Friday, January 1, 2016

Interview with historical fiction novelist Linda Bennett Pennell

I’m chatting with historical romance novelist Linda Bennett Pennell today about her newest book, Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn.

During her virtual book tour, Linda will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Welcome, Linda. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend." 

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion:  "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire  

Please tell us about your current release.
Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn is set in 1943 in the weeks leading up to the First Allied Conference. It features Kurt, an OSS officer, whose very unique talents take him into the back allies of Casablanca and across the north African desert chasing spies, double agents, and a Nazi plan to disrupt the conference. Through no fault of her own, Sarah, an army nurse, is also sucked into this vortex of intrigue and danger swirling around Kurt. Neither of them expected nor wanted a wartime romance, but love is sometimes found in the most unusual of circumstances.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have always loved World War II history. Originally, I had planned a book about a ninety-day-wonder, as WWII Army Air Corps pilots-in-training were known, and an army nurse. It was to be set at the training facility at Hialeah, Florida, but it just wasn’t working for me. During the research phase, I was in communication with a WWII pilot and fellow author. He mentioned having a friend who was stationed in Casablanca during the war. My pilot became an OSS officer, while the nurse moved to Casablanca as well. Romance among spies and double agents makes for much more exciting reading, don’t you think?

Excerpt from Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn:
“I’m Heinz. What do you want?”

“Oh. It’s you.”


“From the restaurant on New Year’s Eve.”
Kurt was silent for a moment, then it came back to him. “I remember. Sarah, right? You’re the girl who refused to dance with me.”

A red flush crawled from her throat onto the apples of her cheeks. “Yes. I’m sorry if I was rude.”

“I’ve been cut dead before. I got over it.”

The girl’s eyes glittered. “I’m sure you did. Are you going to keep me standing here on the doorstep for everyone to see?”

“Why? I’m not expecting company. Would it be a problem?”

“It certainly might if the people who tore my apartment apart followed me here.”

Kurt looked into her eyes with complete attention for the first time since opening the door. Whatever had happened to this girl, she looked terrified and angry. Not a particularly good combination for the covert activities he and Phelps were up to.

Kurt made a quick decision. He stepped back and pulled the door wide while raising his voice. “You better come inside and tell me why you think what happened to your apartment has anything to do with me.”

When they stepped into the living area, Phelps had disappeared. Kurt gestured toward the sofa and the girl sat down. Propping himself on the sofa’s arm, he looked down into her frightened eyes.

“Now tell me how I can help you, Miss, uh…”

“Barrett, Sarah. US Army. RN.”

“Well, Nurse Barrett, what can I do for you?”

The girl stuck her hand in her coat pocket and whipped out a scrap of paper that she waved in his face. “By telling me what’s on this paper and why it’s so important that somebody took a knife to my furniture.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
My work-in-progress is set in Miami and Havana. Told in alternating historical and contemporary timelines, it features my history professor, Liz Reams, from Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel. This time she is chasing Meyer Lansky, the Mob’s Accountant and a founding member of Murder Incorporated.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I completed the first draft of my first novel, I decided writing was something that I would get immense pleasure from for many years to come.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I divide my time between writing, singing with the Texas Master Chorale and my church choir, and volunteering with local arts organizations and my church. I also occasionally act as a substitute administrator for the local school district. I make a conscience effort to write something nearly everyday. It may not always be on my next novel, however. I enjoy the blog, History Imagined, which two other historical fiction authors and I run. I also enjoy doing posts for other people’s blogs.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I suppose it might be that I can write anywhere, anytime. It is a testament to my particular brand of ADD. When I am in full-on writing mode, I think a pistol could go off next to me and I might not notice.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was very little, I wanted to be a cowboy, tomboy that I was. Later on, I went through the usual phases: model, equestrian, pop singer, lawyer, and finally teacher…you know, the kind of stuff that appeals to young girls.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Nothing more than to say thank you so much for hosting me today!


Buy link for Confederado do Norte from Soul Mate Publishing

Buy link for When War Came Home from Real Cypress Press

You’re welcome. Thank you for stopping by!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the interview.

Mai T. said...

What did you want to be when you were small?

Linda Bennett Pennell said...

Thanks you for hosting me, Lisa, and Happy New Year to all!

Linda Bennett Pennell said...

Mai, I wanted to be a singer or lawyer. Didn't wind up doing either professionally.

MomJane said...

I really love stories about WW2. Absolutely great excerpt.

Linda Bennett Pennell said...

Thank you, Jane!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the excerpt~it sounds like a great read.

Linda Bennett Pennell said...

Thank you, Betty!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the interview. Thank you.

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post, I loved the interview! Thanks for sharing :)

Linda Bennett Pennell said...

Thank you, Ree Dee and Victoria!!

Stormy Vixen said...

Enjoyed the interview, sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

How do you decide on the cover art for your books? It is difficult?

Unknown said...

Thank you for the opportunity to win as well

Unknown said...

Was it difficult becoming a published author?