Getting to know Jerry Aylward #author #historical #fiction #truecrime #American #histfic #ghostmystery #thriller #suspense #books

My guest today writes during my favorite time period, the American Revolution. Please help me welcome Jerry Aylward to the interview hot seat! A quick peek at his bio and then we’ll find out more about him and his writing process.

Jerry Aylward is a retired police detective with thirty-two years of service with the Nassau County NY Police Department. He served another ten years in federal law enforcement with the United States Department of Homeland Security as a criminal investigator with OCSO (Office of the Chief Security Officer) at a high-level government research facility. Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from NYIT and is a New York State–licensed private investigator.

Jerry authored: Francis “Two Gun” Crowley’s Killings in New York City & Long Island, and a pictorial history of the Nassau County Police Department. Jerry’s first novel The Scarlet Oak was released on July 4th, 2022. Jerry’s genre has been mainly local history and true crime. With his novel The Scarlet Oak, he throws a twist of murder, spies, and spirits into an American Revolution mystery that takes place in Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Nassau County.

Author’s Social Links: Website | Instagram | Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Jerry: A mixture of forgotten American history and real-life events.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Jerry: I learned quite few as a matter of fact, though mostly, I think it would be developing a character’s voice as the story moved through the POV [point of view].

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Jerry: I didn’t really struggle with any part of the story, as much as I needed to polish the storyline, which is always a bit of a struggle.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Jerry: Finn was the easiest, we share a professional occupation.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Jerry: Reading a lot of local Long Island, New York American Revolution (Spy) history and visiting historical sites.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Jerry: I only made one draft…but tons of revisions.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Jerry: The idea for this story came from a series of real-life (suspicious) human events that occurred from the same household, expanding many years. I took those events and developed it into an historical storyline occurring at an historical 18th-century American Revolution home (museum) located on the north shore of Long Island in Oyster Bay. Overall, it took about three years, which is much longer than other projects I’ve published. Mainly because of the research, all but one or two of the characters in The Scarlet Oak are a fictional account based on real historical people.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Jerry: One of my required rituals besides lots of coffee, lol, is music. I have a constant thirst for (classical) music to stream my backdrop for all my writings.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Jerry: At times I must catch myself using words and phrases I find myself overusing, such as the word that, and, and phrases like he said, or she said in dialogue, rather than using an emotional or facial expression to accent a voice.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Jerry: I don’t have any one role model when it comes to writing if that’s what you’re asking. Though I do like the voices of a few mystery writers like William Kent Krueger, Robert Parker, Agatha Christie, and C.J. Box to name a few.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Jerry: I have a small, quiet office space tucked away in a corner of the basement of my house, it’s finished, carpeted, and surrounded by items that encourage my thoughts and ideas.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Jerry: I’m retired. Though I do have a couple of dogs that require a lot of attention.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Jerry: My greatest achievement in writing has been to be published and recognized with a couple small awards.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Jerry: I enjoy reading many different genres, mostly for a change of pace. Though my absolute favorite would have to be mysteries, and whodunits.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Jerry: I would define success in my writings by someone who truly enjoys one of my stories, a win-win for both of us.         

In September of 2018 the bodies of two high school sweethearts are discovered beneath a venerable scarlet oak tree in a vacant horse pasture on the posh north shore estate of J. Barrington Cook, a wealthy, but secretive, Oyster Bay, Long Island landowner.

     With no forensic evidence to support his suspicions of a double murder, other than a hardened cop’s intuition, Finn embarks on an unsanctioned homicide investigation that soon exposes a long but skeptic thread of unexplained deaths dating back two-hundred and thirty-eight years, mixing with an enigmatic and beguiling apparition of a young woman residing in the same Revolutionary home of all his victims.

     Finn is mysteriously transported back to colonial Oyster Bay at the height of the American Revolution to the home of one of General George Washington’s covert Culper spies. It is here he must discover the motive for all the unexplained deaths along with the mystifying reason they have remained undetected.

     Finn’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the beautiful but cryptic Sally Townsend, forcing him to abandon a self-imposed protective shell of indifference to solve the mystery emanating from her Revolutionary home, while at the same time saving the life of his alluring confidant, and stopping a killer.

Book buy link: Amazon

It seems very appropriate for a former police detective to write murder mysteries, either contemporary or historical. Thanks for sharing with us, Jerry!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Introducing Dr. Kate Downey, the protagonist in Misfire by Tammy Euliano #author #mystery #medicalthriller #fiction #Physician #educator #amreading

I always enjoy meeting a star character from an interesting novel, don’t you? Today we have with us Dr. Kate Downey from the medical thriller Misfire. Let’s find out about the author Tammy Euliano’s background and then we’ll get to know Dr. Downey. Ready?

Tammy Euliano’s writing is inspired by her day job as a physician, researcher and educator at University of Florida. She’s received numerous teaching awards, ~100,000 views of her YouTube teaching videos, and was featured in a calendar of women inventors (available wherever you buy your out-of-date planners). Her short fiction has been recognized by Glimmer Train, Bards & Sages, Flame Tree Press, and others. Her debut medical thriller, Fatal Intent, was published by Oceanview in 2021. Kathy Reichs of Bones fame called it, “Medical suspense as sharp as it gets.” The sequel, Misfire, comes out in January 2023. Michael Connelly, best-selling author of the Bosch series, called it “a first rate medical thriller.”

Author Social Links: Facebook | Instagram

Betty: So, Dr. Downey, how would you describe your parents?

Kate: My parents were the best, loving and encouraging and demanding of the very best from my brother, Dave, and me. They adored each other, which was cute, except when they kissed in front of us. Dad was an engineer but a farmer wanna-be. We weren’t so sure when he moved us out to the farm, but it was fun growing up there. Mom could do anything from crafts to treating skinned knees to cooking, and was always there for us…until she wasn’t. I was a teenager when they died. They left on vacation, which they did often, and just never came home. I still miss them every day.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Kate: I don’t really remember, but I suppose it was both of them. The story they told was that I pretty much taught myself and refused help, which is kinda me in a nutshell.

Betty: Do you know how to swim? How did you learn, if so?

Kate: Absolutely I know how to swim. We had a lake on the property Dave and I would swim in, but even before that, when we lived in town, we’d swim at the community pool. I don’t remember learning.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest failure? Why?

