Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje

by Michael Ondaatje

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve just joined a book club! Each month, I’ll post my review and the opinions of my fellow book clubbers. This month, we read Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018.
Next pick is Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. Why not read along with us? Our next book club meeting is on 31 January, and I will post shortly after that.

From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself - shadowed and luminous at once - we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel.
But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey - through facts, recollection, and imagination - that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. We were living on a street in London called Ruvigny Gardens, and one morning either our mother or our father suggested that after breakfast the family have a talk, and they told us that they would be leaving us and going to Singapore for a year. Not too long, they said, but it would not be a brief trip either. We would of course be well cared for in their absence. I remember our father was sitting on one of those uncomfortable iron garden chairs as he broke the news, while our mother, in a summer dress just behind his shoulder, watched how we responded. After a while she took my sister Rachel’s hand and held it against her waist, as if she could give it warmth.
Neither Rachel nor I said a word. We stared at our father, who was expanding on the details of their flight on the new Avro Tudor I, a descendant of the Lancaster bomber, which could cruise at more than three hundred miles an hour. They would have to land and change planes at least twice before arriving at their destination. He explained he had been promoted to take over the Unilever office in Asia, a step up in his career. It would be good for us all. He spoke seriously and our mother turned away at some point to look at her August garden. After my father had finished talking, seeing that I was confused, she came over to me and ran her fingers like a comb through my hair.
I was fourteen at the time, and Rachel nearly sixteen, and they told us we would be looked after in the holidays by a guardian, as our mother called him. They referred to him as a colleague. We had already met him—we used to call him “The Moth,” a name we had invented. Ours was a family with a habit for nicknames, which meant it was also a family of disguises. Rachel had already told me she suspected he worked as a criminal.
The arrangement appeared strange, but life still was haphazard and confusing during that period after the war; so what had been suggested did not feel unusual. We accepted the decision, as children do, and The Moth, who had recently become our third-floor lodger, a humble man, large but moth-like in his shy movements, was to be the solution. Our parents must have assumed he was reliable. As to whether The Moth’s criminality was evident to them, we were not sure.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Our book of the year – and maybe of Ondaatje's career” ~ Daily Telegraph Books of the Year
“A novel of shadowy brilliance.” ~ The Times
“Fiction as rich, as beautiful, as melancholy as life itself, written in the visionary language of memory.” ~ Observer
“Ondaatje brilliantly threads the mysteries and disguises and tangled loyalties and personal yearnings of the secret world ... and has constructed something of real emotional and psychological heft, delicate melancholy and yet, frequently, page-turning plottiness. I haven’t read a better novel this year.” ~ Telegraph
“[A] haunting, brilliant novel from Ondaatje … Mesmerizing from the first sentence, rife with poignant insights and satisfying subplots, this novel about secrets and loss may be Ondaatje’s best work yet.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“A lyrical mystery that plays out in the shadow of World War II … Ondaatje’s shrewd character study plays out in a smart, sophisticated drama, one worth the long wait for fans of wartime intrigue.” ~ Kirkus

Book Clubbers’ Thoughts
“We’re so lucky we didn’t live through any of that. My parents are both English and I’ve heard stories of what they went through. My grandmother had to ‘go away’ during the war and didn’t come back until ten years later. When she died, we found assorted passports and other interesting things. She may have played a role similar to Nathaniel and Rachel’s mother.” ~ Denise
“I thought the greyhound trading and low-level criminality was an interesting aspect.” ~ Jan
“It would make a great movie. It’s an engaging book because it makes you think. It was a really interesting way of telling the story. Nathaniel had to infer what happened to his mother. You never really find out what happened to everyone.” ~ Kerrie
“I liked the historical aspect of the story and learning about the difficulties the characters endured.” ~ Kerry
“I read Nancy Wake’s biography and was interested to compare it to this book. In both books, everyone only knew the part they had to play in the war effort. There was no sharing of information. Warlight is a sad book with many layers. To Nathaniel and Rachel, their mother leaving them was worse than if she had died.” ~ Marie-Louise
“I didn’t really get into it. I thought it lacked emotional depth.” ~ Maryann
Conclusion: generally positive reviews.

