Just a short post today. This past Friday I had the delightful fun of taking part in a live radio interview with the wonderful and talented Sheila Peters. I was sooo nervous beforehand, but once we started talking it felt just like having coffee with a kindred spirit, discussing my favorite things. I could’ve gone on much longer–not that that surprises any of you!
A good friend of mine, J.H. Moncrieff, has exciting news this month—her novella The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave just came out through Samhain Publishing as part of their Childhood Fears Series.
I almost postponed blogging about it, however, because of bitter, terrible news. My brain tries to skirt it. I feel sick to the point of nausea and wanting to vomit when my mind presses even lightly on the tiniest shards of it. I can’t imagine—and I can. And I hate it and would do anything to change it. Would trade my limbs, my life, if I could. There are types of pain that the brain doesn’t know how to process.
So why on earth post a blurb promoting a horror story right now of all times? Well, for the same reason I write and read. Good stories delve into those most tender parts of the human psyche—parts that, to me at least, seem inexorably linked: what we love and what we fear. When we’re suffering (and we all do at various times in various ways), they offer a much-needed escape—but even more so, they acknowledge and spend time mucking about in the things that hurt us most and can be a form of catharsis.
In an English Lit course once, studying Ann-Marie MacDonald’s amazing but brutal Fall On Your Knees, one of the students—a woman who was so quiet I had literally never heard her voice until that day—spoke up when a bunch of other students were whining and griping about some of the novel’s content, how “dark” it was, and how they shouldn’t “have” to read it. The prof was understandably disheartened by their attitude and said something like, “So why do you think there might be value or a point in reading stories that are hard emotionally?”
The quiet woman held up her hand and even the professor’s face registered surprise. “Yes?” she asked.
“For me . . . ” The woman spoke with a slight accent and turned red the minute she opened her mouth. “When I read stories of what other people have survived through, it makes me think I can survive too.”
Then she dropped her head, picked up her pen and busied herself writing something down. The whole class was stunned silent for a moment.
And her words have stayed with me because she summed up, so concisely, one the reasons I have always read so voraciously. It makes me think I can survive. And it gives me a bruised and bleeding hope that people I love can too.
I’m sorry that my introduction to J.H. Moncrieff isn’t cheerier—but I do sincerely hope you’ll pick up her novella, whether it’s just for a thrill and escape, or whether you have something you wish to forget for a bit, or even if you, like me, have your own demons you’re wrestling with right now.
In a weird coincidence with my thinking about why I write and read, when I was chatting with Holli earlier this month about her book, I asked her if she’d care to share what draws her to horror as a reader and a writer. Here are her thoughts.
Once I learned to read, I couldn’t stop. I was a veritable book addict, and pretty soon I’d worked my way through the children’s section at my local library.
My mom was a reader as well, and her collection kept me going. I loved it all—racy Sidney Sheldon mysteries, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Rosemary’s Baby, even her Jackie Collins bodice rippers. I read anything I could get my hands on, and one thing I’ll say for my mom—she never censored what I read.
In spite of the presence of Rosemary’s Baby on her bookshelves, she claimed to hate horror. It was strange, then, to find a few Stephen King paperbacks among several garbage bags full of books that were hidden under the basement stairs.
I’d always been titillated by scary stories—there was something irresistible about reading books and watching movies that were considered “off limits” for someone my age. Who can resist the forbidden?
Mom claimed not to know where the paperbacks had come from, but as usual, she didn’t care if I read them. So my very first King experience was Different Seasons, and I couldn’t have chosen a better book. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption…Apt Pupil…The Body. They are still some of the finest stories I’ve ever read.
From that moment on, I was hooked. My first published story was about a vampire who ran around devouring everything (I’d recently learned the word ‘devour’ and loved it.) As an adult, I initially preferred to write mysteries and psychological suspense, but all my novels had one thing in common—they were dark. Very dark. I decided to embrace the darkness.
Done well, horror can make us question our preconceived ideas. It presents the worst-case scenario so we can think about how we’d deal with the same situation. A thrilling horror story will grab us and hypnotize us, forcing us to turn page after page until it’s finished. (I’ve lost many nights of sleep to Stephen King.) And there are no guarantees with this genre—horror writers never promise their readers a happily ever after.
Sadly, there is quite a bit of crap cluttering the genre, and it’s given horror a bad name. But there are writers who grew up reading the masters, who truly love horror, and who are determined to keep elevating the genre. So within all this darkness, there is hope. [Emphasis mine.]
J. H. Moncrieff
J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring people with her books, and she blogs about the supernatural, the creepy, and the mysterious on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In her “spare” time, J.H. travels to exotic locales, advocates for animal rights, and practices Muay Thai kickboxing.
Her newest release is The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave:
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy, and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things happen.
Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth — Edgar will always get even.
In our modern magic-Internet world, sometimes you meet people you click with immediately, though you’ve never met them face-to-face. Hilarious zany-sexy-urban-fantasy author Liz Schulte is one of those people for me. Not only is she a long-time editing client, an author whose books I eat up like candy, like they’re treats or something instead of work (Shhh, don’t tell her in case she wants me to start paying her instead of the other way around!), I’m continually inspired and motivated by her work ethic, productivity, and generosity with advice and kind words. I’m fortunate to count her as a cohort and ally, and had a really fun, thought-provoking time being interviewed by her recently. (Thanks so much, Liz!)
You can read the interview here (I hope you enjoy it!), and if you’re in the mood for some sexy, romping other worldly adventure, I can’t recommend Liz’s books enough. Just be careful that you don’t lose yourself in the Abyss. . . . 🙂 And if you devour that series but need more Liz Schulte, or if for some reason lighter urban fantasy isn’t your genre, definitely read her dark paranormal mysteries, Dark Corners and Dark Passing, featuring Ella Reynolds. I loved them!
I always find hearing about other authors’ experiences and processes inspiring, and when I had the opportunity to interview Shannon Mayer, author of the Zombie-ish Apocalypse series and the Celtic Legacy series, I jumped at the chance to ask her some questions.
I hope you enjoy what she has to say (her answers are in blue font)—and I doubly hope that you’ll check out her books!
1. Sundered has a fascinating premise. Is there a story behind what triggered the idea?
Thank you! The story started to develop as I considered all the zombie-esque books available and thought that it would be fun to do my own version. I really hadn’t thought beyond making a unique twist on what has become a story line that has become very familiar to us all. From there it was just figuring out the details, how would it be passed, would it be contagious, were the monsters really zombies of the un-dead, or something unique to my story, which I think I managed.
2. Can you describe your personal journey from first deciding you wanted to write through to publication?
Roller coaster, I think would be the best descriptor. I started to write seriously about 7 years ago. Last summer, after much writing, rejections and re-writes, I snagged an agent. Not much has happened in that department for a variety of reasons, so I then stepped into the self publishing world. Since September, I’ve released three books and am looking to release the first book in a new series December 2011. Huge swing of emotions go along with this journey as all writers can attest to. Indescribable highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade any of it, not a second of it because it has all made me a better person, and writer.
3. So far, how is publishing what you envisioned it to be? How is it not?
Well, I expected it to be a learning curve, I did not expect that curve to set me on my butt a few times. As a self published author, everything is on me, from the writing through to the promotions, marketing, cover art, editing, proofing, copy editing, and so on. I expected it to be hard, but I had no idea how hard, until I stepped into the ring.
4. I understand Sundered is Book 1 in a trilogy (always great news for a reader—to find out that a new author they’ve enjoyed has other books!).
All three book are available. I released them close together because, as a reader myself, I HATE to wait on a writer if I’m in love with the series.
5. What do you enjoy about writing a series? What are the challenges?
A series gives you a chance to layer your world and characters, to develop them as they face each obstacle within the story. I really enjoy watching my characters grow and flex. The challenge is making sure you have the series well plotted so you don’t miss something that should have been in book one, that you need for book 7. Missing important details can really mess up your storylines; forcing you to change things mid stride.
6. What’s your favourite part of being a writer? What do you like least about it?
I love being at home, writing, my dogs and cat hanging out with me. Early mornings are my favourite before the world wakes up. Worst part for me right now is sheer frustration, as I struggle to mesh my day job with writing as full time as possible.
10. What book(s) are you reading right now and what’s on your to read-list?
Right now I am reading “The Alchemist” which I would highly recommend to anyone looking to follow their dream, whether that be writing or something else. My TBR list is HUGE, really backlogged with the time I put into writing. And, doing interviews. ;p But, all joking aside, I think the next book I will be reading is by Jonathan D Allen, his debut novel “The Corridors of the Dead” looks fascinating.
11. Last but not least, do you have any word of advice, wisdom, or encouragement for aspiring novelists?
Don’t be afraid to have others do work for you. Hire an editor, cover artist, copy editor. These people specialize in what they do. You specialize in what you do. Writing. So, focus on your writing and allow others to do what they are best at, in the long run, you will have a better product in the long run.
I love the beginning of her last answer. Don’t be afraid . . . Perhaps we should just put a period there. Don’t be afraid.
Shannon is incredibly personable and has achieved a lot in a short time — inspiring and motivating to me because of how she goes after what she wants with huge passion and drive. She welcomes readers and feedback on her blog, Wringing Out Words and would love for you to follow her tweets: @TheShannonMayer.
Please click on the pictures of her covers about to find out more about each book and/or to buy one!
One of my favourite things happened yesterday! An author friend of mine, Liz Schulte, celebrated the launch of her new novel, Dark Corners, a mystery-suspense with paranormal elements that keeps you turning pages and constantly second-guessing who the villain is (or are!).
Ella Reynolds knew from the first moment she walked into the old house that someone or something was watching her. Waiting. Her husband’s violent murder sent her spiraling into a world of grief and isolation, but Ella isn’t alone. Who or what is responsible for her husband’s death is still with her. Every day reality slips a little more between her fingers as she struggles to break free from her memories. A string of uncanny events takes place and practical explanations run thin as Ella follows the terrifying road to closure. As the past and present come to a head, Ella must decipher who or what the murderer is before it takes her as well.
If you’d like to read Liz Schulte’s own words about Dark Corners’ launch, or just want to congratulate her, pop by her blog, http://enteringbatcountry.blogspot.com/, or click here. Liz is also a friendly, fun person to follow on Twitter: @LizSchulte
HUGE congratulations, Liz! Dark Corners is great and I’m already looking forward to your next novel. Write fast.
And same to all of you: happy, prolific writing this week!
As some of you know, three of my short stories (“HVS,” “Wishful,” and “Red Bird”) are available through Ether Books, a fantastic forward-thinking publishing company that I can’t say enough good things about. Not only have they published my work, they supply me with an inexhaustible source of new short fiction!
I’ve been playing with the idea of promoting some of my work with video and since Maureen Scott, one of the gurus behind Ether, put a call out for Ether authors to share their sentiments about Ether Books in 30 seconds or less and post them on youtube, I’d thought I’d start there. So all that said, here’s me, Ev Bishop, on Ether Books. Enjoy!
When I have my office back under control, I may do short blip on each of the stories they’ve published. Stay tuned.
And hey, if you haven’t read “Wishful,” or “Red Bird,” or “HVS”—you don’t need to wait ’til there’s a video promo! Grab your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, download Ether Books’ free app here and check me out. 🙂 I hope you enjoy them.
It’s hard to follow up a post like Vigil with something light and happy, but that’s life: a thorough mishmash of beautiful, awful, lovely, ugly, sweet and bitter all the time.
I was recently interviewed by author (and dear friend) Angela Dorsey. It was a fun diversion from all the things going on my my life right now.
My favourite question was “What kind of horse would you be?” (very fitting coming from her half-human/half-equine soul!). And in light of what I just wrote here about life, I’d amend my answer—still Pinto, absolutely (I was obsessed with Western movies and correct me if I’m wrong, but a lot of the tough little Indian ponies were Pintos*, weren’t they?), just for more elaborate reasons. Pintos aren’t generally considered glamorous or gorgeous by most horsey standards, but they are tough—sure-footed, fleet little beasts that thrive in trying times and severe climates.
If you’d like to read the full interview, pop by Angela’s great blog, here.
I’d love to read some other writers’ takes on what horse they’d like to be . . .
*I’m sort of right: Apparently Pintos aren’t exactly the same as the Indian ponies, but they share a direct lineage and similar qualities.
A couple of days ago I connected with Leigh Russell—a UK thriller writer with two titles fresh on the shelves (CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED), another soon to be published (DEAD END) and a fourth and fifth title for the series in the works. The fan girl part of my personality was jumping up and down and I won’t pretend I managed to be cool when she volunteered to be interviewed here.
It’s always wonderful to find a new author—and even more wonderful if you discover them early on and they’re prolific. I hope the writer in you enjoys Leigh’s comments, that the reader in you seeks out her books, and that the Christmas shopper we’re all called to be these days is relieved with a great idea about how to make a reader on your list very happy (or, at least, held in chilling suspense for 350 pages!).
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1. CUT SHORT, your first novel, introduces D.I. Geraldine Steel as she relocates to a small village (that’s right, guys, village, not town—we’re in the UK in this book), expecting peace, quiet and safety—a sheltered place to deal with the damage of her past. Instead she’s ensnared in a brutal serial murder investigation with herself as the killer’s next intended victim.
How did this story occur to you? Did the idea come fully formed? Did it originate with a character popping into your head?
Leigh: I was walking through my local park one day. It was raining and the park was deserted. As I approached a bend in the path beside a tangled copse of trees and shrubs a man suddenly appeared on the path, walking towards me. I’ve no idea where the idea came from but I wondered what I would do if I saw a body in the bushes and so became involved in a terrible crime, as a witness. I walked on and of course there was no body in the bushes, but the idea stayed with me and when I reached home I began to write it down. Who was the dead girl? Why was she killed? Who killed her? I became so engrossed in the narrative that I completed the first draft of my debut thriller in six weeks.
2. I understand that you broke into print in a way that most authors only dream about, receiving a three book deal just months into your writing life. Can you describe your personal journey from first deciding you wanted to write through to publication for us?
Leigh: F Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’ That was certainly my experience. There was no deliberate decision to write, I simply had an idea, started writing – and haven’t been able to stop since. I’m absolutely addicted! When I finished my manuscript I decided I might as well send it to a publisher who specialises in crime fiction, although I never really expected to hear back from them. You can imagine my surprise when two weeks later they called me for a meeting and soon after that signed me up for three books. I wrote somewhere that I fell into writing like Alice down the rabbit hole.
3. And now that you’ve “arrived,” how is publishing what you envisioned it to be? How is it not?
Leigh: We hear a lot about publishers who are distant and unhelpful but that hasn’t been my experience because my publishers are lovely people to work with. What I hadn’t realised was how much time I would spend promoting my books. I enjoy getting out and about meeting people and am passionate about supporting bookshops and libraries so most weeks I devote time to signing in bookshops. Just this week I signed in three bookshops and judged a short story competition for a writers group, and that’s fairly typical. I give talks at literary festivals, visit book groups and colleges, and give interviews to newspapers, on the radio and online – like this one! It’s all great fun but more time consuming than I’d anticipated.
4. Discovering that a book you enjoy is only the first in a series is a delight for any reader, and I was particularly excited to find out you’d done more with Geraldine. She’s a bit of tough character—very enigmatic—and by the end of CUT SHORT, though the ending was fantastic, there was still a lot I wanted to know about her.
Then I found out she had a series and I was excited because you’d left so much room to continue developing her (some series’ authors tell all, show all in Book 1 and don’t leave space for natural character growth and change).
Had you intended all the way along to write a series for D.I. Geraldine Steel or was it just good luck that you set your novel up to perfectly lead into one?
Leigh: Most authors plot the arc of their main character before they write the first book in a series, planning out the character’s journey throughout. I had no idea my initial manuscript would become a series so didn’t plan ahead in that way. As it turns out it was lucky I didn’t reveal too much about Geraldine in Cut Short. In Road Closed she sets out on a personal journey that is developed in Dead End in a plotline that will continue through quite a few books. I also have another idea for her, picking up on a character who is only mentioned briefly in Cut Short. Now I have a clear idea where Geraldine’s heading in her life, I have the end of the 20th book in the series in my mind and I know exactly how she is going to end up – although I might change my mind and come up with something entirely different.
5. What do you enjoy about writing a series? What are the challenges?
Leigh: I am enjoying developing my main character more and more as I get to know her better, but what I appreciate most about writing a series is that whenever I finish writing one book, the next one is waiting to be written. It means I haven’t had time to worry too much about how my books will be received, as I am constantly moving on the next story. One challenge is whether to write specifically for my growing fan base who are getting to know Geraldine, or for readers who are picking up one of my books for the first time. Another challenge for me is setting. In Cut Short and Road Closed I was rather vague about location, as I’m not very good with places. In Dead End I begin to tackle this, setting one scene in a real seaside town. In the following book Geraldine relocates to a real place.
6. Give us the blurb version of the plots for ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END. Please. 😉
ROAD CLOSED. When a man dies in a gas explosion, the police suspect arson. The Murder Investigation Team are called in to investigate. The case takes on a new and terrible twist when a local villain is viciously attacked. As the police enquiries lead from the expensive Harchester Hill estate to the local brothel, a witness dies in a hit-and-run. Was it coincidence – or cold-blooded murder? The Murder Investigation Team has problems of its own – and so does Geraldine Steel. A shocking revelation threatens her peace of mind as the investigation races towards its dramatic climax.
DEAD END. When the corpse of Abigail Kirby is discovered, police are shocked to learn that the victim’s tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Shortly after coming forward, a witness is blinded and murdered. Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel’s flirtation with the pathologist on the case helps her to cope with the distress of finding out she was adopted at birth. Abigail Kirby’s teenage daughter runs away from home to meet a girl who befriended her online. Too late, she realises she has made a dreadful mistake – a mistake that may cost her life. Detective Sergeant Ian Peterson uncovers a shocking secret about the serial killer who has been mutilating his murder victims. Does the sergeant’s discovery come too late to save Geraldine Steel from a similar dreadful fate?
7. To date, all your books (published and in the works) are thrillers of a dark variety. Did you set out to write creepy stuff or did it find you? Do you write in other genres as well, or do you hope to?
Leigh: You’ve probably realised by now that my stories found me, as I never set out to write a series of crime thrillers. I had an idea and ran with it and here I am. As for other genres, I might want to expand my range one day, but I have no time to explore other genres at the moment. If anyone had told me two years ago that I’d have written two bestsellers by now, I would have laughed, so I try not to predict what might happen next. The future is mysterious, doubtless peppered with surprises, and I’m just hoping for the best.
8. My kids are pretty blasé about “Mom” being a writer. Not that I don’t share details about my day or projects occasionally, but for them, it’s a lot like anecdotes about dishes or gardening—occasionally interesting, but not at all focus worthy.
You have two young daughters. What is their take on your career? How does (or does) writing about and investigating the topics that you explore in your books colour or affect your parenting?
Leigh: My daughters are not that young! I only started writing when they had both grown up and left home. They are members of my small and select group of readers and their comments are always very helpful. They love reading proof copies of my books, although they aren’t always happy with my behaviour. Last summer I was doing some research in London where Geraldine Steel will be relocating in my fourth book. I discovered a great location for a scene in the book and told my daughter excitedly, ‘I’ve found a perfect place to dump a dead body!’ She had quite a startled look on her face as she told me to ‘shhh’, while looking nervously over her shoulder.
9. What’s your favourite part of being a writer for a living? What do you like least about it?
Leigh: I love everything about writing.
10. What book(s) are you reading right now and what’s on your to read-list?
Leigh: Since I started writing I have very little time to read and when I do have any free time I tend to be writing. Authors I enjoy reading are Jeffery Deaver (who is a fan of my own books), Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, Val Mcdiarmid, Sam Millar (another fan of my work)… the list is too long to include them all. I also admire many authors outside of crime fiction, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as less contemporary authors like Dickens, Edith Wharton, Hardy, Steinbeck, Harper Lee – again, the list is a long one.
11. What would constitute a perfect day for Leigh Russell?
Leigh: I would get up late, write all morning, write all afternoon, and then spend the evening with my family. After that I would stay up half the night writing when everyone else was asleep.
12. Last but not least, do you have any word of advice, wisdom, or encouragement for aspiring novelists?
Leigh: I always give the same three pieces of advice to aspiring authors: Work hard, be brave, and be lucky.
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I don’t know about you, but I found that pretty darn inspiring. It’s fantastic to hear an author who’s doing it for a living still be so excited about the whole process. I love that she loves writing—and her books sound great, right?
If you’d like to read more about Leigh Russell in her own words, visit her online at No Exit Press or on her blog at http://leighrussell.blogspot.com . You can buy her books (the first two anyway—DEAD END comes out early in 2011) in all major book stores. For your convenience, I hyperlinked the book covers to Amazon.ca for you. And if you’re interested in the kind of work Geraldine Steel does, check out this link: How to become forensic scientist