Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series featuring Alana White

my_cover Alana coverIt’s already week five of the Historical Novel Society “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series”! This week’s feature author is Alana White and her historical mystery, THE SIGN OF THE WEEPING VIRGIN. The novel is set during the Italian Renaissance with a weeping painting at the center of the intrigue!

Learn about a real hidden poem found recently in a fresco, and many more fascinating details!

Click here to read!

The Artist’s Call, the Writer’s Calling

art of books“The Artist’s Call, the Writer’s Calling” debuted in the Historical Novel Review, issue 68, May 2014. There is a online reprint of the story available at the Historical Novel Society website for society members. I was inspired to write this article after an engaging exchange between author Susan Vreeland and I on the subject of art in fiction in the fall of 2013. I had visited her author Goodreads page and was deeply moved by a post, “Art in Fiction Part I”. A must read.

We are now midway through the online follow-up series “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series” at the Historical Novel Society,featuring each author who contributed to the print story.

For the love of Art in Fiction! Join Facebook group: Love of Art in Fiction

Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series featuring Donna Russo Morin

The Kings AgentIt’s week four of the “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series” at the Historical Novel Society. This week’s feature author is Donna Russo Morin of THE KING’S AGENT, an adventurous art quest set during the Italian Renaissance and the rein of François I,King of France. Learn about how the Louvre came into existence and how art was obtained for its worldly collection!

Read on and learn more from this interview chock-full of fascinating details!

Click here to read!

Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series featuring Michael Dean

IHogarth_PBLast week was week three of the “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series” at the Historical Novel Society. Michael Dean was the featured author and his biographical novel depicting the 18th century life of British painter and engraver William Hogarth in I, Hogarth.

Don’t miss this interesting interview!

Click here to read!


Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series featuring Mary F. Burns

P of ArtistI’m excited to share the link to the second week of the Historical Novel Society’s “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series”. This week features Mary F. Burns, author of Portraits of an Artist, and her biographical novel about American portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

A must read fascinating interview!

Click here to read


“Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series” now live at the Historical Novel Society!


Susan Vreeland’s upcoming release Lisette’s List (August 26, 2014) It’s now available for pre-order.

I’m thrilled to announce the first post of the two-month “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series” has debuted! Author Susan Vreeland, preeminent writer of art in fiction, kicks off the series with her profound observations and reflections. Join us at the Historical Novel Society website each Saturday for an in-depth interview with a historical novelist who has explored the realm of art and artist in fiction. Where each writer shares fascinating details into this ever-growing literary niche.

For the Love of Art in Fiction click and read on… Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series featuring Susan Vreeland

And join the new Facebook group: Love of Art in Fiction

An Interview with Martin Lake about A Most Dangerous Love

325CA_GD_LAKE_final_2(2)It’s my pleasure to welcome Martin Lake author of A Most Dangerous Love, and the writer of numerous books. A Most Dangerous Love is an adventurous romp through King Henry the VIII’s court, private quarters, and the filth of London during the Tudor era. Lake has brought to life the fictional protagonist, Alice Petherton, a maid-of-honor to Queen Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. The novel explores and reveals the difficulties of being a young beauty, for being attractive can be dangerous. Lake exposes the struggles and sacrifices to live, when one possesses an alluring countenance and a clever mind. The costs are high as is the danger. The story is well-written, with well-drawn characters, and beautiful metaphors and similes throughout. It is a fast paced read, and if you love the Tudor era you’ll enjoy this speculative tale.

Stephanie Renée dos Santos: How did you decide or I should say, what attracted you to your protagonist Alice Petherton?


King Henry VIII

Martin Lake: I had just finished writing the first draft of the third novel in my series about the last English king of England. I like to rest a book after the first draft and had nothing to do. But I knew I wanted to write something, maybe a short story. It was very early in the morning. I sat at my computer and wrote a sentence:

“To be a servant at the court of King Henry is to live with your heart in your mouth. This is so whether you are young or old, male or female. I am young and I am female. So the danger to me is considerable.”

I sat back in my chair, intrigued. The character had a strong voice and, I came to realise, a strong will. I think it’s fair to say that the early part of the novel was very easy to write; in a way I think that Alice had more to do with it than me. I was certainly intrigued by a young woman who decided to become the lover of a man twice her age who had already dispensed with his first two wives and uncounted lovers. It was a long while before I found the reason that she did so. In the meanwhile I was beguiled by her vivacity, her intelligence and her sense of survival.

SRDS: Is she a real historically documented person from the Tudor era?

ML: No. Henry VIII had many lovers and even made the son of one of them a Duke but Alice Petherton did not exist. Having said that, I was three-quarters of the way through the novel when I came across a reference to the two Shelton sisters, one of whom may have had an affair with Henry at about the time I set the novel. In some ways, Mary was rather similar to Alice which pleased me greatly.


Lake’s imagined image of his protagonist.

What archival materials did you access to inspire and flesh out her

ML: I was keen to find a picture which would represent Alice and spent a long time looking at portraits of the time. In the end I found Durer’s 1505 portrait of a young Venetian woman which I kept in mind as I wrote.

SRDS: How much of her character is based on real accounts?

ML: To be honest, I don’t think much at all. Women were not much written about at the time and if they were it was often because of prurient male interest. I like to think that there were plenty of women like Alice around. Despite her strong nature and determination she was one who managed to avoid too much grief.

SRDS: What went into your research for the time period?

ML: The authors I found most useful were Alison Weir and Ian Mortimer. They have a wealth of information and are easy to read.

I used a wonderful website which details 16th century costume (not a subject I have any expertise on) by looking at contemporary portraits. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have bookmarked the site. So if any of your readers know about it please let me know. The other resources I made use of were maps and pictures of Henry’s palaces, maps of London, the web-site of the Tower of London and, most useful, the website of Hampton Court Palace with its descriptions and plans.

In terms of written material I made a great deal of use of the Lisle Papers. They are such a complete and rich treasure-house that I had to limit myself to how much time I spent reading them.

I also confess to using Wikipedia. People complain that it is rife with errors. There are some but I always try to triangulate the articles to make sure that they are backed up by other authorities. You can find some fascinating detail there. For example, this morning I needed to know the name of the French Ambassador at the time. Books by Alison Weir provided me a clue but it was Wikipedia which enabled me to flesh out the details.

SRDS: Are there some fascinating titbits that you were unable to include in
the novel, but can share here?

ML: Great question. The temptation of any historical writer is to shove in all the fascinating things they have found but I think it is important to resist putting in anything which does not add to the story. I think the thing which I would most liked to have included was how manipulative, callous and ambitious Jane Seymour was. I’ve hinted at it but her nefarious nature is quite something. One thing I would love to have included was that she spent the whole day of Anne Boleyn’s execution in finalising her wedding ceremony and gowns. Now there’s one confident woman.

SRDS: What are you working on now?


Nicholas Bourbon

ML: I’ve just written the first draft of a novel set in the time of Alfred the Great. It’s complex and needs a lot more layering. But in the meanwhile I’ve been drawn into a follow-on to A Love Most Dangerous. I’ve sketched out the plot and have found some fascinating new characters including a rather interesting and handsome Frenchman called Nicholas Bourbon.

I took one look at his picture and thought he has to play a big part in the novel.



About the author: Martin Lake lives on the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm forcing him to rein back his work. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and he decided to concentrate on his life-long passion for writing. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and young adult fiction. He has a series of novels set in the turbulent years following the Norman Invasion of England: The Lost King: Resistance, Wasteland and Blood of IronsideMoving down the centuries and across the continent is Outcasts, the first novel in a series about the common men who were knighted by Balian of Ibelin to defend Jerusalem against Saladin.Artful is set in the middle years of the Nineteenth Century and concerns the further adventures of the young rascal after he has been transported to New South Wales.He’s currently working on a second novel about Alice Petherton, and a one set in the time of Alfred the Great. His work has been broadcast on radio. He won the first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on ‘The Wind in the Willows.’  This is available at all e-reader outlets as are a further three collections of short fiction.

Visit Martin Lake at: Facebook: Twitter: @martinlake14 Email: martinlakeonefour(at)gmail(dot)com . And subscribe to his newsletter: .

To Buy A Most Dangerous Love:

USA version:

UK version:

Australia version:

Interviews at the Historical Novel Society

As of late, I’ve been interviewing historical fiction authors for the Historical Novel Society. Here are a couple of recent posts:

Fallen Beauty

An Interview with Erika Robuck, about her latest release Fallen Beauty (debuted March 4, 2014). If you love the Jazz Age and eccentric American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay dive into this novel about a small town seamstress, Laura, who finds herself in an unacceptable social society position and forced into the world of the Bohemian poet. There is some exquisite prose in this novel. I recommend it.



divided_Inheritance_fc_-665x1024An Interview with Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance. Deborah is a storyteller of the common folks’ struggle and the author of two other novels set in seventeenth-century England.  But, A Divided Inheritance early on takes leave of England and transports you to Spain at the height of swordsman duels,craftsmanship, and training. This interview is fascinating and gives insights into behind the scenes of this well-written novel. Recommended.


Note: June 1st at the Historical Novel Society features page begins the “Art in Historical Fiction Interview Series”,where for eight Sundays I will share an author interview that inspired the soon-to-be-published article “The Artist’s Call, The Writer’s Calling”, Historical Novel ReviewMay 2014. Stay tuned!



An Interview with Heather Webb BECOMING JOSEPHINE

350 josephine 3 LRThis Valentine’s Day I’m pleased to introduce and welcome to my blog author Heather Webb and her debut novel Becoming Josephine. A historical about the life of France’s beloved Josephine Bonaparte and her famous and heart-wrenching love story with Napoleon Bonaparte.

Through concise storytelling and cleaver descriptions Webb brings to life Josephine and her plight.

Q: What sparked your interest in your protagonist, Josephine Bonaparte?

The idea for this novel came to me in two parts. I taught a unit about the French Revolution in my high school French classes for several years, which sparked my interest in the time period. Yet despite my teaching, I knew little about Josephine and I “discovered” her later. Ultimately she was a minor player in a sea of France’s most famous and infamous people during the Revolution—at least until Robespierre fell and the Directoire took over the government.

When I began to feel the pull to writing a book, I had a dream about Josephine. Strange, but true. From the very first biography I read, I was hooked. Her vivid childhood home, her adaptable nature and courageous spirit had me enthralled. Her rich life story set to the backdrop of the chaotic Revolution and the opulent Napoleonic Empire cinched the deal.

Q: Will you share with us one of your favorite things about Josephine?

There are so many things I love about Josephine—she was a patron of the arts, an enthusiastic botanist, a fashion icon, but the most captivating things about her to me were her adaptable nature and courageous spirit and her generosity to everyone she knew. I also enjoyed reading about her tumultuous love affairs!

Q: What was one of her eccentricities that is little known?

She chewed sugarcane as a kid and her love of sugar never went away. She had quite a persistent sugar tooth.

Tarot of Lovers - Copy

The Tarot de Marseille is one of the French standard patterns from which many tarot decks of the 19th century and later were derived. This card is L’Amoureux (The Lovers).

Q: Uniquely you have focused on Josephine’s use of Tarot cards, where did you uncover this intriguing detail?

It’s in a lot of the research, believe it or not. She used her cards faithfully and found relief in reading their messages, particularly during some of the more tumultuous times of her life.

Q: What archival documents did you reference to help create the Martinique  sugar plantation scenes of the novel?

I read many documents on JStors, a journal database, that focused on sugar plantations specifically, but also I have a Master’s Degree in Latin American studies and have spent time in the jungles of Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico for my field work so I know exactly what a jungle smells, sounds, and feels like. I’m very familiar with the histories of the region.

Q: Okay, I have to ask: fact or fiction on the sponge cake guillotine heads? If true, where did you discover such a deliciously gruesome minutia?

That was fiction! I made it up in this crazy head of mine. As a matter of fact, it was one of my favorite scenes to write because I’m a foodie so I REALLY enjoyed being creative there.

Q: What interesting tidbits did you discover in your research but could not include in the book, but can share here?

There’s so much! The French Revolution itself is a gold mine of fascinating and horrifying facts, but also with Josephine and Napoleon’s lives, I left so much out. If I had incorporated it all, it would have been a four book series. For example, Napoleon massacred whole peoples and I don’t go into that much at all in the book. Also, he fell in love with Maria Walewski, his Polish mistress who was already married at the time, and impregnated her. All of the Bonapartes led intriguing lives with some really incredible stories.

As for Josephine, she collected artworks of all kinds and was the patron of many females artists in her day. In terms of her sexual life, she truly loved Hippolyte Charles and spent quite a bit of time with him—much more than I gave her credit for in Becoming Josephine. In addition she went on dozens of pilgrimages like every queen before her, but gave away jewels and money to the poor at each of her stop

Q: What is your writing process?

This is a tough question to answer, because I feel I’m always learning and changing to see if new processes will work better for me. What I begin with is extensive research—biographies, journals, nonfiction books about specific subjects I need to learn more about, documentaries, travel. For at least three months I read for hours and hours each day, take notes, and organize a historical outline. From there I devise a scene outline that I put together in a three act structure. It’s a fairly general outline, but it helps me keep track of what goes where. The next step is to work on the opening scene. I’m fairly linear in my thinking so once I start writing I go from beginning to end. I revise from beginning to end as well. With each draft of revisions I focus on one or two aspects at a time and then begin again. When I get close to finishing, I print it out and edit the chapters out of order (reading them aloud) to catch final errors, word choices, and flow.

Q: What are you working on next?

Currently I’m revising RODIN’S LOVER, a novel of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin—sculptors, collaborators, and lovers—set to the backdrop of the Belle Époque. The novel explores the themes of struggling in the art world, obsession, and madness. It releases in winter of 2015.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thank you so much Heather for this fascinating interview, and I already can’t wait for your next release!!!

This is a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for yourself or loved one! Becoming Josephine

300 Heather Webb SmilingHeather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, released January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. Her forthcoming novel, RODIN’S LOVER, will release in winter of 2015.When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb) or via her blog ( Stop on by! Pinterest:

Interview with author M.J. Rose SEDUCTION

300 MJRBWIt is my pleasure to introduce and welcome author M.J. Rose and her Gothic time-slip mystery Seduction. The story takes place on the windswept British Island of Jersey. Rose’s prose is filled with descriptive ambiance, art, mythology, psychology, and scent. The book explores the implications of reincarnation, and delves into nineteenth-century French novelist Victor Hugo’s life while on self-imposed exiled to the island. Hugo led hundreds of séances at his coastal home there, trying to make contact with his departed daughter Leopoldine. While the modern day protagonist mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, becomes entwined with Hugo’s past secrets and with a disturbed soul’s quest, which leads her deep inside the island’s mysterious Celtic heritage. I loved this novel. It was rich in poignant atmospheric detail and intrigue. It is a sensual and captivating read.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines from the book:

“To be a decent writer you must have both empathy and imagination. While these attributes aid your art, they can plague your soul.”

Now let’s venture into the story behind the story of M.J Rose’s engrossing novel Seduction

Q: Where did your inspiration for Seduction come from?

SeductionA trip to Paris and Victor Hugo’s home there inspired me to read Les Miserables. I became obsessed with Fantine. I kept wondering if someone had inspired Hugo to create her? I started reading more and more about him. I read his poetry. Sought out his watercolors and drawings… But it was coming across a description of his belief in reincarnation and his experimenting with séances that made me decide to write about him… and the woman who might have inspired him to create Fantine.

Q: Will you tell us a little about protagonist Jac L’Etoile? 

Founded before the French Revolution, The House of L’Etoile is an exclusive perfumery in Paris.  The firm has over the centuries, developed some of the world’s most famous and beloved scents.

Jac L’Etoile has the most highly developed “nose” in the family, but at the age of 21 rejected the perfume industry in favor of becoming a mythologist. She studies and researches the origins of myths and presents her discovering on Mythfinders, an Amercian cable TV show. She’s also written a book of the same name.

Starting when she was a young teenager she began suffering psychotic episode and was teasted and treated for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. But it was when Jac was finally send to a Jungian psychiatric facilty called Blitzer Rath. Where she meets Dr. Malachai Samuels, who believes that Jac is not suffering any kind of illness but is instead having past life memories.

Q: In addition, will you please share with us some information about French writer Victor Hugo, who plays a major part in the novel, and his exploration of séances while on self-imposed exile on the British Island of Jersey.

So much about Victor Hugo’s life is as it appears in the book. His beloved daughter drowned while he was on vacation with his mistress for which he felt guilty for the rest of his life. Several years later he  exiled himself and his family to the Isle of Jersey because of political reasons. While he lived in a house overlooking the sea at Marine Terrace he and his family engaged in over one hundred séances that  he himself transcribed. The séances began because he desperately wanted to know his daughter was at peace. They continued because, as he said, he became obsessed with the spirit world.

oujie boardVictor Hugo claimed to have “spoken” with all the entities I mention in the book – including Jesus, Napoleon, Dante, Shakespeare, and especially the spirit he called The Shadow of the Sepulcher. Hugo maintained that the Shadow asked him to write a poem to restore his reputation as a creature of enlightenment. And indeed in 1859, Hugo wrote La Fin de Satan (The End of Satan).

And that’s where the facts end and my fiction picks up. The particular bargain that my Shadow offered Hugo is not recorded anywhere.

Q: Please tell us a little about the Celtic roots on the Island of Jersey, as they are important in Jac’s story.

220px-Dolmen_La_Sergenté,_JerseyThe Celts inhabited Jersey centuries ago; Visual proof of it is everywhere you look. The dolmens and menhirs and passage graves I describe are for the most part the ones that actually exist. These Neolithic monuments have been dated as far back as 4800 BCE. Sadly human sacrifice was practiced by these spiritual people in a time very different from ours.  Jac’s begins to have what she calls Meomory Lurches which take pace during these tempestous times.

Q: In the novel’s “Afterward” you share about how you were finally able to write this novel. You wrote it differently than all your others you’ve written up to this point. Please share with us this fascinating story.

We sold the book before it was written and when it was time to write -  I panicked. Sure I had made a huge huge mistake. How dare I take on Hugo?! And not only take him on – but write a journal in his voice? He was a genius. How could I even begin to conjure him? I wanted to buy my contract back but my wonderful agent convinced me to read Hugo’s letters first. Dan (Dan Conaway, Writers House) thought the letters  might show a man who was easier to relate to than the brilliant novelist who wrote Les Miserables. Dan was right. Hugo was more accessible as a man writing to his son or friend or mistress.  It was through those letters,  he came to life for me in a way that made me think I could take on the book.

So I’d read Hugo’s letters and decided to at least attempt the book, I  sat down at my computer. And froze again. There I was. Trying to write what a 19th century novelist and poet would be writing to a woman he’d had an intimate relationship with. And doing it on a 21st century lap top.  After many false tries, something clicked.  I picked up a pen ,a bottle of ink and a notebook and started writing the way Hugo would have written. Longhand. And 120,000 words later…. I finally put down the pen. It was an astonishing experience. Not sure I want to do it too soon again – but it was the only way I think I could have written this book.

Q: What type of research did you do to write this Gothic time-slip novel?

I am doing research all the time  – I love it. In  fact I often think research  half the reason I write. So I have an excuse to do the research and learn all this stuff. Immerse myself in history. In things I don’t now about. As for when its time to stop and write – it’s different with every book – but it always sort of organically happens. I read everything I could about Jersey, Celtic lore, Hugo, France at the time and séances .

Q: Will you share us a bit about your next upcoming release?

I’d be happy to.  We spend so much time writing the flap copy I think I should put it to good use:

Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

Collector of Dying BreathsParis, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula.

Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means.

This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind.

 Thank you M.J. Rose for sharing about Seduction and your upcoming release!

For more about Seduction:  and Pinerest

To Buy Seduction