Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Family, Faith, and Individuality: An interview with memoir writer Daniel Boerman


1) Please tell us about your book.

            Imagine living on a small family farm in a tiny, isolated community in southwest Michigan during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Imagine a world consisting almost exclusively of family life, work on the farm, attendance at a two room country school and participation in weekly services at the local church.  This was the world of my childhood, the world described in my memoir.  Our Dutch Reformed community was small and close-knit, and most of our social life was limited to visiting close relatives and other members of our church.  Occasional excursions beyond our local community were thus exciting adventures.  Riding with my dad to a livestock auction, a trip to a drive-in restaurant in a nearby town or a yearly visit to a county fair were special occasions to be anticipated and savored for weeks.
            In this setting I grew up with my parents and two sisters.  My dad was a full-time farmer until my teenage years, and my mom was a full-time homemaker who struggled with chronic and undiagnosed health problems throughout my childhood years.  I was a skinny, red-haired boy who was usually more comfortable at home with my family than in some new or unfamiliar social setting.
            My book contains many stories about life in our family and on the farm, in school and in church.  It records the terror of a runaway sled ride, the challenge of trying to devise projects to make money on the farm, the excitement of learning to drive a tractor for the first time, and many more interesting experiences.  
The book concludes with my graduation from high school in 1969.

2) What inspired you to write your memoir?

            The initial inspiration for writing my memoir was simply the thought about how much life had changed since I was a boy.  I remember shoveling coal into the furnace downstairs to keep our house warm and my mom using her wringer washing machine every Monday morning when she did the laundry.  I thought it would be a good idea to record what life was like at the unique time and place of my childhood.
            As I began to work on the memoir, however, it also became more of a personal journey for me.  How were the joys, challenges and disappointments of adult life prefigured in my childhood experiences?  Did my hopes and dreams as a child have an important influence in shaping how I approached and experienced life later on?  The deeper I got into my childhood, the more connections I could see with who I am today.


3) A good memoir isn't just a story of an interesting life, it also explores universal themes that can engage readers from a variety of backgrounds. How does your memoir speak to readers who don't share your background?

            My memoir describes many values affirmed by my family and community.  Experiencing, challenging and living out our inherited values is a theme many readers can appreciate.  Having a family that stayed loyal to each other and remained intact in spite of serious challenges is a value I celebrate, endorse and recommend to everyone.  Growing up on a farm also taught me that responsibility and hard work were necessary parts of life.  Picking pickles as a boy was a task so boring that at times I didn’t know if I could endure it any longer.  I thought the boredom would permanently warp my brain.  But my brain and I both survived in good shape, and I would like to think that enduring that experience equipped me to endure other difficult and boring tasks I have faced as an adult.  Although my Christian faith has developed and changed in significant ways since my childhood, it, too, has continued as an essential part of who I am as an adult.

4) What main themes does your memoir explore?

            When a small boy, I occasionally dreamed that I could begin flapping my arms like wings and fly above my astonished family, our house and our farmyard.  It was an exhilarating experience to rise above the normal, human perspective and see reality from a bird’s-eye view.  That experience inspired me to imagine the fantastic possibilities for my life, and it gave birth to the title of my book, The Flying Farm Boy.
            My dream was almost laughable.  I was part of a very ordinary family living in a tiny, obscure community far from any prominence or power.  And I was a skinny, red-haired boy deficient in athletic prowess and in social skills.  I was so shy that I had to advance to the mature age of twenty before I first dared to ask a girl out on a date.  But I kept dreaming, anyway.  Not all of my dreams have come true, but the power of my childhood dream has motivated me through much of my adult life.  Thus my dream of overcoming my isolation and insecurity is a primary theme in my book.
            A secondary theme is the difficulty of learning to affirm myself as an individual in distinction from what my family and society expected of me.  For example, the stern Calvinistic God of my childhood often scared me, and I didn’t understand how to make peace with him.  Sometimes I didn’t know if I could even believe in him anymore.  Was faith a real, living part of my own fabric or was it merely part of the air I breathed in my community?  When I reached maturity, would I discard my childhood faith as something I had outgrown or would I reclaim it as my own?
            It was also sometimes hard to know if I did certain things simply because it was expected of me or because I actually enjoyed them.  As a teenager I participated in the annual fall rite of pheasant hunting simply because it was expected of me.  I went so far as to skip school on the first day of pheasant hunting even though this meant all my grades were docked for doing so and even though my grades were much more important to me than was hunting.  I had not yet matured enough to know that I should follow my own heart rather than conform to social expectations.

5) Are there any memoirs you've read that have personally inspired you?

            There is an older, out-of-print memoir by Ronald Jager called Eighty Acres.  This book is a record of life on a Michigan farm for the generation before mine, and, as such, it encouraged me to think that such a project was feasible for me, too.   More recent memoirs I enjoyed include Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and James McBride’s The Color of Water.  Although both of them deal with family circumstances more challenging than were mine, they nonetheless encouraged me to consider the possibilities of the genre for my own situation.


6) Please tell us about your other projects.

