Archive for the ‘author interviews’ Category

I’m excited to have P.O. Dixon here today to celebrate her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything. I’ve long been a fan of P.O.’s books, and as soon as I read the blurb for this one, I was intrigued. The book sounds fascinating, and I hope to read it soon. I also hope that once you read P.O.’s inspiration for the novel and the excerpt, you’ll feel the same. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for having me here at Diary of an Eccentric. I am honored indeed to be able to share an excerpt of my newest release, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything, with your readers.

I’ll start with the story’s premise: what if the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son is promised to Mr. Bennet’s first-born daughter?

If ever there were a Jane Austen fan fiction taboo, a romantic alliance between Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Jane Bennet would surely fit the bill. As a reader, I’d find such an entanglement unconscionable. However, that does not mean the writer in me would balk at such a possibility. Indeed, I have asked myself what if Darcy and Jane were promised to each other numerous times since I wrote my first Pride and Prejudice variation.

Finally, I took the time to fashion my frequent musings into a story during last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, it’s an annual event during which writers around the world commit to writing fifty thousand words during the month of November.

I do not know that I have ever had such fun writing a novel in one month—so much so that I crossed the fifty thousand words milestone with nine days to spare. Of course, my rough manuscript would require months and months of editing, fine-tuning, and polishing to deliver the final story. Upon reading the excerpt below, I hope everyone will find that my effort to deliver a wonderful Pride and Prejudice what-if story proves to be time well spent.



Excerpt from By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything (Reprinted with Author’s Permission. All Rights Reserved.)

Chapter 3

Wonder and Intrigue

Today is everything it ought to be. My Jane shall meet the gentleman whom she very well may marry and with whom she may spend the rest of her life. Elizabeth could not imagine being anywhere but by her sister’s side during such an auspicious occasion, and thus the two of them sat next to each other, arm in arm, as their carriage rounded the bend headed for Pemberley.

Everywhere Elizabeth looked she beheld the estate’s natural beauty. When at last the manor house came into view, she gasped on behalf of her sister as well as herself. There stood a massive stone mansion backed by a ridge of high woody hills. In front of it, flowed a large stream, its banks neither formal nor falsely adorned

Never have I seen such a place as this, Elizabeth silently reflected. Pemberley. Is there any wonder it is hailed as one of the finest estates in all of Derbyshire?

One glance at her sister and she rather supposed their thoughts must have tended along the exact same lines. Both of their faces overspread with contagious smiles.

“Dearest Jane,” Elizabeth remarked, “how fortunate you are. To be mistress of such a place as this must surely be something. How fortunate you are indeed.”

Jane squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Dearest Lizzy, I appreciate your enthusiasm over the prospects for my future life, but truth be told, I feel more overwhelmed than fortunate at this moment. What if the gentleman takes one look at me and concludes he wants nothing to do with me? What a considerable distance to travel to be summarily sent on one’s way.”

“Not like you! Jane, do not be ridiculous. I posit Mr. Darcy will fall madly in love with you the moment he lays eyes on you. How could he not? Unless of course, the gentleman is a fool. But even a fool would fancy himself the wisest and the luckiest man in the world to proclaim himself your future husband.”

“We shall see,” Jane replied in a voice that lacked the joy the moment warranted.

“Jane, I can see you are not as convinced of your unmitigated charms as you ought to be. But you need not worry, for I have enough confidence for the two of us. Mark my words, there will be a wedding here at Pemberley in under three months, or my name is not Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Oh, Lizzy! Where would I be without you?”

“Pray you will never find out.”

“Then does that mean you will accompany me on my wedding journey?” Jane bit her lower lip sheepishly. “That is to say, should events unfold as you anticipate.”

“I agreed to spend this time with you here at Pemberley, did I not? I see no reason to abandon you once you have accepted your prince.”

A little while later, a mixture of wonder and intrigue commanded Elizabeth’s thoughts as their carriage drew to a halt in front of the imposing manor house. The number of people awaiting them was such that she had never witnessed before.

What a welcoming reception.

Two tall, very distinguished looking gentlemen were flanked on either side by lines of servants uniformly attired in stark black and white. The older of the two, Elizabeth quickly surmised as being the master of Pemberley, Mr. George Darcy. His countenance was stern and dignified, but there was something about his eyes that gave a real glimpse into his character. While indeed a man to be reckoned with, Elizabeth suspected buried beneath his austere outward appearance was a heart of gold.

The gentleman who stood beside him, much to Elizabeth’s surprise, wore a military uniform.

How can it be that the future master of Pemberley is an officer? Elizabeth immediately questioned herself in silence. As they were mere moments from meeting their magnanimous hosts for the summer, she suppressed her urge to ask her father how he had overlooked conveying such a fascinating tidbit of information to any of them.

How pleased Mama will be upon learning not only does her eldest daughter stand a chance of being the next mistress of such a grand home, but moreover her would-be son-in-law is a dashing officer.

Not very long afterward, Mr. Bennet, Jane, and Elizabeth descended the carriage and awaited the approach of the two gentlemen. Elizabeth tossed her sister a tentative smile. Any irksome reservations she suffered that Jane might be subjected to a less than desirable alliance faded with each step the eminent gentlemen took.

A good measure of formality was cast aside as the older gentleman eschewed the expected handshake and embraced her father. “Bennet, my old friend, after all these decades it gives me enormous pleasure to say to you, ‘Welcome to my home. Welcome to Pemberley.’”

Her father responded to his old friend in the warm manner that was to be expected of acquaintances who had not had the privilege of sharing each other’s company after a great long absence, and soon thereafter it was time for introductions to the other members of the assemblage.

All at once, a quiet hush spread throughout the gathering as all heads swung in the direction of a new addition to the welcoming party. Elizabeth could hardly believe her eyes. She knew without being told that she had been mistaken earlier as regarded the officer’s identity. The tall, handsome gentleman with dark hair, brooding dark eyes, and noble mien who appeared before them was the most beautiful sight her eyes had ever beheld.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

My sister Jane is a most fortunate woman, she could not help but think, even though the gentleman’s eyes were not fixed on Jane. To Elizabeth’s bewilderment, his eyes were fixed on her. She was powerless to turn away. But turn away she must, for this was Jane’s moment, and Elizabeth truly did not want to miss bearing witness to a single second of her sister’s joy.

Elizabeth must have blinked an instant or two, for before she knew it, the gentleman stood by the elder Mr. Darcy’s side and was introduced to her own father. And no sooner had her father been introduced to the officer did the three gentlemen focus their full attention to Jane and Elizabeth.

“Allow me to present my eldest daughter,” Mr. Bennet began, directing everyone’s eyes to Jane. “Mr. Darcy, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, meet Miss Jane Bennet.” Each of the gentlemen, starting with the eldest, greeted Jane in their turn. Elizabeth could not help noticing the decided contrast in the manner of the gentlemen’s addresses. The elder Mr. Darcy’s expression was lively, his manner warm and welcoming—very much the same as it had been toward her father. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s greeting was equally pleasant, but the other gentleman’s – the one that mattered the most – was rather wanting.

Before Elizabeth had too much time to mull over the implications of what such a reception might mean for her sister’s prospects, it was her turn to be introduced. Once again, she detected in the gentlemen the same measure of civility that had been extended toward Jane with but one exception, for she was confident that the younger Mr. Darcy’s eyes held fixed with hers a second or two longer than was necessary—his hand lingered upon hers just a bit longer than that.

The situation righted itself moments afterward when the two older gentlemen moved side by side and turned toward the manor house, the colonel took his place by Elizabeth’s side, and finally, the younger man fell into place beside Jane. As the party proceeded inside, Elizabeth threw a look in her sister’s direction and was pleased to observe that Mr. Darcy seemed to be focused entirely upon his companion. What a relief this was for Elizabeth to see that things were exactly as they ought to be.

Soon after, upon entering the grand foyer with towering ceilings, glorious paintings, black-and-white marble floors, and gilded stairways, Elizabeth was pleased to know Jane and she would be escorted to their respective apartments to allow them a bit of a reprieve before joining the rest of the Darcys’ houseguests. It was a much-needed reprieve at that, for the last part of the journey had been filled with such wonderment of what was to come that Elizabeth had not bothered to sleep for fear of missing a single moment of the adventure unfolding before her.

How happy she was upon discovering that she and Jane were assigned apartments just across the hall from each other. Of course, she would have been just as pleased if she and her sister had been assigned a single room, for no doubt they would be spending a prodigious amount of time with each other as they were wont to do while at Longbourn. Aside from a much-needed reprieve to refresh herself, there was but one thing uppermost on Elizabeth’s mind, and that was discovering what her dearest sister thought about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. On second thought, there was another matter for Elizabeth to dwell upon in private.

What precisely is my own opinion of the heir apparent of Pemberley?


About By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything

Promised to one sister. Bewitched by the other.

What if Mr. Thomas Bennet’s first-born daughter is promised to the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son? Are promises made always promises kept? Or is a love like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s destined to prevail?

You’ll fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth all over again while reading this heartwarming Pride and Prejudice what-if story. Grab your copy now!

Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd | Barnes & Noble | Google Play


Connect with P.O. Dixon

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P.O. is generously offering an ebook copy of By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us what most interests you about the book. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, P.O., for being my guest today! Congratulations on your latest release!

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Source: Review copy from the editor

The Darcy Monologues, edited by Christina Boyd, has been on my must-read list since I first heard that it was being released. It is a collection of 15 stories inspired by Jane Austen’s beloved hero, Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, and it exceeded all of my expectations. I have plenty to share with you today in addition to my review, so I’m not going to profile each story, but I will say it is a collection that has a little something for every reader who has ever fancied Mr. Darcy.

The Darcy Monologues lets readers see things from Darcy’s point of view, and it is divided into two sections: The Regency and Other Eras. What I loved most about the collection, besides the fact that it gathers in a single volume some of the best authors of Austen-inspired fiction, was the sheer creativity within these pages. In addition to more traditional Darcy and Elizabeth tales, this collection features a fairy tale mash-up with Beauty and the Beast; takes Darcy to World War II, a radio station in the 1960s, and a stagecoach in 1860 California; and portrays him as a school principal and a baseball player, among other things.

I absolutely adored this collection and never wanted it to end. I skipped around while reading, mixing the Regency stories amongst the other eras, and I definitely can see myself reading these stories over and over again. I loved reading something new from some of my favorite authors, like Beau North, Joana Starnes, and Jenetta James, to name a few, and it was delightful to be introduced to authors I’d never read before and hope to read again. These authors see the depth of Darcy’s character and understand why readers love him so much, flaws and all. The entire collection will make readers weak in the knees with deliciously sweet and sexy renditions of their favorite Austen hero. The Darcy Monologues will definitely be on my Best of 2017 list!


Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Lory Lilian to Diary of an Eccentric to express her appreciation for the work of Jenetta James. Please give her a warm welcome!

Lory Lilian

Admiring the Long and the Short from Jenetta James by Lory Lilian

When I heard about the team of authors involved in The Darcy Monologues, one of the first things that aroused my curiosity was Jenetta James’s story. It made me wonder if Jenetta’s poignant, rich writing style would shine as equally strong in a short story as it did in her two full-length novels — Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth’s Papers. The answer is yes — it did! LOL!

My curiosity and eagerness of reading anything new from Jenetta — and especially a story from Darcy’s POV — should be clear for everyone who has already enjoyed her beautiful novels. I became acquainted with her writing in 2015, when she published her first book — Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, which is an excellent forced marriage scenario. And I became her fan the moment I read the astonishingly beautiful The Elizabeth Papers — a fabulous journey between the present to past, a closer look into the Darcys’ blissful marriage and their intimate thoughts, fears, and their joys. It is a story that blows the reader’s mind. If you read it already– you will surely understand my meaning. If you did not read it yet — I beg you to do it and let me know if I was right or not!

Jenetta is a newer addition to the world of JAFF, but one that added talent, class, and value to this community. And as much I loved her beautiful short story in The Darcy Monologues, I look forward to another longer project as soon as possible!

I am a huge fan of Jenetta myself. I adored both Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, and I was delighted to see that she had written a World War II-era story for The Darcy Monologues. And I am especially excited to have her here today to answer a few questions! Please give her a warm welcome!

Jenetta James

Jenetta, can you share with my readers a six-word memoir about yourself?

Cheerful reader, unexpected writer, hopeless dancer

How did you come to be inspired by Miss Austen, as both a woman and as a writer?

I first encountered Jane Austen as a teenager. It is hard to read it and not be touched by the quality of the writing. I love the simple, light touch of her prose and the clever ribbon of satire that runs through it all. All of her novels are so well composed, which I admire. As a woman, I admire her industry. It takes a lot of focus to write novels in any circumstances, and Jane Austen managed to do it to such a standard in a man’s world.

Your story, “Reason to Hope,” and Jane Austen, what do you think makes them work together? What do they have to say to each other?

When I submitted my story to Christina for editing, it was nameless, and she christened it, “Reason to Hope”. It is a short tale of love in wartime, set in Meryton Hertfordshire in 1943. I grew up in that neck of the woods — being born in Hertfordshire and living most of my childhood in Cambridgeshire — so I know the area pretty well. I’ve often wondered how the world of Pride and Prejudice would work if you just picked it up and put it, lock, stock, and barrel in a different time period — but kept the location the same. The idea of using wartime society for the backdrop came to me after reading Beau North’s debut Longbourn’s Songbird, where she sets the story in the post-war South Carolina. It got me thinking that wartime Britain had more in common with the Regency than first meets the eye.

There is the threat of war, the upheaval occasioned by evacuation and military service, the shifting of social mores and the rigid class structure. I knew from my childhood that the area had several airbases operational during the war (many of them, still so), and the idea was born. Our hero is a Group Captain in the RAF, stationed close to Meryton and Elizabeth is at Longbourn with her family, working in the land army. Just like the original, they are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances and they need to get over a few hurdles before finding themselves, as well as each other.

The modern-day woman appears as besotted as ever by Mr. Darcy. What were the attributes that you felt you needed to include in the Mr. Darcy character in your story?

Group Captain Darcy has spent the war dedicating himself to service. He has made more sacrifices than those around him realise and he is inevitably a more rounded character than the Fitzwilliam of Jane Austen’s early chapters. He has done more and met more people in more equal circumstances. But at the point in which he encounters Elizabeth, he remains superior and condescending in his attitude. What she doesn’t realise, but the reader is allowed to glimpse, is that this Mr. Darcy has sacrificed almost all of his peacetime life for the war-effort. He has focussed on his duties to the complete exclusion of his personal life. He is nobility personified, but at the time, he needs Elizabeth to teach him about himself.

Why do believe Austen’s stories still speak to modern-day readers?

Well, I think it’s because people are people and love is love, wherever you are from and whenever you are alive. Thinking about transplanting Pride and Prejudice into different time periods brings this into focus. The themes that govern people’s emotions are like a thread running through history — it isn’t that Jane Austen speaks to modern life — it is that she speaks to life in general.

What can readers look forward to reading from you in the future and how can readers stay in touch with you?

I am currently working on two projects – another Pride and Prejudice inspired story which I hope will be ready for release later this year (*she says, hopefully*). I am also working on a non-Jane Austen related romance which I hope will be finished at some stage in the next decade. My previous novels are Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers. I love hearing from readers and I can be reached on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ or Twitter: @JenettaJames


About The Darcy Monologues

“You must allow me to tell you…”

For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has captivated readers’ imaginations as the ultimate catch. Rich. Powerful. Noble. Handsome. And yet, as Miss Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is established through Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, how are we to know what his tortured soul is indeed thinking? How does Darcy progress from “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me” to “I thought only of you”?

In this romance anthology, fifteen Austen-inspired authors assemble to sketch Darcy’s character through a series of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times—from faithful narratives to the fanciful. Herein “The Darcy Monologues”, the man himself reveals his intimate thoughts, his passionate dreams, and his journey to love—all told with a previously concealed wit and enduring charm.

Stories by: Susan Adriani * Sara Angelini * J. Marie Croft * Karen M Cox * Jan Hahn * Jenetta James * Lory Lilian * KaraLynne Mackrory * Beau North * Ruth Phillips Oakland * Natalie Richards * Sophia Rose * Joana Starnes * Melanie Stanford * Caitlin Williams

Check out The Darcy Monologues on Goodreads | Amazon

Check out The Darcy Monologues playlist on Spotify and the Pinterest board

Follow on Twitter using the hashtag #TheDarcyMonologues



I am thrilled to offer my readers two fantastic giveaways!

One winner will win the grand prize of 24 paperback books, each one autographed by the author, and mailed to the winner’s home.

The second winner will win their choice of either a Pride and Prejudice pocketbook or a Pride and Prejudice Kindle Fire Case with stand (Pride and Prejudice Book Cover Case for Amazon Kindle Fire 7″ and 6″ – Kindle Fire / Fire HD / Fire HDX tablet).

All giveaways are international. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter link.


April 3 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Launch Post & Giveaway

April 10 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway

April 17 / The Reading Frenzy / Guest Post & Giveaway

April 20 / My Love for Jane Austen / Guest Post & Giveaway

April 24 / Margies Must Reads  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 1 / From Pemberley to Milton / Book Review & Giveaway

May 8 / Just Jane 1813 / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

May 15 / Austenesque Reviews  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 22 / Austenesque Reviews  / Guest Post & Giveaway

May 25 / Of Pens and Pages  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 29 / More Agreeably Engaged  / Book Review & Giveaway

June 5 / So Little Time  / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 12 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review & Giveaway

June 19 / Book Lover in Florida / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 26 / My Vices and Weaknesses  / Book Review & Giveaway

July 3 / Savvy Verse & Wit / Book Review & Giveaway

Disclosure: I received The Darcy Monologues from the editor for review.

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I would like to welcome Joy King (J. Dawn King/Christie Capps) to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her newest novel, Friends and Enemies. This is her first visit to my blog, and I’m delighted to have her as my guest today. Welcome, Joy!

Thank you very much.

Your latest Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) released yesterday. Can you tell us how this one differs from your others?

Friends and Enemies is the first full-length novel I’ve written from one point-of-view. It is very Darcy-centric. Readers will travel with him as he metamorphosizes from the arrogant gentleman in Hertfordshire to the man worthy of Elizabeth Bennet’s love. The journey, for him, is painful and angst-filled. Boy, oh boy did I love this man. I think he’s my favorite Darcy so far.

What did you like most about this Mr. Darcy?

I loved his sheer determination. Each time a personal flaw was revealed, he meditated on the impact to his future and the future of others as he considered what he needed to do to adjust. Then, despite anguish and difficulty, he pressed on with his purpose. His honor and innate qualities as a true gentleman drove him. Underneath, he is a man worthy of the deepest love and devotion.

What did you not like about Mr. Darcy?

I think it’s a man thing – the need to be in control and take charge. And, his assumption that he was automatically deserving of respect. Bah!

Which character surprised you most in your story?

Lydia Bennet. She is not often in the book; however, there are short moments of brilliance where I think she has completely redeemed herself. Nevertheless, they were quickly followed by her acting as the youngest Bennet who makes us roll our eyes and snort.

Would you give us an example?

In this excerpt, Lydia has just acted with unbelievable wisdom and decorum. Here’s the events immediately following. Mr. Darcy is speaking:

He wiped his eyes. “Miss Lydia, after Elizabeth and I have been married for a while, it would be our pleasure to invite you for a visit to our home. You have proven yourself to be a true friend and despite my initial impressions, I believe with a little amount of instruction, you would outshine the silly ladies of the ton in no time at all.” 

“What a joke!” She jumped up and ran from the room. At the door, she stopped. “You just wait until I tell Kitty.” Whooping and hollering like a field hand calling cows, she left Darcy and her sister behind, quite alone and stunned by her wild behaviour after the compliment.

And, what about the Elizabeth Bennet in your story. What did you love most about her?

This Elizabeth is wise and less impulsive. We understand what motivates her caution with Mr. Darcy. Even though we want her to love him as soon as he loves her, he truly doesn’t deserve her devotion until she can trust him. Her kindness in this tale is exemplary.

What did you not like about Elizabeth?

The same thing as above. It drove me nuts. I kept thinking, “just get over it and tell him you love him!” However, as a studier of character, she had witnessed and lived with a relationship she abhorred. It was a tricky thing to be a woman during Regency times. We are reading these stories with 21st century sensibilities. We wear our independence and completely comprehend Elizabeth’s need to go her own way. However, she was an anomaly at the time. Jane Austen definitely wrote her as period correct.

What is in store for J. Dawn King?

