Category Archives: Q and A with Authors

Interview: A Talk with Author Teresa Neumann About Her 70s Hippie Fiction!

best-oregon-pinot-noir-v2.pngToday, I’m hosting the lovely Teresa Neumann straight from Oregon for an interview! A conossieur of wine (check out the beautiful Oregon wine country above), her heart is also much with the Italian culture and lifestyle. When I think of her, I think of this – fun times with friends and family enjoying food and wine. She’s a great person and talented writer. She’s also not new to this blog, as I’d reviewed her Italian historical fiction books year ago, but it’s been a little while and she has since written a new book, A Year in the Company of Freaks. This novel was a bit of a departure from her other books, which we discuss in the interview below so you’ll want to keep reading.

“Freaks” is a novel that showcases life of those growing up in the 60s and 70s in California. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book like this, and it certainly was an eye-opening adventure for me as I don’t delve into this time period too much. What drew me in so much when I started reading the book early last year was the way their dialogue made me laugh. Her easy writing style will have you turning pages when you don’t even mean to keep reading and the characters will become so real that you swear they exist. I would never have thought I’d connect to the characters, but I did and found myself pulling for them and wishing they weren’t so misunderstood.

A Year Freaks

Though I don’t have experience coming-of-age in the way they did, the themes and struggles they had in all getting along together, and needing to learn and grow with and from each other, certainly fits within the framework of what needs to happen more in today’s society. It was fun contemporary fiction, but with strong messages, all wrapped up with descriptive and emotional prose. Though learning to live with others is a theme prevalent in the book, and judgment between hippies and rednecks, there is also love, frienship, redemption, and self-reflection. I’m really glad I stepped out of my box in reading this one!

Now, let’s talk about the book more with Teresa….and it’s her birthday, so please help me to wish her a very happy one!! : -)


Welcome Teresa! I’m so glad you’re stopping by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It was my pleasure to read A Year In the Company of Freaks, your new book out last year – and an entertaining one at that! I’m glad we finally caught up to talk about it and what else is new in your life.

Come in and sit down. I feel like we should take part in your “live life” motto and drink wine in the afternoon. You tell me what’s the best – your favorite – and I’ll snap my fingers to make it so! Let me know what’s good to go with it too. I really have to learn my wines better someday soon!

Teresa: Thanks for inviting me, Erin! Ah, wine. My favorite wines are reds – cabs and merlots, though I love a great Oregon pinot noir too. They not only taste great but they’re healthy as well. In fact, after my gastronomical sojourns in Italy with my husband’s families, it’s hard for me to eat meat without a little wine as it is so good for digestion 😉

Erin: I’m not much of a wine drinker, but always wanted to try more of it for the experience. Let me pour us some. Now, let’s settle in on the front porch and talk awhile.

As I noted, A Year in the Company of Freaks was out last year.  What were some of the successes and challenges in the last couple years of writing and publishing it? How do you feel about it all now?

Teresa: I actually wrote a condensed version of “Freaks” about 12 years ago after my children and their friends began needling my husband and I about what it was like to live during the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until after Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table were published that I chose to make it my next project and began the editing process. The title of the book always grabbed people’s attention, and since there were so few historical books out for the time period of the 60s and 70s, I just decided it was time to go with it. The successes and challenges of writing, for me, are one and the same: bringing a book to publication. I never realized what a truly mammoth effort goes into the process—writing, editing, re-writing, editing, decision-making on titles, front covers, back covers, synopses, etc. And that’s not even the marketing aspect of publishing a book, which is – true confession — my least favorite part of being an author. I just hate having to get the word out about my new books. That’s why you’re so incredibly appreciated, Erin! 

Erin: It is the hard part for many and so time consuming. Thank you! This book is a departure from your other novels that take place in history and overseas, Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table respectfully, and takes us to Northern California to the 1970s and the dawn of the laid back lifestyle. However, one stream that runs through them all is the familial relationships you bring to life between family and friends. How do you create such vivid characters and connections?

Teresa: You’re correct that my third book is a departure from my first two books, which are mostly set in Italy, although my main character in “Freaks” is an Italian-American and wine – or, at least vineyards – play a small role at the end of the book: I’m still committed to a nod in my books to my beloved Italians.

Family is – and always has been – an absolute joy and priority in my life. I believe the older one gets, the clearer it becomes that all the other trappings of life fade in comparison. I also tend to be an apt people watcher and am fascinated by relationships – especially the interaction between age groups. My mother-in-law once told me that she and her husband decided against moving to a retirement community in Arizona because the absence of younger people and children made it feel “sterile” and unnatural. The truth of her observation has always resonated with me on a literary level. What would the Wizard of Oz be like without Auntie Em, the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man? Perhaps it’s that philosophy that affects my writing style?

Erin: That’s an amazing observation and so true!

I think part of this book had an element of your own life decades ago? What spurred it and how much of your own experiences did you put into it?

Teresa: Very observant, Erin! In the early 70’s, before I was married, I moved to northern California with 5 other financially broke, free-spirited girlfriends from Iowa. I had never seen an ocean before; had never been to the west coast, or any coast for that matter. Marin County at the time was the “it” place to be, so we found a four-bedroom house to rent in Novato and lived there for nearly two years before going our own ways.

I got a job as a secretary in a mail-order “head shop” on a houseboat in Sausalito, adopting the name “Marsha Mellow” as a pseudonym to protect my identity from all the prisoners around the country who bought our drug paraphernalia. Only one or two of my roommates were smart enough to own cars, so the rest of us – myself included – hitchhiked everywhere we went, day or night: work, rock-concerts, parties, etc.

In hindsight, of course, it was insane, but the craziest part of it was that I had considered myself a full-fledged hippy before moving to California: I talked the talk, smoked the pot, dropped the acid, dated rock stars, loved the music, and everything else that went with the label in those days. And yet, hippies in California were so hard core and so far beyond anything I’d experienced in the Midwest that I began to feel somewhat like an alien on another planet.

My family and educational background (I was raised in a Catholic home and private Catholic schools) kicked into gear and, quite honestly, saved me from some pretty terrifying incidents. For example, several local guys tried pressuring us girls to attend a huge, “private” weekend party up in the redwood forests near Trinity County.  When I found out that hundreds of people would be there, that everyone was expected to drop acid, and it was not clothing optional (no clothing allowed) I got a “check” in my mind and declined. I was the only one of my friends who did. Peer pressure is always tough and I felt like an idiot at the time, but I couldn’t get past my own issues with personal safety and privacy. Although I don’t judge others, by nature I’m modest about public nudity, especially in a large group setting with strangers.

Anyway, one of my friends overdosed that weekend. She came back absolutely wrecked. Not only did she OD, I suspect she was raped, although none of my other friends would say that’s what happened. They all refused to talk about it. That friend, a shell of what she’d been just days before, immediately moved back to Iowa to live with her parents. Whenever that weekend was brought up thereafter, my roommates faces reflected a certain pain that I could only guess stemmed from their own negative personal experiences at that party. Dodging that bullet – and the price of staying home alone that weekend – taught me a lot about withstanding peer pressure when my gut says “no.”

All that to say, Erin: yes, I did live in northern California in the 70’s. But contrary to the one-dimensional view that too many authors of that era have portrayed (that it was the best of times; all peace, love, flowers, and fabulous free love, and oh, how we miss it) I wanted to balance it with another reality – the reality that I and so many others experienced during that time. A reality based not solely on nostalgia, but also crafted as a cautionary tale with all the regrets and warnings that come from living a real life. I mean, my friend who overdosed at that party wasn’t my only friend during that decade to be lost to drugs, or preventable diseases, or suicide, or …

Erin: Wow, that’s SO impactful Teresa! I’m so glad you tell that side of it. Besides all you’ve stated, as opposed to taking something of historical record as in your historical fiction books, what made you decide to try something new?

Teresa: Great question! I’ve always appreciated authors who’ve experimented with various genres in their writing: Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Anne Rice, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Grudge. As an author who isn’t getting any younger, I’m discovering the luxury of not caring so much about conventional wisdom in publishing. I suppose “Freaks” was my break-out-of-the-mold experiment; my transitional work into trying other genres. Why not?

Erin: Your heart shined through in the writing and it was emotional yet humorous, just like life. Did the plot come easy to you? Which character did enjoy writing about the most and why?

Teresa: Ketch – the albino biker from Texas — was my favorite, just because I used to know someone from Texas much like him and he was hoot. I also enjoyed fleshing out the sheriff and his wife; Otis and Pearlie Skinner. I do love precious old folks. I suppose, subliminally, writing about them makes me feel close to my own grandparents whom I adored 😉 Sid was harder for me, simply because as a woman it takes extra effort to get inside a man’s head and portray him fairly. Mika was probably the most difficult to write. There were elements in her character that many in society would, no doubt, be quick to judge and hate. But that’s the whole point. There would be no challenge to bias, no social dilemma, no need to soul-search if there weren’t opposites at play.

As for characters in general, I love breaking stereotypes both in writing and in real life. Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they exist for a reason. When enough people from any certain group begin to display common traits, stereotypes are born. In the 60’s there were two major social stereotypes: hippies and rednecks. Whether old or young, regardless of race, sex or religion, you were either one or the other. Hippies had long hair, wore bell-bottom jeans and sandals, experimented with drugs, promoted peace at any cost, listened to heavy, psychedelic rock and loathed the establishment. Those who didn’t fit into those categories were considered rednecks. When you really think about it, it was ridiculous.

Is it any different today in our polarized world with liberals and conservatives? In fact, it was today’s political and social climate that compelled me to publish “Freaks.” I think there’s an immensely valuable lesson to be learned from reading about strangers of different stripes living together under certain constraints for a year. It is one of the major underlying themes throughout the book. We CAN live together. We can even love each other despite our differences – and even because of our differences.

Oh, and you asked about plots. Plotting, for me, is always easy at first, until I actually start putting it on paper and then all the little details I missed during the first go around start rearing their ugly little heads. That’s when the real work begins.

Erin: You may have touched on this already, but in this book you dealt with some issues of prejudice, redemption, and such. How difficult were those to write about? Do you hope these themes help readers to identify within their own lives or were they just plot points to create drama and intrigue?

Teresa: I certainly hope readers will identify with the pitfalls and futility of prejudice in “Freaks.” Quite honestly, it’s so much a part of the human condition that I think prejudice is something everyone, including myself, has to work at their entire lives. As for redemption – YES! I’m an extremely positive person and all about gaining victory over every challenge. I can’t imagine life without redemption. It would be hell. Prejudice and redemption aren’t plot points; they’re the fabric of our lives, of history, of universal reality.

Erin: So true, Teresa. Well said. It’s mentioned about A Year in the Company of Freaks that it is a coming-of-age classic that “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.” To a slightly younger reader, what was that attitude and mood of the times? What was it like? Does this book display well life in the 70s in California?

Teresa: Having lived in northern California in the 70’s, I naturally feel that “Freaks’ accurately portrays life there during that time — through my perspective. I could have been more graphic. I could have delved into the darker aspects of things I saw and experienced while there, but that wasn’t the point of my story. As a writer, I have to constantly discipline myself to avoid rabbit trails that detract from the simple, core message of my story line. The core message of “Freaks” wasn’t to show just how crazy, or decadent, or dangerous, or fun, or wild life was during that time, although those elements definitely are addressed. It was to follow the character arc of a guy born in the 50’s who came of age during the 60’s and may, or may not, make it through the 70’s without going to prison, thus altering the entire course of his life. That arc includes the arcs of the other disparate characters he is forced to live with.

One of the minor subplots in the book is the price one pays for conformity vs. the price one pays for rebellion. Whether fiction or non-fiction, any literature that doesn’t address the downside of the counter-culture movement in the 60’s isn’t being intellectually or historically honest. Today smoking, and growing, pot has become more main stream. But during the era of “A Year in the Company of Freaks” doing so was a serious criminal offense, punishable by stiff prison sentences. Without an advocate or a criminal justice system that turned a blind eye to it, drug dealers and marijuana growers faced enormous risks.  The film “Blow” starring Johnny Depp is a good case in point.

Erin: You have the SUMMER BOOKS theme at the top of your website: “Summer reading is a delicious pastime.” Do you like writing your books in the summer and reading over the winter or the other way around? Summer is reading for you too, or just your readers? What books do you like to read and where?

Teresa: The title Always Summer Books is borne out of my addiction to reading. As a young girl I spent my entire summers reading non-stop. My mother claims that before I could walk I would spend hours just looking at and leafing through telephone books. I hated it when September rolled around because – although I loved academics – it interfered with my personal reading. Thus, Always Summer Books–never stop reading, no matter the season of the year or season of your life. I suppose I am the ultimate literary nerd. I’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a mediocre movie any day.

Let me just say it’s tough writing in the summertime!! I do much better in the winter.

Erin: I TOTALLY agree! What are you writing next?

Teresa: I’m almost finished with a screenplay – an adaptation of a classic — that I’m very, very excited about. I’ve also started a children’s book, though it’s becoming far more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. Who would have ever thought that writing for children could be so complicated! Is it because they take everything at such face value that nothing, no little trick of the literary hand, gets past them?

Erin: I can agree with you there on the children’s books. I have a set of them I’ve been trying to write for years and they seem to be the hardest of all my work.

I know you love to travel at least once a year, if not more. What are some of the favorite places you’ve been to and things you like to do?

Teresa: Though my father was a farmer’s boy at his core, he was also an avid traveler and passed his passion on to all of his children. He would have loved to travel overseas, but was never able to in his lifetime. I’m so thankful and blessed to have been able to see a wee bit more of the world. My fascination with other lands and cultures sometimes even supersedes my love of books! Nearly all our trips are family vacations and with a growing family on a specific budget it is no small feat to accomplish, but so worth the effort. They’re unforgettable experiences that we all hang our memory hats on.

Italy holds a special place in my heart because of my husband’s family in Tuscany. It’s more than a beautiful country abounding in great food, gorgeous people, and incredible history. It’s a place that feels like home because the Bertozzi and Sigali family there embrace us in a way that is impossible not to love. As a mother, when I realized my children’s DNA was connected so strongly to a certain country, I think I instinctively wanted to nurture it in them. I’m half-Irish, so Ireland holds a similar attraction for me. We went there for the first time last year and I was constantly overcome with the giddy sensation of: “I feel so at home here! These are my people!” It’s just inexplicable. Again, the genetic link with a place and its people is stronger, I think, than most of us imagine and it’s hard to grasp until you go back to your roots and experience it.

We have dear friends in England, France and Germany as well. Currently, my daughter is an au pair in Paris, so we just recently returned from there. I love, love Paris. It is truly one of kind. London, too – England is simply amazing.

But it’s a big world out there. So much more to see and so little time (and money) to see it all in one life. Asia, Africa, and so many other places beckon.

Erin: I completely agree, Teresa! I have some Irish in me too and my dad really connects with that part of him. It’s why he named me Erin, since it means Ireland! As for me, I was born in England and though my parents are American, I totally feel that England is partially my home. I’d love to travel the world too. Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa! Please come back anytime. Now let’s sit and sip wine, talk travel some more, and enjoy the beautiful day – summer is here!

Teresa: Thank YOU, Erin — anytime! And if you’re ever in Oregon, give me a call. Summer, indeed, is almost here and a glass of cold Rosé is calling me!

Erin: Thanks so much, Teresa, I certainly will. One day I hope to see all of that side of the country!

A Year FreaksA Year In the Company of Freaks, Synopsis –
All’s Well House (December 11, 2015)

It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion.

When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”

Purchase on Amazon

Praise for A Year In the Company of Freaks –

“Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

Teresa Neumann, Biography –

Teresa Neumann and her musician husband live in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley with their three children. As well as being an author, reporter, and journalist, Teresa loves to fiddle on her violin and live “la dolce vita” in  Italy whenever she can talk her family into it. Visit Teresa at her website or on Facebook Page called Always Summer Books.


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Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

Interview: Addie Discusses Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies with Author Bruce Hale

Hi everybody! Today is Addie’s big interview day! After receiving for review from Disney Hyperion A Monstertown Mystery called MUTANT MANTIS LUNCH LADIES, and loving it, she wanted to help me interview the children’s author and illustrator, Bruce Hale. Bruce is an award-winning author of over 40 children’s books and his new series looks set to impress both girls and boys of the third and fourth grade age, especially if they like books like the Goosebumps series.

Addie asked most all the questions and was very excited to read his answers so we hope you all are too. If you have kids reading middle readers, this is a quick, entertaining read sure to get a lot of laughs. Addie said it had her giggling and she finished it in no time flat! I mean she’ll NEVER see her lunch ladies the same again and will always staring at them out the corner of her eye! haha! Enjoy the interview!


Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! My 9 year old daughter and I really enjoyed your book! She thought it was hilarious. Congratulations on your success as a writer! Because she enjoyed it so much she helped me to come up with some questions.

Q:  Where did you get the idea to make a mantis in to a mutant and how did you create them?

A: Back in the ‘50s, they had lots of scary movies about radiation mutating normal creatures like ants (Them!) and spiders (Beginning of the End) into monsters.  I thought I’d like to pay tribute to those movies in my book.  After some brainstorming and a bit of flipping through my Dorling Kindersley insect guide, I hit upon the praying mantis.  I wanted them to be able to take on human form for extra creepiness, so I decided they’d be more than just mantises; they’d have both human and chameleon DNA in them.

Q: The Monstertown Mystery series is compared to Goosebumps by R.L. Stine. We love Goosebumps (and Stine is a Ohioan like us!). What do you like about the series that inspired your own?

A: I love the way Stine strikes a balance between humor and creepiness, as well as the way he plays with some horror traditions.  And like me, he’s really into inspiring reluctant readers.  Although I haven’t yet met him, I admire his work.

Q: How do you feel fourth graders connect with your books and why? (My daughter says by the way that the humor appeals to her – and would to her friends as well – both boys AND girls.)

A: I’m glad to hear your daughter say that both boys and girls would like my books, because I’m definitely aiming to appeal to both.  For whatever reason, I remember very vividly what it was like to be a fourth grader, so maybe my readers are connecting with that.  Also, I try to keep my stories funny and action-packed, two things that young readers appreciate.

Q: What the best part about getting to go out and speak in schools? How do you motivate and encourage reading?

A: There are so many wonderful benefits I get from speaking in schools.  I love sharing my work with new readers, and I love to see the different ways they connect with it — from doing artwork to writing stories of their own.  During my visits, I let my listeners know that I used to be a reluctant reader (I was much more into TV), but that when I found the right book, I became a reader.  I remind them that if they’re not excited about reading, perhaps they haven’t found their right book yet.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to continually engage young readers and how can we attract their attention to reading with all the electronics and over-saturation by parents into extra curriculars? (this was a mom question!!)

A: Reading is a foundation for success in life, so anything we can do to engage kids with books and make reading fun contributes to making happier, more successful kids.  For those who are more electronically-minded, sometimes you almost have to force them to read, but if you can help them find a book that interests them, this becomes an easier task.  Tailoring the book to the kid is the key, and with electronically-distracted kids, you’ve got to find books that really grab the reader and don’t let go.  Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy technology as much as the next guy – I just want kids to also spend time enjoying reading.

Q:  You’ve written a lot of other books too of course and received an Edgar. What’s it like to have such a large back list? Do you still love writing kid’s book as much as when you first started?

A: It’s kind of amazing to me to look at my office bookshelf and see how much of it is filled by my own books – 44 and counting!  I remember when publishers rejected every story I wrote, and I yearned to get published.  Of course, having such a large backlist makes it tricky when I visit schools, since that’s far too many books to offer kids (to say nothing of autographing them all)!

I consider myself very fortunate to be making my living doing what I love, and I still love creating stories as much as I did when I first started out.

Q: What is your personal favorite type of monster and why?

A: My favorite has always been the werewolf.  Maybe it’s because wolves are one of my favorite animals, or maybe it’s because I love that whole shapeshifter thing?  I don’t know.  I just know that werewolves rule.

Q: What are your plans for the future – both near and far?

A: For the near future, some hot tea and another scoop of ice cream.  No, I jest (but not entirely).  Right now, I’m working on a new middle-grade series called Class Pets, about all the adventures that classroom pets get into when the students are away.  That comes out in 2018.  I’m also starting to brainstorm the story I’ll work on after those are finished, and I’m about to begin a round of work-related travel that will take me from New York to Tokyo.  For the longer term, I’m looking forward to writing and illustrating books for as long as I have stories to share.

Erin/Addie: Ice cream sounds good!! ha! We look forward to your future books. Thanks so very much for stopping by to see us and sharing your love of writing and reading. We will be on the lookout for the next book!

Bruce: It’s been a pleasure!  Thanks for the fun questions.

bruce-hale-at-beachBruce Hale, Biography –

Raised by wolves just outside Los Angeles, Bruce Hale began his writing career while living in Tokyo, and continued it after moving to Hawaii. He’s too modest to mention his Nobel Peace Prize and his Olympic Gold Medal (in long-distance procrastination), so we won’t mention them. Before entering the world of children’s books, Bruce worked as a magazine editor, toymaker, gardener, actor, corporate lackey, and DJ.

From picture books to novels and graphic novels, Bruce has written and/or illustrated over 40 books for kids. His popular series include the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, School For S.P.I.E.S., and Clark the Shark, among others.

When not writing or illustrating, Bruce loves to perform. He has appeared on stage, on television, and in an independent film called The Ride, where he played a surfer’s agent. Bruce is a popular speaker and storyteller for audiences of all ages, from the lunchroom to the boardroom. In 1998, he won a Fulbright Grant to teach storytelling and study folklore in Thailand. (No, he doesn’t speak much Thai, but he loves the food.)

A member of the National Speakers Association, Bruce has presented at colleges, universities, and conferences, both nationally and internationally. On top of that, he has visited schools and libraries from New York to New Delhi. (And yes, he loves to travel.)

These days, Bruce lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, his sweet mutt, Riley, and his massive collection of hats. When he’s not at the computer or drawing board, you can find him hiking, kickboxing, watching movies, or bicycling. Bruce also sings with a latin jazz band called Mezcal Martini.

MantisMutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! (A Monstertown Mystery #2), Synopsis –

  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Hyperion (March 7, 2017)
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2017
How well do you know the lunch servers at your school? Sure, they seem like nice people, but what if secretly they are something much, much weirder?
Best friends Carlos and Benny, who just saved their teacher from becoming a were-hyena, have been called upon to investigate the strange goings-on in the cafeteria. Why are the lunch ladies suddenly so grumpy? Why are the girls’ meals different from the boys’? And what was that thing seen scuttling around the kitchen wearing an apron?
Purchase –
Or ask for it at your local indie bookstore or public library!

Praise for Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies

Along with trotting in a cast of exemplary diversity, Hale spins the scenario in such wild and hilarious directions that even the climactic release of whole garbage bags full of roaches in the crowded lunchroom isn’t the grossest thing that happens. –Kirkus

Addie, Guest Interviewer –

addieAddie is 9 years old and enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, art, baking, laughing, sports, gardening, animals, mysteries, and just about anything else – yep she has a lot of interests, especially when they’re fun.

However, she does take her school work seriously, and also strives for great grades. She really into reading stories of all kinds and interviewing authors for a behind-the-scenes look. She’s very happy to review books and wants to start her own blog soon.


Filed under Q and A with Authors

Interview: Featuring Co-Authors of Shadow Run, the YA Sci-Fi Thriller

For fans of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and Star Wars, SHADOW RUN is an addictive, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

“A grand space adventure, chock-full of action, battles of good and evil, love, and betrayal. The world-building is excellent…Fans of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer and the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman will especially enjoy this strong debut in the YA space opera genre.” —School Library Journal

Hi friends! Random House Children’s Book imprint Delcorte Press contacted me about reviewing their new YA sci-fi SHADOW RUN and interviewing its co-authors AdriAnne  Strickland and Michael Miller in a limited online promotion. Many people know I’m a lover of all types of books, and generally with a couple of teenagers, I gather additional insight now too! As a lover of sci-fi myself in all the ways the book described I was sold on featuring it. I’ll be reviewing the copy they sent me once I get it read too. Today, I have a great interview with the authors – I’m quite impressed that AdriAnne is a commercial fisherwoman in Alaska! The concept of co-authors is also interesting. The book can be for adults or for a young adult in your life, so check it out! Enjoy the interview below and I love to hear from you, so feel free to leave comments.

Shadow Run


Hi AdriAnne and Michael! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am a huge fan of DUNE and FIREFLY both, and yet, my teen daughter had caught me on to books like LEGEND and SIX OF CROWS so your book, SHADOW RUN, just popped at me when I read the synopsis. Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

AdriAnne: The usual sci-fi classics like Star Wars, Firefly, and DUNE were definitely inspirations, but also Alaska. I’m a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and that definitely worked its way into the book in the form of harvesting a dangerous energy source, a.k.a. “fishing” for Shadow. And also, we wanted to capture that “found family” feeling that doesn’t just exist on ships like the Kaitan and Serenity, but up here, where the wilderness and the low population really make for tight knit groups of friends that essentially become your family.

As I mentioned, you’re hitting all sort of decades and age groups with the comparisons. Did you keep that in mind when writing it or have you just happened to be able to target not only teens but their moms or dads into sci-fi as well?

Michael: We targeted ourselves, I think, and it turns out we love the stories as much as the age they were intended for! I don’t think we’re alone in that. I firmly believe is a good story is a good story, even if the struggles might refer more to one stage of life than another. Qole and Nev are dealing with issues of identity we typically ascribe to younger ages, but they are also grappling with intergalactic intrigue. It beats C-SPAN, what can I say.  

You’re getting some rave reviews so far! That must make you so excited. What is some of your favorite lines of praise so far from readers or reviewers?

A: That people who don’t like traditional hard sci-fi love our book. That we’ve gotten people more excited to read other sci-fi. That we’ve written characters that people can root for. Also, I think someone called Basra “Our Lord and Savior,” so that’s just hilarious/the best.

This is part of a bigger series called Kaitan Chronicles, and is book one, so when are the next books scheduled to be out? How many to do you think you’ll write? What are some of the vague ideas of where you’ll take the readers with this series?

M: The Kaitan Chronicles are intended to be about four books, although I think I’d be perfectly happy to write forty—the story ideas in this universe don’t stop coming. The next book is already written, actually, and going through copyedits right now—it should be out in spring of next year!

I really hate it when people just say, “I can’t spoil anything!” but now I see why they do––it’s tricky to provide anything of substance without giving away the good bits! We do have a definite story arc in mind, and I’m really looking forward to people realizing that story threads are getting laid now that will be important later.

How difficult has it been or is currently to write a book/series as a duo? What does that involve? Positive take aways? Challenges?

A: It’s been remarkably easy. We work together well, and also having dual POVs really allows us to run with our own voices for our characters without sounding out of sync. We generally brainstorm a lot in person, where we can gesticulate wildly, cackle fiendishly, and scribble things down, but we also do a lot of writing apart, using Google docs on smaller files and the latest MS Word for the full manuscript, which lets people edit simultaneously from the cloud. It’s been a mostly positive experience—when you’re stuck, you have a sounding board and can usually brainstorm a way out of a sticky situation in moments, when it would have taken me days and days on my own. Of course we have our disagreements on how to resolve issues or plot points, but meeting challenges like that honestly led to some of the stronger bits of the book.

What are some words of advice you have for teen writers?

A: Keep writing! Everyone wants to be a massive success the first go around but really, it’s such an accomplishment to just finish something. And don’t stop there. Keep writing, keep practicing. I know it’s cliché, but practice makes perfect. Even if you need to write two, three, four or more novels to get published, you’ll make it so long as you keep writing.

AdriAnne, you do commercial fishing you mentioned in the summer season. Does that give you plenty of time to be creative in your head with your writing? What’s it like living in Alaska?

A: I don’t have much time to do anything more than work and sleep in the summer (and sometimes not even sleep), but it gives me plenty of time to be creative during the rest of the year. It’s what let me really dive into writing full time—I’d make my living for the rest of the year in the summer, and have the rest of the year to devote to something that would take a while before it made me any money. And living in Alaska is incomparable. The wilderness, the towering, craggy mountains and raging rivers, the long, brutally cold winters and endlessly sunny summers—this place works in extremes, and I love it.

Michael, what are your hobbies? Tell us about yourself.

M: I grew up in the woods on an off-the grid homestead, which definitely led to a profound love of reading. We would go to town every few weeks and I would load up on books to last me the month. They lasted about half that. My Mom was also a big influence in instilling a love of reading in me—she spent a lot of time researching high-quality books to recommend that both fell into my interest range but were more challenging. In retrospect, I see she was very crafty.

I later became an Apple consultant. As you might guess, that means I’m a giant nerd, so my hobbies include things like board gaming, video gaming, and attempting to game the system (not that last one). But growing up in the woods also made me love hiking and horseback riding and being on the water, so I’m basically a hiking, typing contradiction.

Where can everyone find you both online?

A: As for websites, we each have personal sites (,, but we also have a site just for the series, to which we’ll be regularly adding more nerdy content about the world—or galaxy, rather! You’ll find it at

We’re also both on Twitter (@AdriAnneMS and @begemotike), and AdriAnne is on Instagram at adrianne.strickland.

Thanks so much to you for stopping by and telling us about your book and yourselves! Best of luck with SHADOW RUN and the rest of the series. 

Shadow RunShadow Run
(Book One – Kaitan Chronicles)

Delacorte Press
Random House Children’s Books
402 pages
March 21, 2017

Synopsis –

Her ship. His plan. Their survival.

 Nev just started as the cargo hauler on the starship Kaitan Heritage. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person on Alaxak to have her own ship. She’s brassy and bold, and she tolerates no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. As for Nev, he’s actually a prince in hiding. He thinks Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, but when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, he resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

Before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive. Nev’s mission to manipulate her becomes one to save her. To survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. Nev may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power of her own–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

For fans of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and Star Wars, SHADOW RUN is an addictive, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Praise –

“An entertaining intergalactic ride.” —Bulletin

“[A] well-executed sci-fi caper…full of intriguing commentary about wealth inequality and exploitation.” —Booklist

“Readers will want to join Qole’s crew.” —Kirkus Reviews

An explosive debut! Shadow Run is a high-octane space tale that brings back everything there is to love about classic science fiction—I can’t wait to see what these two come up with next!”—Lindsay Cummings, author of NYT bestseller Zenith

Purchase at Amazon and other online retailers and stores. Ask your indie bookstore and library to carry too!


AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller Coauthor photo credit Lukas StricklandADRIANNE STRICKLAND and MICHAEL MILLER met in their hometown of Palmer, Alaska, where they agreed on 99% of book taste and thus decided to write together.

AdriAnne spends her summers as a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the rest of the year writing.

Michael grew up off the grid in a homestead in Alaska and now works in IT and tech.

This is their first book together. Visit them on Twitter, AdriAnne at @AdriAnneMS and Michael at @begemotike.


Filed under Q and A with Authors

My First Video Interview with Historical Author Elaine Cougler

Today, I have my first ever You Tube interview of sorts! It wasn’t in person, or with me speaking in it, but I sent Elaine Cougler, historical authors of The Loyalist Legacy, my questions and she answered them in a video. It turned out great – she’s an elegant speaker and I enjoyed listening to her verbalizing her answers.

She wanted me to note that the first few seconds are a little wavering but then it picks up just fine! I really appreciate the nice words she left for me at the end of the interview as well.

Elaine is a marvelous person and wonderful writer and if you like anything surrounding the American Revolution time period, I would check her out.

Here is the video interview, click to head to You Tube: 

As mentioned previously, Elaine Cougler has written a wonderful trilogy, The Loyalist Trilogy, and the third book, The Loyalist Legacy recently released just in time for the holidays. This trilogy follows the stories of a family over generations who are Ontario-area Canadian loyalists to the Crown during the time of the American Revolution. You can read my review of the third book HERE. For the reviews and interviews previously done, scroll below.


The Loyalist Legacy, Synopsis –

After the crushing end of the War of 1812, William and Catherine Garner find their allotted two hundred acres in Nissouri Township by following the Thames River into the wild heart of Upper Canada. On their valuable land straddling the river, dense forest, wild beasts, displaced Natives, and pesky neighbors daily challenge them. The political atmosphere laced with greed and corruption threatens to undermine all of the new settlers’ hopes and plans.

William knows he cannot take his family back to Niagara but he longs to check on his parents from whom he has heard nothing for two years. Leaving Catherine and their children, he hurries back along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return home in time for spring planting.

With spectacular scenes of settlers recovering from the wartime catastrophes in early Ontario, Elaine Cougler shows a different kind of battle, one of ordinary people somehow finding the inner resources to shape new lives and a new country. The Loyalist Legacy delves further into the history of the Loyalists as they begin to disagree on how to deal with the injustices of the powerful “Family Compact” and on just how loyal to Britain they want to remain.

I’ve featured Elaine many times before: you can read a review of her first book, The Loyalist’s Wife, HERE, which beings the story of John and Lucy; you can read my review of her second book, The Loyalist’s Luck, HERE, which continues their war torn story in Niagara area; you can read an interview I did with Elaine after book two came out HERE. This can all give you a great idea about this exciting trilogy if you’d not yet read any of them.

Praise for Elaine Cougler and The Loyalist Trilogy of Books –

“….absolutely fascinating….Cougler doesn’t hold back on the gritty realities of what a couple might have gone through at this time, and gives a unique view of the Revolutionary War that many might never have considered.” – Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

“….an intriguing story” – A Bookish Affair

“I highly recommend this book for any student of history or anyone just looking for a wonderful story.” – Book Lovers Paradise

“Elaine’s storytelling is brave and bold.” – Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Purchase The Loyalist Legacy



03_Elaine CouglerElaine Cougler, Biography

Elaine Cougler is the author of historical novels about the lives of settlers in the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution.

Cougler uses the backdrop of the conflict for page-turning fictional tales where the main characters face torn loyalties, danger and personal conflicts.

Her Loyalist trilogy: The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy coming in 2016. The Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair selected The Loyalist’s Wife as a finalist in its Self-Publishing Awards. The Middlesex County Library selected the book as its choice for book club suggestions. The Writers Community of Durham Region presented Elaine with a Pay-It-Forward Award.

Elaine has led several writing workshops and has been called on to speak about the Loyalists to many groups. She writes the blog, On Becoming a Wordsmith, about the journey to publication and beyond. She lives in Woodstock with her husband. They have two grown children.

Elaine Cougler can be found on Twitter, Facebook Author Page, LinkedIn and on her blog.




Filed under Q and A with Authors

Interview: Julie K. Rose Talks about Writing, Research, Tunisian Cake, and More!

I’m pleased today to have Julie K. Rose drop by for tea and cookies (and bringing a cake recipe by too that sounds lovely) and to talk about her newest book, Dido’s Crown, as well her life and writing! I hope you enjoy our conversation. If you missed my exciting review of Dido’s Crown earlier this week, you can see it HERE. It’s a wonderful story, set in 1935, of a woman caught up in espionage in Tunisia!


Hi Julie! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so excited about your newest fictional endeavor, Dido’s Crown. As I prepare our seats and refreshment, tell me, what’s behind that name?

Julie: Hi! I’m so excited to be back. You always have the best refreshments, and conversation! In terms of the name, it’s tied to an important plot point in the book, so I don’t want to say too much. That said, it ties nicely to Tunisia – Dido was the founder and first queen of Carthage, modern-day Tunis. And I like the suggestion of Dido’s complicated and melancholy story.

Erin: Yay!! Yes, it does. 🙂 We will let them all find out by reading the book! How exciting has this been for you to release another book? It’s so hot here in Ohio – I mean it’s not autumn weather at all that we are used this time of year. We will be wearing swimsuits for Halloween. And with a serial killer being arrested here it’s been a bit stressful. So I’m up for relaxing in my comfy library chairs with you while we talk about Dido’s Crown. And I’m thinking mojitos today – they are my favorite. We can do mint and other assorted flavors…..blueberry…cherry…. You’ve packed for a weekend stay right?

Julie: Of course I did! Sitting together, chatting about books sounds just like the antidote to the world that I need this week.This world is completely nuts, so art is more important than ever. It helps us remember how to be human, you know? I’d actually love a cup of hot, sweet mint tea if you don’t mind. Puts me in a North Africa kind of mood.

Erin: Okay, mint tea is one of my faves for Fall and Winter and since the air conditioning is on late for this time of year I’ll make some and it won’t make me too hot. My ex-husband was from Egypt and hot tea was a must drink (or Turkish coffee). We can save the mojitos for another day since you’ll be staying awhile. I’ve baked up some spice cookies in the Dutch tradition though! I suppose that is not very North African.. They just sound good today and I think you’ll like them. They smell like Fall or Christmas and I’m anticipating those seasons. I’ll pour the tea and we’ll get started! Oh –I always ask you to share a recipe when you come too! Do you have one you’d like to share on this trip? May I can make that for us for later.

Julie:  Oooh spice cookies are the BEST.

I do have a recipe! This is for Tunisian Orange and Almond cake. Tunisia is a country of real contrast, and the northern climes are home to vineyards and orchards – very similar to the climate here in the Bay Area. Orange cake plays an important role right in the first chapter of Dido’s Crown.

This is adapted from Reza Mahammad’s recipe, found here:

tunisian cake.jpg


  • 1 cupsuperfine sugar (not powdered)
  • ¾ cup ground almond
  • ¼ cup panko crumbs, slightly stale breadcrumbs or cake crumb
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed oranges
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • For the syrup:
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • ½ tbsp orange blossom water
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Line and grease an 8″ spring-form cake tin.
  2. Mix together the sugar, almonds, panko crumbs, both zests and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and the oil.
  4. Pour onto the almond mixture and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a cold oven. (At this point make the syrup)
  6. Turn on to 355°F and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a plate.
  8. While the cake is warm, pierce it all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and pour on some of the syrup.
  9. Keep spooning over more syrup every now and then until it’s all been absorbed.

For the syrup:

  1. Make the syrup by adding all the ingredients except the orange blossom water into a saucepan. Bring gently to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar whilst allowing the liquid to thicken to a syrupy consistency.
  2. Add the orange blossom water and remove the spices which can be used to decorate the cake.
  3. Set aside till cake ready. To serve, dust with icing sugar and serve on a cake stand with Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche and summer berries.

Erin: Yum!! Yes I’ll definitely make that for us for tomorrow! Thanks for sharing that!

Dido’s Crown is a 1930s novel of intrigue that you describe as being inspired by Indiana Jones and John Le Carré. Two of my favorite things! Plus The Thin Man! I was thrilled when I found out your wrote a story about a woman who takes on a mystery during the political international landscape of 1935! Where did you come up with this idea?

Julie: I’m not sure if I can pinpoint how and where I came up with the concept. I knew I wanted to set a book in Tunisia; I’ve always been fascinated by North Africa, and Tunisia has an amazing history. So I knew I would set at least some of the book there. The plot itself definitely took more time and evolved over the years that I wrote it. It was initially going to be focused on Tom and Will and their time just before WWI, and at that point, the British Secret Service angle hadn’t appeared – it was initially about these two scholars at Oxford. I wish I could remember the moment that Mary showed up, because she of course changed everything.

Erin: Your novel travels around the globe with Mary. How did you research the locations during these time periods and bring them with such vivid description to the page?

Julie:Modern travel guidebooks were actually incredibly useful as a starting point, as I’ve not yet had the chance to visit Tunisia. YouTube was also great – lots of videos of modern Tunisia helped me understand the lay of the land. YouTube was also surprisingly helpful in terms of films of Tunisia at the time. And of course, the normal research you’d expect – contemporary and scholarly sources.

Erin: What background research on the history of this time period did you do and how factual is the foundation your fictional story rest upon?

Julie: Ahhhhh research! The 1930s was a really interesting time for Tunisia, politically speaking, so there was a lot of great scholarly research to tap into. As a matter of fact, I’ve posted a bibliography at my website with a small set of the books and articles I consulted. In terms of the 1930s, there were quite a few great resources, including The Thirties by Juliet Gardiner. The research on the British Secret Intelligence Service was a load of fun, and I particularly loved The Secret History of MI6 by Keith Jeffery.

The foundational information is factual – the SIS, the different stations, the influence of the Deuxième Bureau in colonial life, the Tunisian independence movement, etc. The origin story I created for numbers stations, while based on research into espionage techniques and what we know of numbers station history (which is very little), is pure fiction.

Erin: How did you learn to pace your novel in order to keep the action moving but yet also create your characters with dimension and depth?

Julie: Well, I hope I accomplished that…and if I did, I’m not quite sure how! To be very honest, this book was a bear for me to write. I had to devise ways to keep myself on track, not only with chronologies but also with motivations both at a macro (Secret Intelligence Service) level and a micro level (individual characters). Ultimately the action is accomplished by character, so those personalities and desires were the primary focus.

Erin: Talk about your cover a little bit and the thought behind it?

Julie: I was initially interested in using a painting called Olga by David Jagger (1935), because the subject is so very much like the Mary in my mind.


Olga by David Jagger / Submitted by Julie K. Rose

Unfortunately, I couldn’t obtain the rights for the painting, and I think in the end, it worked out better. I did a search at Bridgeman Art for “photograph” and “1935” and found the gorgeous photo I ended up using, which is held by a museum in New Zealand. I love the look of the woman – she feels self-contained, a little wistful, and a little mysterious. My brother had the genius idea of overlaying the map of Tunis, which gives the cover an interesting weathered look from afar, and a second layer of mystery when you see it up close.

Erin: The cover is amazing!! And your brother had a great idea. How long have you been working on the novel? What kind of steps do you put into the process?

Julie: I started working on the novel in 2011, when I was blocked in the midst of trying to finish my last book, Oleanna. That book was published in 2012 and I picked at Dido’s Crown for a bit, but then went through a period of depression and didn’t come back to the book again until the summer of 2015. The steps are pretty much the same as most writers: a very rough first draft, set it aside and percolate on it for a bit, do another draft, lather, rinse, repeat.

Erin: What did you find out about yourself through the process of writing Dido’s Crown?

Julie: I learned that droughts end, dark times pass, and the creative spark will still be there when you come back to it. It’s a very reassuring thing.

Erin: What did you learn about your writing and your process from the publication of Oleanna in 2012 to the your current release?

Julie:I learned to finally not just embrace the rewriting process, but actually enjoy it. I also learned to respect my creative rhythms more. And I knew this, but it was an important reminder: good critique partners and editors are worth their weight in gold.

Erin: You’ll always an inspiration to me, Julie. I really enjoy your motivational YouTube videos. Can you talk about why you prompted to do those, how they help you, and how you hope they help others? Will you keep doing them?

Julie: Oh my goodness, thank you! There are a couple of motivations behind the videos. The first is that I really wanted to try something that scared me. I had taken a public speaking training at work, in which everything we did was filmed. It was both scary and eye opening, and it gave me confidence. But presenting to a group of your colleagues is one thing; filming a video and posting it where any random stranger could see it was initially terrifying. Who the hell am I to take up space? Who the hell am I to have a voice? But there’s something that feels revolutionary and empowering about being seen, as a middle-aged woman, you know? And once I started doing the videos, I found I enjoyed the hell out of them. I like the whole process – writing the script, setting up the shot, filming, editing, etc.

As to the content: I feel like I just recovered my own creativity last year, and realized what a precious and important thing it is. This year has been absolutely insane, on a cultural and political front, and art and creativity are an important bulwark against the horror. I know it can be hard for people, especially women, to embrace their creativity and give themselves permission to do art and be creative. But it’s more important than ever.

I will definitely continue to do videos; I’m kind of addicted now. I may add to the Courage & Creativity series, and I have ideas for other series that could be a lot of fun.

Erin: I look forward to more videos. They truly help me!

What is the best snack you can eat when working your “second job” of writing, editing, promo, etc.? I want to see what’s in your secret snack drawer….

Julie: Oh gosh. I used to have a terrible bubble gum habit, which I’ve finally broken myself of. I don’t snack when I write, because I’m usually writing first thing in the morning before my day job, so if it’s anything, it’s some oatmeal or toast. But I always need to have something to drink – coffee (with sugar-free peppermint syrup!) or hot tea.

Erin: You must be a morning person! I find so many writers tell me they don’t snack when writing. I feel all I do is type five words – snack – type five words -snack. haha!

What do you think you want to write in the future? Do you have any plans or thoughts for topics?

Julie: I’m working on my next book now. It’s set in my home town of San José in 1906, right at the time of the great earthquake. The history of the Santa Clara Valley (now known as the Silicon Valley) is fascinating, and little known outside California, so I’m hoping to shed some light there.

Erin: If you could write a book about a woman in history, who would it be? If you could have 5 critique partners for the book, who would they be?

Julie:This is so tough. I love stories about regular folks, so I’d love to write something about what it was like to live through the troubles in Northumbria in the 6th and 7th centuries. If pressed to write about a famous woman, my first instinct is Boudicca, though I’d love to write someday about Princess Kristina of Norway. She was married to Philip of Castile in 1258, only to die four years later at the age of 28. She had wished a church honoring St. Olav be built, and her wish was finally granted 750 years later in Covarrubias in 2011.

Erin: Yes, now you must write of Princess Kristina!  Okay – a fun question. Your favorite coffee mug is….?

Julie: Is it sad that I have more than one? The “Please do not annoy the writer” mug is from a friend and is both funny and true. The Sons of Heptarchy Northumbria mug is via the British History Podcast and references the sons of Ida, the king of Bernicia. It makes me laugh every time I look at it. And the Good Mythical Morning mug is from my favorite morning show. 


Erin: So cool! I love to see people’s coffee/tea mugs. Give good insight!

If people dedicated a weekend to your book and wanted to throw in a movie to make the event complete, what would they watch? Feel free to give more than one suggestion.

Julie: Oh gosh! Well, pop some popcorn and settle in. Of course, I’d start with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Did you know the scenes that are set in Cairo were actually filmed in Tunis? Beyond that connection, it’s just a great adventure and I love the action, and of course Harrison Ford. I’d follow it up with The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy and William Powell. The dialog is to die for, and it’s a great Hollywood version of the mid-1930s. Finally, if you’re still awake, definitely watch Design for Living (1933). Though based on Noël Coward’s 1932 play, it diverged quite a bit and I think it’s delightful. Plus: Gary Cooper and Frederic March. Come on.

Erin: It’s always a joy to have you on my site, dear friend. As always, I wish you the best of luck with your newest book. I’m so happy and excited for you! Cheers to another cup of hot tea (and mojitos tomorrow) – stay awhile and chat.

Julie: It is always such a pleasure to sit with you, my dear! Thank you always for your support and friendship, you’re such a delight! And yes, let’s keep chatting. These cookies are delicious!

02_dido%27s-crownDido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose

Publication Date: September 29, 2016
Paperback; 340 Pages
ISBN13: 9781365316333

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

Set in Tunisia and France in 1935, Dido’s Crown is a taut literary-historical adventure influenced by Indiana Jones, The Thin Man, and John le Carré.

Mary Wilson MacPherson has always been adept at putting the past behind her: her father’s death, her sister’s disappearance, and her complicated relationship with childhood friends Tom and Will. But that all changes when, traveling to North Africa on business for her husband, Mary meets a handsome French-Tunisian trader who holds a mysterious package her husband has purchased — a package which has drawn the interest not only of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, but the Nazis as well.

When Tom and Will arrive in Tunisia, Mary suddenly finds herself on a race across the mesmerizing and ever-changing landscapes of the country, to the shores of southern France, and all across the wide blue Mediterranean. Despite her best efforts at distancing herself from her husband’s world, Mary has become embroiled in a mystery that could threaten not only Tunisian and British security in the dangerous political landscape of 1935, but Mary’s beliefs about her past and the security of her own future.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_julie-k-roseAuthor Julie K. Rose, Biography

A member of the Historical Novel Society and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review, Julie lives in the Bay Area with her husband and rescue cats, and loves reading, following the San Francisco Giants, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Her historical adventure novel, Dido’s Crown, has released in September 2016.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her second novel. The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom competition and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

For more information, please visit Julie K. Rose’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.


Check out the Tour Schedule HERE!

Hashtags: #DidosCrownBlogTour #Historical #Fiction
#HistFic #JulieKRose #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @JulieKRose



Filed under Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized

Interview: Author Anna Belfrage Sits Down to Discuss Writing

Author Anna Belfrage is no stranger to this site. She’s been here numerous times for her beloved series – the time travel historical novels of The Graham Saga – and now, she’s been back already a few times for her new medieval series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. The second book in that series, Days of Sun and Glory, released this year and we talk about that among other new and upcoming adventures she has under her sleeve. Enjoy our discussion below her magnificent cover…..



Hi Anna! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It seems we were just talking about gingerbread and tea and Christmas traditions when your first The King’s Greatest Enemy novel, In the Shadow of the Storm, came out this past December 2015. Time has flown since then, and it’s already September of 2016 and time for another book by you! What have you been up to? What’s some good news for the year?

Anna: Hi Erin – and it is so nice to be back here in your cozy corner of the blogosphere. Yes, time does fly, doesn’t it, and this wonderful, warm summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. As to what I’ve been doing, well, I guess it comes as no surprise that I’ve been writing. A lot. As to good news, I am rather chuffed that Days of Sun and Glory has already been named a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice – and that I have mastered the art of making mojitos.

Mojitos are my absolute favorite so I probably should have had you make our drinks today! Your “Anna” chair is still here for you, so have a seat so we can talk about the second book, Days of Sun and Glory. You’re visiting me so it’s about 99 degrees and humid in Ohio. I don’t even think I shall turn on the oven! Shall we have some sort of iced tea or lemonade – I have sun tea with mint leaves on the porch or freshly squeezed lemonade with fruit? What’s your pleasure?

Anna: The lemonade! Throws me back to my childhood in Colombia, where every day when I came home after school there was lemonade and “morenitas” (chocolate-dipped thin cookies) waiting for me.

Erin: I will get the pitcher and pour us some drinks as we cool off in the corner of my library. I baked muffins early morning, peach and blueberry, so I will pull some of those out for us. We can get started to chat a little about your new series and new book once one of us doesn’t have our mouth full. We can look at your beautiful cover until then. How important to you are these beautiful covers? Do you think they assist you in selling your books?

Anna: I do. I actually start the cover production relatively early in my creative process, as I find the effort of defining the visual presentation of my book acts as an inspiration for the writing as such. I want the cover to hint at the content of the book, so it is important for me to have a “medieval” flavor on this cover. I hope I – or rather my fabulous cover artist, Oliver Bennett at MoreVisual – have succeeded in delivering that.

Erin: We explained last time that you ended your time slip The Graham Saga series (Waaaaa!!! Readers – if you haven’t read this, get it NOW!) and started a new series which is not time slip at all, but medieval historical fiction surrounding Edward II and his wife Isabella of France, set in the 1320s! We had a great interview on the start of your new series and the first book, as I stated, back in December. It’s still a good read for new readers, so they can get to that from this link HERE.


As you began writing the second book in this series, did you intentionally write it so it could be read as a standalone or did you intend have it join one book to the next? Of course either way your characters carry over….

Anna: I think it is important the various books in a series can be read as standalones. A new reader should not groan and put it down after fifty pages, thinking it is too much of an effort to catch up with the characters. Having said that, I believe the books are enhanced by being read in order.

Erin: Because I’ve had you on so often, I believe I’ve asked you this before, but let’s look into this again. Did you write all of these books at one time, then split them up and stagger out their release dates? Or do you write each one between the other?

Anna: Ha! Not a question I recall you having asked before. In general, I write all the books in a series before I start publishing them. But I write them as separate books, not as one long story I then have to go back and split up.

Erin: I have asked it, but I always like to bring that up. It’s a unique of doing it I think most authors writing a series of books should try! Why did you choose to do it this way and was it easier that way or more difficult?

Anna: Well, as a reader I hate it when I start a series and it takes several years between installments. So, by having all the books written, I can release them at adequate intervals. Also, by writing the complete series, I can ensure I have consistency throughout – and I also have a major problem in leaving my characters hanging, so I have to find out what happens to them, all the way.  Having said all this, the fact that the books are written does not mean they’re finished. Book 3 in the Kit and Adam series is now on its way into the next editing phase which culminates with an external editor taking over.

Erin: Did you do your research all at one time? What did you do for research? Go to libraries? Read? Travel? Tell us some of your best research stories…

Anna: For The King’s Greatest Enemy (in which Days of Sun and Glory is number 2 of 4) I’d done most of my general research prior to writing. Once into the writing, I have a drafted timeline of “real” events to consider as I develop the novel, but there are frequent examples of me highlighting a paragraph or a word in yellow, which means I must revert and research further. I do this after the first draft, so as not to interrupt the flow. I read a lot on line, but I also buy nice, heavy books I can spend hours reading (very distracting at times).  And I do travel to the various locations – I find it important to have a feel for the general lay of the land.

Best research stories – hmm… I must admit I was rather surprised when I read Ian Mortimer’s meticulous descriptions of items confiscated from Roger Mortimer (and no, they are NOT related) when Roger was attained, only to realise this particular baron had a thing about butterflies – he even had a tunic embroidered with them. Whimsical – but also very humanizing.

Erin: You had to form to new characters with this series, and we talked on that the last time, but as you went further into your series, did you hear them conversing with you and each other as you did the Grahams? Were you as connected to them? Why or why not?

Anna: Poof! Do they talk? OMG! My head is full of them. Not only Kit and Adam, Roger Mortimer and Isabella, but also Matthew and Alex (Matthew and Adam have bonded over several mugs of good ale) and various other Graham family members. Unfortunately, these my beloved chatterboxes are at their most active just after midnight, which has a detrimental impact on sleep.

Erin: How accurate did you strive to make your historical accounts and characters in the book? The guest post you wrote for my readers the other day, which they can read HERE, talked about forming Isabella. Do you think overall you captured close to their character of record, or did they take you in new directions?

Anna: I think it is more or less impossible to know what my “real” historical characters were truly like as people. In some cases, we know what they did and when they did it, but human beings are so much more than the sum of their actions, and from a distance of seven centuries, how are we to assess their motivations, their fears and hopes? I do try to stick to the known events, and often a sequence of events reveals a lot about the person – but it is my interpretation of the facts that colour the characters. As a specific example, take Roger Mortimer, who until relatively recently was mostly depicted as hungry for power, harsh and domineering. I am quite sure he was all of those, but he was also a father of twelve, a devoted husband – at least for the first twenty years or so of his marriage – and, by all accounts, initially a capable and loyal servant to his king, Edward II. I write the story mainly from Adam’s perspective, and he owes everything he has – including his life – to Mortimer, so obviously his take on Mortimer will be somewhat rose-tinted. Not, necessarily, a correct interpretation of Mortimer when applying a holistic approach, but neither can we say it is wrong. Mortimer inspired strong loyalties, and in my experience men who do so have quite a few redeeming qualities. However, as the story progresses, Adam is forced to confront the fact that the hero of his youth is not always a hero, and this causes quite some tension.

Once my characters begin to take shape, I take a step back to allow them to develop as per their own inclinations. Sometimes, they surprise me – Isabella most definitely does so in book four – and while there are no historical records proving this is what they did or said, neither are there records to disprove it. Perfect, IMO.

Erin: What has been your favorite character to write so far? Why?

Anna: In all my books? Alex Graham in The Graham Saga sits very close to my heart – but so do Matthew and Adam – and Kit, especially as she grows into her full potential. And Jason &Helle (whom you haven’t met yet) But if I have to choose, it’s Alex, probably because she gets to time travel – lucky her! (“Lucky?” Alex snorts. Yeah, yeah…we’ve heard it all before, and seriously, honey, if I hadn’t dragged you back in time, someone else would have ended up as Matthew’s very happy wife.)

Erin: What theme(s) do you hope readers take away from The Days of Sun and Glory? What could they ponder as they await the third book?

Anna: This is very much a book about a child caught up in the conflict between his parents. In Days of Sun and Glory, the future Edward III takes up a lot of space, angrily defending his slighted mother to his father, helplessly standing to the side when his mother and her lover bring war to his father’s kingdom. Adam does his best to protect his young lord from all this emotional turmoil and pain, but he can’t shield the boy as much as he would want to. Being torn apart by your parents is, sadly, not uncommon in this day and age either, and it always makes me very angry when adults use their children as weapons against each other. Edward, just like any child caught in such a conflict, has little say over what happens – but shoulders a huge portion of guilt.

Erin: What will the next book in the series be about and when can we expect it?

Anna: The next book covers the first few years of Edward III’s reign. Isabella and Mortimer are in control, and not everyone is delighted at this turn of events, putting it mildly. Edward is as yet a boy, but in the fourth book the boy has become a man – a very young man, but definitely a man. God help Isabella and Mortimer then…

The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be out in April 2017.



Erin: If you aren’t writing about Scotland or England, what else catches your fancy to write about? Will it always be historical fiction or do you think you have more genres up your sleeve?

Anna: Oooo, I definitely have more genres up my sleeve. I hope to release the first in a new trilogy early next year, and the preliminary blurb goes something like this:


In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with the golden hair and eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.

Since then, they have tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all in the same place, the same time. It is time to end that which began 3 000 years ago. Time to lay old ghosts to rest, time to finish what was started in distant fogs of time.

This is the story of Jason and his Helle. He betrayed her in their first life – he wants to make amends and has lived through a sequence of lives in a desperate attempt to find her again. He remembers all his lives, she does not – but when she sees him, she knows him, which scares her silly. What also scares her is Sam Woolf, yet another visitor from her distant past – and where Jason wants to make amends, Sam wants revenge…



As to my historical fiction, I am working on a story set in 17th century Sweden. And one set late in 13th century England. And a book featuring a certain Matthew and Alex…


Erin: Do you have more time to write now and what have you been working on? How do you write? Do you outline and plot extensively or do you write as the muse takes you?

Anna: My personal muse, Ms Inspiration, would tell you I am incorrigible & have the attention span of a gnat. A new idea pops up, and off I go to explore it, even if I’m in the midst of something else. I tell Ms Inspiration to remember it is all her fault – she’s the one who distracts me by introducing new characters, new settings, new everything…So no, I generally do not outline or plot extensively – beyond a detailed timeline of actual events.

I’ve had more time to write lately, but I’m back to working again – too much time spent mostly with me and my imaginary friends was actually having a negative effect on my output (And how strange is that, huh? I’ve concluded that when I write as a treat at the end of a working day, the time is more precious and I go all wild and crazy with joy, while when I can do it all the time, some of the glow fades)

Erin: If you didn’t already answer this in the question about research, did you do any traveling this year? If so, what were some of the favorite things you saw?

Anna: I did answer it in passing, but I’ve been fortunate enough to do two research trips to the UK this year. My highlights are Tewkesbury (I could move there tomorrow) and Lincoln (I could move there like right now). Lincoln Cathedral is probably one of the most “soul-touching” experiences in my life. I still haven’t quite recovered from the awe it inspired.

Erin: Where do you hope to go in the future? I just love how big and bright your eyes are always for learning and doing new things!

Anna: I like the BIG part. Recently, my eyes have looked very small 🙂 As to the future, it’s a great start just having one. Obviously, I want to see my book babies “born”, and I would really, really like to master a yoga stance or two. And I’d like to relearn how to ride – preferably on a very small horse so that it won’t hurt as much when I hit the ground (I stopped riding when I was thrown by a thoroughbred and dislocated my shoulder).

Erin: Sweden seems like an amazing place to live. We are always so busy talking I rarely get to ask you about it. For a vicarious traveler, what are some sites that are must views?

Anna: Stockholm. In summer, this must be among the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Sigtuna, a very, very old city where some of the first Swedish coins were produced. Lund, just as old, where some of the first Danish coins were produced (Lund was Danish until mid 17th century) Ironically, both the mint in Sigtuna and in Lund were started by the same Anglo-Saxon mint-master – or so it seems. Malmö, where I live, so that I can have you over for tea, coffee, lemonade, elderberry cordial or whatever else you may want. 🙂 (and that invite includes your family)

Erin: Yay! That would be amazing to visit you. Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the year?

Anna: Other than writing and working? No, not much.  But I am thinking a week or two somewhere very warm and sunny in March or so would be nice.

Erin: Thanks so much Anna for stopping by and hanging out with me again! It’s always fun to have you by to drink, eat, and be merry with me as we talk about your fabulous books, my friend. Be sure to come back soon ( I bet you will, right?)! Best of luck with this new series, but you don’t need it, it’s terrific!

Anna: Thank you for having me! I am more than delighted to stop by and talk to you whenever you want me to.Actually, I can come back and just eat your muffins. 🙂 

Erin: See you again soon, Anna!



Days of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy #2)
by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: July 4, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anna Belfrage, Biography

03_annna_belfrage-2015Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, published in July 2016.

Other than on her website,, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.


To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter below.

Enter via the Gleam Direct Link


– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.


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Interview with Medieval Thriller Author E.M. Powell

What can I say, I just love E.M. Powell. She’s a great writer and a wonderful person. A lot of research goes into her books! The third book in her medieval thriller series released recently so I caught up with her to talk about The Lord of Ireland. If you missed my review of this stellar book, you can read that HERE. Enjoy the interview! (P.S. Love this cover!!)


Hi Elaine, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we visited, and invited Paddington Bear, but this year I think we will go a bit more Irish, since most of your third book, The Lord of Ireland, is placed there. Just like your roots! (And besides, my name is Erin…Ireland!) So welcome, come in and have a seat, I’ll put on the tea or coffee? Your choice today, just let me know your preference? And I’ve baked up some of my Irish soda bread as well so I’ll bring that in.

Elaine: Hi Erin—and yes, it feels like some very nice stars have aligned to have you talk to me about my book on Ireland. Coffee as always, please, though tea is the drink of choice in Ireland. And that bread smells so good!

Erin: Wonderful choice of course as I love coffee (but I also like tea hehe). I’ll pour and bring in a tray of soda bread fresh from the oven.

Let’s get started, as I have some interesting questions to ask you. How exciting is it to now have your third book in your series published?

Elaine: First, I must say, your soda bread is the best. You’ve passed the taste test with a genuine Irish person! As for exciting, having The Lord of Ireland out there in the world is hugely exciting but also deeply fulfilling. It’s been the book of my heart.

Erin: I really enjoy how you’ve switched the setting of this book to somewhere new, and to a place that doesn’t really seem to get as much historical fiction attention in the 12 century. Your details and descriptions were lovely. What gave you the idea to follow this track and how much research was involved?

Elaine: I had a launch of the first book in the series, The Fifth Knight, at the Irish world heritage Centre in Manchester in 2013. That book is set in 1170 England, featuring my fictional eponymous Sir Benedict Palmer, and it centers on the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. A member of the audience asked me if I would ever write a book about medieval Ireland. I said no, but even as the words came out of my mouth, I think that seed was planted.

In continuing the series, I wanted to stay with the theme of using a known historical event and providing my take on it. In the second book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer was charged with trying to figure out who was intent on murdering the Fair Rosamund, the young mistress of Henry II. This was set in 1176, again in England.

As I started to look for another hook (yes, the hook of a book!), I came across an account of Henry’s youngest son, John (he who would be Bad King John), going to Ireland at the age of eighteen and insulting the Irish chieftains who came to welcome him by pulling them by their beards and mocking them. This rang a bell. But further research told me John had an eight month campaign there. And that it was a disaster. And that he went there with his very first title: Lord of Ireland. I was in- and I was going back to Ireland, the land of my birth.

I have to confess, the research commitment to this book was huge. I had to research from the perspective of English/British history and of course Irish history. As you’ll appreciate, these don’t always agree on a consensus!

Erin: In deciding to feature Lackland in this novel, and his adventure to lead Ireland, you seem to have moved somewhat more away from a mystery element to more of an historical thriller. Would you say this is correct? Why did you decided to do so or did your muse and characters dictate the plot?

Elaine: In a way, it was a return to a thriller. The Fifth Knight was a thriller, The Blood of the Fifth Knight was more mystery and then I came back to thriller again. And both have elements of both! The mystery/crime/thriller genre(s) often has huge overlap between all three. I think ultimately The Lord of Ireland was more thriller because of the historical events that took place.

Fifth Knight Series Twitter

Erin: Yes, that’s true I can see that, reading all three. Speaking of Lackland, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, you seemed to prove all the previous writings and rumors of him in history to be true and presented him as such in your novel—cruel and spiteful, and yet, modern historians have tried to paint him more as hard working and more able bodied as a leader. What are your thoughts and why/how did you prove enough to stand behind how you presented him as a character?

Elaine: I read many, many books and articles about John. While there are a few voices that paint him in a more positive light, most are still very much agreed that he was dreadful. One of the most recent biographies of King John is English historian Marc Morris’s 2015 King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta. As one might guess from the title, Morris is not a fan. It’s a wonderful read. As for John’s first trip to Ireland, the eminent Irish historian Seán Duffy sums it up thus: ‘If, as few would dispute, John’s 1185 expedition was a military failure, it was disastrous too in a political sense. ‘

Erin: I always enjoy your characters and you have superb character development that gets deeper with  each novel, both your main characters becoming more complex and your newly introduced sub-characters being created with more depth. I’m always glad to see Palmer again, but I’m very glad you endeavor to give his wife more of a role now. Did you plan that or is her character speaking to you? Why is she becoming such an important asset to Palmer and to the books?

Elaine: I’m so pleased you should say that! Characterization was my Achilles Heel pre-publication and I’m always aware of that. Theodosia, Palmer’s wife, had a more active role in this book because I planned it. In the second book, she was the mother of very small children and I couldn’t allow her to step away from that role as I truly believe most women wouldn’t. And (no spoilers!), she actually had the final say in that book too. A shrinking violet, she ain’t!

Erin: Your series, The Fifth Knight, is in its third book now with The Lord of Ireland. Where will the series go from here? Do you have more planned?

Elaine: I have a Book #4 in the works, which will be the last in the series. I also have a very exciting project linked to Book #2, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, that I can’t discuss yet. Stay tuned!

Erin: What authors influence/influenced you in writing medieval thrillers and who do you enjoy reading?

Elaine: I love Robert Harris’s Pompeii above all else when it comes to historical thrillers. To me, it’s the gold standard. It’s got a wonderful hero- a water engineer (yes, you read that right!) and no one knows that the big old mountain is about to blow. Except the reader. It’s compelling and exciting and above all, you’re THERE. 

Erin: What types of places have you visited in doing your research, either in person or by Internet, that you’ve loved? And why? And did they end up in your book(s)?

Elaine: Part of my research for the Lord of Ireland involved a research trip to Ireland. I know—a tough job, but someone had to do it. I had a clear itinerary as I had the good fortune that Henry II had sent his royal clerk, Gerald of Wales, with John. Gerald wrote an account of John’s campaign and mentioned many of the events that took place as well as the locations John visited. So I started at Waterford, scene of the beard pulling, where John landed. Much of what was present in 1185 still exists—even some of the buildings. Where buildings such as wooden fortresses had long gone, in parts of Co. Tipperary and Co. Kilkenny, I still had the lie of the land to go at. And then there were places that were ancient even when John arrived, like a Durrow in Co. Offaly. There’s a High Cross there that dates from 850 AD. Seeing things like that helped me to put the history into its correct perspective. It might have been a new land to John—but not to the Irish.

Erin: If not writing mysteries or thrillers, what other types of historical fiction, time periods, or genres would you attempt?

Elaine: I wouldn’t! The first version of The Fifth Knight was very heavily weighted on the romance side and it won several times in RWA contests. It still has romantic elements, as do the other two books. But I’m a thriller writer at heart.

Erin: If you could meet one woman from history, and then write a book about her, who would it be?

Elaine: It would have to be Emmeline Pankhurst, the leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote— the suffragettes. She fought tooth and nail and refused to give up. And she won.

Erin: Yes! Good choice. More coffee to go? I’ll wrap up some bread for you to take home. It’s been a pleasure to interview you again and you’re welcome anytime. Thanks for coming by, my friend, and for continually writing excellent books! Best wishes for a great year.

Elaine: Any chance you could make that two loaves? And it’s been an absolute privilege, as always—slánleatagus go raibhmaithagat!


by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Thomas & Mercer
Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook; 370 Pages

Series: The Fifth Knight
Genre: Historical Thriller

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.

Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

Praise for The Fifth Knight Series

“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review

“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland


Author E. M. Powell, Biography

03_E.M.-Powell-197x300E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.

Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.

Find more information at E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


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Talking about Wine and Writing with Jan Moran

Earlier in the week I reviewed Jan Moran’s The Winemakers and loved it! Now, Jan stopped by to visit with me over wine about her new book and all her research. Join us!


Hi, Jan! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I really enjoyed your book last year, Scent of Triumph, and am now enjoying your new April 5 release, The Winemakers. Two beautiful books, with beautiful covers, in two years from St. Martin’s Press. How has the launch of The Winemakers gone for you?

Jan: It’s going very well, thanks. Readers are really enjoying this story of a family of vintners in Napa and Tuscany, and the mystery of the family’s long-buried secrets. I’m delighted that you asked me to stop by today.

Erin: Come in and sit here at my table near the window, where if you look out there might be snow or sun on any given day this time of year, but behind you is a library full of books. I’d be happy to uncork the wine, but you have to let me know the vintage as I’m a wine newbie. Choose something that fits your book theme, while I serve up the cheesecake.

Jan: Thank you, Erin, what a lovely setting to talk about books. As for wine, my personal choices to go with The Winemakers would be a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an Italian Brunello di Montalcino, or a Tuscan Sangiovese. Hmm, how about this Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon? I met Mike (Miljenko) Grgich in Napa while I was doing research and celebrated his 90th birthday at a beautiful vintner’s dinner in a wine cave. He’s a highly talented winemaker; in fact, his 1974 Chardonnay for Chateau Montelena took the top award in the Paris Tasting in 1976 – quite a coup!


Caption: Author Jan Moran with Mike (Miljenko) Grgich. Photo provided by author.

Erin: That sounds lovely, I’ll pour. And how fabulous to meet him. 

Jan: Thank you, Erin, cheers.Your antique wine glasses also go very well with The Winemakers, since it takes place in the 1950s and the 1920s.

Erin: Ah, a breathtaking moment, like a step back in time. Let’s get to talking about your book! First of all, as I mentioned, your covers are gorgeous. One of the best things to sell a book this day is for them to be eye-candy and well-done. Did you have input on your covers?

Jan: When I first met my publisher I mentioned that I love vibrant colors and gorgeous images. Beyond that, not much input was needed because St. Martin’s created lovely covers.

Erin: Your last book and many of your other works have to do with scents and perfume and beauty. The Winemakers seems to be more about wine, romance, and mystery. Or is there an element of scent? What made you decide to change up your themes?

Jan: Wine and perfume are actually quite closely related. Both are luxury artisan creations derived from agricultural crops. When tasting a wine, aficionados look for a “good nose,” or bouquet. The scent of wine is quite important to the overall experience. In addition, Mother Nature can be vexing one year, or cause for celebration the next. I enjoy writing about creative, artistic pursuits, so wine making was a natural choice.

Erin: I love that this one has more secrets and mystery than the others, as I love a good mystery. Was it different in your writing of this to put in the mystery elements to create suspense? How did you achieve it?

Jan: The Winemakers evolved from situations I’ve witnessed where parents kept secrets from younger generations. When people moved from one country to another they could reinvent themselves and their family history. I found this fascinating, and have been amazed at the tales families have spun in order to preserve the reputation of the family. While society is generally more accepting of missteps today, this was not always the case. Constructing the story was much like researching genealogy in that I was peeling back a layer of knowledge at a time, and this added to the suspense.

Erin: Was there inspiration for the time, place, or characters that began your idea for this book?

Jan: When I visited Napa Valley, I learned that there had been exclusive premium winemakers before the 1960s, many of whom were immigrants and had brought wine making methods from Europe. For example, did you know that Inglenook used to produce fine wines before the winery was sold and new owners entered the lower-priced mass wine market? And, after visiting and falling in love with Tuscany, I wanted to set a story there as well.

Erin:  You live in California, which of course is a beautiful place for wine growing. I’ve read many books using the wine theme set in California in historical time periods, and it always seems like somewhere I’d love to tour. What’s it like from a resident’s eyes when you view the rolling hills and vineyards?

Jan: The beauty of the land never ceases to amaze me. Some vineyards blanket the valley, while others line the mountaintops. The view at harvest time in late summer and early fall is stunning – row upon row of well-tended grapevines are laden with the bounty of ripe, sun-warmed fruit. Spring is a season of fresh buds and new hope for a fine crop. In winter, the vineyards are dormant and snow covers those in the upper elevations. Each season has its own distinct beauty.

Erin:  Do you have first-hand knowledge of wine making or a wine making family, or were you able to create this all from research? Your details are vivid. How did you do your research for your locations?

Jan: I went to school with a friend who lives in Napa Valley, MaryAnn Tsai. She served as president of Beringer and Luna, and now she’s a partner in Moone-Tsai Wines, which is an amazing collection of small batch wines favored by serious collectors. She and her husband Larry took me through their wine cave, explaining the process of converting grapes to wine in great detail. From there, I visited the Hess Collection, Grgich Hills, Chimney Rock, and several other wineries. Each visit was a thorough, behind-the-scenes study, and people were incredibly helpful and happy to share their passion for wine making.

MaryAnn Tsai on left and Jan Moran on right

Caption: MaryAnn Tsai, left, and Author Jan Moran, right. Photo provided by author.

Erin: I really like how you write strong women as your protagonists. You’ve done it again in The Winemakers and Caterina. What types of traits did you want to give Caterina when you wrote it and do you feel you accomplished it? Also, what can women readers learn from your female characters?

Jan: Thank you, Erin, I love to write about strong women—and those who discover their strength. In this saga, Caterina reaches deep inside to find her strength, first for her child’s sake and then for her own. Although she has made mistakes (aren’t we all a little flawed?), she becomes confident in her decisions and transforms her life. I believe we all have this ability.

Erin: And now for the romance! I don’t generally read a lot of romance, but I love a good one that has intelligent women or a good mystery and setting. Yours absorb me. How do you feel your romances differ from other mainstream fare?

Jan: In my stories, smart women drive the action as well as the romance. There is usually a seemingly insurmountable issue at stake: the potential loss of family, dreams, love, or livelihoods. In addition, my work often features hardworking, multigenerational families, so both younger and older women might have romantic relationships. I love beautiful settings and I love to travel, so readers will discover plenty of interesting locations, too. I also do a lot of research into whatever business my characters are in, because I like to pass along interesting knowledge of different industries. I love to learn something new when I read, as well as when I write.

Erin: You are also a beauty expert and successful business woman. I highly admire you. Tell me about your work, your passion, and some things you do that you feel help make you so successful in the business world?

Jan: I’m always looking for a project or story that ignites my interest, because when passion fuels your work it ceases to be work—it becomes a mission. That said, I write to entertain, but I want to tell stories that immerse the reader in a different world.

As to success, I think vision, creativity, and perseverance can help us imagine our future and achieve our dreams. And always keep an eye on the financials.

Erin: Tell us about some of your other books you’ve written if you’d like and who are the best readers for those and why?

Jan: My 20th century historical novels, The Winemakers and Scent of Triumph, are dramatic sagas for people who’ve enjoyed books such as The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, or those by Barbara Taylor Bradford. On the other hand, my contemporary Love, California series is stylish, fun, and aspirational. This west coast, Sex and the City-styled series is about four best friends who pursue creative businesses and find love along the way. Whether historical or contemporary, readers will travel to various international locations – Paris, London, Tuscany, Spain, Ireland – and overcome great challenges. I believe in emotionally satisfying endings, though the stories often end with a little twist.

Erin: What’s in store for you for the future in business as well as in upcoming books? I hope you have more books in the works!

Jan: I sure do. I’m working on my next historical novel, as well as another book in the Love, California series.

Erin: I can’t have you leave my home until you tell me some top beauty products or tips I must use today. My biggest issue is always wanting to look put together but having a busy job I work from home and three busy kids, I’m afraid it’s hard to always be as on style as I’d like.

Jan: I understand, Erin. Many of my days are spent in yoga pants in front of a computer, but I do have a few tips I learned from traveling in Europe – especially in France, where women seem effortlessly stylish. First, good, regular skin care is important, and needn’t be expensive. Next, a quick application of lipstick and perfume, along with sunglasses and a scarf, creates instant style. Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn for this easy look! And to reduce puffy eyes due to air flight or 2:00 am feedings, place a cold washcloth or cold tea bags on closed eyes for a couple of minutes.

Erin: Thank you so much for stopping by my site today! It was such a pleasure to have you here and please stay in touch. You’re a marvelous writer, so I’ll be looking for another book!

Jan: Thank you, Erin. It’s always so nice to stop by and chat with you and your readers. Cheers!

02_The-WinemakersThe Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and Secrets by Jan Moran

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
St. Martin’s Griffin
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook; 368 Pages
ISBN: 9781250091185

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Absolutely adored THE WINEMAKERS. Beautifully layered and utterly compelling. Intriguing from start to finish. A story not to be missed.” –Jane Porter, USA Today and NYT Bestselling author of It’s You and The Good Woman

Wildly romantic and utterly compelling, THE WINEMAKERS is full of family secrets and gorgeous descriptions of the Italian countryside and the vineyards of the Napa Valley. I was completely swept away!”  – Anita Hughes, author of Rome In Love

Told with exquisite elegance and style, THE WINEMAKERS is a dazzling tale rich with family secrets, fine wine, and romance that will leave you breathless.”  – Juliette Sobanet, author of Sleeping with Paris

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Kobo

Jan Moran, Biography

03_Jan-Moran-188x300JAN MORAN is the author of the novel Scent of Triumph, and Fabulous Fragrances I and II, which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list.

A fragrance and beauty expert, she has been featured in numerous publications and on television and radio, including CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine, and has spoken before prestigious organizations, including The American Society of Perfumers.

She earned her MBA from Harvard Business school and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers’ Program.

For more information visit Jan’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Goodreads.


Direct Link:

To win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes, please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 25th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Talking with Mary Sharratt: How Aemilia Lanier Influenced Writing and Shakespeare

Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Mary Sharratt, author of The Dark Lady’s Mask, a novel which I reviewed yesterday with high marks. This is an in-depth interview packed full of answers you will want to know. I hope you’ll join us by reading. And now, without further ado….

02_The Dark Lady%27s Mask

Hi, Mary! I’m so happy to have you back here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’ve enjoyed enormously having you on previously to speak of strong women like Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th Century Abbess, and featuring your book about her called Illuminations. The book that got away from me that I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet is Daughters of the Witching Hill, which is about the 1612 Pendle witches. I’ve got my eye on that one. However, what you are releasing this year, and why we are here, is to talk about The Dark Lady’s Mask (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016), which is based on the life of the first female professional poet of the Renaissance, Aemilia Bassano Lanier. It seems she also had an affair with the beloved William Shakespeare, inspiring his work featuring the Dark Lady.

Welcome, how exciting is it to yet again publish a novel after all the hard work that goes into it?

Mary: I’m very excited about The Dark Lady’s Mask. I think it must be my most ambitious novel yet. I worked very hard on the research, but I had a lot of fun with it, as well. It’s full of comedy, tragedy, passion, magic, and romance. And, of course, at its center is a very strong woman who triumphs to find her own voice as a poet.

Erin: Won’t you come in and have a seat in my library. It’s still chilly here in my part of the States, but sunny, and the light will stream through the window, which means it’s still the right temperature for us to enjoy our English Tea. Which do you prefer? Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea perhaps? And how do you take it?

Mary: Ooh, I adore Earl Grey tea!

Erin: Wonderful! I’ve pulled blueberry scones from the oven and brought them in and poured us a spot of tea. Please feel free to let me know when you need a little more and let’s begin! I have The Dark Lady’s Mask here on the end table of my comfy chair, and it has such a lovely cover!

Mary: Mmmm, scones. I’m so happy you love the cover as much as I do. Martha Kennedy at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did such a beautiful job designing it for me. I love the aura of mystery it evokes.

Erin: I’ve been very excited to read it and speak to you. I read that your publisher has released it in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare death. I also know April is National Poetry Month, one of my favorite modes of writing to read and also to write. That you’ve written about Aemilia is quite enthralling to me. I’ve come across a little about her, but I bet some people aren’t aware of her. Would you mind talking about who she is and how you came across her to tell her story?

Mary: I came across Aemilia Bassano Lanier (also spelled Lanyer) when researching the lives of Renaissance women. Born in 1569, Aemilia Bassano was the daughter of an Italian court musician—a man thought to have been a Marrano, a secret Jew living under the guise of a Christian convert.

After her father’s death, young Aemilia was fostered by Susan Bertie, the Dowager Countess of Kent, who gave her the kind of humanist education generally reserved for boys in that era. Aemilia learned Latin and Greek, rhetoric and philosophy. Some years after her school days ended, Aemilia became the mistress of Henry Carey, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth. She was probably a teenager at the beginning of their affair and Carey was in his sixties. You might be thinking, “Gross!”, but Carey was the Queen’s cousin and one of the most powerful men in England. As Carey’s paramour, Aemilia enjoyed a few years of glory in the royal court—an idyll which came to an abrupt and inglorious end when she found herself pregnant with Carey’s child. She was then shunted off into an unhappy arranged marriage with Alfonso Lanier, a court musician and scheming adventurer who wasted her money. So began her long decline into obscurity and genteel poverty, yet she triumphed to become a ground-breaking woman of letters. 

All that I’ve discussed up until now are the documented facts about Aemilia’s life. The theory that she may also have been the mysterious, musical Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets only adds to her mystique. As a novelist I couldn’t resist exploring the notion that she was Shakespeare’s lover as well as his literary peer.

My intention was to write a novel that married the playful comedy of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love to the unflinching feminism of Virginia Woolf’s meditations on Shakespeare’s sister in A Room of One’s Own. How many more obstacles would an educated and gifted Renaissance woman poet face compared with her ambitious male counterpart? 

Erin: I’ve read several versions of how they possibly met, one being of course that they both ran in the circles of Elizabeth I. I know also that information on Shakespeare is oft times hard to find or pinpoint. How much research did you need to do, how did you do it, and how much of your story comes from theories based on fact as opposed to being a story for entertainment value? Also, if you traveled for research, tell us about that as well please.

Mary: I researched this book extensively and that included traveling to Bassano del Grappa, the birthplace of Aemilia’s father; Venice; the New Globe Theatre in London; and, of course, Stratford upon Avon.


Caption: Wiki photo / Piazza Liberta in Bassano Del Grappa

Having said that, there’s no way of actually proving that Aemilia was Shakespeare’s Dark Lady or even that there was a Dark Lady. We can’t prove that his sonnets were autobiographical. But if they were autobiographical, of course we want to find out who this mystery woman was!

Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Sonnet Sequence (sonnets 127-152) describes a woman with an “exotic” dark beauty that sets her apart from the pale English roses. Musically gifted, she plays the virginals like a virtuosa, winning the poet’s heart. She is also of tarnished reputation—a woman of bastard birth and a married woman who lures the likewise married Shakespeare into a shameful, doubly-adulterous affair.

Aemilia seems to fit the bill. A woman of Italian-Jewish heritage, it’s plausible that she had raven-black hair and an olive complexion. Her parents’ common-law marriage meant that she was officially classed as a bastard. The illegitimate son she had with the Lord Chamberlain did nothing to shore up her reputation. As a court musician’s daughter and later another court musician’s unwilling wife, it’s likely that she was musically accomplished and a deft hand at the virginals. After being jilted by the Lord Chamberlain and shunted off into a forced marriage with a man she detested, she may well have been tempted to look for love elsewhere. The Lord Chamberlain, interestingly enough, was also Shakespeare’s patron, the money behind his theatre company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Erin: How did they collaborate together and on what did they collaborate? Do you feel Shakespeare was an advocate for working and creating with women, or was he just smitten by her talent? I’ve even heard claims she ghost wrote some of his plays (or she wrote the plays but as a woman at the time could do nothing with them)? What are the latest theories and discussions on their relationship?

Mary: I can’t prove that Aemilia was Shakespeare’s lover or his collaborator. But in my fiction, I play with these possibilities.

If Aemilia and Shakespeare were, in fact, lovers, would this explain how Shakespeare made the leap from his history plays to his Italian comedies and romances—the turning point of his career? Aemilia, after all, was an Anglo-Italian trapped in a miserable arranged marriage. The names Aemilia, Emilia, Emelia, and Bassanio all appear in Shakespeare’s plays. His Italian comedies are set in Veneto, Aemilia’s ancestral homeland. What if Shakespeare’s early comedies were the fruit of an active collaboration between him and Aemilia? Mainstream Stratfordian scholars do acknowledge that Shakespeare sometimes worked with collaborators on his plays, so maybe my fictional explorations aren’t that far-fetched.

John Hudson, author of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, goes so far to state that Aemilia Bassano Lanier ghostwrote all of Shakespeare’s plays and that Shakespeare served only as her mask and her play broker, as she would not have been allowed to write for the stage under her own name. I don’t share Mr. Hudson’s viewpoint, but I admire him for working so hard to bring Lanier out of obscurity.

Erin: Possibly, they had a falling out and as Shakespeare does, he likes to point fun with his writing, mocking her. Your synopsis states she was the brunt of his joke which incited her to pick up the pen and compose poems in defense of women. Can you explain this a little more and explain her work as a poet to us?

Mary: I find it fascinating how the strong, outspoken women of Shakespeare’s early Italian comedies, such as the crossdressing Rosalind in As You Like It and the spirited Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, gave way to much weaker heroines and misogynistic portraits of women in Shakespeare’s great tragedies, such as frail, mad Ophelia in Hamlet. This change in tack leads me to wonder if the historical Shakespeare actually did have a bittersweet affair with a mysterious, unknown woman that cast a shadow over his later life and work.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were published without his permission in 1609 and the Dark Lady sequence just oozes with disgust for a capricious, faithless mistress. The bitter end of their affair leaves her poet-lover roiling with contempt. Shakespeare describes her as “a woman colored ill,” and “as black as hell, as dark as night.”

Intriguingly, Aemilia’s own proto-feminist Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum was published in the wake of Shakespeare’s sonnets. If she and Shakespeare were estranged lovers, was this her spirited riposte to his defamation of her character? Did the woman Shakespeare maligned as his “female evil,” pick up her quill in her own defense and in defense of all women? 


Caption: Wiki/ Title page of Aemilia’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum

Erin: She’s noted as being the first woman to publish an original book of poetry. Is her poetry still available today? What drive did she have in her to strive to be so successful with her talents? As a woman during that time period, how was she able to accomplish?

Mary:Her poetry is available in print and online. I am very fond of Susanne Woods’s edition of The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, published by Oxford Press. Dr. Woods has also written the best academic biography of our poet, Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet. I highly recommend these two books to anyone who wants to research Aemilia’s life and work.

Aemilia is so significant because she was the first English woman to aspire to a career as a professional poet by actively seeking a circle of eminent female patrons to support her. She praises these women in the dedicatory verses to her epic poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Her elegiac poem “The Description of Cookham” might be the first country house poem in the English language. Committed to women’s advancement and education, she served as tutor to the young Lady Anne Clifford, and she went on to found her own school for girls in 1617, a very progressive innovation in an era when girls were barred from most formal education. Her greatest patron and friend was Lady Anne’ mother, Margaret Clifford, and Aemilia’s love and gratitude to Margaret shines in her every line of poetry.

She desperately needed patronage and to succeed commercially as a professional writer because her husband saddled her with over five thousand pounds of debt, a fortune at that time.

Aemilia succeeded in being able to publish her poetry and establish a literary reputation. She gained a glittering circle of female patrons. However her audience of literate women who could afford to buy books was small and she could never get the same kind of mass audiences Shakespeare did for his plays which could be enjoyed even by the illiterate. Within her own lifetime, it seemed Aemilia fell into obscurity.

Erin: You may have touched on this, but as Aemilia was Jewish, born to an Italian Jew, how did religion impact her and/or her writing since she was living and writing among Protestants in England? Why did she write her poetic book featuring Jesus Christ (the passion of Christ from a female perspective) when she was Jewish?

Mary: As a woman writer, Aemilia faced a very major roadblock. In countries like Italy women wrote freely in all different genres—there were professional women playwrights and lyric poets. However in England at that time, the only genre considered acceptable for women was Protestant religious verse. Aemilia’s female literary predecessors like Mary Sidney wrote poetic meditations on the Psalms.

But Aemilia turned the tradition of women’s devotional writing on its head. Her epic poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail God, King of the Jews), published in 1611, is nothing less than a vindication of the rights of women couched in religious verse. Dedicated and addressed exclusively to women, Salve Deus lays claim to women’s God-given call to rise up against male arrogance, just as the strong women in the Old Testament rose up against their oppressors.

But why did she write about Christ when she could have kept her focus on the Old Testament? She was doing something very radical here, deliberately compared the suffering and injustice faced by women in male-dominated culture to the sufferings of Christ. Then she goes on to portray virtuous women as Christ’s true imitators. Historically, the roots of anti-Semitism are based on the Christian presumption that Jews killed Christ. Aemilia turns this on its head, as well, arguing that men killed Christ and that this was far worse a sin than the sin of Eve. Therefore men have no divine justification to claim superiority over women. These are the lines in Salve Deus,when Pontius Pilate’s wife delivers her feminist tirade against her husband:

Let us have our Liberty again,

And challenge to yourselves no Sovereignty,

You came not into the world without our pain,

Make that a bar against your cruelty;

Your fault being greater, why should you disdain

Our being your equals, free from tyranny?

Aemilia’s interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew is 17th century liberation theology. 

Erin:  Obviously, The Merchant of Venice had some Jewish stereotypes, do you think their relationship had an influence on this or was it just a faction of the time period?

Mary: When The Merchant of Venice was first registered for publication, it was described as “a book of the Merchant of Venice or otherwise called The Jew of Venice.” It was and is a deeply anti-Semitic piece of work. Shylock, the Jewish usurer, is the most pivotal character—a cold and pitiless caricature of a Jew, created in an era when no Jews were legally allowed to live in England. Sympathetic interpretations of Shylock’s character did not appear on stage until the 18th century. The anti-Semitism of this play, which remains enshrined in the theatre canon, sits uncomfortably with the very real rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Can you believe that activists once tried to physically prevent me from entering Marks & Spencer, a Jewish-owned department store, in Manchester city center? This is happening in 21st century Britain!

In my novel, I portray The Merchant of Venice as one of Shakespeare’s revenge plays aimed at Aemilia after the bitter end of their affair. It’s interesting that one of the Christian characters that’s so horrible to Shylock is named Bassanio.

Erin: Were there other women writer contemporaries of hers then or shortly after? Who were they, what did they write, and how did they succeed at it?

Mary: Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, was the most famous poet of Aemilia’s era, but being aristocratic, she didn’t publish her work for fear of the “stigma of print.” Her 1592 closet drama Antonius, a translation from the French of Robert Garnier’s play Marc Antoine, was a major influence on Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra. Sidney was one of Aemilia Bassano Lanier’s aristocratic patrons. Aemilia praised Mary Sidney in her poetry as an enthroned goddess attended by the Muses.

An Italian contemporary of Aemilia’s is the playwright, Isabella Andreini, whose pastoral comedy, La Mirtilla, can be read alongside Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it’s that funny and good.

Erin: Your book takes on the romance and the compelling story of Aemilia being Shakespeare muse, as the Dark Lady in his sonnets. Possibly some might not know that her Jewish family, the Bassanos, were of Moroccan descent, and therefore, darker skinned with dark hair. Removing the Jewish designation how was the reception to this in Elizabethan England? I’m assuming this is where the “dark” lady designation comes into play?

Mary: Aemilia’sJewish father and his brothers couldn’t live openly as Jews. Elizabethan England was effectively a Protestant police state. Aemilia, regardless of whatever private beliefs she held, would have been obliged to live under this mask. We don’t actually know what she looked like. The one portrait we have that might be of her hasn’t been verified. But it’s highly probable that she possessed the kind of dark Mediterranean beauty that would have made her stand out. If she was the Dark Lady of the sonnets, it’s interesting to note that when the sonnets turn bitter, they mock and deride the lady’s dark hair and complexion as ugly and hideous: “her breasts are dun” and “black wires grow on her head.”

Erin: Why do you feel she is a woman worth bring to light so that future generations don’t forget her?

Mary: She was a true literary pioneer who succeeded in becoming a groundbreaking poet against incredible odds. Her poetry is startlingly original and deserves a much bigger audience. Bottom line: whether or not Aemilia Bassano Lanier was Shakespeare’s lover or collaborator, she was certainly his literary peer.

Erin: You often write of women of strength. In fact, the top of your website has the phrase “Writing Women Back Into History!” Of course I’m with you on this, but can you explain your thoughts further?

Mary: To a large extent women have been written out of history. Even though strong, intelligent, courageous, and accomplished women have existed in every era, their lives and legacies are too easily erased. Aemilia Bassano Lanier’s life and work were lost in obscurity and only rediscovered in the late 20th century. Even someone like Hildegard of Bingen isn’t safe. For centuries scholars were claiming the work attributed to her was written by a man, an anonymous monk! It took the painstaking scholarship of the Benedictine sisters at Saint Hildegard’s Abbey in Eibingen to prove she wrote the work attributed to her. It’s my chosen vocation as a novelist to keep the memory of these women alive and show modern readers how relevant they are for us today.

Erin: Overall, how do you choose the women you do? For instance, do you happen upon them or do they call to you?

Mary: They call to me. I look for a historical woman whose life reveals a great plot arc, but also enough gaps of mystery to fire my imagination.

Erin: I know that you used to live in the United States, but you’ve also lived in Germany and now England. Do you move to research your books or do your books come after you’ve moved? How do you like England? I was born in Suffolk area, though have been in the States since I was young. What is one thing you’ve fallen in love with there?

Mary: I ended up in Northern England more or less by accident when my husband got transferred to Manchester for his job in 2002. We ended up living out in the country because we both found Manchester to be a bit too intensely urban for us. We bought a house that looks out on Pendle Hill, famous for its legends of the Pendle Witches and also the place where George Fox received his vision that moved him to found the Quaker religious movement. I fell in love with the place at once. My 2010 novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill arose directly out of my love and connection to this region. I love the sense of lingering ancestral memory embedded in the landscape that keeps the ancient stories alive. The remnants of the old Roman Road cut directly across my horse’s pasture and I have to cross it each day when I go to catch her.


Caption: Wiki / A panoramic of Pendle Hill in 2012 showing the northeast slopes

Erin: I know you love your horses very much and they wonderful animals to soothe stress and for therapy. How are your horses? Do they help you to focus on your writing?

Mary: My Welsh mare, Boushka, is doing very well indeed, enjoying the spring grass and flirting with her gentlemen friends over the wall in the next field. She appears in all her glory as Aemilia’s horse Bathsheba in The Dark Lady’s Mask!Boushka never fails to calm me down after a stressful day. She helps me stay mindful and rooted in the present moment. She is a very loving and spirited horse and there’s never a dull moment with her. All royalties from my books shall go toward keeping Boushka in the style to which she has become accustomed!

Erin: What book are you working on now? Tell us about what’s next for you.

Mary: My new work-in-progress, Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler, is about another accomplished, creative woman who was overshadowed by the men in her life. Once an aspiring young composer, Alma Schindler was celebrated as the most beautiful girl in Vienna. The great Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight, but it was Mahler’s demand that Alma give up composing as a condition of their marriage that gave rise to her shocking and radical transformation. From the ashes of her own self-abnegation arose a woman who refused to choose between freedom and love, and who insisted on living life on her own terms. Fueled by her ecstatic, hypnotic power, she brought the most eminent men of an era to their knees—the goddess they yearned for but could never ultimately possess. This is probably the sexiest novel I’ve ever written!

Erin: Thank you SO much for coming by and for putting up with my barrage of questions! I wish you all the luck with this book and everything in your life. It’s a always a pleasure to speak to you. Let me bag up some scones for your flight home after we enjoy another cup of tea.

Mary: Thank you, Erin! It’s such a joy to chat with a wonderful Book Goddess like you! And you scones are divine!

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The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse
by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Hardcover) | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound | Powell’s

Advanced Praise

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.”
— MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.”
— LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.”
— KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!”
— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.”
—KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.”
—MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.”
—KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.”
— STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt’s latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY’S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let’s her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse.”
— PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

Mary Sharratt, Biography

03_Mary SharrattMary Sharratt’s explorations into the hidden histories of Renaissance women compelled her to write her most recent work, THE DARK LADY’S MASK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016), based on the dramatic life of the ground-breaking poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanier.

Born in Minnesota, Mary now lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers.

Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write her award-winning ILLUMINATIONS: A NOVEL OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, which explores the dramatic life of the 12th century Benedictine abbess, composer, polymath, and powerfrau.

Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award, the 2005 WILLA Literary Award, and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Mary has also written the novels SUMMIT AVENUETHE REAL MINERVATHE VANISHING POINT, and co-edited the subversive fiction anthology BITCH LIT, which celebrates female anti-heroes–strong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir and elsewhere.

She is currently at work on ECSTASY: A NOVEL OF ALMA MAHLER, exploring the life of one of the most intriguing women of turn-of-the-century Vienna.

Mary’s articles and essays have appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Huffington PostPublisher’s WeeklyMinnesota Magazine, andHistorical Novels Review. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Hashtags: #TheDarkLadysMaskBlogTour #Shakespeare #England #HistoricalFicion #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @HMHCo @MarySharratt

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Interview with Eva Flynn on Victoria Woodhull, Reconstruction, & Equal Rights

Yesterday, I had a review of Eva Flynn’s The Renegade Queen, about the first woman to run for President of United States during our Reconstruction period. Today, I sat down with Eva to discuss the book, women’s rights, this period in history, and more. Enjoy!

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Hi Eva, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Happy to have you here to discuss your new book, “The Renegade Queen,” which is about Victoria Woodhull—a forgotten feminist, and yet, so much more. I believe this is your first novel? How does it feel to launch such a unique book to the world? To do your part to help Victoria be remembered?

Eva:  Thank you Erin, and thank you for your kind review, it is much appreciated. I’m happy to be here. Also, I really enjoyed your interview at The Scary Reviews. So much of what you said about writing and editing resonated with me.

Yes, this is the first novel I have published. I’ve written some other ones that aren’t quite ready to see the light of day! It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve received so much positive feedback from readers. For years I have wanted to call attention to Victoria Woodhull and other unsung reformers. This novel started out as a movie script and I talked to several Hollywood producers about it, but ultimately they passed because they were concerned that there wasn’t a market for it. I hope that this novel will sell well and that Hollywood will see that there is a market. But the ultimate goal is for people to know Victoria and understand the sacrifices that so many people have made in pursuit of a better country, a better life for all of us. So much of today’s society seems to be inwardly focused on achieving prestige or wealth and we forget that we all have something to contribute to society and the current political discourse.

Erin: A movie would be wonderful! And I agree about our society. That’s why what you have done with this book is so important. Thank you as well for reading my own interview as well, I’m honored! It’s fitting you’ve stopped by my home on your tour, as I’m in Ohio, the birthplace of Victoria! Come in and let’s sit down for tea or coffee? Which is your pleasure and how do you take it? I’ll go pour and bring out some freshly baked blueberry muffins as well. I hope you like those (if not, I’ll whip up your choice!).

Eva: I’m happy to be in Ohio! My husband was born in Cincinnati and we never pass up a chance to visit. Earl Grey and a blueberry muffin please. Yummy.

Erin: That’s amazing! Cincinnati is such a historical hub! And Earl Grey is my favorite tea so I’m happy to oblige that!! Now that we are all settled, let me ask you some further questions. I’m very interested in women’s rights and feminism so this book was right up my alley. I’ve studied so much on some of the women in history, such as those who championed for the right to vote, that I was astounded to learn of someone like Victoria, who was the first woman to fun for President of the United States.

I’m sure you get asked this often, but my readers might like to know. How did you learn of Victoria? And how did your inspiration grow to write and collect history about her?

Eva: I am an only child and I was always pestering my parents to entertain me. One day they bought me a set of World Book Encyclopedias. You may not remember hardbound encyclopedias, but these were divided up alphabetically, so the “M” for example would have two big books. The subjects that begin with WXYZ were all in one slim volume. My parents told me to entertain myself by perusing these books. I picked up the “WXYZ” volume and I turned to the two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull. I was amazed as I had never heard of her, and this is as a child of a political science professor (father) and a staunch feminist (mother). I took these paragraphs to both of my parents and they had never heard of her either. From that point on I have been fascinated not only with Victoria Woodhull but about those who the history books leave out.

And then I majored in political science myself and became fascinated by the political process and those who are live on the fringes of the political process. I admire anyone who has the courage to stand up for their beliefs (whether I agree with them or not), and my admiration for Victoria only grew as I realized how difficult life for women was during Reconstruction.

In the intervening years between hardbound encyclopedias and now, a wealth of resources from the 1870s have been placed on the Internet which makes research so much easier and less time consuming then it used to be. For example, one can find several issues of her newspaper online. Additionally, the Library of Congress has digitized thousands of newspapers from the era. Not everything I’d want is online, but enough of it that I don’t feel the need to travel to remote archives.

Erin: Yes, I do remember the encyclopedia and often spent my own time at home reading them! I so wish we still had them quite honestly! It’s a bit different than being overwhelmed to pick out info from so much content on the Internet. I’m glad you turned your “find” into a pursuit!


Above: Victoria Woodhull

Victoria’s childhood that you wrote about in your book was just heartbreaking. How did you research her early years, since so little is written about her, and formulate her life story?

Eva: Excellent question. Her childhood is tricky for biographers because we do only have Victoria’s stories as told to Theodore Tilton for her campaign biography, a few quotes from Tennessee about their childhood, and the Emanie Sachs biography which includes interviews from some of Victoria’s contemporaries. In addition to the above sources, I was able to track down census records, newspaper records, and read general histories about the time period to piece her childhood together. In terms of the rape by her father, which is something that readers ask me about often, she said to Theodore Tilton “my father made me a woman before my time.”

Although this is labelled historical fiction, I spent countless hours on research to make it as accurate as possible.

Erin: From then on, her story is so astounding. Do you feel her life was erased from history because of her voice for the social good for those less fortunate during the Reconstruction such as immigrants, former slaves, the poor? Or further thoughts?

Eva: Susan B. Anthony, both loved and hated, was the most powerful woman in America in the 1880s when she started publishing her four-volume, 5700 page history of the woman’s movement (History of Woman Suffrage). Victoria Woodhull is not mentioned once. Anthony also does not mention other leaders such as Belva Lockwood who was the second woman to run for President. Anthony effectively cemented her reputation as the leader of woman’s suffrage and erased the others with her publication. Her publication was not challenged until very recently in history. To be fair to Anthony, the other women (Woodhull included) did not make an attempt to correct or place themselves in the historical record. Woodhull published volumes of her speeches and political beliefs but did not publish anything that discussed her accomplishments or place in the movement. In absence of conflicting views, The History of Woman Suffrage became the definitive guide to the movement and the one that history authors turn to when they write the history books for this time period. The history of Reconstruction and the woman’s movement should be re-examined and more primary sources should be included.

Another problem with the historical record is that we do not have record of the votes that Victoria received when she was a presidential candidate. The paper ballots were not kept for third parties. So we only know how many votes Grant and Greeley received. Historians have tried to guess at the number, but it isn’t something we could look up at the national archives and determine. Stories of votes being destroyed by the poll workers were rampant at the time as well.  

Erin: Why did she have such a feud with Susan B. Anthony? Did she just like control or feel that things weren’t progressing as they should be? Why couldn’t the women work together for a similar cause?

Eva: Another excellent question. In working on the sequel, I found an interview with Victoria that was conducted when she was living in England and she said that women will never get what they want politically if they cannot get over their petty squabbles. And at times I feel that this is still true today.

I have all the sympathy in the world for Susan B. Anthony. She gave her life for the cause, and then at the age of 50, a younger, richer, more beautiful woman comes onto the scene with an appalling  background and becomes more popular, and wins more support from politicians and the newspapers in a few short months than Anthony did after years of campaigning. Anthony felt that her place in the world was displaced and that she was losing control of the movement.

Victoria was more radical and wanted immediate action to alleviate the inequities for women, the poor, and the immigrants. Victoria knew in her heart that she was right and did not understand why a social revolution could not occur immediately. Anthony, being older, wiser, and perhaps more cynical felt that small, incremental gains were the only way to get to a state of equality. Anthony was focused on the right to vote, thinking women could become a powerful voting group and make these other reforms happen over time. Victoria wanted everything immediately, for she knew that there would be male politicians that women would not cross the street to vote for.


Erin: Victoria chose to announce her candidacy for President of United States fifty years before women even had the right to vote. How did this go over during this time and did she have any supporters? Why did she choose Frederick Douglass as her running mate?

Eva: What is heartwarming to me about this story is that Victoria did have supporters. Powerful men such as Commodore Vanderbilt, Benjamin Butler, Theodore Tilton, and George Francis Train may not have voted for her, but they agreed that she had the right to run for President. Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported her. Beyond that you have the free lovers, the communists, the psychics, and the immigrants who pinned their hopes on her. Thousands of people would turn out for her speeches. Of course, she also had her enemies which is why she ended up in jail on Election Day.

The Frederick Douglass question is an interesting one. Douglass and Anthony were friends for years and had a public split on whether the former slaves should be the first to “earn” the right to vote or if women should. So part of me thinks that Victoria picked Douglass to get under Anthony’s skin. But part of me also thinks that she chose him because it was the “Equal Rights Party,” and she knew that she wouldn’t win so she wanted to further the Civil Rights efforts of African-Americans by having an former slave on the ticket.

NYPL Woodhull.jpg

Above: From the New York Public Library

Erin: If she WOULD have been elected President, what do you think might have happened? How different would the reconstruction era have ended up, or even our country today?

Eva: To be honest, I have not allowed myself to even imagine such an occurrence. I’d like to say that a whole host of reforms would have been enacted. But sadly she probably would have been blocked by Congress legislatively or assassinated. In terms of reforms that she would want, female suffrage, a forty-hour work week, punishment for marital rape, and liberal divorce laws would be at the top of her agenda.

Erin: How do you feel about the United States yet having a woman for President? Do you think we are closer than ever before? Would Victoria have liked Hillary Clinton?

Eva: To be blunt, I’m disgusted that we have never had a female president. But I do think we are closer than ever before, and it is wonderful to have both parties have a female candidate. Victoria would support Hillary on many issues, but she would not like the amount of money Hillary makes giving speeches or her relationship with Wall Street (even though Victoria had a cozy relationship with Wall Street).

Erin: What exactly were Victoria’s main motivations? If it was not money, or prestige, or control, what inspired her to work hard every day and toward what goals?

Eva: Victoria spent her entire life blaming herself for her son Byron’s severe mental disability. She felt that if she had not married an addict that Byron would have been born healthy. Her guilt, in her second part of life, turns into eugenics when she lobbies the British government not to allow addicts to reproduce. Victoria believed that if she had been given a choice as to who to marry then Byron would have been spared and she wanted all women to have that choice. I also think she was fighting years of shame from treatment by her parents that she wanted to prove to society that she was a Child of God and deserved respect and that all other women did as well.

Erin: I can take it from your book that though Victoria appalled the dealings of her father, or her husband, or others, in their manipulation of people to make a buck, that ultimately she was a survivor herself and would do anything to get what she needed? How did her relationship with James Blood, a civil war general, hinder or complement that motivation?

Eva: I agree, Victoria is a survivor and her survival instincts go into overdrive when she moves to England. She could be appalled at behavior and simultaneously justify the same behavior in herself. James Blood complemented her motivation because she could do no wrong in his eyes. James was the type who searched his entire life for a cause, something to believe in. His first cause was saving the republic and so he fought in the Civil War with distinction. But once he witnessed the great carnage of war, he questioned his country. And then Victoria became his cause.

Erin: Did you find much research on her first female-owned brokerage firm or the newspaper she owned? Can you tell us a little more about them?

Eva: Yes, the information on her brokerage firm was gathered through the Archives of the Library of Congress newspaper collection, as well as biographies of her and Commodore Vanderbilt. There is some confusion as to whether the sisters conducted trades (or just pocketed the money), but I believed they did conduct trades because I came across articles where Victoria was in court and asked to answer for her trades. Wall Street did not keep great records during this time and they would have had to have a man conduct trades for them since women were not allowed on the trade floor. The chapter on opening the brokerage firm is based on newspaper accounts and interviews. She was frequently referred to as the “queen of finance” and was asked for financial advice by the newspapers. She also advertised in Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper The Revolution.

You can find many of the issues of the “Woodhull and Claflin” weekly here:

There is a wonderful scene in My Wife and I by Harriet Beecher Stowe in which the character “Audacia Dangyereyes” which is based on Woodhull is going door-to-door “browbeating” men into subscribing to her newspaper and I imagine Victoria doing just that. The paper’s motto was “Progress! Free Thought! Untrammeled Lives!” So many characters in the book had newspapers back then, that I think of newspapers being what blogs are not. Susan B. Anthony, George Francis Train (for a short time), Henry Ward Beecher, and Victoria all had competing papers. Victoria had a good subscriber base (I believe it was 3000) in that she was also President of the Spiritualists and received support from them, and she was a leader in the Communist movement. Victoria was the first American to publish The Communist Manifesto in English which I think is remarkable for a Vanderbilt protégé.

A character that I do not discuss in the novel is Stephen Pearl Andrews who was her editor. He introduced Victoria to communism and other liberal thoughts. He was a brilliant man and wrote several of the articles in the newspaper.

Woodhull paper

Erin: How after all these many years have women lost such power as some of these women from that time period exuded?

Eva: I don’t know if we have lost power or if we are just more complacent and stratified. Victoria and Susan had a whole host of issues to fight for that affected women at every socio-economic level. I think many women in the middle or upper classes do not feel as affected by the challenges that women in the lower classes face and are therefore satisfied.

And there is something to be said in having a central, consistent leader. Women then had Susan B. Anthony who carried the same message, lobbied for the vote, for 60 years until her death. I cannot think of one woman that the majority of women would support or one central piece of legislation that the majority of women would work towards.

Erin: Why do you call your website “Rebellious Times?” What does this say about the Reconstruction period you study in your efforts to publicize Victoria Woodhull?

Eva: The website name is a play on the fact that so many people then owned and published a newspaper as well as the number of people who were trying to fight the government and remake the laws. Historians seem to dismiss Reconstruction as a big failure for this country, but I’m awe inspired that so many risked everything to start these vital conversations around the role of women, former slaves, the laborers, and immigrants in this country. It’s true that we did not see life improve overnight for those outside the political process, but this time period started the conversation on who we want to be as a country.

Erin: How long did it take you to write your book after compiling your research? Has it been well-received now since so much time has passed or is it still a taboo topic?

Eva: I wrote the movie script first which was really a helpful tool for the novel. Between the script and the book it took about eighteen months. The novel has been out for a month and it has been well-received. The Historical Novel Society just published a fantastic review.

I do get a few emails from readers who think it is wrong that I included the scene of Victoria being raped by her father, but I feel that the incident was integral to Victoria’s life and that sexual abuse is important to discuss. It is also indicative of that time period. In the 1880s, one-third of all prosecuted rapes were against girls from 1-9 years old. It’s just disgusting and heartbreaking to think about.

Erin comments: I completely AGREE with you putting that part in, how else would we know how deeply she was hurt and why she fought so hard for what she fought for? We should not cover these things up and make it easy for it to keep occurring still to this day. I’m glad you put it in, in my opinion.

Erin: You like to travel. Did you travel when researching your book? If so, where?  Where else have been you really enjoyed? Finally, where is somewhere you have on your bucket list?

Eva: I only traveled the Internet in doing research for this book, although I will be traveling for the sequel. I enjoy visiting Europe although I haven’t been since before the kids were born. I did study at Oxford for a year which was the experience of a lifetime. Italy, the French Riviera, and Greece are my favorite destinations.

Erin: You like reading too. What books do you like to read for pleasure? What are some good books you’d recommend?

Eva: I enjoy a wide variety of books. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite books. Right now I’m reading West With the Night by Beryl Markham. And I’m also reading Henry James for he wrote one novel and one short story with a character modeled after Victoria. For light reading I love anything by Anne Lamott or David Sedaris.

Erin comments: Henry James is amazing. I’ll look into those.

Erin: Where can anyone find more books or information on Victoria Woodhull?

Eva: The Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress is a wonderful resource for newspaper articles. You can find Victoria’s newspapers at:

And Amazon has a great selection of biographies on Victoria Woodhull including Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel, Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith, The Scarlet Sisters by Myra McPherson, The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull by Lois Beachy Underhill.

The only book that adequately explains Victoria’s relationship to early American communism is: The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition.

And then Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin also published their own books of speeches. These do not provide autobiographical information but you can read what they said about issues at the time.

Erin: The ending of your book is not the ending for Victoria. Do you have a second book planned?

Eva: Yes, I am writing the sequel! And I’m having so much fun with it. I had to take some time to wrap my head around why Victoria does some of the things she did during the second part of her life but after research I’m starting to understand her better. The second book is really about her struggling with her identity in terms of who she is versus who she wants to be. She is being harassed by those in England who are appalled by her political stances and she has to choose if she wants to continue to fight for women or if she simply wants to retire and be happy.

Erin comments: I look forward to it!

Erin: Have you thought of other women in history you’d like to write about? If so, who? If not, why?

Eva: So many books I want to write! After my sequel to this one, I’d like to go back in time and write a book on Susan B. Anthony. She started fighting for equal pay in 1848! And we’re still not there! The sacrifices she made and the conflict she must have felt between her religion and her sexuality all make for a compelling story. I’d also like to write about Belva Lockwood, another female presidential candidate that Anthony did not support! And I’d like to write a book about the Beecher family. I touch on many of them in this book, but taken together they made immense contributions to this county. And by the time I have all that finished I may be ready to retire. HA!

Erin: Thanks so much for joining me, Eva. It was my pleasure learning about your work and your book. I’m glad you decided to make Victoria a place in history. Best of luck with your new endeavors and please come back in the future! More tea before you head out?

Eva: It’s been a real pleasure! I’ll have a cup to go. Thank you for hosting, you are the hostess with the mostess!

Erin: Thank you! Keep me updated on your next book!

02_The Renegade Queen

A Lovely Cover

The Renegade Queen (Rebellious Times Book 1)

by Eva Flynn

Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Omega Press
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

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About the Eva Flynn, Author

03_Eva FlynnEva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.

Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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