|Posted by Alana Woods on May 19, 2013 at 4:10 AM||comments (0)|
My guest this week is Gillian Jackson, author of THE COUNSELLOR, a novel that delves into the inner workings of therapeutic counsellors. I was intrigued to say the least about Gillian’s background and reason for writing this story.
Alana: Gillian, welcome, it’s lovely to have another author from the UK here. I’d like to combine my first question with a bit about you and a bit about the book. Do you live in the book’s location?
Gillian:Yes, although the book is set in North Yorkshire and I live just over the border in County Durham, England. The fictitious market town is a combination of several which are near my home, an area I love, combining the best of urban and country living right on the doorstep, with the coast just forty minutes drive away.
Alana: Looks like heaven! I have to say that as I read THE COUNSELLOR I was intrigued by what seems to me to be quite in-depth knowledge of how to ‘treat’ people who seek counselling. You have childcare qualifications and are now a voluntary worker for Victim Support, is it that knowledge and experience you called upon or was further research required.
Gillian: My childcare career was a wonderful period which I loved enormously but one which came to a rather abrupt end with the worsening of a long-term back problem. Seeking out a less strenuous occupation led me into training for therapeutic counselling which is currently put to use in my work for Victim Support, a brilliant charity which does amazing work in supporting people at vulnerable times in their lives.
Alana: Ah, that’s something I didn’t pick up on when researching for the interview—that you had trained for that. I imagine it was similar to the training Maggie underwent in the book?
Gillian:Yes, the training and ongoing work has provided invaluable knowledge and insight in the areas I write about, although I would never actually use a ‘case’ for a scenario in the books. It’s very much an instance of truth being stranger than fiction, my real life clients’ stories would not be believed!
Alana: Now THAT piques my interest. Not that I’m going to ask about the real cases, but I have to say the fictional ones were emotional enough to read. But before writing and publishing THE COUNSELLOR you had already published a self-help book From victim to survivor. Could you give an insight into what it contains and why you wrote it.
Gillian: From Victim to survivor is a short, self help book specifically for adults who were sexually abused as children but did not disclose until later life. It’s a sad fact of life that this atrocity happens and is something which can destroy lives. The book is in many ways a very personal one, inspired by my own abuse as a child which I kept secret until I was fifty years old. It is not, however, a book about me and is surprisingly positive!
My own story is briefly outlined but in the book as a whole I have attempted to offer positive and practical ideas for self help and to signpost to organizations which can support and encourage survivors. I was in a very bad place for two or three years and was given books on the subject which I hadn’t the energy or inclination to even open, so huge and complicated they looked! Eventually seeking therapeutic counselling for myself, it proved to be a most empowering experience and From victim to survivor is the book I would have wished to read at the time, short, succinct and even with pictures! Therapy was the spark which ignited my interest in counselling and afterwards I returned to college to study psychology and counselling.
Alana: Just like Maggie.
Gillian: Absolutely. I was the ‘granny’ of the group and, like Maggie, enjoyed the complete change of focus this brought.
Alana: Did the information you use in From victim to survivor inform Maggie’s methods in THE COUNSELLOR?
Gillian: Certainly in the specific area of historical childhood abuse, yes. There is a cross over in From victim to survivor with the character Janet in THE COUNSELLOR, who is loosely based on my own experience. The depth of training and practical work for counselling however is the main inspiration for Maggie. I wanted to give her the ability to get alongside each client to offer the best possible help she can, her own grief and loss bringing the empathy needed to be totally committed to the work. Although a novel, I hope to portray therapeutic counselling as a powerful tool in taking control of life in general rather than a fashionable whim for those who can afford it.
Alana:You were certainly successful there; it definitely came across as a powerful tool! I was pleased to discover that Maggie continues in a second book—Maggie’s world—already published and I believe you’re working on a third. Would you tell us a little of where Maggie’s story takes her in them?
Gillian: Maggie’s world moves her personal story along in time and brings her into contact with three new clients. I love being able to choose an issue to explore and in the second of the series is a young mother with amnesia, a newlywed who is the victim of psychological abuse and the heartbreaking topic of childlessness.
The third in the series is my work in progress, again with three new clients bringing diverse issues and the return of a popular character from book one! The working title is ‘Pretence’ and is on track to be finished later this year. I have been thrilled and encouraged by the feedback from the first two books. The subject matter seems to have captured people’s attention and the way I write, alternating stories throughout the book, for many makes easy reading. I’m also a believer in happy endings and aim for the best possible outcome, although to reflect life and be realistic there has to be a measure of sadness.
Alana: Well, I think you’ve got the mix just right in THE COUNSELLOR.
Gillian: That was my debut novel and first serious attempt at fiction. It was like a new baby and as a new writer I feel I’m growing and honing my work continuously. Writing is compulsive, I could not imagine life without my lap top and writing projects; our cat, who used to be my only ‘laptop’ has resigned herself to second place and my wonderful supportive husband has been persuaded to subscribe to SKY television to immerse himself in football but there are simply not enough football matches in the day to keep me happy!
Alana: I’ll take that as a hint that I’ve kept you from writing long enough and let you get back to it. Gillian, thanks so much for talking to me today.
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 5, 2013 at 5:15 AM||comments (11)|
Today I have as my guest one my fellow Goodreads Boomer Lit group members. I’ve just reviewed her first book CONFESSIONS OF AN INSTINCTIVELY MUTINOUS BABY BOOMER and wanted to find out more about her and what prompted her to write her memoirs.
Alana: Marsha, I’ve got to ask—Confessions of a mutinous baby boomer ... Why mutinous?
Marsha: It's funny, Alana, that your first question is about mutinous. I can't tell you the variety of responses I've received about that word! One reviewer said, ‘This book may have the most intriguing title of any other book I've read in the past year’, and another started off her review with, ‘At first I was put off by the title, since Boomers are by definition a mutinous generation’, but went on to say how much she liked it! I suppose what she said was exactly my point: Boomers ARE by definition a mutinous generation. One of the meanings stated in the dictionary is ‘refusing to obey or submit to control’. Well, that sounds like Boomers to me! I thought the word that stood out was instinctively, but I guess not!
Alana: Instinctively hardly registered on me. It was definitely mutinous that piqued my interest. I’m a Boomer myself but I have to say that as a member of Goodreads Boomer lit group I’m learning so much about what being one actually means.
Seeing how we’ve dived straight into the book let’s stick with it for a while. Let’s talk about the parables. How did you remember all of those episodes in your life that you’ve written about? Did you keep a diary?
Marsha: Good question. Yes, I did keep a diary from time to time, especially when significant things happened. For instance, I wrote about the process of birthing our son, Matt, a week or so after he was born. When I dug through old papers and found what I had written I was a little taken aback by how accurate it was concerning what I had experienced physically and emotionally. I don't think I could have written that chapter on such an earthy level had I not documented it so soon after it occurred.
Alana: I can so relate to that. Just a week ago I was at the birth of my newest grand-daughter. What an experience! It immediately became one of the precious moments in my life. Sorry, I couldn’t resist telling you that.
Marsha: How lovely for you and congratulations. I'd like to suggest to you that you take the time to write down exactly how you felt while it's still fresh! Of course there were many stories I shared that I had little or no documentation about and I'll tell you how I remembered. I went to this beautiful spot on top of a mountain and would sit, staring off into the clouds. I would let my mind wander back and when I remembered something I'd jot it down on a legal pad. For instance, the sequences that were about some of the extraordinary things I witnessed when I was a young operating room nurse and also in the ICU. I didn't want to write those chapters until I could walk through those doors again and look around each room—the sounds, the smells, all of it. That took being by myself, in the quiet, to unearth those memories.
Alana: What beautiful photos! Did those episodes have significance at the time? Was it immediately apparent that they were life lessons?
Marsha: Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. I think there are moments in everyone's life when something happens and it's like a two-by-four just hit you across the head—you know it's significant! But there are other situations that it takes the passage of time to see that one seemingly unimportant moment was really a defining moment after all.
Alana: And when did you start thinking of them as parables?
Marsha: That came about with the tomato plants. When the incident that I call The parable of the tomato plant happened I went right inside, sat down and wrote it out long hand that very day. That was about a year and a half before I began writing my book, but it was ‘the seed’ for what was to come.
Alana: I query in my review the revealing of other people’s personal details. It’s something I guess you can’t avoid if you’re being candid in a memoir. How did you tackle that?
Marsha: I would never use someone's actual name and reveal personal details without their permission. There were miscellaneous people in my life, particularly when I was a young woman, who I either didn't want to use their real name or couldn't locate them to ask permission. And these people were not those who I based the stories around—they were more incidental characters. It's really my family and a few close friends that we're talking about here.
Marsha: My husband and long-time business partner, Bob Rector, who is also a writer, told me to ‘keep it honest’ from the beginning, and he stuck by me on that all the way.
I'll tell you a quick story that best sums it up, Alana. You recall that there is one chapter about our son when he was a teenager. It was a tough chapter to write and it might be tough to read, I don't know. But Matt is now a grown man and very happily married.
Alana: So how did you approach it?
Marsha: I sent the chapter to him before including it in the book, to get his permission to be as personal as I was about what we had experienced during that troubling time. After he read it he told me, ‘I was holding my breath, wondering if you were going to pull your punches or not. I was so proud of you that you didn't. Yeah, mom, include it. It might help some other parent going through the same thing’.
Alana: Wow, how wonderful of him.
Marsha: That meant SO much to me. As you can see, I've had a lot of encouragement about keeping it honest ...
Alana: You’ve obviously had some tough times in your life but you’ve overcome them. You come across as an indomitable spirit but do you see yourself that way?
Marsha: Ha! Yeah, I guess I do! The photograph of the little stinker of a girl on the cover of my book is me!
(The photo of adult Marsha below is the one she considers her current 'Mutinous' photo.)
Alana: It’s a fabulous photo. I love the look on your face.
Marsha: I was born with that attitude and frankly it's been a lot to live up to at times. I expect myself to be world-conquering material and when I miss the mark I'm terribly disappointed in myself. To answer your question, yes, I do rather think of myself as indomitable, but often I'm not. It's part of what my book is about really, making sure that you remember how you overcame tough times so that you can pull from that part of yourself when tough times come again.
Alana: Well, you’ve certainly done that in spades. What prompted you to write the memoir?
Marsha: Actually it didn't start out as a memoir at all. Initially it was going to be a series of vignettes about remembering life's lessons. I've been in the unusual situation of experiencing the normal side of life as a wife, mother and daughter in a middle-class neighborhood, while at the same time living BIG dreams! Among other things Bob and I traveled the globe doing something that had never been done before: producing an original play, Letters from the Front, that entertained American troops and their families around the world for fifteen years. Quite a contrast!
Alana: I’m sorry to say I’d not heard of the play until reading about it, but I Googled and found the website. What an undertaking is all I can say! Oh, and congratulations on seeing it through and it being so successful.
Marsha: Thanks so much, Alana, and as you could tell from reading the book, it took years of persistence before it was successful, which gave me a keen awareness of what it takes to overcome life's obstacles. I wanted to share what I had learned in the process. However, when I presented the first draft to my in-house editor (Bob!) he told me that he liked it very much but thought it was going to leave the reader unsatisfied.
Alana: How so?
Marsha: He explained that I had introduced so many extremely personal issues in my parables and then moved on too quickly. For instance, there is an early chapter about my mom being sick with breast cancer. Bob said that I needed to let the reader know what happened to my mom and how it affected me. He told me to connect the dots in my book, to give it a narrative flow as an overall story, even though each chapter can basically stand on its own. At that point I had to rethink the entire structure of the book, but I'm sure glad I did. The second draft was twice as long as the first and very close to how the final book turned out. Certainly a memoir in a way, but with a different twist I think.
Alana: Definitely a different twist. And there’s nothing quite like good advice. Given all the parables you write about why did you choose the tomato plant as the book’s sub-title? Why not Letters from the Front, which dominated your life for so long?
Marsha: Because my book started with the tomato plant story. About 18 months after I wrote it I found myself about as lost as I had ever been. We had been hard hit by the economy, like so many other people, and I was feeling pretty beat up by life. Not indomitable at all! I found the hand-written pages of The parable of the tomato plant tucked away in a drawer, next to where I would sit in the den and look out at my garden. When I read it I cried, smiled at the silliness of life and felt more hopeful. There have been very few changes to that parable from when I first wrote it. You see, I didn't write Letters from the Front, my husband did. I produced it. When I read The parable of the tomato plant that day I realized that I was a writer and it was time for me to write a book. I suppose I felt I had to leave it in the title to honor that moment. (I took a picture of the very first tomato that popped out—it was a cherry tomato.)
Alana: And a magnificent one it is! You now live in the mountains and I have a vision of you in a little log cabin surrounded by mountains and fir trees? Am I close or a way off track?
Marsha: Well, you were pretty close concerning where we lived when I wrote my Mutinous Boomer book! It was more of a cottage than a cabin, there were initially fir trees, but they were taken out by a tornado! We recently moved to a lovely spot very near the mountains but with a good deal more room than the cottage!
Alana: Do you have any projects on the go at the moment. Another play perhaps, another book?
Marsha: I will definitely write at least one more Mutinous Boomer book and I have an outline for another writing project that I've been working on. I am a writer now, there's no going back from that.
As far as plays, Letters from the Front is the love of my life in that category! There is interest in touring it again, which I would love to do. There is no better or more appreciative audience in the world than our troops and their families. We shall see.
But, Alana, since you've read my book, you know I try not to write a script for my life. Try is the operative word here! My personal goal is to allow myself to feel the wind change, God's wind in my life, and let it fill my sail and take me where it will. It sure has taken me to some amazing places so far!
Alana: Marsha, I can only agree with you, it certainly has. May I say it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you.
Marsha: Thank you, Alana. The pleasure was mine.
Take this link to my review of Confessions of an instinctively mutinous baby boomer
Kirkus Reviews of Confessions
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM||comments (2)|
By Alana Woods
Today we have the pleasure of Michael Murphy visiting to talk about his latest book GOODBYE EMILY and to also give us a little insight into his life which, although I didn't ask him about it, obviously includes sky-diving!
Alana: Michael, welcome, thank you for giving up part of your weekend to come visit. Hopefully I haven’t kept you from chicken farm chores. What about giving us a peek into what life is like as a chicken farmer in Arizona.
Michael: A couple of years ago my wife from out of nowhere said, “Don’t you think it would be fun to raise chickens in our backyard?” Before I could give it serious consideration she’d brought home five chicks, a small pen and heating lamp. Of course the girls quickly outgrew their initial enclosure, so we ordered a chicken coop which we set inside a portable dog run and surrounded the whole thing with fencing. It’s been quite an investment in money and upkeep, but fun? Well, I guess.
Alana: And I imagine there are always plenty of eggs for breakfast! Have you always been an Arizona boy or did you arrive there after a life elsewhere?
Michael: I’ve lived more than fifty years in Arizona, so I’m practically a native. It’s got everything, desert, mountains with pines, lakes, snow in the winter and more than 300 days a year of sunshine. Guess that’s why everyone’s moving here, or at least it seems that way.
Take this link to Bing.com images of Arizona
Alana: Sounds like a little slice of paradise. Let’s talk about GOODBYE EMILY. There are three themes running through it: Woodstock, obviously, but also the effects of war, on Vietnam vets specifically, and Alzheimer’s. First, can we talk about Woodstock—what attracted you to it?
Michael: I grew up in the sixties and attended the Monterey Pop Festival in 1968, but Woodstock was the most culturally historical event of the twentieth century. The performances have been covered in book and film, but no-one ever wrote about the 400,000 who braved the elements and helped make it such a memorable event.
Take this link to Looney Palace to see original Woodstock festival photos
Alana: Well, you certainly brought that aspect to life in GOODBYE EMILY. While reading it I was thinking that you must have been there because it was so real to me. But what about the effects of war angle? What instigated or encouraged you to touch on this?
Michael: Growing up in the sixties one couldn’t help but be impacted by a war that divided the country so much. And what we did to, or failed to do for, Vietnam Veterans was tragic. I tried to convey some of that in the novel with my character Buck Jamison.
Alana: And lastly Alzheimer’s. Another extremely emotive topic. Why bring that into what is already an emotion-packed story?
Michael: When I was younger I worked in a nursing home that had an Alzheimer’s unit. I’ll never forget the impact of the disease on family members. Also, since the novel is about three baby boomers, I wanted to touch on the impact of aging on their lives which is why the main character, Sparky, struggles with a very real disease, Broken Heart Syndrome.
Alana: Your descriptions of that were ‘heartfelt’ to say the least! I could almost feel the ache as I was reading. How did you know or find out about it?
Michael: I drew upon my experience working alongside an Alzheimer’s unit. The former schoolteacher with Alzheimer’s in GOODBYE EMILY was based on a patient who greeted me each morning by asking if I’d turned in my homework. It was sad and touching at the same time. One day she stopped asking.
Alana: Following on from that there’s another topic I almost forgot—the companion dog Lady. She’s a real honey. You’ve packed enough tear-jerkers into this book. Did you set out to tackle so many emotive subjects?
Michael: My wife and I had a golden retriever and anyone who’s had one can attest to their personalities which I tried to convey. As far as so many emotional subjects, I wanted to address some serious topics that baby boomers deal with, but do so in a humorous story with likeable characters. From the reviews so far I think it worked.
Alana: I know it worked because the entire story made such an impact on me. But GOODBYE EMILY isn’t your first book, is it. In fact I believe it’s your eighth. Are the topics and themes of those similar—eg Boomer Lit—to those in GOODBYE EMILY?
Michael: My first novel The Class of ’68 takes place in the most tumultuous year of the twentieth century, so there are many similar themes. However, the others are the types of novels I enjoy reading, mystery/suspense. My first post-GOODBYE EMILY novel The Yankee Club, which isn't out yet, is a humorous mystery set it 1933 New York. Prohibition, speakeasies, and I get to use the word dames a lot. I think readers who enjoy GOODBYE EMILY will enjoy The Yankee Club.
Alana: Michael, thank you so much. I’ll let you get back to the girls and that incredible sunshine now.
Add me to your Google + circles
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 16, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (2)|
This week's interviewee is Duncan Whitehead, a member of my Goodreads Boomer group. We discuss his boomer novel THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB as well as his so far amazing life.
Alana: Duncan, welcome. It’s lovely to have you here today. Before we talk about your book we just HAVE to talk about you. You’ve had such an interesting life: born in the UK, the Royal Navy, working on super yachts, boxer, teacher, soccer coach, self defence arts, languages, cooking among other things—how on earth have you fitted all of that in?
Duncan: I joined the Royal Navy at age 17 and prior to that I was already boxing regularly, since the age of 14. After serving onboard ships for four years I undertook extra training, including languages, which enabled me to work in British Embassies, mainly in South America. Before leaving the navy in 2002 I took a teaching course—English as a foreign language—as I wanted to travel. Fortunately for me I was head-hunted and offered a job as a purser aboard a super yacht. I was able to combine writing, my other interests and activities in between jobs and yachts. Coaching kid’s soccer was fun because my daughter took up the sport. A lot of the things I do are usually on a volunteer basis.
Alana: Can we focus on the super yacht period for a moment. Any juicy anecdotes that you can relate without fear of retribution.
Duncan: Well, I have signed several confidentiality agreements but I can tell you that the yachts I worked on are unbelievable—not only the amount of money that’s spent on them but the organization, rules and regulations and other laws they have to abide by. The photos are of two, the Boadicea and Princess Mariana.
I was lucky to meet some well-known individuals and have remained in contact with some. It’s an interesting ‘industry’ and I have to say the crews work long hours and very hard. The travelling is of course great. I visited Australia, the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, South America and both coasts of the USA, berthing at some luxurious locations. I am most impressed by the quality of chefs on these yachts; they produce 5 star quality food in such cramped conditions. One former chef of an owner I worked with went on to international fame and Michelin stars!
As for anecdotes, how about this? I was once mistaken for an owner. My girlfriend was visiting me and my boss insisted we stay onboard as guests while they weren’t onboard. Denzil Washington and his family were on Greg Norman’s yacht berthed next to us and they waved to us, probably thinking we were famous!
Alana: On waving terms with Denzil—I AM impressed. And then you settled in the south of the USA! How did that come about?
Duncan: While working onboard a yacht we visited Savannah for a protracted period of time. I met a girl and after we sailed we continued dating and married. Eventually I settled in Savannah. I love the place and I made it my base as I travelled. Eventually it became my home.
Alana: And that’s where you began to write in earnest?
Duncan: I had written short stories in the past and attempted several novels, all comedy based, but never had the time nor inspiration to ever complete anything. Savannah is a hotbed of writers, in my neighbourhood alone there lived two NY Times best-selling authors who became friends.
Alana: Don’t want to say who?
Duncan: Greg Keyes, a fantastic fantasy writer and Rosemary Daniell, a very accomplished writer of Southern fiction and memoirs.
With time on my hands I wrote THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB and two other novels. It didn’t happen overnight; I began writing TGLDWC in 2006.
Alana: THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB is set in the Savannah location—your Amazon bio says it was inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of your new environment. What do you mean by that?
Duncan: Gordonston is a very quaint neighbourhood and it was very alien to me. I’m English with a very strong accent and I was a stay-at home-dad ...
Alana: Ah, so the character Doug is based on you?
Duncan: Some aspects of Doug are based on my personal perception of the neighbourhood as an outsider, an alien if you will, not accustomed to not only his environment but also the personal situation he finds himself in. Apart from that Doug and I are very different ... I wouldn’t dig a hole ...
During the day I would walk around the neighbourhood with my dog and daughter and would never encounter a soul. It was as if I was the only person alive at times. Even though Gordonston is in a city it’s very quiet and not much traffic traverses through it. The park amazed me, it’s as I describe in the book and it felt I had the place to myself, my dog and child. I guess I thought it would be a great place to hide something ... or someone.
As for characters, yes I did find some of them ‘quirky’—though I am NOT going to say who!
Alana: How close to fact is the book then?
Duncan: The book does have several factual parts; there is a park, as described in the novel, and the houses as described do exist, though I have used a bit of imagination with one of them. The neighbourhood is leafy and the avenues and streets are tree lined with Spanish moss dripping from them like silk.
Alana: It sounds beautiful. And the characters?
Duncan: Some of the characters and events are loosely based on real neighbours—there was a widower alderman living in the neighbourhood though he bears no resemblance to the character in the book and I confess I found it good ‘fodder’ to have a good-looking eligible bachelor in my story.
Alana: I believe this is your first book. Is it the first you’ve written or the first you’ve published? And what are you working on now?
Duncan: This is my first published book. I’m in the editing phase (lessons learned) of my second book, a comedy set in Manhattan entitled The Reluctant Jesus. I’ve also written a sequel to THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB.
Alana: How far off are they both to being published?
Duncan: The Reluctant Jesus is being re-edited. I decided to use lessons learned from TGLDWC to alleviate any editing errors that would mar readers’ enjoyment. The sequel has been written but I’m undecided as to who dies ... the character I wanted to kill off may have some extra mileage so I am trying to figure out if he (or she) should live or die. Friends who have read the sequel enjoyed it; however, with a film treatment now completed ...
Alana: Duncan!!! you've thrown in yet another teaser. What do you mean by 'film treatment'?
Duncan: Well, one’s been written, not by me, and sent to a few production companies who requested it ... and it slightly changes things. I need to be careful about how the next one ends ... in case I need the character to ultimately tie up the story. AndI’m drafting the third and final book in the trilogy.
I also write comedy satire and spoof news and do have a real job!
Alana: May I ask what that might be?
Duncan: I work as a security and safety auditor and consultant for private super yachts. Our company helps owners implement required safety and security regulations and we provide advice, consultancy and management systems that help them achieve that goal.
Alana: Duncan, thank you so much for all of that information! Wow, is all I can say.
Take this link to read my review of THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 9, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (9)|
If you’re a fan of classic movies you’re going to really enjoy my interview with this week’s author Stephen R Hulse. And if you are a fan you may well already be familiar with his name and work.
Alana: Stephen, welcome. Thank you for accepting my interview invitation. However, before we get to THE BLUE HOUR may I find out a bit about its author, you. You were born in Liverpool England, are you still there?
Stephen: Thank you, Alana. It’s a pleasure to be here. First of all I must say that this virtual coffee is positively superb.
Alana: Glad you like it. I ground it just a minute ago so it’s lovely and fresh.
Stephen: Now, where were we? Yes, I was indeed born in Liverpool and, yes, I’m currently still there. Although over the years I’ve spent time in America, both coasts, Germany and Australia, as well as a period living in London during the mid 1980s. I’m blessed or cursed, depending on my mood at any given time, by wanderlust. Although like a salmon I always seem to end up making the long, hard swim back up river to my spawning ground.
Alana: Australia! Whereabouts? I grew up in Adelaide but have been in Canberra since 1980, except for a five year sojourn up on the Sunshine Coast.
Stephen: Ah, of course. I noticed when I visited your site that you're based in Australia yourself. The lovely small town of Echuca, down in Victoria. I spent three months there back in 2007. Coincidentally enough I was there when the original paperback version of my first novel, Shadowchaser, was published. Back in the days before it became an ebook only edition.
Alana: Lovely place, Echuca. For our readers' edification it's on the Murray and used to be a busy port when the river was still navigable by paddle steamer. But, I always say there’s nothing quite like home. I understand that you’re the co-creator and a former contributor to the classic television websites Television Heaven, Teletronic, and Day In The Life. I'm not familiar with them so would you enlighten me with a bit of background and what instigated their creation?
Stephen: Happy to. The genesis of Television Heaven came about in 1999–2000 when my great friend and then writing partner, Laurence Marcus, had the idea that it might be fun to set up a little website where we could write about the classic television series that we’d enjoyed in our childhood/youth. Both of us being unashamedly square-eyed TV addicts the idea appealed to me instantly. Between us we drew up a list of ten classic shows we’d cover.
Now bear in mind that at the time this was entirely for our own amusement. We fully expected that this wondrous site would only ever enjoy two visitors—us! At the time I was living in Northern California while Laurence was back home in his native London, so the entire idea took shape via a frantic tennis match of emails at decidedly ungodly and odd hours for both of us.
Anyway, once we’d decided on the ten shows we’d feature, while Laurence set about the design of the website I undertook the writing for the first batch of show overviews/reviews. If I recall correctly the very first completed review was for the classic comedy series Dad’s Army. Amazingly, Laurence was thrilled with it and that review became the standard template for everything which was to follow.
Anyway, cutting a very long story short, fast forward to the present day. Following my departure as an active contributor Television Heaven went on to grow beyond our wildest expectations. It’s now recognised world-wide as one of the leading resources on the subject of classic television and television history. From that original list of ten shows the site has blossomed into a vast treasure trove of television knowledge currently covering over one thousand classic and current series, visited by millions of people per month from all over the globe.
Laurence and his team of contributors have done an absolutely phenomenal job, and I’m immensely proud of both the success Laurence has made of the site and my own small contribution to what began as—and remained for us both—a genuine labour of love.
As for Television Heaven’s sister sites, Teletronic began when I had the idea of us producing a monthly text-based ezine covering TV related subjects which didn’t quite fit into the main site, or we simply didn’t have room for at the time. However, it quickly became apparent that the text-based format was too limiting. So, Laurence worked his design magic once again and Teletronic the website was born.
With it we were able to delve in much greater detail into specific aspects of the history and development of the medium and the personalities which shaped its development. It was here that Laurence’s wonderful skills as a factual writer truly bloomed. And now Teletronic has grown into far more than the sum of its original parts. It provides the perfect compliment to the original site.
And finally ... (you there at the back. Yes, you! At least attempt to pretend to be paying attention. We’re almost done with this particular subject) ...
Alana: Who? Me? Sorry, the glaze is because I’m rapt!
Stephen: All right, you’re forgiven ... well, as I was saying, finally there’s Reminisce This, the third site in the stable, originally called Day In The Life. Now this was Laurence’s idea, and I just pitched in with suggestions and the writing of the overview for each of the decades covered. Unlike its sister sites it isn’t television based. Rather, it’s a nostalgic look back at the development of the culture of the UK over a period of sixty years from the 1940s through to the 1990s. It’s fun, as already mentioned, it’s nostalgic—and yet again, it’s a labour of love.
Alana: You obviously have a deep and broad knowledge of both television and film across all the major genres. Does that result from the intense interest of an amateur or from working in the industry?
Stephen: My knowledge of both mediums stems primarily from far too many childhood hours with my nose either pressed up against the television or cinema screen, far too many hours spent with my nose buried deep in the musty pages of books and magazines devoted to film and TV stretching back decades, plus a family with an almost preternatural knowledge of both.
Professionally I've flirted with the television industry here and there. But, sadly, tis a tale of projects that never quite made it to fruition, and expectations confounded by unexpected obstacles. But never say never—doubtless I’ll take another tilt at that particular windmill in times to come.
Alana: This seems a logical spot to turn to THE BLUE HOUR. In my review I make the observation that your story-telling style reminded me of the Raymond Chandler novels. I haven’t read your first book so don’t know if that carries through but, is it a style you consciously use?
Stephen: Well, I’ve always had a long standing love affair with classic noir ‘Private Eye’ fiction in both print and film/TV. So following the publication of SHADOWCHASER—which, while containing elements in common thematically with THE BLUE HOUR, is written in a very different style—I was casting around for that all-important second book idea and the idea of taking a classic noir approach to a modern day mystery with a slight supernatural undertone appealed to me.
I also knew I wanted the story told in the first person by a strong, yet flawed, female lead—with the much more traditional male private eye as the partner figure. My prime influences/inspirations included the fast-talking, wisecracking duo of Bogart/Bacall in the classic film version of The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and my physical template for the rugged, ironically recognisable incarnation of my private eye, Gideon Wade, was the ever wonderful Robert Mitchum.
Alana: What about the subject matter in THE BLUE HOUR—where did the idea for that come from?
Stephen: Hmmm … difficult to answer without giving away too much of the central core of the plot, I think. What I can say is that the issue of human trafficking has been rather high profile these past few years. The idea appealed to me as a very effective core of the novel’s story. From there it took very little extrapolation on my part to realise that if I narrowed that down to one very particular aspect of the issue then it added a very resonant emotional core to the story which would resonate strongly for both readers and central characters alike. The stakes are high, because the threat being faced is utterly monstrous and repugnant. Once I had that central concept and my research nailed down, the characters basically wrote the story themselves.
Alana: I think that’s something authors in general find—once underway the characters take over. Let’s talk about your characters. You make no allowances for them being male or female in the situations in which you place them. You expect the women to be as tough, resourceful and resilient as the men. Why?
Stephen: Why? Because in my personal experience women are as tough, resourceful and resilient as men. Arguably even more so. I like woman—actually I love women—and I like to think I understand them enough to do them the justice they deserve—particularly in my writing.
Alana: I agree that it's difficult to talk about the book without giving spoilers so let's get on to what you're working on at the moment?
Stephen: You mean apart from my duties steering the good ship Blue Hour Publishing through the treacherous waters of the Amazonion Sea?
Alana: Yes, let’s take time out from that particular black hole for a moment at least. I find that it can consume you.
Stephen: Well, workaholic madman that I am I’m currently writing three books simultaneously! The insignificant other, which is the sequel to THE BLUE HOUR. Shadowchaser II, for which readers of the first book have been (im)patiently waiting for five years. And last but by no means least a brand new comedy thriller provisionally titled The dark eye agency and featuring my brand new female lead character who, I have to admit, I’m more than a little bit in love with. Want me to describe the basic premise in a single sentence? Bridget Jones … as written by Raymond Chandler.
Alana: That I will have to read. Stephen, thank you.
Stephen: No, thank you Alana, m’dear, for making this a wonderfully fun and enjoyable experience. Er, I don’t suppose you have any of that delicious virtual coffee left ... and perhaps a Lamington cake …?
Alana: I do actually so there’s no need for you to rush off. It’s a beautiful day so grab your mug and we can move out on to the deck and enjoy the view at the same time. I’ve not long put a sunset photo of it up as my Twitter header and if I say so myself it looks good (@AlanaEWoods). A little past l’heure bleue perhaps, but not by much.
Take this link to my review of THE BLUE HOUR
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 2, 2013 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
I first met Amy some time ago in what was then a new Facebook group begun by Jason Matthews as a place for authors to meet and exchange ideas and information. I figured it was time I read and reviewed Amy's first book and gave her some air time to talk about it, as well as herself.
Alana: Amy welcome, it’s lovely to finally have you here. The first question I want to ask is where your knowledge of such places as Quito and Hope Valley come from. I understand your parents were missionaries—are they places you actually lived or visited?
Amy: First of all, thank you so much for having me, Alana. It’s a privilege to be interviewed by the amazing author of IMBROGLIO, AUTOMATON and 25 ESSENTIAL WRITING TIPS. It’s exciting to be here.
Alana: Amy, Amy, I’ve got to get my head through the door, so stop it!
Amy: Ha ha! Sorry. So, Hope Valley is based on a real place in British Columbia where I spent 18 months from the age of 10 to 11.
Alana: I thought it sounded like first-hand experience.
Amy: My father was the Director of the camp there (much like Gabriel Walker’s father in the book) and my mom led a Bible study group with the ladies. There were only four families and the place was so small and remote that you could only get there by boat. Almost all of the locations in Hope Valley actually exist, except for the berry patch which I created from memories.
I have sadly never been to Quito ...
Alana: You’re kidding! I would have put money on those descriptions coming from experience!
Amy: Well, I did a lot of research on the city and combined my feelings of being a misplaced TCK (third culture kid) to give Anjaline’s story some depth. Though I was born in Canada I spent the first nine years of my life in Africa.
Alana: Wow, what an amazing experience for a child.
Amy: Yes, but when my parents moved us back here it was like what Anjaline went through, but in reverse. I was returning to my home country, but it took a very long time for it to feel like home. Africa and Canada were like night and day. And, of course, Ecuador and Canada are as well. So, I had no trouble seeing how hard it could be for Anjaline to be transplanted, since I had gone through the same thing.
Alana: Your descriptions suggest to me that you loved Hope Valley very much and that perhaps, as far as Quito is concerned, you would like to visit one day.
Amy: I loved the setting for Hope Valley very much. As young children with nowhere to go besides the woods behind and ocean in front—our parents never worried we would wander off—we were given a lot of freedom.
I remember many times going up the mountain with a few of the other kids or swinging from the tire swing out over the water. I know our parents were around somewhere but they didn’t really supervise us overly much. It’s a place with a lot of wonderful memories.
Alana: Sounds like heaven. And Quito?
Amy: As I said before, I’ve never been to Quito. After researching it so thoroughly though, I am very interested in visiting someday. Especially during the Feast of Fruits and Flowers.
Alana: Talking about all that freedom in Hope Valley, you weren’t worried about the cougars? Is Anjaline’s experience of them based on something that actually happened?
Amy: Actually it was bears we had to be on the lookout for. They liked to come down to fish in the creek when the salmon were spawning and because of this we were never allowed to wander in the woods alone. I guess we should have been more worried, but black bears are really only aggressive if you get between them and their babies. Sadly that happened once with my dad. He wasn’t hurt and shot the mother right away. He didn’t know she was a mother though and had to shoot the cub they discovered nearby as well, because without its mother it would starve. It was a pretty devastating experience.
Alana: I can imagine. So where are you now? And did the wandering stop while you were still growing up and with your parents, or when you married?
Amy: I’m in Toronto now, married to a man who was born and raised here. We have such completely different backgrounds. He’s lived in the same city, same side, his entire life, while I moved every one or two years.
The wandering did stop for grades six through twelve, basically because my father was stationed at Mission Aviation Fellowship Canada as the Director. As soon as I graduated they moved to Kitchener, staying there for a couple years and then moving again to be close to my older sister and her family. I think my parents have the moving bug.
Alana: I imagine that’s the basis then for Anjaline’s stepfather’s profession?
Amy: I don’t know if it was the moving bug, per se. His job did call him all over though, just like my father’s line of work did. Personally I hate moving. It didn’t stop after I moved away from my parents either. I’ve moved several times since then, before and during my marriage. I think the longest I’ve stayed in any one place since getting married was our last home. And that was just shy of three years.
Alana: Amy, turning to THE HEART’S DISCOVERY, why Young Adult fiction? Why were you drawn to writing in that genre? Did you try others beforehand?
Amy: It sounds clichéd but I didn’t really choose the genre. It chose me. I have actually wanted to write adult fiction and some sci-fi ever since beginning The Hope Valley Saga but for now I’m writing YA fiction. I think the nature of my story—a boy and girl in their early teens falling in love and making a whole bunch of mistakes along the way—leant itself well to young readers. I have one 13 year old who insists she is my biggest fan. So, even though I didn’t set out to write YA, it seems that my young readers like my writing. I have tried romance and even comedy, but never been published. It was really the nature of the story that placed me in the YA genre.
Alana: What sparked the idea for the story line which, I should explain, is book 1 in The Hope Valley Saga?
Amy: I was talking to an old friend I grew up with in what is the setting for Hope Valley. We got talking about our memories and he said I should write about them. I sat down to just write out some memoires and before I knew it the story was growing rapidly. I wrote the first three books in the saga in just under a year. My daughter was very young at the time and sleeping in four hour stretches. So, while she slept, I wrote and wrote. It was a wonderful time. I never had any idea of publishing until my husband encouraged me to try. I went to agent after agent and finally discovered Jason Matthews and his wonderful book, How to Make, Market and Sell Your Ebook—All For Free. I self-published my first book and I’ve never looked back.
Alana: Yes, so many of us are grateful to Jason for his advice. Are the ages of your two principle characters reflective of the age of characters generally in YA fiction? I ask that because to my way of thinking 14 year old girls should be playing sports and having sleepovers with their girlfriends, not kissing and declaring their undying love to 15 year old boys. Please don’t see that as criticism—probably just my age talking.
Amy: I’m not offended in the least. If I was to compare my books to others in this genre then, yes, I would say my principle characters are a little young. So, no, it’s not typical. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I chose that age. It just happened. It’s funny though. You’re the first person who’s mentioned them seeming a bit young for falling in love. My first boyfriend was at the age of ten. I guess maybe in my mind my characters started falling for the opposite sex young because I did.
Alana: You’re right, personal experience is everything. My first boyfriend was after I started work. Not sure if that makes me sound slow or sad, so I won’t dwell on it. Let’s get back to you. I know you have published book 2 in the saga; would you tell us a little about it without giving any spoilers away?
Amy: Well, basically book 2 is the story of Gabriel and Anjaline growing up and living their lives apart, hence the title WORLDS APART. Though they’re not physically a world away from each other, because of their very different backgrounds it seems that way. Readers of volume 2 get to watch them grow up and experience a slightly more mature love. It also introduces the careers that will take them into adulthood. It’s a bit of a coming of age book, with the main characters trying desperately to hang on to a past that they can never recapture.
Alana: We can look forward to more conflict then?
Amy: We can indeed. What’s a love story without a lot of conflict? There will be lots of problems for both of them as they’re introduced to a chance at new love. I think readers can figure this out mostly from the back of my book, so I don’t think I’ve given any spoilers.
Alana: What are you working on now? You said earlier that you had written book 3.
Amy: I’m editing and reworking book 3 (or volume 3 as I’m calling it now) which is set to be released December 2013.
I’m also working on a book I hope to have out by June 2013, entitled RUNAWAY: DAMIAN’S STORY. It features one of the characters in book 1 that a lot of my readers have begged me to expand on. As it doesn’t flow completely with the saga it will be numbered volume 2.5. There’ll be five books in total (six if you include volume 2.5) in The Hope Valley Saga, with one book being released every year, hopefully in December.
Alana: Well, I should let you get back to it then! Amy, thank you so much for your time.
Amy: Thank you so much for the interview. I really enjoyed it.
Take this link to my review of THE HEART'S DISCOVERY
Amy's Amazon author page
I include the following URLs to pages that I can't get clean links to:
Amy's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AuthorAmyMcGuire
Amy's FB group page: www.facebook.com/groups/114804801984584/ (She's An Author page)
Amy on Twitter: twitter.com/ShesAnAuthor
THE HEART'S DISCOVERY on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/view/146706
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 26, 2013 at 9:10 AM||comments (12)|
This week I have a treat for writers especially. I’ve just reviewed Morgen Bailey’s first published novel and here’s an interview with her to accompany it. We talk about her blog—on which many of us have featured—her books and her writing. I have to confess she exhausts me with her energy and output!
Alana: Morgen, welcome, it's nice for the shoe to be on the other foot, so to speak, for a change. You've interviewed and featured me a number of times and it's an absolute pleasure to be able to return the favour.
Tell me how you found the time to write a novel—which, I believe is actually the third you've written but first published—in among everything else you do.
Morgen: Thank you, Alana. It’s a pleasure to be here. And yes, you’ve been very generous with your time on my blog (two interviews, numerous guest blog posts). I’m very grateful (and for your generous review of my debut novel!).
I swear by NaNoWriMo – and sometimes at it!
I’ll warn you now, I tend to waffle so I’ll try to keep my answers short … I came to writing by spotting an evening workshop at my local college back in 2004. I enrolled and once I started my first short story I was hooked! I’d devoured Stephen King novels in my teens(and blame him for me wearing glasses; torch/under the duvet) but loved writing shorts so I started reading (and devouring them). I was working full-time and running a house so it allowed me to read an entire story in one sitting. It’s still my favourite format.
Oh dear. I said I was going to keep this short.
Alana: That’s okay. I’ll stop you when I think you're rambling.
Morgen: Thanks! So speed up three years. I discovered NaNoWriMo. I’d thought of novels as taking a year to write but when I was encouraged to write one in a month I thought ‘I can do this’. So November 2008 produced 53,000-word Hitman Sam—which is currently languishing in a file but I will revisit.
I enjoyed the experience so much I started another, After Jessica, which I finished in 2009 but which I’m back to working on again at the moment. Immediately after Jessica I wrote Serial Dater’s for NaNoWriMo.
Alana: Good grief. I’m tired just thinking about it!
Morgen: I can’t stop. I had a bundle of weird and wonderful characters I wanted a woman to meet. Thirty days later (actually I think I had a couple of days off) I had a 117,540-word first draft. I’ve done (and ‘won’ three more NaNos since then.
Like anything, if you have to do something you find the time to do it. That’s why NaNoWriMo, and deadlines in general, are so great.
Alana: So true. I find now that I’m not working full time I get less done because I don’t have externally imposed deadlines. Can we talk about your blog? You've given hundreds of authors an opportunity to strut their stuff on it.
Morgen: Just over 600 to date.
Alana: What prompted you to start it?
Morgen: I’d heard blogging was a good thing to do. I had my website but did nothing with it. After volunteering at Oundle Literature Festival in March 2010 where philosopher Nigel Warburton mentioned he’d had over two million hits to his blog (over 1000 a day) I’d started a WordPress blog by the end of the month! I’m not in his league yet—best day was 497, so half-way there.
Alana: Did it have small beginnings, such as just interviews, and develop from there, or was the spectrum of offerings there from day one?
Morgen: The complication for me was wondering what to post each week (I’d heard that you should post something at least weekly) so I started with writing-related articles I’d spotted, events I’d been to etc. but wanted more.
Alana: So what did you do?
Morgen: At the time I was interviewing authors via Skype and in person for my Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast but the recording/editing/posting process was so time consuming. When I was invited to do a blog interview, all via email, the benefits of switching to that format was immense. I put a shout-out on Facebook and Twitter and ticked over until February 2011 when I started running out. Then I put a shout-out on all the LinkedIn writing groups I belong to and was flooded out … to the point where I was booking nine months in advance at one a day!
Because I add in comments between the replies and my next question each one takes over an hour to do so I couldn’t do any more than one a day and of course by the time I posted some they were out of date.
Alana: Only an hour! It takes me around three hours to get my interviews ready and up! I’m obviously doing something seriously wrong.
Morgen: Ouch! It does take me longer, probably about the same as you, for specific interviews, where I've invited an author. But 99% of them are a standard Q&A which I was worried would be boring, but the authors' replies are always so different. I've realised having the interviews posted every morning left the evenings free so it’s evolved over the months.
(Alana: Below is Morgen's blog logo, Morgen with an E.)
Alana: Where do you see the blog heading?
Morgen: It’s gone through a bit of a change recently but it’s more or less there, I think.
Earlier this month I set up four new online writing groups (exercises, critiquing etc.) which then replicated a couple of the features on the main blog (red pen critique, Short Story Saturdays) so I’ve stopped those. The newest feature is Novel Nights In which runs two novels in instalments on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Alana: Wow, that’s a serious amount of blogging.
Morgen: But wait, there’s more! ... I’ve increased the number of spotlights and guest blog posts to avoid booking too far in advance. I don’t like to keep people waiting too long and apart from the interviews the other content is quite quick to process. Sometimes I do wonder if I put up too much but as the cliché goes, ‘variety is the spice of life’, and I’ve not had any complaints yet.
Alana: Heavens,why on earth would we complain.
Morgen: I’ve actually just set up another blog where I’ve reposted the 600+ from the main blog and will be posting simpler free new interviews (just the Q&A, not my comments).
Alana: Why have you done that?
Morgen: As I mentioned earlier, the full interviews are so time-consuming that I’ve had to stop them as of the beginning of March and regretfully start charging for them (the only thing on the blog I do charge for). So the new blog is a way for authors to still get the exposure without it costing them anything.
Alana: Enough about the blog. Let's turn to THE SERIAL DATER'S SHOPPING LIST. Where did the idea come from and was any online dating research involved? Be honest!
Morgen:<laughs> The research had already been done. Apart from times when I’ve been single and curious—online seemed like a good idea, and I grew up with an older brother so being a techie runs in the family—I had two friends who ran dating agency franchises. I did some work for one so as a ‘bonus’ she’d line me up with anyone nice over 6ft/1.83m (there weren’t many … Robert ‘Mr Jag’ Hilton was based on one of them!) The other friend wanted to check out another area’s events so we went speed dating (where I met a dodgy builder touting for business).
Alana: Why did you make your main character Izzy a journalist?
Morgen: Not sure exactly, but I do remember going through a Word document of ideas and seeing all these male characters. I knew I had to write a lot in a short amount of time (although I hadn’t a clue I’d write so much!)
Alana: You said it started life as a NaNoWriMo project?
Morgen: It did, and I wanted it to be fun … and it was. I then needed a female to meet them and it took shape from there.
Alana: I really like Izzy. She's old enough to have had a life and young enough to still be looking for one. Is she modelled on anyone you know?
Morgen: Thank you very much. She’s partially autobiographical (probably more so than I’m willing to admit). We share the same height (5ft 10in/1.78m), shoe size (8.5/43) and we’re both partial to Baileys and Banoffee pie—that was a fun scene to write! (Chapter 2, everyone).
Alana: I liked the present tense first person point of view very much. It really suited this story, gave it a real immediacy. But why did you choose it?
Morgen: Again, thank you. I’m not sure. It came out that way. I know first person tends to be frowned upon (second person, my favourite, even more so) but it’s just how it came out. I don’t think it would have worked … dare I say, ‘so well’ from a narrator’s point of view as it would have felt detached.
Alana: Exactly! You’ve pinpointed why I liked it so much.
Morgen: I'm so glad you do. Readers liking the character, for me certainly, is the most important thing. We even have to like the baddies, or at least care what happens to them. And by having it present tense, hopefully the reader feels like they’re on the journeys with her.
Alana: I also like that you use dialogue a lot to carry the story forward. It's my favourite kind of storytelling. Is dialogue as a way of telling the story a technique you also favour or was it this particular story that you felt called for it?
Morgen: You’re very kind. Unlike one of my Monday night poets who loves it, I glaze over when I see huge chunks of description in a book. That’s when I skim read. A writer can tell a lot in dialogue, and it’s more ‘show’ than ‘tell’, to quote a technique.
Alana: Couldn’t agree more. So what's happening with you at the moment? Another book? More on the blog site? Anything else?
Morgen: I’m supposed to be editing After Jessica. I’ve had it back from the aforementioned poet (who’s a brilliant red penner) and have six first (second?) readers waiting for it.
The blog’s been a huge hogger of my time (all day, every day since I quit my job in March last year. I’m fortunate that I have a house big enough to rent two rooms to two very nice lodgers, and still have the box room as my bedroom and the back bedroom as my ‘office’;).
Not dedicating time to my writing was becoming evermore frustrating to the point where I scaled back the interviews and have, hopefully, made everything else more streamlined.
I quite often say in the interviews on my blog how 300 words a day equates to 100,000 words a year and how everyone can find the time. I have a slot called 5pm Fiction where I wrote a story a day (usually <500 words) between 1st June and 31st October (150 in all) taking a break for NaNoWriMo and then December and January for editing After Jessica (ha! I’m about 10 pages in), but it returns on 1st February and knowing that I have to post something (and I like to post something good despite them often being first drafts written while I walk the dog around the park in the mornings) is motivation enough.
2013 will see much more output online, I’m determined!
(Alana: Below is a photo the 'dog', Bailey, Morgen's namesake who, if you look closely, is disappearing off to the right in the photo of the Picturedrome, one of the locations in THE SERIAL DATER'S SHOPPING LIST.)
Alana: Morgen, you’re a source of inspiration! Thanks so much.
Morgen: Thank you, Alana. It’s been fun to be under someone else’s spotlight for a change—and kept me warm; we’re surrounded by thick snow here in the UK, and like every year we get it, we don’t know how to deal with it … schools and airports close, roads grind to a halt … the joy of being a writer; I don’t have to go anywhere!
Alana: My oldest daughter lives in West Sussex and she sent photos of her boys rugged up to the nines out in it. We can just see their noses.
Morgen: Sussex is beautiful. I already have Brighton earmarked for my second home.
Take this link to my review of THE SERIAL DATER'S SHOPPING LIST
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (2)|
This week Claude Nougat joins me for a discussion about her latest book A HOOK IN THE SKY, the emerging new Boomer genre in literature, and art and painting. We're also very lucky in that she has allowed me use two of her own paintings to illustrate her answer to one of my questions.
Alana: Claude, welcome. You live in Italy. Whereabouts? And how did that come about?
Claude: In Rome. It came about by chance. Some 35 years ago I met a wonderful Sicilian who happened to work here and we got married!
Alana: It sounds v-e-r-y romantic. As does your use of the French pronunciation of the main character’s name in A HOOK IN THE SKY, Rob-air. So much sexier than the no-nonsense Robert. I still can’t think of him any other way. How much does his career in the UN and the fact that he’s an amateur artist resemble your own life?
Claude: I guess you could say it’s very autobiographical, but then all one’s writing draws on one’s life experience ... I drew on my own work experience at the UN and I won’t deny that many of Robert’s reflections on his work are close to my own. Like him, I worked for 25 years in a UN agency, the Food and Agricultural Organization, based in Rome. I’ve had a similar career path: I started out as a project evaluation specialist working in the field and ended in the higher rungs of the organization, as a director responsible for Europe and Central Asia.
Alana: To say it must have been interesting is, I think, a gross understatement. Where did your years with the UN take you?
Claude: Like Robert I’ve often travelled to the Third World, mostly Africa, but I’ve also been to other fascinating places like Peru, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam. And just like him I’ve made sketches, taken photographs and later turned them into oil paintings.
Alana: Let’s talk about your painting. Have you taken it further than Robert, ie, turned professional and exhibited?
Claude: We’ve both turned professional (grin)! He’s had one exhibition in Paris sharing the gallery with Natasha who’s a talented photographer and also the woman he is having an affair with. That’s something I’ve never done!
I’ve participated in many group shows (13 at my latest count) in France except for a couple in Sicily, and had two personal shows, one in Paris, the other in Rome. That last one was big, over 60 paintings! However, since 2008 I haven’t had any more as I’ve concentrated on my writing.
Based on my own paintings I’ve uploaded on Picasa an album that pulls together paintings and photographs that Robert could have done but of course I did them.
[Alana: I recommend a side trip to see Claude's paintings. Well worth it. You may have to copy and paste the URL as I had trouble linking to it.]
Actually, as you know since you read the book, there are two paintings that play a pivotal role in A HOOK: the naked woman and the painting of two flood victims in Bangladesh, two young girls, looking forlorn with their feet in the water. Respectively called La femme objet and Bangladesh the flood victims 2005.
Alana: And I thank you for allowing me to use them to accompany and illustrate the interview.
Claude: Thanks for showing them! But no spoilers, I won’t say here why these paintings are important! Actually, Robert in his artistic career has gone much further than me. He’s left traditional figurative art behind and had one major art installation shown at the famous Turbine Hall of the Tate in London. Any artist would dream of that! I certainly will never be shown there.
Alana: Why not?
Claude: I’m not a conceptual artist! I’m not into art installations—except for the ones I’ve invented for my book. Maybe some day an art merchant will ask me to put together a pile of ladders reaching up to a hook and take it to the Tate …
Alana: Like the one on your book cover.
Claude: ... but I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. The art world is closed, almost impossible to penetrate for most artists, as I try to show in the novel.
Alana: What was the impetus for A HOOK IN THE SKY? And what in particular did you want to explore in it?
Claude: Contemporary Art is obviously one of the many things explored in it, but it’s almost a side-show. It’s what the main characters, Robert and his wife, fight over. But the main point of the book is another. I wanted to explore what happens to someone who retires after having had a successful career whether at the UN or in business. You’re a big manager, you retire, then what will you do? Go back to work as a consultant? So many people do that. But Robert has a special talent, an innate ability to draw and paint. From childhood, because his mother was an artist, he had this dream of becoming a painter like her and it seems to him that now is the time to make that dream come true. But he hasn’t taken into account his wife’s taste for conceptual art. So he goes after his dream alone … with catastrophic results for their marriage!
Alana: Is your mother a painter too?
Claude: Okay, full confession: yes, she’s a painter, a surrealist after the Dali manner, same generation … but she’s still alive and thriving at 99!
Alana: Good for her. Shows what having a purpose and interest can do.
Claude: I might include her in another book because in this one the focus is on Robert’s marriage, not his mother. What interested me was to see what would happen after retirement to a couple whose marriage has become essentially a marriage of convenience. The fact that theirs is childless doesn’t help. For years Robert and Kay have worked at their own careers without much interaction between them. That happens to so many people … When Robert retires can the marriage be reset on a sounder basis? There is one young woman in particular that turns his head, she is very beautiful and he paints her in the nude, the painting you've used above. The resilience of a long-standing relationship when confronted with the transition to the last stage in life is definitely a major issue for boomers who are retiring. They come home, they stay home, but what kind of home is it?
Alana: Talking of boomers, you’re the initiator and driving force behind a new genre in writing: baby boomer. How did it come about?
Claude: It just arose from a statistical observation regarding the market, remember I’m an economist by training! Boomers are hitting retirement age and the numbers are huge: 78 million in the US alone and retiring at the rate of 3.5 million a year. The youngest boomer is 49, the oldest is 67, and it’s clear they’ll want to read about issues that concern them and will need to identify with characters that are like them. Hence, the birth of boomer literature!
My book features a quintessential boomer. Robert is 60 when he retires, full of energy and ready to do much more with his life! So I thought I’d seek other authors who might have written boomer novels.
Alana: How did you go about doing that?
Claude: I opted for two strategies: one, set up a thread in the Kindle fora for authors to list their boomer novels ... here's the link ... If you’re a BB novelist go list your book there and if you’re looking for a BB novel to read, that’s the place to go! It’s important because at present the BB genre is not recognized by Amazon. I set up the thread in September 2012. After a slow beginning it started to fill and now it’s filling fast!
Then in October I started a group on Goodreads to discuss Baby Boomer novels ... here's the link ... At first, like the thread to list BB titles in the Kindle fora, it was very slow and I thought I had maybe made a mistake, that I had misread the market. Then, suddenly, starting in November, things began to pick up speed.
Alana: How far has it progressed? Has it surprised you?
Claude: The Goodreads group grew even faster than the Kindle thread and I have to confess I was astounded! It’s as if boomer lit had been there all along, just waiting to be named to come out in the open!
Now, as I talk to you, the group has 184 members but every day new members are added and new boomer titles are uploaded on the group’s bookshelf, so far 54 books.
Check them out to pick your next good read, the quality is remarkable and the variety is fascinating, from comedy to serious fiction, thrillers, memoirs, even guidebooks, poetry and short stories!
Alana: Are any of the authors known?
Claude: Many of the books are from NYT (New York Times) bestselling authors, and at least one that I know of was a runner up to the Man Booker Prize (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce).
And, of course, you have the classic examples of boomer lit with Louis Begley’s About Schmidt series and Deborah Moggach’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both of which inspired memorable films with great actors. I would urge interested readers and writers to join the group. It’s a very friendly atmosphere and we’re reading one book a month democratically selected through a poll.
Alana: What about your other published works? Would you give us a rundown?
Claude: I think you’re going to be surprised. My other published works are not boomer lit at all but New Adult! I’ve written a series (three books so far) entitled THE PHOENIX HERITAGE ... here's the link to the first book FLYING IN THE PAST ... It’s the story of a young American born a gifted child and who’s become a computer whiz. He goes looking for his family roots in Sicily, the homeland of his father who died when he was still a kid. He chances into an abandoned palazzo and meets the ghosts of all his ancestors going back 900 years. The series mixes history with a coming of age story. By the third book he takes his life in hand and makes a fortune online, attracting the unwanted attention of both the Sicilian and Russian mafia! Bottom line, it’s a hard-to-classify series: it starts off as a YA paranormal/historical and ends as an NA techno-thriller!
Alana: I read DEATH a while back and reviewed it. Thoroughly enjoyed the stories.
Claude: Thank you. I've also participated along with five other poets in a poetry anthology, FREEZE FRAME, edited by the talented British poet Oscar Sparrow and published by Gallo Romano. The printed version has just come out.
For more information about all my books take this link to my Amazon author page.
Alana: Is there anything else you’re working on?
Claude: Sure, a lot! At present I’m working on a serial or series of novellas, tentatively called The OnePercent Saga, set two hundred years from now in a future characterized by a profound division between the very rich who are the only ones to enjoy the amenities of technological advances while everyone else is left out. The first novella is called I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU BEHIND and I expect to publish it this summer, as soon as a couple more episodes in the series are written.
I’d also like to get into some non-fiction themes, mainly social issues like those I explore on my blog and the history of one of my ancestors, Liewin Bauwens, who was Napoleon’s favourite entrepreneur because he stole the spinning jenny from the English! He started the modern textile industry on the continent—much to the dismay of the British who tried him in absentia and condemned him to be hanged. Of course, he never returned to England.
So, as you can see, my plate is full!
Alana: I can see another interview just to explore that! But for now I’ve kept you long enough. Claude, thanks so much.
Claude: Thank you, Alana! I really appreciate the thoughtful questions and your excellent review of my book! You gave me a chance to explain my novel and what I’m doing, I’m very grateful for that. Book discovery is hugely helped along by the selfless work of dedicated readers like you who are also talented, professional writers. It’s people like you who can find the gem in the slush pile!
Alana: Any response to such praise is going to look decidedly disingenuous, so I'll resist.
Take this link to my review of A HOOK IN THE SKY
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
You may remember I didn't have an author interview to accompany last week's book review of Paul V Walters' FINAL DIAGNOSIS because I couldn't contact him. I knew he was travelling and it must have been remote because he wasn't answering my emails. Well, I finally caught up with him on a tiny island somewhere off the coast of Thailand and he graciously took time out to talk to me. Here's the result. I know you'll enjoy it.
Alana: Paul, welcome. I believe you live on the Gold Coast (that’s in Queensland Australia for the overseas readers). It’s often referred to as God’s own country—by Queenslanders at least. Do you think of it as such and have you always lived there?
Paul: I’m not sure about God’s own country. Developers’ own country perhaps! I ended up on the Gold Coast by chance really about 17 years ago. Having children kind of kept me there. I’m English by birth ...
Alana: Me too!
Paul: ... Since then I’ve lived in Africa, France, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Australia.
Alana: Your Amazon author bio says you were a copywriter for many years. How do you think that has influenced your fiction writing?
Paul: Copywriting gives you the opportunity to write specifically for a target audience, tailor making the language specific to the product and the audience it will appeal to. The same applies to writing thrillers. I more or less know who the reader will be and I craft the text for that particular audience.
Also, as a copywriter I developed the craft of writing in 29 second segments for both radio and TV commercials. This entailed developing plot, characters, story line and conclusion all in that tight timeline!
Alana: I think that constitutes a look behind the scenes—I’ll count that as my new bit of knowledge for the day. I believe you now write full time. Is there a story behind that?
Paul: In 2008 just prior to the GFC I sold my advertising agency for two reasons. The first was that technically I saw the downturn coming and couldn’t face yet another recession, as advertising is perhaps the most vulnerable industry of all.
Secondly, the media landscape was and still is shattering at a phenomenal rate. Where to place a client’s money to get the most ‘bang for their buck’? I felt I wasn’t being honest in trying to understand and implement ‘new media’.
I also harboured a secret desire to be a full time writer … after all Alana … it is truly a sexy job!
Alana: Sexy eh? Seductive is the description I’d use. Very seductive.
One of the bits of advice writers often receive is to write about what you know and I notice in your bio that you divide your time between the Gold Coast and Bali. Was that the reason for basing part of FINAL DIAGNOSIS in Bali?
Paul: I guess the trick is to write about what you know and having spent a few months in Bali it seemed logical to use the location as a basis for the plot.
But book two revolves around subjects I was ignorant about, surveillance and pathogens. The good people of Scotland Yard were most helpful in giving out certain information, as were the departments of several universities when it came to learning about viruses.
Alana: Continuing on that theme, BLOWBACK is mainly set in London and Africa. Have you spent time there also? If so, did you live there or did you visit for research purposes?
Paul: I spent many years working for a number of multi-national advertising agencies in both London and Johannesburg. Africa has always held an intense fascination for me and I try to get there every year or so. In fact I was there in the latter part of 2012. I love the continent with a passion as there is a surprise around every corner.
Alana: Your main characters all tend to be larger than life: the protagonists are very likeable or even magnetic, the females are stunners, the baddies are very bad. Do you think that kind of stereotypical portrayal is part and parcel of thriller fiction characterisation?
Paul: You know I think I do. Think of Fleming and his James Bond. The baddies are truly bad, the women are stunners, and who doesn’t love James?
Alana: W-e-ll, I've not read the books so for me it depended on who was playing him on screen. I was never much of a fan until Pierce Brosnan came along, and now Daniel Craig, who I think has taken the role to another level.
Authors often refer to themselves as either character-driven or plot-driven writers. In my reviews of the two books I’ve made the observation that I believe you to be plot-driven. Am I right?
Paul: You are bang on the money. The plot is the main driving force and the characters almost secondary. In many ways this is a throwback to copywriting. Without an idea the campaign withers and dies on the vine. However, I do take your point regarding a one-dimensional view and I will work on this in book three.
Alana: When I started BLOWBACK I was surprised that Jonathon Savage is not the main character in that as well. It’s the baddie, Miranda Phillips, in fact, who is the common thread. From the way BLOWBACK ends I surmise that all three of your main characters, Jonathon Savage, Miranda Phillips and Jim Moore come together for the end game. Without giving anything vital away, is that right?
Paul: Now, now, Alana, that would be telling! However, Mr Savage will be back and Miranda has a few more tricks up her sleeve to bring this saga to a close. More exotic locations and an insight into what makes a baddie really bad!!
Alana: You mean she can be even nastier than she already is? I look forward to how you do that.
Paul, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed. It’s been a pleasure.
Paul: Thank YOU.
Take this link to my review of BLOWBACK.
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 6, 2013 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
Have you ever done an interview where the questions have you thinking, 'Ho hum, the same old same old'?
You wrack your brain to come up with different spins in an effort to keep your responses fresh and interesting.
I liken it to good actors trying to make a mediocre script work. They can do their best but the film is never going to be anything other than average.
So imagine my delight when Shawn StJean invited me to be interviewed about my novel IMBROGLIO and did some very in-depth digging about my characterisation. He is a university professor, after all, and teaches literature among other things but ... that's no guarantee.
On top of that he asked if I had photos to illustrate the interview, other than the usual author head shot and cover jpeg. I have to say the ones I gave him look good on the interview post. You'll have to go to the interview to see what they are.
I like the photo idea so much I'm going to steal it from him for my future author interviews.
Here's the link to the interview on Shawn's website Clotho's loom
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 22, 2012 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
Before we talk to Shawn I want to say that the links on the authors named by him are to Wikipedia pages about them.
Alana: Shawn, let’s get straight to it. Mild-mannered university professor. Calculating sniper-assassin. I know that, like your male protagonist Will, you’re a university professor. But sniper-assassin? Where does that fit?
Shawn: It's fascinating to see what people accept under the ‘willing suspension of their disbelief’, as Wordsworth and Coleridge defined it in England and Hawthorne did in America. Many people will credit survival in a plane crash much more readily than a baby lifting its head inside of a month of being born.
Alana: Was the baby based on anyone real?
Shawn: Depends on what you mean by real. I had a few myths in mind, which Hawthorne said are 'more real than real', because they are eternal. But CLOTHO'S LOOM is full of allusions, as you pointed out, and part of the fun for me was to leave them as puzzles for my readers.
Bear in mind that good literature and film only offer extreme representations of what regular people endure every day. The less extreme ones we call Realism and the more extreme used to be called Romance (not necessarily having anything to do with love).
Alana: Ah, I made that mistake in my review, thinking the Romance in the sub-title referred to the relationship between the two main characters, Will and Nexus. My apologies, I interrupted you.
Shawn: Please feel free to interrupt whenever you want. Where was I? Oh yes—Human beings can and do undergo such radical swings, not only in external circumstance, but in their interaction with the world. And I think Plato would say these are only illusory ‘forms’ anyway. It's not giving much away to say that, in becoming an assassin, Will is still consistently struggling to do what he thinks is right, make a difference (not unlike the ones our own US government employs today). And in my view, failure at doing that is far more common than success.
Alana: If you don’t mind me saying, there are so many questions the book raised for me about you. To begin with, your knowledge of the military, how snipers operate, military machinery—everything military, it seems to me—appears extensive. Where does that come from?
Shawn: I've heard that Tom Clancy was once debriefed on his supposed knowledge of military hardware but he was never in the military. And if you survey informed opinions about the best Civil War novels they'll give you The Red Badge of Courage. But, again, the author, Stephen Crane, was never in the military. He also wrote the book very early in life and died at age 28.
Alana: Yes, I understand because, when you think about it, most authors build on their knowledge with research. Or even employ pure imagination, particularly in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.
Shawn: Exactly. Every sci-fi writer has to have confidence in the worth of extrapolation from what little we do know: current trends and human nature. Watch a single episode of Star Trek. It was inevitable that people would fantasize about long-range wireless telephones. The fantasy appears and, voilà, thirty years later the reality. And if you see a laser gun in that same episode and declare ‘Oh, but that's impossible!’ I'd say you're being naïve about human ambition. Just wait.
In my case, I have been a Marine and have known actual snipers—what they're capable of, and what limitations they labor under (both technologically and psychologically). And I have my imagination. That's all.
Alana: Okay. But how about your knowledge (because obviously it’s not experience) of childbirth and how a mother feels about a child.
Shawn: As a man without children of my own I'm sure the details of my book could be picked apart by anyone with an intimate knowledge of childbirth. But, talk to any woman—listen to her—is it possible to escape some sense of what motherhood means, down to the deep biological levels? I once had a young student who began her essay about animals ‘The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest forces of nature’, and I thought, Wow, what a great way to begin.
And I'm lucky enough to still know my own mother. I dedicated the book to her (with my father).
Alana: I realise that your education and profession means your vocabulary is going to be more extensive that the average person’s, but the language of CLOTHO’S LOOM comes across as much more than that. It comes across as a real love of the English language. Am I right? And when did that love begin?
Shawn: I was too young to remember the genesis—I'm kidding you with that last word. Yeah, we grew up without video games and a lot of toys, playing outdoors much of the time, but people like my grandmother made the invaluable effort to read aloud to me, and indulge my questions. When I could read myself my Dad was always putting a book in my hand—whatever he liked himself, which was always advanced for my age.
Alana: For me it was my mother. As far back as my memory takes me. Although funnily enough she wasn’t the big reader in the family; that was my father. I guess she wanted to engender the same love he had for them.
Shawn: I think I read Frankenstein when I was 10, and The Once and Future King (about double the length and complexity of CLOTHO'S LOOM) at 11 or 12.
Alana: I loved that one too, when I read it. Which was in my early 20s, not quite as young as you. I don’t remember it being so long—a testament to how much I loved it I suppose.
Shawn: People forget that in those days it was normal to have two huge books in the house: a dictionary and a Bible. The pace was not hurried—you enjoyed reading—and so you inquired after things to understand them better, and grow. In those days I learned more at home than in school: education came largely through imitation. And my working vocabulary is no greater than that found in any novella by Edgar Rice Burroughs or short story by James Joyce, to cite only 20th-century writers. Anything from the 19th or earlier needs a strong control of one's native tongue.
Alana: I haven’t read much of Burroughs but I loved Tarzan as a kid and I actually have all of the Barsoom series that I intend getting to one day. But I must admit to not having read any of Joyce. I tried Ulysses when I was younger but didn’t have the patience. Am I correct in saying that CLOTHO’S LOOM is your first solo work of fiction?
Shawn: It is. Previously, I published two university press books, academic stuff that only specialists in American Lit. would bother with. Mom read them, though, bless her heart.
Alana: What compelled you to write CLOTHO’S LOOM?
Shawn: I've been teaching for 20 years now, reading for 40+. I had to try storytelling on my own, having both undergone and offered so much training and criticism. And I wanted to create, you might say, the exact kind of book I myself would want to discover on the shelves. It's not for everyone. But neither is it one of those ‘just for me’ creations. I challenged myself to stay within the conventions of literary craft, as I understand them.
Short version: I wanted tough, fulfilling work and, boy, I got it. It required a long time, but the Universe was kind enough to grant it to me. I would not trade those days of labor away.
Alana: A university professor is a pretty rarified profession. What are you a professor of? How did that eventuate?
Shawn: Not as rarified as being a truly independent author, I'd wager! I'm still waiting to meet one unconstrained by the marketplace.
Well, Professor of whatever they ask of me. Writing, literature, film, social sciences, women's studies. I had good undergraduate training, and I've retrained myself a few times too. But math is beyond me—you have to know your limitations (laughs). Read page one of CLOTHO'S LOOM, and you'll see how much of a pseudo-scientist I am.
After the service, I simply returned to my love of storytelling, and it led me pretty directly to teaching. Paraphrasing Thoreau, I figured I'd lingered long enough in the woods, and it was time to live my next life.
Alana: Shawn, thank you so much for talking with me. It’s been a real pleasure discovering more about you and CLOTHO’S LOOM.
Take this link to my review of CLOTHO'S LOOM
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
Marvin J Wolf, author of THE TATTOOED RABBI
Alana: Marvin, welcome. Thank you for agreeing to an interview. Before we talk about THE TATTOOED RABBI could you give us a line or two about yourself. I believe you’ve had a very interesting career and rubbed shoulders with some famous notables.
Marvin: Hi Alana. Thanks for the interest you’ve shown in my work. I have been very fortunate to have a long career filled with very interesting and often quirky people. It all began in 1965 when I re-enlisted in the US Army, pretending to be a photographer, and volunteered for Vietnam. By the time I completed my combat tour I was in fact a photographer, and I had begun to write news copy. Much more interesting and relevant, however, was that I was part of the famous First Air Cavalry Division, in the Public Information Office.
Alana: That must have been exciting, for want of a better description.
Marvin: We were the hottest, newest and most interesting outfit in the war, and a magnet for the media.
Alana: I imagine you came into contact with some well-known media personalities then?
Marvin: I met some of the world’s most interesting and accomplished reporters, the cream of the international media. Near the end of my tour I spent a week escorting John Steinbeck, who was in Vietnam ostensibly for Newsday, a Long Island daily newspaper, but more to the point writing personal back-channel communiqués for one of his oldest friends, Lyndon Johnson, who just happened to be the President of the United States.
Alana: A week with John Steinbeck? I’m envious. You must have had some good chats.
Marvin: I had one long chat with him about writing and years later, when I decided to reshape my career and become a fulltime writer, a couple of the things he told me stuck in my memory. Very useful and ultimately inspiring to the long, hard scramble that becoming a fulltime self-employed writer requires.
Alana: Any interesting/funny/quirky anecdotes you feel able to share?
Marvin: Oh, where do I start? Here’s one: In 1992, when I first began working on the autobiography of Native American icon Russell Means, I flew to South Dakota with a list of people to see and places to visit.
Nothing went according to plan. By chance I found one of his sons, who was in Sioux Falls, and he was with his brother. They asked me to drive them both back to Rapid City, which is clear at the opposite end of the state, and agreed to talk to me about their father on the way. Six hours later, when we were about 20 miles outside Rapid City, I discovered that one of the brothers, the one sitting behind me in my rented car, had escaped from prison in Sioux Falls. He was serving a long sentence for murder.
Alana: Heavens! What happened?
Marvin: Well, there I am with an escaped murderer in my car and every time a police car passed I wondered what would happen if they stopped me. Would I be arrested for helping an escaped killer? Or would he kill me when we got to Rapid City? As it happened he was very nice and very polite and when he asked to borrow a few bucks I gave him twenty—and he said that was too much, and gave ten back.
Alana: A polite and courteous murderer! Could have been a lot worse.
Marvin: He just wanted to see his mother, who was ill, and when he had spent a few days with her he turned himself in to the police. By then I was in Minneapolis.
Alana: Well, thank goodness for that. But let’s get on to THE TATTOOED RABBI. What gave you the idea for a story about a rabbi?
Marvin: I liked the idea of a non-traditional detective, someone who brought a different skill set to the job. Not a cop, or a former cop.
Years ago, when I was in the Army, I spent several months as an instructor at the Ranger School. I taught hand-to-hand combat to officer candidates, newly commissioned infantry officers, and captains in the infantry career course. I learned a great deal about Ranger School. It was and is a three-week course, all patrolling. During each of three, five-day patrols, the students are issued rations for three days. They’re expected to live off the land for the rest. In other words, snakes, lizards, rabbits, birds, fish—whatever they could dig up or hunt while moving an average of a dozen miles a day through very rough terrain.
I subsequently spent another dozen years in the Army and came to know several rabbis—Jewish chaplains. Only one of them was a Ranger School graduate, and he was the only rabbi ever to complete the course. It had as much to do with the difficulties of the school as it had to do with being forced to eat snakes,lizards and rabbits or go hungry. A rabbi who follows Jewish dietary law, called Kashrut, would never eat such things. The one rabbi I met was an Orthodox rabbi, very observant, so he went hungry a lot, and he carried some extra food. He was also extraordinarily fit. Ran five miles every morning for his entire Army career. When we met he was the only rabbi in South Korea and was on the road constantly, travelling all over the country.
Alana: So you thought of him when planning Rabbi Ben?
Marvin: That was the seed for Rabbi Ben Maimon. He was fit and he roves the country, helping where needed. One thing I learned from Steinbeck was that nothing in a writer’s life need go to waste. So when I graduated from true crime books to novels I thought of this rabbi.
I also have a very good friend who is a rabbi, and two of the things I most admire about him is that he is exceptionally well-read on an enormous variety of subjects, and he is a master of the ancient Jewish logic called pilpul, the logic of the Talmud.
So those two rabbis became the nucleus of my character Rabbi Ben. I liked the idea of having him move around the country, so I had to think of a reason why he didn’t stay in one place as a rabbi of one synagogue. That reason is part of the story, a secret that he keeps about himself, and an obstacle to having an ordinary rabbinical career.
Alana: When you first thought about it, did you have just the one story in mind or did you envision a series from the start?
Marvin: I was shooting for a series from the start. The first book just kind of tumbled out of me. I dreamt a chapter, or a part of one, almost every night for several weeks. I’d get up and start writing. When I was finished with the first draft, of course, I had to go back and rewrite from the start, make it flow. That took longer than the first draft.
Alana: I think most writers operate like that. I take it you’re Jewish, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you would know the detail about a rabbi’s life and what they need to know. Did you already have that knowledge or is it a result of research?
Marvin: I am Jewish, and I had a Jewish education as a boy, but my real education came after I left the Army and became a single parent. I used to study Torah with a very famous local rabbi and I found it very interesting, especially the style of our study, which is called exegesis, where one seeks the hidden meanings in every word, every sentence, every retelling of a story within the Bible.
About ten years ago I was asked to serve on the board of directors of my synagogue, and that was another kind of education. Eventually I became vice president, and then treasurer. So, without being aware of it, I was accumulating a store of information about Jewish institutions. But when I started to write the book I realized that I actually knew very little in comparison to most rabbis. So I frequently consulted with one or another. I also did a lot of online research about particular subjects.
Alana: Is Ben in any way you? By that I mean have you written any of your personality traits, experience and knowledge into Ben? I rather like the idea of a martial arts rabbi.
Marvin: The thing about being a novelist is that you become a sort of god of a tiny world. Ben is me, or at least he is part of me. But so is everyone else in the novel. I had the advantage of learning about hand-to-hand combat when I was a very young soldier, and I have a nephew who practices two of the martial arts. In terms of personality traits, Ben is a manifestation of the man I would like to be, but never can or will be. He is an aspirational character. His thought processes are similar to mine, except that he’s smarter and quicker. But I am older and more experienced.
Alana: Has the next in the series, THE YOUTUBE RABBI, been published? If not, when can we expect it to be available?
Marvin: The next book should be out early in 2013. I hope. And I just finished a draft of the third book, THE PATIENT RABBI.
Alana: Marvin, thank you so much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Marvin: The pleasure is entirely mine.
Take this link to Alana Woods' book reviews: THE TATTOOED RABBI by Marvin J Wolf
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 27, 2012 at 9:00 PM||comments (0)|
Guess who won the TRAPPED ON DRACONICA blog tour major prize?
And just in case you didn't see what the prize included, it was:
- 1 signed copy of TRAPPED ON DRACONICA
- 1 one page mini-comic extra
- 1 TRAPPED ON DRACONICA t-shirt
- 1 signed piece of artwork by Alexis M Centeno herself
- 1 artwork book showing character sketches and an interview with the artist
I'm absolutely thrilled.
My thanks to Dan Wright, aka Pandragon Dan, for pulling my name out of the hat
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (4)|
Dan and I hit it off so nicely when I reviewed TRAPPED ON DRACONICA a while back that when he asked if I’d be interested in participating in his blog tour I said yes immediately.
The tour is running daily for a week—I’m day 5. It started on the 19th and finishes on the 25th. You’ll find links to other stops at the bottom, as well as details about the prizes you can win and how to enter. I SO want to win the biggie!
What I was interested in talking to Dan about was manga. I know absolutely nothing about it and assumed plenty of others would be in the same boat. So without further ado let’s get educated!
Alana: Hi Dan, nice to be catching up with you again. Before we get into the nitty gritty would you give a bit of background about yourself, e.g. where you call home, if you have a day job and what it is, married or eligible.
Dan: Certainly. I live in Canterbury, Kent, UK with my brother and pet cat. I tend not to stay with any jobs for a long time; right now I’m working in a call centre part time, but writing is my first passion and I intend to make a career of it in the future. No wife or girlfriend but I’m still hoping for the day Nicole Scherzinger turns up on my doorstep ... well, we can dream, can’t we?
Alana: You’re not alive if you don’t!
Dan: In my spare time I like to play/listen to music, watch films/TV and read. Right now, as well as writing, I’m reading and reviewing a number of books from indie authors. I like to support authors of all kinds and it’s fun delving into genres that I wouldn’t have normally been into before (ie romance). I’ve made friends with lots of different authors as well, which is nice.
Alana: I wasn't familiar with manga until I read TRAPPED ON DRACONICA. Can you give us a potted explanation of what it is.
Dan: A manga is a Japanese comic but it can also refer to a style of Japanese art. Anime is the television version of it. It is a very influential art style that is extremely popular across the world as much as it is in Japan. It usually involves heavily stylised characters and cartoony, tongue-in-cheek humour with over-the-top expressions—even in serious shows. In the past it’s also been known for being extremely violent and with an over-abundance of blood and death—but not every manga is violent and most tend to be quite controlled, which is a good thing.
Alana: Is manga specifically a part of the fantasy genre or can it be used in any genre?
Dan: Many believe it’s specifically for fantasy/sci-fi, mainly because the most popular stories (Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, the list goes on) tend to be in that sort of genre. A lot of fantasy style RPG games (Final Fantasy, Zelda, etc.) tend to be in this sort of style as well. But in actual fact manga can be used for practically ANY genre or story. In Japan they have a manga for many different demographics.
Slice of Life manga’s are very popular; these are real life stories dealing with family issues, sexuality, school life or just coming of age. They also have a lot of manga specially for children such as Hamtaro, a manga about a talking hamster. It’s one of the few examples of the ‘cute animal’ appeal in manga. There are also a lot of sports mangas covering a wide range of sports (Prince of Tennis being one of the most famous at its time). Believe it or not there are even some written specifically for businessmen about trying to climb the corporate ladder to become successful. So manga doesn’t have to be specifically about anything, it can cover pretty much any subject or genre.
However, I think it works well with fantasy because of the overly stylised characters and strong use of magic and action. Fantasy and manga seem to perfectly complement each other; at least that’s what I found when I wrote in this style.
Alana: Do you write in other genres or is fantasy/manga 'it' for you?
Dan: I think I enjoy writing fantasy because there are no restrictions and I can write a story that allows my mind to go wild.
Having said that, I would like to branch out to other genres in the future, expand my range. I have a Lovecraftian type horror book that I’ve had an idea about for years but have yet to put on paper. I also have an idea for a possible romance/black comedy but, again, I’ve yet to write it. Another is a science fiction story that I think I can work in conjunction with my fantasy world; it’s just a question of putting the ideas together. Problem is I have about 1000 ideas in my head at any one time but rarely feel that any are good enough to be expanded on.
Alana: Lovecraftian? You’re going to have to explain that.
Dan: Lovecraftian horror is a term coined by writer HP Lovecraft. The following link explains it better than I can.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovecraftian_horror— Lovecraftian horror is a sub-genre of horror fiction which emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (in some cases, unknowable) over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present. It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937).
Alana: How did you become interested in fantasy and manga?
Dan: From an early age I’ve loved medieval type fantasy and Greek mythology. My dad would read me lots of stories by CS Lewis, Roald Dahl and Mervyn Peake (who wrote the Gormenghast series) ...
Alana: You’re the first person I know who’s also read Gormenghast. I read it years ago and loved it so much so I bought a Folio Society boxed set.
Dan: ... I also loved watching the classic Harryhausen stop motion capture films (like Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, Sinbad, etc.) ...
Alana: If they’re the ones I’m thinking of, so did I!
Dan: ... and I also loved the stories of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe and King Arthur ...
Alana: Dan, we could be twins!
Dan ... I also used to spend A LOT (and I mean a lot) of my money on Games Workshop miniatures and played a lot of games like that, so it made sense that I would eventually start writing fantasy of my own.
Alana: Mmm, there we part company. I’ve never been a games person.
Dan: Believe it or not I actually wasn’t into manga much when I first wrote TRAPPED ON DRACONICA and never intended it to be a manga story. But when Alexis M Centeno (my artist) first approached me and did some character designs I was blown away by her art style and I knew I had to have her on board. I started reading more mangas and loved the fact that it can be deadly serious and also extremely over the top and humorous at the same time. I then applied some of this to my own writing style and I think it made me a stronger writer.
Alana: TRAPPED ON DRACONICA is about a boy with a disadvantaged background who, through fighting the baddies, experiences personal growth. Is the story somehow personal to you or purely from your imagination?
Dan: The idea of a boy being taken away from his own world and appearing in another one was something that I learned from Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. However, the character of Ben was partly inspired by a kid I used to know at school. The rumour was his father beat and abused him (it was never proved). This kid fell into a bad group and started doing bad things; he was expelled for setting a girl’s hair on fire. Last I heard of him was a good few years ago when a guy I used to go to school with (who is now a policeman) told me this kid was on Kent’s top 10 most wanted. I dunno what happened to him but I remember feeling a little sorry for him. He wasn’t a bad kid; he just did bad things because of the life he had.
What I was going for in the story is the difference between friends and true friendship. Ben (the protagonist) hangs out with some pretty nasty thugs who use him as a getaway tool, but during this journey Ben makes real friends who stick by him and teach him what real friendship is about. I always like to put uplifting and positive messages in my books because I believe that anyone (even those who have done bad things) deserve a chance at redemption.
Alana: What do you have in store for your readers in the future?
Dan:I have a few other novels out already set in the Draconica world, including a couple of prequels.
I have a sequel to TRAPPED ON DRACONICA set for next year called LEGACY OFTHE DRAGONKIN. I’m excited about this one as it takes the story in a completely new direction and introduces readers to new characters. It will also expand on a few of the characters from TRAPPED ON DRACONICA and throw in a few twists along the way.
LEGACY OF THE DRAGONKIN is also the first act in what I call my Final Ragnarok Countdown. Without giving too much away this is something I’ve been kinda foreshadowing in my other works and is leading up to a big event in the Draconica universe. If you know the legend of Ragnarok then you may have guessed what it is ... but I think there will still be a few surprises in store for you.
Alana: No, I don’t know the legend. You’ve just set me some homework. Dan, thanks so much for talking with me, I’ve learnt so much!
Tour dates and stops
19.11.12 Mysti Parker: character interviews
20.11.12 Sasha Summers: guest post
21.11.12 Sheenah Freitas: guest post
22.11.12 Michelle Horst: guest post
23.11.12 Alana Woods: interview
24.11.12 Brian Wilkerson: geography of Draconica
25.11.12 Read2Review: guest post
Prizes will be drawn 26 November. Dan will conduct the draws and contact prize winners after that date.
To enter use the Rafflecopter link
Dan lives in the UK, his home town being Canterbury, Kent. A huge fan of both fantasy and manga, he has a style that combines both within his writing, which lets him tell stories that are both dramatic and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. Dan also runs his own website, blog and even a wiki page that goes into detail about the world of Draconica. He is a book reviewer, which he does independently and on his website Read2Review. Authors who have inspired Dan are Douglas Adams, JRR Tolkien, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon and Hiromu Arakawa.
Dan's contact links
Where to buy TRAPPED ON DRACONICA
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 20, 2012 at 1:50 AM||comments (0)|
Pandragon Dan's weeklong blog tour began on 19 November - that's yesterday in my part of the world but today in many others.
First stop is at Unwritten, Mysti Parker's blog stop
Mysti interviews the stars of Trapped on Draconica
Drop by to read what they have to say and to enter the competition for great prizes
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 10, 2012 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
This is the fourth in my series of author interviews to accompany a book's review. This week's interview is with Sherry Snider and she talks about her latest book WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN?
Alana: Sherry, welcome. Before talking about your new book would you give us a little insight into Sherry Snider: where you call home, married or eligible, what your day job is, that sort of thing.
Sherry: Oh, sure! I’m quite proud to be a ‘southerner’. Geographically a person can’t get much more southern. I was born in Tennessee, raised in Georgia and have lived most of my adult life in Alabama.
As much as I love to travel it’s just not always feasible. One of the most awesome benefits of being a techie is that I CAN stay in Alabama and still connect, chat, and communicate easily with friends and co-workers anywhere in the world.
My husband’s an IT (Information Technology) guy too, so in all honesty we are a pair of high-tech rednecks. We’re actually very fortunate that most of our family, outlaws and inlaws, live nearby. Some are even within walking distance (or a quick 4-wheeler ride) through the woods.
On the Ponderosa it’s just me, him, and our toy poodle, Doodle, who truly owns the house. Well, my husband calls our home the Ponderosa. I call it Belly Acres. I thought it was ‘punny’, and it makes my friends smile.
Alana: I think Belly Acres is very funny, and very 'punny'. Love it!
Sherry: I created a personal blog at http://www.bellyacresalabama.com/, mostly so I could post stories and info family and friends would enjoy that wasn’t quite as technical as most of my work.
As Sherry Snider, Technical Writer, most folks who know me personally kind of know what I do, but even I understand that most people find traditional technical manuals dull as dishwater.
Alana: What does being a technical writer mean? What do you write? Do you specialise in any particular type of ‘tech’,eg, computing, electronic?
Sherry: I'm a career technical writer … which can actually mean many things. I know dozens of technical writers and none of us do the exact same job. The skill sets vary, but most technical writers must be proficient as writers/editors AND experienced in one or more technical or specialized fields.
I’ve been a technical writer for years, so I’ve gotten to play with lots of cool tech.
My favorites are hardware and software instructional materials—written and multimedia. Reference materials are interesting, but instructional materials are more fun.
Or, if I’m at a cocktail party, I try to keep it simple. I ask … You know the instructions that come with a new purchase? … a phone, a DVD player, new software, or anything with some assembly or setup required? I write those, but for more complicated gadgets.
Alana: Are the books you write always your own ideas, or do you do commissioned writing too?
Sherry: All the books and materials I write in my ‘day job’ are based on the needs of the company or project. Sometimes those needs are already clearly defined. For other projects I help analyse the product or service, the needs of the company, the needs of the end user/reader/student, etc. and help develop a project plan to create the most efficient and effective materials.
I’ll write whatever they pay me to write, but the general public rarely sees my day job work. Even the technicians and students who use the materials will never know that I wrote them.
The books, web sites and blogs I personally publish are for the general public … actually, for targeted niche segments of the general public, depending on the topic. I’ve written for English teachers and students, technical writers, documentation teams who must meet Federal regulations for section 508 compliant PDFs, and for this latest series (WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN?), authors.
Audience/target reader is everything since all my work (day job and other) is based on answering questions and fulfilling needs.
Alana: Do you write anything other than technical books?
Sherry: Not everything I write is technical, but I pretty much stick with nonfiction. I love to read fiction, but nonfiction is where my professional passions are.
I have agreed to co-author children’s books, but they are in very early planning stages. Some of those will be fiction.
I’m afraid I’ll need a co-author to drag me through fiction writing. Writing fiction alone just isn’t practical for me. I go down way too many rabbit trails questioning a million whys and hows. I’ll have to have a fiction writer with me to say ‘Stop it. None of that is relevant to the story. Move on’.
Obviously, my independent work will remain with nonfiction … where detailed analysis works for me rather than against me.
Alana: All right, enough chit chat, let’s talk about your new book, the one I’ve just reviewed, WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN? It’s on a subject that is, or should be, dear to all authors’ hearts: how to sign eBooks. What gave you the idea?
Sherry: Well, I asked myself the question the first time I bought an ebook. I love book signings. They create warm, happy memories for both authors and fans. I also love the economy and efficiency of ebooks. I didn’t want to lose either.
I started digging and found Kindlegraph (now Authorgraph) pretty quickly. It was an initial alternative, but I didn’t get that warm, happy feeling, so I kept digging. I found other solutions that allowed authors to physically sign printed books over long distances via a computer-controlled mechanical arm, which is very cool, but it still didn’t answer the question … what do ebook authors sign?
I happened to catch a replay of an online ebook signing event sponsored by GoodEReader. HP Mallory was actually signing ebooks and sending them to fans—live and online, and she was using Autography. At this time Autography was still relatively new and not widely accessible but co-founder, Tom Waters, was at the event too. I picked his brain for months as Autography grew into an incredible app and service that’s now freely available to all authors.
I was fascinated and convinced that ebook signing WAS possible and SHOULD be available for every author immediately. Ebook sales are overtaking traditional book sales, and online connections between authors and fans are easier than ever. It just makes sense.
It’s the digital age, and now we have digital solutions. It became a mission for me to spread the knowledge that authors can sign ebooks and that readers can BUY unique, personalized, signed ebooks for themselves or as gifts.
Alana: In WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN? you discuss seven systems that enable digital signing; which ones do you use? And why?
Sherry: Oh, I like alternatives. What works best for me may not be the best option for another author, so I tried to cover all the major options, show the pros and cons of each, and offer step-by-step instructions for each. That way authors can get a good idea of each system and decide which one might work best before they sign up. I personally like to know what I’m getting into BEFORE I sign up for anything.
Personally, the two systems that work best for me are Autography (for actually signing ebooks) and the Wacom Bamboo Paper app (for spur of the moment photos and general autographs).
I do think Fanado could be another amazing option as a one-stop shop for online events and book/ebook signings. I’ll keep readers posted on the blog and the Facebook group with updates on all the services in the book and any new ones that come out.
Alana: Which one do you recommend for authors who are total tech-phobes who are probably going into melt-down thinking about it as we speak?
Sherry: Ha! My specialty is translating geek to English, so the instructions in the book for each of the services are specifically there for folks who don’t want to tinker with technology. They just want the simple steps to make it work. I try to ask and answer all the questions authors might have about each … so they don’t have to struggle.
With that said, by far the easiest system is Authorgraph (formerly Kindlegraph). It’s not my favorite because it’s more like signing (or typing) a page in an autograph book rather than signing an actual book, but it is a very simple system. It’s a great place for authors to ‘get their feet wet’ with digital signings.
Alana: I have to say that the prospect of this sort of thing tends to induce mild conniptions on my part too; my brain tends to freeze when presented with a set of instructions for something I’m not familiar with. I wish I was the type that got excited, but I’m not. I’m presuming you thought of people like me when writing the book?
Sherry: Truly, the other digital signing services in the book are very author and user-friendly. I dug deep into the nuts and bolts to research them all, but I kept the screen shots and instructions specific to the needs of the author. ‘Just show me how it works’. … click by click.
My intention with the book is to help authors become familiar with the options and see how easy it is to follow the steps and start signing and selling signed ebooks. For readers who might have additional questions, and because technology grows daily, I also post updates on the blog and created a bonus Facebook group specifically for What Do Ebook Authors Sign? readers. I’m all about connecting—beyond the book.
Too, good tech writers know that just writing a ‘missing manual’ for software or a gadget isn’t enough. It has to actually be useable by the reader. We’re really just a bunch of teachers and translators (geek to English).
Alana: Sherry, thank you so much for talking about your book and giving us so much information. I’m off now to put your recommendations into practice!
Take this link to Alana Woods' book reviews: WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN?
WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN? on Amazon.com
WHAT DO EBOOK AUTHORS SIGN? on Amazon.co.uk
Sherry's What do eBook authors sign? website
Sherry's blog: bellyacresalabama.com
My books on Amazon.com (includes India)
My books on Amazon.UK
My books on Amazon.ca
My books on Amazon.de
My books on Amazon.fr
My books on Amazon.it
My books on Amazon.es
My books on Amazon.jp
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 3, 2012 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
This is the third in my series of author interviews to accompany a book's review. This week's interview is with Rosanne Dingli and she talks about her latest book CAMERA OBSCURA.
Alana: Rosanne, before we talk about CAMERA OBSCURA would you tell us a little about yourself e.g. where you live and your profession.
Rosanne: Alana, I live and work in Western Australia, but my arena is the world. Since 2010 I have taken on writing full-time and also edit, format and typeset books for other independent authors.
Alana: I’m an editor too and love it. I’ve always said that if I have to work at least I’m doing something I like. I worked in publishing for most of my full-time career and format and typeset my own books but not for anyone else. Tell us how you got into that side of the book business.
Rosanne: I love book design. I did not come to it cold. As a youngster I helped my uncle in his printing press, and I have had career connections to publishing since 1985. I’ve worked variously as different kinds of editor, and magazine experience has taught me page layout and a number of other skills. My happy clients are everywhere—from right here in Perth to New York and Scotland.
Alana: What about your writing?
Rosanne: That’s been informed by my education and my background. I’ve taught literature and languages. I’ve lectured in writing. I have had close associations with a number of organisations for writers, namely the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the KSP Foundation and others, and I have also held a post on the Western Australian Literature Board for two terms.
Alana: Well, now, I’m dying to get into the nitty gritty about CAMERA OBSCURA. Where did the idea come from to use that device around which to weave the story? Or did you have the story before you knew about camera obscuras—if so, how did the two come together?
Rosanne: It’s always the words that trigger me. I needed something for the story to hinge on, and because my protagonist is a photojournalist using the word camera seemed obvious. The book travelled under another title for a while, but I went back to CAMERA OBSCURA. It fitted so well with the changing sentiments of my characters. Light and dark.
I studied history of art and architecture, so understanding of the camera obscura, as used by Vermeer and other artists, was gained when I was still a student trying to figure what I wanted to do. Visual art was always a challenging and satisfying undertaking for me—this was the book I had to write. I love writing about the Arts, about paintings and artists’ lives, music, and literature. So I always embroider artistic aspects into my writing.
Alana: When you say you HAD to write it, what do you mean?
Rosanne: Sometimes we carry around ‘what ifs’ in our heads for years as writers. There are aspects of relationships between lovers, say … or fathers and sons, which we wonder about. I had wrapped a mental story around fatherhood and had to write it. This was the result. I also like using male protagonists, ones who find purpose and direction only after some momentous event. I needed to write this story because it shows how battling inertia and coming through to a decisive attitude is possible.
I also wanted to write a story where the personalities of a couple clashed. Incompatibility has always been fascinating to me. I wanted to create an incompatible couple, to see how far they went and whether a relationship can outlast that initial flush of curiosity or attraction, even if the couple has little in common.
Alana: Your descriptions of Malta are so detailed and evocative, you must have visited the island at some length. If not, your research must have been extensive and meticulous. Put me out of my misery, which was it?
Rosanne: I was born and raised in Malta and only left in my mid-20s.
Alana: Oh wow, I’m envious. My husband John and I spent a week there two years ago and absolutely loved it. John said it reminded him very much of South Australia, around Lameroo and Pinaroo—so dry and rocky, bleached. I loved the history as well.
Rosanne: It is a place full of its own amazing and eventful history, many linked to the events of my life. It’s a tiny island whose people are quite amazing.
Alana: How did you end up in Western Australia?
Rosanne: I emigrated to Australia in the very early eighties and lived in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales before finally settling in Perth, where I met my Belgian husband. Together, and later with our two children, we have travelled quite a bit overseas, mostly Europe.
Alana: You say Malta’s history is often linked to your own in relation to your stories.
Rosanne: Yes, the locations I use are always ones with important personal meaning—so in each place you can be sure that I have treaded in person, and that something important to me has happened where my characters set foot and live out their own momentous events.
Alana: Once again you use art as the catalyst for your characters’ actions. You have a background in the Arts so I can see why your interests lie in that direction? How much research do you still need to do to give your stories such a ring of authenticity?
Rosanne: Research is what I truly love—possibly more than I like writing. Looking facts, figures and statistics up and threading them through my stories is a very enjoyable occupation.
Alana: Do you stick to the facts about art etc., or do you embroider for your own purposes?
Rosanne: All my stories are built on fact. I use pictures, music, references to literature … and each one is a personal gem; each one means something to me. People who know me can laugh at some references, such as the white chain store underwear I give Minnie in CAMERA OBSCURA, or mention of the Manoel Theatre, for example, because they are hints about my personal tastes, likes and dislikes, and experiences.
My very thorough and intense education in Malta was based on the Humanities. The Arts have always occupied my thoughts and my work. I studied English, Italian, and French literature, four languages, and pursued History of Art and Architecture. It seemed inevitable that I would write about subjects in which I feel avidly interested and fairly confident.
If you asked me what I prefer to do above anything else, it’s research. Even when I feel I know a subject I delve into books and the internet in search of meaningful detail. I add special little props and hints to all my writing. Even my short stories refer to literature and locations, art and music that hint at my personal preferences.
Alana: The story really delves into the psychology of people's actions. What stirs that in your brain—something bizarre, juicy, quirky?
Rosanne: You get to my stage of life and experience, and comprehension of the motivation that lies behind the things people do—or leave undone—becomes extremely absorbing. I like to give my characters the motivations and aims I find captivating when I put them together with my ‘what ifs’.
It’s like a matching game. I take a hypothetical situation, link it to human motivation or some aim a person might have, and then place it in a fascinating location, helped along by a number of historic or artistic props. Then I have the bones of a novel, which I flesh out with action, some interesting supporting characters, and two or three sub-plots.
Alana: It doesn’t have an over-abundance of violence (of the physical variety) but it does have some. How do you develop the fight scenes? Do you act them out with someone? If so, have you had any mishaps as a result?
Rosanne: Choreographing the ‘business’ and action that takes place inside a novel can be very hard if you are not a very visual person, and I am not. I do not have a good memory for physical actions and very rarely watch movies or TV. This means I must be very careful with my action scenes and they are basically rather simple. I do it all on paper, using crosses and arrows! I make mud maps of where people stand, the places they occupy when they sit around a table, and so forth. This means I know where they are all the time and can accurately follow their movements. I can even very accurately describe whether they talk across a table to someone or turn to address them because they’re sitting right next to the speaker. I can’t remember the first action scene I wrote but a reader asked me something like, ‘How could he hit him if he was halfway across the room by then?’ That question made me very careful about action from then on.
Alana: I understand you’re already working on the next book. Would you give us a clue about what we can expect or do we have to wait until it’s published? Do you have an expected publish date?
Rosanne: Yes, my next novel, whose title is still under wraps, is a chase across Europe again. This time it takes on aspects of WWII, and the references are to do with music and a certain very famous composer. The clues are mainly carried by art and jewellery.
I love classical music and it seemed unavoidable to one day dedicate a whole novel to the emotional and eventful history of music. I also have devised what I feel is a good story, and I can promise my readers what they have come to expect of me—a fine romance, coupled with a mystery that takes place in some entrancing locations, using lots of background material they can look up.
I do not have a publication date, but so far for the last two years I have come up with a novel around Easter. Let’s see if I can do it in 2013 too!
Alana: Rosanne, thank you so much for agreeing to the interview. I feel I know you now, and that’s surely the mark of an interesting and candid interviewee.
Rosanne: Alana, the pleasure is all mine. I love talking about my writing, and your questions were quite different and thought-provoking. Thank you so much for having me.
Take this link to Alana Woods' book reviews of CAMERA OBSCURA
CAMERA OBSCURA on Amazon.com
CAMERA OBSCURA on Amazon.co.uk
Rosanne's blog (if you're a Sudoku fan check it out)
My books on Amazon.com (includes India)
My books on Amazon.UK
My books on Amazon.ca
My books on Amazon.de
My books on Amazon.fr
My books on Amazon.it
My books on Amazon.es
My books on Amazon.jp
|Posted by Alana Woods on October 13, 2012 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
Last week I began to accompany my book reviews with interviews of the authors. My thinking was that readers might like to find out some behind-the-scenes facts about the books reviewed.
My aim with reviews is to do one a week but interviewing the author adds complexity because in all fairness they need a bit of time to respond to questions. Depending on the amount of time I give them to respond this may mean sometimes carrying over to the next Sunday.
However, that isn’t the case this week. Although I gave him only a couple of days Seumas Gallacher came through for me!
So grab on to your seat and let him take you into the world of the SAS, triads and the diamond trade.
Alana: Seumas, how are you? I’m dying to know how a trainee banker from Scotland ended up writing about the SAS and triads. Is it the result of a stint with either one? Or was it plain old-fashioned assiduous research?
Seumas: Hi, Alana. Before I answer with neither a lawyer nor a safety net present, let me first thank you for permitting this trespass onto your virtual property.
The route from trainee banker to scribbling about the underbellies of crime would seem a natural progression to most observers. I left the UK halfway through my financial career to take up a post in Hong Kong, which kicked off 25 great years in Asia. After Hong Kong I was privileged to work in Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong (again) and Manila.
In the Philippines, as a clean-up corporate troubleshooter, it was deemed necessary for me to have an armoured car and armed bodyguards who’d been SAS-trained. That’s where the characters and story lines come from, I suppose. I also have pals in the police ranks in Hong Kong and in Manila.
Alana: What was your starting point and where did it take you?
Seumas: A bit of experience from the active squad that looked after me, combined with good old fashioned Google-trawling hopefully provides some credibility and authenticity to the action in the novels. But let it be said, the respect I have for the guys who really populate units like the SAS and the Seals is unbounded. They’re among the toughest and gutsiest people around. Eerily, the ones I’ve met are quiet-spoken individuals.
Fill-in material on the triads came from my cop friends.
Alana: In your Amazon bio you say you ‘escaped to the Far East in 1980’. What was it you were escaping: the law or something a little more nebulous?
Seumas: At the time it wasn’t so much from, it was escaping towards the lure of the filthy lucre, and the Far East was unknown territory to me. A school trip to Belgium was the extent of my foreign foray adventures up until then.
The point of no return, as most professional expatriates will tell you, occurs around the four or five years mark, after which the expatriate is toast, can’t go back, gone troppo, so to speak. I loved being overseas, and still do, living and working for the last eight years in Abu Dhabi.
I will mention nothing here about leaving the UK to escape the clamorous clutches of dozens of gorgeous beauty queens.
Alana: Okay, I won’t ask anything that may embarrass or incriminate, although I’d love to hear a bit more. Where did you pick up your knowledge about the diamond trade—from said beauty queens?
Seumas: A succession of female diamond magnets (not magnates) as living partners introduced my plastic money to the rigours of gem purchasing. It’s a costly learning experience. (Guys—no argument with that, right?) I’ve also done some trouble shooting work in the retail gems industry.
Alana: Well, all I can say is that you should have avoided the kilt. What female in her right mind can resist a man in one? Maybe Jack Calder should wear one on an upcoming cover. Is he your alter ego? How much of you is in him?
Seumas: I’m better looking than Jack (of course). I think it’s impossible for any author not to have even a teeny-weeny wee bit of themselves in just about every character they concoct. Jack’s background is not a million miles away from my own upbringing in the dockyard slums of Govan in Glasgow’s Clydeside (truly a great patch to grow up in).
Alana: You started life in Glasgow, went to London, then spread your wings to give the Far East a go. Where are you now and why?
Seumas: I came to the Middle East to a contract with a major local bank. After four years I retired from that and now have my own corporate troubleshooting business engaged in restructurings, turnarounds and reorganizations. That also allows time for my new passion—writing.
Alana: I note that The violin man's legacy is the first in a planned series. Will Jack Calder be the principal character throughout? Do you have a defined number of stories? Have you started the second and when will it be available?
Seumas: The second, Vengeance wears black, is already available on Kindle and the third, Savage payback, should also be up on Kindle by year-end. There’s at least another two to follow those. Jack Calder will remain one of the main characters but there are three other strong principals in the books.
The intent wasn’t to create a franchise but it seems to be working out that way, as I’m delighted to learn there’s already a bit of a following building up for the squad.
Alana: And that’s all any author can ask for isn’t it, a following. Seumas, thank you so much for the interview.
Seumas: My pleasure, m’Lady. Thanks for having me aboard.
Take this link to my review of The violin man's legacy
The violin man's legacy on Amazon.com
The violet man's legacy on Amazon.UK
Vengeance wears black on Amazon.com
Vengeance wears black on Amazon.UK
|Posted by Alana Woods on October 6, 2012 at 11:05 AM||comments (4)|
I've been reviewing books and posting the reviews on my website blog for some time but it was only when this week's reviewed author mentioned interviews that it occurred to me a useful accompaniment to a review would be an interview with the author. So because it was a comment by Paulette Mahurin that prompted the idea it seems only fair that she has the -- shall we say, honour -- of being the first author I both review and interview.
Alana: Paulette, thank you for agreeing to launch my author interviews. I'll try to make it memorable.
Paulette: Thank you for having me, Alana. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you.
Alana: The persecution of Mildred Dunlap -- your first published novel and the subject of my book review -- has lesbianism and intolerance as its topic. Has the book had a reaction or interest from the gay and lesbian communities? If so, what has it been?
Paulette: Great question! It’s had really good support from the GLBT community that I’ve been in contact with. The largest circulating lesbian e-newsletter in Southern California, The Lavender Living Room, promoted it, The Windy City Press is doing a review (that's a major Chicago LGBT newspaper), several GLBT readers have bought and reviewed the book and made comments like “it made me cry in a good way”, “it describes exactly what I went through” and one man, an author I admire, read it and wrote “it’s destined to be a classic". Last week I was featured on a well-followed GLBT blogger site and had a very warm reception from several who commented.
Alana: Was the story and the lesbian theme sparked somehow by personal experience?
Paulette: Yes. I had a friend who was severely abused, molested, and tortured as a child and teenager. No counseling or other supportive help has worked thus far. It pains me deeply that my friend is in the closet, unable to live a life in the sun like flowers blooming, birds singing, dogs wagging tails, and others laughing and connecting from their authentic selves. When I became ill with Lyme disease and was housebound I had conversations with my friend and by the time I was better and started a writing class, in which a photo sparked the seed that was to become my book, the combination of the two women in a photo (an exercise from class was to take one of the photos brought in and write a ten minute mystery) and my friend’s saga screamed out to me: 'lesbian couple afraid of being found out'. A lot of what I poured into the story was my angst over the heartache that my friend lives with.
Alana: The book is written in what I thought was verging on a formal style, reminiscent of the bygone age in which it is set. Was this deliberate, to heighten the setting for your readers?
Paulette: That’s interesting. I did that and also fell into my own contemporary way of communicating which flowed more naturally with the writing. When it felt too stilted or there was too much effort to replicate history I just gave up and just wrote. I’ve had a few critiques that have mentioned the dialogue seemed too modern day. My overall main focus was not 'does this sound correct historically', but rather what felt natural, what sat well in my skin when I read it back?
Alana: I have to say I liked the style very much. It seemed a very natural part of the story overall. Is the cover photo a family one? If not, where did you find it and did you discover who the people in it are?
Paulette: Thanks for the comment on the style. There was a huge growth process to step out of my own way and let the story come across organically. For example, I had spent weeks doing some of the historical research and wanted to include a lot of it because of all the time I put in -- an ego show off thing, like the kid in school jumping up and down with a raised hand saying, “Pick me, pick me, I have the answer!” But when I went back to read those parts they sounded too didactic and pulled attention off the action of the story.
My editor made the same comment, “Shorten it down to a sentence or two,” she wrote, “it sounds too much like a history lesson”. I cut and cut and brought many pages down to a paragraph, for example the scene where Mildred & Edra are visiting the graves of Mildred’s parents, the part about the Donner Party Debacle, the pioneers settling near Walker Lake and the history of the Bell family. Then the story flowed and it was about the characters and not Paulette. Truth be told I felt much better about it. That was quite a lesson, about taking part in what’s best for the outcome, not what’s best for me.
The cover photo is my husband Terry’s grandfather, grandmother, and grandaunt. It seemed to suit the story line of Mildred and Edra with Charley and was chosen when we couldn't find the original photo from my writing class that first sparked the story.
Alana: The Wilde and Dreyfus affairs, which are the catalysts for so much hatred in the story -- were they also catalysts for you to write the story? Is political history an interest of yours; did you know of these events already?
Paulette: No, they weren’t a catalyst. The Wilde imprisonment came up when we started doing the research. My husband found it and I immediately realised it was pay dirt! He had known about the trial and Britain’s changed laws because he’s an attorney and it came up in Law School. I wasn’t familiar with it, or if I learned of it in school I had forgotten. Same with the Dreyfus Affair. It came up while researching the history of 1895, the year Wilde was imprisoned. We also factored in Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Address. So now we have a gay man, a Jewish man, and an African American man; all three great targets for hatred and bigotry. It just all fell into place. And serendipity was that the New Yorker wrote an article featuring the Dreyfus Affair during the time I was writing. It gave all the facts of what happened. I was dying to put that into the story because it was one of France’s biggest scandals but, again, my editor said, “It’s not a story about Alfred Dreyfus". I’m fascinated by that story and may turn it into a novel. It was Emile Zola whose press coverage exonerated Dreyfus, but it got Zola excommunicated from France. But enough of that or I’ll bore you all silly!
Alana: There is one tragedy in particular in the book involving a baby that is hard to read. I know you have a nursing background -- were you able to call on your knowledge and experience to write it or was it something you had to research?
Paulette: That was from experience. I worked in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles County, with the highest census of child abuse. You name it I saw it, and I had to take care of it. A moment of silence here for too many victims. The thing that I feel is so important about the story is that hatred, bigotry, prejudice, all have consequences and sadly involve innocent people who weren’t taught to be aware of evil and go along because of 'group think' and wanting to belong. Good people, innocent people, fuel the hatred unwittingly, and unfortunately some reap the consequences.
Alana: Was the scene hard to write?
Paulette: No. You just get in a different zone where you’re not thinking about it personally. It’s not that I’m unfeeling; on the contrary I’m overly sensitive when it comes to my life and connections (I can’t tolerate seeing an animal in a cage on death row, or read about a child cruelty or bullying in the news). But when it’s something I deal with professionally, whether as a Nurse Practitioner or writer, it becomes something out there, objective. I’m lucky that I don’t tend to hold onto things either, or I’d be driven mad with all I have to deal with.
Alana: I understand that all profits from the sale of the book are going to dog rescue or, to be specific, the first and only no-kill shelter in VC, CA. Can you say something about that?
(Paulette, what does VC stand for?)
Paulette VC = Ventura County. It’s in California, the next county south of Santa Barbara County, which you’re probably more familiar with. It’s a large county, over 800,000 population. Just a few months ago its first and only no-kill animal shelter opened in one of the smaller towns, Santa Paula. My husband and I are animal advocates; we've been rescuing dogs for 28 years.
The story of why I'm donating all the profits to this rescue group was just written up in the VC Star (the largest circulating press in the county) and I’ll quote from them to answer this very important to my heart question.
“Paulette Mahurin's eyes light up when she talks about the dogs. An animal advocate, the Ojai resident and her husband Terry have been rescuing Rottweilers for nearly three decades ... When her beloved rottie, Tazzie, died last year at age 15 she was heartbroken. In addition to losing her best friend, the dog had been her constant companion throughout Mahurin's life-altering bout with Lyme disease.”
The story then talks about my illness with Lyme disease getting into my heart valves, paralysis, arthritis and meningitis and goes on to talk about how I attended class when I was well enough, and finally ends with this quote:
“In honor of the 15 years spent with her beloved companion Tazzie, as well as her desire to support no-kill animal shelters, proceeds from the sales of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap benefit the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center.”
Alana: Paulette, thank you very much for talking with me. I wish you all the best with the book.
Paulette: It’s been my pleasure to come have this chat with you. Thank you again, for your time and help with your review and this interview. I hope it helps spread the word in the name of tolerance and animal rescue.
Take this link to my review of The persecution of Mildred Dunlap
|Posted by Alana Woods on July 16, 2012 at 3:15 PM||comments (0)|
A great interview with Dan and Alana. Here's the link. http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/indie-author-interview-alana-woods.html