Today I have the pleasure of presenting an author who left the USSR as it was falling apart. Janna Yeshanova escaped to the United States, leaving behind house, social status, citizenship, and every friend she had. Her writing is inspired by her own life story.
When you talk about Love Is Never Past Tense, you compare it to other stories. Can you tell us about Doctor Zhivago?
Both are romantic adventures where the characters deal with their own lives while real world events reshape the world. The stories act as bookends to the Soviet Union. Doctor Zhivago is set at the end of Tsarist Russia and the birth of the Soviet Union. Love Is Never Past Tense shows its closing days and how the characters responded to it collapse.
How does your book relate to what was and is going on in the world?
In my book, the protagonists make contradicting choices as the world collapses around them. It provides a lens for politically driven integration. Through his eyes, we see the risks of staying. Through hers, we see the struggles of the immigrant’s journey. Even without the wars in Ukraine and Israel, entire populations are facing the fight or flight decision. The world needs to build a safety net that supports both decisions.
That leaves your characters on different continents. That doesn’t sound romantic to me.
It’s a classic second chance romance with a contemporary setting. They meet, they fall in love, they are driven apart. How do they reconnect? All that stands in their way is a few thousand miles, an ocean, and a rusting iron curtain.
The tagline for Love Is Never Past Tense is “How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably impact his life and be with him forever, whether she was at his side or not?”
Have you learned anything since writing the book that you would like to comment on?
The story clearly shows what my family and I went through to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate through central Europe before coming to America. I knew as I was racing to get permission that I was trying to thread a needle. After publishing the book, I learned that the door I walked through closed one day after I had secured my paperwork. It is shared in the book Envoy to Moscow by Areah Levin, who helped my to get the exit visa much faster then I could without him.
Tell us about the process of creating the audiobook for Love is Never Past Tense. How did the narrator get into the skin of the characters? How did you feel listening to their voices coming out of her throat?
It took me over two years and more than a few narrators to find one who could capture the voice I heard when writing the book. Daniela Acitelli lives in London UK but delivered an American accent from time in California. Her intonations matched those I imagined as I was writing the book. Her presentation brings another dimension to the story that left me breathless more than once.
Another audio book feature is a bit of music at the start and finish of the book. It is a short fragment of Chardash Monti from my friend, the famous Armenian violinist Karo Hayrapetyan. I included it in his memory. I didn't identify him by name in the book, but he shows up briefly in the story.
I loved the audio book and I hope the listener does too.
Dänna Dennis Wilberg
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who has written, produced, and directed multiple award-winning short films. Dänna Wilberg produced and hosted TV programs in Sacramento for 15 years, served on the Board of Directors for Capitol Crimes, Sacramento, and is one of the first to be inducted into the Access Public Broadcasting and TV “Hall of Fame”
Dänna, you were writing Romantic Suspense, what made you decide to switch to Paranormal Suspense?
“Borrowed Time,” was published in the Capitol Crimes Anthology in 2008. Suzanne Cash’s near-death experience lead to her becoming an energy healer, and she helps children with life-threatening illnesses with help from the other side (her deceased fiancé, who was killed in Iraq.) I adapted Borrowed Time into a screenplay, submitted it to a contest and won, which allowed me to produce it into a short film. Although I began writing Romantic Suspense, the premise of the story and Suzanne’s character stayed in the back of my mind for years.
I was in Vienna when the idea came to me to change Suzanne’s vocation from a healer to a psychic. Being psychic worked well with the mystery genre, I factored in a detective, and had Suzanne help him solve crimes.
Do you have any personal experience with the paranormal?
I had several experiences as a child, but what inspired me to write about paranormal topics came from hosting a local cable TV show, “Paranormal Connection” for fifteen years. I met a plethora of gifted individuals, among them psychics, Tarot readers, Ghost busters, healers, and those who had near-death-experiences.
Your third book in the Borrowed Time series is “Mind Games,” where did the idea for this story come from?
Have you noticed that when you talk about something, or even think about something, it pops up on your TV and social media feeds? I don’t know about you, but I felt my privacy was being invaded! I wondered how my phone could detect my thoughts and began searching for answers. Next, I asked myself: What would/could happen if this type of technology fell into the wrong hands? Suzanne serves as an antenna, and a conduit, picking up different frequencies and energy in her psychic work. But what if that process could be reversed? What if thoughts could be implanted into our minds without us knowing it?
That segues into my next question. How much research goes into your writing?
I research all my topics to the max. Mixing fact with fiction gives my readers a chance to discover new ideas through story telling. I dig deep. Sometimes I catch myself going down a rabbit hole along with my characters. I learn and grow right along with them.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Justice. Resolution. My characters experience things that are ugly, evil, and unthinkable…they face their worst fears only to come out the other side feeling vindicated, and loved. You will always find LOVE in my stories.
What are you currently working on?
My fourth book in the Borrowed Time series is titled “Golden State.” It’s a story about the cartels taking over the Golden State of California. I’m having a blast writing it, and introducing two new real-life paranormal characters, an astrologer, and a past-life regressionist.
Real-life paranormal characters?
Yes, the characters that interact with Suzanne and Sam to solve crimes are based on real people I met while producing/hosting Paranormal Connection. Each person I have asked permission to include in my books has been delighted to shine a light on gifts the universe provides, gifts we all possess to one degree or another.
Thank you, Danna! This had been fun.
Thank you, Uvi. I feel blessed to have been asked to join your long list of amazing guests!
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who—had she been allowed to choose—would have become a professional time-traveller. No luck there, so instead Anna Belfrage became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavors. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.
Tell me about your recent release and what inspired it
Times of Turmoil is set in Pennsylvania. The year is 1718 and Erin and Duncan Melville want nothing but build a good life for themselves and their young daughters.
Not about to happen, not when Erin is brave enough to confront a man who mistreats a young child. Not when the sons of a man who tried to kill them back in Scotland in 1715 have been charged with exacting revenge for their father.
And especially, not when Erin is a woman of colour in an age where that, per definition, could lead to enslavement.
Times of Turmoil is inspired—rather horrifyingly—by the anti-miscegenation laws that were implemented in various American Colonies in the 17th and 18th century. Maryland was the first to adopt such legislation, which is why I had to have Duncan Melville move his family from Annapolis to Chester, Pennsylvania. Marrying a person of colour led to enslavement for both parties. Having sexual relations with a person of colour led to indentureship and/or fines. All of this was no news to Erin, who was born in 1990 and knows her history. But to read something and experience something are two very different things.
Born in 1990? So Erin is a time-traveller, right? Why did you choose to have a protagonist born in a different time?
Anyone who has read my first series, The Graham Saga, knows I have a thing about time travel. I find the concept fascinating (if improbable) and it also gives me as a writer the opportunity of commenting on aspects that a person born into a certain era would not consider worthy of note. A woman born in the 18th century would not consider the fact that she has no panties, nor would she struggle with a corset and really, really wish she had a bra. A woman born in the 18th century would accept that she was a second-class citizen, an extension, no more, of her husband. This doesn’t mean the women back then weren’t frustrated or strong and independent when so required, but they would rarely question that their husband was head of household, with the right to punish and reward as he saw fit.
Erin, of course, is less than impressed by this state of things. . .
Did you on purpose set out to have a person of colour as your protagonist?
On purpose? Dear Uvi, my characters ambush me, appearing out of nothing to take over my brain. Erin popped up one day and she was forthright and intelligent, she was struggling with a dangerous situation in her own time and clearly needed someone to fight her corner. Enter Duncan—who was quite shocked at being thrown three centuries forward in time—and when he sees Erin, he doesn’t really register at first that she is of mixed heritage. He just sees this lovely, lovely woman, with shin the colour of molten syrup. He also finds a stubborn and borderline reckless woman, so determined to have her revenge on the people who killed her father and her grandmother. Things come to a head, and had the chasm of time not yawned with open, they’d both have ended up burned to a crisp . . .
It is only when Erin landed in the 18th century that it struck me—and Duncan, and Erin—just how complicated life would be for her due to the colour of her skin. Those first adventures can be found in The Whirlpools of Time.
Was it challenging for you, a white woman, to write from the POV of a woman of colour?
As a writer—and I am sure you agree—one of the most important skills is to be able to empathise. As a writer, one needs to get under the skin of your characters, no matter how different they are from you and your own experiences. Some of that you achieve by doing research. When I write about my medieval characters, I have of course spent hours and hours on researching life in that time and age. When I now had to give voice to Erin, I spent just as much time researching—not only the situation back in the 18th century, but hours and hours on reading up how people of colour were treated well into the late 20th century. Depressing, is the one-word summary.
Ultimately, though, it is about using my imagination to submerge myself in what it would be like to suddenly find yourself living in a time and place where the only thing people see is the colour of your skin. They never see you. They never register your personality traits or how you laugh or what you say. They see that you are not white and dismiss you as being less. Boy, was that difficult. Erin would at times laugh at me: “You think this would all be new to me,” she told me once. “Sadly, it isn’t. It happens in my time as well. The difference is that in 2016, I have protection under the law. Here, in 1718, the laws deny me any protection.”
Did you learn anything while writing Times of Turmoil?
Beyond gnashing my teeth at how non-whites were treated? Yes, I did. I had to spend some time reading up on quakers. I actually chose Pennsylvania as a safe haven because I knew there was a lot of vociferous protest among the quakers against slavery. In Penn’s colony, slavery was initially not prevalent—well, except in the Lower Counties, present-day Delaware. After all, quakers were a religious movement well-acquainted with persecution and abuse, and Henry Fox was a strong opponent to slavery. Quakers originally did not believe anyone had the right to enslave anyone else, but taking on the challenges of colonising huge tracts of land soon saw many quakers adopting a more pragmatic approach. Some advocated enslaving someone was okay, as long as you only did it for fourteen years, during which time the owner should educate the slave to ensure they emerged as good brethren and sisters. Penn himself is quoted as saying that buying a slave meant you had a servant for life—a good thing, in Penn’s opinion. This led me to reevaluate my opinion of him . . .
I also realised that Pennsylvania would not remain a safe haven for Duncan and Erin. In 1725, Pennsylvania also adopted anti-miscegenation laws. Which, of course, now has me dragging my protagonists off to elsewhere!
That sounds exciting. Where are they headed?
There’s a difference of opinion, but we seem to be headed towards Russia. OMG! I don’t know enough about Russia in the early 18th century!
“Research is your thing,” Erin tells me, but she isn’t too thrilled either. “It’s cold, isn’t it?”
“Oh, honey, you have NO idea!” I do. After all, I’m Swedish.
Find out more about Anna here:
Read Times of Turmoil!
Available on KU
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who’s been leading a double life. His award-winning Daniel Jacobus mystery series is set in the dark corners of the classical music world, of which Gerald Elias is intimately familiar as a former violinist with the Boston Symphony, associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony and as a conductor, composer, and teacher. Today, he celebrates his upcoming release, the audiobook edition of Murder at the Royal Albert.
There are tons of mystery audiobooks on the market. What makes your new one, Murder at the Royal Albert, so special?
You mean, other than a great Publishers Weekly review?
That’s fine for starters, but what else?
Okay, this is what makes my audiobook unique: The story, which place in the dark corners of the classical music world, involves a young musician murdered at her first performance with a great symphony orchestra. The printed book works great as a traditional whodunnit. But with the audiobook, we’ve woven spectacular performances of the music that’s performed in the book into the fabric of the story telling. What’s extra special for me is that I took part as a musician in the performances that you’ll hear in the audiobook, including the live Boston Symphony performance of Mahler’s schizophrenic Sixth Symphony at Royal Albert Hall that is the critical moment of the mystery.
That is indeed special, Jerry. But let’s take a step back. What exactly do you mean by “the dark corners of the classical music world?”
Murder at the Royal Albert is the eighth installment of my Daniel Jacobus mystery series. They all revolve around aspects of the music world in which musicians are inclined to want to kill each other. (That was a joke…sort of.) Here are some examples: Sexual misconduct on conservatory campuses, bitter relationships between despotic conductors and orchestra musicians, shady dealings by violin makers and dealers who cheat their way to profit, ethically compromised music critics, ruthless concert managers, rivalries among violin teachers seeking fame through their students, cutthroat violin competitions that prey upon young talent. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist. And these issues aren’t figments of my imagination. They’re real, and I’ve seen it all as a professional musician for almost a half century.
Whew! Who knew? Tell us more about the series. Who is this Daniel Jacobus?
Jacobus is a bit of my alter ego. He’s a curmudgeonly, reclusive violin teacher who also happens to be an amateur sleuth extraordinaire. He’s dragged kicking and screaming into these murders that baffle everyone, including law enforcement, and always gets himself into hot water, but ultimately manages to solve the mystery. Though I’m neither as cantankerous (I hope) or reclusive, I do share many of Jacobus’s views about life and music. It has been said of Jacobus that he has a heart of gold, though you might have to mine for it to find it. And, I should add, Jacobus is blind.
Blind! That’s novel. Why blind?
Two reasons, really. The first is that – and we all know this to be true – that when someone loses the ability to use one of their senses, they often more than make up for it with their others. So, even though Jacobus can’t see, his enhanced power of hearing is so acute that it not only makes him an even greater musician, it enables him to perceive things that mere mortals can’t.
The second reason is metaphorical. So much of what takes place on the concert stage these days is, ironically, visual. The flamboyant conductor, the gaudy dress, the high-powered marketing of otherwise mediocre musicians. All those things made Jacobus bitter, who, as a blind person, perceived music as it should be – by its sound, and nothing else. That’s what made him turn his back on the music world, though not on the music.
But that’s all the more reason to have an audiobook version, right? We can pretend we’re Jacobus and hear the story and the music with no impediments.
Speaking of which, what more can you tell us about the audiobook production?
In addition to writing the book, it was my job to oversee the music part. First, I had to determine what music and performances needed to be gathered that would be best suited to the book, and then get permission from the performers to use it. Fortunately, all of my colleagues whose beautiful performances you’ll hear were totally forthcoming, and the Boston Symphony was very gracious not only allowing me to use some very special live performances in which I participated, but to send me the audio files to use for the production. (By the way, all the music you’ll hear on this audiobook were live performances, so there’s an excitement to them that you’ll never get from a commercially produced recording.)
I then had to distill all those performances down to fit into the reading of the book, and to determine to the split second when they should start and end. Once that was figured out, I spent an afternoon with the recording engineer to work out the volume levels. For example, a music excerpt might start softly, under the narrator; then we might stop the narrator for several seconds and bring the music to full volume; then, finally, resume the narration and fade the music. It was fascinating to watch the engineer do his magic as I provided my two cents.
I should add that the narrator, Alison Larkin, did an absolutely miraculous job juggling the voices of at least a dozen different characters. Since the book takes place in the UK and Alison is English, it was a perfect fit!
So fascinating! Have you published anything apart from the Daniel Jacobus series that we should be thinking about?
I have two stand-alone mysteries. My most recent one, Roundtree Days, was named a finalist for Killer Nashville’s coveted 2023 Silver Falchion Award. The story is set in the fictional Utah desert town of Loomis City, where the hero, lawman Jefferson Dance, solves an arson, kidnapping, and murder in the course of a single day.
The Beethoven Sequence is a political thriller about a much different kind of music pedagogue than Jacobus. Layton Stolz becomes a cult figure and then president of the United States, and then goes insane. Go figure.
I’ll just briefly mention two more books, both of which are self-published. Symphonies & Scorpions is nonfiction and is an insider’s view (mine) of life as a professional orchestra musician, set in the context of the Boston Symphony’s history-making tour to China in 1979 and its triumphant return in 2014. I’m one of the few musicians who performed on both tours, and the book chronicles the eye-popping changes that took place in orchestras and in the world during those decades. There are also lots of funny stories.
The final book I’ll mention is It’s a Crime!, an entertaining, eclectic collection of 30 short mysteries that I’ve written over the years. It’s a fun bedside read!
Well, this has been a splendid conversation, Jerry. I can’t wait to listen to Murder at the Royal Albert!
Marta Moran Bishop
I know you love horses and understand their souls, as written novels told from their point of view. What made you decide on writing a story from the point of view of little mice?
Last summer, we had mouse’s nest in our hay shed and my husband tossed the nest with the little pups out into the woods. The mice ended up moving under the tack room wood floor in the horse’s barn. The stalls have a dirt floor with mats on top. For a year, the mice tunneled up under the mats to steal grain from the floor of the stalls. And for a year, I filled the two to four-inch holes along the wall in with horse manure, having nothing else handy. The mice continued to tunnel, and I continued to fill in the holes, and ended up adding peppermint balls under the wall. (Peppermint is supposed to deter mice.) Well, nothing worked. Each day, I’d go out and repeat the process. One day, I began laughing. Wondering what the mice were doing with all the manure and peppermint balls. My husband and I had a good laugh about it, coming up with many strange ideas. But it was when I told my graphic artist the story, and he sent me graphic after graphic, that the characters began talking to me and The Mice of Barnville episodes began.
Your previous work was developed in the format of a novel. Is it different to think up the story one episode at a time?
In a way, but the graphics took me into each new episode. I planned on four episodes. I am about a quarter of the way through episode four now, and the characters are telling me what is happening and what will happen. Each mouse has its own character, name, and ways of doing things. The stories are meant to entertain and help others find humor in the small or annoying things in life.
Please share an excerpt from Episode One—The Quest: THE JOURNEY
Scampering across the field, pants hanging nearly around his ankles, Joshua yelled. “Uncle Horace, Uncle Horace, I found it!”
“I’m over here Joshua. Now pull up your pants. They are falling down again. You, being such a skinny young mouse, should wear suspenders or at least a string to keep them up? Now, what did you find?”
Looking through the spectacles that covered the rheumy eyes of his great-great uncle, he replied. “The perfect place for our new home, and I found it!”
“Here’s a bit of string.” He said, pulling it out of his pocket and tying it around the waist of the young mouse. “If we are to be scampering around, you’ll need it.” He felt proud of still being able to see as well as he did in the bright sunlight after spending so many years underground in the dark. Horace tugged at his white eyebrows, pushed his glasses up, and tightly gripped his walking stick, as he stated. “Lead on. Let’s go see what you found Joshua, and if it is as you say, you’ll get special honor in our kingdom. But please slow down. I don’t move as fast as once I did.”
“Okay, Uncle Horace, follow me.”
Through the jungle of brush and tall trees, Joshua led the way. Followed by Uncle Horace hobbling along, holding tight to his cane. About twenty others, who couldn’t resist seeing what Joshua had found, followed behind. Murmurs went through the group.
How do you get into the mind and heart of animals, so that you can write their stories from their point of view?
For me, it is a matter of letting go of my ego and opening myself up to another person or being. I believe that all life is sentient and, though they may not think and act the same as a human; it doesn’t mean they don’t feel and have their own thoughts and ways of expressing themselves.
Though taking on the emotions of anyone or anything can present its own issues. It can become harder to either find a compromise with another or find a way to let go of their pain or confusion. For instance, we had an infestation of bald-faced hornets, which my husband saturated their nest with a poison to kill off the nest. Bald-faced hornets are very aggressive, and though they eat some other annoying bugs, they remember the faces of people that have bothered them and go after them. They do not lose their stingers, but can sting a person or animal multiple times. Well, after the nest had been sprayed and the ones who were late coming home flew up to it, I could sense their confusion and pain at the destruction of their home. So you see, it can cause someone who opens themselves to the thoughts and feelings of other beings to feel too much.
Why did you decide to make the Episodes rather than short stories?
I remembered as a child that schools and theaters offered small snippets of either a full-length movie each day, or else shorts, so I thought, why not do it in book form? Both my husband and I had adored the episodes as children, and wondered if it would work in book form. The episodes range from eighteen to forty-four pages. Each one a new chapter of the mice’s story of building a community, teamwork, facing challenges, both outside and inside themselves.
What ages would you say The Mice of Barnville Episodes are written for?
The stories can be read to the young, or read by anyone from six to one hundred and six. They are meant more for humor and enjoyment rather than strictly children’s books, and there are no pictures in the books.
- The Mice of Barnville: Episode One — THE QUEST
- The Mice of Barnville - Episode Two: Forging The Homestead
- THE MICE OF BARNVILLE: EPISODE THREE - ADVERSITY AND INNOVATION
Today I have the pleasure to present a UK & USA bestselling Author/Poet. D.G. Torrens is a prolific writer with deep passion for the written word. She has published 22 books to date and is currently penning book 23 due for release in May 2024. In addition, the author has also published 4 short stories in multi-author anthologies for charities including BRUMOLOGY and LOVE LETTERS TO WATER.
Tell me about your recent book release and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
ONE FOR SORROW (released in May 2023) is book one of seven in my new Survivor Series. Each book is a stand-alone story that shines a light on various forms of abuse: domestic violence, coercive control, narcissism, love bombing, gaslighting and more.
ONE FOR SORROW focuses on domestic violence. The story centers around Avery, Ethan, and Willow (Avery’s best friend) Avery suffered a tragic childhood and as a woman in her twenties, is quite untrusting of people. She prefers to spend her time at home, hiking and taking photographs on long leisurely walks. That is until she meets the charming and persuasive Ethan Channing who sweeps her off her feet. For the first time in her life, she falls in love unconditionally, unaware of the red flags. Avery’s best friend, Willow, suspects all is not right with Ethan and tries to warn her friend. However, it falls on deaf ears. Over time, Avery withdraws from social society little by little. It becomes almost impossible for Willow to see Avery on her own. When she does, Avery looks thinner and often sporting bruises that she tries to cover up and Ethan is often nearby.
ONE FOR SORROW not only highlights the suffering of the victims but also highlights the effects on family and friends who get caught up in it.
Here is what the book is about:
THE PAST BROKE HER BUT THE PRESENT MAY KILL HER...
Avery Masters’ has never known love, only false representations of it. Failed by her mother and again by the state care system, she trusts no one. Until the charming, handsome, Ethan Channing enters her life unexpectedly and love bombs her. Avery falls hard and fast. Unbeknownst to Avery, Ethan is concealing a deadly secret!
Willow Forbes, Avery's best friend, sees right through Ethan and tries to warn Avery to no avail.
Avery's life is about to take a perilous turn.
AVERY'S LIFE HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
I think I have always been a writer. I have been writing since I was around 9 years old. I wrote poetry and short stories. It was my safe place– a place to hide behind a pen and paper in a quiet corner when I was young. Writing fast became my solace. I would create my own worlds and lose myself in them.
By the time I reached my late 20s, I had half written novels and short stories stacked away in corners of my house as well as note pads filled with future ideas. Once I hit my 30s, I began to pen my life story and it finally emerged as a completed book in 20ll. I have since gone on to write 23 books and number 24 is currently in the works, called TWO FOR JOY.
What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
I have read and re-read all of Charles Dickens novels. I could relate to many of the characters in his stories. Charles Dickens was a vigorous campaigner for children’s rights too. This was truly inspirational to me. I know how hard that would have been in the 18th century, when the common way to deal with homeless children was to put them in the workhouse. I love Charles Dickens and find it incredible that he could write all those incredible stories with so many children in tow! (He had around 10 children I believe) I know how difficult it can be to write a book with one child in tow…
My favourite quote by Charles Dickens: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
Where do you find ideas for your books?
My ideas come to me in the most unlikely of places, a dream, while walking in the park with my daughter or simply while listening to music. I can be struck with an idea at any time. I have the most wildest of imaginations… My mind never closes, not for a second. It is always busy, even when I am tired and want to sleep my mind is a continuously working. I would not know how to shut my mind off–it is impossible.
Where do you find ideas for your characters?
My characters are found through everyday people. Real life. I know so many people from all walks of life and that gives me much inspiration to draw from.
How would you describe your writing style?
That is a hard question. I think my writing style is unique, I often method write to get into character for a current WIP, much like an actor would method act. I find it easier to get into my character’s head that way thus able to project a true description of them and their feelings in certain scenes. I like to express my character’s emotions in a way that moves my readers, and they can feel the pain and love my characters are feeling. The best way for me to do this is to method write and get into character.
What are your current projects?
I am currently working on a secret project (all will be revealed soon) it is a new direction for me and one that I am excited about. I am also working on book two in my Survivor Series called TWO FOR JOY.