Interview with Heather Webb

Today I’m welcoming historical fiction writer, freelance editor, and blogger Heather Webb.

Elizabeth: Hi, Heather. Can you tell us about your book?

Heather: I’ve just completed my first novel titled Becoming Josephine: The First Empress. I’m hoping to go on submission later this fall. My novel is about a young woman of Martinique who has her hopes for love dashed when her haughty Parisian husband abandons her during the tumult of the French Revolution. Narrowly escaping death in the blood-stained cells of Les Carmes prison, she emerges from the grisly Terreur to reinvent herself as the woman known as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. But Josephine’s youth is fading, and she must decide between a precarious independence and the unwelcome love of an awkward suitor who would become the most important man of the century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

Elizabeth: How did you become interested in Josephine?

Heather: I taught French history for almost a decade, and the French revolutionary period always fascinated me. But I really first became interested in Josephine because of a song by Tori Amos about her. Years later, I awoke one morning with Josephine’s voice in my head. Just like that! So I read my first biography of her and I was hooked. Besides, she wouldn’t stop babbling in my ear. The topic for my current work in progress happened in a similar way—my protagonist started talking to me. My husband thinks I’m insane. Hearing voices in your head must not be normal!

Elizabeth: I have the hearing voices problem too! So, tell me, how do you go about researching your novels?

Heather: I research quite a bit, almost compulsively at times–what I like to call researchitis. I read every primary and secondary source I can get my hands on, watch films, visit locations, take classes, etc. That being said, my character’s emotional arc and good story-telling are far more important to me than being strictly factual. My novels are works of fiction and my goal is to both entertain readers and inspire them to branch out to do their own research. I will, however, outline any facts I’ve altered that are important to mention in an author’s note.

Elizabeth: You are represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management. Can you tell us how you got Michelle as an agent?

Heather: I met Michelle at the Backspace conference held in New York City. (It runs every spring and fall.) It’s a fabulous conference with a unique small workshop setting. I highly recommend it to writers seeking representation or just feedback on their queries and pages.

Michelle requested pages after I finished reading my query aloud on the spot! From there, I sent a partial, then a full very quickly—within two weeks. When I received her email about wanting to have “the call”, I paced for two days! I can’t tell you how excited and nervous I was. But we had a great conversation and clicked immediately. I knew she was the one for me when her ideas for revisions gelled with my vision of the novel. It really goes the way everyone says: the agent you should sign with is the one who “gets” your work and LOVES it. I’d like to caution writers to not sign with just anyone. It’s a partnership that could potentially last decades. You don’t want to enter in this marriage of sorts with an agent that isn’t quite right. God forbid divorce! Oh, and when you know, you know!

I’m a firm believer in getting out there to conferences to pitch your work in person! It launches you right out of the slush pile and onto the agent’s desk. I hear this all the time—writers are too nervous to attend conferences so they hide at home in front of their laptops. GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE to make your dreams happen! I love to cheer writers on, to help them feel confident with this process. This is how I ended up becoming an editor—I suppose it’s the teacher in me.

Elizabeth: Teacher, writer, editor–and you blog too.  You have a lively blogging voice and write about several topics. How did you first get into blogging?

Heather: Thank you! I first started blogging about two years ago because I noticed that many many authors had one. I started with posts about pop culture, which is a love of mine, but quickly realized I wasn’t the soap box ranty type, at least not on a regular basis. I’m a teacher at heart, as I mentioned before, and I really wanted to reach out to other writers. As I learned and grew into my own writer skin, I began sharing little lessons and hosting contests and found I felt comfortable there. Now I interview authors as well to target readers.

Elizabeth: Enough of your writing—tell us about yourself.

