10 Questions with Author Wendy Dunn

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice holiday and are looking forward to a rewarding 2019.

I’m starting the new year with an interview with award-winning historical fiction author Wendy Dunn. Wendy is also a poet and playwright.

Linda Covella: Welcome, Wendy!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Wendy Dunn: I wanted to write since I was eight, many, many years ago. Why did I decide to be a writer? The simple answer derives from my lifelong love of books and reading. I cannot remember a time when I couldn’t read, or did not seek out books. My own life journey has made me realize eight to ten seems the age many people feel the tug of their life’s calling. I won a poetry prize at ten, a memory I still treasure to this day, but it was a long, long time before I garnered any other writing awards. When I was sixteen, I had a go at a fantasy novel. While the novel was terrible, I had a lot of fun imagining a world with magic and dragons, doing family trees and maps, and it pushed my love affair with writing into a lifelong obsession.

But my life’s journey hasn’t involved just writing. I married at eighteen and had my first child at nineteen. By twenty-four, I was the mother of three young children and studying for my Bachelor of Arts. Completing that, I then decided to go into teaching. Because I am passionate about creativity in all its forms, I added another diploma to my Diploma of Education – a Graduate Diploma in Arts Education. It was a wonderful, life changing course which really encouraged my own creativity and provided the push I needed to get on with writing Dear Heart, How Like You This?, my first Tudor novel. By the end of the course, I had completed the first draft. I was such an innocent then; I didn’t realise how much work is still needed after completing the first draft. But even in its early life publishers looked at Dear Heart with interest.

LC: You have had quite a journey up to this point!

What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

WD: I believe writers are always writing, even when they are not writing. I am constantly amazed at what must be going on in my subconscious. Even though I am not aware I am thinking deeply about something, I will dream about it, and then it pops out like Athena emerging from Zeus’s head (but without the need of an axe), fully formed as a story on the page.

Do I write full-time? I wish. I am like most writers in Australia – where the average income for a writer is no more than $13,000 a year. I have had only one year in my writing life when I have earned the average – and count myself as lucky for that experience. I work as a sessional tutor at Swinburne University, the university where I gained my Masters in Writing in 2009 and my PhD in 2014, not only to sustain my fortunate First World life, but also support my writing life. I am more fortunate than many writers because my employment sees me mentoring and teaching aspiring writers. My tutoring work is what pays for an annual two week writing retreat, which helps me move forward with my novel writing. Next year, I am swapping the retreat for three weeks of field research in the UK and a week in Spain. Of course, teaching is a calling in itself, and a very demanding profession. It is always an immense challenge to find the time I need to work on my own writing projects during the university year. But I have now started my break, and have to the end of February to catch up. I do have a study to write. I regard it as my sacred place to write my novels.

Am I pantser or a plotter? Nowadays, after years being an organic writer, I am both. Completing my PhD, when I had three and half years to write a novel and my scholarly dissertation, meant staying on track – and that entailed plotting out my PhD journey, and plotting out my novel. I discovered then I can complete a novel in two years if I have a plot in place. But I construct fiction inspired by history – so history gives me a timeline for my story. I decide on a character to narrate my story through and then spend the first draft working out the heart of the story.

First drafts are always for my own enjoyment, and give me the chance to experiment. For example, writing the first draft of The Light in the Labyrinth, my young adult Tudor novel, I experimented with including an angel narrator to lead the reader through the story, similarly to how Mark Zusak used Death as a narrator in The Book Thief. But I emerged from the first draft realising the angel voice was more of a device for myself. The angel was a way to get me back into the story. I began the second draft by killing off the angel and let Kate Carey, the narrator of this novel, take control of her story.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

WD: I am inspired by paintings, my love of the Tudor period, little known people from the pages of history. For example, the inspiration behind Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters came from a footnote in a book of academic essays about Isabel of Castile. This footnote introduced me to Dońa Beatriz Galindo (1465/75?–1534) I– a woman who lectured at the University of Salamanca, and taught not only Katherine of Aragon, but also Latin to Queen Isabel, the mother of Katherine.

Of course, I tap into my personal experiences for the construction of my stories. The prisms of gender, class and society shape my writerly identity. Completing my PhD opened my eyes to how I use historical fiction as a way to tell my own story, a woman who has experienced oppression. But sifting my own story through the context and distance of history also separates me from my story and changes it into something new, a different substance entirely; the story of my historical people.

The end result must always be recognizable as a work of historical fiction.

LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

WD: OMG – this is like asking a mother to name their favourite child. I enjoyed writing all my characters in my published works – if I had not enjoyed writing them, I would have stopped writing. My passion for my historical people is what drives me as a writer. I must say I have a particular soft spot for Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, the narrator of Dear Heart, How Like You This?. Writing that first novel affirmed me as a writer by showing me I could indeed complete a novel.

LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

WD: Yes – I do recognize I have done that, especially afterwards. Beatriz Galindo, the narrator of Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters, is a passionate educator, like I am. Tom Wyatt, like me, wants to make sense of life, and the nature of love.  But I constructed Kate Carey, the narrator of The Light in the Labyrinth, with the help of the diaries I kept from my teenage years.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

WD: Character driven. The best and most magical writing times for me is when I become but a scribe to my characters.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

WD: I was a sickly child, which meant spending a lot of time in bed. I escaped that imprisonment by reading. I have always loved books, and cannot remember a time when I did LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

WD: I believe the old adage “we are what we eat” can also be revised to “we are what we read.” To be a good writer we need to read because reading is the huge generator of what feeds our writing. Reading is the other side of writing. For me, reading books will always return me to writing.

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

WD: So many good novels, and writers! But I particularly like novels with a good heart – novels which leave me with hope, stay with me, make the reading experience worthwhile.

Writers who inspired me to start my journey as a writer of historical fiction include Rosemary Sutcliff, Winston Graham, Robert Graves, Margaret Irwin (loved her series on Elizabeth I), Rosemary Hawley Jarman and, of course, Dorothy Dunnet. I also love the deeply spiritual novels of Elizabeth Goudge.

LC: Anything new in the works?

WD: I am working on the sequel of Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughter, which will conclude my story about Katherine of Aragon.

LC: Good luck with that and all your writing. It was a pleasure having you today, Wendy!

Author Bio:

Obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since childhood, Wendy J. Dunn is the author of two Anne Boleyn novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel. Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters, her third historical novel, was published with Madeglobal in 2016. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter – named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne. She’s also the grandmother to an extraordinary two-year-old boy. She gained her Doctorate of Philosophy (Writing) from Swinburne University in 2014 and is a Writing tutor in their Writing Program, as well as the proud Managing Editor of Backstory journal and Other Terrain.

Connect with Wendy:

Website: www.wendyjdunn.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorwendyjdunn

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/197156.Wendy_J_Dunn

Twitter: @wendyjdunn

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10 Questions with Author Giselle Marks

Today author Giselle Marks answers 10 Questions about her writing. Giselle is a prolific author of historical romance, fantasy/science fiction, and poetry.

