Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New interview with writer Larry Kilham

I’d like to welcome writer Larry Kilham back at Reviews and Interviews. Larry was here in July and talked about The Digital Rabbit Hole. Today we’re talking about his new work of literary fiction and near-future technology, Free Will Odyssey.

Larry Kilham has traveled extensively overseas for over twenty years. He worked in several large international companies and started and sold two high-tech ventures. He received a B.S. in engineering from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in management from MIT. Larry has written books about creativity and invention, artificial intelligence and digital media, travel overseas, and four novels with an AI theme. His book website is www.larrykilham.net and he looks forward to hearing from readers at lkilham@gmail.com.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews.
Thank you, Lisa. I’m excited to tell you about my new book.

Yes! Let’s get right to it. What’s it about?
The story is told by Peter Tesla, a prodigious young inventor who develops an electronic device called Electra to enhance the user’s free will. His sister died from drug overdose, and Peter especially hopes his invention can be used for drug detoxification. Electra works well for test patients so Peter is referred to the most important patient of all—the U.S. president. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens next. Along the way, Peter is tried for the mysterious death of a girlfriend and struggles with the machinations of a secretive industrialist.

What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a novel based on the product development experience of my grandfather, father, and me. We all received patents and built businesses. I also became fascinated with applying free will and virtual reality to real problems. I came up with alcohol detoxification as a major application that is also potential tool for a current crisis.

What’s the next writing project?
I would like to explore mental freedom in the age of AI, digital media, and robots. This would include free will, critical thinking, focusing on the truth. Will the next generations become essentially robots or will new mental serendipity flower? This might be a nonfiction work with poetry.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
Trying to figure out how to best package my message to appeal to the public.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
I do most of my research while writing. As topics come up, I dive into the Internet and explore everything it has to say about the area of inquiry. I save into my computer’s book files the key reference works I turn up.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
I have a spacious office with a view across a dry riverbed to the desert pine trees on the other side. I’m surrounded by all kinds of books for reference and getting ideas.

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, James Lovelock, Jared Diamond, Lewis Carroll

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Don’t put off treating addiction!

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Interview with novelist Michael G Bergen

Historical novelist Michael G Bergen joins me today to chat about his book, Storm Over South Africa, The Rutherford Chronicles Part 1.

Of the author’s many interests, history has always ranked highest. It started when he was ten years old, and an inspirational primary school teacher awakened this passion by introducing him to the Romans and their prowess in warfare. History and culture have occupied the author’s interest ever since that induction.

Born in England and raised and educated in Canada the author has been living in Europe and Africa for most of his adult life. After half a lifetime of pursuing various business interests, the author began a personal voyage of discovery. He started by fulfilling a long-standing curiosity of his ancestry and heritage. One small discovery led to another, and another, until it developed into a burning desire to write historical fiction based on his research. From this passion, a series of historical stories emerged, inspired by the lives of his twentieth-century ancestors and their more famous contemporaries. Storm over South Africa, set during the Second Anglo-Boer War, is the first book in that series. This journey continues throughout the 20th century, a tumultuous period in history, documented by him as The Rutherford Chronicles.

Welcome, Michael. Please tell us about your current release.
Storm over South Africa follows the lives and tribulations of a diverse group of characters from both sides of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War from 1899-1902 in South Africa. The reader experiences the various twists and turns of the first major British conflict of the 20th century from its beginning through to its end. It began as another glorious Victorian war. But the successes and failures, sufferings and disillusionment soon emerge. It is a tale of imperial arrogance and determination, of stubbornness, innocence, love and loss experienced in a rugged and alluring land far from the heart of the British Empire.

What inspired you to write this book?
Curiosity, my passion for history, travel and adventure; the desire to discover where my ancestors had been and how they had lived and who they had shared their lives with through tough times.

Excerpt from Storm over South Africa:
With that, the serjeant led Joe through the labyrinth of the tented camp's walkways to a large, open tent used as a field hospital. There he was received by a nurse, who led him past beds occupied by recovering wounded soldiers to a treatment centre. There, to his amazement, he was led to a nurse who he knew from home.

“Jenny? Jenny Ambler?” he exclaimed, “Is that really you?”

“Hello Joe,” she said, “Indeed! Fancy us meeting here in the middle of the desert! I see that, as usual, you are in a spot of bother. Now come here and lie down on this table where the doctor can examine you.”

The damage was soon repaired, and Joe was even given a brand new pair of trousers and socks to replace his bloodied clothing. He was also given a shot to sedate him and led to a bed where he could recover from the minor shock of being shot for the first time. Before five minutes were over, he was in a deep sleep.

When he awoke, he realised it was almost time for his next watch, so he started to rise. However, before he could, Jenny was upon him and told him he was under doctor’s orders to rest for a day before going back to his duty.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The adventure continues in Part 2 with a journey to India with the British Army under the Raj at the beginning of the 20th century. Then after starting a family back in England, the hero (actually an anti-hero) finds himself in the trenches and horrors of World War One.

The third book in the series is what I am busy working on now. It covers the painful aftermath of World War One and the so-called Interwar Years – including life in the Roaring Twenties, the collapse of the traditional British industries and the Great Depression – then the second major war of the twentieth century – World War Two – including four years in German POW camps.

The fourth and final book in the series is planned to be my autobiographical work covering the last half of the twentieth century.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first developed an interest in writing in university. While studying, I learned the basics of researching various topics and my resulting projects and papers were well received by my professors. Those topics included history as well as economics, mainly involving India, a passion of mine at the time. At the time, I also started writing poetry and short stories and had the ambition to continue writing.

But, as often happens in life, I was then distracted by a career and raising a family. My writing was restricted to that required by my business career, and I did a lot of it. But along the way, I did extensive travelling and enjoyed an exciting life. I have lived and worked in a lot of different places on three continents. My travels began in earnest during my three years in the Canadian Navy as a young man, then continued for the rest of my life. I’ve done close to four million kilometres of travel, roughly the equivalent of flying to the moon and back five times! I have visited some fifty countries and at least three to four hundred different cities and towns.

I love the sea and mountains and am also an avid angler and naturalist. I have sailed and fished in some of the most beautiful places on the planet in roughly twenty different countries, and I have done photo safaris in most of the key nature reserves of Africa. I have made canoe trips down the Zambesi, rode horses, hiked and fished in the African bush and elsewhere. I have studied geology, palaeontology and flora and fauna in the field. I am also passionate about music, movies, reading, architecture, archaeology and astronomy. So all of these activities distracted me from my original plan to write, but I always swore that I would get back into it eventually.

Finally, a decade ago when I found enough time and motivation, I started to document my life and research my roots. From that my interest in creative writing was re-awakened. I wrote a personal collection of autobiographical records which I called Notes on my Life and Family History. It was then that I became inspired to write a series of historical fiction novels based on my grandfather’s life, which I called The Rutherford Chronicles. Storm Over South Africa is the first book of that series. That is when I became serious about writing and publishing, and it has taken over a huge part of my life. I had very little to go on at first since my ancestors rarely talked about or recorded their life experiences and times in the military. So I was compelled to do extensive research into where they may have been and the lives they may have lived. This research laid down the foundation and structure for my stories.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am only writing part-time since I am still working. But I do have a great deal of spare time for research and writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Sticking as much as possible to the idiosyncrasies of language and spelling of the time being written about.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A sailor, inspired by meeting a cousin who was in the British Navy when I was seven years old. Later I wanted to be an economist saving desperate Third World countries. I ended up as a businessman and an aspiring writer of fiction.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My preface to the book:

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” For me, the best thing about being a writer of historical fiction is recreating the past and bringing lost souls and situations back to life. The Rutherford Chronicles is a historical series that follows one otherwise nameless working-class family’s journey through some of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century. Storm over South Africa is the series’ opening episode. It is centred on the first major British conflict of the century, the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa from October 1899 to May 1902.

Sometimes called the “last of the gentlemen’s wars”, it began at the very end of an ambitious and relatively peaceful era of worldwide expansion of the British Empire known as the Pax Britannica, which covered most of the nineteenth century. But the Anglo-Boer War also opened the twentieth century for the British in Africa, as well as a traumatic time for the Boers and other inhabitants of that part of the world. It began as another “glorious” Victorian war, but the successes and failures, sufferings and disillusionment soon emerged. It is a tale of imperial arrogance and determination, of stubbornness, innocence, love and loss experienced in a rugged and alluring land far from the heart of the British Empire. The book reawakens that period and is based on the actual flow of the main phases and events of this conflict as an introduction to a unique period of British imperial history. It follows the exploits of the seventeen-year-old son of a Boer president; a young shipbuilding dock worker and his military nurse sweetheart from the industrial north-east of England, and a young Canadian soldier who volunteered for Canada’s first campaign outside its borders. Involved too are such illustrious British participants as War Correspondent Winston Churchill, Field Marshals Frederick Roberts and Herbert Kitchener, Generals Ian Hamilton and Robert Baden-Powell, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle among others. Boer leaders involved include Generals Christiaan de Wet, Louis Botha, Koos de la Rey and Jan Smuts. It is a story of adventure, discovery, tragedy and romance.

I am forever grateful to these great eye-witness authors and historians without whom I could never have recreated this story. I would also like to thank friends and family members who gave me useful feedback after reading early versions of the book and my editors and graphic designer for their invaluable contributions. I must also thank them for accepting my insistence that certain words are spelt as they were at the time. Hence, for example, Capetown, Karroo, Matjesfontein, waggon and Afrikander are used, rather than the modern versions of Cape Town, Karoo, Matjiesfontein, wagon and Afrikaner. Quoted passages have been left in their original form and not corrected according to modern English conventions.

To quote the prolific frontier author Louis L’ Amour, “For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.” He also claimed that “Historical novels are, without question, the best way of teaching history, for they offer the human stories behind the events and leave the reader with a desire to know more.”

I sincerely hope you enjoy the experience as much as I have enjoyed discovering and reawakening it!


Thanks for being here today, Michael. All the best with your writing!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Interview with author Claudette Sutton

Author Claudette Sutton is here today to chat about her new historical biography, Farewell, Aleppo: My Father, My People, and Their Long Journey Home.

Claudette Sutton is an award-winning author and journalist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband and son.

Welcome, Claudette. Please tell us about your current release.
My family had roots in the Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria, for perhaps 2,000 years. Growing up in the 1920s and 30s, my father went to school in Aleppo with other Jews, Christians and Muslims, who lived side by side as they had for centuries. Yet my grandfather, a Jewish textile merchant who did business with Arabs in Syria and neighboring countries, saw the signs of rising anti-Semitism and recognized the need to get his family out. Faced with the unfeasibility of relocating his large family at once, he came up with the plan of “exporting his sons” – sending his eldest son, my father, to Shanghai in 1941 to work for an uncle, in hopes of finding a stepping-stone to the United States. When Japanese forces seized Shanghai in December 1941, just a day after bombing Pearl Harbor, my father found himself alone in an occupied country, across the world from his family, until the war ended and he could come at last to the United States. Today, when the horrors of seemingly endless civil war in Syria fill the news, “Farewell, Aleppo” reminds us of a timeless than a century ago when Aleppo was a center of diversity, scholarship and tolerance. Written with a journalist’s eye and a daughter’s love, it is a poignant and hopeful narrative interlacing one family’s story with universal questions of identity, family, culture, and what it means to be home.

What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration came from a seemingly simple request from my father. Friends had been asking him about his childhood in Syria and years in Shanghai during World War II before coming to America, and he wanted my help putting the story on paper to share with them. I immediately said yes, anticipating a short project for friends and family, but as I learned about my father’s experiences, and Syria’s amazing and nearly forgotten Jewish history, I knew I had to keep going. Many hundreds of hours of interviews, research, writing and rewriting later, I had a book, Farewell, Aleppo. That invitation to get inside my father’s experience was one of the greatest gifts of my life.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am in the early stages of a book about my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was born in Aleppo, Syria and came to New York with his family in 1902 when he was 8 years old, part of the first wave of Syrian Jews to America. My grandmother was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1918, and after the death of her mother she was bounced between relatives in Haiti, New York City, and Manchester, England. She was a 15-year-old girl in a boarding school in Paris when a 30-year-old American businessman, a distant cousin, stopped to check in on her when he was traveling through Europe on a business trip. For Grandpa, it was love at first sight. For Grandma, “I didn’t know from love!” They were married over sixty years. Their story is one of individual fortitude, family ties, intercontinental journeys – and one of my favorite love stories.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Oh my! I still have a tendency to look at other people as “real writers,” while I’m someone who spends a lot of time writing. But I spend a lot of time writing, some of it gets finished, and some of what I finish gets published. So I guess I’m a writer.

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 don’t write full time. For over 20 years I’ve been the editor and publisher of “Tumbleweeds,” a quarterly newspaper for families in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which I created back when my son was 5. I write an essay in every issue, and these have won several state and national awards, but much of my workday goes into soliciting articles, selling ads, other aspects of running a business. I have time to write between busy seasons, so my big challenge is in shifting my creative energy when my schedule shifts. One way I do this is to keep a little writing going even though my busy season, so I have some writing momentum when my time frees up. And I try to be vigilant about protecting my mornings for writing and writing-related reading, for things that keep my writing brain engaged.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have serious side-interest in botany. When I need to clear my head from writing, or need to build up some writing momentum, I’ll often read about and study wildflowers. Right now I’m reading “The Triumph of Seeds,” by Thor Hansen, and “Gathering Moss,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, to learn about how seed plants reproduce, and how spore plants do it. I find it can be very valuable to think about something (seemingly) totally unrelated to what I’m writing about – although when I think about it, I’m still learning about families, just plant families. Same issues, just played out differently.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Other than a few years in junior high when I wanted to be a scientist, I pretty much always wanted to be a writer. What I loved about the idea of being a scientist was the thought of spending my days quietly making observations and taking notes – which in many ways is just what I do as a writer.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Good writing shows us that there’s always more to someone’s story than first meets the eye. A good book builds understanding, compassion and empathy, stretching the heart as well as the mind. That’s the kind of writing I try to do.


Thanks for being here today!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interview with novelist Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Today’s special guest is novelist Amelia Atwater-Rhodes and we’re chatting about her new dark fantasy romance novel, Of the Divine, Mancer Book Two.

During her virtual book tour, Amelia will be awarding a limited-edition print copy of the book (U.S. only) 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.

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote her first novel, In the Forests of the Night, when she was 13 years old. Other books in the Den of Shadows series are Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, Midnight Predator, all ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults. She has also published the five-volume series The Kiesha’ra: Hawksong, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror List Selection; Snakecharm; Falcondance; Wolfcry; and Wyvernhail.

Welcome, Amelia. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Of the Divine is the second book in the Mancer Trilogy (Book One, Of the Abyss, came out last year and Book Three, Of the Mortal Realm, comes out next year). Divine looks back 70 years before Abyss-- at a time when sorcery was not only practiced freely, but was a mark of the respected, powerful elite, most notably the royal family.

Terre Verte, prince of Kavet, has come up with a strategy to finally secure his country’s independence from the Osei, the creatures who claim dominion over the great oceans of the world and thus maintain a stranglehold on the island nation of Kavet. But no one fully understand the powerful magics he must use to accomplish this end, least of all Verte, and when disaster strikes, the repercussions are beyond anyone’s imaginings.

What inspired you to write this book?
This book specifically was inspired by the first book. Though Divine takes place 70 years before the first book, I’ve never really considered it a prequel; it explores the world in a completely different view, and reveals the next part of the story just as much as it describes the previous one. It features two characters-- Terre Verte and Naples-- who are first met in Of the Abyss, albeit in circumstances that make them nearly unrecognizable.

Writing Of the Abyss, I wanted to know: How did these powerful individuals get here? How had the world changed so much from their day to this one, less than a century later? I set out to answer those questions in Of the Divine, and ended up with a rich story of love, heartache, fear, paranoia, and the dangerous road laid by the best intentions.

Excerpt from Of the Divine:
 “You cannot live your life as a slave to those who have gone before,” Verte replied. “You need to let the living and dead alike move on.”

Wenge glared up at him. Verte paused, keeping his stance and expression neutral as he raised magical shields against a possible attack.

“You don’t know where the dead go,” Wenge accused. “We talk of the realms beyond, of the Abyss and the Numen, but no one really knows for sure what happens once our shades pass out of the mortal realm. What if we just go screaming into the void? What if—”

Verte took the man’s frail, trembling hand in his own. He wished he could use his magic to urge him to keep moving, but Wenge’s decision whether to demand a trial or to take the brand willingly needed to be made without magical coercion.

“Even the royal house, with all our strength and training and resources, does not practice death sorcery. Maleficence or not,” Verte said, hoping the words would pierce the man’s sudden anxiety, “if you continue to let your power use you this way, it will kill you before the year is out. Of that I am certain.”

Wenge’s body sagged. He waved a hand next to his face as if to chase away a buzzing fly—or in this case, a whispering spirit. He flinched at whatever the ghost said, then muttered, “I do not know what to be without it.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now, I’m finishing a story I call Ice House, which takes place in the same world as Of the Divine but focuses on the Osei-- the dragon-like creatures who are largely responsible for the disaster that triggers the cascade of events that define the nation of Kavet for decades after.

Once a generation, all Osei gather in the territory of the First Royal House. There, they court, compete, and conspire, and each queen chooses the members of her house for the next generation. This year, the gathering is disturbed by the presence of a queen who should not exist, dreams that seem to speak of the world before, and a contagious madness the First House calls Fascination.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I get asked this question a lot, but I still don’t have a good answer for it. I decided in seventh grade to publish my first book because I already considered myself a writer. I’ve always written; before I knew how to write, I told stories aloud. There was never a time when I thought to myself, “I’m going to be a writer.” By the time I thought in those terms, I clearly already was.

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?
In addition to my writing, I’m a mother and a full-time teacher. Finding time to write, I’ll admit, is a struggle. The best hours for me these days are between 4am and 5:45am, before I need to get ready for work, and 6-9pm on Wednesdays, when I (usually) have a babysitter and I can spend three hours at my writing group. Other than that, when I’m in a pinch I try to get words out during my lunch breaks, or if I’m on a tight deadline, I might camp out for a few hours on a weekend to get work done while my partner, parents, or sister watch my daughter (but that’s a last resort-- I hate giving up time with her!).

So in general, that 4am timeslot is “my time.”

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have trouble writing in a quiet room. I avoid write-ins at libraries or other places where quiet is expected because I’m simply not productive. I do my best work at somewhere like a Starbucks, where there are plenty of distractions--and food. Similarly, I know many people who turn off their Internet when they want to be productive. I Google so often when I’m working, it’s incredibly distracting to me if I don’t have Internet access.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My first dream, when I was 3, was actually to grow up to play pro football for the Washington Redskins (we lived in Silver Spring, Maryland). Given I grew up to a grand total of 5’ 1” tall and I’m not overly coordinated, it was never a realistic goal, but my parents were sweet-- and so were the players. When I wrote them fan mail and asked if they had a uniform they could send me, they sent me an autographed picture and-- with apologies they didn’t have a uniform my size-- a set of pajamas I surely wore until they fell apart despite how fast a 3-year-old grows.

I remember at one point in my childhood I wanted to be a vet, but that was never a serious goal of mine. As I mentioned, I published my first book early (it came out when I was a freshman in highschool) so I didn’t at the time think of “growing up” to be a professional writer. Actually, I graduated highschool with no idea what I wanted, except that I swore I didn’t want to teach. As a freshman in college, I considered becoming a Constitutional Lawyer.

This all goes to show you that there’s plenty of time in life to change your mind. (I love my teaching career.)

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Please come visit me online! You can find me in a few places, but your best bet is Twitter, where I’m @AtwaterRhodes. I love hearing from my readers and chatting there!


Thank you for being a guest on my blog, Amelia!
Thank you for inviting me--I hope you and your readers enjoy the Mancer Trilogy!

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