Posts Tagged ‘interview’

My Interview with Judy Douglas Knauer

January 21, 2011 2 comments

Have you ever met one of those people you instantly took a liking too? Ya, those people. If you’re lucky you get to spend your life surrounding yourself with people just like them. Intelligent, witty, fun, entertaining. Well I have good news for you. I’m going to save you some trouble and introduce you to one of them. She happens to be a VERY talented writer too! Please say hello to my friend Judy Douglas Knauer.

When was the exact moment you decided to write a book?

I was 18 years old, lounging on a sofa with pencil and paper and thought I’m going to write a romantic western novel.  So I did.  I’ve always loved the West so researching Indians and Texas territory was fun.  The book made it to typewriter and my filing cabinet where it sits today.

Did you have a specific inspiration for the story A Dirty Way to Die?

You bet I did!  Several in fact.  The two main male characters are based on six different men who were veterans of the Viet Nam war.  The story itself started as a romance novel about professional female mud wrestlers.  The Chicago Knockers did a show at the Fairbury, IL fair right after my first romance novel was published by Berkley/Jove and I decided to interview the ladies with the romance genre in mind.  The women gave me great material, but instincts told me not one New York editor would look at a romance based on mud wrestlers.  I ain’t no dummy.  So I began the book by killing one off in my hometown of Peoria at the Heart of Illinois Fair.  My inspiration for setting the private eye’s office in Peoria was a well-known female New York editor who I overheard saying in a phrase that used the f word: no book would ever sell set in Peoria.  Never say never, especially to me.

What is your favorite aspect of being a published writer? Is their anything that you don’t like?

Being a published writer is my favorite aspect!  I make up stories because I love doing that, but I write them hoping to have them read, to have readers taken to someplace outside themselves, where I am when I write them.  If my work just sits in a drawer or box, then the circle is incomplete and that I do not like.

If you had the opportunity to go back and change any portion of A Dirty Way to Die, what would it be?

I guess I would have Manny get beat up and shot more times, since that seems to be the popular way of today’s private eye novel.  I’ll see if I can make up for that in the next two Manny Shepherd novels in the works.

Do you write full time, or do you have another occupation as well? How do you find a balance between them?

If you mean 8 to 5 as full time, I retired from those hours and a good paycheck three years ago.  Besides a minimum four hours a day writing and at least another four contriving in my head, I’m semi-fanatic about a clean house and flower and vegetable gardens having no weeds.  I sew, knit and crochet for my grandchildren when I’m not on a writing deadline, which I’m on now.  Deadlines do  not allow for balance; the book is always in my head.

What’s next in the works for you? Do you have anything planned that you would like to share?

A second Manny Shepherd P.I. novel is two-thirds done with a third outlined, but on a backburner until I finish Mourning Preyers, my second thriller.  I’ve also begun a mystery with a female journalist protagonist with criminal investigation college courses to her credit, which is my background.  Editor Tom Colgan saw first pages years ago and told me that was the direction I should take.  Naturally, I’ve written two thrillers since then and almost completely ignored his wise advice.

Has any author or authors inspired you to write? Anybody in particular you would like to be compared to?

Every mystery author whose novel was on the shelves of my neighborhood library in Peoria since I was in third grade inspired me to make up stories, maybe in particular Mary Stewart.  I was so fortunate that the librarians allowed me to keep reading above my age level.  I once got a rejection letter from an editor who told me I should not write like Ross McDonald.  At that time, I did not know who Ross McDonald was, but now see him a lot in Dennis Lehane’s work!  A few years ago I’d have jumped with the answer Elmore Leonard as who I would like to be compared to.  No one does character or moves a story with character better than Leonard.  Then along came Stephen J. Cannell novels and Lehane.  I would love to be a writing mix of Leonard, Cannell, Lehane, Tom Wolfe and Carl Hiassen!  Perfect!
Along the road to getting published, what did you find the most rewarding and most difficult?

The most difficult task along the road to getting published is just that – getting published.  The most rewarding was that phone call from a Berkley editor telling me they wanted my book.

Tell us about the area you live in, did it play into the setting of your book in any way?

As I said A Dirty Way To Die is set in Peoria, my hometown, but my P.I. solves crimes everywhere but there!  In my first novel, a romance the publisher title Ecstasy Reclaimed (by Brandy LaRue my pen name) my setting was the farm and farmstead where I live–right down to the final love scene in the middle of a cornfield!

If you had once piece of advice to ive to aspiring writers, what would it be?

One piece of advice to aspiring writers – never give up and re-write.
You think you’ve got problems?

Doc Goold calls it cognizant premonition triggered by causal hypersensitivity, but Manny Shepherd and his Vietnam vet buddy Steve Mallinotti call it Shepherd’s Luck, that time-proven knack to sense bad shit lurks just around the corner.  Manny felt the premonition slump into his gut minutes before he witnesses Steve’s girlfriend Rita Hayward get slammed in the mud to her death by a well-stacked gal dubbing herself Screaming Eagle.

Mired in shock, guilt and a drunken haze, Steve coerces Manny, who has little on his Private Investigator’s plate, to figure out why Rita died like that with them and a SRO crowd watching and cheering at Peoria’s Heart of Illinois fair.  After all, back in earlier days at Neelys Landing, Missouri, Rita reigned as a star gymnast.  So how could a simple Judo throw have killed her?

No way will Manny jeopardize his tenuous yet sensual relationship with Tazewell County’s District Attorney, Lisa Shelton, to hang around half-naked, oiled-bodied beauties with names like Virgin Witch, Passion Queen, Midnight Fire, and Holy Terror, just to expose the obvious – Princess Lay-ya aka Rita Hayward just took a bad…okay, seriously bad header.

Steve’s heart-tugging story of Rita’s journey to professional mud wrestler fame, and haunted by Rita’s single staring dead eye watching him, Manny takes the leap onto the St. Louis Slingers on-tour bus.  Shepherd’s Luck bites hard amidst boobs and bullets as Manny is targeted while he hunts down a scheming, sadistic killer.


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What others are saying about…


A Dirty Way To Die


Manny Shepherd is a breath of fresh air for the PI scene. A Dirty Way to Die rocks, and J. Douglas Knauer writes with just the right combination of grit and savoir-faire to give the book both style and realism.

—Michael A. Black, author of Hostile Takeovers and I Am Not a Psychic, with Richard Belzer.


Pulse-pounding action, a flawed hero with a code of ethics, and the inside story on women mud wrestlers combine for an exciting adventure in J. Douglas Knauer’s A DIRTY WAY TO DIE.

—Luisa Buehler, author of The InnKeeper: An Unregistered Death; Grace Marsden Mysteries ~ Think Monk in a skirt solving Cold Cases ~


Sexy and lusty mud-wrestlers and murder. Manny has his hands full. Looking for some entertainment? You’ll find it (in A Dirty Way To Die).

—Frank J. Scully, author of Resurrection Garden, release date January 1, 2011, MuseItUp Publishing


Judy Douglas Knauer got her first critical author review for a poem she wrote while in second grade.  One of the little girls in her Peoria, IL Brownie Troupe disapproved of the way Judy depicted her in the poem, even though it was true.  Multiple years later her first novel, Ecstasy Reclaimed by Brandy LaRue (a pen name) sold to Berkley Publishing without ever seeing a rejection.  Years later she was hired as chief editor, reporter and photographer for The Citizen, a weekly newspaper that covered Livingston County, IL.  During seven years in the newspaper business she won 14 journalism awards including eight from Illinois Press Association. She has sold non-fiction to Buckeye Farm News, Time/Warner, and Countryside magazines and a short mystery to Over My Dead Body.  One novel never being rejected notwithstanding, she admits to having a bulging folder of rejections compiled over many years for multiple novels yet unsold.  Her motto is “You never fail until you stop trying.”  She has three published novels with the latest, her first private eye novel, released in August 2010.