            In the past I have published numerous essays in religious magazines, a few poems and one short story.  One of my current ongoing projects is a blog called “Rural Ramblings” at www.danielboerman.authorweblog.com.  I hope to do something in the future to tell the story of Christianity in a way that appeals to our postmodern culture, but I have not decided on the format for that at this point.


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

            One morning when I was ten years old, Mom took me for a ride in the family car that I will never forget.  I watched the early spring scenes of muddy fields and patches of snow sail past the window of the car as if in a dream.  Would I ever enjoy these familiar sights again?  Would life ever be the same again?  Mom was driving me to Zeeland Hospital to get my tonsils removed.
            During the past years I had a lot of colds and sore throats, and Dr. Yff decided that getting my tonsils and adenoids removed was the cure.  Since Dad and Mom trusted Dr. Yff to do what was best for me, they agreed that I should have this surgery.  But no one asked my opinion.  I felt like a lamb led to the slaughter.  Being in an unconscious state while a doctor took a knife to my throat sounded terrifying.  Could I really trust Dr. Yff?  Did he know what he was doing?  What if he slipped and cut my vocal chords or my tongue instead of my tonsils?  What if the bleeding wouldn’t stop?  What if…I died?  Who knew what awful things could happen to me once I had lost consciousness?
            Mom gave me a hug and kiss, and a nurse led me by the hand into the operating room.  After lying down on a table in the middle of the room, they strapped me down like an animal being prepared for sacrifice.  But instead of plunging in a knife to achieve a quick kill, they devised a slow and torturous method of subduing me.  They put an apparatus over my mouth and nose that held cotton batting soaked with ether.  Every time I breathed, I inhaled a little more of the ether’s noxious fumes.  As I kept inhaling that awful smell, the fumes gradually sent me reeling into a nether world of darkness and panic.
            My head began to pound with an incessant noise that grew louder and louder.  I could feel myself drifting off into a dark world I dreaded to enter.  I was sure I was dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  Never before had I so much wanted to escape and fly away.  But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t free myself from my restraints and the stifling ether smell.
            The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital bed with the worst sore throat I had ever experienced.  But I was alive!  Wonders of wonders, I had survived the ordeal!  I went home that same night to recover in more familiar surroundings.             

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Thanks, Dan.

If you'd like to see more from Dan please visit him at www.flyingfarmboy.com and www.danielboerman.authorweblog.com.

The Flying Farm Boy can be purchased at www.winepresspublishing.com and Amazon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Playground Before The War to End All Wars: An interview with Gabriele Wills



1) Please tell us about your book.

The Summer Before the Storm is the first in an epic trilogy that begins in 1914 in legendary Muskoka – the summer playground of the affluent and powerful in the rugged Canadian Shield. Amid the pristine, island-dotted lakes and pine-scented forests, the young and carefree amuse themselves with glittering balls and friendly competitions. This summer promises to be different when the destitute son of a disowned heir joins his wealthy family at their cottage on Wyndwood Island. Through Jack’s introduction into the privileged life of the aristocratic Wyndhams and their social circle, he seeks opportunities and alliances to better himself, including in his schemes, his beautiful and audacious cousin, Victoria. But their charmed lives begin to unravel with the onset of the Great War, in which many are destined to become part of the “lost generation”.

You can get a sense of the setting and story on this YouTube trailer.

2) What got you interested in writing a book about World War I?

I wanted to evoke the unique lifestyle of Muskoka’s Age of Elegance, and the war provided a perfect counterpoint. People live more intensely and passionately in tumultuous times when death is unpredictable and unprecedented. I also wanted to highlight the lesser-known aspects of that war, especially women’s unsung contributions. They stepped from genteel drawing rooms into the horrors of makeshift hospitals and dangers of driving ambulances on the front lines – which are portrayed thoroughly in book 2, Elusive Dawn. It’s not so much a war story, as a tale about a generation tested by extraordinary times.

3) Please tell a bit about your main characters.

Victoria Wyndham is the feisty, tempestuous heroine who rebels against the stultifying restrictions of her Edwardian life. But she’s neither a suffragette nor a bluestocking, like her cousin Zoë. Mad cousin Phoebe has an uncanny knack of seeing and telling the truth, which others rarely appreciate. Their families are firmly ruled by Grandmother Augusta Wyndham, but charming, ambitious cousin Jack disrupts their complacent world.

Augusta is determined that sensible Justin Carrington should marry Victoria, since he should be able to control her impetuous nature. Also vying for Victoria’s affections is charismatic Chas Thornton, who’s trying to find a path for himself in a self-indulgent world.

Doctor siblings Blake and Eleanor Carlyle annoy Augusta with their socialism and middle-class sensibilities. The “downstairs” life is seen through the eyes of the parlour maid, Molly, who is not all that she appears.

A supporting cast of friends and relatives – including artists and gold-diggers - helps to bring the era to life.

4) What sort of themes do you explore in your book?

Love and betrayal in different guises – familial and romantic.

The contrast between the rich and the poor, as seen through Jack’s experiences as well as through the servants’. There’s also the contrast between the free-spirited Bohemians and the chaperoned young people continually pushing for freedoms that scandalize their elders.

Family dynamics are explored, exposing that things are not always as they seem. Some people are living lies, and many have secrets. Madness is brushed aside as immaturity. There’s also a great burden of duty to family as well as to country.

This was a time of monumental change, particularly for women, who were invading “men’s realms”, seeking independence, and eager to “do their bit” for the war effort.

Overcoming adversity is a challenge for many of the characters. Obviously the war provides trials both physical and psychological. The true impact of that cataclysm can be appreciated through the eyes of these individuals.

5) What sort of research did you do to help ensure you were accurately bringing the period to life?

I really need to immerse myself in all aspects of an era, from food to philosophy. I read over 100 books, my favourites being memoirs and letters, in which there are intriguing details about daily life as well as the actual voices of the time, elucidating the language, morals, and values. They also provided incidents that I used for my characters. For instance, flying with top ace Billy Bishop and others helped me to understand the life of pilots, and the intensity of aerial battles. I was thrilled when Bishop’s son said I got it right!

I visited museums and archives, WW1 battlefields and cemeteries, explored hundreds of websites, and joined three online war forums, where I asked experts about obscure facts I couldn’t find anywhere else.  I’m particularly fascinated by odd and often unbelievable bits of social history. Notes at the end of my books assure readers that these quirky events are true.

6) Is there anything you feel people misunderstand about World War I? 

There’s a misconception that soldiers spent most of their time in the front-line trenches. In fact, there were long periods when the men were safely behind the lines. Tennis and polo matches, soccer and baseball games, dances and entertainments were all part of the military experience in France. You can find more on my website, Odd, Intriguing, Surprising Facts about WWI,

7) Please tell us about your other works.

Elusive Dawn (Book 2) and Under the Moon (Book 3) continue to follow the lives, loves, and fortunes of the Wyndhams and their friends through the war and the glittering Jazz Age.

A Place to Call Home is a saga set in Canada’s less civilized pioneer past.

Moon Hall is a Gothic tale of two women in different centuries.

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Thanks, Gabriele.

If you're interested in more from Gabriele or purchasing her novels, please visit http://www.themuskokanovels.com/.



Monday, November 19, 2012

A Horrible Wager and Fairy Tale Reinterpretation: An interview with fantasy author Adrianna Morgan





1) Please tell us about your book.

Once Upon a Fairytale Princess is a 45,000-word paranormal romance novel that takes some of what we know about fairy tales and twists it. After all, the plot is simple. What if every fairy tale we’ve read were snippets of one girl’s life? Ella Fitzpatrick is a young woman trying to hold her family together after her mother and two aunts are killed. The only thing she has of her mother’s is a crystal pendant and a pair of glass heels. Her father, in his grief, makes a horrible wager, forcing Ella to prove herself or lose the only home she has ever known. Just as horrible are her conflicting feelings for Prince Ethan and his bodyguard—her childhood friend—Hunter Kirk. The only thing Ella wants is her very own happily ever after, but will she have to choose between the Prince and his Beastly guard?

2) Please tell us about your opening.

“My daughter is far more talented than any spawn that spewed from your loins!” While the lead in this case was a bit dramatic, I wanted Ella to start her story in the middle of what becomes the beginning of the end. Her father is drunk and after an argument, sets the boast which sends Ella’s life spiraling out of control.

3) What inspired this particular book?

I have an affinity for fairy tales and during a conversation with my mother while watching television, the idea came to me: what if Cinderella, Snow White, and all the other fairy tale princesses were actually one girl and the stories were all one adventure in which this young woman has to adapt and change her appearance and her mannerisms in order to survive? What would that tale be like? How would she change? Why? It seemed too good of an idea to let go, so I experimented with it and the book was born.

4) What separates a fairy tale, in your opinion, from just basic fantasy?

Fairy tales can be differentiated from fantasies in that the fairy tale world is one of magic and hope and love. There is always a happily-ever-after and a moral of some sort. In the fairy tale, the main character overcomes some great obstacle and learns a lesson in the interim. Fantasies can have some of these aspects, but there is something about a fairy tale, that tangible feeling, where as you read it, you just know. Fairy tales also seem to have the heroine as the main character; it is her life, her mistakes and her triumphs that you read about. She is the one who becomes the champion and essentially, the hero. Fantasies can focus on many different aspects of the story, but the love and what the heroine goes through in the fairy tale makes it different. And although you know how it will end, the journey and the message become an integral part of the story.

5) We're in a bit of a cross-media fairy tale revival. There have been multiple recent movies revisiting classic fairy tales, more scheduled to come down the pipe, multiple network dramas based on fairy tale themes, and many books. What do you think is behind this recent trend?

It is more than simply fairy tales. We are seeing a return to the past. What was once old has become retro and such, it has become interesting. In addition to the fairy tales, we are seeing remakes of movies and television shows from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The idea of ‘recycling’ the different stories with a twist or a modern update makes for a great change from the stories we read and loved as children and it endears us to the newer version of the story.

