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)

Looking for a great beach read?

Today, I interview Lauren, the popular authority on what makes a great beach read or in her words–a sexy little romance.

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I don’t know how much weight readers put into book reviews when it comes to choosing the next great read. For me, I look at a book jacket first—an eye-catching cover, an intriguing blurb and finally, a first-page-hook that will prompt me into giving it a whirl. I do consider reviews when I’m on the fence. But I’m also one of those people who believe that if the opinions are fifty-fifty, it still may be worth my time. After all, opinions are subjective.

For authors, reviews can be a bit more important. They can make or break them—if not in sales, in confidence. A smart writer will learn to read them, extract useful feedback, and then put those opinions behind them. Well, maybe not the shiny 5-star ones with the gushing compliments. Those are for framing—if not on a wall, then in the author’s mind.

As much as we writers crave an honest opinion, the sad truth is, not many readers will take the time to rank a book, let alone pen a review. So, we turn to those who are only too happy to provide such services. We lay our necks on the chopping block and let a stranger decide if it will be thumbs-up or down. giphy (4)I ran across just such a reviewer when I was looking for feedback on my first book. She gives an honest opinion on the work of well-known authors and newbies alike. Her name is Lauren and her award-winning blog is Romance Novels for the Beach. She is known for her razor-sharp honesty, comedic wit, and seemingly superhuman book consumption. Lauren devours books like a restaurant critic tending her last meal, savoring each morsel and then summarizing it with glaring candor.

She is my hero. (I’m a slow reader and even slower reviewer.)

 

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Lauren, every time she finishes a book!

Let’s get to know Lauren. 

Generally speaking, how far into a book do you get before you know if you’re going to like it or not?

I would say I have a pretty good feel for a book within the first 10% or so. I’m all about first impressions! By that time, we’ve usually been introduced to most of the main players, and are somewhat familiar with the writing style of the author. I’m not a huge fan of slow builds in novels or waiting until the very last minute for things to come together. Gotta get me hooked from the get go!

What is your read and review process? Do you take notes as you go, or read and then write your impressions when done?  Tell us, please!

 I feel like if I took notes as I went along I’d have a book of my own by the time I was done! It would also probably feel more like work, or a book report. I always wait until I’ve finished the book before I pull out my blogging notebook, and jot down some general first impressions. That way I can actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the reading process. I find it can take me a while before I actually have the time to sit down and format my reviews at the computer, so taking notes right when I finish is a good way to capture all of my initial thoughts. I also limit myself to only taking up one page in my blogging notebook for notes on any one particular book. Again, I have the tendency to ramble, so I’ve got to limit myself somehow!

On any given day, how many books do you have in your TBR pile? 

Oh, my goodness. The infamous TBR pile. As of right now, I have about 210 books waiting for me on my Kindle which I could start immediately. However, I have a pretty nasty 14257494_1584329135203632_498635534368553472_ohabit when it comes to series. If I read the first book in a series, and absolutely love it, I’ll immediately go online and get all of the other books in the series right away. So, technically if you add in all the sequels and prequels which I’ve purchased for books I haven’t even read yet, that TBR list jumps to about 700. I know, I know, I have a problem.

You clearly spell out your submission policy on your blog. However, I’m betting some people choose to ignore that page or simply believe that you’ll love their book no matter what. Reading is subjective and not everyone is going to love the same thing. Receiving a bad review comes with being a writer and most of us put on our big girl/boy pants and deal. Have you ever had an author unleash on you because of the review you gave their book?

Yes, I have, and it was one of the worst experiences ever. My review policy is actually a fairly recent addition to my blog, and it’s solely because of the negative reaction one author had to my review of her work. It seems she took a lot of the problems I had with the protagonist as a direct attack against herself. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for authors to put themselves out there, and ask others to review their work, but they must keep in mind that we reviewers are just stating our opinion. If you don’t like what we have to say, just move on and eat some ice cream, or maybe keep some of our critiques in mind for future work. After that one nightmarish experience, I reached out to a few authors I’ve worked with previously, and asked them what they would have liked me to do as a reviewer if I didn’t like their work. They said that as an author they have to realize that negative reviews are part of the business, and that as a reviewer I shouldn’t sugar coat whether or not I liked a book. Each author I contacted also suggested I create a review policy, which clearly states what kinds of books I enjoy, and that at the end of the day I’m going to give my honest opinion, whether it be good or bad. Since then, I haven’t had any other author outbursts!

Good or bad, your reviews are succinct, informative, and funny as hell, which tells me you enjoy doing it. Has there ever been a time when you thought about quitting your blog?

Believe it or not, I once considered shutting down my blog, and it ties back to the previous question. I’ll never forget what it was like to be sitting at work one day, and suddenly get a bunch of dings on my phone indicating that people were commenting on one of my reviews, only to see that they were writing some of the most hurtful things about me that don’t really need repeating here. It was like I couldn’t breathe. I’ve never had so much hatred directed at me for simply sharing my opinion, and it went on for several days. I thought to myself, this blog was supposed to be for fun. I didn’t sign up for people to attack my intelligence, and tell me to get a real job. I’m all for debating different opinions when it comes to books, but at that point they weren’t even talking about the book anymore. They were just calling me names. Funnily enough, when I went to block all of these commenters and I found out they were all coming from the same IP address as the author, I felt a little better that it was just one person out there who had a problem with me instead of 50. The support of friends and authors really helped me move on. So, I’m still blogging, but it’s hard to explain how much that one experience has altered my entire blogging experience. I used to jump at my phone in excitement whenever I found out someone new commented on one of my reviews, but now there’s always a moment of hesitation and anxiety. I’m hoping that after just a bit more time I’ll experience that exciting rush again, but for now I just have to keep on reading!

Your blog is all about the romance genre with some cross over into suspense, paranormal, and such. Will there come a time when you’re interested in reading and reviewing other genres? Will there ever be a Horror in the House blog or Post-apocalyptic Trip blog?

Never horror!! Sorry, I just can’t do scary. giphy (6)I’m sure at some point I’ll review a couple of books from other genres that don’t feature romance, but for now I’m sticking close to my sexy romance roots.

Describe your ideal novel, the perfect blend to satisfy your reading needs.

Oh my, this is a tough one! I guess, for me an ideal novel is one that seems real. Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional romance that features billionaires and rock stars, but I’ve found that my favorite novels are the ones where the story feels like it could happen to someone you know. A little drama mixed in is always welcome, but I prefer when it’s an issue that requires our couple to come together to overcome those obstacles. Misunderstandings about former significant others aren’t exactly my thing. And, as always, a sexy roll in the sheets before the halfway point is always welcome.

I noticed that you post many Ryan Gosling photos. Be honest, do you have a fangirl crush?giphy (5)Um, who doesn’t?! There’s just something about that smirk he does that makes me go weak in the knees! Although, I must say I’m starting to feature another crush of mine more prominently, and that would be Mr. Henry Cavill. Mmm, it’s like he’s staring into your soul!

What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?

Does TV count? Because I must say the Starz adaptation of Outlander is on point! I mean, the actors who play Claire and Black Jack Randall are just phenomenal. I think Sam Heughan, the actor who plays Jamie, still has some room to grow with his portrayal of the hunky Highlander, but damn if that man doesn’t look amazing in a kilt.

I totally agree with you on Outlander!    giphy (2)Fans of Romance for the Beach already know you like reading and reviewing for fun, but what else do you do in your free time?

I’d like to think that happy hour counts as an extracurricular activity, but for those of you who think that’s a cop out I also play the piano. Mainly classical, but in December it is all Christmas Carols. I took lessons for about 10 years when I was younger, and I must say it can be very relaxing to sit and play for an hour or two. Pachelbel’s Canon in D is my jam!

It’s not surprising that Pachelbel’s Canon in D is a fave, consider it’s a major player in many weddings and you love romance!

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

Some people are all about their phones, but I think I would go through legitimate withdrawals if I didn’t have my Kindle. It’s my window into other worlds, and thoughts of other people. Which sounds slightly stalkerish now that I think about it, but you know what I mean! Books can take you anywhere, and introduce you to a multitude of lovable and quirky characters. I take my Kindle with me everywhere.

I get it. It took me ages to give up paper books and embrace a Kindle. Now, I can’t live without mine.

Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of yourself with us, Lauren.  Best of luck on the TBR pile!  

 

I highly recommend Lauren’s blog romance4thebeach     It is sheer entertainment!  

Here is Lauren’s review of my debut novel, STILL LIFE from back in October 2015.   Enjoy!                      Lauren’s review of STILL LIFE

Additionally, here are a few of my favorite non-review posts from Lauren’s blog:

Romance Isn’t Regular

That Looks Familiar     (Until I read this, I had no idea!)

In Memoriam: My Notebook

 

 

Forward Motion is Everything

Well, it’s done. My publisher has officially closed their doors. In the ever-changing world of book selling, Samhain and its owner, Crissy Brashear, went out with dignity—doing their best by their authors and employees under difficult circumstances.

But where does this leave me, you ask? With the announcement last year of a slowdown and eventual closure, I’ve had time to prepare. I’ve already begun to re-release STILL LIFE–book 1 in the Randi Lassiter series as an ebook on retail sites with print to follow. Final line edits were recently completed on THE DARK SIDE (book 2) and I’m prepping it now for launch. The hang up is, without a publisher, it’s all on me. And boy, this Indie publishing thing is a heck of a lot of work!

Fans will also be happy to know that I’m also working on the first book in a new suspense series featuring special agent, Becca Howell, with the department of justice (from Still Life) and outlining book 3 in the Randi Lassiter Series. See, forward motion is everything.

For your entertainment, here are the cover and blurb for THE DARK SIDE.

  Enjoy!

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Coming Soon!

 

With the woman who tried to murder her finally behind bars, Randi Lassiter is wondering how much longer she must suffer the effects of the post-traumatic stress disorder that have plagued her for nearly a year. Just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, settle into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again.

What Randi needs now is a P. I. case to focus on. When the only distraction available comes waltzing into her office, Randi embraces the opportunity like the lone life preserver on the Titanic. Too bad the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, who is looking for his missing new wife.

Randi’s decision to help the man she has sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. When he worries that she has lost her last marble, Randi begins to keep secrets from him. The kind of secrets that could break a relationship.

When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex-man. As she attempts the impossible by proving him innocent, Jon is doing his best to find him guilty.

Pitted against one another, the couple’s love is tested. Can their relationship survive as a conspiracy of secrets place them in danger?

Click to read an excerpt

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

 

 

Seeing Red

 

Today I’m hosting Noah JD Chinn of Mossfoot Editing on my blog. He’s graciously agreed to put his red pen aside, or should I say, his track changes and comment bubbles, so that we can learn more about him.

Noah has worked with a variety of writers including New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best selling authors. As both an editor and multi-published author, Noah knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the keyboard and I know first hand what that kind of experience can bring to a project. Noah edited my debut novel, STILL LIFE.

For the benefit of those who haven’t worked with an editor before, let me briefly explain what such a professional does when it comes to bringing your raw project to a shiny, ready for publication, finish. An editor ensures your manuscript follows a logical course to the best ending possible, making it stronger. Then they refine and polish it. He or she will do this while maintaining the writer’s voice and goals. An editor will find balance between the writer’s vision and the publisher’s expectations, all while meeting the needs of the reader. Good editors are sticklers and have an eye for detail. In fact, Noah is probably doing some mental editing on this blog even as he reads it.

Editors are writers, too. In addition to some world-class editing, Noah has also published several genre-blended books and short stories, that include a cartoon series, satire, science fiction & fantasy, paranormal suspense, horror, and his latest, a mystery set in 1985—each one sprinkled with his unique sense of humor.

Let’s get to know a bit more about Noah.                             Noah photo

Describe what would be the perfect manuscript to edit.

One that was good enough to win a Pulitzer yet needed hardly any work from me?

Kidding aside, my favorite authors are those who have a solid grasp of the mechanics of writing, because it means less nitpicking on my end. But more importantly, I enjoy working with those who understand and enjoy the nature of storytelling. Sometimes I’ll end up jamming with authors over email about how arcs might develop, or how to breathe life into a villain so they’re not a cardboard cutout, how to play with certain tropes so they don’t come off as cliche. If it’s a good story and I’m having fun working with it, that’s about as perfect as it can get.

What are the qualities of a good, marketable manuscript?

For a single book it boils down to two things: characters and world. You don’t just want to be invested in the characters, you want to live where they do for a time. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town or a space station across the galaxy, it needs to feel real enough that you imagine yourself hanging out there with the characters.

For a series you want a sense of something bigger going on as well, to keep you coming back. Not just a matter of having loose threads to tie up, but mysteries you want to uncover, or larger plans you want to see build and coalesce. The trick is introducing or drawing out these things in a way that isn’t ham-fisted.

