Chatting with the Pros: Interview with bestselling mystery author Gilly Macmillon

chatting with the pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest this month is a New York Times bestselling mystery author with books translated in over twenty languages. Her success as a writer may have come as a surprise, but I’ll let her tell you about that. She currently has five published mystery/suspense novels, and is working on the sixth, I believe. Let’s see what she has to say on the writing of mysteries. Please help me welcome UK author Gilly Macmillan.

 

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Gilly: I started to write when I was over 40 and I challenged myself to do 1000 words a day until I had finished an entire book. I faithfully recorded my word count each day until it was done. I polished the first three chapters and send them to a few agents. Two rejections followed swiftly, one agent didn’t reply but the fourth one I sent it to was interested enough to offer me representation. She and I worked on the book together for a year before she submitted it to publishers, and we were lucky enough to sell it very rapidly and in over 20 territories! The rest has followed from there. I write a book a year and try to keep things fresh, compelling and thrilling for myself and my readers.

Kaye: When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Gilly: For many years I didn’t have a burning desire to write, I think because I was busy doing other things and life got in the way, but once my youngest son started school full time I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to write a novel. The idea sort of came out of the blue but perhaps it wasn’t that surprising because at that point I had been an obsessive reader for 35 years. I had a small window of opportunity before having to get a proper job, so I took it.

Kaye: Why do you write mystery? Why not romance, or western, or horror?

Gilly: I read very widely, but mystery books have always been a favorite, so I write what I would like to read.

Kaye: What element do you think is the most important in a mystery story? Why?

Gilly: That it creates an impulse in the reader to turn pages. This can come from great characters, a thrilling set up, tons of action or an intriguing plot, but it must be there.

Kaye: What is one thing your readers would never guess about you?

Gilly: I have no idea! I’m a fairly straightforward person so there’s probably not much they couldn’t guess.

Kaye: (So, there’s no mystery to the mystery author? Hmmm.) What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gilly: Plot. I don’t plan ahead when I write and creating a well-paced, complex and intriguing plot is always my biggest challenge, especially as I like to keep things within the realms of believability.

Kaye: What is the most fun part of writing mystery? Why?

Gilly: I love creating new characters and devising a challenging scenario for them. It intrigues me to explore how ‘regular’ people might behave if placed in extreme situations and pushed to their limits.

Kaye: Your most recent release is The Nanny. What can you tell me about it?

81ul8HE96pL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243Gilly: When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

Kaye: What is your biggest accomplishment to date in your writing career?

Gilly: Making bestsellers lists! It’s a dream come true!!

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why?

What She KnewGilly: I love them all for different reasons, but I think my favorite is my debut, What She Knew, because that was the book that launched my career and I put a lot of heart into it.

Kaye: How do you keep tension and suspense in your stories, so that readers will keep the pages turning?

Gilly: I work hard to come up with characters that I hope will be relatable and intriguing and then place them in a compelling situation, which subsequently evolves in a threatening, challenging or terrifying way. At the end of every day of work, I ask myself: will this turn pages? If the answer is ‘no’, I start over and do it again until I’m happy that both tension and suspense are maximised.

Kaye: Is there a common theme running through your books?

Gilly: I like to take a person or people who are in a relatable situation and make something very dramatic or difficult happen to them. A mother with a missing child, for example, or a teenager who has made a fatal mistake in her past which threatens to derail the new life her mother has carefully reconstructed for her, or perhaps a little girl whose nanny disappeared overnight without trace or explanation and reappears thirty years later in very mysterious circumstances. I love to explore dynamics within families, especially the parent child bond.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gilly Macmillan?

Gilly: I’m working on a novel that feels like a journey into psychological horror. The main character is a female crime writer. That’s about all I can say for now!


I want to thank Gilly for sharing her craft today. I think it is fascinating that she can plot as she writes. When I try and do that, I find myself exploring avenues that lead to dead ends and have to backtrack a lot. You can learn more about Gilly Macmillan and her books on her website and Amazon Author page.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Interview with mystery author Gerald Darnell

GD

My guest today has made a career from a single mystery series. He must be doing something right. His Carson Reno Mystery series consists of 18 books and still going strong. He was awarded the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master “Best Thriller/Suspense/Murder Mystery Author” for book 18, Lack of Candor. Let’s find out how he’s done it. Please help me welcome mystery author Gerald W. Darnell.


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get where you are today as a writer?

Gerald: I began writing in college, but nothing serious. After college I published a couple of articles for outdoor magazines and then joined the working world.  I retired after 30 years in the computer industry and wrote my first non-fiction book (which I had been working on for about 15 of those years). It is mostly a bio about my life Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time to Go. My Carson Reno series started after that – and 18 books later…here we are.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Gerald: Anything outdoors. I have a boat, and when I’m not riding I’ll be fishing.

Kaye: You describe what you write as “Fiction for Fun”. Can you clarify for my readers just what you mean by that?

Gerald: Sure. I use real places with semi-real characters (reflections of my friends or people I know) and tell a story that didn’t happen – but could have.

