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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
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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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Book Review ~ Red Mountain Burning

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of  5 quills      ~~  A Review reviews, authors, writing

This trilogy (Red Mountain, Red Mountain Rising) is spectacular! Red Mountain Burning, while touted as the end of the series, really doesn’t tie it all up. Full Stop! End of story. (literally). So I hope this author realizes that and he finds the true ending in a fourth book. But that wish is only from a truly selfish reader and fan. I, like many other fans of Boo Walker, want more of Brooks, Otis, Joan, Jake, Margot, Emilia, , just to name some. 

The trilogy is so well written with deep characters fleshed out into real people that we know or have known.  The vines become a character in themselves in all the books. I as a reader, cared deeply about the vines doing well and the harvest being excellent. When Otis’ barrels are crushed, I was sick with regret for him and his wine. 

A word about the cover (which I rarely mention): I must take issue with it. While dynamic, it gives away too much of the story. After seeing the cover, the reader is distracted waiting for the story to get to the ‘burning’ of Red Mountain. But what a great story!

I highly recommend this book. The writing is superb, the characters well drawn; eccentric, entertaining, frustrating, and charming. Boo has relocated to Florida, in real life, and it will be fascinating to see what (if any) characters from Red Mountain follow him.
A new book is slated to be released in August this year.   

Did you miss my Interview with Boo?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Interview with Author, David Poyer (part 2)

with wife, Lenore

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DP. Oh sure. ‘What planet am I on?” Hours will go by and I am just not there at all in the chair. The same experience I hope my readers will savor!

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

DP. Always! An article for SHIPMATE magazine on students called to the battlefield from the classroom . . . the new literary review . . . a creepy short story for the next NIGHT BAZAAR anthology . . . a new Dan Lenson novel for next year . . . consulting and assisting my students in their novels. And of course, doing promotion for the latest book, OVERTHROW, the concluding volume of my War with China series. There’s no shortage of work! But it’s all fascinating and I really enjoy what I do. Especially helping younger writers. I only started teaching ten years ago, and am surprised how much satisfaction there is in helping someone else succeed.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DP. In 1976, beginning with short stories.

Q. How long after that were you published?

DP. not that long . . . maybe a year. But it took four years to publish my first novel. That was WHITE CONTINENT, an adventure story that today might be called a techno thriller.

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

DP. I sure don’t. The sales numbers on those are going up again after a decline in recent years. EBook sales are down. Audio book sales are up. But no, we will not see paper books go away.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DP. So many things! Sympathy, deep craft, huge intelligence, deep feeling, an ear for language . . . I could go on and on. World building. The ability to truly see. The ability to truly care. The passions . . . rage, regret, vengeance, love. Jonathan Swift’s “burning indignation.” We’re not going to see any of those from AIs anytime soon!

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

DP. Like a long sea voyage, with lots of planning followed by setting sail; then changes of the wind, challenges along the way, port calls, near-disasters, interspersed with periods of calm sailing. Occasional mutinies by the characters. Menaces from pirates. Then the channel to the final destination opens ahead, and there’s a welcoming crowd waiting on the pier . . . my longtime fans, who sometimes take me to task, but who more often cheer me on and make me feel I’m doing some good in the world. I owe them a lot, and they know who they are!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DP. I would think that’s pretty obvious!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DP. Sailing, coaching, reading, doing errands on my motorcycle . . . I live in a quiet rural seaside county in Virginia. Also, I travel. This last year we journeyed through seven countries by plane, bus, and rail, both for research, personal reasons, and to accompany Lenore to and from a writing residency in Schwandorf, Bavaria. I don’t think we’ll schedule that many at once again for a while! But we might try for Morocco later this year. Maybe.

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

DP. So far I’ve written historicals, eco-thrillers, science fiction, sea novels, military fiction and nonfiction, lots of nonfiction biography and travel, and the occasional screenplay. I’d like to try a memoir one day, but not soon!

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

DP. Be mindful, be here for each day, and tell those you love how much you love them. None of it will last forever! Which should make it all the sweeter, no?

Did you miss Part I of our Interview? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Available now!

 

 

 

 

 

What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.

 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr

 

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
 
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Interview with author, Catherine Ryan Hyde (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Astrophotography by CRH

CRH. I can’t define myself as a writer without mentioning Lenny Horowitz, my high school English teacher. I never called him Mr. Horowitz. He let us call him Lenny. Lenny sent my world in a completely different direction (and if you’d seen the direction I was going at the time, you’d understand that he was a lifesaver): he taught me to love reading again, and he told me I could write.

When I was little, nobody had to teach me to love reading. Books were water; I was a duck. I pitched into Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, the Black Stallion series. I was unstoppable. Then came school, in which my irresistible force met an immovable object. I hated the books I was given to read. They didn’t speak to me. They were almost as bad as–I hate to even utter the word–homework.

I began to avoid reading if possible. I honed the talent of writing book reports on books I hadn’t read. To this day, I have a chip on my shoulder about the classics. I’ve tried twice to read Moby Dick. I give up. I’m not ashamed, either. I like modern, fast-moving fiction. I’ve taken my last run at the great white whale. Ever. It’s over.

Back to Lenny. He gave us different books. Books written in the same century he assigned them. Books with down-and-out characters, people outside the mainstream. I understood these people. I was outside the mainstream. I was overweight and had braces on my teeth. My peer group thought I was from outer space. I liked reading about characters on the margins. We had something in common.

Miracle of miracles, I woke up. One day Lenny gave out a creative writing assignment: an essay, on any subject. I still remember how he walked up to the blackboard and wrote, in big block letters: I AIN’T TAKING IT AFTER FRIDAY. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill English teacher, right? I was so impressed by his willingness to meet us where we lived that I decided to impress him back. I wrote an essay intended to be funny. Always risky. It was a takeoff on the “my dog ate my homework” excuse note, a long, rambling, slapstick story explaining why I was not able to hand in my essay on time.

Sight unseen, Lenny read it out loud in front of the class. They laughed. Everybody, including Lenny. They laughed a lot. For a long time. It was my first whiff of the rare smell of success. Lenny told the class my essay was clever. Later I found out he was still talking about it in the staff lounge that day. He told all my other teachers I could write.

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

CRH. It’s a tie. What comes is a character in a situation. For example, Jody in WORTHY, watching as someone puts a dog out of a car and drives away. Or Pete in SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW, finding the injured wolf hybrid beside the highway. Or Roseanna in HEAVEN ADJACENT, getting into her car and driving away from the city to some remote location and never going home. Or Ruth in ASK HIM WHY, arriving home from school to find that her brother has returned prematurely from the Iraq war in less-than-honorable circumstances. It’s not enough (for me) to find a character. I have to know what is making their life so interesting/challenging in that moment.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

CRH.   Not really. I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I’m on my 39th book, and that doesn’t count anything that ended up in a drawer. If I get lost, I might get lost. End up nowhere, or somewhere I did not intend to be. Now I’m more like a person following a roadmap. Not calculated, exactly. But fairly organized.

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

CRH. Always. I’m on a two-book-a-year contract. There is never a time when I am not working on something new. And here’s what people don’t tend to see, unless I tell them. You see the book that just came out, and then you want to know if I’ve started another. I’ve started three others. And finished two of them. The one I wrote after Have You Seen LUIS VELEZ, I just finished reviewing the copyedited manuscript. The one after that, I’ve finished with the developmental editing, and we’re going over cover design. The one I have in progress is almost done. But I don’t want to talk about that one, because I haven’t even finished writing it yet. So I’ll tell you a tiny bit about the other two.

STAY is a novel set in the Vietnam War era (but here at home, not in Vietnam). Its hero is a teen boy whose brother is overseas, and who is trying to hold his family and friends together at home. Of course the plot is more complex, but this is just a quick glimpse. Its theme is more or less suicide-related, but there is no suicide in it. It’s about the opposite of suicide. It’s about staying.

PAs to the author, Ella & Jordan

BRAVE GIRL, QUIET GIRL is about a woman who briefly loses her infant daughter in a carjacking, and her eventual relationship with the homeless girl who finds her.

Did you miss Part I?

Conclusion to this wonderful interview is August 2nd.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Coming Soon!  My interview with Susan Wiggs
 
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Book Review…’Before and Again’ by Barbara Delinsky

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

5 out of 5 quills           

A  Review

 

Are second chances very common? Can divorced people reconnect and put all the bitterness and heartbreak behind them? Mackenzie Cooper ran far, far away from unimaginable heartbreak and pain. She rebuilt her life and was relatively happy, until her ex-husband showed up. Not in town just for a visit but  purchased an Inn and a house.

Once again, Barbara Delinsky has crafted a beautiful story about real people and real places. The reader is immediately drawn in and becomes a resident of Devon, Vermont, until the last page. What a delightful trip.

This reviewer has been reading Barbara Delinsky for well over 20 years. She never disappoints. Rich, well drawn characters that the reader readily relates to and cares about. 

I highly recommend Before and Again to my followers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Barbara Delinsky?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde, August: Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Dean Foster 
 
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Interview with author, Boo Walker (conclusion)

Q. What makes a writer great?

BW. Persistence and butt-in-chair time hone a writer’s craft but I do believe some have an inherent ability to see life in interesting ways, which leads to the fresh voice we all crave to read.

