10 articles tagged as interviews

Two awesome interviews in one week…what’s a girl to do with all this wonderful company? So…sit back, and let me introduce you to Melissa Miller.

Tell us about the inspiration for your book?

You know, it’s so hard to articulate. Different pieces of the plot were percolating in my mind for a long time, and they coalesced into the book. I knew I wanted to write a thriller. I knew I wanted to have a tough female protagonist. The idea of a smartphone app that could control a plane just sort of came to me one day. I sat down to write that book with a female commercial pilot as the main character, but she turned into a female attorney. Once the main character was a lawyer, the ethical obligations that lawyers are bound to follow came into play. And, everything flowed from there.

What genres do you write in? What are your other books?

I mainly write crime fiction. In addition to Irreparable Harm, I have a set of crime fiction shorts called Dark Blooms, which is available electronically only. My next book, Inadvertent Disclosure, which will be available later this month, is another legal thriller featuring Sasha McCandless. I have a series in mind for Sasha and am working on the third legal thriller now, with plans for more. I also have a crime fiction novella in the works, as well as a YA suspense novel, which I am really excited about, and a women’s fiction novel in the style of Karen McQuestion or Jodi Picoult. The problem I have is finding the time to get them all from brain to paper!

How does what you are writing effect what you choose to read?

That’s an interesting question. I know some authors won’t read in their genre while they have a work in progress to avoid being influenced. I love thrillers too much to go on a book diet! I continue to read
thrillers even when I am actively working on one of the Sasha books. I think she is sufficiently different from the characters who I read (Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller, etc.) that it’s safe to indulge. I do try to avoid female protagonists while writing, so I save Karin Slaughter, CJ Lyons, and Jamie Freveletti books for when I am editing. That said, I recently read the sample of Toni Wiggins’ Bad Water and had to buy it! So far, I have managed to resist reading it, though. I also rely on my sister and friends to recommend non-thrillers. For instance, I might not have picked up The Help, Little Bee, or Anthropology of an American Girl if they hadn’t recommended them, but I feel richer for having read them.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?

It’d definitely be somewhere on the water. Lakefront, oceanfront, doesn’t really matter where, but being able to look out a window and see the water—or better yet, sit on a deck and hear the waves—does my soul good.

How do you feel about time travel? Is there anywhere you would like to visit?

I’m in the camp who thinks time travel is pretty dangerous in that you don’t want to be responsible for changing history. That said, if I was sure I could return and that I would arrive clothed (unlike the man in The Time Traveler’s Wife), I’d check out medieval England. I know it was a brutal, hard life, but my undergraduate major was English with concentrations in Medieval Literature and Creative Writing. The time period fascinates me. And, as a bonus, I can read Middle English, so, you know, I’d be able to get around. But, as I think about this more, the clothing thing really is a problem. I guess I’d dress in period garb before I left the present, so I could blend in. Now, I have to decide—serving wench or Lady?

If you could go to a party and meet any one of your characters, who would it be? What would you ask them?

Wow, tough question. I wouldn’t talk to Sasha, because we spend plenty of time together as it is, and many of my other characters are attorneys or work at law firms. I get to talk to lawyers all the time in my real life, so I think I’d want to run into Daniel, who is Sasha’s Krav Maga instructor. I’d try to pick up some great self-defense tips.

If you could be an amusement park ride, what would you be?

I think I’d have to say an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster. I like speed and heights, but unfortunately, going in circles makes me queasy. I do like a good thrill, though.

What is the biggest surprise you’ve ever gotten while writing?

It’s a spoiler, so I won’t go into detail, but as I was writing Irreparable Harm, two of my characters developed a relationship that I hadn’t planned. I routinely get surprised by plot twists and by tidbits that I write and only later realize are significant to my story.

What makes you happy?

There’s a long list of things that make me happy. I think the closest I come to sheer joy is when our family is just hanging out at home and our boys are playing with the baby. All three kids will be laughing, and Sara will do this excited little dance. My husband and I will make eye contact and just smile. It’s the perfect moment.

Do you have any preparations for writing…any “writing superstitions” such as only using certain pens or writing during a certain time of day?

I don’t have any real routines, because my writing is pretty catch as catch can. I do usually write with a cup of coffee at my elbow. If I’m under a deadline, I will fire up a good playlist of music. The closest thing to a superstition is that when I have a draft fit for others’ eyes, my husband is always my first reader and a dear friend from law school is my second reader. I don’t think I would alter that routine for anything.

What are you going to work on next?

Once I finish the third Sasha McCandless book, I think I will take a break from her world and turn to either the YA project or the novella. It will depend on my mood at the time, I guess!

How do you balance your writing life and everything else?

Ha ha, I wish I knew how to balance better! My husband and I run a two-person law firm and we have three kids, who are six, four, and fifteen months old. My life is more chaotic than balanced, but I like it that way. I try to write early in the morning before the rest of the family wakes up or late at night after everyone is asleep. My wonderfully supportive husband also has given me the combined birthday/early Christmas gift of two mornings a week to write in solitude. Aside from those chunks of time, I squeeze in 250 words waiting to pickup our oldest from kindergarten or 20 minutes when the baby is napping. It’s not pretty, but it works!

If there could be one word to describe you, what would you like it to be?

Fulfilled. And, I am!

What do you do for fun when you aren’t writing?

I’m an occasional runner, golfer, and yoga student, but if I’m not working or writing, chances are I’m playing with my kids.

What’s the best way to bribe you?

Hmm. There are so many ways. In the morning, a cup of coffee could get me to do your bidding. In the evening, a nice cold beer. Dark chocolate works any time of day or night!

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We’re today’s stop on Emlyn Chand’s blog tour…pull up and seat and read her awesome responses to my horrid grilling…*grins*

Tell us about the inspiration for your book?
Everything started with a single image—my face in these tacky oversized sunglasses reflecting out at me from the car’s side mirror. I was daydreaming while my husband drove us across Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Something about my image really struck me in an almost horrific way. I felt the glasses made me look blind but found it so weird that there was still a clear image within them; it seemed so contradictory. At the time, my book club was reading The Odyssey, which features the blind Theban prophet, Tieresias. I started thinking about what it would be like to have non-visual visions of the future and began forming a modern Tieresias in my mind. Lo and behold, Alex Kosmitoras was born. I didn’t want him to be alone in his psychic subculture, so I found other characters with other powers to keep him company. Thank God for my poor fashion sense. 

What genres do you write in? What are your other books?

I’m a YA writer through and through, but that wasn’t always the case. Actually, my first novel was literary women’s fiction. It didn’t capture who I am or what my strengths are— that’s why it’s taken up permanent residence in my desk drawer. When I was ready to write my second novel, I had 4 ideas that really excited me—a dystopian novel, historical fiction, chick lit, and what became Farsighted. I thought each idea out and wrote sample pages or character sketches as practice (I call this the left-brained approach to brainstorming books as described in the article I wrote here). The Farsighted pages were the easiest to write, and they were the ones my trusted beta readers liked best too, so I decided to give it a try.

How does what you are writing effect what you choose to read?
It really doesn’t. My reading influences my writing more than the other way around. In truth, I’m influenced by everything I read (for better or worse). My primary influences are JK Rowling for awesome world-building and unrivaled dialogue-writing skill, Anne M Martin for first making me love books, John Irving for incredible characterization, Suzanne Collins for riveting action, and Vladimir Nabokov for seamless and beautiful prose.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Honestly, I’d probably stay right here in Ann Arbor. I love to travel both literally and with my imagination, but having a place to come home too that I know and love? It’s priceless. Gosh, I feel like a Mastercard commercial 😀

How do you feel about time travel? Is there anywhere you would like to visit?

Time travel is pretty cool. I’ve been hooked on the concept ever since I read HG Wells’s Time Machine. I would NOT travel to the place in time that is populated by Eloi and Morlocks, because that is scary! But I would love the chance to hob-knob with the governesses of 19th century Britain ala Jane Eyre and Becky Sharp.

If you could go to a party and meet any one of your characters, who would it be? What would you ask them?

Definitely Shapri. Not only is she the most fun of all my characters, but she’s also the kind of the person I wish I could have been like back when I was younger. She’s strong, always true to herself, and won’t let anyone disrespect her. Sure, she has fears, but we all do. Shapri is the kind of girl I would love to be friends with. You know she’ll always go to bat for you when you’re too tired to step up to the plate. I wouldn’t ask her too many questions, because she doesn’t like being grilled. I’d just let her take the lead and let the fun flow from there.

If you could be an amusement park ride, what would you be?

The tilt-a-whirl. I spin so fast it tends to make people sick, but I operate in the manner that is intended for me. Love it or hate it? You don’t have to ride this ride 😉

What is the biggest surprise you’ve ever gotten while writing?

For each manuscript I write, I have one minor character who refuses to remain minor. These players take over the stage and throw-out my previous plans. In Farsighted, this character was Shapri. I just openly admitted to her being my favorite and many readers adore her as well, but she was not supposed to be a main character. She demanded it, and I’m so glad I listened!

What makes you happy?

Good books. Working hard at my dream. Hearing that others enjoy the products of said dream. And, of course, spending time with my sweet and cuddly parrot.

Do you have any preparations for writing…any “writing superstitions” such as only using certain pens or writing during a certain time of day?

Nope, no superstitions. But I do have unusual writing habits. I NEED to lock myself up at a coffee house or bake shop for hours on end in order to be productive. There’s something about the soothing hum of these environments that puts me to work. I call this holding myself “writing hostage.” Luckily for me, my captive is more than humane.

What are you going to work on next?

I’m working on book two in the Farsighted series. It’s called Open Heart and will be written from the point-of-view of a different main character. I’m also toying with the idea of a special hardcover edition of Farsighted Book 1 with new chapters added to the end and a sneak peek of Open Heart.

How do you balance your writing life and everything else?

Well, I don’t! Everything else in my life is out of whack. I run my own business (Novel Publicity) and work anywhere from 13 to 17 hours per day. Every day. This does not leave time for social interactions, family, taking care of my health, or any sort of leisure activity.

Ultimately, My day is quite simple. Wake up (usually anywhere from 2 AM to 6 AM depending on how much I need to get done). Work until 7 PM. Eat dinner with my husband. Either watch television or read a book until I fall asleep. Repeat on loop. When I’m actively writing (as opposed to editing or marketing my work), I like to write at least 1 1/2 hours first thing in the morning. I go to Biggby or Panera to get it done. The rest is devoted to my burgeoning business, Novel Publicity.

Hey, didn’t somebody important say, “far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing?” I don’t mind having to give-up the other parts of my life to pursue my work, because I love it. I know I’ll eventually need to achieve a better balance, but for now, I’m content to push the pedal to the metal.

If there could be one word to describe you, what would you like it to be?


What do you do for fun when you aren’t writing?

Haha, I work. But since I run my own business and love my job (I market books, c’mon), my work IS fun.

What’s the best way to bribe you?

Show me repeated kindness and encouragement and you won’t have to bribe me. I’ll go out of my way to repay people like that. I believe one good turn deserves another… and another.

And now for her bio…and where you can find her on the web!

Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!

Author Website:
Novel Publicity:

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Today’s guest is Peter Balaskas…we’re a stop on his blog tour today. Please read on for a fun, lovely interview…how can you not like someone who uses the phrase “Therein lies the rub”?

Please tell us about your latest book. What inspired you to write it?inouthouseweb

My first published book was a short novel called THE GRANDMASTER, which was also published by Bards and Sages Press. I have been outlining a whole series of stories (short stories to novels) which stems from that short novel (what I call the Wagner Mythos tales). A few of those short stories have been published; one story, “A Bottle of Jyn” was another Bards and Sages publication. After THE GRANDMASTER, the logical step was to write the first story of that series; THE GRANDMASTER, chronologically, takes place in the middle of that timeline. So, I would be writing a number of “prequel” novels, for lack of a better term.

But therein lies the rub: I wasn’t ready to write a full length novel in terms of my narrative technique. THE GRANDMASTER, as well as many of my published fiction, are in first person. First person narrative comes easy for me and I know that my supernatural crime novels, as well as the gothic horror novels that will follow, would flow better in third person. And my third person narrative wasn’t very polished, as well as other aspects of my writing style. I needed to grow as a writer in a technical and creative sense.

So, my goal was to create a story collection whose tales are intertwined, and whose themes, plots, and writing styles are slightly, if not completely, different from each other. And by doing so, I might be able to grow as a writer in terms of my technique. This is how IN OUR HOUSE was created. Two of the stories I wrote years ago and I completely revised them for the occasion. Some I wrote during the Master’s Program at Loyola Marymount University. Some I wrote specifically for this collection. And after I finished HOUSE, my learning curve has grown dramatically in terms of style and themes.

The main literary influences for HOUSE’s structure and style were Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, Harlan Ellison’s THE DEATHBIRD STORIES, and Haruki Murikami’s AFTER THE QUAKE. All three story collections contained intertwined stories. This can be also said with IN OUR HOUSE: the reader has a glimpse of eight speculative fiction tales that are connected to each other, but each style is different: “Duet” has third person narrative with poetry; “Let Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot,” “Wash Cycle,” and “Crossing the Styx” are classic Twilight Zone horror tales (the first two are third person and the last is first person); “Id” is a first person black comedy; “Blessed Are Those” and “Touched” are spiritual morality tales (which is similar to stories written by Catholic author J.F. Powers, although I wasn’t familiar with his work during that time), and the title piece of the collection, “In His House,” is a post-apocalyptic novella that turned out to be one of the hardest stories I have ever written (although I did write the first draft in 23 hours straight through): it was not only in third person, the name of the protagonist is never revealed. Haruki Murakami did the same thing with an unnamed protagonist in his novel A WILD SHEEP CHASE and I wanted to see if I could pull that off. According to the online magazine, Bewildering Stories, I did pull it off. They not only published the story, they named it Editor’s Choice.

So, as far as IN OUR HOUSE is concerned, the reader will enter a world where characters face extraordinary circumstances. And if the readers pay close attention, they can see the thematic thread that connects them together. It was featured and performed at The New Short Fiction Series in Hollywood last year ( and it was accepted for publication by Bards and Sages soon after.

Tell us a little about one of your favorite minor characters.  Will they show up in another book?

I knew for a fact that all my Wagner Mythos tales were going to be intertwined. And even though HOUSE wasn’t technically a Wagner Mythos book, I wanted it to be connected to the same “story world” as my other works. The one major character who connects HOUSE with the Wagner Mythos tales is Mike Cicero, the protagonist in “Duet.” I love Mike; the story is very autobiographical in many different ways and he and Cate are my most favorite characters in the book. And he’ll have a cameo appearance in a future Wagner Mythos tale (with another alter-ego of mine) years down the line. But his encounter with Chazz Lennox (his abusive foreman) in “Duet” is a significant connection because Chazz plays a major antagonist role in the next book I’m presently writing, which takes place years BEFORE he became foreman in “Duet.” Is Lennox my favorite minor character in HOUSE? Absolutely not. He’s based on the worst, most self-loathing professional bully I have ever encountered in my life. But both Mike and Lennox play important roles in future stories yet to come.

What is your favorite thing about writing? What is the best part of world building for you?

I think the best part about writing, about creating these characters and worlds, is it provides three things for me: an escape from reality (especially when it comes to personal pain), it serves as a conduit for tapping into some passionate energy—a determined drive—that every artist has, and/or it can help the artist face a truth either about himself or a situation that he/she faces. I have a philosophy: To speak your mind and write from your heart. Unfortunately, the first part of that philosophy has gotten me into trouble a few more times than I care to admit. But when it comes to writing—whether it’s in a journal, poetry, or prose—you can’t fake that. The truth of the artist comes out from the work, if that makes sense. When I return to a story and I take my characters through extraordinary circumstances, it feels as though I’m visiting old friends. And best of all, when my readers understand what I am trying to convey, especially seeing facets of my story that I didn’t even notice myself, it’s at that point that the work has a life of its own. I love describing new worlds, I love the interior conflicts that characters face (or try to hide from) and I love creating machine-gun dialog between characters that oftentimes moves like a couple swing-dancing on the dance floor.

How did you get started in writing? When did you realize that you were a story teller?

I think it all started when I was a little kid and I was re-creating famous scenes from my favorite old monster and science fiction movies, thanks to a HUGE box of crayons and a number of sketch pads. I still have those old drawings and I smile at the innocence of my youth. I knew back then I wanted to conjure tales, but I didn’t have the tools back then to pursue that goal. I was/am a TV, film, theatre, and comic book geek and I wanted to be in the arts somehow. When I was in high school, I read Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICALS and THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, which changed my life when it came to loving speculative fiction and I wanted to be more than a reader. I did some creative writing during my undergraduate years, but life came into the picture I went through a number of career changes. I was a theatre actor for a number of years, and since I was a movie fan, I delved into the art of creating dialogue and learning the importance of character. Dialogue and plot is my forte (my years in theatre and watching films was a huge education), but writing fiction is a hell of a lot more than that. It wasn’t until I expanded my horizons into literature while attending the Graduate Program at Loyola Marymount University that helped me grow as a storyteller (I got a MA in English, Double Emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature). I didn’t get a lot out of the Creative Writing Program there, except it taught me more about editing than writing, but the literature courses and their reading curriculum were excellent. After I graduated with my Masters and created my publishing business, Ex Machina Press (, the creative dam broke and I’ve been pursing my craft ever since, trying to evolve as a storyteller with each passing day.

How do you come up with your ideas?  Do you start with an image, a character…?

For me: a story can be created from just about anything: dreams, people that I meet, current events, music, movies, plays, what have you. But it all starts with the characters; they always drive the story, with plot and dialogue coming in at a very close second. The one thing I love about Harlan Ellison is he sometimes gives “author notes” after each story in a collection (or he combines them together at the end of the book) and shares why he wrote the story in the first place.

Each story in HOUSE was created under different circumstances. “Duet” is pretty much a no brainer: I had writer’s block; poetry, classical music, and a lovely muse who I am eternally grateful for brought me out of it. “Let Auld” was a salute to Rod Serling and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. “Wash Cycle” was created while I was body-surfing along the waves in Maui during their Writer’s Retreat. “Id” was inspired by a question during a philosophy class: “What if our limbs took over our bodies?” “Blessed are Those” was a combination of my interest in World War Two history and my Traditional Catholic faith. “Crossing the Styx” was inspired when a mortician was sharing with me his supernatural experiences (I mentioned him in my Acknowledgements, but I am ashamed to say I forgot his name. And we met in a totally random way: in Vegas, of all places!).

“Touched” was inspired by someone asking me a profound question that serves as the foundation for the story. “In His House” came from both a dream and another major influence which I can’t reveal because it would give the twist of the story away.

Peter BalaskasAs you can see, all these stories came from such diverse sources and it is a writer’s job to capture that moment and somehow harness that source material, focusing it like a lens. I think Donald Margulies stated it perfectly in his play BROOKLYN BOY. I’m paraphrasing here, but one of his characters revealed that a writer’s creativity is composed of three parts: Invention, Imagination, and Memory. I also like to include passionate insanity, but that just me.

If you had a monster living under your bed, what would you name it?

No monsters are allowed anywhere near me. My muse is a very protective woman. If anyone wants to know who she is, they have to read the first story in my collection, “Duet.” :- D

If you had to share a house with a vampire, a werewolf or a ghost, which would you pick?

See previous answer. Although as far as vampires are concerned, I have been constantly targeted by them for the last twenty years. It’s called The Los Angeles Dating Scene. But my muse has scared them away. Also, I moved away from L.A. a year ago, and life is wonderful living at the beach.

What are three of your favorite movies?

I have favorite movies per genre: horror, comedy, action, etc. And they would be too many to count. Up until about a year ago, I had only one favorite movie of all time: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. It’s my favorite for a number of reasons: It’s the best film adaptation of a Stephen King story I have ever seen; it’s themes about hope transcend time; and, by chance, I saw it in three different countries when it first came out. It bombed at the box office in the U.S., but it sold out in England and Ireland.

Now, SHAWSHANK shares my #1 favorite film spot with THE KING’S SPEECH, which is one of the most humane stories I have ever seen, especially since it’s based on a true story. Wonderful ensemble cast (Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are two of my favorite actors), well-written, and beautifully paced. But two things won me over with regard to that film. The first is how Tom Hooper (the director) used Beethoven’s 7th (second movement) as background for the king’s speech. I mentioned before that music plays an important role in my writing and that piece is one of my favorites, if not my favorite of Beethoven’s. I’ve heard that piece many times in film, but that was the first where it was used with absolute perfection. In fact, I utilized that piece myself in both of my books: THE GRANDMASTER and “Crossing the Styx” in IN OUR HOUSE. I’m going to try not to use it in every book I write, but it will be hard.

The second reason why SPEECH became a favorite of mine is because of its screenwriter, David Seidler. One thing that blew me away was he honored the Queen Mother’s (King George VI’s wife) request NOT to write the screenplay while she was still alive (because the story was too painful for her to remember). And he waited over 20 years before the Queen Mother passed away and he began writing the story. And the fact that he won the Oscar, making him the oldest winner in that category, inspires me in two ways: 1) You can create a beautiful story and STILL maintain your integrity, and 2) It doesn’t matter how old you are, a writer can ultimately succeed with class and especially, HUMILITY.

What writers have inspired you the most?

In terms of the authors that have provided my initial foundation with regard to speculative fiction, it all started with Ray Bradbury. As I mentioned before, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES changed my life and altered my vision when it comes to speculative fiction. Then came Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Richard Matheson.

In terms of the scariest horror I have ever read, which is my favorite sub-genre in speculative fiction? My favorite authors would include William Peter Blatty (THE EXORCIST is my scariest novel and movie to date), Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz, and H.P. Lovecraft. I would have to include Stephen King, as well. His novels and especially his characters seem to jump out from the page with their dimensionality and especially their dialogue. Lately, though, he’s starting to get formulaic and overdo it on the violence just for the sake of writing violence. But his older works, and especially his DARK TOWER series, are horror classics.
But then there are authors of literary fiction that have influenced me in terms of strengthening my narrative voice, my “poetics”, for lack of a better term. There’s James Joyce (PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN is one of my favorite novels), James Lee Burke, Dante, Hemmingway, Haruki Murakami, Steinbeck, and especially Louise Erdrich (not only a talented writer, but one of the classiest authors I have ever met. Absolutely no sign of ego AT ALL).

What is the biggest mistake that new writers make?

Never drink while corresponding through e-mail. More dangerous than drinking and driving.

Just kidding.

There are two biggest mistakes I see writers commit. The first has to do with attitude, rather than technique. Pride in your work is one thing; arrogance that you are the hottest thing around since sliced bread is a different animal. The first title that was published by Ex Machina Press was a fiction anthology called Silent Voices: a Creative Mosaic of Fiction, Volume One. And I utilized a quote from one of my favorite authors: James Lee Burke:

“And every artist who is honest—and most of them are when it comes
to their talent, the real ones—they will be the first to state the talent they
have, whatever degree of it they have, comes from someplace outside of
themselves. And those who claim that in effect they have manufactured
their art out of the wellspring of their own experiences who become, in
effect, arrogant and vain about their talent, are doomed to lose it. And
it’s taken from them and it’s given to somebody else. But almost every
artist will tell you that it comes from someplace outside of themselves. I
think there’s something truly mystical about art, that art is the one area in which we share in the province of God.”

When creating a work of art—writing, acting, filmmaking, music—it takes confidence, passion, disciple and a HEALTHY dose of pride and ego. However, when writers get too involved inside their own heads and a sense of egocentric behavior is developed, to the extent that they project their arrogance towards fellow writers, that is where the writer falls from artistic grace, and they fall badly. You create a work, you become proud of that work, but then you harness a type of HUMILITY and GRATITUDE that you were able to do something that not many people can do. You don’t become an arrogant, elitist snob about it to others.

And this type of artistic humility is something that should be taught in creative writing programs. Unfortunately, it isn’t (especially at Loyola Marymount University, where I received both my BS and my MA), and that leads to the second mistake I see writer’s commit (especially young writers): choosing an inferior creative writing program in order to improve your writing. I was extremely disappointed by the snobbery and literary bigotry that was present at the Creative Writing Program at LMU. The elitist arrogance was mainly shown by the various graduate student cliques over there. It’s something that the faculty in the English Department should have placed a muzzle on during their classes, especially the creative writing workshops. I was disparaged by some faculty and most of the graduate students because I write “genre,” which isn’t considered to be “true literature” in their eyes. During my time there, the workshops taught me two things: how to be an objective editor and how to deal with the privileged, literary snobs who are immersed in their own egos and talent (and many of them were talented authors). If the faculty at L.M.U. (or any esteemed creative writing programs in the country) reinforced their workshops with a strong sense of moral ethics, the atmosphere wouldn’t be hostile to mainstream writers. And that was the reason why I created Ex Machina Press at the time. It didn’t matter what kind of writing or “genre” you were writing, as long as the quality was good. It was a nurturing atmosphere for all our contributors and it felt good to create a venue where the goal was to help the writer grow within their work, not their personal, self-serving egos. I hope that the environment improves over there, as well as other creative writing programs that seem to turn a blind eye to literary snobbery, which discourages so many young writers who have a gift for telling good mainstream stories.

So, the best way for a writer to avoid the habit of creating and projecting elitist ego can be summed up when St. Bernard of Clairvaux was asked to name the four Cardinal Virtues, and he answered “Humility, humility, humility, humility.” And that is a true testament of any artist. It’s a test for me constantly. Whenever a positive situation happens with my own writing, I do need to spread the word about it because, speaking as a writer who has no agent nor publicist, I have to market and promote my own work in order to help with sales. That’s simple professional survival. I learned that when I was owner, editor and marketing director of Ex Machina Press, and I’m applying that experience to my own work. However, my test is to not overdo it. Hopefully, I’m staying on that road and I’m practicing what I’m preaching.

What are you working on now? 

I am now back on track writing my first full length novel that is part of the Wagner Mythos series, which I started with THE GRANDMASTER. Only this book—and the next few after that—will precede before that short novel. In the beginning of THE GRANDMASTER, Dr. Wagner (the protagonist) mentions in his journal regarding a lot of things that happened before his recent diary entries. This first novel is the first missing piece in that puzzle. It’s a supernatural thriller that deals with a psychic hunting a vicious serial killer. I’m in the research stage and I’ll be writing the main text very soon. I’ve written in many forms: short story, short-short story, novella, and the short novel form. It’s time to go to the next step. It’s not only a necessity in a creative sense, but also professionally as well because that is what agents are looking for: novelists that can write a series of exciting tales. And I hope to be one of those that are worthy of representation, God willing.

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1. Please, tell us about your latest book.

Brainstorm_Cover[Gordon Kessler] Jezebel is actually a revision of my very first thriller novel. I wrote the first version back in 1991, got a publishing contract on it a couple of months later, then waited three years for it to be published. On the same week that 10,000 copies were to roll off the press, I got word that the publishing house had gone bankrupt. It took years for me to get the story back, revise it (it nearly doubled in size), and publish it again. Now, it’s out in eBook, besides the more conventional trade paperback and hardcover.

I wrote Jezebel while going through a divorce—that’s the excuse I use to friends and family for seeming to have such a twisted mind! Still, even though it was my first novel, I think it might be my best-written thriller. Women seem to really enjoy it, and many have told me that they couldn’t put it down until they read the last line during the wee hours of the morning. The characters have emotional depth and are everyday Jill and Joes. That is until Jezebel goes on the loose, terrorizing the city. At that point, the characters find themselves in a pressure cooker—pushed beyond their limits.

Jezebel isn’t a mad or ferocious dog, ordinarily. The gentle, loving giant has been manipulated and is on a mission that the reader won’t understand until the end. But the reader should be able to guess who the antagonist is early on—the mystery is more “why,” “what will happen next” and “how will the killings be stopped.” So Jezebel is neither a conventional “whodunit” mystery nor is it one of those stories that you’ll want to read the last few pages first. They won’t make much sense, unless you’ve read the entire book. I think it makes a great Halloween season, spooky thriller, and would be a wonderful Christmas present for the suspense reader in the family/friend circle—especially since it and my other thrillers are on sale for only $.99 (limited time only).

VBT_BookCoverBanner_Jezebel2. Tell us a little about one of your favorite minor characters. Will they show up in another book?

[Gordon Kessler] My favorite minor characters would have to be Doc and Patsy White Cloud. They’re an elderly Native American couple who own a veterinary clinic. They’re also like parents to the protagonist Tony Parker. I think most readers will love them. Will they show up in another book? Well, let me just say that depends—you might understand better when you read the book.

3. What is your favorite thing about writing?

[Gordon Kessler] I think one of my favorite things is the solitude, the opening up of my imagination and watching a story unfold without really knowing what will happen next. When I know I’m on to a good story is when it seems to be writing itself on autopilot, and the surprises that come up are just as unexpected to me as they will be to the reader—I love that. I also love the companionship—the fellowship with other writers who love the same thing I do. I’m president of the Kansas Writers Association, again this year: an organization I helped found fifteen years ago and was their first president, as well. Then, there’s the readers—probably the most pleasurable thing about writing for me is when a reader I’ve never met tells me how much she loved my story, and that she can’t wait to read the next one.

4. How did you get started in writing?

[Gordon Kessler] When I took my first college class—English Comp—my instructor encouraged me to become a writer. She gave me straight “A’s” and always read my papers aloud to the class. Years later, I caught the novel-writing bug when I was going through some hard times, and it was great therapy. I’ve loved it ever since.

5. What does your family think about your writing?

[Gordon Kessler] My kids and friends love my writing and are very supportive. I’ve used my son and daughter’s names for characters, as well as a few of my friends. I think it’s fun for them to see their names in print.

6. Do you have any writing rituals?

[Gordon Kessler] I like to listen to percussions (especially Taiko drums) when writing action scenes. It really pumps me up and gets my heart rate and mind racing.

7. What are you working on now?

[Gordon Kessler] I’m working on a sequel to my sci-fi thriller Brainstorm called The Master Plan. It’s a blast, and full of scientific theory, theological possibilities and action. I think my readers will love it! After that, I plan to write a sequel to Jezebel—that’s going to be great fun, as well.

8. Do you have any hobbies?

[Gordon Kessler] I’ve done some sailing, skydiving, SCUBA and snow skiing, and I enjoy all of it. The problem is finding the time and the place to do any of these things.

9. What are three of your favorite movies?

[Gordon Kessler] Crazy as it may sound: The African Queen, Quigley Down Under and any of the Bourne trilogy. Beat that eclectic combo!

10. What writers have inspired you the most?

[Gordon Kessler] My mentors, sci-fi writer Mike McQuay and mainstream writer Leonard Bishop—they taught me everything I do correctly. May they rest in peace. The writers I most enjoy reading are Douglas Preston, James Rollins, James Patterson (Cross novels), Clive Cussler and Dean Koontz.

11. When did you realize that you were a story teller?

[Gordon Kessler] In third grade I wrote a sci-fi thriller called Zerk from Zenus. Zerk saved the Earth by using his laser lasso to pull our dear planet back from certain obliteration when it fell out of orbit with the Sun.

12. What is the biggest mistake that new writers make?

[Gordon Kessler] Many beginners rush their stories. They don’t understand how to build suspense and realism by drawing out the drama. It takes time and millions of words on paper for writers to really learn their craft, comprehend the tools available to them, find their own style and to understand how to best entertain their readers.
13. What is something that always makes you happy?

[Gordon Kessler] My Golden Retriever puppy wagging her tail. Please, give me your comments; what makes a good scare for you, my dear bloggers?

By the way: Please check out my book trailers on YouTube: Jezebel at:; and Brainstorm at: My blog: and my websites: and I have other blogs and websites for writers. And you can always find my books at any online bookstore, including Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Nook, etc. All three of my thrillers are currently on sale in eBook formats for only $.99—trying to get those sales numbers soaring! Of course, you can find them in traditional paperback and hardcover at reasonable prices, as well.

Thanks again for hosting me on your blog! Happy reading!


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Margaret Marr’s interview with me is now up. It was a lot of fun to do, she asked some great questions.

It snowed…no, now I look up out the window, snow should not be in the past tense, it is snowing, and I am rather depressed about it because I had a field full of grape hyacinth and early snow glories just come out, and things were budding and I was anticipating the color and wonder of Spring. Hopefully the things won’t get so badly chilled that it damages them…especially since I have baby plants that may not have established yet. I used to think that I was a winter person, I loved the cold clean of snow, tracking birds and animals through the woods, hearing the sound of snow hitting the trees, but am wondering if this just isn’t the case anymore. 🙂

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Alisha Paige interviewed me for her blog, asking some wonderful questions. Also I’m giving away a copy of The Chocolateir’s Wife. 🙂

Please check in and comment!

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The Holidays slowed this project down, but now we’re back with some wonderful answers.  I asked Joely a little bit about her writing past and about her plans for the future:

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I wrote a few poems in high school (required for class) but I never really thought they were “good” or original.  I do much better to mimic other styles, like a Shakespearean sonnet.  Actually, I really enjoy writing parodies of poems–playing on the words and rhythms of known poems, or even Bible passages.  Yeah, sounds ridiculous, but one of the pieces I’ve written that I love the most is “Story Genesis” which follows the creation story structure from the Bible.

As for Charon’s story, I’m not really sure of any details yet, other than he’s basically crazy and so damaged that it’ll be one of my hardest redemptions yet.  I like to pick “casts” for my characters, and Charon is played by Vin Diesel as Riddick from Pitch Black.  Riddick is definitely my favorite antihero from movies, and Charon gets a lot of inspiration in that regard. He’s not exactly one of the “good guys” if you know what I mean, but he has motivations for everything he does.  One doesn’t free a caged drakon lightly, and now that he’s free, after suffering so cruelly, he’d rather die than be chained again.

I also asked her about that dreaded curse, Writer’s Block.

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Writer’s Block…Well.  That’s a hard subject. I’ve definitely been in a “bad place” where I couldn’t finish anything, I felt disenchanted with writing, and knew that what I was writing was slop and unsalvageable.  The whole year of 2005 I didn’t finish a single novel or novella, and I threw out most of what I was working on.  However, I think the key for me, at least, was to keep writing, a little every day, even when I knew it sucked.  I felt rather like the guy in Shawshank, tunneling out of the prison with a tiny rock hammer for twenty years, chiseling away a little pebble from the Mountain every day, but finally, the tide turned, and my little depression (literally) I’d managed to carve out tumbled everything into place.  Right after that is when I finished the first draft of Beautiful Death.  That’s why a lot of the subtext and metaphors speak so strongly to me–it really was a personal battle on my part to write that story and see it through.

The Mountain has always been a powerful metaphor for me and the writing journey.  It’s a long grueling climb.  One minute I’m climbing through a beautiful alpine valley full of flowers, and the next, I slip into a glacier crevasse and may never see the light of day again.  But oh, there’s nothing like the view at the top, is there?  And that’s why I keep climbing.  The hope of that view, those small moments of pure magic where words become castles, and a little accidental element becomes something so much more.  The trick is watching for those little glimmers and capturing them into the framework of story.  I write for those little moments of magic.

And that’s it!  I want to thank Joely…and you…for being patient.  🙂

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Over at her website, I discuss one of my favorite bits about writing The Chocolatier’s Wife…the letters between William and Tasmin.

We go on to discuss Hades…

I’ve always loved mythology of all sorts, but I like ones about death and underworld, too.  I always loved the tales of Hades carrying Persephone down to his domain, but I always thought he got the short end of the bargain in the end.  I thought about him living the spring and summer alone…and decided to give him a different story.

She also says something very wonderful, which i am going to be evil and show you:

The Chocolatier’s Wife was a very sweet romance, and I adored all the little touches of their developing romance.  So many times, I kept thinking, “Gee, it would be so much easier for Tasmin to simply leave and go home…” but she hung in there and fought for what was hers.  William was not an ostentatious romantic at all–he told his love and respect in small ways, like the position of their future bed away from the window so she wouldn’t be cold.  Again, those precious letters gave the details and showed that he really listened to her thoughts and wishes.  I think about her writing him for a small personal item so her ceremonial blade could be made…and he sent her every button off his coat!  So sweet.  I guess I don’t have a question per se…I just wanted you to know how much those little details tickled me!

Next week, we will ask each other a little bit more about how long we’ve been writing. 🙂

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OK, lame title, but…The Chocolatier’s Wife has been featuared on Danette’s Chatting Lounge, along with her Friday Five, which is all about me.  (Yes, it’s almost Friday again…I just never got to post this lovely news.)

Because of Danette’s lovely help, I also got a plug on Vampire Wire

Very exciting.  🙂  Thank you Danette!

So.  Hum.  Mundane life.  Interesting things that I can’t talk about because they have to do with work abound.  One is very cool, as it includes getting to spend more time (in a secretarial sense) with someone I really like, the other is just an example about the atrocious and amazingly stupid nature of the human race.  Saturday my mum and I did so well on the great bathroom restoration project that I was really energized.  I ended up going back down at 9:30 that night and doing the first coat of plaster.  I had my mp3 player on while I worked, and it was oddly peaceful, the sound of the plaster knives scraping the drywall, me singing along, my voice echoing oddly in the small space. 

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I would like to announce that my second book, The Chocolatier’s Wife, will be published in eBook form June the 20th.  Paperback will follow early 2009.

I am completely in love with the cover, and the inside…the inside is lovely.  firstpagecw.jpg

Every chapter starts with that marvelous graphic.  Deena Fisher has truly created a marvel.

Also, Apryl Duncan from Fiction Addiction conducted a really fantastic interview and featured me in the latest newsletter!  You can read the interview here.

There is also a wonderful review of Blue Moon!

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