10 Sep 2013

Derry O’Dowd: The Scarlet Ribbon

3 Comments Book Reviews

 

TSRCover

The Scarlet Ribbon was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line in 2012.

Written by father and daughter team Michael (a doctor and medical historian) and Katy O’Dowd (a writer), the book follows James Quinn, a young Irish surgeon battling prejudice, suspicion and personal demons in his controversial quest to change the face of medicine.

Following his marriage, tragedy strikes, thrusting James into a life of turmoil and despair. Throwing himself into his work, the young surgeon eventually begins to find solace in the most unexpected of places. From the backstreets of Paris, through the glittering social
whirl of London and finally back to Ireland again, this is a story of the thorns of love and the harsh reality of life in the eighteenth century, where nothing is simple and complications of all kinds surround James Quinn, man midwife.

 

“The Scarlet Ribbon” by Derry O’Dowd is a fascinating historical novel about man-midwifery in the 1700s.
I am amazed at the amount of research that must have gone into this work of art. With much attention to detail O’Dowd sets the scene perfectly with the description of a dramatic birth that draws our protagonist James Quinn into the field of mid-wifery.
Quinn immediately encounters the first prejudices and obstacles to his new chosen career path, which continue through his life and the rest of the book.

Although it is quite specific in its theme and full of medical procedures and jargon the book reads easily and makes the topic accessible for readers like myself who have lesser knowledge of the field.
Many other historical novels also loose themselves in excessive insertions of researched facts whereas this books strikes an excellent balance. I feel that I got a wonderful insight into the state of medicine, mid-wifery and 
also some entertaining superstition of the times but this never gets in the way of the smooth flow of the novel.

James Quinn is a greatly chosen protagonist, possessing a caring nature and a genuine desire to help but also some weaknesses. Without giving much of the plot away, his professional and private life are both full of painful moments which makes for a very good balance between history, facts and fiction.

The Scarlet Ribbon refers to a piece of wedding finery and stands for the strong connection Quinn holds with his wife and mother of his son Daniel. The book is full of great locations, such as Dublin, Galway, Paris and London and rich in plot and sub-plots. It is a personal journey of loss, endurance and professional vision but it also reflects on mid-wifery and medicine in more general and political terms.

O’Dowd creates a great feel for the times yet he has drawn characters we can easily relate to. One of my favourite parts in the book is a very moving letter to James written by a rejected admirer, so well composed and heart-warming and gracious that I had to stop and read it again.

The authenticity of the book is greatly helped by lovely short excerpts from the ‘Quinn Household Recipes and Remedies Book’ which are so cleverly put at the beginning of each chapter, often serving as very appropriate indication of the themes to come within the story.

This was a real find for me and a book that I would chose over many best-selling historical novels for its genuine and lovely feel. O’Dowd has written an astonishing debut novel, I have no doubt he will do very well with his writing and hope there will be many more books to come.

 

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Hi Christoph! Thanks for having us over – I’ll be answering on behalf of Dad and I.

 

How long did this book take you to write?

Dad had the idea for The Scarlet Ribbon years ago but didn’t have the time to write it. He approached me and asked me if I would like to write it, and from there it took a couple of years. Dad plans and plots the books out and I write them. We have a weekly meeting, and talk through the scenes which I then go away and write.

 

How did you research for it?

Dad is an ObGyn and a medical historian. He put a lot of extra work into research for The Scarlet Ribbon series (we are hoping to write at least three) and then had to explain and re-explain the medicine of it all to me until I could write it in layman’s terms. Quite the challenge, I can tell you, but hugely interesting.

 

How comfortable do you feel writing about history and medicine? How much did you know before you started writing?

Dad has written about history and medicine before with the text books The History of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and The History of Medications for Women. I on the other hand, knew absolutely nothing when I started, but feel much more comfortable writing about it now that I know I can do it.

 

How difficult was it to draw the balance between research and invention/ imagination?

I think the difficult bit was presenting all the research in a way that seemed natural to the reader rather than bombarding with lots of facts. A difficult thing to do for any historical fiction writer.

 

Was the storyline pre-determined or did it change during the process?

The storyline was pre-determined. I think when working in collaboration with another person it’s probably absolutely essential to do so. There were small deviations, but on the whole the plan was kept to.

 

How many rewrites did it take you?

I have put it out of my mind! Ha! We edited as we went along, so a fair few.

 

What did you find most challenging about this book?

Turning all the medical stuff into something that I could understand and then write for the reader to understand too.

 

Will there be more books from you? Will they be the in same genre or even about the same characters?

Absolutely. As Derry O’Dowd, Dad and I have at least three in the James Quinn Scarlet Ribbon series. And plenty more ideas too. Medical historical would seem to make sense as Dad has so much knowledge, but we may deviate at some time.

What would you say is the message of this book, or rather, what would you like us to take with us from it?

Ah. It has to be love. Kindness. Compassion.

 

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

We are currently writing the second in the series (as yet it only has a working title). You can find out more at www.derryodowd.com

 

 

The Scarlet Ribbon is widely available in bookshops and online in ebook and paperback at

Amazon UK 

Amazon USA 

The History Press Ireland

Find out more at www.derryodowd.com

And visit Katy at www.katyodowd.com

 

07 Sep 2013

Author Bernice L. Rocque in Lithuania

1 Comment Book Reviews, News

THE FOLLOWING POST IS ABOUT A WONDERFUL SHORT NOVEL,

UNTIL THE ROBIN WALKS ON SNOW by BERNICE L. ROCQUE  

and the author’s visit to Central Europe to connect with her roots there.

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THE STORY:  It is 1922. An immigrant family and their devoted midwife struggle to save a tiny premature baby. Inspired by real events in Norwich, Connecticut, this historical fiction novella about determination, family, faith, and friendship includes a story chapter about the family’s Polish and Lithuanian Christmas Eve traditions. Appendices include Author’s Notes about the facts, family history, and research behind the story

BERNICE: 

More than forty years ago when I was in my teens, I interviewed my grandmother and numerous other relatives about family history. I took a few notes about the 1.5 pound baby born to my grandmother in 1922. It is astounding to me now that I didn’t ask more questions.
In the fall of 2009, my Uncle Tony reminded me about that baby. My uncle is a retired engineer and a naturally curious person and problem solver, much like my father was, and like their grandfather, Nikodimas. Since this event about the baby had some mystery attached to it, my uncle and I became more and more intrigued as we talked.
Since 2004 when I joined the writing group, I had been writing mostly memoir pieces about my immediate family and cousins. I could tell my uncle was hoping I would write a story about this birth, so I offered to try historical fiction if he would serve as an advisor, since he grew up in the 1920s-1930s. He gave me a big smile and said, “Let’s do it.” And so we embarked on this adventure of trying to unravel the mystery and tell the story that “might have happened.”

My Review of the book:

“Until the Robin Walks on Snow” by Bernice L. Rocque grabbed my attention on the historical fiction forums on Goodreads and was intrigued by the Eastern European angle of the story, something that I have researched myself for my own books.
I found the relatively short novel had a lot more to it than Eastern European culture. It is a meticulously researched and detailed account of the winter 1922 and 1923 in Norwhich, Connecticut, during which a group of mainly Lithuanian Immigrants fear for the live of a fragile baby. Antoni is the smallest baby the doctor has ever seen – dead or alive – and his survival is in serious question.
The author describes precisely which steps the family and the doctors take to help the baby survive in the same way as she adds great detail and authenticity to the cultural background of that group: The house they live in, the cooking implements they use, the clothes and fabrics, the religious habits and celebrations – all of this creates an amazing insight and allows the reader to become part of the community and the times.
It is a great challenge to write about one small subject matter such as the birth of a fragile baby. Some authors might have been tempted to fill the book with lots of side plots to keep the reader’s attention but Rocque manages easily to hold the interest and the suspense up.
As a plot driven writer and reader I was surprised to find myself so comfortable in the slow pace which this close up of the family and the surrounding community kept. The Wigilia, a Polish Christmas Eve dinner, the fables told and so much more that is mentioned makes this a well-illustrated and rich feast for the historian and culturally interested.
Right from the beginning when the author gives an introduction, background and her acknowledgements, the writing was already so fascinating and captivating that I was surprised when the actual novel began.
This is well crafted from research to the composition. If you have an interest in this field then “Until the Robin Walks on Snow” is a must read.

http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/until-the-robin-walks-on-snow-by-bernice-l-rocque/

THIS IS FROM BERNICE’S WEBSITE  BLR Connections Photo Cropped 4

http://3houses.com/lithuania-that-feeling-of-being-home/

 For years I have wondered about Lithuania.  What was it like? This Baltic country was the homeland of my immigrant grandmother, Marianna. Two years ago, I promised myself that I would travel there. Fifty years had passed with no communication with relatives.

A month ago, when I stepped onto Lithuanian soil and began to experience this exquisite country, my first impression was that Lithuania felt like home. In researching my trip and experiencing the country first-hand, I learned that Lithuania is a land of geographical contrasts, rich history, and deep traditions. 2013-06-11-14.52.47-Cathedral-Square

A resilient people, the Lithuanians have survived centuries of unwelcome governance by other nations and extreme suffering at the hands of invaders. Remarkably, the Lithuanian people endured, often resisted their oppressors, and somehow protected their language and culture. The first country to break away from the Russian block (1991), their high level of education, respect for the environment, and enterprising nature are moving this spirited nation forward.

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While I was visiting Lithuania, a writer friend was visiting Poland, also on an ancestral journey. I smiled when I read her email question to me: could her DNA know?  She described the similar phenomenon  — that surreal sense of being home. Her question has been on my mind since she posed it.

The feeling is somewhat difficult to describe. Calming and peculiar at the same time, this same wash of familiarity had pervaded my trips years ago to Quebec, Montreal, Arizona, and even Alaska. Maybe my DNA somehow recognized French Canada, my mother’s homeland, but why Arizona and Alaska?

I believe part of the answer came less than a year after the trip to Alaska. When I submitted my DNA to National Geographic’s genographic project in 2006, they analyzed my mitochondrial DNA. According to their report, my mother’s mother’s mother’s… people had traveled out of Africa, across the Middle East and Asia, and over the land bridge to the Americas. I was stunned. I expected the diagram to show a path to western Europe. Could this be correct?

