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Giveaway & Interview with Jona Colson, poetry editor of This Is What America Looks Like

Full disclosure: I have a poem in this anthology.

Today, we’re talking with poetry editor Jona Colson about the new anthology from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.

It is their first anthology in a number of decades, and the fiction and poetry included in this collection runs the gamut in terms of what America looks like. Many of these poems and stories were written during the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and so many other traumatic and pivotal events in recent history.

Please give Jona a warm welcome.

Stay to the end of the interview for a special giveaway.

Savvy Verse & Wit: Congratulations on the new anthology, This Is What America Looks Like, published by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.

This is the second time you’ve worked with them, since they published your first poetry collection, Said Through Glass. How would you describe the publishing process for a debut poetry collection and was that similar or different from working on the anthology?

Jona Colson: It was similar and different. With your own work and developing a manuscript, you see how the poems speak to each other, and I did the same for the anthology. However, the writers were placed reverse alphabetical (Z-A), so I did not have to consider the order of the poems. I still had to create a balance with the poems—the themes, topics, and forms. This was the first time I put on an editor’s hat, and I learned a lot about working with other writers. I also was able to read so many wonderful poems!

SVW: As the poetry editor for the anthology, how much coordination was there with fiction editor Caroline Bock? Did you both have a game plan in mind before submissions started rolling in or were their themes that emerged on their own as submissions were being read?

JC: The submission’s call offered a prompt in many ways, so I was ready to read submissions in response to that. We didn’t share the specific poems and texts that we were reading, but we did discuss the topics and themes we were getting. The majority of submissions came in during the height of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movements. So, many of the topics changed in response to these events, and we had to balance the narratives of the work we accepted.

SVW: How did you view your role as an editor of the anthology? Let us in on what your process was when selecting poems and whether you asked any artists for edits.

JC: I was so pleased with all the submissions we received. Unfortunately, we had a very limited space with the book, so I had to choose what fit the best. There were many poems that I couldn’t take because of space. I asked poets for revisions when I felt that it would improve their poem. I had a few edits—some minor and some major. I found that writers were really responsive to revising their work, and that was wonderful. I love reading poetry, and I have such respect for any artist who attempts to shape experiences into language.

SVW: This Is What America Looks Like provides a very broad landscape in how writers could approach the topic, but how would you describe what America looks like? Does America’s description merely entail its mountains and landscapes or is it about the people within it?

JC: I would say it is all of that. Emotional and physical landscapes. Dreams and visions. The poems in this anthology offer a reflection of America in many different ways. There are many poems that do not directly respond what America looks like, but discuss belonging, childhood, adulthood, expectations. These are all American experiences.

SVW: Thinking about the writers in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region, how would you describe their writing styles and overall view as presented in their poems? Is there something that readers could immediately recognize as poetry from this region?

JC: There are many references to locality. Many poems showcase towns in the DMV, or specific streets and locations—Dumbarton Oaks, The Library of Congress, battlefields. In this way, you are immediately placed into a particular part of our country. Some poems are more abstract but suggest places in the area. The poems—and the fiction—solidify the DMV as a literary powerhouse.

SVW: What has been your fondest memory of your poetic journey so far? And what’s next for you?

JC: Getting to know other poets and writers, and being welcomed into the literary community. I got my MFA from American University, and I got to know many writers. However, since I published my book and started working on this anthology, I have met so many more people and the thriving literary community that we have here in the DMV. Discovering more writers and hearing their stories have been the best part of this journey.

Right now, I’m working on poems and some translation projects. Another book may take a while, but as long as I can keep writing, I’m happy.

Giveaway: Leave a comment about what you think America looks like by Feb. 17, 2021.

I will send the winner (age 18+) a copy of Jona’s book, Said Through Glass, and the anthology This Is What America Looks Like.

Please leave a way for me to contact you.

Interview with Mimi Matthews, author of Gentleman Jim

Today, I have a special guest in the historical fiction sub-genre and while not Austen-related, it caught my attention because it reminded me of one of my favorite books (though they are both quite different). Hidden identities always fascinate me, and this novel has that and more.

Book Synopsis:

She Couldn’t Forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He Wouldn’t Forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful– and entirely convinced he’s someone else. As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain other? Or, with a little daring, will he find a way to have them both?

This reminds me of the Scarlet Pimpernel in some ways. This could be an escape for those who need it most.

Let’s chat with Mimi Matthews:

What inspired you to write Gentleman Jim?

Mimi Matthews: Gentleman Jim was inspired by two historical novels: Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, and Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s my attempt at a swashbuckling Regency adventure novel, with lots of romance and revenge.

Your novels are usually set in the Victorian era, why did you decide to set this one in the Regency?

MM: The Regency era was much less restrictive than the Victorian era. There wasn’t as much restraint to it, and Gentleman Jim is a story that doesn’t have a great deal of restraint between the characters, whether they’re dueling, brawling, or falling passionately in love.

Though still closed door, this is your hottest novel to date. Is this going to be a trend going forward?

MM: The heat level of my stories very much depends on the characters. For this novel, it had to be hotter. That’s just the kind of romance the hero and heroine have. They’re both incredibly passionate, hot-tempered people.

The title of this novel is similar to a recent HBO series, Gentleman Jack. Do the stories have any similarities?

MM: None at all. The fact is, I wrote the first 1/3 of Gentleman Jim many years ago. Then, it was actually titled Gentleman Jack. By the time I got around to finishing it, the HBO series had already come out, so I knew I’d have to change my title. I just tried to keep it as close to my original as possible.

Any plans to write a sequel to Gentleman Jim?

MM: Actually, I do have a few ideas for the children of the hero and heroine. It all depends on my writing schedule, and—of course—how well Gentleman Jim sells!

What’s next for you?

MM: Right now, I’m working on The Siren of Sussex, the first book in a new Victorian series I’m writing for the Berkley imprint at Penguin Random House. It’s the story of Ahmad Malik, a half Indian habit-maker in 1860s London, and Sussex- born Evelyn Maltravers, the bold bluestocking equestrienne who becomes his love and his muse. Ahmad was a supporting character in my USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

Thank you, Mimi, for joining us today and sharing some insight into Gentleman Jim.

About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Her next romance, The Siren of Sussex, will be out in 2022 from Berkley/Penguin Random House. Follow her on GoodReads, BookBub, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Follow the rest of the blog tour (Nov. 9 to Dec. 6) with the hashtags: #GentlemanJim, #HistoricalRomance, #HistoricalFiction, #RegencyRomance, #SwashbucklingHero, #MimiMatthews, #BlogTour

Check out the previous tour stops at Relz Reviewz for a Character Spotlight, a review at Life of Literature, and a review at Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog.

Also today, check out the review at Greenish Bookshelf.

Giveaway & Interview with Elizabeth Grace, narrator of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd

Welcome to today’s blog post for Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd. New out on AUDIO. Stay tuned for a few surprises and a giveaway!

Book Synopsis:

With timeless verve, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, bares her intimate thoughts while offering biting social commentary through a collection of romantic re-imaginings, sequels, and prequels, set in the Regency to present day by ten popular Austenesque authors. Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter, January 1813―and we think so too! Stories by Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, Joana Starnes, Karen M Cox, Elizabeth Adams, Leigh Dreyer, J. Marie Croft, and Christina Boyd.

Our guest will be the audiobook narrator, Elizabeth Grace.

Check out this awesome interview with Elizabeth Grace:

1. Have you always wanted to be an audiobook narrator or how did you “fall” into the work?

Long story – No! When I was kid I really wanted to be an actress and did a lot of amateur dramatics and drama exams. I was taught how to speak with received pronunciation and perform poetry and prose for exams. When I got older it was drilled into me that acting was more of a pipe dream for a little girl from the midlands in the UK and so, I took the sensible route. I studied American Studies at University and joined the Drama Society on the side which is where I met my now husband. When I graduated, I got a job in Marketing and stayed there, steadily progressing for six years. Last year, when I was reviewing the future of my career, people kept asking what my dream job would be and I reassessed that old pipe dream and wondered if it could become a reality. I am lucky enough to have a partner who believes in me and has a job that can support us both to an extent so after we got married, we planned a long honeymoon and I quit my nine to five with the idea to focus on my acting career full time on our return from a 3 month South American adventure which was due to begin at the end of February this year. In January, I picked up a few projects here and there including some voice over work and audio dramas. I was told my voice would work well for audiobooks and while I hadn’t really considered this as an option for me, I was intrigued. Skip forward 2 months, my brand new husband and I are sat in Chile having the adventure of a lifetime when we are pulled back to the UK after completing 1/3 of our trip due to Covid 19. During lockdown, I had a lot of time to contemplate my next move, I bought some recording equipment, started auditioning for audiobooks and managed to get involved with some amazing JAFF authors and I couldn’t be happier with where I have ended up so far.

2. What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?

I love that I can bring the characters to life in the story. I like to get a visual of what a character looks like and then start to work on their voice. They obviously have to sound distinct from each other for the listener to know who is talking, and while that could be just accent and pitch, largely the distinction will become apparent in their demeanour and how they are as a person. So much goes into a person’s voice and it’s fascinating to see how this comes and develops even over the course of narrating a book – I sometimes don’t know where I will end up until I am there!

Elizabeth Grace

3. How much control do you have over the tone of your narration? Does the director provide a lot of guidance? Is the author heavily involved in the process?

I usually like to ask the authors I am working with for a little summary which includes the narrator’s tone as well as the characters’. Coming from a marketing background, I understand the importance of a brief! Oftentimes people know already what they want to hear, they know their characters inside out having created them from nothing so it’s important to respect that. Sometimes, a character may require a very specific accent, for this having some sources of reference is really helpful. Using this as a basis and reading through the book, I will do a sample of maybe one or two chapters then based on this I will receive feedback from the author. I will tweak the recording where necessary based on that feedback but Ultimately however, you have to consider your range as a narrator too and what is sustainable for you so because of that, it is very collaborative and super important that everyone is on the same page before you get too into the recording stage so you don’t waste anyone’s time.

4. What are some of your favorite ways to prepare for a narration project? (ie. listen to certain music beforehand, gargle with salt water, etc.)

I have some voice exercises I do before I begin narrating which I have learnt through my training, nothing too intense but some things that work for me on a day to day. There’s a lot of humming and huge facial stetches that go on behind closed doors. Definitely keep some water at hand and being hydrated is key, sometimes a little mid paragraph gargle is helpful but more often than not, taking a quick break and some deep breaths can set you right again. Dropping your breath (or breathing into your belly rather than your chest) is something that has taken me some time to learn but is essential to making sure you can get through those long sentences. Listening to your body and letting it tell you what it needs is my port of call, some days I will need more warming up than others.

5. Do you read through a certain number of chapters before taking a break? What’s the process and how many hours do you spend on narrating one book?

I record almost everyday, I have found that my voice sounds the best in short bursts and can tire easily after too many hours behind the mic and this becomes really evident in the post production. For me, a couple of hours each day is ideal and then it can then take three times as much time to edit those recordings into a finished version ready for the author to review. It keeps me busy all day and I can usually work this around my other commitments. I like to make sure the author I am working for has a steady drip of chapters to review so there isn’t too much down time on either side. I have learnt the importance of maintaining some “me time” more recently so I do take at least one day off at the weekends.

6. What does your recording studio look like if you have one at home (share photos if you like)?

My recording studio is in the bay window of my bedroom! It’s a cute little set up with a desk, and I have pop up screen that fits just nicely behind me to reduce some of that reverb. I would love a swishy, purpose built studio but for now, this works well for me and hopefully sounds alright on the finished edit you all hear!

7. What has been your favorite narration project and why?

I have loved all the projects I have worked on for their own individual reasons. I have to give a mention to Elizabeth Adams who was the first author I worked with within JAFF though that first book was a modern fiction called Green Card. We have a great connection and the way she writes is so easy to read – I guess we are similar in the way we speak. Elizabeth opened the door for me into the JAFF world and without her I wouldn’t have been introduced to all the amazing women I have worked with since then. Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl was the first anthology I have narrated and it really allowed me appreciate the concept of short stories. I adored picking each of them up and finding new tones, pacing and personality within them while staying true to Jane Austen’s characterisations. It has been such a privilege getting to know these talented authors and I am thrilled to be working with some of them again.

8. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

It’s a super basic answer but I love Pride and Prejudice, though that has definitely been rekindled after reading Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl. Like a lot of you, I have such an affinity with Elizabeth – we do share the same name after all! Tessa Dare put it so well in her foreword – “she is just like me, but awesome”. However, I do have an affliction whereby I become the biggest fan of the thing I am engaging with at any one time. I have noticed the BBC are rerunning a series of Emma from a few years ago that I am about to settle into again so I am certain I will be reviewing the answer next week.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your insights about audiobook narrating. I loved reading this and I know that my readers will too.

About the voice actor:

Originally from the East Midlands in the UK, Elizabeth Grace now lives in South London (via two years in Amsterdam). She is a full-time actor, voice over artist, and narrator.

Elizabeth began her professional performing career a little later in life and has been studying at Identity School of Acting in London since 2019. Prior to that, she had a career agency side in Marketing which explains her penchant for client services.

Since 2019, she has been growing her professional portfolio on top of the amateur theatre work she began in her formative years. She has now been a part of many projects from short films and web series to audio dramas and audiobook narration. Visit her website: https://www.elizabethgraceofficial.com/

Here’s an extra treat, an audio excerpt from J. Marie Croft’s excerpt from “The Age of Nescience“.

About the audio snippet: “Character driven vignettes, Elizabeth looks back on her adolescence up to when she meets Darcy, and she comes to admit her own folly, how she has not been wise as she thought. In this short opening scene, Elizabeth is preparing for her coming out and what that means to her.”

The Audio Snippet excerpt:

“But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.
This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.”—Chapter LIX

THE AGE OF NESCIENCE

J. Marie Croft

When I was ten, my father told me I was precocious.

Glowing with pride, I beamed at him.

Ten years later, another gentleman told me, “Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will
be always under good regulation.”

Turning away, I hid a knowing smirk.

What becomes of pride, though, when real superiority exists purely in one’s own narrow mind?

Only now, after throwing a retrospective glance over my adolescence, do I comprehend how
prideful and energetically wilful was my youthful conduct, how flawed was my biased
discernment…and such it had been from the innocent age of ten to the equally nescient age of
twenty.

Coming Out
1806

In honour of a former merchant’s elevated status, a soirée was hosted in Meryton by my aunt and
uncle Philips. On that moonlit evening, I was permitted to attend in company with my parents
and older sister.

Those of higher circles might have argued I, at fifteen, was not of an age to be introduced into
society; but it was the country, and children often accompanied their elders to social events.
Upon any objection to the scheme, my mother defended the propriety of her decision by claiming
a certain right, as sister of the hostess, to bring whomever she pleased to the gathering.

Neither Mama nor I was satisfied with the results when I donned my first half-dress gown and
had my ringleted hair dressed rather than left loose. She lamented my looks were nothing to
Jane’s, and I experienced a mixture of excitement and mortification at being on display in such
an adult fashion…especially since boys I had romped with in childhood might be in attendance
as eligible men.

In the habit of running, I was saddened to relinquish spirited antics and submit to more ladylike
behaviour. How suddenly we are expected to emerge from girlhood to womanhood, from maiden

to wife. The thought of being viewed as marriageable was as uncomfortable as the hairpins
poking into my scalp and the lightly boned stays thrusting my bosom unnaturally upwards.

“Elizabeth Margaret Bennet! You are not leaving the house looking like that!”

“But… Mama!”

Tut-tutting, she removed the fichu I had tucked into my bodice and flailed the triangle of muslin
in my face. “What were you thinking, child?”

“Of modesty. You went against my wishes and had the bodice lowered. I cannot face our
neighbours with so much of my…with so much of me exposed. New meaning might be given to
my coming out.”

“Oh, pish! ’Tis the latest evening fashion. Every elegant lady wears that cut, and no daughter of
mine will be seen as a dowd. Compared to Jane, you must flaunt whatever meagre, redeeming
features you own.”

Despite my mother’s hopes upon launching a second daughter into the society of adults, my
coming out was not an overwhelming success. Although I had been well liked as a precocious
youngster, my new status was paid scant attention by the local populace. The guest of honour, Sir
William Lucas—my friend Charlotte’s father—did pay me a number of “Capital, capital!”

compliments; and, after imbibing too much port wine, Uncle Philips proclaimed my altered looks
charming.

Home from university, a friend bowed over my hand and, in doing so, his eyes came to rest on
my bodice. Eyebrows hitched, he smirked, saying little before turning to speak with my drunken
uncle. It took willpower to still my hand from cuffing the back of his stupid head. Being genteel
will require tremendous effort, I fear. Discomfited over my erstwhile playmate noticing the
changes in my figure, I was—as if of a contrary nature—annoyed he found me unworthy of
further attention. Well, I would not marry you anyway, William Goulding, even were you the last
man on earth.

 

 

⭐️Giveaway: The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Audiobook Tour begins August 18 with voice actress reading and we hope you will continue to join us and connect at each stop for continued readings, narrator interviews, excerpts, and giveaways. We’ve included a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway, open worldwide, so be sure to participate. Simply comment on the blog stops to be counted for the giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing, but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends September 8.

Giveaway & Interview with Sue Barr, Author of Georgiana

Please welcome author Sue Barr. We’ll be talking about her latest Pride & Prejudice continuation and her writing habits and workspace in our interview today. Stay tuned for some goodies too.

About Georgiana:

She longs for true love…
A dowry of thirty thousand pounds places a hefty weight upon the shoulders of Miss Georgiana Darcy. Her tender heart has been broken before by a cad who cared not one whit for who she was, but as a prize to be won, and she fears no man will ever see the worth of her heart.

Duty and honor…
These are the stalwart columns which hold up the life of Maxwell Kerr, Fifth Duke of Adborough. After rescuing Miss Darcy from an inescapable compromise, an offer of marriage is as natural to him as breathing air. When he discovers this is not the first compromise she has evaded, anger becomes his faithful companion and threatens their tenuous bonds of love and respect.

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? I know I’m curious to see what happens for Georgiana.

Thanks, Sue, for agreeing to our interview:

If you were to live in Jane Austen’s novels, which character would you be and why?

This is a HARD question! I know most people say Elizabeth Bennet, but there are times I want to shake her. Obstinate, headstrong girl! That said, I’d want to be her because of the deep love she and Darcy eventually find. Like her, I’m not in awe of someone’s rank (ask hubby, he was in the military and almost died when I approached the Base Commander at a function and asked him if he’d like to dance), and I appreciate great conversation that’s not ‘fluffy’.

What inspired you to give secondary characters like Georgiana, Caroline, and Catherine their own novels?

It all started with one little question. ‘Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy got engaged to a Bennet sister?’ The series sprang from there and I never hesitated in taking on the secondary characters with the usual suspects delegated to minor roles.

Georgiana carries a heavy burden of expectation and duty for her Darcy family; Explain the process of creating this character harmed by a cad who has all of these expectations for her coming out into society and her eventual marriage, especially given so little is known about her from Austen’s original novel, Pride & Prejudice.

I decided that while Georgiana regretted her mistake, she did not regret the ideals she’d held when contemplating marriage and family. Elizabeth is a strong influence and from her Georgiana gains much strength of character, which she draws upon during the course of this story.

Do you have novels outlined/percolating in your mind for other Austen characters, such as Mary or Lydia Bennet or Anne de Bourgh?

Yes! I’m working on Mary right now. I haven’t thought of the others too much, although Anne de Bourgh would be a delicious character to sample.

Offer one piece of writing advice that you wish someone had told you and one piece of writing advice you did receive that you found helpful in your career.

Writing advice I’ve given and received.

BICHOK: Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard, or as one of my fellow writers said, “vomit” words onto the page. The visual is disgusting but the advice is pure gold. You cannot edit a blank piece of paper, but you can work with drivel.

When not writing Jane Austen-inspired novels, what do you love to do? Special/unique hobbies?

I love canning/preserving food. I want to know what I’m eating and so I make almost everything from scratch. The only programs I watch are Classic movies, cooking shows, News, and Survivor (don’t judge). I also read – voraciously and as grandma to seven kids ranging from newborn to twelve, I don’t have a lot of down time.

When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day, or include a couple of photos.

I retired in 2015 and one year later hubby and I moved into our dream home where I have my own office space. No totems and no sound. I wake fairly early and start my bread. While the dough is rising, I go through e-mails and social media. Put bread in oven and check out A Happy Assembly to see if new posts have been added to stories I follow. Bread is done and now I can focus on my manuscript and try to get in a few words. I’m an extremely SLOW writer. The rest of my day is taken up with light housework, grocery shopping if required, three demanding cats, and meal prep. I could not be happier. Well, I could, but hubby doesn’t retire until next year.

I love learning about writers and their writing spaces, their hobbies, and their writing advice. I hope everyone enjoyed learning about Sue’s new book and is ready for the giveaway!

About the Author:

“The prairie dust is in my blood but no longer on my shoes.”

Sue Barr coined that phrase when once asked where she came from. Although it’s been over thirty-seven years since she called Saskatchewan home, her roots to that straight-lined province and childhood friends run deep. The only thing strong enough to entice her to pack up and leave was love. When a handsome Air Force pilot met this small-town girl, he swept her off her feet and they embarked on a fantastic adventure which found them settled in beautiful Southwestern Ontario when hubby retired from the military and began his second career as an airline pilot.

