Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Author Interview: ‘The Other Mrs Samson’ by Ralph Webster

About the Book:

Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers…

A hidden compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.

From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Excerpt:

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Ichoose to believe there was one moment when our eyes met, a passing moment, the few seconds it takes for someone to walk through one door and out an- other. The date is certain, and the memory refuses to fade. Even though I was at a young age, I clearly remem- ber the smallest details of all else that occurred on that day.

What remains uncertain is that one single moment. Still blurred, so brief and so sudden, even now I am un- convinced whether it was imagined or actually did oc- cur. Once, when I asked Josef if he recalled the afternoon or could confirm or deny the instance, he gave me no answer. He seemed terribly anguished and was unable to respond. On most matters, Josef would willingly offer opinions. On matters involving Hilda, he remained silent and reflective. I’ve always thought he preferred to for- get.

That moment took place in Berlin. It was in late win- ter of 1915, a little more than six months after the war began. The snow and ice were beginning to thaw, and I

was not much more than five years old the morning I accompanied Mutti and my fifteen-year-old-brother, Fritz, to Am Urban, the old Kreuzberg municipal hospi- tal that sat at the end of the street near where the two roads crossed. It was a short distance, only a few paces from our house on DieffenbachStraße, not far from the Landwehr Canal and close enough for Fritz to walk, even as fatigued and weak as he was.

Fritz had been ill for several days, unable to sleep and suffering from unrelenting coughs and terrible night sweats. We were taking him to meet with the doctor. As we were leaving the house, my other brother, Karl, gen- tly pulled me aside and whispered the frightening words Mutti had told him that morning. Mutti feared that Fritz might have schwindsucht, a word I only knew because it sounded so harsh and was repeated so often. That day, as we walked through the slushy ice and snow, I was much too young. I had only a vague notion of what this word really meant.

War was extracting its toll on Berlin, sapping our en- ergy and already lasting far longer than anyone had ex- pected, certainly much longer than the kaiser had promised. Throughout the city, food was in short supply. There were many days when, after I stood with Mutti, waiting our turn at the markets, there would not be enough to fill our shopping basket. We would return home with less than half of what the stamps on the ration card entitled our family to receive. Soup and potatoes were quickly becoming our everyday meal.

Nearly every family on DieffenbachStraße was suf- fering from the terrible misery that accompanies hunger and the worry that illness would not be far behind. There had been reports of more and more cases of tuberculo- sis, the dreaded disease the doctors were unable to cure, the sickness that resigned those afflicted to spending their lives as outcasts. Even at my young age, I was be- ginning to understand. I had seen the large warning no- tices posted on the front doors of the houses. Others in our neighborhood were already victims.

That day when we walked with Fritz to the hospital, I did not meet the doctor. There was little time and no need for introductions. Our visit was not a social call, and the room was crowded with patients, all waiting their turn to see him. I was told to sit quietly outside the office door and mind my manners while Mutti and Fritz conferred with the doctor.

As we waited for the nurse to call Fritz for his exam- ination, the doctor’s office door opened, and a well- dressed woman close in age to Mutti stepped out. I watched her walk quickly across the small room to the door that led to the hospital corridor. As she passed, she turned her head toward me, and it seemed our eyes met for that one brief instant. Then, as she opened the exit door and disappeared into the hallway, I am almost cer- tain I heard the nurse say, “Auf wiedersehen, Frau Sam- son.”

A short while later, as Mutti and I retraced our steps back up DieffenbachStraße, she explained that Fritz needed to stay behind so he could be seen by other

doctors. I remember the dark circles under Mutti’s eyes and the worried look on her face as she pulled me close and said these words. When I woke the next morning, Mutti told me that Fritz had been sent north of Berlin to the Hohenlychen Sanatorium, where he could be away from the city and get fresh air and recover. Beelitz- Heilstätten, the sixty-building park-like complex to the south of the city, was no longer available for tuberculosis patients. It had been converted into a hospital for the growing number of war casualties sent home from the front.

After we left him, I never saw my brother again. Fritz never recovered from his illness. All I would be left with is this memory, one that I can never forget.

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

Great question because becoming an author was never a career choice or life plan. In school, I was the kid sent to wood shop, never advanced English or literature class. My aptitude was numbers, never words, and most of my career revolved around a small accounting software company I started.

Writing books became my passion only after I retired and tried a variety of other retirement hats — becoming an emergency medical technician, driving the fire trucks and ambulances, spending hours on the beach searching for treasure with my metal detector, guiding a historical preservation project, raising funds for our local hospice organization, trying to learn how to speak Spanish, understanding how to write apps for Androids, taking calculus courses online.

I was drawn to writing through my first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other. I wanted my family to know my father’s story. He was a holocaust survivor, not a hero, simply an ordinary man who walked through life one step at a time, with grace and dignity, even in the most horrific and extraordinary circumstances. When I began to write I had no idea that readers would select this book as a 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for best memoir/autobiography.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I do — at my chair and desk. When I am working on a book, I write from early morning until late in the afternoon when it’s time for Scrabble and martinis. For me, writing a book (and finishing) is a very intense undertaking, filled with long days and restless nights, an all or nothing proposition. I try to avoid distractions because I know I can be easily tempted. The only sound I want to hear is the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

From the people I know, the stories I have heard, and the riddles I want to solve. And, when I am completely honest with myself, I write because I have things to say that I want others to hear.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I want to know where I am going before I start, whether for a paragraph, a chapter, or the entire book. Organized would not be the word to describe my process but winging it would not be a good description either. I try not to wander around aimlessly. I’m purpose driven. Of course there are times I get lost in the weeds. An internet search sometimes does that, but, before I start writing, I need to know how the story will begin and end. Then I try to connect these two extremes. I prepare for each chapter and know what I want it to do before I write it. This keeps me disciplined — and it gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. Completing a chapter becomes a manageable goal I can reach.

For me nothing is more frustrating than working for days and days on something only to cut it. The pain is unbearable. Obviously if something does not belong, it has to be cut. And, just because I wrote it, it doesn’t make it wonderful and important. I just try to be efficient and have a pretty good idea of what I am trying to accomplish. That doesn’t mean I don’t rewrite what I have written. I rewrite and edit things over and over again until I am satisfied. You could say that I have a love/hate relationship with my word processor.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I think readers who will enjoy my latest book will be those who enjoy twentieth century historical fiction, 1850s through World War II. The Other Mrs. Samson is certainly not a romance novel but neither is it a war story. I would argue that it is a memorable love story. And the thing about love, as most of us know, is that it can be complicated. I think that makes this book curious, compelling, and emotional.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

That’s a question I have never considered. Two of the three main characters in The Other Mrs. Samson are female. I would want those characters to come across as intelligent, independent, and genuine. I would love to hear from my readers who they would cast.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I do enjoy reading, something I usually do on the treadmill. But, I lose all interest in reading when I am working on a book. I am sure my ego intrudes. I don’t want to compare my style of writing with the way others write. I suppose I am afraid to see my weaknesses. 

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Churchill, Working with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

As far as reading goes, I tend to enjoy serious books that have a well written story, books that genuinely develop the characters so you feel you intimately know the personalities. My interests are wide — biographies, historical, political, and stories with a good plot. Two authors who always come to mind are Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Ruiz Zafrόn. Both paint amazing pictures with their words. I thought the Shadow of the Wind was an absolutely wonderful book and recommend it. I like authors who make the story authentic and write to entertain, inform, and excite the reader. I enjoy books with a good ending.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Passion, persistence, perfection, perseverance, and patience in any order you choose. There are no shortcuts, only hard work, much self-flagellation, and always uncertainty. Writing can be a lonely enterprise. I believe one must remember that writing begins with the reader. Listen to the readers. Put your ego in check. Be humble and have a thick skin.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?

Without question Goodreads is best. There you can see my entire portfolio and the readers are honest and forthcoming with their reviews. And, if you wish to purchase the book it is available on Amazon and the audio version is available at Audible. Some may find my website interesting, www.ralphwebster-author.com. It has lots of information. As for other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…they are more self-promotional and not all that useful. I think most authors would agree. Reading serious reviews is the best way to learn about books.

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/15370611.Ralph_Webster

 

About the Author:

Award winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A SmileOne Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, his second book, One More Moon, and now his third book, The Other Mrs. Samson, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions. Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books.

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Book Blitz: ‘Cobra Kingdom’ by Michael A. Mattia

Title: Cobra Kingdom

Author: Michael A. Mattia

Genre: Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery, Suspense, and a bit of Fantasy set during the 18th Dynasty in Ancient Egypt

 

About the Book:

During the 18th Dynasty in Egypt, King Amenhotep III ruled (1386 to 1349 BC) along with his Great Royal Wife, Tiye. Amenhotep’s only son, Thutmose nicknamed Mose by the Pharaoh, along with his chariot instructor were ambushed by unknown assailants and left for dead. When Mose disappears the beginning of a great evil dawns over the Empire and the belief of deadly magical cobras playing a part. While the Nile River delivered life sustaining water and fertile soil throughout the Kingdom, it started to also deliver death, young pregnant concubines were washing ashore. Tiye’s father, YUYA, a principal advisor to the King, investigates and suspects the women are casual sex partners of the Pharaoh. Someone in the palace wants to eliminate these mothers before an infant is born and becomes the heir apparent.

The story includes the origin of the ancient Kingdom, inception of the Creator stories, detailed preparations of royal wedding feasts, the operation of the Women’s House, and military horse and chariot training. It is Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery and a bit of Fantasy.

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Excerpt:

In ancient Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty 1386-1353 BCE, King Amenhotep III ruled. His reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendor and all firmly believed a satisfied balance of life called Ma’at to be a treasured gift from the gods.

They believed their myriad of deities saw everything and punished accordingly … and all affected Ma’at. As the gods watched a terrible scene was taking place.

***
A small bald head pierces through an undulating

sea of sturdy golden stalks of wheat. Her skin black as the soil beneath her feet. Her head shifts upwards presenting a youthful round face and matching puffy cheeks bracketing a small broad nose. Six days prior, this young woman joined a party of similar dressed women and men, all peasants from various neighboring villages … a contingent of unskilled labor … harvesting the ripened crop.

Her bald head rotates side-to-side shifting wide open chestnut colored eyes outlined with scraggly black lines of eye makeup produced from an ore—a compound of lead and sulfur. The substance is de rigueur for males and females, not for fashion but to protect eyes by absorbing the blazing rays of the sun. Left, and right glances with an intervening pause to listen for movement convinces the youth the area is clear of intruders.

The androgynous face moves forward to reveal a slim round neck atop rounded shoulders. Her long arms part the wheat stalks as even longer legs stride forward. Wide linen shoulder straps drop down over nipples then expand into a linen shift which descends to mid-thigh. The dress, fluid body movement and the hint of breast development confirm she is a young woman.

Her short slow steps allow her gaze to search the soil for clusters of gilded berries, the rough husks hold precious grains of emmer wheat, which days prior perched atop each stalk. The young teen had been part of a harvest labor force several days prior. A male, carrying a scythe, walked down a row of wheat cutting a cluster of berries and flipped them over his shoulder to the female carrying a wicker basket. As the cutter tired, his wrist flick drifted off target forcing the girl to shift wide to catch the berries. As his wrist grew strained his toss veered forcing her to dive into harvested stalks.

A veteran of many harvests and devout pupil of devious tricks, the young lady took advantage of every lunge which shielded her from the cutter’s view to drop valuable berries onto the ground from where she can snatch them later. Today she returns to these fields to gather her ill-gotten treasure. I should have at least fifty clusters along here I can trade for a rarely used dress.

The omnidirectional sound of hoof beats cascading down from the heavens was a noise she

heard before. Soldiers on maneuvers? Not this time of day. Maybe nothing to be concerned about.

Several seconds pass and the sound of muffled rhythmic beats grew louder. The origin a bit clearer and flowing from the south, where the end of the wheat field intersects the stone road to the city.

Her mind races … Wooden wheels, a cart? Both prolific during harvest. An overseer of the crops, checking if any buds, like mine, were missed? The thought of an overseer returning to check for missing berries like the ones she had hidden creates a surge of fear and prompts a terrible memory. Visions of an overseer who discovered a young man hiding berries, and the thrashing delivered left the boy unable to walk for days.

I cannot let that be me. She falls to her hands and knees, rolls onto her right side, and grasps both knees pulling them to close to her chest secured by her chin. Shivers of fear pulse throughout her small body, as she inhales and holds her breath until certain who operates the cart.

After what seems an endless pulse of rapid heartbeats, a grey and white horse hauling a sanded brown chariot appear in her sight. Two men, a young man in front, and an older man with white-knuckled grips on the side rails. Thoughts ran through her head … Royals mainly use a chariot, and I am in the Pharaoh’s field unassigned. Now I am in real trouble.

 

About the Author:

I am 67 years old and Cobra Kingdom is my first novel. I had a 40 plus year career in workplace safety and OSHA compliance and published several dozen article and a dozen training videos. BA from University of Maryland and MBA from St. Thomas University.

 

Social Media Link:

Only social media is with Facebook, www.facebook.com/michael.mattia.77

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Book Review: ‘The Silver Horn Echoes’ by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold

Title: The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song of Roland

Published: 10th October 2017

Publisher: iUniverse

Authors: Michael Eging and Steve Arnold

Website: www.silverhornechoes.com

Twitter: @MichaelEging

 

Blurb:

The Dark Ages—a time of great turmoil and the collision of empires!

As the Frank kingdom prepares for war, Roland, young heir to the Breton March, has been relegated to guard duty until a foreign emissary entrusts him with vital word of a new threat to the kingdom. Now Roland must embark on a risky journey to save all he loves from swift destruction.

And yet while facing down merciless enemies, he must also reveal the hand of a murderer who even now stalks the halls of power and threatens to pull apart a kingdom reborn under the greatest of medieval kings, the remarkable Charlemagne.

For Roland to become the champion his kingdom needs, he must survive war, intrigue and betrayal. The Silver Horn Echoes pays homage to “La Chanson de Roland” by revisiting an age of intrigue and honor, and a fateful decision in the shadows of a lonely mountain pass—Roncevaux!

 

Review:

Historical dark ages action packed ride filled with battles, betrayal, and mayhem. Charles is a King with two sons who would both rule in his wake. Which you can guess doesn’t sit well with them – one more than the other – so much so that they might take matters into their own hands. Who will come out on top with wars and enemies not always seen until it’s too late?

War is on the horizon and many men are called to arms to help the King. Roland and his brother in arms Oliver are more than ready to answer the call but it seems his new stepfather Ganelon has other plans. As soon as Roland’s father William died in battle Ganelon came swooping in to marry his mother Gisela (who happens to be the Kings sister) and lay claim to the Marches. Roland doesn’t trust Ganelon, and with good reason, as he fears he was responsible for his fathers death after he was wounded in battle. He needs to tread carefully to prove his theory and figure out Ganelon’s master plan. With spies always watching making the wrong move could put his mother in danger. One sure way to piss him off though would be to disregard his orders to stay in the Marches by going to war to protect the King and end up becoming his highly praised champion in battle like his father before him. His skills may come in handy with what follows from within their walls and not just from battles yet to be fought.

Battle after battle in a seemingly never ending trial to find peace at the end but this war has people working both sides and things may not always be as they seem. Betrayal is high but will it be revealed too late to stop the changing outcome they are seeking? Who will make it out the other side and who will sacrifice themselves for the realm to see the King and his people stay safe?

Lot’s of characters are introduced throughout that can take a while to get the grips of. I tended to focus on the key ones within the settings for what the overall story was trying to tell. Battles, wars, betrayal, the power of love and what you are willing to risk, and family are all key to this interesting tale you are travelling through.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Author Interview: ‘1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back’ by Sea Gudinski

About the Book:

Take a trip down the rabbit hole without ever leaving the comfort of your living room…

This is a novel in which history meets science fiction and psychedelics meet spirituality through a seamless blend of fact and fantasy. 1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back is one girl’s account of her fantastic and unique experience of the hippie counterculture and how it changed her and those around her for the rest of their lives. From a run-of-the-mill existence in the ultra-conservative town of Fresno, California, formerly naïve teenager and rock devotee Rhiannon Karlson takes the trip of a lifetime after a drug dealer sells her a particularly potent and mysterious substance, sparking her unparalleled journey of soul-searching, consciousness-expansion, and unyielding search for the Truth. The rest, you may say, is history.

 

What people are saying:

“Trust us, you’re going to want to read this one.”—The Journal NJ

“[Rhiannon] is one of the best developed and created female protagonists that I have ever read and this is one of the best novels I have read so far this year.”—Rabia Tanveer, Readers’ Favorite (Starred Review)

“Sea Gudinski’s new book takes a fantastic journey back to the era that defined a generation.”—Joanne Colella, Colella Communications

“1969 is one of the most well-written, intelligent, and well-researched books that I have ever read. If you lived through the sixties or you just want to know what it was like, you will absolutely love this book.”— Paul Dittmer, Independent Researcher of 1969 Woodstock Festival

“Looking up at the stars, limits simply do not exist for the creative mind of Sea Gudinski.”—Chuck Defilippo, NYS Music Magazine

“Plenty to groove on…”—Kirkus Reviews

“Adventurous, soul-searching, and transcending the borders of time and reality, 1969: A Brief & Beautiful Trip Back is a thought-provoking saga that will keep the reader enraptured from cover to cover. Highly recommended!”—Midwest Book Review

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Excerpt:

“The scenes that passed, clad in their bright summer colors, were singular in their beauty. All the windows were open now, and the scents of pine and forest blew into the van. I peered out the window closest to me and watched the hills roll by and the bright, fluffy, white clouds sink behind the mountains. Fields of tall grass and wildflowers dotted the shoulder and receded into the tree line, untouched by human hands and generally unaffected. To us, it seemed to be a road into the Garden of Eden. And then, all of a sudden, there was this little child running in the fields. She was a fair girl of about eight or ten—or such was our closest approximation as we slowed and passed her. Barefoot, she gamboled about without a care in the world, without a vested interest in anything other than her own bliss, without any idea of how beautiful she looked to us. She was the freest spirit ever to live—liberty incarnate. There seemed to be no object which she pursued, nothing she was running after or looking to find, and the calm of her body, the lightness of her spins and her steps, were enough to confirm that there was nothing she was running from. However, up ahead—in a place she would reach shortly if she continued on her path—grew a beautiful peach tree, its branches heavy with fruit. It was the only one in sight; the only one we had seen our whole way upon this journey. To witness this sight brought tears to my eyes, and those tears were of the best kind—the sort that appear whenever joy and happiness are so great and so abundant that the only way they can be expressed is through the eyes.”

 

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

From my earliest years, I was always a voracious reader and an avid storyteller. As an only child, imagination games were my favorite form of entertainment, and one of the worlds I created as a kid laid the foundation for my first novel. I believe my desire to write is innate; however, my desire to publish and share my work stems from my wish to inform and enlighten others. I have a very intense desire to communicate to others the principles and truths that I have learned in my own lifetime that have helped me understand more about myself and the people around me. I do so through the medium of first-person storytelling which immerses readers and makes them feel as if they themselves are undergoing the experiences of the character they are reading about.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I am the full-time manager of my family business, so I work seven days a week. In-between jobs and customers, in the winter, I have a seat next to my fireplace in the office where hundreds of thousands of words have been sown, and in the summertime, I like to sit in my gazebo—as I am as I write this now. However, inspiration seems to arrest me at uncanny times and there are many instances when I’ve pulled off to the side of the road, woken up in the middle of the night, or pursued a notebook mid-shower in order to empty my head. The manuscript of the novel that I am currently working on is written almost exclusively on cocktail napkins from my local bar.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I always say that when I write, the words and stories come through me rather than out of me. In this way, I feel more like a conduit for the inspiration than the originator. Of course, some of the basic tenets of my novels can be easily recognized as influenced by my life and the way I was raised, but I do not presume to take full praise for the development of the story. The idea for 1969 came to me fully formed, and throughout the entire process of writing, I felt as if I was uncovering something that already existed. The first lines of 1969 were written ten years ago on the back of a pack of gum while I was sitting in my car in a parking lot. As for their origin, I cannot presume to know, and I have been the witness of such abundant synchronicity throughout the writing and research process that recounting it would fill a book in and of itself.

Beyond that, most of my inspiration comes from examining the dichotomy and complexity of the human condition. Relating and sharing experiences has always been a fascinating concept to me, and in all of my work, these are the main issues that my characters face.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

The main plotline of all of my novels appears to me fully formed. I never have to sit down and think, “What do I want to write about next?” And, in fact, when I do attempt such an inquiry—it never works in my favor. My best work flows forth solely when I am inspired. I have immense respect for those who can write for a living—meet deadlines and respond to prompts—because that is something that I struggle with. However, when I am inspired, sometimes I can’t stop writing! Generally, the main characters and events of the novel are set in stone, and my job as the author is to fill in the details, which also seem to work themselves out as I go along.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

All my works are primarily historical fiction, although I do dabble in poetry as well. I have always loved history and enjoy learning about the people and events that have come before us and ultimately resulted in the circumstances of our present time. In many instances, when I tell people that I write historical fiction, I am greeted with an interesting reaction: “Boy, that’s a lot of work, why don’t you leave the historical bit to the non-fiction writers and just write pure fiction?” is a response that I receive quite often. I feel bad for these people, because they are simply missing the point. As every history teacher always urges at the beginning of the school year, history is extremely important. And quite frankly, truth absolutely is stranger than fiction—you simply cannot imagine the incredible things that happen in reality. I feel there is so much value inherent in historical fiction because you can immerse yourself in the past and weave your own story around the truth without warping or disturbing it. What results is a fusion that is both educational and entertaining.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

I was raised by parents nearly half a century older than me; so growing up I was never up on current events, fads, media, etc. The shows and movies I watch are all in black and white—so as far as a dream cast, anybody suitable that I could name has already hung up their hat or passed away. Every author fantasizes about their books being made into movies one day, and if that day ever came, if I was in any way involved in the process, I would want to feature as many debut actors and actresses as possible. Seeing my work alive on the big screen would be a dream come true for me, so why not make the dreams of other people come true at the same time?

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

Because for the past ten years or so I have read primarily for the purpose of research, I generally do not read an author’s entire catalogue. Therefore, my assessment of my favorite authors is limited to between 1-4 works rather than all of them. I have two favorite books—The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe which I read for the first time nine years ago, and Jack London’s John Barleycorn, which I discovered this past January. A great deal of my inspiration for 1969 came after reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I read that book twice before I realized that the author was not recounting events that he had personally experienced and was shocked. His style is so effective that it makes you feel like you are in the book yourself. It is so immersive and captivating that in many ways I sought to replicate it in my own work.

For the last nine years, I unwaveringly declared The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to be the best book I had ever read; however, as of late, a new dark horse has slipped within my ken and knocked at the door of my previous convictions. As far as Jack London is concerned, my first exposure to him was his most famous work, Call of the Wild, and I HATED it. It is actually one of only two books in my life that I never finished reading. However, earlier this year, I decided to give Mr. London a second chance with his autobiography, John Barleycorn, and I was hooked. There is one paragraph toward the end that I read at least a dozen times before I moved on to the next. His accounts and observations of the role of alcohol in society and the effect it has on the human mind are stunning and shockingly accurate, even a century later.

In addition to those two unparalleled works by Wolfe and London, the author I have read most prolifically is Jack Kerouac—the crème de la crème of the Beat writers. I recommend On the Road and Dharma Bums to almost everyone I meet.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I just finished reading Woody Guthrie’s Bound For Glory for about the 5th time. Woody Guthrie is not a name that most people readily respond to; however, every schoolchild since the 40’s has been intimately acquainted with This Land Is Your Land—a song penned by the nimble hand of Woody Guthrie himself. The man is likely one of the most unsung and under acknowledged Americans of the 20th century—a megaphone for the underprivileged, for the average American, for the working man, for those down on their luck. He spoke from experience—bumming rides on freight trains, busking in bars for $1.50 a night, and taking arduous day jobs just to keep fed in a time when nearly the whole country was used to going hungry. The words he strung together—whether they be songs or books—were a voice for those who felt they had none and his influence in the folk genre and his son Arlo’s influence in the 1960’s counterculture are unmistakable. Bound For Glory didn’t quite make the top spot for my favorite book, but it is definitely a close second.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I think I pretty much covered this in question 7 🙂

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Write. Don’t think. Just write. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t worry too much about grammar and structure—you can always deal with that later. Don’t be intimidated by the process, don’t be overwhelmed by the whole—take it a piece at a time. Write the way we live—moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath. Everybody has a different approach that works for them, so what experts profess in textbooks and DIY manuals really doesn’t mean much. Very, very few famous authors have been ‘classically’ trained or ‘properly’ educated in their art. As long as your words come from your heart and are true, you are a good writer. As long as your words can positively impact and emotionally affect another person, you are successful. Everybody has a story to tell. I firmly believe that, and it is actually one of the major tenants of 1969—that love and understanding go hand in hand. I believe it is best explained in this passage taken from one of the final pages: “We all have a story, and it is a pity that so few of us tell it. We are left to infer from passing glances as to the struggles and hopes, thoughts and dreams, joys and tragedies of another. People themselves, like words over time, become meaningless because we’ve shut them off, we haven’t listened to them—because to us, they are absent from the human story. We may feel like they are only props, part of the everyday scenery that makes up our world—disposable, almost—and many feel that way about you and I. That is where compassion and empathy come in and why they are needed now more desperately than ever. You know that old golden rule—’Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ You may not know another person’s story, they may not speak it loud enough for you to hear, they to you may be only a word, but behind that word is a story, and a story demands respect and attention from all. Words themselves may be meaningless, they may be dross, rot, and insufficient—but within each word is a story, and a story is sacred. Life itself is the untellable story. That is the paradox here tonight, and that is the paradox I give to you.”

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  I

I haven’t quite figured out Twitter and Instagram yet—so Facebook remains the most accessible site for people to find out about my work. My website is also a great resource for those who are interested in signed copies of my books or additional information about me.

Direct Links:

Website: www.seagudinski.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Sea-Gudinski

Twitter: @seagudinski

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sea_gudinski

 

About the Author:

Sea Gudinski is a life-long native of the small town of Holmdel, New Jersey. She has written prolifically since the age of ten, producing six novels and one collection of poetry. 1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back is her first published work. She is an avid reader and a lover of all things historical. With a wide breadth of knowledge and an unquenchable desire to learn she has delved into several eras in recent history with the hope of shedding some light on the issues faced in today’s world. Her works are a delightful marriage of fact and fiction, peopled with vibrant characters, each with a unique and meaningful story to tell. She writes with depth and passion in the hope that her work will inspire others the way other literary works have inspired her.Sea graduated Holmdel High School with high honors; however, she chose not to go to college and manages her family business instead. When she is not writing, she enjoys listening to old radio programs and live music and playing gin rummy.

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Author Interview: ‘Pont Neuf’ by Max Byrd

About the Book:

From bestselling writer Max Byrd comes an unforgettable evocation and portrait of Paris at the end of the second World War.

The splendidly gifted (and faintly scandalous) writer Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s famously unhappy third wife, is the presiding spirit over a great romance. Two American soldiers, torn apart by the war, meet and fall in love with Martha’s protégé—the irresistibly charming and vulnerable young reporter, Annie March.

Their story begins and ends on the beautiful Pont Neuf, the oldest and best-loved bridge in Paris. For Annie, every bridge connects two different worlds; to cross a bridge is to make a choice. For her, crossing Pont Neuf means choosing one man over the other, one life over another. It is a haunting love story that will move readers to tears.

In its Homeric themes of death and love, Eros and Thanatos, Pont Neuf also recalls the epic sweep of Byrd’s earlier novels, especially his acclaimed Civil War novel Grant. Its accounts of the last two massive battles of the war—Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and the cataclysmic Battle of the Bulge—are riveting and authentic, the result of years of research. These historic moments are not simply a backdrop for romance, but also the treacherous and explosive landscape through which love itself moves.

The New York Times called Max Byrd “an expert in blending historical and fictional characters.” Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Joseph Ellis, called him “the reigning champion of American historical fiction.”

 

What people are saying:

“I so enjoyed Max Byrd’s Pont Neuf, with its superb writing about battle and the perennially interesting through-line of a love triangle, all made more dramatic by the parts played by two of history’s most fascinating characters, Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn. Annie March, the lovable young woman at the center is the perfect observer of all but her own heart. And Byrd’s account of the last WWII battle is riveting.”

–Diane Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of ‘Le Divorce’ and ‘Flyover Lives’

 

“It is hardly a surprise that Max Byrd has produced a novel in which the historical atmosphere is made exciting and alive in a story perfectly told. An intriguing subject combined with a deceptively simple style is what we have come to expect of this extraordinary writer. In every sense, Pont Neuf is thrilling.”

–Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times bestselling author of ‘Making Toast’ and ‘Kayak Morning’

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

 

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I was once upon a time an English professor and wrote a number of scholarly books and articles. But one of my best friends was Michael Crichton, the author of “The Andromeda Strain” and “Jurassic park.” He encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. After a few false starts I published a mystery called “California Thriller”—it won some awards—and I slowly began to slip out of the grip of academia. At first I wrote detective novels, hard-boiled and egghead, but at the suggestion of an editor changed to historical fiction, which is what I write now.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

When I was teaching, I wrote at night, after work. Today I have an unmarked office in a commercial building. No Internet and no window, and I’m there every morning from 9 am to 2 pm.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

My novel about Thomas Jefferson was the publisher’s suggestion. The other books have come from my reading, but there’s no system or rhyme or reason for the subject matter. My novel “Shooting the Sun” came from reading about the English mathematician Charles Babbage. My novel “The Sixth Conspirator” was sparked by an article about Civil War espionage in “American Heritage” magazine. My new novel “Pont Neuf” arose from listening to my friend Burnett Miller tell stories about the Battle of the Bulge. (He won the Silver Star in it.)

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Very few novelists proceed without a plan. It can be as simple as a one-page summary or as complex as a twenty-page outline. I’ve tried both ways. Raymond Chandler used to write 90 or 100 pages at top speed, without re-reading. Then he’d stop and see what he had. P. G. Wodehouse started with a five-page outline. Then a ten-page outline. Then a thirty-page outline. Then sixty. Then one hundred. And so on, until the book was suddenly there.           

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I originally wrote detective novels because that is the best way to learn how to plot. Many writers (Gore Vidal, Oakley Hall, for example) have served an apprenticeship with mystery novels—there’s only one requirement: the story has to make sense, to be coherent. But that’s the basic requirement for any story, no matter the genre.

I like writing historical fiction because the research is usually fun. It’s also the oldest of literary genres, having started with Homer’s “Iliad.”

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Honestly, I’ve never thought about this.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

A writer has to be a reader. I read widely, eclectically. At the moment I’m reading Peter Green’s life of Alexander the Great. I’m also reading a novel by Alexandre Dumas (in French), “Gabriel Lambert.” And I just finished re-reading “David Copperfield.” I’m a great admirer of Mavis Gallant’s short stories. I also read a great deal of poetry—I truly believe that any writer who wants to write more than flat prose should read poetry as often as possible. There is no better way to learn the possibilities of the English language.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

The books mentioned above, as well as a few pages a day in the Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, savoring each page. I had started a novel about Byron before the pandemic struck. I just finished Erik Larson’s “The Splendid and the Vile,” about Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister. That led me to a memoir of Churchill by one of his private secretaries, Elizabeth Nel. Then William Shirer’s “Berlin Diary” about the same events from another point of view.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I’m too fickle to have a favorite book! But it would be hard to pass over “Le Comte de Monte Cristo,” surely the most entertaining novel ever written. Second place to “Great Expectations.” Third place to either “The Little Drummer Girl” by John LeCarré or “Lincoln” by Gore Vidal.

For a single book of poetry, I am always moved by Richard Wilbur’s collection “Mayflies.” For nonfiction, W.J. Bate’s “The Achievement of Samuel Johnson.” For drama, Lincoln’s favorite Shakespeare play was “Macbeth,” and who could argue with that?

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

A young person should learn, really learn a foreign language, preferably Latin. My students used to roll their eyes when I said that. Then one day the great novelist John Updike visited my writing class. A mischievous student asked him the very question you’re asking. To their stunned silence, Updike answered, “Read Latin.” They swore I had prompted him, but no.

The reasons, of course—vocabulary, concentration on individual words, the complex possibilities of syntax and rhetoric that Latin offers

The other indispensable preparation is learning to be playful with words. Someone who doesn’t like Dr Seuss doesn’t have much chance of writing well. I once heard Anthony Burgess at a book signing. An anxious mother pushed her teenage son to the head of the line and asked what he should do to become a novelist like Burgess. Burgess said, “Read lots of poetry.” The mother looked shocked, the son looked unhappy. I grinned. (But I wished he had said Latin.)

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

I have a website www.maxbyrdbooks.com. I’m not on any other sites.

 

About the Author:

Max Byrd is the author of many bestselling historical novels, including Jefferson, Grant, The Paris Deadline, and The Sixth Conspirator. His detective fiction has won the Shamus Award. He lives in northern California and plays a mean ukulele.

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