Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Conquering Venus" ~ a novel by author and poet Collin Kelley

This review of author Collin Kelley's novel, "Conquering Venus" published by Vanilla Heart Publishing in 2009, was written by Madame Perry, and was previously published in New Southerner magazine.

When reality becomes too painful, who hasn’t wished to be able to run away to another city or even another country - a place without reminders or other people who remember what we can’t forget or face. In Collin Kelley’s new novel Conquering Venus, Martin Paige does and seizes that chance when his best friend Diane, a high school teacher, invites him to accompany her to Paris, as a chaperone for a group of students on their graduation trip.

Still grieving his lover Peter’s suicide, and consumed by despair, Martin makes the life-altering decision to accept her offer. He is immediately drawn into an escalating relationship with David McLaren, one of the students. David appears by turns affectionate and cruel as he flirts with Martin, rebukes him, and retreats into alcohol. But David, like Peter, is conflicted with his gut emotions and what his parents have taught and expect from him. Diane’s frank irritation with this situation apparently is to keep her friend, her student, and herself out of dangers emotional, physical and legal. We learn later she’s buried her own secrets that won’t lay still and stay quiet.

Before leaving for Paris, and while he’s there, a mysterious woman keeps appearing in Martin’s dreams and even as a vision when he’s awake. He and the enigmatic Irène Laureaux are entwined with a connection both emotional and physical even before they meet. On identical places on their left hands are matching tattoos. Martin and Peter had the same uncommon tribal symbols, meaning ‘equal but opposite’ tattooed on their left hands as symbols of commitment, as did Irène and her deceased husband, Jean-Louis.
After landing in Paris and checking into the hotel, Martin is stunned to see that this same woman who has been haunting him lives in the apartment across from his hotel room. Instantly recognizing one another from their similar dreams, they are quickly drawn to each other and begin spending time together in her apartment. A debilitating agoraphobia imprisons Irène in her apartment where she works as a book editor and spies on the hotel guests. She tells Martin of Jean-Louis’s involvement in the student/worker riots of 1968 in Paris, and of his death in the riots. More diplomatic in expression than Diane, Irène is also warning Martin to be cautious in his handling of David.
As the student trip is drawing to a close, a there is devastating terrorist attack on a Paris metro station. The bombing forces a turning point making the characters to face the truths of their own lives. Secrets are exposed creating unexpected outcomes, some that foresee drastic consequences. Emotional revelations result in Irène and David having to look truth in the face, and redirect their emotions.

It is unfortunate that the top line on the back of the book describes it as ‘Gay Literary Fiction.” Even with the homosexual themes, the characters and their stories will resonate with most all readers, not just those in the gay community. Kelley does an excellent job of taking us seamlessly into the paranormal scenes and back to reality; neither missing the proverbial beat nor losing one bit of his hold on the reader. And sometimes the most explosive moments for these characters in Conquering Venus, are the quiet ones, the epiphanies, and the ones where truth and memories won’t stay put in their hiding places.

Conquering Venus by Collin Kelley

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Deneane Clark, Romance Author

Welcome to the first gathering of Madame Perry’s Salon, where you will meet a charming author of historical romance novels, … What was that? I beg your pardon, you say you’re not a fan of this genre? By all means, do come in anyway. Neither were some of us until this lady made us all a fan of her beautiful, independent, lust inspiring Ackerly sisters and their world with her first books - Faith and Grace. Come in, sit and listen as Deneane Elise Clark talks about her books and answers a few questions.

Joining us tonight are Albanian musician and songwriter Mentor Haziri, of the popular European band Kthjellu, and writer George LaCas, author of The Legend Of Jimmy Gollihue.

Deneane Elise Clark is a native of New Orleans who now lives in Charlotte, though she’s planning a return to her treasured NOLA. Her third book, Charity, will be in bookstores on October 1, 2010.

Mme. Perry: Deneane, we’re delighted to have you here and excited to hear about the new book you have coming out. Your first book, Grace, was nominated for Best First Historical Romance of 2007 by Romantic Times magazine and given a four star rating, as was your second book, Faith. That must have been a thrill for a newly published writer, but did it also put some pressure on you, too?

Deneane Clark: Oh, completely. I'd written Grace years and years before finally receiving an offer, so I'd polished and tweaked and improved it nearly to death. Having deadlines was a new experience, too, which also added to the pressure.

Mentor Haziri: How did you choose to set your novels in early 19th century England? Have you considered a different country? Maybe in Europe?

Clark: I'm an unapologetic Anglophile. I adore British music and history, especially that of the monarchy. My favorite English historical figure is Elizabeth I, but I chose the Regency period because it is caught between two eras known for their extremes: The decadence of the French Revolutionary period, and the prudishness of the Victorian period. There are some intriguing overlaps in the Regency period that make for a very pretty tension.

Perry: Truthfully, Deneane, do the fashions of time factor in? And have you ever dressed in Faith and Grace’s style of clothes for a book signing?

Clark: ~laughing~ Oh, my. Um ... while I do adore the fashions of the time, I'm rather short and curvy, which doesn't go well with the Empire waistlines and rather flimsy materials of the women's clothing. Honestly, I don't quite know how an amply-endowed woman of that era remained decently covered.

George LaCas: Why did you become a writer, and why do you choose to write in your particular genre?

Clark: I've always written, actually ... as long as I can remember. I don't think I ever questioned whether or not I would become a writer. As to the genre, I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

LaCas: Would you like some Cheez-Its?

Clark: Organic and vegan? Yes, please.

Haziri: There are probably some similarities in writing music and writing books. What writing problems do you struggle with, and how do you solve them?

Clark: Time is something with which I constantly struggle. And lack of sleep. I work a full time "real" job, and I raised two children on my own. They're both grown now, but multiple deadlines have me nearly as busy as I was during the days of sitting on bleachers cheering for my kids between line edits. I don't actually believe in writer's block, per se. When I feel blocked on a particular project, I move on to another. I'm juggling as many as twelve projects at once, in various stages of completion.

Perry: A good bit of research must go into writing historical fiction, what with clothes, customs, social mores, businesses, even the food being different from what we have today. When researching and writing about a different era, then going out with friends or somewhere, do you ever feel like you’re a bit of a time traveler?

Clark: I do get a sense of being caught in a different time when I emerge from a period of intense writing. It's funny, though ... it's not unlike the feeling I get when I read a good book. It always takes me time to emerge from the story into the real world, especially with historical fiction. As for research ... it never ends. I have great admiration for those who wrote historical fiction before widespread internet access. With my schedule and home life, I can't imagine where I'd find the time to pore over reference books in a library.

Perry: Can you give us a sneak preview into your fourth, and fifth books?

My fourth book, Mercy, will be the final book in my current series. It is the story of the youngest Ackerly sister, and in it, we will learn if she finally gets her Duke ... who she met when he did his level best to run her down with his coach in my first book, Grace. I've been looking forward to this one since I first created the series, and it's the book about which I get the most fan mail and questions. My fifth book ... hmmm. That's a tossup. I have tentatively planned another series of four romance novels, with the ancestors of the heroes in the Virtue series, set in and around the world of Tournaments in the Middle Ages. I'm also working on a children's/young adult series, though, which will be set in my home city of New Orleans. We'll have to see which way the Muses tug me.

Perry: It has been an absolute pleasure to have so much of your time. We wish you much success.

Clark: Thank you so much for having me!

Perry: And my thanks to Mentor Haziri and George LaCas for being part of the first gathering here in Madame Perry’s Salon, and of course, to those who have read this. I hope you all enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion and to follow.