Getting to know Larry & Carolyn Watts

larry-and-carolynLarry and Carolyn are Texas authors who have teamed up as authors for the first time to write Dishonored and Forgotten.  Larry has a BA in Labor Studies and is a graduate of the renowned Harvard University Trade Union Program whose mission is to help union leaders develop problem solving skills as well as discover ways to deepen public understanding of the value and importance of labor.

 

Larry’s career in law enforcement began in Houston, Texas, as a police officer. He became active in police labor issues and served on the board of directors of the Houston Police Officers’ Association and the National Association of Police Associations.  He retired after 21 years and began working for a state-wide association representing law enforcement officers throughout Texas, eventually becoming the chief of staff. After 20 years, he again retired, and began his first fiction novel, The Missing Piece about an Austin police officer involved in shooting a black citizen. Within a year, Watts was asked to assist the City of Austin develop a labor relations department.  Publication of that novel was postponed for two years while he fulfilled the interesting challenge.  He has now published five works of fiction and a book of short-stories.     His experiences are fodder for and add depth to his writing.

 

Carolyn worked for Continental Airlines for 16 years.  She was a flight attendant scheduler early in that career and worked in Continental’s Public Relations Department before returning to school to attain a BS in Psychology and an MS in School Psychology. Her professional career has spanned positions in education, a non-profit counseling center and shelter for victims of domestic violence, and a private practice that enabled her to fulfill her desire to work with couples and their children.

 

Carolyn has advocated for children, parents and families for over 20 years as a counselor and specialist in school psychology.  She is certified in marriage and family relationship therapies and in advanced therapies for treating trauma, loss and PTSD.   Her training in working with trauma was valuable in 2011 when she volunteered to counsel victims and first responders during devastating wildfires in Texas.

 

Dishonored and Forgotten is Carolyn’s first venture into historical fiction writing.  She has previously written six read-play-dishonored-andforgottencoverlearn-together books for therapists and parents to use while working with children.  She presents workshops to mental health providers and parents.

 

Larry and Carolyn live on the Texas Gulf Coast where they spend their time writing, enjoying family and attempting to capture all that life has to offer.

 

Tell me a little about yourselves…

 

Larry:

I grew up in a small Oklahoma town where everyone was on a first name basis.  After coming to Houston I became a police officer.  That was followed by a career in labor relations and I continue to consult with city and county government on public safety issues.

I have written articles for trade publications most of my adult life and published my first novel in 2011.  Since then I have written five more novels and a book of short stories.

 

Carolyn:

Most of my childhood and youth were in Beaumont, an industrial city on the Texas Gulf Coast.  Summer vacations always involved car trips to visit my dad’s family in a quaint Georgia town.

As the first child of a WWII marriage between two people from different religions and backgrounds, I learned to observe, analyze, adapt and appreciate differences early.  Mother read daily to my sister and me, contributing to our passion for books.  A school task incited my childhood love of writing.  (My first story was about a female heroine with traits not unlike those of Paul Bunyan.) When I entered high school, Mom advised that learning typing, editing and shorthand skills could help throughout life.  These life experiences have served as valuable assets during my business, psychology and writing pursuits.

I have published five books.  My Keys to Parenting Magic series of five read-play-learn-together books for children, parents, teachers and counselors enhance family bonds while educating children and adults about what children need and should be able to expect from parents. My Powerful Super Hero T-Cells is a read-and-learn-together book about guided imagery for children during illness.

 

 

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

 

Larry:

I love living on Texas’ Gulf Coast. We’re close to Houston, so we enjoy the pleasures of big city life, but can also be in remote, unpopulated beaches or the hustle and bustle of Galveston’s tourist population in literally minutes of leaving home.  It doesn’t hurt that my best cheerleader and co-author on my most recent book enjoys this life with me.

 

Carolyn:

I need a home base, and prefer to live near water, with access to urban benefits.  I also enjoy being able to visit our children and feeling that I’m a part of their lives.  So Texas is a good place for us.  Our coastal home feels like a haven. We have discussed spending more time in distant places we enjoy and possibly let them serve as the location of another mutual novel. So some extended travel may be in our future.

 

 

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

 

Larry:

I try to write reviews for the books I read.  As a writer myself, I know how important that feedback is to an author.  My goal is to be objective in my reviews, pointing out what I think is outstanding about the book, but also describing shortcomings I see in the writing.  I’ve only had one author become offended by my reviews, when I criticized the poor editing in his book.  I’m convinced we should use critical reviews to improve our work.

 

Carolyn:

Sporadically.  I enjoy reading, but book reviews have never been one of my strengths.  I tend to put more thought than is necessary in such tasks.

 

 

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

 

Larry:

I knew when I published my first book that the marketing was up to me.  What I didn’t know was what type of marketing or promotion would work best for my work.  The first attempts were attending book fairs and book signings.  With one notable exception, these forums were total failures for me.  I became very frustrated with sitting for hours and selling one or two books.  Of course, since then I have refined my efforts and spend more time promoting with social media and making presentations to groups interested in my genre.

 

Carolyn:

Most of my marketing has been presentations at mental health professional workshops.  It is wonderful to have good feedback and reviews from colleagues. The largest gathering I’ve presented to was the Texas School Counselors’ Annual Conference in 2016.   I always encourage a lot of audience participation; to have that large an audience display interest and excitement was very rewarding.

 

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

Larry:

That’s a difficult question.  I write crime, social justice and mystery fiction.  I think adding the social justice aspect to crime and mystery stories adds a dimension not often emphasized in such books.

 

Carolyn:

Helping readers relate to our characters by gaining insightful understanding of those characters’ behaviors and personalities is important.  I like to utilize strategies that I learned from administering and writing professional psychological and/or counseling evaluations.    My efforts often involve researching events of a timeframe consisting approximately of three generations. That enables me to analyze and develop probable reactions to particular situations.

 

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

Larry:

That one’s easy for me. GET BUSY!  I am involved in some writers groups and one of the things I often see are writers who agonize for years on getting a story ‘just right’ and as a result never reach the point of publication.  One of the great things about publishing today with print on demand is that minor changes can be made, even after initial publication.  I think some of these writers are just reluctant to put their work out to the public, maybe because of the fear of criticism.

 

Carolyn:

Larry is my mentor as well a husband.  So I have a personal coach and consultant at all times.  He even reminds me to stop working when I am tired.  I try to reserve mornings (my best concentration time) for writing.  I make written notes of any ideas I may have at other times.

Sometimes I apply for conference or workshop presentations a year in advance, which creates a timeline for me to meet.  I attend writers’ and marketing workshops as well.  We also dedicate some evenings at home to read the works of other authors.

 

 

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Larry:

I use social media to promote my work. As a result, I can track sales to some degree based on each promotion.  Once I became semi-proficient at the various social media platforms, my e-book sales have outpaced printed copies by more than 5 to 1.

