Choose: Snakes or Ladders follows Mitty who comes up against sexism and classism and must challenge others’ prejudices while fighting her inner demons. What was your inspiration for this provocative novel?
I didn’t have any articulated inspiration for the novel. It started as a short piece and grew seemingly by itself. I thought it was about an innocent young girl in the 50’s. I actually didn’t know that I felt so strongly about class issues and sexism. Nor about sexual safety of young people. My main conscious focus was on her struggle to find a way through the internal and external restrictions. As a former therapist, it has always saddened me that many women, particularly in the 50’s, were denied natural pleasures because of a culture of ignorance and shame around female sexual activity. As well of course, of career advancement.
What I really enjoyed about Mitty’s character is how well developed she was but continued to transform throughout the novel. What were some obstacles you felt were important for Mitty’s character development?
Her main obstacle was the extreme shaming and ignorance of the fictional sect in the novel. Another strong obstacle was Mitty’s lack of anyone who could help her come to some knowledge and understanding. I loved Violet’s attempts to inform her. The struggle is linked to the development, through ups and downs, of her self-worth – another essential ingredient in a life of achievement, pleasure and love.
I think you did a great job of illustrating that female beauty and sexuality can often be a poisoned chalice. Why do you think this is an important, especially with today’s #metoo movement?
I was amused by Mitty’s character as a woman who was beautiful and sexually arousing without her knowing it. And heartened by her innate sensuality. Perhaps if young women were educated properly and allowed to have awareness and acceptance of these factors, they would be less vulnerable in the face of male assertion of power in all ways. A lot of work needs to be done to educate men, particularly in self-awareness.
In the sequel all these themes continue to build strong plot threads, together with some surprising twists in Mitty’s life path.
What life experiences of your own did you put into the novel, if any?
That’s a tricky question. A life experience of teacher and counselor helps to build a wide understanding. Personally, none of the events as depicted happened to me, although fragments of similar occurrences have been combined to build a different fictional history. For example, my much loved grandmother had overcome a restrictive religious background, while still quoting many homilies to me, with a wry smile. Otherwise, sometimes just a few words overheard will trigger a scene. So there is a basic truth in it all.
This is “a well-plotted tale of human growth, sexuality, and self-discovery which will be enjoyed by readers of women’s fiction and literary fiction alike.”
Mitty is a young girl brought up in a punitive sect who escapes to a typist job in the city – a step to fulfilling her dreams of being a lady. She is hampered by deep fears of hell and punishment, and utter ignorance of the facts of life.
The 1950’s – sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not in the small towns of Australia. There were lots of jobs, clothes and wealth in the cities but this threatened the values of the past – a culture where men desire and decide, while women love and serve.
Miss Mitty Bedford knew the outside world through Hollywood movies at the local Pictures, only to find in real life that there can be nasties behind smiling, beautiful faces.
A stalker’s attack clashes with her newfound joy in sensual self-discovery inspired by a crush on her boss, and her love for decent, loving, traditional Col. She writhes between shame, repentance and joy.
Mitty wants a career and respect, but what path must she choose? She needs love, but does she want freedom more?
This emotional and dramatic journey to win trust, love and independence, will keep readers turning the pages, as well as provoking questions that still apply today.
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The Immortality Trigger is, what I consider to be, a large scale thriller. There is a lot going on and it feels like so little time for the characters to do it in. How did you set about writing this novel and what did you want to achieve?
The book was to be a standalone with immortality at its core. But as I thrashed a first draft, I realised there were subtle elements in The Apocalypse Trigger, which could be fleshed out very nicely into a sequel. And then the title of the book clicked and I thought, that sounds good. It began as a simple revenge thriller, picking up with Fortesque and Wei Ling, then grew into a more complex story of redemption, unfinished business, the danger of immortality. I’m quite happy with the finished product even in terms of the story construct. I’ve experimented with flashbacks, revelations, suspense, a twist – new for me. I’m still learning the craft.
The characters in this novel are interesting, well developed, and varied. What character did you enjoy writing?
I enjoyed what I did with the protagonist, Luc Fortesque. Readers of The Apocalypse Trigger (the prequel), will be surprised I selected Fortesque to continue the series. He’s basically a guy who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and believes life has been unfair to him. That has set him on a path that the world would frown upon. In this book, I want Fortesque to discover his old self – the glimmer of good in him, and wanted the readers to also feel sympathy for him.
The different factions in this story were an interesting mix. What were some themes you tried to capture while creating the different groups in your novel?
For Luc Fortesque, the anti-hero, I wanted the theme to centre around self-discovery and redemption. I’m fascinated by this aspect of human nature. For the villain, I wanted to debunk the grandeur of immortality. Personally, I think it will be a mess if we discover immortality. For the Nazi hunters, I wanted to portray the guilt of false accomplishment. And finally for my masked drug lord and vigilante, I called upon our pop culture of masked heroes and villains. I’ve tried to reduce the prominence of the US in the whole book – there are too many thrillers with an American hero.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
The next book introduces a new character, and a new series. I’ve selected a very unlikely nationality for my character because I felt the people of that nation are heroes in their own way. The book is tentatively titled, “LION”, and is due 2018. After that, is the third book in the Ingram series (Haunted, Diablo). That is due 2019.
The Vesuvius Group is destroyed. But not all secrets perished… and none as desirable as the Secret of Immortality. The key to the enigma was unwittingly killed in an Allied raid on a Nazi stronghold in 1945… officially.
Allied paratroopers raid a secret Nazi research facility. The operation is reported as a success. But, the lone survivor, Benjamin Ezra, knows otherwise.
A drug lord, El Fantasma threatens to plunge Colombia into an era of bloody drug wars. DEA Country Attaché, Zachary Mason is in charge of a covert operation to remove El Fantasma, with the help of a vigilante, El Angel, and a retired undercover agent, Raymond Garrett.
In Naples, INTERPOL agent, Sabina Wytchoff, is investigating the death of her parents, when the Wytchoff family’s association with an ancient cabal comes under investigation.
After the events of The Apocalypse Trigger, Luc Fortesque, is scouring the world for the man who tested experimental drugs on him.
Wei Ling works for a shadow Transhumanist faction within China’s State Council, developing drugs that will enhance human longevity.
Their paths will converge… violently… and conclude the mission that began in 1945.
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Follow Me Down is a thrilling novel that follows Lucas as he seeks justice for his family while uncovering corruption in the city’s largest real estate development company. What was your inspiration for this novel and the setup to the story?
The never-used subway beneath Cincinnati is real—built during the Depression but abandoned and sealed up. I lived for years near Cincinnati, both scared and intrigued by ghosts beneath my feet. When I later learned about the “urban explorer” subculture, I HAD to write the story.
One thing I really appreciated in this story was the authenticity of the relationships. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating your characters?
Observant readers will notice one consistent theme for the four main characters: the plight of the underdog. Lucas, suppressed by corporate corruption. Alfred Blumenfeld, put down by cruel social mores, and Tricia Blumenfeld too, unwilling to play the part of the “good girl.” And Reuben, victimized for being short and Jewish. These characters deserved a voice and a shot at justice.
Lucas explores Cincinnati’s underground in this novel and the scenes were detailed and well developed. Why did you choose this setting for the novel?
In the story, protagonist Lucas reflects on a childhood experience descending voluntarily into a well on his grandfather’s farm. That scene resembles my own childhood “adventure.” What urban explorers do is just damn cool, risking capture and physical dangers in very cool places. Also, the noblest among these modern-day adventurers respect and revere the places they infiltrate. I admire them.
I find a problem in well-written novels, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
Thank you! While I’m finished with Lucas for now, two new stories are underway. The first fictionalizes a true 1980’s battle between an auto manufacturer and an underdog labor union. The second, set in small-town USA, explores the plight of another underdog, a young woman unjustly blamed for a deadly accident.
Urban explorer Lucas Tremaine should buckle down and complete his Masters in Architecture, but the past torments him. Six years earlier, Drax Enterprises’ negligence killed his father and left his mother strung out on Valium. Lucas longs to punish the corrupt behemoth of Cincinnati real estate development, but what can one man do?
“Plenty,” says old Mr. Blumenfeld, Lucas’s boss and a former photojournalist with too many secrets. Evidence to bury Drax exists, he claims, but to find it, Lucas must breach the city’s welded-shut subway system. Lucas takes the plunge, aided by his best friend and moral compass, Reuben Klein.
The deeper the duo infiltrates the dangerous underground, the further back they turn the clock. They learn that Drax’s corruption intertwined with fascism’s rise in Germany. That campfire tales of a subway crypt were true. That no one can be trusted, not even Lucas’s boss.
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Invasion follows a vampire, mage and a werewolf as they try to prevent an alien invasion. How did you come up with this unique and thrilling idea?
For that, we have to go back to The Underground, to which Invasion is the standalone sequel. I wanted to tell more of Melera’s story (the interstellar assassin) than what was depicted in that first book. So, I have an alien on the run from her nemesis, who is determined to recapture her and possess her battlefleet. When she returns to Earth, what are the high stakes? Does she just resume her existence on her hidden base, doing what she’s fated to do? No, because there’s no urgency. There has to be a clear and present danger from without. And what could be more of a clear and present danger than a potential alien invasion of Earth?
I really enjoyed that each character was unique and well developed, which led to some very interesting relationships. Did you plan these relationships or did they grow organically?
Again, we have to go back to The Underground. The Underground is where those relationships developed. I didn’t exactly plan them; they more or less grew organically. I mean, I had an idea about these relationships, but I didn’t map them out—I simply wrote and watched them unfold. That’s the way I write—I don’t plot anything out. I have an idea where to start—point A, if you will—and I know I have to get to point B and then to point C. How I get to these points is completely unknown to me. That, for me, is the joy of writing, that act of creation.
This novel was fun to read. What was the most fun scene for you to write?
That would have to be the BDSM scene. I had to do research for that one. I read books on the roles of the dominant and the submissive. I learned that to be a good dom is hard work. I also learned the rules of etiquette in group settings, and things like that. I visited a couple of clubs on open house night, where we were treated to a tour of the facilities, mini-lectures and demonstrations. One night, I won a gorgeous, hand-tooled leather spiked collar at a silent auction. Anyway, I met some fabulous people who were more than willing to talk to me about how to write the scene so that it rang true. I even ran it by a couple who gave me pointers. A great group of people, really. Their lifestyle isn’t mine, but it was a wonderful experience that really opened my eyes.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a sequel to a book I wrote a few years ago, entitled The Moreva of Astoreth. It’s funny—I never intended to write a sequel to The Moreva, but so many of my readers strongly suggested that I do so, well, how can I disappoint? I hope to have it finished within a year, maybe by the spring of 2019. My day job takes up a lot of my time, and I’m still working on how to balance the marketing and writing thing. I mean, I’m either all in, or not. I know there’s got to be a better way, a smarter way—I just haven’t figured it out yet.
Kurt, vampire Master of Seattle, Garrett Larkin, mage of Balthus Coven and Parker Berenson, alpha of the city’s werewolf pack, are in a world of trouble. Already divided by love and jealousy, the three discover their auras are inextricably bound, the result of a spellcasting gone terribly wrong. Each one’s aura has been invaded by the auras of the others, and the consequences are both frightening and deadly. Worse yet, Shen’zae Melera, interstellar assassin and Parker’s love, has returned to Earth with dire news: she didn’t return alone. She’d been followed by her nemesis, Mag Beloc, and his fleet of warships. Even if Beloc recaptures her, Melera knows that Earth will suit his purposes, and that his presence may well become permanent. Drawn together by choice and fate while doing what they had to do, can Kurt, Garrett, and Parker now find a way to undo the magick that binds them, and with Melera, stop an alien invasion before it begins?
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The Birthday Club, by Jack Petersen, follows the lives of four high school friends bound together by a shared birthday. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy form a bond during their sophomore year and remain a tight foursome, all but shunning the world around them for three years. When their tight-knit cluster is infiltrated by Fred during their junior year of high school, little things begin to set the stage for large-scale changes in the lives of all five young people. Upon graduation, the members of the Birthday Club go their separate ways only to find themselves forever bound by one of its member’s desperate choices.
Petersen could not have chosen a more misleading title for this touching thriller. Now that I have finished, I am not sure I remember many of my original predictions about the plot. I do know that I had envisioned a much more benign and almost juvenile story line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Petersen does an excellent job of setting the background for each of his characters and builds steadily and purposefully toward a surprising climax.
I am a fan of Harlan Coben and have been for many years. Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, rivals the intricate plots woven by Coben and features characters for which the reader will root. Petersen, like Coben, keeps the reader guessing, feeding only the most minute hints of what is to come. This was truly a “couldn’t put it down” read for me.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Petersen’s writing style is his take on point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed the shifts in perspectives among his cast of characters. The author incorporates something not often seen in thrillers–the viewpoint of the antagonist. Readers are treated to a look inside the mind of Petersen’s villain and afforded the opportunity to make judgements from, literally, all sides. This 360° rotation between the main and supporting characters’ perspectives throughout the book is unique, refreshing, and appreciated.
Without giving away too much regarding the book’s conclusion, I will say that the ending was poignant and, in my opinion, leaves room for more books featuring Petersen’s Birthday Club cast. I can easily picture future plot lines growing from the closing scene. From beginning to end, the members of the club touched my heart and kept me guessing. (I wasn’t always right, and I loved that fact.)
Without hesitation, I am giving Jack Petersen’s, The Birthday Club, a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Angelina, Chris, Kurt, and Billy are a winning combination from the moment they meet and discover their September 14th connection to the book’s bitter end. I have not read a book so thoughtfully written and so carefully constructed to give each character a fair shot at telling his or her story. Petersen has set forth a group of personalities, who as a foursome, are a force with which to be reckoned. From Chris, the quiet one, to Angelina, the friend and object of each boy’s blooming love, Petersen has a home run on his hands. The Birthday Club is a mystery/thriller not to be missed.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B01GDGJ7EE
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Because It Was Raining tells a story of Louis who is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning while trying to find his place in the world. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Well, Louis is in many ways a reflection on myself and my own experiences. Initially, I wrote this story as a therapeutic exercise, but as I progressed I began to see an opportunity to help other people with similar experiences and emotions. I wanted to reach through the pages, hold the readers hand, and tell them that they aren’t alone. From the reviews and feedback that I have received, I believe that I have managed to do that. I feel very fortunate to have been given a five-star review from Literary Titan and to have the opportunity to share my own experiences with others. If I had not written this story I probably would not have published anything ever.
Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. What experiences from your own life did you put into this novel?
I actually used a significant portion of my own life in the telling of this story. The story depicts a trip to Kansas City, then to another town. I actually did get in a car with two women and drove with them to KC, saw the depicted meth house, picked up a man, then headed back to a house in Aurora Mo. where I stayed for two weeks. I also described situations that were very real to me such as the death of a friend as well as my grandfather, whom I was very close to.
I enjoyed watching the character progression of Boobe who was a complex multilayered character. What was your inspiration for this character?
Believe it or not, Boobe is based on a woman whom we actually called Boobe. In reality, she was a recovering meth addict who fell on hard times and relapsed. I wanted to show her as she was through my eyes over the years that I had known her. I wanted to use her as a means of saying that even meth addicts are people who feel and need love and compassion. I loved Boobe, and I felt that she was an opportunity to humanize those people who we routinely depict as less than human.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently I have several projects in the works, but the main focus is on a story which I have tentatively entitled “Eden”. This story will be set in the future and will follow more of a science fiction theme. Writing “Because It Was Raining” was draining enough on my mind that I felt a somewhat more playful story was in order. “Eden” will hopefully show up sometime in the next year.
A young man, tormented by his past, descends into a world filled with drugs, sex, and violence in an attempt to find salvation and meaning in life, knowing full well that the cost of failure could be his very soul…
It is a story that touches on depression, addiction, grief, shame, and the power of hope. Truly a must-read for anyone.
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Panther Across the Stars is a stirring historical novel depicting the detailed life of a Shawnee Indian warrior who is fighting for his people’s freedom. What was the inspiration for this fantastic novel?
Bear with me, as the answer to this question has several layers. I know there are some among us who find history to be dry, boring, and just written text in schoolbooks; but to me it has always been so much more. History is fascinating when you understand it is made up of living and breathing people who are just as flawed as we are. And for but one step this way or that, all the many things that come after can be altered for good or ill for all of time. I think there is also a smugness in that us here today kind of take things for granted that the world is as it is, as if it was somehow preordained or something. But I think the truth is that the past history, and the one unfolding before our eyes, is fragile in that one act, this way or that, and it can all be rewritten.
And as you walk through the pages of history there are those that rise up from time to time to do extraordinary things. Tecumseh is one of those few. Though I think many of the living do not know his name or who he really was – they should take the time to find out, for he was truly remarkable for the way he carried himself, how he inspired others, and what he tried to accomplish and came oh so close to doing. He was an exceptional human being and certainly one of the very best among us, and that was according to the people who were trying to kill him . . . think about that for a moment. You will find no better patriot for freedom in history’s pages, regardless of the race, creed, country, or age of mankind. Even now, some two hundred years since his passing from the world, his words and deeds are an inspiration to find the highest form of ourselves. Every day that we arise with breath, we should seek the strength to do what is right, even if it is not the easy path to follow. If we could all endeavor to such a thing, the world would truly be a better place.
And also, the core theme of the book is that there is nothing more precious to a living thing than freedom. The book is trying to explore the notion that freedom is more than just the physical and on the outside of the world, but that there is just as great a struggle for freedom on the inside, within the mind. In fact, the story proposes that being free within from all your masters (i.e. anger, fear, doubt, and hate, etc.) may just be the most important of all. It is my humble opinion that as Tecumseh fought for his freedom on the battlefield against musket and bayonet, he also waged this fight within against his fear, doubt, anger, and hatred; for who among us would not be filled with those masters when faced with such pain, hurt, and loss, and the tremendous burden of trying to find a way out for his people.
And lastly, as I read about Tecumseh’s life story there was a mention of a strange red comet in the sky of March 1811, as Tecumseh was trying to gather the many tribes together into one pan-Indian confederation to fight back against America’s invasion. And the thought occurred to me that what if that streaking comet had been a crash landing of a few survivors of some alien race, which fate had steered to his world to help his people find their freedom. What if. . . .
Panther Across the Stars is an intelligent and spiritual person. Was there a historical person that you modeled his character after?
None other than Tecumseh himself. I first learned of him several years back and he was simply a remarkable human being who faced an impossible situation. I tried to write the novel to make the reader feel like you were with Tecumseh two hundred years ago . . . and what would you do when faced with such trials, tribulations, and impossibilities.
I enjoyed all the history woven into this story. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the books accuracy?
The book is loosely based on the accountings here and there of things that are said to have occurred in Tecumseh’s life. I read several books, watched documentaries, and spent many long hours of internet research to gather up as much background information as I could. This helped to provide the bones to the story, before the layering of the fictional elements. And of course, all good tales deserve some embellishment.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Well, the intention has been all along to write a sequel to Panther Across the Stars, regarding what happens in the here and now; to see what happens when fate calls again and through their undying spirit of freedom, the scattered Shawnee descendants find the lost Ithreal stone at last some two hundred years later. And what happens when the Jhagir find their way back to this world. In fact, they may already have arrived as we conduct this interview.
As far as the planned timetable, presently there is not one. Being a first-time self-published author, and all that is entailed to try and create a high quality novel, in addition to my day job, time is at a premium and I am still in the early stages of writing the first draft.
Author Links: GoodReads
A larger-than-life tale of one man’s courage, sacrifice, and unyielding defiance to fight for his peoples’ freedom against those that would take it, and in this great struggle he finds friendship with three alien beings fallen to Earth that stand with him.
He is Panther Across the Sky and his world is fading. He takes all the hurt and pain a lifetime gives him and stares into his soul to face the greatest master he will ever know. Just a man among a dying people, he inspires his kin beyond all limit of mind and body in their outstretched and desperate grasp for freedom against overwhelming odds and the mighty nation arisen to the east in the early 1800s – America.
And along the way, he forges a bond with three alien beings fallen to Earth from a distant star, the Jhagir. Together they must find the courage to rise up against the swirling dark sea of blue jackets, muskets, and cannon fire that comes for them. It will take all their strength and spirit, and cost them more than they know, to break back the angry waves of a young nation that would devour a people and wash them away forever. And just maybe, Panther Across the Sky and the Jhagir can give rise to a peoples’ real hope for today . . . and what is to come.
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Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?
Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.
Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature. The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.
I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.
The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.
The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?
Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.
The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.
I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?
Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.
It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.
Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.
I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future?
I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.
In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.
In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.
While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.
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Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?
It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.
The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?
1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.
Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?
Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.
It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.
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The Consort Conspiracy follows Kate who travels to to Georgia to cover a story only to get embroiled in the towns dark history. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
The inspiration for this novel is actually one of my favorite parts of the story. While I have been a writer in some form or another my whole life, I had never done much with it other than a couple of short stories and poems. But I visited the Midway Cemetery in Georgia–yes, it’s a real place–in 1997 because I knew it contained the graves of signers of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I went there for the history. But as I wandered the oldest part of the cemetery, I stumbled upon the Robarts family plot with death dates in the early 1700s. One grave was for the wife of William Robarts and right next to her grave was that of Ann Evelyn Robarts, listed as “The Consort” of William. My first thought was indignation, since I interpreted “consort” to mean “mistress” (my research later told me, however, that “consort” was simply another name for “spouse”). My second thought was of deep sorrow when I read the epitaph that stated she was only seventeen-years-old when she died and was buried with her two infant daughters. Immediately, my mind started spinning with a myriad of jumbled thoughts that ranged from “Oh how horrible to die so young with so much to look forward to,” all the way to “This happened so long ago…how could anyone today be certain that these deaths actually happened the way it’s written here…what if one of the little girls had lived?” I felt so strongly about it, it was as if Ann Evelyn, herself, had reached out from the grave. A story began to take shape in my heart…and it was one I knew I had to tell.
This book was filled with lots of great twists. Did you plan these or did they develop organically as you were writing?
The main twist about Kate’s ancestral roots was the first one I thought of and, in fact, in the very first iteration of this story–written long hand on four yellow legal tablet sheets for an early writing class–developed that one twist and only covered the crypt and its contents. As my writing instructor and friends encouraged me to expand on the story, I knew that more things needed to happen and be intricately woven together. I needed to figure out what caused Katherine to die at such a young age in the first place–yes, women did die of childbirth all the time back then, but that was too easy–and not very exciting in a thriller. So the reason Katherine died led to the story line of not only the circumstances prior to her death, but also of what catapulted the Penningtons into the most powerful political position in the world. And once that happened, the events that transpired to bring them karmic justice–family come-uppance, if you will–also spawned a story line. All of the other twists simply presented themselves to me “organically,” as you said, in the course of the writing.
I enjoyed how each character had their own voice and was meticulously developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?
I really love it that you asked that question because as a writer, one of my fears has always been that people will think my characters are shallow. I have been thrilled to find out that’s not the case. The characters in the two-hundred-year-old story were probably the easiest to write because I believe they follow typical character themes from the period–the strong, silent “leading man” who was a pillar of the community until he experienced his downfall, the sweet naïve young bride/mother who steadfastly refused to believe there was evil in any of her associates, the evil-doers who were only out to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to others, and the salt of the earth folks–primarily Jewel, in this case–who kept things moving with undying love and loyalty and a steady hand. One of the characters I especially enjoyed writing was Lucilla, from the older story. One of my editors suggested I tone down her surliness and some other aspects of her character, but I fought to keep her the way she was. She needed to do everything she did in order to maintain at least semi-equal footing with Caleb in their sinister plot. Kate’s character had initially been written in a more literary style–more formal speech and fewer glimpses into her internal insecurities. But when I turned in a writing assignment in an advanced writing course using a “girlfriend ” type voice, my instructor wrote on the top of my paper that she really liked that voice and that I should incorporate it into my writing. So I did…which also led to a massive re-write to change Kate’s part of the story from third person POV to first person POV. And after that, Kate became much more fun to spend time with.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book is the first in a new series about two new families–the Sinclairs and the Maguires–and takes place in North Carolina, just a few miles east of Asheville–I’ll pick back up on Kate and her friends in a later book. We are still negotiating on this one, but expect it to be out in 2018. Here’s a teaser:
In 1947, JEFFREY SINCLAIR, hidden in his family’s mansion, sneaks from his safe place on his eighth birthday and witnesses his father’s murder. Almost seventy years later, MATTIE MAGUIRE the fourth generation of the working class family whose lives have been intertwined with the wealthy Sinclair family, attempts to fulfill her lifelong fantasy of buying the old mansion. But her plans fall apart when she learns that the mystery shrouding the earlier murder has also clouded the identity of the property’s true heir. Worse, in her research to clear the title, she uncovers some troubling information that points to the involvement of her beloved grandfather, MICHAEL MAGUIRE, into the earlier murder that, if made public, would put her whole family in danger. Suddenly, nothing matters beyond protecting her loved ones and clearing her family name. It’s up to Mattie, accompanied by an unlikely source, to unravel her grandfather’s involvement, discover the true Sinclair heir–hidden away for decades–and return him to his rightful place, where together, he and Mattie finally reveal the family’s long-held secrets, along with the identity of the true killer.
For almost two hundred years an ancient cemetery, deep in the lowlands of Georgia, has protected the identity of an infamous, brutal murderer, whose act of betrayal changed the course of the town’s history. Now, eight generations later, MIDWAY CEMETERY conceals the activities of international conspirators engaged in a fast moving counterfeiting ring operating right under the noses of the slow-paced Midway residents.
Thirty-one-year old Bostonian KATE COVINGTON travels to Midway to film a documentary intended to increase the favorability ratings for the current United States President, WILFORD PENNINGTON, who was born in Midway and descended from the murdered victim from two hundred years earlier. As she becomes enthralled with the town’s history, Kate uncovers the truth about the murder of the President’s ancestor. Her discovery also leads to her learning the truth behind her own mother’s death and eventually changes not only the town’s history, but Kate’s future as well.
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