Friday, June 26, 2009

The Lady and The Poet

The story Of John Donne and Ann More by Maeve Haran

From the moment I opened the first page and read how Ann castigated her sister Bett for the disruption she had been put to in order to sweeten the house in preparation for Bett’s forthcoming wedding, I knew I was going to enjoy this book.

Ann More is the fourth of five daughters whose mother died when she was still a child. The More girls have been brought up at the manor of Loseley, near Guildford in Surrey, by their grandparents, Sir William and the Lady Margaret More. Their brother, Robert, lives with his pompous father and shrewish step-mother, Constance nearby.

Ann is fourteen when the story opens, and she asks God if her fate is to be the same as her sister’s who have been married to debtors and dolts by their father. She longs for more, possibly even a meeting of minds in a husband in late Elizabethan England, a time and place when women were property for their fathers to barter with into marriages to forge family alliances.

Ann doubts her courage in standing up for what she wants, but you know she is certainly going to give it all she has. Her wilfulness and intelligence are seen as barriers to her marriageability and her grandparents forbid her to study after three in the afternoon in case she becomes ‘too clever to be a wife’ when chastity, silence and obedience are what is asked for in a woman.

After Bett’s wedding, Ann hears that her father is planning on a marriage for her, but that in the meantime she is to be sent to London to learn to be a court lady in the dying years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This must surely be a good thing, for Ann reads Ovid, and doesn’t the Virgin Queen do likewise?

She goes to live with her aunt and uncle, who is the Lord keeper of the Privy Seal at York House on The Strand. However, much to her aunt's agner, Ann rejects the suggestion she become a lady in waiting to the ageing Queen whose displays her jealousy of all younger women with staggering cruelly.

Despite that the man Sir George chooses for Ann, Mr Richard Manners is not unlikeable and seems bonded to Ann already, she has no wish to become betrothed to him. When her Aunt Elizabeth is ill with smallpox, Ann elects to stay and help nurse her. During these days when her movements are less restricted, she and John Donne meet in secret. Their love is strong, although at this stage still pure, but Sir George More, her father is incandescent with rage that a nobody like Donne should look at his daughter.

This story has all the elements of a doomed love, and with the might of Ann’s family ranged against her in her father and sisters, you wonder how this couple will ever be together. Ms Haran portrays the atmosphere and detailed elements of Elizabethan life wonderfully well with this book, reiterating the fact no one in Elizabethan England rose to any position without friends in high places, and could equally be brought down by those friends as well.

I am sure readers will suffer along with Ann as she is taken from her love and virtually incarcerated back at Loseley to be betrothed to Mr Manners. The fact this is a true story makes it all the more poignant as they are forced to enter into a secret marriage which spells the near ruin of both Ann and her intellectually superior husband.

John Donne, who went on to become Dean of St Pauls under the auspices of James I, summed up his personal situation in what, I hope, wasn’t a regretful phrase: "John Donne, Ann Donne, Undone."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chapter One - The Confession of Piers Gaveston

The Beginning: The Burning

In every candle flame, in every torch, camp and bon fire, I see her face. Every time I stretch out my hands to the hearth’s welcoming warmth, I see her writhing in agony amongst the flames: blackened, burnt, and bald, her beautiful long black hair all gone, eaten up by the hungry flames. And I hear the rattle of the heavy chains binding her firmly against the stake.

Her eyes alone—so deep a brown they appear black, just like mine—remain the same, human still, amidst the ruins of a beauty the flames would render monstrous. The fire, and those who condemned her to this fate, have stripped her of everything else—her dignity, her liberty, her property, her life. They have also deprived two young children—a boy of seven and a newborn girl—of their mother. But “Justice must be done,” “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live,” her judges sanctimoniously declare.

Though twenty years have come and gone, her eyes haunt me still. Awake or dreaming, I see them, pain-filled and beseeching, rimmed in red and overflowing with tears, as they turn to me, silently conveying a message heart-heavy with a mother’s love and regret that she will not be there to care for me and see me to manhood grown.

I hold her gaze, and it is as if we two are alone, and my ears are deaf and my eyes blind to the boorish Gascon peasants and French soldiers that surround us. Even though my nursemaid, Agnes, is there, her hand upon my shoulder, I neither hear nor heed her tearful, urgent pleas that we leave this accursed place. In this moment only my mother and I exist, everything else is as nothing, and time has stopped.

Even should I be cursed with eternal life, forgetfulness would never find me. The memory is seared into my mind just as surely as if it had been branded there. Indeed, my body is branded. I carry the mark of that day upon my hands in the form of scars from when I, a foolish and hysterical child, tried to pull her from the flames.

