“Monday Mystery” – COLD PURSUIT

Released just last month, Susan Dayley’s new interactive thriller is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in its ebook version. The reader gets to choose how they want the story to continue in this version and it’s on sale right now for $2.99. There is also a paperback version for more traditional readers.

ColdPursuitCoverHere’s a quick look:

Synopsis

The first time Kennady meets Atticus she is not impressed. The second time she is offended. But before the week is over, they team up to find out who sabotaged the secret alternative-energy device in the lab on the university campus. Filled with mystery suspense and romance, Cold Pursuit takes your reading experience to the next level.
This is an interactive book in the eBook format: there are links to music videos, recipes, clues, pictures etc. PLUS the story offers the reader the opportunity to choose how they want the story to go, with the possibility of 4 different endings!
Excerpt*

Kennady noticed the storm had stopped. The light from the street lamps created pink circles on the snow beneath them. The night had become dark, and tombstones were difficult to discern more than twenty feet away. Heavy trees overhead blocked any light that might have filtered through the clouds.

Neither Kennady nor Atticus spoke as they rounded the back of the chapel, moving through the deeper shadows cast by the stone building with its gothic-arched, stained-glass windows. Nobody was there.

“Grady?” Kennady called softly. “Where are you?” She swung the flashlight’s beam around her.

“Put the coil on the ground,” the now familiar voice called from her left.

She spun in that direction. Across the road, Grady stepped out from behind a large oak tree.

“So, you know who I am,” he said.

“Where’s my dog?” Kennady demanded, shining the light on his face.

“Show me the coil.”

. . .

Just as he made a move toward her, a figure rushed him from the shadows. It was Atticus. He leaped, tackling Grady at the waist and dragging him to the snow.

Kennady screamed. The two men struggled on the ground, rolling in the snow among the graves. . .

And then everything stopped. Atticus and Grady had rolled against a large granite tombstone, and a man’s head lay against the base as if a blow had knocked him out. He lay as still as the bones six feet beneath him. A dark stain spread in the snow. The top man rose and faced Kennady.

It was Grady. “Give me the coil or I’ll do the same to you,” he growled.

*The antagonist’s name was changed to prevent this from being a spoiler.

Author
Susan Dayley is the author of Redemption, a couple of stories that have appeared in anthologies, and numerous articles. She tutors in the mornings, attends classes at the local university, and loves to write. She recently had a party to launch COLD PURSUIT and pictures can be seen on her blog.
DSC_0121

Originally posted 2013-08-12 06:00:47.

“Wednesday Writer” – Amanda Sowards

Amanda Sowards, who writes under the moniker A.L. Sowards, is developing a niche for herself–World War II espionage thrillers. Although she hasn’t been at it for very long, she’s already receiving recognition. Her debut novel, ESPIONAGE, was a 2012 Whitney Finalist, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her follow-up, SWORN ENEMY, is similarly lauded.

Amanda SowardsME:  How old were you when your family moved to Moses Lake, Washington, and what was it like growing up there? (I’d love a picture of you as a child there.)

AMANDA:  I was two when we moved there. Moses Lake has grown, and it seems massive when I compare it to Manassa, Colorado (where my husband grew up), but while I was living there it just seemed like a typical small town surrounded by lots of farms. Sometimes we called it Moses Hole instead of Moses Lake, but you can only get away with that if you’ve actually lived there. Despite our less-than-flattering nicknames for it, most of us had significant hometown pride.

1987(Love the glasses!)

ME:  Which came first for you . . . swimming or writing? Please describe your introduction to each, plus the main storyline of your first story.

AMANDA:  Probably swimming, if you count swim lessons. My aunt gave me my first swim lesson when I was about three months old. (Wow! You were practically born to the water.) Then I took swim lessons for a few years and started swimming competitively the summer after first grade. Back in those days, my life’s ambition was to be a lifeguard. My goals have changed a lot since then, but I did work a summer as a lifeguard, knowing it was just a summer job and not something I wanted to make a career out of.

My dad was asked to visit a new couple in our church congregation and he encouraged my mom to visit them too. My mom had four kids under the age of nine (two more would come later), so the last thing she wanted to do was add something to her to-do list. (I can well imagine!) But she went, and the wife was going to coach on the swim team that year, so my mom signed me up. The next year my older sister joined, then the year after that my younger sister started swim team. All six of us ended up swimming with our local swim team and our high school team. Four of us swam for BYU with at least partial scholarships.

(A family legacy, eh? I imagine you’ve already got your twin toddlers signed up for swimming to carry on the tradition.)

1996(Amanda, left, with her siblings . . . the youngest is now at the MTC)

I think my first book was about two friends who were riding bicycles. It wasn’t very long. I may have illustrated it with crayons.

(I think we can tell which activity was at the forefront in your early years. :D)

ME:  However did you manage to attend a writer’s conference as a third grader?

AMANDA:  It was a young writer’s conference, designed for elementary school children. It must have been an annual thing because I remember going in 5th and 6th grade too, and never having enough money for the bookstore.

ME:  I, too, developed a love for all things World War II in high school. Tell us about your History and English teachers and how they affected you.

AMANDA:  I’ve been blessed with great teachers. Most of my elementary school teachers encouraged a love for reading, and I’m grateful for that. In sixth grade, several of the teachers (including mine, Mrs. Mabry) did an entire unit on WWII. (How cool!) One teacher gave us history lectures and assigned reports, another taught reading with WWII novels, and the third did a science section on acid rain—kind of a stretch, but it supposedly tied in with WWII because all the bombing created pollution which led to acid rain? I guess we were too young to study nuclear physics and the Manhattan Project.

My favorite history teachers were Mr. Paul and Mr. Frederick. Both taught American history, and made it fascinating. Actually, Mr. Frederick was the one who introduced me to D-day deceptions schemes, and that lead to most of the plot for my fist novel, ESPIONAGE.

I think my best English teachers were Mr. Lindholm, Mr. Teals, and Mr. Robertson. They made us think. And the day Mr. Robertson told us we didn’t have to limit our essays to the standard five-paragraph formula was one of the most liberating of my entire educational experience.

(Yes! A teacher who can think outside the box and–shudder!–lead his students to do likewise.)

ME:  Were you writing stories in high school and college, too, or were classes and swimming taking up all your time? And I must have a photo of you in a race, either in high school or at BYU.

AMANDA:  The first chapter of ESPIONAGE is actually a story I did for a high school English project. After I finished it, I started thinking more about the main character and came up with ideas about what could happen next. I ended up rewriting the beginning several times (and changing it from first person to third person), but the essential plot elements of Peter’s trip to the Nazi base in France are basically the same as they were when I was a junior in high school. The rest of the book wasn’t written until after college (because I had too many other things to do during those years), but I think some of the plot ideas for later in the book had been in my head since my junior or senior year of high school. I did manage to sneak in a little research, though, in both high school and in college, when we got to choose our own research projects. I did at least two of them on D-day deception schemes, and a few on other WWII topics.

2002.09 BYU pic(Amanda racing breaststroke for BYU . . . actually, she faked it for the photographer)

ME:  Please share the story of your first book and how it progressed from idea to publication.

AMANDA:  I finished a first draft of ESPIONAGE in early 2005 (although it wasn’t called ESPIONAGE at the time—that was Covenant’s choice). By 2006 I had it cleaned up enough that I wanted to look for an agent or an editor. I got the usual rejections, and whenever that happened I went to work on revising it yet again.