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Before contacting National Geographic, I called the cousin who had assumed the research on our French Canadian family after I had to let it go due to work demands. She HAD identified the likely ancestor in our family tree, a Native American woman. As it happens, we also have some Native American blood on our Canadian grandfather’s side of the family. So this information provided a possible clue about why an unfamiliar place might feel familiar.

Any rational person might dismiss these “sense of home” impressions, perhaps assigning the experiences to the realm of overactive imagination. As I age, though, I trust my instincts more. They have proven reliable far too frequently to ignore, somehow magically distilling my reservoir of knowledge and life’s experiences, not so unlike the insights that “big data” analyses digitally discover for businesses today. In simpler terms, I also pay more attention to any impression that moves from a single point, to two (a pattern), and then three or more (a trend). Just part of the lessons of business and life.

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That being said, my left brain would still like to see science backup my sensory feedback. In every century, science does bring clarity to some of life’s mysteries. So, as I sit here writing this blog, and though emotionally accepting the wisdom of my intuition, my intellectual curiosity is jiggling.  Is there scientific evidence to support this feeling of “being home” in a location you are visiting for the first time? Is there such a thing as genetic memory?

This lingering brain action is normal for me. My cousin, Birute, in Lithuania, had commented that our family has curiosity in its blood. Her observation, shared during my Lithuanian visit, agrees with what I know. Many of my U.S. relatives are/were not just curious occasionally, but skilled problem solvers, perpetually looking for answers to their questions.

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My grandmother, Marianna, her father, Nikodimas, and her husband Andrzej all exhibited this attribute during their lives. If you have read my book, UNTIL THE ROBIN WALKS ON SNOW, you are familiar with how they and the midwife did not hesitate to attempt the impossible in 1922 — find a way to save a 1.5 pound newborn. Researching this compelling story helped me to understand why I have consistently chosen to “climb mountains” during my business career. Challenging projects are like a favorite food!

So, my curiosity is fueling my fingertips right now. As someone who was a reference librarian when the internet did not exist, I just marvel at what can be found with only a few key strokes and a little time.

Well, there will be more than I have found so far. But, I have identified a field which appears to be investigating related questions. Epigenetics is a relatively young field of interdisciplinary study. A number of credentialed researchers are examining whether the genetic code of humans and animals is altered by life experiences and then transmitted to offspring, with effects emerging in subsequent generations.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if, in our lifetime, they more fully unravel the breadth of genetic memory?  Will these curious scientists be able to explain eventually that peculiar sense of “coming home” when visiting a land of your heritage?

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What do you think?  Have you visited an ancestral country and had the feeling you were home?

Here are a few links if you are curious to read more about Epigenetics and related research.  If you find more great information, please leave a comment.

http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.UelgiqyYfkQ

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/science/in-andalusia-searching-for-inherited-memories.html?ref=science&_r=0

http://www.routledgementalhealth.com/books/details/9780415191876/

Key to photos by Bernice L. Rocque.  All rights reserved.

Photo 1:  Cathedral Square, Vilnius, Lithuania (6-11-2013)

Photo 2: The Nemunas River, taken at Vilkija, near Kaunas (6-15-2013)

Photo 3: Historical house at Rumsiskes Open Air Museum, outside Kaunas (6-14-2013)

Photo 4: Forest on the Coronian Spit (Kursiu peninsula) (6-17-2013)

Photo 5: View from Ventes cape toward Curonian Spit (Kursiu peninsula) (6-16-2013)

Photo 6: Giant pine in Palanga (6-18-2013)

 http://3houses.com/lithuania-that-feeling-of-being-home/

 Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKIYGsZmjUY

03 Sep 2013

Judith Barrow: “Pattern of Shadows”

1 Comment Book Reviews

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Mary is a nursing sister at a Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling; life at home a constant round of arguments—often prompted by her fly-by-night sister, Ellen, the apple of her short-tempered father’s eye. Then Frank turns up at the house one night—a guard at the camp, he’s been watching Mary for weeks—and won’t leave until she agrees to walk out with him. Frank Shuttleworth is a difficult man to love and it’s not long before Mary gives him his marching orders. But Shuttleworth won’t take no for an answer and the gossips are eager for their next victim, and for the slightest hint of fraternization with the enemy. Suddently, not only Mary’s happiness but her very life is threatened by the most dangerous of wartime secrets

 

“Pattern of Shadows” by Judith Barrow is a wonderful gem of a historical novel with a greatly chosen setting.
Mary is a nursing sister at a prison of war camp in the UK during the last years of WWII. Her family often seems at war with each other, particularly Mary and her sister Ellen argue a lot, not least in connection with prison guard Frank, for whom Mary has mixed feelings herself.
The book has really great characters and a complex storyline. Although it is set in war time a lot of the book is about a regular family that has to deal with the loss of one of the family members and it is also about a blossoming but complicated romance. It is my kind of book, rich in plot and different themes while offering a lot of historic facts and insights with a fresh perspective.
The book was an interesting and very compelling read and I’d recommend it to anyone who – like me – likes a good story with interesting characters

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Hi Judith

How did the idea for the novel come to you?  Your story heavily features a Prisoner of War camp. Why did you choose this setting?

Pattern of Shadows was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, a town in Lancashire in the North of England, and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country.  I was looking for information in the Oldham Local Studies and Archives for general background for a story I was writing. The history of Glen Mill brought back a personal memory of my childhood and I was side-tracked.

My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels (bobbins), for the weavers). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into great wooden gates. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, of them whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them, reading until the siren sounded, announcing the end of the shift.

When I thought of Glen Mill as a German POW camp I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. There would be no machinery as such, only vehicles coming and going; the sounds would be of men, only men, with a language and dialect so different from the mixture of voices I remembered. I imagined the subdued anger and resignation. The whole situation would be so different, no riot of colour, just an overall drabness. And I realised how different the smells would be – no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; all gone – replaced by the reek of ‘living’ smells.

And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.

How did you come to writing in the first place?

I’ve been a compulsive reader for as long as I can remember. As a child, every Saturday morning I went to the local village library with my mother and carried home a stack of books that didn’t always last the week. My father didn’t believe in the television or radio, so reading was always my greatest pleasure. Books were both my passion and an escape. As I grew older they also became an inspiration for the writing I did in secret. I hadn’t the confidence to show anyone what I was doing; the short stories, plays and poems stayed firmly hidden. And, later again, like many women, work, getting married and bringing up a family was a priority for a lot of years. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my forties, had gained a BA degree and a Masters in Creative Writing.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

I know what I want my characters to look like but I need to sort out their personalities first. I don’t think you can be a good writer without empathy for your characters. They can’t be one-dimensional; good or bad. I suppose, initially, they’re a mixture of people I’ve known but mostly they become rounded by their place in the book.  Once I have a clear picture in my head of my character’s personality I can feel free to tell the story. But it rarely finishes up as the one I have in the beginning; the characters lead the way in that; I can sense how they react to the events in the plot, how they feel, what they say, invariably means I change the direction of the story.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Mary Howarth: She lives within the shadows of her family’s expectations of her – a pattern that rules her life. Most of all she lives within the shadow of her own loyalties. I believe we all live within the confines of our own pattern of the shadows that rule our lives – our expectations and those of other people. But ultimately she goes her own way

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

I believe we all live within the confines of our own pattern of the shadows that rule our lives – our own expectations and those of other people. On a personal level, I was brought up in a patriarchal household where what my father said was the rule. I know the feeling of helplessness, of the unfairness of not being listened to, of being ‘invisible’ if you like. I carried the frustration of having no voice into my adulthood. Luckily (or perhaps by wise choice) I married a man who believes in the equality of the sexes, who gave me a voice. We are still together after forty-five years.  It’s taken me a long time but I’m more comfortable with who and what I am than I’ve ever been.

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I always carry and explore characters, ideas, a story in my head. So when I knew where and what period of time the events would take place I went back to the Oldham Local Studies and Archive to research Oldham, in the forties and also to a records officer in the county of Pembrokeshire during that decade. It was fascinating. By knowing my settings, the details of the background, I could write in the knowledge that it was a strong and a fitting place for my characters to live in.

How did you research for the book?

 The most important aspect of my research was making sure that the details of a German POW camp in Britain during WW2 were authentic. So I learned as much as I could about the history of the camp and its occupants throughout the war years.

I traced a map of Oldham in the nineteen forties and then renamed all the streets and the town – and did the same for a village in Pembrokeshire.

 Then I read books and researched on the Internet to find out what life was like during that time.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

I had an idea how I wanted the plot to run but there were lots of twists and U – turns when the characters wouldn’t act as I originally intended. I didn’t want to change the personality of the characters so the plot had to be altered. Ultimately the end result was the same though. As for the sub –plots – they just appeared as the story progressed. Oh dear, that doesn’t make me sound very organised – but it worked for me.

This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?

Changing Patterns, the sequel to Pattern of Shadows, was published by Honno in May of this year. It follows the lives of the characters, there are continuations of some of the issues raised in Pattern of Shadows – but it’s also a stand-alone book with a story of its own.

I’ve already started to research for the third in the series. It’s set in the sixties and most of the same characters are in it; certainly Mary and Peter will feature quite largely. But the children who were born during Pattern of Shadows will have the major part

Tell us about your other books.

My eBook, Silent Trauma, is awkward to categorize; it’s fictional but based on fact. It’s the result of the anger I’ve felt about an injustice done to many women. It took me a long time and a lot of persistence to get it published but, finally, I succeeded.

 It’s a story of four women affected in different ways by a drug, Stilboestrol, (Diethylstilboestrol, DES, in the USA) an artificial oestrogen prescribed to women between the decades of the nineteen forties and seventies, ostensibly to prevent miscarriages. Not only was it ultimately proved to be ineffectual it also caused drastic and tragic damage to the daughters of the women. I learned about the charity (DES Action UK) some years ago through a relative and became involved. I wrote an article for the annual newsletter and mothers and daughters affected by the drug began to contact me

The characters are a disparate group; their stories are run both in parallel and together and have been described by readers as ‘strong’ and ‘speaking with a true voice’.

I chose to self-publish Silent Trauma initially as an eBook mainly because, after years of research, I was impatient for the story to be told. Luckily, I was given permission to reprint an interview from the Independent on Sunday with two DES Daughters as the Foreword (which lends both veracity and authenticity to the book) and I’ve been given quotes from many women affected by the drug to use at the beginning of each chapter.

