N&R: My guest today is author Renee Duke. Here’s a short biography of Renee.
Renee Duke grew up in Ontario, and British Columbia, Canada, and Berkshire, England. Due to a treacherous re-drawing of county lines while she was out of the country, her little market town is now in Oxfordshire, but she’s still a Berkshire girl at heart.
As a child, her favourite authors were Enid Blyton, Anthony Buckeridge, and Thornton W. Burgess. When she became a teenager, it was Jean Plaidy, Norah Lofts, Robert A. Heinlein, and Edgar Rice Burroughs who fed her voracious reading habit.
Time for reading lessened after she went into teaching, as did time for writing, which she has been doing since she was seven (the age at which she realized stories were actually made up by someone). Her work has appeared in such publications as Reader’s Digest, Zamoof!, Stitches, and Our World 50+ (Canada); Spider, Story Friends, and Pockets (U.S.A.), and My Weekly, and The People’s Friend (U.K.).
Mother of one son and servant to two cats, she resides in Kelowna, B.C. with her widowed mother. She still does an occasional inter-active history unit with 6 to 12-year olds at an after-school care centre, but is otherwise ‘retired’ and able to concentrate on writing.
N&R: Hi Renee. Welcome to Natter and Review. It’s very nice to meet you.
RD: Thank you. And thank you for allowing me to join you today.
Note to My Readers: We have a contest to win a copy of Ms. Duke’s book. The information is at the end of the posting. Good luck!
N&R: Can you tell us a little more about your early years? I see you have grown up in two different countries. How did that come about? And where exactly did you live in Ontario. That’s where I grew up and lived till I was forty-four.
RD: I grew up in both Canada and England because my family lived in both. During WW II, my mother and oldest brother lived in Scotland for a time, as well, to escape the bombing. My father was born in Scotland, and from childhood up, cherished a dream of playing the bagpipes. My Sassenach (English)-born mother was unaware of this when they met and married, and never did learn to like them. By WW II, my father’s family had dispersed to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and he served with the Canadian forces. He took his own branch back there afterwards, then back to England (twice – once on an extended visit, the other to live), and then back to Canada again, where we finally took up permanent residence in Kelowna, B.C. In Ontario, we lived Keewatin, which is close to the Manitoba border. I have dual citizenship, and an accent that I am told is neither British nor Canadian.
N&R: I see you had some favourite children’s authors including Thornton W. Burgess. I think I read everything he wrote. What were some of your most loved? Did any of those stories inspire you to create other works?
RD: My favourite Burgess books were The Adventures of Chatterer The Red Squirrel and The Adventures of Bob White. When I was little, I really liked Enid Blyton’s Noddy books, and when I was older, her Galliano’s Circus trilogy her Naughtiest Girl trilogy and the five books in her Secret series. I don’t know that any of them inspired my own writing, but my very favourite childhood book was The Secret Garden, so that might have started me thinking that the past was ‘cool’. And I do vaguely recall making up stories that featured characters from some books I read. I won’t say which ones, in case their heirs decide to sue. (Let’s just call it ‘fan fiction’ – small children don’t understand plagiarism.)
N&R: I think most of us did that when we were young. Tell us a little about your teaching career. What ages did you teach and what subjects were your specialties?
RD: I was (and am still licensed to be) an Early Childhood Educator. From 1974 to 2000, I taught 2½ to 5-year-olds their ABCs and 123s, and threw in as much drama and history as I could. In 1977, I went to Belize, Central America, with World Peace and Development, and spent the summer working with 3-8-year-olds. I was also a playground supervisor for Grades K-7 from 1996 to 2012. From 2008 to the present I have been doing interactive history programmes with 6-13-year-olds in an Out-Of-School Care facility.
N&R: Wow, that’s amazing. So you sure haven’t lost your touch. You say in your bio that you started writing at the age of seven. I can relate to that. What kinds of things poured out of your heart at that age? Do you still have any of your early work?
RD: The first thing I remember writing came from having to choose a topic off the blackboard at school and write a story about it. I did one about the life of a banana peel. As I recall, it ran several pages. I do not, however, recall what it was about, other than there was a banana boat and a banana spider involved. The earliest work I still have (somewhere) is a short, syrupy poem about Spring that I penned when I was eight. How anything that awful ever got chosen for the school magazine, I will never know. I’m sure the Ralphie Rabbit readers another school printed out for use in the Infants Class a couple of years later were almost as bad, but I have no proof of that as we didn’t take any copies with us when we next moved. I was allowed to print those myself, with the help of three friends. We were supposedly under the supervision of our teacher, but he was rash enough to leave the room for a few minutes and came back to four ink-covered children (two girls, two boys). After scrubbing us reasonably clean, he probably went home thankful that we would soon be moving on to ‘big school’, which, in England, you did at age eleven. I also wrote plays and made a lot of comic books based on favourite TV shows, such as Thunderbirds).
N&R: Sounds like you were well on your way to a higher career. You certainly have a lot of stories out in the magazine publishing world. How did that come about for you? And was it all fiction or some non-fiction in the mix?
RD: I started sending stories and articles out to magazines when I was still in my teens. They came back with monotonous regularity, but eventually, some of them were accepted. My magazine pieces for children have been mostly fiction. Only two were non-fiction, an article on Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo for Wonder Time and some turtle horoscopes for Zamoof! My adult pieces were all non-fiction, articles and humour pieces.
N&R: Are there any stories that our readers can get copies of?
RD: Some of the magazines are no longer being published, but they might be able to find back issues of Pockets (September 2003, April 2009), Spider (February 2006), Okanagan Life (June 2001, April 2005) or My Weekly (July 24, 2004). The People’s Friend is still being published, but its ‘Children Corner’ carried some of my earliest stories, and you’d have to go back quite a ways for copies of those (December 20, 1980, August 8, 1981, & April 3, 1982).
N&R: Did you lose the rights to those works that you published in magazines?
RD: No. I only sold First Time Rights. All other rights reverted to me, so I suppose I could think about posting them on my website—minus the artwork—which was created by other people. Despite my childhood passion for doing comic books, I really don’t draw very well, but have been lucky in being matched with good illustrators. I especially like the great cover Marion Sipe did for The Disappearing Rose.
N&R: Glad you didn’t lose the rights. Some authors do and it is very frustrating for them. And that brings us to your recently published book, The Disappearing Rose from “The Time Rose Series” released by MuseItUp Publishing on August 23rd, 2013.
Tagline: The two little Princes in the Tower disappeared five centuries ago—so what are they doing in our time?
Here is the back cover information from your book The Disappearing Rose.
No one knows what happened to the little Princes of the Tower. That’s what Dane, Paige, and Jack are told when they start working on a medieval documentary for Dane and Paige’s filmmaker father. But then an ancient medallion transports them back to the fifteenth century and gives them a chance to discover the truth about the mysterious disappearance of young King Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard, Duke of York. But they’d better be careful. The princes are definitely in danger, and the person responsible for their disappearance just might decide that their new friends should disappear as well.
So, where did The Disappearing Rose come from?
RD: The Middle Ages have been my favourite time period for as long as I can remember, and I have been interested in the fate of the two royal brothers ever since I read about them in what my Grantie Etta character would call my ‘Tudor propagandist’ history text in school when I was about nine. Even at that age, the wicked uncle theory didn’t seem too convincing. That I would eventually want to come up with my own story about them was inevitable. Originally, I just planned a straight forward historical novel. The time travel approach came later.
N&R: How long did it take you to write the book?
RD: Due to the fact that I was involved in both the teaching and raising of children at the time, the actual writing took about two years. Research took considerably longer, and started before I had a clear idea of the book. For several years I was really just visiting places associated with the princes and their era, and learning more about it because I was interested. Though I was in London several times as a child, I never actually got to the Tower of London until my late teens, because I usually went with school or church groups and the Tower wasn’t on their itineraries. Family visits didn’t work either because, on the one occasion we planned to go to the Tower, the queue was three quarters of the way up Tower Hill, and my father—who wasn’t big on waiting—wouldn’t. (We went to Madame Tussaud’s & the London Zoo instead.)
N&R: Were there any particular challenges or struggles to overcome to create the work?
RD: Not really. Just finding the time to do it. Now that I’m mostly retired, that isn’t quite so difficult.
N&R: When did you realize you had the makings of a series under your belt?