6) Although fairy tales have been rewritten and changed throughout the ages, many modern readers often tend to think of them as more a fixed quantity, due to certain particular interpretations (e.g., Grimm's fairy tales, Perrault, Disney, et cetera) spreading in popularity because of the role of mass media. Do you think that anything is loss by this gradual waning of fluidity in the stories, or do you think things are still just as dynamic as they've always been?

I think the Westernized stories have become too blasé. And this is why some people have issues with the “message” they believe fairy tales send to young women. But the original stories were truly gruesome in some regards. Think back to Grimm’s fairy tales. In the Cinderella we know, there are singing woodland creatures and a pumpkin and the glass slippers. However, the original story had the sisters mutilating themselves in order to present themselves to the Prince. They were horrifically fascinating. The message of the story is lost and instead of Cinderella being a story about perseverance and hard work, it becomes about beauty and fashion, which fits in fine with our materialistic society. But the beauty and intrigue of the story gets convoluted and eventually lost.

7) You also seem to have a writing interest in another mythic subject embedded in our culture: the werewolf. Please tell us a bit about your werewolf books.

Mythology has always been a huge part of my life. I have read myths from all over the world; Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Egyptian. Even my favorite story as a child was an Arab myth. My werewolf series “The Blue Moon Trilogy” is a look at my love for mythology. The series utilizes Native American myths from both Alaska and Florida in addition to the mysticism one expects from mythology.

Book 1 in the series is called Tala and is about a young girl who is attacked on her 10th birthday by a group of rogue werewolves. She manages to escape, but her mother is not so lucky. 19 years later, the young woman, Layla, is in college, trying to get her life together and starts to have disturbing experiences. And three strangers; an old man who knows more than he lets on, a guy who is more than he seems, and the werewolf who killed her mother, are back in her life. Now Layla has to decide who is friend and who is foe. The book is available now on Amazon.com, while books 2 and 3 will be out in December and January, respectively.

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Thanks, Adrianna.

Adrianna Morgan was born in the Bahamas. Of both West Indian and African ancestry, she was exposed to the shadowy world of the supernatural at a young age. She was blessed with a mother that knew the importance of a good ghost story making her fascinated by anything that goes bump in the night. Adrianna is obsessed with werewolves, vampires and demons, oh my! A Marine Biology teacher by day, she is still intrigued by the weird and the unusual. Currently, she has 10 books on Amazon and has challenged herself to write one full novel per month this year, although she admits
she is ready to throw in the towel.

Visit her at http://adriannamorgan.com for more of her books.

Once Upon a Fairytale Princess is available at Amazon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Person Can Change The World: An interview with Glenn Snyder


1) Tell us about your book.

One Moment in Time simply put is a story about how one person can change the world.  Jack Barrett is an average guy, at twenty-three, he lives with his parents and works for his father.  On a stormy November evening, his Ford Mustang is hit by a drunk driver running a red light.  As he was fighting to survive, Jack realized there was more to life, and he wanted to experience it.  This revelation changed Jack’s life, his journey taking him all over the world, gaining experiences and skills that would propel him to the global stage.  In the end, Jack would become one of the greatest leaders the world had ever seen.

2) Tell us about your lead, Jack.

When creating Jack, I thought about what type of person could excel in politics and business, while keeping his personal ego in check.  Jack has his quirks, like an odd sense of humor and an impulsiveness that has gotten him into trouble.  However, Jack has a good heart and often looks for the greater good over personal gain.

3) What is the main theme your book explores?

There are two main themes of One Moment in Time.  The first is about taking opportunities.  Everyday, each of us are presented with opportunities to do something.  It can be as simple as picking up a piece of trash on the ground versus walking by and leaving it there.  Jack is an example of what can happen if one proactively looks to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

The second theme is about the state of politics today.  Too many times, our leaders seem more interested in getting re-elected and saving their jobs than doing what’s in the best interest of their constituents.  Imagine what the world could be if our leaders were more focused on leading than personal gain.

4) You've said the idea of this book came from a dream. Tell us a bit about that.

We all have many dreams every night, however most of the dreams are forgotten by the time we awaken, and those that are initially remembered often fade quickly.  However, sometimes we have dreams that really stick with us.  That was the case with One Moment in Time.  I didn’t come up with the whole book from that dream, but the dream did give me the premise and the twist that makes One Moment in Time a unique tale.  I would tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin the story.

5) Please tell us about your literary influences.

Although there were many historical novels and plays that I absolutely love (A Tale of Two Cities and Hamlet to name two), I didn’t really get into mainstream reading until I read The Firm by John Grisham.  The story was engaging, and Grisham’s writing style was simple and allowed the reader to quickly move through the story.  After The Firm, I started to get into stories by Jonathan Kellerman, Michael Crichton, David Baldacci, James Grippando, Dan Brown, and Brad Thor. 

There were also many authors that I didn’t enjoy who influenced me as well, but I won’t mention their names.  Those authors seemed more interested in showing off their vocabulary than telling a story.  I’ve tried to keep my writing about the story more than the individual words.

6) Please share with us about your other projects.

