I want to extend a hearty welcome to thriller writer Mary Deal, my guest blogger today! Mary is a native of Walnut Grove in California’s Sacramento River Delta, has lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Kapaa, Hawaii. (I’m insanely jealous). She has published three novels: The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret, an adventure suspense; The Ka, a paranormal Egyptian suspense; and River Bones, a thriller, which was a winner in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. A sequel is being written. Down to the Needle, her next thriller, is due out early 2010. Mary is also a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read More
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MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:
1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
MA: I am pleased to welcome today’s guest, Celia Andriello. Celia is definitely one of the more colorful authors to guest-blog with me. I will let her tell us more about her.
CA: All of my novels are based on my life experiences be it via my roots in parental abuse beyond anyone’s imagination, teaching publically and privately, building creative businesses, trafficking in various products for the benefit of mankind, providing my gift of motivational speeches to various environmental groups and “rights” movements, travel, building the first dream of microcomputers, or just sharing a war with my endearing Viet Nam survivors. Throughout my journey I have been overwhelmed with the inconsistencies of what is said and what is done. My novels are like any fiction; woven into the thread of truth.
MA: That’s quite a resume! Tell us how you began writing.
CA: It all began with “Betty Butterfly.” (Don’t laugh. It’s all true.) It was a second grade assignment that my teacher sliced and diced with her red pen. Fortunately the winds transported the prose into another teacher’s custody and I was immediately proclaimed “a singular creative writer.” I wasn’t sure what it meant, but her smile indicated that it was certainly better than the assassinating red pen.
One must grow-up, sort of, and come face-to-face with what it was that created this “gift for fiction.” There is nothing like two questionable parents to stimulate the best in their children. Therapy was my greatest teacher.
MA: Why novels?
CA: I stick to the novel format to keep from being sued. It’s as simple as that.
MA: Um, okay.
CA: All of my characters have a thread of real character in them. I have known a multitude and revere them through fiction.
MA: What genre do your write?
CA: This has been a devilish question for I really don’t know which to choose. For the sake of my sanity I have often fallen back on general fiction; but it’s more than that. Hear the Calliope: A sentimental Journey on the Earth Ride (circa 1950 – 1986) lays the foundation of betrayal; family and government, for the latter is a parental construct. Within wounds are exposed and delved into in order for the reader to comprehend the distortions in the adult character after the onslaught(s). At the same time humor is woven into the gore in order to repair the damages for the heroes to develop their own personal “more perfect union with the support of a very unique circle of friends. At the same time all previous dogma is discarded; there is no religion, there is no ethnicity, there is only human.
MA: Tell us about your heroine.
CA: Marinda is a young lady who is neither black nor white, nor does she know her ethnic background. Although she was raised Roman Catholic, she has come to understand that the teachings that she tried desperately to embrace as a child never made much sense to her even though she can recite the verse. Even her name is a misnomer. In order to restructure the world to fit her and her companions’ needs she had to be a compilation of the unknown.
Her weakness is her self-doubt created at home through an abusive life style of her parents and supported by her priest. Through her torturous childhood she has come to believe that she is incapable of being loved because she deserves only pain.
On the other hand her strength is her intelligence that takes her through med studies in conjunction with her psychiatric degree. Through her wisdom she is able to re-connect all that meets because she is able to admit that she’s struggling through her traumas as well and can share with them what she’s learned from being the innocent dupe. Likewise her soul mate, Dale, a survivor of friendly fire learns and enhances her methods with his spiritual knowledge.
Within me is housed the stories of the universe for my experiences have fanned out to touch all directions. It is impossible for me to stop writing. I have tried to not avail. I recently finished KILLER: Is Suicide Painless?
MA: Thanks, Celia for that interesting interview. Folks, visit Celia’s blog for more information about her and her writing: http://hubpages.com/hub/HAUDENOSAUNEE-my-faithful-Indian-companion
MA: Today I’m joined by Madness and Murder author, Jen Hilborne. Jen was born in England, and currently lives in Southern California. As a dual citizen, she spends a good deal of time traveling back and forth between the two. Those long rides in coach have given her the perfect opportunity to develop many ideas for her stories. Jen began writing her first novel in 2007, an idea originally stemming from the competitive real estate world, and the industry she’s worked in for many years.
Real estate work must be a cut-throat industry if it has inspired you to write murder mysteries. How did you make the jump between the two?
JH: Once I get started in a story, I can’t seem to stop. I can’t get it all down in a short story or a novella. I blame it on my verbal diarrhea.
MA: So, tell us about Madness and Murder and No Alibi.
JH: Madness and Murder, my first book, is set in San Francisco and features homicide Detective, Mac Jackson, who is on a collision course with a civilian as he hunts a cunning killer. Jackson questions his own ethics when he risks an innocent life to catch his killer.
No Alibi, also set in San Francisco, is a tangled tale of deceit, murder and betrayal.
The two murder mysteries are not linked. My third novel, not yet released, is the second in the Jackson series.
MA: Do you craft your protagonists after real people you know?
JH: I base all my main characters on real life people with notable, interesting personalities, then fictionalize to make them my own. They are tenacious and willing to risk their own lives to stop the bad things in their world. They don’t always know the right way to handle danger and can often get in the way. I root for the underdog in my stories – no one person is better than anyone else and my hero/heroine is a reminder of this.
MA: And the antagonists? Perhaps a fellow traveler who snored too loudly on one of those long transatlantic flights?
JH: The bad guy is always based on a real life person, someone from my past or the past of someone close to me. It’s therapeutic to see them get their comeuppance.
MA: (Chuckling). Well, I hope not to offend you in any way! I take it, then, that with real people inspiring your character development, that you’ve allowed real life experiences to infiltrate your plots?
JH: Absolutely, which makes the stories so much more authentic.
MA: What’s next?
JH: My third mystery novel is complete and I am working on the fourth. For a change, I moved out of San Francisco for my fourth novel and set it in England, my homeland. I plan to write more Jackson stories as many readers asked for his return after reading Madness and Murder.
MA: Will you bring any characters from the first few books back to life in future works?
JH: Other than Jackson, I haven’t decided on which characters to bring back. I listen to feedback from my readers, which helps in the decision, but I also often don’t know what I’ll write until I sit down to do it.
MA: Thanks, Jen! Folks, read more about Jen Hilborne and her books at her websites: http://JFHilborne.com and http://jfhilborne.wordpress.com Read More
MA: My guest today is author J. D. (Dave) Webb. Dave resides in Illinois with his wife (43 years counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. After a company purge he promoted himself to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. But being a full time author, always a dream, became a reality in 2002. Dave has garnered several awards. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. His latest book, Smudge, recently placed fifth in the mystery category of the 2011 Preditors and Editors poll. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with over 900 international members.
That’s an impressive and diverse resume, Dave! Tell us why you chose to write novels.
DW: Actually the novels chose me. I’d always written short stories, but wanted – no needed – to write novels. They are what I love to read and they are what I love to write.
MA: What kind of stories do you write?
DW: I write family friendly mysteries, no excessive violence, gore or profanity. I realize that goes against the current trend. Rex Stout once said (not sure of the exact quote), “Mysteries can contain sex or violence if it is essential to the story. That is perfectly all right. There is none of that in mine. So it must not be essential.”
I have a series featuring laid-back Chicago PI Mike Shepherd. Shepherd’s Pie reflects that Mike loves pie and swears it helps him solve a case. In this one he is hounded by Ferlin Husky Lewis, the serial killer he is trying to capture. In Her Name Is Mommy Mike finds a tot in a busy mall whose mom has been kidnapped from that mall. His promise to her is that he’ll find her mommy. Moon Over Chicago – Amateur sleuth and cobbler Fulton Moon merely tries to help a customer out of an abusive relationship. But his attempts to help never go as planned. Smudge chronicles the adventures of Trish Morgan a paralegal in a small Chicago suburb. She wipes a smudge off her ATM screen one night and it’s blood. Then she hears a moan coming from the alley next to the bank. She shouldn’t go into that alley, but she does.
