Monday, November 03, 2014

Author Interview: Mary Ann Bernal: Scribbler Tales: The Briton and the Dane Series

Mary Ann Bernal, author of The Briton and the Dane novels, is an avid history buff whose area of interest focuses on Ninth Century Anglo-Saxon Britain during the Viking Age.  While pursuing a degree in business administration, she managed to fit creative writing classes and workshops into her busy schedule to learn the craft, but it would take decades before her “Erik the Viking” novel was ultimately published.

Mary Ann is also a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter writing campaigns and other support programs since Operation Desert Storm.  She has appeared on The Morning Blend television show hosted by KMTV, the CBS television affiliate in Omaha, and was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for her volunteer work.  She has also been a featured author on Triangle Variety Radio, The Phil Naessens Show, and The Writers Showcase, and has been interviewed extensively by American and European bloggers.

Mary Ann currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska.

Your real name and pen name?

Mary Ann Bernal.   I do not use a pen name.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

Friday nights were pizza night for our family.  We would walk (yes, walk; dad said we needed the exercise) thirty minutes to Frank & Joe’s Pizzeria where we ordered a large cheese pizza, waiting in anticipation for the gooey melted cheese that dripped off the slice.  Sunday afternoons found us at Carvel, indulging our sweet tooth by devouring soft ice cream cones - vanilla was my favorite.  Speaking of sweet tooth, imagine the excitement when the local bakery began making Napoleon birthday cakes - conventional cakes no longer had a place in our family celebrations.

About your education

Since my initial career path was to work in the medical field, I graduated from Mandl School located in New York City and worked in a local hospital until the birth of my son.  Switching careers, I graduated from Elisabeth Seton College located in Yonkers, NY with an Associate Degree and obtained my Bachelor of Science degree at Mercy College located in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

Even though my training was in the medical and business professions, I honed my writing skills by attending creative writing courses and workshops throughout the years.  I also completed a novel writing course at Winghill Writing School prior to completing my first novel, The Briton and the Dane.

What languages can you speak and write?

While I studied French for four years in high school, I have not read or spoken the language since graduation.  

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

Throughout the centuries, there have been famous heroes and heroines whose courage and resolve changed history.  Reading about people who never give up, no matter the adversity, is truly inspirational.   Social media has increased awareness of issues concerning the human condition, and it is heartwarming to read about the not-so-famous success stories, such as overcoming a disability or surviving cancer.

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

Spending the day as Eleanor of Aquitaine who was one of the most powerful women in the Middle Ages.  While Queen Consort of France, she accompanied her husband, King Louis VII, on the Second Crusade.  While Queen Dowager of England, she ruled as regent while her son, Richard I, fought in the Third Crusade.  I would like to become privy to her thought processes i.e. what factors prompted her decisions and if she had any regrets.

What is your favorite genre and why?

Historical fiction is my favorite.  History is my passion, especially ancient civilizations and English history through the Tudor years.  My novels reflect my enthusiasm, but my historical references are merely a setting, the meat of the story involves the plight of the characters.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

My love of writing started when I was in high school.  My novels have subtle themes that shed light on problems we face today, such as the plight of the military family when a loved one is deployed.  Society as a whole tends to take things for granted, such as freedom, which is not free.  Stating a modern problem in a long ago age lessens preconceived attitudes and hopefully, alters opinions.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

Historical Fiction:  The Briton and the Dane trilogy:  The Briton and the Dane; The Briton and the Dane: Birthright and The Briton and the Dane:  Legacy.  The Briton and the Dane: Concordia and The Briton and the Dane: Timeline are offshoot novels.  

Contemporary:  Scribbler Tales (Volume One) - a collection of short stories.

Excerpt from The Briton and the Dane:  Timeline


It was a crisp autumn day in the year of our Lord 2066.  The sun was obscured by swollen storm clouds as wind gusts scattered leaves across the empty courtyard, scraping tree branches against office windows.

Inside the stone building, oblivious to the impending storm, students went about their daily tasks like automatons, cataloging fragile remnants of antiquated history.  Their enthusiasm had been lost over time, vanquished by archaic rules and lack of funding, drowning in an apathetic sea.

The door opened just as a heavy rain began to pummel the earth.  Lightning flashed perilously close to the portico, the building shaken by crackling rolls of thunder.  Dr. Malcolm Knýtlinga, department head, scoured the room, nodding to his worker drones as he headed towards the stairwell.  He ran down the stairs, deeper into the bowels of the ancient edifice, slowing his gait once he reached the basement.  Malcolm peered into the open doorways where artifacts were stored, priceless relics forgotten by a society no longer curious about the past.