Even now I am haunted by the laughter of those who watched as I yelped and leapt back, reeling, nearly fainting from the blistering intensity of the pain radiating from my palms. I hated myself then; defeated by the least little lick of the flames, when she stood powerless and trapped within their midst. And, most of all, I hated them—that merry, mocking crowd, cavorting round the bonfire like May Day revelers while my mother burned!

How many of them had come to her for healing herbs, salves, and specially brewed teas to help ease their aches and pains, to have their wounds dressed, their bones set, and their children brought into the world? How many of them had found their way, in tears and dire need, to our door? My mother, Claremunda of Marcia, was as kind and wise as she was beautiful, and her heart and door were always open to those in need; no one was ever turned away. And now they dubbed her “Satan’s handmaiden” and cast her into “the purifying power of flame!” Hypocrites! My heart screamed.

Nowadays those who gaze upon my hands say the scars are the Devil’s Mark, left upon my flesh when Satan’s crimson-eyed night-black hellhounds reared their ugly heads to lick Piers Gaveston’s hands the night he swore his allegiance to the Dark Lord. I make no attempt to hide them. I wear gloves only in winter and when I ride. All other times, I flaunt them, decking them with a glittering array of rings, especially rubies which I adore above all gems. Even though they ceased to pain me long ago, Edward, His Most Christian Majesty King Edward II by the Grace of God, (or Nedikins as he prefers me to call him in our most intimate moments), covers them with kisses and soothing lotions as if they still festered and throbbed. But the truth is, no lotion, no matter how cool or sweet smelling, can soothe away the pain of seeing the person you love best in the world being burned alive before your very eyes while you stand by, small, helpless, and alone, surrounded by those who do naught but laugh and cheer.

No sooner had I leapt back from the fire’s agonizing kiss than I was swept up, high into the air, by the village priest. “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live!” his voice thundered as he held me above the dancing flames and I felt the soles of my red leather shoes scorch. Choking and nauseous from the scent of smoke, and her dear burning flesh, he drew me back, and a tearful sigh escaped me, for I had grown so slick with sweat I feared I would slip from his grasp and fall straight into the flames. He turned me round to face him and I remember thinking what a crime it was to entrust a man with such soulless eyes with the salvation of men’s souls. “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live!” he repeated, shaking me hard. “Remember that, Piers Gaveston, witch’s brat!” With that he cast me aside, flinging me from him as if I were some stinking bit of offal that offended his nose and eyes. I struck the ground so hard that my shoulder was jarred from its socket and the breath knocked from my lungs.

Before I could regain my breath or wits and summon strength enough to scream the curses that raged within my heart, Agnes snatched me up and fled as fast as her legs could carry her. From over her shoulder I had my last glimpse of my mother. The chains had stopped rattling. She was still now; her head sagged forward, like a flower grown too heavy for its stem.

This is how my story begins. Of course I was born like everyone else, but it was the day my mother died that changed forever the course of my life; a life, like hers, that is also likely to end in murder.

Thus here I sit in gloomy, windswept Scarborough Castle, perched high upon the cliffs above a raging sea, awaiting Edward’s return with reinforcements—by which I mean a miracle—while Pembroke’s army bays for my blood. Or is that but a delusion wrought by the crashing waves and the wind whistling through the cold stone walls?

Our provisions, like our numbers, are few; few would rally to the cause of the most hated man in England. And with every day that passes that number shrinks as yet more of my supporters slink away into the night.

The time to surrender draws nigh. I will not see this siege drawn out until all are skeletons and starving. But not yet, not while a slender hope remains that Edward may return in time, even though that hope has no more substance than a cobweb, I will cling to it for just a little while longer. Soon, I will do what needs to be done, soon; but not yet. For now I shall while away the anxious hours with this little book Edward gave me.

The covers are gold, embossed with vibrant emeralds and peerless pearls, but the pages are blank, a clean creamy field of vellum that awaits my words. When he gave it to me, Edward said that the words I would fill it with would far eclipse the value of the gems outside, though I daresay he intended that I should immortalize our love in poetry or pen laments to dying swans.

Poor Nedikins, I fear the value he places upon both me and my words will plummet when he reads this; if he reads this. Whether this book will ever reach him, I do not know. But, if it does, and should it survive that encounter, it will be in a very battered state. You see, I know Edward very well. For twelve years I have been the center of his world. Verily, I can see him now as he reads the revelations I shall soon set down. Pearls and emeralds will fly as he bashes this book against the wall, or flings it onto the floor and leaps and stomps upon it, screaming: “How could you do this to me?” Like as not, he will end by throwing it in the fire then burn his fingers snatching it out again. He may even set his tunic afire beating out the flames. But be that as it may, I am determined to set down the truth about my life since no one else can do it for me. Edward is blinded by desire, to him I am perfection. His behavior does naught to belie the rumors that I have bewitched him. In England they say there are two kings: Edward who reigns and Gaveston who rules. And to my child bride Meg. so sweet and trusting, I have been too much a stranger. Agnes and Dragon, who know all, can neither read nor write. Others know fragments of the story, but not the whole, and by everyone else I am despised.

Mayhap even now, when I have only just begun, it is already too late to set the story straight. My infamy, I fear, is too well entrenched. Whenever they tell the story of Edward’s reign I will always be the villain and Edward, the poor, weak-willed, pliant king who fell under my spell, the golden victim of a dark enchantment. There are two sides to every coin, but when the bards and chroniclers, the men who write the histories, tell this story will anyone remember that?

People say so many things: facts, falsehoods, and fanciful marriages betwixt the two, but nothing is ever exactly as it seems. Whatever I am—good or bad; wrong or wronged; guilty or not—please do not condemn me unheard. As the end of my life draws nigh, please allow me to have my say; withhold your judgment for just a little while…

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with Brandy Purdy

1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?
Thank you, I’m glad to have this opportunity. THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON is the story of Edward II’s notorious favourite, told in Gaveston’s own words as his life is about to come to an end. But Gaveston is an unreliable narrator, one is never quite sure if he is telling the whole truth, some, or none of it, or if he is trying to show himself in the most favourable light or garner sympathy; so one has to take it all with a grain of salt, maybe even a whole shaker of salt. And, one also has to remember, the way the various characters are depicted is how Gaveston is seeing them at that particular time in his life—a life that is about to end in murder—so some measure of bitterness and resentment can be expected to cast a shadow.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

Thank you. The use of the word “confession” in the title comes from the religious atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and also, it’s a bit of a play on words given that there have always been persistent rumours of witchcraft associated with Gaveston, and in my novel witchcraft is indeed his religion; he only pays lip service to Christianity, so one has to wonder how seriously he would take the idea of Confession; in other words: how sincere and sacred is this, his final, confession?

As for the way I came to write it, the book wasn’t born out of a burning ambition to be a writer or anything like that. It just sort of happened. Ever since I first learned to read I’ve always been a voracious reader, books are my consolation, they have always been the only constant in my life, so when I can’t read, when there is some situation or emotional disturbance that robs me of the desire or attacks and disables my concentration, then I KNOW I’m in trouble. Such was the case a few years ago when my mother died. I kept trying to read but I just couldn’t focus, I would read the same sentence over and over again, but I couldn’t take it in. I kept trying different books, trying to find something my mind could latch onto and digest. Finally I picked up a book about royal scandals, it was written in a lively, sort of gossipy tone, a factual but not a scholarly work. I started at the beginning but I couldn’t manage it, I was so frustrated I felt like throwing the book at the wall. I decided to try one more time before I gave up and opened it at random. The page I turned to was the first page of the chapter on Edward II and Piers Gaveston.

I had no familiarity with the story at all, if I had ever even heard of Piers Gaveston before it wasn’t enough to make an impression on me and I have no memory of it. But, for some reason, I was able to read that chapter, and I became fascinated by the story. I started reading everything I could find about Piers Gaveston, and I became particularly intrigued by the rumours and the gaps in his life; there is so little actually known about him as a person, we don’t know what he looked like, there are no letters telling us what he thought or felt, and I was drawn to the challenge of trying to give him a voice. And the novel just happened; I just sat down one day and started writing.

3. What makes this book special to you?

Well I probably shouldn’t say this in an interview that I’m hoping may give a boost to book sales, but I will: This little book has faced a lot of opposition, both personally and professionally. I have even been told on more than one occasion that I should be ashamed of myself for writing it. When no one else would take a chance on it I decided to gamble and take the chance myself via self-publishing after having spent years trying to find a publisher in the traditional manner. Although I had an agent who genuinely liked the book, and a senior editor at one of the major publishing houses fell in love with it, in this world, money talks, and every time this book has come up against the powers that be in a publisher’s marketing department it has always been rejected because they believe that a historical novel about personalities who are not as well known as say Anne Boleyn or Alexander the Great, written from the viewpoint of a man will fail to attract readers, it has also been implied, though not explicitly stated, that the homosexuality of the characters makes it even more difficult from a marketing standpoint. Personally I happen to disagree, and not just because my book is on the receiving end of their rejections, as a straight female who has been a dedicated reader of historical fiction since the age of ten, I read any novel that intrigues me and holds my interest, the gender and sexual preferences of the characters is immaterial and has never been a deciding factor; I like a good, well-told story. As for my novel, I guess I just feel that this book needs me more; to believe in it and try to do the best I can for it since no one else will.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

My novel gives Piers Gaveston a voice, it is an attempt to reconstruct a personality that has been largely lost in the mists of time and history and obscured by sensationalism and rumours that began even in his own lifetime. And for readers who like the concept of an unreliable narrator, I think they might find my version of Gaveston both interesting and entertaining.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

I wish I could answer this one better, but I don’t know, with me it just happens. I read or hear or see something and it just latches onto my mind and won’t let go; I have to write whatever it is down on a sort of ideas list to get any peace, otherwise, it will just keep gnawing and pulling at my attention until I do. Sometimes these “little sparks of inspiration” stay with me for years, like with Lady Rochford. I became interested in Tudor England, especially Anne Boleyn who sparked my interest in history in general, at an early age, and I was always fascinated by the role her sister-in-law played in her story. Lady Rochford accused her husband, George Boleyn, of committing incest with his sister Anne, and they both ended their lives on the scaffold, then some years later she acted as go-between in Katherine Howard’s adultery, and, in an act of what some might call poetic justice, ended up bowing her own head to the headsman. The “Why?” and “How?” of it always intrigued me—Why did she do it? How did she live with herself afterwards? You don’t just do something like that and then it’s over and done and you just don’t think about it anymore, it has to touch you in some lingering way that stays with you, even if you try to push it away and bury it in the back of your mind, there will be times when it burrows its way back up to the forefront again, and that’s what eventually drove me to write my second novel, VENGEANCE IS MINE, which will be reprinted and published as THE BOLEYN WIFE in February 2010.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing?

Loneliness, and the lack of encouragement and moral support as a consistent and Real presence in my life. At least I have the internet; it allows me to talk to people in distant places, and some of them are very supportive of my writing, and I am grateful for that.

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book.

I haven’t really done anything unusual. I have my website, a blog, and I’ve just recently joined Twitter, I also have bookmarks that I give out, I always include these in the used books I sell on ebay, and I have a shop on that offers t-shirts and other items with my book’s peacock cover design on them. I’m a shy person and the idea of public speaking absolutely terrifies me, but fortunately I haven’t been asked to do anything like that yet.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

I don’t really know how to explain it. I do research and take notes, I look at portraits and photographs, I jot down ideas as they come to me, I always keep notebooks at hand for this as sometimes they come to me after I’ve turned out the light to try to sleep or while I’m in the bath. I always write out a chronological list of events and dates I know I need to include, but beyond that I just do it. Writing seems to be an instinctual process for me, I have no formal training, I never took a class or read a how-to book, so I can’t really explain how I learned to do it, maybe I just absorbed it from reading so much.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I am a very unproductive writer, I don’t write on a daily basis. I am constantly criticized for this; people are always trying to push me to hurry up and get another book done, despite the tension and pressure this creates. I always try to explain that it’s an emotional process with me; I have to be all there, it’s not something I can do on autopilot, I have to be in the right mood, it’s not like ringing up sales at Wal-Mart or digging a ditch, but no one ever listens to me. The creative urge to sit down in front of the computer and write comes when it comes, and when it does, I answer the call, I don’t like to try to force it; that never achieves good results. When it’s there I just go with it, I will sit at the computer and write until I’m exhausted and I can’t see to keep going. I’m fortunate in that I am a fast typist; I can keep up with what my mind dictates, I could never do this longhand and write even remotely legibly, I always say my handwriting went to the Devil when I learned to type. My bursts of creativity don’t follow a pattern, I might write one night and it might be two weeks before it happens again, or I might write for two weeks then break for two days before I’m back at it again, or the period of inactivity may be even more lengthy; it’s entirely random. When I do write, I tend to do it at night as there are fewer interruptions and distractions like telemarketers ringing the phone and chores to do, and I have a tendency to insomnia.

10. What is your current work in progress?

I am doing research and taking notes for another historical novel, but I prefer not to go into specifics; I might jinx myself by talking about it. I would prefer to wait until I am further along before I make any public statements.

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

Gladly, I have a website,, a blog,, and good old-fashioned email, of course,

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?
There’s really not much to tell about me. In my writing I prefer quality over quantity, I would rather have two good books to my name, books that were written because I wanted to write them, than twenty that are just written because it is expected of me or to try to earn a profit.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Confession of Piers Gaveston

The Confession of Piers Gaveston is the tale of a true person who died in the early 14th century. He was a very close companion to King Edward II. So close, in fact, rumors still abound that they were actual lovers. Piers Gaveston literally rises from the ashes into the highest realm of the English empire because his good looks, arrogance, flamboyant personality, and outrageous behavior attract the interest of the King. Subsequently, he is showered with gifts which include land grants, titles, and jewels. All this attention increases the ire of other nobles towards Gaveston resulting in years of disrespect, hatred, and painful accusations of Gaveston.

The novel is written in the format of a journal. It begins in Gaveston’s childhood with an impassioned retelling of the burning of his mother who was convicted as a witch. As a young child, alone, he must resort to prostitution to earn his way. But Piers is craft and he is a survivor. He gains acclaim as a soldier fighting in King Edward I’s army. Because of his reputation as a tough, successful soldier, he is assigned to become a companion to the lazy and weak Prince Edward as companion. A strong bond is formed, one that soon leads into Prince Edward seducing Piers. For Edward, the attraction is much more – Piers becomes his obsession, an ill-fated burden for Gaveston to carry.

From the very first sentence, Purdy managed to make me sit up and take a close look at the words on each page. Her prose is one of the most brilliant I have come across. Every scene, every word engaged me. The first person narration of Piers Gaveston was not only powerful, it evoked strong emotions throughout. Her “tell it like it is” style of writing brings the reader deep into the main character’s frame of mind, portraying him as both loveable and abhorrent. The scenes of homosexuality are written vividly but tastefully in an openly honest manner.

Brandy Purdy is an up and coming author one must watch carefully in the future for I have no doubt she will become a favorite for many readers of historical fiction.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Writing Gold Digger

Writing Gold Digger
By Vicki Delany For Historical Novel Review
June 3, 2009

What a good time to have been invited by Mirella Patzer to be a guest blogger at Historical Novel Review. People have commented on the difficulties of writing a historical novel in attempting to keep the facts accurate.

I’m new to this historical mystery thing, being mainly a writer of contemporary police procedurals, specifically the Smith and Winters series from Poisoned Pen Press. Canada’s Rendezvous Crime has just released Gold Digger: A Klondike Mystery, the first book in my new series set in Dawson, Yukon Territory, in 1898, during the Klondike Gold Rush. I’ve long considered the Klondike Gold Rush to be an incredibly interesting historical event. Not the least because it stood at the exact end of the 19th century (1896 –’99) and the beginning of the ‘modern’ world. The Klondike Gold Rush has been called the Last Great Gold Rush, last because once the twentieth century began, industrialization and corporations pushed out free-wheeling independent prospectors and gold-seekers. It was perhaps the last time in North America when thousands of people could simply leave home, sell everything, and set off – on foot! into the wilderness in the hopes of making a fortune.

I’m fortunate in that the Klondike was extensively photographed. One of the reasons the Klondike Rush is so well known is that it was the only one of the gold rushes to leave a rich photographic record. The age of photography was just beginning, and the camera was becoming portable enough to be transported out of a confided studio and stiffly posed portraits to come into the street (and to the gold fields) and capture scenes and people unaware. I guarantee that you’ve seen some of the iconic photographs (think Alaska license plates).

So the history is well-documented, and well-photographed, to give me plenty of sources to ensure historical accuracy. And I have tried to be as accurate as possible.

With one notable exception.

There was not one single murder in the town of Dawson, Yukon Territory, during 1898 – the year that 40,000 people flooded into town. In contrast to the nearby town of Skagway, Alaska, where gangsters such as Soapy Smith ruled and crime and corruption was rampant.

The law, in the form of the North-West Mounted Police, precursors to the RCMP, was already in the Yukon before tens of thousands of people began flooding in to search for gold, and thus the rule of law was in place. The boundaries between the U.S. and Canada were still in dispute at the time, and the government had sent the NWMP to strengthen its claim to the territory. The police enforced the laws strictly – no one was allowed in from the U.S. without a year’s supply of goods (a lesson from the winter of ’97-98 when the town was on the verge of starvation), everything closed on Sunday for the Lord’s Day, vile language was not allowed, guns were strictly banned.
At the same time the police realized that some things needed to be permitted in order to keep the peace in a town full of miners and gold-hunters. Therefore, although prostitution and gambling were illegal in the rest of Canada, they were permitted in the Yukon, but kept under close police supervision.

This is important historical stuff, and largely contributed to the image of Canada as a peaceful, law-abiding place that the country enjoyed for much of the twentieth century.

In order to create a mystery novel, which some people call a ‘murder mystery’ I had to jettison the sterling record of the NWMP and create a murder. In the second book in the series, Gold Fever, there will be two. And, despite one of the main characters being a NWMP Constable, the Mounties will prove unable to solve the crime and it will be left to my protagonist, Fiona MacGillivray, to do so.

Sometimes, you just can’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vicky Delany Author Interview

Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?

At its essence Gold Digger is about a strong woman attempting to survive in a man’s world. Fiona MacGillivray is a woman with a past (which will be revealed slowly as the series progresses) and not much interest in being respectable. She, along with her 12 year old son, Angus, travelled to the Klondike to take part in the gold rush, and using the money from the sale of some stolen jewllery she goes into business as the proprietor of the Savoy Dance Hall. Her business, and the life she has made for Angus and herself, is threatened when a thourougly disreputable journalist is murdered on the stage of the Savoy. Gold Digger is the first in a series, and it is intended to be fairly lighthearted.

You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

Gold Digger came to me as the title almost from the beginning. It’s a double entenre. Gold Digger, as in a participant of the gold rush, but also as in the sense of a person out to make money. It was said that the dance hall owners, bar tenders, shop owers were ‘mining the miners’. The book was inspired when I was on a canoe trip some years ago with a group of people from Europe. I said something about how our anscestors would have thought we were fools to spend good money, and our valuable vacation time, doing what they considered hardship. Then I started telling my friends the story of the Klondike gold rush, and thought… that would make an interesting setting for a book!

What makes this book special to you?

I love that time period. In many ways, not just in terms of the date, it stands at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The roles of women were changing, Canada was being formed into a country, technology was improving day by day. People were hugely optomistic about the future, and it was that optomism that drove them to head off into the wilderness looking for gold. There was so much hope and promise, yet, as we all know, in many ways the 20th century didn’t turn out so well.

What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

Anyone interested in Canadian history should read it – a lot of our mythology comes from that time, particularly regarding the North West Mounted Police (precursors to the RCMP). Dawson was truly a wild-west town with the stamp of ‘peace order and good government’. I think of it as Dodge run by the Mounties. It’s a fun romp in an interesting time and with interesting people.

What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

Reading. I read a great deal, and I truly believe that anyone who wants to write should be reading as much as they have time for. Don’t have time to read? Turn off the TV.

What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

Time. Time. Time. When I started to think about writing, I had three kids and a full time job. It was only once the kids got older, and I had some time to myself, that I became what I call a “Sunday Writer”, i.e. could snatch a bit of time on a Sunday afternoon to write. Then they got older and independent and eventually grew up and moved out. My advice to anyone who wants to write but really doesn’t have the time because of family and work and other commitements, is to hold onto that dream – jot down your ideas, write in the snatches of time you do have, read a lot, and wait it out. Your time will come.

Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?

I bought a gorgeous hat, very much 19th century. I wear it to all my events for Gold Digger. I stand out, to say the least. Otherwise, I don’t do anything ‘unusual’. I go to bookstores, conferences, do book tours. I have a web page ( and am part of a group blog (

Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

I always began with the setting. Setting is very important to me in my writing. After setting comes characters and then the plot has to fit in. This is the same for the Klondike series as with my police procedural series set in a small town in the Interior of British Columbia. (Valley of the Lost, In the Shadow of the Glacier). I usually do a rough outline, in that I know who did ‘it’ and why, and have an idea of where the plot will go. But not always – for the forthcoming Winter of Secrets (November, 2009 - the third Constable Molly Smith book) I had the first scene in my mind and wrote it down and carried on. I was almost finished the book before I knew what had happened and who was responsible. It was a very interesting exercise.

Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I write 100% on the computer. When I was working full time, I wrote every day when I got home from work, but now that I’m retired, I write in the morning. Get up, put the coffee pot on, read e-mail and the headlines in the paper, and start in. I usually write for 3 or four hours. Seven days a week, when I’m home. Not a word if I’m travelling. In the evening I do the ‘business’ part of the writing career – such as this interview.

What is your current work in progress?

I am working on the first draft of Constable Molly Smith #4, as yet unnamed. The next in the Klondike series, Gold Fever, is finished and at the publishers and will probably be released in Spring/summer 2010.

Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

My web page is and I blog at Type M for Murder ( Most of my promotion for Gold Digger will be in Ontario – there is a link from my web page to my tour schedule. Keep an eye on the blog in the fall, because there will be a contest to win a copy of Winter of Secrets.

What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?

I love to write and I love to read, and I really love to get e-mails!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review by Vicky Delany - Book Review

Fiona MacGillivray is a woman with a past. To escape it, she has travelled from England to Canada to the northern town of Dawson. Here the gold rush is in full swing, its madness luring the most wicked, ambitious, and determined of the world in the hopes they will strike gold and be rich.

But Fiona is smart enough to let others do the hard work of mining and reap the greatest rewards for herself. She sets up a dance hall complete with saloon, live entertainment, and exclusive gambling rooms. Before long, it becomes one of the finest in all of Dawson. Money, gold dust, and gold nuggets are all accepted forms of currency in her tightly run establishment. In this way, Fiona is able to support her twelve year old son while making outrageous profits and carving out a comfortable living.

A newcomer by the name of Jack Ireland is causing a stir. He is a reporter from San Francisco who wields his mighty pen ruthlessly, destroying lives at will by his written word. After he beats up a popular dance girl, his throat is cut and he lies dead in a pool of his own blood on Fiona’s dance hall stage.

Almost everyone is a suspect, because almost everyone hated the man. Constable Richard Sterling, a dashing officer at the local North West Mounted Police detachment leads the investigation. Soon suspicions turn to the dance girl who was beaten up. Fiona is incensed and sets out to prove the young woman’s innocence.
Gold Digger is more than a “who dunnit”. It is an accurate historical portrayal of the Klondike at the peak of its gold rush madness. Numerous colourful and quirky characters line the book’s pages. Miners, storekeepers, reporters, police officers, whores, drunks, and gamblers are just a few of the people so carefully crafted and described by Delany.

The book is the start of a new series, and as a result, there is much to be revealed in future stories. So readers will have to wait patiently to read more about the strong heroine, her charming son, and the handsome NWMP officer who is showing a strong interest in the lovely Fiona. Brava Vicky Delany! Better hurry with that next novel. Readers are already patiently awaiting it.

Gold Digger is a must read and brings to life an exciting era in Canadian history.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gold Digger by Vicky Delany

It’s the spring of 1898 and Dawson, Yukon Territory, is the most exciting town in North America. The great Klondike Gold Rush is in full swing and Fiona MacGillivray has crawled over the Chilkoot Pass determined to make her fortune as the owner of the Savoy dance hall. Provided, that is, if her 12-year-old son, growing up much too fast for her liking; the former Glasgow street fighter who’s now her business partner; a stern, handsome NWMP constable; an ageing, love-struck, ex-boxing champion; a wild assortment of headstrong dancers, croupiers, gamblers, madams without hearts of gold, bar hangers-on, cheechakos and sourdoughs; and Fiona’s own nimble-fingered past don’t get to her first.

And then there’s a dead body on centre stage.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Interview with Molly Roe - Author of Call Me Kate

1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?

Thank you for your interest in my book. Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires is the story of Katie McCafferty, a girl living in the Pennsylvania coal region during the Civil War. After her father is critically injured in a mining accident, Katie seeks work as a domestic to help provide for her family. She must leave her family and friends in Murphy’s Patch to work at the estate of a coal baron in a nearby city. There she hears a group of wealthy industrialists discuss plans to ruthlessly squash an upcoming draft protest. Among the protesters are people from her community, including her childhood friend, Con Gallagher. Katie is conflicted about the best way to intervene, but she eventually launches herself into the events of the day, including the draft protest, putting her job and life at risk.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

The title is in two parts. The first Call Me Kate reflects the coming of age of Katie, who matures during the course of the story, hence the change from Katie to Kate. The second part, Meeting the Molly Maguires, specifies the setting, the early Molly Maguire era. The Molly Maguires, the legendary secret society of Irish miners, were considered labor heroes by some people and terrorists by others.

The book was inspired by the information I learned while researching my family history. My sense of wonder was kindled at the way people lived in the nineteenth century. Life was very difficult, but people somehow kept surmounting the obstacles set in their way. While growing up, I’d heard many stories about the Molly Maguires, but never knew how intimately connected they were to both sides of my family tree.

3. What makes this book special to you?

The basis of the story is really very personal. It’s the fictionalized story of my ancestors who came to Pennsylvania because of the Great Famine in Ireland so it’s an homage to them. Catharine McCafferty was the name of my great-great-grandmother and her mother’s name was Mary McCall, the names of the characters in the novel.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

The idea that people will be forced to relive the mistakes of the past if they do not study history is definitely a motivating factor. The themes in the historical events are eerily repetitive: immigration, war protests, injustice, the greed of big business, the abuse of the working man, and the list goes on. We need to keep teaching the younger generations to learn from the past. Since I teach seventh and eighth graders, the educational value is always in my mind.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

Connecting with people from other generations or cultures often sparks creative ideas. I’ve always enjoyed hearing the stories of the older generation, and now I find dialogue with the younger generation also fascinating. Reading is another way my ideas emerge. I’ve always been a reader and constantly wondered “what if” when reading the works of other writers. My number one tip to beginning writers is to read, read, read.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

Time is probably the biggest hurdle. Teaching teenagers is very demanding, and grading papers sometimes saps my energy. Historical fiction requires a lot of research and fact checking at libraries and historical societies, and I have limited travel time during the school year. I use the summer to accomplish as much research as possible. Regarding time, everyone has different biorhythms so each writer must find what works personally.

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?

I haven’t done anything too dramatic regarding promotion, although a friend jokingly suggested a float in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade. I’ve promoted my book at talks in several historical locations in northeastern Pennsylvania and managed to get it accepted into gift shops at two state and one national historical site. I’m currently creating a WebQuest for middle school students related to Call Me Kate that addresses Pennsylvania history and language arts standards.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

For Call Me Kate and Sarah’s Story I developed a timeline of the actual historical dates of the events that occurred. The dates are set so I have to fill in the fictional part between those dates. For the fictional part of the plot, I follow a framework that was described in a writer’s workbook. I start with a core sentence describing the story and break it into parts that represent the main sections of the novel. Then I enlarge on the core theme and build on each part in stages. This becomes the basic outline. When I looked back at it after the novel was written, I realized the story took a few unexpected turns. When I get blocked on a certain section, I jump ahead and write the parts that I am confident about.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I’m an absolute night owl so my ordinary writing time is between 10 PM -1:30 AM. This is definitely my best time and always has been. My scheduled work day is from 7:15 to 2:45, but I’m usually in my classroom until at least 3:45. When I get home I nap for an hour, then make dinner, grade papers and finally settle in to writing for a while. Some nights I get a lot done, but as long as I write two pages I’m satisfied. I use my desktop computer at home for writing. When away I use my laptop. Somehow being in the same place at my desktop helps me avoid distractions so I rarely use the laptop at home.

10. What is your current work in progress?

I am currently working on the second book in the McCafferty sisters’ trilogy. The tentative title is Sarah’s Story: The Curse on Centralia. The setting of my first novel was a re-creation of my maternal great-grandparents’ town. This second novel is set in Centralia where my father’s grandparents lived from the 1860s to the 1900s. Sarah’s Story continues examining the Molly Maguire history with the murder of a mine superintendent.

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

My publisher, Nicole Langan, has lots of information on the Tribute Books website, My e-mail address is I also have a blog,

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?

My writing arises from a pride in my heritage and in my ancestors’ stoicism. My pen name is a tribute to Mollyroe, the townland in Donegal, Ireland, where my great-grandfather was born. I firmly believe that we need to acknowledge that our ancestors paved the way for an easier life for us here in the present.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires by Molly Roe Book Review

The year 1862 was a tumultuous one for the people who lived in north eastern Pennsylvania. The onset of the Civil War caused suffering to the coal workers and their families. Poor mine conditions and no social assistance programs left families destitute. Hardest hit were the Irish families who had fled the famine in Ireland to carve a better life for themselves only to find life harsh in the new world.

Fourteen year old Katie McCafferty is the daughter of a poorly paid coal miner. Life is hard and children are often forced to work to aid their families. Katie is no exception. First, she works as a housekeeper for a priest and later as a maidservant in the mansion of a wealthy family.

Despite all the hardships, the Irish community is closely knit and helpful. Mine accidents are common and families lose fathers, sons, and even grandsons. Katie is no exception. When her own father is left paralyzed, the family faces severe financial hardship.

Katie McCafferty has a friend who is in dire trouble. His name is Con and they have been bonded since childhood. When Con joins the Molly Maguires, a radical Irish organization to fight the rising anti-Irish sentiments and abuse of the times, she learns his life is in danger. In order to save him, she disguises herself as a man and joins the all-male Molly Maguires as a draft resister named Dominick.

Call Me Kate: Meet the Molly Maguires takes the reader into a detailed, historically accurate, journey of life of a young girl who lived in the coal regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania at the onset of the Civil War.

The story is easily read, written for young adult and adult readers alike. Molly Roe brings to life the dangers of the mines in the 1800’s and its ruthless owners. She tells of how Irish immigrants, whether American citizens or not, were forced to fight in the Civil War.

What I enjoyed most about Molly Roe’s novel is its uniqueness. It swept me into an era I was unfamiliar with, bringing to life it’s sights and smells, even its tragedies. Although Kate is not a true historical figure, she is molded after strong Irish women immigrants of the time. I highly recommend this novel, not only for the good story, but for its brilliant research.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires

Fourteen year old Katie McCafferty risks job, family, and eventually her very life to rescue a lifelong friend. Disguised as a draft resister, Katie infiltrates a secret Irish organization to prevent bloodshed. Tragedies challenge her strength and inginuity, and she faces a crisis of conscience. Can Katie balance her sense of justice with the law?