Friday, June 28, 2013

Interview with Author Debbie Manber Kupfer who's talking about her debut YA novel P.A.W.S.––"Ever since I read the third Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Animagi and I knew that if I had the power to change into an animal it would be a cat. Miri’s story came to me in a flash last October and I’m indebted to my daughter Broni who encouraged me to write it."










  • BN ID: 2940016452401
  • Publisher: Rocking Horse Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/26/2013
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 285
  • File size: 159 KB

INTERVIEW WITH DEBBIE MANBER KUPFER
P.A.W.S.


Debbie welcome to my blog! And congratulations on your debut novel being published.
Thank you!

Tell us a bit about the new novel.
10-year old Miri is given a silver cat amulet on a chain by her grandmother Celia on the day before she dies. Her grandmother tells her it's important that she keeps it with her always. She is sent to live with her uncle and aunt in St. Louis who not really wanting children ship her off to a private boarding school where she's bullied by her classmates. One day a group of bullies chase her up into a tree and then something unexpected happens . .

Where did the idea for the novel come from?
Ever since I read the third Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Animagi and I knew that if I had the power to change into an animal it would be a cat. Miri’s story came to me in a flash last October and I’m indebted to my daughter Broni who encouraged me to write it.

It seems like the YA genre is on fire.
What about the genre made you interested enough to write a YA novel.
Well I love reading YA/Crossover books myself. Some of the most interesting stories of the last decade, such as The Hunger Games, Inkheart and the Golden Compass have come from this genre. Saying that, I didn’t set out to write a YA book – just to tell a story that was burning inside me and I hope that readers of all ages will enjoy it.

Now convince this adult only fiction lover that she’d enjoy it.
While the initial focus of the story is Miri’s tale, the backgrounds and motivations of the adult characters in the book are explored in depth. The book also deals with some tough subjects including how sometimes we get trapped into abusive relationships and fool ourselves that we have no other choice.

Debbie you’ve lived all over the world including Israel and the UK. How did you ever end up in St. Louis?
I grew up in England and moved to Israel after I completed college and entirely expected that this was where I would live my life, but fate had other ideas. I met my husband, who is a St. Louis native, in Jerusalem in 1992 and after traveling back and forth for three years in 1995 we finally decided to get married and I moved to the States.

Can you tell us your personal journey to becoming an author?
I’ve always written from when I was a child. I’ve even started other novels – most of which are buried in notebooks somewhere in my basement. I wanted to finish those novels, but I never felt I had the time. Then two years ago I discovered I had a lump in my breast and went into cancer treatment. Today thanks to the wonderful staff at the Missouri Baptist Cancer Center I am cancer free, but having had cancer makes you understand that if you truly want to do something you need to make it happen.
I knew about National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org) as I had some other friends who I had participated, so when the story of Miri came to me I set about recording it during NaNoWriMo last November. The deadline of a month helped keep me on track and for the first time ever I actually finished a novel.

Will there be another novel in your future?
Oh yes! I have a whole world of P.A.W.S. in my head and plan to begin my second novel in July at Camp NaNoWriMo!

Debbie are you planning any signings or events to celebrate the release?
We are planning a big release party at All on the Same Page bookstore in Creve Coeur on June 22 and I hope there will be other events in the future.

Thank you for answering my questions and good luck with the novel!
It was my pleasure, and thank you!


Connect with Debbie on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads












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Thursday, June 27, 2013

**GIVEAWAY** Plus interview with author Jim Satterfield about his latest novel Saving Laura––" I do not outline my stories. I usually don't know how they're going to end until I'm a few chapters from finishing. If I've learned anything about writing, it is that there is no one best way to do something."






       

THE GIVEAWAY IS SPONSORED BY JIM'S PUBLISHER OCEANVIEW                                      GIVEAWAY IS ONE AUTHOR SIGNED COPY OF THE NOVEL LIMITED TO US ONLY TO ENTER USE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET BELOW  GOOD LUCK! 


Overview:
Twenty-one-year-old Shelby Lee plunges into dangerous terrain when blatantly — and very foolishly —he robs Aspen, Colorado's most notorious cocaine dealer, fleeing the scene with five kilos of Peruvian flake and $75,000. Shelby escapes to the sagebrush hills of southwestern Wyoming, hoping to disappear into the wilderness until after the furor dies down. Then he plans to return and wrest his old girlfriend, Laura, from the dealer's clutches. 
Publishers Weekly
Set in 1979, this appealing thriller from Satterfield (The River’s Song) tracks the efforts of 21-year-old Bobby Lee Shelby to save his sweetheart, Laura, from a malevolent drug lord. 
 Booklist:
Fans of C. J. Box's mysteries in the American West will appreciate Satterfield's feel for the landscape.
Suspense Magazine:
The story twists and turns and will keep you turning the pages with interest; that includes a group of strong and committed characters."
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Hi Jim, Welcome to The Reading Frenzy

Tell us about your new novel Saving Laura.
I tackled this story after writing two historical novels, The River's Song and Soon You Will Cry, both of which took a LOT of research. So, I wanted to write something easy! I also wanted to write a little more contemporary novel after learning for myself how hard it is to sell westerns. Saving Laura was also an experiment in that I had never written a story from the first person, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
The story is set in the region and era I grew up in. So, I didn't have to spend an enormous amount of time researching. I have always viewed this story as a modern western. You've got the hero, villian and damsel in destress of the classics, as well as the western setting, only the characters drive trucks and jeeps instead of horses, and cocaine is the drug of choice for many instead of rotgut whiskey.
You also have, ultimately, a satisfying ending, where good prevails over evil, but hopefully not before the reader is damned scared things might not work out!

The premise of the novel is pretty scary and deals with a very timely issue although it’s set in the recent past.
Where did the idea for the novel come?
The first thing I wanted to write about was a young man on the lam, usung his wits to survive in the wilderness (or at least in a remote setting). Then I had to flesh out the plot, provide a romantic arch, and of course, a villain. Growing up around Aspen, I'd seen and known of women who became entagled in the trouble my heroine does. Finally, I wanted to describe some of the off-beat characters I'd known growing up. That's where Wilbur and L. Q. come in. When you read one of my stories, most of the goofy thing people do usually are actual events I've witnessed. For example, I really did know a guy who traded an old truck and two horses for an airplane...then taught himself to fly it without bothering with lessons or licensing. I guess the biggest idea of this story, though, is redemption, the notion that a young man sees enough in a women that he wants to save her, no matter what the risks.

In a previous interview you said that the hardest part of writing your novels is coming up with the right ending.
Does this mean that you’re not privy to how the novels end from the start?
Yes. I do not outline my stories. I usually don't know how they're going to end until I'm a few chapters from finishing. If I've learned anything about writing, it is that there is no one best way to do something.  Some swear by outlining, some don't. I say if you have an approach that works for you, the heck with what others say! For me, trying to outline each scene on a little card would stiffle the magic. Many times, ideas come to me that I never thought of. For instance, in the second chapter, when Shelby hitches a ride with the teenage couple, it never occured to me to have those two get in trouble with the law until I wrote the scene. It just popped in my head.

