Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Shutting down my wordpress blog, but going exclusive with my new site!

Steph head shot colorDear Friends & Family & Interested Readers,

I have a new blog up and I will be shutting down this old wordpress.com site in a few weeks.
Please join me at my new site: www.stephaniereneedossantos.com.
I’m also honing my blog’s focus which will be more tailored to art in fiction/art in historical fiction related topics along with yoga.  I already have a few new posts up on the other site which I haven’t posted here, so do come on over and check out the new site!
I hope you like the new look and focus and will continue to flow my blog!
See you at my new blog ~ Stephanie Renee dos Santos

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Interview with author M.J. Rose SEDUCTION

300 MJRBWIt is my pleasure to introduce and welcome author M.J Rose and her Gothic time-slip mystery Seduction. The story takes place on the windswept British Island of Jersey. Rose’s prose is filled with descriptive ambiance, art, mythology, psychology, and scent. The book explores the implications of reincarnation, and delves into nineteenth-century French novelist Victor Hugo’s life while on self-imposed exiled to the island. Hugo led hundreds of séances at his coastal home there, trying to make contact with his departed daughter Leopoldine. While the modern day protagonist mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, becomes entwined with Hugo’s past secrets and with a disturbed soul’s quest, which leads her deep inside the island’s mysterious Celtic heritage. I loved this novel. It was rich in poignant atmospheric detail and intrigue. It is a sensual and captivating read.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines from the book:

“To be a decent writer you must have both empathy and imagination. While these attributes aid your art, they can plague your soul.”

Now let’s venture into the story behind the story of M.J Rose’s engrossing novel Seduction

Q: Where did your inspiration for Seduction come from?

SeductionA trip to Paris and Victor Hugo’s home there inspired me to read Les Miserables. I became obsessed with Fantine. I kept wondering if someone had inspired Hugo to create her? I started reading more and more about him. I read his poetry. Sought out his watercolors and drawings… But it was coming across a description of his belief in reincarnation and his experimenting with séances that made me decide to write about him… and the woman who might have inspired him to create Fantine.

Q: Will you tell us a little about protagonist Jac L’Etoile? 

Founded before the French Revolution, The House of L’Etoile is an exclusive perfumery in Paris.  The firm has over the centuries, developed some of the world’s most famous and beloved scents.

Jac L’Etoile has the most highly developed “nose” in the family, but at the age of 21 rejected the perfume industry in favor of becoming a mythologist. She studies and researches the origins of myths and presents her discovering on Mythfinders, an Amercian cable TV show. She’s also written a book of the same name.

Starting when she was a young teenager she began suffering psychotic episode and was teasted and treated for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. But it was when Jac was finally send to a Jungian psychiatric facilty called Blitzer Rath. Where she meets Dr. Malachai Samuels, who believes that Jac is not suffering any kind of illness but is instead having past life memories.

Q: In addition, will you please share with us some information about French writer Victor Hugo, who plays a major part in the novel, and his exploration of séances while on self-imposed exile on the British Island of Jersey.

So much about Victor Hugo’s life is as it appears in the book. His beloved daughter drowned while he was on vacation with his mistress for which he felt guilty for the rest of his life. Several years later he  exiled himself and his family to the Isle of Jersey because of political reasons. While he lived in a house overlooking the sea at Marine Terrace he and his family engaged in over one hundred séances that  he himself transcribed. The séances began because he desperately wanted to know his daughter was at peace. They continued because, as he said, he became obsessed with the spirit world.

oujie boardVictor Hugo claimed to have “spoken” with all the entities I mention in the book – including Jesus, Napoleon, Dante, Shakespeare, and especially the spirit he called The Shadow of the Sepulcher. Hugo maintained that the Shadow asked him to write a poem to restore his reputation as a creature of enlightenment. And indeed in 1859, Hugo wrote La Fin de Satan (The End of Satan).

And that’s where the facts end and my fiction picks up. The particular bargain that my Shadow offered Hugo is not recorded anywhere.

Q: Please tell us a little about the Celtic roots on the Island of Jersey, as they are important in Jac’s story.

