Interview with A. Gavazzoni, author of BEHIND THE DOOR

What is your book about?

My novel is about Hidden Motives, what leads people to behave the way they do. It’s a psychological and erotic thriller.

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

I believe every character has traces of its creator. Sometimes it’s the way they behave, sometimes it’s their profession. Carl is a lawyer; so am I. Simone is a strong and independent woman; so am I. Peter has a great sense of humor; I love a good laugh. And Lara loves to dance, and I do too!

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

I have to research a lot, as I talk about psychology and crimes. I usually buy texts from universities or do my research on the subject (psychology) using books. For the criminal part, I have a wonderful consultant—a former FBI agent—and I send him questions about criminal behavior, penalties, and the way the FBI and police work.

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 people to understand nobody can be judged because you really don’t know their deep traumas and dramas. Strange behavior, a character flaw, or even a homicide can be the result of a hidden story, a buried memory, or deep suffering. No one has the right to judge without knowing the motives

Do you have any rituals you follow before sitting down to write?

Yes, I brew myself a strong cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and only then am I ready to write.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I love to write in the morning, when my brain is fresh and my ideas are clear, but I write whenever I can because I’m usually very busy in the morning.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished the sequel of Behind The Door, Lara’s Journal, Part I. I intend to do some research and to start Lara’s Journal, Part II in the beginning of January.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

My novels are not pure erotica, but I can say 10% of it is erotic, so my target readers are adults. But I really would like to reach men and women as it’s a psychological thriller, and I would like to send the message of not judging to everyone.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Since I read my first book.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

Yes. As she was one of my favorite and most complex characters, it was hard to eliminate her.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Unpredictability—that’s the reason I’m always changing the course of my characters and presenting unexpected turns in the story.

What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

Life is short; enjoy it!

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Sometimes from friends I would like to honor, sometimes from a movie character I particularly loved… For instance, when I was a teenager, I saw Dr. Zhivago, and ever since then, I loved the name Lara. Other times, t I just go online and search for a list of the best baby names.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Happiness.

What is a talent you have that nobody knows?

I’m an amateur astrologer.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

My novel can be find at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N4LR2HL/
And I can be found at https://www.facebook.com/A-Gavazzoni-513404948849469/), at agavazzoni.com, or on my blog www.agavazzoni.com/blog

Interview with Steve Hagood, Author of CHASING THE WOODSTOCK BABY

woodstock-copy

Welcome, Steve. What is your book about?

Retired Detroit police detective Chase is approached by a nice old lady who asks him to find the baby she had, and lost, at Woodstock. The search takes Chase to a small town in Michigan that has a secret that it has been hiding for four decades. The man who runs the town will go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the secret.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always been fascinated with Woodstock. When I heard the legend of the Woodstock baby I wondered what had happened to it. Why has nobody ever come forward to claim to be the baby, or the mother? My imagination took over from there.

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

Obviously, my protagonist Chase is my main and favorite character. A lot of Private Investigators in novels have a sidekick who acts as his foil – dark, mysterious, the guy who does the dirty work – Spenser and Hawk, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Chase is both of those guys rolled into one. He is the wise cracking, lovable guy who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

Sarge and Sally are Chase’s partners in the bar he owns. Sarge was Chase’s training officer when he joined the Detroit Police. He still acts as a mentor and a steadying influence. Sally is the brains of the operation. She acts as Chase’s de facto research department. She doubles as the female, creating sexual tension between the two.

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

Yes. I had to do quite a bit of research for this book. The internet is a wonderful tool for a writer. It can transport you to any place and any time you want. I was able to put myself at Woodstock through pictures and stories. Hopefully my writing puts the reader there with me.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t really have a schedule. I have a day job and a family so it’s not always easy to find time to write. I write when I can. I live by the mantra “Writers write” to push myself to write something every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs or sentences.

What are you working on right now?

I recently finished another Chase novel, titled Cold Dark Places. Hopefully we will see it soon from Indigo Sea Press. It’s a story about a college girl missing in Detroit, and the basketball player implicated in her disappearance.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I didn’t start writing until about thirty. The first story I wrote was a ghost story. I don’t know why. It’s the only ghost story I’ve ever written. It was about a group of friends on a fishing trip who were haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier. It wasn’t very good, but it was a lot of fun to write.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Names are tough. One of the techniques I use is to open up the internet and use the first name that I see, if it fits the character that I need to name. I head up a scholarship given by my graduating class to the high school we graduated from. I offered my former classmates their name in a book in exchange for a donation to the scholarship. I had a couple people who wanted to see their name in a book, so it worked out for me, for them, and the scholarship.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most surprising aspect of writing, for me, is when the story builds upon itself. Sometimes I feel like a stenographer. I’m just the guy typing the words, the story is writing itself. In The Woodstock Baby there is a scene where Chase is questioning a suspect, the suspect denies any involvement and Chase says, “We have a witness!” I thought, “Wow, there’s a witness!” I didn’t know there was a witness until I typed it, and I’m the author! I couldn’t wait to see who the witness was because I sure didn’t know.

What writer influenced you the most?

I actually have two big influences. The late great Robert B. Parker made me fall in love with books. His Spenser stories are still my favorite. I’ve read them all multiple times. The fact that Chase is known by a single name is in homage to Parker and Spenser.

The other writer who influenced me is JA Konrath. I love his books, but it’s more than just his writing that influenced me. One thing the general public doesn’t know is that it is very difficult to get published – “you should publish that” a lot. If only it was that easy. Konrath called himself the king of rejection. He wrote nine full novels in two or three different genres before he got one published. He accumulated literally hundreds of rejections, but he never gave up. He eventually broke through and now has millions of books sold. He inspired me to never give up, to never stop chasing my dream.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Joy

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

Ironically, in Cold Dark Places I make mention to The Woodstock Baby and how some Hollywood people wanted to make a movie about the case. They promised to get Denzel Washington to play Chase, even though Chase is “white, younger than, and nowhere near as pretty” as Denzel.

In “real life” I see Chase as more of a Will Patton type. He has the ability to be caring and tough and make them both authentic.

There’s this other actor who I know named Tevis Marcum who I think would do an outstanding job as Chase. He’s from the Detroit area and has the look. Like Will Patton he has the ability to be caring and tough in the same character.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

My flash drive. My work goes everywhere with me. I do back it up to my computer however. It has gone through the wash a time or two. There is no terror like the terror of finding your flash drive in the bottom of the washing machine.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

Saline, Michigan. It’s my hometown. I moved away for a while and when I returned I thought, “Ahh, I’m home.” When I needed a small town to set The Woodstock Baby in I chose Saline because “there’s no place like home.”

Where can people learn more about your books?

From Indigo Sea Press http://www.indigoseapress.com/Stiletto-Books–Crime-and-Mystery-Authors-A-H.php#Steve and www.stevehagood.com

Interview with Cindy Lynch, author of “Bye For Now”

bye-for-nowWhat is your book about?

My first novel entitled Bye For Now is the first installment in a young adult series. The story begins with Callie, the book’s main character, a woman, presently in her midyears. She is our narrator. During a quiet moment of mundane daily activity, as Callie is partially attuned to TV, a real life American tragedy begins to play out on the screen. It’s a traumatic—a horrific—event with unspeakable impacts on the human psyche. To escape the horror on the TV, Callie’s subconscious triggers the narrative and the book’s story commences to unfold, in detail.

Callie’s escape into her subconscious takes her back to her high school years. She’s on summer vacation at her grandparent’s lakeside cottage in northern Vermont, within spitting distance of the Canadian frontier. Life is slow. Life is rich. Pastoral Vermont scenes are carefully crafted with vivid imagery straight out of Callie’s memories of her youth. There’s the first hot flush of young love. There are soul nourishing family scenes of meals and recreational events. Each character is carefully painted in true-to-life brush strokes.

The character descriptions validate the youth Callie has experienced. There is special emphasis on the power of family connection to influence our future life in positive, uplifting ways. Later on, as Callie matures and the tale flows into her college years, troubling events are resolved in ways that hark back to the power and influence of her early family life. As the story proceeds, the pace picks up and the emotions conveyed take a tighter grip on the reader’s attention. Intensity grows as awkward social situations are recalled and irreconcilable adult enigmas are replayed.

