September 15, 2012
Today I’m welcoming Margaret Muir, author of Sea Dust, the nineteenth-century story of a young woman who hides aboard a ship bound for Australia hoping to create a new life for herself; Through Glass Eyes, a saga set in Yorkshire; The Black Thread, a dramatic tale set on the Leeds and Liverpool canal in 1898; The Condor’s Feather, an equestrian adventure across the Pampas of Patagonia in 1885; and Floating Gold, the first in a series of naval adventure novels set during the Napoleonic Wars.
Margaret: Floating Gold is an Age-of-Sail nautical fiction adventure, written for a male readership especially those who enjoy the works of CS Forester (Horatio Hornblower) or Patrick O’Brian (Master and Commander). Set in 1802, Captain Quintrell is entrusted with secret Admiralty orders and heads to the Southern Ocean aboard the Royal Navy frigate, Perpetual. Battling unforgiving seas, near mutiny and freezing Antarctic waters, the captain is unaware of the dangers awaiting him when he reaches his destination.
Elizabeth: Sounds exciting! You are currently writing the second book in the series. What will be happening to the main characters in this next instalment?
Margaret: In The Tainted Prize, Captain Quintrell and his motley crew again head south but this time the destination is Peru. Drama and intrigue lie ahead, however, action on the gun deck is tempered by the undertone of political unrest which is simmering in the Spanish vice-royalties in South America. Also of concern is the vast number of African slaves being transported to Peru to work and die in the silver mines. This raises questions about the social, economic and human cost of the slave trade.
Elizabeth: Many of your novels are nautical adventures or involve the sea as a setting, almost as a character. Would I be right in this?
Margaret: Yes indeed, Elizabeth, and thank you for your observation. Both for me and certain characters I create, there is definite affinity with the sea to the extent that it almost takes on a character of its own – a dual character that can be either male or female. The masculine Sea (metaphorically speaking) is dominant, powerful, cruel, exciting and mischievous, manifesting himself in violent storms and turbulent currents. Conversely, the feminine Sea is beautiful, mesmerizing, gentle and evocative.
Here is an example of this personification from The Tainted Prize:
For Oliver Quintrell, the sea was his comfort and companion and, when licking the salt from his lips, he had no doubt she was his mistress. Despite her foibles and fickleness, moods and mysteries, she was soft and sensuous – beguiling in her calms and tantalising in her tantrums. She was the force which heaved beneath him every day and lulled him to sleep every night. By constantly challenging him, it was the sea who made him fearless (not reckless), and it was the sea who would receive him into her arms on the final day of reckoning.
Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your fiction and how do you go about your research?
Margaret: As all my stories are woven around imaginary characters, it is the time, place and setting that provides the historical elements. Floating Gold and The Tainted Prize take place against a backdrop of the Napoleonic War in the early 1800s. This is a well-documented era and there is no shortage of information about it, however, primary source material written by sailors who served in the Royal Navy at the time, or copies of original ships’ logs are most valuable for research.
Walking the gun decks of an original man-of war like HMS Victory provides a valuable insight into life aboard a fighting ship, and in October, I will be re-visiting Victory and the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth. After that, I will sail to Gibraltar to learn its history and experience its atmosphere first hand, as it will be one of the settings in my next book. Academic study of the Napoleonic Era, the Atlantic World and the Age of Revolution has provided me with background material to pepper my books. And, last but not least, sailing as a crew member aboard various tall ships has left me with an insatiable appetite for the sea.
Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.
Margaret: I was born and bred in Yorkshire, England but moved to Australia in 1970. For twenty-five years my priorities were my career in Cytology and raising a family, and it was not until I was made redundant in the mid-1990s, that I had time to do things I had always wanted to. One of these was to write. The other was to sail on a tall ship. The tall ship came first followed by a BA (Writing) which led to my first novel, Sea Dust (2005).
Though it is many years since I left England, it was the moors and the rugged Yorkshire coast that I called on for the settings of my first three books. And while world travel is something I have enjoyed in more recent years, this also has had a considerable influence on my writing. Visits to South America and the Antarctic Peninsula directly inspired the settings for my novels, The Condor’s Feather and Floating Gold. Today, I live in Tasmania, an Australian state settled in the early 1800s from convict stock. It is called the Island of Inspiration and its history has inspired me to, one day, write a book about one of its infamous Bushrangers.
Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?
Margaret: Whatever you are having.
Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?
Margaret: Ocean, of course.
Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?
Margaret: Hate shopping. Loved hiking when I was younger.
Elizabeth: Violin or piano?
Margaret: Neither – prefer the sound of silence.
Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?
Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?
Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?
Margaret: Death – stirs deeper emotions.
Floating Gold is on Kindle for $2.99.
Margaret Muir’s other titles are available on Kindle and as paperbacks via Amazon.
Margaret, thanks for visiting my blog today!
June 15, 2012
Today I’m welcoming David LeRoy to my series of author interviews. David is the author of The Siren of Paris.
A: The Siren of Paris is a story of survival of World War Two, told primarily in the point of view of a young French born, American male who returns to Paris to study art in 1939. World War Two broke out on Sept 1st, 1939. What many do not know is that at that time there were over 30,000 Americans in Paris alone. After Sept 3rd, they would have a terribly tough time getting home, because the Germans sank a British Passenger ship, the RMS Athenia, killing 98 passengers, and 19 crewmen. Nearly all trans Atlantic service stopped after the sinking which trapped many Americans in Europe during the war, including this young student.
Q: Sarah’s Key, I believe is during the same time period. Is Marc Jewish? Is that how he ended up in Buchenwald in the story?
A: Sarah’s Key is during the same time period, but unlike the young girl Sarah, who is Jewish and caught in the round up during 1942, Marc is Catholic. You would think that this would be something of a protection, but that is not the case. Marc ended up in Buchenwald because he was caught up in the arrest of a ring of various Paris underground resistance members in the spring of 1944. The Gestapo and Milice had hired thousands of plain-clothes undercover agents to smoke out the Paris underground, and tragically they were immensely successful. Paris was liberated in the summer of 1944, but at the same time, members of the resistance were being shipped east to concentration camps. The program was called “the fog and the night,” meaning that anyone who resisted the Nazis were sent someplace where they simply disappeared.
Q: How much historical fact is woven into your novel?
A: The Siren of Paris is packed with historical figures and facts of the time period. Better-known figures are Ambassador William Bullitt, Under Secretary Sumner Wells, Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company, and Jacques Lusseyran. There are also lesser-known individuals such as Joan Rodes, know as the Angel of Saint-Nazaire, and Drue Tartiere, another American woman who helped with the underground. The unfortunate victims of the RMS Lancastria sinking on June 17th, 1940 are also within this story. Researching for this book was incredibly challenging. I have books in English, French and even a few in German. One book I have told me district by district in Paris of Nazi collaborative activities, and buildings taken over by the Germans. I tried to incorporate the real events of the time, whenever possible without the text feeling like a history book instead of a dramatic story.
Q: What is the RMS Lancastria? How did Marc get on that ship?
A: The fall of France was a terrifying event. About 10 million people evacuated from the North to the South of France as the German Army swept over the country. Nearly all the roads became clogged with abandoned cars that had run out of petrol, and refugees feeling on foot. Marc became swept up in this hoard of refugees and he boards the ship with a group he was traveling with. He was trying to get back over to England so he could go up to Ireland and catch an American ship home. At the time, American ships would only leave from neutral countries, which made the task of getting home even more difficult. Most of the passengers were from the British Expeditionary Force, but the ship took on civilians along with soldiers. It is estimated the ship took, in all, about 9,000 refugees. Most people do not know of the sinking because the British Government suppressed it during the war. To date, it is the single largest loss of life of any British Ocean liner and still one of the few war wrecks that is not recognized formally by the British Government.
Q: You chose to self-publish your novel as an e-book. Can you tell us how you came to that decision?
A: When I started writing, I had every intention of publishing it through a traditional publisher. It seems like the entire world of publishing is changing daily. The success of many authors in 2011 with self-publishing changed my opinion, and I began to consider self-publishing over a traditional publisher. It is still a lot of work. The most recent events with the DOJ have convinced me that I honestly do not want to sign a contract at this time with an agent or publisher. I can’t imagine signing a long-term contract now with all of the uncertainty out there in the market. Self-Publishing has evolved to the point that it has become a particularly attractive option. Honestly, five years ago I would never have considered Self Publishing, and the way things are going, in five more years this will not even be a question.
Q: So, who is the Siren?
A: You will have to read the book. Do not be so sure you know who the Siren is too early.
Q: Enough of your book—tell us about yourself.
A: I have a day job in the world of communications. My other passion is art. It was the reason I went to Europe back in 2010, and discovered the facts around this story. I was studying the artwork of various European modern artists. For the longest time, I was into large format black and white photography. Then one day, it just was not enough anymore, so I took up drawing and painting.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? I drink too much coffee and should drink tea.
Ocean or mountain? Ocean, but my friends love the mountains.
Hiking or shopping? Urban Hikes, through malls, or REI, where I can make believe I am hiking as I shop.
Violin or piano? I am in recovery from a classical Piano background.
Mystery or fantasy? There is a difference? I didn’t know.
Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara? Hester Prynne, as a secret lover to Scarlet O’Hara.
Love scene or death scene? Love leads to death, and death of self, leads to love. They are the one and the same.
May 1, 2012
Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing tagged Barbados Bound, Endeavour, historical fiction, Linda Collison, Looking for Red Feather, nautical novels, Patricia Macpherson, Star-Crossed, Surgeon's Mate at 2:16 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt
Today I’m welcoming Linda Collison to my series of author interviews. Linda is the author of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series.
Q: Can you give us a brief description of your books?
A: Stripped to the bone, it’s about a girl pretending to be a man aboard a ship in the 18th century.
The series begins in 1761 during the Seven Years War and is told in first person by Patricia, the illegitimate daughter of a dissolute English sugar planter. When her profligate father dies, sixteen-year-old Patricia finds herself without funds, family or interest. How is she to survive? She chooses to portray herself as a young man and make her living at sea. Living in disguise aboard ship with so many men (and a few women) is fraught with its own risks and rewards and I’ve drawn on numerous historical accounts of 18th century women who really did pass themselves off as men.
Q: How did you come to write this series?
A: My first novel, Star-Crossed (Knopf;2006) was the inspiration for the Patricia MacPherson Series. Knopf originally published it as a stand-alone and they weren’t really interested in doing a series. But Tom Grundner, publisher and senior editor of Fireship Press was! He published Surgeon’s Mate, the sequel, and waited to acquire the rights to Star-Crossed, once I obtained the reversion of rights after it went out of print with Knopf. Tom recognized that Star-Crossed was adult historical fiction, not YA, and he was committed to publishing the series. Tragically, Tom died suddenly last fall, but his publishing company Fireship Press lives on. Star-Crossed will soon be republished as Barbados Bound, the first book of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series, and the third book in the series will hopefully see print early 2013.
Q: In 2007, Star-Crossed was named by the New York Public Library as a “Book for the Teen Age.” Did you write it for adults or teens?
A: Funny you should mention that! I didn’t write Star-Crossed specifically for young adults; I wrote it from the perspective of a young woman, a sort of coming-of-age historical. The character is impetuous and she doesn’t always make good decisions. But she does what she can to survive.
My agent at the time, Laura Rennert, was keen to sell it as YA. She assured me she could attract a big publisher if she marketed it as YA, and she did. I was thrilled to be published by Knopf and to be included on the Books for the Teen Age – but throughout the series Patricia matures, and if the series continues she will grow old –which makes it more of an historical maritime saga than YA. So it’s a “cross-genre, cross-gender” book.
I do write young adult novels. Looking for Redfeather, a contemporary young adult literary novel I’ve recently completed, is represented by literary agent James Schiavone. I’m also working on a YA paranormal thriller set at sea that I’m very excited about.
Q: You studied history in college. How has that influenced you as a writer?
A: I’ve been a life-long student of history but the first time I went to college I majored in nursing to become a registered nurse (there being more jobs for nurses than historians — and I with a family to support!) I worked in acute care for over a decade, specializing in emergency and critical care. At the same time I worked as a freelance writer and had numerous articles, essays and short stories published by various magazines including Ladies Home Journal, Caribbean Travel& Life, Sail, Cruising World, Sailing, Parachutist, Nursing, etc. I wrote two guidebooks with my husband, which were published by Pruett, back in the ‘90s.
Over the years I’ve taken many college level history courses, mostly in history and French. Studying history has helped me examine sources objectively; it has helped me approach my research more efficiently and given me a wider perspective.
Q: How did you come to write historical fiction with a nautical setting?
A: In 1999 my husband and I served as voyage crew members aboard HM Bark Endeavour, an Australian-built replica of Captain James Cook’s 18th century sailing ship. The Endeavour was the closest thing to a time machine I have ever experienced and one of the most accurately reproduced historical ships in existence. We voyage crew members helped to sail her from Vancouver to Hawaii, a crossing that took nearly three weeks. We were expected to stand our watches, climb aloft and go out on the footropes to make and furl sail, take our turn steering the ship and keeping a look-out, as well as other duties necessary to keep the traditional vessel in good working order. We slept in hammocks strung from the deckhead, just as sailors did in the 18th century.
In many ways the experience changed my life. When I got off the ship in Hawaii I had a much better understanding what it was like to have sailed on an 18th century sailing vessel. And I carried inside the seeds for a novel. I had lived the time period, and the setting; I knew the ship intimately. I was getting to know the main character, the cross-dressing surgeon’s mate. But I still had years of research and writing ahead of me before Star-Crossed would be published. What a journey that was! And Star-Crossed was only the beginning. Book three of the series is taking me into the period leading up to the American Revolution where Patricia and her lover will find themselves on opposite sides of the war.
Your whole series sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading about Patricia.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee, black! Except when I’m in England eating scones and clotted cream, then I’ll have tea.
Q: Ocean or mountain?
A: You might think I would choose the ocean because of my nautical books. But that isn’t necessarily the case! I divide my time between ocean and mountain. Today I’m at the ocean but next week I head for the Rocky Mountains. I need them both!
Q; Hiking or shopping?
A: Today I am hiking. Tomorrow I might be shopping. Life is broad!
Q: Violin or piano?
A: How about clarinet or cello? I played them both in high school, but maybe I should have learned piano, it’s so versatile and expressive. I do love piano — Adele, Elton John, Duke Ellington and Frederic Chopin jump to mind.
Q: Mystery or fantasy?
A: What about a mysterious fantasy? Actually, I don’t care for the mystery genre. Literary mysteries, such as Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, now that’s a different story!
Q: Darcy or Heathcliff?
A: Heathcliff, of course!
Q: Love scene or death scene?
A: The best love scenes are usually lovers’ quarrels. It’s all about the conflict! Throughout the series I’m writing, Patricia tries to get together with her lover, and only sometimes are the trysts successful.
Death scenes are the best. “Out, out brief candle!”
You can also order her books and learn more about her at Linda’s amazon.com page
Thank you, Linda!
April 15, 2012
Today I’m welcoming T. C. Isbell to my series of author interviews. T. C. is the author of Southern Cross, the first in the Prelude to War series.
A: Southern Cross is a World War 2 historical thriller. German agents Elsa Gable and Chris Schulte grew up together in a Germany ravaged by the Great War. They became inseparable as they matured into more than friends, more than family. They had a bond no one could destroy, at least that’s what Chris believed until the night of December 2, 1938 when a telegram arrived that changed Chris’ life forever.
A: Icarus Plot, the second novel in my Prelude to War series, takes place in Panama in 1940. Clive Smith, an MI6 agent, tracks a German spy, Chris Schulte, through the first book in the series. Clive is certain that the threat has not been resolved in Havana at the end of Southern Cross. He follows a trail to Panama where he discovers foreign and American interests are attempting to disable the Panama Canal and effectively divide the world in half. I hope to finish Icarus Plot before Christmas 2012.
Q: What drew you to this time period?
A: I have been an avid fan of World War Two history ever since high school. When I retired I started an in depth research project into the time period preceding Germanyfs invasion of Poland. Before I knew it, I was writing a novel that weaved the story of Chris Schulte and my other characters into my historical research.
Q: I see that you’ve written short stories in the past, can you tell us about them?
A: Yes, I have written a number of short stories. Presently, two of them, “Mattie’s Shoes” and “Surf’s Up” are available for Amazon’s Kindle. In “Mattie’s Shoes” a sixty-nine year old widow confronts a closet full of old shoes and old memories. “Mattie’s Shoes” placed in the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in the Mainstream/Literary Short Story category. In the other story Billy Bonzer, an old surfer from Southern California, learns a lesson about working for big business and big government by participating in an inner tube race.
Q: Enough of your books tell us about yourself.
A: Ever since childhood, I have been intrigued by the arts–painting, music, and writing. Starting in high school, I wrote short stories and poetry. In the late sixties I joined the Navy. During the Vietnam era I wrote a number of poems that were published in the Berkeley Barb. I may publish them as a collection sometime, but for now they remain locked away. After my discharge, I returned to college and graduated with a BA in mechanical engineering. I worked for the Navy repairing nuclear power plants until I retired in 2005. My first challenge after retirement was to learn how to not write like an engineer. My second challenge was to learn everything I missed while staring out the window during my high school English classes.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
A: First: sit down and write – write everyday. Set aside a specific time each day. Maybe in the beginning it’s just thirty minutes or an hour, but do it religiously. Soon writing will become a habit. Don’t get bogged down with creating the perfect sentence. Nothing is ever perfect to a writer. Write what’s in your head and sort it out later. Second: read books in the genre you write in. The authors you read have spent a lot of time learning their craft and have things to teach you. Third: consider, but don’t be deterred by the opinions of others – follow your dreams.
We have now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, I drink vast mounts of strong, French Roast coffee while I work. I don’t smoke, so I have to do something that’s bad for me. To paraphrase Mark Twain, when you get really sick, you need a vice to throw overboard to stop your ship from sinking. I guess coffee is mine.
Ocean or mountain?
Mountains – I was in the Navy for six years and have seen enough of the world’s oceans.
Hiking or shopping?
I enjoy hiking and climbing. I have climbed most of the volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range, including Mt Rainier.
Violin or piano?
Piano, but really harpsichord. In the early seventies when I lived outside of San Francisco I owned a Baldwin electric harpsichord along with an assortment of guitars and other musical instruments.
Mystery or fantasy?
Mystery, but actually both. I like writing mysteries, but I am working on a science fiction novel.
Hester Prynne or Scarlett O’Hara?
Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne for all of the contradictions in her life. Her story becomes even more poignant, considering today’s political climate.
Love scene or death scene?
Death scene – I think a richer palette of emotions from love to hate can be drawn into a death scene.
Thank you, T.C.
Thanks, T.C. !