Q&A with Cas Peace, The Kings Envoy Audio Book

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What inspired your book?

King’s Envoy, my first novel and the start of the entire triple-trilogy Artesans of Albia series, was inspired by a 1970s children’s TV show called “Tarot, Ace of Wands.” Tarot was a magician who used his special talents to solve crime, and this got me wondering what it would be like to be born with a special talent or power, especially if there was no one to teach you how to use it. This thought triggered a little scene in my head, which became the scene where my main male character, Taran, meets Major Sullyan for the first time.

How do you spend your free time?

I have two rescue Lurcher dogs, Milly and Milo, so I love going for country walks. I also love gardening and have a large collection of unusual cacti. Singing is another love of mine and I have written and recorded some folk-style songs that appear in my books. They can be found on my website, www.caspeace.com

What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

Confidence that my writing is any good. I always write for myself, so having the confidence to show it to other people is a struggle. I’m always surprised when complete strangers like or identify with my writing, and that gives me a huge boost. All the lovely reviews I’ve received for my Artesans series, plus emails from fans, helped me overcome that initial lack of confidence. Now I just write what I want and don’t worry so much about whether it’s “good” right from the start. I know I can always edit and improve.

When did you first realize you were an author?

I never intended to become an author, I was only writing as a hobby, so I guess it was when I decided I had to take the plunge and show my first “real” piece of writing to my husband. He read it and really loved it, despite not being a fan of fantasy novels, and that gave me the confidence to send it out to agents and publishers. Although I received many rejections before finding my first publisher, I also received much encouragement and many personally-written comments. That’s when I realized these writing professionals were treating me as a serious author.

What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

I enjoy a wide variety of musical genres, and I love to choose music that suits what I’m writing. My Artesans series is set in a medieval-style world, so I listened to lots of medieval-style chants and plainsong while writing it.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I don’t ever plot my novels, so I love to just sit down (with a pen, I can’t type fast enough!) and simply write what’s in my mind, letting the ideas flow as they will. Then I really enjoy the editing process; going back over what I’ve written and polishing it.

What is the most important thing in your life and why?

My family. I very recently lost my father at the age of 92 and was so grateful to have a close-knit family that helped each other through the difficult times. My parents have been extremely supportive of me throughout my life, and they and my husband were encouraging throughout my writing journey. I love them all dearly.

The Return of Pat Gallegher by Richard Helms

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My primary series protagonist Pat Gallegher and I have been buddies for almost thirty-five years. I wrote my first Gallegher short story in 1985, and quickly followed it with five more, before I felt I knew enough about my protagonist to try a novel. Only two of those first six short stories have found their way into print. You should thank me for that. Really. Most of them were completely awful.

In 2008, when my wife and I considered downsizing from the house we had lived in for almost fifteen years, I ran across a box filled with old legal pad manuscripts of stories. I didn’t write with a computer until the 1990s, so I knew this was some of the truly bad old stuff.

I read some of the stories and was amazed to discover that several of them—far and away the minority—had remarkably good bones. Lousy writing, but good bones. I took one of the last of the 1980s Gallegher tales entitled “Change Of Venue”, and I rewrote it top to bottom, using skills I’d developed over twenty-five years and four previous Pat Gallegher novels. I rewrote it several times. Okay, several dozen times. As I said, the bones were good, but everything draped on them was cringe-worthy. Somewhere along the line, the story acquired a new title—“The Gods For Vengeance Cry”—and in 2009 I genuflected a couple of times, sacrificed a goat, muttered a few good luck incantations, and send it in to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

It was nominated for the Derringer, Macavity, and Thriller Awards, and in July 2011 it won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Short Story. The other nominees that year included Michael Connelly, Max Allan Collins, and Mickey Spillane. And my little quarter-century-old story beat them. As I made my way to the stage, I distinctly recall saying out loud, “Oh, fudge!”

Except, like Jean Shepherd’s Ralphie, I didn’t say “fudge.”

So, as you can imagine, I’m sort of attached to Pat Gallegher. Like baseball for Chico Escuela, Pat Gallegher has been very, very good to me.