Kate: Wow. You get right to the heart of the matter, don’t you? My biggest failure was my inability to keep it together when my husband, Greg, was wounded in the Middle East. My failure to pay attention to my body cost our unborn daughter’s life. If I’d been more careful, looked for the warning signs of preterm labor, maybe they could have bought her a few more weeks. Instead, I eventually lost them both.

Betty: What is the most wonderful thing that has happened to you?

Kate: Currently, the most wonderful thing is having my great-Aunt Irm as my roommate. She’s the kindest, most competent and insightful person I know. No stranger to life-stressors herself, she came down when Greg was injured and just never left. She takes care of me and keeps me sane and helps me navigate the world in ways I didn’t know I needed. Oh, and she makes me laugh and gives the greatest hugs imaginable. Who could need any more than that?

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Kate: Of course I would change Greg and Emily’s deaths, and those of Christian’s wife and young daughter. It’s such an interesting question, though. I’ve finally come to enjoy my life again and choosing to change anything would eliminate what I have now. It’s good we don’t actually have to make that decision.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Kate: My greatest fear is losing everything again. If it hadn’t been for Aunt Irm, I wouldn’t have survived these last two years. If I were to lose her…it has made me slow to get close to people. I’ve had trouble with the whole, “better to have loved and lost” thing, but I’m trying. With Aunt Irm’s help and Christian’s patience, I’m trying.

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Kate: Flag football, definitely, but ultimate frisbee comes a close second. For indoor games, Aunt Irm and I love Rummikub and Bananagrams, though I swear she cheats with her German words I can’t prove she’s making up since she claims they’re all “regional.”

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Kate: Well that’s easy, my brother, Dave. He’s my only sibling. An Air Force pilot, I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Betty: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Kate: Probably the mountains. I love to hike in nature. Unfortunately, though, I hate the cold, so mountains in summer and Florida in winter?

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Kate: What is this word relax? Just kidding. Reading with Aunt Irm, walking my dog, Shadow, that’s about it. I don’t like watching TV and I fall asleep when I read silently to myself for longer than about a page.

Betty: What genre of books do you most enjoy reading?

Kate: Mysteries! Aunt Irm and I love trying to puzzle them out ahead of the protagonist. She has her German krimis, but I’m apparently incapable of learning a foreign language and her attempts to translate on the fly are just hilarious.

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Kate: Exercise! I get up early and go to the gym or take a run with Shadow most mornings. I just feel out of sorts if I don’t get that exercise in and I’m not good about doing it later in the day.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Kate: Well that’s a sore point. I’m apparently not good at reading people and therefore not great at picking friends. My best friend, Randi Sinclair, has been a friend since before I married Greg. She’s a middle-school math teacher and just an incredible human being. Christian is a friend, maybe more, but I won’t get into that now, and I’ve adopted some of his family as friends, so that’s good, and far more reliable than trusting my own instincts apparently.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Kate: I’d love to meet the author of my books – just kidding. Hmmm, I’d love to meet CS Lewis. I’ve had such an on-again/off-again relationship with God, his books are helpful and I can only imagine that a conversation would help clarify things for me.

Kadence, a new type of implanted defibrillator, misfires in a patient after a routine medical procedure—causing the heart rhythm problem it’s meant to correct. Dr. Kate Downey, an experienced anesthesiologist, resuscitates the patient, but she grows concerned for a loved one who recently received the same device—her beloved Great-Aunt Irm.

When a second device misfires, Kate turns to Nikki Yarborough, her friend and Aunt Irm’s cardiologist. Though Nikki helps protect Kate’s aunt, she is prevented from alerting other patients by the corporate greed of her chairman. As the inventor of the device and part owner of MDI, the company he formed to commercialize it, he claims the misfires are due to a soon-to-be-corrected software bug. Kate learns his claim is false.

The misfires continue as Christian O’Donnell, a friend and lawyer, comes to town to facilitate the sale of MDI. Kate and Nikki are drawn into a race to find the source of the malfunctions, but threats to Nikki and a mysterious murder complicate their progress. Are the seemingly random shocks misfires, or are they attacks?

A jaw-dropping twist causes her to rethink everything she once thought she knew, but Kate will stop at nothing to protect her aunt and the other patients whose life-saving devices could turn on them at any moment.

Buy Links: Amazon

Thank you so much for stopping by and letting us spend some time with you, Dr. Downey. Please send my regards along to Tammy when you return to work as I’m sure you have patients who need you.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Adele Holmes #author #Physician #Pediatrics #traveller #SouthernGothic #amwriting #amreading #historical #fiction

Please help me welcome author Adele Holmes! She’s going to share her “little” secrets and more with us. Are you ready? Let’s peruse her bio and then find out more about her writing process.

Adele Holmes graduated from UAMS medical school in 1993, and from residency at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 1996. She practiced general pediatrics in central Arkansas for over twenty years. While she loved every moment of it, a serious travel bug, a need to put the voice of her soul onto paper, and a call to give back to the community led her to an early retirement in 2017. Her debut novel, Winter’s Reckoning, was published on August 9, 2022. She continues to write, travel, and serve in her community.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Adele: Winter’s Reckoning is actually the backstory of a novel I began years ago. That first novel is wrapped in brown paper awaiting my attention. I fell in love with the (back) story of an herbalist healer who moves south from Boston, and falls in love with the Southern Appalachian way of life.  It’s technically a Southern Gothic because of the race issues it deals with during the time between the Civil War and WWI—the beginning of the Jim Crow era.                                                       

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Adele: Many! In fact, I had to learn that putting fancy words onto paper in a grammatically correct manner does not a novel make. I took courses, went to conferences, and finally sequestered myself with writing books before I got it into my head how to structure the thing.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Adele: Yes, the meat of the story was placed on paper after our country fell into such a deeply divided—oft cruelly so—place. The anger and despair I felt found an outlet by writing social justice themes into the story. This was never meant to be a story about racial discrimination, women’s rights, or even education. But it turned out to have some major underlying themes of just those things. By quietly telling a tale of that ugliness from the past, I hope to help keep us from repeating the same mistakes again and again.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Adele: The protagonist, Maddie Fairbanks, was loosely patterned after my maternal grandmother. Her essence was so easy for me to get onto the page. Though she wasn’t a medical person—nor did she struggle with moonshine—she would have said and done all the things that Maddie did, given the situation. The protagonist’s warmth, hope, and integrity are all my grandmother’s.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Adele: I first researched what I would need for the bones of the story: clothing, transportation, housing/utilities, jobs, etc. of the time for both Boston and the rural South. As the story unfolded, new things constantly arose that I needed to know: What did the books I referred to look like in 1917? How did newspapers operate? How active was the KKK during this time? And on and on. An especially big topic of research was herbs—I knew the medical practice of my time, but what herbs were used to treat those same conditions then, and how were they concocted?

