“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with bestselling horror author Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” may just have books in his blood. Before he was an author he managed a bookstore.  He’s gone on to work in both marketing and publishing, and become a bestselling, multiple award-winning author with leanings toward dark fiction. He’s got great insight into writing on the dark side which he’s willing to share with us today, so let’s welcome Jeffrey J. Mariotte now.



JJM Headshot

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

Jeff: I started writing stories when I was very young, probably 7 or 8. They were terrible, of course, and utterly derivative, mostly of the Hardy Boys novels that were my primary reading material at the time. I kept at it all through school, and by the time I got to college I knew I wanted to make my money writing something–I just didn’t know precisely what. I went in as an advertising major and did some copywriting, but graduated with a degree in Radio/TV/Film, a minor in English, a literary award, and a published article. Three years later, I got a job at a bookstore, and eventually became a manager (and later, opened a store of my own). It was while managing a store that I met a lot of authors and publishing professionals and found out the realities of publishing, and sold my first short story. So I guess the short answer to the question is: always, and the long answer is: I always wanted to write, but I didn’t know I could do it professionally until much, much later.

Kaye: What draws you to dark fiction? Why not romance, or mystery, or western?

Jeff: The truth is, I have written in two of those genres, and others besides. I’ve written both mysteries and westerns (along with science fiction, fantasy, straight fiction, and more), and intend to continue. In fact, the next couple of books I’m planning are both westerns. But yes, I am drawn to the dark side, and often when I work in those other genres I bring in elements of horror or dark suspense. I’ve never really analyzed it, but I suppose it’s a combination of a longstanding interest in horror and the supernatural, and an awareness of the darker, more unpleasant aspects of human nature.

cold_black_hearts_smerKaye: Cold Black Hearts is one of several recent releases through Wordfire Press. With more than 70 novels under your belt, what lead you to join the Wordfire family?

Jeff: I’ve known Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta for what seems like forever–this goes back to meeting authors through my bookstore work. They’re two of the greatest people on the planet. They’re supremely talented, super nice, and scrupulously honest. When I saw the books they were putting out, I knew I wanted to be part of their line, and to work with friends rather than strangers.

Kaye: My review of Cold Black Hearts posted this month, but for those who didn’t catch it, would you like to tell me a little about it?

Jeff: It’s a supernatural thriller about a police detective who loses her hearing in an explosion, but gains something else in its place–a heightened sense of empathy. That quickly becomes a burden in a crowded metropolitan area, where people’s emotions press in on her from every side. When she’s offered a job in a remote part of New Mexico, working to free an accused killer from prison, she takes it. But it turns out that she’s just stepped from the frying pan into the fire, because there are strange, spooky things going on.

Kaye: You don’t advertise your books as horror, but as dark thrillers. In your mind, what is the distinction?

Empty RoomsJeff: Actually, that’s WordFire‘s tag, not mine. I think of Cold Black Hearts and some of my other books as supernatural thrillers, because they combine traditional thriller elements–law enforcement, espionage, etc.–with supernatural elements. The first book of mine they published, Empty Rooms, was a straight, non-supernatural mystery/thriller, and it was very dark indeed, so I guess the phrase came from that.

 

Kaye: You also write comic books and graphic novels, short fiction and nonfiction. Which is your favorite type of writing? Why?

Jeff: The novel is my favorite, because it gives me more room to tell a complete story–to really dig into the characters’ psyches and explore their worlds. I love it all; I’ve even recently done some very short, 3-page comics for HyperEpics.com, which is a blast. But if I had to only pick one, it’d be novels.

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?

Jeff: As a bookseller for decades, and someone who’s worked in publishing–in addition to 20 years as a professional novelist–I’ve been lucky enough to meet and spend time with most of my favorite authors. I’ve visited with Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Clive Barker, Don Winslow, and James Lee Burke (among others) at their homes, hung out with Wallace Stegner, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Joe R. Lansdale, and Neil Gaiman, had meals with Robert B. Parker, James Ellroy, Jonathan Maberry, and Joan D. Vinge… Plus, every day I get to have a meal with my favorite author, Marsheila Rockwell (who is, coincidentally, also my wife and frequent writing partner, and a magnificent fiction writer and poet on her own). My point is, while it’s cool to have lunch with an author, it’s not exactly something I haven’t had a chance to do.

That said, I’d love to have a meal with the recently departed William Goldman, who’s a longtime favorite for his novels and his screenplays, and who’s the author I’ve most wanted to meet, but never had a chance to. He’s done it all, and exceedingly well, and I wish I could have benefited from his insights in person.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel? What’s the least fun part?

Jeff: The most fun part is finishing it, and seeing it become a real-live book. The rest of it is hard work. The research, the working out of the plot, the discovery of who the characters are, the actual chore of sitting down and turning out page after page after page… it’s a grind. Not to say that it’s not fun, but it’s work, too. The least fun part is probably when, in the editing/revising process, I realize that I have to cut lines or scenes that I really loved writing.

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

Jeff: There’ve been several, but if I have to pick one, I guess it’d be that time I went to the set of CSI: Miami to hand-deliver copies of the first-ever CSI: Miami graphic novel (which I wrote) to cast members, all while being filmed for Access Hollywood. Which promptly cut me out of all the footage–but they showed the book, and that’s what counts!

Kaye: Which of your books would you most like to see turned into a film? Who would you like to play the lead?

Jeff: There are several I think would be great for film or TV, but for the purposes of this interview, let’s say Cold Black Hearts, with Jessica Chastain.

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Jeff: Catch up on reading and TV shows, I guess. Bake more. But also, since 1980, every dollar I’ve made has come from the business of writing/editing/publishing/ book selling/ etc. — from the written word, and the process of getting it out of the brain and into a reader’s hands. So if I wasn’t writing, I’m sure I’d still be doing something in that realm.

JJM Books

Kaye: What’s in the future for Jeffrey J. Mariotte? What should readers look forward to?

There’ve been 6 books published so far this year: The SlabMissing White GirlRiver Runs RedSeason of the Wolf, and Cold Black Hearts from WordFire, and YA-horror Year of the Wicked from Simon Pulse. So readers can do some catching up while they’re waiting for the next thing.
JJM Books2Jeff:The newest release is to be a weird western short story in an anthology called Straight Outta Deadwood, published on October 1. The book is edited by David Boop and has stories by a bunch of pals, including Charlaine Harris, Steve Rasnic Tem, Shane Lacy Hensley, and the wonderful Marsheila Rockwell, so everyone who likes westerns with a side of spooky should check it out. After that, there are some comics projects in the works. Novel-wise, I have a thriller on submission, and I’m working on a new book (or will be back to it, as soon as I get this sent off)! So stay tuned.
I want to thank Jeffrey J. Mariotte for taking the time to chat and share with us. You can learn more about Jeff and his books on his website, or check out his author pages on Amazon and Wordfire Press. And be sure to check out my double review from October 4, featuring Jeff’s Cold Black Hearts.
In addition, I was fortunate for the opportunity to bring you a bonus “Chatting with the Pros” this month with award-winning horror author Paul Kane. If you write dark fiction and horror, or just enjoy reading it, you won’t want to miss that interview, too.

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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

 

 


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.