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Kaye: In your Carson Reno Mystery series each book is a stand-alone mystery, yet you claim they have character continuity across novels. How do you accomplish that?

Gerald: While the core characters might grow (as my writing grows) they change very little from book to book.  And each new book has enough new characters to keep any reader’s attention.

Kaye: Your latest book, Lack of Candor, received the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master award for best author in thriller/mystery/suspense category. Can you tell me a little about that book?

Lack of CandorGerald: It is set in 1962 with most of the story taking place in and around Memphis, Tennessee. A Sergeant with the Memphis Police Department is found dead only hours before his scheduled testimony before a grand jury. Was it suicide or was it murder? What was he going to testify about? A handwritten note left by the Sergeant and addressed to the District Attorney disappears. What was in the note? Was it a suicide note with information regarding his pending testimony or something else? A woman claiming to have information related to his planned testimony comes forward and seeks protection.
Carson is hired to look into the matter and provide protection to the mysterious woman, but protection from whom? The situation gets out of hand quickly, and Carson finds himself in trouble with most everybody involved. A dark cloud hangs over the truth, as he tries to determine the ‘good-guys’ from the ‘bad-guys’ from the ‘bad good – guys’.
This old fashion crime story takes Carson Reno and his crew on a complicated adventure, where it seems that no one is looking for a solution.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: My time period (early 60’s) has its own challenge. Limited transportation, no cell phones, no CSI type of stuff to solve these crimes. Old black and white solutions to whatever Carson is involved in.

Kaye: What is the best part of writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: I’ll answer that by referring to what I tell other writers or wanna’be writers. Don’t write to get rich, but to enrich others.

Kaye: What time of day do you like to do your writing? Why?

Gerald: No particular time, but I prefer the evenings with a little ‘libation’ for inspiration.

Kaye: How do you decide on your titles? Where does this come in the writing process?

Gerald: Titles are always first and I have NO idea where they come from. My friends constantly ask the same question – wish I had a catchy answer.

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your personal favorite? Why?

Gerald: I have two and they are my most popular and best sellers – ‘Dead End’ and ‘Murder and More’.  I like the stories and I guess my readers do too.

 

 

Kaye: Many of the events in your stories are inspired by real life events. What was the strangest or most unusual inspiration you’ve ever had for a story?

Gerald: ‘Dead End’ involves a chase scene in a rural Arkansas area where I spent many years when I was younger. The snow, the dirt roads, the mud, the outdoor part of me enjoys that.

Kaye: There are 18 Carson Reno books, one book in your Jack Sloan series: Concrete Jungle, in addition to your autobiographical book, Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time To Go. So, is Carson Reno on the way out and Jack Sloan on the way in? Or is there more Carson in the future?

Gerald: More Carson and maybe a little more Jack.  A work in progress.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gerald W. Darnell?

Gerald: ‘The Disappearance of Robin Murat’ and it will be out before the end of this year (I hope).  No spoilers, but a big part of the story takes place in New Orleans – one of my favorite cities. A great place for mystery and ‘bad-guys’.


I want to thank Gerald for chatting with me today and sharing his experiences and advice. You can learn more about Gerald Darnell and his books at the links below.

Website: www.geraldwdarnell.com/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NQRPXMW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i5

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4521276.Gerald_W_Darnell

Lulu.com Spotlight: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/geralddarnell

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geralddarnell


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Interview with noir author Michael Pool

MP Framed

My guest today is a talented author, whom I happen to know personally. He was a part of my M.F.A. cohort at Western State Colorado University, and I had the privilege of , being present for his reading from his thesis novel, which was released this past year and fit in with this month’s Crime Fiction genre theme for review, Rose City. A P.I. by day, it’s no surprise that he writes crime fiction. What was a surprise to me was his talent for writing noir with true craftsmanship, which is why I invited him to join me here. Please help me welcome noir author, Michael Pool.


Kaye: Would you share briefly your writer’s journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Michael: A lot of writing, haha. I’ve been writing fiction since my very early twenties, however, I did take about 5 years in my late twenties where I barely wrote at all. In my 30’s I finally decided to take it more serious and began focusing on building a career through longer works. Prior to that, I’d mostly written short fiction. Though I still enjoy short stories, these days I mostly write novels, with a recent focus on detective fiction.

Kaye: Noir fiction takes a look at the darker side of human behaviors and generally features corruption and loose, (or lack of), morals. Why is it your chosen genre?

Michael: Well, I guess first I would say that it’s not my chosen genre. These days I definitely gravitate toward detective novels.

It’s a sub-genre that I have written in quite a lot, however. I would put Texas Two-Step as more of a pure crime novel, although it fits the Elmore Leonard vision of noir to a large degree. Rose City is a Southern Gothic Mystery.

However, I am attracted to noir stories because I like seeing the world through the eyes of an anti-hero. No matter the criminal, they are always the star of their own movie, and always see themselves as the justified “good guy.” What noir does really well is show that there is enough dirt to go around, and thus it turns notions of good and evil on their heads, leaving the reader with the distinct understanding that there are no good and bad people, only good and bad choices.

All of us are always teetering on the edge of destroying ourselves through our shortcomings and noir is all about that process, making it entertaining, if horrifying, to read.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing noir for you?

Michael: I’m not sure I see it as challenging. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and I consider the down and out to be my people in so many ways. I love capturing the world from the view of men and women with their backs against the wall, many of whom have just enough ruthlessness in them to cause catastrophic damage in the pursuit of (often) vein goals which are not necessarily good for them.

Kaye: What is the most fun about writing noir?

Michael: I always joke that I’m a bit of a dark and stormy person, so I like that noir’s tone allows lots of room for that darkness and allows for a lot of intense, violent, complicated conflicts to arise in the narrative.

Kaye: Rose City was your thesis project in your M.F.A. program, but it is also the companion novel to Texas Two-Step. Can you tell me a little about both books and explain how they are related?

Michael: Both books are set in the fictional East Texas locale, Teller County. They are related only by their setting and a shared villain in common. Without giving too much away, there is a villain who skates on consequences in Texas Two-Step that may finally get his in Rose City.

Interestingly, Rose City was written first, as a graduate school thesis. For whatever reason, Texas Two-Step was published first. They can be read in any order.

Texas Two-StepTexas Two-Step is a “One last crime” story involving a couple of jam-band obsessed Denver pot growers who, after getting pushed out of the market by legal marijuana, have one last big crop to sell, and turn to an old but reckless associate down in Texas to move the harvest. They soon find themselves tangled up with real, violent criminals in a cat-and-mouse game where everyone involved has an agenda, and a rogue Texas Ranger is on their trail, desperate to nail their associate. It’s a multiple point-of-view book with lots of humor and a satisfying climax.

Rose CityRose City is a “prodical son returns” story where the protagonist, Cole Quick, has left Teller County 14 years earlier after being robbed of a stash of fronted cocaine, taking with him his local debutante girlfriend, whose family all but disowned her as a result. The book picks up 6 months after her untimely death from breast cancer. Cole returns to Teller County for his estranged, abusive father’s funeral, and soon finds himself caught up in his old debt, as well as tasked with proving an old friends death was murder, rather than a vicious murder-suicide. To get back out of town alive, he has to take on the entire crooked town’s structure and bring it down to rubble.

Rose City was the first full novel I had ever written. And, honestly, it was a mess for a long time. Five years of good edits have turned it into a really great novel. It’s emotional, suspenseful, and moves forward at a non-stop pace. It deals with themes of racism, classism, corruption, abuse, and self-destruction in a way that is compassionate but takes a hard eye to the reality these kinds of problems crop up in.

Kaye: In Rose City, Cole Quick has a dark past that he thought he left behind. But a trip back to his home town finds him down and out, and vulnerable. There’s a lot more going on than he is aware of in his old stomping grounds, and almost without realizing what’s happening, he’s swept up into it, and it becomes a matter of survival for him to discover what really happened to his best friend, Jimmy. Are noir protagonists all average guys who get swept up by circumstance and have to fight their way out?

Michael: I don’t think noir protagonists are all average guys. In fact a whole bunch of them are anything but, they’re self-destructive fringe characters living by their own moral codes, and bound for trouble of their own making.

But all of my characters tend to be average men and women caught in extraordinary scenarios. I’m not much for thrillers with  superhuman protagonists, and my writing tends to put a lot of focus on everyday people and their relationships, with the understanding that crime and total destruction are always in the peripheral of our lives, whether we believe it or not. I use crime as a lens to explore the human condition, because it’s an integral part of the human experience. We live in societies with rules, both good and arbitrary, and we all find ourselves running up against those in some ways. But some men and women won’t just accept things the way they are, and that to me is the kind of person who will make a good protagonist.

Kaye: You are the founder and editor-in-chief of Crime Syndicate Magazine. Can you tell me about that? What was your motivation to start it? What can readers find there? What are your goals for it in the future?

Michael: I put Crime Syndicate down about a year ago, just didn’t have time for it anymore. Crime Syndicate did focus a lot on short noir fiction, and there are some incredibly good stories in the three issues I put out. I’m happy to have had the experience, but I’m a writer at heart, not an editor.

Kaye: Noir characters are always flawed in some way. How flawed should a noir character be?

Michael: The important thing is not how flawed, it’s more that their flaw be something that will drive them to make decisions that are not necessarily good for them, and in fact the best noir characters have a flaw that is in direct opposition to their needs, causing a sense of inner conflict that will drive the story to a dark ending.

Kaye: If you could have lunch with any noir author, alive or dead, who would it be? Why?

Michael: I suppose a Dashiel Hammett or Ross MacDonald. Neither are really “noir” authors. I’d put them both more as hardboiled detective writers. But both have been major influences on my writing. I work as a private investigator, and in Hammett I get a very clear sense that he knows the work (which makes sense, because he was a Pinkerton at one time). With McDonald, I love the way he uses the detective as a lens to look at family dynamics and the effects changing social issues and dynamics have on families. It’s something I naturally do in my own writing, and I’d love to pick his brain about process.

Kaye: You are a Jiu-jitsu instructor. Are any of your characters skilled in martial arts?

Michael: Not really, for some reason! I am working on a modern pulp P.I. series (I’m calling it Gonzo P.I. as a style), and that character, Rick Malone, does have some jiu-jitsu experience, which he puts to good use from time to time. But in a lot of ways Rick is also a broken man and an outcast, so he’s still very far from the superhuman or hyper-capable protagonists I was talking about earlier. I love jiu-jitsu, and of course it does show up from time to time in my action scenes!

Kaye: In addition to book length works, you also write short fiction. Your works have been included in several anthologies. Which do you prefer? Why?

Michael: As I mentioned, I mostly write novels now. I prefer them because there is a market for them, haha. No, honestly, I agree with readers on why they prefer novels, and particularly series. When you fall in love with a protagonist you want to spend more time with that protagonist as a reader, and as a writer, I feel the same way. It can be hard to spend a year at a time on the same project, but the end result is more satisfying and makes it much further out into the universe.

Kaye: What parts of you, do your readers get to see in your characters?

Michael: Compassionate but conflicted and flawed characters in my books all have a big piece of me in them. I’m highly emotional, and have had plenty of dark experiences in my personal life. Those experiences crop up in less-than-direct ways in my writing, but anytime you reach an emotional moment in one of my books, you’re definitely interacting with the deepest parts of me as a writer and human being. To me that is a vital part of why I write in the first place.

Kaye: Your books feature intricate storylines that are well thought out. What’s your writing process like? How do you create your plots?

Michael: I’m an outliner these days. I stray from the outline often, but I mark out plot beats in advance as much as possible, and adjust them as I go. I literally keep a beat sheet for each book to make sure I’m staying on pace and on task. I find structure to be freeing rather than limiting. To understand why story structure is so vital you have to understand why humans began to tell stories in the first place, then you can see why structure evolved the way it did, and use that information to create the ever-elusive “uniquely familiar” plot lines that resonate with readers.

Kaye: What is your greatest writing accomplishment to date?

Michael: That’s a tough one! I feel like my greatest accomplishment is just getting to where I am. I feel poised to break through to a larger audience with this next project, finally, but more than that, I feel like I’ve finally become a skilled, adept long-form fiction writer.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What’s next for Michael Pool?

Michael: Right now I’ve just finished the first book in a new P.I. series, Throwing Off Sparks, and am at work on book two, tilted Daughters of the Republic. Both feature my obsessive female East Texas P.I., “Rowdy” Riley Reeves. Riley’s origin story, “Weathering the Storm,” is slated for release as part of The Eyes of Texas anthology on 10/21/2019. Within a paragraph of starting that story I knew she would become a series character, and I’m REALLY excited to share this new series with the world, I think it brings something totally new to detective fiction.

I’m also working on a pulp P.I. novel I mentioned earlier, also the first in a series, called Catfish Quarum. It is set in Colorado and features down-and-out drug-addled P.I. Rick Malone. A second book in that series is currently in the outline stage, titled One Way Out. I have big hopes for this series, it allows me to be goofy and serious all in the same breath, and to really capture a lot of uniquely Colorado social issues and characteristics. Look for it over the next couple years. I wish that were faster, but publishing is its own complicated process, unfortunately.


I want to thank Michael for sharing with us today. I think he has helped to define noir  and differentiate it from the other sub-genres of crime fiction. If you’d like to learn more about Michael or his books, you can visit his author site, or his Amazon author page.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with bestselling author Jenifer Ruff

chatting with the pros

My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is bestselling author Jenifer Ruff. She’s booked as a psychological thiller author, but much of her works falls under the genre of crime fiction, as well. She has a knack for keeping the action moving and throwing in surprise twists, which is always great in crime fiction stories. I’m excited to find out what she has to share, so please join me in welcoming her to Writing to be Read.


Jenifer Ruff

Kaye: What elements of storytelling do you feel are specific to the crime fiction genre?

Jenifer: A well-developed and slightly flawed but likable antagonist. An interesting protagonist with clear and shocking or complex motives. A suspenseful, intricate plot with unexpected twists that involves a crime or series of crimes.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing crime fiction for you?

Jenifer: The most enjoyable parts are creating the plot, the twists, the characters, and the crimes. The hardest part for me is having the patience to go back and edit and rewrite again and again until the writing is the best I can make it.

Kaye: Are there any particular crime fiction authors that you fashioned your writing style after?

Jenifer: There are too many (way too many!) excellent authors and excellent novels out there for me to pick one  in particular.  I learn a little from all of them. I try and read as much of everything as I can—bestsellers in literature for the two book clubs I’m in, and indie authors in the thriller genre for me. I love it when the book I’m reading sparks new ideas, but that can happen no matter what genre or what author. I do know that when I read literature, I get inspired to create all sorts of similes and metaphors and my editor usually nixes almost all of them.

Kaye: You have also written thrillers, horror and YA suspense. What are the differences in writing crime fiction from the other genres you’ve written in?

Jenifer: All my novel are dark and twisty psychological suspense thrillers with disturbed characters readers often can’t help but like. Each book involves crimes, mostly murders. Each has a different contemporary topic—terrorism, sex trafficking, social media, for examples. I think I’ve been consistent with that character-driven style no matter the story or the genre. They’re more similar than they are different, but each emphasizes certain genre elements slightly more than others.

Kaye: What kind of research do you find yourself doing for crime fiction?

Jenifer: With my Brooke Walton series, I did a lot of research about psychopaths, PTSD, and working in a Medical Examiner’s office. For Only Wrong Once, I researched ISIS, particularly their recruiting techniques, and bio-terrorism. I was a little worried about setting off alarms on the internet because of the type of research I was doing for that one.  Pretty Little Girls, the book I’m finishing now, involved research and attending lectures on sex trafficking. I’ve interviewed FBI agents and had a few beta read my books to make sure I wasn’t too far off on anything.

Kaye: You write in several genres. Which genre is your favorite one to write in? Why?

Jenifer: Psychological suspense. I enjoy getting into the heads of my very flawed characters and figuring out how they might react, respond… thinking up actions that would be outrageous for me or any “normal” person, but perfectly normal for them.

Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Jenifer: Hike with my dogs and exercise classes – Barre, Pilates, Zumba, athletic conditioning – anything where I’m moving and sweating. If I get on a bike or elliptical it’s because I’m really into whatever book I’m reading and I want to be able to exercise and keep reading.

Kaye: Your most recent crime fiction novel is The Numbers Killer, which I reviewed last Friday. What other novels have you written that would fit into the crime fiction genre?

Jenifer: Only Wrong Once, the Brooke Walton series: Everett, Rothaker, and The Intern. And my newest, coming out soon—Pretty Little Girls.

The Numbers KillerKaye: Can you tell us a little about The Numbers Killer?

Jenifer: It’s the first in a new series about FBI Agent and heiress, Victoria Heslin.  The series will appeal to fans of A.J. Finn, Thomas Harris, James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver and Karin Slaughter. Most of my early readers have said they couldn’t put it down, which is exactly what I hope to hear.

When a key witness in an organized crime trial turns up dead in his kitchen with liar and the number two scrawled on his forehead, the FBI assumes the murder was a hit to silence him. Then the calls start coming in—more victims with similar markings and no connection to the mob.

As agents Victoria Heslin and Dante Rivera struggle to catch a break in the case, they receive a series of cryptic, personal messages from the killer, complicating the investigation. Something disturbing and frightening is underway, and anyone might be next, including the agents, unless they uncover the common denominator.

Kaye: The old adage is, ‘write what you know’. Obviously, you haven’t lived through the horrendous events featured in your crime fiction stories. In what ways do you draw off of your own experiences when writing crime fiction?

Jenifer: I write about things that might fascinate me – the abnormal and the unexpected. I really admire determined people, but when someone is determined and also misguided, things can get very interesting. I’ve created characters like that in most of my novels.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Only Wrong OnceJenifer: The idea for Only Wrong Once was inspired by a secure laboratory at my graduate school that held research samples of the most deadly diseases on the planet – small pox, bubonic plague, and Ebola, to list just a few. And also from a quote by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice  in 2004. She said: “And let’s remember that those charged with protecting us from attack have to be right 100 percent of the time. To inflict devastation on a massive scale, the terrorists only have to succeed once. And we know that they are trying every day.” Her powerful, frightening words inspired the book title and the theme for Only Wrong Once.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Jenifer: I don’t think there’s anything unusual about it. I sit down in front of my computer for as long as I can, as many days per week as I can. Even though I write most days, I still consider that time a luxury. I write in my house and I can’t get any writing done if I have housework to do, I’m too distracted by awareness of what needs to be cleaned. So cleaning and chores first, then I can write.

Kaye: If The Numbers Killer was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Jenifer: I’d love for Blake Lively to be Agent Victoria Heslin.

Kaye: What’s next for Jenifer Ruff? Can readers look forward to more crime fiction from you? What are you working on now?

91WYLpF-KYL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243Jenifer: The second in the Victoria Heslin series, Pretty Little Girls,  is almost finished and will be published in the fall. I’m waiting on beta readers now, and next it will go out to ARC readers.  In Pretty Little Girls,  Agent Heslin is called to Charlotte, NC to consult on a kidnapping case, but what she discovers ends up being much, much worse. Right now, I’m busy working through ideas for the third novel in the series.

I want to thank Jenifer for joining me today and offering a glimpse into her writing process here. I reviewed her book Only Wrong Once last month when we were looking at thrillers. You can see that review here. You can find out more about Jenifer Ruff and her books at the following links:

Website: http://jenruff.com/index.html

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jenifer-Ruff/e/B00NFZQOLQ?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1563137616&sr=1-1

 

 


Interview with Pulp & Crime Fiction Author Quintin Peterson

Quintin Peterson Literary Hill BookFest 2018 Profile Photo

I have the pleasure of conversing with a pleasant guest today, whose love of life shines in his eyes and his smile, author Quintin Peterson. A talented author, whose work keeps classic craft alive in modern times. He writes pulp and crime fiction in many variations, throwing new twists on the classic styles. I can’t wait for you to meet him. So, without further adeau, let’s find out what Quintin Peterson has to share.


Kaye: Tell me about your author’s journey. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you make that dream a reality?

Quintin: I began entertaining my friends and family by telling them amazing stories long before I started writing them. I obtained my first copyright when I was 13. While in high school, I was awarded a National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, the University of Wisconsin’s Science Fiction Writing Award, and the Wisconsin Junior Academy’s Writing Achievement Award. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote and performed in two stage plays and received a Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation grant for my play project, Change. I also received a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, for playwriting.

Kaye: What is your favorite thing about writing crime fiction?

Quintin: I gave up creative writing and pursued a 30-year career in law enforcement. I rarely found justice during all the years I worked as a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. I suppose it is the reason why writing crime fiction is my dominant obsession: I find justice in my stories.

Kaye: You’ve had both short fiction and novel length works published? Which do you prefer writing? Why?

Quintin: It’s a toss-up, really. I like writing short stories for magazines and anthologies because of the word count limits, but I also like not being constrained by a word count limit for longer fiction.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing short fiction?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing short fiction is doing more with less. Writing short fiction for magazines and anthologies also afford me opportunities to experiment with genre-blending. For example, I’ve sold a cop/ghost story, a horror/mystery/noir thriller, science fiction/noir mysteries, and an Arthurian police story.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about writing novel length works?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing novel length fiction is avoiding the pitfall of being too wordy and doing less with more.

Kaye: Pulp fiction, maybe even more than other genres, must have well developed, larger than life characters. How do your characters develop for you?

Quintin: I create backstories for my characters so that I know them in order to make them seem real, and then pit them against each other in what I endeavor to make compelling stories.

Kaye: Which of your main characters is your favorite? Why?

Quintin: I have two favorite characters: Norman Blalock and Luther Kane, who are cousins and appear in each other’s stories. I like Blalock because people underestimate him. I like Kane because he is a man of action.

Amazing Tales #10Kaye: Your story “Broken Doll” just came out in Awesome Tales #10. That story is a part of your Private Eye Luther Kane Mystery Series. Would you tell me a little about who Luther Kane is and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: Luther Kane is a former DC police officer, as well as a former soldier and soldier of fortune who is maimed by a landmine. The loss of his legs does not prevent him from operating upon the same principles he adhered to when he was whole. He rises from his own ashes and walks again on state-of-the-art bionic legs, a miracle of modern science. At the suggestion of his physical therapist Claire Bradley, who taught him to walk again, he takes over his late father’s business, the Intrepid Detective Agency, located atop the other family business he inherited, the Last Stop Liquor Store.

 

Kaye: The Voynich Gambit is book two in your Norman Blalock Mystery Series and it won the Literary Titan Book Award. Tell me a little about that series. Who is Norman Blalock, and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: In these old-fashioned heist stories, Norman Blalock is a disgraced Howard University history professor who has been working as a special police officer for the Folger Shakespeare Library for decades. No one at the library knows his background and only see him as “an old black security guard.” The first Norman Blalock Mystery is Guarding Shakespeare, followed by The Voynich Gambit. The upcoming third installment is The Shakespeare Redemption. (By the way: I worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library for almost seven years, beginning the same year I retired from the police department, and penned the first two installments while I was employed there.)

Kaye: Who is your favorite villain? Why?

Quintin: Kavitha Netram, the femme fatale Norman Blalock matches wits with in both Guarding Shakespeare and The Voynich Gambit. She returns in The Shakespeare Redemption. She is smart, sexy, and ruthless.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Quintin Peterson?

Quintin: Right now, I am working on The Shakespeare Redemption. I will continue to write more installments of the Norman Blalock and the Private Eye Luther Kane mysteries, as well as other noir stories. I also plan to write more science fiction and horror thrillers.

Thanks for having me, Kaye. It’s been a pleasure.

I want to thank Quintin Peterson for sharing with me. It’s been enlightening for me and I hope it has for all of you readers, too. You can find out more about Quintin and his books at the links below. (Be sure to visit his Amazon page. You’ll find a large selection of books and short fiction in a wide range of variations upon the genre. Pulp and crime fiction fans may call it a gold mine. Those unfamiliar with the genre should check it out. It’s a fun genre. )

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Quintin-Peterson/e/B002BMCR2E?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1561789921&sr=8-1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quintin.peterson.56

Twitter: https://twitter.com/luther_kane

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/quintin-peterson-263b4b8/

Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/26191433-quintin-peterson


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with suspense thriller novelist John Nicholl

chatting with the pros

It’s my pleasure to have as my guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” bestselling suspense thriller author John Nicholl. His works draw from his own true life experiences as a law enforcement officer and child welfare social worker in Wales. John has written seven thrillers and every one of them has seen the bestseller list. Please help me welcome him now. Maybe we can learn some of his secrets to becoming a bestselling author.

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Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

John: I self-published initially. When that went better than expected, I partnered with a literary agent and signed a publishing deal. Further books followed from there.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

John: The hook is crucial. I try to capture the reader’s attention from the very first page.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

John: I write in the morning. It’s when I’m at my most creative.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing psychological thrillers for you?

John: My books sometimes engender memories that were, perhaps, best left in the past.

Kaye: What elements of storytelling do you feel are specific to the thriller genre? Are there particular elements that are specific to psychological thrillers?

John: Psychological thrillers explore the extremes of human behaviour.

Kaye: Anonymity is described as intense and terrifying; White is the Coldest Color as violent and brutal; Portraits of the Dead as disturbing and compelling; The Girl in Red as haunting and unsettling. Where do you get ideas for your stories?

John: I began my working life as a young police officer, and subsequently trained as a social worker. I worked in child protection for about twenty years after qualifying. My writing draws heavily on those experiences.

Kaye: Thrillers are action-packed and filled with conflict and tension. What techniques do you use to keep the story moving, the readers on the edges of their seats, and the pages turning?

John: I try to keep the stories as fast paced as possible, without too much padding. Quality is more important than length!

Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?

John: Inspiration comes from different places. The title of White is the Coldest Colour, for example, came to me when listening to A Whiter Shade of Pale on Radio 2.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

John: The words come into my head as if channelled from somewhere else entirely.

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Kaye: Your latest release was The Girl in Red, which came out in March. Would you like to tell me a little about this book?

John: The Girl in Red is a dark tale of domestic violence, and the extreme lengths that one woman goes to, to escape her tormentor.

 

Kaye: Every one of your books has been an Amazon bestseller. What’s your secret?

John: I’ve had a lot of luck. And the book blogging community has been wonderfully supportive. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Kaye: Are there any particular thriller authors that you fashioned your writing style after as you approached writing in the thriller genre?

John: I mostly read historical biography and stories of real-life experiences that are out of the ordinary· Castaway by Lucy Irvine is a particular favourite. I’ve read it three times over the years.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What’s next for John Nicholl?

John: My next thriller, The Girl in White, will be published by Bloodhound Books this year. The release date has just been bumped up to September 4. It’s the story of a secret, quasi-religious cult hidden deep in the beautiful West Wales countryside. Hopefully, readers will like it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

I want to thank John for joining me here and sharing with us today. You can learn more about John and his bestselling thriller novels on his website, on his Amazon Author page. or on his Goodreads Author page. Join me on the third Monday in July, when we’ll be celebrating crime fiction and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Jenifer Ruff.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Interview with International bestselling author Dan Alatorre

 

I”m chatting with International bestselling author, Dan Alatorre. He has written in several genres, including humor, science fiction time travel, and even children’s books. With his most recent book, The Gamma Sequence, Dan delves into the world of medical thrillers. This isn’t the first time Dan has dabbled in the thriller realm though.  You can see my review of Dan’s suspense thriller, Double Blind, here: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Li. Today, he’s going to share his perspective on the thriller genre, and medical thrillers in particular.

Kaye: You are a multi-genre author, but your most recent release is a medical thriller, The Gamma Sequence, which is featured in a collection of medical thrillers, Do No Harm, that will release in July. Why have you chosen to delve into medical thrillers?

Dan: I got invited to participate in a box set with a bunch of New York Times best-selling authors and USA today bestselling selling authors, and I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It’s like being invited by a bunch of major-league baseball players to come play on the All-Star team. So I jumped at the chance. That experience was a lot of fun, but when they asked me again to participate in a medical thriller, I initially said I didn’t think I should because I wasn’t really known for that and I wasn’t an expert in that. My friend Jenifer Ruff disagreed and said that a lot of my stuff had the basic elements; I just needed to kind of paint with a different color. I looked into what readers of that genre expect from their stories, and she was right. Writing a medical thriller was a lot of fun and people really are going to enjoy The Gamma Sequence, because there are just surprises you’re just never going to anticipate. It has a great villain. It has conflicted good guys. There’s a lot to like on a lot of layers.

Kaye: How do medical thrillers differ from other types of thriller?

Dan: A typical murder mystery is: a murder happens and the detective goes about solving it. With a medical thriller, you take those basic elements and you set them in a medical scenario but often the person doing the detecting is not a cop or a detective but somebody from the sciences, or the victims are from the medical sciences, or it has a general medical background setting that is going to be part of the solution. If murder mysteries are typically painted in blue, then this is painted in purple because it’s those things with some shades of other things.

Kaye: What was the biggest challenge in writing thrillers for you?

Dan: I needed to learn what readers of the genre expect in their stories so they wouldn’t be disappointed. I needed to lay out a decent outline so I could hit the points I needed to hit, and I had an extremely short deadline. Most books like this take the author a year to write. I had this completed in about 1/4 of that time – by necessity. And it literally went almost right up to – the day I had to submit it, I was still getting some feedback from beta readers and making a few tweaks. But it’s really, really good. People are really going to enjoy it. The early reviews are tremendous.

Kaye: Can you briefly tell readers about The Gamma Sequence?

Dan: Geneticist Lanaya Kim must do what authorities haven’t—tie together the “accidental” deaths of several prominent scientists around the country to show they were actually murdered. Over the past two years, geneticists have died in what appear to be accidents, but Lanaya knows otherwise. If she tells her secrets to the authorities, she risks becoming a suspect or revealing herself to the killer and becoming an open target. Hiring private investigator Hamilton DeShear may help her expose the truth, but time is running out. The murders are happening faster, and Lanaya’s name may be next on the killer’s list. But when Lanaya and DeShear start probing, what they discover is far more horrifying than anyone could ever have imagined.

The more they look, the more they find – and the bigger the problems get. In the meantime, they’re getting shot at and having to run for their lives because people are trying to kill them!

Kaye: What elements of storytelling do you feel are specific to the thriller genre?

Dan: For me, it is a fast pace that goes from one interesting thing to the next without slowing down. Now, that sounds like any good movie or book, and that’s the challenge. You really don’t have time to slow down and get distracted but you still need red herrings and false leads and multiple suspects. So at the same time you’re hitting the accelerator, you have to be looking down the side roads, too. Here’s the key: what’s interesting? How fast can you get to it? What’s the next interesting thing? How fast can you get to that? Each chapter has to ask another question and add to the mystery while it’s answering something early from earlier. The reader can’t put it down. I’ve had people tell me they missed their stop on the train because they were so engrossed in The Gamma Sequence!

Kaye: Do you feel thrillers require a faster pace to keep the adrenaline flowing?

Dan: I think most stories should have a fast pace. Some should not but most should. Thrillers definitely should. Murder mysteries definitely should. Comedies definitely should. But you can see how romances might really benefit from taking a slow pace, and there are certain dramatic stories that definitely want to dive deep. But thrillers need to be a roller coaster ride, and The Gamma Sequence definitely is that. It has beautiful settings and a terrific villain, and a pace that keeps it moving, nonstop.

Kaye: Thrillers are action packed and filled with conflict and tension. What techniques do you use to keep the story moving, the readers on the edges of their seats, and the pages turning?

Dan: Conflict and tension. Internal dilemmas. Stuff a reader would relate to – in a good guy and a bad guy. You have to have likable characters and multi-dimensional characters. You have to have an interesting villain with a compelling reason for doing what he’s doing. I prefer if the villain does not see himself as a bad guy but sees himself as having different goals than the good guy, and their goals happen to be in conflict with each other. And a fast pace is definitely helpful.

Kaye: Are there any particular thriller authors that you fashioned your writing style after as you approached writing in the medical thriller genre?

Dan: I can’t say I styled myself after any particular author in the genre, but I have been compared very favorably to Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. A few others. That’s good company.

Kaye: You have also written, horror, murder mystery, sci-fi time travel, and humor. What are the differences in writing a thriller from the other genres you’ve written in?

Dan: The broad strokes are still the same: What’s interesting and how quickly can you get to it? So, if it’s a horror story, I get to the scary as fast as possible, but I horror you build lots of tension and suspense. In a murder mystery, you have to make it be exciting and move along quickly while really baiting the hook each and every chapter, building to the big reveal at the end. A medical thriller is very similar to that because it all keeps building until it reaches a critical mass and then you finish with a bang. So far, nobody has seen the surprise ending coming in The Gamma Sequence. I love that. I get emails: I did NOT see that coming! That’s fun.

Kaye: As you prepare to write in a genre that is new to you, what kind of pre-writing preparations do you make?

Dan: I talk to fans of the genre to find out what types of books or movies are their favorites, and what they liked about them. I try to make interesting characters including the villain. I want to have a fast pace because a good story feels like it has a fast pace, regardless. The fact is, it’s a lot of work to make a story appear effortless. And I definitely sit down with some trusted advisors to hammer out an outline that is going to fulfill the expectations of what readers of the genre have. Then I have my boundaries drawn and I go crazy and have a lot of fun inside those lines, occasionally straying a little here and there outside the lines, because you have to push the envelope, but always delivering intensity on every page. The Gamma Sequence does that.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Dan: Comedy. It’s so much fun! Making people laugh is a lot of fun. Scaring them in a horror story is a lot of fun, too. And taking them on a roller coaster ride in a thriller is a lot of fun, too!

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Dan: Probably what’s most unusual is that I’m not afraid to try something new, and then I kick ass to make it amazing. A lot of authors develop something and stay with it, and that’s great. I do that, too – but I’m not afraid to jump over into something new.

I want to thank Dan for joining us today. You can read my review of The Gamma Sequence this Friday. You can pre-order the box set Do No Harm here: https://www.amazon.com/Do-No-Harm-Seventeen-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07RFSSQZ4/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Do+No+Harm&qid=1559140737&s=books&sr=1-2

Learn more about Dan Alatorre and his books at the following links:

Blog and Website: https://danalatorre.com/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_6?author-follow=B00EUX7HEU&