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Adele: Can you believe I’m not sure? Many. The biggest revision came after I felt the novel was finished. When pitching it to agents and publishers, I ran across a particularly helpful editor who told me the reason it was being rejected was because one of my three POV characters (third person, limited) was a Black woman. I am white. Now, this was before American Dirt came out, and just at the beginning of the #ownvoices movement. Two of my beta-readers were Black women, and they were both against me removing the Black woman as a POV character. So, I stood my ground and refused to revise. However, as #ownvoices became more widely heard, I understood the meaning. I realized that I had no basis upon which to write the thoughts of the Black character. I completely revised. The character remained as a major player, but I took her out as a POV character and replaced her POV with that of the antagonist. The story is richer and better told because of it. And, as importantly, I feel good about how it’s handled.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Adele: I need instrumental music and time. Though I would love to impart words of wisdom here, the truth is that I write in wide swaths. For hours on end, days on end. And then not at all for days or weeks.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Adele: Little. How many hundreds of times did I have to replace that word? Incredible that I had no idea I was overusing it.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Adele: Janis F. Kearney is my biggest role model in this part of my life. She’s an author, publisher, social and community activist, and so much more. Her family has an incredible history: she’s one of nineteen children born to Mississippi Delta sharecropper parents. Eighteen of them went to college, most to graduate school. It’s worth a wiki search on her just for inspiration.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Adele: My best writing and revision is done anywhere with a window, preferably onto water or trees, or maybe very high in a building so sky is outside. Reading, I can do that anywhere!

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Adele: I retired from a career in pediatrics before I began to write in earnest. I never take for granted the fact that I am fortunate enough to work on my writing unfettered by a day job. Many people can do such a thing quite well; I admire those people. While I wrote before, it was only when I had retired that I could fully devote myself to such a task as a novel.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Adele: Writing a novel that my children, grandchildren, and even their descendants can look back on as a beacon of light in a dark time in our country.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Adele: Historical

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Adele: When I retired early, it was with the decision that in the last part of my time on this earth I would move my goal from success to significance. I got this idea directly from Bob Buford’s book, Halftime. So, I hope that my writing will send some hope into the world, nudge people toward integrity, and inspire my descendants to strive toward better good for all.

Forty-six-year-old Madeline Fairbanks has no use for ideas like “separation of the races” or “men as the superior sex.” There are many in her dying Southern Appalachian town who are upset by her socially progressive views, but for years—partly due to her late husband’s still-powerful influence, and partly due to her skill as a healer in a remote town with no doctor of its own—folks have been willing to turn a blind eye to her “transgressions.” Even Maddie’s decision to take on a Black apprentice, Ren Morgan, goes largely unchallenged by her white neighbors, though it’s certainly grumbled about. But when a charismatic and power-hungry new reverend blows into town in 1917 and begins to preach about the importance of racial segregation, the long-idle local KKK chapter fires back into action—and places Maddie and her friends in Jamesville’s Black community squarely in their sights. Maddie had better stop intermingling with Black folks, discontinue her herbalistic “witchcraft,” and leave town immediately, they threaten, or they’ll lynch Ren’s father, Daniel. Faced with this decision, Maddie is terrified . . . and torn. Will she bow to their demands and walk away—or will she fight to keep the home she’s built in Jamesville and protect the future of the people she loves, both Black and white?

Buy Links: Amazon * BookShop

Those pesky “crutch” words writers tend to us can seriously impede an otherwise good story. Thanks for sharing, Adele!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Catherine McCullagh #author #WWII #historical #fiction #hisfic #novels #ghostwriter #editor

Let’s kick off the new year by meeting a fellow historical fiction author, Catherine McCullagh! I think you’ll find her background and inspiration for her stories very interesting, too. First a peek at her bio and then we’ll jump right in…

Catherine McCullagh grew up in Tasmania, Australia, with a love of bushwalking, reading and history. She initially trained as a history and languages teacher before embarking on a twenty-year career in the Australian Regular Army as a teacher, linguist and editor of military doctrine and military history. She then left the Army and established herself as a freelance editor, specialising in military history. Fifteen years later, inspired by the extraordinary stories that surrounded her, she embarked on a new career, this time as a writer. She has published three non-fiction works: Willingly into the Fray, a narrative history of Australian Army nursing; War Child, a poignant wartime memoir which she ghost-wrote; and Unconquered, the remarkable stories of athletes who competed in the Invictus Games in Sydney in 2018.

Catherine’s first historical novel, Dancing with Deception, was set in occupied Paris in World War II and published in 2017. Her second historical novel, Secrets and Showgirls, also set in occupied Paris, followed in 2021 and her latest novel, Love and Retribution, which unfolds in wartime Britain and Europe, was released in January 2022. Catherine’s next book, Resistance and Revenge, also set in wartime Britain, is due for release in early 2023.

Author Social Links: Instagram * Facebook

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Catherine: I found a tiny snippet in a history book about a German sailor washed up on the English coast during World War II. Then my imagination simply took off!

