met up with some writer friends I hadn’t seen in like a year. Despite the trouble I had getting there, the trip was wonderful.

It’s great you were able to make what could have been a bad situation into something that worked for you.

In your wildest dreams, one or more of your books is made into a movie. Who plays the lead roles? Why?

Oh, I cast my books while I write them because it makes it easier for me to write realistic dialogue, body language and facial expressions, so I can answer this one easily. I have Pinterest boards that have my actors on them. I’ll include the links.

How fun!

The why is pretty much the same for all: they are actors I know have the chops to play the roles and they look like the characters. Sometimes they are a little too old for the characters, but I don’t really care. This is my fantasy world, dammit!

Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen https://www.pinterest.com/nicoleevelina/guinevere-trilogy-characters/

Guinevere: Jessica Brown Findley

King Arthur: Christian Kane

Aggrivane: Orlando Bloom

Isolde: Rachelle Lefevre

Elaine: Emilie DeRavin

Been Searching for You https://www.pinterest.com/nicoleevelina/been-searching-for-you/

Annabeth: Ashley Clements (she’s actually my audio book narrator for this book)

Alex: Bradley Cooper

Miles: Charles Michael Davis

Nick: Sebastian Stan

Mia: Kathleen Robertson

Madame Presidentess — https://www.pinterest.com/nicoleevelina/madame-presidentess/

Victoria: Sara Joy Brown

Canning: Ed Westwick

James: Ed Norton

Tennie: Zoe Boyle

Theodore Tilton: Michael Therriault

What’s Next — What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my first non-fiction book, The Once and Future Queen, which traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere in Arthurian legend from her Celtic roots to the present day. I’ve also got an untitled novella in the works that takes place about halfway through Been Searching for You. I want to be working on Mistress of Legend, the final book my Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, but my characters aren’t talking right now.

I hear you on that one… they do go silent from time to time.

Below are blurbs from each of Nicole’s books:

Daughter of Destiny — You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.

Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.

In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

Fans of Arthurian legend and The Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.

Camelot’s Queen — This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but be prepared to suffer its downfall as well.

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.

Been Searching For You— Searching for Mr. Right is harder than she thought…

A hopeless romantic, Annabeth Coe knows that her soul mate is out there – somewhere. After all, she’s been writing him heartfelt love letters since she was teenager. Her plan is simple: write her future husband letters and gift them to him on their wedding night to prove how long she’s loved him.

Now, as an adult, Annabeth worries that he may never come along. But when she meets handsome literature professor Alex Grantham, she believes her quest for true love may finally be over. Unfortunately, her timing couldn’t be worse. Frustrated with the love gods, Annabeth vows to take her fate into her own hands. But when the scars and mistrust from her past relationships threaten to destroy a budding relationship, she must face the harsh truth. With an ex-boyfriend who won’t let go and a meddlesome best friend, Annabeth just might be searching for love for the rest of her life – unless the man she’s destined for is just one love letter away.

Madame Presidentess — The story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Where can readers find more about you or your books?

I have an author website at https://nicoleevelina.com/

Goodreads

Readers can follow me on Facebook

Smashwords

Amazon

KOBO

Audible – Daughter of Destiny

iTunes – Daughter of Destiny

Indie Bound

Barnes & Noble

Nicole, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I look forward to reading Camelot’s Queen and the rest of your future books.

Interview with Joseph Y. Roberts

Today, I’m interviewing Joseph Y. Roberts. Joseph has written a series of short stories and novellas that revolve around a single, central character—Jacob Vanderhoek. I find them fascinating because they take place in South Africa in the 1970’s, during a time of great racial turbulence. Jacob is a new Selous Scout—a shadowy Special Ops regiment of the Rhodesian military. The setting and character arc keeps me reading as Jacob grows from a young, and decidedly racist recruit, to a changed man tortured by his life as a Scout.

The first story in that series is Bright Light, Dark Heart.

Joseph—tell us about yourself.

I was born in the late fifties in San Pedro, the harbor suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up there in the sixties when it had a small town feel despite being a part of the L.A. metropolis. Because of that, I like to call myself a “small town boy from a big city.”

I spent many years working as a newspaper graphic artist building display ads. When you work at a newspaper, you learn the ins and outs of human behavior, especially those of your coworkers. My hobby of tabletop role-playing games honed my understanding and drafting of character backstory and portrayal. (Yes, I am a reformed gaming geek. I know what a D20 is.) Through those years, I also wrote and shared opinion essays on LiveJournal. These experiences and interests paved the way to becoming a writer, something I suspect may be common among writers.

About two years ago, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to family. I’ve always loved forested land and rain, so I believe I was born for this region. By moving here, I feel I fixed some kind of cosmic mistake. In short, I have arrived where I need to be… for now.

I love that area, but I’d be a statistic—not enough sun for me. But it sure is beautiful.

 

How long have you been writing seriously?

Going on four years. When I became permanently disabled and was forced into early retirement I no longer had anything constructive to do. To pass the time, I found myself daydreaming to songs on the radio. One song in particular, Africa by Toto, became a recurring daydream that grew in detail every time I indulged in it. I came to love visiting it and became attached to its central character, an adventurer from South Africa. So obsessed, I decided to write the daydream down. Thus, I wrote my first Jacob story, the novella “Zimbabwe.” More ideas followed based on Jacob and I was hooked. I’d always wanted to be a writer. With this turn of events, I decided to make a go of it.

 

What do you like to do for fun?

Well, on Sunday nights I like to listen to “Floydian Slip” on the radio while indulging in a craft beer or a cider. (Highlight of my week.) Overall, cruise Pinterest, listen to music on Pandora, and toy around with my role-paying games (even though I don’t have any players at the present). Once the weather warms up a tad more, I’ll start taking walks again.

 

Do you write to music/create play lists?

Since my current writing career was born from daydreaming to music, absolutely yes! I’ll either pick a playlist that reflects the mood or genre of the story I’m working on, or I will select a theme song for the story. For example, for the novella “Mozambique,” it’s “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits. For the novelette “Scars,” it’s “Get Together” by The Youngbloods. I often listen to Pink Floyd songs to get deeply in touch with my emotions for writing purposes.

I’ve found I can’t write with music on if it has words. I tend to sing along.

 

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

Mostly the Sci-Fi writers I enjoyed reading back in the Seventies: Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, and George R.R. Martin. Later, I became a fan of Robert E. Howard, Richard Brautigan, and Clive Barker. Now, not all have influenced my style, but they do inspire me in other ways. They all taught me things.

Misters Bradbury and Martin taught me to imbue my tales with hearts and souls. Mr. Martin also taught me that a powerful story does not require a happy ending. Niven and Clarke inspired me to write SF and that, no matter how advanced technology becomes, humans will still have flaws. Mr. Howard taught me the joys of a rollicking adventure and that a writer need not be chained to one genre. Mr. Brautigan taught me not to take this all too seriously and that it’s okay to cut loose once in a while and be the madcap.

I haven’t yet expressed all these influences, but they are there, lying in wait in my head.

 

What inspired “Dragonfly?”

Like some of my other Jacob stories, it was born of my interest to follow up on characters that appeared in earlier stories. In this case, to explore what became of the helicopter pilot in “Scars.” It was also my way of addressing the issue of homeless veterans and the struggle with drug addiction. The latter topic gained a personal dimension when a family member passed away, possibly due to an overdose, during the writing. The story has a greater meaning for me than it did when I first conceived it.

Really good stories have a way of doing that. I appreciate you tackling that topic as I also lost a loved one to addiction last year.

 

Tell us about your two main characters? Were they inspired by real-life?

That’s easy, Dragonfly has only two main characters. The protagonist, Jacob Vanderhoek, is my prime recurring main character, the star of the series. He’s my flawed hero: noble in intent, but faulty in execution. A man raised in a hyper-masculine environment, who proves to be too empathetic to remain that way. As for inspiration from real life, I gave him some of my own traits, but far from all. He’s not my alter ego, by a long shot.

Adrian “Dragonfly” Thackerey, the title character, isn’t based on any one real person. But his statements about drug addiction, and about heroin in specific, are drawn from things friends who were addicts have said to me.

Their banter was inspired by similar exchanges between myself and my male friends.

 

What is the most special thing a reader has said about Dragonfly?

Pamela Murray said: “Very well constructed, the characters jump off the page, they are so real. I hope to have a chance later today to finish it, SO intriguing!” I suspect I can count her as a fan, eh?

