Author Spotlight: Anne Stenhouse

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Anne Stenhouse has always loved words. Reading them and using them greedily, she can’t truly remember a time when she couldn’t escape into the pages of a book and certainly can’t remember when she couldn’t talk and ask questions. A published and performed playwright, she studied both English and History at University in Edinburgh, and finds it a great joy to combine these two disciplines in her first novel, Mariah’s Marriage.

Being a playwright means Anne loves dialogue and knows a piece is going well when she ‘begins to hear the characters talking to each other’. She has been a civil servant, full-time Mum and, for a while, a worker in an Addictions’ rehabilitation unit. Authors Welcome had a chance to chat with Anne Stenhouse regarding her career as a writer, and her latest novel.

AW: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Anne: Bella’s Betrothal by Anne Stenhouse is set in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1826. Lady Isabella Wormsley is fleeing a scandal and travelling to live with her uncle and aunt in Edinburgh’s George Square, when her room at a Dalkeith inn is invaded by Laird and architect, Charles Lindsay. Charles is aware association with Bella could harm his fledgling career and yet he cannot allow Bella to be further compromised or injured by Graham Direlton. Bella wonders if she can trust this handsome neighbor.

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Anne: My intended audience is the reader who enjoys sound historical background, sparkling dialogue and the age-old battle of wits between two attractive protagonists.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Anne: My first novel is called Mariah’s Marriage and that title kept me grounded as a debut writer. It drew me back to what the book was about. Bella’s Betrothal carries on the alliterative scheme.

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Anne: My cover is by CK Volnek for MuseItUp and she did Mariah’s cover, too. Charlie read my answers to the cover art form and took it from there. We tried out 2 or 3 ideas and eventually settled on this great townscape with Edinburgh Castle in the background, Bella’s vibrant red hair in the foreground and Charles midway between the two.

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Anne: It was written in stages. Chapter one appeared in the Mills and Boon online competition. I wrote a 50,000 word ms during NaNoWriMo of 2012 and completed it in February 2013.

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Anne:  Yes. Set self on chair and type. Words, even awful words in poor order, can be edited into prose. A blank page is just that.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Anne: I’ve been writing for many years and have had some local success in Scotland with stage plays. I wanted to try prose and had to overcome the playwright’s habit of leaving a lot for the Director and actors to interpret. Adding in things like what a person is thinking is very hard to begin with. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK and wrote a book each year in their New Members’ Scheme. The crits written on those were so useful. Mariah’s Marriage was my 4th and I sent it to several publishers before MIU accepted it in late 2012.

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Anne: I do like Bella a lot. I also have red hair, although I can’t draw or ride a horse. I feel for the women of that time who had so much talent that had to be hidden in case it made them unmarriageable.

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Bella’s cousin, Lucilla, is a jealous envious girl whose main motivation in life is to spoil whatever others have achieved.

Anne: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be? Can’t think! Maybe I’m still too new at this to work that out.

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Anne: My books, while in the Regency type, are set just outside the period and I can walk the streets Bella walked.

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

I enjoy Jane Austen and the Scottish novelist Susan Ferrier because of their social comedy and strong dialogue. Also Georgette Heyer who had a wry take on it all. Yes, these ladies did inspire me.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Anne: An artistic director once told me I was afraid of confrontation. I do struggle to maintain conflict as I like everything to resolve happily.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Anne: A friend came to see my first play and said in great excitement, “That was the co-op, tell me that was the co-op. My mum used to work in one just like that.” It was and I was really pleased he’d ‘got it’. The co-op or store was a Uk marketing chain from which housewives bought their groceries – and a lot else and there was a Funeral Director’s arm – and were paid a Dividend on the sum of their purchases. My aunt worked in the village one and so did I as a student.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Anne: I have worked in Addictions’ Rehabilitation and the civil service, but everything is now writing related.

AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?

Anne: I am nearly finished writing a continuation for characters from Mariah’s Marriage. After that, I have another of those RNA NWS manuscripts in need of editing.

Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published? For readers = Be open to an author’s voice. Sometimes it takes the whole book to make the circle complete, but it’s usually worth sticking with it. For writers trying to get published – keep trying. Value any advice offered. Editors are really busy people and if they’ve taken time to make a comment, it’s worth taking note.

AW: How to you market your book?

Anne: I try for reviews. I blog. I visit blogs. I have a presence on Facebook and on Twitter at @anne_stenhouse. I seek out opportunities to appear in magazines. I have flyers that I distribute to anybody who’ll take them. Local shops are very helpful and display them. I also have a blog at http://goo.gl/h4DtKv

 

Author Spotlight: Jonathan Husband

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Jonathan Husband has been a human resources executive throughout his post graduate career. He attended the University of Hull in Yorkshire, England during the early 1960’s. His career has helped him develop a deep understanding of interpersonal relationships and the value of emotional intelligence.

He has combined this knowledge with his passion for history to perceptively describe people he knew who, from 1943 to 1972, had to deal with emotions that would spiral out of control and take charge of their regular lives. An Unplanned Encounter begins in war time England in the midst of the bombing campaign over Nazi-occupied Europe. It ends with the death of his father in 1972.

Authors Welcome had the chance to speak to Jonathan Husband about his writing career and his first novel.

AW: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Jonathan: The book is a story about a woman’s right to choose and how the circumstances of war and history can affect this decision and its consequences. It is set in England and California 1943-1972. A sexual assault takes place in July 1943, the woman discovers she is pregnant, and then makes a series of decisions that change forever the lives of the two protagonists. The central incident takes place in Yorkshire, England but the story also includes events that take place elsewhere in England, in Sacramento, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Vienna, Austria and in Shanghai, China.

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Jonathan: The book should appeal to a broad range of readers, with a likely focus on women over 30. It is an interesting and detail rich story about human relationships against a backcloth of war torn Europe. I tried to weave a broad understanding of what life was like during the middle of the last century in Europe and the US, especially for women who were still to be socially liberated. While it is historical fiction, the events are based on a true story. The novel examines the mother’s love for a child, how this love develops before birth, and the sacrifices a woman will make to defend the well-being of her baby.

The book should also have an appeal to various narrower groups of readers because it contains stories within the main story. Its coverage of the World War II European bombing campaign should appeal to those interested in the Second World War. Additionally, Karen, the woman who one of the main characters marries, talks about her parents escape from Vienna at the start of the war and their subsequent flight across Northern Europe to Shanghai. This event is also based on a true story. Finally, towards the end of the book, there are chapters that cover the “hippy” scene in San Francisco during the early 1960’s. This may appeal to baby-boomers.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Jonathan: The title focuses on a single encounter (albeit unplanned) that causes two people’s lives to spin out of control, and demonstrates that all actions have consequences, and that some consequences can last a lifetime.

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Jonathan: I designed the cover myself. The front page depicts a farmhouse alongside a river which is the house next door to the one where the main character in the book grew up. It also backs on to the church where this main character is buried. The Nazi image on the back cover is used with permission of the Imperial War Museum in London. It illustrates the innocence of adolescence during a time when horrifying actions took place.

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Jonathan: The novel took about four months to write and a further two months while approximately a dozen people reviewed the draft and provided helpful feedback to the author. Events were researched during this period and the personal stories of the two main protagonists in the book were already known.

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Jonathan: I had relatively short periods of writer’s block. Typically the answers to these obstacles would occur during the middle of the night, and on many occasions it was if the main protagonists (all dead) were giving me insights that he was not aware of previously.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Jonathan: It took about six months to self-publish. Literary Agents approached were encouraging and kind with their comments, but appeared unwilling to support an unknown writer. To expedite the process, I researched alternative publishing methods and chose to use Lulu.com to assist. The process has been unpredictable and rocky from time-to-time, but overall has been satisfactory.

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Jonathan: Mary Louise, the main character. She is the author’s mother and without her courage and love, the author would not be alive to tell the story.

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Jonathan: Bob Hutchinson, the step-father. Although many of his actions were driven by illness, he was often obstructive, disrespectful, unkind, and occasionally violent.

AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?

Jonathan: I would have preferred to have made the main character the storyteller throughout the book. However, because much of the story was unknown to her until after the events, this was very difficult to realistically accomplish.

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Jonathan: It is being published to coincide with my 70th birthday.

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

Jonathan: This novel was written without reference to others. The inspiration for the book came from the discovery by the author of his birth circumstances told to him by his mother in December 2007 when he was 63 years old.

AW: What made you decide to become an author?

Attending school with my son at Creative Writing courses, and a sense of creativity/imagination that my work as a Human Resources specialist had not allowed me to use.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Jonathan: Insufficient coverage of people’s emotions and how their feelings after extraordinary events. The author has worked hard to correct this impression.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Jonathan: This is a book that is hard to put down. The best compliment I received was that someone got up at 5:00AM to finish it before going to work.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Jonathan: My plan is to write additional “encounter series” novels. I also do part-time consulting in Human Resources.

AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Jonathan: Persevere and have fun. Undertake the task for enjoyment and sharing, not for money.

AW: How to you market your book?

I will use a professional Publicity Firm and my network of friends and relatives. I also use Facebook and Twitter to promote myself. My Twitter handle is @JonathanHusband. I also have my website and blog at www.jonathanhusband.com.

Author Spotlight: Anne Booth

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Authors Welcome had the opportunity to chat with author Anne Booth about her book Girl with a White Dog, and learn more about her as an author. Girl with a White Dog is about a modern 13-year-old girl called Jessie, who lives in a small English village and whose grandmother adopts a white Alsatian puppy. With Snowy’s arrival a mystery starts to unfold, and as Jessie learns about fairy tales and Nazi Germany at school, past and present begin to slot together and she uncovers something long-buried, troubling and somehow linked to another girl and another white dog…

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Anne Booth: My intended audience is children who are learning about Nazi Germany and reading books like The Diary of Anne Frank. It targets children aged from 9-14. I would like them to read it alongside all the wonderful books that are already out there, in order to add one more perspective on the Holocaust and to become aware of current temptations to racism and fear of ‘the other’ in our modern day, recession-hit countries. I wanted to explore what it was like to be a Nazi child and to believe in the stories told by the media, and to show that children and adults today can also be subtly brainwashed and seduced by a kind of fairytale which tells them that they are superior and somehow more deserving of a happy ending than other people.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Anne  Booth: Originally I was going to call my book ‘The Hidden Hours,’  but my agent, the wonderful Anne Clark, of http://www.anneclarkliteraryagency.co.uk came up with the title ‘Girl with a White Dog’, and I am so glad that she did.

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Anne  Booth: I so happy with the cover! The illustrator Serena Rocca worked with the designer Philippa Johnson and my editors Liz Bankes and Non Pratt to come up with an intriguing cover which combined a modern day girl with a fairytale type feeling. As fairytales are so important in the story and Jessie and Snowy go walking in woods together it really feels true to the book. Once the design was decided on I was shown it for my approval, and the only input I gave was to ask Serena to make the figure of Snowy slightly smaller, as he is a very young dog. I think it is really beautiful and I couldn’t be happier!

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Anne Booth: It took years, partly because of all the background research and also because it was so hard to decide on how to approach the story and what to leave out. I read many, many history books about growing up in Nazi Germany and Nazi policy. I read fairytales and books about fairytales and about the Nazis’ use of fairytales and folklore in schools. I read books about what children learned in schools in Nazi Germany, especially the book Education in Nazi Germany by Lisa Pine. I read about dogs and the Nazis’ attitude towards animals – particularly Boria Sax’s book Animals in the Third Reich and went to an exhibition at the Weiner library in London  http://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk on Nazi children’s books and toys. I read books about the treatment of the disabled by the Nazis, and watched films and documentaries. I also went to Munich and Dachau for the weekend.

The other thing I felt it was very important to do was to read lots and lots of other children’s books by wonderful authors like Michael Morpurgo or Maurice Gleitzman. There are many amazing books on the period  out there by wonderful authors.  I also read children’s books in translation, and books that Nazi children would have read. In Dachau bookshop I also came across the fascinating Young Adult American book The Wave by Todd Strasser, which, written in 1981 based on a  real-life experiment in 1969 by a school teacher, looks at how High School children many years after the Second World War can be seduced into Nazi-like attitudes. I felt that my story, apart from it being for a slightly younger age group, was more about the subtle, creeping way we can get into the dangerous habit of seeing ourselves as ‘goodies’ and others as ‘baddies’. My book is about how we need to recognize the lessons from history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and create a society where Evil can flourish unnoticed until it is too late.

Originally I wrote the novel entirely set in Nazi Germany, but it didn’t quite work. I loved writing it but I was worried about  the difficulty of showing what it was like to be a Nazi child who loved Hitler without seeming to promote Nazism, and I knew I wanted to write about the implication of the Holocaust on today, so I changed it completely to a modern day story with a mystery in the past. It is odd, because having written the earlier version I feel I know a whole other story and set of characters that nobody else does, and yet they were so important for how I wrote the book set in the present day. I may try to come back to them in the future, but even if I don’t I feel the process was vital to getting to Girl with a White Dog.

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Anne Booth: Reading history books or fiction, going to exhibitions or watching films can all help with stimulating ideas and writing. I have two dogs, and thinking about my writing whilst walking in the countryside can unblock lots. Getting feedback from other writers – even constructive rejections from publishers or agents – can all help with writer’s block and suggest new ways of approaching things. My family have been wonderful – my husband and teenage children have listened to plot problems and suggested solutions- and once I had an agent I found that Anne was great when I was losing confidence. My editors Non Pratt and Liz Bankes were also great at encouragement during revision of the book once it was taken on and I was writing new material. Sometimes just having a complete break – painting or making things or going on holiday can really give time to untangle knotty problems. Lastly, I am a religious person, and I also find that daily prayer and mediation is vital to help me keep on track as to why I write and what I believe in.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Anne Booth: I have always loved reading books and wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the self belief to allow myself the time to do it. I went on my first writer’s course about 20 years ago – a week long holiday – but although it inspired me I did not follow on. In 1993-95 I studied part time in the evenings for an MA in Children’s Literature, which I absolutely loved. Ten years later, 2003-2205, married and with four young children, I enrolled on an part time, evening M.A. course in Creative Writing. During and immediately after that course I wrote an adult novel which had an agent for a time but unfortunately was never picked up. The course did however really boost my confidence, and in the meantime I was continuing to read children’s books with my children and for my own enjoyment. So this is a long way of saying that it really has taken me decades to get to this point. In fact, as I wrote my first book (a little biblical story about Jesus and Jairus’s daughter) at the age of 5 – you could say it has taken me 44 years to get published!

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Anne Booth: I love lots of characters from the book. I love Jessie and I love Snowy, but I am also very fond of Kate, Jessie’s best friend. I feel very proud as a writer that her personality is more important than her disability — I forget it myself, which is how it should be.

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Anne Booth: My least favorite characters are the gang Jessie’s cousin gets involved with – Liam, Danny and Nicola. I think it will be obvious why! I do try to show that they are children, influenced by attitudes around them, and don’t appear out of nowhere – people like Hitler and his modern contemporaries are always ready to exploit periods of economic hardship and find those with contempt for others and tendencies to violence.

AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?

Anne Booth: I have changed so many things in the novel in the long process of writing and re-writing it, and have had such wonderful editing from my agent and from my publishers, that I honestly wouldn’t change anything now. Originally I tried to cover too many aspects of life in Nazi Germany and there are story lines that were edited out that I do miss, but the advice to cut them out was wise, and maybe I will be able to pick them up again in future novels. I had more about the wonderful Sophie Scholl and The White Rose Movement and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, but at least I did manage to mention them in my afterword!

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Anne Booth: The book Amazing Dogs by Jan Bondeson was the source of one idea that is mentioned passing in my book – that there was a college for dogs in Nazi Germany!

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

Anne Booth: This is such a hard question, as it feels arrogant to compare my books with others I admire! I am only getting used to being an author myself! I think I might leave that to others to say.

AW: What made you decide to become an author?

Anne Booth: I love writing stories. I think about stories all the time, and read every day, and I can’t think of anything I would rather do than pass on those magical experiences to others. I also feel stories are being told all the time, all around us, in our press and general media, and some times these stories are cruel. I want to use any gifts I have to counteract cruel stories and add to the sum of good, stories out there which make the world a better, happier, more loving place, because I believe Love, Goodness and Truth are realities which should be honored.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Anne Booth: I felt very sad when my adult novel wasn’t taken up, but I think that the comments that it didn’t quite work were true – I had over-edited it and so a lot of life had gone out of the story. This has taught me that good editing is vital but that trying to please everybody and losing your voice in the process is not good.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Anne Booth: I think people crying at the story is a great compliment. Non Pratt, my editor at the time, and a writer in her own right, said it was ‘a story to change hearts and minds’ and I think that is such a wonderful thing to have said about your book.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Anne Booth: Although I have had a lot of part time jobs since becoming a Mum nearly 18 years ago, for the last four years I have been a carer for my very elderly parents who have moved to a house opposite us – particularly my mother who is not well – as well as writing and looking after my four children with my teacher husband.

AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?

Anne Booth: I hope you will see lots from me in the future! I have just finished  my second middle grade novel, which my agent is submitting at the moment. I have a lovely Christmas book for 5-8 year olds  – ‘Lucy’s Secret Reindeer’ coming out with Oxford University Press in September. I also have two picture books illustrated by the amazing Rosalind Beardshaw coming out in the future with the wonderful Nosy Crow publishers. I am very lucky and have a great agent and publishers!

AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Anne Booth: I’d say to read, read and read, and write the type of books you love to read yourself. Don’t choose to write a particular type of book because you think it will make money, but having written a book you love and believe in, be prepared to edit and re-write and listen to the advice of agents and publishers – they want your book to succeed as much as you do and know both what makes a book work and what else is in the market. For example, I had a great idea for a WW1 story for my second book, but I think I was wisely advised against writing it just now, as there are so many wonderful books already coming out about that subject. It was hard to hear as I loved my idea so much, but I can see that the book I have just finished is more unusual and won’t be competing against such amazing competition or replicating the same material.  I am definitely very grateful to have an agent – and if you can get one you trust and admire then I definitely recommend it rather than doing it all yourself. Anne deals with contacts and contracts and money and I can just concentrate about writing! I have also noticed how much my books have improved thank to the editors – it hasn’t always been easy to  accept that I need to change things – but I can really see how my writing is improving thanks to the process.

Lastly – use Twitter! It is through Twitter I found out about Anne Clark and about Nosy Crow, and I have now made contacts with so many lovely authors and illustrators through it and have had so many supportive chats and advice online. I come across so many ideas for stories through reading about other people’s lives and news items and links on twitter – I found out about the Nazi College for dogs through a link on twitter to a review of Amazing Dogs by Jan Bondeson, for example. I have also been recommended so many fantastic children’s books to read – it’s like an online college for children’s writers

AW: How to you market your book?

Anne Booth: The marketing of Girl with a White Dog is in the capable hands of Bounce Marketing, and through them I have been asked to speak at upcoming Festivals. They have also sent my book out to be reviewed and taken it to conferences, so I feel they have done their utmost to get it ‘out there’. For my part I follow up leads on Twitter, for example, or agree to author interviews when approached, and hope to do lots of school workshops.

AW: How can our readers find you?

Anne Booth: I mainly use twitter @Bridgeanne and I have a blog where I post bridgeanneartandwriting.wordpress.com. Readers can purchase the book through Amazon.com