Tag Archives: historical fiction 2013

The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage Continues The Graham Saga with Love and Hope in the Midst of Harsh Times

The Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son is Anna Belfrage’s third book in her Graham Saga series, a story about a time shifted Alexandra (Alex) Lind and her husband, Matthew Graham, whom she marries in the seventeenth century.  In this installment, Anna continues to give us the same well-developed characters, cherished love story, conflicts and resolution, and her usual amazing feelings of hope.

Starting the series with A Rip in the Veil, we meet Alex who is caught in a thunderstorm that suddenly transports her from 2002 to 1658 Scotland where she lands near the feet of Matthew and is thrown into the adventure of adjusting to an entirely new set of circumstances. Even as she is independent and strong, Matthew is stubborn and protective and they fall in love quickly as well as a whole host of other situations.  As we read the second book, Like Chaff in the Wind, Alex and Matthew sail to the New World.  You can read my review of that HERE.

This third book, The Prodigal Son, sets them back in Scotland during a time of much upheaval due to politics and religion, both intertwined at the time. With many people standing up and almost risking their lives to be able to have religious freedom and not conform to the Church of England under Charles II, Matthew puts his life, as well as his family’s in danger, by helping ministers and the cause. One of those ministers he assists is Sandy Peden (who actually existed and was on the run for his religious beliefs almost his whole life), much to Alex’s disdain as she didn’t want her family to suffer for the antics of these people’s fervent beliefs (she doesn’t quite always understand Matthew’s desires and would prefer he stay out of it!). 

Though not a religious novel, due to the time period itself being racked with religious zeal and war, it really seeped into every life during this time period following England’s restoration as well as the settling of the American colonies. Men like Anna’s character of Matthew would have felt strongly about holding onto his personal rights at that time, even if it meant hiding “on the run” ministers who were upholding freedom of religion and speech, even as others threatened their lives and chased them down. I enjoyed the times in Anna’s story when Matthew and Alex would discuss religion or actions, even theology with alternate and proposed ideas of God, all as if they were discussing the price of tea, then they’d kiss and declare their love for one another. THAT is the best part of this book for me, by the way, the never-ending, undying love that Matthew and Alex have for one another that knows no bounds.

The worst part for me is that Matthew’s devotion to the freedom of religion cause and helping others does leave a disastrous mark on their family and their life together. It was a chapter of weeping, but I won’t share and spoil the novel. However, it’s sooo sad!!!  It truly tugged at the heart-strings. Again though, it didn’t change their love for one another and there is a chance for rebirth of hope and family.

Another plot point in Anna’s third book has to do with the title (The Prodigal Son), as Matthew’s ex-wife, who was always in love with Matthew’s egotistical brother Luke, comes to their country residence saying she needs to run from the plague, but when she has to leave the son that Luke has declared his, even though it most likely has always been Matthew’s son, Matthew and Ian grow close, only to be torn apart and brought together in an ebb and flow of sorts. It’s up to you to read and see if they are reunited permanently. But you’ll love how Anna’s writes so much emotion into all of the characters; you’ll feel what they feel. She does a phenomenal job of developing characters and she handles, and has Alex handle, the situation with grace and understanding.

Overall, I love the LOVE that spills forth through this novel. I love Alex’s independence, strength, devotion, will, endurance, understanding, plus she learns and adapts quickly! Living in the late 1600s is not easy when you are from the 2000s. I also enjoy her humor quite a bit, her bluntness, and her wit.

I’ve loved Anna’s series so far, and especially The Prodigal Son, and I look forward (not very patiently) for the next novel in The Graham Saga.  I highly recommend this historical series and I personally can’t wait to see where Anna will take the series.  Matthew and Alex are the perfect couple who fit together as two parts of an apple, which really shows us as readers that nothing can stand in the way of love (even 300 years)!

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?

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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A White Room, debut historical novel by Stephanie Carroll, Takes on Secrets, Madness, Gender, and Human Rights in 1900s America

Oh, for the Hook of a Book! is pleased to review A White Room by Stephanie Carroll today as the launching point on the start of her summer virtual tour!  After the review and details, please take part in a chance to win her debut novel as well as check out all the other tour dates in which she’ll be interviewed and also have some interesting guest articles. And if you’d comment at the end of the post by clicking “comment” by the bottom footer, Stephanie will be availabe to answer any questions or comments you have! Enjoy!

A White Room 350x525Emma is terrified of her house. It moves, creaks, and seems alive. Is the terror truly there or is it in her own head? Is her isolation driving her mad or is her madness making her isolated?

A White Room by Stephanie Carroll is a historical novel showcasing the plight of women in the early 20th Century, where desperation for women with dreams and desires outside of working in the home could blur the lines between sanity and insanity.  Where men ruled the towns, the families, and the plight of every woman. Where high society women betrayed, humiliated, and bullied other women for wanting more than to launder, cook, and clean.

Emeline (Emma) Evans’ beloved father, who encouraged her dreams of helping people through nursing and had the funds to send her for an education, dies leaving her mother, her siblings, and her in sudden poverty.  Not knowing how else to help her family, she pleads to a family once helped by her father to let her marry their son. Once they agree, she is thrown into an undesirable situation by the new husband, John Dorr, who moves her far away from any family to start a new isolated life in a gothic home that reeks of sorrow and desires unmet.

Coupled with the fact that the only human contact, besides their a few-days-a-week maid who helped her with the incessant chores, were the high society women in the church who ran committees for profit or invited her low rung young husband lawyer to dine at their homes where she inevitably made mistakes.

Society in the early 1900s didn’t approve of women working outside of the home…their duty was to lug and hand wash dishes, launder clothing by hand, starch, iron, cook, scrub floors on hands and knees, be a dutiful wife and have sons…even if they had an education.  Emma knows some of these chores are important for daily life, but yet it seems she cleans for them to be dirty again, cooks what is consumed, and none feel meaningful and have a lasting effect on change or the world or community. She wants to do something important.

And here is where her dedication to herself, her desire to assist those in need, her intelligence and independence, almost drive her mad. Her intimidating eerie home starts messing with her mind. The furniture moves, reflections are odd, yellow eyes glow from the bushes. All this leads to her getting a straight ticket to a diagnosis of hysteria, which means she is confined even further to a bedroom with stark white walls in contrast to the dreary decor of the rest of the house. As the terrors of the home and her thoughts bring her to more paranoia, she flees the home and begins to defy her plight. She starts practicing her nursing, unlicensed and in secret, even as her husband’s law firm boss is hunting down these types of medical practitioners.

Will Emma’s rebellion cause her more pain and confine her further or redeem her from her life of madness and isolation? I highly recommend you read this book to find out. It’s an amazing story of a woman’s determination to use her intelligence and heart to help others, even at cost or danger to herself.

Carroll does a superb job of pulling the reader in from the start. We feel as if we are Emma, her thoughts and actions and worries so pervasive to our own minds.  Just as the house seeps in to our bones and we feel it closing around us as Emma does, as we feel the creepiness making the hair on our arms raise, just as we ourselves might go mad out of anger for Emma’s life, a redeeming break happens. The light enters in and Emma shines.

I totally loved this book. It’s been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (where a woman becomes obsessed with the wallpaper bedroom), Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (he and I are descended from the same family tree and his work is a favorite of mine) and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier’s works.

If you have an open mind, or want your eyes to be opened, especially in terms of women’s servitude of the mind that has been happening for ages, this book is a must read. Women’s rights activists like me will highly covet this book as it brings about the secrets of the Gilded Age and also shows how it still transcends into society today.

The content and intricacies of this book are excellent.  I can’t give this book enough great accolades, so don’t hesitate, just read it! If you’re a fan of 20th Century culture, women’s issues, or eerie, haunting work, add this one to your list. Carroll is definitely an author not to be missed and I look forward to more permeating work from her in the future.

A White Room, Synopsis~

A White Room 350x525At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

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Giveaway~

Want a chance to WIN a copy of Stephanie Carroll’s A White Room? Sign-up for her Rafflecopter giveaway for an e-book version of this exceptional book! Good luck!

Win a copy of A White Room! Click Link Below~

A Rafflecopter giveaway

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Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). A White Room is her debut novel.

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

Connect with Stephanie Carroll~

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Endorsements~

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

A White Room, Details~

A White Room 350x525

by Stephanie Carroll

June 2013

408 Pages

Soft Cover: $14.99

eBook: $3.99

Publisher: Unhinged Books

ISBN: 978-0-9888674-0-6

eBook ISBN:

978-0-9888674-1-3

LCCN: 2013930913

The author photo was taken by Corey Ralston Photography and the cover was designed by Jenny Q of Historical Editorial and the original painting is Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent, 1909.

Available in Print and eBook

AmazonBarnes & NobleSonyKoboInkteraSmashwords

Soon to be available on Apple’s iBooks and Baker & Taylor’s Blio

A White Room Blog Tour Dates

A White Room 350x525Weds, June 19 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Tour Kick-off!!  Book Review and Giveaway

Thurs, June 20 – Hazel the Witch:  Interview

Sat, June 22 – Reading in Ecuador:  

Guest Post: How to Write Characters You Hate and Characters You Love to Hate

Mon, June 24 – The Bookish Dame:  Interview

Thurs, June 27 – Momma Bears Book Blog:  

Guest Post: The Story Behind Emeline’s Mental Distress

Tues, July 2 – I am Indeed:  Guest Post: Historical Accuracy in Historical Fiction

Mon, July 8 – Bookfari:  Interview and Giveaway

Tues, July 9 – Hazel the Witch

Guest Post – How to Write the Inner Thoughts of a Crazy Person – Finding Meaning in Insanity?

Weds, July 10 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: Review 

Fri, July 12 – Lost to Books:  Guest Post TBA and Giveaway

Mon, July 15 – A Writer of History:  Guest Post: Writing an Era – Where to Begin?

Weds, July 17 – Michelle’s Romantic Tangle:  Interview

Thurs, July 18 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Interview

Tues, July 23 – Unabridged Chick:  Review and Giveaway

Thurs July 25 – Ravings and Ramblings:  Review and Interview

Tues July 30 – Reading the Past:  Giveaway and Guest Post:

Writing and Historical Thought – They Didn’t Think Like We Did 100 Years Ago

 Sat, Aug. 3 – History and Women:  Guest Post: Victorian Women and the Mystery of Sex 

Be sure to check out all her interviews and guest articles throughout the summer. And stop back by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for our interview with Stephanie!

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The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld: Legend turned Novel a Superb Middle Ages Tale

I’ve been interested in the Middle Ages since I was a little girl, fueled further by a middle and high school art teacher who had us crafting  castles, headdresses, and crests. I reveled in legends and fantastical stories of maidens, soldiers, castles, and dragons and had a love affair with King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, and even Robin Hood. It was all so romantic, mystical, and endearing….and even after taking a college course on the Middle Ages and learning the horrible conditions they endured, I still immensely enjoy reading and watching anything written about this time period.  In the past several years, there seems to have been a resurgence of stories written surrounding the Middle Ages with works such as Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, but there is still room for more wonderful writers to really delve in to this rich time period.

Thoughts on The Cross and the Dragon~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2I just finished reading The Cross and the Dragon, a debut historical novel by author Kim Rendfeld.  She quite amazingly takes the legend and the poem, Song of Roland, and crafts it into her own romantic tale with her own original outcome. Not only is her book phenomenally researched, it also shows a tremendous amount of thought and creativity, not to mention storytelling ability.  Though there is much historical detail, the reader is never impeded by it and her tale is smoothly weaved with a flow that dripped satisfying like honey melting on my tongue.

I read it almost in one sitting, during which I could not bear to put it down for fear I would fail Alda, her female protagonist, in her pursuits and that I’d lose the momentum of the exhilaration I was feeling of reading such a wonderful novel.  Yes, I loved it!! I was swept away into a glorious tale of a strong young woman and her man, who equally loved her as much during a time when men didn’t always love women as romantically as would be desired.

I felt happiness, romance, sadness, anger and then I was even overcome with tears toward the end.  I felt connected to Alda and her husband, Hruodland (or Roland), which means that Rendfeld wrote with superb character development.  Her supporting characters were just as endearing (and hated) and I loved how Hruodland and Alda’s family members understood Alda’s strength, will, and courage.

I also was encouraged to read between the lines with Rendfeld’s writing, mostly through her character of Ganelon–a former suitor of Alda’s who seeks revenge and has a blood feud with Hruodland–that common treatment in history that alluded to women being slaves to their husbands, without thought or independence (even beaten and raped), was abominable. I was extremely pleased that Rendfeld showed, through Hruodland, how men should love and respect a woman. I loved Rendfeld’s use of Alda as a brave, resilient, and educated woman able to make her own decisions based on her freewill.