My Review
I got this book on loan from the library.

By Lynda Dickson
In 1945, just after World War II, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sixteen-year-old sister Rachel are left in the care of their mysterious boarder when their parents move to Singapore for their father’s new job. In their parents’ absence, Nathaniel and Rachel live a seemingly idyllic life, full of eccentric characters, illicit adventures, and secret romances. But all is not as it seems, and danger is lurking just around the corner. Later, as an adult, Nathaniel takes a job with the Foreign Office, where he tries to uncover the secrets of his mother’s wartime past and learns more than he bargained for.
The novel begins with a great opening line:
“In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.”
What follows is a series of vignettes describing the incidents that shape Nathaniel’s life. His childhood stories are recounted by an adult Nathaniel in the manner of a memoir, complete with lapses of memory and the inability to recall certain details.
“You return to that earlier time armed with the present, and no matter how dark that world was, you do not leave it unlit. You take your adult self with you. It is not to be a reliving, but a rewitnessing.”
When he later attempts to piece together the puzzle which is his mother’s life, it’s interesting to see how he interprets these events differently with the benefit of hindsight. Seemingly insignificant incidents from his childhood - such as the radio program his mother listens to, or the route he travels on through the city – take on a whole new meaning when new information comes to light.
“We order our lives with barely held stories. As if we have been lost in a confusing landscape, gathering what was invisible and unspoken […] sewing it all together in order to survive, incomplete …”
Nathaniel also tells us stories about his mother and the people she was involved with – things that he could not possibly know.
“I had not been told anything, but […] I know how to fill in a story from a grain of sand or a fragment of discovered truth. In retrospect the grains of sand had always been there …”
Throughout the book, the author reveals the depth of his research, giving us a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life of the working class, as well as glimpses into the secret world of wartime espionage. This charming coming-of-age story morphs into a spy mystery and an ode to those unsung heroes of the war.
“There were so many like her, who were content in the modesty of their wartime skills.”
It is also a poignant reflection on how our lives are determined by the things that happen to us in our youth. Nathaniel is very much a product of his unorthodox upbringing.
“What I am now was formed by whatever happened to me then, not by what I have achieved, but by how I got here.”
I just wish we had learned more about Rachel and the impact that these same events had on her life.
Warnings: sexual references, coarse language, sex scenes.

Some of My Favorite Lines
“Nothing lasts. Not even literary or artistic fame protects worldly things around us.”
“I sat silent on the floor, listening to this fairness of sharing I already knew existed nowhere else in the world, which could occur only in dreams.”
“In youth we are not so much embarrassed by the reality of our situation as fearful others might discover and judge it.”
“We passed industrial buildings, their lights muted, faint as stars, as if we were in a time capsule of the war years when blackouts and curfews had been in effect, when there was just warlight and only blind barges were allowed to move along this stretch of river.”
“I think it was becoming clear that it was not just my mother’s past that had become buried and anonymous. I felt I too had disappeared. I had lost my youth.”
“She was unchanged, still constantly new.”
“He’d been an adventurer, and now I stood there, claustrophobic within his life.”
“We lived through a time when events that appeared far-flung were neighbours.”

About the Author
Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje is the author of six previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil's Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.


Monday, November 26, 2018

"Mrs. Odboddy: And Then There Was a Tiger" by Elaine Faber

Mrs. Odboddy: And Then There Was a Tiger
(Mrs. Odboddy Mysteries Book 3)
by Elaine Faber

Mrs. Odboddy: And Then There Was a Tiger (Odboddy Mysteries Book 3) by Elaine Faber

Mrs. Odboddy: Hometown Patriot by Elaine FaberMrs. Odboddy: Undercover Courier by Elaine Faber

Mrs. Odboddy: And Then There Was a Tiger is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

While the “tiger of war” rages across the Pacific during WWII, eccentric, elderly Agnes Odboddy, “fights the war from the home front”. Her patriotic duties are interrupted when she is accused of the Wilkey’s Market burglary.
A traveling carnival with a live tiger joins the parishioner’s harvest fair at The First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light. Accused again when counterfeit bills are discovered at the carnival, and when the war bond money goes missing, Agnes sets out to restore her reputation and locate the money. Her attempts lead her into harm’s way when she discovers a friend’s betrayal and even more about carnival life than she bargained for.
Granddaughter Katherine’s turbulent love triangle with a doctor and an FBI agent rivals Agnes’s own on-again, off-again relationship with Godfrey.
In Faber’s latest novel, your favorite quirky character, Mrs. Odboddy, prevails against injustice and faces unexpected challenges ... and then There Was a Tiger!

Excerpt from Chapter One
“What in tarnation is all that mess on the front porch?” A tattered shoebox leaned against the newel post beside the front step. Clumps of string lay amidst more shredded paper on the porch.
Agnes switched off the motor of her 1930 Model A Ford. She pulled on the hand brake, jammed her silver chopsticks firmly into the bun on the back of her hennaed hair, and stepped out of the car.
Shreds of brown paper skittered across the lawn. Her frown deepened as she picked up pieces of cardboard and string.
Agnes Agatha Odboddy, in big bold letters, was scribbled across the middle of the brown wrapping paper. She flipped the shoebox over. An offensive odor wafted up from inside. “What the devil…”
Agnes glanced toward the porch and noticed the front door standing ajar. “Jumping Jehoshaphat.” Her granddaughter, Katherine, must have forgotten to lock it when she took their ward, Maddie, to school this morning.
She pushed open the front door, and peeked inside. “Good gravy!” Pillows–askew on the sofa. Magazines–scattered across the rug. Remnants of her grandmother’s vase speckled the hearth.
“Oh, my stars. We’ve been burgled.” Agnes rushed through the living room and into the kitchen. Breakfast coffee puddled in the middle of the table. A cup lay shattered in the sink. A kitchen chair lay sideways on the linoleum floor.
A scuffling sound came from the back bedroom. Agnes spun around. Was someone in there, ransacking her jewelry box? Should she run back out the front door? Agnes Odboddy, self-appointed scourge of the underworld–run for cover? Not on your tintype!
She grabbed a rolling pin from the drawer, the weapon of choice for a woman of a certain age, planning to sneak up on the thief, crack his head, and bring him to his cowardly knees.
Before she had taken three steps, a rat barreled out of her bedroom and down the hall. Agnes jumped back. “Yikes!”
The spindly-tailed rodent raced into the living room and scrambled up the flowered drapes to the top of the curtain rod. Ling-Ling, a feline nemesis in camo-gray, followed.
Merciful Heavens. A measly rodent? Agnes sent the rolling pin flying. It hit the wall, barely missing the front window, and clattered to the floor.
Rrowww! Ling-Ling clawed her way up the curtain, knocking a table lamp to the floor. Thud! The fringed shade spun off the lamp and rolled toward the front door. Down came the rod with a crash, as the rat dropped to the floor and raced out the front door with the Ling-Ling, the Siamese avenger three leaps behind.
Agnes shook her finger. “Ling-Ling. Bad girl. No! No…” What was she saying? “Go get her, girl.”
Agnes stepped onto the porch and put her hand to her eyes in time to see the pair racing up the street, headed toward The First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light. She checked her watch. Yep, folks should just about be arriving for the afternoon prayer meeting. That’ll give them something to pray about. She stepped back into the house to assess the damage.
Never in her seventy-plus years had she seen such destruction. What unknown scoundrel hated her enough to leave a rat-filled shoebox addressed to her on the porch?
Agnes pondered the situation. Ling-Ling must come upon the shoebox and smelled the rodent through the wrapping paper. She could almost see her determined Siamese killing-machine scratching and kicking the box until she had shredded a hole big enough for the rat to escape, dash through the open door, and into the house. The image sent shivers up Agnes’s spine.
Ling-Ling would have followed with murder in her crossed blue eyes and the chase ensued. Not even an air raid from the Flying Tigers could have left her living room and kitchen in such a mess. No telling how the rest of the house would have suffered if Agnes hadn’t returned just at that moment.
What if Ling-Ling hadn’t found the box and taken matters into her own paws? Why, she might have cut the string herself, opened the box, and the rat would have leaped into her face. Maybe that was exactly the sender’s intention.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“The story does keep you on your toes, and you never see what is about to happen, and the setting is WWII, and even Mrs. Roosevelt is back. A don’t miss read that will make you want more once that last page is turned!” ~ Maureen’s Musings
“If you love wacky but fun adventures, this is the series for you. The historical detail adds additional depth.” ~ Laura’s Interests
“From page one, Faber's lively writing style and authentic language capture the mood of the 1940s and pull me along as a helpless captive to this engaging story. Highly recommended for entertainment value!” ~ June Gillam
“If you've not read this author before this is a must to pick up. She captivates you from the beginning and you just cannot put the book down. Some surprises in it you'll love, too.” ~ Ruth Powers
“With Agnes, there's never a dull page. Expect unceasing entertainment!” ~ Ellen Cardwell

Guest Post by the Author
Expectations of the Reader
A reader spends four to five hours immersed in a book from cover to cover. If the story is well written, for a time, she forgets her personal life. She sees herself either traveling alongside the main character or, if the writer is talented enough, the reader ‘becomes’ the character as the story moves forward.
She may wish to be transported into a romance where she feels loved and cherished. She may be a frustrated crime fighter who receives satisfaction from following clues and perhaps solving a mystery before the end of the book. She may hope to experience the thrills and chills of a thriller-suspense novel. Or, perhaps, to experience life in a different world or a different time in history. She may hope to learn more of the traditions of people from other lands or other cultures, presented in a way she can identify with.
How do these various types of book come about? Does the reader ever think about what was involved before this story could magically appear on the pages and land on a book store shelf for the benefit and pleasure of our reader?
Unless a reader is an author herself, it is doubtful that she could conceive of the time and energy that goes into writing a novel – plotting, writing, researching, editing, reviewing, formatting, and finally to cover design and publication. Each step takes hours and hours and hours.
The author must first come up with a premise for the story. Some authors outline the entire novel before they ever put fingers to keyboard. Others have a general idea of the story line, and let the story evolve as they write, figuring how to bring it all together in a cohesive manner. She thinks about the characters and the story line most days and often into the night. Every little thread must come together in the end. It is essential to keep the suspense or momentum throughout the middle, lest we lose the attention of the reader. She must keep each reaction and comment true to the personality of the characters as she envisions how they might respond to a certain event. She must make the reader understand the motivation and resulting actions or comments of the character through the dialogue.
The end must make sense and, preferably, be a satisfying conclusion to the reader, leaving her wishing there was another hundred pages in the story. She is left wondering where the sequel can be found, if there is one. In ideal circumstances, the characters have become real enough that she can almost see them as next-door neighbors or someone in her circle of friends.
What a challenge and what a victory when a reader comes back and says, “When is the next book coming out?” That is the reader’s expectation and the goal authors seek. That is the highest compliment.

About the Author
Elaine Faber
Elaine Faber lives in Northern California with her husband and two feline companions. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, California Cat Writers, and Northern California Publishers and Authors. She volunteers with the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop. She enjoys speaking on author panels, sharing highlights of her novels. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines and multiple anthologies. She has published seven books. In addition to the Mrs. Odboddy Mysteries Elaine writes the Black Cat Mysteries.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"The Capri Girl" by D. Guy

The Capri Girl
(The LaFollette Chronicles Book 1)
by D. Guy

The Capri Girl (The LaFollette Chronicles Book 1) by D. Guy

The LaFollette Chronicles is a standalone series of books by D. Guy about different people and families in the small town of LaFollette, Tennessee, taking place at different times in the twentieth century. The chronicles describe situations and events affecting the people in the chronicles. The stories often sweep from eastern Tennessee to southern Italy and back.
The Capri Girl is the first book in The LaFollette Chronicles. Author D. Guy stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. Also available in this series: Never Go to Capri Alive, Soldato Mio, A Heart’s Broken Travels, and Bobby Jack.

Never Go to Capri Alive by D. GuySoldato Mio by D. GuyA Heart’s Broken Travels by D. GuyBobby Jack by D. Guy

J.P. White's grandfather landed in New York in 1910 and started a family dynasty. Descended from hard-working, successful Italian stock, J.P. is a talented, good-looking young man. Growing up during the 1940s in the small city of LaFollette, nestled deep in the hills of East Tennessee, he had little need to worry. After all, his family, being successful, had money.
J.P. discovered at the age of 16 that he had a real knack for songwriting. In fact, he was very good. Writing songs for his agent in Nashville provided J.P. with an income he didn't need, and he had written some very successful songs, including the entire, “Capri Suite” album which brought worldwide fame and even more riches. But … some dark secret still haunted J.P. … something from a time spent in Italy. Something that happened on the beautiful island of Capri.
J.P. enjoyed popularity with the ladies, especially an old school friend in a troubled marriage named Teresa.
J.P. and Teresa enjoyed, “consoling”, each other to the fullest. But, something was still very wrong. There is a deep sadness, a dark corner in J.P.; something consoling Teresa had helped him forget for a time. Something named Rosina.
But, things are beginning to change. J.P. and Teresa's stolen moments of happiness are coming to an end. Should J.P. go back to Italy … to Capri? Should he shine a light in that dark corner even if doing so might cost him his life this time? As it had almost done once before. Maybe it is time to stop running. Just maybe, what J.P. really needs is waiting for him in Capri.

At 11:30 at night, Ruggiero Valente stepped off the last ferry running from Naples and walked purposely down the pier. He was steaming and had murder in his heart. He knew that and didn't wish to do anything to quell it either.
He had been pulled from a meeting at the Party headquarters in Benevento earlier in the evening, for an emergency phone call. After the phone call, he went back into the meeting and whispered something in the ear of the boss who was conducting this part of the meeting. He nodded his assent, and Ruggiero walked to the back of the room and grabbed two of his flunkies and almost drug them through the door.
The train to Naples seemed to take forever, and Ruggiero never sat down once. The flunkies did sit, and smoked continuously all the way, content to consume their nicotine and observe Ruggiero's pacing. They figured he would tell them the problem when it was time.
A hurried taxi ride got them to the landing just in time to run aboard. Ruggiero didn't even argue when the man punching tickets didn't know who he was and how important he was. He just paid the extra tariff for boarding without a ticket for all three. Ruggiero was mad.
Ruggiero's car was parked in an illegal parking place at the end of the pier, and had been there for three days, but no one had ticketed it or towed it. It belonged to him, so why would they?
The three men piled into the small Fiat and drove up to the Party office in Anacapri. The two flunkies still hadn't been told what the problem might be.
No matter what the problem might be, one of the flunkies took Ruggiero's pistol from his hand when he pulled it out of his desk drawer.
“Let me carry it, Boss. You're more important than me, so I will take care of whatever is bothering you.”
Flunkie number one was saying this as he wrapped his hand around the gun. He and his sidekick both knew that Ruggiero had been losing control of late, and if they kept him out of trouble, then, hopefully they would stay out of trouble too. Or at least have someone who would arrange for them to be set free if things went bad.
“You're a good man, Domenico. You're always thinking ahead about my welfare. I wish I had a hundred men like you. We would be running this country in no time.”
“We could only do it with a leader like you, Boss.” Domenico knew how to kiss ass. “Do you want to clue us in boss?”
“An Americano asshole is raping my daughter over at the Caesare Tiberio, right now. I'm going to kill both of them.”
“How long have they been in there, Boss? Maybe he's gone?”
“No. They will be there when we get there. I received a phone call that said she has come there for three nights in a row to let the son of a bitch defile her. I'm going to kill them.”
Domenico knew that he wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but it sure didn't sound like rape to him. He sure wasn't going to argue with Ruggiero though. If he wanted to think it was rape, then it was rape, all three nights. Domenico knew what Rosina looked like, and he couldn't really blame the rapist for making her come back and be defiled for three nights in a row.
Once at the hotel, Ruggiero marched in, with his henchmen right behind him. The desk clerk was looking right at them, and didn't see a thing. Ruggiero pointed at the phone and shook his forefinger back and forth in a, “Don't even think it,” gesture. The clerk got the message and went back to reading his sports gazette.
J.P. got out of bed to go get the bottle of mineral water that had been left in the front room. While getting it, he heard voices in the hall, and being a cautious man, he cracked the door just a bit, to see if there was any cause for alarm. His grandfather's words came back to him, “It's good to trust...”
He was able to separate the voices and one of them was familiar. A few nights before, it had been walking across a platform, saying, “Look at me, look at me.”
Working quickly, J.P. tugged the writing desk over and pushed it in close to the door. For good measure, he picked the desk chair up and sat it on the desk.
Once those defensive measures were taken, J.P. rushed back into the bedroom and pulled a sleeping Rosina out onto the floor. All he had to say was, “Your father's here,” and she was wide awake and gathering clothes. He pulled the patio door open and threw her purse and shoes out, and then sent her and her wad of clothes right behind them. She was trying to get her underclothes on when he quickly went back to his room and returned just as quickly with his wallet. Pulling out all the cash in it, he pushed it into her hands and then shoved her on her way.
“Get dressed somewhere else, Rosina. It won't matter who sees you naked if you're dead. Take the money and escape, honey. No matter what happens to me, I love you. Never forget that. If I live, I will find you.”
Then J.P. turned and went back in to meet the monster. The door was being pushed in, slowly but surely. J.P. had pulled his pants on and as the door opened, he launched himself at the man in the lead. 
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“I really liked this book by Douglas Joe Guy very much as well as its sequel. I will be reading more by him. It kept my interest piqued.” ~ Judith Molique
“Very interesting historical drama. This book has an excellent plot line and keeps you interested from the very first page to the end. The characters are intriguing and fun to imagine. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!” ~ Allen Wells
“I loved the book and am anticipating reading the next in the series. Anything that mentions my hometown of LaFollette, TN and folks I may know, I love reading about.” ~ Charlene Williams

Interview with the Author
Douglas Joe Guy joins me today to discuss his book The Capri Girl, the first book in his The LaFollette Chronicles Series.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Since my stories have adult language and adult situations at times, the minimum age should be at least 18.  Actually though, the readers should be several years out of school, be it just high school or college. I think that most people come out of both institutions not knowing how the real world and real life function.
The stories are about actual real life and actual real-life situations. Those situations may involve a cheating spouse, or crawling over the dead bodies of your friends as you hit the beach during the Salerno invasion in September 1943 (that was the first D-Day, by the way), or maybe falling in love the very first time you see a person, or maybe fighting for your very life in 50-degree-below-zero weather during the battle of “Frozen Chosin” in Korea in November 1950. Those are a few of the things that I have going on in my books.
What sparked the idea for this book?
The idea came about one afternoon when I was kicked back reading a book on songwriting by Jimmy Webb who, along with Bobby Braddock, I consider one of the best songwriters of my generation. Taking a break from the book, I started surfing YouTube looking for something interesting. I settled on a rerun of an old biography show about John Singer Sargent, an artist so famous that even I had heard of him. The show got to the part about him going to the island of Capri in 1878 in order to paint Rosina Ferrara, the 1878 version of today's supermodels. Famous artists from around the world came there to paint the 17-year-old girl. Sargent painted her about nine times. She was a fascinating-looking woman. While this was going on, I happened to look down and saw Jimmy Webb looking up at me. A thought zinged through my head: “What if the greatest songwriter of the 1950s, a combination of Webb and Braddock, was a young man from the small town of LaFollette, in East Tennessee who goes to Italy on a speaking engagement and takes a break and goes to Capri for a couple of days? Once there, he meets, falls in love with, and then loses Rosina Ferrara. Who also happens to have been dead for over 20 years.”
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
It's hard for me to say. While I was thinking of the story for The Capri Girl, I was thinking of my characters as I worked the idea out. I had my songwriter character, I knew he was going to meet a girl. For me, everything else is just filling in the blanks.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The ending. I didn't want it to end. I love my characters and by the time I finish the book, they're like real people to me. Some of my peripheral characters were also very interesting and I have always hated to finish reading a book or watching a movie and it has its happy or unhappy ending and all the side characters are left hanging there in limbo. The more I thought about it at the end of The Capri Girl, I just had to know what happened to everyone else, so I sat down and knocked out not exactly a sequel, because that hadn't been planned, but maybe more like wrapping up some loose ends, if that makes sense, and came up with my second book, Never Go to Capri Alive.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
Would it be wrong to say that I hope it makes them want more books by the author? I think that would be the honest answer by every writer.
I do want them to enjoy the story. No doubt about that. I try to write the kind of story that I myself like to pick up and read. I spent 13 years on sea-duty during my 21 years in the Navy, and I read hundreds and hundreds of books during those years. During peacetime, sea duty is pretty darn boring. Work, sleep, eat. That is the routine, other than an occasional port visit that usually lasts three to four days, then right back to work, sleep, and eat. Reading is what I did during any waking hours when I wasn't doing the other three things. I read everything available. A lot of book trading went on among the sailors and there was always a small space tucked away somewhere on the ship and called a library. I found many genres and themes I didn't care for but read anyway, and I found just as many that I did like. Those are the ones I try to write.
How long did it take you to write this book?
About twelve days.
Wow, that’s amazing! What is your writing routine?
I write fast and I binge write when I do. I have written more than 10,000 words in a day on several occasions. The most ever was a bit over 14,000. I most often hit the higher numbers when I'm first starting the book. I slow down a bit after that, when I start adding more details and descriptions about the characters and locales. My plot is laid out early on. I only have to make it happen. I know how I want it to end, and I only have to add the bumps in the road on the way there.
How did you get your book published?
Early on, I decided that I was too old and didn't have the time nor expertise to get published in the traditional way. You know, find an agent that would take me on, then wait for him or her to find a publisher that showed interest, and then all the back and forth between the three of us. As I said, I just don't have the time. So, Amazon was the quickest and easiest choice. The timeline from the date I published my first book there, up to the date I published number five, was one hundred days. You can’t do that in the traditional publishing world. I watched all of the Michael Anderle videos on YouTube and bought into his theory that one should hit Amazon every three or four weeks with a new book. I thought that I should first build up an inventory and then do what he advised. My stories are not a series like his, so I can't just knock out a story every week or so utilizing a lot of the same characters.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
That's a tough one.
I guess that you should make the decision to do it. One of the things I did early on was to find books and videos about writing. There are about a zillion do's and don'ts and they vary from source to source. Making up your mind is the hard part. Some things work, and some things don't. My first two stories, I did by the “pants” method (seat of your pants). I wrote the two books pretty rapidly but that was because the ideas came to me so quickly. After that, I decided to try outlining my story and that works about a thousand percent better and makes my writing go even quicker. The other thing that works for me is that I refuse to believe in “writer's block” and other reasons that people give for not writing. Back to being older, I simply don't have the time. I need to get my stuff written. If you have the idea and an outline, the writing is easy. The hard part for me is at the end. I hate the editing process and getting a suitable cover and someone to format it for Amazon Kindle and getting a description written. I can knock out stories that range from 50k words to 150k words, but a two- or three-hundred-word description defeats me. So, I get a professional to do it for me. I pay for that and pay for the other needed services also. Since so much of my stories often take place in Italy, I thought it suitable to find an artist there to do my book covers. I use a fellow in Barbados to do my formatting. He did a great job on my first book and I believe in dancing with the one who brung you. Just remember that you don't have to do it all. Write the book. Everything else is just “stuff”.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Family, family, family. I watch baseball when it's in season. I cook. Twenty years in Italy made me a good Italian cook. My granddaughters demand “Nonno's pasta”. Since they live next door, it gets demanded pretty often.
What does your family think of your writing?
My wife and children are my biggest fans.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in what today would be called “below poverty level”. That simple. My grandmother raised me. My parents were not often in the picture. In the early 1950s, my grandmother's Social Security pension was about thirty dollars a month. We lived on that. That amount didn't stretch very far, even back then, so she and I never made a habit of overeating. Many of the other people in our neighborhood were in the same situation, so I never really realized how poor I was until I left home and joined the Navy. I think that I thought everyone in the world ate pinto beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread at least five days (or more) a week, twice a day at a minimum. That's the way it was. I hustled at everything possible to try to earn twenty-five cents during the week so that I could go to the movies on Saturday. A ticket was fourteen cents, a coke five cents and popcorn five cents. I would use the remaining penny to buy gum on the way home. Saturdays were great because there was always a double feature and you could stay in your seat and watch them several times if you wished. I thought I had a great life, and I did.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved reading. My small hometown did have a library, thank goodness. It was small, more like an oversized room with bookshelves. I think I probably read every single book it had while growing up. It sure seemed like it. When I was there, I could look out the window and see another world. In adulthood, I did see a lot of that world. Those books prepared me to recognize what I found when I arrived in those foreign places.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My fiction books, about two years ago. I wrote two pieces of nonfiction before that and stopped. I had no more nonfiction in me. I had retired for the final time and needed to keep busy and be doing something. My wife told me to stay out from under her feet and go write a book or something. That was the moment that cartoons show the character with a light bulb suddenly appearing over their head. That simple.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Yes. A great deal of me and my experiences. My impoverished childhood and being hungry. My 21 months in the Mekong Delta and being scared to death the entire time. A lot of me is in my books.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
At the top of the list is Louis L'Amour. His memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, should be on every would-be writer's list. When he wrote about a trail or a canyon or a spring, you can bet it's there.
When I write about going next door into Browder Hutson's little grocery store in 1953, you can bet I can describe it to a tee in any story that I mention it in. L'Amour's book taught me to write about what I know. I don't know London or Los Angeles or New York or a lot of other places, but I do know the people and the town of LaFollette, Tennessee, in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I know Southern Italy in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I know life in the Navy, both in peacetime and wartime. I prefer peacetime.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I Include an email address at the end of my books and now include the name of my Facebook author page. I do get comments from readers and, believe it or not, I have not yet received any negative comments (knock on wood).
That’s great! What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I have published five titles in my The LaFollette Chronicles series, with eight more to come, for a total of 13. Any more than that depends on my health.
The chronicles in publishing order are The Capri Girl, Never Go to Capri Alive, Soldato Mio, A Heart’s Broken Travels, Bobby Jack, Lossman, Rushing to the End, Katie Mazzetti, and Nettie Ruth. The last is by request from readers of Bobby Jack, who wanted to know what happened to some of the characters. I thought, why not, because I wrote Never Go to Capri Alive for readers of The Capri Girl.
Then comes a four-book family saga, the Baird-Hunley saga. They are also part of The LaFollette Chronicles.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
D. Guy (Douglas Joe Guy)
D. Guy (Douglas Joe Guy) has an extremely interesting background. Joe is from the small town of LaFollette, nestled in the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee. Joe is a military veteran with over twenty years in the U.S. Navy. Thirteen of these years in the Navy were spent on sea duty.
Joe likes to say there are two types of stories in the Navy. One type is called a “sea story”, and these stories may even have a touch of truth to them. The other type of story always starts out with the phrase, “Now this is no s**t ....” Naturally, true stories such as these became known as “no s***ters”.
Joe read hundreds and perhaps thousands of books while at sea and from every genre imaginable. Combine that with the wealth of “sea stories” and “no s***ters” from his days in the Navy, and he has a lot of material to work with. Many of these tales were funny, some were tragic, others were love stories, and finally, some were simply preposterous. After retiring the second time, first from the Navy and then from his Financial Services Agency, Joe needed a way to get out from under his wife's feet. Therefore, he decided to write a book.
“One of the things I learned early on from information available on writers’ sites on the web and from YouTube videos is that a person should write about what they know. I felt that I knew three things. First, I know East Tennessee in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The second thing I knew was the military. I served for 21 years, 3 months and 6 days (not like I'd been counting) in the United States Navy, retiring as a Chief Radioman. That time included serving sea tours on three ships and 21 months with III Corps in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Finally, the third thing I know is Southern Italy in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. One or more of these three topics are found in all of my stories. I am from a small town in East Tennessee, called LaFollette. It's located approximately forty miles north of Knoxville and figures in all of my stories. I have three cats (all with Italian names). I also have three (sometimes) adult children, and I have five granddaughters (all of who are smart and beautiful).”