Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Diana talks to Major Thankful and Mistress Thomazine Russell (nee Babbitt)

It is really wonderful to sit down with you, Major Russell, and to meet you and the lovely Mistress Russell. (She’s prettier than you might expect, if you don’t mind an certain unmistakable family resemblance. And he looks considerably more ragged at the edges, too, for an urbane partially-retired intelligencer.)

I understand that a book about the early days of your marriage and the adventures that befell you, is out in September. Now the first we heard of you, you were a young lieutenant in the New Model Army, major, and your wife was, er -
Thomazine: Not quite two. That's right, yes.

So - I have to ask - Mistress Russell, how old were you when you realised you wanted to marry him?
T: I never didn’t want to marry him! He’s not really that enigmatic, you know. You just can’t always tell what he’s thinking.
Russell: (looking amused) Due to a certain inflexibility of expression, tibber?
T: Well - yes. I was trying not to put it so plain, my honey, but yes. Because of the scar.
R: Oh, bless you, sweet - as if after the better part of thirty years I might not yet be accustomed to my marred face.
T:  (crossly) It is not marred! I won’t hear it! You are lovely – you always were, even when - when I was very little I thought some of the more righteous sort of smitey angels must have looked like you – all fierce and straight and fiery. (She ducks her head and won’t look at him.) AndIthoughtyouwerebeautiful.
R: What?
T: (blushing horribly) I thought you were beautiful.
R: What, even when you were -?
T: Yes.
R: Good lord. So – er – when did you actually decide you intended to marry me?
T: When I worked out that you were someone who could be married, and not just an angel in a white nightie. I think I would have been about fifteen. Which is perfectly decent, dear. I waited till I was all of twenty to do anything about it, didn’t I?

Good lord. So London – what happened?
T: It was all very exciting, you know.
R: Well, I should not say exciting, my tibber, rather it was –dangerous and uncomfortable and several things happened that I would not consider at all a fit and proper subject for an improving work.
T: Of course, my honey. It was fun though, wasn’t it?
R: If you consider being suspected of treason, arson, and most of the murders in London – not to say having my wife abducted and all but killed from under my very nose - to be a matter of entertainment, madam, you want your head testing. Not to say having to engage with the Earl of Rochester and his infernal ape, and being eyed as a subject of scientific research by the Royal Society.
T: I enjoyed the ride in the carriage, though....
R: Thomazine!

He is changing the subject, isn't he?
T: Oh bless him yes, he's not yet accustomed to being the sort of man who has a romantic nature.
R: (definitely changing the subject, with an air of grim resolution) Well. I had not - as you know, I had not - I did not think anyone would ever choose to be harnessed to such as I, and so I had not really made provision for a wife. And then, you know, I met Thomazine -
T: Again. You met me again.
R: We met again, then, and I wanted to - it was in my mind for the first time that there was, there might be, that I -
T: (demurely) I made it clear that I was not averse to his courtship.
R: And then I had news that my sister had died, and that I had come into possession of the house at Four Ashes. What was left of it.

Ah. Your sister. You were never close to her, but did you ever have any tender feelings for her? What would she have thought of your lovely new wife?
R: Oh, I didn’t have any. For anyone, I think. My sister made very sure of that.
T: If you could not listen for a minute, my honey – (fiercely) your sister was a poisonous bitch and she deserved to burn. And I’m glad she did, or I might have had to see to it myself.
R: Oh no, Thomazine, don’t say that!
T: She abused you, Thankful! She should have taken care of you and loved you and instead she hurt you and told you what a bad, worthless, horrible little boy you were and that nobody would ever want to love you, ever –
R: But you do, and she was wrong. She would have hated you for that. Making her wrong, I mean.
T: She would have hated me anyway, dear, for not putting up with her sh-
R: Thomazine!
T: Chicanery, I was about to say. And I am sure she would not have approved at all of the fact that I happen to rather like you. You are a very satisfactory husband, for the most part.

Because you were brought up strictly Puritan, weren’t you – I believe your full name is actually Thankful-For-His-Deliverance. Did you never wish you'd been named something more ordinary?
R: Frequently. Though my sister was Fly-Fornication, so I consider myself to have escaped lightly.

