Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tropical paradises are the perfect places for murder: An interview with thriller and mystery author Mike Meyer

Today I'm talking with Mike Meyer about his Caribbean mystery/thriller, DEADLY EYES.


1) Please tell us about your book. 

DEADLY EYES is a haunting Caribbean mystery. James Cuffy, better known as Cuff, is living in paradise with his girlfriend, on the small Caribbean island of St. Croix, where the sky is as blue as Cuff's eyes, the ocean as pretty as Rosie's cheeks, where the gentle lapping of the waves is a lullaby, and the swaying of the palm trees is a dance. The sandy beaches are as white as sugar, and the horizon is a world away. St. Croix indeed is paradise, the perfect place for living, laughing, and loving. 
But the sandy beaches and the turquoise sea can provide no cover from the deadly eyes of the unknown stalker pursuing Cuff. Murder leads to murder as he attempts to untangle the terrible web in which he has suddenly become entangled. 

The twists and turns are relentless, the roads of the fast action leading in all directions, but time is running out, and Cuff, his faithful Rosie at his side, knows it.

2) What inspired this book? 

I was a professor of writing for four years at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus. I fell in love with the Caribbean. It truly is American paradise. I have always loved a good mystery, especially one with never-ending twists, turns, and surprises. Local color is important to me, so I saw that placing a mystery on the romantic island of St. Croix was a win-win situation for me, since I am like a reader when I write, never quite knowing what will happen next.

3) The grimy decay of the urban jungle is often intimately associated with thrillers. You've gone a different direction. Why did you choose to set your book in the Caribbean? 

Reggae, calypso, swaying palms and sandy beaches provide such a terrifying contrast to the fact that a romantically linked couple is so brazenly stalked in such an idyllic setting, which sets the perfect tone for what I wanted to achieve in this mystery. Romance, beauty, and mystery are all intermingled in DEADLY EYES.

4) Ever have an opportunity to do a little on-site research in St. Croix? 

I spent four wonderful years as a college professor on the beautiful island of St. Croix. I love the island! I miss being there. The only research I needed was to make full use of my own memory bank, which is a storehouse of exciting moments personally experienced by this author. St. Croix is a part of me and always will be.

5) Did setting the book on a Caribbean island present any unexpected plot difficulties as you wrote the book? 

Since I know the island of St. Croix so well, having lived there, the setting posed no problems at all for me. In fact, the setting actually enhanced everything I was attempting to achieve. The local color is authentic, but the plot is my own creation, the bits and pieces falling into place as I dug deeper into the story.

6) Tell us about your lead, James "Cuff" Cuffy. 

Cuff is a laid-back sort of guy, a real looker, a guy who has come to live on the island to get away from some bad memories on the mainland. He and his girlfriend, Rosie, are both very strong individuals, and the repartee between them was quite enjoyable for me, the reader-writer, to observe. She is like Maureen O’Hara, the one woman who could actually stand up to John Wayne. The two actors were like magic on the screen together, and that is how I view the relationship Cuff has with Rosie. They are both caught up in something scary that they do not understand, but neither will slow down one iota in their quest for justice.

7) With several novels under your belt and decades of experience as a writing professor, you are hardly a neophyte when it comes to the written word. Can you tell us a little about your journey and career as a writer? 

I wrote my first book when I was ten years old. My parents bought the only copy, paying me a dollar. I have continued to write my entire life. My study was filled with unfinished manuscripts, begun, discarded, and then restarted over the years, so the year before I retired, I had all the bits and pieces word processed for me, so that when I retired, having all the time in the world to devote to one of my lifelong passions, writing, I could do so. And that is what I have done. I now have four novels published on Amazon Kindle, and the fifth is well on its way. I hope to keep writing until I die. It is my favorite avocation. I only wish I could have retired years ago.

8) Please tell us briefly about your other works.

COVERT DREAMS is an international thriller set primarily in both Munich and Saudi Arabia, two other places I have lived. It, like DEADLY EYES, is a novel of suspense that takes place in colorful settings. THE FAMOUS UNION is a rollicking romp through the halls of academia, where the often-eccentric characters are forced to cope in an atmosphere where compromise is a four-letter word. One reviewer said that the characters would make good case studies for a psych class. I like that. THE SURVIVAL OF MARVIN BAINES is about a loving husband and father, who, at midlife, suddenly begins to find his life unraveling. He wants escape, but instead he gets something altogether unexpected.


Thanks, Mike.

DEADLY EYES is available at Amazon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering the Fallen

Today I remember and pay my respects to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

A Blood Doctor and Futuristic Blood Drinkers: An interview with Arshad Ahsanuddin

Today I'm talking with Arshad Ahsanuddin, author of, in his own words, "futuristic-sword-and-sorcery-gay-vampire-soap-opera-supernatural-thrillers."

Picture of a sword enveloped in blue flames, novel cover for Sunset, Pact Arcanum Book One by Arshad Ahsanuddin

1) Tell us about your books.

My books, for the most part, might be described as futuristic-sword-and-sorcery-gay-vampire-soap-opera-supernatural-thrillers, crossing genres between soft science fiction, urban fantasy, and non-explicit gay paranormal romance. Though that’s not strictly true, given that the main characters of Moonlight and Radiant Burn are straight.

The major premise of the books is that Nightwalkers (vampires) and Sentinels (vampire slayers) are the remnants of a technologically and mystically advanced civilization that collapsed about 10,000 years ago due to internal wars. Each side has been trying to destroy the other ever since, though the advances in human society of the present era have forced them to operate in secret.

The everything changed approximately twenty years prior to the start of Book One, when a cure for vampirism was created, which allowed the Nightwalkers to reclaim their souls and become Daywalkers, once again able to walk in the sunlight. The supernatural peoples of North America have declared a separate peace throughout the continent, mystically fortifying the borders to wall out the Nightwalkers and Sentinels that still war upon each other in the rest of the world.

Everything changes again, in 2040, when the Daywalker Nick Jameson spectacularly exposes them all to humanity on national television, when he intervenes to stop a terrorist nuclear plot. This is the point where the story begins.

2) You're a hematopathologist. You specialize in examining blood all day. Did that at all influence your desire to write about vampires?

Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me until after I finished, and I mentioned the project to some of my colleagues, who were greatly amused at the irony which had escaped my notice.

3) Most people aren't blood doctors, yet there's a persistent fascination with vampires, why do you think that is?

Immortality to start with, followed by the lure of violence and evil, even with the possibility of redemption. That was the basis of the vampire mythology at the beginning, and the shift to a social/sexual predator came in later times. They have become a symbol of knowledge, power, strength, and sexuality, wrapped up in a humanoid package that walks silently among us until they strike.

The question then becomes, what can we possibly offer them? I think the genre of paranormal romance developed as a way to humanize these archetypal figures into something that was both greater than us, yet still accessible. A more modern variant is the vampire romance paired with alternate supernatural beings, such as witches, werewolves, or in some cases, vampire slayers. It’s just another way in which the vampire is made more human as we, in the person of the hero/heroine, become less so to meet them on a even playing field.

4) Sci-fi/paranormal romance mixed-genre vampire books centered on gay protagonists are, and this is being charitable, rare. What inspired that combination of elements?

It was a much more conventional storyline at first, when it was just a hobby storyline in my head, inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its heyday. Then, as it continued to develop in my mind, I incorporated other elements of fictional worlds I enjoyed, and philosophical concepts and articles of faith that inspired me. It grew organically in my head for over a decade before I wrote it down on a whim.

5) What went into the creation of your protagonist?

He’s a flawed character, unlimited power at his command, but running from his demons, afraid of commitment and love. Part of his journey is learning to grow from his rather shallow beginnings to explore the depths of his heart and find peace and companionship. In the meantime, he’s a catalyst, causing major transformational events in his world and the people around him, inspiring others to love him while he remains both inaccessible and oblivious. Discovering the truth of those relationships is part of the lessons he has to learn, and their resolution is half of the narrative throughout the entire series. The other half, of course, is the action and adventure that seems to follow in his wake.

6) Do you have any authors who have influence your writing?

The authors I would swoon to meet include Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay, two of the most innovative authors in modern fantasy. I can’t hold a candle to them, but someday I hope to gain enough skill to make a decent homage to their work.

7) Can you tell us about some of your other works?

SUNRISE, the second book, tells the story of most the major characters and how they got to the point where the first book begins. MOONLIGHT, the third book, is the continuation of SUNSET, told from an alternate perspective. STARLIGHT, the final book, is the conclusion of the series. Two short stories, "Radiant Burn" and "The Best of Times" fill in some of the gaps in between. I am currently working on two others, which will expand on the stories of some of the secondary characters. A distant future plan is to write a prequel series of novels, which will tell the story of the First Age, and the start of the war between vampires and Sentinels.


Thanks, Arshad.

For more information about Arshad, or for more information about the series, check out his website at and leave him some feedback.

The first book in hi series, SUNSET, is free for download for the Amazon kindle today (5/28/2012).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

England Before the Norman Conquest: An interview with historical fiction author Paula Lofting

Today I'm talking to Paula Lofting about her upcoming novel that follows one family's saga up to the world-changing Battle of Hastings, SONS OF THE WOLF.


1) Tell us about your book.

SONS OF THE WOLF is the first in a series of novels set in 11th-century England in the years running up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Against a backdrop of historical events, the story unfolds as Wulfhere, the main character, is returning home south with his servant, Esegar, after fighting a great war in the North. Wulfhere is a king’s thegn who holds lands in the county of Sussex and the book follows him and his family as it weaves their saga into the tapestry of life as it was before the Domesday Book

When Wulfhere’s daughter, Freyda, enters into a forbidden relationship with the son of his enemy, he is forced by Earl Harold to agree to a betrothal that will bring peace to the warring families. Urged on by his beautiful but demanding wife Ealdgytha, Wulfhere has to think of a way to break the bargain without incurring the wrath of his lord, Earl Harold. In the meantime, there are battles to be fought in the countryside, but Wulfhere realises that sometimes, the enemy is closer to home.

2) What inspired you to write this book?

Having had a dream to write a historical novel all my life, various circumstances took me to other paths before I was finally in a place where I could crack on with it. At the time I was ready to undertake such a mission, my subjects of interest seemed to already be taken by other authors and so I waited for inspiration and the first glimmer of it was when I attended a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings and I started to get a feeling for the era. I had been interested at some time or another in my life, in most periods of medieval existence and the pre-conquest era had fallen to the back of my mind somewhat. 

Attending the event awakened that old interest. I was incensed by what happened that day and wanted to know more. Before I knew it I was back in the 11th century, reading every non-fictional book I could lay my hands on and I also bought a great novel about Harold Godwinson by Helen Hollick. But there it was again, that same dilemma, someone had got there before me and written about my hero. What was I to do? And then I found David Howarth’s 1066: The year of the Conquest in which he identifies the man Wulfhere as the thegn of Horstede from the Domesday Book. 

Mr Howarth’s charming non-fictional account became the inspiration for Wulfhere’s story because it gave me the idea that I could write a book about an ‘ordinary’ man and his family and they were there, just waiting for me to create them, their lives and what life would have been like for the middle classes before and after the conquest. So SONS OF THE WOLF began to unfold in my head and went from my mind to the keyboard. Essentially, SONS wrote itself. I just let it happen.

3) Can you tell us about what went into developing your lead characters? 

Well, for Wulfhere, I had an idea about what I wanted him to be like, a sort of skeleton of him if you like and then as the book progressed, his character developed naturally into his framework. He is a warrior, but he is also a father, husband, lover, friend, enemy, servant, lord and landowner and so I had to make him multidimensional. 

I had to remember all these facets of him when he interacts with his co-characters and I have to decide which role would take precedent over the others in the current circumstances. For Ealdgytha, his wife, she was a little more complex because I think the reader will empathise with her one minute and hate her the next! She is less multidimensional than Wulfhere, but a very emotionally charged character which makes her so wonderful to write for. 

As for the other characters I have endeavoured to make each and every one of them as real as possible and the historical non-fictional characters such as the Godwinson family and King Edward etc, I have tried to portray them as they may have been with what little we know about them. I do think sometimes however that you can get a glimmer of a persona when you look at what deeds they performed and what they have achieved in history.

 I mean, what do you say about a man like King Edward, who kept the whole of England, Normandy and Denmark in a state of anxiety, waiting with baited breath as to who was to be his successor? That one thing was to cause so much heartache and injustice to his subjects. If I could go back in time I would have told him what for!

4) What is one of the most surprising things you learned about Anglo-Saxon England during the course of your research for this book? 

It really surprised me how well women were regarded in pre-conquest England. I think that their Wergild (the amount of money they were worth) was almost the same as a man who was the same status. She was able to own property and keep it upon her marriage. She had the right to attend court and pursue claims. She was not to be forced into a marriage (although this no doubt happened frequently) and had the right to a divorce if she wished with good reason. She was allowed to leave her property to whomever she pleased in her will. 

Much of that changed after the Normans came. Women lost their right to keep their lands she and all her property became that of her husband’s. It was still very much a patriarch society, but there was a lot to be said for being an Anglo-Saxon woman as opposed to a Norman woman.

5) Excluding the obvious, such as language, what sort of cultural changes did the Norman conquest bring that most people might not think about?

I think that perhaps not a lot of people realise that this is where the feudal system as we know it started. Okay so there was some element of it before the conquest, with men owing certain services for their land to their immediate overlord according to their statums, but the Norman system wiped out all the rights that these poor farmers had, the right to have their say in their local moot and at the shire moot was one of the things they lost. They were downgraded even further to almost that of a slave, who was bound to his new Norman master by his tenement. He was not free to go elsewhere if he did not like his master, as he had been before.

Life in England for the peasantry must have been pretty comforting, England had been a wealthy country and each thegn would have had it in their interest to treat his people well otherwise they could take their loyalty elsewhere. And for the peasantry, it was the thegn who would look out for them, speak for them in court and feast with them and listen to their troubles. He was duty bound to them. With the advent of castles, their new Norman rulers could throw a man in prison if he dared to complain or not do as he was told. 

After the Battle of Hastings and the various rebellions that followed for around five years or more, the middle nobility, the thegns, were virtually wiped out or downgraded. Those men were the ones who mediated for the peasantry and lorded it with the wealthier earls and thegns. They had been a buffer between the lower classes and the nobility. 

Now they were gone and it must have been a terrible time for the beleaguered farming community who had seen their villages decimated, their crops and animals and their farming equipment destroyed. And to compound their woes, the very men they had looked to were also destroyed.

6) How do you think English history would have unfolded had the Normans been defeated at the Battle of Hastings? 

Ha, this is a good one. Well if he had the chance, I think Harold might not have wanted William to be put to death, however who knows what a man might do if they are faced with this decision and this was quite an extreme circumstance for Harold. Historically, Harold had always been quite lenient with his enemies. He let Alfgar, the rebellious Earl of Mercia off many a time and Gruffydd the Welsh King who plagued the borders along Hereford. 

But yet his own brother Tostig had been killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge only a few weeks before. Whether or not Harold had anything to do with that we do not know, but it might have had an effect on how he would have treated William if he had been alive after a defeat at Hastings. 

We do know that Harald Hardrada’s son Olaf was permitted to leave after Stamford Bridge with a promise to stay away and not cause trouble for England again. Anyway, I think probably Norman/English relations would have soured even further; William, had he been permitted to return back to Normandy, would have tried again and if he had not survived, his sons would have made a claim for the throne thus drawing Harold’s sons into a feud with them. If the conquest had not happened when it did, I think at some point it would have happened later, either with William’s successors or perhaps peacefully through marriage.

7) Can you tell us about some of your other planned projects? 

Whilst I am waiting for SONS OF THE WOLF to be published in August, I am working on the sequel THE WOLF BANNER, which has been written. It just needs to be edited. It was written as part of SONS, but I had no idea how much I’d written when it was finished and was advised to make it into two books. 

There were 250000 words in all and the whole project had taken me six years. I plan there to be about four books in the series. Also, I have been working on a modern day drama/thriller called KILLING THE SANDMAN about a young lad’s struggle to survive living with an alcoholic mother and an abusive stepfather. I hope to have this published with SilverWood Books also. 

I have also a project in mind for writing a novel based on Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians. She was Alfred the Great’s daughter, a great woman, who carried on her father’s fight to rid England of the Danes with her brother Edward. Then I was thinking about something in the First World War, for my Grandad who was in the 17th Lancers. I’ve got lots of ideas in my head but I think I am a long way off giving up the day job yet. Hopefully if things take off I can realise my dream of being an author. 


Thanks, Paula.

You can read more from Paula at:

SONS OF THE WOLF will be released this August.

Love: Old Testament Style: An interview with Rachelle Ayala

Today I'm talking with Rachelle Ayala about her Old Testament-inspired romance, MICHAL'S WINDOW.


1) Tell us about your book.

MICHAL'S WINDOW is an epic love story between the often maligned daughter of King Saul and the beloved king of Israel, David. In a time when women, even royalty, were considered property, Michal asserted herself with her love for David. Ultimately, it is a story that resonates with women everywhere, who must make difficult choices in the face of cultural and sexual pressure.

2) What inspired you to write this book?

Michal struck me as being a strong and unusual woman. She dared to risk her father's alienation to save the man she loved, and later, she dared to rebuke her husband, the king when he danced wildly in the streets of Jerusalem. No other woman in the Bible loved a man. No other woman was married to two men at the same time, and no other woman suffered the fall from cherished princess to dishonored wife.

3) The Old Testament stories of David and his wives, even if one were to include material from the Apocrypha, are relatively sparse on low-level detail. How did you go about filling in the gaps? 

*Laughes* That was easy. Whenever I read the Bible, I daydream. I run a live movie through my mind to visualize the events. The Bible is extremely graphic, but people pass over major tragedies in a few words. I put myself back in time and place, and soon David and his wives are as alive to me as Desperate Housewives. Their personalities fill in, they bicker, they scheme, and most of all, they try to figure out what their lives mean.

4) What sort of themes do you explore in this work?

The surface theme is love and redemption. Michal stands for the nation of Israel. She is loved by her husband, rejected, and redeemed at the end. Her trials and struggles mirror that of the Jewish nation. Some of her choices disturbed me, but given the prophetic nature of Michal, I was constrained to finish the story the way I did. If you know the Bible well, you'll see types and figures in many of the characters. The entire history of Israel from the calling of Abraham in Genesis to the last call in Revelations 22 is portrayed by Michal's fictional life.

5) In addition to the obvious use of the Old Testament, what other sort of research did you do to bring this ancient period to life?

I gathered many reference books, too numerous to list, of life in ancient Israel. My most useful reference was a travelogue I found online, J. W. McGarveyLands of the Bible (1881). The Bible remained my primary source, and I focused on 1st and 2nd Samuel, Psalms and the books of Jeremiah through Malachi.

6) What are your thoughts on these recent archaeological discoveries ( that some suggest are the palace of King David?

I so wish that time machine I ordered two centuries from now would arrive so I can go back to the time of King David and explore his palace and his surroundings. Joking aside, I'm excited that archaeologists have unearthed part of David's kingdom. Of course, skeptics will be skeptics, but David and his wives are as real to me as any people who jump off the page of Scripture.

7) Although the Old Testament has inspired countless dramatic presentations throughout the years for a variety of religions, its religious nature often makes it inherently riskier for story adaptations. Were you concerned about that when you wrote the story? This can be both a difficulty in religious readers worried about potential liberties and non-religious readers being wary of religiously inspired stories (something that influenced the failure of NBC's recent modern take on the King David story, Kings).

I'd like to think my bookw will appeal to both the religious reader who enjoys a more fleshed out, true-to-life presentation as well as the non-religious reader who may want to dip their toe into a fascinating and gritty story based on Biblical characters. I wrote the story that came to me. Did I censor myself? Possibly. I removed several sex scenes. I lived most of my life as an atheist and only twelve years as a Christian, so I feel comfortable writing in a way that does not preach and push a particular viewpoint. I noticed early on that the Philistines were intimately entangled in the lives of the Israelites. Their society was as multicultural as ours is, hence I incorporated Philistine characters to fill out some of the minor roles and expanded on one particular man, Ittai, who has since become a reader favorite.

8) Please tell us about your other projects.

Like all creative people, I have more story ideas than time to write. My next novel, BROKEN BUILD is a contemporary romantic suspense about software engineers in Silicon Valley. Fast cars, fast CPUs, and fast women spanning three weeks around Black Friday 2012. After that, I'm mulling a psychological thriller about two sisters in love with one man and perhaps a romantic triangle between a concert violinist, a man with a valuable violin, and a dashing rogue of a violin maker. But who knows what story idea will grab ahold of me and refuse to let go.


Thanks, Rachelle.

MICHAL'S WINDOW is available for purchase at Amazon.

Author Bio:

Rachelle Ayala was a software engineer until she discovered storytelling works better in fiction than real code. She has over thirty years of writing experience and has always lived in a multi-cultural environment. The tapestry of characters in her books reflect that diversity.

Rachelle is currently working on a romantic suspense involving software engineers. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has three children and has taught violin and made mountain dulcimers.

Visit her at: or follow @AyalaRachelle on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Death of a Dynasty: An interview with historical fiction author Judith Arnopp

Today I'm talking with Judith Arnopp about her novel of Anglo-Saxon England, THE SONG OF HELEDD.

1) Please tell us about your book.

THE SONG OF HELEDD is the story of Heledd and her sister, Ffreur, celtic princesses at the hall of their brother, Cynddylan. When Heledd forms an infatuation for a travelling player, a man far beneath her, she triggers a chain of events that will bring down two kings and destroy a dynasty. The tale is a harsh one and terribly sad, a box of tissues highly recommended.

2) What inspired this book?

I studied Anglo-Saxon and medieval poetry at university and during the course of my research I stumbled across fragments of a 9th century poem, Canu Heledd, which forms part of The Red Book of Hergest. The Red Book was put together sometime in the 14-15th centuries, but the poems themselves are believed to have been written down in the 9th century but set in the 7th. As you probably know, poetry was originally an oral tradition, providing entertainment for long winter nights and it is quite possible that Heledd’s song was passed down from that early date. What makes Canu Heledd distinctive is that the narrator is a woman. Heledd is the only woman to feature prominently in the saga tradition where females are scarcely mentioned. And not only does Heledd narrate the tale but she is the sole survivor of a dynastic disaster and she blames herself for it. This dispensing with tradition suggests to me that Heledd’s story is perhaps a true one, a historical event passed down through the oral tradition to become legend. All the time I was working toward my Master’s degree, Heledd was singing her song in the back of my head. I knew then that I would have to write a story for her one day.

3) How has your background in medieval studies influenced your writing?

My first degree was in English Literature and Creative Writing. I knew I would write books, I’d been writing all my life, but I wanted to progress to longer pieces and knew I lacked the skills to do so. I majored in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval poetry and by the time I’d finished my Bachelor’s degree I realised I wanted to write historical fiction so I signed up for an M.A. in Medieval history to help achieve that goal.

4) One of the reasons British Isles historical fiction set in periods such as the Tudor or Georgian era is so popular is that it's easier for authors to research those periods because of rich documentation. You're hitting a period and area where that's not quite the case. Can you tell us a bit about the research that went into your story?

Oh, I never choose the easiest route - lol. First of all, I knew the poem, but I didn’t just want to replicate that; I write fiction. I am interested in how a person thinks, their motivations and excuses for breaking rules, making mistakes. The poem is full of triggers for the imagination, Cyndyylan’s purple cloak, his high hall, his fame for hospitality and throughout, a strong heroic tradition that is similar to the Anglo-Saxon. Then we have Heledd, lost and alone although we know she was once influential, strong and affluent. She is also absolutely tortured with guilt. She has lost her sister but she doesn’t mourn her. Why? I racked my brains trying to figure out why one would ever stop grieving for a sister who had obviously been greatly loved. I began to come up with a few ideas. Then, I read the recorded history of the period and was able to fit the poem into context. As you say the historical record for this period is sketchy and totally male orientated. The wars between Northumbria and Penda and the Kings of Powy are recorded but there are plenty of lovely gaps that provide perfect fodder for a fiction writer. I had terrific fun filling them in.

5) Accuracy in historical fiction is always a big debate, but, in your case you have less continuity of evidence than you'd probably prefer. How did you go about deciding how to fill the "holes" in the historical record and depicted some of figures in your work?

