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WGR is excited to welcome author, educator, and talk show host, Fran Lewis.

WGR: Fran, welcome to Working Girl Reviews. I understand you were a New York City teacher for many years. Tell us about that.

Fran: I taught in the NYC public schools for over 30 years. Working with students in grades one through six for the first part of my career. My Principal felt that I had a special skill and expertise when working with students with learning difficulties and encouraged me to go back to school for my second Master’s Degree in Reading and Learning Disabilities. I am glad that I did. As the reading and writing specialist and later Staff Developer I was able to reach many of the students who came from other countries and help them to read, understand and speak our language and excel in school. Before leaving, when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was the Dean of Discipline and helped create a Peer Mediation program that worked in our school.

The arts and music are two of my greatest passions. I play the piano and the violin and directed and created all of the holiday shows for the school including the ones on Black History and Women’s History. For many years I directed the orchestra and choral groups at Graduation.

I mentored many of the new teachers, was test coordinator for the school and eventually went back for my degree in Administration.

WGR: Tell us a little about Bertha. Did your experience as a teacher inspire your Bertha stories or was it more from personal experience?

Fran: I based my stories and my titles in my own experiences growing up in the South Bronx. I was always the outcast when it came to sports, dancing and was overweight. I spent my life battling with my weight and got ridiculed a lot in dancing school and when participating in many activities. I did however excel at punch ball and can still knock one out of the park. Bertha is me. Everything that I wrote in all three books if true. Many children in the schools today are subjected to the abuse caused by bullies in their schools or being overweight as I was all my life. Having difficulty walking up the stairs or not being able to participate in activities in the gym made it difficult for me to fit in with many of the other kids.

As an educator and a teacher who did spend time working with the gym teacher when my time was requested to assist him, I learned that this issue was still front and center and I refused to allow it to continue.

My Bertha stories are all true. Every one of the stories in My Name is Bertha and Bertha Speaks Out are true. The third book, Bertha Fights Back deals with September 11 and is dedicated to one of my students who died in the first tower. I wrote these stories to help teachers, parents and children of all ages learn to embrace their differences and understand that it is not what you look like on the outside that makes the person, it is the inner you and your kindness and understanding of others.

WGR: Do you have any books other than the Bertha series?

Fran: I wrote two other books dealing with Alzheimer’s. The first is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey: Ruth’s Story. It is my mom’s story and her words when she was diagnosed with this dreaded and horrific illness. It is also a resource for anyone that needs home care, senior care or wants to really understand the illness. It has family memories, author’s memories and pictures to help bring the book and the stories to light.

My second book is titled Sharp as a Tack or Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? This book will help the coach potato in everyone and give you ways to keep your mind and body active and alert.

WGR: You’ve been writing for a while now. Tell us what you like least about the writing process and what you like most.

Fran: I really do not like editing my work. I love when someone else reads my stories or my novels and gives me the feedback that I need. I have trouble reading on my computer because I get eyestrain. I often wonder at times what I am going to write and where my plots are going.

The best part is completing that manuscript and seeing your book in print and of course having tons of people buy it. The Alzheimer’s books were written to raise funds for research and a cure.

WGR: I know you review books for several review sites. What types of books do you enjoy reading most and who are some of your favorite authors?

Fran: I love reading a well-written mystery, thriller and historical fiction novel. A novel that grabs my attention from the first word forcing me to complete the book in a day. I love reading Paranormal and fantasy too. Children’s books are my favorite. Giving positive and great reviews to a new author and having them tell me they love my review is the best payment and way to say thank you in the world to a reviewer.

WGR: As well as being a writer and reviewer, you host a radio talk show. Please tell us more about that.

Fran: I now host two radio shows. The first is Book Discussion With Fran Lewis, which is the third Wed. of every month at 1 Eastern on Red River Radio. Authors throughout the world, usually two on each show are featured. I read their books and create questions to ask them along with my book club members who have to read the books too. The author tells our listeners about his/her writing career, short bio, answers our questions and can promote their sites, next projects and tell us where we can purchase their books.

The second show if for children’s authors and will focus on books geared for all levels. The primary focus of the show is to have authors whose books teach a positive lesson and will help children and teachers in the character education programs. These are books that should be in classroom and school libraries. There are five authors on my first show and I will ask the questions that I have created and we will discuss the books as a group. This show is the fifth Tuesday of August and November 30th so far. 

WGR: For those readers interested in being a guest on your radio show, where would they find information about that?

Fran: If anyone would like to join me on my November children’s show they can email me at riffyone@optonline.net. That show will be devoted to YA authors and books for teens. The show in August will be for early learners.

WGR: When you aren’t busy writing, reviewing, and doing your radio show, what would we find Fran Lewis doing for fun?

Fran: I love to walk, go to museums, and play basketball with my nephews even if I lose, go shopping, go to the Bronx Zoo and make people laugh with my wild sense of humor.

WGR: Fran, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Please tell all our readers where they can find more information about you and your work.

Fran: My website for anyone that would like me to review their books:

www.gabina49.webs.com

www.franlewis.webs.com

http://gabina49.wordpress.com you can read my blogs and my reviews

I review books for http://Ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina

I review for book pleasures and manic readers too.

Thank you so much for interviewing me.

Coming soon: Wrongly Accused and Bertha’s Revenge

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Why Austria? By Carrie Lofty

It started out so simply. For my historical romance titled SONG OF SEDUCTION ( http://www.carrielofty.com/Song.html ), available on June 7 from Carina Press, I began with two musicians. He was a renowned composer and piano player with a dark secret. She was a violin virtuosos whose scandalous birth compelled her to hide her talent.

Where in the world should such a story be set?

I’ve been a fan of the 1984 masterpiece Amadeus for such a long time. Greed, jealousy, brilliance–all there. Tom Hulce’s unmistakable laugh. F. Murray Abraham’s painful-to-watch despair. Throw in costumes and gorgeous sets and Mozart’s incredible, undeniable music, and you have one of my favorite movies of all time.

Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that I chose Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg, Austria, for SONG OF SEDUCTION’s setting.

Part of the appeal had to be how completely unknown Salzburg was to me at the time. Beyond that tidbit about Mozart, I knew nothing else. I’d just come off about 15 years studying the American Old West, which had culminated in my master’s thesis on Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok. To say I needed a change of pace is an understatement.

The more I learned, the more I became enamored of this faraway city. Its customs and people were so very different from the rough-n-ready frontier towns I’d studied for years. Salzburg had history going back to Roman times. It had culture and art and war and a tremendous sense of independence. And of course it remains a simply gorgeous city.

But to find the right publisher to take a chance on Austria…that took a little while. While many editors agreed that the story was worth publishing, they didn’t necessarily share my faith in the idea that readers would grow to love Salzburg too. Some suggested that they’d take a second look if I changed the book’s setting to England, a suggestion that made my heart sick. To my thinking, such a drastic change would’ve sucked all the personality out of it.

Hmmm…so what’s a girl to do?

I trunked SONG OF SEDUCTION and moved on to other projects, such as my medieval adventure romances from Kensington. But then came Carina Press, “where no great story goes untold.” The rest, as I frequently think, is history!

Knowing what I know now, I might think twice about setting a romance in Austria. But then I’d proceed along on my merry way and write it how anyhow. I’m stubborn, maybe, but I’m also having a great time indulging in the whims of my imagination.

If you could read a romance novel set in any time or place–someplace daring and unconventional–where and when would it be?

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The girls at WGR are thrilled to welcome author Carrie Lofty to our site today. Carrie, thanks so much for granting us an interview.

1.) Please tell us a little bit about your upcoming release, Scoundrel’s Kiss.

Scoundrel’s Kiss is the stand-alone sequel to my Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants. When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she’d just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family. She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to Spain together. But she’s haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief…

Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He’s vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel’s offer of aid.

2.) Tell us, do you ever base your characters on real people?

My inspiration for the villainous characters is Scoundrel’s Kiss was Pedro Fernandez de Castro, a Leonese nobleman who, because of a grudge against his two royal cousins—both of whom were kings—sided with the Moors at a pivotal battle called Alarcos. He was exiled to North Africa and died there in 1214. But everyone else in this particular romance came from my own imagination!

3.) When writing a novel, what comes first for you, characters, setting, or plot?

I always begin with the setting. I get an idea of where I want the tale to take place—somewhere cold, warm, exotic, familiar. From there I learn my characters. Are the foreigners to this setting I’ve chosen? Raised there? Just passing through? Once I feel that I know them inside and out, the plot comes last. When I arrive at that stage in the process of telling the story, I’m a complete panster!

4.) What is the most challenging part of novel writing? The most rewarding part?

The most challenging part for me is the first draft. I have to get the characters and their romance out of my head and onto the page. The stamina required to trudge through the messy, hideous first attempt is immense. After that, it’s all about revisions and making it shiny and pretty. I love that part! Revisions are very rewarding because it’s the time when I really get to see—on the page—the story that’s been in my head for ages!

5.) Describe for us your favorite place to write.

It changes, actually. I wrote Scoundrel’s Kiss in a local coffee shop that has since closed. I’m also quite fond of my local library’s upstairs reading section, which overlooks a lovely park. And after a recent procedure on my foot, I’ve spent a great deal of time working from my couch. The only place I rarely sit down to write is my computer! Too many distractions!

6.) Say Scoundrel’s Kiss was scheduled to be made into a major motion picture. Who would play the parts of Ada and Gavriel?

I don’t know his name, but Gavriel has always been the model I used in my web trailer–and he sounds like Richard Armitage from “North and South”! Ada would definitely be played by Eva Green, who played Vespa Lind in Casino Royale. She’s smart, brittle, aggressive, sexy, and a little unhinged.

7.) What is your favorite season and why?

Winter. Absolutely. I love the days growing shorter, the holidays, and even the snow. That probably has something to do with the fact that I live in a condo and someone else shovels the snow!

8.) I noticed on your website that you have two small daughters. How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It was harder a few years ago when they were at home or in pre-school. Now that they’re both in school fulltime, I have a good 5-6 hours a day to work. Funny, though, that I still have trouble finding time for mopping…

9.) I also noticed you spent some time in England. What was that like?

I lived in England for roughly ten months, during my junior year of college. It was a fantastic, transformative experience. Not only did I get to really dig deep into English culture by spending so many months there, visiting everything from tourist attractions and historical landmarks to nightclubs and family-run pubs, but I met my husband too. His family took me in as one of their own, and now we return every other year with our daughters.

10.) Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

I recently had some fantastic news. The trilogy of apocalyptic paranormal romances I’ve co-written with Ann Aguirre will be published by Penguin. We’re writing under the pseudonym Ellen Connor, and you can read more about our books here: http://ellenconnor.com

11.) Thanks again for joining us today, Carrie. Before we let you go, please tell our readers where they can find out all the latest CL news! 

Website: http://www.carrielofty.com

Blog: http://lovelysalome.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/carrielofty

Unusual Historicals, the blog I founded in 2006 and managed: http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com

 

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