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Book Review ~~ Pay Back by Robert B. Parker (nes’ Mike Lupica)

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills ~~  BOOK REVIEW

Flawless writing and plot. Sunny Randle, PI is like a horse fly.  No frills and tenacious.  Not unlike the fly, Sunny looks for a patch of unprotected skin and then she stings. It hurts like hell.

Mike Lupica is a maestro when writing in Robert B. Parker’s voice. In this new Sunny Randall murder mystery the whole gang has returned (I love when that happens.)   Jesse Stone, Richie Burke, Tony Marcus, Frank Bilson, Susan Silverman, Tie bop and all the rest. Sadly, Hawk was out of town. 
Robert B. Parker’s wonderful tales live on.   I highly recommend the book to the fans of Robert B. Parker, old and new. This collection of authors writing in Parker’s voice keeps his work alive and fresh. 

Did you miss my Interview with Mike? It’s great reading. He’s a fascinating guy. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
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Interview with author, Jenny Colgan (part 2)

TS.  As my readers know, I am (1) a voracious reader and (2) always looking for new (to me) authors. My first exposure to Jenny was
The Cafe by the Sea. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t certain that I would continue to buy her books. So quirky; I hadn’t before  heard this particular ‘voice’ in an author.  15 books (and counting) later, I admit to being a girl-fan.  I love her stories! The characters are real people trying to stumble through life, as we all are, as best we can. So imagine my joy when this prolific and busy author agreed to be interviewed. And she was so generous with her answers! 

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

JC. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Lots of people think they’d like to be writers, but then just can’t get it done, and you know what, that’s fine, that’s okay, go do something else, don’t make yourself miserable. I wanted to be a stand up comedian, but I hated every single second of being onstage, and I realized I just wanted to call myself a stand up, I didn’t actually want to do the work. That’s fine. There’s plenty of books out there already, there’s absolutely no need to do it if you don’t want to, so find something else fun to do.

If you really want to, you’ll set your wordcount in your head, even if it’s only 500 words a day, and you’ll do it. Somehow. They never have to be your best words, they don’t even have to be any good. All that kind of stuff you fix in the edit. Your first draft you just have to find the momentum to get 1000 words down every day for 80 days, then look at what you have at the end.

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

Husband, Andrew

JC. All over the place. Sometimes bits and pieces of people I’ve met, sometimes I just start them off and see. I’m writing a character now who is very beautiful. I wanted them to be difficult and impossible, but actually that didn’t work at all.

What turned out to be much more interesting are normal people’s reactions to someone who is extremely beautiful. It isn’t her fault at all; other people just become really weird around her when she’s in the room, and her experience of life is different from most people’s. So, they develop as you go. I worked with a scientist last year- I don’t usually meet a lot of scientists in my line of work- and he never said anything unless he knew it was absolutely a fact, the case. You could see the gears working in his brain every time he was asked for an opinion on anything. And I thought, that’s interesting, and wrote a character (who isn’t based on my colleague at all) who has that kind of rigorous thought process.

Q. What tools do you begin with? (from last week)

Sketch of Mure

JC. Sometimes I like to sketch my characters to get a view for what they look like and what they’re doing. If I’m a bit stuck, I’ll start drawing…..

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JC. Oh I was just a massive bookworm. Writing books is the closest you get to reading books your entire life. I write the kind of books I absolutely love reading and if I can’t find a book I want- eg a series for adults set amongst teachers in a boarding school- I just go write it myself.

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

JC. The situation, generally. ‘What if you were a refugee and posted to a remote Scottish island?’ ‘What if you lost everything and could only get a really lowly job in a bakery?’ ‘What if you met an alien?’. Things I think might be interesting.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Another favorite

JC. Yeah, sometimes. Generally near the end of something. Not always, and it doesn’t have a huge effect on the work, really, I mean I don’t think the reader could tell the points where I’ve got very obsessed with it, but sometimes I get completely wrapped up in them and can’t think about anything else. My husband can always tell. 🙂

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

Did you miss Part 1 of this in-depth interview?

Don’t Miss part 3 of this spectacular Interview with Jenny. Coming May 21st. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
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Research Can Unearth Some Surprises!

Nazi codes in the hem of a dress?

After reading Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary I was inspired to write a short play about Winston Churchill and hisChurchills.Cat.BookCoverImage cat, Nelson.   Ms. MacNeal referred, in passing, to Mr. Churchill’s pets being allowed free rein to wander the war rooms at #10 Downing Street during Churchill’s time in office.  I could clearly see  the rotund, shambling figure of the Prime Minister with two pugs yapping at his heels while Admiral Nelson, the cat, sat high atop a side table. Silently observing his human and the general hysteria of the dogs.

Churchill was a master not only in crafting the English sentence but also in the coinage of words.  His tongue-in-cheek comment:  “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” is a favorite of mine.  In a World War I speech, (1914) Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty coined the phase ‘business as usual’.  Saying the maxim of the British people is “business as usual.”  Churchill gave the world the phrase: “Iron Curtain” in his speech in Missouri in 1946 when he said, “…..an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Having grown up during the post-war years, I knew something of Mr. Churchill.  A historic figure that was a great statesman, orator and leader.  But I really knew nothing of the man.  And once again, (as I have mentioned before) I began a project and then started my research.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, (which I highly recommend) is fiction but based in fact.  Ms. MacNeal was fortunate enough to have several interviews with Churchill’s private secretary before her death.  The book is about a ‘typist’ who was relegated to a menial job because of her gender.  She was actually educated in mathematics and cryptology and could easily have fitted in with MI-Five (British CIA) but for her being a woman.  The novel’s heroine, Maggie, saves the Prime Minister from certain death by breaking a Nazi code.  And this brings me to the fashion advert that actually ran in the London Times and was full of Nazi messages.  All the stitching (around sleeves and hem) was Morse code for attacks at #10 Downing and St. Paul’s cathedral. 

“German spies hid secret messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War Two, according to British security service files. Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counter-espionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures. But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.”  (actual advert from the London Times).

If not for my love of reading, my passion for writing, and the need for research, I would never have delved into Churchill’s life and his time in office. (my interests don’t generally take that path).  It’s an unexpected delight to learn more about this amazing statesman.  He was quirky, irritable, brilliant, and very funny.

And all because I had begun writing a short play about Mr. Churchill and his cat!  I love when that happens!!

(Originally published 2013)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

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4 out of 5 quills   

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Book Review ~~ Band of Sisters

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                                5 out of 5 quills                         BOOK REVIEW

This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villages during World War I.  What is extraordinary is, if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life. Based on old documents and letters, the new Smith College Relief Unit, composed of women from all walks of life, signed up for six months to try and assist villagers who were devastated by the war raging across Europe. They were later to be affectionately known as ‘the Smithies’. 

Their careers in social work, medicine, teaching couldn’t prepare them for the conditions they found when they disembarked from a train from Paris onto the muddy track leading to the village, Gricourt. The village existed hand in glove with an always changing ‘front line’ of battle between the Allied Forces and the German juggernaut.

Each woman’s life is showcased with beautiful writing from this author, Lauren Willig.  Sometimes novels that are based heavily on actual historical events slip into being dry and dusty reading.  It never happened in this novel, I am happy to report.
A real page turner to the end. A beautiful book of prose and an exciting, action-filled, story.  

Released March 21st
Did you miss my INTERVIEW with Lauren Willig?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

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

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

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

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

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

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

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

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Author, Sports Columnist, Mike Lupica

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. (http://www.mlb.com) Besides being an author, in his own right, he is the voice of Robert B. Parker in the Jesse Stone series. I am thrilled that Mike has given us his time and insight to his writing processes.

Mike Lupica: I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, apart from books, for a long time. I started writing a column for the New York Daily News when I was 23. I made a couple of other stops along the way, and currently also write a couple of baseball columns every week for mlb.com But I am still in the Daily News. I have written more than 40 novels, including autobiographies for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells. Two of my novels for young readers, Travel Team and Heat, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for children’s chapter books. Now I am honored to be writing books about Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, created by my friend, and one of my writing heroes, Robert B. Parker. I also have my first book with James Patterson, “The Horsewoman,” coming out in December of 2021.

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.

ML. All I need for my dream work space is unlined yellow tablets – my pal Elmore Leonard told me to get rid of yellow legal pads so I could stop worrying about staying between the lines – and rollerball pens and my MacBook. We go back and forth between eastern Long Island and Florida now. My wife, Taylor, has given me wonderful rooms in which to work in both of them. On Long Island, I have the same writing table I’ve had since the 1980s. It’s still got good words left in it.

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.)

ML. Again: The ritual is sitting down to write. That’s the whole ballgame. The great Joe Ide, who writes the IQ books, once told me that writer’s block just means you got up from the desk.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Robert B. Parker’s head and write for him?

ML. Bob Parker, as I knew him, has been inside MY head since I bought “The Godwulf Manuscript” at a (now gone) Brentano’s on Boylston Street when I was at Boston College. I have read and re-read him ever since. Anybody who has read my newspaper columns knows that my voice has always echoed his. So did my early mysteries about a New York City investigative TV journalist named Peter Finley, who later ended up in a CBS Sunday Night movie I was lucky enough to write. When I sat down to write a sample chapter for Sunny Randall, about ten pages that got me into Robert B. Parker’s wonderful world, I just felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. Sunny tells Spike that the UPS kid “m’am”-ed her. Spike asks if she shot him. And I was off.

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

ML. Again, the voice to which you refer has been inside my head for such a long, wonderful time. It was across the table from me at dinners we had, it was on the bottom floor of his great home in Cambridge when I did a television piece about him one time. And in radio interviews where we sat next to each other. In my mind, I’m just continuing that conversation with Sunny and Jesse.

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

ML. My friends know this. My family knows this. I have four children. I would give a bazillion dollars to get to go back and coach just one of them, one more time, in baseball or basketball or soccer.

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

ML. Plain yellow pads that I buy from my friend Ann Nealon at PDQ, forty at a time. Old-fashioned Cross rollerball pens. I write longhand for 30 or 40 pages, then type. When I do, it’s like an instant second draft. But I still think best with a pen in my hand.

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

ML. I do my best writing in the morning. Then revisit my morning pages in the late afternoon. When Elmore Leonard was alive, I’d call HIM in the late afternoon, even into his 80s, and always begin this way, “Are you writing or thinking about women?” He’d giggle and say, “What, you can’t do both?” But I knew he was at his desk. And would usually go back to mine.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

 

Join us for Part II of our Interview with Mike Lupica ~~ February 19th

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

 

Interview with author, Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter is a bestselling author of more than thirty historical romances. She is a two-time RITA winner. Her books have been on the NY Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller list.  Over six million of her books are in print, and have been translated into fourteen languages. A Ph.D. in Art History, she was, for many years, a professor at an eastern university. She lives in western Pennsylvania, near her two sons.

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.

MH. About ten years ago some renovations in my home allowed me to create an office just for my writing. It is right off the family room and has a lot of light. My desk is a long, deep ledge along one wall. I am a stacker, so that desk is usually a total mess. I know where everything is, though! And when I organize, I lose stuff so I don’t do that too often (this is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)
I suppose if I had a dream work space, it would be a small separate building, or perhaps an elegant office that resembles an English country library from the 19th century, full of books and wood and a desk that isn’t so big that it gets covered in my stacks. Can I have regular office staff to keep it all looking gorgeous too?

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.)

MH. Coffee, then more coffee. Silence. Preferably no one else in the house and certainly not moving around and DEFINITELY not popping in to chat.

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

MH. I am a traveler. I have been to five continents, and more cities than I can count. Travel really invigorates me and fills the well that I draw on for my writing.

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

Available April 27th

MH. I start with either legal pad/pen or computer. In either case, I am just throwing down ideas to flesh out the germ of a notion I have for a book. It is very messy and barely understandable to anyone else except me. I keep doing this, honing the story idea, making sure the characters work for me, and ensuring there is enough story to carry a novel. Eventually I start writing a synopsis and try to synthesize all of that into the actual plot story line. The synopsis goes through more drafts until it is in final form. The synopsis is not an outline. It is the who, what, why of the book, but not necessarily the how.

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

MH. Yes, but it has shifted around. I started out a night writer, then became a morning writer, and am currently an early afternoon writer. I have no idea why the times have changed. Ideally I’d be a morning writer because when it gets pushed off, it may not happen at all.

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

MH. Sit in the chair and just start with one sentence. The rest will follow. Now, that sounds so sensible, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is the actual sitting and doing it that is the problem. If you have a publisher and write to contract, that contract really helps because no work, no pay. However, if you are not beholden to anyone but yourself, problems can develop. I think every writer who starts a project should create deadlines and commit to them. Make them realistic, but non-negotiable once they are set. When I was starting, before I was published, I forced myself to finish a book every eight months. I had a goal and found the time to get it done. It is harder to procrastinate when you see your goal slipping away.

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

MH. Wow, this is a big subject. I have had characters come to me in many ways. I have had them walk into other books and start being so dynamic and interesting that I knew I had to do a book just for them. I have had visions of characters and ended up figuring out a story so I could learn more about them. And I learn about them as I write them. I am a big believer that character development is just that—they develop as the story unfolds. The reader learns about them pretty much the same way I did. It is important to me that my characters be distinctive. I don’t want all of my heroes to be cut of the same cloth, for example. It is tempting, when you have a really cool character, to use clones of him again and again. Eventually the readers recognize that is happening, however.

Join us for the conclusion to this Interview ~ January 23rd
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

 

Book Review: Someone To Watch over Me by Ace Atkins

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

The good news: Everyone is back!  Hawk, Susan, Henry at the Harbor Health Club, Quirk, Belson, Mattie, the new side kick of Spenser’s and Pearl, the pup. (spoiler alert!)  

The bad news: The ‘ick’ factor is off the charts with  Robert B. Parker’s  new Spenser novel.  Loosely based upon the case against Jeffrey Epstein and his notorious band of child molesters, I felt I needed a shower after each chapter. The book refers to the old, white men who followed Epstein around the globe. Politicians who ‘might be President one day’, senators, and pervert millionaires.  Even though the archival video tracks clearly shows Donald Trump whispering in Epstein’s ear, giggling like some awkward teenage boy, as he purveys a group of young girls dancing at one of Epstein’s parties, the book doesn’t go far enough on this one important point.  

It’s surprising how phrases like:’ human traffiking’, ‘lost and exploited children’, and ‘child abuse’ all sort of whitewash the reality. Atkins’ new Spenser story uses no whitewash and is in the reader’s face about the details of the sickening truth.

I can’t say I liked this book. But I can say, as is true of all Ace Atkins’ writings, it is very well written. I did enjoy having the old gang back around Spenser!

Release Date: January 12, 2021
Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

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

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

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

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

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

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

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

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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