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Interview with the Lovely and Talented Author Sandra Byrd: Mist of Midnight and Writing Victorian Gothic Literature

Linger on my site a little today and read through this interview if you are a fan of Victorian Gothic literature! I’ll be chatting right now with Sandra Byrd over tea and shortbread about her book, Mist of Midnight (AVAILABLE NOW-March 10, 2015) and her thoughts on constructing Gothic literature. If you missed my review last week, check it out HERE.

And after our chat below, you can ENTER TO WIN a lace bookmark featured here, keeping with the theme of her book detailing Rebecca, the main character’s, mother making Honiton Lace.

Hi Sandra, Thank you for coming by to chat with me today on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Come in and have a seat. Tell me how 2015 has been for you so far while I make us drinks as we get ready to have a seat in the comfy chairs in my library.

Sandra: Thank you for having me to your library, and for introducing me to your friends.  The friend of my friend is my friend, right? Especially friends who read! 2015 has been crazy and busy, so I’m glad for a chance to sit with you for a bit.

Erin: You’re welcome anytime! It’s still pretty cold with snow in Ohio, so I’ll put on the teapot, or I can make coffee? What is your pleasure? I’ll be having some Earl Grey tea, with sugar and cream.

Sandra: One favorite is a London Fog, Earl Grey tea, lightly sweetened, with warm cream.  Would that do?

Erin: It would be my pleasure, and I’ll bring out a few shortbread cookies too. Then we’ll get started with some questions!

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Sandra: Shortbread – yes, please.  It showed up in my book, so of course I had to bake a few batches to eat while writing!

Q: Mist of Midnight is your first Gothic romance mystery, which in my opinion was a huge success. What made you decide to write in this beloved, yet sometimes obscure sub-genre?

A:Thank you, Erin! That means so much. I simply loved reading them as a girl, teen, and awoman. Then they seemed to fall out of favor, and I had a hard time finding ones I loved, ones that echoed the traditional novels and their expected tropes but have been updated for our time.  I spend so many hours researching and writing that I always try to choose genres, eras, and people who deeply interest me.

Q: Were there authors or books of similar taste that you studied or enjoyed that gave you ideas for when you created your own novel?

A: I read quite a few Gothic authors “back in the day” but the one I loved best, and who stuck with me the most, was Victoria Holt.  She wrote Gothic Romances under that name, and English historicals as Jean Plaidy, and I loved all of her books. So she influenced quite a bit of my writing, the Tudors, too.

I did want to update the concept a little for modern readers.  I like more of the hero on the page than was present in quite a few of the gothic romance novel of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little strongerminded than was popular then.   I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith.  But I tried my best to stick with the “ingredients” that people expect when the read a Gothic Romance:

  1. A large property, in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.
  2. A Byronic hero.
  3. Characters around that are trustworthy… or not.
  4. Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.
  5. A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.

There are many other “ingredients” one may choose from when writing a Gothic novel: a woman in a nightgown, medications that help or harm, secret passageways, etc.  The trick is to include many of the elements that are desirable and expected but craft a story that stands on its own.  I don’t read any other books in a genre just before I write in, or while I’m writing in it.

Q: Your sense of foreboding and suspense was crafted perfectly, what techniques or descriptions did you do in order to create a Gothic feel?

A:  I thought of what frightens me, of what frightens most people.  Sometimes those are things like darkness and being lost, and being alone with no help.  More often they are internal, thinking you’re losing your mind, or knowing that no one is there to help.  In Gothic Romances, the heroine very often has no parents present because she’s completely on her own, which is risky and isolating, and must puzzle her way out.  That isolation is anxiety producing, too.  Who to trust? Who not to trust? The decrepit or uneasy setting adds to this, too. 

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Q: Your descriptions that you had character Rebecca speaking of in regards to India were phenomenal and so authentic. Have you been to India? How did you delve into such precise feelings of 19th century India?

A: I have not been to India! I read many books written by the English, in India, in the 19th Century, and then by Indian people in the past hundred years who experienced the good and bad that had come from colonialism.  I watched movies and television set in India and interviewed Indian people.  I had an Indian author read my manuscript for authenticity.  How I would love to go myself, however!

Erin: I was certain you had been there!! You really articulated a true feeling of missionary work as well.

