Interview with Velya Jancz-Urban, author of “Acquiescence”

AcquiescenceWhat is your book about?

When Pamina Campbell learns of a murder committed over two hundred years ago in her Connecticut farmhouse in order to avenge an unforgivable crime, she accepts that she has no idea how the universe works, except that it requires acquiescence at every point. Two plot threads twine in Acquiescence, as one woman calls to another across three centuries. One story, featuring Susannah Mathews, takes place in the late 1700s, while Pamina’s story is set in modern day. Pamina learns that disaster – the sort of disaster that leaves you numb on a park bench or aching for your husband to come back to you – can be a freaky thing of beauty. As Pamina and her family try to piece their lives back together in their 1770 home, little do they know that secrecy, homophobia, and a ghastly confession await.

Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?

The message in Acquiescence is that even though a person may have no desire to re-live a challenging or difficult time in their life, the obstacle can play a role in shaping who you become. If you allow adversity to become an opportunity for growth, you may become a different person.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

While I don’t have any particular type of snack or drink at my side as I write, I did have a food-incentive-as-reward for when I received my first Offer of Representation for Acquiescence. Although I don’t eat them (because years ago I gave up corn syrup, GMOs, and wheat), I’m crazy about Vienna Fingers cookies. A year ago, when I started sending out query letters, I decided to buy a package of Vienna Fingers and keep them on top of an exposed hand-hewn beam in our kitchen. I promised myself that on the day I got my offer, I would welcome “corn syrup coma” and gobble down the entire twenty-four pack, along with a cold glass of raw milk. The enticing red and yellow package stared down at me every time I walked under the beam. With every rejection letter, the rounded-end finger-shaped cookies taunted me. I could almost hear them sneer, “Ha! Ha! We’re safe up here. You’re never gonna eat us!” And then, came my Offer of Representation from Second Wind Publishing. As I triumphantly dunked each crème-filled vanilla cookie, every “unfortunately, this manuscript does not fit our needs at this time” rejection drowned in the glass of milk.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

The best advice I would give an aspiring author is a quote by literary agent, Dan Lazar: “The best rule of thumb is always to start the story where the story starts.” This was one of the stumbling blocks in my first drafts. Where does the story start? Until you, the author, have that straight in your mind, the story’s flow won’t be right. Also, although it’s difficult, being able to summarize your book in one sentence clarifies its goal.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

If I could have lunch with one person, it would probably be Alva Vanderbilt. Ever since my first trip to Newport, Rhode Island as a little kid, I have been fascinated by the Gilded Age. I was never envious of Alva’s life, just intrigued by her drive. I love the fact that she went from a seen-better-days Southern belle, to an unconventional multi-millionaire American socialite, and then became a major figure in the women’s suffrage movement. For our twentieth-fifth wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a set of her “Votes for Women” china.

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

Character is the heart of story. Readers relate to stories through character. Plot frames the conflict and action. Why would we want to pick one over the other when we can – and should – have both?

What is a talent you have that no one knows?

–           As a hands-on science teacher, I can identify any bone that comes out of a regurgitated owl pellet.
–           Although I’m an atheist, I can recite the books of the Bible – Old and New Testament – in order.
–           From hours of quizzing my pre-teen son, I still know all 100 answers to the 4-H Poultry Showmanship questions.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Every family has a moment that changes everything. Things happen – things you can’t even imagine – and in a minute the world is changed. Readers will relate to my characters because, just as in real life, they’ll like some and despise others. In my novel, Acquiescence, the Campbell family finds the courage to overcome adversity, realize that love never dies, and accept that there are bigger forces out there that know no limit. They learn that it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with what happens to you, and that the best revenge is living a happy life.

What famous literary character is most like you?

Although I look like Liza Minnelli, I think my personality is similar to Ma Joad’s in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I’ve never decapitated a chicken, but, like ‘Ma,’ I’m the backbone of my family.

