Meet E. T. Milligan – Author of the Blake Cutter Detective Series

E.T. Milligan is an accomplished speaker, published author and award-winning poet. As a published author, the Leesville, Louisiana native has published two fiction young-adult novels entitled The Looking Glass Self and Inclinations of Fear and a non-fiction biographical novel entitled On Linda: Love, Loss and Renewal, The Case For Human Organ Sharing. Forbidden Rescue is the second novel in his publication of The Blake Cutter Detective Series. The first novel, Past The Line  was originally published in 2005 but republished in 2019 as part of the series. Milligan has also published a book of poetry entitled Images of Life, which includes the poem, I’ll Never Die, winner of the International Pen Award and the poem If I Were A Tree, winner of the Editors’ Preference Award. His poetry has been published in nine national and international anthologies. He has been the recipient of numerous recognitions including Who’s Who Among Students in Colleges and Universities and Outstanding Young Men in America. Through sponsorship by PMG International and Barnes and Noble, he has conducted numerous book signings throughout Germany and the United States. He has been a guest speaker and lecturer for numerous church, youth, and civic groups and has served on a variety of charitable and educational committees and organizations. For more information, visit his website at www.etmpublishing.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ETMpublication44.

Author Interview

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve only been on one literary pilgrimage so far. While envisioning the plot for my detective series, I went on a pilgrimage to St. Simons and Jekyll Island, which are two island resort locations off the coast of Georgia. This pilgrimage was in preparation for writing Past the Line, my first book in the Blake Cutter Detective Series. I used St. Simons and Jekyll islands as the settings for parts of the novel for which I changed the name to Devil Island. The nearby city of Brunswick became Bullet in the novel. I feel it’s important to visit areas that provide the type of picturesque setting you’d like to depict in your books. I always find fascinating and unique discoveries when I visit the places or setting that I visualize in your story.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Great question. I prefer to read mostly action-packed fiction novels with hard hitting characters and fast-moving plots. Unfortunately, I can’t say these novels have had much softness that would make me tear up. Probably if I read a book version of the movie Steel Magnolias, I would say otherwise. I think novels in which characters or situations cause emotional responses in the readers, whether it be tears or anger, are the best stories. It’s my goal to write stories that made the reader feel emotions and empathy in some parts but also anger and resentment in others. That’s when you know you have a powerful plot, when you can cry and laugh from the same story.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I feel a common trap for writers is their perception that they are experiencing writer’s block which causes them to become discouraged and stop writing. I’ve heard of cases where young authors have thrown partially complete manuscripts away that had great potential in my mind. Many writers think they must have a complete novel in mind to feel that they can be a successful author. The way I avoid writer’s block is that I think and write my story in segments. In all four of my completed novels, I didn’t envision the climax until I was at least half or three-fourths the way through. I generally outline the next sequence or chapter in my thoughts and then write down some notes or bullets. I then copy or paste those bullets under a chapter number as a placeholder in the story until it all comes together. It becomes easier for me to build around that foundation and focused my thoughts only on the next sequence. Then, I’ll step away from the computer from a day or two and let that scene or sequence develop in my mind. That way, I’m always writing, even subliminally, and I don’t get the perception that I’m going through writers’ block. That allows me to stay confident and at ease. If you are confident that you are making progress, you’ll continue to move your story to a climax.
A second trap is trying to make your story sound like too much like others because they are from best-selling authors. This doesn’t work. It’s the uniqueness of your story, style and characterizations that I feel readers are looking for and will get the attention of prospective publisher.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I would say my ‘kryptonite’ was been procrastination. Like Superman, I try to avoid it to stay on track with my mission. My procrastination used to come in the form of trying to find the perfect time and energy level to sit down at the computer and work on a story. I did learn this lesson from watching how Superman as he is slowly weakened by continual exposure to kryptonite that he loses his ability to be a superhero. Meet that tendency for procrastination head on and write something every day, even if you scribble on pieces of paper at work or just mind map your next and later jot it down somewhere. Daydreaming is not always a bad thing, as long as it’s not during class. Don’t be hesitant to even wake up in the middle of night and jot down what you just dreamed about. That might be a scene in the next best seller. You never know. Don’t let it escape you. I would suggest keeping a pen and a piece of paper in the drawer next to where I sleep.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Unfortunately, I have no other authors that I am currently friends with or in collaboration with, and that is a disappointment. I would love to have a close friend or colleague that I could go to lunch with or play a round of golf with and talk about writing in a comfortable setting. Unfortunately, in today’s busy, job-stressed world, it’s hard to find people who take the time to write and those who do are often too shy or not confident to talk about or expose their writing, even to a close friend. I hear people say all the time, “I wish I could write” or “I would let you see my story or my poem, but I know it’s not any good.” This is a mindset that can stifle your growth and potential as a writer. Thus, I always look for a writer’s group or club in the local area. I could even spare and hour drive to meet twice a month to meet with a writers’ group. When I was in Georgia, my wife and I started a writer’s club. We made it not only an opportunity for novice writers in the area to come together and review books but also a nice social get-together and a place to meet new friends. We allowed group members to pick books for the group to review. It got every member involved and engaged in the group. We also chose a theme for our refreshments based on the setting of the book. For instance, if the setting of the novel was in Italy, we brought in Italian food. I also printed out a banner of the cover of each book we reviewed and hung it on the wall for that session that we were reviewing the book. We continued to add banners along the walls as we finished book reviews each month. There are many things you can do to get your friends involved in writing who may be too shy to expose their writing individual. Starting in a group is a good way to influence individual confidence.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
As I reflect on my earlier writing, I would tell my younger self to just write whatever you feel and don’t think about creating a best-selling novel. This is just another way of putting pressure on yourself to write something extraordinary which may not be a realistic expectation of yourself at your infancy of being a professional author. Also, I would tell my younger self to not worry about the editing aspect of a book until I have the first manuscript draft completed. My first novel took over a year to complete the first manuscript because I found myself trying to edit and rewrite every page as I went along. I’ve concluded that it’s easier for me to just write the story in two drafts and leave the editing to someone else. Also, I would tell young author to not be afraid to let friends and family read your draft story and be open to their feedback. The right relative or friend will be honest and not intimidated to give you a critical review. You have a jewel in the hand if you have a relative or friend that is an avid book reader, especially in your chosen genre.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My first novel was self-published but the second one, The Looking Glass Self, a young-adult fiction novel, was published through a subsidy publishing contract. It was the first time I worked with a publishing agency on marketing and distribution of my book. Although The Looking Glass Self didn’t draw any attention from major publishing houses, the good thing was that I received useful feedback from the subsidy publisher on editing and format which helped me to prepare future manuscripts for submission to major publishing houses. The lesson here is to take feedback and help from any source that comes your way.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I would tell any author that spending a lot of your personal money on marketing your novel before it is polished and has had some positive reviews is not a great ideal. However, if you are a self-published author and you’re trying to get publicity for your book, I would research careful the fees and cost for attending book fairs and conferences. Personally, a cheaper way to get publicity for your book is an effective use of social media and by making personal appearances at book signings that are tied to those topics. One creative thing I did was to purchase a large poster that I could stand on an easel next to my table at a book signing. The poster was large enough that it contained a brief synopsis of my book, a short bio and photo and purchase information. This colorful poster drove interested book buyers to my table where I would give more details on the book. Many times, perspective buyers or browsers at book fairs don’t take the time to stop at every table and hear your pitch unless they specifically answered your invitation to visit your table. They want to see something that easy to see that will draw their interest and attention. In other words, have something eye-catching that draws them to you.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My first experience with the power of language was at a very early age through listening to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” quote and Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise.” These powerful expressions of language showed me that language can be both inspirational and influential, whether it’s in written or verbal form. They inspired me to write my first book of poetry and to create literary works that not only brought out imagery and inspiration through the power of words but also symbolized calls for action.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
My favorite novel that I feel is probably not as appreciated or as highly regarded as is should be is A Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Although I read mixed reviews, I decide to read it from a select choice of books at a book club. I found that although my initial thoughts was that it might be more suited for female readers, I enjoyed this novel so much that after reading it and hearing the intense discussion at the book club, I suggested it for review in the book club my wife and I started. It brought about an engaging conversation and character analysis by the group; the best session we had. I love the conflict and drama that encompassed this story as well as the intriguing characters that were intertwined throughout the captivating storyline. I decided at that point not to limit myself to reading books that were best-sellers or on the top of media charts, but to look for books with interesting plots, regardless of their notoriety.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success for me is about inspiring others, not so much about proceeds or profits on book sales. Of course, the phrase, “It takes spending money to make money” holds true, so an author is like any other salesmen. You’ll have to invest some money to advertise your work, until you get the attention of a literary agent or publisher. I personally get more fulfillment out of readers taking away lessons or inspiration from my literary works than by sales. That’s why I love doing book signings because I’d meet interesting people who I’d exchange writing ideas and it would help me become more adventurous in my writing. That’s why, although I am primarily a fiction writer, I’ve delved into several genres of literary writing such as biographical stories, young-adult fiction and poetry, exploring themes such as grief recovery, self-esteem and resiliency and empowerment. To me, there’s nothing more fulfilling or gratifying that helping or inspiring something to overcome adversity or achieve goals by your influence.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I usually don’t do research at the beginning of the developing of my manuscripts. I wait to research when I reach a point that I need to further develop the technical aspects of a story. Often, I have a general plot in mind but not a finite set of details. I just let the creative juices flow and when I need more background at the point I reach, I’ll stop for a couple of days and research the topics. It’s a lot of fun and expands my knowledge of different subjects. My research always includes interviews with people in that field of work or activity that I am portraying with my characters, whether is a police detective conducting investigative work, a street drug dealer involved felonious activity, or an airliner being hijacked. Once I locate a potential source for information and background about a novel topic, I always tell about my story and relate to them my appreciation for any advice or knowledge they can provide. To this point, I’ve had nothing but cooperation and enthusiastic support from those that I have interviewed.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
I haven’t written about historical figures, but I do know that it’s important to research well enough to get the facts straight. Don’t depend on what’s written in popular books or other publications. Seek as many reliable sources as possible to verify and validate research data. Be aware of the political views or agendas of your sources and make sure that when writing about anyone, including historical figures that your material is factual and most of all objective. Also be aware of attribution requirements to avoid copyright infringement.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Dealing with book reviews requires a level of maturity and sometimes “thick skin.” I’ve learned to take negative critiques objectively and utilize it to improve your craft. It is forever a work in progress and there’s always room to improve, even after you’ve sold your first story. I also try to remember that a review represents one person’s opinion based on their perspective or background. I usually seek at least two reviews of a literary project so I can compare their opinions. Even the good reviews will normally include some negative observation. The key for me is to not think of it as negative or positive buy to look at it professionally. I seek to obtain book reviews from both individual readers and book review agencies.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I would probably give up travel that is strictly for leisure purposes and focus my traveling on combining leisure and research opportunities. There are so many great places to visit on the globe that you can have a relaxing and enjoyable time but also take some time to explore interesting architecture or history that can serve as a great backdrop for your stories. It doesn’t have to be the current story. I love taking photographs and writing small summaries of every place I visit. I look for the unique locations that most periodicals and travel guides don’t mention. These are excellent ways to capture information that can be used as a backdrop for intriguing scenes.
What is your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book was a book series authored by Don Pendleton called “The Executioner Series’ featuring Mack Bolan, a man who conducts a one-man war against the Mafia. It was a series of over 70 paperbacks published by Gold Eagle Book Forum that I read growing up. Reading the book series is what inspired me to become a fiction author, write the type of high-octane action that I loved in that book series and create my own vendetta-fueled cop named Detective Blake Cutter.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Although I avoid putting an arbitrary timetable on completing a manuscript, it generally takes me about months to a year to produce the first draft manuscript. That’s because I have always had a full-time job and have had to write and do research in my spare time. Even, if I didn’t, I think it would take me about that long because I like to take short breaks to allow myself to absorb the material I’ve written and reflect on it before moving to the next scene. Don’t confuse this with writer’s block. It is a pre-determined break I take to avoid burnout. I usually produce three to four drafts before I consider it a final manuscript, at least two revisions for content and two or more for editing. A key to success for me is to separate content revisions from editorial revisions so that you can focus on each individually.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
As I mentioned in my answer to an earlier question, I don’t believe in writer’s block and I think you can overcome the perception of writer’s block by stepping away from the computer for a day or two and outlining or making notes of ideas of scenes that come in your mind. Sometimes, the brain just needs to rest, and refresh and that period of recharging can often com give you the spark you need to restart your momentum. Also, if you feel stuck, you should shift from writing at a desk to a more relaxed setting such as a picnic or on the beach.
Please tell us about your books and why you write in this genre?
My books cover multiple genres as I have dedicated my life to writing based on inspiration and not just in one genre. My first novel, Inclinations of Fear explored the life a young boy who becomes a hero in his hometown by single-handedly disrupting he infiltration of drugs into his neighborhood by drug dealers. Another novel I wrote, The Looking Glass Self, is also written for young-adults and explores the topic of a teenage boy achieving self-esteem through the intervention of the ghost of his late grandfather. Both of these novels were motivated by my desire to be a role model and find a creative way to teach life lessons to youth. I grew up without a mother or father present and was raised by an aunt and uncle who had little education or guidance to provide me. I had to learn resilience and self-motivation on my own through my early experiences. I also wrote a book profiling the life and death of my first wife who died waiting on a liver transplant. The book had two themes, grief recovery and promotion of organ donation. It was my way of turning a negative, heart-breaking situation into a positive book of inspiration and recovery. The novel entitled On Linda: Love, Loss and Renewal: The Case for Human Organ Sharing, resulted in my being asked to help local medical and minority religious leaders in Virginia to promote organ donation as well as counseling individuals and sharing my story about my journey towards grief recovery. My main passion however is fiction writing, which has been motivated by reading action-packed novels from authors such as Don Pendleton, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Nora Roberts and James Patterson. Thus, is my motivation for my current book series, The Blake Cutter Detective Series, which I self-published Book 1, Past the Line and will release Book 2, Forbidden Rescue on Aug 1, 2019. Both novels are available on Amazon Kindle Publishing.

What is your featured book about, and who is the most intriguing character? Why?
My featured book in actually a series of three novels, The Blake Cutter Detective Series, featuring Miami Police Detective and later Special Agent Blake Cutter, a decorated cop who is on the chase of the mob to revenge the assassination of his late wife from a car bomb that was intended for him. In my already released first novel, Past the Line, Blake Cutter witnesses the car bombing that resulted in his wife’s death on a night in which he’d received Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award and had planned a romantic evening with Jennie. After a rehabilitative transfer from Miami PD to a regional FBI bureau in Georgia where he was promoted to Special Agent, Cutter is assigned to assist in the state-wide investigation of a suspicious drowning of a real estate developer who has ties to a Mafia crime boss that Cutter suspects is responsible for the mistaken assassination of his wife. During the investigation, he uncovers another homicide, that of a drug dealer, in which the prime suspect knew the real estate developer and may be connected to the drowning case. This leads Cutter into a tangled web of intrigue and deceit. Then, to complicate matters further, he encounters a mysterious woman, who is the spitting image of his late wife. He soon discovers that she is also connected the mafia head through an affair. He uncontrollably is drawn to her by her seductive ways, her resemblance to his late wife Jennie and her connection to both the drowning victim Phillip Drummond and the victim’s wife Dorothy. As he seeks numerous times to question her about her involvement, he struggles to keep his professional investigation and his personal feelings separate. She exploits this weakness and seduces him into compromising liaisons that not only jeopardizes the investigation but also his career in law enforcement. I wrote this book with the intent to illustrate an important element in fiction writing, which is conflict. I could think of no better to highlight this aspect of writing than to depict a decorated police investigator as a man who is so troubled by his grief and need for revenge that he struggles to compartmentalize conflicting feelings that are exposes through mysterious events and encounters. Yet, the more he tries to maintain integrity, the more he’s drawn into a compelling and far reaching web of criminal activity and covert characters that could not only compromise his mission but destroy the essence of himself.

Thank you to E. T. Milligan for your awesome author interview with Wonderland Books – we wish you much success with your crime thriller!!

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews and Promotion

Stories Needing to be Told by Sherry V. Ostroff

Sherry V. Ostroff earned a Bachelor’s in education from Temple University and a Master’s in history from Millersville University. She taught all levels: elementary, secondary and college. Ostroff happily devotes her time to writing, her family, reading, and traveling around the world. She lives with her high school sweetheart in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Book Synopsis

Anna’s older brother Nathan detests his sister. He blames her for their mother’s death and arranges to get rid of her by forcing a marriage between Anna and an elderly French Jew. Anna is repulsed by the Frenchman for good reason. He is rude, self-centered, and attempted to rape her. To escape a bleak future, she plans to run away by enlisting the aid of a young Highlander, Alain MacArthur.

The escape brings on more danger. The couple is hounded by thugs hired by Nathan and the jilted bridegroom. Anna is kidnapped, but Alain saves her and bring her to his father’s home in the Highlands. 

(The chapters alternate between the two first-person narrators: Hanna and Anna.) 

Twenty-one-year-old Hanna Duncan has inherited an ancient key from her father who died on 9/11. The key has a mysterious acronym scratched into the metal. With the help of a friend, she discovers that the cryptic message connects the key to the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. 

With no job prospects or family obligations, and enough resources from the 9/11 Survivors’ Fund, Hanna travels to Scotland. On the flight over, she meets the dashing Alec Grant. He offers to help guide Hanna through unfamiliar territory, and, almost immediately, they are attracted to each other.

The key unlocks a safe deposit box revealing several 17th century artifacts. The most intriguing are an elaborate silver candlestick, which is identical to the one Hanna’s grandmother lit every Friday evening in her home in New Jersey, and a journal written by a fifteen-year-old Sephardic Jewess named Anna Isaac. Raised by an atheist father, Hanna has no idea how these might be connected to her, but her discovery begins to provide answers to some quirky family traditions that have no explanation.

As the POV alternates, parallels hint at connections between the two worlds. Both couples must deal with unsavory siblings, both have faithful friends who help them into—and out of—jams and save their lives, both have elderly family members who suffer tragedies. The same artifacts appear in both stories.

Anna and Alain commit to one another by hand-fasting. This old Scottish tradition replaces a religious ceremony which would have been unthinkable between a Catholic and a Jew. Their plans of living happily-ever-after are thwarted by a fanatical priest who suspects the bride’s origin. Again, Anna and Alain escape. But this time, the decision is made for them. Alain is recruited to represent his clan to colonize Scotland’s infant empire in the New World. The couple joins 1200 others in a noble effort to save their country from financial ruin. 

Through the diary, Hanna follows Anna and Alain’s journey to the New World. She learns the frightening details of how disease, starvation, and ill-preparedness resulted in a failed colony. Additionally, menacing Spanish galleons unnerved the colonists and raised Anna’s fear that the Inquisition has followed her. 

After three-quarters of the colonists die, the mission is abandoned. Anna and Alain make their way to Jamaica and, eventually, New York. There, they deceive the authorities and desert the ship. 

From Anna’s journal, and from hints that are dropped throughout the story, Hanna slowly realizes that she and Anna are related. The book ends with both couples embarking on new directions in their lives. Immediate perils are solved and, although difficulties remain, there is no cliffhanger ending. The reader is left to puzzle how the remaining artifacts could strengthen the connection between the two stories depending on the actions Anna chooses to pursue and the trail of clues Hanna chooses to follow.
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Author Interview

What literary pilgrimages have you been on?

CALEDONIA is a multi-generational historical novel that takes place in 17th century and modern day Scotland. I have been to Scotland several times for research. Every place mentioned in the book, I have visited.

What is the first book that made you cry? 

The second book in the Outlander series – A Dragonfly in Amber. The scene was when main character, Claire, unexpectedly finds her husband’s headstone.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Many who are new to writing think it’s easy. It’s not. Writing is hard work, and there’s much to learn. Before the writer rushes to publish, they need to learn the craft and create a quality product before asking a reader to shell out the cash and devote precious leisure hours. 

What is your writing kryptonite? 

I really don’t have any. I love to write and thankfully I have all the time I need to do so. I’ve never had writer’s block and the genre I write in (historical fiction) is my favorite to read.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Kyra Robinov (Red Winter), Marcia Fine (Hidden Ones, The Blind Eye, and others), Mirta Ines Trupp (The Meyersons of Meryton and others) John Matthews – short stories. I am in a beta group with two of the authors.

If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be? 

Don’t wait to do what you love. 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It didn’t. My two published books are totally different. My first book, THE LUCKY ONE, is a memoir based on my mother’s escape from Easatern Europe. My second book, CALEDONIA, is a historical novel. What worked in the first book, I continued in the second. For example, I’m a pantser; I write by the seat of my pants. There are no outlines, no character sketches, and no character interviews. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

 No question about it, the cover of CALEDONIA.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? 

Public speaking class in college. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?  

Some of the older big-book novels are not appreciated by today’s reader. One of my favorites is The Source by James Michener. It’s a huge book, and unless you’re an established writer, most publishing houses will not take you on.

What does literary success look like to you? 

I know my book is a success when a reader tells me they can’t put the book down or they don’t want the book to end. I know that feeling, and I’m thrilled that I can create it for others.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Readers of historical novels demand historical accuracy. Therefore, I must be attentive to the facts and do my homework. If I include something made up or a fact I’ve altered (after all it is fiction) I must mention that in the End Notes.. 

I love researching and I devote many hours to it. My research is done on the internet, reading books, visiting sites in the story and museums, talking to experts in their field (17th century swordsmiths, bookbinders, clothes, food preparation, medicine, etc.) trying food that will be a part of the story, and even taking a DNA test because my character did.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? 

Historical figures should be described as accurately as possible. However, if the writer needs to alter the character’s history somewhat, that should be indicated in the End Notes.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

Yes. If I know the reader, I will thank them for taking the time to do a review. Thankfully, I haven’t had any bad reviews. A writer has to remember that not everyone will love their book. Even the Bible gets bad reviews.’

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer? 

I have given up social activities that threatened to reduce my writing time. Outside of family, writing has become priority number one.

What is your favorite childhood book?

There are so many, but I loved the mystery series by Enid Blyton.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

THE LUCKY ONE – 18 months; CALEDONIA – 3 years. The sequel to CALEDONIA will take me about 2-3 years.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

Yes. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced it, but I can understand how it could happen.

Please tell us about your books and why you write in this genre?  

THE LUCKY ONE was published in 2016. It is a memoir based on my mother’s handwritten account of her escape from Eastern Europe. I wrote this book because my mother’s story begged to be told. CALEDONIA was published in 2019. It is a multi-generational tale of two women living 300 years apart. The ancient one has a story to tell about a real event that occurred in 1698 called the Darien Scheme – Scotland’s attempt to carve out a colony in the New World. It failed miserably but that failure will change world history by uniting England and Scotland, thus creating the United Kingdom.  The ancient protagonist leaves clues about her story which is discovered by the modern character. CALEDONIA is historical fiction but includes adventure, mystery and romance. I write in this genre beause it is what I love to read.

What is your featured book about, and who is the most intriguing character? Why?

CALEDONIA is about two strong women who live centuries apart and therefore lead very different lives. The ancient one, Anna, is forced to join 1,200 other Scots as they attempt to save their country from financial ruin. This can only be done by creating a trading colony in Central America called Caledonia. Anna’s story is high stakes including a forced betrothal; trusting her life to a man she barely knows; leaving her newborn daughter, possibly forever; sailing a disease-ridden ship with a threatening captain, and living in an inhospitable environment surrounded by sickness, starvation, or both.
The other female protagonist, Hanna, does not have a high stakes adventure, but her importance is to discover Anna’s story, make sense of it, and as a result Hanna will discover her own.
Choosing one character over another is impossible as I am their creater. 

Author and Book Links

6. Author Links:

Website: https://www.sherryvostroff.com

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

Thank you to Sherry V. Ostroff for her enlightening interview and wish you much success on your novels!

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews and Promotion

Expanding the Reads

Hello all!! So when I first started this blog I intended on keeping the reach into specific genres, my favs such as Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Time Travel, Historical Fantasy, and Fantasy; but seems there are more authors who wish to be noticed.

My goal for this blog is to get Indie authors noticed more and more, so I thought to myself over the past few days – why am I limiting the reads? I mean, those who read my blog may have interests outside of my own, so if I am truly going to use this blog to connect Indie authors with readers, then why not expand the reads.

And so, I am.

I am announcing today that I am expanding my author interviews and promotions to ALL GENRES from literary fiction, women’s fiction, poetry, chick lit, sci-fi, mystery, suspense, crime, and psychological thriller.

However, there are still some genres I will not accept, and these include erotica and horror.

I know, I know, maybe I am still limiting this blog, but I am sure there are bloggers out there for those specific genres, so I do not feel like I need to completely step out of my comfort zone to support two genres which I will not ever read or review. That is only fair to those authors who write in those styles.

My blog will go through some changes over the next week or so and I will add some tabs for each genre with all author interviews posted on the main feed.

So, get the word! Calling all authors of the following genres:

Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance, Historical Time Travel, Historical Fantasy, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Poetry, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Suspense, Crime, and Psychological Thrillers.

If you wish to have examples to know what I mean by each genre, here you go:

Historical Fiction – “All the Light You Cannot See” by Doerr

Historical Romance – “The Bride” by Julie Garwood

Historical Time Travel – “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Historical Fantasy – “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Fantasy – “Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin

Romance – “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

Literary Fiction – “There There” by Tommy Orange

Women’s Fiction – “Winter Garden” by Kristin Hannah

Chick Lit – “Bridget Jones’ Diary” by Helen Fielding

Poetry – anything by Maya Angelou

Mystery, Crime, Suspense, and Psychological Thrillers – “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Sci-Fi – “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

The Beauty of the Merest Loss

Book Synopsis

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Book Review

I received the recommendation to read this book from a writer friend of mine, and I must say, from first glance of the title and the cover, I was intrigued. I knew from the eloquent writing style and the opening description (this tall, slim, blessed with all the charm that a faultless command of English, with a strong French accent, young man named Martin) promised in the first paragraph, that I was hooked right from the start. There was a story there in the secrets of this young man, and to throw in the scenery of the Newmarket racing yard? Brilliant!!

I already wanted to know the who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s at the outset. And so, I pursued the race and the rest of the story of this fascinating woman, Martin’s mother, Harriet Howard, is one I had never heard before. To be honest, I never knew this real person existed, but since my reading, I must say, I have spent quite a bit of time perusing the internet and Googling to my heart’s content about this mysterious woman and her connection to Louis Napoleon, as well as the political intrigue going on behind the scenes of Queen Victoria’s empire.

This is historical fiction very well done. Once I started reading, I could not put it down until I devoured every morsel of the story. Harriet’s character reminded me of some of the old classic heroines and Neil does a great job in fleshing out her personality and bringing her to life on the pages of the book.

I adored the way the author wrapped the entire story with the history of horse-racing (steeplechase) in England, and the connection Ms. Howard had to one of the premiere jockeys in England during the Victorian era, Jem Mason. Which also piqued my interest and another round of Googling.

I mean, what more do you need when you have this for an opening on the Amazon book page:

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris. It has it all: love, politics, horses, racing, scandal, Victorian London, and Post-revolutionary Paris.

Mr. Neil, the author, did an outstanding job in weaving fiction and fact into the storyline and I have no qualms about bestowing five-stars to this book. I highly recommend The Merest Loss as a page-turner – you will love it from beginning to end.

To learn more about the author, Steven Neil, visit his Amazon Author Page here: Steven Neil

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews and Promotion

Hail to Alex Gough! – Fiction Author of Roman History

Author Bio

Alex Gough is a veterinary surgeon from England, with decades long interest in Ancient Roman history, and the Carbo Series (Watchmen of Rome, Bandits of Rome and the short story collection Carbo and the Thief), a culmination of a lot of research into the underclasses of Ancient Rome. His new series, The Imperial Assassin, is set in the reign of the Severan dynasty which is a very under-examined period of Roman history. He is also the author of two veterinary textbooks, Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats and Differential Diagnosis in Small Animal Medicine, both of which have been translated into multiple languages and are in their second and third editions respectively. He enjoys playing guitar, piano and drums. He is an author who loves to interact with readers – his email is romanfiction@hotmail.co.uk.

You can also follow him on Twitter: @romanfiction

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alex-Gough-author-724930131242944/

Author website for reviews of roman fiction, and articles about Roman history www.romanfiction.com

Author Interview

  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Everywhere I go, I look for Roman remains to visit, so I can photograph, read about the history and try to imagine being there. In the last 12 months I’ve visited the Hippodrome and the Theodosian Walls in Istanbul, the remains of the Roman town of Caerwent, and the legionary museum in nearby Caernarvon, the amphitheatre in Verona, the baths in Bath and the Roman Eboracum history festival in York. My daughter still reminds me of when we visited Rome seven years ago, and I dragged her round the city for eight hours to see as many sights as possible. This is the reason I haven’t been to Pompeii yet, my family won’t go with me because they know I will want to spend so long there they will eventually get bored. 

2. What is the first book that made you cry?

I read a lot of animal stories when I was young, and I remember crying about a book by Joyce Stranger, I can’t remember the title, where a bull gets put to sleep. 

3. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Not finishing! I read once that the worst finished book is better than the best unfinished book that is sitting somewhere in a drawer.

4. What is your writing Kryptonite?

The Playstation. A 5 minute break to easily turns into a one hour session. So the machine has been turned off for the last few months while I completed the latest Imperial Assassin book. 

5. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I have to give special mention to Simon Turney, who supported me and gave great advice from when I first contacted him about my first novel, to the present day. He is a great and prolific writer, and a genuinely nice guy who is generous with his time to his friends. There are many other writing friends I could mention, but the group of authors that go to the Eboracum Roman history festival are a great bunch: Harry Sidebottom, Ben Kane, LJ Trafford, Penny Ingham, Ruth Downie, Jane Finnis, Alison Morton and Paul Chrystal as well as Simon. 

6. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Self publishing will change everything, so keep going! After my first novel was rejected around 2000, and self publishing was in its infancy, I moved to writing technical non-fiction instead which was easier for me to get published in. But e-book publishers and indie publishing meant that your books could find an audience, and it was only after I actually got my work out in the public domain that I realised that there were people who liked it. 

7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publication didn’t really change my methods. 

8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I had my first two books professionally edited, and the price of the first edit included a two hour conversation with the editor. Not only did this make those books better, but it taught me a huge amount about writing too. 

9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

10. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, for its weirdness, and the way it unsettles. It’s not a conventional novel, and is not told in a linear way. Reading it was the first time I had heard of ergodic literature, which is defined as a work where “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text.” I would love to write an ergodic novel one day, and I have some ideas, but I doubt it would be a commercial success. 

11. What does literary success look like to you?

I want to be read, and ideally enjoyed. So doing well in the amazon charts and getting lots of reviews shows that people are reading my work, and at least some of them are enjoying it. It’s interesting in the kindle/indie publishing age how many authors, even well established traditional authors, are dabbling with self-publishing or e-book only publishers. For me, it’s more important to be read than how I am read, but the ultimate ambition is to have hardback fiction in bookshops via the traditional publishing route. So far I’ve had fiction books self-published in e-book and paperback, audiobooks, books with e-book publishers, and non-fiction books traditionally published and translated into multiple languages. But the traditional hardback publication would be the cherry on top if I can get there one day. Right now, I have commitments to my current publishers Canelo, and so can’t start writing a book to pitch to agents and traditional publishers for a year or two. I have some ideas though…

12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have been reading about and researching Ancient Rome for twenty five years, so much of what I need on the basics of day to day life is already done. However, I am constantly looking for interesting facts that add detail to Roman life, and help people feel like they were there. I love writing about the every day and ordinary in Rome, which can be both familiar and exotic to the modern reader. For a new project, for example a new time period, I will start reading about the time about a month before, and continue to check facts as I write. I have an extensive library of Roman non fiction running into probably 200 books, and I also refer a lot to the primary sources such as the ancient historians and satirical poets, as well as graffiti, gravestones and archaeological finds. 

13. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

For the time I write about, nearly 2000 years ago, there are no surviving family members or friends, so no one will get offended on behalf of a loved one. That gives me a lot of leeway to write what I like. But I aim to be fair, and writing about Caracalla in my latest series has been a fascinating exercise trying to sort out the slander from the truth. The main ethical principle I follow in writing history in general is to not write anything that contradicts the known history.  This is a personal opinion, and many authors will change details to make a better narrative, which improves the reader experience. Some readers would be happy with this, preferring a good story, while others like to learn as they read, and want to know that anything they read is true or at least possible. So I stick to the “truth.” However, there are plenty of gaps in the historical narrative for the fiction author to fill in speculatively. Also there can be doubts, inconsistencies and contradictions in the accepted history, which allows the fiction author to choose the version that makes the best story, even if it is the less likely of the possibilities. 

14. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I love book reviews. Fortunately the majority are good which is lovely to read, but even the bad ones can be amusing. For example, my first book, Watchmen of Rome, had two contrasting reviews on amazon.com written within a short time of each other. One said, “Watchmen of Rome is a fast paced, exciting novel which reveals a multitude of details about daily life in Ancient Rome, centered, for once, in the realm of the lower classes rather than the wealthy. The novel offers everything you might want in a work of historical fiction.” The other said, “For an interesting time in history, this book was about as dry as last year’s turkey drumstick.” 

15. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

16. What is your favorite childhood book?

17. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

When I was working full time it would take at least 18 months. However, having stopped working full time and having had a gap before starting a PhD, I have managed to write a complete 100K word first draft in 3 months. 

18. Do you believe in writer’s block?

I think mood can affect your willingness to write and your ability to get a lot of words down. I also think you can get stuck on a specific book, but you can always find something else to write about. 

19. Please tell us about your books and why you write in this genre?

My current series, The Imperial Assassin, follows an army scout called Silus and his career in the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Previously my series, which I intend to continue in the future, was about a veteran centurion called Carbo who suffered from PTSD, and his attempts to retire in peace are foiled by various dramas that happen to him and his loved ones. I love writing about Rome, with its familiar and its strange, the wealth and poverty, the grandeur and dirt, and its fascinating characters and events. I particularly enjoy writing about ordinary people, who are often neglected in both history books and historical fiction. 

20. What is your featured book about, and who is the most intriguing character? Why?

In Emperor’s Sword, the first book in The Imperial Assassin series, Silus is an army scout who loses his family in the war between Septimius Severus and the Scottish barbarians, the Caledonians and the Maeatae, and is inducted into a secret spying organisation called the Arcani. Silus is interesting to write, motivated by revenge while struggling to retain a conscience. His friend Atius is fun, mainly providing comic relief. But for me the most fascinating character is Caracalla, the Emperor who was described by Edward Gibbons as “the common enemy of all mankind,” and was thoroughly trashed by the ancient historians. However, the reality is more nuanced, and his complex feelings towards his stepmother, his brother and his father-in-law, together with his temper, ambition and guilt make him a challenge to write about. I have tried to write him in a more sympathetic light than his enemies portrayed him in, while not covering up the flaws in his character and the evil deeds that he performed. 

Book Synopsis

A desolate wasteland. A mission gone wrong. An impossible goal. A gripping new series of Ancient Rome.
Roman scout Silus is deep behind enemy lines in Caledonia. As he spies on a raiding party, he is abruptly discovered by an enemy chief and his son.

Mounting a one man ambush, everything quickly goes wrong. Silus must run for his life, the head of the enemy leader in his hands. Little does he know the price he will pay…

As Silus is inducted into the Arcani, an elite faction of assassins and spies, he must return to Caledonia, back into the wilderness, and risk everything in the service of his Caesar. The odds don’t look good.

Failure is not an option.

A blood-soaked and unputdownable Roman thriller, anchored in detailed historical research, perfect for fans of Ben Kane, Conn Iggulden and Robert Fabbri

Praise for Alex Gough

‘Gritty and real, exciting and pacy, this is first rate historical fiction, and Gough is clearly ready to take his place among the leading writers of the genre’ – SJA Turney, author of the Praetorian series

Book Links

UK

US

Thank you to Alex Gough for the interview with Wonderland Book Reviews and the preview into life in ancient Rome!!

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews

Meet Historical and Historical Fantasy Author – J. P. Reedman

Author Bio

Interests include folklore & anthropology, prehistoric archaeology (neolithic/bronze age Europe; ritual, burial & material culture), as well as The Wars of the Roses and other medieval eras. Novels include The Stonehenge Saga, an epic set in the Bronze Age, I, Richard Plantagenet, which has been called a ‘new Ricardian classic’, A Man Who Would be King about the Duke of Buckingham, My Fair Lady about Queen Eleanor of Provence, which hit number one in Biographical Fiction, and many other novels, novellas and short stories in the historical and historical fantasy genres.

J.P. Reedman was born in Canada but has lived in the U.K. for nearly 27 years. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I have been to the castles and other places known in life, or sometimes death, of my historical figures. I have also managed to meet two of my childhood favourite authors, Susan Cooper and Alan Garner. I went to J.R.R. Tolkien’s grave in Oxford and visited the places he frequented in the great University city.

What is the first book that made you cry?

It was the Lord of the Rings, which was really the ‘turning point’ for me as an 11-year-old aspiring author! Many of my fellow kids who read it, though the ending was ‘they sailed away to live happily ever after.’ I guess that was not the case for Frodo.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

For me, it was too much re-writing. My first novel, written years ago, had the first three chapters redone so many times they didn’t match the rest of the book! I had no proper ending and I’d randomly thrown in new features that clashed with the tone and setting of the earlier drafts (which were actually better!)

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Probably the Internet! A great tool in one way but also a great distraction!

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I am friends with many other historical fiction authors, a few of them quite well-known. I can learn from their greater experiences—and they give me moral support and pointers!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

It may take time—but if you try hard, you will get there. You may not be the top seller, you may not end up publishing your first manuscript or even your tenth, you might not end up publishing in your favourite genre, but with some hard graft and determination you will make headway.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I began to realise more about the business side of things—about self-promo and social media. I also learned that it just wouldn’t work to write the ‘old-fashioned’ way—taking years between parts in a series. When you are an unknown, especially, ‘quick release’ seems to be crucial. Your fledgling ‘fans’ will forget you otherwise.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Updated covers and better targeted promotion.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

It was in the classroom and I was barely six. I was already writing my first stories. The teacher had me helping other kids learn how to read. I could communicate with adults so much easier than many of my fellows. This could be a blessing and a curse.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

In the 80’s there was a Celtic-related series by Paul Hazel. One book was called Undersea. Never heard of the author before or since. He prompted me to look deeper into real Celtic myth and legend—so different that some of the fluffy guff that was coming out at the time. Eileen Kernaghan’s books have a small following, again from the 80’s, but are not as well-known as I feel they should be.

What does literary success look like to you?

For me, it has to be writing full time. I am now in my second year. I don’t expect to earn millions but it beats standing 8 hours a day in a ‘regular job.’

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

One of my main writing lines is historical fiction, which takes a lot of research. I like to visit the actual places in my story, to get a feel for them; I also like to research what they looked like ‘in the day’. Being a huge fantasy fan, I learned about ‘world-building, which can also apply to historical fiction, where the world and what’s in it can appear very different to our present one. I do a little research before I begin to write and gather up all the best sources—or the most interesting ones. Sometimes it can be challenging, especially with medieval women, where the records can be quite patchy and the resources skimpy.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

It’s a difficult one. Obviously the more remote in time your story is set, there is a little more leeway with characters. I try not to include anything that couldn’t possibly have happened. I’ve also had to include at time characters that I don’t like as historical figures, but as they are viewed by, say, their family members, I must forget my feeling about them, and get into the head of my character.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read the first few with half-closed eyes and crossed fingers! I sometimes feel a little embarrassed when the reviews are very good; that’s just me, my family was the type where you were supposed to be modest and unassuming and never brag about anything. The bad reviews I try and take something from; once, someone noted a continuity error in one book, so I was able to take action. Some you just have to ignore; your writing style just didn’t gel with them.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

More of my time! I really need to be a little more diligent about the word count every day.

What is your favorite childhood book?

The Lord of the Rings. Still my favourite.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

A novella or short novel-3-4 months, a full-sized novel 6-8 months. If I get an idea that is really burning in my head, I can be quicker. I can turn out a ‘long short story’ in about a month.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I used to, but I now think it is a lack of confidence and a fear of failure. If you can press through it and just right something, you will find it melts away. What you write doesn’t have to be great; it’s not graven in stone—you can always fix it later.

Please tell us about your books and why you write in this genre?

My books are historical fiction and historical fantasy. The past has always fascinated me, along with myth and folklore…and ghosts! I have novels set at the time of Stonehenge and novels about Robin Hood that feature myth and magic as well as history. My main body of work takes place in medieval times, however. Many of them are set during the Wars of the Roses. The most successful is my huge epic of Richard III ‘I, Richard Plantagenet’ which is told in Richard’s 1st person perspective. In it, I try not to make him either ‘saintly’ or the villain of Shakespeare but a man living in a very difficult time. I also tried to make the story a little humorous, as so many novels written about that time are tombstone serious. Even during times of war, people do have lighter moments. My other medieval series is about various little-known medieval women such as Queen Eleanor of Provence who is buried in my home town—somewhere. Her grave is now lost, thanks to the Reformation.

My featured book is my most recent, ‘The Princess Nun.’ It’s about Mary of Woodstock, daughter of Edward I. At age 6, she was destined for the convent, but she really had no vocation. She made the best of things, however, and never forgot she was a princess—she spent much of her time travelling, hunting, buying jewellery and enjoying court life. She was the ‘nun who liked fun’ and was an amusing character to write about as her story was a little lighter than many of the other women I’ve written about, who often have rather tragic lives.

Thank you to J. P. Reedman for your amazing interview with Wonderland Book Reviews! Wishing you much success with your book ‘The Princess Nun’!

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews

Finding Her Center of Gravity After Tragedy – Meet Patricia Brandon

Welcome to Patricia Brandon, author of  The Center of Gravity, winner of the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and the author of In the Valley of Achor, her poignant and inspirational story of her first year after facing sudden paralysis. Her books can be found on Amazon, and you can visit her website at https://www.patriciabrandon.com

  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?   Over the years, they’ve varied. I was a voracious reader as a kid. Biographies of all kinds, all of the Nancy Drew mysteries. As a teen, all of Ray Bradbury’s works, C.S. Lewis, Lord of the Rings trilogy. In college, I discovered romance novels – helped me deal with a serious crush I had on a football player! Then all of Pat Conroy’s books. But historical fiction has always been my favorite genre. 
  2. What is the first book that made you cry?   I had this incredible teacher in the 6th grade, Mrs. Carpenter. She read to us every day after lunch. I lived for that moment each day and got lost in My Side of the Mountain, The Yearling, and such. I remember trying hard not to cry in class! If I had not already been a reader, I would have been by the end of that year. Reading became the escape, the adventure, and the connection.
  3. What are common traps for aspiring writers?    I’m still aspiring, so I’m still navigating this one. But, following one’s passion for a story, and then critically editing are such crucial elements that can’t be underestimated. 
  4. What is your writing Kryptonite?    I’d say letting the demands or worries of the day get in the way of writing on a regular basis. I always wrote little stories as a child, then creatively in high school, but when college rolled around, and then marriage and kids, I had little time to really focus on anything like a novel, which was my dream. However, divorce, and then an extremely rare, freak physical anomaly happened in 2014, and I literally woke up one morning to paralysis below my waist. I’m working hard to get better, and improvement is happening. Kind of ironic – I now had all the time I wanted to write, so I did. First, a memoir type of book about the first year of living with paralysis, entitled In the Valley of Achor and now my first attempt at a historical fiction novel, The Center of Gravity. 
  5. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?    I met Kim Boykin online, through a mutual friend, and although she and I write entirely different genres, her excruciatingly critical look at my work really did me a favor, in terms of helping me to assess the believability of a story, and to create the right flow of the story. Also, Carla Damron, author of The Stone Necklace, and Tim Conroy, Pat Conroy’s brother, are part of a writing support group in which I have spent a few sessions. I also worked for years with Pat Conroy’s sister-in-law, and have a framed local news article and my first book that he graciously signed for me just before his death. There was an article about his physical rehabilitation efforts right next to one about my own, with pictures. I was thrilled and figured this would be as close as I could get to association with him!  
  6. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Nurture your passion for writing! Make time to write and do whatever it takes to hone your writing skills, if you are really serious about writing. Write, write, write. 
  7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? My first book was fairly easy to write, as it was about me and the personal journey. Not much research had to be done there, other than being sure I had all of the medical information accurately noted. After writing the first book, I became obsessed with attempting to write historical fiction, and knew that research would be an important factor in telling a believable fictional story amid the real historical characters and events. I knew I would have to put far more time and effort into writing. It was worth it, and I’m ready to try another!
  8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? So far, doing activities such as this – interviews, reviews – have been the most productive. I will also invest in a good editing app and continue to use beta readers.
  9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? Way back in kindergarten, held at my church in those days, we took noonday naps on these little mats. I had long hair that I often wore in braids, and at the time I was very shy around others outside my neighborhood. So, one day during one of these naps, a boy unbraided my hair while I slept. I was horrified when I woke up, and even more so when the teacher re-braided my hair in front of all the other kids, who sat in a circle around us. But as she talked, she smiled often and reminded us that sometimes life seems to come unraveled and we think nothing will ever be okay again. But, if we remember our faith and trust in a God that loves us, and help one another, that often something that is broken can be made whole again; sometimes even better than before. She was so skilled in her interaction with us that I came away from the experience somehow stronger and more confident, and realized how powerful words can be in boosting one’s self-confidence. Kinda cool for five years old, right? 
  10. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? In college, for a library science class, we had to select a fairly new novel geared for adolescents. I selected Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. I was instantly drawn in to the plight of the protagonist, Patty, and the feeling of not fitting in anywhere. The story encompasses prejudice, alienation, love, friendship, and invincible courage from an unlikely combination of characters. One of the lines in the book (in reference to a person that Patty saw as her life raft) reads, “Then it came to me that maybe that’s the only thing life rafts are supposed to do. Taking the shipwrecked, not exactly to land, but only in view of land. The final mile being theirs alone to swim.” When I read it, I felt like I could barely breather, it was so powerful. The story was written for younger readers, but it’s still relevant – perhaps even more so – today. 
  11. What does literary success look like to you? Well, this is only my second book, and my first novel, so I’m not sure I know the answer to that yet. The first book about my paralysis was intended to be therapeutic for me and inspirational to others. I think having people say that my work reflects a well-crafted and told story has already made me feel incredibly successful. It would be nice to cover my publishing expenses and then some. To sell many books would mean I could pay a bill or two, help some others along the way, who knows? 
  12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?  For The Center of Gravity, which covers the period between 1933 Europe and 1976 South Carolina, I did a great deal of research, initially, particularly with regard to events and real historical people. Perhaps a month or more of lots of internet searches and reading. The research actually never stopped. If there were questions along the way, I would stop and research. It was a personal goal of mine to stay as true to the history as possible. 
  13. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? For me, it is presenting them as real people, as most history records them, whether essentially good or bad characters. Especially today, with the perception of “fake news” all around, I want my stories and real historical figures to be portrayed with integrity and true to the history.  
  14. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? Yes, why have them from reputable sources, if they are not read? I’ve been fortunate, I guess, not to have had a bad review yet, but I’m sure that day is coming, and I hope I will read it with an open mind, and take steps, always, to become a better writer. An author to whom I was introduced read some of my earlier attempts and was highly critical. It helped me tremendously. We write in entirely different genres, so there’s that, but she truly cared enough to help me hone those skills by being brutally honest, and I’m grateful! Thanks, Kim Boykin.
  15. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer? Gosh, I don’t know, what are my options? I’m open to getting better, so would consider giving up a few things.
  16. What is your favorite childhood book? Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I get a lump in my throat whenever I read it. 
  17. How long on average does it take you to write a book? I spent the better part of a year on The Center of Gravity, including the research. Sometimes, it’s difficult to schedule writing when I’m also dealing with physical therapy and the challenges of paralysis, but of course, there’s so much sitting time, that eventually it all worked out. I’m a bit more disciplined now. Rainy days demand writing, which is nice, and I now have a designated place to do most of my writing. 
  18. Do you believe in writer’s block? Not yet experienced it, but I’m sure it’s a real phenomenon, based on what others have said. I read lots of history and am deriving possibilities all the time. 
  19. Please tell us about your books and why you write in this genre? I’ve only written two thus far. In the Valley of Achor is a memoir about the first year with paralysis. I’m told it’s inspirational, with some gut-wrenching stuff, but also some humor. The Center of Gravity, historical fiction, is my first attempt at a novel. I’ve always gravitated to that genre the most, and find both history and human behavior intriguing. I found the work on this book quite gratifying. Weaving a story around and through history is both challenging and invigorating. 
  20. What is your featured book about, and who is the most intriguing character? Why?  The Center of Gravity takes place during the time period between 1933 pre-World War II Europe and spans the period of the war until 1976 Lowcountry South Carolina. Sonne Becker, a young Prussian woman, is tricked into becoming a food tester for Adolf Hitler in his secret Wolf’s Lair, and is forced to endure another atrocity. She hides a dark and life-changing secret. Rainer von Bauchelle, a French art professor, is recruited against his will to assist the Nazis in the re-creation of the stolen and priceless Amber Room in the Konigsberg Castle. He too hides a secret, as his best friend, a Jew, fights in the Alsatian Resistance. With the unlikely help of Albert Goering, the anti-Nazi brother of the brutal Hermann Goering, escape may be possible. But, will the darkest of secrets stay hidden forever, or one day change the lives of those who remain?   I hope that all of the characters are intriguing, but if I have to select one, I would say that Sonne Becker is the most interesting, because of her background, what she must endure during her life, and how she chooses to survive. Her story is based on a few events in the real life food tester, Margot Wolk, who is now deceased, but was the only remaining tester to survive the horrors. But I’ve grown to love each of the characters as I’ve watched them develop, and hope that the readers do, as well. 

Thank you to author Patricia Brandon for your inspirational life and novel, and for sharing your interview on Wonderland Book Reviews. Your perseverance and courage will inspire many and congratulations on your award.

Alys Stone

Wonderland Book Reviews