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 The Shade Tree, winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for best unpublished literary fiction, and winner of the 2022 Georges Bugnet Award for fiction.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.

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

Getting to know Lawrie Johnston #author #hisfic #WWI #history #historical #fiction #books #amreading #amwriting

My next guest hails from the beautiful country of Scotland. Please help me welcome Lawrie Johnston! Let’s find out a bit more about her background before we learn about her inspiration and writing process.

I am a retired teacher of history. For most of my life I have read studied and taught history in various parts of Scotland. I have a BA in History from the University of Stirling where I majored in African history.  In contrast I contributed to nonfiction local history books when I lived in the southwest of Scotland. Now that I am retired, I have had the time to research aspects of the First World War and this has resulted in my first historical fiction novel “Who Served Well”, which I hope will be the first of many. I have started to write my second novel which is set in medieval Scotland at the time of The Wars of Independence.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Apple

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

Lawrie: As an historian and history teacher I have always been fascinated by the events of the First World War. It was such a pivotal moment in world history and its consequences far reaching. In its aftermath it inspired a plethora of novels, poems, plays, and films. I devoured these with pleasure. More recently and just shortly after I retired, I was given the opportunity to research a small local war memorial in a little parish called Bargrennan in the southwest of Scotland. There were around nine names on the memorial which would be a significant proportion of the young men in such a small sparsely populated area. I noticed two of the young men had died on the same day at the same battle. One had emigrated and served in a Canadian regiment. The other served in a local Scottish regiment. I wondered if they had met again during the war and that was the start of the story.

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

Lawrie: I was so used to writing nonfiction I really enjoyed developing fictional characters, fleshing them out, giving them emotions and situations. Thinking about how they would respond. So I think I have developed my imaginative writing skills.

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

Lawrie: Generally, I find writing dialogue quite difficult. I think you must read it aloud to judge if it sounds natural and plausible. You have also to carefully consider if it is time appropriate. I know soldiers swore a lot so that wasn’t a problem.

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

Lawrie: That would be Tam, one of the central characters in the story. Like anyone he has his good points and flaws. Essentially, he is caught up in events which he does not fully understand but remains positive and optimistic.

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

Lawrie: A great deal. From researching war memorials to nonfiction books about the First World War for information about battles, troops movements, and field hospitals to name a few. I visited several museums and libraries, too.

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

Lawrie: For the book as a whole three drafts. There were some chapters or bits of chapters which were revised further.

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 no

Lawrie: As this was my first novel, I did not plan the timing as well as I could have. There were several gaps in my writing, so overall about three years. I am working on my second novel now and have estimated a two-year turnaround from start to publication

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

Lawrie: Always a strong cup of coffee before I start.

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

Lawrie: I used the phrase “the following morning” too often. I am very aware of that now.

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

Lawrie: Not really as I try to be myself. I do admire Hilary Mantel a great deal. I think she is in a class of her own when it comes to historical fiction. Her advice to other authors was excellent.

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

Lawrie: Mainly at the dining room table.

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

Lawrie: I am a retired history teacher and loved my job. There are elements which I still miss.

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

Lawrie: To date it would be the publication of my first novel. Opening the first box of books was exciting. Seeing my book on retailers’ websites and reading good reviews was also very rewarding.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Lawrie: For relaxing then crime fiction, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid are go-to writers for me.

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

Lawrie: I have no illusions that I will make a fortune from my work. That people have enjoyed and taken something from my book is reward enough for me.

Who Served Well is an exploration of the devastating effects of the First World War through the eyes of three young friends from Galloway, southwest Scotland. The idea for the book comes from research I did around local war memorials. The stories of the individuals on the memorials inspired me to create the fictional characters in the book. I hope the reader will become immersed in those events and battles of the war where local men and women made a significant contribution. The essence of the book is deeply rooted in the people and places of Galloway. Andrew McDowall, Tam Murdoch, and Kathleen Marr make their own way through the war but are linked by their past and also by their present.

Buy Links: Troubadour Book Publishing * AmazonUS * AmazonUK

Knowing that the story stems from historical memorials may just mean your readers will want to travel to those sites, too. I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat! Thanks, Lawrie, for stopping by and sharing your debut novel with us!

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 Elles Lohuis #author #HisFic #novels #traveler #amreading

One thing I love about historical fiction is the vast diversity in times and locales that it encompasses. Including my guest author’s stories! Please help me welcome author Elles Lohuis! After a glance at her amazing background, let’s dive in and find out about her, shall we?

Elles Lohuis is a historical fiction author based in The Netherlands. A voracious reader and ever inquisitive explorer of far-away lands and foreign cultures, she holds an MA in History, an MA in Business, and a PhD in Social Sciences.

Elles writes novels that enthrall, engage, and enrich you, to sweep away to distant places and times gone by, opening a window to a world and its people that nowadays seems wondrous, foreign, and fascinating—but was once typically ours.

At the moment, Elles is back on base to complete her first historical fiction series Nordun’s Way, a Tibetan epic about a young woman blazing her own trail through the turbulent times of thirteenth-century Tibet with its royal clans, Mongolian invaders, smugglers and SilkRoad traders, to the places where demons lurk, and through the trials which afflict every family and human life—courage and cowardice, love and lust, loyalty and treachery, and cruel endings which do not always sprout into the new beginnings we desire them to be.

Author Social Links: Website * Instagram * Twitter

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

Elles: In 2018, my husband and I were fortunate to get a visa to visit his family in Tibet. My husband had fled his country in 2004 and hadn’t seen his family in all those years. We spent three months with the family in Kham, visiting all the relatives (and there are many!) and also some of the beautiful places around. 