I think, if you will excuse me saying so, but there is an awful lot of hot air wasted over discussing accuracy in historical fiction. As soon as we put words into a historical character’s mouth we are crossing the boundary between history and fiction. And what is accurate anyway? There is no real truth, only opinion. My stories are about human beings in a historical world that cannot be replicated and never will be totally accurately represented. If you set out to produce an authentic historical world you are setting yourself up for failure. I try to be as accurate as I can but never lose sight of the fact that I am a woman from the 7th century communicating with the twenty first century. You have to tread a delicate line between the two worlds. I think it is quite dangerous to read fiction as history, if people want history they should read a proper history book. That is why all my novels have an author’s note pointing out, quite clearly, where my imagination takes over from the record and urging them to read around the subject further. I also write in the first person. I find that if I can step into my character’s shoes and ‘become’ them, my writing has more passion. You won’t find detailed descriptions of dresses or interiors because those things detract from the story I am telling. Heledd is standing alone on a stark mountain top, confessing her crimes, ripping aside her shame to tell us exactly where she went wrong. She isn’t interested in telling us how she tied her shoelaces or what colour her favourite frock was. Heledd will tell you about the realities of her world, the mud and the blood and the pain of being a woman in her time. It is sometimes uncomfortable to listen to her story but she grows from a thoughtless child into a broken woman who has learned many lessons and is striving to make peace with her god.

6) People write and consume historical fiction for a variety of reasons. What do you hope, fundamentally, to accomplish with your work?

I’ve written since I was a little girl and my main aim is to get better and better. I am not a bestselling author by any means but I do have a small band of followers. When I receive an email or a facebook message on my wall saying how much a reader has enjoyed one of my books then I know I have succeeded. I don’t expect to make a fortune from my writing, it isnt about that. I have a whole heap of stories in my head. It gives me huge satisfaction to write them down and even greater pleasure when my readers appreciate them. As long as I earn enough to continue to afford the ink and paper and to upgrade my PC once in a while, I will continue to write.

7) Do you have a favorite historical period?

I have always loved to read historical novels; they led me into studying history seriously. I will anything that is well written and credible. I often spot inaccuracies but they don’t really bother me, as long as it isn’t something silly like Guyfawks night in the 13th century or an Anglo Saxon peeling potatoes. I do prefer British history, but that is probably because it’s what I know best. Having said that, one of my all time favourites is Gone With the Wind, not because it is particularly accurate but because it is told by the losing side and speaks of the people’s emotion rather than the events. That is what interests me. Oh dear, I have strayed from your question, I am sorry. My favourite historical period is early medieval: King Alfred and Aethelflaed, The Wars of the Roses. I am a big Richard the III fan and, although I detest Henry VII and VIII, no one can help being fascinated by the Tudors.

8) Can you tell us about any of your other projects?

I am currently working on a Tudor novel. It is my first foray into a long piece in that period but my collection of short Tudor stories, Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens is doing very well on Kindle and several readers have asked if I’ve done a full length novel. I thought I would oblige. It is very different in mood to The Song of Heledd and is called The Winchester Goose. The protagonists are Joan Toogood, a prostitute in Southwark, Francis Wareham,a male spy in the pay of Cromwell and two sisters, Bella and Eve Bourne, who are waiting women to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. Again, it is fiction with a few historical figures here and there. I am about three quarters of a way through the first draft and it is going very well. Of course, the hardest part will be the rewrites and edits, which always take the longest time, apart from the initial research of course.

Other works include:

The Forest Dwellers
Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens
A Tapestry of Time

All available on Kindle.


Thanks, Judith.

If you'd like to see more from Judith, you can find her at

You can purchase THE SONG OF HELEDD at: 
Direct from the publisher

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wings of Hope: An interview with Hillary Peak

Today I'm talking with Hillary Peak about her tale of a daughter, a father, and an eventful life, WINGS OF HOPE.


1) Tell us about your book.
It is a story of hope, written during the loss of a parent. Jules moves across the country when she learns her father is dying. Since her parents were divorced, she hasn't spent as much time with her father. During the time they have left together, she learns about her dad's life, and he works to give her life lessons that will carry her through adulthood.

2) What inspired this book?

My father had a fascinating life. He'd always talked about writing a memoir, but passed away before he ever got around to it. When I was pregnant, I wanted to have all his stories to share with my child. I started writing them down, and the result was this novel.

3) How much was this book influenced by your relationship with your own father (if at all)?
Just a little. My parents were married, so I had him around all the time. However, my father and I shared being ambitious. He never talked to me about it, but when he was gone, my mother told me about how much he saw himself in me. I used the book as a mechanism to explore that.

4) You cover a lot of ground in this book as it effectively covers the entire life of a man through the bulk of the 20th century. That said, what's the fundamental theme running through the book?
Hope. My goal is for the reader to walk away inspired to try to do the thing they've always desired to do the most.

5) How much research did you have to do for all these various historical memories?

Not much, the stories were my father's own true stories.

6) Thematic darkness and discontent seem to define much of modern literature these days. Books focusing on the positive and hopeful are often even dismissed as "old-fashioned." Even young adult and middle-grade literature is increasingly defined by dark plot and concerns, with people saying its important that people face the "reality" of existence. What are your thoughts on darkness in fiction and whether or not that reflects the reality of existence?

Reality can be dark. We all have times where life is bleak. I read a lot of young adult literature. It seems sad to me that we focus on the darkness in life rather than the light. I think that the reality of existence is what we see. We can choose to see the worst in people and in life or we can choose to see what is good, what is hopeful. There's always going to be sadness and hardship, but there's always happiness, joy and love as well.

7) Can you tell us about any of your other projects?

I am working on a legal thriller called JUSTICE SCORNED, a legal thriller with twists and turns including a secret natural nuclear reactor, a Department of Energy Special Response Team and a murder that is far more than it appears. “Today, I received a black world.” Randall Taylor tells his mentor as he pulled the tiny globe out of his pocket. It is black on black, with the oceans matte and the landmasses glossy. Randall’s certain he is going to receive all the money and power he seeks, but long sought after revenge puts him in prison instead.


Thanks, Hillary.

If you'd like to see more from Hillary, you can check out earlier stops in her blog tour.

You can also find her at her blog,

WINGS OF HOPE can be purchased at Amazon and Smashwords.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Dangerous Time--Tudor England: An interview with historical fiction author Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Cover image of the novel Sumerford's Autumn by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Today I'm talking with Barbara Gaskell Denvil about her novel SUMERFORD'S AUTUMN, a historical adventure set during the Tudor period.


1) Tell us about your book.

SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN is a colourful historical adventure with a wide scope. The storyline follows the Earl and Countess of Sumerford and their sons - four brothers, who each have entirely different characters and entirely different aims. The youngest son is the hero, but he has to face many adversities including arrest, imprisonment and torture before finally finding peace. The book is set in England during the last years of the 1400s, when King Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, sat on England’s throne. I have interwoven different storylines including romance and humour, and conspiracy and treachery to the crown is a large part. The politics of this period were terrifying and many faced execution. But life in general was equally fraught with danger, and my characters deal with many such challenges.

2) What inspired this book?

I read a fascinating book (by Anne Wroe) on the so-called pretender Perkin Warbeck. I found his story absolutely tragic, and by the time I finished the book I was convinced that the whole subject has been far too easily dismissed by historians. Very little research has ever been done on the various claims against the emerging Tudor dynasty, and indeed the reign of the first Tudor King Henry VII has rarely appealed to the public. (His son Henry VIII was far more colourful) But the man later dubbed Perkin Warbeck actually claimed to be the younger of the two princes in the Tower, and had some exceedingly good reasons to say so. He had huge royal backing from abroad, and his story is much too impressive to be easily overlooked. Yet most historians have laughed and looked the other way. Why? Henry VII was a master of propaganda and altered history to suit his own ends. Perhaps he altered this too, just like everything else. I wanted to know more. So I started with this historical research, and then wrapped a much larger story around this kernel.

3) What went into developing your lead, Ludovic?

I tried to start with a balance between believable and likeable characteristics, (heroes who are just too perfect are never so interesting) and combine this with those attitudes which we believe were accepted in the 15th century. But once having established the first basic foundations of personality, my characters somehow seem to invent themselves. I begin with a very vague outline, and gradually they creep into my heart and begin to talk to me. They come alive over the weeks and in the end I feel I am simply obedient to their demands. They live in their own right – I just create the story around them. Ludovic is now so real to me, I would instantly recognise him if I met him, and would know just how he felt in any circumstance. He grows through the book, another natural aspect of character I enjoy – where a character matures and develops due to the actual challenges he faces through the pages.

4) In historical fiction, language is always a difficult thing to manage. Too much period accuracy can alienate modern readers but too little can damage the historical atmosphere. How did you approach language in your book?

This is such an interesting question, and the answer could fill another book. However, in general I start with the simple knowledge that the genuine language used in those days (my book starts in 1497) would be almost entirely incomprehensible to us now. It would be absurd to try and write a modern book using the real language of that period. Therefore – since I cannot copy the real period usage – why try and do half and half? I therefore use normal modern language – and certainly avoid those awful ‘foorsooths’ and ‘fie, my lords’ which were popular in some fiction of the past. However, there are pitfalls. It sounds equally ludicrous to put in modern slang, modern psychology and technological terminology, or other words which are just too inappropriate. So I try to keep a fair balance, but within sensible limits. I do keep strictly to the names of that era, and the name Ludovic, for instance, was not common then but was certainly known.

5) The Tudor period has consistently remained one of the most popular English historical periods, inspiring loads of novels, movies, and television series. Why do you think people find the Tudor period so fascinating?

Henry VIII is more colourful than any believable fictional character could be. His marital difficulties and his presence have been represented to us in such detail and so many times, huge, fat, bright red hair, dangerous, horrifying and yet resplendent. Then of course his poor wretched wives were a mixed bunch with extremely interesting complexities. His children were nearly as colourful as himself, Edward VI, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I, and his reign introduced some amazing progress and developments including the toppling of Roman Catholic power in England. Much less, however, is generally known about Henry VIII’s father, the man who began everything with his invasion of England in 1485, culminating in the Battle of Bosworth and the death of King Richard III. My book is set during the reign of the first Tudor King Henry VII. A man much feared, and equally as dangerous in a different way to his son.

6) If you could meet any historical personage from the period covered in your book, whom would it be and why?

Definitely King Richard III. My book actually starts a few years after his death, but the truth about what happened to the so-called princes in the Tower, whether they were murdered or not, is integral to my plot. I would absolutely adore to meet up with Richard III, to see just what he was really like and hopefully to discover the truth about some of those endless mysteries surrounding his actions and behaviour. Was he an exaggerated villain? Or was he a decent man making a fair attempt at doing his duty according to the beliefs and standards of the time? I would actually love to meet anyone of that period in history. The late medieval fascinates me and I should just adore to live a few days in those narrow dark streets and really understand the life and times, hear the gossip and explore the truth.

7) What is the most surprising thing you learned when doing research for this book?

I started researching this historical period nearly ten years ago and my first discovery was that King Richard III just could NOT be the villain he had been painted. That inspired me to research more and more, and now I try to immerse myself in historical discovery whenever possible. My next big surprise was when I researched the so-called Perkin Warbeck figure for this new book – and my conclusions are a major part of the plot.

8) Tell us about your current projects.

I have written the first draft of another historical adventure BLESSOP’S WIFE – set a little earlier this time during the actual reign of Richard III. This still needs to be edited and polished, but I hope to publish it later this year. It delves into many mysteries of the period, including the beginnings of political espionage. It is wonderful, as an author, to start falling in love with a whole new cast of characters. I am certainly fascinated by my new hero Andrew. For one thing he is neither grand nor noble, and I find it a pleasant change not to continuously write about the medieval aristocracy. The working classes and the poor are just as interesting.


You can see more from Barbara at her website,

SUMERFORD'S AUTUMN is available for purchase at Amazon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Family, love, and art: an interview with Uvi Poznansky

Today I'm talking with artist and author Uvi Poznansky about her novel APART FROM LOVE.

1) Tell us about your book.

My novel is an intimate peek into the life of a uniquely strange family:
Natasha, the accomplished pianist, has been stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Her ex-husband Lenny has never told their son Ben, who left home ten years ago, about her situation. At the same time Lenny has been carrying on a love affair with a young redhead, who bear a
striking physical resemblance to his wife, but unlike her, is uneducated, direct and unrefined. This is how things stand at this moment, the moment of Ben’s return to his childhood home, and to a contentious relationship with his father.

2) What inspired this story?

Over a year ago I wrote a short story about a twelve year-old boy coming face to face, for the first time in his life, with the sad spectacle of death in the family. Stunned, Ben watches his father trying to revive his frail grandma. Later, Ben attempts the same technique on the fish tilting upside down, dying in his new aquarium.

I set the story aside, thinking I was done with it. But the character of the boy, Ben, wouldn’t go away. He started chatting incessantly in my head, keeping me awake at night. So I asked myself, what if I ‘aged’ him by fifteen years? Would he still admire his father for ‘blowing life’ into the old woman--or will he be disillusioned at that point? What secrets would come to light in the life of this family? How would it feel for Ben to come back to his childhood home after a long absence, and have his memories play tricks on him?

What if I introduce a girl, Anita, a redhead who looks as beautiful as his mother used to be--but is extremely different from her in all other respects? And what if this girl were married to his father? What if the father were an author, attempting to capture the thoughts, the voices of Ben and Anita, in order to write his book?

3) You've mentioned in the past that you've had difficulty describing what you're story is about. So, I put that dreaded question to you in a slightly different way: what sort of fundamental themes do you feel your story conveys?

You’re right! At first I found it difficult to sum up the complexities of the story. I suppose I was too close to it. Which is why I truly admire the work of several Amazon Top reviewers, who reviewed the story with such ease, and rated it five stars out of five.

The fundamental theme in Apart From Love is a struggle, a desperate, daring struggle in each one of the characters--Ben, Anita and Lenny--to find a path out of the conflicts between them, out of isolation, from guilt to forgiveness.

Finding that path is not easy, because at present, they are ‘apart from love’. As Anita puts it, “Why, why can't you say nothing? Say any word--but that one, 'cause you don't really mean it. Nobody does. Say anything, apart from Love.”

And as Ben puts it: “For my own sake I should have been much more careful. Now--even in her absence--I find myself in her hands, which feels strange to me. I am surrounded--and at the same time, isolated. I am alone. I am apart from Love.”

4) The aims and purposes of art are always a hard thing to pin down, no matter the format. What do you feel is the fundamental purpose of art? 

To me, the purpose of my art is to give expression to something I care deeply about, marking it on paper or in some other medium) for others to see, hear and absorb, so they may find a reflection of my thought or emotion somewhere deep in themselves, in their memory, in their fears, their hopes.

In the case of writing, I can tell when I succeed in conveying what I wanted to express. I have read my stories in front of audiences, and by the end of the story a deep silence greets me. Here’s the way Lenny, the father in APART FROM LOVE, explains it:

“What I wish to open up is not me, but my characters—all of whom are parts of who I am—giving her the opportunity to know them, to come live in their skin, to see, hear, touch everything they do. Just, be there, inside my head for a while, which I admit, may be rather uneasy at times. If—if she cared to listen, which I doubt, she would allow me to pull her inside—so deep, so close to the core, that it would be hard to escape, hard to wake up.”

5) Do you feel there is a difference in the fundamental ability to execute the aforementioned purpose of art among the various art forms (visual, written, musical, et cetera) forms? Why or
why not?

Yes, I think there is a difference between visual art, and written or composed art forms. There is a fundamental difference between the ways we sense the world through the eye as opposed to the ear. The brain allows you to absorb a picture all at once, but a story--word by word, and a piece of music--note by note.

So when the subject at hand is too overwhelming, when words fail me, and I wish to convey the same feeling through my art, this is when I pick up my paintbrush. Other times, I chase my characters around with a pen.

6) Authors create characters from a variety of influences, but it is not uncommon to drawn upon their own experiences and psychology. Traditionally, this leads to characters that are, in some sense, similar to the author. You went a slightly different direction with your female lead. Can you tell us a bit about her creation and the process behind it?

At first I decided to model Anita as the diametric opposite-of-me. By which I mean a lot more that just her use of language (talking in sentences laden with 'like' and the dreaded double-negatives.) Anita, I decided, would be a bold and spontaneous girl, anything but repressed. Unlike the way I was brought up, she would be promiscuous.

Her voice would be shockingly direct: “In my defense I have this to say: When men notice me, when the lusty glint appears in their eyes, which betrays how, in their heads, they’re stripping me naked—it’s me they accuse of being indecent. Problem is, men notice me all the time.”

To my surprise, Anita started to invade my mind! She ended up taking center-stage in the story, not only because of how attractive she is, but most of all, because she serves as a strong contrast, both to Ben and to Lenny. She is a strong female protagonist trying to survive the complexities of this strange family.

7) Tell us about the POV structure of your novel. Why did you decide to use that sort of framework?

The dual points of view--he said, she said--gave me an opportunity to illustrate that we all view reality differently. Sometimes the same events, see from different angles and through difference experiences in life, are interpreted in an entirely different way. Which makes it a challenge for my characters, Ben and Anita, to find a path to each other.

8) Can you explain to us what you mean by "paint with a pen, write with a paintbrush"?

My art strives to tell a story, and my stories strive to bring you into the scene being painted. Sometimes a figure in one of my paintings haunts me, keeps me away at night, talking in a clear and distinct voice, and it would not stop until I write what she is saying, either in poem format or in a story. And sometimes it flows the other way around: the voice in the poem or in a story is so vivid in my mind that I have to flesh it out in a painting or sculpture. A good example of that is my poem From Dust, and for each verse in it, I created a sculpture where the pose expresses the text. See one of the sculptures here:

9) Given what you've just told us, can you tell us about your visual artistic influences and what influences they may have had on your choice of literary themes, character, and plots?

I love so many writers from around the world, and each one has had a different influence on me. To name but a few, I love Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, The Odyssey by Homer, Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, The Price by Arthur Miller, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.

Using a broad brush I would say that poetry teaches me to cherish the beauty of language, its sound and rhymes, which is something I use often in my writing. Arthur Miller and other playwrights teach me to listen to dialog, and to make the most of it.


Thanks, Uvi.

You can read more from Uvi at and also see her artwork at

APART FROM LOVE can be purchased in physical or electronic formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and electronic formats at the iBookstore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Do you know the truth? Can you see the truth? An interview with Michael Lorde

Today I'm talking with thriller author Michael Lorde about BLIND VEIL, a conspiracy thriller with sci-fi elements.

Tell us about this book.

BLIND VEIL begins as a story about a mild mannered rancher in the West, in the 1960s. While the plot of this story is not about civil rights, the turmoil of the times is mentioned in the first few set-up chapters. The social stress that occurred in those times is the reason why this man decides NOT to report a violent rape and murder that occur on his land… but that’s just the beginning. The murder ultimately affects the rancher’s nephew forty years in the future. We fast track to the present, where we find his nephew Simms (now a grown man in his forties working as an Officer for the New York City Police Department). Simms is a Patrol officer and very well respected. He works hard, cares about people, protects the citizens of the city and brings home a paycheck. All of that, changes in one day when he takes his new boat onto the water for a well deserved break. He ends up on board two other boats, and neither by his choice. As Simms world spins on its end and out of control, the reader is dragged through every crazy event right along with him. This officer of the law breaks many rules as he tries to keep alive, in an effort to make sense of things that his mind cannot believe. This psychological thriller is the first in a series. The second book is due out in December.

What inspired this book?

The idea came to me all at once. There were very few gaps to fill in. My stories generally find me rather than the opposite. I don’t sit down trying to think of a story line. Before I can finish one book, two others pop into my head. It feels like a gift when I get them. 
I’ve started and written books before, but this one just screamed out for me to publish it. I’d just left a job that required I work mad hours, and so the timing was perfect for me to pursue publishing. That decision has changed a multitude of things in my life, all for the better.

Tell us about your lead.

Lamont Simms is a really cool guy. He’d decent, and he respects people. He’s the epitome of a great cop. He was raised by his aunt and uncle on a ranch, but never really wanted to live out his life surrounded by nothing but land and sky. He joins the U.S. Marines and then the New York City Police Department as an officer. The guilt for having made his decision to leave home and abandon his uncle never really leaves him. The one thing he clings to above all else is his job. He loves being a cop. So what happens to a man who loses, through a single event, what identifies him most and what always will? He doesn’t have it easy. That’s for sure.

You have a background as an investigator. Did that influence any aspect of this novel?

It did. I was able to pull a whole lot from it and to bring the authenticity of my experience in police work and conducting investigations into the book. I hope when readers get to know Lamont, they’ll be thinking about their local law enforcement officers more in terms of the cops being men and women an that’s is a job. It doesn’t completely define who they are (though cops are almost all protective by nature). I think sometimes people forget that because of all of the media, television and big screen hype.

Why did you choose to write a suspense novel with science fiction elements rather than something a bit more straight-forward?

The story came to me all at once, as they usually do. I rarely try to change plots as I’m writing them. I knew the whole book before I even started typing, so the sci-fi element was already in it. What separates this novel from some of the sci-fi novels I’ve read is that Zork Bwork isn’t living on the Star Millenium with the Globulas in a world that I need to learn about in order to understand the plotline. I like science fiction. I’m a fan and I read it, but I don’t read the ultra detailed types of sci-fi books. They are way beyond my level of writing or my level of reading for that matter because when I read, I read to escape into the plot and not to decipher it. Some sci-fi readers flourish with their heads in those detailed pages. I don’t. I like it best when elements of science fiction are brought into our world.

In BLIND VEIL, this guy is in our world, and… WTF is suddenly going on? It’s not a typical sci-fi novel; it’s a thriller novel with sci-fi elements. To me there’s a huge difference. I hope I will continue to receive messages and mail from readers who don’t necessarily read, and still loved BLIND VEIL. The novel offers a lot of excitement. People have written to me telling me how believable it is, and I love getting those messages. Those readers make me feel like I did it right and hit the target I was aiming for, and I’m glad they’ve enjoyed it.

Dark conspiracy-laden plots really seem to resonate with readers regardless of genre. Why do you think people find reading about these shadow webs so interesting?

I think everyone on this planet wants to believe there is more than what we can see in front of us. That’s why people study science and religion as well.

Do you have particular literary influences?

That’s a tough question. I read every day as a kid. Now, between writing and squeezing my reading in between edits, I don’t have the opportunity to read as much as I used to. I think probably everything I’ve read has influenced me. I don’t think it’s changed my writing style, though. I think we all have our own voice, no matter how much music we listen to. I’ve always liked Stephen King, Tolkien, wow… there are too many to name, but mainly I enjoy the works of authors who have a dark element or two to their plots. My storylines always have a dark element lurking somewhere.

Please tell us about your other planned works.

I currently have three books in edits. I’m working on the sequel to BLIND VEIL (due out in December). I’m halfway through another, a book that pertains to the dark sides of each of us. This one has my focus a great deal right now. The main character is quite a trip, and more arrogant than most folks can imagine. He’s nothing at all like level headed Simms. All my books are fiction. That’s what I have planned for this year.


Thanks, Michael.

About Michael Lorde:

Michael  was raised in a rural town in upstate New York and has two sons and two daughters.  After living in a warmer climate for nearly thirty years, Michael has since moved back north with the youngest daughter of the four.  They are dog lovers and have two.  BLIND VEIL is Michael’s debut novel.

Purchase links:


You can connect with Michael at:

His webpage
TWITTER:  @BlindVeil

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who is the hero? Who is the villain? An interview with romantic suspense author Kristine Cayne

Today I'm talking with Kristine Cayne about her romantic suspense DEADLY ADDICTION.


1) Tell us about your book.

DEADLY ADDICTION is the second book in my Deadly Vices series. It’s the story of a half-white native man who teams up with a white policewoman to restore policing to his native community. Here’s a short description:

Rife with crime and drug abuse, the Blackriver Reservation is a powder keg ready to blow. Fed up with white interference, a radical sovereigntist sets off a chain of events that can only end in catastrophe. Two people, Rémi Whitedeer, a proud warrior, and Alyssa Morgan, a maverick cop, join forces to save a nation.

2) What inspired you to write this book?

I grew up in the Montréal area, where there are several native reserves. About twenty years ago, there was a huge altercation between the native populations and the provincial police that resulted in the Canadian Armed Forces being called in. Hard feelings still exist on both sides. The other aspect that drew me to this story is that although I had grown up within a few miles of one of the reserves, I knew virtually nothing about these amazing people.

Regarding the unpoliced reserve aspect of the story, one of the reserves in the area did disband their police services several years ago and has remained without a force ever since. This has led to even more difficult relations with the provincial police, because reserves fall under their jurisdiction if the reserve does not have a police service of its own. I thought all of this made for a fabulously intriguing story with opportunities to learn about a little-known people and explore motivations on both sides of the issue.

3) Tell us about your leads, Rémi and Alyssa?

Rémi Whitedeer is a police officer turned substance-abuse counselor who dreams of restoring order to his tribe. The tribe has been without law enforcement since their previous police force was disbanded four years earlier on charges of corruption. Matters are coming to a head though, as crime is escalating, and tensions are rising between the various factions on the reserve. As the mixed-race cousin of Chaz Whitedeer, the Guardians’ leader, Rémi is caught in a no-man’s land—several groups lay claim to him, but all want him to deny his white blood.

Alyssa Morgan is a sergeant with the provincial police (Sûreté du Québec). In her previous assignment, she infiltrated the Vipers to take down the leader of the outlaw biker gang responsible for her brother’s death. She got her man, but her superiors think she went too far. Her disregard for protocol and her ends-justify-the-means ethics have branded her an unreliable maverick. To salvage her career, she accepts an assignment to set up a squad of native provincial officers on a reserve.

Together, Rémi and Alyssa must find a way to bring policing back to the reserve. But fed up with white interference and his cousin Rémi’s growing affection for Alyssa, radical sovereigntist Chaz Whitedeer sets off a catastrophic chain of events.

4) Your book deals quite heavily with both Native American substance abuse and radical politics. Did you do a lot of research on these issues?
Substance abuse does have a role in my book. It is a big problem on most reserves and reservations, especially those with high poverty rates. However, many native communities are taking an active role in dealing with these issues and offering services to help those affected.

The political issues, I researched in-depth. I read reports and studies on the Akwesasne and Oka Crises (1990) both from the native and the military perspective. I watched documentaries, read fictional and non-fictional accounts. But most importantly, to understand the current political situation within the Iroquois, I went to Kahnesatake and spoke with various tribe members. I was fascinated to learn how divided the Iroquois are. And most of those divisions stem from the past. For example, there are tensions between people who believe in the traditional political system—the Longhouse—and those who support the government-imposed political system—the band council. However, the Canadian government only recognizes band leaders and will not negotiate with traditional leaders. Furthermore, because of residential schools and conversions by Christian missionaries, many natives are Christian, creating another divide. Traditionalists follow the Longhouse and its code of ethics and traditions.

One interesting note to be made here: in the Montréal area, since the Crises in 1990, there has been an upsurge in conversions to the Longhouse both politically and spiritually. In addition, many communities are now offering children education in their native languages and providing language classes to adults. A clear effort is being made to return to their roots.

5) This is the second book in the Deadly Vices series. Will people who have not read the first book be able to slide into this one without too much trouble?

Yes. The books are loosely connected through the friendships of the characters. When characters from the previous book are mentioned, I’m careful to introduce them in such a way that the reader knows who they are in relation to the hero/heroine of the current book.

6) Racial and ethnic elements in stories can bring with them potential controversy. Are you concerned about anyone taking issue with any of your depictions of Native peoples in this book?
Yes and no. I’ve done my best to represent in as truthful a manner as I could the great diversity among First Nations people. I have characters who are band council members and supporters, moderate traditionalists, radical traditionalists, Longhouse followers, Christians, etc. Some people will feel that Chaz Whitedeer is a hero, and that’s okay. Which character, Rémi or Chaz, the reader views as the protagonist and the antagonist will depend on the reader’s own beliefs. Many traditionalists will find that Rémi was not a hero because as Chaz says, he put his personal needs above those of his people. Of course, Chaz says this in a much more colorful manner.  Others will think Rémi is a hero because he did follow his heart. He didn’t give in to the demands of those around him. He had the courage to go his own way. It’s all a question of perspective.

7) What ingredients do you think make for the best thrillers?

Personally, I think the best thrillers are those that make us think. They shouldn’t be so far out there that the reader is detached from what is happening. The reader needs to feel it is believable enough and plausible enough to be real.

The other aspect they need is a great villain. To me a great villain is one where I can understand his or her motives. I might even feel that in their shoes, I might experience some of the same feelings. I wouldn’t go so far as to destroy a community or kill people, but I might be able to see why this person would think it necessary to achieve his goal.

8) Tell us about your other works?

I’m currently working on a short story/novella for an anthology coming out this spring. I’m also working on Deadly Betrayal, the third book in the Deadly Vices series. This book will take us to Afghanistan, where Kaden Christiansen, a character introduced in the first two books, will be forced to face some truths about his past and his present.


Thanks, Kristine.

If you'd like to see more from Kristine, please check out her website

DEADLY ADDICTION can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whatever happened to Georgiana Darcy? An interview with historical mystery author (and Janite) Regina Jeffers

Today I'm talking with Regina Jeffers about her cozy mystery, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY, which transplants familiar Jane Austen characters into a cozy mystery setting.


1) Tell us about your latest book.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY is a cozy mystery, much in the vein of an Agatha Christie novel or the Murder She Wrote TV series. A cozy is set in a deserted area and has no sex or graphic violence. Along with the main characters, a “cozy” requires the reader to use his intelligence to solve the mystery’s clues. The book is classified as romantic suspense, but there is more suspense than romance in the story line. I prefer the idea of “romantic elements” instead. The novel is set two years after PRIDE AND PREJUDICE ends. Although Georgiana Darcy had made a brilliant match in Major General Fitzwilliam, Darcy has never fully accepted the loss of his sister to a proper marriage, but he would gladly “lose” Georgiana to Edward Fitzwilliam’s care if it meant that he could finally locate her on the infamous Merrick Moor.

Book Blurb: Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor–the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.

Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.

How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced–finding Georgiana before it is too late.

2) What inspired you to write a mystery book set in the general Pride and Prejudice milieu?

This book is actually my second romantic suspense. Ulysses Press released THE PHANTOM OF PEMBERLEY in 2010. It did well, placing third in the Dixie Kane Memorial Awards. Fans also received “Phantom” with open arms. Naturally, in the publishing world, one stays with success. But more than that, I believe the Regency Period, with its strict guidelines for behavior and the stringent delineation for social class makes it easy to craft a mystery. Information is withheld; yet, everyone in Regency era Society knows the secrets. It is the perfect scenario.

Yet, writing a mystery is always difficult–to mix overt clues about the crime with essential details that appear unimportant, but are necessary to solve the mystery. Balancing the reveal with inference gaps takes time and planning. And, of course, tossing in those lovely “red herrings,” which take the reader down the wrong paths, are wonderful to see come to fruition.

3) Was it difficult to balance the tension required with mystery with the sort of generally non-mystery atmosphere associated with Austen characters (well, outside of NORTHANGER ABBEY, at least)?

Actually, Austen was a master at creating a diversion, an ingredient necessary for a well-developed mystery. For example, in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, she manages to make her readers not see the truth about Mr. Darcy. About Mr. Wickham. About Elizabeth Bennet. Austen says things such as, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” This is a tongue-in-cheek statement of theme, but it is flawed first impression of what the story entails. She says of George Wickham that he is “beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk.” That is another flawed impression. Of Elizabeth, Austen says, “She is not so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humored as Lydia.” Yet, those of us who have read the novel know this is a false impression. Elizabeth has depths of character not seen in either Jane or Lydia Bennet. Mr. Darcy says of Elizabeth, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Flawed, again and again.

As in any well-told mystery, it is necessary to introduce an unexpected scenario. For the crime, it becomes prudent to develop a closed circle of suspects, each of whom has credible motives and reasonable opportunities to commit the crime. “Phantom” dealt with a series of unexpected deaths; “Disappearance” builds suspense with the setting. Legends of the Merrick Moor, the Awful Hand, and the Murder Hole add suspense to the story line.

4) Will we get to see the good Mr. Darcy thrash a villain or two?

A: I have written several “Darcy” sequels and adaptations. In each, Mr. Darcy is a virile specimen of Regency-era manhood. He has had more than one “tussle” with Mr. Wickham in my novels.

Andrew Davies’ created the image of “Darcy” in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy is given scenes (NOT found in the original story) that make his character more appealing to the predominantly female viewing audience. We see him on horseback, swimming in a placid lake, fencing, and hunting. We see him stepping from his bath and staring broodingly out a window. Women loved the image. These same women are my audience. I would be foolish to go against the model.

5) Your novel has a mix of original creations and more well known Austen characters. Did you find it difficult to write scenes with the Austen characters?

I seriously believe that Austen’s intertextual reinscriptions of Restoration comedy have echoes in contemporary rewrites of classical literature. Reading a historical novel in its period requires the reader to understand the period, as well as the social distance from the present. Despite Austen being a part of the Society of which she wrote, her works display a “distance” from the time period, and that “distance” marks Austen’s voice as one more distinct than others of her time. Jane Austen was sophisticated, subtle, and very intelligent in her handling of complex issues. Austen’s women were women of sense; they embodied the notion of rational love. Today’s audience has paradoxically maintained Austen’s “formula.”

Austen characters have lived in my head for half a century. They are often dancing about a ballroom or strolling along a country lane. When I write, the scenes play in my head as if they were part of a movie. When something is not correct, I simply hit “rewind” until the scene plays with authority. I often find myself saying, “Mr. Darcy would not say that.” Then I replay the scene until it is correct.

6) Did you ever have any concern that readers might take issue with your interpretation of these well-known characters?

The most difficult part of writing Austen-inspired literature is that each of Austen’s fans feels as if “Jane” is her personal friend, and that reader knows “Jane’s mind” better than anyone else. Therefore, they bring to the reading experience a preconceived idea of how Austen’s characters would act outside of her novels. I have been fortunate, overall. Most of my readers feel that I understand how Austen’s characters would respond to various situations. However, I occasionally meet a reader who disagrees with what I have written. One thing that I do religiously in my works is that I use as much of Austen’s actual text as possible within the story line. Many love to hear familiar phrases in new situations.

Writing scenes with the forbidden word “SEX” in them is more of an issue. Many Janeites think any scene that involves sexual references is inappropriate for Austen-inspired works. My scenes are more realistic. I look at Darcy and Elizabeth’s joining as a loving one. I do not write torrid sexual encounters, but I also do not avoid the old adage of “an heir and a spare.” My scenes are more indicative of vintage films. One sees the build up, but then the door closes, and he knows what happens.

7) Period novels necessitate research. Even with you having a starting point in a famous work, your story goes off in directions Austen never dreamt of. So, in the course of doing research for your novel, is there anything you learned that surprised you?

The research is based on what would and would not be acceptable for the Regency Period, the time period in which the majority of my novels are set. The true Regency Period lasted only ten years, from 1811 to 1820. Most writers of the period place their stories somewhere between 1800 and 1820; however, a few feature everything from the French Revolution to the Reform. When I am creating a Jane Austen adaptation, my setting is defined by Austen’s original story line. For example, the events in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE occur in 1812. If I am writing an Austen sequel, I must be aware of the events that happened in the years following 1812. In my latest novel, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY, Colonel Fitzwilliam is returning from service with Wellington at Waterloo. Therefore, the book must be true to June 1815. In my unique Regencies, I tend to place my characters in situations that occur between 1810 and 1815. It is the time period of which I am most familiar.

I have a stash of Regency-related books to which I often turn for assistance. The Internet is helpful, but there is so much misinformation on the Web that a person must look for sites that verify the content found upon the page. One of the biggest issues is anachronistic phrases. I am more aware of those issues in my Austen-inspired works. Miss Austen has a distinct style, which is difficult to replicate, and I make a point of adding her actual wording to the story lines. In most Regencies on the mass market, in the publishing business, a certain number of anachronistic phrases are acceptable. Those serve as a segue between what is often seen as the stilted language of the period and modern phrasing. However, I do attempt to be true to language style.

I love to look for the “unusual” of the Regency era and then incorporate the legend into my novels. For example, there is the mysterious Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the legend of St. Cuthbert’s miraculous burial site or the real-life case of Mary Reynolds, a woman who suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder. I also found it quite fascinating that Lord Thomas Cochrane proposed saturation bombing and chemical warfare during the Napoleonic Wars. The era has such “nuggets” that amaze my readers and keep them coming back for more.

8) Writing an entire novel continuing the adventures of Austen characters is rather indicative of your fondness for Miss Austen's work. Can you tell us about your first experience with her work?

I have been in love with Jane Austen’s stories for as long as I can remember. When I was twelve, I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and was hooked. Perhaps, it was being a product of the 1950s and 1960s. Those decades were a male dominated period (Have you ever watched Mad Men?). Jane Austen’s works looked at society through a comedic screen while examining issues found in a male dominated world. Charlotte Lucas symbolizes the prevailing attitude toward women, while Elizabeth Bennet does not condemn feminine “virtues,” but rather balances them with a sensible mind. In each of Austen’s novels, the main characters have experiences that create a profound and permanent transformation (Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE; Marianne Dashwood in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY; Emma Woodhouse in Emma; Anne Elliot in PERSUASION; Catherine Morland in NORTHANGER ABBEY; and Edmund in MANSFIELD PARK). Austen’s witty, satirical approach to her subjects resonates across the centuries. Therefore, as a twelve-year-old, I read Jane Austen for the first time, and I was hooked.

9) Can you tell us about any of your other published or planned works?

Currently, during the day, I am spending time with my new grandson. His parents are both teachers, and “LoLa” is tending the child until the end of the school year. I love to watch him reach each of his benchmarks. James is 6 months old and is my new best friend.

In the evenings, I am writing. My next Austen-inspired title with Ulysses Press will be another Darcy mystery to be released in the spring of 2013. I am preparing to release my contemporary version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, entitled HONOR AND HOPE, as soon as we decide on the cover art for the project. Currently, I am writing book 4 of my Regency historical series: A TOUCH OF GRACE. (Book 1 was THE SCANDAL OF LADY ELEANOR [formerly A Touch of Gold]; Book 2 is A TOUCH OF VELVET; Book 3 is A TOUCH OF CASHMERE). I am on chapter 22 of the tale, and I love it. The story has taken on its own life. Publishers’ Weekly called this series a “knockout.”

Beside the above titles, I have written seven Austen-inspired titles. They include Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes; Darcy’s Temptation, The Phantom of Pemberley, Vampire Darcy’s Desires, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, and Christmas at Pemberley. In addition to the books in the Realm series, The First Wives’ Club is the first book in a Regency era trilogy, and there’s always my contemporary romance, Second Chances: The Courtship Wars, which is based around a reality TV show.

10)  If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who would it be? And Why?

When I was younger, I had a fascination with George Custer. Besides the Regency Period, I read extensively about the American Civil War, when Custer’s military career began. I tried to discover every little detail about the man who died at the Battle of Little Bighorn. For example, did you know that a year after that fateful battle that Custer’s remains were dug up and reburied at West Point? Were you aware that Custer used a cinnamon scented tonic on his long golden locks? Did you realize that Custer wrote a book, published in 1874, entitled My Life on the Plains or Personal Experiences with the Indians? How about the fact that Walt Whitman, on hearing the news of Custer's death, wrote the poem "From Far Dakota's Canyons"? Among his men, Custer developed a reputation for flamboyant behavior. He led his troops into battle wearing a black velvet jacket trimmed with gold lace, a crimson necktie, and a white hat. He claimed that he adopted this outfit so that his men "would recognize him on any part of the field.”

Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn made the life of an obscure 19th century military figure into the subject of legends with countless songs, books, and paintings. Custer’s critics say his blunders caused his death and the death of his men. His supporters say he was only following standard military tactics of his time.

Paintings and writings about "the Custer massacre" depict Custer as a gallant victim, surrounded by bloodthirsty savages. The fact that Custer started the battle by attacking the Indian village is often omitted.
It is said that the “Indians” did not scalp or mutilate Custer's body out of respect for his fighting ability, but few participating Indians knew who he was. To this day no one knows the real reason the Amerinds left Custer’s body intact.

11) What was your favorite chapter (or part) of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY to write and why?

I love to write confrontations. I am not certain what that says about me. Perhaps, it is all the years that I spent in martial arts. I have always seen the forms (simulated fights) used to train the students in Tae Kwon Do as “dance.” Therefore, if one looks closely at any of my books, it’s the “fight scene” that takes more than one chapter. In this book, Major General Fitzwilliam (the former Colonel Fitzwilliam) and Darcy race across the Scottish moors to rescue a woman they believe to be the missing Georgiana; yet, before they have the opportunity to find their missing loved one, they must fight their way through the prison cells below Normanna Hall. Those pages are wrought with tension.


Thanks, Regina.

If you'd like to see more from Regina, please check out her website at

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-million, and Joseph Beth Booksellers.