Author Interview: Callie Bates

callie batesToday I welcome Callie Bates to my series of author interviews. Callie is the author of the soon-to-be-released The Waking Land, a young adult-crossover fantasy novel. Her book release party will be in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, on June 27th at the North Lakeland Discovery Center. I was lucky enough to read parts of The Waking Land in a critique group a few years ago and was not at all surprised when Callie sold the book to Del Rey Books. I’m so excited to read the whole story!

Elizabeth: Callie, welcome! Can you tell my readers about The Waking Land?

callie baties bookCallie: Thank you so much for having me! The Waking Land is about a young woman who’s raised as a hostage for her father’s failed rebellion—but when she’s framed for murdering the king, she has to go on the run. Meanwhile, she struggles to understand her repressed, forbidden nature magic. Basically, it has intrigue, romance, revolution and, hopefully, lots of fun!

Elizabeth: How did the first idea of the story come to you?

Callie: I’ve been tinkering with Elanna’s character for years, and she has evolved enormously over that time! I wanted to write a story about a girl forcibly raised away from her home, but who still possesses a deep and undeniable connection to the land and people she comes from—and who, at the same time, is determined to forge her own identity. But, because I didn’t really know what I was doing, it wasn’t until after I wrote a rather long and rather awful multi-point-of-view manuscript that I realized she could have a solo story in her own right. And that I might even be able to figure out how to write an ending for that!

Elizabeth: In what ways is Elanna like you and in what ways is she different?

Callie: We are both stubborn and snarky! However, Elanna is infinitely more hotheaded than I am, has PTSD from childhood trauma, and is much more attached to her perceived truths. (In case anyone wonders: I do not have Stockholm Syndrome!)

Elizabeth: How has living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin influenced this story?

Callie: If I gave Elanna anything of myself, it’s my love of the natural world. I’m deeply rooted in the place where I live. Here, trees outnumber people, and it’s easy to see the land as a character in its own right. I have always been baffled by people who put human needs before the needs of the environment, especially in the era of climate change, instead of seeing us as an interdependent whole. Elanna’s magic is an attempt to unite the experience of being human with the living experience of the land itself.

Elizabeth: How did you get your agent, and how long did it take you to get published?

Callie: Quite simply, I cold queried, and I’m here to tell you that it does work! My agent asked to see a revision of The Waking Land in 2014 and, because I am nothing if not thorough, I took my time and completely rewrote the manuscript in a different voice and tense. Fortunately, she loved it and offered representation. That was in early 2015; we sold the manuscript a few months later. So, it’s been 3 or 4 years since I first wrote this book. However, since I’ve been wanting to publish since I was 11, you could say it’s taken me almost 20 years to get there!

Elizabeth: Congratulations! I am shocked that a cold query worked! Good for you! Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Callie: I draft by hand in a notebook, then move on to working in Scrivener and Word. My drafts are often too short and skimp on some important moments, so I am often adding word count even in late edits. (Which is not what most writers recommend, but it seems to be how I roll.)

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Callie: I’m just finishing up the second book in the trilogy, The Memory of Fire! It jumps to a new narrator—and, for the most part, a new part of the world—though I can’t say too much without giving spoilers for The Waking Land

Elizabeth: What book(s) have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Callie: I’m currently reading two I love—The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which is a wonderful middle grade fantasy, and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, which is the culmination of an epic trilogy. I highly recommend both!

Elizabeth: I love The Girl Who Drank the Moon! I’ll put A Conjuring of Light on my TBR list. Tell us more about yourself.

Callie: Aside from writing, I’m also an occasional harpist. I play the folk harp, and I’m also a certified harp therapist, trained to play one-on-one or in group settings at hospitals, nursing homes, and the like, to facilitate the healing process. Unsurprisingly, I’m an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel, too; many of my better story ideas come to me while I’m ambling around somewhere new. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, studied creative writing in college, and stubbornly persisted until I had a book ready to go out into the world.

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: Pizza or salad?

Callie: Pizza!