220px-Dolmen_La_Sergenté,_JerseyThe Celts inhabited Jersey centuries ago; Visual proof of it is everywhere you look. The dolmens and menhirs and passage graves I describe are for the most part the ones that actually exist. These Neolithic monuments have been dated as far back as 4800 BCE. Sadly human sacrifice was practiced by these spiritual people in a time very different from ours.  Jac’s begins to have what she calls Meomory Lurches which take pace during these tempestous times.

Q: In the novel’s “Afterward” you share about how you were finally able to write this novel. You wrote it differently than all your others you’ve written up to this point. Please share with us this fascinating story.

We sold the book before it was written and when it was time to write –  I panicked. Sure I had made a huge huge mistake. How dare I take on Hugo?! And not only take him on – but write a journal in his voice? He was a genius. How could I even begin to conjure him? I wanted to buy my contract back but my wonderful agent convinced me to read Hugo’s letters first. Dan (Dan Conaway, Writers House) thought the letters  might show a man who was easier to relate to than the brilliant novelist who wrote Les Miserables. Dan was right. Hugo was more accessible as a man writing to his son or friend or mistress.  It was through those letters,  he came to life for me in a way that made me think I could take on the book.

So I’d read Hugo’s letters and decided to at least attempt the book, I  sat down at my computer. And froze again. There I was. Trying to write what a 19th century novelist and poet would be writing to a woman he’d had an intimate relationship with. And doing it on a 21st century lap top.  After many false tries, something clicked.  I picked up a pen ,a bottle of ink and a notebook and started writing the way Hugo would have written. Longhand. And 120,000 words later…. I finally put down the pen. It was an astonishing experience. Not sure I want to do it too soon again – but it was the only way I think I could have written this book.

Q: What type of research did you do to write this Gothic time-slip novel?

I am doing research all the time  – I love it. In  fact I often think research  half the reason I write. So I have an excuse to do the research and learn all this stuff. Immerse myself in history. In things I don’t now about. As for when its time to stop and write – it’s different with every book – but it always sort of organically happens. I read everything I could about Jersey, Celtic lore, Hugo, France at the time and seances.

Q: Will you share us a bit about your next upcoming release?

I’d be happy to.  We spend so much time writing the flap copy I think I should put it to good use:

Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

Collector of Dying BreathsParis, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula.

Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means.

This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind.

 Thank you M.J Rose for sharing about Seduction and your upcoming release!

For more about Seduction: http://www.mjrose.com/books/seduction.asp  and Pinerest

To Buy Seduction

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Trick or Treat!

Guest Blog Post by author Suzy Witten

witch photo

I’m excited to announce that for the next three days authors Suzy Witten, Erika Mailman, and Mary Sharratt will be guest bloggers here, sharing stories of how witches became affiliated with Halloween! All three of these authors have written novels delving deeply into the world of the “witch”. Looking for a good Halloween read? Or wanting to know more about this subject matter?

Read their novels:  The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten, The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman, and Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt.

Now, I’d like to introduce author Suzy Witten and her fascinating post on the multicultural history of how witches became connected with Halloween…

“Ask a child:  who rides a broom on Halloween night? Of course, she’ll know.

Then ask: but why are witches associated with Halloween? You’ll get a shrug.

Because she’d have to look back thousands of years… to when on Yule night in Norway, goddess Reisarova and her witch hordes mounted their black steeds with eyes of shining ember, and during the wild ride would cast down saddles onto roofs, foretelling death for the occupant.

Or when the troll witch giantess Hyrrokin rode through her Swedish skies on a wolf bridled with snakes.

400 Hyrrokkin_by_Pietsch

Or when on Lithuania’s midsummer night, all magicians and witches flew to the top of Mt. Szatria to revel with their mighty sorceress Jauterita.

flying witch

Or when in the Scottish highlands at summer’s end, with a wand of power in her hand, grey-cloaked crone Nicnevin led her witch fairies and goblins astride animal spirits in a great celebratory Parade. Or when in Ireland, the beings and souls of the Otherworld—some of them human who’d been turned into cats for evil deeds—assembled at the sacrificial bonfire of the Druids among the people to honor the dying natural world in the presence of the aged Crone, the Hag, the Cailleach… all knew would re-emerge in spring as a beautiful, powerful maiden. For it was on Samhain night that the barrier between the worlds was so thin, spirits who were homesick could re-enter this mortal world and commune with and visit their loved ones.