Linda Covella: Welcome, Giselle!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Giselle Marks: I have always written at least since I was about eight. I just wrote stuff for class but I got used to being top in the class. I was set on having a career in art – I was good at that too. I took a Foundation Course in Art. I had a place to do Fine Art at degree level which in the end I turned down. Then I went out to work. All my jobs involved writing. I wrote for a number of companies – minutes, computer programming, letters, reports, advertising material and technical manuals. I started writing stories and articles after I married and had children. I sold a number of articles to magazines and newspapers, it was money that was mine alone. I joined a local writing group and read some stories. Then a friend loaned me a couple of feminist sci-fi books by Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue and The Judas Rose. I enjoyed the books but argued that if women were in charge not all of them would be sweet and kind. I said if women were in power and as strong physically as men that they would have all the same faults and strengths as men. I was dared to write a book that reflected that view. So I started the slightly spoof series of The Zeninan Saga which grew. I did not really consider publication until after my marriage failed.

I wrote the series believing that I knew how to write. Short stories are very different to novels. I wrote from a multiple POV with telepaths and a large cast of characters. I had a lot of back story and other problems.

I wrote a pair of Regency romances which I offered for publication.  I was accepted by a small American romance publisher. I put out the two books and within 3 months of the first going out the publisher went bust, owing me a little money and other writers very much more. After burning my fingers on my first outing I considered other publishers – three accepted my books but I did not like their ideas about how to package me and I was wary of making the same mistake twice. Two stories were published in anthologies while I dithered. I do not think I really realized that I was a writer until I finally published independently.

LC: That’s quite a history. You must be proud of all you’ve now accomplished.

What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

GM: These are difficult questions. I write mostly at home on a computer or lap top, but currently I have a pile of handwritten sheets to type up. So if no computer is available I still write. I do not write every day because I have been working on getting some of the books I have already written ready for publication.  So edits, rewrites, blurbs and I am updating my bio for this piece. I also edit for other independent writers which means I get to read their books first. Time is taken up with promotion which has to be done. I am gradually building up a fan base but that is complicated by my writing cross genre. I write historical romances, four of which I have published. The Fencing Master’s Daughter, The Marquis’s Mistake, The Purchased Peer and the most recent A Compromised Rake.  A Purchased Peer is Georgian was set between 1790-1800 but the others are Regency. There is also a charity novella in an anthology called the “Chocolate House – All for Love – Anthology Masqueraders,” which Francine Howarth put together. Money goes to GOSH, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, which treated me as a child.

I have a long Regency novel completed which needs editing and preparing for publication. I also however write fantasy and soft sci-fi. So I am a full time writer/editor. For my historical romances I usually have a first scene and an ending and some of the in between but my characters largely decide the action between.  I have written outlines before writing and written straight off without any plan more than a character arrives and says write. Some of my short stories have ambitions and turn into full scale novels.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

GM: Everything we write takes something from who we are. However I have only ever written one character based loosely on someone I have met and only from appearance because I don’t know him well enough to know what makes him tick. I do think education and wanting to learn a skill or knowledge is important and I suspect that is reflected in my writing. I write whatever comes to me, I have no idea where from, but I am not short of ideas only time to write them all. For The Purchased Peer, I had just finished writing another book and was planning a few days off writing.  However Xavier Falconer (TPP’s hero) turned up and demanded I write his story, as a very gorgeous specimen of manhood with great determination – he badgered me until I wrote the first scenes.

LC: One of those pesky characters, right?

Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

GM: I do not create my characters, they arrive. I thought I was creating them to start with but they impose their own ideas about who they are. I do not really have favorites, they all different and like my children all much loved.  Out of my historical romance heroines, then it will be Mademoiselle Madelaine Deschamps, who rescues the hero from footpads intent on killing him with a fine display of swords-womanship in The Fencing Master’s Daughter. She has many qualities and a great deal of determination. If you want a gorgeous hero then I can’t chose between Xavier Falconer, traditionally dark haired and Sebastian Farndon, the Marquis in the Marquis’s Mistake who is blond. Sebastian might just edge it because he is not just a pretty face. However Charles from the Zeninan Saga is probably the most complex and interesting character I have wrote.

LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

GM: I am sure I must I am very honest and I think my heroines and heroes are naturally honest.

They incorporate my love of the English language which is a joy forever and my love of history and knowledge.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

GM: They are character driven, but the characters come and drive me to write. I can plot and do sometimes in advance, there is no guarantee that my characters will agree to follow the plot though.  They will not do anything I plot out if they feel it does not fit with their ethos. We have nasty arguments about it.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

GM: Everything and anything I could get my hands on. My father did threaten to tear out two pages from Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover but I already knew all the words he was offended by. Still do when I am not writing or editing for other writers.

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

GM: How can you write without reading? It is paramount that writers read. I still read many genres, historical romance, history and historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, who-dunnits and forensic murder mystery. I have probably missed some genres. Currently reading a history of the Chines players in 1920s onwards called the Shanghai Tapestry.

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

GM: Georgette Heyer, Sarah Waldock and Stacy Reid for historical romances. Georgette is the example we all adore and learn by. Her scene setting and language are wonderful, brighten any dreary day. Sarah writes some gorgeous romances and historical mysteries, set in Regency and Tudor times. She is a brilliant historian and tireless in her research.  Stacy Reid is one of the best writers of sexy scenes which the other two do not write. I would add Bernard Cornwell, especially for both his Sharpe and The Last Kingdom series, but they are very well researched historical novels rather than romances.

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind – fantasy writer is probably the best writer alive. It takes a long time for him to write his tomes but they are well worth waiting for. There are a lot of other writers from assorted genres that I love to read, but I could fill several pages with the lists.

LC: Anything new in the works?

GM: I am working on bringing out imminently Wishing Well Cottage which is a magical modern romance between a white witch and a slightly tarnished wizard. It is sexy and funny. I have a draft of a poetry book which I am reducing in length and Champion of Zenina, book 3 in the Zeninan Saga is being prepared for publication.

LC: A lot for your readers to look forward to! Giselle, thanks so much for joining us today. Best of luck with all your writing!

Author Bio:

Giselle Marks is an English writer, poet and novelist, born in London, who has been writing most of her life. Currently Giselle lives in the beautiful Isle of Man. Her family is grown, contented and expanding. She spends most of her time writing.

Her historical romances ‘The Fencing Master’s Daughter,’ ‘The Purchased Peer’ and ‘The Marquis’ Mistake’ have been receiving good reviews. ‘A Compromised Rake’ is recently released; it is a light Regency romance. A Regency ‘Gypsy Countess’ series is planned with the first draft of book one already written.

Together with her fellow writer and cover artist Sarah J. Waldock, Giselle wrote and illustrated ‘Fae Tales’ an anthology of fae and mythic tales updated to modern times and intended for teenagers and adults. All three books are available from Amazon. The ‘Princess of Zenina,’ and ‘Heroine of Zenina’ are the first two books in the sci-fi / fantasy Zeninan Saga will soon be followed by ‘Champion of Zenina’. Other long- term projects include a possible book of her poetry. Her poems have been published in Female First and she has entered two of their contests, scoring a win and a commendation. Within the Isle of Man her poetry has been included in the local Lit Fest poetry trail 2016 and in a number of ’Manx Reflections’ a local poetry anthology. Giselle has had short stories and a novella published in anthologies.

