I’m delighted to welcome Anne O’Brien to Author Chats today. I love the way she combines superb research with lyrical prose, and I’m intrigued with the way she has created her latest novel, The Queen’s Rival, described as “The forgotten story of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. A strong woman who claimed the throne for her family in a time of war…” Join us for a great chat about her writing craft, and how it took a while to settle in on the creative way she’s captured Cecily Neville’s life.
I love the opening blurb to my Author Chat novel today, Discerning Grace. Here goes: As the first full-length novel in The White Sails Series, Discerning Grace captures the spirit of an independent woman whose feminine lens blows the ordered patriarchal decks of a 19th-century tall ship to smithereens. Discerning Grace Author Chat Join me to find out more about the indomitable Grace, and why Emma Lombard, who gets seasick on a duckpond, chose to write a naval historical fiction adventure novel!
Today’s Author Chat takes us into the world of 17th Century New England, through Jean M. Roberts’ beautifully crafted timeslip novel The Heron. Join Jean as she chats about her favourite scenes in the novel, how she chooses her characters’ names, and how important total immersion is to historical fiction readers — and writers.
Today’s Author Chat takes us to the world of pre-WWII Austria and the incredible story of families forced to choose between being enfolded into Hitler’s Nazi horror, or resisting and trying to preserve Tyrol and all they hold dear. I’m delighted to welcome Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger and the final novel in her fantastic Reschen Valley series. Join us to learn about Chrystyna’s inspiration, writing techniques, and how much she appreciates beta readers and reviewers.
I’m loving the Tudor theme this week – today’s Author Chat is with the incomparable Judith Arnopp, whose historical fiction novels are incredibly entertaining, steeped in authenticity and founded in great research. I’m always intrigued to see what Judith is creating next in her beautiful Tudor costume-making, and at the same time, what stories from the Tudor court she is weaving for us. Today, we’re celebrating the release of her newest novel, A Matter of Conscience. Somehow she’s managed to port herself into Henry VIII’s head, and it’s a fascinating read! Author Chat | A Matter of Conscience
Today’s Author Chat is with the talented Karen Heenan, whose beautiful book Songbird is a completely immersive journey into the Tudor Court. It’s one of my favourite periods of history, and as we found out, Karen and I first got hooked in our respective childhoods watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII and haven’t looked back since. Come and explore the court with an expert guide! Author Chat Karen Heenan
Congratulations to the very talented Carol McGrath on her new release The Damask Rose, the second in the She-Wolf series. I had the pleasure of inviting Carol to an Author Chat, where she shares some fabulous insights into her writing and research. I was also thrilled to receive an Advance Review Copy, and I was delighted to give her new novel a five-star review. Join us here and enjoy a fascinating interview. Author Chat
Andrea Matthews and I first met in an online critique group a few years ago, and struck up a great partnership. She was incredibly helpful in critiquing The Lady of the Tower, and there were many days that her insights gave me the inspiration and encouragement to keep going. As first to the indie world, it was great to be able to share experience back to Andrea as she approached publication, along with recommending my wonderful editor and cover designer, Jenny Toney Quinlan. Today, so happy to host Andrea to an Author Chat, and I highly recommend Thunder on the Moor as a great timeslip read! Author Chat | Andrea Matthews
When I heard that MK (Mary) Tod’s new historical fiction novel featured Sarah Bernhardt and her hospital during the siege of Paris, I begged Mary for a back story. Here it is, along with an extract from her wonderful novel, and a link to my review. Thank you Mary!
Sarah Bernhardt and the siege of Paris The Franco-Prussian war occurred in 1870 during the reign of Napoleon III. The French were quickly defeated, and the Prussian army soon surrounded Paris, determined to force the French government to surrender. The siege resulted in thousands of deaths and untold suffering. Tragedy didn’t end there. In the middle of March, radical republicans overthrew the government and established the Paris Commune. For ten weeks, the Commune carried out acts of murder, assassination, pillage, robbery, blasphemy, and terror, until finally expiring in blood and flames. A perfect setting for a novel! Serendipity led me to Sarah Bernhardt’s role in the siege of Paris. A biography of this famous French actress had been on our bookshelves for years. I think it belonged to my mother, and at some point in the last thirty years, I ‘borrowed’ it with the intention of reading Sarah’s story. It remained unread, despite its alluring cover, until I had the idea of writing a novel based on Bernhardt’s life. As it turned out, Sarah’s life and character did not appeal to me—too many affairs, too extravagant, too self-centered and domineering. I have to like my main characters, and in this case, I wasn’t sure I could. So, the biography went back onto the shelf until deep into writing Paris In Ruins, when I wanted one of my characters to volunteer to nurse the wounded and recalled the story of Bernhardt’s good works during the Franco-Prussian war. In My Double Life, Bernhardt mentions her decision to establish a hospital, or an ambulance as many of the smaller ones were called then. “The Odéon Theatre had closed its doors, but I moved heaven and earth to get permission to organise an ambulance in that theatre, and, thanks to Emile de Girardin and Duquesnel, my wish was gratified. I went to the War Office and made my declaration and my request, and my offers were accepted for a military ambulance. The next difficulty was that I wanted food. I wrote a line to the Prefect of Police. A military courier arrived very soon, with a note from the Prefect containing the following lines: ‘Madame—If you could possibly come at once, I would wait for you until six o’clock. If not, I will receive you to-morrow morning at eight. Excuse the earliness of the hour, but I have to be at the Chamber at nine in the morning, and, as your note seems to be urgent, I am anxious to do all I can to be of service to you.’” It was signed Comte de Kératry. Sarah knew the comte from an earlier time. They had even corresponded when he left France to serve in Mexico. At his office in the Tuileries Palace, she asked for ‘bread, milk, meat, vegetables, sugar, wine, brandy, potatoes, eggs, coffee’, and also asked Kératry to get rid of the gunpowder stored in the theater’s basement. “If Paris were to be bombarded and a shell should fall on the building, we should all be blown up, and that is not the aim and object of an ambulance.” Kératry must have been entranced by Sarah Bernhardt for he fulfilled all her requests and more. There are many details in My Double Life about the small hospital at the Odeon Theater and others in The Divine Sarah, that biography I mentioned. “When at last the casualties were brought in, they arrived in horrifying numbers. Beds were set up in the auditorium, the dressing rooms, the bar, and the foyer. Even the stage was filled with the mutilated and the dying.” I’ve situated my character Camille Noisette as a volunteer in Sarah’s hospital. A privileged young woman accustomed to servants and parties, Camille is determined to help her fellow Parisians and soon becomes accustomed to the horrors of caring for the wounded including the prevalent use of amputation as a treatment. Ultimately, Sarah’s hospital is forced to close when the Prussian bombardment begins to destroy buildings in the area. I won’t tell you what happens to Camille—that would give the story away—but here’s a little excerpt from Paris In Ruins to spark your interest. ~~~
“Do you know where I might find Madame Bernhardt?” Camille asked an old woman sweeping the black-and-white tiled floor of the theater’s vestibule. A puzzled look caused her to repeat the question, this time a little louder, and the woman waved at a narrow door tucked behind the grand staircase. “Là-bas,” she said. “Down there.” “Monique, why don’t you wait for me here?” Camille said, pointing to a low bench. “I’m sure I won’t be very long.” Following a dimly lit corridor that slanted downward, Camille reached the back of the theater and discovered a series of small rooms and a jumble of props and costumes as well as ladders, lamps, chairs, and a panel where tools of all sizes and shapes hung in an orderly fashion. A light glowed softly in the distance. She took a few more steps. “Bonjour,” she called. “Is anyone here?” “Oui, un instant,” came the reply. A minute later, a dark-haired beauty dressed in black emerged from a doorway, and although Camille could not see her face clearly, she knew from the mass of curls and statuesque posture that she was about to meet Sarah Bernhardt. “Yes?” Bernhardt said. “If you are an actress, the theater is closed because of the war. I cannot help you. Life is difficult for anyone in the theater. You will have to make do, just as I am, as there are more important matters at hand.” She arched her dark eyebrows and tilted her head as if expecting Camille to leave. “My name is Camille Noisette, Madame, and I’m not an actress. However, I’ve heard you may soon open the Odéon as a hospital for our wounded, and I would like to help.” Bernhardt frowned and moved closer to Camille. “Where did you hear such a rumor?” The tone was dismissive, but the voice was pure as crystal. “It’s not true?” Camille asked. “I didn’t say that. I merely asked where you heard the rumor.” “I . . .” Was truth the right strategy? Would Sarah Bernhardt be offended if told of the gossip at Madame Lambert’s salon? The actress’s reputation held her to be impetuous and demanding, a woman of powerful connections and great willpower who was capable of daring risks to have her way. There was no point in lying. “I heard it at an evening salon. One of the gentlemen in attendance speculated that the Comte de Kératry would willingly help you.” Bernhardt laughed—a deep, throaty sound accompanied by a toss of her head. “Yes. That’s exactly what people would say about me. And they’re right. I am planning to open a hospital here, and I saw the comte yesterday. He is being most generous.” The last sentence was accompanied by a sultry look. “Well, I would like to help,” Camille said. “I believe you will need volunteers, and although I’m not trained to nurse, I’m sure I can be useful.” Sarah Bernhardt tapped an index finger against her lips while surveying Camille from head to toe. “You don’t look useful. You look like a young society woman accustomed to having others wait on her. Why would I need someone like that? You’d only get in the way. And I’m having enough difficulty as it is. Both the French Society for Aid to Wounded Soldiers and the French Army medical corps are in hopeless disarray.” It hadn’t occurred to Camille that her station in life would be a reason for refusal, and for a moment she searched for an adequate reply. “I can . . . I can read to wounded soldiers,” she said. “Or write letters. I can fetch supplies, fold linens, and spoon soup into the mouth of someone too weak to feed himself. I’m not afraid of hard work.” “Hmm. You’re right. Those tasks might be useful. Do you know anyone who could provide supplies?” “Such as?” “Food, medicines, fuel, coffee, clothing, blankets. The hospital will need all sorts of things if we are to treat the wounded and help them heal. The Comte de Kératry told me definitively that they are expecting thousands of casualties, possibly tens of thousands. Many will die before they can be treated, but others we will save. They will all need to eat and drink and be kept warm.” “Tens of thousands, Madame? But how can that be? Paris is completely fortified.”
~~~ When the siege was almost at an end, Sarah wrote this in her memoir: ‘The infamy of war. What has happened to humanity when our enemy deliberately targets buildings flying the ambulance flag? Will there ever be a time when wars are no longer possible? When the ruler who wages war is dethroned and imprisoned? This horror is like poison seeping onto our streets, affecting every man, woman, and child.’ The siege and the insurrection that followed were a turning point for France and Sarah Bernhardt, one of France’s most famous actresses, played an exceptional part. M.K. Tod writes and blogs about historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS is available for pre-order on AmazonUS, AmazonCanada, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.
Let’s be frank. I’ve been knee-deep in research on the Wars of the Roses for my work in progress, and I have to say this is some of the most complicated and confusing reading I’ve had to do for a long while (and I thought the English Civil War had a lot going on!). So when my dear author friend JG (Jane) Harlond told me about her latest murder mystery novel, Courting Danger, and offered me an Advance Review Copy, I was a little worried that I had no brain cells left for solving a murder! NO worries! I had the best time traipsing around Cornwall with Detective Bob Robbins–truly a mental vacation that did me the world of good. Here’s the blurb and my review, and I absolutely recommend you take yourself off to the west country and enjoy a week in Bob’s company. You’ll not regret it!
“Dr Lanyon might have been a well-respected physician, PC Oliver, but he had the morals of an alley-cat.” Cornwall, England, 1943. Dumpy, grumpy wartime detective Bob Robbins is sent to investigate a doubtful suicide in a remote moorland pool. Gogmagog Ditch is steeped in folklore but what attracted the victim to such a desolate spot, and why? Dr Corin Lanyon was liked by all and loved by many – especially women. Assisted by young PC Oliver, Bob untangles the victim’s relationships and connection to a Celtic heritage group, revealing a network of deceit and stolen museum pieces. Could one of the folklore group be guilty of murder, or was it the doctor’s mad aunt? Or one of the American GIs preparing for D-Day? A second death in an ancient stone circle means Bob and Laurie must focus on where the crimes were committed – starting with another visit to the bleak moorland pool and the discovery of a sacred cave in a hollow hill. Courting Danger is a thrilling tangled web of clues set in the breath-taking beauty of the Cornish moors during WWII that any mystery fan will love. www.jgharlond.com Facebook Amazon USA. Amazon.co.uk
My review: I didn’t want to leave! Atmospheric moorlands, ancient folklore and magic, and a curmudgeonly retired detective who discovers more than a mysterious death in his locale (slight spoiler alert — will cupid’s dart penetrate Detective Robbins tough exterior?). From the moment a body is discovered in a lonely haunted beauty spot to the satisfying tidying up of red herrings and loose ends, I was completely immersed in JG Harlond’s newest Bob Robbins quintessential English murder mystery. Set in 1943, Ms Harlond captures the spirit of wartime Britain and serves up a deliciously unrationed feast of secret trysts, torrid affairs and pagan rituals against a backdrop of the brooding Cornish countryside. Crackling with wit and sardonic humour, I absolutely loved the characters and their behaviour; I truly was waiting for the knock on my door announcing Detective Robbins was here to interview me, so immersed was I in the story. I had not read Ms Harlond’s previous two Detective Robbins novels; however I’m a huge fan of her historical fiction, and her brilliant ability to bring characters to life shines in this genre too. Highly recommend – just be sure you remember your way home, because you’ll want to stay in this world!