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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

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 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

Interview with Carolyn Brown (part 3)

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

CB. No book is a proposal that one of my publisher’s has bought, and now it’s time to drag my writing chair over to the computer, talk to my characters and begin to write. Finished book is saying goodbye to those characters and beginning all over again.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

CB. Everything, I see, taste, feel, get emotional about, has affected my writing. Add everything I hear or every experience—being raised by a single mother and a blind grandmother, having a step-father, nine step mothers, siblings, half brothers and sisters and a multitude of step brothers and sisters, raising three children, being married more than fifty years. It all plays a part in my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

CB. What is this down time that you speak of? In all seriousness I love to spend time with my family or just have coffee with Mr. B in the middle of each morning.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

The walls of my office. I frame most of my covers. The shadow boxes in black are the books that have sold more than 100,000 copies.

One of my favorites.

CB. I love writing cowboys and women’s fiction. I live by the rule if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is working for me. When it ceases to work, I’ll move on.

 

 

 

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CB. This, too, shall pass. Disappointments and grief pass. Excitement and victories pass. Love and understanding help soften the pain of one and double the joy of the latter.

CB. Thank you for inviting me to Writer at Play and letting me prop my feet up and visit for a while. Happy Reading to everyone!

 

Did you miss part I of this charming interview?
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with author, Carolyn Brown (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

CB. I’ve loved to tell stories since I was a little girl. My folks separated when I was four years old and my mother, sister and brother (who were younger than me) came from California to Oklahoma to live with my blind grandmother. We didn’t have many toys so I made up stories to keep my younger siblings entertained.

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

CB. The characters. They create the stories with their situations. I just listen to them tell me what to write next. Shhhh….don’t tell anyone that I have voices in my head! (TS. You’re in good company!)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

CB. Oh, yes, ma’am. I get so involved with the story and my character’s emotions that I forget about time. Whatever my characters feel, I feel. When they are angry, I’m upset, when they are laughing, I’m giggling. If I don’t have the emotions they do, how could I ever describe them.

Carolyn with hubby, Mr. B.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

CB. I’m just starting a brand-new women’s fiction entitled The Hope Chest. It’s set in Blossom, Texas and is the story of three cousins, two women and a man, who have inherited a small house from their grandmother.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

CB. When my third child was born and wouldn’t sleep at night, I sharpened a few pencils, got out a spiral notebook and began to write a story that Mr. B and I had been talking about for five years. That book had everything in the world wrong with it, but I was writing…and after too many edits to count…40 years late I sold it with the title The Lilac Bouquet.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

CB. No, I don’t. There are too many readers out there who like to hold a book in their hands and who love to see them on their bookcases.

Q. What makes a writer great?

CB. Keepin’ on even when the goin’ gets tough. Don’t give up and keep writing.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

CB. No book is a proposal that one of my publisher’s has bought, and now it’s time to drag my writing chair over to the computer, talk to my characters and begin to write. Finished book is saying goodbye to those characters and beginning all over again.

Framed book covers by Carolyn

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

CB. Everything, I see, taste, feel, get emotional about, has affected my writing. Add everything I hear or every experience—being raised by a single mother and a blind grandmother, having a step-father, nine step mothers, siblings, half brothers and sisters and a multitude of step brothers and sisters, raising three children, being married more than fifty years. It all plays a part in my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

CB. What is this down time that you speak of? In all seriousness I love to spend time with my family or just have coffee with Mr. B in the middle of each morning.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

CB. I love writing cowboys and women’s fiction. I live by the rule if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is working for me. When it ceases to work, I’ll move on.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CB. This, too, shall pass. Disappointments and grief pass. Excitement and victories pass. Love and understanding help soften the pain of one and double the joy of the latter.

CB. Thank you for inviting me to Writer at Play and letting me prop my feet up and visit for a while. Happy Reading to everyone!

