An Interview with Stephanie Barko

Stephanie BarkoToday I welcome  Stephanie Barko to my series of interviews. Stephanie will be presenting at the Historical Novels Society Conference as a literary publicist. In the workshop Building an Effective Platform for your Historical, Stephanie will lead attendees through her proprietary exercises that coax a book’s platform to the surface.  Welcome, Stephanie.

Q: What does a typical day look like in your job as a literary publicist?

A: My day begins with black coffee, a lit candle, a gratitude list and soul writing (a la Janet Conner).

After listening to a guided meditation through a headset, I clean up my email before beginning to execute client deliverables. During my day, I may be shipping galleys for pre-pub review, pitching radio producers, subcontracting for a colleague in Manhattan, or arranging a virtual tour. Depending on the season of the year, I will be working in some yoga, aqua aerobics, Tai Chi or walking to keep my brain oxygenated during the work week. I break to cook dinner and then get right back to it during the evening unless there’s something I can’t bear to miss on PBS.

Q: What do you like most about promoting historical novels and nonfiction?

A: My favorite task during a contract is research–researching journalists for a media list, researching the top Technorati book bloggers, or researching the best endorser candidates for a client’s book. The pre-pub phase is when I can add the most value, and that’s the part of a campaign I enjoy the most.

Q: What do you like the LEAST about your job?

A: Redirecting stray prospects who have queried for my services without doing their homework.

Q: What can historical novelists and nonfiction authors do to help you help THEM?

A: A good start would be to approach me with a publisher already on board, a release date, an edited manuscript, and professionally designed cover still in progress, and a list o potential or actual endorsers.

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

Coffee or tea?  Organic French Roast

Ocean or Mountain: Mountains of the American West

Hiking or shopping? Hiking

Violin or piano? Piano

Mystery or fantasy: Mystery

Darcy or Heathcliff? Darcy

Love scene or death scene? Death scene

For more information about Stephanie Barko and her work, visit her website, read about her at Literary Marketplace or visit her in your favorite online milleu:

Thanks, Stephanie!

Author Interview: Anne Easter Smith

Easter SmithToday I welcome Anne Easter Smith to my series of author interviews. Anne is the author of the highly acclaimed historical novels, A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, The King’s Grace, and Queen by Right. Her recently-released Royal Mistress is the story of Jane Shore, the final mistress of King Edward IV of England. Anne will be speaking on the To Trump or Trumpet: the History Police panel at the Historical Novels Society conference.

Q: What got you first interested in historical fiction?

A: A great teacher in boarding school hooked me on history, and so when I went home during the holidays I would go to the local library and read every historical novel I could get my hands on. I was not interested in any books that did not have women in long dresses. Even today, if a book cover, TV show or movie is period, I’m instantly interested.

Q: For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

A: I’ll be talking about this on my panel at the conference. I fall into the “don’t mess with history” camp. To be honest, the people I have written about couldn’t have had more dramatic lives, even if I’d wanted to embellish them! I was mortified recently that a reader caught an egregious historical error that I cannot imagine not catching during the editing process. I feel a certain responsibility to my readers to not fudge the facts. After all, it was fact-fudging by Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More that got my favorite protagonist, Richard III, such a bad reputation.

Q: Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?

A: Imagine my surprise when, at a reading near Albany, New York, a woman turned up dragging an 11-year-old boy with her. When I went to greet her, talking over the boy’s head, and said how brave she was to come when her son was surely not there of his own volition, she said: “Oh, I’m not here to see you, Jason is. He’s your biggest fan and his room is covered in English royalty genealogy charts!” Jason and I have kept up a correspondence ever since.

Q: What book was the most fun for you to write?

easter smith roseA: Definitely A Rose for the Crown. It’s not that I haven’t adored all my other protagonists, but I wrote that in my own time without any intention of letting anyone but my family read it and believed it would be my only attempt at writing a book.


Q: Can you tell us about your latest publication?easter smith royal mistress

A: Royal Mistress is the fifth in my series about the York family during the Wars of the Roses. It tells the story of Jane Shore, King Edward IV’s final and favorite mistress. I love that she was born into the merchant class of London, which allowed me to do a lot of research on the medieval guilds, and as she was called his “merriest” mistress by Edward himself, I knew she must have been quite a character. She had a roller-coaster of a life before and after Edward, but while she was his mistress, Jane was said to have truly been loved by the king. All the York family come into this book, including my Richard (III), although his treatment of Jane was rather harsh and forced me to look at him in a less saintly light than my first book A Rose for the Crown.

Thank you, Anne.

You can learn more about Anne Easter Smith and her books at

Book Title Poetry

As soon as I looked through book title poetry by Nina Katchadourian, I  ran to my bookshelves to see what I could create.  Working for about 10 minutes (because I’m supposed to be working on my novel today!), with only the books in one room, I came up with these three poems.  I hope you like them.

(Click to make bigger.)

poem crime


(First book is Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick.)

poem ragged dick

And finally…

poem stranger



Now run to your bookshelves and put together your own poems!

Author Interview: Kathleen Kent

kathleen kentAs part of my series of interviews with Historical Novels Society Conference Speakers, I today interview Kathleen Kent. Kathleen is the author of the bestselling novels, The Heretic’s Daughter and The Traitor’s Wife. At the conference, Kathleen will be participating in “The Witchcraft Window: Scrying the Past” panel discussion.

Question: What got you first interested in historical fiction?

Kathleen: When I was a child, my mother gave me a book on ancient Greek artifacts. Soon after, I started reading Mary Renault’s books and historical fiction became my time machine to the past.

Question: How do you find the people and topics of your books?

kent heretics daughterKathleen: My first two books, The Heretic’s Daughter and The Traitor’s Wife were based on my 9 times great grandmother, Martha Carrier, who was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. I grew up hearing stories of Martha and her family.

Question: Do you have an anecdote about reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?

kent traitors wifeKathleen: For the release of my second book, The Traitor’s Wife, I had a launch event in Salem, Mass. Over 250 fellow descendants of Martha Carrier—from all over the U.S.— attended to share their personal histories and stories that they had heard about Martha and her husband, Thomas Carrier.

Question: Can you tell us about your latest publication?

Kathleen: My third novel, The Outcasts, will be published this October. Set in 1870 Texas, the story follows both a young Texas State Policeman on the hunt for a serial killer, and a woman fleeing a life of prostitution to pose as a school teacher in a small Texas town.

Thanks, Kathleen!  For more about Kathleen Kent, visit her website,

HNS Interview: Heather Webb

Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring some of the speakers scheduled to present at the Historical Novels Society Conference  June 21-23 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today I welcome Heather Webb, who will be on a panel discussing the “Virtual Salon: Historical Fiction Blogs” at the conference. This is my second interview with Heather Webb. You can read the first interview here.

Question: What got you first interested in historical fiction?

Heather: I’ve been fascinated by history all my life–the clothes, the gadgets heather webb(or lack there of), and the evolution of the human story. I credit my parents for much of this interest. My dad loved old epic movies like Ben Hur and Cleopatra, westerns, and war films, and my mom enjoyed museums, so my siblings and me spent loads of time learning about the past.

Question: How do you find the people and topics of your books?

Heather: My book topics are based on people who have always fascinated me. Also, I stumble upon new gems by accident during my research of a current project.

Question: Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?

Heather: I research for at lease a couple months first and flesh out an outline and character maps. From there, I begin writing scenes and continue to research as I go.

Question: For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

Heather: Gross errors of important dates that define a person’s life within the novel is the only thing I’d watch for. Otherwise, to me, fiction is fiction. Fact is fact. Writers are artists with their own interpretation of how events unfolded, the emotions and thoughts of the characters. It frustrates me to see people attack each other over differing elements in historicals. So what if the relationship may or may not have happened? It sure is fun to read and dream about. Factual accounts (which is impossible as none of us lived during these times that we write about), are nonfiction, not fiction.

Question: Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?

Heather: I think crossover elements will become more popular–fantasy elements, women’s fiction themes, mysteries and thrillers, rather than classic historical biographies or war novels.

Question: Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?

Heather: I love to write about late 18th-19th century France. Revolutions, whether through war or in ideologies are fascinating to me and France’s history is rich in revolts of every kind. I love to read any era, as long as I fall in love with the characters. Right now I’m on an early 20th century kick.

Question: What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?

Heather: Favorite reads change over time for me and they aren’t all historical, but right now I’d say: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. As for favorite films, my list is long, but I love artsy French films and most versions of those based on Jane Austen’s books. I could throw in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Silverlinings Playbook and the like, or the odd superhero film and I’m happy as a clam.

Question: Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?

Heather: Josephine Bonaparte! But so so many more! I couldn’t possibly name them all.

Question: Can you tell us about your latest publication?

Heather: My debut Becoming Josephine be lead title for Plume/Penguin in January 2014 and has already been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. I can’t tell you how excited I am! After years of hard work, it’s a dream come true! I bet Empress Josephine would be so pleased. 🙂