I am currently writing my second novel.  It’s a story about a successful stock broker whose wife is poisoned.  His life begins to crumble, as he’s accused of the murder.  The press hounds him and the publicity costs him his job and friends.  He’s in a fight for his life, all the while trying to grieve for his wife that he dearly loved.

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

The following excerpt is from one of my favorite segments of the book.  Jack and his wife Maggy are in Oaxaca, Mexico visiting an orphanage…

Jack put the dishes and utensils, along with the serving bowls, in the sink.  Isabel and Araceli started on the dishes while Jack took out the trash.  Isabel pointed to a door at the far end of the kitchen that looked more like a heavy dark screen.  Jack probably hadn’t noticed it before, because its thickness made it difficult to see through.  Jack grabbed the two trash bag bundles and headed outside.
The other side of the door was an alleyway off the main road.  The small, unpaved path, which was similar to the road at the front entrance, was squashed between the walls of La Ciudad para los Niños and the walls of the backside of what Jack could only assume were houses.  Jack noticed a giant trash bin to his right and threw the trash over the side of the bin.  Suddenly, Jack heard a woman screaming “¡Ayúdame! ¡Ayúdame!”  Jack didn’t know much Spanish, but he did know that scream meant, “Help me!”
Jack looked around the bin and saw a woman in her late twenties running with a small child in her arms.  She looked frazzled and exhausted.  She was slender and couldn’t be more than five and a half feet tall.  She was wearing a torn cotton striped shirt and ripped jeans.  As she got closer, Jack noticed she had several bruises on her face and arms.  The child she was holding wasn’t very big, but it was hard for Jack to gauge.  Jack couldn’t imagine what this woman was going through, but she continued running towards him yelling “¡Ayúdame! ¡Ayúdame!” 
Instinctively, Jack moved closer to see how he could help the woman and yelled back in English, “What?  What’s wrong?”
The woman continued her sprint towards Jack and continued yelling “¡Ayúdame! ¡Ayúdame!” 
When the woman was next to Jack, she handed her child to him.  He looked down at the little girl suddenly in his arms.  She was quiet, but tears rolled down her face.  Jack looked up and the woman was already twenty yards away from them, running up the hill.  He looked down at the girl again, then a vehicle came seemingly out of nowhere.  With all of the excitement, he hadn’t even heard the large SUV bouncing up the alleyway.
The car was a dark blue Chevy Tahoe with two young men seated in the front.  Jack couldn’t get a good look at them, because by the time he noticed the car, they were passing him.  He didn’t think either man in the Tahoe noticed him or the little girl.  The Tahoe continued up the hill after the woman.  The driver rolled down his window and stuck out his arm.  In his hand was a large gun.  After two quick, deafening explosions from the gun, the car stopped.
Recognizing that the girl was probably also in danger, Jack jumped behind the trash bin, holding her tightly in his arms.  He peeked between the lid and the bin and saw the driver get out of the car.  He was dressed in slacks, a dark dress shirt, and black cowboy boots with a white star on the side.  The colors of his clothes were difficult to determine because of the way the sun was reflecting off the Tahoe.  The driver held his arm out.  Another two shots.  The man spit on the woman, looked around, and Jack jumped out of sight praying they didn’t see him.  The young girl was squeezing Jack as tightly as she could, and Jack squeezed back.  He heard the door to the SUV close, and then the vehicle turned around and began moving back down the hill.
With his senses on full alert, Jack could have sworn that as the Tahoe was passing the rear door to the kitchen, it slowed down to take a careful look.  By this time, Jack had completely barricaded himself and the little girl between the trash bin and a small wall near the kitchen.  They sat perfectly still and silent. 
The car continued down the road, but Jack did not move until the Tahoe was out of hearing range.  He slowly got up and peeked down the road.  The coast was clear.  The little girl was still clinging to Jack’s neck.  He wanted to go check on her mother, but didn’t want the little girl’s last memory of her mother to be of her lying dead in a dirt alley.  He walked into the kitchen and it was empty; all of the dishes had been cleaned, dried, and neatly stacked.  He continued into the dining hall and found Maggy and Victoria chatting away.  They looked up at him and noticed he was sweating profusely.

About Glenn Snyder:

Glenn Snyder grew up in Marin County, a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. After graduating from UCLA, Glenn worked as a finance professional. In 2001, Glenn earned his MBA from the University of San Francisco. Shortly after his MBA, Glenn pursued two of his dreams, teaching and writing, while still working full time. For five years, Glenn taught Finance at San Francisco State University, while he also wrote the first draft of One Moment in Time. In May of 2011, Glenn published his first novel, One Moment in Time. Glenn is currently a Finance Director and is working on his second novel.

Visit www.OneMomentInTimeNovel.com to find out more.

Glenn is offering some coupons until the end of the year:

Paperback:  $2 off when purchased through www.OneMomentInTimeNovel.com - coupon code WL5W3K6Y

E-book (any format):  25% off when purchased through Smashwords (
www.smashwords.com/books/view/62532) - coupon code WQ79X

One Moment In Time on Facebook Glenn Snyder on Twitter

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fading Power of Marriage and the Growing Power of a Prosecutor: An interview with Daniiel Q. Steele about When We Were Married

1) Tell us about your book.

