Sunday, October 21, 2012

A cowboy, just what a woman in trouble needs: An interview with contemporary romance author Kimberly Lewis

1) Please tell us about your book.

Zane is the first book in a series of three revolving around the McKade siblings—Zane, Luke and Norah. In this first book we are introduced to the whole family but, as you can tell from the title, this one focuses on Zane with Luke and Norah being secondary characters.

This story is about two people, Zane and Kellan/Andi, who both have their fair share of horrible pasts—Kellan/Andi having dealt with an abusive boyfriend and Zane coming from a past where all he knows is distrust and betrayal. It’s because of these events (plus a rocky first meeting) that keep these two from liking each other at first. But once they set aside their differences, they realize that they really can get along with each other and a sweet love story between the two develops.

2) Please tell us a bit more about your two leads, Kellan/Andi and Zane.

Zane is a country boy who loves his cowboy lifestyle, working on his family’s ranch raising horses and training them. He is a very family oriented guy and will do anything he can to protect the ones he loves from getting hurt.

Kellan/Andi is a city girl who never intended on making the move to the country. She knows nothing of country life and it’s quite a culture shock for her at first. She is sweet but has a sassy side that comes through when someone gives her a hard time.

3) What's the enduring appeal of the cowboy?

I think it’s that whole simplistic, country boy charm that they all seem to have. They don’t need to wine you and dine you to win you over. Instead they choose a more casual approach to things—a quiet walk down a dirt road, horseback riding, etc. Plus the fact that they are strong enough to tame thousand pound wild animals but aren’t afraid to show a softer side when it comes to the woman they love.

4) How did you get interested in the Lone Star State as a setting for contemporary romance?

Well, when I think of cowboys I automatically think of Texas. That’s really what it all comes down to on how I chose that particular state for the setting of my novels. I may venture outside of Texas for future novels, but we’ll have to see:-)

5) What's the one trait a good male lead in romance needs?

I think strength is one of the important ones. Not just in the physical sense but emotionally as well.

6) You've added a touch of danger in your book. Do you think contemporary romance is better, in general, with a touch of danger?

That’s a good question:-) I wouldn’t necessarily say that contemporary romance is better with a touch of danger, but it does make an interesting read. I chose to have that element of danger in this book because that’s how I saw my conflict play out during the writing process. Personally I enjoy novels that have some danger and excitement to them, so naturally that’s why I chose to go that route. But to say that contemporary romance is all around better with a touch of danger would be wrong because there are many novels I have read with no element of danger that I absolutely love. It all comes down to personal taste really and how well the author keeps you interested in the characters and storyline.

7) Please tell us about your other projects.

I do have one more completed novel that is available in ebook format only (as of right now). When the Heart Falls is my very first novel that I published and it’s also a contemporary western romance. I always feel like I’m going to give too much away when I describe what my novels are about so, in an effort not to spoil anything, here’s the synopsis:

When Misty Prescott moved back home to her parent’s ranch after catching her husband cheating on her, she couldn’t have possibly known that she’d fall for not one, but two cowboys at the same time. Nor could she have known that getting involved with both men would bring unwelcome excitement, turning her already messed up world completely upside down. As Misty’s relationship with Vance Kinney begins, she can’t help but develop an intense attraction to her best friend’s older brother, Dylan McCoy. But just as Misty makes her choice, she indirectly becomes the target of one horrific event after another. Now, Misty must fight the very obstacles that threaten to tear her apart from the man she loves, and survive the danger lurking around every corner that threatens their very lives.

I am also working on the second book in my McKades of Texas series, which revolves around Norah. I’d love to give you more details about it, but I’ve just started writing it so there’s not much to talk about right now:-)

8) Do you have an excerpt you'd like to share?

Here’s an excerpt that touches on that element of danger:

“Well, I think that’s the last of them. Why don’t we go ahead and start closing up,” Red suggested to Andi around a quarter to two.

“Sounds good to me. I’m beat for one night.” Andi walked over and locked the door, turning the neon open sign off in the process as well. She then walked around to each table and cleared off all of the bottles, glasses, and pitchers. Red took care of bagging up all of the trash and told Andi that he was going to run it out back to the dumpster and that he’d be back in a few.

She walked behind the bar and stretched her arms over her head, letting out a huge sigh as she picked up the broom from the corner. Walking back out to the dance floor, she reached in her pocket and placed a quarter in the jukebox. “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks came through the speakers and Andi hummed the tune as she began to sweep the dirty floor. She was so into the song that she didn’t even hear the footsteps across the wooden floor. Andi jumped and dropped the broom when she felt the masculine arms slide around her waist from behind her. She was startled, only for a moment, and she playfully slapped at the hands that were lying across her stomach.

“Don’t you remember what happened last time you did that?” she teased.

The hands slid down to her hips and forcefully pulled her backwards.

“Whoa,” she said attempting to keep her balance.

Cool lips touched her neck and the hands slid from her hips to her ribs and slowly across her breast.

“Babe, don’t do that here,” she chided and attempted to free herself of his strong hands. His grip only tightened the more she tried to free herself. “Whoa, Zane, take it easy,” she said starting to become annoyed. He’d never acted like this before and she didn’t understand why he was being rough with her now. “Ouch, babe, that hurts.”

The lips left her neck for only a moment and Andi could feel the warm breath of a whisper blow across the tip of her earlobe as she heard, “Who’s Zane?”


If you'd lik to see more from Kimberly, tomorrow she'll be visiting

In addition, you can find her at: 

Twitter: @klewisnovels

Friday, October 19, 2012

Isolated on a Mountain in 1899: An interview with historical fiction author Carol Ervin

1) Please tell us about your book. 

The Girl on the Mountain is a bit historical, a bit mysterious, somewhat religious, and (I’ve been surprised to learn) shot through with human sexuality, though nothing explicit. The story opens in 1899, with a young wife whose husband leaves her in an isolated mountain cabin while he works in a logging camp through the week. The rail line that carries logs down to the sawmill passes by her cabin, and several times a day she waves to the trainmen, the only humans she sees on weekdays. Then her husband disappears, and she finds herself abandoned in a sawmill town with no friends or family, the object of gossip.

2) Please tell us about your lead, May Rose.

May Rose suffers from lack of family, a mother who died when she was born and a father who left her to be raised by his sister, who died before May Rose reached her teens. Now her uncle and cousins are supposed to be homesteading in the West, but she’s lost track of them, a mystery that runs through the story.

Her lack of family and her prettiness make May Rose a target of predatory men. Her strongest characteristic, and a great motivator, is her compassion for unfortunate children.

3) What got you interested in writing turn of the twentieth-century historical fiction?

