Stockboy Nation follows Phillip on a journey to discover a new life and re-evaluate his romantic relationships. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from the first book?
I wanted to convey the idea of the ever changing state of the world we live in. While Phillip was seemingly getting back to square one as the book starts off, the world was evolving into something that is almost completely different than what he had been expecting. When he’s back in New York City and the plot takes a turn that echoes real life recent events, we see that no matter what Phillip had done, he would have been back to square one anyway. We are never fully “settled” no matter what we may think. That I think is the greatest takeaway of the book.
I also liked the idea of introducing a new female love interest in to the mix to sort of test the boundaries of his love for Melissa. That was the main goal of the book. To explore the love triangle between Phillip, Melissa and LeAnn. I wanted readers to be taken on a journey to see which characters they wanted to end up together at the end.
Phillip ends up back at the same bookstore where he previously worked. Was this theme of starting back at the beginning something you did intentionally?
Absolutely. For Phillip to move forward, he had to confront his past and this book which he wrote about the store where he worked. I wanted Phillip’s character to move forward by confronting the details of his past which includes his love/hate relationship with New York City. It was intentional to bring him back to his old stomping ground in NYC.
Romance, and contentment, are themes explored in this book. Was there a certain perspective of these themes that you wanted to portray?
Yes. Romance and contentment with the cards you have been dealt in love (and life) were topics I wanted to portray. The perspective is that your happiness with life can be challenged at any given time. The same for one’s happiness in his/her romantic relationship(s). Life is never at a stand still and as we constantly evolve as human beings, our need for change and also for stability comes in to question. I think the book touches on these topics head on and I am very proud of it.
Will there be a third book in the Stockboy series?
Good question. Right now I am working on a “Heaven” project and the sequel to “The Separation.” It’s anyone’s guess whether or not I will return to do another “Stockboy.” I guess it all depends on how readers like “Stockboy Nation.” I’ve heard good things so far.
Wolf Slayer is a thrilling blend of dystopian science-fiction, adventure, and political intrigue. What served as the inspiration behind the idea for this book?
The current political turmoil in the US is disturbing. Democracy is threatened globally by fascist oligarchs and autocrats. I believe most people are good, and would do something about it if they had the chance. My tale gives such a person that opportunity. I also wanted to show how bad things can get if we do not change our ways, and how humanity can tough it out and survive, like it has done throughout our history. The book is also the lead-in to a series of books where more threats will emerge, and where more everyday hero’s are given the chance to shine, like Matt Adams.
Matt Adams is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
I was thinking of the hero Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984. Matt is caught up in an oppressive political system. He comes to recognize it as evil, and he feels shame for the people he has killed while fighting for his country. His country mistreats him as a veteran, but in the midst of a terrible economic depression, gives him a dangerous job spying on a rebel organization. The organization opens his eyes further, and gives him the chance to really make a difference. Matt grows further as he escapes and flees to his native wilderness of Quebec. He meets the woman of his dreams, and the political system changed by his actions lets them live in peace. So, unlike Winston Smith, Matt fights Big Brother (a.k.a. Uncle Ernie), and Matt wins.
The story takes place in a dystopian future. What were some themes you wanted to focus on when creating this future world?
Climate change and over-population will destroy our world if unchecked. The 1% wealthy run our world, and always seem to win. They will always fight wars over turf, accelerating the end of civilization. But ultimately, the skilled hunter-gathers in remote regions will be the survivors. And with a bit of forethought and investment, we can arm the survivors with a cache of knowledge to re-build a better world.
This is the first book in the Master Defiance series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book Two will be titled ‘Martian Hermitage’. Earth continues to decline, and natural calamities wipe out the last vestiges of civilization. The people in Moon Base are stranded, but they have been secretly preparing for an exodus… to Mars. Mars is a dry, sterile, hostile place, but it has more life-giving resources than the Moon for tough, ingenious people. But Mars is not as it seems. It has been visited before, by a noble race fleeing an evil alien race. And so, the ‘Masters’ are introduced to the series, and more hero’s will be needed…
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Demon Heart follows a a cop in Osaka who must hide the fact that she’s a demon hybrid while stopping a fanatic from acquiring an ancient artifact. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this suspenseful novel?
There were three important factors that contributed to the creation of this novel. The first was the exposure to the Japanese animation and cinema after my immigration to the United States in 1987. I am a great fan of the movies of Akira Kurosawa and also a great fan of Japanese anime, which is very beautifully made and with great attention to detail and emotional realism. My second inspiration came from the exposure to the Japanese customs and traditions as well as a unique way of thinking. Japan is the most technologically advanced country in the world and yet it is deeply rooted in old traditions. I admire their hard work, their designs and their great emphasis on personal honor and respect of people and nature. The third reason for the creation of this book was my strong and enduring friendship with my beautiful Japanese female friend, a young lady whom I met in college. My main character Naoko Kitamura is partly based on her character and her looks, and she is very beautiful!
Naoko Kitamura’s lineage and background were immensely interesting. How did you develop her background and what were some aspects that were important for you to focus on?
In my character design of Naoko Kitamura I made a reference to the formula followed by the writers and artists of Japanese manga and American graphic novels. This formula is simple. If you are an extraordinary person, it’s very hard for you to live an ordinary life. This is true of all superheroes, and Naoko Kitamura can be definitely classified as one. In developing her background and human-demonic lineage, I wanted to present her as a unique creature of both worlds, material and spiritual, a being of darkness and light blessed and cursed with immense powers and capability for great destruction. At the same time, I wanted her to take responsibility for everything she does. Since Naoko is Japanese, she does receive guidance and wisdom from her demonic ancestral memory and her mother, who is herself a demon hybrid. I wanted to present my protagonist as a strong, intelligent and independent woman and yet vulnerable both emotionally and physically, even if she can recover from almost any injury.
Osaka Japan is beautifully detailed in this story. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?
It is very important for every writer to get things right, especially if he or she is writing about another culture and people that represent that culture. A full year of intense and fascinating research went into creation of this novel. I wanted to understand not only how the modern japan works but to understand the intricacies of the Japanese mindset, their philosophy, history and their attitude toward life and death. I explored everything from food to movies to Japanese novels as well as interviews of my Japanese friends and study of books about Japan written by both academics and travelers, as well as fiction writers who studied Japanese culture and shared their findings with the world. Working on research for this novel was a great fun and a labor of love. I often try to place myself in my protagonist’s shoes and visualize their thoughts and actions to achieve the best literary as well as cinematic effect.
Do you have more stories planned that include Naoko?
Yes, I do have more stories planned for my demon hybrid protagonist Naoko Kitamura. Demon Heart is the first novel of the trilogy, which I plan to gradually introduce to our readers in the near future. Sometimes it is hard to determine whether or not the story would have a continuation. To make the series featuring a single main protagonist required a large amount of material to work with. I ended the Demon Heart novel with a scene that would hint on Naoko’s continuing adventures and a new life and a new identity that she would have to assume after making a heroic sacrifice to save her city from destruction. In the following novels, Naoko Kitamura will once again rise to defend her country and people she loves not just on the national but international scale. To my readers I would like to stay tuned for the more upcoming adventures of Naoko. One thing I would like to add is that she will return!
Eve of Darkness really puts the ‘dark’ in dark fantasy. Was this intentional or did this just happen organically while writing?
It was intentional. I wanted to take a time when we were at our cruelest to one another. Slavery, piracy, stations, disease, etc. I wanted to show that and then throw in a hell hound, demons, the walking dead, shapeshifters, and then some magic and see what would happen.
Eve of Darkness is really brought to life by Wesley Bruff’s narration. What was the collaboration like to convert your book to audio?
I was so very blessed to have found Wesley Bruff. Not only is he a talented narrator but he also just seems to “know” the characters and seems to understand what I want. He would do a character’s voice and then send it for me to review and it was so mind blowing how dead on point he was. He is AWESOME! He brought my book to life and made it seem real for me and the listener.
Do you see storytelling from a different perspective now that you’ve had your story read aloud?
Yes, now that I can listen I see how different it is then sitting down and creating that world.
Just hearing how the characters interact help me a lot more when I am writing.
Which of your other books do you plan to have in audiobook format?
Wesley Bruff is set to start on book two soon.
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Lefty Saves the Day follows Gracie as she tries to overcome her anxiety about an upcoming baseball game. What was the inspiration for the setup to this lovely children’s story?
From a personal experience, the first time I played baseball someone put the bat in my right hand. I swung and missed each time. Then, I switched hands, which felt natural to me. I swung. The bat made contact with the ball. I was told to run. I made it to the make-shift base which was a sweatshirt. I am left-handed. Ruth Craver, the illustrator, is left-handed. Neither of us had read much literature about being left-handed.
Gracie is presented with some unique challenges for being left handed. Why was this an important topic for you to discuss?
There are so many different approaches and mannerisms left-handed people adapt to such as reading the print on a pen (upside down if you hold in your left hand), measuring cups, rulers, and wall-fastened pencil sharpeners to name a few. Being left-handed is a different type of diversity and one that comes with some challenges but can be accomplished with awareness.
The art in this book is cute and lively. What was the art collaboration like with Ruth Craver?
Ruth and I have known each other for over twenty years. Ruth is a very creative illustrator. Our first work together was in N Is For Noah, then with the debut Lefty novel, Don’t Call me Lefty. We work well together even though distance makes it rare to discuss the books in person. We go over all of the artwork and placement of Ruth’s illustrations within the book. I really appreciate her timeliness, gift, and dedication.
Lefty Saves the Day is the second book in your Don’t Call Me Lefty series. What can readers expect from book three in the series?
Gracie Carter will address other challenges for being left-handed. The next few books in the series are a bit more humorous and of course, Scott and Gracie bump elbows. The exact book from the remaining four has not been determined so the precise lefty challenge cannot be revealed.
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The 86-Year-Old Orphan follows a woman that is dealing with getting old and searches for renewed meaning in life. What was the inspiration for the setup to this heartwarming story?
I came up with the idea after visiting my elderly aunt in assisted living. I realized no one who knew her now had any idea of the vibrant, energetic woman she once was. She was young and beautiful and so much more than the image she currently presented to the world. I wanted to tell the story of her life and to show what led her to this new chapter, a chapter she embraced as she had all her other chapters, with openness, love and friendship.
Tessie is an interesting character. What were some ideas that guided her character development?
While motivated by my aunt to explore the subject of women who came of age in the 1940’s, Tessie was really inspired by my mother. She was a woman before her time in many ways. A working woman, who loved her family, but also found fulfillment outside the home in her work, in books, in film, in Broadway shows. She gave up some of her dreams so that I could have mine, like so many mothers of that era, and I wanted to write about her generation and the choices they made.
The novel explores growing old and family. What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?
I wanted to explore the joys of having a family, but also the sacrifices, sacrifices that may not always be appreciated. The dreams you give your children while they may not realize the dreams you gave up for them. I wanted to explore how our families react to us getting older. Also, what happens to us as we age and how we can make the best of it, oftentimes finding, unexpectedly, we have made a new family for ourselves with new caring friends.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In the beginning stages, the new book is about Luna, a young career woman who deals with mixed messages in communications, both personal in her established relationships and technical, specifically phone or text messages that may be unseen or deleted and may change the course of her life.
Crimson at Cape May finds Darrel between a battle for his reputation and a battle against paranormal forces. What were some sources of inspiration that influenced this novels development?
Having lost his job—and maybe his love—in Wilshire, Darrell heads to Cape May (New Jersey) to help coach a summer football camp. With being forced to resign, he needs the money and hopes it will give him the time and opportunity to restore his reputation. When he arrives in Cape May, he finds a town almost frozen in time, surrounded by incredible Victorian mansions everywhere. But he also discovers the old seacoast town is flush with spirits who pester and haunt him to help out one of their own. Darrell has to balance both his “gift” for seeing into the spirit world with his efforts to get his old job back. In the end, he commits to help another young student whose sister has gone missing, which ties to all his problems.
There have been several times in my life where reputation, job and livelihood was threatened and I drew on these experiences and the reserves I used to meet these very real challenges to help sketch Darrell’s predicament and his way of navigating out of it. Because of my experience, my hope is the reader will find Darrell’s journey credible and something they themselves can relate to.
I enjoyed Cassie’s character and found her relatable. What were some ideas you wanted to capture in Cassie and Darrel’s relationship?
My choice of Cassie as a POV character was deliberate and carefully thought out. First of all, she and Darrell are opposites, or appear to be. Darrell is a traditional, successful (kind of) teacher and coach, from a good family and good upbringing. Cassie is none of those things. She has been abused and denigrated and runs away from her family, such as it is. Instead, she has had to learn skills to survive on her own, in her teens. But Darrell’s first instinct is to reach out and protect children and young people in trouble. As a teacher, it’s part of his DNA—a characteristic I witnessed for real in my many of my teaching colleagues. When he encounters Cassie, Darrell recognizes the vulnerability of the young woman, even through her hard-shell, street-smart armor she has wrapped herself in. Then as “sensitives,” they begin to check each other out and eventually learn to trust each other. Erin proves to be critical in their evolving relationship as she stands in almost as an older sister for Cassie. Darrell never stops feeling responsible for the younger Cassie—especially as her life is threatened—but in the end, he realizes they have to work together to solve the murder of the Haunted Bride. This fictional relationship reflects the very real dilemma that parents and teachers face everyday with teenagers. Adults who care for kids have to find a way to take care of them and try to keep them from the greatest risks, while at the same time allowing the adolescents to begin to make some decisions themselves, even though some of those decisions are unwise and even dangerous. It’s a tightrope that is not easy to navigate. Darrell, like parents and teachers, has trouble knowing when to let go.
I enjoyed the compelling mystery behind this story. Was the arc planned or did it develop organically while writing?
My approach to my stories fall some where between the “plotter” and the “pantser” mindset. Before beginning a novel, I will have completed a general outline of the story arc, of essential characters, of the crime itself and, of course, of the thematic issue. In addition, since each entry of this series is set in a new resort location (BLOOD on the Eastern Shore, CRIMSON in Cape May), I do a considerable amount of local research to ensure my setting is accurate and thorough, which in turn requires a considerable deal of planning including how the setting snd plot will interact. Layering over all that is where the ghost elements will intrude, another planning aspect.
I realize that sounds pretty far in the plotter camp, but there is much more. Then as I begin the actual manuscript, I find myself “pantsing,” more writing by the seat of my pants. As characters develop, I find myself adjusting the trajectory of the narrative and writing accordingly. There are elements of the plot and storyline that I deliberately do not plan in advance. For example, I don’t make a final decision on who the actual antagonist will be until I am well into the narrative. That way I make sure that several suspects are viable and keep my inner reader guessing until the reveal—as I hope I do for the actual readers of the novel. I do make some slight adjustments to this plotter/pantser balance for different novels but find overall this approach works well for me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently completing the third book in the Haunted Shores Mysteries Series no title determined as yet), a Christmas ghost mystery set in Crystal River, Florida. I thought the idea of setting a holiday mystery in the warm climes of Florida’s Gulf coast to be an interesting challenge and decided to take Darrell and his new wife, Erin, on their honeymoon there. And number three will have a very different ghost twist—the ghosts are those of two young Hispanic children who have mysteriously disappeared. An added plus is this gave me an opportunity to explore another serious issue the nation is grappling with, the life of migrant workers and the fate of illegal immigrants. I hope I’ve come up with a mix that will make number three another interesting entry in the series. This third installment is scheduled for release for October 2021—in time for Christmas, of course.
Elizabeth Moseley’s The Garden and the Glen is a delightful fable with a timeless feel. The story, which follows a blue butterfly exiled from her home for being different, is simple yet poignant. With the help of her charming woodland friends, who take her in with gracious, open arms, blue butterfly finds the strength to overcome the tyranny of the bossy butterfly and once again turn the forest into a safe haven for all to inhabit without fear of discrimination.
The book is divided into sixteen chapters, including the epilogue. Each chapter is bite-sized and easily digestible by younger readers, while still remaining enjoyable and engaging to older readers. The delivery of this fantastic story is similar in style to Aesop’s Fables.
Maggie Green, the illustrator, does a superb job at capturing the idyllic imagery of the garden and the glen. Her use of soft pastel watercolors throughout makes both the woodland creatures and the scenery of their home appear magical and precious. The illustrations also help the reader follow along with the dialogue and happenings of the story.
The content is just as welcome in an elementary school classroom as it is to a contemporary adult audience. The author’s ageless message about the value of embracing our own differences, as well as the uniqueness of those around us, is particularly relevant at this current juncture of 2020. This is a read I would gladly pick up over and over again when I feel that I need the inspiration it provides.
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