Jim how did a nice guy working for the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Montana lead to becoming an author?
Since I was in high school, I've been playing music--guitar and banjo. About 7-8 years ago, I developed a repetitive stress injury in my right arm, basically preventing me from playing, which is very tough when you've been playing at a pretty high level your whole life.
So where does the creativity go?
I'd been a technical writer since graduate school, writing a thesis, disseration and my share of technical and scientific publications. But I always wanted to try fiction.

On your bio you said that your most enduring professional accomplishment to date was the Colorado Governor’s Award for you work with inner city youth.
What did that work entail and do you work with youth in your present position in Montana?
While working for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I was the Statewide Angler Education Coordinator. My crew and I develop an urban fishing program in Denver, allowing several thousand children a year an opprortunity to learn how to fish. I won the award for my supervision of several high school and college students, many from the inner-city, who did all the real work--and, believe me, it is work--teaching a hundred kids a day how to cast, tie knots, release fish, learn the regulation, be an ethical angler.
I am no longer in education, promoting to management a while ago. Now I'm a pencil-pusher.

You have written both contemporary and historical fiction.
Do you have a favorite genre to write?
After 5 novels, I'll still haven't figured that one out! Mainly, I consider myself a nature writer, first and foremost, usually set in the West. I write evocative stories to make the reader feel something. For every story, I try to fulfill my promise to the reader. I think I am an honest writer.

You belong to a writer’s group The Authors of the Flathead.
Tell us about the group and what you do.
Authors of the Flathead (AOTF) is where I went to learn fiction. The writing group was formed around 20 years ago by Dennis Foley, who was a very successful writer in hollywood for a long time, writing on several succesful TV shows and movies. I started going to their open reading to get my stuff critiqued. That led to joining a critique group. Eventually, I became president for three years. The biggest lesson is the four things virtually all succesful writters MUST do: Read a lot, Write a lot, Study the craft, Spend time with other writers.

What do you enjoy reading and who?
I have read most of Elmer Kelton's books, who was voted by Western Writers of America as the best western writer of all times. I read and re-read the classics by writers such as A. B. Guthrie, Michael Shaara, James Welch. I love Gary Paulsen's young adult novels. I read a LOT of stories by unknown writers who I meet at conferences. Probably my favorite writer of all time is John Steinbeck. And my favorite story of his is Of Mice And Men.

You working time looks to be spent quite a bit outdoors.
What do you enjoy to do recreationally?
I have a 17 year old son. My main role in life is serving as his hunting and fishing guide.

Jim do you have any signings or events planned where fans could meet you in person?
My wife, Gloria, and I are finishing details on a signing tour this July in western Colorado, basically retracing Shelby's journey. Looks like we'll be in Craig, Aspen, Grand Junctions, a few other towns. I'll have the details on my website by early June (jimsatterfield.com).

Thank you for spending a little time with us. Good luck with Saving Laura and all your endeavors.

Visit the author’s website here.











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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

***GIVEAWAY*** Review of Exposed the latest in the Award Winning Tracers series + Interview with author Laura Griffin––"What really motivates me, though, is hearing from readers who have been moved by a story. I love it when readers tell me they feel connected to the characters and want to hear more about their lives."








Overview:
Every picture tells a story. But not all of them have happy endings.
As a forensic photographer at the Delphi Center crime lab, Maddie Callahan is used to seeing violence up close, but she’s never before been the target of it.


REVIEWS:
"EXPOSED is Laura Griffin at her Finest! If you are not a TRACER-A-HOLIC yet...you will be after this."
—A Tasty Read
"If you like CSI and well-crafted suspense, don’t miss these books...You don’t have to read them in order. Just read them!"
—RT Book Reviews
"Swoon worthy men and kick ass women... her best book in the series so far."
—K & T Book Reviews
"Explosive chemistry."
—Coffeetime Romance


–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––


The Giveaway is for  One Autographed copy of the novel Exposed
US residents only -enter below using the Rafflecopter widget
And Good Luck!!!
This Giveaway is sponsored by Laura Griffin- Thanks Laura!!

I’m pleased to welcome back to The Reading Frenzy, New York Times Bestselling author Laura Griffin. Laura was my guest last October when she talked about her novel Scorched. Click here to read her guest blog post. Today she’s with us to tell us about the latest in her Tracers series Exposed.

Laura welcome back to The Reading Frenzy.

Tell us a little about Exposed.
Thanks for having me, Debbie!
Exposed is the newest book in the Tracers series, which focuses on a world-renowned crime lab where forensic scientists known as Tracers help detectives solve their toughest cases. The heroine, Maddie Callahan, is a forensic photographer.
At the start of the story Maddie is trying to put her life back together after a major loss and she is pretty closed off to people. When a photo Maddie took becomes evidence in an FBI investigation, Maddie meets Special Agent Brian Beckman. Brian needs Maddie’s evidence, but he’s also determined to protect her after he realizes that her life is in jeopardy because of something she saw through her camera lens.

Do you have a set number in the Tracers series?
Nope. I originally thought it would be three books, but it seems that every time I finish telling one couple’s story, there is a new couple to write about. I try to make each novel stand alone, though, in terms of the mystery and the romance. That way readers can pick up a book in the middle of the series and not feel lost.

Laura on your website you say that you always liked to write but the road to becoming a novelist was not a short and sweet one.
Can you tell us about your journey?
Well, this is a tough business to break into. I wrote several manuscripts before selling my first book, but now I have a job I love and it was worth the wait. If writing is your dream, don’t give up. Keep on writing and eventually your stories will find readers.

Also on your website it says that research is one of the best parts of writing, and you’re shown at the FBI Academy in Quantico VA.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Good question! Hmm... I’ve handled human bones, learned how to fingerprint a corpse, done a virtual reality exercise in which I got “shot” by a bank robber. I always jump at any chance to meet investigators and learn first-hand about what they do.

You write in the Romantic Suspense category.
Why?
I love the combination of pulse-pounding suspense and romance.

What genre do you like to read?
I read a variety—romantic suspense, thrillers, historical fiction, non-fiction. Some of my favorite books are the memoirs I read for research.

You’re the recipient of numerous awards, including the coveted RITA and a Daphne du Maurier Award as well as the Booksellers Best Award for your debut novel One Last Breath.
Is there an award that you still have your sights set on?
The awards are wonderful, and I’m excited to have two Tracers books up for the RITA this year. What really motivates me, though, is hearing from readers who have been moved by a story. I love it when readers tell me they feel connected to the characters and want to hear more about their lives.

Do you write full time?
Yes. It’s a juggling act because I’ve got young kids, but I absolutely love it.

Do you belong to a critique group?
I’ve never been part of a critique group. My first reader is usually my agent.

Laura, are you planning any signing events for this release?
I’m really looking forward to signing at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing in Atlanta this summer (sponsored by RWA on July 17). This event brings together hundreds of romance authors and the proceeds go to support literacy charities. I’ll be signing copies of EXPOSED and also my RITA-nominated books SCORCHED and TWISTED. Hope to see you there!

Thanks so much for chatting with us. Good Luck.
Thank you, Debbie. And happy reading to everyone!

