Interviews

Interview with 

Kristina Gallo

Author of

The Mermaid From My Nightmare



Today I have the pleasure of introducing a multi-genre indie author inspired by reality, darkness, and sarcasm. Her native language is Croatian. Kristina Gallo was born a rebel and follows her principles. Starting with self-help guidelines, she changed my direction and wrote drama and thrillers. English is her second language.


 

When did your love of books begin?


My love for books began when I was 16. I was writing in the notebook, and my classmates read my stories. Then I published a story in the local newspaper and got a reward. My teacher said to me I should write the book. 


When did you start to wish to become an author?


My wish started when I was a teenager. I was reading a lot, and my imagination increased. Inspiration came from real life, and I was thinking that has to be shared with the audience. Having many traumas as a kid, I was bullied and it gave me the idea for my book "I will kill you in my dream.”


How have you found the process for becoming an author?


Five years ago one of my virtual friends send me an email to review her book on Amazon. It gave me the idea to publish my book. I found Kindle and follow their rules. The rest is history.


What would you say to those wanting to become an author?


Writing is a complex process. It doesn't happen fast, you need to polish your book before it becomes public. Editing is the important part because if your book is full of grammar errors, you will get negative reviews. Also, every author is a promoter, you need to find your community and a circle of readers. 


Tell us about your book.


My books are inspired by real events. The places of action are various: from Croatia, and Italy, to Brazil. My characters are messy people with problems, fatal women, and criminals. Witty and naughty, my characters will capture everyone's attention. I don't prefer happy endings, I deliver reality checks.

 

About my book "The mermaid from my nightmare":

I wrote columns for Croatian portals, and it gave me the idea to write a story about a journalist who is asking for inspiration. Dijana is a middle-aged woman who enjoys adventures. She came to Brazil to visit her sister who married for Brazilian guy. Soon she is dragged into the circle of mysterious events. A local vendor Antonio hides a secret and it is dangerous for his family. He had affair with a local seductress, a hostess Marcia who is murdered. Her nickname Mermaid describes her as a fatal woman, a homewrecker. Did she get what she deserved? 


This suspense thriller is about infidelity, mystery, and neglected wives. It is about punishment and karma, too. Characters are people with secrets, and readers will discover what is under the surface of happy family life.

 

What do you love about the writing/reading community?


I met many awesome supporters on social media. If you are nice, you can find your circle of readers. I like unpredictability, you never know who can read your book.

 

If you could say anything to your readers what would it be?


I hope you enjoy my books and leave a review or rating. Even if this is a negative rating, it is very important to me. I want to progress and upgrade my work.

 

Author links:


Twitter 

Amazon

Facebook


Book link:


The Mermaid From My Nightmare



Interview with 

Susan Keene

Author of

Finding Lizzy Smith

Kate Nash Mysteries book one



Today I have the pleasure to present a great Cozy Mystery writer who won her first literary award at age 16. Susan Keene has been writing full time for the past ten years. She loves to write mysteries readers can't solve.



Tell us about your upbringing and your road to writing.


Three months before our high school graduation my father, Eugene Rench, dropped a bombshell. He didn’t believe in sending girls to college.


My original plan included living at home and attending Southern Illinois University, in Edwardsville. After my father’s announcement, I made a mad scramble to find financial help. I applied for no less than thirty scholarships.


Just in time for registration, a letter came informing me I had won the Joseph C. Pedon Award. It came with full tuition to Deaconess Hospital School of X-ray Technology in St. Louis and included a monthly stipend, and full room and board.


The prospect of being an X-ray technician did not excite me. My dream had always been to be another E.B. White or Harper Lee. I sat my literary dream aside and went to school to learn a profession I had no interest in. After graduation and passing my boards, I worked for five years as a staff technician at a hospital in St. Louis. I was offered a job at St. Louis County Hospital where I taught X-ray and Radium Physics, Anatomy and Medical Terminology, and tutored graduates who had a problem passing their boards.


At that time, only two of my students were younger than me.

Life changed when I met Ron Keene of Staunton, Illinois. We were married in 1968 and we had two lovely daughters, Molly and Diane. Molly died of breast cancer five years ago. She was District Manager of Dollar Tree Stores in St. Louis. She had three children.


Diane is thriving and is in management with Enterprise Leasing in Tulsa. She handles all of the accounts payable in South America and Europe. She is married with two children.

My last job in X-ray was at a major trauma center where I worked on the trauma team. Our team took care of all of the trauma cases in St. Louis and most of St. Louis County. I learned every way a person could get maimed, killed, and the sad outcome of too many freak accidents. 


I reached the point where I wanted to wrap both my girls in bubble wrap and never let them leave the house. The lesson I learned from the experience was: it is possible to know and see too much. Anyone who has served in a conflict knows what I mean.


I began to bring my paranoia home and I knew I had to get out of the job and the profession. Ron and I had a serious conversation. We mutually decided I should take a year off and write a book. I never worked as an X-ray technician again. I wrote Tattered Wings, but no one was interested in putting it into print. With my tail between my legs, I set out to find a job.


Some friends wanted to open a pool hall and saloon. They hired me to open it and manage it until they could get a permanent manager. You would be surprised at how many people shoot pool and how many tournaments are around. 


I met a man from Sears Contract Sales and was offered a job as a Sales Manager and I again ended up teaching; this time, sales technique and how to overcome objection. I stayed with Sears until I accumulated a pension. All the while I sold freelance articles to newspapers and periodicals. Back then along with small amounts of money I got paid with postage stamps and contributor’s copies. In 1992, my marriage ended after twenty-five years.


Ron was a wonderful father and a horrible husband for me. I’m the first to admit people act differently with different partners. In our case, neither of us remarried.


We were a social couple and I didn’t want to spend the next ten years explaining what went wrong with my marriage. I asked Sears for a transfer and they offered me Idaho or Southwest Missouri. 


I took the transfer to Southwest Missouri and bought seven acres in the country in Ozark. 


Eventually I wanted a bigger farm. A friend and I pooled our money and bought 100 acres neither of us could afford alone. 

Always one to try anything. I opened a pickle factory with a friend. It was a huge success. We had a thriving enterprise until my friend died of breast cancer five years later. I sold the entire operation to the Amish. Some friends and I started a CSA at the new farm. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term: in a CSA people pledge support to a farm operation and share the risks and benefits of food production.


I worked at it until I had another heart-to-heart talk, this one with myself about how my life went forward every day but somehow my dream of being a published author got lost in the shuffle of raising kids and making a living.


I dusted off my first book, Tattered Wings, and published it. In 2018 Tattered Wings came out as an audiobook on Audible. You can download this from Audible for free. (Just ask me for a free code. There are a limited number so first come, first served.)


Tell us about your books.


We built a small studio out behind the barn. I write full time. I have written two series, The Arizona Summers Mysteries and the Kate Nash Mysteries. The Kate Nash Mysteries series includes, Finding Lizzy Smith, Who's Roxy Watkins? and The Untimely Death of Ivy Tucker. The Arizona Summers Mysteries includes The Wedding Cake Murder; Bonfires, Barbeques and Bodies; High Steaks Murder; and Mothers, Miracles and Mistletoe. These are considered Cozy Mysteries and I wrote them so they stand alone, you can read them in any order.


Now and then I write a stand-alone book such as Tattered Wings and The Twisted Mind of Cletus Compton. The second is dark and gritty, not my usual light-hearted cozy mystery fair.

Right now, I am writing two books at the same time, volume four of Kate Nash and the fifth volume of Arizona Summers. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds. I read what I wrote the day before and start from there. One day I work on one book and the next day I write on the other one.


It had been on my mind for a long time to write a series of children's books based on my real-life dog Diggitty and things that actually happen here on the farm. My first children’s book was, The Adventures of Diggitty the Dog. I wrote Diggitty on a legal pad in forty-five minutes in the dark with only a nightlight to guide my words (I was in a zone. I don’t think I could do it again). I have written two more Diggitty Dog books and a more serious book: We Are Not So Different After All, which teaches kids that while they may look, walk, or dress differently than classmates, all people are alike in more ways than they are different. I want them to realize that the ways they differ from their friends is what makes them who they are. I sometimes find myself hurrying to finish a book because I am about to miss a publishing date. I think much faster than I can type so I have a habit of leaving out letters and words. My sister, Sandra Rench Fox, who was a professional editor for the literary magazine, The Forum, at The University of Texas at Houston, was my number one editor. She fixed everything before I sent it to the editor at the publishing company.


I'm President of the Ozarks Area Mystery Writers, known as Sleuths, Ink. All of my books have made the best seller list, on Amazon.


Three or four times a year I teach a class on How to Write a Cozy Mystery.


I love doing it.


The University of Missouri came to our local garden club with the news they were remapping the Trail of Tears from beginning to end. During their project, they determined the Trail ran through my farm. It set me on a path to study the history of the farm and trace it and the area back to before the Native American Removal. My house sits on what was once the Old Wire Road (known back then as the Wire Road). It followed an old Native American route, the Great Osage trail across the Ozarks and became a road along a telegraph line from St. Louis to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

 

The house sits on the original path of that road. Years ago, someone bulldozed a house down between my house and the road and I find household items, horseshoes and buttons from military uniforms. I bought a metal detector and when the weather is right for it, I run it all over the farm.


Tell us about your goals.


My goal is to eventually treasure hunt the entire 100 acres. My three grandchildren, eight dogs, six cats, six sheep, a ram, forty head of cattle, five horses, four donkeys and a seven-acre orchard with about 240 trees, kept me busy.


I’ve had a setback this year. I hurt my back and spent from October of last year until January of this year in bed. I was up less than a month when someone moved a step, I have for my dog to climb up on the bed. I tripped over it and destroyed my elbow. Surgery was extensive and I have new metal parts.

My goal from now on is to stay on my feet. I had to give up working on the farm. 


How do you come up with your characters? 


Actually, each person in my stories is a combination of several people. Kate Nash, for instance is made of a mixture of several of my friends. One hates the fact she is short; another has hair so red you would swear could only come out of a bottle, yet hers is natural. Kate Nash is messy. It wasn’t difficult to find someone in my circle who fit the bill. 


Kate Nash is a former police detective who had to give up her job when one of the murder scenes included her husband as one of the victims. 

Amy Perkin, another ex-officer goes into business with Kate and Kate Nash Investigations is born.


My goal is to make sure there are enough twists and turns in my stories, the reader can’t find the killer without my help.


I’m working on the fourth book in the mystery series, The Mazy Burks Murder Squad should be published before the end of the year. 


Book Link:


Finding Lizzy Smith


Author Links:


Website 

Amazon

Facebook

LinkedIn

pInterest

Instagram

Twitter

 

Interview with

Victoria Dougherty

Author of 

Of Sand and Bone



Today I have the pleasure to present the author of three acclaimed Cold War historical thrillers. Victoria Dougherty wrote The Bone Church, The Hungarian, and Welcome to the Hotel Yalta. Her epic historical fantasy series, including the novels Savage Island and Breath are her newest works of fiction. 



Few writers start their careers in fiction. How did you come to it?


Slowly.

As a kid, all I wanted to do was be Carol Burnett. I wrote comedy skits all the time and filmed movie spoofs. Throughout High School and college I did a lot of improv and performed in and wrote plays. But after college, things went a little sideways. I worked in theater for a few years in Chicago and in the Czech Republic, but when I returned from living in Prague in my late 20s, I felt burnt out.


So, I started a gourmet chocolates business of all things. I sold to big stores like Dean & Deluca and Neiman Marcus, and found it fun and interesting, but every chance I got, I sat down to my desk and started writing.


At first, I was just trying to record my family history. I come from this war-torn line of poets, priests, spies, and political prisoners, who told me all of these amazing tales. Real life stories of adventure and danger.


Perhaps inevitably, these family stories started morphing into fictions. My first novel, a historical spy thriller taking place during WW2 and in the early days of the Cold War, was born of these stories. So was my blog, Cold, where I write personal essays about family lore and the writing life.


My historical fantasy series, BREATH, along with the newest novel from this series, Of Sand and Bone, is a departure from any direct family history, but it has heart and a similar spirit.


So you switched from writing historical spy thrillers, to launching a historical fantasy series. What prompted that?


I don’t know if I switched as much as expanded into a new genre. Whatever the case, the themes I like to write about, that I’m obsessed with, are present in both my Cold War thrillers and my historical fantasy series. I’ve found my readers can enjoy both genres, too. Even the guys who became fans because of my thrillers have been really great about reading the BREATH novels and have written such thoughtful and brilliant reviews about those books. I think when it comes down to it, I write about lovers, killers, curses and destinies. If you’re interested in those themes, you’ll likely be a fan of my work regardless of genre.

 

Was it a difficult change?


Difficult but thrilling. I know the Cold War world very well. I lived it with my family; I moved to Prague right after the Iron Curtain came down and travelled extensively in Eastern Europe; I read dozens of books – both fiction and non-fiction – in that genre and about that time period.


When I started writing the BREATH series, I had none of my own “institutional knowledge” to rely on. What I had was a big idea. I had this crazy plan of world-building a fictional ancient civilization that was being excavated by archaeologists in the modern day, and then somehow making the characters from both of these worlds collide in a compelling, mysterious and romantic way.


You call yourself a slow lit writer and use that hashtag on Instagram. Your books are certainly long – particularly your BREATH novels. But what do you mean exactly by slow lit?


I mean that literally. Even writing full time, it takes me a good couple of years to write a novel. It used to take a lot longer, but I’ve learned to streamline, and I’ve gotten better at organizing my ideas and making hard choices. As you probably know, historical fiction readers will take you to task if you get something wrong, so I’m a stickler. I also write intricate plots and really enjoy the editing process. To me, editing is like sprinkling fairy dust onto a story, and I take my time about it. I think long and hard about my characters and what I’m putting them through and why. I look for the areas where I avoided conflict and address them. I like to put my characters through the wringer and watch them come out on the other side, so I’m careful about not avoiding conflict.


Speaking of putting your characters through the wringer, your lovers in the BREATH series are called Nin’ti – souls who are trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth and must find each other in each new life. In Of Sand and Bone, your newest BREATH novel, they are being stalked by a vicious killer from their first life together. One who threatens everything they hold dear. Is it difficult for you to look such painful events in the eye and write about them?


Oh, yes. Very much so. I have a creative philosophy on scenes of love and violence though, and I do my best to execute to it. These scenes must equal one another in intensity, I believe, or the story will feel out of balance. The stakes must be very high. Love scenes should be an emotional kick in the gut and violent scenes should make a reader wince and gasp. Often, I’ll take such scenes farther than they need to go, then scale back to make them palatable.


There was an awful scene I wrote in Breath (Book 1) that I based in part on the Rape of Nanking (now known as the Nanjing massacre), which is a real and horrific historical event that occurred during World War II. It was very hard to write that scene. There were times I didn’t know if I could go on and would have to get up and take a short walk or go talk to my husband. But I felt the entire BREATH series hinged on a sufficiently terrible event in my characters’ first lives together in the ancient civilization of their origins. This event had to be shocking and painful enough that it would echo throughout the series, not only binding my lovers together throughout multiple lives, but giving them a formidable enemy. That enemy really comes to prominence in Of Sand and Bone and knowing what he is capable of creates considerable tension throughout the story.


There’s a huge focus on the visual in your social media – a lot of black and white photographs, all kinds of art, a lot of strong images. Can you tell me about that? How do you use the visual – if at all – in your writing?


I use the visual a lot. I love photography and fine arts painting and sculpture. I love architecture and design and nature. It’s a huge pleasure for me to build the world in which I’m writing. I like it to drip with atmosphere and aim to make it a place my readers not only come to know well, but never want to leave.


The way I do that is by collecting images of the places I’m writing about. I might find hundreds of images for a single novel and consult them for inspiration. They might be old photographs of houses, tombs or vistas, or links to ancient jewelry or period furniture. I had to build Breath (Book 1) from scratch, visually, since so much of it took place in a fictional civilization, but with Of Sand and Bone (Book 2), which is centered around Cairo in 1902, I had plenty of fodder for my imagination. I unearthed countless old photographs of Cairo from around the turn of the 20th century and snooped around travel blogs for stories and pictures of Egypt, London, and Alaska. I still get Trip Advisor notifications asking me if I need more help planning my excursions!

 

Reviews can be a thorny subject for authors. Do you read your reviews? If so, how do you process which criticisms to keep or toss?


I read reviews to a point. Probably the first 20 or so. By then it’s pretty clear in which direction they’re headed. I do make sure to read bad reviews, because I learn a lot from them, and it’s easy to discern which ones are legitimate. By legitimate, I mean if they were written by someone who actually read the novel and isn’t just a troll, or if the reviewer’s problems with the story make any sense at all. I had one bad review, for instance, in which the reader complained that the story took place in Europe, because she hated stories that took place in foreign countries. The plot summary of that particular novel made it abundantly clear that the story took place in Eastern Europe, but apparently, the reader hadn’t consulted it before ordering the book. The same reader also wrote that she hated thrillers and the novel she was reviewing was a thriller. Go figure.


But such reviews are rare and most readers make an honest effort to describe why a particular novel didn’t work for them. And if several readers take issue with a timeline, a plot point, or a particular character, I’m interested in knowing why, even if those readers are in a minority.


I also want to know what readers love about my work, what moves them. I think my favorite review is from the BREATH series and goes like this, “From the moment I opened its pages, I fell into an otherworldly, enchanting time and place that felt dreamlike and mesmerizing. As the pages flew by, I realized that there is so much more to this story than what it appears to be.”


That was exactly what I was going for. It’s as important to know when you hit the mark as when you miss.


If you were to act as your own reviewer, which of your novels would you identify as your favorite?


That’s easy. My newest, Of Sand and Bone. To be fair, I always think my latest book is my favorite, but I really do think it’s true this time. As a kid, I was absolutely fascinated by Egypt and the Golden Age of Archaeology. Even before the Indiana Jones movies came along. I’d always wanted to write a story that took place in that era, and when I finally did, the experience turned out to be every bit as magical as I imagined! Each day when I sat down at my computer, I got to tour the tombs of the Pharaohs, wander the expanse of the desert, visit enchanted archaeological excavations, and sail down the Nile. Through my characters, I fell in love under the light of a lantern in an age-old city filled with ghosts. I still get goosebumps thinking about it!


Book Link:

Of Sand and Bone


Author links:

Instagram

Facebook 

@vicdougherty 

Amazon

YouTube

Podcast 

Web

COLD Blog  





Interview with Genre-Hopping 

Denise Weimer

Author of

Bent Tree Bride



Today I have the pleasure to present an author who writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense, mostly set in her home state of Georgia. Denise Weimer authored a dozen traditionally published novels and a number of novellas. As a freelance editor, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.