I was inspired to set a story in this period because I feel physically close to it. In my region of West Virginia, artifacts abound: foundation stones of old sawmills, traces of logging roads, antique shops with tools and utensils in dim buildings from the same era. Years ago when we moved to our farm, elderly neighbors shared stories of their youth. Living here and experiencing a culture that carried on traditional ways of doing things, I felt like we’d stepped fifty years back in time, in a good way.

4) Do you feel historical fiction is more valuable as a tool to understand a past or as a useful way of exploring universal themes and ideas about the human condition that are outside the emotional context of modern events and societies?

Fiction can make history more understandable, and reading historical fiction has affected some of my ideas. But mainly I like period fiction that broadens my awareness and connects me to people of other times and places. In researching and writing The Girl on the Mountain, I felt close to grandparents I never knew.

5) What sort of research did you do in order to capture the intricacies of the period and place you portray?
Many details are from personal experience, like knowing a woman whose fingers were bitten off by a pig, but I read articles about logging, railroading, and sawmill work in Goldenseal, the magazine of West Virginia traditional life, found descriptions of products like washing machines and canned milk on company websites, read about the construction of wooden trestles, looked up popular novels and music of the period, talked with my railroad-hobbyist neighbor and read about railroad carts (speeders), checked usage of words in the Oxford English Dictionary to be sure certain terms were not modern. Twice I rode a narrow-gauge logging train pulled by a Shay engine at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The most important reference was Roy B. Clarkson’s Tumult on the Mountain, Lumbering in West Virginia—1770-1920. It’s a wonderful book with some 250 photos, first printed in 1964 and still in print from McClain Printing Company in Parsons, WV. I love the people in those old photographs.

6) What were your primary thematic goals in this book? Were you more interested in exploring identity directly or the social interface of gender and gender roles?
A writer’s beliefs do come out, and one of mine is that we make many mistakes in judging others. May Rose misjudged her husband. The townspeople misjudged her. I showed what I believe to be true of male and female roles of the period—women had little power to sustain themselves or advance without the influence or protection of a man. But even then, women found ways to be influential.

7) Please tell us about your other projects. 

When readers of early drafts warned that Wanda, May Rose’s 13-year-old sidekick, might “steal the show,” I decided to make her the main character in a sequel. Wanda’s story begins 15 years later, after much of the land has been devastated by fires and floods. The first draft of Wanda’s story is nearly complete. The third book in the series will bring back May Rose.

8) Do you have any excerpts you'd like to share?
Here’s an excerpt liked by my writer-friend, Lindy Moone. The passage shows May Rose near the beginning of the story, trying to decide how to deal with her husband’s deceit:

At dusk she dragged the porch stool and the shotgun to the middle of the clearing and watched the dark spaces between the trees to prove she had nothing to fear. A tract of thick virgin timber, saved from the logging company by a surveyor’s mistake, surrounded the clearing on all but the west side. There the railroad track passed at the edge of the sky. Her ears tuned to sounds of leaf whisper and high cricket drone. Hawks drifted in circles above and below her line of sight. This, like dawn, was the clean time, when the earth did not tremble with far-off crash of trees, and passing trains did not smother the air.

The better parts of two years with Jamie begged to be remembered. They might be as much as anyone had. They might be more. She closed her eyes and saw how his face transformed when he smiled, how the edge of his lip turned up. She remembered the rhythm of his work songs, how she shivered when his hands stopped her in the garden or at the stove. She felt his lips on her neck and the length of him against her those Saturday nights, when he took her breath--those Sundays, when they knew what mattered.


Thanks, Carol.

If you'd like to see more from Carol, please visit her at

If you'd like to purchase The Girl on the Mountain, please visit

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Piercing the Folds of Reality: An interview with YA paranormal author, Venessa Kimball

1)   Pleases tell us about your book.

Jesca Gershon-Sera has an average life on the surface. She is a sophmore in college, has a loving family, and holds a part time job at a local bookstore with her best friend. Her life is pretty normal. Except, under the surface she feels like she is losing her mind. Reoccurring nightmares have plagued Jesca for most of her childhood. She thought nothing of them, until they began intensifying and finding their way into her waking hours. Voices, vivid images and supernatural abilities in her nightmares are beginning to seep into her reality.

Ezra Kahn is one of her college professors. Lately, Ezra happens to be everywhere she is; like he is watching her. Along with the slight fear that her professor is stalking her, Jesca fears that she won't be able to handle much more of the insanity that is blurring her reality. On a chance encounter, Jesca confides in Ezra about the crazy happenings. Jesca thought that he would think her to be insane or a freak. But, to Jesca's surprise, Ezra Kahn reveals that she is not a lunatic and that all of the insanity is very real.

Instantaneously, Jesca's reality is set askew. Ezra reveals that he has been sent to help her. He tells her she is experiencing these events in her life because of her inherited purpose to protect humanity from inconceivable catastrophe.  

Jesca's roller coaster begins here! Boasting piercing suspense, pre-apocalyptic adventure, consuming romance, and "reality-based" spirituality and science fiction, Piercing the Fold: Book 1 will pull the reader in for the ride and won't let go! 

2) Please tell us about your lead.

Jesca Gershon-Sera. She is not a meek character by any means. She is confident, independent, and has no problem telling things like it is. She is curious. She is sarcastic and witty.  She is physically fit. She is a runner and loves the outdoors. She is a very loyal and compassionate person. Passion drives her for sure. Because of her upbringing, she is a very spiritual person. But, she appreciates and is curious about how science plays a part in her faith, like an extension to her faith.

3) What inspired this book?

It all started with a show on The Learning Channel or Discovery Channel, can't quite remember. It was late on November 22, 2010 and I was decompressing in front of the television. I was watching a show about the plausibility of wormholes. That was it. My mind started going through the "what ifs". I started googling everything from wormholes to galatic collisions. This prominent person kept coming to the forefront of my mind. It was her, Jesca, the main character. Her image, her features, her stature, everything was there when she came to my mind. That night she was born. The next day, November 23, 2010 I started drafting Piercing the Fold: Book 1. All the characters began popping into my head revealing their purpose in this story. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

4) What fundamental themes does your book explore?

Fundamental themes: self discovery, awareness of responsibility and purpose, how religion/spirituality and science could have a connection in our great expanse, how knowledge can be both powerful and dangerous if not wise about how it's utilized. 

5) You have some interesting style choices in this book, including some chapters in first person and other chapters in third person from the POV of other characters. Please tell us a bit about your thought process behind your POV choices.

While writing Piercing the Fold: Book 1, some of the characters were becoming more prominent in the storyline. I have always found it to be interesting how POV transitions can be utilized to bring a developing supporting character to the forefront in a storyline. Those characters I chose to bring into first person needed to reveal their perspective in regards to the storyline. Some authors choose to hold one POV throughout. However, with Piercing the Fold: Book 1, reality has been set askew and with that the perspectives within the book needed to reflect the chaos other characters were experiencing as well. Inevitably, those POV shifts in Book 1 and Book 2 (and so on) will be justified when certain events throughout the series are revealed.

 6) Please tell us about your other projects.

November 2012, Piercing the Fold: Book 1's audio book will be released. It is going to be a unique audio book. There will be multiple talents reading for the characters. It will be movie-like in a sense. Except, the movie will be created in the listener's mind. It's very exciting! Surfacing the Rim: Book 2 in the Piercing the Fold series will be released in March 2013. Book 3 (Title not revealed yet) is projected for a June 2013 release. I'm not sure if the Piercing the Fold series will stop at Book 3.


Thanks, Venessa.

Piercing the Fold: Book 1 can be purchased at:

You can learn more about Venessa at:




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Sins of the Nine Circles of Hell as Inspiration: An interview with award-winning horror/thriller anthologist Connie Corcoran WIilson

 1) Please tell us about your collection.

Hellfire & Damnation II is the second short story collection organized around the framing device of Dante’s “Inferno,” the 9 Circles of Hell, and the crimes or sins punished at each of those levels of Hell. It is 53,000 words long, with illustrations for each story and a “From the Author” section explaining the inspiration for each of the 11 stories. The first collection was 47,000 words, with 15 stories, but it had neither illustrations nor a From the Reader” section

2) What got you interested in writing a collection organized thematically around Dante's "Inferno"?

 I was searching for a unifying device that would allow considerable flexibility of theme, topic and setting. Someone said to me, “Why not use the 7 Deadly Sins?” (My publisher, as I recall). My response was that that had been done. I remember 1968’s Rod Steiger movie “No Way to Treat a Lady” that used the 7 Deadly Sins and the movie “7” with Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow also used it. There also was a film “Zodiac,” (Robert Downey, Jr., 2007) which involved use of the horoscope. So, I was considering many possibilities. Dante’s “Inferno” had not been used as a unifying device, as far as I knew.

Dante’s “Inferno,” which I read as an English Literature major at the University of Iowa, is a well-known classic that had thematic possibilities, especially after I investigated all the crimes and sins that ARE punished at each level of Hell.  I could not think of anyone who had “done” this particular organizational frame before, and isn’t that what writing is about: thinking creatively? When I investigated and realized how much leeway you can  have regarding the crimes or sins punished at the various levels of Hell (i.e., there are many MANY more choices than I have used, as of now, so the beat goes on), I realized that, for me, this was a good answer. The frame allows me to change it up and have a variety of settings and themes as I move forward. [Although a couple of levels----most notably gluttony and heresy---are more difficult to write than others. You have to expand the definition of “gluttony” beyond just eating food to any overuse of a substance, like drugs or alcohol.]

3) In the West, we, in general, are living in a considerably more secular culture than your standard (or not so standard) 14th-century Florentine poet. Do you think the increased secularism of our culture influences the ability of readers to interface with a thematic structure so intimately tied to medieval theology?

Not really. How can anyone in today’s society not “relate” to the theme of violence or suicide (featured at certain levels)?  I’m not trying to rewrite Dante’s Inferno. I’m merely using the various sins or crimes punished at each level as a unifying device to connect stories that might otherwise seem randomly selected. It works for me; I hope it works for the reader.

4) Please tell us a bit about the different story styles in the collection.

In some cases, I wrote from a first-person point of view, including the first story which is depicted on the cover about the “frozen dead guy” of Nederland, Colorado. Other stories are omniscient author or third person.   In one story (“Oxymorons”), I attempted using dialogue to carry the entire story. In others, I did extensive research and secured actual documents for “Letters to LeClaire,” (which was originally written for a museum in the town of LeClaire, Iowa, Buffalo Bill’s birthplace.) just as I did for “A Spark on the Prairie.” The reader is in for a great deal of variety, and it’s the kind of collection I’d like to read, with notes “From the Reader” on what inspired the stories and even illustrations.

5) Do you have a particular favorite among the stories?

I’m very fond of stories that mix humor with the horror. There are 2 or 3 in this collection that have that distinction: “Room Service” and “M.R.M” and “Oxymorons.” I can’t say they are necessarily my “favorites,” because I thought that “The Bureau,” which is a long story at 7,000 words, was intricate enough to merit a 99 cent E-book version all by itself and it went up on Amazon first as a “teaser,” before I was done with the entire collection. Just as you would always have something about each of your children that you really liked about each of them, there is something about each story that I really like. In one of the slower-paced stories, “A Spark on the Prairie,” I like the fact that it is carefully researched. The reader will learn quite a bit about the early treatment of Native Americans by the United States government and the early settlers. (Theme: greed).  I also often strive for surprise endings (think “The Sixth Sense”) and I managed to pull off quite a few of them, which isn’t always easy. And, as usual, I tried to have much of the violence happening off-screen, a la Alfred Hitchcock.

6) Please tell us a bit about some of your other works.

First book: “Training the Teacher as a Champion,” 1989. Scholarly work on teaching for Performance Learning Systems, Inc. of Emerson, New Jersey. Their company Bible.  Then, I put together a book just for my family entitled “Both Sides Now,” which consisted of anything I had ever written that sold, mostly humorous essays and poetry accompanied by some pictures. (2003) I then wrote a sci fi novel (“Out of Time”) and a script based on that sci-fi/thriller/romance that was a winner in a “Writer’s Digest” competition in 2007 and 2008. I wrote a second book of humorous essays entitled “Laughing through Life” (2011) and, also a full-color illustrated children’s book, “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats,” written for my 3-year-old twin grandchildren at Christmas last year. I got out my 43-year-old scrapbooks and, from the reviews I had written for the Quad City Times between 1970 and 1979, I put together a book of 50 reviews in a retrospective fashion, including all of the ads that ran in the papers at the time (2010). The book was entitled “It Came from the ‘70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now,” and I worked on it for 8 years. It won 5 national awards.  After that nonfiction book, I wrote 3 “PG” volumes containing supposedly true ghost stories told me as I traveled Route 66, entitled “Ghostly Tales of Route 66.” (Vol. I, 2007; Vol. II, 2008; Vol. III, 2009) Then, I moved on to a short story collection entitled “Hellfire & Damnation” (2011) the second of which we are talking about now. I’ve also begun a novel series, which will be either a trilogy or a quartet of books, stemming from a short story within “Hellfire & Damnation” entitled “Living in Hell,” and entitled “The Color of Evil.” The novel came out in January as an E-book and in March as a paperback. It has won an E-Lit Gold Medal, a Silver Feather Award from the Illinois Women’s Press Association and NABE, Pinnacle and ALMA (American Literary Merit Awards) either for complete works or for individual stories within the “H&D” series. One of the 4 books I wrote this year also received an award at the national level from National Women’s Press Association in September. I am concentrating on writing thrillers with suspenseful, horrific content, but more in the Hitchcock mold. I’m not ruling out True Crime or mystery genres, but I like writing the “H&D” series and I’m becoming quite fond of the cast of characters within “The Color of Evil.”

