Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with author Michael Bray

daze

 
Genre: 
Horror, Thriller, Zombies
Publisher: Magnum Books
Publication Date: December 22, 2015
Pages: 461
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Buy Links: Amazon CA*Amazon US*Audio Book

About the Book:

What if man’s thirst for knowledge resulted in it’s own destruction?

Richard Draven is a scientist interested in the healing properties of primates and transferring them to humans. When he discovers a new species of monkey with amazing regenerative powers, he has no idea that his report will set off a chain of events with dire consequences.
Six years later, and Draven’s research has been put into practice. The government has engineered a virus which has begun human trials. It’s job – to make the armed forces of the world better, stronger, faster in their numerous conflicts across the globe. Something, however is not right. Disturbing reports about the behaviour of those modified by the virus are growing in number raising concerns amongst those in charge that something has gone wrong. As the Apex teams go dark and stop responding to orders, the government discover that there is a much more sinister force at work.
Joshua Cook is the alpha male, the first man to be administered the virus and bond with it successfully. Joshua is tired of the human race, tired of their self-destructive nature. He has a plan, one which involves wiping the slate clean of the ‘lesser’ edition of the human machine and repopulating the earth with his own kind. As the full and devastating scale of Joshua’s plan begins to unfold before the eyes of the world, the government are forced to turn back to Richard Draven in an effort to find a way to stop Joshua and his growing army before he can eradicate humanity from the planet.
A tense, global thriller taking place across multiple countries, from the government-centric streets of Washington to the slums of Mumbai and the burning heat of the Iraq desert, Project Apex features a rich and varied cast of characters each with their own motivations and sub plots through the main narrative as they tell the very human story of a disaster on an unprecedented global scale where people are forced to do things they never imagined possible, and in some cases revert back to the instinctive savagery long repressed by our species as society starts to crumble the world over.

Interview

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Of course! My name is Michael and I was born and raised in Leeds in the UK. I’m married and have one daughter. Background wise, I’ve always loved writing and reading, although for some reason or another I didn’t really start considering doing it seriously until 2012. At the time, the indie/rock band I was playing in was doing quite well. We were recording and touring, getting our names out there and that was the potential career focus. However as often happens, creative differences on the direction of the band meant that we split, and suddenly with no creative output I was craving something to focus on. It had always been in the back of my mind to have a serious attempt at the whole writing thing and had been mulling over the idea of doing a collection of interlinked short stories so decided to give it a go, unsure how far I would get or if it would even be any good. To my surprise, the whole thing came naturally to me and within a month or so I had just over ninety thousand words and a completed project. Unsure what to do next, I did a little research and found a couple of potential publishers and decided to send some tentative queries. Within a couple of days, I received a reply from one offering to publish the book! Here we are four and a half years later with the crazy situation of having a couple of amazon bestselling titles under my belt and having just sold movie rights to another book (MEAT 2013) to a Los Angeles-based production company. I find it humbling and crazy in equal measure and can’t believe how fortunate I am.

What inspired you to write?

There was one very distinct moment that I remember when I was growing up. I must have only been eleven or twelve at the time and came home and my eye was caught by a huge hardback book on the dining room table. Curious I went to take a closer look. It was my sister’s copy of Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. I was drawn in by the artwork and picked it up (even though the bookmark inside said she was currently reading it) and turned the page to the first story and started to read. Long story short, I devoured that book. I remember the feeling it gave me, the way the prose was able to take me away and deliver a really visual experience. In the back of my mind, I wondered what it would be like to be able to be the one delivering that feeling. To write something that gave the reader that sense of separation and take them somewhere new, even if those places were frightening and uncomfortable. I suppose that stuck with me for years until I made a serious stab at trying to see if I could pull it off.

What inspired your novel?

The idea for Project Apex came together from a few different things. It was conceived in 2013 although it wasn’t actually written until much later. It was a time when every time I switched on the news there were reports of wars, suicide bomber attacks. I always wondered how it was for the innocent people caught in the middle, how a regular person might try to survive amid a catastrophic event that changed their lives forever. A couple of other things I had been toying with at the time was writing a fresh take on the whole zombie attack angle but grounding it in reality and science. I had been reading some Michael Crichton at the time and loved the scientific spin he used to put on his books. I came up with the idea of creating a world where something so catastrophic and devastating happens but instead of following the exploits of a muscle bound action hero as he tries to resolve it, I would use very real, very ordinary people. There is no main protagonist as such in Project Apex. The story follows several different people and groups from different walks of life as they try to deal with this devastation. There is a young boy and his disabled brother trying to survive the death of their parents in the attack. We also follow an Indian aid worker who had escaped the poverty of her old life and had returned as an aid worker when everything happens. We have a scientist who feels responsible for the situation but is neither strong or brave enough to fight, relying instead on his female companion assigned by the military to protect him as he tries to find a way to help. We also follow a heavily funded church in Texas which looks to exploit the world events and transcend into a cult-like entity. The most polarising relationship of all though is between an American Special Forces soldier and one of the terrorists he had captured. Forced to work together when the global catastrophe happens, the story really digs into the idea of putting aside preconceptions and prejudice in the face of a bigger threat. They transcend from bitter hatred to respectful if uneasy allies as the three books play out, which for me was a really interesting dynamic. Finally, tying all together we have our villain of the piece, a man called Joshua who is essentially like the second coming of Hitler. He is maniacal and ruthless, yet a flawed villain. Readers have said they drift from hatred to seeing his point and finding themselves siding with him until I throw in something particularly horrible to sway them back over to the hatred side of the fence!

What is the genre?

Pinning down a specific genre for this was hard as it dips into several areas. It’s part thriller, part horror part science fiction. It’s a huge global scale story and even now I can’t nail it down to one over the other.

What draws you to this genre?

Although I started out and make my living in horror, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn towards doing some high concept commercial thriller type things. Although I enjoy writing the supernatural stuff, I also love working in the real world and crafting stories which more people would relate to. It’s definitely an area I’ll be exploring going forward. After the project Apex series is complete, the next couple of novels I have planned are also leaning more towards the thriller genre than outright horror.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

I’m a plotter at heart for long fiction. I like to bullet point my story chapter by chapter to give me a rough skeleton of a story. Often it will change along the way but I like to go in knowing I have a beginning, middle and end. For this one, the initial intention was to just do one book, but it became apparent early on that the plot was too complex for one book so I made the decision to split it into three which was the right call.

As for characters, I’ve always hated working in black and white. For me, there is nothing more boring than having characters who are fully good or fully bad. For me, the most interesting ones have always been somewhere in the middle. It’s those grey shades I like to work within. I like the balance and how it flits from one to the other. If you have several characters like that who are flawed in some way, it really opens up the scope of the story.

What inspired your protagonist?