How much of you is hidden in the characters in this book?

Much of this book is loosely based on my life growing up and visiting my grandparents in Vermont each summer. The lines blurred with fiction to grow this tail of love and loss.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always wanted to write a book about youth and young love. My friend and fellow author, Sharisse Coulter, helped push me in the right direction to get this book started. When the Newtown Massacre took place on that fateful day December 14, 2012 I knew I had to incorparate that into my story. This town was my hometown and it struck a chord deep inside me releasing this tragic tale.

Who is the most unusual character or likeable character?

Aunt Marilyn is the quirkiest in this story. She tends to talk to inanimate objects throughout the tale giving the reader the willies while Maddie gives the reader the laughs. Maddie with her colorful language and Italian phrases will have you laughing out loud.

What challenges did you face writing this book?

I have three very active boys at home ages 17, 14, and 11. Between getting them to their practices, games and music lessons at home it was difficult at time to carve out writing time.

Why would people relate to your characters?

I believe everyone has a story to tell of love and loss. The world was impacted by Sandy Hooks tragic event and I feel everyone can connect on a certain level with these characters that are involved.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I am finishing up some interior design of my second book, Even Willows Weep, the second book in this trilogy. It should be published by the end of May, 2016

How long did it take you to write your book?

This is an unusual answer to this question. Two weeks. Yes, you read that right. My friend, Sharisse, challenged me with writing a book in 14 days. This required writing 5,000 words a day to have a finished product in two weeks with 75,000 words. I had no idea what that entailed until I agreed to do it. What an undertaking, however the words just flowed. I enjoyed every second of it because I was prepared having had this story in my head since I was 14.

What advice do you have for other authors?

I would say just sit down and get started. Just write and let the words flow not worrying about sentence structure or grammar. Then when you edit make sure you find an editor that gets you. I mean really gets you. My editor, Keltin Barney, has been a god-send. He truly understands what I’m saying and where I’m going with my characters and plot.

Who did your designed cover?

I found Ivan Terzic from Czechoslovakia, on a website called 99designs. He was a great find and has produced the cover of my second book as well. I plan to continue working with him on future covers as I have one last book to write in the trilogy. I also have a non fiction book in the works.

Interview With Joleene Naylor, Author of “Masque of the Vampire”

What is your book about?

Masque of the Vampire is the eighth in the Amaranthine series. Though is it a series, I try to write them so that anyone can pick up any book and understand what’s going on. This time Katelina and Jorick, who is one of the vampire “police”, are assigned to provide security for a party. A mysterious stalker, a serial killer, and a crashing chandelier later, they’re embroiled in a net of intrigue that has a surprising conclusion. You can purchase it from all major retailers. (http://www.joleenenaylor.com/books/mov.php)

What genre are your books?

Paranormal. Paranormal WHAT is up for debate. Is it Urban Fantasy? Maybe, though they spend more time in the country than an urban setting. Paranormal Fantasy? Maybe. The Heart of the Raven arch does have the pacing of a fantasy trilogy, including the evil “sorcerer” and the army of misfits. Paranormal Romance? Eh, not really. There is romance, but there’s no hero’s POV where his knees are weak and his blood is burning for her touch. Paranormal YA? Definitely not. Horror? I think so, but the female protagonist and the above mentioned romance make that an iffy label. In the end, my books kind of fall between the cracks of genres.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I’ve done a lot of things over the years. A blog. A website. Blog hops. Guest blogs. Paid listings. Free listings. Sales. Lots and lots of freebies. Blog tours. A facebook party. A facebook page where I post daily comics with my charaters. A newsletter. And I’ve recently started a Facebook Street Team group.

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

There are probably little pieces of myself scattered all over, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to channel them. I’m not sure which one I have the most in common with, though, as even I and Katelina aren’t completely alike. Her reactions sometimes make me go, “What? Why?”

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I think Verchiel is probably everyone’s favorite. He’s a redheaded mischief maker who pops into Katelina and Jorick’s lives seemingly by chance, and then just keeps popping up. He and Katelina have a love/hate relationship while Jorick just despises him from the start.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

Yes. The aforementioned Verchiel is one of those. I designed him to pop into one scene and get killed. That was it. “Hello. I’m bad. Goodbye. Splat. Dead.” But he was so interesting I let him live. He’s one of the really organic characters that completely write themselves.