MA: How do you go about developing your characters?
DW: My characters seem to develop themselves. Often one pops up and I have no idea where he/she comes from. I wrestle with them to stay on plot. They are sometimes headstrong. I develop back story as I go with them and I have to keep notes to make sure I know who they are.
MA: Tell us about how you shape your heroes.
DW: All my protagonists are competent and smart but with weaknesses. I also make my antagonists equally smart and competent. I abhor the uncouth, whiskey-swilling images of PIs. I don’t subscribe to the recurring bad guy. Each book can be a standalone and good always triumphs.
MA: Does your art imitate your life in any way?
DW: Well, let’s see. I’ve never been chased by a serial killer, never had a bald headed giant florist beat me up, never had an abusive husband, so I guess the answer is mostly no. For Her Name Is Mommy I did see a tot alone on a mall bench one busy Christmas shopping trip. I wondered where her parents were and after about four minutes the girl’s mother popped out of a shop and retrieved her child. I was incensed that she’d leave a small child alone in a busy mall for even a few seconds. I decided she needed to be punished – so I put her in my book and had her kidnapped. It was great therapy. I now do it often. Someone ticks me off, they wind up in my book and suffer consequences. My attempt to right the world.
MA: (chuckling) I might want to tick you off in time for a new release of my own. Can’t get too much PR, you know! Any irons in any current fires?
DW: My work in progress is called Gulf Terror. The premise is – what if the gulf oil spill was a suicide bombing by two terrorists? And one of them survives and is loose in Louisiana, planning more destruction?
I have begun the third in the Mike Shepherd series and the second in the Fulton Moon series. I have no plans right now to do a sequel to Smudge, but who knows? My characters have minds of their own it seems. I have another novel almost one third done about a young Pakistani boy orphaned by a tribal chief, taken to Afghanistan and forced to become part of the man’s militia. The young boy’s only goal is to survive to avenge his father’s murder.
MA: What methods do you use to avoid writer’s block or push through it? Do you even get writer’s block?
DW: I can remember a famous author saying there is no such thing as writers block. That is just someone’s excuse for laziness. I don’t remember who it was so I won’t get him/her in trouble. There are times when I get stuck and can’t think where to go next. I don’t consider it writer’s block because I know where I want to go, just not how I want to get there. Sometimes my characters are telling me to go one way and I want to go another. They often win.
MA: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
DW: A writer’s mantra should be – Butt in the chair. The best thing to do is like anything else, practice your craft. Read what you are writing. If it’s mysteries, read mysteries. Read the how to books. Go to writer’s conferences, join a writer’s group, and subscribe to writer’s magazines. I do all these things.
MA: Great advice! I would like my readers to visit Dave Webb’s website for more information about this intriguing author and his works: www.jdwebb.com
MA: Today I am pleased to interview Brian Bianco, author of Dressed for a Kill. Brian began writing in 2000, and he’s presently working on books two and three. He says they are not part of any trilogy, and they not in the same genre. Brian spent 20 years is in the insurance industry, but he’s not visited it again, for which he is grateful! Brian has lived in Vancouver and surrounding communities all his life.
So, Brian, tell us why you made the transition from insurance to writing.
BB: Since the late nineties, I had been itching to do something else with my life, rather than continue on in the insurance field, having worked for some of the biggest brokerage firms in the world. It was no longer gratifying. I’ve always considered myself to be creative by nature, drawing (representation under ‘author’ on my website) being a part of that creativity when I was younger but not so much younger. On my website under the link ‘inspiration’ you will find the true reason behind me deciding that I wanted to write. The story is true even if it sounds a little corny.
MA: Why novels? Why not Insurance for Dummies (chuckling)?
BB: Writing novels was something I thought I could do and be good at it. After writing my first novel, if I thought it wasn’t good enough, the book, along with me would never have seen the light of day. I liked the challenge that writing presented to me personally—to be able to create something out of nothing other than what we as writers can think of and then somehow put it all together. Wow!
MA: What is Dressed for a Kill all about?
BB: My story revolves around a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who aside from working on the biggest story of his life, is also confronted with problems at home. The following is what can be found on the back cover:
To Chicago Trib reporter Miles Fischer, it was just another rape and murder trial, until the two convicted felons are found dead in the muddy parking lot of a rundown bar just days after their surprising acquittal. His curiosity turns to suspicion after searching the archives where he discovers two more cases similar to the one in Tweeksbury. Is it a coincidence? Miles doesn’t think so. In fact, he believes he knows who the killer is after a chance encounter. Miles draws the ire of the FBI and becomes tight-lipped when confronted to disclose what he knows after publishing an article connecting all three. He wants the story and the glory that goes with it, and believes he is the only one who can identify the killer. He sets his sights on Seattle and creates a game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI and an ex-cop turned private investigator, who is after the same thing but for different reasons. What he and the private investigator don’t realize is just how deadly this game is about to become.
MA: That sounds exciting! So did you mold any characters from people you knew in real life, perhaps from your years in the insurance biz?
BB: I actually used some of the characteristics from me personally and transferred them over to the main character, Miles Fischer. I’ve had one person who reviewed the book call him, “a character you love to hate”, which took me aback somewhat, believing Miles is a good guy. I’ve had others who read the book say they loved the character, Miles Fischer, but then again, the book is really not about me. It’s about the fictional character, Miles Fischer. I would say the main character is both of these, ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’.
MA: Hmmm, so a protagonist who may not or may not be so likeable…tell us more about his personality.
BB: His strengths are his beliefs in the truth and finding out what those truths are, no matter what the cost, even though at times he skirts the truth in order to get what he wants. I would also have to say he’s not one to give up, again, no matter what the cost may be to both his family and his own personal safety. He’s opinionated (but aren’t we all?) and it’s those opinions (beliefs) that keep him going while around him, his marriage falls apart. He sees things as black and white, no grey areas, so I would say this trait can be construed as both positive and/or negative.
His weaknesses are he can be drawn to a pretty face (some called him a ‘womanizer’) that can lead him into making the wrong decisions to his own detriment. He can also be sarcastic to a fault when the situation suits him. He hates rules when they tie his hands. He thinks highly of himself, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is, alas, the final chapters in the book which expose his failings with regard to his pursuit of the killer.
MA: Do you also have an antagonist who is as likeable/unlikeable as Miles?
BB: On the question of an antagonist, I would have to say it could be and probably is more than one. Bruno Carboni, the PI, is certainly the main one, since both he and Fischer are after the same thing. Agent Donlon is also an antagonist, since Fischer has no regard for the FBI as he pursues the killer with Donlon on his back. His wife, Erin, could also be considered in the same mode since she is against him in his pursuit of the story, wanting him to give it to someone else so that he can be at home with her while she delivers their first child. The problems going on in the marriage between Miles and Erin were taken from real-life. Mine to be exact.
MA: You told me you are working on two new projects. Tell us about them.
BB: Presently I’m working on two books; both are completely different from my first novel. One is written in the first person, my first attempt at what I think is harder to write. Therein lies the challenge.
MA: Thanks, Brian, for swinging by and chatting about your novel, Dressed for a Kill. To my readers, please stop by Brian’s website for more information: http://www.brianbianco.ca
MA: I’m real excited to have as my guest today, Ronnie Dauber. Ronnie is a published author and freelance writer. Her young adult adventure book, Mudslide, is the first in the Survival Series, and was published in September of 2009. She is currently writing the second book in the series called Fire Storm and hopes to have it published by the summer of 2011. She wrote her first adult suspense/thriller called Web Secrets and it was published in January of 2011, and has a second thriller started that she will finish when her series is completed. As well, she has written and published over 1,000 articles on line for several well-known information sites. Ronnie holds college diplomas in Business Administration and Common Law, and in Children’s and Adults’ literature, and is a certified court reporter.
Tell me about your journey into writing.
RD: I’ve had a passion to write poetry and stories since I was a child. In fact, I earned my first poetry award at age 12 in a regional contest about President Kennedy, and since then I’ve just kept on writing. After raising my seven kids, I returned to college for two years and then enjoyed a legal career as a court reporter for several years until I was forced to retire early to due injuries sustained in a car accident. That’s when I decided it was perhaps time to master my writing skills, so I returned to college and earned diplomas in literature. And it was through these courses that I regained my desire to do what I’ve always wanted to do, and that is to write books.
MA: I can see the passion has been there for a long time! What brought you to writing novels?
RD: I write novels for three reasons. The first is because I believe that people, and especially children, need to learn the value of reading books. It develops their comprehension skills, exercises their brain, encourages their own imagination and allows them to live outside of technology, and so I want to help encourage them to read. The second reason is that I love to live the adventures that I write about. My y/a series does have some of my own experiences as well as those of my children, along with a lot of imagination. I like to write stories that keep the reader glued to the book. The third reason is because I realize that there are a lot of bad-influence books on the market today and that includes young adult books that are loaded with profanity and sexual content and void of morality and respect. I believe that books can be interesting and exciting and can captivate the reader without lowering the moral standards to what teens today feel is the norm. I want them to read books that will hold their interest, that involve things they are familiar with and yet at the same time, will help raise their own standards of life.
MA: Those are all great reasons. Tell us about your most recent novel.
RD: My latest novel is an adult suspense/thriller called Web Secrets. It’s about Madison Richards who is a young woman, insecure and dependent on her husband and friends to carry her through life’s many hurdles. When a personal issue causes her to investigate the circumstances, she begins to lose her family members and friends one at a time and finds herself being slowly drawn into a web of lies and deceit. She’s left with only one friend in cyberspace for moral support and friendship, and then as things seem as though they can’t get any worse, she discovers that she’s the target of a psychopath killer.
MA: Wow! That sounds pretty intense. Where did you come up with the idea for Madison?
RD: I got the idea for the character of Madison from the character qualities of a nurse on the television series, ER. Her actions and reactions and dependency on others made the ideal characteristics for my protagonist, and so I created Madison.
MA: She sounds like an intriguing heroine. Tell us more about her.
RD: My heroine’s most notable strength is her desire to take charge of her life, but fear has always kept her from trying. And it’s this desire in her that gives her the strength and the innocence to do the things she does to get to the bottom of her issues when there is no one to turn to for help. Her weakness is that she too easily falls into the guilt mode instead of accepting that things aren’t always her fault, and this is what has kept her from making positive decisions throughout her life.
MA: And what about the antagonist? I assume you have a pretty sinister one with a plotline like you described.
RD: There is an unknown antagonist that challenges Madison’s life and as things go from bad to worse, she must find out who this antagonist is and why this person is stalking her. Names are not revealed and the reader learns along with Madison as the story unwinds.
MA: I almost hate to find out of you’ve had any real life experiences that influenced your writing!
RD: I would have to say that this entire book comes from my imagination and that I never experienced any of the events that my protagonist experienced. However, my y/a adventure series does include some of my personal experiences.
MA: That’s good to hear! So what are you working on now?
RD: I have published the first book, Mudslide, to my y/a adventure series, and I’m currently finishing the second book to the series called Fire Storm. I have three other books to this series in my head waiting to get onto paper so I’m hoping to have them all finished by next year. As well, I have another adult thriller, Providence, that I’ve written the first four chapters to and that I want to get finished sometime next year.
MA: Will we find Madison or any other characters from Web Secrets in your future writing?
RD: That’s an interesting question and one that several people have asked me. I won’t give away the story, but some people who have read Web Secrets have given me suggestions of how Madison’s character as well as one other character could continue in future books. There is a possibility that they may have other adventures down the road.
MA: Well, we’ll all just have to wait and see! Anything else you’d like to leave my readers with?
RD: I realize that my books share two genres, that being y/a outdoor adventure and adult suspense/thriller. I enjoy writing both and I get totally caught up in writing both, as well. I’ve heard it said that writers find their particular writing niche once they’ve written in a couple of genres. I’m guess I’m not there yet because I have at least three more stories that I’m excited to write to the y/a Survival Series, and with years of movies and library books filtering through my thoughts, I also have several adult suspense stories just waiting to show themselves.
MA: Ronnie, thanks much for appearing on my blog today. I encourage my readers to learn more about Ronnie Dauber and her books. Be sure to visit her website for more details: Ronnie Dauber.
MA: My guest today is Susan Whitfield, a life-long resident of North Carolina and the author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series. She also authored a unique cookbook, Killer Recipes, after inviting many mystery writers across the country to submit recipes in exchange for publicity. She lives in eastern North Carolina with her husband and near her two sons. Susan, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background.
SW: I taught English for 13 years and moved into high school administration once I completed my doctorate. I retired in 2005 after a 30-year career.
MA: I see, so I take it writing has been a part of your life for some time?
SW: I have been writing since I was a child and actually still have a 40-page outline I wrote in high school. I never wrote that book, but thought about it for years. When I finally got serious about writing a novel in 2004, I decided to start fresh.
MA: I dabbled in short stories and poetry in high school. My short stories seemed well-received back then, but my poetry…not so much! Tell us about your novels.
SW: I wrote Genesis Beach about a strong woman whose name is Logan. She’s over 6 feet tall, determined, and doesn’t take any crap. Her first murder case was on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. I have to admit I liked her so much, I started Just North of Luck before I finished Genesis Beach. I set that novel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, because by that time I’d decided that this would be a series of books, all set somewhere in the state I love. Hell Swamp took Logan and me back to where I grew up along Black River. The most recent book, Sin Creek, is set along the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, where I cruised as a teenager. My publisher is L&L Dreamspell, based in Houston, Texas. They are in the process of printing a second edition of Genesis Beach, which was previously self-published. I look forward to seeing the new edition.
MA: You’ve received some excellent reviews, and I thank you for bringing them to the interview. I have them posted at the end of our interview, and I encourage my readers to look over them all. Now, I am burning with curiosity about Logan. Tell us more about how you crafted this woman.
SW: That’s a great question. I physically patterned her after a super tall, rail thin literary agent I’d met. I wanted her to be smart, quirky, determined and have a little baggage she carries around with her. Fans of the series say Logan shows her “human-ness” when she makes mistakes or blurts out occasional profanity. She does manage to solve her own problems though, and I admire that.
MA: You told me that you really imbued in her genuine human traits, strengths and weaknesses. Tell us about them.
SW: Logan is intelligent and determined to be the best investigator on the force. She does make mistakes in judgment occasionally, but as I’ve said, she works everything out and gets the bad guys to boot. She is a loyal friend, tries to be a good daughter to a demanding mother, and has no life outside the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. She basically works 24/7. She has no love life at all in Genesis Beach. Perhaps that’s because she was a victim of date rape in high school. In Genesis Beach, she has sleep terrors and eventually realizes she may have been molested as a toddler. I love the way she deals with this problem near the end of the book.
MA: While Logan is a constant in the series, what about her antagonists? Do you have a returning, pesky nemesis she must contend with?
SW: While Logan remains a tough and more experienced agent throughout the series and some of the Genesis Beach characters move along with her, the cast of villains changes with each book. For example in Just North of Luck, Logan chases a serial killer who is targeting teachers. In Hell Swamp, deer hunters are prime suspects, and Sin Creek takes Logan into the porn industry, quite uncomfortable for her and for me.
MA: Any of your real life in your stories?
SW: Yes, there’s a little real life in each book, but I’ve never been involved in porn. LOL. I’d rather let readers try to figure out what came from my personal experience.
MA: Fair enough. So what’s next?
SW: Currently I’m writing a non-series book entitled The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood. It’s about two middle-aged women with weight, marital, and health problems. I do plan to write more Logan Hunter though. My fans have already chewed me out for trying something else. They love Logan as much as I do. Isn’t that a wonderful compliment?
MA: That’s a fantastic compliment and a great affirmation of your work. Besides Logan, will you carry other Logan Hunter characters over to new stories?
SW: Pepper Ellis, a chef, is in three of the four books. I’ve thought about building a book around her, but Logan won’t leave me alone. I also like Taryn Kosterman, an artist, very much and she’s a colorful character, but not sure I’ll build a book around her either. I’ll probably continue with Logan and have them tag along for support and adventures.
MA: Will you ever write anything other than the mystery genre?
SW: I have plans to write an historical novel about an ancestor of mine, a Knight of the Bath. I’ve already started research but I know it will be a while before I get to it. That will be my biggest challenge yet.
MA: Where can readers learn more about you?
SW: I have a web site at www.susanwhitfieldonline.com and there’s a PayPal account for those who want to purchase books there. I also blog and interview authors and industry experts at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
MA: Susan, thank you for guesting with me today. I encourage my readers to visit Susan’s websites and stick around to read her wonderful book reviews that follow.
Susan Whitfield Book Reviews
~~Just North of Luck–Whitfield’s excellent writing skills transport you into a hellish movie from which you cannot close your eyes, even through the most gruesome and scary scenes. Whitfield’s skill at “expectation and reversal” will leave you saying “OMG!” at the unexpected ending. Excellent read. Bravo Susan. This second book is most definitely a must-read.
~~Hell Swamp– I could just about feel the humidity and almost taste the vinegar-based barbeque. And her usage of colloquialisms (expressions such as “dang nabbit” or “dadgum”, and “yonder”) are scattered perfectly. Logan, the protagonist, is tough and competent, yet feminine, romantic and vulnerable. And the supporting cast of colorful characters literally leaps off the page. One’s body is described as “a corpse of corn”, another has a “navel mouth”, and yet another has “piranha teeth and a nose like a bull’s hairy gonad”. Someone grins ”like a mule eating briars”. Whoa! Is that vivid imagery or what? We’ve got a well-written, suspenseful mystery with a likeable protagonist, vivid imagery, a taste of horror, a little tongue-in-cheek humor and even romance. What’s not to like?
~~Hell Swamp solidifies Whitfield’s status as a true master of mystery. Her prose is tight and engaging, and her suspenseful writing style leaves the reader no choice but to turn page after page in anticipation of the latest unexpected twist. Followers of Susan Whitfield will surely not be disappointed with her latest effort, and it will most certainly be successful in drawing even greater numbers to her ever-growing fan base. An enjoyable, recommended read.
~~Hell Swamp–Peculiarities abound as you meet the suspects. Whitfield has drawn a cast of characters from ‘down by the Black River’ that rings delightfully true, scary and injected with just enough humor to make HELL SWAMP stand out from the pack. Read this book. It’s a good ‘un.
~~Sin Creek-I’ve followed SBI Agent Logan Hunter as she tracked down killers in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp and now in Sin Creek. Author Susan Whitfield has created an amazingly `normal’ character with Hunter. She has feelings and isn’t afraid to cry, she takes on danger and doesn’t mind showing her fears, but when she takes on the world of porn, she shows a caring side that has been glimpsed in all of her stories but with more strength than ever in Sin Creek. Read Sin Creek as a book of murder and suspense but also read it as a book that opens your eyes to the problems our young adults are faced with, where these problems can take them and what the end results can be. It opened my eyes and I believe it will yours too. It has helped to educate me to the underworld of the Internet.
~~Sin Creek follows Logan Hunter’s murder investigation of college student, Maeve Smoltz, through many twists and turns as she sifts through a college town chock full of colorful and morally shallow characters, all with something to hide. This includes the victim herself, not innocent at all.
~~Whitfield offers a strong commentary on some of the dangers of college life. Her character, Logan Hunter, gives a strong telling of the story from the initial meeting with the dead girl’s parents to ending up on “The Fearless Ferry,” a happening spot that would bring shivers to any parent with a kid in college. Lickety-split pace and effective descriptions give the reader the feeling that they are conducting the investigation right along with Logan. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this one is guaranteed not to disappoint. If Mystery’s not your genre, make an exception with Sin Creek. Like the Cyclone at Coney Island, Sin Creek is gripping and intense, yet an enjoyable ride.
~~Sin Creek, new in the Logan Hunter mystery series by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending. Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy. Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.
Prologue, Denouement and Epilogue
First let me quote from the Oxford Dictionary before we discuss usages.
Prologue: 1) A separate introductory part of a play, book or piece of music. 2) An event that leads to another.
Denouement: The final part of a film, play or narration, in which matters are explained or resolved.
Epilogue: A section at the end of a book or play which comments on what has happened.
A Prologue can set up the rest of a story. That is, it can relate a brief occurrence that led to the present action of the story that we then jump into the middle of in Chapter One. Used this way, a prologue becomes a bit of back story, should not take up any more than a few paragraphs, and definitely should not be as long as a full chapter. Too, anything that isn’t foreshadowing for the rest of the story should be cut.
The longer the Prologue, the more it seems the writer is, again, quoting back story when, in reality, back story should be incorporated into the present of the telling. This is done through conversations between characters or brief remembrances of the main character. Providing too much life story in the prologue, keeps the reader bogged down in the past when you really want them immersed in the action of the now that starts with the first word, sentence and paragraph of Chapter One.
Completely opposite of that, the Prologue can also be used to show the outcome of the entire story up front before Chapter One begins. In other words, your story has a problem the main character needs to resolve. The story goes on to show the character resolved those issues and then shows the climax and denouement, which led to the information first presented in the Prologue.
My preference is not to read a book where I know up front that all ends well. I want to feel all the indecision, fright and other emotions that the characters may endure. Then I want the relief of learning how their situation is resolved. If I read up front that their lives went back to normal after something drastic had happened to them, I won’t feel their emotions as I read.
Part of reading is to experience what the characters endure. First reading that everything came out okay seems, in my opinion, to diminish the thrill of suffering with these story people. So what? I ask. I already knew these people would prevail.
The Denouement tells how the characters are affected once the climax of the action is made apparent. If a mystery, the climax happens when the perpetrator is caught or gets his or her comeuppance. You cannot end the story at that point. You must tell how this climactic revelation affected all the other characters. That portion after the climax is the denouement.
The denouement need not be lengthy. It can be a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. It can also be one or more brief chapters.
In my thriller, River Bones, after the perpetrator is caught and people realize just who the serial killer is, many more additional clues are found to cement his guilt. Too, a few subplots needed to be wrapped up that did not really affect catching the perpetrator, but which followed through and fed into the action of the entire story. That wrap-up, my denouement, took two additional brief exciting chapters. But that wasn’t all….
An Epilogue is best used to show how the story resolution affected the characters after a period of time has passed. Yes, it’s enough to catch a perpetrator and everyone return to their normal lives in the denouement. However, in River Bones, I used an Epilogue to not only wrap up the strongest subplot, but to create a situation where it leaves the story open for a sequel.
Another example might be a romance. After the lovers settle their differences and end up together in the denouement, the Epilogue might be used to show that a year later they parted. What caused them to part must be something already written into the story beforehand. The Epilogue is not a place to introduce new information – ever. Whatever happens in the Epilogue is a result of some action already dealt with in the story.
Between prologue, denouement and epilogue, the denouement is the only part necessary to any story. Think hard about using Prologues and Epilogues and have good reason for doing so.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
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/