Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Author Ella Carey

I was contacted by the publisher Bookouture and offered the opportunity to interview one of their authors. Ella Carey has published seven novels, most set in the WWII era. Her eighth and newest novel, The Lost Girl of Berlin, has just been released. 

Myself: I would like to get to know a little about you. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer? 

Carey: I’ve always made up stories! However, I knew I wanted to become a writer when my university lecturer suggested we all take a week off university and go and sit at the Adelaide Writer’s Festival, which is one of the leading writers’ festivals in the world. I went, and I felt so at home amongst all the conversations about writing, and storytelling, and honestly, inspired. I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

Myself: You experienced quite the unique inspiration to begin your writing career. What is the first piece that you remember writing? 

Carey: Francesca the Fanciful Frog. (I don’t know where that alliteration came from!) I still have it. Complete with bright Texta drawings! 

Myself: What was your favorite class in High School? 

Carey: English, Music and History. It was a tie for all three. I went on and studied all three at university.

Myself: You had a distinct creative side from an early age then. What is your academic and work background?  

Carey: I have a Bachelor of Music in classical piano, a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and history, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. I knew that I couldn’t simply graduate and say I was writing a book…so I taught English, History and music and wrote away while I did so.

Myself: Your success certainly helps to dispel the popular myth ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.’ What part of the world do you currently live in?  

Carey: I live in Melbourne, Australia.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing? 

Carey: I would say more that my travels have affected my writing. Melbourne is a very creative city, and there are many writers living here, so I think it is a great choice for me, but as I’m published overseas, I’m in a strange position of setting all my books in Europe, the UK, or America, and living in Australia. 

Myself: There were so many Allied military who visited Australia during WWII. Either stationed there or on R and R. I would think that would let you set a novel in Australia with ties to the US, Canada, or Europe.  How do you relax? What are your hobbies?  

Carey: I love reading, of course, walking with my dogs, swimming, and I enjoy the theatre, music and travel.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?  

Carey: I do love dogs. I have three Italian Greyhounds, two who are thirteen years old and absolute treasures, and one who has just turned one and is a minx.

Myself: My step-daughter has an aging greyhound. With three you have your hands full! What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?  

Carey: Fluff and Nip. (Don’t ask.).

Myself: Did you read much growing up?  

Carey: Yes. All the time. My mother read to me every night, all the classics, fairytales. Then, I always read to myself every night. I still do.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?  

Carey: Swallows and Amazons, for the setting, the adventure, and Anne of Green Gables for her quirky, fabulous character, and Noel Streatfield’s books.

Myself: What have you read recently?  

Carey: I’m reading a book called Love Objects, by Emily Maguire.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?  

Carey: My favorite genre is definitely historical fiction. My favorite character is Lizzie Bennet, and my favorite authors are too many to list. 

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?   

Carey: In the sun, on my day bed.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? 

Carey:  I read both print books and e-books. I love both for different reasons.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?   

Carey: I tend to make sure that if I’m giving a book as a gift, that it really means something to the person. I often give book vouchers to friends who are keen readers of novels, because I don’t know what they might have read lately, and I give coffee table books to friends who might have a passion, such as guitars, or France or the like.

Myself: You have been very successful with your Secrets of Paris series. It achieved ‘bestselling’ status on both the USA Today and Amazon charts. Likewise, your standalone novels Secret ShoresThe Things We Don’t Say, and Beyond the Horizon have also been very successful. To what do you attribute your success?   

Carey: I try to work hard so that every book is better than the last, so I have something to strive for. I do work hard, and I guess I’m quite driven. It comes from years and years of piano practice when I was young. 

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?   

Carey: I have stories coming to life in me. It’s something I’ve always had. It’s just there.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?   

Carey: I want to keep writing well into old age, and to be able to continue to share my books with readers all over the world.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?   

Carey: I write because I’m compelled to write, and because I love it, and because it’s like reading. It pulls me into a different world, and is also something for me. No-one can take the stories away.

Myself: I like that sentiment about writing. WWII is the setting for many of your novels. Why have you chosen that period in history for your books?   

Carey: I was born when my mother was well into her forties, and my father was in his fifties. They both enlisted during the war, and were both in the Air Force for the entire six years, but neither of them really talked about it. I adored so many of their friends, and they are all gone now. Writing about that generation helps me understand the huge challenges they faced, the limitations that my mother’s generation of women faced, the difficulties that the men had to deal with after returning from that war. It brings me close to them all.

Myself: I can understand that. My father served in the US Army during the war. He was stationed in London and later in Paris. Where do your story ideas come from?   

Carey: All over the place! I tend to pull together about five ideas into a book.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?   

Carey: I always try to put an idea into a one page synopsis, so that I know I have a story, then I usually outline, and have in-depth discussions with my editor and agent about the story, and then I write. Often, I go off outline, but if I feel the new ideas are stronger than they were in the outline, I will stick with them.

Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?   

Carey: No, I don’t really, although, I do see elements of myself in the struggles that many of my female characters face. I do think all writing is autobiographical to an extent. It is interesting how much has changed, and how much has not. 

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?   

Carey: I write in a lovely room overlooking the garden. I have my sit/standing desk, and a card from Charleston, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in Sussex, which inspired my book, The Things We Don’t Say, and a paperweight from Scotland, my current research books, a framed black and white photograph of Paris, and an assortment of notebooks, mad notepads filled with random thoughts about the book, and my silver pen set.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?   

Carey: I do often write seven days a week when I’m under deadline. I tend to go for a walk first, then get stuck in until I am done.

Myself: How do you fit writing into your daily schedule?   

Carey: I’m a full time writer. I’ve been a full time writer since Paris Time Capsule was published, so I balance this with family, and everything else.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?    

Carey: It takes me around six to eight months to complete a first draft, and then the revisions take around another three to four months.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?   

Carey: I put a huge amount of research into my books. I travel to the places in my novels, interview relevant people, read books and articles set around the topic, make copious notes and then research details as I go.

Myself: It sounds like you immerse yourself in what you are writing. What tools (software?) do you use in your writing? 

Carey: I just use Word.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?    

Carey: The hardest thing is keeping away from it, not overdoing it, and the easiest thing is…well, I don’t know that any of it is easy!

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?    

Carey: Practice, believe in yourself, and never give up.

Myself: I have heard that same advice from other authors i have interviewed. What novels/works have you published?    

Carey: The Secrets of Paris series- Paris Time Capsule, The House by the Lake, From a Paris Balcony, then three standalone novels, Secret Shores, The Things We Don’t Say, Beyond the Horizon, and the Daughters of New York Series, A New York Secret, and soon The Lost Girl of Berlin.

Myself: What are you currently working on?    

Carey: The third book in the Daughters of New York series.

Myself: What else would you like to share?    

Carey: Thank you for having me here today!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?    

Carey: You can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/ellacareyauthor and https://www.ellacarey.com/

Interview with Author Harald Gilbers

Photo of Harald Gilbers by Ronald Hansch

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the WWII era mystery “Germania”. After I posted my review I reached out to the author, Harald Gilbers, and asked to interview him. He graciously consented. 

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer? 

Gilbers: It was pure chance that I became a novelist. I simply love telling stories, but believe it or not, I hate the act of writing. Yes, I always had this talent, at first I tried my hand in theater and films because I was mainly interested in the visual aspect. It’s a challenge that I was born and still live in Germany. The market there is quite small and when I had the idea for “Germania” there was no way of getting it realized, except probably as a novel. So I sat down and wrote it completely on spec. I sometimes think it’s funny that I can create the equivalent of a multi-million-dollar blockbuster with just ink and paper.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing? 

Gilbers: When I started writing stories I was still a child, around four or five years old. My parents had a mechanical typewriter. I was not even in school and had no idea how to spell correctly. Even so, I wrote little stories on that machine. This is as much as I can remember.

Myself: You definitely started your writing career early. What is your academic and work background? 

Gilbers: I studied history and American literature and still work for a few hours a week as a journalist. The skills I gained at university are very important for my literary work. You are trained to do research on your own. I also directed stage plays and shorts for many years. This was great for understanding how dramatic plots are structured and how fictitious characters are created.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies? 

Gilbers: I’m constantly busy with my novels, so I find it very hard to relax. I keep developing ideas, they are always on my mind. I cannot punch out and say: “Okay, closing time!“ For me, it’s only possible to relax while listening to music. Exactly like my main character Oppenheimer I favor classical music. I especially like Italian operas, while my hero is more a fan of the Viennese symphonic tradition. And I also like to play music and watch movies in the best possible quality. I own a home cinema with a projection system that is also equipped for high-end multichannel audio. My library of movies and albums is extensive. Well, you will surely have guessed it, I’m a nerd.

Myself: I too am a nerd. I have a large library of music and video available to my Apple TVs and iPad. Plex server software running on my Mac Mini is my media server. Did you read much growing up?

Gilbers: I read a lot in my youth, because without the internet and only three tv channels there were no distractions. Even today, I still draw from my memory of those books. I read everything I could get my hands on. Very early I came across adult fiction and discovered my love for mystery and crime novels. The first adult novels I read were ”The Hound of the Baskervilles“ by Arthur Conan Doyle and ”The India Rubber Men“ by Edgar Wallace.

Myself: I read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was very young tooWhat have you read recently?

Gilbers: Nowadays I mainly read non-fiction books as research for my novels. The last one was ”The SS Officer’s Armchair“ by Daniel Lee. This book uncovers the private life of an ordinary SS officer during the Nazi years. It’s very cleverly written. The historian appears like a sleuth looking for clues.

Myself: I too have been reading a lot of WWII-era non-fiction. A few have been autobiographies of German soldiers, though I have not read the one you mention. They certainly give a different view of the war than usually appears. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author? 

