Children of the Night (series)

FallenEmbers cover art

Vampires and sex! What could be better for paranormal romance lovers? Author PG Forte certainly pushes the envelope and explores the dynamic, complicated lives of her vampire characters in her Children of the Night series. I wanted to delve into the world and mind of a writer who creates such complex characters and doesn’t shy away from writing outside the proverbial box. With open candour, PG provides answers that give readers insight and a behind-the-scene look into what goes into writing this kind of series, fitting in, and the benefits to not fitting in.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q So what’s a nice Catholic girl like you doing in a sexy vampire fantasy writing world like the ones you pen? What draws you in and holds you to this genre?

A LOL! Would you believe my daughter made me do it? No, seriously, she did. She was reading a lot of vampire fiction at the time, and I’d been complaining about the various vampire traditions I didn’t like—not being able to see themselves in mirrors, being allergic to Holy Water, that sort of stuff. She suggested I write my own, so I did. What keeps me there are the characters I created.

I love them because they’re a family. They care about each other, even though they don’t always show it. They can live forever, which isn’t always the blessing it appears to be on the surface. That’s why the first line of the first book is, “When you live forever, you’re bound to make a few mistakes.” Oh, and they do! lol! But, on the other hand, when you live forever, there’s also time to get a few things right.

Q You are writing your sixth book in a vampire series. What would you say are the challenges writers of serial books face that are different from single titles?

A Oh, where do I start? lol! I guess I should begin by saying that I love writing series. It can be hard sometimes saying good-bye to a set of characters at the end of a book. With a series, you do get a bit of a reprieve. On the other hand, I generally find myself getting frustrated at some point and have to be talked out of killing off the majority of my characters. While I was writing my Oberon series, for example, I kept threatening to have an earthquake destroy the town.

One of the big challenges is consistency. I have to go back and re-read earlier books all the time to make sure my characters aren’t contradicting themselves from book to book. Also, with a big, sprawling series, like most of mine, you end up with a lot of minor characters. Sometimes you don’t remember all their names—which can be a big problem when you reuse a name, or call the same person by two different names. Usually it gets caught in time, but I live in fear. lol!

Another problem is writing yourself into a corner—it happens a lot! Even though I plot everything, my characters have a way of taking detours or going off on tangents. Sometimes those are great, serendipitous moments of glorious inspirations. Other times, you find yourself lost in a world of pain and re-writing, to get yourself back on track.

And then there’s the pacing. You need a few series-long story arcs, but those are often the things that try your readers’ patience. Some loose ends take a while to tie up. For example, there’s a bit of a mystery in the Children of Night series involving Conrad and Damian. The two were lovers for nearly four hundred years. Then, in 1856, they had a terrible falling out. They didn’t speak to each other for the next hundred and thirteen years, and it took them another forty years to finally get back together.

Not surprisingly, readers want to know what happened. No one is thrilled when I tell them I’m not going to explain it until the seventh and last book. And, no, it’s not because I don’t know the answer! I know exactly what happened between them, and why it happened, but as it happens, they’ve both been keeping secrets from each other, so they don’t know. And until they break down and tell each other the truth, there’s no way for the readers to find out either.

So that’s another challenge: keeping your readers so interested in what’s going on, that they forget how frustrated they’re getting with you for not telling them everything up front.

Q What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you began your writing journey?

A Well, I’ve learned I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Trust me; anyone who’s seen my house will be as surprised as I am by that fact. I have patience—who knew? I have determination and the ability to persevere, and a trace of paranoia, which appears to be an occupational hazard for many of us. I’ve also learned I’m a lot more competitive than I ever realized.

Q Would you say you’re a plotter, or a pantster, and why?

A Oh, total plotter. Occasionally I’ll start writing a story before I have the entire plot laid out. Usually this happens when I have a deadline and start panicking about the fact that I don’t have the entire plot laid out. But even then I usually have to stop and work out all the details before I can proceed.

On the plus side, even when I get side-tracked I always have a map to get me back on track. And my finished outlines are so detailed, all I need to do is clean them up again and voila! Instant synopsis—which is a huge advantage!

Q Could you give our readers a brief summary about what your latest book is about?

A I’d love to! Fallen Embers is the fifth book in the series. It’s a seven book series, so this is the point where things are starting to look pretty bleak for some of the characters, while other characters are just starting to come into their own. Exciting times!

The series for the most part is about Conrad Quintano, the patriarch of the Quintano vampire family, and his two youngest children, twins Julie and Marc Fischer. Julie and Marc were born vampire—which is supposed to be impossible. By all the rules governing vampire culture, they should have been killed at birth. But Conrad promised their mother on her deathbed that he would protect them and raise them. He and his partner, Damian, went into hiding together (even though they were no longer lovers) and raised the twins in secret until they were adults and could “pass” for normal vampires.

In each of the books, the twins learn a little bit more about their true heritage and destiny. And, in each of the books, we also explore a little more about Conrad and his relationship with various members of his family. Fallen Embers is largely about Conrad’s relationship with Georgia—his oldest friend and another of his former lovers.

Conrad and Georgia first met in the early twelfth century. On the night they met, Conrad saved Georgia’s life, but he’s always maintained that she saved his as well. It was Georgia who taught him that, just because he was a vampire it didn’t mean he had to be a monster as well. But that was then and this is now and a lot can happen over the course of nine hundred years! They’ve both been keeping dangerous secrets from each other, and now they’re starting to come out.

Q What inspired you to write this series?

A To be honest, I didn’t exactly intend for the series to go this way. In the very beginning I wanted to write a paranormal mystery series. I imagined the twins would be growing quite bored with their lives. Sure, Conrad has amassed a huge amount of wealth over the centuries, and you’d think this would mean they could do whatever they want. But after forty years of not being able to pursue any kind of career (since they don’t age, etc.) and having to keep a low profile, I figured they’d want something to keep their minds occupied. So I thought they should start investigating crimes and mysteries in the paranormal community.

The first book was going to be an introduction to the series and their first case was going to be finding Conrad, who’d gone missing. In the course of writing the book, however, I realized there was a lot more to Conrad’s story than I’d realized. And a whole lot more to Damian’s as well.

Five books later and here we are. Sure there are still mysteries to unravel and the twins are in the thick of things, but it hasn’t unfolded at all the way I thought it would. On the other hand, I love these characters and enjoy spending time with them … now that I’ve been talked out of killing them all off!

Q For you, what is the easiest part of writing a book, the beginning, middle, or end, and why?

A It depends on the book. A lot of beginnings are easy because even when I haven’t worked out all the details of where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, I at least know where I am at the start. But beginnings are also probably where I spend the most of my time, because I am never satisfied with them and, until I have the beginning just right, I can’t move one.

Middles can seem endless, and it’s really easy to get bogged down in them, or to get turned around and lose your way. On the other hand, once you get a little momentum going—and assuming you follow your outline and don’t get off track—you can make a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that endings are usually the easiest for me. However, there are a couple of exceptions. If you’re ending a series, or a stand alone book and saying goodbye to characters you aren’t ready to say goodbye to, endings can take forever. Also, I love endings; which means I’m a perfectionist. I want them to be just right. I’ve written a couple of books in which the last chapter took an embarrassingly long time to write. In fact, in one book, Waiting For The Big One, the last chapter took as long to write as the entire rest of the book. Of course, it was just a novella, and I wrote the rest of it in record time, but still!

Q Do you have a favorite character in this book, or in the series? If so, what makes this character your favorite?

A I love all my characters … well, almost all of them. Even the minor characters have a way of surprising me from time to time. I have one I just can’t kill. He was supposed to have died a couple of times, but one of the other characters keeps stepping in and saving him at the last minute. But, having said all that, I have to admit to being especially fond of Conrad and Damian. And Damian maybe a little bit more.

After 1200  years, Conrad’s a bit tired and jaded. His early life was, for the most part, very unpleasant. And by early life I mean the first several hundred years of it. This has also left him with more than a bit of a bad temper!

Damian, on the other hand, is more irrepressible—and a lot more flamboyant. Unlike Conrad, he was raised in relative luxury. He came from Spanish royalty and was serving as a courtier when he met Conrad. He fell in love with Conrad and ran away from court (and his patron—a very jealous Archduke) to be with his “demon lover”. He also has a temper, however, and a reckless, impulsive nature that regularly lands him in trouble.

I think it’s fair to say Conrad treats Damian, at times, as he would a trophy wife. He loves to indulge him and shower him with gifts, but he doesn’t always understand Damian’s needs and insecurities. There are also some times when he really wishes Damian would just shut up and do as he’s told. Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.

But the two of them love each other to death and have enormous admiration and respect for each other, so they’ll be okay. At least they will once they get those pesky secrets they’ve been keeping sorted out.

Q What’s the one thing about you that might surprise our readers?

A Uh…you mean beside the fact that I talk about my characters as though they were real people? I don’t know. I’m assuming most of them already know about the tattoos, the piercing, and the unicorn hair. That’s old news anyway. One thing that continues to surprise my husband is the fact that, when I’m on a roll, I can happily spend days in front of my computer writing. Seriously, if I’m the only one at home, and as long as I don’t run out of coffee, wine, or dog treats, I’ll barely even stop for meals.

In fact, now that the kids are out of the house, whenever my husband has to go out of town for business it’s exactly what I do. And I’m perfectly content.

Q What are your thoughts on the future of publishing and the self vs. traditional publishing debate?

A I think the more options the better, at this point. I was not an early adopter of the indie publishing movement, to be honest. DIY is a lot of work, frankly, and I really believed—or wanted to believe—that publishers had, perhaps, a better grasp on the industry than individual authors.

I still think some publishers have a better grasp on some aspects of publishing than some authors—but for the most part, I think the days when ANYONE could lay claim to having a handle on what’s going on in the publishing industry—or how best to appeal to the book buying public—are long gone.

At this point, I think the smartest way to go—for me—is hybrid. I don’t want to do all the work for every title, but some titles, yeah. I like being the one making ALL the decisions.

Right now, however, I think it’s really kind of a free-for-all. I think everyone has to decide for him or herself what kind of career best suits them.

Q You write erotic books featuring both gay and straight characters. Has it been difficult finding your “niche market” readers and/or publishing venues? If so, what has been your greatest publishing challenge?

A Oh, yes! Absolutely. Writing a series which is basically impossible to categorize? Terrible, awful, very bad idea. But it’s worse even than you know. Some of the books in the series are erotic; others have no explicit sex at all. There were several important reasons for why there was no sex—either all the sex took place in the past while my main couple were broken up and sleeping with other people and my editor pointed out that, while it was understandable they had both taken other lovers, readers would get upset if they “saw” them having sex with other people. And rightly so, btw, because readers did mention the fact after the book was published! Then, too, I write really long books, and when you have to cut 40K out of a book before it can be published, sometimes the sex has to go.

I don’t know if I’d do anything differently, because as I said, I love my characters and I’m happy with the way the series is turning out, but yeah … not a good idea. Lol!

Of course, I write in a lot of different subgenres anyway, which has hurt me in some ways too. It’s hard to sell books when you can’t easily elucidate your brand.

Q So, what’s next for you, PG?

A Well, I’m just about finished with the follow up to Fallen Embers, which is called To Curse the Darkness and is due out in December. This one picks up pretty much right where Fallen Embers leaves off. Then, before I tackle the seventh and last book in the series, I’m hoping to release a trilogy of novellas which are the start of a spin-off series from my book Inked Memories. The stories all revolve around a tattoo shop in Oakland, CA where a reality TV show is being shot. These are straight up contemporary romances … well, straight up with a little bit of kink and a lot of tattoos. I’m also hoping to finish up a short story and a novella that, hopefully, will also be released this year as part of two anthologies I’m involved with. So, hopefully, it will be a real busy year.

You can find PG here:

Website: http://www.PGForte.com

Blog: http://www.RhymesWithForeplay.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPGForte

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheCronesNest/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PGForte

Tsu: http://www.tsu.co/pgforte

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The Promise of Living

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Writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

Today’s young adult novels provide readers with a flourish of paranormal characters, dystopian societies, and lots of new romance. What if readers had an opportunity to travel back to a time where there was no social media, obsessions with cell phones or flipping through the electronic pages of a book?

In J. Lee Graham’s young adult novel, The Promise of Living, you won’t run into any vampires, werewolves or wizards, but you will find a young man who perceives danger before it happens, and the impact it has on his life as a small town boy caught up in a world of dark mystery, self-discovery and the sensitive steps into first romance territory.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about The Promise of Living, one of four novels you’ve published.

The Promise of Living is a young adult coming of age novel set in the small, bucolic town of Wilson’s Ferry, New Hampshire in 1975. Ryan Colton is sixteen, and he and his best friend Dave work on a farm. It begins in late June, their final week of their junior year at school. While milking the cows one late afternoon, Ryan has a vision, a premonition, if you will, of a townsperson hanging herself. Throughout the summer and into their senior year, he continues to have visions that reveal the dark secrets of the people in his hometown. In one of them, he sees a young girl being murdered, but he can’t see her face or stop its occurrence. At the same time, he struggles with an inner, hidden, more prevailing growing pain about his feelings for Dave.

You chose to set the book in the 1970’s. How do you think a young adult reader from 2013 might relate to that? 

I set the novel in the 1970’s to remove the easy distraction of electronic devices. For me, it’s harder to establish conflict when everyone in the novel has access to the Internet or a phone. Besides, a coming out/coming of age story is universal. Ryan’s feelings for Dave happen regardless of the times, and I wanted Ryan not to have, again, easy access to LGBT information; blogs, role models, etc. I wanted to emphasize his struggle, not from a moral or religious perspective, but from a personal, self-esteem perspective. Again, removing the superfluous details and distractions of smart phones and social media highlights Ryan’s journey. Ironically, even with today’s extreme use of electronics, there are still many young people discovering themselves, where the coming out process is just as powerful and transformational as Ryan’s.

The theme of authenticity is strong in The Promise of Living. How does that resonate with you? 

Authenticity is a strong theme in many of my novels and plays: the power that comes from recognizing the ‘clothing’ of honesty and self-worth that one chooses to wear. That’s a major experience for young adults, straight, gay, transgender, etc. Being honest about who you are and allowing that code of integrity to guide you throughout your life. It’s funny, but a lot of adults who’ve read the book, also comment on that theme. It is an aspect that resonates throughout all our lives.

Is this book in any way autobiographical? If so, fill us in.

I think there is an element of autobiography in every novel we read. How about that for a dodge? I think there is a percentage of autobiography that creeps into all our work even if one were writing science fiction. Ryan, I have to say, is definitely not me, I wish he were! Small town characters and small town mores are pretty common, and I did live in Boston for a while, but fiction is fiction.

In The Promise of Living, you juxtapose the beauty of the city of Boston with the ugliness of the small rural town of Wilson’s Ferry. Most writers do the opposite. Why? 

I know, we see that so often! The small town sanctified beyond belief juxtaposed with the brutal dirt and corruption of a large city. Many writers draw from the idea of the ‘journey’ where the hero leaves the small farm, home, family, etc. and ventures out into the world, usually symbolized by a metropolis or at the very least, a war near a metropolis. For me, I wanted to create a Wilson’s Ferry that was filled with dirty secrets and shame. I wanted to symbolize that with the run down appearance of the town, the Commons, the dilapidated homes near the polluted river, etc. (And truth be told, there are, sadly, many small towns that are very economically depressed and it shows.) I wanted Ryan’s perception of Boston to be one of promise and hope and I highlighted the beauty there: its sense of community, the cobblestone streets, the old but beautiful Colonial and Victorian homes, etc. Have you been to Boston? It’s a jewel of a city.

Ryan, the main character, goes on a journey of self-discovery. Do you think that type of journey is common with people his age?

The theme of ‘going on a journey’ is a powerful theme since before the Greek and Roman Myths. Joseph Campbell calls it ‘the hero’s journey’, where one starts out with one view, goes down into the darkness, confronts his shadow self and comes out a renewed person. It’s a reflection and a process that happens over and over in our lives. So, with Ryan, it’s a discovery of his gifts: his gift for visual perspicacity and acumen, his discovery of his own sexuality, his own authenticity in being who he is and not morphing or hiding it, are all elements of self-discovery and yes, that journey is common with people his age. It’s like the Vision Quests of the Native American culture. One leaves the tribe, faces his greatest fears, becomes stronger and realizes his own unique gifts which he then brings back to share with the tribe. That’s the important aspect. The sharing of one’s gifts with the tribe.

What authors have greatly influenced you as a writer? 

Wow, so many. I love the universal wonder and beauty of Thornton Wilder; the cliff-hangers of James Fenimore Cooper; the power of language in Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Toni Morrison, the creative visual genius of Willa Cather; the way Dickens can tug at your heart strings; the pathos of Forster, Maugham, Baldwin, Capote, and even Cheever. I respect them all, and there are many, many others. I feel like I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Your other novels involve a thirteen year old and a much different premise. What was it like switching from that type of genre to the young adult one?

Yes, my other novels are a time travel adventure series for Middle Grade. It wasn’t too hard to move ‘up’ in a chronological sense. The dialogue between Ryan and Dave allowed more maturity in their perspectives on life and I could use the cadence of their speech to reflect their intimate friendship.

When I ‘switched back’ after The Promise of Living to write my third time travel novel, there was a major shift that I could feel, a jarring like when one slams on the brakes of a car. I had to constantly revise my writing remembering to reflect a more adventurous tone and a different flavor with these characters’ dialogue. I actually re-read book number one and two to bring my brain back to that world that I had created. In book number three, the characters are now fourteen years old and I had to really be mindful of how their discourse would reflect their age. Plus, the readership of a middle grade novel is much different than the readership of a young adult novel and I had to remember that as I wrote as well.

Have you always want to be a writer? 

I have. Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss,” and while I did do that in many other parts of my life, sadly, I didn’t do that with writing. I remember being shot down emotionally by my family when I casually announced at 13 that I wanted to be a writer, and I realize now how debilitating even that slight encounter has been.

What’s next on your plate? 

Well, as I’ve mentioned, I write middle grade time travel novels, currently a trilogy. In the Nick of Time, The Time of his Life, and just out this October, All the Time in the World. They are all available on Amazon.

I’m toying with a murder mystery series extracted from my work as a professional astrologer. Not autobiographical at all, just an extract, a seed where the mystery is created and solved with a slight astrological framework. It’s fun to think about, and create. It’ll be written for adults, so, we’ll see.

And of course, we must know. Who’s that on the cover?

That is my cousin! Actually, he did work on a farm.

Where can readers find out more about your work? 

The Promise of Living is available at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Living-J-Lee-Graham-ebook/dp/B00992NIT0/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383928688&sr=1-9&keywords=the+promise+of+living

Readers can follow my blog at www.jleegraham.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

 

The tight-knit Nevada community of Red River Pass in 1895 may seem like a world apart from Great Britain but when the scandalous news of Oscar Wilde’s conviction on charges of gross indecency ripples across the telegraph wires, the effects are cataclysmic. The town’s self-righteous, God-fearing denizens – especially the womenfolk – just can’t seem to stop talking about the playwright’s perversity, especially insofar as the unsavory memory it conjures about two young males from their own ranks who were once caught in a compromising scenario. Paulette Mahurin’s new novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, does an exceptional job in not only capturing the landscape in detailed brushstrokes but also delivering a plausible cast of characters whose collective objective is to sling mud and muck on others in order to feel better about themselves. Here’s what she has to say on how her novel came about.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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What was your inspiration to research and write this story?

I took a writing class in Ojai, CA, where I live, and the teacher came in with a stack of photos. We were to write a ten minute mystery using one of the photos. The one I took was of two women, huddled very close together, wearing turn of the twentieth century garb, looking fearful. It screamed lesbian couple, afraid of being found out. After that class I couldn’t stop thinking of the initial seed for that story, thoughts, ideas, dialogue kept coming up and I wrote them down which formulated the story. As I researched that time period, I hit pay dirt when I came up with Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment which would serve as the impetus that would generate fear in Mildred Dunlap, the protagonist in the story. When the news of Wilde’s imprisonment hit the small Nevada ranching town she lived in, it stirred up a hornet’s nest of hatred, which she overheard. The town was in a chaotic frenzy of homophobia bigotry and she was afraid it would spill over onto her and her partner, Edra.

What was the actual process you followed to develop the story?

Once I had the initial overview of two women afraid of being found out, I needed to understand why this would be the case, at this time in their life. That’s when I started on the research to see what would come up that might relate to that time, that would explain the change in them. Once I came up with Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment, in Britain, for homosexual behavior, the rest was easy. I had to have a conflict to create tension: who would oppose Mildred and why? Josie was born. I needed scenes, what was happening in everyone’s daily lives to fit the story into, and what would be some good side stories to move things along with depth and not pull attention off the action. I did an overview of where I wanted it to go, diagrammed the town, so I’d not lose reference when moving from chapter to chapter and that began my first draft. At that point it was back and forth with write, research, plan, piece things together, a dynamic process. There’s never any ending to the minutiae of research detail, to ensure  accuracy so as not to pull the reader off the story.

Who is your book’s target demographic?

Anyone over the age of twelve.

How much familiarity did you have with the circumstances surrounding Oscar Wilde’s  trial and conviction?

I was familiar with it and my husband was also familiar with it from law school. We discussed it and I read up on it to get the facts straight. It was a very complicated trial, actually two trials. He was brought to court by the father of his lover, the Marquis de Queensberry, for indecency (Britain had recently changed its laws to make homosexual  behavior a criminal offense punishable by two years in a hard labor prison camp, the offense indecency) and in this trial Wilde won. He couldn’t leave well enough alone (he later writes in De Profundis) and counter sues and loses, upon which he goes to prison for two years and lives like he’s in a concentration camp, sleeping on a wooden slab, walking a treadmill six hours a day, eating watery portage, and not being allowed as much as pen and paper.

What prompted you to tie this scandalous news to a small Nevada town so far removed from Great Britain?

The sequence was I had the two women in a relationship and an idea came up to place them on the frontier, to enhance the possibility that there would need to be a clever story line to hide them in this environment. Part of the research involving pioneering and frontier living, brought me to the Donner debacle and how pioneers migrating west took more southerly routes after this, to avoid the elements. This brought me to the Walker Lake region which resonated as a  great place to put them, in a small town, where gossip would be a way of life. Oscar Wilde’s news fit into this. It had actually gone out over telegraphs, in fact I found a New York Times article, dated April 5, 1895, in which the news of his imprisonment was publicized with great commentary on the immorality of it all. This was a watershed piece that helped to change the attitude on same sex relationships. It all fit with the ideas as they came with the research.

Do you believe that attitudes toward individuals who are “different” have evolved over the past 100 years or that they are more polarized than ever?

That’s a really good question. The fundamental attitudes of hatred were alive then as they are now. Back then, however, it was  a more genteel time, where hostilities were not as overtly in your face, as they are now, but the question you ask speaks to the attitudes, not the behavior. Hatred is in itself inherently polarizing, and where it exists, no matter the time period, then there will be polarity. It’s not easy to compare then and now as far as degree, but what we can compare is the unchanging human condition, not society and the changing acceptance and groups that are more openly liberal for that is a societal change, when we talk about an individual, our insides, then I would say not a lot has changed. “We” harbored hatred, prejudice, bigotry then, as well as now.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while your storyline was in development?

That if I got out of the way the story would find itself to the page in a much better flow than if I over think it to death and try to put in the things that I want to. I found a lot of great info in doing the research and wanted to include it. I loved the little side track about the Donner party debacle but when my editor read it she told me it sounded like the story had veered into a history lesson, interesting, but completely off the action of the story. I was deflated so I cut. She made me cut more. Pages in the two digits were cut down to one sentence. When I read the story back through, I had to admit that it really moved nicely as opposed to side stepping off into a ton of other historical side bars. This was a really valuable, and surprising, lesson in writing and in life.

Homophobia is a prevalent element in your book but were there other prejudices running rampant as well? 

Yes, 1895 was a good year for hatred fodder. One of France’s all time scandals took place around that time, the Dreyfus affair, which divided France as a nation on its views on anti-Semitism. That was the year Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta Address, which drove racists nuts. And, the Monroe Doctrine was  expanded into South America, which fueled hubris. I factored all this into the story line to make the point of prejudice and not have this just be a story of homophobia but rather one of intolerance.

In a historical context, it has always been easier for two women to cohabitate without drawing suspicion than it is for two men, this being a plausible reflection of safety-in-pairs and economics. Given the duration of Mildred and Edra’s relationship and the fact that neither one would ever be perceived as a desirable mate, why did the news about Oscar Wilde escalate their respective fears of discovery?

This is accurate, women friendships were very accepted. Two women could even live together if they could afford to and were considered spinsters. But, were a couple labeled “lesbian” and not just two women who were friends or living together, they were deemed (diagnosed) insane. The treatment was rape, to cure them so they would enjoy sex with a man. This was the air of lesbian persecution at the time. Mildred and Edra were very learned and intelligent women, they would know about this. Max, Mildred’s father, sensed what he needed to do to protect them and so they were educated women. Okay, so they’re living together, with excuses, what changed was the hatred Mildred became aware of that day when she went to town and overheard the news of Wilde’s imprisonment. Nothing had felt personal before but there was something in the air, the energy, the attitude that told her the tide could change for her and Edra. You have to understand that Wilde’s  imprisonment actually did this to the GLBT community back then. Research shows that it created a change of attitude from that of a social tolerance, to one of overt hostility, a danger for anyone suspected. Mildred caught it head on and her body screamed to her to watch out, that’s why the psychosomatics occurred so early on in chapter one.

Did you draw on your background as a nurse practitioner to write some of the scenes involving illness?

Yes, especially the scene with the dehydrated baby. And, Mildred’s stress internalizations. And, also the psychological aspects of Edra’s emotional instability, the PTSD eruptions, and Josie’s sociopath personality.

If Hollywood came calling to adapt this book to a film, who would your dream cast be and why? 

I would love to see an unknown cast. Great actors but new people. With one exception and that is the role of Gus, I think a perfect Gus would be Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’d put the Hollywood talent behind the direction, like Ron Howard or Jane Campion, or Streisand. I think this is such a novel plot, not a lot of books or films in searches come up with this kind of plot, and it would work well to have the big names relegated to behind the scenes.

What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

What we think of someone is not always accurate, most times it probably isn’t and yet we make these thoughts into realities about someone, think that’s who they are,  a uni-dimensional living creature, but no one is like that. Human beings are complex emotional, biochemical, conditioned, functioning conglomerations of cells joined together into organs that make up a body that houses a brain that thinks and identifies in all kinds of illogical, not based on fact, ways. We, as humans, all have emotions, wants, desires, dark aspects/shadows (to use Jung’s term), we all do. If we can see our differences as different and not good or bad then we may be able to get along better instead of wanting to go to war with the difference, to subjugate it or meld it into our way of being. Can we accept differences, suspend beliefs/ideas and embrace these, which all humans possess? If so then the light on tolerance has seen a good day.

How did you go about promoting the book prior to its debut? What marketing techniques are you continuing to use to keep the interest level high and attract more readers?

I didn’t use any marketing before it was out. Once it was out, I e-mailed all my friends, put up a Facebook page, and started to ask how to network. I did what was suggested, left no stone unturned, but really I got lucky… people liked it and the word spread. Someone influential read it and it got press coverage, someone else and it went to an Art Center Literary Branch, and I continued in the trenches to go on every blog site I could, to give books to reviewers, to swap reviews with others, to keep putting myself out there, despite all temptation not to want to. Many, and I mean a lot, have been very helpful in promoting it. I’ve been very lucky.

Each chapter opens with a quote by Oscar Wilde. Which one of this playwright’s many quotes is your personal favorite?

Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

Tell us about why the profits from your book are going to animal rescue.

I had a dog, Tazzie, who lived to be 15+ years. Right around the time she died, I completed the story. We went to a shelter to rescue another dog (a kill shelter) and I was still heartbroken, all those sad faces got to me. I couldn’t bear to see them in cages on death row, for what? Because they were born or were an inconvenience. I wanted to help, but how? We ended up bringing a dog home but I became preoccupied with those faces. It was also around the time the first and only no-kill shelter opened in Ventura County, CA. The light bulb went off that I could use profits from the book to help more, and so I partnered up with the shelter, Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, and as soon as profits started coming in, I turned them over to them. My husband and I have been into rottweiler rescue for the last 28 years and have a passion for dogs.The more we can help the better we feel. And, lately, I’ve been sleeping very well at night.

Where and when do you do feel the most creative as a writer?

Morning when I am awake and refreshed.

What was your road to publishing like, and what do you know now that you wished you had known then?

It’s been interesting. One of my best friends, a publisher and talented format/editor, (X-NY Journalist) wanted to see this book I was working on. She took it upon herself to jump on board and work with me. Through her it went to press but the printing costs and promotion were out of sight  for her, so we took that over. We stayed with her printer until we became aware of CreateSpace and Kindle publishing then switched over to them. That part was easy. The hard part is all the time, all the networking, walking through the process with no compass to direct me and fumbling a lot, but it was okay because my life doesn’t revolve around this book. I’m okay with letting go. I do put in the work because the demand is there right now and it’s doing well, but if and when it ends, than that’s just a phase of my life and I’ll move on. I think that helps keep me grounded in not taking too much  too personal. I’ve been blessed with the support and help I’ve gotten, and the success. It’s been in the largest circulating press in Ventura County, Sunday Life Section front page  article, been written up in the Ojai Press, Santa Barbara  Independent, national magazines, featured by the prestigious Ojai Art Center’s Literary Branch as the read of the month this last July, etc. We did a five day free download to thank everyone who supported it and had just under 19,000  downloads. I’ve been told that’s a really good number. It hit Amazon as their #3 kindle store best seller and has been on the top of the list for searches for “persecution in books”on Amazon.

Who were your favorite authors when you were growing up and how do you feel they influenced your outlook and your writing style?

There were so many but the one that stands out is Steinbeck. When I read Grapes of Wrath, I couldn’t believe how it haunted me, how I couldn’t stop thinking of the Joad family. He took what could have been a mundane boring story and turned it into gold. I’ve never forgotten that, his detail, how he dug  into the emotional cellular chemistry to bring forth something remarkable. Of course, others felt the same – it won The Pulitzer.

What are you reading now?

Just finished Suzy Witten’s The Afflicted Girls. She’s masterful and the story is superb, about the Salem Witch debacle.

If you could beam yourself to anywhere in the world (“Beam me up, Scotty!”), during any time in history, where and when would it be―and why?

Spontaneous answer is sitting with Oscar Wilde and picking his brain. I’d also love to speak with Emile Zola about exonerating Dreyfus, for it was he who discovered the letters that were written by the real spies, that the prosecutor had but wouldn’t use. Zola found the data and wrote about it, freeing Dreyfus but it got him kicked out of France. These are the things Kennedy wrote about in, Profiles in Courage. It reminds me of what Viktor Frankl wrote about when he went through his concentration camp experience, that one can have all taken away from them but what they make their attitude. Remarkable people who risked. I would like to know what would I risk for decency. If I were Wilde, or Zola, for instance, what would I have done? That’s what came up.

What’s your best advice to other writers?

A writer writes. Sit your butt down in the chair and do what the Nike commercial says, just do it. It  really doesn’t matter if it’s ten minutes or ten hours, if you’re not in the chair banging away on the keyboard then the process isn’t happening.

What’s next on your plate?

I’m into my next novel. A short story I wrote and won an award on while in college about a couple who meet in their oncologist’s office. It’s a tender and very different love story. It was a true story, poignant but also very spiritual, in that they really learned through each other what it meant to  be fully alive. I won’t tell you about the outcome, don’t want to spoil it, but not every “terminal cancer” case is, in fact, terminal.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

I am grateful for this opportunity here today, Christina, thank  you. And, to anyone who has bought my book, read it, reviewed it, featured me on their blog site, had me on their radio show, or just spread the word about it, I thank you with every cell in body in the name of tolerance. By communicating perhaps we can shine a light on what the heart knows that the mind can never conceive of, all that is possible.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is available on Amazon and Amazon UK. Readers are also invited to visit the author’s Facebook page (and like it!) at
https://www.facebook.com/ThePersecutionOfMildredDunlap.