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
Tag Archives: writing novels
MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.
Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.
My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.
Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.
JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.
MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?
JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.
MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?
JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.
Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.
MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?
JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.
MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?
JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.
MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.
JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.
MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?
JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!
MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?
JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.
MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?
JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?
MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?
JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.
MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).
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 Steven Jay Griffel. Steven was born in the Bronx, 1952. He tells me he, “met a beautiful blue-eyed art student in my junior year at Queens College (BA, Creative Writing, 1973) and married her in 1976. We’re still holding hands.” Steven studied American Literature at Fordham University, and he and his wife have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Julia, grown and on their own. He spent his professional life in publishing, and he still works as a publishing consultant, though most of his time is now spent writing novels and talking about them. Steven is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer and especially enjoys leading book club discussions about his novel, Forty Years Later.
You told me you thought writing was a part of your DNA. How did you describe that, again?
SJG: I’m a born storyteller: sired by a father who never met a fact he couldn’t spin into fancy, and by a mother whose bitchin’ neuroses could make a grudge match of any relationship. From my father I learned there is no division between truth and fancy, just a wonderful gray area where imagination and ego could thrive. From my mother I inherited a genius for nursing regrets and grudges, so I’m never at a loss for reasons to rant.
I was raised on the colorful streets of the Bronx, where home plate was a manhole cover; where there was a pizzeria and deli on every other block; where there were always enough kids for a ball game; where it was okay to be Jewish, so long as you didn’t piss off those who weren’t.
MA: Well, that’s a colorful life! How did you decide to write novels? Was it always something you longed to do?
SJG: I wasn’t cut out to be a scientist or movie star or athlete. But I always had lots to say—and a talent for saying it well. In college I considered a career in journalism—until I learned I’d have to stick to the facts. I like facts, but I much prefer the novelist’s god-like sense of entitlement. As a novelist I decide the facts. I decide who rises, who falls. If I need a perfect line I create it, rather than relying on interviews and research for my gold. Thus I prefer fiction, where the music and meaning of words have primacy over facts. . . . I just remembered a pair of wonderfully relevant quotes:
“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” –Matthew Arnold
“Literature is news that stays news.” –Ezra Pound
I like to think that my writing is meant for the long haul.
MA: Well said! So tell us about Forty Years Later.
SJG: A middle-aged man (smart, handsome, happy, successful) has a single, gnawing regret: a lost opportunity to make history. He has kept the regret alive for forty years, continually picking at the scab of its memory. A coincidence (Fate, if you believe in such things) reunites this man with a former teen sweetheart who is very much a part of his regret. The man is married with children, the woman is famously and formerly gay, and their reunion results in the kind of sparks that presage trouble. It is a tale of music, movies, murder—and madness too. It is also a story of love and redemption—except for those who are probably going to Hell.
MA: Oh my! So had did you develop your protagonist’s character? Sounds like there may be a little of you in him…
SJG: Until recently, I too had a gnawing, life-long regret. Like a cancer that does not metastasize, it was annoying but not life-threatening. A complicated coincidence reconnected me with someone I hadn’t seen in forty years: a successful screenwriter who is best known for writing about the subject that framed my regret: Woodstock. We met and hit it off—big time. Of course, I was happily married with children and wouldn’t think of getting involved with another woman—but I have a protagonist; an alter-ego; a doppelganger, I suppose, and this fellow (named David Grossman) has been known to explore roads I dare not travel myself.
MA: So, what are David’s strengths and weaknesses?
SJG: Like many people, the novel’s protagonist is a miracle of contradictions. He is clear-seeing despite his blind spots; confident when not suffering from crises of self-esteem. He is a man who misplaces loyalties and manufactures jealousies. He loves and is loved but sometimes loses his way. All of which is to say, he’s flawed enough to get himself into a royal pickle—and brave enough to see his way out.
MA: What about an antagonist … is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
SJG: There is a brilliant, formerly famous lesbian screenwriter with a blind lover and hip-hop son, who becomes a vengeful alcoholic with a particular fondness for dangerously sharp objects. Unique enough?
MA: (Smiling) Okay, so did any of your real-life experiences factor into the plot at all?
SJG: I also nurtured a life-long regret tied to someone I had not seen in forty years. We were reunited. Sparks flew. . . . Note: The real-life tale is private and tame and not worth the telling in this space. However, the novel it inspired is rip-roarin’. But it is not a story for the faint of heart or for those of unbending scruples. It is tale signifying: One is never too old to change; Beware what you wish for; There is no greater grace than tried and true love.
MA: Excellent! So what’s next for you?
SJG: I am working on a new novel called The Ex-Convert. It is, loosely speaking, a sequel to Forty Years Later. Though I am now in the enviable position of having a publisher waiting for my next book, I have no guarantee of publication. My publisher believes I hit a home run with Forty Years Later and demands I hit another one with The Ex-Convert. Batter up!
MA: An enviable position to be in…so will any characters from Forty Years Later migrate over?
SJG: David Grossman is the protagonist in each of my novels, and I haven’t sworn off him yet. Having said that, he is not quite the same character in each book. His voice and sensibility are pretty consistent, but his circumstances vary: he has a wife or not; he has a family or not; he lives in New York, or not, etc. Expect to see him again in the Ex-Convert.
MA: How do readers get a copy of your book?
SJG: Forty Years Later is available as an e-book on Amazon.com. The download is incredibly fast and easy. And no special reading device is required. Most people enjoy Forty Years Later on their computer, PC or Mac. But with each passing day more and more people are using e-readers (like the Kindle) or tablets (like the iPad) or screen phones like the Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. In fact, one of my first readers sent me the following text message from his iPhone: “Reading Forty Years later at 40,000 feet—and loving it!” I also encourage readers to friend me on Facebook and share their thoughts. It’s a digital dawn!
MA: Well, thanks, Steven. Folks, please visit these websites for more information about Forty Years Later and Steven Jay Griffel!
MA: My guest today, Narrelle M. Harris, is a multi-talented person. She’s a Melbourne-based writer with four novels, one play and several short stories under her belt to date. Her latest book is The Opposite of Life, a vampire novel set in Melbourne. She is about to launch a new iPhone app, Melbourne Literary, a guide to books, writing and literature in Melbourne, which was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008. Narrelle lives in the city centre of Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Tim Richards, and their apartment-bound cat Petra.
Welcome, Narrelle. Please tell us how your involvement with writing began.
NH: I think I’ve been writing pretty much ever since I knew how to make the letters. I even recall one of my brothers and I getting a tape recorder and telling a story about the life of a little germ, which we made up as we went along. I don’t remember much about that one, except that at one stage the germ was having a great time tumbling out of a carton of milk and swimming around in a bowl of cereal. He was a fairly harmless germ, as I recall. Anyway, I always loved assignments where I had to make up stories, and I wrote them to entertain myself in exercise books as well. Eventually I discovered science fiction TV shows and fandom, where stories you wrote could be published in fanzines and people would write in with feedback. That was fantastic, a great training ground on developing technique. Eventually I got too restless writing with other people’s characters, so introduced a lot of new ones of my own, and that morphed into writing my original fiction.
MA: It sounds then, like writing novels was not a difficult transition for you.
NH: Novels came about as a natural extension from the short stories I’d been working on – I was enjoying world building and I liked my characters and wanted to do more with them, so over time the plot ideas and themes I had grew more complex and needed more time to explore.
MA: Tell us what you’ve written so far.
NH: I’ve been a bit all over the shop, really. My first book was a crime thriller called Fly By Night. It had two novellas in it with the same characters, Frank and Milo, musicians and a gay couple. That was published by Homosapien Press in 2004. (The two novellas are now available separately on Kindle). Then I wrote the two fantasies, Witch Honour and Witch Faith. Like Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, they are fantasy with a touch of an SF back-story. They were published in the US by Five Star. Then I was inspired to write a book about how being a vampire isn’t as sexy as its reputation would suggest, and wrote The Opposite of Life, about a girl who has suffered a lot and a short, chubby, geeky vampire called Gary. That was with Pulp Fiction Press, and there’s a sequel in the works.
My latest project, though, is a non-fiction iPhone app, Melbourne Literary, which is a guide to literary Melbourne. I’ve done other non-fiction – I had an essay on what’s called The CSI Effect in a true crime collection called Outside the Law #3, about whether watching too much forensic TV affects juries. I’ve also been working on some short stories lately, mainly in the comic-horror genre. One, about a girl whose brother gets turned into a zombie and she’s trying to fix him before Mum finds out, will be published later this year in Best New Zombie Tales Volume 2.
Comic horror seems to have become a bit of a thing since The Opposite of Life, which has a lot of humour in it, as well as an exploration of what makes life worth living even though it can hurt beyond bearing sometimes.
MA: With so many projects, how do you go about developing your characters?
NH: Characters in my earlier books were often inspired by people I knew, or at least amalgamations of people I knew. The Opposite of Life was different, in that Gary the Vampire came up as a response to being tired of seeing all the thin, glamorous vampires in all the films. I just wanted to write about an ordinary guy who was really uncool and didn’t get any cooler just because he was undead. Lissa, the female protagonist, arose out of the kind of story I was telling. I wanted her to be young, a bit funky but also a someone outside groups because her experiences of loss and grief had left her not quite fitting in anywhere completely. She’s a librarian mainly because I thought someone who had lived her life would find great comfort in the escapism of literature, and that she would love the idea taht she could maintain order in some part of her life, at least. She’s one of the few librarians who really loves cataloguing and shelving. She loves imposing order in a tiny corner of her chaotic world.
MA: Are your characters as superhuman as they sound?
NH: I try to make all my characters very textured and human, so they have different kinds of flaws. Frank, for example, gets impatient and can be bad tempered while Milo has a tendency to just sail through life and be a bit thoughtless. He’s not intentionally mean, but he just doesn’t think sometimes.
Gary’s flaws – well, he’s a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. He’s a nice enough guy, really, but he just doesn’t always know what’s appropriate in conversation. He didn’t have those social skills when he was alive, so he can’t blame being a vampire for that. But as the story develops he learns to be more thoughtful. He’s a very straightforward guy too – I don’t think he knows how to lie. It’s one of the things that Lissa likes about him – she might not always like what he has to say, but she knows he’s honest with her. Lissa is courageous and loyal, but also stubborn and a bit impetuous. It gets her into terrible trouble. She has to confront one of her worst flaws by the end of the book – she’s a bit self obsessed and everything she goes through forces her to come up out of the grief and anger she’s been lost in. Both of them, really, have to learn how to engage more with life.
MA: Any recurring nemeses?
NH: The Opposite of Life is written in the style of a crime novel, so the ‘bad guy’ is the person or persons who have been killing people around Melbourne. It’s obviously the work of a vampire, and the vampire community isn’t pleased by that – they try to live under the radar these days. But while there’s an actual bad guy doing bad things, I guess the real bad guy is thematic, the idea that you can avoid life’s pain by withdrawing from it, refusing to engage, and the kind of person that decision makes you become.
MA: I assume you’ve not had any real experiences with vampires (wink), but did your life inspire your writing in any way?
NH: My books are full of real life things, from characters being inspired by friends, to things I’ve read in the news becoming part of the plot. I put a lot of landscapes in. The Opposite of Life is full of places I love (and sometimes loathe) in Melbourne. The Witch books contain landscapes that I travelled through or lived in when I spent three years abroad. I lived in Egypt for two years, and in Poland for one (my husband and I were teaching English as a foreign language) and so much of what I saw and did there has been incorporated into the stories.
MA: Given your prolific writing career so far, I take it you aren’t finished yet, right?
NH: I’m working on some short stories at the moment, as I’ve been invited to submit some to a potential anthology project. I want to write three books about Gary and Lissa as well, so after the current sequel I have to start work on the third. I have ideas for a third Witch novel and some more Frank and Milo stories too. I also have an idea for a rather more complex crime type novel. I’m also planning to create a few more iPhone apps once Melbourne Literary is out there. I have note books full of ideas too, so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to do for a while.
MA: Very interesting and varied. Anything else you’d like to add?
NH: One of the things I’ve been doing, to entertain myself as much as anything, is using Gary and Lissa outside of their books. They are huge fun to write, and their (most definitely not sexual) friendship comes out so well in their conversations. Gary actually collects vampire films and books, and Lissa as a librarian has a lot of comments to make on fiction generally. This meant that when I see vampire stuff now (or sometimes just interesting things, like art exhibitions) I get a triple viewpoint. There’s what I think of it, but also what I think Gary and Lissa would think of it. I started writing up their observations and now I have a semi regular part of my blog called the GaryView, where the two of them discuss pop culture from their rather unique point of view. Gary mainly complains about how most vampire fiction is nothing like the reality of being a vampire. Surprisingly, a certain amount of their back story gets revealed this way, and sometimes these funny little reviews get unexpectedly poignant. They’re a popular part of my blog, but really, I do it because it’s fun and because it’s a really useful writing exercise.
Gary and Lissa also have Twitter accounts, for the same reason that it’s an interesting writing exercise. They occasionally have tweet-chats with other people. That’s fun because I don’t know what people are going to ask, so again it’s a good exercise to consider how Gary and Lissa might respond to issues that I might not have previously considered. It was through doing the tweets that I realized that Lissa never goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of her loved ones. That’s the place where she had to say goodbye to them, and it gives her no comfort. Instead, I realized that she would go and do the things that she used to do with them while they were alive. She might go to a particular cafe to spend a moment thinking about her Nanna, or to a library where her eldest sister used to find books for them to read.
MA: Thanks, Narrelle! Please visit Narrelle’s website: http://www.narrellemharris.com
and Blog: http://narrellemharris.wordpress.com
I started writing as something to do in retirement. But as friends and family said I should try to get them published, I became serious about writing. Did my professional career inspire my writing? Absolutely. My novel, Silk Legacy, is set in early twentieth century Paterson, NJ in the height of the silk era which Paterson was famous for. My grandfather started a silk business in 1904. It is very, very loosely based on vignettes about his early years in the silk business. And of course my years in the textile business helped me as I knew about weaving and selling textiles. If you go to my website www.silklegacy.com and click on the silk legacy tab you will see all the great reviews it has received. Silk Legacy was the book published just before Beyond Guilty, my latest book. Read More
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
I’d like to welcome my guest-blogger, Larry Brooks, to the Child Finder Trilogy blog. Larry is a novelist, screenwriter and writing instructor. He has published six critically-acclaimed thrillers, one of which was a USA Today bestseller and another named to Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2004″ list after a starred review. In addition to leading writing workshops, he runs an instructional writing website, www.storyfix.com. Read More
I’d like to welcome Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D as my guest-blogger today. She tells me she hasn’t decided yet what (or who) she wants to be when she grows up! In her current incarnation, she is Coordinator of Jewish Hospice for Samaritan Hospice in Marlton, NJ, near Philadelphia. She was one of the first six women ordained as a rabbi in the US, back in 1976. Interested in nature and conservation, she is a member of the New Jersey Audubon Society and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and, as an avid reader, is on the board of the Friends of the Evesham Library. Read More