7)  Would you like to share some links to your works?

Readers should check out these links:

Also, I’d like readers to know that, for the five days leading up to Halloween (October 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31), “Hellfire & Damnation II” is completely FREE as a Kindle download. Tell your friends. And here is an interview (podcast) with New York City radio personality Cyrus A Webb regarding “The Color of Evil”:

Monday, October 15, 2012

One Hell of a House: An interview with Debra Chapoton about her YA paranormal novel, Sheltered

1) Please tell us about your book.

Living together unsupervised, five troubled teens confront demonic forces and are compelled to deal with their problems in distinctly different ways.

High school junior, Ben, hacks into his step-father's real estate holdings and provides rooms in an old two-story house to various outcasts: the schizophrenic kid, the angry Goth girl, and the homeless girl who worships him. When Megan needs a place to live she comes to the rooming house with a different set of problems and the ability to confuse and attract Ben.

One by one strange and mysterious occurrences stretch the teens’ beliefs in the supernatural. How they deal with demons, real and imagined, has tragic as well as redeeming consequences.

2) Your book focuses om several different teens. Please tell us a bit about them.

Ben is cute, smart, industrious, and kind, but he lies a lot. He carries the burden of having an alcoholic mom and an oppressive step-father, but his heart is in the right place as he tries to help emancipated teens. Emily was living in a homeless shelter until Ben stepped in. She is very quiet, smart, and never seems to get that long hair out of her face as she tries to hide her troubles and her desire for Ben. Megan is polite, pretty, and vacillates between being strong-willed or caving to temptation. She harbors a secret that may ruin her chances with Ben. Cori is my favorite character because she was kicked out of her home for being incorrigible. Messy dyed black hair, lots of make-up, pierced ears and lip, and a tattoo on her back all hide the little girl inside. Cori uses foul language, exhibits a bad attitude and is a bitchy thief. She was as much fun to write about as Chuck and Adam, twins with a tragic past and future.

3) The haunted house is one of the oldest plots in horror, yet people keep coming back for more. What's the appeal in your opinion?

 Do I need to tell you how many times I’ve been alone at home and heard strange noises? I’ve walked around the house with various weapons, like a high heeled shoe or pair of scissors, checking behind doors and under beds. Aren’t we all afraid of the dark? Hmm?

4) Like I said, haunted houses aren't exactly a new idea. What distinguishes your story from others with a similar basic premise?

In Sheltered the house is not exactly “haunted” though there was a gruesome event in its history. There are no ghosts in this story, but worse than ghosts, there are demons, fallen angels who can posssess a person and make them exhibit great strength or manifest symptoms of epilepsy or bring them to the brink of suicide.

5) Your last novel, Edge of Escape, delved into the dark psychological corners of obsession, but there was nothing supernatural about it. Why did you choose to explore a different genre this time about?

I wanted to do something in the paranormal genre because it’s so popular and such fun to read. Despite the fact that an author can go absolutely as far as she wants, imaginatively speaking, I tried to keep the demon stuff within the parameters of actual Biblical accounts.

6) The YA commentariat has been abuzz in recent years with battles over the relative amount of dark material in YA books, including several very high profile editorials in the New York Times complaining about perceived excessive darkness in modern YA fiction. How do you feel about this entire controversy? Your book has more than a few dark themes and situations itself.

Give me a break, dark material has been around since Beowulf. That’s life – there’s good and evil. I’d be more concerned with books that go heavy on the evil and exclude redemption or triumph. All in all, though, I respect the debate and both sides have valid points, but there will always be disagreement on, well, on everything.

7) Please tell us briefly about your other projects.

Edge of Escape, my first YA novel, delves into obsession and fear. Emotionally impaired yet clever, Eddie obsesses over the most popular girl. He drugs her, abducts her and locks her away.
The Guardian’s Diary will probably be out next spring. It’s about a teen boy who was born with a gruesome deformity that causes him to drag his foot. He faces some tough challenges and dangerous decisions. The story is told through the eyes of his guardian angel.

Right now I am working on a young adult novel in which the teen characters maneuver through a supernatural world, yet there are neither angels nor demons in this story.

8) Do you have any links to any excerpts you'd like to share?

Here’s a link to a short excerpt from chapter 1 of Sheltered, which I posted on my blog:

Thanks, Debra.

If you'd like to see more from Debra or purchase Sheltered, please check out the following links:


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Land of Morning Calm and Evening Struggle #2: Hangeul, Sejong's Lasting Gift

This is the second in a series about the Joseon era of Korean history. For an overview of the era, please see this link.


Over the thousands of years of Korean history, only two kings managed to earn the moniker "The Great." One of these kings, Sejong, was the fourth ruler of the Joseon Dynasty.

Although I could fill an entire blog series with Sejong's many achievements, today we're going to focus on one of his most famous achievements, facilitating the invention of the 28-letter Korean alphabet, hangeul (lit. the great script), sometime around 1443.

Now, initially, this might seem a bit odd. The Koreans were a literate people, and one of the reasons we know so much about Korean history despite the many upheavals, wars, invasions, and other assorted unpleasantness is that they wrote a lot of things down. They even had metal movable type printing by the 13th century (a good two centuries before Gutenberg). So, why would they need a new alphabet? What were they using to write?

At the time, literate Koreans relied, fundamentally, on Chinese characters (hanja) to write. Chinese writing is a mainly logographic system. The characters themselves represent words. This is distinct from a phonetic system, such as an alphabet, where the individual letters/characters represent sounds.

General reading fluency with hanja requires knowledge of thousands of characters. This is also one of the reasons why things like movable type printing didn't produce the dramatic impact in Korea (or in China, where it had been invented even earlier) they did in Europe. Printing books using hanja required the printing press to account for these thousands of characters.

The use of hanja, as you can imagine, had a large impact on literacy at a time when many people didn't have the time or resources for extensive education. This, among other things, made literacy even more a province of the elite than it was in many other societies.

There's also the linguistic reality that Chinese characters are poorly suited for representing the Korean language. I've studied both Mandarin Chinese and Korean. The languages are radically different. They have different grammar, different phonetics, different morphology, and even different syntax. Mandarin (and all past and present Chinese dialects) is a tonal language. Korean is not. So, in a sense, pretty much everything that defines a language as different from another is different between Korean and Chinese. Fundamental differences in grammar, such as morphological changes in words present in Korean that are not present in Chinese, can be difficult to represent using hanja. The Koreans of the early Joseon, and earlier periods, thus relied on a cumbersome hybrid of hanja supplemented with special characters, even further complicating the entire system.

Page from the Hunmin Jeong-eum Eonhae with both hanja and hangeul.
 The third column from the left is totally in hangeul.The other columns mix the hanja and the hangeul.

In the Joseon Dynasty, hanja and hanja-related scripts were held in high-esteem. The aristocrats and Confucian scholars that controlled Korean society put considerable effort into their study of hanja. There was little real concern among most of these elites about universal literacy. Some of it arguably was about them failing to see the need, and some of it arguably was an attempt to secure their particular positions by limiting the intellectual and cultural resources available to the lesser classes.

King Sejong the Great, however, didn't like presiding over a country were so many people were illiterate. Among other things, he felt this wouldn't allow the commoners to properly express their concerns and complaints via writing, something that was a fundamental limitation in the highly organized and often bureaucratic society. To combat this, he decided upon a language reform with one goal in mind: the creation of a simple phonetic script, what we now call hangeul.

There's still debate to this day how much King Sejong personally participated in the creation of the script, but, at the minimum, he put together a team of scholars from his group of elite scholars, the Hall of Worthies, and may have even worked in the linguistic trenches, as it were, with them on some aspects.

For centuries, there were only myths and folklore to explain many aspects underpinning the desire  hangeul. In the early twentieth century, a copy of a document from 1446 detailing the creation and logic of hangeul was discovered, the Hunmin Jeong-eum Eonhae (The Proper Sounds for Instruction of the People). That name, incidentally, was also the original name for hangeul. This document details the phonetic logic of the script, and the general emphasis on efficiency and ease of learning. For example, the initial shapes were designed to be simple and in some cases even representative of the way the mouth moved. They were (and for the most part still are) simple geometric shapes that are easy to memorize and easy to write.

Basic Korean consonants (Image from WikiMedia Commons)

Famously, King Sejong bragged in supplement to the 1446 document that  "A wise man can acquaint himself with them before the morning is over and even a simple man can learn them in ten days."

Basic Korean vowels
Despite the king's noble intentions, resistance from the entrenched nobility put a serious damper on the use of the script. It was derided it as for being for women and the lower classes, which, in a sense it kind of was. On and off suppression by later kings also severely limited its spread.

The popularity of hangeul would constantly shift throughout the centuries, but by the end of the 19th-century, it finally started becoming the universal Korean alphabet King Sejong the Great had hoped, including being adopted for official use. It was around this time, in 1912, that the modern name, hangeul, was adopted.

The coming of the Japanese threatened hangeul again, as the occupiers attempted to assimilate Koreans into Japanese culture by forcing them to study Japanese and even later outright banning publishing in Korean or Korean script.

After the Koreans were freed from the occupation, the popularity of hangeul exploded. As the generations have passed, the use of hanja is slowly fading. There have been some modifications in the script over the centuries, but overall, it has changed remarkably little since its creation, though in common use, it's dropped from a 28-letter alphabet to a 24-letter alphabet. The clean, careful, and logical design of the script makes spelling particularly easy, and Korean written in hangeul, as compared to many other languages (such as English) has far few phonetic exceptions, silent letters, and other such lingo-historical detritus that can complicate reading and writing.

The creation of hangeul is particularly impressive when you consider the vast majority of the world's alphabets can all be traced back to scripts that originally appeared on the Sinai Peninsula during the Bronze Age. Even when scholars were modifying their alphabets, they were still keeping the core of what had come before.

Though this is a blog series focusing on the Joseon Period, given the continuing division on the Korean Peninsula, I did want to take a brief moment to note that both North and South Korea make use of hangeul, though the North Koreans refer to, for various historical and political reasons, it as Joseongul.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Gruesome Vision of Murder: An interview with paranormal thriller author John "Rocky" Leonard

1) Please tell us about your book. 

Dan Harper is a computer programmer, not a cop or a private detective. When he has a vision of a gruesome crime, he struggles to decide whether to try and ignore what he saw, or dismiss it as a hallucination. He’s a rational man, a family man, with a pregnant wife and a full plate at home and work. The last thing he wants or needs to do is to get involved in a murder investigation, but he soon discovers he doesn’t have much choice but to investigate these visions himself to either put his own mind at rest, or gather clues to provide the police.

2) Please give us some insight into the mind of your lead, Dan Harper. 

Dan is just a regular guy who likes his job, the competition of playing tennis, and being married to his wife. He’s very pragmatic and reason-oriented. With an analytical mind used to solving problems in computer software, Dan is accustomed to figuring out complex problems rather easily. He’s always looking for the most logical solution to any problem. When things begin to happen that don’t seem to make any sense and for which he has no explanation, considerable conflict erupts between Dan’s rational mind and his senses. He knows what his eyes see and his ears hear, but can’t explain why he’s experiencing these strange and violent visions.

3) What inspired this book?

My own personal experience with the paranormal, particularly with ghosts inspired Secondhand Sight, as well as an interview with Detective Joe Kozenczak, the man who arrested serial killer John Wayne Gacy. In the interview and his book The Chicago Killer, Kozenczak credited a pair of psychics with providing him critical information that led to Gacy’s capture. So I thought, what if the murder victims of a serial killer communicated with a psychic in order to help catch the murderer? What if the psychic didn’t know he was gifted prior to this particular case?

In some respects, there was actually more of a basis in reality for Secondhand Sight than Coastal Empire.

4) Different sub-genres tend to tolerate different levels of depicted violence. In your book, you don't shy away from depicting violence. How did you decide what to show and what not to show?

While I didn’t want to disturb people unnecessarily, I must confess the inspiration for some of the descriptions of man’s inhumanity to man didn’t come from dramatized shows like CSI, but instead documentary-styled programs where very bad things happened to real people. I’ve observed enough of reality to conclude that if anything, truth is often worse than fiction, and most certainly stranger. I do not believe that the true nature of evil should be sugarcoated—good people ought to know what they are up against.

There really are people like Clayton in this world, unfortunately.

5) Your previous book, Coastal Empire, was a more conventional suspense book in that it didn't have any paranormal elements. Were there any particular challenges you faced writing Secondhand Sight, related to the paranormal elements, that you didn't face with Coastal Empire?

If anything, Secondhand Sight was easier to write because my own personal experiences were borrowed from for the story. I really do believe that ghosts exist, because of personal experience. One or two incidents might have been rationalized away, but I had too many strange experiences, often witnessed, to deny the supernatural. With Coastal Empire, the idea was nothing more than a seed that grew into a plot, so it was actually tougher to write. I had to make up more stuff.

6) Genre is always a nebulous thing, but, contrary to what some might argue, it also brings with it a certain amount of tradition and associated expectations. Do you feel the inclusion of supernatural elements into your narrative puts it into a separate literary tradition compared to mysteries and suspense books that don't include such elements?

That’s a very good question. Yes, it’s very hard to classify the book and mention similar works, if nothing else. Dean Koontz and Ted Dekker are the only authors that readily come to mind, when asked for a comparative reference.

With all fiction, the author is asking the reader to suspend his or her disbelief, as long as we adhere to an unwritten code that demands we strive for realism as much as possible. I think it’s very important for my readers to know that Hidden Hills really is an abandoned golf course, and I spent hours and hours wandering around…I wanted someone who happened to follow in my footsteps to see what I saw. So believability for the reader is very important to me. With paranormal elements, that’s not so easy to do.

In a rather conventional action-adventure detective novel like Coastal Empire, it’s not that difficult to wander around Bonaventure Cemetery and see the tombstones and crypts I described, and I wanted the reader tempted to look for the bullet holes marking the gunfight there. It’s a little harder for people to envision what a ghost might look like, or how a psychic might receive information from unconventional sources. The burden is a little harder on the writer to convince the reader to suspend disbelief. Although I’ve certainly witnessed paranormal activity, I can’t exactly claim that I’ve seen a ghost. I did see an orb at a legitimate haunted house, once. Some people just don’t believe in ghosts—heck, I didn’t always believe in them myself. To this day, I still have had no personal experience with psychics, and would not have considered it possible had I not watched the Kozenczak interview.

So, when someone asks me to classify Secondhand Sight as a horror novel or a detective thriller, the temptation is for me to say something along the lines, “Imagine if Dean Koontz and Michael Connelly co-wrote a novel…”

7) Please tell us about your literary influences.

I am a rather voracious reader in general, but I really love detective novels and thrillers. If you get me started on science fiction, I can literally start with Asimov and go to Zelazny without picking a favorite author. My favorite detective novelists include Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, T. Jefferson Parker, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver, John Sandford, Thomas Harris among others.

If you asked me specifically by what standard I’d like to eventually measure my work, I think the Michaels—Connelly and Crichton, are about as good as it gets.

8) Please share with us a bit about some of your other projects.

I use the pseudonym Rocky Leonard for my novels so readers can easily differentiate my fiction from my nonfiction writing. I’ve written a book called Divine Evolution, my attempt to reconcile creation with evolution theory, and another that’s going to be called Counterarguments for God. The draft hasn’t been given to my editor yet. I also wrote a collection of short stories about our adventures in animal rescue, called Always a Next One.

My next project as Rocky, currently in rewrite, is the sequel to Coastal Empire, with the working title of Purgatory.

9) Do you have  any excerpts you'd like to share?

Here are a couple of short excerpts. If those don’t work for you, let me know.


I looked into the mirror and gasped. Blood splatters covered the glass, obscuring my reflection in the mirror. My hands felt warm and sticky. Reluctantly, I looked down and saw to my horror that they were covered in wet blood. It was all over me. My mind reeled. Bile rose in my throat. I looked around frantically for the source of the spreading crimson stains. Did I cut myself? I felt no pain.


It happened on the way home from the hospital. I must have blacked out behind the wheel. I remembered turning right onto Alpharetta Highway heading home, and then I snapped out of a trance and found myself parked with the engine shut off in front of a strange, dark house on an unfamiliar street, nowhere near my neighborhood.

How in the hell did I get here?


Thanks for stopping by.

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John L. Leonard was born in Savannah, Georgia and graduated from Savannah Christian School. He holds a BBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Georgia and worked as a computer programmer for more than twenty years before becoming a writer.

John has spent most of his adult life in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. His writing has also been influenced by shorter stints working as a bartender, real estate investor and landlord.

He has been married to wife Lisa for twenty-one years and is the proud father of two and grandfather of three, as well as pack leader for several wonderful dogs and a hostile Maine Coon cat.

His first non-fiction book was published in 2010.

John writes detective novels under the pen name Rocky Leonard. His first detective thriller was published in 2012.

The local color in his writing is equally authentic whether the setting is a Georgia beach, downtown Atlanta, or the Appalachian foothills in north Georgia.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's Easier To Dance: An interview with Annie Laurie Harris Plus Kindle Fire Contest

Today I'm talking with Annie Laurie Harris. Her memoir It's Easier To Dance details her struggles with cerebral palsy.

In addition, Annie is having a contest for a Kindle Fire. Please see the details at the end of the interview.


1) Please tell us about yourself. 

I am an older African-American woman who continues to live life fully and is an influential member of the community. Although I have lived my entire life with cerebral palsy, I have not allowed this complex disability to entirely define me or completely determine my activities. I have pursued and accomplished most of my goals to be well educated, well traveled and a contributor to society. The one thing I have not done that I still long for is to be married. I never imagined myself being single all my life. It is true that the odds are not in my favor. So what else is new? They never were!

2) Tell us about your book.

 Each chapter touches on some aspect I hope will help others facing challenges that seemingly have no end. Among them are, chronic, painful disabilities, a history of abuse, multiple deaths of loved ones. There are also many high points; e.g. receiving an excellent education with highest honors awarded, working in the "real world", a wonderful love affair, international travel, enduring self confidence and being "at home" in this body while having an international view point by doing mission trips to Haiti and Africa. There is little detail and much is left to the readers' imagination. It is a brief trip through history. One thing is very significant: I chronologically define and date ALL the laws passed regarding disabilities from 1972 -1990. The legislative acts have been made laws in my adult life. I align them with the civil rights laws of the 1960s. This has not been done before. 

3) Why did you decide to write a memoir about your life? What was your goal in doing so?

In the last several years I became aware that many of the misconceptions and stereotypes about those with disabilities that I felt were part of the past were still widely held. I was particularly disturbed by the fact that care providers at every level continued to manipulate and abuse those most vulnerable. I didn't want to believe this so I began to do some research. I also joined a closed Facebook group for parents of children with disabilities. There I found descriptions of surgical procedures that were done when I was a child (I refused them) that hadn't worked, were still being preformed. In addition, regular doses of pain killers were being prescribed while physical therapy was not included. I was deeply saddened. Then, quite by accident I discovered discrepancies in what I was being told by government employees and what the law actually said. I just wanted to document my life and that other choices can be made! I hope I helped a few people.

4) What is something you think that a lot of people misunderstand about people with cerebral palsy or people with neuromotor disabilities in general?

I think most people misunderstand that the physical manifestations of these disabilities and the intellect are unrelated. It just depends on what part of the brain is affected.

5) ) What fundamental themes do you tackle in your memoir?

Courage, self definition, bias based on ignorance, self discipline and responses to all the "isms" we live within our society

6) You grew in the 1960s, a period not exactly renowned for race relations in America, and this something your memoir naturally explores. Do you feel that having a disability in addition to being a racial minority granted you a different perspective on any of these issues during those tumultuous times, and for that matter, today?

Living as independently as I choose to do doesn't give me much room to fool myself about the way society sees me. I face the stares and "whispered" comments every day. Therefore, I tend to have a "call it as I see it" approach. For instance, racism is not a "diversity issue". If you do not identify something for what it is, how will a problem ever be solved or an acceptable resolution be reached? How will you even know which questions to ask? One of my problems is seeing the "big picture". Since everything takes so much time and effort, I often fail to conceptualize the larger view.

7) Do you have any other books in the works? 

I am outlining a book on advocacy. I also want to write about the 14 years I practiced yoga and the time I spent living in an ashram.

8) Do you have any links to any excerpts you'd like to share? 

 To end on a fun note:

It’s Easier to Dance Chapter 9

AUGUST 5, 2012

I am posting the entire Chapter as a tribute to Penn State Football. Training camp will be different than ever before given recent events.. This chapter will let you know why I will be there as I have been for any years. GO LIONS!

Life on the Gridiron

I so loved working with the young athletes that came to study hall, where I worked as a monitor. I learned about the sports and the academic requirements they had to maintain in order to play. I had been a football fan for over 20 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers and then my Penn State Nittany Lions.

One day as I was riding my scooter to campus on the bike path where Joe Paterno regularly walked. I asked him if I could come to football practice. “Sure, he said, come on.” I’m sure he thought it would only be a time or two. That was about 13 years ago.

It is widely known that the legendary head coach prefers closed practices. In fact, people walking by the fenced-in practice field, hoping to get a peek, are quickly chased away. However, I had the immense privilege of watching from the sidelines as new recruits and upper classmen players honed their skills for each opponent. I suppose they wondered what a 40-something year old woman, who used an electric scooter for mobility, was doing at practice so regularly. Little did they know that I was learning how to approach living with cerebral palsy while growing older and slowing down. What would now be my motivation to remain physically active, engaged in my community and setting an example for the next generation of disabled and non-disabled young people? I had met many of the goals I set in my life and had come to accept that some would not be realized in my lifetime.

As I watched the developing players prepare for their next game, I began to think of winter, the ice and snow, the cold temperatures and the isolation it brought to me as an “opponent.” If I was going to level the playing field, I had to have a game plan, a strategy and a playbook. I had to train myself both physically and mentally just like the young men I had been watching at practice.

Just as in football, success is determined just as much, if not more, by mental discipline rather than physical agility. As I watched new recruits make the transition from playing in high school to college, I learned from their playing through the soreness of preseason camp every August. This became particularly obvious to me when my young friend, Jordan Norwood, joined the squad in 2004. He was considered little, 5’10”, 150 pounds, and not a lot of muscle. Every time I asked him how he was doing, he said “My ham strings hurt, Annie, my ham strings hurt.” I could tell he was in pain, but every day he was right back out there on the field. He became my role model for living through the winters of Central Pennsylvania. It’s my home.

At nearly every practice there were injured players, those who were either going through rehabilitation due to an injury, or were not allowed to engage in any contact. They still had to be at practice and would be riding stationary bikes or just walking along the edge of the field. A common sports-related injury, a torn ACL, requires time for the swelling to go down, then surgery, then a nine-month rehabilitation period. The injuries were hard to watch, much like my falls early in my life. I took on the role of encouraging them, letting them know I was thinking of them and waiting to see them back on the field again.

This is how I began to learn to live with physical pain that might get better and might not. It would go away sometimes and flare up again due to stress, weather, or any variety of reasons. So I learned the importance of “showing up.” In the winter, cold or not, hard to get up or not, layers of clothing that took an undetermined amount of time to dress each day, boots that took 15 minutes to put on, and muscles that did not cooperate; I was still required to be present and accounted for at my regular activities.

Once I saw the athletic director, Tim Curley, after a basketball game in a snow blizzard. He said, “Annie, what are you doing here?” I answered, “I had to sell programs at the game.” He offered me a ride home, and I instructed him on how to disassemble my scooter and put it in the back of his SUV. I think it was the first time he realized what it took for me to be at any function in the winter. People often say that they saw me riding my scooter up Atherton Street, and it encouraged them. I am rarely aware of being seen by others, because it takes so much energy and focus for me to drive my scooter, maneuver curb ramps and be aware of traffic when crossing the street. It was only after hearing numerous times over the years, “I see you everywhere!” that I began to realize the impact of my presence.

I saw bad practices as well as the good ones, players yelled at, corrected and words of approval, words of well done. I saw passes caught and dropped and intercepted by peers who cared about one another. And I became a part of that team. One administrator called me “coach,” and asked where I was if I missed practice. The graduate assistants would watch for the orange flag on my scooter and tell someone, “Don’t close that gate yet, here comes Miss Annie.” I’ve never had that sense of belonging before. Many of the coaches and players would stop to greet me, some with a hug, when practice was over.

It was in the spring of 2006 that I sustained a fall while exercising on the elliptical machine that threatened to “take me out” of the game of life, and I didn’t tell anybody. As a child it was engrained in my thinking that if I couldn’t take care of myself that I would be put in an institution. This belief kept me from telling anybody how much pain I was in until I realized that something must be terribly wrong, the pain was unbearable. I knew I had to see a doctor; an orthopedist, the specialty I had always avoided since childhood.

By that time, I had become familiar with seeing Dr. Sebastianelli, Director of Penn State Sports Medicine, on the sidelines at practice. I had watched him put young football and soccer players, who had sustained career-ending injuries, back in the game and some who went on to have professional careers. That’s the doctor I wanted to see, only him, nobody else, a doctor who would be convinced that he could restore me to an independent lifestyle with even greater mobility. People kept telling me that he was too busy, and he probably wouldn’t see me anyway. They encouraged me to see a doctor that would have the time to see me sooner, because I was in such pain. But I interrupted them, and said, “He’ll see me, I’ll wait.” I didn’t argue, I simply said repeatedly, “I’ll wait.” That fall, Dr. Sebastianelli evaluated my situation, showing me the X-rays of the discrepancies between my hips. After several alternative treatments were tried, it became clear that a total hip replacement was necessary.

This type of surgery is not typically done on someone with cerebral palsy due to the amount of muscle spasticity that could cause the hip to pop out. Another factor is a previous surgery that is often routinely performed between the ages of 12 and 14 on preadolescent children with this complex disability involving a significant amount of muscle spasms. It is often the case that a child with cerebral palsy is unable to straighten the leg and put the heel flat on the floor, bearing weight on the entire leg. As I understand it, this procedure involves cutting the hamstring at about the mid-calf, enabling the heel to be put on the floor. My childhood classmates who I watched go through this surgery and the recovery process told me that they fell more often and had more pain following this procedure. Therefore, when I reached the age where the orthopedist at my special school wanted to perform this operation on me, I didn’t want to go through what my classmates reported happened to them. I later accomplished the extension of my hamstrings by stretching them later in life when I began to practice yoga, which I write about in the chapter on prayer and discipline.

