Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Jeff Foltz

 Jeff Foltz received a B. A. in history from Marietta College and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. He lives with his wife, Sue, in Camden, Maine and has three grown children and seven grandchildren. Jeff loves writing and Birkebeiner is his first novel.

Hello Jeff. Your novel is “A story of Motherhood and War.” Please tell us about your new book.

Norway, 1203. A mother’s compulsion to protect her children is timeless and primal. War is insidious and ageless. Birkebeiner is a story of both.

Two years after her son Hakon’s birth, Inga, wife of the Birkebeiner leader, King Hakon, realizes that the Crozier army will overrun her home, the fortress of Lillehammer. Inga is certain the Croziers will kill her child because he is the prince who may ascend the throne and unite the country. To save little Hakon, King Hakon asks his two best warriors to flee with his son for the safety of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim). It’s a long and dangerous journey on skis through two treacherous winter valleys and over a 7,000-foot snow-blown mountain. Willing to risk everything for her son, Inga insists on going with them. For eight harrowing, exhausting days, they’re pursued by a cadre of enemy soldiers bent on killing her child. Magnus, the Crozier’s military leader whom the church and the bishop call King -- and who has lost his own wife and two-year-old son -- must lead the chase.

What an intense novel! Where did you get your inspiration?

The cover of the book is a portrait painted by Knud Larsen Bergslien in 1869. Its title is Skiing Birchlegs Crossing the Mountain with the Royal Child (Norwegian: Birkebeinerne pa Ski over Fjeldet met Kongbarnet).

I’m an avid cross country skier. The first time I skied in the largest cross-country ski race in North America, The American Birkebeiner (8,000 skiers), I saw this portrait. It more than intrigued me. It dragged me in. “These guys are not babysitters,” I said. “Who are they and what are they doing with that kid?”

Inga, the two soldiers in the portrait, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, and the event are revered by modern Norwegians, as are the Birkebeiner. The name Birkebeiner was used by the bishop’s army, called the Croziers, as a term of derision. It means “Birch Legs”. In the early part of the war, the army that opposed the bishop was made up of poor farmers who couldn’t afford horses, mail coats, good weapons, or adequate clothing. The farmers would wrap their lower legs with birch bark to keep the snow out. The Croziers would yell “Run Birkebeiner, run Birch legs”, chiding them as their inept opposition turned tail. But the Birkebeiner army gained experience and got better and, when they started to win their share of the battles, started to call themselves Birkebeiner. They turned a derisive epithet into a proud hallmark that endures in Norway to this day. Some of you may recall that the stadium at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, was called Birkebeiner Stadium.

Roland Merullo said, “Brilliantly researched, fully imagined, and finely written, this story examines both the tenderness of family relationships and the viciousness of war--a mix of human extremes that is achingly timely.” What kind of research did you do?

I traveled to Norway to ski terrain my main characters skied, to see the countryside they saw and to experience the kind of arctic weather they endured. I also researched with Cornell University’s Nordic History Library, spent hours in the Oslo National Library and in the Holmenkollen Ski Museum in Oslo, Norway. I enjoyed every second of it.

What a wonderful story to read! Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I love my workouts. They’re part of my lifestyle. In the spring, summer and fall, I scull (row) at 6 AM on beautiful Lake Megunticook in Camden, Maine and in the winter, what else, I wax up the boards and head for the ski trails. 

What an awesome thing to do! Sounds fun! Thank you so much for this interview. It was fun getting to know you and learn about your book.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Author Anne Bradshaw

Anne Bradshaw was born in Caernarvon, Wales, and grew up in England. She has lived in the United States for thirteen years, and is the author of six published books—Terracotta Summer, Chamomile Winter; Please, No Zits! (YA short stories); Famous Family Nights; DINGO (a teen YA mystery adventure); and True Miracles with Genealogy~Help from Beyond the Veil. Anne has also written countless articles in magazines and on the Internet, and co-authored an award-winning screenplay, and two non-fiction books on writing: Writing Secrets, and Publishing Secrets.

Hello Anne. I’m so glad to have you on my blog again. Dingo is a teen mystery/adventure/fantasy novel. Please tell us about your new book.

The title, DINGO, is actually an acronym for Delivers Information, Navigates, Goes Overseas, which is the name given to a perky little gizmo that works in combination with a black box known as Kahuna Black, to accomplish some pretty amazing stunts.

Fifteen-year-old Zack Novak and three friends, Joel, Erin, and Libby, are introduced to Dingo by a strange English inventor, Hunter MacMurray. The whacky gadget transports them from Connecticut, USA to Cornwall, England, with only a few hours to prevent a bomb attack on Yankee Stadium. The question is—can Zack unravel a mystifying clue fast enough? Or will the impossible task end in disaster? Many lives depend on the toughest decisions Zack and his friends will ever make.

You say that Dingo is a gizmo that transports them from the USA to England. How does it work?

Ah! I'm glad you asked me that question. I wish I knew the whole answer. If I did, I could make a fortune selling Dingos. All I know is that the mechanism Hunter employs to work his Dingo gizmo has something to do with a condition called Carotenemia (a skin problem that comes from eating too many carrots). Dingo has sensors that react to the Carotenemia. It's called the carrot skin factor. Carotene in carrots is a lipochrome that adds yellow color to the skin, but those with dark pigmentation hide it well, as readers will find out when they read the book. The yellow coloring in certain people's skin triggers Dingo sensors into action, allowing them to receive signals from Kahuna Black, which in turn bring about strange and powerful illusions, such as Dingograms, and more.

Wow! Now that’s quite a description. Emma Parker from Ireland, said, "From the very first page Dingo had my attention. It is a cleverly written novel that will captivate all ages. The creativity and the idea behind the book are so unusual and new that I found myself excited about what was coming next.” In other words, this book is a “page turner.” Is it very difficult to come up with new ideas to keep the story moving? Do you lie awake at nights, trying to figure out what the characters are going to do next?

If I do wake up in the night with an idea, I immediately reach out for pen and paper and scribble notes in the dark. It's sometimes difficult to read what I've written in the morning, but I can usually make enough sense out of it to remember. I usually find that ideas for new situations bounce into my head from each previous dilemma faced by my characters. It's almost as if they write the story in some parts. Other times, I struggle to find a way for them to dig themselves out of an impossible situation. 

I understand completely. When I was writing my mystery series, sometimes I wondered how my characters were going to get out of a dangerous situation. Where did you get your inspiration for this novel? Do you get any ideas from real life?

All the ideas came from my imagination, although some of the settings are fictitious versions of places I knew in Connecticut and England. Our family loved to visit a place called Bigbury Island, and Bantham Bay in Devon, England. In the book, those places combine and become Goodrich Island and Livingston Bay, Cornwall.

The weird and puzzling clue, Crying the Neck, that Zack and his friends have to decipher, comes from an ancient Cornish tradition, but I can't tell any more about that without giving too much away.

A little secret makes me grin whenever I remember it. Whenever I could fit them in throughout the book, I used surnames of people I know, not necessarily for person names, but towns, and roads, and other such things. Some of my former Sunday School class in Spanish Fork ward are in there, as are many of our grand-children. Names such as Bryce Woods, and Livingston Bay for example. Those who read can discover the rest. 

I love the idea of taking names of people you know and give them to streets and towns. That is so clever. What kind of research did you do for this book?

I Googled plenty of information about Connecticut and England—things I'd half forgotten and wanted to make sure were accurate. I did a lot of research about Cornish traditions, and contacted a member of a society in Cornwall who kindly agreed to letting me use one of her photographs in the book trailer. I'm not saying which photo. Readers should be able to work it out after reading the book. If not, let me know and I'll whisper the answer. 

Thank you, Anne. It was fun learning about your new book.

For those interested, you can buy a paperback on Amazon - $8.49, shipping $3.99 and Kindle - $1.99.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Author Liz Parrish

Liz Parrish had three goals: train her own dog sled team, complete the Iditarod for her 50th birthday, and have fun! Liz and her team finished the 2008 Iditarod in 14 days with 14 dogs, despite being “Iditarod’s Littlest Musher.”

Read ‘Be the Lead Dog’ and take it to heart! Everything is here that you need to accomplish the impossible in your life. Then go hug your own dog if you are lucky enough to have one and tell them thanks, you now get it.” – Brian Tracy

Hello Liz. You wrote a children’s book called Crimp! On-By!! Please tell us about it.

The full title of Crimp's book is Crimp! On-By!! The True Story of a Most Unlikely Iditarod Lead Dog, and that pretty well sums it up. Crimp is an incredible soul who is named for the crimp in his nose, resulting from a horrific injury when he was only 4 weeks old. When I first met him about 3 weeks later, it was a miracle he was still alive, but clearly so disfigured that he couldn't be a sled dog. Except we all forgot to tell him that. So the book chronicles his life, adventures and coming of age and achieving his destiny to be a lead dog in Iditarod.

I actually wrote this book first, because Crimp was such an inspiration to me as I worked toward my Iditarod dream. He demonstrates that you don't have to be perfect to accomplish your dreams, particularly important to me as I struggled with a bad scoliosis resulting from cancer treatments I received as a child. I felt his message was so important to get out to youngsters today who need inspiration, good role models and to see the results of determination and following your dreams.

Since the book is a true story, it is illustrated with photos, and our book designer did a wonderful job of weaving it all together. The book is told from Crimp's perspective, and his narrative is structured such that 3rd - 5th graders can read it on their own. Younger children love having the book read to them while they look at the pictures, and older youth and adults can go more in depth with sidebars of sled dog and racing information. 

You have two books published. Be The Lead Dog was co-authored with Barb Schaefer. Will you please tell us about this self-help book?

Be the Lead Dog distills the essence of decades of experiential teachings that Barb and I have received...from our amazing sled dogs! The dogs have had a profound impact on both our lives -- myself in preparing for and accomplishing and completing the Iditarod to celebrate my first half-century, Barb in preparing her to support her husband's successful battle with stage IV throat cancer. The dogs can do this because their gifts make them perfect teachers for humans: they mirror without judgment, how we are living our lives and the congruency (or lack thereof) between our thoughts, words and actions. Once we realized that the book practically wrote itself. The hard part was picking the stories with which to illustrate the lessons, because there were so many to choose from.

There are “7 Life-Changing Lessons Taught By Sled Dogs.” Will you please share these lessons with us?

Linda, the seven lessons are Trust, Drive, Focus, Patience, Transparency, Self-Assurance, and Perseverance. Let me use Trust as an example. Each lesson is defined, described with both the benefits as well as how the sled dogs embody that lesson, and then Action Tips are provided for the reader to engage with the lesson and apply it to their own life. Barb and I also each provide a story demonstrating the power of the Lesson. My story of Trust is as follows:

The very first year I had my team, I had nine young dogs that I was training from scratch. One of the more experienced dogs was a 3-year-old named Oslo. Oslo was your typical team/wheel dog, always willing to go but lacking the confidence to lead. In fact, Oslo was not a very confident dog at all, either with other dogs or with people. He paid attention to me because I brought his food and his harness, but if I had neither, he was not too interested in me or what I was doing. Since I did not spend any time teaching him to lead, our relationship was limited at best.

That first winter we ran out of snow early, and I did not want to stop training, so I thought up different things to teach the dogs in their dog yard. One of these was learning to jump up on their doghouses. Some dogs loved getting on their houses and lived up there; others thought they would die if their feet left the ground. Oslo was one of those dogs, and you could see the fear in his eyes and body. With nothing else to do, we worked on it daily. I bribed, coaxed, commanded, cajoled, and even physically put him on top of his house. I lured him with treats to no avail (this was the dog who would have easily won the kennel gluttony award). For days, weeks, and months we worked on his fear. Finally, after three months, one day I said “Hup!” and he took the literal leap of faith…and lived! He was so very happy and proud of himself, and I gave him all sorts of praise and treats.

The truly marvelous outcome was the new relationship he and I developed out of this exercise. Oslo had worked it out in his own mind to Trust me, and once he did, I was now somebody important in his life. He relished my attention and praise. He came running when I called. It was amazing to see the change that simply breaking through the fear had made. A few years later when I placed him with a recreational team, he took another huge step, and now leads their team, with gusto and confidence, and is having the time of his life!

What a wonderful example! Can you tell us one of your most interesting adventures with sled dogs?

Picking just, that's a hard call! OK, well one that comes to mind was earlier in my training. Crimp had by then worn me down and insisted on being a sled dog, and a leader, and we were in our first 200 mile race. We were in some very rugged, high and incredibly mountainous country, and an incredible blizzard blew in -- wind howling, snow swirling, and Crimp was having a blast up front. Problem was, I couldn't find another dog on the team willing to run up front with him, into the teeth of the storm. The dogs were willing to put their heads down and go, so long as someone else did the heavy lifting of facing the storm and picking the trail.

Since the dogs are hooking to the sled in pairs, one pair behind the other, I had no extra spots -- SOMEBODY had to run up front as co-leader with Crimp. I went through all my leaders on the team, one after another, and they all would be fine back in the team, and wilt when I put them up in lead beside Crimp. The storm continued to intensify, more snow fell, blew and drifted, and we weren't making much progress. I ran out of trained leaders and so one of the ways to apply the “Lessons” is to be willing to try something new. So I tried the other dogs on the team too.

Finally, the last dog on the team to try was a little girl named Sandy. I'd occasionally tried her up in lead, but she was sort of an ADHD dog...much better as a cheerleader back in the team rather than shouldering the responsibility of leading, so I didn't really have any expectations she would do it. But I was out of options. So I put Sandy up front -- and it was as if she, and the team, transformed before my eyes. She was as gung-ho to drive into the storm as Crimp was -- kept looking back and smiling as if to say "Can it really be this much fun?" We started moving again, and it was hard work breaking trail through all the drifted soft snow. We finally got through the worst of it up in the mountains, and started to descend to the half-way checkpoint. Since we had broken trail, teams behind us had a much easier time, and one of them caught up with us, passed us, and then stopped when they had to work their way through the soft drifted unbroken trail in front of us. Literally stopped a few feet in front of us -- mutinied on their musher and there was nothing he could do to get them to go. So I called out to Crimp and Sandy "Alright! On-By!!", and we chugged around them and continued on our way, and his dogs gladly fell in right behind my sled. He avoided the embarrassment of having that happen again, and didn't try to pass me all the way to the checkpoint. ;-)

Thanks, Liz. This has been an enlightening interview. I learned so much. I was impressed when I read that you wanted to train your own “sled dog” team and complete the Iditarod for your 50th birthday. You are an example of fortitude. Way to go! Since the Iditarod Sled Dog Race started the first Saturday in March, this week the Iditarod will still be going and the finisher's banquet will be in Nome on March 20th.

To learn more, you may click on the following websites:
Liz Parrish, Iditarod's Littlest Musher
Life...Through Dogs
Showing people of any age how to live their full potential by sharing the life lessons taught by sled dogs

Crimp! On-By!! The True Story of a Most Unlikely Iditarod Lead Dog, an Amazon Bestseller

Be the Lead Dog, 7 Life-Changing Lessons Taught by Sled Dogs, an Amazon Bestseller

Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview with Fantasy Author Laura Sepesi

Laura Sepesi is the author of a fantasy series for young readers, ages 8 and up. While in high school, she imagined the story of the Kelmar Trilogy. She began drafting The Guardian of Kelmar the summer she graduated, and continued writing as she worked toward a degree in elementary education. Laura completed this novel at age twenty-one.

Hello Laura. The Guardian of Kelmar is the first of the Kelmar Trilogy. Please tell us about your book.

The Guardian of Kelmar is a fantasy novel that follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old orphan, Carmen Fox, as she journeys through a magical world called Kelmar. Carmen learns to master her powers as a young sorceress as she battles a dark sorcerer named Desorkhan, and his army of followers, who are fighting to take control of Kelmar. The story is fast-paced and action-packed.

From the back cover: Carmen Fox’s life is lonely and insignificant—that is, until the day she stumbles upon an ancient book and a key engraved with five mysterious letters. Suddenly, Carmen is thrust into Kelmar—an amazing new world of magic, where she finds herself at the center of a century’s old war between good and evil. Carmen must undertake sorcerer training if she is to survive the challenges that await her. Can Carmen master her powers and defeat the villainous Magicon alliance? With the help of a fascinating creature named Blaze and unforgettable friends, Carmen begins an incredible journey to discover her destiny.

I know this book will do well because fantasy is so popular. Where did you get the inspiration for your novel?

The initial inspiration for Guardian came from a dream that I had when I was thirteen. In the dream, I was walking through the most beautiful green meadow you could imagine, and there, I met a golden creature named Blaze. We spoke briefly, and then we walked together through this perfect, pure, and magical place that would come to be called Kelmar. The events from the dream became an early scene that plays out between two of the main characters in the book.

Wow! I’ve heard from a few authors that some of their best works came from a dream. The Secrets of Kelmar is the second book in the trilogy. What is it about?

The Secrets of Kelmar continues to follow the journey of Carmen Fox and her friends. In this installment, the world of Kelmar is experiencing dangerous storms and a rise in violence that no one can explain. As the Guardian of Kelmar, Carmen is called upon to restore harmony in the realm.

Best Children’s Books Reviews wrote, “Timeless, magical, brilliantly descriptive and so very much alive. I have a great respect for Laura and the power of her words that flow through her pen. I firmly believe we have an award-winning author here.” Tell us your thoughts about this review.

This was one of the most thoughtful, positive reviews I’ve ever received. The full review, which can be found here:, provides a brilliant overview of the plot without giving away the ending of the story. It’s wonderful to receive such great feedback on my work. As an author, the best compliment you can get is when someone tells you how much he or she enjoyed reading your book and look forward to your next one. It makes the long and difficult process of writing a book worth every moment.

I can totally relate. Whenever I receive positive feedback that comes straight from the heart, I want to shout for joy.  Okay, it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

When I was in elementary school, I wrote a small book with two other students in my class about a haunted pet shop. We were each responsible for writing so many pages of the story, and then we worked together on the illustrations. One of my tasks was to name the two male owners of the pet shop. I named them Frank and Stein. I should have known then that I would be a fiction writer when I grew up.

Frank and Stein? That is so clever. And you were only in elementary? I love it. That took a lot of imagination to come up with that. Yes, you were meant to write fantasy. Thanks for the wonderful interview, Laura. Watch her video below and enjoy!

For more information, please visit Laura’s website at