In the German-speaking countries of Eastern Europe, the Old Goddess might appear at harvest’s end as an ugly, long-nosed spinster. On this Ember Night, she’d bring treats or play tricks: spindles of finished thread for industrious girls, dirtying or tangling the unspun flax of lazy spinners. Sometimes she’d sport a tooth or nose of iron, or carry live coals in her pitcher for burning their distaffs. Her job was to reward and punish children. Often she took the form of a pig.

In time, she became a myth… as did  her namesakes.

“At the end of the middle ages an international myth of the Old Goddess stretched from the Slavic east to the Celtic west and from Italy to Scandanavia. People said that a vibrant, powerful crone flew in the midst of a cavalcade of spirits dead and unborn, joined by witches of all lands. On the eves of pagan holy days the spirit hosts set out for high mountaintops or other sacred places. At these animist sanctuaries the witches dance, play music and games, feast and celebrate their mysteries. The divine “Mistress of the Night” presides over the gathering, giving cures and revealing the future. Often she miraculously revives the animals the witches have been feasting on.” (The Tregenda of the Old Goddess, Witches, and Spirits; Max Dashu (2000))

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In these seemingly unrelated populations of pre-Roman, pre-Christian times, the Old Goddess’ names and manifestations were many. She was secure in her recurring reverence… until in the 1st Century B.C, the Romans invaded Northern Europe and brought their own festivals and goddesses with them.

Over the next four centuries, old and new customs merged, until by the 4th Century A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity everyone’s lawful religion and launched a holy war against Paganism and its symbols. The old practices were “Christianized,” and the old names, rites, meanings, symbols were recast.

By the 8th Century A.D., the Pagan holy day of Samhaim was celebrated as Hallowmas: a triple Christian holiday comprised of All Hallow’s Eve or Hallowe’en (October 31), All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2). This was still the time of year to remember the dead… but now the dead included martyrs and saints, and all faithful departed Christians.

As for the rest of us, it is the night when witches ride brooms, ghosts come a’haunting, and skeletons rise from graves… to shout in every doorway: “Trick or treat!”

EXCERPT from THE AFFLICTED GIRLS A Novel of Salem by Suzy Witten

400THE AFFLICTED GIRLS Front Cover

“Abigail sailed up and set her hand upon the Good Book (which her uncle held) swearing to speak the truth (while gazing into his proud eyes). And then she looked visage to visage at the jurymen, memorizing each of their expressions for a future accounting. She knew their names, although not in the current sitting order—she’d memorized a list left out on her uncle’s desk: Fisk, Fisk, Batcheler, Fisk Jr., Dane, Evelith, Perly Sr., Peabody, Perkins, Sayer, Eliot, and Herrick Sr. She’d wondered then if any were bachelors. Now she didn’t care, since not a handsome face sat among them. She also looked about the room to make certain all were attentive. Especially that Boston minister Cotton Mather, who was scribbling in his book and thus failed to see her smile. Disappointed, she began with a pout:

“I saw Bridget Bishop administer the sacrament on the Witches’ Sabbath. Midnight of the last new moon, I was awakened by the sound of a great horn blowing—“

By now the courtroom had dissolved into the supernal light and in her mind’s eye she beheld her uncle’s pasture, but greener and vaster and brighter than it ever was. Brim full with cowslips, a frothy brook, pretty blue and white violets, fragrant lilies, and of course no screeching crickets, biting bugs or grunting frogs, only golden billowy butterflies—no, NO! ‘Twas midnight when the witches consorted! She blinked and now saw a hint of a slivered moon, her ally, dangling not above the crabapple tree, but a tree abundantly adorned with crisp red succulent apples, bigger and rounder than were Eve’s.