Which clears that up. So you were saying about London?
T: Oh, it was wonderful.
R: Apart from the being suspected of being a spy, and not quite killed, parts.
T: It was very exciting, though.
R: (not sounding convinced) Mmm. It was intended to be a pleasant diversion - I had retired from my work for the Admiralty, I was looking forward to spending a peaceful and restful few weeks showing my wife the sights and sounds of London society.
T: - and instead you ended up having to go back to work.
R: Indeed.

Mistress Russell - may I call you Thomazine? - thinking of the wedding favour you embroidered for Thankful, do you actually like embroidery or is it something that a woman like you has to do?
T: Oh, please do call me Thomazine. I like it – I like pretty things – but, um, I’m not actually that good at it. I’m fierce at setting things in order, but I’ve not the patience for embroidery. I’m more of a tidier-upper. My garden is perfectly lovely, mind. To think what it looked like at Four Ashes when I first saw it –
R: It looked like a house that had been burned to the ground, love, and was in the process of being rebuilt.
T: It proper gave me the shivers at first – knowing it had burned with her in it. But it’s all right, isn’t it? We’ve sort of made it our own. (She looks at him,  trying not to laugh) When your husband is a man of business who trades as far as the Indies, you acquire some very odd trinkets....
R: (smugly) Singular, my tibber
T: He is making up for lost time, I think. I was brought up plain – not strict, but plain – mam is a very sensible goodwife, so hard work doesn’t bother me at all. Hard work, clean linen, and good feeding. This one – (she pats him affectionately) – is like a magpie. He’d stuff the house with the most impractical gauds if I let him.

Major, did you ever get that ribbon back?
R: To my sorrow, I did not. My wife suggested that it might be indiscreet to pursue its restoration to its rightful owner, given the circumstances of its, ah, loss and recovery.

You give the impression that this love is a miracle to you, is this so and Thomazine, how do you feel about that?
T: Before he says anything at all, I will say – for an intelligent man, really, he can be slow at times. My husband is an articulate, loving, handsome man: he has all his own hair and rather good teeth. He has a little tiny mark on his face that I hardly even notice any more and he thinks it gives people a disgust of him. (She spreads her hands in a gesture intended to take in the stupidity of men in general) He probably could have married any woman he chose to, before me, if he was only minded to ask!
R:  That is kind, Zee, but, ah, as your estimable father would put it – cobblers. It is still a miracle to me. God grant it will always be so. I never thought I would be any more to you than an old and trusted family friend.
T: No, my honey, neither did I at times. I thought you would never notice.

Now a slightly risqué one! Major, Thomazine startled you by complimenting you on your fine bottom. What do you think of her nether regions?
R: Ah, that is a tender subject presently. I am, as they say, damned if I do and equally damned if I don’t. It, ah, I –
T: I have increased, somewhat, of late. It puts him in an awkward position, you see.
R: I will say only that I admire and respect my wife’s mind above all, and any alteration of her outward seeming is of no account.
T: Liar.
R: Mm. Or a professional diplomat who chooses not to sleep in the outbuildings.

Thomazine, are you reconciled to the fact that the Dutch are not actually monsters or do you still fear they may have two heads or eat babies?
T: Having seen those appalling blue painted jars his friends in the Low Countries gave us on the occasion of our marriage – horrible things they are, of no conceivable purpose, about the height of a small dog and appearing to have been painted by a blind man with rheumatic fingers – yes they are, darling, they’re awful, you say so yourself: you’ve been trying to break one for months – I do not consider my husband’s friends to be monsters, but their taste in furnishings is lamentable. And they encourage him.

Two for both of you here. How did being society outcasts affect you both?
T: I think we were more sad for each other....if you see what I mean? I don’t think I like society – not society-society, not, you know, silks and pearls society – and so I didn’t expect to go back there so I didn’t care but I was buggered if those horrible people were going to run my darling off his patch – as a matter of principle.
R: Although I never liked society much anyway. It has a habit of staring at me.
T: What of it?
R: I hate being stared at, tibber.
T: (shrugs) I know, love. But since you’re not a murderer, and the worst your friends in the Low Countries can be accused of is appalling taste in porcelain, it offended me that you should be blamed for something you hadn’t done. So the more people whispered, the more annoyed I got. They could at least have said things to your face.