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Callie: TEA. Black, milk, no sugar.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Callie: Both?

Elizabeth: Tree house or doll house?

Callie: Tree house!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Callie: Violin!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Callie: Darcy…but Heathcliff is more exciting…

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Callie: Loooooove scene!

Learn more about Callie from her social media sites:

Website: calliebates.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/calliebywords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calliebywords

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15986018.Callie_Bates

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/calliebates

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/callie_bates/

You can pre-order / buy a copy of The Waking Land here:

Barnes & Noble

Penguin Random House

Amazon

Amazon UK

Advertisements

Author Interview: Martin “M.J.” Lee

martin leeToday I’m welcoming Martin Lee to my series of author interviews. Martin writes historical crime novels under the name M. J. Lee. His books include the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, the Danilov series, and the Pepys series.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Martin–or would you prefer to be called M. J. ?

Martin: Hi Elizabeth, Great to be here. Martin’s fine. Unfortunately, there are about six other Martin Lee’s writing: that’s why I use my initials.

Elizabeth: Your latest mystery, The Somme Legacy features Jayne Sinclair. Can you tell us a bit about this novel and why this series is labeled as “genealogical” mysteries?

Martin: The Somme Legacy is set in the years around the first World War. It’s a follow up to The Irish Inheritance. I was drawn to the story because it was such a dramatic time for people in England; women were demanding the vote, the nation went to war and, caught up in this maelstrom, are two young lovers, David Russell and Rose Clarke. Jayne Sinclair is trying to prove they actually married in order for an ancestor to claim an inheritance. You’ll have to read the book to find out if she succeeds!!

I love genealogy, history and crime stories so these genealogical mysteries are my way of wrapping my three loves all in one book. They are a joy to write, and, I hope, a pleasure to read. At heart, genealogy asks the question ‘Who are we?’ In a more and more dislocated age, where ‘fake news’ abounds, answering that question becomes truly important to our sense of self. And besides, there are some wonderful family stories out there.

Elizabeth: I assume your Pepys series features Samuel Pepys, seventeenth century English diarist. Can you tell us about these mysteries?

Martin: I love Samuel Pepys. An auntie gave me the edited diaries when I was 15 and I loved the wit, bonhomie and sheer bravado of the man. I’ve now read the complete diaries three times, so I thought it was about time I brought him to life. He was such a great observer of human nature; he would have made a great detective. If fact, he did organize an investigation into his own wrongful imprisonment in 1688.

Elizabeth: Your third series features Inspector Danilov of Shanghai; tell us more about the detective and the setting.

Martin: Talking about this, I’m beginning to think I write too many series!!! Danilov came to me when I was working in Shanghai. One night, I was walking through the art-deco area behind the Bund. The area went quiet, and I suddenly imagined I was back in the middle of 1930s, with jazz pouring out of clubs, flappers on the streets and long, streamlined Studebakers prowling. Danilov was born and demanded to be written. The third in the series, The Murder Game, will be published on March 31st.

Elizabeth: You have lived in many places: Shanghai, London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, and Bangkok. How has this influenced and informed your writing?

Martin: All my novels have a very strong sense of place. The cities are characters themselves. This is just as important to me as plot, voice, structure and all the other elements of the novel.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Martin: A lot but hopefully it isn’t too obvious. I love research and took a research degree in history. I’m very comfortable working with original documents. For example, my novel, The Irish Inheritance, is set partly in the Easter Rising of 1916. We’re very lucky as there is an extensive archive of interviews with the participants in the Rising at the Irish Archives, the Bureau of Military History, on RTE, the state television station, the Pension service, as well as many memoirs for the period from the likes of Eamonn O’Malley. The Bureau of Military History in Dublin contains over 1200 interviews from people involved in the Easter Rising, transcribed in the 1950s. These are a wonderful trove of original material which I used extensively to ensure the events I described actually took place. Historical accuracy is incredibly important to me, but I’m writing a novel not a work of non-fiction. The imagination comes into play when I see the events through the eyes of my characters, with all their eccentricities and flaws.