RD: Pretty much right away. The medallion that serves as the children’s time portal has been used by their family for generations. It has a definite purpose. In order for them to find and help the child it seeks, it must first take them to other children in trouble. The princes were the just the first of these.
N&R: Here’s an excerpt from the book, The Disappearing Rose, for our readers.
“After they had eaten, Dane remembered the paper under his hat. He took it out and studied his aunt’s translation but was unable to make anything of it. Holding it to one side so the others could see too, he read it out.
“Ancient portal, hear this plea,
Open for thy golden key.
Feel its power,
Know its might,
Put the Mists of Time to flight.”
Paige clicked her tongue. “Another cutesy little rhyme. We haven’t even figured out the first one yet.”
“No, but what it said about speaking words in proper tone had to be in reference to the ones in this rhyme. Trouble is there’s no knowing what they mean, either. ‘Open for thy golden key.’ What key? And how can a key have power?”
“The medallion’s gold,” said Jack. “Perhaps it’s the key. I don’t know what the ancient portal could be, though.”
“The door to some long forgotten temple in the middle of Armenia, I expect,” said Paige, standing up. “Maybe we should stick to uncovering secrets of the past that are closer to hand, like that secret passage you promised to show us.”
The boys got up, too. As soon as Dane had tucked the translation back under his hat, they went to the kitchen to ask Mrs. Purdom for what Jack called torches and he and Paige called flashlights. While she was getting them, Jack selected a key from a row of hooks hanging on the side of a cupboard and unlocked the cellar door at the back of the kitchen. “The cellar’s electrified,” he said, flicking on some lights, “but we’ll have to use our torches in the passage.”
“Mind you don’t get those costumes dirty,” said Mrs. Purdom.
“Someone else with a thing about clean clothes,” Dane murmured as they started down the cellar steps.
The cellar was a large one. It had other comparatively modern features besides electricity including a sink and, in a small room near the stairs, a chain-flush toilet.
“How come the secret passage is way down here, Jack?” Paige asked as they made their way past a row of wine racks. “In movies they’re always behind a bookcase or something.”
“It starts in an upstairs room in the oldest part of Rosebank,” Jack replied. “That room’s locked now, so we have to go in this way.”
Squeezing past some barrels, he led them into a storeroom. In keeping with the Wolverton family’s tradition of hoarding, Grantie Etta had filled it with disused furniture and other assorted junk. At the far end was a small wooden door covered by a curtain, a door Jack said was now the passage’s only entry point.
“It would have been the exit point once, wouldn’t it?” said Dane.
“No,” said Jack, pulling the curtain aside to unbolt the door. “The passage originally led out into a wood behind one of the gardens. The wood’s gone now, so that end of it was filled in and a door cut to give access to the cellar.”
He turned on his flashlight and shone it to one side of the passage entrance so the others could see the difference between the new masonry and the old.
“Come on,” he said, stepping inside.
Dane was sensitive to dust. His nose and throat quickly became irritated by the damp, musty odours that filled his nostrils as he and Paige followed Jack along the narrow tunnel they had entered. He wasn’t about to turn back though. He found the idea of exploring a secret passage just as intriguing as his sister did.
They walked along on level ground for a time. When not stepping over small piles of rubble, they had to take care not to slip on flagstones worn smooth by generations of feet. Farther on, winding stairs took them past the ground floor and into the upper part of the house.
At last Jack stopped in front of a stone ram that seemed to glare down at them from the wall. Handing his flashlight to Paige, he reached up and twisted the animal’s horns to open the passage’s other entrance. Much to his chagrin, nothing happened
“That’s funny,” he said. “I can’t seem to budge these horns.”
The ram didn’t respond to Paige’s efforts, either. Or Dane’s.
“The mechanism must be stuck,” said Jack. “Oh, well, there’s not much to see in there anyway. Just some old furniture and a painting or two.”
Dane pushed on the secret door itself, his medallion clinking against the stones at every shove.
Paige caught hold of it. “Hmm,” she said. “This thing’s supposed to open ancient portals. Let’s give it a try.” Stretching it out the length of its chain, she pressed it against the door. “It doesn’t seem to be working,” she said sadly.
“You didn’t do it right,” said Jack, entering into the game. “I expect it only opens things if you say the rhyme.”
