1. Tell us a bit about your family.
My family moved to California from Duluth, Minnesota in 1949. We joined aunts and uncles, settling in the San Fernando Valley before freeways and city blocks grew up around us. As with many families, holidays were spent together playing games with the cousins and sharing the latest news of our lives. They’re mostly gone now, but memories of happy times remain.
I grew up in North Hollywood reading science fiction at the dawn of the space age. As an amateur astronomer, I built telescopes and spent many a cold night in Fraser Park taking pictures of nebulae, galaxies and comets. During summers while attending UCLA, I worked at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center with the original seven astronauts; at Lowell Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Upon graduation, I began employment at Eastman Kodak (Lunar Orbiter) before returning to the JPL in Pasadena. There, I spent 38 years participating in the defining moments of Mars exploration by Mariner, Viking and Surveyor spacecraft. Ultimately, I managed the Mars Global Surveyor Mission through most of its ten-year operational life. I have published numerous science articles on Mars photometry and taught astronomy in Glendale College’s extended day program for nearly forty years.
2. Why do you write historical fiction?
With a career in space exploration, you might wonder why I choose to write books of historical fiction rather than science fiction. It could be that many years in one field leads a person to other avenues. A catalyst for my stories can be found in novels by Jane Austen. Her vivid portrayals make it easy to imagine similar characters in more adventuresome activities such as murder mysteries of the period. Research required to create accurate settings is not unlike the practice in science, and typically, a year’s fact-finding is necessary to put the mystery/thrillers into authentic accounts for each novel. And then, there are similarities in the difficulties my characters face arriving in a foreign country during the early 1800’s, not unlike landing on an alien planet.
3. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I write historical mystery thrillers set around the world in the first half of the nineteenth century. The era was both interesting and turbulent. Nations struggled with self-government, having emerged from colonialism or repressive monarchies. Word of the French and American revolutions spread worldwide and threatened the economic engines of soverign states, i.e. the practice of slavery. Tensions flared between traditional royalists and the young radicals who promoted democratic ideas to free themselves from repressive social classes. As a result, conspiracies abounded and murders were common.
4. Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes. I began writing articles in my youth as an amateur astronomer contributing articles to magazines such as Sky & Telescope. Later, I published Science Journal articles describing the findings of NASA spacecraft at Mars. Finally, historical novel writing began while our spacecraft cruised to the planets, and after considerable travel.
Having chosen to write historical fiction, a big question was how to transition from writing objective science papers to writing prose in a genre of literature, how to build suspense, make characters come alive and develop a story. A suitable writing style requires considerable reading, advice in novel writing and practice, practice, practice, some of which included fan-fiction writing on the internet. Early papers can still be found in the archives of the Republic of Pemberly homepage.
5. What books did you love growing up?
Science fiction: Books by Pohl Anderson, Robert Heinlein, Philip k. Dick
6. Who is your favorite author?
Ann Perry, Jane Austen, Ken Follet, Agatha Christi, John Grisham
7. Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I grew up in North Hollywood, California reading science fiction. As an amateur astronomer, I built telescopes and spent many a cold night in Fraser Park taking pictures of nebulae, galaxies and comets. During summers while attending UCLA, I worked at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center with the original seven astronauts, at Lowell Observatory and JPL. Upon graduation, I started employment at Eastman Kodak (Lunar Orbiter) before returning to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. There, I spent 38 years participating in the defining moments of Mars exploration by Mariner, Viking and Surveyor spacecraft. Ultimately, I managed the Mars Global Surveyor Mission through most of its ten-year operational life. I have published numerous science articles on Mars photometry and also taught astronomy in Glendale College’s extended day program for nearly forty years. Today I live just North of the San Fernando Valley in Valencia, California.
William Darmon and wife Elizabeth were powerful figures who in 1818 set society's pace from expansive grounds known as Mayfair Hall. When a family member is murdered, a mysterious pendant is found containing a long lost request by Napoleon Bonaparte for an American mission to burn down Parliament buildings. The couple sets out on an action filled pursuit of the killer. While interviewing Henry Clay in post-war Maryland about the failed mission, they uncover evidence of a conspiracy to free the Emperor from exile. The Darmons infiltrate the cadre, but a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland, a firestorm at the Darmon's Manor and a harrowing assault on the Island of St. Helena loom before the mystery can be unraveled.
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Genre – Mystery, Historical, Thriller
Rating – PG
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