Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Author Interview: Hazel West

Hazel West, Author of On a Foreign Field and Ballad of the Highwayman, has been kind enough to agree to a Q&A session, as part of her blog tour for the release of her newest book, By Blood or By Bond - a Roman/Celtic epic inspired by the wonderful works of Rosemary Sutcliff. She's going to tell us a bit about her newest book and herself. At the end of the interview, there will be a sneak peek from By Blood or By Bond!

Blurb: Which ties are stronger - those of Blood or those of Bond?
Caolán, the son of a Celtic chieftain, awaits his first pitched battle against the Roman invaders, knowing that this is the moment in which he will truly become a warrior, of the tribe.

Viggo Callias is a seasoned centurion in the Roman army on his first deployment to Britain with his newly enlisted son, Aulus. Serving under an incompetent commander, he wonders whether victory will be theirs.
But fate takes a hand in both Caolán and Viggo’s lives when Viggo’s son is killed by a spear meant for him. Enraged at the loss of his son, Viggo seeks vengeance on the man responsible: Caolán’s father. As the chieftain breathes his last, Viggo vows to take Caolán as a slave to avenge Aulus’ untimely death.

Torn from his country and people, Caolán’s only comfort is the hope that one day he will be able to avenge his father. But can the greatest wrongs be righted? Brotherly bonds, gladiators, old enemies, corrupt politicians and a young woman who captures Caolán’s heart, take a role in the physical and emotional journey that binds Caolán’s and Viggo’s fates together. Can the two wounded parties work past their hatred of each other and find what they have lost: a father and a son?

This new novel by Hazel West, explores the familial ties that bind us all, whether by blood or by bond.

About the Author:
Hazel West lives in Florida where she spend a good bit of time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them.

Hazel’s favorite things/hobbies: Writing obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, GOOD COFFEE, reading of course, dark (dark) chocolate, sketching/painting, hats, scarves and boots, collecting little old-fashioned things of all kinds, buying books, and don't forget dressing in period clothing!

Find Hazel in These Places!
Twitter: @artfulscribbler

Mara: What inspired you to write By Blood or By Bond?

Hazel: Well, the story of By Blood or By Bond is actually rather long, and pretty funny:

The original idea came to me several years ago, before I was even interested in Roman history (in fact, I didn’t care much for the Romans at all because, like the Pilgrims—who I still don’t find particularly interesting—the subject got beaten to death in school history). But the original idea came when I conjured a gladiator character after watching my youngest brother playing a gladiator fighting game on the Playmobile website. Writers can be inspired by some very surprising things at times. I immediately had an idea for a Celtic character who would have been taken from his home to fight as a gladiator. Apart from that, I didn’t have much else, and the story went into my ‘maybe someday’ category. I didn’t really think about it for years until I re-discovered Rosemary Sutcliff’s books (partially thanks to you!). I had read several of her books before, but not having found any others at the library, I only read the ones I had found and I truthfully have to admit that I didn’t appreciate them and her writing style quite as much when I was fourteen as I do now. I started back with The Eagle of the Ninth, which inspired me so much, not only to write a Roman/Celtic story, but to write more books about strong brotherly relationships (or at least to write them and not be worried about how people might take it.) That kind of sparked writing On a Foreign Field, but I began to take out ideas for a possible Roman era novel, remembering my gladiator story I had planned. I think it was something about the way Rosemary describes the Celts and that era of history that made me really want to set a story in that time period, though I had never really taken much interest in it before.I didn’t truly get the entire plotline for it, though, until I read Rosemary’s book Outcast, which is still one of my absolute favorite books of hers as well as an absolute favorite of all time. Beric, the hero of the book, was definitely a huge inspiration for Caolán as well as Justinius was something of an inspiration into the kind of role Viggo would play in the story. It morphed a lot from the first inklings of an idea I had, but they all started after I read Outcast.

The gladiator fight in the book, the one where Caolán and his friend Théodard face off with a tiger, was one of the first ideas I came up with when I originally thought up a gladiator story. I knew I needed to find a place for it, and I was really happy to be able to. So it’s kind of funny for me to see how the book came from a little idea I had and never really thought to pursue into a wonderful story that I really enjoyed writing because of the characters and the strong family themes in it.

Mara: I know when I’m writing a story, I have very specific Authors that I turn to for fresh inspiration - Authors whose writing I want to imitate or who write books set in the same era or genre. What Authors/books did you turn to?

Hazel: Well, Rosemary Sutcliff ultimately. As her books were truly what inspired the novel as a whole. I also can’t tell you how many times I turned to the A&E TV series of Horatio Hornblower when I was writing these, especially my backstory “Home Before the Harvest.” Horatio Hornblower is military adventure at its best, and I couldn’t help add a little (okay, maybe a lot) of influence from the Hornblower series into that story. Kaius is the Roman version of Captain Pellew. ;)

Mara: Who is you favorite character in By Blood or By Bond? Why?

Hazel: Well, I love them all, but my favorite turned out to be Viggo. As soon as I started writing him, we just kind of clicked. I didn’t really know a lot about Viggo’s character before I starting writing the book, so I began with the backstory “To Save a Life,” which was a really good move on my part, I found, in getting Viggo’s character down. I think he’s my favorite because I understand him the best. In all truth, he is the closest character I’ve ever written to my own personality, so writing him seemed very effortless as all I had to do was think about what I would do in his situation. I do love Caolán, too, of course, as well as Hector. Probably the funnest character to write in this story was Rastus, the gladiator trainer. I had a good time coming up with his sarcastic comments.

Mara: Were you sad when you had to kill off your villain, or did you enjoy it immensely?

Hazel: *Evil Laugh* Not at all, I can’t say I had any regrets whatsoever about killing off Amatus, except that perhaps I could have made it a longer scene (though that would have been pushing an R rating). Sometimes I am sad to kill off villains because they were just good villains, or I might have grown attached because they had another side, but Amatus is the kind of character that I think readers will not be able to wait to see how he meets his end. If I didn’t achieve anything else from a reader’s perspective in the writing of this book, I hope no one will ever say that his detestable character was lacking in any detestability.

Mara: Throughout the writing process, which character did you get along with best, and who gave you the most trouble?

Hazel: Viggo, again, is the one I got along with best, as we’re practically two of a kind. I don’t think any of the characters gave me particular trouble in this one, which was nice. I think it’s partly because I felt them out beforehand in the backstories I wrote prior to the novel. If I had to choose one, I’d say Lorena, mainly because I always have a hard time with female characters. I was a little afraid Lorena would come out flat and just kind of there, but I think she did well enough by herself, and while she’s not as epic a character as Sylvia from Ballad of the Highwayman I enjoyed writing her, and she definitely has an important role in the story in bringing Viggo and Caolán past their differences.

Mara: I have specific CDs/movie soundtracks I always listen to when writing. What was some of the music that helped you write By Blood or By Bond?

Hazel: Hm, nothing really specific. I made a playlist of a bunch of Celtic music that I listened to when I wrote. Some tracks from the soundtrack of The Eagle which are lovely. Another hugely favorite piece of music is “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” by Jeff and Mychael Danna. Besides that, some Albannach, some Celtic harp music, and some Gaelic songs.

Mara: What was your first reaction upon writing THE END on your final draft of By Blood or By Bond?

Hazel: Oh, it’s always a wonderful feeling! I do love my books dearly, but I think all authors will attest to getting really tired of their stories by about the tenth read through. My initial reaction to finishing a book and officially publishing it is usually relief mixed with a little disbelief that it’s over. Then I feel a little lost and mope around like Sherlock Holmes before I start on another project. Final drafts are amazing, if only it stopped there, but as a self-published author, I do all the formatting work myself. That’s the teeth-grinding part.
Mara: What can Readers expect next? Do you have a new book in the works? Tell us a bit about it.

Hazel: Well, I’ve always got something in the works. I’m still working on my steampunk mystery, A Case of Poisons, with Anthony Maxwell, I’ve hit a few snags, but I’m hoping it will be out sometime next year. Next, I’m planning on finally getting back to the sequel to Ballad of the Highwayman (Legacy of the Highwaymen), which I am projecting to be out by spring 2013. I’m going to start working on it in earnest after New Year’s. I’m excited to get back to those characters. This one is going to feature Roster Scarcliff, and we’re going to get to see a little of his past, which should be pretty exciting. As for the characters from By Blood or By Bond, I’m not going to say you’ve seen the last of them yet, either. I have a planned prequel of a novel length for Viggo and Hector while they were serving with the Eagles set sometime after “Home Before the Harvest.” Whether this will turn into another series on the side, I’ll let you know once I write that book. I have a feeling I’ve really found my calling with military adventure, though.

I want to thank Hazel West for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this Q&A session. Tomorrow I'll have a guest post with Hazel West about some of the challenges she faced while writing her latest book, By Blood or By Bond, as well as another sneak peek for the story.


Hazel will be giving away one signed copy of By Blood or By Bond through a Goodreads Giveaway and a signed copy of her backstories collection to a lucky commenter during the blog tour. It you want to win the backstories collection, leave a comment with your name and email address and after the tour, Hazel will draw the lucky winner from her highwayman hat.

Here’s another fun thing! During the tour, if you:

a. Purchase a paperback copy of By Blood or By Bond through Amazon or Createspace, you can email Hazel at with the subject “Blood or Bond” and notify her of your purchase. She will then give you a coupon code for 30% off a paperback copy of the backstories collection from Createspace.

b. Purchase an e-book copy of By Blood or By Bond from Smashwords or Kindle send Hazel the same email, and she will give you a discount code for a FREE Smashwords e-book copy of “To Save a Life”. So, if you buy the book, don’t forget to email Hazel before the 31st of January, or you won’t get your coupon!

By Blood or By Bond Excerpt

In the darkness, Caolán lay upon his pallet in the great hall where all the warriors slept with their weapons beside them in case any surprise attack might come upon them unawares during the course of the night. The young man fell asleep quickly, excited for the battle, but knowing the importance of a good night’s rest before the fray. However, his dreams would not let him rest and he tossed on his pallet uncomfortably in the throws of the nightmares that plagued him.

In his mind he heard the sounds of battle, the clash of steel and the thunder of the chariots and he was frightened, looking for something, someone. He did not know who, but there was an urgency upon him and he ran over the bloodstained ground, tripping over the bodies of dead men and horses who had met their fate before. He knew there was something he was looking for and yet he did not know what it was; did not know how he could find it—until he looked down and saw his father stretched upon the bloody ground, a spear through his chest…

Caolán jerked awake with a strangled scream, bolting upright on his pallet. Fáelan, who lay on a pallet at his feet sat up as well and looked at him blearily.

“Caolán, what ails you?” he asked softly.

“A dream is all, Fáelan,” Caolán replied, but felt a dread in his heart as it hammered against his chest.

“It is not all,” his friend observed. “Tell me what you dreamed.”

Caolán wrapped his arms around his knees, fingering his armband. “My athair. He was dead.

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