“Oh, yes. I forgot about that. Okay, here goes.”
She chanted the rhyme in a silly, singsong voice, the kind of voice adults used for saying nursery rhymes to little kids.
“Well, that didn’t work, either,” she said, letting the medallion fall back against Dane’s chest. “I guess someone used up all its special power years ago.”
“You’re still not doing it right,” Dane said with a grin. “The words do have to be spoken in ‘proper tone’, you know. Let me try.”
The others giggled as he closed his fist around the medallion and held it next to his heart. They continued to giggle as he repeated the rhyme in solemn, majestic tones, emphasizing every word.
“Ancient portal, hear this plea,
Open for thy golden key.
Feel its power,
Know its might,
Put the Mists of Time to flight.”
Suddenly, sparks jumped at him from every side. Then a strange blue and white mist appeared, accompanied by a roaring sound. Within seconds, his ears were buzzing, and the whole passage spun around him.
Jack grabbed his shoulder in alarm.
“Dane, what’s happening?”
“I…I guess I did it right,” Dane gasped as the swirling mist engulfed them.”
Picture from The Time Machine movie made in 1960 starring Rod Taylor and based on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Wow, that looks really interesting. I guess I will be getting the book asap. Time travel seems to be quite popular right now. When did you start being interested in the concept? And, well…do you think it is possible?
RD: I can’t remember if my first experience with the concept came from a book or TV, but I’ve long been intrigued by it and I do think it’s possible, though not perhaps in the manner often depicted in books. I’ve read articles where people claim to have briefly stepped though into another time (such as pre-French revolution Versailles) but could not interact with anyone, merely observe for a time until the scene before them vanished.
N&R: I know what you mean. There are lots of recorded instances where people have claimed to have momentarily viewed another dimension or time. I would love to experience it but only if there was a guarantee of complete safety. LOL. Are the majority of your works geared toward Middle Grade readers?
RD: They are now. I’ve really come to enjoy that age group since I started working with them.
N&R: If our readers wish to contact you, how would they get in touch? Do you have a website, twitter, blog etc?
RD: I don’t have a blog as yet. I do have a website and am on Facebook and Twitter. My son (actor/filmmaker, Richard Duke) is also planning a book trailer for the first Time Rose book, but that’s still in the idea stage.
N&R: Here are the links to purchase this e book.
Barnes and Noble, Nook Book: http://tinyurl.com/l2jjhuc
One last question, do you have anything you would like to share with our readers about the writing world or your experiences with the publishing industry.
RD: E-publishing is a new field for me. I’m having to learn as I go along.
N&R: Well, thank you for dropping by, Renee. I have enjoyed getting to know you and am looking forward to reading your book in its entirety.
RD: Thank you for having me.
N&R: You can connect with Renee Duke on her website at http://www.reneeduke.ca/ .
Watch for Book Two in the saga: The Mud Rose coming in January, 2014.
Painting by Paul Delaroche.
Okay my peeps, now you get to put on your thinking caps. Ms. Duke is offering a free copy of her book to someone who votes and leaves a comment as to why they voted the way they did. She will be watching for the most clever and interesting answer. You have five days to put on your thinking caps and file your vote. All postings must be pre-approved by me so don’t freak if they don’t show up right away. I will be watching from a distance and okaying the non-spam votes. Thank you for your participation in advance.
Here we go: What happened to the princes, King Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard, Duke of York, and who was responsible for their disappearances, is still unknown, so we are putting it to a vote, with our possible suspects being:
(A) Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), the uncle who reluctantly—or maybe not so reluctantly—took over the throne once the older prince had been deposed.
(B) Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, another uncle who thought the crown would look better on his head.
(C) Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who became king after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and strengthened his claim by marrying the princes’ sister, Elizabeth.
(D) Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry Tudor, who knew from the moment he was born that her boy was better suited to kingship than any of those good-for-nothing Yorkists.
(E) Elizabeth of York, who had been heir presumptive until those bratty brothers came along.
(F) Sir Thomas More, who was only five at the time, but he could have hired someone.
Please enter your vote for one of the individuals listed above and include your comment as to why you chose the person you did, in the “Leave a comment” section below this article.
We look forward to you suggestions.