Friday, September 14, 2012

TBR welcomes Alethea Williams

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Alethea.  Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Alethea: Hello!  I’m glad to be here on TBR.  I’m a second-career baby boomer, retired and now exploring the world of publishing.  There is so much to learn; writers are expected to be able to do it all these days – and do it all equally well, from the writing to formatting to designing a book cover to professional-level promotion.  My original and somewhat naïve intention was just to write a book. 

TBR: Tell us about Willow Vale and where it's available.
Alethea: Willow Vale is the story of an American war veteran and a European woman immigrant in the American West following World War I.  Both of them wounded, emotionally and in Kent Reed’s case physically, they must learn to overcome the war’s traumatizing effects and find a new life in rural Wyoming.  For all its backstory of war and deprivation, the book is one of hope.  If Kent and Francesca can live to triumph, readers with personal problems can anticipate that they can as well.
Willow Vale is available at Amazon in paper:
on Kindle:
at Barnes and Noble in paper:
on Nook:
and at the Jargon Media website:

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Alethea: Here is a scene where Francesca, an unwilling new bride, and her little daughter Elena are leaving Italy after the war is finished.  The excerpt is told from Francesca’s father Giuseppe’s point of view:

And so now the war had made the residents here Italians instead of Austrians. The only difference Giuseppe could discern was that the war had cut off old outlets for the valley’s produce; the crops and fruit that hadn’t gone on the mule trains to feed soldiers dug into rocky trenches on the Alpine peaks lay rotting in the fields during the war, and now the valley’s inhabitants must find new avenues of getting their produce to market.
And Giuseppe was expected to start over, at his age, from nothing. Just what was a man to do with such forces arrayed against him?  Cesare had been sending money from America with the understanding that he would soon come to claim Francesca.   Anyone clever enough had already escaped Val di Non, all the young people deserting Trentino—those who hadn’t been slaughtered in the war, that is—leaving behind the old folks in the almost painfully green land of their birth. Giuseppe’s sons, by some miracle, had been spared. Now they, too, were of an age to marry, yet they had no resources to draw on to feed families of their own. Cesare had somehow gotten around the stringent American immigrant quotas in order to take Francesca and Elena away, two of only a few hundred from Italy allowed that year.   Soon Giuseppe’s adult sons would find a way to go too, and he would be left with three useless daughters and an old, broken-down wife. 
But who could blame the young ones for leaving, the “flower of Europe” with energy enough left to dream after the devastating war?  And who could blame Cesare, who was smart enough to slip out of the country a little earlier than anyone else in order to escape compulsory military service?   So he saw what was coming and fled before the war.   Using his ties to the Socialists, he disappeared into Italy, and thence to America, before he could be conscripted into the Austrian army. It didn’t make Giuseppe’s new son-in-law a coward to have escaped becoming cannon fodder.   It only meant Cesare had a head start on his fortune in America.
Cesare’s disappearing act ultimately meant that, because of Francesca, Giuseppe’s family had something to eat—at least a little—while the rest of the valley starved.  The “dowry” Giuseppe had accepted for Francesca meant that she, and little Elena, and whatever other children of Cesare’s that Francesca would eventually bear, would also escape the soul-sapping poverty of Val di Non.
“Goodbye, Nona! Goodbye, Nono!” Elena’s high voice echoed back to them. Standing beside Giuseppe, Maria burst into a fresh torrent of tears, covering her face with her hands to block the sight of her daughter and granddaughter departing.
So Francesca will never thank me, Giuseppe thought. It’s just as well.
He watched the wagon until it rolled out of sight down the road, heading for Trieste, the port city Italy had wrested from Austria along with the Trentino region as the price of peace with her former ally.   There Francesca, Cesare, and Elena would board the refurbished troopship President Wilson, bound for the new world and a new life.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Alethea:  Growing up, I lived next door to my grandparents, immigrants from the Tyrol region of Italy.  My grandmother was always patient with my interminable questions, but the language barrier between us was deep and wide.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how little I really knew of her life during the first world war and afterward, her journey to America and all the years she lived in this country without ever seeing her mother or sisters again.  So the book was really an exploration of the immigrant’s experience, for good and ill, in packing up and moving to a strange country as a result of not being able to earn a living in the country of her birth.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Alethea:  I start thinking about a situation, and my characters arrive fully formed and inside my head.  Their story unfolds like a movie.  I have to hustle to get it written down because they don’t often repeat themselves.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
I used to plot, but ultimately found it a waste of time.  I know of writers who outline 50 or 60 pages’ worth.  They must find it helpful, but I am as easily distracted as my characters.  They have their own story to tell.  I don’t think they would consent to sit around while I plotted out the whole story!

TBR: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
Alethea:  I found this quotation from President Calvin Coolidge while researching Willow Vale:  

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

In my writing, as in life, I have had to go over, under, and around obstacles in order to get where I wanted to go.  Few of us are given everything we want.  We learn to persist despite sometimes harsh denial of our desires.  It certainly makes ultimate success all the sweeter.  “Press on!”

TBR: What's next for you?
Alethea:  I’m working on another historical novel.  It begins in New York following the Civil War.  Again, it’s a story of immigrants and how they grow and change on the journey into becoming Americans.  And again, my characters end up in Wyoming -- write what you know, right?  I don’t have to make up descriptions of place; I’ve lived here 50 years.

TBR: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Alethea:  The most challenging part of writing is promotion.  After months of blogging, tweeting, Facebook, e-mail, and personal appearances, I still don’t know what sells books.  I’ve read that there are millions of published works available on Amazon so the competition for anyone’s attention is fierce.  Which leads to the most rewarding aspect of writing: touching the hearts of readers.  Those who take the time to comment and tell me they love the book make the long preparation and challenge of promotion worth it!

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Alethea:  When I started writing novels, there were a couple of publishers who wanted 50-60,000 words for libraries.  So that was the market I aimed at, and I worked hard to tell the entire story in that number of words.  Now, people tell me they want more.  More background, more description, more subplot, longer stories.  I’m glad readers like my inventions so much they want to stay longer in the world I’ve created.  But in these days of the “sound bite” I find it (happily!) surprising that readers are demanding longer written works instead of shorter ones.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Alethea:  My blog is called Actually Alethea.  (I actually thought Alethea was a unique name until I got on Facebook!  It’s been fun actually finding other writing Aletheas.)  I write about historical subjects around the time of WWI, Wyoming, and post some family pictures as well as occasionally featuring other writers and their work. 

To encourage reading, for the month of September I have joined with twelve other authors for a Kindle Fire giveaway.  Visit the giveaway home page or the blogs or websites of each author and enter once at each site.  There will be weekly prizes of Amazon gift cards, and the grand prize at the end of the month is a gift card equal to the price of a Kindle Fire.  No purchase required, but we hope all the visits to the various sites will “fire” a few sales of our books.  Good luck, and I hope the grand prize winner is one who registers at

TBR: Thanks for visiting TBR, Alethea. All the best to you.


  1. So much these characters had to endure, and yet found hope. That is a theme that I don't think could ever really be overdone. :-)


Talk to TBR guests!