Author Interview with Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell’s debut crime thriller has been a runaway success in the UK where it has been reprinted twice in six months. It has broken sales records in many bookstores across the UK on Leigh’s promotional tour, and she has been interviewed regularly on BBC Radio stations.

Welcome, Leigh!

How long have you been writing for?

I started writing about three years ago when I began writing the story of CUT SHORT.

How long did it take to write Cut Short? 

I wrote the first draft of CUT SHORT in about six weeks. I wasn’t writing with publication in mind, and it was only when I finished that I decided to send what I’d written to a publisher. I never expected to receive a positive response, as I know how difficult it is to find a publisher, but I liked what I’d written and decided I had nothing to lose by submitting it. 

How did it feel when you got your publishing contract? 

I was amazed to receive a phone call from a wonderful lady, who is now my publisher, two weeks after I had sent off my MS. Signing the contract for a 3 book deal was very exciting!

If you could do it again, is there anything that you would change?

I would make quite a few minor changes to CUT SHORT, if I could, but it’s too late now.  When you are writing, your book is completely within your control. Once it is published, there is nothing you can do but wait and see what other people think of it. It’s nerve wracking! I’m relieved that, so far, CUT SHORT has received many excellent reviews.

Why crime fiction?

 I think there are a number of reasons. Crime fiction is tense and dramatic, full of suspense. It can also be quite cathartic, we live in such fearful times… You’re alone in the house at night, and you hear footsteps on the stairs…. That isn’t a scene I’ve used in a book, but it’s the kind of situation I explore in my writing. It’s a relief to step out of the story and return to reality.

How do you go about ensuring the accuracy of the policing in your books?  If it came to a choice between accuracy and story, which would win?

I write about worlds I have never inhabited so I do quite a lot of research. The internet is a fantastic resource, but there is no substitute for personal contacts. Since I started writing, I have received guidance from experts in many areas of life:  police officers, medical practitioners, firemen, market traders, social workers, IT professionals, a professor of forensic medicine… and  I have been bowled over by how helpful people are. 

I think the story is more important than accuracy, because I write fiction. My intention is to write a good story. Authenticity is important to me, not only out of respect to my readers – many of whom are police officers or medically trained – but because there is nothing worse (in this context) than reading a detail that you know could never happen. It breaks the illusion and, as a story teller, I have to create an illusion of reality. There is a tension, however, between realism and drama. 

Do you plan in advance or go with the flow?

I would like to write a murder story where I don’t know who committed the crime until the denouement, so that I would experience the story in the same way that the reader does, uncertain whether a character is the villain or a red herring, until the last page! But as a writer, you are taking your readers on a journey. You have to know your final destination so you can guide your reader in the right direction, or lead them astray. If you don’t know where you are heading, it would be impossible to work towards the denouement. So I always have a vision of the final dramatic climax I am leading up to.

With CUT SHORT I ‘went with the flow’. I wasn’t writing for a reader, but purely for myself. Once I found a publisher, I had to do quite a lot of work on the MS so that it made sense! Now I try hard to plan, but I’m not very organised. I find writing easy, but planning is a challenge.

Do you write full time, or around other commitments?

I work full-time as a teacher and only started writing when my children left home and I stepped down from running a busy department at school. Before that, I wouldn’t have had time to write. I write constantly during the school holidays and in the evenings, when I can.  

A lot of people say that the second book is often far harder to write than the first – was this the case for you?

No. I can’t imagine finding writing hard, I love it so much! I am nervous about the publication of my second book as I’m no longer a ‘debut’ novelist, with its connotations of inexperience and naivete. People are going to expect me to know what I’m doing…

Can you tell us about how you got an agent?

Other authors I know have been telling me for a while that I really ought to find an agent. An author whose work I know, and whose judgement I trust, recommended his agent. I contacted the agent, we corresponded, met, and agreed to work together. I have had interest from other agents, now that my first book has been successful, but I went with a personal recommendation and am very pleased with my choice.

What are you working on now?

ROAD CLOSED is the second in my series, and it will be published in June. I am now writing the third in the series, DEAD END, and beginning to think about the next one. My publisher has already asked me to write a fourth book in the Geraldine Steel series so I will be continuing the series  – with a new twist and hopefully a few unexpected turns to come…

And finally, can you sum up a key piece of advice for aspiring writers in one sentence?

Work hard, be brave… and be lucky.

Thank you again for your questions.

Thank you very much for requesting an interview. I’m thrilled to be featured on your blog, sharing something of my experience in writing CUT SHORT.

CUT SHORT is available  from amazon and many other online suppliers. It is also available as an e-book.

You can read more about my writing, and find my contact details, on my author blog at

You can see Leigh Russel reading an extract from CUT SHORT on youtube:

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Leigh!

Copyright © Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy

Author Interview – Jean Holloway

Jean Holloway has graciously agreed to be interviewed by yours truly on Book Reviews By Bobbie. As one of my all-time favourite authors, Jean Holloway has opened my eyes and made me a fan of the erotic thriller genre; I’m an even bigger fan of her work! Check out my glowing reviews of Ace of Hearts and Black Jack!

An Interview with Jean Holloway:

Who or what inspires you to write erotic thrillers?

I probably should give hubby some of the credit, lol, but basically I like to write a book that I would read. I wrote ‘Ace of Hearts’ on a bet with my sister, Lori, almost 30 years ago. I love a shocker, something that grabs the reader’s attention and then slaps you when you don’t see it coming.
I tell folks I write erotic, not erotica. Sex is a part of life and I don’t think I could tell my story without it.
I’ve been a fan of thrillers, mysteries and horror all my life and wanted to include elements of each in my novels. I’ve also been fascinated with true crime stories, so I thought of some of the most heinous crimes committed against women and threw in a little necrophilia for a chaser.

How many books have you had published thus far?

Two, so far, ‘Ace of Hearts’ and ‘Black Jack’. My goal is a series of four novels with Detective Shevaughn Robinson as the lead character. After that, I may take a break and write some short stories. Since I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, I’m thinking about a children’s book, but I don’t know how folks would react to that. I’m definitely no Mother Goose!

When did you begin your writing, in a professional capacity?

Hmmm, I guess that would have been in 2006, when I was offered a publishing contract. When I finished ‘Ace of Hearts’ in 1982, I set myself up for a sequel, just didn’t know it would be 24 years later before anyone would be looking for it! It all came together after I got laid off. I decided to follow my heart and become what I wanted to be – a published author.

How do you push-through writer’s block?

Ooh, I don’t even like thinking about it. I usually back off for a while. Lately, I’ve found that it helps to have more than one project going at a time. This way if I get stuck on one, I can go to the other. I also talk it out with family and friends, sometimes someone will say something that stokes the fire. Or my characters will get vocal again.

How DO you imagine up the fiendishly-realistic serial killers?

OK, this is going to sound a bit off. They come to me at night and talk to me, letting me know what they’re thinking and what motivates them. My first villain did it for the power rush. He wanted to see how much he could get away with. In ‘Black Jack’, the money-hungry antagonist actually changed the direction of the book. I wanted one thing (which resulted in writer’s block), he wanted another. We actually had an argument! I’m glad he won.

How do you deal with negative feedback from critics and readers?

Not well, at first. When I completed ‘Ace’ I did what I’d been warned against and sent unsolicited manuscripts to well-known publishing houses. The rejection letters hit me pretty hard. I even got a personal rejection letter (like the form letter wasn’t enough) from one publishing company saying ‘Ace’ was nothing but straight porno! I was so hurt; I shelved it from 1982 to 2004 and went about the business of working and raising my family. Since Ace has been published, I’m blessed to say I’ve only run across a few negative comments. Now it’s like water off a duck’s back because no matter what is said I’m still a published author. They can’t take that away from me. I realize you can’t please everybody all the time. So now I please me.

Did you research serial killers and rapists?

Yes, back in the day, I would spend hours in the library, now thanks to the internet I can do the same thing from home. I don’t know about you, but I would listen to the news and hear about the atrocities people have done to each other and wonder what made them go to such lengths? In my novels, I try to let the readers in on their thoughts.

Do you enjoy coffee, tea or hot chocolate?

I make a mean half caff caramel truffle coffee and love green tea. Sadly, I’m allergic to chocolate, but every once in a while, I’ll pop a Benadryl and go for it.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished a short story for an anthology coming out in late May and I’m in the midst of ‘Deuces Wild’, book 3 in the Deck of Cardz series. I also just started book 4, ‘Full House.’ These are all with my new publisher, PHE Ink. And I have to mention I’m working with my publicist, Dana Pittman of Nia Promotions (or she’ll have something to say, believe me!)

How much do you personally identify with Shevaughn Robinson?

A lot. I think I have her sense of humor and wish I had her courage. I know what it’s like to have a job people don’t feel you’re qualified for and how good it feels to prove them wrong. Now Shevaughn is learning the importance of family, something I realized a long time ago.

What are your top 5 favourite foods?

I’m a cheesaholic; so anything Italian (lasagna is at the top of my list), seafood (please don’t make me choose between lobster, shrimp or crab), Chinese (Cantonese), hubby’s smoked prime rib and my favorite dessert is peach cobbler with caramel praline crunch ice cream.

Where do you write (at your desk, on the couch, etc.)?

My dining room has been converted into a home office, so I sit at my computer desk which faces a bay window. I also consider myself the neighborhood watch.

What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?

Being married 38 years and raising 6 children, doing stand-up comedy (I was on Oprah in the early 80s! Not in person, they ran the show credits over my Comedy Store audition) and being nominated against Walter Mosley for best mystery in 2008. (He beat me like a bad child! ;o)

Has your health ever played a factor in your creativity?

Yes, definitely. I was recuperating from foot surgery when my sister (yep, the same one) said “You can’t go anywhere, you need to get ‘Ace’ out, re-edit and see if it’ll fly this time.” It did!

What would you like your readers to take away from your novels?

Since my novels are set in the 80s, I want to take them down memory lane, with a lot of twists and turns. They should be emotionally exhausted by the end of my story. I tell folks my novels have no redeeming value except entertainment, but I do like to put in an educational tidbit, here and there.
I want them to feel a connection with Shevaughn, like she’s someone you’d want to be friends with and I guess the best compliment a reader could give me would be that they hated when the book ended.

I hope that you’ve enjoy the interview as much as I have. Thank you, Jean!

To find out more about Jean Holloway or her books, please visit her website at

Copyright ©  Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy

Book Giveaway & Guest Author – Pat Bertram

Pat Bertram, author of Daughter Am I

Pat Bertram


I would like to welcome our Guest Author for the day, Pat Bertram. I’m so pleased to be part of Pat’s DAUGHTER AM I blog tour and I hope that you enjoy today’s interview, excerpt and the global book giveaway*.  

Thank you for joining us!

Take it away, Pat…  :)


**Congrats to Marjorie Cunningham on winning a copy of Daughter Am I**

Interview with Pat Bertram 

How long had the idea of Daughter Am I, been developing before you began to write the story?

Pat:  I developed the idea in a single day, but I had to finish the book I was working on at the time, so I didn’t actually begin writing Daughter Am I until several months after I got the initial idea.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pat:  I always wanted to be a reader. That’s really all I ever wanted to do. I did try writing a novel many years ago, but the words never came flowing out of me the way I thought they should, so I decided I had no talent for writing. About eight or nine years ago I decided phooey with talent, and I decided to try writing again. I thought it would be a good way of taking my mind off my problems. I also read books about writing, publishing, and promoting, so basically I gave myself a crash course in the whole writing spectrum.


How long did it take you to write Daughter Am I?

Pat:  I started writing Daughter Am I on March 19, 2004 and I finished it on February 9, 2005. That was the first draft, of course. I didn’t completely finish the novel until September 2009 when the final edits were done.


What was the most difficult part about writing Daughter Am I?

Pat:  The most difficult part about writing Daughter Am I was finding the words. I am not one of those authors who can sit down and just let the story pour out of them, I have to dig for every single word.


Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

Pat:  Definitely. I like complete quiet with no interruptions, so about the only time I can write is after dark. I like sitting in a pool of light, where nothing exists but me and the blank page.


What would you like your readers to take away from your stories?

Pat:  I would like readers to take away a slightly different way of looking at the world, perhaps seeing it in a better light or a maybe just a more truthful light. And if not that, I’d like them to feel good about having spent time with my characters. The best compliment I ever received was from someone who said he didn’t want the book to end.


What inspired you to name many of your characters in such an imaginative way?

Pat:  Most of the characters in Daughter Am I are aged gangsters, and they kept the monikers they used when they were young. I patterned my gangsters after those in the 1930s movies, though in the book they didn’t actually reach their prime until the 1950s or even 60s.


Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

Pat:  Interesting question, but no. No rituals. Sometimes I read a bit that I’d written to get me into the story, but mostly I just sit and think about what happens next.


Do you have a favourite snack food or favourite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Pat:  Water. I drink lots of water. Writing is a thirsty occupation!


Have you ever lived on a farm?

Pat:  Never lived on a farm, but I live across the road from one. Does that count?


In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Pat:  The most difficult part of writing for me right now is just sitting down and writing. I don’t know why, but I have no real inclination to write. I’m sure the desire will come back, probably when I stop spending so much time on the Internet.


Do you keep a pen and note pad on your bedside table?

Pat:  Yes, lots of pens, notebooks, paper. Don’t use them, but they are there!


Is there a certain freedom in being published by a small independent publisher?

Pat:  For sure! I got a final say in the editing process, I got to submit my own cover designs, and I get to promote my books the best way I know how. I realize the last is not something most authors care about, but some publishers expect authors to keep them informed of everything they are doing to promote. In some cases, the authors have to ask permission to post excerpts of their own books.


What are you working on right now?

Pat:  Mostly I’m blogging, writing articles, doing interviews, but I do have a work in progress — a whimsically ironic apocalyptic fantasy — that is waiting for me whenever I get the inclination to write again.


Is there any thing else that you would like to share with us?

Pat:  Besides Daughter Am I, a young woman/old gangster coming-of-age novel, Second Wind Publishing, LLC has released two other books of mine: More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

More Deaths Than One tells the story of Bob Stark who sees his mother’s obituary in the morning paper, which stuns him because he buried her two decades ago before he left the country to live in Southeast Asia. So how can she be dead again? A Spark of Heavenly Fire tells the story of insomniac Kate Cummings who gathered her courage and strength to survive the horror of a bioengineered disease let loose on the state of Colorado.

 Daughter Am I

Excerpt from Daughter Am I

“How could you bear to part with the only thing you had that belonged to your grandfather?” Mary asked when they were all munching sandwiches in Teach’s kitchen. The large rooms of his apartment seemed small because of the books stacked everywhere—on shelves, on tables, on the floor, on the kitchen counters. “Even if it was only a bullet,” she added. “There’s more where that came from.” Teach lifted the top of a ceramic cookie jar sitting in the middle of the table, reached in, and pulled out a handful of metal blobs. He let the pieces of lead clatter back into the ceramic jar, then stuck two fingers in his vest pocket and took out a ten-dollar bill. Handing it to Kid Rags, he said, “Here’s your share. Usually I get about fifteen dollars per bullet.” Kid Rags plucked the bill out of Teach’s hand, carefully placed it in his wallet, and continued eating his ham and cheese sandwich. Mary’s mouth fell open as she stared at Teach. “You’re a con man!” Teach raised one eyebrow. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”
“Well it is. You cheated those people.”
“No, I didn’t. I gave them exactly what they wanted—romance, excitement, memories. And don’t forget, they thought they were taking advantage of a poor defenseless old man.”
“It’s still not right,” Mary said.
“You don’t get it, do you?” Teach rolled one of the bullets between his fingers. “It’s all one great big con.”
“What is?”
“Everything. Life. Love. Happiness. The OK Corral. Wyatt Earp.”
Mary shot a questioning glance at Kid Rags who shrugged and busied himself constructing another sandwich.
“Wyatt Earp was a con man himself,” Teach said. “He and a mysterious character named Dave Mather got caught pulling the gold brick swindle in Mobeetie, Texas, and they were run out of town.”
“Gold brick swindle?” Mary asked.
Kid Rags groaned. “Don’t egg him on. Now we’re going to learn more about gold swindles than we ever wanted to know.”
“I wanna know,” Crunchy said.
Teach grinned at Kid Rags. “You’re welcome to wait in the living room.”
Kid Rags waved his sandwich. “I haven’t finished eating yet.”


One last thing — I’d like to thank everyone for stopping by to visit. It’s always nice to make new friends!

—Pat Bertram

To read more about Pat Bertram and her work, please visit her website and her blog

* The global book giveaway is for 1 print copy of Daughter Am I, if  the winning commenter is a US resident. If the winning commenter is not a US resident, they will win an ebook copy of Daughter Am I.

Copyright ©  Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy

3 Guest Authors & a 3-Book Giveaway (giveaway has ended)


Book Giveaway WINNERS:

Winner of a book from Alissa: Vicki

Winner of a backlist book from Emily: Linda B

And the Grand Prize winner of A CHRISTMAS BALL is: Quilt Lady

I am so pleased to be hosting Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson as they celebrate the release of their anthology, A Christmas Ball. The official release date was last week, on September 29th, 2009.

These three lovely authors will be guest posting today with a Q & A, new excerpt from each of their stories and a 3-book giveaway. They have generously offered to giveaway 2 books from Emily or Alissa’s backlist AND a third lucky commenter will win a copy of A Christmas Ball !!!

Take it away ladies! 

Question and Answer (Q&A) with:

 Jennifer, Emily & Alissa

Where did you find your inspiration, for your part of the anthology?

Jennifer: My story, “The Longest Night,” involves two characters introduced in “Highlander Ever After,” a book in my historical/paranormal, Nvengaria series. I’d been wanting to write the story of Mary and Valentin (the “Highlander” hero’s sister and the sexy Nvengarian baron she nursed when he was shot), but I’ve been caught up in too many other books. I jumped at the chance to write their story in this anthology. So that was my “inspiration.” (More like, “Oh goody, I get to write about Mary and Valentin!”)

Emily: I decided to do a sort of Cinderella/Fish-out-of-water story and what’s more out of place at a fancy ball than a scullery maid in her well-born half-sister’s ball gown? I’m also a huge Oscar Wilde fan, so I wanted to make “My Lady Below Stairs” an ensemble piece, with several relationships on a collision course. I had great fun writing this story and hope you’ll love it!

Alissa: Well, I’ve never had entire story inspired by one person or one event, but I do take inspiration from people and places to create specific scenes (see question number 4.) And I did listen to Christmas music to get into the holiday spirit.


Who had the wonderful idea for this collaboration?

Alissa: Our fantastic editor Leah Hultenschmidt.

Jennifer: The idea came from our editor at Dorchester. She asked the three of us to participate, and then we worked with her on the details of the setting and so forth.

Emily: Since all our characters are attending the same grand ball, we had to agree on the hosts of the ball, the floor plan of the mansion, décor, etc with Leah as the final decider on the shared details. But I must say, Jennifer, Alissa and I have collaborated more on this blog tour than we did on our stories! Each of our novellas are independent of each other, except for setting.


How long did it take you to write your part of the story?

Jennifer: It’s all kind of a blur now, LOL! The story was due in March, and I think I started it at the end of January. But I was also working on another full-length book at the time. Probably about three or four weeks from first word to final, polished manuscript.

Emily: Whoa, Jenn! Smokin’! Mine took longer because I had a break in the middle of it to wrestle with colon cancer. (If your doctor says you need a screening, go! I had NO SYMPTOMS! Early detection has given me a very rosy prognosis, thank you God and my brilliant GP!) So my story took several months, in fits and starts.

Alissa: Longer than I expected. It was my first novella, and (silly me) I thought the shorter length would equal less time spent at the keyboard. I failed to factor in how challenging it would be to flesh out my characters in the space allotted. I have a whole new respect for those who write novellas on a regular basis.


Do you model your characters after real-life people?

Jennifer: I usually don’t. That said, some people might have a characteristic or mannerism of someone I’ve met, or be a combination of people I know. But characters take on a life of their own–even if I start with someone in mind, the end product if completely different. My characters are unique human beings to me.

Emily: No, I’ve never done a “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” thing. But I did pattern the little dog in SILK DREAMS (one of my Diana Groe books) after my geriatric pound puppy, Susie! I figure she’s not going to sue me if I got it wrong!

Alissa: I haven’t, really, though the scene in which Patience eats a whole slice of cake in one bite was inspired by a friend with a similar talent.


How many years have you been writing?

Jennifer: I’ve been writing since I was eight. I’ve been writing with an eye to publication since about 1994. I’ve been writing with a really serious “I’m going to to this for a living, dang it” purpose since 1999. I’ve been a published author since 2002.

Emily: I started in 2001 and have been published since 2006 (first as Diana Groe for more dramatic historicals set in the Dark Ages, then as Emily in 2008 for my light-hearted fare!) A CHRISTMAS BALL is my 7th published book.

Alissa: I’ve been writing for fun since I’ve been old enough to hold pen to paper, but it’s been less than five years since I began writing with the goal of being published.


Is there any hope for more stories to come out of those in the anthology?

Jennifer: For me, probably not. I already have three other books in this series, and I’ve moved on to new ones (The Madness of Lord Ian series; a new shape shifter series starting with Pride Mates in Feb.; and a new UF series as Allyson James called “Stormwalker” out in May 2010). So many stories to tell, so little time!

Emily: No, I thought readers might enjoy a stand alone story since A CHRISTMAS BALL is seasonal.

Alissa: There’s always hope. I’d enjoy writing a romance for Patience’s friend, Caroline Meldrin.


What book or books are you currently working on, now that The Christmas Ball is completed?

Jennifer: A bunch of stuff–Pride Mates, by Jennifer Ashley (Feb. 2010; I’m proofreading it now). Stormwalker, by Allyson James (May 2010 at Berkley; that’s being read by my editor now). Lady Isabella’s Scandalous marriage, by Jennifer Ashley (July 2010 at Berkley; ms. being finished by me now). “Shifter Made” by Jennifer Ashley, a short story (connected to Pride Mates) in the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance (I just got the edits on it). A novella to be out in Wedding Favors (anthology), by Allyson James with Berkley Heat in May 2010 (writing that now). Lots to do!

Emily: I just typed “the end” on STROKE OF GENIUS, which will be out in June 2010. So I’m in the limbo land of figuring out what’s next. It’s a little disconcerting since the story has been consuming me for a few months now. Letting go of one cast of characters and assembling the next is always a dicey time. Anything can happen. I just have to figure out what.

Alissa: The fourth book in my Providence Series, Destined to Last, is in the editing stage and due to be released in the spring. I’m working on the proposal for a new historical series as well.


What’s your favorite snack food when you’re writing a story?

Jennifer: Trader Joe’s chocolate chip merengue cookies. 30 calories a cookie. I’m trying to lose weight and I allow myself a couple of those a day. Other than that I don’t snack when I write. Bad habit, which is why I now need to lose weight! However, I do have a glass of iced tea by my side at all times. (I live in a hot climate, so I drink it year-round. Un-sweetened.)

Emily: I actually don’t eat while I write either. I do however consume huge quantities of Cherry Coke Zero. Unfortunately, I snack while I watch TV with the DH. I think carrying weight is an occupational hazard for writers so I reward myself each day by hitting the treadmill after I finish my page count. And I do mean reward. I need to move after sitting so long.

Alissa: Just about anything you put in front of me. I have a particular weakness for sweets.


Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate…what’s your favourite?

Jennifer: Tea. Because I’m trying to lose weight and lower my caffeine intake, I’m trying a lot of green and white teas. I’m in love right now with African Rooibos, which is an herbal tea. I’m having so much fun tea tasting!

Emily: Coffee! My DH gets up each morning and grinds the beans to make a fresh pot. The aroma really gets me going! Honestly, if coffee tasted as good as it smells, it would have to be a controlled substance!

Alissa: Coffee, I have to have. Hot chocolate, I love to have. Tea, I will have cold.


Have you ever wanted to travel back in time to the Regency era?

Jennifer: Yes, as long as I get to take antibiotics with me, and I could transport my bathroom with all its plumbing. I’d make a wussy time-traveler! But…yes, I’d love to see the beautiful buildings, wear the clothes, talk the talk, try the food and drink. I guess what I need is a TARDIS, so I could visit, but still have my modern conveniences with me.

Emily: No. While I love to read about it, I wouldn’t want to live in the early 19th century. I’m a classically trained soprano and sang professional opera. In the course of my stage work, I’ve worn corsets and bustles, panniers and stays. Ugh! Of course, Regency clothing was a little more comfortable, but those long column gowns restricted movement and didn’t lend themselves to much of a brisk walk. Sometimes, the sleeves were tight enough to keep women from lifting their arms above their heads. Then when you think about the restrictions on women’s lives, restrictive clothing seems a minor convenience. Legally, a woman was treated as if she was a child or a mentally challenged person. I love the freedoms I enjoy as a woman now.

Alissa: I’d like to visit, but I’m much too attached to things like microwaves, vaccines, and the right to vote to make it an extended stay.


Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Jennifer: I’ve really enjoyed teaming up with Emily and Alissa to bring out this fun book!

Emily: Back at you, Jenn. When Leah invited me to join you and Alissa on this project, I was thrilled.

Alissa: Just another thank you to readers for being here today!


ALL-NEW Excerpts from A Christmas Ball


FROM  “The Longest Night” by Jennifer Ashley

Valentin glided to Mary and took her arm. She didn’t trust herself alone with him, but she didn’t have enough confidence in her skating ability to push from him as he skimmed her away from the others.

“You fell?” His breath hung in the air beside her ear. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, if slightly bruised. Both my pride and my backside.”

“Perhaps we should go inside, then.”

She did not trust herself alone inside with him, either. “No, no. I am of hearty Scottish stock, not a wilting weed. I will survive it.”

Mary thought she might not survive his warm body against her side, or the way his thigh brushed hers with every gliding step. She took a long breath, trying to cool herself with the frigid air.

Valentin held her easily as they skated on, his balance supporting hers. “What have you discovered from the duchess?”

His mission. Of course. “That her favorite English Christmas customs are those that might involve men losing their trousers.”

Valentin’s half-smile returned, and Mary decided she should stop joking. She would melt right through the ice if he kept smiling at her like that. “Jesting aside, she seems harmless. We have unpacked, and Duchess Mina has made plans to skate, light the Yule log, and carry a wassail bowl about to the neighbors. She likes the idea of kissing under the mistletoe, so she has ordered it hung everywhere. Beware of that when you enter the house.”

“Hmm.” Valentin’s brow furrowed, as though he were trying to decipher what sort of code Yule logs, mistletoe, and wassail might mean.

“The duchess has so far not pumped Julia about her father’s business, tried to pry English secrets out of her, or confessed a desire to overthrow the Nvengarian government,” Mary went on. “Either she is very careful, or she is innocent. I can not believe she’d know nothing of her husband’s involvement in insidious plots.”

“Grand Duke Alexander is never wrong.”

“Perhaps not, but I do not think the avenue is through the duchess.”

“Please, keep watching her.”

Mary sighed. “I’m not comfortable spying on my friends. I know you grew up in a country of mad political conspiracies, but I had a fairly normal childhood in a Scottish castle. That is, if you consider being the only girl among a pack of half-crazed Highland men normal. I only had to deal with feuds within my own family, and those weren’t secret.” She broke off under Valentin’s unnerving stare. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” he said in a low voice. “I like to watch your lips when you speak.”


FROM  “My Lady Below Stairs” by Emily Bryan

A scene in which Ian tries to convince Jane not to continue posing as her well-born half-sister Sybil.

Gripping the carriage rail, Ian Michael worked his way along the bouncing rig to the right side door, finding what toeholds he might, swinging by his arms alone when he couldn’t locate a resting place for his feet. Then just as they neared a corner, he pulled open the door and swung his body into the moving carriage, feet first.

Jane yelped, but he covered her mouth with his hand.

“Easy, girl. It’s only me,” he said with the same soothing tone he’d use for a spooked mare. “If ye cry out, Tom will stop the carriage and ‘Lady Sybil’ will be found in a compromising position with a mere stable hand.”

Her eyes widened in the soft carriage lamplight and then she bit his finger as hard as she could.


She leaned forward and clamped her palm over his mouth. “Guess you don’t like being surprised either.” Jane withdrew her hand and crossed her arms. “Now, what are you doing here, Ian?”

“Trying to talk sense into ye while there’s still time to stop this foolishness.”

Her mouth set into a firm line. “You know I won’t listen.”

“Then I won’t talk.”

He pulled her across the narrow space onto his lap. She smelled of rose petals and her cheek was as soft as one beneath his palm.

Her eyes were enormous in the dim coach. “Ian, I—”

“Ye don’t need to talk either, love.”


FROM  “Traditions” by Alissa Johnson

A scene in which William and Patience discuss who will be responsible for taking William’s nephew and namesake, Will, to see his nanny.

William looked to Will. “Do you want me to take you?”

The boy shook his head. 

“It appears I cannot.” He smiled at Patience. “He wants you.”

“Oh . . . er . . .”

“Is something the matter?”

 “No. Yes. I’m not certain. I . . .” She eyed Will a little nervously. “I am fond of children, but to be honest,” she leaned toward William and whispered, “I’ve very little experience with them. I’ve never been responsible for one.”

“I see.” Was he going to have to take Will himself, after all? He sincerely hoped not.

“I imagine I’ve not much more experience than you.” He leaned toward her and whispered, “I avoid them whenever possible.”

“Will is your nephew.”

“Yes, but you’re a woman. Women are born with the instinct to . . .” He waved his hand about, searching for the right word. “To nurture. Or what have you.”

She rolled her eyes, but knelt down and smiled at Will.

“You are adorable . . . even though you’re messy.” Will grinned at her.

William grinned wider. “There you go.” He gave her a gentle but bolstering pat on the back. “Just scoop him up and take him down the hall.”

Patience straightened and took a step forward. Then a step back. “What if I should drop him?”

William shook his head. “You’ll not drop him. A firm grip is part of the womanly instinct.”

She sent him a withering look. “And I suppose men are born with a natural urge to toss them about like sacks of flour?”

“We’re a stupid lot.”

She laughed and offered Will her hand. “We’ll walk, if it’s all the same to you, Will.”

A Personal Message from the Authors

Jennifer Ashley:  I want to thank my readers for being so fantastic. I really have the best readers! When I meet them in person, they’re smart, nice, fun, and just…nice! I hope readers of my Nvengaria series enjoy Mary and Valentin’s story, and if readers haven’t tried that series, I hope you like the story too!

Emily Bryan:  I’ve been so blessed by the love and support I’ve received from my readers.When I was going through the cancer, you can’t imagine how much it meant to me to receive so many emails, notes of encouragement and promises of prayers. Thank you with all my heart! I know it’s early yet, but I’d love to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah!). May you all receive the gift of love!

Alissa Johnson:  Thanks so much for joining us! Working with Jennifer Ashley and Emily Bryan has been an absolute pleasure for me, and I hope you’re having just as much fun.


Thanks so much for joining us and a great big thank you to Jennifer Ashley, Emily Bryan and Alissa Johnson for being our guests today! You ladies are welcome at Book Reviews By Bobbie, any time!  :)

Don’t forget to leave a comment, for your chance to win 1 of 3 books: 2 backlist titles from Emily Bryan or Alissa Johnson & 1 copy of A Christmas Ball!

An Interview with: Alberto Ferreras, author of ‘B as in Beauty’

Alberto Ferreras B as in Beauty

I am pleased to be able to share this fun, honest and insightful interview that I had with the fabulous Alberto Ferreras.

First, here is a little about Alberto:

A New York City based writer, filmmaker and performance artist. He has directed and produced the critically acclaimed “Habla” series for HBO, and his independent film work has been presented all over the world, including the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. As a performance artist he is known for playing “Doctor Truth”, a character who makes himself available in public spaces to answer any question with complete honesty.
B as in Beauty ” is his first novel.


Here’s what you’ve been waiting for; a peek into the life and mind of the successful author of B as in Beauty:

BCM: Who or what was your inspiration for the character, Beauty?

AF: Beauty is a combination of all the great women I’ve met in my life: my mom, my sisters, my friends… I hear them talking about the same issues, complaining about the same things: relationships, self-image, work… They are all so strong, and yet so fragile. They can swim across the ocean, but sometimes they drown in a drop of water. B is inspired by all their stories and adventures. But one particular friend of mine really met a Russian Madame when she was doing her taxes… the difference is that she never called her. B feels that she has nothing to lose and that’s why she calls her.

BCM: How long did it take you to write B as in Beauty?

AF: I wrote the book very fast—in about three months—and almost in a trance. First I wrote it as a screenplay, and then I turned it into a novel, because I realized how much fun B’s voice would be on the page. She made me laugh as I was writing her lines. My wonderful editors—first Andie Avila and then Selina McLemore—helped me a great deal in taking that first draft to higher level.

BCM: How were you able to get inside a woman’s mind?

AF: Being a gay guy, I’ve been fortunate enough to have open conversations with women that a straight guy would never be able to have. I feel that I can step back and look at the issues of heterosexual relationships with a different perspective. For instance: why can’t women take the initiative in a relationship? Why can’t women propose? As a gay guy I had to question a lot of issues that had to do with gender and society, and I’m trying to share what I’ve learned and reflected upon.
I also believe that women and gay men have one important thing in common: we get punished for being sexual. Straight man can sleep with as many women as they want, and it never tarnishes their reputation… but according to “society”, a guy who sleeps with guys is a “pervert”, and a woman who goes out with one too many guys is a “slut”. For society, straight men can do no wrong, but gays and women are punished for being sexual.

BCM: What are some of your favourite movies?

AF: I’m a big fan of classic American movies, and I watch TCM all the time. There’s a few movies that I can watch over and over: Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz”, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”, the early Woody Allen’s films—specially “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “Manhattan”, “Stardust Memories”— I love Lina Wertmuller’s “Swept Away” and “Seven Beauties”, and of course—the great inspiration for this book—Federico Fellini’s “Cabiria”, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Amarcord”, “Eight and a Half”, and “La Dolce Vita”.

BCM: What did you want to be when you grew up?

AF: I was a compulsive reader when I was a kid, so I wanted to become a writer, that’s why I studied journalism in college. I wrote my first play when I was 19, and it got very good reviews, but, making a living as a writer is challenging, so I ended up working as a writer for TV shows, making movie trailers, and eventually directing commercials. I think it all became part of my training as a storyteller. When I finally came up with a story that I was passionate about, it wasn’t hard for me to sit down and write it.

BCM: How did you research the fetish-portion of the story?

AF: A few years ago I directed a documentary about a group of men whose fetish is to enlarge the size of their genitals with silicone injections (I know, it’s totally freaky). The protagonist had injected more than 2 pounds of silicone in his genitals. While making the movie, I became good friends with this guy and I realized that far from being “a sexual predator” he was just a regular guy—actually one of the nicest, most respectful, and shy people that I have ever met. That experience definitely shaped my perception of the “fetish” crowd. Then the film was often shown in special programs and festivals where other “fetish” films were presented, so I ended up learning a lot of information that never makes it to the 6 o clock news. I have a lot of sympathy for fetishists, it’s not an easy life.

BCM: Who are you favourite authors?

AF: My favorite author’s are Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, JD Salinger, David Sedaris, Julio Cortazar, Manuel Puig, Franz Kafka, Oscar Wilde… I read a lot of graphic novels too, I love Osamu Tezuka’s “Buddah”, Garth Ennis’ “Preacher”, and Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts”. Schulz was a genius. Oh, and guess what? Isabel Allende was my neighbor when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time in her apartment because her son Nicolas and I were school friends.

BCM: What is your favourite television show or TV series?

AF: Actually I hear more radio—NPR—than anything else, but I watch a lot of Comedy Central shows, like “South Park,” “the Daily Show,” and the hysterically funny “Strangers with Candy”. I also like “Chelsea Lately” and “Project Runway,” but my favorite TV show is “The Antique Road Show”, even though I’ve never bought an antique in my life. When I’m depressed I watch back-to-back episodes of “The Golden Girls”. It’s like comfort food.

BCM: What are your favourite foods?

AF: I’m big on chocolate (no pun intended). I like really fancy chocolate like Teuscher and troffles from La Maison au Chocolat. I believe that there’s no problem that won’t melt away with a spoonful of Nutella.

BCM: What is your favourite drink, ie: Vodka on the rocks, A Manhattan, etc.?

AF: I think that it was Picasso who said that Martini’s are like boobs: 1 is not enough, 3 are two many, but 2 are perfect, and I have to agree with that. Vodka Martinis are high on my list (I’m afraid of gin) but every once in a while I crave sake or bourbon. My philosophy is “never mix never worry” so I never mix alcohols or sugars in my drinks (so no appletinis, cosmos, or even rum and coke).

BCM: At what age did you begin your writing career; non professional and professional?

AF: I’ve been writing since I was 8. When I was 12, a couple of friends and I created a very popular magazine in high school and I ended up writing 80 percent of the stories in it. When I was 19 I wrote my first play—and got pretty good reviews—, and I started working for magazines as a freelance writer. When I was 24 I started working in television and I did a lot of commercials, promos, behind the scenes, documentaries. The strangest writing job I ever did was doing lyrics for Madonna—I did the Spanish version of her song “What it feels like for a Girl”—it was a wonderful experience (but didn’t make as much money as I thought it would!). I would have loved to write music for a living but the music business is very difficult.

BCM: What do you do to relax and unwind after a long day?

AF: I watch the Home Shopping Network—but I never buy anything—isn’t that weird?

BCM: What were you hoping that your readers would take away from B as In Beauty?

AF: I think we are constantly bombarded with messages of youth and beauty. The media is always filling our minds with reasons to feel insecure. I would like the reader to understand how important is to live in the present, and never put your life on hold. We have to live in the present. Don’t wait until you lose the weight—or until you get the hair transplant—to go out and live your life. If you are looking for love, you’ll find it when the time is right. Life is very short and we shouldn’t put our lives on hold for anything or anybody.

BCM: Are you planning to write more books in the future?

AF: I’m doing research for my second novel I think I’m up to something good but—can’t talk about it!

BCM: What would be your dream vacation?

AF: A place where I can write in the morning, swim in the afternoon, and read in the evening. And if there’s a dive nearby where they mix a decent martini, I might never leave.

BCM: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

AF: One of the best things about the Internet is that it creates communities. I’m amazed at all the bloggers and readers out there talking so seriously and honestly about books—while the mass media pays so little attention to them. So thanks, hugs, keep reading, keep writing and keep blogging!!!

I would like to thank Alberto Ferreras for graciously agreeing to this interview.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it; make sure you pick up a copy of B as in Beauty.

To read my review on this wonderful book please click here.

For more about Alberto and B as in Beauty please visit his website.

Copyright ©  Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy