I'm always pleased to invite author friends to my blog, but always especially pleased when they are NEW authors, fresh into it. The daughter of a newspaperman, A.E. Wasserman grew up in a household filled with books and stories. At age 14, she wrote her first novella and never stopped writing. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she lived in London, then San Francisco. Currently she resides in Southern California with her family and her muse, a Border Collie named Topper. She recently received top honors from Writer’s Digest for her work.
She tells the tale of an Englishman and his lovesick German friend, thrown into a life-or-death pursuit of spies, killers and assassins to unite two lovers and prevent a war.
And by the way, Wasserman is giving away a FREE ebook of 1884 No Boundaries: A Story of Espionage, and International Intrigue. Just comment below and you are in the running!
What prompted you to become a writer? Why historicals?
My father was a newspaperman, my mother a copy editor, so I grew up with books, stories, and with people writing and reading. So I’ve always written, and loved it.
I remember being very young, maybe four or five, home sick in bed and driving my mother crazy because I was writing a story about our new dog, Sugar. I couldn’t spell (honestly, I still can’t, so thank god for spellcheck!) I kept calling out to my mother to have her spell the words.
I was the one who volunteered to write the newsletters for groups and organizations. I teamed up with a photographer and wrote a series of articles for “Practical Horseman” once. I may even have made $50 back then. I wrote columns here and there for magazines, often trade journals, as well as for the California Dressage Society (read: horses.) I wrote short stories for no reason. Nothing serious and always for fun, because I thought of writing as a hobby. I went many years before I even thought about “becoming a writer.” After all, writers were people like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Harper Lee—the authors we read and studied in school.
When I moved to LA five years ago, I joined a meet-up writers group, honestly as a way to meet people. We wrote little pieces the leader assigned by giving us a beginning sentence: “There were three of us . . . .” What I wrote apparently struck a chord with the others, who all told me it was great. I ended up entering it in one of Writer’s Digest contests and by gosh, it won. I was amazed. And pleased. The prize was $500!
I went on to freelance, doing a lot of copy writing and web content. Then I ghost wrote three books, earning a chunk of money. People liked my writing so when they began taking me seriously, I guess I did as well.
I had a great story that I wanted to tell . . . and it would take a book to do it. It was about my great grandmother’s parents, Henry and Anna, back in the 1880’s. So because of them, I was plunked right down in the middle of the historical fiction genre and off on an adventure of my very own—writing a real novel.
Congratulations on your new release! Tell us about your book. What inspired it?
I’d dabbled with Henry and Anna years back, to no avail, unsure of what I wanted to do with them because I wanted it to be more than just a “family tale.” It literally sat in a box for over a decade as a “someday” project. Then I stumbled onto the Historical Novel Society, and at the encouragement of several members, attended their North American Conference in San Diego a month later. That was the push I needed to get started on an honest to goodness novel. Of course I couldn’t just tell a boring story. I threw out everything I’d done before and began anew.
Being an instigator/trouble-maker in real life, a reputation I’d proudly earned when I worked in Silicon Valley during my early career, I threw Henry and Anna pretty much to the wolves and then required my protagonist, Langsford, to get them out of their jam. Or did he? You’ll have to read the book to know. *grin*
What is your favorite trait in your characters and why?
Langsford is his own man. So much so, he literally popped into the carriage when I was writing, as though he typed himself into the story one 2 a.m. and introduced himself to me. Totally out of the blue. Was I ever surprised.
Even though Langsford lives in Victorian times, he doesn’t accept all the strict societal rules of the day. On the surface, one would think he did, for he has a great façade, but he’s very good at obfuscating what he’s up to and what he’s all about. He’s peerage, so we must call him Lord Langsford officially, but he hangs with some of the help because he likes them and simply wishes to. He has his own sensibilities and does what he enjoys, up to a point, laughing, along with his friends, at himself. He’s utterly unafraid to get involved. I wish I were as brave as he.
I keep trying to box him in a corner with the characters and plots and darn it all—he manages each and every time to outsmart me. He’s much more intelligent than I, though I prefer to believe he is much more flawed. I have to admit, though, we have a great time together in these novels.
I prefer stories about the non-famous. After all, if we were to actually time travel, the majority of us would most likely land in the streets of somewhere as the average person in that time. There would be no way I’d end up in the Court of Henry VIII. I’d be a field hand in Kent most likely. A milk maid in Essex. Dead on a battle field during the crusades. Running naked from a lion in the African Savanna . . .
There were no famous people in my family tree. In fact, it probably was a lowly bush and farming was the main common theme with us. But family stories made me early on want to know more about the people whose DNA I have. Therefore, the historical bent. Who were they? What were they like? Would I have liked them? What made them tick? What did they think about in that world of theirs?
What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
I read all the time and don’t limit myself. I actually go on binge readings. Mysteries, thrillers, historical, you name it. Sci-Fi. I read authors I know. Authors I don’t know. I allow all of them to influence me. For example, I loved Isaac Asimov. In my first novel, 1884 No Boundaries, there’s a nod to his “Black Widow” series. I won’t say more. You’ll have to read it.
I absolutely loved your new novel, Roses in the Tempest. I was right there—smelling the earth where she grew her roses. Riding his stallion, bent over its thick neck as he (read: I) galloped along the road to the priory. I love being transported in time and place which is exactly what I want to do for readers. Take them elsewhere.
I reread, too, revisiting the greats like Steinbeck or Falkner. Recently I reread all of Sherlock Holmes. What fun those are and I deliciously discovered stories I hadn’t read.
Also Michener. How I wish I had written The Source.
Of course I grab the Pulitzer Prize winners as well. It was great fun knowing that All The Light You Cannot See was the Pulitzer winner this year, an historical. I loved that book, although some people didn’t care for the time looping. For me, that helped create so much of the tension because the reader often knew more than the characters did. I thought it was a beautiful technique with superb writing.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
The first novel was definitely done pantser style. It was a “learn by doing,” and I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote that damn beginning. I was finding myself; finding my voice and style. Definitely pantser for that one.
The next four are already somewhat planned, or semi-plotted. That said, I don’t want to plot out in great detail because as I do the historical research on each one, (and there is a lot of research, believe me, including buying out-of-print books and personally interviewing an expert in a particular historical field from time to time,) I will find something too delicious not to include, or too horrifying not to toss my characters into.
Bottom line, as an author of historical fiction, I would say I’m about 60% plotter and 40% pantser, unwilling to commit fully to either.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered while doing research?
“There is Nothing New Under the Sun.” - Ecclesiastes 1-9.
I am constantly surprised, amazed and confounded by how true this is. Over and over.
When I was researching 1884 No Boundaries, I found murder, sex, and terrorism swirling within a collapsed world economy—absolutely paralleling what we experience today, only it’s not today. It’s London, 1884.
In researching my next novel, 1886 Ties That Bind, (due out late 2016), I was flabbergasted how the railroad and politics and graft back then are perfect mirror images of California’s bullet train project today.
No matter where I look, the same issues exist. Mankind is always mankind with all the same flaws and vices. Like the problems Shakespeare created for his characters, we still face the same dilemmas. Nothing new under the sun.
What’s next for you?
Later this year, a novella will be released. A working title at the moment, it continues the tale of Henry and Anna. Quite a few readers wanted a follow up on the couple after their escapades in 1884 No Boundaries.
The second in the Langsford series, 1886 Ties That Bind, has him visiting what I consider my own hometown, San Francisco. California wasn’t exactly what we think of as the “Wild West,” but even so, there were actual train robberies and real six shooters, and worst of all, politicians!
But . . . what I’m really gearing up for is an epic tale, probably in two volumes, about my Irish ancestor, Barnabus Valentine, who was 14 when he was kidnapped from Ireland by American sailors. When he escaped his captors in the Boston Harbor, he arrived just in time for the brewing American Revolution. I must put flesh on his bones to tell of his extraordinary life.
The catch is, before I write this, I must learn to crew on a tall ship and to shoot a musket and well, in short, drop right into the 1770s to fight under George Washington. I imagine it’s time to summon the spirit of ole Barnabus, isn’t it, because the research alone is daunting. Can I borrow a Ouija Board?
But. I must write this tale because . . . like so many others, it must be told.
Thanks for stopping by, AE. Readers can learn more about A.E. Wasserman and her work at www.aewasserman.com. And don't forget to comment below to be entered into the contest!