Meet author Ian Wingrove

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Ian began writing a few years ago and self-published his debut novel, Dead Pool in 2015. The mystery, thriller series is set in a dystopian England in the near future and features private detective Tom Barlow.

The second in the series, Feel.it, came out in March and Ian is looking forward to the prospect of editing and publishing the next two novels in the series.

Born in London, he currently resides in Norwich and enjoys life with an extensive family.

Let’s get to know Ian. 

What’s the first book that made you cry?

 I didn’t learn to read until I was nine, but by age eleven, I was onto Lord of the Rings. It was the moment I realised I was a sucker for tragic romance; when the immortal, Elrond, tells his daughter Arwen about the terrible fate that awaits her if she marries the heroic, but mortal, Aragon. She will have glorious days of love, children and great grand children, but ultimately she will outlast them all and they will become a distant memory as she fades into the shadows. His bleak description of her long years of loneliness and despair is incredibly powerful. She knows he is right and it will be a horrible eternity, but she goes ahead regardless because the love and the joy of children are worth it – however brief it seems to her father.

My favourite film is Cyrano de Bergerac (with Depardieu), which is the greatest tragic romance I’ve come across.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve been around writers my entire adult life because of my brother, David Wingrove, who is a science fiction author. A lot of my early reading material was influenced by him. When I hit fifty and decided to start writing, he gave me invaluable feedback on the early drafts of my first two books.

I have my own local writers group in Norwich and we are always reading out chapters of our work and giving each other feedback. I think that kind of direct communication with a group of writers is essential, but you have to work at building the trust and being prepared to engage in a positive way. What I haven’t yet established is a large network of beta readers who will look at the whole book and whether it works. I think my books could have benefited a lot from that kind of feedback.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There is a huge back story that I have planned for my main character, Tom Barlow, and the first two books are littered with clues, but no one has picked up on it yet. The third book will start to open up Tom’s story a lot more and in the fourth book, his personal history emerges, which is expansive and strange. That is what worries me. I have written a couple of thrillers which are set in the near future, but the people are relatively straightforward. Do I want to take the reader into a very different world, which has been going on silently behind the scenes in the first two books? It’s a risk.

What was your hardest scene to write?

All the sex scenes. Thankfully, there are none in Dead Poor, but Feel.it is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story.

I could have skipped over the sex, but one of the main characters, Roxanne, is on a journey of discovery. She can’t feel pain because of a teenage trauma involving her mother’s suicide. That makes her the mega star ‘Queen of Pain’ in the futuristic game show called The Tournament. However, she wants to leave both the game and the stardom behind her, so that she can be herself again – so she can feel again. It is the central theme of her story. A big part of that emotional and physical reconnection is with her own body and for a young woman, sex is inevitably wrapped up with that kind of journey.

I won’t be writing sex scenes again if I can help it. Everyone assures me that they turned out okay and they won’t be winning any bad sex awards, but they took weeks of editing to make them raunchy and intimate, without them being pornographic. I suspect that some readers will find them too much, others will simply enjoy.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Nothing, because the characters are more than imitations by the time they find their place in the story. Some of the characters are based on people I haven’t seen for thirty years and I doubt that anyone would recognise themselves in the story. Except one I used to play football with, postie Paul from Donnie (Doncaster), but I told him.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

It is a detective series and I have drafted four of them. The first two actually cover the same 18 day period, with both books including several of the same main characters. Tom Barlow will walk out of a door in one book and walk into a room in the other book. As with the sex scenes, I won’t write anything like that again.

There are even a couple more thrillers that I have sketched out, ready to be written. What worries me is that I can’t think of anything different to write at the moment. I did a short story for an anthology my writers group are pulling together and it ended up being about the crazy 13th birthday party of the sociopathic Alexandria, one of the other main character in my books. I’ve realised that for me the characters come first and then the story happens. I would have to ‘invent’ a new central character, in order to write a different kind of book.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This is going to sound silly because this book has a Goodreads rating from over 53,500 people and nearly 3,000 actual reviews, but it deserves more. Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. The reason it isn’t rated as highly as some mainstream literature is simply because it is labeled science fiction. People pre-judge and turn away. The Dispossessed has many layers, it’s a great love story and the pages are packed with humanity. I read it eight times before I was thirty. Even the structure of the book reflects the theme of the book, which is about the nature of time and space. It is brilliant. Please give it a go.

How long to write a book?

My problem is finding the time to write (and to promote the finished product) while earning a living, looking after the kids and sharing good times with family and friends. The first two books were mostly written between 5am and 6am, over a three year period. I would think about plot, sections of dialogue and settings, while I cycled to and from work. I would then spend five minutes writing notes on my phone when I arrived and those hastily mis-typed lines would be my starting point (along with coffee) the following morning at 5am.

If you read Feel.it, you will notice that Roxanne, the heroine of the book, also cycles a lot, as it represents freedom and her own head space. This is not a coincidence.

 Catch up with Ian on social media:

Ian Wingrove’s blog

Get the books: Amazon

FeelIt (Medium)

Dead Poor 110915 (Medium)

Meet D.H. Gibbs

Today, we’re getting to know a bit more about the multi-genre talent, D.H. Gibbs. 

She hails from Trinidad and Tobago, is an author, illustrator, and lifelong bibliophile. She has found a wonderful way to blend her love of the written word with her artistic abilities by creating books for children and adults.
When not writing, she can be found dreaming up new, fantastical stories for her fans or indulging her love of art, reading, or planning her next great adventure.

Let’s talk to D.H. Gibbs

What is the first book that made you cry?

Full Circle By Danielle Steel

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I believe it’s both. I feel energized while I’m doing it but once I stop I’m exhausted.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes, I have and then I feel like a junky looking for my next fix. Stalking my fav authors to see if they have anything.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

As a multi genre author, I think about that regularly. LOL. But I have not made a final decision.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

No, I don’t. I myself sometimes write sad scenes and cry like a fool. If you don’t have strong emotions you can’t always identify with the realness of your characters.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My social media has blown up with a lot of indie authors this past year and I think the entire movement is so helpful and supportive that they make you want to work at your craft and be better at it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Hire an editor!!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Scrivener, Buffer and Fiction Atlas Services.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I would choose a fox. It’s smart and a survivor.  

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Of course, I read my book reviews. I’m ecstatic about the good ones and use the bad ones as a learning experience. Sometimes constructive criticism can help.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

For my first nook Nika, I planted easter eggs for the next two books. I’m hoping the readers would eventually link them all.

Do you Google yourself?

Not if I can help it.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Anything Nancy Drew or Enid Blyton

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I would have taken more literary courses or become a librarian. That way I can inhale the smell of books all day.


 

Look for her latest book, A Touch of Kindness, to release in 2 short days–on August 19th! 

You can catch up with D.H. Gibbs here:  D.H. Gibbs

Meet Author Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister, and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville, NY before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing Bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre.

She’s published sixteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com.

Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

Let’s get to know Connie. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Only one and that was accidental. My husband and I were driving across country from visiting my family in New York. We came through New Mexico and stopped in Santa Rosa for the night. I set my western hero’s hometown there so I thought, this is great. I can actually see the place instead of googling it. I chose the town because it has the Santa Rosa river running through it. It turns out it’s nothing like I imagined. And it has this Big Blue Hole, which never came up in my searches. And the river is about thirty inches wide, though a lot of water does run through it. So, the descriptions in my story aren’t blown out of the water, pun intended. But if I do reference the town in future stories, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Gone with the Wind. I was 12 when I first read it and the description of Scarlett going hungry every night was just more than my pre-teen brain could handle.

Did you every consider writing under a pseudonym?

I did. My first book was drafted as a challenge from my daughter in 2011 for the National Novel Writing Month. During the challenge, I made contact with the Arizona Elsewhere monitor and she invited me to her on-line writing group, Forward Motion. One of the topics on the years old feed was whether or not to have a pen name. After reading all the pros and cons, I decided, no. Not unless I start writing erotica, LOL! I figure if James Patterson can write everything under one pen name, so can I.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each of my books can stand alone but my series stories do link to each other in a sequence. (Hint! Hint! Start with book one in each series.) It seems a natural way to write, for me, so that’s the way I roll.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m old enough to remember the televised speech by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 where he asked of American citizens, “…ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” I still get chills when I hear or read that speech. You can find the whole address at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A debt of gratitude. Not that I’ve fashioned a character from a whole person. A character is generally based, for me at least, on bits and pieces of many others. Except myself. I put a lot of myself in my female protagonists. After all, we’re supposed to write what we know, right?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my! Like many authors, I’ve started works that have petered out in the middle. Two, in particular, come to mind because I’ve made the protagonists too perfect. That’s never a good thing and they both need to be re-written to correct that defect. LOL! Others are half plotted or no more than story ideas jotted down that I haven’t had time to start yet. There have to be at least six or seven of those, including a noir series set in WWII. I have a whole series planned with the first book drafted (a coming of age/YA series I call All About Bob, with mainly male protagonists) but I don’t want to start a new series right now because I have three already in progress (two SciFi and one cozy mystery). It’s a writer’s burden I fear.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Good question. It depends on the series or book. For example, that story I mentioned earlier with the protagonist from Santa Rosa, I didn’t research until I began the story. It’s a western set in central Arizona. So once I decided the location, there was some work to do to discover what was going on in that area at the end of the Civil War. Then research into firearms men would carry, even how to curry a horse, because I didn’t grow up with horses. My SciFi series Gulliver’s Station, I chatted with an aerospace engineer on how big to make a space station that could provide for 10,000 full-time residents, taking into consideration crop growth on the station, air production of various kinds and even what to do with the deceased! The noir I’m planning is going to take a lot of research before I start. Fashions for men and women, what men were exempt from serving and for what reasons, social mores of the time in both rural areas and in New York City, all kinds of things. The research is the fun stuff for sure.

What was your hardest scene to write?

In my very first book, I killed off the grand-daughter of my female protagonist. It had to be done but I cried all the way through the first and subsequent drafts. When my mom read it, she yelled at me for killing off the girl. I’ve had other hard scenes to write since then, but that was my first.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Generally, a month. A couple of thousand words per day will get the job done, especially if I’ve taken some time to write out some scene cards. What do I mean? A scene card for me is a sentence describing what I want to have happened in the scene. Sometimes I use 4X6 index cards, sometimes I just write or type them out on a page. The sentence will cover who’s the protagonist, antagonist, location, conflict and what the twist is at the end that will lead me to the next scene. If I have enough of these done for the book, say 60+ I can rock on through the book in no time. If, because of what I’ve already written a scene is no longer valid, I toss it out as irrelevant. Fun times. I don’t like to micro-plan, so the scene sentence gives me a direction, keeping me pointed at the ending I want, without cutting into my creativity. There have been books where I didn’t know what the ending was. Those are a wild ride!

What about my newest book?

Mystery at the Book Festival is the third book in my Jean Hays series, my only cozy mystery set so far. Jean is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant Project Manager, divorced after she and her AF husband, also a project manager, retired. She has an adult son with his own family who live in California. It turns out that Jean is a magnet for dead bodies in her little town of Greyson, AZ. She’s in constant conflict with the Chief of Police, Nick White and is best friends with her fellow amateur sleuth, Karen Carver. Karen is a native resident of Greyson and knows just about everything about everyone in town. They are friends with Liz Toscano, hard-bitten reported for the twice weekly town paper. In Mystery at the Book Festival, Karen and Jean find a body in the local community college store room still dripping blood. As the third body in a year and a half, the mayor wants Nick to put Jean behind bars or lose his job! So it’s up to Jean to find the real killer fast for both her sake and Nick’s.

Read an excerpt: Mystery at the Book Festival

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com

Facebook:  ConniesRandomThoughts

Twitter: @ConnieCockrell or

Amazon Author:  Connie Cockrell

 

Meet USA Today Bestselling Author Amy M. Reade

Amy M. Reade is a new-to-me author and one that I’m really excited about.  I’m in the midst of reading her latest release, The House on Candlewick Lane and thoroughly enjoying it. And, bonus…it’s on sale for 99c right now!

Buy on Amazon          Buy Barnes & Noble

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Greer Dobbins’ daughter has been kidnapped—and spirited across the Atlantic to a hiding place in Scotland. Greer will do anything to find her, but the streets of Edinburgh hide a thousand secrets—including some she’d rather not face.

Art historian Dr. Greer Dobbins thought her ex-husband, Neill, had his gambling addiction under control. But in fact, he was spiraling deeper and deeper into debt. When a group of shady lenders threatens to harm the divorced couple’s five-year-old daughter if he doesn’t pay up, a desperate Neill abducts the girl and flees to his native Scotland. Though the trail seems cold, Greer refuses to give up and embarks on a frantic search through the medieval alleys of Edinburgh—a city as beguiling as it is dangerous. But as the nightmare thickens with cryptic messages and a mysterious attack, Greer herself will become a target, along with everyone she holds dear.


Let’s get to know Amy. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I went to Edinburgh last year and soo wanted to visit the Writers’ Museum, but we ran out of time. I was near it, though. Does that count? And the granddaughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder visited my hometown when I was young and I went to the talk she gave at our local library. She autographed one of her grandmother’s books for me. What a treat! I still have the book and I treasure it.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It depends on what I’ve written. If I’m happy with it, I’m energized. If I’m unhappy with it, I am useless and catatonic until I can edit the offending scene(s).

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I think a big ego is unbecoming and I gravitate toward people who have a healthy amount of humility (as I hope I do). That being said, a relatively famous author I’ve met in person has a huge ego. Is that what makes her successful? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. Maybe that’s why I’m not as famous as she is—I’m just too darn nice.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

The greatest time suck in history: Social media.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I have, but there’s really no reason for it at this point. A: I don’t write anything that would embarrass my family or myself; and B: I have a pretty cool last name for a writer.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I am blessed to have readers who give me feedback about what they love and want to see in my books. I also know from a few early reviews of my first book that there are some things my readers don’t like. But I don’t feel like I’m giving up my originality by writing what people like.

Bottom line: I think it’s possible for a writer to be original while still delivering what readers want.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I do think it’s possible. Just because a person doesn’t feel emotions deeply doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of understanding them or having empathy with people who do feel them. In fact, a dispassionate author might actually be better able to cut unnecessary words and scenes from a novel without feeling like they’ve lost a part of himself or herself.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I am very lucky to be friends with lots of authors. I’ve found authors, as a community, to be some of the most supportive, selfless, and genuine people I’ve ever known. They’re always willing to share their steps to success, as well as their failures, so other authors can learn from their smart moves and their mistakes. They’re also very generous with their help to new writers.

 How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It made me write faster! I wrote my first book longhand on legal paper, and it became apparent very quickly that I wouldn’t have time for that with future books. Now I write everything directly onto the computer.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Buying my domain name.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

There’s only one person upon whom a character in my books is loosely based, and I must thank that wretched monster for the miserable experience s/he created for me. Without it, I would not have been able to craft the thoroughly evil villain in the book I’m working on now.

But I’m not bitter or anything.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have two half-finished books right now, both of which are (obviously) unpublished. I also have two books in the publication pipeline, both at different points in the editing process.

What’s the best way to market your books?

The best marketing isn’t done by me—it’s done by readers, by word-of-mouth. I think most authors would say the same thing.


 

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Amy.

You can catch up with her here:

On her blog: https://amreade.wordpress.com/

On her webpage: http://www.amymreade.com/

On  Facebook

On Twitter

On:  Goodreads

 

Meet Mystery Author, Linda Berry

Meet mystery author, Linda Berry. 

Your latest mystery, Pretty Corpse, was recently released. Tell us about the story.

The year is 1999. A serial rapist is targeting teen girls in San Francisco. While on patrol, Officer Lauren Starkley discovers one of the victims, and she’s shocked to find out the girl is a close friend of her daughter. The case instantly becomes intensely personal. Because she isn’t a detective, Lauren is restricted from investigating, but she does so nonetheless on her own time. Lauren has an uncanny ability to find obscure clues and link them together. Her relentless pursuit of the rapist draws her deeper into his world. He in turn, starts getting closer to Lauren and her daughter. Lauren needs to lure him out of hiding, fast, before her daughter becomes his next victim.

You populate your novels with an interesting mix of characters. Tell us about that.

My stories reflect the range of characters each of us knows in real life. We all have people we admire, people who threaten us or are just plain loony. I like to keep a reader alert and surprised by creating several interrelated stories that and ebb and flow through the main story. We are all multi-dimensional, and have many stories happening simultaneously in our lives, and sometimes conflict erupts on many fronts. I like to get into those emotional tsunamis and explore a person’s breaking point, and how they deal with the challenge. Complex characters that are bitterly wounded or pathologically twisted are interesting to me. I like to contrast the most vile and repugnant aspects of human nature to the most heroic and noble, and throw some quirky characters in for good measure.

How did you research this police thriller?

To write authentically, I do extensive research. That doesn’t mean I let my fingers do the walking. I have to give a big thank you to the police officers at Mission Station in San Francisco in 2001, when I wrote this first draft. My research for Pretty Corpse came in the form of dozens of ride-alongs I did with various female patrol officers. I chose the night shift when the city was rife with criminal activity, and I got to see these courageous women in action. Several of my characters were inspired by the female cops I came to know, and also by the captain of the station, who gave generously of his time to help me authenticate my writing. Many of the side stories in Pretty Corpse are based on actual events relayed to me by police officers from Mission Station.

Where do you write?

I write in a sunny office in my home overlooking a canal and peaceful wooded area. I live in Central Oregon, a resort town in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

You were an award-winning copywriter and art director for twenty-five years, and worked part of that time for the film industry. Did that experience shape your decision to become a novelist?

Absolutely. I had the privilege of collaborating with talented writers and some of the best editors in the business. I love books and have been an avid reader my entire life. I wrote novels as a passionate hobby. In fact, my three novels released this year by Winter Goose Publishing are the result of my efforts spanning a decade. Now that I’m retired, I write every day. It’s so much easier to produce good work when you can keep your train of thought moving forward, and are not constantly interrupted.

What do you love most about your work?

I love the creative process itself—the challenge of developing and constructing plots that continually surprise the reader and hold them in a state of suspense. Writing is both a passion and a compulsion—a truly satisfying form of escape. My reward comes when a reader tells me they couldn’t put my book down and they talk about my characters as though they’re real people. Then I know I did my job well.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness comes to me in many forms. Appreciation of life itself is the foundation of happiness. I find this planet miraculous, from subatomic matter to the galaxies in space. I enjoy the beauty of ecosystems, how so many forms of life—plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects—the smallest creature to the largest, are dependent on each other for survival. My idea of perfect happiness is living on a healthy planet where people live together in peace and are trusted guardians of nature.

What is your greatest fear?

Being impoverished, homeless, or mentally or physically impaired and dependent on others. I did undergo some terrible threats to my health six years ago. I had a bout of debilitating pain for about 8 months, which diminished my ability to enjoy life. I’m now completely recovered, and feel I’ve been given a second chance at life. The experience sharpened my awareness of how fragile life is, how it can be taken away in an instant, and how one might be forced to languish in pain for a period of time. It heightened my appreciation for the quality of life I have now, for every precious moment I’m healthy and independent.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Lack of patience. Sometimes I get caught up in the every day demands of life, and the illusion that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. I have to remind myself at times to live in the moment, address what is happening right in front of me, and listen to people, even when I feel I’m short on time. Giving another human being a few minutes of conversation can make a huge difference in that person’s life. Kindness goes a long way.

Who in your profession do you most admire?

I read everything, and admire countless writers, from journalists to screen writers to poets to authors. I especially love mysteries, and I read an average of two books a week. If the writing is solid, and the story is well-constructed, I’ll read it regardless of genre.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Disconnecting from the world. Getting out in nature with my husband and our dog in our motorhome. I love being on a lazy schedule and disconnecting from social media, where the only decision I have to make is when to eat and what hikes to takey. I can write in uninterrupted peace for hours at a time, surrounded by nature, sometimes listening to the gentle patter of rain, watching water drip off leaves. I love going to national parks, off season. We went to Bryce and Zion and Arches and the Grand Canyon two years ago. Last year we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and this year we may be going to Yosemite.

On what occasion would you lie?

I don’t tell big extravagant lies, but I do tell baby lies frequently, mostly when complimenting people. For example: “no, your ass doesn’t look big in those jeans” or “you look marvelous” when in actuality, you look hungover, and you have stains on your shirt.

What do you dislike most in your work?

When I hit a brick wall and I have to stop writing, sometimes for days, while I process my story and play out different scenarios in my head. I never force the creative process. What generally helps me break through the logjam is reading. I’ll bury my nose in a good book, and before long, ideas start percolating to the surface. I also have a muse. My nail goddess, who’s held captive doing my mani/pedi for 2 hours, and I bounce ideas off her. She has a creative mind and has been a wonderful contributor to my stories for years.

When and where were you happiest in your work?

This current period in my life is the happiest. Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing every day. I wake up eager to get to work. I take my coffee up to my sunny office and dig in. I believe I’m at my most happiest when my husband and I are traveling and we’re parked in a beautiful wilderness area and the peace of the place seeps into my bones. I can write with no interruption.

