Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Interview With Author Jackie Ross Flaum

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The Yellow Fever Revenge coverLow Down Dirty Vote Volume 2 cover                Mayhem in Mephis cover                                                                                 

CTC:     Good afternoon everyone. Please join me in welcoming acclaimed author Jackie Ross Flaum to my blog. She has most recently written the novella story The Yellow Fever Revenge. You can find my review here: 

https://chessythecat.wordpress.com/2020/04/07/love-will-prevail/

Let’s get started.

CTC:     When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? When did you write your first book and how old were you? 

JRF:     Writing came naturally to me all my life. Escaping into my own world and telling myself a story was always part of me—I can’t remember when it wasn’t! I wrote my first novel, Ricky and the Midnight Colt, when I was in the sixth grade. My mother, bless her, typed all 100 pages of it. I ran across a few pages when we cleaned out the attic!

CTC:     How long does it take you to write a book?

JRF:     I am slow, slow, slow. I write historical romantic suspense with Southern heroes and heroines. They require lots of research, many hours in libraries, on the phone talking to people, Internet searches. When you read The Yellow Fever Revenge I want you to feel like you are in Memphis during the epidemic. I can’t do that without lots of research.  And, I confess, I agonize over every word. I have a novel coming out soon, Justice Tomorrow, set in a 1960s Georgia town. It’s taken me two years to crank it out. I check and recheck everything.

CTC:     What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

JRF:    I usually buckle down after lunch. Then my husband has to remind me it’s getting close to dinner or I’d write up into the night. He makes sure I keep a regular life.

CTC:     What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

JRF:     Hmm, maybe a better question is what quirk do I aspire to have? I would love to be like Joseph Heller in Catch-22. He often starts a sentence, and it is going the way you expect it, then suddenly he twists it and you go, “oh” or laugh. For example, this is a classic sentence from the book: “His mother was a Daughter of the American Revolution and his father was a son of a bitch.”

CTC:     LOL

JRF:     When I’m actually writing on the computer, I have to have water and eye drops close by. I sometimes forget to blink! Plus, I’m always thirsty.

CTC:     Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

JRF:     Ideas come from news stories, family stories, people I’ve met who are so interesting. I have a short story that will appear in the July 4 crime writer’s anthology Low Down Dirty Vote V.II that came from my family history. I had heard the story in pieces from my grandmother, then read a newspaper or magazine account of it. I changed my grandmother’s tale around a little, but I hope you enjoy Two Dead, Two Wounded.

CTC:     What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

JRF:     Swimming, playing bridge with friends, reading, arguing politics with my husband—those are some of my favorite things to do. But I devote a lot of time to a program I helped create called Team Read. It links trained volunteers with second graders who need help learning to read. It’s been very successful and spread from one school to 63 in just a few years. We have 1,400 volunteers in my county alone! It is a great free program that has measurable success. I discuss it on my website www.jrflaum.com.

CTC:     What does your family think of your writing?

JRF:     Oh, they are very supportive. My husband is a retired business writer and edits my work. But he won’t read anything without a murder on the front page. He’s a picky reader. My teenage grandson even read The Yellow Fever Revenge and declared it more interesting than his history book’s description of the epidemic and its impact on Memphis.

CTC:     Why on earth would you release a book about an epidemic during a pandemic?

JRF:     Good question. I was conflicted. On one hand, it is a timely story about a woman in Memphis facing challenges posed by the epidemic and the arrival of her rapist in town. Much of what Elizabeth McAlister sees and endures is part of our time, readers can immediately relate. On the other hand, as one of my author friends said, people may not want to read about something historical that bears so much similarity to their current experiences. The pandemic is traumatizing for many.

Elizabeth McAlister pushed me to tell her story, to expand on what I’d explained before about her desire to protect her son and her new love, a policeman, from knowing about her past. The arrival of her rapist Barkley Mills and his family changes everything for Elizabeth. She decides she must kill him or he will come upon her someday and recognize himself in their son’s face. Barkley is a horrible man—personally, I couldn’t stand him.

In the end, Elizabeth is swept up into caring for the thousands who are sickened. She must decide if she can take a life when so many are struggling to keep theirs.

CTC:     Personally, I loved it.

CTC:     What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

JRF:     As a reporter for The Hartford Courant I learned early on that what I thought I wrote was not what people read. I had to be really careful as a journalist to convey the correct meaning with my words. I thought it would be different in fiction. Surprise! It’s even more important!

CTC:     That has to be really hard. I see that every day on social media. Folks tend to read more into my posts than I meant.

CTC:     How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

JRF:     I have written four books, all in the Sterling and Gray “Sterling Brothers Ltd” series. Sterling Brothers is a company of investigators who worked in the civil rights movement. The first will be published in summer Justice Tomorrow. It introduces Madeline Sterling, a daughter of a Harvard University professor and his Mississippi-bred wife, and her partner Socrates Gray, son of two well-educated black school teachers in the rural South. The story opens in 1965. Sterling and Gray head a team of college students who work in part of the civil rights movement and they arrive in a small Georgia to investigate the lynching of a teenager. The second book Price of a Future follows Sterling and Gray from the chaos which follows Justice Tomorrow. My favorite, however, is the last—a book I wrote first! It finishes the Sterling/Gray story arc and, I hope, leads to their agency having many mysteries to solve.

CTC:     What lead you to write?

And, well, it was first reading all the time. I was the kid who read the geography book the first week of school and hid another book inside it during geography class. Well, I couldn’t use the math book, it was too small.

I love all the J.D. Robb books, all the American political intrigue books like “Advise and Consent” and “Night of the Generals.”

CTC:     What is it about your writing that sets you apart from other authors?

JRF:     Every writer has a unique voice and tells a story in a way no one else can. For proof, look at the number of people who have written books on the same subject. How many novels of kidnapping and murder have you read? I am a Baby Boomer, Southerner tempered by years in the North, and a woman—nobody has seen or experienced life as I have and my vision of the world is unique. That is true of every person. And those things that make me unique are reflected in my writing.

I had a creative writing teacher tell me this story and he claimed it was true: a professor walked into his writing class and offered an A to the student who could successfully intertwine the most thrilling elements of literature—deity, royalty, sex, mystery—in one story.

The winning student wrote: “My God,” cried the queen, “pregnant again. I wonder who {whose?} it could be?”

CTC:     What do you think makes a good story?

JRF:     A sympathetic heroine or hero and a sense of increasing danger or doom for him or her.

In my novella, Elizabeth McAlister has already sacrificed and struggled to make a decent life for her child, a boy born from rape.

CTC:     As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? 

JRF:     I wanted to be a jockey. I was short enough but too fat.

CTC:     Is there anything else that you would like for the audience to know?

JRF:     Writing is hard work. Harder than you can imagine. The actual writing part is easy, fun, exciting. The research part is too. Even the editing is fun. And that’s because I can get lost in the story, it lives in me all the time in my head and heart. Once I send it off, fearfully and sometimes tearfully, it leaves me. I took both my daughters to college and as I drove away I had this same gut-wrenching, heart-twisting feeling: will my loved ones be ok? Did I teach them all the things they will need to be successful? Did I give them all the strength they’ll need to endure whatever happens? Will they remember how much I love them and let it comfort them in times of distress?   Of course, you can’t take that analogy too far, but there is a lot of fear in publishing what you write!

CTC:     Thank you so much, Jackie, for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview for my readers.

You can follow Jackie Ross Flaum at any of the following:

Email: jrflaum@gmail.com

Website: www.jrflaum.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Writer-Jackie-Ross-Flaum-1653778164835646/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrflaum

jackie2_orig                                        Justice Tomorrw cover

 

Love Will Prevail

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The Yellow Fever Revenge cover     Elizabeth McAlister harbors secrets from her past. A yellow fever pandemic threatens to take away everything from her. But what scares her more is the arrival of Barkley Mills, her rapist and the father of her son.

Flaum’s novella, The Yellow Fever Revenge is an intriguing tale of love, hate, and death. She is a master storyteller. The world she has created is rich with history. The characters are well developed and believable.

Follow Elizabeth as she navigates Memphis while the yellow fever is ravaging its residents. A strong protagonist who will do whatever is necessary to protect her son.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Maid’s Story – 1960s

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The Help cover

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a white socialite in the early 60s struggling to find a career in journalism while living in the deep South. All of her friends are married and having children. And, they all have black maids. Even Skeeter’s family has a black maid. Some folks treat their maids like family. Others treat them worse than the hired help that they are.

Aibileen Clark is a black maid. She’s a God loving, church going woman. Most of the time she keeps to herself and stays out of the limelight. She is currently working for Mrs. Elizabeth Leefolt, one of Skeeter’s best friends. Mrs. Leefolt isn’t the type of person that should be having children. They are more of a nuisance than a joy to her. And, Aibileen is doing her best to raise Elizabeth’s children to love themselves and be kind to others.

Minny Jackson is a black maid in the household of another of Skeeter’s friends, Mrs. Hilly Holbrook. Minny has a sassy mouth and has a hard time keeping a job. She needs the money with five children and a husband working two jobs. Hilly is a mean, spiteful woman who is the head of the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi. She treats Minny as though she is a disease.

Skeeter finds herself at odds with Hilly and the idea of outdoor bathrooms for the colored help. The inhumane treatment that she witnesses spark an idea to write the stories of the maids as told by the maids. Aibileen is the only one to agree at first. As things deteriorate in the South with the federal government pushing for desegregation, her editor urges her to get the book to her as soon as possible with at least a dozen stories.

Stockett’s first novel, The Help, is about the book itself being written. It is both funny and sad. The stories are about true love and friendship as well as hate and racism. There is a lot we all can learn from these stories. Social injustice to any group is unacceptable. These ladies worked long hours under almost slave-like conditions just to feed themselves and their families.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Repressed Rebel

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The Mechanics

Sarge is in charge. Henry Sargent has been named the new head of the Boston Brahmin by J.P. Morgan who recently suffered a stroke. The president has brought in UN peace keeping forces due to the uprisings against the Citizen Corps. New conflicts arise both nationally and personally.

Akart’s fifth novel in The Boston Brahmin series, The Mechanics: A Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Series, is every bit as action packed as the first four. And, what a heart-stopping ending! Oh, my! This may very well be the best book of the group.

This book, as well as the others, is a must read for anyone who wants a glimpse of what could very well be our immediate future. While Akart is not a prognosticator, his novels are eerily realistic in today’s political climate.

5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from the author for review consideration. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Growing Up Post Civil War

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On Agate Hill Cover

The story of Molly Petree is brought to life through Molly’s journal, letters, newspaper clippings, and court records found in an old home called Agate Hill. Molly’s tale begins at age thirteen, set in North Carolina during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and continues into the early twentieth century. An orphan because of the war, Molly must learn how to survive in the harsh South.

Smith’s 10th novel, On Agate Hill, is thoroughly engaging. Molly is taken in by her uncle who, on the verge of death, marries his scheming, gold digging housekeeper. Selena all but kicks Molly out. Fortunately, a friend of Molly’s father becomes her benefactor and sends her away to Gatewood Academy. From there we follow Molly on a roller coaster ride of love, betrayal, treachery, and a spectacular murder trial.

I read this book on a whim and could not put it down. Not one for historical fiction, especially based in this time period, I was pleasantly surprised how easily I was drawn into the story of Molly Petree. 5 out of 5 stars.

Is Our Future Being Foretold?

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Martial Law Cover

The second half of our double shot with Bobby Akart focuses on the next book in The Boston Brahmin series.

The power grids on both sides of the contiguous 48 are knocked offline by a cyber-attack orchestrated by John Morgan of The Boston Brahmin using the Zero Day Gamers’ hacking abilities. All of the lower 48 except the great state of Texas has lost electricity and it could take years to fully restore. The President is on vacation in Hawaii where he will maintain his office and declare Martial Law.

Akart does not disappoint in the third installment of The Boston Brahmin series, Martial Law. This fast paced political/apocalyptic thriller will keep you on edge from beginning to end. We follow the Loyal Nine as they make their way to Boston through the breakdown of society that occurs within the first four days after the blackout began. We see them start to question the role The Boston Brahmin is playing in the events as they unfold.

The setting is two months before the presidential election. With the USA in chaos will the sitting president rise to the occasion or will others take this opportunity to decide America’s fate? The situation is all too real in the realm of possibilities based on what is currently happening in the world today.

I am chomping at the bit for the next book in this series. 5 out of 5 stars.