Now, Wilmot won’t read this I promise, so - what did you really think of the monkey?
T: Horrible. It was quite sweet, but, um, kind of strange – altogether too much like a hairy baby. I liked it, but it unsettled me.
R: You’re sure you don’t want one, then?
T: (looks at him for a minute) – oh. You mean to be funny. No, it had hands like a tiny little man, and it was altogether too knowing to be quite comfortable. I think I prefer real babies.
R: Which is a crowning mercy, all things considered.

What is your favourite tipple, Zee? And Thankful?
R: Well, I do rather like coffee –
T: Eeeww, Russell, how can you? It’s horrible!
R: It’s nicer than tea, my tibber – at least it tastes of something!
T: Yes, it tastes like printers’ ink! I much prefer a nice home-brewed ale. There is nothing so good as warm buttered ale on a cold night. You don’t want to be drinking that horrible bitter stuff. Curdle your belly, it will. It’s not good for you, you mark my words. And it keeps you wakeful.

Thomazine, what did you think of Prince Rupert? (You may answer honestly as I can guarantee that this missive will never reach his eyes.)
T: Much overrated! I am told that some ladies consider him quite the fancy man. Does nothing for me at all. I mean, he’s really old – not to say having almost no hair at all, for some bizarre reason – what is that thing with the wigs? I am absolutely not surprised that he hasn’t got a wife. Thankful, what are you laughing at, please?
R: An excess of actresses, my tibber. That’s another reason why he hasn’t got a wife. Bless you.
T: What? Oh! How wicked!

A question for you both now, on the matter of wigs. Like them or loathe them?
T: Full of fleas, and they look ridiculous. I don’t care what his opinion is – I don’t, dear, you’re not having one. I like your hair as it is. Don’t you dare cut it all off again. (She looks at me and shakes her head) He used to do that, you know, before we were married. Cut all his hair off, and grow horrible scabby beards – to make himself look plain.
R: Plainer.
 T: Whichever. It didn’t work, and you are beautiful. Shut up arguing about it.
R: (smiling very slightly) I consider myself told....

Thomazine. Aphra Behn. Do you like her or does she shock you?
T: I did like her a good deal – no, no she doesn’t shock me. Well, she did shock me, when we were in Bruges, but that wasn’t – that’s another story, I think, and for another time. That was something else she did. The thing with Affie, she has a habit of making things up.
R: She does it for a living, sweet, she has a lot of practice.
T: Surely. It doesn’t make her any more bearable. She teases me beyond endurance, you know. There’s romance, and then there’s Romance. And hers are just bloody stupid.
R: Well, she has to sell her plays –
T: It’s all the same one, just with different names in it!

Something squawks upstairs. Thomazine claps a hand to the front of her dress in a sort of horrified reflex and flees.
R: Ah. Nathaniel. A delightful infant, but an impressive trencherman, for a child not six weeks old.
I think that’s normal, at six weeks old. Somehow, I can’t imagine you two settling peaceably at home to play with fat fair-haired babies for the rest of your lives together.
R: (wistfully) It would be delightful, though. To have a home at last, and my own people about me, and time to enjoy it...without being shot at, threatened, or burned. I cannot conceive of a happier fate.
How do you think Thomazine would feel about that?
R: Oh, I imagine she’d love it. My wife would have made a far more efficient supply officer than I ever did – as she says, she is a most ferocious tidier-upper. Sadly, I suspect that given my previous employment, adventure is not yet finished with us.

One last question – I can see you’re keen to go and spend time with your family.  What is a tibber?

R: Oh, that! ‘Tes a Chiltern word, my duck. (It is really weird hearing him with an accent, however briefly  – a roight praper Buckinghamshoire ahccent at that) It’s a kitten, hereabouts. I’d fallen into the habit of calling her so when she was little. Sort of stuck.

It has been really lovely talking to both of you. I wish you much joy and peace in your marriage and hope that I can continue to read your adventures written by the exceptional talent of M. J. Logue. Buy it here ...