During the initial thought process of putting this together, one thing I wanted to do was not to have one specific protagonist. I had watched Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction and loved the idea of all these storylines taking place at once. In that move, you would be hard pressed to pick out a lead character. All the plots feel as important as the next. I wanted to translate that to the book. The concurrent plotlines are all of equal importance and it was important to me to really develop each character or group to the best of my ability so that each time the reader goes back to a given situation they are still invested. Sure enough, it was a risk and logistically a nightmare to make sure everything felt relevant without overwhelming the reader. I like to think the balance is good though and all the plot threads which unravel across the trilogy will be as satisfying as each other.

What inspired your antagonist?

I was thinking about the idea of power, and how depending on who wields it the outcome can potentially be very different. As mentioned earlier I love working with flawed characters, so I took a guy, a good guy. An upstanding citizen from an upper middle class family who was raised the right way and taught good values. A man who, after seeing the World Trade Centre attacks joins the army as he feels he has to protect his country. The problem is, the army sees his benefits more in using his brain. He’s physically weak but mentally strong, so they tie him to a desk job and don’t let him fight. Even though he is frustrated by this, he does his job. When an opportunity comes up to volunteer for a new genetic modification program to aid the soldiers in the field but nobody volunteers, he does, feeling he owes his country. When this proves to be brilliantly successful and he becomes all those things he never thought he could be and more, I was interested in exploring what would happen if that mindset changed. If he suddenly felt that he was now superior to those around him and looked at a world full of hatred and people killing each other as something he finally had the power to fix. I wanted to explore how that twisted superiority complex would change a man and warp him into doing unspeakable things and in turn becoming the very thing he joined the army to protect his country from. Joshua is a very complex character and most readers like and detest him in equal measure!

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

There were a lot of difficulties in this one. The research was a test as it broke the flow of writing. I wanted to make it accurate, so, for example, when I was writing the scenes in Mumbai, I had Google maps open and doing a virtual street walk on there to really make sure the locations and atmosphere were right. There is also a pretty harrowing scene in there where there is an attempted rape. It was difficult to write although I felt it was vital to the plot, especially in regards to where the character goes next in her character development. That situation, however brutal and nasty shapes who she will later become.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?

There are certain moments – certain scenes where when you finish writing it you sit back in the chair and smile to yourself and can’t wait for the reader to get to that particular part. It might just be something simple, a plot twist of the way a particular passage is written. It is those moments that for me are the joys of the job.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do
besides write?

I’m fortunate enough to make a living from my writing so this is my only job. I resigned from my day job in October 2015 and have never looked back. I feel so fortunate that writing has given me this opportunity and will do whatever I can to give back.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading David Morell’s First Blood. The Movie is one of my favourites, but the book is vastly different. The Rambo character in the book is brutal and violent in ways the film doesn’t get close to.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

Stephen King (of course!) is up there. I also like the works of Shaun Hutson, Brian Lumley, Michael Crichton, Adam Nevill, James Patterson, and Paul Tremblay. Far too many to mention here. I’m actually fortunate enough to be appearing in a couple of anthologies this year with Hutson, Lumley and Nevill which is crazy and exciting.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?

Hmmm, this is tricky. In reverse order it would have to be:

5. Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill

4. Jurassic park – Michael Crichton

3. A head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay

2. MEG – Steve Alten

1. Skeleton Crew – Stephen King

What are your future projects, if any?

It’s actually a really busy time right now. I just finished a novel called FEED for Severed press which should be getting a release date soon. There is the third and final book in the Project Apex trilogy to write then another novel called THE WITCH. Even though it’s not written yet I already have a couple of publishers vying to purchase that one which is nice. The biggest upcoming project by far, though, is the movie adaptation of my novel, MEAT! I recently sold the rights to it and the script is being written. I’m lucky enough to be getting involved with the writing process a little to ensure the story stays true to the original, but the whole process is incredibly exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops going forward and hope it opens the door to more adaptations. I had a little interest in adapting the Project apex books too, but I really need to make sure that any deal for that one is right. Hey, if anyone is reading this and is interested in buying the rights, get in touch! I’m confident there is money to be made there. 😀

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your
books?

I make a point of being open and approachable at all times so am more than happy to talk either via email or Facebook or via my website. Whichever method is preferred I always like to hear from you so don’t be shy and get in touch. I’ve left some handy contact links here:

Email: Darkcornersbook@gmail.com

Official website: www.michaelbrayauthor.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/michaelbrayauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelbrayauth

Instagram: www.instagram.com/michaelbrayauthor

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

A couple of things that I’ve picked up along the way. First, never give up. This is a hard business and the road is rarely straight. Chances are you will take a few twists and turns before you get to where you want to be.

Second, get a thick skin! The writing world is one where there is a lot of options and as such a lot of readers with varying tastes. Just because a reader might not like your work, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. All it means is that it wasn’t suited to that particular individual.

Third, get in the habit of writing every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. You’ll be surprised how quickly the word count will grow if you do a little each day.

 

Other Books in Series:

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Featured Author Wednesday · Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with author Alan J. Field

Wednesday Spotlight

 
Genre: 
Thriller, Romance
Publisher: ThrillRide Media
Publication Date: July 24, 2016
Pages: 340 pages
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Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’ve always lived in New Jersey, except during a four-year stint at James Madison University and a few years living Manhattan. I transitioned from South Jersey to North Jersey after college and never moved back I had studied music to be a film score composer but ended up working in the music business before graduating from law school. I published a handful of newspaper articles and scholarly works about entertainment and intellectual property law issues. I married my lovely wife in 1998 and we now have one house, two cars and four children. After twenty years of practicing law, I knew it was time to try something new, and well, here I am.

What inspired you to write?

I had–what I thought–was this compelling idea for a story percolating inside my head for more than a couple of years prior to ever putting pen to paper. The Song of Ice and Fire series showed me how to write from multiple POVs, which was the way I wanted to tell this story. However, it was my teen aged daughter who ultimately encouraged me to dive head first into it. It happened right after Christmas day in 2013, when I told her about my plot idea which she adored.

What inspired your novel?

I’m a big fan of nostalgic spy shows from the 1960s, so I wanted to bring some elements of those into my story. One particular quote by Shalom Alechem that lamented the fact that “all scientists do is sell their ideas to murders”.

What is the genre?

I’m touting this as an espionage thriller. But actually, I first thought about this as chick lit! Yes, you heard that right. I front-loaded this tale with so many female characters, I would have liked nothing better than to market it to women. After the first draft, I even had to add male characters to balance it out, having ignored those guys’ character development altogether. I mean, a major plot point exposes the cosmetics industry so it makes sense. However, the dark and militaristic elements of the plot pulled me back to the y chromosome side. So I’d have to say that it’s an espionage/military/psychological/ urban thriller all rolled up into one.

