Interview with John Calvin Hughes, Author of “Killing Rush”

Killing RushWhat is your book about?

Killing Rush is about two brothers on a road trip down the peninsula of Florida. Samuel has come down from Mississippi to look after his brother Adam, who has had a breakdown following the deaths of his wife and son. Adam believes he is on a mission from God to kill Rush Limbaugh, and Samuel agrees to drive him to south Florida to look for the man, but is really trying to stall him and talk some sense into him. It’s a character study, really, not a thriller.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Killing Rush started as a different novel, but then my brother, whom I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time, got sick, and I started wondering about estranged brothers and what might bring them together one more time.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

The most difficult part of writing anything to me is finding the time. Like most folks, I’m busy with job and family and friends, and time is a scarce commodity. I need time to get oriented to the work, to get back into it every day. I can’t just drop into the chair and take up where I started yesterday. I need a reasonable block of time to devote to writing, four or five hours anyway. That’s hard to come by every day.

Do you keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table?

Not anymore. I use my smart phone now. I can use the Memos function, which I’m beginning to be able to type on with some thumb speed now. I also use the Voice Memos function, especially when I’m driving. I get a lot of my ideas driving.

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

The late writer Donald Barthelme said in a writing seminar that the best way to create realistic, well-rounded characters was to give them contradictions. I’ve used that more than any other writing advice.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I asked my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Wiltshire, if I could write stories with the spelling words instead of just writing sentences. She happily agreed, and promptly made me read the stories to the class every week.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Adam and Samuel have an uncle named Jessie. I like him very much. He’s not really in the novel: the brothers talk about him on their road trip. Samuel tells Adam a funny story about Jessie in an attempt to talk him down from a panic attack. But in the little bit that we get about Jessie, he’s an interesting guy, a country boy living in town, with his hunting dogs and his Civil War books.

Who designed your cover?

The cover was designed by the novelist Frederick Barthelme, who is a great visual artist as well as fine writer.

Have you written any other books?

I wrote a scholarly book and a chapbook of poetry. My other novel is called Twilight of the Lesser Gods, which is about a young man in the Army who gets stationed at a military stockade in Germany.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My website,, is a good source, as well as the Second Wind Publishing site.

Nichole R. Bennett, Author of “Ghost Mountain”

Ghost MountainWhat is your book about?

When Cerri Baker moves with her family to the Black Hills of South Dakota, she begins seeing things—things like murder. Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and “hocus-pocus” her mother embraces, but once in the Black Hills, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as her spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man

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

I think there’s probably a little of me.  People who have read Ghost Mountain say they can almost hear me when they read it.  I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Before I start, I know my main characters.  I know who the victim is and the antagonist.  I even know why the crime was committed.  It’s all that stuff in the middle I have to work out as I go along.

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

Years ago, I heard about the “fish bone” method of plotting and that seems to work for me.  If you’re not familiar with it, draw a horizontal line on the paper (that’s the spine of the “fish”).  In the middle of the line, draw a vertical line.  Then, on each side of that vertical line, draw another about half way between the line’s end and the middle.  You want to make sure there’s a “turning point” at each vertical line, with the middle one being the biggest surprise.  You want to include a smaller “zinger” between those bones.  I have the current story’s fish bone on a dry erase board in my home office.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I grew up in a home where reading was important.  My dad is a retired police officer, as was his mother.  (Yes, you read that right.  My grandmother was a cop!)  My mom is a huge mystery fan.  How could I write anything except mysteries?

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I live in Western South Dakota, and write about the area where I live.

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

Coffee and chocolate!

What are you working on right now?

I just finished the second of the “Cerri Baker” books and have started another mystery novel with a whole new set of characters!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes.  I originally wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

At what age did you discover writing?

I don’t remember ever NOT writing.  I was first published in Daisy Magazine when I was 7.  I had created a word search puzzle using the colors in my crayon box.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read a lot.  Write even more.  Find a critique group.  LISTEN to what they say, whether you agree or not.  Even if you think they’re wrong, they will have pointed out places where your work can be made stronger.

What genre are your books?

I write paranormal cozies.  What that means is I write mysteries where much of the violence takes place off the page and the crime is solved by a “regular person” (not someone in law enforcement).  That’s the cozy mystery part.  The paranormal part involves ghosts and spirits!

What do you wear when you write?


Where can we learn more about you and your books?

From my author page at Second Wind Publishing:

Frank F. Fiore, Author of “The Oracle”

The OracleWelcome, Frank. What is your book about?

The ORACLE consists of a series of short stories tied together by means of a background story – a story within a story (similar to Ray Bradbury’s “Illustrated Man”). And like the Jeffrey Archer and Twilight Zone stories, the Oracle short stories are written with surprise endings.

The background story begins with a young musician on his way to Phoenix from Los Angles for a concert. He is given a car by his manager and shortly after entering Arizona it breaks down. Out in the middle of nowhere he decides to hitch a ride to the nearest town for help. While waiting for a ride, the weather turns inclement and he seeks refuge at a ranch house inhabited by an old and lonely couple. They invite him in and persuade him to stay for dinner.

After eating, they retire to the living room. After a while, the old woman offers to show their guest some of their three dimensional slides on their old-time stereoscope.

Being polite, the young man decides to endure the request. His hosts carefully remove a set of slides from a shiny metallic box from under the coffee table and place the first one in the stereoscope’s viewer. They instruct the young man to hold the stereoscope up to the living room lamp and focus it towards the viewer. When the viewer is focused and the light hits the slide, something amazing happens.

The still 3D image begins to move!

The first image he sees tells a tale that happens to be one of the short stories in the series. At the end of the first story, the young man turns to question his hosts on this wonderfully strange device. The couple just smile and offer him another slide. He asks again what the device is and where did it come from. The couple respond that the device is an ordinary stereoscope of the early 1900s that they purchased from a Sears catalog many years ago.

But the slides – ah yes, the slides. That’s another matter indeed.

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

I came up with idea and the basic outline for THE ORACLE 40 years ago. After completing my 4th novel, I dusted off the outline and story summaries and decided to write the book of short stories.

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

Readers like to be surprised by a story. One that is unexpected and entertaining. If you know how the Twilight Zone TV show stories unfold, then the short stories in THE ORACLE will pique your interest.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I’m from Brooklyn, New York. A Brooklyn boy gets right to the point and in away that communicates quickly and efficiently. You would know this if you ever spend time around New Yorkers. So that’s how I write. Conversationally without long boring narratives. If you want a quick entertaining read, then the THE ORACLE fits that bill.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished my 5th novel. It’s called MURRAN. I expect this to be my breakthrough novel because it is steeped in politically incorrect controversy. It is getting very good reviews from my beta readers.

MURRAN is the story of a young African-American boy named Trey coming of age in the 1980s, and his rite of passage to adulthood. Trey is a member of a ‘crew’ in Brooklyn and is enticed into helping a violent drug gang. He is eventually framed for murder and flees with his high school teacher to his Maasai village in Kenya. There, Trey learns what a true Black African and African culture is, goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, becomes a young shaman, and returns to America to confront the gang leader that framed him.

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

Controversy. A politically incorrect version of Blacks and their culture in America.

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?

Many years ago, I started collecting ideas for my novels. I created file folders for each proposed story I would write. As I found any and all material that fit the story line, I would drop it into the assigned folder. This would include websites, books, news items, magazine articles, videos, etc. etc. This process has worked well for me in helping develop my stories.

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

I’ve completed 5 novels and currently doing research on a 6th novel. I have at least 3 more in the hopper.

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

Plot. Plot. Plot. Without plot characters have nothing to do. Plot first then develop characters to drive the plot. And in the process, SHOW don’t TELL.