Elizabeth: You worked for more than 25 years in advertising before becoming a novelist. How do you feel that background has helped or hindered you as a historical mystery writer?

Martin: Definitely helped. I’m used to working to deadlines and creating under pressure. I never (touch wood) suffer from writer’s block or anything like that. I sit down in front of my PC and the words flow. And working in advertising means I enjoy editing: shaping and refining something to make it better.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Martin: I’m sort of half a plotter and half a pantser. I usually plot the first 30,000 words and then listen to the character and the story, letting them take me where they want to go. If a novel is all plotted, it can feel very formulaic, lacking those twists and turns that keep a reader reading.

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Martin: I did a lot of research on the suffragettes for The Somme Legacy. And, having a young daughter, I find it amazing that women are still arguing for the same rights and treatment as men 100 years later. How can it take until 2050 before we approach pay parity? How can we have boardrooms dominated by men? How can women still be unequal in this day and age? It defies belief.

Elizabeth: Yes, it defies belief. I could go on and on about that injustice, but instead I’ll stick to our interview. Can you tell us more about yourself?

Martin: I was dragged up in Manchester and both my parents were Irish. Unlike most people I think I was a pretty crap writer at school despite the ministrations of countless good teachers. Writing sort of grew on me as a way of expressing what I love. I went to University and got a degree in History, going on to do a research degree which I never finished. Mrs Thatcher saw fit to cut my grant. For the rest of my life I have been working and traveling. Every seven years, I took a sabbatical from work to do what I loved at that time; traveling, writing, being with friends. I think the worst thing one can do with a life is work. I mean, how many people when they hit 60 wish they had spent more time in the office? Do what you love and love what you do.

Elizabeth: Excellent advice! 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?

Martin: Both. Coffee in the morning and Chinese tea to keep me going.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Martin: Mountains, there’s always another to climb in the distance.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Martin: Hiking every day of the week. I shop once a year and only if I have to. Bookshops, of course, don’t count as shopping.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Martin: Violin. Anything by Bruch.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Martin: Mystery. Although I am a great Game of Thrones fan.

Elizabeth: Scarlett O’Hara or Jane Eyre?

Martin: Jane Eyre. Scarlett was a spoilt brat…

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Martin: Death scene. Love scenes are so hard to write convincingly…

Elizabeth: To buy Martin’s M.J. Lee books or to learn more about him and his writing visit these sites:

The official website for M.J. Lee
Facebook
Twitter: @writermjlee
Amazon US
and
Amazon UK
Martin has also just published a novel under his full name, Martin Lee, called The Fall, set in Singapore during World War II. Learn more about The Fall at Endeavour Press.

Read an E-book Week

read-ebook-week

#Smashwords #ebookweek17

Is it midnight yet? Tonight, at midnight, it’s time to book shop like a crazy person!

Sunday, March 5 through Saturday, March 11 e-books are on sale at Smashwords. It’s a great time to finally get your copy of Syncopation: a Memoir of Adele Hugo. (75% off the regular price.) Visit my Smashwords Author page to download your copy.  Look for the coupon code and use it when you check out to receive the discount.

If you’ve already read my book, or historical fiction isn’t your cup of tea, there are oodles of other  e-books on sale. Visit the Smashwords Promotion Catalog.

This Read-an-Ebook event was first started 12 years ago by author Rita Toews, as she explains in this interview.

Happy E-Reading!

Author Interview: Richard Anderton

richardToday I’m welcoming Richard Anderton to my series of author interviews. Richard is the author of The Devil’s Band and The Devil’s Lance, which are the first two books of The Devilstone Chronicles. The third installment, The Devil’s Pearl, is due out later this year.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Richard.

Richard: Thank you and thank you for inviting me to take part.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us about your series?