“I ran to my window and saw from all directions the damned mounted on their broomsticks. A great whirlwind had arisen. Then those three-score witches swirled down and landed in my uncle’s pasture like a flock of cackling caw-birds. They grounded their sticks and, one by one, renounced their Baptisms. The witches took out red bread and cake from their pockets, while the wizards built a great bonfire. Then all shed their clothes and danced naked around it. Bridget Bishop walked amongst them giving them blood to drink: ‘Consecrated wine of newborn .”

400 Suzy Witten author photoSuzy Witten’s career spans twenty years in the entertainment industry: as a filmmaker, screenwriter, story analyst, and editor for film and television. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, she was nominated for a Women In Film filmmaking award, and was a Walt Disney Studios Fellowship finalist for her screenplay about the Salem witch hunt of 1692. Her new Young Adult coming of age action-adventure novel 10/10ths will be published in 2014. She is also a Media Relations specialist during disasters for FEMA (U. S. Federal Emergency Management Agency). She resides in Los Angeles. Her debut novel, The Afflicted Girls, won the 2010 Independent Publisher (IPPY) silver medal for historical fiction.

Thank you Suzy for sharing this informative and intriguing article!

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Interview with Historical Novel Society presenter Erika Mailman

erika-mailman1-269x300I am happy to introduce writer Erika Mailman, author of The Witches Trinity and Woman of Ill Fame. Erika will be co-presenting at the Historical Novel Society Conference: “The Witchcraft Window: Scrying the Past” with writer panelists Kathleen Kent, Mary Sharrattand Suzy Witten.

Sounds like a bewitching topic and session!  And make sure you visit Erika’s website as she has an interesting story of coincidence to share about her family history and witches…

Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share?

em_024_175x2641As a child, I was always fascinated by witchcraft and remember reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the topic. I quickly learned it wasn’t pointy hats and riding brooms, but incredible suffering and persecution in part of Europe’s darkest hours. I remember staring at a family tree that hung in our stairwell, penned in some ancestor’s ancient hand, and spotting the name Alvira Cresey. I thought for sure she must be my witchcraft ancestor. It wasn’t until I was an adult, in the middle of writing the book later published as The Witch’s Trinity, that I learned I was the descendant of a woman accused of witchcraft. I received an email from my mother, forwarding one she’d received, that provided a link to information on Mary Bliss Parsons, who underwent trial at least twice and was acquitted. She died of old age. It was supremely uncanny to be working on this novel and learn of my connection to my ancestor of eleven generations ago—the lineage is so direct that my mother bears the Parsons name. She grew up in Southampton, Mass., and Mary Bliss Parsons had lived in nearby Northampton and Springfield (both villages where she was accused). My family had been very proud of its history and, we thought, well-informed, since I remember hearing about Mary’s husband, Cornet Joseph Parsons, a founding father. Yet somehow Cornet’s wife’s dark history had not been similarly passed down.

Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?

em_011_175x275It’s funny, a friend and I were talking about this recently. Why are we so avidly drawn to some historical periods, and some that we have zero interest in? I personally adore anything from the Victorian era and feel deep affinity to the French Revolution—but am left cold by the 1940s. In fact, one of my all-time favorite authors is Sarah Waters. I love her work and am in awe of her intricate plot mapping. I have read everything of hers and adored it—with the exception of The Night Watch, set in the ‘40s, which I have not been able to bring myself to read. In fact, I recently held it in my hands again recently and considered that I really ought to read it…and gently, lovingly placed it back.

Thank you Erika for the interview and see you at the HNS Conference June 21-13 in St. Petersburg, FL!

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Interview with Inspired Mary Sharratt author of ILLUMINATIONS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ ll put this simply: I loved Mary’s novel ILLUMINATIONS.  Loved it, loved it.  A spellbinding chronicle of the life of the German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and polymath Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179). I adored the subject matter, the story line, the characterizations, the settings, the writing, the pacing, the scenes: everything.  I highly recommend this novel. It is my wish for the world to read it. Compelled, I nearly read it in one sitting, only exhausted eyes and that fact it was 4:00 am forced me to put it down, and I even played hooky from my own novel project the next day to finish it.  Awed, I contacted Mary Sharratt, the author of five other acclaimed books, to let her know how much I loved and valued her work and to see if she would be open to give an interview.