Books currently available:

Fae Tales

The Fencing Master’s Daughter

The Marquis’ Mistake

The Purchased Peer

A Compromised Rake

Princess of Zenina

Heroine of Zenina

Connect with Giselle:

Website: http://ginafiserova.wix.com/gisellemarks

Twitter: @GiselleMarks1

Email: gisellemarksauthor@gmail.com


Giselle’s author page


The Marquis’ Mistake

Mythic Miscellany

Goodreads author page

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Celebrating Family: Italian Style!

Holidays are a time to gather with family and friends, which usually includes a favorite feast. This is a memory I have of a time when I was young and our family was visiting the “Italian relatives”!

My brother, Mike, stuffed the second-to-last black olive into his mouth. They were the best thing on the appetizer tray, and 99% of them sat in the bottom of Mike’s stomach.

Before my other brother, A.J., my sister, Pam, or I could snatch the last olive, Uncle Tony announced, “We’re gonna have a little snack-a.”

I was eight years old, and my family was visiting my dad’s Italian aunt and uncle. Later that day, we’d gather at his cousin Lucy’s house for a big homemade Italian meal.

But first, the “little snack-a.” Uncle Tony strode into the dining room, his smiling face as pink and round as the ham he carried on a flowered china platter.

While Uncle Tony sliced the meat, Aunt Nic bustled between the kitchen and dining room, bringing rolls, mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and pepperoncinis, those slightly spicy, pickled peppers.

Using a thick slice of ham as the foundation, the adults built towering sandwiches. But for us kids, simple was best. We spread plenty of mayonnaise on both pieces of the soft sweet rolls, added a couple slices of ham, a pepperoncini or two, and bit into one of the best sandwiches we could imagine.

To top off our not-so-little snack, Aunt Nic passed around a tray of pizelles: thin, delicate cookies flavored with anise, a spice that tastes a bit like licorice. The pizelles were made in a special press like a waffle iron and looked like hand-size snowflakes. I took small bites, creating my own pattern as I nibbled my way to the center of the cookie.

When we were all sufficiently full, Uncle Tony said it was time to go to Lucy’s house for dinner. Each of us took a moment to hold our stomachs and silently cry, “Already!?” Then my parents, not wanting to insult, and my siblings and I, on our best polite behavior, piled into the car and mentally prepared ourselves for another meal.

Aunts, uncles, and cousins filled Lucy’s house. We took our places around the long rectangular table. For the first course, Lucy carried a steaming terrine of soup to the table. Taking my bowl from Lucy, I breathed in the savory smell of the chicken broth. With my spoon, I bobbed the marble-size meatballs under swirls of egg and wilted endive that floated in the soup, and then ate every drop. Most people might know this as Italian Wedding Soup, but to us it was—and still is—Great-Grandma Soup.

When I thought I could not possibly eat another bite, Lucy proudly carried in a large cutting board that held the main course: polenta smothered in tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese.

A cloud of spicy smells drifted across the table, and though my stomach was full, my mouth watered.

Uncle Tony cut a wedge of polenta for each person. “Eat-a! Eat-a!” he said. “There’s plenty for everyone!”

Later, we groaned, but still we ate dessert: more pizelles along with slices of spumoni—layers of pistachio, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream filled with pieces of maraschino cherries and other candied fruit.

Meatball, egg, and wilted endive soup? Pepperoncinis? Green and pink ice cream with bits of dried fruit? Not your typical kid-pleasing food, but I loved it all.

And now, whenever I stand at the stove stirring some thickening polenta or cook up a pot of Great-Grandma Soup, memories of gatherings with my Italian relatives come to mind. Their loud cheerful discussions, speaking with voices and hands. The large portions of mouth-watering Italian home cooking. And Uncle Tony saying, “Eat-a! Eat-a!”

That dinner showed me what food is all about and what it’s meant in my life: a time for family and friends to gather for laughs, conversation, and delicious food, especially Italian style!

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10 Questions with Author Riana Everly

Today, author Riana Everly answers “10 Questions” about her writing. Riana is not only an author of historical fiction, but history informs other aspects of her life: she has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specializing in Baroque and early Classical music.

Linda Covella: When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Riana Everly: I’ve always been a writer, I think. I published my first poem in the local newspaper when I was six years old (it was about a mushroom and it was three whole lines long), and my mother keeps finding stories I wrote over the years. Most I don’t remember at all, but they are in my handwriting, so I’ll assume they really are mine! As an adult, I was involved in writers’ groups and such, which both taught me a lot and left me in awe of some of the talent around me. I never imagined I could attain those levels of excellence, but I kept writing because I enjoyed it so much.
I began to dabble in longer novel-length stories about five years ago. I set myself a dare – to carry a storyline and characters over a full arc, and see where it went – and 100,000 words later I had written my first novel. I don’t think that one will ever see the light of day, but now I was well and truly bitten, and I kept writing.
I decided to dip my toe into publishing about eighteen months ago. I had shown a novel to some authors whose work I admire very much, and both were insistent that I publish it, so I dove in head first. The result was Teaching Eliza. Spurred on by the unexpected and wonderful reception it received, I polished up another novel I had written some time before – The Assistant – and published that a few months later.

It has been such a wonderful experience, I cannot see ever stopping writing now!

LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

RE: I am the queen of procrastination, but I also find I work well with deadlines (an interesting combination, I know). Consequently, I am dreadful at writing on a regular basis, but get a huge amount done during such intensive events as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where the goal is to write a certain amount between November 1st and 30th. I can usually write a full novel of around 100,000 words during these one-month writing marathons. And then I put whatever I’ve done away and let it sit for a while, from several months to over a year, before dusting off the first draft and looking at it with fresh eyes to begin editing.

What this means is that it takes a long time for a novel to go from the first word to the finished product, but I hope the process results in a better book!

Between the main NaNoWriMo activities in November, and two less intensive “camps” during the year, I can usually write three novels a year, and spend the rest of the time in various stages of editing earlier works.

I write part-time, as I have a part-time job out of the house, and I am still fairly busy with my family. Most of my writing happens at my main desk-top computer, but I also have a teeny-tiny tablet with a teeny-tiny keyboard, and many a cappuccino has been consumed at the local coffee shop as I sit there writing the next scene or making notes for upcoming chapters

As for those notes and those chapters, I tend to plot as I go. I approach a book with a general story arc in mind. I know the beginning, middle, and end, but how we get from one to the next develops as I write. As often as not, I let my characters take the lead and tell me what they want to do next. Sometimes I chastise them and drag them back to my plot, but they often have better ideas than mine!

Recently, however, I have started writing a mystery series, and these need to be plotted out a bit more carefully. I still let the details of the story develop as they will, but I need a lot more of those definite check-in places so I can drop in the clues and introduce my characters in such a way as to make what I hope is a satisfying and believable solution to my mystery.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

RE: I have many sources of inspiration. Since many of my novels – and all of my published ones, so far – fall under the category of Jane Austen Fan Fiction, it is a given that Jane Austen herself, and her wonderful characters, provide me with a great deal of inspiration.

Riana’s “Jane Austen”

But, of course, that it only the beginning. Teaching Eliza was inspired by a brilliant performance I saw a few years ago of Shaw’s Pygmalion. The play was set in the modern day, and it started me thinking about how fine literature can adapt so well to different times and places. Of course, the thought of Pygmalion in a Regency setting darted into my head, followed at once by the realization that Henry Higgins bore a lot of similarities to Mr. Darcy, and Eliza Doolittle to Elizabeth Bennet!
History also provides me with a great deal of inspiration, because how people relate to each other and react to circumstances is so often dictated by the time and place in which they live, and historical events can sprout all sorts of unusual or unexpected plots. I love to travel and I love to learn about the history and little stories about places, and so often they provide me with the germs that grow into novels. Likewise art, music, specific locations, all can set off that little voice in my head that whispers, “what if….”

I do sometimes draw from my own experiences. In my upcoming release, Through a Different Lens, two of the characters have particular quirks that we would now assign to the autism spectrum. One of my children is on the edge of the spectrum as well, and so creating characters that share some of his traits – both strengths and challenges – seemed like a natural step to take.

LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

RE: Oh, you’re asking me about Sammy! He began as a secondary character in Through a Different Lens, more of a plot device than anything, but he wouldn’t stay in the background, and he ended up becoming the hero of the story in a sense.

Samuel Gardiner is twelve years old, the cousin of Elizabeth Bennet, and a bright and curious lad, on the cusp of adolescence. He is also what we would diagnose today as high-functioning autistic. He has had a bit of a rough childhood with a series of nannies and governesses who haven’t known how to manage him, but with his parents’ love and through a lot of hard work – both on his own part and that of his new governess and his cousin Lizzy – he has made huge strides in functioning in society. But Sammy isn’t a diagnosis. He’s a really great kid, with a set of skills and talents and abilities that outshine any challenges he has.

I loved watching his friendships develop, both with a schoolmate and with the formidable Mr. Darcy, and I had so much fun learning to see the world a little bit through his eyes.

LC: He sounds like a wonderful character!

Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

RE: I think it is impossible not to do this to some degree or another. After all, as much as we try to put ourselves into different heads, the only real experiences we have with how people behave are our own. We can observe how others act, but when it comes down to interpreting those actions, we only have ourselves as a measuring stick.

Of course, one of the greatest joys, and greatest challenges, of being a writer is creating characters who are not me. Whereas I am an introvert, for example, it is fascinating to try to envision how a social butterfly would act, what motives her.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

RE: To be honest, I find it hard to separate these out. I let my characters guide me from place to place in the story as I’m writing it, but at the same time I like to keep the plot moving steadily ahead. In my upcoming release, Through a Different Lens, the beginning is very much character-driven, but it’s all in service of the plot that builds up at the end. Does that answer the question at all, or just muddy the waters?

LC: A good answer. 🙂 Many authors I talk to say it’s a combination of the two. Plot might take precedence in certain genres such as mystery or thrillers.

Did you read much as a child?

RE: Oh my, yes! I always had my nose in a book. When I was eight, we lived in a non-English speaking country for a while, and the library had an extremely small English-language section, with very few kids’ books. One thing they did have was a multi-volume children’s encyclopedia. I read the whole thing, from A to Z. Twice. Why? Because I needed something to read! And yes, I was also an annoyingly well-informed eight-year-old.

LC: Wow, that is impressive!

How important do you think reading is for writers?

RE: As vital as air is for breathing!

LC: Another good answer. 🙂

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

RE: That’s like asking me which is my favourite child! Of course I love Jane Austen. Her style, her characters, her acerbic wit, are all such delights for the mind. I discovered a definite affinity for the Victorians as well, in spite of myself, and both Elizabeth Gaskell and Anne Brontë come to mind right away. I also love mysteries, especially classic whodunnits, and while I enjoy Agatha Christie’s tales, I far prefer Ngaio Marsh and her wonderful Inspector Alleyn detective stories. In that same vein of the classic detective story comes P.D. James. She had such a way with words and character! Reading one is like stepping into an entire and complete universe woven from exquisite prose.

LC: Anything new in the works?

RE: Why yes, now that you ask! I’ve already mentioned Through a Different Lens, which is set to be released on January 21 if all goes according to plan. I also have two mysteries written and waiting for editing, and plans for another four to complete the series which will take us into the worlds of all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels. In these books, Mary Bennet (of Pride and Prejudice fame) is the sleuth, teamed up with a professional investigator from London.

I also have a complete and mostly edited original novel set in Upper Canada in the immediate aftermath of the War of 1812, based loosely on a true story. (This is where history is my muse.) It involves a town struggling to rebuild after the devastation of war, former slaves fighting to retain their freedom, a visiting brigadier with tons of personal baggage, a heartbroken heroine and her mysterious lover, and a bad guy who won’t go away. The centre of the action in this one is an inn in the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake which dates from before 1813, and which is now rumoured to be haunted! Yes, I have stayed there overnight, and no, I did not meet the ghost.

LC: Bonus question! Do you have anything you’d like to add?

RE: I’m sure you hear this from most historical fiction authors, but one of the best parts of writing this genre is getting lost down the rabbit hole of research. You never know where a supposedly simple search will take you. In looking up a quick reference about the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1800, I came across all sorts of fascinating things about the Black Loyalists and early Black community in Nova Scotia. Looking up information on Regency-era timepieces led me to the wonderful world of clockwork automatons from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including a little boy who can write what you program into him, and a young woman who plays the piano! For every single thing I go to research, I end up reading about ten completely unrelated – but endlessly interesting – others. If only there were a Regency-era version of Trivial Pursuit! I’d be sure to do very, very well!

LC: It was a pleasure having you on my blog today, Riana. Thanks so much!

Author Bio:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
Riana’s debut novel, Teaching Eliza, was included on a list of 2017 Favourite Books on the blog Savvy Verse & Wit, for which she is honoured and delighted and very proud. Her second novel, The Assistant, was recently granted the Jane Austen Award from Jane Austen Readers’ Awards. This is sure to make her insufferable at dinner parties.
Connect with Riana: You can follow Riana’s blog at https://rianaeverly.com/blog/ , and join her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RianaEverly/ ) and Twitter (@RianaEverly). She loves meeting readers!

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10 Questions with Author Catherine Kullmann

My guest today is author Catherine Kullmann. Catherine writes historical fiction from her home in Ireland.

Linda Covella: Catherine, thanks so much for joining us today!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Catherine Kullman: It was always my dream to write fiction but it was only after I took early retirement that I was able to devote my time to it.

From my earliest school days, I have loved writing and wrote a lot all through my working life. I am always flattered when someone tells me that my books are easy to read because I put a lot of effort into making the narrative flow easily.

LC: That is a compliment. With a skilled writer, readers can better immerse themselves in a story rather than be distracted by poor writing!

What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

CK: I spend several hours a day at my desk, although not all of these are devoted to writing. As a historical novelist, I spend a lot of time in research and have a large research library as well as a collection of prints and engravings from the extended Regency period where my books are set. In addition there is the marketing that is now almost obligatory for authors.


I start with the seed of the story (see below). Then I do some work on developing the characters—who are they, what is their family history, their appearance, likes and dislikes, hobbies, habits, what drives them. I don’t overly plot in advance but plot as I write. I keep a record of chapter content—who? what? why? when?—so that I can check for continuity and also make any necessary changes. I also edit as I go. I’ll go over the completed first draft a couple of times and then set it aside for some weeks before I start the second draft.


LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?

CK: Generally, something triggers my imagination. I keep a notebook of ideas and possible plots where I jot down all ideas as they come to me. It is very much ‘what if?’ or ‘what then?’ I like to know what happens when life gets in the way of love. A throw-away line in Perception & Illusions led to The Murmur of Masks. I had to know what happened next. (Although there is an overlap between the books, there are no spoilers and they can be read in any order.) With A Suggestion of Scandal, the initial impulse came from a notorious Regency divorce case that was triggered when a governess surprised her employer with her lover, her hand inside his military pantaloons. These lovers made no attempt to hide their guilt but I began to wonder what if they had tried to do so. What might have happened to the inconvenient witness?

LC: Do you draw from your own experiences?

CK: Indirectly. My books are set in the early nineteenth century but in many ways, the Ireland I lived in before my marriage was closer to that of 1814 than to 2014.

I remember the drudgery of wash-day; the cold in a house that was heated only by open fires, the tang and reek of smoke in the air from all those fires; horse-drawn carts, even in the Dublin streets, with sparrows pecking at the oats spilled from the nose-bag; the meat-safe that hung outside on a north-facing wall before the advent of our first fridge. Everything was delivered from coal to groceries, with invoices sent at the end of the month when my mother did her accounts.

Dublin has a wonderful Georgian core. I went to school on one Georgian square and later managed four houses on another and the memory of those long flights of stairs with their returns and return rooms, the beautifully proportioned rooms with sash-windows, the basements and coal-holes under the pavement stays with me as much as the straight lines of Yeats’s ‘grey, eighteenth-century houses.’

LC: Well, I think you could write an interesting memoir!

Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

CK: That’s a terrible question, almost as bad as asking a mother which of her children she loves best. I enjoy creating all my characters, even the small walk-ons and try to make them as individual as possible. It’s fun creating the baddies—Lord Rembleton, for example, in The Murmur of Masks— is an obnoxious person who, according to his brother Jack was “proof that the family’s antecedents reached back to the brutish, British mire. Jack described him as “operating on instinct and an inchoate sense of entitlement, allied to brute strength and unrefined by even a veneer of civilisation and culture.”

I enjoy giving such a character free rein and then seeing them get their come-uppance.

LC: Okay, I won’t make you choose. 🙂

Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

CK: Certainly not deliberately, although it would be interesting to see what people who know me well think.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

CK: About fifty/fifty, I would say. Plot is what and characters are why. Different characters would react differently to different dilemmas and so affect the plot.

LC: Great, simple explanation of plot and characters.

Did you read much as a child?

CK: I always had my nose in a book. I am eternally grateful to my parents for whom time spent reading was never wasted.

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

CK: It is essential. A writer who doesn’t read would be like a cook who hated food.

LC: I like that analogy.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

CK: My tastes have changed a lot over the years but there are still some authors I go back to again and again. In the past I read a lot of thrillers and mystery—favourite authors included P D James, Reginald Hill, Manning Coles, Michael Gilbert, Dorothy L Sayers—but I find many of today’s thrillers too violent and depressing. I like historical mysteries and favourite authors include Barbara Cleverly and Lindsay Davis. I love Gillian Bradshaw’s novels set in ancient Greece and Rome, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and her more recent works that can be best described as magical, historical realism, and urban fantasy e.g. by Patricia Briggs. I also enjoy J D Robb’s futuristic crime series. Looking at this, I realise that what draws me to these and other authors is that they take me out of my own world, let my imagination take flight.

LC: Anything new in the works?

Next year I hope to publish two new Regency stories, both of which tie in to The Murmur of Masks and Perception & Illusion. The Duke’s Regrets is a novella about the Duke and Duchess of Gracechurch whom readers will know from the previous two books and The Potential for Love is Arabella Malvin’s story. Heading into her fourth season, she is ready to marry but which of her many suitors has the potential for love?

LC: Bonus question: Do you have anything you’d like to add?

CK: Just to thank you for your interesting questions.

LC: And thank you, Catherine. I loved learning more about you and your writing!

Author Bio:

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo. In 2017, the Murmur of Masks was short-listed for Best Novel in the CAP (Carousel Aware Prize) Awards.

In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.

In Catherine’s new book, A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt finds her life and future suddenly at risk when she surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto, Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end? It too

You can find out more about Catherine at her website www.catherinekullmann.com/ where, in her Scrap Album, she blogs about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency or on her Facebook page fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor  Catherine tweets @CKullmannAuthor

Catherine’s books are available worldwide from Amazon as e-books and paperback. Amazon links include:

Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/J3hRIf

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2n9Ljxi

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10 Questions with Author Richard Alan

Historical fiction author Richard Alan is here to answer “10 Questions” about his writing. Richard writes novels “about people striving to find their soul-mate; the person they are meant to be with for life.” Two of his novels have recently advanced to semi-finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards and Novel Competitions. Please read more about this in Richard’s bio at the end of the interview.

Linda Covella: Richard, so happy to have you here today. And congratulations on your recent accomplishments in the Chanticleer competitions!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Richard Alan: I’ve enjoyed occasional writing since I was young. For a junior high assignment, I wrote a lengthy, four-thousand word short story. It was rejected as the subject, my taking a multi-day cross-country drive included, of all things, a female companion. An angry teacher told me this was inappropriate material for a seventh-grade assignment. The offending documents were sent to my mother, an English major, who chastised me…but later the same day, I overheard her telling my father, “I had no clue he could write…let alone with such an emotive voice.” I also wrote short stories for my children where they were the heroes of some adventure. Shortly before I retired, I wrote a short article for a friend’s blog about my experience in Vietnam. The friend asked how long I had been writing. I replied, “I hadn’t.” She replied, “You should.” A history lover and lifelong learner, I decided, at age sixty-one, after a successful career in software development, to begin a new career as a novelist. After four volumes in the contemporary romance genre, I decided my primary writing effort would be directed toward historical fiction.LC: Proof it’s never too late to take up a new career!

What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

RA: My writing space is a converted bedroom with blank walls, two tall bookshelves, an electric drum set, a corner desk with two computers, an e-reader and a printer. My wife works in her home office twenty-paces away, which I find useful so I can bounce ideas off her fertile imagination. While I’m a full-time author, thirty-percent of that time is used for research on the era my characters will journey through. The only outline I use is the order of history. My characters tell me the plot as I develop them.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

RA: People watching fascinates me. A number of my characters were inspired from people I observed at locations such as street fairs, airports and beaches. Example: On a cool fall day in Nashville, Tennessee, I saw a little boy with a dog at his side, walking along the fence of a, closed for the season, water park. He peered through the fence, sadness in his expression. He sighed. The sounds of laughter, screams, and water splashing, a distant, summer-time memory. This brief observation inspired a short story which began with the above scene.

I certainly draw on my own experience. As a Vietnam War Combat Medic, I could easily empathize with the soldiers and medical personnel of the Civil War as portrayed in my last novel. Also, I travel to historically significant locations such as; Vicksburg, Ms. to see and walk the battle ground, and Tyler, Texas to visit a Civil War prison camp.

LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

RA: In my first historical novel, I had a problem with one of my characters as he was beginning to appear flawless. I decided an illegitimate daughter would bring his character down to earth. But the more I explored the born-out-of-wedlock daughter in that and the following novel, the more her character grew such that Abbey is the major character in my latest novel A Female Doctor in the Civil War.

LC: Which is one of the semi-finalists in the Chanticleer competitions.

Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

RA: If I do, I carefully consider whether they are going to advance the story. If not, out they come. Characters should be quirky. Everyone has their own daily life, full of vanilla characters. A novel should draw readers out of their own world, into a more exciting, dramatic adventure of the mind. I’m a firm believer every word that appears in my novels should only exist to create an emotional response in my readers.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

RA: I’ve never constructed a plot. My characters drive my stories; my imagination finds turns and twists that fit the construct of the history my characters pass through.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

RA: Voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction. My mother read to me constantly then gave me a library card the summer before kindergarten. My father made a child sized book shelf for me. As a second grader, my mother, insisting I need more exercise, regularly ran me out of the house. Caught hell from her, when she discovered I’d run as far as our garage where I’d secretly established a reading corner.

Richard and Carolynn touring publisher IngramSpark

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

RA: IMHO, this is overrated. It is similar to believing you qualify as a good mechanic if you’ve driven many cars. Reading and writing are substantially different disciplines. Techniques which various authors use may be interesting, but a writer’s imagination should provide his or her own set of tools and methods of implementing a story. Great writing is hard work. Reading is not. There is only one book which should be thoroughly read and understood, for every writer of fiction and non-fiction alike, and that is, “On Writing,” by Sol Stein. It provides all the tools, except imagination, for successful writing.

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

RA: Elmore Leonard: no one, IMHO, writes better dialog or tells stories with an economy of word choice. Every line he writes, advances the story in a concise, descriptive, and engaging manner. One of my favorite lines, where he introduces a character: “The old man squinted into the distance through steel framed spectacles: a seventy-three-year-old turkey buzzard face beneath a farmer’s straw hat; tight mouth barely moving and a hunk of plug stuck in his sunken cheek.”

Leon Uris: his characters come alive as people we’d like to interact with.

James Michener: a master at combining history, people and places.

Greg Isles: action and tension are thy byline.

Steven Hawking: an expert at explaining complex science in non-scientific terms.

Shelby Foote: wrote a three-volume series on the Civil War. A peerless, non-fiction work, which draws the reader in like a great work of fiction. Truly one of the greatest non-fiction writers of my lifetime.

William Shirer: I didn’t have an adequate understanding of the Third Reich until I read his non-fiction work, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Descriptive and engaging, if you want a thorough understanding of the Third Reich, leading up to and during World War II, this is the book to read.

LC: That’s quite a range of authors and books. And what a fantastic description from Elmore Leonard.

Anything new in the works?

RA: Currently writing and researching the fourth novel in my American Journeys series covering the period from the Civil War to roughly 1900. Also writing a few short stories.

LC: Bonus question! Do you have anything you’d like to add?

RA: I live to write is a cliché but, at seventy-years-old, I look forward to mornings to continue writing. We own a motorhome, which my wife and I both love. One of the major reasons I love our condo-on-wheels, is that it contains a writing space. My wife, a voracious reader in her own right, read seven novels during an eleven-day-trip to Nashville, TN.

LC: Thank you, Richard. I really enjoyed reading your answers and learning more about your writing!

Author Bio:

Richard is a 101st Airborne Division Vietnam veteran. After an education in mathematics, 17-years in manufacturing engineering, then 22-years as a software engineer, Richard embarked on a career in writing. His debut series, Meant to Be Together, is a heartwarming, multigenerational family saga about relationships, love and life. It is followed by a series of historical fiction novels, set in 1847 – 1865, about the predecessors to the characters in his Meant to Be Together series. Expertly researched the American Journeys series details the family’s struggles during the Great Irish Famine, emigration from Ireland to Boston, and their journey across the United States. Introduced as a little girl in Volume One of American Journeys, Dr. Abby Kaplan becomes a surgeon during the Civil War.
Being a lifelong learner, Richard loves pursuing the research for his historical fiction. It is frequently accomplished while RV traveling with his wife, Carolynn, to libraries, museums, and historical sites around the country. Having a career that is portable permits traveling to many spectacular areas of the United States. It also provides opportunities to visit our adult children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends.


A Female Doctor in the Civil War has advanced from the “short list” to the semifinal competition in two categories of the Chanticleer International Book Awards; The Goethe Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Late Historical Fiction set after the 1750s, and the LARAMIE Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Western Fiction (Civil War).

American Journeys: From Ireland to the Pacific Northwest (1854-1900) is a semi-finalist for the 2018 Goethe Book Award for Post 1750s Historical Fiction. The Goethe Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Late Historical Fiction. The next round of judging will select the limited First Place positions.

Connect with Richard:

Email: richard@villagedrummerfiction.com

Website: https://villagedrummerfiction.com

Twitter: @VillageDrummerF

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The.Village.Drummer/

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#WATWB: A Camp Fire Shelter: Nurses+Bikers+Church-goers

When tragedy strikes, it’s amazing to see volunteers selflessly step up to help those in need.

After the horrific Camp Fire in northern California, thousands of people were left homeless. Shelters were established to give these fire victims places to sleep, food to eat.

But government and private response teams were quickly overwhelmed, so at one shelter, Birgitte Randall, a nurse who had fled the fire, and other volunteers came together to create a shelter and clinic.

From the USA Today article: “‘I got to be a nurse at the beginning,’ Randall said. ‘But then, somehow, I got put in charge of everything. I don’t know how that happened.’

The short answer is she was there first. Randall said there was no medical presence before she arrived with her sister and mother, both also nurses.

One week later, that model of leadership had trickled down throughout the church. Without outside direction, housecleaners came to clean, a motorcycle club came to provide security and a group of strangers came to realize the community’s strength lay less in its institutions and more in its people.”

You can read the full article here.

Do you have some good news to share?

About #WATWB (We Are The World Blog): The blog is the brainchild of Damyanti Biswas. In light of all the tragic, political, warring news we typically hear from around the world, Damyanti asked bloggers to highlight a news story that “shows love, humanity, and brotherhood.”

You’re welcome to join the blogfest and “speak for peace.” Blogs are posted the last day of each month. Read the details here. And please visit these co-hosts and any others with the #WATWB tag.

Eric Lahti,

Inderpreet Uppal,

Shilpa Garg,

Peter Nena

Damyanti Biswas

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10 Questions with Author Pam Lecky

Today author Pam Lecky joins us to answer “10 Questions” about her writing. Pam writes historical fiction and has published an impressive range of subgenres, including crime, mystery, romance, and the supernatural.

Linda Covella: Welcome, Pam!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Pam Lecky: That’s quite difficult to answer – it’s certainly back in the mists of time! My first foray into writing was poetry – angst-ridden teenage stuff which I would shudder to read now. However, I did win a prize for it, so some of it may not have been too dreadful!

There was no one moment when I thought I am going to become a writer. But I’ve always had stories knocking around in my head. While on a career break from work, I was reading a book with a very unsatisfactory ending and I remember thinking I could do better. Then someone I knew quite well suddenly announced they had a book coming out and I had never even known she was a writer. Somehow this combination of factors led to me ‘trying my hand at it’ myself. However, it was not until 2013 that a particular story seemed to be screaming to be let out into the world. Out of that came my debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, published in 2015, a book I am very proud of. It is romantic suspense with lots of mystery and a strong Irish flavour although set predominantly in the English Lake District.

It was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and was shortlisted and longlisted for awards and has received consistently good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Once you’ve popped your head above the parapet, writing-wise and no one shoots you down, it gets easier. I guess I was smitten with the process too and the feedback I have received keeps me motivated. Signing with a literary agency in London this year has been the icing on the cake for me, so far.

