In conversation with Roland Colton, author of Forever Gentleman

Forever Gentleman by Roland Colton

ISBN: 978-1681142296

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Release Date: July 11, 2016

$29.99

http://www.amazon.com

http://www.rolandcolton.com

http://www.anaphoraliterary.com

In Conversation with Roland Colton

  1. At the beginning of Forever Gentleman, struggling architect and pianist, Nathan Sinclair, encounters the glamourous and beautiful heiress, Jocelyn Charlesworth. What draws Nathan to Jocelyn, and how does she respond to him when they first meet?

Although he has no expectation of an introduction, Nathan is intrigued enough to see if Ms. Charlesworth’s beauty is as extraordinary as the Sunday Times portrays it. Despite his protestations, the mistress of the estate insists on introducing Nathan to Jocelyn.  Once he observes her beauty firsthand, an intoxication of senses sweeps over him—never before has he seen a woman of such unimaginable beauty. Jocelyn’s reaction to Nathan is one of boredom, having endured countless stares from past star-struck suitors. She toys with him, looking for any opportunity to end the interview. Once she believes him to be a common servant, she rebukes him publicly, appalled that a servant would have the audacity to seek her acquaintance.

  1. Nathan also meets the simple and plain social worker, Regina Lancaster. What’s special about Regina, and why does Nathan feel such a deep connection to her?

Though her outward appearance is ordinary, Nathan initially feels a strong attraction to Regina’s eyes and senses a kindred spirit.  Her dark brown eyes convey a journey through unspeakable tragedy, resulting in a deep appreciation for life and depth of character. Nathan is also attracted to Regina’s modesty, simplicity and inner beauty, qualities he admired in his mother. Once he learns of Regina’s selfless service to London orphans, he wonders if any man could possibly be worthy of her.

  1. Music plays an important role in the story and in Nathan’s life. How do the musical elements in the novel tie together the themes in Forever Gentleman?

Nathan’s life has been steeped in music since his operatic mother gave birth to him. His pianistic bravado opens the door of London Society, and he becomes comfortable in a world far different than his humble abode. The music in Forever Gentleman accompanies the story as a soundtrack does a movie, enhancing both drama and mood. Women are attracted to Nathan’s musical genius, fostering love and romance in the story.

  1. The Victorian Era was a time of contradictory wealth and poverty, along with great change, in England. What drew you to write a story set in this time period in history?

I’ve always been intrigued by a world where great beauty and brilliance could exist in the midst of poverty and misery.  While writing the story, I imagined what it would have been like to have lived in both worlds, as does Nathan in the story.  Also interesting is the sanitation miracle that occurred in the 1860’s, pulling London literally out of the squalor and stench of rotting pipes and sewer overflow into a world free of cholera and other dread diseases. And I wanted the timing of my story to coincide with the advent of the modern piano and creation of some of my favorite compositions.

5. How would you describe your writing process? And can you tell us about some of the research you did when you were writing Forever Gentleman?

My writing recipe involves equal amounts of struggle and ease. Sometimes the words flow in abundance; other times, I labor over every word in a sentence. I try not to let my writing get in the way of the story, and my goal was to have the reader lose himself or herself in Victorian London.  Many hundreds of hours were spent in research in my attempt to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of that bygone time. I strove for authenticity in events and venues, including authentic references to concerts, plays, performers and other events depicted in the book. I wanted to capture the times as they were, which is no small task when we live in a world far removed from that melancholy era.

  1. Are you working on another novel? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Yes, I’m writing a new novel that highlights another passion of mine—my love for the sport of baseball. The book begins in 1911, highlighting the exploits of the wonder of the baseball world, Ty Cobb. Using newspaper reports from the time, the reader experiences some of the most incredible sports feats ever accomplished, usually thanks to the genius and skill of Mr. Cobb. After the opening chapters, a hit-and-run accident victim is discovered in modern times (with a face damaged beyond recognition), who purports to be Ty Cobb, mysteriously transported into the future. As the plot continues, this mystery man eventually shows exceptional baseball talent and ultimately plays a brand of baseball unlike anything in modern times, turning the sports world on its head. Is it possible that this baseball ace is truly Ty Cobb, or is it some imposter who has taken upon his attributes?  Only time will tell.

In Conversation with Dane Cobain

Here at redpillows, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with author and poet, Dane Cobain.

Dane Cobain

His work is quite diverse and spans fiction, non-fiction and poetry. His first work No Rest for the Wicked was released in the summer of 2015.

Read on to know what Dane would like to share!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Dane! I’m a British writer who works across all sorts of genres, from horror and literary fiction to non-fiction and poetry. You can check out my work over here: www.danecobain.com/amazon

  1. How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I suppose it all started when I was six or seven years old, singing parodies of popular songs with my own lyrics. When I was a teenager, I started to take it a lot more seriously, and the rest if history (and sweat, a lot of that too).

  1. You write such diverse things, novels and poetry, how do you manage that?

Honestly, I just don’t stop. I constantly work on finding ways to optimise my time and to cram as much productivity in as possible. I write a poem a day during the week, and I work on them while on cigarette breaks. Because my poems aren’t too long, I usually also get to spend a little time outlining stories, novels, marketing plans and other things that are stuck in my head. I write longer form things at the computer, while switching between other activities in a ridiculously specific routine I call ‘The Schedule’.

  1. Where do you find inspiration for your poetry?

Life, mainly. But my poetry is unique in that I only include maybe 5% of the poems that I write in the published collections. Sometimes, there isn’t much inspiration, but I still write poems – I just don’t share them.