What draws you to this genre?

I revel in all the betrayal, cat and mouse games and slights of hand that occur in these stories. The challenge for a new writer is to make all of these elements feel fresh, rather than like just another cliché.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

During the initial stage, I focused on two or three critical scenes between the two primary female characters in the story, then built all the other characters, plot and subplots around them. While writing about the characters, I had specific Hollywood actors in mind for most of them.

What inspired your protagonist?

It’s funny you should ask that, because in the story’s original conception, the chemist herself, was the lead protagonist. However, after the first draft, I decided that Daniel Strong should be the primary one, mainly because I felt he would have more sequel potential than any other character.

What inspired your antagonist?

The question really is: which one are you talking about? There are several antagonists in this story who give Daniel trouble, but each one shifts in importance as the plot progresses. So let’s go through them. First, there is Sabir, who I wanted to be “Middle Eastern”, but not an Islamic Terrorist ala ISIS. This was my goal in making him a terrorist with a specific goal, one who had a legitimate beef with a people/country: Israel. Vanessa is a mashup of a few female bosses I’ve had throughout my career. Of course, none of them were as awful as she was, except maybe… . And then there is Joanne, another boss of a different kind. With her, I looked to other male versions of characters in her position from other spy novels I have had the pleasure of reading.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Romantic encounters and dialogue to go with it were challenging, to be sure. Mostly it was my attempt to attain an acceptable level of authenticity with the subject of chemistry, as well as in the military chapters that took the most extensive research to get right. I hope I came close.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?

I enjoyed a certain chase on foot chapter that took place underground in the Times Square subway station, an endless maze of tunnels and multiple levels and platforms that I’m most familiar with. The inspiration of this scene is two-fold. First, I had always adored the Audrey Hepburn/Carey Grant movie, Charade, where he chases her through a Paris Metro station. I wanted to attain that level of intensity in the prose. Second, I made a self- imposed pledge to my daughter that I would work in a subway station chase chapter. After all, it is New York City.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?

Part-time for now. Raising four children and practicing law require a significant time commitment.

What are you currently reading?

The Tomb, by F. Paul Wilson. Next, I’ll move on to The Assassination Complex by Jeremy Scahill. Then, I’ll read The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas. I always like to sprinkle in an old classic or a comtemporary work that’s outside the thriller genre, like YA or middle grade stuff my kids are reading.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

I consciously avoid reading too many books by any one author, for fear of starting to write like them.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?

The Godfather
War and Peace
To Kill a Mockingbird
Storm of Swords (book three of The Song of Ice and Fire series)
The Patient

What are your future projects, if any?

I’m on to writing the second and third installments of the Daniel Strong trilogy. Meanwhile, I’m also drafting a screenplay for The Chemist. I also have an idea for another trilogy about an FBI agent in the future who has to deal with an international assassin as well as her own addiction of an unusual kind.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?

Email is best for now: contact@alanjfieldbooks.com or through goodreads.com

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Learn about and utilize all the tools out there on how to promote yourself and your book, start your own publishing company, write what you like, and never, ever give up. It is so worth it!

***Now available in audio book***
***Instafreebie Giveaway ***

Featured Author Wednesday · Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with author I.J. Weinstock

Wednesday Spotlight


Genre: 
Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher: DreaMaster
Publication Date: September 2, 2016
Pages: 316 pages
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Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey. In high school I performed in musicals and became a football “hero” winning the Homecoming Day game with a 65-yard touchdown. I’ve enjoyed a varied career in the arts—acting on stage, appearing in films, and even doing performance art on the streets of New York. While producing television in Los Angeles, I created a new cable network, The Game Channel, the precursor to GSN (the Game Show Network). I’ve also written several books.

What inspired you to write?

Probably my family’s story of surviving the Nazis during the Holocaust. In 6th grade while others in my class did “show & tells” about “How to ski slalom” or “How to bake a strawberry shortcake,” I did a “show & tell” about “How 5 People Were Buried Alive for 9 Months.” My parents’ horrific experience ignited my imagination—what did they do all those months while they were hiding from the Nazis? What would I do? How did 5 people stay sane buried alive in a space as a big as a large walk-in closet for nearly a year? In high school I tried to write a play about it. That was my first attempt to explore through writing what to me was a very provocative “what if?”

What inspired your novel?

Many years ago I had a dream about sex. This wasn’t your typical “wet dream” but rather a mind-blowing dream like the kind the biblical Jacob had about angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven. In my dream, the angels were having sex!

The French philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, conveyed something of the awe-inspiring majesty of my dream when he wrote, “Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity…we shall harness…the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” When I woke up from that dream, I felt I’d been graced with a vision that I needed to share with the world. But life intervened.

After the death of my wife, Joy, a remarkable thing happened—she began communicating with me from the Afterlife and led me on an incredible journey to heal my grief which I wrote about in my memoir, JOYride: How My Late Wife Loved Me Back to Life (which won an eLit Award—silver medal for Best Spiritual/Inspirational Digital Book of 2011). Ultimately, like the final scene in the movie, Ghost, she found someone—a willing medium—through whom she literally loved me back to life. Had I not experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it possible. Those sacred, sexual, supernatural encounters, which I call the Rites of Joy, occurred ten times during that year and helped heal my inconsolable grief. During these other-worldly sexual initiations, I was shown some of the secrets of human sexuality.

What is the genre?

On the back cover of The Secret Sex Life of Angels it says FICTION / FANTASY / PARANORMAL. However, Amazon considers it also ROMANCE / EROTICA.

It’s difficult to categorize since it’s all about sex and sexuality, but it’s not porn or meant to be erotic. Actually, whether it’s erotic or not is in the eye and body of the beholder, I guess.

What draws you to this genre?

Freedom.

My previous novel ULTRA BOWL was a sci-fi story about football, robots and time-travel which explores the dangers of our Digital Age and the dystopian future towards which we may be heading. I guess I’m drawn to sci-fi & fantasy because it allows me the freedom to explore all the “what ifs?” that intrigue me. In The Secret Sex Life of Angels I quote the philosopher J. B. S. Haldane, “The world is not only stranger than we suppose, it is stranger than we can suppose.”

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

In 1998, at the time of President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, I was struggling—after several false starts that ended in shredded frustration—to find the right “story” for my dream about sex. During the hysteria of the Clinton sex scandal, my wife, Joy, and I wanted to protest the sexual-political insanity that had overtaken the country. We decided to fight sexual hypocrisy with sexual fantasy!

What if, as an act of political theater protesting the hypocrisy of the investigation, we actually confessed to having sex with President Clinton? And what if we created a petition of fantasy “confessions” and handed them over to the Independent Counsel investigating the President? And so the “I Had Sex With Clinton, Too!” petition was born. We launched a primitive website and sent out a press release—“New Political Website Invites Public to Have Sex with the President to Save the USA!” The media picked it up and the confessions started rolling in—at first a trickle, then a stream and ultimately a flood—nearly a thousand in all.

As the “I Had Sex With Clinton, Too!” petition grew, I wanted to write a “confession,” too. But I wanted my confession to offer another way to look at sex. If not a heavenly perspective, then perhaps an off-world one. So I wrote the SeX-FILES (this was the late ‘90’s!) as a “confession” from a female intelligence officer, who violates her oath of secrecy to exonerate President Clinton by revealing the details of our secret contact with Extraterrestrials. She describes how she (along with others, perhaps even Monica Lewinsky) was trained by the ETs to “deploy the President’s antenna” and “sing the song” that would put him in contact with the ETs whenever he sought their counsel. Unfortunately, this ET communication technique resembled a “blowjob.”

The story of the petition and a sampling of the X-rated confessions can be found in my recently released book, IT’S THE SEX, STUPID! (available on Amazon).

When I finally returned to my novel, I realized I’d found my “story.” It was about a newly-elected president (no, he doesn’t have contact with ETs) who discovers that to fulfill his oath of office he must embark on a sexual odyssey that could determine the fate of the world.

What inspired your protagonist?

The possibility of saving the world.

What inspired your antagonist?

The “antagonist” is an elemental mystery.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Sex is one of the most difficult things to write about. We have so many assumptions and there is such a charge to sexual words, and of course, there’s so much unacknowledged shame. It’s especially difficult when you’re trying to write about sex in a way that hasn’t been written about before.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?

The sexual initiations which constitute the 2nd half of the book. In these initiations I was able to begin to communicate what I’d witnessed in my dream and what I learned during the Rites of Joy.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?

I’m a full time writer…but I do other things: I give workshops at bereavement conferences around the country (since I’ve written about healing from grief), and I co-lead a bereavement camp at the end of August for people who’ve lost a loved one.

I’m also casting a daily LoveSpell since January 2012, declaring something I love every day, which you can follow on Twitter.
Jerry has also created a Facebook group called The LoveSpell Challenge.Please don’t hesitate to join it!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/LoveSpellChallenge/

What are you currently reading?

I’ve lately read these books:

  • Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table by Ellen Wayland-Smith
  • The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
  • The Story of Alice by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
  • Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
  • A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  • American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Philip Goldberg, Huston Smith
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
  • The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr
  • The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

I have a problem answering questions about “favorite.” I love many authors, among them: Tom Robbins, Paul Coelho, Nikos Kazantzakis, and many others.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?

Some books that I’ve loved: The Last Temptation of Christ, Shogun, Clan of the Cave Bear, The Alchemist….

What are your future projects, if any?

I’m finishing book 2 & 3 in The Secret Sex Life of Angels series.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?

Readers can visit my website (which I’m proud to say I did all by myself) www.IJWeinstock.com They can visit my Amazon Author’s page. I haven’t figured out Goodreads yet (and would appreciate any help). And, of course, they can write me at dreamasterbooks@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear from readers. I wrote The Secret Sex Life of Angels to inspire a sexual evolution. To put it in contemporary tech jargon—we’re running factory-installed sexual OS programs that have religious bugs and cultural viruses, not to mention shame-based malware. The Secret Sex Life of Angels will make people realize that a sexual upgrade is available and inspire them to discover the possibilities of their own sexuality. It’s just the beginning and reader response and future community will have a great impact.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

It’s something I was told many years ago in a writing class and has helped me when I felt “stuck” or “overwhelmed” with the task ahead of me. The instructor asked how many of us could write a postcard. Everyone raised their hands. Then the instructor said, “Just write a postcard a day. If you do, you’ll have 365 postcards at the end of the year. That’s almost a book.” It’s about consistency, write daily even just a postcard worth. And make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. And don’t try to write “good,” write fast and just get it down. You’re going to re-write many, many times. Keep Writing! Keep Dreaming! Keep Believing!

Featured Author Wednesday · Spotlight Interview

Today’s Featured Author: Nath Jones

Wednesday Spotlight


Genre: Short Story, Poems
Publisher: Life List Press
Publication Date: September 17, 2016
Pages: 242 pages
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Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Sure, I’m from a small town but I spent summers at a family cottage on Long Island. That balance of having a very poor rural upbringing with a few weeks each year on a private beach taught me more than anything about the breadth of privilege and opportunity in this world. I also randomly joined the army once, which really developed my understanding of more a more conservative point of view. This culture is so divided right now. It’s painful to witness. I’ve also worked in an area of Chicago called Back of the Yards, about six blocks from an AK-47 shooting on a playground. We must find ways to communicate clearly, peacefully.

What inspired you to write?
The Brothers Karamazov, my mother, my grandmother who took classes from Robert Frost

What inspired your novel?
This is a collection of short works. It is the culmination of a series that began as a joke on Facebook. I was making fun of Kindle books in 2010 and a friend challenged me to write one. Another friend said I couldn’t just call it Nath’s Kindle Bundle Number 1, to see how the IT side worked with the reflowable content on these new devices. So, right then in a mess of a thread of comments with friends from high school, the On Impulse series began.

What is the genre?
Literary fiction

What draws you to this genre?
The truth, the beauty, the inescapable nature of reality, the striving, the pain, the suffering, the hope, the will, the humanity, and the life

How did you develop your plot and your characters?
I’m still getting my footing with plot. It’s so simple on a diagram but very complex to make happen on the page. Characters, omg. Characters insist upon revelation. So I just sit back, meld into the space–the setting–and let them do their thing, transcribe what I can.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?
The hardest story to write in the series was, “How to Cherish the Grief-Stricken“. I don’t think it made the cut for this book. It’s in Acquainted with Squalor.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?
Hollace and Some Girl” is pretty funny and everyone’s favorite.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
Full time, but I also have another full time job as a clinical intervention pharmacist.

What are you currently reading?
The Melville-Hawthorne Connection: A Study of the Literary Friendship by Erik Hage

The Glass Blowers by Daphne du Maurier

City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence

Evicted: Property and Profit in The American City by Matthew Desmond

American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

and Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Who would you say are your favourite authors?
John McPhee, Henry Miller (though I sort of hate to admit it), and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who really doesn’t make it fair for any of the rest of us.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Anything–make that everything by John McPhee

And Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories

What are your future projects, if any?
I’m working on the third draft of a novel about a woman who runs up against herself and two great loves.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?
My personal Facebook page is pretty much open season and everyone is welcome. For those who’d like a little more decorum, there’s the author site.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 
Write


Nath Jones
Best New American Voices nominee Nath Jones received an MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University. Her publishing credits include PANK Magazine, There Are No Rules, and Sailing World. She lives and writes in Chicago.

Links:
WebsiteGood ReadsInstagramFacebook

Featured Author Wednesday · Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with Von Yugen

Wednesday Spotlight


Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: July 17, 2016
Pages: 340 pages
Links: Good Reads
Where to Buy: Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

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Avalon is a moral tale of a young boy named Alex whose father (George Harrison) invents a way to communicate telepathically by decoding brainwaves and using the internet as an interface. Unaware of how powerful this device is or how people will use it Alex’s father creates a balanced group involving twelve of the most eclectic people on earth simply as an experiment to see if this device can help the world, or if it will destroy it. Armed now with vast knowledge and infinite wisdom Alex and his father set off on a wild adventure to initiate these extreme characters into their world of omnipotent power and intelligence. Along the way they find secret treasures, and hidden secrets both wonderful, and terrible, but the biggest and most terrible secret of them all, nobody could have ever fathomed. The Earth is now heading towards certain destruction and only Alex and his father with the help of a very special friend have figured out how to save it. Unfortunately to know this secret carries with it a great and terrible price. Unable to keep running Alex and his father take refuge in one of the most secret places on Earth, a place known only as Avalon.

Interview:

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I don’t like to talk about my merits or accomplishments but, I will say, that I’m 40 years old, I’m retired from working 20 years in manufacturing. My passion is science, I’m known as a very open minded sceptic. I tend to focus on those extraordinary things which have extraordinary evidence which people have a difficult time understanding the evidence. So I often say things which seem too fantastic to believe, but if you look deeper, you’ll see I’m absolutely not joking. I am usually a serious person, who is rarely taken seriously, but I do joke around too and when I joke around I’m often joking about those things which seem normal, common, and expected to most people, but I see something different; hoping that those I’m kidding around with will look again. And I suppose I do all this to help people know that there is always another side of the story, no matter how certain they are of their understanding of the situation, there is more to it. The best way to describe me as a person I think would be a character in a Dr. Seuss book. I may seem eccentric or strange but there is an important message hidden behind everything I say and what I do; so don’t ever take any of it at face value, as there is much more to understand, just keep digging.

What inspired you to write?

I’ve spent the bulk of my life trying to understand people and the world we live in and though I’ve learned an incredible amount of information, facts, and statistics, I feel I have failed to truly understand other people. This of course was my driving force behind writing this book, to study these characters, characters in which I think we all know; and then try to understand them more intimately. To know who they are, under the surface, to know what they like, what they need, what they will do, and of course how they feel. I want to answer that age old question ‘Why.’

What inspired your novel?

This book of course was not just for my own benefit, but I have an important story to tell, a story no one else could tell, a story which may never be told again, but is an important story to understand, it’s a true story fictionalized in an abstract way; to protect all those who may be a part of this ‘group.’ But I think after reading the many secrets of our world through the ages I began to realize that there is an epic story to tell, a story which is shrouded in compartmentalized secrecy and nearly impossible to understand or even piece together if you could, thus for most people researching it all is just going to waste. And I think that this is what inspired my novel more than anything. Helping people understand the world in which they do not see or understand.

What is the genre?

Science fiction/Action/Adventure

What draws you to this genre?

I enjoy exploring the moral parables of other environments, on different worlds, and in alternate realities. I think it’s the moral of a story which often becomes the crucial factor in a story, not just the plot or story. Writing fiction opens a window or should I say a doorway to infinite possibilities to explore, learn, and grow from. I think fiction is good for both the mind and the soul.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

This plot is shall we say an abstract expression of our modern world we live in. The characters thus were to be an expression of all of us, an expression of our greed, our generosity, our thoughts and feelings. These characters both represent different sides to each of us individually, and real people in our world as well who have focused their (Love) energy in very specific ways.

I wanted this book to be a story about each of us, something we can all relate to, and a reflection of our world we share together. I have noticed for many years by reading comments people make in the news; stories about people who did something extreme or out of the ordinary, and each person would comment how awful that person is or wonderful they are, but typically it’s a very negative opinion I’ve found. And I realized that most people lack both empathy, and understanding of others. I think it’s always bothered me and I’ve always wanted to find a way in which I can show people that we are all those same people inside, and we always think in our minds that we could never do such a thing, good or bad, but the truth is we could, and have. We may have a higher level of spiritual maturity, but what did it take to obtain this level of maturity? I wanted to show that in the end we are all the same people experiencing different expressions of the same life, and thus we are never alone, and we truly are all one, and we are really only judging and hurting ourselves when we judge or hurt one another.

What inspired your protagonist?

I needed someone each and every one could relate with, thus the protagonist (Alex) in this story is simply a reflection of how we all see ourselves typically.

What inspired your antagonist?

Each character in this book represents how we see other people, we tend to view others very bluntly; we focus on a few of the more extreme things we see them do, and then we label them as such, thus becoming the antagonists in our lives.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Having so many characters; I’d definitely say establishing these characters in the quickest ‘to the point’ way I could find, and which still allows the reader to understand who they are without losing focus on the main character Alex.

What was your favorite part of your book to write?

For me it was the end climax, and I think each of us will at some point in our lives feel as though; well during those times when we experience so much resistance and we have gone through so much trouble to get to where we want to be, and we feel like the whole world is against us, our fight or flight mechanism kicks in and we try to run away, but we can’t seem to get away from it, so we turn around and we just fight with everything we have. We kind of go into this ‘Nothing matters anymore, but our survival’ mode and we find ourselves doing things we never could have imagined doing, but somehow it just feels so good to unleash this beast building up inside, and you know that you can’t stop now, you’ve come too far, you have to see this through no matter the cost. The end thus becomes a gratuitous thing to both write and to read.

Who would you say are your favorite authors?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Paulo Coelho

Leo Tolstoy

Charles Dickens

And of course Ernest Hemingway.

How about your favorite books? What would be your top 5?

The Sun Also Rises

Ubik

Invisible Man

Of Human Bondage

And perhaps ‘Kim’

What are your future projects, if any?

I am planning to finish the Avalon Trilogy which will likely consume the next decade, beyond that is up to the gods.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?

I prefer Facebook and I visit my Facebook page most often to connect. https://www.facebook.com/Von-Yugen-1796242677275838/

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

To be a great writer one must first understand that there is no fame, money, glory, or praise involved with being a writer. You will be chastised, ridiculed, demonized, and criticized by everyone including your friends and family with everything you write. You will spend countless hours and days, and spend entire fortunes getting a book published when few if anybody will ever get time to ever read it. If you understand this truth and you still feel compelled to write; well then you are well on your way to becoming a great writer.

Second; it’s all about the story, be unique, try not plagiarize, and decide if you really have something new to offer readers.

Third; decide what it is that inspired you to write, and outline how this can also inspire your readers.