 

What are you working on now?

My historic novel about the Second Boer War. It’s been in progress for the last three years, and I’ve entered the final stages for release (editing to be specific). When it is, it will be my first novel.

 

Dragonfly Book Blurb:

Johannesburg 1999. Not all battles are fought in the field between armies arrayed side to side. Some are fought inside, where no one can see, a war of the soul. Every conflict has a victor, but it must also have its vanquished.

Jacob must help an old friend from long ago find his way. Does he have the resources to succeed? Can he defeat an enemy he neither sees nor understands?

Where can readers find out more?

Facebook author page

Amazon author page

Smashwords author page

Joseph, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I look forward to your future efforts.

Interview with Lisa Hofmann

Today, I’m interviewing Lisa Hofmann, who lives and writes in Germany. I got the surprise of my life this past fall when I read the first two books in her Medieval Fantasy Dies Irae series – Stealing the Light (which won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards) and Into the Dark. Surprised because I haven’t read much in this genre and I was truly blown away at Lisa’s story-telling abilities. I’m normally a slow reader and I flew right through both. I can’t wait for book three and after our interview, I’m anxiously looking forward to Trading Darkness.

Lisa, Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 41 years old and a summer person, who loves traveling, art, music, and cats. I’m an independent writer, which means that I don’t sell my work to a publishing house, but instead market directly to my readers.

I don’t do this because my manuscripts were ever rejected by a publisher. I just never submitted anything to an agent or publisher simply because I don’t believe this would work for me at this point in my life. I’m basically a very stubborn person, and I feel a strong need to retain my independence in my creative expression. Holding all rights to my work and having full control of what I do with it is very important to me, and I love that what was unthinkable twenty years ago is actually possible nowadays with e-books and print-on-demand.

Going it alone is hard work, but luckily, I have a wonderful, supportive family who can live with the fact that I chose to handle it this way. They are the kind of people who will tiptoe around me while I’m editing, and sometimes even throw food at me when I’m sitting at my desk in front of my laptop drafting new material. I sit there a lot because I’ve always been a workaholic, and I treat both of my professions with a lot of dedication.

As an Indie Author myself, I completely understand. Thank you for sharing that with our readers.

 

You said both professions? So you don’t write full-time? What kind of job do you have, and does it play any role in your stories?

In all honesty, I wish I could write full-time, but I’m afraid I have to work long hours in my day job to ensure my cat can continue to lead her decadent life of luxury…

No, seriously, most independent writers can’t live on what they earn from their books. Many, many authors who write for publishing houses can’t, either, for that matter. But, since I’m my own publisher, I also have costs to cover that non-Indies don’t have, such as editing, cover art, and formatting, and unless I sell a certain number of books, I have to live with the fact that those costs may exceed the earnings from the works I produce. Until I can manage to achieve a steady income from my books, I’ll just have to work in two jobs, really. That can be tough, sometimes, but did I mention I’m a stubborn person…?

Whether or not my day job has ever played a role in my stories, I can’t really say. I don’t think it has, at least not directly. But I work in a social profession, so I’m always around people during the day, and I believe that has some influence on how I look at things and the way I write, as opposed to if I lived in seclusion or worked in an office job as an accountant or whatever with little or no customer contact. I actually worked in an office job in my early twenties for a time, and soon realized that’s not for me. I was bored to death.

Life is about achieving a balance, and although I often find myself having to meticulously organize my days around my family and those two jobs, I also think it makes me go about my writing extremely consciously. I use the time I spend on it well, I think, and I can’t say I’ve ever sat in front a blank screen for hours, wondering what to write – I sit there for just under a minute, wondering what to write first before I start typing like the devil was at my heels.

Why do you write, and how long have you been writing seriously?

I’ve been writing seriously for about three years now. I always dreamed about writing, and I was that kid in school who was always asked to read her essays aloud, but it wasn’t until a friend started encouraging me a few years ago that I considered actually publishing something of mine. It started out as a hobby to help me to cope a little better with the stress of my day job, but I soon found myself communicating with other writers. Somehow, one thing just led to another, and here I am.

I published my first two novels and several short stories in 2016, and my new book is coming out this summer.

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

I read a lot of different things. What and how I read has changed over the years since audio books have become more affordable, e-books are easy to take along anywhere on my phone, and works by Indie authors have become readily available. But I still try not to miss anything new by Dean Koontz, Stephen King… and… here goes: Cornelia Funke. A children’s book author, I hear you say in bewilderment. How does that fit in? Well, it does. She has evolved in the most interesting way as a writer, and I love her most recent YA series. The writing as such is superb, and the story is rich and intriguing.

I’m sure most authors are shaped in some way by the words they read. It would be strange if it were otherwise. However, I think it’s always wise to read a LOT to make sure you’re not influenced too much by the voice of any other individual author. You have to make sure you don’t surrender your own voice to someone else’s style. As a new author, it’s not just important to find your own voice – you have to be able to keep it, and develop it, and listen back to it so you never forget to take what you’re doing to the next level and keep evolving positively.

 

What are you currently reading?

I have this habit of reading three or four books in parallel. Right now, I’m reading an as yet unpublished work by an Indie writer friend. I’ve got Amanojaku by Damien Lutz on my phone’s Kindle. I’m also revisiting an older book I read years ago, as an audio book version this time, since I spend so many hours a week in my car: Lightening by Dean Koontz.

 

About your latest work that’s coming in summer, Trading Darkness: What inspired it?

A true story did. Some of the characters in Trading Darkness are loosely based on people who lived during the final wave of the local Witch Trials in the 17th century. While researching a paper for a college class I took twenty years ago, I came across an event that was never explained, and that was when the initial idea to this book started taking shape in my head. The story I spun around this event is purely fictional, of course, but it’s been stewing in me this long, which was why I finally decided to give it priority over the series I’m also working on at the moment. I’ve always been fascinated by local history, myths and legends. I think this is generally what influences and inspires my writing most.

 

Tell us about the characters who were inspired by real-life.

That would be Agnes Smith, for one, a secondary character inspired by the real-life Agnes Schmidt, who lived near Wildenburg around the year 1650. She was a mother of six who was “tried”, which really means she was tortured, and sentenced to death for being a witch. On the eve of her execution, she was imprisoned in a barn near Friesenhagen, which is the village I modeled Oakwood on. The “witch tower” at Wildenburg Castle was full, so there wasn’t any room for her there. A guard was posted outside that barn to make sure she couldn’t escape. She’d been tortured, so no one really would have assumed she’d actually be in any state to flee. But despite the locked door, and despite the guard, she did. I found that remarkable. She must have been a very strong woman. No one could explain how it happened, and that was what got me thinking. Maybe the guard took pity, or there was another way out of the barn, but again: she’d been tortured, willfully broken, though through it all, she never confessed, so… when they found her a few days later, she was with one of her children. She was asked why she’d fled. Silly question, really, but they did ask, and her response was noted for the record. She said she hadn’t intended to escape her sentence, but that she’d merely wanted to see her children one last time to say goodbye.

Another character who is loosely based on a real person is Hermann Heistermann. He was the bailiff at that time, an exceptionally greedy and cruel man who took great pleasure in having people tortured. He was a real villain, and that’s how I depicted him in the book as well, though something good came from his existence in my story. I won’t say what.

 

Can you tell us anything about the fictional characters without giving too much away?

Yes, of course! There’s a really dark demon with a deep longing for vengeance. There’s a character I modeled on Ricdin-Ricdon, better known as Rumpelstiltskin, but he doesn’t spin straw into gold. And, we have a heroine, who falls in love with a knight in shining armor. I loved writing all of them. Finishing the final chapter was awful, because I knew I’d miss them.

 

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the third book of my current series. It’s titled Fair of Souls, and I’m having a lot of fun getting back into that. Lorcan will be traveling to many interesting places, trying to find his son, and later, he will be faced with having to find a way to keep The Fair safe from the dangers that have arisen with Catherine’s ascent to power. We’ll be seeing a very angry, power-hungry Catherine establishing her rule in Trondenburgh and beyond, while Dean is in deep trouble. I’m very excited about writing this.

 

Where can readers find out more?

My Amazon page

Readers can follow me on Facebook

My Author website

And I’m on Goodreads

Lisa, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I’m looking forward to both Trading Darkness and Fair of Souls