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?

"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


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.


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!