Judy is the proud mom to two daughters and two sons and Gramma to three boys and one girl.  She lives with her husband, Dennis, on four acres about 75 miles south of Chicago.  When she’s not working on her current thriller-in-progress, she enjoys gardening, fishing, reading, cooking, refinishing antique furniture, learning, walking and travel.


Please visit to learn more about the author and her books.

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My Interview with The Rainbow Queen-Jen Wylie

December 7, 2010 14 comments

Happy Tuesday everyone.  I have the distinct honor of having the nicest person you’ll ever meet as my guest for an interview.  She lives in the frigid wastelands of Canada, hates snow, and writes some of the best stories you’ll ever read.  Her name is Jen Wylie.  Please feel free to stop by and ask a multitude of questions.  I’m sure she’d be happy to answer!


Rarely have I seen an author with the variety you seem to encompass with your works.  Where does your inspiration come from? Where will it take you next?

My inspiration comes from everything, everywhere. However I will admit music plays a huge roll. I get so many ideas when I listen to songs, a single phrase, or the emotions a song will invoke can jump start a whole new world in my mind. Mostly, I think I just have an overactive imagination. 🙂

I know you wrote Sweet Light years ago as well as its subsequent sequel.  Did you ever think you’d see the day when you found it published?
Back when I was writing it, no. I will admit I occasionally thought ‘It would be cool if I got this published.” However I was more interested in writing than looking into that. Eventually my parents gave me a bit a push and away I went. It wasn’t I didn’t think the story was good enough, I just knew it would be a lot a work finding someone to read it in the publishing world. I’d often read about my favorite authors and their journeys to get published, so knew it wasn’t something easy to do. I wasn’t wrong there. 🙂 I have a tendency not to give up once I have my mind set on something though. I did have some help from a friend to give my butt a kick now and then too. I certainly wouldn’t be here otherwise. 🙂
I am positively enamored with your Echo stories.  Where did you come up with the idea and what can we expect in the future from this line?

The original idea came from a line from a song and then just grew as I wrote it. The line was “I will always be here, for the rest of my life.” Which created in my mind the Echoes, who are bound to their Immortals forever. They can not leave. They can’t even die and pass on, only be utterly destroyed. Different Echoes handle this in different ways.

I’ve written two short stories in the Immortal Echoes world so far. I recently started a book as well. I have the general idea in my head, and the first chapter written. Now I just need to sort out a few more things as I write.

Stay home mom, is synonymous with superwoman.   Where do you find the time to balance your home life with being an author and editor?

I think a lot while I clean. Sweeping and doing dishes doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. Mostly I write in the evenings, since that is what I have gotten used to, even though this year both boys are now in school full time. Daytime I clean and putter at some writing and work on reading and editing jobs. I’ve learned to write in little spurts when I can, and also to just write whatever comes into my head. I might write chapter 5 before chapter 3. Whatever works. I usually have very little trouble connecting everything up eventually.

I often ask this question to the authors I interview.  From the time you started writing, to the time you became published, what was the most rewarding leg of your journey?  What was the most difficult?

The most rewarding was of course having someone actually READ my work. I spend over a year just sending out queries and collecting rejections. These didn’t bother me overly much, none of the the agents had read my work after all.

The most difficult part is the WAITING to hear back. It still is. I’m not a very patient person at the best of times. (All patience goes to dealing with the kids LOL) I am starting to get used to it though. Mostly. 🙂

Reader’s like to be tantalized with what’s coming next.  What is coming next from Jennifer Wylie?

I just finished my first young adult novel, Broken Aro. I’ll be submitting it soon. Right now I’m working on it’s sequel, the Echo book, and also editing the sequel to Sweet Light. I have a few short stories on the go too. I’m a bit of a multi-tasker. 🙂

Of all the stories and novels you’ve written. which is your favorite and why?

That’s a hard one. I love all the many (many) books I’ve written in the world of Sweet Light. I’ve been writing them for almost a decade, they have become a part of me. However I also love my new YA, maybe because it’s new? I’ve also learned SO much in the last six months on HOW to write, I think it turned out pretty darn awesome. 🙂 (Plus it has Fey and Elves in it, and I love them!)

You’re the acquisitions editor for Echelon Press’ Explorations line.  Do you enjoy your work?  What’s your favorite part?

I love it!!! It’s like a dream job. 🙂 It’s hard to say what my favorite part is. I love all the technical aspects of marketing and the keeping up the website etc. (yes I’m weird) but interacting, helping and encouraging the authors is such a wonderful experience. Sometimes I think I get more excited than they do when things are going well. Getting to read a lot of awesome books certainly doesn’t hurt either. 😀

Many people write just for the thrill of it.  Inspiration for being an author can come from anywhere.  What’s yours?  Why do you write?

Why? I have to write. I think I’d go crazy (crazier) if I didn’t. I can’t do anything without stories rambling around in my head. Most nights I lie awake with scenes playing before my eyes. I find if I get them typed out, they leave me alone. 🙂 I have huge files of story ideas and partials just because of that. I love writing, I love the stories my mind creates. I hope everyone else will as well. 🙂

Could you give us a brief outline of what books and short stories are coming out from you, when we can expect them?

Yes I can!

Jump (ebook short story) Released December 15 2010

If you were told to jump off of a bridge would you? Perhaps it would depend on who was doing the asking. Our heroine has spunk and a sense of humor, however suffers from an extreme case of inappropriate clothing. When things take a turn from dangerous to worse what will she do when fantasy becomes reality? Warning: May include hot leather clad men, singing and demons.


The Forgotten Echo (ebook short story) Released March 1 2011

Sometimes death is only the beginning…

After a bad day Cassy is surprised to find her self shot, an innocent bystander in a drive by shooting. Bleeding to death in an empty parking lot she knows she is going die. What she doesn’t expect is the arrival of a strange, yet gorgeous, man who tells her he can keep her from passing on in return for being his forever. In desperation she agrees but afterwards she is beyond dismayed to discover she has died. To make matters worse the stranger has disappeared. Her spirit wanders, afraid and alone until she meets another like her and she discovers she not a ghost at all but something much more.

Sweet Light (novel) Released May 2011

When fate conspires against you and gives you three loves to choose from, what do you do?  When you do decide, what if you made the wrong choice?

Shara is a Healer, raised and trained from childhood until her unique gift manifests itself. When she gains the rank Journeyman she is hired to serve as the court healer of the barbaric kingdom of Glendor.

Untrained for war she is thrust unmercifully into its bloody arms when the kingdom is invaded. Ordered by her king to the front lines to tend the wounded, she is forced to flee when their camp is attacked.  Happening upon a wounded soldier in the forest, every mile back to the capital is a struggle, and breaking the Healer’s code, she falls in love with her charge.

If Shara thought that to be the least of her troubles, the appearance of a fierce warrior captain who takes it upon himself to be her protector teaches her differently.  Trouble comes in threes at the appearance of her former love and fellow healer.  Faced with decisions of the heart and the sudden manifestation of her gift leave little room for anything else to go wrong.  Or at least that’s what Shara thought...

Author Bio

Jennifer Wylie was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. In a cosmic twist of fate she dislikes the snow and cold.

Before settling down to raise a family, she attained a BA from Queens University and worked in retail and sales.

Thanks to her mother she acquired a love of books at an early age and began writing in public school. She constantly has stories floating around in her head, and finds it amazing most people don’t. Jennifer writes various forms of fantasy, both novels and short stories. Sweet light is her debut novel to be published in 2011.

Jennifer resides in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband, two boys, Australian shepherd a flock of birds and a disagreeable amount of wildlife.

Jennifer’s Website:

Jennifer’s Blog:

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My Interview with Norm Cowie

November 10, 2010 2 comments

Just want to say, “Dude you crack me up.”  With that out of the way I have to ask, could you imagine writing anything without an element of humor in it?


Yep, gotta crack people up.   I treat each reader like an egg I want to break.  If I can scramble some brains, poach some feelings or egg the reader on any other way, I’m going to do it.  As far as writing without humor, I have to admit it’s a challenge not to slide down the sophomoric slope of immaturity and humor.



To date, what work of yours brought you the most satisfaction in seeing it to completion?


I think my second book, THE NEXT ADVENTURES OF GUY.  Wring(s/b Writing)  this was satisfying because as a sequel, I could skip the boring stuff where I’m introducing characters and romp right on into the story.  This one actually starts with the characters running in a graveyard.



What possessed you, I mean inspired you, to write a book for young adults?


Well, there was this kid ghost who spoke to me during a séance and … well, okay, not really.  What really happened was a librarian came up to me at a writer’s conference and told me teens were reading my Adventures of Guy series.  When I heard that, a light bulb went on over my head, dropped on my noggin and broke, sending tiny shards of glass all over my shoulders. And I decided I had to give it a try.



On the same topic, I was introduced to Fang Face on your website and I’ve added that to my “MUST READ” list.  Was writing to a younger audience difficult?


Besides getting in touch with my inner child, there are certain challenges to writing Fang Face that I didn’t face with my adult books.  Mostly, how to walk the fine line where it’s realistic enough for the kids, while not crossing lines that I didn’t want to cross.  There’s no sex or cussing in Fang Face, and that’s just not true in a kid’s life. I mean, think about all of the cussing and orgies going on in today’s schools.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you agreed to this interview.  Now that I have you here, what would be the BEST advice you could give to aspiring writers?


Don’t.  Bore.  The.  Reader.    By that, I mean, don’t spend a long time setting up scenes so the reader can see something exactly the way you picture it.  Let their imagination fill in some of the blanks.  I can’t tell you how many times I stopped reading a book because the author spent too much time laboriously explaining scenes.



I see you’re working on a new book, WEREWOOF.  Would you care to share with everyone a little about what to expect?  Any idea when we might expect it on the shelves?


It’s done.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet.  In the meantime, I’m working on my next one (see below).



Some authors are born into the craft, others are introduced, but I’ve never met an author who would give up writing because they love it so much.  How important is your craft to you?  If you could do anything else besides being an author what would it be?


Oh, without a doubt, I would want to be the guy who cleans up after parties at Chuckie Cheese.  Imagine all of the fun things you can find in the play section. Diapers, food, spilled drinks, barf.  How fun.


Being a father of two children myself, I plan to incorporate them at some point in my novels as characters, probably evil ones bent on the destruction of the earth and refusing to clean their lairs.  Have your children ever had roles in any of your work?


Yeah, kids are like that, aren’t they.  My younger daughter Lauren is my official ‘bounce-offer.’  I bounce ideas off her, and discuss possible plot turns and things.  She’s a freshman in college, and really in tune with what’s fun and popular. As far as characters, both of my daughters claim they were the inspiration for the sisters in Fang Face.  I tell them not. They tell me yes, I tell them no.  They disagree.  It’s an ongoing argument.



I ask this question of everyone I interview because I love to see the diversity of the answers presented.  Form the moment you started writing until the moment you held your completed first work in you r hand, what leg of the journey was the most difficult to overcome or get through?


My left leg, ever since I messed up my knee. But I’ve been icing it, taking anti-inflammatories and babying it, so  it’s getting better now.  It’ll be okay.


What’s next for Norm Cowie?  After you complete WEREWOOF, do you have another story rattling around in your head that you can’t wait to get down on paper?


I’m about two thirds done writing the third Adventures of Guy.  In this one, my college characters are angry about the price of oil, so they decide to take on Big Oil in its headquarters, which they find is in Hell. When they get there, they are shocked to find out that George Bush and Dick Cheney have taken over Hell, torturing Satan with an unending colonoscopy – meanwhile, the terrorists are wandering around going, ‘Where are the virgins? We were promised virgins.’  The guy from Verizon is down there, too, saying, “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”  Meanwhile, Sarah Palin can see them from her back yard.    Yep, more wackiness.

All of this can be seen on my website

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My Interview with Sessha Bato

October 25, 2010 1 comment

How did you get into writing? Is this a new venture or have you always had the writing bug?


I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was four – Obediah the Panda. Needless to say it was NOT a literary masterpiece, but I guess I’ve always had the urge to write down the stories I’d like to read. I wrote poetry and angsty plays through my early twenties, but once I was out of university I stopped writing fiction. I did write treatments and scripts for educational, documentary and training films on occasion, but the bulk of my creative efforts were directed elsewhere. It was only after I lost my job three years ago that I started writing again. After a year of unemployment I was bored to tears and saw an article about NaNoWriMo and decided to give it a try. A month later I’d finished my first novel. It was barely 50,000 words, but I was hooked. Since then I’ve been writing full time (the blessing underneath the curse of unemployment).


Is there any particular reason you chose to write in the erotica genre?


I wanted to tell stories that laid my characters open and sex is one situation that gives characters vulnerability and lets you see who they are underneath their veneer of socialization. I write homosexual erotica because I love the parity a same sex relationship gives to both partners, roles and expectations are so much more fluid. And, of course, I enjoy reading homoerotic stories, I write the ones I’d like to read but no one has written.


Have you ever written in any other genre, or would you like to in the future?


I have attempted a few things in other genres, but I wasn’t happy with them. Rather than change genre, my goal is to write books that will, hopefully, open the genre up to a wider audience. My greatest joy is when get a review that says ‘I usually don’t read erotica, but . . .’ because I know I’ve opened up someone’s mind to something new.


Does being a Buddhist have any effect on your writing? Do you ever incorporate ideas or beliefs into your work?


I think being Buddhist has a huge impact on my writing. Many of my works are set in Asia, and even those set in other locations definitely have a different take on life, death, honor, duty and the lessons to be learned from our lives.


Do you have any troubles balancing home life with your writing?


I think all writers do. The temptation to keep writing instead of doing mundane tasks like laundry and dishes is very powerful, and tends to win out. Thankfully my husband and son are very supportive. Of course, I’m sure it helps that I’m much happier now than I was when I was working full time, and much more balanced, which makes me a lot easier to live with, I’m sure.


You practice battojutso, can you tell us more about this? Do you find having knowledge of sword work helpful in your writing?


I’ve practiced Tenshin Niten Ichi Ryu Battojutso for thirty-five years. The technical knowledge hasn’t helped me in my writing to date, however my next book is set in 16th century Japan so it should come in handy. That’s not to say I don’t find it helpful in my other writing. My morning practice focuses my mind before writing, my afternoon practice wipes away the stress and tension that accumulates while I write.


You write a lot of flash fiction, are these for fun and practice or part of marketing and getting your name out there?


The flash fiction is mainly my attempt to be less wordy. My last book finished up at almost a quarter of a million words and even after substantial editing still ended up being reshaped into a series. Since I tend to write the big picture I thought it would help me to learn to write short. It’s a LOT tougher than it looks, give me a novel project any day.


What are you currently working on now, a new short story or novel?


Right now I’m about halfway through a novella, In the Desert of the Porcupines, and gearing up to start a new novel, Onna Bugeisha, in November for NaNoWriMo.


How hard was it for you to find a publisher in your genre?


There are quite a few excellent publishers in my genre, so there’s an active market. That being said, my first book was published by a start up micro-publisher. I wasn’t even contemplating doing anything other than sticking the book in a drawer and moving on, as I had with my first. I saw their call for submissions though and took a chance. This was good and bad, as my work is much more hard core than anything else they’ve put out. At this point I’m contemplating pulling it, giving it a good re-edit and releasing it myself. What it did do was give me confidence to keep writing. The shorter pieces I have in anthologies are also through multi-faceted presses, so I have yet to actually seek publication with an erotica publisher. My latest book is in the hands of an agent at the moment, if she takes me on then I’ll follow her lead as to where to submit, of course.


What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of being a published author? What do you find the most difficult?


The most rewarding aspect is hearing from readers who liked your work. Positive reviews are always inspiring. I like the negative reviews as well, they tell me where I’m falling short and give me specific things to try and do differently next time. The most difficult is a toss up between the waiting (I hate to wait) and the writing time you lose to promotion.

Thank YOU so much for the great interview.  Keep on writing my friend!

My Interview with Dave Anderson

September 2, 2010 2 comments

It never ceases to amaze me how many of our youth’s teachers decide to branch out and write novels.  Do you think spending most of your day with the audience you’re trying to reach with your novel helped?

Absolutely. In fact, that’s the main reason I decided to try my hand at young adult fiction. There are  a lot of great books out there aimed at teenagers, quite unlike the stuff I was forced to read when I was a kid, when the The Outsiders was about as edgy as things got. Young adult fiction is so diverse nowadays, and as a teacher, it’s interesting to see what my students are currently into. In my humble opinion, a lot of the best, most original stories being published are young adult novels.

The premise for Killer Cows is absolutely amazing, what inspired you?

Besides other authors of YA fiction I admire, like Gordon Korman and Jerry Spinelli, the main inspiration was B-movies. I’ve always loved that stuff growing up, the cheesy low budget sci-fi and horror flicks.  There was a movie from the early 70s called Night of the Lepus, which was about giant killer rabbits. Absolutely hilarious! I wanted to place that same ridiculous animal-on-the-rampage premise within the context of a YA point-of-view, with a little Star Wars thrown in.  To the best of my knowledge, it something that hasn’t really been done before, not in YA anyway.

Now that you’ve written and published one exciting YA novel, what’s next for you?  Are you continuing the saga or branching out to tackle other projects?

Well, for now, I like writing YA fiction. I’m currently trying to place my second novel with an agent or publisher, while finishing up my third. Neither of them are follow-ups to Killer Cows. I’d also like to try my hand at non-fiction, and have an idea or two which might be interesting. Something related to heavy metal music, which I love and know quite a bit about.

As far as continuing the Killer Cows saga goes, a lot of that depends on the success of the first book. I think it works as a stand-alone story, but I did leave the door open for a series, just in case. I have at least one sequel completely outlined, and would love to revisit these characters again, but only if there‘s an audience for it. To me, spending the better part of a year writing a sequel no one asked for is kind-of counter productive. I’ve been told by some writers that’s the wrong approach, that an author should pursue a book series anyway if that’s their ultimate plan. And from a creative standpoint, that makes total sense. At the same time, wouldn’t it be sad to write thousands of pages of a trilogy or series that no one ever reads?

Now that I‘ve finally managed to publish a book, my goals have changed, for better or worse. I’m still totally jazzed that Killer Cows is out there, but now my goal is to make my next book even better and more successful.  Don’t get me wrong, I still write because I enjoy it, and that should be the main reason anyone writes. But we also write because we ultimately want our work to be read. If that ends up being a Cows sequel, great, but I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.

Have you considered writing another genre of fiction or do you plan to stay with scifi/fantasy YA?

To be honest, I’m not really a big fan of sci-fi/fantasy novels, and don’t consider Killer Cows a sci-fi story in the traditional sense. When I’m writing, I don’t really care about the genre. I just want to try and tell a good story. My second novel, Shaken, is totally different from Killer Cows. It’s an action/disaster novel, and much darker. The one I’m finishing up right now is a YA horror story, only really balls-to-the-wall with no emo vampires. The only thing the three stories really have in common is they could be described as ‘pulp fiction for kids‘. Maybe that could be my own little genre.

I know when I received the contract to have my book published, my family practically oozed with pride.  How was it for you?

My wife was pretty happy, but she was also so accustomed to me sitting at the computer for hours per day, I think the overall feeling was “Well, it’s about time.” To be honest, I was actually a little bit disappointed by most of the reactions from my family. Yeah, I got a lot of ‘good for yous’ and stuff, but for the most part, considering this has been a life-long dream and how hard it was to achieve, I was hoping people would have been more excited. No, I didn’t expect everyone to do cartwheels and bow at my feet, and maybe I shouldn’t assume that just because something is a big deal to me that it should be to others. Perhaps my own expectations were just too high.

Most of my family still haven’t read it, even though their approval means a great deal to me. Then again, my writing aspirations have never been a big concern of theirs, so maybe it’s unrealistic to assume they’re suddenly going to drop everything and read my book. I know they are proud of me, but what I really want is for them to read what I’ve done. Right now, with the exception of my wife, my niece and a few in-laws, no one in my family has really expressed any interest in the novel itself.

That’s okay, though, and I‘m not really that worked-up about it because, in the end, writing a book was something I did for myself.

Is there any advice you’d be willing to impart to aspiring writers?  What was the hardest thing for you to overcome?

Yeah, plenty. First, make sure that you‘re writing what you‘d personally be interested in reading, not what you think would sell and make you rich. If you write fantasy, it should be because you enjoy the genre, not because it is popular. There’s a good chance the only audience for your first novel is going to be you, because almost nobody’s first book is ever sold. That’s a good thing, too, because the first novel I ever finished was a piece of crap, but I still enjoy occasionally trucking it out of my desk drawer and going through it.

My second piece of advice would be to develop get used to rejection. Agents and publishers don’t owe you anything. They are a business, and just because they reject your work doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t write. It just means what you’ve written isn’t what they are looking for.  Publishers and agents are fickle, and are pretty specific about what types of stories they are interested in. Writers should definitely research who they are considering submitting their work to. In any case, do NOT give up! Rejection is part of the game, and overcoming rejection is, without a doubt, the hardest part of writing.

My last bit of advice would be to remember that signing a contract doesn’t mean the hard work is over, which I’m currently discovering. It’s up to you to let others know your book even exists, and this is especially true for new, unknown writers whose books are released by smaller publishers. I think a lot of writers think the publisher does all the promoting. That may have been true at one time, but not anymore. There’s a ton of self-promotion involved. I have literally spent hours per day (time I would normally spend writing) trying to set up interviews, book signings, contacting reviewers, libraries, readers and independent bookstores. Sometimes it’s fun, but it’s also hard bloody work, and occasionally very frustrating, especially if you don’t know whether or not it’s doing any good. And you have to go through this, because even if you’ve written the next Gone With The Wind, no one is going to care if they don’t know about it.

From the time you started planning your novel, to writing it, to holding it in your hands, what was the hardest part to get through and what part brought you the most joy?

Without a doubt, the toughest part was trying to find a publisher. It took longer to sell the book than it did to write it. There are so many good (and bad) writers out there trying to do the same thing, and it was incredibly difficult to even get anyone’s attention, especially since this was my first novel. Being able to write is one thing, but being able to get someone interested in what you’ve written is an entirely different skill altogether. It was through trial and error that I learned how to write decent query letters and synopses. During that time, Killer Cows must have been rejected by over 50 agents and publishers before I was offered a contract.