When I developed arthritis in my late fifties, a total hip replacement was possible because I would be able to extend my right leg, enabling me to walk on it. Being able to bear weight on the prosthetic hip is necessary for the prosthesis to work its way into the bone which allows the patient to walk again. If my hamstrings had been cut at such an early age, it is doubtful that I would have had the extension necessary to resume walking. I’m not suggesting that this procedure never be done since I am not qualified to make that judgment. However, from hearing the current stories from parents today, my understanding is that sometimes the decision to do such an invasive procedure is made too quickly. Parents should understand and be told of other options.

Although the degree of muscle spasticity was a significant risk factor in my case, the fact that I had maintained not only the ability to walk, but was able to regularly exercise on the treadmill and elliptical and lift weights allowed me to convince Dr. Sebastianelli to take the risk. I remember that day I approached him on the football field determined to convince him to do the surgery. The only time he looked away from me was when he said, “It’s not a matter of whether or not we can do it, it’s do you want to take that risk?” After being unable to convince him by reminding him of how many risks I had already taken and won, I told him that we had a tough game ahead of us, I wanted to play ‘til the whistle blew, but I would not ask him for overtime. This did not sway him, so I simply took him by the hand, looked into his eyes, and said “Please don’t give up on me, I need you.” For just an instant his professional persona dropped, and I saw the eyes of a very compassionate man, who silently agreed. When the athletic season ended, I was scheduled for surgery, and within 8 weeks I could walk using a walker with greater balance and posture with significantly less pain.

My wonderful surgeon had chosen Susan Fix, a physical therapist who was equally brilliant at her expertise. With her encouragement, I learned a greater sense of balance and flexibility in being able to walk. This new sense of coordination extended to the upper part of my body as well. I could pour things easier and pick up a glass and drink without a straw, and put a shirt over my head without leaning up against something for support. Dr. Sebastianelli explained this was due to my nervous system’s retraining itself based on a new level of stability in my pelvis. I’m not giving the professionals all the credit for this substantial improvement, because it was my football mentality that I had learned on the Penn State practice field that allowed me to train myself with an athlete’s sense of determination to get back in the “game of life.” I could once again do all my own personal care, cooking, light housework and most significantly, travel independently again.

To my many friends and fellow football fans, especially the Penn State coaching staff, I hope this conveys not only my love for the sport and the job that they do, but the gratitude I feel for being welcomed as someone who belongs on the sidelines at practice.


Thanks, Annie.

If you'd like to read more from Annie, please check out:

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It's Easier to Dance is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Art, Secrets, and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus: An interview with Loukia Borrell

1) Tell us about your book.

Raping Aphrodite is a novel with two story lines. The first story line is about a woman in her mid-30s who owns a small art gallery in Norfolk, Va. The character, Tash Colgate, is married to an art professor who is acquainted with a colleague with items from Cyprus. The items were willed to him by an elderly couple he once knew. The idea of Tash exhibiting the pieces in her gallery comes up and she decides to do it. After some research about Cyprus, Tash’s husband, Christian, begins to realize Tash has hidden ties to the island nation and that their world is about to break apart. The second story line takes place in Cyprus, in 1974, when the island was invaded and divided by Turkey. A young Peace Corps volunteer escapes a hostage situation and begins a perilous walk to find help for the others in her group. At the end of the book, both story lines come together.

2) What inspired your book?

 In 2009, my oldest daughter had an English assignment to write a fictional character into a real historical event. She chose the 1974 invasion and division of Cyprus. After helping her get some information for her paper, I said to myself, “I should be doing this.” I decided to give it a try and a year later, I had about 70,000 words

3) Why did you choose the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus as the major background for your story? 

My parents are from Cyprus and all of their people are from there, as far back as we can trace. They sailed to America in 1952 and even though I was born in the United States, the ties to Cyprus were very strong and this cultural influence is still very deep for me. I identify not only with the United States, but with Cyprus, as well. When Cyprus was invaded in 1974, many of my relatives were living in the areas that were hit, and they became refugees. My maternal grandparents disappeared and were never found. This happened when I was 11, so I could not process the information other than to know that something very bad happened and we couldn't go back to the villages my parents were from. As time passed, I became more reflective of my life and of events that shaped my family's history. I also encountered a fair amount of people who either don't know where Cyprus is, have never heard of the invasion, or both. I knew I needed to tell that story, even if it is through a novel and not a straight political, non-fiction account of events. I am the last person in my immediate family who is completely Cypriot. My husband is not Cypriot and our children are half-Cypriot. I am probably the last person in my family who will have the level of understanding I do about Cyprus. As each generation comes, my family's ties with Cyprus will weaken, a weakening that began when my parents left Cyprus 60 years ago. I wrote the book so my children will have something, years from now, that will show them what happened before they got to the planet. They can say, “Our mom wrote this story and this is where we came from.” If you have some type of historical story to tell, you have to document that, so I did. You've got to say your thing.

4) Please tell us about the research that went into developing the setting. What sort of resources did you examine? 

I spoke with my father at length. I also used books I have about the invasion, YouTube and other Internet sites to get a better handle on the days of the invasion and its aftermath. I spent many mornings online gathering story material and also had my personal recollections, things about life in Cyprus, that I heard from my parents while I was growing up. The fictional aspects are inspired by people I’ve met, situations I’ve encountered or just my imagination.

5) Please share with a bit about your main character and their motivations. 

Tash Colgate is my main female character. She is very focused on making her marriage to Christian work because they endured a lengthy separation earlier. She is aware of herself and clear about what she wants. As Cyprus is introduced to her, she instinctively feels there is something there, something she needs to explore but isn't quite able to figure out why. Her husband, Christian, also begins to research Cyprus and learns his wife has secret ties to the island, unknown to her. He has to make a moral decision about whether or not to tell her what he knows about her. It is a struggle for him because he doesn't want his marriage disrupted, yet the secret he has on his wife is just too big to keep to himself.

6) Please tell us about the themes your book explores. 

Raping Aphrodite explores themes of war, loss, survival, love, family secrets and truth.

7) Please tell us about your upcoming works. 

Raping Aphrodite is part of a planned trilogy. I am currently working on the book that will take my readers back to the beginning of Tash and Christian's relationship when they first met. Once I finish that, the third book will pick up where Raping Aphrodite leaves off, taking the reader along with Christian as he figures out how to tell his wife she isn't who she thinks she is. That book, the final of the three, will see the couple face more challenges and expose them to events that will test their commitment to each other.


Thanks, Loukia.

Raping Aphrodite is available at Amazon.