Be sure and visit Laura on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



















My Review of Exposed

Exposed
Laura Griffin
Pocket Books
ISBN13:978145168933
400pages

Moonlighting as an event photographer Maddie Callahan inadvertently takes a photo that’s lands her in a heap of trouble and the target of a crime ring that the FBI’s been investigating. Which puts her toe to toe with too sexy for his shirt, and younger, agent Brian Beckman who’s making her want him and things she’s refused to want for years. Her day job as a forensic photographer at the private crime lab The Delphi Center will come in handy as she takes the bull by the horns because she refuses to be a helpless victim, again. But what to do about her feelings for Brian is a bigger puzzle
FBI agent Brian Beckman has been on the trail of a murderous doctor that he and his team have been building a case against but the irrefutable evidence the need is elusive. When a sexy photographer’s untimely shot puts her in harms way he’s determined she’ll stay safe even if she’s determined to be in the middle of the ever changing chaos of the case. The more he gets to know her the more he wants her not only in his bed but in his life too. Convincing her will not be easy because she’s got ghosts from her past that may never be put to rest, if, they even survive to find out.


It’s a rare talent for a writer to combine a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding thriller with a sheet burning romance and Laura Griffin has that talent in spades. She continues her award winning Tracers series with the romance of Maddie and Brian an unlikely yet well suited couple, who are far from cookie-cutter characters, they’re well developed complex and complicated in both their professional and personal lives. Plus we catch up with old friends and meet new enemies. She uses her standard no-nonsense cop-speak dialogue that will make readers sweat through every terrifying scene and swoon through all the lovemaking while her narrative will perfectly and in living color bring the sights and sounds to her readers, plus an Oh My God near the end. So if you’re looking for that mild mannered romantic suspense look somewhere else because this read should come with a warning. If you’re a long time fan of Laura’s you’ll not be disappointed. If this is your first by her and you like the writing of Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson, Harlen Coben or Nelson DeMille get on the Laura Griffin train you will not be sorry you did. This is a summer must read. Laura I’ve enjoyed every breathless mile I’ve traveled with you and can’t wait to see where our journey takes us next.






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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview with Paula Treick DeBoard talking about her debut novel The Mourning Hours––"I love how the cover turned out – it’s so simple, but so haunting and evocative, too. For me, the cover is symbolic of what happens to the family in this novel. "



             




Overview:
A family's loyalty is put to the ultimate test.
Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn't been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years—not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny—the high school wrestling star and Kirsten's older brother.


Click the link to see what Goodreads readers think of the novel-http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17133946-the-mourning-hours#other_reviews


Paula welcome to my blog
Thanks! It’s great to be here.

Tell us a little about your novel The Mourning Hours.
It’s about a family whose lives are torn apart by a single mysterious incident – the disappearance of a teenage girl. The story is told mainly from the point of view of a nine-year-old girl who is both naïve and, at times, very perceptive. I think it speaks about what it means to be a family – about how you might love your family members, but not always trust them completely. Ultimately, the family in this novel is faced with the possibility that one of their own is a killer.

Where did the original idea for the novel come from?
It’s funny to look back on now, but the very first thing I wrote was a tiny scene that is now in the middle of the book. Kirsten, the narrator, is watching her brother compete at a wrestling tournament. It was just a brief, tense scene, but then I started to people the stands with his other family members and his girlfriend – and I realized there was a deep tragedy waiting in the wings for these characters. It wasn’t until I really immersed myself in the writing process that I discovered the whole story.

This is your debut novel yet according to your bio you’ve been writing since family vacations in the backseat of a station wagon.
What was the first story you remember writing about?
Here’s where I thank my mother for keeping my childhood well stocked with books, 70-page spiral notebooks, and sharpened pencils. I was the weird kid who was always slightly away from the action, observing things and writing them down. My characters back then tended to be just like me (or at least, how I thought I was) – brilliant and misunderstood. As a kid, I read a lot of books about World War II, and the earliest stories I remember writing were about that time period. I had this dream of writing a sweeping historical novel set in war-torn Europe, but I generally abandoned the stories before finishing anything.

You have written and published short stories.
How are they different from writing a novel, how are they the same?
Well, obviously the length is a key difference – which means that character and plot have to develop quickly in a short story, and in a novel, there’s more of a chance to really delve into each. The novel format has given me the freedom to take some chances and play around with where the story is going. But I wouldn’t say that writing a short story is easier or faster, necessarily. There’s one short story I’ve rewritten about fifteen times, and I know it’s still not quite right. I try to resist the idea that the potential for a novel exists in every short story, and let the short story stand on its own as a tiny, beautiful thing.

I have to admit that the cover intrigued me.
Tell us how you think the cover relates to the novel?
I love how the cover turned out – it’s so simple, but so haunting and evocative, too. For me, the cover is symbolic of what happens to the family in this novel. I spent half of my childhood in the Midwest, and I remember catching fireflies in Mason jars on sticky summer nights. It’s a thrilling feeling – to be able to capture something and enjoy it, if only for a short time. In the novel, the narrator wishes she could capture one perfect, peaceful moment with her family and hold on to that moment forever – although, of course, she can’t.

What genre shelf would you put your novel on?
This is a suspense novel, with some significant family drama that unfolds along the way. Readers should get a hint of the upcoming tragedy from the first pages, and that feeling intensifies page by page as the story progresses.

You went to college in both Iowa and Maine and you now live in California.
Was there a specific reason you set your novel in Wisconsin?
I’m really a Midwest girl at heart, even though I’ve been in California for most of my life. I have strong family ties to Wisconsin, and my father grew up on a farm that is roughly located where I set the fictional town in the novel. That land was in our family for more than 150 years. Some of my earliest memories are of chasing my sisters and cousins around the barn or exploring the creepy nooks and crannies of the farmhouse attic. Essentially, the farm in the novel is the farm from my childhood memory – even though I wasn’t even conscious of that fact at first. Somehow, my mind is always returning to that place.

You also teach college. Is your ultimate goal to one day write fiction full time?
I’d love to keep doing both, although at times it’s definitely a balancing act. Writing fiction tends to demand long, uninterrupted hours with my laptop. I’m currently teaching critical composition, which tends to demand long, uninterrupted hours of grading. But I couldn’t imagine my life without the rigors and rewards of teaching. Writing is a very solitary act, and it can feel dangerous to be in my own head without another outlet. In a way, writing and teaching have both been escapes from each other.

Will there be any events or signings where fans can meet you in person?
We’re planning a big book launch and some readings locally, but I’m also hoping to connect with book groups either in person or online. Ultimately, I’d love to give a reading in Wisconsin – I want to hear from the locals if I got things right! And of course, there’s always Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for answering a few questions Paula and good luck with the new novel.
Thank you! I’d better get back to it.

Visit Paula's website here
















                      Barnes & Noble

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wind Warrior by US Army Captain by day Jon Messenger––"THE EARTH GIVES WAY TO THE SEA, THE SEA BOWS BEFORE THE WIND, THE WIND FEEDS THE FLAME, THE FLAME BURNS THE WORLD OF MAN DOWN TO THE EARTH."






News from Clean Teen Publishing:


Wind Warrior by Jon Messenger hits best seller status!
We are extremely excited to see Wind Warrior by Jon Messenger hit best seller status! We hope to see Wind Warrior hit #1 in all of Amazon!
Help Jon Messenger achieve that goal by getting his book today on Amazon!