The greatest joy, besides holding the book in my hands, was when my wife read the book and told me she cried at the ending. That was big for me because my wife has always been my most brutally-honest critic, so her stamp of approval meant a lot to me. I’m going to cheat on this question and add that the other greatest joy is reading the reviews or opinions of people who don’t know me. It’s one thing to hear feedback from friends or family (who might simply be impressed you wrote a book at all), but it’s quite another to get feedback from someone who owes you nothing. I’m discovering that I don’t really care whether reviews are good or bad (though they are mostly pretty good). Besides, a bad review is better than none at all.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

If anything, I wish I had started taking it seriously a lot earlier. I’ve been writing most of my life in some form or another, but only really got serious about the business of writing during the past few years. Now that I’m in my mid-forties, and am just now seeing a bit of success, I think about all those years wasted, when I never finished what I started, or went several years without writing a damn thing. I always had dreams of being a writer, but spent more time talking about it than anything else, and never following through on projects. I guess I just wasn’t mature enough yet.

What’s really ironic is the whole kid-with-flying-saucer element of Killer Cows was one of the very first ideas I ever had for a novel. I just never did anything about it until a few years ago. So it occasionally crosses my mind how many books I could have had published by now if I had only taken it more seriously twenty years ago. Then again, I’m a better writer now than I was then, so maybe it wouldn’t have been any different.

I noticed that you plan on implementing your novel into your teaching curriculum.  I have to ask, how cool is that?  I can only imagine what it would feel like.  Are your students proud?

It’s way cool, but wasn’t actually my idea. Personally, I worried about the whole thing being a big act of nepotism, but my principal and teaching partner thought this would be a great chance for kids to get insights from the actual author of the book they are reading. So Killer Cows will be the focus of a novel study class.

As far as my students go, I teach seventh graders, so reactions have been varied. That’s a hard age to impress with anything. Some kids have assumed I’m automatically going to be rich and famous (don’t I wish!). Some have been impressed, while others couldn’t care less. It’s a funny age group to be around all day. And since these kids are the intended audience of the book, they will be the ultimate litmus test to determine whether or not the book is successful…from a creative standpoint, anyway.

With a full time job teaching young minds, how difficult is it to find time to write new novels and find time to market your current book?

Extremely difficult. In addition to teaching, family obligations and marketing Cows, I’m also trying to finish up a master degree, so I don’t have nearly the amount of time I’d like to work on my own writing. Work on my current novel has slowed to a crawl, simply because of other obligations. It’s sometimes very aggravating because I know I could be producing a good novel every six months if given the chance. Ah, to be doing that for a living…wouldn’t it be great? Who knows…maybe someday.

My Interview with Pam Ripling

August 30, 2010 6 comments

I’d just like to say thank you for paving the way to remove some of the taboo characteristics of eBook publishing.  You’ve paved the way for other authors such as myself to get their works out to the population.  Do you ever see a day when people will look at paper books with disdain?  Can you see the eBook replacing the book?

Hey Sean, thanks for hosting me today. You know, it’s been a long, interesting journey for early ebook authors. The first offerings were published on 3.5″ floppy disks packaged in mini-jewel boxes, cardboard fold-ups and even paper boxes designed to look like paperback books. There was, at least, a tangible item that purchasers could hold in hand while admiring the cover art. Today’s technology puts books into the realm of downloadable media, a world that divides readers. As the population has grown more accepting of virtual products and electronic “gadgetry”, so does the comfort zone for reading ebooks.

I think there is already a generation (for want of a better word) of readers that look at paper books with a sigh and an eye roll. These are people already so entrenched in reading-on-screen that the thought of turning the pages of a heavy, physical book bores them. But the broadening of our choices doesn’t spell the demise of the paper book, in my opinion. They have their place; some experiences cannot be duplicated electronically, and some folks still prefer cooking over a flame to a microwave.

I’ve noticed that most of your work is of the cross-genre variety.  I’ve often found that cross-genre opens up more possibilities for plot development and character development.  The only drawback I’ve found is interesting your reader in a story that is not one genre.  I like to name them the “DIEHARDS”.  Have you found this to be true in your work?

Absolutely. I recently experienced this challenge, as my newest release does include elements of three popular genres that don’t necessary interest all readers. Complicating the matter is the fact that the genres themselves are further broken down into sub-genres by the readers themselves. A mystery is no long just a mystery, nor is a romance simply a love story. And don’t even try to simplify the categorization of the paranormal, where you find the ever-popular vampire, were-creatures, shape-shifters, psychics, and all varieties of spirits, ghosts and ghouls.

The cross-genre author will typically attempt to interest some readers in each of the genres a book touches on. The risk is, of course, that the readers will be suspicious, or will find that the book doesn’t focus enough on their genre of choice. It’s kind of shotgun marketing, but there it is. Alternately, the author can broaden their description and not try to shoehorn the book into any category, but they then run the risk of confusing bookstores and libraries—and we don’t want to do that!

You bring an element of paranormal or supernatural to your work.  When I say this I mean ghosts.  Have they always intrigued you?  Are they fun to write?

My ghosts are sort of stereotypical. Souls of people whose deaths were unreconciled. They are non-threatening, frustrated, benign sorts only looking for justice. No, I haven’t had any sort of history with this stuff, but I write them the way I perceive they would be if they actual exist, and I can’t say unequivocally that I’m a believer. But it’s fun, and my readers love them.

I’ve never met one person who wasn’t absolutely intrigued by lighthouses.  The history behind them is staggering and their purpose noble.  I’ve got to ask, how did your fascination with lighthouses start?

I do get asked this a lot, and I don’t have a great answer or story. I’ve always loved them. On a lesser scale, I also find windmills intriguing, too. These are architectural structures that are different from everything else, almost fanciful in my mind. Unique. When people travel, and they happen to glimpse one along the way (and I’m talking both lighthouses and windmills), they are usually excited at the sighting. I have an acquaintance who built his own lighthouse several years ago, and I’m so envious!

You’ve had works published by several different publishers.  May I asked, what works for you?  Is there one thing that one publisher does that makes them shine above the rest?  Is there something that they do that makes you want to find another?

First let me share that all the publishers I’ve been with are small press, so I can’t comment on the “New York” variety. Publishers have decided “personalities” and I think you get a feel for them by discovering their goals. It would be a mistake to say that all pubs are in it for the money. Similarly, it’s probably also inaccurate to categorize small pubs as simply book lovers who like to see good works in print. A balance is important. No one gets rich in this business, and pubs who aim only for bestsellers are doomed.

A good publisher is one with a passion for great stories. He/she is human and open-minded, ambitious but not greedy. Must be professional, and not put up with mediocrity. I’ve left publishers who were (a) only in it for the money and (b) tried to publish more books than their time/resources could handle.

Nowadays it is very difficult to find a work with a major romance component that doesn’t border on the erotic.  Romance is often replaced with just sex. Do you think we’ll ever see a day when we revert to the emotional over the physical in popular writing?

Oh, I think it’s still there, and I believe the current fascination with the erotic works will die back some. This goes back to the labels and genres again. These terms are still evolving. I honestly believe that readers will seek out and find the stories they are looking for, despite all this marketing confusion. Word of mouth is still the number one seller of books, and  readers talk to each other a lot via book blogs and forums.

Since the beginning of your writing career, what part of it has been the most difficult?  What was the most fulfilling?

“Selling” my first novel was extremely thrilling. The difficult part is and always will be the marketing. Because we are living in a time of great changes in the publishing business, it’s a challenge to identify and keep up with it all. The model for book selling is, like the film and music industries before it, shifting and those who want to be successful must stay savvy.

Usually when you ask an author, what author inspired them to begin writing they name a specific book rather than an author.  Was there one for you?  How did you know you wanted to be an author?

I’d already been writing in one form or another for a number of years, but hadn’t really dreamed of being published. One day I was waiting on a plane at Burbank Airport, and I bought a copy of Nicholas Sparks’ MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. I read it in one afternoon, and I was so excited. Excited because (sorry, Nick) I found it to be sub-standard writing in my opinion, and I thought, as many of us do, “I can do better than this!!”

What’s next for you?  Do you have any works in progress or even story ideas you would care to share?

