Another of my favorite writers has gone to…. well probably not his reward. There aren’t a lot of rewards for spending most of your life cooking, hunting, fishing, writing and drinking. Seems kind of redundant.
Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and so much more has passed. Go read something of his. Hell of a way to spend a weekend.
One of the pleasures of historical fiction is delving deep into time periods you’re fascinated by. Another is learning about things you didn’t know. The shelves are full of tales retelling the US Civil War or the exploits of Edward Longshanks, and that’s fine, but I love finding stories that I don’t know. That’s where Vicky Adin comes in. How much do you know about the founding of New Zealand? Yeah, didn’t think so…..
Vicky Adin is a New Zealand author living on the North Shore of Auckland within walking distance of the beach, the coffee shops and inspiration.
Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. After decades of genealogical research and a life-long love affair with words (she actually enjoyed writing essays at school) she has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, based on real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.
It’s the story of Brigid, a talented eighteen-year-old Irish lacemaker, who fled starvation and poverty to seek a better life in Australia, but life didn’t run smoothly in that harsh new landscape either.
Brigid must learn to overcome bias, bigotry and tradition as well as her own fears if she is to survive. She looks to one man for inspiration and protection: a man who, once her champion, soon became her adversary. She gathers those who matter to her most and moves to New Zealand. Gradually, her dreams become reality and tranquility prevails – until the day the man who seeks her downfall finds her.
What intrigues you about this story?
Living in New Zealand, I’ve always held a fascination for the 19th Century pioneers of our country, especially the women. They needed strength of mind as well as body to survive the journey, let alone flourish in the densely bush clad new country they came to. Being a genealogist in love with history, these men and women, and their ancestors, drive my stories.
The Treaty of Waitangi between The Crown and the indigenous Maori was signed in 1840 and only 40 plus years later, New Zealand was still a nation coming to terms with itself, defining what it meant to be a New Zealander and inventing its history as it went. How could I not want to write about such beginnings and the ordinary people who shaped our nation?
As a fellow colonial (albeit the nothern, completely opposite
corner of the planet) I agree that there are wonderful stories from around the world no one has heard. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
“Get out of the way, girl,” a man shouted pushing at her. She had no idea in which direction she was being pushed, but it took all her strength to stay on her feet. Above the storm’s turbulence, voices shouted, calling out for people they couldn’t find. Mud oozed underfoot, people lurched and skidded as they tried to escape the confines of the market place. Shrieks and wails rang in her ears – “Help me, God. Help.” Was that her own voice she recognised? – and still the relentless push persisted…
Brigid is caught up in 1887 Brisbane floods – one of the worst experienced. The damage done to the economy, the infrastructure and many families was immense and took a huge toll on the town. Brigid’s thoughts and feelings bring life to the facts of this natural disaster that nearly took her life, but instead gave her strength and hope.
How can we learn more about you and the PathFinder series?
There are some fun comparisons between author Johann Laescke and myself. Both of us have written a ton of non-fiction and business stuff before tackling our first novels, both our debut novels take place in the 1920s and have a passing (or more than passing) connection to Hollywood. We tackled the novels partly because our spouses were tired of us talking about it. Also, there is a high level of smart-ass in what we write. If you enjoyed The Count of the Sahara, you’ll probably dig his work. Figured it was high time to introduce you to him…..
So what’s the Johann Laesecke story?
Writing novels came late in life for me. For a very long time I thought that I could
write a book and must have said it too many times because the love of my life felt she had to tell me to “Stop talking about writing a book and start writing it!” She added a couple more descriptive words that I have left out of the quote, but I immediately recognized her wisdom and her exasperation that was vented at me in the directive. A few years later, after writing or partially writing five novels that I regarded at the time as hopeless failures, my inner muse (named Laure) began relating The Roaring Roadstoryline to me. Previous writings included business books and research papers, software design process books, training manuals, project proposals and other exciting dustbin trivia. Today, I am writing the third book in The Roaring Road series, and have found that all of those first five hopeless failure novels might yet come to life with a careful application of lessons learned.
Well, having a name for the voice in your head is certainly a start. What’s the series about?
Dan Lindner, a young sheba-chaser and fan of the late film star Wallace Reid is grabbed by thugs and taken to the local mob chief, who threatens him with dire consequences if he doesn’t undertake an unusual mission. Seeing no way out he reluctantly decides to go but his new flapper girlfriend Laure leaves him, thinking he is joining the mob. With his German Shepherd Dog named Raider (aka The Road Trip Dog) Dan begins his journey on the roaring road from his home village of Long Grove Illinois, driving a prototype Duesenberg Model X to the Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma.
Book 1 The Road West is the story of Dan, Laure and Raider’s adventures on their way to California and up to the time they begin their return to Long Grove. The young couple must contend with road bums, prison escapee bank robbers, a corrupt sheriff, Laure’s father who catches up with them, and a gang hired to take Laure back to the Chicago crime boss’s son who has become both enraptured and enraged with her. Dan undertakes to rescue Laure from a rustbucket ship on the rough San Francisco waterfront. Seeking a few days of fun before their return journey from Napa to Chicago, Dan and Laure take a trip to Hollywood, meeting silent era film stars like Douglas Fairbanks, W.C. Fields, Buster Collier, Alice White and Billie Dove. They also make friends with sexy Louise Brooks, who devises a prank that succeeds and delivers major unintended consequences reverberating through the series. Spiced with speakeasy visits and served with Napa wine to make a thrilling road trip tale. “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
OOOOOH, extra points for use of “sheba-chaser.” I know why I enjoy reading about the 20s, but what is it about this time period that you find so fascinating?
The nation was still recovering from World War I when the Eighteenth Amendment made Prohibition the law of the land and the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. Young women who had been trapped in the strict social mores of the early 1900s seized their new freedoms and ran with them. Lois Long, flapper and reporter for The New Yorker magazine in 1925 wrote “All we were saying was ‘Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love”. Many of the citizens who publicly wanted Prohibition found that gangsters had stepped in to provide them with the booze they secretly sought. Other factors included the explosion of automobile ownership and road travel in the 1920s, stories from writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the burgeoning popularity of the movies (aka ‘flickers’). Law enforcement struggled to catch up with the wildly profitable organized crime mobs. It was wild times for everyone and I weaved each of these catalysts into the story.
I admit to have fallen in love with Dan and Laure. They are young and initially naive but thrown into situations where they learn to respect, trust and rely on each other while becoming best friends and falling in love. But this is not a romance book. It is a hard-edged sexy historical fiction thriller, spiced with mayhem and humor influenced by my exposure to W.C. Fields, Rocky and Bullwinkle and Gary Larson’s The Far Side comics.
Without spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
The event that really begins the adventure and mayhem is when Dan meets Laure. I had a lot of fun writing that scene. Reading it still makes me laugh. There’s another scene related to that, but sorry, no spoilers!
I am a sucker for any time period with swords, arrows and buckles being swashed. No big surprise, then, that I really enjoyed Wayne Grant’s “Saga of Roland Inness” series. It takes place during the same time period as Robin Hood, the Third Crusade and various unending wars in Wales. What’s not to like?
So what’s the Wayne Grant story?
I grew up in a small cotton-farming community in Louisiana and escaped the cotton patch by going to West Point. After graduation, I spent five years in the US Army during the post-Vietnam, Cold War period, stationed in West Germany and later, South Korea. I later went on to a civilian career in government, including a senior position in the Pentagon during the Reagan years. I’m retired from that world now and have been writing full time for the past two years. I live in Raleigh, NC with my wife and have two grown sons.
So what’s the series, and in particular your first entry, “Longbow” about?
Longbow is the first book in a four book series (The Ballad of Roland Inness) that follows fourteen year old Roland Inness as he comes of age in 12th century England, where the Normans maintain a tight grip on their subjects. Roland tries to feed his starving family by poaching a deer on the Earl of Derby’s land, which brings down disaster on his family, as his father is killed by the Earl’s son and Roland is forced to become a fugitive.
Roland manages to elude capture with the aid of a strange monk named Tuck and ultimately finds refuge with a gruff Norman knight. Sir Roger de Laval recognizes the boy’s skill with a longbow and other qualities that make Roland valuable as a squire. Roland hates the Normans for killing his father, but comes to recognize through his new master that not all Normans are tyrants. This is a story about vengeance, but also a tale of courage, and loyalty and family—all played out in a world of violence and intrigue.
I was corrupted early by Errol Flynn (that’s what she said…. sorry couldn’t help myself) what’s your excuse? What is it about that period you find so entertaining?
Longbow actually began fifteen years ago as a serial story for my two young sons. I had just read a great history of the 3rd Crusade, so when they asked me for a story, I decided to tell them a tale about a boy squire who goes on Crusade. The battles in the Holy Land and the events back in England are filled with larger-than-life characters (Richard, Saladin, evil Prince John, Queen Eleanor) that have inspired myths and legends ever since.
In a slight departure from historical fiction norms, I’ve incorporated both real and some legendary characters from that time in my story. I did not want to do a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, though Tuck and Robin are characters in my books, and so created my own hero, a young boy descended from the Viking invaders of England who has extraordinary skill with the longbow.
I don’t think it’s much of a departure, I did the same with The Count of the Sashara. It’s fun sometimes when history and pure nonsense mix, and you’ve done a good job. Without giving away the store, what’s one of your favorite scenes in the book?
Roland witnesses Sir Roger’s daughter being taken prisoner by Welsh raiders. Millicent de Laval has not been very kind to the new squire, but Roland knows his duty, and sets out on foot after her. He uses all of his skill as a woodsman to track the girl and her captors into the wilderness of the Clocaenog forest of northern Wales.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?
I’ve had a couple of requests to share this interview with people. My buddy, Phil Gerbyshak, interviewed me on his video podcast about how to make big changes in your life and tackle challenges like completing your first novel at age 54.
Here’s the whole thing on YouTube. I hope you’ll find some inspiration and a little entertainment.
Full disclaimer: I view Westerns like I view Super-Hero movies: I know that most of what I’m seeing or reading is as much mythology and wish-fulfillment as history, but that’s okay as long as they’re fun. I’m also aware that there are political and social ramifications associated with them. I just maintain a healthy skepticism/cynicism about it all and enjoy the ride. Some people, though, take the whole “Wild West” thing very seriously and that’s where today’s interview comes in.
Anthony Whitt is a darned good writer from the Austin, Texas area. He’s currently working on a trilogy about the hardy settlers that scratched a living out of the Texas Hill Country surrounding Austin after the Civil War. Hard Land to Rule is first in the trilogy that takes the reader on a ride through treachery, greed, lust, and death in a riveting tale that’s more than just another western.Cold Hard Ride continues the story as the characters battle their inner demons and devious enemies in the hills and the hellhole known as Austin. His goal is to create a trilogy with continuity, but make sure each book delivers a compelling story in its own right. The third book has a release date planned in the spring or summer of 2016.
So briefly, what’s the Hard Land to Rule trilogy all about?
Hard Land to Rule is a story of faded love, forbidden temptations, treacherous adversaries, and the conflict of competing interests on the Texas frontier. Returning from the Civil War where he served as a sergeant, Matt is forced to deal with a marriage complicated by a tragic death and the alienation of his wife. He can’t seem to find the right combination to patch things up despite his dedicated efforts to provide for his family and maintain his ranch in the hills. The times are economically tough after the war and opportunistic carpetbaggers prowl the countryside searching out targets for their aggressive efforts to secure ranchlands burdened with overdue taxes. Raiding Comanche complicate the harsh conditions he faces in the Hill Country while he is also forced to battle the unscrupulous politicians and businessmen that call Austin home. Surrounded by overwhelming problems it’s no wonder that an attractive neighbor with a struggling marriage of her own tempts him with her siren song of seduction. A proposition to serve as a Texas Ranger seems to offer an answer to his tribulations, but opens him to a plague of personal doubts and uncertainties that threaten to undermine the life he has worked hard to mold out of an unforgiving land.
Besides a higher than usual loathing for Texas politicians, what is it about the story that grabbed you?
Throughout the early years of my youth, my grandparents and their tales of the old days exerted a heavy influence on me. My grandfather often talked about his time as a cowboy working the ranches in the rugged hills west of Austin. During the first years of his marriage to my grandmother they actually traveled and lived out of a covered wagon to follow the work wherever it was available. As a young boy on family drives through the Texas Hill Country I can still recall them pointing out the locations of Indian trails they remembered seeing in their younger years.
My grandfather also regaled us with tales of his grandfather, a sergeant in the Civil War and a famous Texas Ranger with a colorful history. One of the favorite stories I grew up hearing from him was about an Indian raid on his grandfather’s homestead west of Austin. Despite my great-great grandfathers reputation as a well-known Texas Ranger the Indians gave him little respect and singled his place out for a raid. The tale always fascinated me and I set out to write a fictionalized short story about the event unaware of where the decision would lead. After the story received early praise, it transformed into a full-length novel that needed room to grow. As a result, the decision to write a short story became a life changing moment that gave birth to the Hard Land to Rule Trilogy.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
It’s hard to pick a favorite scene in Hard Land to Rule because I strived to stitch the chapters together in a cohesive flow of storytelling. But if I have to select my favorite scene it would be the one where three innocent characters are oblivious of their danger as they stroll into a Comanche ambush guaranteed to inflict death and perhaps rape if things proceed as the warrior plans. The reader is fully aware of their impending peril and is forced to take the walk with them unsure of their collective fate. The buildup of tension is such that my editor advised me not to change a single word in the scene. Naturally I was delighted to receive this kind of advice.
For what it’s worth, I think your strongest writing is in the action scenes, so I tend to agree. Where can people learn more?
If you read enough history, especially military history, you realize that while every war is different, each also is similar. There’s bravery, individual heroism, and personal battles within the bigger ones. There’s also the death of innocents, the death of innocence, destruction and an aftermath seldom sung about in legend. That’s where Don Kean’s book, “I Didn’t Sign Up For This” comes in.
Don, tell us a bit about yourself, and where the idea for the book came from.
I was practicing General Dentist for 25 very long years. I gave it up in 2012 and have since been employed in retail management . I enjoy reading and writing about the American Civil War. I love that time period in history and I find so many of the people who served on both sides of the conflict to be truly inspiring. I also enjoy automobile racing and fishing. My greatest passion is fishing at Kentucky Lake. While their on my honeymoon in 2008 I took a sightseeing trip to Fort Donelson. While visiting I was deeply moved by the fact that this terrible war happened in my home state of Kentucky. The background for the story in “I Didn’t Sign Up For This” takes place in that very region.
In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
The book tells the tale of a young man from remote Western Kentucky who
decides to join the Confederate Army at the war’s outbreak. Young Joshua takes part in many of the largest battles in the Western Theater of the war. He is deeply traumatized by the carnage and destruction. His self-worth and Christian faith are challenged. At war’s end he reluctantly returns home feeling that it will not be the same. He begins to struggle with recurring nightmares and terrifying flashbacks about his experiences in the war. He struggles greatly to cope and his faith and sanity hang by a thread. An old childhood friend begins to romance him much against his will. She remains strong and persistent despite his rejection of her advances. Along with the aid of unseen spiritual forces he slowly heals The spiritual intrigue is a slowly unraveling mystery throughout the narrative. He eventually finds love joy and blessing seeing that his life has truly always been blessed.
While the war itself is a strong theme of this story it is not the central one. It’s about choices in life and the fruit they may bear. Young Joshua’s post war struggle with a P.T.S.D. like illness is a terrible fruit of his earlier choice to go to war. Ultimately it is a story about the love of an almost angelic like woman who nurtures a hurt mans heart. It is a story of triumph over heart rending tragedy. It is a story of God’s unconditional love, Redemption and Deliverance.
There’s probably a three-beer conversation to be had about the confluence of faith and warfare… I’m dealing with that in my own new book set in the Crusades, and I suspect we differ on that, but styles make fights… and books. What’s your favorite scene?
I think my favorite scene would be the one where he spends his first evening at a field hospital after the bloody Battle of Shiloh. He awakens in the middle of the night to a chorus of suffering. He compares it to what Hell might be like, a place of unending pain and suffering, a place where there is no hope.
Where can people learn more about you and your book?
One of the interesting 3-beer conversations I have with other Historical Fiction writers is: when does a novel become “historical”? How long ago does the setting need to be? Take the fall of the Berlin Wall…. a critical event in history, but not that long ago and the reverberations are still being felt today. It can also lead to some controversial opinions about those events (I remember getting a lecture on Balkan and Cold War history from a Serbian friend that still makes my head hurt.) That leads us to Nik Krasno, co-author of the book “Rise of an Oligarch Book 1: The Way It Is.”
Nik is a semi-retired lawyer, who after long years working in former USSR republics has some downtime to dedicate to things that matter, like writing books.
So what is it about your background that drives your writing?
As a commercial lawyer you learn from your own angle different industries and trades, so you can become half real-estate developer, one-third aviator, one-forth medical facility owner and so on and get exposed to intricacies of each business. During previous, more turbulent years of my career, I witnessed, heard and learnt stories and events that can easily inspire a dozen of thick thriller books. Some of my observations, experiences, thoughts, imagination and facts I use in my Oligarch series, which combines real historical events with imaginary plot-line and characters and casts light on the atmosphere preceding the Big Bang of the USSR and follows the extremely difficult transformation of Ukraine from Soviet socialist republic to a Wild West capitalistic pseudo-democracy.
So what is Rise of an Oligarch about? (Obviously the rise of an oligarch, you know what I mean.)
Rise of an Oligarch describes the path of a fictional Ukrainian tycoon from modest Soviet teenager to a mighty billionaire with considerable political influence against the backdrop of a young Ukrainian state striving to live up to its statehood through economical, political, psychological and existential troubles. Something like ‘The Godfather’ Ukrainian style -:)
My initial assumption is that people are curious about those who made countless fortunes, be it Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Jobs or William Gates. While their stories are truly amazing, those of their Eastern peers, in my opinion, are much more thrilling. Although I write about a fictional magnate, the same or similar schemes and shenanigans could easily have happened in the real world.
I am guessing that you still have some very fresh memories of this time period. What is it about this that you think others would be interested in?
The sense of historical phenomenon unfolding in front of my eyes. To see that sharp a turnabout in one place and not to expose it to the world just didn’t make sense. The country and society evolved into opposites in almost every aspect: from the place where initially a private property was almost a curse it turned to a place where few individuals amassed billions of dollars and hundreds of assets in a meteoric spell from historical perspective, from the republic which was never independent it needed to cultivate its own national idea, identity and aspiration, from austere Soviet propaganda to a chaotic freedom of speech, from iron curtain designed primarily to keep everyone inside to a global dispersal of its impoverished citizens seeking decent wages for their left- home families…
Here’s an unfair question: what’s your favorite part of the book?
Pretty hard to single one out. When you write a book you endeavor to fill it with good scenes all along. But if I have to, I’d go with the transition periods in the book: from communist era to Wild West anarchy, from illicitness to glamour after the ‘Orange revolution’, from hype to 2008 financial crisis, because these periods of extreme turbulence necessitated immediate adaptation to new, previously unknown conditions and only the most apt managed to utilize them to their benefit…
Where can people learn more about you and your book?
I’m always looking for stories I don’t know, in time periods or characters that aren’t familiar to me. Enter Ed Morawski’s book, Goddess of Grass. It tells the tale of the fateful meeting between the Spanish and Aztec kingdoms, through the prism of a young female interpreter. Don’t read that every day, do ya?
Ed Morawski has written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. After
serving in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years, seeing action in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. to Edwards AFB and after his discharge began a career in security and law enforcement. He became an expert in physical and electronic security, alarms, and video surveillance. He resides in Southern California.
So tell us about Goddess of Grass…
Before there was America, before there was even Mexico, there were the Aztecs. Back in the 16th century, they were not called Aztecs, but known as the Mexica, a Nahua people who founded their metropolis capital city Tenochtitlan on a raised islet in Lake Texcoco. The Mexica came to dominate the other tribes of the land south of what would someday be North America and formed a vast and feared empire ruled by Montezuma, which probably consisted of a million or more subjects. While sophisticated and cultured, the Aztecs had a bloodthirsty dark side: they practiced human sacrifice on a scale never before known. These sacrifices consumed so many victims that the Aztecs waged war solely to obtain captives for their rituals.
In one of the most fateful events in history, Hernando Cortes arrived in that land we now know of as Mexico in 1519, the exact year an ancient Aztec prophecy predicted a god would return from the land of the rising sun. With less than 500 men and a few horses and cannon, Cortes conquered the Aztec empire in a blindingly short time. What was his secret weapon? A 17 year old native slave girl named Malinalli, who would come to be known as La Malinche. This teenage girl was given to Cortes as a gift to be his slave. But instead of accepting her fate, Malinalli used her own abilities to seize upon a unique advantage, thereby making herself indispensable to the Spanish Conquistadors. Goddess of Grass is the story of Malinalli, the unknown heroine who fought alongside professional soldiers, who negotiated with hostile native tribes, who stared down Emperor Montezuma, the most feared man in Mexico, and who bore as her child the first offspring of a Spaniard and native Indian: the first Mexican.
This story doesn’t seem a natural for someone with your background. What drove you to tell this story from such an unusual point of view?
I was inspired to write Goddess of Grass solely by Malinche. Here was a young teenage girl who instead of remaining a slave, turned her fortunes around to become the most powerful woman in Mexico for a period of time and literally changed the course of history. Unfortunately, though Spanish and native history records Malinche’s exploits, there is little known about her.
Without giving away the goods, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
Probably my favorite scene is when La Malinche comes face to face with Emperor Montezuma and instead of looking down as the law commanded, she eyes him directly as she translates for Cortes. Montezuma is so unnerved by her actions and the prophecy, he willingly becomes a prisoner in his own palace.
Where can folks learn more about you and your book?