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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Kenna: Hello, Alison, and welcome. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer. I'm curious, too, whether you are American in your ancestry or background, or how you came to be so knowledgeable about and intrigued by the American Civil War?
Alison: Thanks for having me on your blog, Kenna. I am Canadian, born and bred. My mother was English. The closest I come to American ancestry is having Empire Loyalists in the family on my father’s maternal side. On his paternal side, the Bruces go back to Scotland via Ireland. My interest in the Civil War goes back to the 1985 mini series North and South which came out around the time I was taking an honours level American History course at university. Nothing like comparing notes between fact and fiction.
Not long after, Ken Burns’ Civil War came out on PBS. I went back to that documentary when I was researching HAZARDOUS UNIONS.
Kenna: How has your degree in History/Philosophy helped you to craft your genres of mystery and historical romance? What is your favourite time in history and why?
Alison: I think the three most important things I learned at university were how to think critically, how to research, and how to write to the point. Sometimes I still waver on that last one. All of those skills come in handy writing fiction. For instance, my American history course focussed on the Industrial Revolution up to the end of the nineteenth century. What I studied about the Civil War, at the time, was looked at from that specific angle. So, I knew that north versus south had more to do with industrial wealth versus land-based aristocracy than whether or not blacks should be citizens. To get the background information I needed for HAZARDOUS UNIONS, I had to look at social history as well as political and economic history.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of information on the topic from academic works to collections of personal letters and journals.
It’s not my favourite period of history, but it’s an important one, especially if you write historical westerns. I’m not sure I have a favourite period on history.
Kenna: Do you have a favourite of your stories or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Alison: My favourite story is the one I’m working on. That pretty much goes for characters too, but I have to admit that Kate Garrett in DEADLY LEGACY has a special place in my heart because I named my daughter after her. But don’t tell Marly from UNDER A TEXAS STAR or Maggie from HAZARDOUS UNIONS.
It’s interesting you ask about actors. Because we were writing about twins, Kat Flannery and I had to have a common vision of what Maggie and Matty would look like. We decided to cast the character and came up with actual twins, Hilary and Haylie Duff. This gave us a common reference for physical descriptions. I decided to cast other characters in my story. You can see some of them on my Pinterest Dream Cast board. I cast Supernatural lead, Jensen Ackles, as Maggie’s love interest, Captain Seth Stone.
Kenna: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Alison: The two biggies are Georgette Heyer and Louis L’Amour. I was introduced to both in my early teens and their books still have a place of honour on my bedroom bookshelf. I also grew up reading golden age mystery authors like Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Rex Stout.
Georgette Heyer, in particular, influenced my approach to historical romance. Her books were well-researched and her characters were true to the period they were set. Her heroines were strong but not anachronistic. When there was a mystery, she played fair.
Kenna: Do you manage to write every day, and do you plot your stories or just get an idea and run with it?
Alison: I write most days but sometimes it’s this kind of writing or writing for a client. I’m project oriented so when I’m working on something–whether it’s a book or blog or contract writing–I focus my creative energies there.
When I’m working on a book, everything non-essential goes by the wayside. The kids cook meals, the house gets messy and I have to be reminded to go to bed.
Kenna: What are you working on next?
Alison: As soon as HAZARDOUS UNIONS is launched, I have to focus on editing MEN IN UNIFORM for Lachesis Publishing. I’m expecting to see that book out in 2014, but I haven’t got a date yet. After that, I have DEADLY SEASON for Imajin Books, continuing the Carmedy and Garrett story started in DEADLY LEGACY.
Kenna: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Alison: My books and latest goings on can be found on my blog: alisonebruce.blogspot.ca. You can also find out about my books and business at www.alisonbruce.ca. I’m active on Facebook and have an author page: www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books. And my twitter handle is @alisonebruce. Don’t forget the “e” or you’ll get the Alison Bruce who is a mystery author in England… or possibly the librarian in Scotland.
Kenna: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Alison: Only to say thank you for this interview. I hope you enjoy HAZARDOUS UNIONS and if you do, please let me know.
Kenna: If you would like to include a short synopsis of your latest novella, Maggie, or Hazardous Unions, here, feel free (see below).
|Book cover of Hazardous Unions, a Civil War Christmas|
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
Kenna: If you would like to include a self-contained excerpt of your writing please add it here.
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."
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.
Labels:Alison Bruce,American south,author interviews,Civil War,Civil War stories,Hazardous Unions,Maggie,twins