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Interview with Professor of Writing, Jonathan Rabb (part 2)

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JR. The paperback of my last one came out a few months ago, and I’m at work on two very different projects right now. One is contemporary in Mexico; the other is 1606 Venice. I’ve never written two at once, but it’s proving to be exciting, even if it is more challenging. We’ll see how it works out.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JR. I was 28 or 29. I decided that political theory wasn’t for me, and I got the idea for that first book, The Overseer. There was no pressure, so I don’t know if I really thought about it as “serious” writing (there’s the old chestnut: you have a lifetime to write your first book, about a year to write your second). But somewhere in there I began to think, “Maybe this is what I’m meant to do.” I got lucky and have been allowed to do it ever since.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JR. I started The Overseer in late 1993 or early 1994. I finished the first draft (a very economical 750 pages) in July of 1996. By happenstance, I was working a translating job and someone else on the job heard I’d written a manuscript and said he had a friend in Lectures at William Morris. He said he’d be happy to show the first chapter to the woman at WM. I sent it to him, he sent it to her, and three days later, the woman called and said she had sent it on to someone in Literary. Three days later, the agent in Literary called and said he needed to see the rest of the manuscript. I sent it over and, two weeks later, I signed with WM. My agent had been an editor, so he helped me trim the manuscript down to 525 pages. We sent it out, got rejected, sent it out again, and then Holt, Crown and Harpers all came in with offers. We went with Crown in June of 1997, and the hardcover came out in June of 1998.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JR. I don’t know. I think you have to find whatever it is that makes writing a need for you, and that’s purely idiosyncratic. And then commit yourself to it. Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship. There’s the infatuation at the beginning, but then the feelings mature. And it can be hard. But it’s the best kind of hard you’ll ever experience if you keep your focus.

I also think taste plays a large role in any of the arts. I suppose we can all look at a select group and say, Yes, those are great writers, but even then, I don’t know. I’d be hard-pressed not to include Graham Greene on that list or Ivo Andric or Joan Didion, and some folks can’t stand any of them. Is there something that ties all the greats together? Maybe it’s that, if they ever wavered, they never gave up entirely. Even Kafka. If Kafka (by my lights in the top three of all time) could muscle through it, then anyone can.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here

Part 3 of this Interview will return on September 28th.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Shadow of Murder by Trisha Sugarek

D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review      ‘Book 8 in the ‘World of Murder’ series more than does justice to its companions as it creates both a stand-alone read that requires no prior familiarity with the series, yet dovetails nicely with the emotion-packed approaches and mystery themes of its predecessors.

Homicide Detective Stella Garcia and her partner Sergeant Detective Jack O’Roarke are again challenged by murder, with Jack’s new marriage serving as a quiet opening success to events which quickly turn into hair-raising circumstances based on a true crime.A deadly and gruesome mass shooting of Indian women and children in a family-run store, the killer’s desire to destroy a lovely young woman who neither wanted nor knew him. Unrequited love steeps the story line with a passion and drive that makes it feel true to life and hard to put down.

Forensic profiling has done a good job of identifying the pattern of the deaths; but now it’s up to Garcia and O’Roarke to put together the pieces in a case that leads them to not only identify the perp, but understand what happened and why. The latter charge is what readers are also tasked with in a story line that moves back and forth across time and events to build its case for how events arrived at such a shocking crescendo of violence.

What keeps Shadow of Murder thought-provoking and absorbing is not the ‘whodunnit’ piece; but the ‘why’, which goes into revealing detail about the psychology of a killer’s motivations and psyche. Readers looking for a gripping short murder story which is more psychologically charged than most will appreciate this murder mystery, which pairs a gripping saga with insights that compel reflection long after the case is solved.’
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Writer, Jonathan Rabb

TS. I stumbled upon Jonathan Rabb, a local, fellow author and transplant, quite by accident. I found his take on writing fascinating and asked that he share it with my readers.

 Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JR. I have a study in the house, which many of my old friends say uncannily resembles my old one-room apartment back in New York before I got married. It’s bookcases everywhere, maps, and an entire shelf devoted to my kids’ artwork. When the writing is going well, it’s hard to find a path from the door to the desk. I like to keep the blinds drawn, with a single overhead soft light. And the desk is an architect’s desk – a flat space with no drawers.

