Interview with Deborah Tadema, author of “No Honor Between Brothers”

No Honor front cover.jpg.opt264x410o0,0s264x410What is your book about?

“No Honor Between Brothers” is about how one man’s infliction can influence a whole community. Mitch Wilder is addicted to sex. And he’s afraid of losing the woman he’s in love with. Mitch finds out that Claire had an affair with his step-brother, Tom Fleming, and vowed to keep them apart. When Tom moves into their hometown to help Mitch with the family business he comes up with a plan. Convince Claire to marry him.

Claire Lester has a habit of falling for the wrong man. And as far as her father is concerned, Mitch Wilder is the last man he wants his daughter to get involved with. He tries to steer her toward Tom. But Claire is obsessed with Mitch and desperately wants to believe that he has changed. Eventually, she does marry Mitch but it doesn’t go very well. She catches him with another woman and runs to Tom.

Tom doesn’t want Claire. Not really. He pretends to chase after her to get back at his brother for treating him like shit. But after she leaves Mitch, she moves her stuff into his apartment while he’s away. Tom feels guilty for using her. At the same time doesn’t want to hurt her. He did love her, as much as a man like him could.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

All of my characters are special to me. As I write about them I try to become them, get inside their heads to think their thoughts, feel their feelings, and so on. This helps me to keep them true to themselves. I hope that my readers can identify with at least one character in the book. Each one has some sort of hang-up, whether they know it or not. From the adults dealing with their own heartaches, to the teenagers who are finding themselves.

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

I have no special technique. The characters tell me what they want. I know this probably sounds crazy, but it’s true. As each personality develops the braver they become. My biggest challenge is not letting them get too far out of line.

How, or when, do you decide that you are finished writing your story?

When the story has some sort of conclusion. Even if it leaves the reader wanting more. And I hope that I have enticed the reader enough that he or she will want to read the next book of the series. That they have become involved with my characters and are curious enough to want to continue on.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

One of my biggest challenges was to limit the amount of characters. Which is hard when you’re writing about the people in a small town. Because everyone is connected. Another challenge was to keep the reader interested and not get too tired of one of the characters.

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

I don’t punish myself and say that I need so many words each day. Some days I can write all day, other times nothing comes to mind. Yet, I’m able to produce quiet a bit in a week. Some of my best ideas come to me at three in the morning while I’m trying to sleep.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the next book of the “Honor” series. It will reveal more of Mitch’s secret life. And shows how much of an influence he’s left on his home town, even when he’s not there.

What is the first story you remember writing?

The first story I remember writing is when I was in high school. It was for an English assignment. It was about a girl in distress and a hero saves her. Each of the characters were named after cars: Ford, Chevy, Dodge, etc. That’s all I remember about it. I wish I had kept it.

Have you always wanted to become a writer?

Yes. But it wasn’t until recently that I became serious about it. Also, I have more time to write.

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

Several. And I keep gong over my current book that I’m working on, to improve it. Right now I can think of two other series I’d like to publish. I don’t want to give too much away here so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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

Yes, all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to rein them in. I try hard to keep things as realistic as possible and my characters from doing something that is totally out of left field.

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?

It is always difficult to “Kill” someone. But I have in this book only because I felt that the character wasn’t developing anymore. And sometimes to give the story a new twist.

Where can people learn more about your book?

People will be able to find my book “No Honor Between Brothers” at Second Wind Publishing Company. Scheduled to be released soon. http://secondwindpublishing.com/

Steven Hart, Author of “We All Fall Down” (Interview)

What is your book about?

“We All Fall Down” is a police procedural, a crime novel set in a fading New Jersey town. The heroine, Karen McCarthy, is the town’s first woman cop. When the police chief and his wife are murdered in their home, Karen bungles the capture of the prime suspect. Her efforts to run him down, and to prove she has the mettle to be a cop, brings her face to face with the dug-in corruption within the force.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

During my years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I sometimes encountered women cops and found them to be nothing like their counterparts in film and television. In one of my towns, the government of a pretty well-off and forward-looking community had to settle with a woman cop who had been viciously harassed by the male officers on the force.

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

I don’t know about “myself.” Certainly bits of my experiences and my observations turn up in all the characters.

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

Karen McCarthy is more than a bit of a misfit, an unattractive woman of the sort men tend to ignore — except she has a job that makes her impossible to ignore. She has a lot of buried rage to deal with, and a moral code.

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

To be involved in a long-term creative project, to bring it to completion and see that you have willed something into existence using nothing but your own talent and determination, carries enormous personal benefits regardless of what happens next.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I go for realism in my writing, and my newspaper background has aided me immeasurably in seeing how the world works.

What’s your writing schedule like?

I’m a morning man. I aim for a page a day at minimum.

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

Getting vertical, mostly. And coffee. Oh yes — coffee.

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

I know what you’re getting at, but I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. It’s more like everything goes stale and dead if I’ve established a character’s personality and motivation, then try to make that character do something out of step with those qualities. That’s when I try to shake up the plot and see how things develop.

Have you written any other books?

Yes. I have a nonfiction book out called “The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway.”

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

Do it on the run whenever possible. Your character’s actions and reactions should do as much of the heavy lifting as possible.

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

No. I don’t keep a journal, either. It’s a cool idea, but it’s not how I roll.

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

P.D. James, a late bloomer as a writer, explained in a “60 Minutes” profile that she became a serious writer when she realized that nothing was going to happen unless she made it happen, and that she would have to change things in her life to accomplish that. It could be as simple as getting up an hour earlier in order to have uncluttered creative time. But it’s all on you.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Myself.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Come visit my blog stevenhartsite.wordpress.com or my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-Hart/e/B001JP2JGI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Robert Rosen, Author of “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography”

What is your book about?

It’s an investigative memoir called “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography,” and it’s about what I witnessed over a 16-year period as an editor for such magazines as High Society, Swank, Stag, and D-Cup. I then combined these first-hand accounts with research and reporting to create a detailed insider’s portrait of a multi-billion-dollar industry in a state of traumatic upheaval. Michael Musto of the Village Voice called “Beaver Street” “entertaining, insightful, and hot.” It’s available as a paperback and all e-book formats. You can get it at Amazon and any number of indie bookstores.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

After working in porn for a couple of days, I realized I was seeing things both shocking and absurd that had never been written about. I knew immediately that this was the basis for a book.

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

One of the themes of “Beaver Street” is that the biggest crooks always cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest. The four great anti-porn warriors of the 20th century–Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Attorney General Edwin Meese, and banker Charles Keating–either had to resign their offices in disgrace to avoid prosecution or were convicted of multiple felonies and sent to prison.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I didn’t have a book deal when I was writing “Beaver Street.” It took me six years to write and I had to motivate myself every day to keep writing.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

It took me 18 years to find a publisher for my first book, “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.” It then became a bestseller in five countries. I went from obscurity to what passes for writerly fame these days. I knew my life had changed when “Nowhere Man” was a Jeopardy clue. Finally, my parents were impressed.

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

I keep a time sheet on myself to make sure that I do 2-3 “real” hours every day. In other words, when I’m sitting in front of my computer, staring into space, I clock out and that doesn’t count towards my hours. People tell me this is nuts, but it works.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a novel called “Bobby in Naziland.” In part it’s about a child growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and early ’60s where, to quote from the book, “World War II lingered like a mass hallucination on East 17th Street and large swaths of the surrounding borough.”

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

The first draft!

What writer influenced you the most?

My Holy Trinity is Hunter Thompson for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Henry Miller for “Tropic of Cancer,” and Philip Roth for “Portnoy’s Complaint.” George Orwell, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller are not far behind.

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

Francine du Plessix Gray, who was my graduate writing professor at CCNY. She told me to keep a notebook and write in it every day.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing?

Don’t listen to what people tell you about your work because nobody knows what they’re talking about. And never give up.

Where can people learn more about your books?

At my website: http://www.robertrosennyc.com/

Ace Collins, Author of “Reich of Passage”

What is your book about?

Reich of Passage is a modern “save the world” adventure where the bad guys are now leaders in most of the major countries of the world. As crazy as it sounds these men come from a different era and were literally frozen and thawed to accomplish their mission. The only way to beat them is throw the use of two others from the era who are also brought back to live 70 years after they supposedly died. One of these is the actress Jean Harlow.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I am fascinating by people who die young. I have long wondered the “what ifs” if they had lived longer. Jean Harlow is one of the most interesting people of her era. She was bright, well read and intelligent. The fact she died at the top of her game at the age of 26 in 1937 made her the perfect just to put into medical hibernation. Bringing her back to life in a time when everyone she knew is dead was the perfect way to examine the real Harlow, her coping skills and her ability to adapt. It also gave me a chance to let readers realize how lonely being “out of your time” really is. Thus the challenge is giving her a calling in a modern world.

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

The plot, as fantastic as it was, were completely conceived. There were twists and turns that the characters actually wrote as I developed them. And while I knew the full elements of mystery, action, adventure and intrigue as I wrote, I think they romance snuck up on me.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

I was writing about people from a different time, so I read magazines, biographies, looked at old newsreels and studied films from the 30s and 40s. Then I also spent a lot of time studying the dialogue of that era and how it would sound in a modern context. One of my favorites parts of the books dealt with characters saying something they thought was clear but having those listening view their words in a much different context.

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

The main goal of any book has to be entertainment. If the reader is hot having fun, if the ideas they find in the text do not excite them, then the story is flat. So goal is to create a plot so involving and characters with such appeal that the reader is actually said when the story ends.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My writing is influenced by my interests. I love music, movies and classic cars, so they find their way into my books. I am curious my nature and want the story behind everything. And I have always been a people watcher and so my characters have to be as interesting as the people I meet in my real life. In fact a lot of quirks I see in my friends show up in my books.

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

I write between 3,000-8,000 words and day and also edit and rewrite those words several times each day before I quit. So that makes for long days. But once I am on a roll I can’t sleep anyway. The story and characters keep me awake. Then when I finish the entire book, I go back and rewrite it a couple of more times before sending it off to the publisher.

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

I rewrite and edit in the morning and write in the afternoon. I am most creative then. To stoke my fires I consume sweet tea.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Wrote my first short story in third grade, so writing has always been there. The last three decades of being able to do what I love has been a real blessing.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

Story creation is very easy for me. I have hundreds of plots written in my log 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?

I have had readers get mad at me for killing off a character, but never had any trouble doing it. Death moves story lines and brings out emotion. Those things enrich the reader’s experience.

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

The most important element is having characters who have depth who readers want to get to know. Once you have that link the rest is gravy.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

From my website acecollins.com

Catherine Gayle, Author of “Merely a Miss”

Who is your most unusual/likeable character?

If I’m being completely honest, I have a tendency to write unlikeable characters, and I then have to work very hard to bring out their likeability. The one everyone always wants to talk to me about—whether in a good way or in a bad way—is Quin from Twice a Rake. He’s the rake in the title who wasn’t satisfied with just being a regular rake, but needed to up the stakes. Readers either love him or hate him…there is no in between.

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

I am very much a plotter. Before I start writing, I take my initial story idea and work to determine who the characters are who would do such a thing. I spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks building and getting to know my characters before I ever work on the plot. Then I make out scene cards for what I expect to happen, determine the order, and start writing. I always have scenes that need to be added or subtracted from my initial planning stage, as the characters and story change a bit as I write, but I generally know at least the major scenes fairly well in advance.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Before I do anything, I just let some basic ideas start to form in my head of how I think the characters will be. Then I start with a date of birth, and I crack open my copy of Suzanne White’s The New Astrology. From that, I find a few positive and negative character traits that fit both the character’s western astrological sign and their Chinese sign. From that point, I am really starting to understand the characters, and I fill in a character chart for each main player. This typically takes up anywhere from 3-7 pages, with every detail about their back story I need to know. After I’ve got all of that, I’m ready to figure out their Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (see the book by Deb Dixon if you aren’t familiar with it—it’s the best investment for any fiction writer, in my opinion.)

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I grew up in a far less than perfect environment, surrounded by people who often had more flaws than positives. That’s what I know very well, and I find I’m always creating characters who would have fit well within that environment. That said, I’ve always been looking for my own happily ever after, so I think that’s why I write romance—the characters always get one, even if they start off in the same circumstances I did, or worse.

What’s your writing schedule like?

Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day? Other than a few months out of the year where it seems like everything comes falling apart, I tend to write every day. I’m a full-time writer, but I absolutely can’t make myself write in the mornings. Because of that, I get up in the morning and work on marketing, record-keeping, editing, and other non-creative things that need to be done. Then, usually around lunchtime, I’m ready to settle into my writing. On an average day, I’m happy with about 2,000 words. When I’m struggling, I’m thrilled with 500 words. There have been days where I’ve rattled off 12,000 words and only stopped because I needed sleep. It really just varies.

What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing up the writing on Pariah, which is the second book in my Old Maids’ Club trilogy (Wallflower is the first). While I’m working on that, I’m also doing some planning and prep-work for a new series, and sorting out my plot for the third Old Maids’ Club book.

Does writing come easy for you?

Some days, absolutely. Other days, it is like pulling teeth. I find the humorous parts of writing to be fairly easy, and usually the very emotional scenes are my bread and butter. Heavy action scenes make me want to throw my computer out the window in frustration. Lately, I’ve struggled with writing emotional scenes, which does not make me a happy camper.

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

Hmmm…well, I’ve got the two remaining books in my Old Maids’ Club series. I’m debating some possibilities for expanding my Lord Rotheby’s Influence series (potentially up to five more stories). I’ve debated an off-shoot series for the Old Maids’ Club, which would be four more stories. And I’ve got the new trilogy I’m in planning and preparation for now. So all told, that’s about fourteen stories? I should be done writing all of them by around 2020 or so. LOL.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Since my books are all set in historical locales, I tend to scour census materials and the like. I keep a running file where I put name possibilities in, and then I name my characters as I’m getting to know them. Some get a name and it never changes. Others go through five to ten names before something sticks.

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

Absolutely, and I’ve got a computer in the bedroom too, in case whatever I need to write down is more than something I’d like to just write on a notepad. It is not uncommon for me to wake up at 3 am with something, and spend an hour or two getting it out of my system before going back to bed.

What writer influenced you the most?

Just one? I couldn’t possibly pick only one. Dr. Seuss made reading fun. William Faulkner made me fall in love with words and the rhythm of a beautifully crafted sentence. Shakespeare taught me about rising and falling action. Louisa May Alcott taught me a love of family dynamics. Jane Austen nourished my love of a sly wit. Julie Garwood hooked me into my chosen genre, and Nora Roberts kept me there. Julia Quinn taught me that sometimes, simply making someone laugh is more than enough. Mary Balogh made me want to delve deeper into emotion. So…there. How about which nine writers influenced me the most?

Where can people learn more about your books?

From my author page at Second Wind Publishing: Catherine Gayle.

P.I. Barrington, Author of Isadora DayStar

What is your book about?

I think the overall theme is about guilt and redemption but in a nutshell, the blurb below gives it all:

When drug-addled assassin Isadora DayStar finally snags a major interplanetary kill job she thinks it will both support her habit and revise her status as the laughingstock of her profession. Instead she embarks on a journey that brings her face to face with her tortured past.

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

It took about a year and a half of rolling the idea around, coming up with various, sometimes unrelated scenes which is not how I write at all. But I had a trilogy coming out that I was working on, a book every four or five months for my publisher so Isadora was on the back burner so to speak. I’d sneak in little hand written scenes at night before I went to bed after working on the novels during the day. Finally, Isadora really began to demand attention so every time I was stuck on the trilogy books, I’d pull up her document and work on it. I did begin to get a little obsessed with it after all my other deadlines were met.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

This is a true story! First I’d read an interview article with an author who, when asked why she gave a particular main character such huge obstacles to overcome, said she disliked that character so much she wanted to torture her, lol! The interviewer told her that those obstacles were the reason she loved that character! That started me thinking if it was possible to intentionally create a main character that you hate intensely as the author. I began an opening for the story and tried to make Isadora (no name at the time) as repulsive as possible. I got about twenty pages done and realized that I’d started to be interested in, if not liked, Isadora. As I mentioned earlier I wrote her in fits and starts. I also used to watch a program called “CreationScapes” on the DayStar Christian Channel late at night and I was hooked on it. One night the DayStar logo came up and I thought “what a great last name for a sci-fi character, especially a female. About five minutes later, Isadora popped into my head and that was it: Isadora DayStar. By that time she had entire story.

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

I really don’t know. I think I see her as someone who I have the potential to be if I’m not careful.

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

Isadora is always my favorite, probably because I like losers, I like people who have false bravado and just keep going, keep trying no matter how insane the obstacles. Isadora has a great ability to deal with negativity and trauma and I think that’s due to the giant amount of guilt she carries around inside. When you have that much inner torture, outside torture can seem minor in comparison. Iphedea I like because she sees something in Isadora that’s good, she recognizes Isadora’s potential and herself in her as well though that isn’t obvious to her. Rafe Tucker is just an all around bastard.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Wow. Again, it’s got to be Isadora. She’s just so determined to survive and prove to not only everyone else but herself as well that she still has some type of worth and she can be ridiculously soft-hearted in spite of herself. She has this fragile shell around herself that cracks with all the abuse but never quite breaks and she tries to be tougher than she really is; she pretends to herself that she’s tough though deep down somewhere she knows she’s vulnerable. It shows in her relationship with Iphedea and in the guilt she bears.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Total about a year and a half to write it but then writing speeded up once I’d made all my writing commitments. By the time I could sit down and concentrate on Isadora, it was all pretty much written. I just had to type it all out.

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

Well, I usually have two arcs like a double rainbow: the top arc is the overall story plot, theme, etc., that is the Beginning A to the End B; the arc below that is the plot action that gets me from point A to point B. So I may not know all of the details until I begin that lower arc of action. I know the first line and I know the last line.

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

Actually I do. I write sequentially, that is from the first line and go straight through to the end. I have one WIP that has taken me ages and is awful to write because I wrote the scenes out of sequence. I’ll never do that again!

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

As I said, I know the first line and the last line. When I get to that last line I am done. I write “The End” and it’s over but for editing.

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

I want them to remember it and to feel that they’ve been on the journey with Isadora. I want them to sympathize if not empathize with her—root for her—feel her pain (to quote President Clinton). I want them to relate in terms of guilt and redemption. I want them to like her even if she doesn’t.

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

There’s almost always a moral to the stories I can’t help but put it in. People say the messages are subtle but there and I never think they’re that obvious.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Writing the prostitution scenes was definitely the hardest. Isadora had to reduce herself to doing pretty much anything to survive—it was hard to watch her humiliate herself, hard to write it.

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

You know I think every writer has that special book inside them—sometimes they call it “The Great American Novel.” Isadora is that one for me. I had this need to write an underdog story, a real need to do it, and I realized when writing it that I’d had various versions of this story inside my head for years and when it emerged it was all those versions congealed as one—Isadora DayStar.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

My level of professionalism has shot itself into the upper stratosphere! When you’re young or not yet published, you don’t realize what kind of attitude you suddenly need once you are published. There’s no more fooling around, no wasting time, you have to devote complete attention to things like edits and revisions your editor(s) need.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’ve always written from the time I learned the alphabet but I never wanted to give in to it. I was a journalist and then worked in radio and entertainment so all of that definitely influences how I write—concise and tight. I also know pretty much what it takes to entertain people on a professional level and make my work as accessible as I can.

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

No, and I’m desperately trying to find some, lol! I’m only half facetious about that—I’d love to have some cool preparation before I dig into the keyboard!

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

I’m a night person and don’t really get into functioning gear until late afternoon so mornings are pretty much devoted to email, FB, etc. If I’m working on a book deadline, I start as early as possible, every day and write as much as I possibly can or until I finish one or more chapters and need to stop and regroup to continue the story. Most of the time I begin serious writing about 4 p.m. and go as far as I can into the night or until my dog drags me to bed. The only time I count words is if I need a certain amount for my publisher’s deadline & word count requirements. Or if the story needs more count to be an actual novel—that’s where the concise and tight becomes a problem, lol!

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

Coffee and Diet Coke are my working poisons. If I could get them both via an IV drip I would, lol! I’ve drunk coffee since my grandmother gave it to me as soon as I could hold a cup! Popcorn—I love popcorn—without butter.

What are you working on right now?

Several things: I’m finishing up a paranormal crime thriller, I’ve begun an epic fantasy, and have several short stories to finish slated for anthologies, two sci-fi romances, and a couple of things I’m thinking of serializing.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I think I’m writing for those who read big commercial authors and I hope that doesn’t sound insanely egotistical. But my stuff isn’t strictly held to a genre. I don’t write super technical sci fi but I also don’t go overboard with romance either. My hope is that both men and women will like my books.

What was the first story you remember writing?

There was only one and it won the school district contest. It was a first person account of the life and care of the American Flag! I came in first and should have known back then but I did not want to be a writer at all! That small story triggered a love/hate relationship with writing that has only really ended in the last two years.

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

Coming up with a great premise.

Does writing come easy for you?

Ridiculously so.

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?

No. I create characters that are marked for death from the beginning.

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

No less than five. But as I’ve said, if I’m on deadline, I concentrate on the novel at hand.

What do you like to read?

Totally incongruent, but I LOVE ancient historical—both Christian and non-Christian. I’m a closet history buff and wannabee archaeologist!

What writer influenced you the most?

Two: Stephen King and Taylor Caldwell.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Again, two: Taylor Caldwell’s Great Lion of God and Dear and Glorious Physician. Oh, how could I forget? Pat Wallace’s House of Scorpio! That’s one romance fantasy that I wish I’d written! By today’s standards it’s perhaps a little mawkish and maudlin but such a clever and unique premise and setting/world building. I love it!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Don’t be self-indulgent. Don’t look at everything you write as perfect. Be your own harshest critic and that way no one else will have to be.

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

To get all of my stories written and published and perhaps get an agent would be my current goals. Promoting and writing? That’s the REAL trick of publishing today. Writing takes time, but for me at least, promotion is constant and at times overwhelming!

What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

Be proactive—don’t expect everyone else to do it for you, especially your publisher.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, my sister and I have several:

Future Imperfect trilogy (Crucifying Angel, Miraculous Deception & Final Deceit) futuristic crime thriller
Inamorata Crossing, Borealis 1 anthology sci fi romance
Button Hollow Chronicles #1: The Leaf Peeper Murders
Lights! Camera! Murder!
Isadora DayStar, a dark sci fi adventure available now via Smashwords:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/76514

Information on all books and the authors can be found at P.I. Barrington/Loni Emmert’s website:
http://thewordmistresses.com

Thanks so much for having me Pat!

Mitchell Waldman, author of “Petty Offenses And Crimes Of The Heart”

Today I am interviewing Mitchell Waldman, author of PETTY OFFENSES AND CRIMES OF THE HEART (Wind Publications, August 2011)

Mitchell, What is your book about?

PETTY OFFENSES is a short story collection including both stories about actual crimes and criminals and the effects they have on ordinary people, and crimes which run much deeper, are of a much more personal, emotional nature.

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

Some of the stories in the collection are based on personal experiences, persons I have known, while others are purely fictional.

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

One of my favorite characters in these stories is Delores Leary, the mother in “Fortunate Son,” who exhibits an incredible amount of strength despite the circumstances she goes through when her son goes MIA in Iraq. Then, there’s the unknown interviewer in “Catching Up with Cartucci,” who has his own very unique manner of questioning his subject.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The book developed after several years, and the stories all just seemed to fit together in a uniform body of stories that seem to work very well together.

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

Usually, I am just trying to entertain and give the reader a glimpse into the lives of characters they don’t know, make them relate to, feel what my characters are going through. Transport them to this other person’s life. Make the reader feel. Although, in a couple of instances in Petty Offenses, the stories do have a greater agenda, to get some of my social concerns known, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” My greatest goal is to keep my readers interested, turning the pages and live through my characters’ lives and dilemmas.

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

I have to admit that in a couple of instances in the stories in Petty Offenses, I have a greater agenda, want get some of my social concerns known and felt, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” About war, the environment, various social injustices, prejudice.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I was a psychology major and have a law degree, so, yes, my background has influenced the writing of Petty Offenses in that I love to study people, why they do what they do. And, particularly, in this book, why the commit crimes, sometimes make decisions that others of us would never make.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on more stories and a novel, with my partner, Diana, that ought to be something spectacular.

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 carry a little notebook around and jot down story ideas. Then there are the piles of fragments of stories that I start sometimes and then come back to to revisit. Once in a while they result in an actual story. I have to admit my best ideas for stories often come to me in the shower.

What writer influenced you the most?

There are so many well-known and not so well-known writers I could recommend, that have influence me, that I can’t count. Yes, a lot of people have read some of my favorites — Joseph Heller (Catch-22), Philip Roth, Bret Ellis, John Irving, Nick Hornby, Ellen Gilchrist, Larry McMurtry, Frederick Barthelme, and Andre Dubus, all of whom have influenced me in one way or another over the years, but there are so many other great writers out there that people need to discover. Such as Perry Glasser (author of Dangerous Places) who is an excellent, engaging writer of short fiction, and Benjamin Percy (The Language of the Elks), Not to mention the great fiction of my former teacher at the University of Illinois, Mark Costello (The Murphy Stories), Paul A. Toth (Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions) , and the powerful poetry of Diana May-Waldman (A Woman’s Song), who speaks to every woman. These are just a few. There are so many great writers to read and so little time to read them!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Write from your heart. Write what you know/what you want to know, what interests you, what you care about, not what you think other people tell you or think you should read. (Be careful of English teachers’ reading list suggestions!) Don’t try to impress people with your vocabulary. Communicate from the heart, from your soul. Your writing is your mark on the world, so make it your best every time. Move someone with your words.

I like that you expanded the adage of “write what you know” to include “Write what you want to know.” It’s more realistic and a lot more fun. Have you written any other books?

I’ve also written a novel, entitled A FACE IN THE MOON, and co-edited with my partner, Diana, an anthology entitled WOUNDS OF WAR: POETS FOR PEACE.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My books are available on online bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information, check out my website at: http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com, or my publisher’s website at: http://windpub.com/books/PettyOffenses.htm

It’s been great talking to you today, Mitchell!

Thanks, Pat!

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, Author of “On the Choptank Shores”

Welcome, Smoky! What is your book, On the Choptank Shores, about?

The tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father, Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity. Otto Singer charms Grace with his gentle courtship and devotion to his brother, Henry. But after their marriage, Otto is unable to share with Grace the terrible secret he has kept more than twenty years. Otto believes he is responsible for a tragic accident that claimed the life of a young woman and left Henry severely brain damaged.

Luther’s insane ravings and increasingly violent behavior force Grace to question and reassess the patriarchal religious beliefs of her childhood. Then tragedy strikes just when Otto’s secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Can Grace find the strength to save her sister … her marriage … them all?

On the Choptank Shores is a love story. The love between a young wife (Grace) and her decidedly middle-aged husband (Otto), and the love of a big sister for her abused baby sister (Miriam). It’s the story of the love for an aging, grief-stricken father (Luther) who is spiraling into a dark world of insanity, and the love of a kind and benevolent God whom Grace knows must exist, despite the crazed ravings of her father, who paints a picture of a vengeful, angry God as he spouts biblical verse to defend his abuse of both Grace and little Miriam. It is a story of the land on which they live, and the power of Mother Nature. Most of all, it is a story of love conquering all.

Who is your most unusual character?

That would be Henry. Henry is Otto’s younger brother who, although a grown man, has the mind of a child ever since a childhood accident left him brain damaged. He can be violent, mostly out of frustration. But he can be very kind, too, and he becomes a great friend to little Miriam, who mentally isn’t much younger than Henry at all, despite the wide difference in their chronological years. Henry gets in deep trouble in the book, but in the end, he turns out to be … whoops! Almost put a spoiler in there! I better leave it at that!

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

On the Choptank Shores is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, at a peach orchard named Windy Hill. Windy Hill Orchard was my aunt and uncle’s home, where I spent many happy vacations as a child raiding my aunt’s garden, devouring her blue crab cakes, swimming in the river, and jumping in the sand pit—although we weren’t supposed to do the latter, because my uncle feared the sand would cave in on us. My aunt and uncle were long gone by the time I wrote the book, so most of my research entailed talking to my mother to have her remind me of details about Windy Hill that I needed but had forgotten. I also dug through old photos taken at Windy Hill to help transport my mind back to that simpler time and place.

But I also did a bit of research at the library. I do have one sex scene in the book—it isn’t gratuitous; it actually makes a point about one of the main themes of the book—and I had to research what sort of underclothing a woman in the late 1920s would be wearing. It was fun! For example, Grace did not wear a bra; she wore a bust confiner. That was a fun fact to uncover.

I also had to research what giving birth would have been like back then. They certainly didn’t allow fathers into the delivery room, of course; nor did they have epidurals. It’s a wonder to me any mother survived childbirth before the advent of epidurals.

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

That’s differed from book to book. My other published novel, The Cabin, I had most of the story plotted out in my head before I set a finger on the keyboard. That was easy to do, because the plot stemmed from a story in my family’s history that I found fascinating.

But for On the Choptank Shores, I had a totally different idea of what the story would be when I started out than when I finished writing it. The characters just took over and wouldn’t let me write what I thought I was going to write! And they were correct in doing so, and I was smart to let them. Their story was so much better than the one I thought I was going to tell!

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

While meditating, I often come up with rough ideas for scenes I need to write. The characters get in my head and tell me what to write when I’m in such a relaxed state. I also sometimes dream scenes, which is pretty wonderful when it happens.

As to staying on track: often, I don’t. But that’s because, as I said in the last question, if my characters aren’t happy with the way I’m telling the story, they tend to take over and tell the story their way instead of the way I’m telling it. Sometimes, jumping the track is better than staying on it!

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

I am so glad you asked that question! As a former writing instructor, I get concerned when writers announce they are writing a 90,000-word book, or they have 4,000 words to go before they finish writing their book. How, exactly, can you know how long your story is going to be? My opinion is, you write until the story is done. Then, you stop. That means sometimes I end up with a novel, sometimes a novella. Sometimes, it’s a short story—one of my more popular short stories (it’s been published five time!) is “Good-bye, Emily Dickinson.” I wanted badly for that story to be a novel, but it just wasn’t. It was a short story. I would have had to pad, and pad, and pad to stretch it further, and that would have diluted the story.

Of course, once you have some experience, you can judge whether your story will be a novel or not. But exact word count? I don’t think so.

So, to get off my teacher soapbox and answer your question, I write until the story is done. When it reaches the climax, when I’ve done my denouement, I call it quits. Period.

I do have a neat trick I’d like to share for knowing exactly which sentence should be your last. Remove the last sentence. Is the final paragraph still strong? Does it make sense? If it does, now remove that sentence and ask yourself the same questions. If it does, now remove that sentence. Keep doing this until you weaken your ending by removing a sentence. Add that necessary one back, and that should be the end.

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

First, your characters must ring true. That means your hero or heroine can’t be perfect; they must have flaws. Similarly, your antagonist can’t be all bad. For your characters to ring true, you also have to get dialogue right. People speak in contractions, for example, yet it’s drummed into us in school not to use them!

Your plot must, of course, revolve around a central conflict. There are probably going to be other conflicts as well making up your sub-plots, but it amazes me how many manuscripts I’ve edited for people where there was no central conflict. They hadn’t written stories; they’d written “A Day in the Life of…” types of things. But that’s basic principle of fiction writing! No conflict, no story.

There are more, but those are the most important, in my opinion.

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

I am definitely a morning person. I like to arise before the sun and write. By about lunchtime, my mind starts to tire. I’ll switch to any editing jobs I’ve contracted at that time.

Of course, if I’m really on a roll and still feeling fresh, I’ll continue to write. But, generally speaking, mornings are when I’m at my best.

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

Graham crackers and Coca-Cola. I have a very testy stomach, and grahams and Coke keep it soothed while I write.

Does writing come easy for you?

Yes and no. When I sit down to write, the words flow, and flow easily and well. I’ve been told I’m a natural-born writer, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I grew up in a house full of books, and was always a natural-born reader, and I think being well-read is crucial to becoming a great writer.

The problem for me is the same problem most writers have, and that’s finding the time to write. That is not always easy!

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

The awe some people display when they find out I’ve not only written a book, but written several! Really, I don’t tell people I’m an author to stun them! It’s what I do, just like some people are gardeners or bank tellers or forest rangers. But there is something about being a writer that makes other people think you’re pretty cool—even if you aren’t!

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on my third novel, called The Storyteller’s Bracelet. A storyteller’s bracelet is a Navajo bracelet that has pictographs carved into it that tell the artist’s story, or another person’s story. My sister gave me one a few years back, and the inspiration for this novel came from that.

I’m also working on another project, called The Madam of Bodie. It’s loosely based on true stories from Bodie, California, which was known as “the baddest town in the West” during the California gold boom. It’s a state park now and one of my favorite places to visit when we go to the Sierras. It’s a writers dream, as far as inspiration goes.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, I have! There’s my novel, The Cabin, which I’ve already mentioned. My latest release is Short Story Collection, Vol. 1; the print edition of that was released just a few days ago. Then there’s Observations of an Earth Mage, my photo/essay book of reflections on nature.

I also have another new eBook release that will be available in print in October: Smoky’s Writers Workshop Combo Set. The book is comprised of both my books for writers: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside You From Start to Finish; and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises., The former title is the same fiction writer’s workshop I used to teach, so people can get an entire 10-week writing class in one book, plus a year’s worth of writing exercises in one book with the new, combined book. It’s a great way for someone who wants to write a book to learn the right way to do it, and it works! One of my former writing students, Robert Hays, learned to write fiction with my method, and he’s gone on to publish four novels!

Where can people learn more about your books?

Here’s the list of all my links. I hope people will look me up in these places, friend and/or follow me, and say hello!

Website and “Smoky Talks” Blog:  www.SmokyZeidel.wordpress.com
Facebook Fan Page:                            www.Facebook.com.Smoky.Zeidel.Writes
Amazon Author Page:                         http://amzn.to/mUvjpC
Goodreads Author Page:                    http://bit.ly/pGXAXq
Smashwords Author Page:                 http://bit.ly/qan6Nx
All Romance Author Page:                 http://bit.ly/p6pR9O

Click here to read an excerpt from: On the Choptank Shores

Click here for an interview with: Grace Harmon Singer, Hero of On the Choptank Shores by Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

Malcolm R. Campbell, Author of “Sarabande”

I am delighted to be able to introduce Malcolm R. Campbell and his newest novel “Sarabande”. Malcolm is so very generous to other authors, it’s great to be able to return the favor. Besides, he’s a damn good writer who pens powerful tales. If you haven’t yet met Malcolm, what are you waiting for?

So, Malcolm, what is your book about?

“Sarabande” is the story of a young woman who leaves her alternate-universe home via a portal hidden in the Rocky Mountains in search of the once-powerful Sun Singer. She wants him to return to her mountain home and help her rid herself of the ghost of her sister Dryad who has haunted her for three years. The journey itself turns out to be worse than Dryad’s taunting and haunting. The ordeals of the trip across the Montana plains will force her deep within to discover her true strengths and greatest challenges.

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

This novel is a sequel to my earlier fantasy “The Sun Singer,” so the story was on my mind for many years before I wrote it. I had never written fiction from a woman’s point of view before and avoided working on “Sarabande” until I was finally ready to confront the story.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

“The Sun Singer” is about a young man’s solar journey. I wanted to look at the other side of the coin, so to speak, and write about the lunar-oriented ordeals of a young woman. Sarabande, my protagonist first appeared in “The Sun Singer.” However, I have written her story so that it can be read as a standalone novel, a woman’s story that could be whole in and of itself.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Sarabande’s sister Dryad is a nasty temptress. She tried to spoil my protagonist, Robert Adams, in “The Sun Singer.” When she attacked Sarabande near the end of that novel, Sarabande killed her in self-defense. As it turns out, she’s even nastier as a ghost than as a living woman. Basically, he’s an all-about-me character with few morals and fewer restraints on what she’s willing to do to hurt other people.

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

I know only the major plot points. I try to follow my stories as they unfold. While I already knew about the major ordeals Sarabande had to face, I knew little else. When I finished one chapter, the idea for the next chapter came to mind. It was almost like the character was sitting next to me handing out her story a little bit at a time. Needless to say, writing this way means that I end up being surprised by many of the things that happen. I tend to do a lot of research while I write because I like placing my fantasy scenes in very real settings. While reading about those settings online, I often think of new wrinkles for the plot that had never occurred to me before. I love the process of discovery.

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

All three of my fantasies are set partly in Glacier National Park. However, since I haven’t been there for a long time, I read a lot about the park online as well as in my reference books and magazines while writing. Sarabande, for example, sees popular lakes, mountains and trails in the park. I want to make sure that I have the descriptions right as well as how far apart they are from each other—I don’t want my character hiking between them faster than it’s possible in real life. At the same time, I’m always checking the blooming seasons of the wildflowers I mention, the typical times when the snow melts off in the summer, and the habits of the animals that appear in the book. I want the readers to feel like they are following my character through the glacier-carved valleys of the area called “the back bone of the world.”

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I “see” the characters the way one “sees” things in his or her memory. When they appear to me, they develop ways of talking and moving about it a physical space. Since I have no knowledge of women’s clothing or hairstyles, I’ll have a general idea about the look I want, but I’ll either ask my wife or look things up online to find out what a certain kind of clothing or hairstyle is called. Once in a while, I’ll see a celebrity picture that “looks just like” my female character, and she will become a model for them—but only insofar as looks, posture, facial expressions, etc. When the characters interact with each other, they act as they act. This seems more natural to me than, say, making a list of characters and then jotting down a list of characteristics for each. They grow, of course, as the novel moves forward and, for a writer, that’s fun to watch.

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

I usually write straight through the novel from beginning to end to see what’s going to happen. Occasionally, a scene will feel wrong, too long or out of place, and I’ll edit it or move it. Or, something will occur to me in chapter five that needs to be foreshadowed earlier. Writing on a computer makes it very easy to cut and paste, move things around, or go back to earlier parts of the book and drop in a bit of material. Most of my ideas for what I’m going to write next in a novel-in-progress occur to me while I’m going other things. This gives me a lot of time to think about them, tinker with them, and mull over the impact they might have on earlier or later scenes in the book long before I start typing them. This keeps things on track because the story has a natural flow to it that becomes apparent as I “live it” from day to day. My wife always knows when I’m writing a novel because I walk around like somebody who’s either possessed or off in another world.

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

My goal is always to tell an interesting and absorbing story. I don’t write with an agenda or in hopes that when the reader gets to the end of the book an apparent “moral of the story” will jump out at them. All of my fantasies are “nature friendly,” so readers are always going to be experiencing the location settings in the novels in a “green” manner, so to speak. Sarabande faces issues that often come up in patriarchal societies. Reading about how she deals with these issues may provide readers with another perspective about women’s rights and about the bonds between women and the natural world. But first, I want readers to get wrapped up in the drama, the humor, and the unforeseen plot twists, and have a wonderful reading experience. Going away with “food for thought” is icing on the cake.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I write from a third person restricted point of view. This means that I am always with only one character from start to finish; everything in the book is filtered directly or indirectly through that character’s eyes, ears and thoughts. The challenge here, especially with some of the deeply personal women’s issues in the plot, was putting myself into a woman’s point of view and keeping it realistic. I did not want the book to sound like it was written by a man who was speculating about how a woman might talk, act, and re-act to the ordeals in the storyline. The challenge was making the story truly seem as though it were being told by a woman and that all of it rang true to the women reading the book.

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

I do everything possible to avoid having a writing schedule, much less a daily word-count goal. The story unfolds as it unfolds. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, much less when my characters or my muse or the universe are going to fill me in on the next scene or chapter. Sitting down to write at a specific time or forcing out a set number or words each day would ruin the flow. This sounds like a lazier approach than it is. Whenever I have a novel in progress, I am rather obsessed with it. It is always on my mind. Basically, I’m much better off when I’m actually writing it than when I’m not writing it.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing and are listed there on my author’s page. I’ve been posting about the experience of writing this novel on my Sarabande’s Journey blog. “Sarabande” first appeared on Kindle on August 13 and is expected to be released as a paperback August 31. Thanks so much, Pat, for chatting with me about my work. Your questions force me to think more about what I’m doing and why.

Click here to read an excerpt of: Sarabande by Malcolm R. Campbell

J. Conrad Guest, Author of One Hot January

What is your book about?

One Hot January is about an alternate history in which the United States fails to enter World War II in time to help the Allies defeat the Tripartite before Germany becomes too strong to defeat.

Imagine a future in which Germany has perfected genetic engineering and is systematically eradicating whole nations in an effort to secure the empire Hitler vowed would last a thousand years; a future in which Hitler lies in a cryogenic chamber, awaiting treatment for a cancer for which a cure has been discovered; a future in which a faction of genetically engineered people opposed to Hitler’s tyranny travel back in time to amend future history by influencing Churchill to withhold from U.S. Intelligence the vital decrypt specifying the date and time of the raid on Pearl Harbor. Imagine a fast-talking private investigator from Brooklyn, New York named Joe January who uncovers the seemingly impossible plot by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father—a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College who must prevent the secret of Hitler’s location from falling into the wrong hands …

Imagine all of the above and you have the ingredients for One Hot January and its sequel, January’s Thaw (forthcoming later this year). Populated with characters both fictional as well as factual, the plot is based on the premise that Winston Churchill did indeed withhold such a decrypt from U.S. Intelligence—a decrypt that lies locked away in a box, to remain unopened for seventy-five years. In One Hot January, Churchill advises Roosevelt of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. With the foreknowledge, the Japanese fleet aborts its attack, thereby delaying U.S. involvement in the war until it was too late to defeat Nazi Germany. Hitler’s detractors from the future believe that by allowing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to take place, President Roosevelt would have no choice but to declare war, without the support of Congress, or else incur the outrage of the American public. So they travel back through time to launch a conspiracy that results in our living this alternate reality.

One Hot January takes into account the theory of what many historians have long suspected: a plot to draw the U.S. into World War II. By the end of One Hot January, January is transported one hundred years into the future where, in January’s Thaw, he must survive by his century-old sagacity in our modern world.

Filled with mystery and intrigue, action and romance, the January series is speculative science fiction on a large scale.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

In my youth I had a voracious appetite for science fiction—the late Alfred Bester and Samuel R. Delany were my favorites and I later discovered Gene Wolfe and Stephen R. Donaldson. January’s Paradigm (the first book in the trilogy) is about a science fiction novelist who wrote the best selling One Hot January and is endeavoring to complete its sequel, January’s Thaw, when he discovers, firsthand, his wife’s infidelity. Unable to cope with her duplicity, he drinks himself into an elaborate fantasy in which he assumes the persona of the fictional Joe January in his books. So One Hot January and January’s Thaw are the books within the book (January’s Paradigm).

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

It’s been said that writers write what they know. However, I read recently that authors should stretch their comfort zones or, to turn the phrase, know what they write, which is not the same thing and could suggest that if one wants to write about a serial killer one must become a serial killer.

I’m for stretching myself even if my themes of love, infidelity and loss recur; but I doubt very much I’ll ever write from the female perspective (never say never!). Transgender writing is tricky. I’ve read a few who managed to pull it off; but that’s not to say I found them totally convincing.

I recently work-shopped an excerpt from a novel written by a woman in my old writers group and suggested her male character’s description of a building in (if I recall correctly) seventeenth century Venice had a distinct female voice. Her male protagonist described (I’m paraphrasing) “beautiful stone work,” and “finely hand-crafted iron trim.” If I’m writing that description, I’d describe the stone work as “handsome,” the ironwork as “wrought by the hands of a skilled artisan.” Subtle differences, with which others in the group disagreed, pointing out the third person narrative made my point moot. So it’s largely subjective.

Joe January and I have a lot in common. We’re both quick-witted smart asses, outspoken, observant and, to a degree, arrogant. But in January I created the bad boy I never was. That’s not to say I haven’t broken a heart or two along the way; but unlike January, I never made a habit of patting myself on the back for the pain I caused others. January has a good heart and does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, except, the result of a childhood trauma I won’t reveal here, where women are concerned. When he loses the one woman who meant the most to him and he’s robbed of the chance to tell her of his true feelings, he recognizes the value of what he lost and redeems himself by paying it forward.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me ten years to write the January trilogy. Sadly, during the time I was writing One Hot January both my parents died. As a result, I lost my focus and rhythm for a while, so it alone took me nearly six years to complete.

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

One Hot January takes place in New York City, circa 1947 and 2047. I’ve been to New York several times; but some of January’s haunts—the nightclubs he visits back in the 1940s—I researched, mostly on the Internet. I bought a tour guidebook that helped with locations and streets.

I hit a wall about two-thirds of the way through, a real writer’s block. When a woman I was seeing at that time took a business trip to NYC I went along and we visited many of the places January frequents in OHJ. It was my intent to catch up with him. When we returned to Michigan I wrote a short story, A Case of Writer’s Block, which details January’s encounter with his author in Central Park. The block is chronicled from the perspective of the character; in this case, January had been relegated to Central Park, where his life had quite literally come to a complete standstill. However, after his encounter with his author, he is assured that his life outside the park would continue. I got back on track to finish OHJ and finished January’s Thaw less than two years later. As a side note, A Case of Writer’s Block won a contest recently.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Many of the characters about whom I write are based on people I’ve known or observed over the years—my mother and father make appearances in some form or another, childhood pals, old girlfriends. The names are changed of course, a few nuances given or tweaked to ensure any resemblance to actual persons living or deceased is entirely coincidental.

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

The January books are composed of a number of messages. In January’s Paradigm the reader learns that there are people in the world—men and women alike—who are not very nice; that men don’t have a corner on the mean market. Men, too, can be hurt through infidelity. One Hot January shows that no government is benign and that we must care about a world we will not see. While January’s Thaw is largely about redemption, that it’s never too late to close the door on the past and to live in the moment, for tomorrow.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

At the risk of sounding elitist, I write to please myself first and foremost and hope that my audience finds me.

I love reading novels that are of a literary nature, those that don’t follow a formula. Sadly, they’re not often found on the best seller list. I’m not a mercenary—I don’t write simply to turn a profit. If it happens, great, but then I can say, I did it my way.

The reader I wish to reach seeks something a little different—something that combines or mixes genres. A reader who enjoys the turn of a phrase, who believes how a story is told is as important as the story itself. I hope my readers remember the stories I tell long after they’ve closed the cover for the last time.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, I’ve already mentioned January’s Paradigm and January’s Thaw. Last year Second Wind published Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings. Last year I finished The Cobb Legacy, a murder mystery romance based on the shooting death of baseball legend Ty Cobb’s father by his mother, which I hope will find its way into print. I just finished writing my sixth novel a couple weeks ago—A Retrospect in Death.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Readers can learn more about me and my literary world at my website. I’m also on Facebook.

See also
Interview with Joe January, hero of One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest
Excerpt from One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest
Chapter One – One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

Click here to buy: One Hot January