If you could, what would you change about myself?

I would take twenty years of physical wear and tear off my body. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I would change nothing. If I had to lose twenty years of life experience to be in a younger body, I would say no. I’m more at peace with myself at this stage of life than I have ever been.

What is your greatest achievement in work?

Having three novels completed and coming out this year, 2017. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to see the culmination of years of work and endless rewrites in a physical book. Hidden Part One and Pretty Corpse are out, and Hidden Part Two comes out in September. I’m expecting my fourth mystery, Quiet Scream, to be out in December or January.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My friendliness, and my sense of humor. I have always had a keen interest in people and I’m a good observer, passionately interested in humans and the world around me. I’m an optimist at heart, and I’ve been blessed with a jolly spirit. I enjoy socializing but the greater part of my waking life is spent in solitude, writing, reading, and doing projects.

What is your most inspirational location in your city?

I like to get out on the wilderness trails with friends and dogs. We have a beautiful river, the Deschutes, that meanders through town and its character changes every foot of the way. There are many meadows, sagebrush flats, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Cascade Range. The look of a wild river, the various sounds of water rushing, falling, cascading over boulders, is invigorating and soothing. Hiking clears my head of thoughts and worries and puts me in a state of peacefulness.

What is your best advice for beginning writers?

Write about something you love and then your passion will come out in your words. Write often, every day, if possible. Read, read, read. I read one or two books a week, and I also watch movies and TV productions that tell good stories. I take notes. I have volumes of notes and refer to them daily.

Watch Linda’s Youtube trailers

Hidden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-bNoFgaD9U&t=7s

Pretty Corpse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QHSvirTYdw&feature=youtu.be

https://www.facebook.com/linda.berry.94617

www.lindaberry.net

@LindaBerry7272

lindaberrywriter@gmail.com

Here’s my review of Pretty Corpse

Linda Berry weaves a masterful tale of suspense in this novel heavy with police procedural details that reflect the time—1999. Set in beautiful San Francisco, the reader gets a glimpse of the grittier side of the city. Set nearly twenty years ago, we are reminded of how far we’ve come with science and technology and the challenges of crime solving years ago.

I quickly found myself pulled into protagonist Lauren Starkley’s world—a widowed cop raising a teenaged daughter, finding her way in what was still more of a man’s world back then, and dealing with crime on the late shift. She manages a multitude of roadblocks, both personally and professionally, all with grace and fortitude. Yes, she is a badass!

Murder and mayhem move the story along at a good clip as Lauren gets pulled into the dark world of a demented criminal. While working the night shift, the partners come upon a heinous crime scene that hits too close to home for Lauren. Someone is kidnapping and raping girls her daughter’s age, one victim is from her daughter’s class and that makes it personal. When the investigator in charge is slow to act, Lauren steps up and the real cat and mouse games begin.

Seamlessly, the complex characters, personal relationships, and criminal aspects of the book unfold, enmesh, and draw the reader in. The characters are multi-dimensional and realistic. And, that, coupled with an intriguing plot full of twists and turns, make this a must-read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet suspense author, Sherry Knowlton

 

Today, I welcome author Sherry Knowlton for a visit. This Pennsylvania native has been writing in one form or another since elementary school. Along the way, her creative and technical work has run the gamut from poetry, essays, and short stories to environmental newsletters, policy papers, regulations, and grant proposals. Her debut novel published in 2014 and her third book in the Alexa Williams series launched in April of this year.

Let’s get to know Sherry.

  • Tell us, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve only gone on one deliberate literary pilgrimage. In college, I did a semester-long Independent Studies project on D.H. Lawrence’s novels.  Many years ago, I attended a work conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Since it was my first visit to the area, I arrived a few days early and drove to nearby Taos to visit the Lawrence Memorial at his Kiowa Ranch. The author’s ashes are interred there, so I wanted to pay him homage.

It was a pretty weird experience.  The Memorial was back a remote, dirt lane, high on a windswept hill.  The place was completely deserted.  Just me, the cold wind, and Lawrence’s ashes somewhere in the small shrine.  Although Lawrence had lived at Kiowa Ranch for several years, most of the books I’d studied – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love – were set in the British Isles.  So, his final resting place seemed out of step with much of his work – except for The Plumed Serpent, which is based in Mexico and incorporates Aztec themes.  But, Lawrence’s writing was ahead of his time, much of it vilified in the early 1900’s (and later) as pornography.  He only gained a reputation as an important author after his death. So, maybe it’s fitting that his ashes rest in peace and quiet above the noise and rancor that he experienced during his life.

A myriad of other authors have inspired my love of travel although I wouldn’t call the trips pilgrimages.  Mary Stewart’s novels, like The Moonspinners, sent me sailing in the Cyclades Islands of Greece.  Reading Robert Ruark and Ernest Hemingway whetted my appetite for Africa.  Robert Ludlum’s books made me want to careen through the capitals of Europe. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

This isn’t a very fair question for someone who cries regularly when reading.  I cry if a beloved character dies.  I cry if the dog dies.  I cry at the perfect romantic moment.  And, don’t get me started on movies.  I’ve seen the old Streisand/Redford movie The Way We Were umpteen times.  Every time it gets to the part where Redford and his friend are sailing and reminiscing about their best year and the Redford character says, “1944, no, 1945” then whispers “1946” – I start sobbing.  Every time.  Heck, I even cry at those heartwarming commercials with the Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs.

With so many fiction-induced tears in my life, I can’t really remember the first book that made me cry.  I know that The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird were two early books that affected me deeply.  In my junior high or high school years, I remember my devastation at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls.  (Spoiler alert.) Robert Jordan’s self-sacrifice made me sob aloud.

In all seriousness, these days I generally avoid novels that scream tearjerker.  There are a glut of novels, often characterized as women’s fiction or literary fiction, which seem engineered to be emotionally manipulative.  I’m not saying that all women’s or literary fiction falls into this bucket.  But, there’s a certain strain of fiction that seems written purely to tug at the heartstrings.  I’d rather read a book that tells a compelling story and develops absorbing characters, so the emotion invoked is more honest.

  • Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have three books to date in my Alexa Williams suspense series, Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and the latest April release Dead of Spring.  Each book is written as a stand-alone, so a reader can pick it up and enjoy the story even though they might not have read the other books in the series.  However, many of the characters continue in one or more books:  my protagonist, Alexa’s, friends, family, colleagues, and her English mastiff, Scout.  Of course, these are suspense novels with an element of murder mystery, so in each book, a handful of characters don’t make it out alive.

One of the other key connections between my books is that social and environmental issues that are fundamental to the plots.  The latest, Dead of Spring, involves Alexa in the controversial areas of fracking and political corruption.  The themes of my earlier novels include reproductive rights for women and religious fundamentalism (Dead of Autumn) and sex trafficking (Dead of Summer). I believe that plots dealing with real-life current topics speak to readers and engage them in the suspense.

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publication of my first book changed my process in two key aspects.  First, it gave me more confidence about my writing.   Second, it gave me a greater understanding of the editing and publishing process. I knew better what to expect when the manuscript left my hands and went to my publisher, Sunbury Press.   So, that meant that I produced my next two manuscripts in a shorter timeframe, primarily because I didn’t do as many draft versions.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t edit and revise and re-edit.  Plus, I have a group of beta-readers who review and comment on a late draft – and I incorporate much of their feedback.  But, on my first novel, I got caught up in multiple revisions and probably wasted months before I submitted the manuscript to a publisher.  I’ve learned that you have to do your best to revise and refine your work, but at some point, you also have to let it go.  I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful editor who works with me on several rounds of edits prior to publication and always helps me make the final book better.

  • I can relate. It’s so hard to let go of that first one.      What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

As a reporter and, then, editor of my high school newspaper, I began to understand the power that things like word choice, what to include or exclude in a story, etc. could have in shaping student knowledge and opinion.  Back then, journalism was very much Who/What/When/Where/Why and How, but even without any overt opinion or spin, the writer could have enormous impact.  

That lesson was really reinforced for me when a nationally-syndicated war correspondent spoke at our journalism awards banquet.  This was in the mid-point of the Vietnam War.  As this real-life reporter who wrote stories about life and death matters spoke, I realized the influence that his written words could have on the public perception of the war.  What he chose to write about or not write about could end up shaping opinions in a contentious national conversation. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the power of words – a power that extends into many areas of our lives, well beyond politics and public policy.

  • I love research.   What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do a good bit of research before I begin each book, but I usually find that I need to augment the initial research as I write.  To illustrate my process, let me talk about the process for my latest book. Like my other novels, Dead of Spring is primarily a contemporary suspense story, but there’s a parallel historical plot.  The contemporary story deals with fracking and government corruption.  The historical story takes place during the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis in 1979.  I found a lot of written material on the internet, reviewed State regulations, viewed news clips, and more. I talked to experts in law enforcement and in hydraulic fracturing. One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking in Pennsylvania and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. I also visited sites where I could view the various steps of the fracking process.   

The preliminary research often takes a month or longer.  If I find I’m missing key information as I write, I’ll often just mark the spot and return to it later after I’ve done the research.  However, if it’s a critical plot point, I need to step away from the writing and research the item immediately.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

Character names are one of the hardest parts about writing.  Who knew a novel had so many characters?  Often, you even have to name random characters who may only “walk on” for a scene.  I use some favorite names and variations on family names for some of my main characters.  The rest I pull from news articles, people I know or meet, and baby name books for the year of the character’s birth.  Sometimes, I hear a name that strikes me as perfect and I’ll jot it down to use in a future book. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

You don’t want to repeat names or use names that sound too similar.  I made this mistake in my first book by naming Alexa’s best friend Melissa and her executive assistant Melinda.  Since these are continuing characters, I’m stuck with the confusion forever – unless I fire Melinda and she’s such a nice woman, I’d hesitate to do that.  Heck, even I find myself confusing the two names when I write.

Don’t give a bad guy the same name as one of your friends or colleagues.  In Dead of Autumn, I gave one of the bad guys the same name as a work colleague.  I was just looking for a biblical name, and used it without thinking of my colleague. But he’ll never let me hear the end of it.

Think about readings.  In Dead of Summer, I asked a Thai friend to help me name a Thai victim of sex trafficking.  Together we picked a name that has real meaning to the arc of the character. But, now, I can never choose a passage containing her name for a public reading, because I can never remember how to pronounce the multisyllabic Thai name without stumbling over it.

  • I think readers are sometimes surprised to learn how immersed authors are with their writing.   What was your hardest scene to write?

In my first novel, Dead of Autumn, the historical subplot is a fictionalized treatment of a historical incident, the Babes in the Woods murders.  Three young sisters were found dead in a Pennsylvania forest during the Depression after traveling from California with their father and an older female cousin.  The last chapter of this Babes in the Woods saga was very difficult for me to write. I was surprised at the amount of emotion I felt as I wrote that final scene with ten-year-old Dewilla Noakes and her father. By the time I got there, I had become so connected to my vision of this young girl, that writing that last scene was a gut-wrenching experience.

  • What is your favorite childhood book? 

The Nancy Drew series.  Sometimes I think I’m writing a grown up version of Nancy Drew although Alexa is stronger and steelier.  And, she doesn’t worry about matching sweater sets.  Plus, she’s not ready to settle for Ned.

 

  • What’s the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Starting the next book.  I’m don’t adhere to the advice that you must write something every day, even if it’s just a few pages.  After a book is finished, I usually need a break. Then, I pull together the thoughts I’ve had about my next book and organize them.  I do research and prepare an outline, although parts of the outline usually evolve as I begin to write.  Then, I’m ready to begin the next book.

But, sometimes the rest of my life intervenes in the writing process.  My husband and I do a lot of extended traveling.  We just came back from six weeks on safari in Africa and India.  Also, I do consulting projects from time to time that are usually time-limited with a hard deadline.  

All of these factors can contribute to delays in getting my next book underway.  I’m struggling with that now.  One good thing.  Once I begin, I usually get caught up in the writing and just plow ahead until I’ve finished the first draft.

  • Do you Google yourself?

You caught me.  Yes, I do.  And, it can be an enlightening process.  Sometimes, I’m checking to see if a promised article or blog post has been published.  Sometimes, I’ve found that I’ve been mentioned in an article or on a blog – and I wasn’t aware of it. Twice, I’ve found that someone pirated my book and was peddling it online; so, I let my publisher know.  

One of the interesting results of searching my name online are the trails to my past life that pop up from time to time.  In the 1990’s I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a job where, in my official capacity, I issued a lot of communications about the Medicaid program in the state.  A lot of those bulletins and related work from those days are hanging around out there on the internet.  Some of them, I don’t even remember signing.

But, my primary purpose in Googling these days, is to keep current for author-related marketing purposes.

I must confess, I have not read Sherry’s books yet because she’s a new author to me. But, they are definitely on my TBR list now!  

Read about her latest novel: Dead of Spring 

When a beloved state senator plunges to his death at Alexa Williams’ feet in the Capitol Rotunda, the authorities suspect suicide. Although the powerful chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee was at the center of a controversial new bill to expand hydraulic fracturing, he was also rumored to be ill. Shaken, Alexa tries to move past the disturbing incident by concentrating on work. She’s leading a senate commission on sex trafficking. Plus, she’s helping an old college roommate sue a natural gas company for their role in causing her daughter’s rare cancer.

In researching the lawsuit, Alexa becomes embroiled in the high-stakes politics of fracking. As the relationship with her state trooper boyfriend drifts onto the rocks, Alexa is drawn to a charismatic state legislator who’s leading an anti-fracking crusade. Then, the police shock Alexa with the news that she could be in danger; she’s a witness to the senator’s murder, not his suicide.

When Alexa narrowly escapes a sniper’s bullet, she must discover why she’s a target―and who she can trust—before the next shot hits its mark.

