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

 

 


The Numbers Killer: A Crime Thriller that keeps readers guessing

The Numbers Killer

Things aren’t always what they seem, and The Numbers Killer, by Jenifer Ruff is no exception. In this psycholigical thriller mystery, people are are turning up dead and Agent Victoria Roslin is a tough police investigator who must race to catch a killer. The stakes are raised even higher and the clock runs faster when it turns personal and Victoria is targeted. It seems the killer has her number. Can she solve the mystery of how the victims are connected. Can she catch the killer and catch the killer, or will she become the nest victim of the Numbers Killer?

The Numbers Killer is a well-crafted mystery that keeps readers guessing. There’s nothing cozy about this mystery. Ruff keeps the action moving and throws in plenty of surprise twists right down to the last pages. I give  it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


June: Seeking thrills and chills with thrillers

Thrillers

This month’s genre theme is thrillers, and it has been exciting exploring the many facets of this widely encompassing genre. Some of the great thriller writers include James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen White, Patricia Cornwell, J.A. Jance, Stephen King and John Grisham. Thriller authors seem to have a knack for keeping readers on the edge of their seats, chewing their nails down to the quick, and fighting off sleep to finish reading the last few pages. Many great thriller novels become thriller movies, such as The Firm, Night Train to Munich, Odd Thomas, The Girl on the Train, The Andromeda Strain, The Foreigner, The Pelican Brief, The Silence of the Lambs, and Die Hard to name just a few. Thrillers make the adrenalin flow and the heart pump with anticipation. In a broad sense, a thriller is an adventure or mystery novel, (or movie), that feeds on suspense to get readers’ adrenelin pumping and keep them turning pages, because they have to learn what… happens… next.

Within this context, there are many subgenres of thriller, including spy novels, political thrillers, psychological thrillers.  My review books this month, The Gamma Sequence, by Dan Alatorre and Only Wrong Once, by Jenifer Ruff are both medical thrillers, but they are two very different stories. My interviews this month are with International bestselling novelist Dan Alatorre and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest is psychological thriller author John Nicholl. The subgenres are many, and sometimes the lines are blurred between thrillers and horror novels, or thrillers and mysteries, or thrillers and crime fiction, but as master thriller author James Patterson said in his book Thrillers: Stories to Keep You Up All Night (2016),

“But what gives the variety of thrillers a common ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job.”

Yes, it’s the excitement we feel when we read a good thriller, the sudden rush of adrenaline when catastrophy strikes and it seems there is no way out for the hero(es), or the anticipation that makes us jump in our seat when the villian attacks even though we saw it coming, these are the feelings that keep thriller readers coming back for more. Good thrillers are usually fast paced to keep the action moving and keep the adrenaline pumping from the first page to the last, throwing in twists and turns, and maybe a series of ups and downs, that keep readers on the edges of their seats and never quite give them a chance to rest until that last page is turned.

 

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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.


“Only Wrong Once”: A medical thriller that could be fact instead of fiction

Only Wrong Once

Only Wrong Once, by Jennifer Ruff is a fast paced medical thriller that deals with international bio-terrorism on a personal level, bringing it all home in a big way. Maybe the reason this tale hits a nerve is that there are similar stories in the news every day, and Only Wrong Once made me wonder about the stories we don’t hear about.

Quinn Traynor is a U.S. intelligence agent out to save the world from terrorism, but his next case will hit closer to home than most of the terrorist attacks he’s worked to thwart. When a plot to strike terror into Americans in pandemic proportions with a bio-terrorism attack, the clock is ticking to find and stop the terrorists before they can carry out their deadly plan. Time is running out for the terrorists, too, maybe faster than anyone thinks, and if they succeed, time may be running out for the entire nation. Quinn and his team work against all odds to stop the bio-terrorism weapon from being released on the country, but can they succeed in time to make a difference?

Only Wrong Once will be released next month in the medical thriller box set, Do No Harm. It is available for preorder now.

The ticking clock lends Only Wrong Once just the right amount of urgency to keep the pages turning. It is well-crafted and keeps readers sitting on the edge of their seats. The plot is downright scary, because it could happen. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“The Gamma Sequence”: Non-stop Action and Suspense

The Gamma Sequence

The Gamma Sequence, by Dan Alatorre is a non-stop action, futuristic medical thriller. The suspense begins to build on the very first page and keeps on ratcheting up the tension from there, with twists and turns that will keep readers on their toes.

Hamilton DeShear is a private detective and former cop, who isn’t looking for a mystery to solve. But when the mysterious Lanaya Kim arrives on the scene claiming to need his help, how can he refuse? There’s no turning back once his apartment goes up in flames and the game turns personal.  Soon enough people are shooting at them, the stakes are raised and it will take all of DeShear’s skill and expertise to keep them alive. Genetic research is the name of the game, but not everyone is playing by the same rules. Things aren’t always what they seem, and this certainly appears to be the case here. There’s a killer on the loose, who is targeting the scientists who worked on a secretive project which Lanaya was involved with, but can DeShear unravel the mystery and figure out what is going on before he and Lanaya are taken out of the game?

The Gamma Sequence will be available next month as a part of the Do No Harm medical thriller box set. You can preorder now.

Nail biting suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The Gamma Sequence does everything a good thriller should. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


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&