Cover_FRONT_Espionage updated, small version

In the middle of 2008 I got my first rejection from Covenant via email. They said it didn’t fit their current marketing needs. I figured I didn’t have much to lose, so I emailed back and asked if there were changes I could make to have it better fit their needs. (Take a lesson. Never give up, but use rejections to your advantage.) They sent me the forms from their outside evaluators and I incorporated most of the suggestions and sent it in again. I didn’t hear anything for eighteen months, so I assumed the answer was “no,” but when I got back from taking my newborn twins to their two-week check-up, I had an acceptance email. (Yay!!!) It was almost two years after its formal acceptance that ESPIONAGE finally reached bookstore shelves, but with two infants for me to take care of, that was probably a good thing.

ME:  How would you compare it to its sequel, SWORN ENEMY? And what is the main storyline of your third WWII novel?

AMANDA:  They’re all WWII spy novels with some of the same characters. I’ve tried to write them so they can each be read without reading the other books, but there is a definite chronological order.

I learned a ton about writing with ESPIONAGE, so with SWORN ENEMY I feel I was able to fix problems earlier in the process and I think my writing has gotten a little better. The characters go through more dramatic growth in Espionage. They change in Sworn Enemy too, but the change is more subtle. Sworn Enemy has more characters and more subplots. I’d also say the “can’t put this book down” part starts a little earlier in the sequel.

Cover_FRONT_Sworn Enemy_lr

Espionage is fun because the history ties into D-day, and that’s something most people have heard about and they recognize its importance in WWII. Sworn Enemy is fun because it deals with aspects of the war most Americans aren’t as familiar with, such as the August 1944 invasion of Southern France (the same campaign Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed revolves around), and everything that was happening in Romania at about the same time.

The third book is similar to Sworn Enemy in that Peter and Genevieve are involved in separate subplots. Genevieve is in Bari, Italy for most of the book, and ends up in a spy vs. spy duel with a Italian Fascist assassin. (Sounds exciting! Besides, those of you who have read my bio know I have a thing for Italy.) Peter and some of his teammates from Sworn Enemy (Jamie, Krzysztof, and Moretti) are sent on a mission into Yugoslavia and end up stranded there, where they have to deal with not only the Nazis, but also three different factions in a civil war. The third book is perhaps more emotional than the first two (but there’s still plenty of action), and has a beautiful message about hope, even in times of war.

ME:  How many hours of writing can you put in at night once your twins are asleep without feeling like you’re neglecting your husband? In fact, what does he think of your career? (And I’d love a photo of the two of you.)

AMANDA:  I try to do most of my writing during “nap time,” which is changing into “quiet time” as my children get older, and often it isn’t all that quiet. On a good day I’ll have two hours. Then I have the evenings to spend with my husband, catch up on my reading, or browse Facebook and blogs. And yes, sometimes I write in the evenings too, especially if I’m on a deadline.

My husband has always been supportive of my writing. It was a hobby I spent several nights a week on when we met, so some of my characters have been part of my life longer than he has. Although he’s not much of a fiction reader, he’ll help me find plot holes and do quick research for me. And he was very understanding the night I spent hours pouring over pictures of WWII soldiers, trying to find a good view of their butts. (Too funny!) I wanted to check the pockets, because I’d just seen the cover for Sworn Enemy, and I loved it, but most army uniforms didn’t have pockets like that. But the Marines did, so close enough, right? (That’s a plausible excuse. Just kidding.)

55_web(Amanda with her “understanding” husband)

ME:  What are you currently working on and how would you describe your process? Do you ever see yourself moving beyond WWII fiction?

AMANDA:  I’m working on yet another WWII spy thriller, with new characters. I’m hoping to finish the first draft by the end of August. (I’m also hoping to sell my house by the end of August–we’ll see if I manage both.) It’s about two American spies working in Rome in early 1944, trying to gather information for the Allied armies, elude the Gestapo, and avoid falling in love with each other.

(Sounds terrific!)

After that, I want to write something that isn’t WWII, although I have plenty of other WWII ideas–I seem to get a new one with most research books I read. (And, believe me, she reads a lot of them. I have her as a friend on Goodreads.) I’m not sure if I want to do a contemporary suspense novel, or if I want to go back and finish a manuscript set in Serbia in the 1300s. It’s similar to my other books in terms of adventure and romance, but instead of battling Nazis, the characters are fighting the Ottoman Turks.

(Now that really sounds intriguing. My vote is Serbia in the 1300s. There are plenty of contemporary thrillers, but who’s read anything about Serbia in the early middle ages?)

My writing process changes with each novel, but I find that my outlines are getting more and more detailed with each book. And each book is being written a little more quickly than the last one, and I think those two facts are related. (I think you’re right.)

ME:  Last of all, please share the five things that make your writing space special and provide a picture.

AMANDA:  I can write just about anywhere, as long as my kids are out of my hair for a few hours! I just need my laptop. Sometimes I work at a desk, but usually I put my laptop on my lap, put my feet up on the coach, and type that way. So I actually have a lot of writing spaces: desk, upstairs couch, downstairs couch, bedroom chair (although I had to give that space up when we took the sides off the cribs). We’ll see where I end up writing when we move—I’m hoping to have my desk and my history books in the same room.

What makes these spaces special? My computer, quiet, and easy access to electricity, chocolate, and research books.

(Ah, yes. No five essentials would be complete without chocolate.)

DSCN4197(One of her several writing spaces)

You can find out more about Amanda on her website or blog, and her books are available at most LDS bookstores or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be talking with award-winning author and editor, Lu Ann Staheli, who has recently released a great new coming-of-age novel.

Lu Ann Staheli author photo

Originally posted 2013-08-07 06:00:37.

“Wednesday Writer” – Cami Checketts

Besides being an author of clean, romantic suspense, Cami Checketts writes about health and fitness and even works as a trainer. Of course, I would imagine that having four healthy boys keeps her easily in shape. I just can’t figure out how she finds the time and space to write.

cami_checketts_photoME:  Let’s cut right to the chase. I know you get all your story ideas from nightmares. The question is, what happened in your childhood to cause such anxiety and fitful sleep issues? Seriously, what was your childhood like? (And please supply a picture of you as a child.)

CAMI:  Haha! Sadly, I had a very normal, happy childhood. (Rats! I thought I might uncover some deep, dark secret.) I’m just an extreme wimp who was scared of everything. My dad is the most patient man. He checked my closet nightly for bears and never told me just to go to bed.

552634_10151604615918191_491142820_n(Cami as a child . . . happy because there were no bears in her closet the night before)

ME:  Where did you grow up, and if you lived in more than one place, which was your favorite and why?

CAMI:  I grew up in Clifton, Idaho. A beautiful town with almost 120 residents. (Wow! That’s even smaller than Parker, Idaho where my dad grew up.) My parents lived just off of a lake where my brothers taught me to waterski by throwing me in with one ski and telling me I couldn’t get back in the boat until I got up. Brotherly love.

(And yet effective, I’m sure.)

ME:  What was your favorite subject in high school and why? And did you get any encouragement from your English teachers?

CAMI:  Definitely English. My high school English teacher was an amazing man and is still a good friend of our family. I don’t recall him saying I had potential as a writer until after I was published. Then he claimed, “You were always such a talented, hard worker. I knew you could do it!”

(Hindsight is everything.)

ME:  Having received a college degree in Exercise Science, how would you advise writers with regard to balancing their hours at the keyboard with some physical exercise. And how much does your family add to your own exercise? (I’d love a picture of you running a marathon . . . the sweatier, the better! And I hope you’ll let me post a photo of your family.)

CAMI:  The cool thing about being physically active and trying to eat healthy is that it’s been proven to make a person more creative and intellectually successful. (Time to hit the treadmill again.) For me, all of my creative ideas come when I’m running.

Smithfield Half(Cami running a half marathon . . . that’s why she’s only half sweating)

I don’t know that my family adds to my exercise, except when I’m chasing my two-year-old to put him in timeout! (Exactly.) I’m usually the one who forces them to be active, but whenever we get out on a run, bike ride, or swim, we have a great time. For me, it’s quality time at its best.

542450_10151278129263191_1375909935_n(The Checketts after a day of swimming)

ME:  I’m aware that you mom urged you to attempt your first book as a way to pull you out of post-partum depression after the birth of your second child at age 28. Why writing, though? How did she have an inkling you might have a knack for creating a story?

CAMI:  I was always writing, even if it was just a journal, and I’ve always been a huge daydreamer and reader. But, honestly, I think she was just desperate for me to have some kind of productive hobby!

ME:  Have you ever considered therapy to take care of those nightmares, or are you afraid it might dry up your well of imagination? And what is the most frightening nightmare you’ve ever had that you haven’t turned into a book?

CAMI:  I haven’t ever thought of therapy. What a fabulous idea! I usually just say a prayer, write about it, and most of the time I can go back to sleep.

I honestly can’t share with you the worst nightmares as you would think I was psychotic. Sometimes I worry about that myself.

(Oh come on. You obviously haven’t read my review of The Silence of the Lambs or you would know I can appreciate the creepy in every writer. After all, we’re not responsible for our dreams.)

I’ll share a semi-funny one. I had a nightmare about my husband cheating on me and woke up and slugged him. (Ouch! That must have been some vivid dream.) I was mad at him for two days until he finally convinced me he’d never cheat on his perfect woman (haha!).

FIL17590(Now seriously, does that look like the face of a cheater? No way.)

Dead Running Cover

ME:  One of your first books, DEAD RUNNING, seemed to coincide with your discovery of the joy of running. But your most recent book, POISON ME, is set in a retirement home. What experiences have you had, good or bad, with such places?

CAMI:  My parents managed a retirement center and I loved going to visit the people there. They were hilarious, kind, and had such great stories to tell. When my mom told me they had four deaths in one week, I was shocked and asked, “What did the police say?” She shook her head and said, “They said they were old.” And the ideas for POISON ME started rolling.

Poison Me CoverME:  Is there a common theme, other than fear or romance, that runs through all your novels and, if so, how would you explain it?

CAMI:  Family. There is almost always a strong family core and adorable children in my novels. I love children, especially my four crazy boys.

Laguna Beach(You can kind of tell, can’t you?)

ME:  How debilitating was your accident some months ago with the lawn mower, in which you lost three of your fingers? Have you had to change or adjust your writing routine in any way?

CAMI:  I did cut three of my fingers off, but they were able to sew on parts of two of them so they’re shorter but serviceable. (That was certainly fortunate!) My middle finger is an ugly nubbin, but it’s fun to scare my sons’ friends with.

As far as writing goes, it was pretty awful for the first few months, then I threw away my prosthetic finger and my Lortab (That’s a pretty powerful pain relief medication . . . not to be confused with the Lorax) and taught myself how to type again. I honestly don’t notice it much anymore.

(Brava!)

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now, and what stage is the story at? Also, please describe where you developed it (in other words, your writing space of choice) and provide a picture of your work area.

CAMI:  I’m working on a story about a mom who blogs against a violent video game company and is stalked by a hit man. It’s definitely not a light murder mystery like DEAD RUNNING or POISON ME, but there’s still some great romance and comedy in it. I’m in the polishing stage, hoping to release it mid-September.

I love my office. My cute husband positioned my desk so I look out my window at trees and mountains. (That must have been after you slugged him.) But I develop most of my stories during my nightmares or out running. Then the trick is typing everything before I forget. With four boys that rarely happens.

999171_10151604618278191_600535375_n

(Do I spy two monitors? Doubly effective)

Thanks for having me on the blog!

(My pleasure. Happy running and writing!)

Cami shares more about her writing, family, and exercise on her website. And you can find her books for sale on Amazon.

Be sure and come back next Wednesday when I talk with Whitney Finalist and historical fiction author Amanda Sowards (aka A.L. Sowards).

Amanda Sowards

Originally posted 2013-07-31 06:00:22.

“Monday Mystery” – A DASH OF MADNESS: A THRILLER ANTHOLOGY

Since this is an anthology, I’m forgoing the usual bios (because there would be too many), but this exciting collection of short thrillers was published by Xchyler Publishing and is available on Amazon both in paperback and e-book. Reviews can be read (and added) on Goodreads.

ADashOfMadness_Cover(That bloodshot eye is pretty gruesome, isn’t it?)

Here’s a quick look at the stories:

Synopsis

One man’s crazy is another man’s norm.

Eight bizarre stories explore twisted perceptions and challenge conceptions about right and wrong. With a fascinating dive into several unstable minds, the authors examine different avenues for exposing warped cognition and mutilated logic. Each delivers a disquieting glimpse of reality.

Reformation by M. Irish Gardner: With a fresh start in life, the last thing freed inmate Todd Jefferson wants to do is live someone else’s, until the pros outweigh the cons.

Mouse and Cat by Elizabeth Gilliland: Mouse knows his place: among the filth and remnants of mankind. When given a chance to change his fate, his choice reflects more than just the intentions of his heart.

Stunner by Sarah Hunter Hyatt: As a stranger in a new town, Marin Overstreet is forced to confront a past she didn’t know existed, and defeat the man sent to silence her forever.

Five Humvees by Breck LeSueur: Three lives, three errs in judgment. Countless consequences reside within this twisted military thriller.

Morningside by F.M. Longo: Back on duty, Detective Morningside must defy the odds and solve the impossible by delving into the criminal mind.

Kissed a Snake by Ben Ireland: Abandoned as a child, Jason only wants to understand his father’s reasons. And to kill him for it. However, learning the truth leads to anything but satisfaction.

Fogo by David MacIver: A neighborhood arson, a broken home, and an overactive imagination are the least of Renata’s worries, especially when her dreams creep into her real life.

Proxy by Tim Andrew: For Bret Maher, death is a perk on the job. But when he takes on a new contract with guaranteed success, he may get more than he bargained for.

Excerpt from “Reformation”

Rita picked up his plate a little later, and Todd continued to sit and think. His prison years had flown by. He hardly remembered a thing, but the biggest motivator he’d always kept as his focus, as his flotation device in a sea of hard reality, was his brother. Shawn. A man that seemed to have forgotten him.

Author and Editor

McKenna Gardner (aka M. Irish Gardner) earned her Bachelor of Science in 2003 from Brigham Young University – Idaho, where she first began writing and editing, and her love of classic literature blossomed. Previously a marketing director and 8th/9th grade educator, McKenna finds her position at Xchyler the winning combination of a career she enjoys and her greatest passion, her children.

McKenna

Originally posted 2013-07-29 11:39:29.

“Wednesday Writer” – Karen Hoover

Karen Hoover is a fighter. Life keeps throwing things at her, whether it’s health issues or loss or family issues, and she doesn’t blink.

(Except perhaps when she went in for an emergency appendectomy back in May . . . she woke up three days later to discover the doctors had rearranged her insides to help her beat off cancer yet again. Even that wasn’t a real blink, however, because she was unconscious the whole time.)

Anyway, when a problem arises, she just deals with it, and no matter what, continues to write and create. Let’s find out what gave her that kind of character and determination.

photoME:  I’ll begin with a series of questions. First, what was the first book ever read to you and by whom?

KAREN:  I’m not sure which book came first–“Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman or “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss (Yes! Finally I get a Dr. Seuss aficionado.), but they were both a very memorable part of my childhood.

AreYouMyMother1My father read to me every night after work and though he thought Green Eggs and Ham was disgusting, he read it to me anyway. I had no idea how much he disliked the book until I was told as an adult. (Now that’s parental love and sacrifice.)

600full-green-eggs-and-ham-coverME:  Second, what was the first book you remember reading by yourself?

KAREN:  I got two books about the same time and, again, I’m not sure which came first, though I literally read them to pieces. They were Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (Ah, yes, a classic!) and B-9 The Hungry Metal Eater by Ester Hauser Lawrence. (Intriguing pick.)

bread and jam for francesB-9 the hungry metal eater(A picture of her worn copy)

ME:  And third, what was the latest book you’ve read, so we can get an idea of how your tastes may or may not have changed? :D

KAREN:  Currently, I am reading the serial, The Debt Collector by Susan Kaye Quinn. I’m on episode 6 and loving it. Fascinating premise.

(Hmm . . . B 9, Episode 6 . . . are you catching the common thread here?)

ME:  And what has your progression as a reader taught you about yourself?

KAREN:  I am inquisitive. I love a good mystery that makes my mind work to solve it. I love the twists of the imagination that can take me anywhere, yet keep me grounded with enough truth to make the story believable. I’d rather read than watch TV. I don’t like to be bored and I don’t like boring details. And last of all, everything, whether in life or in books, has to have a point. Also, I don’t believe in absolutes. There is always a choice.

ME:  Most of us learn to read in the laps of our mothers, but in your case, it was your father who encouraged you to read. Tell me about your relationship with him.

Daddy kisses(Karen with her doting father)

KAREN:  My father was 18 years older than my mother, and when they decided to wed he told her, “Sweetheart, between the two of us we have fifty years of bad marriages. We’ve done all the don’ts. Let’s just do all the do’s.” (What a wise man.)

That is the kind of life he lived. He spent every evening reading to me once he came home from work. When my mother told him to rest and put his feet up because he’d been working all day, he told her she’d been working all day too, and when she sat down to rest, so would he. (Wow! A man ahead of his time.)

Between his two marriages, I was the only girl, so I will admit to being a bit spoiled by him. I remember the rumble of his chest as I sat on his lap and leaned against him as he read. His voice resonated through my entire body. It was incredibly soothing.

(This is the real reason I do these kinds of interviews . . . for bits like this. Can’t you just picture it?)

ME:  How do you think the loss of your father from a sudden heart attack when you were only four affected you later as a writer?

KAREN:  It has definitely made me more empathetic and thoughtful as a person, and I think that leaks into my writing. It is easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you’ve had to deal with that kind of continual pain.

No father meant no Daddy/Daughter dates. It meant I had to pick a stand-in father for things like my baptism and confirmation. It has meant learning how to parent with a husband when I never had that example. It has forced me to look outside the box for answers to things, whether it be simplifying a method of moving (a zip line/pulley system for moving from a third floor apartment), or being flexible with raising children when my way is different than my husband’s.

For writing, being able to step into someone else’s shoes has made me a good character writer, because I can empathize and understand my characters as if they were real people.

ME:  I had no idea you spent the rest of your childhood in Kennewick, Washington–a stone’s throw away from where I now live. Tell me what Kennewick, now kind of the retail center of the TriCities, was like back in the 70s.

KAREN:  I loved living in the TriCities!

My grandparents moved there in the 1940s, and my grandfather alternated between farming his 100 acres and working security for Hanford when they were building one of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. He had no idea what he guarded until after the fact.

350px-Hanford_N_Reactor_adjusted(Hanford Nuclear Site in 1960)

He turned to full time farming after that and raised sheep and alfalfa. There were no fancy sprinklers back then. He had to go out and change pipes twice a day. My brother and I tried to help, but at 4-8 years old, neither of us was really much help.

Kennewick was mostly agricultural, and my family, being poor, would go out and glean the crops after the pickers had been through. We got apples, peaches, asparagus, and more, and it didn’t cost us a thing. It was a blessing at a time when it was much needed–and fun, too. My brother, Sean, and I always managed to find something fun to do when we were supposed to be working. Collecting tadpoles in the canal near the asparagus was always a favorite.

ME:  You say that you and your brother spent hours playing make-believe or “space,” as you called it. Were you influenced by Star Wars back then, and how has that affected your writing now?

KAREN:  We were definitely influenced by Star Wars, as well as Battlestar Galactica, and The Black Hole. We didn’t get to go to the movies often, but when we did we absorbed it. Most of that came once we got to Oklahoma, but it began in those early years in Kennewick.

Sean, Mom, Karen 1983 or 1984(Karen with Sean and her mother in Oklahoma)

ME:  Please share the struggles you had with reading in First Grade and how your mother helped you overcome them.

KAREN:  You would think that after all the hours my daddy spent reading with me I’d have been dying to finish learning and do it myself, but after losing him, I lost all interest in the written word. It hurt too much to read. It reminded me of him, and when you’re so young (4-6), it is hard to understand why it hurts.

When I started first grade I pretty much refused to do anything to further my english education, and so my teacher put me in the lowest reading group, where I stayed for several months. One day, after seeing my report card, my mom sat down with me and talked about reading and how disappointed my father would have been to see that report card. Talk about a knife to the heart! As I cried, she reminded me how much he loved books, and that if I could learn to love books too, it would be a way of remembering and honoring him, and that even though he was gone, through the books he would be with me.

Right then I changed my attitude and spent the weekend working on my reading. I believe that was the weekend she bought Bread and Jam for Frances and B-9 the Hungry Metal Eater. I read and I read and I read. I read out loud. I read to my brother. I read silently when Sean got bored, and within a month I had gone from the lowest reading group to the highest. The teacher had never seen anyone improve so fast.

(And I’ll bet your dad was bursting with pride too.)

CCF01182012_00000(Karen in Second Grade . . . See how happy she was once she started reading again.)

ME:  How did the move to Oklahoma when you were eight impact your preparation to write the kinds of stories you create today?

KAREN:  Moving to Oklahoma was awesome! We spent a year in a trailer while our house was built, but once it was finished, we moved onto another farm. Forty-five acres this time, but my grandparents joined us and built their own home, and both of my older sisters lived on the acreage at one point or another as well. Even one of my older brothers lived with us.

It was heaven for a kid like me. I think that was where my imagination really took off. We lived several miles from any friends so Sean and I had no choice but to play with one another. We built rafts and forts, we learned how to use a jigsaw and made crossbows and swords and shields. Anything to make our imaginary life seem more real. I hated leaving there. To this day, Oklahoma is still the home of my heart.

ME:  Was it a difficult adjustment to then relocate to Utah at age 14?

KAREN:  I thought I would love moving to Utah, but it was a real challenge. I came from the country, carrying an accent and odd words, and nobody understood who I was. Even the kids who belonged to my church mocked me. I remember coming home from school one day in tears and asking my mom, “Why don’t they like me? If we belong to the same church, shouldn’t they accept me here?”

(Exactly. Of course, this kind of thing can happen other places, too. It’s a shame wherever it happens.)

In Oklahoma I had friends from all religions—Catholic, Baptist, Born again, Jehovah’s Witness, and more. None of them cared what church I went to, and it didn’t matter to me either, and yet in Utah, where I was supposed to be accepted, I was scorned. The lesson that taught me was to keep to myself. Put a smile on my face and put on my armor because I wasn’t going to let them beat me down. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’ve done my best.

ME:  Tell us about the first book you ever wrote, and then please share the details of how you came to create and publish your first book, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE.

The Sapphire Flute KAREN:  Actually, my first book was THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE! I got the spark of an idea when I was 22 and played with it for almost twelve years before I discovered writing conferences. I rewrote the book from start to finish at least ten times.

One of the conferences I attend regularly, The LDStorymakers Writing Conference, has a first chapter contest. The first year they began the contest I entered THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE and two other stories. THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE took first place in the fantasy category and another of my stories took second.

I continued to place for the next two years—first place in 2008 and grand prize overall in 2009. (Impressive!) During the conference I spoke with a writer who was beginning her own publishing company and she said that if my book wasn’t snagged by someone else, she wanted to publish it. I decided to go with her company and Book 1 of The Wolfchild Saga, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE, was released to the world in March 2010.

ME:  What else have you written since then, and what are you currently working on?

The Armor of LightKAREN:  I released book 2 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Armor of Light, and the first book in a new series, The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Two Souls are Better Than One, as well as a short book of poems titled And the Mountain Burns.  I am nearly finished with book 3 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Emerald Wolf, with plans to release it in late summer or early fall of 2013.

Two Souls Are Better Than OneAnd the Mountain BurnsKaren book 4 smaller

After that I’ve got three projects in the works: Book 4 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Amethyst Eye, Book 2 of The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Attack of the Zombie Roadkill, and a Serial titled The Garoux and Faye Detective Agency. As to which one will come first, I have no idea. (Sounds like you’re set for a couple of years at least.)

ME:  Finally, what is your writing process like, and please describe your writing space in the voice of your Teenage Wizard, Jeremy James Johansen. (I must have a picture of your office area, too.)

KAREN:  My writing process is sporadic at best. I am trying to become more consistent in writing every day, but most of the time I will go months and months with no writing, then write a whole book in two weeks. I do a lot of pre-writing though, so that might account for it.

I find pictures of all my characters, do character sheets so I know their characteristics and quirks, learn their history, their goals, motivations, and conflicts and more. It’s a rather extensive process, but it makes it so that I can write those books in a very short period of time.

As for JJ describing my office, well, here you go!

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Whoa! That’s loud! Can we turn it down a bit? Yo, thanks, dude! *clearing throat* I don’t know why my maker wants me to describe her office. I mean, it’s not like she can’t do it herself or anything. Lazy, I guess, but hey, who am I to talk? So, the office. Yeah. She moves around a lot. You’d think she had ADD or something. She just can’t seem to settle. Right now her office is in the basement right at the bottom of the stairs. It’s dark. She hardly ever turns on any lights. My mom says that will totally ruin your eyes, but the woman does it anyway. She’s got a couple of bookcases with shelves falling down, a fridge throwing up hot air to her left, and a fan trying to counteract the heat on the right. It’s kind of messy, though not as bad as my room, and she keeps a couple of rat dogs in the bathroom. I mean, who keeps their dogs in the bathroom? That’s just weird. Her other rooms were more colorful, but this one works better, so I can’t say much. Sure hope she gets to work on my next story soon though. I really want to see what zombie roadkill has to do with a portal to another world. I mean, I’ve got enough trouble, right? Sigh Oh well. I guess that’s it. 

(That was great! Here’s a look at her office.)

2013-07-22 15.52.19For more about Karen, her writing, book trailers, and all her projects, check out her website.

And next week, I’ll be talking with clean romantic suspense author, Cami Checketts.

cami_checketts_photo

Originally posted 2013-07-24 13:28:18.

“Monday Mystery” – Mysteries, Suspense Novels, and Thrillers Are Like Driveways

This past week, we had our driveway torn up because of cracking and appearance issues.

photo 3 of driveway

We discovered, in the process, that the pipe for the sprinkler system had been placed just under the concrete surface where it was likely to bear the most weight and wear down.

photo 2 of drivewayphoto 1 of drivewaySo before the new driveway can be poured, a trench needs to be dug and a new pipe fitted to lie more deeply under the ground.

Brian, the guy doing our new driveway, explained that you’ve really got to watch out for builders cutting corners and getting away with it simply because it’s out of view. As he put it, “They come in here ready to pour concrete and they don’t care what’s already there. They’re just going to cover it up.”

Writers can’t be like that. We may be ready to pour out a whole novel’s worth of words, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve laid the proper foundation first. Why? Because our readers will hold us accountable. Particularly when it comes to mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. We have to place certain clues in the right places and in the right ways (there, but not too obvious) and we also have to be sure and include red herrings to keep things complicated enough. After all, our readers are going to be tearing up our “driveways” as they devour our stories and there had better not be any unacceptable surprises.

What kind of driveways are we constructing in the first place? Asphalt? Concrete? One made out of block pavers? It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between all three.

But where do you draw the line in terms of genre between mystery, suspense novel, and thriller?

Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford came up with these distinctions:

  • Thrillers have action
  • Suspense has danger, but not necessarily action
  • Mysteries have mysteries (something you don’t know until the end)

Still confused? I am. After all, I think THE BOURNE IDENTITY and THE DA VINCI CODE has all three elements.

Another agent, Jessica Faust, says there are three different kinds of mysteries: the cozy (usually involving an amateur sleuth and not too many bloody bodies), the mystery (grittier and darker…definitely more blood), and the suspense/thriller (the darkest of the three…more about stopping a killer than solving a crime). Check out her explanation here.

There’s a fascinating post by novelist Janet L. Smith describing the conclusions of suspense master, Alfred Hitchcock:

  • Suspense has no relationship to fear
  • It’s the state of waiting for something to happen
  • Therefore, the viewer or reader must be informed of an awful, impending event in order to be held in suspense, rather than merely surprised when it happens

Smith points out that a mystery, on the other hand, “is a novel of revelation, with action more mental than physical.” In this case, the audience is not kept informed.

And here’s one final analysis by Maeve Maddox.

Let’s say Mystery is Asphalt, Suspense is Concrete, and Thrillers are those driveways built with block pavers. What kind of driveway do you specialize in, and why? Please let me know in a comment below. I’m interested to find out which is most popular these days.

 

Originally posted 2013-07-22 17:40:31.

“Wednesday Writer” – Chris Jefferies

I pulled a switch to accommodate the needs of one of my scheduled authors, so we’re visiting today with historical fiction writer, Chris Jefferies, instead of fantasy author, Karen Hoover. But I promise–she’ll be here next Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s get to know Chris better, shall we? This is an award-winning writer (a bronze medalist for Best Regional Fiction by the Independent Book Awards) who, like me, came a bit late to the game. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his stuff. He does.

Chris L. Jefferies, PhDME:  How old were you when you wrote your first story, and what was it about? (Also, I’d love a picture of you as a child to post with the interview.)

(Note: I asked that question assuming that he, like most of us, had first tried his hand at creating a story in elementary school . . . No such luck, but he was such a cute kid that I’m posting the picture anyway.)

chris3yrs(Here he is at 3 and he’s already showing an interest in the military!)

CHRIS:  I first began writing seriously during my Air Force career when my bosses discovered I could write. (Notwithstanding the picture above, this was not when he was three. :D)

That led to writing for professional journals and other periodicals over the years. I’ve always enjoyed reading novels, particularly historical fiction, and over a period of time I began reading them with a critical eye. I finally concluded I could write better than many of the authors I was reading. I wrote my first story during my early 60s. That story became the first ZION’S PROMISE book.

ME:  Where did you grow up and how has it impacted you as a writer?

CHRIS:  I grew up in Oakland, California, where my parents moved from Utah during the late 1930s, but my family roots remained in Utah, particularly Grantsville. That’s the town, on Utah’s western frontier, where almost all of my ancestors settled after emigrating from England during the mid-1800s. So I grew up with a keen awareness of my Mormon Pioneer heritage which, in turn, influenced my writing.

(More about that later. But here’s a picture of the land around Grantsville.)

hastings.grantsville

ME:  Please fill us in on your education and career up until the time you decided to begin writing the ZION’S PROMISE series. (And I hope you won’t mind if I post a picture of you in your Air Force uniform . . . as an adult, that is.)

CHRIS:  I am a career Air Force officer and a retired colonel. Spanning 28 years, my career includes 8 years flying world-wide airlift missions, a tour flying C-130s in Vietnam, a tour as an exchange officer with the British Royal Air Force, five years on the faculty of the US Air Force Academy, service at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and two tours in Washington, D.C. (Okay, I’m officially tired.)

CHRIS UNIFORM(There’s the man in uniform.)

After retiring from the Air Force, I served as an administrator at the University of Oklahoma, and then as the Executive Director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and museum. (Wait! What about retirement? The Air Force didn’t wear you out?)

My educational degrees are from BYU, a Master’s from the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD from the University of Oklahoma. (Envision a snappy military salute to Dr. Jefferies at this point.)

Chris Jefferies(He looks like someone with a PhD, doesn’t he?)

ME:  It’s apparent that history is important to you. After all, you’re a western historical fiction writer and you currently serve as editor of Prairie Lore, the journal of the Southwest Oklahoma Historical Society. Why does history matter so much to you?

CHRIS:  I’m not sure why, but history has always fascinated me. (Me too.) I have always chosen history when given a choice of reading materials. As I grew older I began to appreciate that we are who we are because of our history. It defines us as families and individuals. I firmly believe that our ancestors influence us even today, often by whisperings of the spirit. (Agreed.)

Zion's Promise 1ME:  What gave you the idea for ZION’S PROMISE, and did you envision it as a series to begin with?

CHRIS:  No, I did not envision my first book as a series. It just happened. The idea for ZION’S PROMISE grew from two sources.

First, my great-great grandfather’s journal. As I read his accounts, I was intrigued by his adventures, many of which surpassed those I had read in historical fiction novels over the years. (Hint to readers: you might be well-advised to start digging through your attics for your ancestors’ journals.)

Zion's Promise 2

The second idea grew out of my admiration for Porter Rockwell, one of the unsung heroes of Mormon history. He is a fascinating character, and the factual accounts of his exploits read better than a novel. When I realized that he and my great-great grandfather were contemporaries, whose paths had crossed, I concluded I had the source material for a novel. 

ME:  Does the story change through the course of the series and, if so, how?

CHRIS:  The story line is the adventures, trials, sacrifices and triumphs of a Mormon family emigrating from England in 1861 to join the Mormon Zion in Utah Territory in search of the blessings and opportunities it offers. That continues throughout all three volumes.

Zion's Promise 3The events evolve more than change as they emigrate, settle on Zion’s western frontier, and struggle to establish their own Zion in the face of adversity and challenges.

author.bookfair.10-12(And here’s the author at a signing)

ME:  You’ve described yourself as a “rut-nut.” Could you explain exactly what you mean by that, and please share one of your most memorable experiences in your exploration of the western migration trails. (And I must have a picture of you out on the trail.)

CHRIS:  A “rut-nut” is a self-descriptive term for one who seeks out and follows old frontier trails and roads, looking for evidence of those who originally traveled the trails.

My most memorable experience was standing on a stretch of Mormon Trail ruts in Wyoming with my father, and both of us realizing that our direct ancestors passed by that very spot. It was as though they were whispering to us.

IMG_0458(Here they are on the spot. What a resemblance between father and son!)

ME:  Please describe your research and writing process. Does one precede the other or do they go hand in hand for you?

CHRIS:  Before I begin writing, I research as much general background material relevant to my intended story as I can until I feel confident enough to start. For example, before I began volume 3, in which I describe Colonel Conner and his California volunteers sent to Utah Territory at the beginning of the Civil War, I researched what life was like for the frontier soldier. Then, as I got into writing, I referred to contemporary journals and accounts by actual soldiers of the Volunteers. So the answer is both: research begins before I write, and continues during the process.

ME:  What are five things you have on or near your writing desk that make your creative space special? (And please send a photo of your writing space.)

CHRIS:  I don’t think I have anything special in my writing space, except a good dictionary and thesaurus. And, of course, stacks of books . . . Oh yes. (You see, I knew there’s be something.) There is one special item: a needlepoint that Betty, my wife, sewed for me years ago. I still like to look at it.

(Drat! The only picture I could find of him at a desk doesn’t show the needlepoint. I wonder if it’s a design, a picture, or a saying.)

Chris Jefferies at desk(That desk looks old enough to have some history behind it.)

ME:  Finally, I hope you won’t mind sharing one of your great-great grandfather’s most interesting journal entries.

CHRIS:  Most of his entries are factual and brief, and emotion-free. Putting feeling and emotions into these accounts was my challenge as an author hoping to bring him to life. I think I succeeded. However, there is one entry he made at the journal’s end that impressed me the most as one of his direct descendants. It may be of interest to others.

William Jefferies & WO0002(First, a picture to help you visualize the man behind the pen. Chris’s great-great grandfather, William Jefferies, with two of his children/grandchildren.)

I have dwelt somewhat lengthily on several incidents in my early life, because I perceive in them the visible hand of my Father in heaven, in leading, guiding and directing my course, so as to bring me into his fold, and give me a chance to secure unto myself eternal lives, in his celestial Kingdom. Others may not acknowledge His hand in such matters, but I do, and I feel thankful to Him for the benefits of His guiding Hand all my life through, thus far; and I hope to be able to serve Him faithfully all the remainder of my days, so that when I shall have to give an account of the deeds done in the body, I may be considered worthy to be an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, and dwell in the mansions of celestial light and glory for evermore. 

(Wow. Talk about a voice whispering from the dust.)

If you’d like to know more about Chris and his writing, please check out his website. And you can order his books here.

Next Wednesday, I promise to chat with Karen Hoover.

photo

Originally posted 2013-07-17 15:43:24.

“Monday Mystery” – MOTIVE FOR MURDER

I’m starting something new here involving suspense.

Beginning today, my Monday postings will be about mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels.

The postings will be either reviews of suspense novels that I choose (no requests, please), musings about the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres in general, or announcements of new releases. (Here, I will welcome requests from authors . . . If you’ve got a new mystery, thriller, or suspense novel coming out, just send me a basic synopsis, a short excerpt of around 100 words or less, and a brief bio, along with a cover image and your author photo.)

Some of you may recall that I had originally set aside Mondays for various things attached to the acronym MOLESKIN–one of my favorite writing product lines. But it became too complicated to keep track of . . . hence, the change.

I’m kicking it off this week with an announcement of a new release: Marlene Bateman’s MOTIVE FOR MURDER: An Erica Coleman Mystery. Published only last month, it’s available on Amazon and at all LDS bookstores, including Deseret Book and Seagull.

A Motive for Murder_High resolution

Here’s a quick look:

Synopsis

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.

Erica imagined that her trip to Florida would be a slice of heaven—a chance to get away from it all and catch up with her best friend, Wendy. But one day into her vacation, all hope of fun in the sun is dashed when she stumbles, literally, over a dead man on Wendy’s driveway. With police closing in on her friend as their main suspect, Erica must find the real killer before Wendy ends up behind bars.

With Erica’s skill, solving the mystery should be a piece of cake but then a second homicide attempt hits close to home and generates a whole new list of suspects. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. A murderer is on the prowl, and no one is above suspicion.

As the plot thickens, it appears Erica may have bitten off more than she can chew, but she forges on, sifting through mounting evidence until she hones in on the killer who has a surprising motive for murder. With a dash of romance and some surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

 

Excerpt

“As she drove back to Wendy’s house, the headlights cleaved the darkness and shone through the rain, which was falling harder now. Erica parked across the street and was nearly to Wendy’s door when she stopped suddenly, catching herself as she nearly fell over something.

It was the still figure of a man lying face down on the driveway. He was strangely unmoving. The light from the porch illuminated a puddle alongside him, which was growing bigger by the second. A chill shivered down Erica’s spine as she noticed that the puddle was streaked by dark red threads that ran and merged with rivulets of rain.”

 

Author

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah.  She graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.

MarleneBateman_238x287

Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, and Brigham’s Boys. Marlene also wrote the best-selling novel, Light on Fire Island.

A busy writer, Marlene is set to have three books published this year. Gaze Into Heaven, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences in early church history, was published earlier this year. Now we have Motive for Murder, the first in a mystery series featuring the quirky Erica Coleman. Later in July, Heroes of Faith, a collection of stories about people who risked their life for the gospel, will be released by Cedar Fort Inc. You can learn more about Marlene at her website.

Originally posted 2013-07-15 06:00:53.

In Celebration of “Bastille Day”

I’ve been apprised of a special deal that I thought I’d pass on to my readers:

Le French Book

July 14 is Bastille Day in France, and Le French Book is celebrating. This ebook-first publisher focuses on fiction in translation from France, with a special emphasis on the country’s top-selling mysteries and thrillers.

To mark the date, it is running Bastille Day Sweepstakes for an ereader and a number of summer ebook reads with a French flair.

“With our focus on entertaining reads from France, we couldn’t miss out on this Bastille Day opportunity to share what we are doing with new readers,” says Anne Trager, the company’s founder. She started Le French Book with the goal of sharing what she loves about the Gallic nation and its fiction.

The sweepstakes run from July 11 through July 14.

Get your chance to win via Facebook.

Or enter the sweepstakes directly here.

You can even get a free Bastille Day short story by seven of France’s top writers.

 

Originally posted 2013-07-11 14:16:34.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Belliston

Are you comfortable? Do you have a ready supply of chocolate (or your favorite snack if it’s not chocolate)? Then settle yourself in for a long, detailed interview with Rebecca Belliston, an author of YA Romance and dystopian fiction, and a composer of religious and classical-styled music.

index~~element457 ME:  I didn’t realize (until I was preparing for this interview) that you’re the daughter of Gerald Lund, one of the most respected and well-known authors in LDS circles, thanks mostly to his series, The Work and the Glory. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, or do you not even worry about it? How have you dealt with his fame when it comes to your own writing career? (And I’d love a picture of you with your father when you were a child.)

REBECCA:  Growing up, I had a lot of people ask me, “Are you a writer like your dad?” I’d quickly respond that I wasn’t. Not at all. I loved watching him write, reading his books, and talking about his characters over dinner and whether Joshua Steed should ever turn good. But writing was always his thing.

Until five years ago.

I had this story stuck in my head for a year, and I decided to jot down a few notes so I could hopefully stop thinking about it. (Uh-oh. That sounds familiar.) But once I started writing . . . oh boy, I couldn’t stop. (Addictive, isn’t it?) I fell in love with the process of creating, refining, and molding characters, and then trying to figure out what might happen next. And then next.

Since I never planned to write, and since I grew up being “Gerald Lund’s daughter,” I had an unreasonably hard time admitting what I was doing. It took me two weeks to tell my husband. Pathetic, right? (But kind of understandable, too.) When he didn’t disown me or laugh me out of town, I told my dad.

Gerald & Rebecca(Gerald Lund with Rebecca…and, unseen in the frame, a keyboard. Just kidding!)

My dad’s been so supportive and excited for me right from the start. I’m smiling right now just thinking about his enthusiasm. It’s been a blast to talk writing jargon with him and to watch a pro like him work through the creative process. I’ve learned so, so, so much.

But to answer your question, yes. Those are huge writing shoes to fill. Ginormous. When I found out SADIE was being published, I kind of freaked out, wondering if people would compare my book with my dad’s and expect some amazing doctrinal dissertation that would change their life.

(That does sound like a major freak out.)

You might notice that “Lund” is not in my official author name on my book covers. That was for a few reasons. Rebecca Belliston is a long enough name to fit on a cover without inserting “Lund” in there. But I also wanted to protect my dad, myself, and my readers. If people disliked my books, I didn’t want them to think less of my dad. I also didn’t want any readers to pick up my book and think they were getting a Gerald Lund-type book. I write romances.

However, one thing I inherited from my dad is the ability to write long books and long answers. (:D) Sorry. That was probably more detail than you wanted. :D

(Not at all. I love details.)

ME:  Or perhaps it’s your mother, Lynn, with all of her composing, who has been most influential creatively? (Again, I’d love a picture of you as a child with her.)

REBECCA:  While I never grew up thinking I’d follow my dad’s footsteps, I definitely followed my mom’s, even from a young age. My mom has written hundreds of songs and taught piano since before I was born. I’m told that, as a baby, I’d sit quietly on her lap during all her piano lessons. (I can think of a few piano-teaching moms who are probably envious right now.) I’ve loved music as long as I can remember.

By three years old, I was sounding out songs on the piano. (Piano lessons by osmosis, right?) By four, I was taking piano lessons. By six, I had perfect pitch, and I was writing my own songs about purple unicorns and rainbows.

My mom and I singing in a program(Rebecca with her mom)

My mom has been a huge creative influence in my life, and I love her dearly for it. She would encourage me to think about melodies and what made them unique and beautiful. Then she’d point out accompaniments that would counter the melody instead of following it.

Like my dad, my mom has been a huge support of my compositions, cheering me on in the tiniest achievements. When my first choral arrangement was published with Jackman Music, I could practically hear her screaming across the country.

As you can see, I have the best parents. I was raised in an attitude of, If you can dream it, do it! Don’t let doubt get in your way. (Great motto for all creative types, particularly writers.) I watched them get these crazy ideas that no one ever tried, but they’d just run with it and turn it into something inspiring. Fear of failure was either non-existent or unseen.

Whenever I’ve exhibited the least bit of interest in the creative process, they’ve been on the sidelines cheering me on and telling me I’m the best in the world. Ha ha. I love them!

Everything I’m doing today with books and music I owe to my parents. Seriously.

(I hope you’ll share this interview with them so they realize how grateful you are.)

ME:  What was your major in college and why? Were you able to finish a degree before your husband, Troy, swept you off your feet? (And please share a wedding photo of the two of you.) If not, do you plan on completing it at some time in the future?

REBECCA:  I took a lot of music classes in college, but I technically didn’t major in music. I wasn’t really majoring in anything. I took computer classes, medical classes, science classes, and a bunch of other stuff, but I loved too many things to narrow it down to one subject. (At least not by the time you met Troy, I take it.)

Our Wedding(Troy and Rebecca, appropriately by the piano)

Once our oldest kid was born, I knew I wanted to be at home with him all the time. I never finished my degree. I wasn’t even close. But I’ve never regretted that decision. Not once.

As of now, I don’t have plans to finish my degree because, again, I’m not sure how I’d narrow it down to one subject. I’d love to major in six things. Maybe some day I’ll find the time to do all of it.

(That’s me. I wanted to be an archaeologist, historian, actress, playwright, filmmaker, foreign correspondent, etc. That’s the great thing about being a writer. We can satisfy so many different interests in our writing.)

Instead, I’ve used Google as my university. I’m a learning addict (Here, here!), and usually it’s random, useless things that catch my interest. But I love that I can have a simple question, and .30 seconds later I get 4.2 million answers. Thank goodness for Google!

(Agreed.)

ME:  My sister and her husband lived in Detroit for a couple of years early on in their marriage and really didn’t like it, but that was almost 30 years ago. How has your family liked Detroit, and has that setting influenced your writing in any way?

REBECCA:  I was born and raised in Utah, but once my husband graduated from Utah State, we moved to Michigan. We’ve lived here sixteen years now. He’s an automotive engineer and currently works on the Ford F-150, so Metro Detroit is the place to be.

2013-Ford-F-150-Limited-front-three-quarter(2013 Ford F-150…looking nice, Troy!)

We live outside of the city 45 minutes, and we love it! Michigan is so gorgeous and green. Where we live has a strong Midwest feel. The people are so warm and open. The area is family friendly and strongly Christian, which is awesome for my kids.

(Now, if you’d asked me if I like Michigan in the dead of winter, I’d probably have a different answer.)

(It’s a good thing I interviewed you in summertime!)

Living outside of Utah and watching LDS people outside of Mormonville made me want to keep Sadie’s story outside of that little bubble. I wanted to show how LDS twenty-somethings maintain their standards when they’re in the minority. Because of that, most of the characters in SADIE and AUGUSTINA aren’t LDS. I like it that way. That’s my kids’ lives right now. There are so many good, Christian people in the world, and I have many close friends that aren’t of my faith. I guess I wanted to highlight that.

(I know what you mean. I always try to have a mix of faiths in my stories, too.)

ME:  What gave you the idea to put lyrics into your manuscript for SADIE, and do you do it again in the sequel? Also, has the song “Look Past” been recorded anywhere?

REBECCA:  I’m not sure where I got the idea for “Look Past.” It’s my first real attempt at writing lyrics. I wish it was recorded! That would be so cool! In my mind–and I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly (That’s okay…we don’t mind.)–but David Archuleta sings it. So . . . anyone know how to get Archie to record my song for me? :D (Even if we did, I think you’ll have to wait until he’s finished his mission first.)

(The more you get to know me, the more you’ll see what a dreamer I am. That’s the downside of my parents’ influence. My husband has a hard time keeping my feet on the floor. I have a bucket list a mile long, which involves Hollywood movies, Billboard-chart songs, and a lot of other stuff I’ll force myself to quit admitting.)

(Hey, don’t forget what your parents taught you. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming.)

I’m currently working on a song for AUGUSTINA, but it’s a hymn arrangement, not an original composition like “Look Past.” We’ll see if I can finish it before the release. Here’s hoping.

ME:  Tell us about your successful first novel, SADIE, as well as its sequel, AUGUSTINA, due to come out shortly. How are they alike, and what differences might your readers expect in this sequel?

SadieREBECCA:  My first novel, SADIE, is about a girl in Montana who’s dating a guy with all the appearance of being wonderful and charming. Everyone loves Guillermo. But Sadie’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he turns violent. She goes on the run and meets four quirky guys on their annual ski vacation. They take her in, hide her, and show her a different way of living that doesn’t revolve around diamonds and dinner parties.

One of the guys, Josh, catches her interest with stupid jokes and amazing piano abilities. (My love of music shines strong in the books.) But Guillermo is cunning and powerful enough to draw Sadie back in. Before she knows it, she’s in the middle of a dangerous duel between him and the FBI, and it turns deadly. She has to figure out which side she’s on and which man she loves before it’s too late.

Augustina

(Slight spoiler alert ahead for those who haven’t read SADIE yet . . . even if it is by the author, herself.)

In the sequel, AUGUSTINA, Sadie is on the run. Guillermo is furious she turned against him, and her body still shows the effects of his rage. Forced to leave Montana behind, she and Josh head south where she hopes to conquer her past–even if only in her mind. But Guillermo can’t let go. He’s still orchestrating, hunting, and devising ways to exact his own kind of justice. When the law swings in his favor, he’s ready to end the feud that started the moment Josh walked into Sadie’s life.

Book two was hard to write. Sadie goes to a dark place in her mind, and as an author, I wanted to protect her from that. I love my characters. But unfortunately, that wasn’t realistic. Domestic abuse is a reality for far too many women, and I didn’t want to minimize it. So in some ways, AUGUSTINA is a little heavier than SADIE. But there is still a lot of teasing and laughter.

There’s also a change of scenery in this second book. Josh and Sadie move to Tennessee, which allows them to spend more time outside. That was a lot of fun to write. I visited Knoxville with my parents ten years back when they were filming The Work and the Glory. I fell in love with the area. It’s gorgeous.

Also in book two, Sadie spends some time focusing on her spirituality. She’s desperate to find some peace–any peace–and part of her journey is exploring Josh’s religion.

ME:  What led you to turn to dystopian fiction with CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, and do you have a publisher for that trilogy yet?

REBECCA:  CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND is a little different than SADIE and AUGUSTINA. It’s set in the future about five years after the financial collapse of America. It’s still a romance and has some suspense elements, but it’s not LDS fiction. In a way, it’s the story of a small community as much as it’s a romance.

LifeI think the most powerful question a writer can ask is “What if?” Those two little words are the reason I wrote CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND.

What if the end of America as we know it isn’t caused from some massive world war? What if it’s caused by the collapse of the economy? What if our technologically spoiled civilization suddenly has to live without running water, electricity, and even a basic grocery store? What if the government wants to help people and prevent mass starvation, but in reality, they only make things worse? What would that do to a small community of 36 neighbors? How would I survive if I didn’t have a dime to my name? (Okay, now I’m looking at a sleepless night ahead of me.)

I’m thrilled that Crescent Moon Press will be publishing this new trilogy. They’ve been so enthusiastic about the characters and story, it’s been awesome. I’m not sure yet when it will be published, but I’m starting round one of edits in the near future.

(Congratulations! I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.)

ME:  How would you describe your writing process and what part does music play in it, if any? (I must have a picture of you at the piano.)

REBECCA:  Hmmm. My writing process is constantly evolving. As I mentioned, I never planned to write SADIE. It just kinda happened. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing.

Now, I usually let a story play out in my mind for a while before I write anything down. I’m a daydreamer, so I start there, much to the chagrin of my family.

“Mom? Hello?”

Once I feel I’m onto something, I start to plot and outline. I use a couple of outlining methods, but I really like Blake Snyder’s beat sheet method. I also do some intense character sketching to figure out motivations, fears, strengths and weaknesses for the major characters.

From there, I start writing. First drafts are hard for me. Ironic, I know, considering I wrote the first draft of SADIE in three weeks. But I’d much prefer to edit and refine now. Still, I’ve learned to push through the first draft and allow myself to be dull and boring the first time through so I can get to the fun, refining process.

(I think most writers feel that way. I’ll bet your father does, too. And since you didn’t mention music, I guess it doesn’t play a role, but here’s a picture anyway.)

At piano(Rebecca at the piano)

ME:  Finally, I’d love a peek at the place where you do most of your writing. Please describe it in Guillermo’s voice, as if he’s come there looking for Sadie. (And we must have a photo.)

REBECCA:  In Guillermo’s voice? Oh, man. Let’s see . . .

She sat at her desk, unaware. Her back was to the room, trusting her surroundings.

I smiled. I loved this about her.

She worked from two screens, and her eyes darted back and forth, mind racing and wonderfully preoccupied. Several books were strewn about, and papers filled every inch of work space. Homework assignments. Bills. Even a random screwdriver. What was the purpose in that?

I found the answer to my own question, and my smile grew. The screwdriver was long and sharp. Perfecto!

I crept closer.

Children climbed on and off her lap, causing more typos than she could keep up with. She was distracted. Always distracted. And oh, so very trusting.

Okay. I have to stop now because I’m freaking myself out. (What? No. It was just getting good! You can’t leave us hanging there.) Anyone could sneak up to me when I write because I’m so focused. (That’s why I write with my back to a wall…and a window that doesn’t open.) Thank you so much for that little writing exercise. (Picture me turning my laptop around to face the room.)

I’m seriously tempted to clean up my workspace before snapping a photo, but I won’t. Welcome to my frazzled brain. In my defense, my computer files are perfectly organized and tidy. Sort of.

My desk(And there you have it…the scene of Guillermo’s almost crime)

You can learn more about Rebecca’s writing or watch the trailer for SADIE (and even listen to some of her musical compositions) by checking out her website and blog.

But don’t forget to come back here next Wednesday when I’ll be interviewing fantasy author, Karen Hoover.

photo

Originally posted 2013-07-10 06:00:18.