18 April 2010

Guest Author: Cat Lindler

This week on Unusual Historicals we're welcoming Medallion Press author Cat Lindler as she talks about her adventure romance STARLIGHT & PROMISES, set in 1891 Tasmania. How exciting! Here's the blurb:

During a voyage to an uncharted isle in the Furneaux Islands near Tasmania, Lord Richard Colchester finds a living saber-toothed tiger, an animal believed to have been extinct for over ten thousand years. His discovery will astonish the world...that is, if he ever makes it back to England.

When Lady Samantha learns that her Uncle Richard has disappeared under suspicious circumstances, she enlists the help of Professor Christian Badia, a noted zoologist and animal tracker who specializes in wild cats. Not only does she intend to organize the expedition, she plans to join in the treacherous search.

Christian is a hot-tempered man and a notorious recluse, so the last scenario Samantha anticipates is a romantic interlude. But she is drawn unexpectedly into a world of physical passion, and she soon realizes this enigmatic man is her soul mate. When Christian embarks Tasmania abruptly, leaving Samantha behind, she fears she may forever lose her new found love.

Unable to sit idly by and wait for his return, Samantha launches her own investigation—and finds herself in grave danger. Will Christian find her...before it's too late?
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"Lindler writes in a smooth style, providing evocative descriptions and compelling historical details as well as a satisfying surprise ending." ~ Publisher's Weekly

"The passionate couple and engrossing storyline will stay in your heart for some time" ~ Romantic Times

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A search for a saber-toothed tiger is a very unusual subject. How did you come up with it?

I'm a zoologist by education, and I've always been fascinated by scientists discovering new species and rediscovering "extinct" species. It seems like every year or so, even large species are being found in poorly explored parts of the world. I thought it to be a perfect quest for a fictional scientist. At first, the animal I chose was the thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger, a marsupial which is thought to have gone extinct in the early Twentieth Century. However, while I was writing this book, thylacines were found in Australia in an undisclosed location. Good for the marsupials, but bad for my plot. So I had to turn to an animal that had no chance whatsoever of being found alive: the Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger.

Would a scientist of that day have believed that a Smilodon actually existed?

Scientists are the ultimate optimists, and even the remotest possibility that a Smilodon existed would be enough to lure a reluctant scientist out of retirement. We have to look at the state of biological knowledge during the late Victorian and how much of the world scientists had actually explored in detail. Before the modern age, many parts of the world remained unknown and inaccessible. It wasn't quite the "sea monsters be here" days of the Vikings or the "falling off the edge of a flat earth" days of Columbus, but knowledge was limited and selective. Fossils were rare, and means of dating them unreliable. It wasn't until the modern age that we knew the saber-toothed tiger evolved and existed only in the Americas.

What influenced you to set the book in Tasmania? How did you research that area?

I had to think about where a large cat could exist and escape discovery by any means other than accidentally. One area of the world garnered little intense exploration: the thousands of South Sea islands and the wild, dangerous land of Tasmania, for explorers had no hope of finding gold (their primary quarry) or other fabulous wealth--only cannibals, headhunters, and pirates. And exploration was seldom undertaken solely for scientific knowledge. Governments financed expeditions, and they expected a return on their investment.

As for research, I haunt used book stores that stock a large variety of very old books. While on one such trip, I came across a wonderful book, Early Tasmania (1914). At the time, I had no plans to write a book on Tasmania, but I loved the book, which was on the order of a journal and contained amazing hand-drawn maps. I also researched cannibals during that time, flora and fauna, ships, ocean currents, and everything else I needed to know. I use mostly books, for Internet sources can be incorrect, and I also consult the Library of Congress Ask a Librarian service when I have a specific question for which I can't find an answer.

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Thanks for stopping by, Cat! If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of STARLIGHT & PROMISES, just leave a question or comment for Cat. (I'd like to know why more romances aren't set in colonial Australia and New Zealand, but that may not be something Cat can answer!) I'll draw a winner at random next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!

10 comments:

Alison said...

I've come across a number of historical adventures (maybe not so much romances) set in colonial Australia, but then I'm in the UK and the whole idea of the prison hulks and the long voyages into the unknown seem to fascinate writers here. That said, I haven't come across one set in Tasmania so I'd like to read that! I know that the Tasmanian native inhabitants died out in the 1860s, unlike the mainland Australian aboriginal culture that survived - what did Cat find out about them?

Cat Lindler said...

I'll answer Carrie's question first, while the rest of you wake up. It is, after all, Sunday morning. My take on setting of historicals is that, with few publishers willing to take a chance on something new, they stick with the tried and true, such as Regency or Victorian England, or the new hottie: Scotland. Even Medievals seem to have fallen out of favor. It's a shame, because I always hope to learn something new from a historical, some tidbit of history or geography or customs of the people inhabiting faraway lands and times. I've read some wonderful historicals set in Russia and India and Australia, and would hope to see more in the future.

Ruth M. said...

What an interesting concept--smiledons are one of my favorites ever since I saw one at the La Brea Tar Pits when I lived in out in LA.

I am woefully un-knowledgeable--were there Smiledons in the Australian or Tasmanian areas?

Ruth

Cat Lindler said...

On Alison's question: I stuck mostly with the British military presence on Tasmania and the convicts turned pirates. I mention a native Tasmanian only once, in reference to native medicine.

And no, Ruth, there never were Smilodons in the Australasian area, but our scientist of 1892 would not have known that, because fossil evidence was in its infancy, and biological knowledge had many gaps. Also, many of the islands around Australia and Tasmania were unexplored and, if I were to set my tale in a place where an unusual animal might be found, this seemed to be the place. I couldn't use somewhere in America, where Smilodon actually lived, because by this time, America was pretty well known, and the likelyhood of a large mammal being discovered, or rediscovered, was less likely (Bigfoot notwithstanding).

azteclady said...

I love the premise and the setting--both time and place.

As an aside, how cool is it that previously thought species--particularly large ones--are still found here and there? The resiliency of life is amazing, isn't it?

Mitzi H. said...

What an intriguing setting for a novel!!!

Although I've not read many books set in Autrailia...this is one area that has always presented itself as mysterious to me.

I love the idea of a prehistoric animal possibly still existing and in a place where most people would never venture to look.

Sounds like a great story and I'm looking forward to reading it!!!

mitzihinkey at sbcglobal dot net

Virginia said...

This sounds like a wonderful book, with a different setting then usual. Sound very interesting!

Chelsea B. said...

This book sounds so interesting and unique! And I must say, I feel the same way about the fantastic cover!

librarypat said...

Good question as to why more books weren't set in colonial Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, etc. The locales are well known and certainly offer many opportunities for adventure and romance. Even today, there is an air of romance and adventure associated with these areas.
I can understand that the distance involved in getting to these places from England or Europe would often preclude women from going. In addition, there were not many women in the colonized areas and those who were there had often been transported and were criminals.
I would love to see more books written with stories using the less explored areas of the world as their setting. Lets get out of the comfort of the drawing room and do something a little exciting!
Good luck with this book. I look forward to reading it.

Cat Lindler said...

I think there are a lot of authors writing books set in unusual locales, but publishers are reluctant to buy them. They would prefer to stay with the known. If you're a British author, or from Australia, or India, you probably have a better chance of a novel set in those areas being picked up. I lucked out, in that my publisher's son lives in Australia, and she has a natural interest in that part of the world. I, for one, am tired of reading romances being set only in London or the Scottish highlands. The pendulum will swing, eventually, and I truly believe we'll begin to see some variety in what's being published.