I managed to catch up with author Lori Power this week. She graciously agreed to answer five questions about her debut novel Storm of Passion.
1. I know that you grew up in a small fishing town in Nova Scotia and have to wonder how much of your book, Storms of Passion, is based on fact, or was created by your amazing imagination. In your book the MacLean family run an adventure sailing school where they teach vacationers how to sail. Do such holidays exist or did you invent them?
A lot of Storms of Passion is based on fact. The storm did exist. People did perish while others who were tossed out to the sea did survive. Their survival was based on the skills and tenacity of Coast Guard personnel. Who risked everything to save them. The fact that they do this every day is a marvel to me.
Storms of Passion took shape while I was on Prince Edward Island, where I spent a week in an excellent small community on the far Northern tip, I couldn’t even get cell coverage. The scenery, the sights, the smells were all from this small community. I sat on the red sand and watched sailing boats glide by and wished I could learn to master such a craft and feel the ocean air.
My knowledge of small town life came from my experiences growing up in such a town.
Learn to Sail Adventure vacations do exist on both coasts. There is also an excellent program for Grade 12 students to finish their final year at sea while learning the trade of sailing. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
2. Your hero, Tuck, is such a great character. He’s a computer whiz, a rescue swimmer with the coast guard, and a cute hunk. Are there really rescue swimmers with the coast guard? And if so, did you know any growing up?
Rescue swimmers are an integral part of the Coast Guard personnel. I had an opportunity while living in Prince George to meet and interview some rescue swimmers. Two things there: guys in uniform – wow. Guys in uniform with a fully toned body, complete with a six-pack underneath, clearly visible through their uniform – ouch!
3. I love Vivian, your heroine. She’s an intelligent, tall green-eyed beauty with just a touch of self-doubt. Where did the inspiration for Vivian come from?
My lifelong best friend from back home. I won’t say her name and embarrass her, but I am sure when she reads the story, she recognized herself.
4. When I read your book I was struck by the amount of nautical knowledge you possess. Did you learn this growing up or did you have to do a lot of research?
I did some basic research. My dad was a sailor for many years and has shared lots of stories. I am also fortunate my husband’s uncle, who was a sailor of a small masted boat, took me through some stories and adventures – near misses – he had at sea, sailing from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean, and events he experienced crossing the open Atlantic to Newfoundland.
5. The ferocious storm that threatens Vivian’s life, (I don’t want to give anything away here, but it was so gripping.) was brutal. Have you ever been at sea in a hurricane? I ask because your descriptions are so real.
The storm was a real event. All action from Vivian in the storm is strictly a figment of my imagination. Nova Scotia is constantly bombarded with storms jutting out as it does into the Atlantic, so it isn’t a stretch for me to ‘imagine’ what it would be like. Some events that Vivian goes through during the storm are based on events my Dad experienced at sea.
I asked Lori four questions here are her answers.
What are you working on?
As an author, I am always envisioning new stories. I will drive somewhere, see a client or listen to the radio and something will spark my imagination. It’s an ah-ha moment where I think, ‘wow, I can use that.’ Then the process starts where I picture that moment with a particular style of character and I’m off on an adventurous quest.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
At the moment I am finishing a Young Adult love story entitled Chrysalis. What makes this different than my first novel, Storms of Passion, which was a romance, is Chrysalis is a love story. To my mind a love story is an in-depth look at characters who have gone beyond the initial spark of attraction, the situations of romancing the person you want to bed, to the point where the they are willing to work to build a relationship, overcome adversity and grow together.
Why do you write what you do?
I write what I want to read. If I wouldn’t read it, I won’t write it. I love a good adventure and I believe my work differs from others based on the life experiences I inject into stories. Not only can I envision the moments, see the sights and smells, but because I’ve been there, I write what I know, where I’ve been and how I and others have reacted to the situation.
How does your writing process work?
As a business owner of a national company, I have been able to travel from one coast to the other, experience how people live, work and prosper in the various, often remote areas of this significantly diverse country. As a mother and wife, I understand the fear and protective nature associated with those roles and I am lucky enough to be married to a ‘considerate lover’ who tries very hard to be a redneck, though at the heart of the matter, he is the one who taught me how to be romantic and face adversity as a team member.
Please be sure to connect with my fellow authors:
Dee Van Dyk
Lori Power is the owner of Quikcard Benefits Consulting Inc., a national brokerage firm.The mother of two boys and wife for more years than she wishes to admit, for it only ages her. Lori Power has dreamed of being a writer since she was a teenager and is very proud of her first published novel, Storms of Passion, set for its worldwide release through Wild Rose Press, on March 27th.
To learn more about Lori's book read my blog on Saturday 29th March as I interview her about her latest release Storms of Passion.
This week’s blog was inspired by a friend who told me about the female pope. As a religious leader in her community she had attended a presentation on the subject of Pope Joan. I grew up in the catholic church and was surprised that I had never heard of her. Could this be true? Had there really been a woman pope in the middle ages? For those of you unfamiliar with the story of her life I’ll give you the short version.
Pope Joan reigned around 855 AD as Pope John VIII. Some say she reigned for two weeks others say two years. When told as a twelve year old that she would be unable to continue her studies as a woman, she disguised herself as a monk, travelled with her tutor, to Greece where she continued her education. From there, accompanied by her lover, she went to Rome where she became a clerk in the Vatican. Her rise seems to have been meteoric; she was promoted to cardinal, and was elected pope in 855 AD. Unfortunately she became pregnant and gave birth to her child during in a public procession. The crowd on learning that the pope was a woman executed her immediately, some say she was stoned and others say she was dragged by a horse. Apparently there is a street that popes avoid known as the Vicus Papissa or the street of the female pope.
Did Pope Joan really exist or is she a work of medieval fiction? Although this is supposed to have happened over eleven hundred years ago the sequence of popes was well documented, and not just their succession, but also their abhorrent behaviour. This was a time when political intrigue ruled. There was backbiting, slurring, and in 897 Pope Stephen VII had the rotting corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, dug up and put on trial. And as much as the church might want to bury these details, they can’t. Not only is it recorded in the papal archives, but it’s also a matter of public record, everyone knew. So what do the records say about Pope Joan? Historians seem to agree that records were altered, but not before the thirteenth century when her story came to light, and it seems that they were altered to add her to the record, not delete her.
What about the date 855AD? This comes back to those papal records. Pope Leo IV died on 17th July 855 and Pope Benedict III was consecrated as his successor on 29th September. Did Pope Joan reign sometime in this two-month gap? Unfortunately, no. A man named Anastasius made a grab for power, imposing himself onto the papacy. Known as the antipope, he was, by all accounts, an odious man, who imprisoned his rival, Benedict, in an attempt to gain control. But he was unable to stay in office without the support of the nobles and people, thus Benedict became pope on 29th September. Anastasius is still on record as papal librarian in 872 AD. So he wasn’t executed by the crowd after giving birth. I also think that a man like Anastasius would’ve had enemies and if they could have unmasked him as a woman they would have.
There are many more arguments for and against, but I suppose I always come back to the common sense approach, which leaves me feeling that this is a work of medieval fiction, mainly because if a woman disguised herself as a priest someone would’ve noticed. And how could she conceal herself for any length of time? It would have taken her years to become a cardinal. Plus, bishops and cardinals, especially in the ninth century had servants, and servants see things. You’d think someone would’ve noticed that her beard didn’t grow and she didn’t have an Adam’s apple.
The whole thing feels very much like a medieval warning to women, especially the grizzly end. A woman who was smart and calculating enough to disguise herself for years, and become pope, would be intelligent enough to avoid pregnancy. But medieval scholars believed that women were driven by a need for sex and where unable to contain their primal urges. So to them Pope Joan’s horrific end was inevitable.
I think the story has stayed alive because it has appealed to different people at different times in history. There have even been two movies made about her. The account was widely used in the reformation to discredit the papacy and more recently has been used to justify female priests. Personally I have no problem in believing that a woman could fulfill the role of pope, I just don’t know that it has happened in the past.
Here is a short two-minute video by CNN on the subject.
As a child I holidayed in Co. Kildare, Ireland and thought that in commemoration of Saint Patrick’s Day I would post some photos along with my favorite Irish Blessing.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Highland folklore holds that the Brahan Seer lived in Northwest Scotland in the 17th century. He was born Coinneach Odhar, or in English, Kenneth Mackenzie, on the Island of Lewis. It was said that he became afflicted with the gift of second sight as a child. Apparently he had a special stone with a hole through the centre, when he looked through the hole he was able to see the future.
As an adult he worked as a labourer for the Seaforth Mackenzie’s and is credited for many accurate predictions. Some of which include:
The Battle of Culloden in 1745
The joining of the Great Glen lochs by a canal
The railway coming to the highlands
The oil industry in Aberdeen
And the destruction of the Highland Clans
There were many more prophecies, too many to mention in this post but his last prediction is the one that lead to his death.
It seems that the Earl of Seaforth was away in Paris and his wife, Isabella, wanted news of her husband. She sent for Kenneth who assured her the Earl was well but wouldn’t elaborate. Isabella demanded details, telling Kenneth she would have him killed if he wasn’t more forthcoming, and so he told her that her husband was in the arms of a woman more beautiful than herself. Furious, Isabella had Kenneth thrown into a barrel of boiling tar. There’s a memorial at Channory Point where he’s believed to have died.
It sounds nasty doesn’t it? Imagine causing your own death by predicting the future. The only problem with this story is that historians can’t find any evidence that it’s true. There is no proof of Coinneach Odhar being born on Lewis in the 17th century. There is however a Coinneach Odhar that lived in the Highlands in the 16th century. Parliamentary records from 1577 show two writs were issued for his arrest as a principal enchanter. I suppose this could have been a result of the witch-hunts I talked about last week. It is believed the 16th century Coinneach was involved in a plot to murder the children and rightful heirs to the Munro clan at Foulis in Easter Ross.
And so how did a man accused of witchcraft and murder in one century become a seer in the next. Maybe there were two men with similar names living in the same area, or perhaps it’s an example of the enduring power of a good story. Look at Robin Hood. Historians widely agree that the way he’s depicted in popular legend is nowhere close to the real man.
So what is the truth about the Brahan Seer? Who knows, but I do know I prefer the story about the seer could predict the future, over the tale of the man involved in a plot to murder children.
This week’s blog was inspired by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Terry has an excellent series entitled Medieval Lives. I’ve mentioned it before in my blog. It couples historical fact with a touch of humour, who can resist that. At the end of the episode entitled The Damsel Mr. Jones states that women weren’t persecuted as witches in the medieval period. Witch-hunting was a product of the Renaissance. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the drift. I was shocked. Was he really saying that one of the darkest times in European history was a product of the Age of Enlightenment? This was something I had to investigate. You might be surprised to discover that Terry Jones is correct. There were no significant witch-hunts in the middle ages.
Why was this? People have believed in witches for millennia, and I’ve no doubt that they believed in witches in the medieval period, which lasted from 5th century until the 15th century. So why weren’t they openly persecuted in a society that was riddled with superstitious beliefs? Because nearly a thousand years of the Roman Catholic teachings had told them that there was no authority higher than God. It seems that St. Augustine of Hippo argued in the 5th century that God alone could control the universe, and it was a mistaken belief by the pagans to think that the devil or witches could control events like the weather or the harvest. It wasn’t until 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII signed a papal bull recognising the spiritual and secular crime of witchcraft that the hysteria regarding witches really took hold.
There are scholars that say the witch-hunts were a backlash against women’s growing independence at the end of the middle ages, and that the authorities at the time equated feminine power with feminine evil, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s estimated that 75 – 80 % of those executed were women. That means 20 – 25 % were men. If it was a case of gendercide then why were so many men killed. There are also scholars who state that it happened because of the mini ice age that occurred between 1550 and 1850. And others state that say it was the upheaval caused by the reformation where religious beliefs were altered and tested that caused the chaos. Perhaps it was a combination of all these factors.
For the purposes of this post I’ve tried to gather facts about the witch-hunts for three countries, England, Scotland, and Ireland. I did find statistics for witch trails. They are as follows:-
England – recorded trails – 228
Scotland – recorded trails – 559
Ireland – recorded trails – 4
Please keep in mind I’ve been unable to substantiate these figures, but it does give us an idea of the amount of hysteria generated.
So, why was the number for Scotland was so high compared to its neighbours? Personally, I blame James VI of Scotland who later became James I of England. He was a fervent believer in the power of witches and even wrote a book ‘Daemonologie' in which he made his case for the existence and threat of witches and witchcraft. Also keep in mind that Scotland underwent a significant upheaval at this time, it amalgamated with England, there was the reformation, the destruction of the Clan system and the Highland Clearances
In England there were witch-hunters such as Mathew Hopkins. Not a great deal is known about him except that he was a bad lawyer who supplemented his salary by hunting witches. He tortured his victims using starvation, and sleep deprivation. And because a blade couldn’t damage a witch’s skin, he would stab them with a retractable blade to prove his accusations. One of his favorite devises was the swimming test where the victim’s hands were bound and she was thrown into the local pond. If she drowned she was innocent and if she floated she was guilty. Hopkins got his due when a crowd turned against him and subjected him to his own swimming test. I wonder if an evil man like him floated?
Lastly, I have to wonder why the number was so low for Ireland. Although there was a massive witch trial in Islandmagee, Northern Ireland in 1710 in which eight women people were killed the rest of the country remained relatively unscathed. Why is that? Perhaps because there was not as much religious upheaval for the general population or maybe they were too busy with fighting the English. There are those who state that the Irish people didn’t need to blame witches for their misfortunes, they already had fairies, those mysterious little people, for that.
My grandmother who lived in County Kildare, Ireland was treated by a witch. In a time before modern antibiotics she developed leg sores. She went to the local doctor who told her that the infection would grow until her it reached her bones at which time her legs would have to be amputated and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. So, my grandfather sent for the local witch. Apparently, she was an old, wise woman who dressed all in black and made butter to sell in the village. The witch came, looked at my grandmother’s legs, and then went to the garden and picked some plants, my father described them as weeds, she then wrapped them in a poultice and tied them to my grandmother’s legs. The witch came back to the house and repeated this every day for a week, by which time my grandmother was healed. Now should my grandmother’s witch be condemned or cherished? Personally, I would cherish her and hope her knowledge has not been lost and forgotten.
One of the few Irish witch trails took place in 1324 when Alice Kyteler was accused of witchcraft, she escaped to England. Unfortunately, her servant, Petronella de Meath, was flogged and burned as a witch. This event is the inspiration for one of the characters in the wonderful book ‘Sin Eater’ by Dee Van Dyk, due to be released 1st April
This week I read a short article from Joris Lammers at the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University in The Netherlands. It was based on a survey of 1,561 professionals and used to study the relationship between power and infidelity. It seems that power increases our confidence in the ability to attract partners. I suppose the most surprising thing for me was that the results were the same for both men and women.
This got me thinking about characters. Now, I’m not going to talk about adultery, an act that inherently implies lies and deceit, neither of which are attractive qualities. No, I wondered if there would ever be a place in one of my stories for a single, powerful, promiscuous woman. Umm, I’m not sure, but being a fan of history I decided to look for examples of such a creature and came across Catherine the Great.
She was born Sophie Friederike Auguste, a young German aristocrat, who was sent to Russia to marry the Grand Duke Peter, a man she despised, and who despised her in return. She worked to ingratiate herself, not just with the aristocracy, but also with the lower classes, learning Russian and converting to the Russian Orthodox religion. There are stories about her discussing books with her servants and serving them lunch.
With the help of her lover, Gregory Orlov, she seized power from her husband in 1761, and set about pulling Russia out of the middle ages. In her thirty-six years as Empress she promoted widespread education, championed the arts and literature, and extended Russia’s borders though diplomacy and military might.
Catherine was a truly remarkable, woman and it is sad that she is remembered most for her sexual appetite. It seems that in her life she had twelve lovers in total, which isn’t many when you consider that Penny from The Big bang Theory has had over thirty partners. Yes, I know Penny’s fictional, but I used her as an example of how our attitudes have changed. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the most oppressive period in Western History for women. A time when a woman’s every move was controlled by her father or husband. And here was Catherine, freely having affairs, out of wedlock, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. So, it’s not surprising that she is remembered most for her numerous affairs, and even more tragic that most people think she died trying to have intercourse with a horse, a lie that is completely unfounded. She actually died in November 1796 after collapsing in her bathroom.
What does this have to do with writing and characters? When I read the original article I wondered if I could ever write about a promiscuous, powerful woman in a sympathetic light and after reading about Catherine’s life I have to say…yes. She was ruthless, cunning, generous, intelligent, but I believe she was lonely too. None of her lovers suffered from their acquaintance with her. She wasn’t vindictive. With each one of them she was generous, not just with her wealth but with her time and experience as a leader. She enriched their lives, enabling them to achieve their goals. And I think those are character traits I could work with.