I keep saying this and have for the past three years, but I’m working on my Bingley/Jane sequel to A Father’s Sins. My daughter, Jennifer, keeps telling me to give it up and move on. I’d love to. Yet, this Bingley barges into my psyche and nags me fairly frequently. He reminds me I have a lovely finished cover and a strong beginning. He silently demands his own happily-ever-after. The brat!

Thank you very much for stopping by. Here is the blurb for Friends and Enemies which is available at Amazon.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has his world turned upside down when his character, of which he is particularly proud, is called into question by those whom he trusts.

Will he learn from his mistakes or remain his own worst enemy?

When he discovers a secret which could destroy not only the reputation of his beloved sister but threatens her very life, he can no longer hide behind his mask of social indifference. Dismaying circumstances will test the strength of his personal beliefs and convictions as well as his devotion to family and friends as a rival from his past determines to ruin him and take everything Darcy holds dear. Out of the flames of adversity, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, once scorned, becomes a beacon of hope.

Can love grow from adversity? Is happiness possible?

In this full-length novel set in Regency, England, true friendships are made, enemies are revealed, and happily-ever-after is on the horizon. Or is it…

I understand you come bearing gifts.

I do, Anna. I have six eBooks of anything I’ve written as J. Dawn King or Christie Capps and a lovely $50 Amazon gift card to giveaway. Do you think any of your readers might be interested?

I do. Thank you for your generosity. All of Joy’s giveaways are open internationally. To enter, please comment below with the answer to the question: Which quality attracts you to a man? (Some suggestions: honorable, sexy, kind, loves puppies and babies, learned, capable…) Please include your email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 11, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post (and I will email you as well). If you are selected for a prize and we do not hear from you by June 16, 2017, we will have to select someone else as a winner. Good luck!

And thank you, Joy, for stopping by today. I can’t wait to read your books; I’ve purchased a few on my Kindle and am anxious to start them. Please come back again any time!

Connect with Joy on Facebook: Joy King and J Dawn King | Twitter | Website

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Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is an emotional collection of poems.  The triptych, like the title suggests, focuses on three women:  Annette, a psychiatrist; Julia, her daughter; and Milena, one of her patients.  Emma Eden Ramos is a writer of both poetry and prose, and this shows in her narrative style.

With Three Women, I felt like I was reading a novel in verse.  Ramos tells a story about grief and family heritage, anger and suicide, and immigrant issues.  I like that Ramos doesn’t use flowery or abstract language and just tells the story.

We spoke our usual mother-daughter dialect
she cursed wildly
I eyed her with disgust
this rabid creature with my DNA
held hostage my distress
and we argued
she raged
it was about five minutes before she left me
in peace (page 7)

M: Hey, I say what I think. I don’t tip-toe like Americans.

J: What does that even mean? You don’t sound foreign.

M: Well I am, I’m Croatian. I actually wasn’t born here.

J: You sound American to me.

M: Well I came here when I was one.

J: So you were raised here, which, I think, makes you one of us. (page 25)

Following the triptych are three separate poems, my favorite of which was “Letter to Suicide (an old friend)”

We met first then
Later when Maribeth decided to go the Woolf way
(giant pebbles and all).
She had, after all, graduated with an English degree. (page 30)

Three Women is the kind of poetry book to read when you want a break from prose but don’t want to have to think too hard to decipher imagery and symbolism and just want to enjoy an interesting story.  I don’t think the “Selected Poems” were necessary to include, but they don’t detract from the triptych, which is the main focus.  And just because Ramos’ work is very accessible doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch.

What I enjoyed most about Three Women was the raw emotion displayed by the women.  I really felt their anger and their sadness.  I felt like I really got to know the characters, much more than I expected given the short length of the triptych.  If Ramos can pack that much emotion and that much characterization into a poem spanning about 30 pages, I wonder what she could do with a novel?

Please give a warm welcome to Emma Eden Ramos, who was kind enough to answer some questions about her writing, Three Women in particular, and her favorite poetry collections.

Could you tell my readers a little about yourself (your interests, writing, etc.)?

I am a twenty-four-year-old writer from New York City. I am also currently a student at Brooklyn College.

I’ve been writing since I was fifteen but only began seriously working on my craft in 2009. At that time I was majoring in Psychology, which has greatly influenced my writing.

Describe your poetry in 5 words or less.

Prose-like, semi-autobiographical, moody, character-based.

The poems in Three Women are very narrative, which I enjoyed. Do you prefer writing poetry or prose?

Poets and fiction writers tend to be very different creatures, especially when it comes to time and space. Many poets have the ability to obliterate the concept of time as linear movement (although there are fiction writers–Virginia Woolf for instance–who manipulate the bounds of temporal space). Poetry can exist in a space of its own. It does not have to be cohesive or even logical.

For me, however, working with a narrative structure that fits into a specific space and time is essential. So yes, when it comes to writing, prose is my preferred medium.

Why were the final three poems chosen to follow the triptych? I thought the triptych stood well on its own.

Originally I conceived the triptych to stand on its own, and it is still the main focus of the collection. The chapbook, however, needed to be a specific length, so I chose the final three poems because they expanded on some of the themes that were forefront in the triptych.

What are some of your favorite poetry collections?

I have many favorite poetry collections. To name a few: A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far by Adrienne Rich, Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson, Longing Distance by Sarah Hannah, Odes to Opposites by Pablo Neruda, and there are many others. One of my favorite novels is Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which consists of a poem of 999 lines written by the main character and a commentary on that poem by his eccentric neighbor. It’s a work of genius.

Any hints as to what you’re working on now?

I have a middle grade novella coming out from MuseItUp Publishing in September, and I am beginning to pick up bits and pieces of what will hopefully be a full-length novel. Fingers and all other flexible appendages are crossed. That may account for the difficulty I’m having typing.

Thanks, Emma! Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Indie Lit Awards. I wish you much success!

Short List - 2011 Indie Lit Awards in Poetry

Hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

Book 5 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems from the poet as part of the voting process for the Indie Lit Awards.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Stephanie Dray is the author of two novels (with the last in the trilogy yet to come) about Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s daughter, Selene, who was dragged through Rome in chains with her brothers after their parents’ suicide and eventually became the Queen of Mauretania.  Stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of Lily of the Nile (Amazon/IndieBound), published earlier this year, and her most recent book, Song of the Nile (Amazon/IndieBound).  Please give a warm welcome to Stephanie Dray, whom I’d like to thank for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

What inspired you to devote so much time to researching and writing about Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s daughter, Selene?

I was really inspired by the story of a little girl who was orphaned and taken away from the only home she’d ever known, marched through the streets as a captive prisoner, and raised by the very people who killed her family.  That she was able to carve a future for herself out of that horrific past, by endearing herself to her parents’ enemies and keeping quiet about her true feelings, is a testament to her strength. However, it also meant that she was deprived of a true voice most of her life, and I wanted to give a voice back to her.

What is one thing most people don’t know or get wrong about Cleopatra and/or Selene?

Cleopatra VII is known as the last of the Ptolemaic queens. She wasn’t; her daughter Selene was. Also, Cleopatra VII was known as the last Queen of Egypt. That honor probably goes to Queen Zenobia, who may have been a descendant of Selene’s.

Why do you think Selene is so popular in literature at the moment?  What do you think makes your books stand out from the rest?

I’m not sure why everyone seems to have discovered Selene around the same time — it might have something to do with Margaret George, whose marvelous book seemed to work through the collective consciousness of the culture. We all want to think that Cleopatra’s legacy wasn’t lost. That’s where Cleopatra Selene comes in. My novels stand out because they’re soaked in magical realism. For the ancients, magic was real, so when Isis speaks to Cleopatra Selene through bloody hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, I think there’s a certain authentic mysticism that brings to my novels.

What do you think about the comparisons between your books and Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s Daughter?

I’m honored by any such comparisons. Michelle Moran is a fantastic author and a classy woman!

Are you working on another novel?  Any hints as to what it’s about?

Currently, I’m working on the third and final installment of the trilogy about Cleopatra Selene’s life. It will follow her life as a more mature and powerful queen and explore her unique viewpoint of the imperial family during some of its most tumultuous days.

What are the best books you’ve read recently?

I’ve been on a Ken Follett kick lately — so Pillars of the Earth, World Without End and Fall of Giants have consumed me.  For (slightly) lighter historical fare, however, I’ve also recently enjoyed Kate Quinn’s Daughters of Rome and Jeannie Lin’s historical romance, The Dragon and the Pearl.

Thanks, Stephanie!  I can’t wait to read the last book about Cleopatra Selene!

About Stephanie Dray

Stephanie graduated with a degree in Government from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.

Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

About Song of the Nile

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.

Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.

But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen back to Diary of an Eccentric today.  Mary is one of my favorite authors of Jane Austen-inspired novels, and her latest release, A Wife for Mr. Darcy (read my review), didn’t disappoint.  In A Wife for Mr. Darcy, a variation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth are attracted to one another right away, but Darcy’s courtship of Sir John Montford’s daughter jeopardize their happiness.  It’s a unique take on Pride and Prejudice, and a book I found difficult to put down.  I’d like to thank Mary for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my many questions about all-things-Austen.

With so many variations of Austen’s novels available today, why should readers choose yours?

Why should readers choose A Wife for Mr. Darcy? I’ll give you an analogy. It is like someone who is trying to decide what to have for lunch. Sometimes a nice salad will do, but other times, you want the whole enchilada, with rice and beans and sour cream and guacamole, a big, heavy, mother of a meal. My Pride and Prejudice re-imaginings are on the light side. I try to tell a story using a lot of humor. After reading A Wife for Mr. Darcy, I hope you will have a smile on your face. You will not be reaching for the Kleenex box.

You’ve written P&P variations set during WWI and WWII. Do you plan to take Elizabeth and Darcy elsewhere outside Regency England?

Yes. In a book I will be self-publishing in August, Darcy on the Hudson, I have Darcy, Georgiana, and Charles Bingley traveling to Tarrytown, north of New York City, where Darcy meets American, Elizabeth Bennet. Although Americans and the English have a lot in common, there are enough differences to add some spice to the stew, and America and England are about to go to war again.

P&P seems to be a reader favorite, but for those of us who enjoy all of Austen’s novels, what do you think readers can do to convince publishers to release more retellings of Austen’s other novels?

To start with, Jane Austen fans could buy my book, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, a parody of Persuasion that you were good enough to review. I also have a short story, Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele, a parody of Sense and Sensibility, on Kindle and Nook. Seriously, with publishers, the numbers do the talking. Although my editor liked Anne Elliot, she told me she couldn’t sell it. However, there is hope. Because it is so easy to self-publish on Kindle and Nook, I think you will see more books inspired by novels other than P&P coming out. For instance, I will have a novella out this fall, Captain Wentworth, A Random Harvest (working title and another Persuasion re-imagining). Did I mention, I’m looking for reviewers?

Here’s a debate I continually have with myself: Captain Wentworth or Mr. Darcy? What side do you take?

I love Mr. Darcy. He’s got it all, but the thing I like most about him is that throughout the story he is evolving. I like a man capable of change. Having said that, I have to go with Frederick Wentworth. I admire the fact that he is a self-made man and that he has a job, which is important to me. Also, he loved Anne Elliot for eight years! That’s a lot to ask of any lover. Finally, his love makes Anne beautiful because she is glowing on the inside. Sigh!

Do you plan to write more outside the Austen genre?

I would love to write a mystery. I started one: a pre-World War II espionage thriller, but it was so much harder than I thought. For example, I would actually have to write an outline. But you’ll be one of the first to know if I ever complete the manuscript.

You’ve been a guest on Diary of an Eccentric a few times now. Can you tell me and my readers something unique about yourself that we haven’t read anywhere else?

I took an algebra class when I was fifty years old. I have been math phobic my whole life, and I decided to see if I could do it. I got an A in the class, but I have to tell you, by the time I finished that class, my brain hurt!

If you had just a few minutes to speak to Jane Austen in person, what would you say to her?

How did you do it? You wrote with ink and a quill pen! How did you not go crazy squeezing your corrections in—writing in the margins and between the lines? You really have to admire Jane Austen’s work ethic because the very process was so difficult, and, yet, she did it brilliantly! My hat’s off to Miss Austen and all those other quill pen wielders.

Thank you for having me. It is always a pleasure visiting with you.

Thanks, Mary!  I am very, very excited about your upcoming Captain Wentworth novella.  And P&P in New York?  I can’t wait!

Sourcebooks is offering a copy of A Wife for Mr. Darcy to one lucky reader!  To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what you would say to Jane Austen if you had a chance to meet her.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada, and it will end at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Jim Hooper in Yemen two years ago

Today, I am thrilled to welcome Jim Hooper to Diary of an Eccentric.  Jim is the author of A Hundred Feet Over Hell, which made my “Best of 2010” list.  A Hundred Feet Over Hell is about the Catkillers who flew over the Demilitarized Zone during the Vietnam War.  Jim’s brother, Bill, was a Catkiller, and Jim enabled him and his friends to describe their missions and experiences in their own words.  Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Going back and forth between the pilots and some of the soldiers on the ground, several particularly intense scenes involve a handful of troops hunkered down, unable to move, and under intense fire from the Viet Cong.  Various circumstances — being shot at, the weather, the time of day — made the Catkillers’ job difficult, but despite the pressure and with the help of the men in their backseats, they saved many lives.  Hooper puts you right in the plane, and my heart pounding, I rushed through the pages to see how the missions turned out.  I don’t know how these young men — many barely out of high school — could deal with such pressure day in and day out, but they did their jobs well and with heart.

Please give a warm welcome to Jim Hooper.

What prompted you to write about the Catkillers?

My kid brother’s return from Vietnam had been etched permanently into my mind long before I thought of the book. I was a few months out of the army, having served in Germany, when we received a letter from his commanding officer, expressing regret for Bill’s wound and praising him to the sky. What? Because Bill had ticked the ‘NO’ box after the question “Do you want your family notified if you are wounded?” there had been no official telegram from the Department of the Army. As you can imagine, my mother almost collapsed, then got on the phone to our congressman, who quickly discovered Bill had just arrived at the hospital at Ft Gordon, GA. Three weeks later, he was given a few days’ leave. He and I sat at the kitchen table until dawn, sipping injudiciously from a bottle of JD Black, Bill talking almost non-stop as I listened open-mouthed. The stories he told me that night and over the next days never left me.

Years later, as a freelance war correspondent and photo-journalist, I had seen combat, learned the meaning of fear under fire, and, though both were designer wounds compared with what my brother had suffered, had received my own red badges of courage. And I’d written my first book about it all. With a few hundred flying hours as a private pilot, I decided I was finally qualified to apply all that to recording what Bill had lived through, as a tribute to my best and most trusted friend. Little did I imagine it would turn into a 16-year project.

How did you get in touch with them?  Were they interested in talking about their experiences, or did you encounter some resistance?  My experience with Vietnam veterans has been that they don’t like to open up about their time in combat.

Tracking down those Bill had flown with was a story in itself, especially since I live in England. He had long since lost touch with them, but the names remained fresh. The internet was very new, and I started with the White Pages. The first name I tried was Charles Finch, and dozens of bemused Charles Finches picked up their telephones to listen to my reason for calling; none was the man I was searching for. By good fortune, one of Catkillers had been given the unusual name “Sargent” at birth. There couldn’t be too many Sargent Means, I reasoned, and sure enough, I found myself talking with one of the men I’d heard so much about. Still in the army, he was very wary about a cold-caller claiming to be the brother (and a journalist to boot!) of a Vietnam comrade. I gave him Bill’s number in Florida, and as soon as my bona fides were established the Catkiller network opened. Even then, getting their recollections was a struggle. Fortunately, Doc Clement, one of those straight-out-of-central-casting characters, was incredibly enthusiastic about the project. He led the charge, pestering the Catkillers unmercifully with prods and prompts to send me material. It still took years to gather enough stories, edit and work them into chronological order, before I had a viable manuscript. The next struggle was finding a publisher, which was accomplished when I eventually went to agent Bill Corsa of Specialty Book Marketing.

Are you still in touch with the Catkillers? Have you received comments from those who read the book?

Fifteen years of emailing back and forth with the Catkillers saw some become close friends; as a result, we regularly bring each other up to date by email or Skype. The praise from all those who feature in A Hundred Feet Over Hell – as well as many who served before and after the period covered in the book – has been overwhelming and not a little humbling. I was honoured last year by being invited as guest speaker at their reunion, where I had the opportunity to meet most of them face-to-face for the first time. It was a deeply satisfying experience. One of the unintended consequences of the book has been over a dozen reconnections amongst Catkillers who had completely lost touch with their wartime comrades, as well as US Army and Marine Corps observers who rode in their back seats.

What do you want readers — especially those like me, without a background in military terminology, etc. — to take from the book?

For too long the Vietnam War was a highly contentious period of American history. Many of those sent to fight were branded as war criminals on their return. My brother, still recovering from a serious wound, was called a “hired killer” and spat on soon after going back to college. It was not an all-volunteer army as we have today; the vast majority were drafted and sent to Southeast Asia: the alternative was jail or fleeing to Canada. Lumping them into the same category as Lt William Calley, responsible for the infamous My Lai Massacre, was not just desperately unfair but morally wrong. So I guess the message for those with no military background is that the Catkillers were bright, funny and honorable men – boy-next-door types – who risked their lives to support other young Americans, who, like themselves, served there by government fiat. To a lesser extent, I wanted to explain the job the Catkillers were given. This was more difficult, particularly in the use of terminology. I suspected the largest percentage of readers would come to the book because of their own military experiences; thus I was loathe to translate everything in ‘civilianese,’ something that annoys veterans considerably. In the end, I leaned more toward the jargon, but tried to explain in subsequent paragraphs what it all meant without insulting either side’s intelligence. (One of the biggest mistakes authors make is underestimating their audience.) Getting the right balance was difficult, and perhaps I wasn’t as successful as I might have been. Another goal was to avoid the angst so often used to stitch together war memoirs. It’s an approach that panders to those who believe war is an atavistic and dehumanizing phenomenon; and it plays well to certain publishers. Unfortunately, war is part of man’s – as opposed to woman’s – DNA, and no part of that particular genetic sequence will ever be bred out of us. To those who don’t believe it, have a look at DVD covers. The huge percentage that show men (and occasionally women) brandishing guns tells you that if there was no market for war/police drama the big film studios wouldn’t invest millions in producing such films. Is war frightening? Immensely. Can it be life altering? Unquestionably. Dehumanizing? The fact that the Catkillers placed themselves in mortal danger on almost a daily basis to save lives suggests quite the opposite. And contrary to popular myth, they all came home and established successful careers; not a sociopath among them.

[Jim, you did an excellent job making the book understandable and accessible to the average reader without making it too simplistic.]

Jim Hooper in Africa 20 years ago

What has been the biggest adventure of your writing career?

Tough question. First, writing is an adventure all by itself. As I’m sure you know, it can be alternately intimidating and exhilarating. As far as physical adventure, it’s a toss up between the eight wars in African I covered and the war in Bosnia. In Africa, the distances – whether in the back of captured Soviet trucks or on foot through jungle and forest – were daunting and physically demanding. I also had to accept that a serious injury could very well have terminal consequences before the various rebel armies I accompanied could get me to modern medical care. By good fortune, the two times I was wounded was while embedded with South African forces in Namibia; in both instances I was on a helicopter in less than an hour and heading for a military hospital. Bosnia was a different situation entirely. I spent almost six months on my own, driving between the various front lines, being shot at by all three sides on occasion. The most terrifying experience was being captured by Arab Islamists near the central Bosnian town of Travnik; I was extremely lucky to survive. It was certainly the most dangerous place I’ve ever been. To put it in perspective, during the Vietnam War, sixty-three journalists were killed over twenty-two years; in the first three years of the Bosnian war, over seventy died.

[You certainly have had your share of adventures, and it sounds like you have many experiences about which to write.]

What projects are you working on now?

A novel nearing completion has been interrupted by three publishers wanting rights to my first book, which has been out of print since 1992. This has seen me dive into revising the original manuscript. Alongside that, I’ve pulled a couple of thousand slides and black and white negatives from files I haven’t looked at in almost two decades, the best of which may end up in a companion volume or two to complement the revised edition. And then there’s the relaxing and enjoyable time addressing your questions. Nice break, so thank you.

[Congratulations!  I wish you much success!]

What books (fiction and non-fiction) about the Vietnam War do you consider to be must-reads?

I must confess the only novel based on the Vietnam War I’ve read is The 13th Valley. I remember it as well-written but dark and angst-riven. Top of the non-fiction list has to be Dispatches by Michael Herr, who spent a year covering the conflict for Esquire magazine. As background to understanding what occurred prior to President Kennedy sending the first US troops to the country, Bernard Fall’s Street Without Joy is superb. Though poorly adapted to the big screen, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young ranks high as an account of what America’s young draftees lived through. Written by General Hal Moore, who as a lieutenant colonel was US commander at the Ia Drang battle, and correspondent Joe Galloway, who was also there, it is a singularly gripping memoir.