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Catherine: I think I honed my skills rather than developing any new ones. For example, I found it easier to work the setting into the story without it becoming too intrusive – and the setting is really important to this story. I also found it easier to deliver information to the reader via character exchanges, particularly conversations, rather than the classic information dumps.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Catherine: I changed the ending after my beta readers complained that I was being utterly unfair on two of the characters. The original ending saw Emmy’s dead husband return, but there were so many complaints that I opted to leave him heroically dead instead. That’s not to say I won’t resurrect him in a later story, but he’s gone for the moment.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Catherine: My main character, Emmy, and the two chief male protagonists simply walked onto the page, probably because I had been mulling the story over in my mind for a little while before committing it to paper. The other characters, Emmy’s mother and brother and Max’s brother, also followed fairly easily, possibly because I already knew their place in the story quite well by the time I came to write them.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Catherine: This was a very research-heavy book. I spent a great deal of time reading up on wartime England, rationing, shortages, the ‘make do and mend’ policy, the Women’s Institute and the impact of Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food, on daily life. Then I had to tackle the war in the Atlantic and U-boats. I had to study both the U-boats themselves and the base at Saint Nazaire where Max was headquartered and then, of course, he moved to Bergen in Sweden and finished up at Wilhelmshaven. Fascinating but complex. I also studied the Hamburg War Crimes Trials, the German military intelligence organisation the Abwehr, and the bombing of Hamburg. Then, of course, the characters travelled, so that opened the entire category of air and road transport during and immediately after the war. How amazing that you can find airline schedules for 1944 and railway timetables for 1945 on the net!

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Catherine: I generally write one draft and then edit it several hundred times. Sometimes I write little excerpts when I’m trying out an idea and then, if I think it will work, I add it to the story and edit the flow from then on. It took me almost two years to reach the stage at which I thought it was ready to show my beta readers.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Catherine: Two years is pretty average for me, although I spent far more time researching this book than its predecessor or the one I have just finished writing. Love and Retribution was ambitious because of the scope of research required, but I loved every minute. I learnt so much (who knew that U-boats had anchors?!) and discovered more little snippets of history that might just inspire further stories (watch this space).

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Catherine: I don’t have any rituals as such – I would love to just write all day long, but I also run a busy household, so I fit my writing in where I can. I do become obsessive when my story starts to take form and that can mean that I scribble on bits of paper, old notebooks and pads wherever I am as I try hard to chase my evolving plot. As I was starting to actually write this book, we took a trip to visit our daughter who dances on cruise ships. I found myself scribbling madly all through a long-haul flight and filling copious notebooks as we cruised the Arabian Sea. I will forever associate this book with airline flights and cruise ships!

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Catherine: Certainly, clearly, slightly and softly are my main offenders, to the extent that I search for each of these during my proofreading phase and check how many times they appear. Large numbers often apply! I have to keep my thesaurus handy as these words are often difficult to replace. Sometimes I have to rewrite the entire sentence. Conversely, I never use the word ‘said’ as I don’t think it says anything!

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Catherine: I absolutely love good writing and tend to muse over passages from Rebecca West, John Wyndham, J.G. Farrell, Vita Sackville-West, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and others. These are all classic authors and the only modern authors I have discovered who come close are Amor Towles in his A Gentleman in Moscow and Philip Kerr in his Bernie Gunther detective series. These are authors who know how to construct a clever sentence and also to use descriptive prose at its brilliant best.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Catherine: I have a study with walls of bookcases, two lovely, light windows and a tree outside where the birds love to play. It’s my sacred place.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Catherine: I edited for the last twenty-five years and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I gave that up to devote myself to writing and I have never regretted it. Mind you, I would give up housework any day!!

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Catherine: Just finding a publisher is an achievement these days, but finding one who will publish all my books has been a triumph of monumental proportions!

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Catherine: Historical fiction followed by military and social history non-fiction. I suppose I’m always looking to research the next book. I should read more fiction, but I’m really fussy, probably abnormally so. I hate that feeling of being disappointed in a book and I never finish anything that I’m not enjoying. Life is too short!

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Catherine: People actually reading my books and occasionally leaving good reviews. I don’t care about the money – it’s best not to as you never make money out of writing unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I also don’t care about fame – also a bonus as having someone follow you on Instagram is about as famous as most of us are likely to become. But I love seeing my books in bookshops, I would be thrilled to have a book club read and discuss one of my books and I long to stumble across a stranger in a park somewhere deeply ensconced in a book that I wrote. We all dream, don’t we?!

It’s July 1943 and the world has been at war for almost four years. One morning young war widow Emmy Penry-Jones discovers two men washed up on the beach below her house in western Cornwall. But these men are not like any of the shipwrecked sailors she has rescued before and Emmy is soon drawn into a web of intrigue that will test her ingenuity and her patriotism. Rocked by accusations of war crimes against a man she knows to be innocent, she launches a desperate bid to defend him. The trial marks a turning point and Emmy is drawn further into the deadly cycle of post-war retribution from which only one man can save her.

Love and Retribution is a story of wartime love and loss, of deceit and betrayal, of courage and heroism. From the fishing villages of Cornwall, the story transports the reader to a U-boat base at Saint Nazaire, the British War Crimes Trials in Hamburg and the chaos of life in a post-war London still gripped by rationing. The novel is dominated by the fight to survive, not just the conflict that has devastated Europe, but the destructive pursuit of revenge that poisons its aftermath.

Author note: this book is written for a British readership and all spellings are British, not American. They are not spelling mistakes or typos, they are British spellings.

Buy Links: AmazonAU * AmazonUS * Simon&Schuster * Booktopia

I love that you’re from Australia, Catherine! I’ve always wanted to visit that country and finally will get to this year. The breadth and depth of research you’ve done for your stories is inspiring as well. I wish you all the best!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Introducing Lucius Sestius from The Emperor’s Servant by Fiona Forsyth #character #author #historical #Roman #mystery

I’m so pleased to welcome our guest, Lucius Sestius, from the pages of The Emperor’s Servant! He has quite a tale to tell, too. First, let’s peek at author Fiona Forsyth’s bio to find out why she wrote this particular story, and then we’ll chat with Lucius.

From the age of six when I was introduced to the myths of Greece and Rome, I wanted to explore the differences between our world and theirs, because the people of ancient Rome are alien to us. Curiosity led me to study Classics at a time when most people told me that Latin was not useful: I then earned a living teaching it for 25 years before a family move to the Middle East gave me the opportunity to write about the people, events, themes and stories which had fascinated me for so long. A book from me will take you as close as I can – but still I don’t think it is possible to completely understand the world of Rome. And I know I split an infinitive there…

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Lucius: My father and mother are both dead. I don’t remember my mother, as far as I am concerned the woman who brought me up was my stepmother Cornelia and she died in one of the autumn plagues that Rome is always going through, about six or seven years ago. She was lovely. My father – well, he was kind and a lot more intelligent than people gave him credit for. He lived through the fall of his beloved Republic, and he bore everything as well as can be expected.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Lucius: My nursemaid, I think. Or it might have been Decius. Decius seems to have run our household since we got him. He is freed now, of course, but still works for the family. In fact, I cannot imagine life without him. I’m dictating this to him now.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest failure? Why?

Lucius: I failed to restore the Roman Republic. Not to sound dramatic, but that is why I joined Cassius and Brutus after Julius Caesar’s assassination. I got through the Battle of Philippi, unlike both Brutus and Cassius, and twenty years later here I am, obediently serving as consul under our beloved leader Augustus. I failed completely there, didn’t I?

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Lucius: If Caesar had never been born, he would not have forced a civil war on us, become Dictator and been killed and we might still be a Republic. I don’t know. It depresses me to think about it. Can we go on to another question, please?

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Lucius: My greatest fear? I think, having lost what I was fighting for at Philippi, I don’t really have much to lose now. Worry about the children occasionally of course, and I suppose if the family estate were taken away from me, that would be awful. It isn’t something I talk about with anyone, though I think Decius and my sisters would know, if you asked them.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Lucius: Are you kidding? Choose between my sisters? The one I put second would kill me. Let me just say that both Albinia and Tia are amazing, and I adore them. Albinia is my full sister and a distinguished poet, and Tia is my younger half-sister. I worry about them both but particularly Tia. She has never married – her fiancé was killed in a street fight in Rome. We know that the attackers were supposed to target me, but they got my friend instead. I am not sure Tia will ever get over that. I was glad my father didn’t try to pressure her into marrying again. It wouldn’t have worked anyway, both my sisters do as they like.

Betty: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Lucius: On my family farm in Cosa, north of Rome. It is very ordinary and I love it. The vineyard I set up there is the thing I am most proud of. Oh – Decius says I ought to have said that I am most proud of my children first. He is probably right. Decius tends to be right. But my vineyard is very fine and my vines manager, Titus, while always pessimistic, manages to produce something drinkable every year. We are now exporting our wines all the way up the coast and into Gaul. There is a real market there, hardly surprising. Have you tried beer? It’s revolting.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Lucius: I drink. Preferably wine I’ve made myself.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Lucius: Sadly, my best friends are people who have been through terrible experiences. I’m not sure that there are many people my age who haven’t. I was at Philippi with Horace, the poet. I expect you’ve heard of him. I’m quite proud of him, but don’t tell him I said that. Did you know he wrote one of his odes to me? Haven’t a clue what it’s about but everyone tells me I should be pleased. My other great friend is Marcus Tullius Cicero the younger. Yes, his father was that Cicero, killed by order of our beloved Augustus. Makes you think, eh? We have to pretend to forget all this now.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Lucius: I never met Cleopatra. I saw her in Rome once, from a distance. Well, I saw the crowd surrounding her. I wish now I could have seen her close up, got to know why – why people raved about her. I wish she had never met Caesar and had his son. That’s the real reason we had to fight her and Antony you know. That poor kid. Killed by Augustus at the age of seventeen, because he was Caesar’s son. No other possible challenger to Augustus could be allowed to live.

Er – Augustus isn’t going to read any of this, is he?

In the depths of serious illness, the emperor Augustus is forced to rethink how he governs the city. He calls upon the most unlikely helper. Lucius Sestius has made it through conspiracy and civil war and wants nothing more than to drink himself happy in the Italian countryside. Now he, the last of the Republicans, is invited to step up to public service. To Lucius’ consternation, he is catapulted into office just in time to deal with a pestilence sweeping through Italy. Thousands of people are dying, and the river Tiber is riding dangerously high. But Lucius is not just fighting floods and an epidemic. A conspiracy centred on the disgraced general Primus is threatening the emperor, and Lucius is expected to choose a side. Lucius’ idyllic life on his family estate is overshadowed by intrigues in which he wants no part, but a naïve act of kindness brings the wrath of the Emperor down upon him.

Redemption in the eyes of Augustus comes at a heavy price.

Buy Links: AmazonUS * AmazonUK

You’ve faced quite some challenges, Lucius. I appreciate you taking time to answer my questions today. And thanks to Fiona for giving you some time away.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Katerina Dunne #author #historical #medieval #history #shortstories #amreading #HistFic

I’d love to take a road trip to visit my next guest! Please help me welcome author Katerina Dunne! She lives in a beautiful country I’d go back to in a heartbeat… Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her and her writing process.

Katerina Dunne is the pen-name of Katerina Vavoulidou. Originally from Athens, Greece, Katerina has been living in Ireland since 1999. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, an MA in Film Studies and an MPhil in Medieval History. While she used to write short stories for family and friends in her teenage years, she only took up writing seriously in 2016-17, when she started work on her first novel. 

Katerina’s day job is in financial services, but in her free time she enjoys watching historically-themed movies and TV series. She is passionate about history, especially medieval history, and her main area of interest is 13th to 15th century Hungary. When it comes to historical fiction, her favourite authors include Elizabeth Chadwick, Kate Innes, Christian Cameron and Bán Mór (the Hungarian author of the Hunyadi series of books) Although the main characters of her stories are fictional, Katerina uses real events and personalities as part of her narrative in order to bring to life the fascinating history of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, a location and time period not so well-known to English-speaking readers.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Goodreads * Amazon

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Katerina: It all started because of my love for medieval history and my great interest in Hungary. This story was inspired by the border lords of the fifteenth-century Kingdom of Hungary. These men of middle and lower nobility were the backbone of the feudal armies of the period. Very few of them made it into the chronicles and history books. Their lives must have been hard; a constant struggle to run their own estates and protect them from the relentless Ottoman raiding as well as from attacks by other local lords while also leaving home for long periods to campaign with the king and his barons.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Katerina: I am completely new to writing, so I learned and developed many skills. Probably the most important ones would be understanding the POV of a scene and the elements of showing (as opposed to telling) This last technique was the most difficult because I was fresh from my academic studies, where the writing style is completely different.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Katerina: I think the hardest part was “embedding” my fictional main characters into the real historical events. Their interactions with real life personalities were the products of my imagination, but I had to base them on research of primary and secondary sources so that they appear realistic and appropriate.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Katerina: I suppose my protagonist and his wife because they play the major roles in the story. I created them with many flaws and shortcomings, and so I had to delve a little deeper into their personalities in order to bring forth their development journey.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Katerina: Primary sources for the actual historical events (battles, politics, etc.) and the timeline. Secondary sources which provide analysis of these events from a scholarly perspective and also an overview of the social, political, economic and cultural life of the time.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Katerina: Too many. I have lost count!

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Katerina: It took me nearly six years because I am not a full-time writer. I have day job, and I also spent one year doing my MPhil in Medieval History in-between. I also worked with two editors and a number of alpha and beta readers and did so many revisions. I hope that my future novels will not take such a long time as I now have a better idea of the writing craft as well.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?  

Katerina: I am not sure if that is considered a ritual or habit, but before I write a scene, I visualize it, even rehearse it in my head as if I am part of it. This helps me put myself in my characters’ minds, speak their words and feel their emotions.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Katerina: There are too many I think! “as if”, “suddenly”, “only”, “said”, “asked” to name a few which I later revised.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Katerina: I admire a number of historical fiction writers, mostly those writing medieval historical fiction. I enjoy the novels of Elizabeth Chadwick and Kate Innes, but I try to learn a little bit from every book I read.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Katerina: It may sound strange, but I do most of my writing and revising in bed, on my laptop. It just makes me feel very comfortable and relaxed.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Katerina: I work in the financial services full time. It’s a hard job requiring a lot of attention to detail. I can’t say I enjoy it, but I think it’s an OK job, and it pays the mortgage and the bills.  It also gives me the financial security to engage in my writing without having to worry about how many books I sell.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Katerina: Definitely the publishing of my debut novel, Lord of the Eyrie.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Katerina: Historical fiction.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Katerina: I think the satisfaction of completing a novel and publishing it is the most important thing. The feeling of creating a story that people can relate to, and of seeing my work out there in the outside world. The comments of the readers who appreciated the novel are great encouragement as well.

Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary, 1440:

Finally home after five years away, warrior-nobleman Sándor Szilágyi is met by a dying father, a resentful younger brother, his child-bride all grown up and the family estate raided by the Ottomans. As he struggles to adjust to life as a landlord, Sándor’s authority is challenged by two strong-minded and fearless women: Margit, his faithful and righteous wife, determined to keep him on the straight and narrow; and Anna, his sister-in-law, a scheming temptress bent on ruining him in order to take his land.

After committing a mortal sin and desperate to win back the woman he loves, Sándor seeks absolution by accepting his overlord’s summons to fight the Ottomans. But his obsession with war will lead him down a perilous path.

Loyalties are tested, danger lurks around every corner, and Sándor’s struggle to balance his duty to protect his land and family from his relatives’ greedy hands, as well as his duty to defend his country on the battlefield, will come at a terrible cost.

Buy Links: AmazonUK * Amazon * B&N * BookDepository

You’re right that I don’t know anything about that time period, so I’ll add your story to my TBR. Thanks, Katerina, for stopping by and sharing your story with us!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And as always, happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Alana White #author #historical #medieveal # Renaissance #history #fiction #novel #mustread #amreading #amwriting

My guest today has a passion she wants to share with us! Please help me welcome Alana White! Let’s take a look at her bio and find out more about her and her writing process.

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices: Guid’Antonio Vespucci, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Book I) and The Hearts of All on Fire (Book II).  A member of the Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, the Women’s National Book Association, and the Historical Novel Society, Alana currently is writing Book III in the series.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Alana: One day while reading National Geographic Magazine, I happened upon an article about the assassination plot to murder Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici on a Sunday morning during Mass in Florence Cathedral in 1478. At the time, the Medici family were the leaders of the most powerful political faction in Florence. One brother was killed, one escaped in a most dramatic way. Since I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, I looked for the book with this amazing event at the heart of the story. I couldn’t find one—so, I determined to write it myself.

The more research I did into the time and these fascinating people, the more hooked I became. Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and my protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer at the time and a bone deep Medici family supporter, were exact contemporaries. Threading together their stories has been equally challenging and enlightening.

Betty What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Alana: Persistence and patience. Just sitting down and doing it no matter how challenging it may be. Persevering. Also, I learned to let my heart lead the way.

Betty Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Alana: I enjoyed writing about Guid’Antonio’s pet dogs. In The Hearts of All on Fire, his little Lagotto Romagnolo, a ginger, curly-haired, truffle-hunting puppy whom he names Orsetto, or Little Bear, is dear to his heart. And to mine. Orsetto has work to do in the story, both as a character and as an important part of the plot. Thus, he earns his spot beside Guid’Antonio on the cover. In The Hearts of All on Fire, Orsetto serves to underscore Guid’Antonio as a good man—one who loves dogs and treats them well. If someone tries to harm one, fear for your life. In Hearts, his beloved Orsetto provides emotion, danger, and fulfillment, along with yet another dog, a brave little stray, who provides Guid’Antonio with the clues he needs to solve the two murderous threads of the story.

Betty What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Alana: A lot! Since my main character was a real-life, well-known Florentine doctor of law, I had to get it “right.” Many of the luminaries of the Italian Renaissance provided me with much grist for the mill. As I say, these are actual people; a lot of research has been done about many of them. Renaissance Florence is a rich tapestry, and it is also a minefield. I can’t write about Guid’Antonio without writing about his friends; Lorenzo de’ Medici, for one strides across a huge stage. These are mysteries, so there must be a crime, one that hits Guid’Antonio close to home, so that we care about him as he untangles the who, how, and why, while protecting those he loves and moving up the ladder of power in Florence.

Betty How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Alana: I lost count. All in all, however, from first draft to completed story required about five years. This is about how long it takes me from book to book, including Book I in the series, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, and this one, which is Book II. Currently I am working on Book III.

Betty What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Alana: Since these are mysteries, as far as habits, or discipline, really goes, I always plot the entire story before beginning to write. My “overstory,” as I call it, usually runs about 100 pages, or more.

Betty Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Alana: I reply on variations of “smile,” far too much, and I tend to use the word “heart.” I keep a close look out for those two, in particular.

Betty Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Alana: I love Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series set in medieval England, C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series in Tudor England, and S. G. McLean’s Damian Seeker series set in the time of Oliver Cromwell.

Betty Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Alana: I like a lot of light. In our home, our dining room is all windows, so I enjoy writing there. But then I have a messy dining room table!

Betty As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Alana: When just one reader tells me how much they have enjoyed the book, I feel my work is done. That is why I write: for the enjoyment of others.

Betty What is your favorite genre to read?

Alana: Historical fiction, particularly mysteries.

Betty Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Alana: Again, I enjoy having readers connect with my characters and with their stories. That means everything to me.

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.

Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him.

A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

Buy Links: Amazon

I remember being fascinated by the Medici family at one point in my life. I still want to go to Italy and that region! Thanks for sharing, Alana!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Introducing Gwyn, the heroine from A Gift By The Sea by Nancy Lee Badger #author #historical #holiday #romance #Scottish #Christmas #fiction #novels #amreading

Settle in with a cuppa and let’s meet a cute character, Gwyn, taking a break from her story to chat with us. First we’ll look at author Nancy Lee Badger’s bio and then we’ll find out more about our young guest, Gwyn.

Nancy Lee Badger grew up in Huntington on New York’s Long Island. After attending Plymouth State, in New Hampshire, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and met and married her college sweetheart. They raised two handsome sons in Rumney, New Hampshire while she dreamed of being a writer. When the children had left the nest, and shoveling snow became a chore, she retired from her satisfying job as a 911 Emergency Medical Dispatcher and moved to North Carolina, where she writes full-time.

Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, and the Triangle Association of Freelancers. She finds story ideas in the most unusual places, especially at Scottish Highland Games.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Gwyn: My name is Gwyn. Mom died giving birth to my younger brother, York. Da’ is a great man, but we are curious why he made us move from the south shore of Loch Ness to the cliffs along the North Sea.

Betty: Do you know how to swim? How did you learn, if so?

Gwyn: Growing up on Loch Ness meant ye learned to swim early. Da’ taught us all to fish, but our tiny boat leaked.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest failure? Why?

Gwyn: I do not believe I am a failure. Rather, I have had little opportunity to show my true strengths. That all changes when I discover a not-so-dead naked sailor on our beach.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Gwyn: Sorry, but I canno’ choose between Tor and York. They have their faults. We three are rather young, but what happens when we meet Monroe makes all of us mature quickly.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Gwyn: (Gwyn blushes) I recently met a hurt sailor named Monroe. I saved his life on that beach then saved him again when he was kidnapped, and when I meet his da’. Monroe is A GIFT FROM THE SEA and we have become…close.

Grab some hot cocoa and snuggle under the covers this season with four all-new medieval romances by best-selling and award-winning authors Allison Butler, Aurrora St. James, Ria Cantrell, and Nancy Lee Badger. From friends to lovers to a marriage of convenience, hidden identities and his best friend’s sister, you’ll be swept away to the magic of Christmas in Scotland where braw heroes will do anything for the women they’ve come to love.

Buy Links:  NancyLeeBadgerBlogspot

Thanks, Gwyn, for telling us more about you and your family, and of course Monroe!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Al Hague #author #historical #fiction #hisfic #Marine #Veteran #advocate #military #amreading

Please help me welcome my next distinguished author guest, Al Hague, to the interview hot seat. His story may speak to many veterans. Let’s look at his bio and then we’ll find out more about him and his debut novel, A Marine’s Daughter.

I am a US Marine having served in Viet Nam in 1965/1966. I have been a photojournalist for the past 12 years and A Marine’s Daughter is my first novel. I live in Phoenix AZ with my wife Diane. I was born and raised in Massachusetts and have lived in various parts of the USA. It is my hope this story will ring true for Viet Nam Vets and their families and will provide some insight into what we all went through and continue to go through. A portion of the royalties is being donated to the Viet Nam Foundation for the homeless. I hope you enjoy the story and will also look for the sequel I am writing this day.

I am told the story is compelling and difficult to put down. You can see reviews on Amazon at the book location. I will be traveling the country in the coming months for book signings and speaking engagements. I look forward to meeting my readers wherever I travel.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Al: My belief that vets like myself may still be or recently began anew dealing with the past. I wanted to send a message to the families and friends of Vets who late in life may have changed because of past experiences now central in their mind as they may no longer be busy and have more time to remember and seek answers.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Al: I had done a lot of writing for magazines but more in a reporter’s function. Writing this novel was the first time I needed to create characters

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Al: Telling the moments of terror authentically without turning off the reader.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Al: The main character Jon Milo as he is pretty much me in the important ways. It is difficult for me to share my reality.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Al: Very little except dates and times of specific situations.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Al: 2

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Al: First novel so I really don’t know it’s typical. It took about four months to complete

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing? 

Al: I develop the story in my mind and settle on the plot before I begin to write it. Usually late at night while trying to sleep which doesn’t come easy.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Al: Not really sure…Not many I would guess..

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Al: My dad was a WWII Marine and he helped me tremendously to get my life moving forward upon my return.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Al: My desk in my office for writing.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Al: I am retired finally.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Al: Developing characters that interested my readers

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Al: I have a difficult time reading anything except news as I am unable to sit still long enough. I used to enjoy crime dramas and relationship stories.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career? 

Al: Having readers tell me my message has helped them or someone they know.

A Marine’s Daughter is a novel depicting the struggles of a Marine in his later years trying to deal with the issues from the past. The character Jon Milo lost his wife very early in his life and focused on raising their daughter Sara. Jon has several unanswered questions about his time in Viet Nam and his daughter now a successful attorney has been recruited by some of her Dad’s fellow Marines to seek recognition for the old Sergeant they believe he deserves. The story is about the relationship between father and daughter and how they work together to find the answers they both seek not only about the past but about the future as well. The story reveals the value of the father-daughter relationship and that the strength of that relationship can be healing as well as fulfilling.

Buy Links: Amazon

Thanks for stopping by, Al! I hope your story may help other veterans in processing their experiences.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Theresa Shea #author #literaryfiction #womensfiction #activist #HistFic #historical #fiction #novel #amreading

My guest author today has an important story to share with us. Please help me welcome Theresa Shea to the interview hot seat! Let’s glance at her bio and then find out more about her and the story she has to tell.

Theresa Shea is the author of two novels. The Shade Tree, winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for best unpublished literary fiction, and winner of the 2022 Georges Bugnet Award for fiction. Her debut novel, The Unfinished Child, was a finalist for the Georges Bugnet Award and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award. 

Shea was born in the US and moved to Canada in 1977. A graduate of McGill University, Queen’s University, and the University of Alberta, Shea is currently working on Dog Days of Planet Earth, a novel that examines animal rights and the climate crisis through the historical lens of the nuclear experiments conducted by the United States Government between 1945 and 1992.

Author Social Links: Website * Instagram * Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Theresa: In August of 1963, when I was three months old, my mother took me to the March on Washington and held me in her arms as Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The civil rights movement was in full swing. Change was wanted and needed. It was an exhilarating time. Yet over fifty years later, racial inequality still thrives.

To understand the present, we need to understand the past. In The Shade Tree, I wanted to explore some of the damaging narratives that white people have inherited. The first narrative we are introduced to in life is the family narrative. How are we shaped by it? How does it define us? Why do some people blindly accept that inheritance while others question it?

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Theresa: I developed two key skills while working on this book: 1) patience to do multiple revisions, and 2) perseverance to bounce back from repeated rejections. Both will continue to be valuable during my writing life.

Winning the Guernica Prize was amazing. In addition to a cash prize, I also received a publishing contract. The novel came out the following year. One acceptance wipes out a lot of rejections. That the book went on to win best novel of the year in my Canadian province was equally wonderful and gratifying.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Theresa: Yes, while I wanted to highlight the damage of white supremacy, I struggled to know how much abuse against Black people to show. I didn’t want the violence to be gratuitous. For instance, there is a lynching scene in the novel that was difficult to write and is difficult to read. It is a pivotal scene that juxtaposes a horrifically violent moment with a community picnic involving so-called upstanding citizens. White readers, in particular, should be horrified by the contrast.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Theresa: One reviewer said my character Ellie Turner is “the most villainous female character” she has ever come across in literature. While she found her to be “beyond redemption,” she also understood, through my character development, “how her evil came to be.” I found that gratifying. An “evil” character must be believable. Sick people are produced by sick societies.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Theresa: I wrote The Shade Tree over a nine-year period and dipped in and out of research throughout that time. The internet is a fabulous resource. I watched footage of civil unrest, revisited the March on Washington, and more. I also read extensively and paid close attention to the Southern American writer and social critic Lillian Smith, who lobbied against Jim Crow laws, segregation, and wrote about the taboos surrounding interracial relationships and the failure of so-called Christians to be charitable and good.

I also read a significant amount of history about, and novels set in, the period covered in my book.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Theresa: Oh my. That’s a difficult question, and I’m not certain I know, but I’m going to say approximately eight to ten.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Theresa: I started The Shade Tree in 2011, and it was published in 2021. That’s a faster timeline than my first, The Unfinished Child, that took thirteen years. However, my life circumstances had changed too. I started my first book when my second child was six months old. I moved twice and had another child during that period, so I was primarily focusing more on child-rearing, out of necessity. To be honest, it took longer to get my second novel published than I expected. In the end, however, I’m grateful because it’s a better book having undergone so many revisions.

I’m hoping that my next novel, Dog Days of Planet Earth, will move along at a faster pace. I started it in April of 2019. My children are young adults now, and I have more time to devote to writing. Even so, my novels take time to fully reveal themselves. Having more time hasn’t translated to writing faster. If I can finish a novel in five years, I would think that’s a good pace. One of the benefits of aging is I have more patience for the process.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Theresa: I do my best writing first thing in the day. My morning routine is to get up, make coffee, toast a bagel, and read some spiritual writing that sets me on the path to being a good human for the day. Then I go to my studio out in my backyard and give myself a pep talk. If I have a gift for writing, I ask to be deserving of that gift. I ask for the critical and doubting voice inside to be silenced. Once I am far enough into a work, I get excited to visit my fictional world and to spend time with my characters. So, there are stages of writing that are definitely more enjoyable (because they are easier) than others.

Finally, I think often of Ann Patchett’s simple equation: “Time applied equals work completed.” It’s shocking to think it can be that simple.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Theresa: Good question. I have no idea! Maybe my readers could let me know.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Theresa: My role models are people who have strong moral compasses and are true to their convictions, no matter the repercussions. Social justice people, certain spiritual leaders, activists that challenge the status quo, to name a few.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Theresa: Since November of 2018, I am fortunate to have a backyard shed, insulated and heated, in which to write. It was a decrepit shed filled with old paint cans and lawn mowers and insulation rolls left by previous tenants. One day I looked at it and thought, “it has potential!” A friend did the renovation work, and it has been life changing. Also, my timing was great. I used to work in coffee shops and libraries. When Covid hit in 2020, those spaces were no longer available. That my studio was already complete was lifesaving.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Theresa: I left my full-time job working at the city in late 2019 because I wanted time to finish some writing projects. Then Covid hit. I have been precariously self-employed since then.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Theresa: I feel my greatest achievement as an author is writing books that move people.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Theresa: Literary fiction.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Theresa: Great question. When I was younger, I thought success came from being “known” or signing for a large advance. It was much more about external validation. Now, success is being able to write what I want and taking the time to let the work develop. Success for me is having more patience to let the work breathe and grow and expand.

The Shade Tree is a searing exploration of racial injustice set against the backdrop of some of America’s most turbulent historical events. The lives of two white sisters and a Black midwife are inextricably linked through a series of haunting tragedies, and the characters must make life-changing decisions about where their loyalties lie: with their biological families or with a greater moral cause. From a Florida orange grove to the seat of power in Washington, DC, during the height of the civil rights movement, The Shade Tree tells a sweeping yet intimate story of racial discrimination and the human hunger for justice.

An Editors’ Choice book with The Historical Novel Society, a reviewer said of The Shade Tree: “Mesmerizing, engrossing, and brilliantly plotted, this is an achievement that will echo long after the last page is turned.”

Buy Links: Amazon, * Barnes & Noble & any local independent bookstore

Thank you so much for sharing The Shade Tree with us today, Theresa! It sounds like a wonderful and provocative read.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

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