Friday, December 4, 2015

Q&A with Linda Bennett Pennell, author of Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Linda will be awarding $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A special welcome to Linda Bennett Pennell for stopping by to answer our questions. Have you always been a writer? When did you really get into writing?

I haven’t always been a writer of fiction, but I have always been a writer. I spent many years writing to earn my degrees and certifications, then more writing on the job. When I retired, I was finally able to write for pleasure.

What do you enjoy about writing most?

The best thing about writing fiction is that it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Through writing fiction, I am able to tap into a whole new side of myself that is a joy in my life. I love the act of creating something that has not existed before. I enjoy imagining a story and seeing it come to life on the page.

Did you encounter any challenges while publishing your book? How did you overcome them?

Rejection is a necessary part of the publishing process and I have had my share. Learn what you can from negative feedback. Give your rejected work an honest edit and move on. No one ever gets published by giving up or by dwelling on the negatives.

Tell us more about your book...

Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn is set in 1943 in the weeks leading up to the First Allied Conference. The story revolves around spies, double agents, a murder mystery, and a romance between two people who have no intention of falling in love.

Let me give you a little background on why I chose the Casablanca Conference for my setting.

In late 1942, the Allies were finally experiencing success in North Africa to the point that a policy meeting was needed. They set the conference for January 1943 at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca. Roosevelt, Churchill, de Gaulle, and Henri Giraud would all be in attendance. Only serious difficulties on the Eastern Front kept Stalin from attending. Imagine the effect this must have had in Berlin when they learned about the coming conference through an intercepted Allied message.

Secret communications were intercepted and decoded by both sides throughout the war. But for a simple error, the success of the conference, perhaps outcome of the war itself, might have been quite different. The Germans knew about the conference through an intercepted message. Their translator, however, made one strategic error. He translated Casablanca, Spanish for white house, as the White House in Washington, D.C. The error was eventually caught, but too late for the Nazis to disrupt the conference. Like many authors of historical fiction, I played "what if" with some of the details of the historical event. The result is Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn.

Who inspires you as an author and why?

Since I write stories set in the American South and/or about Southerners traveling far from home, I admire Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Kathryn Stockett, author of the bestselling blockbuster The Help. Although set in different decades of the 20th Century, both authors deal with difficult topics honestly while offering hope for the future.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

I am a complete Anglophile, so a complete tour of the UK would be right down my alley. Love those castles and cathedrals!

What is your advice to anyone working to achieve their goals (such as publishing a book or finishing college)?

Nothing worth having is achieved without hard work and the six P’s. The six P’s? Make this your mantra: proper planning prevents pitifully poor performance. Do not expect perfection of yourself or anyone else. There is no perfection in this life, but do expect your best effort. Working toward goal success, no matter the area, requires learning everything possible about that area and then pouring on the labor. Finally, be kind to yourself. Negative self-talk kills creativity!

Casablanca, 1943: a viper’s nest of double agents and spies where OSS Officer Kurt Heinz finds his skill in covert operations pushed to the limit. Allied success in North Africa and the fate of the First Allied Conference—perhaps the outcome of the war—hang on Kurt’s next mission. The nature of his work makes relationships impossible. Nonetheless, he is increasingly torn between duty and the beautiful girl who desperately needs his protection and help.

Sarah Barrett, U.S. Army R.N., is finished with wartime romance. Determined to protect her recently broken heart, she throws all of her time and energy into caring for her patients, but when she is given a coded message by a mysterious dying civilian, she is sucked into a vortex of danger and intrigue that threatens her very survival. The one person who can help Sarah is Kurt Heinz, a man with too many secrets to be trusted.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Kurt watched in dismay as the man in gray picked up his fedora and rose from the table next to the one recently vacated by the two women. This had to be his contact. The man had watched Kurt on the sly since he arrived at the restaurant. Moreover, the guy matched the description right down to the red pocket square in his suit breast pocket and the thin, pale scar running along his left jawline. Making a quick decision, Kurt pushed his chair back and tossed some cash on the table.

"It's been interesting guys, but I'm calling it a night. Use this to cover my tab."

"What's the rush, Heinz? We haven't even ordered dinner."

"I guess my sins are catching up with me. It's return to quarters and bed for me."

"You headed back with us on the return flight tomorrow?"

"Nope, I'm here with the Old Man for the duration. You boys have a good trip."

The street was nearly deserted when Kurt stepped out onto its glistening concrete surface. Misty rain created halos around the sparse street lamps and obscured most objects more than a few feet distant. Only the two women, Sarah and Agnes, stood under an umbrella waiting for a taxi. Kurt watched them from the restaurant's portico. Focused on their conversation, they seemed oblivious to anyone behind them.

Glancing to his right, Kurt saw his man in gray scurrying toward the cross street. He stepped onto the sidewalk and crept along a good twenty paces behind. When his quarry slowed at the corner and looked back over his shoulder, Kurt stepped into the shadow of a doorway behind the taxi stand and waited. If this guy didn't want to make contact, he wouldn't appreciate being followed.

About the Author:
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

"History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire


Buy Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, Confederado do Norte, When War Came Home, and Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn. a Rafflecopter giveaway


So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?