My second most effective tool has been making personal presentations, usually at local libraries. Interestingly, though sometimes these forums are attended by as few as 8 to 10, the ‘buy’ rate is usually 80 to 90% of attendees.

 

Carolyn:

Professional workshops have been my most effective tool.

 

 

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Larry:

Like most writers, I would prefer to spend my time writing.  The time needed to market my work on social media can be overwhelming.  With that said, every time I see sales after a promotion, I decide it’s worth it.

 

Carolyn:

I don’t understand social media as well as I should.  Also, I need to be faithful to blogging on my website.

 

 

Your favorite books and author?

 

Larry:

Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors and his book The Crossing comes to mind.  But I also love biographies of political leaders, including Truman by David McCullough and the Robert Cairo series on Lyndon Johnson.

 

Carolyn:

Leon Uris (Exodus; currently rereading Trinity); Bernie Seigel, M. D.;

Daniel G. Amen, M. D.; Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan; James Webb

 

 

Which genres do you prefer to read?

 

Larry:

Mystery and political biography.

 

Carolyn:

Historical fiction; social justice; psychology nonfiction.

 

 

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

 

Larry:

Two come to mind, although both have had books out for a while.  One is Tom Rizzo, who writes western fiction. His book, Last Stand at Bitter Creek, is a favorite.  Attica Locke, Black Water Rising, is also someone whose work I follow.

 

Carolyn:

Tom Rizzo; Hardy Roper.  I’ve met both authors via an authors’ group.  Their books are difficult to put down and they are both personable, interesting people.  That’s quite inspiring for me.  (I must admit that I also enjoy my husband’s books.  His creativity is delightful and amazing to me.)

 

 

What book is currently on your nightstand?

 

Larry:

Well, these days it’s in my smart phone instead of on the night stand, but I am currently reading James Lee Burke’s Lay Down My Sword and Shield.

 

Carolyn:

Trinity, Leon Uris; Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra

 

 

Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so? 

 

Larry:

I enjoyed the cop books by Joseph Wambaugh during the 1970’s.  Because he, too, was a cop, his writing inspired me to believe I could write books that readers might enjoy.

 

Carolyn:

Each of the following books addresses the relationship between biology and behaviors and are some of the inspirations for my professional books: Getting the Love you Want, Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.; The Science of Parenting, Margot Sunderland; Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Daniel G. Amen, M. D.

 

 

How many books do you read/month?

 

Larry:

Usually I complete a book a month, sometimes two.

 

Carolyn:

I usually finish one each month.  I may read a couple at the same time:  one for research and one for pure pleasure.

 

 

What is the one book that you think everyone should read?

 

Larry:

I’m not sure there is a book that everyone should read.  Our population is too diverse.  But I do think Thomas Frank’s book The Wrecking Crew is worth the time for readers who are interested in government and politics.

 

Carolyn:

I just think everyone should read something of interest to them. Browse a library or book store, being open for the book that captures your attention.  Take time to read it.  More importantly, parents, read to your child(ren), if only 15 minutes a day.

 

 

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

 

Larry:

Too many good ones to pick a single book.  The next one, might be the best answer.  Right now, that’s my own, Dishonored and Forgotten, which will be available in January.

 

Carolyn:

I agree with Larry.  It’s an honor to have participated in writing this book with him.  Most of the characters and events are real.  I find Dishonored and Forgotten to be a fascinating, haunting novel.

 

 

How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

 

Larry:

I’m not sure about the importance, but I am always flattered when a reader contacts me.  I will always respond to their message and I try to read all the reviews.

 

Carolyn:

I find readers’ critique and comments to be helpful and motivating.

 

 

Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

 

Larry:

Facebook, but just because I am more familiar with how to use it to promote my work.  I use Twitter and just need to concentrate on becoming more proficient with it.

 

Carolyn:

I have no experience on Twitter.  That’s on my to-do list.

 

 

Where can your fans find you?

 

Larry:

My website is www.LarryWatts.net, but I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, and Pinterest.

 

Carolyn:

My website is www.carolynwatts.net.  I am also on Facebook and Linkedin.

 

 

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

 

Larry:

That’s my favorite question of this interview.  I love the Galveston Bookshop (http://galvestonbookshop.com/).  In an earlier question, I noted that with one exception, I had little success with book signings at book stores. This is the exception.  It’s a REAL book store and is very supportive of local authors whose books have a connection to the Galveston area.  It has a funky, laid-back atmosphere and as I said, I love it.  If you are in Galveston, don’t miss it.  Oh, and by the way, because of their promotion of my book signing, I sold more than 100 copies (print and e-book) as the result of a two-hour signing.

 

Carolyn:

I completely agree with Larry.  Located in the historic Strand District, it is cozy, charming and inviting.  Surrounding shops, eateries and historic mansions make a trip to the Galveston Bookshop a must place to visit.

 

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

 

Larry:

The Missing Piece, Cheating Justice, The Park Place Rangers, the Tanner & Thibodaux series (Murder in Black & White, Rich Man, Dead Man, & Murder on the Seawall) and my latest, available in January, Dishonored and Forgotten.

 

Carolyn:

  • Magical Years To Learn With Liam (Jan., 2014)
  • Magical Years to Learn with Me: A gentle guide for children, parents, teachers and counselors (Nov., 2014)
  • My Powerful Super Hero T-Cells: Guided Imagery for Children (Sept., 2015)
  • Keys to Parenting Magic Series:
  • See Me Talk (Sept., 2015)
  • What Are Mommies and Daddies For? (Jan., 2016)
  • Magical Power of Choice (Jan., 2016)

 

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 

Larry:

Dishonored and Forgotten is my first effort at co-authoring with my wife, Carolyn Ferrell Watts.  It is a fictional account of the first police narcotics scandal in Houston, Texas.  A cop was killed, another went to prison as did a local medical doctor, and a police chief lost his job.  It’s a story nearly forgotten in the annals of Houston’s history.

 

Carolyn:

In the book, Larry mentions that Marines won’t leave a fallen soldier behind.  That translates for the blue line as supporting one another.  But what is the nature of events that demand that loyalty?  This is truly a mystery case for those Dishonored and Forgotten.

 

 

Where can we buy it?

 

Larry & Carolyn:

In effect, wherever good books are sold.  More specifically, Amazon, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, the Galveston Bookshop, and, of course, at my website or my wife’s.  www.LarryWatts.net or www.CarolynWatts.net.

 

 

 

If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

 

Larry:

Please give me one suggestion regarding my book you most recently read, that would have improved your reading enjoyment.

 

Carolyn:

Just one question with regard to marketing.  Cozy, romantic books sell quite well.  As a relationship counselor, I am curious about how much romance readers expect to enjoy a novel of this nature.  So, readers, thoughts please, after digesting Dishonored and Forgotten.

 

 

Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

 

Larry:

I am working on the last book in my series, Tanner &Thibodaux.  I hope to have it available at mid-year 2017.

 

Carolyn:

In My Counselor’s Office, should be out early in 2017.  Each chapter is a short story about children who have different reasons for visiting a counselor. The sessions and therapies are observed and described by a macaw and a rabbit that make their home in the office.  However, Larry and I are developing another controversial, action/political book that we are looking forward to authoring together.  Just a little tease about that book.  What if Texas really did secede from the United States?

 

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share to your followers and readers? 

 

Larry:

Please, leave a review and send me a personal message with any thoughts regarding our book.

 

Carolyn:

Stay tuned to our website blogs and let us hear from you.

 

 

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Larry:

This joint effort at writing with Carolyn has been the most gratifying writing experience I’ve enjoyed.  I look forward to more books with her in the future.

 

Carolyn:

I’ve heard Larry remark that he seems to recreate himself at times.  I must admit, this time he managed to recreate both of us, with the writing of a fictional account of historic events and it’s been a pleasure!

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Getting to know Kay Kendall

kaykendallKay Kendall is an award-winning author of two historical mysteries. Her second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series, published by Stairway Press. The first was DESOLATION ROW (2013).

 

Website URL: http://AustinStarr.com

Blog URL: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/09/let-good-times-roll.html < http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/> I blog every third Wednesday of each month.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor/  & https://www.facebook.com/kendall.kl

Twitter: @kaylee_kendall

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaykendallmysteries

 

Buy links for Rainy Day Women:

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rainy-Day-Women-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00W2X5SCS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1476660796&sr=1-1&keywords=rainy+day+women

 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rainy-day-women-kay-kendall/1122022299?ean=9781941071175

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Do you read reviews written about your book?

I’m enormously curious. When I see a new review of my mysteries, I pounce on it and read immediately. I’m happy to report that mostly—say, 95 percent of the time—those reviews please me. And if a reader has left critical comments, then I get over it. My membership in a book club for fifteen years taught me how wildly opinions differ over even famous novels. Invariably, at least two people (out of twelve) disliked even award-winning books. That experience showed I should expect sour reviews at least every once in a while.

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Because I had a long-time career (25 years) in public relations, I enjoy promoting books—both my own and other authors as well. However, there is one task I loathe. I detest asking readers to leave a review online at one of the traditional places—like Amazon.com, bn.com, and Goodreads.com. Periodically I do manage to suggest on my Facebook pages that these short reviews really help authors. I don’t know why exactly, but I hate asking. Whenever someone emails me, comments on Facebook, or tweets that s/he loves my work, I always want to fire back, “S0, why not post a review online—even if only one sentence?” Somehow that embarrasses me, so I don’t do it.

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

After my first mystery was published in 2013, I held a signing at an independent bookstore in Wichita, Kansas. That’s the big city near my small hometown. Many friends from the old days drove twenty-five miles to my event, which pleased and delighted me. While I was signing my books for people, a woman in line introduced herself. She said, “You don’t know me, but Pam ___ is my sister. She lives so far away, but she asked me to represent her today. I’ll surprise her at Christmastime with your debut mystery, and please sign it to her.” This experience touched me. Pam and I were friends in college.

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

Before I joined Goodreads, I didn’t track the books I read. Now I do because Goodreads makes it so easy. While I don’t manage to write online reviews for every book I read, I do for quite a few. For example, if a friend publishes a book, I always leave a review. If someone is new and just getting started, I do also. And of course if someone writes an absolutely fabulous novel that I’m just wild about, I definitely write a review—and often give it a social media shout out. After all, I don’t want to be hypocritical. If I want readers to review my mysteries, then it behooves me to do the same for other writers’ books.

Who are your cheerleaders?

About fifteen years ago I began writing fiction. Back then I had a few friends who believed in my dream and kept me going. Two were retired journalists who were good writers themselves. My husband was supportive, but it took him a while to understand fully how deep my dream of achieving publication would be. When my first novel (a literary novel) didn’t sell, I began to write mysteries. The first one sold and was published. Then other friends saw how serious I am about my new career and picked up the pace of their cheerleading. They’re happy that I am so happy. Also, two women friends—half my age and budding fiction writers—support me, and I support Cathy and Emily in turn.

I know it is a hard, steep road to getting published these days, unless one self-publishes. But if you want a publisher to pay you, well then, that’s a tough proposition. Perhaps because everyone in it realizes this, the mystery writing community is very friendly and supportive, and that is one of the many joys of participating in it. I have made so many new friends at conferences—both other authors and fans too. I had no idea that the lonely life of an author would be graced with so much friendship and support. It is simply thrilling and heartwarming, and I believe in giving back to others for what I receive from them.

Who do you look up to?

I always loved reading—fiction in particular and especially mysteries, ever since I read my first Nancy Drew. I’m also besotted with history, so it’s a natural for me to be drawn to historical mysteries. In 2003 the first Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear was published. Set between the two world wars, it features a nurse who turns professional detective. This series captured my attention, and when I began writing my own historical mysteries, I took the Winspear books as inspiration. To date there are now twelve in Winspear’s series.

Most of the other historical mystery writers whom I most admire are men. They include Steve Berry, David Morrell, and Philip Kerr. How fortunate I am to know these authors, and their support provides a wonderful source of encouragement. ###

rainydaywomen

Getting to know Judy Alter

judy-alterAn award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

 

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. http://judyalter.com/

 

Blog URL: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/judy.alter

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In the words of the friend who brought me lunch today, I’m…:

Multi-faceted, authorial authority coupled with maternal strain, domesticity, parenting; anxiety disorder doesn’t seem to disturb her two strengths—writing and maternal love

 

Tell me a little about yourself…

I’m a native of Chicago, lived in Texas over 50 years, the single mother of four adopted wonderful people who have given me seven grandchildren. I am blessed that we are a close family, get together often. Graduate school at TCU and one special professor launched me into studying and writing about the literature of the American West. Eventually that interest morphed into fiction, first about women of the American West and more recently cozy mysteries, with a detour to Chicago to write about Bertha Honore Palmer, stories wife of hotelier Potter Palmer. I have close to a hundred books to my credit, along with some nice awards. Along the way I served as editor and then director of TCU Press for almost 30 years. It’s been a rich and full life.

 

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

I used to be desperate to move to Santa Fe but today I wouldn’t move out of Fort Worth. I have a wonderful network of family and friends of all ages, enough of a career to keep me happy. I live in a great cottage on the back of my property while my youngest daughter and her husband and son live in the house. Because I am mobility impaired, they help with things I can’t do. And for 24-hour companionship, I have Sophie, a cross of a border collie and a miniature poodle.

 

If you weren’t a writer, what you would be?

A chef. Cooking has been my avocation for years, and I developed a good reputation as a hostess. Occasionally I considered professional chef training at least part time but the older I got the more rigorous it sounded. These days in my tiny kitchen my cooking days may be behind me but I still collect recipes almost frantically. Being recently diagnosed as lactose-intolerant has also put a crimp in my cooking style.

 

When did you decide to become a writer?

The decision just sort of happened. I began writing short stories at about the age of ten and wrote off and on after that. Work in medical public relations and academic publishing helped me to polish my skills until my muse felt free enough to take off in fiction. My first novel, After Pa Was Shot, was published in 1978. For almost fifty years Dr. Fred Erisman, Lorraine Shirley Emeritus Professor of American Literature at TCU, has encouraged me and helped me clarify my thoughts, though he dislikes the term mentor. My family are my cheerleaders, a loud, proud and enthusiastic bunch.

 

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

Only sometimes.

 

Do you read reviews written about your book?

Yes.

 

When you made your first sale, how did you celebrate and with whom?

My then-husband arranged a large surprise party—mostly with people who are no longer part of my life. Strange how things change.

 

Do you listen to music while writing?

No. Sometimes I have the TV on but muted

 

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Probably being carried, in a wheelchair, down a steep flight of stairs, with a restaurant manager assuring me his staff is “very strong.” Then the largest man I’ve ever seen who was not bedridden sat down next to my daughter without a word of apology or inquiring as to her comfort. Her sister across the table had hysterical giggles and by the time we got home we were all ready for wine.

 

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I would hope voice and an ability to draw readers into the story.

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

If you feel the need to write in your bones, don’t give up.

 

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

The internet

 

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Developing new outlets and sources

 

Your favorite books and author?

Too many to tell. I am in awe of the accomplishments of the late Elmer Kelton, western writer, and the work of Wallace Stegner, whose Angle of Repose I particularly admire. Of contemporary mystery writers I respect the accomplishments of Deborah Crombie and Julia Spencer-Fleming.

 

Which genres do you prefer to read?

Mysteries

 

How many books do you read/month?

Two to three.

 

What is the one book that you think everyone should read?

I think it’s a fallacy that there is one book that makes you educated or not. When I was working on my master’s, a faculty member was aghast that I had not read Dante’s Inferno. Well I still haven’t read it, all these  years later, and I don’’t feel any the worse for it.

 

How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

Yes to both but my readers don’t communicate with me often

 

Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

Facebook; Twitter still confounds me.

 

Where can your fans find you?

http://www.judyalter.com; http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com

 

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Wish we had a good independent bookseller, but alas no.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

http://judyalter.com/publications/

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:tabbythegildedcage-big

Chicago, from swampland to host of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, as lived by two leading historical figures: tycoon and hotelier Potter Palmer and his activist wife Bertha Honoré Palmer who fought for women’s rights and help for the poor. A story of love, major historical events, class warfare, intrigue, a forbidden love interest, and murder. A history of Chicago’s colorful Gilded Age.

 

Where can we buy it?

Various online sites including Amazon

 

If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

What can I do to give you what you want to read?

 

Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

Such a vague idea right now I’m afraid to say

Getting to know Marilyn Meredith

marilyn-meredithMarilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains.

She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.

Website URL: http://fictionforyou.com

Blog URL: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook URL: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: @marilynmeredith

 

Buy links for Seldom Traveled:

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Seldom-Traveled-Tempe-Crabtree-Mystery/dp/1594264333/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474237735&sr=8-2&keywords=seldom+traveled+meredith

 

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seldom-traveled-marilyn-meredith/1124443124?ean=2940156979882

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How long have you been writing?

 

As long as I can remember, and that’s a long, long time. When I was about 10, I wrote a fairy tale and illustrated it. I sent if off to a publisher (with my mom’s help) and received my first rejection—a very nice one.

 

 

At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful or satisfied as a writer?

 

I’m not sure I’ve reached that point. The fact that I have two publishers who routinely accept my work is most satisfying—but I haven’t ever felt successful. Perhaps fulfilled is the better word, because I’m writing and others can read what I’ve written.

 

 

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

 

Though writing was something I always did, I’m not sure I had any thoughts about what “the writing life” would be. I met many authors along the way who were “famous” like Mary Higgins Clark and Jan Burke and I never thought my life would be like theirs. For me, it’s sitting down in front of the computer and writing—but also spending a lot of time promoting too. I don’t know that I ever thought I’d have to spend so much time at the promotion part.

 

 

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

 

This writer is not wealthy. In fact sometimes when I see the total on my royalties I have to laugh. By the time everyone get their cut, be it Amazon or Ingram, the bookstore, the publisher, my part is very small.

 

 

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Since you’ve been published, how has your focus changed?

 

I’ve been published since 1981. But that first book really didn’t open doors for me. The editor that signed me on, left the publishing house and I had to start all over. I got many, many rejections after that.

 

 

How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 

This was back in the day of typewriters and carbon paper and mailing the whole manuscript off in a box with another self-addressed and stamped box inside so the manuscript could be returned. That first book was rejected close to 30 times. About every 5th time it came back, the pages would have coffee and food stains and smell like cigarette smoke. This meant I had to retype so I often rewrote too.  I don’t remember the actual time period, but I moved from one town to another and received the acceptance letter at my new place of residence.

 

 

Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

 

With that first book I had no idea what I was supposed to do to promote it. I did set up one book signing which was successful, but that’s all. I got no guidance from the publisher about what I ought to be doing and I have no idea what happened at the publishing house’s end—if anything. Back in that time period there weren’t all the suggestions for promotions like there are now. So sure, I’d have at least set up some speaking engagements and other bookstores for signings.

 

 

Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 

This is what’s going on with me at the moment. I have a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery at the publisher’s right now. Usually that series comes out in the early fall, which means I’ll have edits to go over in a couple of months. I’m also writing a new one in that series. I try to work on it for at least two hours at least five days a week.

 

I’m reading chapters of my next Rocky Bluff P.D. to my critique group every week and then editing them.

 

My latest Rocky Bluff P.D. is out now and I’m in the process of a month long blog tour which takes a lot of time to promote and while that was going on I did another smaller tour with 7 other authors over a period of 14 days—also time consuming. I have several speaking engagements planned, mostly libraries and I’m scheduled to have a booth at two craft fairs this year.

 

 

What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

After being a runner-up for an Epic e-award enough times to feel like the Susan Lucci of Epic, this year I won an Epic e-award for my supernatural romance, Lingering Spirit. I was thrilled. (Epic is the organization for e-published authors and publishers.)

 

 

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

 

I really can’t think of anything except I wish I had more readers.

 

 

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

 

When someone comes up to me or writes on a blog that they love one of my series or a particular character, tat’s a most wonderful feeling.

 

 

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series has a lot of Native American mysticism in it and is set in a small mountain community in the Southern Sierra—a place where no other series I know of is set. It is very much like the place where I live though I’ve changed the name to Bear Creek.

 

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, there is a cast of characters who make appearances in every book, though I usually focus on one or two for each book. I think this series could be described as almost a cozy police procedural.

 

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

If money is your goal, you should probably do something else. If you truly want to be a published author, read the kind of books you want to write, attend writers’ conferences, read books on writing, but the two most important things are to write regularly and never give up.

 

 

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Probably being visible on the Internet though blog tours, my own blog, Facebook etc. Though I really enjoy giving presentations at writers’ conferences and libraries or anywhere else I’m invited.

 

 

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Making the contacts for personal appearances—I do not like to make phone calls.

 

 

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

 

Willow Bridge Bookstore in Oakhurst, California has been very supportive—and I must mention Kris Neri’s Well Red Coyote Bookstore in Sedona AZ. I’ve given several presentations there.

 

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

 

I’ve listed them latest first:

 

The Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, set in a fictional beach city between Ventura and Santa Barbara and written under the name F. M. Meredith

 

No Bells

Angel Lost

An Axe to Grind

No Sanctuary

Smell of Death

Fringe Benefits

Bad Tidings

Final Respects

 

The Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, set in the Southern Sierra, Native American.

 

Bears With Usseldom-traveled-front-cover

Invisible Path

Dispel the Mist

Kindred Spirits

Judgment Fire

Calling the Dead

Intervention

WingBeat

Unequally Yoked

Deadly Omen

Deadly Trail

(the next in the series will be available this fall, called Raging Water

 

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 

In No Bells, Officer Gordon Butler has finally found the love he’s been seeking for a long time, but there’s one big problem, she’s the major suspect in a murder case.

 

 

Where can we buy it?

 

Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It is with Ingram so can be ordered by an independent bookstore.

Getting to know John Achor

poster-12-12-13-14The first of John Achor’s three careers spanned twenty years as a U.S. Air Force pilot. He accumulated over 4,000 hours flying planes from Piper Cubs to the military equivalent of the Boeing 707. After the military, he entered the real estate industry. He joined a national real estate franchise as a management consultant working at the regional and national levels. Those positions led him to Phoenix, Arizona, and an affiliation with a major Savings & Loan institution.

In John’s words, “When the Savings and Loan industry melted away like a lump of sugar in hot coffee, I knew it was time to develop a third career.” He became a freelance computer instructor, user-developer, consultant, writer and Community College instructor.

In mid-1999, John moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, where he lived in the piney woods with his wife Pat and their two cats, Lexus and Betsy Ross. As you may know from his latest book or web site; these two cats are no longer with them. Big hole in their lives, but both are waiting for us by The Rainbow Bridge. Their latest move was a recent relocation to the Omaha, Nebraska area where John is busy meeting and greeting new writers, readers and writing groups.

Website URL: http://www.johnachor.com

Blog URL: http://www.johnachor.wordpress.com

Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/jachor1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/caseyfremont

 

Amazon buy link for Three Four Kill Some More:

https://www.amazon.com/Three-Four-Kill-Some-More-Fremont/dp/151514805X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478131870&sr=8-1&keywords=three+for+kill+some+more

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How would my friends describe me in 20 words or less?

Friendly and outgoing extrovert. However, check my next response.

 

Tell me a little about yourself

I’m basically a shy introvert. I’ve trained myself to be a trainer, a speaker and present myself as more extroverted. I believe that if I don’t feel a bit of anxiety before performing, I’ve lost interest in the subject.

 

If you weren’t a writer, what you would be?

Most likely a vegetable – spell that couch potato binging on TV mysteries.

 

When did you decide to become a writer?

Back in the day; somewhere in the 80s.

 

When did you begin writing?

I typed (on a real portable typewriter) the beginnings of a couple of stories/vignettes in the late 1980s. I became a serious writer in the mid-1990s. It took me into the -2000s to refer to myself as a writer; and then as a professional writer ― because I’ve been paid for my writing. And, the answer to your next question; do you make a living at writing – the answer is no.

 

Who is you mentor? Who do you look up to?

In the writing field, I like Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton in the mystery field and for thrillers, I like Vince Flynn and Lee Child. I’ve had a number of mentors via critique groups, who gave unselfishly to help me improve as a writer.

 

Who are your cheerleaders?

Friends, family and readers. I’ve received a good amount of positive support in the form of Amazon comments.

 

Did you have support at the beginning and/or during your writing?

I think that if a person is serious about writing, you need to: Read, read, read – in the genre you like to write and nonfiction books about writing. JOIN a critique group. I’ve learned as much or more from the groups I’ve worked with as any other approach.

 

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

Yes, and I’m surprised what previously published authors get away with. Many would have trouble getting their manuscripts through the critique groups I’ve been associated with.

 

Do you read reviews written about your book?

Yes. I enjoy the positive ones and for those who do not like my writing I think; that’s why there are so many shelves in a bookstore and hope they find an author they like.

 

What started you on your journey to be a writer?

I had a short vignette in mind about flying. I wrote it and it became a 10,000 word flash back in a novel. My critique group said, that’s gotta go – cut it. It was cut from the novel, but still resides on my computer hard drive, maybe sometime …

 

When you made your first sale, how did you celebrate and with whom?

The first sale was to “Good Old Days” magazine in September 1992. The check was for $40.00 USD; I puffed out my chest, strutted around, but with the size of the remuneration, there wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating. However, that money put me in the ranks of professional writers.

 

Do you listen to music while writing?

Yes, but not all the time. I do have a favorite play list I put together from five movie albums. When I completed the list, I realized they all had a similar theme: perseverance. Here they are: Flight of the Intruder, Quigley Down Under, The Great Escape, The Longest Day and Monuments Men.

 

What are your favorite hobbies?

While I consider writing a profession, I have fun and enjoy the act of writing, as well as meeting and speaking with readers and writers.

 

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

I set up a book sales table at an outdoor festival in a small rural town in Arkansas. I asked a lady walking past my table if she liked mysteries. Her response was, “I don’t read books.” I mentioned that with holidays coming up, my book might make a decent present. Her response was, “I don’t give gifts.” I wished her a pleasant day and she kept walking. I smiled at her answers and went back to enjoying the warm summer day.

 

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I believe my female protagonist, Casey Fremont, is representative of what many of us face in our lives 3-4-kill-covertoday. She begins the series with her own self esteem in shambles. As the series progresses, Casey begins to regain a belief in herself and recognizes others in her life are of value as well. I do my best to leave Casey in a better place at the end of the book as opposed to where she was before the bodies began to fall. In some ways, she is a mirror of how I have gained my own insight over a life time.

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Never give up; keep writing and do everything to improve you manuscripts.

 

Your favorite books and author?

I like Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton in the mystery field and for thrillers, Vince Flynn and Lee Child are at the top of the field.

 

Which genres do you prefer to read?

Mysteries and thrillers top the list, however lately I’ve discovered any number of nonfiction books I enjoyed; The Elephant Whisperer is a top pick.

 

What book is currently on your nightstand?

It’s on my phone (Kindle) and it’s a Michael Connelly mystery featuring Harry Bosch.

 

Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

I use both and prefer Facebook.

 

Where can your fans find you?

Google John Achor or Casey Fremont mysteries and you’ll more about me that you ever wanted to know. My web site (johnachor.com) has a lot about me and a search on Twitter or Facebook will pop up my pages.

 

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

My wife and I have a giant soft spot for Indie bookstores. Living in Phoenix, we loved The Poisoned Pen mystery book store run by Barbara Peters ― we met a ton and a half of major mystery/thrillers authors at her store. Since relocating to Omaha, The Bookworm owned by Beth & Phil Black is a super resource to authors and readers.

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

“One, Two – Kill a Few,” a Casey Fremont mystery

“Three, Four – Kill Some More,” a Casey Fremont mystery

“Five, Six – Deadly Mix,” a Casey Fremont mystery (is poised for release)

 

Where can we buy it?

All are available in Trade Paperback, eBook and audio formats from your favorite online book sellers. If you run into me, I have a couple in my trunk.

 

Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I am currently writing the fourth in the Casey Fremont mysteries, and I’ve researched and plotted the third in the Alex Hilliard thriller novels. When? Down the line …

Getting to Know Kathryn Bain

kathrynbainKathryn J. Bain is an award-winning author of Christian, mystery, and suspense, including the Lincolnville Mystery series and KT Morgan short suspense series.

Ms. Bain has garnered several awards, including two Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Awards and a First Place Royal Palm Literary Award for Inspirational Fiction.

A past President of Florida Sisters in Crime and Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors, Kathryn enjoys doing talks and teaching about writing.

She lives in Jacksonville, Florida near her daughters and granddaughter. Kathryn has also been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law.

 

Website URL: http://www.kathrynjbain.com

Blog URL: http://www.kathrynjbain.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/Kathryn-J-Bain-248456325239552/

Buy links for Take Her Breath Away

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Take-Breath-Away-Lincolnville-Mystery/dp/1537331884/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476046602&sr=1-1&keywords=take+her+breath+away+bain

 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/take-her-breath-away-kathryn-j-bain/1124480960?ean=9781537331881

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Tell us a little about yourself:

 

I grew up in northern Idaho and moved to Florida over thirty years ago. I have an Associates of Arts Degree and am a Certified paralegal. I have worked for the Preddy Law Firm for almost 15 years now. I have two grown daughters and one granddaughter.

 

State a random fact about yourself that would surprise your readers.

 

One of my worst classes in school was English. I disliked it terribly. I still am gramatically challenged, so I hire editors to fix my comma errors. 

 

Who are your cheerleaders? 

 

My two daughters give me a lot of support me with my writing. I also belong to two critique groups and several writers organizations. I also have several people in my church who cheer me on. 

 

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

 

I write reviews for books only if I like the book. I try my best to give no lower than a 3, but sometimes the book is so bad, I just can’t, so I won’t leave a review. 

 

Do you read reviews written about your book?

 

I do because I like to know where I can improve. 

 

 

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

I write Edgy Christian which sets me apart from the sweet Christian authors. I deal with dark suspense like child trafficking (One Last Breath) and adultery (Take Her Breath Away). And my short suspense is edge-takeherbreathawaycoverof-your-seat with a killer or two. I also try to make my Christians more realistic than most Christian writers. In Catch Your Breath, the mother of my heroine is a mean Christian woman. She is very pious, as some Christians are. 

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet? 

 

Keep writing. That’s the most important thing you can do. 

 

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Getting out and meeting readers at book festivals and signings. The more you can connect with readers, the better chance you have of getting your books read. 

 

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Social Media. I’m technologically challenged, so I’m not good at getting out on FB, Twitter, etc. 

 

 

Which genres do you prefer to read?

 

I love suspense more than anything. Every once in a while I’ll read something else, but it’s rare. I prefer non-Christian because the suspense in Christian writing is usually minimal. 

 

 

What book is currently on your nightstand?

 

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s What You See. 

 

Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?

 

Love so many, but Dean Koontz is one of my favorites. I also like CJ Box. 

 

How many books do you read/month?

 

I try to read 2-3 books a month. 

 

What is the one book that you think everyone should read?

 

I don’t have a “must read” book. I just think it’s important for everyone to read. Schools frustrate me when they limit their reading lists. I think that’s part of the reason so many kids quit reading – because they’re made to read things they don’t enjoy. 

 

 

Where can your fans find you?

 

I have a website, www.kathrynjbain.com where you can sign up for my Christian newsletter and find out how to get my first KT Morgan Short Suspense, The Visitor, for free. I’m also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ under Kathryn J. Bain. You can also find me on Twitter @kjbain. And I have an author page on Amazon. 

 

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

 

The Lincolnville Mystery Series, inspirational romantic suspense, includes:

Breathless;

Catch Your Breath;

One Last Breath; and

Take Your Breath Away


The KT Morgan Short Suspense Series includes:

The Visitor;

Small Town Terror; and

Reunion, due out December 9, 2016

 

My stand alone books are the following:

Beautiful Imperfection – Inspiration Romantic Suspense

Knight & Day – Humorous Mystery

Game of Hearts – Humorous Romantic Novella

 

 

Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

 

I just finished Reunion that is the third in my KT Morgan Short Suspense Series which will be released December 9, 2016 and am currently working on a Bible Study titled Holding the Hand of a King set to come out in 2017 if I ever get the thing finished. 

Getting to know Channing Whitaker

  1. Tell us about your new novel.channing

My recent novel is called “Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion,” and it is a mystery/thriller that also flirts a little with noir and horror. It’s set in a small, fictional Iowa town where 80 years ago a wealthy family of five attended a traveling magic show, after which they and the magician disappeared.  After a few people died in their mansion, it was sealed off. The family’s disappearance was never solved, the mansion has sat empty all this time, and naturally many wild theories and reports of ghost sightings have surrounded the house.

The book begins with the start of a live TV show where the house is opened for the first time since it was sealed and five contestants are going to spend the night inside to investigate and win a prize if they last until morning. Shortly after entering, the contestants find the journal of the family’s father, Vinton Drake, and discover he had a history with the magician before they all disappeared. As the contestants investigate the mansion, they follow Vinton’s investigation of the magician from the past as well.

  1. What sets this novel apart from other haunted house stories?

The five contestants in the story were selected for the TV show for their inherently conflicting traits. They are a commune-with-the-dead psychic, a high-tech ghost hunter, a Hollywood, scream-queen actress, a local woman who has known of the house and legends surround it all her life, as well as a professional paranormal skeptic and debunker.

As clues arise in the story, there is almost always a divide between two or more characters on how to perceive them and what conclusions to draw. Furthermore, the details of Vinton’s investigation of the magician in the past deal largely with paranormal beliefs, as his life builds towards his and his families eventual disappearance. The characters in the present find they aren’t just trying to uncover whether there are or aren’t spirits in the house, but rather exploring the effects of belief in the supernatural.

Elements of the story become psychological, examining consequences of supernatural beliefs, whether real or mistaken. And as it happens, those consequences turn out to not only have been life-threatening in the past, but are still putting the contestants’ lives in jeopardy today.

  1. What do you hope readers will come away from your book with?

First and foremost, entertained. I want people to feel like they were given an enthralling journey to submerge themselves in, to step out of their own world and enjoy a vacation into mine. I would also like readers to feel surprised.  The book is a mystery so there is naturally something to be uncovered as the book comes to an end. I worked hard to make that fulfilling and believable, yet unpredictable, and for the final reveal to change everything you thought and understood along the way.  If most readers experience that, then I’ll be satisfied.

Secondary to that, my novel and its characters pose reoccurring ideas of critical thinking, of examining phenomenon, historic tales, and evidence with critical and unbiased eyes. Not only because failing to do so can lead to false conclusions, but in some cases to severe consequences. This consistent theme adds layers of intrigue to the story but I feel it can and should be taken into real life as well. For some readers to bring that notion into their lives after reading the book would be immensely satisfying as well.

  1. What gave you the idea for this story?

The majority of “Until The Sun Rises: One Night in Drake Mansion” is set in the present, but a portion takes place in the past. The first past section involves a mysterious, secret, and very thematically dark magic show which adds to the mystery set in the present with a parallel mystery to unfold in the past.

This magic show moment was the first that came to me. I don’t remember anything specific that spawned that seed of the story, but in exploring and flushing out that single moment, I developed two characters, and in turn by adding depth, intrigue, and consequence to those characters gave birth to the entirety of the story.

  1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I can remember being in first grade and everyone going around the class having to say what we wanted to be when we grew up.  For many kids it was fireman, policemen, or doctor, I said cartoonist. I didn’t deviate from that until closer to Jr. High when my ambition changed to a movie director. That notion continued through high school, college, and persists through today.

Looking back, I believe even in the first grade what I really wanted was to be a storyteller, to invent and craft stories and then to share them with the world.  At that time, cartoons represented a large portion of my story experience so I think I imagined telling stories in that medium. Later, when live-action movies became more prevalent in my story experience, my ambition changed slightly, to storytelling through movies.  I always imagined being both the author of the stories I would create as well as the physical producer, so I just don’t think I realized I was planning to be a writer, at least in part, all along.

Though my pursuit heading into college and after was directed towards movies, even in high school I considered sharing my stories in books a possibility and tried to think in terms of both mediums as I developed my story telling skills.

“When did I know I wanted to be a writer?” I can only estimate that the moment I realized people were out in the world dreaming up the stories I enjoyed, I knew I would some day be one of them, and I was mighty young.

  1. What has been your writing journey?

I began writing an a serious way, by which I mean with the intent of building a career involving writing as a student at the University of Iowa. I studied cinema with my focus being on screenwriting, though my intent was to work in other areas of filmmaking as well. After graduation, I continued to write screenplays while also working in various jobs relating to media production.

It was my understanding that movie producers were essentially closed to submissions from unknown writers. As I would finish new screenplays, I would research appropriate screenplay agents, those who seemed to handle material similar in theme to mine and who also said they were open to new talent, and then I’d write query letters by the dozens. Over the course of eight years I wrote in excess of 350 letters and rarely even received polite rejections. No one was willing to read even 10 pages of my scripts.

Certainly one could see this as indicative of my material not being of high enough quality but I felt the material may not even truly be getting considered based on merit, but rather being ignored or rejected because I lacked noteworthy credits. For a long time I harbored the early version of my novel’s story in my mind, but I felt it was too big for a single, standard-length screenplay, and thus never attempted to write it as one. Finally, I decided to attempt to write the story as a book, thinking at the very least if I wrote a quality book, even if no publishers would consider me or the material, I’d at least have the option of self-publishing. Fortunately, it never came to that.

Once my book was written, I first sought out literary agents, to similar results as all of my screenplay efforts, however with only a dozen letters sent directly to publishers, I managed to secure several who were interested in at least reading the book and evaluating the material based on its content. I can’t say for certain whether it was coincidence or if it was merely the fact that I had a forthcoming novel to my credit but with in about a month of signing an agreement with my publisher on my novel, I received an offer to produce one of my screenplays, which then filmed in August of 2014 and is pending release.

  1. How do you get inspired to write?

I really find inspiration in almost everything I do. If my garbage bag splits open on the way to the curb and all my neighbors were watching, I’d think “wouldn’t this make a great plot point for a killer with a bag full of body parts? I’ll have to remember this.” Or I’d think, “what if the bag was full of embarrassing items right in front of a love interest? That could be funny.” Those little ideas don’t make complete stories but sometimes several come together and form a bigger premise, worth flushing out. So far, I’ve never experienced a shortage of inspiration, but rather an overabundance, where the challenge becomes finding the time to write, and selecting which potential project to focus on.

  1. How do you deal with writers block?

Though I can’t say I’ve suffered writer’s block severely, I have run into stopping points in projects. For example, after the first draft of my recent novel and another pass of rewriting I sensed the book was bloated and needed to be edited down for a better reading experience but I was too in love with the rich details to see what might be redundant, implicit, or overly explained.

Rather than force it, I set the book aside, letting it rest, and began work on a first draft of a new screenplay. I chose a project that was thematically dark, as the book was, in order to keep my creative mindset in that territory. After a few months I returned to the book with a fresh viewpoint and saw rather easily what could be and needed to be edited. I completed the next draft very quickly and found the bloating I sensed was cured.

This would be my approach for writer’s block. If one plans to have a career as a writer, you likely intend to write more than one book, so when you have the writer’s block, set the book aside and go start or continue work on something a little different, something you’re coming to fresh, even if it’s just an outline or synopsis for a future project. I think in many cases you’ll have new ideas for your stalled project just pop into your head, demanding you get them on paper, and you won’t be able to get back to that book fast enough.

  1. What influences your writing?

I admire the efforts and style of a great many writers, filmmakers, and artist, but to put my finger on a significant influence, I can think of none larger than my father. I can’t say he directly affected my subjects, themes, or style but rather, even more fundamentally, the way I think about people and the world.

He was a psychology professor and also saw clients at a public clinic for most of his career. I think he has an exceptional aptitude for assessing, understanding, and empathizing with people, which made him both an effective counselor and teacher.  In turn, I was almost always subject to lessons of character.

I’d compare it to Harper Lee’s,  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” I was always taught to try to understand things from others’ points of view. Whether it was personal conflict, or worldly trouble, my father always discussed and encouraged trying to understand people and situations from the other side.

How this spills over into my writing is in character development and depth. Characters are so important, I’d say I develop a psychological profile of sorts for virtually all my characters, which is affected by the story, but also affects the story.  When you think of people and characters in this way you see that villains can’t be completely bad, heroes can’t be completely good, strong characters aren’t without weakness, and so on.  My stories are always built around rich, deep characters, and I believe this leads to equally rich and deep stories.

  1. What is the best thing about being a writer?

I take immense pleasure in my imagination and I’m concocting stories, both large and small, almost constantly.  I also love good stories and I feel like keeping one to myself would be selfish. When one such story is big enough and clear enough to share, I put it into words as best I can and send it out into the world.  Having other people embrace and enjoy those stories I’ve dreamt up, there’s nothing more satisfying for me.

  1. Your recent book is set in a fictional, Iowa town and you’re from a small Iowa town, how did your experience influence the book?

I grew up in a small town but I’ve also lived in small, medium, and even a huge city. I believe the feel of community one finds in a small town is so drastically different than that of a big city. That element certainly went into the fictional town of my book.

until-the-sun-risesHaving a big mystery in a small town affects everyone. Everyone in the community is familiar with it and has opinions on it even 80 years later.  That realistic relationship comes through in the novel.  A similar event in a big city just wouldn’t have such an impact. Eighty years later, I think such a mystery would simply fade away as people come and go.  I’ve lived in suburbs of large metros as well, where you have a small community and the people do care about the community such as its schools and its appearance but they don’t share the small town’s sense of identity, where people heavily identify themselves by their town and often with that town’s history. In that way, I think not only Iowans, but almost anyone familiar with small towns and small, independent communities can find an extra layer of connection with the setting.

There is also an undertone of the consequences of small rural towns shrinking.  Work opportunities lesson, then population dwindles, then towns struggle to maintain themselves, and the cycle repeats. That is an effect I have witnessed through my life in rural Iowa, not just in my hometown but also in small communities all over. I brought that real-life depth into my story’s setting as well. I think my fellow native Iowans will identify with this theme, though I’m sure it’s true in other states and places, particularly agricultural hubs. However, if this isn’t an experience a reader identifies with, the story educates the reader on it quickly and then races in new directions, so no one is left out.

  1. You started your writing career focused on screenwriting. Was it difficult to refocus on writing a novel?

For me, whether it’s a screenplay or a book the story is the most important part and developing the story in either case is virtually the same. With that in mind, the execution of the story, shaping the story to be the best reading or viewing experience for your audience is where the differences lie between mediums.

I would never claim it is easy to write a book, nor would I deny that there are significant differences between screenplay writing and novel writing which must be understood and overcome in order to be effective crossing mediums.  However, I also wouldn’t say changing my focus for this project was difficult as if being a screenwriter leaves one ill-equipped to tell a story in a book.

It was a great deal of work.  To me “difficult” would mean I encountered challenges that I struggled to overcome. I didn’t. I did meet many challenges but I always knew how to tackle them – when I needed to go research, when I needed to evaluate and adjust my methods, when I needed a tool I didn’t have, and when I needed to seek out and learn something new. I met many challenges but I didn’t struggle to overcome them, I just had to work to overcome them.  In my view, those are two very different things.

I believe that in developing my skills as a screenwriter, I learned a great deal of methodology for tackling writing challenges.  While not every skill transfers to writing a novel and some might even directly appose it, the methodology for approaching the challenges remains effective. Metaphorically, you may not have exactly the right tool but you know the way to the hardware store. Thus, it was work to acquire the skills needed for writing the book, but it was no where near as difficult as one might find trying to write a book if they’d never written anything else before.

  1. How has Dyslexia affected you as a writer?

I believe Dyslexia has had both a negative and positive influence on my development as a writer. The clearest negative is simply my very slow reading speed.  Writers need to read and being a slow reader means spending more time reading or reading less than others. I’m always wishing I could read more than my time allows, and I probably short or slow my writing development in that way. Slow reading affects how quickly I can review my own work as well.  I don’t curse my Dyslexia, however, because I do see positive consequences too.

I was tested for a reading disability around 2nd grade and identified as Dyslexic. I think it was positive to have been diagnosed so early so my parents, my teachers, and I were all aware of it.  This let me to understand the reason behind areas where I struggled and to approach developing ways to succeed with a positive attitude. Had my Dyslexia not been identified so soon, I can imagine floundering in certain areas while appearing perfectly normal in others and finding that frustrating and confusing, and potentially withdrawing as a result.

That said, everyone encounters challenges in life. However, I feel having so early in life had to develop my own methods to succeed – having to constantly deviate from standard learning approaches and creating my own methods to conquer subjects and material, as well as resilience to setbacks and failures has all shaped the mentality I bring to my career.

I think it is common for writers to have to endure rejection and failure, to have to be inventive to bring something new and noteworthy compared to all the existing material out there, and to have to pave their own path to recognition.  Thus, I believe starting to develop that resilience, inventive problem solving, and unique direction early in life prepared me to accept the hurdles of building a writing career without confusion or frustration. Others might struggle to develop those skills in the moment and many more encounter those hurdles and don’t continue or persevere. For me this is a positive consequence, which might even outweigh the negative.

  1. What are you working on now?

I think it indicates a well thought out, deep, and complex story if the writer must heartbreakingly choose which spectacular elements to include and which must be benched in order to create the best reading experience. As such, you can wind up with more content in reserve than content that reached the finished pages.

In the creation of “Until the Sun Rises: One Night in Drake Mansion,” I developed far more plot, sub-plot, and character depth than I could cover in the one book.

Currently, I’m working on a follow up novel which takes two of the characters, Harlan and Vieve, into a new mystery which will leave the ghost stories and haunted houses behind but will still keep a borderline-paranormal theme.elechi-pen

Channing Whitaker is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker originally hailing from Centerville, Iowa. An alum of Indian Hills Community College, Channing went on to study cinema, screenwriting, literature, and mathematics at the University of Iowa.

Post graduation, Channing began his career in the production of television news, independent films, and commercial videos, as well as to write for websites, corporate media, and advertising. His 10-year career in writing has taken Channing from Iowa, to Alaska, Oklahoma, and currently to Texas.

Channing has written five feature-length screenplays, co-written another feature screenplay, and penned a novel. In that time, Channing has also written and directed over 50 short films.