Tag Archives: fiction novels

Ever Watched a Movie Audition Clip? See an author’s book characters come to life!

How often do you hear of a small press writer gaining the attention of a movie producer? These days it doesn’t seem to happen often, but I can imagine it’s so exciting for authors to see their ideas and imagination put into visual format!

 I bet most of you haven’t ever seen an audition piece for actors portraying characters from novels either.  Wouldn’t it be exciting as a reader and viewer to watch pieces of the production process?

 Today, I am enthusiastic to be able to share with you below  audition scenes from the psychological suspense novel The Cursed Man, by Keith Rommel.

 In the first clip, Dr. Anna Lee is questioning a grounds keeper that works at SunnySide Capable Care Mental Institution. There is a belief the patient she has come to care for is cursed. His curse is believed to be that the entity of Death has taken a liking to him and kills anyone that speaks to him within the book’s time span of twenty-four hours.

 The second clip is an audition piece of an actor trying out for the role of Alister. The scene shown is of Alister as a young man as he confronts Death about killing his family and then he attempting to escape Death’s preferential treatment the only way he knows how…

 Dr. Anna Lee audition: https://vimeo.com/54497720

 Alister audition: https://vimeo.com/54265755

About The Cursed Man~

book image TCMAlister Kunkle believes death is in love with him. A simple smile from friend or stranger is all it takes to encourage death to kill.  With his family deceased and a path of destruction behind him, Alister sits inside a mental institution, sworn to silence and separated from the rest of the world, haunted by his inability to escape death’s preferential treatment.

But when a beautiful psychologist arrives at the institution and starts offering him care, Alister braces himself for more killings. When none follow, he tries to figure out whether he truly is insane or if death has finally come to him in the form of a woman.

The Cursed Man is book one in the Thanatology Series.  The Lurking Man, second in the series (yet also can be read as a stand-alone), is currently also available for purchase.

BIO, Author Keith Rommel

Keith Rommel PhotoKeith Rommel is a native of Long Island, New York and currently lives with his family in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Rommel is a retail manager and has enjoyed collecting comic books since he was a child (a hobby inspired by a teacher in grade school to help overcome a reading comprehension disability).

Rommel is the author of two books in his Thanatology series entitled The Cursed Man and The Lurking Man. The Cursed Man is currently being considered as a feature film. He enjoys offering his experiences to other authors, writing several articles about writing and publishing, and is currently fast at work on the third novel in the Thanatology series which is scheduled for a summer 2013 release. 

He also has several other novels in the works. Besides writing, he also enjoys watching the New York Giants, scary stories, and spending time with family.

For more information on Rommel, or his writing, go to http://keithrommel.weebly.com.


Filed under Feature Articles

Historical Novel of Catherine the Great a Stellar Deeply Woven Tale: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace, by Eva Stachniak, was released this January and I am so happy to have finally been able to complete this outstanding fiction work regarding the rise of a woman history knows as Catherine the Great. Surprisingly, after an over 30 year reign (which was the longest by any female ruler in Russia (1762-1796)), Catherine II did not have a novel on the shelves about her until this one!  Stachniak certainly takes the shelves by storm with this historical fiction of grand design and includes all the elaborate scenery, trickery, politics, and debauchery of the time period that keeps readers engrossed in the story late into the night.

Though this novel doesn’t take place during Catherine the Great’s lengthy rule (only covers her covert ascension at the very end), it’s such an interesting story because it’s told through the eyes of a court servant and spy, Barbara-or Varvara in Russian.  The child of a deceased book binder, and Polish immigrant, Varvara becomes an orphan taken in by Empress Elizabeth Petrova on a favor, who then observes and assists in Catherine’s growth into womanhood throughout a book that outlines all the intrigue and machinations of the elaborate Russian court during a time when many outside of the Royal Family were extremely poor and hungry and dissent abounded.

Before she becomes Catherine the Great, she is Sophie, a German teenage princess from Zerbst who comes at the age of 14 to a court ruled by Empress Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of Peter the Great.  The Empress is just 35 years of age and exorbitant in her vices of decadence, lovers, and drink.  This makes her impulsive and sometimes curt even through her bouts of kindness. Princess Sophie is brought to the Palace to become the wife of the Crown Prince Peter, who is Empress Elizabeth’s nephew. He’s not enthralled with his new wife and the many issues that plague him make him distant, unloving, and not a player in politics, or in the bedroom, and Empress Elizabeth is expecting (and demanding) an heir. To Varvara, she is her closest friend.

I have always had a love affair with Russian history during the time period of the 16th to 19th centuries.  I loved the depth of the character of Varvara and how her life is held constantly in the balance by her usefulness (what she sees and hears) at court.  The ending was amazing. I don’t want to give it away, but the redemptive stance it took was so properly portrayed as to how I thought it should be.

I highly recommend this book if you love any type of historical drama regarding life surrounding those in court politics. For me, I especially enjoyed that it surrounded Russian court in the 1600s, as I love Russian history, intrigue, and mystery. Again, I am astounded by strong women of history, both those of royalty as well as those who serve them.

About the book from the publisher~

Catherine the Great is one of history’s most fascinating rulers—a monarch whose 34-year reign brought Russia into the modern industrial world, whose affairs were the scandal of her court, and who truly embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment. Yet there are no other novels in print on Catherine the Great. Now, drawing on letters, diaries, and on-the-ground research in St. Petersburg, Peterhof, and Tsarskoye Selo, award-winning author Eva Stachniak delivers a passionate novel that illuminates the early life of one of history’s most enigmatic and powerful women. THE WINTER PALACE: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Bantam Hardcover; January 10, 2012) tells the epic story of Catherine’s improbable rise to power, as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

That servant is, like Stachniak herself, Polish—a woman who straddles the crossroads of Eastern European immigrant culture, and for whom the world of the Winter Palace is simultaneously alien and familiar. Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Orphaned early in life, nimble-witted and attentive, she makes her way into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Chancellor and spymaster Count Bestuzhev, Varvara is educated in skills from lock-picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in the form of a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager who will become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more adept at court politics than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that swirl around her. Varvara becomes Sophie’s confidante, and together the two young women rise to the pinnacle of absolute power—surviving ill-suited marriages, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia—but at a tremendous cost, emotionally, physically and psychologically.

