Interview with Dr. Alun Withey


Good morning! I’m delighted to have Dr. Alun Withey visiting me, all the way from Wales. Last year, while doing resarch for Heartbeat of the Moon, I happened upon Dr. Withey’s excellent blog: . He’s written an impressive number of informative and entertaining blogs on subjects as varied as the significance of the beard throughout history, and medical treatments for the time period.

Dr. Withey is an academic historian of medicine and the body, and a research fellow at the University of Exeter. He did his thesis on medicine in 17th and 18th Century Wales. You can imagine what an invaluable source his work is for an historical romance author like myself. It’s like stepping back in time, only with modern plumbing. Welcome, Alun!

Alun: Thanks for inviting me onto your blog!

Jennifer: Would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself?

AlunI left school with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, and ended up in an office job, working for a major UK bank…where I stayed for more than 10 years. I’ve always had a love of history though, and especially the 17th Century, and started to study whilst I was still working.

In 2003, with the support of my family, I took the big step of leaving the bank and went to University, taking my BA, MA, and finally my PhD on Welsh medical history in 2009, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The rest, as they say, is history! Finding medical history was a complete and happy accident.

Jennifer: You are a 2014 AHRC /BBC ‘New Generation Thinker’. Can you tell us about that?

Alun: Every year the New Generation Thinkers scheme gives an opportunity for 10 individuals to work closely with radio and television producers to develop their ideas for broadcast. It’s a highly competitive scheme, but is a fantastic opportunity for anyone (like me!) who enjoys reaching a broader audience for their work. Through the scheme I’ve been lucky enough to work on programmes for BBC Radio and the BBC Arts TV channel, often live, which can be both exhilarating and challenging, and speak to the public about my research. I’m certain that it’s also opened doors in other ways.

Jennifer: It sounds like a huge honor. Your articles give readers a detailed glimpse into the everyday life of folks in the early modern period. Since the heroine of my series is a midwife in the 18th Century, I’m particularly fascinated with your articles on medical history. Here’s one of my favorites from 10/17/14: “Seventeenth Century Remedies You’d Probably Want to Avoid.”

One of the treatments you uncovered for “collick” was to distill the testicles of a chicken (do I have that right?) and take a few teaspoons when the need arises. Wow. Would you like to add anything to that? What’s one of the most bizarre treatments you’ve ever come across?

Alun: Yes, you’re absolutely right about the chicken’s testicles! When I’m looking at early modern remedy collections I commonly come across one that I think must surely be the most unusual…and then another one crops up to take its place. Two favourites spring to mind: first is the ‘oil of swallows’ to treat shrunken limbs, which involves catching 20 (or more) live swallows, baking them to a powder, adding all sorts of oils and herbs, putting the pot into a hot dunghill for 2 weeks, then rubbing the oil onto the limbs.

The other is a cure for constipation, which directs the afflicted person to squat down over a bucket of boiling milk for as long as they can bear it…or until something starts to move!

Jennifer: I’m trying to imagine how people ever came up with such unusual treatments. And it’s also fascinating to think about how many people did survive and indeed thrived in that time period. What, in your opinion, did they do right?

Alun: Studying early modern medicine can be challenging. You have to balance cool academic detachment with the urge to burst out laughing at times. In all seriousness though, it’s important to remember that early modern medical remedies were based on a perfectly logical, coherent and complex model of the body – the humours. If you believe, as they did, that the body works in a particular way, and that sickness is something to be driven out, then the majority of the remedies make perfect sense.

Also, the many ingredients that seem strange to modern eyes are also based on their assumptions about the properties and powers that they contained. So, products from animals, herbs etc., were all believed to have certain virtues, which could be harnessed to cure particular ailments. I often remind people that what we think of as modern medicine (biomedicine) has existed for not much more than a century, whereas beliefs in the humours lasted thousands of years. That being said, I’m not suggesting that people go hunting for swallows, or chopping the ‘cods’ off chickens for their medicines!

Jennifer: Ha ha! You’ve written at length about the social significance of men’s grooming. What would you like us to know about that?

Alun: The project I’m currently working on is looking at the health and hygiene history of facial hair, between 1700 and 1918. A big part of this is how shaving moved from being something originally done by a medical practitioner (a barber or barber-surgeon), and over time became part of the personal grooming routines of individuals. It’s easy to think of personal grooming as something that is unimportant and mundane. But the decisions involved in shaving (or not shaving), the growth of male skin products, scents, and even things like cosmetic procedures, all involve decisions. These can link into fashion, but also other important things like health, ideals of appearance, masculinity and so on. That’s why I think that it is important to capture the history of these things over a long period, to see how things change and, perhaps more importantly, why.

Jennifer: You are also the author of Physick and the Family: Health, Medicine and Care in Wales, 1600-1750, and Technology, Self-Fashioning and Politeness in Eighteenth Century Britain: Refined Bodies. I can only imagine the tremendous amount of dedication and patience it takes to unearth such detailed information.

Alun: I think if you love what you do then the work is made much easier. I’ve certainly covered a lot of mileage over the years, hunting for the sources for my books, but the joy for me is encountering documents that probably haven’t seen the light of day for decades. I’ve never lost (and hope I never do) the thrill of touching a centuries-old manuscript, which was once the property of a real 17th or 18th-century person, and with their words and thoughts on it. It’s as close as you can get to actually being able to speak to them.

Jennifer: Alun, I’m curious about what set you on the road to becoming a medical historian.

Alun: It was actually a complete accident. In 2006 I was looking for sources for my undergraduate dissertation, which I intended to be about the civil wars in 17th-century Wales. I went to a record office on one particular day, and asked the archivist on duty whether he knew of any contemporary sources. He thought, and then suggested a 17th-century notebook in their collections, which nobody had really worked on. I ordered the book up, and was immediately struck by some remedies in it, including a cure for smallpox, as well as a pill ‘to make a horse pisse’! I did some further investigating and discovered that very little had actually been written on Welsh medical history, so this became the subject of my undergraduate dissertation…which was published, and then informed my MA thesis…which ultimately led to the PhD.

What I love most about the history of medicine is that you’re ultimately dealing with people just like us – people who just wanted to avoid being ill, relieve their symptoms and get better. Even if we put all the grand theory and science aside, medical history makes us ask important questions about the human condition, and our journey through life.

Jennifer: You’ve really given us a lot to think about. What’s the least and most favorite part of your job?

Alun: I think the favourite parts would be the actual process of research – the thrill of the chase, and being able to pass some of these fantastic sources on, whether through formal ways like the academic publishing and teaching, or to a wider audience through the blog, or the media activities. It’s a joy to do.

I don’t really have a least favourite…although I guess something like doing the final edits for a book, or especially the index, might come close!

Jennifer: Doing an index does sound pretty daunting. What’s next for you?

Alun: For the next two years I’m working on my Wellcome Trust-funded project on the history of facial hair, so there’s lots of research to do, writing and (hopefully) another book and other exciting things such as curating a museum exhibition in London in November.

Jennifer: That’s exciting. How about music? It’s vital for me as a writer. Do you use it as inspiration for your writing?

Alun: I love all sorts of music – especially the blues/rock, but I can’t work to it…I just end up listening to the music without actually doing the writing. Instead I usually put something gentler when I’m writing – often classical music (Vaughan Williams is a favourite), or something acoustic.

Jennifer: Tell us about your guitar playing.

Alun: I’ve been playing for 30 years now and can’t imagine being without a guitar. When I’m working there is always an acoustic guitar within reach and I often pick it up and play absent-mindedly…helps me get my thoughts together. I used to have 12 guitars, but now it’s down to a more reasonable 8! There is still one guitar that I’d love to own – a Gibson jumbo-acoustic. Next time I go to the States I may come home with one!

Jennifer: Thanks very much for visiting my blog today, Alun.

Alun: My pleasure, and thanks for having me.



Alun’s social media links: 

Alun’s Website:

Twitter: @dralun


Interview with Linda Tillis

Good morning!

I’m thrilled to have debut author Linda Tillis with me today. Linda is the author of A Heart Made for Love, a historical romance published by the Wild Rose Press. Here’s some background about her wonderful book:

In rural Florida, 1903, Mae Hinton cares for her father and younger brothers, trying to fill her deceased mother’s shoes. Her life is shattered and her faith tested when her innocence is stolen by roving miscreants. Left unconscious, unable to identify her attackers, she pledges to help other victimized women. She pursues an education and learns to deal with bigoted ministers, well-to-do hypocrites, and men with higher regard for their livestock than their women.

Edward Finch is nearly done with medical studies in England when he comes home for the holidays. Love flourishes, and Mae seems close to achieving her dreams of both true love and a haven for victims, once she can explain to him why she carries a pistol. Then her new-found happiness is upset by a murder as one of her attackers returns.

She may settle this herself…or she may find that vengeance truly belongs to God.


Welcome, Linda! Your story opens with Mae, your heroine, reeling from a horrible attack upon her body and soul. From page one, there’s no mistaking this woman has a fight on her hands to be whole. What really touches me is her unselfishness and her desire to help other women who have suffered from bad fortune makes her such an outstanding character. And I love her strength and resilience. What prompted you to write this powerful story?

Linda:  I spent 20 years as a Crime Scene Investigator. During this time, I observed women from all walks of life as they dealt with abuse. I photographed their injuries and testified in court on their behalf. Sadly, I watched as some of them were victims again, and again.  I felt their story needed to be told, and that it might give hope to a reader out there who might need a little nudge to better her own life.

Jennifer: All authors bring with them their own life experiences that enrich their writing and breathe life into their characters. Tell us about your background and how it’s enabled you to write A Heart Made for Love.

Linda:  I was born in the coal mining country of Kentucky. It was a very rural setting, and one I am comfortable speaking about. I ran barefoot through the mountains all summer, drank from a cool, sweet well, and picked vegetables straight from the garden for lunch.  I don’t think I will ever be able to write a contemporary story. I much prefer my daydreaming to be in days gone by.

Jennifer:  Your varied work experience is so fascinating. You’re the first actual milliner I’ve ever met! I love how you’ve woven the different fabrics of your life into the story. The relationship between Mae, her family, and the people whose life she enriches is heart-warming, and testimony that despite the darkness  existing in the world, it’s possible to thrive, love, and persevere.

I really enjoy the setting of your book, and the feel of a bygone era that you’ve managed to create. I won’t lie-I’ve been craving my grandma’s bread and butter pickles since your hero and heroine went on their picnic. What made you decide to set your book in this time period?

Linda: I think the early 1900’s must have been a relatively peaceful time. The civil war existed only in the minds of the old, and World War I was still a few years away, so folks were able to concentrate on life, and of course, love.

Jennifer: This is such an exciting time in your life, isn’t it? It’s no small feat to complete an entire book, let alone get a publishing contract. What did you learn about yourself during its creation-good, bad, or ugly?

Linda: While I have accomplished many things in life, I have never felt accomplished. I survived two failed marriages, the first was eighteen years, and the second five. I had three wonderful, intelligent, productive children, but I always felt they were God’s achievement, not mine. And then I met the man who would become my third husband, and the love of my life.  There is a scene in the book that came straight from our story. Garth Hinton meets Elinor in the garden and a beam of sunlight shines directly on her and he takes that as a sign.  My Beau and I lived that scene. Beau is the source of my strength. He helped me to realize that, not only was I capable of writing a book, but that it would be good enough to be published.

I also learned that while I “have a way with words,” my knowledge of punctuation is atrocious!

Jennifer: We writers do tend to discover our weaknesses during the writing of a book. But also our strengths!  That’s a wonderful story about how you and Beau. You are also a talented seamstress/hat-maker and also enjoy crafts. Do you ever turn to that if you get stuck with your writing? (It happens to most everyone from time to time.) What inspires you?

Linda: The hat making came about as a by-product of photography. When I retired from my CSI position my husband bought me a good camera and said, “Go photograph living things.” And I did.  I decided I wanted to do themed portraits, but could not find the vintage hats that I wanted, so I learned to make them.

Jennifer: That’s amazing, Linda! What’s next for you?  

Linda: Well, I had a co-worker read A Heart Made For Love for me, and when she finished she said, “I’ve always wanted a brother like Samuel.” And so I had to write Samuel’s story, A Man With A Pure Heart, which is in the hands of my awesome editor now.


Jennifer: Thanks so much for joining me today, Linda.


Linda: Thanks so much for allowing me to visit!


Barnes & Noble


Interview with Flossie Benton Rogers


It’s such a treat to have Flossie Benton Rogers on my Blog today. She is the author of paranormal fantasy romances, and I absolutely love what she says on her award-winning website at

“Mysterious realms beckon me to play with more than what I see with my baby blues. If romance and adventure turn you on, you may be on the right lily pad!”

Hello, Flossie. Welcome!

FLOSSIE: Thank you for inviting me, Jennifer!

Flossie, the quote above reflects your wonderful blend of rich, well-drawn characters and fantastical settings in your Wytchfae Series.  These appealing heroes and heroines spice up the page: in Wytchfae #2, Guardian of the Deep, you feature a succubus named Layla, whose mission is seducing sleeping men. Nice work if you can get it! Pair her up with Samael, a sexy merman who rules the ocean, and you have an unbeatable adventure that sweeps readers off their feet and into another world.

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Blurb: A fiery succubus. A captivated undersea lord. With a shadow shifting demon hot on their trail, can they stay alive long enough to fall in love?

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     ITunes 

Kobo          Inktera

Flossie, you weave mythology into your stories so beautifully. What do you have in your own author’s bag of tricks that help you do that? What’s your inspiration?

Flossie: Old myths and tales honor the high stakes of humans living in a multi-dimensional reality full of magical surprises we tend to take for granted. My bag of tricks includes an interest in rune casting, tarot, astrology, numerology, gemstones, and Reiki.

Let’s play a game I call the moment when… share with us where you were the moment when the concept for your Wytchfae series came about.

Flossie: Writing has been something I’ve done all my life. Inspired by successful authors I knew such as Loretta Rogers and encouraged by my husband’s faith, as well as his gift of a new laptop, in the summer of 2011 I decided I was going to become a published author. I knew I wanted to write a series where the heroines were related or connected in some way, were kick ass, and had special powers. From under the bed I dragged a moldy NaNoWriMo first draft as a starting point of inspiration. Before long a Viking ghost started “tramping through my living room.” He was Ingvar, soon to be hero of Wytchfae Runes, and he proved to be a handful and also a godsend. He more or less introduced me to his soon to be heroine, Kelly. As Kelly and Ingvar formed from the mist, so did the Wytchfae world of parallel dimensions and dark, interconnecting tunnels deep within the caverns of the underworld.

Where were you the moment when you became interested in mythology?

Flossie: My early affinity for fairy tales, reading, and ancient times naturally flowed into a passion for mythology and literature. I recall a certain orange tree. Secluded high inside its boughs as a child, I was the fairy guardian of its magic and beheld all manner of wonders and mysteries.

Years later, there was a moment in time when I realized my mythological “take on life.” In 10th grade history class, our teacher Mr. McGill posed the following scenario:

“The world maintains that 2 + 2 = 4. How do we know there is not a little green invisible man always taking away one number, and that 2 + 2 is not really 5?”

That stunning moment resonated with me as a deep truth. In my books I try to touch into the profound magic that often goes unrecognized and unseen.

How about the moment when you got your first contract. How long was the journey from aspiring writer to published author?

Flossie: My various email accounts aggregate to my phone. After submitting my first novel for consideration on May 17, 2012, I became a feverish, demented email checker, a state of frenzy that continued undiminished for several weeks. Nothing came. Nothing came. Nothing came. Or at least not from the hallowed publisher. The consideration time listed on the website passed by. Did they not like my book? Was it a terrible book? The most horrible book ever written? How could that be when I had such wonderful critique partners? Sighing and scrolling my email on the phone, I spied a clump of emails. They squatted there in bold print, UNREAD. My heart pounding, I tapped open a 3-day old email. It was from the hallowed publisher. She loved my book. She wanted to publish my book. She had attached a contract! My husband said, “I knew you’d do it.” The book came out October 17, 2012.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Flossie: Read, travel, paint, crochet, and spend time with my grandsons, my precious Snickerdoodles.

Favorite quote from one of your books?

Flossie: From Mind Your Goddess: Hell’s blaze. I must look like a mermaid in a mud bog.

What’s on the horizon for you?

Flossie: I’m branching out into lighter paranormal with one of my current WIPs. The setting is a small town in the mid 1950’s with the hero returning from the Korean War, and there is a mere touch of whimsy and the supernatural.

Thanks for joining us, Flossie. It’s been a pleasure.

Flossie: Thank you, Jennifer. You’re a fab hostess.


Author Bio:

Flossie Benton Rogers shares her passion for mythical realms through sizzling dark fantasy romances with fairies, goddesses, witches, angels, and demons. Reiki, tarot, runes, and gemstones are sometimes part of the magical mix. Former library director and teacher, she is prodded on by her fur fae writing buddy, Marigold the calico.  Flossie’s birth chart features sun in Sagittarius with a Taurus moon and Libra ascendant, as befits a 5th generation Floridian and freedom loving mystic.


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