Fourth; understand that your book will never be perfect, no matter how many times you rewrite it or how many editors were used. It will always have flaws or things that can be improved and if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll never be happy.

Featured Author Wednesday · Spotlight Interview

Spotlight Interview with J.G. Źymbalist

Wednesday Spotlight

Welcome Readers, I have a wonderful interview with author J.G. Źymbalist and his novel Song of the Oceanides. Enjoy!

 
Genre: 
Fantasy
Date of Release: January 13, 2016
Pages: 574 pages
Where to Buy: AmazoniTunesBarnes & Noble

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Song of the Oceanides is a quirky but poignant coming-of-age tale about children, Martians, freaky Martian hummingbird moths, and alluring sea nymphs.

The first thread relates the suspenseful tale of a Martian girl, Emmylou, stranded in Maine where she is relentlessly pursued by the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Extraterrestrial-Enigma Service.  The second thread concerns her favorite Earthling comic-book artist, Giacomo Venable, and all his misadventures and failed romances.  The final thread deals with a tragic young lad, Rory Slocum, who, like Emmylou, loves Giacomo’s comic books and sees them as a refuge from the sea nymphs or Oceanides incessantly taunting and tormenting him.

As much as anything, the triple narrative serves to show how art may bring together disparate pariahs and misfits—and give them a fulcrum for friendship and sense of communal belonging in a cruel world.

Interview:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Hmm.  What should I say?  I hold a ritzy M.F.A. degree in poetry.  The problem is that by the time I completed the degree, I had already gravitated toward fiction.  I do think people who read my stuff will be able to discern my poetry background.  My writing is poetic, slow, imagistic, and rather atmospheric.  I’m always just as much concerned about the subtle evolutions and vagaries of emotion as I am about plot. 

What inspired you to write?

Wow, that’s actually a rather heavy question.  As simplistic as this might sound, I would say that it was only really my unconscious mind itself that inspired me to write.  I think of that great quote by Carl Sagan:  “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”  Perhaps the laws of nature just simply intend for some people to write about the human condition and its place in the world.

What inspired your novel?

My own childhood depression and my own experiences with school bullying.  Those are the two biggest, heaviest thematic topics that come up in Song of the Oceanides.  Hopefully I added enough humor and quirkiness to balance out the grim stuff.

What is the genre?

I don’t know.  Transgenre?  There are elements of historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk.  A little bit of everything.

What draws you to this genre?

I love transgenre because it is experimental, and I think there is merit in trying to do something different.  Also blending science fiction with ancient Greek myth (or any kind of myth) serves as the perfect metaphor for the never-ending struggle between civilization and primitivism.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

I very carefully constructed three symmetrical narrative threads, each with its own separate point-of-view character and narrative arc.  The threads interweave, and everything is very meticulously balanced—even if the reader doesn’t think so.  I suppose the structure is a bit like one of those really gargantuan Mahler symphonies where the music seems to have no form because there’s so much going on, but as a matter of fact, there is structure all throughout.

What inspired your protagonist?

There are three rather ignoble protagonists in Song of the Oceanides, and they are all inspired by the tragic misfits who tended to be my friends in school and well into adult life. 

What inspired your antagonist?

Academia.  All my villains are based on people from school:  Unfriendly teachers, bullies, mean girls, and sadistic little boys who take joy in ridiculing others.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Hmm.  If I am to be honest, I would say that the hardest parts were the scenes in which someone is getting beat up.  All of those scenes were inspired by my own schoolyard memories.  It’s unpleasant to relive a memory of someone beating you up.  In addition, it’s unpleasant to relive a memory of standing there watching a friend or sibling get beat up.  Childhood can be so animalistic.

Are you a full time or part time writer?  If part time, what do you do besides write?

Full time.  I’m always in the page.  When I was younger and worked a million different jobs, one could say I was part time then.  But in truth, I wasn’t.  Even when I was younger and working here or there or wherever, I was always thinking and jotting down notes in my idea books.  I was a very unreliable employee.

What are you currently reading?

I just started Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust.  I’m glad too because it has a strong narrative voice, though the text meanders through different key scenes.  Anyway it’s a good feeling to read a piece written in that traditional style.  Song of the Oceanides is built up out of nothing but highly-specific scenes with almost no real narrative voice.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

Ray Bradbury would have to be on the list.  Maybe Robert Heinlein too.  And I’ve always loved the poetry of Mary Oliver. 

How about your favourite books?  What would be your top 5?

I can name three:  Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, and Magnus Merriman by Eric Linklater.  I also read poetry, and I especially love Japanese haikus in English translation.  Isn’t that peculiar? 

What are your future projects, if any?

Hmm.  I must confess that I am reluctant to answer this question.  I plan to self-publish another ebook, but I’ll use a different pseudonym.  It’s very different than Song of the Oceanides.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?

I have a website that features a big exhibit on Song of the Oceanides.  http://jgzymbalist.com  I can also be contacted via the website.  The email address is:  info@jgzymbalist.com

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Wow, that’s another really heavy question.  My advice is as follows.  Don’t go to school or writing programs of any sort.  Just work one on one with a published author who writes the sort of thing you yourself write.  Let that person provide vigorous critiques until your material really begins to click.  It’s like an apprenticeship, and there’s no better way to learn.  For example, if you want to be a really good blacksmith, nothing can beat doing an actual apprenticeship with a blacksmith who can actually have you doing something rather than just sitting around talking about it.

 

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J.G. Źymbalist is the pseudonym of a very reclusive author who grew up in Ohio and West Germany.  He began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house.  There, inspired by his own experiences with school bullying and childhood depression, the budding author began to conceive the tale.

For several years, J.G. Źymbalist lived in the Old City of Jerusalem where he night clerked at a series of Palestinian youth hostels.  There he wrote the early draft of an as yet unpublished Middle-Eastern NA fantasy.  Returning from the Middle East, he completed an M.F.A. in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College.

The author returned to Song of the Oceanides while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005.  He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.

He has only recently decided to self-publish a few of his previous works.  Foreword Reviews has called his writing “innovative fiction with depth,” and Kirkus Indie has called his style “a lovely, highly descriptive prose that luxuriates in the details and curios of his setting.”

Many thanks to J.G. for providing such an in depth and wonderful interview about his novel The Song of Oceanides. – Leticia

Spotlight Interview · Spotlight Sunday's

Spotlight Interview with author Billy Miner

 

sunday

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 
The funny thing is, I never started writing much before, because I didn’t think there was any money to be made. There are millions of books in the world, and how was I going to make mine stand out from the rest? There was no way. I did, however, have a knack for storytelling, and my younger sister and others were always intrigued when I made up plots on the spot. I am 34 years old. I have a wife and 1 daughter. We live in the United States, and publishing books has become my full-time job.

What inspired you to write?
At first, I illustrated books. I have a passion for drawing as well as storytelling. Then I created my own books, but they didn’t take off. I wondered what I was doing wrong and started looking for answers on Youtube. That’s when I bumped into all these “gurus” who were making thousands of dollars with Kindle publishing. And once I found out the trick, I started writing my own books.

What inspired your novel?
My book is actually a combination of short stories. The Minecraft game has become more popular, and I took the opportunity to see if these books would sell. So I came up with stories about pigmen with split personalities, little war stories that related to Robin Hood or other movies I’ve seen, and funny conversations I could put into the books.

What is the genre?
Youth fiction, obviously, probably for kids between 8 and 14.

What draws you to this genre?
Honestly, I like to make up short stories, and I am really proud of some of them, like the Minecraft Superhero, where the main character foresees the future and then goes out to change it.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?
I based the plots and characters off of other books, movies, and video games. When you write 50 books, you have to start getting really creative after a while, because each story should be different.

What inspired your protagonist?
The protagonists are always the heroes or heroines. They either want to solve a mystery, rescue their beloved friend or family member, or prevent the village or city from being destroyed.

What inspired your antagonist?
Since these are kids’ stories, the villains aren’t very complicated. Sometimes they reveal some hurt feelings, but most times, they’re just pure evil.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?
Coming up with a completely different story each time.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?
When I got great ideas, like the first story about being prepared to be a king, or the Minecraft Girls story where two completely different girls are friends but have a hard time getting along.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
Full time. When you know how to leverage Kindle, Createspace, and ACX platforms, you can make a ton of money.

What are you currently reading?
Books about copywriting. I want to become better at that.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?
You know, the funny thing is that I never read a lot of novels, and it’s because I always preferred comic books. Like I said, I had a passion for drawing and images, so I was very visual. I read a lot of “Spawn” comics, and in Europe, Asterix.

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
Mmmm… I don’t know about the entire top 5, but one of my favorites has always been “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett (did I spell that right?) The messages about selflessness and imagination are so inspiring in that book. I love it.

What are your future projects, if any?
More Minecraft books. I am working on some Self Adventures now, where the reader gets to choose his or her own direction and determine the plot that way.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books? Email. billyminer2@yahoo.com
Good Reads

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Do your keyword research on Amazon! If your book is great but your keyword isn’t, your books won’t sell. It’s as simple as that. Learn the tricks of putting your books on Kindle, Createspace, and ACX. There are techniques and tricks that will help boost your income. There are courses about those things, so check them out. Some people have courses, like Stefan James, Luca De Stefani, Jason Bracht, Tom Corson-Knowles, Nick Stephenson, and others, who are making tons of money with publishing. They know what they’re doing.

 

 

Spotlight Interview · Spotlight Interview Thursdays

Spotlight Interview with author L. Ron Gardner

glow in the dark

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am 65, and have had more jobs than I can count. I’ve been a partner in computer and water filter businesses, but my most successful and interesting work was as a professional sportsbetting arbitrager living in Las Vegas.   

What inspired you to write?

The fact that I have unique deep and interesting things to say. I’m probably the foremost expert in the world on the subject of spiritual philosophy. 

What inspired your novel? 

My desire to combine my crazy, unconventional wit and sense of humor with my expertise in spirituality and sociopolitics (I have a B.A. in sociology). I loved the idea of combining these three things into a fictional format.  

What is the genre?

Spiritual/sociopolitical/quasi-erotic fiction  

What draws you to this genre?

It combines the subjects that interest me.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?

Spontaneously. It’s as if the book wrote itself, because my subconscious had been working on the ideas for years. 

What inspired your protagonist?

I wanted him to embody John Galt-like qualities, except be wilder and a spiritual and physical master as well as an intellectual one.  

What inspired your antagonist? 

Barack Obama. 

What was the hardest part to write in the book? 

The descriptions of the MMA fights. My protagonist is a world-class martial artist, and because I had no experience writing on MMA fighting, I had to work hard to put together the fight scenes. 

What was your favourite part of your book to write?

The interactions between the protagonist, Jack Cohen, and his sadistic dominatrix girlfriend, Mary McDonald. 

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?

Part time. I’m also a spiritual teacher (with two blogs and a Facebook group), and am focusing on making money by arbitraging the Mexican peso and U.S. dollar. 

What are you currently reading? 

Various books on Eastern mysticism, especially those on Yogacara, Madhyamika and Tibetan Buddhism, along with ones on Hindu tantra and nondual Kashmir Shaivism.  

Who would you say are your favourite authors?

Ayn Rand, Adi Da Samraj, Bernard McGinn

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5? 

The Method of the Siddhas, The Knee of Listening, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, The Philosophy of Sadhana, and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 

What are your future projects, if any?

I have a list of 25 more books I want to write. The next two will be meditation texts: one on Power of Now meditation, and one on Dzogchen.  

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books? 

People can freely email me at lrongardner@hotmail.com, and check out my books at Amazon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write for the love of it and not the money, because the odds of achieving big-time commercial success are slim.

Spotlight Interview · Spotlight Interview Thursdays

Spotlight Interview with author Maria Luisa Lang

glow in the dark

Happy Thursday fellow readers! I have another spotlight interview with author Maria Luisa Lang and her novel The Pharaoh’s Cat.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Rome, Italy, and live in New York City. I have a degree in art from the City University of New York, and my artwork has been exhibited in New York galleries. 
I love all animals, but especially cats, and I’m an amateur Egyptologist.
Most of The Pharaoh’s Cat is set in ancient Egypt, but I also included my neighborhood–the Upper West Side–and other parts of the city. My sequel, The Eye of Nefertiti, is also set in ancient Egypt and New York City, but my cat goes to Bath, England, as well. I’ve spent a lot of time there and the beautiful Georgian city is one of my favorite places. When I was planning my sequel, I knew Bath would play a major part in it. The cat also time travels to ancient Stonehenge. I’ve visited the site and found it fascinating.

What inspired you to write?
I’ve sketched and painted, and writing seemed a natural extension. Writing seems to be in my blood. My mother wrote a memoir of her experiences in Rome during the war, and one of my brothers is a noted Italian art critic and the author of several books and numerous articles.

What inspired your novel?
My love of cats and my fascination with ancient Egypt. I also enjoy comedy and couldn’t resist the challenge to make ancient Egypt funny.

What is the genre?
Comedy, fantasy, historical fiction.

What draws you to this genre?
I can combine different elements that are familiar and important to me.

How did you develop your plot and your characters?
My protagonist came first, a stray cat in ancient Egypt who’s suddenly given human powers, then the two people who love him, the Pharaoh and the High Priest, and the ogre who hates him, the Vizier, the Pharaoh’s uncle. Out of their distinctive personalities came their relationships with one another, and the plot is the story of how those relationships evolved.

What inspired your protagonist?
All the cats I’ve ever known, and there have been many. I love and am fascinated by both cats and ancient Egypt. When I decided to write a novel, I couldn’t help creating an ancient Egyptian cat to be my hero. He’s also me in many ways. He has my sense of humor and my sense of justice.

What inspired your antagonist?
The Vizier, the Pharaoh’s uncle is my villain, and the first thing I reveal about him is that he hates cats. His hatred is the root of his villainy. Fortunately, I’ve never met anyone remotely like him. I invented him based on what I see as the worst in humanity.

What was the hardest part to write in the book?
Integrating information about ancient Egypt into the narrative without it sounding like something from a text book.

What was your favourite part of your book to write?
The Pharaoh’s death. The cat’s reaction showed unexpected psychological depths. I ended up admiring him even more.

Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
Read, travel, go to flea markets and thrift shops. Not surprisingly, my cat visits a Bath flea market in my sequel.

What are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog.

Who would you say are your favourite authors?
Kingley Amis and Mikhail Bulgakov

How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
Amis’s Lucky Jim, Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita, my mother’s memoir, any of Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford novels except the last.

What are your future projects, if any?
I’ll soon publish my sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat–The Eye of Nefertiti.
(Published in November 2016 The Eye of Nefertiti– Leticia)

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?
Amazon
Amazon & Good Reads

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 
Don’t try to please an imaginary reader. It will only inhibit you and your writing will reflect that.

Thank you to Maria Luisa Lang for the lovely spotlight interview. I do hope you, my fellow readers, seek out her novels! 

Spotlight Interview · Spotlight Interview Thursdays

Spotlight Interview with author Joe Basara

glow in the dark

Welcome to Spotlight Interview Thursday’s again. Today I’ve an interview with the author Joe Basara and his novel The Shadows of Shuffleboard Manor and other novels he has published.

My background:
I grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. After four years in the navy I attended college and graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 1976. In Okeechobee, Florida, I met my wife, Dana, and have been together thirty-six years.

My inspiration to write:
 Loving reading, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in my twenties and tell people I have been an “aspiring writer” for forty-five years. Was I exceptionally intelligent? No. Did I have something especially important to say? Not really. I was just enchanted by the art of writing.  

Inspiration for my novel:
Since I got the perhaps silly idea in my head I wanted to write a series of interrelated novels, all taking lace in the imaginary city of Cypress Lake, Florida, instead of simply coming up with an idea for a story, I first have to settle on the story’s time and place (always being Cypress Lake). My current novel–The Shadows of Shuffleboard Manor–is foreshadowed in my first novel–Cypress Lake. In 1977 Owen Cloud is parked at a stop light and sees a lady walking alone in Flagler Park. She looks like she’s holding something invisible, like maybe someone else’s hand? Turns out in Shadows (which takes place in 1992) we find out he was right. Every morning Sue Pecos, who lives in the Shuffleboard Manor retirement home, takes a walk in Flagler Park while pretending to hold on to her deceased husband Bill’s hand.   

The genre:
Shadows is a fantasy.

What draws me to this genre?
In this particular story I needed to explain why Sue Pecos holds her invisible husband’s hand while out on her walk. In the first chapter, while out on this morning’s walk, she decides it is time she and husband Bill are reunited again. It is a crazy idea. At seventy she is pretty healthy, does not especially want to do die, and yet believes it is time.

Developing my plot and characters:
I had to explain how reuniting with her husband might become a reality, so I had one of her deceased ex-roommates at the home, Silvia Waif, appear before her. Sue is not especially religious, but has been attending Sunday services given by a retired Catholic priest. Sylvia offers to be as Beatrice was to Dante, her guide through the mysterious Flora Land (that mirrors both Florida and Purgatory). Sylvia promises that this journey will lead her to her Bill. 

My protagonist’s inspiration:
Sue’s deep desire to by with Bill again inspires her to accept Sylvia’s offer. 

Her antagonist’s inspiration:
Steve Hawkins, another resident at the home, believes she is foolish. Angel Raton, an orderly who once worked at the home, and Hawkins both become dark figures who seek to discourage her on her quest. In fact, all of the characters she meets, friends and foes, are people she has known at the home. 

The hardest part:
Sue dreams one night she sees elderly people playing shuffleboard outdoors, and the sound of colliding of shuffleboard discs often is a sign that she is entering a new scene on her journey through Flora Land. It was hard to make these transitions as smooth as I wanted them to be.

My favorite part of the book:
Since the 1992 election was coming up as the story began, I enjoyed writing about Sue’s passage and experiences in Bush and Clinton Castles, both huge sand castles. They mirror the conservative and liberal political outlooks on life. This, and the whole novel, borrows from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Full or part time writer:
I am a part time writer, though retired now. I worked with business machines for twenty years. After our plant was shut down I was a para-educator and worked with special needs kids for five years. What a joy and honor that was, though humbling as well.

Currently reading:
I have been reading Henry James’ The Ambassadors. His long, convoluted sentences amaze me. I recently listened to a literature speak about James’ prose: “When you start reading one of his sentences, better bring a lunch.”

Favorite authors:
Having a Kindle is great. Most of the novels I want to read are free. Don’t know if that’s good or bad. I love Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Both of these are Florida novels. I have recently been reading Anthony Trollope, and I’m amazed at how long his stories are. You really feel like you are immersed in the world of mid-nineteenth century Britain. Not too long ago I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and was interested to find how different it was from the movie version I saw as a kid. 

My future projects:
I am now working on Rollie Gold, whose title is the main character and son of Fred Gold, who, in my Fred’s Golden years, retired to Cypress Lake in 1982. While I’m at it I might mention my Sale Day at C Mart, the story of one day in the life of a big box store in the year 1985. Also, I might mention that Owen Cloud, the main character in Cypress Lake, shows up in all the novels that follow, though in cameo parts. Rollie Gold, which will be my fifth (taking place in 1999) is a story of a son’s reconciliation with his father. I haven’t figured how I will squeeze Owen in there yet. 

Getting in touch with me and my book:
All my novels are on Amazon.  I’d love to hear comments from readers but don’t have a website and am not sure home best to do this.

(Note: You can also find his novels on Good Reads – Leticia)

Advice:
If a young writer can find joy in seeing his/her story getting better with each re-write, that is a great satisfaction. Instead of saying “I can’t write!” say I’ve only begun to write this story or novel. You might think it a tedious chore, but to me if I see my story is getting better, that’s a real joy. If my writing depended upon external success, I’d have quit long ago. And if someone gives you a bad review, I feel grateful that they took the time out of their life to actually read my book. As Henry James wrote: “Criticism as appreciation.”  

Thank you to Joe for providing us with a wonderful interview. If you’re looking for a different fantasy story, give his novels a read!