Author Spotlight: ANDREW RICHARDSON

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For this month’s Author Spotlight, I’m happy to focus on author ANDREW RICHARDSON, whose latest book The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn was just released (today), adding to his already impressive list of published fiction in several genres. Congratulations Andrew on your latest release!

Andrew lives in Wiltshire, England with his wife, a rescue cat, and a son who occasionally pops home from university. He’s within easy reach of Stonehenge and other historical places whose regal solitude provides a clear mind for working out plot difficulties and story ideas. And with a background in archaeology and having worked on sites in England, Scotland, and Wales, it’s not surprising that much of his writing reflects this interest and experience. Most of Andrew’s published work falls in the horror or historical fantasy genres.

Synopsis of The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn:

Dancing with her friends in the mortal realm, Penni, the fairest Tylwyth Teg, has no idea of what she will unleash by disobeying the law. A mortal attacks the handmaidens and blocks Penni’s return to Annwyn. Banished for breaking the law, Penni is forced to take refuge with Pelling, a mortal, and his family.  Penni and Pelling find love and marry, despite his brother’s hatred of the fairy folk. He wants to sell her – Tylwyth Teg slaves fetch a princely price, a great temptation for a poor farmer. The couple moves to the capital of fifth century Wales where King Maelgyn rules. Subjected to prejudice and cruelty, they are trapped in the bitter struggle between Christianity and the Old Ways of paganism. Accidentally burnt by iron – the fairy folk’s greatest fear – Penni seeks sanctuary and a cure in Annwyn. Can their love surmount the differences in cultures and religion? Can their marriage survive their separation?

I talked with Andrew about details of the mythology surrounding his new book and other aspects of his successful writing career.

Can you talk about the mythology of your new book and what inspired you to write it? 

One of my passions is sixth century Britain (The Age of Arthur), particularly north Wales where I studied the period at university, and another interest is north Welsh myths and legends.  ‘The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn’ combines the two.  It follows an ageless story about a man who married a fairy.  I set it in sixth century north Wales so I could include some of the period’s events and people, particularly the colourful King Maelgwn who is a fascinating character with countless myths and legends surrounding him.

Tylwyth Teg (fair folk) are the Welsh equivalent of fairies and feature a lot in Welsh stories.  Their kings and nobles appear in a lot of different places – even Shakespeare – so it was fun including some often-used characters around Penni, the story’s main focus.  The original is set in the Nant y Betws, a stunningly beautiful Welsh valley I know well, although sadly the meadow where the fairies danced and where Penni met her husband is now a sewage works.  Annwyn is the traditional Welsh Otherworld where Tylwyth Teg live, and while there’s no obvious sign of an entrance in the Nant y Betws these days, walking through the valley it’s easy to imagine the fair folk watching from behind one of the ancient field walls.

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You have an impressive list of publications, and even more impressive is your experience writing in very different genres. Is there one genre you feel more at home with than others? 

Horror and historical fantasy are the two genres I work in most and I enjoy each equally.  As a generalisation, horror stories tend to be relatively simple and linear, while fantasy has a more complicated structure and needs subtle sub-plots.  I like being able to just get on with a horror novel without having to plan too much, but on the other hand historical fantasy is more rewarding when it comes off because of the extra work involved.

Which genre made the biggest impression on you as a child and as a young reader?

My parents don’t like horror or anything remotely dark, so I wasn’t brought up with it.  That led me to wonder what it was all about when I was in my teens so I read a couple of horror novels (James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ was my first) and I was fascinated not so much by the horror itself, but by discovering a genre I hardly knew existed.  In my teens and early twenties I read as much horror as I could get my hands on, so the structure of horror stories slowly sunk in which is why my first writing attempts were in the genre. Historical fantasy came a little later with my interest in Arthur’s period.  I wanted to see how different authors explained some of the more improbable elements of his story.

For novice writers wanting to break in, what are some of the industry “rules” about writing historical fantasy? Are there any challenges, or else any advantages to writing in this genre that you might not have in other genres?

The usual rules for writing fiction apply, like strong characters and imaginative plots.  An important ‘extra’ is to know the period because although you’re writing fantasy you’re also writing history, so you need to get the clothing, habits, beliefs, and the like right.  That’s why my fantasies are set around Celtic Britain; the time and place has always fascinated me and I feel comfortable setting stories there.

 An advantage of writing stories set in a period where there are hardly any written records is that events and characters are often very shadowy.  This gives writers a wonderful opportunity to interpret what happened, and the people involved, in the way they want or the way that fits best into the story, which is great fun.

How and when did you start writing books and who was your most important teacher or writing-mentor?

My wife works shifts, and when our son was born in the mid-nineties I wanted a hobby to keep me occupied in the evenings after I’d put him to bed.  I’d always enjoyed writing at school so I decided to give fiction a go, and loved it.

I’ve never had a formal teacher or mentor but after writing for a few years I met both Phil and Carole.  Both are an invaluable help in terms of critiquing early drafts of my work and giving moral support when I’ve needed it, and have become very good friends as well.

What else do you have brewing at the moment and do you have any future publications lined up?

I’ve just finished a horror about a group of archaeologists who uncover an ancient goddess, which is looking for a publisher.  It’s not a fresh idea so while I’m happy with it I’m not sure anyone will want to take it on, but it’s in the sort of 1980s fiction I grew up reading and it was rewarding to do a homage to the style.

I’ve also started work on a fantasy/horror about changelings.  Changelings were babies believed to be fairy children swapped by malevolent fairies for human babies in the night.  I’m writing about what might happen if this still took place in the modern day.

Is your latest book a standalone or part of a series?

It’s a standalone.  I’ve never written a series, I’m itching to try something different by the time I’ve finished a novel.  And my first interest was horror, which isn’t a genre lending itself to series so I’ve never really thought about it.

Thank you, Andrew, for joining us this month and sharing your writing experience and inspiration with us!

Learn more about Andrew here:

 

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Author Spotlight: NZ GRANT

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feeding_cover_medium (Large)NZ Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding to his long list of published books in both fiction and non-fiction, award-winning author NZ Grant celebrates the publication of his latest thriller, The Feeding, a supernatural thriller released in April of this year by Rebel ePublishers. His book Mesquite Smoke Dance won the Richard Webster Popular Fiction Award, and his book Hawks has been sold to a UK-based film production company. And writing is just one of his many talents. Grant was formerly a professional hunter, and has been a bodyguard, a TV stuntman, merchant seaman, and is a competitive pistol shooter and instructor. With his native New Zealand as his base, Grant’s real love is travel, and he describes he and his wife as constant travelers. I asked him about this and other things in our Q&A below, so read on and learn about the man behind a most fascinating read.

About The Feeding:

Indian Mountain – spiritual home to the mysterious Ontchean tribe of medicine men, has been uninhabited for over a century. This rural southern Georgia setting is the backdrop to the unspeakable, grisly death of Abel Loomis and a train of otherworldly events and murders that follow.

As you’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer one over the other?

I do prefer writing fiction to fact. With factual writing, such as my ghosted tales on euthanasia and medical themes, you are bound very much by facts. You can take the subject’s tale and spin it any one of a dozen ways, but they’re still facts. In fiction, you have total freedom to go where you want and explore what you want with the subject matter, storyline, characterizations, etc. I do love that freedom, though it doesn’t always pay the bills like ghostwriting or journalism can.

As you’re incredibly prolific, I find myself wondering about your writing process. Are you a highly disciplined writer in your approach? 

In addition to my 14 or so books, I also write for several magazines on a semi-frequent basis and one monthly publication as a staff writer covering historic themes. I also write voice material for a local radio station. Yes, I am very disciplined. In a normal working day, I kick myself out of bed into the shower, dress, have a good breakfast and am at the keyboard by about 8 am. I find that creativity is higher in the mornings. The afternoon is generally spent doing mundane writing tasks, like proofreading and research.

Your books seem to have very intricate plots. Do you outline your novels before writing them, and can you share a bit about how you do that? 

I don’t outline my novels, but I do outline my non-fiction books. Those require careful plotting because we are dealing with real people and events. I generally start with an idea – something perhaps sparked by a news item, a chance remark, an encounter, or just a thought that worms its way to the conscious center of the brain. The Feeding, for instance, was first written 15-years ago in rough draft and had languished in a file box all that time. I’m a great fan of horror tales, as written by King and Koontz and their contemporaries. I wrote The Feeding as an experiment between other projects. I re-read it two years ago and decided that it had legs, so rewrote it to bring it up to date.

As to the intricacy of the plots, I let the characters dictate what takes place. They take up lives of their own. And while I know what I want the outcome to be, I let them find their own way there. I often finish a first draft and find that one or more characters have developed certain traits along the way. That being the case, on the second draft I often re-write the first third of the book to accommodate what I have discovered about the characters at book’s end.

How does traveling ignite your creativity? Do you get most of your ideas when you’re away from home?

Travel is a wonderful way to fire up the creative juices. I spent much time in our mountains as a professional hunter. That lead to my book Hawks, which has been sold as a movie project and reprinted 3 times. As a seaman, I gained inspiration for Tyler’s Gold, another novel. Death in the Kingdom was set in Thailand, a country I have visited more than a dozen times. Singapore Sling Shot was set in Singapore, my second home. The Feeding was in part inspired by the time I spent in Georgia, USA, even though Indian Mountain and surrounds are a totally fictitious landscape. But, to the reader who has never been down in that part of the world, it is real and that’s the beauty of writing fiction. However, there’s one rule to follow: know the rules before you break them. Go large if you fictionalize anything and don’t be tentative.

Even if you can’t travel, get online, get to the library, and soak up everything you can about a location so you write about it from a position of knowledge. Speak to people who have been there. Little things you and your posse see and experience along the travel pathway in real life or even onscreen can foster some great ideas.

Where did you get the idea for The Feeding? It’s such an interesting story with a somewhat typical process of investigation amid a very atypical cultural backdrop. 

The premise for The Feeding came from a story told to me about a vanished tribe of Maori here in New Zealand. The People of The Mist were a tribe that supposedly vanished into the mists of one of our sacred mountain areas. That got me wondering if I could transpose that to Georgia, because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the southern US. The forests in those states are so different from those in our country and I love being among the trees and mountains. I mountained up my fictitious south and created my southern counties and built the story from there. I wrote two collections of tales of the supernatural in New Zealand and four volumes of Asian supernatural tales so it would be fair to say I have an interest in it. I also have an ebook, In The Widow’s Shadow set on a mountain in Alaska. So I’ve definitely got a thing about spooky mountains.

What advice, tips, or tricks could you give novice writers about the writing path? 

When you’re writing there will always be plotholes. I don’t worry about them on the first draft (I always print out and correct draft 1 on paper before revisiting the screen for draft 2). The important thing is to get the basic story down. If you haven’t researched everything, don’t worry. Capture the basic tale. The time for research and hole-filling will come later.

Once you have draft one, don’t show to anyone, you have 3-4 more drafts to go. Take a breather – figure out what technology, location, and research are still needed. Plotholes will suddenly become caverns at this point. Don’t fret. Take your time and solutions will come to you. Once the research is done to your satisfaction, go for draft 2. When complete, now you show it to someone who you can trust to give you a no BS opinion. I use 3 trusted no-nonsense readers, and they are genuine readers, all of them devour books like popcorn. These are the people you need to get an honest opinion from. Best friends will tell you what you want to hear and that will not advance your writing in the slightest. So, take your reader’s comments, good and bad. Don’t be discouraged and burn your manuscript. Take a deep breath and consider what they have said, then go to draft 3. And on it goes. At some stage, you should get a professional editor involved. Put your pride to one side and heed their advice. An editor is there to improve your book and make you look good.

Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of nailing the location (if it is real) or if it is created really paint a vivid picture in your mind. Sketch out salient points on a whiteboard. The mountain and valley in The Feeding only exist in my mind but I can draw it. The same with technology, weapons or whatever – nail the 2-3 main elements then let the characters navigate their through your story, knowing that the technology/terrain/detail on the important steps is covered. I love exploring a concept and learning all I can about a subject. That’s a real joy – becoming an imaginary expert on a subject or location.

One of the worst instances of this failing was a book written in a Bangkok setting by an author who was visiting Singapore. Big Fail. Bangkok and Singapore and the relevant cultures are two totally different animals. It was obvious the author had never been to Bangkok and experienced the wonderful chaos of that amazing city. Lonely Planet just doesn’t cut it. You have to smell a place to know it.

What do you like to read most?

I love American crime noir and authors like John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Daniel Lehane, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo and James Patterson.

What writing projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a crime thriller set in both New York and the stunningly beautiful West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, an area I know well from my years as an airborne hunter in the area.

Thank you NZ GRANT for spending time sharing your story and experience with us!

Find The Feeding here:

Smashwords http://bit.ly/2u3lsfG

Amazon http://amzn.to/2ptLx2R   

Learn more about NZ Grant here: www.writerzbloc.org

Ask him a follow-up question: grantshankswriter@gmail.com

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And thank for reading! If you like this interview, feel free to post a comment below. And if you’re a newly-published author and would like to be featured on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com.

Would you like to be featured in an Author Spotlight?

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Whether you’re an experienced, mid-career book author or you’ve just released your debut novel, Spotlight features are a great way to launch a new book, broaden your exposure as a published author, leverage the networking power of social media and, ultimately, drive more potential book-buyers to your Amazon or retail book site to increase sales.

The process is most effective if a post is published immediately after the release of your book, so readers can learn about you as a writer, read about your story, get interested in your main character, and then go directly to your Amazon page.

So far I’ve covered fiction and nonfiction, and I’d welcome any genre, as well as short story collections or poetry. Traditional, small press, agented, unagented, and self-published authors are all welcome.

If you’re interested in being featured in an Author Spotlight on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com, give me a few weeks’ lead time, and send me the following:

  • High quality photo of your book cover and head shot photo of you
  • Synopsis and the first few chapters of your book
  • Your bio and a press release (if you have one)
  • Publishing info

I’ll go through your materials and email you a list of interview questions. Feel free to check out my prior Author Spotlights to see how they’re formatted and structured.

And once the piece is finalized and published, you can use the URL to your heart’s content. Share it on Facebook or any social media site, or post it on your own blog or author website. WordPress is mobile-optimized, so your post should display well on an iPhone or similar device.

The writing path is difficult and solitary, so writers need each other for support and encouragement. Writing a book is a REALLY BIG DEAL, and getting it published is a huge accomplishment! I want to help you celebrate the success of your book release to encourage you to a) keep writing and b) help other authors by encouraging them. You can do that by taking the time to review books on Amazon and Goodreads, attending book-signing events, retweeting posts on new releases, and celebrating their successes. Comment here or email me with questions, and see you on the trail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: JW BELL

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This month’s Author Spotlight is focused on author, JW BELL with the release of his debut novel, The Sigma Factor (April, 2018). We’ll talk about his new book, his world travels, and he’ll share some tips about his writing journey and process. The Sigma Factor, published this month by Rebel e Publishers, is an exciting political thriller with all the elements you might expect from this genre.

Drawing on his well-traveled past and varied expertise in a number of industries, JW has a history that includes the US Army, oilfield worker, restaurant owner and manager, and he has notable expertise in weaponry and in classical music composing. Talk about diverse! So it’s no wonder that The Sigma Factor is packed with plenty of suspense, multiple plot lines, unexpected twists, and more than enough intrigue to keep you turning its pages.

How much of this tale is based on real events or experiences?

As far as the plot is concerned, not a lot. The Isis connection is fiction but it is based on probable cells that are in the country. Having said that, my personal world doesn’t have all the excitement that happens in the story. I have, however,  been to several of the locales – New York, Wyoming, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and Lake Mead are all places I’ve been. I find it adds more realism to scenes I’ve actually been too. It tends to give a visceral feel to things especially for those familiar with them. As far as the use and operations of weapons, I do have experience with those. Now that I’ve said all that, though, the meat of the book is really the emotion of the characters. I think every author needs to do a deep dredge within themselves to find the best way to express what their created beings feel and how they react.

Looking back on your interesting background, do you see any commonalities between your military experience, being a restaurateur, and a classical musician?

I think the biggest link between those fields is exploring the unknown. That may be fairly clear with the military and music, but let me tell you that if you don’t stretch yourself as a restaurateur you will fail quickly. I’ve always had the need to push myself. I think writing is yet another way to find what is really there.

How much do you have in common with Stan, your main character? And did the writing of this book through Stan’s eyes teach you anything about yourself?

Ha! Well, Stan has a great deal of me in him. I’m sarcastic, sardonic, and have a mouth way too big for myself. I think that is one of the reasons I became an author. But delving a little deeper, the self doubt and confusion that Stan shows has to be rooted in me. Everyone has that inner conflict about what to do next. That is an unmistakable part of life. Then there is that immature part of him, that little boy, the unpolished teenager prevalent throughout. Just because I’ve grown older doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgotten what life was like as a young, ill-mannered person. Every older person feels the same on the inside as when they were young. We’ve simply learned how to keep things under wraps.

Have you planned a sequel to this book or do you have plans to make it into a series?

I’m writing the second book in the series right now. The working title is The Dao Factor. It is set mostly in the Pacific Basin and Asia. The characters that still stand at the end of Sigma are called upon to help with a crisis of world-shaking possibilities. After I finished The Sigma Factor, my wife and I were both struck with the many possibilities of the reincarnation twist. There are additional books begging to be written already, tugging at me. I see no reason to ignore them.

Can you describe your writing process? For instance, are you highly disciplined, or do you write only when the spirit moves you? When and where do you write?

My creative process has been honed over several years. When I attended college, I developed a skill that has served me well. Back then, when I was learning how to write music, there never seemed to be a quiet place in which to do my work. I had to learn how to block things out in order to write music; I had to concentrate enough to focus on one thing. In that sense I’m very disciplined. I write wherever I am, because I’m focused on what needs to be done. It backfires at times though. When I’m supposed to watch the kids I lose myself in my project and miss some things in the house. The kids are used to it. They sneak around until they get caught like every other kid.  It can be frustrating.

Another facet of my writing process is that I consider it writing when I’m thinking –  working on plot development, or fixing a problem I’ve written myself into. In that respect, I write almost constantly. I don’t necessarily have to have my current manuscript in front of me, but I have to have a way to take notes. A lot of times I jot things down in my phone, enough to be able to jog my memory and then catch everything up when I’m at my computer.

Can you share your path to publication? It’s a common struggle for writers to find a commercial publisher, especially for a first novel. How did you connect with Rebel?

I lived a nightmare for years – looking for an agent. I have so many rejections piled away on spreadsheets, that’s right, several sheets of rejections, each with untold amounts of, “Thank you for sharing, but …” The first few hurt, but after so many I simply picked myself up and sent more off. The way I found Rebel was by going through Preditors and Editors, a website devoted to rating agents and publishers. They separate the good from the bad with useful feedback. On that site, I noticed Rebel accepts submissions directly from authors (without an agent), so I sent off a manuscript. Jayne Southern received the manuscript and rejected it, but she also took the time to send me a personal note giving me encouragement and useful advice, unlike all the form letters that were creating a fire hazard in my office. So I sent another manuscript, and another, and each time I came away with something useful to improve my writing. Finally, I sent her The Sigma Factor, and I about fell over when her letter came back agreeing to publish. I think it took me a couple of days to even write back and agree.

Can you share some of your other writings? (Other books, short stories, articles)

I spent so long learning how to write novels that I’ve done very little in the way of short stories. Well, Sigma started out as a short story, but I didn’t like it. There was nothing to do but expand it into a novel. I originally sent three novels to Rebel and they were my first series, but I don’t think their individual premises were defined well enough. Without that, it is hard for an author to say what needs to be said.

I have another novel that Rebel wants to publish. I wrote it during the time between Sigma’s acceptance and actual publishing. Although it too is a thriller, it does not belong in the series. Entitled The Great Zero Sum, it’s about Colonel Colton, an outspoken Army officer who disagreed with the Secretary of Defense and had to leave the Army. As the story progresses, old scores are settled and festering wounds get lanced. It’s a frantic chase with lots of action.

Well, warmest congrats on the publication of your first book and we look forward to many more forthcoming!

You can buy JW Bell’s new book, The Sigma Factor on Amazon and through other book retailers in Trade Paperback and ebook formats. Buy it on Amazon here and please take a minute to leave a review.

Check out JW’s website here, and follow his Amazon author page here.

Thank you for visiting!!

Ever been to a Writers’ Conference??

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I’m a little late compiling my annual list this year, but there are still plenty of conferences scheduled across the US and it’s not too late to get in on the fun.

First things first: “Why bother?” you might ask. Regardless of where you are on the path of your writing journey, conferences have tons of useful benefits that can reignite your passion, inspiration, and drive you to move forward:

  • Networking with other writers, which can lead to lasting peer relationships, additional support, and even the forming of critique groups
  • Direct 1:1 access to literary agents in your genre during informal social events or more formal “pitch sessions”
  • Access to new agents looking to build their list of clients, or new publishers focused specifically on your genre
  • Updates about the business of writing, including marketing, sales, tips, tricks, best practices, and industry trends
  • Exclusive opportunities for conference attendees

And if those aren’t enough to whet your appetite, I’ve found that the conferences I’ve attended deepen my commitment to the writing path, remind me that I’m investing in the improvement of my craft, boost my confidence, jack up my networking and communication skills, and generally motivate me to keep going!

Here’s the catch – they’re expensive. Yep, there’s no getting around it…but is there? Most of the conferences I’ve highlighted below have different rates and several options. Entire conference, one day only, and for some you can even just pay for a pitch session without attending the entire event. Some conferences have an early bird rate if you register way ahead of time, and others allow you to a la carte your way through the conference lineup.

Without further ado, I’ve pulled out a few conferences for the rest of this year, along with links to more extensive lists at the bottom. If you find that any of these links don’t work, or you know of other conferences you’d like me to add, post a comment or email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com.

Las Vegas Writers Conference

April 19-21, 2018

Sell More Books Show Summit

May 4-6, 2018

Santa Barbara Writers Conference

June 17-22, 2018

Annual Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference

June 22 – 24, 2018

Sun Valley Writers Conference

July 21-24, 2018

2018 Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference (northern California)

September 27-30, 2018

Florida Writers Conference

October 18-21, 2018

Kauai Writers Conference

November 9 – 11, 2018

Additional 2018 writers conferences published in The Writer magazine:

https://www.writermag.com/writing-resources/conferences/

And for Canadian authors or those traveling to Canada this year, here’s a list of

Canadian writing conferences in 2018:

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Author Spotlight: CHRISTINE HUSOM

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This month’s author spotlight interview features veteran mystery writer, Christine Husom, and thoughts and feedback she’s shared on the writing craft, her interesting history, and her two two successful mystery series. Her latest release from her Winnebago County Mystery series is Firesetter in Blackwood Township.

Barns are burning in Blackwood township, and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has a firesetter to flush out. The investigation ramps up when a body is found in one of the barns. Meanwhile, deputies are getting disturbing deliveries. It leaves Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes to wonder why they’re being targeted, and what is the firesetter’s message and motive.

Firesetter in Blackwood Township is the 7th of your Winnebago County series. How has your main character Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson changed since the first book in your series?

Corky has maintained her moral fiber and love of law enforcement, but her personal and professional experiences have influenced and shaped her. She’s been involved in a number of critical incidents that have strengthened her resolve to continue in her chosen field. She’s also fallen more deeply in love with her mentor, Detective Smoke Dawes.

What are the main do’s and don’t’s of series writing?

I believe the key elements for success writing a series are: creating realistic characters who continue to evolve with each book; having an ending that leaves the reader wanting more; and writing each book as either a standalone or as the next book in the series.

Characters need to be living-, breathing-, thinking-people who are interacting with other characters, going to jobs, falling in love, and committing crimes for your readers. How do the characters react under pressure, or when they get knocked down? What are their strengths, their talents, their fears, and vulnerabilities? What role do they play in the story, and what will they do next?

You want people to read the next book in your series, so besides engaging characters, you need stories that hold readers’ interest. Readers need to be satisfied the mystery has been solved, the bad guy has been caught, but they will also find unanswered questions —often in the protagonist’s personal life—to be intriguing.

The most challenging of the three elements is that each book is both a stand-alone and the next in the series. Background information on the characters, laid out in the first book, needs to be shortened to a sentence or two in subsequent books. You don’t want to get bogged down with too much back story. I address past issues and introduce characters from previous stories through conversations between the characters and tapping into Corky’s thoughts about situations and people. You want to limit spoilers, but they’re unavoidable to a degree.

What do you have in common with the main characters in both of your series? 

I share a strong sense of justice and a need to uncover the truth with both protagonists.

What parts of your personal history and background do you draw upon to perpetuate the Winnebago series?

I’ve served as a corrections officer, mental health practitioner, and deputy sheriff. Firsthand experience in those fields has been a great help. I’ve been creating stories all of my life, but a family tragedy sparked the idea for the first Winnebago County Mystery. About halfway through writing it, I started loving the characters and decided what their next two cases would be, based on dramatic incidents that happened when I worked in the sheriff’s office.

What are you reading now, and what genres are you most drawn to?

I’m reading Matt Goldman’s Gone to Dust. I read a variety of subgenres in the mystery genre, but I love well-written books in general, mostly what would be classified as mainstream. I also have a deep appreciation for the classics.

Tell us about your writing process. Are you super disciplined, waking up at 6am every morning to write?

I wish I had a more regular writing schedule, but I also serve as a county commissioner, and my schedule is far from regular. I write when I can. Some days I write fourteen or more hours, and then I go days without writing.

What do you see as key things inexperienced writers get wrong when plotting mysteries? 

Some have too many characters for a reader to keep track of. Or the characters all sound like they have the same voice. Or they can give too much back story, or include detail that isn’t relevant and doesn’t build the plot to move the story along. I read a mystery where the writer didn’t get to the crime/mystery until after one hundred pages, and I wondered when the real story would begin. Reading other authors’ works, taking classes on plot, pacing, and character development, being in a good critique group, or finding honest beta readers are great tools for improving techniques.

Can you tell us anything about your publishing path?

I learned a great deal about the publishing industry working with the editors at Penguin Random House on the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries. That inspired me to start a sole proprietorship business, The wRight Press. I independently published Firesetter in Blackwood Township, and am in the process of gaining full rights to my first six Winnebago County Mysteries. They’ll be published March 1, 2018 under the new company name.

THANK YOU, Christine, for joining us here and sharing your expertise!

Firesetter is available on Amazon in Kindle and trade paperback and can be found here.

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High Praise for Christine’s Firesetter in Blackwood Township:

“Thoroughly engrossing journey down the rabbit hole.”~Timya Owen

“I felt like I was searching the crime scenes and investigating with the characters.”~Barbara Schlichting

“This excellent series features a character who is tough but compassionate.”~ Jim Doherty

“A fine addition to Christine Husom’s successful Winnebago series that will give mystery fans an exciting ride.”~Lisa Towles

“Fans of the series will enjoy the overlapping twists and turns as the action steadily builds to a shocking climax.”~Patti Phillips

“With great hanging questions, compelling characters, along with the gorgeous Minnesota setting, Husom’s book leaves one question–when will the next book come out?”~Kathleen Donnelly

 

To keep informed about Christine’s upcoming releases, check out her website and her Facebook page

Thank you for reading!

 

Author Spotlight: DIANA DUFF

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The genius of Diana Duff’s writing is its elegant simplicity. “It seems such a strange thing to be doing, I thought, however ordinary the surroundings: waiting in a coffee shop in Oxford Street with the London traffic roaring outside, for my mother, whom I would not recognize when she finally arrived.”

With a path that led her from South Africa to Ireland, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, Ms. Duff’s page-turner memoir, Leaves from the Fig Tree reads more like an adventure novel, submerging us in the vastly different worlds she has known with a story of isolation, travel, rebellion, love, and freedom.

At age 2, she was transported from South Africa to her family’s historic estate in rural Ireland, County Cork, in a Victorian estate called Annesgrove (originally Ballyhimmock), built in the 1700s.

A descendant of the brother of the Earl of Annesley, Diana’s pedigree isolated her as a child within the rigid confines of Victorian life in rural Ireland, with no siblings or other companions except a series of ill-equipped governesses, juxtaposed with the expansive freedom and wild magic of the Africa that called to her again and again.

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I talked with Diana from her home in Johannesburg about her story and her writing path:

You were quite the globe-trotter! You went to Kenya from Ireland at age 18, then stayed in Kenya and Tanzania until you were 30, when you went to South Africa. What do you remember most about Africa in your early days there? There was a freedom there that allowed people to live an eccentric way of life doing their own thing. During that time, it was not a very structured society, and it was a fantastic place to live. People were really individuals, they didn’t try to fit into any social system or way of behavior, and they didn’t need to. Kenya was my freedom.

How did living in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya impact your view of the world? I was so young, I didn’t really appreciate the dangers. But we certainly lived in the middle of it all.

In thinking about writing mechanics, is there one thing that you consistently see writers getting wrong? Nowadays there is a tendency to overdo the shock tactics, and maybe that’s required the way the world is now. It seems that authors feel pressured to write about sensationalist topics rather than writing what they feel strongly about, what moves them. And those books aren’t like art and it’s less of a pleasure to read them. In Isak Dineson’s Out of Africa, for example, you can really see the people, you can feel them.

Which is your preference for the books you read – fiction or nonfiction? What are you reading currently? Though I read mostly fiction now, I’m also reading Heat by Ranulph Fiennes and The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner.

Since you’ve seen so much of our world, what do you think is most different about it now compared with when you were younger? Politics, power and money seem to be the ruling factors today. A drive towards material wealth takes all the color out of life  and is not at all appealing. But there are still magical places in the world. Where I work, we have a lovely Moonlight Market – an evening, outdoor organic market with organic foods and lots of gems and minerals, which attract amazing people with amazing stories. Stories are the common thread for me, for everyone.

Everybody’s interesting. Every single

person has got a story to tell.

At age 85, Diana still works – at Bryanston Organic Natural Market, an organic outdoor market and gem and mineral store, where she meets fascinating people every day. “Today I met a man who’s building a life center on Green Island (Queensland), I met two Americans, someone who’d gone to Malaysia on a canoe trip, and someone who’d been gored by a hippo.” And she has written another story (fiction this time), which takes place in Tanzania.

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Diana’s book, Leaves from the Fig Tree is published by Rebel e Publishers in Kindle, paperback, and other digital formats and can be purchased on Amazon.

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