Tag Archives: historical 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.

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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

BUY THE BOOK LINK –UK

BUY THE BOOK LINK –US

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.

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE for The Loyalist Legacy

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Review: A Song of War is Excellent Epic Collaboration of Troy

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Review –

One of my favorite historical and mythical places to read, watch, and learn about is Troy. Of course, I was quite pleased when the H Team collection of stellar historical authors, several of whom are already some of my favorite authors, decided to make it their focus for their next continuity anthology called A Song of War: A Novel of Troy! It’s quite a large book so I was happy I had the time to read and savor each section over a few months. Different than many anthologies, except the other great ones by the H Team, it takes a time period and place with each author identifying with a person and featuring them with similar supporting characters. The book as a whole then intertwines all the stories, even with the authors showcasing snippets of a previous author’s character in the interactions with their character, and creates a whole over arching view, which in this collection spans over a decade. To me, it’s clever and such an interesting way to read a story.

We generally know about the Trojan War and don’t always realize the entire story of the Iliad’s cast of characters. This book allowed them to be expanded on and shone in various ways that me, and maybe other readers, might not have ever thought of before.

I really enjoyed how when Kate Quinn started off the series, she was able to set it up to show us that many different types of cultures and people lived in Troy and interacted together. She showed us that there was some prejudices toward people based on skin color and I felt it was a good mirror for the current issues that lie today in the U.S., in which some don’t want to accept our melting pot.She also was able to write Helen of Troy as the strong willed, if not a little jilted, woman I had come to love myself, gaining some momentum in her section as far as character development by juxtaposing Helen’s personality and relationship situation against that of  Andromache, who is clever and witty. I did see Helen as somewhat more settled or resigned in her situation with her husband, King Menelaus, than I normally thought her to be, but it worked with Kate’s story. I loved her characterization of Andromache especially – I found her inquisitive, funny, and smart. The various discussions and thoughts between the other characters in each section of her portion were intriguing and made me very interested to read the rest of the stories. She has, as always, a knack for dialogue and humor.

Stephanie Thornton’s second song, or story, featured Cassandra, the biracial twin of Hellenus. Her careful display of Hellenus, and her frustrations, are touching and poignant. Exploring the dark regions of her character’s mind invoked me into the inner realm of Troy; the part that lies within these characters who are experiencing such turmoil and confusion. Her steady pace and intuitive prose was like a drum beat of war, pacing the tension as the book started to deeply unfold. As Kate introduced the concept that people in Troy where of all mingling races, Stephanie extends that as well into her story, allowing these two stories to complement each other so very well and get the book off to an outstanding start in its first 100 pages. Of course Stephanie is a beautiful writer, amazingly descriptive and she really sets the scenes before our eyes.

Each of the authors brought a specific need and voice to the body of work. Russell Whitfield is an author I didn’t really know previously, but he’s certainly caught my eye. His writing style is somewhat different, maybe it’s the sentence structure, but it created a flow for me while I read and a desire to know, to understand, and to empathize with his characters. It’s not easy being the author who has to write about a character like Agamemnon, that generally most people don’t like and that history has showcased as being a harsh commander of war (AKA King of Argos). But Russell writes with compassion, with feeling, and with a depth and talent. He gives to us the story of a man who really hasn’t been able to tell his story yet, and he accomplished it very well.

Christian Cameron is another author I had heard of, but never read. He writes in a more old-fashioned style, which is quite fine, it’s just that he gets to his point with precision and doesn’t embellish. I tend to like a little more breathing room within my sentences. He wrote the story of a female character, Briseis, which is actually one of my personal favorite characters. She was a slave to Agamenmon. I am not sure, since I haven’t read him previously, if he would normally write a woman with a more matter-of-fact personality, or this is just what he planned for Briseis, but either way, he gave her a different persona than what I had in my head previously. It took a minute to get used to it, but I can value his style and perceptions. He is excellent in terms of action writing and has a great style for war and military action. He presented Achilles rather well I’d say. I would have preferred he’d softened Briseis and his dialogue to a degree, but his story fit in nicely with all the rest and helped to complete the package and fit more pieces of the puzzle together.

Libbie Hawker is one of those authors that I know of her work but have not had the time yet to read so I didn’t know what  to expect. Her story focused mainly on Philoctetes, who comes to Troy without the war baggage of the rest of the stories. He pines for Achilles and feels this loss, just as he also carried the weight of the word “hero” on his shoulders. He possesses Heracles bow, and with it, to many, power. It was wonderful to see Libbie write this tale of a gay man with such emotion and delicacy, letting us see his inner strength of mind and purpose. I love the interaction between Achilles and Philoctetes once they meet up again – their friendship and understanding was touching. Achilles has war fatigue which was evident and the hope that Philoctetes reverberated, his intent to save him after receiving an omen, is striking. She seemed to hone home about them being ordinary men, which I suppose we could think historically they were, but as a person who really loves the mythology of it all, it did set me back a bit. However, I suppose that is what makes you think. The final battles between characters at the end of her story – I don’t want to give any spoilers – were tragic and swift and left me somewhat in tears. I enjoyed her story overall and we still get wonderful glimpses and nuggets of the other characters from throughout the book.

Vicky Alvear Shecter writes the second to the last story of Odysseus. It’s a short piece but one that’s needed as she shows a war torn Troy- a place in need of this war to end. Her ingenuity in her interpretation and re-telling of the legend of the Trojan Horse was astoundingly good and I would have never seen it coming. I’m already a huge fan of Vicky and as always her characterization is excellent and her writing good, but it’s her idea and take on this old myth that left me speechless. She’s stellar in the way that she can tell a story in less pages than most and have as much or more impact as the others. I loved how she tied up quickly lots of scenes within the other stories, as well as tightened the overall arc, before setting it up in priceless fashion and letting the reader head into the final story by SJA Turney.

SJA is another writer again that I’ve not read (even though I should as he writes Roman novels), but to be given the task of writing the last story in the book, I knew he had to be trusted enough to be able to pull it all together in a way that would give the book a lasting legacy. Now, after reading his story of Aeneas, I can see why he had to write this last song or story. To allow us a glimpse into this finale of Troy. In a quick lesson, Aeneas was a character of Homer (related to some of the other characters in  A Song of War) that migrates from there to Italy and ties in as an ancestor of Rome by the time Virgil takes over for Homer. It’s in this way that Aeneas is so important to the everything. SJA writes this last story so phenomenally well; with grace and emotion, with fortitude to write something so dire and sad, and with eloquence and emotion. I am a new fan of SJA and will be seeking out his other works. I really loved his writing style. In wrapping up A Song of War, he really did an amazing job of pulling all the strings together and leaving us with closure and hope.

Overall, this epic story of Troy was a huge undertaking by this group of authors that surpassed my expectations. I could tell not only did they each write a story, but they worked with each other on all the stories to make sure characters lined up as far as plot and personality, calling on each other’s strengths, and really made it all look rather seamless so that it appeared almost if they wrote a novel together instead of separate stories.

A Song of War is one of the best books you’ll ever find to read surrounding Troy, and if you love Homer’s Iliad, you’ll certainly want to take a closer look at all the characters you love and hate by reading this collection. Love, greed, war, myth, humanity, passion, sacrifice, jealously, intrigue – A Song of War has it all. College English and history classes won’t be teaching only the Iliad anymore, they’ll be reaching for A Song a War to accompany it. It was a pleasure to read and is the perfect book for any history or myth lover and well worth investing in this bookshelf keepsake. It’s one to be read more than once to really appreciate its depth.

02_a-song-of-warA Song of War: A Novel of Troy

by Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield
Foreward by Glyn Iliffe

Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Knight Media, LLC
eBook & Paperback; 483 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Ancient History/Anthology

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

Amazon | Amazon UK | Kobo

About the Authors

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.

LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”

STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.

SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.

RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

Giveaway

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Interview with the Intelligent and Humorous Anna Belfrage, historical author of The Graham Saga Series

Today, I have an excellent exclusive interview with Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga series, the newest release being book three, called The Prodigal Son. Make sure to sign-up for the giveaway for a copy of the book, following the interview. Enjoy my discussion with Anna, she’s so insightful and humorous! You’ll love it!

Hi Anna! So happy to have you on Oh, for the Hook of a Book today for an interview! You’re an absolute delight and I bet readers are going to have as good a time reading our interview as I will have hosting it. How are things? You’ve been so busy producing your book series, have you had time for anything else?

Anna: Hi Erin, I’m so thrilled to be here – I feel quite honoured to have the opportunity to chat with you like this. As to how things are, well it’s all a bit hectic – but fun hectic. However, if you ask my family they might grumble, along the lines that their mother & wife spends too much time in front of her computer, too little in the kitchen.

Erin: Ah, well let’s relax and have a tea party then, shall we? What’s your choice of tea (Anna replies that she likes black tea, no milk) and I’ll make up a pot. Let’s splurge and eat something yummy while we’re at it too! Let’s get our discussion started!

Q:  When were you first inspired to write? Given your day job, how did you decide it was time to let your creative side out for all of us to enjoy?

A: I was first inspired to write when as I child I read a book (by Henry Treece I think) where the ending was not to my liking. I’m a bit of a sucker for some sort of a happy end – it doesn’t have to be an uncomplicated happy end, and there may be sorrows and losses along the way, but still, some sort of “phew, they made it!” feeling is important to me. This is why – dare I admit it? – I always peek at the last page to reassure myself the characters I’m rooting for will be okay. Makes it a bit difficult to read George. R.R. Martin, let me tell you! (But I do)

As to my day job, I am fortunate enough to have a demanding, challenging job that keeps me on my toes and allows me to grow. Yes, I have a number of time conflicts, but now that my children are more or less grown up, I invest the time I used to spend on them at my writing desk. I escape into my bubble of make believe for a couple of hours and reappear refreshed and energized – well, sometimes I reappear a bit too late, like three a.m. which makes next morning somewhat heavy, but the sheer joy of writing makes it all worthwhile.

Q:  How did the idea form for you to write A Rip in the Veil, your first book that started your Graham Saga series, which is just now publishing Book Three, The Prodigal Son? Were at first just set to write one book and it became a series? Or did you always have a series in mind?

A: Alexandra Lind has been in my head for very many years. She’s danced through my brain and in her wake came Matthew (happy sigh) and a whispered account of so many adventures my mind suffered a minor quake. So when I started writing A Rip in the Veil I already knew one book wouldn’t be enough.

Q: How much do you control the characters in your novel as you write and how often do they lead you to where their story needs to go?

A: “Control?” Alex laughs and shakes her head. “You have no idea, do you Erin? We lead Anna quite the merry dance, we do!” Well; maybe not as merry as all that, because I do have a general blueprint of how the story is going to develop, but my characters do have a major influence on events. I have spent a lot of time with Matthew and Alex, I know where they’re going, I know where they’ve been, and still there are moments when they act in a way that surprises me but which, after having considered it for some minutes, makes absolute sense.

In book two, Like Chaff in the Wind, there is a scene where Alex feels obliged to taunt Matthew into a rage to break through the walls of silence he is building to protect his vulnerable and ravaged inner core. The fallout was not quite what I had expected… (And Matthew prefers not to think of it – at all.) In book three Captain Leslie decided to reappear, riding down the lane with perfect timing. I was very happy to see him – as was Alex – especially as he goes on to play an important part in all the subsequent books.  

Q:  Has it been an easy story to tell in the sense of it flows pretty easy on paper? I know you have several planned in the series (all with great covers), have you already written them all or do you have it all scheduled out? Can you talk about what is coming up in the series?

A: It’s an easy story to write, definitely. The problem lies in pruning it, because there are so many potential side stories, so many cameo characters that could grow into something more. And yes, I have already written them all – but that doesn’t mean I am finished as I have a LOT of editing left to do.

As to where the future books will take us, we will follow the Graham family to Maryland and their new life there, we will spend some time in London, traipse down to the West Indies to rescue a family member and return to Scotland with a  detour through Seville. Religion remains a recurring theme and in Maryland the relationship between colonists and Indians play a central part. One of Mercedes’ magical paintings will resurface, causing considerable chaos, and to top it all off both Matthew and Alex will come face to face with people from their past – not all of them friendly faces.

