Book Review: Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson

salsa with the pope

Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson is a quirky, women’s fiction novel about a struggling actress going through the ups and downs of finding love – and in the end, herself.

I’ll say this; Salsa With the Pope is funny. The situations that Samantha finds herself in and her inner thought process throughout it all are downright hilarious at times. And although it isn’t necessarily the deepest novel that I’ve ever read, you know what? It doesn’t have to be. A fluff read is fun once in a while.

My only issue here is that I wonder how closely this novel walks the line between fiction and creative non-fiction. I couldn’t help but notice that the author and main character share many similarities and I have a sneaking suspicion that we have a “Mary-Sue” situation going on here (if you aren’t familiar with the term, click here).

Overall, I liked Salsa With the Pope and would recommend it for fans of the pop fiction / women’s lit genre.

coffee cupcoffee cupcoffee cup

Author Interview with Shannon Condon

finding magdalena

Author Shannon Condon is joining us today to discuss  her experiences as an author and her debut novel, Finding Magdalena.

Q. When did you realise you wanted to become an author?

A. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school and went to college with that goal in mind. Of course, life happens and it wasn’t until recently that I have had the opportunity to realize my dream.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. The message I want readers to take away from this book is abuse in teenage relationships and at the teenage level, whether in a relationship or not, is a very real thing. I think girls are particularly susceptible at college when they are away from home and looking for security which is often equated with a boyfriend. Abuse can come in many forms and I knew many girls who experienced it, myself included.

Q. What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A. My book has been labeled by the publisher as coming of age/ young adult. Due to the nature of the content, I would recommend it for 15+.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

A. I think the hardest part of writing this book was keeping the length to a reasonable length. I had a lot more I wanted to add to the book but had been advised not to go over a certain word count. Fortunately, that is what sequels are for.

Q. Do you have any advice for other writers?

A. My advice to other writers is not to get discouraged. I received lots of rejection letters before I decided to self publish. I am still sending query letters to publishers. Just because what you write doesn’t strike a chord with one agent doesn’t mean another won’t love it. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and make sure you EDIT your manuscript before you send any part of it to an agent.

Q. How long does it take you to write a book?

A. It’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes me to write a book. I can spend a couple of months developing a book and the characters before I actually put a single word on my computer.  Once I begin writing, however, I would say it takes about six to eight months.  I am constantly rewriting in my head even as I am writing on my computer and this leads to deleted chapters and backtracking. It’s important to me that when I am done, the characters are strong and the story fluid.

Q. What books have most influenced your life most?

A. I think the books that have had the greatest influence on me are the ones that I don’t want to end. They draw me in so much that I am immersed in another world. Some examples would be my all time favorite, ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding and the Hunger Games series.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

A. Right now I am working on the sequel to Finding Magdalena. I am very excited about it because I feel that Maggie is growing as a woman and in strength. There will be a lot of surprises and I hope everyone who has been asking for a sequel will be asking for more!

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your book?

A. To be honest, I cannot think of any current actress who could play Maggie. She is such a unique character. I would envision a new face playing her if a movie was made of Finding Magdalena.

Q. What’s is your book about?

A. My book is about a girl named who suffers a terrible tragedy at fifteen. As she begins to recover with the help of her best friend, Graham, she meet’s her roommate’s older brother, Eric. He becomes obsessed with Maggie. His obsession becomes violent and he abuses and sexually tortures her. She flees to Spain to attend college and try to find her mother’s estranged family. Just as she settles into what she believes is a safe life, Eric finds her and she begins a journey across Europe to escape him that draws upon all her strength and shows her the woman she is meant to be.

Author Interview with Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages. He has also written for television shows such as London’s Burning, The Knock and the BBC’s Murder in Mind series. For much of 2011 his self-published eBooks – including The Bestseller, The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat – dominated the UK eBook bestseller lists and sold more than half a million copies. The Basement topped the Kindle charts in the UK and the US, and in total he has sold more than two million eBooks.
Stephen joins us today to discuss his new novel, New York Night.

Q. What inspired you to write the Jack Nightingale series?

A. I always loved the Black Magic books of Dennis Wheatley when I was a kid and I’m a huge fan of the Constantine character in the Hellblazer comics (graphic novels as they prefer to be called these days). And I just love supernatural films, especially haunted houses and things that go bump in the night. With the Nightingale series I wanted to explore the supernatural world but with a hero who is very much grounded in reality. The first three books – Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare – really explain his backstory, how he became the man he is. The next two – Nightshade and Lastnight – explain why he had to leave the UK and the subsequent books will be set mainly in the United States, hence San Francisco Night and New York Night.

Q. Do you have a specific writing style?

A. I try not to have a style. Like most journalists-turned-writers I try to tell my stories simply with uncluttered prose. If I find myself over-writing I tend to hit the delete key and start again. I try to write my books as if I was writing for a newspaper, where it’s the information that is being conveyed that’s important, not the style in which it’s written. I do like to write fast-paced books, with lots of dialogue and not too much descriptions. For me, the story is everything.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

A. As Jack Nightingale is the hero, I decided it would be neat to have the word ‘Night’ in all the titles, though after Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare, Nightshade and Lastnight I have to confess I was running out of options. I don’t think Nightdress was going to cut it as a title!  The rest of the titles will be the name of a city, plus Night. So I have already published San Francisco Night and New York Night, and later this year I hope to publish Miami Night.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. The knee-jerk answer is that my books are to entertain and that I’m not trying to teach my readers anything, I just want to tell them a good story. But on reflection I do think most writers want their readers to put down a book having at least learned something. With my Spider Shepherd thrillers I do try to point out the way the world is changing, how it is becoming a more uncertain and dangerous place and how the authorities are trying to deal with that. With the Jack Nightingale books that mission to explain is less pronounced and really I am trying to tell a good story, though there is of course an underlying moral that good always triumphs over evil. The problem with that moral, of course, is that it isn’t true – evil often wins, which is sad.

Q. What books have most influenced your life most?

A. The book I have read the most in my life is One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I love the way it’s such a small story but with such depth. It’s a book about character but through that character you understand an entire political system. I read Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour several times before I wrote my IRA thriller The Chinaman. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre was an inspiring book but it is so good that after I read it I gave up thinking I could be writer for several years.

Q. Do you have any advice for other writers?

A. Read. Read a lot. Read good books and bad books and learn from them both. Write every day if you can. I think though that real writers don’t need advice, not about writing. Real writers will be constantly reading because they love books. And they will be constantly writing because they love to write. You need to find your own voice, you need to write the books that you want to write, or that you feel you have to write, and I don’t believe anyone else should be telling you what sort of books to write or how to write them. I don’t think real writers need advice because real writers are self-motivated to improve their craft. They know what needs to be done! Self-publishing is a different matter, there you do need advice because you have to take care of covers, blurbs, marketing and so on. Google self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and read everything he has to say about self-public

Q. What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A. The books published by Hodder and Stoughton are thrillers, pure and simple. The Jack Nightingale series – which Hodder and Stoughton originally published but which I now publish myself – are supernatural thrillers, though they sometimes get labelled as occult thrillers, which is fine.

Q. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

A. You know, I don’t think there is such a thing, not if you mean a writer who simply cannot write. Like all writers I sometimes have trouble with a storyline or a section I’m writing, but if that happens I simply switch to writing something else, either a different part of the same work or even a separate piece. I always have half a dozen or so short stories in mind so if a book starts to give me problems I might take a few days off and write one of those instead. But as I’m writing a book I usually have several sections already planned out so blocking doesn’t become an issue. My advice to anyone who does feel that they are blocked is to start trying to write something else, anything, just to start the words flowing again!

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

A. Actually New York Night was an easy book to write, partly because Nightingale is such a great character to work with and partly because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. It took about two months, from start to finish, and at no point did I hit any real problems. The ending didn’t come to me until the last week or so and I think that was probably the hardest part, coming up with a satisfying ending.

Q. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A. I just love the Jack Nightingale character. When Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn’t want to continue to publish the series, there was no question that the books would stop. Jack just wouldn’t allow it. I love his sarcasm, his slight air of pessimism, and the fact that he just takes whatever life throws at him. He’s smart and thinks on his feet, yet because the supernatural world is so alien to him it’s constantly catching him off-balance. Having the books set in the United States is fun, because he’s always a fish out of water. It gives me the chance to explore different cities, too, which I enjoy enormously. This one was good fun because I know New York well, it’s one of my favourite cities. The next one will be set in Miami which is also a fun city.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

A. I’m writing the 13th Dan “Spider” Shepherd novel for Hodder and Stoughton. It’s called Dark Forces and is about an Islamic State sniper who is sent to London to carry out a terrorist atrocity. It’s hard work (40,000 words done with 80,000 still to go) but I’m enjoying it.  Once that’s done I’ll be writing a stand-alone novel about an arson investigator and then I’ll start Miami Night.

Q. What’s is your latest book about?  

A. The latest book I’ve self-published is New York Night, where teenagers are being possessed and turning into sadistic murderers. Priests can’t help, nor can psychiatrists. So who is behind the demonic possessions? Jack Nightingale is called in to investigate, and finds his own soul is on the line.

Hodder and Stoughton are publishing my thriller First Response on February 25, though I will be self-publishing it in the United States. In First Response, London is under siege. Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause. Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison. Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today. But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way? Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known. But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?

 

NY night

 

Guest Post by Author Faisal Ansari

authorf

Author Faisal Ansari, took a drastic career change when he went from investment banker to author, and he’s here today, recalling one of his first tentative steps into the publishing world – meeting a literary agent!

It didn’t quite go as planned…

How I fucked up my first meeting with a literary agent

The demigod Zuul, worshipped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and Hittites was a minion of Gozer the Destructor; she was also known as the Gatekeeper.  

In the publishing world, the Gatekeepers are the literary agents. Very few traditional publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. For a hopeful debut author the literary agents are the bridge to the promised land. You want someone to publish your wonderfully crafted prose? Get an agent. This is how not to do it.

As a new author seeking to go down the traditional publishing route I had two choices to hook an agent: Write hundreds of submission letters and wait and wait and wait and then watch as the rejections slowly dripped into my inbox; or try agent speed dating. Writers’ festivals across the country offer the opportunity to pitch your work directly to a real life literary agent. Prior to the festival you submit the usual cover letter, synopsis and the required chapters of your manuscript and on the day you have a 15 minute slot to discuss your work with an agent. So I paid my money, sent my submissions and rocked up to the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

In a room full of agents and nervous authors my first interview was horrific and went something like this:

Agent question: What genre is your work?

Answer given: Errr… it’s a page-turning thriller set in Jerusalem about a healer. It has strong spiritual, religious and supernatural undertows, but not vampires or werewolves or anything shit like that. [I actually liked the Twilight series, so no idea why I said the last bit].

Answer I should have given: A commercial thriller set in Jerusalem.

Agent question: Who would read it?

Answer given: Errr…Men and Women.

[Long pause].

[Trying again]. Errr…actually, everyone really. Most probably anyone who likes reading? [Yes, I managed to turn a stupid answer into a stupid question].

Answer I should have given: As a commercial thriller I believe the book will have wide popular appeal.

Agent question: Which book will it sit next to on the shelf?

Answer given: Errr…The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa [desperately trying to think of alphabetical shelf listings].

Answer I should have given: Any of the successful commercial thriller writers such as Dan Brown or John Grisham.

Agent question: Are you writing the next book in the series?

Answer given: Errr…no way. I have just emerged from my underground bunker after spending nine months of my short life writing this book. I am enjoying the sunlight and fresh air. I will start the next book soon, but right now I would rather eat my own feet than climb back in my bunker again.

Answer I should have given: Of course, I have so many exciting ideas for the next seven books in the series. I love writing, it is my life, my passion. I burst from the womb holding a pen.

Agent question: Who is your favourite author?

Answer given: Murakami.

Agent follow up question: What I have seen of your work it possess nothing like the flair of Murakami.

Answer given: Err…you asked me who my favourite author was.

Answer I should have given: Go fuck yourself you fluffed up arrogant arse.

You live and learn.

About the book:

Despite my pitiful interviewing skills, The Pestilence was published as an e-book and audiobook on 31 October 2015 by the indie publishing house Matador.

The book begins with a mysterious electrical phenomenon rolling above the cities of the world. The lightning which comes from the east, shines as far as the west, turning night into day.

Two brothers of the lightning, Samuel Srour and Victor Pierre Chaput, are gifted powers by the storm. Their paths intertwined, with enemies on all sides.

Samuel Srour has unwittingly started a revolution. His Healed walk the Earth, but powerful forces stand in his way and the Pestilence is drawing ever closer.

 

About the author:

Faisal Ansari has spent the majority of his adult life strapped into a suit writing marketing and stuffy legal documentation for M&A transactions in the City.

Despite growing up in London, Faisal’s overwhelming preference is to be outdoors. When trapped indoors he reads until his eyes bleed.

Faisal wrote full time to complete his first novel, The Pestilence.