Tag Archives: historical fiction authors

Review: The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino Brings Love and Drama Circa 19th Century NYC and Irish Immigrants #histfic #histnov #lgbt

The Parting Glass, Historical Fiction Review –

Parting Glass Cover

With St. Patrick’s day not long behind us, and it still being women in history month, I have a review of the recently released The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino, which features Irish-American characters. Last week, I posted an interview HERE on the site with the author as well, which will give you more insight into her book and the processes to her publishing it. I’d suggest going back and reading that if you haven’t after you take in this review. I believe the author is currently in Ireland, so I can’t wait what she uncovers to write about next.

The Parting Glass is the new debut historical fiction novel from Gina Marie Guadagnino and published by Atria set in 19th century New York City. It delves into themes of Irish-American immigrant life, and worth nothing in my own quest to support inclusivity in art, that it has LGBTQ+ themes in regards to featuring lesbian characters.

Generally I don’t often think there is a reason to single out the sexual orientation of characters, but since it’s an historical time period as well as a deep part of the characters and their interactions with each other and the times, I think it’s important to identify it as a key part of her work. It’s been called reminiscent of Sarah Waters, and I agree to some degree, because she handles her characters with great emotion and care.

Mary Ballard is an Irish handmaiden who falls in love with the lady she assists, who happens to be herself in a forbidden-type of tryst with the Irish brother of Ballard, who works in the stables. Yep, cue drama. Mostly for Mary Ballard, whose heart pines to frustration. It’s forbidden (what? all of it) in the 19th century, of course, in an upstairs/downstairs sort of way first of all, as Ballard and her brother are hired help, and Charlotte Walden is aristocracy living in Washington Square (the area of the rich who hired low-wage labor). The lesbianism would be frowned upon too, but that’s the heart-wrenching part too, as it’s unrequited love. Cue more angst in here.

Also racism is heavy at work during this time period, though it’s coming to the tail end of it (kinda? I think it’s still going on now), so the climax is heated as the Nativists and the No Nothing Party spew hatred against Catholics, Irish, immigrats as a whole. There is also a lot of corruption and gangs. That’s why some people liken this to part Gangs of New York. I get that.

Guadagnino has done a tremendous amount of research and it shows in her writing, which is beautiful and captivating both. Her historical details are plenty and give a solid foundation for the story to unfold and the well-developed characters to flourish. The best developed was Mary of course, both sides of her personalities as you’ll come to read, but Charlotte needed some work to not be sterile (even if high society ladies may have seemed so at the time, she was rebelling and have sex with the stable hand – his character also ignited by the fact he is leading an Irish gang).

Given the lush and vivid descriptions of this area of NYC, it’s obvious Guadagnino knows, loves, and has researched the history of it extensively. The setting is a marvelous backdrop for which the story unfolds with some twists and turns amid the drama. I truly enjoyed the imagery she presented to the reader with her engaging prose.

In wearing my editor’s hat, I’ll note that though it was clean, lush, descriptive, and a dramatic, enjoyable read, it does what so many traditionally published debut historical fiction books do, and that’s possibly try to do too much and not be able to wrap up all the intertwining plots quickly enough by the ending page count a publisher wants. It could have been strictly a romance or a strictly a take on the Irish immigrant issue of the day, because there was enough plot to both. If I was to offer suggestions, I’d have played up the latter and toned down the romance and the focus on the maid living this dual life, or picked one or the other of the sister and brother to focus on. But that is just a small suggestion in the whole scheme of the book.

If you want a 19th century romp in NYC, with drama among the class system, a woman’s journey to self, and a lesson in Irish immigrants and their plight, this book will be a steamy and interesting read for you. Guadagnino definitely knows her Irish-American history and culture and how it intertwined with others in this time and place. Her love of NYC is undeniable. There aren’t many historical fiction books out there that I know of that use the Irish-American culture in their narratives and I am glad to see her rise to the occasion as there are so many stories to tell and create!

Highly recommended as a unique, cultural yet entertaining read that will tug at your heart strings and leave you breathless by the end.

The Parting Glass, Information –

Parting Glass CoverPub date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Atria
Hardcover; $26.00
ISBN: 978-1501198410

Will a brother and sister’s steadfast vow withstand their wild devotion to the same woman? THE PARTING GLASS, a tempestuous nineteenth century love triangle threatens all that one secretive servant holds dear, is Gina Marie Guadagnino’s lush and evocative debut.

Posing as a lady’s maid in 1837 New York City, Maire O’Farren must tread carefully. The upper echelons of society despise the Irish and Maire, known to her employers only as Mary Ballard, takes great care to conceal her native lilt and lineage. Nor would the household be pleased with a servant who aids her debutante’s midnight assignations with a stable groom. Least of all would they tolerate a maid who takes a stronger liking to her charge than would be deemed entirely suitable for her sex.

Maire tends to wealthy young heiress Charlotte Walden’s every whim and guards her every secret. Though it pains her, Maire even delivers her brother Seanin to her beloved’s bed each Thursday night, before shedding her clandestine persona and finding release from her frustration in the gritty underworld around Washington Square. Despite her grief, Maire soon attracts the attentions of irreverent and industrious prostitute Liddie Lawrence, who soothes Maire’s body and distracts her burning heart.

As an English baron and a red-blooded American millionaire vie for Charlotte’s affections, Seanin makes calculated moves of his own, adopting the political aspirations of his drinking companions and grappling with the cruel boundaries of class and nationality. As Seanin rises in rank in a secret society and the truth of both women’s double lives begin to unravel, Charlotte’s secrets soon grow so dangerous even Maire cannot keep them. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother or to her lady, between respectable society or true freedom, Maire finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

Deeply researched and finely rendered, THE PARTING GLASS captures the delicate exuberance of nineteenth century high society, while examining sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. Perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin, Guadagnino’s captivating upstairs/downstairs historical fiction debut will leave readers breathless.

Gina Marie Guadagnino, Biography –

Gina Marie Guadagnino Author Photo by L.M. PaneGina Marie Guadagnino received a BA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School.

Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal FictionMixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader).

She lives in New York City with her family.

Praise for The Parting Glass

Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York in this darkly compelling debut. A claustrophobic love triangle of stifled desire and class warfare plays out to deadly, devastating effect. A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK

“Knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating, to read THE PARTING GLASS is to enter a jungle of passions and lies. Immaculately researched and gorgeously written, this book is noteworthy for its grasp of the agony caused by hiding cracks in the human heart. A thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of JANE STEELE

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Interview: Author Gina Marie Guadagnino on Debut Novel The Parting Glass, Featuring Irish-American Characters

Interview, Author Gina Marie Guadagnino of The Parting Glass

Hello everyone! After over two weeks of respiratory illness in our house, and all time spent recovering, taking care of home and others (partner, kids, parents), the brakes going out on my car and needing fixed, and then mad crazy catching up on my actual freelance publishing work load that pays the bills, I was able to get back to the Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site today. Alas, I missed putting up my usual St. Patrick Day post with books, movies, and treats. I did make Irish Stew on Sunday though!

I read The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino before succumbing to the ick, which meant I read just prior to its March 5 release date, and it fittingly has Irish characters set in mid-1800s NYC! I’ll have a review, and others, I’m catching up on, but I was able to conduct an interview with Gina in which we talk about her books, themes (Irish immigrants, LGBT+ characters), and how she writes historical and dark fiction like me. She even gives writers some good advice, with this being her debut novel.

Enjoy the interview and let us know what you think in the comments!

________________________

Hi Gina! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m very happy you’ve joined us today. Not only is it Women in History Month, but it’s the celebration of the release of your debut novel, The Parting Glass, which is a book that combines quite a bit – an NYC historical setting, plight of Irish immigrants and the scene of the day coupled with their various relationships, intrigue, as well as love and LGBT+ themes. We have much to explore, especially since I’ve come to learn you are also a writer of dark fiction like me as well.

Parting Glass Cover

First, come in and join me. In honor of your arrival, though it isn’t relative to what Irish-Americans would eat or drink in 1837, the time period of your book, I’ve baked my Irish Soda Bread with raisins and brewed some fresh Irish coffee. If it’s too early to make yours with whiskey, then just tell me how you’d like it. Have a seat in my plush library chairs and I’ll be in.

Emma's Soda Bread

Acutal photo of the Irish Soda Bread my 15 year old daughter and I baked this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day!

Gina: Hi Erin! Thanks so much for having me. I should be good like my protagonist Maire and refuse a belt on a workday, but how often does a girl get to publish her debut novel? So I guess you can make mine a double! That soda bread smells delicious, by the way.

Erin: Mmm, it does – and cheers to special occasions! Now that we are settled, let’s begin. I work, write, and read in history as well as dark fiction and so you’ll find a mix of those peers and readers following along with our talk. First, The Parting Glass is your debut book. Tell us about it in your own words and your inspiration for writing it.

Gina: When I started writing The Parting Glass, I had recently moved to Florida so that my spouse could pursue a PhD, and I was really missing New York. I had either lived or worked or studied on Washington Square for the ten years previous to our move, and all I could think about was going back, so I started writing a short story set on the Square. My primary focus is on historical fiction, so I started thinking about the kinds of people who would have lived and worked there when the brick row houses were new. At first, my goal was to expose the various strata of individuals in a single house, with almost a Downton Abbey kind of feel, but quickly, the stories of Maire, Seanin, and Charlotte came to the fore.

Washington Square drawing

Houses on Washington Square North, New York / Image sent by Gina

Washington Square North

Washington Square North / Image provided by Gina

Erin: It’s described as having an “Upstairs Downstairs” feel regarding its use of characters that are the hired help intertwining with the NYC elite they worked for at the time. You’ve studied American history, and Irish history, do you feel most people today realize that this concept didn’t end in the New World even as late as the mid-1800s? (These days, I don’t! lol!) What do you feel most people lack to understand about society in NYC then and how the Irish immigrants fit into it?

Gina: I think that most people have a general idea that American retained a robust servant class throughout the 19th century, yes. The massive influx of Irish peasants fleeing the Great Hunger in the 1840s and 50s resulted in a disproportionate number of Irish domestic servants in the latter half of the 1800s, but The Parting Glass takes place in the 1830s. I tried to use the temporal setting to explore the diversity of New York’s servant class, using the Walden’s household as a microcosm. You have Irish immigrants like Seanin, of course, but you also have New Yorkers of English and Scottish extraction, like the housekeeper and butler, Mrs. Harrison and Mr. Buckley. Then you have former slaves, like Mrs. Freedman and her deceased husband, Frank. Mrs. Freedman her son Young Frank, and the scullion Agnes all would have been slaves before they were freed in New York’s Emancipation Act of 1827. Most of the rest of the servants are people who would consider themselves “native” New Yorkers – so you see that, at the time The Parting Glass takes place, Irish immigrants played a much smaller role than they would only a decade later.

Erin: Interesting! What are the types of struggles on the surface that some of your characters are struggling with in society? What public persona is each trying to retain, no matter their social standing?

Gina: In terms of Society with a capital S, Charlotte and Prudence are the characters struggling most with the chafing expectations of maintaining their social standing. Charlotte never questioned that the trajectory of her life would include a grand society marriage before she met Seanin, while Prudence’s love of music had previously made marriage seem a dull prospect. The irony here is that when Prudence actually does fall for someone who would make a society match desirable for her, the potential groom is infatuated with Charlotte. Meanwhile, amongst the society of servants, Maire is struggling to fit in, pretending that she is not Irish. The irony for her is that her brother, who is open about his Irish ethnicity, is better-liked amongst the Walden’s servants than she is.

Erin: What are the challenges they are facing and hiding under the depth of surface? Your characters lead double lives – why did you choose to unravel these themes within your work? What did you hope to show in the parallels?

Gina: I really wanted to subvert the historical marriage plot with which we’re all so familiar. So many books about women set in the early 19th century fixate on the need for women to marry to secure their places in society. Even when those women are conflicted or have other mitigating factors in their lives, respectable marriage is still the ultimate goal. I wanted to explore women for whom that goal was unsatisfactory: queer women for whom marriage was not an option, women who prized art and autonomy over matrimony, women who prized love over status, sex workers who were ambitious about staying sex workers. I wanted to use the hidden narratives to express the unexpected ways in which women like Maire and Liddie were less burdened by societal expectations than more privileged women like Charlotte and Prudence whose lives were laid out before they were born.

Erin: I feel you were courageous in writing these characters, even today. Which was your favorite character to write? Which was the most challenging?

