Q&A with CJ Golden, One Petals at a Time

CJ (1).jpg

Parts of your book are a series of emails that you sent to friends and family during the time of Joe’s hospitalization and recovery. What made you realize that you needed to share it with the world in a book?

Oh, my, that sounds a tad frightening, doesn’t it – sharing it with the world?  But all that I had learned and shared through my writing was being read and embraced by my readers.  They were with Joe and me every step of the way and, knowing they were there and caring kept me going.  It felt so good to have them all in my world as I went through this very personal tumultuous time. One Pedal at a Time grew out of their comments and, quite honestly, requests that I put my writings in a book for others to benefit from. My journey was similar to so many others’ and, therefore, the lessons  I had brought to light were helpful to them. We need to know we are not alone in our circumstances; especially times of duress.


You have studied and practiced Taoist principles, how were you able to use these as you became an unexpected caregiver for your husband?

Quite honestly, I did not recognize those principles specifically as they carried me through my caregiver journey.  It was only when Joe was stronger and life as it had been was peeking through the clouds, that I sat and thought about the Tao.  The principles that I had followed – and do throughout my life – are Tzu-jan, which means that “stuff happens”. Life takes the twists and turns it is supposed to take and we cannot undo that.  

Then Wu Wei comes in and we are taught we must acknowledge that which has happened for, without doing so, we cannot work our way through to the other side. Basically, in today’s terminology, I suspect that all would be explained as “You can’t change or ignore what has happened - so deal with it!”

Tao also teaches us Te, that reminds us we are each unique with our own set of skills.  Those skills are what we put in to play when we need to, well, “deal with stuff.” Along with our skillsets, we also have weaknesses that need to be acknowledged and dealt with.  Either we can try to strengthen those weaknesses or, if that cannot be, we must never put ourselves down for them. In my case, my strengths took over while those skills I did not have, I recognized had to be delegated to someone else.  In this manner I continued to learn and do the best I could possibly do for Joe.

Your book is not only a book about caregiving, but a true love story. Please explain the importance of sharing that aspect of your book as part of Joe’s (and your) recovery.

I do believe most everyone enjoys a good love story, but I did not set out to write that as the mainstay of the book.  It evolved, much as our journey evolved. To not share that part of our relationship with others would have been to leave out, I believe, the most uplifting part of our story.  

There are so many out there caring for loved ones; spouses, parents, children, friends.  The job is difficult, painful and can cause rifts in relationships. I think it is important to show them that, with the right attitude (I’m sorry if that sounds pedantic, and Pollyannaish) feelings of remorse can be turned into a stronger love as, together, caregiver and patient work through their trials - with an attitude of understand and caring.

The quote that stays with us comes from a plaque that hangs on the wall at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston:  

“You get bitter or you get better.  It’s that simple. Take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a stronger person, or allow it to tear you down.  The choice is yours.  Choose wisely.”

Joe and I chose to become stronger people – individually and as a couple and a “team.”  I’ve since had many people share with me that their caregiver journey has created a stronger loving bond between them and their patient.  

Our love story is real – there was no way I could not share it.

In your email section of the book, your tone is very positive, was there a point where you felt hopeless or angry? How do you handle those kinds of feelings when your closest friend and confidante can’t help you with them?

I made a point of adding something positive to each email I had sent out.  I think, retrospectively, I needed to do that to bolster my own torn soul. Of course, I wanted those who cared to find something upbeat in my words.   I knew they were with Joe and me in spirit and it needed to share it all – the pain and the positive.

As for me feeling hopeless and angry; of course I did.  There were days when I had to leave Joe’s side so I could sit in the caregiver lounge and cry.  Or call a friend and rant. Or – forgive me for this admission – take a handful of Ativan in order to continue on. (On those days I had someone driving me home, or I was staying in Joe’s room overnight).

My closest friends and confidantes were able to help me – I remember sitting in my living room one morning, absolutely shattered and, after texting two extremely close friends, finding them coming to my home to allow me to babble and blubber on; to cry and scream; and they listened and they held me and I was able to pull myself together and get to the hospital.  

But I could not live in the negative and somehow found a way to continue on with hope and optimism.  It wasn’t easy. But it was necessary to do so, or I would have not been able to continue caring for Joe.  Or myself.

What are 3 pieces of advice you could give to someone who has just been thrown into the caregiver role?

  1. Educate yourself about your role: learn about the illness which has struck your loved one; learn about the “cures” and side effects; learn to talk with the medical staff and become a part of their team.  Take what I call, a course in Hospital 101. You cannot be a bystander and wear blinders. You’re learning much under fire, but it will help you help your loved one immeasurably.
  2. Recognize that you must MUST care for yourself.  I did not and the result was a woman (me) who was emotionally and physically exhausted, and on the brink of not being capable of caring for Joe in any capacity.  Seek counseling and guidance. Listen to people who tell you to take care of YOU. They are right!
  3. I love Joseph Campbell’s quote:

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

The life Joe and I had planned was wonderful for as long as it lasted.   Now we live another life – but still with each other – and we are thankful for what we once had, and grateful for the life we now have together.

I hear so many caregivers bemoaning the new life that has been handed to them; they want their old life back.  But, this, now, is their life. And, as Campbell says, it must be accepted.  That is also the Tao – here you are, your path has been altered, find your unique strengths and create a new life.

Musings on The Moment Before by Jason Makansi

unnamed.jpg

It’s a debut novel. 
It’s easy for me to forget that, since it was ten years in the making. But I hope readers don’t forget that. I’ve been writing and publishing short stories for almost twenty years and technical, professional articles and books for forty. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life reading debut novels, especially from women authors. They are far from perfect. I’ve come to appreciate them as much for suggesting where the author is heading or how the author arrived at later works.

It had an auspicious start.
On my first date with the woman I proposed to six months later, I proclaimed “I’m never getting married!” In 2009, while attending The Sewanee Writers Conference, I had told anyone who would listen that I was a short story writer, and not interested in writing a novel. Six months later, I started The Moment Before. So there you go.

I like to think of The Moment Before as a string quartet.
Chamber music isn’t as familiar as orchestral, even to those who appreciate classical music.The Moment Before has four main characters, and I think they interact similarly to musicians playing chamber music (similar to small jazz ensembles too). The quartet analogy is consistent with one of my favorite review quotes on the novel: “The beauty of [The Moment Before] is in its intricate depiction of the coming together of three people to save a fourth.” I’m an amateur musician. I play viola, among other instruments. I can see the two violins and cello coming to rescue me.

It fills a gap in contemporary political-cultural dialogue
The political experience of Americans born here but of Middle Eastern heritage, and all its geopolitical implications, is rarely a theme in American novels. The Moment Before tackles this head on.

It’s a love story!
In the end, The Moment Before is bounded by love, the enduring love between a father and a daughter, the complicated love that emerges between the protagonist Cheryl Halia Haddad (aka Holly Chicago) and the small-town lawyer John Veranda, as well as John’s deep affection for his Illinois hometown, Saluki.

It has a dimension as dark as a black hole.
I didn’t realize this until the very last read through. The one character who emerges NOT betrayed or disillusioned by the institutions/organizations they serve in is Father Moody. Is he “pure evil” as some readers have pointed out, or is he more complicated than that?  I’ll leave that judgment up to you.

On Writing What You Don’t Know by Rebecca Burrell

Rebecca.jpg

Somewhere back in caveman times, I envision a young, creative soul with a fistful of ochre and torch soot. As she ponders the limestone, instead of bison or aurochs or deer, her head fills with great creatures who live under the sea and though she’s never seen them, she knows exactly what they look like. How they move. The way they shimmer when sunlight hits their skin. And then, an elder comes up behind, and after a dismissive grunt, tells her ‘stick to what you know’. 

It’s maybe the oldest pieces of writing advice out there. And it has its merits. If our aspiring cave artist can only manage a soggy-looking bison, she’s added very little to the world. Or maybe she paints a respectable dolphin, except it’s blood crimson with snaggly tusks, and no one is the wiser until some seafaring stranger happens by and says it’s all wrong. Still, our intrepid artist hasn’t committed any harm. But is that always the case?

In the real world, when we tackle a topic outside our experience, we own the force of our words. For a reader in a marginalized group, a depiction which rests on unwanted stereotypes can feel more painful than the lack of representation itself. The main protagonist of At Shutter Speed identifies herself as biracial, which I do not. However, I am an adoptive mother who’d been watching her non-white, immigrant child struggle with the changes that have occurred in America over the past few years. (Although that’s his tale to tell someday if he chooses, not mine.) Writing this story became my window into how scary and uncertain all this feels to him. The challenge was how to avoid the trap of falling into my own biases and perceptions, but I found that so long as I maintained an awareness of this, I could approach it much the same as I do any time I write a new character or setting. I’ve never been a war photographer either, but I immersed myself in memoirs and geeked out with photos and cameras until I was confident I could inhabit the character’s headspace in a believable way.

“What you don’t know” is only true for a fixed point in time. Perhaps it’s a piece of historical fiction set in an unfamiliar time or place, or a voice you want to explore, but aren’t sure you can do it justice. A magical thing about writing: you can always turn back. Don’t be afraid to venture out of your cave and take your first steps towards the sea.

Q&A with Happy LaShelle, According to Audrey

Happy_TU-1-1.jpg

This is your debut novel. How does it feel?

Pretty thrilling, honestly. It’s been several long years of writing, learning craft, rewriting, learning more craft, revising some more – not to mention coming to understand the ins and outs of the writing world and the publishing business. This novel is my first book baby, and in the end, I’m glad it took me so long because all of that investment of time and process has given me a book that I’m sincerely proud to share with the world.

Tell us about Newport Beach, California as the setting for your book. Why did you choose it?

It was important to me that the setting of the story would jump off the page and come alive as though it were its own character in the book. Newport Beach was my childhood hometown, so I know it well, and I’m partial to its allure and charm! I was excited to bring to life on the page all the places that are so rich with Newport’s storied culture and history – Balboa Island, Newport Bay, Lido Island, the Peninsula, to name just a few. I also gave myself artistic license here and there for the sake of storytelling purposes – the fictional Bayport High for example, as well as its baseball field, which I imagined near the present-day Castaways Park, on the Back Bay cliffs. I also introduced fire pits at Pirate’s Cove in Corona Del Mar – a few small things to that effect. What was paramount for me was to portray the essence of the town in a way that captured for the reader the true spirit and character of Newport Beach.

What were the books/authors that influenced you as a child?

The first novel I remember reading was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I just loved the heart of that book. It’s set in Victorian London, and despite the simplistic title, Sara is a complex little character with a strong sense of herself and a wise compassion for others. When all goes pear-shaped, the dire circumstances really test her mettle, and I love the strength she shows through it all. I also loved The Boxcar Children books, Misty of Chincoteague, The Swiss Family Robinson, and we had this colorful, thick version of The Arabian Nights that I would flip through for hours. It was the quintessential, perfect storybook with all of those magic-filled short stories from faraway lands. As a young adult, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, and Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One really made an impression on me… and honestly, I was obsessed with V.C. Andrews as a teenager. The Flowers in the Attic books and the Heaven series were hard to put down. I loved her style.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Not really. My name is a bit unusual, so I tried to tone it down by using my initials, H.M., during the query process to agents and editors. I didn’t want the name Happy to be a distraction from my work, and I wanted to be taken seriously. After my book sold, my publisher really encouraged me to use Happy – they loved it. I’ve always liked my name, so I was excited to embrace it as my official author name. Actually, when I was deciding between H.M. and Happy, I asked my son’s opinion, and he thought I should definitely use Happy LaShelle… he said, “That literally sounds like a made-up writer name, Mom.” Ha! So in the end, Happy it is.

What’s your coffee house drink of choice?

I’m into tea lattes lately. At a local haunt here in Santa Barbara there’s one called a Magic Bowl - chamomile mixed with honey and steamed milk – oh my, it’s like comfort in a cup! I also love the London Fog made with earl grey - so perfectly British tasting. Then there’s my stand-by iced mocha, and the go-to hot chocolate on a rainy day.

Any advice for a writer just starting out?

Keep going. The process can take a long time, but let your passion propel you forward. Let the rejections make your work better, and don’t take no for an answer. Do something for your writing every day – for me, reading about writing and the writing life is hugely inspiring. One of my favorite writing mentor books is Page after Page by Heather Sellers. Her funny, straightforward style is charming, and her wisdom is so encouraging to everyone on the author path. Don’t forget - you are not an aspiring writer – you are a writer!

 

Character profile for Cassie from Her Claim by Rebecca Grace Allen

Character profile Cassie_preview.jpeg

Character’s Full Name: Cassandra Flóres Allbright

Nicknames: Cassie, Pumpkin (from my dad), Princess (from Patrick)

Place of birth: Miami, Florida

Education: BA from Brown, JD from Boston University School of Law

Ethnic background: Cuban American

Degree of religious practice: Catholic, lapsed

Marital status: Seriously? My mother doesn’t ask me this enough?

Any significant previous romantic partners: None worth mentioning

Body type: Real woman have curves.

Eye color: Blue

Hair color and style: Dark brown, long bob

Skin tone: Pale as shit, because the Northeast is friggin’ cold.

Current address: Brookline, Mass. A suburb of Boston.

Rent or own: I didn’t pay my rent this month. I OWN that!

Current occupation: Seventh year associate at the Law Offices of Forrester, Schaeffer and Pierce

How does she dress: I like nice shoes and I cannot lie...

Any current health problems or chronic conditions: If you ask my mother, she’ll say my single status.

Pace of speech and voice tone: Depends what language I’m speaking. If it’s Spanish, I’m not loud, I’m Cuban.

Any favorite/habitual phrases or curse words: Carajo.

Favorite drink: Blood Orange Cosmopolian

Common/habitual gestures: I rub the back of my neck when I’m tense.

External goal: To make partner in my law firm.

Internal conflicts: I’ve never been in love.

Deepest secret: I really do want Patrick, but I hate that bastard, so I’ll never tell him that.

Legally Bound #2 HER CLAIM is available on April 23, 2018!

She’s no princess. He’s no prince. Then again, they never wanted a fairy tale.

Cassie Allbright takes no prisoners. A half Cuban ball-busting attorney, she’s too tough to admit what she wants in bed. But tough is the only way to cut it in her high-powered firm, and Cassie doesn’t need a knight in shining armor. And she definitely doesn’t need Patrick Dunham—an arrogant, chauvinistic man-whore with a knack for pissing her off.

Bound to the helm of his family’s publishing house, Patrick is shackled to a life of power and wealth he never wanted. Seduction is his only distraction—his nights of pleasure always temporary, because happily-ever-afters are not for him. But while luring a woman into his bed has always come easy, the high-and-mighty Cassie has never succumbed to his charms.

Their verbal sparring turns to foreplay, but instead of scratching an itch, it only whets their appetites. Patrick gives Cassie a taste of what she’s secretly craved, and Cassie’s dark desires stir up things Patrick never knew he wanted. Enchanted, he offers to fulfill her most dangerous fantasies. She agrees, with an iron-clad escape clause: her heart is off-limits, and so is his.

Funny thing about hearts, though. They have a way of ignoring the fine print.

Warning: This book isn’t for the faint of heart. Disclosure includes angry, vying-for-control hate sex and one steamy weekend in Miami. Ready? Break the caution tape and proceed.

Want to read an exclusive prequel to Her Claim? THE PARTY, a bonus read in both Cassie and Patrick’s points of view is available FOR FREE if you sign up for Rebecca’s newsletter. Sign up today! www.rebeccagraceallen/newsletter

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Spotify Playlist

About the Author

Rebecca Grace Allen holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a double concentration in Creative Writing and Literary Comparison as well as of Master of Science degree in Elementary Education, both of which seemed like good ideas at the time. After stumbling through careers in entertainment, publishing, law and teaching, she’s returned to her first love: writing. A self-admitted caffeine addict & gym rat, she currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, two parakeets, and a cat with a very unusual foot fetish.

Website: www.rebeccagraceallen.com

Q&A with Dania Voss, On the Ropes

Dania.jpg

What’s your favorite drink and why?
Diet Dr. Pepper is my all-time favorite. It always has been, I just love the taste.

What’s on your bucket list?
So many things, but the first on my list for the longest time has been a trip to Egypt. I’d also like to cruise the Greek Islands and visit Spain and Morocco.
 
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
Maybe it’s an Italian thing or a Chicago thing…but I never tire of stuffed pizza – not to be confused with deep dish or pan pizza.

In your spare time—if you have any!—what’s the thing you do that makes you feel the most you?
Easy to answer but not that easy to find time for. Bubble baths and trips to the spa. Mud wraps are my favorite spa treatment. Followed by a full body scrub and massage.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Most definitely an introvert. I’m shy around people I don’t know well. I tend to be quite extroverty in my writing though.

If money were no object, what’s the first thing you’d buy just for yourself?
I’d love a villa in Tuscany. My country of origin sometimes calls to me.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever done?
I’m quite proud of earning my BS in Computer Science (with honors) as an adult attending night school while working a full time job. A 3-week dream honeymoon in Italy and Greece is another amazing thing I’ve done.

Tell us about your debut release On the Ropes.
I was beyond thrilled when Evernight Publishing accepted my manuscript 11 days after submission!  On the Ropes is about star pitcher Luke Stryker of the Chicago Cobras. He’s given himself the weekend of his best friend’s wedding to win back the love of his life, Abbey, who he hasn’t seen in 10 years after a traumatic break-up. Abbey is not receptive the idea of reconciling but Luke’s not taking no for an answer.

What’s next on your writing list?
Heath and Leah’s story are coming next. You’ll meet them in On the Ropes. Heath’s an injured Marine veteran, hurt in Afghanistan and Leah is his neighbor who’s loved him all of her life. He’s hesitant but she’s determined.

What is your go-to form of procrastination?
Right now it’s the internet. I have a love/hate relationship with it at the moment. Necessary, but it can be such a huge distraction to precious research and writing time.

How can readers get in touch with you?
I love to hear from readers. 

Keep up with me at: www.DaniaVoss.com

Visit my blog at: www.DaniaVoss.com/blog

Sign up for my newsletter and download a free gift: bit.ly.com/DaniaNews

Social Media Sites
Twitter: @dania_voss
Pinterest: @daniavoss
Facebook: tinyurl.com/DaniaFB
Instagram: @daniavoss

Interview with Erica Kiefer, Through the Glass

Erica.jpg

What is your favorite part about being a writer?

The finished product! Lol It’s always such a relief to write that final page. But really, I love interacting with readers and hearing the parts of my story that they connect with and why. It's so interesting to see what resonates with people. Usually there's something deeper for that reader in their own life that needs exploring. 

You have four kids! Any tricks on balancing kids and writing time?

Man, it's hard sometimes!! I have to accept help, absolutely. I kid-swap every week, which gives all of us moms a break to do errands, maybe take a nap, or for me, get uninterrupted writing time for 2-3 hours. Plus, the kids enjoy playing together so I don't feel guilty that they get to work on their social skills in a new environment. I also utilize nap-time like nobody's business, or sometimes hire my teenage babysitters to play with my kids after school while I hide in my room with my laptop.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I was nine when I started a journal and thoroughly enjoyed any writing assignment from my teachers, whether poetry or short stories--which my classmates complained were NEVER short! Even back then, I didn't know how to reduce the growing plotlines in my head to a couple of pages. Not possible! 

But my elementary dream of becoming an author kind of fell to the wayside as I continued into high school. I always liked writing but wasn't serious anymore about getting published. In college, I wanted to work with people in more of a counseling/therapy setting. But then I lost my job at a residential treatment center for youth when the economy tanked in 2008. I suddenly had ample free time and the story of Lingering Echoes come to mind! It's been a fun, unexpected ride since then, and I’ve been able to utilize my counseling background to touch on emotional subjects. 

Who is your favorite character out of all your books?

Most people would say that's like picking your favorite kid and they can't do it... but I can! I do love all my characters for different reasons, but Aaron Jackson from Lingering Echoes still has a big part of my heart! He’s athletic and cocky but with enough playful charisma to charm you, and his happiness is contagious. He’s protective and always wants to help. Aaron plays a main role in Vanishing Act, too, which is a good one to read after Lingering Echoes.

What is your favorite childhood book and why, and did it make you to want to be a writer?

I was the biggest bookworm in elementary school. I loved a whole variety from Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, to Nancy Drew, and even a spooky one called Wait Till Helen Comes. I'm not sure any one book inspired me. I think it was more feedback from my teachers about my writing. I LOVED school and was unashamedly teacher's pet. Lol! But that mix of morally strong characters with an element of mystery can definitely be found in all of my books, so maybe there’s something to the idea of inspiring early minds.

Q&A with Adrienne Clarke, author of Losing Adam

Adrienne.jpg

How did this book come to you?

Everyone who knows me understands that I’m obsessed with fairy tales. I’ve always been drawn to fairy tale themes in art, literature, dance, music, anything really. But when I started to write my first novel, Losing Adam, it was about mental illness, not fairy tales. However, as the story unfolded I realized I was drawing on one my favourite fairy tales, The Snow Queen, albeit in a realistic contemporary way. I was also inspired by Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Wintersong.’ The lyrics are all about loss, and I began thinking about the different ways to lose someone. That’s when I began thinking about schizophrenia and what would it be like to have the person you love most become a stranger.

Favorite all time reads?

So many, but I’m going to choose one classic and one contemporary. Wuthering Heights had a huge impact on me when I read it as a teenager. For me, it remains one of the most passionate romances ever, not romantic in the clichéd, optimistic happy ending way, but intense, dangerous, and utterly unforgettable. In my opinion there’s never been more romantic line than, “Whatever souls are made of his and mine are the same.”

One of my favourite contemporary books is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I love this book for many reasons, but most of all for its devastating prose and buried anguish. So many books bang you over the head, telling you over and over again how sad, mad, happy the characters are, but Ishiguro never does that – he doesn’t have to – you feel it in every word. There is nothing sentimental about this book, and yet I can still recall the passages that literally made me sob. Haunting and restrained, Ishiguro’s writing is the kind I admire most.

Favorite life quote or motto?

It’s not what the world holds for you it’s what you bring to it. - Anne of Green Gables

What authors or people have inspired you?

A lot of writers have inspired me in different ways, but the three that come immediately to mind are the Bronte sisters, whose collective power of imagination is incredible to me, Alice Munro for her beautiful prose that somehow transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary, and Stephen King for his passion for story in all its forms. Although my writing is nothing like Stephen King’s, I’m continually amazed by his dialogue that never has a false note. Reading Stephen King is like taking a master class on how to write good dialogue.

What has been the biggest surprise about the publishing process?

I’m continually surprised by how supportive and enthusiastic people have been about my writing dream. Writing can be a lonely business and it’s been a lovely surprise to connect with other people who seem to want to know about me and my work.

Tell us what you enjoy doing when not writing?

Read! There’s never enough time to read all the books on my list, probably because I’m constantly adding to it.

Favorite movies?

I love movies and have several favourites, but the three that come to mind are Pan’s Labyrinth for the darkly romantic fairy tale world it creates, Slumdog Millionaire, because I adore the lead character who possesses a genuine idealism that’s so rare in film these days, and Dangerous Liaisons (the John Malkovich version) because of the fascinating battle between true love and cynicism, and because it includes one of the most romantic lines ever: “The only happiness I have ever known has been with you.”

What advice would you have to aspiring writers?

Perseverance. Writers say this all the time, but it really can’t be said enough. Except for the lucky few there is just so much rejection in publishing. You need to believe in your work and keep putting yourself out there. This doesn’t mean rejecting criticism; I think you need to listen to criticism very carefully and use it to make your work better.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?

In my experience writing lulls only last as long as you let them. The best way to get past writer’s block is to keep writing. You might accumulate some really terrible pages, but eventually you’ll get through to something good.

If there is something you want readers to walk away with after reading your book what would that be?

I believe in the power of story to bring people together and I hope readers experience a feeling of connection to Adam and Jenny. I would like them to have the feeling of being transported to another time and place, and wanting never to leave. I think the best books make you sad to leave the characters you’ve grown attached to, and leave you wanting more.

Which fictional character do you most Identify with?

Keturah from Martine Leavitt’s book Lady Keturah and Lord Death. On the surface, Keturah and I have little in common, she’s a peasant girl living in the middle ages, and I’m a middle-class woman with two children, however, I powerfully relate to her need to tell stories, particularly stories about true love. Keturah is fascinated with true love and I guess I am too; it’s the theme I always come back to. I think I feel compelled to write young adult novels because I still very close to the girl I used to be – someone who doesn’t expect miracles but hopes for them anyway.  I loved Keturah’s character so much I named by daughter after her, Juliet Keturah Clarke.

Q&A with Steve Berry, The Bishop's Pawn

Steve-Berry-Standing-credit-Rana-Faure-200x300.jpg

What inspired you to write The Bishop's Pawn? Why the King assassination?

The Bishop's Pawn is an idea I’ve had for about 10 years.  I decided to wait until this year to write the book, knowing that, with the 50th anniversary of his death, the subject would be on everyone’s mind.  Dr. Kings murder is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century, one that I felt needed to be explored.  It has never been adequately investigated, leaving many unanswered questions, the most important being why was King killed?  This novel suggests a surprising answer to that question.  I also wanted to remind people of the civil rights movement and make sure they remembered that people lost their lives in that movement.  There was violence, beatings, hosings. Awful things. But, along the way, those who participated in King’s non-violent movement changed this country. The book is a novel. and it’s most important goal is to entertain.  But, if along the way folks learn a little something, then that’s an added bonus.

With the 50th anniversary, The Bishop’s Pawn provides conspiracy theorists with something to chat about. It  shifts the narrative of everything we've come to think about King's death.  Do you believe The Mountaintop Speech, is an acceptance of mortality or a moment of his spiritual introspection?

Sadly, this is something that will forever remain unknown.  The speech dealt with mortality and, if you listen to it all, it sounds like a man who knows he's about to die.  The whole speech is geared towards mortality.  But what he felt will always be a mystery.  What we do know is that he gave the speech off the cuff with no prepared notes.  When you view the video o the speech, once he’s done, you can see an exhausted King fall into the arms of Ralph Abernathy, completely spent.  He was not feeling well that night.

Ambitious and well researched, the attention to the historical details was amazing. Where did you get your information from? 

Like my other novels, I used 300-400 sources. What I found writing this book, even though there was an abundance of information, I had to wade through most of it to find reasonable and objective sources to deal with the many unanswered questions.  Much of those questions were not dealt with at the time because of a botched investigation.  The FBI discounted any conspiracy immediately and focused all forth their efforts on James Earl Ray.  

As I read, my mind was in overdrive with what ifs. What and who were fiction is this novel?

The book is about 90% to reality, the other 10% is there for entertainment since, after all, that’s the main purpose of a novel. Benjamin Foster, for example, is fiction, but he does represent a composite of many people who were around King.  What he does, and how he interacts around King, is real.  I tried to be as accurate as possible and keep to reality.  But while readers are enjoying Cotton Malone, they'll also be learning about some extraordinary events that happened 50 years ago.

Unlike other Cotton Malone novels, this one was different. Do you feel that first person narrative made the story more impactful from a story that needed to be heard versus an ordinary fiction thriller novel? 

I thought it was a more intimate and offered a closer connection to the character.  It also gave me a chance to get closer to the character.  I hope the readers enjoy it.  If they do, I might try it again one day.

The Bishop's Pawn took one of the most significant events in history and makes you really thinking differently. From a different perspective in narrative, knowing the potential outcome of Dr. King's conversation with the character Foster, do you think that would alter the perspective of the assasination? 

That's hard to say.  The conclusion that I draw in the novel is shocking, to say the least.  My hope is it will get readers thinking. 

Since Cotton Malone is a little bit of a rebel, would he have supported Hoover following the reterite of hate at the time or would he have gone rogue and stopped the assassination?

He would've completely gone rogue.  He and Hoover would not have gotten along at all. He would've done all that he could to stop things.

Are you currently working on anything you can share? 

Absolutely.  Cotton is headed back overseas in my next novel, to Malta, and deal with the Knights of Malta.  They are the oldest warrior monks organization, 900 years old, and they are still there.  It will be a great treasure hunt and mystery called The Malta Exchange, which will be released in Spring 2019.  I'm currently writing a new adventure for Cotton that will take him to Poland in 2020.

Q&A with James Rubart, The Man He Never Was: A Modern Jekyll and Hyde Story

Let’s talk about your new book, The Man He Never Was. How were you first exposed to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? What inspired you to create a modern take on it?

When I got the idea, I hadn’t seen the movies or read the novella! (I did read the novella after I got the story idea.)

I was working out, listening to a sermon by Tim Keller. During the talk, he mentioned that Robert Louis Stevenson got his inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Romans chapter 7. I had no idea, but it instantly made sense to me. Romans 7 is about the civil war inside us. That’s what Stevenson’s novella is about. Bing! In that moment, The Man He Never Was came to life.

How would you describe your stories?

It’s always been tough to describe my genre, but let’s take a shot…

Contemporary stories set in the real world, where fantastical things happen. Or, psychological soul-searching thrillers with a supernatural bent based on a Christian world view.

Or simply, supernatural suspense.

What do you hope readers will take away after reading this book?

I hope they experience more freedom than they ever have before. I hope the ideas in the novel soak down deep in them and they realize they are loved far beyond imagination. I hope all their worries fall away as they realize who they truly are in Christ.

Who are some writers that you enjoy, and what do you like about their work?

C.S. Lewis has always been—and likely always will be—my favorite author. I like Ted Dekker and Stephen Lawhead a great deal as well. All three take me away to other worlds, but wrestle with life issues that are right here, right now.

I want my novels to wildly entertain readers, but also make them freer when they finish my stories than when they started. These three authors do that for me.