Why I Read Historical Fiction From Around the World

” I read historical fiction because I can. I read it from many sides and in many voices because I should.”

Thanks to the lovely and charming Alice Poon, (you can read my interview with her here) I just discovered and read Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, by Yong Jin Yong.  Think “House of Flying Daggers Meets the Hateful Eight,” and you have some idea. Apparently he’s the Steven King of Cantonese Kung Fu (or wuxia) novels.

Why would I spend my precious long weekend reading a translation of a novel by a Chinese author I’d never heard of, about a time more than 500 years ago? Because I can. It’s available on Kindle, in a very readable translation. It’s the same way I discovered some of my favorite story-tellers:

  • Arturo Perez-Reverte- this Spanish author and his Captain Alatriste novels are like the Iberian version of the Three Musketeers. The history is mostly an excuse for sword fights, illicit romance and drinking, but damn good adventure stories.
  • Leonardo Padura Fuentes (better known as just Leonardo Padura) is from Cuba, and while the 80s might not seem like history, just ask your kids if it was a long time ago. His police novels are not only good procedurals, but they show life in Cuba beyond cool old cars or Cold War machinations.
  • Alexandre Dumas. Don’t laugh, the old master still can tell a tale, and the Three Musketeers (and its 4 sequels, all of which I’ve read) and The Count of Monte Cristo are still world-class reading today. Okay, I discovered him when I was 12, but addictions die hard.

But why read these authors when there are so many easy-to-find Anglo/American/Canadian writers telling stories from those periods? Because for me part of the appeal of histfic (as the kids call it) is empathy- to learn how others felt and acted at that time as well as to learn about events we don’t know well.  The Civil War from both the Southern and Northern perspectives makes for good fiction (and while I have precious little time for revisionism, i’m happy to read it if it’s well done). Agincourt was both a glorious victory and a humiliating defeat, depending on which direction you were facing at the time. Oh, and if I have to read about Henry the Eighth and his bloody wives and daughters one more time I may behead someone myself. Give me something fresh that I haven’t read a dozen times already.

In all the hubbub about cultural appreciation, and who has the right to tell what stories, I believe this heresy: anyone can tell any damned story they want. If i want to tell the story of a ten year old half-caste orphan in Acre, I can do it. You can read Acre’s Bastard and let me know if I did it justice or not. Odds are it would be a different book if written by a Syrian, and I’d love to read that book. The problem is when people aren’t allowed to tell their own stories. I’d rather hear from them, we just don’t often come across them either through intentional white-washing or just lack of opportunity in general.  Seriously, if someone has a Crusades epic from the Arab side, in a decent translation, please let me know. I’m dying to get my hands on it.

So I read historical fiction because I can. I read it from many sides and in many voices because I should. It makes me a better writer and, I believe, a better person. When was the last time you read something in translation, or from a different perspective than your own? Don’t you think you oughta?

Let me know… who do you read that I (and our visitors here) should know about?

 

Ancient Chinese Drama with Alice Poon

Growing up in British Columbia, and having a mother who spent several years in Asia, I developed a fascination with the culture and people of China. I dig Chinese movies (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the like will bring productivity to a halt in this house) and have a very snobbish opinion of what most North Americans call “Chinese food” (friends don’t let friends eat Panda Express.) So when I came across Alice Poon’s new novel, I was intrigued.

Not only is the book set in the Ming and Qing dynasties, but Alice lives and writes in Richmond, BC, about 40 miles from my home town. She’s  an avid reader of world historical fiction. Born and educated in Hong Kong, she grew up devouring Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha’s) martial arts and chivalry novels which are all set in China’s distant past. That sparked her life-long interest in Chinese history. Writing historical novels set in Old China has been her long cherished dream. She is the author of the bestselling Chinese edition of Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which won the 2011 Hong Kong Book Prize. In 2007, Canadian Book Review Annual selected the original English Edition as Editor’s Choice (Scholarly). Okay, she’s way out of my league but she talked to me anyway….

What is The Green Phoenix about?

It’s about the life and times of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, the first matriarch of China’s Qing Dynasty. She was a Mongolian princess descended from Genghis Khan’s full brother Khasar and her maiden name was Borgijit Bumbutai. By arranged marriage she becomes the consort of the Manchu Khan, Hong Taiji, who is a dauntless warrior intent on conquering Ming China. But right from the beginning, deep conflicts seethe beneath the relationship with her husband, the future Qing Emperor, as she is deeply in love with his half brother Dorgon, who, it so happens, is the Emperor’s nemesis due to a deep-seated mutual hatred going back one generation. The story follows Bumbutai as she struggles to survive the Manchu court’s in-fighting, the sibling rivalry and war, burdened as she is with an heir-producing duty owed both to Hong Taiji and to her own tribesmen. Eventually, when Ming China is at last conquered, circumstances dictate that she has to take up leadership in the new Qing regime, and to help her son and grandson restore peace and rule over a war-wearied multicultural Empire.

The narrative is set against a turbulent canvas as the Ming Dynasty is replaced by the Qing Dynasty and the transition is marked by numerous vicious battles between the Manchus and the Hans. Ethnic antagonism between the opposing camps and perfidy (major points for use of perfidy!) and corruption among the Hans themselves drive conflicts to a culmination, which results in large scale deaths and sufferings.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

The time period is most fascinating as it is marked by the violent demise of one ruling regime and the simultaneous birth of another. Such straddling periods in history, whether it’s in the West or the East, are, in my view, always a subject that bears studying. The saying that history repeats itself, though clichéd, is not far from truth. I’ve often pondered over the question, why does humankind never learn from history? Recently I came across a sobering article by Paul Lynch, recommended to me by a good friend, that says there’s no such thing as historical fiction: the modern world is governed by ancient forces – power versus weakness, truth versus falsehood, life versus death – and there’s the question of how we can survive those forces. How spot-on! When we look at our past, we are actually staring into our present.

Above all, I was motivated to write about the character of Empress Xiaozhuang because I felt that her contributions to humanity in China’s history are greatly underrated, and also because this historical character has never been introduced to the Western literary consciousness. Western readers only know about two Imperial women in Chinese history: Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Cixi of the late Qing, but the fact is, Chinese people don’t even respect these two characters.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

There are actually quite a few. It’s hard to choose one. Let’s see. I love the scene where Bumbutai has a long conversation with her half sister Little Jade (Dorgon’s wife) in the beautiful setting of the imperial hunting park called South Park. Both women love Dorgon deeply. Here each of them expresses her own cutting insight into Dorgon’s behavioral eccentricities, while being mindful of the other sister’s sensibilities. The natural landscape exerts a rejuvenating effect on Bumbutai, who is a born lover of nature, whereas their visit to a deer farm brings out different reaction from each.

One favorite event (I’m cheating here!) is where Bumbutai tries to coax her son Shunzhi Emperor to face down his fear in a critical crisis by enlisting the help of his respected adviser, a German Jesuit priest, who she knows always has Shunzhi’s ear. As she predicts correctly, the priest gives a most convincing speech, which calms down the Emperor at once. She has the whole situation under control and knows clearly in her mind which commander to deploy and how to resolve the crisis, but keeps quiet as she does not want to appear to be overriding her son’s power in the presence of courtiers. Then when the Emperor is out of the fit of hysteria, she casually hints at the name of the commander, and gives credit to her son for coming up with the solution.

 Where can people find you and The Green Phoenix?   

Alice: The Kindle version is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The hardcover and paperback versions will be available on September 1, 2017.

The Goodreads book page:

The Amazon book page:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alice.poon.author

Twitter: @alicepoon1

My Blog: http://alicewaihanpoon.blogspot.ca

 

Roots of Faith in American History Anthony Cleveland

American history is full of contradictions. This is particularly true when it comes to the interweaving of history and religion. As an immigrant (and a seriously– probably permanently– lapsed Baptist), I have seen both the good and the bad of how faith plays a part in the national discourse. Regardless of your individual position, you can’t really examine America’s history without looking at faith, religion, and everything that goes with them.
That brings us to this weeks interview with Anthony Cleveland about his book, Roots of Faith.
So who’s Anthony Cleveland when he’s home?
Anthony (Tony) Cleveland is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan. He has a B.S. In Chemistry from the University of Toledo and an M.A. In Counseling Psychology from Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan.
Professor Cleveland spent 25 years in the private sector holding positions in R&D, Operations, Sales and Marketing. Seeking a deeper career fulfillment, he enrolled in a Christian seminary where he encountered the healing power of applied psychological principles integrated with a Christian worldview. While serving as a clinician Cleveland discovered his passion and true calling as an educator and has been at Jackson College since 2002. In 2012, Professor Cleveland received the Outstanding Faculty of the Year award, after being nominated by numerous students and colleagues.
Anthony and his wife of 42 years have two daughters and two grandchildren. Roots of Faith, published in May of 2017 by Lighthouse Christian publishing is Professor Cleveland’s first novel written in the genre of Christian historical fiction.
What is the book about?
Roots of Faith is an intergenerational saga following four southern American families from their ancient roots in Great Britain through their immigration and settlement in the United States. Each of the 17 chapters highlights a specific period of time where one of the families must adapt to the dynamic political, economic, sociocultural and technological forces at work in their lives. The book is of course about the ever evolving Christian religion and it’s direct impact upon these families. The book is indeed a journey of faith as it attempts to highlight the universal human experiences of doubt, fear and confusion in each of the principle characters as they grow and develop in their relationship to their God. It is a story about people whose faith bends but does not break.
Roots of Faith is also in an indirect fashion about the impact of the Christian religion upon the development of the United States. Hopefully, readers of the book will have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the need for a Constitution which guarantees the free expression of religion and the right of every citizen to worship (or not worship) God in a manner they deem appropriate without fear of retribution by the government. Nor shall our government establish (and enforce) a national religion.
Roots of Faith is also about the power of love. Romantic, familial and spiritual love that stands the test of time through difficult and seemingly overwhelming trials.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
Quite simply, I wrote this book for my grandchildren. The four families I write about are my ancestors. I wanted my grandchildren to know of the sacrifices their ancestors made in coming to America and the importance their faith made in that endeavor. The book, of course, is historical fiction. I attempt to weave together an imaginative yet informative blend of history and myth, fact and fiction, that will help guide them through their lives after I am long gone. I do pray reading this work will help them remember not only the history of their ancestors but of our nation. God willing, it will somehow inspire them to stay strong in faith, follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and, ultimately, “run the race well”.
Without giving away spoilers, what is your favorite scene or event in the book?
That’s a tough one to answer. As you might imagine, this was truly a labor of love. I suppose if I had to select something, I would mention three events; the dialogue between William Cochrane and his grandson while standing outside Paisley Abbey in Scotland, the encounter of Isabel (who has been accused of witchcraft by the elders of the local Kirk) with the vision of Jesus, and finally, the tearful departure from his father of the indentured teenager, Alexander Cleveland, at the docks of Bristol, England as he boards the ship heading for the Colony of Virginia.
Where can people find you and your book?
The book is available at Amazon or at the Lighthouse Christian publishing website. I am also a Goodreads author where you can read my blog, the “Historical Foundations of Roots of Faith”. Also, I have an author’s Facebook account at Roots of Faith by AJC where you can find photos of many of the places I write about.
Of course, you can also read my books like Acre’s Bastard,  or The Count of the Sahara, with a slightly different take on religion and history… just saying.

Born at the Wrong Time- Lauren Sobka

Most of us have our favorite historical periods. If pushed, we’d even say we’d like to have been around then. (News flash, much as the 17th century might have been fun for sword fighting and decolletage, I’m partial to cheap books, hot water, and indoor plumbing. I’m good here, thanks….) and some even say they were born in the wrong era (The Duchess says in all seriousness she wanted to be around in 1920s New York- and thinks she was). That brings us to Californian Lauren Sobka and her chronic Francophilia, as well as her book, Brokenly Live On.

Okay, what’s the Lauren Sobka story?

Just a girl born in the wrong era. My name is Lauren, I’m an artist and writer living in California. To sum myself up I propose this:

A dirt lane leading down a path beside a crumbling, ancient wall where wildflowers have cast their roots in like flags pitched in ownership; they are legion, reaching, and riotous. Looking ahead, the rolling fog obscures much of the landscape, but in the distance you can hear the rushing crash of waves reaching up the bluffs; all around the wind gently pushes through the trees and sways the heather bushes reaching out across the rolling hills.

There are a few more nuanced details, but that’s about what rolls around in my brain all day, and knowing what someone thinks is the best way to understand them, is it not?

Actually, that’s a terrifying thought, but then I’m paranoid. What’s the book about?

It takes place in France, in 1875. After the fall of the Second Empire, on the cusp of the Belle Époque, Clara Devereaux finds herself motherless, left with a recluse for a father with whom she shares the halls of a slowly decaying estate – Château Rivière. At twenty-two she has not been able to discover the reasons for her mother’s death nor her father’s phantasmal existence, and so, unguided and temperamental, Clara finds no other purpose but to spend her days carousing in Paris with childhood friend Remi.