When we first meet Ma Joad, she is a strong woman. When we see her in the very last chapter, she is a strong woman. Her strength only grows throughout the course of the novel. In fact, her initial strength transforms into a different kind of strength – one that it is dead set on survival – the survival of her family. As her family meets obstacle after obstacle, Ma Joad keeps it together. She is the strongest supporter of family and togetherness. Ma expresses this best when she directs Rosasharn to breast-feed the starving man at the novel’s conclusion. Both Ma Joad and I know that even the most horrible circumstances can be surmounted with grace and dignity.

Did you do any research for the book?

Moving into a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse ignited my interest in the colonial era. Behind the walls of our house, surprises and secrets waited to be exposed, and this became the spark for my novel, Acquiescence. While researching my novel, I became obsessed (in a good way) with colonial women. I wanted to find out what life was really like for them – the stuff we’ve always been curious about. How did they deal with menstruation at a time when women didn’t wear underwear? How about sex and birth control, childbirth, sickness and medicine? I put together an entertainingly- informative presentation called Colonial Goodwife: The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife ( to help promote my novel, as well as to let today’s women see that although we have a long way to go, it’s amazing how far we’ve come.

3 words that describe your writing style

Breezy, honest, unpretentious

What’s next for you?

I have a hands-on science children’s fiction series under contract. As a hands-on science teacher, ( I know that the new importance placed on standardized testing doesn’t leave enough time in a school day for hands-on activities. Standardized tests don’t encourage a love of learning. A kid is more than a test score. I offer inquiry-based, hands-on/minds-on science activities like Dissecting Owl Pellets, Making Chicken Mummies, Grossology, Shampoo Analysis Lab and Gotta Brain/ Getta Helmet!. Not every child can participate in one of my classes, but soon they will be able to take part through my book/science kits with the summer 2015 launch of One Lucky Mealworm! and Whooo Eats What?

I’m also cooking up a follow-up to Pamina’s story titled Woman on the Rock.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?

Working title: The Woman on the Rock

For forty years, Chuck Ehrismann stared at a black and white photo of an unknown stunning woman – the only clue was ‘1949 Keansberg, New Jersey’ penciled on the back, but Chuck suspected she was family and held the key to his own identity.

Where can we learn more about you and your book?

Acquiescence is available from Second Wind Publishing:!product/prd15/3391685311/acquiescence



Author Bio

Velya Jancz-UrbanVelya Jancz-Urban, and her Acquiescence protagonist Pamina Campbell, have a lot in common. Both are teachers and hoodwinked Brazilian dairy farm owners, and both share a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse with a spirit woman. Velya has been married for 32 years, and is the mother of two grown children. She has a few too many rescue dogs and cats, is happiest with a fresh stack of library books, loves thrift shops, and is passionate about alternative medicine. Velya is the creator/owner of How Cool Is That?!” (Hands-On Science) (, as well as the East Coast Facilitator for Earth Adventure’s Earth Balloon. She teaches throughout NY/NJ/CT/MA. Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife is a result of the research completed for this novel.

Interview With Author Donovan Galway, Author of “Uriel’s Gift”

Uriel's GiftWhat is Uriel’s Gift about?

Environmental terrorism, the self-destructive insanity of the human race, multi-national corruption and greed, murder, and a young terminally ill girl with enough love in her heart to risk everything to help a dying fairy.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

The cover art. I did an image of a dying fairy and my wife and I spent a few hours on a beach in Spain talking about what might have killed her, if she was the last of her kind and whether or not we’d even know if the fairies were gone. We have driven many other species to extinction, some with severe environmental consequence. What would be the penalty for this one and are we next? She has been a strong influence in most of my story lines and character development, but this was the first truly joint effort she and I completed and the diversity of the characters and complexity of the story reflects the pair of creative minds merging.

Do you always design your own covers?

