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

 

Author Interview with Nicholas Conley

Nicholas-Conley

New Hampshire author Nicholas Conley joins us today to discuss what inspired his novel Pale Highway.

 Q. What was your biggest source of inspiration while writing Pale Highway?

A. The setting of Pale Highway emerged from my real life experience working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home setting. As I wrote about on Alzheimer’s.net, this gave me a strong desire to speak out about my experience, to do what I could to raise awareness about the disease, and the lives of those who live with it.

Q. The story centers mostly on Gabriel, a brilliant man who is now living with Alzheimer’s disease. Why did you feel it was important to shed light this affliction?

A. Once I knew that I was going to be writing about Alzheimer’s disease, I knew that I wanted to write a protagonist with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s are so often forgotten, and by casting an Alzheimer’s patient as the hero of my story, I hope to demonstrate that people with this terrible cognitive disease are still people, first and foremost, and thus deserve equal respect and love.

Q. I loved that, although deeply affected by the disease, Gabriel is given purpose in the novel – he is more than simply a diagnosis. Was this deliberate on your part?

A. You said it perfectly – he is more than a diagnosis. That’s exactly what I wanted to get at here, by showing Gabriel as a real human being; flawed but brilliant, stubborn and strongminded, but also sometimes short sighted.

Q. Aside from Alzheimer’s, the novel had a lot of scientific and medical information especially when it came to Gabriel’s theories on the immune system. Did this require a lot of research?

A. The research that went into writing this book took a long time, but was worth every hour. In order to write about Gabriel I had to first understand how such a person thinks, and this meant understanding his scientific passion.

Q. How did you come up with the title Pale Highway?

A. As you know from reading it, the title is pretty tightly connected to the central themes of the book. I struggled with finding a title for a long time before starting to write the book, but then one night it came to me in a lightning bolt, and it was right then—through finding that title—when Pale Highway was really born.

Q. As a writer, do you tend to plan each chapter ahead of time or do you just “let it happen” so to speak?

A. I’m a meticulous outliner, and I work pretty hard to deliver payoffs for all of my buildups. That said, the process is organic rather than forced, so there are times during the writing process where characters go off, make decisions and redirect the storyline.

Q. I found it interesting that, while the present was seen through Grabriel’s eyes, the past flashbacks were shown from other people’s point of view. What was the reason behind this?

A. In order to get a fully rounded view of who Gabriel is as a person, I felt it was important to show him from other people’s points of view. Gabriel is a highly introverted individual, and in his younger years is shown to be socially awkward and tense, so by writing the flashbacks through the POV of others—while simultaneously reading the future scenes through the eyes of an older Gabriel, who has already learned a lot of the harsh lessons that his younger self has yet to experience—it allowed the full spectrum of the character to become fully fleshed out.

Q. What did you find most challenging about writing Pale Highway?

A. When one writes about a character long enough, that character can start to feel like a friend. And Gabriel goes through many painful, humiliating moments in this book, so going through those moments with him felt like being pushed through a meat grinder.

Q. What process did you go through to get your book published?

A. I submitted the novel to Red Adept Publishing. When the acceptance call came in, I can’t even describe the sense of elation I experienced; after all those years of working on this project, dreaming about it, imagining it happening…the reality of the publication contract was a senses-shattering experience.

Q. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?

A. Definitely a combination. I’d say the initial brainstorming process is mostly all intuition, and then logic comes in as a guiding force that takes in all of the disparate ideas, visualizations and character concepts, then ties them together into a cohesive whole.

Q. What are your future writing plans? Can your readers look forward to more books?

A. My creative mind feels like a train station, where there are hundreds of trains, and each individual train is going somewhere amazing. The only shame is that I have to pick and choose one at a time!

Q. What advice would you give a new author?

A. Never give up, and never lose sight of the passion that compelled you in the first place.

Q. Where can readers find your work?

A. At www.NicholasConley.com, of course! Readers can also follow me on my blog, where I regularly post about books, media, traveling, and coffee.

 

An Interview With Joy Jennings on Her Experiences With Sexual Violence

Sexual harassment and assault victim Joy Jennings experienced many incidences of assault as a child before becoming a victim of sexual assault as a woman. She is now an author working to bring awareness regarding sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Jennings’ troubling story is a reminder that violence towards women is still ever-present in our society.

Q: Joy, why did you feel it was so important to tell your story?

A: Sexual harassment and assault is still such a large problem in our society and not nearly enough women and girls are coming forward. They are either too frightened to speak up, not taught how to or even that they can. They don’t understand what is considered sexual assault or that such crimes are committed against them. They also fear not being taken seriously and these are all the same problems I faced. Another reason is that girls are becoming more accepting of this rape culture and therefore more males are convinced that it is ok to treat women badly when it isn’t. I needed to tell my story so that other women can learn from my mistakes and to help protect themselves. Ultimately, I am hoping for new male attitudes and behaviors with a shift towards social change.

Q: You had many incidents as a young child that you decided to keep quiet about. Why do you think sexual harassment and assault frequently goes unreported?

A: As a child, if your parents have not had that talk with you, you are left uninformed, unaware and unprepared. It is a difficult job for parents to protect your children and they couldn’t possibly cover all the possibilities that their child might come across, so it is tough job but nevertheless, a crucial one.

Q: Recently, the University of British Colombia went under fire for making a mockery of sexual assault when only 6 of their 273 complaints were formally investigated. What do you make of this?

A: Those figures are disgusting, but not surprising. Sexual assault is never taken seriously enough and reinforces why women and girls are too afraid to come forward. This is the same problem I faced and it needs to change. Women need to be empowered to be courageous by example, and situations like these only set us back and do more damage. It continues to disappoint and infuriate me.

Q: What are some of the lasting effects that have stayed with you after so much abuse?

A: I continue to suffer in all areas of my life. I still experience night terrors, anxiety and stress, especially when around men, and have some relationship issues. I become an unintentional nervous wreck over the simplest of things too. As an example, a man offered me assistance with my groceries last week and he put his hands on my bags. I froze into a petrified terror and felt as if I was being violated all over again. That is not normal functioning but it is who I have become.

Q: In your experience, what are some ways we as a society can prevent sexual harassment and assault?

A: We need to be teaching this subject in schools. Young boys need to be taught what are considered sexual crimes and simply not to commit them. They need to be taught how to respect women and how to behave in public. Girls need to be shown how to handle certain situations, what to do, where to go and who to report to. Parents need to do their part also. This is a major issue and we absolutely have to educate our kids about this.

Q: If you could give victims of sexual abuse one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Don’t be afraid and speak up. Screw them! This is your life, your body and you have the right not be assaulted. These predators are banking on you not saying anything and are afraid of being punished, so don’t let them get away with it. Report them! Speak to your kids, educate them about potential dangers and how to handle situations. Stay safe and please, whatever you do, don’t remain silent any longer.

joyjennings

For further information about Joy Jennings, please visit her  website.