Q:  Speaking of covers, you have some of the most beautiful covers! Did you have a hand in designing them?  Do you think covers help sell books?

A: Why thank you! The credit resides with Oliver Bennett at GB Print. I will waffle on about what I want – I have a very clear image of what I want and sometimes I’ve sent him a sketch – he will think for a couple of days, and voilà! a new cover lands in my inbox. It’s sort of amusing; Oliver is a young man, far from the intended target group for my books, and yet he immediately gets it, now and then adding details to make the whole even better. I think a good cover snags the eye, thereby generating the initial interest that is a prerequisite for a sale.

The Prodigal Son

Q:  Who is your favorite character in any of your books so far? And why?

A: I am rather in love with Matthew. (“What?” Alex scowls. “Hands off, lady!” “Fine,” I mutter, “it’s not as if I have a chance anyway, is it?” “Nay, not as such,” Matthew says, gathering Alex to his chest. He winks at me, that long mouth of his quirking into a smile. ) I like his steadfastness, his convictions, the stubborn streak in him that Alex finds enervating. I like how vulnerable he can be at times, that he admits to being frightened, that he recognizes how dependent he is on his Alex. (“Shush,” Matthew mutters, “she doesn’t need to know, aye?” Alex hugs him from behind. “I already do,” she says, kissing his nape. “Besides, it’s mutual.”) I have really enjoyed working with a male POV – I think it has deepened my understanding of men in general.

Q: What has been your favorite part of writing this series? (I know, when those voices talk to you..ha!)

A: Yes, the voices in my head do add an extra dimension to my life. 🙂 Actually, I really enjoy following Matthew and Alex through their lives, being at their side as their family expands, holding their hand when they suffer loss. Through them I have learnt so much; about life in the seventeenth century, about the sheer courage required to set off for a new life in the colonies, about love in all its varied forms, about faith and determination – and about myself.

Q:  What has been your biggest challenge?

A: As a writer of Historical Fiction, I think the biggest challenge is to always remember that it’s the characters, not the historical events, that must be the backbone of your book. Readers relate to people, not to dates, and no matter how much facts you load your work with it won’t fly unless there’s a human interest. There is a constant temptation to show off, to add a paragraph or two describing just how the cider press works, or how the honey is separated from the honeycomb, or how the maple syrup is kept simmering for hours on end over open fire. The thing is, most of the readers don’t care! Having said that, most readers are quick to spot an anachronism, so whatever you do include must be correct, so I don’t have Alex wandering out to collect eggs in in December – hens don’t lay eggs between November and March – nor do Matthew’s breeches have zippers (duh!).

Q:  What is your favorite historical time period? Do you have another time and place you’d like to write about outside of this series? If you could time travel yourself, where would it be to?

A: Well, obviously I have a thing about the 17th century – it is something of a breaking point between old and new. Many of the foundations upon which our modern societies are based saw the light of the day in the 17th century, starting with the Bill of Rights approved by the English Parliament in 1689. Also, I am rather fascinated by the religious conflicts that dominated the century.

I am also very interested in the medieval period and have a draft for a story set in early 14th century in England. Also, I have a fascination for the period of the Reconquista in Spain (15th century, mainly) and especially in the Andalucía region.

If I could time travel I would love to spend time with Henry II of England. And with Llewellyn Fawr. And with Robert Bruce. And with Isabel of Castille. And with Henry of Navarre. And with St Catherine of Sienna. And with Cardinal Richelieu. And with my favourite Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus. Sheesh; I’d have one major jetlag after all those trips back and forth!

Q:  Do you think that it’s possible to time travel now or in the future? What kind of impact might that have on the future if we mess with history?

A: No, I don’t think time travelling will ever be possible – unless one resorts to magic, and one should never discount magic, should one? If it were possible, I think we would all be very tempted to tamper with history. Assassinating Robespierre would seem a good idea to avoid the terror he unleashed on Paris in the aftermath of the revolution. Drowning Hitler as a baby seems a good idea, and as to Lenin and Stalin… The problem with this is that we have no idea what the consequences would be if we did away with all these baddies. An excellent novel about the potential disaster caused by time travelling is Stephen Fry’s book Making History.

Q:  Are there any famous women in history that you’d like to write about in a novel or one that you admire?

A: I have a thing about Queen Christina of Sweden. I’m not sure I admire her, but she did know how to cause quite the ruckus – imagine that; the queen of staunchly protestant Sweden abdicated AND converted to Catholicism. I do have a WIP in which Queen Christina figures quite prominently. Otherwise, my admiration is mostly for the women who lived “ordinary” lives, who fed their children, held their families together, who followed their men across the seas to unknown lands. I cannot begin to comprehend just how brave these pioneer women were!

Q:  What advice do you have for women writers? How can they fulfill their writing dreams and make time for family and other obligations as well?

A: Difficult question: it is always a question of priorities, isn’t it? If you’re in that stage of your life where you have young children and have to combine this with a full time job I don’t think you should even try – it is difficult enough to juggle kids and work and your relationship. For many years all I did was write notes to self on scraps of paper, in notebooks – but I did write those notes! Once the children got older, I set aside “me” time for my writing – and made it clear to my family this was very important to me. Unless you consider it important enough to set aside time for it, no one else will take your writing seriously.

Q:  Do you have any other projects you are working on or plan for the future you haven’t already discussed?

A: Well, I did mention the book with Queen Christina in it, didn’t I? My lead character is a young woman called Sofia Carolina who decides she deserves a new start in life and finances this by nicking a nobleman’s family jewels. Off she goes, the enraged nobleman comes after, and things would not have ended well for Sofia if it hadn’t been for Jon Darrow, a disillusioned royalist who has been forced into exile and earns his living through various … err… creative endeavours.

Q:  Who are your writing mentors? Who inspires your writing? And who are some of you own favorite authors?

A: I don’t have any mentors – but I have a handful of people who support me and cheer me on, first and foremost my husband. Inspiration comes from various sources, but my children have definitely contributed to the Graham children. My favourite authors… now that is a long list! I read voraciously, across all genres, but if I restrict myself to the Historical Fiction genre the authors I always return to are Sharon Penman, Edith Pargeter, Barbara Erskine (especially her early books) and Pamela Belle. And yes, when in need of a special treat I will re-read my favourite passages in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  

Q:  Where is the most beautiful place in the United Kingdom?

A: Given that I’m not British, I probably haven’t seen ALL the beautiful places in the UK, no matter that I’ve spent a lot of time there. However, I would argue that the Aber falls (Afon Rhaedr fawr) close to the A55 on the northern coast of Wales is a spectacular spot.

Q:  And last but not least, what kind of food gets you through marathon writing sessions?

A: Chocolate. Tea. More chocolate. Unfortunately carrots don’t do it for me…

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: On my website, www.annabelfrage.com, or by commenting on my blog, annabelfrage.wordpress.com. I am also on facebook and on twitter, @Anna_Belfrage.

Q:  Where is the best place to purchase your books?

A: They’re actually available on most online bookshops, but I tend to recommend Amazon, Barnes& Noble and Trobador.co.uk.

Erin:  Anna, thank you so much for coming by my site, it’s always a pleasure to get to speak with you. Best wishes on your writing!

Anna: Likewise Erin – and thanks! And hey, if you’re not having that last slice of chocolate cake, can I have it?

Erin: I’ll split it with you. *wink*

Giveaway~

The giveaway is for one copy of The Prodigal Son and open internationally.  To enter, please comment below in the footer, email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com, or on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. In all cases, you must leave your email so I can contact you if you win.

Extra entries: +1 for following this blog, +1 for recommending the blog, and +3 for “liking” the above mentioned Facebook page. Good luck and let me know which extras you do.

 THE PRODIGAL SON, Synopsis~

The Prodigal SonPublication Date: July 1, 2013
Matador Publishing
Paperback; 392p
ISBN-10: 1780885741

Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. The government of His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.

In Ayrshire, the people close ranks around their evicted ministers, stubbornly clinging to their Presbyterian faith. But disobedience comes at a price – a very steep price – and as neighbours and friends are driven from hearth and home, Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his continued support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.

Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and minister before his own safety and therefore per extension her safety and the safety of their children, he puts their marriage under severe strain.

The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing, watching from a distance as her husband dances round his lost boy.

Things are brought to a head when Matthew yet again places all their lives in the balance to save his dear friend and preacher from the dragoons that chase him over the moor.
How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose?

Will she find him in time? And if she does, will she be capable of paying the price required to buy him free?

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

www.annabelfrage.com

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theprodigalsontour/
Twitter Hashtag: #ProdigalSonTour

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Interview with Historical Author Cynthia Sally Haggard: What Inspired Her War of the Roses Collection?

Cynthia Sally Haggard, author of Thwarted Queen, has graciously stopped by the blog for an exclusive interview. Find out about her motivation to write about Cecylee Neville and Richard, Duke of York, as well as where she’d like to travel, if she misses England, and how she became a writer!  With Thwarted Queen being her debut collection, I look forward to more novels to come from Haggard in the future.

Thwarted Queen cover

Erin:  Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for coming by to speak with me at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!  We are happy to be able to talk to you about your life and your books.

Cynthia:  Hello! Thank you for interviewing me.

Let’s make some history of our own and get started!

Q:  What was your inspiration for Thwarted Queen?

A:  A documentary made by Tony Robinson on BBC 4, in which he talked about the Princes in the Tower, and casually mentioned that British historian Michael K. Jones had been going through the archives of Rouen Cathedral and turned up evidence that King Edward IV might be illegitimate. It seems that Richard, Duke of York was away during that long hot summer of 1441. In his absence, his wife Cecylee, Duchess of York had an affair with a well-favored archer on the Rouen garrison.

Erin comments:  That is all so very interesting. It seems the case in many of these historical figures, when historians or writers are doing research they turn up all kinds of juicy things that make great stories and get the creative juices flowing!

Q: How would you describe this novel, beyond the synopsis, to potential readers?

A: This is a fictionalized biography that covers 71 years of Cecylee’s life. It starts in 1424, when Lady Cecylee Neville is 9 years old, and is about to be betrothed to 13-year-old Richard of York. It ends in March, 1495, a couple of months before her death. So it has an enormous story arc. I see things in colors, so the beginning of the novel is the golden color of sunlight, that gradually becomes darker and darker.

Erin comments: I love the color analogy, Cynthia, and now that you said that, I can see it within the novel. Very well done.

Q:  Will this be a stand alone or have a sequel?

A: THWARTED QUEEN in its entirety (all 495 pages) is a stand-alone novel. However, it is also available in as a 4-volume e-series (THE BRIDE PRICE, ONE SEED SOWN, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED) and as a 3-volume paperback series (ROSE OF RABY, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED). The reason for doing that is because the novel naturally falls into 4 books, and I didn’t want people to be intimidated by having to read the whole of a large novel. The reason why the paperbacks are in a 3-volume series, is because Books I and II are too short for me to put the titles on the spine, so I combined them into ROSE OF RABY.

Q: What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them?

A: The only books I have published are THWARTED QUEEN and the THWARTED QUEEN series, as described above. However, I have 3 novels that are works in progress.

Q:  Where do you hope your writing takes you in the future? What do you have “in progress”?

A: What I actually have in progress are a 2-novel sequence set in the earlier part of the 20th-century (between 1921 and 1944), and a third novel that is set in the early middle ages (around 830 AD). As you can see, I like to write about very different periods. Part of the reason for this is because I like to have two very different projects going at once. I find that they feed off of each other. I hope to continue to build my career as a writer. To that end, I’ve applied to take an MFA in Creative Writing.

Q:  I read that you found a love for fiction writing during a university class project and never looked back.  Is then when you first started to write, why or if not, when?

A: I started to write fiction after I decided to make the transition from research scientist to science writer. I thought that taking fiction classes would help my writing. So yes, I did find my love for fiction writing during that class project, and I have never looked back.

Q:  What is your process for writing like? Do you schedule, outline, or write as the inspiration arises?

A: I actually do both. I do a great deal of reading before I write a word. Then I usually write what I refer to as “Act I” where I set the story up. At that point, I may let it rest awhile before I continue. During that first draft I usually write to inspiration, because there is something so magical about discovering your story as you write. And I like to give myself that treat. On subsequent drafts, I do a lot of editing, organizing and planning.

Erin Comments:  I can appreciate that. I tend to also write from the heart first, getting it all down and then go back and revise later. I think you can funnel a lot of emotion into writing that way. Though I know different things work for different people.

Q:  What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome on your writing journey?

A:  The biggest problem I face (like all other writers) is, how much can I get away with before the reader notices or minds? There are all these rules we are supposed to obey, like “Show, don’t tell.” But the fact is that you can get away with telling the reader things, if you know how to do it without annoying the reader. (Jane Austen knew how to do it).

Q:  Where is your favorite place to travel or that you would like to travel? And why?

A: I do a lot of traveling, and I always have travel plans. So I don’t have a favorite place yet, because I’m in the process of discovering the many marvelous places in this world. So far, I’ve confined myself to traveling around the US and in Europe. But one day, I hope to find the courage to visit non-European cultures.

Q:  I was also born in England and my mom’s ancestors originate there. I can’t wait to go back and do some further research for some upcoming novel ideas. What brought you to America and how much do you miss the UK? Why and/or why not? Do you find inspiration in family history?

A: I came to America thirty years ago when I married my first husband. It took me ten years to settle down here because I missed England so much. I still miss England, but I am now happy here. Yes, I do find inspiration in family history. I would like to do a fictionalized biography about Grandma Stephanie, who was quite a colorful character. (I talk a bit about her on Spun Stories, as she was a person who inspired me to tell stories.)

Q:  What other historical time periods are you interested in?

A: All historical time periods interest me, but I particularly gravitate to those periods in which a transition is happening, like the early years of the 1920s, or 1938 on the cusp of the second world war, or the ninth century just as Sicily was being taken over by the Saracens. I love those transitional times because that’s when conflicts erupt and interesting things happen.

Erin Comments: I concur. Though I don’t normally like American History, I do tend to like those major transition periods most and have lately been getting into early 1900s history.  I think it would be great if you looked into writing a novel on ninth century Sicily!

Q:  What authors have, or do, inspire you? What books do you like?

A: I love historical novels. But I have also been influenced by authors such as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov.

Q:  What is your best loved hobby outside of writing and reading?

A: I love to dance, do yoga, hike and now I’ve taken up karate! I spend a great deal of time doing physical exercise, principally because I suffer from chronic back pain and that is how I treat it. (Better for my health & wellbeing to exercise rather than pop painkillers. J )

Erin Comments: I also struggle with a condition that brings chronic pain and I do a lot of yoga and hiking. I commend you for being so physical, I agree it does help!!

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: The best place is my website, http://www.spunstories.com

Erin:  It was lovely to host an interview with such a wonderful woman such as yourself!  Thank you and I do hope to talk to you further another time!

Cynthia:  Thank you for asking such interesting questions! It was a pleasure to get to know you.

 Thwarted Queen Synopsis~

Thwarted Queen coverPublication Date: October 29, 2012 | CreateSpace | 498P

THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.

Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.

SEE MY REVIEW of THWARTED QUEEN HERE! There’s a GIVEAWAY there until March 4, 2013!

Cynthia Haggard, Biography~

CynthiaSallyHaggardBorn and raised in Surrey, England, CYNTHIA SALLY HAGGARD has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Why does she write historical novels? Because she has been reading them with great enjoyment since she was a child. Because she has a great imagination and a love of history that won’t go away. And because she has an annoying tendency to remember trivial details of the past and to treat long-dead people as if they were more real than those around her.

Cynthia’s biggest influence was her grandmother, Stephanie Treffry, who had a natural story-telling ability. As a widow in 1970s Britain, Grandma Stephanie didn’t drive a car, so would spend time waiting for buses. Her stories were about various encounters she had at those bus-stops. Nothing extraordinary, except that she made them so funny, everyone was in fits of laughter. A born entertainer, Cynthia tries to emulate her when she writes her novels.

In case you were wondering, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of her great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society.

You can visit her website at www.spunstories.com.

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