Gina: Liddie was by far my favorite character to write. She’s witty, ambitious, and practical; she doesn’t suffer fools. I had been thinking about writing a character like her for quite a while – 19th century sex workers and brothel owners are a fascination of mine – and she fit so seamlessly into The Parting Glass. Because I love Shakespeare, I gave her a theatrical origin story so that I could have her spouting some of my favorite Bardic quotations. Charlotte was actually one of the hardest characters to write. She’s naturally placid and aloof, very self-contained, and since we only see her through the eyes of the other characters, it was hard for me to strike the right tone with her!

Erin: Of course, your book is well-researched and intelligent in its foundation, but it’s not completely heavy on the themes of the dueling sociality of the characters (meaning it’s an entertaining, captivating read), but also explores love and forbidden desires. What did you decide to push the boundaries of writing and themes for readers? How did you?

Gina: You know, this might sound strange, but I really don’t think I was pushing too many boundaries here. Love and desire are really very basic human emotions that color so much of what we do. That was true a thousand years ago, it was true in the 1830s, and it’s true today. I think that you can write a book with intense political themes and then complicate matters with affairs of the heart and have the whole thing harmonize because that’s just what humans do.

Erin: Of the themes in your novel, what are the primary connections and correlations that you hope readers will leave with? Are you a believer that as people vary, that will vary?

Gina: I hope that people will leave the story aware of how little has changed in our society with regard to the way we legislate women’s bodies, the bias with which we treat immigrants, the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people, etc. And I hope that, being struck by those parallels, people are galvanized to do something about it.

Erin: Your book has been described as having tinges of Sarah Waters, due to its exploration of lesbian characters, but also Edith Wharton mixed with Emma Donoghue (via the amazing author Kris Walderr). To that end, do your characters develop with us in understanding themselves? Does a greater feminine achievement exist or is it a searching of mean for all various people within your characters?

Gina: I think Maire definitely develops along with the reader in terms of who she is and what she’s capable of. Without giving too much away, Maire starts off the book having completely suppressed all her desires in life beyond her desire for Charlotte, and even there, she has ceded her claim to her brother. She is, in many ways, the perfect servant because her mistress’s desires are her own. She doesn’t even believe she has the right to the sexual desire she feels for Charlotte. Over the course of the book, as the secret life Maire has build begins to unravel, as she meets other women who are willing to risk their comfort or their station to achieve their goals, she slowly comes into her own.

Erin: You’ve achieved something all writers search for with a debut novel, to be published traditionally by an exceptional house. How did this process happen for you? What do you feel helped you to accomplish this? (And congratulations!!)

Gina: Thank you! (clink Irish coffees!) It was a slow process. It took me five years to write and revise the novel – I think by the time I got around to querying agents, I was using draft 5. And then it took me about 18 months – and 181 query letters! – before I was offered representation by the amazing Alexandra Machinist at ICM. Alexandra truly believed in this novel – in its messy characters and complicated themes – and she had a vision of the type of editor to whom it would appeal. Trish Todd at Atria (formerly Touchstone) connected with the novel right away, and in our first call together, I knew my book was going to be in great hands.

Erin: In addition, what tips would you have for aspiring novelists?

Gina: I know that everyone says “be tenacious; don’t give up,” and while that’s obviously true in my case, I will also say “find the right allies.” Not every novel is right for every agent or every publisher. So figure out what your core message or values are, and find others who share them. Those are the people who will help propel your vision.

Erin: In looking through your website, I noticed that you not only write short stories like me (I have published a collection of dark poetry and stories and have contributed so anthologies in the genre), but that you’ve written dark fiction as well! I think dark fiction lends itself well to short works. What have you enjoyed about writing darker stories? Which has/have been your favorite(s) you’ve written?

Gina: The thing is, I never actually sit down and say to myself, “okay, I’m going to write something dark.” I set out to write something historical, or something with a supernatural element, or even something comical, and then they just come out dark anyway! I’m not sure what that says about me! Perhaps ironically, the one time I did try to write a truly dark story – about a woman who is unable to remember whether or not she committed a murder – I was unable to get it published. But that was years before Girl on the Train and that whole genre, so maybe I should try submitting it again!

Erin: You should! I was thinking I wanted to edit an anthology of women and crime, and this would be perfect. Now I just need someone to publish it and let me curate it. haha!

I’m wondering if you’re like me in how your writing and reading adventures cover a wide array. Are there darker elements you’ve brought to your longer or historical fiction like The Parting Glass? If so, what or why not? (In my personal opinion, I feel like the obsession element leans toward that!)

Gina: Obsession can be very dark, and lead people to dark places, so that’s certainly an element in my longer fiction, as in The Parting Glass.

Erin: Do you feel you will continue to write dark flash or short story pieces? What about a novel trending more towards dark fiction or horror?

Gina: Can I tell you a secret? I kind of hate writing short stories! It’s so hard for me to be concise and wrap up a short story neatly or satisfyingly. I have enormous respect for talented short story writers because that style of writing is such a struggle for me. In general, I tend to write longer work, with rare and occasional sparks that become standalone short stories. My current work in progress is something I’m calling a “reverse gothic novel.” In a traditional gothic novel, the characters believe that horrific and wild and sometimes supernatural things are happening around them, but in the end, there is a perfectly logical (if sometimes far-fetched) explanation. My latest novel, which takes place in the 1810s, is about a family who prides themselves on being so logical and rational that they never suspect that the events unfolding around them are as wild and outrageous as they really are!

Erin: That sounds fun and Gothic is my thing. Keep me updated!

I believe that you are completing more graduate studies, but in Irish studies this time? What have you studied previously and why, and also, why now Irish studies? How does this help you, or will help you, in your writing? Do you plan to write more historical novels?

Gina: I did my undergraduate work in English with a double minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Irish Studies, and I also have my MFA in Fiction. I plan to write many more historical novels set in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, and I wanted to pursue a degree in Irish Studies to support the research I do for my novels. I find the academic work I do deeply inspirational, and I already have so many avenues I want to explore as a result of my studies.

Erin: Some easier questions now! What are some of your favorite historical reads? What are some of your favorite dark fiction reads?

Gina: Well, we’ve already mentioned Sarah Waters and Emma Donaghue; they’re obviously high on the list. I love the works of Lyndsay Faye – particularly her Gods of Gotham trilogy. For medieval historical fiction, Nicola Grifith’s Hild and Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death – the latter of which definitely qualifies as a dark read! I also love Jo Baker’s Longbourne, and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, which certainly has some dark elements to it. And speaking of Kris Waldherr, as we were a moment ago, her debut novel, The Lost History of Dreams, is a delightfully dark historical work, out next month!

The Lost History of Dreams

Erin: We have a lot of reading interests in common! Since it’s Women in History month, who is a woman of history that you feel more people should know about and why?

Gina: I’m going to go with Asenath Hatch Nicholson, who I just learned about in my Irish Women’s History class. She was a social reformer and philanthropist (despite often being in dire financial straits herself) who was deeply concerned with the plight of the Irish in Five Points, and eventually became instrumental in the relief efforts during the Great Hunger. She was a fascinating and complicated woman with a mind of her own. While I don’t agree with all of her political or religious views, she was a true humanitarian, and a unique spirit. Go look her up!

Asenath_Nicholson

Asenath Hatch Nicholson / Image provided by Gina 

Erin: And since it’s March, and St. Patrick’s day was something we recently celebrated (one of my favorites!), can you share with us a favorite St. Patrick’s day recipe, story or legend, or something unique for readers?

Gina: This might sound a little out there, but go with me. My all time favorite Irish dessert is something I once had in a pub in Dublin in 2001. It was a huge slice of soda bread, topped with a scoop of Guinness ice cream, covered in dark chocolate whiskey sauce. Over the years, I have tweaked various recipes until I have perfected my own version of it, which I’ve attached. If you have a soda bread recipe of your own that you love, feel free to substitute that. And, like Ina Garten always says, if you don’t want to make your own Guinness ice cream, store bought is fine!

Irish Soda Bread:

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbs caraway seeds, plus more

1 cup raisins

1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, caraway seeds, and raisins. Add the buttermilk. Dough should be sticky, but easy to handle. Knead into a ball with floured hands. Place in a floured pan or cookie sheet, flouring only under the loaf to prevent burning. Flatten into a 7-inch circle with your hands. To allow expansion, cut a deep cross from side to side in the top of the dough with a sharp knife dipped in flour. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is crusty brown. Cool before slicing.

Guinness Ice Cream:

12 ounces Guinness stout
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 raw egg yolks, sterilized

In a large saucepan, simmer the Guinness until reduced by 3/4 in volume, about 8 minutes. Combine the cream, half and half, and sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add the vanilla bean halves. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk 1 cup of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, to the rest of the warm cream. Whisk thoroughly until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and add the Guinness reduction, whisking until well blended. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Dark Chocolate-Whiskey Sauce:
2 cups whipping cream
¼ cup honey

¼ cup whiskey
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine cream and honey over medium heat until just simmering. Reduce to low and add the chocolate and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the whiskey. Let stand until cool but still pourable. Serve over Guinness ice cream.

To Assemble:

Lay a thick slice of soda bread at the bottom of a bowl. Add a generous scoop of the ice cream and smother the whole thing in chocolate-w

Erin: WHAT?!! Irish Soda Bread sundae. Oh, my! Thank you for the recipes!

What else do you have planned for 2019 or beyond besides anything you might have already mentioned? What is the future looking like for you? What are you most looking forward to?

Gina: I’m actually headed to Ireland soon on a research trip for novel number three. It’s going to be set in Donegal during the Great Hunger, and I’m hoping start drafting it this summer. I haven’t been to Ireland since 2006, and I’m really excited to be heading back. I’ll be there for over a week, and in addition to my research in Donegal, I’m looking forward to visiting some old favorite spots, and getting to a few new places I’ve always wanted to visit.

Erin: Where can everyone find you online to connect?

Gina: My website is www.ginamarieguadagnino.com, and I can be found on both Instagram and Twitter at @mymarginalia – because you can’t spell marginalia without Gina!

Erin: Thank you so very much Gina for enduring all my questions! I have an overactive curiosity for people, places, things. I hope that you will stop by again in the future and wish you the best of luck with The Parting Glass and all things in the future. Let’s kick back and enjoy a few more drinks before you go!

Gina: Thank you so much, Erin! It’s always such a pleasure to sit down and talk with people like you who have such a deep appreciation for the historical! Thanks for making this a fun visit!

Parting Glass CoverThe Parting Glass, Information –

Pub date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Touchstone
Hardcover; $26.00
ISBN: 978-1501198410

Will a brother and sister’s steadfast vow withstand their wild devotion to the same woman? THE PARTING GLASS, a tempestuous nineteenth century love triangle threatens all that one secretive servant holds dear, is Gina Marie Guadagnino’s lush and evocative debut.

Posing as a lady’s maid in 1837 New York City, Maire O’Farren must tread carefully. The upper echelons of society despise the Irish and Maire, known to her employers only as Mary Ballard, takes great care to conceal her native lilt and lineage. Nor would the household be pleased with a servant who aids her debutante’s midnight assignations with a stable groom. Least of all would they tolerate a maid who takes a stronger liking to her charge than would be deemed entirely suitable for her sex.

Maire tends to wealthy young heiress Charlotte Walden’s every whim and guards her every secret. Though it pains her, Maire even delivers her brother Seanin to her beloved’s bed each Thursday night, before shedding her clandestine persona and finding release from her frustration in the gritty underworld around Washington Square. Despite her grief, Maire soon attracts the attentions of irreverent and industrious prostitute Liddie Lawrence, who soothes Maire’s body and distracts her burning heart.

As an English baron and a red-blooded American millionaire vie for Charlotte’s affections, Seanin makes calculated moves of his own, adopting the political aspirations of his drinking companions and grappling with the cruel boundaries of class and nationality. As Seanin rises in rank in a secret society and the truth of both women’s double lives begin to unravel, Charlotte’s secrets soon grow so dangerous even Maire cannot keep them. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother or to her lady, between respectable society or true freedom, Maire finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

Deeply researched and finely rendered, THE PARTING GLASS captures the delicate exuberance of nineteenth century high society, while examining sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. Perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin, Guadagnino’s captivating upstairs/downstairs historical fiction debut will leave readers breathless.

Gina Marie Guadagnino, Biography –

Gina Marie Guadagnino Author Photo by L.M. PaneGina Marie Guadagnino received a BA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School.

Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal FictionMixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader).

She lives in New York City with her family.

Praise for The Parting Glass

Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York in this darkly compelling debut. A claustrophobic love triangle of stifled desire and class warfare plays out to deadly, devastating effect. A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK

“Knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating, to read THE PARTING GLASS is to enter a jungle of passions and lies. Immaculately researched and gorgeously written, this book is noteworthy for its grasp of the agony caused by hiding cracks in the human heart. A thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of JANE STEELE

 Purchase –

Amazon

GoodReads

 Thanks for joining us today!

Leave a comment

Filed under Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Sam Thomas Delivers Stellar Third 17th Century Mystery Novel: The Witch Hunter’s Tale

Sam Thomas has recently published The Witch Hunter’s Tale, the third novel in his Midwife Mysteries! I have all the information below, plus my review of this stellar third mystery featuring midwife detective Bridget Hodgson.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPublication date:
January 6, 2015

St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 320

Series: Book Three, The Midwife Mysteries Series
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”

Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?

Review~

I love the midwife historical mysteries by Sam Thomas! He had me hooked from the first one, which was called A Midwife’s Tale and introduced us to the kind, hard-working, no nonsense midwife Bridget. I am not overly into midwifery by any means, but Sam takes his historical research experience of the 17th midwife life and couples it with period details and societal, religious, and political intrigue to plot out fabulous murder mysteries, which of course, Bridget inadvertently becomes involved in solving. He does also highlight the profession of delivering babies as well, which I’ve found has become quite interesting in its technique and manner. As a mom, it makes me cringe thinking what women went through back then in regards to childbirth.

Based on the idea that a midwife with a good name and some wealth can move just about anywhere in the street without the need of a man or husband, Sam can put his lead character Bridget in a good place to really search out clues that might not be an option for many other women in that era. Plus, she’s privy to all kinds of information that would be hard for anyone else to collect as she listens to her female clients’ gossips and understands the nature of all families in the area, whether wealthy or poor. The times are quite heated between people due to the English Civil War, which creates an air of fear and violence.

I have to say that this third mystery, A Witch Hunter’s Tale, has been my favorite of all so far. It could be because I am really interested in the history of witch hunts as well as witches, magic, and alchemy in history. The fact that the book’s mystery delved around the frantic time of the witch hunts being performed in South England, and religious fanaticism taking its hold northward where the series is set, truly had my attention the entire time. I do believe, however, that it’s also Sam’s finest novel to date due to his underlying tones of the persecution of women, and the double standards the laws created against women, as well as his portrayal of the religious fanaticism of the time and how it effected the country’s people and political structures.

I had just recently mentioned to another 17th century British mystery novelist, after reading a post on this site from Cat Cavendish about the infamous 17th century witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, that he’d be great to include in a mystery novel! Then I opened Sam’s book and saw his name mentioned! He wasn’t a character in Sam’s book, but there was some threatening of bringing him in to the area to pull out all the witches. However, the political leaders of the area, including Bridget’s uptight nephew, Joseph, and her nemesis, Rebecca, a former midwife, want all the power for themselves. They start hunting for witches and collecting them in the “gaols,” which Sam writes about with utterly horrid details that allow you, unfortunately, to smell and visualize the surroundings in a way that makes you never want to be transported to that time and place. However, his vivid descriptions are one of the amazing things about this book and they truly allow the reader to feel the plight of these suspected women.

So how does a midwife become involved in witch hunting? Since a midwife is concerned in birthing, she also serves to care for a woman’s body, therefore, she would be able to verify if a woman were a witch by finding a teat or witch’s mark on the body. Due to this, Bridget is quietly worried they will ask her to perform this exam, for if they are determined to hang someone as a witch, and have other proof, but as a midwife she finds the examination clear, she could be called a witch herself! Luckily, she has enough family prestige to not have a finger pointed at her, but some people will go to any means (even lying or killing) as a Searcher to torture and hang women, putting the fear of God into all the area.

Once the murder has occurred in the novel, Bridget becomes wholly invested in finding the truth, as her other nephew Will, of whom she treats like a son, is accused and thrown into jail by his own brother. Martha, Bridget’s trusty deputy midwife (and deputy amateur detective alongside her), are on the case to redeem Will’s name and save his life.

Other themes explored within this novel are Bridget’s inner emotions over losing her two children when they were young, as well as her husband. This happened in her life before even the first novel, and as a midwife she finds joy in delivering babies and had seemed to put it mostly out of her mind. But in this third novel, the author really examines her feelings of their deaths and how it effects her spirituality, her take on life and God’s role in it, her connections with those she has now come to love, and with the addition of little Elizabeth (an orphan) coming to live with Bridget, I saw more of her nurturing side in a way that really endeared me more towards the midwife. His character development of Bridget, as well as the other supporting characters in this novel, became more dimensional and deep. Plus, I just love how this sleuth and sidekick (Bridget and Martha) are female leads, with the men in supporting roles!

In The Witch Hunter’s Tale, Sam writes with great historical details, sensational description, deep and heartfelt emotion, and a formidable plot that kept me guessing and turning the pages right up to the end. I’d highly recommend this book, both in the series and as a stand alone, to anyone who loves mysteries or 17th century English life. He truly connects the reader to this era in northern England, which is ripe with strife, confusion, religiosity, and fear, and shows us how one woman can care for an entire town, and her hodgepodge of a family, just by opening her heart.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPraise for the Midwife Mysteries Series~

“Sam Thomas has created one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction—a crime-solving, wealthy, widowed midwife in embattled 17th-century York, England. . . . Bridget is as fascinating, fun and fierce as ever.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Harlot’s Tale”Besides making his heroine a plausible sleuth, Thomas conveys the challenges of midwifery without clumsy exposition.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Harlot’s Tale

“As pleasurable as his mystery is, the true thrill here is Thomas’s lively portrait of 1644 York and his unique heroine.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Midwife’s Tale

“A briskly plotted historical mystery starring a pair of brave, tenacious, intelligent women who take no prisoners and make no apologies.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham

“Thomas is a historian by profession and it shows in the wealth of detail with which he recreates the city of York amid the turmoil of the English civil war.” —Rhys Bowen, author of the bestselling Royal Spyness series

“A heart-stopping page-turner coupled with a gritty and realistic portrayal of two strong and contrasting woman characters vividly depicted against the backdrop of the besieged city of York.” —Cora Harrison, author of I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

“The gripping story, fascinating characters, and intriguing era make Thomas’s debut mystery a reader’s delight.” —Priscilla Royal, author of The Killing Season

“Thomas’s fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife’s skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Midwife’s Tale

“Everything rings true in historian Thomas’s superb first mystery. . . Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit’s intelligently concealed clues.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Midwife’s Tale

Buy the Book~

Amazon (Hardcover)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
IndieBound
Powell’s

Author Sam Thomas, Biography~03_Sam Thomas

Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and recently leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio. Formerly, he was an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information please visit Sam Thomas’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Witch Hunter’s Tale Blog Tour Schedule~

Monday, February 9
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Spotlight at What Is that Book About

Tuesday, February 10
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, February 11
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, February 13
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, February 16
Review at Book Babe
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, February 17
Review & Interview at The Emerald City Book Review
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Wednesday, February 18
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, February 19
Interview at Back Porchervations

Friday, February 20
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, February 23
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, February 24
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, February 25
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Spotlight at Brooke Blogs

Friday, February 27
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

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Bianca’s Vineyard is a True Historical Fiction that Captures the Legacy of Family, Loyalty, and Legacy

02_Bianca's VineyardI particularly love books that are based on true stories of families who endured World War I or II, because there is always so much depth to them. This era of history is seeped in stories that even the most likely of writers couldn’t even create….like the saying “sometimes real life is more exciting than fiction” applies I think!

Of course, with many of these war time families eventually having members come to America to re-build life, this meant that many families were separated, pain and secrets never much spoke of, and life took on the form of farming or wine making in the West.  This is what we find in the lovely book called Bianca’s Vineyard, by Teresa Neumann.

Of course though I love the historical stories of family vineyards, and the passing along to new generations of tradition (I learned to love this through reading past books and also sometimes having the chance in my day job to write about wine and vineyards in articles), this book wasn’t primarily about a vineyard, which had drawn me in at first, but in essence, it did really complete my hopes as it was a family story that spanned almost 90 years. The vineyard was the fruit of the story, the inheiritence that brought with it a mystery of Bianca’s Uncle Egisto, a sculptor who came to America to make money after the war (and it’s true– he was an amazing sculptor and carved many of the statues in St. Paul, Minnesota!), and his wife Armida, who struggled mentally and returns to Italy and ends up caught up in the horrors of Mussolini. Egisto then continues to work hard and raise their children, but he doesn’t want to give up on Armida in Italy (though she wasn’t his first choice to marry and didn’t know her well before they were married, he was very loyal!). That’s where the love story within this book is contained, within his faithfulness, and it will make you hold your breath.

The book juxtaposes between pre-WWII, WWII in Italy under Mussolini, and life in America. The family is reminicient of so many families that were torn apart by the horrors of war, where impulsive, quick, and detrimental decisions had to be made and atrocities endured. But as a vineyard binds, so can a family’s legacy. As part of a vine dies, a new season will bring growth. So can it be with love and with families. This book’s family history will tear your heart apart. It really touches on how hard it was for immigrants during the war, but also hard sometimes for the women immigrants as they felt lonely and out of touch, especially if they couldn’t speak the language.

I really liked the character development in her book and believe that her characters felt authentic and emotional. I was compelled by each situation and felt even sadder realizing that this was based on the author’s husband’s family history. I also really liked that she included so much historical detail and facts into her novel as this is what I look for in quality historical fiction. I like to be drawn in to the character’s time and place beyond only into their angst and personalities.

Neumann has presented a lasting memory of her husband’s family that can be passed down through their own future generations. As captivating as a sunset over a field of grapes, this story is  compelling, well-written in prose and dialogue, features historical and eloquent details, and rivets us with emotional drama which makes this book a page turner and a lasting addition to any book shelf.

Bianca’s Vineyard, Synopsis

02_Bianca's VineyardPublication Date: November 12, 2010
All’s Well House Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Bianca Corrotti’s vineyard is more than a piece of mouth-watering real estate in Tuscany. It’s an inheritance; a storehouse harboring the secrets of her Uncle Egisto Bertozzi, a world-class sculptor, and his troubled wife — a woman whose destiny converges with Mussolini’s when WWII overtakes them all. Based on a true story, Bianca’s Vineyard follows a devoted family of strong-willed men and lion-hearted women waging an epic battle against a gathering storm intent on destroying their lives.

Praise for Bianca’s Vineyard~

“Bianca’s Vineyard is many things: a striking portrait of wartime Italy under the Fascist reign of Benito Mussolini; a poignant story of family, torn apart and brought back together in the decades that spanned the Second World War; a love letter to the Tuscan countryside through its downfall and triumph. But beneath the lush descriptions of the Italian wine country and the startling brutality of a gruesome war that left a lasting impression on the entire world, it’s a story about forgiveness and second chances, and true love that prevails. The novel, ultimately, is a beautifully descriptive piece of historical fiction that spans nearly ninety years of one family’s history, focusing on one of the most pivotal moments of the twentieth century. The plot twists and turns with all of the provocative intrigue of family lore, but never fails to delight.” — The Portland Review

“Bianca’s Vineyard is involving and smoothly written, which is not surprising because Neumann is a journalist. Her dialogue is crisp and believable, and her evocation of the battle between partisans and Nazis is painful to read. Most of all, her story is of the secrets, compassion, family loyalty and long memories of people in small villages.” — St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Filled with drama and mystery, this page turner will have you longing for a vineyard of your own. Recommended for readers of historical fiction with lush settings and fans of family sagas.” — JoAnne Drake, Willamette Woman Magazine

Bianca’s Vineyard is beautifully written and is rich in culture and complex characters. Neumann gives you a realistic picture of what people went through during the war and how they survived a terrible force bent on destroying everything they have worked hard for and loved. I highly recommend this story! You will fall in love with it the moment you start the first page. Five Stars! — Historical Novel Society, Layered Pages

“Teresa Neumann’s wonderful novel, born in the contemporary history of Italy, has the impact that only a true and deeply human story could deliver. This is no fluffy Under the Tuscan Sun affirmation of all the cliches about Italy that you’ve read in recent years. Yes, the long family table under the sun, the wine and the wonderful Italian food, and the charming Italian eccentricity are all there … but this book is a riveting human story told by a master storyteller. It transcends place and time. With the instincts of a detective, Neumann investigated the tangled and often missing threads of a family story that found its way through the decades down to her. She has created a story that absorbs, stuns, and sometimes overwhelms the reader with its reality and immediacy.” — Dick Paetzke, Author of Postcards: Little Letters From Life

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

Author Teresa Neumann~

03_Teresa NeumannTeresa Neumann was raised in a large, boisterous Irish-Catholic family from Iowa and is the author of “Bianca’s Vineyard,” and its sequel, “Domenico’s Table.” Both books are based on the true stories of her husband’s Italian family in Tuscany. She has lived in Oregon for over 30 years with her husband and three children. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

For more information on Teresa Neumann and her novels please visit her website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway~

To win a Kindle eBook of Bianca’s Vineyard, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. TWO copies are up for grabs tour wide. Giveaway for U.S. residents only, per Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Giveaway ends 11:59 p.m. on August 26, must be 18+ to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 27 and notified via email. They have 48 hours to claim prize for new winner is chosen.