  1. What are your favourite genres and your favourite books?

I like to read modern classics and ‘alternative’ books, as well as plenty of indie books and new releases thanks to my book blog (SocialBookshelves.com). Some of my favourite writers include Graham Greene, Charles Bukowski, Phillip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and, lately, Stephen King.

  1. Which kind of writing (genre) do you prefer?

They all have their pros and cons and, to be honest, when I’m writing, I don’t usually have a genre in mind. That comes when I get to the marketing stage. I don’t think I can answer this – sorry!

  1. Tell us a little about your research process while working on a novel.

It totally depends upon the novel, but I’m trying to carry out quite a lot for a current project. Unfortunately, the project itself is a bit of a secret, but it involves interviewing subject matter specialists from charities, reading books and documentaries and spending a hell of a lot of time looking at photos and videos that I’d much rather not look at.

  1. Who is your favourite character among those you have created and why?

Hmmm. It’s a tough one to call, but it’s probably Maile O’Hara from my upcoming series of detective novels. She’s basically me, if I was a woman and had specialised in computer stuff instead of writing.

  1. Describe a perfect writing day for you.

I wake up whenever I wake up and stay at home, working until I go to sleep while watching Netflix and chillin’ with my girlfriend. She’s only able to put up with me because she’ll quite happily play Skyrim while I’m working and we both have good taste in documentaries.

  1. What do you find most difficult while writing a novel?

Getting started during the planning stage. The more you plan, the more it all starts to come together, but the early days can be overwhelming. Once you’ve got a plan in place, it just becomes a case of endurance. You just need to stick with it.

  1. What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

There are no rules. It’s just you and a blank piece of paper. It’s liberating, but it’s also terrifying – especially if you’re like me and you hate rhyming poetry

  1. Do you have any advice to share about writing a novel/poetry?

You just need to be prepared for heartbreak, do your best and stick at it. And you’d better make sure that you work with a decent editor if you want your book to be at its best.

Connect with the author:

Goodreads, Twitter

Author Website

In Conversation with E.S. Ready

We have had the pleasure of talking to E.S. Ready about the author’s life, writing and interests. Read on to know more.

Find my review of Until Someday on the blog. The review is also available on Goodreads and Amazon.com

The next book by the author, titled Crywood, is expected to be released in July this year!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.

         I graduated from the University of New Haven in 2011 (A lifetime ago it seems) with a degree in Criminal Justice. Back when I was searching for colleges I wanted to be an English major. I was convinced the pursuit would be fruitless. The Criminal Justice major was ultimately fruitless so I wrote Until Someday. Funny how the world works. I wanted to become a cop and I became a plumbing apprentice for my father’s business and a writer of stories people seem to enjoy.

  1. How did you get into writing?

         I didn’t really get into writing, writing got into me. Don’t worry… it was consensual. Writing has been a part of me ever since I can remember. I always had a fondness and appreciation for stories and telling them, whether it was with a pen or in a social setting. I unfortunately ignored it for a huge chunk of my life and then Until Someday arrived like an overdue baby.

  1. What are your favorite genres and your favorite books?

          My favorite genres are mystery, crime, historical, action/adventure and some horror. I’m a sucker for a realistic romantic subplot. I’ll read just about anything accept fantasy or BDSM crap.

          My favorite author is Dennis Lehane. I’m also pretty fond of Richard Matheson and Charles Bukowski, two very different writers. I of course admire guys like Stephen King and Dan Brown. Its important to read a variety, you grow more as a writer that way. Some of my favorite books include the Kenzie/Gennaro series by Lehane, I Am Legend by Matheson, and Women by Bukowski.

  1. How did you get the idea for Until Someday?

       I’ve always been fascinated by the first half of the 20th Century. The 1920s, 30s and 40s were an especially interesting and tough time to be alive. The roaring twenties gave us the splendor of The Great Gatspy. Two of my favorite movies growing up were Key Largo and Die Hard. I guess you could say Until Someday is a sort of the oddball offspring of Gatspy, Die Hard and Key Largo.

  1. Tell us about your research process into the year the book is set in.

       Thank God for the internet. I found everything that I needed to find far faster than I would if I’d written this book even fifteen years ago. Having said that, that doesn’t mean it was easy. I had to get everything accurate or as damn close to accurate as possible. This meant materialistic things such as cars, clothing, guns and décor, but also language/ dialect. I wanted it to feel real an immersive. I wanted the reader to be right there in the action.

  1. Who is your favorite character among those you have created and why?

       I won’t include Emmett as an option for favorite. I don’t think its fair to include the main character of anything in a favorites contest since the reader spends more time with that person than anyone else. If my arm was being twisted I would have to say that Luther Irvin was the most fun to write. Actors often say its more fun to play a villain and now I see why. Unfortunately, the creation of Irvin’s character was bittersweet for me because I already knew how he would end up before I put him on the page.

  1. What do you find most difficult while writing a novel?

       Not much was difficult about actually writing it. Stories flow out of me pretty easily. Finding the time and place of peace to execute it wasn’t always easy. It will be harder in the future since I’m now working full time. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

  1. Do you have any advice to share about writing a novel?

       My best advice to anyone wishing to write a novel is to read a lot of novels. When you actually do write, start small with poems or short stories. If you do want to dive into writing a novel, try and keep it under 300 pages. Think shorter but dream big. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

 

In Conversation with Dan Malakin

We have had the pleasure of talking to Dan Malakin about his writing and his life. Read on to know what he had to say:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.
    Hi Namrata, thanks for having me on your website. My name’s Dan
    Malakin, as you know, and I’m a writer living in London with my wife,
    daughter and Boddington the dog. I’m also one of the fiction editors
    at The Forge literary magazine.

2.       What prompted you to start writing?

I guess I’ve always been drawn to writing. Even as a kid I’d scribble
stories down and hand them up to my confused mum, who wouldn’t be able
to read my illegible handwriting. In my teens I wrote lots of terrible
poems, and ran this photocopied magazine called Fluffy Dice, which had
a readership of about ten people, most of whom probably never opened
the first page. It didn’t matter; I enjoyed the process.

3.       How did the book “SMILING EXERCISES, AND OTHER STORIES” happen?

I’m fortunate to have been pretty widely published – over a hundred
stories and counting. I’ve also got a little soft spot for flash
fiction; both of my Bridport prize shortlists were in the flash
fiction category. So when putting together a collection, that seemed
to obvious way to go.

4.       Where did the ideas for each story come from?

All the stories in the collection originated from prompts, and all
were written – the first draft anyway – in under an hour. I find
putting myself under that kind of pressure helps me to come up with
something original.

5.       How much does your day to day life inspire you?

Quite a lot in fact. I’m a new father, so my daughter has started
appearing in my stories (under various guises), plus my own parents
are getting old – and that has started to appear in new stuff.
Everything’s bubbling away inside. I guess writing is a way for me to
work through some of it.

6.       What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Thinking about writing. Really, I’m a bit obsessed. My wife tells me I
get this glazed look when I’m thinking about a story I’m working on.
She worries that I’m having a stroke.

7.       If you had to write a short story, in one paragraph now, what
would it be about?

It would probably be a fairly meta story about a writer writing about
writing. Kind of like a funhouse of mirrors, but with words, and me
screaming in the middle.

8.       How much time do you spend to write each short story?

That depends. For flashes, an hour for the first draft, then however
long it takes for subsequent drafts. A long story, say 5k words, I’ll
try and get the first draft down in two days (again, keeping myself
under pressure). The final draft will probably take a couple of
months. I’ve just finished the final draft of a novel though – and
I’ve been working on that for 2 years!

9.       If you had to pick a career that was not writing, what would
you choose and why?

I would love to work with dogs. They’re such wonderful affectionate
creatures. So much better than humans in so many ways.

10.   Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

Always read what you want to read, not what you think you should.
That, I believe, is the biggest reason why people don’t read more.
There’s such a range of books out there – especially now that people
can self-publish what they themselves would want to read – so don’t
settle for what others tell you.

Check out Dan’s website: www.danmalakin.com
Twitter handle: @danmalakin

In conversation with Roy M. Griffis

We have had the pleasure of talking to Roy Griffis, author of the series ‘By the Hand of Men’ among others. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him for taking time out for the same. Read on to know what he has to say.

Griff Biking Author Photo

So, please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an American writer, currently living in California.   Born in Texas City, TX, the son of a career Air Force meteorologist. Attended a variety of schools at all of the hot spots of the nation, such as Abilene, Texas and Bellevue, Nebraska.  I was the new kid at something like ten different schools while I was growing up.

I’ve written poems, short stories (twice runner-up in the Playboy college fiction contest), plays (winning some regional awards back East and a collegiate Historical Play-writing Award), and screenplays. I’m a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, West, with one unproduced screenplay sold to Fox Television. Along the way, I’ve done the usual starving artist jobs. Been a janitor, a waiter, a clerk in a bookstore. I was the 61st Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard (all that Tarzan reading wasn’t wasted). I’m also not a bad cook, come to think of it. Currently, I’m a husband, father, and cat-owner. I’m an avid bicyclist and former EMT.

I live in Southern California with my lovely wife. My friends call me “Griff,” my parents call me “Roy,” and my college-age son calls me “Dadman.” It’s a good life.   By the Hands of Men, Book Three: “The Wrath of a Righteous Man” will be released in May, 2016.

What prompted you to start writing?

When I was ten, I was sent to my grandparent’s house in Tucson, Arizona when things were tough at home. I was pretty damn lost, as my grandparents were largely strangers to me. My older brother, a more taciturn type, refused to discuss what was going on. Fortunately, like so many kids before me, I was rescued by literature. Or, at least, by fiction.

In a tiny used bookstore that was just one block up from a dirt road, I discovered that some good soul had unloaded his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series in Ballantine Paperback. Moved by some impulse, I spent my RC Cola money on the first book, “A Princess of Mars.”

           I think what struck me was how these books were possessed of magic: they were able to transport me far from this dusty land of relatives who I didn’t know and relatives pretended not to know me to another dusty land of adventure, heroism, nobility, and even love. It was the first magic I’d encountered that wasn’t a patent fraud, and when I closed the stiff paperback with the lurid images on the cover, I decided it was the kind of magic I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to mastering. And, thus, I was saved.

Since then, I’ve never looked back.

Tell us about the books you have written so far.

First professionally published novel: “The Big Bang, Volume One of The Lonesome George Chronicles

In this page-turning post-apocalyptic thriller, Roy M. Griffis explores an alternate timeline in which America falls victim to a coordinated attack by Islamic jihadists and Chinese Communists. It’s 2008 and George W. Bush is still president. Three years later, the man called “Lonesome George” is in hiding, leading the resistance from a secret location. Multiple plot lines skillfully braid the tales of resistance fighters in various parts of the country. Whistler is the hard-bitten commander of a military unit in Texas. Karen, a former congressional aide, stumbles through the radioactive rubble of Washington DC. Griffis also entertainingly works in real-life liberal celebrities and pundits whose eyes are finally opened to threats they once discounted as obsessions of the right. “Molly,” a left-wing columnist in San Francisco, finally puts her talents to good use on the underground radio as the voice of the resistance. “Alec,” a famous actor and liberal gadfly, loses his wife and daughter in the nuclear attack on Los Angeles and becomes a legendary fighter, inventing the gun that bears his name. A vivid imagining of an America gone horribly wrong, written in gripping detail.

Self-published:

The first two books in a four-volume Historical Fiction series (Book Three coming out in May), called “By the Hands of Men.”  The series begins in the trenches of France during The Great War, and will conclude in California in the mid-thirties.

 Book One: The Old World

Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald has managed to retain his sanity, his humanity, and his honor during the hell of WWI’s trench warfare. Charlotte Braninov fled the shifting storm of the impending Russian Revolution for the less-threatening world of field camp medicine, serving as a nurse in the most hopeless of fronts. Their friendship creates a sanctuary both could cling to in the most desperate of times. Historical fiction about life, loss, and love, By the Hands of Men explores the power that lies within each of us to harm – or to heal – all those we touch.

 Book Two:  Into the Flames

Charlotte Braninov, traumatized by loss and her service as a frontline nurse, returns to war-torn Russia to find her family. Captured by the Red Army, she exchanges one hell for another. Her still-loyal Lieutenant, Robert Fitzgerald, believing the woman he loves is dead, struggles to recover from the ravages of combat and typhus. In a desperate bid to rediscover himself, he commits to serve his country as a pawn in distant Shanghai. Forging their destinies in a world reeling after The Great War, Charlotte and Robert will learn anew the horror and the beauty the hands of men can create when they descend into the flames.

How much does your day to day life contribute to the stories you write? How much of what you write is inspired by people you have encountered along the way?

Day to day events form part of what one creates, even if it’s only an interesting clay that contributes to the final qualities of the fired pot. Since I’m writing historical fiction, or “a history of events that have not yet taken place,” there is a little one-to-one cause/effect to what appears on the page. However, larger parallels can make themselves known, and those will appear in in what I write.

            People who know me and my history well might be able to pick out one or two characters clearly inspired by individuals known to me, but for the most part, very little of the characters are consciously designed.

            This is going to sound fatuous – or moderately deranged – but once a story makes itself known to me (almost like a religious vision, typically I can both see and hear some important moment of the story), at a certain point, I’m merely recording the story I hear and see in my head. Characters are not planned, they show up. “Orlando Pyle,” in By the Hands of Men, is a prime example of this…in fact, most of the characters in that book are. So I am often as surprised by what they do and say as I hope the reader is. It very often feels as if I am writing a true story that no one has ever heard before.

Would you describe a perfect writing day for your readers?

Up early (4am – 6am or so), quick check of email while the coffee is brewing. Then get started on original creative work, picking up where I left off the day before.   Write for about two hours, get breakfast. Refill the coffee work until about lunch time. That leaves a good portion of the day left for chores (like editing or marketing), housework, play with the cats, bike ride. I like it because it balances the writing/creative life with the ordinary “stuff that’s got to be done” parts of life.

If you had to pick a career that was not writing, what would you choose and why?

Probably something helping animals. I find cruelty to children and animals abhorrent, as they are innocents who cannot make other choices for themselves. The individual who abuses either is the worst kind of scum.

Which author (other than yourself of course) is your favourite? Who would you say inspires you?

Wow, that almost depends on genre or the work itself. In fiction, either Richard Adams or Harper Lee. Both took us to fictional worlds, made them rich and full and enveloping (which is one of my goals), but since much of Ms. Lee’s work was based on her own young life, I’d have to give the hat tip to Richards Adams. Anyone who suggested it was possible to write a thrilling, timeless, and ultimately moving novel about rabbits would have sounded insane. But he pulled it off in a tremendous act of imagination. I hope someday to write something as good.

How much field work do you do as research, since your novels are historically inclined and set?

Most of my research has been book-based, although I did visit London, France, and Brussels before beginning By the Hands of Men. Some of my contemporary novels used bits of my own hands-on experience. I will be doing some on-scene research for BTHOM4, as it is set in Central California in the 1930s.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

Personally, I am weary of books with the theme “Life is awful and people are horrible.”  I might write books about people going through trials, but I, and the novels, am ultimately hopeful because of the actions of individuals.

We can always make a choice, if we are willing to pay what it will cost us. Everything has a cost (even Salvation: Somebody had to pay for that). As in my books, I believe it is up to each of us to make God real. We are His hands and feet. Our actions every day are how God manifests in the world. And every day, we can make a choice for good or evil.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. As I note above, By the Hands of Men, Book Three: The Wrath of a Righteous Man will be out in November, with a Lonesome George sequel shortly after that.

In Conversation with Lola Smirnova

We had the pleasure of speaking with Lola Smirnova, author of the books titled Twisted and Craved. Twisted is reviewed on our blog already. The review for Craved will be up soon. In the meantime, here is what Lola has to share:

  • What inspired you to start writing?

I had a story to tell that maybe could help to change peoples’ often ignorant attitude towards problems of the sex industry, victims of which usually are young inexperienced women. I wanted the reader to realize that those working girls are humans… They dream, love or suffer the same way as anyone’s girlfriend, sister or daughter.

  • Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and bred in Ukraine. By the end of 90’s, due to the difficult economical situation there, I started travelling around the world in the search of a better life. For the last decade I’ve been living in South Africa, where four years ago I started writing full time.

  • Tell us about your books.

Twisted series is about three sisters from the post-Soviet Ukraine, who together with their family as well as the rest of the country, struggle in its corrupt and faulty economy and decide to go to Europe to work in the sex trade. In the second book the girls end up working in South Africa.

It took me 3 years to write and self-publish my debut novel Twisted, which was released in January 2014. A year and a half later in July 2015 I released the sequel to Twisted – Craved – which is the second book in the trilogy. Currently I’m working on the third book.

  • How easy/difficult was it to pen down your thoughts in your books?

       Most of the times not easy at all, considering that English is not my native language.

  • Which is the best part of writing a story?

The writing process is some kind of escape for me. I create a world where I can be anyone or experience anything… You know, my job is actually to dream or fantasize. For example, on Monday I can live a life of a modern day’s woman that can perfectly manage her kids, career and a twenty years old marriage, when by Thursday, I dive into a life of a vulnerable teenager who discovers all thrills and downs of her first love.

  • Describe a perfect writing day for you.

I wake up in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee and start writing. Words, thoughts, ideas are pouring out of me like there is no tomorrow.

There is no distraction, nothing around me – just my imagination and a laptop.

I have a quick bite in the noon time and carry on writing in the same flowing and effortless way…

Then late afternoon comes and I go for a run with my dog, come back, have a dinner and make myself comfortable on the couch with some riveting read for the evening.

  • What message would you like to share with your readers?

       As Richard Bach once said: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Note: Please do share your thoughts or hit the like button if you enjoyed reading this post. We would love to hear your thoughts!

In Conversation with Norma Jennings

Passenger from Greece is Jamaican author Norma Jennings latest romantic mystery novel.

About the Book:

Passenger From Greece - Cover

A cross-genre work of fiction that combines exotic locations and international romance, Passenger from Greece touches on drug trafficking in the Caribbean islands and the serious economic issues in Greece that fuel this trade. The novel’s main character, Olivia Reid, is a feisty yet innocent international flight attendant from the islands, who embarks on a dangerous adventure and a seductive affair that spans the Caribbean, New York City, and Crete. Eventually, as the flames of desire that consume Olivia are fanned by deception, lust, and greed, she painfully finds her way back to her ancestral home.

About the Author:

Norma Jennings - Author Photo

Norma Jennings is an ex-international flight attendant and current corporate executive with a passion for writing. Now residing in Florida, she was born and raised in the Caribbean and has traveled and explored many countries, including those featured in Passenger from Greece. From an exotic multi-ethnic background of black, white, and East Indian descent, Jennings credits her strong and dynamic mother and grandmother, and a remarkably intelligent and adventurous father, as her main influences. Jennings earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Angelo State University and graduated from the Management Development Program at Harvard Graduate School. She has authored a previous novel, Daughter of the Caribbean, and is currently working on a historical romance set in Jamaica. Jennings has three grown children, and enjoys dual citizenship in both Jamaica and the United States. She visits her grandmother’s Caribbean home, Twickenham, as often as she can.

We have had the pleasure of talking to her and the following are some of the common questions that she has been asked. Read on to see what she has to say.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline for Passenger from Greece?

A classic tale of love, lust, and criminal behavior, Passenger from Greece tells the story of Olivia Reid, a feisty, resourceful international flight attendant who falls in love with a handsome Greek olive oil tycoon. Olivia gets caught up in a seductive affair that spans the Caribbean, New York City, Crete, and ocean voyages on a yacht called The Adonis.

  1. The book opens with a movie-worthy crash. What did you base these opening scenes on?

I was a flight attendant, and some of my dear colleagues were involved in a plane crash (a mere scheduling conflict kept me off that flight). I went back to them and asked them for descriptions of feelings, thoughts, and misery of crashing into a swamp, which really happened. They described the terror of first experiencing an aircraft crash, followed by the horror of being trapped in a swamp until rescue. So, when I set up a story about international romance and mystery, I thought, what would be more captivating than to introduce the characters to each other in such an intense and terrifying situation?

  1. The book addresses family relationships, infidelity, and mother/father influences. Why did you weave in these themes?

Motivations. I wanted to create flawed characters whose motives and desires were rooted in their familial relationships: a daughter’s desire to please her mother, a son’s desire to please his mother, and a grandmother betrayed by her spouse. I asked myself: What lessons could be learned? What understandings reached? How could I write relatable situations that would draw in readers? Based on the core foundation of any person’s experience, one always comes back to his/her family beliefs, morals, and values.

  1. How are drug trafficking and cultural issues central to the plotlines and themes in your novels?

The illicit drug trade is affecting my native homeland, Jamaica. I wanted to also dispel prejudice and ideas about Jamaicans and other Caribbean islanders. My books always deal with cultural differences though depictions of my own childhood experiences growing up at Twickenham with my grandmother, Sedith, who’s featured in both of my books. She was our family’s matriarch and had a tremendous influence on her children and grandchildren. I brought the stories she told and the lessons I learned in my own life to the pages of Passenger from Greece.

  1. Are you working on a new novel and, if so, what can you tell us about it?

I’ve made good progress on a third book, which is an action-packed historical fiction novel about the brutal colonization of Jamaica by the British, and the barbaric guerilla warfare staged by the Maroons (runaway slaves) against the planters. Raw sexual moments between planter and mulatto slave mistresses, and a sizzling romance between a rescued concubine and a young guerilla chief are weaved into the novel, as it chronicles how ferocious and unrelenting resistance by Maroon men and women led to the abolition of slavery on the island, and ultimately to the country’s independence.

Note: Please do not hesitate to let us know what you think! 🙂

In conversation with Ashley Holzmann

We have had the pleasure of chatting with Ashley Holzmann. He is the author of a horror anthology titled The Laws of Nature.

Blurb:

There is a dark side to human nature that neither can be wished away nor completely mitigated. Ashley Holzmann details just several of these “Laws of Nature” before taking his readers on a journey through the bizarre, the terrifying, and, ultimately, the disturbingly real truths that underlie much of modern American life.

The book is available on Amazon, as well as most digital platforms:

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Here is what Ashley has to say:

  • Tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies?

Man. That’s a long answer. I love a lot of things. Comics, history books, literature, playing soccer, grappling, film. It’s a long list. I enjoy drawing and I wish I had kept up with that more growing up. I’m not terrible, but I’m far from a master. I used to be totally addicted to TV and video games and Halo 2 and Golden Eye 64 consumed my life as much as Final Fantasy games used to. I like camping and backpacking. I still volunteer at Boy Scout troops when I can because I like helping kids find their way in life.

I enjoy traveling and the Army and growing up as an Air Force brat has given me the opportunity to really see the world. I work out almost every day and I really hate running. The day I leave the Army is the last day I ever go for a run. I had to learn Korean for work, so I have to study that pretty regularly. I’ve been slacking lately and I really want to get more involved in the language.

  • What inspired you to start writing?

I took an unusual path toward becoming an a published author. I’m used to draw comics for fun in middle school and high school, but that never went anywhere. I spent high school working toward college and I was one of those high achieving kids in high school. Varsity soccer team captain, Boy Scouts—that type of stuff. It took me two years with a detour to the University of Central Florida, but I was accepted to West Point and began that adventure in 2005.

It was at West Point that the universe aligned for me creatively. I did silly videos in my free time and started to write creative stuff. I did it in my free time, but didn’t take it that seriously. After all, I was training to be an Army officer.

While at the academy, I met Tony Formica, the man who is now my editor and one of my closest friends. He would help me edit my academic papers at the academy. He would destroy me, but also explain why he was doing it and I learned really well that way.

Then graduation came and I was on Active Duty. I went to Oklahoma and then off to South Korea and I put all of the creative stuff on pause. A few years go by and the story keeps rolling along until I found /r/nosleep on Reddit. I started posting there and it was a challenge. I’m a man who can’t give up on a challenge. If someone tells me something is impossible, I want to do the impossible. If I’m told I can’t do something, that fuels me. And if I post a story on a website that relies on the random user to upvote that story and prove my worth… well, I can’t resist the challenge.

As far as who and how it all exactly happened. I’m not sure if there was a person or something that specifically inspired me. I grew up being creative. Writing was a natural step for me.

  • What is your favorite genre and book?

I enjoy good writing more than the genre of the book. I’ll read anything if I think it’ll be interesting. I read a lot of books for professional development purposes. Stuff about the military, or my branch, books about history and leadership. I also read a lot of books about writing and anything I can that will help me to publish my stuff. I enjoy teaching myself things. I’ve read a few books recently about logo design and font/typeface.

When it comes to other stuff. I really like Poe, Twain, Hemingway, Vonnegut and Palahniuk. I don’t really know what my favorite book is. I enjoy a lot of books and I don’t have a lot of favorites. Maybe The Killer Angels.

  • Who is your favorite author?

I’m not a very consistent person with regards to this. I’m a fan of Poe and like his ability to be technical in his prose. But I don’t believe I was really influenced by him. And I believe that influences are an important subject to broach for any writer.

  • Which is the best part of writing a story?

Finishing the last edits. There are so many moments when I’m writing a story and I can feel the points I’m trying to make and I can see how imperfect the whole thing is. Switching sentences around and reading the first draft over and over again feels like I’m putting together a puzzle. I want it all to fit together. For each line to matter and be in its place. I don’t feel comfortable with a story until I know it’s been to my editor a few rounds. Once it finally comes back for the fourth time and I know its done. That’s when I can let myself feel the wave of relief over the story.

  • How much inspiration did you draw from your life or the lives of others around you?

I draw inspiration from everything. From life—memories; from my experiences and the people I’ve met on my adventures. Hemingway used to talk about living a life worth writing about. I really believe in that.

  • What inspired you to write a horror anthology?

Once I had a couple of stories on /r/nosleep I decided that I would write one a week. That I would use the concept of saturation to get people to notice me. It worked and I ended up posting a few months worth of stories. After awhile I had enough to put together along with about ten that I hadn’t let anyone read. I sent 30 stories to my editor, Tony, and what returned was about 20 stories that made the cut.

Once I finished the first book I realized I wanted to keep doing this. So I will.

  • Tell us a little about your book.

I completed the first draft in about four months. Then I did around five self-edits before sending it to my test readers and then to Tony a few times. I used a second editor for a final polish. The whole experience took me about a year. The cover doesn’t look like it, but it took me weeks to complete.

The stories are mostly psychological in nature and concentrate on modern American life. The things we think are normal, the aspects of our lives that we don’t really consider. Some stories are more personal than others. Some are just ideas I had. Some are based off of an emotion I’ve felt before.

  • If you had to pick one of your stories, which would be your favorite and why?

From this book? I have three stories that I really enjoyed writing. I wrote a variety of stories that ranged. But the stories that I really enjoy writing are less horror and more about the loss and empty feeling we sometimes have in our lives. I don’t know why it makes me feel depth in my life, but it does. So I write about those feelings. The story Plastic Glasses was written based off of the first sentence, which came to me while driving to work and listening to a Korean CD in my truck. The story Crying Numbers was a reason for me to write about all of the books my wife and I read when she was pregnant with our first son. My favorite story, if I had to pick one, would be the last story, called Cold Static. I don’t remember where the idea came from. It probably came to me in the shower. If I rewrite any of the short stories into a novel, it would be that story.

  • What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think the stories impact me in any direct way. I see them as puzzles. I once saw an interview with Jodie Foster about Taxi Driver. When everyone asked her about the violence she said she didn’t see the violence. She saw the pyrotechnics and the technical aspect of all of the practical effects.

  • How much do you relate to the characters or incidents in your story?

I try to concentrate more on empathy than on me being a representation of each of my characters. I let events become exaggerated and I let characters be more than they are. I want the reader to have the connection more than me.

  • Who among the characters you created do you like the most and why?

This is and will always be an issue with me. I don’t think I have a favorite. Maybe one day I will. I have favorite types of things in my life, but I just can’t pick one. I don’t have a favorite color. I have a favorite band and favorite movie, but even with those I have more or less a top ten list of stuff that shuffles.

  • What message would you like to share with your readers?

Thanks for reading and thanks for wanting to learn more about me. I’m on Facebook and stuff as As For Class. I’m always down to chat.

As far as advice or any other special type of message. If you have a dream, figure out how to make it happen and make it happen.

Readers can check out Ashley’s site and connect with him via the following social media:

https://twitter.com/AsForClass

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If any of you have come across his books or read them, please feel free to drop a comment or just generally let us know what you think of this interview.

Promo: The Angel at the Devil’s Gate

About the Book:

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Troubled teen Eli Nunn is moved back to Kansas City following the aftermath of a violent drug deal. Returning to a school where his ruthless reputation still thrives, Eli encounters and instantly connects with Angel, a beautiful and mysterious black-clad orphan. Their flourishing romance begins to grow darker when Eli learns details of Angel’s chilling past. Conflicted with alarm and intrigue, Eli accepts a proposal from Angel that puts both their relationship and lives in danger.

The Angel at the Devil’s Gate is a psychological suspense about two teenage outcasts whose growing bond takes a twisted turn down a murderous path.

Interview with Mocha:

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Mocha was nice enough to do an interview with us about her interests and her book. Here is what she has to say:

Interview questions:

  • What/who inspired you to start writing?

I’m unsure as to what inspired me to start writing other than my imagination was very active, and I needed to get the images onto paper. My mother and her encouragement to write would be someone who inspired me to want to pursue a career in writing.

       2) Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Mocha, an avid reader and lover of makeup. I attended the University of Central Missouri for journalism with a minor in creative writing. I love horror movies and music; I’m currently listening to a lot of Hollywood Undead and The Pretty Reckless, yet I’m sure that’s going to change when Breaking Benjamin’s new album comes out next month.

  • What is your favourite genre?

I have always loved the horror genre. I love to be scared and admire an author who can actually scare me, because I’m pretty hard to scare.

  • Which is your favourite book?

Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice is one of my favorite books; I can go on and on praising it. Sharpe Objects by Gillian Flynn is a novel that I still think about a year after reading it.

  • Who is your favourite author?

Anne Rice is by far my favorite author. She has had a huge influence on me as a writer. She has an incredible way with her words, and she paints such a beautiful picture with them. Reading her works, you can tell she has such a love for all her characters. She also gives the reader interesting facts about the time period her novels are placed in.

  • What are your hobbies?

When I’m not writing, I’m reading. Reading has become something that I cannot do without. I also enjoy going out dancing and talking to strangers, it’s amazing how much a character can be developed just from conversations with strangers. I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, it’s a VH1 reality show, The Wendy Williams Show and American Horror Story.

  • Perfect holiday destination?

I’d love to take a long vacation to New Orleans. After reading Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, It’s been a dream of mine to see the city. It’s one of my goals to do so.

  • Describe a perfect writing day.

A fresh pot of coffee, a full pack of cigarettes, and silence. I’m still waiting for that day to arrive.

  • Which is the best part of writing a story?

For me, the best part of writing a story is knowing that something I created evoked a slew of emotions in someone. When I began looking for beta readers for The Angel at the Devil’s Gate, the reception I received from them was overwhelming and rewarding. They told me how they laughed and cried, how they were afraid to turn the page or how they were anxious to find out what happens next. Conjuring up all those emotions in someone is very gratifying.

  • How much inspiration do you draw on from real life experiences, with respect to plot, characters etc.?

There are a few things that I draw from real life experiences but not too much. I may describe an emotion I’ve felt or a facial expression a friend made; however, I may subconsciously add more real life experiences than I realize.

  • Who among the characters you created do you like the most and why?

Angel has been with me for about five years now. The character was originally part of another novel I began but never finished. When the concept for The Angel at the Devil’s Gate came about, I knew Angel would fit well into the novel. I think I like Angel the most because the character is so different from any other character out. You’re never really sure if Angel is good or evil.

  • How much do you relate to the characters or incidents in your story?

I can relate to how both Eli and Angel are outsiders. I’ve felt like one my entire life. When I was younger, I was more discouraged about it, even angry about it. Eli is a representation of that anger. Getting older, I am able to embrace and find beauty in how different I am from other people. I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of who they are nor should they let other people make them feel bad for who they are.

The Kickstarter project:

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Kickstarter, is a site that helps raise funding for creative projects, in this case Mocha Pennington’s novel. Please take a look at the author’s page and show your support. Share the news and let us help bring in some donations. There are rewards based on the amount donated.

Link to Mocha’s profile and kickstarter project:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2105349702/1916545920?token=0d696ac4

In conversation with Neil Hanson

I have had the pleasure of talking to Neil Hanson, whose new travel memoir, Pilgrim Wheels: Reflections of a Cyclist Crossing America was released in March. Here he talks about how he started writing and what inspires him as well as some information about his book.

Neil Hanson - Author Photo

What/who inspired you to start writing?

I don’t know that it was any single person or any single event. I will say that as a teenager, I fell in love with the stories of Mark Twain and Alexander Dumas, and probably from those early years always wanted to write. I was lucky in that writing came easily to me, so I was able to hone and improve my skills as the years went by.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’d call myself a pretty average middle-aged guy. I’m very active (cycling, hiking, fishing, etc), and like everybody else, have to work for a living and to support the fun things I like to do in life. One thing that is a bit unique is the level of eclecticism in my life, the things I’ve done, the interests I have. I’ve made my living in many different ways, and am always eager to explore the next adventure life drops in front of me. I was married for 30 years, and we raised 3 great children together. All three of those children live close to me still, and I have two grandchildren. My wife and I divorced a few years back, and am engaged to a wonderful and beautiful woman who also has 3 grown children and two grandchildren, so my family is about to double.

Who is your favourite author?

I still love Mark Twain. I also love the historical fiction that Ken Follett has been publishing. There are a few new fantasy writers I love, including Patrick Rothfuss and Anthony Ryan. Craig Johnson is an author of westerns that I really like. As for classics, John Steinbeck is hard to beat. Oh, and Neil Gaiman of course.

Which is the best part of writing a story?

Learning what the characters and the story have to teach me. Watching and listening to the story emerge.

How much inspiration do you draw on from real life experiences, with respect to plot, characters etc?

Close to 100% of what I write is a reflection of real life in one way or another.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

In many ways, the stories define the adventure I had in a whole new way. I get to relive the adventure in slow motion, feeling all the different aspects, colors, smells, and feelings all over again.

What was the original inspiration for your bicycle trip across America?

 I wanted to take a bike ride. A long bike ride. Hundreds of miles, just me and my bike. Why? No particular reason, it just sounded like a neat thing to add to the checklist of “fun and exciting things I’ve tried.” The idea became an adventure. An adventure to plan for and to move toward. A box to check off. Eventually, I was clipping into my pedals in Monterey, California, pointing south along the coast on a beautiful summer day, discovering America and me.

The trip didn’t take shape to be a journey of discovery. I wasn’t trying to heal from a lost job, or a failed relationship, or trying to discover myself. I just wanted to ride my bike a long ways, with a really open mind, to see how I did riding 100 miles a day, day after day.

But then things evolved a bit, and I began to discover more about me, about my journey, about the people I met. About America. It didn’t start off as any sort of pilgrimage or deep journey, but rather as a bike ride. But it morphed into this journey that discovered me, and a pilgrimage I didn’t really expect.

How far did you travel on this journey and did you deviate at all from the route youd originally planned?

Total distance was just over 3300 miles, just under 125,000 vertical feet of climbing. My average rolling speed was 14.2 MPH, the lowest temperature I rode through was 35F, and the highest temperature I rode through was 119.

My route did evolve as I rode, sometimes due to road closure, and sometimes just because I felt like trying something different. This book takes me up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which is almost exactly halfway, though Kansas is probably where I deviated from my route more than anywhere else.

Are there any moments that stand out as being especially meaningful or emotionally transcendent as you travelled?

 Beginning in the lush forests of Big Sur, climbing over the coastal range, then spending a couple of days drawn further and further toward the Mojave, really set me up for the depth and meaning I found out on my own in the deserts. Standing on the side of a deserted highway in the Mojave, not long after sunrise, feeling the power and vastness of the desert around me, swallowed in the silence, was one of those moments I write about in the book. Another was the afternoon ride through the heart of the Sonoran, mesmerized by the sensual dance of distant dust devils in the wind, fascinated by the cars disappearing into the shimmering heat of the asphalt in front of me as oncoming cars would appear out of that amorphous mirage.

 If someone were to propose a trip like yours, what advice would you give him or her?

 First, take the time to decide what it is you’re looking for in a ride. I really like the general route I took, although in hindsight, I probably would make some small changes. What I love about my route is that I was able to find some really fine roads to ride on, I saw a wide variety of landscape, and I feel like I really experienced the heart of American culture.

Second, I can’t stress fitness enough. Be sure you’re fit to complete whatever distance you’re setting out to ride. I’ve read several accounts of cross-country trips where a good percentage of the joy was lost until the rider slowly became fit enough to do the ride.

Third, I’d recommend thinking hard about the “style” or riding you want to do. Do you want to be fully loaded and self-sufficient or minimalist? One of the things I noticed in the accounts I read of other cross country trips was that sometimes folks didn’t think this through a lot. It’s easy to overlook, and my “pack” dwindled considerably as I rode, learning more as I went about what minimalism really meant. Too often folks burden themselves with lots of gear, mostly because that’s their “vision” of touring on a bicycle. Many of them then end up spending a fair number of nights in motels anyway, and eating at diners.

 How has this journey changed your impression of our country? Do you feel the same about America as you did before you decided to bicycle across the mainland?

 I grew up in Kansas, a product of Midwestern kindness. So I pretty much expect most people to be kind and generous. Even with that as a starting point, I was continually humbled and heartened at the generosity, kindness, and true concern that I encountered from people across America. Sure there were some rude drivers, along with a few other exceptions, but generally I was overwhelmed by the goodness and camaraderie people shared with me. From the young woman I met at the airport in Monterey to the old rancher who pulled over and gave Dave and me ice cold water on a 100+ degree day in Kansas, the goodness in people warmed my heart.

 Are you working on a sequel to Pilgrim Wheels? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Pilgrim Wheels takes the reader up to Medicine Lodge in western Kansas, and the next book will take the reader from Medicine Lodge out to Annapolis on the east coast. From the time I left the Big Sur coastline in California, all the way across the western half of the country, I was nearly always riding in some form of “The West.” The landscape varied from semi-arid to deep desert, the air was always dry, the views and landscape big and sweeping.

 But Medicine Lodge is where that changed. I swept down into Medicine Lodge out of the big Medicine Hills, with vast views across landscape that is iconic American West, and emerged riding east into increasing humidity and rich farmland. From that point all the way to Annapolis, the journey took me through various forms of the “Old America,” one made up of lush farmland, deep woods, humid air, wide rivers, and more history.