Denise, you’ll be new to many readers on my blog, so can you introduce yourself?


With pleasure! Thank you so much for having me. I write historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and time slip novels from my home in Georgia. Some are Hallmarky and fun, others deep and spiritual. I started with my first love, historical romance, and stumbled into contemporary. They’re much quicker to research and write, and I do enjoy a good seasonal story such as my Fall Flip, Spring Splash, A Holiday Heart, and A Harvest Heart. I’ve also been an editor for some years now, both freelance and through publishing houses. What else do I enjoy? Yummy flavors of coffee, anything fall, towns with cute little shops, hiking, historic sites and movies, and vintage dance. 


Tell us about your latest full-length novel, Bent Tree Bride.

Bent Tree Bride is my favorite story I’ve written to be published to date. Its setting is very unique, the Southeastern portion of the War of 1812, or the Red Stick War. Most people don’t know that there was even fighting in what is now Alabama, much less that the Cherokees allied to the Americans under Andrew Jackson, while the Creeks fought in alliance with the British. It also takes many by surprise to learn that before their removal from Georgia, many Cherokees were well-educated, prosperous business owners who lived in beautiful homes. 


Here’s the back cover copy:

Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman. 


As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart.


You said you feel that Bent Tree Bride reflects your best writing to date. Why is that?


Several reasons. First, it’s my favorite genre—Eastern frontier romance. I love anything that reminds me of Last of the Mohicans. Second, I got a good handle on the subject matter by visiting related historic sites for Bent Tree Bride and its related predecessor, The Witness Tree, such as the Chief Vann House, New Echota, and the battlefield at Horseshoe Bend during a living history weekend. Finally, I wrote the book as my training and experience as an editor culminated. The words just poured out in much the manner they needed to.


Do you have anything that will be releasing in the upcoming months?


I do, indeed. A Winter at the White Queen will kick off Wild Heart Books’ Romance at the Gilded Age Resorts Series in January of 2023. This is a fun foray into the age of wonder, when the old ways met the new and anything seemed possible.


Ellie Hastings is tired of playing social gatekeeper—and poor-relation companion—to her Gibson Girl of a cousin. But her aunt insists Ellie lift her nose out of her detective novel long enough to help gauge the eligibility of bachelors during the winter social season at Florida’s Hotel Belleview. She finds plenty that’s mysterious about the suave, aloof Philadelphia inventor, Lewis Thornton. Why does he keep sneaking around the hotel? Does he have a secret sweetheart? And what is his connection to the evasive Mr. Gaspachi, slated to perform at Washington’s Birthday Ball?


Ellie’s comical sleuthing ought to put Lewis out, but the diffident way her family treats her smashes a hole in his normal reserve. But when Florence Hastings’ diamond necklace goes missing, Ellie’s keen mind threatens to uncover not only Lewis’s secrets, but give him back hope for love. 


Book Link:

Bent Tree Bride


Author links:

Website 

Facebook 

BookBub 

Amazon

Twitter 

Newsletter 




Interview with 

Lorraine Carey

Author of

Night Mistress of Paradise Palms



Today I have the pleasure to present an author who is a children's reading specialist, teacher and an International Award-Winning Author. She has taught in many states in the US and provided reading services for students at a private school on Grand Cayman, where she lived with her husband for nine years. She was a city gal living in Orange County, California, until fate whisked her to the Caribbean where life was very different from the one she was accustomed to. Trading in her fashionable heels for flip-flops was quite a change, but led to a lifestyle that allowed for a writing career to flourish.



What inspired you to write Night Mistress of Paradise Palms?

 

I lived in Grand Cayman for nine years with my husband where we rented a condo right there on the beach. Most of the people were tourists but there was one woman who was a long-term resident as we were and she had told me some tales about this particular place—ones that were almost unbelievable. One was about an evil spirit who had haunted a few guests but she had been physically attacked there several times. I had wondered why she didn’t just get up and move.

I spoke with a few other tenants and they told me she liked to tell tales for attention. No one ever took her seriously.

Guess it was my fascination with anything paranormal to keep listening.

The details were quite disturbing but I had to know the story. I took notes of what she’d told me knowing I’d write her story someday.

 

Why did you stay there after knowing her story?


I’ve been exposed to paranormal events all my life and guess I’ve become a believer and also have a heightened curiosity factor in this sort of thing—one that’s gotten me into trouble at times. We’ll save that for another time.


Who is your favorite character in the story?


I'd have to say, my protagonist, Della Marquez. She’s a strong woman who’s been through so much trauma including a rough divorce, managing to buy a small resort only to lose it to a category five hurricane, and rebuilding a few years later. But her bad luck followers her as the new inn is now reported to be haunted by a legendary sea seductress who is stealing the souls of male tourists. She’s got a lot to deal with as she is losing guests but at the same time is trying to spark up a romance with her hunky security guard.

 

We’ve all heard stories about haunted hotels, resorts, and the like. Do you believe in this?

 

I do believe these places can hold certain types of residual energies, be it good or bad being the rooms have been occupied by so many people. Who knows what had transpired in that room? The tragedies some people carry can linger in that room for a long time. Some people can feel this the minute they walk into a room, especially empaths, like myself who can sense it.


Have you ever stayed in a hotel or motel that was haunted?


Yes, it was back about nine years ago when my husband and I were out in Los Angeles visiting our daughter and we stayed at the historic Culver City Hotel which is known to be haunted. At the time we stayed there I was told the cast from The Wizard of Oz had stayed there during filming. It was the cast who played the Munchkins to be on record. Of course, this didn’t faze me in the least. I was in fact hoping for an occurrence of some sort.

 

Around midnight I woke to hear the sound of someone playing the trumpet followed by loud stomping. It was coming from the floor right above us.


When we had checked out that next day I had inquired if any musicians were there and practicing. I was told there was no one staying on the floor above us. It did pique my interest and wanted to do some investigating but we had to leave that day. All I can think of was possibly one of the Munchkins was entertaining us.


Book Link:


Night Mistress of Paradise Palms


Author links:


Amazon Author Page

blog 

@StorySpirit4U

Facebook

BookBub

 

 


Interview with 

Paul Austin Ardoin

Author of 

The Offside Coroner



Today I have the pleasure to introduce the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Fenway Stevenson Mysteries and the Murders of Substance series. Paul Austin Ardoin has published fiction and essays in the anthologies Turning the Tide, The Paths We Tread, 12 Shots, Bottomfish, and Sweet Fancy Moses, and articles about computer security in Channel Futures, California Computer News, and European Communications.



The eighth book in the Fenway Stevenson Mysteries, The Offside Coroner, will be released in September 2022. How has your relationship with your main character changed over the years?


Fenway Stevenson was an idea I had kicking around in my head for years. My wife was looking into nursing programs at the time, and one of the career planning materials said that county coroner was one of the career paths available to nurses with certain degrees. I thought a former-nurse-turned-coroner was an interesting main character for a murder mystery.


When I wrote the first book in the series, The Reluctant Coroner, I didn’t have any plans to write a second book—I’d always fancied myself a novelist, but The Reluctant Coroner was the first novel I’d actually completed. But readers reacted so positively to both Fenway, her 'rookie mistakes,' and her struggles with her father, that I decided to turn it into a series. And, of course, the more I write about Fenway, the more she reveals herself to me. She and I have a lot in common: she’s an extroverted introvert, for example. She follows her nose in both her career and her relationships, yet she tends to overthink things—which I think is an interesting dynamic. (Fenway and I also share a birthday, though I haven’t specified the date in the novels.) Unlike me, though Fenway has a touch of OCD.


More and more, however—and I’m by no means the only author to experience this—my main character does what she wants, so she doesn’t follow my plans. A conversation with her sergeant can trigger a thought process so that she investigates a separate line of questioning. 


She’s also come into her own over the last eight novels. In The Reluctant Coroner, she didn’t know the protocols of the office, and she made plenty of missteps as she was willing to let other people on her investigating team show her the way. But now, she’s more in command of her investigations; when she isn’t, it doesn’t feel authentic (so I have a lot of rewriting to do).


The Offside Coroner is about a women’s professional soccer team. Why did you choose that topic?


I’m a fan of women’s professional soccer—I’ve had soccer balls signed by Brandi Chastain (who scored the winning shootout goal in the 1999 World Cup) and I’ve got an Alyssa Naeher jersey (Naeher is the goalie for NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, and also the #1 keeper on the 2019 World Cup winners). 


In the autumn of 2021, Paul Riley, the coach of the North Carolina Courage, a pro soccer team in the USA’s NWSL, was accused of sexually coercing his players in exchange for playing time or for promising not to do brutal practice sessions the next day. The coach had been accused of this several times before, the teams had ‘parted ways’ with him—but he’d never had to answer for his actions, and he’d always wind up coaching another team in the league a few months later. Riley was fired, and the investigation revealed an institutional problem, not only in the NWSL, but many other women’s sports programs, both professional and collegiate. (Several other NWSL coaches were fired in the following months for similar issues.) I followed this story for a few weeks. Much of what I discovered is simply unbelievable. It boggles my mind not only that Riley got away with it for so long, but that he was so brazen about it—he’d often invite players back to his hotel room when on road trips within earshot of the other players or his coaching staff.


The Fenway series can be a lot of fun, but it also tackles some big issues. In The Offside Coroner ('offside' being both a soccer infraction and an informal synonym for something that crosses a line of good taste or ethics), the fictional head coach of the fictional Las Vegas Neons is fired for sexual assault—and hours later is found dead in his hotel room. Fenway finds herself sympathizing more with the suspects than with the victim. 


Was it hard to write something 'ripped from the headlines'?


I had to rewrite a lot of this book when I was done with it—more than any other Fenway book, in fact. Some of it was because it was hard to write what the fictional head coach had done and have readers believe it.


The biggest issue, though, was that I had a medical issue in my neck and shoulder while I was writing the first draft of this book. For the first time, I tried to dictate my novel, pacing around my office while I 'spoke' the book into my headset. Many authors do this with great success—and I thought I could be one of them. 


But unfortunately I am not an auditory learner. When I was in school, I had to take careful notes on lectures if I wanted to get anything out of it—my mind wanders when information is only presented via sound. I didn’t think that would affect my ability to dictate… but wow, did it ever. When I dictated, I repeated whole scenes, I wrote inconsistent characterization (I couldn’t even keep characters’ names straight), and I created sections that contradicted the section immediately preceding them—my first draft was an absolute nightmare. I estimate that I had to rewrite 75% of my manuscript. (Fortunately for me, physical therapy worked for my neck and shoulder, and I can type again without pain!)


After my major rewrite, I discovered that I’d simply not given Fenway the right reactions to the situations she was in. Starting a new character arc for her was tricky, and I hadn’t taken into account everything she’d been through in the first seven novels. (I blame this at least partially on my incompetence at dictating a decent narrative.) Fortunately, some of my early readers identified those issues. It led to another lengthy rewrite.


Do you plot your books out before you write, or do you start with a blank page?


I used to be a 'pantser'—someone who writes by the seat of their pants, with nothing but a blank page in front of me. (I prefer the term 'discovery writer.') I came to realize that I’ve read so many mysteries—from the time I was a little kid—that I’d internalized the structure of murder mysteries, so I was writing highly structured manuscripts despite not having an outline. (Every single one of my full-length novels has 27 chapters, for example, even though I’m a discovery writer.)


When I started writing the fifth Fenway book, The Courtroom Coroner, though, I had to change my process. The Courtroom Coroner is a 'locked room' mystery: the arraignment begins, a gunshot rings out, the defendant falls over, dead, and the room goes into lockdown. One of the 13 people in the room is the killer.


I began to write with the blank page, and soon realized that I didn’t have the right people in the locked room in order to provide the right kinds of red herrings or the raised stakes and drama that I needed to make the book work. 


I’d seen another author create a book outline in a grid style, with five or six main threads running horizontally in rows, and the chapters running vertically in columns. I created a 'grid outline' for The Courtroom Coroner, and it worked. I didn’t stick to it 100%—in fact, lots of stuff I’d outline got tossed or moved around as my characters did things I didn’t expect—but it assured that I had the right people in the locked room and the right structure in place to meet reader expectations.


That’s the way I’ve done every novel I’ve written since then: with the 'grid outline.' Sometimes my novel ends up being very close to the original outline, but a couple of times I’ve had to trash the whole outline after Chapter 10 because the characters go off on their own tangents—which sometimes turns out to be the main thrust of the plot instead of what I’d originally planned. (In a couple of books I’ve written over the last two years, the killer even turned out to be different than the one I’d originally planned—it turned out that my original killer was a better red herring!)


Do you have ‘Easter Eggs’ in your books?


Yes! I like to hide details in my books for savvy readers to find. In all of my Fenway novels, for example, Fenway will find herself without a car. There will also be a meal where pheasant is featured as the main course (although Fenway 7, The Accused Coroner, just made a reference to a pheasant dinner—it’s hard to eat a gourmet meal when you’re running from the law!). 


One thing a couple of readers noticed is that Fenway, because she has a strained relationship with her father, will call him 'Dad' to his face, but only refers to him as her 'father' when he’s not around. (There’s something that changes this dynamic partway through the series, though.)


In The Offside Coroner, eagle-eyed readers might discover a few names and facts that coincidentally relate to the real-life news stories. (The fictional coach’s nickname, for example, is the same as the name of a team Paul Riley used to coach.) 


In my second series, The Woodhead & Becker Mysteries (formerly Murders of Substance), one of the recurring secondary characters is the boss of the two main characters; her name is Maura Stevenson. Some of my readers have asked if she’s related to Fenway—and she sort of is. That relationship might may reveal itself in future books, or I may just write about it on my Patreon blog. (There’s an explanation of many other Easter Eggs in the Woodhead & Becker series on my Patreon blog, too.)


What’s next for Fenway Stevenson?


The Accused Coroner ended a seven-novel character arc for Fenway and her father. I wasn’t sure I was going to write more Fenway books after that, but many of my readers asked when the next Fenway was coming out! So I decided to plan another set of Fenway novels.


In July 2022, I released The Clandestine Coroner, a novella set between books 7 and 8, with a secret society at the crux of the book. The first six weeks of release, it’s exclusive to Kindle Vella, I’m planning for the book to be released on all major sites at the very end of August 2022. The Offside Coroner, set a couple of months after the novella, comes out in September 2022, and that kicks off a new character arc for Fenway, where she has to confront her fear of commitment and her place in the beachfront town she now calls home.


I also wrote a Christmas novella (The Christmas Coroner) set between books 5 and 6 in the series, which will come out in late October, in plenty of time for the holidays. My editor says it’s a lot of fun—there’s a dead celebrity chef, a book about dragons, and some gossipy local news anchors who are mad they never made it in Hollywood.


After that, I’m writing the next book in the Woodhead & Becker series, and I’m planning to continue the character arc for Fenway. Right now, I’m planning a total of five novels in this next arc—but who knows what Fenway will decide to do once I put her on the page!


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Interview with

Malcolm Tanner

Author of

Mirror Image



Today I have the pleasure to present an author who was born in St. Louis, Missouri and inspired to write by his high school English teacher. Malcolm Tanner spent 34 years in the education field as a teacher, coach and school administrator. He and his wife Sandy moved to their current lake residence after retirement, where he says the views are a spectacular backdrop for "good writing and good thinking."



What is the plot line of Mirror Image?


A young entrepreneur, Paul Taylor, is driven to succeed. Paul strives to have the best restaurant franchise in the state. Now, he’s looking to go nationwide. With a huge franchising deal ahead, Paul celebrates the deal with a little too much to drink. On the drive home, Paul takes a detour and is blinded by a light along the way, causing him to crash. He comes back to consciousness and sees that his fender is damaged. Paul decides not to call the police since he had been drinking and heads home. 


Paul wakes up in the morning to not only find his car will need repair, but he also finds a dead body in his trunk. No way can this be happening. Sickness overcomes him and he goes inside the house to figure out what to do with this discovery. Upon returning to the garage, the body is now gone. 


Hallucination? Drunken blackout? Desperation makes Paul turn to his father who recommends M & M Private Investigators. Andy Marx is a friend of Paul’s dad and along with his partner, Mike Parsons, the chase is on to find the truth. The twists and turns in this tale of deceit will keep you turning the pages.


Was Paul set up? Is Paul about to lose everything he’s ever wanted? Is Paul guilty? Or is there something much more sinister happening?


This thrilling, wild ride is loaded with all the page-turning excitement a reader can handle. Will the business and personal life Paul has worked for many years to build come crashing down, or worse, will he find out something chilling and unexpected?

“Mirror Image” will take the readers to the depths of deceit, evil, and uncontrolled rage that will leave readers guessing what the next chapter will bring. 


What would you like the reader to feel for your characters in Mirror Image?


I want the reader to feel for Paul Taylor who is about to become successful beyond his wildest dreams. He has earned everything he has by working hard and you want to root for Paul. I also want them to feel that even though you want to root for him, he actually could have done something very sinister indeed.


Mike and Andy, partners throughout the first three books in the series, are beginning a new partnership together. They encounter something that takes them back to the darkness of the first three books in the series. Both men have changing family dynamics that throw roadblocks in front of them during their pursuit of the antagonist.


Do you prefer a happy ending, or do you want to have endings that can be “hangers?”


Ah, good question! It really depends on the book and the story line. I am more of a fan of writing the classic tragicomedy. In other words, someone wins, but someone also loses. I’m not much on the “all’s well that ends well,” scenario, but in a series, there is usually some overarching problem that will come to light and will be addressed in a future book. There are good things and bad things in all endings, as well as in life. I like some endings to be a bit mystic, leaving the reader in a state of thoughtfulness.


What books in your genre do you read?


I like to read James Patterson, John Grisham, James Lee Burke, and John Sandford. Most of these authors come through with flawed characters, similar to the ones I create. Their flaws make them real, and to me, that is very important. I want the reader to actually feel those characters’ emotions, and the problems they are facing. These authors can create movies in my mind, and I can see their characters very clearly.


If you could pick an actor or actress for your main characters, who would they be?


Interesting to say the least. Although I am not a casting director, for Mike Parsons, I would have to say I would pick Jason Statham or Matt Damon. For Allison Branch I would pick Rachel McAdams or Charlize Theron.


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3 comments:

  1. Much thanks, Uvi, for your feature of my book today! So appreciated! ox

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for this opportunity, Uvi. The presentation looks fantastic, too.

    ReplyDelete