Gilbers: I have many favorite authors. John Irving, Thomas Hardy, Graham Greene, John le Carré, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, and others. One book I simply adore is the true-crime-novel ”In Cold Blood“ by Truman Capote. Because I directed stage plays for many years, some of my favorite authors are dramatists like Eugene O’Neill, Tom Stoppard, and Jean-Paul Sartre, to name a few. I especially like reading crime series. Once I read the whodunits with Lord Peter Wimsey written by Dorothy L. Sayers in chronological order. This gave me an interesting insight into how British society had changed in the years between the two world wars. And apart from that, they rank among the best mystery novels. One fictitious character I’m especially fond of is Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko. He was a great inspiration for my Oppenheimer.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Gilbers: It’s quite simple, I want to reach as many people as possible. It’s not about fame, but about my message. I write historical novels that take place in Nazi Germany and the following years. This historical period tells so much about how we became what we are today. And of course, it demonstrates the evil consequences of chauvinism and populism. I hope that my characters will eventually lead a life of their own – independent of their author. Oppenheimer will appear not only in my novels but also in other media. I am scheduled to write a dramatized audio series and a tv series is also in the works. And there is some talk about graphic novels, which would be very cool indeed.

Myself: I would love to see Oppenheimer in other media. From what I read in Germania you convey to the reader a good sense as to what Germany was like during the war. You were awarded the Friedrich-Glauser Prize for Germania in 2014 in the best first novel category. In 2016 your novel Odins Söhne was awarded the French Prix Historia and was shortlisted for the Festival Polar Cognac Prize for the best international novel. To what do you attribute these early successes in your writing career?

Gilbers: When I wrote my first novel ”Germania“ it was a taboo in Germany to combine our awful past with a genre that is usually considered low-brow. I grew up reading Anglo-Saxon literature, so the supposed parting line between low-brow and high-brow never played a role in my imagination. I just wrote the kind of story I wanted to read myself – an exciting crime novel with thorough historical research. A kind of „The Silence of the Lambs“ set in Nazi Germany. And it was my strategy to use the plot as a means of illustrating this utterly inhuman society. While reading you will inevitably ask yourself who the bigger villain is – the demented serial killer or Hitler and his minions. Only a few German writers had dared this before, so ”Germania“ immediately received a lot of attention. Due to my national cultural background, I have a slightly different approach to the Nazi past than foreign writers. It’s just natural and certainly a reason why my novels seem so unique. At the same time I get most of my artistic influences from abroad, so my stories are an unusual blend. My taste is very eclectic. I rarely ever watch German television. Instead, I’m rather interested in American literature, Asian movies, Italian operas, French philosophers, and so on. Basically, I write local stories set in Berlin, but because I have a bigger scope and deal a lot with history and politics their appeal is worldwide.

Myself: A few years back I was in Nuremberg. We were on a tour of the city and one of the stops was the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. I remember that our guide said that the remains sat untouched for many years. He remarked that the local government had been caught in a cultural challenge. It could not decide if the buildings should be torn down or saved for history. How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Gilbers: I write a series of crime novels, so it’s a special challenge to keep my stories fresh. The historical background and the main characters only change gradually. I have created a long character arc for Oppenheimer that stretches over many novels. On the other hand, I’m very aware that he cannot hunt serial killers all the time. As an author, you simply shouldn’t repeat yourself too much, so I try to change the sub-genres once in a while. The second novel begins like a paranoid conspiracy thriller involving a weird Aryan sect and ends up as a courtroom drama. The third novel deals with spies and the nuclear bomb – we have a Russian with steel teeth and a knife-throwing girl, you could say this is my version of a James Bond novel. My books progress chronologically, so it also depends on what had happened during that time in Berlin. For example, I got my inspiration for the sixth novel from a true murder case that took place in 1949.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Gilbers: Because of my stage work I’m very plot-conscious. I have to know exactly where I am in the paradigm and where I’m going to. When I start writing the story is already complete. The later changes tend to be minimal.

Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?

Gilbers: This comes very close to my usual work routine. While writing I’m interpreting a character, just like an actor on stage. This means finding similarities with myself and personality aspects I can relate to. I cannot draw up characters on a board, I have to understand them intuitively. It’s a bit different with the main characters Oppenheimer and Hilde. They are so well-established in my mind that I can just put them on an imaginary stage and write down what they do.

Myself: It sounds like your stage work has a big influence on your character and plot development. What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Gilbers: First comes the plot development. I create the storyline in the old-fashioned way with colored cards. Then I write a longer synopsis, about 50 pages long with all the details already included. This goes to my literary agent and my editor. It’s the most effective way. If they propose any changes I will get them before I start writing. Then I begin with the first draft. I never make changes at that time, just keep on writing. Once I’m finished I read all the material for the first time and note down the changes I need to make. I incorporate them in the second draft. Then follows the third and final draft on paper where I do the last polishing.

Myself: You have a very structured process for your novel development. About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Gilbers: The first draft usually takes nine to twelve months. I always attend to the everyday business stuff in the morning and write in the afternoon. This is a very painful period. At that time I have no clear idea where my project is going, I have to trust the work process, but it’s a hard thing to do because I usually think that my rough draft is complete crap. When I finally read the raw material it’s not half as bad as I feared. Mostly I’m even pleasantly surprised. At that moment I can see for the first time how the narrative rhythm flows. In order to keep the momentum, I do the revisions relatively quickly with around six weeks for the second draft and two weeks for the final version. It normally takes eighteen months from the first idea to the finished manuscript.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Gilbers: I write historical novels, therefore my research is extensive. For the first novel “Germania” I wanted to do it properly. In the end, I needed eighteen months just for plot development and doing the historical groundwork. Now I know where to get good historical sources and the time period between the novels covers only a few months, so work for the sequels is more manageable. I usually create a timeline where I note down for every single day the important things that had happened in Germany and especially in Berlin. This also includes weather data and other details. I sometimes even change my plot when the sources contradict my initial ideas. I’m not allowed to change history. My stories take place in the real world. In the end, I have to juggle all of these elements. Creating the novel is like a gigantic puzzle.

Myself: Your writing of historical novels seems far more committed to complying with historical detail than most.  What advice would you give to an aspiring author? 

Gilbers: The most important thing is getting your work done. Once you have finished a manuscript – published or not – you can call yourself a writer. I know so many people who want to write but stop after a few dozen pages. And this repeats itself over and over again. As a novelist, you’re in for a marathon, not a sprint. And there are no shortcuts. It’s vital to understand that. The other advice is to get a proper literary agent. They know the publishers and the book market. It’s useless to send your manuscript directly to publishing houses, they have already outsourced the evaluation process. When I started writing “Germania” I had no literary connections whatsoever. Even so, the novel was picked up by big publishers in Germany, the United States, and other countries. This would have been impossible without my agent. I’m not a big fan of self-publishing. It’s extremely difficult to do a proper advertising campaign on your own and in any case, someone should edit your manuscript. You cannot count on friends and relatives, you need specialists for this work.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Gilbers: Germania (Germania – A Novel of Nazi Germany) – 2013, engl.: 2020

Odins Söhne (Sons of Odin) – 2015

Endzeit (The End of Days) – 2017

Totenliste (List of the Dead) – 2018

Hungerwinter (Winter of Famine) – 2020

Luftbrücke (Airlift) – 2021

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Gilbers: Right now I create the plot for Commissioner Oppenheimer’s seventh case, which will be published in its original German language in 2023.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch? 

Gilbers: You can find me on Goodreads and I post all updates on my writer’s page on Facebook. I visit these pages regularly.

Interview with Author Ed Mitchell

Last January I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “Black Camel. After the review I was able to contact the author, Ed Mitchell. He graciously agreed to an interview.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Mitchell: My mother fueled my drive to tell stories when she taught me to read while sitting at her side. She instilled in me the love of reading, of being transported into different lands with exotic people doing incredible deeds. Over the years, like many people, I came to appreciate the magic authors use to create stories that touch souls and stay with people for decades. Reading was the footpath that led me to the point where I decided to attempt to create the magic that I enjoyed so much.

However, my birth mother was mentally ill, slipping in and out of mental hospitals most of my life. I wondered as I grew up if that insanity had been passed on to me, simmering to emerge some day in my life. When I was thirty, I concluded that sanity exists in a person when they are creative in positive ways— not in destructive ways. So, I started writing my first mystery/thriller. Being a published author keeps a lid on my simmering pot.

Myself: That is an exceptional story of how you became an author. What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Mitchell: I always remember the first day I started writing fiction at Fort Ord, California overlooking Monterey Bay. After I finished typing the first page, I yanked it out of the typewriter and threw it away because I knew it sucked. Why the hell was I thinking I could write? That began the long journey to get good at hooking people into a story they never expected and could not figure out where it was going or how it would end. Later my first mystery/thriller won best new fiction in the USA from a small press. Yippie!

Myself: That is quite the accomplishment for your first book. What is your academic and work background?

Mitchell: Here’s the short answer: I was a foster kid who later graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I went on to be an Airborne Infantry Ranger in Alaska and South Korea, a RAND Corporation Fellow, an aerospace systems engineer working on the National Missile Defense, and a community activist fighting to protect water sources in California. Along the way, I earned two masters degrees, with one in space systems management. Additionally, for years I’ve hunted out vulnerabilities to terrorism within our borders.

Myself: That is quite the background. I can see how it impacted your writing. Your stories are very contemporary and seem to be autobiographic. Are they?

Mitchell: Just the 216 love scenes.

Seriously, the majority of what you read in my stories is not a one-for-one lifting out of my life. Instead, it’s an extension or adjustment of my experiences with people I’ve met or places I’ve seen. The craft is molding them into the plot, scenes, emotions, and characters that I bring on stage for readers to enjoy.

One rule of writing that I’ve heard is “write what you know.” I express that rule a bit differently. Leverage what you know. What I’ve leverage into my stories includes being a battered child, serving 25 years in the Army, traveling to desolate places around the world; as well as observing, like you have, current political, economic, and terrorist events. Additional spice comes from marrying, divorcing, being in car crashes, burying pets, having mentally ill family members, and losing people I love to cancer and heart problems. And one of those was my second wife, who on our 30th wedding anniversary died in my arms.

I believe my thrillers are realistic and believable because I make it easy for the reader to connect with events in the story similar to those in their life. Often, I’ve been told: “Your stories are scary because they could happen.”

Myself: You seem to have led a full life. I have only read one of your novels, but it is a believable story. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Mitchell: I’m a west coast farm boy who left the cold rainy northwest to join the army then returned to live in sunny California near Big Sur and Monterey Bay.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Mitchell: Yes, my first two thrillers are set in California. Then the characters transition farther into the world of counterterrorism. But more important than setting is that I met my second wife here. She was my best critic and helped me craft realistic, intelligent, creative, and dangerous female characters.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Mitchell: I’m like many career military types, I’ve never stopped leaning forward in the foxhole. John, you read Black Camel and in it I’ve laid out how terrorism can grow like a cancer into a terrible battle within our borders. So, no hobbies. But I do relax by fixing the next thing that breaks on the ranch.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Mitchell: Yes, and kept it up until I started writing fiction. Then I transitioned into research-reading of material for my stories. It’s harder than it looks weaving into a plot cutting off electricity to millions of people, air-gap computer hacking, ballistic missile launches against the U.S., and using ground-penetrating satellites.  

Myself: Very state-of-the-art tech you are weaving into your thrillers. I can see why you have had to indulge in so much research. What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory? 

Mitchell: I was three years old sitting next to my mom. It was a children’s book that she encouraged me to read to her.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Mitchell: Thrillers are hands down better than a mystery. I love to kid mystery authors by saying that, thrillers are what mystery writers wish they could write. It’s because thrillers are more complex than mysteries. The thriller author usually is found entwining events and characters spread around the globe along with a large splash of technical, scientific, or historic data. The skill of the author is in how well he or she weaves the disparate threads into a recognizable, believable pattern so by the time the reader finishes the last chapter he or she is satisfied with the ending.

My publisher doesn’t like me to say this, but it’s true. My Gold series of thrillers is a saga of a family. It has a strong romance genre component and female protagonists. Also, soldiers or FBI agents in my stories are not portrayed just in action. They also deal with parents, spouses, children, and pets (just like you and me) that enhance and complicate their lives. 

Myself: That is an exceptionally good description of a thriller. Where is your favorite place to read?

Mitchell: In bed with my girlfriend while reading her the exciting and surprising chapter I wrote during the last week. If she falls asleep, I know it’s not that brilliant and needs a rewrite.  

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks? 

Mitchell: I began writing before ebooks existed. And many readers love the physical book and while others prefer the digital version. We sell physical books direct to the reader from my website, while globally selling the ebook online in 7 ebookstore chains. Bottom line: I prefer books that sell.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

Mitchell: People who give gift books that John Purvis rates highly are some of the best people in the world. And readers ALWAYS appreciate receiving gift books that are a good read. So go to my webpage or to your favorite ebook store and buy and send your family member or friend a great book. 

By the way you gave Black Camel 5 stars. You’re brilliant. People should take your advice. Sample chapter-1 of each of my thrillers at my website. The saga begins with Gold Lust, then Gold Raid, Gold Fire (nuclear terrorism), The Destiny Relic (Middle East terrorism), Black Camel (terrorism with our borders).

Myself: Thanks for your praise Ed. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Mitchell: Two reasons. First, humans are storytellers. In some of us the drive is almost maternal in strength. We’re driven to give our story a life by getting it out of our minds and onto paper or onto the computer screen. That drive has been strong enough to keep me writing for years.

Second, my inspiration to write my first fiction story and see it published began on the beach in Monterey, California. I was a young captain attending the Naval Postgraduate School. On that day I was trying to figure out how Muslim terrorists could talk teenage fighters into committing suicide by blowing themselves up. I concluded that if America ever faced a Muslim commander trained as American soldiers are, like myself, then that would be a very bad day for our country.

I went on to lay out a storyline for a series of thrillers leading up to such an event. That led to releasing my original hardback as Gold Rush 2000. (Released later as a paperback under the title Gold Lust.) While I was writing the third book in the series, where a mastermind would attack a strategic objective in America to drive our forces out of the Middle East — reality struck. On September 11th, 2001 the Trade Towers in New York City were destroyed.

After the FBI began warning the public to watch out for other attacks, one of which I had in my draft thriller, I realized that I knew too many national vulnerabilities. So, I tossed that draft and started a different story, Gold Fire.

However, after my wife passed, I took a sabbatical from writing for a few years. But I’ve returned to helping enlighten people to threats to America.

Myself: I think I need to go back and read the first four books in your Gold series. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Mitchell: Keep writing, stay sane, help people become security aware.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Mitchell: Author-wise its: Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal, Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, Baldacci’s Absolute Power, Evan’s The Horse Whisperer, as well as Grisham’s Time to Kill.

Myself: I too have read and enjoyed most of the books of Forsyth and Clancy. How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Mitchell: I write what I like to read which are thrillers with a romance element. That fits for writing about modern terrorism.

Myself: Where did the idea for the plot for Black Camel come from?

Mitchell: I was studying Middle East terrorism decades before the Department of Homeland Security appeared. That led me to worry that someday America could be attacked by terrorists. That stimulated me to conceive of a series of books to identify an emerging threat. Black Camel has been maturing in my head for years, while I worked out what I should and should not include in the story.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Mitchell: Typically, it starts with a What-if question popping in my brain. Followed by a What-would-that-cause question. I’ll use my fourth thriller, The Destiny Relic, as an example. While watching a TV documentary about fake relics, it popped into my head: What if a religious relic actually passed all scientific tests proving it was authentic? How would that shake up the world for good or bad? What if terrorists used it to achieve their political goals?

If I can’t conceive of a satisfying and believable ending I don’t write that story. And I won’t ask a reader to go on a long journey with me if I know there’s a shabby ending. But with an intriguing beginning and satisfying ending, I know I have the foundation for a story.

Myself: I really like how you come up with story ideas. How do you write your thrillers?

Mitchell: Ah … fully clothed. 

Given that I know the beginning and ending, I next outline the up and down scenes for the male and female heroes. Once I have that rollercoaster outline clumped into chapters, I start technical and setting research.

Only after I have the factual data to support the outline, do I start writing.

Myself: You seem to approach writing more analytically than most of the authors I have interviewed. What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Mitchell:  It takes me a long time to write a book and get it to readers and editors.  Throughout every day I think about the book I’m writing. I like to write in the morning in my office with light music on. When not writing, I’m supposed to be marketing which I do periodically but not enough recently. Before the pandemic I was giving author talks around the state. I like that because I get new buyers and discuss safety issue that people are interested in. 

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Mitchell:  Finishing a rough draft takes a year. Finishing an edited book takes six more months. In the last four years I’ve issued two new books in my series and released five ebooks (All of the saga so far). The two new books were The Destiny Relic and Black Camel.

On the shelf in two years has been my recent pace.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Mitchell: Five hundred to a thousand hours.

Myself: That is a a lot of research. I don’t think that very many fiction authors make that kind of an investment. Of course having that level of detail sets your books apart. What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Mitchell: Microsoft Word and Grammarly editing software.

Myself: I like Grammarly too. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Mitchell: One of the hardest lessons to learn is that you are not just an author writing — you also are a professional marketer. Second, hardest is waiting years to get feedback on your writing.

The best and easiest thing is when someone who has read your book tells you they loved your story, and they mean it. Knowing you delivered the magic is golden.

Myself: I certainly found Black Camel very enjoyable. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Mitchell: Marry someone rich who will support your writing career.

More important is enjoying the journey whether you ever get published or not, whether you sell one book or millions. And while you’re on that journey appreciate your spouse or significant other. Be kind to them and thank them for all the support they give you, especially when you receive rejection letters. Or after your car’s engine stops running in the fast lane with a big diesel truck behind you while you are on the way to an important event and you almost get killed. (True story!) Mainly though, enjoy them because they may disappear some day and leave you behind.

Myself: Very wise advice. What novels/works have you published?

Mitchell: Ed Mitchell’s thriller series includes Gold Rush 2000, Gold Raid, Gold Fire, The Destiny Relic, and Black Camel. Each thriller is also available in eBook form. Note that ebook-1 is retitled Gold Lust.

Read reviews & sample each chapter at my website.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Mitchell: Centurion Gold is a Ben-Hur type story, outside of my thriller series. I promised my wife I would write this story. It is scheduled to be released in late 2021.

Myself: I will be looking for it. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Mitchell: Email me direct at ed@booksbyedmitchell.com, sign up for my blogs or newsletter, and visit my website, https://booksbyedmitchell.com 

I want to thank Ed again for the opportunity to have a great interview. He was humorous, has an incredible set of life experiences, and is full of insight. Just the kind of author you would want to be seated next to at a dinner party. 

If you want a little more detail of Ed’s career, check out the Biography page on his website. 

Interview with Author A.D. Enderly

I read and reviewed the science fiction novel Complex: A Dystopian Thriller earlier this month. Since then I was able to contact the author A. D. Enderly. He graciously agreed to an interview. 


Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?


Enderly: I’d always been an avid reader and had tinkered around with creative expression in the form of poetry, but the revelation didn’t really hit until I was about 18. I was a freshman in college and a friend of mine had turned me on to Dave Barry. I enjoyed how he blended humor with factual information and began to toy around with some of these “essays” myself. Now mind you, this was 25 years ago, so I can’t honestly recall the topics…but I do remember the reception. I shared them with friends and family and they enjoyed them – even laughed. This to me, was gold. It didn’t necessarily confirm that I wanted to be a humor columnist, but it did herald the value in writing. 


Myself: You began your writing career a little earlier than most of the authors I have spoken with. What is the first piece that you remember writing?


Enderly: Yikes. This would maybe be in middle school, where I wrote a story about a mythological creature cursed to stand on its head. I remember reading it years later, and the notable point wasn’t its quality (or lack thereof) but the creativity. Kids can be so effortlessly creative. 

 
Myself: I agree about kid’s natural creativity. It seems that the public education system works to suppress that independent thinking. What is your academic and work background?


Enderly: I studied English at the University of Kansas, with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I studied Spanish all throughout as well, because as it turns out I have a love for languages! I graduated in ’99 and after that played in a band for about 6 years, both writing lyrics and music. After this, I worked a slew of different jobs, from taking insurance claims in Spanish, installing POS systems in Pizza Huts in the South, waiting tables, to being both a freelance and full-time copywriter at an ad agency. Now I manage restaurants and write in my spare time.


Myself: You have quite a varied career. What part of the world do you currently live in?


Enderly: I live in a suburb of Kansas City, on the Kansas side. An interesting point of note about the city – prior to about 2000, the downtown area was a dead zone. But around this time it experienced a revitalization, beginning with the arts community. I have a good friend who’s a sculptor (think giant bronze statues) and he was a part of this rejuvenation. Now, (minus Covid) the city is alive with people, art, ideas, which had earned it the moniker the Paris of the Plains. I realize some would snicker at this cynically as it’s obviously not remotely like Paris in reality, but I think what the nickname speaks to is the fact that it’s a place where art and ideas are blooming.


Myself: It’s interesting that you come from suburban Kansas City. I was born there and spent the first few years of my life in Argentine, KS. I did not know that it had developed into a center for the arts. Do you think that living there has affected your writing?


Enderly: Undoubtedly. But not in the way some would assume like there’s this sort of midwestern plainspokenness about my writing because I don’t know that’s the case. More than anything, it’s the place that has a hand in the friendships, the encounters, and other exposures that have shaped me and thus my writing.


Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?


Enderly: Oh man, they are multifarious! I find so much fascinating and fun. Right now I’m really enjoying driving RC cars…crashing them and fixing them, that is. I (obviously) love to read and write. But a lot of my writings lean toward the what-if, the philosophical, and the metaphysical. I’m deeply interested in the links between physics/physical laws and the metaphysical ones (ie conservation of energy and Karma – there’s some convoluted connection in there, but that’s for another time).I enjoy repairing things, the occasional woodworking, and also inventing. I’ve got a few ideas I’m working on currently but they’re just rough sketches at the moment. I still make music (I play the bass), and occasionally you’ll find me recording some new music and catapulting it out into the ether when I get the time. 

My kids always keep me busy, and I enjoy teaching and coaching them (when they choose to listen). I like to take them camping, canoeing, etc…life is a full, wonderful thing. A little too full to list everything here.

Myself: You seem to have a very full life. What else would you like to share about yourself?


Enderly: I’ve probably over-shared by now 🙂 


Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?


Enderly: Scruffy. It was a chapter book I checked out in second grade and it moved me to tears. 


Myself: Did you read much growing up?


Enderly: All the time. I’ve always loved reading. 


Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory? 


Enderly: I already mentioned Scruffy, so I’ll move forward in time a little. Around fourth grade, I read The Westing Game, and I absolutely loved the mystery aspect of it. Also around this time, my older brother (2 years older) was reading John Bellairs’ books, which are paranormal mysteries for kids. I got hooked on these…which naturally led me into loving Stephen King and Dean Koontz around high school. 


Myself: I’m a Dean Koontz fan too. What have you read recently?


Enderly: I just finished Silversands by Gareth Powell and am about to start Shogun by James Clavell. I try to read one non-fiction for every 3 fiction. It’s the non-fiction that inspires my ideas more than anything. More recently, books like Range (David Eppstein), The Biggest Bluff (Maria Konnikova), and Newjack: Guarding Sing-Sing (Ted Conover) are ones that come to mind.    


Myself: That is a diverse reading list. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books as well. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?


Enderly: Favorite genre still has to be Sci-fi. Favorite book of all time? It’s a fight between Dune and Brave New World. But I’m always finding new authors, which is the beauty of books. There are so many good authors out there spinning lovely and different tales. Recently I’ve been enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing (Wanderers). My favorite author was Stephen King for the longest time, and I still adore The Stand and the Dark Tower series. Don’t know that I have a favorite character though.


Myself: I enjoyed the Dune novels and The Stand. Where is your favorite place to read?


Enderly: Any place that’s quiet. 


Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?


Enderly: I prefer paper. I also devour podcasts…but not audiobooks. Is that strange? 


Myself: Nearly all the authors I have spoken with prefer paper. I too listen to few audiobooks but to several different podcasts. So from my point of view that is not strange at all! What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?


Enderly: Whatever sparks my imagination. These days I recommend podcasts and particular episodes that interesting that others might find interesting. Just this morning I recommended a Ted talk episode to a barista regarding the (super) power of sleep because of its timely correlation to daylight saving time. 


Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?


Enderly: Some innate thing. I know that growing up, total immersion in these imaginary worlds contributed to my development and I believe it still does. It builds a muscle. Maybe I can both inspire others, make them think, but also get them totally immersed in this world, which is an act of imagination and empathy. 


Myself: I agree that inspiring imagination is important. What are your ambitions for your writing career?


Enderly: Right now, to just widen my readership. And continue to write and publish. Two books a year is my goal but for someone with work and four kids, this is a tough proposition. I’d probably settle for one/year. 


Myself: One novel a year would still be quite an achievement. Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?


Enderly: I write my first draft by hand, and I cannot express how different it is from writing on a computer. There’s some connection between my hand, the pen, the scratch, the feel of the paper that’s all very tactile and it enhances my sense of creating and stimulates my brain more than just typing away at a keyboard ever can. I love it. But back to your question – I love ideas, which is probably why I write within the SF&F genres. In these playgrounds, you can test out new ideas and really flesh them out, see if they ring true.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?


Enderly: The first big influences were Stephen King/Dean Koontz. For a while there I was writing horror short stories. Then it was books like Lord of the FliesBrave New World1984 that influenced the genre…but I would say my style of writing was most greatly influenced by reading William Gibson. I love how you’re just thrown and have to figure it all out. There’s such a minimum of exposition that I feel gives his books a lasting power in that you can read them and infer more and more meaning on subsequent reads.

 
Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Enderly: It’s the genre with the most ideas 🙂 

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from? How did you come up with the plot in Complex?

Enderly: Oh my god, where to start. This world has existed in my mind for about 6 years. I would write little snippets but didn’t fully begin in earnest until late 2017. My goal at the time was to build a world in which I could write multiple stories/books that were not only in a series but some on parallel tracks that touched on other series. The plot for Complex changed over the course of time…but man it was hard to wrangle with all the POVs.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Enderly: Very loose outline. There are some things I know I want to happen for the dramatic effect, but if you do this too much then the characters lose their agency. Just like use, they need a bit of freedom to make their own trouble. 

Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?

Enderly: do. This is more noticeable for me when there’s an especially touching, poignant, or inherently sad moment. When you’re lost in the flow and this event happens and you find yourself moved to tears or a sudden upwelling of love, or whatever the emotion may be. Most of writing is a mental stimulant for me, but these moments go deeper, they originate in the heart.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Enderly: Sometimes at home, but mostly at a coffee shop. I suspect my brain needs some low level of peripheral stimulation to be able to focus on writing. Or maybe I’m just addicted to good coffee.

Myself: Good coffee is certainly important. What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Enderly: Always in the morning. The day proceeds and fills your mind up with junk and other concerns. The morning is a clean, clear slate. 

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Enderly: The first book took two years, then another 6 months to edit. The current book I’m on will take 1 year total for both. 

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Enderly: A lot of the ideas in their raw form come from the non-fiction I consume…these days, much of that is from podcasts. But something more specific, like the historic gods of the people of Nepal, I’ll obviously have to research more closely.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Enderly: I know it’s terrible, but I still use Word for the final draft. Recently, I’ve been writing my first drafts on a reMarkable e-ink tablet…which I LOVE.  

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Enderly: The hardest thing is getting started…and getting used to very negative criticism. The easiest thing is continuing. When you’re in a flow, the world doesn’t exist. Only the one in your head. 

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Enderly: Just write. Don’t stop. Like anything else, you will fail. Get up and continue to write, again and again. The process of iteration, of repetition, is one of honing, of style, ideas, craft. 

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Enderly: Complex is my debut novel. 

Myself: What are you currently working on?

nderly: The direct sequel to Complex and also a book on a parallel track that touches some of the same characters and concepts, but occurs in a parallel world. It’s tentatively titled The Runner of Bloodroot Row.

Myself: I’ll be looking for both of those novels. What else would you like to share?

Enderly:  I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for inviting me!

Myself: I really appreciate you taking the time to do the interview. I find it so interesting how the authors I interview are so similar on one level and yet worlds apart on others. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Enderly: Email is always a great way since life is inherently busy. My email address is contact@adenderly.com

Interview with Author Robert Webber

(See my other Author Interviews) – I read the WWII spy novel Winston’s Spy late last summer and published a review of it in September 2020. Since then I have been able to contact the author Robert Webber. He graciously agreed to an interview.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?  

Webber: I think I have always felt that I had a book inside me.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?  

Webber: When I was about ten-years-old, I won a competition in a local newspaper for a short story about the Zulu wars and then started writing a novel called ‘Death Defying Death’ which, of course, never saw the light of day!

Myself: Your writing career began a lot earlier than most authors. What is your academic and work background?   

Webber: I spent much of my life in sales and marketing but entered the world of academia whilst I was living in Finland… I am now working at a University in England as a senior lecturer of business strategy. I hold a doctorate.

Myself: We have somewhat similar backgrounds. I was not fortunate enough to earn a Phd, but I was an instructor in Computer Science at St. Edward’s University. What part of the world do you currently live in?    

Webber: Northamptonshire, England.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?    

Webber: Not especially, my current writing was more influenced by the time I spent living in Finland.

Myself: Why do you think Finland influenced your writing?

Webber: In Finland, there is a word “SISU” that defines the Finnish attitude to life. The term does not directly translate into English but is loosely explained as bravery, resilience, hardiness. The Finns are justifiably proud of sisu and often use it to describe their national character. When I was living in Finland, this trait fascinated me – I met many Finns who, despite physical or social handicaps, were determined to live life to the full and succeed in whatever they attempted. I became fascinated by Finland’s heroic achievements in their “David and Goliath” struggle in the Winter War, as this truly epitomised sisu.

Myself: I have not heard of the Finnish term sisu before. Your explanation is very interesting and I can see how it motivated you for your book series. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?    

Webber: A moment to relax… that would be nice! Actually, I relax by writing, but am also interested in photography, cookery and the theatre.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?    

Webber: I regret not having come to writing earlier.

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?    

Webber: The first book I remember was either A A Milne’s ‘When We Were Very Young’ or ‘Now We Are Six’ – I loved the simplicity of the rhyme and the wit of the writer. I think it a shame that youngsters today do not bother reading poetry.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?    

Webber: Yes, I was an avid reader.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?    

Webber: The Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge, in later years ‘Reach for the Sky’ by Paul Brickhill.

Myself: What have you read recently?    

Webber: Mainly research for my own writing, but the occasional dabble into Michael Dobbs or Peter Mayle.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?    

Webber: Political, espionage, humour, I have a wide range of genres that I enjoy.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?    

Webber: Bed mainly, although when researching, mainly at my desk.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?     

Webber: I’m old school, I’m afraid… paper, and much to my wife’s chagrin, I do not throw books away!

Myself: I have amassed quite a few books myself, though most of those I’ve read in recent years have been ebooks. What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?    

Webber: At the moment, my own… but also cookery books.

Myself: What type of cooking books? Do you favor a particular cuisine?    

Webber: It depends on the recipient and how skilled they are in the kitchen, but my true love is French cuisine. My mother taught Cordon Bleu cookery, so my tastebuds became accustomed to the flavours of France from an early age,

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?     

Webber: Relaxation and a desire to inform about the least remembered aspects of WW2

Myself: I am glad you chose the WWII era for your novel. What are your ambitions for your writing career?     

Webber: Retirement from my day job… yes, I would like to make money from my writing, but also leave a legacy for future generations.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?    

Webber: I enjoy writing, I enjoy researching what I write, I enjoy the creativity.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?     

Webber: Not especially, none of my family wrote, but we did have an English teacher at school who wrote novels under a pen-name, but I never found out what it was (and he was not allowed to say!)

Myself: Why did you set your first book Winston’s Spy in WWII era Europe?    

Webber: In honesty, Winston’s Spy was always going to be the precursor for The White Rose, which I have been mulling around in my mind for nearly twenty years. I needed an introduction to start writing about the Winter War in Finland, so I developed the main characters in Winston’s Spy for the later books in the series.

Myself: I don’t think many people associate the war between Finland and Russia as part of WWII. I doubt there are many who have even heard of the Winter War. I look forward to learning more in your next novel. How did you pick the genres for your stories?    

Webber: I grew up at the time when WW2 was still remembered, and I was fascinated by the courage and determination of the era. I agree that not many people have heard of the Winter War (before living in Finland, I certainly had not!), which is a shame – but I can’t entirely agree that it falls outside WW2. Quite apart from the timeline, the war with Finland influenced Russian strategy both in its pact with Nazi Germany and later coalition with the Allies. Post-WW2, Finland became a crucial, if passive, player in the Cold War.

Myself: I think you and I are much of the same generation. Where do your story ideas come from?    

Webber: My books are always grounded in historical fact, but expanded into fiction by an overactive imagination.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?     

Webber: The main plot is invariably set by historical fact, but of the fiction element is initially quite well planned out, but allowed to develop as the writing happens, so quite often I do not end up where I thought I would!

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?    

Webber: I converted the garage at my home into an office and writing space… mainly so that I could get some peace and quiet to develop my thoughts.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?     

Webber: Haphazard at the moment, as it has to fit around my ‘day job’, but when I am writing more intensely (weekends and holidays) structured… I am definitely a morning person.

Myself: How do you fit writing in to your daily schedule? (i.e. balance work, writing and family)    

Webber: Ever since I wrote my thesis for university, I have been an early riser… I am responding to this email at 3.30am, and that’s when I tend to do much of my writing so that I can fit day job, and family around my writing ambitions. If I ever get to retire, I will focus on writing in a more structured way.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?    

Webber: Usually, about three to four months.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?    

Webber: A lot! I am typically researching my next book while I am writing the current one

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?     

Webber: MS Word, and I have just bought Grammarly to see whether it improves my writing.

Myself: I have been using Grammarly as well. I think it has helped me improve my own writing. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?    

Webber: Hardest? Remembering what I had thought was a good storyline the next day, and scheduling sufficient time to hit my personal deadlines, and the easiest, is really allowing the book to flow from brain to paper.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?    

Webber: Enjoy writing… if it becomes a chore, give it up!

Myself: What novels/works have you published?    

Webber: I have had several academic papers published, plus a textbook ‘An Introduction to Franchising’. Winston’s Spy and The White Rose have been published. The third Carlton Chronicles novel Teddy’s War is due out in the summer. 

Myself: What are you currently working on?    

Webber: Carlton Chronicles IV, The Stockholm Protocol is nearing completion. I anticipate it will be out around Christmas 2021. I am researching the fifth book in the series.

Myself: What else would you like to share?    

Webber: I really do regret not having started writing earlier… I seriously wonder whether I shall ever get all the books that I would like to write finished before I drop dead!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?   

Webber: Email is the best option robert@robwebber.co.uk, although I do also have a Carlton Chronicles FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/carltonchronicles) and a website (https://www.robwebber.co.uk)

Author Interview with Susan Elia MacNeal

Photo from http://susaneliamacneal.com

(See my other Author Interviews) – Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to read and review Prisoner in the Castle and The King’s Justice by author Susan Elia MacNeal. She is a NY Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today best selling novelist. She is a Barry Award winner in 2013 in the Best Paperback Original category for her first novel Mr. Churchills Secretary. She has also been nominated for theEdgar Award

A few weeks ago I reached out to her for an interview and she graciously consented. She has published nine novels with a tenth pending. These are all in her “Maggie Hope Mysteries” series. She has also published two non-fiction books Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails and Wedding Zen: Simple, Calming Wisdom for the Bride. 

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

MacNeal: I was an English major at Wellesley College, where I did my senior honors thesis on the lesser-known gothic thrillers of Louisa May Alcott. Worked for the novelist John Irving and his wife, Janet Turnbull Irving a Canadian literary agent, then moved to New York to work as an assistant at Random House. Then climbed my way up the publishing ladder. Eventually I decided I wanted to write instead of edit.

Myself: Your background is very different from the other authors I have interviewed. With nine novels in the Maggie Hope series already published and your awards, I would say that your writing career is already very successful.  What part of the world do you currently live in?

MacNeal: Brooklyn, New York! Park Slope, actually, where it seems everyone’s a writer. 

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

MacNeal: Maybe it normalizes writing as a career in some way? Although my husband is a TV puppeteer and director, so “normal” isn’t really a concern, usually….

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

MacNeal: One of the editors I worked for had season tickets to New York City Ballet and I went and fell in love! So NYCB and the ballet and modern dance scene is definitely a reason to stay in New York for me. In the pandemic, I’ve focused on cooking—a lot of writers like cooking and baking and I think it’s because, unlike a novel, you can start and finish something in a reasonable time frame. There’s closure. And dinner!

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

MacNeal: I was told I was reading Mother Goose by age three. Now that I’m a parent, this seems petty early, but that’s the way I heard it.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

MacNeal: All. The. Time. The library was my absolute favorite place.

Myself: What have you read recently?

MacNeal: Just finished Phillip Roth’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, which maybe was or was not a great choice given the current political situation. But it’s a fantastic novel and certainly thought-provoking.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? 

MacNeal: Much, much prefer paper books to eBooks! But here’s my reading hack—I download those free first chapters to my iPad and use time on the subway, bus, doctor’s office, what have you to decide what actual physical book to buy or take out from the library.

Myself: That sounds like a good way to evaluate your next read. Do you listen to audiobooks?

MacNeal: Started audiobooks in the pandemic and love to walk in our local park and listen! I don’t love fiction (feel like I might miss something somehow?) but I love listening non-fiction, especially authors reading their own work. Faves are: Trevor Noah’s BORN A CRIME, anything by Mindy Kahling, and everything by Carrie Fisher. Just hearing their voices read their own words makes me so happy. 

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

MacNeal: This year we gave lots of copies of Anne Louise Avery’s new novel REYNARD THE FOX, which is a magical mix of GAME OF THRONES meets WIND IN THE WILLOW. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

MacNeal: My characters are pretty demanding of me—they want to be known and tell their stories. I’m serious—I feel like a conduit most of the time. Some are more polite about it than others.

Myself: That is an interesting point to view for an author. None of the other authors I have interviewed have expressed anything like that. How did you pick the genres for your stories?

MacNeal: My first novel MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY had a mystery and an international political plot, so I guess my style’s a bit of mystery and thriller combined? But with cozy-type characters? I really don’t know. Honestly, “genre” seems to be more about where books are placed in a bookstore than something I really think about.

Myself: I enjoy novels set in the WWII era. That is what drew me to read Prisoner in the Castle. Where do your story ideas come from?

MacNeal: I love finding some little-known aspect of history and then trying to unravel the knot of “what really happened.” My current work-in-progress is based on real people who were footnotes to footnotes of history. But I just felt their story needed to be told!

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

MacNeal: Outlines are great because they’re like a security blanket that you can also kick off when it’s not really serving your story…. I make fairly detailed outlines and then usually don’t follow them. My character outlines are more important. If you know who your characters are, you’ll know how they’ll react in any situation.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

MacNeal: I write cross-legged on the sofa in our living room. Seriously. My dream is to someday have an office. Although probably I’d still work cross-legged on a sofa. But at least I’d have a door to close! To make up for lack of space and silence, I’ll often housesit for friends. Does anyone out there need a house-sitter/novelist? I’m great with cats and dogs, not so much with plants.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

MacNeal: Pretty much every day. Starting a novel, it’s more about the research and then, slowly, becomes more about the writing. I wish I could transition to writing faster, but can’t until I know my characters.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

3MacNeal: THE KING’S JUSTICE (Maggie Hope #9) came out in paperback on February 27 and THE HOLLYWOOD SPY (Maggie Hope #10) is scheduled for July 6. And I can’t say too much yet, but I’m starting my first stand-alone novel, which is pretty darned exciting.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch? 

MacNeal: You can follow me on my website (http://susaneliamacneal.com).The best place is Twitter, where I’m @susanmacneal. Love interacting with readers and authors and talking about books!

Myself: Thank you Susan for making the time for this interview. I will be looking forward to both The Hollywood Spy on July 6, 2021 and that unnamed work. 

Interview with author Eliza Jane Brazier

Photo by Beverly Brooks

(See my other Author Interviews) – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the mystery “If I Disappear”. After the review, I contacted the author, Eliza Jane Brazier, and have been able to interview her.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Brazier: I’ve definitely always been a story teller, making up stories in my head to entertain myself. I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself for many years, so I didn’t even consider that publication was possible until Twitter and blogs made information on how to get published more accessible. I then went all in and dedicated my free to time to learning the business and improving my writing. I’m still learning every day.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Brazier: Ha, I wrote this essay for school about a horse who was going to be slaughtered so it impaled itself on barbed wire fence to be ~free. I’ve been living that story ever since.

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Brazier: How much time do you have? I mean, highlights? I studied Journalism, Tourism and Drama. I worked at Disneyland, Disney World, as a journalist, accountant and horseback riding instructor. And that was just last week.

Myself:  You have enjoyed a variety of occupations. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Brazier: I am currently locked (literally) in Southern California.

Myself: I would think that there are far worse placed to be ‘locked in to’. I hope that you and your household are handling the quarantine we have all been under due to COVID. Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Brazier: For sure. “If I Disappear” was inspired by a job I had in Northern California, and my next book is set in Los Angeles. And the one after that is set in Rancho Santa Fe.

Myself: Sounds like we will get a bit of a California tour through your novels. I have always thought that setting novels in places you know makes them more interesting. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Brazier: Murder Podcasts. Walking my dog. Road Trips with my dog. Talking about Murder Podcasts with my dog. My dog is my identity now. It’s easier that way.

Myself: I listen to many podcasts too, though most of mine are WWII history or Mac tech oriented. Do you have any podcasts you would like to recommend? What else would you like to share about yourself?

Brazier: Tip at restaurants. Stay home. Read a book. Wear a mask and don’t give up hope!

Myself: All of those are good suggestions. What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

Brazier: Jurassic Park. I was super into chaos theory and I probably had a crush on Ellie Sattler.

Myself: I remember reading that novel too. Michael Crichton did a masterful job with it. Did you read much growing up?

Brazier: Oh boy, yes. I almost put the library out of business.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory? 

Brazier: This fictional(?) book about dolphins at a Sea World-type place. One of the dolphins murdered people. I think about that dolphin a lot.

Myself: No wonder you are writing mysteries. What have you read recently?

Brazier: I have been catching up other 2021 debits so, Lyn Liao Butler’s The Tiger Mom’s Tale, Olivia Blacke’s Killer Content, Elizabeth Everett’s A Lady’s Formula for Love, Alanna Martin’s Heart on a Leash, Libby Hubscher’s Meet Me in Paradise. All are excellent!

Myself: I’m glad you could make those recommendations. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Brazier: Genre: probably thriller/commercial fiction. Book: Depends on the day but today let’s say, Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Character: I can’t commit here either but today let’s say Beth Cassidy from Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. I just loved the epic quality of that book and its characters. Totally unique, uber intelligent and something only the author could pull off. Author: Michelle McNamara, author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I just have so much love and respect for that woman.

Myself: You have provided a great set of ‘favorites’. Where is your favorite place to read?

Brazier: In bed for sure. With my dog curled up beside me.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Brazier: Paper. I get carpal tunnel and am distracted so easily, so I almost need a paper book in my lap. I haven’t really uncovered audiobooks yet but I love podcasts and road trips so it’s only a matter of time.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

Brazier: Several years ago, I gave someone The Hours by Michael Cunningham in a Christmas gag gift exchange. Everyone else was giving out, like, penis pasta and I gave this book about, like, suicide and depression. I can be embarrassingly sincere.

Myself: I guess now your gifts would be your own novels. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Brazier: I love books, so being able to contribute one of my own is such an honor, it’s shocking. I think I’m still in denial about it. 

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Brazier: Honestly, I just want to work. Whether it’s books or scripts or journalism, just keeping your head above water is a feat in this world.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Brazier: I definitely write as a form of therapy, but I publish as a job, so I have to be very aware of my objective when writing for publication.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Brazier: So many! Big ones are my SIL Kiersten White, who is a genius and a really good person, and Louise O’Neill who is also a genius, really good person and someone who had a huge impact on my feminist awakening and who made me feel that I could write in my own voice.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Brazier: I was naturally drawn to thrillers because that’s mainly what I read.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Brazier: Definitely from life. I will take an incident or a feeling and turn it into fiction as a way of reasserting control in situations where I didn’t have it. 

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Brazier: A little of both. I try to have an idea where I’m going, but also stay open to any adjustments the characters insist on making.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Brazier: In bed or on a couch with my feet up. I have to feel comfortable and safe.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Brazier: I wake up at five or six and walk my dog, then I try to hit, like, 10 pages in a script and 1500 words in a book. Often there is a lot of crying involved.

Myself: How do you fit writing in to your daily schedule? (i.e. balance work, writing and family)

Brazier: I had a job running horse camps seven days a week when I wrote IID, and I would wake up two hours before work, write as much as could, then go to work and usually fall asleep as soon as I got home. When I don’t have time, social life is the first thing to go for me. Sadly.

Myself: That work experience fits well with your first novel. About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Brazier: I write very fast so I take a month and a half on average to write a first draft. Revisions vary depending on how much I ’effed’ it up while drafting.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Brazier: More and more there is an emphasis on telling our own stories, so right now I try to only speak on subjects that I have personal experience with. I want to make sure I get it right and also that I am speaking to something I genuinely care about and have some understanding of.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Brazier: Word for books. Final Draft for scripts.

Myself: You have mentioned scripts a couple of times. Is there any of that work you would like to share?

Brazier: Nothing that has been made, but hopefully one day! 

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Brazier: Everything is the hardest, but that feeling of accomplishment you get when someone likes what you’ve written makes it worthwhile for me.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Brazier: Most authors I know sell on their fifth to tenth ‘book.’ Go into this job knowing the first few books probably won’t sell, but being determined to get better each time.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Brazier: If I Disappear and one more from Berkley. A couple YA under my late husband’s name from Disney.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Brazier: The pilot script for If I Disappear and edits for my book two—a brutal thriller about how much rich people suck.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Brazier: You are all special and unique and your stories deserve to be heard

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Brazier: My website is https://elizajanebrazier.blogspot.com. I am on social media at:

https://www.facebook.com/ElizaJaneBrazier

https://twitter.com/ejanebrazier

https://www.instagram.com/elizajanebrazier

Author Interview – Maxx Powr

(See my other Author Interviews) – I read the novel “The Promise” a few weeks ago. After I published my review I contacted the author who uses the pen name  Maxx Powr. He graciously agreed to an interview.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Powr: I had some encouragement in high school from my English teacher, but never really pursued it. Working as a programmer later in life, I decided to write a childrens’ book, or 2. I submitted the books (over the transom back then) to publishers and received more encouragement, but also rejections. Life intervened and writing was put on hold for years, until Fairalon under the pen name T.J. Roberts. This was a childrens’ book and I needed a new pen name for The Promise, so children wouldn’t think it was a sequel. The Promise does have language and sexual situations and I didn’t want them to be shocked.

Myself: My background is also in IT and Software Development. What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Powr: The Flight of the Dodo. MG/YA adventure for boys. I may actually rework that one as I really liked it, and so did the publisher I sent it to.

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Powr: I hold a masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. I’ve worked as an Emergency Crisis Intervention Counselor, Children and Adult Family Therapist, Programmer, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and then started 2 companies, which I still manage.

Myself: What part of the world do you currently live in?

Powr: Southern California

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Powr: Not really. When I write, I live in the book on the screen. 

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Powr: Video games (COD),  3d art, photography

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

Powr: Treasure Island comes to mind. 

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Powr: Reading was required in my schools, assigned reading; some good some not.  I was an avid comic book reader for fun, much to my parents’ chagrin. 

Myself: What have you read recently?

Powr: Making Comics by Scott Mcloud

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Powr: Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I don’t really have a favorite book, character or author. 

Myself: While I read a great deal of WWII era history, Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favorite genres of novels too. Where is your favorite place to read?

Powr: On our porch.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Powr: I like paper books, but I’m buying more ebooks to support other Indies. I have listened to audiobooks, and I like it best when the author reads it.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts

Powr:Typically, mine. 🙂

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Powr: I just like to write stories that thrill me, things I would like to see in a movie. Basically, the stories play out like a movie in my head, The Promise is a good example of that. Once I start, the characters often take me down an unsuspected road, saying things that surprise me. I love that part of it.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Powr: I don’t think I’m like a lot of writers, I’m not that ambitious about my writing career. Sure, it would be nice to see my books made into movies, but that is just a dream. I just want to tell some stories that get people jazzed. I don’t expect to be the next big thing. If people enjoy them, I’ll be happy.

Myself: I certainly found your novel enjoyable and a fun read. Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Powr: It’s a little selfish but I write for myself. I’ve found that overall people tend to like what I like so it works for me.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Powr: Everyone has influenced my writing. One particular author? No. 

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Powr: I love Sci-Fi and I love Fantasy. For me, it’s an escape to a world of ‘if only.’

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Powr: Weirdly, some come from 3d art. I like to ‘play’ with 3d programs called Poser and Iclone. You can create scenes that you see in your head without artistic ability to draw. I admire people who can just draw what they think of, but my stick figures don’t really cut it.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Powr: I generally start with one scene that I really like. That scene leads to another, which leads to a former scene. If they are good enough, I start playing with an outline for the arc of the story and the character arc, though they often argue with me.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Powr: I basically have 3 jobs. I have a bit of a cave set up under my house. Window is blocked with an AC unit, so it’s dark in there, except for my multiple screens. I work on computers and answer a phone as needed. It can be disruptive, but I find time in between to write.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Powr: I laughed when I read that. My schedule is whenever I have a moment. But, once I get caught up in the scene, I usually don’t stop until that scene is completed.

Myself: How do you fit writing into your daily schedule? (i.e. balance work, writing and family)

Powr: I write between tasks. It honestly stinks, because there are times when it’s flowing and you get interrupted. It is what it is.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Powr: Probably a year for the first draft, a year for the final product. I like to create the scenes in 3d, and that can get pretty demanding timewise.

Myself: I see on your web sites that you have posted some of your 3D art. Have you thought of including some of those images in your novels?

Powr: If you take a look at Fairalon, you’ll see all the images in the book are presented on the web site in higher resolution 1 for each chapter. Also, the cover and back of the book open up to one big image of the road to grandma’s house, with Charlie swinging and Iris in the back seat watching. * (You can see them all on www.Fairalon.com so you don’t have to buy the book to see them). However, tremendous spoilers ahead in the images. I recommend looking at the images in a color reader like Kindle Fire or such, or the hard copy has printed color images. You can also read the text in a B&W kindle, nook or whatever, and then look at the images online. I put them there for people who didn’t have color readers, but do have computers with color monitors.

As for the Adult Sci Fi, like The Promise, most adult Sci-Fi books don’t include images. The images on the book cover and back are 3d art I created. (On the back is Sheen in her regen machine with Chase 523, the front is The Promise going through a wormhole)

There are arguments on both sides, such as leaving it up to the reader’s imagination versus showing them in a picture. I really like creating the images. It’s like walking around inside the scene in my head. It’s also very challenging to get anything that looks really good. My latest of Sheen is an image I really like. She looks real (to me).

Myself: That is a very lifelike image. I can understand the added cost and time involved with including your images in print. Perhaps though some could be included in your ebooks. How much research do you put into a novel?

Powr: It depends. I found that The Promise took more research than Fairalon, but I research as needed and try not to fall into interesting rabbit holes.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Powr: I prefer WordPerfect, but had to switch to Word because all the editors use it. I’ve started using Grammarly and ProWritingAid and they are both very good.

Myself: I have been using Grammarly as well and really like it. Using it has improved my writing. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Powr: Hardest: Finding the time to write.  Easiest: I enjoy writing dialogue, for some strange reason.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Powr: Keep your day job as long as you can. From what I’ve read it can take 10 years to acquire an agent. 10 years! And that doesn’t mean you’ll be published. You need to eat, pay bills, and if you go Indie, pay for marketing your book. Don’t go nuts foregoing a normal life. It is good to keep a balance.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Powr: Fairalon MG/YA Fantasy Adventure
The Promise Adult Sci-Fi Action Adventure

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Powr: Return to Fairalon Because High School is a Creep Show (working title) and a sequel to The Promise, no working title as yet

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Powr: If you feel like you would like to write a book, that’s great. Don’t expect to be the next J.K. Rowling, but it’s okay to have a dream.
Do it for you.

The best advice that I stumbled across on my own is this: When it’s done, final version #158, grab an audio program and record the book as if you were reading it for an audiobook. Try your best to read it with inflection. You don’t have to do voices or sound effects. Read it like you are reading it to a friend. Now that you have finished recording all the chapters, (it takes a long time) take some time to listen. You will hear things that are like nails on a chalkboard, or music to your ears, depending upon how much editing you have done. Fix it. Re-record and listen again. If you are lucky, you won’t have that much to do. If not, you will be so glad you didn’t send it to an editor.

Myself: That is very good advice! How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Powr: I have web sites for Fairalon www.Fairalon.com and www.PiecerChronicles.com. The Fairalon site has an email link (fairlontjroberts@gmail.com) and the PiecerChronicles site has a form.

Myself: I see you have a MeWe link on your PiecerChronicles website. I have recently added that social platform as well.

Powr: I’m really only going to be there from now on, or the main web sites. I prefer MeWe to Facebook, (no ads).

INTERVIEW with Author – Avanti Centrae

(See my other author Interviews) – I have had the opportunity to read two novels by author Avanti Centrae. The first was “VanOps: The Lost Power” and the second, earlier this year, “Solstice Shadows”. They were both enjoyable reads so I reached out to Ms. Centrae and asked for an interview.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Centrae: Mom taught me to read along with tying my shoes, and I wrote my first story when I was quite young, maybe six years old. Becoming a published novelist was a life-long dream.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Centrae: That early story was about a bull and a red cape. My writing has matured since then.  😊

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Centrae: To fund my addiction for international travel and fast BMW’s, I studied computer technology at Purdue University and worked in IT for twenty years. I eventually led a team as an executive at Hewlett Packard before leaving the corporate world to pursue my writing career.

Myself: My career was in IT as well. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Centrae: Northern California is my current home. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and have lived in California since I finished college.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Centrae: A bigger influence has been all the international travel. Besides the United States, I’ve enjoyed most of western Europe, and parts of Canada, Central America, and New Zealand. Walking around with only a backpack on my shoulders and exploring other cultures has been a huge inspiration.

Myself: You have had a wondeful opportunity to explore the world. I can see how both your technical background and your travels have been woven into your novels. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Centrae: We just returned from a holiday in Lake Tahoe where we hiked nearly every day and spent some time at the beach. Quite relaxing! My German shepherd and little black dog provide constant entertainment. I also enjoying riding my road bike and pursuing the scent of adventure.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Centrae: One of my favorite jobs was working as a white-water raft guide, saving passengers from the rapids of the American River. One midnight, my fellow raft guides and I dared a moonlit run. The river ran high, a boat flipped, and we all nearly ended up in a rapid aptly named Satan’s Cesspool!

Myself: That sounds like quite the adventure. Did you read much growing up?

Centrae: All the time. I’d bring home stacks of books from the bookmobile and devour one almost every day.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory? 

Centrae: Mom helped me memorize The Night Before Christmas when I was young, and we’d recite it together during the holiday season. Later, I read The Chronicles of Narnia, and pieces of those stories still come to mind.

Myself: What have you read recently?

Centrae: I recently listened to The King’s Deception by Steve Berry and really enjoyed the blend of action and history. Another fun read was The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe, featuring Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist. It was a blast.

Myself: What is your favorite genre and author?

Centrae: I love action thrillers. All the Sigma Force books by James Rollins rank up there, and lately I’ve been appreciating Ernest Dempsey’s Sean Wyatt character.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Centrae: I love to curl up on the couch in front of a fire in the winter, or during the summer, I like to be outside on the back patio in a hammock.

Myself: Do you listen to audiobooks?

Centrae: These days I mostly listen to audiobooks while I drive or do chores. Tim Campbell is the “Voice of VanOps” and has done an amazing job bringing my stories to life.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others?

Centrae: I was saddened to hear that Carlos Ruiz Zafron recently passed away. His Cemetery of Forgotten Books series makes an excellent gift for readers who like atmospheric suspense.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Centrae: Authors have always been my heroes and characters my best friends. I want to return the favor and keep readers company on dark nights. 

Myself: I like that sentiment. Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Centrae: Besides the authors I’ve noted above, I’ve also been influenced by Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Robert Jordan, Terry Pratchett, Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, J.R.R Tolkien, Gregg Hurwitz, and Ian Fleming. My tastes are eclectic, and I’ve also enjoyed a lot of non-fiction.

Myself: That list contains many of my own favorites. How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Centrae:I’ve always been fascinated with psychology, mysticism, mysteries, conspiracies, history, and science. Toss in a lust for adventure, and it was pretty easy to choose action thrillers.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Centrae: The idea for Solstice Shadows came from an article I read about a young man who discovered an ancient secret about a star chart. That formed the kernel of the story and I added on from there.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Centrae: I’m a big outliner. By the time I start writing, it’s like a just-add-water recipe where I throw in dialogue and description.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Centrae: Often, I write outside on my smartphone, and then edit inside on the computer. I’m more relaxed and less distracted when I’m outdoors. The prologue to Solstice Shadows came to me during a hike and I stopped, sat on a rock, and wrote most of the chapter right then!

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Centrae: Days always seem to fill up with marketing and promotional activities, but I try to limit that to mornings and write in the afternoons.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Centrae: The first draft of my debut novel took years, but now that I know what I’m doing, I wrote the draft of my latest novel in about three months. Revisions can take time, too. My publisher hires world-class editors and I like to get feedback from beta readers. It also helps me to set the story aside for awhile and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Centrae: Because my novels include science and history, I spend months researching the stories.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Centrae: I just use WORD.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Centrae: The hardest part for me is getting the first draft done. Once I have words on the page, the editing is a lot easier. My favorite is the research and outlining. It’s great fun when all the plot twists come together.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Centrae: Expect to spend time learning how to market your books, or hire PR and marketing experts, because even the Big Five these days expects you to do the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing and public relations.

Myself: What novels/works have you published? 

 (Black Opal Books, 11/9/19) – The Lost Power:  Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider in the instant Barnes and Noble Nook bestseller that #1 New York Times bestselling author James Rollins called, “Full of action and suspense.”

(Thunder Creek Press, 8/11/20) – Solstice Shadows: A computer-app designer. An encrypted relic. Can she decipher the dangerous code before extremists trigger a high-tech apocalypse?

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Centrae: I’ve just completed the first draft of a novel in a new series called Kiss of the Cobra: When a misfit team of Mensa-level operatives digs up a ruthless plot seeded in Cleopatra’s time, can they stop the countdown to a civil war?

Myself: That sounds very interesting. I look forward to reading it. Have you won any writing awards?

Centrae: The Lost Power took home a genre grand prize ribbon at the 2017 Chanticleer International Book Awards, a bronze medal at the 2019 Wishing Shelf Awards, and an Honorable Mention at the 2018 Hollywood Book Festival. Solstice Shadows is a Global Thriller finalist for the upcoming Chanticleer International Book Awards.

Myself: That is very impressive for your first two novels. What else would you like to share?

Centrae: Here’s a few blurbs and the buy links for my books:

“A tantalizing new series that combines historical mystery and cutting-edge science into a masterwork of international intrigue.” ~ James Rollins, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Odyssey

“Avanti Centrae packs a thriller parachute with endless suspense and a rip-cord ending. SOLSTICE SHADOWS is meticulously researched, the history, science, and locales offering a rare ‘you-are-there’ authenticity. Brew a large pot of java, as you will read through the night. Brilliant.” — K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

“Fast-paced action adventure with an ancient mystery at its heart — fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry will love the VanOps thrillers.” ~ J.F. Penn, USA Today bestselling author of the ARKANE thrillers
 
“Avanti Centrae is a name to watch. Powerful, evocative, gripping storytelling with characters you immediately relate to, love, or loathe.” ~ Ernest Dempsey, the USA Today bestselling author of the Sean Wyatt adventure series
 
“Fans of complex and highly detailed espionage and action thrillers are certain to dive right into this mixture between Indiana Jones and Dan Brown.” ~ Readers’ Favorite – Five stars

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/solstice-shadows

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/solstice-shadows-avanti-centrae/1137065083?ean=2940163068982

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781734966213

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Centrae: I love to hear from my fans. Here are my Social Media Links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/avanticentrae

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/avanticentrae

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/avanti.centrae.author

Here’s a link to first six chapters of THE LOST POWER and/or my newsletter – http://eepurl.com/dIan8L 

An Interview with Author J. K. Kelly

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(See my other Author Interviews ) – I have read, enjoyed, and reviewed two of Mr. Kelly’s novels – “Found In Time” & “The Lost Pulse“. Mr. Kelly was kind enough to let me interview him a short time ago.


Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Kelly: That might actually go back as far as grade school. I liked to tell stories as far back as those years but once I learned how to type in freshman year of high school I had learned something that could keep up with my thoughts and it was on from there.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Kelly: The first writing credit I ever received was in the sixth grade. In response to a question from the editor of Highlights Magazine who posed the question – “Do you believe Martians exist?” – I wrote back that I’d believe it when I saw them walking down main street. They ran my response and a cartoon that made the cover that of two Martians walking down the street as school kids hid behind mailboxes and store facades and watched in awe.

Myself: That is really a special way to begin your writing career. What is your academic and work background?

Kelly: I studied Journalism and Law Enforcement at Penn State University but when I was offered a dream job, that of the PR Director for a NASCAR team in Charlotte, I left the Happy Valley and never looked back.  I had been doing freelance writing and photography on weekends while I was in college and that was my first dream job – traveling, writing, taking pictures, and going to the races. A detour due to the needs of my family took me from the NASCAR gig and I thought I was finished but when an opportunity with a small start-up named VP opened in Pennsylvania I was back in racing and spent the next 28 years helping to build that company into the global player it is today. I was able to satisfy my craving to write by contributing PR and marketing materials in lieu of a proper marketing team but once it was time to come in off the road I was able to jump back into storytelling and here we are, four years and three novels later.

Myself: That background is similar to some of the other authors I have interviewed. So many seem to have been interested in writing most of their lives but only were really able to pursue it once they were retired. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Kelly: I live in Media, Pennsylvania with my wife Lisa and the yellow lab she promised me if I ever agreed to stop the global travel. 

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Kelly: Only in that like some of the film directors and actors who are from or favor the region in their work, I like to include elements of Philadelphia or it’s historic sites and sports teams from time to time in a scene or two.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Kelly: Spending time with my kids and grandkids, something I missed a great deal of while I was working in motorsports, is a great pleasure for me.  A good film, book, or walk with my wife does the trick but believe it or not, travel relaxes me. Whether it’s a thousand-mile drive or a flight to the other side of the world, it relaxes me and gives me a clear head to develop ideas for what I am writing or what I might like to tackle next. 

I still enjoy photography, football, and watching auto racing – primarily rally car racing – very much.

Myself: I agree that being able to spend time with kids and grandkids in retirement is satisfying. My wife and I enjoy driving across the country too, though I would not say that it relaxes either of us. What else would you like to share about yourself?

Kelly: Just that I’ve always considered myself a very lucky person. I was adopted by a great set of parents when I was an infant. I could have been adopted by who knows what but my adoptive parents were fantastic and what they didn’t pass along to me in genes they most certainly did with their love and life lessons and I’ve been on a lucky streak ever since. I touched on adoption in a scene in Found In Time and hope that touched any readers who could relate.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Kelly: Actually not that much because the Catholic school nuns in the 60’s used to knock some of us about when we said defiantly that we didn’t see much reason to read the assignments or memorize poems. That might actually have pushed me away from books for a time.

Myself: What have you read recently?

Kelly: In the last few months I’ve read two of Brad Thor’s latest, Navy Seal Brandon Webb’s Mastering Fear, A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, Murphy’s Law by Jack Murphy, Endurance by Scott Kelly (no relation), Endurance by Frank Worsley, and I’m racing through one of Mark Greaney’s thrillers. 

Myself: You have read quite a lot in the past few months What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Kelly: Oh that’s tough. I really enjoy autobiographies but of course, thrillers come in an extremely close second.  It goes without saying I think JJ Jackson is a real badass with a heart but you might expect that of me. My favorite book is a tough one, it’s like asking favorite movie, of which there are at least a half dozen.  I really got into Dan Brown, appreciate James Patterson for his work and taking the time to give me some advice, and I am looking forward to seeing what Brad Thor’s got coming next. There are many more but too many to list.

Myself: I too have been a fan of Dan Brown and have read most of his novels and I have read some James Patterson. Where is your favorite place to read?

Kelly: In bed late at night when there’s not a sound in the house. 

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Kelly: I do prefer paper but I always have 2-3 audiobooks loaded so I can dive into something good when I’m driving to a trade show or a race. It’s weird though because I can’t listen when I’m just sitting still.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

Kelly: That’s tough. All of my friends have such different interests in books. If a book lover I know is due a gift they get a B&N gift card.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Kelly: I like to entertain people, sometimes with jokes and other times with wild stories so there’s that. When I can up with a concept for a book and it excites me then I can’t wait to get it on paper and get someone to give it a read. If they come back with a smile or a laugh or ask what happens next then I feed off of that.  There’s an excitement in a book lover’s eyes and I like fueling that, giving them something they react very well too, fuels whatever it is inside me that’s driving the creative.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Kelly: I’d like to reach the level of success that I’m fueling a much larger audience the way I described a moment ago.  I saw how much I had to work and sacrifice to help grow that start-up into a global player and now I’ve turned that same focus and passion into my writing.  With a little of that luck I mentioned earlier hopefully more and more readers, an agent and hopefully a publisher, will help me reach that goal.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Kelly: I’ve worked with a few editors who throw a lasso from time to time and ask me, “you intended to go there?” and then I either explain it and keep going or listen to their counsel and reel it back in a bit.  As far as any authors, I can say, generally speaking, any of those who kept me reading, regardless of how late it was. 

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Kelly: Oh, that’s an interesting wall I crashed into.  I wrote my first novel, Found In Time, as a story that featured good guys killing bad guys, camaraderie, non-stop action, love and heartbreak, science fiction/time travel, history, and a trip to Gethsemane where a group of Marines took a knee to ask for a miracle.  Then I had people in the industry told me I needed to pick one. Ok, thriller!

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Kelly: With the fiction, the story ideas just come.  When I used to spend a lot of time telling jokes people would ask me, “How the heck do you come up with this stuff?” and the same holds true for my books. The fact that I’ve seen so much of the world allows me to take the readers to places they might not ever get to or even know existed. In the case of the non-fiction Fuelin’ Around, which is about my time in the motorsports world, people often told me they thought I had a very interesting life and should share it so I did.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Kelly: I write the first chapter and then layout on a whiteboard where we should go from there. Sometimes we take a left or a right and if it works, we come back to the original bearing or follow the flow.  In one case, I wrote the first and last chapters and then built the middle. That was an interesting journey.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Kelly: 95% of the time it’s in my home office. It’s quiet until the dog or the Mrs. decides that it’s time to disrupt things for a bit but I’ve threatened shock collars for them both so they usually leave me to it when they can tell I’m on a roll. In actuality, Lisa works in fashion and is out of the house quite often and we take our lab to a really neat place where she can run around with her friends all day and then comes home worn out, happy, and hoping for dinner.  

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Kelly: I can sit down at 8am and not look up until I need more coffee. It might be noon or later and then it continues.  Most times I know when it’s time to stop and give the brain and the hands a break.  Then I might be headed out to play with two of my grandchildren and will come up with an edit that I will dictate into Notes on my phone while I drive. 

I can write for three days in a row or one day in a week and then jump back in like I hadn’t stopped. 

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take? 

Kelly: It might take six months to get to what might be halfway and then I start feeding chapters to one of the editors I work with for feedback. I keep moving forward and then apply or push back on some of their critiques. In all, from start to finish, it takes me a year but that’s because I’m on my own schedule.  I write some things for one of my past employers and if they give me a deadline, I always deliver with time to spare. Hopefully, someday a book publisher will offer me that challenge.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Kelly: Whatever I need in order to make the story credible. I’ve been everywhere I write about, except Camp David and the ISS. I know a bit about weapons, law enforcement, and the military and find experts who can answer what I need in order to get it right. The next novel is mid-way through at this point and I sought out some extraordinary people in some very high places to make sure what I was writing was dead on.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Kelly: Word. I’ve also been using First Draft to develop a screenplay.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Kelly: For me, it was the rejection letters. They’re like a drag race. You get one shot and if you don’t get a win light you pack up and go home to race another day. To me, the easy part is telling the story.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Kelly: Get feedback from people who will give you an honest opinion on your work and be sure you know what you want to get out of writing and then go for it. Then work with some people who can help you make sure your writing and the work is the best it possibly can be.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Kelly: Only three so far:

  1. Found In Time, my debut novel, October 2017
  2. Fuelin’ Around, non-fiction, November 2018
  3. The Lost Pulse, sequel to FIT, October 2019

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Kelly: I had started a new novel, another thriller, a few months back but the JJ [the main character from Found in Time and The Lost Pulse] pulled me back in and so he’s back but not everyone made it home this time. The feedback from the team I work with is very, very good so I’m really looking forward to the next few months of work.  I’m still hoping to partner with someone who can help take it all to the next level in publishing.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Kelly: I’m very thankful to everyone who encouraged me to follow my passions throughout my life and who helped me along the way.  The feedback and reviews I have received, and I do very much remember your review of Found In Time, has been so encouraging I can’t thank you and the others who have been so kind to me. Thank you John.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Kelly: The easiest thing is to visit my website JKKelly.com and contact me there. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well, but the website works best for me.