When We Were Married is a 220,000-word novel basically about a marriage that fails and what happens to the two people involved after the marriage blows up in the early part of 2005 in Jacksonville in Northeast Florida. It is a love story, a story about modern marriage, a story about two very mismatched and psychologically wounded people.

It’s a story about what happens AFTER“they lived happily ever after,” ends. It’s a story about starting over in your 40s and trying to make new lives after spending your entire adult life as one half of a couple.

WWWM is also a novel set in the courthouse world of prosecutors, defenders, cops and criminals and trials. The husband in the story, Bill Maitland, is a work-obsessed prosecutor who actually runs the prosecutor’s office in Jacksonville, Florida, and will eventually become one of the most famous prosecutors in the world.

The novel features child murders, mercy killers, murderous drug thugs and the infamous 67-year-old Granny Killer, as well as a savage South Florida drug dealer who’s killed over 100 men but goes to bat to save Maitland’s family even though Maitland sent him to prison.

 WWWM examines the power of the office of the prosecutor and the central role it plays in the criminal justice system, which has a lot of resonance in the era that has seen huge criminal trials like OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin.
 
2) This is a the first of four volumes, but this isn't a series of novellas, but full-length novels. Please tell us about your focus over the entire series and what went into your decision to structure your work this way.

This series is written as four novels, and there are breaks for intros to each new novel as well as characters sketches of the important players in the stories, but were it not for the fact that a 750,000-1 million word novel would be hard to sell I’d have released it as a single novel. Despite all the plot threads, the characters introduced as the story goes along, the mini-climaxes that close each volume, there is really only one focus.

And that is on Bill Maitland and his wife, Debbie Maitland-Bascomb. Each volume moves from one character’s story to the other and they never manage to completely remove themselves from the other’s life. The novels explore the forces that destroy the marriage, the people they become involved with trying to make new lives, and the forces that bring them back together.

But in the end, there is only one question to be answered. Will they, or can they, ever rebuild their marriage and lives together, or will they finally call it quits and make new lives with other people.
It sounds egotistical as hell, but I’ve made the comparison between WWWM and Gone With The Wind. That’s not comparing the literary quality, but the fact that GWTW is an enormous book that covers a huge canvas: Pre-Civil War life in the South, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the re-building of the South. But it was predominantly and most people remember it as, the love story of two people = Scarlet Ohara and Rhett Butler.

WWWM explores the world of the courthouse, drug rings, corrupt killer cops, child killers, racial relations in the south, sex smuggling rings from France to Florida, killing grounds in an embattled African country, drug wars moving from South America to rural Florida counties, and all-out war on the streets of a southern city.

WWWM also features a huge cast of characters, ranging from prosecutors who want to become governor, public defenders who hate cops and prosecutors, mild-mannered professionals who can kill with their bare hands, a genius slut wife who has made millions with her brains and body, an incredibly evil and dangerous Florida Sheriff, the head of one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world, a highly placed French federal prosecutor, a heroic and talented novelist, an empathetic psychiatrist, CIA Black Ops team leaders, newspaper reporters, a famous New York moneyman on trial for arranging the murders of his wife and her lover but relenting at the last minute and saving them from paid killers, and more.

But again, the spine of the series and the four novels is the relationship of a short, flabby, balding, insecure husband who married way out of his league to a gorgeous maneater who men drool over and dream of separating from her loser husband. But Bill Maitland is an incredibly tough, and smart, and stubborn and decent prosecutor who “always does the right thing” and who never forgets victims and turns even some of the criminals he prosecutes into defenders because he sees them as people instead of criminals.

And Debbie Maitland is a stacked sex symbol/MILF who just happens to be smart, loyal, a loving mother, a dedicated professor/teacher,and the best thing that ever happened to Bill Maitland until he walked away from his marriage without bothering to get a divorce.

As to why the novel is written that way, it just organically grew in that form. It started out as a novella or long story (25,000 words) about the four words that destroyed the Maitland marriage. Then I started writing a chapter about what happened after “the end” of what became the first chapter. I knew the broad outline of what would happen to the marriage, how it would bring them to a divorce, and how their story would eventually end. But as I wrote, I started filling in the blank spaces and the story grew to the point that I couldn’t finish it in two volumes, and then three and finally it required four volumes to tell the entire story.

3) Your book tackles a lot of subjects: marriage, fading love, the complexities of criminal justice, crime cartels, violence, among others. Did you always want to weave this sort of layered novel or was it something that grew out of the writing process?

I’ve written five novels – and sold one – conventionally prior to going the e-book route. The previous five are traditional novels with more focused and limited plots and character casts. In the case of When We Were Married, marriage and fading love and the struggle to find new lives was the core, but because of Maitland’s job and the world he lives and works in, crime and criminals and the issues involved in prosecuting and defending them grew until this side of the story actually took up as much or more space as the story of the Maitlands.

4) What do you feel are the primary themes of this first volume?

The primary theme of the first volume is the unraveling and destruction of a long term marriage between two basically very unequal partners, a marriage that logically should never have occurred at all. Bill Maitland is a man obsessed with living up to the memory of a father who died heroically and to that end he sacrifices his sexual and romantic relationship with his wife and his relationship as a father with his two teenage children. He also is physically not a match for a very beautiful and sexual wife who could have had her pick of any man she wanted, but chose a short, poor, physically not impressive partner for love. The marriage almost didn’t occur and while he’s been happy in it, Maitland has never been secure in it. He’s always expected in some corner of his mind that his still gorgeous wife would eventually leave him.

From Debbie Bascomb’s side of it, she’s a very attractive woman, sexually active from an early age, who fell in love with a college boy who was far from the ideal candidate for a life partner. She has supported him, helped him succeed in college and in his legal career, been mother and absentee father to their two children, endured his absence from their marriage and marital bed but finally has decided to leave him and then meets a seductive younger man who tempts her into an emotional affair which Maitland discovers.
But while she has made the decision to leave him before Maitland’s discovery, she will spend much of the first volume trying to unravel the perfect storm of emotional issues that led her to give up on the marriage to a man who still has a strong hold on her.

A second major theme is the operation of justice and the key role the prosecutor’s office plays in the courthouse world in which Bill Maitland has become a major player. In this world, he is everything that he is not in his marriage. As the defacto head prosecutor for a three-county circuit in Northeast Florida, he is the man who oversees the smooth running of the prosecution side, the man who decides how those charged with crimes should be dealt with. While he doesn’t do a lot of courtroom theatrics, he is capable of surprising some big city opponents as he pursues justice for victims with bulldog tenacity and an ability to surprise lawyers who underestimate him because of his physical appearance. He outworks his opponents, knows the law, and dreams of victims years after he fought to convict their murderers.

A third theme only touched on in the first volume are the secrets that Maitland and Debbie both hide from the world and each other. Maitland’s secrets don’t jibe with his reputation as a man who always does the right thing, secrets that will impact not only on his life but on the fate of the city of Jacksonville and even international relations later in the series. Debbie’s secrets will focus the attention of an empathetic and determined psychiatrist, Dr. Ernst Teller, as he attempts to solve the psychological mystery of the illness and rage against her husband that overcomes Debbie during and following the divorce.

5) This certainly isn't an idealistic work in many ways, but nor does it descend into, arguably, a purely cynical nihilism that would be easy given much of the subject matter. Given the emotional contours of this book, and your series as a whole, do you feel it is, ultimately, an idealistic or cynical?

I see it as ultimately idealistic. It is in its essence a love story about two people that met in college who were objectively extremely ill-suited for a long term relationship. In the end their physical and emotional differences, the stresses of life, break the marriage. The pain and turmoil that each undergoes in different ways causes them to strike out at each other, but neither one is able to completely break the bonds that tie them together. Their marriage didn’t work, and their divorce doesn’t work.

They wind up falling for and bedding other men and woman, which is going to happen because humans are sexual creatures and will find partners to have sex with. Sex is a major element that draws them together initially, and it is a major element as well of their marriage failure, but again people are creatures of flesh as well as spirit and that is simply a reality.

In the world in which we live people murder each other, they kill their children, they kill spouses, they sell drugs and kill rivals, large criminal organizations murder scores and battle with each other and governments. That is simply reality. And the cops and prosecutors and defense attorneys and judges who sit above it all are people who make mistakes, get angry, lust after people they shouldn’t lust after, use the law as a weapon, and sometimes guilty people go free and innocent people go to jail. That’s not cynical, it’s reality,

6) There have been some who have read your book and felt that the POV, male-female character interface, nature of the sexual content, and other elements of your book make it definitely geared toward male readers. In so far as there is such a thing as general male and female reading patterns, do you feel that is a fair assessment, or do you feel your themes and content are more universal?

I would love to say that just as 50 Shades of Grey has been dubbed ‘mommmy porn’ you could call When We Were Married daddy porn. But while that would be a fun description, I don’t think it’s accurate.

I think there might be a perception that this is a male-oriented novel because it begins as a first person narrative by the male half of this marriage and the immediate emotional impact is felt by the male character. We don’t see any of Debbie Bascomb’s side of the story until we’re already 30-40,000 words into the story, although as time goes on she will have a greater and greater share of the wordage.

A female reader made the point that the novel was offensive to her because EVERY female is described in terms of her physical appearance, breasts, legs, behind, facial beauty and hair. That is a valid comment. But it’s written that way because my experience as a male working with men and women is that this IS how women are regarded by men, whether men actually make those comments out loud or around women. As said earlier, we are all creatures of flesh, and men are visual creatures and I would bet my life that if you could get men – young, old, married, single, educated, uneducated, professional, blue collar, with the exception of homosexual males – to comment honestly, the FIRST thing men note is a woman’s physical appearance. And it’s probably the last thing as well. Men usually start thinking about a woman’s personality, loving nature, sense of humor, AFTER they have sex.

The criticism that the sex scenes – the relatively few in the first novel – are raw and lacking sensitivity and the soft porn focus of most novels written for women is valid. The words that man and women use about sex and during sex are the words that men and woman in the real world use about and during sex. And I think the scenes are written relatively realistically in the context of the novel.

So, the bottom line is the writer is male. A major viewpoint character is male. There’s a strong emphasis – if not on actually having sex – at least thinking about it and planning for it. Which is a fact of life for men and woman from puberty onward. But I do think the woman’s point is view is given and given a fair share of the novel through Debbie Bascomb’s viewpoint. However, I’ll admit that this is probably a man’s novel.

7) Your background helps add great versmilitude to many aspects of your work. Please tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to parlay your background into a series of novels.

I was a police reporter for three Florida newspapers including the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville for nearly 20 years, and covered the courts, prosecutors and public defenders in Jacksonville for five years. I’ve ridden with cops, covered them on a daily basis, sat through numerous trials and developed fairly close relationships with judges and attorneys while doing so. I’m a long time resident of the Northeast Florida region that is the setting for not only We Were Married, but a number of other already written and forthcoming stories of The First Coast. I have lived and worked in the academic world, as well as public relations and Florida politics.

8) Please share with us about your other work.

I’ve written one novel published under the William Marden name that was published in the U.S. by Doubleday and in England by Robert Hale. The Exile of Ellendon will be re-published as an E-book in 2013. That novel as well as Lady White Eyes currently selling on Amazon Kindle are fantasies that could be termed G or PG, meaning no adult material, as are five other novels that I’ve written but haven’t yet released. The remaining William Marden novels, and one anthology, are all genre – science fiction, mystery, fantasy, high fantasy (Lord of the Rings stuff). These should all come out in 2013 to 2014.

I have two more major novels in the When We Were Married series coming out in 2013 as well as several short story collections under the Daniel Quentin Steele name, meaning adult mainstream material, in 2013. Those will be listed below.

UNDER DANIEL QUENTIN STEELE

Link 1: When We Were married – VOLUME ONE – THE LONG FALL
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YPL9R6
SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115234 and
BARNES AND NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-volume-1-the-long-fall-daniel-steele/1106754384?ean=2940013654587

Link 2: When We Were married – VOLUME two – second acts
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0091FOWWC
SMASHWORDS:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/124503
BARNES AND NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-2-second-acts-daniel-steele/1108241609?ean=2940013760448

UNDER WILLIAM MARDEN
Link 3: LADY WHITE EYES ––
AMAZON:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008SUSE8O

UNDER DANIEL QUENTIN STEELE

FORTHCOMING:

1. WHEN WE WERE MARRIED – VOLUME 3 – THE WIND IS RISING
2. WHEN WE WERE MARRIED – VOLUME 4 – NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE
3. GHOSTS AND SHADOWS – CONTENTS:
1. BREADWINNER– END OF THE BEGINNING
A short story of the end of a marriage between a school teacher and the heir to a multi-million dollar banking fortune. Except that it wouldn’t be the end.
2. A MIRACLE FOR MARCY
The Patrolman’s wife was dying in an irreversible coma, he had just killed two men on Christmas, Eve, he’d been taken off the street, and he was in dire need of a miracle.
3. GHOSTS AND SHADOWS
Are you ever too old to have your heart broken? What do you do after your world ends.? And, exactly who is haunting whom? Those are the questions facing 57-year-old Jacksonville banker Hugh Davidson when he learns that Mary, his wife of 36 years, and mother of their two grown children, has been involved in a blazing sexual affair with a younger man for six months.

4. MOMENT OF CLARITY - ANTHOLOGY
CONTENTS

1. MOMENT OF CLARITY

It’s the moment when you see the truth of your life, stripped clear of the daily debris that blinds us to reality. It’s the moment when you can’t lie to yourself any more.

2. DREAM WIFE
His first wife had thrown him out without explanation and broken his heart. His second wife announced she was cheating on him and leaving him. It was like a bad dream.

3. SEPARATE VACATIONS
His wife went on vacation without him and she could never understand why he left her. She had done it for his own good.

4. THE LASTGOODBYE
His wife had betrayed him with his oldest friend. But said she still loved him. He knew what he had to do and did it. Until the moment that he stared into the clear eyes of death and had to decide who he wanted to say Goodbye to.

5. MESSAGE FOUND IN A FORTUNE COOKIE
Is it possible to be too careful? When should you follow your head, and when should you follow your heart?

6. TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS
A 24,000-word romantic novella set in Palatka, Florida about The Wheelchair Lady, a good woman who hadn’t had that good a life, but had made a good life. And on a Saturday that became the worst day of her life, a big city reporter from Jacksonville came to town to do a story about her and her world and everything in it changed – forever.

Where can people learn more about your books?

PRIMARY WEBSITE: http://wempublishing.com/Daniel_Steele.html
Older Website: http://www.dqsteele.com/index.html
Facebook: Facebook profile
Blog: http://www.dqsteele.com/blog.html