My guest today is Canadian author Alison Bruce, who has a fantastic Blog Tour going on. (See bottom of post)
Hi, Alison. I’m glad you could join me today.
About the author:
Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels.
How did you begin writing?
Long car trips and not being able to read in the car, led me to telling myself stories in my head. I started writing to keep the stories in my head straight. A lot of it was what would now be called fan fiction, but I also created my own worlds and I often travelled through history. The first short story I wrote was about the end of the world. I let my grade five teacher read it (because I had a crush on him) and it worried him so much he called my mother. I think that got me hooked on writing.
LOL! The poor man! He obviously didn’t know how to deal with a budding author. Will you tell us who your books are published with, and how you came to be with this publisher?
I never stopped writing from that first story to now. I tried to get published when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but was easily discouraged by rejection. Around the time I decided it was time to put myself out there again, Cheryl Kaye Tardif was posting about a contest she had entered. I decided to enter it the following year. Cheryl had been self-publishing her own books and working with other indie author to help promote their work. Just after the book that would be UNDER A TEXAS STAR became a finalist in the contest, I heard that Cheryl was starting a publishing company: Imajin Books. We’d been networking, both of us being members of Crime Writers of Canada, so when I learned that she was looking for editors, I applied. Instead of being hired, I became her first author.
Absolutely! I think there is probably a little bit of me in most of my characters, including the villains. Or maybe there’s a little bit of them in me by the time I’m done. It’s hard to tell.
Take Maggie, in HAZARDOUS UNIONS, for an example, she and I share a similar sense of humour. Her internal dialogue resembles mine when I’ve been in situations where things are bad and I can’t give into them. Her ability to pick out a tune on the piano is a bit like me too… except she’s better. I never could get the hang of playing with two hands at the same time. I suppose that part of Maggie is wish fulfillment on my part.
How and where do you research for your books?
I’m a research junkie. Once I get started, it’s hard to stop. When I was researching HAZARDOUS UNIONS, I started with a few library books to get the background information. In particular, I found AMERICA AFLAME: How the Civil War Created a Nation, by David Goldfield, and CIVIL WAR, A NARRATIVE, by Shelby Foote, very useful. I also re-watched Ken Burns’ THE CIVIL WAR, which was one of the things that got me interested in this period in the first place.
That was just the start. There is a wealth of material out there on the web. Universities, museums and private collections have historical essays as well as primary sources like letters and documents. Wonderful authors, like yourself Lyn, share sources and stories on Cowboy Kisses and The Western Historical Romance Book Club.
The one thing I couldn’t do for HAZARDOUS UNIONS which I could do for my mystery series, DEADLY LEGACY, is interview live people. If this was a hundred years earlier, I’d be searching for surviving veterans.
I love researching too, Alison, and live interviews are fun. Are your books professionally edited?
I have wonderful beta readers who go over my work before I send it in to my publisher. Then it goes into the hands of a professional editor. For HAZARDOUS UNIONS, this was Todd Barselow. I’d heartily recommend him to any and every one. He was great to work with.
I’ll keep him in mind. What about your book covers? Who designs them?
Again, that was done through my publisher, but I couldn’t have picked anyone better for the job. Ryan Doan is an illustrator and designer.
Another great tip to remember! If money was no object, what extravagant thing would you do or buy?
Funnily enough, my kids and I were just talking about this. We’d travel. We planned out a dream trip around the world that included hitting “must see” places like the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and the pyramids at Giza. Plus, we want to see the place where The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, and the locations used in the Harry Potter movies and Merlin. We also talked about taking a road trip to see the places I write about (and we see in Supernatural).
Balancing all that activity would be a few cruises where I could catch up on writing.
Doesn’t that sound great?
It sure does. Now, would you like to tell us more about your new release?
I’d love to. Hazardous Unions is a collaboration between myself and Kat Flannery.
Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…
After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.
In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.
In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.
Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Imajin Books (www.imajinbooks.com)
“You’ll sigh with pleasure as you finish each story” ~ Caroline Clemmons, author of Bluebonnet Bride
“Stories that play on your senses like a sonata. A must read!” ~ Jacquie Rogers, award-winning author of Much Ado About Madams
“Wonderfully entertaining and well-written, with engaging characters…delightful!” ~ Charlene Raddon, author of To Have and To Hold
Maggie by Alison Bruce
The Yankees were coming.
We’d seen the signs days ago. News was, most of west Tennessee had fallen under Union control. Thaddeus scouted them out while hunting rabbits in the brush that bordered the plantation’s cotton fields. We’d prepared as best we could as fast as we could, and now I was waiting for them on the front veranda of Bellevue.
