Monday, April 3, 2017

Historical Fiction Q&A - Get to Know the Author - B2B CyCon Event

This event is a part of the Brain to Books CyCon event, which will go live on April 7.  Here is a little pre-event fun with three talented authors. 

Learn more about B2B at:
The B2B historical fiction genre category can be found at:
Discover our authors and their writing at Goodreads:  

Our authors (alphabetically listed) include:
J. LYNN ELSE is the author of two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen and The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic.
ILANA MALETZ is the author of Cha'risa's Gift set at the turn of the century, 1900, in Northern Arizona and goes through 1945.
M.K. SOUTH is the author of the historical spy thriller Of Our Own Device which starts during the summer of 1985, the so called “Year of the Spy,” and spans the final years of the Soviet bloc.

1. What is/are the titles of your book/s? And when/how did you publish it/them?
J. LYNN ELSE: The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen was my debut novel.  It was first published August 15, 2013, via BookBaby.  After a second round of edits, it was re-released on Smashwords and CreateSpace November 11th, 2015.  CreateSpace allowed me to create a paperback version of my book - yay! - which was not an affordable option through BookBaby.  The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic was released December 2016 and is published through CreateSpace and is available in both ebook and paperback formats.  My books can be purchased via all major online book retailers. 
ILANA MALETZ: Cha’risa’s Gift is my first published book. I self-published the book in September of 2016, using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace.

M.K. SOUTH: Of Our Own Device is my debut novel which I have just self-published last month (March 2017) in ebook format. Now I’m working on the printed version which should be available soon too.

2. When did you first start writing? and how long have you been writing?
M.K.: I first started writing poetry and short stories when I was a teenager. They weren’t taken too seriously by the grownups around me, albeit my friends enjoyed them. I’ve been writing off and on since then, sharing my work with friends only. Of Our Own Device is the first work I have published.

J. LYNN: In Elementary school, I started dabbling in story writing.  I was a Star Trek nerd growing up and joined a Star Trek: TNG writing club while in Junior High, so I wrote a lot of stories in which I could explore space, meet aliens, brave adventures, etc.  It was so much more fun than being a tween with acne and braces.  I attempted script writing for TV shows and even completed an X-Files script.  In college, I did some playwriting.  After becoming a wife and mother, I wrote and illustrated children’s books (currently unpublished).  Eventually, due to my love of history, I began to explore the past and the women of ancient times.  
ILANA: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. Most of my adult life I spent the majority of my time raising a family and teaching singing to middle and high schoolers. During this time, I was also doing lots of writing, I even wrote some novels, but the only things that made it out of my file drawers back then were theatrical productions I created for my students. After our move to Arizona in 2010, I felt inspired to try writing a novel again, and this time I finally wrote something that I wanted to publish.
3. What inspires you as a writer?
ILANA: Nature and beauty definitely inspire me. And the experience of leaving behind city life and moving out to northern Arizona really got my creative juices flowing. Every day, I would walk out the door with my dog, Lucy, and we'd enter into this vivid landscape of color and wide open spaces. I’d walk among towering red rocks and box canyons dotted with the fresh green of scrubby pine and juniper. It didn't matter whether the sky was a cloudless blue or the darkening grey of a coming storm. All the colors of the sky enhanced the beauty of the land all around me. It amazed me how Lucy and I could walk for miles and not see a single person. Out in that wilderness we needed each other to find the paths, steer clear of snakes, and to chase off the roving packs of coyotes. Together we spotted elk, deer, jackrabbits, and all manner of birds and lizards. I was enchanted, and all the while, I would wonder about those who may have walked these paths before me. That is what inspired me to write Cha’risa’s Gift.

M.K.: Stories that must be told. For instance, about love. Especially about impossible love that defies all harsh realities of life.

J. LYNN: I really like reading about historical women who rose above what society told them they could achieve.  Women who carved out new trails and touched their dreams despite the naysayers--those are stories I like to read and want to offer to my daughter when she gets older.  I wrote my book to explore what the life of King Tut’s wife might have been like during such a dynamic period in ancient Egyptian history.  Her name was Ankhesenamun (fun name, I know).  Her father toppled the religious foundation of the country, and then Ankhesenamun and a 9-year-old King Tut were expected to re-build the pieces after their father’s death (and she was only 12 years old when she became queen!). 

4. Describe your writing process?
J. LYNN: When writing about a historical figure, you have the basic outline of that person’s life.  Though little is known about King Tut’s wife, we know about significant events during her lifetime.  My process involved finding the emotions and providing choices to her during those circumstances.  I kept the historical events as accurate as I could; however, when it came to everyday life and decision making, I let the character take me on a journey.  I researched what I could and worked with my character to decide on where to go.  It was a mutual journey.
ILANA: Well, every day starts with a walk out in the wilderness with Lucy. Oftentimes, I will contemplate different scenes or characters while I am walking, so that by the time I’ve returned home, I often know what the day’s writing will look like. I try to dedicate 2 to 4 hours every afternoon to writing. This does not always happen because the people in my life always come first. But I find with this second book, I have become much better at keeping this writing appointment with myself, and my family has become much better at helping me to create that space.
M.K.: I have a day job, so I write in the evenings, weekends, during my business trips and any other time I manage to squeeze in into my crazy schedule :) It took me 4 years to write Of Our Own Device, mostly because the story was interwoven into real life, oftentimes historical, events, and I had to do A LOT of research. In fact, I had to check up on the accuracy of every statement I made, since I was dealing with the subjects that weren't my area of expertise -- espionage, diplomatic procedures, the Soviet rock scene, and most importantly life of gay men.  Then I spent another year and a half editing it down to the size it is now--appx. 270k word. Yeah, I know... 😁

5. What is most challenging about being a writer?

M.K.: To have your work recognized and accepted by those who don’t know you -- as opposed to those who know you and want to read more of your work. Which probably means most of the readers you want to reach. But I'm yet to find out about this aspect.
J. LYNN: Since writing is not my full-time job, finding the time to write can be difficult.  I have two kids who get a little frustrated with me when I have to say ‘no’ to an activity because I’m working on a book.  Finding a balance of work, after-work work (aka: writing), and family time can be tough. 

ILANA: Keeping my butt in the chair is the first most challenging aspect of being a writer. But right up there with it is the crash course in marketing you suddenly discover you need to learn once your book is out there.

6. Who most inspired you to pursue writing?
ILANA: I don’t think there was a single “who.” I have been an avid reader all my life. Both the moments of literary perfection and the moments of literary disappointment have all come together to create a strong sense of storytelling within me. 
M.K.: My partner (now my husband), my sister and the readers on the forum for whom I wrote my fanfics for 6 years.
J. LYNN: M.K., I’m curious about those ‘fanfics!’ Any fandoms I would know?
M.K.: I wrote for “Brokeback Mountain” fandom. And yes, Of Our Own Device was inspired by it, as well as by Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago and Anthony Grey's Saigon.

J. LYNN: Awesome.  For myself, I’ve been creative writing since 4th grade, so I think it’s simply part of who I am.  Writing gives me the chance to explore other people and places like I did through acting when I was younger.  With younger kids, it’s hard to audition for plays and/or be out every night at rehearsals.  I’ve also had strong writing examples growing up.  My dad has been writing for many years.  He is currently a free-lance writer and writes two columns for the local newspaper.  I’m proud to see that writing “legacy” being passed down to my children too.  A few years ago, my son and daughter would take computer paper, fold it in half, staple it, then use those pages to write and draw their own picture books.  My daughter continues to write her own stories via the computer, and I often have to bargain with her for computer time to work on my book!

7. What grammatical flaw irritates you the most?

J. LYNN: I have two biggies: (1) The wrong use of ‘their’ versus ‘there’ versus ‘they’re’ and (2) the use of too many commas.  I review books for the Historical Novel Society, and in a book I recently read, there was a sentences with 68 words (“ending” in a semi-colon).  Commas can run rampant if left unchecked, so rein those bad boys in!

ILANA: Everyone seems to have a perspective on the use of commas. I have come to hate them!

M.K.: Articles. Because we don’t have them in my 2 native tongues and I keep these errors no matter how well I have mastered English language!! :)

8. What is your favorite literary character and why?

M.K.: James and Della Young from O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi. Because, similarly, for me, love is all that matters.

J. LYNN: Anne Shirley from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series.  Anne was smart, spunky, kept her ideals in the face of adversity, worked hard to achieve her dreams, and was full of imagination.  It’s important for girls to embrace who they are, just as Anne learned to do (especially after the disaster when trying to dye her red hair a different color!).  I think these books influenced my love of stories with dynamic, independent female leads as well as enhanced my love of history.  She was an independent girl-turned-woman in a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote, and the books provide a great heroine for today’s young girls.  You don’t have to battle Greek gods or evil wizards to do something amazing (books I totally love, by the way).  You can offer help to others, be a good friend, stand up for your beliefs, and enjoy life to the fullest and still do amazing things.

ILANA: Every book I read offers up a new potential favorite, however the ones that have hung around the longest have been both Claire and Jamie Frasier from the Outlander series, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, and Jo March from Little Women.
J. LYNN: Anne Shirley in da’ house! (I know, I’m white like white bread--pardon the interruption)

9. What is your next project?
ILANA: I am currently at work on a companion novel to Cha’risa’s Gift. This story focuses on her son, Ahote. It delves much deeper into what happens to him during the years he spends with the Havasupai, and how it affects his life from that point on.

M.K.: I’ve just published my debut novel and need to spend some time promoting it. The next project will either be the sequel or something in the same genre. We’ll see what comes to me during the promotion period :)

J. LYNN: My next project is quite different from my previous two books; it’s a YA novel and ventures into the legend of King Arthur and the women of that time period.  Briefly, the plot follows four modern-day girls from small-town Minnesota who are swept up into the mythical land of Avalon when a wish they cast into a wishing well tips the balance of power between two opposing forces.  With one girl captured by evil creatures, her three friends set off on a rescue mission and a quest to prevent an evil wizard from reforging Excalibur.  With the reforged blade, he could cut the veil between worlds and use his magic to enslave our world.

10. How/where can people find out more about you and your writing?
J. LYNN ELSE: My personal website is (that’s “tea-sippin’ nerdy mom”).  It has links or is linked to some of my other online spaces & places.  You can also “like” me on Facebook at and/or give me a follow on Twitter at @JLynnElseAuthor.
ILANA MALETZ: You can visit my website at  You can also find me on Goodreads:  I also have a facebook author page:
M.K. SOUTH: People can learn about my writing through my book which is available from all major distributors (Amazon, B&N, iBooks etc.). A few chapters are available at this event for free. As for learning more about me, well, I think my book should be able to stand on its own: the story I tell in the book is way more important than me 😊.  But in any case, you are welcome to visit my page on Goodreads ( and Facebook (

If you liked this, there's more to come later this week.  Be sure to check out the links above to discover new authors and exciting reads!

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