Yes. My first publisher had one of his artists try it and I showed them what I wanted. I’ve been doing them ever since. I’ve done a few for other authors.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

This story has so many strong characters, the mysterious stranger with the rapier wit, the hard-nosed detective with the dark past, the cruel mother and the devoted father who was creative to a fault. But I think my favorite has to be Karen Gabriel. She started out as a cold and fiercely driven loner but evolved into a passionate, adventurous heroine, retaining the intelligence, drive and incorruptible spirit of the original character and adding to it with concern for the environment and for people she didn’t even know, for passion and love of companionship, and a willingness to embrace the worst of her past and use it to grow. Her journey leaves me wondering what she’ll do next.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Terrence the hunter. He is by his own admission superior to humans but learns to envy them for their simple complexity. Ageless and timeless, he knows everything and shares with Mike the origins of the universe and our place in it. He changes from villain to hero to comic relief and back during the course of the story, keeping the reader wondering if they’re supposed to fear him, respect him, cheer for him or hate him. The one consistent feeling is that they like him start to finish.

At what age did you discover writing?

25. I was in school studying journalism and found myself writing papers for upper classmen. I wound up writing different things. News articles and commentaries, advertisements, short stories, poems and prose. I changed my major to literature and was soon inspired with the foundation for my first novel.

Does writing come easy for you?

God no. It’s often agonizing. But I can’t imagine NOT writing. Even the brief period between works is painful and the writing soon starts again whether I like it or not. That it’s hard is not the issue. A manager I knew once told me “Any job’s hard if you apply yourself.”

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Cheez-its. Almost impossible to find in Northern Ireland but they got me through studies, all-nighters and creative marathons.

What was the first story you remember writing?

“The Sentence” Terrible rushed, poorly structured psychological thriller with two-dimensional characters. I would have given up if it hadn’t been plagiarized and re-released. If they thought it was worth stealing, I must have done something right.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

When I finished my first, albeit unpublishable book, my mother asked me why everyone in the book was me. “How long can someone walk around with clenched fists and clenched teeth?” By learning to how to create diverse, credible characters, I learned how they could turn the story, add depth, surprise me. Take a group of people and place them in an exceptional situation. The greatness in the few quickly separates them from the masses and you have your heroes.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

2⅔. I’ve got a murder mystery based on actual events that has to come out soon. I’ve got a period romance set in the pioneer days of early America, and a re-working of one of my original pieces that never received proper distribution efforts despite being a great story. I love the characters in this one and need to get it out there.

What do you like to read?

Techno-thrillers featuring eco-warriors.

What writer influenced you the most? Benchley. The master of suspense, he rivaled Hitchcock in his ability to show me the world through the eyes of the hunter and the prey.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself? The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He said what I think every time someone tells me what I should believe.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

Eva Longoria as Karen Gabriel, the powerful, beautiful, intelligent executive heroine who takes on the Mega-giant corporation.
Aaron Eckhart as Terrence, the mysterious, persuasive, sarcastic stranger searching for the last fairy.
Ben Affleck as intuitive and courageous private investigator Mike DeLago.
Jason Bateman as Will Billings, inventor, store owner and devoted father of Feryl Billings
Lana Parrilla as Pamela Billings-Trudeau, self-centered estranged mother of Feryl Billings.
Carl Urban as Dr. Everett Trudeau, tolerant step-father to Feryl Billings.
Daniel von Bargen as CEO Victor Albean.
John Leguizamo as reporter David Mercado
Ashley Greene as Uriel, the last fairy.

I wanted Elle Fanning to play Feryl but she went and grew up on me. Dang. Naturally, writing is for the story rather than film aspirations, but like so many others, I draw from real people, either in my life or in films to flesh out characters. It helps to be able to hear their voice or see the subtle expressions to know if you’re being consistent.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be? Without question.

Muhammed Ali.

Donovan GalwayIs there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

Everything I write, published or otherwise, belongs to my wife. None of it would exist without her so I legally give her everything I have, regardless of its worth.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Second Wind Publishing website!donovan-galway/c1ap8 and the usual places. Amazon, Google, or by liking me on Facebook.

Interview with Josh Truxton, Author of “Alex, Peanut Butter, and Me”

downloadWhat is your book about?

The underlying theme of Alex, Peanut Butter, and Me is that sometimes the most insignificant act inflict the gravest wound. Recently divorced, Phil Hayes, marries the woman of his dreams, but a year later he stands at her grave with the intellectually challenged son from her first marriage, 20-year old Alex Patterson. Phil struggles to overcome the maze separating them.

Against the advice of his grown children and of his parents, he opts not to place him in a group home and walk away. The peanut butter loving Alex consistently clashes with Phil. He balks at having his mother buried, at having Phil for a guardian, and at other women who might enter Phil’s life.

Phil must discover the underlying hurt dividing them and find a way to close the wound.

What inspired you to write this story?

Many years ago, I met and fell in love with a woman who had a 15-year old son with intellectual challenges. I knew nothing about what he faced or the problems that she had overcome. I had never interacted with any inhabitants of their world. I learned to do so. I became involved with group homes and Special Olympics, and in the process came to admire the folks who make them viable and to understand the people who are unable to face up to that world. After writing six suspense novels I decided it was time to try a family saga. With two knowledgeable guides, it seemed a natural.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters?

To be honest, I’m really not sure. Part of me is certainly in the main character, Phil. Especially the part about how ignorant he is, at first, about the world of the intellectually challenged. When I married, my wife told me that she didn’t want to change her son’s last name, feeling that he should have some tie to his father, who was unable to face up to the fact that he had fathered a less than perfect son. She also felt that a name change might be confusing for him to handle. Over the years, I have come to regret not having adopted him, and have struggled with how to explain our relationship to strangers. The word ‘stepson’ quickly became intolerable. My character, Phil struggles with this. The struggle comes right from my soul. In this novel it is the dagger that tears them apart. On the other hand, the character of Alex bears almost no resemblance to our son, except that both are involved with Special Olympics. He and I have never had to face the problems of my fictional characters.

Who are the most unusual characters in the novel?

For me, the most unusual character is the ghost of Phil’s dead grandmother with whom the journalist carries on telepathic communication. She is usually one step ahead of him and manages to keep him in line as in the chapter where Phil is expecting female company and he and Alex have a run-in. Just as Phil is reaching for his bottle of Johnnie Walker, she stops him, she asks what the woman will think if she arrives to find him “stewed, sloshed, crapulous?” Phil responds, “Crapulous, Grandma? To which she answers, “Yes, crapulous: it’s a perfectly good word. You’re supposed to be a writer. Look it up! I got it from Noah Webster. He’s up here too.” I had a fabulous time writing their encounters. Some readers may enjoy Phil’s quarrelsome relationship with his disapproving parents or his on again off again friendship with his outwardly crusty editor.

Why will the readers relate to the characters?

The situations that arise in this novel are not fanciful. They are the same earthly problems that most of us have had to deal with in the past. Few of us can say that we’ve been immune to the upside-down housing market, the ruptured economy, car trouble; unemployment, relationships that go sour, divorce, even dating problems. And I believe that many have someone in their family, who right now, is faced with the same kinds of challenges as Alex Patterson. And yet, taken in its totality, the novel is not depressing. The characters face their situations and find solutions. I believe it is uplifting

At what age did you discover writing?

While I tried my hand at a detective story at about age 17, I believe I was about 66 or 67 when I first began outlining the story that would become Path to a Pardon. (I do not always utilize an outline but with no formal training, it was the only way I knew how to begin.) In July 1998, when I was 68-years old it was copyrighted.

What was the first story you wrote?

A lot of novelists start out as short story writers. I didn’t know that when I first began to outline my story. I had heard something on the Evening News that interested me. I couldn’t let it go. The idea intrigued me so much that I began to construct a story based on that bit of fact and the age old author’s question, “What if.” 87,000 words later the novel was finished.

When were you first published?

In 2009 The Dan River Press published my short story, The Fence, in their Anthology. Later in 2011, I electronically published two novels, Path to a Pardon about a diamond heist gone wrong and The Eindhoven Strategy, an espionage/ suspense story, with both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. A year later, with the same two venues, I published Palm Beach Style, a story of kidnapping and an armored car robbery in Palm Beach.

How many stories are currently swirling around your head?

I hope there aren’t too many because at the moment I am revising the third volume of a fictional trilogy, Adventures of Silent Sam, set against the background of the Revolutionary war that is intended for Young Adults and New Adults. At the same time I am seeking representation from Literary Agents for my novel, The Unvarnished Truth, a family saga about a family hiding from the FBI due to the father’s role in the slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr. And while all this is transpiring, I am creating another family saga, Where There is a Will . . . There’s a Relative. Not to mention, Keeping my Blog and my website posted in order to assist in the marketing of Alex, Peanut Butter, and Me.

Do you keep pen and notebook by my bedside?

The quick answer is, no. To do so would require that I turn on a light and risk waking my wife who is a light sleeper. I have however, been known to slip out of bed and tiptoe to my office on the other side of the house where with door closed I can turn on lights and write down ideas that might otherwise vanish with the dawn. I have also been known to keep a tape recorder by my pillow so I can escape to the bathroom and record my thoughts. I sometimes carry this device with me as I walk my dog.

Where can people learn more about you and Alex, Peanut Butter and Me?

To find Alex, Peanut Butter and Me, I suggest that readers go to my author page at Second Wind Publishing:!joshua-truxton/cizf

Readers can also learn about me as well as my books by going to my website:

To get my slant on the writing life readers may enjoy checking out my blog at:

Interview With Robert Romaniello, Author of “Marble Mountain Memoirs”

Marble Mountain MemoirsWhat is your book about?

Marble Mountain Memoirs is about the question of mastering yourself. This holds true whether for individuals or countries.

The book takes place in Vietnam during the War, which ironically, the Vietnamese call “The American War”.

Although it takes place at war, it is not a war novel. The Frontispiece is a quote from The Dammapada, the most revered of one of Buddhism’s sacred texts. It says: “Although you may conquer a thousand, thousand men on the battlefield, indeed he is the Nobelist Victor who conquers himself.

So here are some of America’s finest young men drafted into a war a half a world away, and the country has turned its back on them. The war is abandoned by the government, its people and the Revolution is in full bloom ant home. But there they sit, ion a rear echelon junk yard, rebelling against the powers that be, in every way they could.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The idea germinated for 35 years, from the Vietnam War until my diagnosis of Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma due to exposure to Agent Orange in 1969 and 1970. The novel, although ostensibly a work of fiction, draws on actual circumstances in the life of a very young and very scared kid, who is soon to be a man.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

It is always said, that you should write about what you know from first-hand experience (although there are notable, classical examples of where this is not the case). The book was written in a five-year span of angst and remorse over the protagonist’s involvement in what he grew to believe was immoral.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I planned for a three-year writing, which due to extensive research, became a five-year labor of Love.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

My research brought me together with men whom I will always regard as brothers, some 40 years later. I traveled across the country, in some cases to perform interviews with those men. I traveled to the National Archives, in College Park Maryland, and spend many hours speaking to those who knew the Marble Mountain area of Danang, Vietnam duringthe War.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I would like this book to be a catalyst to revisit the history of a war that America would love to forget. I would love it if just one person could read the book with the Frontispiece in mind, and from the perspective of a young man trying to come to terms with who he is, while witnessing the truth of the depths of depravity.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Self Control is more than blowing up at an argument. It is examining the truth to who we really are as a species, and how we can learn the truth of compassion.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

Having received a devastating diagnosis of Stage IV blood cancer made me realize the important things in life.

The realization that I might die as a result of my participation in the Vietnam War, and that I might be getting my just desserts is what changed my world view, and of whether we humans are really civilized.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Most young boys want to be firemen or policemen when they grow up. I was less athletic than some of the other boys, and as an introvert, I always wanted to write. I remember writing comedy skits after watching the Steve Allen show, and sharing my compositions about the Moon with other classes in my elementary school.

I failed Typing Class, and am still a very bad typist (I can type 20 wrong words per minute).

Where can we learn more about your book?

You can learn more about Marble Mountain Memoirs, as well as other books in the works by joining me on Facebook, at the Second Wind Publishing website, or at

Interview with Jane Doe, Hero of “Mercy’s Sunset” by Lindsay Luterman

Mercy's SunsetWhat do you want?

I want to make the right decision. I know I have to pick a life, but it’s hard. I have been three very different people. Now, I have to decide which life has been the most important to me.

What do you need?

I feel like I need more time, or someone to tell me that I am making the right decision.

What do you want to be?

I want to be done with this whole process. I want to continue on into the afterlife and be sure that I made the right choice. I don’t know what comes next, but I want to be a soul that has found peace.

What do you believe?

I believe in love… that’s for sure. I fell head over heals in each one of my lives. I understand that life is too short to take love for granted. I believe in the love of two lovers, and I believe in the love of every other person who is important in your life.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of choosing one life. How will I know if it is the right one?

What do you regret?

I regret a lot of the crap I pulled in my three lives. Watching them again, I understand how human I really was.

What, if anything, haunts you?

Love haunts me, as it haunts us all. But truthfully, I think I haunt myself.

Where can we learn more about you?

From Second Wind Publishing:!lindsey-luterman/cwpl

Interview With Frankie Bow, Author of “The Musubi Murder”

musubimurderfrontsansserifLike the fictional professor Molly Barda, author Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, a loving family, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining. In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally. The Musubi Murder is her first novel.

What is your book about?

The Musubi Murder is a lighthearted murder mystery that affectionately portrays small-town life and big academic egos in rural Hawaii. It’s also the very first campus crime novel set in Hawaii.

The protagonist is professor Molly Barda, a reluctant sleuth who is very much a fish out of water. She’s a big city girl recently transplanted to remote Mahina State University, using her top-ten literature Ph.D. to teach resume-writing to business majors. She just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble until she gets tenure, so naturally she ends up getting dragged into the middle of a grisly murder case.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Molly is supposed to be a complete invention, a character so comically obsessive and neurotic that she couldn’t possible exist in real life. So of course everyone thinks she’s me.

As a new author, what surprised you about the publishing industry?

The industry is very weird. Publishers are desperately trying to guess what readers want to buy. Agents are desperately trying to keep up with what publishers think readers will buy. The twenty year old intern whose job it is to sort through the agent’s slush pile is desperately trying to figure out what the agent thinks the publisher thinks that readers will buy.

Add to that the fact that everyone in that decision chain has read so many books that they have formed preferences and prejudices very different from those of the typical reader. For example, the average reader probably doesn’t mind if the book opens with the main character waking up, or a description of weather, but those things are a death sentence for your book as far as an agent is concerned.

I should say that I am very happy with my publisher, Five Star. Although they’re part of a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate (Cengage), they are very helpful and easy to work with.

What writers influenced you the most?

My influences–I should say role models– are P.G. Wodehouse, Sarah Caudwell, E.F. Benson, and Dorothy Parker.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

Any of Sarah Caudwell’s four Hilary Tamar books. I’ll go with Thus Was Adonis Murdered. Just about every sentence makes me incandesce with envy.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Number one: If you’re in this to be wealthy or universally beloved, you’re in the wrong business. Writing takes a lot of time and effort and humility, and there will always be people who won’t like your work. Number two: Read every day, and make sure you’re reading good writing.

What’s the best part about writing?

Finishing the first draft of a book is an amazing sensation. It wears off quickly when you realize all of the editing that’s ahead, but it still feels great while it lasts.

What was the worst writing experience you’ve had?

I was writing a character inspired by a good friend, and showed him the book. This friend had lived near me for a few months, and during that brief time he went through several broken-down used cars. He’d buy a car for something like $500 and drive it until it stopped working and buy another one. Well, I thought that was funny, so I put that in the book. He was so offended that he stopped reading at chapter three! He wasn’t a hypersensitive guy, but I think he felt that I was disparaging his auto mechanic credentials.

Do you think that people who don’t work or go to school at a university will relate to a campus crime novel?

The university is an organization, a workplace, so I think that much of what goes on is universal. You don’t have to be an academic to have worked with someone like Bill Vogel, the bottom-line-obsessed dean, who never turns away a tuition-paying “customer.” (Not even when the “customer” cheats on a test. Or turns in a plagiarized assignment. Or brandishes a machete in class.)

author-photo-squareWhere can people find The Musubi Murder?