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

A fellow popular author colleague of mine. Write, write and write. Create a back list of books. If one takes off, readers will flock to your other books. The more books you have in the marketplace the better return on your writing time when your first book becomes popular. Then Tom Clancy – yeah, that Tom Clancy – told me to don’t suffer over a book. Complete and go on to the next one.

Have you written any other books?

I’ve written a dozen non-fiction books before turning to fiction. My fiction books include: CYBERKILL – a techno-thriller, The chronicle of Jeremy Nash – a 3 book action/adventure character series, THE ORACLE that I mentioned before, and MURRAN which is in the hands of beta renders now.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

I break a cardinal rule here on writing. I don’t read other author’s books. I haven’ read a book in 10 years. What I do is watch tons and tons of movies because I write my novels as movies. I’ve learned a lot about writing watching and dissecting movies – plotting, character development, pacing, etc.

What genre are your books?

Thrillers, Action/Adventures/ SyFy and Mainstream fiction. I’m told that I write in the vein of Michael Crichton because we both write in many different genres.

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

Robert Heinlein. If you read the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in his novel ‘Time Enough for Love’, you’ll see why.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Check out my author website at and my blog at

Donna Galanti, Author of “A Human Element”

What is your book about?

In A Human Element, One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next.

Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

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

Quite a bit! Ben Fieldstone was a photographer stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as I was (eons ago). Also adoption and being an only child runs through my book. I am both and they had a deep impact on my life. In A Human Element, three characters have similar lives. Laura Armstrong is adopted and an only child raised by loving parents. Ben is an only child but abandoned when his parents die to live a lonely existence in foster homes. X-10 is raised alone in a government facility, unloved and as an experiment. All three characters grow to adulthood alone. How are they different? Ben isolates himself from people. Laura is still open to people. X-10 hates the world and wants to hurt people. Is it their genes that shape who they are or their environment? This is a question I have struggled with in being adopted, especially once I met my blood-family.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I love hearing from readers about who their favorite character is and why, from the sweet character to the dark villain. As for being likeable, many like Mr. B. He is a sweet old man who pretends to be gruff but has a heart of gold. He shares a fun game with Laura in outwitting each other with words from the Thesaurus. He also will do anything to protect her, and he does but is it to his own demise?

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I believe they all have universal elements to them that people can relate to; abandonment, loss, redemption, acceptance, grief, and yearning for something you can never have.

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

Yes. This book came to me in a vision one day as I drove to work. I frantically wrote it on my lap with one hand on the wheel. Pages and pages. I had never written a book, but this entire story from beginning to end literally “hit me” in seconds. Even the character names. That was fourteen years ago. Then my mother died and I knew I had to make my dream come true of writing a book to honor my dream, and my mom. I believe this vision I had all those years ago was my “call” to fulfill what I was meant to do: write books. I’m glad I finally answered the call as I know some never do.

What are you working on right now?

I’m editing the sequel to my paranormal suspense novel, A Human Element. In Book 2, A Hidden Element, when a family’s son is taken by the same unearthly evil that brutalized them fifteen years ago they must sacrifice all again to defeat a new terrifying enemy–an enemy that wants to rule the world with their son as his heir.

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

Do. Not. Edit. While. You. Fast. Draft. This was the obstacle that held me back from finishing my first book. Once I let go of that, I was able to write to the end. So go ahead, write that awful first draft. Then go back and polish your rough jewel until it shines.

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

I try to tease them with only a few descriptive details of backstory and setting as I go along. Give them only what they need at the time. Readers want to feel smart. They like to fill in the blanks, as long as there aren’t too many blanks. I try and look at all backstory and gauge if it serves the story. If it doesn’t out it goes. By introducing questions early on with giving just enough information to keep the story going, we involve the reader, take them along for the ride, and…build suspense. Hopefully!

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

Yes. I have a major crush on Caleb in my new novel I’m editing, A Hidden Element. I find myself daydreaming about being with him, and he’s just a creation from my imagination. It helps that he also looks just like Taylor Lautner. I’m really not robbing the cradle, honest. Caleb is the same age. J

Describe your writing in three words.

Haunting. Dark. Hopeful.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?


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

“Even if you’re on the right path – you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” (Thanks Will Rogers)

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

I do love me some Hugh Jackman for an older Ben Fieldstone. Here is Ben as a younger version. Skulking hottie or what?

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

Where I lived as a child. England. It’s so historic and old and beautiful. We lived in Cobham Surrey in the old caretaker’s house of this old grand estate called White Tops. It even came with a gardener. It was a place of days gone by where I’d walk down the country lane to school and feed horses along the way. Each day the fish man would bring kippers for breakfast and the milk man would drop glass bottles at our door…and clotted cream some days.


Donna Galanti is an ITW Debut Author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element(Echelon Press). She’s lived from England as a child to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. If she couldn’t write she would bike, hike, and kayak every day. Donna lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs but sadly no ghosts.

Praise for A Human Element:
“Be afraid. Be very afraid. And be utterly absorbed by this riveting debut that had me reading till the wee hours of the night. A thriller star is born. Don’t miss A Human Element.”  – M.J. Rose, International Bestselling Author

“A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

PurchaseA Human Element here:

Barnes & Noble:

Connect with Donna here:

Andrew Scorah, Author of “Homecoming Blues”

What is your book about?

Homecoming Blues is about Jimmy Dalton, medically discharged from the Parachute Regiment after an incident which left him suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. He is returning to the Streets and people he joined the Army to escape from. Son he is drawn back in when left with no choice but to help gang boss Phil Duggan who has a bit of hassle with the Russian Mafia. Events happen, not to give too much of the plot away, Jimmy ends up going after Duggan’s firm. The story started out as an experiment, I only intended it to be a short shory of five thousand words, it seemed to take over and say I want more words. As I was writing ideas would come to me, even walking to the shops stuff would kind of pop into my head and I had to add them.

Did you do any research for the book?

Some, for places I used Google Earth which is great and saves on the cost of travelling to destinations, you can walk the Streets where your characters hang out and see what they see all from the comfort of your workspace. Weapons and the other nuts and bolts again the internet, what a wonderful world of information we live in.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Since I was young I have wanted to write, in Junior School, aged about ten or eleven, the whole class was tasked to write a ghost story the winner to be included in the School magazine. I wrote about a man who is murdered then comes back and hounds his killer to his death. The story won and I think that is where it started. Life though as it is wont to do, got in the way and I did not get back into it till a couple of years ago. I am glad in one way as I now have a lot of life experience behind me which I believe helps a writer and I think I just answered three questions from your list in one.

When were you first published. How were you discovered?

I was discovered if you can call it that when I answered a call to submission posted by Matt Hilton on Facebook for stories for an Action anthology he was putting together. Based around the pulp novels of the seventys and eighties. I wrote a story called Eastern Fury, about a ninja warrior in 1865 who is sent to America to apprehend the son of his master for the murder of a clan member. I never expected it to be accepted but it was, the book is called Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol1 and can be bought from Amazon, features stories by Matt himself Stephen Leather and many more great writers.

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

The best advice I received was from David Morrell, the creator of Rambo, again through Facebook, took me a while to get up the nerve to message him because to me he is like rock and roll royalty of the writing world. Anyway he told me to write write write and read read read which I have took on board and try and write every day even if I end up deleting all I have written.

Describe your writing in three words.

Dark, gritty, cool.

Where can people learn more about your books?

You can find me hanging out here or look me up on Facebook.

James Boyle, Author of “Ni’il: Waking Turtle”

What is your book about?

In Ni’il: Waking Turtle, Police Chief Dan Connor returns to continue the fight with the monster ni’ilaquo begun in Ni’il: The Awakening and continued in Ni’il: The War Within. As he and his partner Stephanie are preparing and watching for the monster’s next move, they are given a cryptic warning. As they investigate the mythology of the local Sihketunnai Indians, trying to figure out what the warning was all about, they soon realize Ni’ilaquo may be the least of their problems. For this time the fate of the universe itself rides on them figuring out the puzzle in time.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’d had an extensive “what if” conversation with a friend several years ago that brought up many of the issues the characters deal with in the novel. When it came time to try and wrap up this trilogy, everything seemed to mesh.

How much of you is hidden in the characters?

Oh, quite a bit, I’d say. After all, as authors we try to empathize, or at least imagine, what even our most despicable characters are feeling in order to find their motivations and the rationalizations for what they do. We watch and study the people around us, but when it comes down to the basics all we have to draw on is our own experiences. So I’d say there’s a lot of me in every character.

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

The protagonists are Dan Connor, the forty-something Chief of Police of tiny Placerton, Oregon, who loves police work and hates small town politics. Up until recently, he was a single widower who devoted himself to his work. He’s recently found a new love in Stephanie Amis, the Department’s secretary/receptionist/office manager. They just recently learned that they have some interesting psychic powers of their own, which helps in their fight with the supernatural being Ni’ilaquo. My personal favorite is Harry, the ageless Indian shaman who guides and advises Dan and Stephanie. Though he takes the situation seriously, he can still play with his students’ heads. He is particularly fond of just appearing when and where Dan and Stephanie least expect him.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

It varies from work to work but I generally have a pretty good idea of where I’m going when I begin. The story will often have a different idea than my original one, but I start with a general map. I usually tell people it’s 90% thinking about it and 10% writing it down.

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

Not really. I start out with a very rough outline, with plots and subplots sketched out. I can usually tell I’m going down a wrong path when the ideas and inspiration begin to dry up. If I get stuck, it means I took a wrong turn somewhere. It isn’t terribly efficient, but it seems to work.

What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

For this particular novel, I knew about where I was beginning. (Since it’s a sequel, it basically begins shortly after the last one ends). I also knew how I wanted it to end. The hard part was getting from here to there. There were quite a few false starts and discarded subplots by the time I finished.

Has your background influenced your writing?

Absolutely. I was raised in a devout Catholic family; I even attended a seminary for a year before deciding it wasn’t for me. The spirituality is part of my way of looking at the universe though. Add in a little Zen, lots of Native spirituality, pagan-style mysticism and a little idealism and you’ve got the world view of the novel.

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

I’m a natural night owl. I can stare at a blank page for hours without accomplishing anything. Come 11:00pm though, the juices start to flow and I have to make myself stop at two or three in the morning.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished a short stage play (my first since college). I have a new novel plotted out and have begun visualizing the scenes, but haven’t actually written much yet. It will be something different, more of a detective story.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I write works that I would like to read. Subjects I find interesting, situations I find interesting. My rule of thumb has always been how can I expect a reader to enjoy it if I’m bored when I write it? So yes, I write for myself.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?

Definitely getting started. I have more trouble finding a place to begin the story than anything else. In second place would have to be naming characters.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

There comes a point after you’ve struggled for days and weeks, seemingly trying to wring words out of stone, when you finally hit your groove and the story simple flows out of you. It feels less like writing than channeling the story from some outside source. It is an amazing feeling when it happens.

What do you like to read?

Good, atmospheric horror. Detective and thriller fiction, with some fantasy and classic lit thrown in. Right now I’m re-reading Watership Down by Richard Adams. Next I have my eye on Dennis Lehane’s new novel.

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

Ralph Salisbury, my writing professor at the University of Oregon. “Read. Read a lot. Read everything you can because even if you aren’t currently writing a particular project, you’re internalizing voice, style, pace and structure without even trying. So always be reading something.”

Thank you for answering my questions, James. Where can we learn more about your books?

From Amazon. Here are the links to the novel’s Amazon pages: