Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Laurel" by Susan F. Craft with interview

    Book Description

     January 17, 2015
    Desperate to rescue their kidnapped daughter, Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos trek two hundred miles through South Carolina mountains and backcountry wilderness, fighting outlaws, hunger, sleeplessness, and despair. When the trail grows cold, the couple battles guilt and personal shame; Lilyan for letting Laurel out of her sight, and Nicholas for failing to keep his family safe.

    They track Laurel to the port of Charleston as post-Revolutionary War passions reach fever pitch. There, Lilyan, a former patriot spy, is charged for the murder of a British officer. She is thrown into the Exchange Building dungeon and chained alongside prostitutes, thieves, and murderers. Separated from her husband, she digs deep inside to re-ignite the courage and faith that helped her survive the war. Determined to free his wife at any cost, Nicholas finds himself forced back into a life of violence he thought he'd left behind.

    Following a rumor that Laurel may be aboard a freighter bound for Baltimore, Lilyan and Nicholas secure passage on a departing schooner, but two days into the voyage, a storm blows their ship aground on Diamond Shoals. As the ship founders, both are swept overboard.

    Will their love for each other and their faith sustain them as they await word of their missing child? Or is Laurel lost to them forever?'
    Author Info:
    Susan F. Craft retired from a 41-year career as a writer for public television, a communications director for a state agency, a continuing education planner for a university, and a proofreader for the SC Senate. She and her husband of 45 years have two adult children, a son-in-law, a granddaughter, and a granddog. An admitted history nerd, she enjoys painting, singing, listening to music, and sitting on her front porch watching rabbits and geese eat her day lilies. In 2011, Susan's Revolutionary War romantic suspense, The Chamomile, won the SIBA Okra Pick. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency.
    My Review:
     "Laurel" by Susan F. Craft is a  followup to"The Chamomile" which I have not read but definitely want to after reading "Laurel". "Laurel" can be a stand alone but I want to read all the books in a series if I read  one! 
    I have to be honest and say I wasn't sure I was going to like this book because I thought it was slow reading but I soon changed my mind! I really like it! The problem might have been that I didn't read "The Chamomile" first and so I didn't know the background but the more I read I couldn't put the book down and read it in one setting.
     This book is about something that as a mother and grandmother I never want to go though or want anyone to, a child is stolen. Laurel is stolen while in her aunt's care and through the aunt is stolen also she returns but has amnesia from being hit and cannot remember what happened to Laurel. 
    I really wanted to cry as Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos hunt to find her and I almost stopped reading this book a couple of times because I was so heartbroken at all they had to go through but I am so glad I continued. 
    This book had this reader amazed at how Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos could remain so strong and be so heartbroken at the same time! There were many surprises in this book and one in particular had this reader thrilled! I know you are saying "What is the surprise" Now come on, you know you want to read this book yourself and find out what I'm talking about. What fun is it if I tell you? 
    While in prison Lilyan befriends other women and helps them while going through her own struggles. I recommend this book to anyone that likes Historical Fiction. I am giving "Laurel" four stars but if I had read "The Chamomile" first I might be giving it five stars because after reading "Laurel"  I understand that it has the same characters and I might have understood the history in the first part of the story a little better. But with that said it was a great book even if a little sad!
    I was given an ebook copy by Avid Reader Reviews.com in exchange for my honest review.  

    Author Interview   
    1 What does your writing process look like?
    I recently retired after working fulltime for 41 years, so my habits have changed a bit.  When I was younger with a husband, two children, and my mom to care for, I would settle down around midnight and write until one and two in the morning. After my mom died and my children grew up and moved away, I continued to write late in the evenings, even on weekends.  
    I was concerned after retiring that I might not know what to do with all the extra time. Believe me, it’s filling up with things to do that have nothing to do with writing. I’ve got to discipline myself better.
    One thing that has remained constant is my ruminating. I will ponder for hours on end before committing my thoughts to paper. I used to create entire scenes and conversations while stalled in traffic, in doctors’ waiting rooms, and in lines at the grocery store. As I have aged, I can’t wait as long between the ruminating and the writing, as many ideas get lost in that process.                                                             

    2 What book do you wish you could have written? 
    Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 
                                                                                                                                        Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
    I admire books by authors Lori Benton (2014 triple Christy Award Winner) and Laura Franz, who writes in the same time period, Colonial America, as I.                                          

    4 If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
    Henry Cavill, as he looked in the TV series The Tudors, would play Nicholas Xanthakos. Sarah Bolger would play Lilyan.                                                                     

    5 How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
    I often find names in my research. For example, for my novel The Chamomile, I found a roster of almost 200 prisoners aboard one of three British prison ships anchored in the Charlestown (Charleston), SC, harbor in 1781.
    We have some very old cemeteries in South Carolina, going back to the 1600s. I’ve found names of people and their stories written on tombstones.
    Several characters in my novel Laurel are Scottish, and I found names for them in a book I have about the clans, their history, mottos, battle cries, and tartans.
    For one of my novels, I had a “tribe,” a group of five women who encouraged me and prayed for me while I was writing – they even prayed when my computer crashed. Their names appear in the novel.
    I often use the books All the Women of the Bible and All the Men of the Bible for inspiration for first names.                                                                                                         

    6 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
    I’m most proud of my 45-year marriage and the loving relationship and friendship my husband and I have maintained and nurtured. It hasn’t been easy. Like many people we’ve had good and bad times, times of plenty and times of leanness, good health and sickness, and lots of give and take                                                                                           

    Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    In 10 years I’ll be 76.  I like to think of myself gliding over the Blue Ridge Mountains in a hot air balloon at the peak of the autumn leaves, oohing and aahing at the wonder of it all.                                                                                                                                 

    Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?                                 I wrote my first book (10 handwritten pages) when I was eight. I bound it using two pieces of cardboard box sewn together with dental floss.  I entitled it, The Secret of the Whistling Cave. I was into mysteries, having read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. 
    I kept my writing to myself in my teen years, and then went to college where I earned a BA in Journalism. My first job was as a writer for educational television. From there, I was an assistant director of communications at a SC state agency, then a continuing education planner for the SC College of Pharmacy, and ended my 41-year career as a proofreader for the SC Senate Committee on Judiciary.
    Some of it was, I told myself at the time, not what I really wanted to be writing—articles for agency publications, informational materials, speeches for the agency director. It was “my day job” that I couldn’t quit because I couldn’t get anyone interested in my novels.                                                                                                    

    What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
    Persistence trumps talent. I could be the poster child for persistence (some might call it hard-headedness). I’ve been writing for 35 years, honing my craft at more writing conferences and reading more books about writing than I can remember. I simply refused to give up until I found someone interested in representing and publishing my novels. All those years I worked fulltime, took care of my family, and made time for writing—sometimes into the early morning hours. And praying … I should have said that first.
    • After editing on the screen or in print, read your work aloud. You’ll be amazed at how many awkward sentences you can fix this way.
    Join a critique group, preferably with people who write in your genre. (Or find a critique partner.)
    Attend as many writers’ conference and workshops as you can. These things can get expensive, so check them out for those that sound helpful to you and your level of writing. The networking is invaluable.
    Read – a lot, especially the great writers. You’ll soon come to recognize what excellent writing is.
    Enter writing contests; sometimes you get tremendous feedback from judges and you get name recognition, awards, and rewards if you win.
    Volunteer to work at your local Book Festivals. They are the ones who will invite you to speak once you’ve been published. You’ll meet some fine people and network with published authors who usually have good advice.
    If you write historical fiction, PLEASE, make every effort to assure that your facts are correct and your history is good.
    Get an agent. Some writers complain that it is unnecessary and ask why they should give another person a piece of the royalties. My agent, Linda S. Glaz, with Hartline Literary Agency, is my best ally. She knows where my book should be, and she knows the people to send it to, and they respect her opinions. While she’s promoting my novel, I’m free to write. Finding an agent is as difficult as finding a publisher.
    For Christian writers. Pray about and for what you are writing. Ask yourself, will this glorify his name? Will it lift up your readers? Will they be a better person for having read what you’ve written? Have you done your absolute best to honor the absolute sacrifice that was made for you? Will you handle rejection with grace and accolades with humility?                                                                                                        

    10 If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
    I recently retired after working fulltime 45 years, and although I loved my work and made many dear friends from among my coworkers, I don’t want to think about what I’d do for a living. My ambition is to learn to cook again, now that I have the time. And of course, napping, there’s an art to it, which I’m pursuing.                                             

    11 Are you a plotter or a pantster?
    I ruminate (what a good word) for a long time before I sit down to write. I have entire bits of dialogue and scenes going through my head – at stop lights, in the doctor’s waiting room, standing in line at the grocery store…
    I do plot some because I write historicals that require a timeline of events, a template that overlays the lives of my characters.                                                          

    12 Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
    I do read reviews of my novels. I’m always prepared to hone my writing skills, which is a result of criticism. So far, the only bad one I’ve received was 2 stars for The Chamomile. The person said they couldn’t relate to my characters, but even she realized looking at the other reviews, that she was alone in that thought. Now, if several people said that, I would take a look again and try to figure out why.                  

    13 What is your best marketing tip?
    I’ve learned that being an author is not only about writing. Authors are expected to be active on all the social media. It’s not all about selling your books, though; it’s about creating relationships.
    Consider social media as a way of sharing your passion. For example, the posts I contribute have something to do with history, especially the Revolutionary War. I’ll run across a tidbit of historical information, I call them “my treasures,” and can’t wait to share them. 
    Then when the time comes and you have a novel published, your “cyber friends” may become your best allies, sharing posts, and passing along the news to their friends.
    Exercise control, though. Social media outlets can be time stealers. Set time limits. I happen to love Pinterest and can while away lots of time there, if I’m not careful.
    Hone your writing craft. Become the best wordsmith you can be.  Write to inform, not to impress—no one wants to have to consult a dictionary when they’re reading your works. Write from your heart.
    Take some public speaking classes. They will prepare you to speak before groups. Remember, no group is too small. I once met with a book club that had five members. They really read my book and shared amazingly interesting perspectives. We had a fantastic time. You know why? We all love books and can’t get enough of them.                            

    14 What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
    I’m a reserved person, so putting myself and my work “out there” is difficult for me, except in small, intimate settings such as a book club or with people who love history as I do. I can tout another author’s book all day long, but am not comfortable touting mine.  I was that Girl Scout who knocked on your door and asked, “You don’t want to buy any cookies, do you?”
    Authors are expected to be active on social media sites. I’m 66 and didn’t grow up using a computer. Technology intimidates me.  Here’s my way of overcoming my trepidation about social media—if my heroine, Lilyan, can survive trekking through the wilderness searching for her lost daughter and enduring the loneliness and despair of being thrown into a dungeon, then I can learn how to tweet!                                               

    15 Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
    I love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference near Asheville, NC.  The setting is glorious, the quiet serenity of the atmosphere is ideal, the faculty is stellar, and the praise and worship sessions are uplifting.                                                             

    16 Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy? 
    Sad scenes are difficult for me. I’m an incredibly empathetic, sentimental person and cry easily. I carry around a heaviness of spirit with me long after writing a gloomy scene. One evening after writing a tragic scene, I was crying. My husband hurried into my office to see what was the matter. When I told him, he patted my shoulder and said, “They aren’t real, you know?” What?!!                                                                         

    17 Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
    In 2006, I self-published a Civil War novel, A Perfect Tempest.  My novel, The Chamomile, the prequel to Laurel, was traditionally published in 2011. It won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick.  In 2014, a short story of mine was published in a best-selling anthology, Christmas Treasures. My novel, Cassia, the sequel to Laurel, will be published this September by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
    I have two Harlequin-type contemporary romances in my files, which will probably remain there. One that I wrote many years ago is cringe-worthy. ☺                             

    18 What are you working on now? What is your next project?
    I’m almost finished ruminating about The Great Wagon Road, a trail from Philadelphia to Savannah, GA, which immigrants took from 1720-1760 when settling the Southeast.                                                                                                                       

    19 Who is your favorite author and why?
    Lew Wallace is my favorite author because he wrote my most favorite book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ                                                                                                         

    20 Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?                                         ’d like to take a mule ride through the Grand Canyon and then take a tour of as many US national parks as I can.                                                                                                    

    21When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
    I first realized I wanted to be a writer when my third grade teacher read to our class a novel she was working on.  She made me realize that authors aren’t “out there” but are ordinary people just like me. I wrote my first book (10 handwritten pages) when I was eight. I bound it using two pieces of cardboard box sewn together with dental floss.  I entitled it, The Secret of the Whistling Cave. I was into mysteries, having read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on.                                                               

    22 How long does it take you to write a book?
    Because I write historicals, I want the information I provide in my novels to be as accurate as possible. Consequently, I research quite a bit—usually a year or two—before I ever sit down to write. As far as the actual writing, it depends. Some days I may write 1,000 words. Other days, not so much.

    23 What do you like to do when you're not writing?                                                                I love spending time with my family. My husband and I take long drives through the countryside and up to a nearby lake, Lake Murray, to watch the sailboats. I read quite a lot too. I have 10 books awaiting me on my Kindle.                                                          

    24 What does your family think of your writing?
    They are my best encouragers. I recently hosted a book launch on FaceBook for my novel Laurel, and my son left a comment that said something like, “As great a writer as my mom is, she’s an even better mom.” Well, you know that made me cry.                           
                                                                                                                                       25 What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
    I never planned to write a trilogy about my characters Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos, but was surprised at how much my readers and I loved them and didn’t want to let them go.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                         26 Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
    Hone your writing craft. Become the best wordsmith you can be.  Write to inform, not to impress—no one wants to have to consult a dictionary when they’re reading your works. Write from your heart.                                                                                             

    27 Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?                          I keep getting the most amazing compliments on my latest novel, Laurel. Over and over, people say they couldn’t put it down or that they read it in one sitting. That is the best compliment an author can receive.


    Judy said...

    Enjoyed your review and interview with the author!

    Judy B

    Debbie Curto said...

    Thanks Judy!