L.M. Merrington is a freelance writer, editor, academic and communications professional. Her journalism and academic writing has appeared in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin, East Asia Forum, Inside Story and South Asia Masala, among others. Her first novel, Greythorne, will be published by Momentum Books, Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital imprint, in 2015. She is currently completing an academic monograph, India and China in the Asia-Pacific, 1890–2030, and working on her next novel.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Michelle Isenhoff. Michelle primarily writes historical fiction set in the Civil War era, but has also dabbled in the fantasy and dystopian genres. Her most recent book is Reprisal, the fifth and final instalment of her dystopian Recompense series. You can contact Michelle through her website, on Facebook or Twitter, or follow her author page on Amazon.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen. I still have my young author’s book from first grade. But I didn’t get serious about publishing until my senior year in college. My professor, Dr. Judith Fabisch, was hugely influential in getting me to take the initial plunge and submit a few articles to magazines. Several years and four novel attempts passed before I completed a middle grade book I felt was good enough to submit to a publishing house. It wasn’t picked up. Meanwhile, I wrote two more. Both stirred some interest among publishers. In the end I got them both back, but the experience gave me confidence in my work. The following year (2010) I received a Kindle for Christmas. By spring, I had revamped all three of my novels and published them on Amazon. This year, I released my nineteenth novel.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The worst part is definitely marketing. It’s really hard to get noticed without the prestige and reach of a traditional publishing house. I’m not very good at promoting myself, and I hate doing it. But it goes with the territory. Another difficult thing is the toll it takes on my body. Writing requires long hours of sitting in front of a computer. I make sure I stand for half of those hours.

The best part of writing is the rush of finishing a new novel. Every story takes weeks—usually months—to assemble. There’s something so satisfying in taking that draft and fine-tuning it into a cohesive, polished product. Publishing is definitely a major highlight, but I just love that final editing process where something so rough becomes something so beautiful.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I love all eras of American history. I have one novel set during the Revolution, and I’m currently writing in the 1920s. But the Civil War era is my favorite. I’ve written extensively in it. The war is so tragically lamentable, because it could have been prevented so easily  when America’s government was being formed. Instead, the problem of slavery was left for the next generation to deal with, with catastrophic results. I see the Civil War as sort of the central event of America’s short history. The politics link back to the Colonial era and the Revolution, as does the military fighting style. But by the war’s end, weapons technology had advanced so much that the old style of fighting gave way to trench warfare, linking it to WWI (which followed only 50 years later) and the modern era.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

I’ll have to jump outside the historical fiction genre for this one. My Taylor Davis series  is a humorous, middle grade, supernatural, sci-fi adventure. It’s a little bit out there and was really fun to write. It didn’t really have any weird research, per se, but it led me all over the place. From submarines to medieval weapons, from London historical sites to African literary types, from scientific gadgetry to angels. I never knew where I would land next!

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Gettysburg. I’ve done so much research on the Civil War that I’d love to visit (not live in!) that time period, and Gettysburg was the pivotal moment. I have a horrified fascination with the battle itself, but I’d also like to witness the political shift as it played out across the nation in the subsequent months.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Battlegrounds and historical sites always get my imagination working. Even when I read a dry history text, I can’t help but wonder about the people who experienced whatever I’m reading about. My Candle Star series and my Ella Wood series both began with a trip to Gettysburg. And The Color of Freedom was prompted by a trip to Lexington and Concord.

I also tend to let my mind wander when I’m gardening or biking. I bike between 1000-1500 miles a summer (to make up for all that sit-down writing), so that’s a lot of brainstorming time. My kids and their friends are an endless source of material, as well.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Probably the Library of Congress website. I use a lot of works prepared by historians, but I love to read primary resources—slave narratives,  journals, period newspapers… The website is huge and not very user-friendly, but if I spend some time at it, I can uncover so much material. Far more than I could ever use. And it’s all right at my fingertips.

The best place in the world to write is…

My hammock in the backyard!

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

When I’m not writing, I’m probably biking. I also enjoy camping with my kids, romping with my dog, riding roller coasters, swimming in big waves, and watching home-town high-school football games.

What are you currently working on?

I’m actually writing a novel that I want to shop around to publishers. Since self-publishing in 2011, I’ve never done this. Series work best for self-publishing, and stand-alone novels do not. But this is a single, substantial novel about an intriguing part of Michigan history that has strong appeal today.  Since I have no idea what the publishing future or time frame will be for this one, I’d prefer to keep the premise under my hat for now.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Kelsey Gietl, who writes historical romance set in the 1910s. Her most recent book is Twisted River and she can be contacted via her website, or on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I can’t say what exactly got me started, but I’ve loved writing almost as long as I’ve enjoyed reading. A big influence stemmed from my mother. As a teacher, she made sure we had plenty of books and learned to read practically before we started school. I wrote my first short story in 4th grade and finished my first novel in 8th along with a smattering of poetry throughout high school. There was a time for many years after where I forgot how much I enjoyed writing, although my career never took me far from it. It wasn’t until after I researched our family tree almost four years ago that I dusted off my dreams of publication. Now here I am, two completed novels later.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best is hearing that your words made a difference. That your book made someone think differently, made them cry, or made them smile. I think the real joy in writing always comes from the hope that, even in some small subtle way, you’ll change one person’s world.

The worst is the exact opposite—being underappreciated. I hear time and again how so many people will spend $5 on a greeting card or their morning coffee, but only want books they can buy for $0.99 or less. Authors may spend years perfecting their stories—researching, writing, editing, and finally marketing their novel. It’s no small task, but too often is viewed as one.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I’ve always been intrigued by the early 20th century. It was such a complex era, full of so much social and economic change. My current series, Hope or High Water, is set in the 1910s, and in the future, I would love to write about the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. St. Louis, Missouri is where I grew up, and the more I research the city for my current series, the more reasons I find to love my hometown.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Way too many things, and most of them don’t even make it into the final version of the story! I’ve researched how to drug someone with photography chemicals, how long a dead body would take to decompose in the ocean, strangulation bruises, divorce law, natural fever remedies, steamship blueprints, how fast a house burns in 1912, and how to use a 1872 British Bull Dog revolver, just to name a few. I’ll let you decide which of those actually made it into the books…

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

The day I met my husband in 2000. My grandfather recently died, and he and my grandmother had the sweetest and most amusing tale of how they met. The day I met my husband, on the other hand, I have no recollection of. We were both dating other people at the time with no idea that one normal day would ultimately change our lives forever.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Everywhere! I try to take every event in life—especially the bad ones—as possible fodder for future books. A lot of my character inspiration also comes from stories I discovered while researching my family tree.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Google Books and the Library of Congress online. They have so many historical books and photographs available for free. It comes in extremely handy when I need to research something specific like marriage laws.

The best place in the world to write is…

A beach. Unfortunately, I live in the American Midwest where it’s a 12 hour drive or 2.5 hour flight to the nearest ocean. So, my favorite alternative is writing on my back patio on a warm summer’s day.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

During the week, my day job keeps me busy with its own fair share of writing and editing. Outside of work and novel writing, I enjoy yoga, reading, and gallivanting around St. Louis, Missouri with my husband and kids. Also, when I have the funds, I enjoy a nice family trip to the beach.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently researching for the third book in the Hope or High Water series. It will follow Emil and Amara, two characters from the first two books, in the time leading up to and during World War I.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to historical romance author Angela Christina Archer. Angela’s most recent book is A Road Paved in Copper, and she can be contacted via her website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or you can follow her on BookBub.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I started writing in September of 2009. I had been laid off from a job, and while I thought I would find something else fast, two weeks into having zero calls on any of my resumes, I needed an outlet before I went crazy. I had always wanted to write a book, but I never thought I had any talent so I never tried. One morning I just sat down at my computer and started. It wasn’t researched or thought out. I didn’t have an outline and worst of all, it was awful. SO AWFUL! I cringe now when I think that people actually read that first draft. I’ve often thought about sending them an apology gift for subjecting them to such torture.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing probably is just the writing itself, like when your fingers are flying across the keyboard and the scene just unfolds. Whether it’s in the way you planned or not, it just turns into everything you pictured, or becomes even more than you had hoped. The worst thing is the doubt. Wondering if you’re good enough, wondering if your books are good enough. You go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, wanting to bang your head against the desk or worse, set your computer on fire. Bad reviews tend to make those days even worse. Good reviews help, but they don’t erase the full sting.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I try to pick time periods that interest me simply because of all the research that is involved. No one wants to research about things they aren’t interested in. While I have a few that I love, I’ve always gone back to somewhere between 1860 and 1900 – that forty years seems to be my sweet spot.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

While I was researching my book set during the Salem Witch Trials, I came across the story of one accused who was sentenced to peine forte et dure. In this process, a heavy board is laid on the body then rocks and boulders are laid on the plank of wood. They pressed him with weight until he either confessed or suffocated. I remember thinking at that point that nothing better happen to my husband, because my computer search history is a hotbed of things cops would have a field day with. Hahaha.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