“Someone has to meet them, Miss Maggie,” Mammy said, setting out tea things as if the neighbors were coming to call. “Mrs. Hamilton hasn’t got your nerve and Miss Patience wouldn’t be a lick of good even if she would come downstairs.”
“I’m just a servant,” I objected half-heartedly.
“Yeah, like Tad here is just a dumb nigger.” Mammy cocked her head to one side and a moment later I heard the faint but shrill whistle of the kettle. She smoothed the skirt of her greying white pinny over her faded grey dress. Eventually, the two garments were going to match. “Watch out for her, boy,” she said, before heading around the corner of the wraparound porch toward the kitchen door.
Only Mammy could get away with calling Thaddeus “boy” or “nigger” without coming under the resolute stare of a man who looked like he could have been carved out of a huge block of obsidian. Mammy was his aunt and had raised him, along with Major Hamilton, from nursery age. The boys had been more like brothers than master and slave, Mammy said, until Master Ned was sent off to West Point to be made an officer and a gentleman. It was hard for me to reconcile her picture of Master Ned with the aloof man who had employed me to take care of his wife.
I was barely sixteen when I was hired by the Captain, now Major Hamilton. Some days I felt that I was twice that age now, instead of just a couple of years older. Today, watching the Union contingent approach, I felt like that frightened girl again. I took small comfort in the pair of pistols hidden in the pockets of my crinoline. Knowing that Thaddeus was watching over me from the shadows, armed to the teeth, was more reassuring.
Half a dozen hard looking men approached the house. Four of them spread out, some facing us, some partly turned to keep an eye on the out buildings. Two of them rode up the path towards the porch. I felt like I was being ringed in by a pack of hungry wolves. The leader of the pack rode up to the bottom of the front steps.
Wolfish was a description that fit him. Hard muscled, wary eyes, shaggy dark hair spiking out from his cap, he looked old with experience and young in years. His uniform had seen better days and his beard was untrimmed, but it appeared that he had made some effort to clean up before approaching the house. That was a good sign.
I had also made an effort for appearances sake. Instead of my usual long braid, I had twisted my blonde hair into knot and allowed tendrils to fall free on either side of my face. I was wearing one of the calico dresses Mrs. Hamilton bought me in St. Louis. She wanted to make it clear that I was no mere servant any more. I was using it today for similar reasons.
“Afternoon, ma’am. I’m Captain Seth Stone. I have a cavalry troop under my command that needs to set up quarters for the winter.”
“I see.” My voice was steady, but I could feel my knees wobble beneath my skirts. “And?”
“And this looks like a good place to stay.”
“How many are you expecting us to accommodate?”
I heard a chuckle from one of his men. It was stifled with a sharp look from the grim-faced sergeant behind the captain.
“Not so many as there should be,” the Captain said, ignoring the interruption. “If you’d oblige me by asking your man to lay down his arms, maybe we can discuss terms.”
“Gott hilf mir,” I prayed, but held my ground. “You have your protectors, Captain. I have mine.”
With a hand gesture, he signaled his men and they all dismounted as neatly as if they were on parade. Then he dismounted and held out his reins to the sergeant.
“Thaddeus, would you lead these troopers and their horses to water?”
Thaddeus stepped out of the shadows, empty handed. “Yes, miss.”
The two men passed on the stairs. Thaddeus was significantly taller and broader than the Union officer and was doing his best guard dog imitation, but the Captain didn’t flinch when they passed. He did keep his eye on Thaddeus until he was in the range of his own men. Then he turned his attention back to me and I lifted my head up to make eye-contact. He may not have been as tall as Thaddeus, but he was not a small man and I am on the short side for a woman.
Having asserted his dominance, he backed up a step.
“I understand this is the Hamilton home. Are you Mrs. Hamilton?”
“No, sir. I am Magrethe Becker, Mrs. Hamilton’s companion.”
His eyes widened. “Maybe I should be speaking to the lady of the house.”
“Mrs. Hamilton is indisposed and asked me to…” I stopped, looking for the right word. Meet with him? That sounded too friendly. Deal with him? Almost rude. “Negotiate terms with you.”
He let out a short bark of laughter.
“My terms are simple, Miss Becker. I need to winter seventy men and three officers, plus myself. It’ll be tight, but this place looks like it has enough room with the house and out buildings. We’ll need food and fodder of course. You can either offer, or I will take.”
I shook my head. “No.”
He barked out a longer laugh. “What makes you think you’re in the position to say no?”
“Twelve wounded union soldiers in our care, Captain Stone.”
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