See the trailer on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/4RNlgKLbSfk

The Winter Palace

An Interview with Eva Stachniak, Author
(NOTE:  this is an interview sent by the publisher, not an exclusive as I generally do on my site, but good nonetheless)

There are no novels in print about Catherine the Great. Why do you think that’s the case, and what drew you to write about her life in THE WINTER PALACE?

It’s fascinating to me that there are no novels about Catherine, especially since there are many biographies of her. She and her reign have always been objects of attention.  

I have been drawn to Catherine for some time. She was a powerful woman who survived and triumphed in a misogynist world, and she was shaped by the 18th century, the Age of Reason—a time I find irresistible.  Like me, this German princess who came to Russia when she was fourteen was an immigrant. Like me, she had to re-invent herself in a new country, learn to understand it and change in the process.

Your narrator is a young Polish woman who serves as a spy in the Winter Palace. How does she offer unique insight into the court life and politics that transformed Princess Sophie into Catherine the Great, and to what extent does she reflect your own background and cultural history? 

Varvara or Barbara (her Polish name) is an outsider who has to survive in difficult and dangerous circumstances. She is an orphan, and she has no allies but her own intelligence and perseverance. Cast adrift in the Winter Palace, she has to watch and listen in order to find her way into safety. Unlike Princess Sophie, she is not an aristocrat, and if she perished no one would notice.

The evolving friendship between Varvara and the future Catherine the Great forms the novel’s backbone. Both women have to define themselves in a world of shifting loyalties, both have to weigh the price such transformations exact.

What does Princess Sophie find upon arriving at the Winter Palace? What was life like in the Russian court at that time?

Sophie arrives in Russia to the court of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the youngest daughter of Peter the Great. Empress Elizabeth was an absolute monarch, she lived in unsurpassed splendour, and she freely indulged in her passions. When Sophie arrives, Elizabeth is thirty-five years old, charming and very beautiful.  She is fond of men, dancing, music, and cherry brandy, all easily available at court. She can be loving and warm, but she can also capricious, impatient and inconsistent. Her court is dominated by her favourites.

In the 18th century, Russia emerged as a significant power on the European scene, but it still had to contend with its persistent image as an “uncouth Russian bear.” Hence Empress Elizabeth’s insistence on recognizing Russia’s playing a growing role in European politics, and also her grand building projects, the renovations of all the imperial palaces in the grand rococo style that plagued the daily life of the court with constant moves in all sorts of weather.

Princess Sophie travels to Russia to marry the Crown Prince Peter, Empress Elizabeth’s nephew.  The marriage is not yet certain, and even after it does takes place Sophie/Catherine’s position at court is extremely precarious for many years. She spends these years in an apprenticeship of her own design, looking for allies everywhere, learning the mechanisms and perils of power.

Both Princess Sophie and her confidante Varvara have to adapt quickly in order to survive in their new surroundings. What do they learn? And what are some of the ways in which they change as they come into power?

Both women quickly learn the deadly dangers of not having power. An unwanted and unloved wife could be sent to a nunnery. A childless wife—and Catherine did not conceive for several years after her wedding—could be pushed aside for a rival. A spy could find herself without a tongue, with her back mangled by the knout, exiled and forgotten.

Thus, for a long while, for both young women, power means safety, a chance to survive, and perhaps an opportunity to change some of the injustice they see and experience. But the moment Catherine reaches for the throne, power begins to exact its price. Catherine and Varvara learn that power means betrayals, but in the end each woman makes very different choices.

What was the role of women in the Russian court? Empress Elizabeth proves to be quite volatile in her treatment of Princess Sophie and Varvara as young women, and later as wives and mothers. To what extent (if at all) does Princess Sophie improve the lives of the women around her when she becomes Catherine the Great?

It was Peter the Great, determined to modernize Russia and break the country’s isolation, who changed the position of Russian women most drastically. One of his many decrees forbade upper-class Russian women to live in domestic seclusion. Under Peter’s rule, they had to participate in social and court life, alongside their husbands, brothers, or fathers.

By the time Peter’s youngest daughter Elizabeth became Empress of Russia, the country had had a succession of female rulers, starting with her own mother, Catherine I. At court, aristocratic women had as much power as their family wealth and connections would allow them. At home, however, they still deferred to their fathers, husbands and brothers.

Young women, especially if—like Catherine and Varvara—they were deprived of family support, had little to protect them. Still, they were much better off than serf women. It is worth remembering that Russia was a country in which serfs could be bought and sold, married to anyone their owner chose for them, punished or even killed with impunity.

Catherine as Empress did little to change the lot of serfs—claiming that Russian society was not yet ready for such drastic reforms—but she did improve some aspects of women’s lives. She founded foundling homes where unwanted babies could be left without questions or inquiries. She founded hospitals where venereal diseases could be safely and discreetly treated. She also established the Smolny Institute, the first educational institution for Russian women, providing excellent and progressive education to daughters of nobility. It is also worth noting that Catherine appointed her friend, Princess Dashkova, Director of the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences and President of the Russian Academy—making her the first woman to hold such important positions.

In diaries of the time, I found traces of complaints some Russian men allowed themselves to utter. They were bothered by Catherine’s sexual freedom, not so much on her account—she was a Tsarina and could do what she wanted—but on account of their wives and daughters. “If matushka is acting thus, why cannot I do it as well?” Russian wives and daughters must have been asking their fathers and husbands when the empress took yet another young man into her bed. Catherine’s example spurred Russian women to demand more freedom.

Princess Sophie doesn’t find love with her husband, the Grand Duke Peter. But she does have intimate relationships with other men, including the future King of Poland, whom she places on the throne after becoming Empress. Do you think she found love, or did she embark on these relationships for political expediency? And what of her relationship with Varvara—is there true affection between them?

“I cannot live one hour without love,” Catherine told Prince Potemkin, and her statement rings true. In her life, she fell in love passionately, many times. Her relationship with Stanislaw Poniatowski, the last King of Poland, lasted three years and ended only when he was expelled from Russia. Catherine clearly loved him, but once he was gone, she found his successor immediately.

Grigory Orlov was the lover whose support allowed her to reach for the throne, but she did love him and lived with him quite happily for twelve years. I think that her true soul mate, however, was Prince Potemkin, her partner and most probably husband. Her relationships with her young favourites are also not just sexual or expedient. When twenty-five year old Sasha Lanskoy died after a brief illness, Catherine suffered from a serious depression for months. On the other hand, any lover hoping that love might make Catherine forget she was Empress, and thus responsible for the well-being and supremacy of Russia, would be greatly mistaken. She took her job very seriously, and personal sentiments were never allowed to interfere.

In THE WINTER PALACE, the fictional Catherine treats Varvara the way real Catherine treated her lovers and friends. She gave a lot, but she demanded ultimate loyalty and usefulness in return.  

What special research did you do for this book? Were there any surprises waiting for you in St. Petersburg, Peterhof, and/or Tsarskoye Selo?

First of all I read all the biographies of Catherine that I could find. I also read diaries of her contemporaries, and any 18th-century correspondence that had anything to do with Russia. There is a wealth of information in these old volumes. Once you know what to look for, the picture they paint is filled with intriguing details, many of which have found their way into my novel.

I always need to visit the places I write about. In preparation for writing the novel, I visited the palace in Stettin (now Polish Szczecin) where Catherine was born. I also travelled to St. Petersburg to get a physical sense of the city. I visited the palaces where Catherine lived: the Winter Palace, Tsarkoye Selo, Peterhof and the small Montplaisir Pavilion where, in June 1762, she spent her last night as the emperor’s wife before claiming the throne for herself. I went to St. Petersburg in June to experience the famous white nights of which I read so much.

The biggest surprise, I have to confess, was a visit to Kunstkamera, Peter the Great’s famous museum on the Vasilievsky Island. The sight of deformed fetuses in glass jars, the strange art pieces Peter the Great brought from Amsterdam composed from human body parts, made a great impression on me. Once again I was reminded of the vast cultural gulf that separates us from the 18th century; the experience cautioned me to be keenly aware of the differences in our perceptions of the past, the sense of what is appropriate or not, what can be accepted and what is considered shocking.

Your next novel will continue the story of Catherine the Great. How will it differ from this one?

The Empire of the Night begins three months before Catherine’s death. She has been Empress for thirty-four years.  She has conquered her enemies and ruthlessly enlarged Russia’s territory. The King of Poland, her former lover, is now her prisoner. And then, on November 5th, 1796, she has a massive stroke. Paralyzed, speechless and totally helpless, for two days she is forced to witness her heritage denied and her cherished plans abandoned.

If THE WINTER PALACE tells the story of acquiring power, The Empire of the Night is the portrait of powerful woman who loses control over her world.

Interesting facts about Catherine the Great

Catherine (born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst) was German, born in Stettin, Pomerania, (now Polish Szczecin) and came to Russia at fourteen to marry the Crown Prince. Intriguing facts about her include:

  • She was a prolific author of plays, journalistic pieces, letters, books for children, and translations (in addition to government decrees and her authorship of Great Instruction, a guide for Russian Legislative Commission)
  • In the Sevres dinner service for 60 ordered for Prince Grigory Potemkin, her “beloved nail-biter,” she was depicted as goddess Minerva.
  • She had no legal claim to the Russian throne.
  • She never left Russia—a coup was always a possible threat
  • She made Stanislaw Poniatowski (her Polish lover) the king of Poland, only to force him to abdicate thirty-one years later and annex one-third of his kingdom to Russia


  • She loved playing billiards and cards (boston and macao)
  • She loved Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy (Fielding was a close friend of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, British ambassador to Russia and Catherine’s close friend)
  • She loved dogs, had a white squirrel whom she tamed herself as well as doves, parrots and many other birds.
  • She disliked music; she was probably quite tone deaf, and musicians were appointed to give her a sign when to applaud.
  • She collected art with a passion; her vast collection is the basis for Hermitage Museum
  • She was a consummate gardener
  • She was largely indifferent to food: boiled beef with pickled cucumbers was her favourite, and  cucumbers with honey.


Eva Stachniak, Author Bio

Eva Stachniak was born in Wroclaw, Poland. She moved to Canada in 1981 and has worked for Radio Canada International and Sheridan College, where she taught English and humanities. Her first short story, “Marble Heroes,” was published by The Antigonish Review in 1994, and her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. She is also the author of Garden of Venus, which has been translated into seven languages. Stachniak lives in Toronto, where she is at work on her next novel about Catherine the Great to be published by Bantam Books, The Empire of the Night.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

Love and Drama with Isabella and Fernando: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

Review of The Queen’s Vow, C.W Gortner
Ballantine Books/Random House Publishing

Note:  Keep reading for an original interview with C.W. Gortner!

The Queen’s Vow, by C.W. Gortner, was so eloquently written with a passion and fervor reminiscent of the time it’s set in~the rise of Queen Isabella and King Fernando of Spain in the mid 1400s~that it propelled me to continue reading it without ceasing and made me cry for more of the story even as I read the last paragraph.

Gortner hit the high mark with me on The Queen’s Vow; I didn’t want to have to use my bookmark. His writing is engaging, smooth, emotional, detailed and intense. I was compelled by the story telling he wound around his research into one of the most exciting periods of history.

Though many assumed that Isabella would never be Queen, she thrusted through the rules of the day that men set in place for women, as well as forging past intrigue and conniving paperwork clauses, religious notions and advisors, and her own guilty conscience and merciful heart, to leave a legacy almost unrivaled.

Always believing that female heirs were as entitled as male heirs, she held fast in her belief that she was true heir to her half-brother King Enrique’s reign in Castile (through their same father) and not his illegitimate daughter, Joanna.  King Enrique was known for overindulging in his many luxuries, as well as running Castile into the ground financially (and with no upkeep of holdings, literally) and making it vulnerable to attacks from many sides.  This was especially disheartening because during this time Spain was fractured into several countries and not all under one rule. 

One such area besides Castile (which was the largest) was Aragon. This is from where Princess Isabella meets her true love, Prince Fernando, whom she saw only once when she was first brought to Castile as a young teenager. However, anyone from Aragon at that time was deemed not worthy to marry any royalty from Castile and they forbid her union. Building their love from afar, Princess Isabella vows to marry Fernando.  Secretly, they do so to the horror of many around them.  Together they work to fight off those who attack Castile and their territories, while they also work on making heirs to their own throne (which will unite Castile and Aragon into one country) that they ascertain once King Enrique dies a painful death. 

The way the book read I felt this amazing woman never rested for a minute. I was more and more proud to be a woman with each chapter. Reading about her strong presence in politics was astounding as I could imagine her signing a declaration one minute and bending over in labor the next.  She rode to the battlefield while with child, organized warfare, cuddled with her children, and cared for her subjects. She assisted in raising her children more lovingly than most monarchs in history and she left a legacy of peace for Spain, brought the first printing press to her country and was the first queen in Europe to mandate that women could earn degrees. Not only that, but she was a visionary, supporting and urging Christopher Columbus in his endeavors to find new lands, though she did also eventually oppose slavery of the First Peoples.

Gortner did a phenomenal job depicting Queen Isabella’s heart and how she must have truly been, taking into account her caring and merciful soul. I could ultimately feel her strength and passion leaping from the page and swoon at her love for her Fernando.

Being a lover of English, French and Russian history, I’ve never truly read a story featuring Spainish monarchs. I’ve only read of Columbus and the various Spanish explorers. With this book now read, I have to truly say that I am now seeking more on the subject and I’m going to start with Gortner’s The Last Queen, which is the story of Isabella’s daughter, Juana.

Synopsis of The Queen’s Vow

No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Interview with C.W. Gortner, Author

Christopher, THANK YOU so much for joining me on my blog, Oh for the Hook of a Book! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read and I absolutely love your writing. I am so excited to virtually chat with you about your life as an author, your writing, and your books.

Hi Erin, it’s lovely to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your kind words. I’m honored. 🙂

Let’s get started with the interview now, and as always, I allow people to ask questions in the comments section! That is, unless I ask everything first. Ha!

Q: You’re a historical fiction author, so you must love history. I’ve always loved history myself and really delved into foreign history in college, ultimately majoring in it out of pure love!  That’s my story, but when did you first become fascinated with it and how have you fueled that passion over the years?

A: I’m half-Spanish by birth and was raised near the city of Malaga, which is the site of one of Isabella’s more terrifying experiences in The Queen’s VowThere was also a ruined castle (now fully restored) close to where I lived, so I basically grew up with history all around me. It wasn’t just in school and in books; I could see its palpable remnants. I was always intrigued by the personalities, too, especially the fascinating women with such controversial reputations. My fascination never abated; throughout my formative years, I read everything I could and became interested in what lies underneath the veneer of what we call ‘fact’; the stories hidden within stories, so to speak. That fueled my desire to both uncover and write these secret stories.

Q:  You often write about fabulously strong women from the past such as Catherine de Medici and Juana of Castile. What spurs this interest? What inspires you?

A: I have found that historical women, in particular those I’m attracted to as a novelist, have not had much of a say in how their history was depicted. As I studied history, I began to see a repetitive pattern  of stereotyping: Elizabeth I is the virgin; Catherine de Medici  the crone; Isabella of Castile the fanatic; and Juana, her daughter, subject of my first novel, the victim; and so on. It was easier— certainly, simpler— to relegate these complex women to clichés. However, the truth is much more interesting. All of these women were fallible, extraordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings. Their motivations aren’t so simply defined; the challenge for me, the inspiration that spurs my writing, is the desire to get underneath their skins and try to discover the actual person they may have been.

Q:  How do you decide which women move you enough to write about? How do you begin your research for your books?

A: She must have a controversial element in her life that captures my attention. I’m not really that interested in straightforward characters: I’m attracted to complexity, contradictions. Inevitably, these women’s lives aren’t easy, in some instances, but they do defy the norm. Research can begin years before, often in preparation for another book. For example, it was while writing The Last Queen, my first novel, about Juana of Castile, that I became engrossed in her mother, Isabella. I portray Isabella’s last twelve years in that novel, so I focused my research on that particular portion of her life; however, I also researched her earlier years, to get a better sense of who she had been and how she developed as a woman and queen. For me, research is ongoing; I gather bits and pieces, tucking away what I don’t need at that moment for possible future use.

Q: Do you have to travel frequently to do your research? If so, what is the best experience you’ve had?

A: Yes, I always travel to the countries and extant places where my characters lived; it’s important to me to get a feel for the landscape and experience it, even if a lot has changed. There really is no substitute for “being there.” One of the best experiences I had was dancing a galliard in the great hall at Hampton Court; I was touring the palace, and was unexpectedly invited to dance with a group who was re-enacting Tudor dances. I took a quick 5-minute lesson and was then led into the dance by a lovely lady with long dark hair, clad in a dark green dress. I have to say, it was amazing to realize I was dancing in the very place where Anne Boleyn must have danced with Henry VIII!

Q:  Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet? Where do you want to go back to?

A: I’d love to visit Russia. I have a fascination with Russian history. And I’m always happy to return to Rome; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

Q:  What intrigued you the most about Isabella of Castile? In your research to pen your novel, did anything stand out and surprise you?

A: I was intrigued by her duality. She had this incredible commitment to the good of her country and her people, and yet she sanctioned something as monstrous as the Inquisition. She defies easy explanation. I was very surprised to discover how forward-thinking she was in terms of women’s education. She herself had rudimentary schooling, while she regretted; she even set herself to learning Latin when she was queen and had each of her daughters educated in the new style. Isabella’s daughters were regarded as the best-educated princesses in Europe. Isabella also set forth the first decree allowing women to not only gain degrees in Spanish universities but also to teach there, thus opening the doors to higher learning for women who’d previously been denied access. Isabella also championed literacy and imported the first printing presses to Spain, thus seeding the golden era of literature of the 17th century.

Q:  How do you hope readers will feel about Isabella of Castile? How did you feel when you completed your novel?

A: I hope readers will come away with an understanding of the complex challenges she faced and of her strength, as well as her fallibility. In the end, she was human, like us. She made horrible mistakes and she accomplished extraordinary feats. Isabella was an exceptional woman, and also very much a product of her time. I personally felt a sense of having come full circle in regards to Isabella; having depicted her as the older queen in my first novel, it was rewarding, and challenging, to return to her life. I’ve always wanted to write about her. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity.

Q: What types of traits do you feel that women from the Renaissance period had that allowed them to overcome the issues of the day? Do women today have the same strengths? Why or why not?

A:  I think that all of us, men and women, have the same inner strengths that our antecedents had, only those of us who have the luxury of living in developed countries and cities tend to get indolent; we forget just how fortunate we are in terms of our access to medicine, domestic comforts, food, etc.  Women of the Renaissance faced death every day on a very real level:  there were no antibiotics and a crude understanding of how disease afflicted the human body:  infections, viruses, even childbirth could kill. Women had to be strong and vital to overcome the obstacles of daily life; it was a question of survival, even if you lived in a palace. The wealthiest were as vulnerable as anyone else to catastrophe. It’s the same today, to a certain extent: all it takes is one natural disaster for us to realize just how vulnerable we are. The main difference is, people of the Renaissance knew it all the time. They incorporated mortality into the fabric of their existence, whereas we, as a whole, tend to avoid it.

Q:  The first book I ever read by you was The Tudor Secret and I loved it. Taking place in the time right prior to Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, it was the tale of a male servant’s role as a spy at court. What made you decide to write a mystery/suspense historical novel and what are the future plans for this series?

A: I decided to write The Tudor Secret, really, because no one wanted my stand-alone historical novels! It was written years ago, after both The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici had been rejected by more than 20 publishers. My agent at the time suggested I might have better luck breaking into the market if I wrote a mystery. Of course, I decided instead to do a thriller /adventure about a Tudor spy with a secret of his own, and it didn’t sell, either. So, I self-published it under its original title, “The Secret Lion” and it eventually attracted the attention of my current agent. After she sold my first two books to Random House, an editor at St Martin’s Press, who’d loved my work for years but been unable to acquire it, bought the spy thriller and re-titled it The Tudor Secret. He also wanted two more in the series, which we called the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. So, it goes to show, you never know when that door will open. I love writing the Spymaster books because I get the chance to play with fictional characters, interacting with historical ones. I also like that my lead character, Brendan, is a man of shadows, caught between two opposing world. I hope the series continues to grow and find its readers. For the moment, I have finished the second in the series and it’ll be published in 2013. Titled THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, it takes place a few months after the events in The Tudor Secret. During the harsh winter of 1554, Brendan returns to court, where Mary Tudor is now queen, and goes undercover to help save Elizabeth from a treasonous plot in which the princess may be a willing participant. It’s a darker novel than the first one; Brendan matures and realizes the true dangers of his life as a spy.

Q:  What other historical time periods or people intrigue you?

A: I’ve mentioned Russia. I’m also intrigued by ancient Egypt, and the early medieval era in Europe. I like Edwardian and Victorian England, too.

Q: How do you keep your writing voice flowing so well? You seem to write non-stop and are very successful at turning out books each year. What is your secret?

A: I’m disciplined, even when I’m not inspired. Writing is my job. I write for pleasure too, naturally, but not every day is a party at the keyboard. Like everyone else, there are days when I’d rather go shopping. But I write 5 days a week, regardless. I’m under contract; I’ve been given a portion of an advance and I have a daily word-count to meet. And I’ve learned that even if what I write is awful at first –and it often is – it can always be improved during revision. The tough part is just getting that first draft out. Everything can be fixed, except a blank page.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors about how to manage time and balance life with writing and research?

A: Persevere. Publishing is a tough business and is in transition; though there are more options than ever before, with each option comes the responsibility of being true to your vision for your work. No one can say which way is best: you have to decide that for yourself. Whatever you do, give it your all and write the very best book you can. Write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph; stay in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of the craft itself. Have a life, as well: know when to stop and let things steep. Writing benefits from time away to gain perspective, especially when the going gets rough. With research, remember it is a master seducer. We can research for years, without ever actually writing a word of the book. Learn only what you need to know to get writing and pick up the rest as you go.

Q:  I thoroughly enjoyed working on a writing project for charity with you this year. I know that charity work with animals is near and dear to your heart (a compassionate heart by the way). What types of animal protection issues do you feel are important currently? How do you feel people can assist more in environmental and animal security?

A: We all need to be more conscious of how we, as a species, impact life on this fragile planet. We share our mother earth with beautiful, irreplaceable animals that cannot defend themselves against our relentless encroachment and consumption of resources. A little change can go a long way: don’t buy or wear any type of fur. Know where your food comes from, to the best of your ability. Get involved in local charities and protect wildlife in your area. Likewise, please adopt all pets, and of course, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every single day because of overpopulation and irresponsible breeding. An animal has the same noble heart, whether purebred or mixed. My corgi is a rescue; if every one of us adopted a rescue animal, shelters wouldn’t be as overcrowded or desperate for funds. And if you can’t adopt, foster, volunteer time, donate money and supplies. Get involved.

Q:  What other books are you working on currently? What is the idea behind them and what made you choose the topic?

A: I’m writing my fourth historical novel for Random House, this time about Lucrezia Borgia. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia embarks on a savage struggle to escape the web of her family’s ambitions. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I’m completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Q:  Do you have any future historical figures in mind to make come alive on the page for your readers?

A: I do, but it’s a secret 🙂

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Of course, in most physical bookstores. If they don’t have the book in stock, they can always order it. Please buy via independent stores online here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780345523969

Or via the usual online suspects:

Amazon: http://bitsy.me/76i

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-queens-vow-c-w-gortner/1110779310?ean=9780345523969

Q:  What is the best way for readers to connect to you?

A: Via my website here: http://www.cwgortner.com/contact.html

I have enjoyed getting to know you author mind better, Christopher, and I love your work. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Best wishes on the success of The Queen’s Vow.

Thank you, Erin, for having me. It’s always a delight to visit with bloggers and I sincerely hope your readers enjoy our Q&A and THE QUEEN’S VOW.


C.W. Gortner, Author Bio

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

Romance Time with Rhiannon Ellis: Bonded in Brazil and Dark Wolf Protector Reviewed

Bonded in Brazil, Contemporary Romance

Bonded in Brazil, by Rhiannon Ellis, looked so good I could hardly wait to whittle away a sleepless night with it. Normally, I’m not the romance book type, unless it is historical and/or paranormal first and foremost but Ellis’ book called out to me.  Its voice certainly didn’t disappoint, as the cross-culture and society romance found a place in my heart as quickly as I could turn the pages. This was one romance I couldn’t put down as the clock ticked later into the night.

I loved the emotions emitted by both the main characters, Eliana Menino and Hale Forester. I loved how Eliana helped to heal Hale from his loss and loneliness with her vibrant personality and love of life. You could just picture what a gorgeous couple they would make, even as they fought through their attraction, sometimes giving in to desire and sometimes putting up walls. I loved how this book didn’t throw cheesy sex scenes at me that made me feel like I was intruding, but yet revealed their passion for each other slowly.

While reading it, I was reminded of one of my favorite romantic movies, A Walk in the Clouds (the romantic movie with Keanu Reeves). It was probably the strong female character, the hot male character, the lure of a beautiful vineyard of grapes, and the dance of would be lovers.  It wasn’t until later that I found out that the movie was partly Ellis’ inspiration for the book.

