Archive for the ‘#historicalfiction’ Tag

Getting It Right   5 comments

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?


1. Link your blog to this hop.

2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.

3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.

4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.

5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

<!– start InLinkz code –>

<div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”922127981b93430c908a6f80314f72b9″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”>

<div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p>

<a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div>

<span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20href=</span>

<!– end InLinkz code –>

[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”922127981b93430c908a6f80314f72b9″]

Awesome Power

Telling people’s stories is a tricky business. When I was a journalist, I had a code of ethics I was supposed to follow. Believe it or not, journalists supposedly have a Code of Ethics. I don’t think any of us seriously believe today’s “journalists” follow that code. Maybe Sharyl Atkisson (an investigative journalist) does, but when reporters sit down with a gay, atheist classical liberal for most of day and then report he’s the leader of the American alt-right — clearly something has gone off the rails with regard to seeking the truth and reporting it.

Researchers dig into the lives of other people to tell their stories. When the subjects are living people they can sue you for getting it wrong, although it is really expensive and very difficult to actually win a case when you’re a public figure and since everybody these days has some public interface — you’re pretty safe in lying about anyone you like — which is why people do it. Most reporters today show no signs of ever reading that code of ethics and most of the people I know who have been the subject of a news feature didn’t think the reporter got their story right.

Living people have options for correcting the abusive retelling of their stories to support the political and/or social agendas of the news curators, but historical figures are not able to demand fair treatment. Many historians seem to feel free to cast historical figures in their own image and historical fiction writers — well, why do they need to get their facts right? They have a message to assert. What should they feel obligated to present the historical figure as the person they were when they were alive?

I am not speaking of all historical friend writers. My friend Becky Akers spends years researching her subjects before she writes about them, just for one example. She usually writes from the perspective of someone who was near the historical figure, so that she can allow the actual person to remain who they are and leave the interpretation to the fictional character. I’m sure there are other writers who take their craft just as seriously — and then there are all the others who don’t.

Great Responsibility

As a reporter, I felt a great responsibility to get the story right. I didn’t always have editors who agreed with me — which is one reason I am no longer a reporter.

Similarly, I don’t write historical fiction because I am aware of the great responsibility to get the story right. The only foray I’ve made into that arena is an alternative history short based on the question – What might have happened if the US Constitution had not been ratified?

I based the main character on an ancestor who I know a little bit about because his son told his story in a journal 20 years after the fact. The satellite characters were, many of them, historical figures who we know a little bit about by what they did in history. It was a short, so I couldn’t go deeply into their personalities, but I tried to write their broad strokes to correlate with what is known about them from history.

I felt I had an obligation to get my presentation of their characters right.

We Are Writing Their Story, Not Ours

One way that I make a little side money is to edit Master’s theses and Doctoral dissertations. I live in a university town with a large portion of the student body coming from other parts of the world, so I generally pick up a project or two every year. I’ve gotten to delve into all sorts of subjects, most often science subjects, but including treatment of historical events and characters. My job is to correct their English errors, but I’m a journalist at my center, so I often google their facts. I’ve learned some wonderful things about many people who lived in history. I’ve also learned that a lot of historians feel free to make claims about people who would never have agreed with that backward-looking take on their lives.

Some of that is understandable. We view history through our cultural lens. I think slavery is wrong and was a horrible institution because I was raised in the 20th century where every school child is taught from kindergarten forward to believe slavery is evil and those who owned slaves were irredeemable scoundrels. Thomas Jefferson, a slave-owner, couldn’t possibly have been against slavery. If he were, he’d have freed his slaves. Of course, his story was more nuanced than that. The son of slave owners, he inherited the slaves he owned and that inheritance already had an encumbrance of debt on it. By law, he couldn’t free his slave because they were collateral on his father’s debt, which he still owed when he wrote “all men are created equal”. He wasn’t being disingenuous when he wrote those words. He was actually trying to be crafty. The only way he could get out of being a slave-owner was for the government to outlaw slavery. England was still more than a half-century away from outlawing slavery, so Jefferson’s only hope of the law changing was another government. That’s not the only reason he supported the American Revolution, but it was the reason he wrote that controversial phrase. The American government didn’t outlaw slavery in his lifetime, therefore he remained a slave-owner who was against slavery. But we see him through out own cultural lens and historians and fiction writers rarely struggle beyond that barrier because it’s easier to write themselves into the character rather than get to know the character’s reality.

Our Obligation

So, the answer to the question is, I believe we have an obligation to our subjects to be considerate of who they were when they were alive. Don’t write them as a paragon of virtue or a troll of evil, but also don’t put yourself and your cultural biases into a character who lived in another era. I think the ethics of writing any story demands we get the character’s story as right as we can possibly make it.

It was their life after all, not ours. Which is not to say that you can’t have some fun, invent some interactions they didn’t have but could have, and have some of those side characters represent your viewpoint, but that writing historical fiction does not, in my opinion, grant us a right to lie about the person whose story we’re writing.

Interview with Zara Altair   3 comments

Today’s interview is with Zara Altair. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself. 