DES Action UK folded last year due to lack of funds but http://www.desaction.org  (the USA equivalent) is available to help and advise any DES mothers and daughters in Britain also. A percentage of the sales will go to the charity. People shy away from ‘issue-led’ novels but ultimately the story is fictitious and has been described as’ a good read’ and ‘sad, fascinating and poignant’

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

The best aspect of writing for me is that I’m never short on ideas; there so many images and words in my head – I just need to write them down. The worst aspect is time – and that I am a slow writer. I tend to go over and over what I’ve written the day before and need to get it right before I can move on. I envy writers who can speed along getting the whole story down – and then edit it.

Why do you write?

I can’t stop writing. I get tetchy if I ever miss a day – which is rare. I have a motto on the wall next to my desk “You’ll know you should be writing when you hate the world and everyone in it”. When that happens I know I’ve gone too long without sitting in front of my computer and getting words on the screen. I should apologise to my family, at this point, for being irritable sometimes.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

 With difficulty – on line; I’m not completely on top of things with social media because I resent spending time learning all the ‘ins and outs’ of it all. So it’s my own fault that I find keeping up with everything hard work and time consuming. But I’ve made good friends with a whole host of writers on Twitter and Facebook and I find myself drawn in. I want to read everybody’s blog and look at all the websites and answer all the posts on Facebook and Twitter. So I plod on. My favourite side of marketing is book signings and appearing at events and giving talks. On the plus side, I do manage to balance the two aspects of being a writer these days. I tell myself I was a ‘domestic goddess’ for years – now the house gets a ‘lick and a polish’ most days.

What do you do when you don’t write?

 I paint, walk. potter in the garden, meet with friends and family. I try to ignore ‘domestic trivia’ but it catches up with me eventually and so then have I spend a whole day cleaning.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote the characters?

 I don’t think I should say who I have in mind for the ‘difficult ‘characters. The rest of the them are a disparate mix of people I have met or imagined over the years.

Who would play them in a film?

I’ve never thought of that. I have been told many times that Pattern of Shadows would make a good television drama series. In which case I would love to have Gaynor Faye, from Emmerdale, as Mary.

Who are your biggest influences?

 My husband, David. And then my closest friends – one of whom is Sharon Tregenza, a children’s author, and my greatest critique.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. And anything by Pat Barker; I think her writing is so complex; she mixes absolutely exquisite description with dialogue that is so believable the reader lives within the internal lives of each of her characters. I am, and have been for a long time, a real fan of her work.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

 There are so many: If I had to pick names out of a hat – Judith Arnopp, Jenny Lloyd, E.L. Lindley, Eleanor Anders, Regina Puckett, Bert Murray. And I love all the mottos and saying Khaled Talib Tweets.

What would you take to an isolated island?

 My husband and family

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

 I think I’ve said enough!

 

Pattern of Shadows was published by Honno in 2010

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781906784058

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pattern-of-Shadows-ebook/dp/B00940YWKQ/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=pattern+of+shadows&tag=googhydr-21&index=stripbooks&hvadid=15209327994&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=297622601706156893&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&ref=pd_sl_30tvv8osf2_b

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Changing Patterns:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-Patterns-Judith-Barrow/dp/1906784396/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1376847892&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-Patterns-ebook/dp/B00B0STM2I/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376847892&sr=1-2&keywords=pattern+of+shadows

 

Silent Trauma, published December 2012.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Trauma-ebook/dp/B00AFZ8CLO

The link to my website:

http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/

http://www.judithbarrow.com

 Other links:

https://twitter.com/judithabarrow

judith.barrow.3@facebook.com

 

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow

 

01 Sep 2013

NEW RELEASE: “The Last MacKlenna (The Ruby Brooch)” by Katherine Lowry Logan

3 Comments Book Reviews

The Last MacKlenna (The Ruby Brooch)

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My review:

In “The Last MacKlenna” by Katherine Lowry Logan, the second in her Ruby Brooch series, the focus is on Meredith Montgomery, a breast cancer surviving widow who runs a winery in Napa Valley. Over Christmas she goes on a Christmas time research trip to Scotland to find out about her family’s genealogy, where she meets Elliot Fraser, a rich horse breeder.

Despite her lack of bodily confidence due to her scars, the two of them have some sparks flying between them. However, fate intervenes when one of Elliot’s prize winning horses dies and might have been murdered, demanding his immediate attention elsewhere and leaving Meredith in doubt about his feelings and her own.

The romance between the characters is done really well, understated and realistic, thanks to some greatly set up and developed main characters. None of them is drawn either as a drama queen or too flaccid – both characteristics are pet hates of mine in the genre and the author has done a great job at keeping the story line believable and fresh.

Meredith at the time of her trip has yet another health scare. She finds another lump in her breast just before she sets out on the trip, which brings a more serious note to the romance. This, too, is handled in an understated and delicate manner, which lends the book more depth and makes the story all the more touching.

The book has also a lot of very memorable and colourful characters around Elliot, such as his ‘sister-in-law’ Lou, the owner of the B&B where our lovers meet. This makes the story much more entertaining than you would expect a book with such a serious theme to be and I guess it will prove very compelling reading for anyone who has experience with the big C.

The plot has many surprises and turns which I will not mention. There is a minor paranormal element in the story and a link to the past.The slow build-up of the characters and the story was excellent but it picks up in time

to keep us engaged in the story. This is very well written.

Logan balances the various elements of the story really well and also handles the more serious issues without letting them take over the story completely.

Given the character depth, some excellently placede symbolism and the seriousness of the issues I wonder if this should really be passed as romance writing and not as literary novel.

 

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Interview with Katherine Lowry Logan

Tell us a little about yourself, as a person and as an author.

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, during the 1960s. Sit-in’s, the sexual revolution, pot, campus unrest, and the Vietnam War were brought vividly to life by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. While the rest of the world seemed to spin out of control, I spun stories in my head.

College, marriage, and two daughters kept the muse simmering on the back burner. I worked as a real estate and tax paralegal in central Kentucky, and was actively involved in my community. It wasn’t until the nest was empty that I sat down to write full-time. Then, life brought a screeching halt to my writing when my husband died unexpectedly. Healing was a slow process, but two weddings and five grandchildren have a way of putting life into perspective. Following the birth of my second grandchild, I found my writer’s voice again.

I am a marathoner and an avid reader, and I live in Lexington, Kentucky.

Why did you choose this particular period for your novel and the settings?

I’ve been interested in time-travel since childhood. “The Time Machine”, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” and my all-time favorite “Somewhere in Time” Also, I fell in love with historicals reading Hawaii, Centennial, The Source, The Fires of Spring and other words by James Michener. Also, I grew up watching all the old westerns on TV along with Perry Mason.

I knew three things when I sat down to write a story: 1. It would be a time travel, 2. It would be a romance, and 3. The story would take place in the west in the mid-nineteenth-century. Other than that, I had no idea would the story would be. 

How did the idea for this novel come to you?

I set out to write a time travel that took place in the American west in the mid-1800s. The story evolved as I wrote by “the seat of my pants.” Something I read triggered the idea of the Oregon Trail. Then, using the map as I guide, I planned and plotted a story based on what happened to folks who travelled to California and Oregon from 1849-1860.

Why the brooch as time travel device?

When I realized I needed a time travel method, I decided to use a ruby brooch based on a bracelet I have. The bracelet has an interesting past. It was an original design made for a woman in the 1970s.  In the 1980s, she paid her CPA’s bill with the bracelet. In the early 1990s, the CPA’s widow paid her legal bill with the bracelet. After the death of my husband (the lawyer whose legal bill was paid), I ended up with the bracelet.  The bracelet is now memorialized by the book.

How did you choose the characters for the story? Who did you have in mind when you wrote the characters? Who would play them in a film?

I think many of the characters have traits of friends and family members. And I can certainly identify with Kit’s grief and trauma. My husband died five days after I wrote THE END. During the many rewrites over the years, I was able to pull from my own experiences and add depth to Kit’s grief and recovery.

Elliott Fraser is a Mark Harman. Cullen Montgomery is Ben Affleck or Hugh Jackson. Braham is Brad Pitt. Meredith could easily be played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kit by Nicole Kidman or Kate Winslet.

 Who is your favourite character and why?

Elliott Fraser is Kit MacKlenna’s godfather. In the beginning, he was a groom on the horse farm, but he developed into a 50-year-old veterinarian/bachelor from Scotland.  By the end of the book, I knew I had to write his story next.  Although he has significant physical and emotional scars, he can be tender and passionate. You can’t help but love him.

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

Kit is a strong, determined survivor who wanted to quit but didn’t. In that regard, we are alike. But I can’t ride a horse, sing, play the guitar, or stitch someone up. She was created from my imagination

 How did you research for the book?

I read countless Oregon Trail journals to get a feeling for the life and challenges the travelers experienced.

I joined the California-Oregon Trail Association and had dozens of conversations with experts about life on the trail.

I talked to people all around the world about carbon dating, Thoroughbred racing, guns, clothing, food, snakes, and the list goes on.

I travelled the trail from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon, and in many places followed the actual wagon ruts. The round trip from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland took nineteen days. It was an incredible adventure.

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

A few years ago, during the Christmas holidays, I was working on the stampede scene and I needed gun information. So I went to a local store. My first visit ever! The store was crowded with holiday shoppers. I stood at the door not knowing what to do. The cashier asked if he could help me. I said, “I need a gun that will kill as many cows as possible in the shortest amount of time.” The store went completely silent. The men stared at me. I had a lot of explaining to do. After they discovered I was a writer, everyone wanted to give me gun advice.

Did you have any say in the cover art and what was that process?

I worked with a cover artist on the design. We used an antique brooch I found on Ruby Lane, an online antique, art, and vintage collectibles site. I was very pleased with the final result.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

The plot and subplots evolved while writing the first draft. Then, over the years they were tweaked significantly.

Is this part of a series? What are your next projects?

I just completed THE LAST MACKLENNA, which is a standalone book, but it does pick up where THE RUBY BROOCH ends. There are two other brooch stories. The next one is THE SAPPHIRE BROOCH which takes place during the Civil War, and next is THE EMERALD BROOCH which takes place several years later.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

I lived in a happy writer’s world prior to publication, writing and talking with other writers. I wasn’t concerned with marketing because I had nothing to market. I have since learned that an author needs a platform in place long before there’s a book to promote. Now I split my time between writing and marketing. Like many others, I find social networking a challenge. There are many days when I think Twitter and Facebook control me, not the other way around.

What do you do when you don’t write?

When I get away from the computer and relax, I read, and I read in a variety of genres—fantasy, mystery, suspense, and of course, romance. When the weather is nice, I enjoy evenings on patios at local restaurants sharing dinner and a glass of wine with family and friends. But probably most of all, I relax or de-stress by running. It has become a passion late in life, and I love it because I don’t ponder or worry or plan. I just run because it feels good.

 Who are your biggest influences? Which are your favourite books and authors?

  • James A. Michener: Michener is the author of sweeping sagas. I fell in love with historical novels reading HAWAII, THE SOURCE, CENTENNIAL, and others
  • Elizabeth Lowell: I love her voice, her settings, her characters, and the incredible amount of research she puts into her books.
  • Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: They co-author fast-paced, mind-blowing stories, and I love their character FBI Agent Pendergast

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Clive Eaton, M.A. Granovsky, Michael E. Gunter, Ceri London  

What would you take to an isolated island?

My Kindle and a solar charger!

If you could chose anybody, who would you like to meet?

Hillary Clinton

Here are relevant links to connect with Katherine and her books:

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5806657.Katherine_Lowry_Logan

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13579358-the-ruby-brooch

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18397298-the-last-macklenna

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/The-Ruby-Brooch-ebook/dp/B007QMSONK

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-MacKlenna-ebook/dp/B00EWOFL6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004632&sr=1-1

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ruby-Brooch-ebook/dp/B007QMSONK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004713&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-MacKlenna-ebook/dp/B00EWOFL6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004570&sr=1-1

Website http://www.katherinellogan.com

Blog http://www.katherinelowrylogan.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/katherine.l.logan

Twitter https://twitter.com/KathyLLogan

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/katherine-logan/10/62/752

Pinterest http://pinterest.com/kllogan50/

Shelfari http://www.shelfari.com/o1518085100

Google+ https://plus.google.com/109100035748879115211/posts

 

27 Aug 2013

Scott D. Southard: “A Jane Austen Daydream”

3 Comments Book Reviews

A Jane Austen Daydream - Cover Finished

 A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM 

All her heroines find love in the end—but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years—did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us—to a greater or lesser degree—are head over heels for Jane.

 

 

“A Jane Austen Daydream” by Scott D. Southard is a very uplifting and enjoyable reading experience for me. I was not brought up with Austen’s books. Only when I came to live in an English speaking country did I start to become familiar with Jane and her marvellous work. My knowledge of her novels and her life is very fragmented and admittedly more hearsay than subject of proper research.

I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that this book does not require excessive knowledge of the facts. The book is written very much in the style of Austen and is populated by the kind of characters that would feature (and one or two at least actually do feature) in her novels.
Light hearted and yet witty this is a great illustration of what her life might have been like, or possibly was like exactly.

For me it was the perfect way to find out more how to imagine her social background and to learn what kind of life she might have led herself – all with the wonderful flair of her writing. I find the idea of a biography of sorts written in the own style of the object of the book incredibly clever and Southard carries it off incredibly well.

An excellent concept and a great achievement, a must read for Austen fans open for a playful read and those who wish Austen had written more. This is like a little welcome encore for us fans.

 

Author Pic - Scott D Southard

 INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

First of all my compliments to such a great idea. I take it you are a big Jane Austen Fan?

Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it. I really enjoyed reading the review.

I have a lot of respect for Miss Austen and her writing. There are few perfect works in literature, but I consider Pride and Prejudice one of them. It’s always been fascinating to me how many other writers dare write sequels to it. I would never dare. It’s like painting a companion portrait to go alongside the Mona Lisa. An impossible task.

Where did you get your knowledge about Jane? From school, literature classes or research?

I first discovered Austen in college; it was at Aquinas College in a class taught by Doctor Brent Chesley. That experience inspired me to take on her other books, and in one summer I devoured everything I could.

I’ve always been about a student of writers and literature. For a time I was in a MA program that was to lead to a PhD in literature; I transferred out to an MFA in creative writing when it became obvious to me that fiction writing was more my passion. It’s my artform–writers are my people!–I always want to know more.

I spent years reading and re-reading, preparing for Daydream. I took years before I even had the courage to attempt it. But it was really her fiction that guided me in its creation more than anything else.

How did the idea for this novel / biography / fraction come to you?

It was in reading a biography on her that I realized how little her life actually mirrored her books. She did not have a Darcy waiting for her at home, and died far too young and only with her sister and mother for company. So at the heart of A Jane Austen Daydream is my hope to give Jane an adventure she might have wanted for herself… with a few post-modern twists to it. The big twist in the book (which I won’t ruin here) actually grew out of a joke I made once. I still can’t believe I had the guts to do it. But there you go, it’s out there now forever. Let’s see what happens.

Was it hard to separate fiction and fact or did it all just happen?

I made a decision early on that this book would be inspired more by her own writing than her life. So when a choice had to be made in its creation, fiction (her books and/or what I needed for my own plot) would win out over fact every time.

I liked to use the word “tribute” a lot in my description of it, which I think helped justify the choices I made from day one in its creation.  Looking back, those moments when I had to decide between fiction and fact were kind of fun.

Yet, I knew I was walking a new line here in literature and it is the reason the book has the preface, emphasizing that this is, at its heart… well… a daydream.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

Her books first influenced the plot and the tempo of the story I wanted to tell.

There were some characters I knew from the start that had to be there. I turned to her biography for some of these, then turning them into characters like you would see in her books. Whenever I was adding someone who wasn’t part of her life, I would turn to her own novels coming up with characters that are conglomerates in a way of her own creations.

Who is your favourite character – in Jane’s work and in your novel – and why?

Well, in my book it has to be Jane. Not even a question there. I like to think that this Jane is someone all of us writers can relate to. She is passionate about her writing and feels no one understands her, almost doubting and questioning her decisions to put pen to paper in the first place.

When it comes to her novels, I have to point to Elizabeth Bennet. I admit that there are times I don’t think even Darcy is worthy of her!

Which is your favourite Jane Austen book?

Pride and Prejudice. However, when it comes to the actual writing in her books, I think Persuasion to be more moving.

Do you think much of the TV productions?

I have some I like and some I really… don’t. The great Pride and Prejudice mini-series from the 1990’s is a classic.

It’s an awkward thing adapting a book for the screen or stage, you are dealing with different mediums and each expect different things from their audience (and the audience expects different things from the product). It is impossible to adapt any work perfectly. It is a lot more of a science than people and writers may realize.

Did you have any say in the cover art and what was that process?

The cover art was my publisher’s doing (Madison Street Publishing). I did see some examples at the start of the process. I think the artist did a wonderful job.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Usually my writing is very organic, but not for A Jane Austen Daydream. This was all very structured from the beginning, each beat planned in advance since I was juggling so many different balls at the same time (which quotes to references, her characters, plots, real people, etc.) I believe, I spent a year just on mapping this book out carefully. This was definitely the most difficult (and most time consuming) of all of my books. But I always love to challenge myself as a writer.

How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?

I don’t consider myself really a historical fiction writer since I changed so much of history for the sake of the fiction. I’m sure that is a no-no in that genre’s guidebook someplace.

To be honest, when it comes to my writing, I don’t like to think of myself as part of any genre. See, my goal, at the heart of all my books, is to give my audiences something new, something they wouldn’t expect; and the idea of genres feels kind of limiting to me. So when you grab one of my other books, you might have a time-travel adventure or a gothic mystery or historical romance/alternative history (like Daydream). Everything is different.  Maybe I am shooting my career in the foot by thinking this way, but it does make each book a fun new experience for me as a writer (and hopefully for my readers).

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

I hope this doesn’t come off as odd or arrogant, but when I am writing, it feels like a home. Does that make sense?

I can turn off the world around me, get lost in my stories, in all of the possibilities and it just happens. It is all consuming and all wonderful. I can lose hours with a notepad or a computer keyboard. Even with the stress of planning Daydream it was still a lot of fun.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

I made the mistake in my career at one point of just focusing on my writing and skipping the marketing. I did that for five years and it was a big, big mistake. A writer should always be thinking of options to get their work out there into the public eye.

One thing that has been working really well for me is my blog (sdsouthard.com). I write about two to three original posts on it, on whatever topic that captures my fancy at the moment. It’s fun for me and I think for the people that follow it/me.

Today, I think I spend more time on the marketing than the writing. Hopefully, if my career takes off and more readers discover my writing, I won’t have to think about the marketing as much. Well, that is the dream.

What do you do when you don’t write?

Well, I am the dad of two little kids, they demand a lot of attention. A lot of my other activities are usually around turning my brain off or giving myself the opportunity to work out ideas in my head. I bike a lot, I play video games. It’s not as exciting as some might want to imagine.

I’m also the book reviewer for my local NPR station, WKAR, and it’s daily news show Current State (here-http://wkar.org/programs/current-state) . That is a lot of fun. And people can hear my book reviews there every other week.

Who are your biggest influences?

It really comes down to which book I am writing, since I write in so many different styles. Another book published this year, for example,Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare was influenced by Poe and Conan Doyle. Right now, I seem to be obsessed with the writing of Neil Gaiman, so we’ll see what that does to my fiction.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

I think every book leaves a mark on a reader. It’s like a pot with new ingredients always being thrown into the soup. For me, my favorite writers are Vonnegut, Austen, Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse, Brautigan, Joyce, Woolf, Fitzgerald (I could go on, a lot more). Not that I will write books like them, but they inspire me.

Ray Bradbury encouraged me at the beginning of my writing career in some really nice letters. I will always be appreciative of him for that.

What would you take to an isolated island?

I never really thought about this before, I am so rarely on boats. Is there electricity on the island? I would love to have books around, but I am so wired in with my iPhone and the kindle and music on it; but once the juice is out of it, it would be worthless (and I could always call for help, right?).

If there are animals on the island I might need a sharp stick though, right?

A tent or a comfy chair sounds like smart options as well. Maybe sunscreen? Could get big sunburns.

Tell us about your other books.

I have three books out right now that people can check out besides A Jane Austen Daydream. They are:

My Problem With Doors is the story of Jacob and he is lost in time. He has been lost since he was a toddler. See, he can not always guarantee when he steps through a door where he will end up or when. The book is filled with surprises and adventure, as well as some fun cameos like Lord Byron and Jack the Ripper.

Megan is the story of Megan Wane. During the day she works as an event planner in a boring 9-to-5 job, but in her imagination she is a superhero princess ruling a kingdom called Prosperity, a magical world where each morning the moon and sun need to battle for the skyMegan covers a day where everything changed in her fantasy and in her reality.

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare is a very mad experimental novel hiding in a victorian period mystery. This is the fifth book in a made-up series of thrillers (the introduction walks the readers through the other “books”), and in this episode Maximilian and his loyal biographer Bob are set to stay in a haunted castle; but what they find there might break their very reality.

Permanent Spring Showers is my most recent book (and I am right now looking for an agent or publisher for it) and it is a multi-cast contemporary work about the clash of artists and academics. That line where art crosses reality and the impact it can have on people’s lives and loves and relationships.

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

My hope whenever I take on a subject or a book, it is to do something new, something surprising. Yes, A Jane Austen Daydream can be considered a treasure trove for Austenites, but it is not just for her readers. There are some pretty unique twists and surprises that you won’t find in her work (or possibly in any other novel). So if a reader wants to read a different kind of a book, I would recommend checking out one of them.

And if anyone wants to learn more about me, my thoughts, and my books, they should check out my site “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” at sdsouthard.com. It’s all there… in blog form.

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScottDSouthard

Twitter: @SDSouthard

Blog: sdsouthard.com

Amazon author page: http://amzn.com/e/B002EDX5VC

Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3052246.Scott_D_Southard

 

21 Aug 2013

“There’s Nothing Wrong with Claudia” by Brenda Kearns

2 Comments Book Reviews

ClaudiaCoverEnglish2.8X4

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH CLAUDIA

Claudia does not like being different. She does not like being outside on windy days. And she does not like being able to float—because floating causes nothing but trouble. 

All Claudia wants is to be the same as everyone else…until the day there’s a major disaster at her school, and the only one who can possibly make things right is a very clever girl who knows how to float!

“There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia” by Brenda Kearns is a wonderful and magic book for children that I would highly recommend.
In the story Claudia is unhappy with her special gift, talent or curse to be able to float, for which no cure can be found.
Only her grandfather keeps assuring everyone: There is nothing wrong with Claudia.
The book is a wonderful plea for acceptance of all of one’s qualities. What may appear as a weakness could turn out to be a strength and a blessing.
The symbolism and the many possible readings of this story work on many levels, which is amazing for such a short story. Floating could be a metaphor for the ability to rise above things, for being light hearted and free or being able to go with the flow of the universe?
This book, being read to a child by an understanding adult as the grandfather in the story, can bring children a greater understanding of the gift that is being different, should help them to accept themselves for what they are and also allow them to enjoy the beautiful drawings and the cute characters.
A very impressive achievement

Brenda -1

 

Interview with Brenda Kearns

How did you come to writing?

It was an accident, actually. I was a science teacher on maternity leave, and was looking for an excuse to avoid cleaning the house. I was also looking for an excuse to get out of the house. I was bored, bored, bored. So I took an eight-week night class on creative writing. It was a blast! I had so much fun that I decided to try writing for a living, instead of teaching.

Is this your first book or have you written before?

There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia was my second book. While I was taking that eight-week course, I wrote an early chapter book—Sleepover Zoo. That wasn’t leisurely, relaxing writing—I wrote like a chipmunk hopped up on caffeine. I felt like I had to justify the rather drastic career change that I was considering, and early chapter books were in demand at the time, while I’d heard that editors already had a glut of picture book submissions in their slush pile. Luckily, Scholastic Canada agreed to publish Sleepover Zoo. That gave me the confidence to write There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia. I figured I’d better have a backup plan, so I also started sending out query letters to every woman’s magazine that I could find. I sent out 365 queries that first year—and received 365 rejections. I stunk at writing query letters!

What made you decide to write for children?

Well, I had two kids. Then I had a third. Then I adopted two. Then I adopted two more. I’m constantly surrounded by kids, so it seemed like a good idea to write things that might distract them so I could get a few minutes of peace.

When did you first have the idea for this book?

My oldest daughter was three at the time. She was very energetic, and my former mother-in-law was convinced that there had to be something wrong with her. Leah loved running, she loved biking, she loved climbing onto counters, she loved crawling under tables…she did not want to sit still and listen to a bunch of boring adults talk about their boring lives. I found myself saying, “there’s nothing wrong with Leah,” a lot. That spawned the idea for the book!

What is your main message in this book?

The things that make you different aren’t necessarily flaws or weaknesses—with the right attitude, they can be your strengths! (also cod liver oil tastes terrible, and grandpas are cool)

How long did it take you to write this book?

SleepoverZooCover

Ooooh, good question…I worked on Claudia off and on for about three months. I got it to the point where I was fairly happy with it, then tucked it away to “chill” while I got the magazine writing rolling and started the next picture book, Parrots and Popcorn. When I went back to Claudia a few months later, I hated it! It was completely wrong! Aaarrrggghhh! So I picked away at it for, oh, probably two more years before I really felt good about it.

What do you find the most challenging aspect of the writing process and what the most enjoyable?

The toughest part for me is simply starting a new project. It isn’t actually writer’s block that holds me back. It’s a vague “jumping over a big mud puddle” feeling. I’m always hoping things will go smoothly, hoping I’ll enjoy the process and hoping the end result will be something worth reading, but there’s that annoying, whiney little voice in my head that makes me question whether or not I can actually do it. Oddly, I never worry about whether or not I can write something worth reading while I’m in the midst of a project—I only worry before I start.

The most enjoyable part? That’s the part I call tweaking (I’d call it editing, but that sounds too much like work). Once I have that first draft in place, I’m in heaven! I love to move stuff around, change how sentences are worded, change plot lines, find spelling mistakes and dumb phrases that need to be knocked out…Tweaking is fun, because the pressure is off at that point. I’ve finished the first draft—now I’m just playing with it and making it better.

How comfortable do you feel writing for young adults?

I’m a bit weird—I have an aversion to writing about sex, drugs, violence, vampires and all of that other gripping stuff that teens seem to like. I’m drawn to books that make me feel good and make me laugh, and I really can’t imagine writing something that would make me feel depressed or stress me out. So while I love writing for young adults, I focus on early young adults and my work is laced with humor.

Tell us about your other books

Parrots and Popcorn is a picture book about a girl, Kara, who’s upset about her upcoming birthday. What she wants is a real magic show and a puppy. Instead, her brother is going to do some fake magic tricks in front of her friends, then he’s going to pull some plain old presents out of his magic hat. The night before her birthday, Kara gets hold of her brother’s magic hat and starts experimenting, trying to see if she can actually make it work. She quickly discovers that she’s a lot better at magic than her brother—and she gets a lot more for her birthday than she’d expected!

PopcornCoverEnglish4.2X6

Sleepover Zoo—the early chapter book that I mentioned—is about a 6th grade girl who moves into a new neighborhood and tries desperately to hide her family’s weirdness from the kids at school. Toni wants to fit in and feel normal, yet her family runs a wild bird care center in their house, so it’s like living in a zoo. When Toni gets cornered by one of the popular girls and has to have a sleepover, things go downhill fast!

 

The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet is an early young adult novel. It’s about Monica, a 14-year-old who desperately wants to spend August at a science camp far away from her idiot sister and weird little brother. Trouble is, Monica’s being dragged into the wedding party of her crabby old great aunt who lives in England—and if she wants to earn the science camp trip, she has to keep her siblings in line for the entire time they’re in England, plus convince her crazy Grandma to move into a nursing home. It’s a fast-paced story with lots of laughs (fair warning: no sex, violence or vampires).

How do you write? What is your writing environment like?

I love my office. It’s a small room with soothing green walls, a huge wooden desk, a bookshelf, and a comfy chair and love seat for my kids to use. Very zen. Our Great Dane uses up half of the love seat, so my kids often end up sprawled out on the floor. There have been times when five, six or all seven kids are scattered around in there yakking while I work. It’s a great room—everyone gravitates toward it.

 

I don’t really have scheduled “writing times.” I do an hour or so before my kids get up, then once they’re at school, or busy playing, I write until lunch. After lunch, I write until supper. Then after the younger ones are in bed, I write until bedtime (or until my brain goes on strike and I have to stop). As long as there’s no music playing, I can write. Kids talking, tractors running (we live on a farm), the TV blaring…nothing really distracts me except music.

 

How many rewrites did it take you?

 BK00013045

I never rewrite…I tweak! That makes the whole process feel less intimidating and less painful. I just tweak and tweak and tweak until I can’t see anything else that I could possibly do to fix the bloody thing. I picked away at There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia for about two years. Of course, if that was all I was doing for two years, I would have gone bat crap crazy. I’d also started writing health articles for Women’s World and First for Women—and I was working on Parrots and Popcorn—at the same time.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

My books are all self-published ebooks (even Sleepover Zoo is now an ebook, since the rights reverted back to me from Scholastic a few years ago). So that makes me the editor as well as the writer, which is scary. The thought of a reader finding errors in my books makes me cringe. So, when I think each book is ready, I send it to a freelance editor (Laura Backes is amazing) and ask them to be as critical as possible. It’s money well spent. I wouldn’t trust myself to self-publish without having a second set of eyes (official Editor Eyes) combing through the thing, first.

Another thing that helped was that I had all four books translated into Spanish and French. I didn’t do it to improve the books’ quality, specifically—I just got the wild idea to offer each book in three languages, and I can rarely dissuade myself once I come up with a wild idea. Well, the Spanish and French translators were spectacular, plus incredibly thorough. While doing their translations, one of them found two grammar issues that I hadn’t noticed, and the other one found a couple of typos!

Who are your favourite authors / influences?

I like anyone who makes me laugh, and I love clever, witty writing and smart, but flawed main characters. So Linda Urban (A Crooked Kind of Perfect) Karen McCombie (An Urgent Message of Wowness) and Louise Rennison (Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging) are great picks for me. Ever read Edward the Emu? I have that one memorized. And anything by Dave Barry, of course!

What is your favourite book?

Oddly, the book that I found completely absorbing, read multiple times and still remember vividly wasn’t actually a funny one (sorry, no chance of consistency with me, I guess). It’s David R. Palmer’s Emergence. I still have my original 1984 copy, here, in my office. My kids know they’re not allowed to touch it, because it’s so old it’s starting to fall apart. I’ll be putting it in my will—whichever kid sticks around and takes care of me when I’m old and frail will get it!

What would you take to a lonely island?

A boat with a working motor and lots of gas. I’d have to get home fast before my kids trashed the house. It never occurs to them that dirty dishes can actually be put into the dishwasher.

Who would play your characters in a movie?

Can I pick George Clooney? He’s a cutie—and a good actor. He could play a floating girl, don’t you think?

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

I hope to have I Want To Go Home available by March, 2014. It’s a middle-grade novel about a 14-year-old girl (Allie) who’s already been in 17 different foster homes. Every time Allie and her younger siblings get tossed into a new foster family, she plays games (like lying about their mom’s drinking, and pretending counseling is helping) to get back home. Things backfire when they get placed on a farm with a savvy foster mom who doesn’t fall for Allie’s sneaky moves. I Want To Go Home is about Allie’s difficult, yet sometimes humorous journey as she struggles to decide if where she was born is truly where she belongs.

When it’s available, I’ll be posting the news on my Facebook writer page (www.facebook.com/BrendaKearnsWriter) and also on my blog (www.brendakearns.com/blog). So if anyone would like to subscribe to one of those, I can keep them posted (I only put a blurb on the Facebook page once or twice monthly, and I post one blog monthly, so I won’t clog up your e-mail in-box!).

My website:

www.brendakearns.com

Blog:

www.brendakearns.com/blog

 Twitter 

@Brenda_Kearns

AMAZON:

There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia

http://www.amazon.com/Theres-Nothing-Wrong-Claudia-ebook/dp/B00DEP5BY8/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Theres-Nothing-Wrong-Claudia-ebook/dp/B00DEP5BY8/ref=la_B00CB702LW_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1376483174&sr=1-11

Parrots and Popcorn

http://www.amazon.com/Parrots-and-Popcorn-ebook/dp/B00CX7PMUG/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Parrots-and-Popcorn-ebook/dp/B00CX7PMUG/ref=la_B00CB702LW_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1376483174&sr=1-7

The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet

http://www.amazon.com/The-Washed-Face-Toilet-ebook/dp/B00C5K3I8O/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Washed-Face-Toilet-ebook/dp/B00C5K3I8O/ref=la_B00CB702LW_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1376483174&sr=1-2

Sleepover Zoo

http://www.amazon.com/Sleepover-Zoo-ebook/dp/B00C5K44GY/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleepover-Zoo-ebook/dp/B00C5K44GY/ref=la_B00CB702LW_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1376483174&sr=1-10

 

BARNES & NOBLE

There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/theres-nothing-wrong-with-claudia-brenda-kearns/1115695875?ean=9780991811441

Parrots and Popcorn

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parrots-and-popcorn-brenda-kearns/1115536392?ean=9780991811434

The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-day-i-washed-my-face-in-the-toilet-brenda-kearns/1115228290?ean=9780991811427

Sleepover Zoo

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleepover-zoo-brenda-kearns/1115228289?ean=9780991811403

 

*These books are also available through Apple’s iBookstore, Sony’s Reader Store, Kobo, Copia, eBookPie, eSentral, Scribd and Gardners.

 

GOODREADS:

There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18085293-there-s-nothing-wrong-with-claudia

Parrots and Popcorn

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18006889-parrots-and-popcorn

The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17792466-the-day-i-washed-my-face-in-the-toilet

Sleepover Zoo

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17792499-sleepover-zoo

 

 MY REVIEW OF SLEEPOVER ZOO

“Sleepover Zoo” by Brenda Kearns is a lovely story for young adults.
As the title implies there is a sleepover involved, concerning several young girls. There is a long build up to the actual sleepover because of classroom ‘politics’ and worries by the girls about their image.
The location for said sleepover houses animals of all kinds and our heroine is worried that this will lead to ridicule rather than admiration.
The book does well in describing the worries and concerns of teenagers and it has some great revelations and a wonderful message. The description of the house with all the animals is often hilarious and entertaining, as it might be educational.
Once again Kearns has written sensitively about an important matter, the connection of humans with nature and animals. One party guest in particular has a steep learning curve. The characters are lovely, sometimes amusing and certainly very real.
This is a beautiful book that stands out from the many supernatural and superpower helpings of the genre.
Just right.

 

MY REVIEW OF THE DAY I WASHED MY FACE IN THE TOILET 

“The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet” by Brenda Kearns is a fun read concerning a teenage girl who is plagued by her two eccentric siblings on a family trip to England. 
The book is full of hilarious episodes and colourful characters. A hyper or slightly autistic brother, the diva sister, a difficult great-aunt or the demented Grandmother.
Besides the comedy however the story touches on some serious issues such as the care for the elderly and what to do with problem children. The book remains light hearted with some uplifting moments and great humour.
As with all good young adult fiction there is some food for thought and a message for tolerance and acceptance.
Highly recommended.

 

 

 

19 Aug 2013

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd

4 Comments Book Reviews

TLAsm

Lucretia’s quiet life as an astronomer and hat-maker is quickly turned on its head by her brother. He is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Unfortunately for Lucretia, she is introduced to his majesty as her brother’s assistant. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure and danger. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time for the king, her misfortunes take their toll. When Lucretia finds herself held hostage at the Clockwork Court, the innocent country girl doesn’t know who to trust. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Even if her brothers manage to build the telescope on time, she might not live to earn her freedom.
With the help of her brothers, Freddie and Al, and her constant companions Leibniz the Lemur and Orion the Eagle Owl, Lucretia embarks on a journey that could change her life forever. Can she find the strength inside to balance her new life and overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd is a quirky and very entertaining story that reads in parts as a regular historical novels and in parts like a fantasy tale.
Set in exciting Georgian times of geographical and technological discoveries it carries the spirit of the “no dream impossible” of those times.
Equipped with highly intelligent and helpful animals the heroine Lucretia tries to accomplish her mission to assist her brother.
Lucretia is an interesting character herself, with many more bows to her string. She is based very loosely on a real lady astronomer.
The writing is engaging, the pace just right and the story line charming and beautifully over the 
top. The portrayal of British society and Royalty feels authentic but never dry.
This is a fascinating and compelling read.

KOD_bw

Hi Katy

Hi Christoph! Thank you so much for having me over.

Your novel is called a steam-punk novel. Can you explain the term for the rest of us?

Aha! Most tricky question to answer succinctly, ever! Instead I’ll cite this – “Steampunk is a creative social movement that draws inspiration from Victorian and pre-war history in an anachronistic mix of science fiction, modern values and a sense of fun.” The opening comes from an experiment in which Steampunks all over the world were asked to explain what it is in one sentence. I think it does it quite admirably.

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I’d love to say, oooh in a dream, or in a bolt from the blue, or something really creative. No, I was reading a book of my husband’s called The Age of Wonder and the Herschel family were mentioned in it, and something there really caught my imagination – Lucretia in The Lady Astronomer is based loosely on Caroline Herschel.

How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?

I started off many moons ago in radio, then print journalism, then onto copy writing. So I’ve written for a while now. After the birth of my second son, I decided it was high time to start on novel writing. As for what I write, well I love Historical Fiction, but I reckon I’ll give a few things a whirl.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

As I said above, Lucretia and her brothers are based on real people. From there the surrounding cast came quite naturally. I wanted to give Lucretia some strong support too, in the form of her trusty side-kicks Leibniz the lemur and Orion the European eagle owl.

The animals in the story are highly intelligent. Were you ever tempted during the writing to go overboard and let them speak and be completely like humans?

I think that would have been a lot of fun – but no.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ah. Orion the owl. Because I love owls. But I also love lemurs. Damn, this is tough!

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I worked with an astronomer and that was brilliant.

Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?

Yes – the wonderful artist Jennie Gyllblad created it. In a series of emails, I described what I’d like and she magically turned my garbled warbling into the cover art.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Completely planned. I’d be a hyperventilating mess if I didn’t plan everything.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Losing yourself in another world entirely. The worst is the waiting to see if anyone actually wants what you’ve written.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

Oh! That’s so tricky isn’t it? I try to set aside time for marketing, usually in the evenings after a day’s work.

What do you do when you don’t write?

My boys are at school, so I write during school hours.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

Too many to mention! Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age; Nick Cave: And the Ass Saw the Angel; Stephen King: Different Seasons; Jilly Cooper: Riders – I could go on.

What would you take to an isolated island?

Books. And chocolate. And a big comfy bed. And possibly my cats. And dog. Hmmm.

A few facts:

I wrote The Lady Astronomer for my eldest son – he was jealous that I had used my younger son’s name in something else I was writing.

I work with an Astronomer on books that require his expert knowledge – the idea for The Lady Astronomer came to me while reading another book that he recommended I read.

The Lady Astronomer is inspired by the life of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet. Not to mention the first woman in the UK to receive a working wage, from the King if you don’t mind.

Publisher:

The Lady Astronomer was published by Untold Press www.untoldpress.com on 26th September 2012. It is available as an eBook and Paperback.

Where to buy:

You can purchase The Lady Astronomer on Amazon USA

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lady-Astronomer-ebook/dp/B009HIIKS0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350384152&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lady+astronomer

and Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lady-Astronomer-ebook/dp/B009HIIKS0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350384405&sr=8-1

and all other Amazon online stores.

Amazon smart url –if you click it takes you to the store for your country! http://bookShow.me/B009HIIKS0

Now in Print for 12.99 at [Createspace][Amazon][Barnes & Noble][The Book Depository]

Reviews:

“This is a tall tale well-told, full of imagineering and eccentricity.” The British Fantasy Society

“Touching on the welcome terrain of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’, Katy O’Dowd concocts a canny fusion of alchemy, fantasy and steampunk, rolled up within an adventure story – one that’s aimed as much at those of us aged forty as our kids in their teens.” Andrez Bergen, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude

“A delightful read, The Lady Astronomer transports the reader into the life of Lucretia The Astronomer and rekindles memories of the fairytales our parents read to us when we were children.” Jenny Thomson, Hell To Pay

“An engaging introduction to the wonders of Steampunk for tweens and young adults, certain to dazzle the imagination.” Lunar Haven Reviews and Designs

Author bio:

Katy is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online.

She reviews for the Historical Novels Review and the British Fantasy Society, is a commissioning editor at Pendragon Press and is co-editor of the Nasty Snips II Project for that press.

Alongside writing with her Dad under the pen-name Derry O’Dowd, whose first book ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line, she writes under her own name.

 

15 Aug 2013

Duncan Whitehead: The Gordonston Ladies Walking Club

Comments Off on Duncan Whitehead: The Gordonston Ladies Walking Club Book Reviews

The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club

16174821

2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Finalist!

Something is not quite right in the leafy Savannah neighborhood of Gordonston. 

As the friends and fellow members of her afternoon cocktail club gather to mourn the death and lament the life of their neighbor, Thelma Miller, not all is what it seems.

When old friends vie for the attention of widower, Alderman and mayoral candidate Elliott, jealousies surface and friendships are strained. An old woman with a dark secret and an infamous uncle plots her revenge for a perceived wrong done over thirty years before, a once successful children’s writer with his own secret is haunted by memories of the past and aspiring model Kelly Hudd has just won the trip of a lifetime.

As secrets are revealed and history, both old and recent unravel, and an intertwined web of deceits and lies surfaces in the middle class neighborhood, a killer lurks and is anyone really who they seem to be? 

An enigmatic European gentleman in South America, a young Italian count parading the streets of Paris and a charitable and kindhearted nephew recently arrived from India add to the remarkable assortment of characters in this story of intrigue, deceit and revenge. 

What is the secret a recently retired accountant is trying to hide and just why did the former showgirl and attractive sixty two year old widow Carla Zipp really have plastic surgery?

A mysterious organization with links to organized crime, a handsome fire fighter who can do no wrong and a trio of widows with deep hidden agendas compound a story of simplistic complexity. As twists and turns lead the reader to a conclusion that they will not see coming and a sucker punch ending that will leave you breathless, the Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club’s top priority remains the need to chastise the culprit who refuses to ‘scoop’ after his dog walking sessions in their treasured park.

“The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club” by Duncan Whitehead is a very enjoyable and often hilarious book about a group of women who meet in the park with their dog to gossip about the neighbours and complain. Whitehead gives them elaborate backgrounds and distinct and colourful characters.
This is very much a comic murder mystery with a lot of societal satire of well off Southern widows and upper class society.
I enjoyed the book and read it in one sitting. It is rich in plot, well written and the murder part is cleverer than I would have anticipated in a humorous book as this. Well done.

FINALIST IN THE 2013 READER’S FAVORITE ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL AWARD CONTEST IN THE HUMOR CATEGORY – WINNER ANNOUNCED SEPTEMBER 2013.

Interview with Duncan:

Duncan how did you come to writing? 6589431

I began writing spoof news articles initially and the short stories, it just developed from there. I have always been interested in creative writing – and I enjoy it.

What did you do before?

I was in the military for a long time (20 years) and also worked in British embassies across the world.  I then became a superyacht purser before becoming a security and safety consultant for private superyachts.

 Have you always been an entertainer or are you quite different in your private life? 

I am very different.  Not many people who know me realize I write.

What made you write a thriller?

It is more of a dark comedy mystery – I love twists and books that make you think “ah….of course!’ and my book, I believe, is like that.

How comfortable do you feel writing in the genre?

Humor – very comfortable – mystery was a new genre for me so I think I will let you know about that later.

Would you ever write something else?

Yes, comedies and of course a sequel to this book.

When did you first have the idea for the Dog Walking Club?

About 6 years ago, when I moved to Savannah.

Did you have it all planned out before you wrote it or did the characters and story surprise you?

I had it all planned out – as there are multiple twists and red herrings, flashbacks and flashforwards I had to know exactly what each character would do and how they would interact with other characters.

Did you have any actors or people in mind when writing your characters?

I try not to!

What aspects of the story or which characters do you like to write about the most?

I love setting up the twists and red herrings…..that is so much fun.

What would your main character say about you?

Handsome.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I have never thought about that.  Rolling in the Deep by Adele would be apt……for the conclusion…

Are you like any of your characters?

Heck no! They are awful people!

 How long did it take you to write the book?

From 1st draft to publication – roughly 4 years!

 Will there be a series?

I expect there will be two more books in this story….

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

I had three editors.  And to be honest I wish I had more!

How have you found the experience of self-publishing?

The most difficult thing is marketing – it is extremely time consuming and hard work.

What’s your least favourite thing?

Brocoli.

What is your advice to new writers?

Ignore those who belittle you, ignore those who tell you you can’t do it and NEVER give up.

Who are your favourite independent writers?

I like many – there are a lot out there and I think that most of them are talented and individual in their own right.

Who are your favourite authors?

Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens.

What is your favourite book?

A Confederacy of Dunces

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I am reading several books right now – all e-books.

Who would play your characters in a movie?

I am not sure, it would need good actors/actresses as the characters are so two faced! I think Morgan Freeman would make a great Ignatius.

Links: 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16174821-the-gordonston-ladies-dog-walking-club

 http://www.amazon.com/Gordonston-Ladies-Walking-Club-ebook/dp/B00AHHODH2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375203238&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gordonston-Ladies-Walking-Club-ebook/dp/B00AHHODH2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375203266&sr=1-1

 

Duncan was born in England in 1967. After a successful career in the Royal Navy where he served in British Embassies throughout South America and saw service in the Gulf War he joined the world of super yachts as a Purser onboard some of the world’s largest private vessels, working for many high profile individuals, being fortunate enough to visit some of the world’s most luxurious and exotic places.

Eventually retiring to Savannah, Georgia, he began to partake of his greatest passion, writing. Initially writing short stories he finally put pen to paper and wrote THE GORDONSTON LADIES WALKING CLUB, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of his new environment. The book, a thriller, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists, is set in the leafy neighborhood where he lived.

His passion for comedy saw submissions to many online satire news sites and a stint performing as a stand- up comedian.

He is a former boxer, representing the Royal Navy and an English under 19 team as an amateur and is a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language as well as a former accomplished children’s soccer coach.

In 2011 Duncan returned to South America, spending six months in Brazil and a few months in Paraguay before travelling to the Middle-East and Europe before returning to the United States to settle in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and lists his hobbies and passions as cooking, the Israeli self defense art of Krav Maga and the pressure point martial art Dim- Mak.

Duncan has written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for an assortment of web sites both in the US and UK.

 

11 Aug 2013

“The Outback” by David Clarkson

1 Comment Book Reviews

 

final 2 part 2THE OUTBACK

Matt joins the outback harvest trail filled with apprehension. Is it really worth doing three months of back breaking labour in exchange for another year added to his visa? His new friends certainly think so and it is not long before they convince him of the same.

Of course, none of them are counting on their new boss. Rhett is cold, callous and delights in watching others suffer. Convinced that the old man is hiding a criminal past, the backpackers begin to do a little digging. Nothing however, can prepare them for what they find.

As the past starts repeating itself, Matt comes to realise that unless he can discover the truth about his foreman, he and his friends may be in more danger than he could possibly have imagined..

 

“The Outback” by David Clarkson was a chance find for me. I have a thing for travel and backpack stories and jumped at this book which follows a group of international younger people on a work assignment in the outback, clearing fields for three months.
The world is full of possibilities, visa problems and living in the moment. Beer, love, smoking and discovering the world, but the real world catches up with them in form of a nasty supervisor, the hostile nature and clashes with the law and the world of the aborigines. The group of characters in the book is colourful and entertaining, the friendships and relationships formed are very realistic and the book gives an excellent account of the work as you travel experience. 
This is excellently written, has great suspense and is a treat for anyone who has ever been on a backpack holiday. I found this very hard to put down, the tension and the pace of the story is really well done. Maybe I am too partial to the genre but I recommend this highly.

 

Profile Picture - kindle (2)

 

 

Interview with David:

 

David, thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little something about yourself as both a person and an author:

It took me 8 attempts to pass my driving test, so when people say that the most important trait for a writer is perseverance, I think that I pretty much have it covered!

What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?

I don’t think that I ever made a conscious choice to become a writer. When I returned from travelling I started to transfer my hand written travel journals to computer format, editing them as I went. With time and practice, I became more creative with what I wrote and started to semi-fictionalise some of the journals. Then one day, after a really rough day at work I came home and visualised the place that I would most like to be (it was camping under the stars in Outback Australia) and just started to write a story about it.

I know from your bio that you spent a lot of time in Australia where your book is set. How autobiographical is the story?

The setting and characters are all fictional, but much of it is a mishmash of people and places that I came across travelling. The stick picking job that the characters do in the book is based on my own experience of the same in Queensland. We had a cantankerous old supervisor who also drove one of the tractors. He used to smoke these really tightly packed rolly cigarettes, which somebody suggested were indicative of time spent in prison and it led to us all trying to guess at his past. This was where the idea of Rhett (the novel’s villain) came from.

Travel books like “Backpack” and “The Beach” have inspired me to see the world. Did you have similar experiences and do you still have the travel bug?

I don’t think that anybody ever really loses the travel bug. If I could, I would have carried on the backpacker lifestyle forever, but if you want to start a family and lay down some roots, you have to give it up eventually. I read “The Beach” shortly before I visited Thailand and when I experienced it for myself and realised just how accurately the book captures the spirit of travelling in Asia, but also turns it into such an exciting thriller, I wanted to find a book that did the same for Australia. When I started to write “The Outback”, I was really trying to write the book that I most wanted to read.

Did you have the story all planned out before you wrote it or did the characters and story surprise you?

The original story plan was a little more off the wall. The second half of the novel was going to move to an isolated observatory where some crazy scientists were doing experiments into astral projection.  Once I started writing it though and created characters that felt so real to me, I did not want to trash it all by adding the sci-fi element. The book was split in two, with the story about the observatory developing into my third novel; “Diamond Sky”.

Did you have any actors or people in mind when writing your characters?

The sisters were originally based on two girls I met briefly in Melbourne, but I now think of Keira Knightley and Emma Watson in their roles. The way that Colin speaks and his humour is based on a friend I worked with on the farms in Australia and he was always having trouble with a couple of stoners who he shared a dorm room with. I suppose that makes it ironic that I made Colin the number one stoner in the story.

Which character did you most enjoy writing? Are you like any of them?

I enjoyed writing the villain; Rhett. It was fun seeing how far I could take him and the fact that his hatred was so self defeating meant that I could show things from his perspective without clouding the morals of the story. I also enjoyed creating Colin. The main protagonist, Matt, is an everyman character and I did not want to burden him with too many vices and flaws for fear of losing the reader’s empathy for him.  That is where Colin comes in. His recklessness and attitude reflect the darker side of Matt. A bit like the devil on his shoulder, whilst Jenny is the angel on his other shoulder, who speaks to his conscience and stops him from getting into the kind of trouble that he would certainly find himself if he listened to Colin.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

The journey for many of the characters is quite dark. The exception is Jonas, who is the only one who manages to retain a level of innocence by the end of the story. For this reason, I would have to pick him. The others just lose too much of themselves in the horrors that they face.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?

Jenny – she’s hot, although my wife may have a thing or two to say about that. Out of the guys, I would again, have to choose Jonas. He has a naivety coupled with limitless enthusiasm that makes anything seem possible, even on a desert island. We could have fun together trying to construct a raft to get back to civilisation. On the surface he may seem like a minor character, but he actually adds a lot in way of balancing the overall tone of the story. There is always room for an optimist.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I make a joke towards the end of the story about residents of the outback being stuck in a musical time-warp. So I guess that anything by AC/DC or Cold Chisel would be fitting in that respect. If I had to choose just one song though, it would be “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. On my first night stick-picking, we all had a party after work and one of the guys picked up a guitar and just started playing it. By the chorus the whole group was singing along and it is one of those memories that has stuck with me whilst so many others have faded.

What is your writing environment like?

I can write pretty much anywhere. I even write in front of the TV sometimes! All of my best ideas come to me when I am on the move though. I can create entire scenes on a thirty minute jog around my local park. I always plot out a scene in my head and then when I sit down at the computer it is simply a case of playing around with words until what is on the page accurately reflects what was in my mind.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

When I decided to self publish I had no idea that many indies hire professionals for covers and editing. I thought that we had to do everything ourselves, so that is what I did. I used a photograph taken during my own time in the outback and played around with it until I thought that it conveyed the appropriate tone for the book. It took me a while to get the effect that I wanted, but I would not change it for a pro design as it holds a direct link to the inspiration behind the story.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows? 

I have certainly found it a lot easier to make the content available than I thought it would be. Every positive review and word of encouragement is a high. I also never expected so many friendly communities of indie authors to exist, which is a bonus. The lows are the marketing. Everybody moans that traditional publishing is too corporate and places profit over art, but then there are so many trying to force the same business model onto self publishing. I think that self published books should be distinct from their bookstore counterparts. If we retain our identity as artists, than we can compete on a level playing field with the corporate chains, but once we start viewing our work as a product it greatly devalues it. Ultimately, if you see your story as nothing more than a disposable product, the reader will too.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing? 

I like the fact that nothing is set in stone. If something is not how you want it to be, you can always change it around until it is. The worst thing is the neurosis that writing breeds. Whether it is the guilt of not spending enough time with loved ones or just the insecurity of opening yourself up to being judged by everyone who reads your work; writing can be tough at times.

What is your advice to new writers?

Don’t try writing what you think readers are looking for. Try looking for readers that you think would be interested in what you want to write. If you were told from the start that you will never sell a single book, would you still write? If the answer is yes – you are a writer.

Who are your favourite authors?

John Grisham is my favourite for thrillers and I like the fact that all of his books stand alone, when it would be so easy for him to play it safe with a series (he does have YA series about a kid lawyer named Theodore Boone, but I think that stands apart from his main catalogue). Alex Garland is another favourite for similar reasons. To follow a novel like “The Beach” with “The Tesseract” (a complex story where the narrative only makes sense when unravelled into its constituent parts) is incredibly bold and then “Coma”, which is almost written in a stream of consciousness style, takes him off in yet another original direction. For non-fiction, I really like science writers such as Paul Davies, “How to Build a Time Machine” (he actually delivers on the title!) and Marcus Chown, who opens up the world of quantum physics to his reader in the way not unlike how the masked magician reveals his tricks.

What is your favourite book?

That is much too difficult a question to answer.  If books were wives I would be a polygamist.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)? 

It is a paperback of “The Uninvited” by Liz Jensen. I hate to admit it, but my wife is a much more eclectic reader than I and this was one of her recommendations. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, so the next book I read will likely be a travel journal or something on speculative science. As a writer it is useful to know as much as possible about the world and how it works.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Denial, then acceptance and finally, I will try to improve. One of the toughest parts of the job is knowing that the strongest opinions often come from those least qualified to have an opinion. A one star review says more about the reviewer than the author, but 3 stars can never be taken lightly. I’m only starting out so I’m lucky in that I have not received any harsh reviews yet. My wife was rather blunt when she read through the first draft of my third book, however. The opening chapter moved her to tears, but then the ending left her feeling “cheated” (admittedly, it was a tad over the top). Once I stopped sulking, I realised that she was right and completely rewrote the final three chapters.

What are you working on now?

I am undergoing the final edit of my second novel, “Stealing Asia” for self-publishing soon. Like “The Outback”, it was inspired by my days travelling, but it has more of an adventure/action tone to it. After that I will publish “Diamond Sky”, the first in a trilogy about scientists who create a machine that enables astral travelling, although it is really just an unconventional love story at heart.
Please provide me with all your links, websites, buy links etc, an author picture and any book cover pictures you want to be included

Website –  http://www.davidclarksonwriter.com

Amazon (US) Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/The-Outback-ebook/dp/B00CC3M9TI

Amazon (UK) Kindle – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Outback-ebook/dp/B00CC3M9TI

itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-outback/id638567223?mt=11

KOBO – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-gb/books/The-Outback/Sk0unvv3e0qbsKkk3F9hWA

Amazon (UK) Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/Outback-Mr-David-Clarkson/dp/1484838858

Amazon (US) Paperback http://www.amazon.com/Outback-Mr-David-Clarkson/dp/1484838858

07 Aug 2013

NEW REVIEWS FOR SEBASTIAN

Comments Off on NEW REVIEWS FOR SEBASTIAN News, Review

SEBASTIAN received 3 more 5 star reviews in the last week.  sebastian book

Here are some of the highlights from the reviews:

Historical Novel meets Literary Realism.

Vienna, the beginning of the 20th century, just before WWI. What wouldn’t I give to visit that place to see for myself the so-called “Golden Age” of the center of European science and philosophy, arguably the most liberal place in Europe, where the seeds of the modern ideas of ethnic and religious equality first sprouted and were actually implemented.

The book edges on “Literary Realism.” No character or idea is romanticized and characters are humanly fallible people who are trying to act in their self-interest, be it foolishly sometimes. While I was reading this book, I could not stop making parallels with “War and Peace.” “Sebastian” is, in my opinion, a book about how a war changes people and the society. There’s a tiny bit of a “conclusion” of sorts at the end of the book, in a dialog between Sebastian and one of his friends (no spoilers):

“Many men who are returning from the war have changed and they come home to even more changed women. There comes a time when one needs to let go of the past and live in the present.”

A very good read from a fast-emerging name in historical novels. Recommended

*****

A worthy read,

so it’s with irony that we note his disability.

This author’s talent is the way he gets in those characters’ heads and invites us in too. We’re treated to all those feelings – the good, the bad, and the constantly changing. I love that.

There is also a history lesson going on here, so if you need to brush up on that without getting bogged down by dry dates and facts that have no humanity attached to them – I recommend this book. Very much. Suitable for mature teens – up.

Of course, when book three comes out, I’ll grab it immediately.

****

Great character development

… it is very well written and developed.  

Fischer’s characters are very well rounded.

It is very realistic and I am impressed at the author’s ability to write such full fledged characters.

I was also very impressed with the amount and type of information in the book. Fischer does a magnificent job of showing the tensions between the Jewish and gentile communities. He delves into what happens to the common people during war. In this book you do not see the typical heroes, you see very little of the soldiers, and you hear what is happening politically only as a citizen who was not involved would. This was fascinating, as most of what I knew prior to reading Sebastian was political… not how the regular people would have seen things and the impact on them. I would love to get my hands on Fischer’s research in order to go more in depth on a few questions that I have.

I believe that anyone who likes history and/or enjoys the study of human nature will greatly appreciate this book.

*****
With a cast of well-developed characters, some of whom are extremely flawed, the story is incredibly engaging. In the beginning you learn about about Sebastian and the Schreiber family through Vera, the matriarch. Not only does she suffer from a weak constitution and the loss of her son’s leg, but her husband’s affair with a much younger assistant. But Vera proves herself stronger than she thinks when she takes matters into her own hands and seeks help from the very interesting and extremely entertaining Glueck women. They turn out to be both great resources and wonderful friends to Vera in her time of need.
As the story progresses, you see how against all odds Sebastian finds love and starts a family of his own.

Fischer does an excellent job of capturing the feel of Vienna during such a turbulent time in history. You feel the pain and suffering of the men, women, and children as war tears families apart and hunger and poverty replace the many comforts people had become accustomed to.

A blend of history, romance, and hardships that show the political, cultural, and religious issues of the time, Sebastian is a do-not-miss saga. If you are a lover of historical fiction, this is definitely one you want to checkout!

*****

 

On Goodreads SEBASTIAN tops several Listopia lists and is in the Top Ten of 8 others.
 
In the Indietribe Fiction Charts it stays strong at #6
 
On Amazon.com Sebastian climbed into the Top 100 of Jewish Fiction and has stayed there for several weeks.

 

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5.0 out of 5 stars Completely perfect!
Hands down this author has won me over. Christoph pulls you into his stories from the beginning and refuses to let you go, even…Read more
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT STORY!!
This book is a great story about a kids life just before World War 1 begins. He goes through so much in his life even before he becomes an adult and I can relate to this… Read more
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Historical Drama
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard To Put Down
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
I fully enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, but the author has taken this book to a completely new level…
5.0 out of 5 stars This one is even better!
What a treat! I feel like a just took a vacation back in time to Vienna where I met some very interesting people. Read more
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
I had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series, and with how much I loved The Luck of the Weissensteiners, it was tough to wait for this one to come out.
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