Friday, October 20, 2017

Interview with novelist Courtney Williamson Milford

Novelist Courtney Williamson Milford joins me today to chat about her new historical WWII fantasy, Graced 1943. The history is meant to be accurate, but the characters have special powers called “Graces.”

Courtney Williamson Milford lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and three children. She writes two series: The Grace Family Chronicles for adults, and Tales of Bark Story Land for children, and she currently has four free-standing books. She graduated from the University of Florida, and has owned and operated a wholesale automotive fleet leasing business called Courtney Leasing, Inc. since 1991.

Welcome, Courtney. Please tell us about your current release.
Based out of WWII-era Miami, Graced 1943 begins the story of the Grace family members and their friends. Most of them are Graced in at least one way, meaning they have special abilities that help them meet challenges. While WWII figures into the multiple plotlines, the story is mostly about the characters. It is the first book in a series, and has a cliffhanger ending.

What inspired you to write this book?
Initially, I meant for this to be a children’s story featuring the young mother we meet in the first chapter, Annelisa, her twin boys, and their dog. After I got to know Annelisa, I realized her story, and those of her family members and friends, were for adults. I based the story in Miami because I like to write about my home state of Florida, and Miami was a prominent base for training and manufacturing during WWII, largely because of its location. I chose the 1940’s because it turned out that Annelisa’s husband, Humboldt, is an astrophysicist, and I knew he had to work on the Manhattan Project.

Excerpt from Graced 1943:
I chose this short passage because it demonstrates the characters using their Graces. Annelisa is a Locator, and can find people by listening for their heartbeats. Mia is a Navigator, meaning she never needs a map, and never gets lost. Humboldt is a Knower, and can Focus on any topic and, immediately, Know all there is to know about it. The story is meant to be like an old-fashioned radio soap opera. For example, you’ll see that Annelisa can’t remember giving birth to one of her children.

Back at the marina, Humboldt, Mia, and Annelisa piled into Aunt Sam’s old car. Annelisa opened her mouth to tell Humboldt that her aunt was gone, but then she stopped. She could tell him later, if he did not already Know. It was much more important for Annelisa to focus on her son’s and sister’s heartbeats.
“Can you hear them? Can you give me any direction at all?” This was from Mia, who was in the driver’s seat.
Annelisa nodded. “I can hear them, and I know they are together south of here. They are not moving.” She meant they were no longer traveling by car, not that they were not moving at all. Neither of the others asked for clarification. They both knew there was no question of the pair being dead, or Annelisa could not have heard their hearts beating.
“I know where they are,” Humboldt announced. Annelisa sighed with relief. Sometimes she got annoyed because her skill as a Locator was often overshadowed by her husband’s ability to pick up knowledge by Focusing on an issue or situation but, in this case, she just wanted to hold her little boy as quickly as possible.
“Tell me.” Mia swung left into light traffic.
“Big Cypress.”
“On the Indian reservation?“
“Just outside. Eleanor can’t get in. Irene used a charm that keeps her off the tribe’s property.” Humboldt glanced at his watch. “The cab driver must have hustled to get there so quickly.” He Knew Eleanor had probably Multiplied the distance the car traveled per wheel rotation, but he did not feel like explaining this to Mia. Although she seemed pleasant and helpful, he felt that she was hiding something important, and he did not fully trust her.
“She’s not meeting Irene there?” Annelisa narrowed her eyes. “Why would Irene want to keep Eleanor away?” Irene, Eleanor’s mother-in-law, was three-quarters Seminole Indian.
“Irene has Eleanor’s daughter.” Mia did not turn her head. She did not know how Annelisa would react to what she was going to hear, but Irene did not want to be distracted. Like any Navigator, Mia prided herself on being a safe driver.
Annelisa just stared ahead, pressing her lips together.
“Annelisa, you don’t remember Tatum?” This was from Humboldt. He had been deployed when Tatum was born, about a month before Annelisa gave birth. “You must have been awfully sick.”
“No, I do not remember any Tatum.” Annelisa was embarrassed that she, during her extended illness, had forgotten not only her own son, Michelangelo, but also Eleanor’s daughter, Tatum. It frightened her that she could not remember having given birth to a second baby. These feelings, and her concern about Xavier, combined, prompting her to lash out at Humboldt. “Why don’t you enlighten me, since you Know everything?”
Humboldt opened his mouth to respond, but Mia broke in. “Eleanor told me about this. Tatum disappeared from her crib at Gracestone, not long after Xavier was taken. Eleanor blames your father because he was so focused on protecting Michelangelo.”
Annelisa began to cry. Their father, Henri, was one of the most caring, responsible people that Annelisa could imagine. She was sure that whatever had happened to Tatum, it had not been because Henri had allowed his granddaughter to be neglected.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Aside from revising the third book in The Grace Family Chronicles, which is called The Train of Thought, I am finishing a stand-alone adult fiction novel called Shackledown. It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who died in 1917, and haunts the third floor of her old home, a former citrus and cotton plantation known as “Shackledown.” I wrote it from the points of view of the ghost girl’s mother, and the woman who currently lives in the house, who has her own 15-year old daughter. The chapters rotate between the present and the early 1900’s.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing in January of 2016 and considered myself a writer as soon as I had finished my first three books: Graced 1943, Fluffy and Dot (Book 1 in Tales of Bark Story Land), and Shell’s Amazing App, a middle grade novel.

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?
Technically, I run Courtney Leasing, Inc., a wholesale automotive leasing company that I sacrificed my 20’s, 30’s, and part of my 40’s to build, but now I don’t have many duties, although I go into the office daily. Usually, I spend a good four hours a day writing or working on writing-related tasks. I usually do about two hours of cardio, and use my laptop when I’m on the stationary bike (I read on the elliptical and the treadmill). I also try to wake up for a couple of hours at night when it’s peaceful to write, market my books, etc.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t write straight fiction. I always have to include an element of fantasy, or the supernatural.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An “authoress” (I got that term from Jo March in Little Women).

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I want my books to be accessible to everyone, which is why I put them on Kindle Unlimited. I also send the e-books to the local library system. If anyone ever wants to read one of my books, I’ll send it to them.

Thanks so much for being here today, Courtney.

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