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.

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Author Interview: CAT CONNOR

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If you don’t know her already, I’d like to introduce you to successful, New Zealand-based mystery/thriller author, CAT CONNOR, and the star of her highly acclaimed Byte series – Ellie Conway.

Did you invent Ellie Conway, or did she find you and ask you to tell her story? I saw a video in my head. I could not see the main character but I could hear her. I had no idea what her name was, but I knew she was FBI and she was living in Virginia. She never really introduced herself, she just showed me scenes and expected me to keep up. I only knew her screen name until another character called her by name. Which was a little bit weird, but fun for me. The other thing is that I didn’t know what she looked like for a long time. Everything she shows me is from her point of view so I couldn’t see her unless she looked in a mirror. She doesn’t so much ask me to tell her stories as show me video of scenes that don’t let up until I write them down. She is fun, though. Her sense of humor is great so I enjoy having her in my head.

Did you consciously set out to build a series around Ellie, or was the first book a standalone and then you later decided that Ellie had more to tell? The first book was a standalone based on a ‘worst case scenario’ after some real life chat room death threats. My rights to my book Killerbyte were tied up in the bankruptcy of my first publisher, and a very wise author (Jeffrey Deaver) told me to write another book while I was waiting/fighting to get my rights back. So I did. Turned out Ellie had a lot more to tell me. So I wrote another one … and by the time I signed with Rebel I had three of the Byte novels under my belt. So the answer is no, I never set out to write a series. Ellie just has a lot to say, and every time I think we’re done, something new pops up. She doesn’t like to tell me everything at once. For example, all the way through this series Ellie has mentioned New Zealand. We know she likes the place and she vacations in NZ, and that she’s worked there (both undercover with the CIA and also with the FBI), but it’s not until the 9th book that everyone will find out a bit more about her ties to the country.

Is Ellie you, and what do you personally have in common with her? Ellie isn’t me. I wish I was her. She’s someone I’d really love to hang out and drink tequila with. We share a birthday (Dec 12), we both dislike honey, although Ellie really hates it and I can tolerate it, if I’m sick. We are both a wee bit smart mouthed. Physically we are the about the same height and body shape – that makes it easier when I’m writing some scenes. For example, I know that (when both are standing) if someone is six foot tall, Ellie can look them in the eye quite easily but if someone is six foot six she needs to lift her chin to do that. But no, she’s not me.

What would you tell a mystery writer who writes standalone books if they want to write a series? Do you do a lot of planning to keep track of what you write about Ellie from one book to another? If you were planning to take a standalone novel and turn it into a series – get a notebook and make damn sure you keep really good notes regarding your characters. ALL of your characters. (Even the dead ones.)

I don’t plan. I rely heavily on Ellie to show/tell me the story, she never shows me the end until I’m about to figure it out for myself.

Every book I write has at least two large notebooks attached to it (I’ve kept them all, they live in a HUGE lidded plastic storage bin). The notebooks are for everything I think is important while the story is unfolding. (Formulas for explosives, locations of CCTV, names of people who were killed, partial scenes, chapter summaries (which I write AFTER the chapter is finished), chapter titles (which are always songs), occasionally photos of locations.

Because I’ve written the series and I’ve also written about twenty short stories about Ellie and her team, I have a lot of information in my head. I do trust myself to insert the right name/character detail/reference a lot of the time without checking I was right until I’m almost finished the manuscript.

I don’t usually need to check things regarding Ellie or her team, although I did have an issue with Lee’s eye color in DATABYTE, because I couldn’t remember if his eyes were brown or blue, or if we’d ever mentioned them. They’re brown. His brother has blue eyes 🙂

I have no overreaching plan for the series. I don’t have a development plan for characters either – they evolve as things happen. Maybe because they live in my head and are not confined to a definite set of black and white characteristics they are more fluid and more capable of evolving as the stories progress. Each story emerges through my fingers as Ellie starts showing me video.

What’s coming up for you as a writer in 2017? The 9th Byte book is coming up in 2017. I finished the writing of METABYTE last night and it will be with my publishers and editor by the end of November. METABYTE was previewed at the end of PSYCHOBYTE, and is quite the twisty tale.

Metabyte Preview: SSA Ellie Iverson nee Conway’s world is turned inside out by a late night call from her husband saying his teenage niece, Harley, is missing. Harley’s parents are out of the country and suddenly incommunicado, thus raising Ellie’s internal alert level from yellow to orange. Adding to the rising alert status is the discovery of freshly dead formerly deceased federal agents. Crime scenes and dead agents emerge at an alarming rate. Working under a directive from the Director of the FBI and with the Wayward Son Protocol, Ellie and Delta A try to stem the flow of death. Cryptic messages from missing Ret-NCIS Special Agent Noel Gerrard alludes to the seepage of sensitive data, and then undeniable CIA involvement. Coded messages hidden in attempted hackings of Iverson Technologies provide clues regarding the missing parents of Harley Iverson and a potential link to the Wayward Son Protocol. In the midst of turmoil, the sudden death of a team member leaves Delta A reeling. The team struggles on to uncover layers of deceit culminating in more death. 

Apart from METABYTE, I’m not sure. I expect Ellie will start pushing me to write another book soon enough. I thought 9 was the last, but she seems to think there’s another story to be told…


Cat’s books are published by Rebel ePublishers

For more information about CAT CONNOR and her Byte thriller series, check out: www.catconnor.com

@cat.connor (facebook)

@catconnor (twitter)