Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

5 Minutes Alone… With David Comfort

Monday, January 13th, 2014

David Comfort knows a thing or two about the publishing industry and he’s taken his experience and, in writerly fashion, corralled the wisdom of his trials between two covers. AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING  should prove a valuable tool and compass for the hopeful scribe.

We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

David: •Book: FOR DOGS ONLY: How to Live with Human Beings (Pocket / Simon & Schuster, 1989) •Short Story: “Achilles: Letters to his Mother” (Pig Iron Press, 1991)

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

David: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING is a long-overdue self-helper for the million midlist, backlist, and no-list writers still waiting for deliverance by a survival manual based not on Publishers Clearing House You-too-can-be-a millionaire-novelist! fiction, but on the INSDR-COVsobering realities of an overpopulated, hyper-competitive, bestseller-driven profession which is marginalizing literary writers and editors. The exposé leads writers-in-the-storm down the yellow brick road, pulls back the curtain on the Publishing Land of Oz, and helps each reclaim his or her head, heart, and courage.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

David: As a self-taught writer, I have no teachers to thank, per se. But, like every writer, I have learned by reading and studying the masters. They were my teachers, and to them I am indebted — not only for the inspiration of their work, but for the example of their determination, persistence, and drive.

In the first ten years of my career, I completed five novels. My father-in-law, a TV writer (Gunsmoke and Route 66), sent my first novel to an editor friend at Harper & Row. It was rejected after six months, and never resubmitted elsewhere. The other novels were represented by Reece Halsey (formerly William Morris fiction head), co-agenting with Alex Jackinson in New York. In spite of editorial praise, all were rejected as being insufficiently “commercial.”

Changing tack, giving commercial nonfiction a try, I wrote a humor title, For Dogs Only: How to Live with Human Beings (1989). My NY agent declined to represent the title, so I sent it out personally – over the transom. Simon & Schuster bought it. Subsequently, I secured new representation by Nancy Yost, of Lowenstein & Associates, who agented my next two books with Simon & Schuster.

Frank Scatoni of Venture Literary placed my next (serious) trade title, The Rock and Roll Book of the Dead, with Kensington. Don Fehr of Trident Media placed my current title with Writers Digest Books.

All three agents contributed to my success, as did my editors. I am also indebted to the editors who rejected my earlier work, but praised it, made valuable suggestions, and encouraged me to persevere.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

David ComfortDavid: For actually putting pen to paper: Morning. But, like most writers, I’ve got a virtual writer auditioning inside my head going pretty much 24/7.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

David: •Be humble. No matter how good you think you are, or how long you’ve been at it – be the student, never the expert. Keep learning. The greatest obstacle to my own professional progress was arrogance. I refused to take a single creative writing course, consider an MFA program, or even to join a writers’ group. I wanted my work to be as individual, pure, and underivative as possible. I tried to reinvent the literary wheel. This cost me a great deal of time. Worse, it isolated me in a profession where education and networking are vitally important.

•Never stop perfecting your craft. Along the way, find your style, your voice, your sweet spot, your home field. Abandon preconceptions. Be flexible. Perhaps you wanted to write the great American novel, but find that your niche is in nonfiction. Maybe you wanted to compose poetry, but find that your strength is in the short story. Maybe you wanted to do mysteries, but find that your imagination and creativity is truly set free by Fantasy or SciFi.

•The key to success of most successful people, not just in the arts, is focus. When you find your literary sport, stay focused on it. Wrestle it down till it sings. Don’t jump to something else due to temporary obstacles, setbacks, or frustrations. Avoid being a jack of all genres, but master of none. Unless you’re Shakespeare, Michelangelo or God.

• A cliché that bears repeating: A serious writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Be the tortoise, not the fox. Be wise, deliberate, inexorable; not clever, impulsive, prone to hyperventilation.

•Don’t write for money and fame. If for no other reason than a practical one: Only .01% of writers get it, and a good number of these become miserable and/or creatively beached as a result. Write for the joy of creation, self-knowledge and exploration. Like a baseball batter, if you keep your eye on the fences and scoreboard, not the ball, chances are you’ll never hit a home run.

•To become a “successful” writer, you must market as much as you write. A bitter pill for many artists, but one that must be swallowed even by introverts. First, learn everything about the players in your market – the book publishers & editors, the magazines, the top talents. Then, put on your Willy Loman hat, and start going door-to-door in the neighborhood of your audience.

•Rejection is the one inevitability and constant in a writing career. Every author, no matter how accomplished or later acclaimed, has had to learn how to survive it and move on. Don’t take rejection personally, say many writing gurus. Grow a thick skin, advise others. Nonsense! Writers are sensitive, that’s why they’re writers. Show me an author who doesn’t take rejection personally, or who boasts a thick skin, and I’ll show you a self-deceptionist. Acknowledge the hurt, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and return to the fight. As Henry Miller said after the rejection of his first novel, Clipped Wings: “It was a crushing defeat but put iron in my backbone and sulfur in my blood!” He didn’t break through till 12 years later. Be Henry Miller.

***

AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING is out now and you can find David Comfort all over the web, but start here at eyeshot.net and DavidComfort.org.

5 Minutes Alone… With Susan Tekulve

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

 Susan Tekulve surges onto the literary scene with her gorgeous debut novel, IN THE GARDEN OF STONE. Susan has generously shared her journey and expertise with us here. So settle in for a treat.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Susan: Wow, that was a long time ago, but I remember quite clearly that it was a short story that I published in the Indiana Review in 1990. At the time I wrote this piece, I was twenty years old, and enrolled in my first workshop with the novelist James Lee Burke in the MFA program at Wichita State University.   I had a short story due for workshop in about a week.  I had an idea for a story about two twelve-year-old Catholic schoolgirls, Anna and Lee, from Southern Ohio.  One of the girls, Lee, had received a mini tape recorder from her father, a painter who was divorced from the Lee’s mother.  The father was living down in Kentucky, and every weekend he came for a visit, bringing Lee another adaption for the mini tape recorder. The divorce was a really big deal for my two main characters, pretty much an anomaly since the girls lived in an all-Catholic community in rural Ohio, in the early 1980s. Lee also had an older sister who’d come home from her secretarial job in Washington D.C., pregnant without the benefit of marriage, and she’d just been forced to give her baby up for adoption.  The sister was still living at home, half crazy with the postpartum blues and grief.  The pregnant sister was also a big deal because premarital sex was a bigger sin than divorce in the Catholic community around this time.  So I had a bunch of details about the schoolgirls and their parochial school, and I had plenty of conflict with the one family’s divorce and the unwed pregnant sister.  But I didn’t have a plot to hang these details and conflicts on, and I didn’t know how or where to begin.  Essentially, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.

One day, as I was fretting about this short story, I wandered down the hall of the English department to Jim Burke’s office to talk to him about my ideas.  When I walked into his office, I noticed immediately that he had a pair of deer antlers hanging on the wall behind his desk. Jim listened to me ramble on for a while, and then he said, “If you were a kid, what would you notice first in my office?”  I said I’d notice those deer antlers on the wall behind his head. He nodded, and I realized he was gently suggesting that I needed to use a child’s perspective to tell my story.  Next, he asked me what my characters wanted, and I said I supposed they wanted to know more about love and marriage, and how all of this ties into the Catholic concept of sin, particularly mortal and venial sins.   (I also knew that my young characters wanted to know a whole lot more about sex, but I was too shy to mention this part to Jim.)  Then he told me I needed to give my characters “a job,” something to do, and he suggested that I have the girls do something with the mini tape recorder that the one girl had been given.  In just a short conversation, Jim was able to give me a solid definition of what a story is:  Every story must begin with a character who wants something, and that character must do something to get what she wants.  Finally, every character must come up against something that prevents her from getting what she wants.

I went home and wrote a quest story about two Catholic school girls, Anna and Lee, who come upon a mini tape recorder and set out after school one day to interview everyone they meet about sex and sin.  I chose to tell the story through Anna’s perspective, in first person.  On some intuitive level, I knew that using this perspective would create a lot of dramatic irony, perhaps because Anna could observe and report all the inherent conflict in Lee’s broken family, and even though Anna didn’t understand everything she saw and heard, the adult reader would.   The two girls use the mini tape recorder to interview their favorite, eccentric nun up at the convent beside their school.  They go down into the village and sneak into a bar to interview a couple of bikers.  The story climaxes when they go to interview Lee’s older sister, Bridget, the one who got pregnant and had to give her baby away.  I titled this story “Venial Sins,” and turned it into Jim.  A few days later, I heard Jim walking toward my office.  He always wore the same black cowboy boots, so I could hear his heels squeaking down the hallway before I saw him.  He ducked into my office doorway, shook my hand, said, “Congratulations.  This story is the real deal.” Then, he turned and walked out, and I could hear him walking down to his own office.

I don’t recall much about the actual workshop, but I do remember that Jim told me to send the story to the director of the creative writing program, who then sent the story on to the AWP Intro Award contest, a project that featured the work of student writers in national literary journals.  That’s how my first short story ended up in the Indiana Review.  Then, I spent the next three or four years trying to figure out exactly how I’d written that story because I wrote the whole thing intuitively.  It wasn’t until much, much later that I returned to Jim Burke’s basic definition of a story.  Now, the lesson he taught me that day in his office is my mantra.  Every time I begin a new project, whether I am working on a story or a novel, I ask myself, Who is my character? What does she want?  What does she do to get what she wants?  What, or who, is preventing my character from getting what she wants?  I try to keep the plot line this simple, and I try to keep all place and character details in service to the story, but I allow the motivations to become complex as the story evolves.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Susan: My new novel, In the Garden of Stone, is a multi-generational story about a family who migrates from a coal camp in War, West In the Garden of StoneVirginia, to a mountain farm outside of Bluefield, Virginia. Set between 1924 and 1973, the novel follows three generations of a family all bound to the beautiful, and sometimes harsh, landscape of Appalachia.