As the mystery of her parents begins to unravel – thanks to the help of her dear friend and neighbor Christophe – deep prejudices, betrayals, and a vindictiveness distilled through generations are revealed; all of which falls onto Clara’s shoulders. While facing her family’s past, a new valet in her father’s employ catches her interest and causes a jealousy to spark that sets in motion events she never could have imagined. With what little pieces of a life she can claim falling away around her, she must find the resolve to endure a fate she cannot escape, the loss of all she holds dear, and the strength to face the retribution of her parent’s mistakes.

So why “la Belle Epoque” and France? What’s the fascination?Product Details

When I was thirteen I was told I needed to choose a language to study in school, which would be the one I would learn for the next five years. Out of my three choices I settled upon French, and since that time I’ve been fascinated by the culture and history, driven on by beauty in the language.

Over the course of seventeen years I’ve picked up more than a few novels by Flaubert and Dumas Fils and found the times they were set in to be fascinating. One object in particular, however, was my starting point – a painting by artist Toulouse Lautrec. His work spun my imagination and soon a short story turned into twenty thousand words and before long I knew I had to do things the right way; so I researched. The more I learned the more I knew that his era, the end of the 19th century France, that of the Impressionists, of Art Nouveau, of no more Napoleons, of the fading aristocrats and the continued rise of the bourgeoisie – and so much more – was the era I wanted to write about.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Such a horribly difficult choice, but if I had to, I’d say the scene where Clara and Alain encounter one of her old friends from her past life of debauchery in Paris. I really enjoyed writing the banter between a drunk bon vivant laying down insults and how Alain handled it.

Speaking of debauchery, how can people learn more about you 😉  ?

website: www.brokenlyliveon.com

 

amazon (the book): https://www.amazon.com/Brokenly-Live-Lauren-Sobka-ebook/dp/B07481XB2Z/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501094619&sr=8-1&keywords=brokenly+live+on

amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Sobka/e/B07482RTK7/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads (the book): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35534325-brokenly-live-on

Goodreads (author page): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16986987.Lauren_Sobka

Twitter: @brokenlyliveon

Instagram: @brokenlyliveon

Dodging the Rain Publishes My Story, “Bayamon, 1978”

I am thrilled that the artsy Irish lit journal, “Dodging the Rain” has published one of my short stories: “Bayamon, 1978”. You can read the story here…  

Arguello-Escalera-knockdown

It’s both a sports story (boxing is one of my passions) and historical fiction, since it’s based on one of the great title fights of all time, 1978’s “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon,” between my boy Alexis Arguello and Alfredo Escalara.

Like all my short pieces, it began as a thought experiment, but turned into something I think you’ll enjoy.

You can read more of my short stories here, under Short Stories and Other Pieces on the menu bar or by clicking this link.

 

World War 2, Spies and Bobby Sox Libby Fischer Hellmann

I occasionally (very occasionally, because it’s too nerve-wracking. I seriously hate doing it) review books for Windy City Reads. This gives me a chance to repay some Karma, as they’ve been very kind to my books (so far) and also meet some Chicago writers. Last month I reviewed Libby Hellmann’s, “War, Spies and Bobby Sox, Stories About WW2 at Home.” (You can read the review here.)

Even though it was as far from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific as you can get, there were important things happening here that impacted the war.

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fourteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times.

Libby Fischer Hellman lives and writes in Chicago

Her most recent release, War, Spies & Bobby Sox: Stories about WW2 At Home was released March 1, 2017. Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.  In 2005 Libby was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500 member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her website is http://libbyhellmann.com.

Your book is actually an anthology, which is rare in historical fiction. What’s the nutsell version?

WS&B is my 14th crime thriller. (I have published five novels in one series, 4 in other, and 4 stand-alone historical thrillers.) The sub-title is “Stories About World War Two At Home” which is pretty much self-explanatory. WS&B is slightly different than my novels because it’s a collection of two novellas and one short story. But all three are set in and around Chicago during World War Two at home.

The first story, “The Incidental Spy”, is about a woman who worked in the Physics Department at the University of Chicago during the early years of the Manhattan Project (before it was officially called that, of course). “POW” is about two German POWs who were imprisoned in a camp that actually existed in Glenview. And the 3rd story, “The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” was set in Lawndale, which, in the 1930s, was a thriving Jewish community in Chicago.

I liked them all, for different reasons. What was about this time period that intrigued you enough to do three different stories?

I’ve always been an avid reader of WW2 fiction, because I think it’s the last time in recent history where there was such clarity between good and evil. It was a time where some people turned out to be heroes while others became cowards—or worse. So it presents a wonderful opportunity for complex character development. At the same time, though, I was intimidated at the prospect of writing about the war. So many rich, beautiful stories have already been written (NiGHTINGALE, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, UNBROKEN, SARAH’S KEY, and more) I wondered what I could possibly add. A friend of mine, however, thought differently, and while she didn’t dare me, she did encourage me to write about the era. Eventually I took a deep breath and dived in. My caveat was to choose small pieces of the human “canvas,” since I couldn’t write about battles and military actions.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

There are several. The scenes in Hyde Park near the U of Chicago were really fun to write, as was the description of the “Pile” (the first nuclear reactor) underneath Stagg Field. I also loved writing about the emotional tug of war in POW between Mary-Catherine and the two German soldiers. Lawndale, another South side setting, was fun to research, as I actually met a couple of “old-timers” who grew up there.

What I liked about your Lawndale story was the clash of cultures and class inside the Jewish community, which a lot of people under a certain age aren’t aware of. Good stuff. Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My Website: http://libbyhellmann.com

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Libby-Fischer-Hellmann/e/B001HMMDZU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://facebook.com/authorlibbyfischerhellmann

 

Just Another Russian-Argentine-Jewish-Historical-Fantasy-Mashup

When you put out the call to authors who have unique stories to tell, be prepared for the unexpected. This is especially true for historical-fantasy “mashups”. These can be fabulous and inventive (Think Naomi Novik’s Dragon/Napoleonic War series). Of course the line between mashup and car wreck is pretty subjective, so it’s a risky proposition (“It’s Harry Potter set in the Civil War and Hogwarts is in Arkansas…”). Still, the imagination and talent required to pull off such a trick is impressive. Even when it doesn’t work, sometimes the “what if” of it all makes the read worthwhile.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read Mirta Ines Trupp’s “Becoming Malka,” but when it takes the real history of a Russian/Jewish/Argentine family and mixes in time travel and mysticism, that’s some chutzpa/valentia/khrabrost’/nerve right there. I had to talk to her.

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Thank you for inviting me, Wayne. I am delighted to participate in this interview! “Becoming Malka” is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find twenty-four year old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Being methodical and meticulous, she is not one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research and so; she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life- and knowing, full well the fate that awaits her ancestors- Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.

One reader expressed it best, I think, when she said that “Becoming Malka” on the surface appears to be a “modern-day fairytale, but there are layers of serious subjects to investigate and discuss i.e. Russian history, the debate of Jewish Enlightenment, Kabbalah and Jewish immigration to Argentina.” I would add that the Molly’s introspection- realizing her own strengths and value and how she fits into her familial evolution- speak to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth.

You get major points for originality (historical fiction with no Tudors or honorable Confederate soldiers in sight, who knew?)What is it about that time period or story that intrigued you?

The historical mashup “Becoming Malka” is available on Amazon

Ah- great question! I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Here I was, an avid fan of Historical Fiction and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- however; I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading- “Daniel Deronda” comes to mind, as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association.

Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia, and conversely, I wanted to write about their emigration to Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add a speculative dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would!

Wtihout giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Wayne! That is a tough question- somewhat akin to asking a mother to choose a favorite child! But, since we are limited here to time and space (no pun intended), I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene where Molly finds herself transported to her ancestral home. In “Becoming Malka,” a reoccurring narrative revolves around the concept that “inexplicable” is not the same thing as “unexplainable.” Duvid, a young boy of thirteen, poses an interesting question when he asks, “Why are adults so eager to dismiss things that they cannot explain?” History, I find, is full of extraordinary- miraculous- events. I discovered a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which states, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Quite apropos to my story!

And words to live by. Where can people find you and “Becoming Malka”?

http://facebook.com/mirtainestrupp

https://www.amazon.com/Mirta-Ines-Trupp/e/B00BA1U3SM/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6864345.Mirta_Ines_Trupp

WW2 Romance from Clare Flynn

I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly Canadian guys in European wars are a hot commodity. First it was the Newfie boys in Jeff Walker’s “Not One of Us the Same.” (Read my interview with him here...) Now it’s a different world war, but Clare Flynn brings us her romance set in the English seaside, “The Chalky Sea.”

So, what’s your story, Clare?

I live on the south coast of England – Kipling’s “Sussex by the Sea”, in Eastbourne, a seaside resort with a Victorian pier and a beautiful seafront bandstand built in 1936. I moved back here just over a year ago from London. I spent my teenage years in the town and always loved the South Downs and the sea – both of which are outside my windows and I can hear the screams of seagulls as I write this. I have used the town as the setting for my latest book, The Chalky Sea – although I had not planned to do that when I moved here.

I am now writing full-time, after a long career in Marketing and then as a strategy consultant with my own business. My career took me to some wonderful places – I lived in Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney and did a lot of travelling all over the world for both business and pleasure.

I write historical fiction, often about displacement and with a strong sense of place. The Chalky Sea is my fifth novel and I have also published a collection of short stories.

What’s your book about?

It’s the wartime story of two people.

Gwen is a thirty-something Englishwoman whose husband has just headed off to war. She is stranded in Eastbourne – by choice, working for the Women’s Voluntary Service and training as a fire warden and subsequently as a translator of German signals. The war gives her a purpose her peacetime life has lacked. Gwen appears emotionally cold, having bottled up her feelings for years.

Jim is a young Canadian farmer from Ontario. He joins up on the spur of the moment after an unpleasant discovery that makes him want to get as far away from home as possible. He arrives in England expecting to fight and caring little if he dies ­– only to find himself kicking his heels in Aldershot like most of the Canadian army, performing endless exercises far away from the front. Eventually the two story strands come together and we see how the war changes each of them. These are people who in normal circumstances would never have met.

Ah yes, because when you think romance, Canadians leap immediately to mind…. Besides our natural magnetism, what is it about the time period or the story that intrigues you?

I never intended to write a book set in the `Second World War. In fact I’d always shied away from it. It seemed too big and in some ways too recent – my father was a pilot in the RAF and my Mum was evacuated as a child. When I moved to Eastbourne I discovered that the town had a little known significance in the war – noted for being the most frequently raided in the south-east of England. Almost two hundred people, mostly civilians, lost their lives in bombing raids and there was wholesale destruction of homes and many notable buildings including the town’s library, fire station, two churches and many shops. German bombers even machine-gunned people in the streets and one of the worst raids happened while people were doing their Christmas shopping in Marks & Spencer – completely destroying the store.

The other little known fact was that Eastbourne was home to thousands of Canadian soldiers during the war, with troops moving in and out of the town and its surrounds constantly from July 1941 until just before D-Day. I discovered that the Canucks of the 23rd Field Regiment used to drink in both my two local pubs, the 31st and 46th Batteries preferring The Ship with the 83rd Battery favouring The Pilot, which they treated as a second home. They used to park their tanks on the local streets (destroying much of the old Victorian brick paving) and there was an officers’ mess in one of the houses in my road. The first German plane shot down over the town during the Battle of Britain landed in the playing field of the school down the road. How could I resist?

Good point. Without giving away the store, what’s your favorite (or favourite) scene?

Oddly enough it was a scene I wrote in my final revisions. It happens in the nearby port of Newhaven on the day of the ill-fated and tragic Dieppe raid in which around nine hundred Canadians lost their lives. My scene is at the harbour as the ships return bearing dead, wounded and survivors. I had “under-written” this, skating over it too quickly, despite one of the key characters being directly involved in the raid. Fortunately my editor called me on it – I immediately knew she was right and still can’t understand why I had missed something so obvious. I sat down to rework the scene and I hope that this time around I did it justice.

I also enjoyed writing a lot of the Aldershot scenes. When I realised some of the book would need to take place there I wasn’t exactly thrilled. Aldershot was another place I once lived in (aged about seven!) and it was singularly unmemorable – basically an army garrison town. As the poor old Canucks nearly went out of their minds with boredom there, I thought I would too – but I ended up really enjoying writing the Aldershot chapters. A character, who was meant to feature briefly in one scene, elbowed me out of the way and wouldn’t get out of the book. She has now forced her way into being a main character in the sequel I’m working on now, set in Canada.

Where can we learn more about The Chalky Sea and your other books?

The Chalky Sea is available as a paperback (ISBN 978-0-9933324-3-2). Online as an e-book it is exclusively on Amazon at the moment http://mybook.to/chalky sea

You can find out about me via my website which is http://www.clareflynn.co.uk

Or my Amazon author page http://author.to/clarefly

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6486156.Clare_Flynn

And Twitter https://twitter.com/clarefly

Glancer Magazine Showcases Acre’s Bastard

Always nice when local press supports local authors, especially those who are indie–published. Glancer Magazine in DuPage County (outside Chicago) Gave me and Acre’s Bastard some love. You can check it out here

https://www.glancermagazine.com/single-post/2017/07/01/ARTS-ENTERTAINMENT-Literary-Local-Early-July-2017