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

 

 


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.


Chatting with the Pros: Interview with western author Scott Harris

chatting with the pros

Today my author guest on “Chatting with the Pros” is a successful western author, who also happens to write his own blog, which ranked in the top 10 western blogs by Feedspot. He has written many western novels and numerous western short stories. His Brock Clemons Series was a finalist in the Western Fictioners Peacemakers Award and is ranked as a top selling series by his publisher, (and mine, as it happens), Dusty Saddle Publishing. According to his website, he grew up on Louis L’Amour. When it comes to the western genre, he really knows his stuff. Please help me welcome western novelist Scott Harris.


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Kaye: What is most challenging about writing western for you?

Scott: Since I am still working full-time running my company, finding the time to write is the most challenging thing. I usually write in the morning and have to drag myself from the keyboard to go to work. I’m hoping retirement fixes that.

Kaye: You have three books out in the Brock Clemons series? What can you tell me about that series?

Coyote Creek ColorScott: There are actually eight books in the series. The six novels (in order) are: Coyote Courage, Coyote Creek, Coyote Canyon, Mojave Massacre, Battle on the Plateau and Ambush at Red Rock Canyon. Additionally, there are two collections of short stories based on the Brock Clemons characters: Tales From Dry Springs and Tales From the Grand Canyon.

Brock was my first series, so it holds a special place in my heart. The characters are more complex than those in my subsequent series, which makes writing the stories more difficult and more rewarding. I will come back to these characters, but probably not for a year or two.

thumbnailKaye: What can you tell me about your CAZ: Vigilante Hunter series?

Scott: This series is pretty much the antithesis of the Brock series. It is six books (Slaughter at Buzzard’s Gulch, Never Shoot A Woman, The McKnight Massacre, Fire From Hell, Hell on Devil’s Mountain and A Whore’s Life) about a man named Caz (no last name) who travels the West searching for and killing evil men who have evaded justice. The series was an absolute blast to write.

 

Kaye: When writing for a series, do you outline the whole series from the start, or do you add books as you go? Are the books stand alone, or do the follow a chronological path which should be read in order?

Scott: I am on my 3rd series now (Stagecoach Willy) and I’m in the middle of the 2nd book. I have no idea where the next books are going to go and won’t think about the 3rd book until I finish this one. As a matter of fact, I do not outline my books at all. When I finish a chapter, I have no more of an idea of what the next chapter holds than the reader will. I know that’s different than most writers, but for me, it keeps the writing fresh.

For the most part, the Caz books can be read as stand alone, there is very little crossover from book to book. The Brock series is different and benefits by being read in order.

Coyote CanyonKaye: The most recent book in the Brock Clemons series is Coyote Canyon. Can you tell me a little about that book?

Scott: Coyote Canyon came out early last year and was the 3rd book in the Brock series. The series can be thought of as two different trilogies (Dry Springs and Grand Canyon), so in that sense Coyote Canyon was the last in a trilogy. It was a fun book to write because it wrapped up Brock and his families time in Dry Springs and set the stage for them to move to the Grand Canyon.

Kaye: In addition to your western novels, you have also contributed to several western anthologies. Do you prefer writing book length works or short fiction? Why?

Scott: I think that depends on my mood. My short stories range from 500 words to 5,000 words and sometimes I have an idea that I think is powerful, but requires no more than a short story. It can be freeing to write shorts without having to worry about the continuity that novels require.

On the other hand my novels (Brock averages about 50,000 words per book and Caz closer to 30,000 words) allow me to explore ideas and characters in depth. I would hate to be limited to one or the other.

Six Gun PartnersKaye: You wrote a collection of short stories together with your son, Justin. How did that work? Did you write each story as a collaboration or did you each contribute stories of your own? Was it a good experience? Would you do it again?

Scott: We wrote our own stories, though we talk 2-3 times per week about what we’re working on. He is my best story editor and muse. It was a great experience and we’re working on some things together right now. He’s also about halfway done with his first novel.

Kaye: What is the most fun about writing western for you?

Scott: Coming up and with sharing my ideas. It is really exciting to be able to create stories and characters and then do with them what you will. I have learned that it doesn’t take long before the character takes over and I find myself saying “He/She would never do/say that”

Hearing from readers that they like my work is tremendously rewarding. And I’m just old fashioned enough to still love seeing my books in actual print, with paper, ink and a cover.

Kaye: Your blog recently received the Feedspot award, ranking it up there with the top 20 western blogs out there. I believe your blog was actually ranked in the top 10. Would you like to talk a little about that?

Scott: It was flattering, of course. I try to write posts that are honest and candid. I share my troubles and mistakes (at least with regards to writing) and I believe that resonates with people. I love getting feedback from readers. I am absolutely certain that I learn as much, if not more, from my readers than they do from me.

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Kaye: Since you write one of the top western blogs, and have been a fan of westerns since an early age, what do you see when you look at the genre today? Do you find more male or female western authors? Do you find the genre dominated by independently published authors? Do you find it trending more toward western romance these days?

Scott: The genre certainly leans toward being male dominated, but it’s changing and more and more women are getting involved, which is great. Certainly the 3-4 huge names dominate the book stores and it’s tough for most of us to get any shelf space. But, Amazon opens the world for independent writers and gives many of us a chance to find an audience. Can’t ask for more than that.

I have noticed the western romance genre getting more notice and attention. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues.

Kaye: Where do you see the western genre going in the future?

Scott: Wherever we want to take it, or maybe more realistically, wherever the readers want us to take it. There are plenty of different genres sitting under the Western umbrella, so it’s up to us to write some great books and pull in readers – new and old – and at the same time, we need to listen to what the readers are telling us.

thumbnail (2)Kaye: What is in store for the future for Scott Harris? Does Brock or Caz have more stories in store for them? You are working on the second book in the Shotgun Willy series? Tell me about that series, if you would.

Scott: I’m done with Brock and Caz for now. I am working on the 2nd book in the Stagecoach Willy series. Willy is a stagecoach driver and keeps stumbling into trouble and then I need to write him out of it. He has a sense of humor, which is fun to write and has a partner, Ten, that he’s been staging with for years. When I finish the 6th book, I plan to do a “capstone” book that brings Brock, Caz and Willy together in one grand book.

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

Scott: Spend as much time as possible with my wife, Randi, my son, Justin and my daughter Samantha and her husband Devin. Randi and I travel quite a bit, try to take one RV trip per month. Next month is a 3 week trip to South Bend to watch our daughter graduate from Notre Dame Law School.

Next year, we’re retiring and moving to Tennessee. Very much looking forward to it.

I want to thank Scott for chatting with me here and sharing some of his expertise in the western genre. I very much enjoyed this and hope all of my readers have, too. You can learn more about Scott Harris on his blog and website, or on his Amazon author page. Join me next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when my guest author will be hardboiled crime fiction novelist Jim Nesbit. I hope to see all of you then.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with romance author Maya Rodale

chatting with the pros

Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.

Maya Rodale Framed

Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing. 
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
The Tatooed Duke
Kaye:  How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.

Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?

Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world. 

I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at the New York Times Overlooked Obituaries, for example. 

The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels. 

My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too. 

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Dangerous Books for GirlsKaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: Many! A list of covers for foreign editions is on my website at www.mayarodale.com/books
Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing romance?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Some Like It ScandalousKaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Read more at www.mayarodale.com/scandalous
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girls Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective. 


I want to thank Maya for joining me today and sharing her views with my readers. I think some may walk away with a different perspective on the romance genre. You can learn more about Maya on her very creative website: http://www.mayarodale.com/ and on her Amazon Author page, her Goodreads Author page, or on her Fantastic Fiction Author page.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson

chatting with the pros

My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is an award winning and best selling author who has written countless novels and over 56 national and international best sellers. A majority of his works fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, but he writes across many genres. In a recent introduction for “The Big Idea: Kevin J. Anderson“, an article about the latest release in his short fiction collection, Selected Stories, John Scalzi calls him, “one of the most prolific authors working today”, and one look at his immense book list on Amazon would leave no doubt that this is an accurate assessment. (You can find my review of selected stories here). He’s written a lot of books, 56 of which have hit the national and international best seller lists, and he’s been writing for many years, and I’m sure we will find his knowledge and experiences enlightening. Please help me welcome Kevin J. Anderson.

KJA

Kaye: You have written at least 56 national or international best sellers. What makes a good story in your mind?

Kevin: People want to read a good story with an exciting/interesting plot, a well-developed setting, and engaging characters. Make it a story you WANT to read, with clear prose and action. I don’t like muddled, glacial-paced stories where the prose is just too precious.

Kaye: Why science fiction and fantasy? Why not western or romance or mystery? What’s the attraction?

Kevin: Well, I’ve also written plenty of mysteries, and some of my work has been set in the old west, and most good stories have a strong romance component (though I don’t write category Romance or Westerns). I like to tell an interesting story, and I move around a lot among genres, even though I am primarily known for science fiction or fantasy.  I grew up in a very mundane small town in rural Wisconsin, and I was captivated by SF/F from an early age, because it showed my imagination what was possible. I wanted to go to exotic places, whether they were filled with aliens or dragons. Science fiction took me to a much wider universe.  (And as a skinny, nerdy kid with glasses and a bad haircut, “romance” wasn’t much of a possibility, so I stuck with spaceships and swords.)

Kaye: You wrote several Star Wars and X-Files novels. Is it difficult to immerse yourself in someone else’s settings and characters enough to pick up a thread and run with it in the same tone and writing style? How do you go about getting yourself into that mindset?

Kevin: It’s no more difficult than trying to immerse yourself in the old west or ancient Japan for a historical. A writer’s job is to absorb the story, characters, voice, and setting. I was already a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, and Dune, and I enjoyed going to work in those universes. In each instance, I would completely surround myself with the property — whether that meant watching the Star Wars films over and over again, or the episodes of the X-Files, or repeatedly rereading DUNE and its sequels. You pick up the manner of speaking, the “look and feel” of the world, and you make it into your own story.

Kaye: You’ve done several collaborations, including books of the Dune series, with Brian Herbert and the Clockwork books which you collaborated with Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating on a book?

Kevin: You both need to have the same vision for the book—which means a LOT of talking and brainstorming ahead of time—and you both need the same work ethic (so each partner puts in the same amount of time and effort…a tortoise and hare collaboration will just cause a lot of friction), and you need to be flexible. There’s never only ONE way to write a sentence or describe a scene. I would never want to collaborate with a diva!

Kaye: Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Do you feel your membership in these writing organizations have been helpful in your writing successes? How so?

Kevin: I belong to the Horror Writers Association (and edited three anthologies for them, the BLOOD LITE series), IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), and SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, although some of their recent decisions have made me so upset that I would not renew my membership if I wasn’t already a lifetime member.  The problem with such organizations is that you can become to engrossed in the politics and bickering that you forget your real purpose, which is to WRITE.

KJA Series

Kaye: You’ve written several series, including Saga of the Seven SunsDan Shamble P.I. and the Clockwork books? Are any of your books stand alone? Why do you lean toward series?

Kevin: I’ve written many standalone books. The one I just finished last week, a vampire/serial-killer thriller STAKE, that’s not part of a series. But I like to tell big stories, and once you’ve done all the effort of world building and character building an entire universe, you want to spend some time. To me, a trilogy is perfect — a beginning, middle, and end, with enough room to tell the story and describe the world in all its glory. Pragmatically speaking, it’s a much better decision commercially to build a series, because readers will want more and more, and each new book will help sell copies of previous volumes.  Can you imagine if A.C. Doyle had stopped after writing only one Sherlock Holmes story?

KJA Stand Alones

Kaye: Science fiction authors create whole worlds from their imaginations, often with new languages created in their own minds, and you have created many. How do you go about creating a new language?

Kevin: Hmm, creating languages?  I’m not really a linguist and I don’t know that I’ve developed full languages (though I do use weird words).  I just make up the words by making what seem to be the appropriate sounds, linguistic flavors, scary sounds for monsters or villains, softer or ethereal sounds for pleasant things.  I can’t really explain it more rigorously than that.

Kaye: Your work has won many prestigious awards. Which award are you most proud of? Why?

Kevin: Awards are awards, and it’s nice to have them, but I really prefer READERS. That’s what makes your writing worthwhile. It’s not terribly prestigious, but the award I value most is one I received very early in my career, when I received a trophy with an engraved brass plate and everything, naming me “The Writer with No Future” because I could produce more rejection slips than any other writer at an entire conference. To me, that didn’t mean I was a failure as a writer or that my work was awful—it proved that I was more persistent, that I kept trying, kept getting better, and never gave up.  I still have that trophy.

Kaye: In addition to being an author, you and your wife, Rebecca Moesta, are publishers at Wordfire Press, but originally you were traditionally published. Why the switch to being your own publisher after being traditionally published for so many years?

Kevin: Survival. No choice. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, and I could either be a mammal and evolve or stay a dinosaur and go extinct. I am still traditionally published (four books released in 2018, in fact, and a new 3-book contract from Tor Books for an epic fantasy series), but I also have a lot of backlist titles that were out of print and my fans wanted to read them. So I started releasing them myself with all the innovations of new technology.  It’s just another alternative.

Kaye: What does Wordfire press offer as a publisher for other authors?

Kevin: We are nimble and flexible, and we can produce books and get them to market far quicker than a traditional publisher can manage. But when you work with an indie publisher, or if you do it yourself, then you have to do all the work, all aspects of it.  It’s another income stream and another way to get your book in front of your audience.

Kaye: Is Wordfire taking submissions? What type of fiction is Wordfire looking for?

Kevin: Not really, I’m afraid. When we are open, we’re looking for established writers who don’t need their hands held, writers who already have their own platforms, fanbases, and marketing efforts because we have to rely on them to do the work that a whole department at a traditional publisher would do.

Kaye: You recently signed on as an adjunct professor at Western State Colorado University and you are a finalist candidate for the director of their Certificate in Publishing program. What prompted you to venture into the world of academia?

Kevin: Actually, I’m now a full professor and I run their Masters program in Publishing. I will start the first group of MA students this coming summer. There’s a LOT of paperwork and bureaucracy in academia!  I have taught writing and publishing quite often at countless writers’ conferences and conventions, most notably our own Superstars Writing Seminars, which is just hitting its tenth year.  Becoming a professor and teaching at a beautiful university in the Colorado mountains is great, offers a little more stability than freelance writing, and (the bane of all freelancers) it gives me health insurance and benefits I wouldn’t otherwise get.

Kaye: Any writing pet peeves?

Kevin: I don’t like artsy-fartsy stuff, dense prose and opaque plots.  Tell me a great story with a cool setting and interesting characters!

Kaye: Creating characters, developing plot, world building – what is the most challenging part of writing for you?

Kevin: Those are all fun, but if I had to choose I would say I have most difficulty with building rich, fleshed-out characters. Plotting and worldbuilding—that’s what I excel in.

Thanks to Kevin for sharing with us today. He’s given us food for thought with some really great answers. You can find more about Wordfire Press here: https://wordfirepress.com/.  Kevin and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, head up the Superstars Writing Seminars each year in February, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for those interested in learning the business of writing. If you’d like to become a member of the Superstars Tribe, or would just like more information about Superstars, visit the folowing link: superstarswriting.com. Visit the links below to learn more about Kevin J. Anderson and his works.

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1545798018&sr=1-1-fkmr1

Wordfire Press: http://www.wordfire.com/

Blog: http://kjablog.com/

Join us next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when I’ll be chatting with romance author Maya Rodale. 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.


Paranormal Fiction Contest Brings Changes for Friday Reviews

Hugs for Authors

The entries are rolling in for the paranormal fiction contest and each one must be read. Stories good enough to recieve invitations to the anthology will also need to be edited. In order to accomodate a time budget for all this contest judging and anthology compilation activities in addition to my other life responsibilities, you can expect to see a few changes in the Friday Reviews.

One good change is we’ll be seeing more of Jeff Bowles. Last week he stepped in with a movie review of Glass that was brutally honest, but captivating. That review was so well recieved that he’s agreed to share a movie review with us on the third Monday of every month. His review of Glass was knowledgeable of the genre and written well enough to be mistakeing for one of the top critiques. If book reviews are hugs for authors, then Writing to be Read wants to hug the film industry, too. If you want to keep up on many of the latest movies, be sure to catch Jeff’s Movie Review (working title) each month.

I also plan to make two reviews each month instead of four, for books in the genre to go along with the monthly theme set by the genre the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author for the month. In February my guest author was nonfiction author Mark Shaw, so the February theme was nonfiction. My supporting author interview was with nature writer Susan J. Tweit and my supporting post was about my own nonfiction endeavor with the first post in my new bi-monthly series, “The Making of a Memoir“. My reviews were both of nonfiction books of different sub-genres: Mark Shaw’s How to Become a Published Author and a compilation of poetry artwork and writings about mental illness, the Letters of May anthology.

Science Fiction-Fantasy

March’s theme will be science fiction and fantasy, and the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author will be national and international best selling author Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written more best sellers than there is room to list here and I’m thrilled to have him on Writing to be Read.  My supporting post will be about my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods. I’m still searching for a author for my supporting interview, but my reviews will be for Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories and Jordan Elizabeth’s Rogue Crystal. If you want to be sure not to miss any of these great science fiction and fantasy segments, be sure to sign up to email or follow on WordPress to get notification of new content.

ghosts-gespenter-spooky-horror-40748

Before I wrap this up, let me just remind you all that there is still time to submit your short story to the WordCrafter paranormal fiction contest. The deadline is April 1, so don’t drag your feet on this one. The entry fee is $5 and the winner will recive a $25 Amazon gift card and a guaranteed place in the WordCrafter Press paranormal short fiction. Email your submissions to kayebooth (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send you confirmation instructions for submitting your entry fee.

Your submission can be any genre, but your story does have to include a paranormal element, so get those stories in. Other entries may be included in the anthology by special invitation, and all anthology authors will recieve a small royalty share if the book makes any money. You can get the full submission guidelines here: https://kayelynnebooth.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/short-fiction-contest-paranormal-stories-sought/

I do hope you’ll all join me in the exciting changes ahead. I’m always interested in reader feedback, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see on Writing to be Read.

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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with nonfiction author Mark Shaw

chatting with the pros
In February, Writing to be Read is taking at look at nonfiction authors and their works. I’m pleased to say that my guest on Chatting with the Pros this month is nonfiction author Mark Shaw. Mark has been a traditionally published author for many years, following a successful career in journalism. He’s written biographies on sports greats, priests, accused criminals in high profile cases, as well as books about golf and pilots, and writing instruction. Today, he champions those for whom justice has not been served, his most recent book being Denial of Justice, which outlines the events surrounding the  and deaths of J.F.K., Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen, which is a sequel to The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, which is Kilgallen’s story, and both books have been optioned for visual media and a script is currently being developed. Let’s welcome him and see what he has to say.
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Kaye: Could you share a brief history of your author’s journey for those who are not familiar with you or your work? How did you get to where you are today? 
Mark: It’s difficult for me to even believe that Denial of Justice was my 27th book. I never had any experience with writing, no classes, no workshops, etc. when I first wrote a book about Mike Tyson’s rape trial in 1992. What I fell in love with was the research, the writing process, and the chance to make people stop and think about important historical issues. That’s what keeps me going, looking for subjects now that deal with justice and injustice.
Kaye: In your books, you use your investigative reporting skills to dig deep and reveal little or unknown facts until you can tell the whole tale. Many of your books have brought some surprising details to the public eye. How do you choose the subjects for your books? 
Mark: I like to say the book ideas come to me. Most of the time, I get an idea for a book at 3 a.m. and quickly write down a thought about it on some note cards I keep by my bed. All of my book titles have come that way as well. Writers need to keep their eyes open, many book ideas float right in front of us if we pay attention.
Kaye: After the story of Dorothy Kilgallen, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, had a great reception and is now being prepared to be told through visual media. Was any of this a surprise to you, or did you think this story might be a best seller as you were writing it? 
Mark: I had no idea Dorothy’s name was still magic, that a book about her would touch so many reader’s emotions and become a bestseller. I’ve heard from people around the world about the book, still do today, two-plus years after the book was published. It’s been amazing experience for sure.
Kaye: You recently released Denial of Justice, which digs even deeper into Dorothy’s story. How did you know there was more to be found regarding her story?
Mark: Those readers I mention sent me tips about new information about Dorothy’s life and times and her death and a file I kept just kept getting thicker until I realized there was a second book for those who read the first one and did not. Now I feel as if I have told the complete story about her although some new information still comes my way.

 

 

Kaye: As mentioned above, the Dorothy Kilgallen story in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is going to be portrayed on the screen. Are there plans to include Denial of Justice to be portrayed visually or perhaps be included in the screen version already planned? 
Mark: Both books were optioned for the big or little screen.
Kaye: How is that going so far?
Mark: There is no filming yet of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. It is still in the development phase with a script being completed. I am quite excited about Dorothy’s story being on the big or small screen since if that happens, more and more people will know about this remarkable woman. I like to say a book is like a written megaphone to the world but a film or TV series reaches even more people.
Kaye: In addition to several books which revolve around J.F.K. and his circles, you’ve also written about sports icons such as Larry Bird, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Don Larson. You’ve told the tales of suffering and discrimination during the holocaust, and you’ve written the biography of a priest, books on golfing and a how-to book on writing. What motivates you to write the stories that you write?
how to become a published authorMark: Again, the chance to make people stop and think, although some books have been more for entertainment purposes. Regardless, my books have a controversial slant to them, and that is important, something aspiring authors should seek to achieve. In my book about the publishing process that I use when aspiring authors hire me as a consultant, How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication, this is the type of practical advice I provide based on all of my
experience.
Kaye: Have you ever written a book of fiction? 
courage in the face of evil cover final nov 10 2017Mark: Yes, Courage in the Face of Evil is based on a true story, a Holocaust diary that is both disturbing and inspirational in nature, but I had to add certain elements that cause it to enter the world of fiction. I have also created a crime series called Vicker Punch: Lawyer on the Brink that is fiction, but based on my years as a criminal defense lawyer handling murder cases, and a book that is a sequel to a famous work of fiction.
Kaye: How do you see writing nonfiction differing from fiction in the publishing arena?
Mark: Fiction is much more fun, let the imagination loose without worrying about footnotes, etc. Just let it go and let the characters tell whatever the story is they want to tell. This said, for a first time author, getting fiction published these days is much more difficult that non-fiction since with fiction the star of the book is the author while with non-fiction the star of the book is the story.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing nonfiction for you?
Mark: How to tell the story once I have done all of my research.
road to a miracleKaye: Tell me a little about Road to a Miracle? The book is listed on Amazon for $57.73. I have to wonder what type of book rates a price like that? 
Mark: That’s nuts, and there are other editions of the book at a much less cost. The book is my road through the amazing life I have been blessed to live to the point of finding a daughter and two grandchildren I never knew existed a few years ago. Truly a miracle.
Kaye: I believe your stories are successful because they all hit emotional chords in your readers. How do you portray the emotional elements of your story so that they will touch your readers?
Mark: I tell writers I work with to be certain, whether fiction or non-fiction, to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. That’s how the emotion comes through, how the reader connects with the story. Remember, a book is like a conversation with the reader but the author is not there so the emotion must be shown not told.
Kaye: In How to Become a Published Author, you talk about the importance of titles and subtitles. How do you come up with titles and subtitles for your books? How important are subtitles?

Mark: The book ideas come to me and the titles in the middle of the night when whatever spirit it is that is guiding my life, whispers in my ear. I quickly write down the idea on note cards I keep by my bed.

Many good books and movies have never seen the light of day due to bad titles. They need to be catchy, like TRWKTM, Denial of Justice, Miscarriage of Justice, The Poison Patriarch, etc. Don’t have too much experience with books based on true stories or fiction but Courage in the Face of Evil is striking as is Victor Punch: Lawyer on the Brink.
 
Re subtitles, not as important as titles but add to the description of the book. Again, I’m quite proud of the subtitles for my books. They certainly add to the allure of the story.
Kaye: Many of your books are collaborations. Is it difficult to write a book with someone else? Why collaborate? What are the pros and cons? 
Mark: No, during the early part of my getting some footing as a writer, I had collaborations, but no more. This said, working with someone famous to tell their story is a good way to show writing skill and the ability to tell a good story. That’s key to establishing a reputation, as is writing biographies if a writer wants to enter the world of non-fiction.
Kaye: You were a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for the news media covering the Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson and Kobe Bryant cases, and you have a book about Tyson, Falsely Accused. Are there books about O.J. and Koby in the future? If not, what separates Tyson out from the others? 

 

 

Mark: Injustice is the key word for the Tyson book since he did not get a fair trial. That thread has been woven through almost every book I’ve written in the last ten years or so, Miscarriage of Justice, Beneath the Mask of Holiness, Melvin Belli: King of the Courtroom, The Poison Patriarch, TRWKTM and now Denial of Justice, which relates actually to four people, JFK, Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen. All were denied justice.
Kaye: What’s in the future for Mark Shaw?
Mark: Only the good Lord knows but I am truly the most blessed man on the face of the earth and for sure, I want to help as many writers as possible become published, to realize their publishing dreams.
I want to thank Mark for sharing with us today. He’s given us some insight into the world of a nonfiction author. You can learn more about Mark or his books at the links below.

Website: https://www.markshawbooks.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-William-Shaw/e/B000APQ7ZM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1547774000&sr=1-3

 

 

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.