Meet the Author: First Second Coming by Jeff Pollak

Today we travel to La Crescenta, California to chat with Jeff Pollak about how New Jersey’s Palisades, a career as a trial lawyer, a profitable high school investment, a great sense of humor, Santa Fe, Gaby Moreno, and song titles as chapter titles come together as part of Jeff’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was raised in an apartment building in Riverdale, where the view out the window encompassed the Henry Hudson Bridge spanning the Bronx and Manhattan, and the East River below it. Beyond the bridge I could see the Hudson River and the sheer walls of New Jersey’s Palisades. It was a priceless view that my child’s eye considered entirely routine.

Although I lost my father when I was three and my mother at age sixteen, overall my childhood was a happy one. I lived briefly with an uncle before leaving for college in Buffalo and, afterward, law school in Los Angeles. Once admitted to the California Bar, I embarked on a 35 year career as a trial lawyer.

My lovely wife, Carol, and I raised a wonderful son, Tyler. He currently works for Microsoft and lives in Seattle. At the moment Carol and I live in La Crescenta, California (a suburb of L.A.). We plan to move to San Diego before the next “fire season” starts.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

One of the high school classes I took while living with my uncle was in economics. The term paper called for the class to invest an imaginary $1,000 in the stock market, track the investment for the full six month term, and write a paper on how we fared. We were completely free to buy and sell as we wished, since imaginary money was the currency in use.

As the project got underway I mentioned it to my uncle, who offered to provide $1,000 in real moolah. I invested it in a few different companies, one being Comsat – short for communication satellites, which were just getting off the ground at the time. Over the six month period I netted $30,000 and received an A+ grade. (My uncle got his thousand bucks back, by the way.) I used the rest of the money to pay my own way through my first two years of college.

Which of your personality traits have been most useful, and why?

One useful trait is the ability to stay calm under stress. That’s handy during trials. My nickname within my law firm was Zen Master, or ZM. The other trait is a great sense of humor.

In court I’d use both traits. An example: In the jury selection phase of the case, trial lawyers look for jurors who are biased and therefore unable to serve, among other things. The first time I address the jury during this process, I’d introduce myself this way: “Hi, my name is Jeff Pollak. I represent ‘X.’ I have a question that goes to your biases. Please raise your hand if you are biased against lawyers who are bald or slightly overweight.” That question never failed to elicit laughter throughout the courtroom, even from the judge and opposing counsel. Usually the jury would be on my side from that point to the trial’s end.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country, and why?

Most Americans asked this question would probably say Hawaii, but I’ll pick Santa Fe, New Mexico. The state as a whole has unique culture, harmoniously mixing the influences of the native American Indian tribes, the Spanish settlers and the eventually dominant frontiersmen. While Albuquerque, Taos and Las Cruces have their charms, Santa Fe is the crown jewel of the state, and its capital city. Renowned worldwide for its artistic community, Santa Fe offers incredible cuisine, numerous museums, Pueblo-style architecture, a traditional plaza that dates back to the early 1600’s, and so much more.

I first visited Santa Fe during a break in law school to visit a college friend who lived in Albuquerque at the time. I was immediately enchanted, and have remained that way through every visit since. Regardless of the time of the year of my visits, I know I’m in a special place.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

The main thing I do is write some more. One novel I’m working on is the sequel to First Second Coming. Earth’s Peril is the working title. The second book, called The Recycling Center, is a spin-off to First Second Coming. Otherwise, I play golf every week, weather permitting. I also watch baseball and hockey games, read books and hike daily.

Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.

First Second Coming, my debut novel, is a supernatural romantic suspense novel that mixes three genres – fantasy, romance and suspense. As I write this, the book has a rating of 4.8 stars (out of 5), and a 4.56 rating on Goodreads, so I’ll provide a couple of review excerpts from book bloggers and Amazon customers to give you an idea of the plot:

Nathalie the Biblioholic: “When the new God comes to Earth to issue his edict, He makes use of Ram [Forrester] and Brendali [Santamaria] and their local talk show. What does He want? For starters, He gives the world 60 days to end religious violence. . . . Amidst kidnappings, murder attempts, the mystery surrounding a terror group, and a ton of drama, Ram and Brendali find the time to fall in love. The author depicts their love as something organic and beautiful. They find joy even in the middle of utter chaos. . . .”

K. Pilai, purchaser: “I found it to be a really engaging read based on an extraordinary premise, a fantastic supernatural suspense with a great romance. The idea that the old god retires and a new one steps in is thought provoking, and the way that the humans of earth handle the situation is very well thought out. I highly recommend it!”

Samantha Turley, Blogger: “Wow, what a book. It will make you think and suck you in. The story itself was well done and kept me hanging on the entire book. This was heightened by descriptions that were distinct and a plot that was well paced. The cherry on the top was that the characters were charismatic and drew the reader in. Solid plot, fabulous writing.”

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When my son graduated from college in 2015, he had a well-paying job waiting for him and didn’t need mom and dad’s support. I had to decide how much longer I wanted to do trial work and what I’d do in retirement. After some reflection, I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I’d always been an avid reader, and trial law is writing intensive, so this seemed sensible.

I set out to write as an avocation – a way to bide my time when not at the golf course. I didn’t expect to write anything that would be published someday. However, people urged me to publish First Second Coming because of its unique plot. I resisted at first, but eventually gave in.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

9/11 inspired First Second Coming. My law firm did annual conferences each May for clients in the New York/New Jersey area. The World Trade Center’s conference center at the top of the building was where we did them. I had clients in the building, some of whom didn’t survive. While I watched the WTC collapse from the safety of my home, a random thought came to mind: Earth needs a new god – a planetary turnaround specialist.

That idle thought returned in 2015, once I decided to write fiction. It had grown into a rudimentary plot, two main characters with names and full histories and three possible endings. All this spewed out in one sitting in front of a blank white computer screen.

In which genre do you write?

I call First Second Coming a supernatural romantic suspense novel, and as far as I know I’m the only one writing in this genre. Of the three genres it comprises, romance was a surprise. Brendali, my female main character, began talking to me roughly midway through the first draft. She’d narrate what was happening in the book, one chapter after another – often waking me at 4:00 a.m. to start the day. Her version of events often varied from mine but I gave her free reign, subject to my editing pen. She and Ram, my male main character, were mutually attracted. That increased the prominence of the romance aspect of the story.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know about by reading your biography?

In one word: music. I’m a big fan of many genres. Music gets me closer to my characters. When I’m writing a chapter that Ram’s narrating, I listen to his favorite musicians, notably Eric Clapton. Listening to any Clapton-related song gets me on a clear channel into Ram’s head. Although Brendali and I have a very strong connection at all times, I play Latin rock and pop when drafting the chapters written in Brendali’s point of view. She’s a very strong-willed character who sometimes tells me which specific songs she wants to hear. She brought one Latina singer who is a spectacular talent to my attention – Gaby Moreno. Her renditions of Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, or La Malagueña, as well as many of her own tunes, are jaw dropping.

I also use song titles as chapter titles, to give the reader a little hint about what’s in the chapter he or she is about to read.

What are you currently reading?

One of my favorite authors is David Mitchell. Fellow top-rank author Ursula K. LeGuin once described his writing as “relentlessly brilliant.” That’s true. I was introduced to him through his best book to date, The Bone Clocks, and proceeded to Cloud Atlas (made into a terrible movie) and his newest, Utopia Avenue. I’m now reading his 2010 novel, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, called The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. It’s fascinating.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ve been making the rounds on radio and podcasts to promote First Second Coming. To prepare for these interviews, I listen to a smattering of the station’s archived interviews to get a sense of the interviewer’s style and the kinds of questions he or she asks. From that I prepare a sheet with mock answers to the questions that get repeated across the interviews I’ve heard. That’s about it – I know my book, my background, etc. I’m nimble enough to answer any other question thrown at me on the fly.

It was a pleasure having you on MTA and wonderful to learn more about you, Jeff. Wishing you all the best, with much success with your books! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

In 2027 our New Testament God retires after two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. His replacement, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether homo-sapiens should be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy’s planetary operation standards.

The new God introduces himself to mankind by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his turnaround plan. Those attending must eliminate religious violence forever, without heavenly help, before the conference ends. Failure means humanity’s extinction.

God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must Ram and Bren attend by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a group of religious fanatics determined to kill them for promoting a false god. When conflicts within the conference intensify, Ram and Bren must do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and assure mankind’s survival.

Where to find the book:

Universal book link: https://books2read.com/u/47XNMg

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/First-Second-Coming-New-God/dp/1947392956

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/first-second-coming

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/first-second-coming/id1520329970?uo=4&mt=11&at=1010l9S2

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/466880106/First-Second-Coming-BOOK-ONE-IN-THE-NEW-GOD-SERIES

24symbols: https://www.24symbols.com/book/x/x/x?id=3520151

Angus & Robertson (Australia): https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/first-second-coming-jeff-pollak/p/9781393998044

Vivlio (France): https://www.vivlio.fr/ebooks/first-second-coming-9781393998044_9781393998044_10020.html

Connect with Jeff:

Website: jeffpollak.com
Facebook: JeffPollak, author
Twitter: @JSPollak

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Meet the Author: Cucina Tipica – An Italian Adventure by Andrew Cotto

Today we travel to Brooklyn, New York to chat with Andrew Cotto about how living in the hills south of Florence, being a Professor of English, The New York Times, martinis, Ernest Hemingway, Italian food and wine, being a rockstar, and having a sense of empathy come together as part of Andrew’s current and and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live and write in Brooklyn, New York. The city is my physical home as well as a source of much inspiration.

 In which genre do you write?

My genres vary – including coming-of-age, noir, and upmarket/commercial – which is probably not the best strategy for building an audience, but I tell the stories that come to me in the style in which they arrive.

How many published books do you have?

As of now, I have three published novels with two more under contract to be released in the next six months.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My latest, Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure, came to me a dozen years after living in the hills south of Florence when writing my first novel. I don’t know why it took so long, though I suspect it had to do with just having enough command of the territory (which I acquired after many subsequent visits).

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I’m a Professor of English, and I also write articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. The majority of my contributions are with The New York Times.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I don’t know about coffee or tea, but I’d like to have martinis and then a long, wine-soaked meal with Hemingway. I’m not sure what I’d ask him, but I imagine we’d get along well.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I’m fairly surprised by the breadth of my interests. I’ve covered a lot of territory, in both fiction and journalism, and I like that.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I love the satisfaction that comes from telling a story well and the impact this can have on other people. It is among the best feelings in the world when someone says that they have been touched or honored by what I wrote.

 List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I’m a really good cook and am an expert in Italian food and wine.
I’m lots of fun at parties.
I’d choose being a rockstar over a writer in a second.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I’m not sure, but if I did, I’d say that my itinerant childhood is why I’m a writer since it provided me so many personal challenges and exposure to so many different types of people/environments. It provided me with plenty of time to use my imagination, required me to be resourceful and resilient, and fostered a sense of empathy.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I set this up with the previous answer…Empathy! Being able to relate on a profound level to the experiences of others is what allows for effective storytelling.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Another one that’s been alluded to…Italy is my favorite place to visit by far. I don’t want to go anywhere else. You want to go to Disney World or Hawaii? Fine. Knock yourself out. I’m going to Italy. I’ve channeled this love into my latest novel and its forthcoming sequel, as well as many of my articles, and I am certain I will go to my grave loving Italy like no other place on earth. I even hope to literally go to my grave there after I retire to Italy at some point or just move there regardless of age. It’s the lifestyle that’s so accessible in Italy: great food, wine, cultural experiences all among the most physically beautiful natural terrain on earth.

What are you currently working on?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the Cucina Tipica sequel, which will take place mostly in Rome (the original is mostly Tuscany-based) and will be published in March of 2021. I’m also helping to provide some marketing help for a novel due this December, Black Irish Blues, which is a noir and a sequel to my second novel, Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery. I’m really excited about both projects.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure is the story of a disheartened American who arrives in Italy on holiday and decides he never wants to leave. What follows is a food-filled, wine-soaked travel adventure about one man’s quest for an antiquated existence in the modern world.

It was great to have you on MTA, Andrew. I read the digital version of The New York Times, so I will keep an eye out for your articles. Cucina Tipica sounds like a wonderful book. I’m adding it to my list! Wishing you all the best in future books and travels! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through any other bookseller.

Connect with Andrew:

https://andrewcotto.com/

https://www.instagram.com/andrewcotto

https://www.facebook.com/andrew.cotto.9/

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Meet the Author: Duty Bound Desire: The Sheikh’s Forced Marriage by Jennifer Jansen

Today we travel to Victoria, Australia to chat with Jennifer Jansen about how traveling, being an avid reader, teaching languages, creating characters she would like to meet, unplanned writing, a sombrero wearing penguin, and Spider-Man come together as part of Jennifer’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a writer from Victoria, Australia. I completed two degrees and then travelled the world which was the best education I could have had. Travel opens your mind and forces you to look past stereotypes. I was teaching languages for 18 years (I speak three so far) and I loved it but it takes a lot of energy which I don’t have anymore. I have always been an avid reader of romance, political thrillers and historical fiction and non-fiction. I decided reading is so good that I want to give that gift to others. On my website I write a blog that is a compilation of romance and history. Topics include: Island of the Immortals and A Western Woman in the Middle East.

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary romance and I’m loving it! Romance touches the heart and that’s what I want to do.

How many published books do you have?

I have three published romance novels – two of a trilogy, the third one will be released in late September, and a romance novella.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I used to write my little ‘books’ as a young child making my father read them over and over again. It wasn’t until I was offered a ghost writing position after 18 years in teaching that I realised how much I enjoy writing. I then decided to start writing my own books. I wanted to create characters that I would want to meet.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I don’t plan anything. I have a vague idea in my head but I cannot make a plan. I must start writing and the story reveals itself to me. Yes, it sounds weird even to me, but that’s the way it is.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

One of my favourite writers has a gorgeous office set up in her back yard. It is a beautiful, white wooden cabin set amongst all the trees and flowers. I would love something like that.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I have written a trilogy of books set in the royal palaces of desert kingdoms. My travels through the Arabian region had a profound effect on me. The ancient history, the awe inspiring archaeological feats, and the hospitality from beautiful people.

All this was the inspiration for my Desert Desires Trilogy – Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage, Desert Desires: Her True Destiny, and His Forbidden Passion. My next books will be based in Greece, another ancient civilisation and a place where the ancient and modern live side-by-side.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

Buenos dias. Can you tell me the way to Mehico? My cousin is there and tells me the weather is grrrreat!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Easy. Spiderman. I always loved that cartoon when I was a kid. I loved the theme song, I loved the character, I loved that he could swing high from anywhere. I still wish I could do that! Must be the kid in me. I haven’t lost my child-like heart. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can hold onto in life.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA and learn more about you, Jennifer. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Blurb for: Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage (Book 1 in the Desert Desires Trilogy)

After a disastrous first marriage which almost brought down his family, Crown Prince Nabil Al Massoud vowed never to marry again. However, his father’s ailing health and his nation’s need for a strong leader have thrust Nabil to the forefront. He must now take charge of his nation and to do that needs a suitable wife.

Princess Yasmin is one of few royally trained women who will nicely fit the bill. But she is strong, intelligent and stunningly beautiful, a dangerous combination for Nabil.

Yasmin is bound by duty to marry a man she hardly knows. The princess will go willingly to save her nation from the unthinkable, but she will be nobody’s subordinate.

Her new husband, while always respectful and careful, remains distant, keeping his word that this is a marriage of convenience only – for both of them. But between the sheets he can never truly hide his feelings and as time goes on he will be forced to face some uncomfortable truths from his past if this marriage is to survive.

Social Media links:

Website: https://1jenniferjansen.wixsite.com/author
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferjansenbooks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.jansen.16752
Allauthor: https://allauthor.com/author/jansenj/

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Meet the Author: Canaan Land by Richard Rossi

Today we travel to Hollywood to chat with Richard Rossi about how playing guitar in nightclubs, being a working actor, journaling longhand, “That Darn Cat”, synchronicity, and being a filmmaker come together as part of Richard’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I grew up in a musical family and I played guitar in nightclubs with my family as a boy to make money. I am currently in Hollywood finishing post-production on the film version of my recent novel “Canaan Land.”

In which genre do you write?

My latest novel, Canaan Land, is a faith-based love story, with both comedic and dramatic elements. It is currently available on Amazon as a novel, paperback, Kindle, and audiobook. It will be coming out as a movie at the end of this year.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published four books. A coming-of-age novel, “Stick Man,” a self-help book for artists entitled “Create Your Life,” “Sister Aimee” about a 1920’s female faith healing evangelist, and “Canaan Land,” my latest novel about a con man preacher who falls in love with a woman who is a sincere Christian.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As a boy I carried a notebook and wrote jokes and short stories. In my teen years, a creative writing teacher who recently passed, Jim Demcheck, poured gas on the flame and published some of my poems in a literary magazine. I also wrote songs as a teenager that had some success and performed them with my best friend and songwriting partner, Johnny Walker.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My most recent novel, “Canaan Land,” came out of things I experienced or observed working in my young adult years in the world of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity. I saw real signs and wonders, but also was shocked to discover some of the biggest names in televangelism were faking the miracles, and this inspired me to write a story contrasting the fake with the genuine.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I am a working actor, filmmaker, and guitarist.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Writing has been a catharsis for me, very healing to let out my emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It truly is therapeutic and it is an art form I can do in solitude.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Yes, I journal longhand three or more pages every morning, to drain my brain of the initial thoughts and feelings I experience at the beginning of the day. This is a form of meditation for me and much of my writing and art comes out of this.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss the innocence and a time in which people were more fully present and not distracted from cellphones and technology.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I watched one of my favorite movies when I was a boy, the 1965 Disney film “That Darn Cat” to regress and experience that childlike feeling again of innocence and good, clean, laughter and fun.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I have experienced synchronicity in which I feel like I was divinely guided, like having famous people cross my path who have helped me in my artistic journey. Sometimes I doubt divine providence when I see suffering, such as children abused by their parents and yet I know people who would make wonderful parents and are unable to conceive.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working with my colleague, Richard R. Krause Jr. finishing the editing of my movie “Canaan Land,” based on my latest novel. I’m also writing a sequel to my first novel “Stick Man” that is tentatively titled “Naked and Not Ashamed.”

It was wonderful learning more about you and your books, and upcoming movie! It was a pleasure having you on MTA, Richard. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

“Canaan Land” Blurb:

“Canaan Land” is a love story between Brother Billy Gantry, a charismatic con man, phone psychic, and preacher, who falls for Sister Sara Sunday, a sincere Christian and beautiful evangelist. She seeks to redeem “Brother Billy,” who manipulates the flock with fake miracles, including a stunt with gold glitter and feathers he claims are from angels. He turns her small online ministry into a growing Tinseltown racket involving celebrity converts and sermons at the Hollywood Bowl. Can Billy quit the religious show to find true faith and redemption? “Canaan Land” is an unapologetic look at modern religion and televangelism based on the writer’s personal experiences as a former faith healing evangelist. The novel is also a Hollywood motion picture.

REVIEWS

“Richard A. Rossi’s Canaan Land will certainly ruffle feathers and raise eyebrows in the Christian community. Although it was hard to swallow at times, I appreciated Rossi’s expose of the truth. This narrative depicts the verse “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13).” (Reader’s Favorite)

“Canaan Land, tops a list of most-anticipated independent novels and films. Rossi’s a former evangelist exorcising his own demons as he shares his journey from fundamentalism to freedom. Everything about Canaan Land is unique. It’s faith-based, yet edgy.” (Charisma Magazine)

“Canaan Land is not an attack on religion. It exposes the counterfeit to show the search for that which is pure, lovely, true.” (Christian Today)

Links:

Canaan Land website: https://www.canaanlandmovie.com

Canaan Land Trailer:

Richard Rossi Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Rossi/e/B004JYL9BM/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Canaan Land Facebook: https://facebook.com/canaanlandmovie

Canaan Land is on Instragram and Twitter @canaanlandmovie

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Meet the Author: What Branches Grow by T.S. Beier

Today we travel to Ontario to chat with T.S. Beier about how  paddle-boarding, tattoos, cross-stitch embroidery, Virginia Woolf, painting houses, freedom in Las Vegas, a Jurassic Park themed wedding, a boating license, a one-eyed pug, and Lake Huron come together as part of her current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Ontario, Canada (about 100km west of Toronto). I love to read Science Fiction and Victorian literature. I have two daughters and a partner; we live a very mundane life in suburbia. I love to travel, specifically to desolate landscapes or cliffs above roaring waves. I play video games (when I can) and I also love baking/cooking, paddle-boarding, craft beer, tattoos, soccer, cross-stitch embroidery, travel, and renovating my house. I’ve been an editor, a project coordinator, a house painter, and most recently an entrepreneur (risingactionpublishingco.com). I have a university degree (English), and certificates in Publishing, Creative Writing, and Interior Decorating. I have a strange obsession with ghost towns and the ruins of industry.

In which genre do you write?

I write science fiction in multiple sub-genres. My recently-released novel is post-apocalyptic, I’m working on a space opera trilogy, and I have finished a hard sci-fi drama. I also wrote a faux noir cyberpunk that is stuck two chapters from completion. In my early 20s, I wrote a five-book fantasy epic (which I’m sure leaves much to be desired today).

What are you currently reading?

I’m sure this will change by the time this is published, but I just finished a NetGalley arc of Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire by Dan Hanks and am jumping into Falcon’s Shadow, which is a sequel to Eight Pointed Cross, an utterly amazing historical fiction by fellow Canadian Marthese Fenech.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past, who would it be?

Virginia Woolf. That might sound strange, but I think she would be a very interesting person to talk to. She was a brilliant writer and pioneer within postmodernism. Granted, she wasn’t known to be the nicest of people, but I bet it would be an intellectually-stimulating conversation at least.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I kept a diary since I was twelve but stopped around age twenty-two. I had dozens of them. A couple of years ago I burned them all; I literally threw them into our backyard fire pit. I was pregnant at the time and I morbidly decided I didn’t want my future daughter to find my angsty, angry words if something happened to me during delivery (oh, how those hormones will get you). While I don’t think this rambling jeremiad helped my writing in any specific way, any writing is good for the craft.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

When I was in Las Vegas in 2019 I took off one day to “go to the desert” (I love the desert). I rented a Mustang convertible and spent 8 hours on the road by myself. I toured Red Rock Canyon and afterward I drove south along the highway, doing a mini road trip basing my stops on the game Fallout: New Vegas. It was one of the only days in my life I felt completely free – it was just me, the car, the road, the mountains, and the endless blue sky. I felt accountable to no one, as I had only the most basic of agendas. At one point I was on a sideroad and despite going drastically over the speed limit, I didn’t see a single person for over half an hour. The hint of danger (what would happen if the car broke down?) made the experience even more freeing. I have a post about it on my blog.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Learning new things. You can definitely learn new things as an adult, but not with the same sense of wonder that you do as a child. I get to watch it second-hand now with my daughters, which is nice.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

During my first pregnancy, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road during labour to psyche myself up for home birth as I knew it would be natural (aka no pain meds). What I didn’t expect was an episiotomy on top of this (also no pain meds), so I was happy I had channeled Furiosa hours earlier.

I had a Jurassic Park themed wedding (and my wedding dress was red).

I have a boating license and a firearms license. I had a motorcycle license too but I let it lapse.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

A documentary called Tread on Netflix about the “Killdozer” attack in 2004. One night years ago my partner and I were watching police car chase videos on Youtube (yes, we were under the influence). We came across a video of a very agitated man waging war against his town using a self-modified bulldozer-turned-tank (no one was hurt). When the documentary popped up on our feed a few weeks ago, we had to watch it. The movie shows the events from the angry man’s perspective but also that of the town that he felt wronged him. The reenactments were a little cheesy but the rest was fascinating.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have three pets:

I’d ask my one-eyed pug whether he regrets his decision to challenge a Shepherd-Mastiff to a fight (hence the single eye).

I’d ask my Shepherd-Mastiff whether he regrets stealing my GoPro from me while I was swimming and dropping it into Lake Erie.

And I’d ask my cat whether she regrets all the dozens of smaller animals she’s killed (likely not).

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Canada is so vast and varied in its beauty, so I’m going to narrow it to my province. As such, the coast of Lake Huron is where I love to be. Beautiful white sand beaches, tropical-blue water (that can also get very rough – I was lucky to witness a huge water spout this past summer), and quaint little towns all the way from Grand Bend to Tobermory. I love renting cottages along the coast, boating, and paddle-boarding on the water. It’s essentially a freshwater ocean.

What are you currently working on?

A space opera trilogy! It’s lighter in tone than my first book, but it’s still got lots of action scenes. There’s snarky bander, space battles, an unorthodox romance, and weird aliens with interesting cultural and physical traits. You should see my notebook to keep track of all of their idiosyncrasies! The book is like Mass Effect meets Firefly meets Alien/Event Horizon.

Tell us about your most recent book.

What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic adventure novel, was the subject of my Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing. I chose to self-publish it because I had time off and decided to produce it myself (I paid for an editor and cover designer, of course). It’s about a resilient and misanthropic woman on a quest to find civilization thirty-five years after a war ravaged the United States. She is joined by a Byronic male hero and an eccentric Millennial in his 60s with his pug dog. It has an inclusive cast – two of the three main characters are people of colour, the female characters are varied and complex, and one of the main characters is bisexual. They travel through strange towns in the wasteland, trying to find a city that’s rumoured to have survived the war. It has fun banter, exciting action scenes, a slow-burn romance, and some nasty villains. It’s part Mad Max, part Fallout, part The Road.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Tina! You sound like so much fun!! If you ever make it down to Reno (eight hours north of Vegas), give me a shout! I think you’d love Lake Tahoe! Wishing you all the best. – Camilla

Book Blurb:

What Branches Grow

A boldly imagined, exhilarating quest through post-apocalyptic America, where human nature is torn between the violent desperation to survive and the desire to forge connection.

Thirty-five years ago, the world was ravaged by war. Delia, driven from her home in Savannah by loss, travels North in search of a future. Gennero is tortured by his violent past and devotion to his hometown. Ordered to apprehend Delia, he follows her into the post-apocalyptic landscape. The wasteland is rife with dangers for those seeking to traverse it: homicidal raiders, dictatorial leaders, mutated humans, and increasingly violent and hungry wildlife.

What Branches Grow is an unflinching depiction of life after civilization, where, above all else, trust is the hardest thing to achieve and to give. The survivors have an audacious dream of a better life, but their quest may end up being a fruitless endeavour in a world openly hostile to hope.

Where to find the book:

You can find What Branches Grow on Amazon and Kobo.

Website https://www.nostromopublications.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/TSBeier

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.ca/nostromopublications/

Booktube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbh_JV7M8K11U2AWIkNfNA/

Insta https://www.instagram.com/tinasbeier/

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Meet the Author: Storm Witch by Alys West

Today we travel to York to chat with Alys West about how teaching creative writing, copious amounts of tea, being a book whisperer, the Orkney Islands, witchcraft, folk music, Victoria Sponge, crocheting, Jane Austen, Loch Linnhe, and Scooby Doo come together as part of West’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the beautiful city of York in the UK. My stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places. My work draws on my own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. I have a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teach creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. I’m also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

Book whisperer … I like that!! 

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy and steampunk. My books have magic in a real world setting and would be classed as urban fantasy except they don’t happen in an urban setting. I wrote my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter because I love classic romances with dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The fact that it’s steampunk allowed me to have added dirigibles and copious amounts of tea.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Beltane and Storm Witch (which are Books 1 and 2 of The Spellworker Chronicles) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Storm Witch was inspired by visiting the Orkney Islands, just off the northern coast of Scotland. They’re incredibly beautiful and I fell in love with the landscape and the history. There’s a folk tale from Orkney about a young woman called Janet Forsyth who was accused of witchcraft because it was believed she could control the weather. I took that idea and asked ‘what if she had that power and couldn’t control it?’ That became the seed from which Storm Witch grew although I threw in a lot of other things along the way including a sexy, motorbike riding druid.

This looks like an amazingly beautiful spot. It’s wonderful how you were inspired by a folk tale tied to this location. 

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I listen to a lot of music. I’m particularly into folk music and go to as many gigs as I can. I’ve really missed live music during lockdown but it’s been great to see musicians performing online from their sitting rooms and gardens. I love to read and always have at least one book on the go. I also love baking and crocheting. I make an excellent Victoria Sponge and am very slowly crocheting a throw for my sofa.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’d love to meet Jane Austen. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager and I’d have so many questions to ask her like ‘Was Darcy modelled on anyone she knew?’ ‘Which of her heroines is most like herself?’ ‘What job would she have liked to do if careers had been available to women in her lifetime?’ If it was going well and we were really getting on, I’d also like to know exactly which steps Louisa Musgrove fell down in Lyme Regis as I wonder every time I visit.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Friends. I’ve met such a lot of amazing, wonderful, creative people through writing and I’m incredibly grateful for each of them. Writers need to hang out with other writers as only another writer will understand if you’ve got a plot hole you can’t work out or a character arc that doesn’t fit. My writing pals are all over the UK and further afield and I don’t get to see them very often but we keep in touch online and they’re a really important part of my life as a writer.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?

I met a lady who was a practicing witch for coffee in Glastonbury. She was very open about the craft and explained to me the importance of intention in spellcasting. She gave me some great examples of times when magic had worked in her life. It was a fascinating insight and really helped me to develop the spellworker characters in Storm Witch.

That sounds like it was a ton of fun, and interesting!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be Scooby Doo. I absolutely loved it especially that Shaggy and Scooby would somehow always accidentally outwit the bad guys. I’d like to be one of the ‘pesky kids’ who made sure the baddies didn’t get away with it.

Huge Scooby Doo fan here!! Loved watching this when I was growing up.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d like to be Winston Grant for the day. He’s a druid, an archaeologist and rides a kickass black motorbike. I’d love the chance to experience the magical power I’ve given to the druids in my books. In Storm Witch, Winston is working at the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig in Orkney which fascinates me so I’d like the chance to get my hands dirty and do a bit of excavating. I’m an absolute coward about motorbikes but I think if I was being Winston for the day I’d be able to leave that behind as he has no fear. It’d be fun to ride like he does and not be constantly worried about crashing into a tractor.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The last movie I saw in the cinema was Emma. I chose it because of my love of Jane Austen and I wasn’t disappointed. It was funny and tender and beautifully shot. Johnny Flynn wasn’t exactly the Mr Knightley I’d imagined but I soon got over that and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last movie I watched at home was Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers which I’ve seen before. I love it because it’s pure Hollywood glamour. It’s got some wonderful songs in it and, of course, the dancing is exquisite.

These look like great movies! I’m adding them to my “watch” list.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I love visiting Scotland. Orkney has been my favourite place for the past ten years but I’ve recently discovered a little corner of Argyll near Castle Stalker which is absolutely perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. You can catch a tiny ferry across to the Isle of Lismore, go on glorious walks around the shore and I’m told (although I’ve not seen one yet) see otters.

It was great fun having you on MTA! Orkney sounds like a gorgeous, inspiring place. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for sharing so much about yourself. Wishing you all the best, Alys!  – Camilla

Blurb:

Storm Witch

Although not a witch herself, magic had always been part of Jenna’s life, guiding and nurturing her childhood. Her mother Nina was a member of The Order of Spellworkers and Druids, enforcing the laws of the magical community. But six winter solstices ago Nina was murdered. Six winter solstices ago the other members of The Order died or disappeared. And six winter solstices ago Jenna banished magic from her life, fleeing back home to Orkney.

Jenna thought she had re-built a calmer world for herself until her ex Hal returns, and someone starts to practice dangerous magic on the islands. When water, sea and sky elements are being manipulated to destroy, maim and kill, how can she deny handsome druid Winston’s plea for help?

As seer Zoe Rose foretells of a catastrophic storm which will engulf Orkney, Jenna and her friends must race against the elements to stop the storm witch. Only through chaos will Jenna find the answers she’s been searching for. Only through chaos can her heart decide who is the right man for her. And only through chaos will she finally discover who killed her mother.

Where to find the book:

Storm Witch is available as e-book and paperback from Amazon at https://smarturl.it/57nnjq

Website and Social Media:

Website: www.alyswest.com

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer or at her readers’ group: ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles

Instagram: @alyswestwriter

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Meet the Author: Guns Under the Bed – Memories of a Young Revolutionary by Jody A. Forrester

Today we’re traveling to Venice (Los Angeles) to chat with Jody Forrester about how the Pacific Ocean, Nancy Drew, Edward Hopper’s house, roller skating, and being doggedly persistent come together as part of Jody’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am that rare thing, a native Angeleno, raised mostly in
Hollywood during the fifties and sixties. I live with my husband,
musician John Schneider, in Venice (Los Angeles) just six blocks from
the Pacific Ocean.

In which genre do you write?

Primarily memoir, but also short fiction.

How many published books do you have?

My first book, a memoir called Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, will be released on September 1, 2020, by Odyssey Books. At least six short stories and essays have been published on both online and in print literary journals.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I wrote my first story when I was ten, pretty much lifted from the Nancy Drew books that I loved so much. Having always been an avid reader, I had a deep desire to write but it took a long time for me to have the time and confidence to pursue the dream.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I revise, from what I can see, many times more than most writers. It’s not unusual for me to revise a story more than a dozen times, and my memoir required at least twice that.

What would you choose as your mascot, and why?

My dog is always close to me when I write, keeping me company and my feet warm.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I once saw the painter Edward Hopper’s house on a bluff on Cape Cod, with a large window overlooking the ocean and surrounded by old-growth trees and wild flowers. That would be a wonderful place to write, though I wonder how much I would get done with such a view!

What are you currently reading?

Find Me, by Andre Aciman, a sequel to Call Me By Your Name. He’s one of my favorites writers and his latest book doesn’t disappoint.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Read, see friends, walk my dog, exercise.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

When I’m on a good roll, how transporting it can be. I love how time gets swallowed up until I emerge feeling like I’ve just gone on an amazing trip.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

I have a box of spiral bound journals that I began writing in when I was about eight but since I’ve been writing stories and memoir, that’s fallen to the wayside. I’m not sure why.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I did have a lot of fun riding my bike around the neighborhood, roller skating down the steepest hills I could find, and making up games and plays. But otherwise my childhood wasn’t so great, and I’m much happier as an adult.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Don’t be stopped by fear or lack of confidence. It’s all in your head, all made up, not based in reality about who you are.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I’m doggedly persistent and don’t give up easily. Otherwise, I would never get anything written because it’s always tempting to give up.

What are you currently working on?

I’m not writing now since all my concentration is on promoting my book. Marketing and writing occupy different modes of thinking and I seem to be unable to do them both at the same time.

It was great to have you be a part of MTA, Jody. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, is available in brick-and-mortar and online bookstores and for order through Jody’s website, jodyaforrester.com.

Praise:

“Jody Forrester’s memoir is at once an important eyewitness account of how American student activism in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s turned radical, and a portrait of a young woman’s struggle to find her way in the world. Guns Under the Bed traces her journey from innocence to experience, and, in doing so, offers lessons that resonate today. Heartbreaking and edifying, this story is difficult to forget.”
— Samantha Dunn, author of Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life

“Evocative, compelling, terrifying, sad, and ultimately triumphant. A classic coming of age narrative about a woman who seeks a sense of belonging that she doesn’t find in her family or her body.”
— Emily Rapp Black, author of Poster Child: A Memoir (Bloomsbury USA); The Still Point of the Changing World (Penguin Press)

”Every memoir turns on a fundamental question: How did a person like this get into a place like that? In Jody Forrester’s case the question becomes distinctly fraught: How did a middle-class white girl from LA find herself a member of a deluded Maoist sect, armed to the teeth and prepared to die for the revolution? Her odyssey through the last days of the mythical 1960’s touches all the sweet spots of that time even as it illuminates some of its more shadowy corners: our red-hot anger at war and racism, our alienation from the hollow promises of a corrupt establishment, and our certainty that we could heal our hurting hearts and at the same time transform the world into a place of joy and justice. But of course there are no universals—Forrester’s journey is uniquely hers, and hers alone—no easy answers, and no casual causal claims. We see a young woman bursting to live, determined to find meaning in her life, and—for all of her mistakes and miscalculations—a woman with the courage to storm the heavens.”
Bill Ayers (Fugitive Days: A Memoir; co-founder Weather Underground)

Connect with Jody:

Website – jodyaforrester.com

FB – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001532824693
Instragram – https://www.instagram.com/jodyaforrester/
Twitter –  https://twitter.com/jaforrester2

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Meet the Author: Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien

Today we travel to Guernsey to chat with Jenny O’Brien about how being a nurse, being bullied, fifteen-minute coffee breaks, history repeating itself, murdering garden weeds, being a Pantzer, living in a small cottage, all-year-round sea swimming, and Radio Four come together as part of Jenny’s past and current life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Dublin, moved to Wales and now live in Guernsey, where the Potato Peel Pie book/movie is set. I work as a nurse and in my spare time I write. Recently I have been lucky to have been picked up by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, for my detective series. Apart from that time is limited.

How have I not heard of this movie? I just watched the trailer and now I must see it! Thank you!

In which genre do you write?

I write crime thrillers currently but I also write for children and the occasional romance.

How many published books do you have?

A few! Two published with HQ Digital, Silent Cry and Darkest Night, with a third one in the series, Fallen Angel, coming out in November. I also have a couple of children’s books, a few standalones, like the thriller, The Stepsister and a Downton Abbey styled romance series.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I never imagined that I would end up writing a book. Like most people, while the idea of writing has always appealed, it was something that I never thought I’d get around to doing. Then about fifteen-years ago a character started forming in my mind. A little boy who was being bullied. As someone with a history of bullying it is always something that’s on my radar: my memories are drizzled with unpleasant events from my school days. But lack of confidence was a huge barrier and it took over a year to find the courage to put pen to paper. Who was I to think that I could write a book anyway? However, when I eventually picked up a pen I found I couldn’t stop.

My first book, Boy Brainy, took six weeks to write and six years to publish. At the time I was working as a nurse at the hospital, I still am. The kids at that point were three and under, including twins. The reality was I didn’t have time to think let alone write; most of the story evolved on a notebook I kept in the pocket of my scrubs, which I scribbled in during my fifteen-minute coffee breaks.

Fast forward six years. I was still writing, finding it a hobby that fitted in easily with running around after the children and the day job. I had rejection after rejection from publishers but carried on writing, more for myself than anything. I probably still wouldn’t be published if a bullying incident hadn’t happened to one of my children in the playground. The realisation that history was repeating itself was a stark one and that evening I went onto Amazon’s self-publishing arm and launched Boy Brainy onto the unsuspecting public. There was no fancy book launch. I didn’t even tell my husband what I’d done. Instead I went into the garden and murdered some weeds. Boy Brainy, written to raise the self-esteem of bullied children, has been consistently number one in its genre and is permanently free on Amazon, as an eBook.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I’m a Pantzer, which means that I don’t plot my books. I have an idea and some characters in my head and a blank page. I don’t even take notes apart from using the Header and Footer bars for key characteristics such as age and eye colour.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Ha. I don’t have one. I live in a small cottage with my husband, three teens and two cats. I write on my lap in whichever chair one of the cats isn’t sitting on.

What are you currently reading?

How to Disappear by Gillian McCallister.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Darkest Night is based on a favourite story theme of mine. Someone waking up next to a dead body. It’s not an original plot by any means. Jane Fonda was excellent in the movie ‘The Morning After,’ based on a similar premise. But I wanted to do it differently. After a conversation with my daughter, I decided to switch it a little and have a woman going to bed with a man only to wake up beside the dead body of a woman. I used Llandudno for the setting, a town I used to visit as a young child and subsequently lived there in my twenties before moving to Guernsey. The West Shore, where the murder is set, is where Alice Liddell used to have a family home – the inspiration for the character Alice in Wonderland.

I’ve never heard of or seen ‘The Morning After’ either! Thanks for that one, too.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I’m a nurse at the local hospital. If I’m not at work, writing or nursing, I’m either reading or swimming: I’m an all-year-round sea swimmer. There’s also a fair bit of running around after the teens!

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

I am one of these strange individuals who rarely listens to music or watches television. I like silence, or Radio Four. I do get very nervous public speaking but a couple of deep breaths has to suffice.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I had hope to be an actress but RADA did not agree during my London audition.

I’m short, five foot or thereabouts.

The last time I turned on the television was 2018 but, funnily enough I still get to dust it.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

What are your owners like?

Why won’t you eat non-fish cat food?

What do you dream about?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Perseverance. It’s taken me twelve years to become a traditionally published writer – most would have had more sense and given up years ago.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on book four in my crime series, featuring second-generation Italian detective, Gabriella Darin. It’s set in Llandudno and a ten-year old has gone missing.

Thanks for inviting me to take part.

It was wonderful having you on MTA, Jenny. I very much enjoyed learning more about you and your writings. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Darkest Night came out on the 17th July and is available in all the usual places.

DARKEST NIGHT
BOOK BLURB

A DEAD WOMAN. AN IMPOSSIBLE CRIME.

Christine De Bertrand wakes up to her worst nightmare: rather than the man she went to bed with, lying beside her is her housemate, Nikki – dead. With no memory of the night before, Christine can’t explain what happened, and the police are baffled.

For DC Gaby Darin, newly arrived from Swansea after her last case ended in tragedy, it’s a mystery she’s determined to solve. When another woman goes missing, Gaby faces a race against time to uncover the link between the two victims and find the man who vanished from Christine’s bedroom. But as Gaby gets close, the killer gets closer – and soon one of Gaby’s own team is in unimaginable danger…

Darkest night book link: Darkest Night: An addictive crime thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat! (Detective Gaby Darin, Book 2)

Social media links

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JennyOBrienWriter/
Twitter https://twitter.com/scribblerjb
Blog https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com/

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Meet the Author: Hamartia by Raquel Rich

Today we travel to Toronto to chat with Raquel Rich about how a lion, a wolf, being bold, quick and calculated decisions, the Canadian Rocky Mountains, being an extravert, and Spanish classes in Peru come together as part of Raquel’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I love to travel, suntan, walk my dog, and am obsessed with all things Beauty & the Beast (Disney). I despise cold weather, balloons and turtlenecks, and writing about myself in the third person but noticed all the real authors do that. Born and raised in Canada to Brazilian parents, I live in the Toronto area with my family. I’m married to the guy I’ve been with since I was fifteen (my baby daddy), and my superpowers include being a mom to two awesome grown-ass boys and one fur baby.

In which genre do you write?

Sci-fi, thriller, general fiction, and … is travel a genre? I blog about my trips here and there, so I’m going to go ahead and count it as a genre.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I might be a psychopath. I don’t outline my stories and am sometimes just as shocked about a plot twist when I write it as the reader is when they read it. When my characters realize I’m screwing them over, they argue and plead, “Raquel, how could you do this to me? How am I supposed to get out of this jam?” and I respond by laughing like a mad scientist and not a sci-fi writer. My inner psychopath rubs her little hands together and thinks, “This should be fun.”

What would you choose as your spirit animal, and why?

I’m caught between two animals; a lion and a wolf. On one hand, I’m a lion; I’m lazy, bold, and can’t be bothered to make nice. Most cats, and especially Lions, have a certain I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude and care very little about what others think of them. Wolves, on the other hand, are complex and ultimately misunderstood. They appear threatening, but really, a wolf is just a playful big, scary dog who is deeply devoted to its family. I teeter-totter on the cat/dog spectrum depending on the day.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins, My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins. Yes, you read that right. I’m reading three books at the same time. I’m weird. I give “mood reader” a whole new meaning. Also, I’m an avid reader so by the time you see this post, I’ll have a new batch of books in circulation.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

1. Settle an argument: who’s your favourite, me or daddy?

2. We give you ear and belly rubs on demand, let you crowd us out of our bed, and feed you high-end food that costs more than any normal person should spend on dog food. You’re basically a dog-princess. Why, oh why do you run away as if the house is on fire when you see an open door?

3. If you answered “Daddy” to question #1, bearing in mind that I’m the one who walks you, I’d like to ask you again: who’s your favourite? ME or daddy?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Bold.

Though some might view my decisions as spontaneous and risky, I (usually) have a solid reason for my madness. My decisions are quick but calculated. Before embarking on an adventure like forgoing a regular job to write a book, or travelling to unknown places, I ask myself, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” If the answer isn’t “sudden death” then I typically shrug and go for it. This strategy isn’t without its flaws, life hasn’t been perfect, but shrugging things off when they don’t work out has become one of my superpowers.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

The Rocky Mountains. Downtown Toronto. Puerto Backyarda. I have travelled to over 30 countries and have yet to see any place more beautiful than the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I love the wilderness, but I also love big cities and Toronto has everything to satisfy any big city lover’s desires. As for Puerto Backyarda, what can I say? There’s no place like home. My backyard is where I read, write, and my favourite place to host friends and family.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

Soooo… any solo date someplace hot that includes making new friends would be the perfect solo date. I’m not the stereotypical writer who loves solitude. I’m an extravert. Yes, I’m cold, but I’m also outgoing and love meeting new people in new places. My favourite way to do this is by immersing myself in the culture when I travel. I have volunteered in a school in Vietnam. I have stayed with a homestay family and enrolled in Spanish classes in Peru. In both instances, I made lasting friendships with some really cool people.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished the sequel to Hamartia, Deus Ex Machina, after three never-ending years. I’m so sick of writing about these characters so I can tell you, without a doubt, there will not be a third installment. Now, I’ve picked up a story I started a long time ago titled Bridge of Secrets. It follows a simple young woman who, after her mother’s passing, sets out on a journey to learn about her family. As she untangles a web of lies, she learns why some secrets are best left buried six feet under.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Hamartia is a time travel thriller. It’s a story about a woman trying to save her son from a disease plaguing the human race. She agrees to participate in an illegal clinical trial, travelling back in time in search of the cure. When she arrives, she discovers a horrible truth; saving her son will come at a great cost—the lives of others. The human race is counting on her to let her son die.

It was great having you on MTA, Raquel. I very much enjoyed your boldness! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Hamartia is available through most online retailers, including Amazon, or you can ask your favourite bookstore to order it in for you. If you love it, consider leaving a review. If you hate it, please don’t tell anyone (kidding, not kidding).

Book link (Hamartia):

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50653245-hamartia

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0844VX3M2/

Author links:

Website & blog: https://raquelrich.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rich.raquel/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRaquelRich/

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Meet the Author: The Chair Man by Alex Pearl

Today we travel to London to chat with Alex Pearl about how copywriting, British advertising, public toilets, reading novels, lunchtime recitals, cooking, English Heritage, Hogarth Worldwide, Oxford Castle Unlocked’s prison, and being accidentally locked in a local record shop come together as part of Alex’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a retired advertising copywriter living in London, UK. And I’ve turned to writing fiction in the twilight years of my writing career. My first book was a novella for children – ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, which has just been selected by the Indie Project to become available to public libraries across the US and Canada. My recent full length novel, ‘The Chair Man’ is a thriller set in 2005 following the terrorist attack on London’s transport system.

How many published books do you have?

I consider myself a novice novelist. To date, I have only written one novella, one short story and one full-length novel. For my entire working life, I was employed by advertising agencies as a copywriter. And the only reason I became a copywriter was because my creative partner at art school could draw better than I could, while my punctuation was a little more proficient than his.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

It sounds strange but I only really fell in love with the craft of writing copy when I was thrown into the world of advertising at the beginning of the 1980s. While at art college my creative partner and I had admired the creativity of British advertising in print and TV and had attempted to emulate it by creating our own campaigns for various products. Perhaps one of our most successful attempts was for Diocalm diarrhea tablets, which featured a series of holiday snaps of public toilets around the world. If memory serves me correctly one of
the headlines read ‘Tourist spots to avoid this summer.’ One of these loos was distinctly skew-whiff and below it read the caption ‘Tower of Pisa’. And the strapline was: ‘Don’t let your stomach upset your holiday.’

Anyway, it wasn’t until I started writing body copy for clients that I really began to appreciate the craft of penning witty and pithy text. My first creative director, a lovely man by the name of Ken Mullen was inspirational. He is in fact the only copywriter to have had his headlines (for The Times) quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. (These included gems like ‘Our sages know their onions’ and ‘No pomp; just circumstance.’) Thanks to his wit and energy, I was encouraged to immerse myself in great copywriting, as well as brilliant writing in the form of cinema, theatre and of course, literature.

This said, it would take around 30 years before I would attempt to write my first work of fiction. And it began towards the end of my copywriting career. At the time I was working for a large American agency that was being merged with one of New York’s oldest companies, FCB. The merger was something of a nightmare and was described amusingly at the time by a certain commentator as being akin to ‘the Hindenburg coming to the rescue of the Titanic’. The process was long and painful and many of the agency’s clients jumped ship in the process.

Work during this period dried up completely, so to occupy myself I began to write a novella for my children. By the time I was eventually made redundant, all I had to remove from my office was a portfolio of laminated press ads, a Collins Dictionary and a tatty manuscript entitled ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, which made it into print in 2011.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished reading ‘The Last Lemming’ by my good friend Chris Chalmers who, like me, used to be an advertising copywriter. This is his fifth book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s an engaging yarn that combines mystery, humour and a dash of romance to great effect. In Mr Chalmers’ inimitable style, we are introduced to the lives of two disparate central characters: in the form of TV naturalist, Prof Leo Saunders and Claire Webster, a young Personal Trainer with aspirations to become an investigative journalist.

There are two distinct threads to the narrative: one set in the mid 1980s and the other in the present-day narrated by our amateur female journalist. The plot involves Saunders admitting on Youtube just before dying that his one claim to fame – the discovery of the Potley Hill lemming – was in fact a hoax, and that a certain advertising luminary had ‘blood on his hands.’ While the stunt is eventually written off as nothing more than unreliable ramblings of a sick man, Webster decides to investigate and use her findings for her dissertation on her journalism course.

This entertaining and deftly plotted tale involves a cast of colourful characters including some of the furry variety. It’s a skilfully woven yarn with some lovely descriptive passages that establish time and place. And in the best tradition, there are, of course, dead bodies.

The other book I have just started is a dystpoian climate novel ‘By the Feet of Men’ by Grant Price. This is a new genre to me, and this one is certainly compelling and well written. My next book in the queue is the bestselling ‘Beneath a Scarlet Sky’ by Mark Sullivan. Set during the second world war in Italy, the novel has received rave reviews and I have been meaning to read it for some while, so I’m looking to get stuck into it shortly.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Seven years ago my wife suddenly became very ill and ended up in a wheelchair. It’s been a tough journey for the whole family, but my wife is a very strong and resilient person and it was her strength of character that sparked the idea behind my novel, ‘The Chair Man’ whose protagonist is the victim of the London terrorist attack in 2005.

My central character is also a strong and determined by nature, and the idea behind the storyline grew from this kind of determination to succeed against all the odds. And, of course, I have inevitably come to know a reasonable amount about spinal conditions and the very real challenges of being wheelchair-bound; as well as the impact it can have on family dynamics. At the same time, I wanted to write a thriller that revolved around Islamic terrorism.

So combining these elements seemed like a good idea. The fact that very few wheelchair users take central stage in modern thrillers was also a huge incentive to redress the imbalance.

Tell us more about ‘The Chair Man’.

‘The Chair Man’ revolves around Michael Hollinghurst, a successful corporate lawyer living a comfortable, suburban life in leafy North West London. But on 7 July 2005, his life is transformed when he steps on a London underground train targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. While most passengers in his carriage are killed, Michael survives the explosion but is confined to a wheelchair as a result.

Coming to terms with his predicament and controlling his own feelings of guilt as a survivor conspire to push him in a direction that is out of character and a tad reckless. In a quest to seek retribution, he resorts to embracing the internet and posing as a radical Islamist in order to snare potential perpetrators.

Much to his surprise, his shambolic scheme yields results and is brought to the attention of both GCHQ and a terrorist cell. But before long, dark forces begin to gather and close in on him. There is seemingly no way out for Michael Hollinghurst. He has become, quite literally, a sitting target.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I spend my time reading novels; browsing the internet; watching movies; listening to music and going to lunchtime recitals in London; cooking; and pretty mundane household chores.

Before COVID19 struck, I also volunteered as an Explainer at Kenwood House, a historic house owned by English Heritage. Here I’d explain the house’s history to visitors and give the occasional talk about the house’s art collection. I love history and art. During COVID 19 I gave a presentation to 120 members of English Heritage on the subject of John Constable and his place in the history of landscape painting. You can view the presentation here:

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

There is one fairly surreal episode that comes to mind. When I was in my teens I was something of a classical music enthusiast and an avid collector of vinyl records. During my Joseph Haydn phase I was keen to collect recordings of all the symphonies written by the great maestro – he wrote no fewer than 106. Anyway, on one of many visits to the local record shop one Christmas Eve, I spent a very pleasant hour or so browsing through the shop’s collection, reading the sleeve notes, and deciding which recording to spend my pocket money on.

When finally deciding on a particular disc, I took said record to the counter and waited patiently for someone to serve me. The shop had been pretty quiet, so I imagined staff were taking it fairly easy in the back room with tea and festive mince pies. Some minutes passed and still nobody materialised, so I began to cough loudly in an exagerated fashion to advertise my presence. But still nobody came. Finally, and with some indignation, I went behind the counter and stepped into the back room. It was empty. The place had been abandoned.

Dumbstruck by this bizarre state of affairs, I reluctantly put down the the disc and stomped over to the front door and yanked it hard. In doing so, I very nearly pulled my arm off. It was locked. I was alone amid the twinkling lights and Christmas tree, and it looked as if I’d be here for the duration of Christmas and Boxing Day, and would have to forego Christmas turkey, not to mention Christmas pudding and custard.

Fortunately, the shop did have a telephone (this was well before the days of mobile phones). This was to be my lifeline. I immediately called my father and he got onto the local police, who eventually tracked down a caretaker who possessed a set of keys. Trouble was he lived some considerable distance from the shop, and it was at least two hours before he arrived with the keys and was able to release me from my temporary prison. Needless to say, I never did manage to collect all 106 symphonies by Haydn and my enthusiasm for his compositions was never quite the same.

What is your most extravagant form of book marketing?

My most ambitious form of marketing was filming a trailer for my first book. Here’s the story behind its production:

There I was in the bar of the Holiday Inn in Welbeck Street with my old partner in crime, John Mac who is an advertising photographer, when the subject turned to my children’s book (Sleeping with the Blackbirds), which I’d written some little while back.

John has boundless energy and is always looking to get involved in interesting projects, and it was his suggestion that I try and market the thing. I should explain here that the book was originally written for my kids and published by Penpress to raise money for the homeless charity Centrepoint. But following the publication and the drafting of a commercial participation agreement that released me from any tax liabilities, my wife became seriously ill and the book was put on the back burner and received precious little in the way of marketing.

As it happens, I had already written a script to promote the book that had featured a letter written by the tale’s protagonist, 11-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley that appears at the beginning of the book. As an ungainly young boy who’s being tormented by bullies, Roy writes to Amnesty International (only he refers to the charity as Amnesia International) pleading for their help.

I shared my script with John who loved the intrigue of it, but wasn’t entirely convinced by all my visual thoughts, which were pretty static. “We just need something more visually dynamic,” he said while scratching the top of his head.

In the letter narrated by Roy, we learn that his tormentor, Harry Hodges is the son of a criminal who is in prison, and it was this section of the script that excited John. “We have to find a prison to film in mate. Then we can move away from beautifully lit domestic still lifes and into atmospheric interiors with eery sound effects.” I could see exactly where he was coming from and nodded in agreement. This was to be John’s first valuable contribution.

His next visual idea concerned the very last scene in which Roy talks about offering his services free of charge for any future publicity. My original visual was a simple newspaper headline taken from the book. But John hated it – quite rightly. I didn’t much care for it myself. He gave me one of his funny looks and I could tell he was deep in thought. “Look. It has to end with a dramatic crescendo – a flourish.

I know… we can have a load of paparazzi shot against a black background firing off flashes in quick succession followed by a dramatic shot of a newspaper falling onto paving stones in slow motion.” The thing with John is that he makes it all seem so easy.

But he hadn’t quite finished. “And to finish the whole thing, why don’t we have a flock of animated blackbirds flying across the screen, forming a black background out of which we could reverse out some nice reviews?”

Most conversations of this nature would probably have just ended here. After all, the logistics of producing a short film like this to John’s exacting standards would require a huge effort. But as with everything John throws himself into, he doesn’t just do ideas; he carries them through. Within a couple of days he had produced an exquisite black and white storyboard that he had photographed himself and had arranged a meeting with his contacts at Hogarth Worldwide – London’s premier post-production house. Needless to say, they loved it and were keen to produce it.

From this moment onwards the project began to take on a life of its own. I found myself playing the roles of location scout, stylist and casting director, all rolled into one.

First off, we had to find the right voice for our eleven-year-old protagonist Roy Nuttersley. So at John’s suggestion I ran an ad on the website Star Now, and set up an audition in the bar area of the Regents Park Holiday Inn. This is a perfect space for voice auditions as it’s large, quiet and free. Ten parents answered the ad on behalf of their 11-year-old sons, along with one chap of 40 who was keen to audition for the part himself. Needless to say, we politely declined his offer but arranged to audition all the other candidates.

We were very fortunate to have so many young actors to choose from, and by mid-day, we had pencilled two possible candidates, but following lunch this changed with the arrival of Jacob Tofts. His mother deliberately sat at another table so as not to distract her son, and Jacob took a quick look at the script and then proceeded to read it with such natural expression and feeling that John and I knew immediately that our quest was over. We’d found Roy Nuttersley. The following week we arranged to record Jacob at one of Hogarth’s lovely sound studios. Jacob is not only very talented, but also utterly charming and personable. I have no doubt that this young lad has a very bright future ahead of him.

Finding a prison to film in isn’t one of life’s easiest tasks. John’s initial idea was to use the prison set at Wimbledon Film Studios – the very same set that had been used by TV productions like The Bill. But we soon discovered that the studios had gone into liquidation in 2014 and that the film set had been torn down.

So I looked into finding decommissioned prisons that one could hire out. But the trouble here was that these looked too modern for a suburban fantasy, were miles outside London and were also prohibitively expensive to hire. Most locations charge for the day; we only needed to film for a couple of hours. So it was with enormous relief that I stumbled upon Oxford Castle Unlocked, the 1,000 year old site that comprises various historic edifices including a crypt, and yes, a prison – or to be more precise, Prison D-Wing. The gaol was built in the 1800s and remained in use as a high security prison until 1996, and the whole site is now run as a museum. I was on the blower right away and discovered that we could film for an hour before the place opened to the general public. With these facts quickly established it was time to arrange our first recce.

As we thought, the prison with its corridors, creaky gates and Dickensian cells was absolutely perfect for our purposes. The only problem was that John was going to need a minimum of two hours to set up and shoot at least four sequences, so he took the manager aside and suggested we double the fee if the museum could double the filming time by opening up 2 hours earlier.

It worked, and two weeks later we were back, this time with camera, lenses, lighting equipment and a fully kitted out prison guard in the form of one Philip Francis. Phil does a lot of film extra work and looked the part in his prison guard’s uniform, which I had managed to secure from Foxtrot costumiers and ebay. While John positioned his camera and lighting for the first shot Phil told me about his previous jobs. Among other things he’d been a gardener and had lovingly tended the late Douglas Adams’s garden.

With the central section of the film in the can, we now had to find props and a studio for all the other scenes. My first port of call would be The Stockyard in the less than salubrious NW10; an extraordinary Aladdin’s Cave of a place. Whatever you need for your film production, you’ll find it here, whether it’s great big Grecian columns, Norman arches, statues, water mills, petrol pumps, bus stations – you name it. With the constant stream of vast articulated lorries coming and going and carrying off enormous quantities of props for some far-flung multi-million pound productions, I felt something of a fraud. After all, all I needed was a couple of antique book shelves, some old books and a few fake rubber flagstones. The lovely Reg who’s been part of the place man and boy helped us find everything we needed and arranged for a couple of strapping lads to put it all in the back of my old jalopy of a car.

Then I had to spend the best part of a week tracking down all our other props – everything from flooring and tablecloths to camping stoves, teddy bears and kettles – all of which had to look right in camera in black and white. This entailed trawling the internet where possible, but more often than not, traipsing round fabric suppliers, DIY warehouses and specialist shops.

The studio we chose to use was Photofusion in Brixton. It’s a good space, and being Brixton, doesn’t charge West End prices. It took John three full days to shoot most of our set-ups here, including the paparazzi, one of whom was yours truly minus spectacles.

The opening shot of the clock was shot in John’s living room, and the final setup of the stack of newspapers falling onto the paving slabs was filmed in my garden at night. For authenticity, I mocked up the front page of the fictitious Echo that appears in the book and even went as far as setting the type for the editorial.

John was keen to create a rain machine for this scene to add atmosphere, but as luck would have it, the heavens opened for real. This, however, was very bad news indeed, and caused John to swear and curse profusely, as it meant he’d be unable to use his very expensive tungsten lighting, which would be open to the elements. The alternative was battery operated LED lighting, which was fine until John realised that he’d need some ‘fill-in light’ to highlight the side of the newspaper stack. After much further swearing and cursing I offered my mobile phone, which has a powerful LED torch. Surprisingly, it worked beautifully.

While my son helped operate the Heath Robinson rain machine, I had the unenviable task of dropping the stack of newspapers onto the fake paving stones while being rained on by the rain machine as well as the real thing. I think we did about 30 takes, and my son had a lot of fun soaking his old man in the process.

With everything filmed, it was back to Hogarth to talk about music and sound effects. From my own experience of making commercials, music can often be something of a sticking point, but in this event, we got lucky from the outset. Andy the brilliant young sound engineer at Hogarth played us two tracks that he thought had the right feel. The first one was very good, but the second was absolutely perfect, and John very cleverly suggested building a ticking clock into the rhythm section to tie in with our opening scene.

A couple of days later, we were invited by Vee, Hogarth’s senior editor to come and have a look at the first rough cut. Seeing this on the big screen for the first time was quite something, and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It worked really well, and little Jacob’s voice sang out as clear as a bell, while both music and sound effects added just the right level of atmosphere and intrigue.

The animated blackbirds sequence was the last piece of the jigsaw, and as John rightly said when he had the idea in the first place, it would be “a beautiful and memorable way to finish the film.” It’s mind-boggling how much work goes into producing a two minute film. But you know instinctively when it gives you goosebumps after the first viewing that you’ve done something right, and that all that hard work had been worth it.

You can see see the result of our efforts here:

It was great to have you on MTA. The ‘Sleeping with Blackbirds’ trailer is fantastic! I really enjoyed it. Wishing you all the best, Alex! – Camilla

Reading from ‘The Chair Man’

Where to find The Chair Man:

The book is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook. It is also available as an ebook from Nook, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords.

Reading from ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’ by Nigel Havers:

https://www.alex-pearl.net/recordings.html

Recordings: www.alex-pearl.net

Blog: http://rhubarbrabbit.blogspot.com/

Social media: https://twitter.com/AlexBPearl

https://www.facebook.com/The-Chair-Man-103009131263558/?modal=admin_todo_tour

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/alexbpearl/the-chair-man/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2842442.Alex_Pearl

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host