The lights flickered briefly as the tempest enveloped the city.  He walked the length of the corridor and stopped once he reached the last office, knocking on the doorframe before entering.
“One minute,” Gwyneth said, her eyes upon the monitor, her nimble fingers flying across the outdated keyboard.
While Dr. Franger had mastered every aspect of computer technology available at the present time, she preferred typing her words rather than speaking them aloud.  She even had a typewriter that still worked, proudly displayed in her office at home. She was considered eccentric amongst her peers, but the study body praised her for defiance, and her classes were always filled.

Malcolm shook his head as he sat in his favorite chair, his eyes transfixed on the portrait hanging above his protégé’s desk.  An alleged likeness of Lord Erik, the last descendant of Gwyneth and Erik of Wareham, painted years after his death by an unknown medieval artist.  Legend described a mighty warrior, proficient not only with the sword but with the pen, a man of letters who had served his king well.  Songs attesting to Lord Erik’s prowess on the battlefield had even been sung by the troubadours, only to be lost with the passage of time.  Yet time simply enhanced the mystique of this Saxon of Danish descent whose untimely death was suspect, implying treachery and betrayal in a violent age.

Malcolm tolerated Gwyneth’s obsession with a man who had died centuries ago, but he was not sure why.  Gwyneth and Erik had started the dynasty, and perhaps Dr. Gwyneth Franger was the reincarnation of the first Gwyneth if one believed in reincarnation.
“You are doing it again,” Malcolm thought.  “Why not just admit you love the woman and be done with it?”

What are your forthcoming writings?

Scribbler Tales (volume two) will be released later this year. 
Betrayal (short story) is included in The Independent Author Index compilation (Volume 4) to be released in October.
Escape from Berlin (short story) is included in The Independent Author Index compilation (Volume 5) to be released later this year.

What are your future plans?

Currently, I am working with producers for the audio version of Scribbler Tales and The Briton and the Dane trilogy.

Audio books of The Briton and the Dane and The Briton and the Dane: Timeline have recently launched and are available on Audible and iTunes.

What is generally your preference in reading – a paper book or ebook? And why?

While I love paperbacks for my library, I prefer eBooks only because they don’t weigh as much, and I can have more than one novel on my device.

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

My days are structured since family comes first.   Exercising is also important as is getting out and about, especially to attend the grandchildren’s events.  However, I have burned the midnight oil when necessary to finish a thought process or chapter.

How much real life goes into fiction writing?

Stories are written based on life events, whether they happened today or centuries ago.  As the saying goes, there are only seven original stories.  The topic has been said, but it’s the way you spin the tale that makes the story unique.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

Imagination, curiosity and creativity are important for everyone, not just authors.   Without these traits, boredom sets in, which stagnates the world.

Your dream destination on Earth?

Does it have to be Earth?   Would love to travel the universe on the Star Ship Enterprise - would be happy to do a five-year mission.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

Visiting the U.K., Ireland, Italy and Greece has been fun and rewarding. While the historical sites are interesting, meeting the people and learning about differing traditions is exciting.  I still correspondence with people I met on my trips - it doesn’t get any better than this.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

Capricorn.  Traditional Traits:  Practical and prudent; ambitious and disciplined; patient and careful; humorous and reserved.

Your favorite color and why?

Teal.  The color combines blue and green, my favorites.

Your favorite book and why?

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott - read by an impressionable teenager, giving rise to the incurable romantic Anglophile adult.

Your favorite movie and why?

Centurion - the period movie is set in Roman Britain.  Adds more fuel to my Roman Empire fascination fire.

Your favorite food?

The list is lengthy, but the top three would be: Chinese, Seafood, Italian.

Your favorite sports?

Football (not soccer) and my favorite college team is Navy - GO NAVY - BEAT ARMY

What comes to your mind when you think of India?

The Taj Mahal built by an emperor to memorialize his wife - how romantic is that?

Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation, Water or Fire, Air or Earth, Mars or Jupiter, Tulip or Rose, Red or Blue, Left or Right, Glance or Stare, Fame or Money, Boy or Girl, Day or Night, Tree or Plant, Love or Passion

First thing you do in the morning after waking up?

Have a mug of coffee.

Last thing to do before sleep?

Shut off the TV, lest Poltergeist invades your space!

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

Never Give Up, Never Surrender - Galaxy Quest - Jason Nesmith

Relevant links: (four)


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