Richard: The Devilstone Chronicles are set in the early 16th Century, during the reign of Henry VIII, and tell the story of Thomas Devilstone, a disgraced alchemist and astrologer who escapes abroad after being sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft. Whilst in exile, he becomes a soldier of fortune, in the hope he can use his wits and his sword to win back both the king’s favour and his family’s lost estates. To help him in this ambition, he forms an unlikely alliance with three other mercenaries namely a Lutheran convert, a Portuguese adventurer and an escaped African galley slave.richard-devilstone-chronicles

At one level the stories are meant to be fun adventures, not to be taken too seriously, but I hope readers will be intrigued by the subtext which is the conflict between the superstition of the medieval world and the beginnings of modern science during the Renaissance. Thomas’ name is a deliberate reference to the biblical ‘Doubting Thomas’ because, after his constant failure to perform spells successfully, this onetime sorcerer has come to doubt his own, once unshakeable, belief in the supernatural. Thomas now understands that much of what appears to be magic can be produced by purely natural means and this knowledge allows him to dupe his enemies and thwart his rivals as he struggles to revive his fortunes.

Elizabeth: Do you and Thomas Devilstone have any of the same personality traits?

Richard: I think Thomas is the exact opposite of me but he is the sort of person I wish I was; he is much more of a swashbuckling hero than I am and much better looking! Thomas is also far more ready to embrace modernity whereas I struggle to cope with the 21st Century. To take just one example, I have passionate loathing of smart phones, because my huge sausage-shaped fingers are far too big for touch screens.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your story?

Richard: A lot! As an avid reader and fan of historical novels, especially Bernard Cornwell and George MacDonald Fraser, I love it when an author constructs their plots around actual events so I’ve tried to include as much historical fact as I can without slowing down the action or turning the stories into textbooks. Thomas is entirely fictional but he is closely modeled on a genuine Renaissance alchemist, named Cornelius Agrippa, who publicly renounced magic and became a doctor. He also meets plenty of genuine historical figures which range from the last Yorkist prince to challenge Henry VIII (The Devil’s Band) to the actual grandson of Vlad the Impaler ‘the real Dracula’ (The Devil’s Lance).

I also believe the whole point of reading historical novels is broaden one’s knowledge of history so Thomas fights in the pivotal battles which took place at this period (Pavia 1525 and Mohacs 1526) and the machines he constructs, which are important plot devices, follow real designs produced by Leonardo de Vinci. Similarly, the ineffectual spells he casts to confound his superstitious enemies are all taken from a popular medieval spellbook called The Munich Handbook of Demonic Magic.

Elizabeth: What drew you to this time period?

Richard: As a writer I’m always looking to tell ‘the untold story’ but most publishers want books about popular periods so there is a large existing audience for the title. As a compromise, I chose to write about the early Tudor Age because Henry VIII and his six wives are perennially popular but at the same time I moved the focus away from England to the rest of Europe in search of stories that will introduce readers to different, and lesser known, aspects of this period.

Apart from the origins of The Reformation, the history of the rest of Europe during the 16th Century is rarely taught in UK schools so few people on this side of The Channel have heard of Charles V (b.1500 d.1558) despite the fact that he was one of the most powerful monarchs ever to have lived. Whilst Henry VIII ruled England, this Hapsburg Emperor simultaneously ruled Spain, Germany, Italy, the Low Countries and most of Central Europe as well as the vast Spanish territories in the New World, but as far as we Brits are concerned Charles was nothing more than Catherine of Aragon’s nephew! Moreover, Charles V’s wars with the French King Francis and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent created many of the fault lines which still divide Europe today so I thought his reign would be the perfect backdrop for Thomas’ journey from the medieval to the modern world.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Richard: To construct the plots of The Devil’s Band, The Devil’s Lance and the forthcoming The Devil’s Pearl, I chose a genuine historical battle to be the climax of each story and worked backwards. Why would an Englishman be here? What would be his motivation to fight for a foreign king? Would he benefit from the outcome? And so on. I then try and weave my answers to these questions around known historical facts and my golden rule is that any historical figure who appears in the story has to act in accordance with these facts. I do allow myself a some license with fictional characters but Thomas and his companions’ thoughts and actions always have to remain true to the period.

Once I have a rough chapter plan, I write down everything in my head then edit and rewrite it again and again. I reckon each chapter is rewritten at least fifty times before I’m happy, so my method of writing is not very efficient but it does mean I have (mercifully) never suffered from writer’s block!

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Richard: Whilst researching the use of slaves in Mediterranean galleys for Volume III of The Devilstone Chronicles (incidentally one of my favourite films, Ben Hur, got it completely wrong!) I read the only autobiography of a real galley slave known to exist. It is the story of Jean Marteilhe, a French Protestant who tried to flee religious persecution in his homeland. He crossed into what he thought was the Protestant Netherlands but in fact he’d arrived in a French enclave just a few miles inside Dutch territory. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. Later, he was transferred to the galleys and spent 6 years chained to an oar before he was rescued by an English fleet. All this did not happen in 16th or even the 17th Century but in the 18th Century, the so called Age of Enlightenment, so whenever I think my life is miserable I think of that poor Frenchman!

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Richard: I am 52 years old, married with four children and I’ve lived all my life in the north of England. Though I always wanted to be a writer, I didn’t put pen to paper until I was nearly 40. Before that I failed at a wide variety of careers including lawyer, police officer, cartoonist and book illustrator…

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?

Richard: Coffee first thing in the morning then tea, lots and lots of tea, for the rest of the day.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Richard: Tricky, I love both. Fortunately in England you are never more than 70 miles from the sea but as I live in the hills, and my favourite view is of the Cumbrian Mountains from the top of Hartside pass, I guess mountains have the edge.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Richard: I’m a complete and unrepentant couch potato but as I simply can’t abide shopping I’d choose hiking – provided there’s a cosy pub at the end of the trail.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Richard: actually neither. For some reason I don’t really like music. I never play records or CDs and my iPod is full of audiobooks! Perhaps it’s because my younger brother is an accomplished (amateur) musician and I was forced to listen to him practice when we were children…

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Richard: Having spent ten years as a police officer I find it hard to take murder mysteries or any crime fiction seriously, however well written such books might be, so I’d always choose fantasy.

Elizabeth: Scarlett O’Hara or Jane Eyre?

Richard: Scarlett without a doubt, probably because I am secretly in love with Vivien Leigh and we did too much Jane Austen at school!

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Richard: I prefer to experience the former and write about the latter…

The Devil’s Band and The Devil’s Lance are available as paperbacks (UK £8.99/£9.99 US $17.99) and eBooks (UK £0.99 US$1.22) via Amazon and Richard’s website.

To learn more about Richard and his books, you can find him at:

Web: www.thedevilstonechronicles.com

Twitter: @andertonTDC

Facebook Page: The Devil’s Band

Best Books of 2016

best-books-2016

Anyone reading this blog probably agrees that 2016 was a totally sucky year. Thank goodness I found so many wonderful books. The best year of reading possibly ever! It has been difficult to choose this list. I’ve included books from a number of genres, for a variety of audiences, and I’ve left off some very good books to keep the list from getting too long. (Code in descriptions: MG= middle grade books, for children ages 9-12 or thereabouts; YA=young adult books, for teenagers.) The order is the order I read them this year.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (YA)

A planet is attacked and a few of its inhabitants manage to flee before the planet is mostly destroyed. Two ships make their way across space, but something mysterious happens on one of the ships. Have the passengers been hit by a deadly virus, or is the ship’s computer taking over? The protagonists are a teen girl and a teen boy on different ships, and the story is presented as a file of information: emails, notes, audio recordings, etc. A fast-paced, sci-fi thriller with sequels coming.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (MG)

A modern day version of Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, this story within a story will keep you guessing. The Marvelous Boy has been kept a prisoner for centuries. Only Ophelia can rescue him, but her dedication to science makes her skeptical of magic and the quest she is destined to complete. Great fun.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Widower A.J. Firky is a grumpy young-old man who owns a bookstore. When suicidal mother leaves her baby in his store before killing herself, A.J.’s life is turned upside down. Firky adopts the child, opening his life to love and much more. This is a funny, smart story with lots of literary references. Loved it!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (YA)

When the beautiful Rosa disappears, nobody in Bone Gap is surprised because people often disappear from their rural community. Finn knows Ruby was kidnapped, but nobody believes him, not even his brother Sean who was in love with Ruby. This magical, folk-lore tale is exciting, scary, poignant and wonderful.

