Author Interview & Giveaway ~ Brandy Vallance: Within the Veil

Within_the_Veil_sg_Half.jpgI’m excited to welcome my friend, talented author, and sister-in-Christ, Brandy Vallance to my blog! Brandy ‘visited’ a year-and-a-half ago when her debut, The Covered Deep, was released.

Her second historical romance, Within the Veil, released June 28th, and I’m so thrilled to get an opportunity to ask her questions about the characters, her favorite tea(s), and what she learned about gypsies while writing this lyrical romance about a Scottish half-Gypsy and an English palace guard set in Scotland in the late 19th century.

Within the Veil Blurb:

They never should have met. But they might be made for each other.

 Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s ever had about the haughty English.
 
Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.
 
 As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

 

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About Brandy:

Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy’s love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance. Her novels have been featured in USA TODAY and Writer’s Digest. You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

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K: Let’s begin with the most important question—what kind of tea did you drink/guzzle while writing this amazing story?

B: Ha! Great question. Here we go: PG Tips, Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, Tazo Earl Grey, Two Leaves and a Bud Organic Assam Breakfast, Twinings Darjeeling, Yorkshire Gold, many other varieties and even some Yerba Mate!

K: Wow, that is quite a variety of tea! Sounds perfect for novel-writing. Speaking of…Within the Veil is your second novel. It’s just as lovely and vivid and emotional as The Covered Deep, your debut. Was it easier, more difficult, or just different crafting your second historical romance?

B: In some ways it was easier and in others it was more difficult. As far as the writing went—the technical aspects—that seemed like muscle memory. I didn’t have to follow a plot structure as heavily as I did with The Covered Deep. It was like my subconscious just knew what to do. I did try to push myself out of my comfort zone, so in that aspect I’ll say that it was more challenging.

K: How does the creation process begin for you? A picture of a person, plot ideas, a particular scene?

B: The only thing I knew starting out was that I wanted to write a Scottish vs. English, enemies to lovers story. At first, I didn’t plan on the Gypsy element. That just showed up in chapter one. Feya’s father started talking about the caravans and the Gypsy fires and I was like what? At that point I threw myself into research about the Gypsies in Scotland and I really liked what I found. Non-writers will find this response a bit on the insane side, but writers will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s amazing how our subconscious works.

K: Feya and Alasdair are both strong, vibrant, flawed people. Life-like characters who lived and breathed beyond the pages of Within the Veil. I miss them! If you could spend an hour with Feya and an hour with Alasdair, what would you talk about? What do you think they’d say?

K: I miss them too! I still think about Paul & Bianca all the time and I know it’ll always be the same with Feya & Alasdair. Oh, to spend an hour with Feya! Feya is like that wild friend you have who always makes life more interesting. She’s so passionate about everything. There’s really no middle ground for her—she’s either all in or completely against something. She’s just so full of life! I think it would just be fun to sit with Feya and drink tea all night. Listening to her stories would have me laughing so hard I’d be in tears. I’d love to hear about the folklore of Scotland. She drops a lot of mentions of that in the book. And just her expressions are so funny. It’s also hard to pretend with Feya, she’s pretty insightful. So, we’d have many hilarious discussions that would end in deep, authentic, unforgettable conversations.

Now, as far as Alasdair is concerned . . . I’m not sure I’d be saying much. The man is devilishly handsome and that smile . . . He’d get bored with me pretty quickly. I’d just be staring at him the entire time, blushing.

K: Ahhh, Alasdair…*sigh* Okay, moving along. Within the Veil portrays the prejudice Romani Gypsies experienced during the 19th century in Scotland. Intense dislike—in many cases, hatred—and forced separation affected the gypsies’ lives so profoundly. Was the research difficult? Enlightening?

B: The research was very enlightening. I was struck—and saddened—that many of the Gypsies problems from all that time ago have not changed. In 2013 a leading Hungarian journalist—Zsolt Bayer—wrote in Magyar Hirlap (a newspaper): “Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn’t be tolerated or understood, but stamped out. Animals should not exist.” In 2015 a Gypsy shanty town in Paris was raided. Four hundred Gypsies were evacuated. I watched a lot of documentaries and the more I watched the more I wanted to write Feya’s story. To learn a little bit more, this is a very good, brief video on the Gypsy people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z70wX8wLRtI

K: Which character in Within the Veil was most challenging to get to know? Which character was the most fun to get to know?

B: Ranald Aldourie was the hardest for me to get to know. Some of his motivations didn’t come out until the 4th draft!

I really enjoyed getting to know Alasdair because I gave him a gifting that my son has—synesthesia, a neuropsychological condition where all of the senses are combined. While writing Within the Veil, I asked my son to describe to me how certain things looked. Many of the synesthetic scenes that I put in the book came from his exact descriptions.

K: Yes, Alasdair’s condition added such a fascinating, emotional thread to the story. Publishing is a difficult, unpredictable business. What has been the most challenging part of the writing and publishing journey for you? On the flip side, what has been the most rewarding?

B: I think the most challenging part of writing is always self-doubt. We writers are plagued with it. We’re always battling some personal demon or the other while writing a book. As hard as this is, it is necessary and it is vital. Writing a novel is so hard because it is so important. If you have done it right, people are going to be changed by your writing. I feel that the author has to be personally transformed during the writing of a book for it to be truly powerful, and that’s not an easy process. A lot of vulnerability is involved—or at least it should be—and bleeding on the page is essential.

The most rewarding thing for me is always connecting with readers. Hearing that something you wrote made a difference to them is a really amazing thing. I love seeing pictures of my books with readers. That is a personal favorite. This time I even got to see a picture of your bird, Mango with my book!

K: Oh yes, that was fun getting his picture with the beautiful cover! Here’s Mango and Feya (along with a little piece of popcorn to lure him in).:)

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K: This reader fan wants to know what’s percolating in your writerly imagination?  

B: Right now I’m working on the second draft of a very fun time travel novella. The working title is All She Never Wanted. The heroine’s name is Gemma and she’s super fun. A bit on the shy side at the opening of the book although she is learning how to stretch her wings. Here’s a bit of the blurb:

 A skilled London bookbinder and paper marbler, when Gemma’s not helping her father’s antiquarian business succeed, she’s hiding in the book stacks. But when reading Bronte leads to her first kiss, she tumbles into an adventure that may require more than she was trained for. Now she must solve an ancient mystery, outwit a secret society, and rescue her kidnapped father, all before being drawn into a manuscript that makes the reader travel through time.

I’m enjoying it and I hope readers will too!

K: What an intriguing blurb! Can’t wait to read it! *Raises hand for the beta reader line.*

Brandy, THANK YOU for stopping by and answering my questions, and for writing such unforgettable stories and characters!

To celebrate the release of Within the Veil, we’re giving away a *signed* copy of the book!

Please leave a comment on my blog or on the Facebook post, and let us know about a story or character that stayed with you (and why, if you’d like.) The giveaway will run from Sunday, July 17th through Friday night, July 22nd (Midnight). Make sure you leave your EMAIL ADDRESS so I can reach you, should I draw your name on Saturday, July 23rd!*

You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

 

*Blog giveaway for U.S. residents only.

I Don’t Know

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The mother settles the baby on her hip and smiles at her three-year-old daughter, snug in the grasp of one hand. We’re waiting on drinks at a local coffee shop, and her expression is filled with joy at the children filling her arms and clearly, her heart.

The little girl’s head presses into the mother’s sundress, shyness at the bustling crowd all over her small, round face. The mother leans down, reassures her with a few whispered words. Baby boy, perhaps three or four months old, shoves a chubby fist into his mouth and stares at me with big, dark eyes.

I smile, wink at him, enjoying fresh new life and remembering. Looking at my own two children, their heads matching mine in height and their growing, strong bodies.

I remember the busy, tiny, difficult years, when one of them was always, in some way, connected to me physically.

I gaze at the little girl clinging to her mother, at her cherubic face. Because I know that feeling. I know that tight little hand-held love, and my heart tweaks because it is just a memory now.

But there are things this mother knows, already, that I don’t know.

Because she and her children are black, and her daughter and son will face looks and attitudes and prejudice that stubbornly lingers in creased crevices of the human heart, squelching grace and growing hatred.

Because while I know the grip of tiny hands, the feel of a child’s breath on my cheek, I don’t know the grip of racism, the tidal wave of terror that one of my sons will be taken down just because he’s reaching for a wallet and his skin is the color of the dark earth we’re ALL fashioned from by our Maker’s hands.

What I know is the grip of God’s grace. God’s word. All created equal, all sinners in need of grace by a Savior who is color-blind.

I hope she does, too.

###

He pulls up beside my truck at a red light. His broad shoulders are slumped and one hand grips the steering wheel, the other checks his phone. Without seeing his eyes I know the weight of the world lingers over him like a heavy cloak.

He glances my way, assessing, always aware of his surroundings.

There’s a ring on his finger, and I wonder…does this burdened man have children, a family at home? A wife praying for his safety?

Because he’s a police officer. And his squad car is shiny new and decked out with thick bars in the back seat and a computer and gadgets throughout, but his face is simply weary.

How can he not be thinking of it?

Last night.

Five fellow officers down.

A dear friend works in law enforcement, and through the years he’s shared snippets of the thankless, difficult, frightening situations and angry perpetrators he’s dealt with. His wife has called, texted to pray for her husband while he’s on midnight suicide calls and SWAT team drug busts in the middle of the woods.

The light changes, and the police officer pulls forward. I do, too, and we merge onto I-75 until the shiny squad car melds into traffic.

Minutes later a red sports car flies past, driving at least eight-five. The noise and sudden motion shocks me amidst the steady-flowing interstate.

I glare at the speeding car then glance at my boys in the back seat, grumble at the reckless driver’s irresponsible weaving.

Then I see the squad car a few hundred yards ahead.

And the red car sees him, too, and slows to what the law allows. Seventy-five, like me? For the next ten miles, the racing red car impatiently glides along beside the squad car.

Just by the officer’s presence.

And I’m grateful for it.

I don’t know the pressure, the hatred, the stress that law enforcement officers deal with daily. I know they’re not perfect because none of  us are perfect.

But I know God’s grace, and that its grip saves lives. Redeems lives. Believes in each one.

I hope the burdened officer does, too.

###

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After the shootings last week, my heart was so very heavy, just aching, for the pain in our country. For the deep and wide rift that should be closing but still widens. I’ve prayed about what to write, what to contribute to the thousands of words and opinions already out there.

I don’t know the black mother’s fear for her children’s lives, or the police officer’s daily burdens or the dangers his job entails.

But I DO know–I am certain– that Jesus is the only Way to peace.

I hope you do, too.

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