Today I have the pleasure of presenting a Two-time USA Today Bestselling Author, Dianne Harman.
Dianne, why did you write this book?
Over the years I’ve received many, many emails thanking me for having my main characters be of midlife age, rather than in their 20’s or 30’s. People told me it was refreshing to read books about people who were experiencing the life changes they were. I thought a series that dealt with women in their midlife journey would appeal to people who are going, or have gone, through real life struggles.
What type of struggles do you mean?
By the time someone is in their midlife years, they may have had to deal with a loved one’s death, divorce, empty nest, parent’s care, worries about their job being taken over by someone younger, and just the general aging process. I believe that just because someone is in their middle years, it doesn’t mean their life is over. I wrote my first book when I was 69 and six years, later, I’ve sold well over half a million books, and I had no clue what social media even was!
Are your main characters always women?
They are, but certainly there are plenty of men in my Midlife Journey Series. The first book, Alexis, dealt with a woman who was forced to deal with the fact that she was very overweight. It deals with her struggles and eventual happiness with herself and a midlife romance. Since I believe so much that miracles are possible, maybe even probable, my books tend to have happy endings.
Beverly is set in the south. Why?
I tend to set my books in the western part of the United States, because that’s where I live, but again, a number of readers said they’d love a series set in the southern part of the United States.
You mention that this is a series. In what respect?
I’ve always thought the Sue Grafton series with the letters of the alphabet was brilliant, so I decided to somewhat pattern this series on that concept. The first book is Alexis, the second is Beverly, Carol, the third is being written, and I’ll continue. I also receive a lot of questions from people wondering if they’ve missed a book in a certain series. With the letters of the alphabet it makes it a lot easier. Does that mean there will be twenty-six books in the series? Hope so!
Dianne, what’s next for you?
Along with this series I’ll continue to write books in my six cozy mystery series, Cedar Bay, Liz Lucas, High Desert, Midwest, Northwest, and the newest one, Cottonwood Springs. I invite people to visit my website, http://email@example.com and pick up two free books. Additionally, you can follow me on BookBub, http://ow.ly/NDaE30m1lTU and Amazon, http://ow.ly/b6Bn30m1m8v
Thanks, Uvi, for the chance to be a part of one of your interviews!
Libby Fischer Hellman
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a critically acclaimed crime writer. Libby Fischer Hellmann is loved by readers the world over for her compulsively readable thrillers and strong female characters. Her fast-paced crime fiction spans 15 novels and 25 short stories. She has also edited a popular crime fiction anthology called Chicago Blues. Her newest work, "HIGH CRIMES" was released in November, 2018.
You’ve written many different sub-genres within the crime/mystery genre: amateur sleuth, PI, historical thrillers, police procedurals, and even a cozy. Why?
I like to say I am “writing my away around the genre.” I love crime fiction in ALL its variations, because an unsolved mystery or questions about evil-doing is one of the most elemental plot drivers in literature. The answers to those questions opens the door explorations of good and evil; heroes and cowards, social and cultural institutions—in other words, human nature itself. So I enjoy trying different ways to get at those explorations. Of course, I have to do my homework and make sure the story is as accurate and faithful to the genre as I can, but that part is fun for me. The truth is that each story presents its own challenge, and I enjoy challenging myself.
How would you describe your Ellie Foreman series? What about Georgia Davis?
Ellie Foreman is a documentary film producer; in other words an amateur sleuth. She has a senior citizen father, a teenage daughter, a best friend and an ex-husband who shows up in every book. She also has a wry sense of humor which I love. But the Ellie mysteries are not cozies; they are suspense novels. Because of that, I often say the books are “Desperate Housewives meets 24.” Georgia Davis, on the other hand, is a PI and a loner. She’s cautious, distrustful, and keeps people at a distance. She has baggage. While Ellie will go out to lunch with you and give you TMI about her life, Georgia won’t go out to lunch at all. As a former cop, she doesn’t want you to know too much about her.
Actually, the fact that Ellie IS an amateur sleuth is the reason I developed the Georgia thrillers. It’s just not realistic for a film producer to keep tripping over dead bodies, and by the 4th book, I was turning back flips trying to come up with a credible reason for Ellie to investigate. For Georgia, though, that’s her job. It’s much easier to get her involved.
Which novel is your favorite? With which did you accomplish your challenge?
That’s like asking which child do I like best. I love them all. EASY INNOCENCE was close to my heart because it was the first Georgia Davis full length novel in which I spread my wings and wrote dark, which I love. A BITTER VEIL was close because I wrote about a time and culture that was very unfamiliar, yet I think the characters speak their own humanity. And HIGH CRIMES is close because it was a catharsis for me to write.
What is your strength as a writer? Your weakness?
I come from an audio-visual background, and I’ve always had an ear for dialogue. So that comes easily, particularly dialogue that rises out of conflict. Given the chance, I could stretch dialogue through many chapters. Narrative is tough for me – I want my prose to sing… to rise above “workmanlike.” So I always feel uncertain whether I’ve risen to the task.
What do you want people to remember about your work when you’re no longer writing?
That I was a good storyteller and that they stayed up way too late because they just HAD to finish one of my novels.
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a historical fiction author, Kathryn Gauci. Kathryn was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, she spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Your WWII novel, Conspiracy of Lies, is part historical fiction, part romance, and part thriller. How did you balance all three in your writing of this novel and how does it feel to cross boundaries between genres?
At the time of plotting and writing, I knew I wanted certain elements to give the story depth. Primarily, it is a WWII story and therefore the fact had to be as correct as I could get them, which is probably the most difficult part as there is a lot of cross-checking and the timeline has to match up with the events in the plot. It is part thriller because these were times when most people, especially those who lived under occupied rule, were never sure what tomorrow would bring. They were forced to live on their wits. And it is part romance because this gives light and shade to the characters, especially the protagonists. In fact, a huge part of Conspiracy of Lies is romance but not in a frivolous way. I never think of myself as a romance writer.
How much research goes into your writing? How do you flesh out the details of the WWII era in a transparent manner, so that the details support the story without being overbearing?
I love research. It’s never-ending and I’ve always got at least half a dozen books on the go, and I am on the computer almost every day, double-checking something or other. In fact I have to stop myself sometimes so that I don’t overdo it and cramp the creative spirit which is spontaneous and takes us into unknown areas. The facts are often represented in the settings and peppered throughout the dialogue. I like to think my readers are learning about history without thinking they are reading a history book. Bringing out the senses is vital and If my readers have transported themselves into the era and are walking alongside my characters, then I think I have achieved this.
Tell us about your character, Claire Bouchard, and the ways that ghosts from her past make her double life as a Gestapo Commandant’s mistress more painful than she could have imagined.
In many ways, Claire Bouchard is a complex woman. She is both vulnerable and tough. She is also an intelligent woman. This is her dilemma. She falls in love with someone she knows nothing about, against her instincts. It’s so deep that even she questions her actions, yet at the time she has no idea the depths to which this will take her. When the Germans invade France, Claire flees to London and is recruited by the Special Operations Executive. When she is sent back into occupied France – Brittany – and accidentally befriends the wife of the German Commandant, the wheels of fate are set in motion, resulting in an affair with the Gestapo Commandant. At this point she can either continue her mission for SOE or be pulled out of France. Instead, she chooses to stay. Honour bound to her country and to a man she will love till her last breath, Claire knows this is a situation that will ultimately end in tragedy. Whilst developing her character, I was not only inspired by the female agents behind enemy lines, but by the men and women on the wrong sides falling in love. I looked at images of women with shaved heads and thought to myself that some of these probably developed a genuine love for each other. Not every German wanted to be where he was. Fate throws people together in strange ways and makes us do things we would never have expected to do. There is a strong romance in this story but it is because only a deep love like this could have allowed her to do what she did.
Tell us a little about yourself and why you are passionate about writing WWII stories.
I grew up in post-war England listening to the music of Glenn Miller and other wartime favourites. My father was in the RAF, my mother worked in a munitions factory. I also loved the films of that era, Casablanca, The Third Man, and others – Film Noir got under my skin. When I left college, my first work as a designer was in Vienna. The factory was situated on the outskirts of Vienns and had been in the Russian Sector. My fellow workers told me stories of the war from their perspective. Indeed, much of Vienna was still being rebuilt and still had the feel of The Third Man about it. Then I went to live in Athens and was not only confronted with the Greeks under the German occupation, but their earlier wartime history since 1822. Coincidentally, I lived a street not far from where one of the most famous heroines of WWII lived. Her life influenced my plot in by first book, The Embroiderer, and the current WIP. Writing about war gives enormous scope for plots that may seem larger than life, but in reality were common at the time. People react in ways they never thought possible. I love it when an ordinary person finds an inner strength they never knew existed. And of course, WWII is relatively recent in the scheme of history and even if we weren’t actually a part of it, we feel we are.
I know you studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design, where you specialized in carpet design and technology. Are there parallels between the way you plot your stories and the way you design your art?
Yes, I think there are many similarities. First of all, creativity is open to possibilities and writing is the same. Apart from each book having its own little idiosyncrasies, generally, I follow the same thought process I followed when designing textiles. Firstly, and this is purely from a business perspective – know your market. Who are you aiming this for? Who are your competitors? Then I aim for the beginning and the end. I like to visualize the end to give me a direction to aim for. It might change at the end, but that’s fine. Then I create the skeleton of the plot. Some plots need a more detailed skeleton if they cover quite a few real-life events. After that I begin to fill in the story (design) allowing for the shading. Plots must have light and dark shading also to give interest. Certain places will have more depth than others. But every mark must be there for a reason. If not, it is superfluous to the story (design) and I get rid of it. And last but not least, it must appeal to the senses and grab you.
The French guard shrugged his shoulders. ‘It’s not a good day,’ he said in a low voice. ‘Saboteurs have blown up a part of the tracks. The Caen–Rennes train is delayed. ‘You’d better make yourself comfortable. Goodness knows how long it will take to fix it.’
He indicated to the prisoners about to board the goods train. ‘And with the filthy mood the Bosch are in, I don’t like their chances.’
Claire made her way to the large waiting room. It was already full but a woman nudged along the seat to make room for her.
‘That’s the third lot of deportees in under an hour,’ she said. ‘They’re not wearing the Star of David so no doubt they’re going to a transit camp and on to Germany, poor bastards.’
‘I heard the line has been blown up,’
‘Serves them right,’ the woman scoffed.
Give us an excerpt from Conspiracy of Lies.
The atmosphere in the waiting room was stifling and the children began to get restless. Outside a group of soldiers stood about talking animatedly, swearing and looking at the people malevolently. It was late in the afternoon when a message came over the loudspeaker that the train was about to arrive. Whilst they jostled on the platform, soldiers and guards alike continued to walk up and down asking to see documents again and using any excuse to rifle through someone’s luggage.
She found a compartment and placed her suitcase on the overhead luggage rack and sat down to read. Within minutes the compartment was full. The last person to enter was a shabbily dressed man of thin build with a raincoat slung over his arm. He looked around the compartment, doffed his hat towards Claire and after hoisting up his suitcase on top of hers, squeezed in between two occupants opposite her and began to read his newspaper. She noticed his shoes were muddied and by the look of his five o’clock shadow, he hadn’t shaved in days. Every now and again he looked at her from over the top of his newspaper. Claire thought him highly agitated.
The train began to gather speed. After they had passed the first village, the door to their compartment slid open and the ticket inspector, accompanied by two plain clothed men asked to see their papers. Claire offered hers first and gave the men a sweet smile. They did not reciprocate her friendliness. When they came to the man opposite, they looked closely at his papers.
‘Would you care to step outside,’ one of them said, with a coldness that made Claire’s flesh crawl. ‘We’d like to ask you a few questions.’
In fear, the other passengers looked away when he stood up. Claire noted the tell-tale thin trickle of sweat that ran down the side of his forehead. He was clearly scared. He threw her a quick glance as he exited. The door slammed shut and she heard their footsteps moving away down the corridor. A few seconds later they heard a scuffle and a gunshot. Her fellow passengers looked at each other in silence. Claire’s hand instinctively reached for the crucifix around her neck. She fingered it nervously resisting the urge to open the door and look. For a brief moment the rackety sound of the train’s wheels appeared louder. Then she heard a door slam. When the man failed to return, Claire waited for a few minutes and then got up to have a look. A guard spotted her and told her to return to her seat but she feigned severe stomach cramps and asked where the toilets were located. The man indicated further down the corridor. When she passed him, she noticed bloodstains near the exit door. Clearly they had shot him and thrown him out of the train. Alone in the toilet, she grasped the small sink and splashed water onto her face. This was exactly the sort of danger they had spoken of in her training. No-one was immune.
The train arrived in Rennes shortly before curfew. Claire reached for her suitcase and realized the man’s suitcase was on top of it. She waited until all the occupants had left and pulled it down. She would take it with her. She also noticed his overcoat was still hanging on the hook next to his seat and quickly searched the pockets. Apart from a few francs and a handkerchief, there was nothing to identify him.
Claire couldn’t have arrived in Rennes at a worst time. The area in front of the railway station had taken a hit during a bombing raid and was swarming with soldiers. She made her way past the French inspectors and plain-clothed Germans scanning the platform for a sign of something amiss and stood by a kiosk next to a fire-blackened building in the square outside the station as she had been instructed, and waited. Within minutes a man approached her from and introduced himself as Jean -Claude.
‘You made it. And Gilbert; did you meet up with him? He was supposed to be with you.’
He looked towards the station expectantly. His words jolted her. The man on the train must have been Gilbert - her contact. She started to describe him and told him what had happened.
Jean-Claude spat on the ground in disgust. ’Bastards!’ he exclaimed. ‘He had something of importance for us.’
Claire then understood that the man had recognized her by the apple sprig on her lapel as Monsieur Cloutier said he would. That was why he kept looking at her and why he had entrusted the suitcase to her for safe-keeping. Jean-Claude told her he had boarded the train when the tracks were sabotaged. He must have realized the Germans were on to him.
‘You might find whatever you’re looking for in there,’ she replied dismally, pointing to the suitcase.
The Half-Bloods Series #2
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a bestselling historical fiction novelist and screenwriter. Jana Petken is critically acclaimed as a bestselling, gritty author who produces bold, colourful characters and riveting story-lines.
Jana is a bestselling historical fiction novelist and screenwriter. She is critically acclaimed as a bestselling, gritty author who produces bold, colorful characters and riveting story-lines, and the recipient of numerous major international awards for her works.
Before life as an author, Jana served in the British Royal Navy. During her service, she studied Naval Law and history. After the Navy, she worked for British Airways and turned to writing after an accident on board an aircraft forced her to retire prematurely.
Tell us about your book, The Vogels, On All Fronts.
Germany, September 1939. At the outbreak of War, Dieter Vogel and his family face catastrophic events and separation as each member embarks on their deadly paths towards survival, love, and freedom.
Dieter Vogel, a German industrialist, believes in protecting his family at all costs, but in a bid to keep his English wife and children safe, he is plunged into a well of deceit that tears the family apart.
Doctor Paul Vogel is coerced into working in the Nazi eugenics programme and soon discovers that sterilising handicapped and mentally-ill Germans is just a prelude to a more lethal plan against those the Reich deem unworthy of life. Paul, trapped by the SS, seeks help from the unlikeliest of people and is plunged into a world of espionage and murder.
British Army Major, Max Vogel, is attached to The British Intelligence Services and Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive. His missions in occupied Europe are fraught with danger, and his adulterous affair with a woman he cannot give up leads him deeper into the quagmire of treachery and lies.
Wilmot Vogel dreams of winning the Iron Cross, but when he confronts a mass killing of Jews in Poland, his idolatry of Hitler is shaken to its roots, and he finds himself imprisoned in the infamous Dachau concentration camp with no release date in sight.
Hannah Vogel has no ambition other than to marry her English fiancé, Frank, before the lines of war are drawn. Against her father’s wishes, she leaves Berlin on the eve of the German invasion of Poland, but when she arrives in England, she learns that Frank is not the civilian engineer he claims to be.
Please share one of the reviews for this book.
Here is an editorial Review by Readers' Favorite:
The German Half-Bloods (The Half-Blood Series Book 1) by Jana Petken is an intense, nail-biting ride through WWII Germany. The unique perspectives of the characters in Germany, as well as those in England, were refreshing and charismatic. I am well-versed in the history of the time period, and I must say that very few historical novels of the period are satisfactorily accurate enough for me to enjoy, this book being a rare exception. I was deeply impressed with the characters' viewpoints and the extent of the plot. The author spun such an intricately woven web of intrigue that I didn't want to stop reading. I was transported back in time and enjoyed every minute of it! I loved this novel! It is beautifully written and deeply moving. Although there are some historically accurate details that may disturb a younger audience, I feel that this novel is an essential historical read.
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is a historical fiction author whose series, RESCHEN VALLEY, covers the interwar years in a northern Italian province. The building of a controversial reservoir serves as the historical background and main conflict of the series.
Chrystyna, you grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota but now live in western Austria in the alps. What made you emigrate?
I am a first-generation American of Ukrainian immigrants and grew up in the culture-rich neighborhood of “Nordeast” Minneapolis. However, early on, I had the travel bug. I still credit James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. I loved his series and when it aired on television, I was convinced that I would live abroad. I was also convinced that I would be a veterinarian in order to be able to write.
But you aren’t a veterinarian?
No. I was no good at the science bit of things and you sort of have to be. I turned to journalism and switched my major to English three years into pre-vet med. My last job in the States was as a managing editor at a magazine publishing company. Realizing that I wasn’t writing there either eventually made me take a huge leap of faith. In 2001, after travelling around a lot, I emigrated to Austria “for good” where I now write and work from a little hut in the alps. I have a wildly supportive husband, a dog, a cat and the two businesses I run, the second being my writing and publishing.
Did you always want to write historical fiction?
Not really. I set out to write travel narratives, won some great awards for my stories and got published. I dabbled in literary stuff, with a lot of melodrama, and some humor. But then, I made a promise to my grandmother that I would write “the family’s” stories on how they came from Ukraine to the U.S. and their experiences in WW2. Right after I published that novel, I was coming over the Reschen Pass between Austria and Italy. I’d visited the Reschen reservoir several times but that time it really got to me. I can’t explain this without people gawking at me but I tell you, there were ghosts rising from the surface of the lake and telling me their stories!
The last thing I wanted to do was research again. I was so done with research! I was done with historical stuff! But they did not let go. Five years later, I had the language and the energy to start writing the first novel.
In a nutshell, what's the Reschen Valley series about?
The series take place in South Tyrol, just located south of the Austrian border. It is a story about a Tyrolean woman who is fighting for her land after WW1, when her province is cut in two, one half remaining in Austria, and her half being annexed to Italy. When she discovers an Italian veteran, who has been attacked and left to die on her mountain, rescuing him thrusts both of them into a labyrinth of corruption, prejudice and greed. The series spans three generations between 1920 and 1961, and I have the last two to write yet.
What intrigued you and motivated you to write this particular story?
You have to imagine driving south from Austria over the Reschen Pass in the Alps and then crossing the border into Italy. The first thing you expect are pizza and pasta stations, Italian signs, and Italian architecture. But that’s not what happens. It still looks like Tyrol with a few Italian names. In fact, everything is still in German and in Italian and everyone speaks German.
Then it comes: spreading out before you, an unbelievably beautiful lake some 4 miles long and nestled in the Alps. The sight takes your breath away. You pass the first town and quickly come upon the next one called Graun / Curon Venosta. And then there it is. Off to the right, some 100 meters from the lakeshore, is a fully intact medieval church tower, sticking straight out of the water. My first reaction was, “What in the world happened here?”
When I started to do the research, I was horrified that we never learned about this part of history. The Tyrolean-Italian conflict was a huge deal! And the pain of that history is still there, just under the skin, hot as embers and as volatile as gunpowder.
And you’re hoping to bring this more into the public’s conscience?
Just recently, I was featured with an Italian novelist and an Austrian film producer as three people who, in three languages, were bringing the story to the surface, so to speak. I mean, people stand at that tower and take photos. It’s been called a scene out of a fairy tale. No, it’s not! The devastation that took place was a nightmare! Yes, I want people to know what lies beneath that lake.
So, is historical fiction your forte, or are you going to try and veer back to something else?
Fat chance. I’ve got a 16th-century series all outlined as soon as I have finished these last two books for Reschen Valley.
Seriously, I have thought a lot about why I’m writing what I write now. I grew up surrounded by WW2 victims. Our Ukrainian heritage, roots, language, culture, etc were a daily part of my life and we even believed that we might all return to the “homeland”. Well, that did not quite happen, but when I landed in Austria and called my parents to let them know I’d not be returning, my mother kind of laughed and said, “Well, you’ve closed the circle, anyway.” She’d been born in Salzburg after the war.
But something else had really been prevalent in my life as I was growing up and that’s reading and film. First, books and films that took place in the past (Laura Ingalls Wilder enthralled me). Second, books that took place in foreign countries or foreign cultures (my mother was crazy about Japanese and Egyptian history). And third, books and film that had something to do with true events or real people (insert any Hallmark movie here at the risk of dating myself). And I loved any combination of those factors. Only after I had started writing this series did I realize I’d essentially been predestined to write historical fiction. And now I’m in the midst of producing the first audiobooks for them, which is as near to film as I will be able to get this year.
This is the first book in the series and it is celebrating its release day anniversary until Feb 9th. It’s on sale for $1.99.
Were you inspired by events in your own life to come up with your book, Love is Never Past Tense?
Yes, Uvi. The book was inspired by real events and real people.
Tell me where your life coincides with the lives of your characters.
In many books, the author pulls personal stories and attributes them to several characters. My life shows up only in the character of Janna. Love Is Never Past Tense is mostly about the romantically involved couple. Scenes where they are with each other are true. Secondary characters are also real and accurately portrayed to the depth needed for the story. People are looing for human stories. This is one of hem.
One question I have struggled with is fitting the book as either a romantic suspense fiction or based on my life. The book is a romantic suspense adventure and anyone looking for that should enjoy it. It walks its way through the real crumbling of the Soviet Union. This adds to the authenticity of the story. It is based on a true story but it isn't a history book.
To answer your question directly, another issue was how to name my female protagonist. I was advising with friends all over the world, brainstorming for the name. Nothing worked. I decided to stay with the name Janna.
I love the description of the romance in your book, “Never quite coming together, never quite letting go.” Tell us a bit about the trials and tribulations of your characters and how they try to reach for each other, against all odds.
I am concerned about answering the question here because it might spoil the romance and charm of the story. I'd be happy to respond to anyone who contacts me after reading the book but by then the answer won't be needed.
There is a story behind the story. Serge's father had a high-level position working with cosmonauts in the Soviet space program. A Jewish daughter-in-law was a threat to his credibility. Serge and Janna kept in contact over the years. Oddly, the more difficult it became to keep in touch, the more they did it. Brezhnev's daughter had the same experience when she fell in love with a young Jewish man.
Did you do any research for the book, or rely strictly on your experiences?
There was a heavy contribution by both research and experience. I made a trip back to Europe in 2008 and another in 2009. This wasn't intended as a research trip, but that's when the book became a real project and I had the benefit of being in many of the locations as I was writing about them. The story was based on experience, the events and settings were supported by research.
Tell us about the process of creating the audiobook for Love is Never Past Tense. How did the narrator get into the skin of the characters? How did you feel listening to their voices coming out of her throat?
It took me over two years and more than a few narrators to find one who could capture the voice I heard when writing the book. Daniela Acitelli lives in London UK but delivered an American accent from time in California. Her intonations matched those I imagined as I was writing the book. Her presentation brings another dimension to the story that left me breathless more than once.
Another audiobook feature is a bit of music at the start and finish of the book. It is a short fragment of Chardash Monti from my friend, the famous Armenian violinist Karo Hayrapetyan. I included it in his memory. I didn't identify him by name in the book, but he shows up briefly in the story.
I loved the audiobook and I hope the listener does too.
Excerpt from Love Is Never Past Tense :
She sat calmly, completely oblivious to the rower—to her, it was a pleasant ride, nothing more. Sensing this, the oarsman wondered whether they would actually return to the shore in such an inglorious fashion. He had to surprise her, or at least interest her, for heaven’s sake. But not a single word came to mind. On a schoolboy’s impulse (that's essentially what he was, anyway), he suddenly got up and dove overboard. He wasn't a bad swimmer and was an even better diver, able to hold his breath for a long time underwater. Even now, he effortlessly reached the bottom. It was not deep—just five or six meters. Once at the bottom, he clung to a rock and waited as long as his lungs would allow. He and his buddies from diving class had always competed to see who could stay submerged the longest. He'd won every time, usually holding out for more than three minutes …
At last, he could feel his chest tightening—he knew this was the signal to return to the surface. If you wait too long, you might not resurface, since you can momentarily lose consciousness. That’s what their diving coach taught them. No one, of course, tried to prove him wrong. He released the rock and wound his way back to the boat, now a dark silhouette hanging picturesquely in the silver sky of the water—so seems the sea surface looking up from its depths. Purposely, he carefully emerged from the water at the nose of the boat, keeping himself hidden. Occasionally, he stole a glance at his companion, whose own gaze was fixed on the dark green waters. It was evident: worry was overtaking her. Having achieved his goal, he dove back down and immediately resurfaced right in front of her face, his wide smile expressing satisfaction. But instead of petting his long, disheveled hair, she again reclined, reminding him that it was time to return the boat to the shore; the time for their boat’s rental was coming to a close. He scurried back on board and slowly started moving the oars, but the water seemed to thicken as if feeling his desire not to return to the shore.
Love is Never Past Tense:
What genre do you write?
I write about romance, action/adventure, thrillers and travel in different genres: Contemporary, historical and military. In addition to fiction I publish Travel Tales, short adventure stories from different places around the globe. I demand of myself that the facts be absolutely correct so I spend a great amount of time in researching even the smallest detail, either in other books or with living history—people who have lived through these times and facts. My hope is that my books are entertaining, enlightening and somewhat educational—we learn so much from books! If I contribute even just a little I am grateful. I also hope my readers enjoy the time we spend ‘together’ and for my characters to be just as alive as they are to me, even after the last page is turned.
Tell us about your international background.
I spent twenty years in Europe because of my father, who was with the U.S. State Department, and my mother who was an opera singer. I was exposed to people of different nations, cultures, music and languages. This exposure contributed to my writing stories with international backdrops and characters, and music is the glue that keeps the stories together.
What inspired The Music Trilogy?
My parents led fascinating lives, and ‘Peace of Music’ (book one of The Music Trilogy) is what I call a fictionalized memoir. I originally started writing it for my son, so he could have the story of his ancestral family. It became a novel (much more fun that way) as I could take a few liberties, such as the scenes in China’s 13th century Song (what else?) Dynasty.
The MUSIC TRILOGY is a family saga, a compilation of 'Peace of Music', 'Obsession of the Heart', and 'Warrior Music'. Each book can be read or listened to as a stand-alone and in any order.
PEACE OF MUSIC (Book One): A once lost magnificent antique vase from China's 13th Century Song Dynasty reappears from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea where it comes to dwell on a piano in a doctor's home. It becomes the impetus in steering the lives of this doctor and his descendants through their heartbreaks, romances and ultimately successes. An assassination, a sabotage on a Greek island and amazing musical performances are but some of the events that strike their lives. Spanning from 13th Century China to the present, the story takes place on four continents, with talented individuals of different nationalities and backgrounds, always interrelated by music.
OBSESSION OF THE HEART (Book Two): Set against an international backdrop of jet setters, music, romance, murder, terrorism and true friendship is Davina Walters, an international singer. Davina meets Jean, a young woman almost paralyzed with fear, as her sadistic ex-husband is bent on killing her. On the spur of the moment Davina decides to take her along on tour and the murderer plans his ultimate revenge in a deadly showdown.
WARRIOR MUSIC (Book Three): Max knew the drugs and alcohol would eventually kill him, and sooner rather than later. So he enlisted in the Marines. His timing is unfortunate, as the events of 9/11 find him at the beginning of his military service, and he is sent to Iraq. The journey he embarks on is unlike anything he could ever imagine.
From Washington, Boston and New Orleans to the ancient sands of Iraq, Max and his entourage endure the toils of war with gallantry, patriotism, courage, heartache, romance and passion. Only one weapon gets them through the anguish they come face to face with... Music.
You’re an author as well as an audiobook narrator. Do you have a preference and what are you working on at the moment?
No, I love both mediums. I’ve written several novels and have recorded over fifty audiobooks. I’m always either writing a new book or narrating one, which could be one of mine or another author’s. At the moment I’m finishing a novel and recording a series of world stories from around the world.
Tell us about F-A-F-Y.com
F-A-F-Y.com is a service I created to help authors, narrators, publishers and producers to promote their audiobook titles and at the same time provide listeners with FREE audiobooks. There are quite a few services for e-books such as BookBub, but hardly any at all for audiobooks. It’s a way to bring audiobook lovers and creators together. The listeners get a monthly email where they can choose audiobook titles.
Uvi, thank you so much for this interview. It has been a privilege and a pleasure and I am honored to be featured among such amazing company. Thank you for all you do for authors, bibliophiles and art aficionados. You are an inspiration—a superb artist, a brilliant author and a truly wonderful person! As you say ‘you paint with your pen and write with your paintbrush’, but most of all you create a smile in every heart you reach.
Aw... So glad to have you here, Denise! It’s a pleasure to learn about your writing and narration, Denise! Thank you so much for sharing!
Your story, when it was just a thought, where did it come from?
Growing up in a family of somewhat dysfunctional adults, the four of us children were blessed with the desire to stick together, help each other no matter what our parents did. Growing up in that environment and later as an adult having jumped from the proverbial "frying pan into the fire," I've always wanted to write a book about survival and overcoming the odds no matter how great.
But every time I sat down to write this "masterpiece," I found myself bored to death. And so one day, as a much older person, I thought why not make it a story with characters much more fascinating than me. But to keep it real, I'd use my emotions and reactions to somewhat similar events. My character's emotions modeled after mine, but that's where the similarity ended.
That was step one. Step two was much easier. I needed a fictional place and so on my whiteboard (my favorite writing tool), I created a map of a magical place in the mountains. After much research, I named it Albion because my main focus was a family whose roots came from Germania, finding their way to North America via England (Albion) and Wales long before any other white man set foot in what is now the United States.
In your story, you talk about domestic violence and mental illness. Your character's reactions (primarily Esme and her mother, Lizbeth) are so real and relatable. How does that play into your real life?
My mother suffered from mental illness. For the most part, our relationship was distant with a few bright sparks promising something more but never delivering. Esme's relationship with her mother begins much like mine, but unlike my relationship with my mother, theirs changes, it develops. That makes for a much more exciting story.
Tell me about Liebling. Where did he come from?
In the early part of the book, I needed something to disturb Esme's sleep her first night at what she believes is her father's house, Hermanus House. Mind you, this is a very old stone house in the middle of nowhere. An old house that is large and empty and for all she knows someone hasn't lived there for a very long time. Oh, and she believes it's haunted.
But Hermanus House already had one ghost, I didn't want another. So I chose a monster, albeit an adorable little monster, instead.
You've mentioned abuse and dysfunction, and then you mention a creature in the middle of the night, what genre is your novel.
MY FATHER'S MAGIC can't really be classified as any one genre. It's a mystery, its suspense, it's definitely a family saga, and it's also very much a love story. But more than anything else it's the story about a lonely, misused young woman who finds an old house, a haven, in the middle of nowhere.
But through that one act of running away, she discovers the life she was meant to live and becomes the brave, strong woman she's always been deep inside. I classified it as suspense because the readers learn in the prologue what happens to Esme's father. Something she doesn't learn until much later in the story.
So where does Esme's story go from here?
Being the only one left of the triad that managed her father's company, Esme can't stay in the security of Albion forever. But, really, when several diverse magical groups live together there is always going to be conflicts.
In book two, Esme returns to her responsibilities in the city and finds herself missing her "new" home in Albion. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Esme and her family, Albion's darkest secret is returning to haunt them and the lives of Esme and those closest to her are in danger.
Thanks, Uvi! I appreciate the great opportunity!
I am so excited to present a prolific, bestselling Historical Fiction author with international fame, and a friend of mine, Roberta Kagan. Roberta has a passion for storytelling and is focused on writing WWII fiction. I love what she says about her craft:
“And so I humbly and with the utmost humility I try to tell their stories. It is painful, but I must convey the darkness and horror of the time, However, I also want the world to know and celebrate the unsung heroes. Because there were many ordinary people who acted in heroic ways. I realize that writing these books is a great responsibility. I pray every day that I am able to do this correctly. I am trying to reach out and touch many people, not with the message of the horrors but with the promise of hope. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for considering my work. It is an honor that I never take lightly. “
HI Uvi and thank you so much for having me on your blog. I am honored to be featured by such a brilliant author. By the way, I love the story of David and Bathsheba! And… I just loved your book A Peek at Bathsheba. You’ve done an excellent job of making this biblical tale relevant for the way we live today.
Are you a full-time writer? If so, why did you choose this profession?
I am a full-time writer. But I am not sure that I choose this profession. I think it chose me. All of my life I have enjoyed reading. Even as a child I found that a great book could transport me to another time, and another place no matter where I was or what I was facing in my life. And many times as I was growing up, a wonderful reading experience saved me from despair. As a child I probably didn’t realize the great gift that my teachers gave me when they taught me to read. But looking back on it now, I can’t thank them enough. Well, anyway, as I matured, I wanted to give others that absolutely amazing experience of climbing inside of a book and living there for a while. And I guess I that’s my goal as a writer. I want to do the same thing for others that the writers I love have done for me.
Why do you write books set during WW2?
I usually write books set during WW2 because it is a subject that effected every aspect of my youth. My parents lives were changed by the Holocaust and so consequently mine was too. But more importantly we must realize that time is passing quickly and soon all of the survivors of the Holocaust will be gone. The lessons we learned through their suffering must not go with them. We must be careful never to forget.
You mentioned your family background and how it connects to your subject matter. Can you tell me about them?
My mother was Jewish and my father was Romany. Both of them lost most of their family members due to Hitler and the Nazis. So, I suppose I’ve been trying to resolve many questions that I have buried in my subconscious by writing about the subject. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around what happened. Even though I’ve done extensive research I still can’t understand how people can be so cruel to others.
You mentioned research. What kind of research do you do for your books?
Of course, I’ve read extensively. But I’ve also interviewed many people, some were concentration camp survivors, others were children of SS officers. I talked to people who only survived because they were assisted by the kindness of non Jewish people ( I call these people angels) who put their own lives and families in jeopardy to help those in need. I’ve talked to women who were political prisoners. Some of them were forced into brothels. And I’ve spoken with other women who hid by posing as non-Jews. Some people went into hiding. Others joined resistance groups or wandered aimlessly in the forests while starving. Their stories are all important and each one must be told
I have to ask what you learned from these meetings.
Several things. First off, I learned that every survivor represents at least a hundred miracles. By that I mean, someone had to be looking the other way at the exactly right time for that precious soul to slip by unnoticed. Not just once, but many times. Or the zyklon B had to run out just in time to save a person’s life. Things like that had to occur over and over for even one person to survive. These people who suffered so greatly are surprisingly very kind and positive. They taught me never to feel sorry for myself. Even with all they’ve lost almost every one of them says that the only way to live a full life is to always be grateful and never forget all that we have to be thankful for.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Only one final thing. From the survivors I learned that material things matter very little. When our backs are against the wall the only thing that really counts is love.
Some secrets are worth killing for. Some are worth dying for.
Five years after the brutal slaying of her husband, software executive Jill Shannon is ready to take the next step in her life. But with her wedding to prosecuting attorney Conner Manning just eight weeks away, her future father-in-law’s political ambitions for her fiancé threaten all her hopes. Jill’s past holds dark secrets. Secrets she can’t afford to have exposed under the relentless lights of a political campaign.
When Phoenix Detective David Shaw turns up at Jill’s door asking questions about a reporter's murder, he has no idea what a lethal Pandora’s Box he’s just opened. Was the womanizing reporter killed by a jealous husband, or was it related to his drug use? Or did it have something to do with the secret expose the reporter was working on? Jill Shannon looks like a dead-end lead but Shaw can’t shake the feeling the beautiful widow has secrets she’s not sharing.
Jill is caught between the sins of her past and the shattered hopes for her future. Shaw finds himself drawn deeper into a twisted labyrinth of lies and danger. One thing is clear: some vows are made out loud in front of witnesses. But some vows are made in silence, and witnesses can’t be left alive.
Why did you choose to write this series from the perspective of a female antihero?
I grew up loving antiheros from Dirty Harry, to Dexter, to Hannibal Lecter. I love writing complex, realistic characters. None of us are all good or all bad. We all have shades of the hero and the villain inside us, and Jill Shannon, the protagonist of this book, is no exception. Abused by her stepfather, Jill has a deep need to right wrongs and protect those who need protecting from people who would prey on them. But she is also driven by revenge. In this book, Jill has a deep need to create a family for her daughter, and find the peace that’s been missing in her life. But you know how that goes… In an intelligent and flawed woman, those motivations result in an unforgettable character doing some pretty unique things.
Is Jill likable?
Ah, it’s an interesting question. I like her. I doubt that anyone asked Thomas Harris if he thought Hannibal Lecter was likable. I often joke that Jill is my alter ego—I’m a nice, Canadian girl who is a rule follower, and Jill doesn’t believe in following rules. Whether you love her or hate her, the complexity of her character is compelling. Like all anti-heroes, Jill has her own moral compass. She’s smart, and brave. And she has a dark sense of humor that I love. These are the things my readers love about her too. And yeah, she does have a dark side…
What makes this series (and this book) unique?
Female antiheros aren’t as common in fiction as their male counterparts. Aside from the perspective though, one of the things I love about this book is the feeling that it is a puzzle inside a puzzle. I love writing multiple plot threads that weave together and make for a big bang ending that blows people’s minds. Vow is written from multiple points of view. Detective David Shaw, who is trying to solve the murder case. Jill Shannon who is desperate to hide her past and keep her family intact. Jill’s fiancée, Conner Manning, who is trying to keep the peace between his fiancée, and his powerful father who is pushing him into the family business (politics). And finally, Kat. She’s a wife and a mother who has a secret to hide, and becomes a suspect in Joe’s murder. The push and pull between all these conflicting motivations makes an action-packed thrill ride you won’t want to miss!
What are some of the themes in this book? Why do they matter?
The theme of family runs deep in this book and touches every character in unique ways. Jill wants her daughter to have two parents who love her and who she can count on. Jill’s mother and step-brother died in a car accident when she was young, so she went through her adolescence and much of her young adulthood without this sense of security. Trust and acceptance are the two family values that Conner holds most dear. He grew up in a family that had high expectations and demands. His needs were deemed less important than those of his family’s. For Conner’s parents, family means legacy. And, for Detective David Shaw, family means obligation. Though he loves his son, he is struggling to support his wife’s emotional needs. As we build our own families, the family values that we were raised with influence us in a variety of ways—whether it’s compensating for what we didn’t receive, or emulating the strong values we were raised with. These values and struggles are part of the human experience, and something we can all relate to.
The three-book series arc follows a deeper theme of redemption. Two of the three books are out now while the third and final one is percolating inside my head.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the RESEARCH! I used to dread doing research, but over the years, I have overcome my shy nature and met a lot of fabulous experts through the course of writing my four novels. While writing Vow, I reached out to a guy who owns his own political opposition research firm in Portland, OR, and I learned so many interesting things about politics and online sleuthing. When I interview experts, I always start with some planned questions to kick things off, but the real fun begins when the experts loosen up and start sharing their “war stories” with you. That’s where the gold is, and this guy had some AWESOME war stories. The people who are attracted to politics as a career are interesting folks to say the least. I also did a lot of deep research into security and how to circumvent it. My browser history alone has probably landed me on an FBI list somewhere. And I’m pretty sure the CIA is spying on me through my microwave.
What was your favorite scene to write?
There were so many great scenes. Writing a series book means that you get to revisit characters, who are as familiar as old friends. But my favorite scene in the book, I wrote for my friend, Ginna. The Jill in book #1 (IndieReader Discovery Award Winner Deadly Lies) is a bit of a vigilante. In Vow of Silence though, Jill has a lot more to lose, and so she’s become more risk adverse. I set the scene in a dojo where Jill shows up in disguise to “teach a bully a lesson”. This scene was a blast to write. I watched a bunch of Krav Maga videos with my husband, who has his black belt in jujitsu, as I was choreographing the action. The scene is fast-past and tense, with more than a small measure of humor thrown in. My husband listened to the book on Audible, and he insisted I listen to this scene because the narrator (Emily Cauldwell) did such an awesome job!
What’s up next for you?
My next book is called Deception Bay, and I’m thrilled to say that it will be included in the Love Under Fire Boxed set along with 20 other bestselling and award-winning authors. It’s a romantic suspense book, which is a bit of a departure from the gritty suspense books I typically write. It’s set on Whidbey Island, WA (not far from Seattle), which is one of my favorite places in the Northwest. This book has a protagonist who I loved loved loved writing! I spent many hours hunched over my keyboard, grinning and giggling as I worked on this book.
As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to hone my craft. With each novel, I focus on one skill I want to improve. For Deception Bay, it was voice. The books I typically write are written from multiple characters’ points of view. This time out, I wanted to create a character with a great sense of humor and more than a little swagger. With this goal in mind, Deception Bay was written solely from Austin’s POV. I think readers are going to love his irreverent, smart-assed ways as much as I do.
Here’s a sneak peek into what the book is about…
She’s armed. He’s dangerous. Together can they stop a killer from tearing a small island community apart?
When wise-cracking cozy mystery author, Austin Martell, left his hometown on Whidbey Island for the bright lights of New York, he vowed he would never go back. But some promises are impossible to keep, and when Austin discovers that his mother has suffered a serious accident, he has no choice but to return. Austin soon learns that her accident may be no accident at all, and secrets that were laid to rest after his brother’s tragic death off the coast of Deception Bay, have now begun to surface.
Austin finds himself in the center of a real-life murder mystery, when Police Chief Ellie Sharpe uncovers a curious connection between the author and the death of a local businessman. Born and raised on Whidbey and trained as a New York cop, Ellie is smart, and tough, and determined to solve the mystery behind the killing before more people die. Sparks fly as the two pair up to figure out who is responsible for the murder. The closer they come to discovering truth, the more desperate someone is to keep the sins of the past from coming to light.
Someone close to Austin harbors a deadly truth. Can Ellie unmask a killer before Austin becomes one more secret buried beneath the waves of Deception Bay?
I love to connect with readers, so if you’re interested in reaching out, here are a few places you can find me.
The lure of supernatural, time slips, and mystery murmur untold whispers to Casi McLean and have since childhood, more recently swirling around the allure of #Atlanta's famous #LakeLanier. Join me as we reveal an intimate part of Casi’s soul through a series of questions and uncover the passion behind the magic of Casi McLean’s supernatural, mystery, and romantic suspense writing.
When did you decide to become a writer, and how did you decide your genre?
For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the idea of supernatural. Not gruesome horror stories, vampires, or sci-fi aliens, but rather how the notion of questioning “what if ” entices the imagination into believing there’s more than what meets the eye.
My fourth grade teacher nudged the author within me when she read aloud Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time. The enchanting story opened the door to my future. As a youth and teen, I read every time travel story I could get my hands on and watched every time slip movie, while questions niggled into my thoughts. If time travel was “a thing”…how would the concept likely occur?
Years later, when I heard about the eerie lore attached to Atlanta’s Lake Sidney Lanier, a man-made lake located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, the lore fascinated me. Plagued with mysterious disappearances, freak accidents, strange phenomenon, and ghostly occurrences, the lake became the perfect setting for my passion to bloom.
What if the construction created more than a lake? What if the excavation triggered a seismic shift, which when given enough energy, opened a portal to a different dimension…a rip in time connecting past to future? I loved the possibilities. I envisioned a town that time forgot and the history and creepy tales attached to the rural area that sleeps beneath Atlanta’s famous lake became book one of my Lake Lanier Mysteries:
Tell us about some of the tales that inspired your series.
Book one in my series, Beneath The Lake, shares the story of a young attorney who, after walking in on her boyfriend in the arms of another woman, tears off through a treacherous storm. When her car swerves off the road, she’s thrown into the lake, but awakens in the arms of a stranger, in a place she’s never heard of…thirty-four years before she was born. Beneath The Lake won the 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.
With homes, churches and buildings lingering beneath the surface of the man-made lake––all abandoned by displaced families and businesses forced to relocate––the fodder was endless. The moonshiners of the 1940’s added built-in suspense and sparked the birth of NASCAR. Looper Speedway, a half-mile dirt track where bootleggers competed with their souped-up cars, bared its cement stands in a recent draught. And there’s a Lady of the Lake who haunts the ghost town. Some say she lures victims to her watery grave. The truth is, swimmers get trapped among the deadfall of sheered-off trees and town remains. Even expert divers get tangled beneath the murky surface, hence the lake’s unnerving label: Lanier never gives up its dead.
I moved to Lake Lanier last year and my home overlooks a beautiful cove. The glimmering lake is a solace for me. Taking walks on trails around lake, and talking to neighbors who have lived in the area for generations feeds my muse. There’s no telling how many tales Lake Lanier Mysteries will yield, but if this inspiration should ever dry up, my passion for a touch of supernatural will keep me submerged in mystery.
How did you come up with a sequel to Beneath The Lake?
That was easy. I opened book two, Beyond The Mist, where book one ended, and brought to life two minor characters from Beneath The Lake as my hero and heroine. Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.
The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams, spiraling them into international espionage and the terrorism of 2001 New York.
And now you have book three on the horizon?
Yes, book three, Between The Shadows, is scheduled for release this summer. This story set in Reynolds Cove slips back to 1865 Georgia at the end of the Civil War, where two more characters promise to lure you into their own romantic suspense. I hope you check out my stories as Lake Lanier Mysteries continues.
Do you have any other stories on the horizon?
Absolutely. My newest novella, Reign of Fire, is the first in my new political romantic suspense series, Deep State Mysteries, and one of the many fabulous stories included in the Love Under Fire Box Set scheduled for release in November of 2018.
Tell us a little about Casi McLean and your other writing.
As Casi McLean, I pen novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. My writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, sensual romantic suspense, and political thrillers. But I also write nonfiction books that breathe life into my brand, while empowering others to live their dreams.
Insert Wingless Butterfly
The first of which was my memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, a bittersweet tale that shares the transformational story of a lost child like the whispers of a best friend. I hope all your readers take a moment to check out my Amazon page, websites, and book trailers. And I’d love for everyone to connect with me on social media. Thank you so much for hosting me on your beautiful website.
Beyond The Mist ~ Star-crossed Lovers Struggle through a Cyclone of 9/11 Terrorism
Beneath The Lake Trailer ~ A Time-Slip Romantic Suspense
Destiny Trailer ~ Shorts With A Sprinkle Of Magic
Beneath The Lake Trailer ~ A Time-Slip Romantic Suspense
Destiny Trailer ~ Shorts With A Sprinkle Of Magic
Valerie J. Clarizio
Author of the
A Nick Spinelli Mystery #1
When and why did you begin writing?
The ‘want’ to write came to me about ten years ago. I had just finished the course work for my Master of Business Administration degree and found I had a boatload of time on my hands. I always held a full-time and part-time job while attending college at night. Now that night school was over, I had nothing to do at night. I was bored, but not bored enough to go for a doctorate.
An avid reading friend of mine handed me a Janet Evanovich book and I promptly said, “No thanks.” The last thing I wanted to do was read anything. I’d read enough text books to last me a lifetime, and up to this point in my life I had never read for pleasure. She pushed the book toward me and urged me to read it. I read that book in two days, and then I read every book Evanovich penned. When I was done with her I moved on to JA Konrath and Leanne Banks. I logged over 50 books read in the first year. They were much easier reading than text books I was accustom to. Anyhow, one night I dreamt up Detective Nick Spinelli and I thought to myself that he would be an awesome character for Evanovich to write. I told my avid reading friend about the hero I dreamed up for Evanovich to write and she looked at me and said, “Perhaps you should write it yourself.” So I did. Hence, my Nick Spinelli romance mystery series.
Tell us about Nick Spinelli and his series.
Nick is a manly man. He’s a thirty year old homicide detective in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In book one, his partner retires and because he’s working solo he gets assigned to the Child Services division of the Social Services Department to escort caseworker Shannon O’Hara to the less than desirable neighborhoods as she does home checks during the Christmas season. Being a manly man, this is not Spinelli’s area of expertise, but his ball-busting female boss won’t let him off the hook.
Spinelli and Shannon do not share the same philosophies for dealing with the clientele, so sparks fly for more reasons than one. Meanwhile, Shannon moonlights at the mall as Santa’s helper, and when and Santa and an Elf turn up dead Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli goes undercover as Santa to protect his new love interest and capture the killer.
So, in book one, Covert Exposure, Spinelli goes undercover as Santa. In book two, Craving Vengeance, Spinelli finds himself dressed as a singing cupid in an effort to catch a killer. Are you seeing a pattern here? At 6’2” do you think he’s too tall to go undercover as a leprechaun? The only way to find out is to read book three, Crazed Reckoning.
What inspires your book ideas?
Several things, actually. I get a lot of ideas from watching the news and movies, and I read as much as time will allow. Additionally, my day job is at City Hall and ever since the police officers and firefighters found out I write romance they are quick to offer ideas for future books. Of course, many of them think they should be the hero of said book, but I can assure you and anyone reading this that won’t be the case.
What’s coming next, or what are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a romantic suspense novella called The Code Enforcer. It’s the first story in my Crime and Passion at City Hall series. It’s going to be included in a romantic suspense box set called Love Under Fire which is scheduled for release in November.
What do you do in your spare time?
The hubby and I have turned into hikers. We’ve made a list of national parks and we are checking them off the bucket list slowly but surely. When not hiking, I do some reading, snowmobile riding, and a bit of fishing.
Valerie Clarizio lives in romantic Door County Wisconsin with her husband and two extremely spoiled cats. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
She’s lived her life surrounded by men, three brothers, a husband, and a male Siamese cat who required his own instruction manual. Keeping up with all the men in her life has turned her into an outdoors enthusiast, of which her favorite activity is hiking in national parks. While out on the trails, she has plenty of time to conjure up irresistible characters and unique storylines for her next romantic suspense or sweet contemporary romance novel.
And other stories
Could you tell us about your new release, The LoveLock, in one sentence?
Put briefly, it's a sensual, suspenseful, and heart-wrenching romance centered on the impact of mental illness and thwarted love, and how the main characters find strength and healing through the dark path. (Wow! It's a long sentence.)
The main character, Violet—a promising actress, becomes a stripper. In the script, you use Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease as her stripper friend coaches her on the sexy moves. Where do you get your inspiration?
(Chuckling) I own several of Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease discs. I do all of my workouts at home; dance aerobics and weightlifting are my routines. I dance with Carmen's workout video occasionally. The moves are sexy and relaxing. I'm sure performing those moves, like rolling your body, privately for fitness is entirely different from doing it in public nearly naked for the sake of money!
The main character, Violet, becomes close friends with the strip club bouncer, who is gay. Is there any specific reason for you to plot it that way?
First of all, I am straight. I have no particular political or religious agenda. This inclusion is just an honest reflection of my real life. I have a few good friends and co-workers who have different views and preferences in terms of sexuality. It has never occurred to me that these differences could cause any conflicts in my friendships or work relationships with them.
You already have published three books. How does The LoveLock differ from them?
My first two books, Love: A Tangled Knot and FLIPPING: An Uplifting Novel of Love, are in the romance/inspirational genres. A Mother's Heart is a memoir in which I share my experience raising a special-needs child.
Even though it is still within the genre of inspirational romance, I approached my fourth book, The LoveLock, differently. It's a new venture for me and much darker and more spiritually involved than the other three books. There is more provocative language, even a few sexual scenes, and a touch of paranormal for the necessity of the plot and to enhance the depth of the storyline. (Don't get me wrong, it's not pornographic. However, it could make my pastor frown if he saw it.)
Let me put it this way: if Love: A Tangled Knot and FLIPPING: An Uplifting Novel of Love were movies, they would be rated PG-13. The LoveLock, on the other hand, would be rated R.
Tell us about your new release, The LoveLock.
The LoveLock is a suspenseful and sensual love story!
Life changes on a dime. Few understand this painful truth quite like Violet and Dylan, former college sweethearts united by their troubled childhoods.
When a gut-wrenching tragedy strikes in their adult years, they're torn apart—their relationship unable to survive the blow. Though they go their separate ways, they remain connected by a meaningful token: a locket, which Dylan bestows upon Violet on a blissful day by a gorgeous beach in Coronado, California—to which he holds the key.
This lovelock remains to be their only connection as they struggle to rebuild their lives. Violet, an aspiring actress, grapples with mental illness and ends up stripping for a living. In the meantime, Dylan faces his own challenges while trying to manage his past trauma with an unknown future. They each venture down their own dark path laced with drugs and manipulative, taxing characters. All the while, neither can shake off their longing for the love they once shared and endeared.
In spite of life's impediments, can they heal their past and find happiness alone, or together?
You describe yourself as an “optometrist by day, actress and author by night." Would you like to tell us more about it?
I started as a full-time optometrist in a corporate setup when my son was two months old. Entering the workforce with young children was challenging in every aspect, yet it was an undeniable reality that left me with few options at the time. Fortunately, my work was very close to both home and the kids’ schools during their youth. I genuinely love my job as an optometrist. I appreciate all my patients giving me the honor of examining their eyes, the “windows to the soul.” I’ve been fortunate to discover along the way that each soul is precious and unique. Every individual is traveling along the journey in his or her life with an amazing story to tell. During patient eye exams, I often hear their incredible life stories, and many are truly inspiring to me. Once I became an empty nester, I decided to pursue ambitions that I had been dreaming about for years. Acting was one of them. I have been in several short films, and an indie film in a supporting role. I have to tell you that acting is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had; I encounter rejections and feel humiliated all the time. You could say that acting definitely pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and expands my life’s horizons. Writing is a highly enjoyable passion for me because I love telling stories. It’s my dream to tell inspiring stories of everyday people with a fun and easy-to-read writing style. So, all these three careers are actually complementary to one another. Acting and writing both stimulate my imagination and creativity, and my experience as an optometrist enriches and enhances my acting and writing through the stories I hear and the people I meet.
Paul DeBlassie III
What inspired you to write books?
Books are and always have been my thing. My lovely lady, Kate, kindred soul, wife and mother of our four adult children inspired me to move into dramatic fiction. She said, “You can write visionary thrillers loaded with archetypal gusto just like you write psychology except these’ll be even more compelling, captivating, riveting”! Kate’s my inspiration, and she says she loves the story of Goddess of the Wild Thing (anybody guess why?)!
What do you love about writing in general?
Words are a psychic narcotic, a real high. When I read good indie writers like Tamara Ferguson, Uvi Poznansky, Luna Saint Claire, Rayna Noire, David P. Permutter, and Lorraine Carey my mind is tuned in and turned on. When I wrote Goddess of the Wild Thing there was a sense of being transported to another realm filled with mystery, insight, and age-old wisdom. I loved it!
Have you ever felt that there was something inside of you that you couldn't control? If so what? If no what spurs you to reach for the unexperienced?
I can’t control the words that hit the page. They jump out of my creative unconscious. As in the Goddess of the Wild Thing, they take me and the reader by surprise!
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am a psychologist and writer who treats patients in psychotherapy and creates phantasmagoric tales set in the mystic land of Aztlan. The Unholy conjures a spell about life, love, and religion gone bad. It’s a step into horror that chills, frightens, and then blows out clogged psychic pathways.
Tell us about your new release.
Goddess of the Wild Thing is a dramatic tale of one woman’s spiritual journey where magical happenings, unexpected turns of fate, and unseen forces influence her ability to love and be loved. Eve Sanchez, a middle-aged woman and scholar of esoteric studies, encounters a seductive but frightening man who introduces her to a supernatural world in which the wicked powers of a surrogate mother’s twisted affection threaten love and life. In the mystic realm of Aztlan del Sur, Eve and three friends struggle with whether bad love is better than no love and discover that love is a wild thing.
(AKA Judy Foster Phillips)
I know you have been writing poetry for years. Who inspired you to write poetry? And who are your favorite writers?
My Grandmother would spend hours writing poetry and reading it to me when I was a child. Through her love of poetry, she inspired me and I began writing as an outlet for my joy or pain at whatever happened to be going on in my life at the time.
I love to read and have many authors that I enjoy, but my favorites are Nora Roberts, Glenn Soucey and Mike Wells. I also enjoyed reading the series written by Martha Perez she is a great writer.
Describe the pleasure you get from coming up with a powerful composition of words to aptly express your emotions.
The majority of my poems were written when I was either happy or sad. I write from my heart and I put what my heart feels at the time onto paper.
If I am writing from happiness it is a challenge coming up with just the right words to express that joy. If I am sad then my heart takes over and I write what it feels.
Your book, Poems of Love, Romance, and Tears was written over the span of a lifetime. Describe the selection process you went through to include just the right material for this book.
When I made the decision to make my poems into a book of poems it was a fairly process for me. I read and re-read each poem and some I made revisions to at that time because they needed either more or less or just a bit of tweaking.
Then I started the weeding process, which ones do I want to share in this first book and which ones do I want to keep to myself and not share at all. You know we all have those that we want to keep only to ourselves.
I'd like to share this poem which will be included in my next book this is one I wrote about my son.
If Heaven Had Visiting Hours
I miss you my Son. Seems like only yesterday that you went away.
I imagine you in Heaven with Grandma and Grandpa and having
a good time with Janet the love of your life.
I can feel you with me from time to time and I picture you sitting there
with that little grin on your face watching something that makes your smile.
I miss you my Son, life just has not been the same without you here.
If Heaven has visiting hours I would certainly be there to visit on a regular basis.
I’d walk right up to the doors, knock and say I’m here to see my son.
He left us to serve as God’s handyman in Heaven and to be with all our loved ones who
Have gone before him.
I hope you are happy Son, I miss you every day it is just like you left me only yesterday.
What have you learned from the process of publishing your book? Any advice for new writers?
I have learned that there is a lot more to getting your book published and marketed than there is in just writing it.
If you publish it yourself you have to do a lot of research such as what type of paper and margins, etc as I learned all of that has to be just perfect in order for it to upload correctly. Which I do need to say was sort of confusing for me so I hired someone to do that for me, problem solved.
There is a lot of work that goes into getting it marketed so I would advise a new writer to do their research and start out small at first then branch out later.
What do you find exciting about writing fantasy at the moment?
Being a fantasy writer means I get to come up with story ideas and place them in all kinds of settings. The options are endless even though the elements of the plot can dictate what’s important when I do “world-building”. I recently started working on some proposals for new fantasy projects and had quite a lot of fun designing new worlds to fit the plots. To answer the question more directly, it’s being able to finish a current project and move onto new material.
Speaking of “world-building”, can you give us a behind-the-scenes view about how you go about it?
My recent efforts were for proposals only so both required setting up the basics. What’s the world like? From there, I get into the main setting and come up with suitable names of everything I can think of for the story. This includes characters, cities, rivers, continents and much more. Along the way, I have to decide what the magic system is like and whether the story calls for very specific rules or a more general approach. For instance, with The Bow of Hart Saga, I only needed more general rules to show the magic. But for my newer projects, each one requires a set of rules specific to the world and the plot so I have to write those down and use magic appropriately.
How to you come up with your covers?
I have the great privilege to work with a wonderful artist named Christopher Rawlins. I give him my ideas for the cover based on the book as well as basic descriptions of characters and he does the rest. Christopher has a good intuitive feel for what I want based on my genre and lets me know if my ideas are consistent from book to book. I think he’s done a fantastic job on both books since I receive a lot of positive feedback for them.
Do you ever see yourself writing any other genres?
That’s entirely possible but I can do that with fantasy. Lots of authors are hybridizing their books so that there are several genres represented in their work. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ve actually incorporated the use of several genres into my newer fantasy projects that are in the works now. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my current series this year and moving onto these new projects for this reason. The current series was an excellent starting point for me as an author but now I’m ready to leap into newer material since The Bow of Hart Saga has been with me for decades.
With the release of the new book upon us, can you offer any insights into what will happen?
I don’t want to give anything away but I will say that there are even more twists of the unexpected in An Arrow Against the Wind and it will be an arduous adventure for all the characters. I can also say the events will become even more challenging for Athson, Limbreth and the rest of the characters during the last book, The White Arrow.
Links for An Arrow Against the Wind: