Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Mark Morrison, TwoSpells

Mark & Sarah
Mark Morrison and his daughter, Sarah, the inspiration for the character of the same name in TwoSpells!

Yesterday, I reviewed the fantasy adventure TwoSpells, by Mark Morrison, a fun blend of the Narnia series and stories like “A Wrinkle in Time.” Below, Mark shares how he got the idea for this whole new world, where his imagination comes from and check below for a little bit about his next book!

Where did the idea for TwoSpells come from? 
One of my daughters-in-law is a librarian. I love her like my own daughter and not just because my son does but because she’s a wonderful person in a million ways. I wanted to create a story in honor of her. The story wasn’t titled yet and  originally started out as a children’s fantasy about a living library that was waging an internal war between the written word and the new electronic technologies of eBooks that were pushing traditional books aside. That idea lasted for maybe a day or two before it morphed dramatically into what it is today. I’m not sure how or why it evolved so rapidly but it did.
Was it difficult to create an entire new “world,” with its own backstory and system?
Not really because I grew up in a family of modest means with seven brothers and sisters. We always had enough to eat but not a whole lot extra frills. My father used to say he was an uneducated genius and I really do believe he was. He invented a game for us all to entertain ourselves as a family that didn’t cost a dime. It was called, UH!

The family would gather in the living room and one of us was elected to start. That person would start creating a totally fictitious story out of thin air. Then they’d pause mid-sentence and let the next player take over from there. This continued around the room until someone hesitated or said “uh”. That player was out and the game continued until only one person was left. The stories we created were most often incredibly strange because each of us was attempting to make the next in line chuckle and fumble by saying, ‘uh!’. It was an awesome game of improvisation, so I credit my love of storytelling to that silly game my father claims to have invented.

Why did you choose to have two main characters instead of one?

I think for two reasons. One; my oldest son, my mentor and personal tutor, said it would be wise and that’s that’s good enough for me because he’s much smarter than I am. And two; a famous song I heard as a child says, ‘one is the loneliest number next to two.’ That same son agreed.

The book has some serious/scary moments followed by some really funny, lighthearted scenes. How did you strike that balance?
It’s a simply reflection of my own life so it came naturally. I work as a grief and family counselor and am surprised at how resilient families can be after a loved one has passed. I guess humor is a coping mechanism for a lot of folks. I handle adversity the very same way by trying to let it roll off me and move on usually by trying to find some humor in the issue. Another great saying my father had was “i, ‘it’s not a problem if money can solve it, otherwise it’s just an issue.'” I’ve found that most bad things start out as appearing to be problems but are really just issues.

Why did you choose to end on a bit of a cliffhanger?
For only one reason, I love them myself. I can’t be the only one who loves a good cliffhanger. I can guess that’s why so many writers use them too.

What do you like about writing for young adults?
Because I believe I probably maxed out in my maturity somewhere within that bracket, so it makes me completely comfortable with that writing level or below. Birds of a feather right.

What can we expect from the sequel?
That would be sequels because I’ve rough fleshed out outlines for four more of the series already, each very unique from the others. The beauty of the sequels is I don’t need to reenact all the backstory as in the first. It’s pure story-line from this point. I’ve got approximately 25% of the second TwoSpells completed and it is spectacular, at least in my mind that is.

Mark was also kind enough to share the cover of his next book with me – and it’s also gorgeous, done by the same artist who designed the cover of TwoSpells.

Corky 4

About the Book

A young pig named Corky witnesses his mothers abduction, leaving he and his father alone and frightened, both now forced to fend for themselves.

His father enrolled him an obedience school for dogs where he doesn’t fit in because of his very unique physical differences.

He must overcome adversity and discrimination at every turn which he manages to defeat valiantly. He eventually becomes overwhelmed and runs away from home, only to face a wild series of twisted mishaps, strange characters, brazen heroes and wicked villains.

His remarkable adventure will ultimately mold him into the most interesting pig in the world.

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Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Anne Montgomery

9780996390149_p0_v2_s192x300Yesterday, I shared my review of the fabulous book, The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery. Now, we get to hear more details about the book and Anne’s own true experience with the people of Colorado City as well as what she has coming up next!

Enjoy!

What inspired you to take on this subject?

The ideas for all of my books come from current events. I am an admitted news junkie and have been reading the newspaper front to back daily for about 40 years. I’ve learned that truth is often far stranger than fiction. Stories about the polygamists in Colorado City are often in the news here in Arizona. I had never heard about the cult until I moved here and was shocked that such a group could exist today in the US. In regard to Rose, the 16-year-old protagonist, I am a teacher in a Title I high school in Phoenix. Many of my students come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds. I am also a foster mom. I have seen what abuse and neglect can do to children first hand.

Many of the non-FLDS characters describe the hostility they face from the residents of Colorado City and at the end of the book, you said you traveled to Colorado City for inspiration and experienced similar treatment. What was that like?

I find it impossible to write stories without actually visiting the locations where my characters live, so I recruited a friend and we drove to Colorado, City. We concocted a story about looking for a place to retire. As we studied the community, children stared at us as if we were monsters. They are told that outsiders are devils. We drove around town, stopping at the the local market, the shuttered public school, the grave yard, and the leader’s palatial estate. I’m pretty sure we were being followed, at times. It was very disconcerting. I’m not afraid of many things, but I have to admit I was uncomfortable while doing research on site and have no desire to go back.

What other research did you do for the book?

As a former reporter, I greatly enjoy digging for a story. I read articles about Colorado City and conducted interviews with people who had lived or worked in the community, including Flora Jessop, who escaped twice from the cult and today works with the Child Protection Project: an anti-child abuse group that helps women and girls escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stories Flora told me were so harrowing that to this day I have not listened to the three-hour recording of our interview session. The images were burned into my brain. I also interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby who bravely confronted the cult members, asking them to refrain from marrying and reproducing with their close relatives, after he discovered that the cause of the awful birth defects in the community were the result of incest. Unfortunately, Dr. Tarby was ignored.

Many scenes in the book are very emotional and are based on real-life FLDS decrees and beliefs. How did you decide what to include in the book? 

I took into account the stories that Flora Jessop relayed and, when possible, I gave those experiences to Rose. I find it interesting that some readers have been put off by certain scenes and have suggested that I have overplayed the situation. But the vast majority of the information I wrote about came directly from my interviews with Flora and Dr. Tarby. I also included information gleaned from newspaper articles and TV reports.

What do you hope people take away from the book?

Be aware of what’s happening around you and speak up when warranted. Some characters in “The Scent of Rain” are kind, well-meaning people, but they don’t acknowledge what’s happening right under their noses. Mistreatment of people, especially children, is something no one should tolerate, and no belief or religion should be a mask for abuse.

What are you working on next?

Two of my books that were previously published are to be soon to be reissued. “A Light in the Desert” is a soft-thriller involving a Vietnam veteran who is succumbing to a strange form of mental illness called the Jerusalem Syndrome, a pregnant teenager, and the deadly, real-life, cold-case sabotage of an Amtrak train in the Arizona desert. “Nothing But Echoes” is historical fiction that deals with the discovery of a fabulous tomb in Northern Arizona that reveals a man interred 900 years ago who doesn’t look like the pueblo people who buried him, and which leads to questions about archeological looting, the black market sale of antiquities, and when Europeans first arrived in the Americas. “The Castle,” which tells the story of a female National Park ranger who is a rape survivor and the serial rapist who is stalking her, is currently being offered to publishers.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First, don’t quit your day job. It’s extremely difficult in the ever-changing of world of publishing to make a living as an author. And remember that authors are not just story tellers. In order to be successful, they must be marketers and bloggers and speakers. Also, an author will not survive without extremely thick skin. Rejections can wear you down, but they are part of the process. When someone says no, politely ask why. Respect the person’s opinion and see what you can do better. Obviously, writers must write. When you finish that perfect novel, take a few breaths then write another one. Publishers are not looking for a one-hit wonder. They want to sign people who produce lots of books. Finally, try not to take the ups and downs of publishing too seriously. If you have a sense of humor and appreciate those baby steps forward, you will be a much happier author.

Posted in Reviews

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Every Last LieEvery Last Lie by Mary Kubica

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d heard great things about Mary Kubica’s work before reading this book, but I’d never had the opportunity to read her work before now. And now that I’m a Kubica veteran, I can confirm all of good things I’ve heard.

This book packs a punch you don’t even see coming.

It’s only four days after Clara gives birth to her second child that she receives word that no one wants to hear: her husband has died in a crash caused by his own reckless driving. Their 4-year-old, also in the car, is uninjured. It seems like an open-and-shut case until Clara begins discovering weird things about Nick’s life just before the crash. She becomes determined to find out if this was an accident or something a lot worse. The story is told from both Clara and Nick’s viewpoints, to show all the secrets Nick kept before his death.

I hesitate to call this a mystery/thriller because it starts out with Clara finding out about her husband’s death and quickly becomes a drama about her struggling to accept it. You could literally feel her anxiety and sadness as you read, especially as she begins to find out the secrets Nick kept from her. Slowly, before you even realize it, the novel becomes a mystery, which deepens as it becomes apparent that Nick was keeping a lot of secrets. Like, a lot. By then, you’re hooked, unable to look away until you discover what the heck is going on.

Like I said, it’s definitely the sign of a great writer when you actually feel anxious and paranoid FOR the character. As you watch Clara unravel, it’s like her instability radiates off the pages. I couldn’t stop reading!

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to be really vague here, but I had some suspicions that the ending would turn out like it did, but it was pretty intense, regardless. There are enough suspects and red herrings to keep you turning pages.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book. From now on, I’m a big fan of Mary Kubica.

Highly recommended.

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Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Affinity Konar, “Mischling”

Mischling_Graphics3

To celebrate the paperback release of the amazing and emotional read, “Mischling,” I got a chance to ask author Affinity Konar some questions about the novel. I am a big fan of her debut work so I am thrilled to share her answers with you!

And if you haven’t read the book yet, go get a copy; you won’t be disappointed.


Why was this subject important for you to write about?
It was so important to me actually, that I wanted to not write it. My family left Poland in 1932, and were harbored safely in America, so while I was growing up I always felt pulled back to the period, and to what could have been, if my ancestors weren’t offered this refuge. I think it’s necessary to live with that warning in the back of your mind, especially today, to let it echo in remembrance. When I was a teenager, I found the story of the twins in Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, and so many of the testimonies approached questions of to how to retain one’s own humanity, how to survive, resist, and attempt to restore oneself after unimaginable trauma. After I read that, I couldn’t stop imagining a conversation between a pair of twins whose bond was their refuge, their means to survival.


How did you find the balance between such a dark subject and an ultimately uplifting story?
The trickiness of finding that balance is one of the reasons that the book took so long to write. One doesn’t want to impose any kind of veneer that might lessen the trauma of a very real experience. But I wanted to pay tribute to stories of incredible endurance that I can’t help but be inspired by, specifically because they arose out of the extreme darkness of Shoah. So managing this element came down to voice for me, in the end. The imagery that arises out of the voices of Stasha and Pearl may be charming, but they function as veils for horror. It was my hope that the very necessity for these veils–or the fact that the girls would resort to such transformative thinking–would magnify the true peril that they endure.


What is your advice to aspiring authors?
I have to quote Sarah Manguso from “300 Arguments”. “I’ve written whole books to avoid writing other books.” That was my life for a long time. Nothing that came out of that avoidance was very good. So I’d say that honoring your desire to write about what scares you most is important. If it’s not terrifying you on a certain level, if might feel necessary enough to bring out the best you have to offer as a writer. Also, oatmeal is cheap and nutritious when times are lean, dogs are good for getting you out of the house, and you should read everything you can, whether you’re drawn to the text or not, because it all informs the kind of stance you’ll take on the page


What are you working on next?
It feels odd to talk about this, because this book has felt like my life’s work, and I honestly never expected to finish it, much less start another. But I have found myself writing in hotel rooms while touring, so I guess I won’t be stopping any time soon? It’s currently in chaos, but it’s a chaos centered by a search for meaning and restoration, and I suspect that this is an element that will always be afoot in whatever I attempt to do.



About the Author

2894415Affinity Konar was raised in California. While writing MISCHLING, she worked as a tutor, proofreader, technical writer, and editor of children’s educational workbooks. She studied fiction at SFSU and Columbia. She is of Polish-Jewish descent, and currently lives in Los Angeles.

She dearly misses writing about Pearl and Stasha, and is grateful to any reader who might find the company of the twins.

Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Justin W.M. Roberts

34122259I’m thrilled to be able to talk with another author about work and their craft. Justin W.M. Roberts, author of the action-packed “The Policewoman,” took some time to share his thoughts on his characters and his experiences as a writer.

– Where did the idea for this novel come from?

Drug trafficking is a problem faced by every country. It’s big business and it’s a matter of time drug cartels will try to take over a country.

 

– This novel not only had action, but a lot of emotion too – laughter, romance, etc. How did you balance that in your writing?

Well, the life a real police officer is not one action sequence to the next. In fact, 99% of it is boring. This book is art imitating the life of a police officer, albeit an extraordinary life.

– Why did you choose a female protagonist? 

Good question! This book is more of a military action thriller than a crime fiction novel. Since there aren’t any female officers in the UK’s Special Air Service, I need the main protagonist to be a female so there can be a romance element in the book.

– What authors do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

I enjoy reading Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, Andy McNab, and Chris Ryan

– What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just write! Send your work to a lot of people so they can send their feedback.

– What are you working on next?

The Policewoman is book one of a series. I’m currently writing the sequel.


About the Author

Justin W.M. Roberts was born in London, son of a British Army General, and grew up in Hong Kong, Germany, and England. After graduating from Hull university with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Psychology, he continued traveling and living Europe, Africa, and Asia.

He currently lives in Indonesia where he is an analyst of political affairs and an active promoter of secular humanism.

Authors of military thrillers are welcome to PM him (on Goodreads) for book reviews.

Posted in Author Q&As, Book Extras

Goodreads celebrates “Mystery and Thriller Week” with Lisa Jackson Q&A!

NI’ve made no secret about the fact that Lisa Jackson is one of my favorite authors – so I was so excited to see that she is one of the authors featured in the Q&A section of Goodreads’ “Mystery and Thriller Week” feature.

Goodreads users were able to submit questions for Jackson to answer about writing, publishing and her characters.

Here’s my favorite bits below:

Continue reading “Goodreads celebrates “Mystery and Thriller Week” with Lisa Jackson Q&A!”

Posted in Reviews

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

The Most Dangerous Place on EarthThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

This book is about teenagers, but is definitely an “adult” book: it shows the gritty, seedy underbelly of a world where everyone looks ok on the surface, but underneath, is a complex personality filled with conflict.

The book loosely follows a first-year teacher at Mill Valley High School, an upper-class SAN Francisco suburban high school where her core group of students seem to have it all: from the material to good looks, bright futures, etc. But each of them harbors an intense secret – all strung together by one tragedy in eighth grade. As Miss Nicholls tries to understand her students, she is pulled into a world where nothing is what it seems.

The book is set up so that Molly Nicholls, the teacher, narrates every other chapter, while one student tells theirs in the alternating chapters. It’s an interesting approach, but the timeline gets really confusing. There’s a couple of events which center the narrative, but it’s really all over the place.

Also, if you’re looking for happy endings, this book is not it. It’s very short in good feelings. But it did keep my attention until the end. I really wanted to know what happened to these kids, good or bad. The story was good, if a little (ok, a lot) depressing.

Perhaps if there had been some overarching positive ending to take away, I might have rated the book higher. But in the end, while I did want to know what happened, when I found out, I was really bummed. Like, there’s not a lot to grasp onto here.

I mean, I get that it’s a cautionary tale, but Jay-sus.

I would definitely read this author again, she very clearly has great storytelling skills. I just wish this book had been slightly different.

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