Sunday, September 30, 2012

Goodbye, Feedburner--Important news for my subscribers

As many of you have already probably heard, Google is doing away with Feedburner.  What a big pain in the you know what for a lot of users.  Even more for me because I have eleven blogs to do this for! So, I'm starting out here with The True Book Addict.  If you are subscribing to my feed, please resubscribe to my new feed HERE.  Also, if you're an email subscriber, I will be using MailChimp from now on for email subscribers so be expecting what you receive in your inbox to look a bit different.  I thank you in advance for bearing with me during this transition.  If you are a subscriber at any of my other blogs, I will be transitioning all of them within the next week and I will let you know on each blog.  Again, I thank you for being a loyal subscriber!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Header and Blog Button--What do you think?

It was time for a change! I've also updated the button (mid-left sidebar) and the code works...I tested it.  The code I use allows you to adjust the size to fit your blog.  It's not absolutely ideal at the size I have it, but otherwise it won't fit my sidebar.

Would love to know what you think!

*Update:  Based on one person's feedback, and some misgivings of my own, I'm going to tweak the new blog button and just use one of the images from the header.  Probably the middle one because of the kitty.  =O)  So, if you were planning on grabbing it, please come back.  I will work on it tonight.

*Update #2:  Reconfigured new blog button and I'm much happier with it.  Hope it's more acceptable and I hope you will grab it!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

{Book Tour} Review--The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

My thoughts:
The Gilded Lily is an atmospheric piece of historical fiction and I loved it! Swift has captured the essence of 17th century London to perfection.  As I was reading about Ella and Sadie's exploits in the city, I actually felt like I was walking in their shoes.  The sights, sounds, and yes, even smells of London in that era were palpable to say the least.  In a time when it seemed the least offense, whether it be your first or third, could result in hanging, Ella takes a huge chance to get herself and Sadie to London, despite the risk.  This level of intrigue added to the excitement of the book.  What I would call a historical page turner, The Gilded Lily is definitely a book that keeps you wanting more.  I did not know that this book is actually the continuing story of The Lady's Slipper.  I will definitely have to get my hands on that book soon.  Swift's descriptive and accurately portrayed historical fiction is what I crave.

About the book:
Winter, 1661. In her short life Sadie Appleby has never left rural Westmorland. But one night she is rudely awoken by her older and bolder sister, Ella. She has robbed her employer and is on the run. Together the girls flee their home and head for London, hoping to lose themselves in the teeming city. But the dead man's relatives are in pursuit, and soon a game of cat and mouse ensues amongst the freezing warren that is London in winter. Ella is soon seduced by the glitter and glamour of city life and sets her sights on the flamboyant man-about-town, Jay Whitgift, owner of a beauty parlour for the wives of the London gentry. But nothing in the capital is what it seems, least of all Jay Whitgift. Soon a rift has formed between Ella and Sadie, and the sisters are threatened by a menace more sinister than even the law. Set in a brilliantly realised Restoration London, The Gilded Lily is a novel about beauty and desire, about the stories we tell ourselves, and about how sisterhood can be both a burden and a saving grace.

About the author:
Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady's Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit

A big thank you to Amy with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the tour.
Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #GildedLilyVirtualTour


Cat Thursday--It's Fall!

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats.  Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Happy Fall! A short and sweet one today, as I've been uber-busy.  Got a promotion for my work-at-home job and there have been a lot of meetings, etc.  Anyway, the cold that this kitty is talking about is what I'm looking forward to.  Bring on the cold, changing leaves, pumpkin, hot spiced cider, scary stuff...I could go on and on!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

{Book Tour} Review--Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

My thoughts:
Back to Bataan is very different from other novels I have read by Mr. Charyn.  It is a middle grade book and the writing style is really suited to that age group.  Perhaps I'm not in the mind frame at the moment to read middle grade fiction because I really could not establish a connection with Jack, the main character, or any of the characters.  That being said, as always, Mr. Charyn's writing is very good.  He knows how to describe a scene and bring it alive, but I was missing the unabashed theatrics of Johnny One-Eye and the brutal honesty of Emily in The Secrets Life of Emily Dickinson.  Back to Bataan could have benefited from a longer length where the story could have been less rushed and the characters more fully developed.  However, I do think that the book would interest middle grade kids who are interested in stories about war time.

About the book:
New York City, 1943. War is raging in Europe and the Pacific, while Jack Dalton is stuck attending Dutch Masters Day School. What Jack really wants is to enlist in the army, to fight...

Everything changes when Coco, Jack's "fiancee," throws him over for one of his classmates. Jack sees red and does something drastic. Then he runs away. Hiding out in a nearby park, Jack joins ranks with a group of vagrants and is soon under the sway of a man called the Leader, an ex-convict who is as articulate and charismatic as he is dangerous. The Leader turns Jack's world upside down. To put things right, Jack must prove himself a braver soldier than he ever imagined.

About the author:
Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Timesdescribed him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since 1964, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

Links of interest:
Back to Bataan website:

Back to Bataan Twitter hashtag:

Jerome Charyn's Facebook:

Jerome Charyn's Twitter:

Jerome Charyn's Website:

Tribute Books website:

Buy the book:
ISBN: 9780985792206
ISBN: 9781476119076
Pages: 98
Release: July 1, 2012

I'd like to thank Nicole at Tribute Books for having me on the tour.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cat Thursday--Christian the lion

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

I'd like to thank my friend, author Colin Falconer (blog--Looking for Mr. Goodstory) for sharing the story of Christian the lion and this video.  I had heard a bit about Christian's story in passing, but nothing compares to seeing it for yourself.  I sobbed through this entire video.  Any animal/cat lover will.  It is one of the most precious and inspiring stories I've ever seen/heard.  This will touch your heart.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TuesBookTalk Scary Fall Read {Sept/Oct} The Passage by Justin Cronin

TuesBookTalk Read-a-longs on Twitter (@tuesbooktalk  #tuesbooktalk) and on Goodreads has chosen a scary book for our Fall read in September/October.  Our discussion starts Tuesday, September 25 on Twitter at 9:30pm EST/8:30pm CST.  You do not have to join us on Twitter.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the Goodreads group if you can't make the chat on Twitter.  Get the full reading schedule HERE.  Hope you will join us!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

{Book Tour} Guest Post from Deborah Swift, author of The Gilded Lily

The Temptation of the Restoration by Deborah Swift

The seventeenth century in England had a lot going on. First there was the English Civil Wars where brother fought brother over the division between King and Parliament. Secondly, there was the Plague. And then there was the Great Fire of London. All of these events took a massive toll on human life. 84,830 men were killed in the Civil Wars, 70,000 more died in the Plague. The Great Fire of London destroyed most of the familiar old Tudor streets. What’s more, the beheading of King Charles I had a huge impact on England’s psyche. There was a sense that the governance of England hung in the balance – that the old order was subject to change, and that nothing could be relied upon. It is hardly surprising that at this time, astrologers predicted doom and destruction to come.

Yet the period just after King Charles II was restored to the throne, known as the Restoration period, was one of unrestrained celebration and entertainment. There was a mere five years between 1660, when Charles arrived back in London to fanfares and jubilation, until June 1665 when the first impact of the Plague deaths hit London. I was fascinated to write about this period, a time eclipsed by the bigger events of the century, sandwiched in between the dark days of Cromwell and his Puritan rule, and the dread disease that ravaged the country.

This was the time where I set my novel, The Gilded Lily – a time of surface optimism, but with undertones of unease beneath. The two sisters, Ella and Sadie Appleby, on the run from the Law, escape their rural village hoping for a new and better life in London. This was a quite different London from Tudor London where the Queen aimed for political expansion and gripped the nation with a firm hand.

Very much as London in the 1960’s was known as the “Swinging Sixties” and heralded a new era of sexual exploration, 1660’s London was a city of new fashions, of theatres, entertainment, lavish food and a renewed moral freedom. The King gathered his “Merry Gang” around him, the wits, the rakes, the young bloods, such as Buckingham and Rochester. Their sexual exploits fueled the gossip of the nation, as Charles went through no less than thirteen royal mistresses, and probably a few more undocumented liaisons besides. Men dressed like peacocks in ribbons and bows, women’s décolletage drifted ever lower. An actress like Nell Gwynn could come from nothing yet make her fortune at court.

In The Gilded Lily, Ella, the bolder sister, has her sights set firmly upward on handsome Jay Whitgift, the son of a pawnbroker, who in turn is fixed on moving upwards to enter the coterie at Court and buying himself a baronetcy. If you have seen the film, The Libertine, with Johnny Depp, this is the sort of society in which Jay Whitgift moves, and to which Ella aspires. I modelled Ella partly on paintings by Gerrrit Von Honthorst, a 17th century Dutch artist, who painted Courtesans and women of the lower classes with clarity and detail. 

Sadie, the more timid sister, finds the size of London terrifying. London in these times is owned by the young – many older people lost their lives in the Wars, there is a feeling that life is short. Death by burning is the penalty for those, who like Sadie and Ella, have stolen from their employer. Writing the story through Ella and Sadie’s viewpoints was eye-opening. In an age of conspicuous wealth there is always the flip-side, and Restoration London is no exception. Poverty and the accompanying criminal underworld lurk just beneath the surface, and I enjoyed researching these. London is well-documented at this time, and I spent much time poring over old maps to find where they might have lived. Blackraven Alley, where I placed their lodgings, was later destroyed by the Great Fire of London.

I encourage anyone interested in this period to explore a little further by reading: The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell – a lovely account of the life of Nell Gwyn, The Apothecary’s Daughter by Charlotte Betts or Year of Wonders by Geraldine Green, two very different books about the Plague, As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann about the English Civil Wars, and Restoration by Rose Tremain - insights into Charles II and his court. Please feel free to add to my list!

The Gilded Lily is out now in the UK in paperback and ebook – coming soon as a Reading Group edition in the US. 

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours TOUR SCHEDULE
Twitter Hashtag: #GildedLilyVirtualTour

Stop by tomorrow to read my review of The Gilded Lily.


Monday, September 17, 2012

TTBA Weekly News/Mailbox Monday

This feature was inspired by It's Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and also by The Sunday Salon.

It sure has been a busy Fall so far, even if it's not officially Fall until Saturday, but a girl can dream, right?  We had the wonderful BBAW last week and that was a fine kick off to the Fall reading season.  I've decided to change my weekly news post up a bit by putting what I'm reading first and then share news and events with you after.  After all, it is all about the reading!

What I'm reading/have been reading....

Currently reading
It by Stephen King (for behind!)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Wallace's read-a-long)
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Fanda's read-a-long)
The Gunslinger by Stephen King (my EPIC Dark Tower read-a-long at The Stephen King Challenge-see below)
The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift (book tour)
The Passage by Justin Cronin (TuesBookTalk read-a-longs)

Recently read
Jane by Robin Maxwell (review)
The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle (review)

Reviews coming up
Breed by Chase Novak (at Castle Macabre)
The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift (here on Wednesday)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Cider House Rules by John Irving

What's going on in my/the reading world....

It's still not too late to join us for the EPIC Dark Tower Read-a-Long.  We just finished the second chapter in The Gunslinger.  Detailed reading schedule is posted at the Stephen King Challenge blog.  We're reading the entire Dark Tower series from September this year through July 2013! You can check out the details and sign up at the dedicated blog HERE.

The sign-up for the FrightFall Read-a-Thon has been posted over at Seasons of Reading.  Check out this POST for all the details and to sign-up.  Only a couple more weeks to go!

Coming in October to Castle Macabre...Season of the Witch! If you are interested in participating by writing a guest post or, if you're an author, and you'd like to donate a book for a giveaway or share a guest post or spotlight your book, let me know.  The focus is going to be witches so I introduced the Witchy Mini-Reading Challenge.  Full details and sign up are HERE.

Yes, I'm doing Bloggiesta (Sept. 28-30) again.  Here's the details from There's a Book:
  • to spend time that weekend (as much or as little as your schedule allows) working on your blog
  • to create a to do list to share on your blog and link up with other participants
  • to hopefully participant in several mini challenges and learn something new
  • to connect with other participants through blog hopping or twitter
  • to make new blogging friends!
  • to come away at the end of the three days with a spiffed up blog!
I'm going to (hopefully) back up my main blogs, work on my library blog, and work on getting the FrightFall Read-a-Thon organized over at Seasons of Reading.  Full details and sign up HERE.

October 13! Yup, participating...even though it's my birthday weekend and I'll be gone part of the day celebrating with my family and going to movies and my monthly library sale.  The Southern Festival of Books is that weekend as well, but I'm thinking about going on Sunday.  Decisions, decisions! Find out info and sign up for the 24 Hour read-a-thon HERE.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is currently on tour. This month's host is BookNAround.   (You can click the book covers in the BookBox to view the book(s) on Amazon)

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

Commedia Della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro...from Fantasy Literature

Rubies of the Viper by Martha Marks...from Judith Starkston

Spartacus the Gladiator by Ben Kane...from Historical Boys (C.W. Gortner)

From Holly at Bippity Boppity Book (Partial to the Past giveaway):
The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge
Outlaw: A Novel of Robin Hood by Angus Donald

The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

Whirlpool: A Novel of Niagara Falls by Eileen Enwright Hodgetts

The Demoness of Waking Dreams by Stephanie Chong
Edge of Oblivion: A Night Prowler Novel by J.T. Geissinger

The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger
Spirit Bound: A Vampire Academy Novel by Richelle Mead
The Moonlit Earth by Christopher Rice
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Affinity by Sarah Waters
The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
The School of Night by Louis Bayard

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wolf Hall Read-a-Long Week 6--Final Discussion

Sorry for the delay.  I'm behind, as usual.  I will have the full discussion and final thoughts posted later on tonight.  Hopefully, I'm not the only one behind.


BBAW Day Five--Saying goodbye until next year...

Another BBAW under our belts.  Can we measure the years in BBAW festivities?  I remember my very first three years ago, when I had only been blogging for a month.  What will it be like five years from now, I wonder?  I plan to still be blogging.  How about you?

As usual, what I love the most about BBAW is the sense of community.  I didn't get to visit as many blogs this year as in past years.  Life is so busy nowadays.  But when this event is going on, it seems there is a palpable buzz in our lovely community.  I did meet some new-to-me bloggers and I'm looking forward to my future interaction with them.

I'd like to thank Amy (My Friend Amy) once again for hosting this wonderful event.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

BBAW Day Four--Pimp that Book!

I read the books that follow before I started book blogging.  I really loved them and I feel they deserve recognition.

Before she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan wrote a wonderful book called The Keep.  What can only be called a gothic story with a twist, I absolutely loved this book.  If you like Jennifer Egan's writing, or even if you haven't read her yet, you really must read this book.

From National Book Award finalist Jennifer Egan, author of "Look at Me" ("Brilliantly unnerving . . . A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel" --"The New York Times"), a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape--a dazzling tour de force. 
Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story--a story about two cousins who unite to renovate a castle--that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.
Egan's relentlessly gripping page-turner plays with rich forms--ghost story, love story, gothic--and transfixing themes: the undertow of history, the fate of imagination in the cacophony of modern life, the uncanny likeness between communications technology and the supernatural. In a narrative that shifts seamlessly from an ancient European castle to a maximum security prison, Egan conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep--the last stand, the final holdout, the place you run to when the walls are breached--is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.
A novel of fierce intelligence and velocity; a bravura performance from a writer of consummate skill and style.

Long before I had ever heard of Stieg Larsson and his famous Millennium trilogy, there was another Swedish author who knocked me out with her book, Blackwater.  Swedish authors really know their stuff.  This thriller was so astounding and the characters were so real.  I highly recommend this book.

On Midsummer's Eve, 1974, Annie Raft arrives with her daughter Mia in the remote Swedish village of Blackwater to join her lover Dan on a nearby commune. On her journey through the deep forest, she sumbles upon the site of a grisly double murder--a crime that will remain unsolved for nearly twenty years, until the day Annie sees her grown daughter in the arms of one man she glimpsed in the forest that eerie midsummer night.

Like Gorky Park and Smilla's Sense of Snow, Blackwater is a unique trhiller in which the hearts and minds of the characters are as strikingly compelling as the exotic northern landscape that envelops them. 

This one will probably seem obvious, as I'm sure many may have already read it, but for those who haven't, you simply must read Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  Do it now! Before the film comes out.  It is one of the most magnificent books I've ever read.

Life of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe.

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel -- known as Pi -- has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea -- catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun -- all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.

As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material -- any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi, the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.

If you do happen to pick up one of these books upon my recommendation, I would love it if you would stop by and let me know what you thought. =O)


Cat Thursday: Authors and their cats (15)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and their Cats Thursday.  Each time I will feature an author and their cat(s).

Thank you to everyone who wished me well last week.  I'm feeling much better.  You are all so sweet. *group hug from me, Alice and Arya*

In honor of another wonderful author who passed away recently, I post the following image of Gore Vidal with Caligula.  RIP, Mr. Vidal.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BBAW Day Three--Book Blogging Love

I am really late with this and I do apologize, but better late than never I guess.  I'm not going to rehash what I say every year because I think everyone that knows me knows that I love the sense of community that we have among book bloggers.  This year I want to take it a step further and show some love for some of the things that bring us together as a community.  That would be read-a-thons, blog events, and reading challenges.  Three years ago, when I first started this blog, the only read-a-thons I remember being around were Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon (which I credit with starting it all with the read-a-thon phenomenon...thank you, Dewey!) and the Thankfully Reading Weekend.  Nowadays, it seems there is a read-a-thon almost every week, and mine are some of them.  Not that I'm complaining! Every day is a read-a-thon for me. ;O)  And then we have reading challenges.  Oh my goodness! Every year around this time, the reading challenges for the next year start rolling out.  I can never resist signing up for them.  They're so clever and, well...challenging.  Mixed in throughout the year we have the other fun challenges.  Carl's Once Upon a Time and Readers.Imbibing.Peril, Fall into Reading and Spring Reading Thing (which somehow I missed this year) at Callapidder Days, Bloggiesta, and so many others.  And reading/book-related events like all the fun Halloween events and Christmas events like Book Blogger's Holiday Swap.  And, of course, BBAW and Armchair BEA.  I know I've missed some, I'm sure, but you get my point.  We are a community of joiners, but not in a bad way.  We're joining like-minded individuals and doing something we love almost more than anything (not more than our kids, spouses, pets, I would think...I hope...LOL!).

I alone host many events each year.  I host four seasonal read-a-thons a year.  I finally had to create a dedicated blog, Seasons of Reading.  I host three perpetual and one long-term reading challenge.  Plus, a Christmas Reading Challenge every year and a Halloween event on my horror blog, Castle Macabre and a Christmas event (and Christmas in July) at my Christmas blog.  And I hosted a write-a-thon in August.  The rest of the year alone, I'm hosting my FrightFall Read-a-Thon, the event, Season of the Witch and Witchy mini-reading challenge (at Castle Macabre), another write-a-thon in November (and I'm proposing a review book read-a-thon as well), and my Christmas Reading Challenge and Sharing the Joy event at my Christmas blog, The Christmas Spirit.  People are always asking me how I do it (I'm a mom, I work from home, I'm working on a novel) and some probably wonder why too.  I'll tell you why.  It's not to gain followers or even for any sense of recognition.  I just love the sense of community that's involved with book-related events and I have met some of the most wonderful people.  That's what makes it worthwhile for me.  That's what book blogging means to me.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

{Book Tour} Jane by Robin Maxwell--Review, Q&A, and {Give@way}

*GIVEAWAY WINNERS--CelticLady Tore, Anita Yancey and Anonymous  Congrats! Winners have been notified*

A Q & A with Robin Maxwell

Tell us about your book.
The story of Tarzan and Jane is the wildest, most primal and overtly sexual iteration of the Romeo and Juliet legend in all of literature and pop culture. These two are buried deep in everyone's subconscious. In fact, the idea for writing my version of a cultured Edwardian lady falling passionately in love with a naked savage in an African eden came shockingly unbidden to me -- "Like magma erupting suddenly from a long-dormant volcano."

Writing JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan was a journey of discovery in re-imagining the iconic story exactly a century after the debut of Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Tarzan of the Apes," the first of twenty-four novels. It was a challenge to retain the period veneer and classic adventure style that were ERB hallmarks, while appealing to discerning modern readers. For this I turned to science and history where Burroughs had employed fantasy and suspension of disbelief. My lifelong fascination with and deep research into paleoanthropology and Darwin's "missing link" in human evolution were woven into my narrative. I had to revamp my protagonist from a meek, turn-of-the-century "maiden" into a stroppy, fearless young woman with dreams of a scientific career who -- for the love of a man like no other -- transmogrifies into "Jane, Queen of the Jungle."

What was your inspiration behind this novel?
I didn’t realize it till recently, but my first heartthrob was Tarzan. To a pubescent girl with raging hormones and an out-of-control imagination, what could be more appealing than a next-to-naked, gorgeously muscled he-man? A guy who lived totally free, who feared nothing, and had wild, death-defying adventures in a jungle paradise? The romantic in me adored that he was madly in love with and devoted to an American girl…and had a chimpanzee for a pet. You can’t get much better than that.

My favorite TV show when I was growing up was “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.” Irish McCalla was incredibly sexy in that tiny leopardskin dress and those thick gold armbands. Sheena had adventures that polite young ladies weren’t supposed to have. I also loved “Jungle Jim” and “Ramar of the Jungle.” And while I’d never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, I’d relished all the Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies late at night on TV. Though I didn’t realize it then, there was a pattern emerging. The jungle. Fabulous African animals. High adventure and sweaty thighs in skimpy leopard-skin outfits.