Profile photoLela, thank you for inviting me to this conversation. I live just outside of Portland, Oregon, in the United States. When I’m not working on my stories, I’m still writing. I contribute semantically optimized content for several websites and blog article series. Right now, I am also ghostwriting a thriller.

I’ve taught writing in various roles from kindergarten through university. For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping other story writers with developmental editing and script review.



At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’ve been telling stories since I was a toddler and began writing stories when I was around five years old. At that same time, I met a writer of children’s books and knew I wanted to be a writer.



Tell us about your writing process.

The process is a mix. Characters come to me and want their story told. I get to know my character and, for the historical mysteries, I do a great deal of research.

For planning, I do a three-point plan: Beginning, middle, and end. Then I fill in the chapters that get the story from the beginning to the end. Those chapter notes are loose ideas. I find that as I write, characters do and say things that move the story in unexpected ways. I do not compose the story linearly. If a scene pops into my head, I write it while it is fresh in my mind. A similar process may happen with bits of dialog. So-and-so has to say this, and then fit it into the story.  But, in the main, I write from the beginning to the end, fitting in those already written scenes at the appropriate place in the story line.

Writing time is uninterrupted. No phone conversations. No quick checks of email. I want to get “in the flow” and stay there during writing time.


What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

The Used Virgin: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I read a lot of thrillers, crime, police procedurals, some legal thrillers. I also read science fiction.


I love writing mysteries. I think it is the puzzle that intrigues me. What is the puzzle? Who is involved? Who seems like the perfect foil? What are the clues? Where do I plant them in the story?



Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I find that reading history of the time of my stories, early 6th Century Italy, provides great inspiration for the circumstances of the plot and what issues surround characters. Some of the reading is fairly dry, but as a storyteller my response may be: What the bishops were running a slave trade? The area was known for horse breeding? Sometimes these idea sparks come from scholarly footnotes, not the main text. I’m always looking for juicy situations.


Because the Emperor Justinian did everything he could to remove all traces of the Ostrogoths in Italy, research is always a challenge. From quotidian details like meals and clothing to palace intrigue sources are scant. A perfect example is the mosaic of the palace in Sant’Apollonare Nuovo. Justinian had the original mosaic, believed to be Theoderic and his court, removed and replaced with the curtains. If you look closely you can see hands on three of the pillars which are left over from the original mosaic.


My central character, Argolicus, was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae (iii 11, iii 12, iii 29, iii 30, iii 33, iv 22, iv 25, iv 29, iv 42) as praefectus urbis of Rome. His childhood and ongoing friendship with Cassiodorus come from my imagination.



What sort of research do you do for your novels?

The Peach Widow: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I have bookshelves full of historical references. Conference proceedings bound into books, sometimes including lively question and answer sessions. Many of the books are in Italian. One conference may have presentations in English, French, Italian, etc. I struggle through quotes in Latin and Greek. My one comparison to Shakespeare is that, as Ben Jonson said, I have “small Latin and less Greek.” I sound out the Greek. It’s like a kid just learning to read.


I traveled to Italy, to interview scholars at the Universitá di Bologna, who graciously answered many questions and supplied me with 30 kilos of books to further my research. Two questions I had were inadvertently answered by just being there. I found a small cookbook in a bookstore about the food of the Ostrogoths, and a bartender gave me a local journal that spoke of an underground café, which for story purposes, was the place where the king stored the wheat and bread that he gave out.



If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

My stories are traditional mysteries set in a long-ago time, a time when the Ostrogoths ruled Italy. The main character straddles the two worlds of Ostrogoth and Italian culture. There were no police or private detectives, and murder was not a crime under either legal system.



Do you have a special place where you write?

Yes, my desk. Sometimes it is covered with reference books.




Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Mysteries have a standard plot trope. Beyond that, I play with the characters.








What influenced your decision to self-publish?

My short story, The Used Virgin, had been sitting on my computer for several years. I decided to put it out there for anyone who might be interested. Little did I know at the time, how much I had to learn about creating an author platform and communicating with readers and potential readers.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Getting the book out is a relatively short process. The author has control of publication.


With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

I don’t think so much about getting the books to stand out as finding readers who want to read the type of story I write. That thinking comes from working as a writer in the Search Engine Optimization world. Business owners, that’s me as an author, can spend energy on ranking, or they can optimize to engage with customers. It’s a similar approach.

Ask me again in two years.



Who designed your book cover/s?

I feel fortunate to work with Ryan J. Rhoades of Reformation Designs. After talking with him about the series, he created covers that captured the essence of the time. And, each cover has an important clue hidden in the details. We did that for fun.

Although I had worked with him on other design projects, his branding tends to look very modern. I was hesitant at the beginning but as soon as I saw his first cover I knew I had made a good decision.



Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Absolutely. Write the best story you can. Find an editor familiar with your genre. Hire a cover designer who understands your book. Choose cover material and paper that match the feel of your book. Self-published authors who put in attention to detail in all phases of book production have no worries about high-quality.


Do you belong to a writer’s cooperative? Describe your experience with that.

Nothing so formal as a cooperative. I have been in writing groups for years starting with the Russian River Writers in California in the late 1970s.

My current writing group is small. When I moved to Oregon from California four years ago, I looked at a number of groups but most of them were not a fit. I started corresponding with a contact from a group that had folded and we chatted about our “ideal” group. It took us almost a year to form the group. We have written rules, a trial period, and a tight community.

We meet twice a month. We bring printed copies of the pages. We take turns reading each other’s passage aloud. After the reading each individual comments. The writer leaves with written comments and suggested edits from each member.

The comments and suggestions are instrumental in honing the final story. I recommend a writing group for any writer. What we do with suggestions is up to the writer.


How do readers find you and your books?




Amazon Author Page

Author Website

Facebook Author Fan Page






Interview with DL Andersen   1 comment

Today’s interview is with DL Andersen, who is a contributor of the Agorist Writers Workshop anthology Echoes of Liberty. Somehow when I ran that series of interviews, I missed her. Welcome to the blog, Diane. Tell us something about yourself.

Hello, Lela. First of all, thank you for taking time to interview me. I’m a native Midwesterner growing up in the heartland of America. I spent my childhood in Missouri and have lived in Illinois as an adult since college where I earned a degree in education. I have since taught in nearly every grade level and school setting in the past 30 years. Currently, I’m a private music instructor in piano, violin and voice.

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

That’s been a long and difficult road with no simple answer. I actually fought the idea of being a writer all the way back to grade school, even though I received high commendations and encouragement to write from teachers and friends. I just never felt it was something I’d ever be good enough at but I was an avid reader.  I also loved music and creating artwork more, and used those medium to create stories. So I focused on those talents and decided teaching would be a much “safer” route to take career wise.  Sometime during college, I started thinking about writing for children, especially after I became frustrated with finding suitable stories on a variety of themes to use in my classroom. Once I married and started raising a family, the urge to write fiction really took over until I finally gave in and just decided it would be OK to write the story ideas I had if only for myself. I never expected that it would lead to actually being published. But here I am! It may seem like baby steps to some more career minded writers but getting an offer from AWW was thrilling for me and I count is as a great achievement in this new career path that seems to have chosen me rather than the other way around.


I know that feeling well. Tell us about your writing process.

I often say I literally started writing to finally get a good night’s sleep.  About ten years ago, I kept waking up around 3 or 4 am every single night with this voice in my head telling me to get up and write those nagging scenes that kept looping in my head like a movie trailer. That’s how stories always begin for me. A snippet of a conversation between characters, a scenario with a “what-if?” premise and the story takes off from there.


We have something in common there. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

I’ve always been a historical fiction fan, though as I grew up, that was never its own genre as it is today.  Some of my favourite childhood books included Little House on the Prairie, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Black Beauty and Johnny Tremain.  I loved all things Victorian or early American history and always felt I was born in the wrong century.  Reading and writing historical fiction gives me a means to time travel and experience another place and time.


I loved those books. Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?

Working at a historic site as a volunteer docent has changed my life. It inspired my official foray into published writing and has resulted in a book series based on the site. It also led me understand history and historical research in a way I never had before. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some highly educated and skilled historians, archaeologists and business people who have all helped me shape the ideas for my book series. This experience has also allowed me to live and interact in the role of a 19th century woman which has been  great hands on research for stories and characters. And it’s led to opportunities for writing non-fiction articles for the site’s newsletters which they’ve since used in their ongoing promotional and educational materials. It gave me the confidence to put my writing out there for others to read.


Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I started generating story ideas after delving into my family genealogy. The anecdotal evidence and fragmented facts I uncovered showed a very different and intriguing view of early America than what is often presented in the history books or Hollywood films. I wanted to tell their stories, especially an era that until recently was often overlooked.  My short story for the upcoming Echoes of Liberty anthology is based on my 3rd great grandfather’s documented experience during the Civil War in Missouri. I ran across it while tracing my lineage and was dumbfounded that nobody ever told me about his harrowing experience. It was just the sort of stories I asked my Grandparents to tell me and they never did, probably because they never knew them either.  I do think there is a story inside everyone and we can learn so much about our past, and perhaps ourselves, through historical fiction.


I completely agree. What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Historical fiction writing requires a ton of research which can become this black hole that sucks you in if you let it. My research for this one short story about my Great Grandfather involved finding out about the issues dividing Missouri during the Civil War and locating various regiments that could have been involved in the incident. It also led me to the story’s title “The Vacant Chair” which was a popular song during the Civil War but also fit nicely into the theme that emerged as I wrote. When researching a historical period I’m meticulous about everything and try to make sure all the pieces fit together with no anachronisms. If I reference a song, I make sure that song had been written. In the case of folk songs and colloquial phrases it becomes difficult. Some stand on when the phrase first appeared in print but that’s not to say it couldn’t also have been in common parlance years before that.  When there is no direct evidence to support some claim, that’s where my fiction comes to play. Otherwise if it’s documented that something wasn’t in existence before a certain era, I leave it out. I also try to use primary sources whenever possible rather than relying on what a certain historian has to say about a historic figure or time period. Sometimes by reading their own words, I draw a completely different conclusion than I was told in history class and that’s where a story can be told from that person’s POV and giving them a voice and readers a new perspective on that time and place.


If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

In writing my historical series, I’ve drawn inspiration from three favourite writers: Mark Twain, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  The facts of my series could be drawn from any of their novel plots. It’s early American Regency era with frontier Mississippi adventure with a dose of Dickens bankruptcy, hardship and political scandals. And all of it is ripped straight from the historic facts. My love of the classics comes through in my writing style, which seems to resonate well with British, Australian and Canadian readers more than Americans. But I’m perfectly OK with that!


Love those writers too! Do you have a special place where you write?

I have an office set up for writing and I do try to write there most of the time, but I also take my laptop on the go and enjoy hanging out in cafes, especially when my local writers group sets their monthly write-ins. I learn so much networking with them.


Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

I love writing strong women characters and exploring the good and bad in all people, even when it’s not always the PC thing to do. My characters often are put in situations where they have to make hard choices and overcome hardships and difficulties where it becomes not always a choice between “right” and “wrong” but the path of least resistance or even the road less traveled to get where they need to be and find their purpose.


Those sound like characters I would love. Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Character driven.  But there is always a plot problem or obstacle to overcome. My stories may come first as a character talking with another character in a certain setting but there is always this “what if?” that drives it and motivates the character. So that’s where the plot comes in. When I read, I look for strong interesting characters to take a journey with and hopefully become my best friends. When I write, that’s what I’m aiming for too.



Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer?  Why?

A little of both.  It comes as an idea, a character in a certain situation or setting, most often in dialogue, looping in my head until I write it down. Once written, one scene leads to another and another until the story is finished. I’m sort of a hybrid between a pantser and a plotter, depending on the project,  but I always have some idea of where the story is headed once I begin. I think of it like planning a vacation. I set a course, a destination and a rough itinerary that is always subject to change if I see a road sign luring me to an off road attraction. My stories sort of shape up the same way and it’s always an adventure discovering new places, new character friends and experiencing a different world through their eyes.


What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

I write mostly in deep third but I have written a couple of short stories in first person, including the one for Echoes of Liberty. I can’t explain why or how it happens. The character’s voice comes through one way or the other and that’s how I write it down. Sometimes I play with rewriting to a different point of view, but usually the first way it comes down to me is what sticks.


I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

Actually, that is sort of a dream vacation for me. My Dad served in the Aleutians during WWII stationed on an isolated island base servicing radio equipment for the Air Force. I have an album of the photos he took there. He had a lot of down time as I would imagine I would too, alone in an Alaskan cabin.  So for me, that trip would be a powerful experience and I’d probably have to write his story or some other adventure about being in Alaska. I’d definitely have his album of photos and a camera as well as some inspirational books and The Thousand Mile War by Brian Garfield which recounts the mission to station soldiers in the Aleutians during WWII to fend off potential Japanese invasion through the mainland. We don’t realize it now, but that was a great fear after Pearl Harbor and the Japanese had ready access to the mainland by way of the Aleutian Islands. Maybe a bit of alternative history could come to play?


The Thousand Mile War is a great book. Well worth the read. Talk about your own books individually.

My historical series, THE STEPHENSON HOUSE CHRONICLES, is based on the 1820 Colonel Benjamin Stephenson House in Edwardsville, Illinois It’s the site that I like to say pulled me into a time warp and inspired me to write the life of Benjamin and Lucy Stephenson, who both were driving forces in building the state of Illinois. Their story went untold for far too long but the fragmented facts have led to some intriguing plot devices that would not let me go. My first book in the series, currently under the working title “On the Banks of the Ohio” is in the early editing stages with Amika Press of Chicago. I am thrilled to be working with them as a positive, supportive team of editors.

Also available is my self-published novella about the Stephenson family, titled Papa’s Portrait. I wrote this one specifically as a marketing tool and fund raiser for the site to raise awareness and be an entertaining item for visitors to take home and read after touring the site.

andersendl-papaThis November I plan to have my second novella out in the Stephenson series.  It’s a Christmas story, titled Ben’s Christmas Treasury: An 1820 Christmas Carol. I want it to be a fun parody of sorts based on two Christmas classic favourites: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the film It’s a Wonderful Life. I chose those two because the facts surrounding Christmas 1820 are uncannily close to the premise of each classic tale which do share plot and character elements between them. So I do hope readers will get on board and enjoy reading it with the understanding that Ben Stephenson’s world and situation predate Dickens 1840’s London or Frank Capra’s 1940’s America rather than the story stealing elements from the more familiar holiday favourites. Rather, it will be a light-hearted nod to two favourites  that are part of my Christmas traditions.

The book will be released at our annual Christmas Candlelight tour on Thanksgiving Weekend. I have participated in this event for the past several years. It’s like stepping back in time and experiencing a “Dickens” style Christmas party as would have been celebrated on the early frontier.


What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?


I hope they will feel more connected to a certain place or event in the past and perhaps gain a new or greater awareness of where we’ve been and perhaps, how we aren’t so different now from those who came before us.


As far as the historic site series, my main goal there is to bring awareness and visitors to the house and learn more about a forgotten part of history. I love reading stories about actual places and events and then having the chance to walk in the footsteps of those who lived it.


What influenced your decision to self-publish?

I loved the idea of total control from first draft stage to final publication. It allows me to utilize a number of talents and skills. I get to be writer, editor, agent, publicist and marketing executive. I also get to use my art background in designing cover art, illustrations and formatting the interior of the book. It’s a lot of work and I do utilize outside beta readers and a good friend who is a professional editor to help me achieve my high standards.


There are people believe that traditional publishing is on the ropes, that self-publishing is the future. Do you agree? Why?

No! It only means more options for writers, publishers and readers. Transitions and being on the cusp of change can be difficult and growing pains are to be expected. I don’t really see it as a decline in traditional publishing as much as just an unsteady course right now until everything levels out and we weather through this new situation. There will always be a need for professionals and corporate publishers. But that doesn’t mean small presses and indie self-publishers can’t also have their works put into the hands of readers. I’ve been part of a Book Club in my community for several years. We read all across the genre and always have an engaging discussion. Just this year, we had a self-published book suggested by one member, who didn’t at first realize it was a self-published book, yet we all loved reading it and had a discussion worthy of any big house best seller or classic literary work.  Readers don’t really care who publishes their books. Only writers and agents are aware of that. Avid readers just want stories they can love and enjoy in their genre. I’ve read some pretty abysmal writing from big houses these days with typos in them. I’ve even read writing manuals with typos in them and these should have been edited and proofed by those in the industry who know better! Yes, some self-published books can be horribly edited and riddled with errors, but for the most part, I’ve been delighted and impressed by what I’ve read in self-publishing, at least in my preferred genre. I do believe the cream will rise to the top.


andersendl-bens-treasuryWhat do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

The sense of self control and the expedient means of getting your book in the hands of those who want to read it. I’m not in this for fame or money. I just want to write and not have to deal with the laborious time-consuming process of querying agents and mid-level publishers. I can handle the rejections, just don’t have the time to deal with the hassle of it all. If I had started writing 20 years ago, it might be a different story, but for me, I have too many other things to do in life than to sit around trying to work up a sizzling query and waiting for responses.


Totally agree. Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

I don’t think they are “missing out” on anything. It’s not an either-or situation. Many have tried both avenues as needed.  I plan to continue working projects as they come along and will work them in as the project dictates. Some might be better suited to self-publishing if I know there is a ready market and a need to get the project underway on my time frame. For other projects, seeking out a traditional press or even an agent at some point might be the best route. I just feel if it’s meant to be, it will happen.


With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

In some ways it is harder because there are so many out there now to compete with. But in other ways we have so many more platforms to reach and connect with each other via the internet. Before the internet I would not even have this opportunity to be interviewed like this and have it posted for anyone to see worldwide. That alone allows me to reach readers I never could have before. I really don’t understand this need to “compete” with other writers. Books are easily consumable products. It’s not like an avid reader will only read one sci-fi book this year. If they like one book they’ll only hunger for reading another very similar but different one. Readers are already catching on to seeking out self-published books and its making obscure and less popular genre (like historical fiction) available and on the rise once again.


Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

It is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and research to school oneself in each step of the process. It’s still a really good idea to outsource and delegate the tasks you may not be as equipped to do. Networking with other authors, negotiating trades on various skills is a great way to avoid costly services. There are also a lot of free online sources to help, but you really need to go in with your eyes wide open and know what you are dealing with. It’s really no different than running any other type of home-based business. It has to be treated like a business from the start in order to produce the best product to meet your customers’ needs. That’s really all book publishing is.



Here are my links and photos:


Author Facebook page:


Twitter: @D.L. Andersen2IL


Stephenson House Website:


Amazon Author Page:


Amika Press: (upcoming book “On the Banks of the Ohio” – working title)

Interview with Heather Biedermann   1 comment

Today’s interview is with Heather Biedermann. Welcome to the blog, Heather. Now, you’re one of the authors in the Agorist Writers Workshop anthology Echoes of Liberty, coming out next week. Tell us something about yourself.

biedermann-heather-author-picHi, Lela! I live in the land of the Vikings in Southern Minnesota. To pay the bills, I am a librarian. I am lucky enough to work in a university and get to work with amazing students and faculty. It really does keep you young! I am married to a great guy and have two rambunctious cats. For fun, I love to go glamping (glam camping) and enjoy traveling to visit friends. If we cross paths, pull up a chair next to me and we can share some wine or beer. I love to hear stories!

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have always had a love of writing since I was a little girl. I think it has something to do with my weird, overactive imagination. Mostly, I would write for my own enjoyment. I am my own worst critic, so until lately, I haven’t shared many of my stories publicly. Tell us about your writing process. I find it easiest to first daydream a basic story idea – the bare bones of the concept. Then, I write an outline with plot points I want to hit. I research for a day or two. Once I feel comfortable with concept and outline, I go straight into writing. When I’m in the writing mode, I try to write for an hour or two each day. I crank it out as fast as I can. After that, I let it sit a couple of days, to let it breathe. I rewrite and edit. I have someone else look it over. Then, I edit some more. Once I feel it has been picked apart enough, I’m done and won’t look at it anymore. Sometimes you just have to say, “Good enough,” and walk away. It feels pretty good getting to the finish line! What is your favorite genre … to read … to write? I work in a library, so I get a wide variety of great books to read all the time. I go between fantasy, horror and sci-fi for fiction. I have “Devil in the White City,” on my Kindle right now. I’m on a non-fiction binge lately, as well. I have been reading a lot about building tiny houses and getting off the grid. When you are not writing, what do you do? I love watching movies with my husband. We are totally addicted to Netflix, and binge shows together. Also, we play Xbox One games at our house. I’m in the middle of Fallout 4 right now. Where do you get the inspiration for your novels? I am a dreamer by nature. I find that in this hard world, having a vivid imagination is both entertaining and a life-saver. Some of my best ideas come from sitting at work when the library is quietly buzzing with students doing their homework. I saw my story with a superhero team of women come alive out of the quiet of a work day.

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

bierdermann-valiant-high-resolution-640x1024As a librarian, I can really lose myself in research for a novel. I love research! I have access to materials all over the world and the kind of incredible databases that any author would drool over. That said, I always limit myself to a week of research or I never would get around to actually writing my novel! Sometimes, it is better to write and highlight where you need more research later. It can be easier not to get too caught up in it, even though it is something I’m passionate about. If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say? I love to have collisions of normal, everyday experiences with abnormal, unusual events. How would an accountant see an alien invasion? A housewife fights demons, and still finds a way to put dinner on the table and get the kids to school. These are my favorite kinds of stories.

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have to worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

I would love to get dropped in the remote cabin! There is never enough time to unwind and to unplug. I think it is something everyone should try to do. That is probably why I try to go camping every year. It is a chance to recharge and not feel so constantly connected to everyone. I’d love to explore the land in Alaska and get to know the nature around the cabin. Maybe I’d take a boat out on the lake and fish? I would definitely read a lot. I have a huge collection of books on survival and living off the land. One of my old favorites was the “Back to Basics,” book that talks about how you could make a homestead and live off the land. I would always daydream about doing that someday. I also have a never-ending pile of fiction to read. It would be fun to brush up on my homesteading skills. I’d love to cook big meals and take naps. Also, I’d write as much as possible. It would be a lot of fun. Can I bring my cats and husband, too? I think that would be even better for me.


Talk about your books individually.

biedermann-echoes_front_cover-small-leveledMy first story was published this year in “Valiant, He Endured,” a Libertarian Sci-Fi collection. The story I wrote is called, “The Keep,” and it talks about women in a future prison where the majority of the poor population is housed along with their families. There are elements of the government using technology to placate the population, and the story showcases the human spirit fighting back against an oppressive system. My newest book is the upcoming “Echoes of Liberty (The Clarion Call Book 2)” and I’m really excited to see that come out. The story I wrote for that is called, “The Guard and the Crane.” It is about two families living in California and one family is taken away to a Japanese internment camp. It is important to me to remember what we have done to our own people in this country, and to make sure it never happens again.


Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

One important theme in my writing is that if we let our freedoms constantly be taken away, where does it ever end? Real evil is subtle. It is the sort of like being mugged and thanking your attacker. We see many times freedom taken away to “protect” us. If you don’t stand up for your neighbors, who will stand up for you when the time comes? For self-published authors


What influenced your decision to self-publish?

Self-publishing gives greater control over your content. The turnaround time to get your book into ebook and print format is so much faster in the self-publish world. I have many friends who are self-published, and they have had great success with it. Publishing houses often take a huge cut of profits, so the benefit is really only getting your book in bookstores. Bookstores are sadly on their way out, so really being self-published makes a lot more sense right now.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

The greatest advantage of self-publishing is that you control your own content. You get a greater cut of the profits. I feel that if you have fans, you can really tailor your work to them and not have to change your message based on the publishing companies’ goals. It is about your own vision. I really think this is the way of the future.


Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

I think self-published authors do miss out on a lot of the marketing available through publishing companies. Access to excellent editors, graphic designers, and someone to set up book tours is invaluable. However, all of these benefits can be self-taught or outsourced. You may have to spend your own money to get cover art or editing as a self-publisher. You may have to make connections to self-market your own books. Having a publishing company is easier for a newbie, but at a cost.


Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

To have high-quality books as a self-published author, you need to do your homework. You can design your own covers if you are comfortable, but it may turn out better if you hire someone to create your art. Ask around and find people you trust to be honest with you about your skills. The same can be said with editing your own books. I would never do it myself, when I know there are people who excel at each of these tasks that I can pay a reasonable price to. I always think having more eyes look at your novel is better. Errors are embarrassing and make people think you are unprofessional. Take your time to make things perfect and you won’t regret it.


How do readers find you and your books?

Valiant, He Endured: 17 Sci-Fi Myths of Insolent Grit (There Will Be Liberty Book 2)

Echoes of Liberty (The Clarion Call Book 2)

Heather Biedermann’s author page:


Lela Markham is a multi-genre author whose books are available on Amazon and Createspace.

Echoes of Liberty   Leave a comment

echoes-of-liberty-coverEchoes of Liberty – Out September 27 Watch for Interviews with some of the authors of this liberty-minded anthology right here on the Aurorawatcher Alaska blog.


Lela Markham is a speculative fiction author whose 4th publication Objects in View will be out October 4. If you’re interested in reviewing this apocalyptic tale, contact the author at for an advanced review copy.

Interview with John Holt   14 comments

Today’s interview is with crime and historical writer John Holt, who has been a guest on the blog before. Welcome back to the blog, John. Tell us something about yourself.

John Holt Author PicI was born in Hertfordshire too long ago now as to make very little, if any, difference. Since 1980 I have lived in Essex, in a small town about 40 miles northeast of London, with my wife Margaret, my daughter Elizabeth, and Missy our cat who adopted us a few years ago. I spent many years as a surveyor working in local government, including many years as a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council. Then in 1986 I started my own surveying practice. In 2004, I suffered a heart attack, and I finally retired in 2008. In April 2012 I was diagnosed with a cancer. After several tests this was confirmed in the October of that year, and I started treatment in the November. In January 2013 I started an eight week course of radiotherapy. Although I will still be monitored for the next four years, there has been no sign of the cancer for the last 12 months.


At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I guess, like many others, I had wanted to write a book for a long time, but I could never think of a decent, reasonably original, plot. It was during a holiday in Austria in 2005 when a plot finally presented itself. We stayed in Grundlsee, in the Austrian lake district. The adjoining lake, Toplitz, was used by the German Navy during the war to test rockets. As the war ended many items were hidden in the lake. There were rumours that gold bullion had been placed in the lake. Twelve months later “The Kammersee Affair” was published. Six novels, and 3 novellas followed.


Tell us about your writing process.

It’s hardly a process, hardly scientific. I can’t just start at page 1 and gradually work through to the end. I don’t have a set time for writing. I just write whenever I think of something to write. I don’t see the point of sitting down every day at such and such time, and then just staring at the computer screen because I can’t think of anything. I might go days with nothing, then quite suddenly a whole string of ideas, events, scenes, etc, will come to mind, generally in the middle of the night. Then I have to fit them in the manuscript in the appropriate places.


John Holt Collection


That is a process in and of itself and if it works for you, go for it. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

That has to be crime. I love the old gangster movies, the film noir from the 1950’s – Bogart, Edward G, Cagney, great actors, and great stories. I always wanted to recreate that style with my books. Sadly, I soon realised that I couldn’t do it, so I (hopefully) developed my own unique style. Of the 8 books that I have to my name, six of them are crime novels.


What are you passionate about?

I am very much against animal cruelty, and for many years I was Chairman of the local branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Health reasons forced me to give that up, but I still speak out about animal cruelty wherever, and whenever I can.


John Holt Casebooks

What is something you cannot live without?

Well, if you promise not to tell anyone, (unless, of course, they wish to make a donation), I guess that would be Chocolate. I am rather partial to a square or three of milk chocolate, or dark chocolate come to that. I don’t like that white chocolate though, and I don’t need the fruit and nuts that you get in some bars, either. No, all I need is the Chocolate. Not that I am a chocoholic, you understand. I can stop anytime I want to, I just don’t happen to want to, that’s all.


You and I have similar chocolate tastes. Who needs stuff in it? When you are not writing, what do you do?

Aside from writing my main interest is photography. Not so much taking photographs, although I do like that. I’m not a great technical photographer, and talk of shutter speeds, exposure, and ISO (whatever that is) leaves me cold, and I rely heavily on the automatic functions of my camera. My main interest, though, is photograph restoration using Photoshop software. Old photographs that are badly marked, or torn, or scratched, I will try to repair as best I can. The software is pretty amazing and apart from the editing facilities, it will also allow for the photographs to be made much clearer than the original.


Wow, what a great hobby! What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Research? Not something that I spend too much time with I’m afraid. My novel “The Thackery Journal” is set during, and just after the American Civil War. It is purely fiction although it does refer to several real people, and real events, especially the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. As a consequence some research was carried out, all courtesy of Google Search. The Internet is a wealth of information, and very easily found. “The Kammersee Affair” is also purely fiction, although there are partial truths within the book, and only limited research was carried out. As for my other novels, they are all fictional crime stories. No research was necessary.


I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

That’s a difficult one. I’m not into fishing or hunting, so that would be out. Just as well that you are providing the food. I notice that you are also supplying the mosquito spray, so I guess I might need to some shots before I leave. Okay so there are mosquitoes. What about grizzly bears? I understand that you have them in Alaska. I’m guessing I know, but I reckon they could find a person, all alone in the wilderness, inviting, so to speak. Is there a television, or a DVD player, I do enjoy movies, old movies with Humphrey Bogart, Cagney, you know. I guess sight-seeing would be an absolute must. I mean why go all that way, and just stay in the cabin? Alaska has some incredible scenery, so I’d be there with my camera, snapping away. As for taking books with me I wouldn’t need many, not for a month. I’m a pretty slow reader. But it would certainly be a crime novel, or novels. And one written by another Indie author. I would also spent some time, probably the evenings, writing. It should be ideal for that. I guess there won’t be any neighbours close by having wild parties. So I shouldn’t be disturbed. So when do I go? Incidentally you are paying the air fare as well aren’t you – and please not economy class. I mean, after all, one does have certain standards to maintain …..


You’re in luck. Alaskan mosquitoes are not vectors for any known disease. There are just lots and lots of them. Talk about your books individually.

Well I’ve already mentioned my first novel, “The Kammersee Affair”, and I’ve already mentioned “The Thackery Journal”


My second novel, “The Mackenzie Dossier”, started life as a straight-forward political corruption story. But then something happened. I allowed someone to get murdered. Well two murders in fact. So I needed someone to investigate. I couldn’t use the local police because the police Chief was involved in the corruption. So I created a private detective, Tom Kendall, and he hasn’t gone away since. To date there are five novels featuring Kendall. After “The Mackenzie Dossier” came:


“The Marinski Affair” began as a dull mundane case involving a missing husband. Okay, so he was a rich missing husband, but he was nonetheless, still only a missing husband. The case soon developed into one involving robbery, kidnapping, blackmail and murder.


“Epidemic”is about a corrupt pharmaceutical company that is testing a new drug. Things go wrong, people die.  Kendall is asked to investigate the death of a young newspaper reporter. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident.


In “A Killing In The City”, Kendall is on holiday in London, when he hears of the sudden death of a fellow passenger.


The fifth novel, “Kendall” is a prequel telling how Kendall started as a private detective, and his first case involving phone hacking.


November 2013 my brother was killed in a traffic accident, and my writing came to a full stop.


Then in February 2015 someone suggested that I do shorter stories. Over the following three months I produced three novellas featuring another private detective, Jack Daniels. The first was “The Candy Man” (a slang term for a drug dealer); then “A Dead Certainty” set at a racing stables; and third was “Trouble In Mind”a case of blackmail and murder.



I am currently working on two more Kendall novels. One, I hope will be published in about August. The other sometime round the middle of 2017. I am also currently arranging for my novellas to be translated, through Babelcube. To date “Trouble In Mind” has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Italian; “The Candy Man” has been translated into French and German, and should be available soon. It is also being translated into Dutch; Spanish; Afrikaans; Portuguese; Norwegian; and Chinese.


What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

There are no hidden messages in my books, no moral judgements, no profound or deep, meaningful, statements. All I want is for the reader to enjoy my story, to be entertained, and at the end feel satisfied that my work was worth reading.


That’s enough for any story, I think. What influenced your decision to self-publish?

In general terms there are only three ways of getting published. The first, and by far the most appealing is the traditional route. Publishers have a bidding war to publish your novel; you get a six figure advance, followed by a film deal in Hollywood. (Ok, remember I’m a fiction writer). The second, and by far the worst way of getting published, is going down the vanity publisher route whereby you pay them a vast sum for the privilege of them publishing your work. I quickly realised that the traditional publishers did not have the ability to recognise talent when they saw it; and I also realised that the vanity publishers were only interested in receiving a huge fee. That left me with the third option – self publishing.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Self-publishing is now so easy, and at no cost. Whilst that is a good thing, it can be a double edged sword. Because it is so easy there is, I’m sad to say, a lot of rubbish being published.


Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Publicity without a doubt. And exposure. As an Indie author I need to do all of the promoting of my books. This is made even harder when you consider the costs of advertising  


Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Certainly being traditionally published also means a professionally designed book cover; and professional editing and proof reading; which should result in the production of a high quality book. Many self-published authors are unable to afford professional editing, or proof reading services. I do my own editing, and my own covers. Nonetheless, I see no reason why a self-published book could not be every bit as good as a traditionally published book. Take note of books published by mainstream publishers – the quality of the cover – learn lessons and implement them. Make sure the book is the very best that it can be.


 How do readers find you and your books?



The Kammersee Affair –

The Mackenzie Dossier –

The Marinski Affair –

Epidemic – 

A Killing In The City –

Kendall –

The Thackery Journal –

The Candy Man – (

A Dead Certainty –

Trouble In Mind –


Facebook –


Twitter –


Amazon –

The Libertarian Ideal

Voice, Exit and Post-Libertarianism


Social trends, economics, health and other depressing topics!

My Corner

A Blog Showcasing My Writing and Me

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Deep Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool

Steven Smith

The website of an aspiring author


a voracious reader. | a book blogger.


adventure, art, nature, travel, photography, wildlife - animals, and funny stuff


The Peaceful Revolution Liberate Main Street

%d bloggers like this: