Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interviewing mystery writer and scientist Leah Devlin…

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

[Readers of this blog might recall that I reviewed Leah Devlin’s excellent mystery Ægir’s Curse last Wednesday.  Without further ado, you can now meet this multi-talented woman.]

About Leah: 

Steve: Leah, could you start by telling the readers something about yourself?

Leah: I’m American of Swedish and Irish descent.  I’m a mystery and thriller writer and marine biologist, the latter giving authenticity to the scientific background of the “Woods Hole Mysteries,” comprised of The Bottom Dwellers (2015) and Ægir’s Curse (2015), and The Bends (coming this summer). I love boats and the sea too, and that relates to the series, the “Chesapeake Tugboat Murders” consisting of Vital Spark (under contract), Spider (under contract), and The Death of a Chrome Diva (in progress), all with Penmore Press.

Steve: That scientific background probably took a few years to acquire, right?

Leah: The literary part too.  I have BAs in English Literature, Biology, and Environmental Science (American University, Washington DC), and an MS and PhD in Biology (University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI).

Steve: I now understand where all those scientific and technological details come from in Ægir’s Curse. This mix between creating science and creating stories isn’t completely unknown to me, but let’s hear how you got started writing those mysteries.

Leah on Writing:

Steve: Why, how, and when did you start writing?

Leah: I vividly remember the house of my childhood being full of books from the town library, in a time before bookstore super chains, when one wandered through the stacks and left with a dog-eared stack of books.  My writing career was delayed until my early forties, because I was employed as a biologist at a university where, for decades, I wrote research papers on the neuroscience of marine organisms.  During my time at a marine laboratory on Cape Cod [Woods Hole], I got the idea to write my first novel.  My children were older and more independent and I’d earned tenure at my university, so the pressure was off and I had more mental space to create stories.  I have a lot of restless energy and am always game to try new things. After writing my first “practice novel”—bad as it was—there was no turning back.


News and Notices from the Writing Trenches # 108…

Friday, November 13th, 2015

[Note from Steve: I’m not superstitious, but, for those who are, have a safe day today.  Did you hear about the guy who went looking for the 13th floor in a hotel and fell into an open elevator shaft, all on Friday the 13th?  There: who said I can’t write a horror story!]

Item. Celebrity books.  Or, should I say, public confessions of the rich and (in)famous?  Do you read them?  The bookstores are full of them, if that’s any gauge of popularity.  There’s Trump’s new propaganda piece containing no more meat than his campaign speeches, just another spiel saying, “I’m great, I’m handsome, I’m rich, I’m smart, and I can save America!”  Some are informative: George H. W. Bush’s (the father of Dubya and Jeb), says a few things about Trump, but mostly looks back, verifying what I always knew: Cheney and Rumsfeld had their own hawkish and nefarious agendas and tried to impose their will and further their on agenda in Dubya’s administration.  And others are just ploys to make some money: Leah Remini’s exposé of Scientological shenanigans has become a book tour through talk shows—she needs the money, I guess, but I wonder why people care about her making more money.  Or, worry about a cult.

When people ask me if I’ve read celebrity so-and-so’s book, I usually look at them like they were idiots.  I’m very selective in my reading, and I generally find the practice of a celebrity cashing in on their ready-made brand name a despicable practice.  One of Obama’s books was the last celebrity book I finished (one written even before he became president).  I started one of O’Reilly’s Killing X books (I guess he’s not very inventive about titles), didn’t like it, and stopped (I guess that’s a mini-mini-review—I started because I read some history now and then).  But O’Reilly is just another celebrity author cashing in on his brand name.


Interview with thriller author Alexander McNabb…

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

[Note from Steve: Alexander McNabb is mainly an author of thrillers, having written Olives – A Violent Romance, Beirut – An Explosive Thriller, Shemlan – A Deadly Tragedy, A Decent Bomber (just reviewed in Bookpleasures and this blog–see below), and Birdkill.  He has been working in, living in, and travelling around the Middle East for some thirty years. Formerly a journalist, editor and magazine publisher, today he is a consultant on media, publishing and digital communications.  Alexander is also a frequent conference speaker, chair and moderator – as well as commentator in broadcast and print media – particularly around technology, media and online issues. When he’s not writing books, he’s posting half-thoughts and snippets on his blog, Fake Plastic Souks, which he started in 2007 during the Arab Media Forum. The title refers to the ‘new’ souks of Dubai, so much more convenient and classy than the real thing.  Oh, and for anyone who hasn’t been exposed to Arabia, a souk is a collection of shops, a sort of traditional mall! Without further ado, let’s throw some questions at him.]

Alexander on writing:

1)  Why, how, and when did you start writing?

I suppose it all started with reading, I’ve always been a voracious reader. But I gave up smoking in 2001 and had to find something publicly acceptable to do with my hands. I realized I’d written millions of words of copy in my career as a magazine editor and publisher as well as my years working in communications. I’d written speeches, op-eds, letters and white papers on behalf of CEOs, Sheikhs, and Kings so I thought I might as well have a go at writing a book. I was, of course, quite remarkably clueless about what that actually entailed. My first book was a spoof thriller called Space, which was very funny but not really a Booker Prize troubler. It took over 100 rejections from British literary agents for me to get the point.

2)  Did you publish the first book you wrote?

Yes, oddly enough, in the end. I took a look back over Space for some editing workshop I was doing a couple of years back and it tickled me pink. So I bunged it up on Amazon for $0.99. It was written as a spoof of the very genre I ended up writing in, but it made me laugh and laugh. It has one review on Amazon, ‘This book is not funny.’  [Note from Steve: Alexander shouldn’t worry—those one- and two-line reviews on Amazon are generally meaningless.]

3)  What is your biggest problem with the writing process. How do you tackle it?

I don’t have a single gnarly problem that lies in wait drooling and waiting to attack.  Each book has had its own quirks and issues to manage. Olives is written in the first person and makes a really solid emotional connection with readers as a result. Beirut had structural issues and my editor made me tear it all down and rebuild it, losing one too many goody and one too many baddy on the way. For Shemlan, the editor took out 15,000 words of flashbacks which I have just restored because I felt, after having considered his advice for two years, the book as I intended it achieves what I set out to achieve.  A Decent Bomber suffered the most difficult gestation – that’s taken two years to write. And then Birdkill followed right after as a massive sigh of relief and just tumbled onto paper. Well, DOCX. You know.

4)  Do you feel writing is something you need to do or want to do?

Writing is most assuredly something I want to do. Marketing, now that’s a whole other ballgame.

5)  Have your personal experiences (or situations) influenced you creatively? If so, how?

Yes, my first three books are Middle East based. My experience with callow British journalists interacting with Arabs; of Jordan and Beirut (that sexiest of cities) and thirty years of wandering around this part of the world have undoubtedly had their effect. Writing makes you a thief, a stealer of things. A glance, a gesture, a phrase, a personal quirk.


Interview with Professor Hans Nylander…

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Steve: Maybe we should start with your saying something about yourself.

Nylander: I’m a South African astrophysicist.  I do research and teach at a Johannesburg university and belong to the staff of South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), acting as a theoretical consultant.  The SAAO facility features the South African Large Telescope (SALT), a cooperative venture financed by South Africa, Germany, Poland, New Zealand, the U.S., and the United Kingdom.  It’s the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere.

Steve: How does that relate to this Mensa Contagion?

Nylander: I was the first scientist to visit the landing site.  The artifact was clearly a dispersal vehicle.  And the virus it contained was dispersed.  I’m no contagious disease expert, but I knew whatever was in that pod didn’t originate on Earth.

Steve: Is it true that you named the virus, though?

Nylander: That has more to do with my scientific background.  My adopted son, Oscar, who’s also my grad student, discovered it came from the direction of Mensa, a constellation that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere.  Seemed like a good name.

Steve: So the name has nothing to do with that club for geniuses?


Interviewing John Hohn…

Monday, November 17th, 2014

[Today we have a treat, an interview with author John Hohn.  He has an interesting background that probably influenced his first work, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, more than his second, Breached (reviewed last Wednesday), but both books are intricate and excellent mysteries that will entertain you a lot more than the usual drivel you’ll find on TV.  Without further ado, here’s John.]

Some bio information…

Steve: Tell us a bit about yourself, John.

John: I’m technically retired, but I like to say I’ve embarked on a new career, writing. I am a Midwestern by birth, born and raised in Yankton, SD where I graduated from high school. I married after my freshman year in college at St. John’s University (MN) where I majored in English, graduating in 1961. I taught high school English for four years before entering the world of business. My career spans more than 40 years in the financial services industry. I retired in 2007 after 15 years at the head of my own financial advisory group with Merrill Lynch in Winston-Salem, NC.

I have always loved to write. I have published poetry in literary quarterlies, garnering a few awards along the way. In 2000, I published as small volume of poetry. In 2011, I published my first novel, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds. A sequel followed in 2014 titled Breached.

I am the father of five children and stepfather to one.  My wife and I have been married 29 years. We divide our time between a cottage in Southport, NC and a small house in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern corner of the state.

Steve: Why, how, and when did you start writing?

John: I started writing when I was a boy. I wrote because I enjoyed it. My stories were short pieces, usually about going fishing with my dad or exploring around the neighborhood. Both of my parents were very encouraging. My mother read my stories to guests. I enjoyed the praise and affirmation I received. I have been writing all of my life.


Interviewing romance author Callie Norse…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

[Note from Steve: We have a real treat today.  Readers are probably tired of my pushing thriller, mystery, and sci-fi novels, so Callie Norse, romance writer from the great Midwest, has kindly subjected herself to my interview questions.  She’s the author of the 4-book Carrington series, a series of romance/mystery/paranormal novels; the corresponding titles are For the Love of Lisa, A Love Too Soon, The Anniversary…not to be forgotten, and Flashes from the Past, available in both paperback and eBook formats.  She’s also written the short sci-fi story “Taken,” a story of alien abduction, available as an eBook.  Without further ado, here’s Callie.]


About Callie…

Steve: First, let’s get some bio information about you.

Callie:  I’m married. My husband and I live in Northern Illinois, and have three grown sons, and six grandchildren. I worked in banking for seven years, then became a stay-at-home mom. I have always been an avid reader. My love for writing was inspired by my eighth grade teacher, when she asked that we write short stories for class. I dedicated Flashes from the Past to her.


Callie on writing…

Steve: Why, how, and when did you start writing?

Callie: I began writing short stories when my children were young. My first manuscript was after the loss of my parents, only 16 days apart, in 1991. I wrote the story of their illnesses and how my siblings and I dealt with their illnesses and eventual loss. The first book of my series was developed out of one of those first short stories.

Steve: Did you publish the first book you wrote? (more…)

An interview with Mr. Paws…

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

[If you don’t know it already, Mr. Paws, a super-intelligent cat who does mathematical research, is a main character in my YA novel The Secret Lab (adults have also found it enjoyable).  He visited me from his parallel universe recently to talk about “The Chaos Chronicles” and sci-fi in general.  I include here only the pertinent parts.  We were sidetracked at times by unsolved mathematical conjectures about gaps between primes and whether there’s just one Higgs boson or many, but I’ll spare you those details.]

Steve: Good to see you again.  Have my muses been taking good care of you?

Mr. Paws: I’m purrfectly independent, you know—I don’t need babying.  I do miss the kids.  Although I can wander freely about that futuristic International Space Station you created, Shashi and all the gang [Steve: ISS tweens who become Mr. Paws’ friends on the ISS] are off doing other things.  So, yes, your muses are useful in keeping me on my toes with provocative questions.  They helped me come here to visit, though, because I have some questions for you.

Steve: You mean, you want to interview me?

Mr. Paws:  Don’t let your ego inflate, pal.  No, I’m just here to chat.  By jumping around through the Nexus in time and space, I’ve been able to explore some of the places you talk about in “The Chaos Chronicles.”  They’re quite interesting.  My adventures in The Secret Lab can be considered a prequel to all those adventures, of course.  In “my time,” they didn’t know about the Nexus.  Humans were just exploring the solar system.

Steve: Which places are most interesting?


Interview with sci-fi writer Sabrina Chase…

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

[Note from Steve: Sabrina Chase is a prolific and successful writer in a genre that is difficult to break into—I know that from personal experience.  I discovered her in my role as a lurker reading Joe Konrath’s blog—you never know when or where you can find another interesting author!  She has written mostly novels: Firehearted, The Last Mage Guardian, The Long Way Home, Raven’s Children, Queen of Chaos, The Scent of Metal, and The Bureau of Substandards Annual Report.  Like yours truly, her scientific background is in physics; but also like many physicists, she does something else in her day job—she currently works as a software developer.  So yes, she’s a “mad scientist,” but maybe only to the extent that she’s also a writer.  For further details, check out her website.  Without further ado, let’s enjoy her candid answers to my prying questions!]

Sabrina on Writing:

Steve: Why, how, and when did you start writing?

Sabrina: I suffer from being a quick reader, meaning I read far more quickly than my favorite writers could produce books. To kill time I started making up my own stories, and one thing led to another. At first I tried short stories, but it’s not my natural length. (I’ve gotten better at writing short form over the years.) One day I showed a short story to a friend, and he insisted, “There has to be more! Write the rest!”  And so I did—it turned into my first book, Firehearted.


An interview with novelist A. J. Colucci…

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

[Note from Steve:  A. J. Colucci writes science thrillers, stories that combine the adrenaline-rush of a thriller with real science.  I met her at BooksNJ a few weekends ago and knew immediately that those who visit this blog will be interested in learning more about her.  Her novel The Colony received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, noting, “Colucci’s exciting thriller debut…balances scares and science nicely. Michael Crichton fans will hope that this is but the first of many such outings from the author’s pen.” Her second science thriller will be released by St. Martin’s Press in spring 2014. Visit her website or find her on Twitter.  Without further ado, let’s meet A. J.]


A. J. on writing:

Steve:  Why, how, and when did you start writing?

A. J.: I was always writing, even in elementary school. I had so many stories in my head. The first “novel” I wrote was The Black Cat and my fourth grade teacher told me it was great.  I’m sure a lot of people choose careers because they’re encouraged by a great teacher, and I had a few of those. So, I went on to write for my high school and college newspaper, and then became a reporter, magazine editor, corporate writer and finally a novelist. For me, writing has been a good choice because I’m not too good at anything else.

Steve:  Did you publish the first book you wrote?

A. J.:  I had three books and five screenplays by the time The Colony was picked up by Macmillan. It takes years to sharpen your writing skills and polish a book so that it’s marketable. The Colony was my second attempt at a novel and I kept going back to it in between writing projects.  I knew it was my best chance to get published because it was such a high concept story.

Steve: What is your biggest problem with the writing process? How do you tackle it?

A. J.: I write a lot by hand; it just comes out better that way. But then I have to transcribe all my notes into the computer. Hundreds of scribbled pages I can barely read. There’s paper in my car, under my bed, in every room of the house.  It’s awful and time-consuming, but there’s no way around it.


An interview with novelist E. F. Watkins…

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

[Note from Steve:  I met Eileen at BooksNJ a few weekends ago.  I immediately knew that readers of this blog, avid readers and writers alike, would like to get to know her and her opus.  Her latest book is DARK MUSIC —I was immediately attracted to the musical subtheme.  So, without further ado, let’s meet E. F. Watkins.]

Steve:  First, tell us something about yourself.

E. F.:  I write paranormal mystery and suspense stories using the E. F. Watkins author’s name.  My opus is comprised of:  DANCE WITH THE DRAGON (2003), RIDE A DANCING HORSE (2004, as “Eileen” Watkins), BLACK FLOWERS (2004), PARAGON (2005), DANU’S CHILDREN (2009), ONE BLOOD (2010), and DARK MUSIC (2013).  DANCE WITH THE DRAGON won Best Horror Novel 2004, from EPIC (Electronically Public Internet Connection).  BLACK FLOWERS was a 2005 EPIC Finalist in the Thriller category and 2006 Indie Book Awards Finalist in the Thriller category.  ONE BLOOD was an EPIC Finalist in the Paranormal category.  You can visit me at my website.


E. F. on Writing:

Steve:  Why, how, and when did you start writing?

E. F.:  I actually started trying to “write books” as soon as I learned to print, but as you can imagine I didn’t get very far! Growing up as an only child, I always made up my own stories. I wrote my first short story in high school and a revised version of it won a contest my freshman year in college. My sophomore year, I wrote a “fan fiction” novella based on the TV soap DARK SHADOWS that went over pretty well with my friends. My first year out of college, I wrote a very early version of the book that eventually became ONE BLOOD, and I’ve been writing (and rewriting) my novels every since.