Rendfeld shows us in her writing how politics could outweight and outmaneuver feelings during these decades, but shows us the emotional love affair between Alda and Hruodland as an example of how a relationship could properly overcome these bonds of culture and religion.  Of course as religion was a very distinct part of life in the Middle Ages (even to the point many battles were fought over it), Rendfeld was true to how their religion would facilitate their decisions and schedule their lives, emotions, and beliefs; however,  she also showed us how religious zealots could sometimes misinterpret the Scriptures to suit their own purposes or go to extreme measures for salvation. Alda was a character who fought against all norms.

 

300px-Grandes_chroniques_Roland

Eight phases of The Song of Roland in one picture from Wikipedia

The Song of Roland is known as France’s oldest surviving piece of literature and is a poem of heroism stemming from the battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778 in which Hruodland (Roland) was a commander of the rear guard of Charlemagne that was defeated by a Muslim army.  Historically, Hruodland died during this raid.  The tale of this battle was passed down as legend and propaganda over the years and was later romanticized into The Song of Roland in the 11th Century.  It’s the love story of Roland, and this poem where he is mentioned briefly, that propelled Rendfeld to turn this legend into a storytelling masterpiece of her own.

If you like strong female leads in history that are feisty, courageous, and bold in a time where women were used mostly as political pawns and child-bearing vessels, you’ll love this novel.  It’s more romantic legend than the common historical literature. Rendfeld’s smooth prose, character development, and tight detail really make this book elegant historical fantasy that could be passed down through the centuries with anyone wishing to tell a tale with a lute and harp in tow. Oh, I was lost in time…….in reality, certainly one that anyone would love to have in their collection.

Interview with Author Kim Rendfeld~

NOW, READ MY IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW with KIM RENDFELD by CLICKING HERE!

Giveaway~

Kim Rendfeld is graciously giving away one (1) SIGNED print copy The Cross and the Dragon. With a beautiful cover and superb storytelling, this is a book you’ll want for your library. Open to United States residents only. Please leave a comment with your email (to contact winner) or email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail.com.

For an extra entry into the contest, you can follow my blog and let me know. The giveaway is open until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 2, 2013.

The Cross and the Dragon Synopsis~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

 Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign, told by a fresh, new voice in historical fiction.

For Purchase~

The Cross and the Dragon, published by Fireship Press, is available in e-book (via Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other readers) and in print from Amazon (U.S., Canada, U.K., and other countries) as well as Barnes & Noble.

 Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

KimBookPhotoSmallerKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association.

 Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats.  They have a daughter and two granddaughters, with a third due in May 2013.

See more about Kim Rendfeld and her books at www.kimrendfeld.com.

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Join in My Discussion with Kim Rendfeld, Author of Middle Ages Fiction The Cross and the Dragon

Today I have an interview with historical novelist Kim Rendfeld.  She’s published The Cross and the Dragon with Fireship Press, which is a novel of the Middle Ages (during the early years of Charlemagne) with a extremely courageous and endearing protagonist. I’ll be posting the review tomorrow. Until then, hope you have some time to read the discussion Kim and I had about writing, the Middle Ages, research, and getting published.

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2

Erin:  Hi, Kim! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy you’ve stopped by today to share your love of historical fiction and all things about being a writer. How are you enjoying this wintery weather?

Kim Rendfeld:  Thanks for having me, Erin.  This winter seems to be overcompensating for the extremely mild one we had last year. Fortunately, my houseplants are blooming or sending up buds to remind me winter won’t last forever.

Well, the groundhog says Spring will be right around the corner, so let’s hope!  Let’s sit back, enjoy some tea (since we’re both in colder states!!) and get to know one another.

Q:  Your novel, The Cross and the Dragon, takes on historical legend during the Middle Ages.  Having a second degree in History myself, I’ve taken courses on the Middle Ages.  Seemingly a time of legend and romantic endeavors that are quite entertaining to read and watch, I know from my studies that it was also a time of horrid living conditions and multiple wars. Do you think this is why legends and stories came about?

A: Regardless of the age we live in, we want to escape our reality from time to time, and storytelling around the fire is the oldest form of entertainment. In stories, we can make the world as it should be. Heroes surmount their challenges. Villains get their just deserts. It’s a universal wish.

Throughout history, stories were also used as propaganda, and the Middle Ages is no exception. To illustrate my point, I’m going to use a spoiler, so readers who would like to avoid it should skip ahead. The 778 ambush at the Pass of Roncevaux by Christian Basques was such a disaster for the Franks that it was not written about while King Charles (Charlemagne) was alive. Fast forward a few centuries to the time of the Crusades, and an anonymous poet transforms the event into a heroic stand against overwhelming odds in the form of a Muslim army.

Q:  Where did you come across the legend you base your novel around? Can you explain to us the legend and how it inspired your book?

A: There are a few spoilers in this answer, too. I encountered the legend behind Rolandsbogen in a guide book during a family vacation in Germany. Rolandsbogen is an ivy covered arch on a high hill overlooking the Rhine. The legend is that Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon) built the castle for his bride and went off to war in Spain. The bride heard false news that her beloved had been killed at the Pass of Roncevaux. She took a vow chastity and joined the convent on nearby Nonnenwerth Island. Roland returned too late. Heartbroken, he spent the rest of his days at his window in Rolandsbogen, trying to get a glimpse of her as she went to and from prayers.

This story would not leave me alone until I sat at my chair and started writing, even though I knew little of the real Middle Ages.

Q:  What do you think really defined love during the Medieval times? How has romance changed today?

A: In an age of arranged marriages to build wealth or alliances, medieval folk might have been happy if the husband didn’t beat the living daylights out the wife and the wife was faithful to the husband. Still, primary sources that focus on politics and battles reveal hints of affection in a married couple.

A pair of rare sentences in the Royal Frankish Annals describe Charlemagne’s return to Francia after months in Italy: “The same most gracious king reached his wife, the Lady Fastrada, in the city of Worms. There they rejoiced over each other and were happy together and praised God’s mercy.”

A few years later, Charles sent a letter to Fastrada before a war with the Avars. Among other things, he refers to her having an infirmity and asks her to write to him more often and tell him about her health. It gives meaning to his greeting her as his “beloved and most loving wife.”

Even though Charles and Fastrada lived 1,200 years ago, their sentiments–joy when reunited, worry about your spouse’s health–are remarkably similar to modern times.

Q:  What do you feel is the main message within The Cross and the Dragon?  If not a message, what do you hope the reader leaves with when they complete your novel?

A: I hope readers will understand not only how much times have changed, but how much human nature remains the same. Although their world view and expectations of marriage differed from ours, medieval folk felt the same emotions we do. They grieved, they loved, they felt joy and anger.

Q:  Who was your favorite character to write about and why?

A: For this book, it’s Alda. There is so much to like about her. She’s intelligent, compassionate, and fiercely loyal. But I what I most admire about her is her courage.

Q:  How did you research your novel? What avenues did you take, how were discoveries made, and how much time was involved?

A: In an age when few people could read and even fewer could write, this era lends itself to a dearth of information, but fortunately some people did write a few things down for us. Even though the authors are biased and don’t always let the facts get in the way of their stories, I love primary sources, and I owe a great deal to scholars who’ve translated and interpreted them.

It’s hard for me to say how much time was involved. I spent a few months reading, but as I started writing, I would constantly find that I needed to look something up. Even as I neared the end of my revisions, questions would pop up such as whether bishops at the time wore miters (they didn’t).

Q:  What is your writing process like? Do you form an outline or write at will? Do you set writing goals?

A: When it comes to fiction, I plunge right on in. I’d get stuck on an outline if I started with it. I wrote an outline partially through the process, only to throw two-thirds of it away. My writing goal is to spend at least an hour a day working on the story. If I set a word goal, I’d get so flustered on not making my numbers, I’d choke.

Q:  How long did it take you to complete your novel?

A: Like the question about research, this is not an easy one to quantify. I spent a year or two with the earliest draft of the manuscript and thought it was done. After year or so of unsuccessful queries, I joined a critique group who kindly told me otherwise. Two more years of revisions, and again I thought it was done and tried to interest an agent or editor. For several years, I would revise the manuscript whenever I got a useful rejection.  If I had to total up the time, I would estimate five years or so. However, I also had a full-time job.

Q:  You have a day job and a family. How did you make the time for such as accomplishment as writing a novel?

A: My stepdaughter is grown and has children of her own, so my husband and I don’t have small children to look after or teenagers to chauffer. Still, finding time to write is my biggest challenge.

I am blessed to have not only a very supportive husband, but one who cooks. I often squeeze in time to write in the evenings after I’ve fed the cats and on weekends. Part of my time to write comes at the expense of housekeeping and some sleep. I don’t watch a lot of TV and have a few yet-to-be-watched episodes of Downton Abbey on my DVR, and I’ve had to refrain from getting into lively but time-consuming discussions on Facebook.

Q:  What did you learn about yourself through the writing process and with the completion of the book?

A: Despite the problems our society faces these days, I truly am grateful for what we have today. I like our instant communication, women’s rights, mostly scientific medical care, and my morning coffee.

In finishing the book, I proved to myself that I could create something that required that kind of discipline and commitment.

Q:  How did you begin the process of publication?

A: If you can’t stand rejection, don’t try to get published. I am not kidding when I say I have enough rejection letters to paper a good-sized walk-in closet.

After I had finished revisions based on feedback from my critique group, I queried agents and a few editors. An editor I met at a Historical Novel Society conference wrote a useful rejection letter, which led to more revisions, and more queries. I finally found an agent in the fall of 2007, and the manuscript was revised again. Still, she was not able to sell it, and the relationship ended.

You know that definition of insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results? In 2011, I knew I needed to do something different. That something was then entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, where I finished as a quarterfinalist.  My consolation prize was a favorable review of the unedited manuscript from Publishers Weekly. The endorsement itself was wonderful, but it gave me a boost in self-confidence when I really needed it.

I queried a few more agents and Fireship Press, an independent publisher I had read about on another author’s blog.  Fireship liked the manuscript, and I could not be happier with the way the book turned out.

 

Le 25 décembre de l’an 800, à Saint-Pierre de Rome, Charlemagne est couronné empereur par le pape Léon III. Sacre de Charlemagne

Sacre_de_Charlemagne

Q:  How do you feel about the book publishing industry in today’s society? How does it help and/or hinder the historical fiction genre?

A: I am concerned with large-scale publishing being concentrated in fewer hands. It is not good for society for only a few corporations to control anything, whether that’s airline travel or information. The Big 5 (or whatever the correct number is these days) is less and less willing to take a chance on a new voice, a new story, or a new setting, historical fiction included.

Too many authors see their choice as either the Big 5 or self-publishing. There is a third alternative, the small press, the choice I made. I am grateful that my independent publisher, Fireship Press, was willing to take a chance on a story set in an uncommon era and uncommon place.

In my own experience with the small press, I had much more control than I expected over the process. The title is mine. I was able to have readers weigh in on the image that graces the cover—and they have great taste.

Q:  You and your husband have also worked in the journalism field.  What do you feel makes Journalists successful when they cross over into fiction work?

A: The time and space constraints of journalism taught me to get to the point. Maturing in the field taught me to be more concerned that my readers understood what I was saying rather than be impressed with my cleverness.

I also learned to question my sources and so-called conventional wisdom. Where is this information coming from? When was this written? What is the writer’s motivation? This mindset is especially useful in historical research, where the primary sources are fresh and colorful but not always accurate.

Q:  Do you have plans for a sequel and/or separate novels? If so, please share with us.

A: I am polishing a companion novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, set in the same time period. Here is my latest version of the blurb:

Can a mother’s love triumph over war?

Charlemagne’s 772 battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her husband died in combat. Her faith lies in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. And the relatives obligated to defend her and her family sold them into slavery, stealing their farm.

Taken in Francia, Leova will stop at nothing to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her honor and her safety. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.

Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon Christian and is Sunwynn’s champion—and he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Q:  Who inspires you as a writer? What are some of your favorite books, movies, or the like?

A: As a teenager, my favorite fiction was the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I admire how he can make an imaginary world seem real. As an adult, I owe a lot to my critique partners in the Lafayette Novel Group, one of whom was Roberta Gellis, who has written mysteries and romances set in the Middle Ages. Roberta helped me transform my characters from people in period clothing to true medieval folk.

Q:  Favorite food your husband fed you to keep you eating during your writing process?

A: I was so obsessed with getting finished I can’t remember what my husband cooked for me, except for linguine with a meat and tomato sauce. Most of the fare was typical of what we normally eat.

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: Readers can connect with me on my website (www.kimrendfeld.com), my blog www.kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, Facebook (www.facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld), Twitter (www.twitter.com/kimrendfeld) or Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld).

Q:  Please let us know where your books are available for purchase?

A: The Cross and the Dragon is available in print and e-book at Amazon U.S., U.K., and Canada as well as Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Kobo, Indigo, and other outlets.

Erin:  Thank you so very much for joining us and sharing on our site today. We hope you will stop by again and wish you the best of luck!

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The Cross and the Dragon Synopsis~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

 Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign, told by a fresh, new voice in historical fiction.

Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

KimBookPhotoSmallerKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

 Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats.  They have a daughter and two granddaughters, with a third due in May 2013.

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