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Author Interview: Elizabeth Watasin

Elizabeth Watasin is the acclaimed author of the Gothic steampunk series The Dark Victorian, The Elle Black Penny Dreads, and the creator/artist of the indie comics series Charm School, which was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. She lives in Los Angeles with her black cat named Draw, busy bringing readers uncanny heroines in shilling shockers, epic fantasy adventures, and paranormal detective tales. It is a real pleasure to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Elizabeth Watasin_Author PhotoHello everyone, and thank you to No Wasted Ink for having me. My name is Elizabeth Watasin and I’m a workaholic.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started with comic strips in high school. I was working up to sequential storytelling and gag writing was the way to begin, which are 2-4 panel strips. From there I progressed to comic books. But I happened to injure my hands at one point in my career and had to figure out how to continue storytelling. Learning to write long fiction was the result.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Strangely enough, that would be after publishing my third book. There’s a saying in traditional 2D animation, that you don’t know how to really draw until you’ve drawn 1000 feet of animation (that’s 16-24 drawings per foot). Though I’ve been writing for a while, whether it was comic book scripts or other novels in progress, I didn’t feel accomplished until I’d more novels under my belt.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread is about an unconventional Victorian housewife and psychic detective, Elle Black, living in an 1880 supernatural and mechanical London. She must solve why guests are disappearing in a notorious mechanical hotel that rotates its floors and towers, the Sundark, and uses her telekinetic abilities to do so.

What inspired you to write this book?

The pure fun of doing Victorian pulp fiction was what inspired me–the opportunity to play with uncanny, two-fisted heroines, horror elements, and discover how to do neat, mystery twists. I’m not overtly melodramatic in my storytelling, but I’d love to emulate the lurid penny bloods and gothic novels of the 19th century, as well as the tradition of female sleuth mysteries.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m very clear and hopefully concise when I write. I place an emphasis on settings, so that the reader can be immersed in a memorable, cinematic environment or theatrical moment. I like every word to count. I self-edit very much. I can be eloquent at times but I do yearn for a storytelling voice that just pours forth, clearly and beautifully. That would be something to come, eventually.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Sundark” is a play on “sun” and “dark”, naturally. It was meant to be a placeholder title representing core symbolism in the story. When Elle visits the Sundark, she finds that it’s full of alchemic symbols, the “black sun” or “dark sun” representing transformation and such. The more I used the word “Sundark”, the more it seemed to fulfill the “pulp fiction” feel.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, but I try to be subtle about it. Elle is a sapphist; by our modern terms, a lesbian. And she’s in a very happy, contractual marriage with the love of her life, another woman. So here’s this 1880 London housewife in an unconventional marriage and dedicated to maintaining a perfect, Victorian home. She’s very frank about her marriage, even when people aren’t sure what to make of it. Though female marriage existed in British history, from the 1850′s to the 1880s, I’m taking that fact further into alternate history. I’m establishing events that would invalidate our criminalizing what would be labeled ‘homosexuality’, a word invented during the 1890′s. You can read more about female marriages in the book, “Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England”, by Sharon Marcus.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not that I know of. What’s fun about writing speculative fiction is exploring what could have been and making brave things happen that are not as fun to do in real life. In storytelling, I can make such things funnier so they’re easier to endure; endearing, so that we may value them. Thought-provoking so that we can see our lives from a different understanding. I love heroic stories and exploring the mythic possibilities. This gives readers something to hold on to.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Oh, that’s hard to say, so I’ll just pick who comes to mind, right now. Shakespeare because he was so astute and so true; Virginia Woolf for the clarity. Agatha Christie for being so clever. Ray Bradbury for pointing at us like the Electric Man and saying, “Live!”.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I’ve had plenty of mentors in my art career; often what I was told while watching them draw would follow me to my desk and echo in my head as I worked. But with writing I never had that person. Writing novels is remarkably solitary. I guess if one were in a bull pen or working in-house on publications, you can get those elder guides whose words follow you as your career grows. But back to your question, who would I pick? The screenwriter, Katherine Fugate. She knows what I want to know, about women, about people. About delivering The Story. She knows the heart of things. I want that in my stories.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Let me say first that I usually illustrate the covers, and you can still see mine (if I’ve not changed it yet), on the paperback version of Sundark. But I do know that my style looks too much like graphic novel work, and that may mislead people who look at the thumbnail on Amazon and other online venues. So I’m experimenting with photo covers. Dara England was suggest to me and she’s a solid, versatile professional digital artist. I’m very picky and critical of my own work, but when Dara does her thing I only have to make minimal directions, and that’s a nice change. She did a splendid job with Sundark, I couldn’t be happier.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write, write, write. Never mind anyone else, what they say or what they want or what they think you should be doing. Be selfish. The more you write the better you get, and if you didn’t quite write anything today, just be sure to, tomorrow.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my books, and thank you for reading my future books. Not only do I hope you enjoy them but I hope they give you something to comfort or enrich your life.

Sundark Book CoverElizabeth Watasin
Los Angeles, CA

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Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread
publisher: A-Girl Studio
e-book cover artist: Dara England

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Author Interview: Emma Jane Holloway

Being a fan of steampunk novels, I am always glad to meet other writers of the genre. I am pleased to welcome Emma Jane Holloway, a published author under the Del Rey label, here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Emma Jane HollowayI’m Emma Jane Holloway, recovering shortbread addict and dedicated scribbler. I have an honors degree in English literature and a job in finance. I live in the Pacific Northwest in a 1911 house crammed with books, musical instruments, half-finished sewing projects, and a very bossy cat. When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy researching historical recipes and trying to recreate them for the modern kitchen. Results have been known to vary, but no test subjects have perished yet.

When and why did you begin writing?

Writers write—I’m not sure there is a why. I’ve always made up stories, but began to think about publication long after I’d finished quite a few novels. I sent my work out without seriously thinking anyone would want to publish it. When I got the call from an editor wanting to buy my book, I was flummoxed. Happy, but vaguely confused. I knew nothing about the industry or what I was supposed to do next. (Answer: write a lot more.)

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

A Study in Ashes is the third book and finale of the mystery/adventure Baskerville Affair Series. The main character is Evelina Cooper, the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and she is caught between a world of magic and a taste for rational detection. What is the Baskerville Affair? It is a Victorian-set steampunk fantasy that involves magic, a prince, automatons, sorcerers, sundry pirates, talking mice, a large mechanical caterpillar, castles, ballrooms and murder. And, yes, Holmes and Watson. There is some romance and a talking airship, though the two are not necessarily related.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was writing a short story about my main character—I wanted to tell a Holmes story from a young woman’s perspective—and it grew and became more complex. I put it away for a while and when I came back to it, it had grown tentacles and was roaring about my brain in airships. Some characters can’t be trusted on their own—they get unruly and start writing the book when I’m not looking!

Do you have a specific writing style?

I adapt somewhat to the material I’m working on. A Study in Ashes is written more or less in my natural style, but without modern slang. I don’t deliberately try to sound old-fashioned even though it’s set in the Victorian era.

I do use multiple points of view and a number of subplots and character arcs, so the stories are very layered. I’ve tried to create a well-rounded steampunk world with enough detail to sink into, although I’ve been careful that the characters stay front and center rather than the technology. Although some machines in these novels have speaking parts, I refuse to let a discussion of gears and springs take over the proceedings.

I do note with some irony that a few of the mechanical characters have received more comments than the rest. The comic relief always wins!

How did you come up with the title of this book?

All three titles in the series are a play on the Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. My titles were invented over dinner and beer at a friend’s house. Beer and food play a significant role in my artistic flow, as does hanging around with friends talking about writing. It’s much more fun than actually putting my backside in a chair and working.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My main character is caught between the fabulous and magical world of her father’s circus family and the rational, genteel world of her mother’s people—the Holmes family. Evelina’s character arc is about combining the two. Along the way she discovers her inherited magical powers, and she has to decide how she means to use them.

Like reflections in a mirror, each of the other players in the story faces his or her own dark side at different points in the tale—and this might happen literally, metaphorically, or magically. Some pass the test. Some stumble and redeem themselves. Some fail—with interesting consequences. While the outer conflict of political upheaval moves in lock step with the main character’s inner struggle, the other character arcs weave within the larger story of revolution and war. Add steampunk armies, magic and things that go boom and splat. Mayhem all around.

If there is a message, I guess it is something about the need to confront that dark part of ourselves, and to be fearless about it. It might just be our greatest strength.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Honestly, I think anything an author encounters goes into the primordial soup of our imagination. I don’t deliberately recreate people or events. I wish I did though—the sequence with the mechanical squid destroying a Wager opera would have rocked. Sadly, that was just wishful thinking from my years as a classical music reviewer.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’ve always read widely and fantasy has been my go-to when reading strictly for myself. Growing up, I read Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and all the other wonderful writers who explored myth and heroism. I spent more time in those stories than the so-called real world. I think writing for me is an extension of that deep need to escape math class (which doesn’t explain why my day job is in finance).

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My book is published by Del Rey and they designed the covers for the series. They asked for a lot of input to get the feel of them right—and they did a fabulous job! I especially like the way the covers get darker as the situation of the characters becomes more precarious.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

There’s a huge rush to get published, and I think that hurts a lot of beginning writers. Be patient with yourself. No one expects a pianist to play a concerto three weeks after sitting down at the keys for the first time. Novelists take time to develop their chops, too.

I think I was lucky in my lack of ambition early on. That is, I wasn’t in a rush to get into print, so I had the leisure to finish a story and then come back to it later. Often my reaction was “ye gods, what drivel!” I was still learning, and that’s totally okay. Time, practice, and learning to self-critique are incredibly important. So is having a critique group, if you can find good people. Do what you need to do for however long it takes to get confident in your skills and enjoy that learning process. Don’t let other people’s timetables get in the way.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

My aim in life is to keep you up all night turning pages. I refuse to bypass any cheap trick or tawdry device to achieve that end.

A Study in Ashes Book CoverEmma Jane Holloway
Pacific Northwest, USA

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Author Interview: Ralph E. Vaughan

Ralph E. Vaughan is a local writer to me, being a long-time resident of Chula Vista, Calif. He is a graduate of the Defense Information School, holds a degree in criminology, and is known for his many Sherlock Holmes and HP Lovecraft pastiches. It is a pleasure to introduce him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Ralph Vaughan“Who are you?” The enigmatic Vorlons of Babylon 5 were known for asking that of people, causing all sorts of trouble. If asked, I could say “I am Ralph E. Vaughan,” but that’s the kind of answer the Vorlons rewarded with an electric shock. A similar punitive jolt would be delivered for the standard “I am my parents’ child” or “I am my children’s father.” Besides, I tried (and was occasionally successful) not to be like my parents, and my sole positive influence on my two children was to admonish them, “Don’t be like your father.” Asked to describe myself, I’d admit to being a champion of causes both hopeless and lost, a citizen of bygone ages and of empires in the dust, a speaker for people who once lived or never did, an illustrator of realms unseen, and a builder of things that sometimes endure. For awhile. I am hopelessly old-fashioned and permanently out of step with this digital protean world. I am anachronistic, maybe a bit Luddite. I don’t have cell-phone, e-reader, or pad or tablet (is there a difference?). I like writing more than any other activity (though I preferred my Remington Quietwriter to a keyboard), but I am distracted all too easily by reading, researching, game-playing, gardening, woodworking, cinema, and spending time with my dogs and cats. I’m married (40 years), have two children and two grandchildren; since retiring a few years ago, I’ve devoted myself to full-time writing and troublemaking.

When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t have the hubris to claim I was born a writer, and I don’t think I should admit to having always been a liar…but I always have liked to tell stories, much to the chagrin of authority figures. In first grade, I wrote a short story entitled “The Mouse in the Haunted House,” set, obviously, in a haunted house, but told from the viewpoint of the rodent. Mrs Hamilton was concerned enough to send a note home to my parents (not the first, by no means the last). My first real foray into creative writing was in third grade with “The White Raven.” Mrs Decker was much more enlightened – not only did she send a “good” note home to my parents (they were startled) but she entered the story in a writing contest, in which it placed first. I wrote ever more complex tales as I learned about literature and grammar, but not till high school did I start writing for publication. High school journalism and book reviews for the local paper taught me discipline. It was then I realized there was a wider audience than just me – the world, if not more.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Shadows Against the Empire is an interplanetary steampunk adventure set in 1882, but in a Solar System much more interesting than ours. I looked at astronomical beliefs in the Nineteenth Century, but most of my planet building stemmed from debates between me and my friend Carlos Carrion in high school, during which we postulated ancient life on Mars, jungles and oceans on Venus, and a Twilight Zone on Mercury. The plot involves a group of interdimensional beings, known in the mythology of many worlds as the Dark Gods, who were banished by an unknown Elder Race. They want back in, want to rule all the inhabited planets and moons, to feed upon fear and blood – they are rather nasty characters. To gain a foothold, they possess a susceptible Martian, who then becomes a major character in the plot. Although resistance eventually becomes widespread, it starts with two British soldiers, Captain Robert Folkestone and Sergeant Felix Hand, a Martian. They are the main protagonists throughout the novel, but Chief Inspector Ethan Slaughter of Scotland Yard and Lady Cynthia Barrington-Welles, who may or may not be a spy, also appear. This battle between good and evil results in an action novel that will surely please fans of classic adventure.

What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration to write Shadows Against the Empire came chiefly from a deep and abiding interest in steampunk. Other fans, maybe most, express their interest through fashion or cosplay, but to be comfortable with that outlet you have to be very confident, somewhat egotistical, and relatively outgoing, maybe even a bit of an exhibitionist, all qualities which do not apply to me. Nor do I have any fashion sense. At heart, I’m a shy and retiring chap. But I do like to write. I have a fondness for Victorian literature, specifically Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been writing Holmes pastiches since 1981, so a full-blown steampunk novel seemed logical.

Do you have a particular writing style?

My style tends to be straight-forward, oriented toward action and characterization. I also love writing dialogue. I try to paint word pictures, almost a cinematic style. But a novel is also a collaboration between writer and reader. What I bring to the table is (I hope) good writing, extensive research, interesting characters, and exotic locales; what I expect from the reader is an enquiring intelligence, a knowledge of literature and history, and a competent vocabulary.

How did you come up with the title of the book?

My original title was Darkness Against the Empire, but as the story evolved “darkness” became nebulous and inaccurate. I substituted the more concrete “shadows,” which also echoes themes from H.P. Lovecraft. The “empire” of the title is the British Empire, but in this alternate universe it is very different, having encountered cultures on Earth that developed their own versions of steam technology first invented in ancient Egypt (Alexandria), as well as extraterrestrial races that met Earth’s colonial powers on a more or less equal footing.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“Message” novels seem rarely to entertain. An entertaining novel, as I hope this is, will touch a reader on many levels, allowing readers to discover their own messages. My only goal was to entertain. Of course, writers don’t always know or recognize everything that goes into a novel. Readers, and critics, will always make what they want out of any novel, based on their own interests, interpretations and biases.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, events in your own life?

I don’t consciously base characters on people I know, but I sometimes filch names. Cruel people might find their names attached to some rather unsavory characters. As to the nature of the characters, I look more to cultural and mythological archetypes, as well as to my extensive readings in psychology.

What authors have more influenced your life? What about them to you find inspiring?

I aspired to write a rattling good adventure novel like Rudyard Kipling, tempered by Joseph Conrad, with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft thrown in. I also tried to infuse the story with humor, primarily through dialogue, as P.G. Wodehouse did. Also at my elbow were Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

If one writer could be my mentor it would be Joseph Conrad. He understood the darkness at the heart of man and the struggle to overcome it. Also, Conrad developed a clear and precise narrative voice like none other. I return often to Conrad for inspiration, especially three of his stories – Heart of Darkness, The Secret Sharer and The Secret Agent.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

On previous books, I used a software program with a library of graphics. For Shadows Against the Empire, however, I found a public domain wallpaper, then manipulated it in various ways. Despite an exhaustive search I could find neither illustrator nor first use. The reason for choosing the graphic (or the small portion used) was because it fit the spirit of the title, as well as directly illustrating a scene in the novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Do not “write what you know about” or “write like you talk.” Writers should write about what interests them, what they’re passionate about. As far as narrative, writers need to cultivate a clean and straightforward style, structured by good grammar, enlivened by an active voice and a developed vocabulary. Equally important is the ability to write realistic (not “real”) dialogue that moves the plot along while revealing character.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To my readers: “When you read my book, put your cares aside, prepare to enter a universe of wonder and peril, and enjoy yourself.”

Shadows Against the Empire Book CoverRalph E. Vaughan
Chula Vista, CA

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Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

Book Name: The Red Badge of Courage
Author: Stephen Crane
First Published: 1895

Stephen Crane was born in 1871 and only lived a scant 28 years. His work was noted as being in the realist tradition and would prove to be some of the earlier examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. It is said that had he lived longer, his reputation as an author of American literature might have rivaled Mark Twain.

His schooling began at Pennington Seminary, a ministry-focused boarding school not far from his home. His mother had taken ill and there had been several deaths in the family due to illness and accident. After two years, young Crane left the boarding school and was enrolled in a military school. Cadet Crane excelled at history and literature, but was considered fortunate if he managed to pass his exams in math or science. Later, Crane would say that the happiest years of his life took place at Claverack College. While he was known to skip class to play baseball, he rose rapidly through the ranks of his cadet battalion. Many of the men on staff were Civil War veterans and Crane became fascinated by their war anecdotes. It is thought that this is where he gained his first interest and initial research for his novel, The Red Badge of Courage.

Crane was interested in pursuing a military career, but his family persuaded him to consider obtaining a degree in mining engineering instead. He transferred to Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, but again proved to be an indifferent student. Instead of classwork, he joined the baseball team and the largest fraternity on campus along with two literary societies. After a semester at Lafayette, he transferred to Syracuse University where he changed his major to Liberal Arts and took a single class in English Literature.

By this time, Crane was putting most of his time into writing. He was constantly publishing in the college literature societies, but also in the New York Tribune. In 1891, Crane decided that college was a waste of time and decided to become a full-time writer and reporter.

Crane began to publish a series of news reports from a small and once prosperous area in Manhattan. The Bowery shops and mansions had given way to saloons, dance halls and brothels. Crane frequented these places, claiming that it was part of his research for writing. He found the slums to be “open and plain, with nothing hidden”. Along with the news reports, this area would become the setting for his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

During this time, he began courting a married woman, Lily Brandon Munroe, who was estranged from her husband. He asked her to elope with him despite her family’s opposition. Crane lacked money and prospects, and Lily was forced to decline his offer. They continued to see each other on and off for several years, but while Crane did gain success via his writing, she still refused to marry him.

In 1895, Crane published his Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage. While he had never gone to war himself, the stories that he had gleaned from the veterans at Claverack College served as ample research for his book. It was met with critical acclaim and became a best seller. A reviewer for The New York Press wrote, “One should be forever slow in charging an author with genius, but it must be confessed that The Red Badge of Courage is open to the suspicion of having greater power and originality that can be girdled by the name of talent.” H.G. Wells, a friend of Crane’s remarked that his novel was greeted with “an orgy of praise”.

In 1896, Crane entered into a highly publicized scandal after bearing witness in the trial of a suspected prostitute, his friend Dora Clark. To remove himself from the scandal, Crane took a job as a war correspondent and departed for Cuba later that year. While on his journey, Crane’s ship sank off the coast of Florida. The time that he and others from the ship spent adrift in a lifeboat became the inspiration for a short story called The Open Boat.

The final years of his life, he continued to work as a war correspondent covering conflicts in Greece. He settled in England with Cora Taylor, a former madam of a Florida brothel. Suffering financial difficulties and physical fragility, eventually Crane died of tuberculosis at the age of 28.

The Red Badge of Courage tells the story of a young 19 year old named Henry Fleming. It is a simple coming of age story and about what a man faces when he goes off to war. Fleming enlists to fight in the Civil War, but runs during his first combat experience. He spends the next days of battle attempting to redeem himself for his act of cowardice. The plot is not what this book is remembered for. The book examines the young private’s state of mind, his motivations, his interactions with the fighting and with the other soldiers around him. The author uses a great amount of symbolism, based on nature and colors to help portray what the battle is like. The realism of what happens in the battle is intense and what made the novel original and memorable for its time.

I remember The Red Badge of Courage from my my high school days. It was a required reading assignment in one of my English Literature classes. I have never forgotten the book, although I did not count it as a favorite when I was young. While the story is centered around a nineteen year old boy, the concepts about war and its effect on this young man are very mature. I found the battle scenes to be extremely intense and Henry Fleming to be distant and unlikable to me as a young woman. Yet, it is hard to turn away from this book as it draws you into the conflict that these soldiers face. Now that I’ve reread it as an adult, I find that I appreciate the story and the writing style much better.

The novel has been made into a movie several times. Director John Huston created the first one, starring Medal of Honor Winner, Audie Murphy as Henry Fleming in 1951. In the mid-sevenities, a made-for-television movie starring actor Richard Thomas as Henry Fleming was released.

The Red Badge of Courage Book CoverThe Red Badge of Courage can be found for free download at Project Gutenberg.

Author Interview: Judy Leslie

I find it such a pleasure to introduce a writer from my home town of Kirkland, WA here on No Wasted Ink. Historical Fiction is a particular favorite genre of mine and Judy has written a wonderful one set in the 19th century Victorian era.

Author Judy LeslieMy name is Judy Leslie and I live in the rainy pacific northwest with my husband Ralph and my dog Rosemary. I have two grown daughters who live in the area. I lived in Europe for two and a half years and my oldest daughter was born in Liege, Belgium. I enjoy traveling Europe and went to Ireland last year to do research for my novel. I am also an amateur photographer, artist and enjoy cooking.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil and scratch out letters on the page. I wasn’t too good at spelling but I could embellish what the A and B’s meant to anyone that would listen. At the age of 21, I owned an antique shop in the historic town of Bellingham, Washington where I became interested in writing historical fiction after researching all the “junk” in my shop.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote short stories and poetry in high school. While working at my day job I wrote a historic novel about the Midwest. It was my training novel and maybe someday I will publish it. Over the years I took many writing classes. However, I didn’t get serious about publishing until a few years ago when I signed up at the local university for their literary fiction program and then the popular fiction certificate program. That is where I learned how to structure a story and I began writing my current novel.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

For the Love of Ireland is about Margaret Sullivan, an American female journalist with the Chicago Tribune who publishes under a male name to hide her gender. On a trip to Ireland she meets an Irish rebel and gets swept up by his ideas for Ireland’s independence. However, Margaret happens to be married to a man with his own ambitions and ideas on how to free Ireland. When she turns to her husband for help Margaret finds herself struggling not only for Ireland’s freedom, but her own as well.

For the Love of Ireland is based on a true story about a Chicago couple during the late 1880’s, the Irish Land League, and the secret Irish-American organization the Clan na Gael.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was doing research on the Irish in Chicago and uncovered the story about Margaret and Alexander Sullivan and the secret Clan na Gael. I had no idea to what extend the Irish in America had gone to in order to help those in their homeland. My characters were all fascinating people with their own story to tell, as you will learn when you read the book.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do a lot of research and then let it percolate for a while. I make an outline with a story arch, but I let my characters have a lot of control on what they want to say. I write in a notebook and on the computer about 8 hours a day. I like poetic prose to describe emotions, but will cut it if it doesn’t fit. I also like getting down to the story and don’t dwell too much on the color of a room or what everyone wore.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It was easy. My characters were motivated by their love of Ireland and right or wrong, that love justified their actions in the story.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, just like Ireland, women didn’t always have the freedom to do what they wanted to do in the past and often they made huge sacrifices in order to survive. We forget that marriage for love was rare in the 1800s and that women were not allowed to compete with men. The fact that Margaret Sullivan and the Parnell women chose to buck the norm was a remarkable feat for a women at that time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The story characters and situations in my novel are based on the real lives and actual historic events. I just fictionalized their interactions and certain parts for dramatic effect. I tried to stay true to how they would have behaved according to the research I did on each one of them. My novel is a work of fiction and not a biography and I did have to bend the truth to fit the story especially at the end.

I think women of today can relate to my protagonist and the sacrifices she made while pursuing her goals. Also, as far as the love interest goes most of us have had a secret crush on someone we could never have. I fantasied about a guy I dated when I was 19 for years after I was married and had children. When I finally met up with the man again I realized that I fallen in love with my fantasy of him and not who he really was.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I can’t name any particular author that influenced my writing. My stepfather gave me a book of Longfellow’s poems when I was 16 that was dated 1906 that had belonged to his grandmother and one of the poems became my guiding light.

A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day. . .
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

For the Love of Ireland Book CoverJudy Leslie
Kirkland, WA

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