A Conversation with Author John Anthony Miller

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­John Anthony Miller, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author. You are very welcome, John. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hello, Pam – and thanks for having me.

photoI live in the U.S., in southern New Jersey, and my writing is motivated by a life-long love of travel and history. My fifth book, Honour the Dead, a historical murder mystery set in Italy in the 1920’s, has just been published.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I like to cross genres, using thrillers, historical fiction, and mysteries, primarily. I think having a multi-genre plot is much more interesting, with unlimited possibilities for subplots and secondary characters that are often as exciting as the protagonist.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I am an avid reader – although I read more non-fiction than fiction, primarily to research the books I’m writing. When I do read fiction, I tend to stay in the three genres I typically write in, although if I find an interesting author, or if someone is recommended to me, I may stray a bit.

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

I’m traditionally published, represented by Parkeast Literary in the U.S.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

Three writers have had a large influence on me. James A. Michener taught me that the location of a novel is also a character, especially if richly described. Ken Follett taught me how to move a story along, having the action twist or turn every five or six pages, and Ernest Hemingway, especially his early writings, taught me technique – that in many cases, less is really more.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

Although I’m from the U.S., I’m fascinated by French and British history, which is reflected in my main characters.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

The most difficult part of the process for me is the initial draft. I’m what you might describe as a re-writer, versus a writer, and usually go through at least five or six revisions before sending a manuscript to my agent.

My first draft is such a challenge because I have no discipline whatsoever, and this first effort is really a race to get the plot on paper. I leave myself notes for the next revision – like describe or dialogue or research – because I don’t want to be slowed down while capturing my initial thoughts. (I’ve always admired writers who are very disciplined and start with an outline that they never stray from).

My first draft is 125–150 pages for a novel that will be 350-400 pages when completed, and takes 2 – 4 weeks. I then continually revise it, using index cards to jot down notes about characters or places or references for research.

I get through these early stages by simply plodding ahead, regardless of how bad I might think the writing is. I have confidence in my ability as a re-writer so if I churn out garbage initially, I hope I can eventually turn it into gold.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

I was told by a writing instructor to work every day – even if it’s only thinking about what you may write the next day – and even if you can only manage 15 or 20 minutes.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I’m an early riser, usually up by 5 a.m. (prompted by my cat, Bobcat). Mornings are my most productive time.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

If I wasn’t an author, I would be a financial analyst or investment manager. I am fascinated by the global stock markets and I like to research the various companies and industries around the world.

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

Maybe Caroline Katz or Joanne Froggatt for the female and Cillian Murphy for the male.

If you could live the life of an historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to?

I’ve always admired Winston Churchill, especially for his ability to rally the world during the darkest days of WWII. I would like to be him for a day just to see how he stayed so optimistic when the entire world was collapsing.

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

I would definitely choose late-Victorian through the early part of the twentieth century. I’m drawn to the British Empire, upon which the sun never set, the twilight of Victorian England, the dawn of a new century, the utter destruction of WWI, and the roaring ‘20’s.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?

Centennial – James A. Michener; A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway; Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier; The Orient Express – Agatha Christie; Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett

Please tell us about your latest published work. 

honour the deadMy fifth novel, Honour the Dead, has just been issued. It’s a historical murder mystery about six English survivors of WWI who converge on Lake Como, Italy in 1921, four men and two women = one corpse and one killer.

Penelope Jones, a wealthy socialite, is admitted to Lakeside Sanitarium, convinced someone is trying to kill her. Her husband, Alexander Cavendish, a WWI hero, is having an affair with her closest friend and owes gambling debts to Billy Flynn, a London gangster. Her father, Wellington Jones, is fighting the collapse of his business empire, and knows about Cavendish’s affair and gambling debts. Wellington needs money desperately and knows Penelope will inherit Cavendish’s estate, should anything happen to him. Dr. Joseph Barnett, Penelope’s doctor, struggles to control images of a war he can’t forget. He despises Cavendish, having served with him in the war. Barnett doesn’t see a war hero, but a despicable murderer who forced young men to die. Rose Barnett, the doctor’s wife, is a famous poet with a sordid secret. Rose was a nurse in France during the war, where she committed five mercy killings on horrifically wounded soldiers. Cavendish, the only witness, is blackmailing her. Who is the corpse and who is the killer?

LINKS TO PURCHASE:  UK: Amazon UK          US:  Amazon US

 

AUTHOR LINKS:

John Anthony Miller on Amazon

Goodreads

Twitter

Website

 

 

Advertisements

Historical Fiction Cover Winner January 2019 with @EHBernardAuthor @authorrochelle @nicolasladeuk

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Welcome to a new year of ‘Pam’s Picks’. I hope you find some new books and authors for your ‘must read’ list. If a cover interests you, just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner January 2019 with @EHBernardAuthor @authorrochelle @nicolasladeuk”

The Victorian Christmas

Who doesn’t love Christmas traditions? And yet the way we celebrate the season now is relatively new. Before Queen Victoria’s time, Christmas was barely celebrated at all and gift giving was usually done at the New Year.

Contrary to popular belief, Mr Charles Dickens did not invent Christmas. However, he took the idea and ran with it, creating one of the most iconic ghost stories of our time, A Christmas Carol. Most of us associate the book, and the marvellous film versions of it, with a typical Victorian Christmas, but the commercialisation of the season came about due to two main influences; Queen Victoria marrying her German first cousin, Prince Albert; and the mass production of cheap goods due to the Industrial Revolution.

So, what did the Victorians do for our Christmas traditions?

Mother and daughter prepare the Christmas tree
Illustration Credit: ©iStock.com/clu

The Christmas Tree

Prince Albert brought many of the German Christmas traditions with him to England, including the Christmas tree. The first one was erected in Windsor Castle in 1841 and when the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree in 1848, the public went crazy for the idea. It wasn’t long before every home had a tree decked with homemade decorations and small gifts. The ‘traditional’ tree as we know it, free-standing on the floor, evolved with the German tradition of table-top Christmas trees.

Christmas Gifts & Santa Claus

Gradually as the season gained popularity, the exchange of gifts moved from the New Year to Christmas. Initially these were small items such as fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade gifts which were hung on the Christmas tree. However, as gift giving became more popular, and the gifts became bigger, they moved under the tree.

As technology advanced, mass production became the norm in all industries and toy manufacture was no different. Cheap dolls, bears and clock-work toys were suddenly affordable for middle-class families with their new-found disposable income. However, in poorer households, a child would usually get an apple or an orange and maybe a few nuts.

Normally associated with the giving of gifts, is Father Christmas or Santa Claus. An old English midwinter festival featured Father Christmas who was normally dressed in green. He first appeared in the mid 17th century but fell foul of the Puritan controlled English government who legislated against Christmas, considering it papist! However, the origins of Santa Claus or St Nicholas were Dutch (Sinter Klaas in Holland). The American myth of Santa arrived in the 1850s with Father Christmas taking on Santa’s attributes. By the 1880s, the nocturnal visitor was referred to as both Santa Claus and Father Christmas.

The Christmas Cracker

Another item which was mass produced was the Christmas cracker. A sweetshop owner by the name of Tom Smith had the idea in the 1840s, having been inspired by the French tradition of wrapping sweets in twists of paper. By the 1860s, he had perfected the explosive bang and the Christmas cracker was soon a very popular item in Victorian homes.

The Christmas Card

Christmas greetings card, 1885
Illustration credit: ©iStock.com/Whitemay

Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), commissioned the artist J.C. Horsley to design a festive scene for his seasonal greeting cards in 1843. He had 1,000 printed and the left-over cards were sold to the public. Luckily, Rowland Hill had introduced the “Penny Post” in Britain in 1840, however, the price of one shilling for the cards meant they were not really accessible to most ordinary people. As a result, children were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards at home.

But industrialisation of colour printing technology quickly became more advanced and the price of card production dropped significantly. The popularity of sending cards was helped when a halfpenny postage rate was introduced in 1870 as a result of the efficiencies brought about by the vast network of railways. By the 1880s, the sending of cards had become hugely popular, with 11.5 million cards produced in 1880 alone.

Christmas Dinner

The origins of the meal date back to the Middle Ages but it was the Victorians who developed it to what it is today. The traditional meat at Christmas had been boar (in Medieval times) then goose and beef, but as the well-to-do Victorians began to consume turkey instead, the lower classes followed suit. Plum pudding and mince pies also gained huge popularity at this time. The Victorian love of lengthy meals with many courses still has echoes in our Christmas dinners today, when we generally eat and drink far too much.

19th century engraving of children 'The Christmas Carollers'; Artist Robert Barnes, engraver Joseph Swain; Victorian Christmas 1890
Illustration credit: ©iStock.com/Cannasue

Christmas Entertainment

Christmas was seen by the Victorians as a time for family and friends and they entertained lavishly. After dinner, they would sit around the piano and sing or play parlour games. Rail travel meant that loved ones from far and wide could come home to enjoy Christmas with the family.

Carols and caroling were extremely popular although not new by any means, having originated from the ‘waits’, an old English tradition of going from house to house and singing in exchange for food. The Victorians, revived the popularity of carols, with the first collection published in 1833. Most of the carols we sing today are ‘new’ versions of old carols which the Victorians adapted to suit their taste.

***

It was the Victorian love of homecoming and the joy of family at Yuletide which partly inspired my novelette, Christmas at Malton Manor.

Christmas At Malton Manor CoverChristmas 1884: Home is where the heart is …

Kate Hamilton is companion to the dullest and meanest woman in England, but she is looking forward to going home for Christmas and her sister Mary’s wedding. When her employer refuses to release her, Colonel Robert Woodgate comes to the rescue.

Robert now owns Malton Manor, Kate’s old home in the village of Malton. Recently returned from the Boer War and recovering from his injuries, Robert has been reclusive and morose. Clashing several times over his plans and sweeping changes in the village, their relationship has always been tempestuous.

But when Kate returns to Malton, she discovers her sister’s wedding is to take place at Malton Manor and everyone is convinced the Colonel has an ulterior motive. Can Kate resist the lure of her old home and the memories it holds? And does she have the courage to break down Robert’s defences to find happiness at last?

Buy Link: http://MyBook.to/Malton

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Cover Winner December 2018 with @Feud_writer @ros_rendle @jloakley

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

During 2018, I have had the pleasure of hosting this cover competition and choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’. I hope you have found some new books and authors who are now on your ‘must read’ list. In this last instalment, I feature the last three entrants to the 2018 competition. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner December 2018 with @Feud_writer @ros_rendle @jloakley”

10 Questions with Author Pam Lecky

A huge thank you to Linda Covella for hosting me today. A great selection of questions which had me thinking long and hard. Very enjoyable!

Linda Covella, Author

Today author Pam Lecky joins us to answer “10 Questions” about her writing. Pam writes historical fiction and has published an impressive range of subgenres, including crime, mystery, romance, and the supernatural.

Linda Covella: Welcome, Pam!

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Pam Lecky: That’s quite difficult to answer – it’s certainly back in the mists of time! My first foray into writing was poetry – angst-ridden teenage stuff which I would shudder to read now. However, I did win a prize for it, so some of it may not have been too dreadful!

There was no one moment when I thought I am going to become a writer. But I’ve always had stories knocking around in my head. While on a career break from work, I was reading a book with a very unsatisfactory ending and I remember thinking I could do better…

View original post 1,779 more words

Historical Fiction Cover Winner November 2018 with @carolJhedges @SuzanLauder @xtnaboyd

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Each month I will be choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner November 2018 with @carolJhedges @SuzanLauder @xtnaboyd”

A Conversation with Author Dianne Freeman

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Dianne Freeman, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

Dianne Freeman headshotA special welcome to you, Dianne. I love to chat with historical fiction authors, particularly those who write in the same time period as I do. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a life-long book lover who retired from the world of corporate finance to pursue my passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. I also realized I didn’t like winter very much so now my husband and I pursue the endless summer by splitting our time between Michigan and Arizona.

Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

When I was about eight years old, my family moved to a house about 3 blocks from the public library and I’ve been an avid reader ever since. I don’t get to read quite as much now as I used to but while historical mystery is my favorite genre, I enjoy all varieties of historical fiction and most types of mystery.

Are you self-published or traditionally published?

I’m traditionally published with Kensington Books.

Which genre do you write in and why?

I write historical mystery with a bit of humor. I started with this genre because it’s what I love to read. I continued because I enjoy digging into the late Victorian era, plotting a crime, then creating a story around it. I love leaving clues then leading readers in the wrong direction with a scattering of red-herrings.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I like to think if Janet Evanovich and Edith Wharton had ever been able to collaborate, they might have come up with a main character like my Frances Wynn. (I also like to think there are no calories in food eaten while standing so what do I know?) But I’ve definitely been influenced by Evanovich’s humor and the elite world of Wharton’s books.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

 I’d imagine it must have, but not in anyway I could define.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

I write in drafts, so every time I have to return to page one and start the next draft I have a moment of dread that I won’t be able to fix whatever is wrong. I’ve found if I print the draft and read it through first, maybe jotting a few (hundred) notes, I realize it’s not that bad and I can tackle whatever problems it presents.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

Late afternoon is my favorite time, but I like to take a walk to think about what I need to write before I sit down and actually do it, so sometimes weather can interfere with my writing schedule.

What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?

I have a feeling this is a common answer, but I love the whole process of writing—the research, plotting, spinning a tale—it’s like traveling to another world. Marketing and promoting aren’t all bad, they can actually be fun, but they really take up a lot of time.

Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?

I do enjoy social media, but as mentioned above, it can be so time consuming. My favorite way to distract myself would be Facebook.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I’m retired so I’d go back to doing whatever I want, which would include plenty of reading, gardening, and maybe I’d even learn how to cook.

It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?

Pride and Prejudice – again. At least I already know how it ends in case I don’t get to finish it.

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder 600px widePlease tell us what you are working on and your latest published work.  

I’m currently working on book three of The Countess of Harleigh Mysteries. Book one, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder released in June, 2018.

The story takes place in London in 1899. Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is a widow dealing with a high society burglar, a marriage-mad sister, and a murder. When the London season turns deadly, she fears one of her sister’s suitors may be the killer. Frances must rally her wits and a circle of gossiping friends and enemies to unmask the culprit before she becomes his next victim.

 

Buy Link – Amazon US

Buy Link – Amazon UK

If you would like to know more about Dianne and her work, please check out her links below: 

Website:  https://difreeman.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DianneFreemanAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Difreeman001

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/diannefreemanwrites/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17347322.Dianne_Freeman