Another was Torina, the sister of Jorick’s fledgling. In the original draft of book 4, Ashes of Deceit, she was killed in the attack on the citadel. But it created too many complications, so I gave her a reprieve.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

For the most part they develop and differentiate themselves. It’s kind of like they drop from heaven fully formed and as I go I have to dig backwards to find out how and why they are the way they are.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

A lot of them I made up (like Jorick, Katelina, Oren, Torina) but sometimes I use the internet to find names that would be authentic to the culture or time period someone is from. Eileifr – one of the vampire’s High Council is an example of that. I have no idea how to pronounce his name, but it’s supposedly authentic Norse. Samael, Lilith, Ishkur, Inanna, and Utu, of course, come from mythology as they’re supposed to be the figure the mythology is based on.

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

Yes! Starting in the fifth book, my characters go overseas so I had to look up everything, from temperatures, to sunset times, to what kind of animals they might be able to feed on, not to mention ways to get them across country boarders – what’s required to fly in? Can they take a boat? How long will that take? And then weaving in the legend of Samael and Lilith was a nightmare of research. I’ve worked to try to tie together ancient Chinese mythology, Mesopotamian mythology, and even the book of Enoch together into one cohesive storyline. It took several word documents.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

A great world. This includes good characters with interesting backgrounds that interconnect well. I’m currently reading the second in EG Manetti’s Apprentice series and she does that so well. Every aspect of the universe has been addressed so that even if I have an issue with an aspect of the story the world is so compelling, so complete, so REAL that I’m still thinking about it days later.

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

With a long series this is something I struggle with from book to book. I start by skipping information that isn’t necessary to the story being told in that particular book, and then I try to alternate between four methods; having Katelina think about it (for instance when she sees someone she might think “Oh, that’s the guy who owned the vampire cat.”), by having the characters have a quick conversation about it, by inserting a short flashback accompanied by Katelina’s thoughts, or in some instances by the more direct but less exciting just telling. I know that telling is frowned on, but there comes a time when the run around alternatives just feel like run-arounds.

What has been your greatest internal struggle to overcome in relation to your writing career?

Anxiety. I just *know* that everyone is going to hate my books. I think the most terrifying words in the English language are “I got your book”.

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

Yes. Always. If it doesn’t then it means I haven’t developed it enough and I need to go back over it and figure out what the angle is.

What is a talent you have that nobody knows?

I can blow bubbles with my spit. Like pretty large bubbles. I learned to do it as a kid in the 80s who wasn’t allowed to have bubbles gum. I realize most people think this is gross, but it’s the only thing I could think if that I haven’t shared before.

Links:

author blog: http://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/
FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/joleenenaylorbooks
twitter http://twitter.com/joleene_naylor
website- http://JoleeneNaylor.com
facebook profile – http://facebook.com/joleene.naylor

Interview with M. J. Heywood, Author of “The Web Across the Water”

What is your book about?

The Web across the Water is about two lonely souls, living on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Lily and Brad meet on an internet chat room; Lily is a prolific internet thief and fraudster, who has been using the internet to trap victims for years. However, she throws herself into danger when she meets Brad and travels across the water to get closer. Brad has sinister intentions of his own. Once the pair have met, they are thrown into a tangled battle of wits in which both are in the deepest peril.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I am greatly inspired, if that is the correct word, by True Crime. The abhorrent nature of the master thieves and serial killers of the UK and USA are very fascinating to me, as I find them so difficult to understand. For this project, I enjoyed getting inside the heads of the two characters and describing actions which I found to be so against my values.

Who is your most likeable character?

Brad’s friend Phil, who works as a janitor in the apartment block where Brad resides is probably the most likeable of the characters. He provides the comic relief in the story, and has a light hearted view of the world, despite him having a difficult life living away from his sick daughter in order to find work. He is slightly naïve, and is a fun and charming man.

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

There is certainly a deep moral to the story. We live in a world which is now largely in the shadows after the beginning of the internet. Online we can be whoever we want to be, which can give us false confidence, and even if we have dark intentions ourselves, there is no telling who is looking through the other end of the wire. We give ourselves an access into worlds which would not have been accessible, but we can also be opening the door to people who we should not have any dealings with.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on my second thriller novel, and have so far written about 40,000 words. It is a similar style of story, also looking at the darkness within, and it features one of the lesser characters from the first novel in a more central role, despite not being a sequel.

Does writing come easy for you?

I can get stuck from time to time, but overall, it comes a lot easier than I thought it would when I started. The only problem is, I deviate from my plan every so often, when I see an opportunity for a different outcome or a new story arc. I then have to go back through everything that I have written, in order to avoid plot holes.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I have a notepad where I jot initial premises down. I also like to write a few chapters when the idea occurs, and I save them for a later date. In fact, before I started working on The Web… properly, I had the first chapter saved on my computer for a few months.

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

At the moment, just one more after this one; I started with three clear ideas, so once I reach the end of book three (which will be a direct follow-on) I will start to spend a little more time on letting the new ideas loose again.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Number one – characters with depth; they must have strengths as well as flaws and deep weaknesses. Number two – I believe everyone in a story should be disposable, and that no-one should be invincible. Invincibility makes a story weaker for me, as if you know that the main character(s) will survive, there is less tension. Number 3 0- A living, breathing place, described well enough to set the scene, but not too deep so that you restrict the imagination of the reader; I want to give them just enough so that they see what I need to see. For example, Eastport, Maine was the main focus of much of this story. I believe that it was a great choice for Brad’s hometown, as it was a pure and unspoilt location, relatable to many people who.

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

In this story, it was a mix of flashbacks, time jumps and material such as newspaper articles and police interviews.

Describe your writing in three words.

Tense, fast, different.

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?

Yes. I write to entertain, and the thrill of writing is achieving the moments of suspense and tension, and the whole point is to know that it is having an effect on people. The reviews so far have shown that I was successful in my aims, so this was a rewarding feeling. I don’t mind how many read the story, but I wouldn’t be satisfied if nobody read it.

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

When writing Lily, I had Rosamund Pike in my mind, but this was before seeing her as Amy in Gone Girl, and she was totally brilliant in that role. Since then, I could only see the Gillian Jacobs as Lily, as long as she can pull off a British accent, which I am sure she could. She has been captivating in Love and plays a role of emotions and traits so convincingly. For Brad, I think Zach Efron would be a good fit. I feel that he could play the lighter, charming side of Brad very well, and I think he has a talent for portraying aggression too.

Who designed your cover?

I designed my cover myself, using royalty free images and the fantastic Gnu Image Manipulation Software. I was thrilled with the result, and have continued to do this with book two. I feel that I can achieve a professional looking cover which fits my vision. It is also good fun to do.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your book?

I am keen to connect with readers. My work can be found at the following link, and my wordpress is attached to this account. http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Web-across-Water-Heywood-ebook/dp/B015WTJVLM/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Interview with Erik Therme, author of “Mortom”

mortom-coverHow much of yourself is hidden in the characters in Mortom?

As many writers will admit, characters are often only ‘thinly disguised versions of themselves.’ This has never been truer than with Andy Crowl in my debut mystery, Mortom. Many times I would ask myself: What would I think or do in this situation? I’d love to say Andy’s an altruistic hero who saves the day . . . but the truth is that he’s stubborn, selfish, and often crass—all my worst attributes rolled into one. It’s always a risk to have a severely flawed protagonist (as you’re never sure if readers will connect with them), but I think it works for the story.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I believe Mortom will appeal to people who enjoy ‘non-traditional’ mysteries. There are no serial killers, no burnt-out cops, and/or retired FBI agents—only a normal, everyday guy, thrown into extraordinary circumstances. And who wouldn’t love to play a ‘real life’ game of follow-the-clues?

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I tend to be most prolific during late evenings and weekends. If I’m especially inspired, I might try to sneak in some pages during lunch. I absolutely need music when I write, and—depending on the project—it varies from metal to movie soundtracks. I personally don’t shoot for a word count; I only try and write something every day, whether it’s for five hours or five minutes.

What are you working on right now?

I have two teenage daughters, and I wanted to write something they’d enjoy. Resthaven (Spring 2016) is about a group of kids who decide to have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home . . . only to discover they’re not the only ones inside, and sometimes there are things far worse to fear than ghosts or monsters.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

I struggle with writing action. One of the golden rules for a writer is show—don’t tell, but every time I put action on the page it feels like forced description. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours on a single paragraph, trying to get the words just right. At some point you simply have to say ‘enough is enough’ and move on. Otherwise it can drive you insane.

What writer influenced you the most?

I’ve always been drawn to Stephen King. He’s a brilliant storyteller and an incredible curator of characters. Whenever I feel stuck or uninspired, I grab some King from the bookshelf, leaf through a few pages, and I’m off and running again.

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

I don’t remember exactly where I heard it, but the best writing advice I’ve received is: “Raise the stakes and continue to build them.” If you don’t put your characters in peril, why should your readers care what happens to them?

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Never give up, and do whatever it takes to get your writing into the world. I would love to say that good writing is the majority of the battle, but it’s not. Timing, circumstance, and luck all play a huge factor. All you can do is believe in yourself and try to make as much luck as you can.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

Amazon publishing. With a few clicks you can sell your book with no upfront costs, and—like traditional publishing—you receive royalties. It’s incredibly empowering. The flip side is that the market is saturated with thousands of people doing the same thing, so the competition is huge. The most important thing is to write the best book possible. If you do that, rerik-therme-4-low-reseaders will find it.

Where can people learn more about your books?

I’m active on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and information on upcoming projects can be found at http://www.eriktherme.com. Mortom is available at Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.

Interview With Nikki Jackson, Author of “The Heart’s Journey Home”

hearts-journey-home-book-cover-big-200x300Pat, thank you so much for the interview. I want you to know that you’re my first official interview as a published author.

Welcome, Nikki. I am honored to be your first. What is your book about?

The Heart’s Journey Home is a book series. California Blend Summer Vacation is the first book of the series and sort of the introductory book. In short, The Heart’s Journey Home is the story of the relationship between three best friends; Tori, AJ and Kalea. Tori and AJ are both 17 years old while Kalea is 14. It’s a story that shows the different challenges these teens are faced with (deceased mother, cancer-related amputee, separated parents) and how they persevere because of their relationship with one another.

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

I have to chuckle, Pat, because I think consciously or unconsciously writers create characters that have some of their own behaviors and traits. Of all the characters I would have to say that the main character Tori is probably closest to my personality. She’s strong willed, stubborn, can be as wrong as two left shoes and won’t admit it and she loves mixed martial arts! She’s very cool.

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

Tori is of mixed parentage, her mother was part Sioux and African-American and her father is White. She’s extremely proud of her heritage, especially her Sioux heritage. She was raised on the Rosebud Reservation until the age of seven, when her mother died, so the Sioux culture is very much ingrained in her. AJ is White, adopted and lost his right leg to childhood cancer. He’s the voice of reason and the steadying agent for the sometimes volatile Tori. They are extremely close, blood-brothers since the age of eight. Lastly, Kalea. She’s of Hawaiian and Japanese heritage and has a genius IQ. She met Tori and AJ when she started attending their high school at the age of eleven. She’s the typical geeky, brainy, pesky kid-sister type and both Tori and AJ are very protective of her. My favorite would have to be Tori, she’s tough but there’s this vulnerability that she hides pretty well and a bit of a sadness about her. She’s less grounded than AJ and less open than Kalea. She’s the character that needs the most growth.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I believe they’ll see themselves and their friends in the three main characters. My characters are faced with real life challenges and issues, things aren’t all honky-dory but they make the best of it because they have each other as a support system. I believe the reader will see something of their own real life challenges or issues in the characters and relate to them all the more. Then also, the characters are fun, funny and likeable.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Oh my gosh, it took about three years from initial idea to finished manuscript.

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

I spent about a year researching this book. Remember, it’s a book series so in reality I had to do the research for all the books in the series up front. I had to literally have the books outlined a bit; characters, story-lines, various plots, settings, then I did the research. I am so thankful for the Internet, it’s a great cornucopia of info and obscure tidbits. In a couple of instances I was watching TV when material for a story-line presented itself. There’s this one scene in the book between Tori and Rachael (her dad’s live-in girlfriend) where they’re talking about the Holocaust. I was channel surfing and stopped on the PBS channel. The program was about a concentration camp in Sobibor Poland. A secondary character in the book is a concentration camp survivor. I keep a pen and pad handy so I grabbed them and took notes. The story was so compelling that I wove it into the book. It’s one of the strongest emotional scenes in the story.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

The way I’m wired as a writer I see the book from start to finish in my head first. The beginning and end mostly, the middle is a little hazy until I actually start writing. I’m old school so I write the story out long hand on yellow legal pads and then type it out on the computer. Because The Heart’s Journey Home is a series there’s the main plot but a number of sub-plots along the way. I have a journal that I used to track out the main and sub-plots, that’s the only way I could keep the various plots straight. I literally started sub-plots in this first book that won’t be worked out until a later book.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I have to laugh here, Pat, I had a heck of a time finishing this first book. Its 743 pages! I couldn’t stop writing! I think what I finally had to do was to determine where to make a break in the story and declare book one of the series complete. If I hadn’t I would still be writing. Though fairly long my editor, Jack Minor did a terrific job – literally cutting out about a hundred pages! The poor reader would barely be able to carry the book no less read it.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

Wow, Pat, the biggest challenge was the death of my son while I was writing the book. He passed away in his sleep the day after Christmas, 2013. He was 23 years old. He had a heart condition his dad and I didn’t know he had. He was our only child and we were floored, devastated, almost done in. He was a beautiful kid, loved barbershop singing and was in a choir and quartet. A Black 23 year old kid singing barbershop with a bunch of middle-aged white guys – it was a sight. But man that kid could sing. He had a very deep, rich baritone voice. He was something. He was going to graduate from Spring Arbor University the following year with a degree in Broadcasting. They awarded him his degree posthumously. It was grueling. We shut the kid’s bedroom door so we wouldn’t have to look into his room. Thank God for writing. I was crying myself to pieces, barely functioning and I picked the book back up. I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t have writing. It saw me through.

I’m so sorry about your son, Nikki. Yes, of course you were devastated. I’ve heard that the loss of a child is the absolute worst pain a parent can feel. He sounds like a remarkable young man. I’m sure his death influenced your writing. How else has your background influenced your writing?

Well, Pat, being African-American I definitely wanted to craft a diverse book. There’s unique nuances and flavors that comes with diversity and I wanted to weave this into the story. Different people-groups have a tendency to look at the things of life through their own cultural lens and this makes for good comedy as well as great drama. I like the taste of a long simmering gumbo and I’d like to think my book has a pretty good flavor to it.

Speaking of flavor, do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

I have to seriously laugh here. Anyone who knows me knows I love hanging out at Panera’s – it’s my favorite writing spot. I only drink their caramel lattes.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on book two of the series: A Layover in Doppelganger-Ville.

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

Tori goes back in time to ancient Jerusalem and meets the exact doubles of her best-friends and family.

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

That’s super easy – To Kill A Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee. That book is great seven ways from Sunday. The characters are so well developed, the writer captures the time and setting with a grand subtle power, and then there’s the undercurrent of prejudice, injustice, and yet hope. I think such an outstanding story being told from the narrative of a nine year old kid was brilliant. It has all the elements of just a great book and it did win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 selling over fifteen million copies. That’s an author’s dream.

Nikki-Jackson-profileWhat advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Write. Write. Write. And grow a thick skin. Realize you’re not going to please everyone. Not everyone’s going to love your work (a lot of people may not even ‘like it’), but keep writing. If you wait for all your family and friends to love what you’ve written, revising your work again and again every time you let someone read your draft you’ll never get anything published. I write what pleases me and then aim the finished product at the group I think will enjoy the book too.

Pat, thanks for interviewing me and allowing me to share with your readers. The Heart’s Journey Home is scheduled for release on September 12, and can be purchased through Amazon. There’s a blurb about it and a download excerpt on my blog @theheartsjourneyhome.net. Pat, thanks again.

Thank you, Nikki. And best of luck with your book!