"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
The Night Porter - In The Vatican (Photo: Justin Scholes)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Romantic historian Anabelle Bryant talks Rakes, Rascals and Rapscallions...Around The Cauldron!

In the midst of crashing waves,  howling winds, communication breakdown and the paranoid anxiety of BST's lost hour, the Wizphone finally managed to connect with the resplendent abode of Anabelle Bryant, popular New Jersey based historical romance author.

A published author for e-powerhouse Carina,  and American rose-petal leviathan, Harlequin, Anabelle has been tipped by many insiders for a lofty position in the romance rankings and with her, er, striking and (some might say) saucy covers guaranteed to grab the attention of a rabid, intensely loyal, romance readership desperate for more tales of the Happy Ever After, who would bet against her? 

As she reclined on her chaise longue making notes in the ledger for her latest Regency epic, we had a natter. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Anabelle?
I’ve always been a writer at heart, keeping journals from a very young age, but I chose education for my career and I don’t regret it at all. Still, the desire to be published never went away and I began writing romance soon after I finished college. I enjoy travelling, taking photos and most creative endeavours. 

When Carina decided to publish To Love A Wicked Scoundrel it was the realization of a long sought dream. I never imagined it would become a best-seller in three weeks.

Most people in the UK know New Jersey from top TV show, The Sopranos. Are you a fan? Is it like The Sopranos where you live?

I live near Princeton, so my surroundings are the complete opposite of the Soprano way of life, but you don’t need to drive too far for it to be true, considering New Jersey is such a small state. 

When Jersey Shore and Jersey Housewives became popular a few years back, I cringed. The people on that program no way resembled anyone I’ve ever met in New Jersey. I hope the rest of the world doesn’t wrongly judge my state by the exaggerated depictions on television.

Tell us about your latest work 
I am very much in love with my hero right now. His novel will begin a trilogy of historical romances that are a departure from the typical recipe for regency fiction. 

Each of these heroes approaches love in an unusual manner with deep secrecy and definite hardship. I’m almost finished with book one, and the next two are itching to be written.

Can you share an extract from "To Love A Wicked Scoundrel" 

"Come with me."
His voice dropped low, a sultry, sinful command, and Isabelle knew she should never have allowed their little talk to become personal. However, she did not object when he reached for her and clasped her hand, pulling her past the marble sculptures in the center of the chamber and further, to a concealed door at the back of the room.  
     He drew her inside and latched the lock.  She swallowed with nervousness and her eyes darted across the dim lit storage room.  Works of art littered the walls and floor, and a desk filled one corner, but she had no time to consider it further.  His strong fingers turned her shoulder, and Constantine brought her against his length in one fluid motion.
     "I have wanted to do this since the first time I spied you in Lord Rochester's study."
     He held her, their bodies pressed together at the most intimate places and Isabelle's breath came hard and fast.
     "You confuse me."  Her words shook with emotion, or fear, or the unfamiliar rush of desire that pooled within her, but she did not look away from his crystal gaze, shimmering with heat and promise in the broken candlelight.
     "Am I a riddle to solve, my sweet?"
     She could never confess her pathetic secret, she believed him the answer to every question of her heart.      His voice, low pitched, rich and silky, proved a lethal combination of wickedness and handsomeness and his uttered endearment caused all logical though to dissipate, turning her into a quivering mass of foolishness.  A silent warning reminded of his skill to charm and disarm, but Isabelle believed she engaged the real man who existed behind the dashing tailoring and fabulously good looks.
     "Tell me what you want, my lovely.  I know you feel as I do."  He tangled his fingers in her hair to knock loose the pins and unravel its length.  "Your hair is magnificent."  He touched a silken strand to his lips.  "It is a crime you keep it hidden from view."
     Isabelle's heart beat heavily as her thoughts scattered like the hairpins that littered the floor.  When had he removed his gloves?  How had they become embraced in a dark room behind a locked door?
     "Tell me, what it is you desire?"
     His eyes seared into her, while his clever tongue and honeyed words decimated her sensibility.  All intellect fled on a wave of concupiscence, the intense yearning enthralling.  She trembled, her body pressed to his, her skirts pushed to the side as he held her in a tight embrace against his hard length.  Her gown whispered impatiently against his trousers and every point of contact, no matter the layers of superfine or silk, burned with heat and ignited her blood.
     "Constantine."  His name came out on a broken plea, but for what she begged she had no idea.
     "Tell me, Isabelle.  Do you want what I do?"
     He whispered kisses across her temple with stunning delicacy, to belie the intensity of his words or fervor of his embrace.  She trembled at the contact of his mouth on her skin as his soft lips caressed her with extreme care and left a trail of dizzying pleasure in their wake.
     "I want to kiss you.  To taste your mouth, those delicious rosebud lips, long and thoroughly, and discover the flavor of your kiss, the secrets of your beautiful body, every curve, every softness..."  He broke off, although his hold on her did not lessen in the least.

     Isabelle's mind whirled.  She had no way to make sense of the carnal images he suggested, and her body reacted, flooded with desire as he continued to whisper and paint vivid pictures of sensuality that persisted and demanded attention.  She knew of the pleasures men and women enjoyed, but to hear them in explicit detail, while Constantine held her captive against his heated body was achingly exquisite.  And definitely wrong.  She needed to stop him, but a wicked part of her, a part she never knew existed, taunted that her entire life she'd been told she was wrong in every way.  Why not surrender to an opportunity for adventure?

You are studying for a Doctorate. Where do you find the time to write?
Time for writing is usually stolen. Mornings work best, but anytime I have the energy or inspiration will do. One luxury of teaching is having frequent holidays and the summer months free. Most of my writing happens on long weekends and during the summer. 

I also participate in JeRoWriMo (Jersey Romance Writing Month) where we are challenged to write 30,000 words in one month. I’ve been able to complete the challenge for two years now.

Why do you write about Regency England, with its rakes, ne’er do wells and rascals? What is the appeal?  

Arguably Stanley Kubrick's best film bar The Shining. 
Adaptation of  Thackeray's sprawling 
regency saga Barry Lyndon

Clever question because that is the reason I write Regency. Aristocratic bad-boys hold immense appeal. Dukes who break rules, earls who abuse their power to win a woman’s heart, – it all spells romance to me. Joined with the backdrop of masquerades, elaborate gardens and opulent estates, fashion, etiquette, stop me, please. My list will keep going.

Who are your go-to authors when you are researching the period?
I’ve learned so much from reading my favourite historical authors. Loretta Chase, Eloisa James, Sherry Thomas; they are all magnificent writers.

A Rake's Progress - William Hogarth

I do a lot of research and reading about the time period and own some excellent resource books. I like little known facts or oddities. They are fun to work into a story.

Is there a crisis in historical romance?
Critics have long spoken out against romance. The newest hype is that historical romance is deader than the time periods between the pages, but critics are wrong. 

Historical romance has the third largest portion of the genre market, the top selling section in the book store and earned 1.079 billion dollars last year. I have the latest issue Romance Writers Report with these facts on my desk, and it’s true. Historical romance is not going anywhere. It has serious, loyal fans.

Your work is highly rated, I hear, at Carina. How difficult has it been to get the word out about Anabelle Bryant?
Once I secured a contract I made a commitment to my authorship. I developed a website, joined all kinds of social media and ordered swag. I do personal appearances and attend conferences and literally think about my career as an author all the time...yet it’s still challenging to get the word out. 

The market is huge and competition is fierce. The old saying of “just write a good book” still rings true as the greatest influence for becoming well known.

Is Happy Ever After a cop out bearing in mind the complex world in which we live? As authors, shouldn’t we be reflecting a world where things don’t work out like that?

Well, I know there are books out there that represent a realistic view of the world because I’ve purchased them and have been sorely disappointed. I read for escape. I want to be transported to another time where I can meet characters who might be from 200 years ago, but face the same emotional challenges I experience. 

"The happily ever after is a guarantee in a romance novel. No matter how fraught the emotional turmoil within the plot, the reader knows in the end there will a satisfying resolution. In my opinion, it makes the reading ever more enjoyable. But then again, I’ve been known to daydream a lot."

I flew over New Jersey in 2006 on the way to Houston. As I came into land at JFK, I have never seen so many swimming pools. Is this the case or was it an optical illusion. Do you have a pool?

I do have a pool. You caught me, yes. Summer is short lived in New Jersey. We want to enjoy every possible minute. The beaches are wonderful here...but often crowded. 

No one can complain about coming home from work and slipping into the pool for an hour.

Give us your favourite a) two books b) DVD and c) CD
I’m a lover of the classics. The Scarlet Letter, anything Shakespeare, Fahrenheit 451, Alice in Wonderland

My favourite movies are all romantic: Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, The Holiday 

and music...Aerosmith 

Give us an author to watch out for in the coming year.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Carina authors. Carina is building an impressive inventory of romance writers. If you visit their website, there is a little bit of something for everyone. Paranormal, Time Travel, Romantic Comedy, Suspense and Historical.

Finally, what do fans of Anabelle Bryant have to look forward to in 2015
I’m so excited for 2015! Harlequin has signed me for three more historical romances and the first will release in January. 