Thank you Mary…

Q: Will you please tell us about your inspiration for the novel ILLUMINATION?  

For twelve years I lived in Germany where Hildegard has long been enshrined as a cultural icon, admired by both secular and spiritual people. In her homeland, Hildegard’s cult as a “popular” saint long predates her official canonization in May 2012. I was particularly struck by the pathos of her story. The youngest of ten children, Hildegard was offered to the Church at the age of eight. She reported having luminous visions since earliest childhood, so perhaps her parents didn’t know what else to do with her.

Illuminations

A Must Read!

According to Guibert of Gembloux’s Vita Sanctae Hildegardis, she was bricked into an anchorage with her mentor, the fourteen-year-old Jutta von Sponheim, and possibly one other young girl. Guibert describes the anchorage in the bleakest terms, using words like “mausoleum” and “prison,” and writes how these girls died to the world to be buried with Christ. As an adult, Hildegard strongly condemned the practice of offering child oblates to monastic life, but as a child she had absolutely no say in the matter.

The anchorage was situated in Disibodenberg, a community of monks. What must it have been like to be among a tiny minority of young girls surrounded by adult men? Disibodenberg Monastery is now in ruins and it’s impossible to say precisely where the anchorage was, but the suggested location if two suffocatingly narrow rooms built on to the back of the church. Hildegard spent thirty years interred in her prison, her release only coming with Jutta’s death.

What amazed me was how she was able to liberate herself and her sisters from such appalling conditions. At the age of forty-two, she underwent a dramatic transformation, from a life of silence and submission to answering the divine call to speak and write about her visions she had kept secret all those years. In the 12th century, it was a radical thing for a nun to set quill to paper and write about weighty theological matters. Her abbot panicked and had her examined for heresy. Yet miraculously this “poor weak figure of a woman,” as Hildegard called herself, triumphed against all odds to become one of the greatest voices of her age.   

Q: And about the research that went into writing the novel? 

I read everything about Hildegard I could get my hands on, in both English and German. Unfortunately I don’t read Medieval Latin! But I read the original sources in translation, from her voluminous letters to here works of visionary theology to her book Physica, dealing with healing, medicine, and the natural world, as well as many secondary sources. While writing, I listened obsessively to her ethereal music. I also went on a research tour to all the Hildegard sites along the Rhine.

You can read about it in my blog: http://marysharratt.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/research-trip-to-bingen-germany.html

Q: Is the character “Richardis” based on a real historical person?  

Hildegard’s beloved protegee, the nun Richardis von Stade, was a real historical person. Her mother, also named Richardis, was a wealthy aristocratic widow who was instrumental in providing the funding to allow Hildegard to found her abbey at Rupertsberg. Her daughter, Sister Richardis, is mentioned in Hildegard’s Scivias, her first book of visionary theology.

Hildegard says she would not have been able to write about her visions without Richardis’s support. Hildegard also revealed a very human side of herself in the passionate protest letters she wrote to her archbishop, Richardis’s mother, and Richardis herself when Richardis wanted to leave Rupertsberg to take the position of abbess at a Benedictine house in northern Germany. Later she deeply regretted leaving Hildegard, as her brother’s letter to Hildegard revealed. Later she deeply regretted leaving Hildegard, as her brother’s letter to Hildegard revealed.

Q: What parts of the novel were the most difficult to write? And why?

I found it quite intimidating to write about such a religious woman. In the end, I found I had to let Hildegard breathe and reveal herself as human. The passages about Hildegard as a child walled into the anchorage were particularly hard for me to write. I felt claustrophobic as I was writing these scenes and had to follow each writing session with outdoor exercise in nature, something young Hildegard herself would have been forbidden.

Q: Do you feel you grew or changed spiritually from writing this novel?

It definitely made me see my birth religion of Catholicism in a new light.

While writing this book, I kept coming up against the injustice of how women, who are often more devout than men, are condemned to stand at the margins of established religion, even in the 21st century. Women priests and bishops still cause controversy in the Episcopalian Church while the previous Catholic pope, John Paul II, called a moratorium even on the discussion of women priests. Modern women have the choice to wash their hands of organized religion altogether. But Hildegard didn’t even get to choose whether to enter monastic life—she was thrust into an anchorage at the age of eight. The Church of her day could not have been more patriarchal and repressive to women.

Yet her visions moved her to create a faith that was immanent and life-affirming, that can inspire us today. The cornerstone of Hildegard’s spirituality was Viriditas, or greening power, her revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Just as a ray of sunlight is the sun, Hildegard believed that a flower or a stone was God, though not the whole of God. Creation revealed the face of the invisible creator. Hildegard’s re-visioning of religion celebrated women and nature and even perceived God as feminine, as Mother. Her vision of the universe was an egg in the womb of God. Hildegard shows how visionary women might transform the most male-dominated faith traditions from within.

Q: What interesting tidbits were you unable to put into the novel, but could share here?

Hildegard’s life was so long and eventful, so filled with drama and conflict, tragedy and ecstasy, that it proved mightily difficult to squeeze the essence of her story into a manageable novel. My original draft was forty-thousand words longer than the current book. I cut out two major subplots.

One involved Hildegard’s relationship with the young apostate and escaped monk, Maximus, whose burial in her churchyard triggered the interdict that left Hildegard and her daughters excommunicated. The other subplot, based on historical fact, was Hildegard’s exorcism of and subsequent friendship with a Cathar woman named Sigewize. Officially only priests were allowed to perform exorcisms, but the monks of Brauweiler Abbey near Cologne didn’t know what to do with this crazy Cathar woman who said that the demons would only leave her body if “Old Schrumpligard” told them to. So the monks dutifully sent Sigewize to the now elderly Hildegard.Hildegard was skeptical about possession and believed that most supposedly possessed people were actually epileptic. But she performed the ceremony, after which Sigewize seemed to experienced a deep peace of mind. Sigewize then became a sister at Rupertsberg.  

Q: Can you share with us what you are working on now?

The Dark Lady’s Masque, my new novel in progress, reveals the star-crossed love affair between William Shakespeare and his Dark Lady, Aemilia Bassano Lanier, the first professional woman poet in Renaissance England.      

 Again, thank you Mary for this exquisite and insightful interview! And please visit Mary’s blog “Viriditas”.

Buy this page-turning novel!

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Interview with bestselling author Barbara Kyle & an Exclusive clip from Chapter One of her upcoming next novel!

Barbara_Kyle_Author_PhotoIt is my pleasure to introduce the skilled storyteller  Barbara Kyle, writer of  “The Thornleigh Saga” series, with whom I am honored to be co-leading the week-long 2014 Writing & Yoga Workshop in Brazil. One of the things I love about Barbara’s books is the quality of the writing: she has an extremely broad descriptive vocabulary, making her novels a sheer pleasure to read.  Her dialogue blows me away in its originality and cleverness, along with her ability to bring the Tudor time period into full life.

Barbara: Thanks for the invitation, Stephanie. It’s a pleasure to reach out to your readers.

 Q: How long have you been a novelist and how did you get started writing?

My first novel was published by Penguin in 1994 so it’s been twenty-one years. Since then I’ve had eight more books published, including three thrillers for Warner Books that I wrote under a male pseudonym (Stephen Kyle) and five historical novels, my Tudor-era “Thornleigh” series, for Kensington.

I started the way most writers do, with short stories. They were pretty awful, full of high-flown language and no point! But I learn quickly, and after a year or so I wrote a short story that won a contest. It wasn’t a exalted contest, just one run by the library association in my county, but it meant the world to me, that affirmation that makes you feel, Yes, I’m a writer

Q: Would you please share with us information about your latest release: BLOOD BETWEEN QUEENS?

With pleasure. BLOOD BETWEEN QUEENS is my fifth “Thornleigh” novel,  a saga that follows the rise of a middle-class English family through three turbulent Tudor reigns.

The story begins when Mary Queen of Scots flees to England to escape her enemies and throws herself on the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Mary, however, has set her sights on the Elizabeth’s throne, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it. Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But Justine comes to sympathize with Mary, and when Elizabeth holds Mary under house arrest and launches an inquiry into the accusations that she murdered her husband, the crisis splits the Thornleigh family apart.

Like many history lovers I’m fascinated by the deadly rivalry between the two cousin-queens. When Mary arrived in England she could never have suspected that Elizabeth would keep her under house arrest for the next nineteen years, and finally, after Mary’s incessant plotting for Elizabeth’s crown, execute her. For over four hundred years this story has enthralled the world. I have learned that Mary generates high emotions in people – they either love her or hate her. As for my own opinion, I don’t want to give any spoilers so I’ll just say that BLOOD BETWEEN QUEENS takes no prisoners!

Q: I recently read a blog interview with you where you talked about working with “Hinges in History” would you explain to us this working philosophy?

The “hinges of history” is a powerful image, isn’t it? A swinging door: an opening, a closing. What I mean by the phrase is the crucial turning points, the pivotal events in history. Often such events are driven by larger-than-life personalities like Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I. Their actions had a tremendous impact on the people of England and the world. One example is Henry’s extraordinary creation of a national church just so he could divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn. Another is Elizabeth’s decision to put her cousin Mary Queen of Scots under house arrest. I set my “Thornleigh” novels during these pivotal events to test my characters’ mettle as they’re forced to make hard choices about loyalty, duty, family, and love.

Q: Not only are you a successful novelist, you also lead “Masters Writing Workshops” will you share with us about why you choose to help others with the craft of writing?

I really enjoy helping emerging writers. It’s such a pleasure to see a writer have a “light bulb” moment at hearing the principles of writing that I teach. When I started writing years ago I learned a lot from mentors, and I’m happy now to pass along what I’ve learned to others. It’s part of the artistic tradition, whether in writing, painting, music or dance – we all learn from practitioners who’ve had success in their field.

Q: And will you tell us a bit about your workshops and the success of other writers that have taken them?

I give workshops for many writers groups and writers conferences, and I offer my own Master Class twice a year in my home city of Toronto. The Master Class is a full weekend workshop limited to ten people, and during it each writer brings the first thirty pages of Kafka Comes to Americatheir work-in-progress – whether a novel, memoir, or narrative non-fiction – and we critique it in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. By the way, writers can also subscribe to my online series of video workshops “Writing Fiction That Sells” – your readers can watch an excerpt of it on my website http://www.BarbaraKyle.com. Also, I’m looking forward to April 2014 when you and I, Stephanie, will run a week-long combination writing plus yoga workshop in Brazil. That’s going to be a treat!

As for the success of writers who’ve learned from me, many have gone on to have their books published. One that I’m very proud of is KAFKA COMES TO AMERICA, a memoir by Steven T. Wax, a U.S. federal Public Defender for the District of Oregon. It received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Q: Can you reveal a snippet of your next novel?

 I’d be glad to. I’ve just finished writing it and have sent the manuscript to my publisher. It’s Book #6 in my “Thornleigh” saga. (By the way, each book in the series stands alone; readers need not have read the previous ones to enjoy the story.) This book brings back a young Scottish woman, Fenella Doorn, who was a minor character in THE QUEEN’S GAMBLE. Her story in that novel was so intriguing I gave her the “starring” role in this new one, set ten years later, in 1572. Here’s how Chapter One starts:

Fenella Doorn watched the unfamiliar wreck of a ship ghosting into her bay. Crippled by cannon fire, she thought. What else could do such damage? The foremast was blown away, as well as half the mainmast where a jury rig clung to the jagged stump, and shot holes tattered the sails on the mizzen. And yet, to Fenella’s experienced eye the vessel had an air of defiance. Demi-cannons hulked in the shadowed gun ports. This ship was a fighter, battered but not beaten. With fight still in her, was she friend or foe?

Or faux friend. Fenella kept her anxious gaze fixed on the vessel as she started down the footpath from the cliff overlooking La Coupée Bay. Old Johan followed her, scuffling to keep up. The English Isle of Sark was the smallest of the four Channel Islands, just a mile long and scarcely a mile and a half wide, so from the cliff top Fenella could see much of the surrounding sea. The few hundred farmers and fishermen who called the island home were never far from the sound of waves smacking the forty miles of rocky coast. Fenella, born a Scot and bred from generations of fishermen, was as familiar with the pulse of the sea as with her own heartbeat.

Delicious! Thank you Barbara for the interview and sharing with us this clip, looking forward to the novel’s release!

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Author Interview with Jeanne MacKin

The Sweet By and By

The Sweet By and By

For the next month or so, I will be posting author interviews at least once a week. Today, I would like to introduce writer, Jeanne MacKin, author to multiple books in different genres and a speaker at the upcoming Historical Novel Society Conference in St.Petersburg, FL June 21-23, 2013.  I am attending the HNS Writers Conference and I am thrilled to be going, there’s still time to sign up if you haven’t already done so!

Today’s highlight is Jeanne’s  historical novel THE SWEET BY AND BY. I am intrigued by its subject matter and story line: 

“Is death the end? Do ghosts exist? What is faith? Mackin examines these and related issues in a totally nonmacabre manner, telling in tandem two stories that take place about 150 years apart. In 1998, journalist Helen West, while mourning the death of her married lover, Jude, researches the strange life of Maggie Fox, called the Founder of American Spiritualism. Maggie became famous after 1848 when, with her sisters’ help, she developed a large following eager to contact the spirits of dearly departed loved ones. Helen becomes involved with her subject and with the concept of the possibility of returning spirits. Can they comfort those they love? Can one enter a loving relationship with another before finding closure with the deceased, previous loved one? This well-written tale is sympathetically conceived and entertainingly presented. Recommended. DEllen R. Cohen, Rockville, MD Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc” – Goodreads Review

 

Q:  What got you first interested in historical fiction?

Probably the stories my family used to tell, about my father getting stuck on the train tracks one Christmas eve, how my grandmother was supposed to be a descendant of Lafayette and my great-grandfather the son of a freed slave; how my brother ran away to the circus and was almost stepped on by an elephant.  The stories always moved back in time and I fell truly in love with that movement into a blurry time before I existed.  The stories left me wanting to know more, and to create my own stories.

Q:  Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?  

At my very first reading for my first novel, The Frenchwoman,  when my knees were knocking so badly I actually tipped over a large floor-standing vase of flowers, I ended the question and answer session by saying we could never really travel back to the eighteenth century. Someone in the audience raised his hand and said, “Oh yes, we can.  Your chapter took me there.” I was so flattered, because that’s exactly what I want  my fiction to do, to make people feel as if they are actually there, inhabiting the story along with the characters.

Q:  What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?

I read the novels of Jean Rhys over and over, especially Wide Sargasso Sea. That first paragraph, when she creates an entire world with so few worlds, just stuns me every time. And when I was a kid, I read and reread everything by Anya Seton and of course Daphne du Maurier. Fabulous, fabulous writers.

Q:  Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?

I have always wished I could have partied with Ben Franklin.  He has been kind of sainted by history, along with the other fathers of the nation.  But he had a great sense of humor and fun, was very sociable and enjoyed good wines and wonderful meals.  I think he would have been the perfect dinner party partner, full of flattery, slightly tipsy, and making naughty jokes under his breath.

Q:  What book was the most fun for you to write?

The must fun was the Louisa mysteries, Louisa and the Missing Heiress, The Country Bachelor, and the Crystal Gazer.  To write them I had to work with Louisa’s fascinating psychology, so that the story lines contained events that would have mattered to her – issues about slavery, women’s rights, poverty – but also included some her light-heartedness and humor.   She also had a taste for the gothic and wrote some pretty racy stuff anonymously and under nom-de-plumes so it was interesting to play with that a bit as well.

 

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