'Some strange woman walking down a tarmacked street in Germany, pretending to be Thomazine Russell ...'

About M.J. Logue:

Writer, mad cake lady, re-enactor, historian.
Been slightly potty about the clankier side of Ironside for around 20 years, and lists amongst my heroes in this unworthy world Sir Thomas Fairfax, Elizabeth Cromwell and John Webster (for his sense of humour.)

When not purveying historically-accurate cake to various re-enactment groups across the country, M.J. Logue can usually be discovered practising in her garden with a cavalry backsword.

Often to be found loitering, in an ill-tempered manner, at A Sweet Disorder  - do come along and pass unhelpful remark. M.J. Logue is joint first of my all time favourite authors. Her other books can be found here 

© Diana Milne July 2017 © M. J. Logue August 2017

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Diana talks to Dellani Oakes

Hi Dellani. I love your Pod Casts on Red River Radio  As you talk to authors all the time yourself, I  am hoping these questions of mine are a little 'out of the box' for you...

First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it.....

If you could kiss any man in the universe (or furry alien, we don't want to discriminate) who would it be?

If I could be assured I wouldn't get my head removed from my body by his wife, I'd have to say Wil VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf. He's wickedly sexy, dangerously handsome and everything a woman could want—provided she wants a man who knows a thousand ways to kill and disable his enemies.

What is the genre you are best known for?
I'm best known for my romantic suspense, but I also write retro-romance, fantasy and sci-fi. All of these are layered with a little love, because I'm romantic at heart.

If your latest book, The Lone Wolf Tales, was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

This is a series of short stories, but the majority of them are centered around Wil VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf. I've gone through many permutations over the years, but I'd love to see Warren Christie take on the role.

What made you choose this genre?
I've been a sci-fi fan since I was in the third grade. I picked up a copy of Starman's Son by Andre Norton at the local library, and fell in love with the feel of it. I love the freedom of sci-fi because I can go anywhere, do anything, make any kind of interesting alien I want. Sentient ships? I've got them. Giant, talking, mercenary cats? I've got them too. Want a talking asteroid? Look no further. One planet has every fantasy creature you can imagine, and others you'd never thought of. What's not to love?

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
I've gotten ideas from mud puddles, cars in traffic, visits to a museum, dreams, conversations, weird things that happened to me.... Basically, life is an inspiration.

Favourite picture or work of art?
I have to pick just one? I can't think of any single famous work of art that speaks to me above all others. However, a picture that I love is the one I took of my 8 year old granddaughter holding her baby sister for the first time, and giving her a kiss. (Awwwwwwwwww)

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
As a matter of fact, I'm working on a ghost story. It's not something I ever imagined I would write. It's taking me a long time, because I can't work on it at night, only during the day. It's creeping me out too much. (Silly, I know)

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I first started by telling stories when I was four and my older sister started school. I made up tales of Rainbow School and told my mother about it every morning. Later, I progressed to (horrible) poetry. As I grew older, song parodies and humorous essays became my thing. I soon fell in love with short stories. In college, it was plays. By the time I married, had children and started working, I didn't have time for writing, but the urge was still there. When I moved to Florida and visited St. Augustine for the first time, the voices wouldn't stay silent any longer. I started to write my historical novel, Indian Summer, as a result.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
I've never tried it, but a dear friend of mine (from Manchester) let me smell it once and tried to convince me to have it on toast. It smelled like old socks. I wasn't a fan.

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
I usually sit down with my ice water and hit the keys. However, when writing my 2016 NaNo book, I had certain songs I simply had to hear before I could start to write. It was rather disconcerting to have my creativity hinge on something else like that. However, it was a great book and will be published sometime in November. (Let me know when it is out, Dellani, and I will try and get a Review reviewer review it for you, here in the blog.)

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten dinner on the table late or nearly forgot to pick up my kids from school. I'm glad they're grown now and can feed themselves and provide their own transportation. They got used to me saying, “Let me just finish this sentence (paragraph, page) and I'll get you a glass of water.”