Sue started writing in 2009 and sold her first manuscript in 2010. For four years she was published under the pen name of Madison J. Edwards, and in 2014 began to write sweet contemporary romance under her own name. Always a reader of Regency romance, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction through a childhood friend who writes under the name of Suzan Lauder. Almost immediately a question popped into her head, “Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy became engaged to a Bennet sister?” and the “Pride & Prejudice Continued…” series was launched.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and its satellite chapter, The Beau Monde. She is one course away from achieving her Professional Creative Writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario’s continuing study curriculum. In her spare time, she cans and preserves her own food, cooks almost everything from scratch and grows herbs to dehydrate and make into seasoning. Hubby has no complaints other than his trousers keep shrinking. At least that’s what he claims…. Oh, the kids and grandkids don’t mind this slight obsession either. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

GIVEAWAY ALERT:

Sue is also gifting three e-copies of GEORGIANA to three lucky winners via Rafflecopter.

Open internationally through March 12.

If you can’t wait, here are the BUY LINKS:

Interview with Eric D. Goodman, author of Setting the Family Free

Happy publication day to Eric D. Goodman.

Eric D. Goodman is the author of four books, including Tracks: A Novel in Stories, which I reviewed back in 2012. His new novel, Setting the Family Free, is about a preserve of exotic animals being released into an Ohio community.

Today we talk with Eric about his new book and his writing.

Setting the Family Free sounds like an unusual and interesting premise. What inspired you to write this novel?

Setting the Family Free was inspired by a real event, although the characters and actions in my book are entirely fictional and the locations have been changed to similar but different places.

There are many times when I read or see or hear an extended news story, especially the ones that unfold over a period of time, and think that it would be a great idea for a novel. Usually I write a few pages of notes and file it away for the future. In this instance, I was inspired to jump on the topic right away.

I spent a good amount of my time in Ohio during early adulthood, so I knew the places well. I’d always wanted to write an “Ohio book” and an “animal book,” and this was an opportunity to do both. I visited the places where the real events happened, and the places where I set my scenes, and I made a point to drop in on a number of zoos and animal reserves during the writing of the book.

Another unique thing about this novel is the way you tell it. Some sections are traditional narrative from main characters, but others sections are news transcripts, newspaper article excerpts, and sound bites from people involved with the events or who knew the people involved. Tell me about that choice.

My main inspiration was to explore the story of why a person would release his dangerous animals into the community and what would happen when he did. But I also found myself interested in how a real news story unfolds and how different people and groups view what transpired differently.

The entire issue of exotic animal ownership was one that conjured many different viewpoints, but adding the personal perspectives of people involved seemed like a great opportunity to experiment not only with multiple perceptions of individuals, but different ways to tell a story.

As happens in real life, I wanted to “break” the story with the sensational headlines and reports, and show how the news was reported differently by different sources with various agendas. In an almost mockumentary way, I wanted to paint a picture of the situation and the main characters involved with sound bites and news clips, and then to delve deeper through the perspectives of the characters involved. Not only the owner of the animals, but his estranged wife, workers, those attacked by the animals, the hunting party with their own varying views—from veterans to veterinarians—and even the animals themselves.

It’s interesting how often we see a news headline or catch a few minutes of a news broadcast and think we already know the story. I wanted to dig deeper and get the story as it existed to those intimately involved.

Did the novel or series, Zoo by James Patterson, influence Setting the Family Free?

It’s funny you should bring that up. To be honest, I have not read the book or watched the movie. I wouldn’t allow myself to, because I didn’t want it to influence my rewrites in any way. I wrote the first draft of Setting the Family Free before I knew Zoo existed.

I wrote the first draft of the book while I was the Fall 2012 writer-in-residence at the Ox-Bow Artist Colony, part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s School of Art. I finished the first draft and felt really good about having an original story unlike anything else. On the way home, I stopped in at an airport book store and what do I see? James Patterson’s Zoo.

I’m sure a lot of writers can relate to this, but it’s not the first time this serendipity has happened to me. I wrote my first draft of Womb: a novel in utero ten years before it was published in 2017. Within the same year, Ian McEwan published a novel in utero, Nutshell.

But more important than the similarities in these novels are the differences that make each story unique. Although I haven’t read or watched Zoo yet, I believe it’s about the animals in zoos across the world changing genetically and attacking people. I think it has a supernatural or science fiction or aspect to it in that way. My book is closer to literary fiction than it is to science fiction; it’s about absolutely normal animals being put in a bad situation—and the people of nearby communities being put in equally bad situations as a result.

Now that Setting the Family Free is out, I’ll look forward to reading Zoo, just as I waited until Womb was published before reading Nutshell.

So, Zoo did not inspire Setting the Family Free. Did you find inspiration from any other books?

Certainly. I found inspiration in the Tim O’Brien novel, In the Lake of the Woods. I really admire O’Brien’s work, and was blown away years ago by the way he told that story with “evidence” chapters and “what if” chapters. In an earlier draft of Setting the Family Free, I actually had some “what if” sections that contemplated different outcomes and motivations, but decided it didn’t work in this book. But the alternate formats and perspectives, I think, made for an interesting way to explore this story.

Also, John Steinbeck would sometimes weave very short and seemingly unrelated chapters between the ongoing story chapters—like a turtle crossing the road—and that inspired some of the animal-POV chapters.

You’ve been writing for a long time. When did you first discover you were a writer?

Sea turtles instinctively know to head for the water after they hatch on the beach. Writing, for me, is like an instinct, or drive, that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I vividly recall an early elementary school assignment that solidified that storytelling instinct. I was in the third grade when our teacher instructed us to write a short story. Most kids came in with two or three pages of scribbling. I came in with an epic romp about a boy creating a good monster to fight off the evil beasts of an apocalyptic world. From that point, I realized that writing was not just something I liked to do—it was something I instinctively needed to do.

What is it about writing that drove you to pursue it as a career?

Although I didn’t understand it at the time, back during that elementary school writing assignment, I believe the desire to bring people together and to promote understanding through common storytelling was what sparked my interest and kept me writing. Even before I realized it, many of the stories I told had common themes at their heart: bringing unlike people together, getting opposites to understand one another, and trying
to see things from multiple perspectives. I remember writing a story that was essentially a retelling of Star Wars from the point of view of a Stormtrooper wising the terrorists (rebels) would stop undermining the laws of the government.

Much of my writing is centered on just trying to tell a good story. But beneath that surface, I do want to create work that people from different walks of life can relate to, and to perhaps help people meet in the middle to look at things in a new way.

How does Setting the Family Free compare to your past books?

Setting the Family Free is similar to my other books because of my empathetic writing style and my effort to look at each individual as a flawed but decent person—not good or bad, but human. It’s similar to Tracks: A Novel in Stories due to my use of multiple perspectives, although Tracks told different stories that intertwined while Setting the Family Free is essentially telling one story from multiple perspectives. Like my previous books, this one character-focused. That is, the characters tend to be more important that the plot.

But Setting the Family Free is very different from anything I’ve written before. Although characters matter most, this book is far more action-driven. The characters grew out of the “what” of the story rather than the other way around. And my storytelling method is something new to me: moving the story forward with the use of broadcasts and quotes from those involved and article excerpts and political tape transcripts—even blending in real quotes with the fictional ones.

The effect, I hope, is a story about the event, but one enriched with multiple perspectives and multiple storytelling methods. And one that will keep readers turning the page.

Is there a connection between the title of the book and the plot?

Setting the Family Free is what Sammy, the owner of the exotic pets, believes he is doing when he releases them into the community. He considers his animals his family. But it also refers to other families in the book: the traditional families that react to the animals, the self-made families or fraternities of people who join together for a common interest or cause, or the family of community, like the sheriff’s team. I try to examine the family unit, which isn’t always as cut and dry as the traditional definition.

Setting the Family Free has earned endorsements from authors like Jacquelyn Mitchard, Juno Diaz, Lucrecia Guerrero, and Rafael Alvarez. If you could get this book into anyone’s hands, who’s would it be?

Besides Oprah and Spielberg? I’d love for Tom O’Brien to read it; I sent a copy to him. But I’m really thankful for the blurbs and reviews I’ve received and feel like the validation from other authors and journals is worth its weight in book sales. Every review and rating on GoodReads or Amazon or anywhere helps, especially for small-press authors.

I think it would be great for the people involved with the real incident or similar incidents to read it. I think and hope they would see that I didn’t demonize or glorify anyone, but instead tried to show everyone involved from different perspectives as well rounded—just as real people tend to be.

Thanks, Eric, for stopping by today to share with us your new book. Please do check out his book launch in Baltimore, Md., if you’re in the area or pick up a copy of the book from your local bookstore or on Amazon.

Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press releases Setting the Family Free by Eric D. Goodman as a hardcover, trade paperback, and e-book on October 1, 2019. The Ivy Bookshop (6080 Falls Road, Baltimore) is hosting the official book launch on Sunday, October 6 at 5 p.m., and animal-themed wine and snacks will be served, along with a reading from the novel.

Q&A and Giveaway: The Tourist Trail by John Yunker

Ashland Creek Press has a giveaway for my dear readers after the Q&A with John Yunker. I hope that you’ll give him a warm welcome and check out his new environmental thriller, The Tourist Trail.

About the Book:

The Tourist Trail is a literary thriller about endangered species in the world’s most remote areas, and those who put their lives on the line to protect them.

Biologist Angela Haynes is accustomed to dark, lonely nights as one of the few humans at a penguin research station in Patagonia.

She has grown used to the cries of penguins before dawn, to meager supplies and housing, to spending most of her days in one of the most remote regions on earth. What she isn’t used to is strange men washing ashore, which happens one day on her watch.

The man won’t tell her his name or where he came from, but Angela, who has a soft spot for strays, tends to him, if for no other reason than to protect her birds and her work. When she later learns why he goes by an alias, why he is a refugee from the law, and why he is a man without a port, she begins to fall in love—and embarks on a journey that takes her deep into Antarctic waters, and even deeper into the emotional territory she thought she’d left behind.

Against the backdrop of the Southern Ocean, The Tourist Trail weaves together the stories of Angela as well as FBI agent Robert Porter, dispatched on a mission that unearths a past he would rather keep buried; and Ethan Downes, a computer tech whose love for a passionate animal rights activist draws him into a dangerous mission.

Please welcome, John Yunker:

The Tourist Trail was released by Ashland Creek Press in 2010. What has and has not changed in the past eight years in terms of animal protection in the regions you write about?

Sadly, not very much has changed. Japan still hunts whales, as does Iceland. Fortunately, the Sea Shepherd Society, the inspiration for the Cetacean Defense Alliance (CDA) organization in the book, continues to fight back. As for the penguins, Argentina has made some efforts to protect them at sea, but their numbers continue to decline. The fishing industry continues to extract entirely too much from the oceans, including penguins that are caught up in nets and on longlines.

You’ll be going to Argentina with Adventures by the Book in October to take readers to visit the Magellanic penguin colony that inspired the novel. What are you looking forward to sharing with readers on this journey?

I’m most looking forward to the sounds the penguins make. They (and a few other penguin species) are often referred to as “jackass” penguins for the noises they emit. And it can be quite a chorus during breeding season. Seeing them in their element — standing in or alongside windswept, dirt burros — is an experience that will stick with you. It certainly has with me.

You write in many genres — fiction, nonfiction, plays — and yet your works usually focus on animals. Why are you drawn toward animal themes?

Humans have used animals for thousands of years — for food, labor, entertainment. It’s time the animals got much-deserved break. Much of what I write centers around the conflicted and slowly evolving relationships between humans and animals, and I’d clearly like to see that relationship continue to evolve, and rapidly. I’d like to see animals, and not just the animals we keep in our homes, treated with empathy. They’ve earned it.

The Tourist Trail is set in some of the most remote places on earth — Antarctica, Arctic Norway, the Patagonia region of Argentina. For readers who love the animals and their human heroes in your novel, what can they do from where they live to help animals and the planet?

First, stop eating seafood. The only way to put an end to fishing is to put an end to demand. It’s simple, really. And, honestly, seafood is no good for anyone. The oceans are polluted, fishing practices are dangerous, and you can’t even be confident that the seafood you purchase, no matter what the label says, is sustainable. Due to 90 percent of the oceans having already been depleted, here is no such thing as sustainable seafood. Second, try to give up eating meat. I know it’s not easy for many people — I certainly never imagined I would one day give it up. But once
you do, it’s really not a big deal, and it does so much good for the planet and for the animals. There are plenty of health benefits for doing so as well.

The sequel to The Tourist Trail, WHERE OCEANS HIDE THEIR DEAD, comes out in February. What can readers expect from this new novel?

This book picks up where The Tourist Trail leaves off, with Robert in Namibia searching for Noa. But there are new characters as well, and a story that will transport readers from Africa to Iowa to New Zealand to Australia. It is a darker novel than the first, but more ambitious, and I
hope readers will enjoy the journey.

Thank you, John.

Please enter below for 1 print copy of The Tourist Trail. U.S. addresses only. Deadline for comments is Oct. 1, 2018, at 11:59 PM EST.

Giveaway & Interview with Liz from In Good Conscience by Cat Gardiner

I’m gobbling up the final Cat Gardiner adventure with Iceman Fitzwilliam Darcy and his leading lady, Liz. You’ll have to wait for my review!

As part of her kick-off blog tour, I had a unique opportunity to interview Liz about her life and the adventure.

Don’t worry there’s an international giveaway for my readers, too.

Please give Liz a warm welcome.

I’m seated here with Liz Darcy, on her private balcony overlooking a magnificent estate. Imagine my surprise when, after only a few days following her dangerous trip to Europe, she consented to an exclusive interview just for my Savvy readers. There’s a certain twinkle to her eye, even a quirk to her lips like she’s holding onto a doozy of a secret beyond the private plane and the secrecy of our locale. She’s radiating an inner joy. Maybe its love or maybe it’s something else. Don’t worry, friends, I’ll find out!

Hi Liz, how are you today? I’m dying to ask how your life has changed for the good and bad since meeting Iceman?

Hi, Serena! I’m really honored that you’d want to get to know me and Fitzwilliam a little more. Most people want to know about the dangerous adventures we’ve taken, so this is refreshing. I’m sorry we had to blindfold you when you got off the Cessna, but I’m sure you understand—we’re still working out the security details having only just arrived ourselves.

I do understand you’ve been through a lot recently. It’s quite an estate!

It is gorgeous here—isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever been happier! *grins*. This setting—this place—I have goose pimples!

Albeit, there were a few months there where we’d been sort of hiding out following Paris and Moscow, and, of course danger wasn’t far behind, but that time secluded in Pemberley with Fitzwilliam was a blissful paradise. And if you can believe it, it’s already promising to be even better after the hell we’ve been through!

*Shrugs* Dark clouds messed up this past summer, but, now … I love it here with him, and honestly, there’s not much that I’d consider bad anymore—not even the fact that he still leaves the toilet seat up and that he hangs the t.p roll the wrong way. He’ll always adore his head-banging music and grunt his displeasure about something, and, of course, there’s his need to control certain things, but that’s not bad, per se. Heck, it’ll take some time before he completely shares everything he’s locked away in his mental Icebox, but those are all little things, things that’ll take time to work out. We’re not yet married a year, you know. As for the good: I feel soooo loved—and safe—and valued like I never have. It’s a different kind of “value,” different from the value in how my father viewed me.

My opinion matters; Fitzwilliam completely respects me and thinks of me as his equal. I’m one with him—but independent—if that makes sense. Gosh, last year’s adventure really taught us both some things and this year’s adventure took our relationship to a whole new level. Fitzwilliam lets me spread my wings to fly but I get that he needs to “coach” me on certain things. It’s his nature and it’s mine to rebel a bit. Any discord we work out either in a one-minute shouting match, tango-ing, or between the sheets.

How much have you learned from Darcy since the last book? And what are you most eager about in your life with him?

Goodness! I’ve learned so much. And I don’t just mean about self defense or weapon usage. We practice those things every day, particularly knife throwing—and, yes, he’s still trying to teach me to be a horsewoman, but I’ve learned so much about him, the man beneath Iceman. He has this patient, confidence-building manner about him. He helps me to feel impervious, skilled and self-assured in everything I do.

It’s that nurturing characteristic that answers your second question … I’m so looking forward to parenthood. We’d been trying to get pregnant after our trip to Santorini last year. I just know that Fitzwilliam Darcy (not Iceman) will make an incredible father one day. It’s our dream to have the family-life we were denied in our “before each other” meager existences. We hope to be the kind of parents that we missed out on in our own lives.

All the ladies are dying to know if he’s as sizzling hot in In Good Conscience as he was in the previous book. And are you still riding your bike?

*Blushing* I don’t kiss and tell, but … it’s—as you say—sizzling (giggles). The man is so damned hot that even when I’m angry—and I mean blazing angry enough to kill him—I can’t stay angry with him … if you know what I mean! That smoldering gaze of his defuses my time bomb! And then his touch gets me all worked up again. *Another blush*

I am definitely still riding and, given the incredible landscape of this area, we are looking forward to the exciting twisties—pushing the limits beside each other.

Do you feel like you’re ready to step into his darker world and adequately protect yourself and him?

His darker world is low light and bright … but if I had to go there again, I’d say: Absolutely. I think—after what we’ve been through over the last two months—Fitzwilliam has that same confidence in me. And although I don’t think we’ll find ourselves in a dangerous situation again, he does remind me to practice situational awareness and has honed into me that paranoia is the height of awareness. LOL If trouble does come, we have each other’s six. Protecting our family is paramount, above all things.

And right now, he’s not at his 100% physical best. So as we get settled here and until our full security team arrives, he’s truly dependent on me.

Give us a glimpse into your relationship with Iceman and his family.

*Snort* Let’s start with his aunt. On second thought, let’s not. She irritates me, so I never speak of her. The last time I saw her, I was at my worst and her facelift made it difficult for her to talk, which was fine by me since I could barely even form words myself.

Fitzwilliam’s family (apart from his aunt) is my family as much as his. And as much as I hate to admit it, they are Obsidian. It’s weird … we’re all broken in some way, yet made whole by our commitment to each other. It’s hard to explain.

Rick is more a brother than a cousin to both of us and that’s true of John Knightley as well. Both guys understand Fitzwilliam and I don’t know—maybe it’s also a military mindset—but where he (or I) go, they’d go, even if it meant to the death. And that holds true for how we feel about them. Charlie, what can I say of Charlie? He’s solid gold in every way and I’m glad my sister has finally wised up to that!

Even Caroline in some strange way is part of our family. She might be the evil step-sister, but she’ll always have our back if needed; she proved that this summer. Sarah, Rick’s girl is awesome and will be staying in America. I’m glad because they are perfect for each other.

We also have new family members who came to Pemberley as our security team. All former military. But, I tell ya’, I couldn’t have gotten through some of the things I have without one salty Marine named Dixon. He’s so much more than my personal bodyguard: good friend, confidant, uncle, brother. He’s awesome.

And then there’s Gigi and Justin my sister and brother-in-law. They are loving life in California. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding last year, but we reunited during the horrific circumstances over the summer, but now that the clouds have packed away, we’ll be getting together soon at an upcoming wedding. Even the Reynoldses will be in attendance!

So what is on the horizon for you two love birds?

Just living every day beside each other, appreciating even the smallest of things, remembering only the good things of the past, and forgetting about everything else. We live in the moment and all that matters is that we’re together, taking each day as it comes. It’s amazing, Serena–seven weeks changed our life, and we had to get through it to experience this absolute complete joy. As Fitzwilliam is always singing … “It’s a
new dawn … a new day … and he’s feelin’ good.” We both are!

Okay. Here’s my last question. Do you have secret to share because I sense you’re holding something back. You’re positively glowing.

*Giggles* You’ll have to read the book!

Thank you, Liz, for joining us today! What a wild ride it has been and here’s to a calmer future together for you and your husband.

Dear readers, here’s a picture of the swag Cat Gardiner is offering:

1 ebook for an international reader and 1 paperback for a U.S. reader.

Also an exclusive IGC mug, Bottle of Cabernet, a woman’s journal with inspirational quotes, series bookmark for a U.S. Winner.

Giveaway info:

Leave a comment here for Liz and Cat or ask a question.

Winner will be selected on Sept. 21, 11:59 PM EST.

Literary Book Gifts & Promo Code for You

I wanted to share with you a unique gift find for the book lover in your life. Have you ever wanted to find that perfect t-shirt or tote bag for your best friend?

Literary Book Gifts might have just the thing for you and your friends.

I talked with Melissa about her store and she’s generously offering my readers a 20% discount on their orders. You’ll find out the promo code later on.

Why did you start your shop?

I started my shop because I love the stories that come out of novels. Books are rarely expressed in the visual medium. Book covers often capture the essence of a novel, but these days with the rise of eBooks you don’t often see many book covers around. Wearing a book on your shirt or on a tote bag makes it tangible and allows you to experience the artwork during your daily life. A simple reminder of our attachment to the narratives of our own lives.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the ability of some of the stories to make it’s readers feel such complex and often powerful emotions.

What’s unique about your gifts?

The massive variety of sizes and colors makes these gifts really unique in the industry. Each print is available in tons of colors, anywhere from about 8 to 15 (it varies based on the design itself). And women’s shirt sizes range from XS – 3XL and men’s sizes from S – 5XL. Beyond the print itself, I think color and sizing are the most important factors involved when buying clothing.

Why you think people should buy them?

Self expression is a primary part of the human experience. It allows for you to connect with others on a more intimate level than simply not expressing yourself at all by wearing a blank shirt. However, you cannot just wear any random clothing, you must feel as though it matches your personal style, and that is what these shirts are aiming to do.

Thanks, Melissa. I agree, self-expression is a big part of what makes us human.

Now, for the promo code and details, dear readers. I know you’re salivating.

The promo code SAVVYVERSEANDWIT20 is good for 20% off anything in the store, no minimum, and can be used unlimited times.

Go shop.

Interview with Carly Severino, author of Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir

Welcome readers. I’ve had a very long few weeks at work in which the work just kept piling up and I felt like I was going to drown.

I want to apologize to Carly Severino for not getting this interview up in a timely manner. I hope you’ll forgive me.

First here’s a little bit about her new memoir, Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir:

“bruised brain” is a poetic memoir that explores themes of child abuse, self harm, depression, mother-daughter relationships, healing, and more. Examining hardship through poetry, this debut work serves to let readers everywhere know they are not alone.

Please give Carly a warm welcome:

1. When writing, do you outline how you want to structure your books or do you just go with the flow?

I’ve tried to be better about outlining but I find it distracts from the creative direction the writing wants to go in. When I try to outline, it feels like I’m trying to tell the story what it should do when really I should be listening to what the story thinks I should do to make it happen the way it’s supposed to. I try to write as soon as inspiration strikes so I can ride the creative wave and let the story take shape. I’ll worry about the technical stuff during editing.

2. Explain a little bit about your day job in PR and how it relates to your other writing pursuits.

I love books and reading and writing, and so a lot of people think I should be in publishing. For a while, I really wanted to do just that but after working for a few literary magazines and working at a literary agency, I sort of realized I didn’t want to make what I was super passionate about my job because then all the things I loved the most became work. So I compromised by working in PR and advertising, and honestly it was the best decision. I get to work with some really creative people and the work is never the same. I have such interesting clients that do all sorts of different things, so the material is never boring and I’m always learning something new.

I really love working in PR because it’s a challenge. I have to do a lot of research about things I never thought I’d be writing about, and to me, that’s the best when a job can teach you something new every day. Then on the weekends or at night after work, I take an hour to do the kind of reading and writing I really love.

3. Your memoir deals with some very tough and traumatic issues. Did you find the process of writing the poetic memoir cathartic? How so?

It’s funny; I never wanted this to be my first book. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the writer with “mommy issues.” But the more I let it fester inside, the more I felt like I needed to let it out. I started writing this accidentally, to be honest.

I just wanted to compile a bunch of poems to sell at slams, but it just morphed into something else altogether. I realized I had a poem for every traumatic event in my life that described my relationship with my mother, so I wrote them and then compiled them in chronological order starting with my birth.

Cathartic is a really great word to use; it’s how I describe most of my writing—especially this book. It was great to sit down and unpack all this emotional heaviness.

I love poetry because even though it tends to deal with some tough topics, ultimately what you’re doing is taking that pain and trauma and making it into something beautiful and artistic, and I think that’s really important. If you let your pain sit there, the pain wins and gets worse with time. But if you try to paint it in a different light, you’re understanding it in an entirely different way and are able to move on from it.

Thank you, Carly, for answering my questions and best of luck with the new book.

Giveaway & Interview with John Kessel, Author of Pride and Prometheus

It has been quite some time since I’ve conducted an interview with an author, but today, John Kessel, author of Pride and Prometheus, will answer a few questions. And there is a giveaway to be had.

First, a bit about the book:

Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

Now, for the interview; give John a warm welcome:

1. When did you start writing and what was the first story or poem you wrote?

I was writing stories as early as grade school and sent my first submission to a magazine when I was in seventh grade. It was a terrible little one-page science fiction story that ended with a pun. I sent it to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it was rejected, but I was very excited to have the form rejection slip, which meant that some editor had read my story. I was not discouraged.

I did not send another story out until I was in college, and did not sell a story that actually appeared until I was in my late 20s. Ironically, my first sale that eventually got published was to the same magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction, where I have since sold eighteen stories.

2. Why Jane Austen as a basis for a novel?

I love Austen’s novels but I would not have considered writing a novel based on Pride and Prejudice if I had not seen the opportunity to fuse Austen's characters with the characters and plot of Frankenstein. I became intrigued as much by the differences between Jane Austen’s and Mary Shelley’s writing as by the similarities, and in writing the book thought a lot about the differences between the novel of manners and the gothic, and the odd ways in which they might speak to one another. Also, it was fun, a kind of challenging puzzle, to make them come together in a satisfying way without disrespecting either writer or her work.

3. What character surprised you the most when writing Pride & Prometheus?

Mary Bennet surprised me the most. The Mary portrayed in Pride and Prejudice is a minor character, the most socially maladroit of the Bennet sisters, the only one who is not pretty. She’s the bookish one who quotes morality at her sisters and who cannot see how odious Mr. Collins is. Every time she appears in the book she says something pompous or clueless and everyone ignores her.

But I picked her to be my heroine, so I had to try to understand her and imagine how she might have an interior life that would not make her obnoxious or tedious even though others might see her that way. I had to grow her up—my story happens 13 years after Austen’s, so Mary has had a chance to evolve and mature. She became a stronger and more admirable character the farther the story went, and I liked her more and more. She
struggled to make things better in situations where others would give up, and she said and did a few things that surprised even me.

4. What was left on the cutting room floor during the editing process that you love most?

I don’t remember having to cut anything very substantial that I regretted losing. Mostly the story grew with successive drafts. There were some options I considered early on—notably a number of different endings—that I let go of as I worked through the story, but I think the ending I came to is the right one for this book.

5. What is next on the writing horizon? Future book?

I have been working on a story about the assassination of President William McKinley by the anarchist wannabe Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition, a world’s fair, in Buffalo, New York in 1901. I grew up in Buffalo. Czolgosz was the son of Polish immigrants; my father was a Polish immigrant. The turn of the 20th century was a time of great wealth and poverty, political, and social change—like our own time. The fair was designed to promote electrification and the wonders of the future, a subject of interest to a person as obsessed with science fiction as I was as a young man.

There was an attraction at the fair called “A Trip to the Moon,” the first “dark ride” ever designed, like the ones at Disneyworld or Universal. One could take this ride to the moon and meet the underground Selenites, modeled after H.G. Wells’s novel First Men in the Moon. I think maybe Leon Czolgosz went to the moon before he shot the president. I think there’s a story in this, an opportunity for comedy and tragedy and social comment, though I am not sure exactly how it will work out. My tentative title is The Dark Ride.

Thanks, John, for taking the time to share with us your latest work and how Mary Bennet surprised you.

ENTER the U.S. giveaway below:

1. Leave a comment on the post with an email
2. Share on social media #giveaway #Pride&Prometheus @SavvyVerseWit #JohnKessel for another entry

Deadline to enter is March 14, 2018, 11:59 PM EST

Photo Credit: John Pagliuca

About the Author:

Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel’s most recent book is the new novel Pride and Prometheus. He is the author of the earlier novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.

Kessel’s stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers’” won the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape” was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sf, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He and his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, live and work in Raleigh, N.C.

Interview with Toni Stern, author of As Close as I Can

It’s been 2 years since I reviewed Toni Stern’s work when WET appeared on my blog. I cannot wait to read her new collection, As Close as I Can.

About her new collection:

The eagerly awaited new poems from the author of Wet. Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with the singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs, most notably “It’s Too Late” for the album Tapestry. Here, with affection and insight, she examines the breadth and boundaries of family, place, language, and self. As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.

Today, please give Toni a warm welcome as she answers questions about her poetry and her hobbies:

Tell us about your latest book, As Close as I Can.

These poems, written over the last three to four years, continue to explore the recurring themes of family, place, language, and self. There are stories in As Close as I Can that have followed me my entire life. It’s been a cathartic experience, examining, through poetry, the emotional and formative impact those experiences have had on me.

What are your favorite poems in As Close as I Can?

I’m fond of “State of Emergency” and “As Close as I Can.” They surprise me. I’m especially fond, too, of some of the shorter poems: “Self Portraits,” “Pyrolysis,” “The Paved Road,” “Everything is Singing.” I enjoy their directness and economy. My favorite poem though, is always the next one. The one I’ve yet to write.

Wet, your first volume of poetry was well received. What has been the most rewarding part of the publication process so far? The most challenging part?

Working with my editor, Trish Reynales, was divine. I loved the few readings I did. I especially loved the laughter. I discovered I’m an unapologetic ham. The most challenging part is explaining myself outside the medium of poetry.

What made you decide to release the poems in As Close as I Can and Wet in book formats? Will any of these poems become songs?

After having written a hundred or so poems, I decided I wanted to create a chapbook-size book; something that looked beautiful and fit happily in the hands. It was a very tactile desire. The poems were never intended as songs.

When did you begin writing? Did you initially decide to write “straight” poetry and transition into music, or was music always the goal?

Music was always the goal. Carole King was my very first reader. She was looking for a new writing partner after her divorce from lyricist Gerry Goffin. I’d recently written four lyrics and sent them to my friend and producer, Bert Schneider, who, during a meeting with Carole, showed her what I’d written. I was a complete unknown. You might say I started at the top. I didn’t even know if the lyrics I created could be fashioned into song. I think it speaks to Carole’s prescience that she chose to work only with me, an opportunity I am forever grateful for. I was twenty-three years old.

How do you structure your work day? Do you work in an office.

I work at the dining room table. I get down to it early, especially if I’m working on a poem I’ve already begun. I can’t sit still for long, so I also work standing at the banquette. Vera, my Jack Russell terrier, often lays on the table, beside my laptop, overseeing my efforts.

You are also an artist. When did you begin painting?

I began painting in the early nineties. I wanted to know, if possible, what it felt like to paint something wonderful. I painted myself off my feet for twenty years. I made pilgrimages to New York city twice a year, for several years, to work at the Art Students League with master Knox Martin. Painting has informed me more than any other art form about the creative process and the commitment it requires.

What advice do you have for aspiring poets and songwriters?

Read and listen to the best. Only the best. If you have something to say, say it. Keep your chops up. Art is noble and necessary. It is akin to love.

What are you working on now?

My next book. The poems are structured very differently. They’re story-poems, in paragraph form. The autobiographical “I,” evident in my last two books is absent. It’s very engaging territory.

Thanks, Toni.  I cannot wait to read the latest collection.

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s, most notably “It’s Too Late,” for the album Tapestry. The album has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and received numerous industry awards.  In 2012, Tapestry was honored with inclusion in the National Recording Registry to be preserved by the Library of Congress; in 2013, King played “It’s Too Late” at the White House. That song and Stern’s “Where You Lead” feature in the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  “Where You Lead” is also the theme song for the acclaimed television series Gilmore Girls.  Stern’s music has been recorded by numerous artists throughout the years.

As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.  She lives with her family in Santa Ynez, California.  Her website is https://www.tonistern.com.

 

Meet Meg Kerr, Author of Devotion, and Giveaway


Please welcome Meg Kerr to the blog today and stay tuned for the giveaway.

About the book:

Georgiana Darcy at the age of fifteen had no equal for beauty, elegance and accomplishments, practised her music very constantly, and created beautiful little designs for tables. She also made secret plans to elope with the handsome, charming and immoral George Wickham. Will the real Georgiana Darcy please stand up? In Devotion, Georgiana, now twenty years of age and completely lovely, does just that. Taking centre stage in this sequel to Experience that sweeps the reader back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, she is prepared to shape her own destiny in a manner that perplexes and horrifies not only the Darcy-de Bourgh connexion but the whole of fashionable London. The arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a clandestine journey, bring Georgiana and her fortune into the arms of an utterly wicked young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and an amorous quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given—perhaps—an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous romantic choices. Meg Kerr writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen gives Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to visit the year 1816 to re-unite with favourite characters, and meet some intriguing new ones.

Please give Meg a warm welcome:

Hello readers of Savvy Verse & Wit! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Serena for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my writing process, writing quirks, and my life-long love for Jane Austen. My new book, Devotion, explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet, and I think you’ll find it an interesting read as I’ve added several twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE on July 18th. To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Can you describe your writing process? Is it difficult to write in the style of Jane Austen?

Jane Austen said in a letter to her nephew J. Edward Austen, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Writing in the style of Jane Austen is indeed “much labour”! There is nothing slap dash or stream-of- consciousness (or manly and spirited) about it. The overall plot and chapters’ place within it and the characters themselves have to be meticulously considered and planned out before any actual “writing” takes place. Each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence have to be constructed with care. And the result has to look as though no effort was required!

Do you have any writing quirks?

I would love to say that when I work I retire to my drawing room and sit at a mahogany writing desk, with fine linen paper, a quill pen, blotting paper, a pen knife and a pot of India ink. It sounds so elegant! However, I write at my computer, which has a dual screen. I could use three or four screens to keep all the information I need right under my eye! But the room I write in has French doors looking out onto a beautiful garden, so I glance outside every now and then to refresh my soul.

What is it about Jane Austen and her writing that most interests you? Are there any themes you’ve found influence your own writing?

I think the great underlying theme that draws me to Austen is one of “quiet desperation” (to quote Thoreau rather than Austen). Many of Austen’s characters are in genuine danger of penury and/or social degradation (that would be all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice; Jane Fairfax and her family in Emma; the Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility, as well as Colonel Brandon’s ill-fated first love and her ruined daughter; Maria Rushworth (née Bertram)—and Fanny Price’s mother who married “to disoblige her family”—in Mansfield Park; the Watson sisters in The Watsons. (Just a partial list!).

The apparent calm and graciousness of Regency life can be a thin cover atop a terrifying reality for Austen’s women, and even some of her men (such as Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, who is disowned by his wealthy mother). Austen and Mrs. Bennet’s family in Pride and Prejudice hold Mrs. Bennet in contempt, but really, she is the only person who appears to appreciate the peril she and her daughters are in.

On a livelier note, I am fascinated by Jane Austen’s bad boys. Clearly, she was too. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility), Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park) are chief among them—young men with serious problems with their moral compasses … but in the latter two cases, with some hope of redemption. Austen couldn’t quite bring Willoughby or Crawford into the light although she came close.

I decided to try my hand at it: Devotion is the story of a bad boy (John Amaury) who seizes on the idea of marriage to wealthy, lovely Georgiana Darcy to extricate himself from a life of poverty and petty crime. Will he destroy Georgiana or will he be redeemed? As you can imagine, with Austen as my guide, it’s up in the air right until the end of the story.

If you’re so inclined, Devotion will be available as a FREE digital download on July 18th as my way to commemorate the life and literary contributions of Jane Austen. You’ll find the link to get your copy near the top of this post. I’d love to hear your feedback on the book!

Thanks, Meg, for sharing your writing practices with us and for the wonderful giveaway.

About Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.