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Q: You had many interesting characters in your book, especially among the estate staff. Who was your favorite to create and why?

A: Rebecca and Luke, for sure.  But among the secondary characters, Michelene was the most fun to create because I find we women are so much more multifaceted in our emotional manipulation and complexities than are men.  French lady’s maids were highly sought after, and I enjoy French culture, too, so that was a delight.  Even though none of us wants to be like her, all of us can understand her envy, I think.

Mrs. Ross was a delight to create because she captured an element of Gothics for me that I wanted to do in a fresh manner.  And she likes shortbread. 🙂

Erin: Yes, Mrs. Ross was amazing. I enjoyed the intertwining of the French culture, and of course, I always like shortbread. Reading your book reminded me to make some again!

Q: Speaking of characters, how do you create them with such depth? How do you intertwine them in such a way when formulating a suspenseful mystery so that you are never sure which one to be suspicious of?

A:  I think the trick is to remember that none of us are completely good or bad and to plumb the motivations for why each person does what they do.  At the heart of it we all struggle with insecurities and desires and pure motives and tainted ones.  We each come to that Y in the road; one person turns left and another right.  At the end of the book, I hope it’s clear to my readers why each character did what he or she did.  I spend a lot of time thinking through the lives of all of my characters, primary and secondary before I write.  And I observe people in real life.  That kind of sounds gothically creepy!

Q: How do you feel about balancing Gothic fiction with Christian fiction? Do you feel that most Gothic readers can accept the Christian undertones? How do they complement each other in regards to underlying themes or allegory?

A:  Honestly, it would be anachronistic to write about 19th Century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life.  I don’t seek to write “Christian fiction” so much as it interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches a situation in her era and setting.   I don’t set out, ever, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine’s eyes.  So hopefully that makes a good story whether a person is a Christian or not.  I certainly profit from and enjoy books that have no or other religious underpinning, or take place in situations and cultures other than my own.  I hope that both Christians and those who are not Christian can be transported by the story and let it entertain and speak to them individually.

Supernatural elements, whether naturally explained or not, are an integral part of Gothic Romance.  I find them completely complimentary in a book if organically done with an understanding of the genre.  We can’t understand everything, we cannot control everything, but when we are courageous and take action, things happen, and we are helped.  That’s the supernatural and the natural working hand in hand.

Erin comments: That’s wonderful. I felt the same and I was explaining that to Tim when talking about you and your book. He asked me about the religious element and how you presented in the novel. I, too, feel like anyone can read this wonderful book.

Q: Victorian England is the perfect setting not only for Gothic literature but for classic, clean romance. What do you like most about using this era when writing a novel?

A:  The Victorian Era is easier than the Tudor Era to write about because there is much more source material! I can go online and read the newspaper printed in Hampshire, in the year my books are set in, which is marvelous.  What is difficult is that there are many more expected elements in a Gothic Romance, so it’s a little more restrictive because you have to make sure they are all, or mostly, in there but a way unique to the story.

The clean part is truly enjoyable to me.  It allows the emotional and intellectual portion of the relationship to develop before the physical, which is then so much more satisfying when it occurs.  It doesn’t happen on the page, of course, but I let the reader know that it will and she can imagine the rest!

KHEndorsement

Q: Many people come to my site when trying to answer this question: “What is gothic literature?” Therefore, tell us how you define it?

A:  I had researched this very thing before I set out to write, so I’ll share a bit of wisdom that I learned from the experts with a few of my own thoughts, too!

Ann B. Tracy, author of the romance chapter in the compilation, The Journal of The Gothic, tells us that, “The jocular description of modern Gothic Romances like Victoria Holt’s The Mistress of Mellyn as ‘Girl Gets House’ is not altogether off the mark. The home for which they long, their happy ending, is not to be bought with moral compromise.”  She continues, “The heroines of Gothic Romance are not the vaporous, swooning creatures of caricature, undone by over-sensitivity; their troubles are real… they lift the black veil, go to the attic, confront the possible spectres— attempt, in short, to shed some factual light on their mysterious surroundings and find their ways out of the Gothic dilemmas.”

