Category Archives: Interviews

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.

Interview with Author Andreas Economou

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(Andreas Economou in Florence, Italy with the Duomo and its Campanile (bell tower) behind him)

(See the other Author Interviews on my Blog) – I read Andreas Economou’s novel “Templar Secrets” a few weeks ago and, after posting my review, I asked the author for an interview.


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

Economou: After working in a bank for almost 3 decades, I realized the dreaded futility of it all. It started to feel that what I’d been doing all those years would never endure the ravages of time. Heck, it wouldn’t survive the next fiscal quarter! So, I had to get out. I needed the world to hear my voice and thoughts in a meaningful way. I had to write.

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

Economou: My first attempt at writing was at the age of 12. I wrote a detective “novel,” based on my favorite TV show at the time. And I remember being quite proud of my achievement. The end result? A full 12 pages—front and back! Then, puberty set in and everything went haywire. My creative juices found other, non-writing, stuff much more appealing. Unfortunately, it took too many years for that situation to sort itself out.

Myself: What part of the world do you currently live in? Has it affected your writing?

Economou: I live in Cyprus, an island on the easternmost shores of the Mediterranean, just south of Turkey and northwest of Israel. It’s an island rich in history, going all the back to 7,000 BCE (according to one of the earliest human settlements discovered on it). In fact, the village of Khirokitia, where this settlement was found, has an even more fascinating link to world history: it was also the site of one the strongholds the Knights Templar had on Cyprus. Contrary to what you’ll hear in most documentaries these days after the Holy Land was irrevocably lost in the 13th century, the Templars didn’t return en masse to Europe. They set up their next (and last) headquarters in Cyprus.
This, along with my 22-year membership in a Greek-speaking Masonic Lodge, and the fact that Larnaca (the city I grew up and live in) was the island’s major Phoenician colony in antiquity, gave me all the inspiration I needed to write “Templar Secrets.”

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

Economou: As a prepubescent, I must have read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” about a dozen times. Yet, every time I did, the injustices that boy suffered always brought tears to my eyes.

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

Economou: That would be Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island.” When I read it at age 13, in the summer just before starting high school, it cultivated all sorts of subjects in my mind: the power of human creativity and resourcefulness; how important science is to our lives; and, that anything seemingly mysterious usually has an explainable cause behind it (to name but a few).

Myself: I too read Jules Verne at about that same age. I am still amazed at the science fiction he produced. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author? 

Economou: Besides Jules Verne, the one whom I’ve read the most is Isaac Asimov. There was a time when I used to “gobble up” his “Foundation” and “Robot” series. Then, after a phase of non-fiction, evolution-centered books, I moved on into Historical Fiction. And by that, I don’t mean the books with the naked, six-pack hunks on their covers. (If you don’t believe me try searching for “middle ages historical fiction” in Amazon’s Kindle Store. You’ll be amazed at how many there are! Those are just period romance novels, which were never my cup of tea.) No, the ones I mean are by the likes of Umberto Eco, Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Alexandre Dumas, and (yes) Charles Dickens.

Myself: I have read much of Asimov, Follet, and Dumas as well. How did you pick the genres for your stories? Where do your story ideas come from?

Economou: I don’t think my first book, “First Adam,” (an apropos title) fits into any standard genre category. If there were such categories as, “Prehistoric Fiction,” or “Bible Tweaking,” it might fit into those. You see, influenced by all the books I read on Human Evolution, I wanted to tell the story of how the earliest man (Homo sapiens) might have emerged into our world. So, using the Adam & Eve story from the Bible as a loose basis, I devised a story parallel to it, but in Africa 200,000 years before our time.

When that was out of the way, and self-published, I pondered whether to write something within the Science Fiction genre, one of my favorites. But, alas, my knowledge of science isn’t very extensive, so instead of writing a subpar book, I decided to focus on Historical Fiction (the real one) instead. “Templar Secrets,” my second novel, spans almost 3 millennia, starting from the 10th Century BCE, it passes through the Middle Ages and winds itself all the way up to modern times.

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

Economou: You know, that’s a great question because I must say in my experience it’s a bit of both. I start out with a rough outline, but there’s always something missing. For example, in “First Adam,” I had an idea of what the ending might be, but the journey leading up to that eluded me. It just sorted itself out along the way. And in “Templar Secrets” the stories of the various characters and classes of characters were carefully plotted out, but the ending was nowhere in sight. At the opportune moment though, it also turned up by itself. So, I’ve found that a story, more often than not, has a life and a will of its own.

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

Economou: I do extensive, some might say exhaustive, research. And I do so because on matters of authenticity I will suffer no discrepancy. I’ve read too many books and seen too many movies, the facts of which can be debunked by a simple visit to Wikipedia. In writing Historical Fiction my motto is: “The facts of history are sacred.” That said, every period has its gray areas, its missing pieces. And every historical period has its little unresolved mysteries, especially during the Middle Ages in Europe. So, what better than to keep the undisputed historical facts true, while also fusing them with answers to longstanding mysteries without the fear of contradiction?

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In “Templar Secrets” I strived to do just that, blending history with “solutions” to many historical question marks. For instance:

  • The exact date the Knights Templar were founded, or how many men it originally consisted of are matters still debated. I venture answers to both questions.
  • Why did the Muslim sect of Assassins murder Raymond II, the Count of Tripoli, in 1152?
  • Likewise, why did a group of Templars kill an Assassin envoy, who was under the protection of the King of Jerusalem, much later in 1173?
  • What happened to Pierre de Bologna, the last Templar Ambassador to the Vatican, after his arrest in 1307? Was he murdered, as feared, or did he escape?
  • Where is the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar hidden?
  • Who was Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in England?
  • Who foiled the Gunpowder Plot of 1605?
  • What really happened during the meetings leading up to the first Masonic Grand Lodge in London?

All these (and many more) historical “blind spots” are addressed.

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

Economou: With only 2 books under my belt, so far, I can hardly be called an author myself. To be considered one, I’ve been told you have to have written at least 4. So, I’m not the right person to ask for advice on writing. However, as in all other walks of life and professions, diligence, persistence, and dedication are always necessary qualities.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Economou: As I already stated, I’ve written 2 novels so far, both of which have been self-published. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to find a literary agent or publisher willing to take on an unknown writer from Cyprus.

“First Adam: The Father of Us All” introduces the first modern man, and his quest to find his real parents, in Africa 200.000 years ago.

My second attempt was a little closer to home, and it put into effect what authors are frequently advised to do: “Write about what you know.” For 22 years, I used to be a Freemason. So, using that experience, I decided to write about how this ancient institution came into being. “Templar Secrets” starts from when the Temple of Solomon was built in Jerusalem. Then, it looks into how the Knights Templar got started in the Middle Ages, and why they gradually morphed into the Freemasons. Finally, a young, new Mason in modern-day Cyprus tries to unravel all these events after his initiation.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Economou: At the moment I’m working on a book about the most illustrious King of Cyprus, Peter I. His story will have ties to the Secret Society I introduced in “Templar Secrets.”

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Economou: As ever, I dedicate all my work to my sons, Marcos and Achilleas. I just hope it makes them as proud of me as I am of them.

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

Economou: I don’t know whether I have “fans” or not yet, but I really like it when people who’ve read my books reach out. I welcome that. They can do so in any number of ways:
Email: aeconomu@cytanet.com.cy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aeconomou & https://www.facebook.com/AEconomouAuthor/
Website: https://www.aeconomouauthor.com/

And, I’ll deeply appreciate if you could follow my Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Andreas-Economou/e/B014AAMJU4

Interview with Author Emilia Bernhard

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Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the mystery “Death in Paris”. After I posted my review I contacted the author, Emilia Bernhard, and arranged to interview her.

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

Bernhard: I don’t think I did realize, really. I always wrote, and at an early age, I was told I was good. Except for about five years when I had the worst and most painful writer’s block imaginable, I don’t think a day went by without my doing some form of writing — I kept a journal, I wrote letters and e-mails, I wrote essays for school and articles after I became a graduate student. And even today I write at least something every day; it would feel odd not to. So I think I was always a writer.

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

Bernhard: A composition while I was in detention in sixth grade (age 11)!

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Bernhard: I have a Ph.D., and I work as a lecturer (professor, for Americans) in 19th-century British literature at the University of Exeter, in the UK.

Myself: Do you live there in Exeter?

Bernhard: Yes.

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

Bernhard: No. I scarcely even look out a window when I write, except when I stare at nothing while thinking! Lots of good cafes to sit in and revise, though.

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

Bernhard: Well, my top hobby is reading. I also love to dance (ballet and tango), and I’m starting to get back into taking ballet lessons after a long gap. And I love going to the cinema or watching films at home. Oh, and I walk twenty-five miles a week, but that’s not a hobby: I do it to lose weight.

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

Bernhard: That I’m cute as a button and don’t suffer fools gladly.

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

Bernhard: “The Story of Ferdinand“, by Munro Leaf. I still love it.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Bernhard: I did nothing but!

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

Bernhard: Hands down the answer here is “Jane Eyre”. I found it on a shelf in my classroom when I was 12 years old. I remember the cover vividly: it was purple, and in the center was a photo of a young woman holding a candle. I think it might have been abridged, because there’s a whole bit in the novel where she lives with some religious cousins, and I don’t remember that being in what I read; I was quite surprised to come across it when I re-read the novel as a young adult. I loved the book. I loved Jane — I was bullied, and I admired her quiet stoicism — and I was much struck by Mrs. Rochester. I still love it as an adult: I think “Reader, I married him,” is one of the most perfect sentences in fiction. And I still think the bit where she lives with the religious cousins could be left out!

Myself: What have you read recently?

Bernhard: Two biographies of Peter Sellers, both of which I put down before finishing — Peter Sellers seems to attract biographers who wish to inject antic wit into their biographies, and that didn’t work for me. Before that, “The Position”, by Meg Wolitzer, and her “The Wife”, which I loved, loved, loved; a biography of the Duchess of Windsor; and a book called “I Was Anastasia” that I picked up at random in the library. I read fast — I average a book in about three days — so I tend to read pretty widely.

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

Bernhard: Hmm…I guess I would say “intellectual novel” is my favorite genre if that’s a genre. I like best books in which there is subtext, and/or books that are well written.

I don’t really have a favorite character or author, because my job means I’ve read and taken to my heart so many characters and authors. I’m awfully fond of “David Copperfield”, book and character, and of “Great Expectations”. But a book I’ve turned to again and again when I need a comfort read is Maeve Binchy’s “Light a Penny Candle”. It was her first book, and it’s surprisingly good.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Bernhard: On my sofa or in bed.

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

Bernhard: I absolutely prefer paper to any other format. Every time I open a book, even if I’m just idly looking at it, the first thing I do is smell it. You can’t do that with an e-reader, or with audiobooks! I love the different smells and feels of different papers, so paper reading is the one for me. I do listen to audiobooks, usually when I’m doing something that requires my hands, and I have read eBooks — but my issue with them is that I’ve already forked out for the Kindle, so I’m not going to fork out again for books to read on it — so the Kindle is just for books that are free to download.

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

Bernhard: I give “Jane Eyre” to every twelve- or thirteen-year-old girl I know well enough to give a gift to, and I’ve been recommending “The Wife” all over the place. Aside from that, I tend to try to suit the recommendation to the person. Tell me what you’re like, and I’ll tell you what you might like…

Myself: Why do you write?

Bernhard: For me, that’s like asking, Why is hair? I just do.

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

Bernhard: I’m still not really sure I do! My best friend pressured me to submit a novel to agents, and that’s the only reason I got this book published. Sometimes I think there’s nothing wrong with just writing for the pleasure of it, but then sometimes I think there’s no point in writing without an audience reading.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Bernhard: My father, without a doubt. He read everything I wrote until I finished my first academic book, and without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am. Then there’s a whole host of writers I’ve read and admired: they all sit around in my head and occasionally inspire a joke or the structure of a sentence or scene.

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

Bernhard: It’s just whatever feels right. Although they seem always to include a murder, and that’s been true since I was in college thirty years ago.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Bernhard: Well, the idea for this novel, “Death in Paris”, came because I wanted to have someone drown in his soup. I thought the “died in his sleep/soup” confusion was very funny (sadly, I still do), and so I built from that line; I made up a story that would connect to that line. The idea for the mystery itself came from a very old murder that’s always seemed odd to me.

More generally, I would have to say I don’t know where my ideas come from. Sometimes I’ll just have a set-up (“two brothers”) that pops into my head, or there’ll be an idea (“jealousy”) and I build a story around it.

I don’t believe in inspiration as an outside force that descends, but I do believe we have a lot of things roiling around in our subconscious-es and unconscious-es, and sometimes something randomly comes bobbing to the top, entering the conscious mind — I’d call that inspiration, and I think it’s where my ideas come from.

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

Bernhard: I write on a desk I bought from Ikea that is essentially a long piece of wood laid across two trestles. I have desk daydreams; I fantasize about a desk that’s as long as an upended door — maybe even longer! — with a center drawer for my pencils and some paper and a pale wood smooth surface. I’m pretty sure that’s my ideal desk because it suggests a kind of blank emptiness, which I find intensely soothing but very rarely encounter in my home. Oh, and I turn the desk either so it faces a window or so it’s at right angles to it because I love natural light and like to glance out the window at the sky while I’m writing.

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

Bernhard: Well, because I have another job that’s very intensive in fall, winter, and spring, I generally write my first drafts in the summer. Academics are working all the time, but in the summer the work we’re expected to do is research and writing. So I fit writing my initial drafts around the academic writing I do in the summer. Because I can do the revisions in little chunks, I do it during the school year, for between an hour and two hours a day.