Rafflecopter LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MzUyMmRmMzEyNWJhM2M1M2I1ZjgwZmVmZGZmMTBiOjE1OA==/

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Tour Schedule: http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/biancasvineyardblogtour

Hashtags: #BiancasVineyardBlogTour #HistFic #HistNov

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @intrepidwriter

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Talking with Anne Barnhill about Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter and What Intrigues Her About the Tudor Era

Today we have an interview with Anne Clinard Barnhill, author of Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter. You can see that review from yesterday, HERE. Enjoy!

Hi Anne! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are celebrating Women’s History Month here, so there is no better time to talk to a woman author about the women she writes about! Your second book, Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I, just released last week. How has the book launch excitement been going for you?

Anne: Thank you for having me. The launch thus far has been quite exciting. On the actual launch day, DU JOUR magazine name Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter as one of the best new historical fiction books of 2014. That was quite thrilling!

Erin: Let’s put on some tea, I like Earl Grey quite a bit, though I go in phases. What would you like?

Anne: Oh, I love apple cinnamon or anything with a little spice.

Erin: Let’s have a sit, drink our tea, and get talking about books. Make yourself at home.

Queen Elizabeths Daughter

Q: Your first book of the Tudor era was At the Mercy of the Queen, and now, Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter. Where did you find the inspiration for your books and are they connected?

A: I’ve found inspiration from both books from my family tree. The two Shelton women I’ve written about so far are my ancestors. That, plus my love of the Tudor era is the inspiration for both books. They are not really connected except via the Shelton connection.

Q: What intrigues you most about the Tudor era? What keeps you from being intimidated in your writing by the fact that so many historical fiction author write about this era?

A: I love all the court intrigue, the dress, the politics and the challenge of trying to humanize these larger-than-life people, such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. There are oodles of books out there of all kinds; I try to focus on my own story and try not to worry about what other writers are doing. Though I love to read their stuff, I try to separate my work from my reading pleasure.

Q: What makes your books different from the other Tudor-type novels? Some have more romance, some more mystery, some more politics…where do your books lie and who would you target to read them?

A: Excellent question. As a writer, I think my strengths lie in characterization and creating a rich world that makes the reader feel at home. I try to connect with the universal, though we are separated from the Tudors by over 500 years. They were still human beings and I hope my books are good at portraying that. There is a romance in each book, but I wouldn’t characterize them as romances only. There is also intrigue and danger.

Q: What is the most amazing thing about Elizabeth I in relation to her ladies-in-waiting? How did she treat them and why did she do so? Besides your main character of Mary Shelton, one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, who were some other famous women who served the Queen?

A: Other ladies included Kat Ashley, Blanche Parry, Eleanor Brydges and Catherine Carey, to name just a few. Elizabeth must have been a difficult mistress in many ways. She occasionally slapped her ladies if they displeased her. I think she had a temper, just as her mother had had. On the other hand, she could be quite kind and understanding. There are instances when she allowed them to return home to care for sick relatives. They were her friends, at least some of them were intimates. She depended on them to be loyal and to take care of her personal needs. I’m sure she must have confided in a select few.

Q: I’ve always felt so bad for the ladies-in-waiting in regards to marrying. They seem almost married to the Queen, never being out from under her need or watching eye. How does real romance, not the arranged kind, even happen for them?

A: Romance was almost bound to happen. In comparison with the number of men at court, the ladies were few. There were lots of fish in that sea. More than one couple fell in love and married without the queen’s permission—Sir Walter Raleigh and Beth Throckmorton to name a more famous couple. Elizabeth could control a great deal and she encouraged her ladies not to marry. But such power can only go so far—the human heart carries even greater power.

Q: What was the most thought-provoking part of your research for either of these two novels?

A: Learning about how the court of wards worked was quite interesting. It made me realize just how many children lost parents or fathers at this time when the average lifespan for men was 48. And I was once again amazed at how money and power played into that system, when it should have been about caring for the children. It was also extremely complex.

Q: Have you written any other books or works? If so, what are they?

A: Yes, I’ve written a memoir, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ: Autism, My Sister and Me which is about what it was like growing up with an autistic sister before anyone had heard the word and what my family went through trying to get help for my sister. I’ve also written a short story collection, WHAT YOU LONG FOR, and a poetry chapbook, COAL, BABY.

Q: Are you interested in writing books about another historical time, place, or person? If so, who?

A: Yes, of course! I’d love to write about Moll Cutpurse, who lived in the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign and was quite a lively character. I have mystery series in mind with her as the major detective. And I have two novels in mind set in West Virginia, one I the 1880’s and the other in 1960.

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: I’m on facebook, Anne Clinard Barnhill-Writer, and I also have a website, http://www.anneclinardbarnhill.com. I’m on twitter but I run that mainly from the facebook page. We have a lot of fun—I put up stuff about the Tudors and we play piggly-wiggly. Sometimes I tell jokes! One person sent in all these great bands from the Tudor era—like New Kids on the Chopping Block and Three Dog Knight. It’s fun!

Q: Where can they purchase your books?

A: At any independent bookstore, online at Amazon and B & N.

Erin: Thank you very much, Anne, for taking time from your schedule to appear here and talk about your new book, Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter. I wish you much success with all your books. Please feel free to come by again anytime!

Anne: Thanks, Erin, for having me! It was great fun!

Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter, Synopsis~

Queen Elizabeths DaughterPublication Date: March 18, 2014
St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback; 320p
ISBN-10: 0312662122

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

Author Anne Clinard Barnhill, Biography~

Anne Clinard BarnhillAnne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants.

Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, view Anne Barnhill’s website at: www.anneclinardbarnhill.com

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/queenelizabethsdaughtertour
Tour Hashtag: #QueenElizabethsDaughterTour

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Rebecca Hazell, historical author of The Grip of God, discuss Mongols, Writing, and Important Women in History!

Today, I have an amazing interview with author Rebecca Hazell that I found so incredibly interesting. I hope you take a few moments to read, or at least bookmark for later. There is a lot of thoughtful and insightful  information, plus we had a lot of fun! Be sure to come back by the blog on Monday, when I’ll have a review of The Grip of God and a giveaway!

Hi Rebecca, thank you so much for coming by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today to chat with me about your books and your most interesting life! What has been new and noteworthy for you recently?

Rebecca: Thanks so much for inviting me! It’s been an interesting and challenging few months: a solo art show, our son involved in a serious car accident (still gives me shivers when I think about it), and a lovely visit to San Francisco that meant first getting through the blizzard in Portland, Oregon. Other than that, life goes on as usual.

Erin: It’s still snowing/sleeting rain here where I am, so I’m going to put on some hot chocolate. Would you like a hot drink? What’s your choice?

Rebecca: I love hot chocolate, too.

Erin: Wonderful, let’s have a seat and I’ll get started. I’m anxious to learn about you! Let’s show off the cover of The Grip of God first….

grip of god

Q:  On your website, you describe the first book, The Grip of God, in your series as “set in the 13th Century during the time of the Mongol invasions, the story chronicles an adventure akin to a character from the Game of Thrones, but with the feminine sensibilities of Jane Austen.” Can you explain this further to the prospective reader?  Both seem like such different characteristics!

A: Jane Austen is my favorite author, because she was both insightful and had a sense of perspective about her times. Many of her heroines had to quietly endure suffering based on lack of money, love, or opportunity, but they had a certain bravery that ennobled them. (She also had a great sense of humor!) My heroine, Sofia, has those qualities, though less sense of humor, because her life is utterly different from the gentler world that Jane portrayed. Sofia must face the loss of her entire world when the Mongols invade her homeland. But she manages not to lose heart or become bitter, qualities Jane both portrayed and embodied. The Game of Thrones element is that that series portrays a world of continual war, bitter politics, and personal uncertainty, exactly the kind of world that Sofia must face. I think the contrast of the two, the personal integrity of an Austen, played against the backdrop of a Game of Thrones world, is quite intriguing.

Q:  I’ve always been interested in Mongolian history, but haven’t come across many books featuring women of the time period. How did you find your inspiration for this book?

A: You’re right: women were truly chattel in that era, and only remarkable women broke that mold and made it into history books. My inspiration was inexplicable: the story seemed to leap out and seize me when I was in my early twenties. My husband tells me that I told him the basic plot on our third date. It haunted me for years, and one day in the 1990’s I decided it was high time to get the story told.

Erin: How exciting you did!!

Q:  How extensive was your research? Were you able to find an abundance of materials on women of this time period or did you have to creatively come up with it all on your own? Explain in either or both regard, please.

A: My research took about 15 years, off and on; for the entire trilogy I read at least a hundred books. Thank you, university libraries! The internet became a wonderful resource, but also I lucked into situations like going to Disney World with my family and discovering a traveling exhibit on the Mongols, including an amazing collection of artifacts like clothing, armor, weapons, saddles, even eating pouches with chopsticks and napkins! I was taking notes like crazy while my family went on the Disney rides.

Erin: How exciting!!

As to creating things from my imagination, I couldn’t get away with that. Even when I did make up a detail like a blue vial of rosewater, it usually turned out that I would find that very item in a museum somewhere! It got a little spooky. Overall, everything is as historically accurate as I could make it, which was my intention. History is stranger than fiction, so why try to change it?

Erin: Agreed!

Researching how the women would have lived was a challenge. I just didn’t give up, even using books written in languages I don’t speak, but which had great pictures. I haunted museums whenever we traveled, looking at scraps of textiles and how they were used, for instance. I read not only histories but also books about how life was lived, and when I couldn’t find out directly, I used modern sources on traditional cultures and extrapolated back in time. This was often necessary where the Mongols had destroyed just about everything in their path: not much left for posterity to study! And I had the great good fortune of visiting Kiev, or Kyiv as the Ukrainians call it, and visiting the very places I wrote about.

Q:  How would you describe women of the Mongol period?  How are they different or the same from other women of the 13th century? How did the gender progress as time moved on?

A: Interesting question. Sofia is, of course, not a Mongol but a minor princess of the doomed principality of Kievan Rus’, the forerunner of both Ukraine and Russia. So much of the book shows her contrasting her memories and assumptions with those of the Mongols, who thought very differently about things, including the role of women. In Rus’, noblewomen were losing ground in terms of independence because they were thought to need protecting during this war-torn period. After the Mongol invasions, they were kept isolated in their homes, almost like being in a harem. This was also the time when serfdom arose, where peasants were bound to the land by force, kind of like a protection racket. They ran away a lot, so I imagine women peasants ran away along with their men.

Women of Sofia’s rank were political pawns who were expected to marry for family and/or political gain, not for love—though mutual love may have arisen. Mongol women of lower ranks had a lot of independence and authority to run their households, but Mongol noblewomen were used in the same way as in Rus’ or other European countries, to bind families or tribes in alliances. I think Mongol women overall may have had more freedom than European women had.

Erin: I think that sounds pretty accurate. It’s all so very interesting.

Q:  Do you describe your book as biographical historical fiction, historical fiction, or historical fantasy? And why?  What type of reader would enjoy your book the most?

A: I think of my book as serious historical fiction but with a romantic orientation because I believe that everyone craves love, even when it seems like love is last on the list of priorities. And so much serious historical fiction seems to be about how selfish people were, when the world simply couldn’t have survived if no one offered kindness or insight to each other. I think women (and men!) who are curious and want to learn more about the world, past and present, would enjoy this book. It has so much resonance with modern times: how we are still trying to find ways to work with others who don’t share our points of view, for instance.

