Author Interview with Laura Bendoly

My writer’s group is full of amazing people full of clever words and heart-wrenching plots. Today, I want to share my interview with fellow Columbus young adult writer (contemporary, not historical), Laura M. Bendoly.

Read to the end to find out the winners of THE LAST APRIL from the April Showers blog hop and Goodreads Giveaway.

What should readers know about your writing style?

I’d say my work is character driven. I begin most stories from the point of view character and start to imagine how she would observe the world. What her vocabulary is like, who she’s interested in, who she is nervous around, what she eats, when she goes to sleep, how she prepares breakfast. Once there, the style evolves to suit that character. Sometimes it’s slap-dash informal, all unfinished sentences and a lot of slang. Other characters urge me to write much more formally, and I always put humor in the voice of a secondary character.

There is usually a mystery to solve, either as primary plot or secondary, and also some degree of magic. I use magicians, alchemists, dragons, healers, mermaids, angels, prophets, and saints as vehicles of extraordinary action. These aren’t typically the primary event in the story, because the climax needs to be human in scope and reasonable in its resolution. But there’s a fair degree of the supernatural in a secondary character who helps out.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Huh — when I find the book that stole my plot/character/awesome ending. Hate that. Of course it happens to every writer. But whey does it have to happen to me?

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Reader’s block, never. Writer’s block, all the time. I don’t stop writing, I just tend to get blocked in that I write in circles. I sometimes repeat the same scene again and again and don’t realize it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Find a secondary art form you love as much as writing. That keyboard will make you a crazy person who no one wants to be around. (I found photography!!)

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have researched Russian art, folklore and mythology, Scottish/English and Irish fairy tales, I’ve gone to grave sites and holy stones, I’ve traveled to many libraries and bought a lot of expensive books, I’ve read a lot in French. I researched Laerka at least four years before it went to press. It will be more like five years’ research with my WIP. It’s not for everyone but I really want to know my subject.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I base them on the culture I’m writing about (Russian, Irish, French, etc), I try to make the name sound like something that character does. For example, my current work has the protagonist Irene. She is quite like a nature goddess, or nature queen. Queen in French is “reine.” Sounds like the ending of “Irene.” Aslo, Irene sounds like “serene,” which my character is. See how it goes?

What is your favorite childhood book?

I loved and still adore The Little Prince. One of the best fairy tales for all ages. Breaks my heart every time I read it. Also The Giving Tree. Tears are starting to come right now.

How long does it take you to write a book?

A first draft can be as fast as four months, but the whole finished, edited version, at least two years. I rewrite most pages three times.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe in writer’s boredom. Everyone gets bored in their own head. You need fresh ideas and clean space. It’s good to vary your writing location.

Tell us about your latest release!

Laerka is Southern Gothic tale of rescue involving a group of teenagers and a Russian crime ring that sells girls to night clubs in Savannah, Georgia. One particular victim, Laerka, is a Danish girl who transforms into a mermaid when in water.

The Russian crime boss who masterminds the trafficking changes into a “Vodyanoy” dragon when he hunts girls for the illegal skin trade. Savannah native sixteen-year-old Stella Delaney finds Vodyanoy’s first victim floating face down in the marsh.

Can she save Learka from this fate? Is she in danger, herself? Could Laerka be a crook herself? She and the traffickers share the same prison tattoo so who in this forbidding landscape can be trusted?

Purchase your copy today.

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your answers with us! I’ll be sharing my answers to these questions next month!

Interviewing Linda McCabe

Dear Reader,

Today I’m interviewing Linda C McCabe, author of Quest of the Warrior Maid. As a bit of housekeeping, don’t forget that I have a giveaway from December 2 – 6 where Haunting Miss Trentwood is 50% off! All right, onto the interview…

 1. Learn more about Linda…

I have been a bookworm since I was a small child. I obsess over small details in drama and I hate continuity errors.  If I spot an historical anachronism I want the author to mention it in an endnote so I understand this was a conscious choice for dramatic purposes and not due to ignorance or laziness.  I am one of those information crazed addicts who reads footnotes, endnotes and listen to the director commentaries on DVDs to get the behind-the-scenes information I wouldn’t know otherwise.

Yup, I am a nerd and proud of it.

My debut novel Quest of the Warrior Maid is due to my involvement with the online debates in the Harry Potter fandom.  No really.  I spent far too much time and energy engaged in online debates about where the series was headed during the time before and after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published.  There were wildly inventive theories spun about possible plot twists and underlying meanings buried in the text.  Some fandomers argued that hippogriffs were a symbol of love and that Harry and Hermione riding on the back of a hippogriff indicated a later romantic relationship between the two characters.  In following that lead, I read the epic poem Orlando furioso since it was the first time in literature a hippogriff was used as a character.

While reading Orlando furioso, I discovered an amazing love story between the kick-ass heroine Bradamante and the virtuous warrior Ruggiero.  I felt that this literary couple deserved to be as well known as Tristan and Isolde or Arthur and Guinevere.  Later I disengaged from the HP fandom and set about adapting this classic work for modern audiences.  That was the genesis for Quest of the Warrior Maid.

 2. How do you transform your passion into focused research?

After deciding to adapt these poems, I sat down and looked carefully at the source material to decide what to keep and what to ruthlessly prune. I began studying maps of France to determine where the events took place.  That was when I discovered how terrible the poets were with geography. I had to give myself the freedom to alter the settings to fit my dramatic necessities and forgo strict adherence or fidelity to what Boiardo and Ariosto wrote.

Once I had a broad understanding of where I was going with my story, I knew the questions I had about this time period and what I needed to learn.  I began reading extensively on the Middle Ages checking out over a dozen books from the library at a time. The books that were extraordinarily helpful, I purchased for my personal bookshelf so I can use them as a handy reference tool.

Documentaries are also a good source of information as well.  Travel DVDs and travel guides often give historical summaries of towns and regions. To further my research, I traveled to France in 2007 to see the settings of my story and discovered real life magic in the Midi Pyrenees region. I scoured many museums while on my trip and saw artifacts with my own eyes and was open to discovery of items I had not read or heard about before. My novel became infused with detail that I could only learn from being there in person.

 3.  How do you transform your research into an entertaining narrative?

I avoid data dumps as much as possible. I recognize early drafts will be rife with clunky dialogue and paragraphs of detail that will cause pacing to come to a grinding halt.  It is important that I allow myself to turn off my inner editor, and get my story down in tangible form so that a first draft is created.

Once the editing phase begins, I edit for pacing and readability.  I think it is important to add historical detail on the fly as much as possible.  This is similar to revealing character by demonstrating through action or dialogue and not in boring narrative summary paragraphs.

I also balance adherence to historical accuracy with its impact on the drama of the storyline.  If those two principles came into conflict, I will side with drama every time.  I have extensive author’s notes explaining my historical anachronisms and my rationale for them. I would rather entertain someone with a story including some historical inaccuracies over boring someone with a lame dramatic structure but containing historically correct details.  After all, my story features a holy war that never occurred, starring fictional characters who never lived, and includes magic that doesn’t exist.  My goal is to retell these classic legends for a new generation, hope they are entertained and may be inspired to learn more about Charlemagne, the Medieval period as well as Renaissance Italy, the famed poets and the classic poems.

4. How do you sneak underlying messages into your narrative?

I smuggle deeper meaning by using symbolism and archetypes.

I admire the writing of Katherine Neville in her novel The Eight and the symbolism she used throughout.  I also adore the symbolism used in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  The more I scratched the surface of either author’s work, the more I understood the underlying meaning of their narrative.

I deliberately include hidden meaning by the naming of characters.  One character is the hermit who treated Bradamante’s wounds.  He appeared in the original poem, but was unnamed.  In researching online I found a treasure trove online of over 500 names of hermit saints and their mini-biographies.  I discovered Saint Namphaise, who according to legend was a soldier of Charlemagne. I hope to rescue this saint from obscurity with my story.

I want to extend an offer to join your readers who are in book clubs to join their discussions either by speakerphone or Skype.  My website is www.LindaCMcCabe.com where you can find my copious author endnotes, a sample set of reader questions, and more information about the legends of Charlemagne.  You can also visit my blog at lcmccabe.blogspot.com to see pictures from my trips to France and a recent trip to Italy.

Quest of the Warrior Maid is available as a trade paperback and an ebook on many online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Sony. It is globally distributed, so those outside the U.S. should be able to get an electronic or physical copy.

In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

Fun Times at the Ohioana Book Festival

Dear Reader,

This past Saturday was all kinds of awesome. Not only was it Free Comic Day, but it was the Ohioana Book Festival here in Columbus. If there is one thing you get out of this post, it is this: Belinda got to spend an entire day being a nerd about local books and book shops.

I won’t go into much detail about Free Comic Day because I can’t tie it to historical fiction or romance very well. Suffice it to say I got six free comic books from The Laughing Ogre in the Clintonville area of Columbus, and bought a compilation Sinfest book because, damn, I got six free comic books.

Anyone who tells you free doesn’t work is a liar. Get enough free things quickly enough, and you might feel guilty enough to spring for something more expensive than you would have otherwise bought.

It was my first time at the Ohioana Book Festival, and I was appalled until I realized that the festival was only in its third year. I was in grad school in another state the last two years, so no wonder I hadn’t heard of the festival. It was located on the lovely campus of Fort Hayes, and the history of that campus would be worth a blog post by itself.

In brief, Fort Hayes was the first federal arsenal in Columbus, commissioned during the first year of the Civil War in order to provide arms for the men called to duty. The first building was completed in 1864 and was called the “shot” building because that’s where they made shot for the guns. This is totally fitting, right, because I’m working on a Civil War book, and it’s the 150th anniversary of the war. Believe me, I was geeking out.

Today, the buildings that are not boarded up or falling apart on the campus are used for an alternative high school which emphasizes the arts and preparing for professional life. And events like the Ohioana Book Festival (OBF).

The OBF caters to Ohio authors and authors who write about Ohio. An author is considered an Ohioan if they have lived in the state for five years at some point in their life, which I find a little sketchy. One author hadn’t lived in Ohio for thirty-seven years! But who am I to judge. The festival didn’t accept self-published authors, so even if I had known about the festival in time, they wouldn’t have accepted me. Oh well. One can hope. I own my publishing company, have an editor, etc. One of these days, I will be at that festival. So say I.

Anyway, I got to meet Sean McCartney in person, who you might remember I spotlighted this past winter. He was doing a great job! There were ninety-nine other authors he competed against, and he had sold eleven books by the time I got there in the early afternoon. He writes adventure fiction along the lines of Indiana Jones, so if you have a kid in your life who thinks they don’t like to read, try giving them one of his books.

I got to meet three historical fiction authors, two of which were on a guest panel about writing the genre. I was happy to meet Carrie Bebris, who writes the Mr and Mrs Darcy mysteries. Yes, you are guessing correctly: she writes Regency mysteries using the hero and heroine from Pride and Prejudice as her protagonists. Sounds like an absolute blast, right?? The author herself was soft-spoken and had a kind face, and was appreciative when I said I’d like to highlight her in my blog. You should check her out.

Lisa Klein and Karen Harper were the guests on the historical fiction panel, and it was fascinating to watch them interact with each other.

Klein writes young adult historical fiction, something along the lines of Ann Rinaldi, I imagine. Which means I will most likely be picking up one of her books to review because I devoured every Rinaldi book I could when I was younger. In fact, Rinaldi’s method of providing author notes and bibliographies at the back of her books is what inspired me to believe I could write historical fiction in the first place. Klein just released a Civil War book about two young women living in the Gettysburg area during the Civil War.

Harper writes historical fiction for adults; she likened it to women’s fiction but set in the past. Unlike Klein, who stays true to the historical record but whose protagonists are creations of her imagination, Harper only writes about people who actually existed. Think Susan Holloway Scott.

Both authors seem fascinated by the Tudor era, but also branch into other eras. Harper is currently writing an Amish series and released a book last year called Mistress Shakespeare, a tale about the woman Shakespeare was engaged to before he was forced to wed pregnant Anne Hathaway.

The really interesting thing about these authors is that they are both teachers. Harper taught Elizabethan history and Klein was a literature professor. In fact, Klein said she didn’t like history in school! It wasn’t until a history teacher in college had the class read a novel that represented each era they studied that she saw how fascinating the past is. Harper mentioned that because she writes about real people, she often gets letters from readers who point out her mistakes… something Klein hadn’t experienced. I suspect this might be because Klein writes for young adults, and they probably just don’t know enough to question her.

This post is getting super long, so I’ll stop here, but I urge you to check out the authors and books I highlighted from the festival. It was a great event that left me supercharged to write a thousand words that night. Definitely see if you have a local or state book festival. You’ll get to meet authors, check out their latest books, and basically nerd out for free.

And if you’re lucky, you might get to meet Amelia Bedelia, like me. Cross your fingers.

Best,

Belinda

 

 

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop. I’m keeping up with my goals. Are you?

Guest Post and Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’m doing my best to catch up with everything after my conference last week, and feel like I’m failing miserably. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer my tardiness! Check out my guest post at Word Nerd and leave a comment there to win a signed print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood plus the coffin-shaped soap that goes with it!

Best,

Belinda

Dreaming of Books Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’ve been selected as January’s “Author of the Month” over at A Buckeye Girl Reads. Make sure to check out the interview and leave some love. 🙂 I like that idea, highlighting local authors (I’m on Ohio). Maybe I’ll do something similar, but with indie authors…

Now then. It’s a new month, which means we have a new giveaway! All you have to do is agree to sign up for my newsletter and agree to write a review for my upcoming book of short stories, Love or Lack Thereof. At the end of the giveaway, you will receive a 100%-off discount code to “buy” Love or Lack Thereof.

I am trying to get more reviews on Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com. Goodreads.com is always appreciated. I’ll send you the information through the newsletter when we get closer to the release date, which looks like it will be March.

Pretty simple, right? Happy new year!

Best,
Belinda

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=56855

Interviewing Sean Paul McCartney

Dear Reader,

I’m so excited to introduce a fellow Ohioan author to you! His name is Sean Paul McCartney, and while he says he isn’t related to the Beatle, I like to pretend that he is. His first book in the series The Treasure Hunters Club is called “Secrets of the Magical Medallions,” and introduces the four teens Tommy Reed, Jackson Miller, Shannon McDougal and Chris Henderson. The series is a cross between The Hardy Boys and Indiana Jones,with a touch of National Treasure.

I’m sure you know the drill with my interviews by now, so let’s get started!

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

First I want to thank you so much for having me.

I wanted to write a series that would appeal to even he most reluctant reader. So I looked at stories I liked growing up and decided I would take the mystery of the Hardy Boys and tie that in with the action and adventure of Indiana Jones and National Treasure and The Treasure Hunters Club: Secrets of the Magical Medallions was born.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

Actually the characters drive the research. The Treasure Hunters Club is always looking and researching lost treasures. It also helps that they have a guide in the form of famous treasure hunter “Diamond” Jack Reed, but really it is Tommy, Jackson, Chris and Shannon’s overall curiosity that keeps the story going.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

I teach history so I try and sneak the facts of history in my story like Michael Crichton or Dan Brown. The key for me is to teach the readers without them knowing they are being taught. That is why in the first Treasure Hunters Club novel I go to great extremes to show how research is done and what goes into it. The club uses the library and books as well as the computer. I want the readers to see that answers are not always in front of them and they have to really look to find it.

My books are meant to give kids a fun and exciting ride and allow them to imagine they are part of the club on the adventure.

Thanks Sean for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’re excited to learn more, contact Sean at seancoach AT juno DOT com.

Interested in being interviewed?

I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!