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Making my books into movies.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee, always. I do like tea, but I prefer it cold most of the time. I used to say a dry red wine was my favorite, but then I had chemo for breast cancer 7 years ago, and I can't handle that any more. I have to drink a semi-sweet white now.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I don't plan anything. I usually don't even have a title. The words start flowing, the characters walk in and introduce themselves, and the plot goes where it goes. I tried outlining, but that got out of hand quickly. I decided if I were going to spend so much time on an outline, I might as well just write.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I'm old school, I like the clarity of Times New Roman. It's easy to read and neutral. For me, a funky font is distracting. I'd rather have something clear and not fussy, like Times, Ariel or even Trebuchet.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Anything written by William Shakespeare. (Except Titus Andronicus, because that's crap.)

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
Every time I write, my characters jet off on their own. I latch onto their shirt tails and enjoy the ride. I don't try to curtail them because then the story goes off the tracks.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
For my sci-fi, it's rare that I have to do any research. Mine isn't old school, hard science stuff. I guess some of the purists would call it more futuristic fantasy, but what reader's ever heard of that?

For my historical and retro novels, I've had to do a good bit of research. For Indian Summer, I made several trips to St. Augustine, Florida, which is up the road about 2 hours. That was super fun. St. Augustine is one of my favorite places.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I have to admit, I fall in love with each of my male leads. Some, I love more than others. Wil has a place in my heart that will probably never be supplanted. I've completed seven books in the Lone Wolf series, as well as several short stories. There are also two unfinished prequels to the series. He is my first love and will be number one forever.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
I love the Sookie Stackhouse books. I've read them at least three times and am working my way through the series again. I'm missing a couple books, but Charlaine Harris is wonderful about filling in gaps. It's fun, entertaining and exciting.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
I've always thought that Wil and friends are best appreciated with a smooth whiskey. My favorite beverage is Clyde May's Alabama Whiskey, because it is sweet, smooth, dusky and has a real kick to it – just like Wil

Last but not least... favourite author?
Also a hard one to pick, I have so many. I will say that some of the most influential to me are Andre Norton, Daphne Du Maurier, Richard Brautigan and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

To buy Dellani's books click here! (They are worth it!)

Dellani Oakes
Dellani Oakes is a former A.P. English teacher, photo journalist, substitute teacher and Mary Kay consultant. She can give skin care & makeup advice, correct grammar, take pictures and write an article while controlling a classroom full of rowdy children.

Dellani was making up stories before she could read. Her first really cohesive work began when her older sister started school. Left to entertain herself, she invented an imaginary friend and would regale her mother with tales of Snowy Green and Rainbow School. These stories paved the way for songs and poems in elementary school and short stories in high school and college.

A college theatre major, Dellani took play writing. It became her new love. Scripts being dialog heavy and character driven, this aspect has followed her into her novel writing. She uses verbal exchanges & sparring as a way of revealing both plot and characterization.

Dellani had to set aside her love of writing when she began working as a teacher. Her creative energies were channeled into writing exams to make her students cry--although this wasn't usually intentional. Unfortunately, between that and motherhood, she didn't have time to write.

Once her youngest son started school in 2002, she was able to write full time. Her first novel, "Indian Summer", was published in 2008. Her second novel, "Lone Wolf" made its debut in September 2011. "Lone Wolf" is the first in her science-fiction series. Book two of the Lone Wolf Series - "Shakazhan", came out in July of 2013. Both have recently been reissued in Kindle Format.

In addition to her historical novel and sci-fi, Dellani has added 7 romantic suspense novels, 4 of which are published by Tirgearr Publishing. The rest, she has independently published. She also shares some of her unpublished work for free on her blog.

Dellani is a Blog Talk Radio host with two shows each month on the Red River Radio Network: Dellani's Tea Time 4:00 PM Eastern every 2nd Monday & What's Write for Me at 4:00 PM Eastern every 4th Wednesday. Look for her on Red River Radio Network. (Guests vary)

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Dellani Oakes August 2017

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Sharon Reviews The King's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Today Sharon Bennett Connolly reviews The King's Daughter, the latest novel by Stephanie Churchill, a fascinating historical adventure. The author has kindly offered an ebook as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous story, simply leave a comment below of on our Facebook Page.
The winner will be drawn on Sunday 3rd September. Good luck!

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Irisa's parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance for her own?

The King's Daughter is Stephanie Churchill's second novel and a 'sister' story to her first book, The Scribe's Daughter. Not exactly a sequel, it tells the parallel story of Irisa, sister of Kasia, the heroine of The Scribe's Daughter. It is a unique concept and The King's Daughter pulls it off beautifully. The advantage of such an idea is that, although the books are in a series they are also, each, a standalone. You do not have to have read The Scribe's Daughter - though I recommend you do - to understand, read and enjoy The King's Daughter and vice versa.

The basic theme running throughout both books is that two daughters who grew up in poverty and obscurity discover their family's past and each makes their own journey to find out who they are and what they should be, with very different outcomes for each of them. The King's Daughter is a fabulous tale of love and court intrigue, with vivid, wonderful characters who dominate the page and your mind. Irisa and Casmir, the central characters and love interest of the story, are a wonderful combination, struggling to get to know each other, and their respective roles, in what is, essentially, an arranged match. With their blossoming love comes political intrigue, danger and potential disaster which could just as easily destroy their relationship as it could strengthen it.

Written as if a historical fiction it transports you to a medieval world entirely of the author's creation, but so close to historical fact that you feel almost able to identify with the different towns and countries. I found myself thinking, 'ooh this landscape could be Italy' and 'that sounds a little like France'. The King's Daughter is a whole new world, a creation of the author's mind, with landscapes, cities, laws and traditions all meticulously devised and described. The detail is wonderful and the new societies are fascinating to encounter.

I pulled away from him and turned towards the shelves, running a hand along the neat piles. I had chosen this aisle at random so had no idea what was even to be found. Casmir watched with curiosity as I perused, but I hadn't gone far when I stopped and removed a tome of philosophy to show him. "Do you know it?" I asked, unable to hide my eagerness.
"I have likely read it, yes, but ..."
"And what do you think of it?" I broke in, unable to hide my enthusiasm.
He pulled the bound work from my hand and replaced it. "It seems as though my Adonia has her head turned by philosophy before the poets ..."
I didn't let him finish, had already brushed passed him to continue my search. "There is another treatise on governance ..." Feeling suddenly self-conscious, I glanced over my shoulder and found him watching me with an expression I could not read. "What is it? Why do you look at me so?"
"I am trying to imagine one of my sisters speaking about such matters the way you just did. You could almost rival Grand Master Lito for your passion."
"You mean they don't share a similar enthusiasm?"
I had been so used to a scholar's way of life from my father that I never realized our tutelage had been unconventional. It never occurred to me to consider that other noble ladies wouldn't have had my same experience.

Stephanie Churchill has created some wonderful, colourful characters, both evil and honourable around whom the story of the kingdom revolves. Those who were minor characters in The Scribe's Daughter are fleshed out and given major roles in The King's Daughter. The heroine, Irisa, is given a depth of character that makes her intriguing and endearing, with  a survival instinct that rivals that of her sister, Kasia. The story itself develops wonderfully, with the idea of a former coup effecting the actions and opinions of the new generation; it cleverly portrays the bias and prejudice of people on both sides of the argument - and the extents to which they will go for the sake of a crown.

It is a beautifully written story, and entirely different from The Scribe's Daughter, with only glimpses of the first book appearing in the second, creating an invisible thread between the two stories. This thread enhances and highlights the lives of the two sisters and makes you want to read on, even after the book is long finished. I love the premise of the story and the idea of a mirror/sister novel, as oppose to the traditional sequel, is extremely refreshing.

The King's Daughter is, above everything, a wonderful adventure. Full of suspense and action it is completely engaging, immersing the reader in a wonderful world that you may never want to leave.

About the Stephanie Churchill: I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and after attending college in Iowa, moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an antitrust paralegal.  When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal.  While I enjoyed reading, writing was never anything that even crossed my mind.  I enjoyed reading, but writing?  That’s what authors did, and I wasn’t an author. One day while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. In 2007, when Facebook was very quickly becoming “a thing”, I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born. When I’m not writing or taxiing my two children to school or other activities, I’m likely walking Cozmo, our dog, or reading.  The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.
Stephanie's book, The Scribe's Daughter, is available from Amazon Us, and Amazon UK as is her next book, The King's Daughter will be available from Amazon US and Amazon UK in September. 
Stephanie can be found on her website, Facebook and Twitter

About the The Reviewer: Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.
She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World'. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history. It is due to be published by Amberley on 15th September 2017. It is now available for pre-order from Amberley, Book Depository and  Amazon.
Sharon can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Diana talks to Margaret Porter

Hello Margaret!

First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
Have you ever written a novel without any significant animal character?

Not that I can recall. Inevitably I include dogs based upon the ones who have graced my life, horses I have known and ridden, an Isle of Man Manx cat—my fiction is populated by creatures. Not a few of my main characters share a fond relationship with a four-legged companion.

What is the genre you are best known for?
A challenging question. In youth I was an avid reader of fictional tales about prominent women—Anne Boleyn, Katherine Swynford, Queen Elizabeth I, etc., and those were the sorts of stories I longed to tell. But my first eleven published works were period romances—by the eleventh, only the hero and heroine were fictional and just about every other character was a real person. That’s when I returned to my first love, historical biographical fiction, and my future works also fit that description. My histrom backlist has been republished in many formats over the years and translated into a host of foreign languages—based on reach, I suppose that’s what Margaret Evans Porter is best known for. Margaret Porter pens straight historical fiction with real-life protagonists, and that’s her claim to ‘fame’!

If your latest book A Pledge of Better Times was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

The book has four major characters, and I prefer actors with experience in period productions to portray them. For Lady Diana de Vere, I’d definitely cast Alicia Vikander for her award-winning talent and box office clout, but I’m also partial to Lottie Tolhurst (Mr Selfridge, Harlots), who’s got the right look. For Charles, Duke of St Albans (son of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II), actors Jeremy Irvine (Great Expectations) or Sam Claflin (Their Finest). For Queen Mary II, Andrea Riseborough. For Diana’s father, the Earl of Oxford, Bill Nighy—on meeting him last year, I told him I wanted him to play that part!

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
Lately, from the biographies of the historical people about whom I’m writing. In the past, I often mined my own background in the theatre for heroines (actress, dancer, opera singer) who mixed with real-life prominent figures of their day. Or an intriguing incident or fact encountered in research for one project sparks the idea for the next.

Favourite picture or work of art?
I love the question, though it’s difficult to answer. Gazing upon Botticelli’s Venus or David’s vast canvas of Napoleon’s coronation were incredible experiences. But if pressed, I would likely choose the Godfrey Kneller portrait of Lady Diana de Vere, a detail of which forms the cover of A Pledge of Better Times. I first saw the full-length original as an impressionable teenager, on a visit to Hampton Court Palace, and it sparked my curiosity. And I was overjoyed that Her Majesty the Queen, via the Royal Collection, permitted its appearance on my book. Kneller’s creation of the series of paintings called the ‘Hampton Court Beauties’ features in the story.

Margaret and the discovered Diana painting!

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I’ve completed about 2/3 or more of a contemporary novel, somewhat based on my experiences on film locations in the US and UK. As well, I have a partial manuscript for a historical Young Adult novel.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
There was no drifting, I was fully conscious of my desire to become a writer. I began to writing with intent at an early age, making up stories in my head, illustrating them with crayon and eventually with words. In grammar school I founded and edited a class newspaper, so my first publication credits were in nonfiction. As an adult I went on to write academic articles, textbooks, a newspaper column, magazine features, and scripts for informational films and television. With so many writers and historians and academics in my family, it seemed perfectly natural to write professionally—although I was the first to publish fiction. (My cousin eventually followed me into that arena, very successfully. His second novel is being made into a feature film.)

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Like it very much indeed. (I love Gentleman’s Relish.)

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
When pounding away on my laptop, I like having a cup of tea beside me and one or both dogs nearby on the sofa. I’ve got several favourite mugs—several are imprinted with characters from my novels, and one from the BBC. I do sometimes have appropriately period music playing in the background. For instance, when writing about the early creation of opera Dido and Aeneas, I almost wore out my CD of it. I have a large collection of music by 17th century and 18th century composers. But to be honest, I wrote several Jane Austen-era novels incongruously listening to clanging, bouncy punk rock—Nirvana, Green Day, Elvis Costello, R.E.M. One I managed to write an entire chapter of a novel—with an English countryside setting—in a hotel lobby during a radio conference in Warsaw, surrounded by people chattering away in Polish! One of my favourite places to write is on the screened porch at our lake house, overlooking trees and water—where I am at the moment, responding to these questions!

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Real life concerns, needs, pleasures, as opposed to fictional ones, definitely take priority. I’m guessing my family members assume it’s about equal, but writing is only a part of my life—a significant one, but I keep it in perspective.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
I would probably return to the theatre. Sometimes I miss performing on stage, although speaking at writers’ conferences does allow me a public forum.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Tea on weekdays, all through the day, a good strong builders’ tea, but I do stock more delicate blends for company or if I’m feeling particularly refined. Coffee at weekends—my husband grinds the beans and brews the brew. My taste in wine is too varied to choose one, although at home I generally favour pink (zinfandel) or  prosecco.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
My books are mostly planned before I begin actively writing them. I carry out loads of research to create the structure of the story, and because I’m writing historical figures I must know their biographies in as much detail as possible, to choose the most interesting and dramatic or light-hearted aspects to highlight. As well, I’m accustomed to agreeing a contract based on a proposal, which requires a synopsis of the entire book, along with several chapters or sometimes the first 100 pages. On starting a new chapter, I always know what the scenes need to accomplish and how they’re meant to develop the characters and move the plot forward. But I only have the sketchiest notion how to accomplish those goals, and as I write I rely on my imagination fill in some rather large gaps in my plan.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I’ve never had free choice, the publisher decides. I like Georgia, and that’s what I use when working on the ms.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
When writing Pledge, I would’ve given almost anything for letters written by Diana and Charles to each other. Apparently none survived. Not even their descendants have them. The closest I could get to the ‘voices’ of the First Duke and Duchess of St Albans were fragmentary business notes written by Charles, and the texts of their wills. I did succeed in locating two previously unknown (even by the family) Diana portraits—sheer bliss, and I still get goosebumps remembering how it all came about.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
I’m not shocked by anything my characters would do. I think it’s more likely they are shocked by what I make them do!

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
As mentioned, research is hugely important because I’m so determined to get the facts right, and I want purely fictional aspects of my work to be based on the probable. For all my novels I visit multiple locations and feel most fortunate in being able to do so. Experiencing the places my real-life characters knew well, actually following their footsteps, is a necessary part of my process in revealing their lives.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
I’ve inserted real people into fictional stories. Some are treated well. Others are not. But I haven’t been brutal, nor have I thus far dealt a death blow to anybody. Mind you, it could happen….

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
If accounts of a historic event or occurrence vary, I choose the one that makes the better story or seems most likely to me or ratchets up the conflict for my characters or is especially funny to me. Otherwise, I tend to stick to the documented or accepted facts. And it gives me a thrill if, in the course of my research, I’m able to do some myth-busting—but I make sure to clarify it in the Author’s Note.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I am madly in love with one of my heroes in particular, but I won’t name him lest I incur the jealousy of all the rest. I couldn’t write about people I totally, totally hate. Even villains have a trace of humanity, and opportunities for redemption, whether or not they—or their victims—realise it.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Novels in all genres. Biographies. Humour. Gardening books.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
A fine claret…a brisk champagne…rum punch, depending on the reader’s preference.

Last but not least... favourite author?
Too many to choose. But for today: the late, great Diana Norman, who also wrote as Ariana Franklin.

© Diane Milne January 2017 © Margaret Porter August 2017

About the Author

Margaret Porter is the award-winning and bestselling author of twelve period novels, as well as nonfiction and poetry. A Pledge of Better Times, her highly acclaimed novel of 17th century courtiers Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans (son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn), is available in trade paperback and ebook. Margaret studied British history in the UK and the US. As historian, her areas of speciality are social, theatrical, and garden history of the 17th and 18th centuries, royal courts, and portraiture. A former actress, she gave up the stage and screen to devote herself to fiction writing, travel, and her rose gardens. www.margaretporter.com Twitter: @MargaretAuthor