Friday, February 28, 2020

Interview with Author June Trop

 I’m interviewing June Trop, author of historical mysteries. She gifted me a copy of a novel in her series which I enjoyed reading. I was impressed by the depth of her historical knowledge.

Question: June, what is the title of your current novel?  Why did you select it?

The Deadliest Thief (Black Opal Books, 2019) is the fifth novel in my Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series of historical fiction, which is set in first-century CE Roman Alexandria. The only surviving accomplice in a jewel heist vows to kill Miriam and her occasional deputy, the itinerant potbellied dwarf, Nathaniel ben Ruben. At the same time, a kidnapper seizes Miriam’s closest friend, Phoebe, and threatens to butcher her piece by piece. Miriam suspects the events are connected, but can she find her friend before it’s too late?
Aside from my own life-long love of mysteries, I thought writing a good mystery would be the greatest challenge. Readers should have access to all the clues but, at the same time, be unable to solve the puzzle. In fact, The Deadliest Thief has been praised for its surprise ending. And then, the solution must satisfy. That is, readers must see that the author was fair. And finally, justice should triumph. Writing doesn’t get more challenging than that!

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
Many years ago, I was taking a course on the historical development of concepts in chemistry. The professor assigned a paper in which we’d select an historically significant concept and trace its development. I hadn’t a clue what to pick so I wandered through the stacks of the library hoping an inspiration would hit me. Instead a book did. Fell right off the top shelf, landed on my poor toe, and opened to an article about Maria Hebrea. She was a first-century alchemist living in Alexandria who held her place for 1500 years as the most celebrated woman of the Western World.
I wrote my paper on alchemy but never forgot this woman or her inventions. Since very little was known about her personally, I was free to make her my amateur sleuth.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Actually, Miriam is right here. She’s always with me and will tell you about herself as long as you swear by Alethia to keep her work a secret:
Times are dangerous here in Roman Alexandria. I am an alchemist, and while the goal of our league is to perfect human life—to heal, extend, and rejuvenate it—we also focus on base metals like copper and iron, to perfect them into gold. But that’s where we can get into trouble, big trouble. The emperor is afraid that by synthesizing gold, we will undermine his currency and overthrow the empire. And so, the practice of alchemy, even the possession of an alchemical document, is punishable by the summum supplicium, the most extreme punishment. Like the vilest of criminals, any suspect is summarily crucified, left to hang outside the city gates to serve as an appalling warning to others. And so, when an alchemical document was stolen from my home (see The Deadliest Lie, Bell Bridge Books, 2013), I began to practice sleuthing. Now don’t forget: You must swear to keep my alchemical work a secret.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
The story in each of my five Miriam bat Isaac novels stands alone, but the core characters mature through the series. All the titles start with these two words, “The Deadliest…” and begin with The Deadliest Lie, then Hate, Sport, Fever, and Thief. All of them have been praised for their historical accuracy and for bringing the reader to that very time and place.

Before writing fiction, I was a professor of teacher education. My research focused on storytelling as a way of constructing and communicating practical knowledge. My first book, From Lesson Plans to Power Struggles (Corwin, 2009) is about the stories new teachers told about their early classroom experiences.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working on a collection of Miriam bat Isaac short stories.

Question:   What made you start writing?

I started writing with my twin sister when we were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. We sold our story, “The Steam Shavel [sic],” to my brother for two cents. But more than the story and the proceeds, I saw the magic of expressing oneself in words. The challenge and the satisfaction have never left me.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

I hope these precepts can support and encourage other writers:
1.     Avoid comparing yourself to other writers. You have your own distinct voice and stories to tell.
2.     Accept your failures and learn from them. In fact, if you’re not getting rejected some of the time, you’re not taking the chances you need to improve your craft.
3.     Be grateful you have this opportunity to express yourself. 

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

You can order my novels in e-book or paperback formats from any online or independent bookstore. Moreover, my website,, has a blurb, video trailer, excerpt, and reviews of each novel, and a button to order directly from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about me, Miriam, and my future and recent past events; read my weekly blog on Life in Roman Alexandria; and contact me. I’m eager to hear from you here or on my website.

June welcomes comments!

Friday, February 21, 2020

One Approach to Writing Effective Fiction

Once you’ve decided on a premise for a story or a novel, the real effort begins. How should you approach the writing of your first draft? A Bookbaby newsletter article suggests writing the first draft of a novel as if you were writing a movie script. “Spotlight the essentials of action and dialogue in your first draft, then add all the exposition and descriptive ‘book stuff’’ the next time around.” Focusing on dialogue and action gives the writing structure. The bare bones will be there to flesh out in later drafts. Perhaps this is another way of suggesting: show, don’t tell?

What do you think? Do you work in a similar manner? If you don’t, would you try doing so in the future? In the case of my novella THE BURNING, I actually wrote it as a movie script initially and then converted it. I found the dialogue flowed much more smoothly and naturally. The plot also worked better as did the theme.

Of course, novelists as well as short story writers really need to use all of their senses: taste, touch, smell as well as sight and sound. As fiction writers, we are not limited and can let our vivid imaginations roam freely. Our use of description and exposition also encourages us to do so.

Your comments welcome!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine’s Day: Why Celebrate?

I look forward to VALENTINE’S DAY each year--and not just because it gives me an excuse to indulge my love of chocolate.  I admit to being a romantic at heart. That’s probably why many of my mystery novels have a romantic element in them.

The day had its origin with the Romans. The fertility celebration known as the Lupercalia eventually became the Christian Valentine's holiday. The Lupercalia festival was partly in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who in legend nursed the infant orphans, Romulus and Remus, supposed founders of the city of Rome in 753 B.C. The pagan festival was also in honor of the Roman god Lupercus who was the god of shepherds.

There are several different stories connected to three early Christian martyrs who came to be called “Saint Valentine”. Besides becoming associated with love and romance, the holiday continued as a feast day.

Valentine’s Day is also the anniversary of my older son, Andrew Seewald, who is an attorney in New Brunswick, NJ. He and his wife met as grad students at Rutgers University. They were married before a judge on Valentine’s Day. My husband and I were their witnesses. After a lovely brunch at a local hotel, bride and groom drove a hundred miles so Andrew could defend a client in a courtroom in another town. They finally got a honeymoon several months later. It made no difference; they are still very happy together and in love. In fact, their wedding was the most romantic one I’ve ever attended.

No matter how dreary February might be, I always feel cheerful on Valentine’s Day.  I enjoy reading and writing romance novels. But Valentine’s Day is special. I don’t need candy, flowers or fancy cards to enjoy the day—just the company of my husband.

My latest novel, published by Luminosity, is an historical romance entitled           SINFUL SEDUCTION. It’s a book I wrote with love.
Some Book Links: 






Also: If you would like to read a Valentine’s story for free that combines mystery and romance, check out this one at:

Happy Valentine’s Day!