FEATURED AUTHOR: R.L. BARTRAM
ABOUT THE BOOK
R. L. Bartram brings us a thrilling tale of espionage set in the American Civil War.
Barely fourteen, Ceci Prejean is a tomboy running wild in the hot Louisiana summer. After breaking the nose of a local boy, her father decides to enlist the aid of Hecubah, a beautiful Creole woman, with a secret past, who takes Ceci in hand and turns her into a lady.
Now, eighteen-year-old Ceci meets and falls passionately in love with a handsome young northerner, Trent Sinclaire. Trent is a cadet at the West Point military academy. He acts as if he knows Ceci. They begin a torrid affair, even as the southern states begin to secede from the Union.
Only weeks before their wedding, the Confederate army attacks Fort Sumter and the civil war begins. Trent is called to active service in the north, leaving Ceci heartbroken in the south.
Swearing vengeance on the union, after the untimely death of her family at the fall of New Orleans, Ceci meets with infamous spy master, Henry Doucet. He initiates her into the shadowy world of espionage.
After her failure to avert the catastrophe at Gettysburg, Ceci infiltrates the White House. There, she comes face to face with Abraham Lincoln, a man she’s sworn to kill. Forming a reckless alliance with the actor, John Wilkes Booth, she is drawn deeper into the plot to assassinate the President of the United States. A Confederate spy in love with a Union officer, her next decision will determine whether she lives or dies . . .
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT BARTRAM
Robert, where’s home for you?
I live in a town called Hemel Hempstead, in the County of Hertfordshire, England.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Edmonton, London, but spent several of my formative years living in Cornwall, before finally moving to Hertfordshire. I’ve been here ever since.
What’s your favorite memory?
There are many, but one of the most outstanding was having my first short story published. That’s something I’ll never forget.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
It has to be patience and how to be patient. Never rush anything you don’t have to. Give it time and it’ll come.
What do you love about where you live?
The area itself, only twenty-six miles from London and yet only a few minutes walking will take me into open countryside.
What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
The older you get the faster time goes by. ‘Time never runs so fast, as when it’s running out.’
Very true! What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
For one, I wouldn’t have started smoking. In my youth everyone smoked, now it’s not so clever. Also, there are a couple of poor decisions I made about my writing career, I’d just love to put those right. I think we’d all like a second chance at some things in our lives. I prefer not to dwell on it. I’ll play the hand I’ve been dealt.
What makes you nervous?
Any situation that’s affecting my life which I can’t control. In short, red tape and technology.
What makes you happy?
A beautiful sunset, followed by a warm night full of stars.
Absolutely! Who are you?
That’s a good question. It’s one that my heroin, Ceci Prejean, is asked in my novel. To be honest, I sometimes wonder myself. I’m a man, obviously. Like most people, my moods and fancies change depending on the situation. To be honest, perhaps I’m not the best of men, but every day, I try to be.
Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
No contest. A lonely genius. That way, at least I’ll have the brains to entertain myself.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
That’s easy: Oscar Wilde. “I spent all day correcting the proofs of one of my manuscripts. In the morning, I took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back again.” I can really relate to that.
Boy can I, too! If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
To be frank, I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere in the world but England. My roots are in the heart of this country.
What would you like people to say about you after you die?
I’d be glad if they talked about me at all. It wouldn’t matter what they said, I’d be past caring.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“We could not remember, because we were too far. We could not understand, because we were traveling in the night of the first ages. The ages that are past and leave no sign and no evidence.” -Joseph Conrad. Fabulous stuff.
What would your main character say about you?
Hopefully, thank you for bringing me to life, and thanks for getting me out of all the scrapes you got me into.
How did you create the plot for Whippoorwill?
The American Civil War is a subject that’s been heavily written about. I needed a new slant. I considered women soldiers. Yes, believe it or not, there were nearly a thousand women from both sides that disguised themselves as men and fought alongside the regular troops. However, further research proved that this had already been done. Then I thought of women spies. I discovered that most stories tended to concentrate on working class women or ex-slaves engaged in espionage for the Union. That’s when I decided to make my heroine a wealthy and privileged southern belle working for the Confederacy. Making her fall in love with a Union officer was an added twist. Everything flowed from there.
It sounds fascinating. Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
All my characters are a pastiche of men and women I’ve met over the years. The many and various quirks and foibles I’ve observed have all gone into the makeup of my characters. Hopefully, they are more realistic for that.
Is your book based on real events?
Yes, in part. I have one unbreakable rule; my writing must be historically accurate. A good deal of research goes into making it so. I feel this gives the story a sense of credibility.
Are you like any of your characters?
Certainly. Just Like Ceci, when frustrated by events I can make some very irrational remarks. British politics usually does it for me. Also, just like Hecubah, my sense of humor can be a bit on the dry side.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are so many. There are a lot of good writers out there. To name a few. Ray Bradbury. A.S. Byatt. Ernest Hemmingway, and Herman Melville.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I always write at my dining room table. It looks out onto a large secluded garden. My muse lives out there. I prefer to write at night. It’s more peaceful then and you can hear yourself think. I usually write from 11pm to 3 am. I always write everything in long hand first. That way I can write as fast as I think without having to concentrate on what buttons I’m pressing. Nothing ever goes into the computer until the novel's finished and corrected.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
It has to be a private email I received from a reviewer who’d just finished my first novel Dance the Moon Down. She remarked ‘I don’t know what to say. I’m staggered. You’ve blown my mind.’ I can’t think of a bigger compliment than that.
What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing?
Again, this was from another reviewer about my first novel. She said she hadn’t finished it, because it didn’t engage her at all. Fair enough. We’re all different. Writing is a highly subjective medium. Everyone has a rite to their opinion.
I try to remember that "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach on the tree, but there will always be people who don't like peaches." Why did you decide to self-publish with Troubador?
Simply because most agents are no longer taking on new authors. I recall one agent who sighed ‘Oh no, I’m too full’ and that was before he’d even heard what it was I had to offer. It might have been the next Harry Potter. Almost certainly, these days, if you want to get your book out there, you must do it yourself.
Are you happy with your decision to self-publish with Troubador?
Very much so. They are a highly professional, friendly, company, (beware, there’s a lot that aren’t). They have complete packages for authors. You can take as much or as little as you like. They take the manuscript through proof reading and type setting for both paperback and eBook formats. The finished product is as good as anything you’ll find in your local bookstore. It took about six months from start to finish, with a lot of interaction in between, but as far as I’m concerned, it was well worth it.
What steps to publication did you personally do, or did Troubador do it all?
Troubador covered it all. I personally, don’t have the computer skills to do very much. However, if you do, it will cut the costs down. The cover was my idea. I liaised with a graphic artist, and together we produced what I hope is an eye-catching piece of work.
It is! How did you find Troubador and how long did your query process take?
I found Troubador on the internet. They’re also listed in the ‘Artists and Writers year book.’ My query was answered in a matter of days. A week later, we were working on the book. I can’t stress enough, at this point, I checked out several companies, looking for the best deal. It’s always wise to do so. One thing soon became very clear. There are a lot of rubbish companies out there. It’s certainly a case of ‘Buyer beware.’ So, do your homework before committing yourself.
What are you working on now?
Nothing now. All my time’s taken up with promoting Whippoorwill. Nevertheless, new ideas are constantly seeping into my mind. Who knows what the future will bring?
EXCERPT FROM WHIPPOORWILL
Trent was lucky. The Confederate musket ball that was intended to kill him merely grazed his brow. He lurched violently back in his saddle. His horse reared wildly, throwing him, unconscious to the ground, directly into the path of his own cavalry advancing only yards behind him. At the far end of the field, Sergeant Nathanial Pike and his men, engaged in the hasty formation of a skirmish line, watched helplessly as the scene unfolded. As Trent hit the ground, a Confederate soldier appeared out of the shadows. Small and slight, little more than a boy, he lunged forwards, grabbed the officer by the lapels of his coat and dragged him out of the path of the galloping horses. Throwing himself across the man’s prone body, he shielded him from the pounding hooves. The cavalry thundered past oblivious, in the half-light, to the fate of their captain.
As the danger passed, the rebel rose to his knees and appeared to search the unconscious man. “God damn thieving rebs,” Pike snatched his pistol from its holster, his thumb wrenching back the hammer. Before he could take aim, the rebel stopped searching. He leaned forwards and, cradling the officer’s face in his hands, bent down and kissed him, full on the lips, long and hard. Pike’s pistol, arm and jaw dropped simultaneously. Something, some noise, some movement, made the rebel look up and glance furtively around. He jumped to his feet and, with a final backwards glance at the fallen man, melted into the shadows, like a wraith. It was some moments before Pike’s jaw snapped shut, his teeth meeting with an audible click. He rounded on his men. “Did you see what I just saw?” he demanded. His question was answered with shrugs and scowls. Not one man there could swear he hadn’t dreamed it. Then suddenly, they heard it, far off, plaintive and eerie, the cry of a whippoorwill.
ABOUT THE AUTHORWith Historical Romance as his preferred genre, Robert has continued to write for several years. Many of his short stories have appeared in various national periodicals and magazines.
His debut novel Dance the Moon Down, a story of love against adversity during the First World War, gained him considerable critical praise, being voted book of the month by “Wall to Wall books.”
His second novel Whippoorwill tells of a passionate affair between a young southern woman and a northern man at the beginning of the American Civil War.
He is single and lives and works in Hertfordshire.
Connect with Robert:
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