Gothic romance heroes are called Byronic heroes, after Lord Byron, he dubbed “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.  We women love to know whether or not we can tame a man who seems untamable and gothic romances are rich with just that sort of challenge.  Tracy says that our gothic heroines have the challenge of figuring out whether the “difficult or possibly villainous men around her will turn out to be the one she can trust and marry.” Victoria Holt named one of her best novels “The Devil on Horseback.” Was he?

To sum up, Inez Ashley Ross, in the April/May, 1995 edition of the Gothic Journal says there are, “The openings of classic gothics reveal three keys that unlock the reader’s fascination:

            *An imposing house that is linked to an ancient family       

            *An outsider of lesser status with whom the reader can identify and

            *Attention to sensory details that entice the reader into a mysterious past

Q: Have you researched Hampshire, England? What more can you tell us about it that might be of interest? I noticed the book was subtitled “Daughters of Hampshire.” Does that mean there will be more in this series?

A:  There will be two more books in this series: Bride of Poseidon, Book 2, which I am just finishing up, and Angels of Light, Book 3.  They’ll publish in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and will include many of the traditional Gothic elements, of course, but with new characters in each book.

I liked  Hampshire because Cornwall and Devon seemed a bit overdone for Gothics, and Hampshire is relatively easy to access from London and the sea.  It has forest, ruins, seaports, cliffs, cities and villages, and Winchester Cathedral.  Lots of good stuff with which to work! I did visit Hampshire while researching, including the County Records Office, and many lovely crumbling and restored houses.  I have friends who live there who read my rough drafts and make sure it’s sound as to the era and the place.

Erin: Wonderful news, I can’t wait to read them!

Q: What is your favorite Indian food? B: What is your favorite British food? If you don’t have favorites, maybe something you’d love to try.

A: I adore Indian food.  I love Butter Paneer; I love Onion bhaji, sliced onions dipped in chickpea flour and spices, kind of like onion rings.  I love papadums, and my favorite snack is Khatta Meetha, which you can buy online if you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby (I do).  Favorite English food is Sticky Toffee Pudding, which we enjoy each Christmas. 

Q: What else have you written and then, what else do you plan to write in the future?

A:  I’ve written quite a bit – mainly I stick with something till my interest is exhausted and then move on. I’m very happy writing English Gothic Romance for now, so I’ll be sticking there for a few years, and I hope readers will stick with me!

Erin: I’ll be here! (P.S. to readers, see all of Sandra’s work here:  www.sandrabyrd.com)

Q: I know you’ve been a mentor to other authors. What is a simple piece of advice you might give that would apply to many new writers?

A: Do not be dismayed.  The road is difficult from the start to finish and beyond, but there is nothing, perhaps short of birthing and raising a child, which is so satisfying as completing your book.  And the book obeys you all the time – unlike the child!

Erin: Thank you so much, Sandra, for taking time with me today! You are welcome back for tea anytime you wish, and I look forward to many more of your books in the future.

Sandra:Thank you, Erin.  I’m so happy to have come to chat with you.  Can I take the leftover shortbread home with me? 🙂

Erin: haha! A lady after my own heart!

GIVEAWAY!!!!

One (1) lace bookmark, open to US & Canada residents only. Aren’t they beautiful??

Lace Book Marks Book Tour

Rules

Enter by leaving a comment in the section below. Leave also your name and email in which to contact you, or email hookofabook@hotmail.com with subject line lace.

– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Also, Sandra has this giveaway going and you can enter to win on her website below!

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01_Mist of MidnightMists of Midnight, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Howard Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire
Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609434-mist-of-midnight

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

Praise for Mist of Midnight~

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Author Sandra Byrd, Biography~

03_Sandra Byrd AuthorAfter earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra onFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

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Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/mistofmidnightblogtour/

Hashtags: #MistofMidnightBlogTour #HistoricalRomance #HistFic #Victorian #ChristianHistorical

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @sandrabyrd @Howard_Books

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Rebecca Kanner’s Sinners and the Sea is Captivating Story of Judgement, Humanity, and Noah’s Unknown Wife

I LOVE this cover!!!

I LOVE this cover!!!

Review + Giveaway (see below for link to enter)~

I absolutely loved Rebecca Kanner’s debut novel, Sinners and the Sea, when it published last year. I was thrilled to read it again for her virtual tour and offer my review as it was captivating and enthralling.  Rebecca is a seasoned writer of fiction and essays, even though this is her first book, so you have an amazing well-written novel that features lots of layers of thinking past  the initial premise of being a biography of biblical Noah’s wife.