My last two novels, POINT SURRENDER and CAPE SEDUCTION, are romantic mysteries set in lighthouses, and each has a paranormal element. The third, ANGEL’S GATE, is in the works. I’ve just finished the manuscript for a more mainstream book that tells the story of a long-term relationship between a young woman and a man who struggles with his gender identification. Yeah, experimental for me.

If you could impart one bit of wisdom about being a writer to aspiring writers, what bit of advice would be the most helpful in your eyes?

It’s a tough task to give advice! The trick is to balance your ambition with your realism. Don’t give up your enthusiasm, your passion, but be aware and fully educated about the challenges of actually selling your work, your SELF, to the book buying public. It’s easy to get discouraged, helpful if you go into it with eyes wide open. Too many people write a book and think their work is done. Ha!

Thanks, Sean, for a fab interview! I look forward to returning the favor soon.

Today kicks off my two week cyber tour celebrating the release of CAPE SEDUCTION! Be sure to stop over at The Romance Studio today for a fun blog about LUST vs. LOVE in romance, and don’t forget to enter my easy-peasy contest to win a bunch of free books from Echelon Press! (Do it NOW so you don’t forget!)

Tomorrow, I’m at Legendary Lighthouses, but you can view my entire itinerary at Beacon Street Books.

Pam Ripling, who also writes as Anne Carter, is a self-proclaimed Lighthouse Nut and the author of Beacon Street Mysteries CAPE SEDUCTION and POINT SURRENDER, in paperback or for your Kindle; also for your nook, iPhone, Sony eReader and other formats at Omnilit. Visit Pam/Anne at Beacon Street Books.

My Interview with Marc Vun Kannon

August 20, 2010 3 comments

So many fantasy writers have opted for bringing fantastical elements to the real world.  I have to ask, how long did it take you to create the world your books are set in?

MVK: No time at all, and it’s still in progress.  I’m a complete pantser when it comes to writing, so I don’t do any world-building beforehand.  Everything in the worlds I’ve created is discovered by me as I write it.

When dealing with a world created in your own imagination, what tools do you find helpful in keeping all the minute details of that world straight?

MVK: Fortunately for me I haven’t gotten into too many details just yet.  Previous books usually had the characters going off somewhere else for their adventures, so I could make it up as I went.  In my latest novel, Tales of Uncle, I’m presenting a great deal more detail about the life of ordinary people in one of the main recurring settings, the city of Querdishan.  I expect I’ll have more to say on this issue when I start on the book after that.

The excerpts I’ve read from the Flame in the Bowl series have convinced me to read much more.  What’s next for you?  Do you plan on continuing the series or are you moving on to other projects?

MVK: I am currently writing the third Tarkas novel, Tales of Uncle, which was conceived as a set of stories, told by Jasec, Tarkas nephew, to various people in his city, followed by a real-time adventure with Jasec teamed up with Tarkas again.  This idea lasted about 5 minutes, as the story decided to do something else, which has led me to write the fictional Scriptures of a fictional religion that I had no idea was going to happen when I started.  I also have a project currently in production, a completely unrelated novel about a werewolf attack on a lunar colony, called St. Martin’s Moon.  This is more in the futuristic/paranormal line than fantasy, with a large dose of romance thrown in.

Short stories are becoming more popular all the time as well as anthologies.  I’ve noticed you seem to have a penchant for writing them.  Which do you find easier to write, novels, novellas, or shorts?  In no way am I referring to the length in my question.  Which do you find easier as in terms of plot, character development, etc?

MVK: My technique for writing is mainly to start with some given characters, set them off in some basic setting, with some rudimentary plot, and then follow them around and see where they go.  Sometimes I have to add some new elements to the setting to give them more to work with.  This technique does not lend itself to short stories.  Occasionally I have a story where I know what I want to happen before I get there, and then I can keep the story in control and hit a certain target length.

I’ve noticed you don’t restrict yourself to a particular genre when writing short stories, is there any particular one (genre) you favor over others?

MVK: Most of my short stories tend to be in Fantasy, which is my favorite genre to read and write, with an occasional paranormal.  Unless you count humor as a genre.  Many of my early shorts were humorous either because I was asked to write that way or because it allowed me to sidestep certain development issues and get on with the story.

In one of your recent blog entries you wrote about the importance of humor, what it is, and what the limits should be of including it in an authors work.  Do you believe humor is essential in writing?

MVK: Not at all.  It has its uses, especially in allowing the use of a ‘broad brush’ to fill in character details that would otherwise bog down the story itself, but no story should depend on it.  All the good humorous stories I’ve read are solid stories told in a funny way.  In a slightly different sense, I do believe that stories should be fun to read.  Humor in that sense is essential, but it can take so many forms, or be subtle or spectacular, that there’s no way to say what it should look like beyond that.  In my case humor is essential because I tend to see things in a humorous way, so any story I write would do so too, in the form of bad puns, maybe some slapstick, or just the occasional wry observation about general foolishness.

I’ve asked this question to every author I’ve interviewed.  I’ll admit, the variety of answers surprised me.  What obstacle from the moment you started writing your first book until you held the most recently released copy in your hands was the most difficult?

MVK: For me the hardest problem is just describing the story, in a query-letter synopsis sort of way.   My last novel was created in such a disjointed fashion that there was no way for me to describe in a linear way.  The –opsis didn’t syn-, so to speak.  In general I never know what’s going to be happening in my stories, so it can take me quite a while to figure out what it’s really about.

I delved into your background a little before putting together this interview.  I noticed you have a very technical full time job, just like I do.  Do you have trouble balancing two careers?  What tricks or helpful advice can you pass along?

MVK: Doing computer programming is very disruptive to my writing life.  The two styles of thought are very dissimilar, and I used to get most of my writing done between semesters at school.  I had to force my way through the ending of St. Martin’s Moon just to get it done before school held it up for another few months, which was good, because once I had it done, my Bug-Hunter mentality was able to take it and see what was wrong and come up with a better resolution.  I’ll have to try the ‘Get it written, then fix it’ approach, which may work better for me.

I know when I’m at home and I sit down to work on my latest project things often have a tendency to blow up then.  I’m lucky, a lot of times at home my young ones and wife often give me the chance to work uninterrupted.  How did you find a balance?

MVK: I get up real early in the morning and write the page or so that I’ve come up with overnight.  As soon as other people around and distracting me I’m pretty much through.

Gifted authors are few and far between.  You have more than your fair share of talent and gifts in the field of writing.  Any plans or aspirations beyond being an author?

MVK: I got the husband and father thing done already, and I became a bookseller out of necessity.  I wouldn’t mind having some or all of my work made into feature films.  When life throws something in my way I’ll deal with it then, but I like where I am.  For now.

My Interview with Claudia Whitsitt

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

It seems that so many authors I meet or interview were, or are, teachers. To me there is no more noble profession. Do you think teaching others either influenced your writing, or even your ability to write?I am also a product of a parochial education. Did growing up and attending parochial schools affect your style of writing, or any of the settings or plots of your works?

I’m sure it has. Mostly, I notice the effects in my censoring of myself. I still hear the nuns saying, “that’s not appropriate language! “ It’s a constant struggle for me. I worry that if I write a four letter word I’ll be stricken dead. In all seriousness, though, a parochial education is at the forefront of my main character’s development in my novel, The Wrong Guy. Katie Hayes is the product of a parochial education, and she’s conflicted. The confines of her Catholic upbringing keep her from expanding her wings and doing all the things a college coed of the ‘70’s did in coming of age. Katie is faced with many losses, and her faith keeps her firmly planted in moments of despair.

I’ve finished one book and am almost completed with my second, you are working on your third, do you find the words flow from your fingers easier the more you write?

I actually just finished my third manuscript in June. And yes, I do find that the words flow more easily the longer I write. I’m a gut writer. I write, write, write, and edit later. Sometimes the clean-up can be overwhelming, but I’ve tried it both ways and it’s who I am. Writing is my favorite thing in the entire world. It’s as if the stars are all aligned when I write. Even if I’m struggling with a scene or a character, I’m happy.

I do find that if I have long uninterrupted periods, I can crank out even more. Interruptions, as I’m sure all writers know, slow down the process. Too bad I have to sleep.

I find myself asking this one question to all the authors I interview, from the time you thought of your story to the time you finished writing it, to the time you held your book in your hands, what was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome?

Recently, I had an essay published. One Last Pearl was published in the Summer/Fall issue of The Hummingbird Review, a literary anthology. In that instance, seeing my work in print was an incredible experience. In writing my piece, the writing process happened as easily as it did in my novels. The words flowed freely. I immediately knew what I would write about.

I have yet to see one of my novels in print, and while it won’t be long before that’s the case, I will say that the greatest obstacle is getting the novel from my desktop to print. The publishing process, finding someone interested in publishing my work, is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome. Learning the business can be overwhelming. As a teacher, marketing, promotion, and contracts are all new things to me. These new challenges, along with the editing process, and feeling that the novel is finished and good enough for a reader’s eyes, weigh me down at times. I’m sure it will become easier. Experience is a good teacher!

I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few of your blog entries, in your own words, could you tell aspiring writers how important this aspect of marketing is essential to achieving a fan base for your works?

Today, marketing is absolutely essential for authors. The publishing world has changed. Now, unless you’re a best-selling author, publishing houses expect authors to market their work. In the main, authors are now their own publicists. In my particular case, my novel, THE WRONG GUY, to be published later this year by Echelon Press, will first appear in eBook format. By establishing a fan base in advance, through my blog and social networking, I’m creating interest in my work and will have people anxious to read my novel as soon as it’s published. My blog often contains poetry, editorials and prose, so that by the time my novel is released, my following will be well established. I’m becoming shameless when it comes to hawking my work. A necessary stretch.

Growing up in Detroit, did your hometown play any role in wanting to be an author or even play a part in any of your works?

My dad is a musician. He played concerts at Detroit parks when I was a kid, and I was first in the car to accompany him! I loved both the energy of the city and the peacefulness of spreading out an old blanket, lying under a willow tree, and listening to his Big Band music. As a young girl those were magical evenings for me. I would gaze at the starry sky and imagine myself as a famous singer, or on some undiscovered island creating a new world. Many of my initial ideas for stories came from those fondly remembered nights. I would guess it’s my dad, more than the city itself, who served as role-model in my creative endeavors. Both of my parents have fostered all of mine and my siblings’ creative natures.

But, that said, THE WRONG GUY is set in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a small town outside of Detroit. So the city does play a role in one of my novels.

You’ve achieved having two books published and are currently working on your third. I hate to ask, but every author has a book or work they are particularly proud of, even ones that aren’t published. Which is yours?

I have five children, and they all have wanted to be a favorite at one time or another. I feel this way about my books too. Each of my novels is one of my children, and each begs to be my favorite, especially when I’m working on it. But I try not to play favorites! Truthfully, though, I do believe that whatever project I’m working on is my passion at the time. I’m finding as I go back and edit previous writing, that I fall in love with my stories all over again and have special memories of writing that particular piece of work.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

I admired Nancy Drew from the time I turned ten years old. She represented everything I hoped to be—confident, independent, entrepreneurial, and brilliant. I envied the adventure in her life, and hoped one day I’d have a life as exciting as hers. Teaching has certainly been an adventure, but I still crave the mystery and suspense. That’s probably why I became a writer. I can create the adventure, even if I don’t have the energy to live it!

Now that you are in the polishing stages of your third book, what’s next? Do you have anything in mind for another story or stories?

Now you’ve really got me thinking. I always have stories floating around in my head. The hard part, I always find, is settling on a story. The last two times I’ve started novels, I’ve actually written a chapter or two of a couple of different ideas and then stuck with the one that resonated the most. It’s such an interesting process, and it’s oftentimes difficult to determine exactly what allows one idea to win over another. I’m such a gut writer. I don’t spend hours mapping out a story before I write. Sure, I think about possible scenarios, characters, themes, but I tend to let the story unfold as I go. If I get going and the characters aren’t grabbing me, or the story doesn’t have much meat, I will abandon it. I keep it in my idea file, and may come back to it someday, but as it’s gone so far, some stories have beaten each other out of the running.

I often save the toughest question for last, so here it goes. If you wanted to entice someone who was curious about your books, what would you say to them to REALLY intrigue them?

I love to dream “what if”, and I love writing stories about ordinary people in extra-ordinary situations. THE WRONG GUY, for instance, is the story of a college co-ed who finds herself caught up in a life of intrigue when she least suspects it, and is faced with a decision to fight to the finish. Readers who love mystery and suspense, strong female characters who are easily identified with, and character’s faced with life’s daily challenges and then some, will love my novels.

My Interview with Margot Justes

August 16, 2010 8 comments

To say you’re a world traveler would be an understatement. Writing a setting in a city that an author has never been to is often difficult. Do you think living in so many cities is a definite advantage in your writing?

Yes, I think so. If you set your stories outside your comfort zone, than yes, I strongly believe that you must experience the place to write about it.  You can research everything on the internet and get all the information your heart desires and more so, but I think you need soul in describing your setting, a feeling that you’re there, sharing personal experiences with your reader.

You need to sit in a café on the Champs Elyssee and watch the world go by as you sip that perfect cup of coffee, you need to get those goose bumps on your arms when you hear the bells peel in Notre Dame, or stand mesmerized on the Rialto Bridge in Venice and watch the chaos of boats maneuvering to get ahead as they fight the traffic on the Grand Canal, or visit Bath, England and walk over Roman lead pipes that are over two thousand years old and wonder who else trekked in the same footsteps. I think those amazing sensations only come from being there.

A sharp mind I have found seems to be a distinct characteristic of mystery writers. Is there any other aspect of your personality that you think gives you a distinct edge to being a mystery author?

I’ll take the sharp mind, thank you very much. No, no distinct characteristics, other than being a mystery fan. I love to read and have been a mystery fan for decades, too many to mention. The queen of elegant mysteries was Dorothy Sayers and her Lord Peter Wimsey stories. Lord Peter, the perfect hero. As a mystery writer, I should love solving puzzles, but I fail miserably and always loose. Let’s stay with ‘the sharp mind’ I like that.

I’m sure your readers would like to know, without giving away any spoilers, is your third novel going to continue with the hotel theme, or will it be an entirely new work?

My third novel A Hotel in Venice is set of course in Venice and Murano. That book will complete the trilogy. But, I’m keeping the secondary characters alive and well. They will have their own stories.  I finished a novella based on the characters in the Heat of the Moment short story, (introducing Minola and her reasons for going to Paris). I liked them so much that I wanted to give them their own tale. It’s a little darker than my earlier work, and I’m very proud of it.

I’m currently working on a paranormal novel about a vampire who collects art through the centuries and the story deals with the Mona Lisa and radiation; I start in 1503 and finish in 2010. I’m having a tremendous amount of fun and I’m more than half way done with Blood Art. There is a bit of science because my younger daughter is a scientist and has been very helpful with information about lasers, radar and radiation. I came up with a new twist on an old weapon using a GPS system. All sorts of nifty stuff like glowing  radioactive blood. I like using science and fiction, and best of all, I’m having a great deal of fun.

You recently completed your second novel, A Hotel In Bath, when can we expect to see it on the shelves?

I would love to tell you, but I haven’t sold a Hotel in Bath yet.

Art always play a major role in your works, are you an artist as well as an author?

I wish I were an artist, I possess no such talents, just sheer, green envy for those that do. I cut my teeth in museums, art galleries, art fairs and the like. I stated in an earlier interview, that I gave my heroine the talent I wish I’d possessed.

I find art therapeutic, and have no space on my walls to add anything else, but I have been told there is always room on the ceilings. I don’t think that is a great idea, because I collect mirrors too.

I try to ask this question of every author I interview because I like to see the variety of responses. In your opinion, from the moment you started writing until the time you held your book in your hands, what was the most difficult part of the journey?

That is an excellent question. From a personal perspective, English is my second language and I always asked myself can I do this? Am I good enough in the language to be able to tell a story well? Do I want to keep the quirks in my vocabulary or loose my identify or what I perceived as my identity? The journey to completion and personal satisfaction was tough and certainly a challenge.

From a writing perspective or a craft perspective if you will…POV is a killer. Beth Anderson has a terrific article about POV that helped me tremendously.  And finally the hardest thing was letting go, I wanted to make changes and still do.

You have collaborated with other authors on various works, was it difficult to do so? Did conflicting personalities make this difficult or was diversity a benefit to the work?

I worked on two projects and both were for great causes, and I think we all had a blast, there were no issues that I was aware of, and for me diversity is always terrific because it gives me an opportunity to learn.

Is there another author out there or even a specific novel that made you want to be an author, or have always known you wanted to be a spinner of stories?

I’ve only been a writer for about seven years, prior to that an avid reader. I had no idea I wanted to write, till the proverbial tough day in the office and a great desire to be challenged.

There is not a specific author, unless you count Oscar Wilde and his biting wit. I’m always amazed at the depth of his perceptions, his ability to see weaknesses, inject humor in our frailties and be so socially relevant, even today. But as far as mysteries and romance go, there are so many, I would be hard pressed to pick just a couple.

Looking back at your completed works, is there any specific scene or character that you absolutely adored and wouldn’t change in any way, shape, or form?

That is very tough question, Sean. I always want to change, edit, the usual writing process, but my hero Peter Riley is very close to perfect for me.  I created him from a very personal point of view. A reader e-mailed me to tell me she’s in love with Peter Riley, and I quickly replied ‘me too’. I think he is a marvelous, very human hero.

The scene with Peter and Minola at the Rodin museum is terrific; the fact that it is an outstanding, intimate museum and my absolute favorite may have had something to do with it.

Now probably comes the most difficult question to answer, if you had to pick one thing about being a published author that gave you the most satisfaction, what would it be?

You’re right, this one is difficult. Probably the fact that I actually finished writing it, certainly that was gratifying. In reality the whole writing process, the query letters, the rejections, the pitches and the final sale of the book to Echelon; all of it, was such an incredible learning experience, that I would have to say everything from start to finish.

Along the way, I met some very gifted authors, made new friends and found out that the writing community is incredibly helpful and generous with their time. There is a certain sharing partnership that I find absolutely amazing, especially within my own RWA Chicago North Chapter. The whole writing concept is thoroughly fascinating and frustratingly enjoyable.

Born in Poland, Margot Justes has lived in some of the world s most wonderful places, including Israel, France and South Africa. Currently living in the Midwest, she has taken her love of art and travel and cultivated it into unique settings and stories for her writing, 2007 brought her a contract for her first novel A Hotel in Paris.

She just finished her second novel, A Hotel in Bath; a novella titled A Fire Within and had two short stories published in The Heat of the Moment and Missing anthologies, currently working on her third book A Hotel in Venice and a paranormal romantic tale Blood Art

Margot Justes is a Member of Romance Writers of America, and has served on the board for the Chicago North RWA Chapter and the Chicago Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

My Interview with Joel Fox

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Lincoln’s Hand is your work and it is full of history, an amazing plot, and an element of mystery. What inspired you to write this story?

Many years ago I watched an old movie called The Abductors about the attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and starring one time Academy Award winning actor, Victor McClaglen. I can’t say it’s a great movie and it was quickly lost to the memory of the movie world. But, the film captured my imagination and I never forgot the outrageous, devilish, irreverent plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body. It was hard to believe it was true, but it was. I thought it was a natural story to build a mystery around, especially when I learned years later what happened to Lincoln’s coffin over time after the grave-robbing attempt – all an integral part of the book.

But, Lincoln’s Hand only uses the mystery within Lincoln’s Tomb as a starting point for my story. My novel is a modern day mystery, as well, dealing with terrorism and a murdered young woman.

Obviously forensic science is a key element of this story. Have you always been interested in Forensics?

That’s the funny part. I am not really a scientific type or follow forensics. I think forensic science is interesting, but it is not something I spend a lot of time studying. Yet, I knew that for my mystery to work I would have to add a forensic element.

How much research was involved in the technical aspects of the forensics in your book?

I did some research but the key for me was attending some writing conferences and meeting Dr. Doug Lyle here in Southern California. The good doctor is not only a practicing physician, he is also a practicing mystery writer with published novels to his credit. He has a website and is willing to answer medical questions from mystery writers. He also wrote a book titled, Forensics for Dummies I bought the book and talked to him a couple of times at conferences and sent him a couple of questions. His answers provided the bulk of my research on forensics. Of course, I acknowledged his contribution in the book.

With the popularity of forensic science in television did you feel including it in your book was essential to success, or did you feel it completed the story?

There is not a lot of forensics in my story. The story is not a science based mystery by any means. However, there is one key forensic component that makes the mystery work, so it was essential for that piece to fit.

Can we expect further adventures of Agent Rigby?

That’s my goal. In fact, at the end of the novel, Special Agent Rigby finds a file on his desk dealing with a small incident in the life of President Franklin Roosevelt and the FBI Director orders him to follow up.

Was Abraham Lincoln a favorite president of yours? Is that why you chose him as the focus of your novel, or was there another reason?

I think President Lincoln is a favorite president of many, many Americans. He led an intriguing and fascinating life, and for writers he truly is a compelling character. But, saying all that, the reason I chose this subject was my fascination with the idea that someone would try to rob the grave of such an iconic figure and the historical shenanigans that followed the graver-robbing attempt. It’s a heck of a story.

Would you say there is a lot of Joel Fox shining through Agent Zane Rigby or just a little? Did you base him on somebody else in your life?

There are attributes of the Rigby character that come from me. He has a lot of attitudes that I possess, and even some small details of the character. He talks about once being a runner but time had slowed him first to jogging and now to power walking as exercise. I followed the same path as I aged from cross-country runner to marathoner, to jogger, to race walker so that aspect of Rigby’s character is a reflection of me.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in writing and seeing your work through to publication? What part did you have the most fun doing?

The most fun is occurs when something you write works. For instance, the tension builds on the page to a cliffhanger ending of the chapter. When it truly works, I get a great sense of satisfaction. It may not work the first draft just so, but when it eventually succeeds, I really enjoy the end result. The greatest challenge is one I share with countless writers—getting someone to read your work who is in a position to get it published and finally saying, “Yes.”

You are obviously a master of mystery; do you have any plans to tackle different genres after this?

I write non-fiction mostly in the form of newspaper opinion pieces and website blog posts. However, my current plan with novels is to continue writing mysteries.

I hate to compare works with having a child, but that’s what it feels like sometimes. What character, scene, or story point in Lincoln’s hand are you most proud of?

As with children, you can have a number of them and love them. So, too, with the book, I have a many aspects that I like and am proud of. Not to pick favorites, but I am pleased that I created a mystery puzzle using actual historical facts. If a historian reads my mystery, he or she would see the resolution of the mystery questioning whether Lincoln’s body is in its grave, strange as it seems, is solved using actual historical facts.

Thanks for the interview, Sean.

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