Fractured details your revelations and strides toward bettering yourself both mentally and physically. What was the inspiration that made you want to capture your experiences in a book?
I originally started writing the book as a form of therapy, a way to help get the trauma, events and details of the accident out of my body and mind. Then around my 30th birthday, I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure, I thought I should have been at a different place in my life, I thought I should have accomplished more. After many therapy sessions and allowing myself to cry, be mad, and feel all the feelings – I realized I had so much more to share than just the details of the accident. I took a step back and saw how hard I had fought to be healthy and have a successful life. I knew at that point that my book was supposed to be about that. I wanted to share my struggles and adversity in hopes of helping others going through something similar.
I greatly appreciated your candor in detailing the obstacles you faced and I could truly feel the tragedies as well as the victories. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest thing, hands down, to write about was the rape when I was a freshman in college. It was something only my therapist really knew about. I hadn’t even told my parents at the time I was writing it in the book. It brought back all sorts of memories, feelings, and shame. As I was writing it I had to take many breaks, remember that I was not the same person nor in the same place, and keep telling myself I was enough. THEN came the hard part of having to tell my parents about the event. I had hid it from them for 12 years but I knew I needed to tell them before the book came out. Again, all the fears, shame, embarrassment, and emotions came rushing in. But I knew it was something I had to do before I let them read the book – that was probably the only thing they didn’t know about that was in the book. I also knew it was something that I absolutely needed to include in the book since the book is all about finding my voice and sharing my truth. This was a huge part of losing both of those things. I am so thankful to have such supportive, encouraging and loving parents. It was extremely hard for them to hear, but I know it ultimately brought us closer and deepened our relationship.
In Fractured you reveal a past with issues like body dysmorphia and a struggle to find your own voice. What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers can take away the lesson I learned after my 14+ year struggle with diet pills, anorexia, and body dysmorphia… YOU ARE ENOUGH. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The image society portrays that you have to be skin and bones to be beautiful is so distorted. I hope readers, especially young girls can read this and have an “aha moment” before they enter into a self-destructive path. It also my hope that men and women learn that it is ok to be vulnerable, to speak, share, and use your authentic voice, live in their authentic skin, and follow their own rules. Don’t shrink yourself to make others like you. It is not worth it. It is so much more fun to live life celebrating your bigness.
You are the founding director of the nonprofit company Step Up Chicago Playwrights. How did that start and where do you see it going in the future?
I founded what was then Step Up Productions in 2009 with the mission to share truth onstage and inspire the audience to embrace their own personal truths (haha see a pattern?) We had 3 successful seasons of shows in which we chose a social service organization – whose mission matched the theme of the show we were producing- in Chicago to partner with and donate a portion of our proceeds to. In 2015, funding was low and we were struggling to be able to fund our next production. I took a step back and cancelled the remainder of our season. I talked with a mentor, friend, and phenomenal artist in Chicago, Brad Akin, and together we came up with Step Up Chicago Playwrights as it is now. A company that pairs Chicago Communities with local playwrights who will write a play based off that community. Our hope is to make theater sound and look more like Chicago, All of Chicago! I have since taken on an advisory role since I moved to California with my fiancé who was relocated for work and Brad has taken on the Executive Director role. I know the model we have sets us up for success. We are in the process of choosing our first playwright and community to kick off the inaugural year with Step Up Chicago Playwrights.
Fractured is about your journey of self discovery, but it’s also about your family. Was there anything about your family that you only learned through this journey?
In talking with my therapist about different patterns I was trying to break and learn the history of where they started (me always being good, my need to please, not using my voice) I learned a lot about my family. I brought different topics up to my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my young childhood that helped me figure out why I embedded certain thoughts, behaviors and patterns into my system. I have to say, even though it was not always pleasant to learn and a lot of hard work, it was a lot of fun putting all the pieces together and learning why I did and thought certain things.
From the outside looking in, Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had a family who loved her, numerous friends, and a successful career. No one knew the hurt, pain, and angst she hid inside, struggling to keep herself small so that those around her would still like her.
It all came to a head on October 23, 2007, when her parents received a call that she was lying lifeless in the ICU in a hospital in Utah — “You better get out here, your daughter is not going to make it.” Fractured: My Journey Back From Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way is the memoir of Elizabeth’s recovery, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is about her deliberate decision to begin the hard work finding and using her voice and the struggle to break out of the box that society tried to keep her in.
This is the story of what happens when one woman stared death in the face and decided to make a conscious choice not to go back to sleep, but to wake up and live the life she knew she was meant to live.
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In Typhoon of Fire we follow Ace Mcdagger who teams up with Captain Loxwell of November squad to rescue her teammates scattered in the forests of Malaysia. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
During Call of the Conjurer, when the characters were new recruits to the hidden world of modern, magical combat; they spent a lot of time in a regulated, clean environments. The characters were usually safe. I wanted to go the opposite way in Typhoon of Fire. I wanted the situation throughout to be very rough, challenging and dangerous. My very first thought, visually, was of Vietnam era war films like “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now”.
The jungle is wild and hostile, and Malaysia is a location brimming with different environments which greatly inspired the events throughout. The characters explore flat, arid plains and damp rainforests, a rundown laboratory overrun by plants, an abandoned mine, a floating fortress above the clouds… I had a great time using colour schemes to set the mood. The use of natural environments also helped me to emphasise major themes in the book. Subjects such as ‘corruption of life’, ‘man versus nature’ and ‘Hell on Earth’.
I felt that the novel was very well paced and kept me engaged throughout. Did you plan the novel as you wrote or did it all happen organically?
It happened organically, for the most part. From my perspective, Typhoon of Fire is a prequel to another book I have written – but I decided it would be better to publish them chronologically. Certain events had to happen in Typhoon of Fire, and with that in mind I just had fun writing what I wanted: a creepy science-gone-wrong scenario!
Developing the supporting cast and their stories happened organically as well. They were new characters, who would not necessarily be seen again; so their personalities, roles and fates were all blank slates. I enjoyed unravelling these characters, adding little twists to their personalities to surprise the reader. A lot of the characters are very different people by the end of the story, for better or for worse. I suppose in essence, the main plot of Typhoon of Fire was an after thought for me. The subplots, however; the individual character arcs which pave the way for future instalments, are the real meat and bones of the book. Away from all the magic and sci-fi, this is a book about humanity and frailty.
Ace, Shimon, Tiffany, and Loxwell have brilliant dialogue and they feel like living characters. What things did you focus your character development on to bring your characters to life?
I absolutely adore writing flawed characters. I like my characters fumble their dialogue, on occasion, or misunderstand information given to them. It makes them more human, to be far from perfect. I enjoy the concept of the “unreliable protagonist” and bear that in mind when I write. Sometimes the characters make mistakes, and sometimes they lie, even to themselves. They are supposed to be human, despite any super human magical powers they possess. Careful dialogue keeps them grounded and relatable.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Tricky one! I actually have two books in the proof reading stage now. One is a direct follow up to Typhoon of Fire, called Bloodfest, which was the book I had written before this one but decided to release later. The other book I’ve completed is a supplementary story called The Sardonyc, which focuses on the Science Department mentioned throughout Typhoon of Fire. The Sardonyc is a very different book to what I have written before, but it is still within the same self contained universe.
Bloodfest will be a straight up action horror / macabre comedy, continuing the adventures of Ace Mcdagger. He is more grown up and world weary by now, and is deployed to a mysterious island to dispatch a rising army of the undead. Definitely one for zombie fans!
The Sardonyc is more of a psychological thriller, about a troubled new character named Sidney. He is part of a research team stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and everybody is slowly going mad. Sidney must figure out why it is happening before he succumbs as well, and there are plenty of twists along the way.
I hope the Literary Titan will review my next book soon – whichever one is out first!
Three years after training; learning about magic combat and of monsters that terrorise our world, soldier Ace Mcdagger and his allies join Captain Rafaella Loxwell of November Squad for a rescue mission. Her team mates have been scattered following a disastrous attempt to seek out a rogue scientist deep in the forests of Malaysia. Their path is mired by many obstacles; treachery, psychic warnings, scientific abominations, and an overwhelming storm – the Typhoon of Fire, slowly closing in on the region without a known cause.
Worst of all, Ace has to contend with a personal challenge – keeping his mad cousin out of trouble.
Can Captain Loxwell save her team mates and complete the mysterious mission? And will Ace and his friends survive out here in the midst of true, heated battle?
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STAINER follows Ben Steiner, a Jewish Columbia undergrad who is a decent person but wishes to be “in” with the “in crowd.” What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Since I wrote the book forty years ago, I must confess that I cannot precisely recollect what the initial idea was. I just sat down and started scribbling (longhand, on legal yellow sheets) and eventually the novel emerged. However, as I explain in my Author’s Preface, the manuscript was an overwritten mess. I was a complete amateur, and made every mistake in the book… (okay, that was a truly cringe-worthy pun.) But now that I think of it, I did have a vague notion that I wanted to somehow skewer an acquaintance of mine, and decided that the cleverest way to accomplish that would be to turn them into a rotten character in a book. Which I did… and no, I won’t tell you which character, but suffice it to say that nowadays my intended skeweree is rich, fulfilled, aging much better than I am, and utterly unaware of my –or my novel’s– existence. Which, all things considered, is exactly as it should be.
Of course, at a distance of four decades, I am now able to perceive things in the novel that weren’t apparent to me at the time I wrote it; by which I mean that there’s more than a trace of autobiographical heartbreak in the story. And I think we’ll leave it at that.
Ben goes through some strikingly personal conflicts throughout the book and his character is meticulously developed. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a 70’s Jewish teen?
Easy… I was a 70’s Jewish teen. Well, not technically… even though I was already in my mid-twenties when I wrote STAINER, my mindset remained that of an irresponsible teenage scamp, and I simply wrote prose in the same the way I spoke/ thought/lived; in other words, from the viewpoint of extremely arrested adolescence (ahem.) Luckily for me, it turned out that I had a knack for accurately capturing the mood and lingo of the times in my writing… who knew?
Ben meets P.T. Deighland, a wiseass from Princeton, who is clearly up to no good. What were the driving ideals behind the characters relationship throughout the story?
“Driving ideals”? Hmm… I have no clue, other than to suspect that the relationship between ‘bad-boy’ P.T. and ‘good-boy’ Ben somewhat reflected the two sides of my own slightly schizophrenic persona; which, in those days, remained more-or-less in a constant state of conflict. To all outward appearances I was definitely a good boy, but like many such young fellows, secretly wished that I had the nerve and coolness to behave like one of the bad boys. Because, after all, the bad boys always got the girls… didn’t they? But, like Ben, my efforts to attain bad-boy status were ultimately doomed to failure, and came at a heavy cost.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a new novel under way, and it’s as different from STAINER as STAINER is from SHE’S MY DAD. I can only write stand-alone novels; the mere thought of doing sequels or a series is a stupefying bore. For me, once a story is wrapped up, that’s the end of it, and then I’m off to build a new world, with new characters, new problems, new everything. It’s the only way I can stay interested enough to keep going.
As to when the new book will be available, who knows? All I can say is, stay tuned… I do believe it’s a pretty good yarn.
New York City, 1975: Decent-hearted but spoiled Jewish college kid Ben Steiner is naively possessed by an overwhelming desire to be cool. At a springtime party on the night of his twenty-first birthday, he meets two people: Rebecca Glaser, the longed-for sweet girl of his dreams, and P.T. Deighland, a beguilingly knavish wiseacre from Princeton. Seduced by Deighland’s bold irreverence while simultaneously succumbing to his own temptations, Ben makes a cascading series of unfortunate choices which not only threaten his budding relationship with Rebecca, but expose him to ruin at the hands of a ravishing but ruthless fashion model named Anthea Montague.
Against the background of a vanished period in American history, STAINER offers a bittersweet nostalgic trip back to a less complex world, during a time of incautious excesses that, while deceptively fun and carefree, in due course forced many unwary youngsters like Benjamin Steiner to learn some necessary –albeit painful– lessons about growing up.
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Detours in Time follows Professor Milton, who invented a time-traveling car, and his assistant turned traveling companion Tabitha on their adventures through time. What was your inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
I’ve subscribed to several writing sites over the years that offer writing prompts. It simply started out as a response to a writing prompt. After a while, imagining this story became a great escape for me. The element of escape is what kept me going with this story. That, and the headlines we’ve been seeing in America during pre and post-election. They truly can get an imagination going.
Time travel is always filled with paradoxes. Are there any that you had to deal with when writing this novel?
Well, there is possibly an issue with going back in time and seeing yourself, or the possibility that you cannot physically inhabit a time in which your body is already inhabiting. I don’t think we truly know the answers to that question, so I mostly went with the “what-if” factor through a lot of my story. What if you could inhabit a time where you already exist, wouldn’t you want to avoid bumping into yourself? I would say, yes. So that factors in to one part of my novel. Then, there is the concern that you must not bring anything back from the future, which becomes an issue at another point in the story. It could mean that a different person discovers the formula for artificial sweetener, thereby ruining another person’s life, which means they may not produce the children they had, leaving a hole somewhere in the rhythm of the universe. I was a natural-born worrywart, so I’m used to thinking like this.
With these types of time travel stories most people draw a comparison to Doctor Who or Back to the Future. I suppose the dividing line being familial involvement. What of these two fictions do you enjoy better and where do you think your novel falls between these two?
I would say it falls closer to Back to the Future, except the scientist is taking a young lady, Pinky, with him. That young lady might be comparable to Marty, except her personality is much different. I was such a fan of that series, and so was my son. It’s a happy memory for us both. I also had a dear friend who shared a love of this series with me who is no longer with us. It brings back memories there as well. I suppose that is why there is so much familial involvement in the storyline. Family is such an important thing to me, so it was part of the building of my characters, despite the fact that Pinky has been without her family and forced to be self-reliant for some time. You may say there’s a resemblance to Dr. Who because of the female companion, however, I don’t think there is much more that is similar. I have enjoyed Dr. Who but never was able to watch more than one season.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?
I have so many ideas spinning around! Most likely, what I will publish next is a book of paranormal stories, since I haven’t published in that genre yet. I have the stories and just need to edit, proofread, and polish. I also have 50,000 words done for the Detours in Time sequel, but I like to get good editing and beta reading before publishing a novel, so it won’t come out until next year. I plan to flesh that sequel out during NANOWRIMO, which really drives me to produce. I have the Made for Me series which takes place in the future, and plan to work on a book 3 to uncover secrets about the main character parental lineage which has been a mystery so far. I think that one will also come out next year.
On a whim, feisty Tabitha takes a trip to the future with her trusted friend Milt, an awkward Science professor. Wonders and curiosities abound. However, their amusing journey soon becomes a challenging maze of difficult decisions. When an unplanned detour occurs, the two set events into action that may save one life and yet destroy another. Can these friends of completely different mindsets agree on a course of action?
Amid the backdrop of a future that reveals great wonders and horrors, Detours in Time starts as a fantastic escape and grows to present many moral dilemmas and surprises that can either destroy the strongest friendship or bring two people closer.
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Fireflies of the Dead takes readers on a horrifying journey of blood seeking killers and revenge loving victims. What was the inspiration for this collection of short stories?
I’ve always been a fan of exploitation horror films, which I think really shows in the stories in this collection. I’ve been fascinated with rape revenge films such as Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave for as long as I can remember. The boldness and grit of those films are what really drew me into them. I am a horror fan and as a horror fan I wrote stories that I myself would enjoy reading.
What was your favorite short story in the collection and why?
That is tough for me to answer because each story I like for different reasons. If I had to narrow it down, I would think my favorite is Watching Over Loved. I think it’s the darkest story in the collection. It contains no gore at all but packs a punch.
The stories are preceded by poems that help set the tone of the next story. What made you go with this format for your collection?
My previous books besides Burning Down Paradise were horror poetry collections dealing with extreme horror. As a reader, I’ve always loved reading short story collections. Especially when it’s a collection written by an author I’ve never heard or read before. I thought the poems would both serve as a way to set up the tone of each story as well as serve as stopping points for the reader.
I didn’t notice that any of the stories were connected, but they stood on their own well. Was there any overarching theme you tried to use in the collection?
Yes, some of the stories do share a common theme which might be hard to see through the violence and gore for some readers. In a lot of my work, I focus on themes of loss, loneliness and trying to find one’s place in the world.
Are you currently working on any full-length books? If so, when will the next book be published?
I’m working on a new draft a Novella I do not yet have a title for. It kind of serves as a sequel to my book Burning Down Paradise but yet is a stand alone story as well. I don’t want to give away much right now but I will say it takes place in a prison.
An alien from a distant world falls to earth with an insatiable craving for human flesh and something even more frightening, a desire to mate! Witness the tragic tale of a lonely man with an unhealthy affection toward the fire.
Seven short stories and poems that will take you on a blood-soaked thrill ride filled with mayhem and horrific images.
Fireflies of the Dead will chill your blood.
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The Secrets of all Secrets follows Zane who receives a USB from a stranger that contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fun novel?
I wanted the premise of the story to be wacky and like a fairy tale with epistemological overtones. Many of us grew up with fairy tales of one sort or another, so the concept is recognizable. The USB is Jack’s bean stalk. Once it’s there, he has to climb it. The USB idea occurred to me because I use them in my work as a college professor. I wondered what would happen if all knowledge, the meaning of life, etc. were on one? The next question: What parties would want to pursue The Secrets and to what lengths will they go to get them?
In this story you combine irony with wry humor and manage to keep it all topical. What themes did you want to explore when you started this book?
The overarching theme is illustrated by Shakespeare’s line from The Tempest: “The stuff that dreams are made on,” which is what The Secrets represent. What would be the government’s dream for getting The Secrets? Probably something to do with gaining ultimate power. Corporate America’s dream? Wasn’t there someone who said there’s no such thing as making too much money? The two crazy extremists’ dream is to create an Anti-Amerika, “Amerika with a k.” That the representatives of these entities are comical bunglers illustrates the way in which human beings can wreck any mission. As for the two main characters, Zane and Dali—Everyman and Everywoman—the dream is more about self discovery. It’s a classic conflict: individuals versus institutions and malevolent factions. Jack versus the Giant.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters. How did you set about creating their dynamic relationship?
What’s kind of funny is that when I started the novel, there was no Dali. Once I got to the point in the story where Zane begins his quest, I knew he needed a partner, someone equally smart, resilient, and resourceful but with a different sensibility. Zane is an intellectual. Dali is more pragmatic. There is tension between them, but there’s also balance. “Two peas in a pod,” as is stated ironically early in the book. It doesn’t hurt that they are attracted to each from the start without admitting it to themselves.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a satire of political correctness. I’m hoping to finish it and have it published in a year or two. Some of this is dictated by my teaching schedule, but if you know any publishers willing to give me a triple figure advance, I think I could work a little faster.
Zane, a seminary and grad school dropout, obtains a USB drive left by a cloaked figure on a bridge in the middle of the night. The drive’s content offers Zane “The Secrets of All Secrets”—a tantalizing proposal for someone who has nothing left to lose.
Following the drive’s directions, Zane heads to Florida where he encounters Dali, a poor waitress who received an identical USB. Initially clashing, they band together, taking a chance that The Secrets are genuine as they receive more instructions from their USBs.
Four conflicted government operatives; an extremely tall corporate executive with an extremely short, scholarly hit man in tow; and two crackbrained, fringe-element, anti-government separatists are after The Secrets—and are all willing to kill to get them.
Zane, Dali, and their pursuers encounter an armadillo festival, visit a nudist resort, and hang out with a presumed dead ’60s rocker. Pandemonium occurs at each venue with Zane and Dali one step ahead of everyone… that is, until all parties convene for a climactic confrontation over The Secrets.
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Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series as our brave heroine flees with her family into the Kentucky frontier. What direction did you want to take this novel in that was different from the first book?
After the danger caused by Papa’s covert activities in book one, I wanted readers thrust headlong into survival mode with thirteen-year-old Mary and her family.
The family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. Did you plan the plot twists before writing or did they develop organically?
I used a rough outline to keep the story moving but allowed surprises to happen naturally.
Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for her characters development?
Mary struggles with PTSD. She must deal with each fear and keep going. Mary rises to the task of taking charge of her siblings when Papa must care for Momma. When Mary shuts down in fear, she allows her family to care for her. Her ultimate challenge leads her to face real and imagined shadows to save her family.
Where will book three in the series take readers?
Mary hopes life at Fort Boonesborough will fulfill her dreams of a peaceful life with friends and suitors. She has her heart set on a certain someone and is determined to win him for her future husband, but Papa and the American Revolution say otherwise.
She blames herself for the bounty onPapa’s head.
Book Two in the Dangerous Loyalties series–a historical novel for teens–continues the riveting story of Daughters of the American Revolution patriot Mary Shirley McGuire.
It’s late summer in the Alleghany Highlands, 1775. Colonial Virginia has resolved to support the American Revolutionary cause for liberty. The British are determined to retain control of the fur trade and keep frontiersmen fighting Indians instead of joining the Continentals.
Thirteen-year-old Mary Shirley is still recovering from emotional wounds inflicted when she risked her life delivering traitorous dispatches. She trusted the wrong men, and now the family must flee Indian Creek to stay ahead of British Loyalist who seek her papa’s life.
But they can’t risk being captured by taking the main road to Daniel Boone’s trail that leads into Kentucky territory. They must endure the more dangerous and grueling hunter’s path that leads to rough frontier forts along the Clinch River.
Passions are ignited, friendships are formed, and shocking lessons are learned.
Papa ignores the warnings to wait for other travelers, causing Mary’s anxieties to worsen. Once they cross the Cumberland Gap, they’re at the mercy of God and the Chickamauga Cherokee to make it to Fort Boonesborough alive. Frontiersmen tell them the settlement of Fort Boonesborough isn’t defendable, and Mary doesn’t want to continue. Papa is confident that the Indians are too busy preparing for winter to raid.
A few days from the fort, Mary is feeling hopeful for the future. Then disaster strikes, leaving the family devastated and heartbroken. There is no other choice. Mary must lay aside paralyzing fear and excruciating pain to save her family before time runs out.
Fleeing the Shadows (Dangerous Loyalties Book Two) invites readers to experience traveling the dangerous wilderness trails with Mary and her family through thick wild forests of Southwest Virginia and into Kentucky territory that leads straight into a Native American hornet’s nest. Mary just wants to make it Fort Boonesborough and live in peace.
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Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters. How did you decide on the starting point for this novel and how did that help create the rest of the story?
Thank you for asking. I based the novel on current reality based on in-depth study of foreign policy and traditional patterns of involvement by intelligence agencies who use propaganda to skew public opinion toward a military agenda.
I began the book inspired by the guys who go through my recycling bins to take what they can sell; I made a recycler character who has a clever scheme to take what he learns about the people in the neighborhood that way. The idea made me chuckle, and I wanted to see what kind of goofy brilliance he might display. I also had often joked around with a housemate about the empty buildings across the street which are owned by the church. We’d see people go in and never come out. I was also inspired by our jokes about the counter-intuitive business choices of the local ice-cream truck driver. The truck indeed broadcasts the recording of a scolding woman’s voice, just like in the novel.
Though entertainment is the ultimate point of the book, my main serious goal with the book is to balance the propaganda about the White Helmets, though characters in the United States who had hear the stories about a group like them on the nightly news or watch the Hollywood movie about them.
This novel follows the introduction to Nancy and her relationship to the Agents of the Nevermind in book one, Glossolalia. Nancy has done sordid things in her past, but she was forced into it. In this book, she’s again given the chance to be a hero and make amends for her role in political intrigue, even if it means using the dirty skills she was raised with. Some methods are so dirty, she hardly even lets herself know just how sordid she can be. But like all the other POV characters, she has a good heart.
I chose the beginning scene because it was cinematic, with the dramatic contrast arising from Nancy relaxing at her unusual dwelling, chuckling at the anomalous sound of the ice-cream truck that never seem to make any sales. That prepares us for dark humor in the book. She’s being startled by the loud sound of a hard snowball smashing the glass of the window beside her head. She puts on her costume when she realizes someone outside might be looking at her, so we see how she’s been living “underground,” hoping no one recognizes her, in a somewhat primitive location, but someone mysteriously is communicating with her.
She finds a painted rock inside the snowball and the image reminds her of herself and her one friend, a lovely artist named Becky. Nancy has followed another such anonymous note to lead her to Becky in the past. So that beginning creates questions about the dynamics of some major characters, as it sets in motion Nancy’s sleuthing, and involves the reader in the mystery.
I remember the excitement of thinking of the snowball, with ice-cream and a rock inside, at the beginning. Most of the book was already written, but that image created a colorful motif that I went back and inserted through the novel. It was gratifying the way it drew a lot of elements together.
You’re able to weave together the intricate lives of a ragtag group of characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
I focused on the theme of the heroism of examining and exposing social engineering, and the difficult choices, nobility and sacrifice that can entail.
I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?
I appreciate that. I’ve been writing all my life, as well as studying the form, not only for my benefit but for my students, as I teach fiction writing and edit manuscripts. I’ve explored a variety of genres; psychological suspense, which is the overarching category all the diverse books in the series fall into, fascinates me because of human psychology making propaganda and other forms of deception easy and bewildering, creating the need for answers. I love the feeling of figuring out the answers to such mysteries, such a rush, a shudder. It’s the perfect genre to dramatize the ability of intelligence agents working behind the scenes to gaslight the public. So, I read and watch movies and TV shows in that genre a lot, to understand what works best. I’m always studying more about fiction and screenwriting techniques. I learn as much from the screen as the page, and organize my books like movies.
This is book two in the Agents of Nevermind series. Where will book three take readers?
It continues the theme of the Agents who combine deception, mind control, blackmail, and occult practices. I’ve been including history about that intersection in the books, returning to certain historical figures such as John Dee and Edward Kelley, and their use of Enochian language as a spy code as well as an attempt at magick.
The novel is called Encore, and is Gothic. A highly-acclaimed performance troupe has a special requirement to make their shows work: the audience can’t be aware if any of the actors are replaced by a standby (similar to an understudy.) Their resident hypnotist, Dune, who is rumored to be an Agent of the Nevermind, accomplishes that by hypnotizing the standbys to believe they’re the actors they’re mimicking, and even coat their own auras with the residuals of their actors.
His wife is the star, but must leave the troupe due to cancer. Her standby and Dune have strong chemistry. He kidnaps her while she’s hypnotized to believe she’s his wife, and takes her to an alchemist’s castle. Underlying the story is the real history of a few powerful countries’ competing mythologies meant to gain supporters for them in wartime.
I hope this book will move readers to appreciate themselves for who they are.
What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die. One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms. The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween. But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done. Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind? Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone? Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.
A Thriller for Thinkers
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LT: The Voynich Gambit follows Special Police Officer Blalock as he is put to the test when D.C.’s most infamous artifact dealers set their sights on a mysterious treasure. What was your inspiration for this novel and how did it develop as you wrote?
Quintin Peterson: The Folger Shakespeare Library was the inspiration for The Voynich Gambit, like its prequel, Guarding Shakespeare. I worked there as a special police officer with its Department of Safety and Security following my retirement from the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC on April 23, 2010. (http://tinyurl.com/jppths4)
LT: The novel is set in modern day D.C., where you describe polished skyscrapers, historic landmarks, and endless traffic. Why did you choose this as the setting for you book?
Quintin Peterson: I wanted to write a noir mystery thriller using the Folger Shakespeare Library as the backdrop. The Folger Library is located in my hometown, Washington, DC. (http://www.folger.edu/)
LT: Lieutenant Norman Blalock works at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a security guard protecting its treasures for over two decades. What themes did you want to capture as you developed Norman’s character throughout the novel?
Quintin Peterson: I just wanted to write an entertaining and enlightening good old fashioned heist story. I had the same goal for the first in the Norman Blalock Mystery Series, Guarding Shakespeare, and I have the same goal for the third installment, The Shakespeare Redemption.
LT: What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Quintin Peterson: Right now I am working on the second installment of my Private Eye Luther Kane Series, The Last Goodbye. Afterward, I will working on The Shakespeare Redemption. Like all of my books, The Last Goodbye will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, et al.
Special Police Officer Lt. Norman Blalock, who has been guarding the treasures of the Folger Shakespeare Library for 25 years, has been coerced into a plot to heist from the Folger Museum “the most mysterious book in the world,” the Voynich Manuscript, on loan from Yale University. Under threat of suffering the consequences of their involvement in the botched plot to heist another priceless artifact from the Folger underground bank vault several months earlier, Blalock and his partner-in-crime Kavitha Netram are once again under the thumb of nefarious businessman Rupert Whyte, and have no choice but to play along.
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Becoming Samantha Colt is book 4 in the Larkin and Colt series. What did you want to accomplish in this book that pushed the series into interesting places?
When I began this series, I developed a detailed backstory for the main characters of Larkin and Colt. It was just for myself, so I would know who these people were, where they came from, and how they got to be who they were. Over the course of the first three books, I made passing allusions to some of the things in their past, like Larkin mentioning that Colt grew up homeless, their team being wiped out on a botched mission, things like that. Larkin also occasionally mentions some of the missions they’d done, if it happened to relate to something that was happening in the present. I never intended to write a detailed account of their pasts, but eventually it became inevitable. I felt the need to tell Sam’s story from her point of view, in her own words, to more fully explore the character. It was also an opportunity to fill in some of the details of things that had been mentioned in passing.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Through the process of writing the other books, the character of Colt became clearer in my mind as I found out more about her. In the end, she wanted to have her story told, and I just had to do it. Once I started, the story almost seemed to write itself, as if she was telling it to me and all I had to do was write it down. I had the starting point and I knew where she ended up, so what I had to do was fill in the details of how she got there. With this book the story comes full circle, as the final chapter is identical to an early chapter in the first book, but this time told from her perspective.
Samantha is a strong character that is meticulously developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Many people who have read the books have said they were intrigued by the Samantha Colt character. Some have even said she was their favorite and wanted to know more about her. I had deliberately kept her sort of in the background, to make her more mysterious, and to keep her personality somewhat ambiguous. She was the main hero’s partner and sidekick, but there was always the sense that you weren’t quite sure what she would do. I think it made her seem just a little bit dangerous.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am currently working on a book entitled Intrepid. It’s a sequel to my previous book Pegasus, which is set about a hundred years in the future. In the previous book, the crew of Pegasus traveled to the moon and back. This time they’re going to Mars, and when they get there things go horribly wrong. Then they’ve got to figure out a way to get their crippled ship home before their food and air run out. It’s kind of a cross between The Martian and Apollo 13, and it should be out sometime in the Fall.
A nameless, homeless girl grows up on the streets of Baltimore. From a painfully young age she must learn to take care of herself, feed and clothe herself, and defend herself from those who would do her harm. When she’s arrested for shoplifting as a teenager she’s recruited by a mysterious organization, where she meets David Larkin and everything changes. He becomes her teacher, her mentor, her partner and eventually her best friend. This is the fourth book in the exciting Larkin and Colt adventure series, this time told from her perspective, in her own words, as she learns who she is, what she can do and who she can become.
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