Thanks, Jim, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am very excited to welcome Nicole Barker, author of Dancing With Ana, to Diary of an Eccentric today.  I reviewed Dancing With Ana — a book about a teenager struggling with anorexia after her father leaves the family — back in October of 2009, and Nicole and I discussed an interview at that time.  However, real life has a way of interfering, and the interview was delayed.  But in this case, it was the good type of interference because Nicole had a baby!  Once life returned to a more normal pace, Nicole was kind enough to contact me again.  It meant a lot to me that she’d saved my questions and still wanted to answer them!  So please give a warm welcome to Nicole Barker.

What inspired you to write Dancing With Ana?

Women.  Young women.  Girls.  Young girls.  They were all my inspiration for Dancing With Ana.  Women are simply amazing creatures.  We are so strong and our endurance is  sustaining.  Our love for our family and friends is given on the highest selfless level.  We shine with an excitement and energy that is sure to touch every corner of the world, or every corner of our world at least.  Yet, we can lose our step so easily when abandoned, betrayed or hurt by someone we love.  We absorb insecurity into ourselves until it eats us alive.  We freefall and grasp at anything that will keep us from drowning into the depths of nothingness.  It happens every day, everywhere.  I wanted to write about a regular girl struggling to come to grips with a life changing event, the abandonment of her father.

How do you explain your portrayal of Beth going from a healthy weight to rib-showing thin in just a couple of weeks? Did you speed things up for the sake of the narrative, or is this a normal occurrence?

At the start of the book, Beth doesn’t have any extra weight to lose.  She is a runner who is fairly fit.  It is definitely possible to lose the weight she did in a time frame of a couple weeks.  Her ribs, which would have been slightly visible anyway because she was small to begin with, would have become more prominent, especially to the touch.  She succumbs to the flirtation with Ana more and more as each day passes.

Do you feel that anorexia isn’t getting enough press? When I was younger, I remember all the TV movies and afterschool specials. I don’t see too much about it in the news these days, but it certainly hasn’t gone away.

You are right, anorexia is not called out anymore.  I recently overheard a ten year old girl refer to a fit and healthy teenager she saw on tv as “fat”.  It was disturbing.  Girls in the second grade are on “diets”.  I think there are more young women out there that try Ana as a coping mechanism than we are aware of, mainly because it’s easy to hide and offers such a strong sense of control.

What are some resources you’d recommend for young girls struggling with weight issues or parents, friends, and teachers of these girls?

There are a lot of books on the topic as well as websites.  Google, of course, is a great source of information.  The best resource for parents is to talk with other parents.  You learn so much about what is going on with your child by comparing notes.  A book like Dancing With Ana is one small example of a resource that can be used simply to get conversation started, which is usually the most challenging aspect of communicating with a tween or teen.

What do you want readers to take from the book?

Maybe a feeling of, “I’m not alone” or “I’m not the only one going through something like this”.  People have told me that it’s been a great way to talk with their daughters about the subject matter, which brings me such joy.  If Dancing With Ana touches just one person in a positive way, I’m satisfied.

Are you working on another book? Any hints?

Yes!  I’m working on a sequel to Dancing With Ana!  Two years ago, I took a break from writing when I became pregnant with my third child.  It feels amazing not only to be writing again, but to be back in the world of Beth, Jenny, Rachel and Melanie.  Oh, and Jeremy, of course!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

Raising my three kids, which pretty much takes up the rest of my life!  I also enjoy running, going to the beach and going to see live music.

What are five books you find yourself recommending over and over and why?

The Bell Jar, because it’s the book that made me want to write.

The Outsiders, because its theme is timeless and so incredibly touching.  I kind of feel this way about all S.E. Hinton books.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, because I have had moments in my life that almost mirror the entire book.

I’m in love with Hamlet and could easily read it every year for the rest of my life.

Okay, my guilty pleasure.  I love the Twilight series.  I find it an easy escape and very entertaining.  Sometimes, after a long day of captaining my household,  there is nothing better than falling into the world of vampires, wolves and an awkward teenage girl.

Thanks, Nicole, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions!  I’m looking forward to the sequel.

To learn more about Dancing With Ana, visit Nicole’s website.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Last week, I reviewed Lebensborn by Jo Ann Bender, a novel set during World War II about a young girl with the French Resistance who is seduced by the Waffen SS officer who takes charge of the village where she lives (Villepente) and is moved to a Lebensborn home in Germany when she becomes pregnant.  Bender’s novel is about the resilience of the people living in Nazi-occupied countries, the secret breeding program instituted by the Nazis, and changes people undergo when forced to survive in wartime.

I’m thrilled to have Jo Ann Bender as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today.  After reading Lebensborn, I was very curious about the origins of the story and how much was based on fact and how much was fiction.  Jo Ann agreed to answer some questions, and I want to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts with my readers and me.

[This is a bit different that other author interviews I’ve conducted, as Jo Ann reworked my questions and provided additional information, making it a combination interview/guest post. At any rate, I found her answers fascinating.] Please give a warm welcome to Jo Ann Bender.

Why did you let Antoinette be seduced?

It’s not surprising that some readers are frustrated when Antoinette, the seventeen-year-old girl in Lebensborn, succumbs so easily to the Waffen SS major Reinhard Hurst’s advances.

One reader told me, “Here she is, a strong, virgin, mature, level-headed girl, falling so fast for the Major. However, when I started comparing her to my own teenage daughter and realized that at that age, the great majority of women are a pendulum of feelings, attitudes, interests, strengths, insecurities, I realized that a traumatic experience, like trying to survive a war could certainly confuse anyone, let alone a young girl who hasn’t experienced life to its fullest.”

At this time in history around the world, if a woman had a baby out of wedlock, she would be forced to leave the community. There was no way out, no birth control or abortion. So this was a horrendous decision for Antoinette but she chose it because of her role in the Resistance and her love of country.

Is Villepente based upon fact or fiction?

At the time the novel was written, the Internet was in its infancy. My research was found in books about WWII and by flying twice to Europe, once to France to finalize the setting of the fictional French village which later becomes a suburb of Paris, and later to Germany as Part Two was being written to better understand the thinking and feeling of Germans and Germany as a country. Although the village is fictional, it is typical.

What was your biggest challenge?

During my career as a journalist, I have interviewed people from all walks of life. None was more frightening than the Washington State man who was a former Nazi sentenced to two years of hard labor following the Nuremburg trials after the war.

That interview took place over the tea served by his wife in his apartment. After explaining the geographical situation Antoinette finds herself in Part Two, I asked, ‘How can she find her way out of Germany?’ The reality of what I was writing presented a startling revelation! I sat there, frozen as a scared grouse, listening and unbelieving that this story now felt as real as if I actually was there witnessing this little sliver of WWII history.

What did you like best about writing Lebensborn?

Himmler’s castle is one of my finest pieces of writing in the book. The fictional chapter was included because Lebensborn is Himmler’s program. To understand Himmler and his occult ideas it is interesting to know how the man came up with the social eugenics idea of producing a Master Race. The first involved were his SS officers and Gestapo and later the regular troops, especially in Norway, who were encouraged to mate with Nordic Goddesses.

How did you develop this premise?

The research and conclusions I came to during the ten long years it took to write Lebensborn continues to be collaborated for their accuracy. The fictional castle chapter is based upon Himmler’s character, shows what he was wearing, what he says, details the artifacts in the castle and what the “knights,” the SS were expected to take part in. Those invited to this special weekend by invitation included Duke Peter, the SS officer who is first introduced here in Part One and later in Part Two as a talented illusionist.

Peter is the centerpiece for Nazi propaganda and its illusions: the colorful banners, the night parades, their stunning officer uniforms, the most glorious and best the world has ever seen, the weekly meetings with the same message told over and over: that the enemy was out to get you and the Fuhrer is there to save you because you are the most educated and cultured race on the earth.

As a former public relations person, I know and appreciate the powerful effect these excellent German plans brought about. Their no-questions-asked programs produced fanatical people who truly believed that there was glory for the fittest to serve their country by producing as many children as possible. It did end the high rate of abortions (800,000 a year) and by the time the war ended was on the way to adding battalions of soldiers.

In the walled city of Rottenburg, I witnessed an example of such passion. There in an antique shop, where I was searching for the exact wording on an SS officer’s dagger, a man came into the shop and was silently given permission to go behind the counter and through a curtain. Always curious, I asked if I could do this, too. The proprietor parted the curtain and followed me.

The hidden room was filled with Nazi artifacts. I explained what I was seeking. The middle-aged woman, who was wearing a black dress and who had her dark hair in a tight bun at the back of her head, placed a purple cloth upon one of the counters and from the case below removed the knife and placed it upon the cloth with as much reverence as a priest holding a sacred host. It was a moment never to be forgotten.

You’re writing a novel now about a Montana cowboy.

In the late 1990’s when Lebensborn was finished, there was little interest in WWII fiction. I went on to write the non-fiction Snowbirds, about a humorous RV trip; Cries in the Desert, a story set in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, and Rusty Springs, a contemporary story of a blackjack dealer who is being stalked set in Nevada and Montana. Both Snowbirds and Rusty Springs were agent submissions without promise.

Why will your Montana cowboy be different?

Authors, like sangria, become more seasoned as time passes and their writing skills improve. In this story, there are fewer characters, each shown in more depth, the chapters longer. In Lebensborn, there were over sixty characters, the chapters fast and punchy to quicken the plot. Fortunately, novels take a long time to write and rewrite. Now I mainly must be an author who sells books, not an author who writes books. And that’s a whole different interview topic.

What are you currently reading?

It just happens that I’m reading two books considered by Germans to be among the top ten novels written about WWII. Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, praised by historians for its historical accuracy, places a gross but cultivated SS officer among top Nazis. It makes almost one thousand pages of the ugliest and toughest reading as he documents in precise detail the Nazi purges of Jews in Russia, his work within the bulging bureaucracy to place “foreign” workers in German industry and follows his own sick personal life. However, it was as detailed as any I’ve ever read.

The other I can enjoy is Berlin Noir Series by Phillip Kerr. It centers around a Berlin private detective solving crimes during 1936-38 and 1947 when Berlin was a dark place full of corruption and moral ambiguity but with less horror than the Kindly Ones.

Sounds like you’ve had some fascinating and memorable experiences.  I wish you much success with your writing career, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts here.

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am absolutely thrilled that Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, took time out of his busy schedule to answer my many questions about his interest in Jane Austen.  I personally don’t know any men who like Austen’s work; in fact, my husband leaves the room every time I watch Persuasion, and his eyes glaze over when I gush about Austen’s humor and how much I love her books and all the retellings.  Pemberley Ranch takes Pride and Prejudice out of Regency England and out to the Texas plains just after the Civil War.  Read my review for all the details and my thoughts, but just know that it ranks among my most favorite Austen retellings.  Please give a warm welcome to Jack Caldwell:

Do you find that people are surprised that a man writes Jane Austen sequels/retellings?

Yes, I do. It’s true that men aren’t the devoted followers of all things Austen like the ladies, but as was pointed out in The Jane Austen Book Club, men should pick up Dear Jane’s work. Not only is it great writing, but you might get lucky.

My wife just kicked me in the shin.

When did you first read Jane Austen, and what do you find most interesting about her novels and characters?

I started reading Jane Austen in 1981, after watching the BBC mini-series on PBS. First, I loved her humor. Austen is a very funny writer. I also feel I know her characters. Hasn’t everyone met a Rev. Collins or Lady Catherine? Lastly, her plots are timeless. I found it just as hard to find true love in 1980’s discos as Darcy did in Regency ballrooms.

What is your favorite Austen novel and character? Have you read all of Austen’s novels?

I have read all of Austen’s major novels, including Lady Susan (a particular favorite). My all-time favorite would have to be Persuasion and Captain Frederick Wentworth.

[I recently read Persuasion, fell in love with Captain Wentworth, and put the book at the top of my all-time favorites list.  I finished Lady Susan and The Watsons not too long ago and will be reviewing them soon.]

What prompted you to take Elizabeth and Darcy to the Texas plains and the Civil War era?

I considered that if Elizabeth and Darcy found the walls of class and connections hard scaling in Regency England, how much more challenging would it be dealing with the animosities existing after a conflict like the US Civil War? I then realized that America did overcome the difficulties created by the war. I decided to use Austen’s characters to tell that tale. As for Texas, that decision can be summed up in four words: Darcy as a cowboy.

[Darcy makes a great cowboy.  Seriously.]

Are you working on another novel? Any hints?

My next novel, out in the spring of 2012, is a Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility sequel entitled The Three Colonels. It’s set in 1815 during the Waterloo crisis and features some of Austen’s fighting men, such as Colonels Fitzwilliam and Brandon, and the women they love. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are in there, as well as cameos from all of Austen’s works as well as my own original creations.

[People who know me well know that I’m always reading war novels and all things Austen.  Put the two of them together, and I’m a happy reader.  Well, “happy” probably isn’t the right word to use when discussing war novels, but you all know what I mean.]

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a Cajun, so I do most of the cooking at home. When not working, I enjoy golf and travel with my wife.

What was the best book you read recently?

Since I can’t choose between my fantastic Austen Authors comrades, I’ll say I really enjoyed the first three volumes of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. I discovered them recently and they’re set in New Orleans—what’s not to like?

Thank you so much, Jack, for stopping by Diary of an Eccentric today.  I wish you much success and definitely will be reading more of your work in the future.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of Pemberley Ranch to offer my readers.  Because the publisher is shipping the books, the giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only.  To enter, simply leave a comment related to my interview with Jack Caldwell, along with your e-mail address, by 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.  The winners will be chosen randomly.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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