Sunday, March 30, 2014

Interview with Rachel L. Demeter, author of The Frost of Springtime

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Rachel L. Demeter to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her debut release, The Frost of Springtime.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary, Rachel. To start things off, please tell us a bit about The Frost of Springtime.
Hi, Erin! Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here! Well, The Frost of Springtime was borne from my love of French history and unconventional romances. Writing this story was an intensely emotional experience. I hold a special affinity for edgy romances and tortured protagonists … and Aleksender de Lefèvre is very much a wounded soul. Severely scarred inside and out, his twisted past and the horrors of the battlefield have hardened his heart–and Sofia’s love and compassion presents the ideal counterpoint to his darkness. Like Aleksender, she suffers from a tragic, ill-fated past. I have always been fascinated by the darker facets of love, and this served as a central inspiration. I had yearned to create a pair of star-crossed lovers whose deep affection for each other could triumph over seemingly impossible odds. Aleksender and Sofia are two flawed characters who are made perfect only through their love.

Nineteenth century France has always been a dear passion of mine, and, after some research, I quickly knew it would be the ideal setting for Aleksender and Sofia. It was a time of conflict, political intrigue, art, and romance. I grew up on Paris-set musicals, such as Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera—and they continue to inspire my imagination and characters. After researching the Paris Commune of 1871, I molded the era into a dynamic backdrop for Aleksender and Sofia’s love story to take place. In the process, I learned more than I could’ve ever imagined about the period. Quite simply, I fell head over heels in love with France.

The book was inspired by the Commune of Paris. What drew you to this particular event and why did you feel it an opportune backdrop for your first fiction novel?
While I was researching French history, I stumbled upon The Paris Commune and was utterly shocked by how the “Bloody Week” has almost been swept under the rug, so to speak. I was fascinated by the moral ambiguity in regards to both parties (the Communards, who really did execute hostages), and then of course, the army of Versailles (who executed thousands of citizens in hopes to retain peace). I also was fascinated by the ways in which the Reign of Terror impacted the Commune/army's decisions, mindsets and actions. In addition, little details called out to my muse—the underground Commuanrd's road inside the catacombs (couldn't resist the Gothic touch), the destruction of the column and everything such a thing represented ... and the abruptness through which everything went down.

Aleksender and Sofia live in the nineteenth century which presents a challenge in and of itself, but they also inhabit a city that is more than five and a half thousand miles from your home in Southern California. I'm curious, how did you approach bridging the gap in time and geography while crafting their story? 
I managed to get my hands on some AMAZING primary sources, including a couple diary entries from actual participants in the Commune and a stash of newspaper articles . Hopefully these accounts added a layer of authenticity to the story. But years of research and dedication to my characters more or less bridged the time and geography difference. People are people no matter what time they live in. Sure, they may dress differently, or speak in a different manner… but basic, human emotion never really changes. 

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
The scenes I usually enjoy writing most are the ones with the highest emotional stakes. Without giving away spoilers, I’d say that some of Aleksender’s “healing” moments as well as the love scene were amongst my favorites to write.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
Again, I’d have to go with the love scene; indeed, Aleksender and Sofia’s consummation proved to be both the most enjoyable and most challenging. For one, when it comes to THE love scene, there are a lot of expectations to live up to—readers often wait for that moment for countless chapters. Talk about needing to pay something off! Sexual scenes also contain a great deal of emotional significance as well as sufficient choreography. 

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept in The Frost of Springtime you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on? 
I would have liked to include a couple scenes between Elizabeth and Sofia. However, since the “married hero” is a bit of a convention bender in itself, for a debut novel, it’s probably better I didn’t overdo the interactions between Elizabeth and Sofia overly much. 

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing The Frost of Springtime and if so, what did you alter and why? 
Yes, a couple facts were altered to better suit the characters and story—though I tried to stay as accurate as possible. One of the most significant (and probably obvious) additions is Christophe’s involvement in the Commune. He’s a purely fictional character. A few of the settings were fictional as well, such as Café Roux and the convent house. Another change that comes to mind: the hostages of the Commune were executed by a firing squad against a wall, rather than decapitated underground in the catacombs. I made this alteration for the sake of increased drama, as well as the effect it had on the plot points/characterizations. 

If you could sit down with one of your characters, maybe meet for a few hours and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose?
This may be surprising, but I’d choose Christophe. He’s got a wicked sense of humor… plus, I’d like the opportunity to talk some sense into him… 

Where did the title of your book come from and how does it relate to the story? 
“The Frost of Springtime” is supposed to symbolize polar opposites. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the book and characterizations, as well as a constant obstacle between Alek and Sofia. Light often exists within the dark, good within the bad, pain within pleasure, and happiness within sorrow. This concept further extends to the story and setting, which occurs during the springtime. The “frost” represents the war and Paris’s destruction. 

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
My dream is to move readers with my words—so I hope they are emotionally affected in some way.  Also, it’d be awesome if the book generates interest in the Paris Commune of 1871—a vastly overlooked, yet historically devastating event. 

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
I’m a HUGE planner/plotter—almost compulsively so. I use Evernote for all of my research, and set a writing/word count goal for each day. I also try to read as much as I can—especially during the rewrite process. I’ve uploaded many of my personal diagrams, character/story sheets, and plot guides on my website. Feel free to use them as you see fit. 

Two words: writer's block. How do you deal with it? 
Heh, it’s funny—I actually have a post-it hanging off my monitor which reads: 

- Read
- Write scene by hand
- Listen to music
- Watch something inspiring 
- Draft out character’s emotions/needs” 

But at the end of the day, writer’s block happens to the best of us. My best advice? Keep writing! Remember: the enemy is not the badly written page… it’s the empty page!

Who are your favorite authors? 
Let’s see! Gaelen Foley, Judith McNaught, Lisa Kleypas, Kathleen E. Woodwiss, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Julie Garwood ... and the list goes on and on! 

What are you currently reading? 
I’m actually about to start Archer’s Voice, as recommended by my dear friend Julia over at Diva’s Book Blog.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
Certainly! I love to spend time with my high school sweetheart of eleven years and my silly Polish lowland sheepdog. Aside from writing novels, my other interests and hobbies include: studying history (especially 19th century France and the Middle Ages), reading (any and all genres), singing, cooking, health and fitness, playing the violin, videogames (yep, I’m a bit of a nerd at heart), filmmaking, loyally following television shows (Game of Thrones, woot!), philosophy, animals, and softball. 

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
I prefer the taste of coffee—though I do try to keep my distance, just in case that old stunting myth rings true! I’m only 5’1!

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? Planning a vacation? Anything exciting and/or noteworthy? 
Yes—I’m thrilled to say that I have several novels lined up, including an edgy historical romance set during the Napoleonic Wars, a historical romance/horror hybrid set in an Victorian asylum, a medieval historical romance, and as well as a few contemporary romances and a horror. I’m also very excited to be starting graduate school soon, where I’ll be pursuing my Masters in Teaching!

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Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and high school sweetheart of ten years. She enjoys writing dark, edgy romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and examine the redeeming power of love.

Imagining stories and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mom would jot them down for her. She has a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether sculpting the protagonist or antagonist, she always ensures that every character is given a soul.

Rachel strives to intricately blend elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some common themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.

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Format: Paperback & Kindle eBook
Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Released by: Black Lyon Publishing
Length: 286 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1934912614
Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Fiction

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Rachel L. Demeter said...

Hi, Erin! Thank you so much for inviting me on your wonderful blog! I really enjoyed answering your questions!! :)

Anonymous said...

Loved having you with us!