Category Archives: Interviews
Murtairean. An Assassin’s Tale is set in a war torn medieval world where the convictions of two unlikely allies are tested. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
In this particular story in the Dál Cruinne Series, I wanted to write a character with this world’s version of a superpower, asking the questions of what would someone give to obtain the advantage, what has it really cost them, and how do they reconcile within themselves the life they lead because of that power? And of course, I threw in the unpredictability of the human heart when the chemistry called attraction is involved.
My goal as a writer was to finally commence a story that has been in my head since the mid-1990s. Long before I even contemplated being a writer. I love fantasy and wanted to try my hand at it—as so far, I have written dystopian/romance/time travel. And yes, I do tend to mix my genres. I’ll do the same with this series as the next books are an inter-world fantasy.
I enjoyed the relationship between Vygeas and Leyna and thought it was well developed. What character did you enjoy writing for?
I enjoyed writing Vygeas. I always seem to identify the most with my male protagonists. Maybe because I was a tomboy.
I loved writing the fight scenes. I used to do martial art but not much with weapons and never a sword, but I always love watching a good sword fight. Also, I’d love to ride a warhorse. And who doesn’t want a special gift that gives you the advantage over almost everyone?
Writing Vygeas’ tortured, convicted soul on the verge of great change was a journey through the darkness, looking for the light. Something I feel we all experience, and so I could identify with him, and I hope the readers do too.
And I enjoyed the way Vygeas’ taciturn personality bounced off Aiden’s talkative, open, oops-I’ve-said-too-much, honesty.
The depth of the backstory and world-building is something that was well executed. How did the idea for the world start and change as you wrote?
The fantasy world of Dál Cruinne is more like an ancient Gaelic/Celtic world than a medieval European one. Hence the Gaelic words in the title and the place names, and landscape very much like Scotland. As the series progresses the reader will find many more differences, such as how kings, their righ, and high kings, ard righ, are chosen in this world.
I didn’t purposely set out to make a non-European fantasy world, but I do feel it’s been done enough in this genre. I have a love for Scotland, its history and geography. I’m fascinated by the Celts in Britain and the history of the Gaels in Ireland. My ancestry is from both. And I love the sound of the Gaelic when it’s spoken. So, to me, an ideal fantasy world has shades of all of these—and castles of course! I took my inspiration from these cultures but haven’t based it exactly upon them.
I’m not too sure if anything changed as I wrote, as I had worked on the type of world I wanted before I began. The main thing that surprised me in the writing was the amount of magic that came out in this particular story. It probably isn’t anything like Druidic magic, but as I said, this world has shades of those cultures and isn’t a carbon copy.
Murtairean. An Assassin’s Tale is a novel in the Dal Cruinne series. Do you plan on writing more books in this series?
Murtairean. An Assassin’s Tale is sub-titled as A novel in the Dál Cruinne Series and isn’t book one as such. It is an introduction to this world and there will be other stories, which run serially (to themselves and not necessarily to Murtairean), but Murtairean is a first glimpse and, hopefully, an enticement for the reader to stick around for more. I’m sure Vygeas, Leyna and Aiden will turn up in the other stories. Lord Ciaran certainly does.
I have a duology/trilogy in the planning with the first draft of book one almost completed. The series will be Arlan’s Pledge (Arlan means pledge in the Gaelic) and the first book is Trastaidh. The Crossing. The main character, Arlan, is the son of current Ard Righ of Dál Gaedhle (the large western kingdom of Dál Cruinne), who finds himself transported to our world, to Scotland, and meets the attractive Rhiannon. Will he find his way back to Dál Cruinne, or, after spending time in Rhiannon’s comfortable western culture, does he really want to?
Leyna, a warrior woman and high-end thief, turned her back on her title of Lady Leynarve of Monsae after her parents’ murder. Bent on revenge, Leyna travels to a hit where assassins gather, intending to find and kill the one who ruined her life.
Vygeas, a mercenary and assassin, has the gift of heightened perception, enabling him to sense his opponents’ emotions and anticipate their every move. Sickened by the warmongering, Vygeas awaits execution for desertion. But he’s given one final task to win his freedom…kill a mark and avoid the gallows.