Mentioned only briefly in the Bible, Noah’s wife was simply called wife, as well as throughout the book, as she had no name. She was born with a birthmark on her head which targeted her as a very evil demon who must possibly do all sorts of things like change into lizards, goats, and what not, or change other people into those, while killing and eating babies or whatever other outlandish stories masses of people come up with for those are slightly different. With a mark of the devil, and her mother having run away, the woman who would become Noah’s wife only has her father to protect her from the village people who wish to kill her. When Noah comes from afar on his decrepit donkey (in fact, Noah is probably 400 years old or so at the time himself with a long straggly beard and bowed legs), she knows the mark has sent her on a journey in order for her survival.

I take away just from the beginning of the novel Rebecca’s themes of humanity’s issue with people not being pure in their beauty, or perfect, or different. People are so paranoid of others that they spin outlandish stories, create fear, and tell stories in order to justify themselves. When it’s a woman who is imperfect, it can be even worse. For women are already the devil’s temptress, aren’t they? (that was sarcasm….)

I also can read through the lines and compare this woman being marked to what it was like for Jews who were marked by a yellow star during WWII Holocaust and had to hide to save their lives. She hid behind the lentil sacks in her small tent with her father without a name to avoid persecution and the Jews lives were stripped, names replaced with numbers, and they had to hide or escape to avoid persecution. It’s also true for any other groups, still even today, who are marked by groups of others or governments (or religious leaders), persecuted, beaten, and killed.  It’s even as true to think about women with tattoos the small of their back, forever branding themselves “tramps” in the eyes of the world for its placement. Or, and this is featured in the book as well, it is almost norm for those who are disabled or slow to be made fun of for something they cannot help, yet people fear their imperfections so much they shun or are cruel to these people.  Who are these that judge to think they are better than anyone else? We are all created differently, on the inside as well as the outside, and have various beliefs and opinions that are important to us as well as circumstances.

In the case of Noah’s wife, she is taken by Noah to the desert to a place where all sinners are exiled and marked with an X. Though she is marked too, it is in a different way and she must hide her mark with a scarf and still not go out much for fear of being called a devil woman even from these people who don’t follow God’s rules. They just don’t want any bad luck or magic to come against them further. The people there steal, loot, kill, and fornicate to such a degree that really they do nothing else; disease is rampant, and life is miserable for them, as well as frustrating for Noah as he tries to save them all. But he can’t.  They have no way to stop doing the things they do to survive, even if they fear or want to know God.

Noah’s wife does befriend the most dangerous woman of the bunch, who kills to survive and runs a prostitution ring, yet has a slow daughter that seems so pure, innocent, and kind.  Noah’s wife loves her and wishes for her to be part of her family yet Noah won’t accept that as she is mentally challenged and might bears sons as such. As this woman, named Lavan, and Noah’s wife learn to assist each other after working together trying to save three babies from the hands of murderers, they learn an appreciation and understanding for each other. She even helps Noah’s wife deliver her three sons that she finally gives Noah. It’s interesting then as Noah is so conflicted over saving these sinners that he rarely calls his sons by their names as well as completely ignoring them as one whores around the sinner camp and tent brothels, one makes jokes, and the other is God-fearing yet does not seem to find his father’s eye or respect. It reminds me of another father I know who spends so much time thinking he is wonderful for helping other people, taking in needy, and “feeding his flock with the word of God,” yet forgets almost completely about the details of the lives of his three sons.  Wouldn’t God have wanted Noah to love his three sons as He loves himself those sons He gave Noah? Was the frustration eating away at Noah so widespread within him, and his focus so much toward doing God’s will and spending hours talking to God about how to save the sinners, that he forgets his own wonderful children–about being a father himself not to only the flock, but his own sons?

In the novel we live through Noah passing out the message that the world will end except for those directed to be in the Ark. The Ark isn’t the main focus of the novel, but more towards the late middle to end as Rebecca sets the scene for us as to the people in exile in the desert, allowing us to know them as well as offering deep development of Noah’s family, Lavan, and her daughter, Henai.

