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It’s Such Great Escapism

Valerie Anne Hudson Author Interview

Maids of Maddington: Welcome To The Madhouse follows two women from the servant class, one on trial for loving a noble, the other her friend and defender. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As a reader, I always like to be transported to another time and place. It’s such great escapism. I deliberated on many different eras in history before finally deciding on Victorian times. And choosing to write about women of the servant class provides so many possible scenarios!

Eliza shows a lot of character and dedication to those she deems her friends. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Along with many people of her class in the Victorian era, Eliza had a tough life. As the eldest child in her family, she was forced to take on a lot of responsibility, but never once questioned this. She had an innate sense of duty and felt obliged to help others—a common trait amongst women, no matter what century they were born in!

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I did a lot of research on the Victorian era, and was horrified to discover how working-class people in the big cities lived. Many of them didn’t even know where their next meal was coming from. So, poverty and the living conditions of the poor were a big focus for me, along with the abysmal working conditions of servants at that time.

What can readers expect in book two of the Maids of Maddington, and when will it be available?

In Book 2, the reader will be thrust forward seven years to 1905. Many of the same characters will appear, with some interesting new additions. Some of the themes will include the Suffragette movement and the London underworld.

It should be available in August, 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

The only thing her friend is guilty of is falling in love with the wrong man.

When young Eliza first joins Maddington House, known locally as ‘The Madhouse,’ as an under housemaid in 1895, she finds herself alone in the world of the rich and privileged.

A world where everyone takes what they want and no one takes responsibility…

Enter Annie.

Kind, pretty, vivacious Annie. The housemaid everyone loves to be around. Eliza’s new friend and close confidante.

Annie’s beautiful aura and charming spirit are hard to resist, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when Edward Montague takes notice.

Edward, the only son of the house, is handsome, charismatic, and manipulative, but Annie doesn’t seem to see him for who he really is. Charmed by his relentless pursuit and bold promises, she falls in love with him hard…

Only to crash even harder.

Eliza knew right from the start that their secret meetings and love confessions would not end well, but she never expected her friend to end up on trial because of that man.

As hidden secrets, back-door deals, and scandalous love affairs unfold before the shocked circle of high society and her friend is accused of a horrible crime, Eliza must do what she knows is right: stand by Annie even if no one else is willing to.

After all, her friend is innocent.

It’s someone else that should be put on trial.

Trust. Hope. Forgiveness. Love.

Suzanne Smith Author Interview

The Brute and I follows a woman who dares to hope for finding true love again after a prior bad relationship that left her scarred. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As dark as Alex’s story was, I intended for it to end on an optimistic note. I wanted Alex to heal from her past mistakes, and to find true love again. Before that was a possibility, she had to see herself as she really was. She had imagined herself a stoic robot, able to erect a numbing emotional wall and bury her pain and humiliation at will. But, the truth was that Alex was a troubled and insecure young woman who was missing vital pieces of herself due to years of neglect by someone she cared for deeply. When she fell in love with Marco, the dismal feelings of the past had dissipated, and the warm, tender feeling of love had blossomed. For a time, she’d felt whole and happy. But, that happiness was temporary, and soon her debilitating sense of insecurity returned. She became withdrawn, and the passion and intimacy that her and Marco had shared became strained, creating a breeding ground for jealousy and distrust. Violence and infidelity seeped into their imperfect relationship. Ironically, it was Marco’s single act of brutality toward Alex that had introduced a positive element of spirituality into the story and led them both on a path of self-discovery and enlightenment. Alex and Marco reopened the lines of communication between them, learned to verbalize their feelings, and came to trust and understand each other more than they ever did before. Reinventing herself and rebuilding her relationship with Marco was an uphill battle for Alex, but, in the end, I wanted to give the reader a sense that true love really did conquer all.

Alex wants to love again, but she has to overcome her past. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Denying her feelings and swallowing her pain had always been a big factor in Alex’s stunted emotionality. For years, she’d deceived herself into believing that she’d left her bleak past behind, and what had happened to her then hadn’t affected her present behavior in any way. When the man of her dreams, Marco, entered her life and pointed out that her inability to come to grips with her past was destroying their relationship, she started to question the efficacy of her bizarre method of coping with her many disappointments. Desperate to find out if Marco was right and to save what was left of their love, she enlisted the help of a professional therapist. Once she had immersed herself in the non-judgmental and welcoming group therapy setting, she dissected her past, and allowed the bitterness and resentment that she’d felt for as long as she could remember to come to the surface. The recall of these negative feelings had been so powerful that she conceded that perhaps there was some connection between the past and the present after all. She eventually came face to face with the dark void inside of her and discovered the true source and origin of her crippling pain. That discovery gave her a sense of empowerment and control over her life. She tore down her emotional walls and abandoned her ill founded illusion of invincibility. She’d come to accept the idea that the pain of the past would always be a part of her, but she was strong enough not to let it sabotage her happiness.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Trust. Hope. Forgiveness. Love.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I just finished a full length novel titled Lilah’s Limit. It takes place in New Orleans circa 1870. It’s a story about a scarred man who falls in love with a mysterious prostitute. It’s pretty much ready to be published now, so with any luck, that will happen soon.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

When Marco struts into Gigi’s grill, Alex wonders if she has found the one. When he takes the seat next to her and strikes up a conversation, She is immediately aroused by the heat of his animal magnetism. There is something she sees in his vulnerable, piercing green eyes that touches her heart. She realizes that she wants this handsome man to be more than just her bedmate. She wants him to be her soulmate.

Marco was instantly smitten the moment he fixed his eyes on Alex. There was something about her warm, sympathetic gaze that filled him with hope. Maybe he had a chance to overcome the bitterness and despair that had blighted his life. Perhaps finally some measure of happiness is within his grasp.

The love between them quickly blossoms, but there is a dark cloud on the horizon. For no reason Marco can see, Alex suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn. He worries that she is slipping away from him. The idea of losing her affection and being forced to retreat back into the cold, black, pit of despair, is more than he can stand. He only knows one way to deal with the pain he is feeling.

Can their love survive the turmoil and grow into something good once more?

Generational Curses

Olivia Castillo Author Interview

Daughter of the Boricua follows a young Puerto Rican woman whose family is cursed, and they must rely on each other to work through the challenges the curse brings. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The inspiration is my own family. I come from a long line of strong and powerful matriarchs and an interesting lineage. I am directly related to Hernán Cortés and Isabella Moctezuma.

I heard many stories growing up about hardships and racism they faced so my books are loosely based on real experiences and stories.

Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the character’s personalities grow organically as you were writing?

I allowed my characters to grow organically. I had a very loose outline but tried to be true to each character and what I believed their values were.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to talk about taboo subjects such as sexual exploitation of women, abuse, racism and slavery. I wanted to understand the indigenous and conqueror’s point of view and explore generational curses real and imaginary.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I will be working on the last book in the trilogy Songs of the Boricua and anticipate it being completed fall of 2024.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The clouds above were dark and ominous. Moctezuma lay there bleeding, tears rolling down his swollen, bloodstained face. He thought of his firstborn, Isabella, at the mercy of the murderer of his people, Hernán Cortés, and it made him tremble with anger and loss. In a last act of defiance, Moctezuma murmured his revenge:

”Oh, powerful god, I ask you to avenge my people. I ask that the next daughter of Hernán Cortés and her seed be cursed.”

With that, he closed his eyes, and destiny was set in the stars above him.

Daughter of the Boricua continues the saga of the award-winning book, Song of the Boricua, and follows the story of Puerto Rico, told through the lives of three generations of women.

Liani; a Taino torn between her loyalty to her people and her love for a Spanish officer.

Isabella; direct descendent of Aztec princess Isabella Moctezuma, cursed as her grandmother was.

Josephine; daughter of Isabella, afraid to love, but finding herself caught between love or career.

Are they cursed? Will they succeed or will their lives converge and end with the storm of the century?

A Dramatic Re-interpretation

Sophia Alexander Author Interview

‘Silk: Caroline’s Story’ follows three women as they look for love, for themselves, and navigate the drastically changing culture of the south, some doing whatever it takes to get what they want. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My own family tree! I’ve been obsessed with genealogy since I was a girl, and there are some unclear, unexplained branches that I’m fairly sure I’ll never discover the absolute truth about. Why did Caroline choose to marry whom she did? What happened to her? Many of the main characters are based loosely on real people, but I’ve changed names as it’s so fictionalized. Silk is a dramatic re-interpretation of my own family’s obscured past, in which Jessie was likely not so evil at all.

What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

Hmm… I generally shy away from spelling them out, but you seem to have already gathered that my novels are rife with morals, if only because it’s simply how I think. Silk is flat, Lowcountry terrain compared with the mountains that exist of all my soapboxes!

Perhaps the most pervasive moral in the book, however, is one nearly universal for novelists: that it’s important to try to understand where others are coming from, to develop empathy—even for those with bats in their belfry, as Anne would say. That moral is not so much taught as experienced with all the head-hopping—and studies have shown that fiction readers do become more empathetic.

Honesty and fidelity, the value of friendships, the dangers of alcohol and extremism—these are other moral themes in Silk. I’m afraid, however, that many of the moral analogies I personally draw to today’s society are bound to be missed by readers. For instance, readers sometimes express their disdain for brothels and their understandable relief that brothels aren’t still widespread in America today. Rampant pornography is, however, now far more available than brothels ever were, is damaging to psyches and relationships, and objectifies people entirely.

Gracious, for all that I was hesitant to jump on an invitational soapbox, I’ve gotten started now! Countless moral ideas guided my writing of The Silk Trilogy—even if they barely brush the surface and are hardly mentioned. For example, broad-brimmed hats and parasols protect from the sun, which my characters do actively consider; this might not sound like a moral issue and certainly isn’t presented as such in the novel but, in fact, folks do need to protect themselves from skin cancer—I’ve personally had melanoma—yet most sunscreens are endocrine disruptors, even carcinogens themselves, while also damaging coral reefs. So as you can see, I can only relate a fraction of what’s relevant, just hoping to plant little seeds.

Other moral elements are briefly shared when Dr. Connor goes on about his dilemmas in practicing medicine—how to choose the safest, most effective therapies; being aware of the marketing ploys of pharmaceutical companies; issues with not being able to follow up with patients, etc.

One of my most heartfelt morals was difficult to flesh out satisfactorily, so to speak. I’m a vegetarian, quite against factory farming, so the meals feature casseroles, biscuits, cobblers, butterbeans, collard greens, pickles, etc. Reluctantly, I also include dishes like turtle soup and crabcakes, hoping to muster a traditional Southern table while not sending people salivating to their kitchens, inspired to throw on a pan of fried chicken. Jessie does eat barbeque in the first chapter, however, which helps set a Southern tone. Sigh… I tried, but I doubt that Silk helped my animal-rights mission one iota, except maybe through Caroline’s love for Julep.

I will say, however, that an overarching purpose/moral of the novel was to conjure up a fairly authentic Southern historic setting to help readers relate to Southerners a bit more. I’m thoroughly convinced that Southerners are one of the most maligned groups these days—so often parodied as ignorant, selfish, racist, bigoted, etc. Frankly, it’s now trendy to disparage Southerners, so I’m doing what I can with The Silk Trilogy to balk against that ugly bias.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One theme is dealing with women’s issues—how to exist as a woman in society, the joys and difficulties of motherhood and/or of having a career, clarifying and validating how difficult our choices can sometimes be.

Another theme is how extreme thoughts, fixations, and desperation can distort facts and lead to unspeakable acts, acts that perpetrators justify and too often entirely get away with.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Homespun, the last installment of the Silk Trilogy, is due to come out next St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2023. It centers on Caroline’s granddaughter, Ginny. Jessie’s still as deadly as ever, but her energies are channeled in a surprising new direction.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Headless dolls, horse races, and arson—the tools of passion.

It’s 1899, and Caroline Corbett is ready for the twentieth century. She’s excited to find work and meet new people—but gets more than expected when a rough-hewn Lowcountry farmer and a small-town doctor both engage her affections.

The broad-shouldered, genial farmer is clear about his desires, and he’s there for her. The doctor is sophisticated, educated, and obviously the right choice—but sees no reason to dwell on certain realities.

In trying to decide between them, Caroline fails to consider the girl Jessie. A young sociopath bent on her own way, Jessie Bell sees very good reasons to dredge up unpleasant realities—and to create new ones. Before long, this South Carolina landscape is riddled with the detritus of her intense jealousies, which have set astonishing and horrifying events into motion.

Innocence Derailed

Innocence Derailed, by Jane Catherine Rozek, is an inspirational book that turns the mundane events Kate experiences into a deep encounter each and every time. In today’s world, where everybody prefers the comfort and safety of one’s home, her story goes to show that there are people who opt to surround themselves with the outside world, specifically nature and all its beauty, and find out that there is a higher being within the smallest things one sees daily.

The author has written the book in a way that makes it feel personal even to its readers. The first pages makes the story seem like a romantic novel, but when the relationship ends, readers will see that there is more to this story than meets the eye. It motivates its audience to think about philosophical queries and reflect on their own answers. It also raises questions about rights, politics, and religion that are often silenced, not just during the 1970’s, but still today. Lastly and surprisingly, it also promotes the importance of taking breaks, may it be through the means of traveling, surrounding oneself with new people, or having a single day to yourself. You never know where your decisions will take you, and that is the fun of it all. In Kate’s case, her entire journey only brought her to a new one, only this time, she is now an enlightened woman; more prepared to take on what her next story holds.

Innocence Derailed is an emotionally-resonant coming of age novel that provides readers with a compelling exploration of a relatable and fascinating character. I would recommend this to young adults, because I personally share the struggle of not knowing where I am supposed to be in this age. The fact that the story is also based on true events will serve as a great inspiration for its readers, for it is a positive reminder that one’s path can progress with the will of God.

Pages: 315 | ASIN: B0B2D6KW88

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Miranda Writes

Miranda, who was an assistant state’s attorney, was assigned a case where a young girl was assaulted and raped. Determined to put the assailant behind bars even though the case was weak to begin with, Miranda does what she can to help this innocent girl. When the case falls apart, the defendant goes free, and Miranda is fired after it comes out that she was having a relationship with the lawyer who represented the defendant. Miranda makes an effort to move on and in doing so she creates a podcast called Miranda Writes. After three years a victim of the case Miranda was on comes forward to say that the defendant has struck again. Miranda must decide between going after the defendant or continuing on with her rise to success by taking an offer to host a daytime TV show.

Author Gail Ward has created a compelling legal thriller that is as bold as it is entertaining. The author writes sharp dialogue which feels authentic and pulls you into this emotionally invigorating crime thriller. The author paints realistic courtroom scenes; utilizing obvious experience with the subject matter to make the legal drama feel grounded even when the intrigue is high.

Miranda is a character I was immediately intrigued by and empathized with, which I think is why I clung so tightly to the book when the twists started coming. I enjoyed reading about Miranda’s character as she is tenacious, smart, and devoted to her clients. Readers are immediately immersed in the plot and the story takes off with only the occasional respite for some background information.

One thing that stood out to me the most with this book is how there is a balance of emotions in this book, making it way more accessible and entertaining then your average legal thriller where everyone is constantly brooding. The book has its sad moments, but there are also moments of levity where humor is used to great effect, and even made me laugh out loud a few times. The author takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster that winds through love, hate, fear of the unknown, and anxiety.

Miranda Writes, by Gail Ward Olmsted, has well developed characters and an engaging plot that will have you hooked as you are taken on this tense journey to put Chelsea and Becky’s rapist behind bars. For me, this is the year’s stand out legal thriller.

Pages: 239 | ASIN: B0B1G87C1Y

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The Book I Wanted to Read, But Couldn’t Find

Marcie Maxfield Author Interview

Em’s Awful Good Fortune follows a “tagalong wife” ex-pat who travels the world with her husband and is on a journey of self-discovery to find her own voice in the world. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Em’s Awful Good Fortune is the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find, when I was living overseas. Most expat books are travelogues that focus on cultural exchange, language mishaps and strange food. I’m more interested in women’s issues. Having been a “tagalong wife,” I was able to use the international lifestyle as a backdrop for a different kind of story—what happens in a modern marriage when dual careers collide? I’m particularly interested in the imbalance that still exists between men and women, where women tend to do more than their share of multi-tasking and compromise.

Was there anything from your own life that you put into the characters in your novel?

Em’s story is grounded in lived experience, which is why the book has such an authentic, raw feel to it. That said, the characters are composites and extremes through which I explored Em’s basic dilemma: how can she make her marriage work if her own life doesn’t work.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Having lived in China during a catastrophic air pollution event, I initially set out to write about the real cost of rapid growth and industrialization on personal health and safety. But then, Em had a lot to say about marriage and compromise. And when I peeled back the layers to Em’s character, the issue of PTSD kept coming up. ParisTokyoShanghaiDetroit. The lasting impact that sexual assault has on a woman’s ability to live her fullest life without fear.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on a narrative non-fiction called Jew Girl. It’s about half done and I’ve got a 2024 pub date, so I need to finish it!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Set against the backdrop of the expat lifestyle, Em’s Awful Good Fortune is about marriage—love and family, work and compromise, betrayal and heartbreak, resentment and resolution. Weaving back and forth in time and between cities and countries, Em’s booming voice—fierce, funny, and relatable—is the engine that drives this story. Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Detroit, Los Angeles and Seoul—Em stomps her way around the world on the personal journey to reimagine and reclaim her voice. True to life, this is a disorderly journey—one that ultimately leads to a new understanding of partnership and the complexity of relationships.

We’re Hesitant To Be Authentic

Kimberly Greer Author Interview

Masked Intent tells a romantic story that explores our relationship with the truth and how it motivates us. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As I was working on the novel and authenticity became an issue between the main characters, I saw a larger opportunity than what the traditional romance genre affords, a bigger story than boy meets, falls for, and gets the girl. I began to wonder what Truth – if personified – might think about alternative facts, their genesis, and their role in human interaction. Social media, reality TV, the world’s obsession with celebrity, and other artifacts of current society have fostered unrealistic standards of what beauty, success and happiness look like. They’ve obfuscated the truth. So, I imagined that my character and narrator Truth isn’t happy about that and wants to teach us a lesson of what happens when we stop listening to the still-small voice inside.

That’s when the “morality play” idea sprang to life. The Catholic church of the Middle Ages used morality plays to teach its Faithfull, most of whom were illiterate, about virtues. Similarly, Masked Intent uses the love story between the main characters as a convention–an allegory—to explore how, even in our most intimate moments, we’re hesitant to be authentic for fear of not measuring up.

Your characters are intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

My male lead, Mateo, is quick to pick up on this truth in his dealings with his love interest, Alexa, yet both are slow to admit to such tendencies within themselves. It will take time for them to admit and resolve these flaws, which is an ironic dance they do around each other. As a professional communicator, Alexa is quick to spot and call out disingenuity in others but slow to admit her own such transgressions. Similarly, Mateo, a psychologist and, therefore, student of human nature, willfully refuses to admit that he has yet to come to terms with a heartbreak from years past, a past he can shed only after he deals with it.

It’s also important to note that these aren’t young, inexperienced people. Alexa is 43; Mateo is 36. Although this fact is mentioned early on, their age difference isn’t discussed in great detail. We have a name for women who date younger men…but aside from her age, Alexa doesn’t fit that stereotype. This is intentional as was my decision about their ages. We tend to think that life ends after 40, that we know all we’re supposed to know or that we are no longer creative or vibrant enough to serve a useful purpose. My characters disprove those assumptions.

Each of my characters is named with deliberation, and there are important clues to each of their personalities therein. The name Alexa means “defender of mankind.” She tends to believe that she is. But, as the saying goes, you can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm, which is exactly what she does—ad nauseum—to her own detriment. Samson Stone, for whom Alexa works, is self-centered and ill-intended. The alliteration in his name suggests a slithering snake, which is fitting for this character.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted my characters to be likable and relatable, which means they must be inherently flawed. Each character in Masked Intent carries the scars of disappointment, struggle, and, in some cases, abuse. I wanted to play up their shortcomings as they follow their individual paths towards self-discovery.

With that in mind, I hope my readers will consider the cornerstones of this novel:

  • The biggest lies we tend to believe are the ones we tell ourselves.
  • Self-deception is an epidemic as many of us choose to focus on what our lives look like to others as opposed to whether they’re a reflection of all that is good within us.

More subtly, but no less important, a key takeaway from the novel should be that the ageist ideas society can tend espouse are based on the myth that requires us to accept as fact that success, happiness, love, and discovery are the stuff of our youth. To the contrary, learning and growing never stop, so we never stop being solid contributors to the world around us.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I currently am completing a “prequel” to Masked Intent called Intermezzo. Though it is very much intended to be the intermission between my first novel (hence its title) and the story’s conclusion in Intents + Purposes, I call it a prequel because it provides some context around when and how the main characters met. It also gives readers the origin stories for two of the supporting characters in Masked Intent: Becket Oliver and Phaedra Sheppard. I plan standalone novels for each of these characters once I’ve completed The Morality Plays Series.

Intermezzo will be available in July 2022. Look for Intents + Purposes in the late fall of this year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

There may be more than one mask.
From being denied by her birth parents to marrying the wrong man, Alexa Winston has learned to cope with disappointment and heartache by masking her true self from the world. Divorced and finally living on her own terms, she shrouds herself in half-truths and bravado, content to live her quiet, predictable life – until she finds the job and the man of her dreams. As she falls deeper into both, and into a world ruled by powerful players jockeying for influence and dominance at all costs, she’s forced to weigh her truths against reality. Trouble is, though she’s a master at detecting self-deception in others, she’s slow to recognize it in herself.

Masked Intent takes a taut, complex look at how we hide behind inauthenticity to guide us through interpersonal relationships. Through a series of detailed, interconnected storylines, the novel takes a timely look at our relationship with the truth and how it drives our actions and motivations. Where do you draw lines in a world where authenticity takes back seat to the power and seduction of influence?

Masked Intent is the first installment in The Morality Plays Series and ends in a cliffhanger. The story concludes in Intents + Purposes, which publishes in 2022.
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