About the Novel:
The sleepy town of White Halls harbors a dangerous secret. On a picturesque street, two houses down from a lovely little park, in a quaint little home with a wraparound porch, lives a family that seems rather normal. Sure, their twenty-year-old son, Xander, still lives at home, but he's going to college and dating the leader of the schools top sorority. It's all very... normal. However, when a man is miraculously saved from being hit by a bus, Xander's life turns in to the living embodiment of the tornadoes he can suddenly create with a flick of his wrist. Whether he wants this gift or not, Xander must learn to use his new 'super power' quickly if he wants to survive. For his kind is a dying race, and when this sleepy town has a sudden influx of new, blonde, fire wielders, no one is safe, especially Xander. It doesn't help that one of these blondes happens to be the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. Xander can't deny the instant connection he feels to her so, when she tries to kill him, it certainly makes things complicated.




About the Author:
Jon Messenger (Born 1979 in London, England) serves as an United States Army Major in the Medical Service Corps. Since graduating from the University of Southern California in 2002, writing Science Fiction has remained his passion, a passion that has continued through two deployments to Iraq, a humanitarian relief mission to Haiti, and an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Jon wrote the "Brink of Distinction" trilogy, of which "Burden of Sisyphus" is the first book, while serving a 16-month deployment in Baghdad, Iraq.


Wind Warrior is Jon Messenger's break through novel published through Clean Teen Publishing. Jon Messenger has won a readers choice award as well as the Clean Teen Publishing writing contest for his Novella of Wind Warrior, which is also featured in Wonderstruck.



About the Publisher Clean Teen Publishing:

Clean Teen Publishing Blog:
http://cleanteenpublishing.blogspot.com/





The Ashford Affair Blog Tour stop-excerpt plus interview-––"The Ashford Affair is my Downton Abbey meets Out of Africa novel."







Welcome to my stop on  the Ashford Affair Blog Tour sponsored by St. Martin's Press.


Enjoy an excerpt of the novel chosen by Lauren herself-

The Prologue


Kenya, 1926
Addie’s gloves were streaked with sweat and red dust.
It wasn’t just her gloves.  Looking down, she winced at the sight of her once pearl-colored suit, now turned gray and rust with smoke and dust.  Even in the little light that managed to filter through the thick mosquito netting on the windows, the fabric was clearly beyond repair.  The traveling outfit that had looked so smart in London had proved to a poor choice for the trip from Mombassa. 
She felt such a fool.  What had she been thinking?  It had cost more than her earnings for the month, that dress, an unpardonable extravagance in these days when her wardrobe ran more to the sensible than the chic.  It had taken a full afternoon of scouring Oxford Street, going into one shop, then the next, this dress too common, that too expensive, nothing just right, until she finally found it, just a little more than she could afford, looking almost, if one looked at it in just the right way, as though it might be couture, rather than a poor first cousin to it. 
She had peacocked in her tiny little flat, posing in front of the mirror with the strange ripple down the middle, twisting this way and that to try to get the full effect, her imagination presenting her with a hundred tempting images.  Bea coming to the train to meet her, an older more matronly Bea, her silver-gilt hair burned straw by the equatorial sun, her figure softened by childbearing.  She would see Addie, stepping off the train in her smart new frock with her smart new haircut and exclaim in surprise.  She would turn Addie this way and that, marveling at her, her new city sophistication, her sleek hair, her newly plucked brows. 
“You’ve grown up,” Bea would say.  And Addie would smile, just a wry little hint of a smile, the sort of smile you saw over cocktails at the Ritz, and say, “It does happen.”
And, then, from somewhere behind her, Frederick would say, “Addie?” and she would turn, and see surprise and admiration chasing one another across his face as he realized, for the first time, just what he had left behind in London.
Sweat dripped between her breasts, damping her dress.  She didn’t need to look down to know that she was hopelessly splotched, with the sort of sweat stains that would turn yellow with washing.
Addie permitted herself a twisted smile.  She had so hoped—such an ignoble hope!—that just once, she might look the better by comparison, that even a poor first cousin to couture might come off first in comparison to the efforts of Nairobi’s dressmakers.  Instead, here she was again, an utter mess, a month and a week away from all that was familiar and comfortable, chugging across the plains of Africa—and why? 
David had asked her that before she left.  Why? 
He had asked it so sensibly, so logically.  Her first impulse had been to bristle, to tell him it was no business of his.  But it was, she knew that.  The ring he had given her hung on a chain around her neck, a pre-engagement rather than an engagement.  Put it on when I come back, she had told him.  We can make the announcements then.
But why wait?  he had asked.  Why go?
Because… she had begun, and faltered.  How could she answer him when she didn’t quite know why herself?  She had mumbled something about her favorite cousin, about Bea needing her, about old affections and old debts. 
All the way to Africa? he had asked, with that quirk of the brow that his students so dreaded, as they sputtered their way through their explications of Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Politics. 
Perhaps I want to go because I want to go, she had said sharply.  Hadn’t he thought of that?  That she might want to travel beyond the borders of the country, just once in her life?  That she might want to live a little before donning an apron and cooking his dinners?
It was a cheap shot, but an effective one.  He had been apologetic immediately.  He was very forward-thinking, David.  It was one of the things she liked about him—no, one of the things she loved about him.  He actually found it admirable that she worked.  He admired her for throwing off her aristocratic shackles—his terms, those—and making her own way in the world.
He didn’t realize that the truth was so much more complex, so much less impressive.  She had less thrown than been thrown. 
Poor David.  Duly chastised, he had made it his business to plot her trip to Africa, appearing, each evening, with a new guilt offering, a map, a travel guide, a train schedule.  He had entered into the planning for her trip as though he were going instead of she.  Addie had nodded and smiled and pretended an interest she didn’t feel.  To do otherwise would be to acknowledge that the question was still there, hanging between them. 
Why?
She jolly well wished she knew.  Beneath her cloche hat, her hair was matted to her head with sweat.  Addie yanked it off, dropping it on the narrow bed.    The movement of the train ought to have created a bit of breeze, but the screens were tightly fitted, their mesh clogged with the red dust that seemed to be almost worse than mosquitoes.  With the screens down, the car was dark and airless, more like a cattle car than a first class cabin, the clatter of wheels against track broken far too frequently by the high pitched wail of the whistle.
Kneeling on the bed, she wrestled the screen open.  The train chugged steadily along on its slim, single track—the Iron Snake they had told her the natives called it, in Mombassa, as she had struggled to see her belongings from ship to train, jostled this way and that on the bustling, busy, harbor.  In the distance, she could see a flock of beasts, rather like deer, but with thin, high horns, startled into flight by the noise of the train.  It was nearly midday, and the equatorial sun made the scene shimmer in a kind of haze, like a glaze over glass, so that the fleeing beasts rippled as they ran, like an impressionist painting.    
She had never imagined Africa being so very green, nor the sky so very blue. 
Her imaginings, such as they were, had been in shades of siena and burnt umber, browns and oranges, with, perhaps, a bit of jungle thrown in, as a courtesy to H. Rider Haggard.  Perhaps she ought to have paid more attention to the books and maps David had brought, instead of watching him, his thin face animated in the lamplight, feeling a familiar mix of obligation and guilt, affection and dread.  She hadn’t bothered to think much about Africa at all.  There were books she could have read, people she could have quizzed, but she hadn’t bothered, not with any of it.  When she had thought of coming to Africa, it hadn’t been of Africa she had thought. 
The wind shifted, sending a plume of wood smoke directly at her.
Addie slammed the screen down again, coughing in acrid haze.  Her handkerchief  came away black when she pressed it to her face.  She stumbled to the little lavatory, scrubbing herself as clean as she could, avoiding the sight of her own face in the mirror. 
Such a plain little face, compared to Bea’s glowing loveliness. 
The Debutante of the Decade, they had called Bea, the papers delighting in the alliteration of it.  She had been photographed, not once, but a dozen times, as Diana, as Circe, as a beam of moonlight, as a bride, in lace and orangeflowers.
Addie tried to remember Bea, remember her as she had been, her face bright with movement, but all she could conjure up was the cool beauty of a photographer’s formal portrait, silver blonde hair sleeked forward around a fine-featured face, lips a Roman goddess would envy, pale blue eyes washed gray by the photographer’s palette.  She kept the photo on the mantel of her bed-sit, the silver frame an incongruous touch against the peeling paint and damp-stained walls, relic of a life that seemed as long ago as the “once upon a time” in a child’s story.
Addie wondered how that pale loveliness had held up under the equatorial sun.  It was six years since they had seen one another.  Would she be changed?  Lined, weary, burned brown? 
It was impossible to imagine Bea as anything but what she had been, dressed in silk and fringe, a cigarette holder in one hand.  Try as she might, Addie couldn’t picture her on a farm in Kenya, couldn’t reconcile her with dirt and sun, khacki and mosquito net.  That was for other people, not Bea.  She found it nearly as hard to believe, despite the evidence of her cousin’s pen, that she was a mother now, not once, but twice over.  Two little girls, her letter had said.  Marjorie and Anna. 
Addie had gifts for the two girls in her trunk, French dolls with porcelain faces and sawdust arms.  She had bought them at the last minute, grabbing up the first ones she had found, just in case the children were real, and not one of her cousin’s elaborate teases.  Motherhood and Bea were two concepts that didn’t go together.  Rather like Bea and Kenya.
Addie worried at the finger of her glove.  She should stop it and stop it now, before she got to Nairobi.  She was being unfair.  Bea might be a wonderful mother.  She had certainly been a wonderful mentor to a lonely cousin; the best of guides and the best of friends.  Careless sometimes, yes, but always loving. 
People changed, Addie reminded herself.  They did.  They changed and learned and grew, just as she had.
Perhaps Kenya was what Bea had needed to bring out the best in her, just as emancipation had brought out the best in Addie.  This might, Addie told herself hopefully, be all for the best.  They could meet as equals now, each happy and secure in her own life, no more tangles of love and resentment and obligation.  She wasn’t the charity girl in the nursery anymore.
She was twenty-six, she reminded herself.  Twenty-six and self-supporting.  She had been making her own living for five years, paying her own way and making her own decisions.  The days of living in Bea’s household, trailing in Bea’s footsteps, were over, long over. 
If anything, Bea’s letter had made it clear she needed her, not the other way around.
Addie slid Bea’s letter out of her travel wallet.  It was stained and crumpled, read and re-read.  Do come, she had written, sounding like the old Bea, no hint of everything that had passed before she left.  I am utterly lost without you. 
Distilled essence of Bea, thought Addie.  Not just the sprawling letters, but the words themselves.  Nothing ever was simply what it was, it was always utterly, terribly, desperately.  Love or hate, she did neither by halves.  Excellent when one was loved; not so entertaining when one was hated.  She had seen both sides.
We should all so dearly love to see you. 
We.  Not Marjorie and Anna, they didn’t know her to miss her.  Addie had sat up, night after night, parsing that one word, like a professor with a poem, twisting and turning it from every angle.  We.  Was it only another example of Bea’s hyperbole?  A kindly social gesture?  Or— 
Addie put the letter abruptly away, cramming it back into her travel wallet.  It would be what it would be.  And then she would go back to David, David who thought he loved her and perhaps even did.  He seemed very sure on the point. 
Was he sure enough for both of them?
Yes, she told herself.  Yes.  David belonged to her new life, the life she had built for herself, piece by painful piece after—well, after everything had gone so hideously, dramatically wrong.  The rest was all history, lost in the mists of time.  She and Bea could laugh about it now, on the porch of the farm.  Did the farm have a porch?  She assumed it must.  It sounded like a suitably rustic addition.
That was why she was going, she told herself.  To make her peace.  She and Bea had been each other’s confidantes for so long, closer than sisters.  These last five years of silence had gouged like a wound. 
She wouldn’t think about Frederick.
The whistle gave one last, shrieking cry and the train jolted to a halt.  “Nairobi!” someone shouted.  “Nairobi!”
It seemed utterly impossible that she was here, that the train journey wasn’t going to go on and on, jolting and smoky, the sun teasing her eyes through the blinds.
“Nairobi!”
Jolted into action, Addie scooped up her overnight bag, scanning the room for stray possessions.  Her hat still lay abandoned on the bed.  She plonked it back down on her head, skewering it into place with a long steel pin.  Here she was.  No turning back now.  Straightening her suit jacket, she took a deep breath and marched purposefully to the compartment door. 
Wrenching it open, she squinted into the brightness.  Her silly little hat was no use at all against the sun; she had a confused impression of light and dust, people bustling back and forth, unloading packages, greeting friends in half a dozen languages, calling out in Arabic, in English, in German, in French.  Poised on the metal steps, Addie shaded her eyes against the sun, ineffectually searching for a familiar figure, anyone who might have been sent to greet her.  Car horns beeped at rickshaws drawn by men in little more than loincloths, tires screeching, while the sound of horses’ hooves clattered over the excited chatter of the people at the station.  In the hot sun, the smells seemed magnified, horse and engine oil and curry, from a stand by the side of the station. 
Over the din, someone called her name.  “Addie!  Addie!  Over here.”
Obediently, she turned, searching.  It was Bea’s voice, husky and lovely, with that hint of laughter even when she was at her most reserved, as though she had luscious secrets she was longing to tell.  “A mouth made for eating strawberries”, one of her suitors had rhapsodized, lips always pursed around the promise of a smile.
“Bea?”  Dust and sun made rainbows over her eyes.  Dark men in pale robes, Europeans in khacki, women in pale frocks, all swerved and shifted like the images in a kaleidoscope, circling around one another on the crowded rail-side. 
A gloved hand thrust up out of the throng, waving madly.  “Here!”
The crowd broke and Addie saw her.  Time fell away.  The noises and voices receded, a muted din in the background. 
How could she have ever thought to have outdone Bea? 
Two children hadn’t changed her.  She was still tall and slim, her blonde hair gleaming golden beneath the hat she held with one hand.  It was a slanted affair that made Addie’s cloche seem both impractical and provincial.  Her dress was tan, but there was nothing the least drab or dowdy about it.  It fit loosely on the top and clung tightly at the hips, outlined with a dropped belt of contrasting white and tan that matched the detail at sleeves and hem.  It made Addie’s suit seem both fussy and cheap.
Addie felt a familiar wave of love and despair, joy at the joy on her cousin’s face, so beautiful, so unchanged—so unfairly beautiful, so unfairly unchanged.  She knew it wasn’t fair to resent Bea for something that was so simply and effortlessly a part of her, but she did, even so.  Just once….  Just once….
“Dearest!”  Bea had never been one to shy from the grand scene.  She swooped down with outstretched arms as Addie clambered clumsily down the metal stairs, stiff and awkward from a day and night in a steel box.  “Welcome!”
Addie put out a hand to fend her off.  “Don’t touch me—I’m a mess.”
“Nonsense,” Bea said, and embraced her anyway, not a social press of the cheek, but a full hug.  For a moment, her arms pressed so hard that Addie could feel the bones through her dress. She was thinner, Bea, thinner than she had been in London.  Her arms grasped Addie with wiry, frenetic strength.  “I have missed you.”
Before Addie could reply, before she could say she had missed her too, Bea had already released her and stepped back, poised and confident, every inch the debutante she had been.
Looking Addie up and down, she grimaced in a comical caricature of sympathy.  “That dreadful train.  What you need,” she said, with authority, “is a drink.”
Addie looked ruefully down at herself, at her carefully chosen traveling dress, soiled and sweat-stained.  So much for her grand entrance.  So much for competing with Bea.  She had lost before she’d begun.  “What I need is a bath and my things.”
“We’ll get you both.  And a drink.”  Bea linked her arm through Addie’s in the old way, drawing her effortlessly through the crowd.  “Travel is always ghastly, isn’t it?  Those hideous little compartments and those nasty little people crowing about tea from the sides of the track.”  Bea had always had a gift for mimickry.  She did it unconsciously, twisting herself into pose, and just as quickly twisting out again.
“It wasn’t so ghastly,” said Addie, struggling to keep up.  Her overnight bag was heavier than she had remembered, her shorter strides no match for Bea’s.  She scrounged to remember some of David’s lectures.  “I gather it’s much easier now that the railroad’s been put in.”
“Much,” said Bea absently.  She smiled and waved at a man in a pale suit.  “That,” she said, out of the side of her mouth to Addie, “is General Grogan.  He owns Torr’s Hotel.  We don’t go there.”
“Oh?”  Addie’s bag banged painfully against her knee.  “Is it—?”
“Common,” said Bea dismissively.  “Of course, you wouldn’t be staying there anyway, since you’ll be with us, but if we’re in town, it’s Muthaiga.  Or the Norfolk.  Never Torr’s.”  She gave the unfortunate owner a broad smile that made him trip over his own feet. 
“Right,” said Addie, although the names meant nothing to her.  “Of course.” 
She craned her neck to look behind, but the man was already gone, and Bea was imparting more wisdom, something about race meetings, and drinks parties, and this couple and that couple, and whose farm had failed and who was worth knowing. 
“—don’t you remember, Euan Wallace’s first wife?  You must have met them, surely?”  Fortunately, Bea didn’t wait for an answer, plunging on, even as she plowed through the crowd.  “She divorced him ages ago—or maybe he divorced her.  It’s so hard to keep track.  Joss is her new one, although not so new anymore.  It’s been—seven years now?  Eight?”
“Mmm,” said Addie, trying desperately to keep from panting too obviously.  Sweat blurred her eyes, half-blinding her, but she couldn’t get to a handkerchief to wipe it off.  She blundered determinedly on, trying to ignore the nasty sinking feeling deep in the pit of her stomach, the one that told her that this had been a terrible mistake. 
Instead of being the worldly one, she was, instead, the neophyte, being introduced by Bea into the mysteries of her world, mysteries she would never perfectly understand, and which would, once again, render her dependent on Bea’s leadership and guidance.  
In short, straight back to the same old pattern.
“How much farther?” she blurted out, breaking into Bea’s recitation.
“Not so very far,” said Bea, looking at her in surprise.  “Oh, darling, you do look done in.  It’s the heat, isn’t it?  It does take people by surprise in the beginning.”
It hadn’t done anything to Bea; she looked perfectly cool and fresh.  But, then, she wasn’t the one carrying a bag that seemed to have gotten considerably heavier over the past ten minutes.  Nor had she spent the past twenty four hours in a closed train car.
“Don’t worry, darling,” she said, “we’ll be at the car in a tick.  Oh, look!  There’s Alice de Janze.” Bea waved languidly at a woman dressed as smartly as anything you would see in Paris.  “American, married to a Frenchman.  I can’t think what she’s doing in Nairobi.  She’s usually off at Slains.”
The social catalogue grated on Addie’s nerves.  It was like being back in London, back in their deb year, Bea constantly surrounded by people, effortlessly making friends and friends of friends.  What had happened to “we live quietly on our little farm”?
Addie asked, breathlessly, “Where are your girls?”
Bea’s pace picked up.  Addie had to practically run to keep up.  “They’re at the farm.  They’re happy there.  Like Dodo with the stables.  There’s no accounting, is there?”
Addie sensed the edge of an argument, one not to do with her.  Unsure how to respond, she said, instead, “Dodo sends her love.” 
Dodo was Bea’s older sister, the only one of the clan officially on speaking terms with her.  With Dodo, though, it was hard to tell the difference between speakers and non-speakers; the only thing she ever talked about were her beloved horses.  She came down to town once a month, always to the Ritz, where her battered tweeds made an odd contrast to the other women’s tailored suits and Paris frocks.  Perhaps that was the nicest thing about Dodo; she always was what she was.
“Pity she couldn’t send cash,” said Bea flippantly.  “You have no idea what it costs to run a coffee farm, no idea at all.  No crops for the first four years and then whatever the market will bear.  It’s vile.”
“Is Frederick at the farm?”  No need to worry about tone.  Her voice came out in gusty pants.
Bea winced sympathetically and slowed down.  “No, he’s with the car.  He’d have come to meet you, but he was waylaid by D.”
“Dee?”  Addie’s imagination conjured up a vamp with long, red finger nails.
“Lord Delamere.  Frightful old bore.”
Addie laughed, breathlessly.  “Not one of the blessed?” 
That was how they used to refer to people they liked, she and Bea, back in the nursery days, part of their own private code.  It felt rusty and raw on her tongue.           
Impulsively, Bea turned and hugged her, nearly knocking her off her feet.  A wave of expensive French perfume blotted out dust and sweat.  “Oh, I have missed you!  Are you hungry?”
Addie swayed and caught her balance again.  She set her bag down with a thump.  She was hungry, she realized, hungry and a little dizzy with the heat and sun.
“They fed us at Makindu.”  There had been a British breakfast of eggs and porridge, looking oddly foreign in that setting, with strange, striped beasts grazing in the distance.  Addie scrunched up her nose, trying to remember how long ago that had been.  It felt like a different lifetime already.  “But that must have been—oh, hours ago.  Just about dawn.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll see you fed, once we get you out of that frightful frock.”
Addie tensed, instantly on the defensive.  “What’s so frightful about it?  Once it’s been washed and pressed….”
Bea looked her up and down with an expert eye.  “Oh, my dear, no.” 
Addie suddenly saw myself as Bea must see her, frowsy and wilted, in an off-the-peg dress that had lurched at fashion and missed.  Bea had always been, and was, even now, effortlessly and glamorously fashionable.  She could make a pair of men’s trousers look like a Worth gown.  Addie had no doubt that on her that sad little traveling suit would look like Lanvin.
“Don’t worry,” she said, as one might to a child, and suddenly Addie was back at Ashford again, six and shy and unprepared, harkening unto the Gospel according to Bea.  “We’ll find you something much better.”  Her expression turned speculative.  Her pale blue eyes glinted as she looked at me from under her lashes.  “And, perhaps, a man?”
“I already have one of those,” Addie said tartly.  She picked up her bag again, taking a firmer grip on the handle.  “David Cecil.  He’s a lecturer at University College.  In Economics.”
“My dear,” Bea said.  “How frightfully clever.”
“He is,” Addie said loyally, as though he hadn’t, over the course of the trip, become little more than a mirage in her imagination, David, whom she was supposed to love, and whom she might love, if only she could convince herself that the past was past. 
Wasn’t that what David was always telling her?  The world of her youth, with its house parties and servants, Lord This and Lady That— that world was gone.  She had been in it but not of it, not really.  It was David with whom she would build a life together, share a flat, share a bed, grow old and grow roses—or whatever other plant it was among which they would gently potter, surrounded by children and grandchildren, all as clever as he. 
“We’re to be engaged when I get back,” she said, and it came out more belligerently than she had intended.
“So you’re engaged to be engaged?”  It did sound rather ridiculous when put that way.  Bea smiled a crooked little smile.  “Isn’t that funny.  I had thought—well, never mind.  Look.  Here we are.”
“Here” appeared to be a monster of a car, a massive, square thing that reminded Addie of the estate cars back at Ashford, designed for moving both men and game.  There were two men standing by the side, deep in conversation, in which she could hear “elevation” and “fertilizer”.  The one on the right was shortish, on the wrong side of middle age, with a face like an amiable turtle beneath a round hat with a wide brim.
The other man had his back to them, but Addie would have known him just the same.  He had always been thin, too thin the last time she had seen him, but the casual clothes of the colony suited him; he looked rangy rather than lanky, the short-sleeves of his shirt displaying skin that had acquired a healthy glow.  Unlike his companion, he wore no hat.  The sun had burnt lighter streaks into his dark hair.
“Look who I’ve found!” called Bea, and he turned, his face breaking into a smile of welcome. 
“Addie,” he said.  “It is.  It’s really Addie.”
He smiled, and Addie’s heart turned over with a sickening lurch, five years gone in five minutes.
Addie felt suddenly cold, cold despite the warmth of the day.  She looked at Bea, shining in the sun; at Frederick.  The mustache he had once sported was gone; he was clean-shaven now, his face tan where it had once been pale.  There were lines by his eyes that hadn’t been there before, white in the brown of his face, but they suited him.  The circles of dissipation were gone, burned away by sun and work. 
From far away, she could hear David’s voice.  Why? 
This was why.  This had always been why.  Addie fought against a blinding wave of despair and desire, all mixed up in sun and sweat, dust and confusion.  She wanted to curl into a ball, to cry her frustration out into the dust, to turn, to flee, to run away. 
David was right, she should have left well enough alone.  She stood have stayed home in the cool of England, in her safe flat with her safe almost fiancé, instead of poking at emotions better left buried.
Frederick held out a hand to her, and there it was, glinting in the sun, the gold ring that marked him as Bea’s.
“We didn’t think you’d come,” he said.
I can still go away again, she wanted to say.  Forget that I was here.  But that was the coward’s path.  There was, as Nanny used to say, no way out but through.
Addie set her bag carefully down by her feet, flexing her sore hand.  By the time she had straightened, she had her pleasant social smile fixed firmly on her face.

“Well, here I am,” she said, and took Frederick’s hand.  His ring pressed against her palm, a reminder, a warning.  “How could I stay away?”


OR listen courtesy of Macmillian audio to an excerpt;




Here's my original interview with Lauren first published on her release day

The Ashford Affair-Interview with author Lauren Willig––"The Ashford Affair is my Downton Abbey meets Out of Africa novel."




Here’s what’s being said about the novel;
 Library Journal
"[A] nuanced story teeming with ambiance and detail that unfolds like African cloth, with its dips and furls and textures, woven by a master storyteller."
» Kirkus Reviews
"With sharp, scintillating dialogue and expert scene-craft…Willig’s crossover into mainstream fiction heralds riches to come."
» RT Book Reviews
"This lushly detailed novel is rich with romance, mystery, memorable characters, and lessons in family, friendship, and – most important of all – understanding who you are and carving your place in the world.  This is a novel that will transfix readers... Willig reaches deep into her characters' souls to depict tragedy, triumph and the depth of love."
» Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
"The Ashford Affair is a reader's treat, an artfully-woven saga that sweeps us into the lives of three generations of a family entangled in life-changing secrets.  Lauren Willig spins a web of lust, power and loss, taking us from England to Kenya to New York, from World War I to today’s modern world, posing a timeless question: what in our own family stories might surprise or shock – or change our lives - if we had access to the whispers from the past?"
» Beatriz Williams, author of Overseas
"Rich with detail and historical imagination, The Ashford Affair evokes the lives and passions of the interwar era with harrowing precision. The enthralling mystery kept me up late into the night, and the characters will remain with me forever. Lauren Willig has delivered a stunning masterpiece."
»Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Madame Tussaud
"There are few authors who make you want to take a day off from life to devour their latest book, but Lauren Willig is one of them. The Ashford Affair is absolutely impossible to put down!"
» Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Enquiry
"With The Ashford Affair, Lauren Willig crafts a lavishly detailed saga readers will devour." 

Lauren Willig Interview:

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig presents her newest release, The Ashford Affair.
Lauren welcome-Can you tell a bit about the novel?
The Ashford Affair is my Downton Abbey meets Out of Africa novel.  The story sweeps back and forth between 1999 New York, Edwardian England, World War I London, and 1920s Kenya as a modern woman stumbles onto a family secret that challenges everything she thought she knew about both her family and herself.

The story jumped out at me back in the fall of 2010.  A friend had given me a copy of Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, about the chequered life of Idina Sackville, who racketed back and forth between London and Kenya picking up and discarding husbands along the way.  What really caught me, though, was a comment from Osborne in the introduction to the effect that she hadn’t realized that Idina was her great-grandmother until a chance television program precipitated the revelation; the relationship had effectively been swept under the carpet all those years.  Around the same time, my own grandmother became very ill.  The confluence of the two brought home to me how much we assume and how little we know about our own families. 

I was meant to be writing something else at the time (details, details), but the idea grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  I was haunted by the image of two best friends—a privileged debutante and a poor relation—stumbling through all the chaos and upheaval of the early twentieth century, and the impact that their tangled story would have on their descendants two generations and a continent away….

On your website it says that The Ashford Affair is your first stand-alone novel.
What’s the biggest difference between writing a series and stand alone?
Wide open spaces!  If you’ll forgive the comparison, writing a series is a bit like writing classical seventeenth century French drama, which was governed by very specific rules regarding setting, timing, and so on.  The series inevitably creates its own constraints.  In the case of my Napoleonic spy series, my readers have come to expect a certain pattern, format, tone, and cast of characters.  I’m bound by the time period I chose (in that case, 1803-1805), the characters I created, and the rules I set up for that particular world.  There’s a deep satisfaction to that, to maneuvering within those limits, to revisiting a familiar and well-beloved world.  There’s also a certain measure of security: I know what my editor and readers expect and can push the boundaries within those well-defined precincts.

On the other end of the spectrum, with a stand alone, the sky’s the limit.  It took me several months to write my way into The Ashford Affair as I played around with different ways of telling the story.   In one very early draft of the first few chapters, the story was narrated entirely in the first person by Addie, my historical heroine (the poor cousin).  I quickly realized that this didn’t allow for a wide enough scope for the story I wanted to tell and switched to the third person.  I knew who my characters were; I knew what had happened to them; but how I chose to tell that story was entirely up to me.  Unlike working within a series, I could take this story in any direction I liked: hop time periods and continents, explore different character types, play with different writing styles.  It was incredibly freeing.  It was also frequently nerve-wracking: first person or third?  Multiple viewpoints or one?  A single narrative arc or multiple narrative arcs?  It was all a process of trial and error.

When I sat down to write my second stand alone, I found that the same principle held true: writing one sets no pattern for another.  That blank page was an open opportunity. 

It is both terrifying and exhilarating.

This novel and the next one you’re working on for St. Martin’s goes between past and present.
 Does this type of book pose any particular writing problems?
I love writing in multiple time periods, using the one as foil for the other, raising questions about cause and effect and unintended consequences.  As a lapsed historian, I’m fascinated by the way our perceptions and interpretations of the past often differ dramatically from the intentions and experiences of those who actually lived through it.  Placing the two in counterpoise highlights that disconnect.

But, yes, writing in dual time periods definitely poses its own problems!  The first major issue is making sure that the characters in both periods are equally well fleshed out.  It’s easy to fall into the temptation of using one group of characters as a mere foil and echo for the other set, so I try very hard to make sure both plotlines and sets of characters could exist independently.  The second problem is maintaining interest through scene shifts.  On the one hand, switching time periods can be a great tool for creating tension; on the other, you don’t want the reader bewildered or bored by the move back and forth.  It’s a delicate balance.

How did a multiple degreed lawyer became an author of fiction?
As discussed at greater length below, the fiction writing preceded the lawyering by a fair bit.  I’d initially gone straight off to grad school after college, with the loudly expressed intention of using a PhD in History as a springboard for writing historically accurate historical fiction.  Everyone thought I was joking.  Including my advisor.

Several years down that road, I realized that academic history, while it certainly has its own joys and rewards, wasn’t necessarily the best training for writing compelling fiction—and, also, that the job market was rather bleak.  Since, by that point, I took a realistic (read: negative) view of my chances of publication, I decided to do what all frustrated humanities majors come to in the end: I applied to law school. 

Fate works in strange ways.  I signed my first book contract my first month at Harvard Law.  One law degree and three published books later, I graduated from HLS, took a job at a large New York law firm—and signed another book contract.  (I’m not sure whether to call that “optimism” or “temporary insanity”.)  I juggled the two careers for another year and a half before deciding that book deadlines and doc review don’t mix.   

I’m very grateful that I had that time at the firm.  In addition to the wonderful friends I made there (and an intimate knowledge of just how much coffee you can consume before going from productive to jittery), it provided me with the background and the inspiration for Clementine, the modern heroine of The Ashford Affair.

Who was your biggest inspiration in becoming an author?
I have to lay the blame at the door of E.L. Konigsburg.  When I was six, my parents gave me a copy of A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, her novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  That was my first taste of historical fiction.  I was hooked.  Since there wasn’t a sequel, I promptly set about writing one myself (from the point of view of Eleanor’s beloved—and fictional—horse, Beau Noir), and that was that.  I’ve been dabbling in various genres of fiction ever since.

There are many years between your first attempt at fiction and when you became published. 
Did you write in the in-between time?
Incessantly!  My first attempt at publication occurred when I was nine years old, when I optimistically mailed off my three hundred page, hand-written oeuvre, “The Night the Clock Struck Death”, a mystery novel featuring twin girl detectives.  Like Nancy Drew, but double the fun!  Sadly, Simon & Schuster failed to see its innate brilliance (or, possibly, had trouble with my loopy third grade script) and sent it back.  Undaunted, I went right back to my Apple IIGS and continued to rattle out reams of manuscripts on my rickety dot matrix printer. 

In the years that followed, I did all the usual young writer things: I attended the UVA Young Writers’ Workshop and the Middlebury Writers’ Workshop at Breadloaf, published pretentious poetry in The Apprentice Writer, and piled up manuscripts in an old green trunk I had stolen from my grandmother’s attic.  (No one will see any of those.  Ever.)  When I was eighteen, I took another stab at publication with a historical novel about Napoleon’s stepdaughter, Hortense de Beauharnais—and was terribly offended when I got a very nice note back telling me what a sweet young adult novel it was, and to keep on trying.

Eight years later, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, I finally got the call I had been waiting for all those years: my novel, “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation”, was to be published by a subsidiary of Penguin.

That was ten years ago, and I’m still learning more about my craft each and every day.

What’s your funniest book tour story?
How long have you got?  Book tour always has an element of slapstick comedy to it: I’ve changed clothes in the back of a cab—with a very chatty cabdriver—on the way to an event, with only my pea coat as screen; been lost in a snowstorm with Tasha Alexander while a frantic bookseller called in directions to us; and had a flight delayed for three hours because the lock was broken on the baggage hold and—coincidentally?—they were almost sure they had caught that snake.  (To this day, I don’t know whether they were talking garter snake or boa constrictor.)

Does your love for historical fiction make you wish you lived in the era you write about?
As my best friend pointed out back when we were teenagers, if I lived when I wanted to live, I’d be bat-blind, and, given my proclivity for cavities, probably toothless.  So I’m content to journey via the page. 

What I really would want is less an actual trip and more of a large window on the past, equipped with high quality audio.  After years in archives, attempting to piece together from limited sources what various people said and did, it would be fascinating to be able to see what actually happened.  Although, of course, even then, their emotions and motivations would be open to interpretation….

Who are your favorite authors?
That’s always a tough question!  There are so many authors whose works I love, and I’m constantly adding on new discoveries.  Among my long-time favorites are Nancy Mitford, whose tongue in cheek portrayal of life among the English interwar upper crust did so much to set the tone for The Ashford Affair, P.G. Wodehouse, and Angela Thirkell (whose work I’ve always viewed as a gentle medium between the sharp satire of Mitford and Waugh, and the joyous slapstick of Wodehouse).  On my keeper shelf, you can find Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle”, Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels, the complete oeuvre of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, classic romantic suspense by Mary Stewart, and the sweeping historical epics of M.M. Kaye.  Moving on to more recent authors, I’ve very much admired the work of Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, and Simone St. James.

Lauren, thank you for chatting with me today. You have a lengthy list of tour stops on your website, I hope many viewers here will be able to meet you in person.
Thanks so much for having me here, Debbie!  If anyone wants to know more about The Ashford Affair or my other books, please come visit me at my website, www.laurenwillig.com, or my Facebook author page, http://www.facebook.com/LaurenWillig.  I’m always looking for new ways to procrastinate!


Here's Lauren's tour schedule
June 24th - The Reading Frenzy

Wednesday, June 26th: Literary, etc

Thursday, June 27th: Giraffe Days

Friday, June 28th: Teri Harman

Saturday, June 29th: Alex the Wit Factory

Monday, July 1: A Bookish Libraria


Wednesday, July 3: Kate Forsyth’s blog (guest post)

Thursday, July 4: Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, July 5: Kate Forsyth’s blog (Q&A)

Saturday, July 6: Harlequin Junkie



Visit Lauren's website here


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