But, who is Gallegher, anyhow? He’s evolved over the years. In the original short stories, he was a former seminarian who abandoned the priesthood due to a crisis of faith, and who had wandered the country before landing in New Orleans, where he fed himself by playing a jazz trumpet in a dive bar off Toulouse Street, and by gambling. Eventually, the cards turned against him, and he found himself deep in debt to a Cajun loan shark named Leduc. Leduc exploited Gallegher’s hulking six-and-a-half-foot size and allowed Gallegher to work off the debt—in microscopic portions—by shaking down other gambling addicts for their debts. After joining AA, at the urging of a former mob wheelman named Cabby Jacks, Gallegher was compelled to balance the rickety scales of his brittle karma by helping people who had nowhere else to turn. Some of the favors he performed for these people involved murder.

Somehow, by the fifth short story, sometime around 1988, Gallegher acquired a Ph.D in philosophy. The explanation was that he hadn’t found the enlightenment he desired in the seminary, so he hoped he’d find it in a university classroom. The trumpet morphed into a cornet, for no discernible reason I can recall. As Richard Brautigan wrote, it just happened, like lint.

By 1995, when I got around to writing the first Pat Gallegher novel (Joker Poker), it suited my purposes to change his doctorate to psychology, and to give him an enhanced backstory. By 1995, I was a forensic psychologist, so I decided that Gallegher should be a former forensic psychologist. Write what you know, right? It was an easy change, since none of the original 1980s short stories had made it into print.

The plot from one of the short stories suggested that Gallegher had been a college professor at some point, and had been forced to resign after being falsely accused of sexual harassment—leading to his downward spiral and eventual hard splashdown in the Big Easy. I added that to the formula, and Gallegher as he now exists was born. Strangely, ten years after I endowed Gallegher with a former career as a college professor, I retired from active practice and became a college psychology professor myself. First, art imitated life. Then, life imitated art. Fortunately, unlike hapless Pat Gallegher, I was able to continue working as a professor until I retired in 2016. And I can’t play a note on a cornet, so there’s where the similarity between me and my creation ends.

Gallegher’s ethos is simple. Like Travis McGee, he is a knight errant, serving no master but placing himself at the disposal of anyone in desperate need. Like Mike Hammer or Spenser, he relentlessly protects his clients. Like Chandler’s prototypic private eye, he confidently walks the mean streets of New Orleans, though he is not himself mean. Incorruptible, fearless, thoughtful, introspective, and imposing, Gallegher is the French Quarter’s go-to guy when your entire life falls to pieces. If Jack Reacher put down roots, he would be Pat Gallegher.

Joker Poker came out in 2000. Two of the subsequent three titles (Juicy Watusi, and Wet Debt) were nominated for Shamus Awards. As I said, Pat Gallegher has been very, very good to me. However, there were other series (Eamon Gold, Judd Wheeler, etc) and standalone novels I wanted to write, so the Gallegher series ended in 2003, with Wet Debt. The fifth novel, Paid In Spades, comes out from Clay Stafford Books in March. That’s fifteen years between book-length Gallegher releases.

Yet, in Gallegher’s world, it’s still 2003, only two weeks after the bloody gunfight with the Anolli gang that ended Wet Debt. He uses a flip phone, because smartphones are still years in the future. Hurricane Katrina hasn’t yet ravaged the ancient streets of New Orleans. Social media is largely nonexistent—no MySpace or Facebook or Twitter. The bad guys from the previous novels—the gangsters and robber barons and schemers and ne’er-do-wells—are all still around. Gallegher still knocks heads with NOPD detective Farley Nuckolls and federal agent Chester Boulware, just as he did in the first four novels. Merlie Comineau, the auburn-haired, violet-eyed social worker who has been at Gallegher’s side since the second novel (Voodoo That You Do) is still there. Scat Boudreaux, the Cannibal Commando (my addition to the Hawk/Joe Pike/Bubba Rogowski/Win Lockwood Psychotic Sidekick rage of the ‘80s and ‘90s) is still watching Gallegher’s six.

Something is different, though. It may still be 2003 in Gallegher’s story, but we’ve lived fifteen years into his future. We know what he faces. We know the Big Sleazy Gallegher commands is headed for tragic times. Hurricane Katrina awaits. The entire culture of New Orleans and the French Quarter is cataclysm-bound, and Gallegher hasn’t a clue what’s coming. We know, though, and because we know, we also know the world Gallegher has occupied for almost a decade by the time Paid In Spades begins is coming to a close. Like watching a story set in Pompeii in 78 AD, there is a sense of melancholic apprehension. Terrible times are coming. Nobody knows whether Gallegher and Merlie and Scat and Farley will survive the monster storm only a year or so in their future. Really. I invented every one of them, and I don’t have a clue.

Maybe I’ll figure it out before I write Pat Gallegher Novel #6.

About the Author

Retired forensic psychologist and college professor Richard Helms is the author of eighteen published novels and multiple short stories. He has been nominated six times for the SMFS Derringer Award, five times for the PWA Shamus Award, twice for the ITW Thriller Award, and once for the MRI Macavity Award. He is one of only two authors ever to win the Derringer Award in two different categories in the same year--2008, for "The Gospel According to Gordon Black" (Thrilling Detective Website) and "Paper Walls/Glass Houses" (Back Alley Webzine). He also won the 2011 ITW Thriller Award for Best Short Story, for "The Gods for Vengeance Cry", a Pat Gallegher story that appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2010. He is a past president of the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and served on the MWA National Board of Directors from 2011 to 2013. He was presented with SEMWA's Magnolia Award for service to the chapter in 2017. Besides writing, Helms enjoys woodworking, traveling, reading, gourmet cooking, and rooting for his beloved Carolina Tar Heels and Carolina Panthers. A lifelong North Carolinian, Richard Helms and his wife Elaine live in Charlotte, NC."

The Challenges of Genre Bending, Straddling and Hopping by A.B. Michaels

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Three times a week I take a class at our local gym (which I think of as “dance” instead of the dreaded “e” word just to get me out of bed to do it) and yes, I count the jumping around as part of my daily steps. But it occurred to me that I’ve been doing something similar in my writing, which, even though it doesn’t count as steps (darn it), is still quite a workout. Here’s what I mean:

When I published my first book four years ago, I had a vision: I would write about generations of characters associated with a fictional place on the Northern California coast called “Sinner’s Grove.” The contemporary series was straightforward. I have two books in that series and am working on a third; they all fall squarely within the genre of “romantic suspense.” Easy peasy.

The historical line, however, posed a challenge: I thought I was writing historical romance, but it turns out, I wasn’t. It was more like “romantic historical fiction.” Those of you who read both historical fiction and historical romance know there’s a noticeable difference between the two types of fiction. In historical romance, the relationship is paramount; the story centers around the (usually) male and female lead characters and whether or not they’re going to solve their problems and get together. There must be a “Happily ever after” or at least a “Happily for now” ending. The background for their struggles is some kind of historical period, such as Regency, 18th century Scotland, the Wild West, etc. but the period serves primarily as a framework through which the relationship is explored.

Historical fiction is different in that a romantic relationship isn’t required, and the ending doesn’t necessarily have to be happy. Even if there is a relationship (as all my books contain), that relationship isn’t always front and center.

Take my latest book, The Price of Compassion. The story of Dr. Tom Justice (who was introduced briefly to readers in books two and three of “The Golden City” series) is primarily about the choices he makes throughout his life that lead to his arrest for murder. It’s a novel about taking responsibility for the not-so-great decisions we make, of course, but also for the difficult choices, even if they’re the right ones, that we often have to live with.

Is there a love story? Yep. (Honestly, I don’t think I’d enjoy writing a story that didn’t contain some kind of romantic element, and I definitely prefer reading stories that contain a bit of romance, even if it’s subtle.) But the relationship between Tom and Katherine takes place over several years and is not the primary focus of the story.

The Price of Compassion is set in the Gilded Age, which is the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. That makes it historical. Is it romantic? I certainly think so. But is it a romance? No, not in the strict sense of that genre. In my mind it straddles the two genres, or perhaps bends one into the other. And sometimes it hops back and forth between the two.

All of which makes for difficult marketing, let me tell you! Some historical romance readers love the structure of that genre and may be disappointed in the flow of my stories. One reviewer, for example, said of my first novel that I “took too long” to get the hero and heroine together. Another reviewer said she loved the fact that I took the time to tell each character’s story before getting them together! The truth is, some historical fiction readers will find my work too romantic, and some historical romance readers will find that it’s not romantic enough. I just have to live with the fact that my writing is “betwixt and between.”

The good news is, there are plenty of readers who don’t worry as much as I do about the structure of a given genre. They just love a page-turning tale about interesting characters living through a fascinating period of history. If romance is part of that story, so much the better. Those are my peeps and that’s what I aim to deliver with every novel I write. As the famed movie director Vincent Minelli once said, “It’s the story that counts.”

Ugh, now back to getting more steps…

Q&A with J.L Peterson, The MacBrides

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What is the most important thing in your life and why?

The obvious and most truthful answer is my family. And that is goes for most everyone. So, I take it to the next level. As we get older we find ourselves really trying to discover who we are as individuals. Most of us move with relative ease from the different roles we experiment with as we grow through our childhood to young adults. Then we roll into our work persona’s, spouse, mother, etc. I truly think until we are done with child rearing we haven’t enough information about our true selves and I find that with myself and friends this is the time we come to truly understand who we just spent most of our lifetime evolving to. So this self awareness has become the second most important thing in my life.

Which of your personality traits did you write into you characters? (Deliberately or accidentally)

If I’m doing it accidently, I am also doing it unknowingly. I have added some of my traits into selected characters but I’ve also done the same with some of my friends’. Hehehe

My traits that I put in are those of responsibility and planning. Boring, but what can I say, that’s who I am. But I do try to add my quirky sense of humor also.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The overall all messages are that love is wonderful and fun, but it’s not without work. Other than that I just want them to have a few hours of escape into a feel good story.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Yes. My father was military and we moved a lot. I escaped early into books as a way to entertain myself until I was able to create new friendships. With that came my creating of my own stories in my own head. Hey, what else can you do when driving across country and not liking to read in a car with two brothers bugging you all the time. Fear of not being good though, kept me from really committing to write my stories down. However, based on the response I gave you in your first question, I relinquished the fear and am just having a good time telling my stories now.

Give us an insight into how your writing day/time is structured?

I am, unfortunately, not a structured writer. I can go for days working on other things until the bug motivates me again. Then I like to commit 3-4 hours a day to whatever story I’m working on.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I am enjoying creating my little sub plot with Bea, the mother, and how she is discovering a new side to life outside of her kids. Life isn’t over, until it’s over. There is always new discoveries if we are just open to them.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Do what you love. Not everyone will like your stories and not all will be your best. But keep on. If you’re happy then you’ll have spent your time wisely.

Empathy is Not Neutral by Carol Jeffers

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You have heard the old questions meant to vex “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” And “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, is there sound?”

The subject—problem—of empathy I discovered while researching and writing my book The Question of Empathy: Searching for the Essence of Humanity raises similarly vexing questions. For starters, what is empathy? Depends on who you ask. The neuroscientists have their descriptions and look for particular defining features in the brain’s “mirror neuron system”. These features are not what psychologists or philosophers choose to emphasize in their own characterizations. And there are the artists, who again and again have tried to show us what empathy looks like, offered us portraits so that we might look it in the eye, and maybe, just maybe, come to recognize it in ourselves.

A list of definitions, no matter how lengthy or comprehensive, cannot address the most aggravating of all questions: If we are all “hard-wired and evolutionarily-designed” for empathy, as the scientists insist, then why aren’t we more empathic? Why?

While still teaching, I asked my university students for their definitions of empathy, seeking their “cut-through-the-crap” kind of wisdom. They had a way of grounding lofty ideas, their practical insights coming to the fore. I was surprised to find a split among the definitions they put forth. About half used words like “compassion,” “understanding,” “generosity,” and “giving,” “sitting side by side with another.” The other half focused on “weakness” and “vulnerability” and pointed out the “softness” they saw within it. A “softness” some students found bothersome.

Is empathy something soft? Merely a sweet little sentiment? Something “nice,” but not actually necessary? Is empathy associated with femininity and collaboration? Does that mean that men are less concerned with it, especially the masculine kind driven by competition and aggression?

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Long before such questions stared me down, I had come across studies that found women scored twice as high as men on pencil-and-paper tests about empathy, and more recently, that women’s brains light up in response to seeing a gender-neutral hand on a screen as opposed to a black dot randomly moving across it. Men’s brains, on the other hand, lit up in response to the dot, not the hand.

These gender differences show up in reading patterns as well. A study found that women readers prefer novels, men nonfiction. Overall, women read more than men, as measured by book sales. What explains these differences? Possible explanations raise a new chicken-egg question. It could be that women’s brains, especially their mirror neuron systems, which neuroscientists identify as the basis for empathy, are more developed than men’s. A well-developed mirror neuron system could allow women readers to more readily identify with characters in novels. These readers can put themselves in the characters’ situations—stand in their shoes—as it were. On the other hand, women read more than men and thus have many more opportunities to understand the characters, much more experience with imagining what the characters go through and how they feel. Such experience may explain how women’s mirror neurons become better developed. Which comes first, no one dares to say.

Empathy, it should be clear, is hardly neutral. It also seems to be associated with class. The wealthy and the poor are not equally endowed with the capacity for empathy. When giving to others is used as a measure of empathy, it is the wealthy who are impoverished. They are known to give a much lower percentage of their income to help others. People of lesser means are much more willing to give, sometimes almost all they have. They are enriched by a sense of compassion and caring for those just like themselves. They recognize the need, are willing to sacrifice, ever guided by the mantra “There but for the grace of God go I.”

So what are we to make of gender and class differences such as these? How are we ever to to embrace what is hard-wired and evolutionarily-designed in us? Empathy is hard, will not give up answers to these and other vexing questions easily. Empathy is elusive and fleeting. We can add “exasperating” to its descriptors. But in this era of incivility it is so necessary, more now than ever before.

I invite readers to come along with me, come on a voyage of discovery, become part of a human odyssey in search of empathy. The journey is mapped out in my book The Question of Empathy. Readers will travel within and among images and stories, wander through defining words and their etymological roots, search for empathy in the rhizome, in the body, confront threats to empathy and consider new approaches to finding a way forward. And always, always, readers will raise their own questions and wonder what it means to be human.

Q&A with Stacy Overby

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So, tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm. The tough question right off the bat. I hate talking about myself, so that’s something. Well, I’ve been writing since I was old enough to know how to right. I think some of that is because my mom used to write stories around holiday themes for us in school. She’d have all the kids in our class in the story. I also grew up with a ton of sci-fi/fantasy stuff, probably literally. My dad is a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan and passed that on. I got lucky and married someone just as in to sci-fi/fantasy as me. Now we’re having fun teaching our six-year-old son all the wonderful sci-fi/fantasy worlds out there.

And your book?

My new book, Scath Oran: Poetry from the Otherworld, coming out on September 22nd is a poetry collection—fantasy, of course. Well, there’s some history mixed in. I get that from my mom; she’s the history aficionado in the family. Anyways, the collection is based mostly on Celtic mythology, though there are sprinklings of Norse and Greek mythology as well. The collection takes readers into the Otherworld, the realm of the Fae, and back. But, you never know what may happen on that journey.

What was the process you used for writing this collection?

Process? I’m supposed to have one? Honestly, I’m a total pantser. Most all my first drafts, whether it’s a poem or a novel, are spun out with little to no planning. Something about trying to outline and plan projects completely kills things for me. So, with Scath Oran, it started out as part writing exercise to learn classical poetry forms, part challenge in a writing group to create a project and see it through, and part I got carried away researching Celtic mythology and was fascinated with the stories I saw there. From there, I got to work with some wonderful people at OWS Ink to take the stack of poems I’d created and turn them into this beautiful collection.

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What was one of your favorite stories from your research?

That’s hard to say. There are several that stick out, but I’d say my favorite from what I used for Scath Oran was the tales of the banshees, particularly their origin story. Basically, some legends say a woman who dies in childbirth will become a banshee and roam this world until what should have been the end of her natural life. Other legends ascribe the woman’s death to murder instead. The banshee sometimes appears as a beautiful young woman and other times as an older woman washing blood stained clothing. These origin stories captured my imagination. I mean, think about the tragedy here.

With a family, how do you make time to write?

Good question. Between my family and my day job, time is limited. So, I’ve learned to write on the backs of receipts or other random pieces of paper I may have with me. I have apps on my phone and iPad when I can pull them out safely. I have learned the pool is a place I need to be careful with my iPad, thankfully not the hard way but there was a close call at one of my son’s swimming lessons. I also tend to stay up way later than I should working on projects. My husband works overnights, so the house gets quiet after about 9:30-10 pm. So, while not a consistent set schedule like some authors and writing advice recommends, it works for me.

What else are you working on? Anything you can share?

Yes, there is something I can share. I’m currently finishing edits on my first novel, Tattoos. It is the first novel in my Black Ops series and is due out the beginning of December this year. This is a space opera about a para-military/spy/police force type hybrid branch of a future military and how one specialist, Eli Thorson, stumbles into something much bigger than he ever thought possible. Eli’s left facing some tough choices about his future with Black Ops and everything he knows.

What advice would you offer other authors?

This is a little hard to answer for me because there’s such a big part of me that still feels like I should be the one looking for that advice, not dispensing it. But, here’s what I would say. There’s going to be tough times just as much as there’s great times. Probably more. Rejections suck. Poor reviews hurt, particularly when they’re attached to a project near and dear to your heart. Keep writing. Write through the stuff that leads to all the self-doubt. Write about the self-doubt. Just don’t quit. Why? Because the world needs your story or poem or novel. No one else in the world can tell it like you can. Now, more then ever, we need these stories in the world.

Where can we find you on the internet?

First, there’s my social media pages:

www.thisisnothitchhikersguide.com

www.Facebook.com/thisisnothitchhikersguide

www.Twitter.com/dontpanic2011

https://www.amazon.com/Stacy-Overby/e/B01M15GWGI

https://plus.google.com/+StacyOverby

www.Instagram.com/mamawisper78

I think that covers most of my social media pages. I also work with Our Write Side, a small press and writer community. I manage our author support group, OWS Word Mafia, and our poetry support group, OWS Mafia Muses: Poetry.

Stacy Overby is a columnist and graphic designer at www.ourwriteside.com. Her short stories and poems have been featured in multiple anthologies, online, and in lit journals and in her collection Scath Oran. Her day job as program director for an adolescent dual diagnosis treatment program provides inspiration for many of her stories. When not at work or writing, she and her husband are playing with their son, hiking, camping, or involved in other outdoor activities – if it is not too cold.

Q&A with Elizabeth Kirke, Semester Aboard

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Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Never in a million years. When I originally wrote the book I was actually posting it, chapter by chapter, in the Original Works section of a fanfiction website! Back then, ebooks were hardly even a thing. Merely publishing Semester Aboard was a pipe dream and having an audiobook never even crossed my mind. I hardly even expected to be where I am now, with three (plus a short story collection) books in the series and three more on the way. Not to mention having Semester Aboard win an award for Best YA Paranormal!

How did you select your narrator?

Sheer luck! Starla and I were already Facebook friends thanks to the networking power of the author world. We actually sort-of worked together before, when she made a wand for me. (Actually, she made the top half of a wand to fit onto the bottom half of my existing one. The top broke off and I buried it with my beloved cat, but hated to have a broken wand just sitting around.) Anyway, I posted on Facebook asking my friends if they know any narrators and briefly described what I was looking for. Starla replied and sent a link to books she had already done. I knew she was the perfect fit right away, and the rest is history!

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

I gave Starla an absurdly detailed document with pronunciation, bios, and even descriptions and pictures. It was probably above and beyond what she needed, but since she brought it to life, it was worth it! We chatted back and forth a lot for the first couple of chapters, but after she had the characters down I just let her do her thing!

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

Big yes! I was part of the Semester at Sea program back in college. I spent a summer on a cruise ship, operated (at the time) by the University of Virginia. I took college courses with UVA and visiting professors, while touring Latin America on the ship. I strongly encourage college students to do it! That experience inspired this book, in which the main character is a student in the same program. As she navigates magic and vampires, her voyage takes her to the same ports that I visited. While a lot more magic is thrown in, the characters do have many of the same experiences in different countries and on the ship that I did.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

I think it all benefits from Starla’s amazing performance. That said, I’ve gotten some negative feedback in the past regarding how slow some of the portions in the ports go. As you just read, they were based on my real experiences, so I think I got a bit too wordy and nostalgic as I describe them. But, Starla brings them to life and you really feel the excitement through the main character’s eyes as she reads. I think it really picks up the dragging parts. She also adds a wonderful sense of urgency to the fight scenes!

If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?

I would head straight to 1797 and visit George Washington. I worked for several years as a historical interpreter on his estate and would love to pop in and see it in its prime. Not to mention catch some time alone with the General to talk to him.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

People say that!? Ugh, people will complain about anything for the sake of taking enjoyment away from someone else. 100% disagree. First, there are numerous medical reasons to listen to audiobooks, and that alone should be worth something. Vision impairment, arthritis, dyslexia…The list goes on. Heck, even a nasty migraine that makes opening your eyes torture, but you can’t fall asleep. And who doesn’t want to read a book while stuck in traffic? Why not listen? And, most importantly: people enjoy them. That should be enough. We should be rallying against people who want to censor or limit access to books, not people making them more accessible.

What’s next for you?

Phew! The very next is Wrought-Iron Roses, the 2nd book in my paranormal romance series, The Curse Collectors. The first book opens with three sisters who inherit their aunt’s antique shop. Upon arrival, they discover that she was a rune-caster, and was in charge of breaking the curses cast upon all of the antiques in her shop. One of the sisters gets cursed, so they have to learn how to cast runes to save her.

After that, I’m working on the fourth (fifth if you count Danio’s Prelude) book in the More than Magic series! I’m also hoping to get the audio for the next one lined up.

Lastly, I’m working on the outline for a brand new series! This one is a paranormal cozy mystery series. I’m quite looking forward to writing it.

 

Q&A with Ryan Armstrong, Love and Hate

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

Finding the right narrator and writing the novel was mostly all I did for this format of the book.  The credit for the audiobook rendition goes to the narrator: Christopher Sherwood. I had to give very little direction because he is a wonderful actor and trained in voice over work.  He has the talent and understood the novel - its themes and characters - this is what it took to make them all come alive from the page. He did that and I listened, enraptured by it all, awaiting each chapter he would upload as he made it come alive.

Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?

Yes, I believe that first person narratives are particularly compelling in audiobook format.  Love and Hate: In Nazi Germany is told in first person and I think that a narrator can many times become the character more authentically with a story told in this point of view.  I have been told by readers that my writing would make a good movie and that it is “cinematic.” I don’t think a great novel must be written in a cinematic style and in first person.  I do think that this style may lend itself to audiobook format well.

How did you select your narrator?

I have a cinematic novel trailer for Love and Hate, that is just like a movie trailer.  The quality level is similar to a movie trailer and real actors are involved.  You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi47YG-eHeo

Chris (the narrator) was cast as Hans, the novel’s protagonist, in my cinematic book trailer.  My filmmaker and I thought he was perfect for the role. No others who auditioned compared.

I have this cork board nailed by my desk.  I use it to pin plot lines and pictures of the places I write about.  I also find pictures that resemble the characters that I am writing about.  I select ones that look like what I imagine them to look like in my head. It was a welcome and strange coincidence that Chris auditioned.  He literally was identical to the picture of Hans on my cork board. He was exactly the character in my head - and there he was in the flesh.  He did a great job with the German accent and his acting and look were perfect. He really was Hans to me - and now to hundreds and thousands of others.  When I found out he had voice over experience I HAD to ask him to do the audiobook. I was very excited when he agreed. He did not disappoint and made the book come alive.  If you watch the novel trailer you will get to see Chris and I think it makes listening to the book a little more fun.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

There are more pros to writing a series when it comes to book sales.  Writing a series gives the reader an opportunity to continue reading a story that keeps evolving and the author then boasts more sales. I am not saying I won’t write a series someday.  But, I find it satisfying to tell a story fully and be done with it. I feel it gives me the time to concentrate on marketing and making the story into other formats, like a screenplay, a graphic novel and an audiobook (all of which are being done with this novel).  I want to mostly continue to write in this genre - historical fiction. But, I tend to like to move on to other stories once a story is told. I feel there can be danger in drawing out a story once it has been told. It can be, not always, but when not justified by the story - a series can turn out formulaic and boring.  However, when done well, a series can benefit the reader and novelist greatly.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Oh, I could write a book just on this.  I will say this - do not write a novel. Tell yourself that you won’t write one.  To produce a quality novel is so much work - and even when you sell well - it is so little money that it is usually not worth the trouble.  If you say, “to hell with that advice” because you want to write a novel that badly - then you should absolutely do it. But it must be a need and not a whim.  I guess that is my point.

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

Find the right narrator.  Everything will fall into place if you do that.  If you just select a bad narrator or someone who is only half committed then your book won’t turn out well.  Once you find the right narrator let them run with it and only give absolutely needed directions. It is a collaboration.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on an anthology - The Darkest Hour with nine other historical   fiction authors - best sellers due out in January.  You can check it out here: https://thedarkesthouranthology.com/

The title of my novella within the anthology is Sound of Resistance, and delves deeper into the psyche of Erich Beck - the most evil character in “Love and Hate.”

Guest Post, Becki Willis, The Lilac Code

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The setting for this book, The Columbia Inn at Peralynna, is quite real, and used with the permission of its owners, David and Dr. Cynthia Lynn.

My husband and I first discovered this intriguing boutique bed and breakfast in September. We were charmed by the unique layout and, particularly, by our warm and gracious hosts. We returned again in February, when the Lynns graciously showed us around their home and their community. (Royal Taj Restaurant, The Iron Bridge Wine Company, and the old Savage Mills cotton mill complex are also real places.) Cynthia and I spent many hours in the four story great room, discussing our mutual love for books and writing, and brainstorming future plots.

The inn has a fascinating story behind it. It is, indeed, fashioned after a CIA safe house in Germany that Cynthia thought of as her family’s vacation home. She told me she simply thought their parents threw a lot of parties and took their five children on spur-of-the-moment trips, often in the still of night. It was years before she realized her parents were spies and that those clandestine encounters were related to national security. In fact, the American pilot Francis Gary Powers (you probably remember the name from the blockbuster movie Bridge of Spies) was debriefed at the safe house her father.

During my last visit, I had the pleasure of listening to Cynthia and her sister Dot recall memories of the house, their parents, and their unique lifestyle abroad. Oh, the books these women could write! The character of CIA Agent Logan McKee is, in fact, Cynthia’s creation and will be the main character in a fiction series—non-classified, of course—that she plans to pen in the very near future.

I hope you enjoyed this book and the glimpse shared into The Columbia Inn at Peralynna. The next time you’re in the Baltimore/Columbia/DC area, you owe it to yourself to meet the Lynns and to stay in their beautiful home. Be sure and tell them I sent you. (And don’t forget to look for those secret staircases!)

By the way, Boonsboro, Maryland is only an hour away, where you can visit Turn the Page bookstore and the Boonsboro Inn, both owned by author Nora Roberts.  

Until next time,

Becki

My Inspiration by The Princely Papers by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

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I was in college when Princess Diana died in her fatal car crash. At the time I didn’t understand why my friend was so upset – she called me that morning and woke me up to tell me – but over the years I’ve come to understand what a complicated legacy she had and also what an amazing impact she had on so many different areas; fashion, charity, media, motherhood, etc. 
 
The idea for this book was always a whim, something lurking in the back of my brain for years as a ‘fun’ project I might never get to. And then as I got caught up with my writing goals, Diana’s boys, as the princes are known, were getting older and making big choices, like getting married, etc. and the idea for the book came back. 
 
The Princely Papers is more the story of a mother like Diana and two children, a girl, Victoria, and a boy, Albert, who inherit both their mother and father’s issues (and throne!). I hope readers will enjoy this imagining of what it’s like to a royal. 
 
It would be really fun to see this made into a film or television series, like The Crown; I could see James McAvoy playing Albert and maybe Jessica Chastain as Victoria. Their mother would be much harder to cast…. Maybe Uma Thurman or someone with a theater background.