I attend conferences and make appearances at libraries and book clubs. I also enjoy talking to my fans on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It’s going to be a busy year...but busy in the best way.

Anabelle, it's been a pleasure to meet you and I wish you and your readers a prosperous and successful 2o15

Thank you, Wiz. I've really enjoyed it!


Website: http://www.anabellebryant.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AnabelleBryantAuthor  



Sunday, 19 October 2014

Westminster insider and political novelist, Emma "Power Games" Gray, is...Around the Cauldron

There aren't many political thrillers in Indie and so when I met Emma Gray on my Twitterbus, I was keen to find out what was going on. 

I subsequently found out that Emma actually works at the Palace of Westminster and her novels are drawn from real life. 

This was too exciting an opportunity to pass up and when Emma released her follow up, "Power Games" I got on the Wizphone and asked her to answer a few questions for me. 

Emma's Question Time, as it were.

Though incredibly busy, she was happy to oblige and I caught up with her in one of the many cloisters that line the corridors of power in the Origin of Democracy. 

Here's what she had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Emma?
Firstly, thanks so much for letting me get comfy around your cauldron today. It’s a particularly windy day so its green glow is keeping me happy. 

Well…I’ve been writing political fiction since I was 11, although my first story, The Plan To Assassinate The Prime Minister was a bit of a cop-out as it was ‘all a dream’. But hey I was only 11, so knowing who the Prime Minister was at all was surely impressive in itself? I’ve written various stories since then, but Party Games was my first real attempt at something publishable. 

It was quite a learning curve for an indie newbie but I’ve learned a lot in the intervening two years. Power Play is of course the sequel, but it can be read stand-alone. 

I’ve been overwhelmed with the support from the Twitter community since I published it on 10th October and so incredibly grateful to everyone. 

The high point had to be when the Daily Telegraph asked me when my book launch is….ha! Erm…!

My family is very understanding and supportive of my writing. We all know it’s not easy to find the time to sit and do it, and often inspiration alludes you, but with two kids and working full time you have to grab those precious writing moments when you can.  

Often for me it’s on the commute, but I think book 3, End Game, is going to take a while!

How did you get your job at Westminster? Was it difficult?
Westminster is, as you can imagine, often a case of who you know, so I got my job after interning as part of my university course. 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding internships in Parliament, and I agree some can be exploited and there should be a level of payment, even if it just covers expenses, but it’s the best way in. It’s such an unusual, exciting, gossipy place to work, and describing it as the ‘village’ is partly accurate – it’s more like a town, it’s so huge, but you do feel strangely cut off from the outside world.

Do you enjoy your job or is it very stressful?
I’ve actually just taken on a new job but still with the same boss. I’m enjoying it actually, but I’m now commuting four days a week (I did three days previously) so it’s quite tiring. It has its stressful moments but I’ve got a great boss (plenty in Westminster don’t! The stories I could tell, and wish I could, but probably shouldn’t..! I’m thinking book 3 could be a place for that) so that makes all the difference. 

I’ve also started a Mindfulness course at work, which is brilliant and teaches you to exist ‘in the moment’ rather than worrying about the past or future. I would recommend it to everyone!

How accurate is The Thick of It?
Michael Dobbs has always said that to create political fiction, take reality and water it down. I think this is basically true – if anyone had made up ‘Plebgate’, the Brooks Newmark scandal or a politician and his wife bringing each other down over speeding points, you would be told what you had written was ridiculous. 

The Thick of It certainly had moments which rang true, worryingly, but I think it was probably pretty tame compared to reality. Politics is rich pickings for letting your mind run wild; you’ll probably be closer to real life than you think!

Tell us about your latest work 

I wrote Power Play in about 15 months, which is impressive considering it took ten years for me to write Party Games! It is based around the Conservative Party in Opposition but with a dark undertone. 

It could have been based around any party, but you write about what you know, and working for a Tory MP I learned a lot over the years (especially our Opposition years) at Westminster! I always use Mad Men as a comparison, in that you don’t have to be overtly political to read my book, in the same way you don’t have to have a big interest in advertising to watch Mad Men

It’s more about the pressure cooker world in which these highly ambitious people operate, their relationships and animosities, and where more along the corridors of power could people’s true natures reveal themselves? I’ve got a huge interest in the personalities at the top of the Third Reich (nurtured by the recent wonderful Clara Vine novels by the author Jane Thynne among other non-fiction tomes I have read recently), so I thought why not merge modern politics with what could happen if the Tory Party was led by a narcissistic maniac? 

The party splits into two factions as the book progresses: the moderates and those supporting Colin Scott, who plots a pact with UKIP in order to destroy it. There are hints at parallels between key Nazi personalities and my own characters, but it will be in the third book that it all goes a bit Downfall and my main antagonist finds himself on a course to self-destruction.

Can you share an extract from Power Games?

The first is about Matthew Gaines, my favourite character. He's a complex man who battles his demons throughout Power Play, and gets himself mixed up with things he knows in his heart he shouldn't. This extract is when he goes to one of Westminster's various bars and meets Hannah for the first time...

The Strangers’ Bar, although a compact watering hole deep in the heart of the Palace of Westminster, had on tap the widest selection of alcohol of any bar on the estate. It seemed as good a place as any to finish the day at such a late hour, so the House now adjourned, Matthew decided one drink would help him cope with home and the constant looks of disapproval from Sasha.
            Not feeling like an audience, Matthew hoped the narrow, cosy bar might be quiet, but a group of Labour MPs were occupying the tall bar tables, relaxation and humour mingling with some of the cheapest pints in London. Strangers’ was so small Matthew suddenly felt a little claustrophobic, but before he could change his mind, his eyes drifting from the MPs to the door as he backed up against the short bar, he heard a voice.
I don’t often see you here. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.’ From behind the bar a woman with light mocha skin, dark, soft curls and impeccably dressed in a black skirt suit and red shirt caught his attention. Matthew turned awkwardly, aware he was being watched by a known Labour troublemaker.
‘Oh, I think this is probably only my third time in here since my election.’ Matthew smiled. His gaze fell upon her face and he was suddenly struck by a peculiar sadness that he had never seen her before now and hoped she couldn’t smell the cigarette smoke. He had officially given up but the odd one here and there kept his nerves a little steadier.
‘Well I won’t ask what’s brought you here tonight. So what’s your poison, then?’
‘Erm, just a Scotch, please, a single. Still got to get myself home somehow in this weather,’ Matthew said, sliding onto a stool and waving towards the Commons Terrace.
‘One of those days?’
‘Something like that.’
‘In that case, the drink’s on the house, or the taxpayer, whichever you prefer. I’m Hannah, by the way.’
‘I can see that by your name badge,’ Matthew replied. ‘And can you just do that? Give me a free drink?’
‘Probably not, but I am in charge today, and you look like you need it.’ Hannah produced a wry smile, placing the drink in front of him.
So it’s charity?’
Hannah shrugged. ‘OK, pay then if you like.’
‘I’ll pay for a pack of peanuts.’ Matthew twirled the drink on the mat.
‘Isn’t that what you lot pay your interns?’
Matthew noticed Hannah seemed quite young to be a manager, probably in her mid-thirties at most, but then everyone these days seemed young, either Michaels or Olivias, and recently he felt his years more than ever. He indulged in a little furtive observation, watching Hannah’s slim fingers polish up a shot glass, her hair brushing her shoulders as she worked. She was certainly attractive. Her gaze caught his eye then she looked away, as though they shared a guilty secret.
            ‘I’m Matthew, by the way.’
            ‘That’s not what the Labour lot calls you, mean bunch,’ Hannah quipped. ‘Everyone knows that you’re the Tories’ “Big I Am”, if you don’t count Colin Scott, of course. Though something tells me he wouldn’t like not to be counted. And as for what they call him...
            ‘Are you always this rude?’ Matthew sipped the drink and munched through the packet of nuts.
            ‘I’m just telling you what people say about you, thought I’d be doing you a favour. And anyway, I gave you a freebie, didn’t I?’ Hannah gestured to the glass.
            ‘I’m well aware what people say about me, unfortunately,’ Matthew said. He felt his phone vibrate but he didn’t react. ‘I doubt that being compared to a mass-murdering fascist propagandist is meant to be that much of a compliment, though I could be wrong.’
Hannah raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. ‘Oh, I bet you love it more than you let on.’ Matthew sniffed, amused by her strangely accurate observation. She seemed far too beautiful to stay working for the refreshment department for long, there was a special quality to her, as though she should be going places, and not just to the dishwasher and back.
‘She’s a tease, this one,’ a fairly short, balding Labour MP called to him with a chuckle, winking at Hannah, who glared at him reproachfully. ‘Anyway, the F├╝hrer let you off your leash for the night, has he, Herr Doktor?’
Hannah threw Matthew a sympathetic glance, but he saw something else in her eyes he couldn’t place.
‘Don’t listen to this lot.’ She began to pull a pint for a colleague who had slid along the bar, invading the relative privacy of their eye contact. Matthew felt disappointed. ‘Bloody rowdy bunch, although they certainly do keep me in a job.’
With a private smirk at the continuing taunts from behind him, Matthew tossed a five pound note, by way of a tip, across the counter, stole another glance at Hannah, knocked back the drink then quickly left for home. Sasha, he decided, was unlikely to have waited up. 
MPs are notoriously clannish: What do your colleagues think about your work? Do they think you are spilling the beans?

Ha! I was asked by the Telegraph…I don’t know, is the short answer! My colleagues, i.e. other staff, think it’s great I’ve written about Westminster and are very supportive and impressed. As for the MPs…well my boss read my first book, which he told me he enjoyed, I now hope he’s reading the second one!

My third cousin Dave in classic edu-com, Please Sir (1971)

MPs don’t seem to take declining literacy in the cradle of the English language very seriously. How can we change that? What would you do?

Firstly, at the risk of sounding all a bit Michael Gove, I think there is a big problem with literacy among teachers. My cousin is a teacher and she says it’s shocking how many have bad grammar, both written and verbal. Until that is tackled, what hope is there for pupils? Teachers have also been told not to correct how children speak so they can ‘express themselves’. What utter tosh. I would expect my children to be corrected (as I do at home) and find it very worrying that standards are dropping in the basics. 

2009 rankings

Secondly, 2013 PISA statistics placed the UK at 26th in the world for Maths and 23rd for reading. I could get all party political and blame Labour for not targeting spending effectively, but I think it is far more complex than that.

 Throwing money at the education system won’t necessarily deal with the problems (we have spent more here per head than other, better performing countries), I think effective collaboration between good teachers and schools and those which are struggling is the way to go. 

There should be no bad schools or bad teachers and it is by sharing best practice, and the Government encouraging such best practice, that things can improve. 

Give us your favourite a) two books  b) DVD and c) CD
Ah, back to less serious things!

I loved the Jane Thynne books Black Roses and The Winter Garden as they are so evocative and wonderfully descriptive about Nazi Germany in the 1930s. 

I could read her books forever and I’m always disappointed when I’ve finished them! I’ve also recently enjoyed Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies; they are difficult to read at first, but once you’ve got used to Mantel’s writing style they are absorbing and thoroughly compelling.

DVD…oooh, that could cover films or box sets, couldn’t it? My favourite box set is Castle, as it’s one of my favourite programmes! 

Not very high-brow, I realise, but it’s chewing gum for the mind, well written and about a crime-sleuthing author. Perfect!

CD… the first Keane album, Hopes and Fears, was a favourite car CD for a long time and one of the best mainstream albums (in my opinion!) of the mid 2000s. 

It also reminds me of my life before kids! Ahh, the nostalgia!

House of Cards: British or US version?
Gosh, another toughie! I’ve only seen season 1 of the US version, and it was of course outstanding, but I can’t help feel huge affection for the original UK series and Ian Richardson’s compelling stare. 

The British version is what inspired my political fiction over the years, so I will have to say that, although I’m hoping to watch Kevin Spacey in the US’s season 2 as soon as I can!

Sir Charles "Uncle Chas" Barry

My third generation ancestor, Sir Charles Barry (known as Uncle Chas, in our house), designed and rebuilt the Palace of Westminster (AKA Houses of Parliament) over 26 years, completing in 1854.  Did he do a good job? Or is there something you would change?

Wow Wiz, that’s AMAZING! I am so impressed with your ancestry! Ever thought of being on Who Do You Think You Are?? Perhaps you should write a book about him, he seemed a very interesting character! 

He also built Highclere (aka Downton Abbey!) which is just down the road from me. 

He did a very good job on 
Parliament, it’s just the internal maintenance hasn’t been as good as it should over the years! I’m now based over in Portcullis House (which is already falling apart) but before that I was stuck down in the Palace basement (or bunker, as I called it!) with the mice and the weird smells. I think Parliament is slowly sinking into the river, and there were rumours that everyone would be moved out for a number of years before it finally slid away, but I think it would be so expensive nobody wants to commit to it! Having said all that, I do feel so incredibly privileged to work there, and in such history. Do come and visit me at some point, I’ll give you a tour!

I shall take you up on that, Emma! As long as you introduce me to Dennis Skinner :D So, what is your favourite meal to a) cook and b) eat.
I’m not hugely into cooking, but I’m told by my family I make a mean lasagne and I’m not too bad at a fruit cake either!
To eat…I do love a good roast, especially at Christmas, and I’m a massive Christmas pudding fan. My granny was a domestic science teacher and makes the best Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, so I look forward to that every year!

Finally, what do fans of Emma Gray have to look forward to in 2015?
Well the sequel to Power Play won’t be for a couple of years at least, so really I’m looking to increase my blog presence and carry out more interviews (I do hope you will oblige!). 

I do write articles for various online publications, including Conservative Home, Total Politics and Backbench, so I’m hoping to keep writing publicly one way or another! End Game will keep me busy too, that’s for sure, and boy will it be dark….

Emma, it's been a great pleasure to meet you, and thank you for coming round the Cauldron. I, and all the Wizardwatchers, wish you every success with Power Games.. 
Thanks so much for having me here, Wiz. It's been great!

Contact Emma here:

Buy Power Games below:




Interviews and additional:

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Multi-Talented Lorraine Devon Wilke - Around the Cauldron!

California's Lorraine Devon Wilke has packed an awful lot into her life and she shows no signs of stopping

The third-eldest sibling of eleven, she packed her bags and hit the road as a travelling rock singer in the big-haired eighties, carrying her camera with her, before settling down to marriage, motherhood and a life of popular bloggery, including her current stint working for the Huffington Post.

Her list of past achievements and current work is quite staggering - and she's a delightful person too!

Lorraine is now a novelist writing (in Indie terms), that quiet, shy and vulnerable industry step-child Literary Fiction. 

The genre the 101 blogs tell you to avoid like the plague and yet, it's the one area where a reader can find really, really decent writing if you look for it. And Lorraine is a really, really decent writer.

I was introduced to her by Brenda Perlin and received both her short story and novel. The former is a cracking read, but the latter - I am twelve chapters in and I am engrossed is possibly a great book. I had to buy it in paperback. 

It's a sweeping, sassy, cynical, redeeming, tricky "Terms of Endearment" type family saga - remember those? - with dialogue so acute you can experience it, a real sense of place, and characters you can see and hear as if they were next to you, the novel deserves a wider audience. 

I picked up the Wizphone and interrupted Lorraine while she tapped out her latest blog on a sunkissed veranda overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Lorraine?

Hi Wiz! I’m one of eleven children (third oldest). I was born in Chicago, Illinois, which remains one of my all-time favourite cities, but lived most of my childhood in a tiny farm town near the Illinois/Wisconsin border called Richmond. 

I remember flying into O Hare and seeing this shot - amazing (Ed).

Later, I hit the road with a rock band, which led me to Los Angeles... 

...where I started out as an actress, then launched into another full-time run at rock & roll during the wild and woolly 80s (yes, there are “big hair” pics on my website!). 

Website: http://lorrainedevonwilke.com/index.html

The 90s were about indie films (mine and others’), marriage (happy elopement) and family (one son, one stepdaughter); then back to music (more on that in a bit), and always writing (screenplays, articles, songs, books). 

Whereabouts in the US do you live?

Home base is Los Angeles (currently the beach community of Playa del Rey), as it’s been for most of my adult life, with the recent addendum of a wonderful little place in the hinterlands of northern California, Humboldt County, where my husband and I have a home in the charming Victorian Village of Ferndale, California. 

In what genre do you write? 
I write in the category I most love to read, Contemporary Literary Fiction. 

As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to real stories of a literary bent, ones that reflect upon or make commentary about life, relationships, family, culture, etc., and so my sensibilities as a writer lean in that same direction. 

Stylewise, I tend to interweave drama with humour, mostly because that’s the mix I find most often in life (though my recent short story, “She Tumbled Down,” is largely all drama). I seek out those unique narratives hidden in the everyday lives of contemporary people. 

Tell us about your latest work 

Since I mentioned my short story, let me touch on that first: “She Tumbled Down” was inspired by a hit-and-run that occurred in my neighborhood a few years ago, one that hasn’t been solved and likely won’t be. The street memorial put up by the victim’s family remains, even now, and I often walk past it and wonder what kind of person could do such a thing... hit someone then just drive away? “She Tumbled Down” is my imagining of one answer to that question. It’s not the specific story of the woman who died in my neighborhood, but it’s written in her honor and that of other hit-and-run victims whose deaths will never find justice. 

The bigger literary event of the year was After The Sucker Punch, my debut novel published in May of this year. 

What is ATSP about and why did you write it? What family sagas influence the novel?

I’d always wanted to write a novel but never felt I had a story that quite fit the medium. Then, several years ago, and many years after my father’s death, a journal of his came to my attention, one particularly focused on me -- and not in a very complimentary way (yes, he did use the “failed” word!). 

I remember my young son finding it so odd that a father would leave words like that in a journal meant to be read; in fact, he was the first one who said, “You should write a book about this.” I gave it some thought, but since I’d had a fairly distant relationship with my father throughout my adult life, his retrospective critique, while hurtful, was not particularly life shattering for me. It was when I brought it up in a women’s group I was in at the time, and realized how dramatically it hit others, that the idea of a book was further sparked.

Many people have asked, “How much of the story is true?” A fair question; but despite any correlations, this is most assuredly not a memoir. I wanted the freedom of fiction to create an imagined family and I very much did: in real life we all get along, no one’s an alcoholic, and there’s not a nun, lawyer, teacher, or lobbyist in the lot! 

Basically, After The Sucker Punch is about life: sometimes dark and exploratory, sometimes funny and irreverent. It encompasses various themes of significance, specifically the concept of self-acceptance, of grasping your personal truth and not letting anyone dissuade you from it, not even a father. Through the main protagonist, her siblings; her friends, lovers and even jobs, we explore issues of family, faith, cults, creativity, love, and the universal struggle to define oneself against the perceptions of a parent. I hope readers both enjoy – and find provocative – what is ultimately a triumphant journey of self-discovery. 

Can you share an extract from the work?

This is the opening chapter and a bit after that, from After The Sucker Punch, setting the stage for all that follows:

 January 5, 2002 – the journal of Leo Curzio:
One is obligated by moral duty to love one’s child. One is not obligated to like them. A conundrum when it comes to my fourth, my third daughter, Teresa – or Tessa, as she insists we call her now.Recently I searched through my journals of the past several years looking for an entry about her but could find nothing. Perhaps that’s not so strange; she has been an enigma to me since she finished high school. As I look back, it seems her senior year was the pinnacle of her life...from that point on little has happened to bear out her great promise.Convinced of her own abilities, which do seem apparent or, at the very least, measurable, she decided to try for a job in the movies, TV, or perhaps the recording business out in Hollywood. She insisted that if after two years she had gotten nowhere she would try something else. Well, it’s been more than three years and she has nothing to show for it except some amateur acting classes and self-produced plays. In September she will be twenty-five.So what’s the problem with Teresa? For sure, I don’t know. She is a great disappointment. Not simply because she’s failed up to now, but that endowed with so much talent she hasn’t employed it for anything useful and doesn’t show signs of improving.
On a day when all she wanted to do was mourn the father so often longed for and buried just hours before, Tessa Curzio sat on the bed in which she was surely conceived and felt posthumously sucker punched. She looked down at the twelve-year-old journal splayed across her lap and realized it truly was a Pandora’s box come to life, a dubious gift from a dead man who had little to say while living but clearly plenty upon departure. She snapped it shut and threw it across the room with enough force to shatter her mother’s purple vanity lamp. A clock that followed to the floor doggedly kept ticking time. 5:17 pm. It was the beginning of the next uncomfortable phase of her life.

There is also a very artfully produced (by Tom Amandes) book trailer for After The Sucker Punch that offers a visual synopsis of the story that’s quite compelling... 

What’s been the highlight of your time in Independent Fiction? And what don’t you like about it?

The highlight, definitely, was the actual creation of ATSP for publishing. Putting together a book, as opposed to just chasing after a publisher, was a new experience that came with quite a learning curve... which was both terrifying and exhilarating for me at the time! As I went through the process of rewriting, editing, formatting, working with a designer (Grace Amandes) on the cover (which I love), I felt like I was building a dream house... one that would be exactly as I pictured it. 

And, then, GETTING IT PUBLISHED... amazing! 

In a world where traditional publishing makes it profoundly difficult for an unknown author not working in a formulaic genre (i.e. vampires, zombies, romance, or SMBD) to get published, the sheer empowerment and pleasure of being able to create the book I wanted, and then put it up where readers from all over the world could access it, was creatively life-changing. From there, all else springs! 

And what I don’t like about indie publishing? A couple of things: 

First, it’s difficult, frankly, to do everything yourself. As savvy and capable as I am with marketing and promotion, there’s just the sheer volume of tasks related to breaking a book, particularly in this uber-saturated marketplace, which makes that process exhausting at times. I’m relentless and enthusiastic, but after five months on my own, I’m currently in conversation with a publicist to hopefully join me in the endeavour! 

Second, I’m not fond of the knee-jerk stigmas perpetuated about indie authors as a whole by some mainstream media, various publishing platforms, and select book bloggers (happily, not you!), too many of whom marginalize and rebuff all self-published authors as amateurs willing to put out poorly written, unedited pap to which Mom, Dad, and BFFs will award 5-star reviews. But, then again... I also don’t like that too many self-published authors prove them right! 

We indie authors are the only ones who can change that scenario and the only way we do it is by holding ourselves to the highest possible standards in, both, the excellence of what we write and the professionalism of what we deliver to the marketplace. 

Hear Lorraine ponder political issues HERE

I’ve covered this paradox surrounding “judgmental media vs. indie authors” on my blog and other places, and hope, given changing attitudes and the critical mass of like-minded authors writing on the topic, the industry as a whole steps up to raise the bar... and media takes notice! We’ll see how that goes in the next few years. 

Lorraine's blog at huffingtonpost.com

You were the lead singer in a band. Loads of us would have loved to do that!

ROCK & ROLL!! Yes... thank you for asking; I was a lead singer for many years. A true creative high point in pretty much every way imaginable! 

I mentioned the 80s earlier: that’s when I found the musical mentors with whom I conceived an original project called DEVON, a soul/new wave band that did it up big for most of the decade. 

My most recent foray was with a blues/rock project called Road To Blue... which morphed into an original project under my name... which culminated in an original CD, Somewhere On the Way, a true labour of love and a solid example of my sensibilities as a singer/songwriter. It’s available on iTunes and CDBaby, so hop on over to my site if you’re interested. 


[And FYI: in an interesting bit of mixed media, one of the songs from the CD is part of the epilogue of After the Sucker Punch as a free download... now how fun is that?!)   

How seriously do you take your photography?

Very. One of my images was recently chosen for a traveling exhibit for the amazing group called The Peace Project, and just this week a piece of mine was jury-selected for YourDaily Photograph, a collectors’ site managed by the very prestigious  Duncan Miller Gallery in LA. I still take my camera wherever I go, shooting and uploading new work when I can.

Give me your favourite a) two books, b) CD and C) DVD

Damn, I’m terrible at these “favourite” things, but I’ll do my best to hone down the list! But know that these come with the caveat that they are some of my favourites, not necessary the favourites (I don’t think I could possibly be quite that selective!). 

Books: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

CD: Joni Mitchell’s Blue -  I know every word, breath and harmony! 

DVD: Still Crazy – It was my go-to gift DVD for years, particularly for anyone with an appreciation for rock bands and growing older! 

Invite one author, one musician and one actor to dinner. And what would you eat?

The author would be Dave Eggers (I like his books and his mission statement), the musician, George Harrison (my favourite Beatle); 

the actor, Gregory Peck (the man everyone wanted to be their father). 

... and can I add Maggie Gyllenhaal (I just binge-watched The Honourable Woman and she blew my mind!!). 

Wiz's favourite MG role - Crazy Heart

That’s quite a fabulous crowd, isn’t it?

We’d sit around the table at my house with some great blues, a fire going, and the sun setting, eating a Greek meal of roasted lamb with mint jelly, rice pilaf, Greek salad, crusty wheat bread, and baklava, all made by my grandmother, who’d have come down from the heavens to get it done right.

Finally, what do fans of Lorraine Devon Wilke have to look forward to in 2014?

I’d hoped to have a collection of my published essays (Sass & Sensibility... a Collection of Essays by Lorraine Devon Wilke

My goal for the rest of 2014 is to continue to give After The Sucker Punch the necessary push to keep it advancing in terms of sales and promotion, as well as get this next novel done. 

Novel #2 should be ready to go by the first quarter. Working title: Woman Between the Lines, “an anti-romantic comedy/drama about a recently dumped 33-year-old portrait photographer who sets off to find his ailing father's first love, convinced she carries the key to happiness for them all.”

 I’ll continue to write for The Huffington Post and the various other publishers I work for; keep my blogs going 

My Adventures in Independent Publishing and Rock+Paper+Music 
Sass & Sensibility from Lorraine Devon Wilke

hopefully find a few places to get up and sing, and, of course, sling the camera over my shoulder on some travels I’ve got in mind. 

I can always be found at 


Lorraine, it has been a pleasure to speak to you around the Cauldron and I wish you all the best in the coming year.

Thanks so much, Mark, for inviting me to visit you and your readers around the Cauldron. I had a blast answering your questions and hope your readers enjoy the glimpse.  

Buy Lorraine's work HERE

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lorraine-Devon-Wilke/e/B00K2ZOLSA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1413186082&sr=1-2-ent

US: http://www.amazon.com/Lorraine-Devon-Wilke/e/B00K2ZOLSA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1413186082&sr=1-2-ent

Contact Lorraine:


Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke

Website. http://www.lorrainedevonwilke.com/index.html

Twitter. @LorraineDWilke

Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8185626.Lorraine_Devon_Wilke

Google Plus. https://plus.google.com/+LorraineDevonWilke/posts