 

Did you miss part I of this charming interview?
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Author, Carolyn Brown

Carolyn and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, as well as what they’re doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. When she’s not writing, Carolyn likes to plot new stories in her backyard with her tom cat, Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, who protects the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Carolyn Brown is the author of more than 100 novels. She’s a recipient of the Bookseller’s Best Award, and the prestigious Montlake Diamond Award, and also a three-time recipient of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Brown has been published for more than 20 years, and her books have been translated into 19 foreign languages. Many are available in audio format. 

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.

CB. I have my own little office in my house. I only have to walk across the hallway from my bedroom to go to work each morning. My husband, Mr. B, built a wall hung desk for me to clutter up with notebooks, calendars, etc. I try to clean it off each time I finish a book. Note that I said, “I try”…most of the time I end one book, and the very next morning I open up a file for the next one.

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.)

CB. I do like my pajama pants, but I don’t have a favorite pair. Nothing special, really…just that I get something down on paper (computer) each day.

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

CB. I didn’t get a toe in the door of a publishing company until I was forty nine years old. I’d been trying to get someone to look at my work for twenty five years before I finally got a break. Someone asked me about that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I simply asked them, “Do I have to decide today?” The next week I got the call from an editor who said she wanted to buy both the books I had sent to her.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

CB. I use the computer to write. My thought process goes from brain to fingertips, but I use a notebook, spiral or composition either one, to make notes. I use one of those little inexpensive recipe boxes when I’m writing series. Each character, included dogs, horses and donkeys get their own index card, so I can keep up with age, eye color, height and all the information about that character for later books in the series.

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

CB. I usually write from eight to fourteen hours a day, beginning in the morning and keeping at it until I finish my daily word count.

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

CB. Write! Don’t Whine! Whining about my muse has left me, I have a block and I can’t write today so I’m going shopping or I’m going to lay out on the beach won’t work. If you want to be a writer, you have to be disciplined. Write something every day even if it’s crap. As Nora Roberts says, “You can fix crap. You can’t fix nothing.”

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

CB. Any and everywhere. Mr. B and I were in a little café having a burger when we were on a research trip. A lady came in with a bunch of kids. They were all from a group home for foster kids, and one little guy sat over by himself and didn’t talk with the others. That little fellow became an autistic child in one of my next books.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Tune in next Friday for the conclusion to this charming interview.
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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Book Review~~the friendship list by Susan Mallery

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing            4 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book Review

Susan Mallery has done it once again!  She has woven a mundane story of a single mom, Ellen, and a young widow, Unity into a riveting journey that both women take, each in their own way.  I don’t believe it would be a spoiler to reveal that the friendship list is not a list of friends.  It is a bucket list that each woman (who are friends) has written out for themselves. They have decided that it will be a challenge, a contest if you will, with a reward at its end.  Sharing their victories, as they check off the list, and cheering each other on when a challenge seems unsurmountable. 

Susan Mallery writes wonderful stories and I know her fans agree with me when I say, Thank God she is so prolific as we all wait for the next new one.  This is a great summer read and I highly recommend it!

Release date August 4th. Pre-order now

Did you miss my Interview with Susan Mallery?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Writer for Tom Clancy, Mike Maden (Conclusion)

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

MM. The first lie every writer tells themselves is this: I don’t have the time to write. The second lie is this: I can’t write. Here’s the truth: writers always write. Are you a writer? But you’re not writing? Then ask yourself this: why aren’t you writing? What are you trying to avoid by not writing? I promise you the answer is going to be some variation of abject fear. Fear of failing as a writer, of falling short of our ideal of good writing, of disappointing others, etc. In other words, it’s all about self-preservation or to be more blunt: death. Death of my ideal self, death of my status in the world as “a great writer;” some painful, shameful, hateful permutation of emotional and/or psychological destruction. Don’t believe it! Don’t define your sense of self in the world through writing. Rather, your writing is defined by your sense of self. You are not your writing. Your writing is you.

Here is the irony (and I’m stealing this from the best): if you seek to save your writer’s “life” by not doing the work in order to protect yourself, you’re going to lose the very life you’re trying to save. More simply, not writing is the death of your career. Everything you think you’re avoiding by not writing is actually going to occur when you don’t write—so write! Here’s one more tip (also stolen, in this case, from Hemingway): the first draft is always (rhymes with) “spit” so you’re only job is to “spit” out your first draft—the complete and entire first draft—and then you can fix anything later in edit, i.e., “all writing is rewriting.” If Hemingway thought his first draft was “spit” then I’m in pretty good company and so are you. I spend most of my time spitting—from an outline.

If that’s still not enough, attack the problem from the other direction. Forget yourself and simply obey the work.

Slovenia ~~ the river below the narrow trail

If you say you’re a writer then you’ve made a commitment to a “vocation” in the oldest sense of the term. Writing (truth telling, either fiction or non-fiction) is holy work; “holy” as in set apart for service. Whether or not you are religious, you committed yourself to the priesthood of Art once you said, “I am a writer.” What follows is both necessary and clear. You must recover and practice with earnest devotion the disciplines of the disciple—a follower, a student, a servant of the Work. Faith—the evidence of things hoped for, like a completed manuscript when you’re staring at the first blank page—and Love of the word are the first two hallmarks of the writer/disciple. Commitment, sacrifice, suffering…the list of the qualities of the true disciple are well known or easily discovered (e.g., the Gospels or whatever you prefer). In other words, writing is not about “you” it’s about answering the call, to saying “yes” when summoned and exerting inexhaustible effort toward the completion of the task, denying self and even other people and all other things that distract or dissuade you from your mission. “Not my will, but Thine.” If you happen to be a person of true religious faith, then your discipleship is twofold: obedience to the One who calls and fulfilling that call through the faithful exercise of the gift that the One has given you.

If all of that is too abstract then here’s the most practical advice I can give you: do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. Study it, memorize it. Let it be your missal. Then get your derriere in the chair—and write!

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

MM. Characters are all that matter. Situations, scenes, plots, actions…it all comes out of character choices, character collisions, character flaws, character construction.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MM. I start with a solid outline so I always have those touch points that keep me on the path from A to Z. But if I’m really writing—really doing it the way it’s meant to be done—I get completely carried away in the moment, plunging headlong into the river, carried along by the surging rapids.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

MM. Yes. Can’t. Top secret. But it’s gonna be awesome and my first collaborative effort. News coming soon.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

MM. I’ve always written seriously beginning with my academic, non-fiction writing. What surprised me was to find out I was actually a writer. Yes, I could write. But I never thought of myself as a writer because of the mystery that surrounded that term. I was forty years old before I gave myself permission to call myself one. And what really surprised me was that I could write fiction. I was utterly stunned to discover I could write a screenplay but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I could never write a novel. Until I did. But one novel was it. Finito. No way could I do another even though I’d just signed a two-book deal. I knew I couldn’t write the sequel. Until I did. And another two-book contract showed up. And then I knew the game was up. My publisher would finally realize their big mistake. Until I finished those up too. And then…well, I think you get the idea. A serious writer writes. And writes. And writes. It’s hard work. Really hard. And it only gets harder—but only if you’re doing it right.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

MM. Absolutely not. They may become rare or expensive but they will never disappear. For people of a certain age, ahem, me, the tactile nature of the printed page never ceases to amaze or comfort.

Q. What makes a writer great?

MM. All writers are great but only if they write. The act of writing—of completing the work—is an act of obedience unto the Muse. It is our offering on the altar. The mere doing of it is its own reward. Whether or not the work will be judged as “great” by history or the literati or the New York Times bestseller list is completely outside the control of the writer. We can’t choose to be “great” but we can choose to do the work. Tell the truth, be yourself (i.e., original) and do the work—the rest will follow whether you like the outcome or not.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

MM. Get a bucket. Fill it with kerosene. Carry it to the top of a ten-story building. Stick your head in the bucket. Light your head on fire. Throw yourself off the roof. Hit the pavement. Douse the flames. Type, “end of chapter one.” Do it again. Sixty-five more times. Now you know what it feels like to go from “no book” to “finished book.” Easy as pie. Or as some wag said, just open up a vein and bleed onto the page.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

MM. Everything. You write out of your life.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

MM. Reading. Watching the best film and television I can. Hanging out with my best friend (my wife). Exercise. Golf. Guns. Hiking.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

MM. I wish I was smart enough to write science fiction.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

MM. General life lesson: “Discipline Equals Freedom.” (Jocko Willink)
General writing life lesson: “The bad news is, the Problem is Hell. The good news is, it’s just a problem. The Problem is not us. The PROBLEM is the problem. Work the Problem.” (Steven Pressfield)

PS. (from Mike Maden)  My Clancy novel ENEMY CONTACT was set in Poland. Amazing history, culture, people…and food. We love travel and learning new things but unfortunately it also means encountering the human condition in its worst permutation. Auschwitz is one such place and of all of the things that wounded me in that terrible place nothing grabbed me more than this moment. Those red shoes took me to a very dark moment. I could just see a young woman picking them out of the shop window one bright sunny morning, so happy and proud of them…having no idea where they would one day take her.

Did you miss Part I and Part 2 of this fascinating interview?

Book Review of Firing Point

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

Interview with Author, Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy (Part 2)

Mike Maden

Q. what it is like to be a co-author on this hit franchise?

MM. I’m certain that Tom Colgan got the wrong phone number and accidentally called the wrong guy when he offered me the chance to be

Tom Clancy

an author in the Tom Clancy franchise. (To the other Mike Maden out there: sorry about that. Okay, not really.) It is such an honor and privilege to write in this world and to hang out with the iconic characters that he created. I care deeply that I get the characters right and to do the research to the best of my ability. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry on the Clancy legacy but it is also a heck of a lot of fun. It’s also crazy weird to see my name beneath Tom Clancy’s. My only regret in writing for the franchise is that I never got to meet Tom who sadly passed away in 2013.

Q. Did you write some of the teleplays or contribute as a consultant?

MM. Having written screenplays in the past, I would dearly love to contribute to the Jack Ryan TV franchise put out by Amazon Prime. Sadly for me, the creators of that show don’t need my help. They’ve re-imagined Jack Ryan senior as a young man operating in today’s world rather than in the 1980s when he was first created by Tom Clancy. Judging by the huge fan base they have (including me) I’d say they have their hands firmly on the tiller. And in a way, I have the best of all worlds. Because the TV series features a young John Krasinski, readers think the series is about Jack Ryan Jr. (which is my bailiwick) so I’m getting all kinds of credit that I don’t deserve—and at the same time, I get to watch a really great TV series without having to do any of the hard, hard work that those folks have to do to create a smash hit.

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

MM. Every time one of my novels appears on the shelf it seems like an impossible gift. Why in the world is my name on the cover? How did that happen? How have I managed to win the lottery eight times in a row? I am one blessed dude. Speaking of blessed, I also have a secret weapon at my disposal. My amazing wife is always my first reader but she goes the extra mile and also reads the entire manuscript to me out loud before I send in the first draft to the editor. All one hundred thousand words. (She is a saint.) Sometimes a sentence reads fine on the page in your mind but when read aloud it punishes the ear like nails on a chalkboard—syntax, cadence, word choice all have a different resonance when heard as opposed to read. And the typos? Those last, lurking, invisible wee beasties that are the bane of every writer? She manages to scare them out from under the covers by the sound of her parched and rasping voice. (Okay, not all of them. But a lot of them. Thank heavens for professional editors who wrangle the rest of them.) Here’s my pro tip for the day: audiobook sales are becoming a huge percentage of total book sales. By doing an “audio” edit, I’m creating prose that will read and sound better for amazing audio talents like Scott Brick (www.scottbrick.net) who has read all of my Clancy stuff.

Research is very, very important. Of course, no one was better at research than Tom Clancy and his fans expect it of me as well. A lot of my internet research focuses on weapons and technology. But I prefer spending time in the countries featured in my novels in order to provide context for the characters and story. It’s also a way to show respect for the people and cultures I write about. Fortunately, I travel with a beautiful and amazing research assistant who happens to be my wife. Here Angela is in Spain helping me thoroughly research a plate of freshly sautéed pimientos de padrón for FIRING POINT.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

MM. My favorite tool is my giant white board—which is actually a 4’ x 8’ piece of white panel board I bought at Home Depot for about $15 . I use a lot of “mind mapping” to brainstorm my way through each story problem—or just dream. I do all of my writing on my laptop (MacBook Air) and I break the first draft completely on Scrivener which is the best word processing program in the world to do it—and it’s very inexpensive.  The subsequent drafts that the publisher and I trade back and forth are on Word because that is their software of choice. My 4’ x 8’ white board (newly installed, soon to be marked up with my next story):

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

Hiking the Julian Alps

MM. I have a strict word count I hold to slavishly seven days a week. If I meet my word count early, I stop and do something fun as a reward. But I will work as many hours as it takes to hit my number even if that means I don’t go to bed. At the end of the day, I can’t hand in my calendar to my publisher and show them how many days I worked. My contract specifies that I must turn in 100k words of polished prose so my focus is on words and not hours worked. Neither publishers nor readers care how hard you work. They only care about what you write.

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

Did you miss Part I of this Interview?

For the answer come back on June 26th for the conclusion of this wonderful Interview.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Interview with Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy


Mike Maden grew up working in the canneries, feed mills and slaughterhouses of California’s San Joaquin Valley. A lifelong fascination with history and warfare ultimately lead to a Ph.D. in political science focused on conflict and technology in international relations. Like millions of others, he first became a Tom Clancy fan after reading THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and began his published fiction career in the same techno-thriller genre, starting with DRONE and the sequels, BLUE WARRIOR, DRONE COMMAND and DRONE THREAT. Mike’s fourth Tom Clancy novel, FIRING POINT, featuring Jack Ryan Jr., was released June 9th.
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Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MM. My office is a converted screened-in porch with a stunning view of the Smoky Mountains. We put in a giant plate glass window to capture that view and it’s a constant source of both inspiration and distraction for me as the seasons unfold before my eyes. I split my time equally between a sitting and a standing desk.

Witness the distractions (actual photos from my office/deck. My desk (seldom this uncluttered while working. My “stand up” desk (notice the hand crank). A gift from my wife after publishing my second book:

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.)

MM. Gallons of coffee and a workout at the gym (in that order) are my first morning rituals. I usually arrive at the desk late mornings where I begin the writing day with meditation and journaling. And coffee. Always more coffee. This period of time is always my least productive in terms of word count but absolutely necessary for my process. After lunch I crank out a few more words and often crash into a power nap and then really get rolling on the word count. The late evening is when the afterburners kick in; I’ve kept track of my word counts and writing times over the years and invariably 60% of my work occurs during this later period. I strongly urge all writers but particularly new ones to track their word counts. You might be surprised that your best writing doesn’t occur at either the time or place you assumed. All of us, including full-time writers, simply don’t have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. So if you are particularly time-challenged—balancing career, family, and other responsibilities against your writing time—then being as efficient as possible is absolutely necessary. Nearly every book on creativity will tell you that early mornings right after you wake up is your most creative time and many writers will tell you that they fall out of bed and onto the typewriter even before they have their first cup of coffee or tea. I’m here to tell you, that ain’t me and I have the stats to back it up. So take a week and assiduously track your writing hour-by-hour and find out when you are at your personal best as a writer and ruthlessly schedule yourself accordingly.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Tom Clancy’s head and write for him?

MM. The day I got the call from the series editor, Tom Colgan, and was offered the position was both the best and most terrifying day of my literary life. I’ve been a fan of Tom Clancy’s ever since I read THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. He was a giant and, in my opinion, single-handedly invented the techno-thriller genre, or at least the one we’re all familiar with. What an honor to be asked to join The Campus…but what a responsibility! It was as if Queen Elizabeth had called me up and asked me to add a play or two to Shakespeare’s First Folio. What to do? I was already writing in the genre that Tom Clancy had invented which meant I pretty much had to accept the offer, right? Otherwise, time to hang up my spurs. Except…I did have one pre-condition in my mind that would kill the deal: if I was asked to imitate Tom Clancy’s voice. It’s a huge mistake for anybody to try and imitate a wholly original voice because it simply can’t be done well and I was incredibly relieved to hear Tom Colgan warn me against trying to do so before I even had the chance to ask. This showed me that both Tom Colgan and the Clancy Estate knew exactly how to approach the problem of inviting writers into the Clancy world. I was told in no uncertain terms to write in my own voice and in my own style and I think that’s why all of the other Clancy writers have done such a great job over the years as well.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

MM. Absolutely—see above! The single most difficult but most necessary task of an author is to find their own unique voice. The only original thing we have to offer the world is our unique selves; the words we all use are the same, aren’t they? Have you ever read someone slavishly imitating the style of another writer? Yuck. It smacks of artifice and desperation—the act of someone utterly lacking in confidence and originality. We love writers who are original which is another way of saying that they are being their true selves on the page. There are, of course, rules—precious few, mind you—in the Clancyverse that I must obey (e.g., no one in the world recognizes Jack Ryan Junior as the son of President Jack Ryan Senior). But so long as I stay within the guardrails, I’m free to drive as fast and as violently as I care to.
And I do.

Tune in for part 2 of our chat with Mike Maden, June 19th 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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An Interview with Author, Joram Piatigorsky (part 3)

           Q. What makes a writer great?

JP.  What makes a great anything? Perhaps confidence stashed somewhere in the brain, talent, work, work, work, persistence coupled with a big dose of luck, and not trying to be great. Being authentic, having courage to reveal.

It’s interesting that you asked what makes a writer great, not what makes a great book. I guess that means a great writer can be the source of ideas and insights, like Socrates perhaps, who was, thanks to Plato, a great writer who didn’t publish. Leonardo di Vinci too in a way: he had thousands of pages of unpublished notes about all sorts of ideas, but never published them. Was he a great writer?

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JP. That’s a hard question and forces the difficult, subjective issue of when is enough? There’s always more that can be done. The choice of when to wrap it up is subjective. Of course, in today’s world, a book is only truly “finished” when it’s published, and that generally doesn’t occur without changes by editors and publishers after submission. Thus, even an accepted manuscript is probably not “finished” until published.

A “no book” is different. Obviously when it’s still an idea it’s not a book. The same may be true when the author has more to write and hasn’t finished it. But what if it is a complete manuscript, but not accepted for publication, and then rejected multiple times and remains in a desk drawer? Is that a “book”? I think so, but still…there’s some question about how to define a “book.” If a science article claims to make a discovery but is not published, it’s not really a discovery in the sense that the discovery would be credited to someone else who had similar published conclusions. Unpublished science is not “finished.” I know all this is semantics in a way, but from a practical point of view, publication is important to move a “no book” to a “finished” book.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JP. My life experiences and family have had major influences on my writing, as I’ve discussed above. I became a scientist from exposure to art, which influenced my view of science as a form of self-expression, not just a search for practical contributions. And then, moving from science after many years to writing took me some time to “loosen” my writing, not explain too much, let the reader in. My science background was an obstacle to overcome in that sense. On the other hand, my seeing the world scientifically probably has helped me organize my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

JP. Downtime? What’s that? No, seriously, it’s hard for me to put my mind in neutral. However, when I do take a writing break, I don’t worry about it and just enjoy my free time, whatever that is – seeing friends, going to movies, traveling, seeing my kids (2 boys and their wives) and grandkids (3 girls, 2 boys), the usual, guilt free.

I love movies and often learn from them about writing. The camera work is like exposition, the dialogue about character, and I think of how the director “hooked” me immediately and then kept my attention (or didn’t). It’s all like writing, with an added twist: I see the result in a short time span.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JP. I have written in different genres. First it was science, for years, hundreds of articles, as I described above. Then a novel, short stories, a memoir and now essays extracted from blogs. I never wrote a play and I doubt I will. But who knows? I like crossing boundaries. It’s always challenging and a learning experience. It’s somewhat how I feel about teaching: it’s a great way to learn an area!

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JP. That’s not a question, it’s the platform for a novel. Three lessons are: It’s never over unless I quit; An authentic voice is the only voice that matters; Wasting time is almost impossible, since everything I do or think comes back in some form to make me who I am and what I write.

Here’s the link to the beginning of this WONDERFUL Interview
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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An Interview with Author, Joram Piatigorsky (part 2)

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

JP. Good question. I think I discover my characters in combination with when a story comes to mind. The story usually comes to me by having an idea – almost an image – nothing more, of what I want the story to be about. For example, I had the idea that I wanted to write a story about a man whose favorite activity was standing in line. Crazy, I know. The story is called The Open Door and it’s about a man who lives vicariously hearing the experiences of others in line. That was the character in mind that came essentially with the story idea. He is timid and struggling with the conflict of who he is, himself or a product of everyone else.

The protagonist of my novel, Jellyfish Have Eyes, is an Argentinean scientist who studied jellyfish eyes (yes, jellyfish do have eyes and I have published several research papers on them). My protagonist, Ricardo Sztein, is partly my alter-ego in a world of science, mixed with large doses of fantasy as well as issues about basic science — the world I inhabited for so many years. It’s the classic first novel – one with autobiographical meaning.

The characters from my latest short story collection, Notes Going Underground, are pure fantasy. The character in the title story gives a eulogy to himself as he watches his live body slip into the coffin at his side. He developed as I wrote, and he changed personality a bit this way and that as the story unfolded. This story also includes a question of identity, as well as the fantasy of a porous nature between life and death. So, there is no one way that I create my characters: They are all a part of me, but none completely me. They are also my imagination, and sometimes have a foil for contrast and sharp relief.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JP. Although a science major at college, I loved literature courses and took quite a few and wrote a bit, ideas and such. While science dominated my life, I still liked writing, so I was prolific writing science. Then, at 46 and fully engaged as a scientist, I started writing a short story on vacation in Maine and loved creating an imaginary world. On returning home, I took writing workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, kept writing, more and more, and here I am, a writer.

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

JP. Interesting question. I think the characters come to me first since they are all embedded in me in some form or other and I can’t run away from myself. Then, the story or situations I put them in follow from who they are.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JP. Yes, on good days. Sometimes, however, my mind just doesn’t click and it’s a struggle to write anything I like. I think it’s important when that happens to not to push it, when to take a break and do something else. But on the good days, writing is like quicksand. I sink and get absorbed, time suspends, and I forget to take a break now and then. I just write. I love when that happens.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

JP. I have blogged on my website and on Facebook for the last four years. The blogs are disorganized ideas, free associations in a way, about writing, creativity, personal experiences, Inuit art, whatever. I thought of the blogs as a foundation to expand and develop later. Now I’m at home sheltered in self-quarantine like the rest of the world, which gives me time to do just that. I’m putting together my collected thoughts in organized short essays grouped in themes. It’s coming along. Stay tuned.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JP. I began to write seriously when I returned from a vacation in Maine, where I wrote my first (very) short story. I loved doing that and wanted to continue. However, science still sapped my time when I returned, so I only wrote short pieces now and then, in cracks of time as I called it, nothing with publishing in mind. I also took writing workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, for about 10 years, until I closed my research laboratory to devote my time to writing. It’s been ten years since then and I keep writing.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JP. Certainly not in my lifetime (I’m 80!). But I think paper books will continue for a long time. There’s nothing quite like a tangible book that can be held and read. I read electronically from time to time, but I don’t like it. It’s not the same as holding the “real” book. They last generations and are not dependent on the operating system in vogue at the time. I can’t imagine we would have the dead sea scrolls if it were only as an ebook!

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Fascinating Interview ~~ May 29th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!