19 January 2022

Author Interview With Griffin Brady,, Author of The Heart of a Hussar (The Winged Warrior Series, Book 1)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Poland is at war. He must choose between his lifelong ambition and his heart. Exploiting Muscovy’s Time of Troubles, Poland has invaded the chaotic country. Twenty-two-year-old Jacek Dąbrowski is an honorable, ferocious warrior in a company of winged hus-sars—an unrivaled, lethal cavalry. When his lieutenant dies in battle, Jacek is promoted to re-place him, against the wishes of his superior, Mateusz,
who now has more reason to eliminate him. 

I'm pleased to welcome author Griffin Brady to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

A Hussar’s Promise is Book 2 and the sequel to The Heart of a Hussar. The Heart of a Hussar ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and Book 2 picks up where Book 1 leaves off, taking each character on a wild ride. While the story does wrap up at the end, it leaves room for more books in the series. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

I still work professionally in the non-writing world, though I’m winding that down. I like to get obligations in that world cleared out of the way before I begin writing so they don’t pull me out when I’m in the “writing zone.” To help me get into that zone, I pull up a Spotify playlist that’s filled with lots of instrumental jazz, new age music, and movie soundtracks. 

I’d love to say I can sit for a solid few hours and write without interruption, but I actually find my creative brain works better if I get up and do mundane chores throughout my writing time. For some reason, thoughts about the writing I’ve just completed and new ideas shake loose more easily while I’m emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry. Often, though, I find myself sprinting right back to the computer to capture those thoughts before I lose them completely! I keep a lot of notepads and pens lying around as well.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write, even if the story isn’t coming or if you think you’re writing junk. I’ve often found a nugget in a page of garbage that sparked something altogether different and usable. Another piece of advice is to quiet your critical voices. I find this to be one of my greatest challenges. While you may have read tons of books and taken a boatload of classes on craft, try not to focus on the rules as you’re getting the words out and instead let yourself get carried away in your story. 

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Tours and promotions such as this one. Saying “yes” anytime someone asks me to talk or participate in some historical event that relates to the Polish winged hussars.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

I discovered that Poland’s constitution was one the U.S. founding fathers studied closely, and they integrated ideas gleaned from their investigation as they formulated the U.S. Constitution.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The lead female character, Oliwia, swears an oath under duress and is later called upon to honor that oath. Those scenes and her anguish were difficult ones to write.

What are you planning to write next?

I’d like to complete Book 3 in the series, which begins in 1620 (5 years after the end of the second book) and will bring back many of the characters from the first two books. The backdrop is the ongoing conflict between Poland and the Ottoman Empire. The Battle of Cecora (1620) will play an important role in that story. 

Griffin Brady

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About the Author

Griffin Brady is a historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Moun-tain Fiction Writers. The Heart of a Hussar took third place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2018 Colorado Gold Contest and was a finalist in the Northern Colorado Writers’ 2017 Top of the Mountain Award. The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning, Amazon bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady. Find out more at https://www.griffin-brady.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @griffbrady1588

18 January 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: A Woman of Noble Wit, by Rosemary Griggs

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. This is her story.

Set against the turbulent background of a Devon rocked by the religious and social changes that shaped Tudor England; a Devon of privateers and pirates; a Devon riven by rebellions and plots, A Woman of Noble Wit tells how Katherine became the woman who would inspire her famous sons to follow their dreams. It is Tudor history seen though a woman’s eyes.

As the daughter of a gentry family with close connections to the glittering court of King Henry VIII, Katherine’s duty is clear. She must put aside her dreams and accept the husband chosen for her. Still a girl, she starts a new life at Greenway Court, overlooking the River Dart, re-lieved that her husband is not the ageing monster of her nightmares. She settles into the life of a dutiful wife and mother until a chance shipboard encounter with a handsome privateer, turns her world upside down.…..

Years later a courageous act will set Katherine’s name in print and her youngest son will fly high.

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About the Author

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. An avid researcher, she is now a speaker on Devon’s history and leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall.  She also creates and wears sixteenth century clothing which she often uses to bring history to life for local museums and community groups.  Rosemary lives in Devon with husband David, and her first novel, a Woman of Noble Wit features many of the county’s well loved places.  Find out more on Rosemary’s website https://rosemarygriggs.co.uk/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RAGriggsauthor

17 January 2022

Special Guest Post by Susanne Dunlap: Mining Your Family History for a Great Story

Mining Your Family History for a Great Story? Here Are Three Things to Know.

Writers come to historical fiction in many different ways. Some have been readers of it throughout their lives. Some are academic historians who want the freedom of invention to bring history to life for a wider audience. Others simply find themselves curious about events of the past and enjoy the research and the story craft.

Another avenue that often leads to writing historical fiction is stumbling on some fact about an ancestor, or discovering a trove of family history that leads you into a world you didn’t know existed—and that you’re connected with in some way. This can be very exciting, very inspiring. Maybe there’s a pirate in your past, or a war hero. 

Maybe one of your ancestors was a pioneer woman who blazed a trail across the world. Perhaps others lived through a great tragedy—a storm, a famine, a plague, a murder. If you dig far enough back, chances are there’s something beguiling in your family’s past.

In fact, family history can be a rich source of ideas for historical fiction. But if you really want to turn that history into a novel rather than simply recording it in a narrative to share with family members, you’ll have to do all the necessary hard work to craft a great story that strangers would find just as fascinating as you do.

Still thinking about it? Here are a few things to bear in mind as you go:

1. You need a real story.

No matter where your inspiration comes from, it still has to end up as a compelling, satisfying story. That means first of all you have to have a point—a reason—why the story needs to be written. It also means you have to be willing to dig for the hard times, the unpleasant truths, the unsavory characters in your past. You’ll need an antagonist as well as a protagonist, and you’ll have to put your protagonist through hell, no matter how much you like her. Perhaps hardest of all, you’ll have to spend time figuring out exactly where your story begins and ends.

2. You can’t get too hamstrung by what really happened.

It’s possible that the history itself is plenty juicy to provide ample material for a novel. But it’s also very unlikely that the events as they happened will arrange themselves in a satisfying story arc. Good stories are about change, about a protagonist’s journey from one state to another via hardship and tests. Sometimes it’s necessary at the very least to rearrange events, compress time, or even invent characters, actions, or underlying causes in order to make your plot work. And that’s okay. It’s fiction, first and foremost, wherever you found your inspiration.

3. You have to be willing to do the work.

This may seem obvious, but writing a good novel based on your family history takes much more than decent writing skills and a solid idea. It takes an understanding of what drives a narrative, how to get what’s in your head onto the page, and the willingness to change things you’ve sweated over for hours/days/weeks. It takes the same level of planning and prewriting, digging deep and researching, that any historical novel takes.

But the process itself can be immensely rewarding. So many people put writing and publishing a book on their bucket lists, and for good reason. There’s nothing like holding that printed volume in your hand and thinking, I did this.

In my business as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach, I use effective tools to help writers wrangle their ideas into shape, keep them motivated through the dark days, act as editor and cheerleader, and guide them to achieving the best manuscript they’re capable of. In the end, they have a book they can be proud of, whether they seek a traditional publishing contract, a hybrid publishing contract, or decide to self-publish—no matter where their initial inspiration came from.

Want to explore that story in your family’s past? I’d love to hear about it! To book a discovery call and find out more about working with me, please fill out this questionnaire. That way I’ll have a good idea of where you are in your project. It’s never too early—or to late—to start working with a book coach!

Susanne Dunlap

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About the Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of twelve works of historical fiction for adults and teens, as well as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her PhD studies in music history at Yale University, partly from her lifelong interest in women in the arts as a pianist and non-profit performing arts executive. Her novel The Paris Affair was a first place CIBA award winner. The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Utah Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize. In the Shadow of the Lamp was an Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award nominee. Susanne earned her BA and an MA (musicology) from Smith College and lives in Northampton, MA—moving to Biddeford, Maine in two weeks with her little dog, Betty. Find out more at Susanne's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @Susanne_Dunlap

15 January 2022

Historical Fiction Book Launch Spotlight: Lady, in Waiting (The Tudor Court Book 3) by Karen Heenan

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

She serves the queen. Her husband serves the court. How can they be so far apart?

Margaery Preston is newly married to a man she barely knows. Proposing to Robin Lewis may have been impulsive, but she wants their marriage to work - she just doesn't know how to be married, and it seems her husband hasn't a clue, either.

Treated like a child by everyone from her husband to the queen, lost in the unfamiliar world of the Elizabethan court, Margaery will have to learn quickly or lose any chance at the life she wants.

Can a marriage for all the wrong reasons make it to happily ever after?

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About the Author

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams -- which which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing. She lives in Lansdowne, PA, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is currently hard at work on her next book. Find out more at Karen's website 
http://www.karenheenan.com/ and find her on Twitter @karen_heenan

11 January 2022

Book Launch Spotlight: Out Front the Following Sea, by Leah Angstman

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence. 

At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. 

She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. 

But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. 

Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

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About the Author

Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee. Find out more at Leah's website https://www.leahangstman.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @leahangstman

6 January 2022

Special Guest Interview with Siobhan Daiko, Author of The Girl from Portofino

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1970 Gina Bianchi returns to Portofino to attend her father’s funeral, accompanied by her troubled twenty-four-year-old daughter, Hope. There, Gina is beset by vivid memories of World War 2, a time when she fought with the Italian Resistance and her twin sister, Adele, 
worked for the Germans.

I'm pleased to welcome author Siobhan Daiko to The Writing Desk: 

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is The Girl from Portofino, the second standalone novel in my Girls from the Italian Resistance series.

In 1970, Gina Bianchi returns to the beautiful Italian resort of Portofino to attend her father’s funeral, accompanied by her troubled twenty-four-year-old daughter, Hope. There, Gina is beset by vivid memories of World War 2, a time when she fought with the partisans and her identical twin sister, Adele, worked for the Germans. In her childhood bedroom, Gina reads Adele’s diary, left behind during the war. As Gina learns the shocking truth about her sister, she’s compelled to face the harsh realities of her own past.

What is your preferred writing routine?

When I’m in the process of writing a book, I try to write every day to keep the momentum going. I prefer to write in the mornings as my ageing mind focuses better. If I need to go out on a writing morning, I’ll write in the afternoon instead—but I’m never as productive.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I would say not to consider yourself an ‘aspiring writer’. Writers write. There’s nothing ‘aspiring’ about it. First and foremost, write because it fulfils you, makes you happy. It doesn’t matter if no one else reads what you’ve written. You write because it’s as vital to you as breathing. Becoming an author is different. It’s a craft and you should study it. Take courses, read online advice. Practise, get feedback, keep pushing yourself to improve. Develop a thick skin about criticism and learn from it. A negative review can mean you didn’t write the book the reviewer wanted to read, or that there is room for improvement. There are very few perfect books published, but readers aren’t looking for a perfect book—what they want is a good story and interesting characters. Last, but not least, go for it!

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I have invested in Facebook ads and they have worked well. I also have a growing readers list for my newsletter. And, of course, The Coffee Pot Book Club has raised awareness of my books via their fab blog tours.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

I needed a well-known place in which to set the story and hit upon the stunning resort of Portofino. I had no idea before researching what happened there during the war and gave a resounding ‘yes’ when I discovered that it had been occupied by the German Navy as a headquarters for their coastal defences, the SS incarcerated and tortured political prisoners in a tower on the isthmus, the inhabitants of the village were forced to relocate when concrete sea defences were built, and the quaysides were mined for fear of aquatic landings. 

Portofino, known today as a mecca for wealthy tourists, became a target for Allied bombing after the Nazis built anti-aircraft and anti-naval batteries on the headland and the portofinesi lived in fear for their lives. 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I can’t answer this question in detail without giving a spoiler. I’ll just say that one of my main characters dies in tragic circumstances. After I’d written the scene, I needed a glass of wine and a hug from my husband.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m planning the next in the series, either The Girl from Verona or The Girl from Bologna. It depends on what I discover in my upcoming research.

Siobhan Daiko

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About the Author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and two rescued cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn't writing, enjoying her life near Venice.  Find out more at Siobhan's website https://siobhandaiko.org/ an dfollow her on Facebook and Twitter @siobhandaiko

3 January 2022

Special Guest Interview with Catherine Clover, Author of Queen of Heaven (Maid of Gascony Book 2)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The White Tower. A terrible vision. Her home invaded and precious documents stolen.

Lady Isabelle must flee her pursuers, posing as a young male scholar in the New College of St Mary in Oxford. But when she learns she is with child it won’t be long until she is discovered amongst their ranks. Can she bring herself to love an infant conceived in evil? And will she ever be reunited with her beloved Richard, or will Sir Henry Lormont’s dagger find him first?

I'm pleased to welcome author Catherine Clover to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Queen of Heaven is the second book in The Maid of Gascony Series. The story spans the years 1453 - 1457, and takes the reader on a series of adventures as the main character, Lady Isabelle - also known as Isa to her companions - travels across England to sail for Calais and take up the via Francigena en route to Rome. Upon her return to England by ship, she encounters historical figures who will later become known historically as members of the House of Tudor. Throughout the story readers will be reminded of characters and situations that arose in book one, The Templar’s Garden, but Queen of Heaven is written in a style that allows it to also be a stand-alone read.

The main character, Isabelle, is a mystic. She has the power of divine sight that alerts her to people and situations that can be perilous and destructive. In book one, her visions from God assure her that her love - not a physical, bodice-ripping love, but rather an attentive, Christ-like love or caritas - is necessary to help her chaplain survive his ever-deepening mental health illness, today what we would term the onset of bi-polar disorder. But in the Middle Ages it would have been known as a form of madness and it would have certainly caused him to lose his position in the Church and possibly be put to death.

In Queen of Heaven the reader will meet Isa as a young woman. She is no longer an adolescent as she was in The Templar’s Garden. Her voice and character have matured to be those of one who talks and behaves in a more serious and stoic manner. Her petulance and immaturity previously revealed in her statements about love and attraction have been replaced by her articulate, fearless and independent nature. This was not unheard of in this period; one only has to look at women such as Margery Kempe, Christine de Pisan and Joan of Arc for historical examples of women whose characteristics mirror those of Lady Isabelle.

The Templar’s Garden featured a soundtrack called Like as the Hart that I produced and that was recorded by the Choir of New College, Oxford. Queen of Heaven, too, has a soundtrack to accompany the text. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the recording of How Sweet the Rose in April 2020 had to be put on hold. I am hopeful that the recording will be made in the future so readers will have another way of further immersing themselves in the Marian themes that are found throughout the second book.

What is your preferred writing routine?

In non-pandemic times I would find myself carving out large chunks of time to do research which would help to focus my mind on the medieval period while listening to the recordings of the Choir of New College. I like to travel throughout England, Wales and the Continent to visit all the places I talk about in my stories. I find that pattern to be hugely inspiring and helpful. Doing so has then led to writing sessions where I incorporate what I have read and seen into the narrative (and sometimes even people I have met become characters!).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My strongest advice is to follow your passion and keep writing as often as you can. But don’t get bogged down in the details. A good editor will help you to iron out your manuscript ahead of publication. And remember, just because you are thinking of something in your mind when writing a scene doesn’t mean your reader will understand it. Be clear. Don’t be afraid of how it will sound to others. It is better to put it down on the page than keep it in the safety of your imagination. As one of my favourite editors, Sally O-J, once advised me when I was shy about the material I was writing and it wasn’t clear to her what I was trying to express, “Get it out of your head and onto the page!” I still live by that mantra today.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Queen of Heaven had a blog tour, and I am grateful to those who read and reviewed it. I would love to have the opportunity to engage more with readers by doing virtual and in-person book events. I have a presence across all the socials and love meeting and connecting with other readers and authors on those platforms.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

In Queen of Heaven the reader learns that Margaret Beaufort gives birth to Henry VII at the very young age of 13, having become pregnant at age 12. While this may not be surprising to historical fiction readers given that it was common practice, especially for those of noble birth, it nevertheless sickened me, especially as at the time of writing Queen of Heaven my daughter was the same age as Lady Margaret in my story. I was constantly thinking of the #metoo movement and how wrong I feel it is to pardon these sexual predators from history simply for the sake of the circumstances being historical.

In my research what struck me was how physically tiny Margaret was. In fact, I was disgusted thinking about what Edmund Tudor did to her. Though it is not historically proven, it is possible that a reason she couldn’t conceive (or didn’t want to later) was because of what sexual intercourse with Edmund did to her mentally and physically, as well as what can only be assumed would have been an incredibly painful and risky birthing process. It made me loathe Edmund as a character, much of which came out in the scenes that involve him and his attitude towards Margaret.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There were several parts of Queen of Heaven that were hard to write, but one of the early scenes that comes to mind is where Lady Isabelle is stripped naked by an angry mob in Lausanne and accused of sorcery. I wrote the entire book as I was faced with personal circumstances that were absolutely horrific. This influenced the nature of the dialogue in that scene, as well as the way in which I described Isa as she managed to keep her wits about her and not let the mob’s abuse destroy her psychologically. Above all, Isa’s faith carried her through the scene. This is one of many situations in Queen of Heaven where Isabelle’s belief in God helps elevate her to a point where she can withstand what is being carried out by others against and around her.

What are you planning to write next?

I have started writing book three in the series called The King’s Treasure. I have two other historical fiction works also in progress. One is set in 20th century Bangkok and involves a famous American silk merchant who mysteriously disappears, his remains never to be discovered and the circumstances of his disappearance thought to be tied to covert espionage, and the other is set in 19th century France and involves the life and loves of a highly successful female artist who worked alongside some of the most famous painters of the Realism movement. She was incredibly avant-garde in her day, never marrying and causing great speculation as she instead took up residence with her best friend, a woman whom she had known since childhood and whose wealth provided them both with financial stability. Their affection for one another helped create the nurturing circumstances for this artist to live and work in the unconventional manner as she did.

Catherine Clover

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About the Author

Catherine’s interest in medieval history began at the age of eight when she was given her first book on medieval knights and castles. From that young age, she was keen to learn more about medieval buildings and the lives of those who lived in and around them. This passion led her to complete her doctoral degree from Trinity College, Oxford, on the fortifications of English Gascony at the end of the Hundred Years War, and subsequently gave root to the creation of The Maid of Gascony series of which The Templar’s Garden and Queen of Heaven are the first two books in the series. Catherine's stories are infused with theology and Divine love, offering readers a rare glimpse of medieval life through the eyes and experiences of a young female mystic. Catherine is also producing a series of choral music albums to feature as the soundtracks to her stories. Like as the Hart, recorded by the Choir of New College, Oxford, under the direction of Robert Quinney, was her first album and it remained in the specialist classical music charts in the UK for 13 weeks after its release. Catherine loves to engage with her readers across the socials. Find out more at Catherine's website www.catherineclover.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @catherinealette