Heather: I’m a former military brat so I’ve become a bit of a culture junkie as an adult. I love everything that goes with travel —food, language, customs, history, architecture and landscapes, most of all people. All of these elements go into crafting a believable world in a historical novel. I always loved writing, though it never occurred to me as a career, despite the stories I wrote as a kid. I also wrote a few essays that won awards and did copy editing for my high school and college newspapers and STILL never considered writing as a profession. I look back and think, what was I thinking? It wasn’t until I had children and resigned from my high school teaching job to be home with them that I began to pursue this passion I never realized I had. Now there’s no going back. I love writing in all its forms and I find the publishing business fascinating and challenging.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Heather: Absolutely coffee—preferably café au lait.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Heather: Ocean. I’m a total beach hound.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Heather: Depends on my mood. Unfortunately for my wallet, I love to spend money, whether it be for myself or someone else. But I feel most alive outdoors and enjoy being in the woods.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Heather: Piano! I wish I played.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Heather: Mystery. Puzzles are so much fun.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Heather: Ohhh, good question. They’re both full of pride, though it manifests itself differently within each of them. I LOVE Darcy, but I may have to say Heathcliff. I always like an underdog, and I can’t help but be attracted to his wild, passionate nature.

Elizabeth; Love scene or death scene?

Heather: To read–love scene. Always. To write–I enjoy both.

Follow Heather on her blog, Between the Sheets

and on Twitter:@msheatherwebb

Thanks to Heather for joining me today.

Haiku Marquee

Downtown Stevens Point is the home of the Fox Theater, which has not been in operation for the twelve years that I’ve lived in town (due to some local squabble about which I do not care).  But now, thanks to the Haiku Marquee Project, poets can submit haiku and monthly winners will have their haiku posted to the theater’s marquee.  Adult winners are on one side of the marquee and school-aged winners on the other side.

Both of my sons have submitted haiku, and I’m so proud of their poems that I got permission to post them here.  If they win, I’ll post a picture of the marquee.

I was born to lead
people across this highway
It’s safe, please follow m–

–Thomas Felt, age 12


Stuck inside this box
Broken elevators stink
I need to go pee

–Craig Felt, age 16

For more information about haiku on the Fox Theater marquee, visit their Facebook page or read this article at Verse Wisconsin.

Interview with Donald Michael Platt



Today I welcome Donald Michael Platt to my series of author interviews. Donald is the author of A Gathering of Vultures, Rocamora, and its sequel, the soon to be released House of Rocamora.

Q: Donald, can you give us some background on your novel Rocamora and some idea of what readers can expect from the House of Rocamora

A: Rocamora, a finalist at the 2012 International Book Awards, is set in 17th century Spain during its Golden Age. My historical MC Vicente de Rocamora, 1601-1684, struggles to make his place in an empire dominated by the Dominican controlled Inquisition and obsessed with limpieza de sangre, purity of blood untainted by Jew, Moor, or recent converts.

Historically, Rocamora was the Dominican royal confessor for Philip IV’s teenage sister Infanta María and renowned for his piety and eloquence. For the first forty-two years of his life he lived in Spain, and I filled the novel with Court and Church intrigues, depredations of the Inquisition, a mystery about Rocamora’s origins, his romantic involvement with several interesting women, assassination attempts, and duels.

Q: Was there love between Rocamora and Infanta María?

A: Imagine a fifteen- to sixteen-year-old girl who had no personal contact with any young men except her brothers. Then, her elderly confessor is replaced by a young man only five years older than she. It is documented María confessed several times a week, honored Rocamora, and showered him with gifts. Their relationship is best summed by a Spanish saying: No man is closer to a woman then her confessor, not her father, not her brother, and not her husband. No portrait or written description of Rocamora has been found.

Q: How does the sequel continue the story?

A: House of Rocamora covers the last forty-one years of Rocamora’s life in Amsterdam, during which he must again make his place in a land antipodal to Spain antipodal by climate, landscape, religion, government, and religious tolerance. Does he succeed? I answer all that and more through my fiction and the following facts. Rocamora went to medical school, became a physician at age forty-six and married a twenty-five year old who bore him nine children over eleven years. One may wonder how celibate he may have been in Spain. Rocamora was one of only three Jewish physicians who received citizenship equal to Dutch Christians, a philanthropist, and a respected poet although none of his writings are extant. Through Rocamora’s second son, he established a multi-generational dynasty of physicians. All this takes place during Amsterdam’s Golden Age, which included several plagues, the excommunication of Spinoza, hysteria generated among Jews and Protestants by a false messiah, and wars against Spain and England.

Q: What made you interested in writing about this character?

A: Little-known historical individuals who led interesting lives arouse my interest. The less documentation about them, the freer I am to create character motivation and an entertaining story line unlike the well-plowed Tudors, as an example. That is why I selected Vicente de Rocamora, 1601-1684, to be the protagonist of my novels. Several anomalies, unanswered questions. and many gaps in his life piqued my curiosity. The historical spoiler at the end of Rocamora, a truly unique event, is what most motivated me to write the novel.

My research failed to discover Rocamora’s parents and lineage, why he entered the Dominican Order, how and why he became confessor and spiritual director for the Infanta, and why he left Spain when he did in 1643. I have a letter from the director of the Inquisitorial files in Madrid stating Rocamora was never arrested or even denounced as a secret Jew or later condemned and burned in effigy. In Amsterdam, there are no extant records that explain why he received citizenship equal to Dutch Christians. I did discover a tenuous relationship to the noble de Rocamoras of Valencia, caballero caste of Murcia, and documented evidence of his true attitude toward religion, all of which contributed to the course of my novels.

Q: How much historical fact is woven into your novel?

A: The historical background, personages, and events are treated factually, but the great lacunae in Rocamora’s life that I fill are fictional. One typical example: I inserted Rocamora into the comical wooing of María by Charles, Prince of Wales. Of course, I did my best to show and not tell thus avoiding info-dumping, I hope. I do have author’s notes at the end of both novels to separate fact from fiction and a list of fictional characters as well.

Q: Tell us a little about your novel A Gathering of Vultures.

A: A Gathering of Vultures is a contemporary thriller-horror novel, based on my experiences when I lived where the story takes place.  Professional ballroom dancers Terri and Rick Hamilton aspire to be world champions. Unfortunately, Terri’s recurring health problems place that goal well out of reach. They travel to Terri’s birthplace, Florianópolis, on the scenic island of Santa Catarina off the coast of Brazil to vacation and visit their best friends and mentors.

Along the picturesque beaches, dead penguins and eviscerated bodies wash up, and Antarctic blasts play counterpoint to the tropical storms that rock the island. The scenic wonder is home not only to urubus, a unique sub-species of the black vulture, but also to a clique of mysterious women who offer Terri perfect health and the promise of fame—at a terrible price. Rick fears Terri is being drawn into a cult and that his own life may be in danger. Will it be too late when he discovers something even more terrifying lives beneath the tranquil, tropical veneer of the island?

Q: What was your path to becoming published?

A: I either submitted my writing though agents or personal connections with some success in film and television, but none sold my novels. In 2007, I sent A Gathering of Vultures to a startup independent publisher, and she accepted it. My publisher also loved Rocamora, and she published it in hard cover. Later she merged with Briona Glen, another startup, and they republished both novels in soft cover, Kindle, Nook, ebooks.. They will be publishing House of Rocamora in the same formats.

Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

A: Born and raised inside San Francisco, I graduated from prestigious Lowell High School and received my B.A. In History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, I went to graduate school at San Jose State where I won several writing awards. One of my short stories was published in the college’s literary magazine, The Reed.

When I moved to southern California, I began my professional writing career. I sold to the television series Mr Novak, ghost wrote Your Hair and Your Diet for health food guru Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and and with diverse producers, directors and stuntmen. Options have been taken on my unpublished WWII fighter ace novel.

After living in Florianopolis, Brazil, setting of A Gathering of Vultures, I moved to Jupiter, Florida, where I wrote Vitamin Enriched with Carl DeSantis and The Couple’s Disease with Dr. Lawrence S. Hakim.

Currently I reside in Winter Haven, Florida, where I am polishing a completed novel set in the ninth century Carolingian Empire about another unusual and elusive historical personage, Bodo the Apostate, and I have a WWII fighter ace novel on the tarmac after that.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Coffee, strong and black.

Q: Ocean or mountain?

A: Ocean. Mountains give me a feeling of claustrophobia.

Q: Hiking or shopping?

A: Neither, but if forced to choose, shopping, preferably for wines.

Q: Violin or piano?

A: Violin.

Q: Mystery or fantasy?

A: Mystery.

Q: Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara?

A: Yuck, neither, but if forced, Hester, although I might wait for Pearl to reach a marriageable age. I never cared for “Queen Bee” types. I would have been an indifferent Ashley in Scarlet’s world.

Q: Love scene or death scene?

A: Love scene, but no gratuitous sex.

You can learn more about Donald Michael Platt at his website,,

see a trailer for Rocamora on Youtube:

meet his publisher Briona Glen

and/or friend Donald on Facebook:

Rocomora and A Gathering of Vultures are available at, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

Thanks, Donald, for visiting my blog today.


How do you expect food from another world to taste? Like something you’ve had before? Of course, it doesn’t.

I remember the first time I was offered a ya’anmi’il—I wasn’t even sure it was food. It’s about the size and shape of a walnut shell but a bright, winter-sky blue. Although it looks rubbery, it’s hard and smooth, like a river-washed stone. It has no smell at all, which is why it’s hard to tell it’s edible. The flavor, on your tongue, is like old peaches—except that makes it sound bad, and it’s delicious—sweet and earthy.

The consistency will surprise you. When you bite into a ya’anmi’il, it shatters like glass, but every tiny jagged shard is soft and warm in your mouth, a warmth that quickly spreads throughout your body. It isn’t like drinking alcohol; it’s more like the feeling you get when your very own baby grabs and holds onto your finger for the first time. A tingling warmth of love and awe. A ya’anmi’il doesn’t just feed your body, it feeds your soul.

Well, not exactly.

I’m not describing it well. I wish I had a ya’anmi’il right now, so I could give it to you. Then you’d know.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow on earth and doesn’t survive interstellar transport. If you want to taste one, you’ll have to travel.

This is from a writing exercise I did a few years ago and held on to.  I liked it and wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Thank goodness for blogs!

Interview with Jeanne Treat



Today I’m welcoming Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright trilogy as well as a collection of short stories, Dark, Mysterious and Irreverent.


Q: Can you give us a brief description of the Dark Birthright trilogy?

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A: The Dark Birthright trilogy takes place in seventeenth century Scotland, England, and the American Colonies. The series has sold more than 8,000 books and eBooks through promotion at Scottish and Celtic festivals, book events, and the internet.

The first book, Dark Birthright, is the story of a child born of mysterious circumstances, given to a fisherman and his wife to raise as their own. Dughall grows up in a family bound by honor and becomes a healer.  His life is torn apart when he is claimed by his real father, a cruel and powerful lord who tries to mold him in his image.  Dughall must define himself, in the midst of a struggle between a Duke, an Earl, and the family who wants him back.  All the while, he’s determined to marry the girl he left behind, a woodland lass with eyes as green as a peacock’s feather.

Book two, Dark Lord, follows the same characters. Set during a time of political and religious strife, it features action, romance, and politics.  Dughall is settling into his new role when the King (Charles I) imposes an Anglican liturgy book on the Scottish church.  Protests and riots plague the realm, forcing lords and commoners to take a stand. Dughall and his half brother Gilbert are placed in precarious positions, torn between loyalty to the crown, their families, and zealous subjects. The National Covenant is signed and war breaks out. Tempers run hot and actions are rash.  To maintain order, one brother must take their late father’s place.  Who shall become the Dark Lord?

Book three, Dark Destiny, continues the story of the Gordon clan. The English civil war is over.  The imprisoned King and his lieutenants are in trouble.  Dughall’s half brother Gilbert is one of them.  What will the Gordon brothers do?  You will meet the next generation of Gordon children – one son’s supernatural abilities threaten his father.  England executes the King and declares itself a Republic, but the Scottish government refuses to follow.  The King’s son (Charles II) tries to gain his thrones, starting with Scotland.  Unfortunately, he was given a directive by his father to execute Lord Dughall Gordon. What will the Gordon brothers do? Will they abandon Scotland for the Colonies?

Q: You describe your writing as historical fantasy. What made you decide to mix these genres?

A: I describe the series as historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. It is historically correct, but there is a sword with a curse on it and two brothers with the second sight. What is the second sight? When they were children, their mother described it as, “They speak to each other without words, they each know where the other is, and feel each other’s pain and pleasure. Sometimes they say what others are thinking. It scares me that people will find out.” This spawns some interesting situations, particularly when they are older.

I have always been interested in the supernatural – so you will see this woven throughout my work.

Q: How historically accurate are your novels?

A: The novels are correctly set in the seventeenth century in respect to geography and political and religious systems. They follow historical events closely and reflect what it was like to live as a lord, a peasant, a fisherman, and a woodland villager. To research the novels, I used books and the internet, but I also traveled to Scotland and England to visit castles, seaports, and stone circles. I worked with a Scottish historian from a village near Old Deer.

Q: Your books are illustrated by fantasy artist Jane Starr Weils. How did this collaboration occur? 

A: A press in Virginia agreed to publish my first book, Dark Birthright. They had already published The Rebel King Series, which was illustrated. My publisher suggested that my novel would benefit from character portrait sketches. Jane Starr Weils was one of the names mentioned, so I contacted her. She lives in New York near the Vermont border, so we visited her after a trip to Maine.

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Here is how we created a portrait sketch. I would identify a person whose visage represented my character and photograph them. We knew some of these people. Others, we photographed at Scottish festivals. I would relay the photograph to Jane, along with a description of any changes – like clothing, hair color, and facial hair. She did an initial pass at the drawing and we collaborated until the sketch was perfect. The sketches are wonderful. I use them to promote my books.

Q: What is your creative process?

A: An author’s creative process is as unique as the writer. A friend of mine meticulously plans a novel ahead of time, using character descriptions, plot and chapter outlines, and theme and sub-theme descriptions. It works for her, but my creative process is different. I approach the task like it is an artist’s canvas. I know where the story begins and how it ends and that’s my road map. I ask the characters to talk to me and they do. In some ways I become them. My husband likes to tell people, “I’ve been sleeping with a dozen Scots in my bed for years. The women are fine, but it’s weird being with the men.”

Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

A: I grew up in Western New York, in a suburb of Buffalo. I began writing as a child and continued into my teens, when I penned a column in the school newspaper called “Tea Time with Cecily Fripple.” (Did I just date myself?) I graduated from college with an English Liberal Arts degree. I took literature and creating writing courses at school, which helped me to write.  I always wanted to be a writer, although I did not seriously pursue it until 2004. My mother is partially responsible for my success. The dedication in my novels says, “This book is dedicated to my mother, who told everyone I was an author before it was true.”

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Coffee – hopelessly addicted

Q: Ocean or mountain?

A: Definitely mountain!

Q: Hiking or shopping?

A: Hiking

Q: Violin or piano?

A: Violin!

Q: Mystery or fantasy?

A: Mystery

Q: Darcy or Heathcliff?

A: Hmmm… Neither… But Darcy if a choice must be made.

Q: Love scene or death scene?

A: Love scene

To learn more about Jeanne, visit her blog,

To learn more about her books and view some book trailers:

Jeanne’s short story collection, Dark, Mysterious, and Irreverent is available for FREE download through 08/31/12.  Follow the link below and use coupon code KQ22Q

Jeanne, thanks for joining me today!