As it turns out, it is my dream workspace.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JR. My ritual (now) starts with the kids getting up, breakfast, the dog out for walk, carpool (on my days), and then a mug of hot water at the side of my computer, which I refill throughout the day. I usually dive in at about 8:30 and, if I remember to eat lunch, a break at 1, then on again until about 3. And then the kids come home. If I’m deep into a book, then I’m in the study at all hours. Those last three weeks are tough on everyone.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

The Whiffenpoofs

JR. I sang in a group called the Whiffenpoofs in college (the oldest cappella singing group in the country). I also soloed with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JR.  As I said, usually in at 8:30, out at around 3. But that shifts the closer I get to the end of a book. That’s when I need to be with the characters, and I need to know how the whole thing will find its way to a conclusion. Not necessarily a resolution but a stopping point. I can’t step away from it for too long when I’m at that point.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JR. Writing is all about making choices. They don’t have to be big ones (or at least appear to be big ones at the moment), so make one. Writer’s block and procrastination are really just about being overwhelmed by the infinite number of choices you could make. That can freeze you. So choose. It might be the wrong choice, but at least you’ll be writing. And nothing is ever completely wrong.

It’s the old NY Lottery motto: you have to be in it to win it.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JR. For me, place is always a central character, so I usually start there. Then I have to find the people to interact with that character, and that’s when idiosyncrasies and cadences begin to make themselves known. But the best part of creating characters is when they surprise you. That’s when you know you’ve created someone real.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JR. I was an academic at Columbia in political theory, and I needed an escape. So I came up with an idea for a thriller, in which the main character is a young academic at Columbia in political theory….who saves the world. That was great for my ego and sent me to the computer every day to see how the character would make good on that promise. It turned out to be my first novel, The Overseer.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JR. Hard to say. I think both are crucial – at least according to Stephen King – but I’m not sure I can distinguish them from one another as completely as I’d need to in order to prioritize one over the other. The characters reflect the demands of their situation; the situation shifts to meet the needs of the characters. I suppose the answer shifts from situation to situation and character to character.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JR. Yes. My wife often has to call me to remind me to have lunch. Those are the great days.

 

My interview with Jonathan continues September 21st. Don’t miss it! 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Invitation to Poetry by Mihai Brinas

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing
4 out 5 quills  ~~  A Review 

I rarely review books for writers I’m not familiar with…and before you judge me…I’m not a book snob. I don’t review those books because I don’t want to have to write a tough critique. New author/writers should be encouraged and lifted up. Not torn down.  But this poet intrigued me. His poetry had something to say. 

let there be rain ©

he was feeling different
he was just waiting to be seen by the world
a world that did not read poetry books anymore
you could not even find books
as if somebody had burnt them in a huge incinerator
as he was different he has gathered up there
the ashes of poetry books
he is scattering it above everybody
with just a single blow
so it may rain with poetry

Mihai stops us and makes us see a camera shot of the lonely, exhibit guard; the invisible ones. Hidden Truths hurt my heart and what more could a poet ask for. The Healed Healer  was truly beautifully written.  I wish the titles of the poetry were shorter in some cases, but that’s just personal taste. The English translation could be cleaned up….but no….that is perhaps part of the charm. 

I agree with Mihai that poetry is forgotten and not read enough. If you feel the need for a little poetry, I highly recommend his books. The verse is not shallow and you may want to read a poem over a second time…but it’s certainly gratifying and worth the reader’s time. 

 

Bio:  Mihai Brinas is a young (25) poet, living in Arad, Romania. He has published two poetry ebooks .’Invitation to Poetry’ in October 2017 and ‘Alignment of Thoughts’ in February 2018. He ‘loves life, poetry, reading. His favorite place is the town library where he enjoys seeing and touching random books while walking among the shelves.  The smell of books. To be able to choose and read one book or another.’ He writes: ‘when the emotion takes the arm of my thought and asks it out for a stroll.’

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.  June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Shadow of Murder ~ Book #8 True Crime Series

     Newest in the true crime series. This one was so much fun to write…it literally fell out onto the keyboard.  O’Roarke, Garcia, and Phoebe Sneed’s personal lives all move along at a brisk pace, in spite of the complicated and cold, then hot, then cold case they are investigating. 

       Another mass shooting at the most unlikely of places, a small neighborhood market run by an Indian family. Is it terrorism? Will there be more? Who would have a motive against this seemingly innocent family working in their store? And it was called in on Detective O’Roarke’s first day back from his honeymoon trip. To make things worse, the killer slipped away leaving no clues, no evidence, no witnesses; leaving five dead and two mortally wounded.
The case quickly goes cold. Out of desperation, the remaining family members bring in a physic-medium who has a strange vision.

Who is this predator with amber eyes?

It takes a tightrope artist of a writer to create chapters that successfully delve into a killer’s thoughts without revealing his identity in the process, but Sugarek achieves this with a dance of introspection that reveals a killer’s religious rituals and the emotional turmoil…” Midwest Book Review for Angel of Murder

“Years ago one of my crew, in a stage production that I was directing, said, “Trish for years now I’ve had this great idea for a play script but I know I’ll never write it….hell, I wouldn’t know where to begin ….  you’re the writer so I want to give you the idea.” His name escapes me; it must have been Billy Bob or Bubba or Junior given we were in Texas at the time.  This idea of Bubba’s blossomed, first, into a one act play, and later into this series of murder mysteries.  All because he and I had a few beers one night and he thought I could write it better than he could. Thank you, Bubba, wherever you are!”  T.S.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb. Nov.: Joe English  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Emma and the Lost Unicorn ~ Kids’ Book

     A new edition of Emma and the Lost Unicorn has been released.  Full color illustrations in watercolor by artist, H. J. Stine. 

Emma, an earthling girl visits her friends in the forest all the time. She delights in the antics of Stare, the rhetorical owl and Cheets, the mischievous elf.  One day she is introduced to Rainey, the Unicorn,  a prince who’s been banished, for centuries, by the warlord, Hazard.   He can never return home unless Emma solves more riddles than Hazard’s Lieutenant, Kodak. The fable ends with a surprise twist which will delight readers young and old.  While written for children, this fairy tale is sophisticated enough to appeal to adults as well.

Queens, warlords, faeries, elves, unicorns, handmaidens, scary henchmen and one small mortal girl child in an enchanted forest.  This fable offers many subtle lessons.

 

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Other books in the Series of The Fabled Forest

Motivational Moments…Writers #39

Stating the obvious. You must let go of all the little distractions that keep you from writing.  That doesn’t mean you quit your day job or ignore your family. 

But, for example, I woke up this morning with my new chapter rattling around in my head. I quickly made coffee (a must), fed my dogs, (a must) and came in here to get that chapter down. But here I am answering emails and writing a post for my blog. Important yes, but the latest book is more important and I have a chapter screaming to be let out. 

What am I doing?….here…talking to you?

 

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” — John Steinbeck

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” — J.K. Rowling
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb. Nov.: Joe English  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Best Selling author, Susan Mallery

Photo: Annie Brady

TS.   I have read everything that Susan Mallery has written and I am here to tell you, she’s never written a bad book.  Just good, solid stories about real people and their lives. And I love me some good storytelling! After, literally, years of requesting an interview from this busy author (at least four new books a year!) I have finally caught her at maybe a not so busy moment. For whatever reason I succeeded in interviewing this best selling author.  I am so happy to share with my readers a few casual moments with one of my favorite writers.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

SM. When life is going smoothly, I write in my home office, surrounded by sleeping pets. (Two ragdoll cats and a small poodle.) But when there’s chaos at home, I go to what I call my “faux

Stark rented space

office.” It’s a real office space that I rent outside my home, but I hate it. It’s very utilitarian, with no personal touches whatsoever—deliberately. Just a boring box. No artwork on the walls, no internet, not great cell phone service. I make it as unpleasant as possible so I’ll get my pages done and can go home. There is a window, but I keep my back to it so I will be less likely to be distracted. (I’m very distractible.)

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

SM. I’m afraid of flying. Not to the point that I won’t do it, but I’m wildly uncomfortable every time. I was once on a plane that depressurized during turbulence, and I was already a little nervous before that. I’m a writer, with a writer’s overactive imagination, so every time I get on a plane, my brain goes through all the possible horror stories. I usually distract myself with a Disney movie.   So if you ever come to one of my book signings, just know that I truly sacrificed for my readers in order to be there.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

SM. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to write. When the writing isn’t going well, everything will sound more appealing than putting words on the page—even cleaning your baseboards with an old toothbrush. No one is going to stand over your shoulder and make sure you write. The motivation has to come from you. If you give yourself an inch, you’ll take a mile. You must require more of yourself. Have a goal for the number of pages or scenes you want to write that day, and don’t let yourself do anything else until that work is done. Even if you’re not happy with what you’ve written, at least you have moved the story forward. You can always come back and revise, but the first step is to get the story down, from opening line to The End.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Head Shot. Lucy and Susan

SM. They’re intrinsically tied together. What comes to me first is usually a character in a specific situation, and then the story builds from there.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

SM. I always have a new book coming out! I usually publish four books a year, sometimes more. I think it ties in to the whole “I’m easily distracted” thing. If I don’t write fast, I get bored, so I need to write multiple books a year to keep myself entertained.

Next up is WHY NOT TONIGHT, part of my Happily Inc series. (A Fool’s Gold spinoff. Happily Inc is a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale.) Ronan Mitchell has been wounded by his parents—emotionally. A couple years ago, he discovered that he is the result of his father’s affair. He is not his brother’s twin at all, but a half brother. And the worst part of it is that his beloved mother lied to his face his entire life. He doesn’t feel he can count on anything, and it has shattered his self-image.

When he meets Natalie, she’s so filled with joy that he assumes incorrectly that nothing bad has ever happened to her. But Natalie has had tragedy in her life, too, and has made the decision not to let sadness bog her down. Ronan will learn a lot from her as they fall in love. Readers can learn more at HappilyInc.com.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

SM. My life is far too boring for fiction. (Thank goodness!) To be interesting, fiction must be dramatic in a way that I’m glad my life is not. Happily married to the same guy for many years, a lot of peaceful time at home with the occasional dinner out… not really riveting fiction. And if I did use my life for inspiration, readers would get really weary of reading variations on the same stories over and over again.

My stories come purely from my imagination, and always grow from a point of me asking how the characters might feel about what’s happening in the story. Our emotions drive our actions unless we deliberately choose not to let them—and that says something about a character, too. My job is to take readers out of their everyday lives and let them experience the world through someone else’s eyes, at least for a little while.

Did you miss my REVIEW of Mallery’s When We Found Home?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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A Book Review ~~ The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing     3 out of 5 quills     A Review

I was disappointed in this latest offering in the Maggie Hope series. The plot was so implausible that, after a few chapters, I hurried to the back of the book, hoping for an author’s note. Sure enough, this plot was  far-fetched but based upon truth.  MI-6 and S.O.E. actually had a ‘cooler’ where the British intelligence community sent, what they deemed, their ‘unstable’ agents. 

So why was I having such a hard time connecting with the story? Usually I adore  Maggie Hope and the series. For one thing,  I didn’t care about the other agents. There wasn’t enough of a back story on each of them for this reader to care whether they lived or died.

Just too many clichés for me. A castle and a stormy night, tripping over dead bodies, the wife locked in a castle tower. By this time in the series, Maggie is too high up in the espionage business to be unceremoniously thrown into an island prison by her own government! I couldn’t buy it. She has kept countless secrets for the realm, why is she not being trusted to keep this latest one?

Then in the last forty pages, or so, I felt like I’d been dropped into an action film, with bombs going off and Maggie having to swim for her life. It was disconcerting and unbelievable.  I just wasn’t that excited about this book, but I remain a fan. The rest of the series is one of my favorites in this genre. 

Released today. Click here

Did you miss my Interview with this author?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.  June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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A Book Review ~~ Green Fees by Manning Wolfe

3 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

The plot was good, the story entertaining. The main characters were interesting, but the supportive characters (Deuteragonists) were more dynamic than the main protagonists. Merit Bridges frequently teetered on being a cliché  but was  brought back just in the nick of time. Mark Green was empathetic and I found  myself rooting for him. 

The story was too golf specific for the general reading public. Golfers will love how the author weaved the game of golf  through the plot. But non-golfers might find it too much. Those readers will not understand the lingo or care anything about the PGA. This reviewer fears it might be a turn-off.  And if the author is going to tell a story where golf plays such a large role (it’s almost a character in itself) then she should have stopped to integrate an explanation of golf terms into the story. Or a glossary should have been included.
For example I don’t remember seeing an explanation for the word ‘par’. (Par is the predetermined number of strokes that a scratch/expert golfer should require to complete a hole. Par is determined by guidelines set by the US Golf Association.) 

If a non-golf enthusiast gets as far as the last round of the PGA Championship (20 pages before the end of the book) they will be drawn in because of the excellent writing in this section. Despite their lack of knowledge (about golf) they will be cheering Mark Green on to victory. 

Did you miss my Interview with Manning Wolfe
Green Fees on sale now 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  June: Manning Wolfe. July: K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. Sept: Jonathan Rabb, December: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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