Q:  I believe I saw that there are other books in this series as well. Are they already published, coming soon, or are you still writing them? If not available, when will they be available?

A: All three books are written, and the second one, Solomon’s Bride, will hopefully be out within a month. It’s set in Iran and the Crusader states, where Sofia runs into more trouble. And the third novel, Consolamentum, will be out by April or May, fingers crossed.

Q:  I was really delighted to see your non-fiction children’s books on heroes and heroines and women writers!  I have three school-aged children and I think these books look fantastic in regards to teaching them history and life lessons. Especially the women writers, since I’m a writer, but more so because my 10 year old daughter enjoys writing. How did you decide who to feature in your books? Why is this important for young readers?

A: I loved writing those books. I drew up long lists of people for each one and then found those who covered several bases, so to speak: time periods, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, etc. It was hard leaving so many great people out, and I’d like to write a second volume of heroines and heroes. No more heroic children, though. I cried buckets writing that book, though it was a great success in many ways. Lots of people told me it made them cry, too.

And writing about women writers was truly inspiring because those authors had to work so hard, because historically, women were so marginalized. I think it’s important for girls to know that they will face obstacles in life but that they will grow stronger from meeting them with courage and creativity.

Q:  Your art is very beautiful, as well as peaceful and comforting. I’d love to see more of your work. When did you start painting? Can you tell us a little about your art?

A: I started my art career drawing on the walls of our home at around age two. Art is hard work, but for me it highlights what is wonderful about this world, so that is what I seek to capture. I had to set it aside while finishing the novels, but am now getting excited about exploring it again. I am very illustration-oriented, but would like to do some more mysterious, surreal pieces, kind of like illustrations for fairy tales but ones that were never written.

Q:  I really like your book cover of The Grip of God, as well as what I’ve seen of the others on your website.  Did you design them?

A: Yes, my daughter and I designed that one, but not Solomon’s Bride. We also designed Consolamentum, which is still not finalized.

Q:  What other women in history do you admire? Who would you choose to write about if given the chance?

A: Thanks for asking this! I admire Hatshepsut, the first great woman in history, who usurped the throne of Egypt and ruled as a pharaoh for many years, bringing peace and harmony to her subjects and rearing her ‘legitimate’ nephew to take over. I also admire Queen Tamar of Georgia, who was a great leader for her people in the thirteenth century despite nearly getting invaded by the Mongols. It was said of her reign that peasants lived like nobles and nobles lived like kings.

queentamar_giorgi1Queen Tamar of Georgia (at left)

And I admire Christine de Pisan, who was such an eloquent defender of women in the 14th/15th centuries. And then there was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a representative to the newly formed United Nations. She almost singlehandedly got representatives of enemy nations to sit down, put their differences aside, and write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was so brilliant, tough, and full of heart!

Erin: Hatshepsut is a favorite of mine, as are most Egyptian women. My two oldest children are part-Egyptian, but even before them, I have always been a huge fan of Egyptian history. I think it is still selling, even though some publishers don’t, but there is still so much left to write and explore. Their spirituality amazes me.

And as for Eleanor Roosevelt, I concur!! She is an ancestor of mine, on my mom’s side!! Nice to hear you say those things about her, I admire her as well.

Q:  Do you have plans for any other books in the future?

A: Yes, I’d like to write something about how people have created societies that were based on some vision of mutual good. Ancient Egypt comes to mind, as well as what we call Byzantium, and there are several others that worked so well for a thousand years. We could learn a lot from them.

Erin:  My goodness, I’d say so. There is drama in every society, but yet some more tranquil than others, and unified.

But I’d also like to write about a couple of medieval queens (my ancestors, yet!) who were rivals and not very pleasant people. Skullduggery and nastiness galore; they make Game of Thrones look tame! They’d make great reading, though.

Erin: Now I’m curious about your ancestors!!

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: They can go to my website and email me from there. I always answer and am glad to connect with them.

Q:  Please let readers know where and when they can find your book series!

A: At present, Amazon.com and its affiliates, or they can order through their local bookstores. I root for the latter, and feel very supported by the two bookstores in the town where I live. And libraries may be willing to order copies; my library bought books directly from me.

Erin:  Thank you so very much for speaking with me today. I hope to follow your art and your writing. Best wishes to you for the success of your series!

Rebecca: Thank you, Erin. I’d love to come back and visit you again. You not only ask great questions, you make great hot chocolate!

Erin: I look forward to it!

Grip of God, Synopsis~

grip of godDuncan, BC Canada:
Award Winning Writer Rebecca Hazell Releases First Book in Trilogy of Historical Fiction Novels

Rebecca Hazell’s The Grip of God, the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, is available on amazon.comand its affiliates and by special order through your local bookstore. The saga’s heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. Clear eyed and intelligent, she recounts her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol hordes that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is haunted by a prophecy that catalyzes bitter rivalries in her new master’s powerful family. She must learn to survive in a world of total war, always seeking the love she once took for granted.

Sofia’s story is based on actual historical events that determine her destiny. Readers will delight in this very personal and engaging tale from a time that set the stage for many of the conflicts of today’s world.

Praise for the trilogy

“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

“I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn’t put it down.” — from a review on Amazon.com.

“I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful.” –author Dede Crane Gaston

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The subsequent two novels in the trilogy are scheduled for publication later this year.

Author Rebecca Hazell, Biography~

rebecca hazellRebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:

Website | Goodreads | Facebook

Tour Schedule:

Monday, February 17

Review at Must Read Faster

Tuesday, February 18

Guest post/giveaway at Must Read Faster

Friday, February 21

Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Monday, February 24

Review/giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, February 26

Review at A Rose in the City

Thursday, February 27

Review at Book Drunkard

Friday, February 28

Guest Post at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 3

Review at She is Too Fond of Books

Thursday, March 6

Review at Celticlady’s Reviews

Friday, March 7

Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Monday, March 10

Guest post/review at Lost in Books

Tuesday, March 11

Guest Post at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, March 12

Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, March 13

Review/giveaway at Create with Joy

Friday, March 14

Guest post/giveaway at HF Book Muse- News

Guest post/giveaway/review at Le Vanity Victorienne

Grip of God tour banner v1

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David Blixt and I Talk Serious on Rome, History, Religion, and the Biggest Social Issue We are Facing Today!

Today, I’m featuring the amazing David Blixt!  He’s the author of many historical novels, but the one we are showcasing today is his second book in the Colossus series, The Four Emperors. For blog purposes, I’m keeping the review shorter as I also have a fabulous interview with David that you won’t want to miss. Packed with information, but loads of fun too! David is one of the most interesting people that I know!  That interview will follow the review and book information below.

David is a very well-researched author and his books are very well-written with developed characters and historical plots and intrigue you can really get lost in. He immerses himself into his projects, painstakingly perfecting every chapter, paragraph, and line so that readers are entertained and educated. Being a novelist, and creating perfect stories to please readers, seems to be David’s innermost calling, because he does it with such finesse.

I’ve read several other of David’s books, but I think the Colossus series really adds to the whole Roman history genre, taking place in a Rome under and post-Nero. Nero, known for his diplomacy and trade, but yet also his swift executions and extravagant and impulsively driven character, also persecuted Christians and is now assumed to have set the great fire to Rome. Too cowardly to perform the suicide he wanted, he made someone else kill him and then ensued the era of chaos known as the Four Emporers, which is the time that David’s second book takes place.

David’s character Titus Flavius Sabinus is caught in the emotional and political turmoil that is created as four people joust for the throne. David’s gives us an intricate and dimensional view of Sabinus, written with depth of character and feeling. We can feel the struggle that Sabinus must contend with in order for safety.  As big statues are erected by tyrants who rule (kind of like they are building a public display of their egos), so must they topple and Sabinus is caught right in the middle of the drama that is civil war.

The writing of David Blixt is descriptive and beautifully authentic. He truly knows how to set the visual scene, enamoring and engaging readers in a hypnotic way. I dare you to NOT read David’s Colossus series, because it’s a must-do for any true fan of any type of historical literature that is well-versed and intelligent. Synergetic of today’s mass crumble, this book is a must read on several levels!

The Four Emperors

COLOSSUS: THE FOUR EMPERORS, Snyopsis~

Publication Date: April 7, 2013
Sordelet Ink
Paperback; 406p
ISBN-10: 061578318X

Rome under Nero is a dangerous place. His cruel artistic whims border on  madness, and any man who dares rise too high has his wings clipped, with fatal results.

For one family, Nero means either promotion or  destruction. While his uncle Vespasian goes off to put down a rebellion  in Judea, Titus Flavius Sabinus struggles to walk the perilous line  between success and notoriety as he climbs Rome’s ladder. When Nero is  impaled on his own artistry, the whole world is thrown into chaos and  Sabinus must navigate shifting allegiances and murderous alliances as  his family tries to survive the year of the Four Emperors.

The second novel in the Colossus series.

Interview with David Blixt~

Hi, David! So happy to finally have you here on the blog for an interview! I always enjoy your books and you’ve been by Hook of a Book before with an amazing guest post, but I think my readers are looking forward to me picking your brain. How has the Fall season in Michigan been treating you, much like mine in Ohio?

David Blixt

David: Hey, Erin. Thanks so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. The Fall has been lovely so far. The summer Shakespeare season is down, with all four shows getting lovely reviews. The kids are in school, and while I’m shuttling madly back and forth between Chicago and Ann Arbor, I am grateful to finally be able to jump back into writing!

Erin: You’re life is always so busy and seems fun every minute. Let’s get started then! Let’s hop in an Aston Martin and go for a drive and see how many questions we can ask on the fast turns (for readers who don’t know, David is a huge James Bond fan!)

David: Entirely true. Though I prefer the Swing-era jazz to Bond’s softer 50s-style. So let’s turn on some Benny Goodman and get started.

Q:  You are a very interesting and well-rounded individual. You are an actor, playwright, novelist and a jack of all creative trades. What makes you tick? For example, what makes life worth living for you (outside of your wife and little cute children, of course)?

A: (ducking head in an ‘aw shucks’ manner) You’re very kind. What makes me tick? Hm. Short answer – history, Shakespeare, Looney Tunes, and being able to hop from project to project. Part of what I enjoy about theatre is that it’s a very project-based profession. The same is true about writing. I like diving deeply and completely into a subject/role/idea and exploring it to its fullest. I like finding out new things and sharing them, in what I hope is an entertaining fashion. I once had a professor at U of M tell me it didn’t matter what I learned, so long as I learned to learn deeply. That has always resonated with me. Diving into the deep end of a thought or question or story and exploring it to its fullest – and then being able to move on to something entirely different. It’s my joy.

There’s a punny motto in my family – “Follow your Blixt.” Terrible, but true. At the end of the day, my bliss is writing, giving form to thought and discovering where it takes me. Writing is as much exploration as story-telling. I know the ultimate destination, but I really enjoy finding my way there.

(The other name-based joke is “Ignorance is Blixt”. I use that a lot).

Erin: Love it!

Q:  In all your time acting and performing and directing in endeavors such as the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, how do you fit in the time to write with a busy family and all as well? What is your best used tactic to getting research and writing completed?

A: The research never ends. And the truth is, whenever I’m stuck in my writing, the research will save me. I’ll find some fact or quirk of history that leads me down a path I had no idea existed.

As for writing, I need to allow myself long stretches of time. I’m teaching less this semester, for which I’m very grateful, as I now have more time every day to write. I’m at my desk by 8:30 in the morning, and while I’ll read the news and do Facebook for awhile, I usually am into the writing within an hour. And I won’t really emerge until the kids come home, or until I have to be somewhere. If I have less than four hours, I can’t really build up a head of steam.

The only sadness in my life at present is that I have very little time these days to read for fun. Most of my reading is research, so I feel I’m missing out on books by authors I adore. Thank heaven for Audible, so I can at least listen to my fellow travelers in the car.

Q:  Your love of Shakespeare is evident and I loved reading Her Majesty’s Will, featuring Will Shakespeare of course! But you’ve written several other sets of books, the Star-Cross’d series, which is set in Verona, and then the series we are on tour for now, Colossus, which is “a tale of Jews, Romans, and the Rise of Christianity.”  Which has been your favorite to write and why?

A: The Verona books will forever be dear to my heart. The Master Of Verona was my first real novel (the prior attempts live in a drawer), and I discovered so much – about myself, about the craft, about history – that I’ll look on it fondly for the rest of my life. I hit a lot of highs, and that novel just poured out of me in the space of a year. The sequels have allowed me to continue both to grow and to play in a sandbox I adore.

Her Majesty’s Will was probably the book I had the most fun writing. It’s unlike anything else I’ve done, just a mirth-filled romp, and I was grinning the whole time I was at it.

All that said, the Colossus books are probably the most direct writing I’ve done. The story is very, very clear in my head, and the characters even moreso. As there are very few fictional characters, I can just allow the history to carry me on. Each series has its own tone and style, and for Colossus the writing is my most straightforward, which I hope means also the most accessible. And Rome resonates with me more than any other period of history – probably because there are so many parallels to our present day.

Q:  For the Colossus series, what was and is the major inspiration for you in writing about this time period?  What themes or historical lessons are you teaching?

A: The initial inspiration was physical – I was in the Saint Clement’s Basilica in Rome, exploring one of the city’s best-kept secrets – the excavation under the church. Rome is a city that his built itself up and up over the last 2500 years. At San Clemente they’ve dug down, allowing tourists to travel back in time, layer by layer, all the way down to a first century cobblestone Roman street. I’ve been back three more times. After the last, I determined to do something about that remarkable place. But what?

So I started researching Saint Clement, the fourth Pope. And, without spoiling my own ending, I found a story that inspired the whole series. From there, I started tracing the historical elements back to the Fall of Jerusalem. I wrote a book, and my agent said, “Great. Now you have to write the novel before it.” After I disposed of his body, I did just that. It was vast, so I split it into three parts – Stone & Steel, The Four Emperors, and Wail Of The Fallen (coming in 2014). After that comes The Hollow Triumph, and probably two more – we’ll see.

The themes have a lot to do with man’s relationship with the divine, but also with honour and family. Over the long haul, it will explore the idea of a “good” death.

colossus 1

Colossus: Book 1

Q:  Do you feel that the Colossus books address issues of today by teaching through history? Why or why not?

A: I think a huge portion of our trouble today is failing to learn the lessons of history. Doomed to repeat it and all. But we don’t even know our own origins. We don’t know how deeply the conquering of Judea affected Rome, and how Rome in turn altered the nascent Hebrew sect of Christianity. It’s just like people making assertions about the American Founding Fathers without reading their writings. If we don’t know how our past shapes our beliefs, we cannot understand why we believe what we believe, and challenge those beliefs when they come in conflict with our experience.

Factoid – America was very much seen by some founders as a “New Rome.” In fact, Washington DC was originally called just that. They tried to rename the river the Tiber. The Capitol had a space for an eternal flame, just like the Vestals had. The Washington’s monument is an obelisk, just like the ones Rome stole from Egypt. In the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln is posed like a Roman consul. All of these are deliberate. But, being modeled on Ancient Rome, we are in danger of falling into Roman traps. The more we learn about what went wrong in Rome, the more we can resist the forces pulling us in the same direction. I hope.

Erin: I hope too!

Q:  How did you do your research about this Roman era, around 60-70 AD, in order to write the Colossus novels?  What is the most interesting thing you came across in your research, something that surprised, shocked, or amazed you?

A: There are any number of sources I could cite. Two books on the Year Of The Four Emperors alone, one by Kenneth Wellesley, the other by Gwyn Morgan. Books on Nero, on Josephus, Vespasian, Domitian. Plutarch, Suetonius, Livy. All of it is grist for the mill. Tons of reading. Then it all distills into the story that needs to be told.

The shock, to me, was Nero himself. I knew about some of his depravity, but it is simply beyond my understanding how he was able to last even as long as he did. No wonder the senators hated him – he threw parties where their wives were forced to submit to any man who came along. The rape-culture in the novel makes my skin crawl, but is if anything toned down from some of the reports.

And yet, if one writes about a historical villain, one should try to humanize him. Otherwise he’s a caricature of evil. Nero was awful. But he was granted ultimate power as a teenager. What does that do to a boy? A victim of incest, taught murder by his mother, it’s no wonder he ended up murdering her in turn. He was not interested in pain so much as shame. You look at his actions, he was out to shame everyone. A kind of revenge. So much of what happened was due to how he was raised, what he came to think was normal. There was some serious mental illness there, married to unquestioned power. The one part that is touching, or could be, was his desire to be a great artist. More and more, he felt the pull of theatre and music. He was a disaster for Rome – for anyone whose path he crossed, really – but he’s also pitiable. He desperately wanted to express himself. The horror is that he chose all the world as his palate, and used people for his paints.

Q:  We are still linked in so many ways to our Roman trailblazers.  What do you think were their worst faults? And then, their best efforts? 

A: Starting with their best, their ideals are great. They took the Greek notion of democracy and crafted it into a workable frame, one we specifically use today. They were incredible engineers. They created the first standing courts, the first set of inalienable rights. The notion that all citizens were equal was at the heart of Roman life.

Their worst? A tendency to back themselves into political corners that resulted in military or unconstitutional solutions (crossing the Rubicon was Caesar’s acknowledgement that the law no longer functioned). They institutionalized racism and slavery. They started revering men above their fellows, despite their determination not to do so, which led to an accruing of power at the top. Worse, privatized arms makers and mercenary armies replaced the state-run ones, creating warfare as a for-profit industry. Once standing armies came into being, it created the need/temptation to use them, causing a state of constant warfare.

Oh sorry – were we talking about Rome?

Q:  Why is studying the rise of Christianity so important to learning about history, even if someone might not be religious? How did it change or shape history?

A: Early Roman Christianity (separate from the Christianity that existed prior to Peter coming to Rome) borrowed so much from other religions. There are elements of Isis, Horus, and Osiris, as well as Mithraism. The birth stories of Moses and Romulus are blended into Christ’s. Rome was the Caput Mundi, the capital of the world, the place where all ideas met and merged. It was inevitable that Rome would change the nascent Christian cult. And when, a couple hundred years later, Christianity replaced the Roman pantheon, it was not a pure switch. The saints took on the roles of the old gods, who were each prayed to for individual needs.

So much of this is obvious, and yet unknown. We disdain other religions without understanding them. As religion is the biggest divider in all of history, the fact that we remain so ignorant even of our own is horrific, perpetuating the cycle of Christians hating other Christians, much less Muslims and Hindus and anyone else who prays to God by another name. How many people know about Martin Luther nailing his tract to the church door? How many understand what that was about? Or Saint Augustine renumbering the 10 Commandments so that coveting a neighbor’s wife got its own slot? Or that Jews number them differently than we do?

One of the biggest unknowns, and one that I’ll touch on at some point in the series, is Judas Iscariot. The trouble is, there is no word Iscariot. It doesn’t mean anything. But Sicariot – that’s a huge word. It means ‘the knifeman’. This was a group in Judea who assassinated prominent Romans and any Jew collaborating with the Romans. Their hope was to provoke a war. So if it was a simple transposition in an early text, Sicariot to Iscariot (two letters!), that changes our whole understanding of Judas. If he was a revolutionary who wanted outright war with Rome, betraying Jesus might have been his way of starting that war. But if he expected Jesus to fight back, he was disappointed. No wonder he killed himself – he had betrayed his teacher for nothing. The war wouldn’t come for another 30-odd years.

So history is shaped by religion, and religion is shaped by our own ignorance of it.

Q:  You are such an amazing individual with so many interests in various historical time periods, as well as I mentioned previously, James Bond, and further, Spiderman and comics! What kinds of topics such as these does your brain flip between on a daily basis? How do you handle your many interests? *smile*

A: Comic books are a frequent habit. I have a Batman story I’d like to write someday. Doctor Strange, too. Old Time Radio is a nightly habit – I fall asleep listening to Gunsmoke or The Saint or The Shadow. Lately it’s The Adventures of Rocky Jordan and Dragnet. Shakespeare is a constant, thanks to my profession. Classic cartoons are another constant, in that I’m trying to raise my kids right.

But during the day, I flit between all my upcoming books. Plot points, twists, details, characters – there’s no telling what book I’ll be thinking about at any given moment. If it’s not the one I’m working on, I’ll jot the idea down and hopefully find it before I start on that project down the road.

Q:  What are some of your favorite superhero or comic book story lines and why? There’s been resurgence in graphic novels, even those on historical subjects. Why might this be a good way to teach literature and history? (I enjoy the art myself!)

A: I’m a Spider-Man guy. But great writers bring great things to otherwise forgettable characters. I’m a Bendis fan – Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers, All-New X-Men. I’m a huge fan of Jim Starlin’s work (Dreadstar), and Howard Chaykin (American Flagg, The Shadow). John Byrne in the 80s was unstoppable, and his X stories with Chris Claremont are utterly brilliant. Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men was superb. Batman goes in spurts, but the recent Death Of The Family was fantastic.

None of this even touches things like Fables, Sandman, Y The Last Man, and more. I like good writing. Go figure.

Oddly, I haven’t read that much in the historical GN field. Want to throw some titles at me?

Erin: There are alot of them out there for school age children. I think it helps them read, either for reluctant readers or for readers on the higher end. The visual propel them and the writing keeps their attention. Therefore, history that might be dry or boring to them, now becomes memorable! I’ve seen all the classic literature done into them, as well as straight history. I’ll come back with a list.

Q:  Who are some of your favorite authors and mentors?

A: Historical fiction authors – Dorothy Dunnett, Bernard Cornwell, Colleen McCullough, Sharon Kay Penman, Patrick O’Brian, CW Gortner, Raphael Sabatini, Mary Renault, Umberto Eco.

Other authors – Dashiell Hammett, Jonathan Carroll, Neil Gaiman, Robert Asprin, Robert B Parker, Ian Fleming, Ian Mortimer, Stephen Greenblatt, Tom Clancy.

Q:  What are some of your favorite movies and television shows? And why?

A: I’m pretty predictable – my favorite movie of all time is Casablanca. And I love the Errol Flynn trio of Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, and The Adventures Of Robin Hood. Raiders Of The Lost Ark is unbeatable. The original Star Wars films. Die Hard. Master & Commander. The Incredibles.

In terms of turning people on to films that are unknown but shouldn’t be, I always start with Truly, Madly, Deeply. Just incredible performances and writing.

For TV, The West Wing is a touchstone. Deadwood. The Wire. Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and also the new Sherlock (BBC). Doctor Who. Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Game Of Thrones. I always try to turn people on to Jekyll, as well as Slings & Arrows, which is as close as anyone will ever come to making a show about the life I lead. 

Q:  What are some the biggest social issues we are facing today and how can literature help in creating a better society?

A: Education. First, we need to stop demonizing teachers and realize that, were we in their jobs, we’d be curled up in the corner crying with the lights off. Then we need to teach deductive reasoning, not a litany of facts. Dates are useless compared to the ability to draw your own conclusion. We are not teaching that. As someone who is in a classroom a few hours every week, I can say that students are desperate for it. They want to know not what, but why.

We have un-linked Cause from Effect. “You mean if I do X, Y happens? Nonsense. Y happens because of gay marriage, or legalizing pot, or (currently) Obamacare.”

Much of what’s wrong in society stems from not knowing our own history. Oh, you think labor unions are bad? You like weekends, don’t you? Unions did that. 40-hour work weeks? Unions. We’re taxed too much? The highest tax tier in the 1950s was something like 80%. The Founding Fathers wanted a Christian nation? Read the Treaty of Tripoli. Why are we repeating the mistakes of the early 1930s? Because we don’t remember them!

I’m coming off as fairly liberal, and I suppose by today’s standards I am. But today’s liberal is a 1950s conservative. I look at what Eisenhower believed and I say, sign me up. Guy planned D-Day and interstate highways? Believed in small government and Social Security and unions? I like Ike. So, in the history of the 20th century, I’m pretty moderate. Only in the 21st century are my beliefs screamingly liberal.

But even saying that depends on remembering history. We forget our history. That’s what literature can do – remind us not of where we are, but how we got here.

Erin: I love that last quote, especially! But totally get what you are saying politically too, so true.

Q:  You have quite a few books in Star-Cross’d series and Colossus series. Will there be more? Will there be more Will and Kit novels?

A: At the moment, I’m projecting eight novels in the Star-Cross’d series, and six for the Colossus. I’m sure Colossus will finish first – by this time next year, the two series will be tied. After the next Star-Cross’d novel (The Prince’s Doom) I’m taking a break from Verona to focus on other books and recharge those batteries.

I have an idea for another Will & Kit book, with the hapless spies facing down the Spanish Armada. It has the worst title in the history of literature: Will’s Will Will. We’ll see if I have the will to stick with it – but it makes me smile every time I say it, so it’s looking good.

Erin: I’d love another Will and Kit book! The first was so entertaining!

Q:  Beyond those, do you have any other time periods of history to write about? What might be next for you past those you are already writing within your present series’ of books?

A: I have three books vying for dominance in my brain. One is a stand-alone Roman novel, set at the founding of the Republic. Another is an early 16th century novel dealing with Othello. And the third isn’t historical fiction at all, though it features many historical figures. It takes place in Hell. I’ve been wanting to write that one for a decade – even took a crack at it once, with middling results. Had the wrong protagonist. I’ve got a better story now. For the Othello book, I’ve got the frame and the characters and outline, but not the voice. So the Roman book may get done first. We’ll see.

Q: Have you thought of writing an espionage novel?

A: No. Apparently I should? (I do have an Elizabethan Noir novel that’s about 30% done. Close enough?)

Erin: YES! You have a passion for it and I think you could do a grand job, just work it into some of the historical intrigue and make a go of it! *smile*

Q: Your favorite part to play on the stage and why?

A: Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. Petruchio in Taming Of The Shrew. And Macbeth. Used to be Mercutio, but I got too tied to it. And I’m far, far too old now.

Q: Where can readers purchase your novels?

A: Links to everything at www.davidblixt.com. Or you can visit my Amazon author page at: http://www.amazon.com/David-Blixt/e/B001IQZJME/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: I have a blog, but I can be reached most every day at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Blixt-Author/22822113504

Erin: Thank you so much, David, for joining in this discussion with me today! It’s always a pleasure to speak with you! I wish you the best of luck with Colossus and all your pursuits, as always. Now, I’ve got to try to run a comb through my wind-blown hair, you really like to take those wild turns at the speed of light! Were we being chased by spies?

David: Those aren’t spies. Those are angry Oxfordians, trying to silence my refutation of all they hold dear.

Thanks for having me. This interview was exhausting, and I don’t think it was the driving. But it was a heap of fun. Though I’m surprised we didn’t get around to discussing the best Bond actor. Save that for next time. Cheers!

Author David Blixt, Biography~

David BlixtAuthor and playwright David Blixt’s work is consistently described as  “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play  EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series,  including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE’S  FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy  HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept  spies).

His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society  said, “Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It’s well worth it.”

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as  “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

For more about David and his novels, visit www.davidblixt.com.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefouremperorstour
Twitter Hashtag: #FourEmperorsTour

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Interview with Trini Amador, author of Gracianna, Talking Gratitude, Wine, and Writing

Today I have such a thoughtful and beautiful interview with Trini Amador, author of WWII-set story Gracianna, which is based on the true story of his great-grandmother. We talk about some amazing things and you won’t want to miss this interview. Learn about gratitude, how he came to write Gracianna, their inspiration for wine-making, and what he has planned for the future!

To see my review of Gracianna, click HERE! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway that is right after the interview!

Gracianna

Hi, Trini! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Very pleased to have you here today to talk about your debut novel, Gracianna—the story of your great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. How is does it feel publishing the story?

Trini: Hi Erin-Thanks so much for inviting me to join you. I started this journey a while back. It took 8 months to write the book but 20 months to edit it. I took a great deal of effort to bring my editor, Hillel Black around to join the process. He is a professional and works with established authors in most cases. But I persisted to help him understand the essence of the story and my conviction. Just having him on board was a “win” unto itself.  I am blessed everyday thinking about this accomplishment.

Erin: It turned out beautifully! We can’t wait to hear more about it.  I’d love to walk through a fabulous vineyard such as what you must overlook each day. Let’s take a stroll and get started with more questions….

Q:  Your novel is inspired by true events based on your great-grandmother Gracianna, who lived in Paris during World War II. Stories of our ancestors are always interesting, sometimes astounding, and many times chilling. How would you describe how you felt when you first learned of her story? What inspired you to tell her story in book format?

A: I don’t think many of us really get to know our great grand-parents.  It is a shame since they pass along a great deal to subsequent generations. They are a link to the past and we are generally too young to fully appreciate who they are. But my grandmother Gracianna used to say to me to always be “thankful,” so much so that as I got older that value stuck with me—even though I don’t think one understands the concept of gratitude until much later in life. What was it that she had to be grateful for is what drew me to write. As the story unfolded I wondered, in this day of Facebook and other social media, with young people uploading photos and spending time in this activity, what could they believe in so much that they would act in the way Gracianna does in the story?

Q:  Since this is an account of her life, is this a non-fiction biography, a historical non-fiction, or a historical fiction?  Why? Can you talk about your choice in how you wrote it?

A: My publisher told me that once you put dialog in it is nearly automatically “fictional.” “How do you know that they said that?” Aside from the factual aspects there were other parts of my family experience that needed to shine through. My beliefs and attitudes about life that were shaped by my family are included. So it was important that I had the ability to expand on the story to incorporate the message that I wanted to deliver as well.

Q:  Besides your other work as a winemaker and businessman, have you always been a writer or is this something new for you?

A:  I have always loved to write. It is a free form of expression for me. Aside from writing a “screenplay” 25 years ago (it was shelved) I have written a lot, such as copy for advertisements and reports, but not for publication.

Q:  How did you manage your time in order to write Gracianna? What were some of your challenges and some of your most positive moments during the process?

A: In the last few years I have traveled nearly 750,000 miles (not a typo). Since I have spent so much time on airplanes I managed to find time to write between catching a few winks here and there. I wrote Gracianna in 13 counties and only did the polish work in the US. I was inspired by people and places that I traveled to and many of their spirits are manifested in the book.

Q:  Your wine company, Gracianna Winery, is named after your great-grandmother.  Has this been in your family long? Was she a part of it? How do you feel the winery continues on your family legacy?

A: We stared the winery only 8 years ago when we caught our son making wine in the garage. Until then we had no idea we would be in the wine business. However, when it came time to name the brand it was obvious. The Gracianna name in my past had represented all things to be grateful for and that became the foundation for what we wanted this wine to stand for. Even though we struggle with day to day “life” and stress, just like everyone else, “being grateful” and acknowledging that, is important to our family. And now our daughter is about to become a mother herself and the emotion overwhelms me. We have come full circle. Gracianna would be proud and overjoyed but humble at the thought of it all.

Erin Comments: That’s amazing! Both that your son’s actions inspired you, your family focuses on being grateful (we live by that too), and that your daughter is going to have a baby! Congratulations! 🙂

Q:  If someone wanted to buy a copy of the book, and a bottle of wine to drink while settling in to read the novel, which bottle do you recommend? Why?

A: HA! Well, folks always ask me which wine is my favorite and I always say that is like asking which of my kids is my favorite (I alternate by saying, “my son” and then “my daughter”). It really is whatever a person’s taste is but if white then sauvignon blanc or chardonnay if it is warm outside and zinfandel or pinot noir if in front of the fire and snuggled in for the evening.

Q: What is it you love most about winemaking? Now that you are a debut author, how do you feel about being a writer? Is it something you hope to continue or was it a special, one-time thing?

A: Winemaking is an expression of the earth. Writing is an expression of the mind. I would love to write again. So Erin, I have already outlined a second book based on my experiences of working in the record business in Hollywood in the 90’s. But I have had discussions about writing the sequel to Gracianna. There certainly is another story to tell. I will decide next year if that is in the cards. I will never be finished writing.

Erin Comments: Wonderful! Both sound intriguing! Keep me updated!

Q:  I noticed that the words Grace, Graciousness, and Gratitude are all important to your family. Can you explain why and how it continues to mold your family today?

A: The basis of Gracianna Winery is “Grace, graciousness and gratitude.” Our belief is that grace is elegance in a casual way – helping those around you feel comfort with themselves. Graciousness is yielding to whatever situation as a servant host. Gratitude is the value that Gracianna bestowed in us…actively acknowledging what we have and being thankful for it. Our family aspires to live up to those tenets and inspire others to live that way too.

 Q:  Besides purchasers of your wine who would love to hear the ancestral story, what other readers do you hope to target with Gracianna? What feelings and lasting thoughts do you hope the book creates in them?

A: Embedded in Gracianna is a story of unconditional love. It is filled with contradictions of thought and action, “How would I act facing the specter of impossible decisions?”

Erin Comments: Ah, yes. that has so much depth. As you know from my review, I also took away from it the idea of not judging others because they are different from you, as well do all you can to pursue your dreams.

Q:  Besides your family story, you must have put in a lot of research into the WWII era in France and other surrounding areas. What were some of the most memorable things you found in your research? Maybe things that surprised you, or shocked you, or things that warmed your heart?

A: You are right Erin.  I did do a ton of research and I learned more about WWII than I thought I would care to know. But I came away feeling like that knowledge informs my future.  My research took me to the Basque country to understand the humble beginnings of the family and the culture of Basques. Then to the majesty of Paris and the sorrow of its occupation. Then to Poland and its searing winter.  I was drawn to Auschwitz after I learned our linkage to the camp.  I had no idea about the actual relationship to Auschwitz and was heartbroken. Through the kindness of some friends I was given a winter coat to weather the trip to the death camp. The story of the jacket being given to Constance at the end of the story was a nod to my Polish friend, Anna and her father encouraging me that way to make the trip as fearful as I was.

Erin Comments: I like that you truly tried to experience the locations and use that in the book.

Q:  Did your novel cover the fact that she finally immigrated to California? (We won’t tell the complete ending!)  If so, did you also have to research immigration of the time period? How did people end up settling in California, which to me seems so far from New York?

A: I know that my great grandparents did end up on the West Coast. It is a bit of a blur as to how they got here from New York really. I know little about that but am actively seeking answers.

Q:  Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? Who are some authors who have inspired you to take on the task to tell your family story? Or what are some books you’ve enjoyed?

A:  Erin, you are killing me here. There are so many.  I love F. Scott Fitzgerald but when it came to telling a historical story I am inspired by Stephen Ambrose and the Lewis and Clark tale and by Richard Hough and his Captain James Cook: A Biography. It was beautifully told. Both direct. However, I had the benefit of being intimately connected to the family and I was sure that I wanted to take care to allow the emotion of Gracianna spill out of the pages.

Q:  What words of advice might you have for other aspiring writers who hope to tell an interesting family story?

A: DIVE IN! Allow your voice to express itself and other than following the Chicago Manual Style of editing allow yourself to break some rules. Gracianna is full of non-traditional writing elements. It is not “accepted” to make a word bold in a book but I did it. I allowed the words to pour over the page like letters spilled from alphabet soup in some places.   Some reviewers have said this is “not allowed” and my reaction is “Says who?” Readers are subjected to certain sameness in today’s written word feeling bound by convention. I was unbound by what I did not know.  That does not relieve a writer from understanding how to draw a reader in, from developing a character so a reader can empathize, from showing a compelling story…but I would say, “Give yourself some latitude, tell your great story and make me ache for the next page.”

Erin Comments: Writing is an art! I love when people take risks, be creative, and think outside the box. I loved how your entire book experience made me feel…from the type of paper, the cover, the crinckled page endings, the art with the birds, the letters….it makes for a beautiful keepsake!

Q:  Where can people purchase your book and your wine?

A: Major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Hudson’s Booksellers as well as Amazon and many other online sources.

I personally sign and emboss any book that is purchased from http://www.gracianna.com/gracianna-the-book.

Erin: Thank you so much, Trini, for discussing your book, your life, and your wine with me and my readers today. I hope the best for you in the future and look forward to your future writings!

Trini: Wow, Erin this time has flown by. We can do this again anytime. I really appreciated the depth of your questions and your interest in things other than the book. It is refreshing. I wish you much success in the future and I look forward to walking you through the vineyard in Healdsburg in Sonoma County someday.

Erin: I would totally embrace a chance to not only see California one day, but to come to your winery! I look forward to talking to you more in the future.

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Giveaway~

The giveaway is for one copy and open to US/Canada only. Enter by leaving a comment below with your email included to contact winner. You can also leave it on the Hook of a Book Facebook Page under the link: www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. Or you can email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Extra entries: +1 for following blog and +3 for “liking” the Facebook page (link above)

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GRACIANNA, Synopsis~

GraciannaPublication Date: July 23, 2013
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.

Praise for Gracianna

“Gracianna is a riveting and remarkable narrative. The characters come alive through their unassuming but compelling stories, as Nazi-occupied Paris unfolds before our eyes. We come to care deeply about the characters, which makes putting down the book almost impossible. Highly recommended.” – Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of Language Programs, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“While wine is obviously a significant part of life’s enjoyment, the story behind the wine can be even more gratifying. You will be fixated on this thrilling story written by Trini Amador which was inspired by Gracianna, his great-grandmother, the French Basque namesake of his family’s award-winning winery in Sonoma County.” – Bob Cabral, Director of Winemaking & General Manager, Williams Selyem Winery

Author Trini Amador, Biography~

Trini Amador AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Tours!

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/graciannavirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #GraciannaTour

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Interview with Author M.J. Rose of Seduction: A Magical, Haunting Tale of Victor Hugo

Hi, M.J.!  Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s a pleasure for me to have you here today for an interview. Our time is obviously short so let’s get started!

SeductionQ:  Where did your inspiration for Seduction stem from? What compelled you to write it?

A:  A trip to Paris and Victor Hugo’s home there inspired me to read Les Miserables. I became obsessed with Fantine. I kept wondering if someone had inspired Hugo to create her? I started reading more and more about him. I read his poetry. Sought out his watercolors and drawings… But it was coming across a description of his belief in reincarnation and his experimenting with séances that made me decide to write about him… and the woman who might have inspired him to create Fantine.

Erin Comments: Fascinating!

Q: How is Seduction similar to your other novels? How does it differ?

A: Al l of my novels seem to be about how the past influences the present.   Seduction is different in that it’s the first time I wrote from a famous person’s point of view. About 25% of the book is me writing as Victor Hugo – giving his first person account of his experiences with séances.

Q:  What was your favorite part of writing Seduction?

A: The second draft. I love that part of every book the best. The hardest part is done – getting the book on paper – then I get to finesse for days and days and days.

Erin Comments: Totally understandable.

Q: What is one thing you want readers to remember or feel after they are done reading Seduction?

A: Hopefully how much they enjoyed reading the book so they tell everyone about it 🙂

Q:  What other novels have you written and are they all historical thriller/suspense?

A: All the books are at MJRose.com – there are 13 novels all together. The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, The Hypnotist and The Book of Lost Fragrances all have elements of historical fiction – the others don’t.

Q:  I like how you meld the senses, art, music, and the spiritual into your books. I can imagine you live your life surrounded by all things beautiful from the creative world.  What would some of your favorite Pinterest boards say about you (if you have or would have them) or show us about your personality?

A: OH I HAVE THEM! Just visit MJRose at Pinterest – I love doing them. – some are very personal and some are even hidden that the public can’t see. I use them to create characters and work on stories.

Q: Who are your favorite heroines from history?

A:  I can’t tell you – I have a list of them and a series of books planned about them – and don’t want to give it away 🙂

Q:  How do you feel that the publishing world is doing now in accepting females as major novel writers, especially in the thriller genre?

A: Other than getting reviews – which mostly go to male writers in suspense and every genre – women writers in the suspense genre have done well for decades. Going back to Agatha Christie and even further, I don’t think there’s been any serious prejudice from readers or publishers against women writers.

Q:  Do you think paranormal or spiritual themes are integral parts of your writing?  Why do you feel these themes are so popular in the current culture?

A: I think magic is integral to my writing… I’m drawn to possibilities even when they are impossible ones. And I think they are popular because we’re living in hard times and the paranormal takes us out of our world and offers hope that there is more than we know about – more than we can see.

Erin Comments: I agree.

Q:  You are an extremely well-known consultant and mentor in regards to self-publishing. I know you’ve opened a marketing company for promoting books. I’m in the same line of work in regards to journalism, PR, and marketing. I’m wondering, how do you manage to do all this and write novels too? How do you juggle it all?

A: I work on my fiction in the morning and then the afternoon is devoted to AuthorBuzz.com

Erin Comments: You make it sound so easy. Kudos to you for all you accomplish.

Q: What is some of your best advice for women authors who are balancing a family, life and writing novel(s)?

A: I don’t have any since I do not have anything like a balanced life!

Q:  What is your advice about self-publishing versus looking for a traditional publisher? What about independent press?

A: All publishing is a lottery. Over 2 million books will be published this year. Most will sell less than 100 copies. I think everyone needs to educate themselves and not just talk to the successes in traditional publishing and self publishing but talk to the authors in the trenches in both camps and see which trench you’d rather be in. Self publishing gives you total control, you own all your own rights and you don’t share any of what you make on your books but I think you need to have  an interest in running a business. Traditional offers you a lot of help, more distribution, financial support upfront and a chance at reviews that elude most self published authors. It’s all what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Q:  What has been your biggest achievement or success? What has been your biggest challenge?

A: Staying alive. And staying alive.

Q:  Switching gears, what is your favorite stage play and why? Movie?

A: Stage play  Brigadoon – it is so magical.

Erin Comments: Also one of my favorites! I hardly hear anyone say this one!

Movie – Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn tied with Portrait of Jennie. It’s that magic again.

Q:  What is coming up next for you?

A: I’m working on the 2014 book now but I think it’s bad luck to talk about it.

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

A: MJRose.com – there’s a form there.

Erin:  It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to interview you, M.J.!  I wish you even more continued success and welcome you here anytime! Best of luck to you in all your many endeavors.

M.J.: And a pleasure to visit with you here!

Readers, please stop back by on May 9 for my review of Seduction!

Seduction, Synopsis~

SeductionPublication Date: May 7, 2013
Atria Books
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 1451621507

SYNOPSIS: From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

Author M.J. Rose, Biography~

M.J. RoseM.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Promotion for Necklace from M.J. Rose!

NecklaceYou will be eligible to win a Victoria Choker if you:

1. Put the book on you To Be Read shelf on Goodreads and email me the link or tell me and send me your account name in an email to hookofabook@hotmail.com: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15802432-seduction

OR

2. Pre-order SEDUCTION here: http://mjrose.com/books/seduction.asp?BookVar=Praise
Send your receipt to mjrosewriter@gmail.com and state you came from the Hook of a Book blog.

Only US residents can enter.
 
 
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Creating Dialogue with Characters: Guest Post by Historical Fiction Author Anna Belfrage

Today you have the opportunity to read an excellent guest post by author Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga series, with A Rip in the Veil and Like Chaff in the Wind currently published. I reviewed Life Chaff in the Wind yesterday, and you can see that by clicking HERE.

Anna has an amazing writing voice and you’ll really enjoy this guest post, as it talks about how she came to write her series and how her characters talk to her…..pesky friends in our heads sometimes aren’t they? I hope you enjoy it, I know I did!

How I Have Come to Know My Characters Really, Really Well…..
by Anna Belfrage

Anna BelfrageFirst of all, thank you very much, Erin, for participating in my blog tour and giving me the opportunity to post on your blog. This is the second guest post on the blog tour, and for those of you interested in reading the first, in which I introduced my female lead, I recommend a visit to Bippity Boppity Book.

In retrospect, I suspect my subconscious had been doing its own little things for years before I finally sat down to write the Graham Saga. Since well over a decade, I had nursed an interest for the seventeenth century, and in particular for the religious conflicts that dominated this period in history. Why, you might ask, and the reason for that is quite personal.

My husband comes from a family old as the rocks (most of us do; it’s just that the majority of us spring from families that were illiterate and dirt poor, ergo leaving nary a trace in the historical documents) that emigrated to Sweden in the early seventeenth century. In actual fact, the only ones that emigrated were a twelve-year-old boy called John and his mother Joneta. This woman with her most unusual name was of Stuart blood – albeit a cadet line – but for whatever reason she was compelled to flee Scotland, citing religious persecution as her reason. Hmm. Not entirely sure I buy that… Whatever the case, the interest in my husband’s family sort of lead on to reading more and more and more about this turbulent time in European history.

When I began writing A Rip in the Veil – the first book in the Graham Saga – it therefore had a clear setting in time and place (Scotland, seventeenth century), a dramatic beginning, a number of very detailed scenes that I could recite verbatim should someone wake me at three a.m., and a rather vague ending. Fortunately, as it turned out, because my dear characters decided to have a major say in how things turned out, and so the original plot line (however dotted) did a ninety degree turn at one point, doubled back a couple of chapters later and then set off at full speed in a direction not intended by yours truly.

I mostly blamed it on Alex. Well, no; on Matthew.

“On me?” Matthew protested. “It wasn’t me who came up with that idiotic idea in chapter 11, was it?”

“No,” Alex agreed, “that was you, Anna.” She flexed her arms and grinned. “But I liked it.”

Yeah, sure you did, I smiled. Alex enjoys showcasing herself as a strong woman. Matthew muttered something about it not being seemly, not at all, but the way he smiled at his wife sort of took the edge out of the rebuke. 

Anyway, the consequence of all this re-plotting is that I got to know my characters really, really well. (It was almost like those all night sessions while at University; me, wine, and instead of a lot of partying friends a notebook and my imaginary best friends. Somewhat weird…)

Now and then Alex would wink at me and wonder if I didn’t want to know the rest of their story – oops, stories. Of course I did! For some reason, Matthew seemed discomfited, and it was only through insistent wheedling that I came to understand why. My old-fashioned hero had something of an issue with the leading lady coming to rescue him – as she does in the second book of the series, Like Chaff in the Wind.

“I’m not old-fashioned,” he sort of growled when I pointed this out to him. “But I’m the man, she’s the woman. If anyone’s to do any saving it should be me!”

“You do that all the time,” I replied, “if it hadn’t been for you, poor Alex would have been dead – or worse – days after having dropped through the time chute.” He liked that, I could see, angling his head so that he could throw his wife a look. “She can’t live without you,” I said.

He raised a brow. “Of course she can.” 

“You know what I mean! Something inside of her would shrivel and die without you, and so …” I shrugged. There’s no choice really. In Like Chaff in the Wind Alex has to set out after her husband, the rock on which her entire existence is built on.

Yet again Matthew looked at Alex. “She’s something, isn’t she?”

As if she’d heard him, Alex lifted her face in our direction. She smiled, raised a hand to touch her neck, her hair, in a way that made Matthew fidget.

“She most certainly is,” I agreed, thinking that he wasn’t too bad himself, what with that slow smile that always makes my heart flutter, those large, warm hands that glide so gently down her back.  I turned back to him. He was no longer there, hastening towards Alex.

“It’s not the last book,” he called over his shoulder. “There’s plenty more to tell, aye?”

I can imagine; next time round he’ll be the hero, the order of things properly re-established.

 Like Chaff in the Wind is an adventure, a journey from one end of the world to the other. It is a story that invites you to shut down your computer, turn off your phone and drift off into a time when life was so much simpler than today.

“Simpler?” Alex and Matthew say in unison. Matthew frowns at me, absentmindedly rubbing his shoulder.

Oh dear. “I didn’t mean it like that,” I say. And, dear reader, they’re right. It’s not an easy life they lead those two, not at all. But it does make good stories, let me tell you, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Like Chaff in the Wind as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 My next post in this blog tour, in which I introduce Matthew Graham in a lot more detail, will be published on March 26 on Flashlight Commentary . I hope you’ll be joining us there.

Anna Belfrage, Biography~

I 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.

Learn more about Anna and her work at:  www.annabelfrage.com. She has some great extras that go with her stories that you’ll love.

Like Chaff in the Wind Synopsis~

Like Chaff in the WindMatthew Graham committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother’s nose. In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the Colony of Virginia, there to be sold as indentured labour – a death sentence more or less.

Matthew arrives in Virginia in May of 1661, and any hope he had of finding someone willing to listen to his tale of unlawful abduction is quickly extinguished. If anything Matthew’s insistence that he is an innocent man leads to him being singled out for the heaviest tasks.

Insufficient food, grueling days and the humid heat combine to wear Matthew down. With a sinking feeling he realises no one has ever survived the seven years of service – not on the plantation Suffolk Rose, not under the tender care of the overseer Dominic Jones.

Fortunately for Matthew, he has a remarkable wife, a God’s gift who has no intention of letting her husband suffer and die, and so Alex Graham sets off on a perilous journey to bring her husband home.

Alex is plagued by nightmares in which her Matthew is reduced to a wheezing wreck by his tormentors. She sits in the prow of the ship and prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side, to let her hold him and heal him before it’s too late. God, however, has other things to do and what should have been a two month crossing becomes a yearlong adventure from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

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

See more on Anna’s Tour at the Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/likechaffinthewindvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #ChaffInTheWindVirtualTour

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