The audiobook is out now, on
The hardcover is coming out August 5. You can buy it on
Follow me on Twitter:
or visit my website

Interview With J. Conrad Guest, Author of “A World Without Music”

A World Without MusicWhat is your book about?

JCG: A World Without Music is a non-traditional romance, as are most my novels. Protagonist Reagan returns from the first Gulf War haunted by horrific images of Tom Wallach, a dead marine he brought back from the desert. Seeking refuge from his nightmares and broken marriage in a jazz quartet in which he plays bass guitar, fifteen years elapse and he has a one-night fling with a beautiful young woman he meets at one of his gigs. When his ex-wife comes back into his life, the groupie’s obsession turns into a fatal attraction. With help from Wallach’s ghost, the daughter Wallach never met, and a friend who is more than he appears, Reagan must find the music that will enable him to finally let go of his tortured past.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

JCG: Not long. After my publisher, Second Wind, accepted my previous novel, 500 Miles to Go, I took some time off. While going through some old short stories I’d written over the years, I came across one that I imagined could be part of a novel. I kicked around a few story lines for the next few weeks and finally settled on an alien from another planet “walking in” to the life of an average earthling. This alien is curious about music, since his planet evolved without it. He’s able to cohabitate with people without them being aware of his presence. He’s inhabited a number of notable historical figures from our history, from Jesus to Johann Sebastian Bach, Thomas Jefferson, and Thelonious Monk, in an effort to discover the meaning of music, and whether it serves to incite violence in humans.

But the character is a tertiary one, and his purpose isn’t revealed until the final twenty or so pages of the novel. The main character is Reagan, who is broken by his service in Kuwait.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

JCG: In the last dozen or so years, we’re hearing and reading more and more about our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A large number of these kids are unable to fit into society; many end up homeless, while others commit suicide.

I wanted to draw attention to this issue, so I created Reagan. A veteran of the first Gulf War, he’s unable to cope with what he saw. It costs him his marriage, and so he loses himself in his music and several meaningless affairs. He also contemplates eating his Glock. But it’s always music that keeps him from taking that final step.

In the end, Reagan learns that his PTSD doesn’t have to define who he is.

How has your background influenced your writing?

JCG: To a large extent, I’m a loner; I don’t just march to the beat of a different drummer, I march to the beat of my own drum. I’ve struggled most of my life to fit into society. I bore easily. I’m not sure whether that’s a bane of creativity or something I learned in my youth. Maybe it’s genetic. I don’t follow crowds or genres, so I don’t write about vampires or werewolves.

All of my characters are like me—loners. They’re broken is some way, every day people whose stories deal with the universal ideals of love, loss, regret, and death—and the emotions associated with those ideals. A reader told me that my novels are “gritty, entertaining … real. Romance for the non-romantic.”

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I think upbringing colors every writer’s work, to an extent. As I near completion of my current work in progress, I’m wondering if I’ll submit it to my publisher. I’m not sure he’ll even accept it, and should he, I may publish it under a nom de plume.

It’s largely about sexual addiction the result of marital betrayal, and I worry whether readers will wonder how much of me is in the protagonist. As I consider that few readers are taken aback by stories about substance abuse or gambling addictions, I fear offending readers who may be sensitive to describing the sex act. A reader once told me she wouldn’t finish reading Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings because of several paragraphs that describe a sexual encounter that is a defining moment in the story. I thought it was pretty tame, but it likely didn’t help that she was the wife of an ordained minister. Someone somewhere will always be offended by something we write, even the description of two tongues intertwined in a single mouth.

Still, there is the recent success of a trilogy about BDSM that became a bestseller and was sold to Hollywood. It depicts acts of violence, including rape, against women; but it was written by a woman for women, so maybe I’d do well to take on the name of the fairer sex.

What are you working on right now?

JCG: My current work in progress is Forever a Philanderer. If you could go back in time, what would you do? Prevent the crucifixion of Christ? Maybe kill Hitler before he comes to power? If your spouse committed the ultimate act of treason, perhaps you’d return to the past to murder their mother, thereby erasing their existence in your present. But would it erase your pain, or simply serve as the ultimate act of revenge?

For Forever a Philanderer, I once again explore the paradox of time travel: how undoing events in the past affect that past’s future, as well as how obsession can be our undoing.

The story was born after editing for pay a romance novel a little more than a year ago. Romance novels today are rated based on their heat level, from stories that leave the sex act to the readers’ imagination—the action starts with a kiss and segues to a shared cigarette after the sex act—to those that depict the act in great detail, including body parts and bodily fluids. This woman’s novel I thought was better suited for the erotica genre, and frankly, I thought I could do it much better. In short, Forever a Philanderer is my most sexually graphic novel, as it explores sexual addiction.

Still, I’m on the fence about seeing it in print. Readers are far more forgiving about “seeing” a junkie shoot up heroine or a serial killer dismembering a body in graphic detail than they are about the sex act. Part of this is sensitivity, but also, I think, because it’s very difficult to bring something new to the act of love-making or “screwing” in fiction. It’s been done countless times before, which is part of the reason why I’ve refrained—until now.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?

JCG: When Dain Galdikas discovers his wife’s infidelity, he doesn’t confront her with her duplicity, he decides to go back in time to murder his wife’s mother to prevent the birth of his philandering wife.

What was the first story you remember writing?

JCG: It was a short story titled The Ultimate Paradox. It was written about twenty years ago as a birthday gift for a woman I wasn’t even dating. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said she wanted me to write a short story. I can’t recall what it was that prompted her to ask that, but she must’ve seen something in me. I can’t recall what happened to the copy I kept for myself, but as I wrote it I began to see it as the basis for a novel. A year or two later I commenced my first novel, January’s Paradigm.

How do you deal with exposition to give readers the background information they need?

JCG: It really grates me when I hear agents and publishers condemn back story. “Just drop it into the story somewhere,” they say as if back story is something terrible that “takes the reader out of the story.” Just try to write a novel without back story.

The first 120 pages of Victor Hugo’s Laughing Man is back story, and the early chapters of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is filled with back story.

Commercials during my favorite television nighttime dramas take me out of the story, but they don’t lesson my enjoyment, and you don’t hear critics clamoring to remove them.

Over the years I’ve learned how to include back story sparingly and disguise it so that it doesn’t jump off the page as what it is.

Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

Almost always my understanding of the story changes during the creative process, probably because I don’t write from an outline. I go where the story and the characters take me.

In Forever a Philanderer, Dain makes a serious miscalculation in traveling back in time thirty years and ends up at Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (he also failed to take into account the earth’s rotation in traveling nearly two thousand years). It was to have been a one-time encounter with the Messiah, from whom Dain flees; but Dain, having traveled back in time, partially exists outside the parameters of space and time. Therefore, Christ makes return appearances to Dain at opportune moments, wearing John Lennon glasses and a JESUS LIVES! t-shirt, to advise Dain that his actions will weigh heavily against his life in eternity.

Describe your writing in three words.

JCG: Gritty, entertaining, real.

From where do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come?

JCG: If I knew the answer to that, I’d already be a household name based on my understanding of today’s publishing model twenty years ago.

Would it matter to you if you were never published? (In other words, would it matter if no one ever read your books?) Why or why not?

JCG: Of course it matters, and any writer who says otherwise doesn’t take their craft seriously.

The number of self-published titles last year is up more than 400% from seven or eight years ago. That says two things: First, it matters because more writers today self-publish when traditional publishers turn down their work. Second, the approximately 400,000 self-published titles last year, combined with a shrinking demand, only makes it more difficult for the cream to rise. With more books in print today than there are readers, the industry is more competitive than it ever has been.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

JCG: Happiness can’t be found, unearthed like some ancient relic at an archeological site, it comes from within.

Where can we learn more about your books?

From Second Wind Publishing!j-conrad-guest/c1k84 and Amazon


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