The Game of Thrones, whole series (well as much as has been published….) by George R. R. Martin

This past summer, I joined the world-wide, Game of Thrones-obsessed fan club. If I look back on my year of reading, this is the gravitational pull. My life after reading these books is different. I think about the characters and the events constantly. If you’ve watched and loved the television series, you should read the books. The first season and the first book are almost identical, but by season three, the stories have diverged. The books are better. By far. Like everyone else, I’m waiting for that next book.

Chalice by Robin McKinley (YA)

In this subtle and beautiful world, human communities are linked to the land, and both are kept whole and happy by a Master and a Chalice. One community is almost destroyed when its selfish Master and weak Chalice fail to perform their duties. The new Chalice must learn her job quickly, with little training, and is aided by a new Master who is barely human. The prose and plot are as beautiful and breath-taking as the world. Lovely, lovely story.

Playing the Part by Jen Turano

This light romantic comedy novel made me laugh when I needed to laugh. I wrote a review at the Historical Novels Review.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The entwined stories of an orphan German boy and a blind French girl trying to survive during World War II. Beautiful. Brilliant. Smart. What I like most about this book is how it is more than one thing. If you take the story at face value, it is a good story. Suspenseful. Engaging. Characters you care about. But if you study the story, you see that everything is more than what you first see. I read this twice last year and may read it again. Highly recommended.

Break the Spell by A.M. Bostwick (YA)

Allison has a terrible secret about her health that she hasn’t shared with anyone. Ethan is on the run from the police. The weekend after the last day of school, Ethan holds Allison hostage to keep her quiet about his whereabouts and both get more than they planned for. This is a delightful teen romance that handles real problems with grace. Read it!

Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato

I had no idea what to expect when I started this book, which was left in my little free library. The voice and character of Mathilda are well written. She is a twelve-ish year old, grieving girl, dealing with the death of her sister and the disintegration of the family she once had. She is, in turns, nasty, sweet, cynical, innocent, comical and tragic. At first I wasn’t sure I liked her, but she grew on me. The way the author handles the idea of “story” is remarkable. This may not be a book for everyone. I think writers will enjoy it, as well as readers who like smart books that make you think. I loved it

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

I read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romance novels a few years ago in a whirlwind of giddiness. This was my favorite, but I couldn’t remember its name! I came upon it again this year. I love Heyer’s clever plot tangles and funny characters. This is one of the best. Light and enjoyable.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (MG)

This is the story of three girls who become friends while taking baton twirling lessons one summer. Each has a difficult family life. The book was medium-good until the end, when all elements of the story converged in such a surprising and satisfying way, that it became one of my favorite books of the year. Another great book by DiCamillo.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (YA)

Cath is starting her freshman year of college, but her twin sister Wren wants them to strike out on their own. Cath is afraid of her roommate, the dorm cafeteria, and for her father, who isn’t coping well with being without his girls. Cath’s place of refuge is her fan fiction world, where she is a highly-acclaimed writer. I read this at exactly the right time: when I, too, wanted to hide from the world. Rowell’s story was a great place to hide. Cath’s character is wonderfully drawn. The story is well paced, with romance, family drama, fun fanfic, and more. I wonder, is anyone writing fangirl fanfiction? Something to look into….

Pax by Sara Pennypacker (MG)

This is the story of a fox and his boy. It is a story of war and forgiveness. It is about survival in the wilderness and about self-sacrifice. It is about creating art. It is so beautiful, on so many levels. It is has a great shot at this year’s Newbery Award.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (MG)

This book hit all the right “cute” buttons in me. A solar-powered robot, programmed to take care of itself and learn from its environment, gets washed up on an island inhabited only by animals. The way the robot makes friends and improves the lives of those he meets is a well-hidden message for everyone. The illustrations are precious.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (MG)

What I love most about this book is that it is like The Canterbury Tales for children. A group gathers in an inn in the middle ages to wait for the king who they believe will soon pass by. The king is about to arrest and condemn to death three children and a dog. The visitors to the inn take turns narrating the story, telling what they know about each child, the “holy dog” and the miracles they have performed. Gidwitz understands his middle-grade audience. The story is exciting, funny, and brings to life, for children, the middle ages.

Syncopation: a Memoir of Adele Hugo by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Is it tacky to put my own book here? I love it like a mother loves her child. If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll hope you consider doing so. Information about buying Syncopation (print and e-book) is over here.

Welcome to 2017. I wish you a happy year of reading and #resistance. As tempting as it is, we can’t hide in books all the time.

 

Author Interview: Genevieve Graham

genevieveToday I’m welcoming historical novelist Genevieve Graham. Her first international best seller Under the Same Sky, and its two companion novels, were set in Scotland and the colonies, but she has since found her niche in writing Canadian historical fiction.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Genevieve. Can you tell us more about your most recent novel, Tides of Honour ?

Genevieve: Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m very happy to be with you here today, and I would love to tell you about Tides of Honour. Who doesn’t love to talk about their baby?

genevieve-book-tidesThe story is about Danny Baker, an Eastern Shore fisherman here in Nova Scotia. Like so many other boys, Danny heads overseas in 1914 with no idea of the nightmare he’s about to experience. Life in the trenches steals men’s humanity, suffocates hope beneath blood and mud – except just when the horrors of war are becoming too much for Danny, along comes Audrey. The last thing he had ever expected was to meet the love of his life in France. They fall in love via dirt-smudged, water-stained letters, and Danny asks Audrey to marry him, to become his wife in Canada. Even after he is gravely wounded she is determined to be with him, and she begins her own voyage – meeting suffragettes and working as a munitionette – on her way to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Elizabeth: That sounds like a fascinating journey for both of them. I imagine for many love was the only way to survive the nightmare of war.

Genevieve: Very true. But often people change along the way, and as soon as Audrey arrives in Canada it becomes apparent that Danny’s a different man from the one she met in France. The war has taken so much more than his leg. He is tortured by memories and by the fact that his disability now renders him unable to do things he’s always done. Misery consumes him, makes him volatile and unpredictable, and he turns to the bottle for escape. With no other option, Audrey leaves him, and he is devastated.

The next morning two ships collide in the Halifax Harbour, and the explosion destroys most of the city. Almost two thousand people are killed and thousands more are maimed and/or blinded. Danny is jerked back to reality and joins the reconstruction efforts, but he cannot find the answer to the only question that matters: where is Audrey?

Elizabeth: And we’ll have to read the book to find the answer! Readers should also check out the beautiful book trailer for Tides of Honour. How much historical fact is woven into the story?

Genevieve: A lot. My goal is to breathe life back into real historical moments, and in order to do that I basically write the history and weave fictional characters/stories through the reality. History creates stories and shapes people, so my characters have to grow from within the facts, not the other way around.

Elizabeth: What does your writing process look like?

Genevieve: The spark is lit when I am intrigued by an event in Canadian history. The flame rises as I recognize that one specific moment does not stand on its own. It is surrounded, often caused, by others, and all of those things play a part in the creation of my story and characters. I am not a historian, so when I research I am teaching myself something for the first time, and I approach my writing from that perspective: my characters learn as I do. When I wrote Tides of Honour, I started by learning the basics of the Halifax Explosion, watching WW1 movies, and looking through websites on basic history, trends, fashions of the time. I need to feel as if I’m there. The creative process starts when I’m struck by an imagined scene, and that’s when I finally write. I often can’t get farther than a few pages before I have to stop to investigate something, and often that leads me down the rabbit hole and I eventually have to – reluctantly – rein myself back in. Through the course of writing a book, I always write tens of thousands of words about things that will never make it into the eventual book, but every word is vital to what I’m learning.

Elizabeth: I see you were also an editor for a number of books.

Genevieve: Yes, I ran my own editing business for about three years. Over that time I edited more than seventy books of all different genres. Editing had its pros and cons. On the positive side, it paid the bills, and it opened me up to all different styles of writing. Working with other writers was a challenge I usually enjoyed, and the end result could be truly rewarding. I enjoyed helping a writer transform an okay book to a good book, or a good book into an excellent one. I also loved to help writers learn and hone their craft. Unfortunately, I found it impossible to work on my own writing while I was editing for other people. Their styles and “voices” found their way into my work, and I inevitably had to rewrite my stories. In the end I had to take the plunge and leave editing behind so I could focus on my own books.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Genevieve: Simon & Schuster Canada will be releasing my next novel, Promises to Keep, in April 2017. Again it is set in Nova Scotia, but back in 1755 the area wasn’t called that. The people called it Acadia. It tells the story of young Amelie Belliveau, one of the more than ten thousand Acadians who were ripped from their homes by the British, packed onto leaking ships, and sent nowhere in particular. Many people will know about the Acadians who became “Cajuns” in Louisiana, but my characters had a different fate in store. The romantic complication in this story stems from the fact that one of the British soldiers is a Scot who had survived Culloden. He bears no love for the British, but he is a good, honest man. If he is to save Amelie, he must commit the sin of treason.

Elizabeth: I can’t wait to read it! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Genevieve: I’m a classical musician by training, but I have dabbled in lots of different things through my life, from advertising to fundraising for the Humane Society to teaching piano and editing. I never planned to be a writer, and I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to do what I do. I began writing after I’d finished reading the Outlander series about seven times because I wanted to see if I could actually do it. About five years after I typed my first exploratory pages, Penguin US published my internationally bestselling 18th century Scottish “MacDonnell trilogy”: Under the Same Sky, Sound of the Heart, and Somewhere to Dream.

genevieve-book-under genevieve-book-sound  genevieve-book-somewhere

My husband and I will soon become empty-nesters, which is a difficult concept to face! Both our amazing daughters will be attending Dalhousie University in the fall (our eldest is already there), and we’re excited for them. They are both brilliant and ready to explore the world, and we can’t wait to see what directions they choose. My husband and I are comforting ourselves with the concept of travel … so many places to see! For now we’re just happy to bundle up with a good book in front of the fireplace along with our little white dog, Murphy. When the snow melts a little we’ll see more of our friendly flock of heritage chickens as they scratch and peck past my office window.

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?

Genevieve: Tea … or Coffee with Baileys.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Genevieve: Mountain. I live by the ocean now, but I miss the Rockies.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Genevieve: Shopping. But mostly reading.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Genevieve: Oboe! Ha! Actually, I play piano and my daughter plays violin. As long as it’s classical, I’m happy.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Genevieve: Either … if it’s believable.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Genevieve: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Genevieve: Love, of course, though it can be heartrendingly beautiful to pen a poignant death scene.

There are book trailers for each of Genevieve’s books. I just love book trailers!

For more about Genevieve and her books, visit the sites below.

Website: www.GenevieveGraham.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GenevieveGrahamAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GenGrahamAuthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/genevievegs/

Links to Tides of Honour and Promises to Keep: http://www.simonandschuster.ca/authors/Genevieve-Graham/470984552

Syncopation E-book for 99 cents

Syncopation_EcoverFor the rest of the year, you can buy Syncopation: A Memoir of Adele Hugo as an e-book for just 99 cents.

Syncopation is available from SmashwordsBarnes and Noble , Kobo, and iBook (get the iBook app, then search Syncopation: a Memoir of Adele Hugo).

The price change was immediate on Smashwords, but may take a few hours to go through at other retailers.

Happy Holidays!