LC: Congratulations on acquiring an agent!

What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

PL: I am very lucky to have my own study with room for bookcases with all of my reference books close to hand. Over the years I have had different writing companions, including a couple of dogs and cats. These days, however, my only company is some goldfish and minnows in the aquarium near my desk. I find it relaxing to watch them swimming around if mulling over a tricky impasse in my work in progress.

It is wonderful to have a quiet space in which to work. When I close the door, I am transported back in time, usually around 1880!

As I work part-time, my writing time is precious. The days I am working I tend to be too tired for creative writing, but if I have editing to do, I usually try to do some of that. A couple of times a year, I go away for a few days to concentrate on my writing. I have found this both enjoyable and very successful. When you are immersed in your story for a long period, it can become much clearer where the gaps or loose ends are lurking.

Plotter V Pantser! Well, I fall somewhere in-between these days. For my debut (which I never even thought of publishing as I wrote it), I just let the story flow. Now I am a little more disciplined and start with a loose plot outline and a rough idea of who my main characters will be. Because I write mostly historical fiction, I find my plots tend to evolve as I research and ideas pop into my head. The more subtle details tend to develop slowly over time.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

PL: The inspiration for my Victorian mysteries and crime novels is probably from two sources; a love of history and a love of classic literature. I read a lot as a child and teenager and it was mostly historical fiction or contemporary crime.

The Victorian era, in particular, has always fascinated me because of the rapid pace of change and the effect of those changes on society. This, combined with my love of Victorian fashion, architecture and manners, meant it was inevitable that this would be my era. However, I have set my sights on the Edwardian, WW1 and 1920s as eras I’d like to write in too.

For my short stories, much of the inspiration came from my family history. Two of the short stories in my anthology, Past Imperfect, are about true events in my family’s past, (names changed to protect the innocent, of course!) including how my grandparents ended up together.

LC: I’m intrigued about your grandparents’ story; your anthology is now in my Kindle library. 🙂

Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

PL: When I read, I have a preference for strong female leads and can’t bare wishy-washy women who simper and wait for the men to do all the heroic stuff. So it is important for me that the women in my stories, within the constraints of their environment and time period, get out and live life to the full.

I am currently working on a series of Victorian mysteries. Strangely enough, they started out to be about an insurance investigator and his adventures in Victorian society, but as I created the female protagonist, Lucy Lawrence, she started to outshine him completely. She is strong and feisty and not afraid to do her own sleuthing. I have a feeling the series will be all about her now! She has just been widowed, finds out some terrible things about her late husband and is thrown into the dark underbelly of Victorian London with its collection of unsavory characters. She is a delight because I can watch her evolve from being a frustrated and bored stay-at-home wife to being an independent spirt directing her own destiny. She’s incredibly brave so she gets to do all the stuff I’d like to do but won’t because I am such a coward!

LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

PL: I think it is impossible not to unless you are naughty and base your characters on people you know (not that I’d ever do that!!). Even then, something of your opinion of that person will colour the character. I hope none of my characters are recognizable as me, in fact, it is probably the opposite in that most of my protagonists are a complete contrast. So perhaps they are the version of me I’d like the world to see? However, it is never intentional – they emerge from the chaos of my day to day life and set themselves up in my head and keep nudging me until their story is down on paper.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

PL: I’d like to think my plots and characters are interlinked and drive each other, but if I have to choose I’d say I lean towards plot driven. I think most crime/mystery novels are. Since I have starting writing short stories, where every word counts, my writing has tightened up a great deal which in turn speeds up the plot to some extent – no meandering navel gazing individuals, or three page descriptions of the lush and green river valley with its gnarled oaks standing as sentinels on the gravel-strewn bank, their bare branches dipping in to the gushing water as if to stem the flow. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!).

My current work has a very fast moving plot, with many twists and turns, but through this the reader gets to know the characters well by how they act and react to people and events.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

PL: I devoured books from an early age. My mother would buy me Ladybird books in the supermarket and I’d have finished them by the time we would get home in the car. Consequently, my father got me a library card! As a shy teenager I found great comfort in books and read mostly historical romances, classics and a huge number of crime novels.

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

PL: I think it is vital both as a break from writing and pure enjoyment. My reading time is very limited now that I write, but it helps me relax. Now I’m part of the writing community, I come across a lot of great writers and books. My ‘To Be Read’ pile (on my Kindle) is a disgrace it is so long, but I can’t resist a good blurb! Time constraints unfortunately mean if a book doesn’t hook me in the first few chapters, I will abandon it and start something new. Reading other genres is useful too and when I come across a great read, I tend to analyse it a bit (editor’s hat goes on automatically these days!) but from doing so you can improve your own skills.

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

PL: My all-time favourites would be Elizabeth Gaskell (North and South and Wives and Daughters), Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility & Pride and Prejudice) and for romance, Georgette Heyer. These were fabulous writers who created memorable characters you could love and/or hate and stories that stayed with you long after you finished the books.

In the crime genre, I adore Dorothy L Sayers, PD James and Elizabeth George – what fabulously twisty minds those women had and have! Above all, they are masters of plot and again create such wonderful characters – Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane, Adam Dalgliesh, Inspector Lynley, – just superb!

LC: Anything new in the works?

PL: The first in my Lucy Lawrence mystery series (mentioned above), set in the late Victorian era in London and Yorkshire, is currently with commissioning editors. I would love it to find a publishing home soon and I am working hard on the sequel as we speak. I hope there will be at least 3 if not 4 books in the series. I also have one novelette I’d like to expand to a full novel. So, as you can see, that’s me kept busy for a while!

LC: Yes, busy but fun. And good luck with the current book making the publisher rounds!

Pam, thanks so much. I really enjoyed your answers and learning more about you and your writing.

Author Bio:

Pam Lecky is an Irish historical fiction author, writing crime, mystery, romance and the supernatural. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Society of Authors and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018. She is currently working on a Victorian mystery series. Pam is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency in London.

Connect with Pam:






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10 Questions with Author Gina Danna

For the next few weeks, my guests for “10 Questions” will be historical fiction authors. This genre is one of my favorites. Generally, a novel is considered historical if it takes place at least 50 years ago. Under the historical fiction “umbrella,” you’ll find a variety of subgenres, including multi-period epic/saga, romance, mystery, adventure, westerns, and even fantasy, time travel and alternate histories, as well as children’s and young adult. I hope you read along and enjoy these interviews. They should be fun—and interesting!

Today I welcome author and historian Gina Danna. She writes “historical fiction with romantic ties” set in different time periods and parts of the world, including Ancient Rome, Regency and the American Civil War.

Linda Covella: Gina, thank you so much for joining us today.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Gina Danna: That’s a hard one to answer. I’ve read all my life and during my twenties, I read a ton of historical romance novels, so much that I ran out of selection at the local drug store! I also realized I knew the plot within the first few pages. Then, my muse nudged me, saying “you can write one of these, too.” I played with it but work and grad school interfered.

Years passed, until my son was old enough to go to college and he told me his step mother wanted to talk to me about doing a program to her RWA group, since she heard I was a Civil War reenactor.

Fast forward-I’d never heard of RWA and was intrigued there was a group of people who did this. So I started writing-especially with my son at school, I had a little more time. Of course, my tales are historic – I am a historian with my BA & MA in History and I’ve always been in love with the past. Now, that also means that I just don’t write a story that isn’t researched, because I want to read something that’ll make me put the book down and investigate is that true? So my historical romances have turned to historical fiction with romantic ties.

LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

GD: I write as often as I can and wherever I can sit with my computer! I work a full-time, rather time-consuming/involved job so I try to write on my breaks, which can be hard to impossible. But mostly I write at home, after work and on days off. I’ve plotted and I’ve outlined – both work. Its more plotting verses other because outlining consumes time and my muse usually won’t let me waste time since I have a limited writing opportunity.

LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

GD: As a historian, many things of the past intrigue me. Ancient Rome, Regency and the American Civil War in particular. I am a Sicilian-American so my pull to Rome is big but so is the Civil War. My mother’s family fought and died in it. I am also a Civil War reenactor/living historian. The War calls to me and my muse loves it!

LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

GD: Probably the most entertaining was Caroline in The Wicked North, Book 1 of my Hearts Touched by Fire Civil War series. She was the heroine’s wicked sister, as it was. To write a devious, narrow-minded, self-centered character was invigorating, especially when my critique partners each, individually, wanted to drop her in a vat of boiling oil….think I made a mark on their conscious. LOL

LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

GD: Perhaps. Some of my emotions and reactions certainly. But I’ve never plotted to do that deliberately.

LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

GD: That is hard to define. For instance, the Civil War push the plot more, yet the characters are more driven by it, to find/define themselves, live/survive through the horrors, and love in a world in chaos. While we know how the War ended, they don’t, so that also helps to explain their character ARC.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

GD: Oh, yes!

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

GD: I think reading helps expand your horizons, teases with your muse and helps you refine your writing style, by giving you examples of great writing to scenarios you don’t want to fall for to grammar issues that you pray don’t happen in your writing!

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

GD: Right now, that’s hard to decide. I adore Kate Quinn and Meredith Duran, as well as Eileen Dryer and Bob Mayer. They write in deep plots and characters and will lead the reader down a path you think you know when wham! They twist the plot or the character and I often do a double read, thinking did they really do that????

LC: Anything new in the works?

GD: Yes, I am currently working on the 4th in the Civil War series and trying to quiet my muse which presented the plot for book 5! Yikes!!

LC: Well, I imagine your muse will win out. J Thanks again, Gina! It was a pleasure learning more about your writing.

Author Bio:

A USAToday Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.

Now, under the supervision of her dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other lifelong dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.

Connect with Gina:

Website: www.ginadanna.com

Facebook:  www.facbook.com/GinaDannaAuthor

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/GinaDanna1

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gina-Danna/e/B00DPWUZI2

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10 Questions with Author Sarah Ashwood

Let’s welcome author Sarah Ashwood to answer 10 Questions about her writing. Besides her fantasy books with historical settings, Sarah’s other claim to fame is she’s a “genuine Okie from Muskogee.”

Linda Covella: So glad you could join us today, Sarah.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Sarah Ashwood: I’d written short stories off and on for years as a kid before I finally decided to take the plunge and write a full length novel at age 18. This turned out to be the start of my Sunset Lands Beyond fantasy trilogy. It’s gone through several drafts and multiple revisions since then, but the basic storyline has remained the same.

LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?

SA: I am very much a pantser. I start with a basic outline and basic ideas, which I usually write down, then my plots tend to explode as I write. I usually have a file titled “Notes on Such & Such Project…(whatever the book is called)” where I jot down a jumble of notes that help me sort out my plot when I revise the rough draft. I can’t say I’d recommend this method to anyone, but it seems to work for me.

As to the other questions, I try to write daily when I’m working on a project. However, I’m a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom of three young boys, so I’m basically regulated to writing whenever I can!

LC: I imagine homeschooling three boys keeps you pretty busy!

Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?

SA: Inspiration comes from everywhere. The people around me, life events, music, art, movies, poetry, other books I’ve read…

I don’t necessarily draw on my own experiences often, but sometimes I do. My short story, The Hero of Emoh: A Parent’s Fairytale (in the free Fellowship of Fantasy anthology, Hall of Heroes) was very much drawn from my own experiences as a mother!

LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?

SA: My favorite characters I’ve ever created are the Simathe, a race of non-human immortal warriors who live in the land of Aerisia. They’re featured in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and in my new release, Aerisian Refrain. At first glance, they seem very cold and dispassionate. However, as you get to know them, you see they have a really noble side, and are committed to the safety and preservation of their homeland…even if their methods are considered a little suspect by their fellow Aerisians.

LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?

SA: Sometimes. The female MC in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, Hannah Winters, is pretty much me in book form, as far as her sense of humor and her boldness go. She’s a little more emotional than I am, but she has my quick temper. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing for either one of us, but, hey—we’re all human. Nobody’s perfect.

LC: That’s right! And, actually, we want our fictional characters to be somewhat imperfect.

Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.

SA: I would say probably character driven. When I think up a story, the characters always appear in my head first. Everything else centers around them.

LC: Did you read much as a child?

SA: Absolutely! I was homeschooled, and my dad taught me to read when I was four years old. My parents heavily stressed reading as an important part of both recreation and education. I have a very broad range of literary interests, a lot of which come together when I write fantasy. I love fantasy because I can incorporate a little bit of everything into my worlds!

LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?

SA: Very, I think. It broadens and sharpens the mind. It can also provide inspiration. Furthermore, well-written books can help teach you the craft of writing.

LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?

SA: Well, I love portal fantasy, so Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey Series is a favorite. I love fairytales and fairytale fantasy: Juliet Marlillier’s Daughter of the Forest is a standout book in that genre. I love the strong, silent male figure, so the old classic Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmore, has long been a favorite novel of mine. I love historical books, and my favorite of these is Empire of Blue Water by Stephen Talty. It’s a fascinating look at piracy and buccaneers in the 17th century. Lastly, I adore historical fiction, and Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind is a favorite in that genre. Those are just a few.

LC: Anything new in the works?

SA: Thank you for asking! Aerisian Refrain, the first book of a brand new fantasy series, debuted July 13, 2018. Although this series is related to my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, you don’t have to have read those books to understand Aerisian Refrain.

Quick description: “On Earth, Annie’s voice brought her fame and fortune. In the land of Aerisia, it brings her magic, but the cost of that power may mean the destruction of Aerisia itself.”

I’m also working on a fun YA Fantasy/Fairytale novel, Knight’s Rebirth, which is set to debut before Christmas 2018. It’s the story of a famous knight, Sir Buckhunter Dornley, who is content to live alone until he meets the charming and outrageous Princess Mercy. When he discovers Mercy lives under a deadly curse, how far will he go to break it?

LC: Bonus question! Do you have anything you’d like to add?

SA: Just a thank you to you for having me here, and to everyone else who takes the time to read this interview. If you check out my books, I hope you enjoy them!

LC: Thanks, again, Sarah. It was a pleasure to have you on my blog.

Author Bio:

Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.

Sarah’s works include the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and the fantasy novella Amana.

Connect with Sarah:

Newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/g3o4p8

Website: https://sarahashwoodauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1SarahAshwood/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/Sarah_Ashwood/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/1sarahashwood

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