Sunday, August 2, 2009

Charles McCain author of "An Honorable German" - Loaded Questions Author Interview

An Honorable German centers on Max Brekendorf, a young German naval officer during WWII who is serving on a battleship in the Atlantic and volunteers for the U-boat force. The German Navy and the submarine on which Max is serving during the war is heavily populated by Nazi loyalists causing a troubling situation for the book's central character in which he must choose between his morals and the increasingly powerful Nazi party. Charles McCain, in his debut novel, has written a book full of fascinating action sequences and great detail gained by years of research as you'll read below.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a Loaded Questions exclusive - an unprinted excerpt from An Honorable German!

Loaded Questions: This is your first novel; how are you enjoying being a published author? Are you heading off on a book tour?

Charles McCain: I'm still getting used to it. My biggest surprise is the interest people take in my life as a novelist. Given that I spend large amounts of time alone; reading or writing or thinking, my life as a novelist ain’t too glamorous. Everyone wants to learn the process of how I write a novel. They assume there is a “way” to do it; a step by step process of some sort which I follow. When I tell people it is a mystery to me how the novelist part of me actually works , they seem disappointed. I liken it to someone who cooks by feel and someone who cooks with a recipe. I write by “feel.” That’s all I know about it.

Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. By age ten I was writing about things going on around me. When I was fourteen I tried to write my first novel—didn’t get very far—and later on in my late teens I wrote two novels, which I threw away. The corollary to novel writing is novel reading and there were many years when I read two hundred or more novels. Curiously, I don’t read a lot of novels these days.

I wrote the initial drafts of An Honorable German in the early 1980s shortly after I graduated from college. I was 21, and determined to be a published novelist. My life took a different course for many years but I always felt that somehow I would seize the brass ring. So becoming a published novelist is the fulfillment of a life long dream. To have my talent recognized and to walk past a bookstore and see my book in the window gives me a warm feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Sometimes I read through my novel and think, “I wrote this!”

I’m not off on a book tour. As an unknown first time novelist, there is no way I can sell enough books to cover the costs to the publisher of a book tour. I’ll just have to wait until I’m famous! I do have friends in various parts of the country who are going to hold book signing parties for me after Labor Day and I anticipate those will sell a lot of books, partially because my friends will make it clear to everyone they invite that they have to but a lot of books.

A friend of mine in my home state of South Carolina went to visit with her priest several weeks ago to discuss several spiritual issues. Before starting their discussion, she made him buy go online and buy a book. Another friend was in a B&N in Manhattan and a man was standing next to her at the fiction table looking through a book and he couldn’t decide whether to buy it. She actually took it out of his hands and gave him my book and said a friend wrote it and he must read it. And he bought it!

LQ: You have written that the idea for this story first struck you in the late 70s when you came across a Time Magazine article from 1944 about German POWs escaping from a camp in Arizona. How detailed was your initial idea? Were you simply interested in exploring how the Germans came to be POWs in Arizona and where they were trying to go, or did were you struck by a more complete picture of the story you wanted to tell?

CM: I initially wanted to write the German version of The Great Escape. But first I had to get the men to the POW camp. Several Germans named in the Time Magazine article had been aboard the Graf Spee, including the leader of the escape, who had been the Senior Navigation Officer. I later corresponded with him. These men from the Graf Spee had escaped from Argentina in 1940 and had made their way back to Germany and served on U-Boats which is how they got captured. I discovered all of this through my research. The journey of these men from the Graf Spee to U-Boats to captivity in a POW camp in Arizona fascinated me.

When I plotted all that out over time, and wrote and rewrote different pieces of the novel, it finally became clear that the journey of the protagonist to the POW camp was the most interesting and longest part of the story line. But this was more of an unconscious process at the time. Only by looking backwards do I understand it.

LQ: The depth of historical detail in this book is amazing. What sort of sources did you look to in exploring German history? Did you focus primarily on history from the German point of view or did you just read anything you could get your hands on?

CM: Most readers tell me that they are fascinated by the small facts woven into the narrative. It helps them connect with the characters. I wish I could say I had this in mind when I wrote the novel but I didn’t. I just find small details about history to be fascinating and when I would talk to people over the years, they were always intrigued by the small details such as the Graf Spee having Chinese laundrymen aboard.

Slipping in those facts took a whole lot of thinking and rewriting. I liken it to painting with watercolors on an egg shell. I had to paint the history in very delicately, so delicately that people would not actually notice the history but simply come across a historical fact as a natural part of the story.

In terms of researching, I just read anything I could get my hands on for many years. I started reading about World War Two when I twelve so my interest in the subject arose early in my life. In college I majored in history and spent most of my spare time—when not being a delinquent—reading history and novels. One of the reasons I read so many books when researching is that “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Hundreds of times I came across small facts that I never would have imagined—such as people in Berlin playing ping-pong during the war. Often I would plough through a five hundred page book like The German National Railway in World War II and find maybe one or two facts that were useful. But those facts were important to know. One of the facts that came from that book—actually its in two volumes (I will lend them to you if you want to read them!!)—was how trains in Germany during WW II were often made up of rail cars they had stolen from countries they had conquered. That is the kind of detail which gives that sense of verisimilitude and “you were there” feeling to the novel.

Additionally, I met a guy on the Deutsche Kriegsmarine forum who had recently retired from the German navy and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the German navy and of Germany. We got to know each other via email and both came to realize the other person was above board. Jürgen, his name, first asked me if I had seen the movie U-571 (with Matthew McConathy) and what had I thought of it? I told him I almost stood up in the middle of the movie and yelled, “this is all completely wrong!” That was his feeling and he said he would do anything to prevent another U-571 from happening so he would do anything he could to help me. He didn’t realize what he was getting into. BTW, U-571 was so historically inaccurate that for the first time ever, the Chief of Naval History for the U.S. Navy issued a statement saying the movie was highly inaccurate.

Jürgen was a huge help in many ways. He not only read the entire manuscript, he corrected mistakes in how I described a ship being maneuvered and informed me that in the German Navy, unlike the US Navy, officers did not swear in front of the men and that no one ever used the popular four letter word, with the letters ing often added. In fact there wasn’t a German expression for that. He also had me change such things as officers running to battle stations (German navy officers are instructed to never, ever run), and he corrected something I never would have thought of: German Navy officers never clicked their heels when receiving orders as did German army men. The reason: you would never bring your feet together on a ship since you could easily fall over.

He supplied several dozen small details, such as what type of cigarettes the officer’s smoked. His father had served in the German Navy in WW II and he had talked with his father extensively over the years about his service in WW II. Jürgen even gave me a copy of his father’s unpublished memoirs which also had fascinating details, many about cadet life in the 1930s. Jürgen read the entire manuscript and was an invaluable help.

In the last years I read or re-read German history books by the dozens and continue to do so to this day. I also bought a lot of stuff on EBay from the era such as books published by the German Navy as P.R. during the war and I looked at hundreds and hundreds of photographs. To write a World War Two epic from the German POV required that I know German history so well that I would automatically know how the different characters would have reacted to events around them. When writing, I almost had to temporarily became German. It sounds weird but if you are writing authentic historical fiction you have to be able to project yourself into the time you are writing about. This caused some confusion in the editing process.

Example: In 1943 a major British air raid on Hamburg killed 50,000 people. In the novel, the protagonist discusses this with several others and uses the figure of 200,000 people killed. The copy editor flagged that, which was his job, and pointed out that Wikipedia said only 50,000 people were killed.

I told him that he was absolutely correct. That it had been established after the war, that only 50,000 people were killed in the RAF raid on Hamburg in 1943. But at the time German newspapers, all of which were under government censorship, reported 200,000 people had been killed. Therefore, that would be the only figure the character would have know. The New York Times also used that figure in its coverage, claiming to have verified the figure with neutral sources in Berlin.

So when writing An Honorable German I had to know not only the actual facts of a situation but I had to know what the people of the era had been told since you can never, ever, write anything that gives the slightest hint that the characters have some foreknowledge of events since they don’t and couldn’t. That would break the “suspension of disbelief.”

We know who won the war and the history of the various events that make up the war, but the characters don’t. When rewriting the novel I watched like a hawk to ensure there was nothing in the narrative which was out of synch with the era. I originally had a florescent light in one scene and I tracked down when florescent lights started to be manufactured. They were not being made in the year the scene occurs so I had to change it.

And finally, I had to understand and be familiar with the entire war from several sides to write the novel. That involved reading a whole lot of books.

LQ: Would you ever consider writing about another aspect of German history?

CM: Right now I wouldn’t write anything outside of the Third Reich during the war years. There are so many untold stories about Germany in World War Two that I plan to stick with that for awhile. It took me years and years to acquire the knowledge I have.

LQ: Without giving away too many of the books details I thought that one of the most poignant parts of the story was when the character Max was in the American south. It is always interesting to see America through the eyes of an outsider but the contrast between the German and American societies and war experiences was really insightful. Was that exploration one of your goals when you sat down to write the book?

I really want to answer this question in a deeply profound and intellectual way so anyone who reads this will be impressed by my forethought and literary touch. Yet, truth be told,

I never thought of that until you mentioned it in your question. When I’m writing, I’m focused on three things: creating characters who are realistic, moving the story as fast as I can in what I call my “waterfall style”, and maintaining complete historical authenticity.

I never think about symbolism when I’m writing. I’m not sending a message. I’m just trying to tell the story in the quickest, most dramatic and factual way. Because I’m from the Deep South, and was living in Louisiana when I first wrote the drafts, and there were POW camps in MS which was right next door, it was easy to write those scenes since I knew exactly how people would have behaved and would have said. As sickening as it was, strict segregation was maintained all through the South during the war which often found white German soldiers eating in restaurants African- American G.I.s could not eat it. The Germans were the enemy but they were white. One of very key scenes in those chapters was a story told to me by an old timer in New Orleans in the early 80s.

LQ: You've said that one of the hardest things about finalizing this book was cutting sections that didn't move the story forward. Can you describe one of your favorite scenes that didn't end up making the final version?

CM: There is a scene featuring Max’s father, Johann which I really, really liked but cut down to a few sentences from a page and a half. He calls on Countess von Woller at her request to tell her details of how her oldest son, Ernst, perished at Verdun. She asks Johann such questions as “did he have a quick death, Sergeant Major?” “Did he suffer?” etc. And Johann assures her that he had a quick death.

But Ernst didn’t have a quick death. He took a piece of shrapnel through the side of his head which blinded him and drove him to madness with pain. It was horrible, Ernst tried to claw out his own eyes, he suffered terribly. As Countess von Woller asks these questions, the description of the actual events is told through interior monologue from Johann’s point of view. He keeps promising her on his oath as a Prussian soldier, or in the sight of God that Ernst didn’t suffer. Only we know he is lying about the entire incident to save her from the brutal truth. And its very moving and says a lot about Johann. But we already know that Johann is a sensitive man in his own way, that he had the deepest respect and admiration for “Herr Ernst” and that Johann took care of his men. So it wasn’t necessary to repeat it but it was a wonderful scene. I’ve attached it so you can read it. I guess it would be an “outtake.”

LQ: And to sort of piggyback on that question, because I am suddenly struck by the fact that books should come in collector's editions with "extras" much like DVDs do, I read that you created extensive histories and family trees for each character. How detailed did you get? What are some of the silly, random facts that you used to shape a characters world view that were never explicitly stated in the book?

CM: Hmmmm. I’m not sure about that. I worry it might destroy the “suspension of disbelief” which is so critical to maintain. I think it was Bismarck who said the two things you shouldn’t watch being made were sausage and legislation. I would add novels to that list.

Besides the family trees, I wrote down in detail how Johann met his wife, what her parents were like and what his parents were like. His wife’s parents had a large farm in Silesia and employed lots of farm workers which would have put his wife on a higher social level. I sketched out Johann’s military career.

I wrote how it was that Max met Mareth. I wrote scenes which weren’t intended to go into the book such as how Max lost his virginity, how the village priest keep wanting him to go into the priesthood and how strongly he resisted especially when he started to sleep with women. I wrote about Max stealing pipe tobacco from his father and coughing so badly he started crying and his father picked him up and walked him up and down in the garden till he got over the coughing fit. His father taught him to sword fight. Lots and lots of things like that along with a very specific timeline of Max’s life and what was going in Germany during each year of his early life.

I wrote down what Mareth’s life in Berlin would have been like during Weimar, the art she would have liked, shows that she would have seen, who her friends were, what kind of car she drove.

LQ: What's next on the horizon for you?

CM: I very much plan to continue with writing novels and hope I can make a living at it. I have always followed my interests in life and that has worked out for me. I’m even more determined to do that now because I was diagnosed with lymphoma three weeks after I signed the final proof of my novel. That was a trick of fate. With the help of the Almighty and the brilliance of the physicians at the National Cancer Institute, I was cured of that monster. But it was yet another reminder to me of how brief and fragile life is. No one knows the future so you need to enjoy the present and take risks in the present and not wait until everything is lined up since that never happens.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pillars of the Earth Television Series Starts Filming

I will have to apologize for the informality of this post but I have some very exciting news to share! According to the web page of acclaimed author Ken Follett his best-selling novel Pillars of the Earth is currently being filmed in Hungary and Austria as part of an eight-hour limited series! This may not be new news to some of you but it is to me so you'll have to bear with me. The news was even sweeter when I read that Ian McShane (Deadwood and the somewhat enjoyable but quickly cancelled Kings on NBC) will play the dastardly Waleran Bygod.

Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who has helmed episodes of “Heroes” and “Saving Grace,” and served as Steven Spielberg’s first assistant director on “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List,” is directing the series from a script by John Pielmeier (”Hitler: The Rise of Evil”), who also stars in the production.

As some of you may remember, I conducted an interview with author Ken Follett a few years ago before the release of World Without End, the sequel of sorts to Pillars of the Earth. We talked about Pillars of the Earth, fact that it had just been selected as an Oprah Book Club pick and the success that the novel continued to have over twenty years after its release. Click here to read my entire interview with best-selling author Ken Follett.

The cast, according to, is as follows:

Ian McShane as Waleran Bygod

Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder

Matthew Macfadyen as Prior Philip

Donald Sutherland as Earl Bartholomew

Eddie Redmayne as Jack Jackson

Hayley Atwell as Aliena

Natalia Wörner as Ellen

Robert Bathurst as Percy Hamleigh

Liam Garrigan as Alfred

David Oakes as William Hamleigh

Tony Curran as King Stephen of England

Sarah Parish as Regan Hamleigh

Skye Bennett as Martha

Götz Otto as Walter

Anatole Taubman as Remigius

Jody Halse as Johnny Eightpence

Kate Dickie as Agnes

Sidney Johnston as Little Brother Jonathan

David Bark-Jones as Francis

Sam Claflin as Richard

The series has yet to be picked up in the UK or the US but I have a feeling that we'll have news soon enough about how and where it will air.

So -- what do you think? Are you as excited as I am at the prospect of an eight-hour Pillars of the Earth series? Do you think the casting has been done well? (If not please do offer your own suggestions...) Do comment!

If you'd like a refresher on some of the characters here is a link to a handy family tree of the key characters in Pillars of the Earth from Follett's site.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Index of Author Interviews

An index of over 50 Loaded Questions interviews with authors from a number of genres and literary backgrounds. Stay tuned for more updates.

Baker, Ellen - Keeping the House
Blixt, David - The Master of Verona
Brooks, Geraldine - People of the Books, Year of Wonders, March
Christopher, Nicholas - The Bestiary, A Trip to the Stars, Veronica
Delaney, Frank - Tipperary, Ireland, Shannon
Delors, Catherine - Mistress of the Revolution
Ebershoff, David - The 19th Wife, Pasadena, The Danish Girl
Emberley, Ed - Drawing Book of Animals, Make a World, Drawing Books of Faces
Epstein, Jennifer Cody - The Painter From Shanghai
Furnivall, Kate (Part One) - The Russian Concubine, The Red Scarf, The Girl From Junchow
Furnivall, Kate (Part Two)
Follett, Ken - World Without End, The Pillars of the Earth, Eye of the Needle
Galchen, Rivka - Atmospheric Disturbances
George, Margaret - Helen of Troy, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scotland
Gortner, C.W. - The Last Queen, The Secret Lion
Groff, Lauren - The Monsters of Templeton, Delicate Edible Birds
Higginbotham, Susan - The Traitor's Wife, Hugh and Bess
Holdefer, Charles - The Contractor, Nice
Jecks, Michael - Dispensation of Death, A Moorland Hanging, No Law in the Land
Jordan, Hillary - Mudbound
Kent, Kathleen - The Heretic's Daughter
Kingman, Peg - Not Yet Drown'd
Kling, Kevin - The Dog Says How, Kevin Kling's Holiday Inn
Krasikov, Sana - One More Year: Stories
Lamb, Wally - The Hour I First Believed, She's Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True
Lasser, Scott - The Year that Follows, Battle Creek, All I Could Get
Leleux, Robert - The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy
Lewycka, Marina - The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Strawberry Fields
Lipman, Elinor - Then She Found Me, The Family Man, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift
Mailman, Erika - The Witch's Trinity, Women of Ill Fame
Maloy, Kate - Every Last Cuckoo
Maxwell, Robin - Signora Da Vinci, The Queen's Bastard, The Wild Irish
Maltman, Thomas - The Night Birds
Mendelsen, Charlotte - When We Were Bad, Daughters of Jerusalem
Moore, Christopher - A Dirty Job, Lamb, Fool: A Novel
Moran, Michelle - Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, Cleopatra's Daughter
Murphy, Yannick - Signed, Mata Hari, Here They Come
Niffenegger, Audrey - The Time Traveler's Wife, Her Fearful Symphony
Penman, Sharon Kay (Part One) - Here Be Dragons, Sunne in Splendour
Penman, Sharon Kay (Part Two) - Devil's Brood
Picoult, Jodi - Handle With Care, My Sister's Keeper, The Pact
Robison, John Elder - Look Me in the Eye
Roach, Mary (Part One) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook
Roach, Mary (Party Two) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
Russell, Mary Doria - Dreamers of the Day, The Sparrow, Children of God
See, Lisa - Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls
Stoller, Ty - The Monkey Jungle
Tinti, Hannah - The Good Thief
Varlow, Sally - The Lady Penelope
Vantrease, Brenda Rickman - The Illuminator, The Mercy Seller
Willig, Lauren - The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, The Pink Carnation Series
Winfield, Jess - My Name is Will, What Would Shakespeare Do?
Worth, Sandra - The King's Daughter, The Rose of York, Lady of the Roses

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Elinor Lipman author of The Family Man: Loaded Questions Interview

The Family Man marks Elinor Lipman's tenth novel. Lipman has made a career out of writing lightly comedic novels full of characters that are engaging, heartfelt and yet entirely human. Lipman's latest novel focuses on Henry Archer, a single openly gay attorney who's a stand up guy. The fun of The Family Man begins when Henry's life is entered, once again, by his shallow and hard to handle ex-wife, Denise. Henry's former wife finds herself on hard times and does precisely what she frequently did during their marriage -- attempt to get Henry to solve her problems. The heart of the novel, however, has to do with the relationship between Henry and Thalia, Denise's grown daughter whom Henry had contact with when she was a child. Henry attempts to make up for lost time as he and Thalia forge an amusing relationship that allows our protagonist to fully cope with the past and look towards the future.

Kelly Hewitt
: Your novel Then She Found Me was turned into a feature film in 2007 starring and directed by Helen Hunt. I have also read that both The Ladies' Man and The Pursuit of Alice Thrift are also in pre-production. I always wonder how authors feel after seeing their literary works translated onto the big screen. How did you feel about the adaptation of Then She Found Me? To what extent, if any, are you involved in the production aspect of your two latest novels turned motion pictures?

Elinor Lipman: Actually, the latter two are not in pre-production; by now barely in development. Screenplay rewrites are in the works and directors are attached, but I am never sanguine about movie prospects because everything is nothing until it's something (a Jack Nicholson quote.) Then She Found Me took 19 years from option to screen, which explains my Hollywood pessimism. I did love my movie, though, and did not mind the changes from the book. I hear from loyalists all the time who think that the novel should have been, essentially, the screenplay. I direct the crybabies to something I wrote for Huffington Post when the movie came out. (Click here to read the article.)

KH: A fan of your novels wrote in a review that the best part of your writing is that you develop your supporting characters just as fully as your primary characters. This is something that I noticed too, it certainly makes The Family Man and your other novels more compelling and complete. Is that something you focus on or that comes naturally, the dedication to providing the reader with fully fleshed out supporting and primary characters?

EL: It's not something I focus on. My goal is always good storytelling and verbal economy. I'd like to think that if a supporting character feels fully developed it's not because I described his childhood or the wind in the trees outside his bedroom window, but because I found the right combination of telling details.

KH: In a review of your novel The Inn at Lake Devine the Chicago Tribune wrote of your work “Think Jane Austin in the Catskills!” In reviewing your latest novel, The Family Man, the Washington post dubbed the novel a “screwball comedy from 'an Austen-like stylist'”. You have been dubbed a modern Jane Austin on more than one occasion. How does that sit with you?

EL: Hmmm. How would one feel about being compared to a beloved and timeless author? Maybe: It is a truth universally acknowledged that any novelist in possession of her right mind would be thrilled.

KH: After writing nine novels you've probably been compared to all sorts of literary figures. Can you think of one that was crazy or totally off base?

EL: Actually, not all sorts of literary figures. Well, once a British critic wrote, "Imagine, if you can, a cross between Philip Roth and Melissa Bank." The L.A. Times said I was Larry David without the whining. I don't see that, but I loved it anyway.

KH: I am struck, after having read several interviews and features on you over the last couple of years, by the fact that everyone says the same thing. You're nice, cheerful, positive, upbeat and comfortably so despite the occasional ribbing of your son and husband. Why do you think that, in interviews and features on you and your career, there is such a focus, maybe even a hint of disbelief, on your good nature?

EL: I noticed early on that the bar is set pretty low in publishing. I called my agent's office once and said politely to a temp, "This is Elinor Lipman calling for X. Is she there?" The temp reported back to my agent, "Who is Elinor Lipman? She's the nicest person I talked to all day." See? Low expectations.

KH: Have you ever had the urge to play against type by writing that is unlike the traditional Lipman novel?

EL: Every time I think I've done that, woven death or anti-semitism or racism or villainy into the work, people still think it's funny. I'm told it's the voice. I do want to be seen as a good observer with a wry eye, but I'm always surprised at lines people laugh at when I'm doing readings in public. And believe me, I've been a judge for the National Book Awards, for the National Endowment for the Arts, for PEN this and that, so that I come away from the piles of submissions with no desire to go earnest.

KH: The Family Man marks your tenth published work since Into Love and Out Again in 1988. Looking back at twenty plus years of writing, has the process gotten any easier?

EL: No, not easier. On many days I think harder. One thing that experience has taught me is to know that having doubts about the material all the way through, and feeling lost and out of ideas is part of the process. It happens with every book. It helps to think--and to have my friends remind me--"Ha! That's exactly what you said about (fill in any past work)." Their mocking of the same old familiar doubts helps me put my hands back on the keyboard.

KH: I have not come across it used to describe any of your recent work but I wonder, how do you feel about the term “chick lit”?

EL: Hate it. I don't like it when reviewers use it and I especially don't like it when publishers market books that way.

KH: Your readers have expressed a great deal of admiration for the protagonist of The Family Man, the openly gay, stand up guy Henry Archer. As an author what draws you to a character like Henry?

EL: I can't really say I'm drawn to a character when I'm doing the actual drawing. I did know I wanted Henry to be sweetly paternal, a gentleman, old-fashioned and well-adjusted in a somewhat nervous fashion. I don't try to make political statements, but I did want readers to come away thinking, "What a decent man. Why can't all fathers be gay?"

KH: The Family Man has only been in bookstores a month or so but I am sure that some of your faithful readers are already wondering what's next for Elinor Lipman. Have you already begun work on your next project?

EL: Yes. I'm about 100 pages into the next one. That sounds like I'm a fast writer, but I finished The Family Man more than a year ago. This new one is also set in New York, and all I'll say is that the recession is nibbling at the edges of the story.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Upcoming Author Interviews: Colum McCann, Emily Listfield, Tess Callahan and more

The Best Intentions by Emily Listfield
Published by Atria - May 5, 2009
352 pages

After tossing and turning all night, thirty-nine-year-old Lisa Barkley wakes up well before her alarm sounds. With two daughters about to start another year at their elite Upper East Side private school and her own career hitting a wall, the effort of trying to stay afloat in that privileged world of six-story town houses and European jaunts has become increasingly difficult, especially as Manhattan descends into an economic freefall.

As Lisa looks over at her sleeping husband, Sam, she can't help but feel that their fifteen-year marriage is in a funk that she isn't able to place. She tries to shake it off and tells herself that the strain must be due to their mounting financial pressures. But later that morning, as her family eats breakfast in the next room, Lisa finds herself checking Sam's voicemail and hears a whispered phone call from a woman he is to meet that night. Is he having an affair?

When Lisa shares her suspicions with her best friend, Deirdre, at their weekly breakfast, Deirdre claims it can't be true. But how can Lisa fully trust her opinion when Deirdre is still single and mired in an obsessive affair with a glamorous photographer even as it hovers on the edge of danger?

When Deirdre's former college flame, Jack, comes to town and the two couples meet to celebrate his fortieth birthday, the stage is set for an explosive series of discoveries with devastating consequences.Filled with suspense and provocative questions about the relationships we value most, Best Intentions is a tightly woven drama of love, friendship and betrayal.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Published by Random House - June 23, 2009
368 pages

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.

Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.” A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a “fiercely original talent” (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal.

April & Oliver by Tess Callahan
Grand Central Publishing - June 3, 2009
336 pages

Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral...towards salvation.

Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre
Published by Harper - April 21, 2009
448 pages

Lina and Connie are single mothers, neighbors in Eula's trailer park. Lina, the daughter of migrant Mexican farm workers, is trying to cope with her angry teenage son Jesús, newly returned after living with wealthy white foster parents. Connie, long abandoned, struggles with her literal reading of Old Testament laws against remarriage, especially when a handsome missionary visits her congregation. The women's younger sons, Enrique and Gene, are misfits whose mutual love of science offers stability and respite from schoolyard cruelties.

Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a real scientific phenomenon in which deadly gases collect and eventually erupt from a lake's depths. In their quest to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals, including the frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a rich but lonely lawyer who finds love outside his marriage just as his wife is succumbing to cancer, and a woman tortured by a past of abuse and addiction who decides to turn things around by offering herself as a surrogate mother.

Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
Published by Knopf - May 5, 2009
576 pages

Glen David Gold, author of the best seller Carter Beats the Devil, now gives us a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity.

Sunnyside opens on a winter day in 1916 during which Charlie Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, an extraordinary delusion that forever binds the overlapping fortunes of three men: Leland Wheeler, son of the world’s last (and worst) Wild West star, as he finds unexpected love on the battlefields of France; Hugo Black, drafted to fight under the towering General Edmund Ironside in America’s doomed expedition against the Bolsheviks; and Chaplin himself, as he faces a tightening vise of complications—studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, most menacing of all, his mother.

The narrative is as rich and expansive as the ground it covers, and it is cast with a dazzling roster of both real and fictional characters: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, Chaplin’s (first) child bride, a thieving Girl Scout, the secretary of the treasury, a lovesick film theorist, three Russian princesses (gracious, nervous, and nihilist), a crew of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants movie makers, legions of starstruck fans, and Rin Tin Tin.

An Honnorable German by Charles McCain
Grand Central Publishing - May 18, 2009
384 pages

When World War II begins, Max Brekendorf, a proud young German naval officer, fights for his country with honor and courage. With the unstoppable German war machine overrunning Europe, Max looks ahead to a bright future with his fiancée, Mareth.
But as the war progresses, their future together becomes less and less certain. German victories begin to fade. In the North Atlantic, Max must face the increasing strength of the Allies on ever more harrowing missions. Berlin itself is savaged by bombing, making life for Mareth increasingly dangerous and desperate. And as the Third Reich steadily crumbles, Nazi loyalists begin to infiltrate Max's crew and turn their terror on Germany's own armed forces.

Recognizing what his nation has become, Max is forced to make a choice between his own sense of morality, and his duty to the Reich. With its stirring, rarely seen glimpse of the German home front during WWII, vivid characters, and evocation of the drama and terror of war at sea, An Honorable German is a suspense-filled story of adventure, of love and loss, and of honor and redemption.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Scott Laser author of "The Year that Follows": Loaded Questions Interview

The Year That Follows by Scott Lasser is a novel that delves into the lives of two related and yet entirely different individuals. On one hand there's the struggling yet intelligent, fiercely independent Cat who is a single mother living in Detroit. Then there's Sam, a man who knows his life is coming to a close as well as the fact that he's not done all that good of a job at many things especially where is daughter Cat is concerned. The lives of both Cat and Sam are changed forever when Wall Street broker Kyle -- Cat's brother and Sam's son, is killed in the attack on the World Trade Center buildings on September 11th, 2001.

In this third novel author Scott Lasser deals delicatly and yet honestly with both the tragedy of 9/11 and the equally unsettling tragedy occurs when families grow apart. The Year that Follows focuses on the paths of Cat and her father Sam, both flawed individuals, with a frank honesty as their lives draw them back together. Front and center is the theme of lost children, Kyle's death, Cat's withdrawn relationship with her father and in what is perhaps the most compelling of the novel's storylines Cat's search for the infant child her brother had just learned was his days before his death. Lasser does a very admirable job of telling the story of real people with real flaws attempting a real reconciliation.

Kelly Hewitt: I read on your blog (Scott Lasser's Blog) that you have been working to publicize the release of The Year That Follows and are doing a book tour. In a different post you wrote: “writing is not performance, not really, but writers are sometimes called upon to perform, live, in person. I’m glad of it. Sure, it’s what’s on the page that matters, but a writer’s physical presence can bring added attention to the words.” I am curious, how have your book tour visits been
going? Do you still feel the same about the necessity of an author to perform from time to time?

Scott Lasser: How’s the tour going? My view is this: anytime you can find a bookstore that wants to have you visit it’s going well. I’ve enjoyed the events so far, about half of those scheduled. I don’t know that there is a necessity for writers to perform, but I do think that every little bit of promotion helps, and readings and talks are part of that.

Television still seems the most effective marketing machine ever invented, but writers hardly show up there anymore. (We’re talking lack of invitations more than lack of willingness. Even Cormac McCarthy went on Oprah, one of the last venues.) In fact, it seems likely that the publishing houses will start producing webcast interviews and the like, a relatively cheap way to reach readers. In fact, Kelly, you might consider this. One thing seems fairly clear to me: people buy stuff off screens.

KH: The events that make The Year That Follows such a great novel are centered around the death of Kyle during the 9/11 attacks. I have to admit that while reading the beginning chapters, I was very nervous about how you would deal with such a sensitive subject. My fears were unnecessary as you dealt with the events of 9/11 very respectfully and subtly by providing the reader with scenes before and after but not during. Did you ever consider writing the scenes in which Kyle died in the 9/11 attacks?

SL: No. Journalists did a great job of that, and had I added such a scene, with the inevitable cell phone call and the like, it would have felt gratuitous, which is to say not essential to this particular story.

KH: I thought it was great that Bryan Cranston (television's Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle) recently plugged your book in Time magazine. Have there been other surprising endorsements of your novels?

SL: Well, it does seem that I owe Bryan Cranston a favor. And yes, I’ve had some surprising endorsements, mostly from other writers whom I respect greatly and who also blurbed my books: Christopher Tilghman, Richard Russo, Anita Shreve, and Wally Lamb, none of whom I’ve met, with the exception of Russo, five years after the fact. I’m grateful to each.

KH: Your website (click here to visit) notes that you have worked a wide variety of jobs: including ski instructor, English instructor, waiter, steel worker, government bond trader, and financial advisor and now author. Do any of your crazy work stories from so many professions find their way into your writing?

SL: Of course. I published a whole novel about Wall Street. A couple years ago I published a ski-instructor story. I’m currently working on a novel that will make some use of my time in the steel plant. I’m troubled by novels whose characters have no visible means of support. I don’t know about you, but I seem to spend a large amount of my time trying to make a living.

KH: Your first novel Battle Creek centers around a minor-league baseball team and America's relationship with its favorite sport. All I Could Get, your second novel, focuses on business and the world of bond trading. Each of these novels has a theme but also deal with issues of family and relationships. The Year that Follows seems less like your first two novels because it focuses much more on family not the world of baseball or the world of bond trading. Do you think that's a fair assessment? What would you tell your readers is the theme of The Year that Follows.

SL: Battle Creek and All I Could Get grew out of my experiences in very male milieus, whereas The Year That Follows did not; in fact, it has a heroine. I suppose that might explain the difference you feel. As for the theme, well, that’s always a tough one for the writer. I prefer that the reader makes that call. I guess I could say it’s a book about bloodlines and the meaning of family. Man, that sounds trite.

KH: In an interview I did with Wally Lamb not all that long ago he expressed a worry about how many stories he has left in him and noted that each novel seems to take him longerand longer. Now that you've written your third novel, have you ever had a similar feeling?

SL: Oh boy, there’s as question. Yes and no. I’m usually cutting things from novels. I suppose I figure if I can’t make it go away it will come back in the next book. As for length of time to write, well, I’d like to be faster. I’m actually working on that.

KH:There's one question I always have to ask. I realize that The Year That Follows has just been released but what can fans of you and your novels expect to see next from you? Have you already begun work on another project?

SL: I’m working on a new novel set in my hometown of Detroit. My goal is to have a first draft done by the end of this year, with something I could show my agent by the end of the following year, if not before that. I am certainly feeling more urgency now. Still, The Year That Follows came out about a year after it was accepted at Knopf, just to give you an idea of the lead time on these things.

Willig Contest Winners

You may have noticed that we initially were giving away just two copies of Lauren Willig's new book The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. However, the response from readers was so great that I decided to toss in my personal copy (brand new) to the giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered and to Lauren Willig and publisher Dutton for donating the books for the giveaway.

Notice that things have been quiet here lately? That's because we have a ton of new interviews, reviews and giveaways coming up very soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hillary Jordan - Author Update

I often chat with authors as their books are about to be released or have just hit stores. It is not often that I am able to check in with an author to see what life after the arrival of a best-selling book hits the charts is like. Book tours, interviews and the of course there's always the writing of the next book.

In a new series Loaded Questions will be featuring Author Update in which past Loaded Questions authors are asked to write about what's been going on since the last time we chatted.

We begin with Hillary Jordan author of Mudbound her first novel and winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize. Mudbound takes place in Mississippi Delta, 1946 and focuses on Laura McCallan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher who struggles to adapt to her new life on a farm she rightly names Mudbound. Living without modern comforts is a challenge for Laura added to caring for her daughters and striving to live up to her loving husbands expectations. Mudbound, told from the point of view of a number of characters, is a great novel and has been doing very well on Amazon, landing on several bestselling lists and continuing to do so in paperback.

Jordan and I last chatted in July of 2008. We discussed the fact that her mother and her life on a farm in Arkansas was an inspiration for the novel, the research and texts that Jorden read in order to research the period and a quote in which Jordan said she knew "more than should be legally allowable about mules, boll weevils, fertilizer, and the like!"

Click here to read my entire interview with Hillary Jordan for the release of Mudbound.

I wrote to Hillary and simply asked her to write about what life has been like since Mudbound's release and what she's currently working on ...

Hillary wrote:

The fifteen months since Mudbound was published have been a whirlwind. Thanks to Algonquin, which has championed the book in a way that most first novelists never get to experience, I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on book tour, doing readings, signings and festivals all over the country. It has been exhilarating, exhausting, fascinating, gratifying and occasionally humiliating (like the Memphis talk show I was on where I was clearly second fiddle to a guy eating a 7-lb. hamburger). I’ve gotten to meet so many wonderful book-loving people: fans, booksellers, and other authors. In between, I’ve been going to artists colonies — in Switzerland, Saratoga Springs, the Santa Cruz mountains, and this autumn, Scotland — to work on my second novel. It’s called Red, and it’s set thirty years in the future in a right-wing dystopia (not to be confused with the last eight years). I hope to finish it by the end of the year.

Being published is an amazing thing, and Mudbound has succeeded beyond my wildest fantasies. It was the NAIBA Fiction Book of the Year and won an Alex Award from the American Library Assoc. It was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and one of IndieNext’s top ten reading group suggestions. Recently, the trade paperback spent a thrilling six weeks on the NY Times extended list (my highest rank was #29). Mudbound has done very well in the UK also, thanks to the “Richard & Judy Show” (their Oprah), which picked it as a book of the month. It has been translated into Serbian and will be published in French and Italian in 2010. There are over 200,000 copies in print worldwide, a number I can hardly believe. Life is good!

-- Hillary Jordan

Thanks Hillary for participating! Interested in learning more about this fantastic new author? Here is a link to her website. Support Loaded Questions by purchasing a copy of Mudbound from (currently under $11.00) by clicking here!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Random Notes: Author Leads and Catherine Delors

I have gotten a lot of emails from folks with some really great suggestions for authors to interview. Some of these leads are currently being investigated.

Penny wrote "Have you interviewed the delightful, intelligent, first time author, historical novelist Catherine Delors? She does not write those irritating bodice rippers but real historical fiction? She is very knowledgeable in this field and so everything is in its place."

The answer is yes! Here is a link to my interview with the wonderful Catherine Delors when we chatted before the release of her debut novel Mistress of the Revolution.

Stay tuned for more info about upcoming interviews that will be announced soon!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Upcoming Author Interviews

Elinor Lipman

Author of the new book The Family Man as well as Then She Found Me, The Inn at Lake Devine, My Last Grievance, The Dearly Departed and more.

Carolyn See of The Washington Post wrote of The Family Man: "Just because something is "light" doesn't mean it's not masterful. Lipman's use of dialogue, for instance, is exquisite…Though I read this book twice, I see that I stopped taking notes both times halfway through. Lipman mesmerized me. She hypnotized me. I admit it freely: I fell victim to the Elinor Lipman Effect."

Scott Lasser

Author of the upcoming The Year That Follows as well as Battle Creek and All I Could Get.

Lasser's upcoming novel, due out in June, follows Cat, a single mother living in Detroit when her brother is killed in New York. Cat sets off in search of her brother's child. Her search is still under way when she gets a call from her eighty year old father who is carrying the weight of a secret he has kept from her all her life. He asks Cat to visit him in California, intending to make his peace. . .

Christopher R. Beha

Author of The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else, his first book released in early May.

In The Whole Five Feet, Christopher Beha turns to the great books for answers after undergoing a series of personal and family crises and learning that his grandmother had used the Harvard Classics to educate herself during the Great Depression. Inspired by her example, Beha vows to read the entire Five-Foot Shelf, one volume a week, over the course of the next year.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who Would You Like to See Us Interview?

I have said before that when I first started doing Loaded Questions (for a different site) I simply went to my library of books and started sending emails to anyone I could get in touch with. A couple of years later I have had a chance to chat with some of the authors that really changed my view of what it means to be an author and a reader. There are, of course, a good many authors who I still look forward to chatting with. (Anchee Min, where are you?) We have a great line up of new authors and old favorites whose books will be launching this summer already scheduled for interviews. However, I wanted to ask you readers:

Who would you like to see us interview?

I know what dedicated readers you all are. What new authors do you think others would like to hear from? These suggestions can be current bestselling authors, authors with upcoming releases, favorite legends of fiction - you pick. I am hoping that with the help of some publicist and publisher friends that we can seek out your suggestions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Book Giveaway: The Temptation of the Nigth Jasmine by Lauren Willig

As I recently alluded to Lauren Willig was nice enough to send along two free copies of her latest novel, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine after our chat.

Contest Details: Let's do this nice and easy. To be entered into the contest simply hit comment. Leave a few words along with an email where you can be reached should you win and you'll be entered!

Good luck and thank you for reading Loaded Questions!

The deadline for this contest will be May 30th.

Lauren Willig Author Interview

After a number of scheduling issues on both our parts Lauren Willig and I were finally able to sit down to talk about her latest Pink Carnation novel The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. As I think you'll see below Lauren is a serial workaholic. With a background in English history Willig has managed to write a series of historical novels that never get old.

Kelly Hewitt: The last time we chatted you were balancing Harvard Law School and the writing of your popular Pink Carnation books series - two perfectly successful careers at once. I read now that you've finished school and are working at a law firm. Do you think you'll always be a two career kind of person?

Lauren Willig: Life moves very quickly—either that, or we haven’t chatted in way too long! Since our last confab, I’ve left the practice of law. After a year and a half juggling briefs and book deadlines, I decided that enough was enough. The two career model did wonders for my writing, since I had no choice but to write like a maniac whenever the opportunity presented itself, but little for my temper or my social life. I am sad to say that since becoming a full time writer, I have lapsed back into all my old bad habits.

All that being said, I do think I am a two career person, in that I find it much easier to do anything while I’m dodging doing something else. One of the wonderful things about life as a professional writer is that it does often feel like two careers for the price of one. One of these two careers consists of my writing life, which boils down to me, my computer, the characters who inhabit my head, and the coffee with which I fuel them. The other is my author life, in which I get to dash around to conferences, give talks, and answer questions for websites such as yours.

Kelly: Aside from being jealous of your dual ability I have often wondered how it is that you found time to write a book a year with the rigorous law school. A lot of the authors I have chatted with who only write for a living have expressed the difficulty and pressure that comes along with writing a book a year. Is it fair to assume that you are a very scheduled and disciplined writer?

Lauren: Ha. Ha ha ha. Insert hollow laughter here. I’m about as disciplined as the Blob. (No offense to the Blob, who, for all I know, might have a rigorous scholarly work ethic when not spreading himself out over large quantities of terrain and engulfing screaming teenagers). I tend to write in fits and starts. I’ll have stretches of a week or two when I’ll write like the wind, followed by a week of scowling at a blank screen. This may be because I wrote my first four books while scheduling my writing time around other things, or simply a facet of my character. I suspect the latter. Fundamentally, I’m an adrenaline worker. When left to myself, I tend to procrastinate and overthink until panic takes hold, at which point everything suddenly gets done very, very quickly. In the context of a book length project, this divides itself up into lots of little cycles of procrastination and panic.

Kelly: How has the transition from law school to law firm affected your ability to write?

Lauren: The most jarring aspect of moving from an academic calendar to a bona fide job was my inability to schedule. School and novel writing go together like peanut butter and chocolate, largely because one knows exactly what all the major stress points are going to be before they happen. My editor had been very nice about letting me schedule book deadlines around exams, papers, and the other milestones of the academic year. In an office, on the other hand, one can never predict when a crisis will arise, consuming nights and weekends—or when a crisis will suddenly subside into calm. It made planning out writing time rather tricky and taught me valuable lessons about seizing any free moment to write, with no nonsense about muses or writer’s block.

Kelly: We have chatted a few times about our mutual interest in Renaissance European history and the fact that we both have pursued masters degrees in English history (I, sadly, was not so smart as to jump to law school instead of finishing). (Correction: Lauren finished her MA and went on for her doctorate.) When history grad students get into a room the first thing that happens is that everyone gives a rundown of what they think they'll write their looming thesis on. I know you inevitably chose a different path but what did you think you were going to write about?

Lauren: After getting my MA, I spent several years working on my PhD before I jumped ship, including a year in England on fellowship trudging back and forth between the British Library and the Public Records Office. My plan was to finish the dissertation while in law school, so that I could walk off with the PhD and JD at the same time. But by a strange fluke, I signed my first book contract my first month of law school. There went all my dissertation-writing time!

My partially written dissertation was grandiosely titled “Give Caesar his Due: Royalist Conspiracies in the English Civil War, 1646-1649”. It followed the movement of royalist groups in England and abroad between the King’s capture in 1646 and his execution in 1649. One of these days I really do want to dig out my three foot high pile of research notes and just finish the blasted thing, since it really was a great topic, replete with deeds of derring-do and lots of slapstick. My favorite episode was Charles I getting stuck in a window as he tried to escape his Parliamentarian captors. But for the width of the royal shoulders, the trajectory of English history might have been entirely different….

Kelly: I, of course, love that you use a history graduate student to frame your novels. You have also written about another bastion of graduate school life, teaching entry level classes. Do you have any graduate teaching horror stories? (I will have to share mine later.)

Lauren: Oh, heavens. How many of them do you want? Some of my personal favorites involved grading exams (advise to TA’s: open a bottle of wine before approaching those blue books) and finding gems like, “In the Middle Ages, there were no windows. That was why they called it the dark ages. Then in the Renaissance they discovered glass and everything became light.” The post-exam wrangling about grade is also always fun. I had one guy storm into my office and inform me that my giving him a “B” was unconscionable since he was an “A” student. He had brought his transcript to prove it to me. I pointed out that he might be an A student, but it still wasn’t an A paper. He didn’t agree with this. Fortunately, the professor did.

I have a whole bunch of other stories, but they’re not going into print.

Kelly: Your readers have commended the latest novel in your series, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, for your ability to keep storylines new and exciting, avoiding any of the staleness or repetition that are sometimes synonymous with multiple installments of a series. Is that something that you consider when writing?

Lauren: Repetition is something that any multi-published author has to worry about, and the equation becomes even more delicate when one is dealing with a series. Part of the lure of a series is a certain promise of familiarity. The reader wants to re-enter a familiar world. At the same time, no one wants to feel like they’re reading—or writing!—the same book over and over again. Trying to maintain continuity while keeping the series fresh is a constant challenge for me. In my next book, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, I moved the action to India to provide a fresh perspective on the series and the time period.

Kelly: Sometimes authors who write a series of novels will map things out in order to have a long term idea of where they are going. Is that something you've done for the Pink Carnation series?

Lauren: I do have long-term plans for the series, but they are always subject to change. For example, my image of the how the series is ultimately going to end hasn’t changed, but a lot of the stuff that goes on in the middle—the intermediate books in the series—has, as my characters grow and develop throughout a multi-book arc. I’ve learned to be more flexible in my plotting because clinging to one image or one idea often stymies the organic development of the series.

Kelly: How many books do you envision the series having?

Lauren: At this point? Um…. Let’s just say it’s entirely open-ended. At some point, I should probably sit down and make important decisions about how I plan to get to my eventual end goal, but at this point I’m still having way too much fun with the series to start plotting the wrap-up. I also love the freedom I have within the series to play with different tropes, character types, and historical events. The Napoleonic Wars cover a broad span of time, countries, and characters and I’m taking full advantage of that. For a more practical answer to your question, I can say that currently there are plans for three more Pink books underway (which would bring us to nine).

Kelly: So, the next book in the series will take place in India. Can you give Loaded Questions readers any exclusive info about the next book?

Lauren: Pink VI recently acquired a title! It is now officially The Betrayal of the Blood Lily.

Blood Lily follows Lady Frederick Staines (nee Miss Penelope Deveraux) to India after her indiscreet behavior found her hustled into a hasty marriage. Penelope and her new husband are sent off to India to give time for the scandal to die down. What Penelope doesn’t realize is that far more dangerous challenges await them in India, where her husband has been appointed Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad. Penelope plunges into the treacherous waters of the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem—even her own husband.

In a strange country where elaborate court dress masks even more elaborate intrigues and a spy called the Marigold leaves cobras as his calling card, there is only one person Penelope can trust: Captain Alex Reid, the man detailed to escort them to Hyderabad. But Alex has secrets of his own….

The first chapter of Blood Lily is available on my website here and I’ll be posting other updates and excerpts throughout the summer.

Kelly: Thank you so much Lauren for doing the interview and thank you for being so kind as to send along books for our "The Temptation of the Night Jasmine Book Giveaway!"

Lauren: Thanks so much for having me here, Kelly! It’s always so much fun to hang out with you at Loaded Questions.

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