I’ve often thought that I was born in the wrong era. Which one I do belong to, I’m not really sure, but it would have to fall somewhere between 1850-1910. I know that’s a pretty big span of time, but those are my favourite years. I know those were also rough years. Years spent with many hardships that I probably would not survive. Hahaha. But I would still love to try. I think it’s mostly because that was the era where things were happening. Railroads were built, land was abundant for those who wanted to work it. People panned for gold, made fortunes in cattle, headed out onto the frontier for adventures (even if they were fraught with danger). Of course, they were also without creature comforts that I’ve grown to love, so . . . again, I have to wonder if I would have survived.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Instrumental music, and oddly enough, soundtrack CDs. Braveheart, The Last of the Mohicans, How to Train Your Dragon, and Divergent (which isn’t instrumental) are my four go-to ones. I have a handful of other songs by various artists that can get my fingers going too.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

My go-to one is always the internet because it’s easy and right at my fingertips. But my second is actually non-fiction books. I have stacks of them on each of the time periods of my novels (1861 Civil War, 1897 Klondike Gold Rush, 1692 Salem Witch Trials, 1929 Great Depression, and 1903 Nevada Gold Rush. I also have a current time period Contemporary.). I also love to research odd historical stories that most people don’t know about. Those are the best.

The best place in the world to write is…

Okay, this one might be weird, but for me, my favourite movie theatre. The one near my house has an upstairs balcony area that is closed off to anyone younger than 21. There are two places to dine, one is more out in the open and is fine to write in, but the other is around a corner and is secluded and for the most part library quiet. I order food that is brought to me (I have a few favourite dishes), and I could sit there all day.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I live on a small farm in the middle of Oklahoma, so I wake up to farm animals. So far just horses and chickens, but I do want to add a cow or two to the mix. I have two young daughters that I homeschool too, and I’m the Financial Controller for a company back in Nevada (I work from home). I like to say that I don’t have a full plate, I have a platter. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are you currently working on?

A book that is seriously kicking my derriere. Hahaha. My current work-in-progress is about 60,000 words longer and has more subplots and characters than any other I have done. While it’s a historical romance, this one has more history than romance, and is set during the year before and the actually days of the Battle of Little Bighorn. My heroine . . . well . . . she kills Custer. And that’s all I’m going to say. Hahaha. I hope to have the novel finished and off to agents and publishers by the end of the year. While I went through a small house for my first three and self-published my last three, I’m trying something new with this one. It is my hope that I can sell it and that people will love it.

 

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to fantasy author Morgan Smith, whose most recent novel, The Mourning Rose, was released in September. You can contact her via her website or blog, or on Facebook or Twitter.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I wrote my first novel on a dare. It was just to prove a point (lo-o-ong shaggy dog story there) but then people started passing the manuscript around and telling me it was worth putting out there.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The worst thing is the marketing aspects: they are hard, none of us really knows what works, and writers all suffer from “impostor syndrome” so putting ourselves out there and acting super-confident is hard.

The best part is not having to get dressed for work.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I actually was (in a previous incarnation) an archaeologist who specialized in Early Medieval Northern Europe, so late Iron Age Celtic, and Norse society of the Viking era are real passions for me.

But I cut my reading teeth on the Brontes and Jane Austen (not to mention Georgette Heyer), so I also am very much in love with Regency and Victorian English-ey things.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

How to make “magic fire” = which has nothing to do with anything I’ve published, but forms a very important thing in a book I’ve just started working on.

It’s really dangerous stuff, but table magicians (sleight of hand and similar trick stuff) use it, and it’s been known since antiquity. I think there are some really fun possibilities for a character to get into serious trouble with something like that.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Absolutely the early Viking era. I want to know about the real role women played in the social fabric. We are guessing wildly right now, and I would love to know how close my guesses are to the reality.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

It might be anything. A comment overheard at work. A news story. A piece of pottery in a museum. Tiny things just start my mind down the weirdest channels.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Again – there isn’t just one thing. The Icelandic Sagas were the original inspiration for my last novel, though. Those stories: you can feel how real the people are. Their motives are just as mundane and petty or as noble and selfless as any ten random people you know.

The best place in the world to write is…

My bedroom. It’s quiet (and cool in summer), and no one bothers me because “Shhhh. Auntie’s WRITING!” My peeps are the best.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

Well, I ride my bike a lot. And walk.

And I love to travel. I’ll literally go anywhere. A few years ago, I backpacked alone through South-East Asia for six weeks (mainly because people said I couldn’t possibly do that at my age), and two years ago, I went on an archaeological dig to Africa, even though it is totally not my area of expertise. But they asked and I went, because I’d never been to Ethiopia before.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished The Mourning Rose which is a fantasy romance/romantic fantasy a la the aforementioned Georgette Heyer – but set in my world and it has magic. It was really fun to write.

Just yesterday, though, I opened and formatted the document for my next medieval fantasy, and it will be centred on that street magician/performer and how things like sleight of hand can be as effective a “magic” as “real magic” would be…if the magician is quick-witted and perhaps not as completely honest and respectable as the people around her…

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to fantasy author Kyle Robert Shultz. Kyle mainly writes fairytale fantasy, but he has also written Western/fantasy and Regency fantasy within the same fictional universe. His most recent book is The Hound of Duville, a novella in his Beaumont and Beasley series. You can get in touch with Kyle through his website or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

About ten years, though I didn’t get into it seriously until January of 2016. Reading C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew as a young teen was what first awakened my love for the speculative genre, and inspired me to start creating my own fantasy worlds. However, I struggled with self-doubt for many years over my ability to actually write and publish a book, until my mom finally convinced me I should go ahead and publish the first novel in the Beaumont and Beasley series.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing about it is being able to dream up and tell stories for a living. Nothing really compares to that, in my opinion. The worst thing about it is that there’s a lot more to it than that. Balancing creativity with marketing is difficult, as is making sure that other important things like family time don’t fall through the cracks. However, I am gradually learning to develop a system that allows me to get stuff done without neglecting other areas of my career and my personal life.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I love writing in the 1920s (the period in which my Beaumont and Beasley series is set). This is mainly due to my love of the works of P.G. Wodehouse. His humor and his delightful characters have had a profound influence on my work. Plus, the 20s are not a common choice for fantasy stories, so I enjoy the challenge of blending this time period with magical elements. I’ve done the same with other time periods as well, like the Old West and the Regency era. I would like to explore even more period settings in the future.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

I’ve created some interesting challenges myself by featuring various non-human creatures as main characters in my stories. That’s led to some interesting Google searches. Perhaps the most unusual piece of research I’ve used was a YouTube video on centaur combat from Shadiversity. Actually, it was quite fascinating and surprisingly practical. I highly recommend this channel for all sort of fantasy and medieval-based story research.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Anywhere in America in the 1950s. I like the music from that era. Unless I had the option of visiting a base on Mars sometime in the future. There would probably be plenty of seclusion there to get some extra writing done.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Mainly by researching fairy tales and mythology and brainstorming ways to fit them into my fictional universe. That method pretty much always sparks at least one decent story premise. I also get a lot of inspiration from watching and reading works from the speculative genre, as well as listening to movie and TV soundtracks while I work.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

In addition to the Shadiversity YouTube channel I mentioned earlier, the Overly Sarcastic Productions channel has a great deal of well-researched (and hilarious) resources related to history and mythology. I frequently revisit their videos when I need more info on a particular legend or historical period.

The best place in the world to write is…

Outdoors. I love taking my work outside whenever possible. The dramatic scenery of southern Idaho, where I live, is particularly inspirational.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I love riding my horse and hiking through the various state parks in my area. I also sing and play the keyboard, and I’m slowly improving my skills with digital art.

What are you currently working on?

A Pinocchio-based retelling called The Geppetto Codex. It’s the third of six interlinked stories which will be compiled into Book 4 in my Beaumont and Beasley series. I also have a Jane Austen-themed fantasy in the works, and a mashup project featuring both Tarzan and Mowgli as main characters.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is historical mystery novelist K.B. Owen. Her most recent book is The Case of the Runaway Girl, the third instalment of her Chronicles of a Lady Detective series. You can contact K.B. through her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by email.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing off and on for 13 years. As with most authors, I’d been debating whether to try writing a novel longer ago than that. I knew it would definitely be a mystery. That genre had been such an important part of my time growing up (Nancy Drew, Scooby-Doo, Sherlock Holmes, et al), and continued into adulthood. I wanted to contribute to the genre that gave me so much pleasure and escapism over the decades.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

It’s the same answer for both: getting to determine your own schedule. I’m still working on finding an optimal process that maximizes productivity while balancing my personal life!

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

The Progressive Era [1890s-1920s in the United States] is a fascinating time to delve into. There were so many industrial/technological advancements that changed society. People of the time struggled to keep pace, trying to figure out how they felt about it all. Women’s suffrage, the disparities in economic classes, the role of government, and the influx of immigrant groups were some of the hot-button topics of the time, and I enjoy working them into my stories.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Nineteenth-century bomb-making. In addition to my other sources, I found a fascinating how-to pamphlet written by an anarchist in the 1870s that I bought from Amazon. Of course, my contractor husband despaired of his security clearance and wondered if the NSA would be showing up at our door. So far, so good…

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Great question! After my answers above you would think it would be the 19th century, but actually I’d want to go back to the 1930s—specifically to observe Mildred Wirt Benson put pen to paper and bring Nancy Drew to life for generations of girls.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

That’s tricky to pin down. Some ideas come from a story one hears or reads and others come from a personal experience, perhaps quite long ago.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

It’s a fab resource for double-checking the contemporary use of a word, reading about crime (some are hilarious, such as the man breaking in and cooking and eating a steak before robbing the family), seeing what products were advertised (bust creams, celery tonics, etc), locations of department stores, and more. There’s an advanced search feature that allows you to zero in on a specific date range, key words/phrases, and a particular state’s newspapers. Sometimes you don’t quite find what you’re looking for, but the accidental discoveries along the way are a lot of fun.

The best place in the world to write is…

…right by my dining room window. It looks out on our back deck, where we have a garden and feed the birds. I love watching the hummingbirds in the summer.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I enjoy reading, gardening, and doing various crafts, but if I’m being honest…a lot of my time is spent shuttling our youngest (teenager) to his various activities, and taking pictures of my cat to post on Instagram and Facebook. Trust me, she’s adorable.

What are you currently working on?

I alternate between my lady Pinkerton series and my Concordia Wells series, the latter set in a fictitious women’s college in the 1890s. Right now I’m hard at work on the first draft of the seventh Concordia Wells mystery. No title yet, but I’m shooting for a [northern hemisphere] winter release.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to steampunk fantasy author Dan Van Werkhoven. His debut novel is Sentinel: The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book 1. You can contact Dan through his website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing on and off for twelve years now. I kind of had two starts, my first was as a teen. I always loved the idea of telling stories, but writing? Yeah, no. I was a strict two-finger typist. Do you know how long it’d take to write an entire novel with just two fingers?

You don’t? Well, I didn’t either—still don’t—and I wasn’t about to try and find out.

Then I found out about NaNoWriMo from a friend. “Write a novel in a month!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

So this two-finger typist decided to give it a whack.

Let me tell you, if you want to learn how to touch type, writing a 50k novel in one month is a good way to learn. I didn’t stay a two-finger typist for long!

I got the novel done (it was terrible, but it was a start) and over the next few years I wrote several more novels and a handful of short stories.

Then I stopped.

In 2015 I moved to another country and couldn’t legally work while I waited for visa stuff to process. So once again I took up the proverbial pen and got to it!

Three years later, I have a novel and a prequel novella out. The second novel will be released later in 2018, with the third in the series scheduled for early-mid 2019.

 What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best: Being able to take readers on a thrill ride to strange and wonderful worlds. Coming up with those worlds is so much fun. Not much brings a bigger smile to my face than hearing from a reader how much they loved one of my stories. That’s why I write, to entertain.

The worst: The majority of my creative career has been in music and film. Both of those are VERY collaborative industries. Writing? Not so much. I’m pretty introverted, but when it comes to creating, I love working with people.

Thus far in my writing career, it’s been a solitary journey, and it’s seriously hard for me. I thrive off input and collaboration. Fortunately though, I have plenty of voices in my head to collaborate with.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

Oh, that’s a tricky one. See, I love me some good old-fashioned medieval fantasy, but I’m a machinist by trade (well, one trade, anyway). So while I like to read medieval fantasy, I prefer to write 1800s-1900s style time periods in fantasy settings with magic and steam-powered contraptions. That gives me heaps of room to go crazy inventing cool tech. Plus it lets me play with magic systems and a little bit of sword fighting.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Oh goodness. Probably the weirdest was for a story I wrote when I was younger—back before I switched to writing clean fiction. I wrote a story about a taxidermist who accidentally killed an extremely irritating customer, and, well, hid the evidence in plain sight using his skills as a taxidermist. So yeah, I did a fair bit of research into taxidermy.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Definitely Jesus’ day so I could see and hear him teach for myself. Might need to learn a new language for that one though, unless they’ve got universal translators by the time they get the time machines up and running.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Three places:

One, collaborating with Ancel Haegler, whose name you see on the cover of Sentinel Code. He and I came up with the world for The Dragon Striker Chronicles.

Two, when I’m slogging away at a story refusing to let “writers block” beat me—this is when I get my best ideas. Usually for a completely unrelated story…

Three, in the shower.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Hmmm. Good question. Because I write in a secondary world, I generally only check history to see if certain technology styles were invented in the time period I’m working with. As far as culture goes, I base a lot of it off current times and deal with issues prevalent in the world today. I want to connect with pronlems my readers are currently face, not so much ones the world has faced in the past.

That being said, I do need to dig into some resources for historical battles, because the next book I’m writing has a huge battle. As every battle has already been fought, just with different weapons, I want to do some reading. If anyone has recommendations, please do leave a comment! I’d love to check them out.

Finally, I also have a bunch of stories I’d like to write based upon situations various people went through in the Bible. I think they’d make for some fascinating fantasy tales.

The best place in the world to write is…

As I’ve recently taken up dictation to save my poor wrists… right now I love wandering around outside. I live on a tropical island and my backyard is a jungle with ruins in it. It’s hot and humid and there are bugs, but it’s such a neat place to write.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

Preachin’. As of writing this post, I’m the interim pastor at my church, so that takes up a large chunk of my week. Which is still a lot of writing, it’s just non-fiction instead of fantasy.

Other than that, I’m spending time with my wife, watching movies, and playing games and being a nerd with my friends.

What are you currently working on?

Hard at work on The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book Two, the sequel to Sentinel Code. I also have a couple of smaller projects in the works: a sci-fi short, and a swashbuckling steampunk fantasy novella I’m co-writing with my younger brother.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Denitta Ward, who writes historical fiction set in the 1920s Prohibition era. Each of her novels also comes with a short, easy-to-read companion nonfiction book that captures the actual history of the novel’s era. Her debut novel is Somewhere Still, and its companion book is Prohibition Cocktails: 21 Secrets & Recipes, which features the history of Prohibition and the history and recipe of each of the most popular cocktails served in speakeasies. It also includes a Roaring ’20s party planner to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. You can contact Denitta through her website, on Facebook, TwitterInstagram or Pinterest, or follow her on BookBub.

 

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I feel like a late-bloomer. I’m turning 55 and have just published my first two books! I’ve always been a writer, starting back in 3rd grade when Mrs. Mockerman didn’t quite know what to do with me and assigned me to write a class newspaper, which got me out of the classroom. I realized then that writing could open doors – literally. After law school I wrote more legal briefs and contracts than I can count – which is another form of storytelling. A very structured form.  It wasn’t until I was 50 that I had the inspiration for my first novel and I got started on that after a conversation with my mother about what it might have been like for her grandmother in the Roaring ’20s.  That simple question opened me to the whole story of Somewhere Still.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing about being a writer is being able to stop time. When I write I really do feel like time stops. I can look up and hours have passed and I will not have realized it. The characters and stories take on a voice of their own and it’s a privilege to bring them forward into the written word.  I end up feeling very passionate about the characters; they become so vivid.

The worst thing about being an author is balancing the urge to write and market with a day job. I really and truly adore talking with book clubs, doing book signings and going to conventions.  The best thing ever is talking with a reader who shares how my books made her feel or remember things from her own family. I so appreciate the stories of the rules my readers grew up with and how those rules played out for them as they matured.  If I could do bookclub talks everyday I would.   I also love my full-time job at the University of Colorado, so I am always trying to juggle and balance.  It means that I tend to get up early and stay up late because my job always comes first.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I love writing coming-of-age stories about young women in times of societal transition. The Roaring Twenties in the USA were a natural place to start. Social norms and rules were breaking and women were venturing out beyond traditional boundaries. That is an era rich for social, economic, gender, racial and social tension, and it’s that sense of tension that makes for a good story.

My next novel, Somewhere Else, is set in Havana in the weeks before Batista falls and Castro comes to power. It was another time in history where social norms were in flux. Traditional cultural and religious norms had changed Havana — it became a wild US tourist destination of gambling, drinking and dancing….and I started thinking…how would that have felt for a young Cuban woman coming to the city from the countryside? And what if a revolution were brewing?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Old newspapers are rich with stories that lead to questions and more questions. One story that will always stick with me is the story of Vixen. It was woven into my first book, Somewhere Still, but ultimately didn’t make the final cut.  Poor Vixen!

Vixen was a dairy cow who, in 1921, was marched into the lobby of Kansas City’s most luxurious hotel, called the Baltimore hotel , and milked in front of journalists. The Dairy Wars were raging in the city and the women’s Consumer League had declared war on dirty dairies that were, in their view, spreading Typhoid fever and killing children. Some dairymen got together and hired a man, Dr. North, to dispel their concern. Dr. North thought he’d prove his meddle and cement his credibility by milking a cow for Kansas City newspaper reporters as a publicity stunt.  So he tried. In a hotel lobby.  And it was harder than he thought. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Truly, I would go back to when my two children were little and relive those days, and really, really cherish those moments. Time passed too quickly and I think as mothers we can be just so bone tired that it feels now that those years were over in a blink.  Then, I would journey back to my grandma’s house during one of our family dinners when my great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would all gather. And I would really listen and I would be grateful to have them all once again.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

When I’m unplugged from technology and well-rested, the stories just flow. Being away from technology is important to me which is why I write my books longhand in journals. After the bones of a chapter or two are written, I’ll go back and type it up – which is my first edit. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to compose on a keyboard or dictate the story, but so far this pen and paper thing is working for me.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Newspapers first and foremost because you get the flavor of the issues and events of the day.  It’s always good to read a few different ones so you can see the bias each paper had.  The events reported on may be the same but how and what’s said can be very different. And, for the type of books I write -about young women coming of age- I go back to the Ladies Home Journal magazines of that year. You can learn so much about a mainstream society’s values by reading those magazines. Also the etiquette books and instruction materials of the time are rich with good content about what we try to teach our young women.

The best place in the world to write is…

Close to nature. When I get stuck, having written myself into a rabbit hole, or I need to crank through edits, I’ll take the RV and my dog and go up to a quiet little lake tucked into the mountains. It’s out of cell phone range and far, far, far away from email and my workaday world. I can edit during the morning, take an afternoon hike, and then sit by the campfire at night. Alone. It’s magical.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I have a wonderful job supporting the most brilliant researchers in the world. I’m Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Director of the Office of Contracts and Grants there. The University is a world-leader in aerospace, physics, environmental research, and more.  We are so fortunate in the U.S. to have public research universities. They tackle issues of monumental concern with great independence and care.

In between work and writing, I love to travel. Last year my husband and I returned to Vietnam, where we’d gotten engaged decades ago. This year we’re going to Ajijic, Mexico – a new adventure.

What are you currently working on?

I just published Prohibition Cocktails on March 24th, National Cocktail Day, so I’m doing a sweep of marketing. It’s a companion to my debut novel, Somewhere Still, which is set in the Roaring ’20s in a city known as Paris on the Plains. I’m deep into edits on my next novel, Somewhere Else, and this [northern] winter I started a novella, Somewhere Safe.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to Canadian author Rebekah Lee Jenkins. Rebekah writes historical fiction set in early twentieth-century Canada. Her most recent book, Hope in Oakland, was released on 8 June. You can contact Rebekah through her website, or on Facebook or Instagram.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I have written as a hobby since I learned how. In 2011, I went through a very difficult year and  my doctor recommended that I start writing again as a form of therapy. The Night They Came For Til evolved from that therapy. I have put some strong themes in there for my niece about making good decisions in life and staying true to yourself.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing about being an author is my readers. I love them. I love engaging with them on social media and hearing how my book (soon to be books) about strong women inspire them. One mom had her daughter read the book because the message is to be true to yourself and hold your ground –  you determine your own worth. That was a highlight in my life, that someone felt a message I had for my niece could be so helpful for other girls.

I love writing about women from the past who were inspiring. Til Stone is based on Margaret Sanger ( she was behind the birth control movement ) and Cora Rood is based on Clara Brett Martin (Canada’s first female lawyer) As I mentioned, I write for my nieces so the messages in these books are strong. When readers pick up on them and love it, I love that!

Worst thing? I spent 22 years as a hairstylist, so my technical skills (computer and grammar/punctuation) are very poor. I struggle with marketing because my computer skills are limited. I am improving but slowly. I have to pay people to do things I can’t do myself. I find that frustrating because I am the world’s biggest control freak with almost no patience so I have to sit on my hands because I love the whole process of putting a book together and I have to outsource it. After my third book, I am going to take some courses and brush up on some skills. My readers are pretty impatient so I will have to put that on the back burner.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I love turn of the twentieth century. I think because we were just on the cusp of so many huge changes. I write about the women’s rights movement from that time so it is easy to outrage my readers with what I find in archives. My fear of being considered uneducated drives me to be sure that every line, every statement in my book is very accurate, so I spend a lot of time in archives, reading old newspapers and medical journals, trial transcripts. I would never write a time period that I didn’t have access to accurate information. Hope in Oakland took two research trips to Winnipeg. It took five days of solid research to put that book together.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Birth control – at what point was it available, and the Canadian, English and American laws surrounding it. Also, how to use chloroform in childbirth.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

My home town in 1904, to be sure how I write about it is accurate! I live in Souris, Manitoba and I write it as Oakland, Manitoba.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

In archives. I am a nerd. Old files and old newspapers thrill me to my fingertips. If I am ever stuck, I walk. I find nature in any season very inspirational. Also, music. I have certain soundtracks for certain books.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Manitoba archives and the reading room at the legislative assembly. To have access to all that information is crucial to my work.

The best place in the world to write is…

I just did the character sketches for my third book and wrote out the plot for another book in the airport last weekend. It was great. No distractions. I love my writing room though at the front of the house looking out a window.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I am a hairstylist so I work three days a week in that field. I love my 5 km walks. I don’t get to read as much as I used to, so on a day where my manuscript is caught up and my editor is working on it, I love to read novels.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on the third book in this series: Taking Til.

 

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Tammy Lash. Tammy writes inspirational historical fiction, and  her most recent book is White Wolf and the Ash Princess. You can contact Tammy through her website, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

My husband and I have been children’s church teachers for over twenty years. I’ve always considered myself a storyteller, not a writer. I have only been writing for five years or so. I began writing when my pastor encouraged me to write my stories down and try to share them outside the church. I started where my love for story began. The Children’s Bible Hour was my favourite radio show as a little girl. I submitted a devotional to Keys for Kids (the new name for this ministry) and one of my three short stories was accepted!

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

I love creating different scenarios for my characters in my head! It’s so fun to be able to choose a path for them to follow and see how they handle the situations I give them. The worst thing about being an author is the frustration that comes when the words don’t flow and I’m stuck on a chapter for weeks—sometimes months.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I like sixteenth /seventeenth century early America because things here were new. America was a wild, blank slate. I wish I could hop in a time machine and visit. I wouldn’t want to live there forever, though. I love my hot showers and coffee maker! But, then again, my character Jonathan Gudwyne is an inventor. He and my husband would come up with some pretty clever inventions to make life comfortable, I’m sure!

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

The weirdest thing would be dentures. I wanted to know if real teeth were ever used.  It grossed me out to find out that, yep, human teeth were indeed used, as well as animal teeth. Ick! This information was pretty valuable to my story. It’s a small mention in White Wolf and the Ash Princess, but it will make a bigger statement in the coming Letters from the Dragon’s Son.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Totally my early America sixteenth/seventeenth centuries!

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Something happens when I run. I don’t know what it is about it that does it, but I always solve all my story problems during a jog. Music provides a big portion of inspiration, so that may be part of it. Nature provides another big avenue of inspiration. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is my go-to place for any wild aspects of my writings.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

I have a Native American natural medicine handbook that I got from my dentist friend who is also an outdoor enthusiast. I also use several Ojibwe dictionaries for the language that I sprinkle though out my books.

The best place in the world to write is…

In the fall and winter: in my bed with my electric blanket! In the summer: on my porch swing. My hope is that someday soon my family and I will be living in the best place on the planet—Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—where inspiration flows like an endless pot of coffee! Fingers crossed!

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I love to bake so I can lick the bowl and beaters and get sick on the dough and batter! I also have one of our kids left to homeschool, so even though his work is mostly self-guiding, he still needs the occasional mom help.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m working on Letters from the Dragon’s Son. It’s the sequel to White Wolf and the Ash Princess. White Wolf is the story of Izzy’s journey to the New World where she uncovers painful secrets while discovering a new culture. White Wolf is an adventure and it’s a story of forgiveness, learning to love, and allowing oneself to be pushed beyond where they are comfortable. Letters focuses on Jonathan’s journey towards the same elements as Izzy, except this story is the flip side of White Wolf. How does a traveller who has lived the life of adventure learn these same lessons? By stripping everything away. Jonathan’s story is a painful one, but an important piece of the puzzle for readers to learn ALL aspects of forgiveness. Monsters (or dragons) need our forgiveness, too.