The story is told through the points of view of four different narrators. The first narrator, Emma Palmisano, is the daughter of a Sicilian coal miner. The novel opens as a rail car overturns, burying Emma’s family’s house in coal while they are sleeping. Emma wakes to find a railroad man named Caleb Sypher digging her out. Though she knows nothing about Caleb, she marries him a week later and moves to his 47-acre farm near Bluefield, Virginia. The novel eventually moves into the perspectives of Dean, Emma’s son; Sadie, Dean’s wife; and Hannah, the daughter of Dean and Sadie.

This kind of novel, which is sometimes called “a composite novel” or a “novel-in-stories,” requires unifying elements beyond the chronological retelling of a family story. This novel requires more, and different, unifying elements that a traditionally-structured novel doesn’t necessarily require, such as recurrent images and protagonists, and a strong sense of place. While each chapter could exist on its own, together they must rest upon each other and have the longer arc of a novel. I would say that the various gardens that appear in the novel—the wooded mountains, the Italian stone garden that Caleb eventually builds for Emma, the cemeteries and even the coal mines—provide the key garden images that unify the whole novel.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Susan: Maybe because I have been at this for a while, I have had a lot of talented and gracious writers take me under their wings.  I would say that the writers who have had the greatest influence on me are the ones who are my mentors and friends.  The fiction writers Jean Thompson, Jim Burke and Thomas E. Kennedy have been my teachers and mentors for over twenty years.  These writers taught me a lot about the craft of writing.  However, because they welcomed me into their lives and became genuine friends, they also taught me a whole lot about how to establish good writing habits. These writing habits prepared me for a long career that has withstood times of triumph, and times when I haven’t had a lot of external affirmation.  These people also served as good role models for how writers should behave towards each other, and towards their writing students.  I never once heard any of these people make a cutting remark about a student or a colleague or another writer, and they never validate themselves by making other writers feel small or low.  They don’t get into ugly competitions with other writers.  They only compete with themselves, or with the great writers who came before them.

I’ve also learned a lot from my writer friends and colleagues, just by talking over coffee, or by sitting at a bar with them.  When I taught English at Clemson University, I met two superb fiction writers, Bart Barton and Dale Ray Philips.  We all taught four sections of composition every semester, and so every Friday, after we finished our last class of the day, we all went down to a local bar called Nick’s to drink a pint, swap stories.   We talked about our favorite books and repeated our favorite lines from those books.   Nick’s was the kind of bar where people took their dogs and children, so there were pinball machines and even an ice cream case so that the children who came into the bar with their parents could eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream while their moms and dads drank a pint.  I think I learned just as much about writing fiction while sitting on a bar stool at Nick’s, talking to Bart and Dale Ray, as I did in my official fiction workshops.  I’m not saying this to belittle my formal education; that training was invaluable because I learned most of my foundation skills in the classroom, and by talking with my teachers.  But the talks with my writing peers made me feel connected, and there was always a kind of good energy that came out of our informal “writing group” at Nick’s that inspired me, and made me feel like writing all the time. Though I no longer live in Clemson, and I’m not able to go to Nick’s, I still make an effort to find writers who live nearby, or I meet writers with whom I enjoy an email correspondence.  I still need to feel this connection. I still enjoy, and thrive upon, this camaraderie among my writer friends.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Susan TekulveSusan: When I have a longer stretch of time, usually in the summer, I try to create a work regime by repeating certain habits. I wake up before the sun rises, and go downstairs to make a pot of coffee. I talk to my cats, go out to my garden to see what’s blooming.  I find out if any of my tomatoes and red peppers have ripened. We have one blackberry vine that produces about three or four berries a day, so I usually pick those and put them in a bowl so that my husband can put them on his cereal when he wakes.  I return to my office and read something, usually poetry, until I feel like writing.  I’ll write for 4-6 hours, knowing that one of those hours will be spent immersing myself into whatever project I’m working on, and one of those hours will be spent coming back out of that project.  When I’ve finished writing for the day, I’ll take notes about where I’ll begin the next day.  I think it’s really important to know what your next day’s work will be at the time you quit working for the day.  Then, I’ll take a long walk, eat lunch, nap, read.  Around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I must admit, my “real” writing gets done.  By this, I mean that dialogue and scenes from my story come to me unbidden, when I’m not in my office, and when I’m not necessarily thinking about the act of writing.  A friend of mine likes to call this state of mind “writing when the policeman of the mind is asleep.”  Essentially, this is the time of day when the part of my brain that censors and criticizes is off, and this is when I grab a pencil and a yellow legal pad and frantically write down all the scenes that are coming to me. Sometimes, I’ll even go back to my office to work again until it is time for bed.  Sometimes, I’ll just write the notes, read, fall asleep, wake up and start all over again the next morning.

That is definitely my ideal schedule.  Like a lot of people, I work a full-time job, and I have a family.  The main thing I try to do is read a lot, take a lot of notes, and carve out smaller moments to write.  Over the years, I’ve had to grow a spine, and I’ve learned to defend these moments pretty fiercely.  I am a natural-born people pleaser, so I used to put everything, and everyone, before my writing. Also, I drive a pickup truck, so friends and neighbors often call me up while I’m writing, asking me to drive them some place to pick up something that they can’t fit into their cars. A lot of people send me out with their giant propane tanks to get them filled, or they ask me to haul mulch for them.  Once, a neighbor called while I was writing, and he asked if I’d drive him to a junkyard to pick up an engine for a car he was rebuilding, and I ended up way out in the country, sitting in my truck with a bunch of junkyard dogs snarling at me for several hours while this guy hunted for car parts.  I felt pretty resentful of my neighbor at the time, but now I realize that it was my own fault for answering the phone while I was writing.

Anyway, I still do this for people, just not during my writing time.  The main thing I try to do is what Flannery O’Connor calls establishing “the habit of art.”  If you establish a firm writing routine, the very act of writing every day will get you through times when you have a heavy load at your day job, when it is next to impossible to concentrate on your own fiction.  You’ll remain in practice, so to speak, so that you remain ready for when your novels and stories come to you. Also, having this routine will help you make it through time when you aren’t receiving much external affirmation. Oh, and here’s a glorious story about what can happen if you are a good neighbor AND you remain loyal to your writing routine:  When the neighbor who asked me to drive him to the junkyard heard that my novel had just come out, he surprised me with a congratulatory case of Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter.  This happened years after our infamous trip to the junkyard.  Apparently, while I was driving him around that day, we talked a lot about beer, and I told him I was a porter and stout drinker, and he remembered this!  I thought this was a remarkable gesture. I even took pictures of this case of beer because I was so touched by his thoughtfulness.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Susan: The market is changing right now. I used to tell beginning writers to submit to local publications or national contests and journals geared toward student writers. This was a way to build a reputable and solid publication record. But I think the percentage rate of fiction acceptances in literary journals is about 1% now, and a lot of really good print journals have had most, if not all, of their funding cut by the universities that house them. The editors of these journals have had to go from producing 3 print issues a year to producing 1 print issue and several web issues. Many have gone under, and many have gone completely online. Also, a lot of established writers with five or six book publications have been dropped by their large publishing houses, so they’re now publishing with good small publishers or university presses. These writers bring prestige to the small presses, but this phenomenon also makes it much tougher for young, emerging writers to find a publisher for a first book, especially if they are trying to publish short story collections or other non-traditional works that a big house won’t touch.

Also, I love having a print book or a print journal in my hands when I read, but I am realistic about what is happening right now to the printed word. The fact that people are creating new and reputable online journals and ebooks shows that good writing and literature will prevail, but perhaps it will prevail in another form. We don’t have the same resources we had ten or twenty years ago, and yet there are very good writers and editors out there who are finding ways to make good writing and books available online. More and more presses are using the print-on-demand approach to publishing books too. As a writer trying to break into the market, you do have to be careful about putting your work on the Internet. There are sometimes disreputable people who prey upon those who desperately want to publish. I have students asking me all the time whether a certain online journal is reputable, and I always say, “Did they ask you for money? If anyone asks you for money before they publish you, then they probably aren’t too reputable.”

In terms of honing your craft, I highly suggest that you read everything.  Keep your nature open.  Travel far enough away from home so that you gain perspective about your home and about yourself.  The more perspective you have about where you come from and who you are, the better you’ll be able to process and understand the new places and people you encounter.  Know that sometimes people and memory can serve as a “place” in story.  Even if a physical place disappears, or no longer exists in the same way you experienced it, you’ll still have your memory of that place and its people to write about.  Learn how to listen to other peoples’ stories.  I find that a lot of people like to tell interesting stories about themselves, and those stories can be great gifts for a writer.  Go to your writing regularly, even when it’s going badly.  If you can’t stand to look at your own fiction, move into a different genre, such as poetry or nonfiction, and explore your ideas in that genre until you are ready to move back into fiction writing.  This keeps the writing muscles toned for the times when the good story ideas come to you.  Keep in mind that you got into reading and writing because you wanted to discover something.  If those feelings of wonder and curiosity stop, you need to find new ways to recover those feelings that made you start writing in the first place.

***

IN THE GARDEN OF STONE is out now and you can find Susan Tekulve on the web at susantekulve.com.

5 Minutes Alone… With Jamie Mason

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I’ve done it when they’ve made me, but I ain’t doing it here. 5 Minutes Alone has always been one my favorite features here on AuthorScoop, so I’m just thrilled to be here in both the Q and A aspects of the post for the first time. As for my debut novel, THREE GRAVES FULL, it’s gotten starred reviews at Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. Last Sunday, Marilyn Stasio called it “a ripping good novel” in the New York Times.

It’s a dream come true to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Jamie: In the legend that is memory, when I was nine or ten years old a teacher loved a poem I’d written in class. She submitted it to Highlights Magazine on my behalf and it was accepted. I remember it was called White, and I seem to remember seeing the magazine itself with my poem on the page. We didn’t have a subscription, so I never had a copy to keep. Of course, this was all a very long time ago. It’s a fuzzy recollection and I can’t prove any of it, so I’ll just go with my novel, THREE GRAVES FULL, as the First-Publishing-Credit-For-Certain.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Jamie: THREE GRAVES FULL is the story of mild-mannered Jason Getty, a guy who, when under pressure, has a propensity for doing smallerversionthe wrong thing. Case in point: when a confrontation goes too far and a man lies dead on the living room rug, Jason buries the guy in the backyard instead of explaining himself to the police. In fine non-psychopathic form, this bothers Jason quite a lot – all the way to the extent that he can’t bring himself to do any yard work. He just can’t be out there.

The seasons have their way with Jason’s lawn until his paranoia drives him to hire landscapers to fix the front yard so that his neighbors don’t file a complaint. Jason’s best effort to keep an eye on the work crew fails to prevent disaster, and when the landscapers, horrified, call him out to show him what they’ve unearthed on his property, Jason’s sure the jig is up. But what they’ve found is a dry-bones skeleton in the mulch bed at the side of the house, not the newer, riper body of the guy Jason planted at the back woods a year and some earlier. And he has no idea who it is.

Jason has about 300 pages of problems after that, as you can imagine.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Jamie: It’s hard to know where even to begin. I’ve been so fortunate to have an incredibly supportive network of family and friends. No one laughed at me when I said I wanted to do this. Not to my face, at least. And when I’d said it and said it and said for years while I learned how to write (but never had anything to show for it) they fed and watered my dreams and because of them, despite periods of wanting to give up, those dreams didn’t wither. My husband and children have been patient and enthusiastic in measures I can hardly believe. My mother and sisters, my in-laws, my incredible friends, they’ve all been terrific. That’s a lie. They’ve been everything.

On the business of making a book, my husband is a tremendous first-pass editor. Then my work always goes through the blistering sieve of wit and talent that is my writing-pal’s brain. His name is Graeme Cameron. You don’t know him yet, but you will. Writer extraordinaire, Tana French, gave friendship and encouragment in resolve-saving doses. And my agent, Amy Moore-Benson, is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Not in any way least, the entire team at Gallery Books has been, to a one, a joy to work with.

And poet and editor, William Haskins here at AuthorScoop, has been a friend, inspiration, and the angel on my shoulder for years. I’m very lucky.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Jamie_Mason_color-smJamie: It doesn’t really matter. Writing is such an effort of concentration for me that my body conspires with my to-do list to keep me away from the keyboard. It’s a stupid fight I have with my reluctance, because when I do turn the inertia my way, writing is a joy, day or night.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Jamie: Read a lot. Sometimes force yourself to finish books you don’t care for. I think I’ve found that knowing what I don’t want to do has been nearly as beneficial as dissecting the books I love. Also, to save your head, I’d say to keep your hopes and expectations in separate boxes. Unpack them both often. Catalog the contents. Cherish them. But always try to remember what goes in which box.

***

Jamie Mason is easy enough to find on the web (crap, I’ve slipped into third person.) There’s a website, a blog, Twitter, and Facebook. THREE GRAVES FULL is available in bookstores now, but if you’re impatient or forgetful, there’s always Indiebound and  Amazon.

Another 5 Minutes… With Mark Pryor

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

If author, Mark Pryor, seems recently familiar here at AuthorScoop, that’s because we saw him just a few weeks ago to discuss his debut novel, THE BOOKSELLER. Hot on its heels, Mark employs his other calling – the law – bringing to the non-fiction shelves a cold case story more than twenty years in the making. We’re as pleased as we can be to have him back to tell us a bit about AS SHE LAY SLEEPING.

We’d like to thank him for coming back once again to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: Twice in a (thus far, very short) year, we get the scoop on a new book by Mark Pryor. You’ve been a busy boy. Tell us about your latest, AS SHE LAY SLEEPING.

Mark: This is my first non-fiction book, it’s part memoir and part true crime. It begins with the murder of a beautiful young woman in Austin As She Lay Sleeping (2)Texas, Natalie Antonetti, who is found battered and bleeding by her teenage son on their downstairs couch. She tries to talk, but can’t, and eventually sinks into a coma and dies. Police never have a good suspect and the case goes cold.

Twenty years later, police get an anonymous call that points them to Dennis Davis, Natalie’s former boyfriend and a respected music producer. That anonymous tip comes from Davis’s wife, of all people, and soon after making it she stops cooperating with police. Davis also has an alibi and when the detective checks with the woman he claims to have been with, she can’t remember (unsurprisingly). However, she used to keep a detailed diary and goes to look for the one covering the 1985 murder date. Sure enough, she wasn’t with him. Witnesses slowly come forward, including one who said Davis admitted to her that he killed Natalie.

I was the lead prosecutor handling the case, my first ever murder case, which went to trial in April 2011. We had no DNA, no eye-witnesses, and a lot of uncooperative witnesses. The book aims to be a detailed look at a fascinating case, as well as giving the reader an inside look at how the case was worked up and presented to a jury.

AuthorScoop: With fiction you have to craft a narrative around something that never happened, while with non-fiction, you have to choose just the right words to do justice to something that actually has. How has the contrast between these two disciplines felt from atop the hotseat?

Mark: You’re right. With fiction you can just make up people, and places, events to suit the narrative, to help the story along. But with non-fiction you are chained to a set of events that you have to make interesting, while sticking to the truth. Sometimes, and this will shock your readers, but the practice of law (even in a murder case) can be a little slow and boring. Then again, when an editor is waiting for your next book, that’s a lot of pressure on the creative engines whereas with non-fiction the story is all laid out.

Perhaps the hardest part, as you suggest, is doing justice to the people in the book. You don’t have to worry about that with fiction, your imaginary detective isn’t going to feel slighted by the way you describe him or what he does. But I had to work hard to represent people as they are, or appeared to me anyway, and not sell them short. With so many players in a murder case, that was hard!

AuthorScoop: In your career as a prosecutor, your head has to have been filled with many fascinating stories. Would you do it again, write it up in a book?

Mark: If I had the right case, I might. Maybe. It’s exhausting to live through a case like that and then recreate it on the page, it’s like living through it a second time almost. I don’t think I’ll have that concern, though, I have a lot of fiction rattling around in my head so I will busy myself with that for now.

That said, there’s nothing to stop me from taking snippets from the case and things I’ve seen and slipping them into my fiction, I’ve not done too much of that but one of the books I want to write will definitely include a few carefully disguised tidbits.

AuthorScoop: With two books (and probably most-if-not-all of a third, by now) under your belt, do you find that the experience of reading has changed for you?

MarkPryor2Mark: That’s a great question because actually, it has. For one thing, with so much going on I don’t get to read as much as I used to. People have started asking me for blurbs, too, which is very flattering but also time consuming. On top of that, when I read for pleasure, and even though I try to stop myself, I find I’m very analytical, looking at word choice, plot structure, the mechanics of the book. I have to take a breath and get back to being a reader and not a writer.

Of course, the downside of that is when I’m reading a book by someone like Tana French, which makes me wonder if I can ever be that good!

AuthorScoop: Finally, what’s next for Mark Pryor?

MarkA few days off?!  Well, I suppose I’ll be gearing up for the release of my second mystery, THE CRYPT THIEF, in May, and I’m neck deep in the third book so I need to finish that up soon. If there’s a number four, I’ll have to think about where to set that and I do have a couple of stand-alone books in mind that I’d like to get to. In other words, not much slowing down in my future, as far as I can tell. I don’t mind though, this is a fun ride and I feel very lucky to be on it.

***


D.A. Confidential is Mark Pryor’s hub of up-to-date information on what he’s up to, but you can also find him on his website and Facebook. And do look for AS SHE LAY SLEEPING. In fact, why don’t you start right here.

.Autho

5 Minutes Alone… With Greg Bardsley

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Author, Greg Bardsley, debuts his sense of adventure (and sense of humor) with his crime caper, CASH OUT, released last month from Harper Perennial. A former reporter and speechwriter, he’s taken what he knows and strapped it to some high intensity wheels for quite a ride for the intrepid reader. He’s a busy man, but fortunately, we caught him on his way out the door…

We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Greg: In eighth–grade, I wrote for the school “newspaper” and pitched to do a feature on the head custodian, a cool guy named Ralph. So I came up with a feature called The Ralph Report. All I recall is writing something like, “Ralph has a Z28 from ’78.” I also recall there being a showdown between Ralph, who was a low-rider, and another young custodian at the school, who was a high-rider (with a Chevy, I think) and trying to write about the rivalry. But that piece never ran.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Greg: Harper Perennial has just released my debut novel, Cash Out. It’s about a working stiff who’s found himself at a white-hot startup in Silicon Valley. He only has three days left until his stock options vest to the tune of $1.1 million. He thinks it will be an easy three days–so easy, in fact, that he gets a vasectomy during that time. But then things go awry, starting with a pack of elfin IT geeks who try to blackmail him into a series of ill-advised activities. If he fails to keep the geeks happy, they will release some of his online activity to his employer, which will get him fired just days before he can cash out. …Oh, the novel also involves spry older men in skin-colored Speedos, toilet sabotage, irresponsible use of canine pressure collars and small men getting shaved against their will. From what I understand, this would not be categorized as a “cozy.”

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Greg: I think getting out of my “ecosystem” helped a ton. There was a time when all I did as an aspiring author was focus on novels. That worked out okay. With my second unpublished manuscript, I found an agent, who suggested that I should try getting some short stories published. I really hadn’t given that any thought, as I was so focused on writing a successful novel and hadn’t seen a lot of fun and interesting crime shorts. But I gave it a try and found that I loved it. Getting shorts out there allowed me to experiment with different characters, voices and stories, and do so without the massive upfront time and emotional investment of writing a novel. And the payoff was far more immediate—you could write a short, share with friends, revise the short, submit to journals and ’zines, and sometimes see it published in a matter of months.

The shorts also helped me develop Cash Out. Some of my more popular short-story characters (Crazy Larry, Calhoun, Janice from Finance, Stephen Fitzroy) ended up playing important roles in the novel.

But most importantly, the shorts allowed me to meet an amazing group of likeminded writers who were eager to help one another. Over the course of years, our community grew and strengthened, and one day at a conference one such author introduced me to David Hale Smith, the agent who would sell Cash Out to Harper Perennial nearly two years later.

So if I look back at how Cash Out came to be on the shelves, it all started with getting out of my regular ecosystem.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Greg: I have a day job and a family. So I’m busy and have little time. That means I usually write my fiction late at night, after my wife and kids had fallen asleep. With Cash Out, some days I wrote at lunch, or when the family was out for an hour. Some nights I couldn’t stop, and I’d write into the very early morning. The first draft of Cash Out was written during a thousand stolen moments over the course of a few years.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Greg: Write. Write a lot. Then write some more. Ask for feedback from people you trust. Listen to the feedback. Write some more. Have fun. Keep writing. Try different types of writing. Solicit more feedback. Have more fun with your writing, and with the process. Create a writing life that is rewarding no matter how much (or little) external success you realize. Diversify your emotional investments with writing (i.e., pursue shorts and novels, for instance). Celebrate your milestones, whether it is completing a story, getting a nibble or a nice comment. Then write some more. And have fun.

***

Find CASH OUT wherever books are sold, but since you’re right here at your computer, you could always click here for it. And you can find Greg himself on his website and blog, and also on Facebook.

5 Minutes Alone… With Linda Joffe Hull

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Linda Joffe Hull hits the shelves twice in quick succession, debuting in November with a send-up of tangled suburban anxieties, and then on to a bit of mystery. As such, Ms. Hull is apt to be more than a little busy in the coming weeks and months, so we’re fortunate to get her here in our little corner of the internet for a bit of background before she goes into the spotlight.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Linda: Technically, the first thing I ever published was an article on incarcerated teens and their lawyer mentors for California Lawyer magazine in the early 90’s, but The Big Bang, which officially releases in November is my debut novel. Eternally 21, the first in my Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series, comes out in June 2013, from Midnight Ink.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Linda: I like to describe The Big Bang as a suburban satire/pregnancy whodunit. The novel is set in Melody Mountain Ranch, an upscale, covenant-controlled community in suburban Denver where secret affairs, home shopping parties, religious fundamentalism and a power hungry homeowner’s board keep the local residents distracted from the fact that their homes are literally rotting beneath them. Secret affairs, teen witchcraft and a power-hungry homeowner’s board have their personal lives deconstructing even faster. On Wonderland Valley Way, blonde, beautiful, interior decorator Hope Jordan is desperate for a baby. As Hope struggles through unsuccessful fertility treatments, her neighbors Will Pierce-Cohn, a stay-at-home dad and community activist, Frank Griffin, a minister-cum-homeowner’s board president, and Tim Trautman, a soon-to-be father of five, jockey for her attentions. When Hope inadvertently eats hash brownies at the playground ribbon-cutting gala/Memorial Weekend poolside potluck she falls into the arms of one of her three wanna-be paramours. Maybe all three—she wakes up with only fleeting memories of the evening and soon discovers she’s pregnant. While she tries to piece together what happened, with whom and what to do about it, the homes on her cul-de-sac begin to crack and leak. Hope and her neighbors are forced to work together to dig out of a hell of their own making.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Linda: I feel really lucky to have an incredibly supportive spouse who has played everything from proofreader to cheerleader over the years. I also have two of the best editors around in Ben LeRoy at Tyrus Books and Terri Bischoff at Midnight Ink. There is no way I could have gotten my first (as yet unpublished) novel finished, much less navigated my way through the ever-changing and always confusing world of publishing without the support of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I literally learned how to write by showing up and participating in one of their local critique groups. They also offer monthly programs, a great annual conference and an overall commitment to helping novel length fiction writers become published authors.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Linda: I have three children, one of whom is in first grade, so I work from 8:30-3:15 when they are in school. I also work in the evening after everyone’s in bed. I’ve noticed my very best writing somehow seems to happen between 2 and 3 in the afternoon when I’m rushing to wrap things up before pick-up time.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Linda: If you want to be published, don’t give up. It took me eleven years to get that first publishing deal on my three book mystery series. Six months later, I signed a contract with Tyrus Books for The Big Bang, my standalone mainstream debut. When I say, don’t give up, I know of what I speak. I should qualify that statement, though. If you are compelled to write, are willing to put the time and effort in to hone your craft, and not only listen, but hear what others say to improve your work, stick with it. Oh, and attend as many writer’s conferences as you can. It’s very difficult to get that foot in the door with agents and editors. Your very best chance is to go to a conference and get to know the agents and editors there. You will have a much better sense if your work may be a fit for their agency or publishing house and they will be much more likely to look at your work because of the personal connection you’ve established.

***

Find Linda Joffe Hull on the internet at her website, on Facebook, and 140 characters at a time on Twitter.

5 Minutes Alone… With Joanna Campbell Slan

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Brontë’s classic heroine, Jane Eyre, gets another outing with Joanna Campbell Slan‘s DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL. Classics-meets-historical-fiction-meets-mystery in an endeavor of broad appeal, so we’re very pleased to snag ’5 Minutes’ with a very busy writer.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Joanna: A story I wrote in high school about wolves and a sleigh ride gone wrong.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Joanna: The year is 1820, and Jane Eyre has married her beloved Edward Rochester, but their domestic tranquility is interrupted when a cryptic letter from Adéle Varens, Jane’s former student and Edward’s ward, warns that the girl is in danger. Jane races to London to the girls’ school that Adéle is attending and arrives in time to see a schoolgirl’s body being removed. Because Jane has been mistaken for an errant German teacher, she decides to continue the subterfuge long enough to investigate what’s really happening. The girls are in mortal danger—and so is Jane as she tracks down a killer.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Joanna: When I decided to write full-time, my husband and I realized that this was a business, and that like every other business, there are investments that need to be made before you realize any real success. So that decision has informed all my choices. A lot of new writers think that a contract is all that’s necessary, but that’s just one step along the way.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Joanna: It doesn’t matter. I write every day, often into the evening, and even if it isn’t my best writing, it’s writing that I can edit and improve.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Joanna: 1) Learn everything you can about the business. Most new or unpublished writers have totally unrealistic expectations about publishing.

2) Be ready to promote yourself. It’s your responsibility to sell your books, not the publisher’s.

3) Be professional. When an editor asks you to do something, don’t whine about it.

4) Keep improving. An editor told me the other day that most authors turn in their work and think, “That’s it. I’m done,” instead of wondering how they can improve as writers.

5) Make friends with other authors…before you need them. They’ll give you great advice and send opportunities your way. But don’t ever assume that you are entitled to their help.

6) Go to conferences before your book is published. You’ll learn a lot by watching other authors as they appear on panels. You’ll also have a better idea of the opportunities available at specific conferences because they all are different.

7) Read, read, read. There aren’t many other businesses where people display their end products to their competition. Therefore, by reading and paying attention, you’ll see what’s working and what’s not.

***

DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL is available now, and its author, Joanna Campbell Slan, can be found on the web at her homepage and blog (or blogs, rather) not to mention Facebook and Twitter.

5 Minutes Alone… With FT Bradley

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

There have been some recent and wonderful literary entrances for children: to mysteries, science fiction, paranormal, and even horror. Now FT Bradley carves the path for mid-grade readers into the world of the spy-thriller with her debut novel, DOUBLE VISION. Codes, secret agencies, historical intrigue, and international travel aren’t just for grownups anymore.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

FT: My first mystery short story was published by The Storyteller, a small press mystery magazine. It was such a huge affirmation (I almost kissed the mailbox when the acceptance letter came in… ). After that, I spent a few years learning to write short crime fiction, gathering publishing credits. These small press publications really only exist because of the devotion of those people who run them. I’m pretty sure I would’ve given up without their encouragement.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

FT: Double Vision is a middle-grade mystery/thriller. It’s Linc Baker’s story: a kid who gets into trouble one too many times, and to get his family out of a lawsuit that followed one of his antics (a long story that involves chickens and a cranky farmer…), Linc ends up taking the place of a kid secret agent who looks just like him.

The mission takes him to Paris, where he has to decipher codes and outrun bad guys to track down a mysterious and dangerous painting.

Double Vision is the perfect book for reluctant readers age eight to twelve–those kids who’d rather play videogames than read. It’s a fun, fast-paced adventure in Paris. What’s not to love?

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

FT: My agent (Stephen Barbara with Foundry Literary and Media) and my editors at Harper Children’s (Barbara Lalicki and Andrew Harwell) were instrumental in making Double Vision the fun adventure it is today. They allowed me to learn (and still do), and have my back as I work on books two and three in the series.

My husband is great when I’m stuck on a plot point. We have a football that we toss in the living room while I brainstorm and he gives me ideas. It sounds weird, but it’s the best way for me to get unstuck. Not that I’m athletic or anything…

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

FT: When I’m working on a first draft, I try to get up at five a.m. or sometimes earlier. It’s nice and quiet, no one is awake yet (including my inner critic), no noise or distraction–it’s just me, the story and my cat. I get a few thousand words in before the day even starts. It does mean I have to go to bed early, though.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

FT: Keep an open mind. Writing is a craft–that means you’re always learning, no matter where you are in the game. Don’t give up. Don’t listen to bitter, rejected writers. Keep a positive attitude, and you’ll get where you want to be. Even if it takes a box of rejections. Positivity rules, really.

***

You can find FT Bradley and the Linc Baker novels on the web. Catch her on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her blog for junior detectives and young readers, YA Sleuth.

5 Minutes Alone… With Mark Pryor

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Mark Pryor enters the literary ranks on the mystery shelf with a hell of a good resume. A journalist-turned-Texas-prosecuter, his boots belie the accent – he’s English. But the tangles only give gravitas to his work. THE BOOKSELLER released this week to tremendous buzz, including a starred Debut of the Month review from Library Journal. As such, we were fortunate to snag him at the start of his book business. He may simply be too busy for us later.

We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Mark: That was as a newspaper reporter in England, oh so long ago.  The very first thing I ever had published, and of the hundreds of newspaper stories and features I remember this, was a story for the Hitchen Gazette about a new line of public transport.  I think it was called “the Hoppenstopper” because it’d stop and you could hop on…. the picture on the side of the bus was a rabbit, unsurprisingly.  Anyway, I wrote a short article about it, as an intern, and when it was published I was thrilled.  No by-line, of course, it was only about four paragraphs long.  I think I still have a copy somewhere…

As far as fiction, I really count THE BOOKSELLER as my first publication.  I’ve had a couple of pieces published in non-paying journals, but this is the first story someone was willing to pay for!

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Mark: THE BOOKSELLER is a mystery novel set in Paris.  The main character is Hugo Marston, who is a former FBI profiler and now the head of security at the US Embassy.  He has a friend called Max, a grumpy old fellow who works as a bouquiniste, which is one of those booksellers you see alongside the River Seine.  Hugo is buying a book from Max when a man appears out of nowhere and forces the old man onto a boat, at gun point and right under Hugo’s nose.

For some reason (and I’m not saying why) the Paris police are only mildly interested and Hugo is devastated that he let this happen, so he goes after Max himself.  But to do so, he has to find out more about his friend and what he uncovers is… surprising.  Suffice to say, that Hugo has a number of avenues he can go down, relating to 19th century homosexual love poetry, Nazi hunting, and east European drug gangs.

He does have help though, from his best friend Tom who is somewhat uncouth but who is also effective: he now works for the CIA and doesn’t have the investigative scruples Hugo has. On his journey to find Max, Hugo also meets a beautiful journalist who has a secret or two of her own…

I think the book will appeal to people who like a traditional, almost gentlemanly hero and a couple of very kind reviewers (who I didn’t bribe, but would have) made mention of Eric Ambler and Alan Furst, though there’s no way in the world I’d put myself in either category.  In terms of setting being important, I get what they mean because I love Paris and hope very much I bring it to life for the reader.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Mark: So many people.  I think first and foremost, my wife.  I don’t think I realized, when I first embarked on this journey to publication, quite how demanding it is in terms of time and emotional energy.  My wife, Sarah, has helped me on both of those fronts.  She encourages me when things are going well, consoled and supported me after the (many, many) rejections, and happily takes the lead with the house and kids while I take off to the library to write.  It’s so rewarding to be able to share in the good moments, to have someone like that beside me who has been there through thick and thin.

I will add, too, that the level of interest and support from people around me, people who have no idea how tough this road is and who have no real interest in the process other than being readers, have also been so encouraging and happy for me when things have gone well.  Likewise, I’ve been amazed at how willing established (in same cases pretty famous) writers have been to share their time and wisdom.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Mark: I’m afraid I’m not one of those writers who has a best time, much as I’d like to be one of those pipe-smoking, whiskey-swilling chaps who labors over his manuscript until four in the morning. I usually end up writing at the local library for a few hours in the afternoon on Fridays and Saturdays, maybe grabbing an hour or two at some coffee shop somewhere at other times.  With a full-time job and three kids, I have to stay pretty flexible and be ready to write when the moment presents.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Mark: A couple of things.  First, keep reading and writing.  I tried selling two novels before an agent bit on THE BOOKSELLER.  Why?  Because I thought they were good enough.  Thing is, they weren’t and it was only through writing a second and then a third that I improved, and that I realized my shortcomings.

Second, if you have written a good book, keep at it.  Work hard to find an agent, exhaust every resource but if it doesn’t happen, don’t give up.  It took me ten years to get to this point, and I’m at the beginning of my writing career (I hope!).  I never got completely used to the rejections, and they never really stop coming, from publishers and then readers who don’t like your book.  But if you become good enough, and you keep at it, the rewards (and I don’t mean financial) easily outweigh those few irritations.

***

Find Mark Pryor and THE BOOKSELLER here on the net at his website, markpryorbooks.com, and on his delightful and informative blog, D.A. Confidential.

Another 5 Minutes… With Tasha Alexander

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Tasha Alexander becomes our first guest to return for a third time, and that is great news. Her work ethic, flyaway research, and flowing ink has produced the next Lady Emily novel, DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY, which has opened to glowing reviews. Our chat stands alone, but if you’d like to catch up on all we’ve talked about, you can zip through Tasha’s first appearance in October of 2010 and her triumphant return in September of 2011. I’m sensing a pattern, I hope.

We’d like to thank her for coming back once again to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY is intriguing both for its title and its vanguard of great reviews. Will you tell us a little about it?

Tasha: I had wanted—hoped, really—to send Emily to Venice from the very beginning. Because of this, I planted a reference to the city in my first book, having Emily’s nemesis elope there. I have always adored books that weave together stories from more than one time period, and had long wanted to write one. Venice proved the perfect location for it. The city is magical; you feel as if you’ve somehow been transported into the Renaissance when you arrive. The history is so strong there that including a 15th century narrative in the book was a natural decision. To solve the 19th century murder, Emily must first uncover the secrets of a 15th century affair.

AuthorScoop: I’ve read some about the on-site research you did for this book. How did you find Venice for taking you back in time in your writer’s mind?

Tasha: I can’t think of any city less altered over the centuries, and this makes it a dream for anyone writing historical fiction. People say that you could drop a 15th century Venetian into St. Mark’s Square today and he would easily find his way home, and this is true. Venice remains the city it was in the Renaissance. The absence of cars (ok, so there are motorboats, but they are easily ignored) and the lack of modern buildings make you feel like you’ve stepped into the past. When I was living in the city to write the book, I would wander around whenever I needed to find a location for a scene and then could sit down and describe what I saw around me without having to imagine what it would have looked like in the past. This is very different than, say, London, where the Victorian city has disappeared in many places.

AuthorScoop: Is there a secret formula to finding the next location crucible for Lady Emily or do you throw darts at a map of Europe and then book an airline ticket?

Tasha: Ha! That sounds like a pretty good idea. I’ll have to get a dartboard…

Actually, I choose my locations as part of an overall plan to bring Emily from sheltered society girl to enlightened woman. For example, Vienna exposed her to people outside her class (who weren’t her servants) for the first time. Constantinople showed her an entirely different culture where women had very different rights from their English counterparts. To broaden her world, she needs to travel, but she also needs to go home so that she can apply what she’s learned to her own environment. As a result, I try to find a balance between having her in England and having her abroad.

I’m now at the stage of kicking around ideas for the setting for my 2014 book. At the moment, Paris and St. Petersburg are my top choices.

AuthorScoop: Your husband is also a novelist. How is it having two plot-and-word-obsessed people under the same roof?

Tasha: It is fantastic. He understands the process so very well—never suggests I’m not working when I’m lying on the couch looking half-asleep. He knows I’m figuring out plot ideas. Before I met him, I assumed two writers would mean too much neurosis in one household, but instead it turns out that we are very good at deflating for each other the stresses that inevitably come when writing books. We both approach our work very differently, and it’s always helpful to get his perspective on what I’m doing. He’s a great sounding board and an even better first reader.

AuthorScoop: What’s next for Tasha Alexander?

Tasha: Once I’m back from touring for FLOATING CITY, I will revise next year’s book, which is set in Anglemore Park, Emily’s country estate. And then it will be time to start writing again. Which means I’ll have to choose Paris or St. Petersburg…

***

For more information on Tasha and her books, have a look at all the goodies on her website www.tashaalexander.com. If you don’t see DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY in your bookstore, you’ve probably got a blindfold on.

.

5 Minutes Alone… With Addie King

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Author, Addie J. King, breaks onto the contemporary mythology scene with, THE GRIMM LEGACY, a romp through some new applications of what we thought we knew about storybook legends. Lawyer by day, and storyteller by night (and day, and dusk, and dawn) we’re fortunate to snag the sleeve of a very busy lady.

We’d like to thank Addie for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Addie: My first credit was a short story, “Poltergeist on Aisle Fourteen”, which appeared in the anthology MYSTERY TIMES TEN 2011. It was a story about a cheerleader who solved a ghost’s murder in a grocery store…after he hit her in the back of the head with a strawberry to get her attention.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Addie: THE GRIMM LEGACY was so incredibly fun to write! It’s about Janie Grimm, a first year law student, who learns that her father was murdered, her stepmother has an agenda, her professors think she’s crazy, and the talking frog who shows up at her apartment isn’t helping…he’d like to watch some NASCAR and would like some imported beer. And don’t forget the unexpected romantic attraction to the man who tries to help her solve her father’s murder…and the Foundation for Ancestry, Biography, Legends, Epics and Stories (F.A.B.L.E.S.), who help her piece it all together.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Addie: I have awesome friends and family. They are incredibly supportive, even when they don’t quite get the writer crazy. The publisher has been nothing but wonderful even through the editing process, and I’ve belonged to some very cool writer critique groups.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Addie: I’m not sure how to answer that, because I write in fits and starts, squeezed in between a million and one different things. The best time is probably when I actually block out time and force myself to sit down and concentrate, not really any particular time of day.

I’m used to writing in the hallway of the courthouse between hearings (I’m a lawyer in my day job), with the television blasting, while waiting in line at the bank, and pretty much in the middle of mass chaos. Day or night doesn’t matter so much. It also depends on whether I’m plotting, writing a first draft, or editing. Plotting and editing are easier in bits and drabs, writing a first draft takes more concentrated blocks of time.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Addie: There’s a word for a writer that never gives up, never quits, and keeps learning and submitting. Published.

***

THE GRIMM LEGACY is available now, and you can start right here on your quest for your own copy. Find Addie on the web at her own site, and also on Facebook and Twitter.

5 Minutes Alone… With MJ Rose

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Before there was 50 SHADES OF GREY, there was MJ ROSE and her daring and insightful, LIP SERVICE. Re-released by Simon & Schuster’s Atria books, LIP SERVICE has been praised by Playboy Magazine as “Smart, erotic… risky, unpredictable, emotional.” While the Bookreporter proclaims “If seduction is an art, Rose is one of the masters.” The book’s reception applauds the merger of erotic theme with deft craft, which can only herald good things for the genre.

We’d like to thank MJ Rose for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

MJ: In third grade my poem, The Seagulls, was chosen to be in the poetry magazine – the magazine was for 7th to 12th grade so it was a huge honor to be there.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

MJ: My latest release is a re release of my first novel.  LIP SERVICE made history in 1999 as a self published  erotic book (electronic and print versions)  sold only online  – Shades of Grey!  It was discovered online by Erica Tsang who was working at the Doubleday Bookclub and Literary Guild and she bought it for the clubs. Then it was sold to a division of Simon & Schuster. The first self pubbed novel discovered online then debuted on The Today Show where Katie Couric blushed talking about it.  Back then erotic fiction wasn’t something readers talked about. Now they can’t seem to talk about it enough! LIP SERVICE probes the secret world of phone sex and one woman who becomes empowered by what she discovers there. It examines the relationship between sexuality and identity and blushing is allowed while reading.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

MJ: So many people! But I’d have to say of everyone – really my mom who encouraged my love of reading and nurtured my creative instincts. She always had my back and truly made me believe I could do anything I set out to do – and then my husband who I met the year before my mom died and took over for her in keeping me believing in myself.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

MJ: Early morning for first drafts, late at night for rewrites.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

MJ: Don’t rush. And don’t settle. Write the best book you can and then make it better. Go after the best agent you can find. Write because you love writing, not because you want to get rich or famous. It’s a big lottery so focusing on the winning ticket means you’ll lose the magical journey that writing can be.

***

MJRose.com features all of her work, and here’s the link for LIP SERVICE, in particular, which you’ll be wanting to click. Find MJ Rose on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Another 5 Minutes… With Jaden Terrell

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

AuthorScoop hosted a chat with Jaden Terrell in February in celebration of her debut novel, RACING THE DEVIL. Jaden’s back with its follow-up, A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT, out this month from The Permanent Press. Today we get to preview the new book and snag a bit more insight into the clockworks of the Jared McKean Mysteries series.

We’d like to thank Jaden Terrell for being here once again to take part in our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: Booklist had nice things to say about your latest, A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT. Tell us a bit about the book.

Jaden: It’s the second book in the Jared McKean series. Jared is thirty-six, a private detective coming to terms with his unjust dismissal from the Nashville murder squad and an unwanted divorce from a woman he still loves. His teenaged nephew, Josh, has fallen under the influence of a dangerous fringe of the Goth subculture, giving the family lots of reasons to worry. When the fringe group’s leader—a mind-manipulating sociopath who considers himself a vampire—is found butchered and posed across a pentagram, Josh is the number one suspect. He asks Jared to investigate the murder, and in the course of the investigation, he learns that his nephew, whom he loves like a son, is next on the killer’s list.

AuthorScoop: Are the books coming easier now that you’ve got a couple behind you, or is the writing experience the same rollercoaster it’s been from the start?

Jaden: I keep thinking it’s going to get easier, but it never does. Every book seems just a little bit beyond me and I have to grow into it. A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT is more complex than RACING THE DEVIL, and the third book is even more challenging.

AuthorScoop: Has writing and publishing changed the way you read?

Jaden: I don’t think so. I’ve always read like a writer. I remember reading books when I was seven or eight, and one level, I was enjoying the story and falling in love with the characters, and on another level, I was trying to figure out how the writer did it. I still do. Often, I’ll read a book once for pleasure, then go back and read parts over again to see how it’s put together or how the writer achieved a certain effect.

AuthorScoop: Has your advice for new writers evolved the farther you get from being a new writer yourself?

Jaden: Everybody’s specific path is different, but I don’t think the core principles ever change. Learn everything you can. Read everything you can. Write every chance you get. Always look at what you can do better. It’s easy to get caught up in marketing and platforms and forget that the important thing is the writing.

AuthorScoop: What’s next for Jaden Terrell?

Jaden: I’m working on the third book in the Jared McKean series, along with a standalone thriller that’s, like always, a little bit too hard for me. I’m really excited about it.

***

A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT is available now. Read a sample and then quick click to your favorite retailer to get your own copy. Visit her webpage and you’re on your way. Jaden Terrell is also at home on the web at her blog, Murderous Musings. Like her Facebook page to keep current with news and events.

5 Minutes Alone… With Alex Adams

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Alex AdamsWHITE HORSE is one of the most highly anticipated releases for 2012. And now it’s here. Hailed as post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest, readers hungry for pulse-pounding what-if scenarios are getting their dose of handsomely-worded poison (and antidote) from the genre’s newest star. The first in a trilogy of of stories on what happens after a biological Armageddon, WHITE HORSE is one to watch for on the bestseller lists.

We’d like to thank Alex for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Alex: Does my high school theater class retelling of The Wizard of Oz count? No? Rats! In that case, White Horse is my very first publication credit.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Alex: White Horse is an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic thriller for the adult market, though it definitely dips several toes into the Horror genre, too. Zoe, my protagonist, flees to Europe in search of her lost love as the world’s population is dying of a horrifying disease. Her journey is complicated by her unexpected pregnancy and the companions she collects along the way. You won’t find zombies in White Horse’s pages, but those who contract the virus and survive are definitely…different.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Alex: If I was at the Academy Awards right now, making an acceptance speech, I’d probably say something along the lines of: “I’d like to thank my whole life.” Every experience I’ve ever had–good and bad–and every person I’ve ever known has brought me to this place and time. Most notably, though, my agent Alexandra Machinist and my editor Emily Bestler get a lion’s share of the credit. Every piece of their input made my story stronger.

And my fiance, Bill, of course. He’s the reason Lisa is blind (sorry, Lisa, he was right!) His insight, support, and astounding talent at ordering pizza has been invaluable.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Alex: I’m most definitely a morning person–the earlier the better. By mid-afternoon my attention is waning and all I want to do is look at cats with funny captions.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Alex: Don’t be in such a huge hurry. Writing is a craft, and it takes time to learn–and successfully conceal–all the underpinnings. A “no” now isn’t necessarily a “no” forever. All it means is that you’re not ready yet. Everything can change with the next manuscript.

***

WHITE HORSE is available, well, everywhere. You can (and should) get your copy at your favorite bookstore, or even when you go pick up vitamins and deck cushions at Target. For all things WHITE HORSE and Alex Adams, including convenient links to online retailers for the book’s hardcover and electronic editions, check out www.alexadamsbooks.com.

Another 5 Minutes… With P.M. Terrell

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Last summer, we had the pleasure of P.M. Terrell’s company for the launch of her novel, THE BANKER’S GREED. She’s come back to us with more new fiction, but this time it’s something quite a bit different…

We’d like to thank her for being here once again to take part in our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: VICKI’S KEY is a step outside your more conventional thrillers. Tell us a bit about it.

PM Terrell: VICKI’S KEY is the beginning of the Black Swamp Mysteries series, inspired by the success of Exit 22, which was released in 2008. Because it’s a series, I found I could spend more time developing the characters, making them so multi-faceted that it will take the whole series to explore all the various aspects.

The book begins with CIA psychic spy Vicki Boyd and a mission that went so terribly awry that it sets the scene for her leaving the agency and embarking on a new life in a new town. She takes a summer job assisting an elderly woman, but when she arrives she finds Aunt Laurel has suffered a stroke and is confined to her bedroom and her nephew Dylan Maguire has arrived from Ireland to care for her. Vicki very quickly falls in love with the charming, handsome man. But all is not what it seems to be in the old, rambling home. And when the CIA comes calling for Vicki to complete one last mission, she finds her past and her future on a collision course—to murder.

AuthorScoop: What did you find out about yourself as a writer in slipping the shackles of the strictly of-this-world?

PM Terrell: I knew when I made the commitment to a series that I did not want to become a formula writer where every book was exactly the same. How many murders could one person be pulled into, anyway? By making Vicki a psychic spy based on a real psychic spy initiative that crosses several U.S. intelligence agencies, the possibilities are limitless. She could go to the most remote regions of the world, into areas where a physical presence would be impossible. And because of that twist, she could participate in CIA missions that could be incredibly diverse with each book.

AuthorScoop: Tell us more about your advocacy work in the fight against illiteracy.

PM Terrell: About ten years ago, I was having a conversation with Police Officer Mark Kearney of the Waynesboro, VA Police Department about the direct correlation between high illiteracy rates and high crime rates. We decided to start The Book ‘Em Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise public awareness of that link and to combat high crime rates while increasing literacy rates. Each year we hold at least one Book ‘Em event where we bring together around 75 authors who sign and sell their books and participate in panel discussions. The events are free and open to the public. But when people purchase books, the authors or publishers have pledged a percentage of the sale to literacy efforts in the community.

We just completed our first Book ‘Em North Carolina in Lumberton (www.bookemnc.org) and the money raised will go to raising literacy levels from the age of 1 to the oldest adult.

AuthorScoop: Has writing and publishing changed the way you read?

PM Terrell: Most definitely. I am now the slowest reader on the planet. If any scene evokes an emotion, I will go back and dissect the scene carefully to find out how they elicited that response—how they frightened me, angered me, moved me… Mistakes will leap off the page but good, tight writing will, also. I will even read genres I am not particularly interested in otherwise, if I like the way an author writes.

I do a lot of research for my books so I have to force myself to read for pleasure. And when I am immersed in my own writing, I find I can’t get too involved in another’s work or the characters will begin to blend in my mind. So I tend to use pleasure reading as a reward where I can kick back and thoroughly enjoy a good book!

AuthorScoop: What’s next for P.M. Terrell?

PM Terrell: I am currently completing SECRETS OF A DANGEROUS WOMAN, which will be released this fall. It brings Dylan Maguire of VICKI’S KEY head-to-head with Brenda Carnegie of Exit 22. And each has met their match! It is a lot of fun to write because of the strength of those two characters. Then I will be traveling to Ireland to research the next book in the series, DYLAN’S SONG, which is due be to be released in the spring of 2013. My ancestors were from Ireland so I am looking forward to visiting the country and incorporating Ireland’s history during World War II into the series—where decisions that were made then affect the characters in the present day.

I am also working on Book ‘Em North Carolina 2013 already and looking forward to impacting the community through literacy campaigns.

***

VICKI’S KEY is just a few keystrokes away, and here’s a handy link to get you started. Learn more about PM Terrell at her website, and find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well.

5 Minutes Alone… With Diane Diekman

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Writer and biographer, Diane Diekman, opens the door on the life of one of country music’s legendary performers, and we get to go beyond the page to get a glimpse of how it all came to be.

We’d like to thank Diane for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Diane: My first publication credit was a commentary on sexual harassment in the military. As a U.S. Navy commander, I felt senior enough to have a voice and the experience to speak for other women. I mailed my unsolicited opinion to The Navy Times and it crossed in the mail with the latest issue, which carried a headline about sexual harassment. I knew my submission was timely!  It was published as “Learning sex’s painful lessons in the military” on February 6, 1995.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Diane: TWENTIETH CENTURY DRIFTER: THE LIFE OF MARTY ROBBINS is the first biography of the legendary country music artist, a man who could jump into a race car and compete in NASCAR races. He scored sixteen number one hits and two Grammy awards. Yet even with fame and fortune, Marty Robbins always yearned for more. He saw himself as a drifter, a man searching for security and inner peace. I tried to provide a portrait of this well-loved, restless entertainer, a private man who kept those who loved him at a distance. The biography, with 320 pages and 25 photographs, has just been released by the University of Illinois Press.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Diane: Everything I write (including speeches) I submit to the Internet Writing Workshop online critique group for comment. My writing is much improved by the suggestions received from other members. During research trips, my greatest assistant has been my sister, Lorraine “Kayo” Paver. Every person I’ve interviewed and everyone who provides me with documents and electronic media contributes to my success.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Diane: My most productive time is in the morning, from when I make coffee and turn on the computer until my lunchtime run or whatever on my calendar takes me away from writing. I concentrate best during that period.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Diane: Write it down. Your thoughts must get from your head onto paper (or the computer) before you can do anything with them. You must work to improve your skills. We never get past the point of learning from others.  I highly recommend joining a critique group, either online or one that meets regularly. I’ve participated in both, and the sharing of advice is invaluable to me. Reading books on writing, as well as subscribing to magazines such as Writer’s Digest, will broaden your knowledge and keep you up to date on the writing industry.

***

Diane Diekman can be found on the web at dianediekman.com and with this convenient link, TWENTIETH CENTURY DRIFTER: THE LIFE OF MARTY ROBBINS and her other books are available at the click of a few buttons.

5 Minutes Alone… With Jaden Terrell

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Jaden Terrell is the author of the Jared McKean mysteries and a contributor to the new Now Write! Mysteries, a collection of writing exercises published by Tarcher/Penguin for writers of crime fiction. Terrell is also the executive director of the Killer Nashville Thriller, Mystery, and Crime Literature Conference and a recipient of the 2009 Magnolia Award for service to the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Jaden: My first published work was the self-published version of RACING THE DEVIL, published under another title. My second published work was the second version, released by Nightshadows Press. This is the third incarnation of my first publication. I guess it took me awhile to get it right! Other than RACING THE DEVIL, my first publication credit was a chapter in Now Write! Mysteries, a collection of writing exercises published by Tarcher/Penguin for writers of crime fiction.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Jaden: My latest release is a reissue of the first book in my Jared McKean private detective series. It’s evolved quite a bit since its first incarnation, but the essence is the same. Nashville-based PI Jared McKean is 36 years old, coming to grips with the loss of his job as a homicide detective, and divorced from a woman he still loves. He has a son with Down syndrome, a best friend with AIDS, and a troubled nephew who comes out of the closet and runs away from home. Jared also has a weakness for women in jeopardy—until one frames him for murder. He’s a good man trying to juggle personal and family commitments while keeping himself out of prison and protecting the people he loves from danger and sometimes from themselves.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Jaden: There are so many! My practically perfect husband, Mike. My beautiful and supportive mom. Clay Stafford, for letting me help put on Killer Nashville, which led to getting my terrific agent, Jill Marr. My current publishers, Martin and Judith Shepard of The Permanent Press, and the Quill & Dagger Writer’s Guild, who have been helping me hone my craft for more years than I care to say. Not to mention a host of supportive, encouraging friends, co-workers, and fellow writers. When I think of all the people who have helped and encouraged me, I feel like I must be the most blessed person on earth.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Jaden: In an ideal world, 9 pm to 2 am. I’m something of a night owl, but I have a day job, so writing until 2 am is not really feasible these days. When I get that 6 million dollar movie deal, though…

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Jaden: Never stop learning. Never stop trying to be better at what you do. Persevere, but while you’re persevering, take workshops, read books on writing, study the work of writers you love. Do everything you can to make your writing shine and to make yourself the best writer you can possibly be. There is always room to grow.

***

RACING THE DEVIL is available now and you can read a sample and then quick click to your favorite retailer to get your own copy. Visit her webpage and you’re on your way. Jaden Terrell is also at home on the web at her blog, Murderous Musings. Like her Facebook page to keep current with news and events.

Another 5 Minutes… With S.R. Johannes

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

AuthorScoop first met with SR Johannes this past December and we are delighted to have her back so soon, and with great news what’s more! She’s got a new book for the tween set, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, just newly released and it looks terrific.

We’d like to thank her for coming back once again to take part in our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: Tell us a little about your new release, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE.

S.R. Johannes (Shelli): Gabby is a disgruntled tween angel who has just been assigned to protect her school nemesis and ex-beffie. Problem is her ex-beffie is dating Gabby’s longtime crush. Instead of protecting Angela, Gabby pranks her (since when is sticking toilet paper to her shoe or spinach in her teeth a sin?) Soon, Gabby gets out of control and is put on probation by her SKYAgent, who has anger management issues of his own. Determined to right her wrongs, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to Earth for just one day. Without knowing, she kicks off a series of events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death.

AuthorScoop: Was it hard to kill off your main character right from the start and get her playing in the hereafter?

Shelli: Nope. An angel book doesn’t really work unless I kill at least one person off.

The hardest part was 1) making death funny and 2) creating a brand new world from scratch. I wanted to explore the light side of death and to do that I needed to get away from the religious aspects of Heaven. I could only do that by creating a fresh place called Cirrus.

AuthorScoop: Have the rigors of writing back-to-back books changed the way you read?

Shelli: Uh – yeah. I don’t have time to. I don’t get enough time to write as it is so if I read I want to be writing and vice versa. But I will say, these two books have both been written for several years so it’s not like I just wrote them in the last 2 months. It was just a matter of putting them out right. Which was exhausting and gave me very little time to read the last few months.

AuthorScoop: And with the hindsight of a serial YA novelist, what new advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

Shelli: Go with your gut. I’ve realized if I stick to my gut – I never go wrong for me. I find this comes with confidence though. If you are not confident – you are more easily persuaded by feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I get feedback and criticism, but if I am confident, I can tell what I need to change and what needs to stay – no matter what people say.

AuthorScoop: What’s next for S.R. Johannes?

Shelli: I am in an Anthology called IN HIS EYES coming Feb. 14th with me and about 15 other indie authors. The stories included come form our male protags and are written from his perspective about love and loss. I also plan to get the sequel to UNTRACEABLE (called UNCONTROLLABLE) out in the summer. I can’t really see beyond that right now

***

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE is available now and S.R. Johannes runs a lovely website that will get you where you need to go for ordering and information. Just make a wish and click. She offers plenty of access via her social media page, and for more up-to-the-minute updates on Shelli and her work, be sure to check out her blog.

5 Minutes Alone… With Jessica Brody

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Jessica Brody broke on the fiction scene back in 2008 and is quickly becoming a go-to writer for novels that spark YA readers to un-put-downable late nights. We’re fortunate to get a glimpse of how she got here and how she works it onto the page.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Jessica: Well, I wouldn’t call it a “credit” necessarily but my first “publication” was when I was seven years old. My second grade teacher had us “publish” our short stories using cardboard, electrical tape and wallpaper. Here is a picture of mine. (attached). It was called “The Puppy and the Kitty” (not the most creative title, I realize) and it came complete with illustrations. It was about a puppy and a kitty who ran away from home and got the chicken pox. So I guess the moral of the story is obvious. Don’t run away from home or you WILL get the chicken pox.

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Jessica: MY LIFE UNDECIDED was a very fun book to write. It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl, notorious for making terrible decisions, who enlists blog readers to vote on how she should live her life. But she soon discovers that some things in life simply aren’t a choice…like who you fall in love with. It’s mostly a comedy…with a little bit of serious stuff baked in.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Jessica: I owe much of my success to a very wise man named Blake Snyder. He wrote a book called SAVE THE CAT!: THE LAST SCREENWRITING BOOK YOU’LL EVER NEED. And although it’s a screenwriting book, it works wonders for outlining and plotting novels as well. It’s really all about story and Blake lays out 15 essential beats that make up any great story. Since I started using it to outline my books, I’ve sold eight novels. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Blake recently passed away (which was a great loss), but his company contacted me to teach workshops about how to use his method to write novels. It’s called the SAVE THE CAT NOVEL-WRITING WORKSHOP. You can find more information about them here:

http://www.blakesnyder.com/services/novel-writing-beat-sheet-workshop/

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Jessica: Morning for sure! I run out of creativity at about 2:00 pm. So I save my more mundane tasks for after lunch and try to get my daily word count done first thing when I wake up. Before getting sucked into emails and twitter!

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Jessica: “You can’t fix a blank page.” I can’t take credit for this brilliance, though. It’s a quote from Nora Roberts. But I have hanging on my wall above my computer so I can always see it. It’s absolutely the best writing advice ever! Sometimes you’ll get stuck, sometimes you’ll write crap, but no matter what, you just have to keep going. Keep writing. Even if you end up throwing it all away at the end. Because more often than not, you have to write through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. And you can always go back and revise later. But you can’t revise something that’s not there!

***

MY LIFE UNDECIDED is available at bookstores and her website makes getting to online retailers for it just too easy. Find Jessica on Facebook and Twitter to track a rising star in contemporary fiction.

5 Minutes Alone… With Sharon Maas

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Civilization grew up on the world-as-explained-by myth and legend, fables and allegory. Holy texts were the first literature. Some have become cultural touchstones and required reading. Their themes, and even their story lines, are the blueprints for modern fiction. Even more than that, these timeless tales are often the bedrock of our personal belief systems. But some of the world’s greatest ancient manuscripts have yet to gain wide recognition in the West. India’s epic Bhagavad Gita and its larger contextual tale, The Mahabharata, is one of these lost treasures. In the hands of the gifted and world-traveled writer, Sharon Maas, that’s about to be remedied.

We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Sharon: OF MARRIAGEABLE AGE – this was my first novel, published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999. It was translated into four languages and now, over a decade later, will be translated into Polish!

AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.

Sharon: SONS OF GODS – THE MAHABHARATA RETOLD, is exactly what it says in the subtitle: a retelling of the Indian epic the Mahabharata, using the pen name Aruna Sharan. I’ve been an Indophile as long as I can remember, and I first fell in love with this book back in the early 1970’s. There are many English versions on the market, especially in India, but I felt that none of them really hit the mark. Some were written as a mere summary of the original, vast work, the dry skeleton of the story; others were too “Indian” for a Western readership, yet others left out scenes that for me were vital, or lacked the sense of a unifying story. And so, fairly soon, I began to write my own version. At that time – over 30 years ago – I had not the least ambition to be a published writer; I simply wrote it for my own satisfaction. I would put it away for years at a time, but somehow, it always came back to me; I finished the first draft, and continued to improve on it. It was a labour of love, more a hobby than a serious undertaking.

It wasn’t until around 2006, now a successfully published author, that I thought seriously that SONS OF GODS might be good enough for publication. By this time I was using the skills I had gained as a novelist to really bring the original draft to life. I wanted to get beneath the skin of the characters, make them live, understand their motives—even the motives of the so-called villains—and simply produce a worthy vessel of words for a wonderful story. This involved restructuring some of the story elements, and even making up a scene or two. In particular, I wanted to bring to the fore the anti-hero Karna, my favourite character.

A typical synopsis of the Mahabharata will describe it as the story of a family feud in ancient India, culminating in a terrible war: the Pandavas (good) against the Kauravas (bad). Never is Karna mentioned; and yet Karna is the key to the entire story. Without Karna there would be no Mahabharata. He is the lynchpin of all the action. That’s why I’ve restructured the story so that it begins with his birth; in every other version Karna’s conception and birth is almost a non-event, mentioned almost in passing about a third of the way through. That’s a travesty! From the point of view of story, Sons of Gods is at its heart a song for an unsung hero.

The other aspect of the Mahabharata I hoped to develop is the deep wisdom and spiritual truths it contains. Though it is basically a story about a war, and gets extremely gory towards the end when even the heroes break every rule in the book, at its core is the Bhagavad Gita, which is the equivalent of the New Testament to Hindus. The Mahabharata is really unthinkable without it, and so one chapter is a mini Bhagavad Gita, whereas its wisdom, I hope, permeates the whole story.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who (or what) else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Sharon: I believe that timing is essential. You might work as hard as you like, but sometimes a book just is not ready to meet the world. That might be due to the work itself, which is still not at its best, or on the market, or on agents and publishers perception of the market. There are trends in publishing, and my first novel was acquired just when a new interest in India was making itself felt in the book world. The time was right, and the book was a moderate success. A few years earlier, and it might not have been published at all.

A key to success, of course, were the publishing midwives who first discovered and fell in love with my first novel. I had a great agent and a fantastic editor who seemed to know more about the story than I did myself! She was amazing, and I’m happy to say we are still in touch.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Sharon: I’m a morning person, always have been! And terribly disorganised. In order to actually get my work finished, I decided, fairly early on, that I had to command myself to do all my writing early in the morning. When I’m creating a first draft, this might be at 4 am; when I’m revising, it might be at 6 am. But never later than 6. This means that when the day really begins my writing responsibility  is over and I can be as disorganised as I like. Early in the morning not only is the mind clear and awake and fruitful; there is also no danger of interruptions through the ringing of a phone or an unexpected visit. It’s absolutely the perfect time for me. Peripheral writerly tasks such as research or query writing can be done during rest of the day.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Sharon: Ask yourself the question: do you want to be a writer, or do you just want to be known as a writer? If it is the former, then put aside the thought of getting published; forget about name and fame and success and the millions you will make and what-have-you and just write the very best book you are capable of. When you have produced that book then — who knows?  All these other things may be given to you.

***

SONS OF GODS – THE MAHABHARATA RETOLD, by Aruna Sharan is available now, exclusively from Amazon for download to Kindle or Kindle’s PC or mobile app. For more on Sharon Maas and her incredible body of work, find her online at her website, SharonMaas.co.uk.