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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

To Take Her Pride by Anne Brear

The story of To Take Her Pride came to me quite easily. It flowed very well and was a joy to write.
I am always intrigued by the idea of what happens when a character’s life is turned upside down and all that they knew becomes foreign, their private world they thought was safe and secure suddenly becomes alien and fragile.

In To Take Her Pride, Aurora lives a privilege life that she has taken for granted as the wealthy do, but one event destroys all she knows and she is soon leading a very different life she never expected.
I found it interesting that Aurora becomes a much stronger character as the book continues. She starts off at the beginning as an ordinary young women, but in a short space of time, she becomes an extraordinary strong women fighting to survive in a strange and frightening new life.

The era the book is set in is late Victorian just as the strict confines of the old Victorian ways are starting to loosen up as women become more interested in the world outside of their own kitchen. England becomes embroiled in the Boer War, which also touches Aurora’s life, but as the world advances to more modern ideas as a new century dawns, the working class are still struggling to rise above the ever present threat of poverty, disease and death. All these things Aurora experiences first hand as she is torn from her comfortable life and thrust into a much different existence.

To Take Her Pride is set in Yorkshire, like most of my books, and largely in the city of York.
I find York a fascinating city, full of history, where each street and lane has a story to tell. Grand old buildings, the castle walls, and the River Ouse all have their own fascinating history and provides a great back drop for the story. Again Aurora finds contrasts as she leaves the country is and swallowed up within the slums of York’s poorest areas.   

With all the twists and turns Aurora endures, I found writing her journey totally absorbing. As always, the character became dear to me, a friend, and it’s exciting to see when readers enjoy her story too.

Anne Brear’s website:

To Take Her Pride can be bought in paperback or ebook formats.
Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Woman Who Loved Jesse James by Cindi Myers

Zee James, wife of Jesse James, is one of those figures who hasn’t gotten much attention from historians. She’s overshadowed by her famous, flamboyant husband. Jesse is the man who made history with his daring robberies. Zee was the woman who worried and waited for him to come home. In writing The Woman Who Loved Jesse James, I tried to bring Zee to life, and to share her remarkable story with others.

As a history buff, I can get lost in research. I love reading old newspapers and letters, as well as biographies and historical nonfiction. I’m particularly fascinated by some of the larger-than-life characters in the American west – Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James.  Mention Jesse James in any crowd and almost everyone will have something to say about him. (A surprising number of people will mention that he is a distant relative.) Everyone knows – or thinks she knows – about Jesse James.

One of the interesting aspects of Jesse – to me – is how much of a family man he was. Most people know he spent a lot of time running from the law, but many don’t know his family ran with him. They were always right there, living under assumed names, too.

They say behind every great man is an even greater woman. I started thinking about the kind of woman who would be so devoted to a man like Jesse that she’d follow him away from her home, change her name and keep his secrets. Was it love that kept Jesse’s wife loyal, or something else?

Thus began my research into the life of Zee James, Jesse’s wife. The story I found fascinated me – she was Jesse’s first cousin. They fell in love while she nursed him back to health. She waited for him through a nine-year engagement. She kept their family together through some amazingly tense and trying circumstances. Here was a woman who’d been a part of history but had lived in the shadows. I realized I’d uncovered one of the great, though tragic, love stories of our time.  

Unfortunately, no letters in Zee’s own words, or diary of her experiences exist. What I learned about her I had to piece together from mentions in newspapers, family stories and legend. Zee rates only a few paragraphs in even the best biographies of Jesse. If I was going to tell Zee’s story, I would have to do it through fiction.  
The Zee I portray in The Woman Who Loved Jesse James may not be like the real woman – we’ll never know. But she is true to the woman I imagined, a woman who longed for adventure, who loved her husband in spite of, and even because of, his faults, and who longed for a life she was never really able to have. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

The agent sat in her office puffing at her cigarette. "What you need to do, darling, is write a fantasy novel."
"But I don't do fantasy, do I? I write historical fiction."
"Yes but Harry Potter is all the rage. Why not write something for teenagers?"

The author trudged down four flights of stairs and out into the London rain wondering if she could afford tea at the Ritz. She really didn't want to write fantasy. Nor for teenagers. She liked writing historical fiction, she liked character interaction, the what motivates people, what makes them tick. She liked writing about rugged heroes that were the sort of men you wouldn't want to get into a drinking contest with, but who would, all the same, be there to fix the fuse, and know where the torch was!

A Holiday. A wet, windy October afternoon. The rain had poured all morning, but by early afternoon an apologetic sun was squinting from behind a barricade of grey cloud. The author decided to walk the dogs on the beach.
All week she had been researching her latest interest; the truth behind pirates. Now the film she had seen was all very well, but it was not historically accurate was it? Tortuga, for instance, was cleared of pirates in the late 1600's; Port Royal was just a naval base. Pirates did not turn into skeletons. But they did wear bright ribbons, wave cutlasses about, get drunk and have an awful lot of fun.

As she was walking down the steep cliff-path, minding the bunny-burrows and reminding one of the dogs that it was not a good idea to get stuck down one again, she wondered; "What would happen if a charming rogue, such as Jack Sparrow, met up with a white witch? Not someone like Hermione in Harry P.,  someone more like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars? A good witch, who had the Craft. She can't do magic, has no wand or spells, but she can summon a wind, or talk to her lover via telepathy.

At the bottom of the cliff, the author crossed the stream and stepped onto the beach. Immediately, she was almost knocked over by a blast from the wind, and the dogs went haring off after those two seagulls that had been bugging them all week.
The tide was ebbing, the breakers all white foam and rolling excitement. She walked along listening to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, cursing because the earpiece kept falling out of her ear.
Sitting on a rock, she gazed out at the ocean. It was the English Channel really, but an author has a vivid imagination. It was not too difficult to picture the hot Caribbean sun; waving palm trees; the rich turquoise blue of the sea. It rained again. Quickly, she switched to a different scene. The Florida reefs, 1715. Eleven Spanish galleons went down laden with treasure.

What if... her mind was racing, her heart beginning to thud with excitement. What if there was a 12th ship? A pirate ship? A ship that a young, handsome rogue had just commandeered? His first captaincy... he survived the storm, would want to get another ship as soon as possible.... he had a brother, a half-brother, who had bullied him as a child. A brother who had burnt his only possession, a boat called.... Acorn! The author was getting really excited now! The boy fled the Virginia tobacco plantation and became a pirate. He had a few adventures, got rich on plunder, but was, underneath all the swagger and pretence, lonely. It was alright having crumpets and strumpets, but there was also the horror of the hangman's noose dangling over him. Then one day he meets a girl. He was in deep do-do, wounded and being chased by East India Company agents and this girl... no, not a girl... the white witch... rescues him. They fall in love, but he misses the sea. Because of er, because of (the author decided to think of a because of later) because of dah-di-dah happening, there is a mix up. The pirate assumed the girl didn't love him anymore. And the girl, who was really a white witch, thought the pirate didn't love her anymore. So they were both miserable for a few months. The pirate found solace in a rum bottle (as pirates do) and the girl gave in and married the rich creep who had been pestering her all this time. Then the pirate's brother caught up with him (very annoyed because the pirate had stolen his ship)

The author's backside was getting a bit numb, so she walked on up the beach.

The annoyed bully-brother is in league with the creep who married the girl... Tiola! the author thought, her name is Tiola. (Say it as ‘Teeola’, not ‘Tee…Oh…La’)Tiola what? Tiola is all that is good - a.l.l.t.h.a.t.i.s.g.o.o.d. An anagram! Of... furious muttering... an anagram of Tiola Oldstagh!

The author walked on, she was nearing the far side of the bay now and the tumble of rocks that were full of fossils and things. Or so the guide books said. She had never found one.
OK, so the annoyed bully-brother is in league with the creep. The two men are plotting to capture the pirate and have him hanged - Captain Woodes Rogers, a real figure in history, has just become Governor of Nassau and is offering a pardon to all pirates. The two creeps arrange to meet at Nassau, guessing that the pirate will turn up looking for amnesty. Which he does - but the bully-brother nabs him and  chains him up in the bilge of a ship and heads off back to Virginia. He wants to have his fun first and punish the pirate for stealing his ship.

Tiola loves her pirate. She tells her husband to go jump in a lake and boarding the pirate's ship (which he has called Sea Witch) sets off in pursuit of her true love - having to conjure up a wind to do so. Meanwhile, the author could see a small sub-plot coming here… something about Tethys, goddess of the sea who wanted the pirate for herself?

The author was quite pleased. Lots of action, adventure and character interaction. The chance to get to know these two young lovers, the tried and trusted boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl then finds her again plot.
So all she needed was her pirate.

The wide sweep of the beach was deserted. She looked at the wet sand where the tide was scurrying in with lace-edged patterns of foam. Saw a man standing there, twenty yards away. He was tall, rugged. Had an untidy chaos of curled, dark hair with a few blue ribbons fluttering in the wind tied into it. He wore knee high boots, a faded coat and a three cornered hat. He was looking out to sea but he turned, grinned at her, showing the flash of two gold teeth. With his right hand he gave the author a small, acknowledging salute. An earring dangled from one ear. An earring shaped like an acorn.
"Hello Jesamiah Acorne," the author said.

And the author swears that every word is true.
Helen Hollick 
Amazon US