Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Interview - Nancy Jardine - Celtic/Roman Series.

Today I have the lovely Nancy Jardine in the interview chair, talking about her wonderful Celtic Fervour Series:
 Bk1 The Beltane Choice; Bk2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn; Bk3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks.
At the foot of the Interview you will encounter my reviews of these wonderful Celtic/Roman themed novels.

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in an area that’s steeped in antiquity- just as well since loves to write about ancient peoples. She regularly grandchild-minds; tends a messy garden; does ancestry research and leisure reading when she can squeeze them in. Her published work comprises two non fiction historical projects and six novels. Three novels are Contemporary Mysteries set in spectacular world locations; the others are Books 1 to 3 of her Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures. Writing in progress is Book 4 of her Celtic Fervour series, a Scottish family saga, and a time-travel novel for early teens which has been languishing for too long unpublished. 
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) an ancestral-based contemporary mystery/thriller, is a finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE Fiction 2014. The winner is announced at the Awards Dinner on 28th May, at the Guildhall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in London.
The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?
The Beltane Choice, the first book of the series, developed as a result of my teaching the Celtic/Roman Britain period to my upper primary classes. I loved teaching all historical eras but particularly enjoyed early Roman Britain. Researching the period isn’t easy when there is scant evidence to go by, but the era holds great fascination for me.  I chose to write about a fictional Celtic warrior family, from the hillfort of Garrigill, rather than focus on well-documented historical figures. Historically eminent Romans or Celtic nobility are mentioned in name only as part of the plots.
(2) Alpha or beta hero – profession/title/rank?– brief description!
Book One has an alpha hero in Lorcan of Garrigill, in the sense that he is in a powerful position and to many extents controlling, yet he does not hold the supreme power. Lorcan also has flaws, one of which is serious loyalty to his own Brigante tribe which doesn’t sit well with plans for a marriage with Nara of the Selgovae.  Lorcan is the second-born brother; the mediator between the local, warring Celtic tribes. He becomes the spokesperson of the northern Brigante tribes in negotiations with the Roman Empire and is the best candidate to lead his tribe after the Battle of Whorl - a bloody event against the Romans. Books Two and Three are about Brennus, a younger brother of Lorcan, who is a more of a beta hero in that his former status is somewhat compromised by the injuries he receives at the Battle of Whorl. From being the tribal champion at single combat (a high accolade in Celtic tribal structure but not one with ultimate rule), he has to come to terms with disabilities and learns to use new skills which enable him to still be a prime figure in his tribe. His new life involves assuming a second identity as a spy for his King Venutius, gathering information about Roman expansion in the northern areas. It’s a dangerous business to be involved in and not for the faint hearted. Both, I think, are lovely men!
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!
In Book One, Nara is the daughter of a Selgovae chief. She’s a feisty lass, a warrior princess with battle ready skills, but is also a healer. Her destiny abruptly changes and instead of becoming a priestess, she’s expunged from the priestess nemeton and charged with finding a man to marry, in order to father a child at Beltane. Her choice of mate cannot be made without much care and attention; a challenge she must rise to since the man must be supremely worthy. Captivity by a rival Brigante tribe makes her situation occasionally just a bit worrying, yet Nara is very adaptable, spunky and resourceful.

Books Two and Three feature Ineda of Marske. She is of lowly stature in her Brigante tribe but is a quick witted young female who has deep hatred for the Roman usurpers. She embraces the life of a spy with relish and aids Brennus of Garrigill in his guise as Bran of Witton till she is captured by a Roman tribune and kept as his slave for many years. Ineda’s enforced slavery means spying is extremely hazardous but she does not give up. She also has healing skills passed down from her grandmother which she uses to her advantage when incarcerated behind Roman fortress walls. She is a young woman of great intellect and ingenuity; full of curiosity; and loves to learn.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

In Book 1, Brennus is a secondary character with a strong role in the plot. It was because he got a raw deal from me in The Beltane Choice, I decided he needed a story of his own. That decision led to the writing of a follow-on book which, in turn, ended up being Books 2 and 3 of the series. Book 2 introduces Ineda of Marske who is also a Brigante, though not from Garrigill. As well as interacting with Brennus in Books 2 and 3, Ineda finds herself imprisoned for a while by a Roman tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius. The tribune has great impact on what happens to Ineda and as such, Gaius plays a very strong pivotal role- in essence he’s a third protagonist in Book 3. However, since my series is about the Garrigill warrior brothers, Lorcan and Brennus reappear in later books- along with their immediate families- playing secondary roles.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.
The era is the late first century Britain from AD 71 onwards. Books 1 and 2 are set in current northern England (mainly in Brigante Territory AD 71-78). The locations are Celtic hillforts or Roman forts and fortresses. Book 3 sees Brennus and the Garrigill warriors moving slowly northwards into modern day north-east Scotland, largely mirroring the northern campaigns of Governor Agricola when he marched his legions to the far north of Britannia.  Celtic settlements and Roman forts are also the main settings in Book 3.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I love plunging my characters into an imaginary landscape that I’ve created using as thorough research of the period as possible. Since visual and written artefacts are rare, there’s a lot of reliance on interpretative history. The fact that new archaeological research can alter previously perceived ideas makes researching the period even more exciting, perverse as that may sometimes seem. Though I’m writing fiction, and haven’t needed to do it, I’ve altered my WIPs to accommodate new evidence that has been unearthed whilst writing my Celtic Fervour Series.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I’m not sure I actually dislike them, but I’ve included some minor characters which have made the lives of my protagonists more difficult. I wasn’t too enamoured of a warrior of the Carvetii called Shea of Ivegill who appears in Book 1. He’s quite a nasty man who wants Nara of the Selgovae but only on terms acceptable to him. Reading the book will show why he isn’t the happiest of men. In Book 3, Ineda has to deal with her Roman master’s mean secretary - but Pomponius isn’t all bad, he has some qualities I hope readers will enjoy. Otherwise I’ve not, so far, felt the need to make any character really, really horrible.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

No. I don’t avoid sex scenes but I’ve had to be cautious in writing some of the scenes to avoid some readers reading it as rape. However, I stand by my decisions that in the era in which I’m writing, what we now term ‘rape’ – as in unwanted sex – happened as a result of war between Celtic tribes, and between the Celts and the Roman Empire. When Celtic lands were invaded, I’m sure such events did occur. With regard to violence, I have some scenes of battle which definitely include bloody tactics – though I don’t believe they are unnecessarily gory. 

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

My series is being promoted as Historical Romantic Adventure. It has a sound historical background in which varying degrees of romantic entanglements happen, so it isn’t a historical romance where the romance is prime, and the background superficial. Happy endings don’t result in all books. It isn’t conventional historical fiction since the protagonists aren’t Kings, Queens or well-known historical figures- though the backdrop is historically accurate in terms of settings and historical locations. My authentic historical Celtic and Roman figures appear in cameo roles, or are mentioned in a background role. The Celtic Fervour Series is a meld of different historical sub-genres and as such is Historical Romantic Adventure.


Back cover blurb: Book 3- After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks
Pursued by Rome. AD73 Northern Britannia

After King Venutius’ defeat, Brennus of Garrigill – known as Bran – maintains a spy network monitoring Roman activity in Brigantia. Relative peace reigns till AD 78 when Roman Governor Agricola marches his legions to the far north. Brennus is always one step ahead of the Roman Army as he seeks the Caledon Celt who will lead all tribes in battle against Rome.
Ineda of Marske treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius, who is responsible for supplying Agricola’s northern campaigns. At Inchtuthil Roman Fort Ineda flees seeking fellow Brigantes congregating on the foothills of Beinn na Ciche.
Will the battle against the Romans bring Ineda and Brennus together again?

Thank you.
My review of The Beltane Choice:

If you're a fan of the late TV drama series "Xena Warrior Princess", then "The Beltane Choice" is for you. It's set in AD 71, Britannia, and the heroine is indeed a Warrior Princess. Nara has lived for many years on the Island of Nemetom with the priestesses until her coming of age, and the upcoming Beltane fires are set to decide her fate.

Although extremely brave, from page one Nara has committed a grave mistake and by her own hand has incited the wrath of a wild beast. Put to flight and seeking a safe haven her options are few. To accept the help of any warrior is bad enough and goes against the grain of Nara's upbringing. To be grateful to an enemy warrior is humiliating indeed. Besides, not only does her bitterest enemy achieve a kill where she has failed, he has it in mind to reap a grand reward in exchange for her life. But her life comes at a greater price than expected. Unwilling to concede to his ardent advances, albeit he awakens forbidden desires within her, she cannot and will not succumb.

Lorcan, although a hardened warrior and far superior in strength he nonetheless concedes to wise inner counsel and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his captive. For rather than take her against her will, he knows the journey ahead is long and arduous and will afford time enough for him to win her over: if that is ever possible. Her belief all man's inner desires and needs are base proves mildly amusing to him, and he's not immune to her secret observations all things Lorcan.

But events soon unravel to mar a burgeoning mutual respect erring affection between the captor and captive, and although both are aware of intense desire and longing they remain enemy warriors, Brought to the tribe elder Nara is forced to await her fate for she is nought but a bargaining tool between two tribes. And yet, a Roman legion marching ever closer is set to turn her fate around, and come the night of the Beltane Fires she wishes to succumb to the one she loves but is instead betrothed to another. How then can the Goddess Rhianna make her life complete and remove the darkness now befallen her? Of course as the fires fall to smouldering embers and the sun rises on the distant horizon Goddess Rhianna finally plays her trump card!

Nancy Jardine has spun a wonderful romance set within Roman Britain, and likewise woven a tapestry of tribal life and political ambitions in the shadows of the great forests of Britannia.

My Review: After Whorl - Bran Reborn:

In this novel, the second of a trilogy set in Britannia 71 AD, Nancy Jardine brings the heartbreaking post-battle trauma experienced by Brennus (hero) to the forefront of his very existence. Although as a well-trained native warrior, when faced with the might of well-trained Roman soldiers, the Brigante's defeat at the Battle of Whorl reveals the weakness of individualistic heroics against that of disciplined Roman team-led assaults and defence tactics. Left for dead, to his chagrin, Brennus' survival is reliant upon the expertise of an aged healing woman (Meaghan), who not only tends to his physical injuries she affords wise counsel. But in the long process of his recovery and the sad loss of his healer, he sheds his old identity as Brennus of Garrigill and instead is reborn as Bran of Witton.

With Witton as his adoptive home, and he too becoming an adoptive son, Bran is as good as sworn to protect his adoptive sister (Meaghan's granddaughter) from harm, which is easier said than done. Ineda proves a force to be reckoned with, and causes Bran (Brennus) more than mere headaches, for he becomes enslaved as a day-worker to Roman supremacy and she remains free to roam within set boundaries. Nonetheless, both are committed to ridding the land of the Roman invaders, occupiers-cum-slave takers, and when opportunities arise for garnering valued knowledge of the enemy and troop movements, Bran and Ineda are as one but find themselves at odds in ways that are to prove fatal for both. And so the saga continues, for suddenly and brutally separated, their roles are reversed, in that Bran is free to roam and Ineda is enslaved. Although each knows where the other's heart lies, can they ever be as one again?

It will be intriguing to see, come book three, when and where Bran (Brennus) and his brother Lorcan (book 1) will meet again, if ever, and what effect the Roman officer's enslavement of Ineda will have upon her wilful streak. Either way, a tribal and Roman Pow Wow is in the offing, but will it bring peace with compromise or a fiery hell-ridden showdown with the Romans? Roll on book 3
My Review: After Whorl - Donning Double Cloaks:

It’s Northern Britannia AD73, and through the eyes of Lorcan and Brennus, two Brigante brother warriors, Nancy Jardine casts the reader back in time to Celtic Britain. It all seems such a far off point in history until the first light of dawn streaks the horizon, mists rise from deep dark dells to creep wraithlike across hills, and the sound of wood on wood is heard. That sound alone was the moment I stepped into Nancy Jardine’s Celtic world of the The Beltane Choice. Subsequently, Whorl: Bran Reborn was next on my agenda. I then eagerly awaited the publication day of book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, and this is why:

Book 1 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic/Roman series brings to the fore two brothers with wooden swords, who grow to manhood and become hardened Brigante warriors. Thus this reader lived through their hopes; their dreams; their love of their homeland and their struggle to survive the advancing might that is the Great Army of Rome. The Celtic tribes have little choice but to fight and die by the Roman Gladius or capitulate and serve their new overlords. And yet love still blossomed within the sanctity of the Celtic hearths, and the hero Lorcan discovered a happiness he never thought could be his. But he lost something dear to his heart too, and that something became the heart of book 2.

By Book 2 the Celtic struggle to regain sense of freedom has the reader riding with Brennus who becomes separated from his kin in tragic circumstances, and all the while the might of the Great Army of Rome advances steadily northward. After a great battle, Brennus is all but a broken man, his survival and enslavement serves only to instil greater loathing for every Roman standing on the land of Britannia. And for Brennus love springs from an unexpected source and brings with it great healing and greater determination to survive, and to escape and once again challenge the might of the Roman invader. But with freedom comes tragedy.

By Book 3, Brennus and Lorcan are again as one in mind, body and spirit. Rebellion is on the ether. And while Brennus has already sacrificed much for his freedom, the woman (Ineda) who made him whole again sacrifices even more. Torn between loyalty to her Roman master (for personal reasons) and that of her people, she risks her life to relay vital information to Celtic spies and couriers. Likewise Lorcan could lose everything that is close to his heart, but if the Celts are to achieve freedom from oppression, the rape of their lands, the slaughter of their people and hold fast to the dream of one day setting the might of the Roman Army to flight, they must stand and fight! This Book (3) is every bit as thrilling as 1 & 2, and I’m fingers crossed this is not the last of Brennus, Lorcan and their children.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Interview - Judith Arnopp.

Today, in the Interview chair, I have the lovely author Judith Arnopp, talking about her latest novel
"Intractable Heart" : the story of Katheryn Parr. 

In 2007 Judith Arnopp graduated from the University of Wales, Lampeter with a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Medieval Studies; she now combines those skills to write historical novels.

Her early books; Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd concentrated on the Anglo- Saxon/ medieval period but in 2010 she published a short pamphlet of ‘Tudor’ stories entitled, Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens.  Some people loathed it but many loved it and she received endless requests for full length ‘Tudor’ novels. 


For a while Judith buried herself once more in study, refreshing her already extensive knowledge of the period. The result was The Winchester Goose, the story of a prostitute from Southwark called Joanie Toogood whose harsh existence is contrasted with that of Henry’s fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. The Winchester Goose is a multi-narrative illustrating Tudor life from several, very different perspectives; a prostitute, a Spy, and a Lady-in-Waiting at the royal court.
Judith’s next book The Kiss of the Concubine details the life of Anne Boleyn, told in the first person- present tense, the story takes you to the very heart of England’s most talked about queen.
Her third Tudor novel is Intractable Heart, the tale of Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. Judith also blogs about the Tudor period, both on her own blog-page and on the English Historical Fiction Author’s website. Her work reaches a world-wide audience and her following is steadily increasing.
As a self-published author Judith maintains direct control of her work and avoids the hassle involved with agents and publishers. Self-publishing speeds up the process but accuracy and attention to detail is paramount. Her small team is made up of three proof readers, an editor, and a cover designer all of whom work with Judith toward a finished product that is as polished as they can get it, but still they seek ultimate perfection.

The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

While I was researching for my second Tudor novel, The Kiss of the Concubine; a story of Anne Boleyn I kept chancing upon references to Katheryn Parr. I had always been led to believe she was an older woman, a nursemaid and, on the whole, rather dull. I was surprised to discover she was anything but and made a mental note to give her a book of her own.

(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

There are two main male characters in this book. You might expect Henry VIII to be a real villain but in this novel he is psychologically damaged and growing old. Henry’s flaw is his inability to find love. Thomas Seymour, Lord Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England is young, handsome, rather foolhardy and fuelled by ambition. His fatal flaw is his impetuosity and lack of wisdom. He is over fond of the ladies but you can’t help but love him.

(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

I’m not sure she needs an introduction but Katheryn Parr was Henry VIII sixth wife. She was married four times, Henry was her third husband; her fourth, Thomas Seymour, was her downfall. She is sensible in every way, putting her personal desires aside for the sake of duty until she is weakened by her passion forThomas Seymour. She marries himshortly after the king’s death and without the permission of the council and all sorts of misfortune follows.

(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Oh, tons. Katheryn’s step-children, John Neville, Margaret Neville, Mary Tudor (later Queen Mary I), Elizabeth Tudor (later Queen Elizabeth I), and Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI).Her siblings Anne Herbert and William Parr. All of these people play an important part in both Katheryn’s journey to becoming Henry’s sixth queen, and are with her in the aftermath, and the lead up to her death.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

The novel opens in Tudor England, in 1537 during a siege at Snape Castle during the northern uprisings. The plot then travels from Yorkshire to the royal court in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign and the early years of Edward VI’s.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

The Medieval/Tudor period is a favourite of mine, as is the Anglo-Saxon era. I don’t find the world after Queen Elizabeth I quite as enthralling but I do read novels set in any historical era. These days, my research and my writing is mainly centred on Medieval/Tudor.

(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I always try to give my characters motive for even their worst crimes so because I understand them I can’t dislike them too much. I even have a soft spot for Henry VIII.Each personality is made up of different shades of grey. They are like my children. When they do things to displease me it makes me sad and I just hope I can help them overcome it.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

There is love and violence in all my novels. It can’t really be avoided writing in the period that I do. I try to ensure it is never gratuitous, always moves the plot on and it is never too graphic. I prefer to recount the emotion of the experience rather than the geography.When it comes to the sex in my novels my dad is my worst critic. He is of the old school and believes such things should never be discussed but my argument is, I am writing about the human condition and you cannot begin to touch what makes us ‘human’ without including sex. Sex, or the lack of it, reveals so much about a person, and I would never omit it. I don’t glorify it although in my novels it is often very far from ‘romantic.’ I mean, can you imagine how it must have been for Katheryn being intimate with an unhealthy old man like Henry VIII?

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

I am always stuck when it comes to answering this. I suppose they are historical fiction. They have a bit of everything and are not in any way rose-tinted. You will find love, you will find sex, you will find childbirth, you will find death, you will find suffering, there are tears but there is laughter too and warmth. Like life, my books are a mixture of all these things.

Back cover blurb:

1537. As the year to end all years rolls to a close, King Henry VIII vents his continuing fury at the pope. The Holy Roman Church reels beneath the reformation and as the vast English abbeys crumble the royal coffers begin to fill. The people of the north, torn between loyalty to God and allegiance to their anointed king, embark upon a pilgrimage to guide their errant monarch back to grace. But Henry is unyielding and sends an army north to quell the rebel uprising. In Yorkshire, Katheryn Lady Latimer, and her step-children, Margaret and John, are held under siege at Snape Castle.
The events at Snape castle form Katheryn and set her on a path that will lead from the deprivations of a castle under siege to the perils of the royal Tudor court.

The novel, Intractable Heart, is told via four narrators, Katheryn’s step daughter, Margaret Neville; Katheryn herself; her fourth husband Thomas Seymour; and her step-daughter Elizabeth, later to become Queen Elizabeth I.

Katheryn Parr emerges as an intelligent, practical woman; a woman who sets aside her love for Thomas Seymour to do her duty and marry the aging king. Katheryn becomes Henry VIII’s partner in all things, acting as Regent for England during the French war, embracing and guiding Henry’s three motherless children, and providing a strong supporting voice for religious reform.

It is not until the king’s death, when she is finally free to follow the desires of her heart that her life descends into chaos … and wretchedness.

Judith Arnopp’s published work includes:
Intractable Heart
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Forest Dwellers
The Song of Heledd
Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens
A Tapestry of Time

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Interview - Louise Turner.

Today I have the lovely Louise Turner sitting in the Interview chair
talking about her novel
 "Fire and Sword".

Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent.  She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management.  Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and in 1988, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday. Louise lives with her husband in west Renfrewshire.

The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

It was inspired by the landscape and history of the area where I live in West Renfrewshire, Scotland, and in particular by the Collegiate Church of Castle Semple, which is an old ruined church built in the early 1500s.  I was intrigued by the story of its founder, John, 1st Lord Sempill: what piqued my interest most of all was a reference to him in one of our local historical accounts.  His life was summarised by one little sentence which went along the lines of ‘Sir Thomas Sempill died defended the King at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 and his son John was made a Lord of Parliament a year later.’ Now, considering that the rightful King of Scots was murdered at Sauchieburn, and that John was elevated very rapidly to ranks of the nobility by his successor, it was clear that John Sempill enjoyed a massive transformation in fortunes in a very short period.  I wanted to explore how such a change in circumstances could have happened, and the result of my research formed the framework of ‘Fire & Sword.’

(2)Alpha or beta hero – profession/title/rank?– brief description!

This is a difficult question, because I don’t think your average late medieval male can really be completely placed within either category!  In terms of his social status, John Sempill is most definitely an alpha hero – though not ennobled, he’s a baron and a sheriff, and as such is required to be a leader of both his household and his fellow men. At the same time, he wants very much to pursue the virtues which would be more in keeping with what we’d call a ‘beta’ hero – he believes in chivalry, and would like the world to seen him as noble and virtuous and good.  In his terms, this means he’s generous to his family, sympathetic to his tenants, and suitably pious in his religious and charitable life so his authority always comes across as firm but fair. John inherits his titles at the start of the book and we watch him grow as he shoulders this burden in difficult circumstances. Since his father died a traitor, his situation is precarious, with rival families plotting against him to make gains at his expense, until he ends up fearing not only for his own future but for that of his entire family line. In such circumstances, he sometimes finds himself pushed into doing things he wouldn’t necessarily condone and it’s how he rises above and beyond this that forms the main focus of the novel.

3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

Margaret Colville is certainly more of a stroppy heroine than a sloppy heroine!  The only daughter of an Ayrshire baron, Margaret finds herself married to John Sempill for political reasons. When she was first betrothed to him, he had good prospects, and her family thought she’d do well from the marriage.  But when the time comes, his situation is at its nadir, and the last thing Margaret wants is to get married to a traitor.  In her mid-teens, Margaret is forced into a place where she really doesn’t want to go. All she can do in response is make life as difficult as possible for her new husband until he can become the high-achiever she was bound to marry in the first place.  She accomplishes this with aplomb – so a major element of the story is how two people who have been yoked together in extremely difficult circumstances can find some common ground and grow to love each other.

(3) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Hugh, 2nd Lord Montgomerie definitely has claim to that role!  He’s the anti-hero of the piece, a mercurial and ruthless nobleman who kills John’s father on the battlefield and rapidly rises to power in the new regime. John finds himself reliant on Montgomerie’s favour as he battles to survive and prosper, and it’s something he finds increasingly difficult to justify as Montgomerie’s underhand methods are inevitably at odds with his own.

(4) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

It’s set in late fifteenth century Scotland, at the beginning of King James IV’s reign (1488-1513). James IV is well known as Scotland’s flamboyant, cultured and outward-looking Renaissance king, but his early years on the throne were less than promising. Fire & Sword explores this period, which was plagued by feuds and political intrigue.

(5) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I think what fascinates me most is the fact that it’s a time of transition.  It’s a period when medieval self-loathing is giving way to the more enlightened attitudes of the Renaissance, when Classical thinking is becoming more widespread and there’s great hope for the future.  It’s also a period of massive transformation in the ruling classes – the ‘old’ order of the knights is losing ground and the nobility are finding that they have to compete in a more egalitarian world where career politicians (often lawyers) can become just as influential at the highest level.  This is especially true in Scotland, where society appears to have been less rigidly defined than in contemporary England, with marriages often taking place between the landed families and the monied nouveau riche who lived in the towns.  John Sempill’s mother, for example, is the sister of a minor Ayrshire knight who has advanced very far as a career lawyer, to the point where he is the Lord Advocate of Scotland and charged with arraying King James III’s army before the ill-fated Battle of Sauchieburn.

(6) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

To be honest, I have to say that I don’t really dislike any of my characters.  Obviously, it’s easy to detest Matthew Stewart, who’s the real villain of the piece, but everything he does is logical and justifiable when you see things from his point of view. I actually get into his head in the follow-up to Fire & Sword, and - believe me - he’s really not that bad once you get to know him.  I don’t believe that in most cases individuals represent absolute good or absolute evil – there’s usually some gradation in between.  In short, everyone in Fire & Sword is out to protect their own interests.
Some, like John, do this politically and by largely peaceful means, others do it by using the fire and the sword of the title.  And John Sempill can be as bad as the rest of them when the mood takes him, behaving in a manner that’s very harsh and vindictive.  In his case, however, he at least has the decency to feel bad about it afterwards.

(7) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

Not really.  I write what I need to write, and that’s that.  Whether it survives the editing process is another matter – quite often, scenes of sex and violence mostly end up abandoned on the cutting room floor because they slow down the pace of the story! I let the reader add whatever details they want to using their own imaginations.

(8) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling
adventure, or...?

It fits nicely in the ‘historical fiction’ bracket, though that’s a very broad term for a genre that’s very multi-facetted in its nature.  I suppose I’d describe Fire & Sword as a coming-of-age tale set against a background of political intrigue, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.

Back cover blurb:

On the 11th June in 1488, two armies meet in battle at Sauchieburn, near Stirling. One fights for King James the Third of Scotland, the other is loyal to his eldest son, Prince James, Duke of Rothesay.
Soon, James the Third is dead, murdered as he flees the field. His army is routed. Among the dead is Sir Thomas Sempill of Ellestoun, Sheriff of Renfrew, whose son and heir, John, escapes with his life.
Once John’s career as knight and courtier seemed assured. But with the death of his king, his situation is fragile. He’s the only surviving son of the Sempill line and he’s unmarried. If he hopes to survive, John must try and win favour with the new king. And, deal with the ruthless and powerful Lord Montgomerie...

Author web site

Thank you.

Monday, 30 June 2014

"The Interview" - Andrea Zuvich.

Today for “The Interview” I have the lovely Andrea Zuvich talking about her novel
The Stuart Vampire.

Andrea Zuvich is a historian specialising in the Late Stuarts of the 17th-century and is the creator and writer of the popular Early Modern history website, The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea was born in Philadelphia to Chilean immigrant parents, and later educated in History and Anthropology at both the University of Central Florida and Oxford University. A member of London Historians, the Historical Writers Association, and the Historical Novel Society, she has been independently researching the 1600s since 2008.A UK resident, Zuvich is a leader on and one of the original developers of The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces. She has been interviewed by NTR (Netherlands), BBC (UK) and others about the Stuarts and has written for The Huffington Post UK.

The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

I have always been interested in gothic novels. I really enjoyed Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and The Monk by Matthew Lewis. Dark tales, and stories that combine both the wicked aspects of humanity and those of supernatural folklore intrigue me. When I wrote my first novel, His Last Mistress: The Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth, I focused on the doomed love affair between the two main characters, who once actually existed. In The Stuart Vampire, I have the first chapter start off as a standard historical/biographical fiction novel but then more fiction and the horror elements begin to take over.

(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

Our main (anti)hero is Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who contracts smallpox when he's twenty years old. Instead of dying, a vampiress (who has been obsessed with him from afar) turns him into a vampire and brings him into a world of death and darkness – a world he despises. He does some pretty horrific things, but there is the light of goodness still in his heart. He is plagued by a conscience and this is something the transformation into vampirism was supposed to have destroyed. I became interested in the real Henry Stuart after seeing his portrait – his whole face seemed most vampire-like –and that just made me imagine a storyline with him as the protagonist.

(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

The heroine is a long-suffering young woman named Susanna Edmonds. She lives in Coffin’s Bishop, which is a severely inbred town, and her life is a series of horrors – rape, bullying, servitude, and more – and that’s before she becomes acquainted with horrors of the supernatural world! In spite of the numerous hardships she has faced, Susanna is not a bitter, angry woman, but sweet and hard-working, and Henry acknowledges this and respects her for it. Susanna does, however, undergo a major character change and she finds the strength to avenge certain wrongs.

(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

The secondary (lead) is the antagonist, Griselda di Cuorenero, an Italian countess who is exceedingly beautiful. Her extreme vanity leads her into the arms of the Devil – and she pretty much becomes the Devil’s groupie. She’s besotted by his power, but she still has a strong need to be loved and desired by a man. First, there was Adolphe de la Fontaine, a man who couldn’t accept the creature she was and paid dearly for it. She’s a very interesting character because she is a combination of madness, of obsession about things most of us consider superficial, and she loves evil. I pity her a bit because all of her life she was taught that she was beautiful and so she treated everyone like dirt. She simply doesn’t understand that beauty really is only skin deep. And in her case, she’s rotten on the inside.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

The story takes place in several times and countries. It begins in the Victorian period, goes back to the 1650s, then further back to the 1400s, back to the 17th-century, then to the 16th-century, 17th-century, and back to the 19th-century. Readers go from England to France, to Constantinople.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I absolutely love the 17th-century because it had everything – the political landscape is fascinating, the historical figures from this time are vibrant, and the moral pendulum swung this way and that. I felt quite happy, however, to have been able to write in other time periods for once – I quite like the gas-lit streets of Victorian London and the coastal palace in Italy during the Renaissance. Let’s just say I had a LOT of fun writing this!

(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

The whole town is dislikeable! That being said, both Belinda and her brother, Peter (who is just a thug) are the worst. Both these characters make Susanna’s life quite miserable. But they might just get their just desserts. I don’t like people who are cruel or aggressive and both of these characters exhibit both.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

No. In fact, there are some very violent scenes, but I tried not to make any of the scenes gratuitous. They are there for a reason – each and every one of them. There are massacres, a rape scene, a disturbing witch trial and hanging – so it is not for children!

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

This is a historical horror with a touch of romance. It begins as a normal historical fiction, and then the supernatural elements come in.


Back cover blurb:

Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, is the youngest brother of King Charles II and James, Duke of York. A handsome, good man, his life ends in 1660 with smallpox...or does it? Obsessed with Henry, Contessa Griselda di Cuorenero - one of the Devil's concubines - turns him into a vampire and plunges him into the world of night. Pacts with the Devil, massacres, plague, fire, witch trials, and the love of a lonely outcast from the sleepy village of Coffin's Bishop have an irrevocable impact on the young vampire. Henry must choose between his humanity and his monstrous, insatiable desire for human blood. From the author of "His Last Mistress," The Stuart Vampire is a dark gothic tale incorporating the real horrors of mankind in the Early Modern period, natural disaster, and the supernatural world.

Author web site/blog url(s). Andrea's Website



Thank you to Francine for this interview!

You're welcome, Andrea.

My Review of Andrea's novel: The Stuart Vampire.

With the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England (1660). there is much rejoicing within the royal court. Nonetheless, the seeming Stuart Curse is once again set to bring more heartache to the royal household, for while the opulence and profligacy of the royal court, (as history dictates) is yet to manifest in full splendour, death is already stalking through the royal apartments. Needless to say, a royal death is the catalyst to The Stuart Vampire. Thus this novel, although well-researched and historically correct, fantasy soon begins to creep centre stage when a wraithlike creature enters the room of a sick prince. The reader is then thrust into the realm of the un-dead, an overall existence that can lead to purgatory and a tortured soul, or to that of love with a tempting beautiful vampire. Beauty, though, is often merely skin deep, and eventually forbidden love brings the tortured soul from the darkness of entrapment, a love that knows no bounds and crosses the great divide.

Cast disbelief aside, go with the flow of this novel, and enjoy the dark side!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Interview - Doug Boren

Today I have the author, Doug Boren, talking about his array of swashbuckling tomes: "The Alexander Family Chronicles"


Pirates Revenge, Patriot’s Point, Beyond the Horizons, and

The Final Voyage of the Sea Explorer.



 Douglas Boren has lived a full and exciting life. A retired Physician Assistant, he has lived from Alaska to Florida, from New York to New Mexico, and many places in between. An avid Master scuba diver, he divides his time between the Caribbean and his home in North Carolina. He has always had a profound fondness for history, believing that rather than just a series of dates and events, it is a living record of real people, much like ourselves, how they live, and their impact on those around them and their role in the unfolding story of life.
Towards that end, his writings have focused on a particular family through the generations. He informally calls them the Alexander Family Chronicles. From 1600's England, to 1700's Caribbean, to the American Revolution, to the American Civil War, right on up to present day, you can follow the exploits of these remarkable men and women as they face their unique challenges and overcome incredible odds.



(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?
Ever since I was a teenager, I have loved reading.   Over the course of time, I felt like, “Gosh, I know I can writer as good as that… maybe better.”  So I have always dreamed of writing. One day about 14 years ago, I was brainstorming about what kind of scenario would make a good basis for a book.  I finally came upon the idea of an isolated individual beset by hostiles.  This could mean almost anything, but it eventually became a section of my first book, Beyond the Horizons.This is set in the American Civil War, and shortly thereafter, and I knew that historical fiction was the genre for me. My next book saw more of the Alexander family, so I determined to write about a different generation of that family.  To follow the adventures, the trials and tribulations of these remarkable people in remarkable times.
(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!
My main characters are very much the alpha hero, but there is a very generous addition of many secondary characters who are in supporting roles, who are of various types.  And they all come to be admired, even loved by the reader.
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!
Most of the female characters are somewhat proper, maybe even a bit naïve, at least at first.  They all have an incredibly good heart that easily sets them apart from their peers.  But one female character was definitely nor of that ilk.  The Black Widow was the Queen of a pirate nation, and she is as ruthless and daring as any man… maybe more so.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?
The incredible bond of friendship between the main character and the secondary ones is a hallmark of my stories.  There is loyalty, and even love shared, and the reader comes to care as much for them as they do the main character.
(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.
Pirates Revenge begins in England in 1700, and progresses to the Caribbean for the next three decades.  Patriot’s Point is set during the American Revolution in North Carolina.  Beyond the Horizons takes places during the America Civil War in New Mexico, and after the war, in Arizona, during the Apache wars, during the 1870’s.  The Final Voyage of the “Sea Explorer,is set in the present day, in the Bahamas.
(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?
I love history.  I always have.  I like to make history come alive in the imagination of the reader so they can be educated and see how people lived and struggled in times not their own, but in reality dealing with many of the same problems and emotions that we do today.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
I have written about some pretty despicable characters.  Two in particular stand out.  In Pirates Revenge, Ramirez is evil personified.  He is vile, sadistic, ruthless, and cunning and you come to really hate him for all the terrible things he does.
In Beyond the Horizons, a renegade Apache named Chactoke slaughters countless people wantonly, and tortures them with a vile sense of religious fervour.  You can’t wait for him to be killed… or can you?
(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?
I usually include one or two erotic scenes, if I think they will advance the story, and edify the characters to the reader to the point of identification.  I take great pains to make them tasteful, not pornographic.
Gross violence is certainly something I embrace. I write about some very rough and terrifying times, places and people.  To avoid the real essence of that and water it down would be a disservice to the reader.  There is something to be said for “shock value”.
(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?
The overall genre is historical Fiction. 
However, one could safely say they are also action/adventure, thrillers, and often have elements of a real tear jerker.  Every time I read Patriot’s Point I am brought to tears, and heck, I wrote the darn thing.




  Back cover blurb:

Imagine a fatherless boy, the result of a brutal rape, growing up in London’s worst slum in the 1700’s.  Think of him becoming a man of the sea, knowing nothing but the company of pirates, as he becomes the consort of the Black Widow, queen of the largest pirate fleet the world has ever known. As the need for vengeance nearly consumes him, will he be destroyed or will he find salvation from the most unlikely of sources?  This is Rafe Alexander!
And what of a young man growing up on the eve of a new nation, who is willing to give his life for his beloved country, the United States of America?  Deeply embedded in him are the
principles of liberty, freedom, justice, and equality.  He wants nothing more than to live in a free country with his beloved family, but will the forces that guide his life let him?  Meet Trey Alexander!
The descendants of these men navigate their way through turbulent times, reaching a climax in the American Civil War.And even after surviving the horrors of that conflict a certain young man must survive the most vile and terrible foe of all as he tries to live with his beloved in the Arizona Apache Wars.   This man cheats death in more ways than can be imagined.You will marvel at Mace Alexander!
And finally, what of the young man, just barely past being a boy, caught up in the treacherous
currents of intrigue in the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas?Naïve to the forces that are bearing down on him, the past of his ancestors catches up to him. He is driven to honour them, if he can survive.  This is Josh Alexander!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Alexanders. Remarkable people in remarkable times.

Douglas’ profile page at Amazon where you can view all his listed books.

Author website:


Thank you, Francine, for the opportunity to be interviewed by you.


Douglas Boren



Thank you.