Unaware of Vygeas’ trade, Leyna hitches a ride with this handsome sell-sword with exceptional abilities. Vygeas realises he has encountered the beautiful and capable Leyna’s family before…on a previous hit.
While pursued by a powerful sorcerer-mage, they combine their skills to thwart his attempts to capture Leyna and destroy Vygeas.
Fighting their joint foes without, and battling their torments within, Vygeas and Leyna discover the truth that could destroy their newly forged relationship.
Will their past define them, or will they discover all they could be?
The Lost Signal is a thrilling science fiction novel that finds humanity on the cusp of invasion. What was the inspiration for the setup to this story?
Besides ourselves or nature, what’s our greatest threat? This is a question I’ve always enjoyed asking from a fictional standpoint. I wanted humanity to face the ultimate danger as they realize they’re not on top of the world. I love alien invasion stories and fantasize about all the possible outcomes. If another species came to Earth, would it be on a friendly basis or as enemies? I decided to answer this question with another one: Why not both?
Fiona is a compelling and well-developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character?
Fiona’s character was created to explore what it means to be human. For that, I needed someone with the potential to become a hero while having the flaws of the average person. I wanted Fiona to be brave, but prone to doubt herself at the same time. She’s someone with a great sense of justice, but she can also be selfish. Everything about her is a dichotomy, and she’s always caught having to choose between one version of herself or the other. Her story is the journey to find a balance without betraying herself; even if this balance doesn’t always match what people around her want her to be. I like to think of this as the ultimate human struggle. As individuals, we always strive for the approval of society. Sometimes this means we must sacrifice what we really want in order to obtain it. We always surrender a little bit of our freedom so we can thrive as a social species. I wanted a hero who could be the embodiment of this struggle—a hero just like you and me.
The backstory of this series explores the myth of creation in an intriguing way. What were some ideas that were important for you to explore in this book?
The theories behind ancient astronauts have always intrigued me. You could say it’s a little obsession of mine. When you take all the ancient myths and interpret them with aliens in mind, they kind of make sense. And if you really think about what this means to us a species, it makes us feel little and insignificant. We are the rulers of this planet, but what if that wasn’t always the case? What if we are not as big as we think we are? I wanted to explore those questions and reduce humanity’s importance to that of an ant. We are no better than any other species, we just so happen to exist on this planet and be good at surviving.
This is book one in your Slaves of Zisaida series. What can readers expect in book two of the series?
The next book will be called The Last Guardian. It’s an exploration not only of human nature but also of what it means to be good or evil. Expect the characters to sink into morally gray areas. Humanity will be thrown into the bigger scheme of things. This time, the war will extend to the rest of the galaxy, and more alien species will be introduced. Zisaida will play a much bigger role in the next book as it’s the center of the whole plot. Those who mean to control it won’t rest until they have it all.
The signal shouldn’t exist, but its disappearance brings forward a harbinger of doom. Humans can’t fight this war. Not without help.
For years, Dr. Ethan Fawkes has been communicating with a mysterious scientist using an encoded signal. Together, they designed the first space-faring warship. But when the government orders Ethan to dismantle it, his collaborator has no choice but to reveal a terrible secret. An army of powerful aliens is about to invade Earth, and humans must rush to prepare a defense or risk losing their freedom forever.
The future looks bleak, and it’s about to get worse.
Fiona has no memories of her origins, but somehow, she shares half her DNA with the invaders. For this, she lives a life of scorn and shame amongst humans. When the enemy arrives to enslave her village, will she help the humans who hate her or join the aliens who welcome her? The key to victory lies in the depths of her obscure past. Can she remember her true heritage before it’s too late?
The signal must be sent once again.
Social Work is an emotional story following two people overcoming obstacles and trying to find happiness. What was the inspiration behind Marc and Lauren’s bond?
I actually had a bond with a few different mental health professionals who just happened to be female over the course of my life. One who was a big help to me shaped the character of Lauren. The bond you see in the book is based on reality in many respects though certain elements of the bond were fictionalized for dramatic effect. I am thankful to have worked with great, caring, professionals who were efficient in terms of helping me get my own life back on track after some hard times.
This is an evocative story that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
The loss of my friend to suicide helped me to put together the courage to write this book. I wanted people to see the world through the eyes of someone down on their luck who has mental issues. I wanted people to care about a character they wouldn’t normally like instantly in real life. I certainly feel I achieved the goals I set out to fulfill with this story. I think this is my best work so far.
What character did you enjoy writing for? Was there one that was more challenging to write for?
I enjoyed writing the two central characters, Marc and Lauren, equally. Lauren was a little more challenging to write as I had to delve deep into the life of someone who helps people for a living. I’ve asked professionals to read the book and tell me if they think I was on point. I’m still waiting for their feedback. The reviews have been great. I got newspaper coverage in my hometown of Queens, NY from a local paper and a spot on an Internet TV show. I feel I did something right so far.
What story are you currently writing and when will it be available?
I am working on the sequel to my first book, “Stockboy” titled “Stockboy Nation” and it will be available in 2020 when the marketing campaign ends for “Social Work” and I scrape together more money to invest in the latest novel. I hope people will love it. “Stockboy” deserved to have more dialogue and this time I deliver in that particular regard.
Social Work is Thomas Duffy’s seventh book. It is a moving story about a young man named Marc who meets a social worker named Lauren after his attempt at suicide. This story is an exploration of the bond between Marc and Lauren and the problems they face in trying to overcome the obstacles both of them experience trying to achieve their own personal happiness. It is set in New York City.
The Modronovich Incident starts with a missing ship and dives into a cover up 250 years in the making. How did you want to start this book that was different from your other works?
I felt that I had to open up with the mystery itself. We see the Modronovich fleeing from a pursuing ship: who are they, why are they chasing the Modronovich? My hope is that the reader will become interested enough to join the search.
I appreciated the balance between story telling and science fiction elements. How do you find the right balance of these things in your novels?
At its core all good sci-fi is a human story. As a reader, I want to experience the characters’ lives, I must in some way empathize with them, you do that through ‘story’. As an author, I pulled a fast one: I transposed a mystery to a space-opera. I could have as well wrote about a missing wagon in 18th Century America that was rumored to carry Humphry Davy’s first light bulb. If I didn’t dive into the lives of the characters it would have been a bland documentary in fiction format.
The mystery and backstory in this book were well developed and something I really enjoyed. What were some challenges you faced when creating the backstory?
The passage of time was the biggest challenge. I think it’s difficult for a modern audience to relate to things that happened ten years ago, let alone two-hundred fifty. This is no slight to them, but simply the reality of our progressive environments. There is always an upgrade … bigger, better, faster, etc. Yet, I needed a way to ‘shroud’ the incident in ambiguity, and time has a way of doing that. If you search the internet you can find three ways that the German Reformationist, Martin Luther, died. That’s what I needed for the Modronovich … but that just makes a dead end. So, enter longevity. Humans can now live about 160 years, this means that there is a relative, if tenuous, connection to the Modronovich. I used that connection to propel the story.
This is book one in your Thomas Spaulding Mystery series. What can readers expect in book two of the series?
Bea, aboard the Isaac Brin, chasing down the Sagan Artifact … whatever that may be.
The Modronovich, a cargo ship testing a prototype Newtonian drive, loses contact on its shakedown cruise. It was briefly seen, overdue and far off course, and then never heard from again.
Two-hundred and fifty years later, Penelope Middleton walks into Spaulding Recovery Services with a copy of a garbled transmission recorded by her grandfather, a communications technician serving aboard Capella Station during the Modronovich’s voyage. Haunted by childhood memories of him as a paranoid, broken man that spent the last century of his life in depression, and the enigmatic partial transmission, she hires Spaulding’s pilot and wreck diver, Beatrice, to unravel the mystery of the Modronovich and answer the questions surrounding her grandfather’s breakdown.
Chronicled in Bea’s diary it is the story of a cover-up decades in the making. What she finds leads to the disturbing details that caused two generations of PTSD and depression, the divorce of Penelope’s parents, and the truth about what happened to the ship and her crew.
The Stars of Locust Ridge is an extraordinary coming-of-age journey of a young woman’s acceptance of family and friends. What were some ideas that were important for you to capture in this story?
Thank you for the wonderful compliment! I didn’t consciously set out to capture any particular ideas for this book; I simply wanted to tell the story of a young woman in rural Appalachia who experiences strange, otherworldly encounters. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition between the warmth and folksiness of the setting and the cold strangeness of the supernatural undertones. In the end, I think the book tells a story of misjudgment. Although the core of the story is of Genevieve and her traumatic journey to unravel dark family secrets and the identity of the mysterious beings and encounters that haunt her, it also tells a tale of everything not being what it seems. It comments on how society often assumes something or someone is safe and respectable, even when there is proof to the contrary, and how we tend to misjudge and fear what often turns out to be innocent, even helpful.
I always enjoy the way you develop your characters. What is your writing process like to bring your characters to life?
My writing process is very spiritual for me. It’s a channeling experience. I lock myself in a dark room, push the laptop screen down, dim the screen’s brightness, and place a piece of paper over it. I need to at least be able to see that the word processor is indeed capturing what I am typing, but I can’t view the actual words without snapping out of channeling mode and into editing mode. I always see myself as the first reader of the stories. I receive the inspiration, and I often stew and ponder about what will happen, but in the end, the writing comes through me and becomes what it is meant to be; I simply get out of the way and allow it to happen. I never try to interfere, judge, or control it. Much like a parent and their child, the writing does not belong to me, it comes through me. The books are their own entities that belong to the world, not just me. I am blessed and honored to be the vessel they enter the world through. I am a firm believer that all art belongs to everyone, not just the artist that delivers it.
Novels are often based on wild premises, but you are able to write engrossing novels about everyday people. How do you find inspiration and ideas for your books?
Again, thank you for the compliment! Inspiration comes to me from so many different places. I can see a commercial on television that will spark an idea, or hear something in a conversation, or often through song lyrics. I am heavily influenced by songwriters, which perhaps explains some of the lyrical tone to my writing. I am also heavily inspired by film. I refer to the inspiration that I receive for book ideas as “seeds.” They come to me in a rounded way where I see at least a beginning and ending. It’s a feeling, really. Still, although I may know the type of seed it is, say an apple tree, for instance, I never know the exact details until the seed is planted, cultivated, and grown. All I know is that it is an apple tree. I won’t know the type of apples, the number of branches, etc. until the tree is fully grown. That is how it is for me with story ideas. I receive them as an inspiration, but they become what they are meant to become on their own; I do my part by getting out of the way and honoring and staying true to the process.
What is the next book that you are writing, and when will it be available?
I am so glad you asked this! I have written two books this year, both of which I plan to release next year. I am very excited about them both and believe they add variety and uniqueness to my body of work. I hope and pray to have a long, prolific, and fruitful writing career, and truly feel this is only the very beginning!
The stars are moving over Locust Ridge, Tennessee, in early March 1973. Sixteen-year-old Genevieve Delany witnesses the odd phenomenon in the skies above the one-bedroom house she shares with her mother, Eva. A self-reliant girl often left alone by her workaholic mother, Genevieve starts to question her reality the night she first views the flitting orbs of golden light zipping across the Appalachian heavens. Discovered screaming and alone in the woods between her home and her Uncle John’s nearby cabin, the young girl is haunted by a series of unexplainable night terror episodes. What is the cause of the often-violent hazy night encounters? Who are the shadowy and silent mysterious men seen peering out from just beyond the tree line?
The Stars of Locust Ridge captures the journey of one young woman’s coming-of-age acceptance of family truths, the extraordinary bond between women, and the unbreakable ties of kinship, both blood and beyond.
Pale Face & The Raven follows Luke and Anthony as they try to solve a series of grisly murders while wresting with their own demons. What was the inspiration for the setup to this provocative story?
It was an idea that came to me while I was at work actually. I don’t want to spoil the way the plot unfolds for anyone who hasn’t read it yet but the whole story within a story concept really appealed to me, as did the introduction of the mythical/religious concept set against the backdrop of a character (Tony Richards) who really doesn’t know where he came from or where his life is headed. I really wanted to develop a set of characters that could interact and build their stories together, start them off on an almost cosy footing and then see how they reacted to difficult scenarios and how they dealt with each other. I hope I achieved that.
I liked Luke’s character and thought he was an interesting character. What were some ideas that you based this character on?
Luke Raven himself is a character that I really liked and whilst he isn’t based on anyone in particular you could argue that he really is a mash up of a number of Detective Inspectors that appear in both popular fiction and on TV. He seems unable to stay on the straight and narrow and makes poor errors of judgement that get him into more and more scrapes. He’s also someone who is really sceptical of the supernatural but for whom other-wordly things occur almost on a daily basis and I enjoyed exploring how much that irritates him and yet how often he has to confront his conflicted beliefs. He also has a dark past and that is something I would really like to explore further in the future.
The murder mystery fueling this story was intriguing and well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this case?
I wanted the supernatural element. That was number one. I’m a big fan of authors such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz and I also wanted an element of Dan Brown in there. Then I wanted the killer’s identity and the finale to be almost impossible to predict. I love the idea of using sleight of hand techniques in a story without over doing it or becoming crass. The ultimate aim is to keep the reader guessing right up to the epilogue. I wanted a strong, domineering patriarchal character that orchestrated events. And then I wanted to mix the first and third person perspectives as much as possible so that you were never really sure what point of view you were reading the story from. It can get complicated but hopefully I didn’t over do it.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be ready?
Well, firstly Pale Face and the Raven is due out in audio book format by the middle of December. I’m working with a really talented narrator, Bryan Gilmore, and I’m really excited to get that finished and out there. My next book is a collection of five short stories entitled ‘The Maidens of Fey and other Dark Matter’. I’m just putting the finishing touches to it now and my aim is to have it available on Amazon prior to Christmas. I’m really excited about it – the title story ‘The Maidens of Fey’ is a real love letter to Cornwall where I have holidayed with both my parents and my wife and children many times over the years, but it’s also a story of murder and betrayal as well as containing many mystical and fantastical themes. There’s also a story about a children’s entertainer named ‘Mister Trick’ who is really a combination of many of the entertainment acts that I witnessed as a child at children’s parties and that were the source of many nightmares and sleepless nights. After that I’m already planning the next installment of ‘The Raven’ and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next story will take me.
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A series of brutal murders … a mysterious scripture handed down through generations by an ancient race … and a cult leader hellbent on vengeance and redemption. D.I. Luke Raven’s chequered career as a police officer is on the brink of ruin after a series of ill-judged decisions and one too many drunken altercations. As a consequence, his personal life lies in tatters.
Anthony Richards, a young, aspiring author has a deeply troubled past, a fractious and volatile relationship with his mother and a family history cloaked in secrets, violence and lies. The lives of these two men become intrinsically and eternally intertwined when a girl is found on Westhampton Common, her throat slit, her naked, cold and lifeless body drained of blood. What follows is a dark, disturbing and unpredictable journey sparked by the discovery of an ancient manuscript and tales of unspeakable horrors.
Bodies are piling up in Westhampton. The elusive, pale faced killer is on a murderous rampage.
This time it’s personal and Raven must risk it all to stop him… at whatever cost.
Rethinking Sex Ed is a forward thinking approach to sex education in contemporary society. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I’m the minister of a congregation full of people who almost gave up on religion. We found the old narratives, rules, and instincts off-putting at best. However, we had a deep hunger for spiritual community. So we spent a decade stripping religion down to the bare bones, trying to unearth the principles of spiritual community that are essential, beautiful, and universal.
Part of that journey was the deconstruction of religious ritual. We couldn’t use the rituals we inherited so we just stopped doing them all together. However, after a few years we realized how deeply meaningful rituals are. So we gathered a group to write new ones. Looking into several religious traditions, we wrote rituals for several stages of life—birth, puberty, going to school, leaving home, marriage, and death.
When we were writing the puberty ritual, we realized that when our community pledged to help our young people get ready for healthy lives, it would be pretty meaningless if we didn’t help prepare them for healthy sexual lives.
However, since like everybody else, folks in our community were deconstructing and reconstructing our sexual norms, we weren’t sure exactly how to fulfill that pledge. So our ritual team came to me. “Figure it out and let us know!”
The book is rooted in our own community’s need for clear and healthy guidelines for preparing our young people for their sexual journeys.
In this book you discuss the societal forces that have changed our perception of sex. What do you think is a major contributing factor to this?
I think primarily, it’s how complex society has become.
For most of human history, we lived in agrarian or industrial worlds. Young people could be ready to contribute to society by their late teens. In that context, we developed a simple rule of thumb that captured a great deal of wisdom about healthy sexuality—Don’t have sex until marriage.
But as society has become more complex, young people aren’t established in their careers until their late twenties. Also, puberty happens earlier. The time from sexual maturity to readiness for marriage has moved from three or four years to fifteen to seventeen years. Of course the old rule stopped working.
But when it did, the tendency has been to throw out both the rule—and the ancient wisdom it once captured. I wrote the book to articulate that wisdom and suggest some ways we might apply it in our new social context.
I found this book to be un-biased and informative. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I guess it would be this.
When it comes to sex, religion and society have been at odds for a long time. Unfortunately, that’s mostly our fault (religious folk).
The world started changing quickly in the 60s. When the old sex norms stopped working, and when people stopped coming to us for sexual instruction, we got frightened. And frightened people tend to get reactionary. We did. We got rigid, rule-driven, and a little bit repressive. We fell back into the sexual craziness that infected Western civilization way back in the second century.
But just as damaging, when society threw out religion’s rule, it also abandoned a great deal of wisdom it once captured.
So the first thing I’d like readers to take away, is an apology on our part. We got that badly wrong. I’m sorry.
But if you’ll forgive us and allow us into the conversation, before we got all reactionary we had accumulated a lot of understanding about how human sexuality works. My hope for the book is to offer our best insights to the job before us—rebuilding healthy sex norms.
And the second thing I hope readers take away, is an understanding of what that ancient wisdom is, and how we can apply it with our young people.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The craziness that infected religion around sex has infected religion in general—our narratives, our practices, our core instincts. I wrote a book earlier about rethinking our religious narrative: Rethinking our Story: Can We Still be Christian in the Quantum Era?
Just now I’m working on a follow-up to that book, rethinking how healthy religion works in a local setting. I’m rough-drafting it on my blog right now.
How do we rebuild in the ruins of organized religion?
How do we rethink our stories, practices, and institutional instincts?
I believe religion can once again benefit society—can help us become better people, creating a better world. The next book will be about the experience of our own community working that out over the last twenty-five years.
If history is an indicator, the blog-rough-draft process will take about a year, and then several months after that to turn it into a book.
We religious folk have to change how we teach our kids about sex. The statistics are in. What we’re doing isn’t working. In fact, our whole society must rethink sex education. Nobody’s approach is working well. Social and economic forces have forever changed the context in which our sexuality plays out. Families are whipsawed by a blistering pace of historical change. After thousands of years of gender, sex, and marriage working one way, in just a handful of decades, everything has been upended. No wonder it’s so difficult to talk to our kids. If you have a young person you love, this book can help. When religion is at its best, it accumulates and transmits the wisdom of the ages. At its worst, it devolves into rigid rules and inflexible craziness. Rethinking Sex-Education explores religion’s accumulated wisdom about human sexuality . . . and the crazy that has to be dismantled to create a healthy and helpful curriculum for our young people. Hopelessly divided, religion and society don’t talk about sex. Religion can’t imagine it’s time to rethink the old ways. Society can’t imagine religion has anything to offer. The book explores what we can learn from one another. Drawing from religion, history, biology, anthropology, and economics, Rethinking helps us think both broadly and practically. It helps grownups rethink our own sexual framework, and then imagine practical sexual conversations with our young people. It’s a book for religious people who realize the traditional approach isn’t working. It’s a book for non-religious people who realize our no-norm social norms aren’t working either.
His Name Was Ezra follows young Judith struggling with race and gender discrimination in the turmoil of the 1960’s. How did the idea for this novel begin and change as you were writing?
The inspiration for His Name Was Ezra came to me in early 2017, around the time Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Emmitt Till—the fourteen-year-old African American boy who was brutally murdered in Jim Crow-era Mississippi in 1955—of grabbing/whistling at/harassing her was making headlines for saying she now felt the young boy did not deserve the fate he was given by her ex-husband and his accomplice, and that the alleged harassment wasn’t even true in the first place. I received a burst of inspiration based around what an interracial relationship would face during that era, and how, sadly, much of the same outcome would transpire, despite Mississippi’s embarrassment over the Till case.
This is an exceptionally well-written novel that’s high in social commentary. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this story?
Thank you for the compliment! I honestly did not set any goals for myself when writing this book. I simply wanted to capture the journey of a woman’s sacrifice—first for love, then family, and then for her child.
I felt like you really captured the feel of the South during the 1960’s. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
I am very happy to hear that! I certainly researched the details of the Emmitt Till case and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, two major historical events that took place just before and just after the events in the book. Also, I was adamant about legal details. I wanted to be sure that everything that transpired during the fictional trial was true and accurate to the law both then and now. I vowed never to write another legal/trail-based book after His Name Was Ezra!
I feel like the message of acceptance and forgiveness in this story is still relevant today. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I feel the same way. I didn’t plan for the book to be as relevant to current events as it is. The nuances and undertones of my books always reveal themselves on their own. I certainly feel that the white men in the story were held to vastly different social standards than the young black man or the white woman who loved him. I think our society still suffers from deeply ingrained prejudices based on race and gender. We often let one person get away with what we would crucify another for. What was true in the era of Jim Crow is tragically still very much a reality today, just perhaps not as obvious or direct.
Judith Bracewell, a twenty-one-year-old, pale-skinned, red-haired, freckle-faced tomboy, enjoys spending her Saturday afternoons playing baseball with the boys on the other side of town. Falling in love with one of her teammates, dream-driven, hopeful future lawyer Ezra Washington, the pair are forced to spend their shared off-field time together in secret, deep in the woods within the confines of an abandoned Civil War-era cemetery. Residing in Waynesboro, Mississippi, in 1957, the strict, limiting, and dehumanizing laws of the Jim Crow South deem their natural bond forbidden, all due to the opposite color of their skin.
After Judith falls victim to a violent and brutal physical assault, Ezra goes missing, with Judith’s older brother, Ed, receiving the blame for his disappearance. When a fame-eager, ambitious assistant district attorney arrives to investigate the vanishing of young Ezra, Judith is quickly forced to balance her love and loyalty for her only brother with the overwhelming devastation and heartbreak she feels for her beloved, missing Ezra. Amid a reckless and ongoing criminal trial and quickly-deteriorating relationship with her younger sister, Francis, Judith must contend with a self-sacrificing decision that will eliminate her personal hopes and dreams for the future, but will save her brother’s life.
Years later, the cruel course of destiny has Judith trapped in an emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive marriage, her only saving grace: her five-year-old son. Once more faced with an extreme decision of selfless abandon, Judith finds her fate dangling in the hands of not only the state of Mississippi’s judicial system, but also the slow-changing, ever-fickle, and often unjustified court of social and public opinion.
Set between the infamous Emmett Till murder of 1955 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, His Name Was Ezra tells the riveting tale of one young woman’s incredible journey of love, personal sacrifice, family loyalty, and forgiveness, and a region and nation’s deep-rooted struggle with race and gender discrimination.
Murder on Spirit Island follows Niki as she attempts to solve the disappearance of a wealthy businessman but finds herself caught in a larger conspiracy. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
My brother is a contractor with the state of Louisiana. At one time, it was one of the most corrupt in the nation. It has improved, but still has a few dishonest workers. Conspiracies to rig bids are not uncommon.
Niki Dupre is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
Niki’s driving force is to choose victory over being a victim. I wrote Murder on Spirit Island (plus 21 other full-length manuscripts and 26 short stories in the same series) while incarcerated. I want to inspire others to make the best of difficult times. Whether it is a family situation, finances, health or a myriad of other obstacles, we can all choose to be a victor instead of a victim.
I enjoyed the twists and turns in this novel. Were these planned beforehand or did they develop organically while writing?
I’m a pantser. I plan nothing when writing a novel. I have no plot, no defined characters and no great climax in mind. I let the characters and the circumstances define the plot as they come on the scene. Most of the time, I’m surprised where they take the story.
When will this book be available for readers?
The ’49 Indian is a beautiful coming-of-age love story following two friends leaving home and traveling across the country. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional story?
Thank you for the compliment! I am thrilled you enjoyed the book. As my first novel, The ’49 Indian is very special to me. The inspiration for the book is based on my real-life relationship. Not so much the details and occurrences of their journey, but the bond/connection between the two main characters.
Gauge and Dustin’s relationship was one I enjoyed watching develop and change. Was their relationship planned, or did it develop organically while writing?
It certainly developed as I was writing. In fact, I think the tone of the book’s first-person protagonist, Dustin, changes and evolves as the journey progresses. In the beginning, he is naive and poetic, but when things get real, he becomes far more direct and pragmatic with the way he delivers the story.
During their travels, they encounter many trials and tribulations. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?
There are certainly some autobiographical encounters in this story that I felt represented the core of the most long-lasting trials and tribulations the two main characters faced. The relationship between Dustin and his mother is very reminiscent of my past relationship with my own mother. Thankfully, unlike the case with Dustin, my mom has evolved tremendously in her acceptance of me and my relationship. Parental acceptance is a blessing denied to many—for various reasons—something I am quite aware of, which is why I am deeply grateful that my story ends on a far more positive note than Dustin’s. Sadly, Dustin’s experience with his mother is more accurate to the misunderstanding, judgment, and pain many gay people endure when it comes to their own parents and families, especially during the early days of the AIDS crisis.
What is the significance for you of the ’49 Indian in this story?
For me, personally, the ’49 Indian represents the physical embodiment of Dustin and Gauge’s hope, perseverance, and resilience. That old bike just kept on going, despite the elements against it. Sure, it needed a tune-up or two, but in the end, it got them where they needed to go. For Gauge, it represents his departed father; he treats the bike like a living being. It becomes the third main character throughout the story. It is always thrilling and interesting for me to hear how readers personalize and interpret the meaning and significance of the ’49 Indian motorcycle so differently. It’s something unique for everyone, and there are certainly no wrong answers.
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Dustin Thomas’s naive curiosity leads him into the shadows of Fort Lauderdale’s seedy underground, where his innocence is met with violent and traumatic consequences. Despite the dire start, the dreariness of the season is instantly transformed when a handsome and mysterious new next-door neighbor arrives, the tattooed, multi-talented, and youthfully exuberant Midwesterner, Gauge Paulson. Gauge possesses an inspired passion for restoring his late father’s classic 1949 Indian motorcycle, as well as a healthy penchant for the beautiful young women of the nearby South Florida beaches. Regardless of their differences, Gauge and Dustin kindle an unlikely companionship, spending nearly every waking hour together for the remainder of the summer.
After a series of dramatic and disturbing circumstances force the duo to flee the familiarity of home, they venture across the country on the back of the antique motorcycle, with only their friendship and a shared dream of relocating to the magnificent California shores of the Pacific Coast leading the way.
Faced with an onslaught of trials, tribulation, turmoil, and misfortune, Dustin and Gauge persevere, surrounded and guided by a connection that transcends their understanding. When an unexpected intruder invades the sanctuary of their world, the young men are confronted with an impossible fate, challenging them to embody the selfless sacrifice and impenetrable commitment needed for their journey’s end on the sands of the Pacific.
Intense and beautifully tragic, The ’49 Indian tells a timeless, universal coming-of-age love story, vividly capturing the fierce, uncompromising loyalty of a profound and mighty bond.