In Bonded by Brazil, Eliana’s family owns a vineyard in Brazil which is having financial difficulties and unable to pay back a loan secured by her father through Hale’s business. They are in fear of losing their heritage, the grape fields and Eliana goes to work as a maid for Hale in order to pay it back so her family can keep their vineyard. 

As they both struggle with deep emotions, each is too proud to let the other know how they truly feel.  Their love grows amid a backdrop of a beautiful Napa Valley estate and is surrounded by a cast of characters that assist in taking the story through a puzzle of deceit, drama, confusion, hurt, passion, and stubbornness. All of her characters are so vividly detailed and you’ll feel so intwined with them.

As the story ended as a happily ever after, I still hoped for a sequel to not only see what happens in the lives of Eliana and Hale, but of Eliana’s brother and the new love he also finds during his visit to the estate. My wish has been granted as Ellis has a sequel that is due to come out next year tentatively called Harvesting the Heart.

I love Ellis’ play on the theme of a vineyard and the caring of grapes, tying it to how we can nurture and tend love in our hearts. Her romance is one that melted my senses and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I recommend reading Bonded in Brazil on one of the upcoming chilly Autumn or Winter evening and definitely while enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace or candlelight.

Buy this book:  http://www.amazon.com/Bonded-Brazil-Rhiannon-Ellis/dp/1603818464/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1301592162&sr=8-1

Dark Wolf Protector, Paranormal Romance

If you’re in the mood for a hot and sexy paranormal romance novella with handsome men, aka werewolves, then Ellis also has another romance you might like called Dark Wolf Protector. It has a strong-minded beautiful native american heroine, a handsome werewolf hero and set in the sultry South. 

But you gotta like it HOT, because this romance is much more steamy than Bonded in Brazil. Maybe it is the animal magnatism (hehe), but the scenes in this book are much more detailed. I don’t prefer these kind of scenes in my romance novels which are always so quick to arouse women right off the bat, but Ellis’ creation of characters and plot far outweigh these instances. I liked how real and strong-willed  Jaci Waters, the main character, is and her emotional journey from normal life into the paranormal.

Jaci is Tall Oak’s resident animal protector and rescuer, but when the people of the trailer park community cry out against the animal that is frightening them, she works even harder with the Sheriff to persuade them not to kill the wolf. Only she knows she dhas even more of a motive than animal rights.  She is allured by tall, dark and handsome Tall Oaks visitor Dolton Freye.  Dolton has come to Tall Oaks to protect Jaci, but someone else is hanging around too….and in the meantime, she finds out a mystery from her past as well as a secret of her own.

It’s an entertaining, deep south type of romance. It does contain explicit language and detailed sex scenes, but some of you love that (wink). It was a fun read; a paranormal escape with hot sex scenes–a steamy romance for a day at the beach or a rainy day where you want to curl up and be entertained.

Buy this book at: http://www.cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/darkwolfprotector.htm

Rhiannon Ellis, author

I’ve got to know Rhiannon a little bit and I just LOVE her! She is such young, vibrant, hilarious lady who is a busy mom fitting in her writing as she can. I hope you enjoy her writing and connect with her. From my observation, she loves her children, her husband, writing, and football!!

Rhiannon Ellis turned a hobby into a career in 2008 when she wrote her first novel. Less than three years later, this stay-at-home mom has had two romance books published and there are more in the works.

She is a writer of romance, paranormal romance and mainstream fiction. She is a voracious reader and researcher. Her debut novel–Bonded in Brazil–was released in March of 2011 from Camel Press. She is represented by literary agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency.  Rhiannon’s paranormal romance–Dark Wolf Protector–was published shortly after from Cobblestone Press.

Rhiannon says, “WhenI tell people that I’m a writer, they envision me sitting at a computer all day and late into the night, typing away as my muse has my full attention. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m a mom and my days are for my children. Time to write is sparse and comes sporadically, so I’m constantly throwing my writer’s hat on and off throughout the day.”

Rhiannon resides in Columbia County, Wisconsin, with her husband of eight years, Chad, and their two young children, Cameron and Dane. She is also the proud stepmom of thirteen-year-old Taylor.

Catch the interview below and connect with her on her website or online–those contacts are also below.


Q: What is your day job?

A:  I’m a stay at home mom to my 3-year-old son and 5 (almost 6 in a few weeks)-year-old daughter. I spend my days like most moms with young kids—cleaning, cooking, battling an endless pile of laundry—and cherish every second of it. Well, except for the laundry. I could without that. I love being at home with my kids and feel very blessed that I’m able to do so when so many moms cannot. My “day job” is something I don’t take for granted.  I’m now homeschooling too, so that throws another interesting element into the mix.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the writing process?

A:  Finding time that is quiet and uninterrupted–and I think most moms can relate to that. When I’m working on a story, I try to write every day, though it usually comes in spurts as I revolve writing around my sometimes-hectic household.

Q:  Did you experience writer’s block?

A:  When I wrote simply for fun, yes I did. Now that I write for fun and career purposes, I don’t. My mindset is this is something that has to get done—like laundry, ugh—so just do it. This works for me.

Q:  What is the biggest misconception about writing a book?

A:  The biggest misconception is that writing is the hardest part. Yes, writing is work and takes skill as well as creativity, but landing an agent and/or publisher is the toughest part. I’ve read dozens of self-published books and have been shocked that these books were overlooked by publishers. There’s a lot of talent out there, but a novel gets turned down if it’s not marketable enough for publishing standards. I feel very blessed to have had agent and publisher interest—sometimes humbled because I wonder why I deserved it more than some other authors I’ve run across.

Q:  Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer?

A:  I’m leaning toward agreeing, based on my own experience. I have to wonder if the “opportunity” part is mostly luck, though. I feel like I’ve been given many great opportunities throughout my life in general, whereas others have not. Is this luck? Have I created these opportunities for myself? I truly don’t know. But I’m grateful, whatever the cause.

Q: What do you pledge to your readers?

A:  With every book, I promise to create dynamic, genuine characters and heroic women. I will also place these characters in exciting locations that will take you–the reader–away from the everyday of your own life and offer escape into a world with exotic fragrances and flavors–a metaphorical room with a view.

Thank you so much for sharing a little of yourself with my readers, Rhiannon. It has been great getting to know you. You are a very real example of a young mother with a writing dream, making her vision come true! Keep on the look out, readers, as Rhiannon will be back soon guest blogging here about the life of being a writer/full-time mom!

Contacting Rhiannon Ellis

Website: www.rhiannonellis.com

Facebook page: (Click Here)

Twitter page: (Click Here)

Blog: http://rhiannonellis.blogspot.com/

FOR MOMS: Rhiannon contributes regularly to MomsEveryday.com–a great place for moms!


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

An Interview with a Vampire Writer…Check out this new interview with author Denise K. Rago of “Immortal Obsession”

Ever wonder what makes a writer of vampire romance novel tick? Thought you’ve too encountered a mysterious stranger that you just sensed you knew?

Well, this weekend I have an exciting interview with a favorite new writer of mine that I now consider a friend. She is a fantastic writer and I love her historical appeal mixed in to her paranormal scenery. I did a review of her first paranormal romance, Immortal Obsession, a few months back on this blog, which you can read by clicking on the book cover to the left. I am happy to have the opportunity to speak to her about herself, her book, and what is on the horizon for her.

At the end of the interview we will be giving away a free signed copy of Immortal Obsession, courtesy of Denise, so please stay tuned and read on!!

Erin:  Welcome Denise!

Denise:  Thank you again Erin for granting me this interview.  I love doing them and I find that each one has a different feel to it. 

Q:  I think the idea for your book coming to you in the guise of a mysterious stranger is very interesting. Can you explain that encounter? Have you ever run into him again?

Immortal Obsession was inspired by an otherworldly experience I had in a New York City diner one night six years ago, when my path crossed with that of a beautiful, unusual stranger who sat down at a table behind my husband and I.  Even by New York standards he was unusual. He was very tall, with waist-length blond hair and dressed entirely in black. When I turned around he said hello and as I fell into his dark eyes he felt very familiar to me. 

That weekend I began writing Immortal Obsession and when my husband and I talked about our experience with this mysterious stranger, I realized we saw two very different people that night.  The experience was unnerving, yet exciting. This stranger was the inspiration for my main character, the vampire Christian Du Mauré. 

I have had a few other encounters with him, though we have never spoken, except when he said hello to me the first time and I said hi back. I am not sure why, but I feel uncomfortable approaching him.  I do try to connect with him through the practice of meditation.

Q: Do you think you might have known him “in another life?” Wouldn’t that be something!

I must preface my answer by explaining that I have always believed in reincarnation, past lives and soul connections. 
I learned that the man I saw in the diner is someone I have known from a past life.  I also have learned that there are many more life times we have shared together and that he continually guides me from the other side as his role in my writing and my life continues to unfold. He is my muse. 

Q:  I know you write paranormal romance as your genre. But how do you think you differ from others in this genre? Why do you think this genre seems to be on the rise?

To answer the first question, I feel that my novel tells Christian Du Mauré’s story, which parallels my experiences with this spirit guide from a past life. 

In April of 2006, I took a writing workshop with Canadian horror writer Nancy Kilpatrick. One of my assignments was to explain why I thought vampires were more popular now, than ever before.  I spoke about the events of September 11, 2001 and their impact on our nation.  From a high point near my home I could see the thick plumes of dark smoke from the burning towers and the sad truth is that death, destruction and the inability to control these events in our lives is very real. I attribute the increase in novels in the paranormal genre as a direct correlation to the unsettling nature of the world in which we all find ourselves.  Perhaps creating tales about the vampire is our subconscious coming to terms with the great unknowable and uncontrollable mystery of death as we try to embrace and to control this mysterious power. 

Q:  Did you dream of vampires as a child? Kidding!! What were your interests as a child?

Actually, I dreamt a lot about aliens invading the earth!  Strange I know.  As a child I was an avid reader with a passion for art, history, ballet, archaeology and the natural world.  My mother enrolled me in ballet class at seven years old and I remember loving it but hating the recitals.  I have never liked competition.  I would come home, toss off my ballet slippers and play in my front yard for hours, digging holes in my yard and burying coins or little plastic toys (I have 4 brothers and there were always toys around).  I tried to imagine what future civilizations would think about us when they uncovered these objects.   I also have always had an interest in astrology, ghosts; anything metaphysical. 

Q:  What are your interests now and what do you think has spurred them? or developed them?

I have the same interests! I took my love of archaeology and got my undergraduate degree in Anthropology, with my focus on Cultural Anthropology.  I spent two summers doing fieldwork on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to satisfy my love and compassion for the American Indian.  I took my love of art, history and museums and got my Masters’ Degree in Museum studies.  I still take ballet classes when I can and I am a voracious reader.  I started writing poems, plays and short stories in junior high school and to this day I keep a diary.  I have always wanted to write novels and my horoscope is the first thing I read in any newspaper!

Q:  On to the book now, what do you want to tell your readers about your book (I’ve already told them what I think, I love it!)……

Than k you Erin!  Even though the story is set in present day Manhattan, there are themes in Christian’s life that parallel his experiences as a young vampire in eighteenth century Paris. He loves, regrets, second guesses himself and despairs, just like the rest of us.  

The theme of unrequited and forbidden love comes through in my novel as my characters struggle with their choices as well as their losses.  I think we all have regrets.  Love is an emotion that can sustain us as well as cause us great pain.  Vampire Christian Du Mauré falls instantly in love with a young mortal woman, Josette Delacore. At the risk of giving too much away, they embark on a love affair that not only changes both of their lives forever, but causes them both much heartache. 

Another discovery I have always believed, but now know to be true, is that love never dies.  It moves with us through time which ties into my beliefs of reincarnation and meeting souls in our present lives that we knew in a past life. 

Q:  I hear you have plans for subsequent books about the Christian and Michel characters. What can we all do to help you along so you get them done faster? Kidding! In honesty, what do you want to tell us about your future?

I am currently working on the next two novels in this series, which is titled The Enchanted Bloodline Series.  I am hoping to have at least one of them completed by the fall of 2012.

Q:  As writers we all have different times of day and different influences that encourage or hinder our writing. I know you are a morning person, while I am a night person and can’t take my head out of covers in the morning. Sometimes I get to busy to find time to write. That said, when do you write the best? What encourages you? How to time manage and what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I love writing and though it is not something I do every day I can honestly say I am always thinking about the story I am trying to tell.  Since I am back to working full-time, writing becomes another part of the balancing act which is my life.  Sitting down to write isn’t just about finding the time.  It’s the mindset.   I am a morning person and actually I am writing this at 5:51 am before I head out to work. 

 Advice for aspiring writers?  Believe in yourself and the story you need to tell.  Understand that writing is a process. Write as the story comes to you, even if it is not in sequence.  If your muse calls to you, answer!

Q:  When an idea comes to a writer, sometimes it isn’t always in a convenient place, right? (I seem to find myself in the shower…) How do you organize your thoughts? What advice do you have for others who have a hard time organizing their plots, characters, and ideas?

I bought a wonderful calendar that has a section for Notes and Lists.  I use it a lot.  I also have a binder which contains portraits and character traits for all of the main characters in Immortal Obsession. I also keep a note pad by my computer as I am always jotting down something. 

I have an accordion file which holds my current manuscript plus any articles I need as a part of my research. I try to keep everything in one place. I have genealogy charts and timelines for the characters as well, especially since most of my vampires were born in the eighteenth century.  Anything to keep me organized and on track with the events in their lives. 

Q:  What authors do you relate to as a person? Then, as a writer?

This was my favorite question yet probably the hardest to answer.  One of my favorite authors is Anne Rice.  Reading Interview with the Vampire in 1976 changed how I viewed the vampire. She has had an influence not only on my love of the paranormal novel but on my writing style as well.  She is approachable, intelligent and I have the utmost respect for her as a person and a writer.   

I also love John Connelly, the Irish author who writes what I feel are incredibly dark yet brilliant thrillers.  His detective Charlie Parker is one of my favorite characters and I so look forward to his novels.  I believe that an authors’ work should speak for itself. I truly admire writers like Harper Lee or Suzanne Collins who seem to live by this principal.

Q: What do you have to say about self-publishing? What are the pros and cons of that for you?

I found the entire experience of self-publishing to be rewarding and a learning experience for me.  I chose Createspace and I have found them to be professional, supportive and always there to answer my questions.  Self-publishing gives the author total control over their work product, from the font type to the cover art.  The entire production is in your control.  As an author who has worked hard over the past few years to bring my novel to life, I find this rewarding. 

On the other end of the spectrum, being in total control means just that. Web design, marketing, publicity all fall on my shoulders.  I was fortunate enough to find a design/marketing team out of San Diego California who not only designed my website but also have been instrumental with marketing advice, printed materials and assisting me in all ways.

(Erin: Sorry for the plug here on my blog during your interview, but I just want to note how important this can be and a well-worth-it investment. Tim and I own a PR business in which we copy write, edit, proofread, consult and we love to help writers. We are a small agency and work from home, from a small rural town and always enjoy talking to new authors and writers. We have over 25 years combined experience in our field.  Our website is www.addisonscompass.com)

Q:  How has the dawn of e-books changed the reading world? How about an author’s world?

It’s much more convenient to download books and generally, they are less expensive.  I still like holding a book in my hands. I am always reading and I have such a hard time parting with a book so my house looks like a library!  E-readers allow for the storage of thousands of books and if I had a career where I travelled or commuted then having an e-reader makes so much sense.  I am glad my book is available as an e-book which again, gives readers the option to download it rather than buy the paperback.

 As e-books become more popular we are losing book stores and personally, browsing a book shop is one of my favorite activities.    There needs to be a balance and I believe there is room for both. 

 Q:  Lessons learned, what would you tell first-time authors?

Hire a professional editor and copy editor to read your manuscript and pay them.  I was fortunate enough to have a very experienced editor; publisher and writer read my draft of Immortal Obsession.  He then wrote me a very detailed letter highlighting what he liked but also how I might make my story better.  I took his advice on most things and then hired a copy editor to read it line by line and also make suggestions.

Writing may be a solitary process but please, hire competent professionals whenever possible. Connect with other writers whether on the internet or if you are lucky enough to meet and talk face to face, do so.  Build a platform.  Visit website and blogs that you enjoy and let them know it. Map out your publishing goals yet be realistic, patient and flexible. 

Q:  Where can other authors or interested readers contact you?

My website link is www.denisekrago.com.  Please visit me there as I have several portraits of some of the characters as well as reviews, interviews and guests posts.  Readers can get a clearer sense of who I am and what the buzz is about my novel. I can also be reached on Facebook and  Goodreads as I have pages on both sites.

Q:  Where can everyone find Immortal Obsession?

Again, visit my website at www.denisekrago.com

There is a buy button with a drop down menu to select from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Createspace, Indie Books and Smashwords.  My novel is also available as an e-book too.  If you happen to live in New Jersey near the historic town of Clinton, there is a wonderful book store there which carries a few signed copies of Immortal Obsession

I can’t finish this interview without mentioning the importance of supporting local book stores and the role they play in our communities.  There is room for the massive corporate chain, e-books and local book shops.  Please utilize them so they remain with us.

(Erin: I so agree, Denise. Our home too looks like a small library. We love our bookshelves. I love looking at the covers, touching the pages, imagining the blood, sweat, tears, and joy that the writer poured into the book. I haven’t gotten into e-readers at all yet, though it does seem like something that can be used alongside private book collections and library use. I can’t state enough the important of library funding, and the utilization of libraries, as well as the small town bookstores that let you browse on a balmy, or snowy, Sunday afternoon. If that ever dies, a small part of me will too.)

About Denise K. Rago

An avid reader with a lifelong passion for vampires, history, and art, Rago’s work deftly mixes elements of Gothic art, historical fiction, and the storied literary legacy of the undead. And it all takes place against the backdrop of the world’s most unforgettable cities: a ravished, Revolution-era Paris and modern-day Manhattan.  Denise K. Rago was born and raised in New Jersey, where she resides with her family.

Erin:  I so appreciate your spending this time with us Denise and I have enjoyed getting to know you. You are a fabulous woman of varied intertests much like my own. I hope for future communication and we’ll look forward to your next book!

Immortal Obsession GIVEAWAY

Author Denise Rago is giving away a COMPLIMENTARY copy of her paperback book Immortal Obsession to one lucky reader!  All you have to do is comment on my blog with what you liked best about the interview, comment it on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/almehairierin) and include my blog link www.hookofabook.wordpress.com, or comment it to me on Twitter with a mention @ErinAlMehairi. In one week, a winner from all commenters will be chosen and it could be YOU. YOU don’t want to miss the opportunity to receive this book in the mail. It is phenomenal!


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors