Discover The Revolutionist

Today I’ve invited Robert Tucker, author of The Revolutionist to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about his new novel.

Welcome Robert. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

RT: Two different families escape from the political tyranny of their respective homelands, the Josephsons Revolutionist coverfrom Sweden and Matias and Kurt Bauman, brothers from Germany and Austria Hungary, with the aid of a Viennese opera diva, Sophie Augusta Rose, and Jean Guenoc, a former Jesuit priest, family friend and protector and partisan of the French underground.

Their journey brings them to America in the throes of the industrial revolution during the 1890s and early 1900s. Ingrid and Olaf Josephson settle on a small wheat farm in North Central Minnesota to raise their children, Newt and Julie.

Among the Jewish entrepreneurs forced to leave Germany and Austria-Hungary, Matias and Kurt Bauman re-establish their transportation company in Chicago, Illinois

In search of a secret list of insurgent social democrats, the bounty hunter assassin, Luther Baggot, tracks his victims to the American heartland. Following the murder of their mother and father, Newt, Julie, and their friends, Aaron and Beth Peet, hide from the killer in a Northern Minnesota logging camp. Believing the children have taken possession of the list, Luther tracks them down.

Fleeing to a central Minnesota town, the four young people come across a remote business location of Bauman Enterprises and meet Matias Bauman, who had been a friend and former political collaborator with Newt’s and Julie’s parents. He takes them all to Chicago where a different world opens up to them as they are thrust into the turmoil and violence of an urban society and economy careening into the new century.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

RT: As the grandson of immigrants who fled persecution in Germany and Austria-Hungary and came to America during the early 1900’s, the early history of our country and the rise of the middle-class have always held a fascination for me. The dramatic depiction of fictional characters placed in actual events sharply and realistically bring alive the harsh times and adversity of the multitude of people who sought freedom and a better way of life and demonstrate that only a little over one-hundred years have passed to bring us to where we are as a struggling society today.

The chronology and events of history have captured and held my interest for many reasons, among them being stories that entertain, educate, and inform. Learning about the lives of my immigrant grandparents coming to America from Czechoslovakia during the early 1900s and the lives of my parents during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s provided the initial motivation. Researching and writing historical fiction is a way to learn more about myself and my origins and the social, political, and economic influences related to my generation.

Whether writing historical fiction or non-fiction or fantasy, I’m drawn into the societies and cultures of a particular period that inspire the creation of characters who bring that era to life. Not only do I experience this dynamic in books, but in films, plays, dance, music, and other art forms.

Researching history takes me into the exploration of new territory outside of my own life experience through reading other sources, interviews, travel, and films.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

RT: Historical facts provided the foundation for the novel. I placed my fictional characters and historical figures within the context of what actually happened and adapted scenes, dialogue, and narrative accordingly in supporting the direction of the story.

What research did you do for this book?

RT: The novel features an extensive bibliography.

Although a number of fine books are written from personal experience by authors who lived through those times, much of the historical writing by contemporary authors is dependent on secondary sources. Forays into the past for story material is a rewarding part of the creative process.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which do you prefer to write and why?

RT: Both fictionally created characters and historic figures are integral to the story. The lives of the characters tend to influence the direction of the plot rather than my imposing the plot on them. Writing invented characters is more difficult than bringing historic figures to life. I prefer the creative satisfaction of writing invented characters.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

RT: I place the characters into planned situations, conflicts, and events and see and experience their world from their eyes. This approach enhances the verisimilitude or authenticity of the characters and their world for me as a writer (walking in their shoes) and ultimately for the reader. Recreating the lives of the characters is a discovery process for me that becomes the foundation of their story and expands to myriad others in the context of historical events at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Revolutionist offers an unusual entertaining, dynamic story populated with colorfully drawn characters, dramatic tension, a sense of immediacy, and a cinematic visual style.

The historical chronology and events capture a reader’s attention for many reasons, among them being a plot that entertains, educates, and informs. In writing this novel, I was drawn into the societies and cultures of a particular period that inspired the creation of characters who bring that era to life.

The Revolutionist will take a reader into the exploration of new territory outside of his or her life.

Personal integrity is a powerful recurring theme.

I think the issues and conflicts in this story are manifested in different societies and cultures every day. Throughout the world and locally all around us, people are struggling against tyranny and injustice to have good meaningful lives in ways that matter to them. I believe readers will identify with the lives of the characters and what happens to them.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

RT: Although the majority of my protagonists in my books are female, I’m comfortable writing about both male and female characters. I find that female characters offer greater psychological complexity than established male archetypes, however. There are many new books of historical fiction being published featuring female characters.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail, Robert, and good luck with your new novel.

For more information about Robert Tucker, please visit his website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. The novel is available online at the following retail outlets:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

About Robert Tucker: Rob is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his Revolutionist_Robert M. Tuckergraduate degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He worked as a business and management consultant to advertising, corporate communications, and media production companies as well as many others. Now retired, he resides with his wife in Southern California where he devotes much of his time to writing.

He is a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn and Donald Davis Literary Awards. An affinity for family and the astute observation of generational interaction pervade his novels.

His works are literary and genre upmarket fiction that address the nature and importance of personal integrity.

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Posted in Archives, March 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peering into ‘The Cold Light of Dawn’

Today I’ve invited Anna Belfrage, author of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book her current series to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.

Welcome Anna.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Cold Light of Dawn coverAB: The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in my series about the rise and fall of Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March. In this instalment, a very young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, and while Queen Isabella and Mortimer do their best to retain control over him, time is working in Edward’s favour. Caught in the middle of this conflict is Adam de Guirande, my fictional (and very honourable) knight who serves Edward but loves Mortimer as a father.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

AB: I’ve wanted to write about the times of Edward II and in particular Roger Mortimer since my sixth-grade history teacher spent a double/period history class sharing his own passion about these events with us. He was no Edward II fan. In fact, he wasn’t much of a Mortimer fan either, but he found Mortimer the necessary catalysator to rid England of Edward II and pave the way for Edward III, in Mr Wilmshurst’s opinion the best king ever.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

AB: In this case, I stick pretty close to historical facts (with one major exception, but I will not reveal it here as it is central to the plot) When I do deviate, it is usually because there’s an element of uncertainty regarding the fact itself – some things we believe to be true are often based on somewhat flimsy evidence and could, in fact, be untrue.

However, the recorded events of 1329 and 1330 offer plenty of drama in themselves, so there was little reason to not stick to them. Roger Mortimer points out (he’s in my head a lot) that he does feel I could have ignored certain facts and specifically events that happened on November 29, 1330. I did not feel I could, which left me with a terrible headache for days while Roger kicked his way round my brain in retribution.

What research did you do for this book?

AB: Well, I’ve read a lot of biographies 😊 And then I’ve spent a lot of time visiting various sites. On one such visit I was standing on what remains of a curtain wall and realized, to my sorrow, that the view from this particular point faced east, not west. It obliged me to rewrite a rather beautiful sunset scene….

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

AB: Yes. I prefer having fictional protagonists as this allows me much more freedom in what happens to them. However, the point of the novel is to tell the story of what really happened (from the POV of my characters) in the years 1329 and 1330 so Edward III, Roger Mortimer, Henry of Lancaster and quite a lot of other real characters are very much a part of the cast. One real figure that I have taken some liberties with is Thomas of Brotherton, uncle to Edward III. In recorded history, he doesn’t appear much, being dubbed an “unremarkable” man. This has allowed me to create a fictional Thomas, loosely built round the facts we know.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

AB: Well, first of all I believe the human experience is relatively unchanged if we compare now to then. We experience the same emotions as our ancestors did and probably express those emotions in similar ways, albeit our vocabulary is different to theirs. So I would argue there is little difference in breathing life into a contemporary character and a character from the past. However, there are some fundamental differences: the Church played a very central role in everyone’s life in the 14th century, which I of course have to reflect. Likewise, a woman back then usually had a much more restricted role than us modern women do—even if I do not believe this means medieval women as a rule were weak and submissive.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

AB: I suppose that depends on what period you write about. Also, I’d argue that very many historical novels are in fact built round a female rather than a male protagonist (take Philippa Gregory’s books as an example) I like writing both genders – I enjoy presenting the events through both a female and a male lens so to say. Obviously, if I want the character to be part of a battle, it will have to be from a male’s POV—at least if I’m writing 14th century. Likewise, a birthing chamber was unlikely to have any men present.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail and leaving me with a couple questions to ponder, Anna. I know I’ll only get the answers in the book so I look forward to reading it.

For more information about Anna Belfrage, please visit her website, www.annabelfrage.com. Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king. It is available at the following outlets:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna BelfrageAbout Anna Belfrage: Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Posted in Archives, March 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Delving Into the Darling Dahlias

Today I’ve invited Susan Wittig Albert, author of The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover, the seventh book in the Darling Dahlias series, to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.

Welcome Susan.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Darling Dahlias coverSWA: It’s1934. FDR is in the White House, the New Deal is in full swing, and Prohibition has finally been repealed. And in Darling, Alabama, it’s time for the Dixie Regional Barbershop Quartet Competition. The Dahlias (the local garden club) are rooting for the Lucky Four Clovers. But the music may have ended for the Clovers when one of their members is involved in a fatal accident.

To complicate things, there’s a serious foul-up in Darling’s telephone system, and not a penny for repairs. The town’s party lines may have to go out of business, which would be bad news for the gossips. It doesn’t help that newspaper editor/publisher Charlie Dickens is facing a crisis of confidence in his new wife, Fannie. And that Liz Lacy (the Dahlias’ president) has to decide whether she’s ready for a do-over in an ill-fated romance. And more, of course . . .

What prompted you to write about this historical period?

SWA: I began the Darling Dahlias series about 10 years ago, when the U.S. was going through the Crash of 2008, which was very reminiscent of the Crash of 1929. Many Americans had to tighten their belts and get by on less, which reminded me of my mother’s stories about the Great Depression. I began digging into the period (the 1930s) in order to understand how families managed—or didn’t. I found many brave, stories of creative “making do,” which I’ve used to shape the Dahlias series. I was also inspired by the sense of community that kept many people going during those tough years. The Dahlias (a garden club in a small Southern town) have that sense of community and responsibility for others.

In addition to the seven books in the Dahlias series, I’ve written about the 1930s in other books: A Wilder Rose, about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, and their courageous work on the Little House books; and Loving Eleanor, about the enduring friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok which began in 1932 and continued through three decades. The General’s Women—about Dwight Eisenhower, his military aide Kay Summersby, and his wife Mamie—is set in the 1940s but covers a great deal of 1930s territory, both in the U.S. and in England.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

SWA: I’m a fact person. In all my work, I build the fiction on the factual basis of real people and real events. When I fictionalize, I color inside the lines, always staying as close to the facts as possible. It’s a challenge I enjoy.

What research did you do for this book?

SWA: Here’s a small sample of the background material for this series: Since Yesterday: The 1930’s in America, by Frederick Allen; Daily Life in the United Sates 1920–1940, by David E. Kyvig; Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs, edited by Stella Blum; Month-by-Month Gardening in Alabama, by Bob Polomski; To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville (the source for her descriptions of Maycomb, where TKM is set). Monroeville is only fifteen miles from fictional Darling. And many, many 1930s newspapers, found on newspapers.com.

I also do quite a lot of research on Southern food. In the most recent Dahlias mystery, I’ve included a selection of Southern pie recipes of the 1930s, with a few historical notes.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

SWA: In Loving Eleanor and A Wilder Rose I used only historic figures. In The General’s Women, I used mostly historic people but added a few fictional characters. In the Dahlias series, most of the characters are fictional.

In my experience, it’s much, much harder to use only historic people—and to get the facts straight. Fictional characters are easier. I like doing both. But it’s hard to find historic people I want to live with for the full year it takes to tell their stories. For instance, I thought I wanted to write about Georgia O’Keeffe’s later life. But the more I learned about her, the less comfortable I was with her story.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

SWA: For me, it’s a matter of detail. Characters have to dress and eat and work and play and fix their hair and talk (above all, talk!) the way people did in the 30s, using the tools and equipment used back then. I run into questions like what kind of lipstick does Lizzy wear? How does Beulah do a finger wave? What cigarette brand does Charlie smoke? What kind of washing machine does Ophelia have? What songs are they listening to on what model radio?

And of course places have to look the way they looked then: houses and furniture, buildings, roads, and landscapes. Which means that I look at a lot of historical photographs, study Sears catalogs, and leaf through old copies of Life and The Saturday Evening Post. Detail, detail, always detail.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

SWA: If that’s true (and I don’t agree that it is universally true), it’s true because men have been portrayed as doing things while women sit around watching and admiring. Personally, I prefer to show brave women doing unexpected, courageous things in difficult circumstances, while the men stand around and watch and admire.

There are male characters—villains and heroes—in all of my fiction. But strong women interest me far more.

Thanks for answering my questions in fascinating detail, Susan, and good luck with the latest book in your series, The Darling Dahlias.

For more information about Susan Wittig Albert, please visit her website and the Darling Dahlias Facebook Page. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover is available online at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Dahlias Susan Wittig AlbertAbout Susan Wittig Albert: She is the NYT bestselling author of over 100 books. Her work includes four mystery series: China Bayles, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the Robin Paige Victorian mysteries. She has published three award-winning historical novels, as well as YA fiction, memoirs, and nonfiction. Susan currently serves as an editor of StoryCircleBookReviews and helps to coordinate SCN’s online class program. She and her husband Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and raises a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.

Posted in March 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Soldier’s Return

Today I’ve invited Laura Libricz, author of The Soldier’s Return, the second book in the Heaven’s Pond trilogy to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.

Welcome Laura.

Thank you so much for having me over today, Dianne!

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

LL: The Heaven’s Pond Series is a three-part historical series set in Franconia, Germany, in the early 17th The Soldier's Return covercentury during the Thirty Years War. These are the novels I have always wanted to read. Written in English and taking the German viewpoint of the war, the story is told by a young maid, a patrician, a Jesuit priest and a young Dutchman. The Master and the Maid is the first book in the series and begins the story in 1616. It’s about a young woman who loses her home, her job and her freedom. Harboring a mysterious newborn, she could lose her life. The Soldier’s Return is the second novel in the series. The year is 1626 and mercenary soldiers terrorize the countryside. A church-run witch hunt rages as well. Can three unlikely companions unite to survive? The third book, Ash and Rubble, is in the early revision stages. The year is 1632 and the Protestant city of Nuremberg is besieged by the estimated 150,000-man-strong Swedish army comprised of soldiers and camp followers, under the command of the Swedish king, Gustav II Adolf. The child of the first two books is now 16 and living in Nuremberg. Will she escape the besieged city and leave those she loves behind? This is the series climax.

What prompted you to write about this historical event? How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

LL: I originally wanted to write about the Sichardtshof farm, an abandoned hamlet in Franconia, Germany. As I researched the area, I realized how deeply the Thirty Years War shaped South Germany. The area was almost completely devoid of people after the war. It took generations to bounce back, too. The more information I uncovered, the more my interest in this time period grew. Yes, the books are formed around recorded historical events. If the weather was bad, I wrote that into the story. If troops were invading, I wrote that in. If a General and his entourage were in town, I wrote that in as well. This was very important to me. I wanted this project to be a tribute to the people who lived and died at that time and I wanted to bring this alive for an English speaking audience who may not have access to the historical archives because of language or location barriers. I’ve listed a bibliography on my website for those who’d like to do more reading.

Of course, some deviation is necessary. I don’t believe that all historical records are accurate. We must take into consideration who was doing the recording. If the church fathers were recording the events, it will be to the benefit of the church and their Christian beliefs. Those that I find most interesting, common people and women, for example, have not had a fair voice. I wanted to give them a voice.

What research did you do for this book?

LL: I began my research for this project in 2009 and am still researching today. What started as a mild interest expanded into a full blown obsession. My favorite research materials are the Heimatsbücher, the local histories put together by local historians using council records, old deeds and street plans, old Salbücher, tax records. The research is ongoing. The third book taking place during the siege of Nuremberg and because this event is well-documented, I want to get it right.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

LL: I use historical figures in my novels but I like to concentrate on invented characters. Historical figures are much more difficult for me to write because they are already famous so most readers already have their opinions about them. I find the lesser-knowns more interesting and they need me to be their voice. These are the people who really lived, that really suffered, those that had real-life issues. Kings and queens were kings and queens. Surely, enough praises have been sung!

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

LL: All you have to do to even get a small taste of what it was like to live in a bygone era is to live without central heating for a spell. To deepen the experience, take away the gas stove and the dishwasher, turn off all the electricity and stop shopping for two weeks. Slaughter some chickens and rabbits, get on the back of a horse, collect wood for that insatiable fire. There’s no running water? Fetch some water from the well before you go to bed otherwise you have to go out in the morning. This was the backdrop of my characters’ days. For the love of the story, these tasks must take a back seat but they are ever-present, life sustaining realities.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And, if so, why?

LL: I always thought that most novels were written from a female perspective so I did some surfing around after I read this question and it seems like this isn’t the case. I like to write from both perspectives. I like one as much as the other. I am very aware of cliched roles for men and women and I try to avoid this as much as I can. My characters are based on decisions I would make or people I know would make in similar circumstances. I don’t think people’s motivations have changed much over the years. We have the same urges and the same needs. Having said that, values have changed over the years. For example, family values, like the nuclear family, are a recent phenomenon and children were not always seen as an asset in 17th century Germany.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail, Laura, and good luck with your series.

For more information about Laura Libricz please visit her website and blog. Readers can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

The Soldier’s Return is available online at the following retailers:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Soldier's Return Laura LibriczAbout Laura Libricz: She was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature. She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.

Posted in Archives, February 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper

Today I’ve invited Ana Brazil, author of Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, an historical novel set in New Orleans’ gilded age, to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her novel.

Welcome Ana. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Fanny Newcomb coverAB: FANNY NEWCOMB AND THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is a historical mystery set in 1889 New Orleans, Louisiana. Twenty-five year old Fanny is a typewriting teacher at a settlement house in the Irish Channel slums. She’s an intelligent, ambitious woman who wants to be a lawyer (impossible in 1889 New Orleans). When her favorite typewriting student is brutally murderedmuch in the manner of Jack the Ripper’s crimes—Fanny enlists her well-connected employer Principal Sylvia Giddings and her sister Dr. Olive to hunt down the murderer.

What prompted you to write about this historical event? How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

AB: I’ve always been fascinated by how contemporary women and men reacted to Jack the Ripper and his murderous killing spree. I was originally going to set my story in London—and have the action take place in the Toynbee Hall Settlement House in Whitechapel—but then I realized that I really needed to write an American story. And so I set the story in New Orleans about six months after the Ripper’s supposedly last London murder. I started with those historical facts and my imagination took it from there!

What research did you do for this book?

AB: I studied history at Florida State University (in Tallahassee) and decided to write my masters’ thesis about “Social Voluntarism in Gilded Age New Orleans”. I lived in New Orleans for one very long, hot summer and spent almost every day researching in the archives of Tulane University.

While I was researching, I kept discovering smart, active women who were organizing charities, educating children, and yes, opening up settlement houses. I kept thinking, “These women are incredible! Someone should write a novel about them! Someone should write a murder mystery about them!”

In addition to my archival research, I read a lot of Gilded Age newspapers. But my favorite research was—and is—walking and gawking in the neighborhoods of New Orleans.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

AB: Jack the Ripper was all too real and the mythology about his murders is used in the story. Writing about a real historic figure is tricky…especially if they are as infamous as Jack the Ripper. His story has been retold so many times, that I freshened it up by focusing on a copycat.

Fanny, Olive, and Sylvia are inspired by my research of late 19th century women. Newspaper editor Eliza Nicholson was a real New Orleans woman of the times (she also published poetry as Pearl Rivers) and I enjoyed introducing her into the story.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

AB: My husband and I visited New Orleans a few times while I was writing this book and were fortunate to tour (and fall in love with!) many of the buildings and neighborhoods mentioned.

I also dipped into some excellent 1880’s primary sources, such as the Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs (1885) and Soard’s Guide Book Illustrated, and Street Guide of New Orleans (also 1885).

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

AB: Women, please! My goal is to tell stories about women who assert themselves to reach their happiest path in life. That’s why I have three heroines. Or four, if you include Cousin Charlotte!

Thanks for answering my questions, Ana. I think readers are always fascinated by anything related to Jack the Ripper. My interest has been piqued by this interview and I look forward to reading the novel.

Before we wrap up, let’s give readers a taste of the novel with an excerpt: “Fanny hurried the boy through the dark halls toward the back of Wisdom Hall. She barged through the Infirmary door to find Olive looking up from behind a table of dark apothecary bottles.

Well,” the doctor asked sharply. “What is it?”

Fanny put her hand gently on Liam’s shoulders, “He sa—”

Murder!” The boy honked like a trumpet. “A girl’s been murdered in Conner’s Court!”

Murdered girls don’t need doctors.” Olive scowled at Liam and returned two of the bottles to the cupboard behind her. “Even you should know that.”

They said she was murdered…but somebody screamed for a doctor.”

Fanny pressed forward gingerly, having been told more than once that the Infirmary was Olive’s sacred soil, and entrance was by invitation only. “If there’s any chance she’s still alive, we must—”

Of course we must.” Olive took a key from her pocket and turned the lock on the medicine cupboard. She grabbed her medical bag and passed the lantern on her desk to Liam. “Well, what are you waiting for?”

Readers can learn more about Ana Brazil by visiting her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads. Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper is available at retailers online, including Amazon.

Fanny Newcomb's Ana BrazilAbout Ana Brazil: A native of California, Ana Brazil lived in the south for many years. She earned her MA in American history from Florida State University and traveled her way through Mississippi as an architectural historian. Ana loves fried mullet, Greek Revival colonnades, and Miss Welty’s garden. She has a weakness for almost all things New Orleans. (Although she’s not sure just how it happened…but she favors bluegrass over jazz.) The Fanny Newcomb stories celebrate the tenacity, intelligence, and wisdom of the dozens of courageous and outrageous southern women that Ana is proud to call friends. Although Ana, her husband, and their dog Traveller live in the beautiful Oakland foothills, she is forever drawn to the lush mystique of New Orleans, where Fanny Newcomb and her friends are ever prepared to seek a certain justice.

Posted in February 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Have a listen to Working Late

Tales Irish is a collection of 23 tales of Ireland that capture the spirit of the Irish at home and abroad. I’m delighted that Working Late, my story of learning to live in rural Ireland was chosen to be included in the book.

Working Late

The paperback edition was recently released and the ebook will soon follow.

Have a listen to me reading an excerpt from my story: Click Here.

Thanks for listening. I hope you edit and it gave you a flavour of the book.

Tales Irish, the complete anthology can be found on Amazon stores: Click Amazon page here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Do I Go? Let’s Find Out From Beverly Magid

Today I’ve invited Beverly Magid, author of Where Do I Go, an historical novel set around the turn of the twentieth century in New York to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her new novel.

Welcome Beverly. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Where Go coverBM: WHERE DO I GO is the story of Leah Peretz and her two young sons immigrating to the Lower East Side of New York in 1908. They have survived a pogrom in Russia, aimed at killing Jews in their small village, which killed Leah’s husband Morris. They come to America to live with Leah’s brothers, but life is precarious and poor, not the golden dream they had hoped for.  Leah is confronted with horrific working conditions, pitted against the bosses and faced with her son Benny running errands for the local mobster.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

BM: The times and the place are accurate. Leah and the other characters are total fiction.

What research did you do for this book?

BM: I piled many books on my shelf about the times of the early 1900’s as well as conditions in those garment sweat shops. But to create a real world for my characters, I had to research what they wore, what they ate, read, and saw around them. How Central Park looked to them, the houses on Fifth Avenue, their trip to Coney Island. That came from photos, books and articles written about that time.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

BM: In this book I did bring in real people for one of the scenes later in the novel. I very carefully quoted the people named and wrote accurate details about their participation in the meeting they attended.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

BM: As I said in the answer before, research is necessary to create any fictional world you are writing about, especially if it is in a different time. You need to consider the weather, the light, the smells, the surroundings, what did they cook, how did they dress, what limitations does their poverty bring them, religious background. The more specific the details, the more your reader is drawn into the environment and believes in your characters and their journey.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

BM: My protagonists have all been female, but some of my favorite characters have been male. In SOWN IN TEARS, I loved writing about the Russian captain, in FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN, Bobby, the wounded World War 2 soldier is a favorite. And in WHERE DO I GO, I loved writing the character of 10 year old Benny, Leah’s son. Getting into the minds of the other gender is a wonderful adventure.  I hope the readers will have the same adventure I did.

Thanks for answering my questions, Beverly. The world Leah lives in sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading about her life.

Readers can learn more about Beverly Magid by visiting her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Where Do I Go is available online on Amazon and other online retailers.

Where Go Beverly MagidAbout Beverly Magid: She was a journalist and public relations exec in the entertainment industry before writing her novels. A New Yorker at heart, she’s a long-time resident of Los Angeles. A political junkie, an advocate for the victims of war atrocities as well as animal cruelty, she believes strongly that caring for the vulnerable shows the real values of a person and a country.

Posted in January 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simply Celebrating Christmas

I love the buzz and glitter of Christmas: strings of coloured lights winking on the Christmas tree in ever-changing patterns; ornaments and tinsel in every imaginable, shiny colour; real or imitation pine wreaths, garlands and trees adorned with baubles; and the plethora of novelty items that serenade listeners with Christmas songs and carols.

Recently I’ve thought about what the season would be like without all of this. For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing a series of stories set during the Second World War in County Fermanagh – for those of you not familiar with it, it’s a county at the western edge of Northern Ireland bordering the Republic of Ireland. Most people in the western world are aware that the United Kingdom faced hardships during the Second World War, making their holiday celebrations frugal and treats rare and cherished. Conditions varied from place to place, and heavily bombed towns and cities fared worse than others.

Northern Ireland was more fortunate than many other places and its celebrations continued much as they had before the war, with less disruption than other places experienced. In County Fermanagh there had always been some differences in the way Christmas was celebrated between town and country, and between Protestant and Roman Catholic homes, but overall Christmas was kept in the same way as it always had been in homes throughout the county during the war years.

The modern festive season is much more glitzy than the wartime one. During the Second World War in County Fermanagh houses were decorated with holly and ivy, paper chains, and candles set in carved-out turnip bases. Children received simple gifts in their stockings on Christmas morning, and walked or rode in a pony and trap to church before returning home for the family dinner. In many homes a bird, usually a goose or a chicken if the larger bird couldn’t be obtained, graced the Christmas dinner table accompanied by available vegetables, including potatoes and turnips. The meat was cooked slowly in a range or a roasting pot hung on a crook over the fire. Ration coupons were saved to buy extra sugar, butter and other items but the coupons might not provide the woman of the house with all she required to bake a Christmas cake and other treats. A healthy black market trade both ways across the border with the neutral Irish Free State supplied the shortfall.

There was a huge influx of Allied troops into Northern Ireland during the war and many families invited servicemen stationed at the numerous army and RAF camps in the county to share their Christmas dinner. Their hospitality was amply repaid by the soldiers and airmen who brought treats such as tinned fruit or meat, chocolates and other luxuries. The American servicemen were particularly welcome guests as they raided their camps’ bountiful stores to bring choice items not available in the British military camps.

Preparations for the festive season began a few days before Christmas Eve (not before Halloween as is now often the case) and the festivities continued throughout the twelve days of Christmas: from Christmas Day until 6th January or Little Christmas as it is often called. While Christmas was primarily a religious holiday, it was also a time to forget cares and enjoy life with family and friends.

Although they were counterbalanced by the changes the servicemen brought to the county, both materially and socially, privation and hardship were part of the war years. But the adversity they experienced didn’t ruin their Christmas celebrations. The festive season had always been celebrated simply and they continued to enjoy it as they always had. Christmas didn’t lose its lustre during the difficult years of the war.

I recently wrote a blog post for Mary Anne Yarde’s blog about Christmas during the Second World War in Northern Ireland and it caused me to reflect on enjoying simple pleasures during the holidays. Amidst the glitz of the modern festive season, there’s still so many simple things we can enjoy. Have you ever threaded popcorn onto a string to drape across the branches of your tree or made a paper chain to decorate your house? Do you sit in the dark with your favourite drink (with or without alcohol tipped into it) and watch the flames dance in your fire or watch a candle flicker tentatively on the mantelpiece? Have you breathed in the fresh pine scent as you made a Christmas wreath for your front door? Do you savour the smell of logs burning in the fire or the scent of cinnamon wafting from the oven? Have you gazed up at the stars twinkling in the sky then scanned the darkness for lights glowing in the windows of neighbouring houses? Do you stop to listen to buskers and carollers on the street singing carols and Christmas songs? Have you stepped outside after a fresh snowfall and listened to the crunch of the snow underfoot and marvelled at the beauty of the white blanket?

What other simple holiday pleasures do you enjoy? As I said at the beginning of this post, I take a childlike delight in the glitz but I don’t need any of it to enjoy the holiday season as there are so many simple pleasures I enjoy too. Even if you are a fan of the glitz, why not take some time to enjoy the simple things this Christmas too?

Before I return to the fire to curl up with one of the Christmas novels I’m reading, I’d like to wish you, your family and friends a simple, wonderful Christmas!

Posted in December 2017 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discussing Isabella Unashamed

Today I’d like to welcome Helen R. Davis to Ascroft, eh? to discuss Isabella Unashamed.

Welcome Helen. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

H.R.D: ISABELLA UNASHAMED is a novel about Isabella I of Castile, one of history’s most infamous queens. She is widely viewed today through the lens of a more politically correct mindset that looks upon her as a despot. This is an alternate history novel that imagines Isabella taking a different route, not only after the fall of Grenada, but with her children.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

Isabella coverH.R.D: I have always been both fascinated and repulsed by Isabella I. Unlike Elizabeth I, she is not remembered fondly in historical novels or books. I learned about Isabella as a teenager, through the Royal Diary series Isabel:Jewel of Castilla, by Carolyn Meyer. Though I adored her independent spirit, I loathed her intolerance, not realizing, of course, I was projecting my own values onto a figure who lived long before 20th/21st century ideals. As I matured, I began to view Isabella in a more nuanced light. I decided to try to re-imagine how her life and legacy would have been if she had done things a little differently. The inspiration was my own CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED series, but I did not identify with Isabella or Spain as passionately as I do Cleopatra and ancient Egypt, so I decided to team up with Carolina Casas, who knew Isabella’s story more intimately than I did.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

H.R.D: While this is alternate history, we still stuck to the details known about Castilian customs, the 15th and 16th century, Isabella and Ferdinand’s characters and what was known about them.

What research did you do for this book?

H.R.D: I have visited Spain and the palace where Ferdinand and Isabella married in Segovia. Carolina has done most of the reading of the nonfiction sources used. I also read several biographies on Isabella, and several novels to help with her writing style.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

H.R.D: Writing is easy for me, so I don’t really have any difficulties. The difficulty for me was writing scenes set in Spain, since I have more of a passion for France, England and Egypt.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

H.R.D: Part of it is being in Isabella’s castle and walking the same streets and places she walked in in Spain. Another part is just reading until you feel you ‘know’ the personages of the past. I did a lot of research on Spain in college, and most of it culminated in this novel.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And, if so, why?

H.R.D: Female characters. While I would not go as far as to say women have been purposely written out of history, they are still underrepresented.

Thanks for answering my questions, Helen, and good luck with the novel. Isabella Unashamed is available on online retailers, including Amazon.

About the authors of Isabella Unashamed:

Isabella_Helen R. DavisHelen R. Davis: She is an American author. Her first novel, Evita: My Argentina was previously published as Evita: My Life and republished with Custom Book Publications in Hong Kong. Her second novel, CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED, which is the first in a series, imagines a world in which Antony and Cleopatra, rather than Augustus Caesar, are the victors of the Battle of Actium. the sequel, CLEOPATRA VICTORIOUS, will be released soon, followed by the titles CLEOPATRA MAGNIFICA and CLEOPATRA TRIUMPHANT. Her third novel, or at least, her third historical novel/alternate history, THE MOST HAPPY, will be published with Callipe Editorial, based out of Madrid Spain.

For more information, please visit Helen Davis’ website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Carolina Casas: She has a BA in History and a minor in women’s studies.

Isabella_Carolina CasasHer debut novel “Isabella Unashamed” was co-written with the author of “Cleopatra Unconquered” & “The Most Happy”, Helen R. Davis, and it is a powerful alternative historical novel that asks the important question that has been on everyone’s mind: what-if? What if Isabella had taken a different route than the one she did following the surrender of Granada at the beginning of 1492.

A young woman who enjoys life and giving to others, she is also a self-proclaimed nerd who currently resides in the lone star state of Texas where she spends her free time writing, drawing, reading about her favorite historical subjects and watching classical horror and rom-coms with her friends.

Carolina’s journey into the realm of alternate history began when she was very little. After a frightful and sleepless night, she was introduced to the legend of King Arthur and his knights through Sir Thomas Mallory’s epic “Le Morte d’Arthur” which started her fascination with the medieval period and later with other eras. This, along with her curiosity, has led her to delve into the realm of alternate history.

Carolina has several pages on Facebook where she works alongside other history buffs and novelists (Tudor Nerds with Glasses and Tudor Facts vs. Fiction), as well as a history blog where she shares her thoughts on movies and TV shows as well.

You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Posted in Archives, December 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not Just in my Head Anymore

As I mentioned on Facebook a few days ago, I’ve just had my first experience of hearing one of my short stories, An Unbidden Visitor, come alive – through the skillful narration of audiobook narrator, Elizabeth Klett.

As I write, I hear the story in my head: the mood I want to create in the narrative passages and the sound of each character’s voice. I imagine most writers have clear ideas about how their stories should sound. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a reader will envision the story in exactly the same way as the writer. Each reader will have his own perception of it and that’s to be expected. But, listening to an audiobook gives the reader a chance to hear the story as the writer envisioned it.

An Unbidden Visitor is a ghost tale, and a tale of the disturbing effect the unnatural visitation has on a community. My main character, Bridie Murphy, is at the centre of the storm as she copes with the poltergeist that has invaded her house and family, and the fear and suspicion its presence evokes from her friends and neighbours.

The story is told in the first person from Bridie’s perspective so I wanted the narrator’s voice to convey her fear, despair and sorrow as events escalate and she is faced with a heartrending decision. I also wanted the narrator to convey the mix of hope and tension that threads through the story. And all of this needed to be done with a convincing Irish accent as the narrator is speaking with Bridie’s voice.

In order to find a narrator, I listened to audition tapes from several narrators who work for the company that produced the audiobook. I chose three who I enjoyed listening to and asked them to audition an excerpt from An Unbidden Visitor. When I listened to these auditions, I immediately liked Elizabeth’s rendition of the excerpt. She captured Bridie’s voice as I imagined it and also set the correct tone of the story. It was an easy decision to ask her to do the narration.

When I made the decision who would narrate the story, I had only each narrator’s short biographical sketch and their audition tapes to base it on. I only discovered after I hired Elizabeth that her audiobook narration credentials are impressive. She also has a background in acting and teaches English at college level so it’s not suprising she was able to analyse and interpret the story with only minimal guidance from me. No doubt, her acting experience also provided the voice training and skills needed to produce the required accent. It was a real pleasure to work with Elizabeth – and so exciting to hear the results.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear Bridie Murphy step off the page – and not only in my head. That’s the magic that a skilled narrator makes happen and I’m delighted that I decided to delve into the world of audiobooks.

On Writers Abroad this week I’ve also been blogging about audiobooks and shared my experience of creating this one. You’ll find that blog post here.

An Unbidden Visitor was released last week and is available on various online audiobook distributors, including Audible and iTunes.

Posted in Archives, November 2017 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment