February Interview with Lexi Post

This interview was first seen on best-selling author Lexi Post’s fabulous blog found at http://www.happilyeverafterthoughts.com

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Interview with Jennifer Taylor, author of ECHOES OF THE MOON and a Giveaway!

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Today I’m interviewing historical Romance author, Jennifer Taylor, who is giving away a copy of the first in her series to one lucky commenter.

Lexi: What are you most excited about in this new release?

Jennifer: Thanks so much for having me, Lexi!Echoes of the Moon, book #3 of the Rhythm of the Moon historical romance series, features identical twins, Bethan and Elunid. Bethan is the caregiver for her sister Elunid, who suffers from mental illness. Bethan had resigned herself to living a life of duty and love without ever finding a mate, until she meets Henry. She finds herself drawn to him, despite his lowly occupation, and his courtly manners confuse and intrigue her as their attraction grows. At the heart of the story is the relationship between the twins, and the sacrifice that one must make for the other. There’s a lot of humor in the book, compliments of the antics of the townspeople and Henry and Bethan’s relationship. Music is a big part of my books, and I’m excited about the lyrics which I write on behalf of my characters.   

Lexi: What made you chose your title?

Jennifer: My heroine in book #1, Mercy of the Moon, is Maggie Wilson, a midwife in an 18th Century port town. Her life is ruled by the cycles of the moon and her delivering mothers. She lives her life solely for the women of the town, and never imagined finding a man who would understand that—until she meets the enigmatic Ian Pierce. And as we recently witnessed with the latest eclipse, the moon has been a mysterious force since time began. Midwifery continues to be an integral part of the series with Echoes of the Moon.

Lexi: Everyone has their own writing process…how they come up with ideas, how they name their characters, how they choose the setting. Can you describe your writing process?

Jennifer: I always start with the characters, usually my heroines first. I have a book journal, and I use it daily, and in that act of writing, the ideas begin to form. This prewriting is very crucial for me. I talk to myself, sometimes writing as the character. I talk to myself a lot! I don’t sit and think about the story, I think through the act of my fingers typing.  If I didn’t do that, the book would never come to fruition.

Once I get the hero and heroine fleshed out, I begin to plot. I use big pieces of butcher paper and sketch out plot ideas, drawing crazy spiderweb diagrams. I’m a global and visual learner, so this works well for me. It helps me think. Then the plot begins to form, but it changes quite a bit before the book is finished, because characters do unpredictable things and I let them. Those surprises are part of the joy of writing. I use the butcher paper a lot as the plot unfolds, sometimes with disastrous consequences, 😉 as I reveal later in the interview. Then I set to work in earnest, and generally write 6-10 hours a day, with breaks to pet my Great Dane, Bridget.

Lexi: What was the funniest thing you did wrong when you first started writing?

Jennifer:  So, regarding the butcher paper: during the writing of my second book, Heartbeat of the Moon, I had a scented candle lit, and several pieces of butcher paper on my desk that I was scribbling on as I was typing. I was so into writing a very passionate love scene, I didn’t notice I’d set my desk on fire. I put it out in an instant, knocking over my chair, and everything else on the desk. I like to say the love scene was so hot, it was on fire. Needless to say, now I keep my papers and candle far away from each other, just in case I get lost in a scene!

Lexi: What was the strangest thing that inspired a story for you?

Jennifer: I believe every good book should start in the middle of the action, with a big mess that the characters have to find their way out of. As I was dreaming up the plot for Book #1, Mercy of the Moon, I thought: what if my hero and heroine meet during the most tragic time in their lives? I happened to find a book called, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, by Jan Bondeson, and bingo! My hero and heroine meet over the grave of her sister. Later that night, she is returned, alive. Yes, she’d been buried alive and survived! As my hero and heroine, Maggie and Ian work together to save her life, they discover she’s greatly changed, and didn’t emerge from the grave alone. As they try to solve the mystery of who would do this horrible thing and why, their attraction grows. All three books are a mix of mystery, history, romance and supernatural, but always end with a happily ever after.

Lexi: Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite character?

Jennifer: I’d have to say my hero in book #1, Mercy of the Moon. Ian Pierce is an apothecary by trade, but a musician at heart, and sets to work wooing practical midwife, Maggie with his music and humor. He seeks to lighten her load and encourages her to care for herself,  and does whatever he can to relieve her burdens. He’s travelled the world searching for a cure for his affliction, which we now call bipolar disorder, and I so admire the bravery in his struggle to deal with it. And though he suffers from this disorder, he is still able to come to Maggie’s rescue when she needs it most. I have a weakness for musicians, and he sings a lot.

In my books, I enjoy finding love for unlikely heroes. There are many forms of heroism, and there is heroism in characters who struggle with a condition daily, and they deserve love too. Don’t we all deserve a chance at love?

Lexi: Absolutely! And everyone deserves a chance at winning your book, Mercy of the Moon. Be sure to leave a comment with contact information so you can be in the running to win!

Excerpt from Echoes of the Moon:

Through the buzzing in her ears, a voice called to her from far away, low and resonant. Strong arms cradled her, naked, and so warm. Her head lay against his chest, the hairs upon it tickling her ear. The muscles of his broad chest were hard and solid against her side, and so reassuring, rising and falling against her, encouraging her to suck in breath. But it was as if she sucked through a hollow reed.

“Bethan, you will be well soon. I’ll take care of you.”

He smelled of soap and earth. She clasped her arms tighter around his solid neck and closed her eyes. She’d not been held like this since childhood. He began to walk, carrying her as if she weighed no more than a kitten. Heat radiated from his chest, and his stomach Jennifer Taylor 56 muscles shifted and tensed as he headed toward the cottage.

She wheezed, then coughed.

“Don’t worry, Bethan. I know what to do.”

She nodded, her cheek rubbing against his chest, the curls there soft, yet pleasantly rough. His heart beat a reassuring rhythm against the uneven frantic beat of her heart.

“Georgie has the same problem. I’ve some herbs will help you. George!” he yelled. “Is there water left in the pot?”

“Aye, Da. What’s wrong with Mistress Bethan?”

“She’s having trouble breathing, much like you do.”

“Da always makes me feel better, Mistress Bethan.”

Protected. Safe.”

Echoes of the Moon Buy Links:

Amazon  

Barnes and Noble

Wild Rose Press

Interview with Dr. Alun Withey

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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:

https://dralun.wordpress.com/ . 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.”  https://dralun.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/10-seventeenth-century-remedies-youd-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.

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Alun’s social media links: 

Alun’s Website: https://dralun.wordpress.com

Twitter: @dralun