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Save Me From The Dullness Of Reality

Harry Old
Harry Old Author Interview

Operation Bluebird is an intense thriller following a young police officer who goes undercover to bust the mysterious, affluent and criminal Park family. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?

Operation Bluebird was never supposed to be a book. It started out as the backstory to a character in a roleplay game with my sisters – our characters were detectives and I wanted mine (Carrie) to have something interesting in her past. I’m an auditor in my day job and was working on a very busy, stressful client at the time so Bluebird was my escapism when I finally got to bed in the evening, really coming to life in my mind to ‘save’ me from the dullness of reality. I wanted to be daydreaming about exciting and emotional situations, which is how the intensity of the story started to come about. I was listening a lot to Lana Del Rey at the time, and her songs really shaped the feel of the decadent gangster lifestyle and the underlying bittersweet knowledge that such things are eventually doomed to fail. The occasional lighter-hearted moments were also inspired by the album “Time for Us” by GFriend – these songs still make me cry.

Then the characters basically took charge of themselves, making things occur without me really even thinking about it. For example, a lot of the events in the story were an intentional chain reaction planned by Soju (the manipulative third Park brother). These scenes popped into my head as exciting things to daydream about, and I only realised later that they were all his doing!

In short, I think the main inspiration for the intense, immersive world and the thrilling things that happen in it stem from my own frustrated desire for an exciting, dangerous life, along with the understanding that such things which appear exciting on the outside are sensationalised in our minds, perhaps by the media, and are actually darker and more painful than we comprehend.

Carrie is a well developed character that I enjoyed following. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

In a way, Carrie developed as I did. She first came into being at the beginning of 2019 and continued to grow until I eventually decided to write it as a novel in summer 2020. To begin with, she was a hardworking detective with a secret past, then as more and more detail entered my mind I became more emotionally invested in the goings on of Operation Bluebird and so did she. What started as a deliberate plan and a bit of fun stole us both into its world, tempting us and tugging at our heartstrings.

My life also, completely accidentally, started to mirror hers, which I think is a large part of how I could write her so realistically. When Covid isn’t around, I work contracts and travel in between, rejecting the ordinary world and doing expensive and impulsive things that most of my family and friends aren’t too pleased with. This polarity between sense and disorder, and my increasing resentment of the sensible side, reflected Carrie’s split between her police work and the crazy life she lives with the Parks. I, too, began my adult life very unsure of myself – determined to succeed but at the expense of really letting go and acting on my true feelings – so I really understand the thrill of finally finding a chance to go wild and not wanting to give it up, even when it is obviously temporary and potentially incredibly damaging.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Addiction is a main theme that is very important, both on the surface through Taehwan’s substance abuse and as an underlying metaphor through Carrie’s fascination with the world of Paradise Casino. The book showcases how easy it is to get carried away: she begins with a curiosity that she believes she can dabble in with no consequences and doesn’t realise how dependent she is becoming on it until it’s too late, then can’t get out even if she wants to. The effects on herself and Taehwan are catastrophic, but perhaps the most tragic aspect of this theme is David. He is intentionally understated, as Carrie’s attention is focused more and more on Paradise, and is an example of how a person’s addiction not only affects themselves but also those who care about them, while being so absorbed in it they hardly notice the impact they’re having.

The other main theme is the struggle between two worlds; that which feels real and alive, and that which eventually has to prevail for what the majority would see as the greater good. It’s up to the reader to decide which they believe to truly be the ‘right’ way to live, but I think to some extent it is a struggle we all face – the requirement to conform to society and the common understanding of ‘good’ versus a frustration at the box it keeps us in and a secret desire to break out. Carrie’s reluctance to return to a normal life and Taehwan’s intense fear of being trapped, preferring to live in the most destructive way possible, is a reflection of these feelings and the different extents to which people accommodate or are destroyed by them. I’m very interested to see the opinions of different readers on which characters they sympathise with and if they agree with their choices.

Of course there are many other smaller themes too, such as family, honesty and the excesses of the upper class. Every character has at least one goal or insecurity that plagues them, and I personally find Margot’s sacrifices for a comfortable life a poignant side-plot.

On reflection, perhaps the most important theme of all is that nobody is perfect, but if you look hard enough everybody has their reasons to be so.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Honestly, I have no idea! I have a few things that have been floating around for a while but don’t want to force myself into any one of them until I feel that I can really put my heart into it and do it justice. Perhaps this will be in a few months, perhaps over a year – or perhaps something new will burst in and recruit a lot of coffee and Red Bull to get a first draft completed in a matter of weeks! Either way, based on my track record it will be very character-based and probably involve alcohol and fake names…

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website | Instagram

“I’m not an addict,” he scowled, still running his hands over the floor. “I can stop any time I want; I just don’t want to yet.”
Carrie Hart became Cara Parry for three reasons: to prove herself as an undercover detective; to bring justice to the people who killed Lucy Flynn; and to trial a life of letting go, with no consequence for her real self.
But under the intoxicating lights of Paradise Casino, lines are blurred and letting go becomes a question she had never thought to ask:
Who is the real Carrie Hart, and where do her loyalties truly lie?

A Shattered Marriage

A Shattered Marriage (His Deadly Betrayal Series Book 1) by [C. M. Santoro]

A Shattered Marriage follows Julia Williamson, a doting wife who can’t seem to please her domineering husband, Bill. After years of fighting and emotional torment, Julia finally decides it’s time to call it quits. Luckily, she has a supportive friend and a long-lost love to help her through the tough time. But none of them are equipped to handle what’s coming Miss Williamson’s way. Unseen forces are not letting Julia’s soon to be former life go without a fight. Is love worth fighting to the death for?

A Shattered Marriage might be a suspenseful story of fiction, but it is uncanny how relatable Julia’s marriage is. The themes, character development, and story building are spectacular. Santoro has a way of making you feel a whirlwind of emotions when she writes about how manipulative people can be, and how emotionally jarring a betrayal can be. She is not afraid to dig deep and bring up subjects and situations that many women have unfortunately gone through. The arguments between Julia and Bill are fantastically done, they felt chilling true to life. That being said, a trigger warning is necessary for anyone who is sensitive to the subject of emotional abuse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fast-paced nature of Santoro’s story telling and the vivid nature with which the story unfolded. Despite being fast-paced, every scene happened naturally without feeling rushed. The gradual build-up to the end was intense and satisfying. I’m not sure if the well defined characters are what got me so deeply involved in the story, or if the engrossing storyline is what got me to empathize with the characters, but in either case the two work together to deliver an engrossing romantic thriller.

A Shattered Marriage (His Deadly Betrayal Series Book 1) by C.M. Santoro has zero dull moments in a story that is either building characters up or testing them in some way. This is a great book for fans of prefer a little suspense with their romance story. A riveting start to what is sure to be a stimulating series.

Pages: 170 | ASIN:  B08NF5R8SX

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The Passer

The Passer

The Passer by Robin Christophersen is a welcome genre-blending story by a first-time novelist. We follow Dr. Eleanor Bouchard, accomplished actress and professor, attempt to put her life together after the death of her boyfriend. On the one year anniversary of his death she is visited by an otherworldly visitor with an unsettling message. Eleanor is then thrown into a mystery where she must not only figure out the message’s meaning, but also understand herself. New powers begin to awaken in her for the first time, which only adds more murkiness to dark waters. Matters become complicated further when a former flame, Daniel Archer, who has suffered the tragic loss of his wife comes stumbling into her life along with his step-daughter, Amelia. Eleanor begins to feel strange connections to the two of them and discovers that their meeting may not be so coincidental in the first place.

The Passer is an interesting read. Christophersen mixes romance, paranormal and even a bit of mystery to make an increasingly intriguing story. You would not suspect it even being an indie read, given the polish that is displayed on the pages. I was not expecting to be hit with so many “genre” elements, but they all manage to work well and complement one another. The book itself is a fast read and I was a dozen pages in without even blinking.

Eleanor as a protagonist is easy to follow, even if she is almost “too” accomplished, given her two professions. The professorship and her role as a Shakespearean actress seems almost intimidating, even to the reader, but her grief and struggle gives the reader a very tangible doorway into her mind and soul. The fact that she is on her own path to self-discovery despite being so accomplished is an excellent technique to use for the reader to be carried alongside the character on her journey.

The novel is deftly paced and reaches a satisfying conclusion. There were points that felt drawn out, but I think Christophersen balances this with the other genre elements. The quotes from Shakespeare, I feltm were heavily on the nose, considering what Eleanor does, but I could let that go, Christophersen clearly has a passion for Shakespeare and I can make a little room for the Bard. The plot may even be weighted down with the extra elements and confusing plot tangles, but by the end Christophersen untangles these and gives the reader a very satisfying story.

Overall, I believe The Passer to be an excellent read for those looking for not only an interesting plot, but a book that brings something new to the table of genre-blending. A very satisfying debut novel from a brand-new author. If this is the first book that Christophersen produces, readers should be on the lookout for the next.

Pages: 444 | ASIN: B00G2QC69Y

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Exit Five from Charing Cross

EXIT FIVE FROM CHARING CROSS by [Keogh, Valerie]5 Stars

Exit Five from Charing Cross, written by Valerie Keogh revolves around the life of a successful investment banker, Jake Mitchell. Starting his life again at Oxford, Jake meets Adam and they instantly hit it off, becoming best friends quickly. When Jane enters the picture, a depressing love triangle emerges as Jake becomes the outer person staring longingly into a blossoming relationship.

However soon Jake seemingly has it all- the money, the career and eventually a wife and children. But this all changes when he meets the elusive Joyce, a beautiful woman eating a pastry in a train station. Torn between his emotions, Jake makes decisions that will change his life in the most shocking way possible.

Exit Five from Charing Cross is a beautifully written mystery novel that takes the reader on a journey through the life of a successful businessman, Jake Mitchell. Working at a company Sebastian et Sebastian, a firm that only entertains the seriously wealthy, Jake soon rises up in the ranks of the rich, buying into a lifestyle only a few of us will ever indulge in. The riches, the food and the extraordinary homes will leave the reader in awe and at times a little jealous of the extravagant riches that he can afford.

Romance and acceptance are the undertones for this book that will develop into a twist that will shock you to your very core. The start is a little slow but the reader will soon realise that this is the foundations of a story that you will be eager to recommend to every person you meet. My favourite character is Ann, a beautiful woman who attracts the eye of every person when entering a room. She is classy with a touch of sexiness and demands attention and admiration, and manipulate situations to suit her every desire. Is she all that she portrays or is there is something more underneath the silky designer dresses that she adorns so carefully?

Valerie Keogh can paint a picture beautifully with her words and between luxury dinners and divine champagne, the reader is easily transported to the majestic home located in Notting Hill. I found myself imagining what my own home would look like if I had eternal riches on demand and the very best designer at my fingertips. The story isn’t always glamourous though and you quickly learn that riches cannot always buy what we all innately desire- love. Jakes desperation to be loved by his best friends wife and then eventually settling at second best leads to questionable decisions that develop into choices that will leave you hungry for more.

Indulge in a side of a lobster and a glass of champagne when you curl up to read this mystery novel as you will find yourself craving a touch of luxury for yourself! I would recommend Exit Five from Charing Cross to anyone who enjoys a mystery novel with a dash of romance and a plot twist that will leave your mind reeling for days. What could possibly happen to a man who seemingly has it all? You will have to read it to find out!

Pages: 285 | ASIN: B00QPCNB80

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A Buried Desire

Loretta H. Marion Author Interview

Loretta H. Marion Author Interview

The Fool’s Truth follows Cordelia as she’s running from a dangerous marriage and finds herself wrapped up in a perilous mystery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

A great question and what’s most interesting is, the opening scene in which a young mother comforts her crying daughter while calmly stepping around a dead body, came to me long before I started writing The Fool’s Truth. I had this image of a woman escaping into her mind, blocking out the tragic scene before her and acting as if nothing had happened. I jotted down that first passage years before the idea for the book started to germinate. I knew it was the beginning of a good story, it just took a while for the right characters to develop for the telling.

Originally, I thought the story would be Rebekah’s because her witch-like hermit character came together in my mind first. I loved defining her complicated choice (or need?) to live a secluded life. But as the narrative began to form, it became clear that Cordelia had to be the book’s protagonist. As a desperate mother on the run, her storyline would tie together the other characters, each with their own dark secrets.

Cordelia is an intriguing character. Was her back story something you always had or did it develop as you were writing?

I’ve always wanted to write a character named Cordelia, but had to wait patiently for the right story. When I began pulling together the plot and characters for The Fool’s Truth, I felt Cordelia was a good fit for the protagonist’s name. Although I always start with a rough story outline and ideas about who the characters are, writing is such a fluid craft and it’s essential the characters remain adaptable. So Cordelia’s story had to evolve as the story developed. I’ve never personally known someone who has been in such a desperate situation, so I had to delve deep into my imagination.

What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?

Strangely enough, my passion for writing fiction sprang from the eye opening exercise of composing my own obituary. I was a hospice volunteer for many years, and the obituary assignment was part of the volunteer training program. And from that experience a buried desire to write a book surfaced. I tentatively ventured onto this new path by establishing a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the heritage of some fascinating hospice patients who were soon to leave the world. It has been the most meaningful experience of my life thus far, and it both inspired and encouraged me to fulfill a newly perceived longing to create and shape unique fictional characters with their own remarkable stories to tell.

Cordelia ends up stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit living off the grid who takes an obsessive interest in her daughter. How did this plot twist develop and why choose Maine as the backdrop?

So many threads had to be woven together to form the plotlines of the novel, however that development was pivotal to the story and came early in the drafting of the book. Because Rebekah emerged early as a significant character, her secluded farm became the ideal spot to strand the desperate Cordelia. I’ll stop there so as not to give away the motivations of either of these two central characters.

As for why Maine? It’s a beautiful and diverse state, both in its land and seascapes, but also in the people who call Maine home. It is also a state of many unique small communities and I thought it would be fun to create the fictional town of Murphy, Maine. But this question has caused me to pause and recall that the story was actually coming together on a road trip my husband and I were making through the state on our way to Prince Edward Island. I now have to think that trip may have influenced my decision to set the story in Maine, especially since it conveniently borders Canada, which is where Cordelia had hoped to find refuge.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will that book be published?

There are two books I can tell you about today. First is The Lighterman’s Curse, which is currently out on submission with my agent. The story follows overly trusting Cassandra Mitchell’s quest to save her beloved family home in the fictional Cap Cod coastal town of Whale Rock. The Bluffs is a stately Victorian and legacy from her great-grandparents whose shocking demise still haunts the town, and perhaps the house itself. While Cassie deals with the emotional and financial fallout of divorce from her dream-weaving husband, a young nomadic couple wander onto the property and into life, offering welcome companionship and the answer to her problems. Until they vanish, leaving behind no clues and rising evidence they were not who they said they were.

Finding herself in the middle of a battle for control of the investigation between the local police chief and the information-keeping FBI agent who suddenly shows up to investigate the missing couple, Cassie tries to unravel the mystery herself. But she becomes distracted by the eerie sounds and scents of The Bluffs, which have now reemerged with a heightened sense of warning. And she accidentally uncovers some long hidden details about the century old curse cast upon her great-grandparents. The Lighterman’s Curse blends mystery, romance and a touch of paranormal to tell two interwoven tales of the Mitchell family legacy, one taking place in present day time and the other beginning in the late nineteenth century.

Also in the works is a novel I’m collaborating on with my husband. It returns me to my Midwestern roots and begins with a stunning deathbed confession that leads to the convergence of a disparate trio: an apathetic middle-aged New Yorker, a Midwestern thirty-something journalist and a young woman eager to escape her mundane existence in rural Pennsylvania where recently discovered skeletal remains have rocked a community.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Pintrest

The Fool's TruthOn the run and desperate to flee the country with her toddler daughter, Cord Richmond can only turn to one person for help – lifelong friend and once lover, Ramon Alvarez. Their reunion reawakens long suppressed feelings, but once again their timing is off, as they must hastily chart a course for her escape.

A reckless detour in those carefully laid plans leaves Cord stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit weaver living off the grid. With no means of communicating with the outside world, the need to craft a new plan intensifies when the peculiar woman takes an obsessive interest in her daughter.

Complicating matters further are the local sheriff and a nosy reporter, both with ambitions for uncovering the truth, each with his own private reason for taking refuge in the remote rural village of Murphy, Maine. She contemplates a risky strategy to flee her confinement, but is she desperate enough to enter the depraved world of a recently paroled convict with a long history of brutality?

Cord’s folly is the catalyst for dark secrets unraveling, placing her and her daughter in grave danger. She deeply regrets having lied to the one person who might be searching for her. Meanwhile, Ramon seeks to resolve the unsettling truths Cord has concealed from him. If only he could find her.

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