Icarus details the captivating account of P.I. Brinkman’s investigation into the disappearance of young Jane Emmett. What was your inspiration behind this story?
I’ve suffered from night terrors since I was a child, and sometimes the dreams can get pretty intense. Over time, I’ve learned how to use this to my advantage, and I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand to scribble down as much as I can remember. The first seeds of Icarus began there, and then I started to fill in the rest over the next couple of months. I’d say the concept is a hybrid of influences: the TV series Lost, the video game series BioShock, and the movie Battle Royale. It’s a strange combination of things that really shouldn’t fit together, but I still somehow felt they could.
This story is set in West Virginia in 1947. Why did you choose this time and place as the backdrop?
I wanted the story to take place in a fictitious location, but still feel believable. I love it when people tell me they’ve googled Ashley Falls trying to find it on a map. 😊 I guess I’ve always been drawn to small towns. I love the sense of community, and the whole “everyone knows everybody” atmosphere. Ashley Falls is a sleepy little town nestled away in the woods, but close enough to big cities so that it’s not completely cut off from the rest of the world. I ultimately chose West Virginia because of its proximity to key places I thought would make for a great setting.
As for the decade, it was the perfect fit for what I was trying to accomplish. I’m fascinated with urban legends and conspiracy theories, and some of my favorites are from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I thought it would be fun to pull some of that mid-century paranoia into a post-WWII world and see what it might’ve looked like. I mean, if people reported seeing men in black in the ‘60s, how much earlier were they in existence before they were actually noticed?
One thing I found exceptional in this novel was the characters, especially Miller Brinkman. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating his character?
Thank you! I really appreciate that. What I ultimately wanted for Miller was to be relatable. When you look at some of the most famous detectives in literature, you start to see a lot of the same characteristics. I wanted to create a character who was different. He’s not a big city P.I., and he doesn’t have much experience dealing with things like kidnapping and murder. Although he’s a logical and capable sleuth, Miller’s still sort of getting his feet wet and learning on the job. I wanted readers to come along on his journey and hopefully be invested in his growth.
It was also important to me to find the right balance in his character. He’s not Superman, but he’s not bumbling either. No answer comes to him easily. I wanted him to work hard for every inch he advances in the case.
Icarus is the first book in the Noble Trilogy. What can readers expect from book 2 in the series, The Invisible War?
The Invisible War is a bit of a departure from Icarus. It had to be. Miller couldn’t have gone through the events of the first book and come out the same man, so I really wanted to explore his mental state, and what that meant for his future. He made some powerful allies in Icarus, and those relationships open the door for him to explore a new opportunity working with the F.B.I.
In Icarus, we see Miller working somewhat in a silo. In The Invisible War, he’s handed a rather sinister case that’s going to require more help, and he’s put in charge of a special task force. Miller’s never had to lead before, so this is an opportunity for him to evolve even further.
However, something else is changing inside Miller at the same time. He’s becoming stronger. Faster. Bloodthirsty. Something dormant inside of him is beginning to bloom.
It’s the winter of 1947 in Ashley Falls, West Virginia, and a teenage girl has gone missing. Local private detective Miller Brinkman takes the case, quickly uncovering a string of bizarre clues. A hidden diary, cryptic riddles, and buried secrets all pique Miller’s interest, but one key detail gives him pause: the girl’s parents haven’t reported her disappearance to the authorities. As the case deepens, Miller’s investigation begins to poke holes in the idyllic picture of his beloved hometown. No longer certain whether anyone in his community can be trusted, Miller dives headfirst into a desperate search for the truth that extends far beyond the borders of Ashley Falls. He soon discovers that his missing persons case is not an isolated incident, but part of an otherworldly mystery—one that, if confronted, may threaten the very future of humanity.
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Defiance on Indian Creek is an enthralling story that follows a smart and courageous young girl on the eve of the Revolutionary war. What was the inspiration for the setup to this young adult novel?
I discovered the real Mary Shirley in a box of family genealogy documents I received from my uncle. As I researched an incident that took place when she was an eighteen-year-old mother of a two-year-old son, I knew her story had to be told. I realized Mary had to acquire tenacity and survival skills well before this event and, therefore,Defiance on Indian Creek, begins the series right before her thirteenth birthday on Indian Creek in now, Monroe County, West Virginia.
Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and brings them to the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time in history. What research did you do to maintain the accuracy of that moment in history?
My online research of New River history revealed names, places, and leads to additional information. I printed articles, slid them into plastic coversheets, and placed them into large three-ring binders with dividers. I even used calendars. These calendars were marked with historic events of the time and place, along with the fictional plot line. Yes, I’m OCD, and the day I discovered Scrivener was a happy day.
I felt that the relationship between Mary and her father was deep and intriguing. What was the inspiration for their relationship and how did it develop as you wrote?
The close bond between Mary and her papa came naturally for me. I was blessed to have a “Daddy’s girl” bond with my own father. I plotted the story to include the mistaken judgments and rash conclusions all teen girls experience. Mary’s disbelief in her papa’s actions fueled her defiance. I raised three close-in-age daughters to adulthood and experienced these clashes. Most teens really do love their parents but don’t let on.
Defiance on Indian Creek is book one in the Dangerous Loyalties series. Where does book two take readers and when will it be available?
Mary’s recent emotional trauma worsens when the family flees Indian Creek ahead of angry men who are seeking Papa’s life. But they’re not taking Daniel Boone’s trail to Kentucky territory. They’re traversing the old hunter’s path to the rough-manned, frontier forts along the Clinch River—until they cross the Cumberland Gap—then they’re at the mercy of God to Fort Boonesborough. I’m hoping for a summer 2017 release date for book two.
“Emotionally riveting adventure, survival, and precarious family relationships are weaved into this teen historical about Mary Shirley–a brave, tenacious thirteen-year-old girl who lives on the remote frontier of West Virginia in 1775 at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.
Cooped up in a dimly lighted cabin with her seven siblings and Momma, Mary dreams of a peaceful future with friends and suitors. But she’s worried about her family’s survival.
When Papa returns home with news that the Indians have agreed to stay away from the Western settlements, Mary breathes a sigh of relief. But when he speaks of pending revolutionary war against Britain, declares his loyalty to King George III, and plans to move to Kentucky territory, Mary is confused and afraid.
She discovers mysterious surveys with riddles and a hidden box in the barn that contains secret documents. When she witnesses Papa betray a patriot neighbor at a nearby fort and later reads a disturbing letter that implicates him as a traitorous spy, Mary is ashamed of him. He is endangering the family, and she must find a way to change his mind. Her emotional struggles lead to lost trust and acts of defiance.
When Papa returns deathly ill from a survey job and asks Mary to deliver a lifesaving dispatch, she balks. Is loyalty to Papa more important than loyalty to the revolutionary cause? Lives are in danger no matter what choice she makes.”
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Defiance on Indian Creek is a quiet, but enthralling read by Phyllis A. Still. We follow a smart, courageous thirteen-year-old girl, Mary on the frontier in West Virginia on the eve of the Revolutionary war. Her father comes home with news that disrupts Mary’s world; talk of loyalty to the unfair King and moving to far off Kentucky. The relationship with her father is stretched as she finds him mired in plots and implications of possibly being a traitor or even a spy. Mary is forced of her own loyalties to her father, family and country as the weeks go on until she is asked to make an impossible choice.
Overall, Still has clearly done her research in this fine YA novel. In the tradition of historical fiction before it, Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and throws them in the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time. Reading these pages gave me the feeling I was actually there in the reeds of Indian Creek alongside Mary and her Papa. The maps included at the front of the book were helpful in understanding the setting and getting even more of a feel of what this era felt to those early colonists.
It isn’t often such a tale is spun on the frontier, but also invokes the greater happenings on the east coast. Mary is a fun protagonist to follow as the story progresses, because Still is able to give the reader the feeling of anguish from the girl and her struggles over choosing to place trust in her father and the lack thereof.
Being a YA novel the story itself is pretty straightforward and does not beat around the bush when it comes to finding out certain things. Mary herself seems to grasp things beyond her years, but her parents are not the usual inept adults that are so often present in YA novels. And being a young girl, who genuinely wants her father to be okay and her family to be safe, the reader can only root for her.
There are few books that I could remember for the relationships it creates between characters, but Still has managed to make the daughter-father relationship in this book a special one. Especially, since the tension between them is so palpable as the book goes on.
If there is any criticism for the book that can be offered it would be for something that is almost uncontrollable. It concerns the background conflict between the Colonies and the Crown. This is what gives historical fiction its flavor, but it does overshadow the very personal, family struggle between Mary and her father. This is the only real issue with the storyline, beyond this Defiance on Indian Creek will be a pleasurable read to any person who enjoys YA and a painstakingly researched historical fiction.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B01HBV3VOW
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The Transient, The Emperor, and the Man Left Alone is a science fiction story that follows a common man from Earth and his interstellar misadventures. This is a very fun novel. Did you have fun writing it?
Of course. I don’t think I ever could have completed this novel if I didn’t enjoy what it was that I was writing, and it was that enjoyment which helped to propel me forward day after day. When I first began writing ‘The Transient,’ I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go with any of it. There is a certain degree of excitement buried in the unknown, and each day brought a whole new set of wonder to me. In the end, I hope that the reader will be able to pick up on my enjoyment, on my excitement, and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to find this piece as fun, fresh, and entertaining as I had found in writing it.
The main character is abducted by aliens whom might be more human than they pretend, and their motives are deeper than a simple probe. How did the idea for the aliens creation and motives come to fruition for you?
Before I had even begun to formulate my ideas for ‘The Transient,’ I had written a rather short story about a guy and his apartment and it kind of went absolutely nowhere. It was just a few pages and it ended just as abruptly as it began, but there was something about the ideas that it presented that piqued my interest. I had wanted to take it a step further, but had no idea where I wanted to go with it, or how I wanted to get there, so I set the story aside and forgot all about it. Later, much later, I was hanging out in a forgotten section of West Virginia, staring up at the night sky. It was brilliant out there, a million points of light perforating the darkness, and it got me thinking about everything. I thought about our relative place in this infinitely vast universe, about life in all of its complex arrangements, about this and that, and, of course, about whether or not we are alone. The concept of extraterrestrials has always intrigued me, especially the idea of alien abductions. What is it about the human race that would make another advanced race want to travel a countless number of lightyears across the galaxy to study? I mean, are we really that interesting of a people? Surely, if these abductions are truly happening, they would have to harbor some sort of ulterior motive aside from the “we just want to study you people” excuse. For hours, laid back beneath the starry sky, I thought about this, and then, at some point, the idea of that original story I had written crept into my skull and, quite suddenly, I knew that an abduction would be the perfect segue into taking an otherwise abstract story that went nowhere and spring boarding it into any which where that my mind thought to take it. Of course, the aliens had to be as human as possible, because, as Hollywood teaches us, if there is to be intelligent life out there, it would undoubtedly be modeled after us, and it would also have a firm grasp of the English language. It’s as if Earth is the warm and happy center of the universe that all life gathers around. We are just so very important, aren’t we?
This story offers outrageous situations that serve as biting commentary on human’s need for entertainment. What are some of the things that you find naturally funny about the human condition that you think makes for great fiction?
There is so much that I find funny, and sad, and ridiculous, and depressing about the human condition. I’m not even sure where to begin here. Certainly, our diminished attention span thanks to our love affair with pointless technology is something to laugh at. Also, our never-ending courtship with violence, our dependency on television and other socially inept forms of entertainment, our inability to see the glaring hypocrisies that govern our lives, our further inability to take responsibility for our actions, and our complex social hierarchy that states that one group is much more preferred over another group simply by having the dumb luck of being born a certain way or in a certain place, are all extraordinary themes that are finely suited for the world of fiction. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of our species, the one that just may dictate everything else, is our overwhelmingly enlarged ego. We have an enormously big head, and having such an inflated view of ourselves translates quite well into some great fiction. We have this tendency to think that we are superior to all else. Nature is our footstool and the very Laws that govern life cannot possibly apply to us as humans. I love playing with this notion of collective self-worth. I only hope that we will one day be able to take a step back and realize that we are not some special and perfect little creature. We are just victims of blind coincidence just as everything else is. Maybe there will come a time when we can once again live with Nature instead of in constant opposition to it.
This novel is funny, in the same was at The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is funny. What were some of your inspirations as a writer?
It was only recently that I read ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide.’ I’ve heard others mention it when talking of my book, so I thought to finally check it out. I must say that I am completely humbled to have my story be compared to that of such an amazing writer and story teller as Douglas Adams. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ is a fantastic piece of fiction that I urge everyone to read. All that aside, I think that what inspires me more than anything else is…boredom. I spend a lot of time on the road, or lost on some trail, or doing some mundane activity, and it is through these actions that I find the creative juices tend to flow best. I usually carry around a pen and notebook because I never really know when inspiration is going to strike. I am also heavily inspired by the surreal no matter the medium it comes in. Works of Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Les Claypool, Frank Zappa, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Kurt Vonnegut have all had a great impact on my thinking.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when is that due out?
There are three things that I have in the works right now. The first is a continuation of Derren’s story. This next part will pick up where ‘the Transient’ leaves off and will describe Derren’s new life back on Earth. Without giving too much away, I will say that it will involve murders of crows, shady governmental entities, and inter-dimensional beings living in the rectum of a cosmic being. I am also hard at work with a novel centered on life in a small town life. It is a tale that points out the glaring and countless contradictions and hypocrisies that guide us through our lives. This is something that I have been working on for quite some time, but I hope to have it completed and out in print by next year. Lastly, I have been compiling together a number of short stories, poems, and other oddities. These are just miscellaneous bits of this and that, ideas that came uninvited that I felt the need to capture. I hope to have that collection out in print by the end of this year.
Derren Washington’s life has never amounted to much, and lately it has become boring and stale. Sure, he does well for himself. He has a job, a place to live, and is breathing and living-enough for most people and all Derren believes he needs. And then one morning, Derren is awoken to an unexpected knock that changes the course of his life, spurring a mad journey that he never could have possibly imagined. Confronted with the sudden loss of his apartment and, subsequently, everything he has ever owned, Derren must face the insensitive marriage of blind chance and sheer coincidence. His situation becomes even more dire after a regrettably made phone call finds him abducted by a group of towering extraterrestrials who have mistaken him for their long, lost emperor. Now Derren struggles to navigate and survive in a baffling world amid suffocating seas of deceit and absurdity in hopes of one day making his way home and finding some meaning in his life. This science fiction novel tells the tale of one man’s unintended adventure as he stumbles from one confusing world to another in an attempt to regain what he has lost.
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