Tag Archives: discovery

Jun 17

Historical Fiction Writer Ellen Brazer Visits with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by author Ellen Brazer. Before getting published, Ellen did just about everything but write. She was in business. She worked for the State of Israel, and she was involved with the community. She actually did not begin to write seriously until she was in her forties. So tell us, Ellen, with no real writing background, how was it that you came to pen novels?

EB: I was waiting for some medical test results to come back. I was extremely successful in business when I was very young and while waiting for that phone call I asked myself what mountain had I yet to climb. The answer for me was writing a book. I have a dear friend who is a Pulitzer Prize winner. When I wrote my first draft of Hearts of Fire I pressed the Caps Lock key on the computer and wrote the entire first draft in capital letters with almost no punctuation. It was my writing friend who said, there is something here and you must keep going. That first book took me 10 years to write. The manuscript went from under the bed to the closet and then back under the bed again. A doctor friend took it on a ski vacation and he was the one that finally got me to become serious about getting the book published.

MA: I can’t even imagine going more than a full sentence with the Caps Lock Key on! Tell us about what you write.

EB: I write historical fiction. Let me tell you about Clouds Across the Sun. Before the end of WWII, Hitler charged a group of his most trusted and brilliant comrades with a mission—educate your progeny and then elevate them to positions of power throughout the world. Steeped in fact and impeccably researched, Clouds Across the Sun is the story of just one of these children.

From Naples, Florida, New York City, and Washington D.C., to Israel and then the killing grounds of Vilnius, Poland (Lithuania) this story is one of great romance, discovery, redemption, and enlightenment as Jotto Wells unravels the intrigue surrounding a plan to take over the government of the United States.

MA: How did you develop your characters? Was there a great deal of research involved into the lives of people from this era?

EB: I am not sure as writers that we develop our characters. I think they are born to the page and then they develop us. Whenever I have a new character I find myself sitting back and watching their personality emerge. Sometimes I have to rein them in when it feels like they are doing something out of character but most of the time they are in control of me. In Clouds Across the Sun I have more than one protagonist and I was always amazed that they each had their own distinct voice.

MA: More than one protagonist? Tell us about one of them.

EB: I will focus on Jo for this question. She is very independent and self-assured. As the first woman Senator from New York she is intelligent and opinionated. Her greatest weakness is that she falls prey to her family’s influence over her.

MA: Any unique antagonists, other than the obvious?

EB: I think I do bad guys really well and in this book there are some really evil people. When creating an antagonist in the Holocaust time period it is challenging to show all sides of the personality. My antagonist is a Nazi doctor from the Concentration Camps. We see him as a dangerous monster but we also see him as a loving father. The danger is constant when he comes to America after the war with one goal: placing someone under his influence as President of the United States

MA: Do your novels ever fool people into thinking more of the fiction is actual fact?

EB: I write historical fiction that is so based in fact that when people finish my book they tell me that they are chilled and always ask themselves: Could this happen? Is it happening? I talk about IBM, The Red Cross, Hitler and Henry Ford’s close friendship and how the U.S. allowed thousands of known Nazis into the U.S. in exchange for information about our new enemy, Russia.

MA: Interesting…so what’s next?

EB: I am writing an historical novel that takes place in the year 135 of the Common Era. It was a time period when the Jews believed that Shimon Bar Kockba was the Messiah. Following him, they managed to defeat Rome and for a three year period Israel was under the control of the Jews. And So It Was Written is the story of two brothers, one who becomes a famous physician in Rome and the other becomes a commander in the Jewish army. There are some very unique and controversial elements to this book that I am keeping close to the vest so stayed tuned. I am in the process of rewriting and I hope to be finished within the year.

MA: Well thank you, Ellen. I encourage everyone to visit Ellen’s website for more information: http://ellenbrazer.com/Home_Page.html Read More

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Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Sep 24

Dual Pen Named Author Alice Griffiths AKA P.A. Wilson Swings by to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by an author with two pen names, Alice Griffiths and P.A. Wilson (I think for interview purposes I’ll use Alice’s initials to mark your responses). Please tell us about you and what brought you to the writing world.

AG: I’ve been writing for decades but I have been seriously interested in publishing for the last few years. I think the catalyst for the change was National Novel Writing Month. In 2008 I happened upon the site and impulsively decided I could write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It didn’t matter that I’d taken years to write previous manuscripts. I could do this.

When I typed ‘the end’, I had completed 82,500 words and my first full manuscript. I put it away for a month and then started the process of revision and polish. By April, I’d entered it into a contest and by June, I had created an indie e-publishing company with a partner. Off Track was published December 23, 2009 and I had graduated from writer to author.

I write in two genres with a pen name for each. I write romances under the name Alice Griffiths, and gritty mystery thrillers under the name P.A. Wilson. At first, I thought the lines would be clear between the two genres, but that’s not what happened. My romances have elements of violence and my mysteries have elements of romance.

Now, I work as a project consultant and managing editor, and author, my days are full but never boring.

MA: Tell us more about your background before becoming a writer.

AG: In the professional world I am a project management consultant. I worked in the corporate world for more than thirty years before I decided to go it on my own. I have to say that I have less time to write now than I did before, but more energy when I do write.

I’ve been working on projects for more than ten years and I have to say it’s taught me more about writing than anything else in my past. I get to meet so many different people that I can use to fill out my characters. I use project management methodology to get started on writing a book. I figure out what I’m going to write, investigate what I’ll need to learn to write the first draft, and then I plan out the different scenes. Writing for me is building the story up in layers.

MA: I’ve met many authors who use a methodical approach such as this. One thriller writer I met is an engineer by degree, and takes a disciplined design approach to crafting his stories. Why fiction?

AG: I have tried to write short stories and poetry but I don’t seem to have the talent for that. I guess I’d say novels chose me, rather than the other way around. I like having some room to build in secondary plots and more detailed richness. In shorts you have to keep it clean and precise and I don’t have that skill. I admire people who do, because when I’m in the middle of the third revision pass and wondering if I’m contradicting something that happened 60 pages ago, it would be nice to have a short story to handle.

MA: Tell us about what you write…I’m struck by the fact you write in what would seem like two very different genres.

AG: I haven’t yet found a genre I can stick with. I guess my constant is that there’s a romance somewhere in the story and that lots of people die.

I’ve written a fantasy romance, Off Track by Alice Griffiths, and that was my first National Novel Writing Month book. It’s the story of a lawyer on the track to partnership who finds herself pulled into a magical world as the result of a prophecy. Along with her easy going assistant, Madeline has to accept that she needs to fulfill the prophecy and figure out what it is exactly she’s supposed to do. While that’s happening, she meets and falls in love with a knight who really wants to be something other than a knight.

My serial killer novel, Closing the Circle by P.A. Wilson, is currently under review with my business partner in PaperBoxBooks.com. In this story Felicity Armstrong is the focus of a brutal serial killer who has taken her religion, Wicca, and twisted it in to something evil. The killer stalks and kills her friends, leaving their bodies in prominent sites around San Francisco as Felicity works with FBI special agent Sam Barton to identify and stop the murders.

I’m working on two other books, and planning out my NaNoWriMo book for this November. One book is a thriller set in Vancouver BC with gangs, human trafficking and teen hookers. The other a YA science fiction story with three heroes who raise a rebellion to save the humans.

Then my NaNo book will be an Urban Fantasy with a wizard, Sidhe, and Raven. That’s about as far as I am in planning.

MA: Well, sounds like you are keeping very busy with all those projects! I’m almost afraid to ask how you approach character development since you have such a varied writing style.

AG: I develop characters though a process of discovery. For Madeline, I sketched her out physically and gave her a flaw – she finds it difficult to trust people – and then I started to write some back story for her. I wasn’t happy with the lack of depth when I was done and I turned to something that romance writers use all the time. I read her Tarot. It sounds flakey (or at least it did to me at first) but by doing the Tarot reading I was able to push aside my own personal preferences and dig into Madeline’s psyche. I had to interpret the cards based on what I knew about her.

It turns out that Madeline doesn’t trust easily because when she gives her word it’s for life. She has difficulty making commitments as well because she wants to know she’ll stick with any commitment. Interestingly, this brought forth a habit that I could use. Madeline is a dabbler in learning; she takes courses, does well but gets bored and leaves. This means when she’s in the magical world, she has a bit of grounding in a lot of skills she’ll need. She learned how to ride horses, but still needs the knight to help her get better, and she has taken some martial arts, etc.

Madeline is highly competent and learns quickly; this allows her to integrate quickly – and saves me and the reader from having to wade through her learning curve. She’s also accepting of differences so she doesn’t judge people on first glance.

Unfortunately, despite her external image, she’s not confident in her own skills and talents. She focuses on the fact that she is a lawyer and doesn’t have any understanding that the prophecy brought her to the magical land for something else.

MA: Who did you throw into the story to stand in Madeline’s way? Who’s the antagonist?

AG: Madeline faces two antagonists. Throughout the story she is facing her own demons and is convinced she won’t be able to fulfill the task she was brought there to complete. She is used to being in control and finds it almost impossible to go with the flow and trust that it will all work out – as everyone keeps telling her.

The final antagonist she faces at the end is the enemy who must be killed. He is a marauding creature who is going to destroy the people Madeline is aligned with in fulfillment of an ancient feud. Madeline hopes her task isn’t killing the villain, but worries that it is.

MA: Considering how prolific – and disciplined – you seem to be with your writing, what are your future plans? Any sequels?

AG: I would like to be able to produce two books a year – I am certain I can do a first draft in a month other then November but I haven’t yet been able to prove it.

I also want to write a series, or a trilogy. I am fascinated by the idea of such a sweeping story and I want to explore the process.

The book set in Vancouver BC has always been a series concept. I need to finish this first story and then I already have a germ of an idea for the next one. I think the trick is going to be planting the seeds of the second book into the first, a great new challenge.

MA: Is there any particular challenge for you in writing?

AG: I find writing the romance difficult. The saving grace for me up to now is that the romance has been the secondary plot – important but can be dealt with in revision. I tend to write the story and clumsily insert the romance in the first draft and then thread it back into the story during the first revision pass.

And, my writing group will tell you I am not good with description. I have settings all worked out but I have difficulty putting it on the page. I have learned to insert some setting in as I go along and then each revision pass has a note – add description.

MA: Thanks, Alice, er, P.A.  Folks, please visit Alice Griffiths at: http://www.alicegriffiths.ca/, and visit P.A. Wilson at: http://www.pawilson.ca/

Read More

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Feb 05

Award-Winning Mystery Writer Stacy Juba Joins Mike Angley Today

I am pleased to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Stacy Juba. Stacy is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. She is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New England Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New England Chapter’s Sword of Hope Media Award. Her young adult novel Face-Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was 18 years old. Read More

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