Sunday, March 8, 2015

Interview With Author Sheila Dalton

Author Sheila Dalton was born in London, England and emigrated to Canada when she was six. She began writing early in life and when she found a talent for English, she "went for it." In High School she won a prize from the Daughters of the British Empire and was lucky enough to win another prize in a playwriting competition at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Hello Sheila! Tell us a little about your novel, Stolen.

Stolen is the story of a young woman, Lizbet Warren, who comes home to find her village ravaged, and her parents abducted by Barbary Corsairs. She sets off for London with the only other survivor of the raid, Elinor, from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. As women alone, they are both in  danger.

In what way?

In all the usual ways, but complicated by the situation in Britain at that time. My novel begins in 1633. The population of England had doubled from 1520 to 1630. There simply was not enough work or food to go round; consequently, there was a huge increase in poverty and vagrancy. Slums were spreading in the cities and, in some areas, as much as half the population lived on or below the poverty line. At the same time, British colonies in the Caribbean and North America were in desperate need of labourers. This combination of factors meant that any person perceived as a beggar, vagrant or petty criminal was in real danger of being transported across the sea as an indentured servant - a position as bad as, or even worse than, slavery. Slaves were a life investment; bonded servants were not as valuable, and were treated accordingly. Many died in transit; many more died of their labours once they arrived.  As women alone, Lizbet and Elinor were prime targets for transport.

How does your main character, Lizbet, survive?

With great difficulty! She is soon separated from Elinor, picked up as a vagrant, thrown into the New Prison, and sentenced to a public whipping. What saves her is intervention by a Frenchman, a privateer for the English monarch. He is a rather strange character who not only desires Lizbet, but intends to keep her under lock and key.  She is later taken captive by a British pirate, who sails her to the court of the Moroccan sultan, where she believes her mother has been taken.

There seem to be a lot of references to captivity and slavery of various kinds in your book.

That’s true. Slavery was endemic to the times. During the seventeenth century, the Barbary pirates carried off many European Christians and sold them as slaves. The women sometimes ended up in the harems of the wealthy - a fair woman was seen as treasure to them; the men often helped build the temples and palaces of Morocco. Meanwhile, the trade in slaves from Africa was growing apace, though white indentured servants (not enslaved Africans) comprised the main source of labour in the tobacco fields for the entire century.

What prompted you to write Stolen?

I had visited both Morocco and Devon, had seen the dungeons where the white slaves were kept in Meknes, and the caves and coves where the British pirates operated in Newton Abbot. I was intrigued by the idea of how a young woman would survive after losing those she loved in a pirate raid. I wanted to tell the story of someone who had to fight against the prejudices and attitudes of the time to find her own way.

Stolen is available as an ebook or print for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. On sale today at Amazon.

Read a sample or download Stolen by Sheila Dalton with iBooks


Sheila Dalton
Author of The Girl in the Box, Trial by Fire, Doggerel, and others.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Sheik, 1921.



I  had promised myself one Valentines Day I would watch The Sheik, to celebrate one of  Hollywood's boldest romantic figures of the 1920's, Rudolph Valentino. He became a silent film star and it's greatest Lover with a series of films guaranteed to promote that image, but was tragically dead by thirty-one of peritonitis.

He was also many a girl's first crush of that Era including my main Character, Clemmie MacAnalley. I write historical mysteries and while researching came across his name many times as a great symbol of the Silent Film Era. Even if we don't understand the sexual allure today I have been assured it was there and every bit as real to the movie goer then as now. When she spoke of him my Grandmother had a twinkle in her eyes. Her Mother had been a huge fan. After all it was before the Media blitz of today in which so many Stars are shown to have feet of clay. The Studios controlled their images and did a  great job at protecting them.
He was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla in Castellaneta Apullia in Italy. A sickly, coddled Child he grew up to take an agriculture degree but came to New York at the age of eighteen.

Valentino bused tables, he drove a cab and eventually he befriended a Chilean Heiress but due to the subsequent scandal of her divorce and his arrest he left and joined an Operetta Company. He eventually met Norman Kerry who thought he should try his hand at the Film Industry. At first he was cast as a series of heavies but got his break in 1921 in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was a film that made $1,000,000, an enormous sum in that day.

His image was solidly made though in The Sheik which cast him as the "Latin Lover." His legacy was one destined to last to thousands of Women. His films became the epitome of Romance to those fans. When he became ill an information booth was set up to answer the hundreds of inquiries at Polyclinic Hospital. On the eighth day a Priest pressed a Crucifix to his lips. He died two hours later. At his death, Women  had hysterics. Huge Crowds estimated up to 100,000 people, gathered to pay their last respects. Songs were written about him and several books.

The Woman in Black carried a red rose and was seen mourning at Valentino's grave every August 23. It was thought at first it was a publicity stunt but if so there have been several copycat mourners. At present the Woman in Black is a Tour Guide at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery named Karie Bible.

"Bible dons a period costume to evoke Hollywood's iconic Lady in Black, who mourned at the silent film star's crypt, but she considers herself more of a "Historian in Black."

In his short time as a Hollywood star of the screen, the handsome Rudolph Valentino left a sensuous mark on the history of Hollywood. He was a product of his time in that lavish, flamboyant decade.

Ref: "Cemetery tour guide loves her dead-end job." Los Angeles Times 26 Nov. 2012