With Sherry Knowlton’s trademark mix of feminism, history, romance, and fast-paced thrills, Dead of Springskyrockets from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the halls of Pennsylvania state government. In this suspenseful tale of corruption and runaway greed, Alexa Williams proves, once again, that she’s a formidable heroine. The twists and turns keep will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Here’s where you can get the scoop on the Alexa Williams series: 

Amazon     Sunbury     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Meet the author, Austen fan, and Avenger geek: Melanie Stanford

 

Melanie

Hi Melanie, tell us a little about yourself.

Tardis

Here you go!

I’m first a mother, second a writer, sometimes dancing, always daydreaming. I read too much and play music too loud. I’d also like my very own TARDIS… but only to go back in time, not into the future.   

 

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

If you know me online then this might not be a surprise, but most people who know me in real life are surprised when they find out I’m into “nerdy” stuff. 

(Do you think Melanie wears that mask when she writes? )

The family's Avenger Figurines

The Stanford Family Avenger Figurine Collection

I collect dragons, Marvel action figures, fandom t-shirts, and recently went to my first ever comic book convention (I totally dressed up, too). I don’t know why this surprises people, but there you go.

 

reading in sun

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Reading, obviously. And being in the sunshine. Wait, reading in the sunshine.

 

 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

Definitely flushable toilets. 

This                                                                                              Not this!

Flickr

Flickr

Flickr

Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

IMG_4073

Melanie’s successful author workspace.

I used to be a full-on pantser, but I’ve started plotting a bit first. Usually just notes about the characters, and I’ll try to make beats of the plot. After that, I like to write every day for at least a couple of hours, usually right after lunch. It usually only takes me a couple of months to write the book, then I revise, send to critique partners, then revise again, send to beta readers, then revise again. I definitely spend more time revising than on the first draft. 

 

What is your all time favorite book and why?

Ahh, don’t make me pick! Can I choose the entire Harry Potter series? I would like to live in Harry Potterthat world. In fact, I’m still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts. I don’t think their owls fly to Canada though.

 

 

 

Project research, love it or hate it?

Ugh, research. My problem is, as soon as I get a book idea, I want to dive in with the writing. I don’t like putting that off to research first.

So that’s a no, then.             Is there a specific author who inspires you?

There are so many authors I read and think, man I wish I could write like that. I’m always inspired by the ones who had to work really hard to get published- I love to hear those stories. Specifically, though, the author who gave me the inspiration to actually finish a manuscript was Stephenie Meyer. I wanted to be a writer long before her books ever came out but I remember reading Twilight and thinking, I can do this.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect to releasing your first novel? Melanie launch

Holding the actual book in my hands for the first time. Don’t tell anyone, but I hugged it a lot when no one was looking.

Awww. I know that feeling. Tell the truth…you still hug it every now and again.

 

 

Moving on.   What has been the most detrimental?

I assumed when I published my first book that my journey would only go forward from here. Lately, I’ve learned otherwise, but there’s nothing to do but roll with it.

 

What other projects are you working on?  IMG_1003

Melanie! I said projects, not propositions.

 

I have another classical retelling, this one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH, that I will shortly be finding a new home for. I’m also querying a Young Adult Mystery, and writing another adult romance/retelling. 

How did you come up with the title for your l book?

I did a synonym search on the word “persuasion.” When SWAY came up it just clicked. Even though there are quite a few other books titled SWAY, I knew I had to use it. 

How long did it take you to write SWAY?

About two-three months for the first draft. Lots more time after for revisions. 

Tell us a little about the book.

SWAY is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION,  but if you don’t know that book, basically it’s a second-chance romance. My two main characters were engaged right out of high school but she breaks it off because of family pressure, and because she’s scared. The book starts eight years later when they’re suddenly back in each other’s lives. Awkwardness and angst ensue.    

It’s been fun getting to know more about you, Melanie. Thanks for the interview!

Here’s the official blurb for SWAY:

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Ava Elliot never thought she’d become a couch surfer. But with a freshly minted—and worthless—degree from Julliard, and her dad squandering the family fortune, what choice does she have?

Living with her old high school friends, though, has its own drawbacks. Especially when her ex-fiancé Eric Wentworth drops back into her life. Eight years ago, she was too young, too scared of being poor, and too scared of her dad’s disapproval. Dumping him was a big mistake.

In the most ironic of role reversals, Eric is rolling in musical success, and Ava’s starting at the bottom to build her career. Worse, every song Eric sings is an arrow aimed straight for her regrets.

One encounter, one song too many, and Ava can’t go on like this. It’s time to tell Eric the truth, and make a choice. Finally let go of the past, or risk her heart for a second chance with her first love. If he can forgive her…and she can forgive herself. 

You can find Melanie on her website: melaniestanfordbooks.com and on Twitter @MelMStanford or on Facebook here. She also blogs over at the YA-NA Sisterhood and Austen Variations.

How does she do it?

I’m excited to welcome the talented and multi-published author Lauren Smith to my blog today. A prolific writer, Lauren has 15 romance novels/novellas in several sub-genres including Regency era historical, paranormal, gothic, and contemporary adult.

Lauren Smith

I love a good mystery. But,  when I look at Lauren’s bio, book list, accolades and awards, then factor in that she is a lawyer by day, I can’t figure out how she does it all.

Let’s get to know her better and find out.

 

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

Probably that I’m a virgin, given that I write really steamy romance novels.

That is a shocker! I’ve read some of your novels and I blush just thinking about certain parts of them. (fans face)   It takes talent and practice (writing, I mean) to pen a well done sex scene. Some authors won’t even go there. You’re young and beautiful. So no one is going to believe you’ve never participated on some level of (ahem) extracurricular activity. That said, it’s all the more impressive that you write those intimate scenes so well without the…um…er…full Monty experience.  Kudos, girlfriend!

We know you are a lady lawyer and committed writer. But, what do you enjoy most in your free time?

I love to do photography, walk my dogs, run, draw and watch movies and hang with my friends.

Here is some of Lauren’s art and photography. She’s got an eye for detail.

Lauren’s fur babies.     DSC_0006

Any other passions?

cavalry_2_by_novemberstar88

I adore Audie Murphy and have nearly all his movies and his official biography signed by the author that was a limited print run. *grins. He’s the coolest. Here’s a photo of two riders from the Audie Murphy Days celebration in Texas. 

 

 

Lauren's men

 

Here’s a photo I found of Lauren with what looks to be a group of Audie wannabes.  Looks like great research to me!

 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

My smart phone. The Audible Audiobook app is essential to my existence!

I’ll have to try that one. Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

Lauren page2

 

I write chronologically from start to finish on a book in a Five Star brand five-subject Notebook.  

 

What is your all-time favorite book.

Via Amazon

Via Amazon

Gone with the wind

Via Amazon

 

Man, I can’t believe I have to pick….it’s a tie. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Host by Stephanie Meyer.

 

How about project research, love it or hate it?

Love to buy books for topics, but not so good at following up on reading them! Hahah.

Is there a specific author who inspires you?

Probably Christina Dodd and Marie Force are a tie. They really are amazing writers who have been successful over years of hard work. They’ve taught me to be true to the craft but that it’s okay to want to be successful about it.

You write in various genres, which is your favorite to write?

That’s a tough question. I’d probably say Gothic, even though I only had one book so far written in that genre. It’s just my natural writing voice to make things a little spooky and haunted.

Which is your favorite to read?

Definitely gothic, or classic styled but sexy vampire romances.

Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

I’d love to write highland romances but the accuracy and accents scare me right now and I would only want to write a good book so I haven’t worked up the courage yet to try.

How long did it take you to write your first book?    Your latest book?

My first book took about 4 months while I was in college. My latest book took about 4 months as well.

And, all in longhand. I’m still impressed!  As a multi-published author, do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing and view your writing like a business. I see a lot of newer authors who don’t study the market and see what sells. You want to have an original voice but you don’t want to write a book that’s too complicated or fails to register with readers. It’s always important to know what readers like because half the joy of writing is giving readers something they would share.

What projects are you working on?

I’m currently working on a Regency historical and a contemporary new adult!

Tell us a little about a recent release, Climax: Her British Stepbrother.

It’s the 3rd part in my 3 part Serial. All 3  books (Forbidden, Seduction, and Climax) are 99 cents. The story is about Kat, an American college Freshman who moves to England and falls for a handsome, seductive graduate student named Tristan Kingsley. To her shock, she discovers that he’s going to the Earl of Pembroke someday and what’s more, his mother and her father, both who have been divorced from their spouses for years had suddenly met and started dating. Kat and Tristan will soon become step-siblings. I wanted to write a stepbrother story but have them meet and fall in love before their parents start dating.

Forbidden: Book 1 in Her British Stepbrother Series

He’s her first. He’s her everything. He’s her . . . stepbrother.

Kat has always been a good girl. She studies hard and never stays out too late. But when sitting in a pub on her birthday, she realizes she’s a nineteen-year-old virgin who’s never really lived. And she wants tonight to be the night that changes.

Then she sees him walk in. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and straight out of her deepest fantasies. His voice makes her knees feel weak, and when he smiles, she imagines him doing wicked things to her in bed. From the look in his eyes, she knows he’s imagining it too. So when he asks if he can walk her home, she hears herself whisper yes . . .

Catch up with Lauren:

Amazon Bestselling Author Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets, a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and Semi-Finalist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

To get alerts for her latest releases sign up for Lauren’s newsletter visit her at www.laurensmithbooks.com                 or          The League of Rogues

Interview with debut author CJ Warrant

Today I welcome fellow debut author CJ Warrant to my blog.

CJ Warrant

CJ is an Award Winning Author for dark romantic suspense and thrillers that pulls at your heart, makes you shiver, and hope for a happy ending. A lover of coffee, baking and family, but not in that order–She’s a wife, a loving mother of three and a cosmetologist by trade. Drawing her experiences from her Korean Italian heritage and growing up as an Army brat, her stories stir in dark plots with addictive flawed characters you will fall in love with.
Visit CJ at www.cjwarrant.com

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

My nationality. People look at me and assume I’m a certain heritage but in fact I’m far from what they think. I’m half Italian and half Korean, which are equal influences in my life. So when you first meet me, I’m generally quiet, but once you get to know me you can’t shut me up.

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Being with my family. Especially nowadays, since my kids are growing up so fast and moving out the house. I treasure them and the time we have.

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

My cell phone. Not only does it link to social media but also my family. It’s the central hub of all incoming information for both personal and professional.

Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

Wow, if you had asked me that a few years ago, I’d say I was all over the place with my writing process. I’m a total pantser, through and through. However, while writing Forgetting Jane, I realized I needed some plotting to keep my story in line.

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Perhaps the start of CJ’s new novel?

So, when I get a spark of an idea—which can come from anything I see, hear, or even dream and that idea usually forms into movie playing in my head. Upon that, I start writing a chapter or two of a scene. In that scene, my main characters emerge. However, sometimes, it’s a character that comes forth before the storyline. After developing my characters, that is when I begin writing my first draft. Once done, I usually go three to four rounds of edits, with a full rewrite and my critique partners going through the manuscript twice.

What is your all time favorite book and why?

This is a tough question, because I have several. I’ve always been a sucker for a love story with grittier plots. I want a book with characters that have major flaws and then find redemption. But one story has always stood out of my mind since I was a kid. It was the first book I fell in love with. The book made me cry and care for the characters deeply. It was, The Pigman by Paul Zindel. It’s far from what I read now, but it’s a great story.

Goodreads

Goodreads: Paul Zindel

Pigman

Via Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project research, love it or hate it?

I love doing research. It helps me dig deeper into my characters, plot and/or the places where the dirty deeds had taken place. The more I know, the better my story is.

Is there a specific author who inspires you?

I could say numerous well known authors have inspired me, like for example Sherrilyn Kenyon. She is one of my favorites to read, but I feel that the ones who truly inspire me the most are the writers who aren’t published yet. They keep writing and pushing along to get their stories out there. Their perseverance and diligence are what I feel inspires me; not to quit and keep striving for what I want. Just like them.

You write in various genres, which is your favorite to write?

I tend to lean toward my darker side, so I would have to say romantic thrillers.

Which is your favorite to read?

It would have to depend on my mood at the time. But if I have to choose, then it would be Paranormal romance. It so outside the realm of reality, and that’s what draws me.

Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

Erotica. Just to see if I can write it.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

My first book—which by the way will never see the light of day… it me over four years to finish it with the heavy push from my wonderful husband.

Your latest book?

It took me eight months.

Like my debut novel, yours is set in Wisconsin. Tell us a little about FORGETTING JANE

Forgetting Jane is set in a small rural town in Wisconsin in current times. Some of the scenes in the novel were derived from my experiences I had when I was kid, living on a farm(which was haunted by a female ghost—no joke) for a year, and the closest town was ten miles away.

The story is about a woman found in the outskirts of town near a lake. Jane was horrifically beaten and had lost her memory. Her memory holds the key to who tried to kill her, and links her to a ghost, who haunts her until the killer’s secrets are revealed. What secrets? That’s what Chief Elias McAvoy’s intends to find out.

Small towns have buried secrets, and those secrets are about to be unearthed. With each step closer to getting Jane’s memory back, so is the truth about the killer. During the chaos of this investigation, Elias and Jane’s attraction grows and it can’t be denied.

And I do have to give a shout out to my secondary character, Harold and his hunting dog Traitor, a black Labrador. They are the ones who helped sparked this story.

What other projects are you working on?

I have three projects right now. My first project I’m currently editing is an erotic thriller called Mirror Image, which starts in Las Vegas and ends in Denver.

In my second project, I’m finishing up book one in a romantic suspense series based out of Chicago, which my lead female character, Jazz knows how to kick some a**.

And my third project is outlining a second romantic suspense series based out of Tennessee. Characters, towns and events—good and bad. A road trip will be required for this series.

CJ's book

Excerpt:

The small town of Beaver Creek, Wisconsin has never seen a horrific act of violence before. So when two hunters find a woman beaten and partially buried, but alive, recovering alcoholic Chief Elias McAvoy has to find who’s behind the attempted murder. After Jane Doe wakes up from a coma, Elias discovers she has amnesia, which makes the case nearly impossible to solve.

Jane wants to remember the horrid crime that put her near death’s door, but the only thing she can envision is the girl in the yellow dress that repeatedly visits her. Seeing ghosts is the least of her worries, however. Between the severe headaches and nightmares, the only person keeping her sane is Elias. His desperate touch gives her the strength to learn more about herself and him, as well the girl who haunts her. She unwittingly captures Elias’s heart while the killer is bent on reclaiming her for his deadly game.

Elias and Jane search for answers and find more than lost memories. When another body is discovered, Elias uncovers a killing spree that spans forty years that connect to the girl in the yellow dress. With evidence pointing to a local, the killer quickly closes in, recapturing Jane to finish what he started. As Jane’s life hangs in the balance, Elias’s sobriety is tested as he realizes he can’t live without her. It will take strength and perseverance to save the woman he loves before the killer does.

Forgetting Jane releases June 29th, but it’s available to pre-order now!

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Please join CJ and several other authors on June 29th from 3 – 10pm for her FORGETTING JANE Launch Party on Facebook.  CJ will start us out and I’ll be there at 3:30! It promises to be loads of fun with lots of giveaways!

Author interview: Elena Hartwell

Today I’m hosting author Elena Hartwell.  Having spent years in the theater realm as a playwright, director, and producer, Elena has now turned her talent to writing fiction. Her debut mystery novel, One Dead, Two to Go  was released April 15th.

Let’s get to know Elena.         Elena Hartwell

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

I hold a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, but I was also a high school dropout.

That is a surprise.  It’s my belief that life is not about the destination, but the journey. I imagine you have great stories about the journey to your Ph.D.  That sounds like an intriguing conversation.  Let’s bookmark that for a future interview!

Authors can sometimes struggle to find a balance between work and play. What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Spending time with my horses. I have a 13-year-old Arabian gelding, Chance, who is a rescue from a kill pen. I’ve been working with him for about a year and a half. He’s come through amazing changes – from being a horse that was dangerous to be around, not because he was aggressive, but because his fear level was so high – to being a very connected, sweet horse. My husband and I recently bought a second horse for him to ride. Jasper is an eight-year-old Palomino Paint, who spent most of his life on a working ranch near the Nevada/Utah border. He’s very confident, and smart, so he’s always testing to make sure you’re paying attention. He’s a great match for my husband, who is basically the same way. I love being out at the farm where we board them, and it’s even better now that I can share that experience with my hubby.

 My husband and I have done dog rescue, but that’s nothing compared to horses.  I can only imagine the work involved in getting Chance to trust people. He’s one lucky horse. 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

I have extremely bad eyesight. I’ve worn hard contact lenses for over twenty years. I would be miserable if I had to wear glasses, because they can’t make a prescription strong enough to fix my vision without it being like looking out of a fishbowl. I carry an extra pair of contacts when I travel!

 Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

I usually start from a sense of a character. Someone who I find interesting. I start to think about who they are, what they want, who is in their life, and what isn’t working, what they’d like to change. Then I’ll write an opening scene or at least something I think is near the beginning. Then I often write the end. This gives me a sense of the overall scope of the story. Then I go back and write the middle. I never outline in advance – I’m very organic – though sometimes I outline after I’ve written the first draft. Doing this allows me to see where I might have something missing or in the wrong place. Then I start rewriting for story arc, does the story make sense and are there any scenes missing? I also look at character arc, has each character had a journey and learned something or changed in some way. Then I usually share my work with someone I trust, I have a writing partner I’ve been working with for several years, she reads everything I write. At this point in my career, I’m writing books two and three for the Eddie Shoes Mystery series, so the next thing I will do is send my draft to my development editor and a few beta readers. I take in their feedback, rewrite again, send it back to my development editor. Once we both agree it’s “done” – it goes to the final editor who does line editing/proofreading. She may also give story suggestions if something needs clarity, for example. I take her notes, do the rewriters, and then it’s on to the next book.

 What is your all time favorite book and why?

Probably The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. It was a book I loved early in life and I’ve returned to again and again. I love the mythic structure and the quest, but I also love the characters and the incredible detail of the world he created.

Project research, love it or hate it?

Love, love, love research. So much so, I’ve recently been a guest blogger about research and I’ll be leading a workshop on research for fiction writers with EPIC (writers group) in Edmonds, Washington, in October. I research before I start to write, I research during, and—because I’m writing a series—I continue to research after a book is finished so I get more educated on certain things that continue over the arc of the books. I love all kinds of research. I read non-fiction about a topic, interview experts, and ask for experts to read sections or entire manuscripts. I watch documentaries or films made in a specific time period. I love to site visit – and often plan trips to areas where I’m setting a story or a character is from. I find being “in the world” of a character can be very useful, for specific details and also atmosphere or character quirks. Because speech patterns can be regional, it’s also useful to take in the sound of local dialects.

 Is there a specific author who inspires you?

Sue Grafton has always been an inspiration to me, as she was the first mystery author I followed through a series, starting back in my teens. I am also inspired by Tony Hillerman, for writing a series set out in a rural area and around another culture. I love books like Connelly’s Bosch series, and enjoy reading books set in big cities, but sometimes I want to be engrossed in a landscape that’s different and wild.

 Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

Science fiction/fantasy. I’d love to be the next Anne McCaffrey.

 

Who wouldn’t, what an inspiration she was!   And look, she had a soft spot for horses, too!

 

 

 

 

What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?

I have a personal connection to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, so I’ve loved that movie since it came out. I went to Clairemont High School in San Diego, where Cameron Crowe graduated just a few years earlier. Though much of the film is fictionalized, there were still recognizable instructors and parts to the film. I also have to admit, I enjoyed the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games adaptations. If I can include television, I love the television series of Bosch, Longmire, and Miss Fischer’s Murder Mysteries.

 

I’m familiar with all of these except Miss Fischer. (Hang on, checking Amazon availability–Yes! They have her in all formats including a calendar. Interesting.)

If you could host a literary dinner party with three writers, dead or alive, whom would you invite? 

J.R.R. Tolkein, Dorothy Parker, and Charles Darwin.

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That’s an interesting group, I wonder what conversation would be like at dinner.

What books are currently reading?

Yesterday, on my way to Vegas for the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, I finished Motive by Jonathan Kellerman and started Gray Mountain by John Grisham. I’ve always been a big fan of both writers, though I had a hard time with something that happened to an animal in Motive.

How long did it take you to write your debut book?   

I wrote the draft I submitted to my publisher in a little over a year. Then I rewrote with my editor for the next seven months, so roughly two years.

Tell us a little about ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO.

On the surface, my PI is investigating a murder. But under the surface, ONE DEAD is about a woman finding her way in the world. She’s trying to figure out how the people in her life fit together and what she wants moving forward.

What other projects are you working on?

Books two and three for the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series (TWO DEAD ARE BETTER THAN ONE and THREE DEAD, YOU’RE OUT). I also have two other novels in various states of “finished” that I’d like to pursue as potential future series.

You’re definitely one busy gal, Elena. Thanks for joining me today, congratulations on the release of your debut novel and best of luck with everything.

Check out ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO:

One Dead, Two to GoPrivate Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer? Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along. Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock. Book 1 in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series.

You can find Elena Harwell on her blog:  Elena Hartwell’s Blog