Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Historical Novel Society - toe in the water

[Excuse any name dropping... simply can't stop myself! ;-D ]

When I first saw the Historical Novel Society was to have the 2016 conference in Oxford this year, I was so excited. I opened up the conference guide and pored over the workshops, salivating over the topics and authors running them... I went to sign up, only to find just about everything was fully booked. The only spaces left were on Sunday. It was the last Sunday of the summer holiday, the following day I'd be back at work, full-on, no breaks til Christmas (tell a lie...there'll be the October half term, of course ;-) ). Thing is, though, I could quite happily have done every one of the ten workshops, but I could only pick two, being as they ran simultaneously, darn it. Even many of those workshops were full. So, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-style, I picked two of these choices:

First choice to come from these - really, how to choose?

  1. The Future of Historical Fiction (What do publishers, agents and authors see ahead?)
  2. The 1066 Debate (Crown the King: William or Harold?)
  3. Streets through the Ages (Everyday life as bedrock for Storytelling)
  4. Foreign Rights and Translation
  5. Secret Stuart Marriages (Navigating the politics of love at the Stuart Courts)
Second choice to come from these - all excellent topics:
  1. Confronting Past Lies (Can novels tell greater truths than history books; should novelists be concerned to try?)
  2. Going Indie: Questions and Answers
  3. Far and Strange (Writing about places remote and unfamiliar)
  4. Time Slip; Time Travel (Making them work)
  5. Working with an Agent v Going Solo
And that's just Sunday morning. Can you imagine how amazing to spend the whole weekend, from Friday to Sunday? I heard the mention of 'conference fatigue'. Me, a newbie? Can't imagine this. 

So, anyway, today was the day... yesterday I was so conscious that the conference was going on without me. 'Conference envy'? Yep, I can imagine that. In fact, I experienced it. (Next time I'll be making a point of an earlier booking.) I'd decided to drive up, catch the Park-&-Ride into town, and, so nothing would go wrong, had printed out numerous maps of the town centre, the bus stops, the bus time-table, the conference guide, AA route-planner (just in case the sat-nav failed) last night before I went to bed. I only had a few hours before I'd have to get up at 5.30 to reach Oxford for the 9am start, so I worked out. 5.30 might have once been my favourite time of the morning, but, well, I just need every hour of sleep I can get these days. Coffee, more coffee, and I dived into the car, scrunched up wads of maps in one hand, notepad, backpack and the rest of my paraphernalia in the other. Later, I realised, I'd needed so little of it. Notepad and pen would've had me sorted!

Anyone who knows me might know of my dream-of-the-future of having a huge mansion (LOL) I could turn into a massive writer-retreat-come-place-to-stay-when-writers-come-to-the-UK. I dream of this place, where so many wonderful word artists can stop over for a little break, or while they do a book tour, or simply while they visit the locale... like a big commune. Yeah, never worked out the details, but simply like the idea of so many creative people in one place. Well, anyway, today was like the nearest thing I've ever come to that feeling. My first conference for writers/authors/readers...everyone interested in books. Everyone talking about books. Everyone thinking books. Heaven.

It started at the Park-&-Ride. I stepped on the bus and asked to be let off at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter stop, as per emailed instructions. The bus driver pointed to the back and said she thought most of the ladies back there were going the same direction. I received a smile back as I sat down and said hello. I was comforted that they would know where to get off, so sat in silence and happily watched the outskirts of Oxford pass me by. The buildings seemed to age more as we neared the town centre. One of the ladies bounced up, ending my daydreaming, and pushed the button, saying we'd passed the stop! I hadn't seen a single sign of the building we'd been sent a picture of, but hey-ho, I was happy to believe someone who seemed to know. Four of us got off at the next stop. Turns out there had been a detour because of a circus setting up in the streets nearby, so we'd needed to walk. I chatted to the lady who had recognised we'd passed the stop as she led the way, walking fast because she was taking one of the workshops at 9.30. I was delighted to find I was talking to author of House of Shadows and historian Nicola Cornick (@NicolaCornick), who was apparently presenting the first workshop - Stuart Secret Marriages - with someone I've been dying to meet - Andrea Zuvich (@17thCenturyLady) another 17th Century historian and author of The Stuarts in 100 Facts! We parted company at the entrance as she rushed to get ready for her talk.

My first impression, as I walked down the steps into a room full of tables, around which people drank coffee, tables laden with badges to be picked up, and at least one table laden with books. It's not like I haven't been to the London Book Fair a couple of times, surrounded by book stalls, but the atmosphere there is different. It's mostly about publishers and agents touching base, in my experience, and somewhat akin to a whitewashed hospital compared to this cosy, front room feeling I had here. This was writers, readers...it felt more fundamental. They were all into historical fiction. My kinda peoples.

I picked up my badge, and asked if there were any of those HNS conference bags I'd seen folk carry around? Sorry, all gone. Not the end of the world, but it would've been nice to have a little memento of my first conference. Well, that's where I could've hugged the lady handing out the badges there and then! "If you meet me after the workshops, you can have mine." OMG - how generous - it was such a friendly and welcoming gesture that made me feel 'I've arrived. I'm part of this conference!' The lovely lady who offered up her bag to me? None other than Christina Courtenay (@PiaCCourtenay) - Whoo hoo! I didn't even remember at the time that we followed each other on Twitter. In fact, I was so bowled over by the whole thing, I think I walked around in another world, not quite recognising this was a synergy of real life and virtual life. Twitter friends come to life! Christina also introduced me to Henriette Gyland (@henrigyland), another Scandanavian, a pleasure to meet.