One day we were at the horse races, and I realized there were no women riding. My niece Nordun had told me before she’d wanted a horse forever, but her father wouldn’t let her have one.

I told my brother-in-law it surprised me to hear that no women took part in the races. “Of course not,” he replied. “Horses and girls don’t go together, never have, never will.” Yes, that’s what he said. Right there and then, the character of Nordun formed in my mind.

Coming home after three magical months, I put pen to paper, and wrote The Horse Master’s Daughter, a story about a girl riding a horse, just for Nordun. However, in the unguarded moments between writing Nordun’s story and living in the mundane world, my mind was already flying ahead, spinning new tales, new adventures for Nordun, weaving a tapestry with all the stories I had already in my mind for so long.

You see, I finished a PhD in Social Sciences a few years before, researching the daily lives of Tibetan nuns in the Himalayas. For six years, I spent long periods (up to eight months at the time) living with the nuns in their tiny monasteries on the most remote mountaintops, collecting their stories of courage and resilience. I had literally hundreds of narratives, and somehow it all connected in my mind—my earlier training as a historian, my academic research in the Himalayas, my visit to Tibet, and of course my own Buddhist practice, and suddenly there was so much more happening on the page than I’d foreseen. The little tale I had in mind, my first novel, grew into the full-fledged historical fiction series Nordun’s Way, a heartfelt heroine’s journey, sprinkled with nuggets of Buddhist wisdom.

The book I’m sharing with you today is A Pilgrim’s Heart, Book Two in the series, in which Nordun, the protagonist goes on a pilgrimage to Lhasa, which seems like a noble quest at first, but turns out into a daring adventure.

Pilgrimages have long been an essential part of the Tibetan Buddhist way of life. Buddhists from across Tibet have travelled to sacred sites in Tibet, Nepal, and India for over 1,300 years, and although travel is restricted for Tibetans these days, pilgrimage is still going strong within Tibet. In fact, while visiting my in-laws in Tibet, I came across pilgrims every day, and talking to people about pilgrimage it seemed like there was no adult—monastic or layperson—who had not undertaken at least one pilgrimage in his/her life.

I—and with me many others I know—would love to make this journey across Tibet to Lhasa. Unfortunately due to visa-restrictions this is not possible, but researching the historical way and the folklore about this magnificent, sacred landscape, reading the accounts and interviewing those who have gone in present days, and so retracing the way Nordun would have travelled, at times, it really felt I was on the pilgrimage myself and hope the reader feels that too.

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

Elles: To be honest, the biggest development for me writing this novel was sifting through all the fantastic finds from my research, making a careful selection, and then being able to leave most of it out of the novel. I think a lot of historical fiction writers will recognize themselves in this. We gather so many amazing stories, facts, and artifacts, and often we want to put it all in, ending up with a history textbook instead of a novel. This for me was—and still is—the real challenge writing my novels.  

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

Elles: Yes, I struggled with the big clash at the end, the solution to the conflict, as to me it had to be a solution without violence, death or destruction. My heroine Nordun is true to her Buddhist faith. She believes in the innate goodness of all humans and embraces it with all that’s within her. She’s compassionate and humble, pure and persevering, and embodies the true tender spirit of the warrior heart. Even though she lives in a society where men reign through force, violence and fear, she stands with her unshakable faith that the power of love will always prevail over the love of power. But I couldn’t mistake her meekness for weakness, so I had to come up with a way to deal with the conflict that’s bold and fierce, but tender-hearted at the same time. That was quite a challenge—and so it is for all the books in this series.

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

Elles: For me, it was Nordun, as she came to me, emerging out of all the many tales I was told. Funnily enough for many readers, it’s Lanying, Nordun’s rather audacious friend who’s her opposite in every sense. Lanying’s a strong-headed, fabulous sword fighter who runs her own empire and tells it like is. Lanying reigns in her world by copying men’s behavior and outshining them in every way, and for some reason, people love that. I’ve already had readers asking me to write Lanying’s story, which I’m tempted to do. 😉

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

Elles: As a historian, I always want to do justice to the times and the people inhabiting the times, so I did extensive desk research and consulted experts on the history of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Besides desk research, I also wanted to do in-depth field research. It was my big wish to go to Lhasa myself, but due to visa restrictions, it was—and still to date is—not possible for me to travel the road Nordun took to Lhasa. Fortunately, I spent three magical months in Kham with my Tibetan in-laws and their friends who have travelled the roads to Lhasa through the mountains and shared their many tales and anecdotes with me. 

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

Elles: It only took 2 drafts.

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?

Elles: This book was the fastest I’ve ever written. I’m a slow writer, and usually take about a year for a novel, but one ‘only’ took six months from start to finish.

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

Elles: I don’t have any rituals, but I do drink lots of tea, preferably Lipton Orange Jaipur while writing. I have a big two liter thermos flask with hot water beside me with two cups and fresh tea bags on the side at the beginning of the day. At the end of the writing day, the flask is empty, the cups half full and there’s used tea bags everywhere!

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

Elles: Oh, that’s a tricky one 😊 it changes with every novel I write, but when I first started writing, I overused ‘nod’ and ‘hands’ way too much! At the moment, writing my fifth novel, it’s ‘so’ and ‘too’—thank goodness for ProWritingAid!

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

Elles: I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many people in my life who showed me what it is to live an authentic life, so yes, I have many role models. The one I would like to mention here is my mother who passed in 2003. The funny thing is that my mother was a woman of few words. While my friends would always complain about the dreaded ‘motherly advice’ they received at home, my mother only gave me one advice: “Dreams come in different packages.” She told me early on that we all have our hopes and dreams in life and they all come in different packages. Don’t compare your dreams with anyone else’s and don’t confuse somebody else’s dreams for your own. Make sure to unwrap your packages early and enjoy them to the fullest!” She made sure she lived her dreams, often against all odds as my father passed too early and she was crippled with disease for the last twenty years of her life, and that’s still an enormous inspiration to me.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Elles: I have a small workroom, with an ergonomic chair and big screen set up, but I tend to do my best writing on the couch with my feet up, and my laptop squished into a large pillow.

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

Elles: While working for almost 30 years in international business, research, and education, I had always felt very fulfilled in my work, supporting others in realizing their dreams and ambitions, but deep down I knew I was neglecting my own personal aspirations—writing all those stories smoldering inside of me. It was after my magical visit to Tibet when it all came together for me—coincidentally around the time I turned 50—and I finally faced my fears and took up the courage to write full time. So when the academic year ended in summer 2019, I handed in my notice, closed my private coaching business, started writing, and I haven’t looked back since.

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

Elles: For me, it was taking up the courage to write the novels I love to read myself, novels that entertain and engage, but also make you pause and reflect about your own life and the times we live in. Novels that bring a great story, opening a window to other places and times, but at the same time challenge you to really appreciate the opportunities of the privileged times we live in now—which is not always easy, I know—and encourage you to once again be and do our best—every moment of our precious life. To novels that do that, to me is my greatest achievement, because it also means as a self-published writer, I’m willing to risk writing for a ‘niche’ audience, an audience that values a slower pace in the novel so they can really digest the ideas and questions the story brings to them, and that’s an audience that’s often not large enough for real commercial success.   

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Elles: Historical fiction in the broadest sense of the word.

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?

Elles: I think I answered that earlier—Success for me is a reader who emails me that reading my novel gave her—beside the enjoyment of a great story—a different viewpoint, encouraged her to think about her own life, challenged her to re-examine her own perception of the world in some way, and maybe even triggered her to try or do something new, something different, something that before might have been way out of her comfort zone. Yes, it’s a huge ambition, but that’s really a success to me—writing novels that enthrall, enrich, and enliven us.

Tibet 1285, the wild and unchartered rooftop of the world. Nordun is ready to forgive her uncle for his sins, despite knowing he murdered her mother long ago. But her family is set on revenge—they’ve ordered Karma, the man Nordun is falling for, to hunt her uncle down and kill him.
Desperate to avoid more bloodshed, and determined to stand by her Buddhist beliefs, Nordun joins Karma on his journey under the false pretense of going on a pilgrimage to Lhasa, the place her uncle is hiding.

As they cross raging rivers, traverse vast grasslands, and conquer the mighty mountain ranges of the Cho-La, Nordun realizes the man she loves is indeed a kindred spirit—but he is also a merciless warrior, who believes compassion has no place in a family blood feud.

When faced with the inevitable, will Nordun risk losing her love, and her life, to save the man who killed her mother?

We follow Nordun on her crusade across the rooftop of the world, to the lands of Gods, where the fickle fate of men is in the hands of the ones who reign through force and fear, and the unshakable faith of a woman in the innate goodness of humankind proves to be the very thing that can set a man free.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Apple * Books2Read

Thanks so much for stopping by, Elles! I’m intrigued by your storyline and hope you find the right readers to appreciate them.

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 Mim Eichmann #author #suspense #thriller #womensleuths #amreading #fiction

Inspiration for a story comes from anywhere and everywhere, as my guest author today will make clear. Please help me welcome Mim Eichmann to my interview hot seat! A quick peek at her background and then we’ll find out more about her and her writing process.

A graduate from the Jordan College of Music at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN, Chicago-based author Mim Eichmann has found that her creative journey has taken her down many exciting, interwoven pathways as an award-winning published lyricist, short story author and songwriter, professional folk musician, choreographer, by-lined journalist, and now, author. Her debut historical fiction novel, A Sparrow Alone, published by Living Springs Publishers in April 2020, has met with extremely enthusiastic reviews and was a semi-finalist in the 2020 Illinois Library Association’s Soon-to-be-Famous Project. Its much-anticipated sequel, Muskrat Ramble, was published by LSP in March 2021 and has garnered equally enthusiastic high ratings. Both novels are bestsellers. Her thriller, Whatever Happened to Cathy Martin, was published Aug. 9, 2022.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

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

Mim: When I attended my high school reunion back in Washington, D.C., after many decades of having lived in the Midwest, I had a chance to talk with classmates I hadn’t seen since our graduation. Without the advantage of the internet, most of us had gradually lost touch with one another over the years and drifted far apart. Inevitably, there were those few classmates about whom none of us had heard anything, and for whatever reason, the question crept into my mind: what if they’d met with a foul end? Whatever happened to those friends with whom we’d secretly shared our first breathtaking romantic encounters or complained bitterly about a totally unfair grade on a history midterm by slipping a cryptic note through the slats of one another’s hall lockers? Would we ever know?

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

Mim: Since I’d lived through this time period¾1968-78¾and I was not writing about an actual crime or historic characters as was the case in my first two historical fiction novels, this definitely gave me the liberty to develop all the characters in the direction they took themselves, allowing them to play out their idiosyncrasies through the confines of the plot which was a nice breath of fresh air!  This was my first book where I could go back and reorder sequences and/or characterizations as the characters and plot dictated while I moved along.

I can’t say that I ever felt I was writing as a “pantser” (i.e., writing from the seat of my pants), but I was able to step away slightly from being a “plotter” (i.e., writing from a strict plot) as was dictated from my first two books. In reality, I’ve always been something of a “plodder,” which is my own definition of my writing style, lol… I’ve been known to spend an entire day writing one paragraph or dialogue sequence before I think I’ve gotten it right. I’m completely in awe of those authors who diligently fulfill their NaNoWriMo quotas every November¾I’d fail miserably!

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

Mim: Yes. There’s a violent rape scene at the end of the book. I felt it definitely needed to be included but was afraid how it would be perceived by the average reader. Thus far, no early reviewers have called me out on it. Also, in general, the story takes a young married woman infuriated by her husband’s infidelity down an ever-darkening, murky rabbit hole as the book progresses. I’ve made every attempt to make my main characters as three-dimensional and interesting as possible keeping within the framework of that era without resorting to obvious stereotypes. Sometimes that was also a struggle and I had to adjust accordingly.

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

Mim: Well, my main protagonist, Denise Prescott, is very loosely based on me all those years back, since I worked as a journalist at that time for The South Bend Tribune in South Bend, Indiana, and dealt with many of Denise’s same problems. Historically, so much was shaping our world during the decade of ’68-’78 and often we forget how long it took for mainstream society to truly embrace many of these social reforms.

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

Mim: Typically, my h.f. research involves delving into lots of letters, diaries, journals, photographs and non-fiction works from the time period. In this case, however, I enjoyed going back through newspaper archives, reviewing all the Sherlock Holmes movies that featured Basil Rathbone to acquire the quotes at the top of each chapter, streaming all the Columbo and Rockford Files episodes available, as well as watching countless hours of Forensic Files, a show that often discussed murders that had been cold cases for decades. DNA research was still in its infancy back then and had not yet been used for criminal investigations. The extraordinary movie The Conversation (1974) starring Gene Hackman and John Cazale reveals the moral dilemma a surveillance expert faces when his recordings reveal a potential murder. This movie gave me terrific insight into the security surveillance equipment available and its usage at that time.

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

Mim: Since I tend to move along at a glacial pace as a writer, one of the advantages is that not too much of the manuscript needs major tweaking¾that’s not to say that everything was perfect! There were definitely plot holes that needed serious attention! Also, there were a few scenes I dumped completely, reversed in order and/or expanded or condensed. For example, my protagonist Denise has a romantic encounter with a detective in a trucker’s hotel. When I first wrote this section, Denise was attracted to the man but what might have ensued by way of actual romance was interrupted by a phone call. Later I decided this ‘encounter’ needed to actually occur, otherwise this section seemed too much like some kind of cutesy, cozy mystery device (which this book is not), so I rewrote that entire section, lengthening it considerably, and the phone call¾actually the detective’s pager buzzing¾occurred several hours later.

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?

Mim: Since the book was written almost entirely throughout the Covid isolation during the winter into spring of 2020-2021, it was something of an escape for me, so not typical of any time frame in my opinion.

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

Mim: Even though I’m a morning person, I’ve found that I’m almost always writing from mid to late afternoon until about 9 or 10 p.m. when I’d stop to check in with the local news, then sometimes continue writing. I need a sense of creative space around me¾clutter drives me to distraction¾so dishes, laundry baskets, mail, other random projects, etc., have all been dealt with earlier in the day. Yeah, I’m one of those people … also, I need silence¾no surprise, eh?

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

Mim: My short list of offenders would be:  eh? Uh. So. Replied. Commented.

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

Mim: My blurb includes a comparison of sorts to Kathy Reichs, who is a forensic anthropologist in real life. I’m thoroughly enamored with her in-depth knowledge in forensic crime solving. Sometimes her plots seem to have a lot of coincidence, but overall, they’re unique. She also employs a terrific set of secondary characters sprinkled throughout. Other contemporary mystery authors I enjoy reading include Stieg Larsson, Faye Kellerman, and Elizabeth George along with the non-fiction work of Erik Larson. My favorite fiction authors are Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin.

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

Mim: I have a designated office but almost always end up writing on my laptop on my dining room table. If we’re talking about reading books in general, just about anywhere.

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

Mim: I retired from my full-time job about five years ago but am also a folk musician playing gigs with my acoustic folk quartet Trillium – www.trilliumtheband.com. I play hammered dulcimer and also sing.

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

Mim: I’ve now written and published three books in just over four years… I only expected to write the first one. I guess I’m surprised how much I enjoy this process, even though at times it’s been extremely tedious and frustrating. I look forward to continuing to research and write novels for as long as possible.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Mim: Historical fiction, literary non-fiction, mysteries, thrillers

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?

Mim: That’s an interesting question. Certainly not wealth or fame and I doubt that I’ll ever reach a measurable level of literary satisfaction. But to quote my protagonist Denise Prescott’s last line in Whatever Happened to Cathy Martin, “wherever we ended up, I was looking forward to the journey.”

Kathy Reichs meets Sherlock Holmes in this Gothic thriller set in rural southern Indiana in 1978 that seeks to unravel a deadly tangled web of lies surrounding three former high school friends, one of whom has been missing for over a decade… but which one? And why?

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N

I love a good Gothic tale! Thanks for sharing yours with us, Mim!

Happy Halloween and 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!

Musings on Generations Equating to Time Span #amwriting #amreading #HistFic #languagefan #fiction #books #novel #genealogy

Before too long, maybe even next week, I’m going to write a 15K story that is linked to Cassie and Flint Hamilton of my Fury Falls Inn series, which you may know is set in 1821 north Alabama. This currently untitled story will be included in a Rescued Hearts anthology along with 10-11 others that will release next fall, to benefit Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary in Georgia. I’ve been doing the research, reading and interviewing falconers in Alabama, about Harris Hawks which are the featured rescued animal in my story. I’ve chosen a raptor because of Cassie’s familiar, Allegro, being a Merlin falcon. It seems fitting that her descendants would carry on her love of raptors.

The story will be set in the present day but featuring descendants of Cassie and Flint. Which got me pondering how many generations would there be between 1821 and today.

Now I love doing genealogy research and building my family tree on Ancestry.com as well as making timelines in a document so I have ready access to the information without having to seek it out again. So when I wanted to determine the number of generations, I went to my tree and counted back in my own ancestry. For my family, it would be something like 5 generations, which told me the relationship of the present-day character, too. Flint Hamilton would be this character’s great-great-grandfather. But wait! There’s more!

A spin off to my musings along this line is the advertising statement I’ve heard all of my life. Something like “Such-and-such company has served the community for generations.” It got me wondering about how you equate a span of years to a group of people. Mainly because in my family, among my siblings, there are 12 years between when my oldest brother was born and when I was born. So even our single generation of siblings spans 12 years. Not every family has 5 children, of course, so how does one compute the number of years associated with one generation?

According to my handy OED (Oxford English Dictionary), “In reckoning historically by ‘generations’, the word is taken to mean the interval of time between the birth of the parents and that of their children, usually computed at thirty years, or three generations to a century.” So it’s averaged at 30 years per generation, which in my particular case works out exactly 30 years between when my parents were born and my oldest brother’s birth, which is ironic to me. But what the OED definition/explanation tells me is that I need to have 6 generations back, not 5, to be the typical span of time. So, Flint is now this character’s great-great-great-grandfather. I always knew Flint was a great man, but that’s a lot of greats!

The next step I need to do is identify the intervening generations of parents/grandparents in case I should ever want to write another story spinoff from that series. Hmm… Maybe I should make a family tree for Flint and Cassie’s descendants for fun and future reference. Probably just on paper though. I wouldn’t want anyone else using Ancestry.com to think they’re related to my fictional characters! Now where can I find a sheet of paper large enough to draw a family tree?

Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Did you know… You can order signed paperbacks of any of my books at The Snail on the Wall   book store!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (#1)

Under Lock and Key (#2)

Desperate Reflections (#3)

Fractured Crystals (#4)

Legends of Wrath (#5)

Homecoming (#6)

Writing and Wrapping Up A Series #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread

Writing a series of stories is common among novelists. Most of the time the stories are merely set in the same world with some common characters so you can read the books in any order. When I set out to write the Fury Falls Inn series, I had no idea how challenging it would be. I knew I wanted to write six stories, the first one introducing the ghost haunting the inn followed by Cassie’s four brothers coming to the inn, and then ultimately the sixth book bringing the family all together.

One little known fact: when I finished writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, Book #1, I had absolutely no idea what Mercy had done to the family. I mentioned it frequently in that first book, but even when one of my beta readers asked me, as in after I’d written The End, I still had no clue.

Days later, I was watching some movie—I don’t even recall which one—when Mercy suddenly whispered in my ear the truth of what she’d done to break up the family unit. I was shocked! But then I realized just what a treasure trove of storylines could spring from that revelation.

Then the real planning and strategizing began. I had to define each of my characters, both who they are and who their family was. I needed to understand the backstory of everybody in order to write their current story. I needed a timeline of who was born when, who married whom and when, who died when and how. All the minutiae of a person’s life that could impact their future choices and decisions.

The six books in this series are closely coupled stories, spanning June through October 1821, so you’ll want to read them in order. I researched the happenings in north Alabama during that same span of time in order to weave in historical details to give the stories authenticity. I went to Burritt on the Mountain living museum to research the architecture of buildings of that time period, and visited Constitution Park in downtown Huntsville to learn more about the history of Huntsville, too. I even bought a detailed book and accompanying sketch of what downtown Huntsville looked like then, what businesses were in which buildings, so I could more accurately depict the city in my writing.

This is my most popular series to date! If you haven’t read these books, you might want to give them a try. I had one reader demanding Book #4 immediately after she’d finished reading Book #3—unfortunately I was still writing that story so she had to wait. But you don’t have to! You can buy all 6 books now and binge read through to the end. In fact, that’s why I’m releasing Books #5 and #6 on the same day—so nobody has to wait any longer to read the conclusion of the Fairhope family saga. Enjoy!

Happy reading! I’m off to celebrate my book launch tomorrow!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

The final 2 books Legends of Wrath and Homecoming release tomorrow, August 9! Binge away!

Did you know… You can order signed paperbacks of any of my books at The Snail on the Wall book store!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn

Under Lock and Key

Desperate Reflections

Fractured Crystals

Legends of Wrath: Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo  

Homecoming: Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Menu Planning for Historic Gathering #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

One of the most fun things I do when writing my stories is coming up with historic menus or individual foods to include. In Homecoming, the 6th and final book in my Fury Falls Inn series, there is both a wedding supper and an Allhallows Eve party in need of delicious entrees and desserts. So I pulled out my colonial recipe books—I have 3 of them not including Martha Washington’s recipe book—and perused the offerings within their covers.

Some of the items I’ve prepared in my own kitchen over the years. You can find a couple of them on my Book Club page at my website. Some of the items on the menu were typically served even if I wouldn’t serve them to my husband today. Curious as to what I envisioned for the two important menus?

