HNS Indie Award 2014 - Shortlisted author Bill Page

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.
Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome 
Bill Page, author of 
The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams



THE FOURTH CENTURY ROMAN COTSWOLDS  

Firstly, my thanks to Helen for giving me space on her blog. Secondly, my apologies for not providing a photograph of myself: inexplicably, I don’t seem to show up in photos (or mirrors).

The fourth century has rightly been called the Golden Age of Roman Britain. My first two novels, The Moon on the Hills and its stand-alone sequel, The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams (of which more on my website, www.billpageauthor.co.uk), are partly set in the Cotswolds of the late 360s AD, towards the end of that Golden Age, when the cracks in the façade were only just beginning to appear. The (distant) background to both novels is the Barbarica Conspiratio – those seemingly co-ordinated invasions in 367 by Picts and other barbarian tribes from beyond the frontiers of the empire – and the depredations of the roaming bands of army deserters which followed in their wake.

Why set the novels in the Cotswolds? Three reasons. First, because unlike so much of lowland Britain, its landscapes, particularly those around the steep scarp edges of the north-west, have in essence altered very little since Roman times. Second, the Cotswolds were the centre of a materially rich villa culture, perhaps the richest in all Britain. And third, because even today, away from the chocolate-box villages, it can be a lonely, mysterious land. A land where it is possible to imagine, as the people of those times must have imagined, one or more of the Genii Cucullati – that triad of little hooded gods depicted in almost abstract form on a stone plaque now in Corinium Museum – drifting through a wood or crossing a hillside sheep pasture in the dying light of a summer dusk or winter evening.

But for all its material wealth, fourth century Roman Britain is something of an enigma: artefact rich but document poor, and the biographies and even the names of many of its people have vanished forever into the black hole of the fifth century Dark Age. Of the few documents that have come down to us, the most important is the history of the period 354 to 378 written by Ammianus Marcellinus, although he was an army officer whose home city was far-away Antioch and who had almost certainly never visited Britain when he wrote his account of the Conspiratio and subsequent events.

Although the fourth century saw the beginning of the slow transition from the Ancient to the Medieval world, in Britain evidence for Christianity is sparse and it would seem that, particularly in the countryside, belief in the multiplicity of dark old gods and goddesses of the Romano-Celtic pantheons remained strong.  
It was also an age where, empire-wide, individuals finally began to lose faith in the power of the state to defend them against the evils of the world (or perhaps came to regard the state as the greatest evil of all) and to search for a saviour god or gods – Christian or pagan – who they prayed would protect them, both in this life and the hoped-for better life that awaited them after death.  

WHY DID I SELF-PUBLISH?
Because I had no real choice. Some ten years ago I approached a number of literary agents with an earlier version of The Moon on the Hills. I received a (very) few encouraging replies, but nothing more.  So I re-wrote Moon (and re-wrote, and re-wrote), by which time several more years had gone by. Then, rather than again go through the interminable, soul-destroying (and probably futile) process of trying to get an agent, I decided to self-publish through Matador of Leicester.

After most re-writes I paid for a manuscript appraisal by one or other of the more prominent companies which offer such assessment services. Would it be heresy to suggest that the feedback was usually not worth the not inconsiderable sums required? Probably, but I’ll suggest it anyway.
Now well past 60, I am aware that my chances of landing a real publishing contract (ie. one where some optimist publishes your work for free, and even considers paying you for the privilege) are as near zero as makes no difference. So, no benevolent editor to encourage me, chivvy me along and steer me away from the rocks; but also no one (except myself) to steer me onto those rocks either. I tell myself (and sometimes even believe) that this is a curiously liberating situation, because it leaves me free to write whatever I choose and take as long as I need to do so. And if a few people actually like the end result, then hurrah!  

WORK IN PROGRESS
Is a third novel, provisionally titled One Summer in Arcadia, which I am in the process of re-writing (again). Set in 370, in the months following the crushing of Valentinus’s attempted rebellion, it opens with Canio living the life of a country gentleman in a villa he bought with the looted gold acquired in Sower. With the villa came the woman who is now his mistress, the beautiful, enigmatic Trifosa, who spent her childhood at the great Chedworth villa, only some ten miles away to the south. And there at Chedworth, newly returned home after seven traumatic years in the army on the German frontier, is Antoninus, a man who has unexpectedly inherited following the deaths of his estranged father and twin brother. And it seems that Antoninus and Trifosa were once very close.


Canio’s villa is based on the one in Spoonley Wood, a couple of miles south-east of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. Built around three sides of a large courtyard in a once-idyllic spot between two streams tumbling down from springs which rise on the high ground above, in its day it must have been an impressive sight and the centre of a great estate. Today it is little more than a few crumbling walls and a scatter of stones half-hidden among the rampant vegetation of the wood, a sad contrast to the beautifully preserved remains of Chedworth villa (which also plays a prominent role in the novel). Perhaps in some small way Arcadia will make it live again.

Links: website www.billpageauthor.co.uk

ROMAN BRITAIN: AD 368
The Sower of Seeds of Dreams:
In the aftermath of the devastating barbarian invasions which came to be known as the Barbarica Conspiratio there are:
• A soldier searching for a fortune in looted gold which a dying man told him lies hidden beneath the waters
of a lake on the far side of the Great Marshes, many miles to the south of the Cotswold Hills where the story
begins.
• A young priestess searching for a man who mysteriously disappeared a year before, hoping that by finding 
him she will restore her faith in the goddess she thought was protecting him.
• A small brass figurine of the sinister underworld goddess Hecate.
And linking all three is a story said to have begun with a girl picking flowers in a meadow in Sicily on a summer s day long, long ago when the Ancient World was young.

The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams is set in those parts of the Roman province of Britannia Prima which were later to become Gloucestershire and Somerset. It is a stand-alone sequel to The Moon on the Hills Matador 2009 . 

About the Author:
Bill Page has had a lifelong interest in Roman Britain, particularly the villas and settlements of the Cotswold Hills. He lives in South Worcestershire, within sight of the northern end of the Cotswolds where the novel begins and ends. 

Read the HNS review of  
The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams
here

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer


full details and rules can be found here
Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website





website
HNS Conference 2014



Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 

HNS Indie Award 2014 - Finalist, David Ebsworth

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.

Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing 
was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome
David Ebsworth and his novel
The Jacobites' Apprentice



I can’t recall now whether I found them on the streets of Manchester or whether they found me. But the truth is that I came across the germ of The Jacobites’ Apprentice one day in 2008 when I had time to kill between meetings in that UK city.

18th Century Coffee House
I was wandering the district that’s bounded by the Irwell, the Hanging Bridge, the Cathedral, Hunt’s Bank, Market Street, and St Ann’s Square – the heart of the 17th Century town that was then still dwarfed by its neighbour, Salford – and each of the blue plaques I came across drew me steadily into the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Lancashire supporters. Many of these were disenfranchised Catholic merchants, or unemployed fustian workers, or Catholic gentry resenting the loss of their power since the Hanoverian Germans – George I and, now, in 1745, George II – had ruled Britain. But, in the early part of that year, they had high hopes that things might change. Prince Charles Edward, heir to the Stuart dynasty had promised to lead an invasion to restore their lost Crown. A Jacobite, of course, was ‘a follower of Jacobus’ – this being the Latin version of James, and James the Second being the last Stuart King, deposed in 1688. So Charles Edward vowed to put his father on the throne (supporters already referred to his father as James the Third) and to chase German George back to Hanover.

Manchester Jacobites
There was only one problem. Most people in England were either now settled under Hanoverian rule or, simply, had no stomach for yet another civil war. And, in Scotland, where the Stuarts’ support was supposed to be strongest, less than half the Highland clans would come out for the Jacobites while, in the Lowlands, that support was even weaker.

Many northern English towns also had Jacobite supporters but none quite so strong as in Manchester. There the town was split right down the middle with the two factions vying for power. And, when Charles Edward eventually landed in Scotland, raised his standard and finally marched south towards London, it was Manchester that drew him like a magnet. He even managed to raise a specific regiment of 300 men there.

So, as I came across those blue plaques that marked the location of those events, there too were the fictional characters who eventually filled the pages of The Jacobites’ Apprentice. The rebel Tory merchant and part-time tea smuggler, Titus Redmond. His licentious wife, Maria-Louise. Their wayward daughter, Rosina. And the Redmonds’ eponymous and naïve apprentice, Aran Owen. Then the Hanoverian Whig loyalists: James Bradley the vengeful builder; coffee-house proprietor, tax collector and tribade, Elizabeth Cooper; Sir Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby and somewhat inept High Sheriff of Lancashire; and murderous Government spy, Dudley Striker. And these all surrounded by many of the real-life figures who took part in this strange story.

I wrote it during 2010-11 and self-published, through SilverWood Books, in March 2012. The book had been rejected by various traditional publishers and agents by then, and I don’t blame them. It’s a big blockbuster of a story, with over 300,000 words, even after careful editing. And this is something of a drawback, since it requires a huge leap of faith for readers to take a chance on buying such a huge first-time novel.

In addition, it deals with some difficult themes and even the political thrust of the plot upset lots of people. We’re supposed (apparently) to write Jacobite stories with some romantic notion of a dashing but ill-fated Bonnie Prince Charlie and his colourful kilted Highlanders. But the truth was somewhat different, of course, with neither group of leaders caring very much about the impact of further civil unrest upon the ordinary folk of Britain – who, of course, were left to pay the ultimate price following the disasters at Carlisle and  Culloden. And, yes, there are echoes of today’s nationalism in the story. There are roughly the same number of Scots beguiled and misled by Alex Salmond today as were steered into disaster by that other ‘Bonnie Prince’ in 1745.

And then there’s the big problem! I tried writing the story in several different styles – the first version in the First Person, from Aran Owen’s viewpoint; the second in a more traditional Third Person past tense. But neither of them worked. It was only when I tried the present tense that the tale really came to life. So I stuck with that, and adopted an almost ‘contemporary’ Jane Austen-esque voice for the telling. Personally, I like it – though I understand that this won’t be to everybody’s taste. As it happens, if I was ever going to produce a second edition, that’s the one thing I wouldn’t change. This view was reinforced when, at the end of last year, I began to ‘adapt’ Jacobites for a potential television series in ten episodes – two of which are already fully scripted and the rest in draft format. No takers yet, but it was a useful exercise that made me realize how visual and, therefore, “present tense” it is. There are some moments in the plot that I really enjoy, like the machinations which develop during a Manchester performance of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera - though these really come to life in the adaptation. Like Deadwood meets Amadeus.

But, back in 2012, I had a huge amount of positive support for the original project too, and hence my decision to self-publish, almost against my own judgement, to be honest. Yet, as the finished product was taking shape – including the excellent cover design put together by the inimitable Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics – I began to understand that this was a story that at least deserved to be read. And it was one of the proudest and most emotional moments of my life when The Jacobites’ Apprentice was favourably reviewed by the Historical Novel Society, who deemed it “worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf.”

David's website
Facebook

Read the HNS review 
HERE


Biography
David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) in 1949, growing up there in the ‘Sixties, but has lived for the past thirty-four years in Wrexham (North Wales) with his wife, Ann.
Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. They have also been keen travellers to other parts of the world, including various other countries of Europe, China, Nicaragua, Colombia, the United States, Canada and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009, and maintains a strict daily writing and marketing routine - though he still manages to find time for a regular morning swim, as well as for sailing.
Apart from that, he still does some voluntary work for the TUC (Britain’s union confederation), representing them in the organisations... Migrant Workers North West, Justice for Colombia and the Manufacturing Institute.
Dave is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the International Brigades Memorial Trust, the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer


full details and rules can be found here

Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website





website
HNS Conference 2014



Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 

HNS Indie Award 2014 - shortlisted author Inge H. Borg

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.
Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing 
was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome
Inge H. Borg author of 
Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile



The Minefield of Writing Ancient Egyptian Fiction
In the “good old days before the self-publishing boom,” the advice from largely inaccessible agents used to be “write what you know.” I obviously disregarded those sage word - and consequently never found an agent or a publisher to bring me fame. To this day, friends and (dare I say ‘awed’) readers of KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile, ask, “Have you been there?”

Duh, people! Khamsin plays out in 3080 BC. I may be old, but surely I am not that ancient. That said, of course, the “feel” of historical fiction has to be there – or your soul, your ba, shall be cursed “never to cross the field of rushes to find eternal peace.”

That leaves RESEARCH; and plenty of it. So, what really happened at the dawn of that amazing civilization that seemingly sprung up out of nowhere as a fully formed society?

Nobody knows. So if you (the historical fiction writer) blithely assume you can just fabricate the stuff, you have another thing coming. There are plenty of people (I am excluding historians and archaeologists here) who do know a lot more than you do. Hence, you have to research your story in such a way that it feels authentic without the infamous info-dump just to show all you have learned; and that’s when the trouble is likely to start.

Time-lines especially become a blur of contradictions and "facts" are constantly superseded by new findings. Take Dynasties 00 to 03, for example (since Khamsin deals with the dawn of Dynasty 01). Every learned publication hungrily perused for indisputable dates listed a different year, even century, as the beginning and duration of those dynasties. Of course, we are dealing with things that supposedly happened five-thousand years ago; and the pox on those inconsiderate scribes who didn’t think to save their scrolls in “The Cloud.”

Take the names of kings (the title pharaoh only appears after Dynasty 05), their wives/consorts, and the ancient places. Most widely recognized are the major settlements described by the priest Manetho (written in Greek). But he, too, was a few thousand years late to the party and - so they say - had quite an imagination.

The Greek historian Herodotus gave us Memphis, Thebes, and Abydos, among many others. The pyramid of Mycinerus? Really? Did Menkaure (also Menkaura or Mencaure) speak Greek? One therefore needs to choose between the various spellings for the same thing and, if you concoct a story around that time, stick to one.

For me, it all started when I happened upon publications by individual archaeologists describing, nay, expounding their latest and greatest findings. One stumbling block was the often apparent hesitation of their colleagues to accept contradictions to their research. Likely for fear that those might usurp their own published and accepted scientific papers (perhaps even endanger tenure?). Hello! Are those theses chiseled onto modern Rosetta Stones and are they, therefore, forever indisputable?

Way back, when I started my saga, I had no Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia. “You need to read William Budge,” the librarian suggested. Great Horus! Little did I know how outdated that was, and as I wormed my way past Howard Carter et al, I finally stumbled upon the illustrious albeit highly opinionated Dr. Zahi Hawass.

I wrangled with the familiar names of the ancient sites (until modern Egypt changed them into Arabic): Hierakonpolis, Herakleopolis, Heliopolis. “Wait a minute. These are all Greek names again,” I sputtered, and then had a heck of a time to find the ancient name Ineb-hedj (City of White Walls). Yes, it’s the well bandied-about Memphis. It definitely wasn’t Memphis during the First Dynasty. Finally, I stuck as best as I could to the ancient names resorting to appendices and a glossary for readers who wanted to know “the real thing.” But one must consider the casual, even still quite knowledgeable reader. Chucking authenticity aside, I decided to stick with a few Greek names for the better-known gods, such as Isis and Horus; after all, I was writing historical fiction.

So what is an innocent soul like me – a former Austrian mountain goat turned California sailor - doing traipsing in and out of this ancient minefield? Sometimes, I think that, just maybe, I should be writing erotica instead (it certainly sells better). But, I suspect, that too would require a certain amount of research…

The morale of my story: If you write HF, you do have to do your research – and know more than you ever use in your novel. Nothing is easier than to slip back into one’s own comfort zone – but it just wouldn’t do to have a scribe “text” to ask his mother what she’s cooking for dinner” and then look at his watch to make sure he won’t be late (don’t roll your eyes - it’s happened).
In the end, a writer must strive that the story itself prevails, with the exotic backdrop enhancing rather than challenging a reader’s experience.

It all seems to have turned out well, though, and Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile (Book 1 – Legends of the Winged Scarab) spawned another storm, the modern-day sequel Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea, as well as the dystopian After the Cataclysm.


Today’s ability to self-publish (without the outrageous fees so-called “vanity presses” tried to extract) is a fabulous chance for us writers. Add to this the many readers/bloggers willing to review and champion The Indie, there is the wonderful opportunity to read tremendously talented writers whose manuscripts previously languished on the shelves of obscurity. I, for one, am so happy for the chance to see my passion recognized by at least a few.

About the Author:
Born and raised in Austria, Inge H. Borg completed her language studies in London and Paris. To continue her study of French (in a round-about way), she accepted a job at the French Embassy in Moscow. After Ms. Borg was transferred to the States, she has worked on both coasts, and after several years of living in San Diego, she finally became a US citizen.

Ms. Borg now lives in a diversified lake community in Arkansas (call it her happy exile), where she continues to write historical and contemporary fiction. Her hobbies include world literature, opera, sailing and, of course, devising new plots for future novels.

Author Pages -- Inge H. Borg
http://www.amazon.com/Inge-H.-Borg/e/B006QYQKUS – Amazon-US
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inge-H.-Borg/e/B006QYQKUS – Amazon-UK
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/505050 -  Smashwords
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/inge-h.-borg - Barnes & Noble
Blog: http://devilwinds.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @AuthorBorg

Read the HNS review of  
Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile  here

Previous HNS Indie Award Spotlights:
shortlisted author Andrew Levkoff
finalist author Robert Shaffer

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer


full details and rules can be found here

Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website





website
HNS Conference 2014



Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 

HNS Indie Award Finalist - Robert Shaffer

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.

Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome one of the four finalists
J. Robert Shaffer and his novel, Samoa


About the author:
J. Robert “Rob” Shaffer has been closely associated with Samoa and its people for 55 years and has lived in Samoa for 22 of those years.
Shaffer is married to Sina Lia’i of Apia, Samoa. They have four children, all born in Samoa. Shaffer is fluent in the Samoan language, one of a very few non-Samoans to have mastered that artful language. In 1976 he was bestowed the High Chief title Lealamanu’a by the chiefs and orators of Iva, Savai’i.
The author holds a Bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and a lifetime California State Teaching Credential from San Diego State University. He has been a teacher, a UPI and AP correspondent, a freelance writer, a hospital administrator and a chief of staff to five American Samoa governors. Most recently he has been a historian, writer, and special assistant to the Rincon Tribal Council. The Rincon people are a Band of the Luiseno Indian Tribe, located in northeast San Diego County.

SAMOA – A Historical Novel
Rob began researching the historical and cultural material for the novel SAMOA while living and teaching on Savai’i – the largest island in the Samoan chain, and at the time considered by anthropologists to be the purest surviving form of Polynesian culture in the South Pacific. Rob lived with a Samoan family whose grandfather – a village chief – had been born in the 1890s.

The chief, in his late 60s at the time, was a walking encyclopedia. Rob spent endless hours listening to the elder’s stories of “old” Samoa. After hearing in vivid detail of the 1918 flu epidemic that wiped out nearly 1/3 of the islands’ people, Rob knew he wanted to write Samoa’s story.

As time permitted over the next 20 years, Shaffer researched the information he would need to bring the islands’ history to life. His meticulous pursuit of detail required discussions with hundreds of Samoans, many of them born in the late 1800s. He scoured the great Pacific libraries from Auckland to Honolulu, as well as the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. gathering data. He has lived, sailed, paddled and walked in the footsteps of the novel’s characters, even undergoing the ancient Samoan tattooing ritual.
Since publishing the historical novel, the author has traveled throughout Samoa speaking at conferences and on high school and college campuses. He has also been a keynote speaker at special events at the Robert Louis Stevenson home and museum in Apia, Samoa. Common questions from these audiences included, “How did you make the book’s characters so real? How did you make their dialogue so realistic? How did you get so deeply into characters’ emotions?”

To answer those questions the author most often referred to the notation in Robert Louis Stevenson’s stepdaughter’s journal on the day Stevenson died.  While Louis dictated passages of his novel The Weir of Hermiston to Belle that morning, she noticed he seldom referred to his notes. Her journal records: “It seemed that Louis didn’t actually dictate the text of his novel. Rather, it was the living, self-willed characters in his novel that dictated the text to him.”

Rob noted this incident in the “Tusitala” chapter of SAMOA. To his audiences added, “My own experience in writing this book seemed very similar to the way Belle described Stevenson’s. It’s difficult to explain, but I became so deeply involved with the book’s characters that they began to tell their own story to me.”

One of the pivotal chapters in Samoa’s history took place in 1888-89 as Germany’s iron-fisted rule of Samoa together with their claims of Samoan land and natural resources clashed head-on with Samoa’s leading royal chief. The British and Americans supported the chief’s desire for Samoan independence. The deciding battle was looming, with warships positioning to open fire, when nature intervened, providing an outcome no one anticipated. Samoa’s “Hurricane” chapter captures all the drama of this incident, as does the screenplay the author has penned titled, “The Shark Hunter.”

Shaffer is currently under contract with the Office of the Governor of American Samoa to add four new chapters to the book American Samoa – 100 Years Under the United States Flag, a non-fiction, beautifully illustrated, coffee-table book. The author wrote the original edition for American Samoa’s centennial celebration as a U.S. territory in 2000. The new edition, which will be re-titled, will be available from Island Heritage Press, Honolulu, in June, 2016.

The SAMOA website www.samoanovel.com provides a direct link to Amazon kindle to purchase the e-book version of SAMOA plus provides reviews by the novel’s readers.

Read the HNS review for Samoa



HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer


full details and rules can be found here
and related article 

Previous Indie Award Spotlight Spots
 shortlisted author Andrew Levkoff
website
Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website





website
HNS Conference 2014



Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here