And it’s a guest! Remember I said about the Author of the Month? Well, here she is! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Laurel A. Rockfeller! 😀
Where do you live and write from?
Perhaps stereotypically, I am a wandering artist. I was born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA where I received my bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska in stage/film writing via integrated studies, psychology, and history. From there I’ve wandered all over United States. I presently and very temporarily live in western Pennsylvania which I hope to leave in coming months.
By 2016, I plan to immigrate to the United Kingdom and southern England in particular. I write dramatized history and recognize the benefit to my writing that comes from walking the places where my histories actually happened.
I need each of you to help me make that happen.
I will most certainly welcome you to this side of the ocean, athough I live much further south than the British Isles… but then, who knows, maybe by 2016 I’ll also manage to move to the UK and we can meet there! 😉 When did you start writing?
There’s really never been a time where I have not written or composed. I grew up in a particularly harsh evangelical Christian home where domestic violence was effectively condoned – no matter how far it went. I coped with the violence (which included rape by my father starting before the age of two) by singing and composing, making up songs, poems, and stories which I told to my pets as a preschooler and which took written form once I entered school.
As far as the published writing goes, my first national publication came in 1991 when the Minas Tirith Evening Star published my sonnet, “Why Bilbo?” in its edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was originally published as a poet and songwriter. In 2001 that evolved into non-fiction history writing for newsletters in the Society for Creative Anachronism. In 2008 Bird Talk magazine published two of my articles about the quirks of raising cockatiels. Finally, in August 2012 I published the first edition of my first novel (now out of print in favor of the extended edition from January 2013) from the Peers of Beinan Series and have been a self-published independent author ever since.
I am impressed… What genre(s) do you write?
With three book series, I am of course multi-genre.
The Peers of Beinan Series is science fiction (set in another galaxy), supernatural/fantasy, clean romance, adventure, and mystery/thriller. Since the stories focus on nobles, royals, and so forth (hence “peers”), there is a lot of political intrigue to the books and novellas.
The Legendary Women of World History Series is a series of biographical novellas exploring the lives of women who have shaped our history. Genre-wise they sit smack in the middle between creative non-fiction history and historical fiction. There’s not enough fiction in them to really consider them fully historical fiction. At the same time, I have to name anonymous historical persons and often invent details and conversations in particular that never made it into the historical record. That established, I stick to documented historical events. For example, we know from Tacitus that Boudicca married King Prasutagus of the Iceni and had two daughters with him who were twelve in 61 CE. In my narrative, you see Prasutagus and Boudicca meet in Camulodunum (now called Colchester), hear Prasutagus’ express romantic interest in her, and finally attend their wedding with them. Are these scenes fiction or non-fiction? That’s really in the mind of the reader.
American Stories ranges from historical fiction to dramatized history. These are stories entirely set in the United States or its historical precursors. Book one looks at Irish immigration to Nebraska in the 1880s. The second book, started on August 1st, tells the story of Charlotte Woodward Pierce, the only attendee at the Convention at Seneca Falls (1848) to live to see women cast ballots for the first time in 1920.
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?
Excellent question. History really is my biggest source of inspiration – not only in who I choose to explore in the biographies, but also with the Peers of Beinan Series as well. Beinarian culture is a fusion of medieval and modern British societies mixed with some Asian cultures and history as well and with an exciting mix of “heritage” and “modern” technologies. That is to say that Beinarian peers will use a heritage (medieval Earth) crossbow as readily as a laser crossbow that shoots plasma quarrels. In this I am grateful to my over twenty years with the Society for Creative Anachronism because I’ve had the opportunity to watch these different weapons in action and sometimes use them on the practice target range. There are several archery scenes in the books. Actually shooting a bow for an afternoon did much to help me write those scenes.
As for putting myself into the stories – I am surprised how much I do that. In chapters one and two of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, King Prasutagus courts Boudicca much in the way that I wish to be courted someday. Prasutagus was flawed – his bad choices forced Boudicca into her confrontation with the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus – but I would like to think he was also a gentleman in the best sense of the word. So their interactions very much reflect my personality and my desires for the future.
Likewise, I see a lot of different parts of myself in most of the Peers of Beinan Series protagonists.
Do you have a specific writing routine?
Not usually. Ghosts of the Past had the most formal outline I’ve used to date simply because it was the middle chapter of my first trilogy.
Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
I tend to improvise. With the biographies, obviously I need to follow history extremely closely. But within those constraints, I let the characters/historical persons take me along for the ride.
Tell us about your latest book
My latest book is the second novella in the LWWH Series on the life of Catherine de Valois. If you know your Shakespeare, you’ve already heard of Catherine – she was “Kate” in “Henry V” and married King Henry on 2nd of June, 1420. As I discovered in my research, Shakespeare’s version of her was radically different from the real person, making me wonder how Shakespeare kept his head given that she was King Henry VII’s paternal grandmother through her second marriage to Owen Tudor.
Catherine lived at the heart of extraordinary times. Across her life, civil war tore France apart. Her father, King Charles VI suffered from disabling mental illness and violent paranoid delusions. Adding to this the newly crowned King Henry V of England, seasoned by his wars against the Welsh, used her as an excuse to not only war with France, but commit terrible atrocities against the women and children of Rouen. Fortunately for her, King Henry’s obsession with eliminating all rivals to his claim to the French throne took his life on 31st August 1422, making her the most eligible widow in Europe – one that Parliament was determined to control. What happened next changed the world forever.
It’s a fantastic history that I hope all of you will explore. Like all my other novellas, Catherine is only 99 cents/75 pence, making it very accessible.
Also, if I may, I would like to let everyone know of an upcoming release this month.
All summer long, gifted UK actor Richard Mann has recorded Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni into an audio edition. It is with great pleasure that I announce that Boudicca is now in post-production and will be live on itunes, audible, and Amazon websites very soon, so please watch for it. Take a listen to my favorite scene from chapter three at http://www.legendarywomenbooks.com/Boudicca_chapter_three_snippet.mp3
Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?
I am an independent author. As to why, I think I was always daunted by traditional publishing. I felt like I had no clue how or where to begin, who to approach, and so forth. So when I learned about independent publishing in 2012, I knew that was the way to go for me.
Any other projects in the pipeline?
I am currently writing FOUR books right now.
For the Peers of Beinan Series, I am continuing work on book three, “Princess Anyu Returns.” Book two, “Ghosts of the Past” ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I know folks are eager for Returns. You can read deleted scenes and chapters from Returns in “The Lost Tales.” I am taking my time with this book because the story and the world building needs to be up to my meticulous standards. Making this book especially complicated for me to write: the exile of Princess Anyu on D425E25 Tertius makes me work from TWO different planetary systems and reference points at the same time. Beinarian units of time, distance, and so forth have to be used even though this alien planet is extremely alien to the princess – with a local solar day being less than 1/5th of a beinor (Beinarian day) long. This is of course very disorienting for her, especially early on, which merits a careful handling.
Once the narrative moves past her exile and we are back on Beinan, I think the writing will go much quicker!
Next, I am writing the third Legendary Women of World History novella, “Empress Wu” which is about the only woman to rule China entirely in her own right. Empress Wu was extraordinary not only for this achievement in the 7th century CE, but she was the first monarch in the world to patronize agriculture as science and academic discipline. Literature written by women thrived through her example and patronage. We really do own a lot to her trailblazing, even though most westerners have never heard of her.
Third, I am working on the second American Stories book with a tentative title of “Charlotte’s Vote.” Charlotte Woodward Pierce was the only signer of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments from the Convention at Seneca Falls to survive to see women cast their ballots in 1920. Sadly, she was too ill to cast one of her own. Charlotte’s Vote is the story of how American women gained many of the human rights we take for granted. If you know nothing about American women’s history, you will find this an eye-opening read. In the meantime, I suggest Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony called “Not For Ourselves Alone” which is one of the sources I am using for the story.
Finally, I am writing a non-fiction e-book tentatively called “American Poverty: Why American Treatment of the Poor Undermines its Authority as a World Power.” The e-book collects about four essays I wrote for Yahoo Voices on poverty in America, then adds analysis from The Shriver Report and finally draws conclusions about poverty and how this affects America’s reputation abroad.
I have already been labelled a “traitor” by some members of the tea party just for taking on this subject, so I have high hopes it will be as broadly read and debated as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was during the American War for Independence. In my humble opinion, it is time we stop ignoring poverty and its effects on our society and start caring again for one another. This is something each of us can do something about and is a dialogue we need to have much more of.
What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
I want to stimulate the sorts of debates and dialogues that lead to social change for the better. I believe in social justice. I believe we make the future what we want to make it with every choice in every day. We can convert our lawns into gardens and not only provide our own diets with fresher and healthier food, but give that which we cannot eat to those who are struggling to have enough to eat. We can be kinder, more compassionate, and less judgmental. And we can believe again in the future.
If there is a recurring theme across my books, it is HOPE. No matter how dark or how much death and pain is around you, there is always a reason to hope and believe in a better future. So I want to create cultures of hope around the world.
Author social media/website
Find Laurel’s books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE, on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/laurelarockefeller, and on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6569976.Laurel_A_Rockefeller or visit her websites at http://www.peersofbeinan.com and http://www.legendarywomenbooks.com, her blog at http://peersofbeinan.wordpress.com/, or on social media.