I admit to being conflicted about westerns. One man’s heroism is another man’s racism, sometimes what’s seen as exciting is really borderline pathological and probably criminal behavior. Still, there are few environments more ripe for a good adventure story. And romance too, I suppose, although the lack of running water, overabundance of vermin, and the constant smell of horse sweat probably makes stories like that better on paper than in reality.
Either way, that brings us to this week’s featured author, DB Woodling. While she writes in a number of genres, her latest book, Shannon’s Land, is about a plucky (but then what heroine worth her salt isn’t plucky?) Irish immigrant alone in Missouri.
Okay, lady. What’s Shannon’s deal?
Abandoned by her abusive husband in Missouri’s wild frontier, Shannon — an Irish emigrant — must learn to fend for herself and quickly. While she’s accustomed to rattlesnakes and the threat of both Indian and coyote attacks, she’s unprepared for Jack Marsh, a psychotic banker with a decade-old grudge.
Hungry, frightened, and concerned for her infant son, Shannon seeks assistance from the townsfolk. Because her father absconded with a great deal of their money some years before, they extend only harsh words and pent-up condemnation. Discovering Jack (a villain so evil his gun belt’s just an accessory) now owns the deed to her land, Shannon is ready to accept defeat . . . until she encounters a mysterious stranger offering friendship and a risky proposition. I’m currently writing the sequel, Shannon’s Revenge.
So historical fiction hasn’t been a thing for you til now. What is it about this story?
After relocating to a rural 1870 farmhouse, well, I wouldn’t say I became possessed — nothing nearly that dramatic — but I did feel an overwhelming urgency to write this desperate and lovely young woman’s story.
I know authors hate answering this one, but it’s my blog darn it. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
There are a few; decidedly foremost is when Shannon meets Luke Richards, a tormented range boss running from devastating loss, a misguided frontier philosophy, and the U.S. Army’s retribution. He’s a complicated guy, suddenly confronted by a woman who has long ago grown tired of wild, angry men. The sexual tension is palpable.
Love me some palpable tension. Where can people learn more about you, Shannon’s Land, and your other books?
Shannon’s Land is available in several digital formats as well as paperback:
I’m on vacation this week…. a real vacation, even if it is the “Cheesy Tourist Trap Tour.” However, I want you to take a look at what’s below. Yes, Acre’s Bastard is nearing the end of the road….. get ready.
What do you think? Does it say “adventure” and “Crusades?” More news when I get back…. and Go Cubs.
Lookie what I have here. I finally found a map I’m happy with for the beginning of the new book. I will probably know by the second week of November what’s happening with it. Til then, imagine what kind of story takes place in Acre, and the Horns of Hattin…..
As I’ve said before, what qualifies as historical fiction is open to debate. For some writers it’s slavish devotion to the facts. For others it’s a setting that opens up room for the thousand “what ifs?” that make a great story. In the case of Barbara Barnett it’s kind of all of the above. Her newest book, The Apothecary’s Curse checks the “all of the above” box.
So Barbara, is a busy, busy girl….
She is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine, (blogcritics.org) an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, She has published more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, as well as essays and criticism. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the hit show. She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention (author’s note… Cool. Also, showoff!), where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” This autumn, she will reprise her MENSA appearance with “The Conan Doyle Conundrum.” She is a member of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), and is current president of the Midwest Writers Association.
So give us the Readers Digest version, what’s the book about?
History meets fantasy meets science meets Arthur Conan Doyle. The Apothecary’s Curse weaves Celtic mythology, the science of genetics, alchemy, life in early Victorian London, and the world of Arthur Conan Doyle into a historical fantasy-mystery, steeped in an apothecary’s cauldron.
The Apothecary’s Curse moves between early Victorian medical society (and the dregs of London’s worst neighborhoods) and a modern North Shore Chicago community, as a gentleman physician an enigmatic apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting an ancient book of healing that made them immortal centuries ago.
There’s a lot going on there, and purists might cringe a bit (screw’em). What inspired the story?
I’ve always been fascinated by British history, especially where the lines between legend and reality blur. So many of the supernatural ballads of the British Isles seem to have the grain within them of real history, like the story of Thomas the Rhymer, a real Scottish Laird and confederate of William Wallace who’d been (according to the legend) abducted by the queen of Elfland to be returned with the gift of prophecy and then some. I explored a few “what ifs” with the myth of the man, connecting him with the Tuatha de Danann—again a real people of the 12th Century, who were said to have magical healing powers, so much so that they became to the Irish, Celtic deities.
I brought into the early Victorian era another period that fascinates me; the story of Thomas’s descendent, a brilliant apothecary and the inheritor of Airmid’s (the Celtic goddess of healing) magnificent book. But use of the book, with its powerful medicine, has rendered my poor apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune with curse of immortality. It is in Victorian London, in the squalid neighborhood of Smithfield Market that my apothecary meets gentleman physician Dr. Simon Bell (a relation of Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical mentor), It is here that 19th Century British medicine as practiced by gentleman clashes with the practical, earthier medicine of the brilliant Erceldoune.
Without giving the game away, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
It takes place in Bedlam in 1842. Simon is seeking insight into his own mortality when he learns of a prisoner in the infamous asylum who, like him, seems to be indestructible (at least physically). Arranging to see this prisoner, who has for five years been tortured and has been the subject of medical experimentation by a proto-Mengele figure—a “mad” doctor, Simon discovers that it is Gaelan, who had supposedly been executed five years earlier at Newgate Prison for murder.
The reunion, fraught with tension and bad feelings is a pivotal moment in the novel. (I can’t say more than that without spoilers 🙂 )
Fair enough. Now that we’ve baited the hook, where can people find your work?
The Apothecary’s Curse will be available October 11 at most online and brick and Mortar bookstores. Here are the pre-order and information links. City Lit Books in Logan Square is hosting a launch party of the book on October 20. If readers are interested in receiving an invitation, they can email me at email@example.com
The Scottish have a long history of ghost stories. Possibly because their national folk lore is full of clan warfare, murder, revenge, and way too much whiskey (how they managed to get the Irish to take the heat and get the reputation for all the drinking is beyond me. It’s brilliant PR) and all the good stuff that creates restless spirits in the first place. Cathy Donnelly has written a nifty story that blends historical fiction with the supernatural, in There is a Place.
So give. What’s the Cathy Donnelly story?
I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child when my grandfather gave me his old novels. He was a fan of Nevil Shute and after I devoured A Town Like Alice, On the Beach and Pied Piper, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I always thought that one day I would write a book but it wasn’t until later in my life I pursued my dream. In a way I’m glad I waited because I was able to entwine many of my interests – history, the Knights Templar, Druids, Alexander the Great and the supernatural – into the mix of my storytelling.
Writing my first novel Distant Whispers, a historical reincarnation story, was a tremendous experience, and an interesting learning curve for me. I love the research part of writing and realised there is such a thing as too much research. If I had included everything I wanted to, I may have ended up with something about the size of War and Peace and exhausted my readers before they worked out what the story was about. Fortunately I curbed my urge to include everything and hopefully ended up with an enjoyable read. I was touched by feedback from my readers that they would like a sequel so that will be coming down the track.
And what’s the story behind the new book? What’s it about?
There is a Place is a Scottish historical novel. I lived in Scotland most of my life and have always been fascinated by its vast and interesting history, so I loved researching and writing this book. It is the story of Michael whose brother dies in his arms at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. He will spend the rest of his life seeking forgiveness for the revenge he took. That day also triggers in him the ability to see the dead.
We follow Michael as he studies in Rome, makes a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, and enters the priory on the island of Inchmahome in Scotland as an ordained priest. He becomes involved in the lives of the Royal Family, Lord John Erskine and the Knights Templar. Michael develops other gifts, including healing and travelling in time to the past. There is a time slip in the latter part of the book to the present day at the same locations, and includes scenes with my sister and brother-in-law who are fortunate to live beside Inchmahome.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
Although you could pick any century in Scottish history and you would find a story to write about, I am particularly interested in the 16th century. It had many a bloody battle, including Flodden where 10,000 Scots lost their lives, intrigues with King Henry VIII, the death of two Kings of Scotland, the birth of Mary Queen of Scots and the reformation. A feast of tales.
What’s your favorite scene (and don’t say you can’t pick. Authors always say that, and it’s not true. We do love some of our children more than others.)
My favourite scene takes place at Rosslyn Chapel and involves Michael, the Knights Templar and some ghosts.
Where can people find you and your books?
I love to hear from readers and can be contacted via:
For Scottish readers, or visitors to Scotland, There is a Place is also available from Alloa Tower, where many of the scenes are set. This medieval tower was built by the Erskine family in 1368 and is now under the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
Full disclosure, the picture at the top of the page is the tartan for Clan Forbes, my mother’s people. She always wanted me to wear a kilt–and no. Only one of many ways I disappointed that poor woman.
So pleased to be in such good company. There are excellent stories here. You can subscribe for just $1.99 a month, or get this copy for $3.49. If you’d support new authors, I’d be eternally grateful (or at least stop whining for a while….)