I started growing up and Tarzan slipped out of my consciousness. But when I heard about the movie called “Greystoke,” I was first in line on opening night. I loved the beginning, but the second half left me cold. I could not believe that Jane never even made it into the jungle. It was sacrilege! Bo Derek’s “Tarzan the Ape Man” was simply unwatchable. And by the time Disney made its animated feature, I was “too old” for Tarzan, and didn’t bother to go.

What I didn’t realize was that – like people in nearly every country on the planet – I still had Tarzan and Jane jungle fantasies buried in my brain.

So now FLASH BACK to almost three years ago. I had been an historical novelist for fifteen years and had eight published books under my belt. The question arose as to the subject of my next project. My last had been the first novelistic interpretation in all of literary history of that most famous love story, “Romeo and Juliet”.

Riding down the road one day with my husband Max, he wondered if I might want to choose another pair of literary lovers rather than historical characters for my next book. I thought, to myself, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” And then he asked who they would be. Not three seconds passed before I blurted out, “Tarzan and Jane!” Max’s first reaction was “What!? Really? Where did that come from?” He was very dubious. At the time I had no memory of Sheena, Ramar or Jungle Jim. Or even of the old Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies. But the images must have been bubbling in the depths of my subconscious like magma waiting to erupt from a dormant volcano.

Specific research played a large role in the writing of Jane. Please elaborate.
I made the decision that my book was going to be based as much in reality as was humanly possible. Where Mr. Burroughs strayed into fantasy, I would be grounded in reality. I wanted everything in it to be possible, if not probable. And being a science buff at heart (I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts degree from college), I was keen to lace the story with scientific fact and history. In places, I knew I’d be stretching the facts and taking literary license…but I was writing fiction, so basically, if you do it well, anything goes.

So what are the major differences (aside from point of view) between ERB’s Tarzan of the Apes and JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan? In Tarzan of the Apes, Jane and her father are part of a treasure-hunting expedition in western Africa – Gabon. The fact of their being on or near the west coast was, I thought, important to the integrity of the story. I just needed a way to get them there – solid motivation – that was based in science. It just so happens that, from a very young age, one of my greatest passions was the search for the “missing link” in human evolution, both in the ancient fossil record, as well as creatures that some claim are still alive (like Bigfoot and the Yeti). I think if I hadn’t become a writer, I would have made my career as a paleoanthropologist or archaeologist.

I’d postulated in my most basic outline that the thing that gets Archie and Jane Porter to Africa is their search for missing link fossils. But that was all the detail I had at that point. The most important research book I found on this subject was The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugène Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman. Dubois was a leading paleoanthropologist of the time, and had found the bones of “Java Man” (Pithecanthropus erectus) in Indonesia in 1891. Besides being a brilliant scientist, Dubois was also a sculptor, and he created a statue representing what he believed Java Man would have looked like with flesh and bones. You can see the straight, upright posture, human-looking legs, the hands with the extra-long, ape-like fingers, and especially the big prehensile toes. This was clearly a transitional creature. But the important thing here was that Dubois’ work gave me a plausible missing link species that Archie and Jane could be looking for.

I decided to make this real historical figure – Dubois – into a dear friend and colleague of Archie Porter’s. And along with Archie and Jane, we get to witness one of Dubois’ real lectures at Cambridge University about Java Man…where was hooted and howled at by the audience … because no one believed his find was real. Of course Dubois was later proved right. Pithecanthropus erectus would later be redesignated Homo erectus.

But the other fascinating thing I learned in Shipman’s book was that Darwin insisted that the real missing link would be found in Africa, and no where else. So, I made Jane and Archie faithful “Darwinists.” Then I created a big, charismatic expedition leader named Ral Conrath who – for his own nefarious reasons - approaches them with a promise that he knows of a place in West Africa where they are sure to find their missing link fossils. Conrath is hired. And voila! The Porters suddenly have the motivation they need to go to to Africa and end up not-far-inland from the beach in Gabon where Lord and Lady Greystoke were set ashore by mutineers twenty years before (here I stayed close to the story in Tarzan of the Apes). This is also the great forest where Tarzan is now living alone as a rogue Mangani.

Then smack in the middle of my research my husband handed me a National Geographic magazine – a story about a team of paleoanthropologists, (Tim White, Berhane Asfaw, and Giday WoldeGabriel) who, fifteen years before, had discovered in the Middle Awash area of Ethiopia a full skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus (whom they called “Ardi”). It had straight leg bones giving it a human, upright stance. This is one of the main distinctions that separate human from ape – the shape of the pelvis and the and leg bone…that and speech. On the other hand, Ardi had opposable, “prehensile” big toes perfect for grasping branches…and the face and skull of a chimp. It was to my eye the closest creature to a missing link that I had ever seen. To my pleasure (and Charles Darwin’s, if he had been alive), it was found in Africa. I now knew that just across the continent from where Jane and Archie needed to be a “transitional species” had once lived and breathed. If you look closely at Ardi, except for the hairy body, he looks strikingly like Dubois’ Java Man. Straight leg bones, and especially the fingers and big toes.

Something was dawning on me, and it got me really excited – a cool mixture of science and fantasy. A story point that might not be probable…but possible. What I was thinking was that when Jane meets Tarzan, she discovers that the tribe that brought him up – one that he secretly allows her to observe – is a living missing link species!

Now when you think about ERB’s Mangani (which he calls “Anthropoid apes), they can talk. They speak in words. They have a language. So I figured that if I melded scientific fact together with ERB’s imaginary “Ape-People,” what I’d get was a “transitional species,” – A living missing link tribe residing in East Africa -- Tarzan’s neck of the woods. And Jane, a budding paleoanthropologist, gets to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries in history!

My second departure from the ERB canon – one that I argued for many hours with ERB Inc.'s president – was the age at which Tarzan was taken from his parents after their murder at the hands of a crazed and vicious Mangani bull. ERB says “little Johnnie Clayton” was one year old when this happened. Yet in the ensuing years, he is able to teach himself to read books, words “little bugs” on their pages, and to write. And once he meets the human expedition – the Porters and a Frenchman, Paul D’Arnot – he is able to learn, within a couple of months, not only English, but French. By the end of the book he’s got perfect grammar in both languages and is driving a car around the American mid-west.

I, too, wanted my Tarzan to be capable of simple but grammatical speech by the book’s end – enough so that Jane could contemplate taking him back into civilization. But to stay true to my self-imposed “reality guidelines,” I asked myself how realistic it would be for a child who had only lived among humans and heard their speech for the first year of its life to re-learn not only language, but comprehension, reading and writing in a few month’s time. I guessed it was unlikely, but I didn’t know the answer. So I went to the research books about feral children.

There were a surprising number of famous cases, and I read them intently. But here was the crux of it: There is something called “The critical period hypothesis.” It is fiercely debated, but it basically states that humans have a “window of opportunity” to learn their first language. If that period passes without exposure to language, practice, etc., then the opportunity is lost forever. Feral children (like Tarzan) must hear human language spoken in that period if they are later to come back to civilization and learn to speak properly.

ERB explained Tarzan’s incredible mastery of language to his superior intelligence and nobility of spirit. To me, it strained credulity. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to make him four years old when he is abducted by the Mangani. This would give him time to speak, and even learn a little reading and writing. Hence, his re-learning with Jane’s help, would be that much more believable to modern readers.

You've been a screenwriter for over 30 years. How does your educational and professional background lend itself to your creative work?
I never imagine that my studies in the gross anatomy lab at Tufts University Medical School (when I was training to become an occupational therapist) would ever come in so handy writing one of my novels. But as it turns out, Jane Porter is introduced as a character in England while she dissecting her first cadaver in the gross anatomy laboratory at Cambridge University Medical School where her father is the professor. In those days (1905) women were allowed to audit classes at Cambridge, but not graduate, and Professor Porter has moved mountains to get her into his dissection lab. It was a great way to introduce a strong, stroppy, no-nonsense Edwardian lady at a time when women of her class were expected to enjoy afternoon teas and tennis parties...and never talk back to a man.

Later, when Jane finds herself alone with Tarzan -- a near-naked, drop-dead gorgeous savage -- she has to balance her instant primal attraction to the wild-haired young man with the social mores with which she's grown up. So she falls back on her anatomy training, becoming a "scientific observer," only to realize that she's just hot for the handsome ape man:

Excerpt from JANE:
Tarzan’s back was a masterpiece of musculature. Under the slightly tanned skin rippled and bulged two mighty triangular trapezii, massive latissimi dorsi running from armpit to waist, a spinal column sunk within a deep canal and bordered on either side by a column of little erector spinae and intertransversarii muscles connecting one vertibra to another. The proud, well-formed head sat atop a powerful neck with its two brilliantly defined sterno-clieto-mastoid muscles, allowing him maximum flexibility and strength.

I could not decide whether I was most fascinated by Tarzan’s arms and hands or his buttocks. The forearms were nearly as large as the upper arms, with the most massive wrists I had ever seen on a human being -- even the masons who worked on the Manor rockwork. His hands themselves were living machines that allowed him feats of unbelievable strength, yet were capable of the most extreme dexterity and tenderness. The thought of those hands moving over my body in the Waziri hut made me suddenly weak and giddy, and I admonished myself to concentrate lest I lose my footing and fall to my demise.

A moment later, however, I found myself contemplating Tarzan’s thighs. They were meaty and well-formed, with a quality that hardened them to steel when in use, and softened them when at rest. The feet, and his toes in particular, could curl round a limb and grip with astonishing tensile power. But the man’s arse, I thought, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World…

Well honestly, I must stop these prurient observations! I could tell myself all day long I was studying his magnificent physique “in the name of science,” but that was blatant self-deception, and I was mortified by my prurient motivations.

As for my screenwriting background, I believe that so many years of having to write passages so descriptively and colorfully that an actor, director or film executive reading it can "see it" perfectly as it would be up on the screen, gave me a leg-up in writing novels. Another skill I honed was pacing -- keeping the plot moving at a brisk pace. I had a terrific teach (and sometimes co-writer) Ronald Shusett, the writer-producer of "Alien," "Total Recall" and "Minority Report." He was a master of pacing and never let me get away with a single lagging moment, especially in the third act. That, he told me, was where you needed almost no dialogue, just fantastic action sequences and a bang-up ending. I really made use of that intelligence writing JANE, the ending of which many of which liken to an Indiana Jones movie.

Your last novel, O Juliet, focused on the great love story between Romeo and Juliet. Which do you prefer to write about: literary lovers or historical figures?
When you're dealing with historical lovers, it's a double-edged sword. While you're bound (as good historical fiction authors are) to adhere to the facts that are known about a romance, you are also given the great gift of an already blocked-out story. And it's been my experience -- writing about the likes of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley -- that truth is stranger than fiction. In my wildest dreams I could not have come up with a more passionate, dysfunctional, history-changing and bloody love stories than these. Come on! A king who moves mountains (including a break with the Catholic Church and executing his best friends) to divorce his first wife to marry his second. A beautiful, clever non-royal woman who manages to keep the already-scary monarch out of her bed for six thigh-sweating years -- only to marry him and have her head chopped off for bearing him a daughter and not a son?! You couldn't make that up.

I do like literary lovers. Once again I'm provided with a brilliant framework (no less than Shakespeare for O, Juliet and Edgar Rice Burroughs for JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan) but then I can go wild. In both cases, while the original writing was fantastic, there was a huge amount of room for character and plot development. In O, Juliet the protagonists were fourteen and fifteen, and their love affair ending in double-suicide took place over a three day period. I made them eighteen and twenty-three and stretched the story over three months, allowing for more believability and for readers to really get to know Romeo and Juliet, as well as their families and something of the city they lived in - Florence (not Verona -- again, literary license!).

In the original Tarzan of the Apes (1912) the first of ERB's twenty-four Tarzan novels, Jane was written as a swooning, fainting Baltimore belle who actually brings her black maid on a treasure-hunting expedition to Africa. By permission of the ERB estate, I was able to take artistic liberties with the character of Jane, though there were rules that I was forced to adhere to. This was a document called "The Tarzan Universe," a list of twenty-one rules (such as, "Tarzan may not drink alcoholic beverages" "Tarzan may not harm women" "Tarzan may not be a racist" etc.) so that the dignified Tarzan legacy is preserved.

The one that threw me was #17: "Tarzan may not have elicit sex" (read: "sex outside of marriage"). I put my foot down on that one, insisting to the board of directors that if Tarzan and Jane couldn't "do the wild thing" in my novel, I wouldn't write it. We amended #17 to read, "Tarzan and Jane may have sex, as long as it is handled tastefully." In addition, I had to promise there would be no "throbbing members" mentioned, and I was good to go.

Jane, your protagonist, is clearly a trailblazer. Do you think she is largely ignored as a strong feminist example in popular culture? Why or why not?
This requires a complicated answer because it has so many moving parts. The way people perceive the character of Jane Porter in popular culture comes from two sources -- the twenty-four ERB Tarzan novels in which she was only a character in eight, and the movies (and to a much lesser degree some short-lived Tarzan TV series). In the earliest books Edgar Rice Burroughs, a product of his times and societal values, wrote Jane as "everygirl," not a bold suffragette, but a Baltimore belle thrown for a short time into an exotic situation with an even more exotic man. In later books, such as Tarzan the Terrible, Jane has definitely evolved. She has learned "the art of woodcraft," is resourceful, capable of handling herself alone in the jungle, killing to defend herself, and even leading a group of people through the jungle to safety.

However, most people today don't read the original novels of ERB. We are left to the movie portrayals of Jane Porter. The most famous was Maureen O'Sullivan's (including "Tarzan the Ape Man" -1932- and "Tarzan and His Mate" - 1934) who happily donned skimpy and quite fetching costumes and swung around in the jungle with her lover, engaging in rather shocking out-of-wedlock sex. She even did a four-minute long nude underwater swimming sequence with Tarzan that so enraged the nascent Hollywood censors that from then on Jane was forced to cover up in little brown leather dresses...and true Hollywood censorship was born.

Janes of the 50s, 60s and 70s were mere pretty appendages to Tarzan. Bo Derek tried to put the focus (1984) in which Tarzan doesn't meet Jane (a gorgeous young Andie McDowell) until he's brought back to England. Their love affair is conducted in an Edwardian mansion, and Jane never even sets foot in the jungle!

For my role model as I was growing up I had "Sheena Queen of the Jungle," my favorite TV . A beautiful leggy blonde -- Irish McCalla -- could hunt and fight and survive like her male counterpart, Tarzan.

Since I'm known in my historical fiction writing for strong, ahead-of-their-time females, I knew "my Jane" would be no different. Because she lived much later than my historical heroines and herself had role models (women explorers and adventurers like Mary Kingsley and Annie Smith Peck) I had much more freedom to make her a feminist -- what was in those days known as a "New Woman." These women were feared and hated, much as feminists are today. It was thought that if there were enough of them, they could bring down the British empire.

This is the first authorized Tarzan novel written by a woman—what is the story behind receiving approval from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate?
I was fortunate that two of my dearest friends had been dealing with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate on a screen adaptation of the first of ERB’s novels, The Outlaw of Torn, and I knew from their experience that one did not tread anywhere near a Burroughs creation without great peril to one’s self. And of course I desperately wanted the blessings and authorization for my concept from the estate, as much as I needed them.

So, first things first. I got myself a copy of Tarzan of the Apes and read it thoroughly. Of course I was blown away by the storytelling and the astonishing imagery. But lurking behind every banana leaf and every elephant’s ear were, in my writer’s mind, fabulous opportunities for telling this brilliant classic in a new way.

So I revved up my courage and sent a letter of introduction to Jim Sullos, president of ERB, Inc. That very day I got a call from him, and before I knew it he was demanding to know what my “great new idea” for a Tarzan novel was. So I unchoked my throat and told him: “The Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view.” At that point I had only the most basic “beats” of the adventure that would bring Tarzan and Jane together. But I was confident that it was good.

I didn’t have to wait long – maybe 3 seconds – before Jim blurted, “I love it. It’s original. It’s never been done like this before in a Tarzan novel.” And surprising me even more – because at that point I didn’t know Jim from Adam – one of the reasons he liked it so much was because it was a romance. Since then I’ve learned what a big, sweet-hearted guy he is, so now it doesn’t surprise me at all. And funnily enough, when I saw the cover of the All Story Magazine where “Tarzan of the Apes” debuted, there in the bottom right corner, it read: “A Romance of the Jungle!”

It was during this phone meeting that Jim explained that 2012 was the one hundreth anniversary of the All Story publication. We figured it out, and realized that if we timed it properly, my book could be written and published in time for the “Tarzan Centennial Year.” This was fabulous news.

But suddenly I was faced with the prospect of coming up with a detailed outline of my novel, something that Jim could pitch to the ERB, Inc. board of directors. Doing an outline for a novel (especially one with historical elements) is no small task. People think you can just “throw together a few pages.” But that’s not how it works. If you want to get it right, this is the time that you do a good portion of your research. This is the time you develop your characters and fill in the beats of your story. The way I work, I have the beginning, middle and end (and a good idea of everything else inbetween) all blocked out in my proposal. And as it always happens when I’m researching a novel, exactly the right books find their way into my hands. It’s almost like magic.

First I bought the The Big Book of Tarzan (with eight of the early novels all in one doorstop-of-a-book) and about four dozen research books. There were ones on the rape of colonial Africa; missing links in human evolution, Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, Dian Fossey’s gorillas, feral children, Victorian and Edwardian woman, Edgar Rice Burroughs, explorations and big game hunting in West Africa circa 1900, as well as the trbes of Central and West Africa. Being a thoroughly modern researcher, I surfed the web and printed out tons more stuff from that. I even toyed with the idea of dinosaurs in my story, and looked into tales of the fearsome “Mokele Mbembe” along the Ogowe River.

I re-watched the old Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies. Of course I was blown away by the raw sensuality of the first couple of movies. But after about six I had to stop, because Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan never seemed to get any smarter or more eloquent. And Maureen O’Sullivan, lovely as she was – and she was lovely – seemed to have lost her wildness and passion. The early sexy costumes had been replaced with cover-up-everything dresses. We later learned that the censors had had a go at her, which was a real shame. I think I hit my limit in “Tarzan Finds a Son,” when Jane says to their adopted son, “Boy, go down to the river and get me some caviar and we’ll put it in the refrigerator.” The elephant-driven elevator up to the tree hut was final straw.

But the more I read, the more into focus my story became. I knew I wanted to honor ERB, to stay as true to his intentions and spirit as possible. But one hundred years had passed, and I knew from my experience in the publishing world exactly what today’s readers expected and demanded…and what wouldn’t fly. Tastes had changed, and sensibilities, too. The story had to be fresh, relevant, and accessible to a wide audience.

One of the things that’s been beaten into my head as an author in the last fifteen years is that 70% of fiction readers are women. I think that’s something that’s changed over the last hundred years, but in any event, my publishers are always nagging me to write things from a woman’s point of view. Sometimes I grumble, and argue with them, but in this case I was all for telling the story through Jane’s eyes. That’s what would make it different. And that was exactly what had appealed to Jim Sullos at ERB, Inc.

Of course women, on the whole, were far different a century ago than they are now – their lot in life, the rights they had and didn’t have, and the way they were perceived (especially by male writers). So although I wanted to set my book precisely when ERB set Tarzan of the Apes – turn of the twentieth century – I was determined that my Jane was going to be a forward-thinking, strong-minded, brilliantly educated female of her day. Somebody that would resonate with modern women.

With all of my initial research done and my story blocked out from start to finish, I went back into the Burroughs office and I pitched for five hours to Jim. Though he liked it, he had to get the okay from the estate where my story and characters diverged from ERB's. It took several weeks, but one day I got the call - a go-ahead with JANE, with all the points that I needed to bring the story up to date and make it my own. Since then, Jim, John R. Burroughs (grandson of ERB) and every employee of ERB, Inc. have been incredibly supportive and have made anything and everything in the amazing Tarzan archives available to me, including one hundred years of Tarzan and Jane images that have proved to be great inspirations to my writing.

Who, in your opinion, is your target audience?
The easiest target audience is women and men age 50+. This is because either they read the ERB Tarzan novels or -- more likely -- were fans of the Johnnie Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan movies. Men had boyhood fantasies of being Tarzan, and girls either wanted to be Jane or they loved the idea of a wild, handsome half-naked boyfriend. When this demographic hears my book is "The Tarzan story from Jane's point of view" they go nuts. They "get it" instantly, and they say "I can't wait to buy it!"

My question to you is: are there blogs that are widely read by 50+ fiction readers?

The 35-50 crowd probably never read the ERB novels and was exposed to the inferior Tarzan movies. However, in this group, are many historical fiction readers (and much of my fan base), romance readers (this is a romance novel at its core), and females who read women's fiction. Here, you'll also find sci-fi/fantasy/adventure readers, and as you know, JANE is chock full of adventure. You should add sci-fi/fantasy readers as I take license with science, Darwin's theories and missing links in human evolution. The Mangani as a "living missing link species" is -- in my estimation possible. They would be like an isolated tribe of "Bigfoot" creatures (which have never been disproven). But most consider this borders on sci-fi/fantasy.

The youngest readers (18-25) only ever saw the Disney animated "Tarzan," "Tarzan and Jane," and "George of the Jungle." Some don't have a clue who Tarzan is, and don't "get" how cool a Tarzan story told through Jane's eyes is. They might never have heard of Jane! That doesn't mean I want to forget targeting this audience. After all, both Tarzan and Jane in JANE are fabulous 20-year-olds having an extraordinary adventure and sexy love story. And I have (especially with O, Juliet) been favorably reviewed by YA bloggers.

Do you see any yourself in any of these characters?
Of course I want to be Jane, defying a repressive society, traveling to an exotic location and being left entirely alone in paradise with a gorgeous, uninhibited male specimen who can protect me from virtually anything, loves me to distraction and makes wild primal love to me. Don't you?!

Finally, where can we find your book?
Everywhere. Chains like Barnes and Noble (co-op the first two weeks after September 18th); independents; online bookstores like, and (like

My thoughts on JANE
Sadly, I have never read the original Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I have seen films, that I'm sure deviate somewhat from the original story, which have given me a general idea of this famous story.  Robin Maxwell's JANE is a terrific retelling of the famous tale.  Now let me tell you the reasons why I liked it so well.  First of all, it's told from Jane's point of view and this Jane is not just a feisty young lady who strains slightly against the social norms of the time, but a full blown feminist of sorts, a budding paleoanthropologist, a young woman who can't help but impress this lover of strong female characters.  Secondly, the science.  I have a very logical and scientific mind and nothing irks me more than to hear someone tell me that they don't believe in evolution (I'm sorry, dear reader, if you do not, but this is how I feel).  That Maxwell so effortlessly incorporated the idea that the Mangani were actually a missing link tribe is simply amazing to me and utterly fantastic.  To me, it logically explains how Tarzan, raised by them since four years of age (in this book), was able to hold on to a degree of his humanity.  The fact that these Mangani were able to speak (in their own language) and had an upright posture makes for a more plausible argument that Tarzan would hold on to some humanity.  That and the fact that he had lived among his human parents until he was four.

Of course, there are far more elements in this story that make it such a great book.  It's exciting and adventurous.  The characters are well-written and interesting.  And, of course, the relationship between Jane and Tarzan is still one of the great love stories, in my opinion.  This is my first Robin Maxwell read, despite owning several of her books.  Now that I've had a taste of her meticulously researched work and excellent writing, I must pick up another of her titles very soon.

About the book
The first authorized Tarzan novel written by a woman, timed for the centennial of the original publication of TARZAN OF THE APES

“Robin Maxwell's novel not only transforms Tarzan and Jane into a living, breathing couple
who bring the Tarzan saga to new life, but the thrills and adventure leap off the page in the grand traditionof Edgar Rice Burroughs himself.” --John R. Burroughs, Grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs

Cambridge, England, 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time: the only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat dissecting corpses than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of traveling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin. Little does she know she is about to develop from a well-bred, brilliantly educated Edwardian young woman to a fierce, vine-swinging huntress who meets and falls in love with Tarzan.

And so begins JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan (A Tor trade paperback; September 18, 2012; $14.99), the first retelling of Tarzan written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate. This renowned love story of the ultimate strong female protagonist, by award-winning author and screenwriter Robin Maxwell, deftly entwines real people and events with archaeology and ancient civilizations based on Maxwell’s research into Darwinian evolutionary theory and the historical discoveries of paleoanthropologist Eugene Dubois.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

About the author
ROBIN MAXWELL is the national bestselling author of eight historical fiction novels featuring powerful women, including Signora da Vinci and the award-winning Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, now in its 24th printing. She lives in the high desert of California with her husband, yogi Max Thomas. Visit her online at

Excerpt of JANE
Chicago Public Library, April 1912

Good Lord, she was magnificent! Edgar thought. Infuriatingly bold. He had many times fantasized about women such as this Jane Porter, but he honestly believed they existed only in his imagination. The vicious heckling she had endured for the past hour in the darkened room would have broken the strongest of men, yet there she stood at the podium casting a shadow on the startling image projected by the whirring episcope on the screen behind her, back straight as a rod, head high, trying to bring order back into the hall.
Her age was indeterminate—somewhere approaching thirty, but her presence was one of striking vitality and self-assurance. She was tall and slender beneath the knee-length suit coat of fine brown wool. Her honey-colored hair was tucked up beneath a simple toque of black felt, not one of those large frivolous feathered creations that these days hung perilously cantilevered over a woman’s face. Emma wished desperately for one of those freakish hats, and Edgar was secretly glad they were still too poor to afford it.
“These claims are preposterous!” cried a man seated halfway back in the crowded room. He had the look of an academic, Edgar thought.
“These are not claims, sir. They are the facts as I know them, and physical evidence, here, right before your eyes.” There were hoots of derision at that, and catcalls, and Jane Porter’s chin jutted an inch higher.
“This is clearly a hoax,” announced a portly bearded man who brazenly walked to the table in front of the podium and swept his hand above the massive skeleton displayed on it. “And a bad hoax at that. Why, you haven’t even tried to make the bones look old.”
The audience erupted in laughter, but the woman spoke over the commotion in a cultured British accent with more equanimity than Edgar thought humanly possible.
“That is because they are not old. I thought I made it clear that the bones came from a recently dead specimen.”
“From a living missing link species,” called out another skeptic. The words as they were spoken were meant to sound ridiculous.
“All you’ve made clear to us today, Miss Porter, is that you should be locked up!”
“Can we have the next image, please?” the woman called to the episcope operator.
“I’ve had enough of this claptrap,” muttered the man sitting just in front of Edgar. He took the arm of his female companion, who herself was shaking her head indignantly, and they rose from their seats, pushing down the row to the side aisle.
This first defection was all it took for others to follow suit. Within moments a mass exodus was under way, a loud and boisterous one with rude epithets shouted out as hundreds of backs were turned on the stoic presenter.
Edgar remained seated. When someone threw on the electric lights, he could see that the episcope operator up front in the center aisle was wordlessly packing up the mechanism of prisms, mirrors, and lenses that threw opaque images onto the screen as the speaker began her own packing up.
Finally Edgar stood and moved down the side aisle to the front of the meeting hall. He rolled the brim of his hat around in his hands as he approached Jane Porter. Now he could see how pretty she was. Not flamboyantly so, but lovely, with an arrangement of features—some perfect, like her green almond eyes and plump upward-bowed lips, and some less so, like her nose, just a tad too long and with a small bump in it—that made her unique.
She was handling the bones as if they were made of Venetian glass, taking up the skull, shoulders, arms, and spine and laying them carefully into a perfectly molded satin receptacle in a long leather case.
She looked up once and gave him a friendly, close-lipped smile, but when he did not speak she went back wordlessly to her task. Now it was the lower extremities that she tucked lovingly away, using special care to push the strange big-toe digits into narrow depressions perpendicular to the feet.
Edgar felt unaccountably shy. “Can I give you a hand?”
“No, thank you. They all fit just so, and I’ve had quite a lot of practice. London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin.”
“I have to tell you that I was completely enthralled by your presentation.”
She looked at Edgar with surprised amusement. “You don’t think I should be locked up?”
“No, quite the contrary.”
“Then you cannot possibly be a scientist.”
“No, no, I’m a writer.” He found himself sticking out his hand to her as though she were a man. “The name’s Ed Burroughs.”
She took it and gave him a firm shake. He noticed that her fingernails were pink and clean but altogether unmanicured, bearing no colorful Cutex “nail polish,” the newest rage that Emma and all her friends had taken to wearing. These were not the hands of a lady, but there was something unmistakably ladylike about her.
“What do you write, Mr. Burroughs?”
He felt himself blushing a bit as he pulled the rolled-up magazine from his jacket pocket. He spread it out on the table for her to see. “My literary debut of two months ago,” he said, unsure if he was proud or mortified.
“All-Story magazine?”
“Pulp fiction.” He flipped through the pages. “This is the first installment in the series I wrote. There was a second in March. My pen name’s Norman Bean. It’s called ‘Under the Moons of Mars.’ About a Confederate gentleman, John Carter, who falls asleep in an Arizona cave and wakes up on Mars. There he finds four-armed green warriors who’ve kidnapped ‘the Princess of Helium,’ Dejah Thoris. He rescues her, of course.”
She studied the simple illustration the publisher had had drawn for the story, something that’d pleased Edgar very much.
“It really is fiction,” she observed.
“Fiction, fantasy…” He sensed that the woman took him seriously, and he felt suddenly at ease. It was as if he had always known her, or should have known her. She exuded something raw and yet something exceedingly elegant.
“When I was ten I came home from school one day and told my father I’d seen a cow up a tree,” Edgar said, startling himself with his candor with a complete stranger. “I think I said it was a purple cow. I was punished quite severely for lying, but nothing stops a compulsion, does it?” When she shook her head knowingly, he felt encouraged. “A few years later I moved to my brother’s ranch in Idaho and stayed for the summer. By the time I was enrolled at Phillips Academy I could spin a pretty good yarn about all the range wars I’d fought in, the horse thieves, murderers, and bad men that I’d had run-ins with. It was a good thing my father never heard about them.”
A slow smile spread across Jane Porter’s features. “Well, you’ve shown him now, haven’t you. A published author.”
“I’m afraid my old man has yet to be convinced of my myriad talents.”
She snapped both cases closed and took one in each hand.
“Here, let me help you with those.”
“No, thank you. Having the two of them balances me out.”
“I was hoping you’d let me take you out to dinner. Uh, I’d like very much to hear more about your ape-man.”
She stopped and looked at him. “Honestly?”
“You must pardon my suspiciousness. I have been booed and hissed out of almost every hallowed hall of learning in the world. This is the last. I tried to have my paper heard at the Northwestern and Chicago universities, but I’m afraid my reputation preceded me and they said absolutely not. That’s why you had to listen to my presentation at a meeting room at the Chicago Public Library.”
“So will you come out with me?”
The woman thought about it for a very long moment. She set down her cases and walked to the man at the episcope, quietly conferred with him, and returned. “It’s really not a good idea for us to talk in public, but my hotel is nearby. You and I can go up to my room.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Edgar said. “Chicago police keep an eye on even the nicest hotels. They might arrest you for soliciting. But my apartment’s not too far. The wife and kids have gone to her mother’s for the weekend. I mean … sorry, that sounds…”
“Mr. Burroughs, your apartment’s a fine idea. I’m not afraid of you. But don’t you care about the neighbors?”
He eyed the woman’s bulky luggage. “I’ll tell them you’re selling vacuum cleaners.”
She smiled broadly. “That will do.”
They were largely silent on the taxi ride across town to his Harris Street walk-up, except for the exchange of pleasantries about the lovely spring weather they were having and how April was almost always horrible in England.
It was just Edgar’s rotten luck that the only neighbor who saw them come in was the landlord, a petty, peevish little man who was looking for the rent, now more than a week late. Edgar was relieved to get Jane Porter up the three flights and inside, shutting the door behind them, but he cringed to see the empty cereal bowl and box of Grape-Nuts that he’d left on his writing desk. There was a pile of typewritten pages on letterhead lifted from the supply closet of the pencil sharpener company he worked for, a mass of cross-outs and arrows from here to there, scribbled notes to himself in both margins.
“It’s a novel I’m writing, or should say rewriting … for the third time. I call it The Outlaw of Torn.” Edgar grabbed the bowl and cereal box and started for the kitchen. “I turn into a bit of a bachelor when my wife is away. By that I don’t mean…”
“It’s all right,” she called after him. “You have children?”
“A boy and girl, two and three. Why don’t you sit down? Can I get you something to drink? Tea? A glass of sherry?”
“Yes, thank you. I’ll have a cup of water. Cool, please.”
When Edgar returned from the kitchen, his guest was sitting at the end of the divan in an easy pose, her back against the rounded arm, her head leaning lazily on her hand. She had taken off her suit coat, and now he could see she wore no stiff stays under the white silk blouse, those torturous undergarments that mutilated a woman’s natural curves. She wore no jewelry save a filigreed gold locket hanging between shapely breasts, and it was only when she was opening the second of the two cases holding the skeleton that he saw she wore a simple gold wedding band. He could see now where she had meticulously pieced together the shattered bones of the apelike face.
He set the water down and sat across from her. Now she sighed deeply.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Edgar asked, praying silently that she did.
“Well, I’ve never told this in its entirety. The academics don’t wish to hear it. But perhaps your ‘pulp fiction’ readers will. I can tell you it’s a story of our world—a true story, one that will rival your John Carter of Mars.”
“Is it about you?”
“A good part of it is.”
“Does what happened to you in the story explain your fearlessness?”
“I told you, I’m not frightened of you. I…”
“I don’t mean me. You took an awful lot of punishment this afternoon … and in public, too. You’re a better man than I.”
She found Edgar’s remark humorous but grew serious as she contemplated his question. “I suppose they did toughen me up, my experiences.” She stared down at her controversial find, and he saw her eyes soften as though images were coming into focus there.
“Where does it begin?” he asked.
“Well, that depends upon when I begin. As I’ve said, I’ve never told it before, all of it.” She did some figuring in her head. “Let me start in West Central Africa, seven years ago.”
“Africa!” Edgar liked this story already. Nowhere on earth was a darker, more violent or mysterious place. There were to be found cannibals, swarthy Arab slave traders, and a mad European king who had slaughtered millions of natives.
“It just as well could start in England, at Cambridge, half a year before that.” She smiled at Edgar. “But I can see you like the sound of Africa. So, if you don’t mind me jumping around a bit…”
“Any way you like it,” Edgar said. “But I know what you mean. It’s not easy figuring out how to begin a story. For me it’s the hardest part.”
“Well then … picture if you will a forest of colossal trees. High in the fork of a fig, a great nest has been built. In it lies a young woman moaning and delirious. Her body is badly bruised and torn.”
“Is it you?” Edgar asked.
Jane Porter nodded.
“I have it in my mind. I can see it very well.” Edgar could feel his heart thumping with anticipation. He allowed his eyes to close. “Please, Miss Porter…” There was a hint of begging in his voice. “Will you go on?”

Copyright © 2012 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

I have three copies of JANE to give away to my readers in the US/Canada (per publisher specs).  Please leave me a comment telling me if you've ever read the original Tarzan of the Apes and, if so, what you thought of it.  If you haven't read it, tell me if you plan to in the future.  A comment answering one of these questions must be left to be eligible for the giveaway.  Leave your contact information in case you are chosen as a winner.  This giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 2 at 11:59pm CST.  Good luck!

Thanks to PR by the Book for including me on the tour.

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