Apple-stuffed acorn squash

Wedding Supper

Roast turkey with cranberry relish

Asparagus dinner rolls

Apple-stuffed acorn squash (this is one I’ve made and will make again. See the recipe for Legends of Wrath)

Martha Washington’s White Cake

Allhallows Eve Feast

Gazpacho

Stuffed roast hare

Scotched and colloped venison steaks

Turnip greens with bacon/vinegar

Stuffed eggplant

Sweet potato pudding

Beets in orange sauce

Relish, pickles, olives, etc.

Pumpkin bread

Molasses gingerbread

Burnt custard (known today as crème brulee)

Brescia cheesecake

Pound cake (made this 1824 recipe and it’s so yummy! See the recipe for Homecoming)

So what do you think? Sound like a tempting array of goodies?

Now I’m hungry! Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale during July 2022!

The first 4 books in the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series set in 1821 Alabama in a haunted roadside inn are reduced! The final 2 books, Legends of Wrath and Homecoming will release on August 9 and are up for preorder now!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn – $.99

Under Lock and Key  – $1.99

Desperate Reflections – $1.99

Fractured Crystals – $2.99

Legends of Wrath: Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo  

Homecoming: Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Getting to know Charlie Cochrane #author #mystery #historical #romance #series #books #fiction #amreading #amwriting

My guest author today is coming to us from “across the pond” so I hope you’ll help me give her a warm welcome! Let’s get to know more about author Charlie Cochrane and her writing, first with a peek at her bio and then on to the questions.

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes both romances and mysteries, including the Edwardian-era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lume and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at book festivals and at reader and author conferences.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter

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

Charlie: Lock, Stock and Peril is the latest book in the Lindenshaw Mysteries series and is inspired by life during lockdown: the extra stresses, the different kind of existence and how that might ultimately turn murderous. The whole series, however, was originally inspired by the TV series Midsomer Murders. I kept thinking how cool it might be to have a similar series set in leafy England but with a gay detective. such thing existed, so I wrote it, making sure the detective fell in love with one of the key witnesses. One who owned a big, adorable, Newfoundland dog.

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

Charlie: Nothing new in particular, this time, although I firmly believe that with every new book you produce, you hone your skills and become a better writer. I can confess to one new bad habit I acquired, though: my editor always spots words I overuse and having managed to cut down on the usual ones, I’d only gone and picked up some new ones without realising. 😊

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

Charlie: Bizarrely, it was remembering exactly which lockdown rules applied when. There’s quite a gap for an author between first draft and final set of edits so I had to rely heavily on a) notes b) memory and when all else failed c) scrolling back through the government website. Isn’t it odd how something that seemed so constricting at the time passed so quickly out of our brains?

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

Charlie: PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) became my new best friend at one time, when I wanted to make sure I’d got the police rules right at a couple of key places in the story. I also tried to incorporate what I’d learned at the 2020 Portsmouth Mysteryfest where our keynote speaker took us through the latest advice for conducting police interviews. She made a point of saying how unrealistic TV police dramas are so I wanted to get closer to depicting the real thing.

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

Charlie: My usual two. I always produce a pretty good first draft and then bash it about until it’s polished enough to submit to the publisher. Which is where my editor comes along with her virtual red pen and, after much toing and froing, we’re several versions later and have something fit to see the light of day among readers.

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

Charlie: Very few, apart from going off and doing something mindless – like cleaning the kitchen floor – when I need to get a plot point clear in my mind. It always works, probably because it taps into the subconscious, which is very powerful and underused. I remember reading a book about inventors (and similar) which said many of them got their lightbulb moment while doing a repetitive physical task. It probably frees the rest of the mind.

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

Charlie: In my first draft, no matter how hard I try, the usual suspects creep in too often. Just. Look. More. Even. I hang my head in shame at how many of these little so-and-so’s manage to make it into the second draft. The newest addition to that list was simply, which kept appearing in the first draft of Lock, Stock and Peril – possibly as a replacement for just. (That sound is my eyes rolling at myself.)

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

Charlie: How much time have we got? Mary Renault, because of her beautiful economy of words – she could say more in a sentence than some folk do in an entire page. Agatha Christie, because of her plots and the wonderful way she re-used the same idea (and made fun of herself for doing that in depicting her alter ego, Ariadne Oliver.) Michael Gilbert, for producing the amateur detective Henry Bohun and Shakespeare…for being Shakespeare.

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

Charlie: I can write just about anywhere so long as I’m comfy. I usually work on a PC or laptop but if inspiration strikes then jotting notes on paper/phone/anything to hand has to be done, even if that’s while I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. In terms of reading, I prefer to do that in bed or in the bath and I need quiet both for maximum enjoyment and for maximum concentration, as I read a lot of mysteries and don’t want to miss an important clue. 

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

Charlie: I’m retired from everything but writing. Well, in a paid capacity, anyway, because I chair the board of a small charity. I used to do freelance training of school governors, helping them with things like recruiting new headteachers, and many of the experiences I had doing that have sneaked their way into the Lindenshaw and other books.

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

Charlie: I think if I was a normal author, I’d say having a book reach number one in its genre on Amazon. But as I’m me, I feel prouder of two things: having an author I greatly respect telling me they like my characters and using the loo at the house of a multi-million selling novelist (long story, involving somehow getting invited to a meeting of crime writers during which I sat thinking, “How the heck have I ended up here?”)

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Charlie: Cosy mysteries, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth. They used to be quite hard to get hold of unless you scoured second-hand bookshops but there’s been a spate of republishing old novels and short stories, for example in the British Library collection. An absolute Godsend for readers like me.

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?

Charlie: Wow, there’s a question. I think, for me, success is defined primarily by people’s reaction to my stories. When you have readers emailing you to say your novels have helped them through bereavement, or to cope with another equally hard aspect of their lives, then what more fulfilment can you want?

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Buy Links: RiptidePublishing

I wondered how long it would take for authors to write about life during the pandemic. There’s my answer! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Charlie!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Linda Ballou #author #historicalfiction #histfic #adventurer #traveller #blogger

Please help me welcome a fellow historical fiction author, Linda Ballou, who had the enviable job of living in the Hawaiian Islands to conduct her research! Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her.

Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of three novels and numerous travel articles appearing in national publications. Wai-nani, a New Voice from old Hawai’i, is her ultimate destination piece. It takes you to the wild heart of old Hawai’i, a place you can’t get to any other way. Hang on tight for a thrilling ride from the showjumping arena to the ethereal beauty of the John Muir Wilderness in The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Her latest effort, Embrace of the Wild, is historical fiction inspired by the dynamic Isabella Bird, a Victorian-age woman who explored Hawai’i and the Rocky Mountains in the late 1870s.  Linda’s travel collection Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is an armchair traveler’s delight filled with adventure to whet your wanderlust. Linda loves living on the coast of California and has created a collection of her favorite day trips for you in Lost Angel in Paradise. All of her books are available at www.LindaBallouAuthor.com and online distribution sites in print and e-book format. She spotlights her travels on www.LostAngelAdventures.com.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter

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

Linda: Ka’ahumanu was a woman in history that stirred my imagination. Brave, athletic, strong, passionate, caring, and centered in herself, I saw her as a role model and forerunner to the modern woman. She became the inspiration for my character, Wai-nani. I was first introduced to this character in history in the 70s –a time when women were breaking out of accepted molds. Her literal journey follows the rise of Kamehameha the Great, but her more important mythological journey takes her to her truth and discovering the extent of her powers.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Linda: Wai-nani (Ka’ahumanu) embodies all that was good in ancient Polynesian society. Athletic, assertive, and brave she stands beside her warrior-king husband sharing in his joys and sorrows for forty years. Like all Hawaiians, she is a water baby—finding strength, solace, and wisdom in the sea. Her greatest pleasure is swimming with her wild dolphin friend, Eku. Throughout her life, she rails against the “kapu system” that calls for human sacrifices, separate eating-houses for men and women, and severe penalties for the slightest infractions of laws imposed upon the common people by ruling chiefs and priests vested with the power of gods. She triumphs and becomes the most powerful woman in old Hawaii. I tried to bring this powerful personage in history to life for modern readers.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Linda: When I was 28, I took one blissful year off and spent it on the north shore of the Island of Kauai. I took a job as a cub reporter on the local paper. It happened that they ran a 200th-anniversary issue spotlighting the arrival of Captain James Cook on Kauai in 1778. This is where ano ano, the seed, was planted and the story took root in my heart. Historical accounts often speak of the savage Hawaiians stabbing the great navigator in the back. This prompted me to learn more about what was happening in the Hawaiian culture at that time. What I learned disturbed me. Indeed, they did kill the good captain. It is also true that Cook’s men trespassed on sacred ground, trampled on religious beliefs and ate the natives out of house and home. Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha were there. I determined to tell the story of Cook’s demise and what followed through her eyes.

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

Linda: Getting into the mindset of the warrior prophesied to unite the warring Hawaiian Islands required relinquishing traditionally held values and attempting to absorb the ways of the ancient Polynesian view. He was inward, meditative, and sometimes sullen, but always brave and determined to fulfill his destiny.

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

Linda: Research for this story spanning twenty years became a beautiful obsession for me. I visited all the places described in the story to absorb the ancient mana, or spiritual energy resting there for those who chose to receive it. I read all of the oldest chronicles written by natives who were taught to read and write by missionaries. I interviewed a healing kumu in Hilo and spoke with elders about Hawaiian beliefs many of which are relevant today. Martha Beckworth’s Hawaiian Mythology was my greatest resource for the facts about the ancient Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian language is difficult for westerners, so I added a glossary of words I used in the text and changed the names of the characters to make it easier for western readers to relate and become engaged in the story.

I have a playlist on youtube that answer the most common questions I receive about the ancient Hawaiian culture

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

Linda: At least three. I conferred with my editor, a Hawaiian scholar, and got beta reader opinions before daring to publish this story which is sacred to the Hawaiian people. I was told by the Hawaiian scholar that my story was charming, but if a haole (white foreigner) published this fictionalized account of the Hawaiian story, I would receive 200 years of bad luck. This set me back on my heels for at least a year. In the end, I took Anais Nin’s words to heart and moved forward.

And then the day came

When the risk to remain

Tight in a bud was more painful

Than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin

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?

Linda: The actual writing perhaps three years, but the depth of research was a twenty-year excuse to be in the Islands. Typically, it will take me a year, or so to write a novel.

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

Linda: I read materials relevant to the subject I am writing about the night before enlisting my subconscious to the task while I sleep. Then I write first thing in the morning before being interrupted by the demands of the day. If I get 500-1000 words out I think I’m doing great.

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

Linda: I tend to gush over the beauty of a place. I have to tone this down so that my work is not too flowery. Many readers view me as a nature writer. I take that as a compliment.

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

Linda: I wrote a piece titled Jack London and Me. It is about the many connections I have to this man and how our paths have crossed. Jack lived life with daring and bravado. He was also very generous to others. He is considered the master of adventure writing. I admire his writing as well as his zest for life. I visit his Beauty Ranch where he rests in the Valley of Moon as often as I can to pay my respects to a great man and wonderful writer.

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

Linda: I live in what I call the “Cottage of Content” in the Santa Monica Mountains. I am surrounded by trees and watch my birds flit through the canopy while I write. I am happy here away from the fray. After lunch, I take a meditative walk in the mountains. When I return, I sit on my deck, feet on the rail, reading what I wrote that morning and reflecting on how it can be better. That is a perfect writing day for me.

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

Linda: I have sold real estate all my adult life. I am listed as an independent contractor on my tax returns. This position affords me the freedom to back off, or hit it hard. It has served me well over the years. It has given me the freedom to travel and write about my adventures. I have achieved a delicate balance between selling real estate and my writing projects and feel blessed to have both worlds.

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

Linda: Publishing Wai-nani is my proudest achievement. It was by far the most difficult and complicated work that I have done. Writing it in the first person meant I couldn’t use any modern words like plastic. I had to be very careful about being accurate in my depiction, still, I knew there would be push back from some Hawaiians. I am happy to report I have good reviews from long-term Hawaiian residents, and blooded Hawaiians as well. I love this story and have no regrets.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Linda: I would love to join Jack and Charmian London for one of their dinners with the many fascinating friends they invited to the Beauty Ranch. To ride with them through the redwoods and swim in the lake Jack created is a fond fantasy of mine. We wouldn’t talk about writing, I would ask him about his many adventures, especially his time in the Islands. He was loved by the Hawaiians for the way he told their 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?

Linda: One reader told me “Your book was my salvation. It took me out of myself while I was going through a bad patch.” This kind of feedback is not uncommon. It makes me feel the time I spend writing is worthwhile. I sell houses to keep a roof over my head, I write stories to soothe my soul and to connect with other human beings.

Born into the royal class, Wai-nani rails against harsh penalties for women meted out by priests and ruling chiefs invested with the power of gods. Her rebellion takes her on a journey that puts her squarely into the eye of a political storm.

She meets Makaha, inspired by Kamehameha the Great, an inward thinking youthful warrior who is prophesied to unite the Hawaiian Islands. This is the beginning of a tumultuous forty-year love affair. Makaha accepts the challenge to end years of tribal wars and gives Hawaii a golden age. Wai-nani must decide if she will stand beside him before, during, and after his rise to power.

Like all Hawaiians, Wai-nani is a water baby finding sustenance and solace in the sea. Her best friend is a dolphin named Eku who swims with her on her mythological journey. She tells us what was happening in her beautiful world when Captain Cook arrived bringing new weapons and spreading disease in his wake. Wai-nani follows the rise of Makaha to power, but when he dies she breaks from his old ways. Beloved by the common people she defies death-dealing priests to lead them to freedom from the harsh, 2,000-year-old Polynesian “Kapu” system that called for human sacrifice to pagan gods.

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Thanks for sharing the backstory of your story, Linda!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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Final Stop on the Guided Tour of the Fury Falls Inn – Residence Upper Floor #visual #layout #FracturedCrystals #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

One more stop on my guided tour of the interior of the Fury Falls Inn! If you missed the beginning, feel free to loop back to the Falcon’s Eye view of the property where the Fury Falls Inn is situated, then wander through as the Main Floor, before climbing the stairs to the Upper Floor  to see the guest rooms. Last time we wandered through the Residence Main Floor, and today we’re going on upstairs to take a peek at where the family sleeps. Remember that the inn is a large building, comprised of two separate structures joined by the covered porch.

The family continues to grow as each of Cassie brothers find their way to the inn. When you climb the stairs to the second floor, you emerge into a large hallway with doors leading to the bedrooms. Off to the right is where Mercy and Reggie’s bedroom is located. Beside theirs, at the front of the building, is where Sheridan’s room is located, making it easy for him to ease out of his room early in the morning and go downstairs to start the day’s cooking.

Upper floor of the Residence at the Fury Falls Inn.

Cassie offered to share her room with Mandy due to the ongoing threat to single women in the region. I’m sure Abram doesn’t mind the fact that he’s sharing a room with Daniel, especially since it’s located next door to his fiancée. In the left rear corner you’ll find Flint’s room, which is a larger room befitting the interim innkeeper.

The front left corner is where Giles is sharing a large, two-bed room with his friends, Zander and Matt. There’s one spare room left in the residence… I wonder who will ultimately occupy it? Silas is the only brother left to arrive; he’s on his way. Perhaps he’ll move in there if Flint decides that’s fitting.

The furniture and furnishings are pretty basic in each room: a bed (or two), a dresser, perhaps a wardrobe, and a table and chairs by the window. Each has some kind of curtain or drape at the window to pull shut to darken the room, or block out the flash of lightning.

Thank you for your attention as we complete the guided tour of the Fury Falls Inn. Please descend the stairs and exit out the front door. I hope you enjoyed the tour. <grin>

Happy reading!

Betty

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Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. A place where Daniel Fairhope’s family kept life-changing secrets from him.

His sister’s magic is coveted by two powerful, angry witches intent on her willing compliance with their demands. Worse, a witch hunter is on the loose, determined to rid the area of all witches. Struggling to cope with those threats, Daniel discovers his own unique and powerful ability as well as those of his estranged brothers. Abilities they’ll need to unite to protect their sister and the family secrets. But these challenges all pale in comparison to convincing the captivating woman he meets at the inn to trust him before she breaks his heart.

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If you’d like an autographed paperback, personalized to you or someone you want to give it to, and mailed to you for only $18, you can order one directly from me here. Be sure to give me the name you want it made out to and your mailing address (you can send both to me at betty@bettybolte.com) and I’ll send it out as soon as possible.