Thursday, February 22, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Kevin O'Connell, author of Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Kevin O'Connell to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe.

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Release Date: October 31, 2017   |   October 31, 2017   |   Historical Fiction/Family Saga
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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Kevin. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe. 
Thank you so much for having me! 

Two Journeys Home is the second of what appears will be a series of four, or perhaps even five, works of historical fiction, which will together comprise what’s become The Derrynane Saga. The story is based on what little is historically documented about several members of the O’Connell family of Derrynane, in far southwest County Kerry, Ireland. As it relates their largely-fictional lives from 1760 until the mid-1790’s, set in Ireland, Vienna and France, this provides a time-line for each book and the Saga as a whole.  

The period covered in Two Journeys is Spring, 1767 until mid-Summer 1770 – which proves to be a highly-eventful, albeit relatively-brief span of time, in which several of the O’Connells’ lives are changed forever, amidst a melange of romance, intrigue, betrayal, violence and conflict within and without the clan. In some parallels, one or two other major characters’ lives are similarly altered.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
‘Tis not impertinent at all – it’s a great question! 

I believe it is accurate to say that, without being aware of the fact, I seemingly had the story within me for much of my life. Having heard any number of “O’Connell tales” since childhood, I ultimately studied both the O’Connells and the Eighteenth Century in Europe in quite some detail, in the process subconsciously tucking away many wee snippets of what has become this story – a mix, as are all Irish stories, of fact and fancy.

The writing itself began just about six years ago this Winter, as a bit of a lark. I must admit that writing was not something I’d dreamt about or deferred all of my life. When I did start – with a gossamer-thin story line, and no experience in writing fiction – or anything else, other than incredibly-dull, complex legal opinions and massive legal transactional documents, the stories literally – and surprisingly – “poured out of me”.  

I was somewhat heartened relatively early-on in the process by a small article written by Hilary Mantel which appeared, in of all places, the Wall Street Journal, which was entitled The Art of Making the Dead Speak; as I read it and critiqued what my characters were saying and how they spoke, I felt that I actually might have some knack for this! 

During the course of writing both books, I’ve frequently had a sense of almost watching things unfold, “hearing” what was being said, following the characters rather than creating them and what appears on the pages. I’ve come to learn that this is a phenomenon experienced by some writers. Whatever it may be . . . it continues to be an incredible wonder.

There were certain immutable historical facts about the O’Connells that I knew, and which I’ve used as “mile-markers’ within the story – these facts were few, minute even – footnotes in history, actually –  so there are huge gaps in time that needed to be provided for, and it is here that my imagination kicked in and from whence the story emerged. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Eileen O'Connell? What kind of person is she? 
Ah, Eileen!  I grew up hearing of her, referred to at times as “Auntie Eileen,” and I’ve always felt some type of a numinous, mystical connection with her. I know her, at least the Eileen who strides elegantly across these pages, better than anyone for she is in many, albeit not all ways, a product of my imagination.

At this stage of her life, virtually all that is known for certain, as she is historically referred to, in Irish, as “Eibhlin Dubh” – which in English translates as her being “Dark Eileen” or, perhaps more poetically, “Eileen of the Raven Locks”, is that she had black hair.

In developing her character, I have used this as a distinguishing feature – one that sets her apart, even from her own family, as the O’Connells of the period whose appearance we do know were largely fair-haired. In the books, Eileen’s hair is a thick blue-black mane that cascades to her waist. So unique is it and such is the personality that I have created for her (based on a single written reference that she was apparently a “headstrong” young girl), in a time when “ladies at court” wore their hair fashionably-dressed and, at least in part, covered, Eileen does neither.

She stands “six feet tall, plus an inch – perhaps two” with the deepest of blue eyes, a luminous complexion and a manner befitting a member of the vestiges of the now-fallen Gaelic Aristocracy. Though she is, as the O’Connells are said to have been, proud and arrogant – and intimidating, she is also loving, gentle and quite brilliant – fluent in Irish, English and French, near-fluent in Latin, conversant in German; well-read, equally so-travelled. She speaks in a husky, almost sensual voice. She is a complex character, strong, courageous and – for her time – independent, but also highly-conservative, traditional, and a fervent absolute monarchist.  Lastly, she is skilled in the use of firearms – and does not hesitate to meet violence with her own armed ferocity

By the time Two Journeys begins, after having been wed (in an arranged marriage solely for the benefit of the O’Connells and their smuggling activities) and widowed before her seventeenth birthday, she has been at the Hapsburg court for almost six years. There, she is amongst its best-recognised members, serving as governess, teacher, riding-mistress and companion to two of Maria Theresa’s daughters, with the younger of whom, the Archduchess Maria Antonia, she has developed an intimate, maternal relationship.  
Not too far into Two Journeys, Eileen will make a life-changing decision, about which I shall say no more!

Eileen is not the only member of her family in the Habsburg Court. Can you tell us a bit about Abigail?  
I smile whenever I think of Abby: One reviewer flatly stated, “I love her . . . she is a doll!” whilst a reader wrote to me that “I would love her to be my best friend!”

She is several years older – and several inches shorter – than Eileen, more than just pretty, she has, soft curly reddish-blond hair, lying just past her shoulders. Her sky-blue eyes sparkle, a smile or the warmest of laughs seems always close to the surface and her complexion glows, with cascades of faint freckles over her nose and down her cheeks, her manner is perhaps best described as being “elegantly casual”.

One of the best examples that comes to mind, one through which her unique personality truly shines, is a scene after she’s just arrived at Vienna and is being introduced to the Empress, hew new mistress, for the first time:

“Abby was, as her mother would have said, “being Abby”: warm, intelligent, humorous, thoughtful and genuine, posing even the most delicate questions in such a guileless
way that Maria Theresa could only laugh and answer — “No, darling, there are those people amongst us whose tasks specifically include the removal of such ‘pots’”. 

Despite a subtle comedic aura about her, during the rest of the first book Abby matures rapidly and settles into a “career path” that had been set out for her even before she arrived in Vienna; she also weds Denis O’Sullivan, a young Irish (a Kerryman she’d met whilst still at home) officer in the Hungarian Hussars, in a magnificent ceremony staged for her by Maria Theresa.

By the time Two Journeys Home picks up her story, far from being overshadowed by her more colourful younger sister Abigail has risen to what many consider to be the highest post at court: principal lady-in-waiting to the Empress Maria Theresa; as head of her household and “gatekeeper,” Abigail is the servant closest to the most powerful woman in the world.  She is a beloved – and commanding – figure at court, who is still able to make people – including readers - laugh.

She is also Eileen’s anchor, her constant, who provides her younger sister with invaluable degrees of wisdom and insight.

Hugh O’Connell, Eileen and Abigail’s younger brother also appears in the novel. What can you tell us about him and the Irish Brigade?  
Hugh was first introduced as a little boy in Beyond Derrynane, youngest of the 22 children born at Derrynane to Donál Mór and Maire ni Dhuibh, during the course of their long marriage, some 16 of whom survive. Virtually from the time of his birth until she departed home as a teenage bride in 1760, Eileen mothered him; the two have remained close. Like most of his siblings, Hugh is tall, fair, dirty-blonde and blue-eyed. Like his older sister, he is an excellent rider and is also said to be brilliant, an avid reader, multi-lingual and confident. He has an easy-going manner and, at least when he first arrives in Vienna, a somewhat wide-eyed, guileless view of the world.

When Hugh reappears in Two Journeys Home he as at that juncture in the life of a younger son in a still somehow-landed native Irish family – of deciding whether to go to Continental Europe for a more formal education (the O’Connells having been taught from an early age by “a succession of it always-seemed handsome young Jesuit priests” who had been smuggled into Derrynane by their father for this purpose) and/or to enter the military service of one of the Catholic monarchs.

As the on-going story is related in the Derrynane books, for several centuries there had been any number of Irish Catholic officers and other-ranks in service to Catholic monarchs from Russia to Spain.  Eileen, Abby and Hugh’s uncle, Moritz O’Connell, a general in the Imperial Austrian army, a count (wed to the Empress’s former lady-in-waiting) and a counsellor to Maria Theresa, is far from being the highest ranking Irish officer in Vienna.

In terms of the Irish Brigade, briefly, its history really begins with James II’s vanguishment by the forces of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 and the subsequent defeat of General Patrick Sarsfield at Limerick in 1691, the latter of which that resulted in what has become known as the “flight of the Wild Geese”. This term is applied to the soldiers who, having been loyal to James’s cause, were permitted to leave Ireland as a relatively-intact, albeit defeated army, to follow the Stuarts into permanent exile in France – this led to the formation of the famed “Irish Brigade of France”, which plays an increasingly-important role in Two Journeys Home and even more so as the Saga continues, as Hugh will follow his older brother, Daniel Charles, into the service of King Louis XV.  Hugh’s career will be as an officer in Dillons Regiment of the Brigade, whilst Daniel Charles, who began his French service with the Swedish Brigade, will spend some time in Lord Clare’s Regiment of the Irish one, he will go on to become an ennobled general and live long enough to be imprisoned by Napoleon. 

Ah, but I digress . . .

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing Two Journeys Home?
I have been extremely fortunate to have the most wonderful editor an author could possibly want! Randy Ladenheim-Gil is nothing short of remarkable, as she has guided, nudged, pushed, pulled and carried me through the creative process, employing a not-always-subtle mix of wisdom, humour, patience and great kindness. It is because of her that I can say that I’ve not had to toss away any character or major concept whilst writing Two Journeys or its predecessor. She has always managed to assist me in salvaging worthy ideas – even well-written but misplaced language which, absent her skill, might have fallen victim to the “delete” button.

In much the same way, she has prevented me from making potentially-damaging creative errors, one lengthy scene between Eileen and Maria Antonia comes to mind - it would have negatively-impacted the entire story had she not caught it.

If you could sit down and talk with one of the characters in Two Journeys Home, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
My choice of a companion for good German beer and conversation would be Colonel Wolfgang von Klaus, of the Imperial Austrian Army. Von Klaus, a member of one of Austria’s oldest and most prominent noble families, first appeared in Beyond Derrynane during the Winter of 1764, and became Eileen’s lover and companion. Their relationship goes well beyond the bedroom, as the two share a love of books and reading, and horses. Over time they became each other’s closest confident, Eileen learning from von Klaus the intricacies of European politics, “as tawdry as they are magnificent”, such that as her knowledge expands he comes to rely on her insights and thoughts in his role as counsellor to the Emperor Joseph. Von Klaus continues his intermittent appearances in Derrynane until he departs rather abruptly for the court of Catherine the Great at St Petersburg, as a direct emissary of the Emperor and his co-reigning mother, Maria Theresa. He reappears briefly several times in Two Journeys Home and will make a significant return to the Saga in the third volume. 

Von Klaus is an engaging character, tall, blonde, bluff, handsome and unassuming despite his vast wealth and lofty social and military stature. I would be interested to learn his “take” on the Habsburgs, especially the Empress, as well as Eileen and the other O’Connells at court, and also of the expatriate Irish overall serving in Catholic Europe, his views on the European political and social landscape, his experience at the court of Catherine the Great –  and how he really feels about Eileen O’Connell.

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Two Journeys Home, who would you hire? 
Eileen O’Connell: Margot Robbie
Abigail O’Connell: Emily Blunt
Maire O’Connell [mother]: Emma Thompson
Anna Pfeffer: Joanne Froggatt
General O’Connell: Liam Neeson
Countess von Graffenreit: Julianne Moore
Empress Maria Theresa: Cate Blanchette
Archduchess Maria Antonia: unknown teenage actress
Hugh O’Connell: unknown teenage actor
Art O’Leary: Ryan Gosling

What do you hope readers take from their experience of Two Journeys Home? 
I should hope that they take away an understanding of the unique history of the period and places as presented in the book, as well as a curiosity to perhaps learn more about at least some aspects of it all.  I have included a fairly detailed bibliographical essay in both books as there is a fair amount of excellent non-fiction available; I hope more than a few readers will have been intrigued enough by this fictional introduction to want to read more.  

In all honesty, I also hope the experience the readers have had with Two Journeys Home might make them want to read Beyond Derrynane, as well as the books to come!

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Kevin O'Connell is a native of New York City, the descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O'Connell's own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

He is a graduate of Don Bosco Preparatory School, Ramsey, New Jersey; Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

For much of his four decades-plus long legal career, O'Connell practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East.

Mr. O’Connell has been a serious student of Eighteenth Century Europe, especially of Ireland and France, for much of his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family of Derrynane, many even distant and long-ago members of which, especially the characters about whom he writes, he has “known” intimately since childhood.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland, USA.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Goodreads

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#WishList: February 2018

Like many readers, my TBR grows faster than it shrinks. I find a subject that interests me and titles start piling up one right after the other. With so many bookmarked, I thought it'd be fun to sort through and feature five titles a month here at Flashlight Commentary. 

The truth is oft times better than fiction which is why I've chosen to decicate my February Wish List biographic fiction. Each of the titles below was inspired by a real person, the life they lived, and the experiences they had.  

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Lucy by Ellen Feldman

On the eve of World War I, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, fiercely ambitious and still untouched by polio, falls in love with his wife's social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Eleanor stumbles on their letters and divorce is discussed, but honor and ambition win out. Franklin promises he will never see Lucy again.

But Franklin and Lucy do meet again, and again they fall in love. As he prepares to run for an unprecedented third term and lead America into war, Franklin turns to Lucy for the warmth and unconditional approval Eleanor is unable to give.

Ellen Feldman brings a novelist's insight to bear on the connection of these three compelling characters. Franklin and Lucy did finally meet, across the divide of his illness and political ascendancy, her marriage and widowhood. They fell in love again. As he prepared to run for an unprecedented third term and lead America into war, Franklin turned to Lucy for the warmth and unconditional approval Eleanor was unable to give.

Drawing on recently discovered materials to re-create the voice of a woman who played a crucial but silent role in the Roosevelt presidency, Lucy is a remarkably sensitive exploration of the private lives behind a public marriage.
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My Dearest Cecelia: A Novel of the Southern Belle Who Stole General Sherman's Heart by Diane Haeger 

As she enters the Commencement Ball at West Point Military Academy on a spring evening in 1837, in her pink gown with white silk roses and ropes of pearls, Cecelia Stovall looks---and feels---like the perfect, innocent Southern belle. Little does she know that at that dance she will meet the man who will change her life---and the lives of all her fellow Southerners---forever. Cecelia falls instantly in love with the dashing young Northern cadet, William Tecumseh Sherman, and they embark on a fiery, secret rendezvous despite their broad cultural differences and the expectation that they will marry others. Their love remains poignantly aflame and survives the worst obstacles over years of separation and longing. And then the long-threatened Civil War starts, and both Cecelia and William assume prominent positions on opposite sides of their country’s deepest and fiercest rift, as William becomes the very same General Sherman who will be feared and hated throughout the South.

Legend has it that Sherman’s love for Cecelia was the reason he spared her hometown of Augusta during his infamous march to the sea, in which his troops cut a swath through nearly every other town in Georgia and burned Atlanta to the ground. Now Diane Haeger, the author of the acclaimed The Secret Wife of King George IV, has re-created this lost romance in a sweeping and lyrical novel that will be treasured by the history enthusiast---and hopeless romantic---in everyone. A multilayered historical saga spanning a quarter-century, Diane Haeger’s epic novel of star-crossed lovers Cecelia Stovall and General William T. Sherman is a romance for the history books.
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The Pretender's Lady by Alan Gold

From the author of The Last Testament comes the true love of Bonnie Prince Charlie, her adventures in America and her lasting legacy.

In the page-turning popular genre trail-blazed by Antonia Fraser and Phillippa Gregory, The Pretender’s Lady, Alan Gold’s meticulously researched novel, accurately opens history’s pages on a peerless woman who helped change the course of history and whose legend lives on in Scotland today—Flora MacDonald.

She was the most famous Scotswoman of her day, single handedly saving Bonnie Prince Charlie. This is her fictionalized life story—her relations with the Prince, her flight to America, Ben Franklin’s influence, and her return to Britain to lobby for peace

But what’s hidden from history, revealed now for the first time in Gold’s dazzling new work of fiction, is the result of Flora’s and Charlie’s love: a beautiful and talented boy raised on an American farm. But only she knows his true heritage and his claim to the world’s greatest throne. And only the genius of Ben Franklin understands how to use this naïve boy to change the history of America.
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Dickon by Marjorie Bowen

Richard III is England’s most controversial king. Some believe him to be a sinister murderer and others believe he is one of England’s most patriotic monarchs.

In this fantastic piece of historical fiction, Marjorie Bowen delves into the childhood of Richard Plantagenet and reveals a moving tale.

Shaken by the tragic loss of his father and his older brother at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard and his elder brother George, later Duke of Clarence, are forced to flee the House of York to the Low Countries.

Here he overhears the gory details of the murders which have dealt him such a devastating blow and is visited by strange visions of a devil.

These haunting manifestations stay with him as he returns to England following the defeat of the Lancastrians.

As his eldest brother is crowned he trains as a knight and learns skills he later puts to the test as King of England.

Despite his growing sense of foreboding, Richard becomes a powerful and honourable ruler who struggles valiantly to ensure peace in England, offering leniency and mercy to some of the traitors brought before him.

But he is shocked when Richard Warwick, his cousin, nicknamed “Kingmaker”, betrays him in his hour of need and when George Clarence, his beloved brother, is seduced into treachery by his own lust for power.

A web of dynastic plots and treason trouble him.

He learns that the women surrounding him would sooner become nuns than witness more violence in the name of war and he tries to shield Anne Neville, his devoted wife, from his vicious enemies.

But will his efforts be in vain?

This is a story of conflict, violence and heartache. From his lonely childhood, to happier moments with Anne and the glory of victory, to his fateful death on Bosworth Field, the life of Richard III is written in the blood of those he most loved. 
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Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart

From the acclaimed bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, a historical novel about Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea, and his intriguing sojourn as a young man in 1820s Paris.

Born in 1805 on the Lewis and Clark expedition, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was the son of the expedition's translators, Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau. Across the Endless River compellingly portrays this mixed-blood child's mysterious boyhood along the Missouri among the Mandan tribe and his youth as William Clark's ward in St. Louis. The novel becomes a haunting exploration of identity and passion as eighteen-year-old Baptiste is invited to cross the Atlantic in 1823 with young Duke Paul of Württemberg.

During their travels throughout Europe, Paul introduces Baptiste to a world he never imagined. Gradually, Baptiste senses the limitations of life as an outsider. His passionate affair with Paul's older cousin helps him understand the richness of his heritage and the need to fashion his own future. But it is Maura, the beautiful and independent daughter of a French-Irish wine merchant Baptiste meets in Paris, who most influences his ultimate decision to return to the frontier.

Rich in the details of life in both frontier America and the European court, Across the Endless River is a captivating novel about a man at the intersection of cultures, languages, and customs.
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The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

A riveting novel following the exploits of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, the little known and rebellious daughter of America's royal family.

London, 1938. Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy has already taken England by storm, when she is presented to the king and queen. The effervescent It Girl of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kick moves in rarified circles--dancing and drinking champagne at the hottest nightclubs and attending the horse races with nobility. One such acquaintance is Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire.

Though initially reticent, the tall, handsome man sweeps Kick off her feet, but the obstacles to their love are many. Kick is a self-proclaimed triple threat--American, Catholic, and of Irish descent--all unacceptable to such a traditional family as Billy's. And as WWII looms, she is ripped away from the country she has grown to love and the man who has stolen her heart.

Returning to the States, Kick throws herself into making a difference. Becoming a journalist gives her a voice--and a chance to step out of the shadows of her accomplished brothers, including the charismatic Jack. Then as America is drawn into the war, Kick will discover where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love...

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Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Stephanie at Layered Pages

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

#WishList: January 2018

Like many readers, my TBR grows faster than it shrinks. I find a subject that interests me and titles start piling up one right after the other. With so many bookmarked, I thought it'd be fun to sort through and feature five titles a month here at Flashlight Commentary. 

I'm three books into my Presidential Reading Challenge and it's fair to say the subject matter has captured my imagination. Unlike my challenge titles, the books that appear on my January Wish List are ficitonal, but the spirit of the White House residents who inspired them remains the same. I can't wait to get my hands on these!

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The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.

Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.

The Summer I Met Jack is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together.
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Undiscovered Country by Kelly O'Connor McNees

An extraordinary novel portraying one of the greatest untold love stories in American politics.

In 1932, New York City, top reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok starts each day with a front page byline―and finishes it swigging bourbon and planning her next big scoop.

But an assignment to cover FDR’s campaign―and write a feature on his wife, Eleanor―turns Hick’s hard-won independent life on its ear. Soon her work, and the secret entanglement with the new first lady, will take her from New York and Washington to Scotts Run, West Virginia, where impoverished coal miners’ families wait in fear that the New Deal’s promised hope will pass them by. Together, Eleanor and Hick imagine how the new town of Arthurdale could change the fate of hundreds of lives. But doing what is right does not come cheap, and Hick will pay in ways she never could have imagined.

Undiscovered Country artfully mixes fact and fiction to portray the intense relationship between this unlikely pair. Inspired by the historical record, including the more than three thousand letters Hick and Eleanor exchanged over a span of thirty years, McNees tells this story through Hick’s tough, tender, and unforgettable voice. A remarkable portrait of Depression-era America, this novel tells the poignant story of how a love that was forced to remain hidden nevertheless changed history.
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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
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Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark

In Mount Vernon Love Story -- famed suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark's long-out-of-print first novel -- the bestselling author reveals the flesh-and-blood man who became the "father of our country" in a story that is charming, insightful, and immensely entertaining.

Always a lover of history, Mary Higgins Clark wrote this extensively researched biographical novel and titled it Aspire to the Heavens, after the motto of George Washington's mother. Published in 1969, the book was more recently discovered by a Washington family descendant and reissued as Mount Vernon Love Story. Dispelling the widespread belief that although George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, he reserved his true love for Sally Carey Fairfax, his best friend's wife, Mary Higgins Clark describes the Washington marriage as one full of tenderness and passion, as a bond between two people who shared their lives -- even the bitter hardship of a winter in Valley Forge -- in every way. In this author's skilled hands, the history, the love, and the man come fully and dramatically alive.
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The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

This eerie tale of psychological horror sees the real inhabitants of turn-of-the-century Princeton fall under the influence of a supernatural power. New Jersey, 1905: soon-to-be commander-in-chief Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton University. On a nearby farm, Socialist author Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of his novel The Jungle, has taken up residence with his family. This is a quiet, bookish community - elite, intellectual and indisputably privileged. But when a savage lynching in a nearby town is hushed up, a horrifying chain of events is initiated - until it becomes apparent that the families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse. The Devil has come to this little town and not a soul will be spared. 'The Accursed' marks new territory for the masterful Joyce Carol Oates - narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling fantastical elements to stunning effect.
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American Princess by Stephanie Thornton

"American Princess, about Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice, was preempted, in a world rights acquisition, by Kate Seaver at Berkley. The author, Stephanie Thornton, who was represented by Kevan Lyon at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, sold two books in the deal. American Princess, Berkley said, tells a 'sweeping tale' of a first daughter 'whose wild antics in the White House made her America’s first media sensation.'

The book, which will be published as a paperback original in early 2019, delves into how this politically connected woman went on to become a power broker 'as the wife of a debonair congressman and the mistress to a powerful senator.'"

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Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Stephanie at Layered Pages

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#BookReview: There is Always a Tomorrow by Anna Belfrage

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It is 1692 and the Colony of Maryland is still adapting to the consequences of Coode’s Rebellion some years previously.

Religious tolerance in the colony is now a thing of the past, but safe in their home, Alex and Matthew Graham have no reason to suspect they will become embroiled in the ongoing religious conflicts—until one of their sons betrays their friend Carlos Muñoz to the authorities.

Matthew Graham does not leave his friends to rot—not even if they’re papist priests—so soon enough most of the Graham family is involved in a rescue attempt, desperate to save Carlos from a sentence that may well kill him.

Meanwhile, in London little Rachel is going through hell. In a matter of months she loses everything, even her surname, as apparently her father is not Master Cooke but one Jacob Graham. Not that her paternity matters when her entire life implodes.

Will Alex and Matthew be able to help their unknown grandchild? More importantly, will Rachel want their help?
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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★   |   Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library   |   Read: January 2, 2018
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I grieved in March 2015 when author Anna Belfrage announced To Catch a Falling Star would be the eighth and final installment of the Graham Saga. Though mollified by the news that she'd be moving on to other projects, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to these characters. Fortunately for me, they were equally opposed to the idea and inspired their author to pull an about-face with the publication of book nine, There is Always a Tomorrow, in late 2017. As of early 2018, there is no official word on book ten, but I'd like to go on record and say that any and all denial of additional books by Belfrage will be considered unsubstantiated until I receive personal notification from either Alex Graham or her heir(s) apparent.

All joking aside, I also want to note that while the novels can be read as standalones, I recommend tackling the books in order as events from the earlier novels are often referenced and expanded on in later volumes. Belfrage takes care to often enough detail for new readers to understand the dramatic context each story, but I personally feel There is Always a Tomorrow carries more emotional weight for readers who've experienced both Serpents in the Garden and Revenge and Retribution.

The wake of Coode's Rebellion provides an intriguing backdrop for this volume of the Graham story. The novel itself does not cover the Puritan-led revolt against the proprietary government, but it does explore the ramifications of its outcome. In a dramatic shift, Catholicism was effectively outlawed in the colony of Maryland, and I liked how Belfrage paired the larger conflict with religious diversity within the Graham family to illustrate the injustice of intolerance.

That said, it is Rachel who proves the most thought-provoking character of the novel. Jacob's daughter isn't easy to like at the best of times, but her unpleasant demeanor is tempered by the tragedy of her experiences. Rachel's story is deliberately dark and uncomfortable, and while I can't claim to have enjoyed reading it, I will say that admired Belfrage for its inclusion. Though difficult, Rachel deserves more than the cards she was dealt and I liked how the narrative encourages readers to look beyond her antics to understand the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.

White Bear/Samuel's story stands in stark contrast to Rachel's. Caught between two diverse cultures, There is Always a Tomorrow sees him forced to claim one or the other as his own. Fans of the series understand this moment has been a long time coming, but I loved that it was ultimately perpetuated by White Bear/Samuel's desire to protect his children. A parent myself, I found the moment intensely relatable and couldn't help grinning at Belfrage's ability to capture such intimate emotional detail in the context of these novels.

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"May He who watches over us guide your step and lead you home."
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A Rip in the Veil
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like Chaff in the Wind
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Prodigal Son
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#BookReview: The Phantom's Apprentice by Heather Webb

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In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…

Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.

