Thursday, July 31, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chrissie Parker, Author

Chrissie Parker, Author
UK author Chrissie Parker just released her latest novel, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, a suspense story with threads of romance inspired by an occurrence on a Greek island in World War II. She wanted to tell a “raw and real” story about her main character Elena, whose life was typical of what happened to Greeks during WW II. She also wanted to attract people to visit Greece, a country that has had “such a hard time lately.”

Parker, who lives in London with her actor husband and two cats named appropriately after Roman goddesses, enjoys ancient history and archeology. She has also published the thriller INTEGRATE, and is working on two sequels to it along with two historical novels set in Egypt and Jordan. In addition to writing, she likes making spiral beaded bracelets.

Q: How did you conceive of the story for AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES?  Is it based on a true story? Or on characters from your family?

Chrissie Parker: The entire book is based on a conversation I had with a Greek local while on holiday in Zakynthos, Greece in 2005.  During the conversation the local told me all about something that happened on the island during World War Two (I can’t tell you what it as it’s a huge spoiler for the book!).  Needless to say, the conversation stayed with me and I decided to write about it.  I also wanted to set a book on the island of Zakynthos as it’s a beautiful place and Greece has been through such a hard time recently.  I wanted to write something that would inspire people to visit it.

Q: How would you characterize AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Is it a “coming of age” story? Or romance? Or suspense?

Chrissie Parker: AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES is Historical Fiction.  It is very definitely a suspense, but there are aspects of romance weaving through it.  I think in essence the book is about change, and dealing with things in your life that you can’t control.  Both Elena and Kate are faced with things that they have to deal with head on.  It’s about strength of characters and doing the right thing for ‘you’ as well as others.

Q: How helpful was setting to telling your story? Thinking about events in Greece during WW II invokes all kinds of possibilities. Could you have told this story as effectively at any time in any place?

Chrissie Parker: The setting was crucial.  As the story hinges on this one piece of information I heard, Zakynthos was the only place it could have been told.  If you then combine that with the main character and the isolation of the island and its idyllic nature, I don’t think the story would have worked as well anywhere else.

The thing that surprised me the most was the lack of researchable material that remains.  Most information about what happened on Zakynthos in World War Two, came from a limited number of sources, either word of mouth, or from one book in the island’s library. Many records of what happened were destroyed during a big earthquake on the island in 1953. 

Q: How did you assure historical accuracy? Is accuracy important for credibility and believability? Or for enhancing the story?

Chrissie Parker: I did a lot of research.  I love history, but I’m more into Ancient History than modern, so World War Two was a bit of a learning curve for me.  I read books about the war, the Greek resistance, and women’s roles during the war.  I watched a lot of documentaries on the subject and also visited some museums.  I also had to do a lot of research about Greece in general.  For this particular book, accuracy was incredibly important, as the chapters set in Greece are chronologically set from 1938 to 1944, so I needed to make sure that any world events mentioned, that impacted the story, fell in the right place in the book.  

I wanted the book to not only tell a story but to be raw and real.  It is rumored that what eventually happened to my character Elena actually happened to Greeks for real during the war.  I needed to understand why, so that I could write in the best way possible without sensationalizing it. 

Q: What did you do to help readers engage with your characters in an historical setting? Why do we care what happens to them?

Chrissie Parker: I think Elena is an important character.  She is a woman, she is expected to act a certain way for a woman of her time.  She breaks with conventionality in many ways in this book.  Everything she does is for others, she is completely selfless and I love that about her.  She is strong willed, has a big heart and is also very feisty.  In a way I feel that what happened to her was always meant to be.

Q: Did you write AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES strictly to entertain? Or did you also want to educate readers? Or deliver a message?

Chrissie Parker: I wrote it to both entertain and to send a message.  In fact there are a few messages in this book.  War is hard, it changes life, but Elena fought for everything she believed in, people are strong and will do everything they can to protect those they love, and whether we are at war or just living life normally, we should always look after those we love and protect them the best we can.  There is always an answer to your troubles if you search hard enough, and I think all of that comes across in the book. 

I also wanted to show people what a wonderful place Greece is.  As I mentioned above, it has been through a really hard time over the last few years and if people read the book and choose to then visit it, it means that it is helping the people who live there. 

Q: Does the concept of “heroes” vs “villains” play an important part in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Do you need a villain to have a hero? What makes a good villain?

Chrissie Parker: Very much so.  There are a number of villains in this book, and a few heroes too.  War changes people and people have to choose sides whether they like it or not.  In this book we have the typical villain, Italians and Germans who have invaded the island and taken away the freedom of those who live there.  There are also people who have unintentionally become villains by choosing to align with the enemy as a way of self-preservation. Sometimes in life people don’t always pick the right side, and they unintentionally then become a villain, but if there is good in them, they will do something heroic in the end.  There is a definite need for hero and villain in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, the war was full of both, and it very clearly comes through in this story. 

In the case of this story a good villain is one that suppresses the masses, one that takes away their freedom, that leaves them scared and afraid, with no choice but to fight against the oppression.  This in turn makes the islanders heroic, they fight for their family and their neighbors and for their ultimate freedom.

Q: Are you in control of your characters, or do they take over occasionally and make you write something you never intended?

Chrissie Parker: Most of the time I am in control of my characters but I struggled a lot with Elena.  She is such a feisty and headstrong character.  She led me down paths I was least expecting. I knew what I wanted from her, but she really did break all of the boundaries, and ended up being much braver and more determined than I could ever have imagined.  I also struggled with a few others too, Kate Fisher was hard to predict, in the book she receives a big shock, and she handles it very badly, she definitely suffered with mood swings during the writing process!

Q: What’s next?

Chrissie Parker: I am currently working on two sequels to INTEGRATE called Temperance and Retribution, both of which will be released next year.  I also have two works of historical fiction in the pipeline that I need to revise, they are set in Egypt and Jordan.

Q: Tell us about Chrissie Parker. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Chrissie Parker: I am married to an actor, and live in London (UK), and we have two cats that are named after Roman Goddesses.  I’m a history and archaeology geek, and I have completed a 6 month Egyptology course and a 6 month Archaeology course with Exeter University. I love collecting and reading history books and watching documentaries about ancient history too.  I also make beaded spiral bracelets.

- I always write with a green pen
- I can’t say the word anonymous – it comes out as anomynous
- My favorite sandwich is cheese and orange marmalade – everyone thinks it’s odd

About Chrissie Parker

Chrissie lives in London with her husband and is a freelance Production Coordinator working in the TV, documentary and film industry. 

Chrissie is also an Author.  Her thriller INTEGRATE was released in October 2013.  Chrissie is currently working on two sequels to Integrate called Temperance and Retribution.  Both will be released in 2015.

Other written work includes factual articles for the Bristolian newspaper and guest articles for the charities Epilepsy Awareness Squad and Epilepsy Literary Heritage Foundation.  Chrissie has also written a book of short stories and poems, one of which was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013.

Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two six-month Archaeology and Egyptology courses with Exeter University.   She also likes to read, collect books, make bracelets and listen to music. To find out more about Chrissie visit her website

Elena Petrakis adores living on the Greek island of Zakynthos. When World War Two looms her way of life is threatened. Left with no choice she joins the island's resistance to fight for what she believes in; her family, her home, and her freedom.

Decades later, thousands of miles away in the Cornish town of Newquay, Kate Fisher prepares to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, but her joy is fleeting when she learns she is adopted. Abandoning life in England, Kate flees to Zakynthos, where she is forced to acknowledge a life she has struggled to come to terms with, one that will change her future.

From the beautiful crystal turquoise seas of the Ionian Islands to the rugged shores of the Cornish coast, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES  is a story of love, bravery and sacrifice.


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Sunday, July 13, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: A.R. Williams, Author

A.R. Williams created The Camellia Trilogy as a result of a conversation with a friend about superheroes and their origins and the realization that “There's always some accident, some government-engineered scientific mishap.” Reviewers of the first book in the trilogy, THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE, say it’s an entertaining and interesting read… of mystery, survival, conspiracy, and adventure” and “a dystopian future in a society obsessed with hygiene.”

A.R. Williams has always wanted to write, and she embraces the politics and available opportunities offered by living in Washington, D.C. She also appreciates making a “killer” salsa.

Q: How did you conceive of the plot line for THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE? Is it a story that has to be told?

A.R. Williams: THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE started as a strange conversation with a friend back in 2009.  We were talking about writing naughty stories and he suggested superheroes having sex.  As the conversation evolved, that turned into superheroes and their origin stories.  There's always some accident, some government-engineered scientific mishap.  Why not a virus, and since we're talking about superheroes and sex, why not a STD?  

I wish I could claim JK Rowling's discipline when it comes to plotting, but the plot and the ideas behind it have evolved over time.  I started writing in November of 2009 and the last big idea fell into place in the beginning of 2012.  As a writer, this is the story that hasn't let me go. From my perspective, it had to be told.  

Q: What draws you to write in your genre? Would you characterize THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE as SciFi, fantasy, dystopian fantasy?

A.R. Williams: It is probably a cop-out, but I never set out to write in a particular genre.  It was the characters and the world they live in that came first.  Then it was a focus on "oh dear, I've got to live up to this concept."  Where the book would fall in the groupings at Barnes and Noble was the last thing on my mind, at least while I was writing it.

That being said, it turns out that the trilogy falls solidly in the dystopian fantasy genre.  

Q: How do you create credibility for a world set in 2044? How important is back story?

A.R. Williams: Back story is crucial.  Where we come from sets us the parameters for where we can go next.  Our history informs everything.  Our assumptions about the world we live in, the things we take for granted, everything rests on the foundation of what comes before.  In the writing process, the back story weighs as much as the current activity.  I think that will become more evident as we move into the second book.

As for creating credibility, I may have taken the easy way out.  A pandemic flu wiped out most of the population in 1987, an event that was followed by the disintegration of the constitutional government of the United States.  That's pretty much going to grind technological progress to a halt. I didn't put myself in a position of having to build a world where flying personal space suits are the norm.  I think that puts the burden of credibility with the characters living in the culture with its norms and expectations instead of adequately describing the technology.  

Q: What makes us care about Willow Carlyle as a character?

A.R. Williams: Well, I've found out that Willow isn't universally likable.  She's been a bit sanctimonious and judgmental, she doesn't understand herself very well, she thinks she has things under control and she doesn't.  But what happens to her - not just the specifics, but the experience of hitting rock bottom - is a pretty universal experience.  She gets to this thing that she never thought would happen to her, this experience that is the end of her world, and it doesn't kill her.  Much to her surprise, she keeps going, imperfectly, of course, but she keeps going. 

Some readers can't stand Willow, but really like one of the other characters.  Which is okay with me, because although Willow is the introduction to the world of the Camellias, it is a bigger world than just her.  

Q: Are there villains in THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE? What makes an effective villain?

A.R. Williams: There are villains, but it depends a little on your perspective.  There are people in the book who do bad things, who hurt other people carelessly, who kill.  Back when Veronica Mars was still on TV, the actor that played Logan (Jason Dohring) said about his character "no one thinks of themselves as the bad guy."  The quote is paraphrased because it's been so long ago even Google is having trouble finding the exact quote, but that idea really stuck with me.  I think he was right.  We all do stuff other people don't like, but none of us thinks of ourselves as bad people.
From the internal perspective of a "villain," you're just doing what you have to do, right?  We all have our reasons.  When you cut someone off in traffic, you never think of yourself as the asshole, it is always the other schmuck that wouldn't let you in.  

So to me, an effective villain has some ambiguity, believes in whatever course of action he/she is pursuing, and has moments of likability.  

Q:  Why write a trilogy instead of just a standalone book?

A.R. Williams: There are two answers to that question, one has to do with the story itself and the other has to do with impatience.  

The trilogy structure, at least as I'm planning to use it, allows me to widen the aperture to this world a little with every book.  Willow's perspective is the first one we meet, and THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE is about her understanding of the world she lives in. Books two and three will each take a step back, widening the perspective until the whole big world, back-story and all, comes into view.  

As for the impatience, my experience with the real world has taught me about the importance of getting started.  You can do something now or you can wait and do everything later, but if you're going to do everything later...  well, later never shows up.  Now is here.  Now is about all you can count on.  I've spent too much time waiting for the perfect conditions, waiting to have everything 100% ready, and really, that's just fear talking.  Do what doesn't take permission.  Do it now.  To quote Janis Joplin, tomorrow never happens man.    

Q: Do your characters push you around and lead you to write something you never intended? Or do you stick to your outline?

A.R. Williams: I'm not much of a planner, but I did start out with ideas about who my characters were - and pretty strong ideas at that.  Sometimes they comply, sometimes they don't.  Ianthe started out as a side-kick, Marshall started out as a nice guy 100% of the time.  Warren, at least, was always Warren.  And then some characters showed up wholly formed without invitation.  I keep talking about Morrigan, who shows up in the last half of the book.  She arrived all by herself and pretty much pointed her cane at me, waved her joint around, and said "listen lady, this is how it is going to be."  A lot of things have happened in the process that I didn't intend, but that's why you write...  as much as the reader, I want to know what happens next.  

Q: Do you write to entertain your readers and/or do you want to deliver a message or educate?

A.R. Williams: The two aren't mutually exclusive in my view.  We engage with stories to entertain ourselves, but that doesn't mean that the entertainment doesn't contain a thread of truth or doesn't serve a purpose in our lives.  Some of the best stories we've got teach us that we can survive, that others have experienced what we're experiencing - again, rock bottom is pretty universal - and have found a way to carry on.  Other authors have been with me through that rock bottom experience, have held my hand and shown me that it is possible to keep going.  If I can be that for someone else, even just a little bit, then I can count myself as a success.  

So if there's a dogma to be found in the book, it is in the value of showing up, as imperfect as you are, as ill equipped as you may be.  It is in making peace with the way life is inevitably going to scar you, and learning to find the beauty and the strength in those scars.  It is that living unafraid is going to get you hurt, but hurt and alive is better than walling yourself off from everything because you're afraid of pain.   

Q:  What’s next?

A.R. Williams: I'm about 75% done with the next in the Trilogy - The Camellia Reckoning.  Then there is the editing and the re-writing and the early reader feedback and the perfecting to do.  That should keep me busy for a while, and when I'm done with that, book three.  I'm booked for the foreseeable future.  Literally.  

Q:  Tell us about A.R. Williams. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A.R. Williams: I'm afraid the most interesting part of me is what happens when I'm not paying attention to what the thoughts in my head are up to.  Other than that, it is all pretty normal.  Work.  Swimming.  Music.  My 13 year old dog that has no idea she can't see, can't hear, and can't smell anymore.  Making a killer salsa.  This is another quote I can't find, and I don't even know who said it, but it applies: I live a restrained life so my imagination can run wild.    

About A.R. Williams

A.R. Williams is obsessed with language and myth, not just playing with words and making up stories, but with the real-world impact that our words have on the way we live. Words are the only puzzle that never gets boring, and writing is the only thing she has wanted to do consistently. Other interests, such as sewing and photography, become alternate means to feed the writing habit.

Ms. Williams feeds her obsession with curiosity: people, philosophy, technology, psychology, and culture. Living in Washington D.C. is a good source of inspiration. From the sublime heights of arts and achievement available for free at the Smithsonian to the bureaucratic banality of Beltway politics and scandals, it is a great city for fantasy, possibility, power, and consequence—ideal fodder for the fictional life. She lives between an ordinary external life filled with time cards, meetings, and deadlines; and an extraordinary imaginary world where anything is possible and everything is fueled by music.

2044. Willow Carlyle is the youngest cultural epidemiology research director in the history of the Ministry of Health and is on the fast-track for further promotion until a night of passion shatters her carefully constructed life.

Marked and unemployed, Willow falls in with a band of dissidents. Everyone wants something. In the process of discerning friend from foe, Willow begins to unravel secrets that will shake the New Republic of America to its foundation. 


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Follow the entire Camellia Resistance tour HERE   

* This tour is brought to you by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours *

Monday, July 7, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Morgan Bell, Author

Morgan Bell, Author
Australian author Morgan Bell offers SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS, a group of short stories of  “bizarre medical conditions, industrious creatures, conniving cops, killers, dead bodies, a rescue mission, homoeroticism, nonchalant students, a secret garden, and the road to hell.”  Reviewers praise the “many layers,” and “great characters.” Bell says, “it’s a little book of feelings told through the tears of a clown.”

Many of Bell’s short stories have been featured in various publications. She plans to release a second book of short stories later this year and is working on a speculative fiction novel. When she’s not working or writing, Bell likes to go to the movies, live theater, and drag shows. Born in Melbourne, she currently lives in Sydney.

Don't miss the brief excerpts following her interview.

Q: How much and/or did your upbringing, current surroundings, or life events influence your stories in SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS?

Morgan Bell: Many of my stories feature overt Australiana, such as eucalypts and butcherbirds in Telfer Speck, some feature real places, such as Stockton in Granted, or my old front fence in Newcastle in Shark Fin Soup. A lot of dialogue is expanded fragments of real conversations from real life. Stories like The Package and Mini Play are based on real exchanges, just extrapolated out and with some invented backstory or motivations.

Q: Reviewers say that there are “many layers” to the stories in SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS and were pleased that they are thought-provoking. How do you provide multiple layers in a short story? Did you intend to deliver a message with your stories?

Morgan Bell: I am a believer in the saying: a good story reads you. It is the ultimate compliment that my stories have been interpreted in so many ways. I find that is part of the craft of writing, leaving enough negative space that any reader can relate. I keep my stories concise and my dialogue and descriptions pointed. Rather than telling the reader what to think present a situation of moral ambiguity and let them draw their own conclusions.

Q: What makes your stories unique?

Morgan Bell: They come from a unique place, within the world, within society, and within my perspective. They do not conform to short story conventions, in structure or in length. They also have a common narrative and themes running through them as a collection. I write entirely in third person, and I have a strong voice, its like being led into the wilderness by someone you trust.

Q: Reviewers also like the range of stories – from the “rather amusing, to deeply disturbing, and even heartfelt.” Were you trying to evoke reaction to various emotions?

Morgan Bell:  Absolutely, it’s a little book of feelings told through the tears of a clown. The face of it is quite funny, but like most comedians there is an underbelly of hurt and sadness. Many of the stories are about not fitting in and the general unease that comes with forming an identity relative to other people.

Q: I was interested to see that your reviewers appreciated your characters. How do you develop multiple engaging characters in a series of short stories?

Morgan Bell: To see the best or the worst of a character you need to put them in a character defining situation. I don’t put them through an obstacle course like a mad puppeteer, I just introduce them to one scenario and let the camera rest there while tensions boil. I also like to present queer characters, characters of various ages and socio-economic groups and stages in life, and present couplings where the relationship is not defined. The reader can observe the dynamic and decide for themselves.

Q: How important is setting to your stories? Could they occur anywhere?

Morgan Bell: Most of the time the setting is not very important, it can be anywhere from a faraway land to the house next door. As a default I will set them in Newcastle Australia, but often the location is not even named.

Q: Can you explain the meaning and significance of the title SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS?

Morgan Bell: It is a non-sense phrase that stuck in my mind while I was half-asleep. It sounded to me like something the Dormouse from Alice In Wonderland would talk about in between tales of treacle and drawing a “muchness” from much of a muchness. Linguistically it translates to a calculated series of steps forward. I like the riddle quality and the weightlessness of the phrase.

Q: How relevant is the concept of “hero” vs “villain” in your stories?

Morgan Bell:  To think there are no good people and bad people, just people capable of doing both good and bad things depending on the situation. Someone like Constable Skillion in Telfer Speck may seem like a villain in some lights, or maybe he’s lonely and socially awkward and just trying to do his job. The young woman in It Had To Be Done acts in a way that may negatively impact another person, but what motivates her is more defining to her character than the end result.

Q: What’s next? Will you write more short stories? A novel? What genre interests you next?

Morgan Bell: I have another collection of short stories coming out later this year, called Laissez Faire. I am also working on a speculative fiction novel, it is bare bones at the moment, but it will have various female protagonists, the working title is Daughters of Mallory.

Q: Tell us about Morgan Bell. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Morgan Bell: I love watching movies, especially at the cinema, and watching tv series like Game of Thrones, Girls, Shameless, True Detective etc. Recently I began a class in mosaic, which has been fabulous. I also like going to see live theatre and drag shows, and dining out and in with friends. I am a bit of a people-watcher so I just like being out in the community, listening and observing.

About Morgan Bell

Morgan Bell is a young Australian woman, born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1981. She attended school in regional areas of New South Wales, including the Northern Rivers, the South Coast, and Newcastle. She currently lives in Sydney and works in Local Government as an engineer. Bell is university educated in civil engineering, traffic engineering, technical communications, linguistics, and literature. She is a member of Hunter Writers Centre, Newcastle Writers Group, and Newcastle Speculative Fiction Group.

Bell’s short story “It Had To Be Done” was first published in the Newcastle Writers Group Anthology 2012, and her short story “Midnight Daisy” was published by YWCA Newcastle in 2013 as part of the She: True Stories project, with live readings on ABC 1233 in February 2014 and Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2014. In March 2014 Bell’s short story “Don’t Pay The Ferryman”, an anti-travel piece, was shortlisted for the Hunter Writer’s Centre Travel Writing Prize 2014. Bell’s short story “The Switch”, based on Germanic folklore, is featured in Novascapes, the 2014 Hunter Speculative Fiction Anthology, alongside award-winning authors such as Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott.

Debut collection of short stories by indie Australian author Morgan Bell. A cross-section between dreams and reality. An examination of the horrors of life, with plenty of peering, in the form of vignettes, micro fiction, flash fiction, and short stories.

Themes include fear, time, aging, anxiety, and jealousy.

This collection of fifteen stories contains bizarre medical conditions, industrious creatures, conniving cops, killers, dead bodies, a rescue mission, homoeroticism, nonchalant students, a secret garden, and the road to hell.

“Her eyes were itching and beginning to water, she pawed at them with the backs of her hands until they went red. A mosquito buzzed in her ear, she trod on a bee, and a single line of tiny black ants curled up around her flamingo shin. She began limping, her foot swollen, shaking the other leg like a cat who had stepped on sticky tape.” (Tiptoe Through The Tulips)

“The tune was the call of his love, a tune only he and she knew. But it was different, peppered with some menacing mannerist malice. Constable Skillion swaggered out from the scrub with a shovel slung over his shoulder, tobacco smoke unfurling. He spied Telfer lingering over the dirt mound and stopped his whistling. Telfer snapped to face the silence.” (Telfer Speck)


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Twitter: @queenboxi