But the horror of the flood, of the issues that come with the people below the Ark–those dying and those fighting to survive–knowing the characters who die, and relating that to actual people who died is hard to fathom. With emotion, we imagine the Earth being wiped out. It all wasn’t so simple as the rains came, the floods came up, the Ark floated along, and then the sun came out and the world was new. It was so much more than that and Rebecca put so much emotion and care, as well as action and suspense, into this section. And the family issues that occur between Noah’s sons and wives just adds to the fervor with which I shake my head, and yet I know, in every stressful situation where people see their lives flashing before their eyes and the fire of survival burning in their hearts, passion, jealously, and the worst of our human personalities can arise.

I loved this fictional biography of Noah’s wife as Rebecca truly showed us a woman of strength. A woman who was marked and yet overcame it, letting her mark lead her life toward true meaning. I realized she was truly “marked” but in a much more special way. The novel has her marked to save the world, bringing hope and kindness to others, to become the mother of the world. She is vibrant, passionate, compassionate, and intelligent. She is nurturing and loving. She is humble and offers grace and mercy. Yet, all she wants is a name.  Will she get it? I’ll let you find out.  But after I’ve read this book about her, I feel that Rebecca made me want to KNOW this woman. Andy maybe in some regard I already do.

Sinners and the Sea ends with thought-provoking content that really speaks to the fact that all different “types” of people make the world go round. That annihilating entire races is really not the answer in which to create a perfect world.

I would highly recommend this book to those who love historical biographical fiction from the time of the Old Testament and those who enjoy books with strong female leads. Be prepared for it to not be full of fluff though, Rebecca holds nothing back when describing the horrors of being in exile, living in filth, and the rampant prostitution. However, it’s deep, philosophical, and shows the strength of the female. As for myself, I will cherish Rebecca’s book and let it serve as a reminder of humanity.

GIVEAWAY~

Giveaway #1:

I have an extra giveaway on this blog in addition to the tour-wide one below. Please follow my blog or my Hook of a Book Facebook page to enter (www.facebook.com/HookofaBook) and leave a comment below with your email and name!! 

Giveaway #2:

To enter to win one of two (2) copies of Sinners and the Sea or a $25 Amazon Gift Card via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends at 11:59pm on May 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter by HFVBT on May 30th and notified via email by them.  Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Click below to go to RAFFLECOPTER ENTRY FORM:

I LOVE this cover!!!

I LOVE this cover!!!

Sinners and the Sea, Synopsis~

Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Howard Books/Simon and Schuster
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audio CD

The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a haven for outcasts. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons. But living in this wicked and perverse town with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than to her takes its toll. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite its pious upbringing, develops some sinful tendencies of its own. While Noah carries out the Lord’s commands, she tries to hide her mark and her shame as she weathers the scorn and taunts of the townspeople.

But these trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women. Drawing on the biblical narrative and Jewish mythology, Sinners and the Sea is a beauti­fully written account of the antediluvian world told in cinematic detail.

Watch the Book Trailer~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GvxcTs_xG-8

Praise for Sinners and the Sea~

“Kanner animates a harsh, almost dystopic world of fallen people struggling to survive. Noah’s unnamed wife is a powerful, memorable character.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“[Noah’s wife] proves her strength and character as she tries to protect her family… from the outside forces that threaten. Kanner successfully undertakes a formidable task retelling a familiar religious story through the eyes of Noah’s wife. The narrative’s well-articulated, evenly balanced and stimulating—but it’s definitely not the familiar tale that’s so frequently illustrated in children’s books” – Kirkus Reviews

“SINNERS AND THE SEA is a rare find–a bold and vivid journey to the antediluvian world of Noah. Kanner’s is a fresh, irresistible story about the unnamed woman behind the famous ark-builder. Compelling and masterfully written.” – Tosca Lee, NY Times bestelling author of HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE.

“What a remarkable debut! Rebecca Kanner’s SINNERS AND THE SEA is a haunting, beautifully written story of struggle and redemption told through the eyes of the Biblical prophet Noah’s wife. Kanner pulls no punches: She gives us humanity in all its wickedness — bloodthirsty, greedy, cruel — and the horror and heartbreak the inhabitants of Noah’s ark might have felt as, unable to help, they listened to the screams of the dying and witnessed the utter obliteration of life on Earth. By the end of this book, I was in tears, for Kanner does lead us out of the valley of the shadow of death into a new world of promise and hope. SINNERS AND THE SEA is a profoundly moving tale, thrilling and fast-paced, and one of the best books I have read in a very long time.”- Sherry Jones, author, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA and FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS

“Rebecca Kanner brings the antediluvian world of giants, prophets, and demons alive, setting her narrative in motion from the first chapter and never letting it rest. She is a writer of great dexterity, performing tricks at a full sprint.” – Marshall Klimasewiski, author of THE COTTAGERS and TYRANTS

“Kanner does a masterful job of penetrating the depths of the Biblical Flood narrative and weaving in the complicated reality of challenging relationships and longings for personal fulfillment. Her desire to go beyond the traditional understanding of the lives she explores introduces us to a courageous and insightful young writer whose first book will take its place alongside other exciting modern re-readings of the ancient Biblical text.” – Rabbi Allen of Beth Jacob congregation in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Honored by Forward newspaper as one of America’s “50 most significant Jewish leaders”

“We think we know Noah’s story but he was not alone on the ark; what was the experience of his wife, his family? Rebecca Kanner’s vividly imagined telling recreates the world of the bible, and asks powerful questions about the story and about ourselves.” – Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine (2012). Author of WHY FAITH MATTERS

“We sympathize with this unnamed woman because—as remote as her world seems to be from ours—she longs for all that we want for ourselves: to be known, loved, and accepted by her family, her community, and ultimately her God… After reading Sinners and the Sea, you’ll never look at the Biblical story of Noah and the flood in the same way again, and isn’t that Biblical fiction’s greatest purpose? To see the old stories with fresh eyes and perhaps find new meaning…” – Stephanie Landsem, author of THE WELL

“Rebecca Kanner has created an autobiography of Noah’s wife, and an imaginative one it is.” – American Jewish World

“[Kanner] gives an intelligent voice to Noah’s wife.” – Jewish Book Council

“First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly.” – Historical Novel Society

“A fascinating look into a feral civilization of turmoil and hardship.” – Historical Novel Review

“A stirring, fascinating story written beautifully.” – Historical Fiction Connection

“Kanner beautifully evokes life on the claustrophobic, smelly vessel. Riveting… It will certainly spark hours of book club discussions.” – St. Paul Pioneer Press

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Author Rebecca Kanner, Biography~

03_Rachel KannerSinners and the Sea is Rebecca Kanner’s debut novel. Rebecca is a Twin Cities native and has a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft mentorship Award and a 2012/2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review.

Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.

You can learn more about Rebecca, and find links to selected stories and essays, at www.rebeccakanner.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/sinnersandtheseatour

Tour Hashtag: #SinnersandtheSeaTour

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Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt is an Inspiring Romance that Teaches that Life isn’t Always Planned

cover Catch a Falling StarHave you ever sat pondering and wondering what direction your life should be taking, all while having an internal struggle inside telling you what you are destined to do (or who to become) while the outside world is demanding something else?

In Catch a Falling Star, author Beth K. Vogt pens an inspiring modern tale that encompasses just that feeling. Her protagonist, Dr. Kendall Haynes, loves her career and those she helps. She doesn’t necessarily feel that she has to push her way to get married or even have kids. She isn’t the type of character though that has a hard wall up to a situation such as mentioned and the book doesn’t then spends time picking away at that invisible wall. It’s actually a fresh character perspective with her having a sense of knowing what her true self wants, even if it means fighting against the odds of the rest of what her family and friends think she should be doing at her age.

Sure, she appears independent on the outside and is completely strong, self-sufficient and capable. However, she does a lot of self-talking in her head and wonders if she is making the right decisions. I can relate to that quite a bit myself.  Since it’s an inspirational fiction (meaning it has Christian values and thoughts intertwined within it), she often prays and asks God if she is making the right decision; if she is following the path He’s set out for her. But her enduring faith and desire to help others seems to lead her through.

Concurrently, the co-protagonist Griffin is struggling with his intense career as an Air Force pilot taking a back seat to his needing to take in his younger brother when their parents are killed. He feels with so much age difference between them that he can’t properly care for him and doesn’t understand how to relate to him. He seems to not be able to get out from under feeling burdened. It’s another case of sometimes not understanding your true path and needing to be able to understand that sometimes God puts something or someone in our path that completely changes our lives. He throws roadblocks at us for a reason. With Kendall’s help, he begins to see more clearly how with faith he can endure this change in his life and actually see how his life could be made better. She learns she might fall in love with someone she wouldn’t have though she would be able to fall in love with….so the MORAL for both of them is that we don’t always know our own path. We must be willing in life to be flexible and trust that God is in control. As a reader, I can certainly relate to that too!

Kendall and Griffin’s budding romance throughout the book is endearing and sweet. And I love inspiring, clean, and inspirational romances. Their partnership really shows them both another side to themselves and the possibilities in their lives that they themselves weren’t seeing.

There is so much that goes into this novel, with Vogt’s odd and original character developments. I loved how much Kendall liked Jeeps and how she wasn’t afraid to be a grease monkey with them. I also loved Beth’s decision to make Kendall and allergy and asthma practitioner. Growing up with allergies and severe asthma myself, I again could relate and I appreciate her brining awareness to this cause and its seriousness. I would love to have a doctor like Kendall for myself, and for my son, who also struggles with asthma.

Beyond this, we also have Kendall’s office secretary who also learns with her adoption issues, that life in her world isn’t as cut and dry as she would like them to be as well. It reinforced that all women struggle with various spectrums of motherhood or non-motherhood and no one’s story is any worse or any different; we all have desires and choices we must make for ourselves.

However, through all her interactions Kendall’s faith in God is transparent to those around her. Whether that helps them find God themselves, or not, is not the main focus of the book, but rather the fact that she consistently herself practices what she believes in without worrying what others think.

I liked Vogt’s premises behind the book and the inspirational aspects of her plot. Though it was a quick read for me, without heavy detail or overabundance of explanation, it was still a book that provoked some thought into my own life path, decisions, and also my reaction to the choices of others. I enjoyed her view of relationships and her modern spin on an unlikely romance. I suggest this book if you want a Christian contemporary romance that inspires you to think about where you are in life and where you want to be.

The only recommendation I would make, as a woman who is 38 years old, is that I felt that the characters were more in the age range of 26-30, not 36. I have thought about why I felt that way and can’t really pinpoint it, except the description and mannerisms of Kendall, her friends were only just starting with kids and marriages, and Griffin’s brother being so much younger than he. I am sure she had her reasons for picking this age, and it works fine, I just felt like it was more for this age group, even though anyone of any age could read it.

Catch a Falling Star, Synopsis~

cover Catch a Falling Star What does a girl do when life doesn’t go according to her plan?
 
At 36, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She’s a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives-a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But the feeling of being “the kid never picked” looms large when romance continues to evade her and yet another one of her closest friends gets engaged. Are Kendall’s dreams of having it all-a career, a husband, children-nothing more than childish wishing upon a star? Should she hold out for her elusive Plan A? Dust off Plan B? Or is it time to settle? God says he knows the plans he has for her-why can’t Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?
Griffin Walker prefers flying solo-both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of “flying a desk” are complicated by his parents’ death-making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can God get his life back on track … or has there been a divine plan all along?
Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn’t just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your “wish I may, wish I might” dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.
 
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/kUDLa
 
Beth K. Vogt, Biography~ 
 
Beth photoBeth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she’d never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four, though she said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Her contemporary romance novel, “Wish You Were Here”, debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and “Catch a Falling Star” releases May 2013. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren.
 
Find out more about Beth K. at http://bethvogt.com.
 
To see more stops on Beth’s tour, go to LitFuse Landing page:
Thank you to LitFuse for the complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
 

Celebrate the release of Catch a Falling Star (Howard Books) with Beth K. Vogt by entering to win a Romantic Weekend Getaway and RSVPing for her June 4th Author Chat Party.

 

FallingStar300

 
One “lucky” winner will receive:

  • A $200 Visa Cash Card (Perfect for a weekend stay at a hotel or B&B!)
  • Catch a Falling Star and Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt (Swoon-worthy!)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 3rd. Winner will be announced at the Catch a Falling Star” Facebook Author Chat Party on June 4th. Connect with Beth for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Beth will also share an exclusive look at her next book and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.

 
So grab your copy of Catch a Falling Star and join Beth on the evening of June 4th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

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