Interview With Sally Laughlin, Author of “Fly Toward Death”

What is your book about?

There were three all-female aviation regiments in the Soviet Union during WWII. Fly Toward Death is about the female pilots, navigators and ground crews that flew and worked under incredibly adverse conditions.  From women who flew the little, unarmed bi-planes and bombed the German Army at night; to the fierce, female fighter-pilots who fought the seasoned German Luftwaffe, humbling them before their peers.  This is a fictional account, based on actual events, of those amazing women who lived, loved and died bravely during the dark days of World War II.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was surfing the Internet one day and came upon an article about Nachthexens (Night Witches) during World War II.  It is what the German soldiers called the Soviet women pilots who bombed them repeatedly at night. I was intrigued about women pilots fighting against the Germans.  I graduated from college with a major in History and never heard about these incredible women and what they accomplished.

Why will readers relate to your character?

I believe that most readers will relate to these characters. I think inside all of us we have admiration and respect for those who go up against great odds regardless of the cost.  These women did not like killing, but they had to try to defend their Motherland from the invading forces.

Did you do any research for the book?  If so, how did you do it?

I read everything I could get my hands on about these women via books, Internet articles, etc.  They interviewed a few of the surviving women (translated from Russian), and I was amazed at the things they went through.

What is your goal for the book, ie:  what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I want people to know about these incredible women and what they did under impossibly adverse conditions.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I was a police officer over thirty-five years ago.  Back then I was an oddity.  I had many comments like “Why are you a police officer?  You should be home cooking for your family”. “What’s a woman doing carrying a gun?  Don’t go shooting yourself or the REAL officers.”  I could sympathize with these young women who were not only fighting the Germans but their male constituents’ attitudes.

Have you written other books?

I have written five other books:  One Historical Romance novel and four books in a series of the Science Fantasy genre.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am working a sequel to both the Historical Romance novel and book five in the Science Fantasy novels.  Plus I am tossing around a few other ideas for another book.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

The most difficult part of the whole writing process for me –  rewrites, rewrites, rewrites.

Where can we learn more about your book?

From Second Wind Publishing:

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Loki, Villain of “Love’s Second Sight” by Darragha Foster

Who are you?

I am Loki, Norse god of Mischief. I am Fire. Flame. Passion.

Are you the hero of your own story?

The hero? That’s an interesting thought. I’ve never been a hero before. I like the idea. In this case, I believe the author meant for me to be the villain. It’s a part a played well.

What is your problem in the story?

The church. It claims my adherents and I am given praise and glory less and less. I found a place—and a woman—wherein I could take root and be worshiped and loved. But she is resistant. And then she falls in love with a mortal male. Really…when she could have me. I’ll never understand the need for mortal women to have mortal spouses. Thorgunna wants a Greenlander, of all things. The most lowly Norseman of all.

Do you embrace conflict?

I cause conflict.

How do your friends see you?

It varies from person to person. I am elemental flame. I am a tall, handsome red haired man. I am a wolf. I am a hawk. I am a salmon. I am the flicker at the end of a wick.

Do you have any special strengths?

A curt question. I am a god. I am without limit. I am clever. I am a shape-shifter. I can be everywhere. Anytime. As anyone or anything. Special strengths? Why don’t you invoke My name and we’ll talk in person.

What do you want and need?

Your love and devotion.

What makes you happy?

When my wives are happy. When I find a “horse” like Darragha. Oh…a “horse” is a mortal who can “aspect” me and write as I wish, or speak to mortals on my behalf. She and I write well together. Our is a lovely partnership. I am her Muse. She is my “writer chick,” or more properly, my skald.

What do you regret?

Regret? Really? I have no regrets. I am Loki.

Do you keep your promises?

Of course. But it is not so simple as that. I offer the dilemma with one hand and solution with the other. You must choose. But always, I promise to give you exactly what you need.

Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Hair of flame and scarred lips. But do not be distracted or frightened of my scars. My lips can kiss and coo with great skill and bring immense joy and pleasure.

What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

I am change. I am the god of change. It was my hand that set the wheels in motion for the end of one era and the beginning of another for the gods.

Was there a major turning point in your life?

The editing process of Darragha’s book, “Love’s Second Sight” brought me into a state of rapture I have not felt in some time. When she followed the call of one of her readers, I was reborn and renewed by their love. I am afoot. Do you want me?

What is your favorite scent?

I love the scents of my mortals. They are a bouquet of brilliance. Amber, a field of flowers, roses, rainfall. Green herbs and honey. Oh, lovely.

Where can we find your story?

Let’s see. “Love’s Second Sight” by Darragha Foster, release date 11/26/12 from LSBooks.com and “With Intent” by the same author, to be released 1/4/13 by Forevermore Publishing. I’m also in “Teaching Old Gods New Tricks,” by Darragha Foster, LSBooks.com.

Juliet Waldron, Author of “Roan Rose”

What is your book about?

Roan Rose, my newest novel, which was published by Second Wind Publishing, is a story about a peasant girl who becomes a house servant to a royal family. Their wealth and power and their eventual downfall affect her life in unpredictable and sometimes terrible ways.

How long was the idea for the book developing before you wrote the story?

Perhaps four or five years. I’d wanted to write a book about the Wars of Roses since childhood, but was never sure how to approach it, especially as the subject has lately become very popular.

What inspired you to write this story?

My love for the Late Medieval period and my interest in the royals involved. I’d already researched the period pretty thoroughly.

Tell us a little about your characters. Who was your favorite?

The heroine, Rosalba, is my narrator. It is through the lens of her perception we see the events of this tumultuous, barbaric era. As a poor girl, she sees life in the castle in ways her masters do not. As a peasant woman in the 15th Century, Rosalba has a mostly insurmountable set of challenges, but she is bright and resourceful. Occasionally her emotions keep her from making the best choices, but she is always courageous and not afraid to act.

How long did it take to write Roan Rose?

About three years, which is fast for me. One thing about writing a historical based upon the lives of real people is that the plotting is done in advance. I don’t think a historical writer should alter facts to pretty up—or tidy up—a story.

What do you want people to take with them after they finish the story?

I’d like them to know a little more about history and about the historical characters involved, of course. In this case, I’d like them to think about women’s lives, and how perceptions of women have changed in 600 years—and how, in many ways, they haven’t changed at all. Limitations placed upon women simply because they are women are present the world over. In positive and in negative ways, biology is still destiny.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My mom was an Anglophile who loved to travel.  I spent my teens in Cornwall and in Barbados. An English education reinforced my interest in the UK and Her history. (She is called “Britannia” after all.) I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, which is a classic mystery novel about the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, before puberty. As I was nerd child who had crushes on historical figures, the idea of an unjustly accused King whose name had been blackened by the real perpetrator was appealing. My interest in this Wars of Roses story resurrected during my writing years. Somehow, I felt I “owed” the Middle Ages a book. Roan Rose is my take on what is becoming a favorite ground for novelists.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a number of words a day?

My schedule, when I’m deep in a story, is ideally all the time. As I’m retired, that’s possible. Otherwise, I don’t push. My muse—and I believe in her/him—goes back out the window when rules are set in concrete. Now, if you are a writer with lucrative contracts and books pending, you are working at a job, and need to punch the clock. Otherwise—my kind of writer sometimes needs to run the vacuum, cook a meal or clean the cat boxes.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve got a creature story in the works. Thank heaven no one is waiting with baited breath, because I don’t have time for creativity just now. Every now and then, I’ll jot down a paragraph or two, just to hold onto the images.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?

The most difficult part is WRITING. It’s one thing to have those little voices in your head and pretty images of some long-ago world, but it takes the other side of the brain to actually find the words and force them out through the tips of your fingers onto a keyboard. Left side creates; right side organizes and uses logic in order to discriminate, to pick and choose among effects you want your words to make. That takes time and lots of re-reading and re-thinking—commonly known as “editing.”

What do you like to read?

History/non-fiction is my favorite, because that’s where my stories come from. However, I spend a lot of time reading in order to review e-books of all kinds and historical novels through the Historical Novel Society magazine.

What writer influenced you the most?

At the moment, I’d say Cecelia Holland.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

It’s here, and it’s called the internet. The rise of the e-book, after a decade in which problems of software and hardware have been (more or less) sorted, is the best thing that’s happened for readers since the printing press. It gives them far more books to choose from at better prices. Traditional publishing has a long way to go before it can meet the e-book prices of independents or the appetite of e-reading consumers. It’s good for writers because more of us can take a crack at the market than ever before. Perhaps we can find readers in a more direct way than through the strangle point of NYC.

Where can readers learn more about you?

From my website: http://www.julietwaldron.com and Second Wind Publishing.com

Click here to read an excerpt from Roan Rose

Viola Russell, Author of “Love at War”

Welcome, Viola. What is your book about?

LOVE AT WAR by me, Viola Russell, takes place during WWII. It is the story of Nuala Comeaux Roussel, a young New Orleanian who marries Keith, a friend of her brothers’. When Keith is presumably killed in battle, Nuala joins the military and is recruited by the OSS.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The idea for the novel was a germ in my brain for a long time. All of my uncles served in WWII, and my Uncle Russell (who never returned) wrote passionate letters home to his young wife. When my mother died, I read Russell’s letters to my grandparents. That summer, my cousin Sandy let me read her dad (Russell’s) letters to her mother and her mother’s letters to him. Wow! They were passionate. I’m not telling their story (even though I did name Nuala’s daughter Sandy), but I’m telling the story of that generation. Many young people went to war as innocent kids. Many lost their lives and their innocence.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I think part of me is in any of my main characters, but I only pray I’m like Nuala. I am somewhat like her because many people see me as very ladylike and proper, not very forceful or powerful. Nuala’s family sees her in the same way, but she shows her power, even ruthlessness, when she is recruited by the OSS.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Nuala Comeaux Roussell is the main character. She is fragile and gentle on the outside but strong and determined on the inside. She’s beautiful but outwardly modest, and her demeanor makes her the perfect covert operative. Keith Roussel is her husband. He is loving and passionate, but he is a fierce warrior and expert marksman. He doesn’t break, even when tortured. Nuala’s brothers also play major roles in the novel, particularly George. George begins the novel as a lovable smartass. By the novel’s end, he’s battle-hardened, but he still has immense passion and love inside. He’s a very complex character, one of the most complex I’ve ever written. Chiye Toguri is also a covert operative. She becomes Nuala’s confidante, and her character is as complex as is George’s.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

This is a tough one. The character who evolved the most is George, but Nuala has a special place in my heart. I imagined her physically like my mother–who also was a beautiful woman–and I even sent Nika Dixon, the talented cover artist, a picture of my mother when she deigned the book. Nuala embodies everything implied in the term “steel magnolias.”

How long did it take you to write your book?

I began writing the book in earnest after extensive research. I had written the first scene for the Dixie Kane contest, which is offered by my local RWA chapter. Then, I read books and scoured the internet. The actual writing took less than six months, but I wrote mostly in the summer. I was like a person possessed. This book was intensely personal.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

My characters developed as they faced certain trying situations. The more I researched, the more I wanted to add to my plot, and my characters evolved with each new adventure. They spoke to me, and I heard their voices. Many, like George, grew in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I had to see the war end in LOVE AT WAR. I didn’t want to stop at Normandy because the war still raged. I wanted to show the aftermath. Several characters also had to face justice. Karma will out!

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

The most difficult part was that I wanted to be accurate about the history and facts, and I tend to be a perfectionist. I’d be in the middle of a scene, and I’d then have to move quickly to the internet to confirm a detail. I wanted accuracy on things like the types of weapons the various armies used and on the various uniforms.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

Writing the book was a profound experience for me. This book was the most personal one I’d ever written. It was a Valentine for my mother. In many ways, I was writing the book for her, and I dedicated it to my uncles.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My mother encouraged me to read and to study. She read to me often, and I owe my love of reading to her. My father had uncommon guts and gall. He bootlegged during the Depression, trained prize fighters, and also trained race horses. He had four wives. My mother, his widow, was seventeen years his junior. One day, I’ll tell his story. Both of my parents had grit. They grew up poor, worked hard, and had pride.

What writer influenced you the most?

Louisa May Alcott was probably my biggest influence. I read LITTLE WOMEN and wanted to be Jo. I also loved Anna Sewell’s BLACK BEAUTY. My dad trained horses, and I think they are gorgeous creatures. It was after I read those books that I told my mother I wanted to be a writer.

My website is http://www.violarussell.com.
LOVE AT WAR is available on http://www.redrosepublishing.com and on http://www.amazon.com.

See also: Interview with Nuala Comeaux, Hero of “Love at War” by Viola Russell