"Webb combines music and magic seamlessly in The Phantom's Apprentice, weaving glittering new threads into the fabric of a classic story. Romantic, suspenseful and inventive, this novel sweeps you along to its breathless conclusion." - Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician's Lie

"In her captivating novel, Heather Webb casts an intriguing new light on a much-loved tale...Full of magic and atmosphere, lush historical detail and page-turning suspense, The Phantom's Apprentice is sure to enthrall, enchant and delight... Brava!!" - Hazel Gaynor, NYT bestselling author of The Cottingley Secret

"A performance worthy of the Paris Opera...Christine’s evolution from 'damsel in distress’ to self-reliant woman is masterfully done, hooking the reader from the first page. Webb's work is immersive, well-crafted, and beautifully paced. A must-read!" - Aimie K. Runyan, author of Daughters of the Night Sky 
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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆   |   Obtained from: Netgalley   |   Read: January 4, 2018
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Illustration by André Castaigne
I caught wind of Heather Webb’s The Phantom’s Apprentice at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland. A devout cover slut, I was immediately smitten with the jacket design, but I was equally intrigued by the premise of the narrative and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of my own.

Did the novel live up to my expectations? That is an interesting question. The Phantom’s Apprentice exists within Leroux’s canonical universe, but it is independent of his voice which is a fact that initially frustrated me a great deal. When I sat down to collect my thoughts, however, I realized that while Webb’s interpretation of the source material differed dramatically from my own, I quite liked the creativity, ideas, and details of the narrative. For this reason, I encourage fellow readers to approach the novel with an open mind.

Christine is the focal point of the narrative, and I liked how Webb used the book as a platform to flesh out her character. Christine is a passive and easily manipulated individual under Leroux’s pen, but she becomes a far more assertive and astute personality under Webb’s. I didn’t always agree with this version of Christine, but I certainly appreciated the ideas that shaped her make-up and the contemporary relevance those themes afforded.

That said, I am a reader of historical fiction and admit the contextual details of the narrative held great appeal in my eyes. Leroux capitalized on contemporary interest in the spiritualist movement by creating the story around a man who taunts the cast and crew of the Palais Garnier in the guise of a ghost. Webb expands on this idea with further exploration of the emotional landscape of the spiritualist movement and the means by which those emotions were both flamed and exploited.

Webb’s foray into the world of illusion is also worthy of note. The novel takes place during a particularly exciting period where developing technologies allowed for great advances in the field of stage magic. Though the techniques illustrated over the course of the narrative are not refined by today’s standards, I found the descriptions of Erik’s illusionary innovations intensely entertaining and couldn’t help appreciating the effort Webb put into authentically presenting the magician’s craft.

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"Despite my understanding of illusions, doubt mingled with facsination. I wanted to believe, even if it wasn't real."
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Rodin's Lover
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Becoming Josephine
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Fall of Poppies
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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Monday, January 8, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Heather Webb, author of The Phantom's Apprentice

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Heather Webb back to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, The Phantom's Apprentice.

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Release Date: February 6th 2018   |   Sonnet Press   |   Historical Fiction/Romantic Suspense
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Welcome back to Flashlight Commentary Heather. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about The Phantom’s Apprentice.
Thank you for having me! The Phantom’s Apprentice is a re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, complete with a historical context of the period—illusionists, spititualism, what it means after we die, music as a means to find one’s inner power, Belle Epoque Paris in all its glory. It’s a sort of mash-up of genres, really; suspense, historical fiction, romance, women’s fiction (if that’s a true category). It’s all about Christine Daaé’s inner life, and who she “really” is—how her story “really” happened, at least in my imagination.

The Phantom’s Apprentice is less a re-telling than it is a re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera. Why did you opt to make such dramatic departures from the source material? 
It’s funny you say this. I had a couple of publishers tell me it wasn’t different enough, that I had followed the original too closely. My agent and I scratched our heads about it. I can’t tell you how much I wrestled with this element of writing the book. How much canon from the novel do I retain? How often can I stray from the original story? If I strayed too far, it would be unrecognizable; if I didn’t stray far enough, I would be repeating the story that already exists. This was a very difficult thing to balance. My critique partners could tell you how much angst I had about this very thing—it was constant. The other issue is, what is so famous in Webber’s version isn’t necessarily what the book was trying to illustrate at all, so it added another layer of angst. The public knows and loves the play. Do I follow this outline more heavily or the original Leroux version?

In the stage play version of the story, so much is left out that was either touched upon in the novel, or was eluded to (Erik having conjuring skills, for example). I reconstructed that world, expanded it, sort of combining the two versions. Also, I used most of the original cast, but I gave them deeper motivations, as well as created another layer of stakes for each character beyond just “there’s a creep in the opera who is trying to kill us”, or “she’s really pretty, I want to be with her”. There were a couple of new characters that I hadn’t planned on, too, who butted their way into the narrative unexpectedly. When Delacroix showed up, I thought “who the heck is this guy and what does he want?” It led me down the spiritualism path.

Ultimately, this is a question about artistic license, and about what the original means to me personally, where I see its strengths and flaws and how I wanted to flesh out certain elements, how I wanted to add something new to a beloved story that a modern audience could relate to. I found that in Christine Daaé’s voice. 

Spiritualism plays a unique role in the story. Can you tell us a little about the Spiritualist movement and its connection to the world of magic and illusion?
I was absolutely fascinated by this movement, and really wanted to incorporate it as historical context for the novel. First of all, Gaston Leroux lived during this time when the movement was at its height in popularity. He ingeniously weaved in this question of ghosts and spirits, as well as political commentary from the times into the narrative that doesn’t really come through in the play version. 

Spiritualism began with an innocent séance between the Fox sisters in the first half of the 19th century that evolved into a sensation. Did the dead communicate with the living? Had they really passed on or did they live among us, evolving alongside us in the afterlife? This era is when you see the rise of Gothic novels and the occult, as well as the use of mediums and turning tables for séances. Add the technological push and rapid series of inventions and everyone grapples for the essence of what matters—their loved ones, the evolution of their souls, and so on. 

Spiritualism evolved into a religious sect in some circles, and like with any religion, beliefs were tied to its principles and emotions ran high. There was much debate over the validity of spiritualism, and Scientists and philosophers sought to disprove or prove (whatever angle they were coming from), the likelihood that spirits were real. Many magicians/conjurers tapped into this emotionally volatile well and manipulated it for their own gain, especially as advances in projecting images and different types of glass were designed. They could “create” apparitions. Riots broke out after an illusionist’s show from time to time, because viewing the dead so easily in public caused a fright.

Erik could throw voices, used mirrors to deceive, made trap doors, dressed like an illusionist. Leroux was poking fun at the movement while simultaneously giving a nod to its ingenuity. I LOVED this about the novel and thought, how could this have gone unnoticed among modern audiences? We see magicians in top hats as hokey. This is because society today doesn’t understand the era when all of this was happening, how modern technology began, really, during this time, and the way it frightened the bejesus out of people. Major change was afoot. Fascinating stuff that I just HAD to include. 

Speaking of magic, the narrative is filled with numerous illusions and tricks. Were these techniques inspired by any particular magician or popular performances of the period? 
Yes, they were inspired by many illusionists that were popular during the time. I mentioned a few of them by name in the book. If you’re curious, I’d recommend reading Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer. It’s a terrific book about the history of magic and the world’s most popular magicians. I read a few others, but this one was, by far, the best.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
Hmm. I’ll just say my favorite scenes to write were when Christine sees Raoul for the first time at Carlotta’s salon, when she confronts Carlotta near the end, and also the masquerade ball when she discovers a few unsavory details about all those she has cared for and trusted.

How funny! The confrontation scene was my favorite while reading the book. 

Is there a character you felt particularly close to while writing The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
Interestingly, I’d say Claudette. As much as I enjoyed giving Christine Daaé a backbone, I just really loved Claudette’s voice. She popped up unexpectedly and I thoroughly enjoyed her. At times, I wanted the story to be more about her. 

As a side note, I had trouble with Erik. I had to really scale him back because every time I started working on a scene with him, he wanted to take over the story. He’s a larger-than-life figure in our minds and I had to remind myself again and again that it wasn’t his story, that he already had a story. This was Christine’s. 

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing The Phantom’s Apprentice?
YES! Initially, I toyed with the idea of setting up a framing device that was in Gaston Leroux’s voice. My intention was to show how he became inspired to write the original through things that happened to him and around him in society. I tried and tried to make this work—Leroux was kind of a wild man, and was the original and first celebrity journalist—but it just didn’t fit so I had to ditch it. I’m still mourning that. It just didn’t happen. Incidentally, I’d love to write a book about him.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
I assume you mean in The Phantom’s Apprentice and not from all of my novels? I think I’d choose Monsieur Delacroix. He was incredibly intelligent and had loads of baggage as well as some interesting views on things. I’d like to pick his brain. 

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of The Phantom’s Apprentice, who would you hire? 
I would hire Amber Heard for Christine Daaé. (In the novel, she was a blond, Swedish babe, not the brunette we’ve come to recognize in the play.) For Raoul, Liam Hemsworth, I think. I see Erik being played by someone with a middle-aged, slightly creepy affect like Kevin Spacey. I have no one in mind for the others. If Mariah Carey were an actress, I’d cast her as Carlotta. Ha!

What do you hope readers take from their experience of The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
I usually like to allude to something meaningful about being alive and struggling as people on this earth. In The Phantom’s Apprentice, the struggle is about finding a place of your own, about discovering the bravery inside of you to face hardships that life throws at us. It’s also about using that bravery to strike out, do something meaningful in our short time on this planet. We should not grieve forever about what is lost, or we also lose our present and our future. It’s also about spirituality. What do you believe about souls and the afterlife? Is it scientifically-based, or do you believe in a higher power? Do they go hand-in-hand?

Finally, I was heavily inspired by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of my very favorite novels. That novel, to me, is much less about plot and so much more about atmosphere. It’s an experience, almost, rather than a story. I aimed to channel some of that essence in The Phantom’s Apprentice. I wanted to create a lush, Gothic ambiance that was so unique to the era, make the book an experience of its own. Most of all, I just want to entertain my readers! 

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When Josephine Bonaparte appeared to Heather in a dream, she switched gears from fun-loving high school teacher to author & history nerd on the prowl for fascinating stories.

To date, her historical novels have sold in multiple countries, received national starred reviews, and have been featured in print media including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Cosmo, Elle, and more. In addition, RODIN'S LOVER was chosen as a Goodread's Pick in 2015.

Her recent release, LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, an epistolary love story set during WWI, she co-wrote with NYT bestseller Hazel Gaynor with lots of laughs, tears, and trans-Atlantic phone calls. It's available in stores everywhere.

Stay tuned for her up and coming, THE PHANTOM'S APPRENTICE, a Gothic re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera from a newer, stronger Christine Daae's point of view. Out February 6, 2018.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills, geeks out on pop culture and history, or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world, (especially her beloved France).

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads

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Rodin's Lover
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Becoming Josephine
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Fall of Poppies
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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Friday, January 5, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Anna Belfrage, author of There is Always a Tomorrow

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Anna Belfrage back to Flashlight Commentary to discuss the ninth book in the Graham Saga, There is Always a Tomorrow.

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Release Date: November 5th 2017   |   Timelight Press   |   Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
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Welcome back to Flashlight Commentary Anna. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about There is Always a Tomorrow
There is always a Tomorrow is the book that wasn’t supposed to happen. I thought I was done with Alex and Matthew when I published the previous book, but it proved very difficult to say good bye to them. Also, the future fate of White Bear/Samuel (the second youngest Graham child) kept gnawing at my heart so I thought it best to start writing about him and see what happened. 

There is Always a Tomorrow is the ninth volume in what has become a vast, multi-generational epic. Why was creating this kind of story so important to you and what do you hope readers take from their experience of it? 
The Graham Saga is self-indulgence at its best. I became so addicted to my characters and their adventures that I just couldn’t stop telling their story. At its core lies the love story between Alex and Matthew, but it’s also about love in all its forms, between parent and child, friends, brothers, sisters…I hope my readers put my books down with a reconfirmed belief in love and family. If, along the way, they’ve also learnt a bit more about life in the 17th century that is just an added bonus.  

Though neither will openly admit it, Alex and Matthew are beginning to feel their age in this story. As an author, how do you feel about seeing these characters reach this point in their lives? 
Stressed! After all, no one lives forever, and I am fast reaching appoint where…gulp. But there is an element of peace and acceptance in Alex’s and Matthew’s approach to age that I find comforting. After all, growing old is something most of us will experience and I believe it is how we choose to confront the inevitability of life nearing its end that colours our last years. 

White Bear/Samuel struggles with his identity through much of the narrative. What inspired his storyline and why did you feel it so important? 
I have a good friend who has a son who is not biologically his. The boy is very loved—but also confused as to who he really is. Like this boy, White Bear/Samuel and to some extent Ian are both people caught between two families, two identities. In Samuel’s case, he has difficulties in finding who he really is, torn as he is between his white identity and the Native American heritage of his adopted family. Ironically, the fact that all his parents love him makes things even more difficult for him. 

While historically appropriate, Rachel’s experiences are particularly tragic. Did you find it difficult to write these scenes? 
Yes. Especially as there are girls in our day and age that are experiencing similar horrors. 

Rachel isn’t the only grandchild facing hardship in this chapter of the Graham’s story. Duncan is beginning to note the social implications of his origins in There is Always a Tomorrow and I wondered if you might elaborate on how colonial culture viewed and treated both illegitimate children and the women who bore them. 
It varied from colony to colony, but in general most of the 17th century colonies considered an illegitimate child to be the result of fornication. In those colonies which had a Puritan majority, fornication was a crime that led to fines and public flogging. In principle, colonial laws considered the father to have an obligation to support his child—but the problem lay in identifying the father. An adulterous woman was considered sinful and for a long, long time it was believed that if a woman became pregnant she must have enjoyed the sexual act, hence a rape victim was as sinful as the woman who consensually initiated a sexual liason with someone not her husband. More specifically, this means that the good inhabitants of Providence would view Duncan’s birth mother as something of a fallen woman while Duncan himself would probably not be ostracized (beyond being taunted). Fortunately for Duncan, he has an adoptive father with some standing in society which probably helps! 

Your incorporation of Coode’s Rebellion represents one of my favorite aspects of narrative. Why did this particular episode of American history capture your imagination? 
Because it is rarely talked about. Coode’s rebellion effectively wrested control of the Colony of Maryland from the Catholic Calvert family (who had been granted Maryland as their colony by James I) and also signaled the end of the religious tolerance the Calverts had always promoted. 

Carlos finds himself at the center of this conflict. Can you tell us a bit about his personal situation and how this movement impacts him? 
Carlos has never found a place to call home prior to ending up in Maryland. So when Coode and the Protestant Associators make it illegal for Catholic priests to live & minister in the colony, they effectively make Carlos homeless again. It’s not as if Carlos has all that many alternatives: he can’t go back to Seville because his uncle has threatened to turn him over to the Inquisition. He has no real desire to travel to the Spanish colonies so he decides to stay put. A somewhat fateful decision…

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing There is Always a Tomorrow?
Adam Graham – but I’m thinking he’ll get more airtime in a future book. And Samuel needs more time as do Duncan and my favourite among the Graham grandchildren, Lettie. 

As a reader, I love Alex’s habit of sharing her favorite stories with her family and the literary legacy she gifts her children. It’s not related to the novel per say, but I’d love to know what titles the Graham children and grandchildren love best. 
Well, they’d not know the titles, but the boys would put The Three Musketeers right at the top. Alex’s daughters have always preferred the stories from The Lord of the Rings (as does Matthew). They all like Robin Hood, have heated discussions regarding Arthur and the Holy Grail, Guinevere and Lancelot. Alex has also passed on a number of Swedish fairy tales, most of them involving the very pretty little princess Tuvstarr and trolls. 

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

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

For additional information regarding Anna, her characters, extra scenes, and teasers for her next books, have a look at Anna's website.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads

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A Rip in the Veil
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like Chaff in the Wind
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Prodigal Son
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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