Myself: As a part-time writer how do you fit writing into your daily schedule?

Bernhard: Well, I have no family. As Joan Baez said, “I am made to live alone.” And I realized early on that I don’t have the temperament to be a mother, so I’m not one. This makes it much easier to write, but of course, I still have a job. So I set myself a low goal, 1,000 words a day, and I try to stick to it even on work days. I’m most awake in the evening and at night, so I’ll usually do the 1,000 words then. Some days it takes an hour; some days it takes much time and hair-pulling. And some days I don’t make it, which is fine. But I do write at least one paragraph a day.

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

Bernhard: First draft – six weeks to five months. Revisions take much, much longer — up to three or four years. And it’s still never perfect.

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

Bernhard: An ENORMOUS amount. I look up everything I don’t know. For my first mystery, I read up on French law, the structure of the French police, and even the architectural history of Paris. And I use Google Maps obsessively. Walking the streets via Google Satellite is hugely useful to me.

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

Bernhard: Just a Macbook and a pencil, a red pen, and paper.

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

Bernhard: The hardest thing about writing is writing the first draft and trying to remember, while doing so, that the awful and inadequate glop you are producing will NOT be the finished product — trying to remember that this is how first drafts always are, and they always get better.

The easiest thing about writing is not doing it! Someone once said that the only thing writers like better than writing is finding ways to avoid writing, and that’s 100% true in my case. There’s always something to tidy, or organize, or watch on TV, or laundry to do or a cup of tea to make, that can delay sitting down to write. I don’t think this is out of fear of the blank page; I think in my case it’s out of fear of the hard work. Almost anything seems smaller than the production of good writing does.

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

Bernhard: You don’t need to be published to be a writer; look at Emily Dickinson.

You shouldn’t look to other people to validate your writing, but you must be the harshest critic to yourself that you can be, no matter how good you think you are: always question all your judgments and every word (except maybe the prepositions).

Don’t wait for inspiration. Write every day, even if it’s just a little bit because writing is a job like any other: the more you do it, the better you get.

First drafts are horrible, and the experience of writing them is horrible. The revision is where you make it good. My father always said, “The first time, you don’t have to get it right; you just have to get it down.”

About 80 to 90% of what you write in your early drafts will be bad. If you write one good sentence in the early days, you’re winning.

Don’t put anything in a story or novel that isn’t in the service of that story or novel, unless you’re just writing for yourself (which is fine; see my first piece of advice).

Cut cut cut cut cut cut cut.

Revel in the pleasure of writing. In those rare moments when you feel like it’s all going perfectly, enjoy it! Enjoy, too, the extraordinary fun of being able to create a complete world, with complete people performing actions. And enjoy making your writing better. Never underestimate the power of the right revision.

Never stop writing to make mayonnaise or open a bottle of wine. Robert Louis Stevenson stopped in the middle of a sentence in order either to make mayonnaise for his lunch or (depending on the story) to open a bottle of wine for his lunch. He had a brain hemorrhage and died while doing that, and he never finished the sentence. Or the book it was in.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Bernhard: A mystery, “Death in Paris”, and a scholarly book about Lord Byron’s philosophy of knowledge, “The Development of Byron’s Philosophy of Knowledge: Certain in Uncertainty”. Also a number of academic articles.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Bernhard: I’m working on my second mystery, tentatively titled “The Books of the Dead”.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Bernhard: Three things come to mind:

  1. Donald Trump is a dangerous idiot who is peddling a fantasy of power to people who feel powerless. Please don’t vote Republican now.
  2. Age can bring a depth of understanding and feeling that is to be welcomed. Youth is often over-rated.
  3. The voices of the seemingly ordinary and uninteresting are fascinating and deserve to be written and heard — the complexity and bravery of a life occur inside, not necessarily in large actions and demonstrations.

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

Bernhard: I have a Facebook author page: Emilia Bernhard Author Page. I’m also on Twitter: my name is @1LaMew. They can follow me on Instagram at emilia_bernhard. Or they can contact me via the University of Exeter.

Interview With Author “David D. Levine”

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Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the science fiction novel  “Arabella the Traitor of Mars”. Afterward, I was able to contact the author, David D. Levine, and interview him.

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Myself: First, I wanted to thank you, David, for taking the time for this interview. Before we get started, I have to ask about the photo that you provided. You look like you are really enjoying your weightless experience. What was your flight aboard a “vomit comet” like?

Levine: It was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime out-of-this-world experience. I didn’t have any nausea at all (I might have if the flight had been longer… they don’t fly nearly as long as the astronauts who nicknamed it the “Vomit Comet” did). The most interesting thing I learned was that getting around in zero-G isn’t nearly as easy or straightforward as I thought it would be.

Myself: That sounds like quite the experience. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Levine: Like a lot of people, I wrote SF stories when I was a kid, and continued to do so all the way through college. But when I graduated, I got a job as a technical writer and I stopped writing fiction because it was too much like work. I changed jobs in 1997 and by 1998 I was writing fiction again. That’s when I decided to attend Clarion West [A non-profit literary organization based in Seattle, Washington, with a mission to improve speculative fiction by providing high-quality education to writers at the start of their careers], and the rest is history.

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

Levine: I hand-wrote an SF novel in two spiral notebooks in fourth grade. I still have it. It’s not bad, considering.

Myself: That is an impressive start. I doubt that many authors can claim to have attempted writing a novel in grade school. What is your academic and work background?

Levine: I was a theatre geek in high school, and when I went to college I intended to major in technical theatre. But during the summer after my freshman year, I realized that if I kept working in theatre I’d never have another date on Friday or Saturday night, so I changed majors to Architecture. I got my BA in Architecture but then couldn’t find a job in the field, so fell into technical writing because I was interested in computers and have always been able to write easily and well. The money in high tech was good, so I stayed in the field, eventually becoming a software engineer and then a user interface designer. I retired in 2007 and have been writing SF since then (though not full time, and not making a living off it).

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

Levine: Portland, Oregon. I came here for a job right after college, fell in love with it, and have never wanted to live anywhere else since then.

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

Levine: I think that a writer’s hometown can’t help but influence their choice of settings and themes. It’s also true that Portland is a very literary town and I’ve found a lot of writer friends and organizations here, which help to support my life as a writer.

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

Levine: I love to travel, I love live theatre and movies, and my main hobbies are science fiction fandom and gay square dancing (both of which give me plenty of excuses to travel). And, of course, I love to read, though I don’t do nearly as much of it as I used to.

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

Levine: I love cats, but between the amount of time I spend on the road and the fact that I’m allergic, I can’t have one in the house. But I hang out with cats whenever I can.

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

Levine: “Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars” by Ellen MacGregor, or possibly “The Runaway Robot” by Lester del Rey. I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was very little.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Levine: Tons.

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

Levine: I was a huge fan of the “Matthew Looney” books by Jerome Beatty Jr (illustrated by Gahan Wilson!)

Myself: What have you read recently?

Levine: I’m right now reading “The Fated Sky”, the second Lady Astronaut novel by Mary Robinette Kowal, and I’m loving it.

Myself: I like that image of story ideas. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Levine: Science fiction, by far. Favorite book, character, author? You say that as if it were possible to pick just one of each. But I do keep coming back to “Use of Weapons” by Iain M. Banks, and its main characters Cheradenine Zakalwe and the drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Levine: I have a very comfy chair in the living room.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks?

Levine: I much prefer paper to ebooks. I can’t really say why.

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

Levine: I’ve given several copies of “The Fifth Season” by N. K. Jemisin as gifts because it’s brilliant. I also give people my own books. 🙂

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

Levine: The feeling that I have something unique to say.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Levine: Honestly, I’ve already achieved so much, what with all the publications and the awards and all. Right now my unrealized writing goals include: being writer guest of honor at a science fiction convention, winning a Nebula (the Andre Norton Award is close, but not quite), seeing a stranger reading a book of mine in public, seeing someone do cosplay from one of my works, and having one of my works adapted into a movie or TV show.

Myself: Certainly having won an Andre Norton Award, a Hugo Award and the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest are significant achievements. Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Levine: I’d say Iain M. Banks is my biggest inspiration because he did so much to stretch the form. China Mieville is also someone whose craft I admire. Jay Lake was a big career push and pull — we were a mutual support society and also had a bit of a friendly rivalry. And my instructors at Clarion West — John Crowley, Paul Park, Geoff Ryman, Candas Jane Dorsey, Pat Murphy, David Hartwell, and Carol Emshwiller — deserve special mention.

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

Levine: Every idea carries its own genre, man.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Levine: I like to say that story ideas are like neutrinos — they come sleeting down from space constantly, and all you have to do is be dense enough to stop one. Seriously, the ideas are the easy part. Just keep your eyes open as you move through the day and you’ll get three or four an hour. It’s actually putting the words in order that’s hard.

Myself: That concept, that “story ideas are like neutrinos — they come sleeting down from space constantly, and all you have to do is be dense enough to stop one” is a perspective that I won’t soon forget. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Levine: I started out as a very strong outliner, but I’m becoming more and more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. Basically, I can go longer and longer stretches between outline points, and can sometimes pants an entire short story now. I think that planners become more like pantsers and pantsers become more like planners as they get more experienced.

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

Levine: I like to write in coffee shops because I need to get away from my house with its many distractions. Ideally, I work in the company of other writers, because having them there makes it harder to goof off on Facebook or Twitter.

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

Levine: I shoot for a two-hour solid writing stint each day. I don’t usually manage it.

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

Levine: Generally I can draft a short story in a week or two. A novel usually takes me two years, but “Arabella the Traitor of Mars” was written in seven months and revised in three weeks because of life circumstances.

Myself: You did set an aggressive schedule for yourself with “Arabella the Traitor of Mars”. How much research do you put into a novel?

Levine: Depends on the novel. The Arabella books required tons of historical research. Hard SF, paradoxically, doesn’t take much because I know a lot about real science and know enough to make up plausible fake science.

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

Levine: I use Scrivener for novels and Word for short fiction. A good thesaurus — the one built into MacOS is a pretty good one — is also a very important tool for me.

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

Levine: The hardest part is making myself sit down and work. The easiest part is coming up with story ideas.

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

Levine: Read a lot! Write a lot! Get feedback on your writing, and focus on applying what you learn from the feedback thoughtfully to new work rather than iterating over and over on the current story in an attempt to fix all its problems. Hang out with other writers whenever you can, online or in person.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Levine: Novels “Arabella of Mars”, “Arabella and the Battle of Venus”, and “Arabella the Traitor of Mars”, and over fifty SF and fantasy stories, some of which are collected in my, um, collection, “Space Magic”. See https://daviddlevine.com/fiction/bibliography/ for a complete bibliography, including links to much free fiction in text and audio form.

Myself: I will have to add some of your short stories to my To Be Read list. What are you currently working on?

Levine: A “space opera caper picture” novel with the working title “Breakout”. It’s a Firefly/Leverage/Expanse mashup with an ensemble cast and it is taking forever to come together.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Levine: I really love to read my own work and I’m told I do a good job of it. I do voices, I sing and dance, and sometimes I even wear costumes. Please come to my readings if you get a chance! This video [above] is an example of what I can do.

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

Levine: I’m on Twitter (@daviddlevine), Facebook (David D. Levine), and Instagram (daviddlevine) and you can probably find me as “daviddlevine” on any new social media platform that comes along. My website is daviddlevine.com and if you go to the lower right corner of that page you can sign up for a newsletter, which I send out extremely occasionally (usually only when I have a new book coming out).

Interview with Author Andrew Turpin

180823 Andrew profile pic garden 1842-1Interviews – I read, then reviewed Mr. Turpin’s novel “The Last Nazi” a few weeks ago. Afterward, I was able to arrange an interview with him.

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Myself: Mr. Turpin, I appreciate your taking the time for this interview. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Turpin: When I was very young! I remember producing a village newspaper on my dad’s typewriter when I was probably eight or nine years old. I always enjoyed reading fiction and spent a lot of time in Grantham town library hunting down my next book. After university I became a journalist, eventually specializing in business and finance reporting for The Scotsman newspaper. I then worked in communications/media relations with large energy companies and continued to enjoy the odd opportunity to write, for example, op-ed articles for national newspapers about energy issues under the chief executive’s name. However, writing fiction has always been something at the back of my mind, although it took me until the age of 52 to get my first book, “The Last Nazi”, into print.

Myself: You got off to an early start as a journalist. What is your academic and work background?

Turpin: I studied history at Loughborough University in the UK and then went on to become a journalist for various publications, including The Scotsman newspaper, where I was Deputy City Editor. After 14 years as a journalist, I left in 2002 to move into corporate communications, specializing in media relations with three different energy companies — Centrica, Essar Energy, and Iberdrola. I had begun writing a couple of novels several years ago, but never found the time to really make headway. However, I took the opportunity to really knuckle down and take my writing seriously after my last job with Iberdrola disappeared in a corporate reshuffle.

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

Turpin: I live in St Albans, which is an old Roman town about 20 miles north of London, UK.

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

Turpin: I enjoy reading thrillers. I love cricket, which is a sport I played quite seriously when younger and still play at a much more social level these days. I love traveling when possible, listening to music, walking and keeping fit at the gym or through running. I enjoy doing anything with my two teenage children, including watching films, walking the dog, watching sport, going on holidays, or just going for a coffee.

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

Turpin: I once hitchhiked across the Sahara, from Algeria to Niger, with a friend in 1990. It was a fascinating trip, but it’s probably too dangerous to attempt these days. I also spent several months living, working and traveling in Australia and the US after finishing university, which was a great experience.

Myself: That sounds like quite a trip. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Turpin: I can’t remember the first book specifically, but my earliest reading memories are of enjoying the Biggles series by WE Johns, the Jennings school series by Anthony Buckeridge, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Turpin: I read a huge number of books from age six onward.

Myself: What have you read recently?

Turpin: I’ve been trying to read as many books in the same thriller genre that I write in, as I learn something from every book. I’m currently reading Daniel Silva’s “The Fallen Angel”.

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

Turpin: I enjoy reading thrillers, especially those set in a real-world situation. For that reason, I’ve enjoyed some of the books written by authors such as Frederick Forsyth and Robert Harris, both former journalists. Forsyth’s books “The Odessa File” and “The Day of the Jackal” are both favorites, and Harris’s “Enigma” and “Fatherland”. Favorite character? That’s a tricky one, but I liked Peter Miller, the reporter in “The Odessa File”, whose characterization gave me some inspiration for my own books.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Turpin: In an armchair with a cup of coffee.

Myself: That is how I do much of my reading too. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Turpin: I have no preference for paper or ebooks and read both. I haven’t used audiobooks previously but having just gone through the production of my first three books as audiobooks for Audible, I am thinking they would be a great way to pass long car journeys. I’ve downloaded a couple and will give them a try.

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

Turpin: I love researching and finding out about people, places, conspiracies, and history, so I guess it is that passion and my love for creating stories and writing that gives me my inspiration to produce books.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Turpin: I would like to continue my series of Joe Johnson books for as long as I can—as a medium-term ambition I have a vision of ten books in the series sitting on my shelf, all selling well and allowing me to work as a self-employed writer, earning a decent living. Longer term I’d like to be seen as the creator of great thrillers that not only entertain people but inform them too.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Turpin: The writers who have influenced me include Frederick Forsyth because he was also a journalist and uses real-life situations and themes as a backdrop for his fictional stories, which is something I also love to do. I like the way Robert Harris draws on historical situations for his plots. Daniel Silva and his thriller series about Gabriel Allon, the Israeli agent, has also been a strong influence, as have other thriller writers such as John Le Carré, Jason Matthews, Charles Cumming, Ken Follett, Ben Coes, Gerald Seymour and many more.

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

Turpin: I just picked the genres that I like to read and which allow me to weave in history, politics and international locations — thrillers fits the bill perfectly!

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Turpin: From research, reading, thinking “what if?” questions to myself.

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

Turpin: I very much like to build a good detailed outline before I start, with all the key plot points established. I’d be useless and unproductive if I just let my writing wander. I do tweak the plot as I go along if I realize there is a way of improving it—it is not completely set in stone—but generally, I do follow the roadmap I’ve drawn up.

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

Turpin: My main writing software is Scrivener, which is great for laying out a plot, scene by scene, as well as then subsequently writing it. It is much more user-friendly when writing such long involved manuscripts than Microsoft Word, although I also use the latter a lot when editing, as most editors work in Word. For formatting my books prior to publication I use Vellum.

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

Turpin: The hardest thing is working out a plot which is compelling and has dramatic moments occurring at the key points, while also remaining believable and “real life.” I also find I need to work very hard at my dialogue, as it doesn’t come naturally. One of the easiest things is to motivate myself to sit in my chair every day and get down to the task at hand—I enjoy it, so it doesn’t seem like work!

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

Turpin: I would advise any author not to just sit down and write, but first to read as many best-selling books in the genre in which they are interested and work out what are the key elements that make them successful. Then try and formulate a novel plan that is out of the same mold. I would also read as many books on story structure and plotting and outlining as possible. There is definitely a science behind the art when it comes to planning a story that works!

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Turpin: I have published three books so far in the Joe Johnson series of thrillers—it is a war crime investigation series. They are “The Last Nazi”, “The Old Bridge”, and “Bandit Country”. I also sell a box set of these three books, and they are also all available as audiobooks, which are proving popular.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Turpin: I have just sent a draft of the fourth book in the Joe Johnson series to my editor, so that is in the pipeline for publication in due course.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Turpin: Being an independently published author is as much about marketing the books as writing them, and that is an entirely different skill that has to be learned. It is quite enjoyable, however, and provides an antidote and a break from writing, and also acts as a great way to learn about the industry.

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

Turpin: I very much enjoy hearing from readers—the feedback on my books helps me learn what works and doesn’t work. The key routes are as follows:

Interview with Author Michael A. Rothman

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Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the science fiction thriller “Primordial Threat”. After my review, I was able to contact the author, Michael A. Rothman, and arrange an interview with him

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

Rothman: I was a reluctant writer. It started with my kids. I used to tell them stories at night, mostly made up epic fantasy stories and to keep things straight, I began writing the ideas down so I could read it the next day, week, month. Eventually, that turned into entire books.

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

Rothman: The first stories turned into the “Prophecies Series” and it was well received by others. I’d note that the two kids in those stories are named Ryan and Aaron. It isn’t a coincidence that those are the names of my kids.

Myself: I am sure that they have been thrilled with being the ‘stars’ in that series. What is your academic and work background?

Rothman: I have advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. I’m not publicly specific about which disciplines, because nowadays, what I write is deeply technical, but written so as to make science approachable by all. And if I were to say I’m a botanist, or biologist or whatever – that in some people’s minds would lend credibility in one discipline but take away from others.

Let’s just say I’m an expert on the sciences and have friends in academia. I always vet the science I write about, whether it’s by my own knowledge/research or others.

Myself: I am glad to hear that you too come from a STEM background. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Rothman: Pacific Northwest of the US. I have lived in many parts of the US and world.

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

Rothman: Cooking and hanging out with my family.

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

Rothman: In my younger days, I used to compete at table tennis (ping pong). Yes, even played at the US open eons ago.

Myself: That is an interesting tidbit about yourself. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Rothman: The Hobbit

Myself: You set the bar high with your first read. Did you read much growing up?

Rothman: All the time

Myself: What have you read recently?

Rothman: I rarely read for pleasure nowadays, but more for research. I’ve been reading a lot of Child, Cussler, and recently got turned onto a fun series called the Bobiverse.

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

Rothman: As a child, epic fantasy and science fiction. Nowadays, I read SF and thrillers. Tolkien, of course, was one of my formative authors, as was Asimov. Now, I really enjoy Baldacci, Child, and Cussler.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Rothman: Nowadays, I “read” during my commute. Which means audiobooks are my friends.

Myself: Do you strictly listen to audiobooks now? Do you read books on paper or eBooks?

Rothman: Audiobooks all the way. Otherwise, I do have a weak spot for paperbacks.

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

Rothman: I’ve always had an abundance of ideas, which usually leaks out in my work. I’ve simply added other venues for the ideas, such as writing.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Rothman: Dominate the world?

In all seriousness, to be read by as many as possible – and to make reading enjoyable for more people. I want to have science be approachable and interesting to those who might not otherwise find it interesting.

One of the best compliment I ever received was, “I felt like I’d learned things after reading Primordial Threat.”

Myself: Bringing a better understanding of science to readers is both a worthy goal and admirable accomplishment. Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Rothman: I’m sure there is, but I don’t try to emulate anyone. I’m sort of a good idea thief. If I like certain approaches or ideas in a book I’m reading, I’ll almost certainly adopt it for my own purposes.

I suppose I’m a reflection of my reading, as are many authors.

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

Rothman: I write mostly SF and thrillers today. I enjoy those tales because it allows me to mix action/adventure with technology.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Rothman: An abundance of God-given creativity.

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

Rothman: Rough outline and then pantsing from there on in.

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

Rothman: Usually awake at 5am write for two hours and then head to work. And weekends a bit more time. That usually allows me to create/edit two full-sized novels a year.

Myself: Completing two novels per year is an impressive writing regimen. About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Rothman: First draft two months. Revisions four months.

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

Rothman: A LOT.

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

Rothman: Microsoft word.

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

Rothman: Starting and ending a writing session. Both are the hardest and easiest.

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

Rothman: You’ll write a million words before you start to be good. Get started, and don’t give up.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Rothman: I have seven books published, though anyone looking will only find two under M.A. Rothman, since my focus is thriller and SF.

I wrote under my full name Michael A. Rothman a series of YA novels that are epic fantasy for my kids to enjoy.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Rothman: Working on a book for the second half of 2019.

I will release one SF/technothriller and one mainstream thriller a year. I’ve already completed the book coming out in the first half of 2019, it’s a medical thriller known as “Darwin’s Cipher”.

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

Rothman: They should contact me through my website http://www.michaelarothman.com/contact-me/

Interview with Author Sam Boush

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Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the modern cyber thriller “All Systems Down”. After I posted my review, I contacted the author, Sam Boush, and was able to interview him.

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

Boush: I wanted to be a writer, at varying degrees, as far back as I can remember. (You can read about my Winnie-the-Pooh fanfic here.) Much later, as a college student at Oregon State University (go Beavs!) I must’ve wanted to be an author badly enough to write a pretty awful first novel – that ended up getting some undeserved award attention – but was ultimately never published. Thank goodness. I look back at it now and it was pretty cringy. Nineteen-year-old Sam needed to do more than a week’s worth of research before attempting a historical fiction epic.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Boush: I read all the time. As a kid, fantasy was my primary genre. Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist. As a kid, I also developed an early taste for technothrillers, which is what I write now. Michael Crichton was my favorite, and I must’ve read nearly everything he wrote in the early days.

Myself: I have been a fan of both Robert Jordan and Michael Crichton myself. What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

Boush: The best is being able to work from home, on my own schedule. If I need to run errands there’s no one but me to say no. If I need to pick up my kids or just take a sanity day, it’s the same thing. The worst part might be the marketing. Driving two hours for a book signing where five people show up. Reading that one-star review that, upon reflection, I sort of agree with. That sort of thing.

The other best thing, I suppose, is that my book is doing really well. It’s gotten strong reviews, good sales, and interest in the industry. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going with my next couple books. And more after that!

Myself: I thoroughly enjoyed your “All Systems Down”, so the success with it you mention does not surprise me. Where do your story ideas come from?

Boush: All Systems Down was inspired by news articles on the growing cyber threat to critical infrastructure. I also read several terrific books on the subject including Richard A. Clarke’s Cyber War. I’m working on another project right now that came, in part, in a dream. I woke up at four in the morning and put down three thousand words before breakfast.

Myself: I look forward to seeing what that dream resulted in. I would have been hard-pressed to put down 300 words, let alone 3000, at that time of the morning. At least not without being fortified by copious amounts of coffee. What tools do you use in your writing?

Boush: I use a few:

  • WordThe main writing platform
  • Excel – Keeping track of A, B, C plots.
  • Flashcards (physical) – Early-stage plotting
  • My library card – everything else!

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

Boush: I’m active on Twitter. You can follow me @thecyberwar. If you’d like to send an email, there’s a form on my website.


Sam’s novel in eBook format is currently available for $0.99 on Amazon. A synopsis of the novel:

A North Korean cyberattack cripples America’s infrastructure, sparking chaos and leaving the country vulnerable to a military invasion.

Brendan Chogan first senses trouble afoot during his job interview for a security guard position at a Portland, Oregon, robotics company. A computer virus is apparently affecting the building, which then loses internet access. A report comes in by phone that the internet is down across the country. It’s merely the beginning of a North Korean strike against U.S. systems, and soon citizens nationwide lose their cellular service and electricity. Panic ensues, and Brendan realizes that he, his wife, Vailea, and their 8-year-old twin daughters may not be safe.

As Brendan and Vailea struggle to secure their home and stockpile food and water, the city descends into chaos. It’s there they meet up with refugees from the coast, where the armada of Chinese and Russian ships have slammed into the shore. An invasion has begun.

Interview with Author Taylor Anderson

Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the Alternate History Thriller “River of Bones”. After I published my review, I was able to contact the author, Taylor Anderson, for an interview.

Taylor Anderson Author Photo

Myself: Your first novel “Into the Storm” was published in 2008. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Anderson: I’ve always loved to write.  I don’t even know what got me interested in it, but I’ve dabbled at it ever since I was a kid.  I like to tell stories and describe experiences and I guess it just started as an extension of that.  Life got in the way, alas, and writing of any sort went on the back burner for many years until I suddenly found myself with a “gap” I could fill, and I spent it writing the first Destroyermen yarn–INTO the STORM.  Much to my surprise and wonder, it took off.

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

Anderson: I’m a Texan to the bone and I live out in the country near a relatively small Texas town called Granbury.  It’s too hot in the summer, (used to it, but never liked it), but the winters are usually mild and make up for the summers rather nicely.

Myself: I have lived in Texas most of my life and have spent the last 45+ years in Central Texas so I can relate to the heat. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Anderson: Wow.  How much room do we have here?  I like to do all sorts of things–some of which are not particularly relaxing, but they do reduce stress.  I love to go sailing, hunting, and fishing, and I like to build everything from model ships to houses.  Oh, and I like to shoot real, full-scale cannons.  I have an 1841 6pdr and a 3″ Ordnance Rifle, both of which have been in a few movies, but I really enjoy shooting them live in long-range competitions.

Myself: That is quite the unusual hobby. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Anderson: Racking my brain, I have to say it was one of three; Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky,” “Red Planet,” or Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”  All were read at about the same time when I was in the first grade.  (My family has always been obsessed with reading, and I started very early).  Likewise, my daughter read “Treasure Island” and Patrick O’Brian’s “Unknown Shores” when she was in the first or second grade as well.

Myself: Those, particularly The Hobbit”, are awesome reads for the First Grade. I am impressed to hear that your daughter is following in those footsteps. What have you read recently?

Anderson: I just finished David Weber’s “At the Sign of Triumph,” and Simon Scarrow’s “Centurion.”  Currently, I’m going back over Ballentine’s “A British Soldier in the American Army,” and “Rebels under Sail.”  I’ll read a toothpaste tube if I can’t find anything else.

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

Anderson: I don’t have a “favorite” genre, probably one of the main reasons D-Men touches so many.  I like almost everything.  I’ll avidly read dusty old manuals and blueprints, horror, history of all sorts, historical fiction, space opera, “action/adventure,” even a little paranormal stuff.  I think that’s why I love writing D-Men so much because I’m able to incorporate almost everything I’m interested in into one big story, from hard history to Sci-Fi, and speculative natural philosophy to military action.  Most people categorize D-Men as “alternate history,” and there are aspects of that in the plot, but I think “Historical Military Science Fiction–with some other stuff” is probably more accurate.  Ha!

Myself: I have to agree that the Destroyermen series is more than simply another alternative History tale. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Anderson: I had a Nook–till I accidentally killed it–and I have a Kindle.  Both are very convenient and I use the (still living) Kindle a lot.  All the same, I probably still prefer a “real” book in my hands.  Just old-fashioned, I guess.  I’ve listened to most of the performances Bill Dufris has done of my books–he’s amazing–but don’t have a chance to listen to anything very often.

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

Anderson: That goes back to why I started writing in the first place; I simply love to tell stories and relate adventures, and the D-men Series tells a yarn I love to write at least as much as anyone likes to read it.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Anderson: I’m hooked now.  Writing is what I do, and I expect to keep at it till I fall off the twig.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing? Of course!

Anderson: Everything and everyone I’ve read!  Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by real heroes and to meet many more in my life.  Their lives and experiences have influenced me more than I can say.

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

Anderson: Ahh, that’s tough to answer.  Sometimes the “hardest” things just flow, and parts I expect to be “easy” can be excruciating to write.  As far as my process is concerned, probably the most difficult thing for me to do is to keep everything straight!

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

Anderson: It sounds trite, I know, but basically, “keep plugging.”  Don’t get discouraged, and above all, finish it and send it off!  Don’t get mired down in self doubt and fear of rejection.  Also, though I think you have to love the story you’re telling, don’t fall in love with your words.  They’re just tools to TELL your story, no matter how pretty or literary they might seem.  I kill words with bloody abandon when I’m editing.

Myself: You have 13 books published in your Destroyermen series so far. What are you currently working on?

Anderson: The NEXT installment in the Destroyermen Series, of course!

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

Anderson: I love hearing from fans on my facebook page and website, and I will almost ALWAYS respond–if someone else doesn’t beat me to it!

Website:  www.taylorandersonauthor.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TaylorAndersonAuthor/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

 

Interview with Author Darren C Gilbert

Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “Serpents Underfoot”. After I published my review, I contacted the author, Darren C Gilbert, for an interview.

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Myself:  First, a little about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Gilbert: I think I probably always wanted to be a writer. I jokingly tell people I could read before I could walk. As young boys, our parents read to both my younger brother and me a great deal. We grew up with a love of books and reading.

Myself:  What is your academic and work background?

Gilbert: I think my background is probably part of what makes me a good writer. I grew up as a stutterer, so I was always trying to prove something … that I was as good as everyone else. This attitude led to my doing many different and exciting things in my life. I grew up camping and backpacking. I was an Eagle Scout. I studied martial arts. I served in the military successfully despite stuttering. While in the army I spent time in Germany, South Korea, and Panama, as well as Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I have also worked a lot of adventurous jobs.  Transmission Lineman, Glass Truck Driver, ran a karate dojo and graduated from the top bodyguard school in the U.S. before settling down into a more normal career in IT.

Myself:  You have had an interesting career. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Gilbert: I currently live in Cary, NC. I was born in Ilion, New York in 1960 and grew up in North Adams, Massachusetts. We moved to Clinton, Tennessee the year after I graduated from High School where I enlisted in the Army. After leaving the Army in 1983, I stayed in the Clinton, Tennessee area until moving to Cary, North Carolina in early 2016.

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

Gilbert: I enjoy martial arts, ballroom dancing, reading, and shooting. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to stay active in all of these activities, so I had to trim them back a bit. I needed to make time to write!

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

Gilbert: I would add that I am a quiet, easy-going guy who loves dogs. Currently, I have a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Sophie. She is a handful, but great company.

Myself:  You mention that you enjoy reading. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Gilbert: The first book I remember reading my self is  Frosty. It was about a Husky that was owned by a young family with a little girl. The dog is young and has a lot of energy, so he gets into a lot of trouble, and the family is thinking about getting rid of him. Then one day, their little girl gets lost. Frosty finds the little girl and gently taking her hand in his mouth, leads her home. The dog is now a hero, and of course, the family keeps him.

Myself:  It sounds like that book made quite an impression on you. Did you continue to read while growing up? 

Gilbert: I read all the time growing up. I have read thousands of books of all genres and topics.

Myself:  What have you read recently?

Gilbert: I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Currently, I am reading Luck Lady by Steve Jackson, a book about the heroic crew and light cruiser, the USS Santa Fe, in World War II.

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

Gilbert: I have two favorite genres. I enjoy historical fiction. Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorites.  I also love spy/military action thrillers. I read a lot Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Greg Isles, and WEB Griffin. I also enjoy military history, especially WWII and Vietnam.

Myself:  While I haven’t read much historical fiction, I too have been an avid reader of spy/military action thrillers. Where is your favorite place to read?

Gilbert: I read where and when I can. Lately, I find myself reading in bed at night a lot …  until I fall asleep. I guess my days are just too full.

Myself:  I try to read a little every night too. I find it convenient to use my iPad so I can read in the dark without disturbing my wife. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Gilbert: I prefer real books. If I like a book, I will get the hardcover for my library. I do listen to audiobooks while traveling.

Myself:  I have several hardbacks in my library too, though there is not near enough space. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Gilbert: I have a lot of stories to tell. While my stuttering has all but disappeared over the years, in my younger years, I could not often tell the stories I had bottled up inside. It was pretty frustrating.

Myself:  What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Gilbert: I would like to continue to write novels. I have ideas floating in my head for about four more after finishing the one I am currently working on. Two are essentially murder mysteries; one is a collection of short stories,  and the last is a World War II love story. Then, If I have time I might do a book about growing up as a stutterer. I feel that may be helpful to other young stutterers who are trying to deal with this problem.

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

Gilbert: I have always enjoyed writing. When in school I enjoyed writing assignments and always did well on them. I love the art of wordsmithing!

Myself:  Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Gilbert: My writing is undoubtedly influenced by other writers, Tom Clancy, Louis L’amour, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, Bernard Cornwall among many. But, people I meet affect my writing more. People I meet and get to know. People like to talk, and I enjoy listening. They often have amazing stories to tell. It is true that truth is often stranger than fiction.

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

Gilbert: There is an old saying, “write you know.” That may, in fact, be kind of limiting.  I say, “write what you enjoy.” If you are not interested and enjoying what you write, how can you be good at it? I think I tell the story and then see what genre it fits in.

Myself:  I think that is very good advice for the prospective author. Where do your story ideas come from?

Gilbert: I start with a character or an idea. Then I let the story unfold on its own.

Myself:  I know that you say you prefer just to see where an idea takes you, but do you work to an outline at all?

Gilbert: I do use a loose outline. That functionality (essentially drag and drop chapter and scenes) is built right into the tool I use for my first drafts.  I think working from a plot is too confining or limiting.

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

Gilbert: I use Scrivener for my first drafts and then do the editing polishing in Word. I have a couple of other tools I use. The Hemmingway Editor, Writer’s Diet, and of course, Grammarly.

Myself:  I have heard many good things about Scrivener, though I have not tried it myself yet. I do use Grammarly and find it very useful. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Gilbert: It’s funny. The hardest thing about writing for me is getting started. The easiest thing for me is, once I get started, continuing.  I have found I have to lock myself away for a couple of hours every day. No TV or other distractions so I can get started. But once I do, the two hours fly.

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

Gilbert: To aspiring authors, I would say … read all you can whenever you. The second thing is to write all you can whenever you can. Writing is a craft. You can learn. However, you do have to practice and see what other writers have done.

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

Gilbert: I have published one novel, Serpents Underfoot, which is doing very well and getting great reviews. It is out in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. I will be releasing an Audiobook version soon.

Myself:  What are you currently working on?

Gilbert: I am currently working on the sequel to Serpents Underfoot. The title of it is Montagnard.  It will continue the adventures of JD Cordell with some exciting twists.

Myself:  I will be looking forward to reading that. What else would you like to share?

Gilbert: One thing I will mention. I got a lot of confidence from doing gigs on Fiverr.com. I wrote book descriptions, bios, fight scenes, and did some editing for other authors. It is a great confidence builder for a new writer. While you don’t get any credit for your work, you can get paid for polishing your skills, and the positive reviews are a pretty good motivator. And, as a bonus, I get to see my prose on the covers of other author’s books. That is kind of exciting.

Myself:  That sounds like another good recommendation. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Gilbert: I have a website/blog at https://patriotwarrior.org and it has a newsletter if anyone is interested. I also have a Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/darrencgilbert. I am on Twitter @patriotwarrior5 and Instagram as darrencgilbert. I am always interested in hearing from fans and friends and meeting new people.

Interview with Author Dan Jayson

A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “The Last Squadron“. As a result of my review, I was contacted by the author, Dan Jayson, and have been able to interview him.

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Myself: I want to express my thanks to you for doing this interview. First, a little bit about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Jayson: I guess since I was old enough to read and write. Then one day I thought okay – I am going to start, so I sat down and wrote the first line. Why that day? I do not know, maybe I was just looking for a new challenge.

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Jayson: I am a chartered professional engineer and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers and served for a while in the British Territorial Army. I have been lucky enough to have lived and worked all over the world and spent many months offshore on underwater construction vessels in some remote places.

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

Jayson: My family and I currently live in south-west London.

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

Jayson: I love being with family and friends, and enjoy military history, diving, walking, and skiing.

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

Jayson: I am married with four children, and am a little worried that we are trashing the planet!

Myself: Do you see Fiction, and more specifically Science Fiction, as a way to educate and persuade people from that path?

Jayson: Yes – I think science fiction / fiction books, plays, and films can influence people to effect change. If you can draw someone into a story and make it memorable then perhaps some scenes and themes will become “decision triggers” in real life. Maybe the events portrayed in The Last Squadron might persuade a few people to take more interest in some of the conflicts that have been bubbling away for decades now and pressure our governments to work together in a common framework to stop the misery.

Myself: I wanted to ask about you as a reader. What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?

Jayson: One of the ‘Hornblower’ novels.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Jayson: Yes continuously although – I remember I stopped for little after reading the Exorcist which terrified me!

Myself: What have you read recently?

Jayson: Winston Churchill’s Second World War – Volume 1.

Myself: That’s quite a change from “The Exorcist”. Do you have a favorite genre? book? character? author?

Jayson: I do not think I have one, how much you enjoy any book I think can depend on your mood and environment. Every book has something to offer – as a reader you get to devour in a few days what an author has sometimes spent years writing – that is special.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Jayson: Just about anywhere! At this very moment, I think it would have to be on a sun lounger outside on a hot day.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks?

Jayson: I like paperbacks – there is something personal about them – I don’t know why – maybe its because they are tactile? You can scrunch them up and even tear out pages as you go if you need to share the book with a friend.

Myself: Now a little about you as an author. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Jayson: I wanted to write an adventure story that was realistic, entertaining, captured some of the great traits of humanity and shone a light on some of our worst aspects.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Jayson: I would like to write a second novel, I just need to get the time!

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Jayson: Both my time offshore and in the Army influenced my writing – when you are part of a small team in a harsh environment and trying to accomplish a specific task, the resulting comradery and humor are quite special. In addition, the film directors James Cameron and Ridley Scott were an influence, I loved Alien, Aliens, and Black Hawk Down – their attention to technical detail, often-portraying equipment as “scuffed and used” is something I tried to replicate.

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

Jayson: I wanted to write something I would enjoy – something that was plausible, gritty, realistic, and panoramic. This was the best I could come up with!

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Jayson: The ideas came from disparate and often unconnected sources. So as an example, I saw a documentary about the Black Plague and the residents of the English village called Eyam, and this, coupled with an article I had read a few years before about gene fabrication gave me the idea to create a fairly nasty man-made virus. As another example, whilst we were living in Paris we visited the Palace of Versailles several times. It was on one of these trips that I thought wow … what would a firefight look like in here?

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

Jayson: I do not think I had any preconceived approach, I started with a couple of rather disparate scenes as pegs in the ground and then let the characters and events just lead me.

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

Jayson: Just a laptop and a printer – I basically just bulldoze words onto the laptop then print out what I’ve written, read it, cross out huge tracts, add notes then redo it. I am sure there are better ways but …

Myself: Well, I think that with ‘productivity’ tools and processes, the best one is the one that works for you. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Jayson: The hardest thing is starting the first line, after that, it is easy to write but a pain to edit.

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

Jayson: Just write the first line – you will be hooked and it will always call you back to write another!

Myself: Now a little bit about your works. What novels/works have you published?

Jayson: Just this one novel – I do not really count engineering technical papers as of interest!

Myself: I have to agree. From my experience, technical papers have been far easier to write than fiction. What are you currently working on?

Jayson: Am thinking about another novel – but am currently working on several projects relating to underwater salvage as well as trying to launch a small business.

Myself: I will certainly keep a lookout for your future works. What else would you like to share?

Jayson: I do hope anyone who reads The Last Squadron enjoys it!

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

Jayson: Anyone is welcome to get in touch on twitter @danjayson. I would love to hear any feedback.