Most of you probably don’t know what little formal education I do have consists of an Associates degree in Broadcast Journalism from BCIT. I love the medium of radio. I was recently interviewed for the Aspects of Writing radio program. The topic was: The Internet is the Author’s Friend. Lord knows it’s mine…
In this wide-ranging and somewhat insane interview we cover doing research for historical fiction, getting the word out about your book, why dinosaurs changed my life, and how the internet is both a frightening time suck and the best way for indie authors to network and share their work with a readership.
Certain periods in history are more interesting to us than others. Depending on where your family’s from, your feelings about the events in question, and what country you live in, your mileage may vary. For example, World War 1 into the Russian Revolution, the Renaissance in Florence, and The Crusades are more interesting to me than the US Civil War (1.0) or the War of the Roses.
Enter Catherine Kullmann and her novel, The Duke’s Regret. She thinks what is known as “The Regency” in Britain qualifies… let’s see why.
What’s your deal Catherine?
I am Irish, married (for forty-five years), a mother (three sons) and a grandmother (one granddaughter, one grandson).
I love travelling, meeting people, good food and drink, classical music, especially opera
I prefer radio and live theatre to cinema and tv
I cannot live without books or tea
I am fascinated by history and love visiting historic sites and buildings of any period.
I write novels set in England in the extended Regency Period from 1795 (when the later Prince Regent married to 1830 (when he died as King George IV)
Look at you, all organized with bullet points. What’s The Duke’s Regret about?
Some characters slip into your books unplanned and
unheralded only to play a pivotal role in the story. So it was with Flora, the
young Duchess of Gracechurch in The
Murmur of Masks and later in Perception
& Illusion. Flora own story revealed itself slowly. A devoted mother
who befriends young wives whose husbands are ‘distant’, it becomes clear that
the relationship between her and her husband Jeffrey is also distant.
They married at a young age, she not yet seventeen and he some years older. In 1815, at the end of The Murmur of Masks, both are in their thirties with many years of life ahead of them. I began to wonder what would happen if one of them wanted to change their marriage. This led to my new novel, The Duke’s Regret.
A duke can demand
anything—except his wife’s love.
A chance meeting
with a bereaved father makes Jeffrey, Duke of Gracechurch realise how hollow
his own marriage and family life are. Persuaded to marry at a young age, he and
his Duchess, Flora, live largely separate lives. Now he is determined to make
amends to his wife and children and forge new relationships with them.
Flora is appalled
by her husband’s suggestion. Her thoughts already turn to the future, when the
children will have gone their own ways. Divorce would be out of the question,
she knows, as she would be ruined socially, but a separation might be possible
and perhaps even a discreet liaison. Can Jeffrey convince his wife that his
change of heart is sincere and break down the barriers between them? Flora must
decide if she will hazard her heart and her hard won peace of mind when the
prize is an unforeseen happiness.
The Duke’s Regret contains spoilers for The Murmur of Masks and Perception & Illusion. So as not to mislead readers, I have therefore combined them in The Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy. All three books are available as eBooks and paperbacks.
You are obsessed with this time period. What gives?
is the beginning of our modern society. The Act of Union between Great Britain
and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the final defeat of
Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 are all events that still shape
today’s world. At the same time, the ruling aristocracies were being challenged
by those who saw the need for social and political reform, while the industrial
revolution which led to the transfer of wealth to the manufacturing and
merchant classes was underway. Women, who had few or no rights in a patriarchal
society had begun to raise their voices, demanding equality and emancipation.
Following the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens in 1803, the United Kingdom was at war with Napoleonic France until 1815. Unlike other combatants in this long war, Britain was spared the havoc wrought by an invading army and did not suffer under an army of occupation. War was something that happened elsewhere, far away. For twelve long years, ships carrying fathers, husbands, sons and brothers sailed over the horizon and disappeared. Over three hundred thousand men did not return, dying of wounds, accidents and illness. What did this mean for those left behind without any news apart from that provided in the official dispatches published in the Gazette and what little was contained in intermittent private letters?
The question would not leave me and it is against this background of an off-stage war that I have set my novels. How long did it take, I wondered, for word of those three hundred thousand deaths to reach the bereaved families? How did the widows and orphans survive? What might happen to a girl whose father and brother were ‘somewhere at sea’ if her mother died suddenly and she was left homeless?
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
It’s hard to say. I love this one, where Jeffrey is
accepted by his nine-year-old daughter Tabitha. Up to now, Tabitha has
addressed him formally as ‘Your Grace’ or ‘sir’
Tabitha raised her rope again. “I’m
going to see if I can skip thirty times without stopping.”
“That will take a
lot of breath. Would it help if I count for you?” Gracechurch asked.
Yes, please, Pap—”
She broke off, biting her lip.
He squatted in
front of her so that she could look into his eyes. “Papa? Would you like to
call me Papa?”
“I should be happy
if you did. I am your Papa, am I not?”
She threw her arms
around his neck. “Now you are my Papa. Before you weren’t, not really.”
He rose to his
feet as he hugged her back. “Then I am sorry for it. Will you forgive me?”
She nodded again
and he kissed her cheek before setting her down carefully. She smiled
brilliantly at him, then picked up her rope and held it in the starting
“Are you ready? Off you go!”
Where can we learn more about you and your work?
you for hosting me and for your interest in my writing. You can find out more
about me and my books at
We interrupt Mike’s interview for a shameless plug. Acre’s Orphans has won a much coveted “Discovered Diamond” award for historical fiction. You can read the review here, or just take my word for it and buy the book.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that one of my least favorite periods to read about is the American Civil War. (Or, as it will be known in the future, Civil War 1.0) The reasons are long and boring, and will annoy perfectly nice people, so I won’t go into them. I am always interested in the outsider’s view of any historical event, so when I found an Englishman with a fascination for the “war between the states,” I was willing to suck it up and learn more. John Holt’s latest book is “The Thackery Journal.”
What’s your deal, John?
I was born in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, during World War 2. Clearly the world had a lot to contend with at that time, so my coming offered some welcome relief. Whether I had a major influence, or it was pure coincidence, I shall never know, but the war ended shortly after my birth. I have always been a half glass full kind of person, and I’m quite positive in my approach to life. I was brought up on a diet of Rock ‘n’ roll, and only two TV channels. How did we ever manage I wonder? Programmes like Bilko, and Tony Hancock helped I guess, and probably accounts for my sense of humour. As a youngster I wanted to become a doctor, however there was problem, a major problem. I hated the sight of blood, so eventually I became a land surveyor, and spent 24 years working in local government. I then set up in private practice, carrying out property surveys, and preparing architectural drawings. I guess, like a lot of people I had always wanted to write. In fact for several years I used to write articles for a couple of blues magazines (sadly no longer in operation). But I wanted to write a novel. The opportunity came about in 2005, whilst on holiday in Austria. That was the catalyst that lead to “The Kammersee Affair” published in 2006. It is a story of the search for hidden nazi gold; a story of blackmail, murder and revenge. Over the following years eight more novels, and three novellas, were produced.
I get it. After years of writing articles, scripts and standup, I told myself I’d never be a “real” writer til I did a novel. Sounds like you’ve caught up. What’s The Thackery Journal about?
the first sounds of gun fire echoed through the land, young men rushed to
enlist, to fight for a cause that they believed was right. Shop assistants,
bank clerks, farm labourers. All believing that the South would win. Right was
on their side, and besides it would all be over by Christmas.
Two life-long friends enlist on opposite sides of the conflict. Both believing that right was on their side, and both hoping that they would never meet each other on the battlefield. Their lives become inextricably entwined as the war nears its end culminating in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. On the night of April 14th 1865 Lincoln attended a performance at The Ford Theatre, in Washington. A single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth hit the President in the back of the head. He slumped to the floor and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a much wider conspiracy? Was he part of something even more sinister? Was he part of a plot hatched by Lincoln’s own generals to replace Lincoln with General Ulysses S. Grant. A plot financed by stolen Confederate gold bullion.
What is it about the story or time period that intrigued you?
have always been fascinated by the American Civil War. A Civil War is the worst
kind of war that there could be. A war that divides the Country and splits
communities: a war that puts brother against brother, and father against
son. A war that splits families; and
makes enemies of long-time friends. A war where in reality there are no
winners. Indeed, a war where there could be no real winners, and where everyone
loses something. The effects would be felt long after the war ends. Could reconciliation and forgiveness really take
place? How long would the wounds, mentally and physically, take to heal? Could
communities divided by war, be re-united by peace? Even now statues of
Confederate Generals are being torn down because of what they are perceived to
But that in itself is hardly a reason for writing the book. If the truth be known, I never actually considered writing a Civil War novel at all. But sometimes, instead of the author being in command of what he, or she writes, it is the writing itself that takes charge. It will suddenly go in a totally unexpected direction, and you are forced to go with it to see where it leads.
Somewhere along the line I got side-tracked. During my research into “The Kammersee Affair” (a story of hidden gold bullion) I found an item on the internet about a consignment of Confederate gold that had gone missing as the Civil War was coming to an end. The gold had, apparently never been found. I thought perhaps I could make up some kind of a story. The gold had obviously been stolen by someone, and I got to thinking how that person would feel as his pursuers caught up with him. Very quickly I had the makings of a fairly well developed final chapter. That chapter is now the last chapter of “Thackery”, and largely unchanged from when it was first written. It was also obvious that the gold had been stolen for a reason. I wondered what that reason could have been. Then I had an idea.
What’s your favorite (or favourite, if you insist) part of the book?
That’s a difficult one, there are so many. But if I must choose one I think it would be the very last scene of the novel. Oddly enough, it is the one that was written first. Jason Thackery is a hunted man, wounded and alone. His pursuers have tracked him down and are closing in. Thackery is afraid and knows exactly the fate that awaits him. His thoughts turn to the past, to his mother, to his friend, who, even now, is waiting to take him prisoner. There is no escape, no way out. There is no one to save him.
We interrupt John’s interview for a shameless plug. Acre’s Orphans has won a much coveted “Discovered Diamond” award for historical fiction. You can read the review here, or just take my word for it and buy the book.
Acre’s Bastard, the first of the Lucca Le Pou stories, is available FREE on Kindle until Saturday, April 20th. If you haven’t read it yet, or want to read the first in the series before devouring the sequel, here’s your chance.
Acre’s Bastard was short-listed for the 2017 Illinois Library Associations “Soon to be Famous” competition for independent authors.
Like all good crack dealers, I’m also using the “give the first taste away free and get them to buy the next one” scheme. Hopefully, it will lead folks to Acre’s Orphans and beyond.
This is also an experiment to see if these are, indeed, marketable as YA or NA (New Adult, because we can’t possibly have too many marketing genres to confuse readers). Chapter 2 is a tough read for some people since it involves an attempted sexual assault on a kid. There’s your warning.
If you’ve already read it, please share the information on Facebook, Twitter or however you converse with the rest of the planet.
So, what was I trying to do with this one? A couple of things. For one thing, I notice that the market for horror fiction is much bigger than for the smaller, historical pieces in which I usually indulge (although if you read it you’ll see I did a little of both. Old habits dying hard and all.) I am, after all, trying to find an audience and perhaps a stray buck or two.
The second reason is that the new novel I’m working on is NOT a Lucca book, but a strange little contemporary thing that has horror/action elements in it. Before I invest the next 6 months or so of my life in such an effort, I wanted to see if I could pull it off. I guess you’ll tell me (and I hope that you do. Tell a brother, would ya?) Not only that, but the McGuffin in this story, as well as Lemuel in The Clairtangentist, are part of the new work. It’s like I’m creating my own private Marvel Universe.
Acre’s Orphans has been less than a week, so it’s too early to tell if anyone is actually going to buy it. But they ARE reading it. I know, because I’ve received some very kind words about it from people who win awards and stuff. Many of these are from terrific writers who have read, and enjoyed, Lucca’s adventures. These are writers who I am proud will even talk to me, let alone enjoy my work. (I would write an entire blog post about Impostor Syndrome, but I’m probably not up to it.) That’s a joke. Kinda.
Acre’s Orphans is another rollicking and gritty medieval romp for Wayne Turmel’s utterly incorrigible—yet grudgingly adorable—orphan-hero, Lucca Le Pou. A delightful read for any historical fiction devotee, Turmel manages to render up the decaying Kingdom of Jerusalem accessible, violent, and naughty enough to hook any YA reader, too. Who knew Hospitaller knights and leprous nuns could be so cool?
Apparently someone else is a fan of leprous nuns, because Bradley Harper, author of the Edgar-award winning A Knife In the Fog told me his favorite part was the battle with the bandits where (avoiding big spoilers) poor Sister Marie-Pilar saves the day. You never know what people are going to take from your work, but I kinda dug that scene as well. Brad’s first novel has been short-listed for a a freakin’ Edgar award as Best First Novel. Here’s his review:
“Acre’s Orphans is an enjoyable excursion back to the battle for the Holy Land, contested by none other than the fierce but honorable Salah-Din. Ten-year-old Lucca the Louse has his hands full avoiding Saracen soldiers, merciless bandits, and a spy loyal to neither side but hoping to profit from both. The tale is faithful to history and the diverse culture of the region which exists up to the current day. The characters are well-drawn and the stakes are high when the boy is entrusted with an important message from the captured city of Acre, intended for the remnants of the Christian nobility along the northern coast, four days travel away. Accompanied by a giant Knight Hospitaller, a young Druze girl on the cusp of womanhood, and a leprous nun, Lucca must get his ragged party safely to Tyre, where an uncertain reception awaits them all.”
Another award-winner is Barbara Barnett. She’s an insanely smart person whose novel The Apothecary’s Curse was short-listed for the 2017 Stoker award. She was the first to tell me in documented form what she thought…
“A splendid adventure laced with new perils at every turn for the young hero at the heart of Turmel’s latest excellent foray into the heart of the Crusades.”
We don’t write for awards. We sure don’t write for the money, but we do write to be read. To have my words enjoyed by people all over the world, including those whose talent I respect is more than a little fun. Just thought I’d share.
If you haven’t ordered your copy of Acre’s Orphans, or haven’t read the first of Lucca’s adventures, they are available on Kindle or in Paperback wherever you get your fix.
And please, leave a review. It’s like applause for the author.
No doubt by now you are aware that Acre’s Orphans will be published on January 28th. Many of you are familiar with its hero, Lucca le Pou (or Lucca the Louse for those of you who don’t speak French.) He’s a popular little guy, and a number of people ask me how I came up with him.
Put simply, Lucca started as a fun idea, and was finally created out of horrible tragedy. It’s probably a story worth sharing, and very few of you will have heard this one. So it started here:
This is me standing in the old city of Jerusalem in November of 2008 on the site of the Hospital of St John… the Hospitallers for those of you who follow such things. As I stood there, thinking all kinds of Crusadery thoughts, I kept asking myself, “what the hell were they thinking?”
The Crusades have always held a fascination for me. I’m a sucker for knights and jousting and swords are always cooler than guns. So I tried to imagine what would make someone travel halfway around the world to fight in a war that, to my modern mind, makes no sense at all. Especially the battle of Hattin. What the hell makes someone do that? And what must it have been like for people who weren’t nobility or churchmen– the average folks? I figured there was a story there, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Acre’s Bastard originally started as the tale of a Hospitaller knight, and it wasn’t particularly inspiring, given that most of them would be slaughtered at the end.
Then this picture flashed around the world.
This picture of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh was from 2016 when Russian bombs fell on the Syrian city of Aleppo. Aleppo is about 300 miles from Acre, and was a constant scene of battle even back in the 1100s.
I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that children had been dying in wars in the region since the beginning of our history, and it just gets uglier and more vicious. That led me to think about other stories of children caught up in war. I was much more interested in the civilians than the knights and nobility. What would it be like for a child back then. If Lucca was a bit older, you know who he reminded me of???
One of my favorite stories is Kim by Rudyard Kipling. An orphan caught up in wartime, befriending soldiers and living on his wits. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.
And so, I imagined Lucca as old enough to not be traumatized like young Omran, and not old enough to actually have to fight, and there you have it.
Now he’s on his second adventure, Acre’s Orphans. There are still lepers, knights, spies, and swordplay. There will be tears and, yes, a lot of laughs.
This is clear to me now. There’s no avoiding it. I mean, I don’t kick kittens or steal Salvation Army kettles or anything like that. But I am an objectively evil person because, as a writer, I kind of enjoy torturing my readers. That’s not nice, right?
So, prepublication for the book, I was sending out copies to some folks who said they’d read an advance copy and maybe give me some quotes or reviews. I didn’t know many of these folks, and they’d all read a synopsis. The next day I got a Facebook message from one of these ladies giving me hell and saying I should have put a content warning on the book and I was an irresponsible author for not telling people that certain content might not be appropriate.
Remember, this is Acre’s Bastard. The one many people say is really a (shiver) YA book in disguise. What had gotten her so upset?
The exact quote was, “the graphic sexual assault in chapter 2 triggered my PTSD and really upset me. If you’d put a warning up front I never would have read this horrible thing.”
I was mortified. I don’t want to belittle her experience, and I truly am sorry I upset her. I went to several other people for their opinion. They all felt it was fine, and she was overreacting. I sent her a note saying there were no hard feelings for her posting her feelings all over Facebook for complete strangers and potential readers to see (even though I thought it was a bit much, you can’t discount people’s feelings or experience.)
Here’s what makes me a bad person: Once I got over the shock of her reaction, one thought kept recurring to me. I was actually kinda proud of myself. To get that reaction, I must have written the s@#$t out of that scene. It made me smile. Still does. I’m a bad person.
This is one of my favorite short stories (you can read it here and judge for yourself.) I’ve never been able to find a home for it, for two reasons. First, it’s over 5000 words, and in this world where most short stories are published online, that pretty much makes it War and Peace. Secondly though, it contains a certain word. A word I’ve never used in real life and makes me cringe. You know, the N word.
Just last week a magazine editor told me how much he enjoyed the story, thought it was very well written, but “some of the language” made him uncomfortable and he couldn’t publish it. Now, I can protest (as I often do) that the language and behavior of the characters are not necessarily those of the management. Truth is, when I thought of Lorna yelling that word during the excitement of a boxing match, I smiled because I knew how readers would respond. When I brought it into my writers group, I could hear gasps when they got to “that scene” and it made me happy to my toes. Again, not very nice of me was it?
The latest example: Acre’s Orphans
A character dies in chapter 12. A character a lot of people are very fond of. And I laughed out loud when it came to me. Not in a text-y LOL kind of way, but really laughed. So loud it scared Byron, my cockatiel. Not because it wasn’t sad, but because if I did my job right it would elicit a South Park “you bastards you killed Kenny” moment. When several of my beta readers told me how they reacted, I didn’t apologize. I didn’t shrink. I soaked up their emotional responses, lit a cigar and thought, “yeah baby. That’s my job.”
The truth is, I like making people laugh. I like making them cheer, but I also like making them have an unexpected emotional reaction. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s horror, or sadness, or disgust. Good. That’s my freaking job.
Someone once said that being a novelist is like telling a joke and waiting 6 months for the laugh. It’s true. If a writer touches you in the feels, let him or her know. Better yet tell them AND Amazon with a review.It’s kinda why we do this.
Even if it means we have to admit we’re terrible, awful, really bad people.
Just when I begin to think I’m pretty hot stuff, I come across someone whose body of work is both impressive and intimidating. Such is the case with today’s interview. Robert Vaughan, as you’ll see, has been around a while. His publisher, Mike Bray at Wolfpack Publishing was hanging out at the Las Vegas Book Fest. I asked if he had any historical fiction authors I should talk to, and he couldn’t connect me with Robert fast enough. Here’s the deal on his (I’m estimating) 8 millionth book, The Town Marshal.
So for the uninitiated, tell us about yourself.
I was nineteen years old when I sold my first book. That was 61 years ago, and since that time I’ve sold somewhere around 400 books under my own name, and 42 pseudonyms. I wrote the novelization for the mini-series Andersonville, and wrote, produced, and appeared in the History Channel documentary Vietnam Homecoming. As of this writing, (9 November, 2018) I have five books in the top ten of Amazon Western novels: #1, #2, #3, #4, and #7.
I have hit the NYT bestseller list eight times. I’m the recipient of the Spur Award, (SURVIVAL, writing as K.C. McKenna) the PORGIE Award (Best Paperback Original), the Western Fictioneers Lifetime Achievement Award, I received the Readwest President’s Award for Excellence in Western Fiction, and I am a member of the American Writers Hall of Fame.
I am also a retired army Chief Warrant Officer with three tours in Vietnam. I now live with my wife and my dog on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. (Editor’s note: See? What’d I tell you?)
What’s the story behind The Town Marshal?
The book , THE TOWN MARSHAL is a look at some authentic Western History. Its two main participants, James Cooper, and Henry Newton Brown, form a close friendship when, along with Billy the Kid, they fight in the Lincoln County War. After that, James and Henry move on, their bond of friendship growing even stronger as James becomes a crusading newspaper editor and Henry, a town marshal feared by outlaws and lauded by his peers and the towns he served.
But something goes wrong, and in an emotive moment, the two best friends find themselves face to face in a dramatic and poignant confrontation.
What is it about that time period that intrigued you enough to focus a book on it?
Of the two main characters, James Cooper is fictional, and I use him to propel the book, and to be a foil for Henry Newton Brown. Brown is an authentic character with one of the most fascinating, and ultimately tragic life stories. It was the authenticity of Brown’s story that drew me to the book.
Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
One of my favorite scenes would be the defense of the McSween House in Lincoln. Alexander McSween was a much-respected attorney in Lincoln, and during the Lincoln County War, his house came under siege. McSween, James Cooper, Henry Newton Brown, and Billy the Kid occupied the house. In addition there were three women and a young girl trapped in the house: McSween’s wife, Susan, his sister-in-law Elizabeth Shields, Elizabeth’s ten-year-old daughter, Minnie, and Katherine Gates, the local school teacher.
Where can people learn more about your impressive collection of work?
Subscribe to my newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of my upcoming novel. Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look at the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction of all types from around the world.