My guest this week is author Stephanie Churchill




A few facts
 
Stephanie Churchill grew  up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and earned a degree in political science and history at a private college in the wilds of Iowa’s cornfields. 
After graduating, she worked at a small boutique law firm in Washington, D.C. in the fields of international trade and antitrust law. Marriage took the family to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked in another law firm until her daughter was born. From reading Stephanie's blog on Facebook, it is quite evident that her daughter is already a brilliant pianist. In which case, maybe a future with lots of travelling is waiting for Stephanie and her daughter. 


About writing

I never imagined being a writer. It was something that came so naturally to me that I took it for granted. It was the advent of social media and the ability to interact with people not geographically close to you that was the key for me. I was an early user of Facebook and had joined the Sharon Kay Penman Fan Club sometime thereafter. I was beyond thrilled when Sharon made appearances, talking to us “mere mortals” and seemingly enjoying herself. In 2011, she published the book Lionheart. Being the geeky fan girl that I was, I wrote a ridiculously long review of the book for her. She took notice, and we struck up a friendship. As a result of that book review, Sharon suggested I try writing myself. Because she was who she was, her suggestion carried more weight than nearly anyone else’s would have. She took up the mantle of mentor, editor, and friend, and in 2015 I published my first book, The Scribe’s Daughter.







Do you also write for magazines or write short stories?

For now, I have only written the three novels. I do intend to try my hand at a novella at some point, but that project is a bit down the road yet.


What genres are your novels?

Oh, genre… what a tricky little monster you are! 
The bookstore marketing genre is fantasy, though that beast has trailed me, breathing its hot breath down my neck the entire time. Really though, I find that most of my readers are more comfortable with the historical fiction genre, and I agree, since they contain no actual history. 
The second and third books in the series would fit fairly well in the romance genre as well.


What was the inspiration that led to your writing your first book?

I smile to think of it now, but I actually began The Scribe’s Daughter as an experiment in writing from a first person point of view. I had written another book but just didn’t love the voice. Thinking of the 1990 Disney movie Aladdin, I imagined the scene where Aladdin was running away from the guards in the city market after he’d stolen an apple. He sings the song “One Jump” and I imagined a similar scene involving a young woman instead. I started writing it without any particular direction in mind and instantly fell in love with Kassia as a character. I needed to know more about who she was and why she was going what she was doing.

Do you self-publish or use a publishing house?

Since Sharon Penman was a mentor and friend, she asked her own agent to take a read of my manuscript which she happily did. The book was not for her, so I sought other representation. Not surprisingly, the book didn’t find any takers because of its ambiguous genre and marketability. I ended up self-publishing. To be honest, I’m quite content now because I believe self-publishing is the best spot for me at this point in time. I’ve grown to love the autonomy of the publishing process as an indie even with the challenges it represents.


How long does it take you to write a book?

I write very, very part-time, and combined with the fact that I am a SLOW writer, it takes me a long time. My first three books took two years each from beginning to publication. If really pressed to it, I could probably knock 6 months off that total. But since I’m not under the pressure of a contract, I’ve never felt the need to rush.

And what about Writer's Block 

I’ve never really experienced debilitating writer’s block. But I do get into what I’ll call sticky spots when I’m just not clear about the next step for my characters. I always have a general story arc before beginning a book, so in the broad sense, I’ve never had a problem for the global story. It is difficult for me to come up with the minutia of the chapter events frequently. Most of these problems can be solved for me by taking a shower or coloring or doing anything that allows the “periphery of my brain” to work on it without thinking about the problem directly. When worst comes to worst, I simply skip that section and keep writing. When I begin editing, those problems usually work themselves out.

How many words does your book usually contain?

Fantasy readers generally expect around 100,000 words. All three of my novels have come in somewhere around 120,000 words.

Note: from Barbara: In which case 2 years isn't bad - in fact it's pretty quick. 

And to finish? This is what Stephanie says about history:

I love history, particularly the medieval era. While my books are not historical, there are quite a few historical reflections in the stories themselves. Let’s just say the House of York may have influenced several characters and plotlines and leave it to the reader to discover the specifics.

Note: Stephanie also created the covers for books 2 and 3.

The Scribe's Daughter 

Seventeen-year-old Kassia is an orphan and a thief. Armed with only reckless wit and sheer bravado, she barely scrapes out a life with her older sister in a back-alley of the market district of the Imperial city of Corium. When a stranger shows up at her market stall, offering her work for which she is utterly unqualified, Kassia cautiously takes him on. Very soon however, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving a usurped foreign throne and a vengeful nobleman. Most intriguing of all, she discovers clues to the disappearance of her father three years prior. When Kassia is forced to flee her home, suffering extreme hardship, danger and personal trauma along the way, she feels powerless to control what happens around her. Rewarding revelations concerning the mysteries of her family’s past are tempered by the reality of a future she doesn’t want. In the end, Kassia discovers an unyielding inner strength, and that contrary to her prior beliefs, she is not defined by external things -- she discovers that she is worthy to be loved.


Reviews:

"The Scribe’s Daughter is not an easy book to categorize.  It takes place in another world, but the reader will encounter no dragons or vampires.   Its major female character is in her teens, but her story will appeal to readers of all ages.   Kassia’s life could easily be rooted in the Middle Ages, but it isn’t.  It is simply a very well written book about a character that readers will care about, amused by her dry humor, admiring her courage, and wincing at her recklessness.”  -Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times best-selling author of Lionheart and A King’s Ransom

“An entertaining, page-turning read.  If I was an editor building a list of my own authors for a publishing house, I’d offer for this one for my fantasy list.” -Elizabeth Chadwick, The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion

“This book is hands down the best medieval fantasy novel I’ve read in years.” – Lauren Sapala


Are there any secrets in your novel that we can share?

Twists. Lots of twists. Just know that nothing is as it seems.

How can we buy your books?

The ebooks are sold exclusively with Amazon, but print copies can be purchased through most online retailers of books. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+Scribe's+Daughter+by+Stephanie+Churchill&i=stripbooks



My guest this week is Catherine Kullmann










Ireland has a great tradition of poets and authors, and Catherine Kullmann is ibkt the latest in a centuries' old line. Born in Dublin, after marrying she and her husband lived in Germany for 26 years before returning to Dublin, where, finally, she fulfilled her ambition to set pen to paper and write.



In the list of questions I sent to Catherine, I forgot to ask the most important. What led her to writing Regency Romances or to give them a very dull name: womens historical literature! The very sound,'womens historical literature' makes me shudder whereas Regency Romances presents a very different picture, of frippery and round bonnets, and love under the zealous eye of a governess and, of course, gorgeous heroes.

And, I promiuse you, Catherine doesn't disappoint.




Surprising she confesses to being a Pantzer rather than a plotter, saying that, she loves discovering her characters. "They reveal themselves as I write. There is nothing like the moment when a book takes flight, often taking me in an unexpected direction."

Four novels have so far tumbled from Catherine's pen, The Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy 



Here Catherine talks about Duke's Regret, the third in the Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy.

"Some characters slip into your books unplanned and unheralded only to play a pivotal role in the story. So it was with Flora, the young Duchess of Gracechurch in The Murmur of Masks. In 1815, when The Murmur of Masks ends, Flora and her husband, Jeffrey are in their thirties. Their relationship is distant and I began to wonder what her future life might be like, after her children had left home. Modern solutions of a friendly divorce or ‘conscious uncoupling’ were not possible at the time. Short of killing off Jeffrey, I could see no hope for Flora’s future happiness.

Then I found the miniature of an unknown regency gentleman that I used for the cover of The Duke’s Regret and began to wonder about Jeffrey’s story. Why had he neglected his young bride? What if, after all these years, he wanted to change their relationship? Would it be possible and could I make it plausible?


Yes, I do have a favourite: A Suggestion of Scandal. I admit to having a penchant for lonely governesses who win through against all the odds.






If you check into my podcast on Facebook, which airs on a Sunday at 6.30pm, I may well have time to read an excerpt from this novel. 


As to the future?

The Potential for Love will be published in 2021. For Catherine's legion of fans I know they will be waiting with bated breath.


Where can people go to read your work?

EBooks can be ordered on Amazon, as can paperbacks. Paperbacks can also be ordered in every bookshop. My books are also available free to members of Kindle Unlimited.


Where can people find you on the internet?
I am on Facebook as @catherinekullmannauthor
I tweet as @ckullmannauthor


Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Just to say thank you for your interest in my books, and a special thank you to those who have taken the time to rate and/or review them.

My guest this week is Sonja Price





Life for authors is all about two things. Books and opportunities. I feel sure if a psychiatrist was able to peer inside our heads, they would find its various sections teetering lopsidedly in favour of creativity - in other words the creation of pictures solely with the aid of words and sentences. The other bits, family, friends, ordinary everyday existence, they are still there, but if one is written in uppercase, the other is definitely lower case.

And opportunities? That is being in the right place at the right time. This is what Sonja Price, my guest this week, says about that very subject:


I was sitting next to an artist at a Thanksgiving meal hosted by an American friend when she asked me what I did. After I told her I wrote but hadn’t ever shown anyone my work, she asked me why on Earth not? So I sent the rough draft of Giants to the Mslexia First Novel Competition and was thrilled when it got long-listed. As I lived in Germany at the time the online Wordcloud Writing Community was very supportive and I also attended three Arvon workshops sponsored by the British Arts Council. Before my novel was published I entered a few short story competitions which resulted in my stories appearing in a handful of anthologies. This was encouraging but I always felt more drawn towards novel writing.After being accepted on the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I signed with my agent Jane Conway-Gordon who then sold it to Robert Hale.

I have known Sonja a while - I was part of Stella Scribes, a quintet of writers who trotted round Somerset offering aspiring authors advice about books. Sadly, with a very different literary background from the rest of the team, my departure was swift. Now a trio, comprising Nikki Copleston, Jan Ellis and Sonja Price, even though I no longer take part I am always interested in hearing about their writing workshops - I might even go back to school myself one day.



A second-time-around mum, with a step-son, husband and dog, Sonja also has a career, teaching English at a univeristy in Germany. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, her short stories have appeared in Stories For Homes, the Shelter Anthology of Short Stories and In these Tangles, Beauty Lies, an anthology in aid of the Beanstalk Trust for children with reading difficulties. Her debut novel The Giants Look Down, made her a finalist for the Joan Hessayon Award. At present she is working on Black Snake, a novel about a widow’s quest to solve the mystery surrounding her husband’s death out in the Canadian Wilds. 
The Giants Look Down, Synopsis


At the age of ten, Jaya Vaidya decides she wants to follow in the footsteps of her beloved father and become a doctor, much to the chagrin of her traditional mother and the patriarchal community she lives in. It is the late 1960s and the family enjoys a rather idyllic life in the Vale of Kashmir, despite the area being riddled with conflict and poverty. After a devastating earthquake wipes out her entire family, Jaya is in the care of relatives in Delhi, who attempt to marry her off and keep the possibility that her youngest brother, Tahir, has survived the earthquake from her. After escaping her arranged marriage thanks to her father’s generous friends, Jaya is put through school and medical training in Scotland as she always dreamed of. But as she negotiates a different culture to her own, where women are allowed opportunities, she also negotiates the realms of her own heart as she develops feelings for her foster family’s older son, Alastair, who happens to be engaged to someone else. In the meantime, her brother Tahir has been abducted by Kashmiri freedom fighters, who have made him one of their own. Will Jaya return to her troubled homeland to find him and make peace with the loss of her family? And will her love for Alastair ever be returned?


Recently, Sonja gave a talk at Wells about describing places in books you haven't visited. All writers are guilty of that transgression from time to time, if indeed it can be called a transgression. Sometimes, it is a case of simple common sense because outside in the big wide world, there are always those waiting to pounce and tell you, triumphantly, you are wrong. (Aficionados of Harry Potter comb the films for errors). Fortunately with pure fiction, they can't do that.


Q&A: Have you ever visited Kashmir?

I love to write about places I have never been to. I find it wonderful to go there in my imagination from the comfort of my desk. Of course, I want to go to Kashmir but I just haven’t found the time of the money yet. However, if you’re writing about foreign cultures you can put your foot in it, but everyone praised the book as being terribly authentic including my agent who has lived in India. One Indian political journalist was very critical about how I could set my book in a place I had never been and also do justice to the conflict there. I took his questions very seriously and he then printed an interview with me under the headlines:  Writers Go Where Their Imagination Takes Them  (see attachment). My next book Black Snake takes place in the Canadian Wilds where you’ve guessed it, I’ve also never been!


What was the inspiration that led to your writing your first book?

I was listening to a report on the terrible Great Earthquake that hit Kashmir in 2005. Despite the tragedy, the description of the Vale of Kashmir, surrounded by some of the tallest mountains on Earth and boasting a string of lakes among emerald green valleys and fields of saffron ignited something in me.  Apart from the natural tragedies, this paradise is dogged by political conflict, military and religious conflict.  I thought there must be a story in there somewhere. . . 


How long does it take you to write a book?
Much too long. Years. But I simply cannot take a shortcut and admire all authors who turn out book upon book in less than a year.


Who designs your covers?


The publisher designed the cover of Giants. I had no say whatsoever in it but they must have read my mind because it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. There are mountains in the background because Giants refers to the Himalayas. I was lucky I was because sometimes you can be stuck with a hideous cover for your much-loved baby.

Did you give up the day job to be able to write?


I work parttime now so I can be more at home and write. Otherwise, I  would have to live in Germany and it’s very important for me to be immersed in English and able to mix with other authors like you, Barbara!


What is the single most important event in your life – so far?
Well, apart from the birth of my children and being the first to go to university in the family, getting my first novel published has meant an awful lot to me. It’s as if I’ve finally found what I really want to do in life. But who knows what else is in store for me? Life is so unpredictable.



Are there any secrets in your novel that we can share?

I guess I can tell you that it has a happy ending.

Where can we buy your books?



Reviews
 

5* 11 February 2018
One sign of a good book is when you don’t want it to end. “The Giants Look Down” captivated me from the first pages. Having trekked in the Himalayas myself, the vivid descriptions of the ‘snowy summits meditating in the early morning sun’, ‘the lake slumbering peacefully under its blanket of mist…’ ‘…in the valley of the gods’ brought memories flooding back. The author’s pictures of grimy, claustrophobic Delhi also struck a chord and I was amazed to learn that Ms Price has never visited these places, because the scenes were so real. It proves that a lot of research doesn’t have to pull narrative out of shape. This book is so much more than a romance. The effect of political and religious divide on communities is portrayed through the heroine’s brother, Tahir, in his involvement with insurgents and through scenes of rioting and extremism threaded through the story. After a devastating earthquake, the lives of both siblings change exponentially. Cultural differences between Britain and its former colony are inevitably explored – impossible to ignore in writing about India. Our heroine, Jaya Vaidya, narrowly escapes an arranged marriage and a thwarted career until she is rescued by the kindly Scottish family who had earlier helped her own father train for medicine. At the end of the book, a tragic situation causes Jaya to ask ‘what was the point of me being here? ...There was no sense, not a single morsel of good in the whole affair.’ Nevertheless, the reader is left with the feeling that these two disparate worlds can survive together with good will and the story ends on a positive note. I’m looking forward to reading Sonja Price’s next novel.

5* Amazon

A cracking read. Well written by an accomplished story teller. Highly recommended. Looking forward to reading other works by this author