Category Archives: Interviews

A Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here? Book 2 in the Petrovo series

Greetings, dear readers. It is my pleasure and honor to introduce to you Jane Marlow, author of the soon-to-be-released historical fiction novel How Did I Get Here? Book 2, the Petrovo Series. This book will be available on May 8.

 

 

A Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here? Book 2 in the Petrovo series

 

  1. What inspired you to write How Did I Get Here?

 

While I was conducting research for the first novel in the Petrovo series, Who Is to Blame, I kept bumping into this thing called the Crimean War. Eventually, I realized it simply had to be the backdrop of my next novel for two reasons. First, the Crimean War was the guinea pig for a myriad of innovations that forever changed the face of warfare. The second factor that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go was the War’s magnitude as a gruesomely ugly historical reality.  Not only was the carnage on the battlefield hideous, but an even greater number of fatalities were attributable to disease, malnutrition, winter exposure, and lack of competent leadership. Not until World War I would more people die as victims of war.

 

  1. What led to your fascination with Russia in the 1800s?

 

I trace my interest back to 6th grade when mother dragged me kicking and screaming to a professional stage performance of Fiddler on the Roof. But as my feet began tapping with the music, I experienced the proverbial smack-to-the-forehead. I was just at the right age to gain an inkling of understanding about prejudice, suppression, rural culture, and the deep-seated role of religion.

 

  1. You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know when you started how extensive your research would become?

 

Research turned out to be a little more problematic than I expected. Although I located a modest number of books and articles, the Crimean War doesn’t play a prominent role in US history, and I was left with many uncertainties. I attempted to locate a graduate student in the US who would proofread my manuscript for historical accuracy but found no takers. I ended up consulting with the Crimean War Research Society in the U.K. I’m particularly grateful for their expertise for the chapter that took place at the Malakov bastion.

 

  1. What is one of your favorite stories or details about life in 19th century Russia?

 

While conducting research, I was taken aback by the fact that prostitution was a regulated business in Russia during the 1800s. For example, in order to control syphilis and other venereal diseases, prostitutes were required to be examined periodically. Their customers, however, had no such obligation. The policy seems akin to placing a dam half-way across the river, doesn’t it?  My third book in the Petrovo series offers readers an insider’s view of a Russian brothel.

 

  1. Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? Any advice for other authors writing historical fiction?

 

My research began way back in the late 1980s. Because the Internet wasn’t an option in those days, I scoured the library for books and articles. Thank goodness for the Interlibrary Loan program! I also took a sightseeing trip to Russia which included spending time in the rural farmland that serves as the setting for my fictional village of Petrovo. Nowadays, I’d urge any historical fiction writer to befriend their local librarians. They know the ins and outs of the various online databases.

 

 

  1. What was it like writing from the perspective of a male character? Any challenges?

Such a daunting undertaking for a senior-citizen woman to plunge herself into the mindset of a young, virile male! One tool I used was to read and reread Jonathan Tropper’s novels. His flawed, lustful protagonists crack me up!

 

  1. What distinguishes How Did I Get Here? from other narratives about the Crimean War?

 

American authors have produced very little in the way of fiction set in the Crimean War; therefore, it’s a wide-open canvas. Second, my novel doesn’t end with the war. It shows a veteran’s struggle with the then unnamed consequence of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Third, as a veterinarian, I felt compelled to demonstrate the agony war inflicts on animals. My eyes tear up every time I read my own passage in which the protagonist has to kill a horse that was injured in battle.

 

  1. As a writer, how do you weave fact and fiction into a novel?

 

Conceptually, it’s easy if your mind is prone to flights of fancy. However, meticulous research and double-checking is required if the characters are well-known persons or if the setting is a well-documented event.

 

This particular book presented an additional challenge. During the 1800s, Russia used what is known as the Old Style calendar (O.S.), which is 12 days behind the Western New Style (N.S.) calendar. Hence, historical Russian events are often dated along the lines of “Oct 24 O.S. (Nov 5 N.S.).”

 

Imagine being an author (i.e., me) doing research on a war in which one of the military forces used Old Style while the opponents used New Style. Additionally, some authors mark their books, articles, and online resources with either N.S. or O.S., but other authors don’t deem it necessary to specify which calendar style they use. Then try to coordinate actual events (some N.S., some O.S.) into a fictional narrative in which timing was crucial to the story. My sanity underwent a notable decline in during this period of writing.

 

  1. Were there any unexpected obstacles you encountered when you began writing How Did I Get Here?

 

The same aspect that I hope will attract readers—a story about a little known but ghastly war—was also a hurdle—finding detailed depictions from the Russians’ point of view.

 

  1. What do you hope your readers will get out of the novel?

 

My desire is that readers find several take-home messages:

 

First, the old adage, “Beauty is only skin deep.”

 

Second, malevolence and injustice can mold a child, but fortitude plus a helping hand can remake the man.

 

Third, every person is obligated to give back to society. And not just according to what he received from it, but at a higher level.

 

Fourth, a better understanding of the demons of war as manifested in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 

 

  1. Who’s a character from the book you wish you could meet?

 

I relish 10-year-old Platon’s inquisitiveness, boundless energy, and joie de vivre. In fact, I’d adopt him if I could. But since I can’t, I’m entertaining the possibility of writing a book with him as the protagonist, so I can watch him mature into a man.

 

  1. What was your favorite novel growing up?

 

By the time I reached junior high, I was ready to put the Nancy Drew series behind me. Being a typical girlie-girl, I was forever enamored by the first adult, mainstream novel I read, Gone with the Wind.

 

  1. What authors/books do you draw inspiration from?

 

If only I could be as talented a writer as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo!. During a seminar on writing fiction, the instructor told us that taking pen in hand and writing and re-writing good passages from favorite books would promote brain neuron connections that would improve our own writing. I must have copied the same passage from Nobody’s Fool at least 200 times!

 

  1. Can we expect more books in the Petrovo series?

 

You bet! The third novel in the series will offer an insider’s view of the seamier side of 1870s Moscow.

 

  1. Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

 

       Both novels are available in paper, Kindle, and Audible formats on Amazon. If your local bookstore doesn’t stock the book, request that it be ordered.

 

For more about me as an author, plus a few chuckles from Slavic Slapstick, as well as jaw-dropping tidbits about historic Russia, visit my blog at www.janemarlowbooks.com, and subscribe to my free, no sales gimmicks, no obligation e-newsletter with quarterly in-box delivery.

 

 

 

PRESS CONTACT

Elena Meredith | PR by the Book

512-481-7096 | elena@prbythebook.com

Advertisements

Author S. M. Hope Talks Writing, Inspiration, and the Creative Process Behind Tainted Jewel

Greetings, readers. Author S. M. Hope stopped by The Indie Spot to share her thoughts on writing and the creative process involved in getting a book to market.

What inspired you to start writing?

Writing started as a hobby, I never expected a published book at the end. However, the more I wrote, the more passionate I became about what I was creating. I didn’t want to be the only one in the world to know what Kate was going through. I asked a few friends and my mum for their views on my book, and it was from their encouragement that I looked into possibly publishing it.

What did you like to read when you were a youngster?

The one that sticks out the most to me was, when I was very young the teacher used to sit us down on the mat and read to us. The book was the very famous James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I can still feel the excitement I felt when she would read it to us. She would stop at a place where you really wanted to find out more and I couldn’t wait for the next day so I could find out.

What is the greatest challenge you faced in writing Tainted Jewel?

The sex scenes. I don’t know why they bother me so much. I think it’s a worry knowing your friends and family will be reading your book and you’ve written a scene which does make you feel a little embarrassed. Beem and I have recently shared tweets on this subject. I was writing one particular scene about a sixteen year old boy losing his virginity. The word vagina came up, and I feel it sounds out of place. But I’m struggling with choice of word with which to replace it, as I don’t want the scene to sound too vulgar.

How much research do you do before writing the book?

I didn’t really need to do too much research at the time of writing. It was only little things like, at what stage does a baby hit a certain milestone. When is it illegal to have an abortion? Also, can you open the mouth of a dead body? Things like that. I’d hate the police to come knocking at my door asking for a look at my internet history and them seeing those kinds of things. I think I’d be in a lot of trouble.

What motivated you to write the book Tainted Jewel?

Nothing motivated me more than seeing the pages come together and a complete work of fiction materialised in front of me. Blank pages turned into a story that other people can read and be lost in.

Once written, there are many, many rewards. Not least when a stranger took the time out of her day to email and thank me for writing the book as she hasn’t been able to put it down. It gave her days of enjoyment.

I’ve been completely overwhelmed at the support and kind words I’ve had from readers and also other authors.

Tell us more about Tainted Jewel.

I had an idea that I thought would make a fantastic book, so I put pen to paper – or rather finger to laptop – and that’s how it all started.

Originally, the book was called Diamond In The Rough. However, as the story became complete and I started on the book cover design, I changed the title to the shorter, more catchy Tainted Jewel.

Tainted Jewel is told through the eyes of Katie Reilly, who, at the start of the book, is ten years old.  Kate suffers from OCD, and the book shows how this affects her outlook on life and situations in general as we read about her growing up.

The story begins when she is introduced to two brothers, Lawrence and Mike Taylor, and from that day, Kate is obsessed with Mike. At first, she sees him as a father figure. However, as she gets older, her feelings progress into love.

She doesn’t realise until it’s too late exactly who Mike Taylor is. He’s the sidekick of Mr Simpson, the most feared man in Bridgeborough.

How did you choose to write in this particular genre?

Because of the ideas I had in my mind about how the book would play out and eventually end, I knew it was never going to be a fairy tale. So, Crime Drama was the only genre it could fit into. I really love the genre and everyone has such wonderful stories to tell.

Who are some of the authors that inspired you? Favorites?

I was told a couple of times that I write very similar to Kimberley Chambers. I hadn’t read any of her books, so I decided to buy a couple. I read Billie Jo in a couple of days, and whilst I was reading it, I could see exactly where people were coming from. I’ve since done research on Kimberley, and she still writes with pen and paper, never using a laptop (that amazes me, it must take her forever). I love the story she tells on her website. At the age of 36, she was asked by a friend if she wanted to start working in her salon, which meant going back to basics, sweeping the floor. Her answer was, ‘No, I’m thinking of writing a book’, and hey presto look at her now. If that doesn’t inspire writers to prove that if you have a good enough story it can be done, then I don’t know what will inspire you.

How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis? Do you assign daily word counts for yourself?

I don’t dedicate a certain amount of time each day, it’s just when I get time. I could be at work and an idea would pop into my head. I type it out as quickly as I can and email it to myself. Then, when I get home, I work on it making it a much better drawn out scene. I do have a chart which I keep track on my word count, as I won’t stop a draft until I have over 90,000 words. As soon as I put the word count in it tells what percentage I have left to write. Then, when I hit 0% left to write, I take out some scenes and put new ones in.

What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?

Please, don’t stop. Keep going. You will get there in the end if you want it bad enough. Write for yourself and fall in love with your characters (even the evil ones). Let them become part of your family, and your ideas will soon come flooding to you. This should hopefully stamp out any writers blocks. But most of all enjoy the ride and what will be will be.

Tainted Jewel

Blurb: 

It was love that dragged Kate Reilly into the criminal underworld. Once in, it was somewhere she couldn’t easily leave; even if she had wanted to….

Growing up, Kate liked the attention she received from Mike Taylor, the worst of the Taylor brothers, in her mother’s humble opinion.
As a young girl, Kate was always happy to use her ‘magic skills’ at unpicking locks to help Mike and his friends out when they had carelessly locked themselves out of their homes – or even their safes.
As she matured, it finally dawned on Kate that maybe Mike wasn’t the gentleman she had first thought. However by this point, she was hopelessly, obsessively in love with him. What’s more, she was so involved in the criminal lifestyles of Mike and his cohorts that she felt there was no escaping…. And she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to try.

That is, until the night of her eighteenth birthday. Then her whole world was turned on its head, everything changed that night……. Forever.

Get it at AMAZON

S. M. Hope on TWITTER