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

BW. I write an outline first, using Scrivener’s corkboard feature. I find I’m faster and crisper when I follow a storyline. Of course, I’m always open to following my characters if they want to take a detour. Once my outline is in place, I write each chapter without much looking back. I want to get the bones onto the page. Sometimes I feel like writing detail, but sometimes, I’m almost writing a sketch. Whatever feels like coming. Then I go back and edit and edit and edit. I add flesh and clothes to the bones.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

BW. I think a life spent behind a desk can be dangerous for writers. I have traveled a good bit in my life, and I think it helps me climb into other character’s minds with an open heart.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

BW. What’s downtime? If I do get to enjoy some of this so-called downtime, I love being with my family.

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

BW. I started out writing thrillers but have most recently been writing book-club fiction. Something about the challenge of writing page-turners without a mystery to solve or someone to chase intrigues me.

Q. I see your guitars on the wall of your studio. Tell us about your music and Nashville.

Just for fun!

BW. My first connection to the muse was when I started writing songs in college. I fell in love with the five-string banjo, and it became all-consuming for many years. I moved to Nashville from Charleston with a band called The Biscuit Boys, and we enjoyed some great success, playing with Travis Tritt, Sam Bush, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Scaggs, The Dixie Chicks, and many other heroes. Along with playing banjo, I found my creative stride writing lyrics. My career was cut short by a hand disorder called Focal Dystonia. I moved back to Charleston and tried to figure out the rest of my life. I needed to find a more grown-up job and joined a day-trading firm. But my muse still spoke to me. That’s why I started writing novels! 

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

BW. Enjoy the ride.

Did you miss the first part? Click here
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Author of The Colonel and the Bee Joins Us, (part 2)

Q. Tell us about writing The Colonel and the Bee. Not so much the cerebral process but more your ‘gut’ instincts, the fairytale (but not quite) fantasy idea of it.

PC: I definitely wanted to straddle the line between fantasy and reality, so that the most extraordinary events in the book are implausible but not impossible (though that’s definitely strained). The idea was to have a whimsical journey you could almost believe is true. I tried to portray a world worth exploring that conceals surprises and treasures for those willing to venture out into it. It is definitely a halcyon view of the time period (though not without its villains and pitfalls), eschewing any too-heavy issues/events because it’s meant to be an adventure viewed through the romantic eyes of explorers. I love historically accurate books and I love fantasy books, this one just happens to trend toward the latter.

Hot air ballooning over Africa

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

PC. If you mean ‘get lost’ in a total-immersion way, not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on that. I do sometimes ‘get lost’ in a plot sense, especially in the middle of stories. When that happens I try to look back to the most core elements of the story for direction. If those aren’t there, then something is really wrong. Never fun to get halfway through a first draft and have no access to your own story.

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

PC. I recently finished a sort of cozy mystery set in a 1980’s Midwest neighborhood. It starts with a goat murder and gets weirder from there. I’ve been pitching it was a suburban thriller plot à la Liane Moriarty, set in Ray Bradbury’s halcyon Midwest, with a hint of Neil Gaiman fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

PC. Screenwriting in my early 20’s, novel writing in my mid/late-20’s.

Q. How long after that were you published?

PC. I was 32 (self-pub/indie-pub).

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

PC. Not a chance. Most articles I see these days are about them making a resurgence. I think everyone got a little uneasy when e-readers initially came out, but each format has its own virtues and limitations. I think they’ll continue to find their equilibrium with one another (at least until whatever’s next comes along…)

Q. What makes a writer great?

PC. The cliché of ‘a good story well told’ seems to hold true. For me its also clarity and mastery of craft, creativity in linking previously independent ideas, brave but intentioned prose, portraying simple things elegantly or elegant things simply, and telling the truth in a compelling and memorable way.

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

PC. I accumulate ideas for a long time, usually a few years, constantly adding to a document on my phone/computer (always write ideas down, you will 100% forget some of them otherwise). When the story is ready, I’ll do any required research and translate the document of random ideas into a semi-coherent, narratively chronological outline. Off that, I write a first draft in as short a time as possible (I think inertia is important with first drafts), then take as much time away from it as possible for objectivity before the first revisions. Last, I get feedback/outside editorial input and revise, revise, revise.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

PC. Almost everything seems to find its way in somehow. I think more time lived equals more to draw from, so I’m always up for new experiences.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

PC. I think I’ve watched The Office (US version) about 50 times. I’m always trying to read more too (audiobooks are a godsend in LA traffic).

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

PC. So far each book has pretty much been a different genre. That’s not by design, it just kind of happens that way for me. Knowing the genre you’re writing in can be powerful/useful though, so I may be on my way to becoming a ‘master of none’ by switching so often. I think there are strengths/weakness with regard to sticking with one genre and of course it varies by the individual.

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

PC. Living in the moment seems to be a nice idea. Try not to get too many parking tickets but pay them if you do. Garlic and cinnamon make just about any food better (just not together).

Did you miss part I of this wonderful Interview?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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