First workshop I had signed up for was Foreign Rights and Translation, chaired by Carol Blake of Blake Friedmann literary agency; with other panelists as Louise Rogers Lalaurie (@LLalaurie), translator of Tregian's Ground and winner of Best Translated Book Award for Gabriel Wittcop's Murder Most Serene and author of The Gondola MakerLaura Morelli (@lauramorelliphd).
(I had a question to ask: "How does translating historical fiction differ from translating contemporary fiction set in the present?" In my mind was my concern about translating 'The Popish Midwife', with such a lot of Ye Olde English... I wondered if it were even possible. For instance, how would a person translate the change of style and grammar, or the odd words like 'Forsooth!' or 'Gads!' into, say, Spanish or French?) Did I ask the question? Nope, not a bit of it. I was so carried away with the great interactive discussion about the use of agents, contracts and personal stories used to illustrate points, I totally forgot. Also, I was fascinated by how many folk came from the US and other places to the conference. And then the workshop was over, and my thought was to find Andrea as well as see where I was going next.

I didn't get far. The book stand, bulging with historical novels and history books, beckoned. Of course I had to buy something. Who can pass a book stand and not buy something? Then I realised I hadn't had a drink since the early hours of the morning, and maybe it would be a good idea to get a coffee. Got me a coffee (one of those classically small cups on a saucer - coffee gone in a gulp - needed more, but still too many things to do, people to meet).

It was already time to go to a keynote address by Tracy Chevalier (@Tracy_Chevalier) (author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard) on 'Fact into Fiction: A Historical Novelist's Relationship to the Past'. I must admit, I empathised a lot with how Tracy came to historical fiction, first through genealogy, then through realising that, to write any piece of fiction set in the past, if you don't know the answers already, you have to question everything - from 'did they eat at a table?' to 'did they eat with a knife and fork' and 'what did they eat?' You can't assume anything.

Like Tracy, when I started The Popish Midwife, I had no idea how many little details I'd need to find out. My similar line of questioning might have been:
  • 'Did men smoke in the coffee houses?' (yes, there are images of them doing so)
  • 'What did they smoke?' (Tobacco. This was, after all, after Raleigh's time)
  • 'What did they smoke with?' (clay pipes were the thing)
  • 'How did they light the pipes, did they have matches or lighters?' (One method was to use special long tongs to pick a small ember of  coal/burning wood out of the fire)
Tracy was interesting and had the audience give a knowing chuckle or two, but mostly had us rapt.

My next optional workshop was 'Confronting Past Lies' - this was one I particularly wanted to be a part of, having constantly questioned myself, how much fiction was acceptable, how much truth should be in a biographical fiction. Could you stretch the truth? I wanted to tell Elizabeth Cellier's story as close as possible to the facts I'd found on her, and wrote every chapter based on something that illustrate those facts or filled in between the facts. But, even now, I feel guilty for putting in there one detail that wasn't fact, the only one I knew to be false. It was sacrilege, I was sure! I had called Elizabeth's French midwife friend a 'Huguenot', knowing full well she was a Catholic. She hadn't come to England to get away from the prejudice of the majority of the population, for that, too, was Catholic. Like Elizabeth Cellier, she was one of the religious minority, but I wanted her to be a Huguenot, a protestant. However, my conscience played on that one, until I simply itched to correct it!

On the panel of this workshop were three excellent speakers: Chair was author of The American Boy and The Ashes of LondonAndrew Taylor (@AndrewJRTaylor) , Then there was Jenny Barden (@jennywilldoit), author of Mistress of the Sea and The Lost Duchess and, not least, Margaret George, author of  Elizabeth I. (see, told you I was going to name drop ;-) ) It wasn't long before there was a lively discussion about the similarities and differences between writing history and writing historical fiction. The historian has to guess much of the reasoning between sparse facts, but so does the historical fiction writer. Both rely on those facts, but "fiction can be truer than plain facts", because it tries to create the best scenerio to account for them, where historians can only state them. "First and foremost, we are telling stories," says Andrew. "Without engaging the reader we are nothing". What we know as true shouldn't be played with, but there are "areas of doubt" that we can create within. Then Margaret George added "Gaps in sources leave wiggle room to answer the question: 'What Makes them tick?'"
The Historian adds theories and should try to be objective, whereas the novelist provides/ creates emotions and makes it more immersive. Sometimes there's a crossover - an increasing trend to use the art of fiction to write history more interestingly. Still, historians tend to cross reference their work, where the novelist more often postulates a single view of the events, but the novelist breathes life into the facts (Well, I think we all know that :-) )

So, before the conference wrapped up, we had a bit of fun in The HistFicionist Challenge - a quiz with the whole audience against Tracy Chevalier, CC Humphreys (@HumphreysCC author of the Jack Absolute series amongst others) and Harry Sidebottom (author of the Throne of Caesars series amongst others). Not really a fair game, with three minds against a lecture room full of historical fiction readers, writers, enthusiasts... but such fun!

The buffet lunch was superb and, for once, there was more than only carrot sticks and houmous for us vegans. In fact, there was a lovely large tray of roast Mediterranean vegetable sandwiches on each table... plenty enough for everyone (I did like that idea that vegan food wasn't only for the vegans :-) ) I hijacked the table with Christina Courtenay, Henriette Gyland and a couple of others (here I go a bit fuzzy, but I do know that these amazing woman had made much of the arrangements for the conference). They were excellent company. I left them to find Andrea Zuvich, who I still hoped to see (I only found out later that I'd passed by her table where she was doing a signing...what a short-sighted mole I am! :-O ) and then left, feeling very satisfied with my day.

I arrived at the bus stop at the same time as Harry Sidebottom, and friend (I'm afraid I didn't catch his name) and we chatted amiably in the back of the bus on the way back to the Park n Ride, there to part company. In the car park, again I bumped into Christina and Henriette, swearing I wasn't following them (I was quite grateful my car was nearby, and I could click the door open, as proof I wasn't stalking them! ;-) )

The best thing about the whole morning, that toe dipped into the HNS conference, was the feeling of camaraderie, of friendship, of an extended family gathering. It might be that I bulldozed my way into some conversations, tagging myself onto folk who didn't know me, but they were so absolutely lovely not to show it, and not to judge. I hope I might meet all these people again, and grow our friendships and relationships deeper: it would be an honour to know each and every one of them more.


Further Adventure: ('More?' you say.)

You'd think the conference would be enough for the day but, when I sat in the car, I made a snap decision - Great Missenden and Buckinghamshire couldn't be far away. Great Missenden being the place I'd discovered a record to show Elizabeth Cellier, real-life heroine of The Popish Midwife, to have been buried. 45 minutes. Over an hour closer than from home in Sussex. I set the Sat Nav and off I went. 

As I approached Great Missenden, something like awe filled me. I was being pulled to Elizabeth's final resting place. In my mind was an old entry of a book that said there had been a brass plate in the chancery of the church, on which was written Richard Dormer and Mary Cellier. And then, in another place, 'Mrs Cellier the popish midwife, who was of the Dormer family, and is celebrated for her concern in the pretended meal-tub plot in the year 1679, lies buried in the chancel of Great Missenden Church' (truth be told, I didn't remember all that, only that there was some sort of plaque in the church :-) ):

With the help of a couple of locals, I found the old church at the top of a windy road up a hill, hidden behind a small wooded area. I would have had trouble finding it if it wasn't for my helpers! But, it was worth the search. An aged and majestic church greeted me:

I thought to walk around inside, but I soon discovered that the silence of prayer wasn't on the cards for this Sunday. Inside, cream tea and music was being served, to the delight of a fair few people sitting in the pews chatting. I was greeted and asked if I'd come for the cream tea? On explaining my mission, as so often happens, I was passed from one helpful parishioner to another, until one lady on another table pointed to her husband and said, 'he's the one who can help you. The one in the red apron.' As it happened, he couldn't help me, but he tried. He showed me the book of all those who had died in WWII and the war memorial. He showed me where headstones had been used as a wall, and pointed out the old churchyard (as opposed to the newer council-run burial ground across the road) where I might walk between old headstones that had laid there for centuries.

He also told me a bunch of great stories from history books he'd been reading, entertaining me for some time! He left me with the warning to stay on the path in one area to the left, because it was dangerous, but told me, if I had an accident, he was on duty today, and could give me the kiss of life (I suspect he might not have said that if his wife had been in earshot! :-D )

On the way home, I wondered if I should be worried, when I stopped off at the service station and saw this van:

...but I was so hungry by that time, I decided to risk it for one of the service stations Mexican tortillas! 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Popish Midwife Book Tour

One of the best things about having written a book? People reading it. And enjoying it!
One of the worst things about having written a book? Finding those people who're going to love it!
So, this is where a book tour comes in...

The Popish Midwife
Annelisa Christensen
In 'ye olde days', I would have had to wait for my publisher to organise a book tour. I'd have to load the car with books, prepare for reading, and signing (and hopefully having enough to sign I'd get hand-cramps holding the pen ;-) ). I might have turned up and there were loads of folk waiting for me, or I might arrive and find every seat empty, and the only people around were some half-curious readers looking for their next book on the shelves, wondering what was going on, and when it would start... not realising it should've already started (wow, I hope that never happens to me!)

Annelisa Christensen displaying The Popish Midwife in the Wine Rack, Wadhurst, arranged by
manager & ex-bookshop worker, Tara Lawlor

And, say you, as an author, do have a reasonable turnout, and those who've heard of you are interested in your book, and what you have to say about writing it, and researching it, you'd have to speak to an audience... of actual people! I don't know about you, but I've never been a big one to speak in front of big groups. Funny, really, because I was made Head Girl at school, and had to frequently make announcements to a whole hall full of students and teachers. And I've done plenty of things since, where I've spoken in front of groups.

One of the biggest (and, now, I think bravest) things I did was to have my head shaved off for cancer research in front of the whole school. No, I didn't have to speak then, but I spoke in front of everyone several times to let them know why I was doing it  (in this post, I changed the name of my best friend, Julia, at the time, for her privacy). The students were marvelous, and were so moved, they all went out with their collecting pots and dug deep in their pockets for spare change every break time! - all in all, over a thousand pounds was raised!)

Annelisa Christensen before, during and after
head shave for cancer research

Anyway, I digress. The point is, I've had to stand up in front of a lot of people many times, for one reason or another, but it still makes me nervous. I still have the memory of me, a painfully shy student at university, having to do a talk about my project in front a lecture theater of students. I can still remember the sweaty palms, the glazing eyes, the coughing when I started talking. I asked for a drink of water, and choked on it. The shame as, scarlet faced, I rushed out of the lecture hall. The further shame when the professor later found me and told me I should do a course in public speaking. Yeah, don't know why I felt bad about that, but I did. Maybe it was because I'd embarrassed myself in front of a lot of people and would rather forget about it, or maybe it was because I somehow felt inferior, because I had failed to do what everybody else in that room had done. 

The memory of that talk (or lack of it, as it turns out) still rears up every time I think of standing in front of people. Do I feel judged? Yes, I guess so. All eyes are on you and everything you do, from stuttering or forgetting what you were saying to unconsciously scratching your bum! For a short while, you are the bug in the jar.

Public speaking -
like a bug in a jar

So, I've been dreading, a bit, my first real book shop talk. I'm sure I'll get used to it. However, I am really, REALLY, looking forward to doing a virtual blog tour - how amazing is this! I can reach out to readers anywhere, focusing on the audience who'll like The Popish Midwife, and who love a good historical fiction based on a true story. I can find the folk who love to learn a bit about history, while being entertained at the same time. I can chat to people, answer questions, without actually standing in front of them - I could even be in my PJs with a glass of wine and who would know? (oh, unless I did a video interview, of course - I'd put my day clothes on then... ;-) )

The tour is just coming together, dates not yet finalised, but I would love to have you along to keep me company on my first step into the book-book tour world. The tour is being organised (even as we speak, by the wonderful Amy Bruno (@HFVBT). Please say hi to her! :-)

From October 17th to November 11th, please come and say hello. My itinerary will be posted at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours soon - watch this space!

I'm posting a Mister Linky, in case any visitors to Script Alchemy are having their own virtual blog tour and would like to share...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Interview: Paul Crampton (Author)

Today, I've invited Paul Crampton to interview with me. A highly respected expert on historical Canterbury and author of novels, Paul - kind and affable and an absolute gentleman - tells about his books and how he deals with depression and anxiety whilst writing them. It's a pleasure to invite him along and get some answers to a few questions I've been dying to ask!

Paul Crampton: Novelist and expert on Canterbury
Hi Paul.  Before we talk about your latest book, let's hear a little about yourself. Tell me, what are your passions?

I love the history of Canterbury, of course and the cathedral in particular.  I’m passionate about music: classical, jazz, folk and, my schoolboy love, prog-rock! I also love my garden, where I grow wild flowers and old roses.  And then I have my modest orchard, which is only three years old but doing well.

What's prog-rock? I've never heard of that :-D

Prog-rock is short for progressive-rock, which was a name given to classically influenced album bands in the early 1970s, such as Pink Floyd.

Lol that's me showing my ignorance :-) I believe, as a local historian, you occasionally give people tours of some of the old sites in Canterbury. You're a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, aren't you! Did I hear you say you also have your own weekly column in the local newspaper?

Ah yes, the tours are only for friends, when they show an interest. The column is something I’ve been doing, in one form or another, since the late 1980s. It’s currently called ‘Paul Crampton’s Canterbury’, and I get a lot of feedback from it. It’s also nice to help people trace, for example, a photo of their grandparents’ house in the city. So many old houses were pulled down in the early post-war years. In fact, demand for these pictures was so high that I produced a book specifically about them called: Canterbury Suburbs and Surroundings. In 2010, I won the John Hayes Canterbury Award for that one.

Paul Crampton, local historian, giving his friends
an informal tour of his favourite places in Canterbury

Wow, that's awesome, Paul! And it's so great that you can help people discover something about their past. So, I know the answer to this, but let me get to what you're dying to talk about. I know The Dream Messiah isn't your first published novel so, tell me, what else have you had published?

Well, The Dream Messiah is the first one to be published in the mainstream, and certainly the first one to reach a, potentially, worldwide audience.

But, yes, let's talk about the other books first. As you know, I'm well-known for local history books, particularly about Canterbury, and have published around 18 titles to date...

Eighteen? That's impressive. Sorry for interrupting. Please continue...

Paul Crampton's local history books of the Canterbury area

That's okay... As for novels, I self published ‘Strangers in Focus’ (2005) and ‘Ronnie Darwin was my Uncle’ (2006), both by Pen Press, which has since gone out of business… not, I hope, due to my books! After that, I won a writing competition, which saw two novels being published: ‘I want to be Half Jewish’, in 2008, and ‘Toby’s Burden’ in 2009. Sadly, both sank without trace, as there was no follow-up, or publicity whatsoever.

Paul Crampton's novels including his latest The Dream Messiah

That was just over six years ago. Was there anything between Toby's Burden and The Dream Messiah?

There were a few non-fiction books, but there were some rather unpleasant personal issues and also some mental health problems to sort out. You know... life.

Yes, I know a bit about that. Maybe, if you feel like it, we can talk a little more about that in a moment? Just for now, let's talk a bit about The Dream Messiah, which seems to be gathering a lot of positive attention in the press... I believe there's a story behind the book. Please tell.

Yes, there is. This goes back to my personal reaction to 9/11. I hadn’t thought much about Islam until then, so I began to research it. And, to my surprise, I found out that the three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity, had much more in common than they had differences; after all, it was the same God. And, I had to question, why is there so much mutual hatred and mistrust? It was then I decided to say something positive about the whole subject.

I can see from your overwhelmingly positive reviews that your message has certainly reached an audience that agrees with you! And part of that reason is your carefully chosen characters, and the events that bring them together. For a start, your main characters couldn't be more different from each other, could they. Your female character is Muslim, isn’t she?

Yes: Hamila Rashid is a young, black, Somalian refugee, in her 20s, who lives in modern-day London. The premise of The Dream Messiah is that she and my main male character, Tony Hammond-Jones – a white, Bishop’s son from rural Hertfordshire – begin having the same recurring dreams featuring each other. And, as the blurb says: when they finally meet, they slowly realise they share a destiny that has the potential to change the world forever.

Model for Hamila during photoshoot
for the front cover of Paul Crampton's

The Dream Messiah

Is that a heavily pregnant Hamila on the cover illustration, and is that a clue to their shared destiny?

Yes and yes; as is the book’s title itself! 
Hamila and Tony: main characters of The Dream Messiah
So what do you feel about such a great reaction to The Dream Messiah so far?
I am delighted it’s been a very positive one: 27 reviews currently on Amazon are anything to go by. I would love to thank everyone who's read the story and left such good reviews. I really feel they've connected with the characters and understood what I was trying to convey. And I was very careful to be respectful in every way when writing the book; after all, I want to convey a positive message, and causing offence is not my aim, in the least.

Did you find the book easy to write?

After a period of research, the first draft took me about six months to complete, which was fine. But writing fiction doesn’t always come so easily for me. As I mentioned earlier, I have a mental health condition that means my life is governed by chronic anxiety and depression. I've had therapy for this, and I found CBT invaluable. But I refused any medication.   

Any particular reason for that? I meant to come back to your mental health problems (thanks for talking about them openly. I know readers will appreciate that).

Well, I feel my condition has also given me my creativity, so it’s not all bad, and I don’t want to blunt the creative edges with drugs. Mind you, I occasionally self-medicate with alcohol, but have got a better handle on that one recently. In fact, I don’t drink at all at the moment. All in all though, I wouldn’t change the way I am. I write furiously when I’m in the mood, which is the way it is at the moment, thank goodness. Last year though, I just couldn’t touch my new work-in-progress. And the longer I left it, the more of an issue it became; the more I was afraid to pick it up again. But I finally managed to resume work in early 2016.

That's really interesting about the anxiety and depression actually being a source for your creativity. I recently saw a post on Bustle, talking about the link between depression and creativity in some famous authors, including J. K. Rowling. I suppose there's nothing worse than dulling something that, ironically, makes you happy. Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am in the advanced stages of a major project that began in 2009. This is a trilogy of novels called: ‘The Canterbury Apocalypse’. It’s another religious thriller but, this time, it’s a conspiracy trilogy that blends fact and fiction. Should I mention a slight similarity with the writing of Dan Brown? Well,  perhaps, but that’ll be one for others to decide. In any case, I am having enormous fun writing this. The first book is now ready, and I am currently putting the finishing touches to the second volume. For the first time, I'm really able to merge my love of Canterbury history with my fiction writing.

Another appearance: Paul Crampton in the Kentish Gazette

The perfect combination :-) So, how do you see your life in five years time?

I would love to be earning my living as a novelist. I don’t aspire to J.K Rowling’s heights but, having said that, I’m not setting any limits to my ambitions. In a recent interview, with my local history hat on, I was described as a novelist and writer, and it looked very good to see that title in print.  

Finally, where can we find you on the Internet?

Amazon Author page (getting round to it)
Twitter: @dreammessiah

Facebook pages:

Cordelia the cat curled up withThe Dream Messiah

Monday, 4 July 2016

Interview: Lexi Miles (author)

Folk on Twitter know Lexi Miles for her cheeky *giggles*, good humour and positive vibes.  She's always there with upbeat comments and a smile. She is one of those adorable people who you just wanna hug. She's also an author so crazily in love, she spent her life pursuing her passion - writing.
I discovered, she's also got a lot to say on this... :-)

Author: Lexi Miles

So, Lexi, hello and welcome to Script Alchemy. I'm delighted to have you come and answer some questions about you and your books.

Thank you so much for having me Annelisa. It is my pleasure to be with you today. I love your website Script Alchemy, and we get along so well, so I am happy, honored, and thrilled that you invited me to do this!

Thank you. Let's find out a little about you first, before we talk about your books. I've been checking out your bio, and see you've lived all over the place - Vegas, Los Angeles, Reno, California - where in the world is the spot that holds your dearest memories?

Oh, that’s a tough one. For my best and most precious memories, it is a bit of a tie between California, the Bay Area (near San Francisco), and Reno, Nevada. Those two places are where I have spent the most time and where I grew up. And, the weather is perfect in those two spots and the people are incredibly friendly. And to me that is important. (giggling a bit as I respond here)

Downtown Reno, Nevada, one of Lexi Miles' favourite places

And, where does your heart most desire to take you?

My heart most desires to take me out of the country to tour Europe or the United Kingdom. I also would like to go a little closer to home, back to Hawaii and Napa, California for some rest and relaxation.

Tahoe Shore

I see you have a lot of things you love, including, of course writing and reading, but also bowling, cooking, the beach, photography, spa days, fitness, dancing... and two sweet pups. If you had one day - one glorious day - how would you spend it? (It might be your last ever, so think of all the things you'd love to do and who you'd spend it with)

If I had to make one day count—really count—I would spend it with my loved ones, including my pups and best friend Chloe Quinn, at the beach. Not doing anything except for giggling, talking, and wiggling my feet in the sand. I would be appreciating this magical immense world with profound beauty all around me. I would just be thankful for every moment and giggle that I had with them. That would be perfect! (Those are my favorite days, time with my love ones, beach or not.)

Lexi's Silver Yorkies, Harley Quin and Poison Ivy

So, let's talk books. You've recently released a novel - Custom Fit - and a book of poetry - Focused on Love - and, I believe, you have a further seven (yes seven!) books to be released in 2016? 

Yes, I do have seven that are very near to being released. I just find that so many things inspire me. That is code for 'I have a lot of ideas that dance around in my brain and I love sharing them'.

First, give us a quick run down of what Custom Fit is all about. 

So, you want to know about Custom Fit. Hmmm, how do I give you a snapshot of what it is all about? I have a structured synopsis, but today I will give you a fresh account of it, since I believe you are game.

What would you do if you found yourself walking into work and then being tasked to take clothes on and off of the extremely sexy man you are crazy about and have been for years? Well, that is what Sunni, our main character, faces at the top of the novel. Let me clarify, I know you are wondering with that sounding a bit spicy, Sunni is a style specialist and consultant with a long list of high profile clients. At the firm that she is working for, there is only one rule: no romantic entanglements with the professional contacts. However, throughout the book, even with the assignment only being for the couple weeks preceding and following the holidays, Sunni finds this to be harder and harder to uphold. What adds to that challenge is that Striker Clint, the alarmingly sexy actor and singer she’s adored from afar, is her ultimate crush, who is even more gorgeous and chivalrous than in his movies. She soon has to decide, is a shot at being with him, her ultimate desire, worth giving up the career she has worked so hard for? What will she decided? Or will the blue-eyed dreamy Striker decide it for her? Will she cave to his persuasive charm?

Cover: Custom Fit by author Lexi Miles
This romance novel about actors and fashion was a blast to write and has a load of twists, scandal, humor, and sexiness. It’s a highly fun read set during the time of Thanksgiving through the New Year, but is fun no matter what season. It involves fun social media references, romantic set-ups, and friendships.

Throughout all of the madness, I really like most how it is centered around and shows a sweet and intense love as they both deal with some pretty serious issues (past relationships and risk taking). There are some troublemakers, past and present, you are going to love to hate as well as some surprise characters that make you smile. Returning to the main characters, their forbidden relationship is a wildly sexy romance, making frequent trips to the brink of hot sexy love and will have the reader craving for more. It is a nice combination of attraction, strength from love, deep emotional connection, and searing passion.

That sounds awesome. We need that kind of honest synergy between love and the sensual side of romance. They are not exclusive of each other, as some think. Are your other seven books in this same genre?

Yes, the seven books that are coming out are all romance novels and in that sexy hot vein as Custom Fit. Each of the novels are so fire-hot you may need aloe as you read them! To answer your question further, some books are a part of series and others are stand-alone features. Although for the most part the novels are incredibly sexy that I write, outside of the handful coming out, the intensity of the hotness of each novel does change. I write a range on the spectrum of an arc from sweet to erotic. I do have to say, I ENJOY and most definitely like to spend my time—a lot of time—living in the land of highly sensual.

Do you want to tell us a bit about the other books?

Sure. Here's a quick break down of the seven coming to Amazon soon (not in order of release):

Dangerous Listing: A realtor named Piper rents out a listing and stumbles into a dangerous situation. She soon finds herself holed up with the ever sexy and mysterious Marko, and she’s not complaining. Is danger just the thing they need to kick off their sexy romance? (Vol 0.5 in the Sensual Protection series, proceeds Private Lessons)

Too Much Trouble: A lawyer named Sela steps in to help her scam artist brother with a legal issue and ends up having to work for the powerful family that he has wronged to keep him out of hot water. More specifically, Sela has to work for the egotistical head of the family, the oh-so-sexy, Gavin Brooks, who she has butted heads with on more than one occasion. But will she find that the arrangement has its advantages? (Vol 1 of Sexy Law series)

Private Lessons: Dorian DeVain, a travel agent, gets tricked into taking much needed self-defense classes by her best friend Piper. She is apprehensive, even given the looming threat of her past, until she meets the ultra-sexy brown haired instructor Jimmy Jalin. Will there be sexy benefits included with his training? (Vol 1 of the Sensual Protection series)

Convince Me: Josephine Summers, a feisty red headed chef has just been blacklisted for declining her boss’ romantic advances. Determined for a fresh start, Jo has a chance meeting with the dreamy lawyer with the penetrating blue eyes, Roger, who convinces her to become his live in chef. After that things really heat up. Is Jo going find it difficult to keep things strictly professional? (Vol 1 of Seductive Recipes series)

Mix Matched: Maxi is a bartender at a bar that the mega-hot Wolf Crane owns. Wolf, off the clock, is known for giving romantic help to others so they find their romantic match. She gets the idea to have Wolf use his skills to help her until she can get him to realize that she is his perfect match. Can she sway him to see her daydream for them? (Vol 1 of the Happy Hour series)(NanoWrimo Nov 2015)

Behind the Scenes: After an awful breakup, Markie has sworn off relationships. That is until a brief encounter at a café where she meets a devilishly handsome Johnny who steps in to help her shake a problem. Per her friend’s prior suggestion, Markie has just started one of the hottest romance novels out and Johnny notices it. Horrified when he picks it up and starts reading it aloud they soon fall into reading the story to each other. But will the love story stay within the pages of the book? (Stand Alone Novel)

Assisting Love: Dixie, tired of not living to her potential, quits an assisting job and gets commandeered for an upgraded executive assisting one. She is under the impression it is for someone else but ends up working for and living with the reclusive Cliff, a fundraiser whisperer. She soon finds that she helps him let his guard down and he helps her tap into who she once was years ago. Can she manage to keep her desires for him in check or will she risk it all to see if they have a chance at love? (Vol 1 of Romancing the Roommate)

Books by Lexi Miles, author

All of the stories, that are coming soon, show challenges that couples face and how they evolve as individuals and couples because of them. I think that love makes us the best versions of ourselves. You know, the most courageous people that we can be because we know that we are loved and accepted deeply. In my opinion, romantic love, centers us and makes everything about life more vibrant and beautiful. Love, in many ways, is like that spice of a secret recipe in cooking that makes life taste better!

What made you start to write this genre? And what do you feel, knowing others are reading it? 

Honestly, there are four main reasons I write romance.

The first, I love the romance genre. I am a mush. I adore scribing the magic of opening up oneself to another. That metaphoric nakedness is beautiful, raw, peaceful, and like art. Love, in all of its forms, especially romantic, is worth writing about and I love doing it.

Secondly, I got tired of reading about the bickering or “mommy-ing” that some of these books act like is sexy or romantic. I personally am annoyed by too much of that. I hate it when a woman picks apart a man or he acts as if he dominates her. Granted, I do love a good DOM book and write some sexual tension with a bit of spunky flirty quip dialogue, but not that whiny stuff. Or the brain went out for lunch stories or immature actions I can’t identify with. So, I was inspired to write because I wanted to do it, to add to the other books out there, and support that different view and offer a more unique alternatives for romance readers. I wanted to write something where women weren’t so meek damsel in distress, stubborn, not independent, or gripe focused. And on the flipside I want to write men positively where the men weren’t so one dimensional, negative stereotypical, emotionless, or jerks. I wanted to write something that gave more depth to each gender.


My next reason, I write romance because I like the naughty and fire-hot stuff. Some people may shy away from the beauty and physical fun you can have with your partner, but I think it is beautiful and thrilling to capture. Sex, sexual tension, and all of its spiciness is fun to write about time after time!

Finally, I just find it completely rewarding to weave together this fictional world and to sculpt something out of it. Creatively typing whatever my mind can come up with is refreshing. And really making it basic, romance is so fun to write! That’s why I write!

What do I feel knowing that others are reading it? Honestly, I hope they are enjoying it. I am happy to share the sexy and romantic stories that I do. My stories are also inclusive of all the genres, in a way, from mystery, quests, jumps through time, and strong storylines about all things in general with a definite emphasis on romantic love. I love that. I love what I write—the super sexy beautiful part of life. To me, knowing people are reading it feels as if I am sharing a good recipe with a friend. And it would be wrong to keep it to myself!

You say in your bio you make all your male heroes 'confident with a good sense of themselves'. What other characteristics do they have in common? 

Hmmm, good question. Let me think about this for a second. What do most of my male characters have in common?

They all have flaws, openness (once their walls come down), and are innocent in some areas (may not know how to cook, or they blush at things). Yet, still with that innocence, they are witty, sharp, intelligent, and knowledgeable (great at their jobs or handling the worst kind of threat). My male characters tend to all be incredibly strong (reader understands by the end of the story where that strength was forged in a younger part of his life). In some of the books, not all, a few of my male leads may have a frosty exterior (reputation of aloofness) or come across like jerks to others, but due to her spunk (or something else that jars them out of their routines) they warm up to their female counterparts.

In addition, for the most part, they have a good sense of humor, are gentleman, and see the best in my female characters. A common thread each male character possesses is that they are in the process of evolving in one way or another, just like the female characters.

I like that idea...that the male characters are evolving too :-)

The idea of my writing is that the couple as a whole balance one another. It is a case where each uniquely answers or satisfies something that is missing that the other needed. It is kind of like they are the “perfect” or imperfect recipe, if you will, blending together to have, her the sugar or him the spice, that makes sense for each individual couple created within the books. For example he may be super serious and she is a free spirit, yet each brings that brilliant balance to each other. It may not make sense to everyone around them, but it is exactly what the couple is craving for their life to be happy.

Cover: Focused on Love by author Lexi Miles

Do you think romances often create an image of men that perhaps a real man can never live up to, or an expectation in women readers that men should be like this and, so, all other men fall short and they find it difficult to find this 'perfect' man?

I loved reading romance growing up, I love reading it now, and in the back of my mind, I always thought of the characters as real in some moment of time; accordingly, in my head they were all flawed or more realistic than what was written down in the pages(for concise and story flow purposes). Which is why your question of “perfection” caught me off guard. Let me explain, when I read (and now write) books it is not in terms of 'is the guy perfect?' I know they burp among other things that all people do, but I view it more like a snapshot of moments the author is writing. 

Snapshots are to highlight someone and not to show their flaws. Like when looking at a picture we all understand that the beautiful and deep layers (including the flaws) of a person are there, but we are capturing a moment of life. And now as I write, I try to think of the characters as stepping out of the pages—living and breathing—and I know the strengths as well as the flaws exist. (I do a whole character flesh out process and scenarios thing before I sit down to write. It is so that I really have a chance to get into the headspace of my characters, and so I know they aren’t perfect. I am giggling as I say it, they're far from it.) And I try, as much as possible, to pull back the curtain and share the flaws as well as the silliness (or any other true feature) of the person to give a true to life texture to the characters in the book, so that they don’t feel “perfect” but real, as if you are living their life as they are living it.

Having said that, to actually answer the question, can “real” men live up to the hot book guys?

On a real guy’s worst day, they are better than the guy that does everything right, so to speak. Flaws are hot, perfection, in that sense, is a snore. If I define perfection, to me it is the combination of a guy’s strengths and flaws. When men are striving to be the best version of themselves, no matter the bumps as they go, that is even hotter than that “perfect guy” held up in some books. I think “fictional perfection” cannot scratch the surface of how awesomely unique and ultra-hot fellows are in real life. They are like diamonds and each part of them good or bad is like the glimmering facets that highlight the diamond’s handsomeness and shine. In my opinion, men are pretty darn amazing and sexy and—despite how I try—I can’t come close to writing how incredible they are in truth within the pages of my book. But I still love trying to do it. (I am giggling here.)

Do imperfections make for perfection?

Now returning to the subject of the “perfect” man of the books, I think my most exciting characters are the ones that are “perfection in their way” not some idea of it. You know, they may have to have the last word type, but a great sense of humor that outweighs it. That is better than a “yes honey” guy any day. I am giggling here because I know some people who prefer those, but I am not that way. I think that a couple should have the freedom to be exactly who they are and be loved by their partner for it—celebrated even.

And, moving on to this, do I think women find it difficult to find this “perfect” guy in “real” life? Hopefully not. At least I think of it as an aim for this type of guy deal that “us” ladies look for. But to me, flaws are beautiful and as women we should prioritize what’s important to us (of the characteristics that make those book guys so appealing) while we are looking for our match. And I think if you do that, use it as rough guidelines to what you desire, you’ll find it. That perfect man, for you in real life (unpredictable, layered, sexy, and refreshing) will be even better than anything that you have read. At least that is what I have found.

Well, that's given me a lot to think about. Thanks Lexi. Can you let us in a little on your plans for the near and far future? Let us know where you'll be and when in the upcoming weeks and months? 

Yes, I’d love to.

Coming up, I have the seven romantic releases I mentioned earlier, to be released in the next couple of months. These are: Dangerous Listing, Too Much Trouble, Private Lessons, Convince Me, Mix Matched, Behind the Scenes, and Assisting Love.

Cover: Food Party by Chloe Quinn & Lexi Miles
I also have another project that I am excited about, because I love to cook! I am co-authoring a cookbook with romance author buddy, Chloe Quinn. The cookbook will be jam-packed with tasty recipes, cooking hacks, and something that sets the book apart from other cookbooks, it will include recipes that we mention in our books. It is our spin on 'dinner and a movie' which, in this case, is 'dinner and a novel'. Anytime I get a chance to work with Chloe on anything or to cook together, it's a blast for me, so I hope that you will pop out and grab a copy to share in the fun when it's released. Release date is a few weeks away, so I am really excited!

Chloe Quinn & Lexi Miles, authors of Food Party

More details are listed on the press page of my website that I will include at the conclusion of the interview. In the early part of November, I will be participating in a signing in Las Vegas. I will be running a promotion around this as it gets closer, so stay tuned for the details!

And finally, in the not so distant future, July 13-27, I will be doing a special two week promotion “Christmas in July” around my holiday books, where readers will get their first in depth look at Close Quarters Vol 2 of the Holiday Fever series as well as a few other surprises!

What to expect in the future are lots and lots of sexy and sweet romance books!

Then, in the further reaching future? What are your dreams for in a year or two?

Dreams, and my focus for a year or two, is to write scripts for TV and Movies. I am working on two right now. For one, think sweet Hallmark meets Pretty Woman and the other Criminal Minds meets Person of Interest. They are in the story-boarding process, and I am very excited about each of them! Also, I will be writing a couple books in a few other genres (That is code for 'I am dusting off my mystery and suspense skills'.)  I am a romance lover all the way, but I do like the pulse racing action too!

Something else I wanted to ask you, what is this Heat Zone people are talking about?

Well, I absolutely love and was raised on soap operas, so I decided to write a free weekly serial of that nature on my website, posting every Friday (when not on hiatus). It is my way of regularly engaging with readers in a fun way as they wait for the novels. Currently, the second season is winding down and I just opened up the ability to subscribe to it. There are a lot of enjoyable insider things, like character backstories, with the “Heat Zoners” who are the diehard readers of the soap. They are a fun bunch, you should hear some of our super silly chats, groans and feedback on the episodes! I am so happy this came up so that I can give them a quick hello!

Author: Lexi Miles *giggles*
(For those who can't see, Lexi is waving) You were saying to me earlier, you have a lot happening on your blog you're rather proud of?

Yes, as I mentioned, I host it on my website and post twice a week, sometimes more often.
On Thursdays, I post blogs about random things or a blog within a series. Lately I have been sharing writer tips consecutive in the series and posts of that nature. Past blogs have included personal advice that has helped me: exercise information, past events, and extra cool and refreshing subjects like that! So, like I said, it ranges.
On Sundays, I post a recap of the events of the week and what I call a power quote to empower or encourage the person reading it. Kind of like 'powering up' the person like (careful my gamer side is about to show) in the video game Mario Brothers. You know, give them a powerful boost of support at the top of their new week!
In addition to these posts, I often post birthday shout-outs once a month, reviews, and other special events like November’s NanoWrimo writing event. The blog can be subscribed to as well.

Before we go, I think you just wanted to say something about your newsletter?

Yes, I'm glad you asked, because I typically forget to mention it. I touch in once a week with the individuals that follow my newsletter. There are giveaways, recipe shares, FREE content, oh and book release information. That’s important to say too. There are a lot of special things that happen in the VIP readers and friends list, but it is secret handshake stuff so that’s all that I can say here—*giggles* Everyone is welcome! And it is a fun way to stay in touch! I know that you are a part of it, Annelisa. I hope that you don’t mind sharing, what is one thing that you enjoy about it?  

Lol Well, isn't that just typical of you, Lexi, to turn the interview round on me! I must admit, one of my favourites has been the inspirational quotes. They cheered me up and were nice to have in the mailbox. A great way to start the day :-) 

Thank you so much for answering all my questions.

Oh, I am so delighted and happy to answer your questions Annelisa. They were all fun, refreshing, and it was just nice to hang out with you like this.

Thank you. Likewise :-)  To finish off, let's let readers know, where can they find you?

Lexi Miles still giggling :-D
I am on social media. I love Twitter (@leximilesbooks) (daily chats, author writing events, randomness), but few know that I am also on 
Facebook (author info posts, blog links, smiley touch-ins), 
Pinterest(recipes, romantic quotes, giggles), and 
Instagram (covers, day in the life stuff, fitness). I mix it up for each of the social media websites to keep it fun so that all of the information is fresh! I’d love to see everyone there too!
Press Page: www.leximilesauthor.com/press

And, what was it you were saying about reviews? You don't want any? <wink>

Are you kidding? I love reviews! It’s so fun, refreshing, and reenergizing (especially while doing intricate or tedious edits on another project) to hear the feedback from someone after they've taken that book journey with you on something you have written. So yes, whenever you can please drop a review on AmazonTwitter GoodreadsFacebook , or any social media. I appreciate those! And please do me a favor and let me know about it so that I can share them!

Ha ha... nearly had you there. Thanks again for stopping by, Lexi. It's been a pleasure.

Thank you again for having me pop in to do this Annelisa!

Another of Lexi's Favourite places: Santa Cruz

Bonus: extra places you can find out more about Lexi:

Lexi Miles Author Bio

Interview at Silver Beans Cafe

Confessions of a Writer Tag