What are the worst (or common, you choose) mistakes a writer can make with a manuscript?

The most common mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, they’re common for a reason. Heck, I came up with a list and still add to it from time to time. And sometimes they’re the hardest ones for a writer to notice because they’ve become blind to it.

Overusing visual tricks is one thing, like italics for emphasis, scare quotes, ellipses. Also, short two-word and one-sentence “bam” type paragraphs. These are things we add for visual and tonal style, and are fine as long as they’re not overused.

Over description, whether it be someone’s appearance or using too much stage direction to describe every move someone makes. For example: He strode across the room, turned the door knob, opened the door, left, closed the door behind him, and walked away. (Yes, I have seen sentences almost exactly like that)

Overuse of dialog tags (Bob groaned, grumbled, growled, etc) when “said” will do just fine. If Bob is saying it in a surly fashion, it should come out through the words rather than being told how he said it.

You’ll notice the term “over” pops up again and again, which is perhaps the real lesson to take away from this. Too much of anything will get noticed.

What was the oddest editing experience you’ve ever had?

The true oddities I’ve thankfully been shielded from. Some of the slush submissions our team had to sift through had some doozies, and they would share them from time to time–everything from creepy-as-hell story pitches (creepy as in “this person should be in jail”) to overconfident submissions where the author clearly assumes they’re a best-seller just waiting to be discovered by someone and they are blessing you with the divine opportunity to be that person… those are especially hilarious when they can’t spell. But I’ve never had to deal with those submissions myself, I just get to hear the laughs (and wails) from the editors that do.

Any words of advice to a writer who’s not sure if they should invest in professional editing?

Even my most polished writers still benefit from having a couple of passes from a copy editor (and a line editor to clean up). Writers become blind to their own failings–lord knows I am–and while using friends as beta readers can help, they’re not going to pay the same attention to detail that a proper editor will.

That’s true. Plus, I learned that friends are apt to dance around the hard truth that a writer may need to hear.

Let’s get personal. Tell us three things about you that we don’t already know.

What do you know? Who have you been talking to? What have they told you? Did they send you?

Ha, wouldn’t you like to know.

Let’s choose some really random stuff that you won’t find on my website or blog:

1) I got fired from being a security guard for throwing toonies on the ground trying to pop the center out.

2) In Japan I taught English to the director of the horror movie “The Grudge” at a Starbucks.

3) I still have a drawing my brother drew of me writing a story that he did over 20 years ago. The original is long lost, but I had taken a picture of it and printed off a copy that’s on my office wall.

Three truly fun facts!   But what’s a toonie?

toonie

photo: Royal Canadian Mint

A yes, sorry, forgot you’re not Canadian 😉  Toonie is a 2 dollar coin, which has a silver outer ring and a goldish inner center. When they first came out people complained that the center could pop out if they were dropped hard enough.

 

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

The refrigerator. No fridge means no ice cream. No ice cream means no life. Well, not one worth living anyway.

My hubby would agree.  Are there any unique challenges for an author who also edits professionally?

Finding time for your own writing.

And how do you balance that precious time between your editing job and your personal writer’s journey?

That’s a struggle I’m still dealing with. Working from home requires self-discipline, and I am not exactly a storehouse of that. If something has to be sacrificed on any given day, it’s almost always my own work in favor of editing. I’m hoping to get more focused as time goes on, but it’s not easy. There’s always a new distraction waiting somewhere. Facebook, video games, binge watching TV shows… by the time I figure it out I’ll probably have a VR headset and then I’ll be down the rabbit hole all over again.

Social media is addictive and fun, but it’s a time suck to be sure.

What do you enjoy most when you do manage some free time?

In a word: escape. Exactly what kind of escape can vary.

I live to have real life adventures now and then, bike riding long distance (got eight countries under my belt), hiking up mountains, or just travel in general.

I also like games. My favorite being Elite: Dangerous, because in it I can be a starship captain. There is no plot other than what you impose on it – be a trader, be a pirate, be a bounty hunter, be an explorer. Whatever you want. That freedom lets me create my own adventures in my head.

Writing is another kind of escape, and I sometimes do that in conjunction with my other escapes. I’ve written about my adventures, either as blogs or stories, and I’ve written about games like Elite Dangerous by taking my in-game adventures and fictionalizing it for fun. Yes, this editor writes fanfic.

I also play roleplaying games (of the paper and pencil variety), which kind of combines all of the above, and in a social setting with friends.

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 have a vague idea of the shape of a story, but I’m not the sort to plot everything out ahead of time. I want to be surprised as well as I go along, and I usually am. More than once I’ve had stories end up far different than I originally thought starting out, sometimes because of how the characters develop changes where things go.

So basically, come up with a situation, come up with a character, see how character deals with situation.

What is your formula for finding the perfect plot twist? 

God I hope there isn’t one. Sorry, it’s just that “formula” to me feels like you’re looking for a magic bullet. And once you think you have that, it’s going to be a crutch rather than an aid.

J.J. Abrams talked about his success in screenplays and TV by introducing “the mystery box.”  It’s an effective way of hooking an audience, but getting them to ask questions and a desire to have them answered.

Then remember that this is the same guy who gave us Lost. Lots of great mysteries, but lots of disappontment when it came to giving us answers in the end. If you’re going to give us a mystery box, there better damn well be something good in it.

Anyway, sometimes a twist comes naturally, when you get to a part in a story, look back, and realize there’s something else going on the whole time. I had that experience with Trooper #4, where the role of the protagonist suddenly became clear to me about halfway into my first draft, and changed where the story was going.

If you’re writing with a twist in mind, then you need to make sure you cover your tracks, but still play fair. It’s never fun when a twist comes out and there were no clues beforehand. Clever readers might predict it, sure, but more often than not they predict several possible twists to cover their bases anyway.

If you could thrive solely either as an editor or novelist, which one you choose and why?

Oh, that’s hard. It’s always been my dream to make a living just as an author, but being an editor has one thing that my writing doesn’t – collaboration.  Working with a dozen different authors to make their stories better is very statisfying. Working on my own is just kinda lonely by comparison. But I’m also in control and exploring my stories and worlds, which is hella fun.

I might have to flip a coin on this one.

What is your favorite book of all time? (feel free to say mine, it’s okay :-D)

As much as I’d like to say that, it’s probably The Lord of the Rings. I don’t often re-read novels, but that and Stephen King’s On Writing are the only books I’ve ever re-read more than five times each. I don’t think any story has felt more “real” to me than LOTR.

Tell us a little bit about your recent release.

One of my favorite mysteries is The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett.  The relationship and banter between Nick and Nora Charles was just perfect. Hell, I envied their relationship. So when I decided to write mysteries I wanted to try and capture some of that with James and Lettice Cote. First in Getting Rid of Gary and now in The Plutus Paradox.

As for the setting, in many ways the 1980s was the end of an era for mysteries. Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote… those kind of mysteries can’t really fly in the internet/cellphone age. And especially not post 9/11. Part of what appealed to the first readers of Sherlock Holmes was that it harkened back to Gaslight London in a time when electricity was taking over. There was a nostalgia for a time that was still in memory, yet gone forever.

I think of the 1980s in a similar fashion, and wanted to use these stories to tap into it.

What other projects are you working on? 

A fanfic story that I hope won’t stay fanfic. The developers of Elite: Dangerous had licenced some official fiction back when it was first released, and I’m hoping they’ll allow more licences to be released in the near future. That would be awesome.

I also have an adventure story called Relics I’m getting ready to submit. It’s basically a modern day Indiana Jones, except with a team of treasure hunters instead of just one. Unlike the James and Lettice mysteries, I’m fully embracing the idea of how technology is changing the adventure story, trying to use everything at our disposal in a logical manner.

Nice, both sound like ambitious projects and I wish you the best of luck!    Thank you, Noah, for spending time here today and being so candid. It’s been a pleasure. 

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 Here’s the scoop on Noah’s latest book:

PlutusParadox-lgThe Plutus Paradox is the second James and Lettice Cote mystery. Set in Vancouver in 1985, it revolves around the sudden kidnapping of Lettice’s father, Harold–a man she thought had been dead for fifteen years. And as If that wasn’t strange enough, the couple are left to care for the missing man’s six year old daughter, Lettice’s sister, also named Lettice.

In a case that spans Vancouver’s preparations for Expo 86 to the reclusive leftover hippie communes of the Sunshine Coast, James and Lettice are on a race against the clock to find out why Harold disappeared fifteen years ago, and who has him now. They soon discover that Harold is a man full of contradictions, but also learn that not everything about his past is what it seems to be.

Amazon               Mundania Press                 Read An Excerpt