A Candid Talk with Gisela Wolff and Peggy Serrano from Lynn Austin’s Novel Long Way Home

About the book:

Peggy Serrano couldn’t wait for her best friend to come home from the war. But the Jimmy Barnett who returns is much different from the Jimmy who left, changed so drastically by his experience as a medic in Europe that he can barely function. When he attempts the unthinkable, his parents check him into the VA hospital. Peggy determines to help the Barnetts unravel what might have happened to send their son over the edge. She starts by contacting Jimmy’s war buddies, trying to identify the mysterious woman in the photo they find in Jimmy’s belongings.

Seven years earlier, sensing the rising tide against their people, Gisela Wolff and her family flee Germany aboard the passenger ship St. Louis, bound for Havana, Cuba. Gisela meets Sam Shapiro on board and the two fall quickly in love. But the ship is denied safe harbor and sent back to Europe. Thus begins Gisela’s perilous journey of exile and survival, made possible only by the kindness and courage of a series of strangers she meets along the way, including one man who will change the course of her life.


Gisela, tell us a little about your life before the events of the story begin.

Gisela: I lived in Berlin with Mutti and Vati (my parents) and my younger sister, Ruthie. We’re Jewish, and we had a happy life in our Jewish neighborhood with our large extended family. Then Hitler came to power and Vati was forbidden to practice law. Ruthie and I were no longer allowed to attend our school. As the persecution grew worse and worse, we knew we had to get out of Germany. Vati began the difficult task of applying for visas and landing permits, searching for a country that would allow us in as refugees.

Your story begins in November 1938 on Kristallnacht. Tell us how that night changed your life.

Gisela: Kristallnacht was a night of widespread Nazi persecution, violence, and terror. Synagogues were set on fire; Jewish businesses and even hospitals were ransacked and demolished. When Vati rushed over to our synagogue to save the Torah scrolls, the Nazis arrested him and sent him to Buchenwald prison camp. Mutti was so overwhelmed with fear and grief that it was up to me to finish Vati’s work and try to get us all out of Germany.

Did you manage to escape?

Gisela: Yes! Miraculously, we were able to get landing permits for Havana, Cuba, where my uncle was waiting for us. We booked passage on a ship called the SS St. Louis and set sail from Hamburg, Germany.

It must have been a huge relief for you. Were you able to relax and enjoy the voyage?

Gisela: Not at first. Nearly all of the passengers were Jewish, like us, but the ship flew the Nazi flag and most of the sailors were Nazis. The portrait of Hitler that hung in the dining hall reminded us that we weren’t free yet. But I met Sam Shapiro on board and we soon became inseparable.

I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but the voyage of the St. Louis was only the beginning of your long, wartime journey, wasn’t it?

Gisela: That’s true. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time how very far I would end up traveling and what my family and I were about endure as we tried to survive.

Thank you, Gisela. It will be interesting to read about those journeys. Peggy, it’s your turn now. Tell us a little about your life before the events of the story.

Peggy: My mother died when I was eleven years old, so I was raised by my father in our apartment above his auto repair shop. I was different from all of the other kids at school, and they bullied me mercilessly. My only friends were my dog, Buster, and Jimmy Barnett, who lived across the street from me. Jimmy is four years older than I am and he watched out for me like a big brother.

Your story begins after World War II ends and Jimmy Barnett and the other soldiers have just returned home. Tell us about that.

Peggy: The Jimmy who came home isn’t the same man who went away to war. He is sad all the time and barely speaks to anyone, even to me and his parents. Then the unthinkable happened, and he tried to kill himself. He’s in a veterans’ hospital now, and the doctors say he’s suffering from battle fatigue. Their treatments aren’t helping, so I came up with the idea of writing letters to all of his buddies from the war so we can try to figure out what happened that made him want to die. I’m desperate to find a way to help my best friend.

Are there any other changes for you now that the war is over?

Peggy: Oh, there are plenty! I worked in a factory during the war, building aircraft cannons, but that job came to an end when the war did. Then my father’s girlfriend, Donna, decided to take over the office work that I’ve always done for my father’s garage. She says I need to find another job and another place for my dog and me to live. And all of this while I’m trying to help Jimmy!

It sounds like a difficult time for you.

Peggy: It is. The only bright spot for me is working with Jimmy’s father in his veterinary clinic. I love animals and I’ve worked for Mr. Barnett part-time after school since I was eleven years old. But now I’ll need to find a full-time job and someplace else to live.

Thank you, Peggy. I’m sure readers will want to read the rest of your story to see how things turn out for you and Jimmy.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

Introducing Queen Judith from Queen of Ophir by Hannah Ross

Tell us something about where you live

I am a descendant of Israelite tribes who have migrated south to settle in Ethiopia. Our mountain kingdom stretches across the breathtaking Mountains of Simien and around Lake Tana. The Ethiopian Highlands are beautiful, fertile, and comfortable to live in thanks to their temperate climate.

My royal seat is in the City of Simien, where I preside over my kingdom in a large airy palace. Twelve gilded-gold steps lead to my throne, one for each tribe of Israel.

What is it like to be a queen of Simien?

I was only seventeen years old when I became a queen after my father, King Gideon, was treacherously murdered by Aksum agents. I wasn’t prepared to assume this role, but I’m doing my best.

I spend every morning in my audience chamber, listening to petitions and making decisions. After audience time is over, I take a quick midday meal and spend the afternoon with my military strategists and advisors, planning a war on Aksum. 

If I’m lucky enough to have some free time, I go for a stroll in the palace gardens or ride out to survey the country. I also enjoy browsing through old books and scrolls in my father’s library.

Overall, being a queen takes up almost all of my time. At least I get to rest on the day of Shabbat!

Who are the special people in your life?

My mother died when I was very young, and I had developed a very special relationship with my father. I was his right hand and sat on his councils since I was twelve. As the eldest child, I was my father’s heir and had to prepare for my future duties. 

I loved and admired my father, who was wise, kind, caring, and generous. His death came as a harsh blow.

Shortly after my father’s murder, I became engaged to Prince Sahama. Since it is mainly a political alliance, I am still unsure what I think about my future husband. Can I trust him? Is he really on my side? It’s lucky I have my military advisor, Gedalya, to give me solid counsel.

What is your heart’s deepest desire? 

I live for the day when we smash the gates of Aksum and raze that vile city to the ground. I swore to avenge my father’s murder, which means I’m going to kill the King of Aksum and his entire court. Destroying Aksum will also protect my people from physical and spiritual warfare – Aksum’s Christian priests are trying to make us give up the Hebrew faith, and I know they won’t rest until they conquer our kingdom.

What are you most afraid of?

I fear that our mission will fail. If we don’t bring Aksum down, they will take over our domain, force us to convert to Christianity, and sell my people into slavery. I can’t let this happen!

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

When Aksum falls, I will rule most of Ethiopia. I will have access to Red Sea ports and will be able to trade with far-off lands, instead of being isolated in my landlocked kingdom. One day, maybe I will get to sail to Israel and see the land where my ancestors had once lived.

As my kingdom grows, so will my responsibility. That’s where I will need Prince Sahama. He will rule by my side and help me subdue Aksum nobility which will surely resist my rule. It will also be my duty to provide the kingdom with heirs. When I have children, I hope our relationship will be as close and trusting as mine was with my father.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?  

That being a queen is hard. I never imagined how tough it would be to put someone to death, to question the loyalty of everyone around me, or to agree to a marriage just because I believe it will be useful to my kingdom. 

I also learned that I’m not always right. Sometimes, I should listen to my councilors rather than pushing ahead with risky ventures.

What are you most proud of?

I do my best to be just. I never condemn or justify someone without listening to all sides of the case. My audience chamber is open to all, noblemen and simple folk alike. Nobody is below my notice, and I believe my people feel comfortable to come to me and share their concerns or ask for help. That was how my father ruled – he was a king of all his people, and I’m upholding this tradition.

***

Author Bio

Hannah Ross wrote her first story at the age of six and hasn’t stopped since. She is a multi-genre author who loves to escape into different worlds, whether it takes the form of fantasy, sci-fi, or historical tales.

Hannah’s fascination with Jewish history led her to explore the stories and legends of the Ethiopian diaspora, which led to the birth of two novels set in Ethiopia during the Aksumite era: Land of the Lost Tribe and her newest release, Queen of Ophir

Hannah enjoys a quiet life with her husband, four children, two cats and a flock of chickens.

An Interview with Edward John Trelawny from Forever Past by Marty Ambrose

We are going to talk today with Edward John Trelawny at the Palazzo Marciano in Livorno, Italy.  An adventurer, writer, and raconteur, he is known mostly as the most dashing member of the Byron/Shelley circle in historic Pisa; but, he is a complicated and brilliant man in his own right, whom Lord Byron referred to as the “personification of my Corsair.”  Welcome, Trelawny!

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  • Firstly, I want to ask you about Byron’s reference to you as the “personification of his Corsair”—a poem he wrote about a pirate.  Do you think that’s true?

Edward Trelawny:  [laughing]  Not exactly.  I was never a pirate but, as a boy, I did read about the French corsair, Robert Surcouf, and I went to sea because I was a rebellious sort of boy.  I ran away at the age of thirteen to join the Royal Navy as a volunteer (I was too young to actually take on a commission) and traveled on ships from Bombay to the Cape of Good Hope.  The rough lifestyle aboard a sailing vessel made a man of me.  But . . . I did not like the discipline of the Navy and was often sent to the masthead as punishment for some kind of minor infraction.  Perhaps I would have been better off becoming a pirate after all.

  • Before we talk about your relationship with Claire Clairmont, maybe you could tell us a little more about yourself.  I’m sure our readers would find your own history quite interesting.

Edward Trelawny:  Certainly.  As you can tell from my surname, I am Cornish.  My family had modest means but an extensive ancestral lineage and my father, though a baronet, had a fiery temper.  A tyrant really.  Hence, the reason I left home at such a young age.  And, of course, I always had a wanderlust to see the world.  After I left the Navy in my twenties, I lived in Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and then back to England.  I even visited America and thought about starting a Utopian community there, but something always drew me back to Europe.

  • Was that “something” Claire Clairmont?

Edward Trelawny:  Well, she has been at the center of my life for over fifty years.  My dearest friend.  My closest ally.  My one and only true love.  I will not deny that I have known other women and even married three times.  But my heart always, always belonged to Claire from the moment I met her in Pisa in 1822.   She was breathtaking with her exotic beauty and sparkling personality.  And, while she has grown more advanced in years (as I have), she has lost none of her spirted nature.  We have been separated by great distance at times during our lives, yet we never lost contact—and her witty letters have been such a comfort to me.  To be sure, I asked her to marry me more than once, but she preferred her independence, much to my dismay and disappointment . . . At least now I have the opportunity to be with her again on the quest to find Allegra.

  • Do you think other people have come between the two of you?

Edward Trelawny:  I assume you mean Lord Byron.  I will not deny that Claire has been haunted by his ghost, and I cannot blame her.  We all were caught up in his orbit.  He was like a comet in our lives, lighting up the world and then plunging it into darkness again when he died. There has been no one like him—before or afterward.  And it is difficult to describe what it was like to know him:  there was the famous poet, brilliant and erratic; the revolutionary who inspired us to follow him to fight for the Greek Independence; and there was the man whom I came to call my friend—amusing, loyal, and generous.  He had many different sides—a chameleon, as he called himself.  Certainly, he could be outrageous, even petty, at times, but who is perfect?  As Claire said, he was an easy man to love and admire but not an easy one to know, even though we all tried.

  • After Byron perished in Greece in 1824, you stayed in Greece and continued to fight for their cause.  How did that turn out?

Edward Trelawny:  Well, Greece declared its independence when the Treaty of Edirne was signed in 1829, so you may judge for yourself.  After Byron died in Missolonghi, I stayed and fought side-by-side with Odysseus, a warlord leader who was almost like a brother and, at one point, we commanded five thousand troops.  It was a long and arduous war, but it had a glorious conclusion.  Sadly, as is often the case, the men who risked their lives in battle are no longer needed when peace is declared.  Odysseus was executed, and I was a victim of an attempted assassination; the bullet is still lodged in my back.

  • Did you not marry Odysseus’s sister?

Edward Trelawny:  That is another story [he clears his throat].  But enough of an old soldier’s reminiscences.  I grow tedious . . .

  • Not at all.  Actually, I was going to ask if there was one incident that stood out as the most horrific for you?

Edward Trelawny:  Yes, though it did not occur during battle.  It happened when Shelley drowned in Italy during the summer of 1822.  I still recall it as if it were only yesterday.  He had gone out sailing with his friend, Edward Williams, and they ran into a squall near the Bay of Spezia which caused the boat to go down, killing the two of them.  We did not know for days what had happened, even though I met constantly with the Italian Coast Guard.  Eventually, their bodies washed ashore near Livorno, and I had to oversee their cremation on the beach.  Never will I forget that awful scene of seeing my dear friend consumed by fire into ashes.  Byron was there, but could not stand it and began to swim off shore, but I remained until the task was finished.  

  • What a tragic story.  

Edward Trelawny:  Indeed.  One of my greatest regrets is that I introduced Shelley to sailing.  If I had not done so, perhaps he would not have perished at sea.  Who can say for certain?  Life is full of these twists and turns.

  • Do you have any other regrets?

Edward Trelawny:  I will never stop reproaching myself for not telling Claire that her daughter, Allegra, might still be alive.  Byron swore me to secrecy, and I know that revealing the truth might have placed Allegra at risk, yet it was still a deception.  I am only grateful that Claire has forgiven me.

  • Do you think she might also reconsider sharing her life with you?

Edward Trelawny:  We shall see.

  • I can only hope!  Any final comments?

Edward Trelawny:  In spite of being friends with Byron and Shelley, I never wanted to be a great poet, but I wanted to have a great life.  And I did.

Thank you for speaking with us today.


Marty Ambrose is the author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire’s Last SecretA Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century ItalyHer novels have been published by Severn House (U.K. and U.S.) and Thomas Schluck (Germany), earning starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, as well as finalist status in the Florida Writers Association’s Literary Palm Award. Her work has been featured internationally in blogs, journals, and websites.

Marty teaches English at Florida Southwestern State College and has been a faculty member in the SNHU Creative Writing MFA program; she was a NISOD winner for faculty excellence, grant award recipient, and Master Teacher. She completed her M.Phil. at the University of York (England) and teaches nineteenth-century British literature, composition, and fiction writing. She has also given numerous workshops in the U.S. and abroad on all aspects of creating/publishing a novel.

She has edited the FSW literary journal, served on student scholarship boards, and is a member of The Byron Society, Historical Novel Society, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

A Chat with Norah King from Rachel Fordham’s Where the Road Bends 

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Tell us something about where you live.

I grew up on the most beautiful stretch of Iowa land known as King Land. It’s got a creek running through it and isn’t far from the railroad tracks. I don’t think there is a more beautiful place in the entire world. But now, with my parents dead, I don’t know how I’ll keep the farm going. I plan to marry, not for love, but to keep my land. I suppose then it will be Granger land, but in my heart it will always be King land. 

Can you tell us more about your pending marriage?

It all happened real fast. When the bank started talking about taking my land back and refusing to loan me more money Jake came out of no where ready to marry me and save my land. I don’t know him well, he’s older than me and even though he seems kind enough, he’s not easy for me to talk to. I suppose that can come with time. But now I have a secret that I have to tell him, and I don’t know how. 

A secret? 

A couple days ago, I found a man on my land. He was hurt real bad and I knew I couldn’t leave him to die in the heat and with the birds buzzing above him. It took all my strength to get him to the house and cleaned up. He’s improving, but isn’t well enough to go on his way. I meant to tell Jake about him, and I will when I see him next, but I’m afraid Jake will send him off before he’s well enough to go. 

What is this man you’ve found like? 

He’s…well, he’s a little gruff, but he’s also kind and he listens. It’s been so nice having someone in the house. It’s been so quiet here since my parents died. I’ve enjoyed his company. 

If things were different, well, they’re not. 

What do you mean if things were different?

I was simply thinking that my injured man is easier to talk to than Jake…but, he is penniless and could not save my farm. It’s best he heals and then goes on his way. I will be praying for him though and hoping he gets the fresh start he yearns for. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

I expect it will hold children and days spent on the farm. I don’t expect much else to change in my life. I am content with simple dreams and being safe at home. When you’ve struggled to put bread on the table, you stop dreaming of more than your safety. Although, in the couple days I have felt the old inkling for more. I suppose my thoughts are simply addled from lack of sleep. 

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I would like to say that if you see my injured man to please be kind to him. He needs a second chance in life, help him have that and tell him that I will always be cheering him on, even if it is from very far away. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!


For Norah King, her family land is all she has left—and she can’t
lose it, even if it means marrying someone she doesn’t love. Days
before the wedding, she discovers a badly injured man on her
property and chooses to take him in—a decision she could live to
regret.
Norah’s nursing does more than aid Quincy Barnes’s recovery; it also
awakens his heart. But as a penniless man with no home of his own,
Quincy has nothing to offer her. The honorable choice is to leave and
let her marry her intended. The only problem is that when he leaves,
he inadvertently takes something that doesn’t belong to him—
something that will change both their lives forever.
When their paths cross next, Quincy sees firsthand the consequences
of his actions and will go to great lengths to set things right, but will
it be enough?
Can Quincy come clean to Norah and make amends? Or will
their future together be ruined before it has even begun?


Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours
Truly, Thomas
, and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with
heart and she delivers, diving deep into the human experience and
tugging at reader emotions. She loves connecting with people,
traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future projects that
will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a
busy mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she
feels passionate about). She lives with her husband and children on
an island in the state of Washington.

An Interview with Thomas Bartlett from Sean Crose’s Novel Lexington

Question: It must be difficult to be a citizen of Boston in 1775.

Thomas: Everyone knows war is coming. The British government has shut down our port, troops are everywhere, and the Patriots essentially control the entire Massachusetts colony outside the city. 

Question: And who are these Patriots?

Thomas: They’re colonists who feel the government in Britain is treating its subjects here across the Atlantic unfairly. For instance, colonists can’t be represented by one of their own in Parliament. Why is that? Is it because the British government feels the colonists are second class citizens? I would argue it is.

Question:  Are you a Patriot yourself?

Thomas: No. My new wife, Mary – who I adore – is from a family loyal to the crown. She went against their wishes by marrying me, so to save her from further discomfort, I’ve promised I won’t take part in these dangerous events plaguing our time.

Question: That seems rather honorable, but you look uncomfortable discussing the matter.

Thomas: My brother, James, is a member of the Patriots. He lives outside of Boston, in the town of Lexington, where Patriots engage in military drills quite regularly. 

Question: And naturally you’re worried about him and feel somewhat disloyal.

Thomas: Very much so.

Question: What does James feel about you’re not joining his cause?

Thomas: He’d love for me to become a Patriot myself, of course, but James and I see the world differently.

Question: Could you explain?

Thomas: James is an angry man. Indeed, he’s long had a deep anger in him, why I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with our mother passing on at an early age from consumption. At any rate, I fear James sees these troubles before us as an outlet through which he can vent his rage through.

 Question: Have you addressed this matter with him?

Thomas: Most certainly…though I broach the subject gently and in offhanded ways. James must be dealt with delicately most times. For instance, if he finds himself angry at one of his sons – something he often does – I attempt to calm him down. He can be quite ferocious, James.

Question: Is he violent with his children?

Thomas: He’s not violent with anyone. At least not yet. What I mean by this is I suspect James will become physically cruel once war breaks out, that he’ll feel he has an acceptable outlet for his range. 

Question: That’s understandable. Some with anti-British settlements have been known to act in a violent and atrocious manner.

Thomas: Most certainly. And I fear James will soon engage in a violent and atrocious manner himself. There is honorable combat and there is wanton brutality. What will become of James if he acts brutally once war breaks out? What if he harms a prisoner, or worse, kills one? What will that say of his character? What will it say of his soul?

Question: You worry about his soul, then.

Thomas: I do.

Question: You’re a religious man?

Thomas:  A lifelong Congregationalist. 

Question: But not James?

Thomas: He feels he has no use for faith. In truth, it’s one of the reasons I keep nudging him to try to alter his ways, to not let his anger continue to consume him. I worry he’ll die in combat with his soul in an unclean state.

Question: That’s quite a heavy burden to carry around. 

Thomas: To be sure! My new wife, Mary, says that I’m now more concerned with James’ soul than I have any obligation to be.

Question: And why is that?

Thomas: Although my bookstore on Cornhill is, like all businesses in Boston, doing meagre business, Mary feels my place is there. She supports my going to see James, but feels I take such trips too frequently, and with no productive results to show for them. Plus, the colony is dangerous outside of Boston. Lastly, Mary simply feels like too much of my time and effort is focused on James rather than on matters at home. 

Question: Is she right?

Thomas: I shall be blunt. If James should die in the war without having changed his ways, I shall personally feel responsible.

Question: Does Mary know this?

Thomas: She seems to suspect. 

Question:  You say you’re a Congregationalist, yet your thinking concerning James doesn’t adhere to any Christian doctrine. James has free will, after all.

Thomas: As do I…and I’m willfully dedicating myself to saving James.

Question: Even at the expense of something as valuable to you as your new marriage? 

Thomas: …

Question: Do you feel that’s a righteous way to go about things, Thomas? 

Thomas: …

Question: Thomas?

Thomas: 


Sean Crose is the Writing/ESL Specialist for Post University, where he also teaches such subjects as literature, poetry, creative writing, and composition. On top of that, Crose is a Senior Writer for “Boxing Insider,” and a contributor to “The Berkshire Edge.” He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Jen, and Charlie the Cat.

Introducing René Lalique from Magician of Light by J. Fremont

Magician of Light touches on the truth of Lalique’s illustrious life, the people most important to him, and the anguish of some of those personal relationships, creating a unique view of his real life and a compelling storybook love story.

In your formative years, what inspired you to become a jeweler?

I loved to draw and paint, winning competitions early on. Louis Aucoc, a goldsmith, adopted me at age sixteen after my father suddenly died. He gave me an apprenticeship in his jewelry business and taught me the tricks of the trade. This introduced me to professional life as a jeweler and encouraged my passion for the decorative arts. I wanted to take my art from drawings to miniature jewelry paintings, creating sculptural forms from stones, gems, enamel and precious metals.

It’s a rarity when someone becomes an international success in one genre, but an anomaly when it happens in two different fields. What drove you to redirect your focus on glass in the second half of your career?

I was interested in glass very early in my career, beginning with using enamel in my jewelry. My favorite enameling technique is called plique-à-jour. This is a style of enameling, where transparent enamels are fused into metal cells and then acid is used to remove the back of the cell, leaving just a metal filigree and the glass. This is an extremely difficult, time-consuming process, but it produces the most extraordinary effect suggestive of stained glass. One of my largest pieces ever created by employing this method was Femme Libellule, Dragonfly Woman, commissioned by mon bon ami, my good friend, Calouste Gulbenkian. Over time, I incorporated more glass into my jewelry designs before moving onto fabricating larger items, such as perfume bottles. Francois Coty, a perfumer, asked me to design flacons for his fragrances. These items were the impetus of my pursuit of strictly glassmaking. Everything grew from there: my production, the number of clients and employees, my factories and my works. At the end of my career, I focused a great deal on architectural glass projects.

Why has Lalique-designed art stood the test of time?

My art is my passion. Drawing inspiration from three of my favorite loves: flora, fauna, and women. Excellent craftsmanship is important to me and I strive to create distinguished works by using my imagination and my hands. Employing many methods, I sculpted extra dimension into my objets d’art. Utilizing the organic colors of nature, toying with unique materials and contemplating the interplay of light in transparency and opacity of atypical gemstones and glass, I attempted to create something never seen before. 

What advice would you give a young entrepreneurial-designer today?

Study nature, and bygone styles for sources of inspiration. Instead of mimicking, use the ideas and techniques of other eras and people to create your own unique brand. Use experimentation and reinvent aspects, qualities but combine them into new configurations. Create novel constructions from your perspective. Most of all, use your imagination and be true to your artful self.

Who were the people most influential on your success?

So many people were integral to my success. Foremost, my mother. She inspired me with her love, creativity and work ethic, but she also helped me financially by paying for my schooling in France and at the Sydenham College in the Crystal Palace in England. Artistic friends, including my father-in-law, Auguste Ledru, sculptor, and, of course, Francois Coty, all contributed to my eminence. My most influential promoter and patron was Sarah Bernhardt. She introduced me to many clients, including Calouste Gulbenkian, one of my most important clients.

Did building your company in France and Paris impact the Lalique brand?

I love my city, my country and would live nowhere else. The Lalique brand is luxury and style. Paris has been the fashion capital of the Western world since the seventeenth century. As a Frenchman, of course, my company could only be based in France.

Do you have professional and personal regrets when looking back on your life?

I succumbed to my passions and sometimes got consumed by them. Perhaps I was a workaholic and should have spent more time with my loved ones. 

You mentioned education at the Sydenham College. Why did you choose this institution? 

I wanted to travel and explore unknown places. Sydenham College focused on aspects of art and business that I wanted to master. William Morris, Japonisme, the aesthetic movement, were a few of the influences that I wanted to absorb and it was an excellent school for draughtsman to improve my illustration. The school also provided knowledge of modern engineering, improved manufacturing techniques, innovative industrial methods and exposure to British design reforms regarding the decorative arts. Plus, I wanted to improve my English. I also met a young lady, Mademoiselle Haliburton. Elle était belle à croquer, a beautiful, desirous woman.

You met a pretty woman, Miss Haliburton, in England. Can you tell us more about her and your relationship?

Non. Please read my story, Magician of Light, to find out that information.


Photo by Marc Glassman

J. Fremont is an author and veterinarian. For more than twenty-five years, she practiced small animal veterinary medicine in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at a local university and community college. The mother of two adult sons, she lives in Southern California with her husband of thirty years. Retired from veterinary medicine, J now spends her time developing her artistic side. In addition to writing, she is a passionate practitioner of the decorative arts, including jewelry making, glass fusing, sewing, and creating mixed media for fun. She enjoys photography, gardening, and posting on Instagram, as well as building gorgeous Pinterest boards. You can find her on her website: https://drjfremont.com/
Facebook: @jfremont | Instagram: @insidetheegg

Meet Calla from Ann H. Gabhart’s new novel, When the Meadow Blooms

Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Calla! We are pleased you stopped by today.

I am so glad to be here to talk about what’s been happening in my life and that of my sister, Sienhttp://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/when-the-meadow-blooms/399000/affiliatesna, and my mother, Rose. They said I should be the one to come talk to you since I’m the older sister at 15. Sienna is only nine. And too much talking sometimes is difficult for my mother, Rose, since she had tuberculosis.

So introduce yourself, dear. Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

My name is Calla Rose Meadows, and yes, there is definitely something very special about my name. My second name is after my mother, Rose. Since her name is a flower, she wanted flower names for Sienna and me. She chose Calla for me because her mother loved calla lilies. She had some bulbs she dug up each fall and planted again in the spring. While I never saw them, Mama said the flowers were white and seemed to represent peace to her mother. When her mother died, Mama planted the bulbs on her grave. I like to imagine them still blooming there, but Mama says the bulbs wouldn’t have survived our cold Kentucky winters. But I can still imagine them there.

I’m so sorry to hear that your mother had tuberculosis. I’m sure that was a very difficult time for her and for you. Can you tell us about it?

Oh yes, it was terrible. Mama had to go to a sanitarium since the best treatment according to the doctors is fresh air, sunshine and good food. My father died during the flu epidemic in 1918 and we didn’t have any other family to take in Sienna and me while Mama was getting treatment there. I couldn’t take care of Sienna myself since I was only twelve when Mama got sick. So, Mama had to take us to an orphanage. She thought it would just be for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, until she would be better and able to come back for us. But sadly, the treatment wasn’t that quick and we were at the Home for Girls for almost two years. That was very difficult for my sister. 

You sound as if that was only difficult for her and not you. Why is that?

Sienna has always been a little different. Mama says she simply thinks about things in unique ways. Sienna loves anything to do with nature–flowers, birds, animals. She even loves spiders and snakes. I cannot understand that. Anyway, while I had no trouble following the many rules of behavior in the orphanage, Sienna’s mind would wander to those spiders and birds. She would forget about the rules and constantly get in trouble. I hated it when I knew she was going to be punished, but I could never seem to keep it from happening.

Poor child. I am so sorry.

Well, things are better now. 

What made things better for you? Did your mother get well?

Mama says she will never be as healthy as she was before the tuberculosis. She did get well enough to leave the sanitarium but her doctor said she wouldn’t be well enough to work making hats as she did before. Without that income, we couldn’t rent a place to live. Something, perhaps the Lord’s nudging, made me remember that my father had a brother. While my uncle had long lived a reclusive life and I had never met him, I took a chance and wrote him. I begged him to let us come to his farm, Meadowland. I was that sure a farm with lots of fresh air and sunshine would be the perfect place for Mama and for Sienna too. Don’t you think a place called Meadowland would be like that?

It does make one think of blue skies and fields of flowers. So did you get to go and was it as nice as you imagined?

Yes, Uncle Dirk didn’t just send for us. He came to the orphanage himself. And Meadowland was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Wide fields. Butterflies and flowers. A river flowing past it. I could not have wished a better place for Sienna.

But weren’t you a little nervous going to live with an uncle you had never met? One who had been, as you said earlier, a reclusive person?

Maybe a little at first because of the way he looked. The scars on his face and all. But Sienna wasn’t bothered at all. At first sight, she surprised him with a hug as though she’d known him forever.

Scars?  Oh my. I think you need to tell me more about your uncle. 

When he was a young man he was badly burned in a barn fire. Mama said he would have probably died if my father, only fourteen at the time, hadn’t pulled him out of the fire. Uncle Dirk was trying to save his one true love, Anneliese. He believed she was in the barn. Mama says nobody thought he would survive except his mother who sent up many prayers for him while nursing him back to health. But Uncle Dirk has many scars from that battle.

Did he save Anneliese? 

It turned out she wasn’t in the barn. It’s a long story and one better told by Uncle Dirk. While I’ve always been very curious about it, Mama forbade me to ask my uncle anything about Anneliese. Don’t you just love that name? Anyway, all I know is that she disappeared and Uncle Dirk could never find her. I think his broken heart even more than his scarred face is what caused him to hide away from people on his farm.   

That does sound like a story worth hearing. 

Perhaps you can get the full story from him someday. I do know she was beautiful and Uncle Dirk loved her very much.

All right. Let’s think about you and your sister again. Tell me about Sienna.

 Oh, that’s much easier to answer. I would do anything for Sienna. She is such a special girl. Mama says she’s a pure soul. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but Sienna does have a loving heart for any and all living creatures. She wanted to make friends with a mouse while we were still at the Home for Girls and couldn’t wait to get to the farm to meet some farm mice. It turns out that mice are shyer than she thought. So, she made friends with some crows first. She even named them, and those crows were amazing. Almost as amazing as my little sister. 

She does sound like someone we would all like to get to know better. While I’m intrigued by all your troubles and adventures, it’s time to wrap up our interview. What is something you have wanted more than anything? 

A forever home. Even before Mama got sick and Sienna and I had to go to the Home for Girls, we continually had to move to cheaper rooms because Mama couldn’t make enough money making her hats. And then we had no home at all while we were separated from Mama. So we, all of us, dreamed of having a forever home together. We hoped Meadowland might be that, but then something happened to upset Uncle Dirk. Something I did and I thought I had ruined it all. And then there was a storm and… But I can’t tell it all. You’ll just have to read our story to find out what happened. 

We certainly want to do that to find out more about your story. Thanks for coming to talk to us, Calla, and sharing about your family and Meadowland. 


After a tragic fire and the loss of his one true love, Dirk Meadows has lived a reclusive life,
but when his late brother’s family needs a place to stay, he opens up his home even as he
intends to keep his heart closed. Rose has known much loss in her life, but the hardest thing
she ever had to do was leave her daughters at an orphanage while she is treated at a
tuberculosis sanatorium. So she is happy to accept Dirk’s offer of shelter once she is well
enough to reclaim her children. Calla and Sienna have difficult experiences at the orphanage
but feel rescued when they go to Meadowland, their uncle’s farm. Sienna, nine, has a special
feel for animals and birds. Her friendship with a couple of crows, who bring her gifts, cause
a crisis threatening the happiness Rose and her daughters have found at Meadowland. But
then the crows’ gifts open a door to the past to help Dirk find healing as he faces the truth
of what happened years before. His nieces’ love breaks through the shield around his heart
and opens him up to love again.


Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Along a Storied Trail,
An Appalachian Summer, River to Redemption, These Healing Hills, and
Angel Sister, along with several Shaker novels—The Refuge, The
Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed
, and The Gifted. She and
her husband live on a farm a mile from where she was born in
rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the everyday wonders of
nature while hiking in her farm’s fields and woods with her
grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley. Learn more at
www.annhgabhart.com.

Meet Marion Davies as seen in the novel THE BLUE BUTTERFLY by Leslie Johansen Nack

Ann Leonard: Thank you for doing this. I know you don’t do many interviews. Your life has been iconic in so many ways. Will you look back with me and answer a few questions about William Randolph Hearst – or WR as you like to call him – and Norman Kerry and of course, Charlie Chaplin? And I hope we can talk about your daughter Patricia, and your sisters, and of course Orson Welles and Citizen Kane. 

Marion Davies: Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be able to talk openly about subjects that were taboo when I lived them. 

Ann Leonard: Well, then let’s dive in. When you think of WR now, what do you think of? 

MD: Love. His uncompromising devotion and love for me. WR adored me and though he had his ideas about how to show me and how to protect me, his love was like a big bear hug, it sometimes smothered me. 

AL: There were rumors about WR hiring private detectives to follow you so he could keep an eye on you. Is that true?

MD: It’s true. He started doing that while we were still in New York. He’d have to leave town for work or whatever he did when he wasn’t with me, and he wanted to know where I was every single minute. He was so jealous. It made me so mad but he would never stop it, no matter how much I begged. 

AL: Later it must have been hard, after you moved to Hollywood, and he hosted Millicent and his four sons at San Simeon while the Castle was being built. 

MD: Please don’t call it that. WR hated when people called it a Castle. Please call it the Ranch. Thank you. [She pauses and looks out the window.] Yes, it was hard to be hidden from sight when Millicent came to town. It broke my heart. I knew WR didn’t love her, but he had to be a father to his boys and they always travelled with her when they were young. Those were tough years after we moved west. 

AL: But isn’t that when you and Charlie Chaplin began your affair? 

MD: Charlie was a sweetheart. I loved him dearly and the chemistry we had was undeniable and incomprehensible to me. The air crackled when we were together. We enjoyed ourselves immensely during those early years. I know you have details that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I’ve read parts of the book coming out – THE BLUE BUTTERFLY – and I don’t object to anything. 

AL: That’s quite an endorsement Ms. Davies. I’m sure the world will love hearing that. Can we talk about your movies? Which one was your favorite?

MD: So many were my favorites. My first, Runaway Romany will always be my favorite even though it was a horrible little film. But I wrote the script, starred in it, and found financing myself at age 20. WR didn’t help me at all. Some of my other favorites are Buried Treasure, When Knighthood Was in Flower and Show People. It’s hard to pick favorites.

AL: Can we talk about Patricia? You and WR have denied that she’s your daughter for your entire life. Can you please answer once and for all, is Patricia Van Cleve Lake your daughter? 

MD: [She stares at her hands and folds them together, placing them on her lap and then looks up.] Yes, Patricia is our daughter. Why is the world so obsessed with this fact? Why does it matter? Yes, Patricia is my lovely daughter, and I am so proud of her and my grandchildren and Arthur of course. He was such a good father. Now, let me ask YOU this: what will you do with this knowledge? 

AL: Breaking the news of one of the best kept secrets in a hundred years will be wonderful. Finally we can lay it to rest. Can I ask about another rumor? Did WR kill Thomas Ince aboard his boat that fateful weekend? 

MD: Let’s get all the dirty laundry out, shall we? No! WR couldn’t kill a fly. He was jealous of Charlie and me and yes, Thomas and his girlfriend Margaret were aboard that weekend, but Thomas had a bleeding ulcer that an infection caused his demise – not WR! 

AL: Of all the theories about what happened that weekend, your explanation is the most boring of them all. 

MD: That’s how you know it’s true. WR was a lover of animals and a tender soul who wouldn’t hurt anything. I loved WR more than anything even though he bugged me so much. He lectured me and everybody about history, and about artifacts, and about doing the right thing, and being a good citizen. It made us all crazy. It bored me to tears sometimes, but I loved him more than I can explain. We were meant to be together, him and I. 

AL: Do you wish you had been able to marry?

MD: Of course I do. I wish we could have been like everybody else, instead of a circus show. But it wasn’t meant to be. Millicent refused to give WR a divorce, and when she did get close to agreeing to the divorce, she always had second thoughts and demanded some outrageous thing be added to the terms of the divorce. She was a greedy, small, and spiteful woman. And she won in the end. 

AL: I hate to end on such a sour note, but thank you for the interview. You are most gracious and kind. I thank you for telling the truth. 

MD: Of course, you are welcome. 


Leslie Johansen Nack’s debut, Fourteen, received five indie awards, including the 2016 Finalist in Memoir at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Before she started writing, she raised two children, ran a mechanical engineering business with her husband, took care of her aging mother, and dreamed of retirement when she could write full-time. She did everything late in life, including getting her degree in English Literature from UCLA at age thirty-one, only two years after she married for the second time. If you want to know when her next book is coming out, please visit her website www.lesliejohansennack.com and sign up to receive an email when she has her next release. She lives in sunny San Diego and enjoys sailing, hiking and reading.

Interview with Calliope Jeffers from Donna Schlacter’s Calli

Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Calliope. What can you tell us about yourself?

Calli: Thanks so much. I’m glad to be here. Let me introduce myself. My name is Calliope Jeffers, but everybody calls me Calli. I guess you’d call me the heroine of the story, although that makes me sound so brave, and I’m anything but. You could call me the love interest, but that would be telling the end before the beginning. I’m a recent widow, my husband having died suddenly on duty here where we live in Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory. I’m stepping out in baby steps, figuring out what comes next.

Novel PASTimes: Okay, Calli. Please tell us something about where you live.

Calli: As I said, Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory. It’s an exciting time, 1870. There are still wagon trains heading west. Not so many as there used to be, I’m told. The fort is a popular stopping point for supplies, medical care, a blacksmith, and the town itself has several saloons, although I’ve not seen them personally. There are more than a hundred men stationed here, plus a good many civilian employees and military wives. Even a few children.

Novel PASTimes: Do you have a cherished possession?  

Calli: The Bible my parents gave me. When my husband was stationed in Fort Bridger, he said I could bring one suitcase. Can you imagine? How to choose amongst my beautiful dresses, coats, hats, and shoes? But, as he reminded me, we would have nowhere to wear such fripperies, and so there was no point in bringing them. So instead, I filled my suitcase with medical books. And my Bible. It’s the only thing I have from them. I still had room for two dresses, a pair of boots, underclothing (which I won’t mention here), and essentials such as a hairbrush and hair pins.

Novel PASTimes: How do you feel about your occupation? 

Calli:  I love being a nurse. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to help people. Of course, back then, boys grew up to be doctors, and girls grew up to be nurses. Perhaps one day, that won’t be true. I do almost all the same things Doc Wheldon would do if he were there, which he often isn’t. And while I can, I still like the personal care of the patient, listening to them, talking to them, writing letters home for them. Most of my patients are soldiers and their wives, both of whom have made a huge sacrifice to serve their country. We should keep them in our prayers.

Novel PASTimes: What is your deepest, most closely held secret? 

Calli:  I struggle with the fact that I loved my husband so deeply that in simply looking at another man, I’m doing both a disservice. Yes, I understand marriage is “til death do us part”, but every time I see Bradley Wilson, I think of my husband. The only thing I can do is trust that God has a plan, and if Mr. Wilson is part of that, then love will come again. How lucky a woman could I be, to love deeply and eternally twice in this life!

Novel PASTimes: Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord? 

Calli:  I thought I did. I mean, I prayed. Read my Bible. Went to church. But when my husband died, I was angry with Him. He could have saved him, couldn’t He? So why wasn’t he worth saving? That’s what I wanted to know. And the platitudes from the women at the fort didn’t help. God needed another angel. Then why didn’t He simply make another like He did with the first of creation? I was certain my husband died because I didn’t have enough faith.

Novel PASTimes: Has it changed? Why? 

Calli:  When I had that tiny baby depending on me, seeing the way she needed me for food, changing her diaper, keeping her safe, I saw what God wanted to have with me. When I didn’t have what she needed, I felt so helpless. I couldn’t depend on somebody else to save us—I had to turn back to God. Knowing I’m a daughter of the King of kings has changed my life.

Novel PASTimes: That makes a big difference, I agree! What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

Calli:  I’m told I shouldn’t give away the end of the story but suffice it to say that now that my relationship with God has deepened, I know He will be with me all the way. Currently, there are several bright opportunities on the horizon, placed there by God, planned by Him especially for me, so whatever happens, it is well with my soul. Hmm. That sounds like another great hymn in the making.

Novel PASTimes: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

Calli:  I’ve learned that the only One I can truly trust in is God. I’m an independent woman, secure in my profession, able to earn a living for myself. When my husband died, I thought, “Well, this is just another chapter in my life. I must move on and do what I need.” But I couldn’t forget my husband. He seemed in my thoughts every day. And when I met Mr. Wilson, I found myself comparing him to my husband. And always falling short. I realized that unless I had a deep and meaningful relationship with God, unless I trusted in His Son Jesus, I would always fall short in God’s eyes, too. So please, if you haven’t surrendered your life to God and your heart to Jesus, do so. It’s simple. Here’s a short prayer: Dear God, I know I’ve ignored You for a long time. But I give my life to You. Do with it what you will. And Jesus, I know you paid the price for my sin. Please forgive me. I will strive to follow you all the days of my life. Amen. Next, tell somebody of your decision, then find a Bible-believing church. If you’d like to share with me, you can contact me at donna AT livebytheword DOT com

***

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Calli works as a nurse with the US Army at Fort Bridger, Wyoming in 1880. When a wagon train full of discouraged emigrants passes through on its way east, a pregnant widow delivers her baby then dies. Bradley Wilson, leading this train, has few options. He asks Calli to travel with them until they find a relative to take the child in St. Joe, Missouri. Calli, drawn to both this dark and quiet man and the child, resists. But when she disappears, he wonders if she’s run away or been kidnapped. Can these two put their pasts behind them and move into a new future together? Or will Calli insist on having things her own way?

BUY CALLI HERE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter at my website!

Donna’s Blog

Previous blog posts at: History Through the Ages and All Bets Are Off.

Facebook and Twitter.

Amazon, Bookbub, and GoodReads.

Etsy online shop of Donna’s original artwork..

Interview with Grace Tonquin from Melanie Dobson’s The Winter Rose

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for joining us, Grace. You’ve had quite a journey in your life.

Grace: I’m grateful for both the ups and downs.

Novel PASTimes: You’re grateful for the downs?

Grace: Those are the times, I think, when I’ve felt God’s presence the most. In the dark seasons while I served in France and then during the even darker years that followed.

Novel PASTimes: You’ve quoted Psalm 27 quite often along the way.

Grace: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” That reminder gave me courage to continue on.

Novel PASTimes: How many children did you and Roland care for in France?

Grace: I’m not certain. The American Friends Service Committee kept the numbers. I was focused on the daily needs of the refugee kids until we realized that we had to get those who remained with us out of France.

Novel PASTimes: How many children did you escort across the mountains?

Grace: Twelve . . . at least we started with twelve. One had to turn back.

Novel PASTimes: I don’t suppose you could tell us who . . .

Grace: That’s not my story to tell.

Novel PASTimes: You are a hero to every one of those kids.

Grace: A servant, my friend. Answering when our Lord calls.

Novel PASTimes: Can you tell us what happened to Charlie?

Grace: His life was a miracle, but I don’t want to spoil the ending of the book.

Novel PASTimes: Fair enough. Could you tell us instead the significance of the winter rose?

Grace: A winter rose can grow wild in the mountains, in the most rugged terrain. It looks fragile but it’s very strong, defying the winds and cold weather with its strength. A winter rose shows beauty and strength, I think, in the hardest of circumstances.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for not giving up on the children in France.

Grace: My husband and I have been blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined in our years together. It’s an honor to share our story.

* * *

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Winter Rose

In this gripping WWII time-slip novel from the author whose books have been called “propulsive” and a “must-read” (Publishers Weekly), Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker who works tirelessly in Vichy France to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis. After crossing the treacherous Pyrénées, Grace returns home to Oregon with a brother and sister whose parents were lost during the war. Though Grace and her husband love Élias and Marguerite as their own, echoes of Grace’s past and trauma from the Holocaust tear the Tonquin family apart.

More than fifty years after they disappear, Addie Hoult arrives at Tonquin Lake, hoping to find the Tonquin family. For Addie, the mystery is a matter of life and death for her beloved mentor Charlie, who is battling a genetic disease. Though Charlie refuses to discuss his ties to the elusive Tonquins, finding them is the only way to save his life and mend the wounds from his broken past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than twenty historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including her latest, The Winter Rose. Five of her novels have won Carol Awards; Catching the Wind and Memories of Glass were nominated for a Christy Award in the historical fiction category; Catching the Wind won an Audie Award in the inspirational fiction category; and The Black Cloister won the Foreword magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year. Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes. Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters and live near Portland, Oregon. Visit Melanie online at melaniedobson.com.