Anne Patrick Talks About Her Award Winner ~ Fire and Ash

It’s terrific having award winning author Anne Patrick here today talking about her novel FIRE AND ASH and the process of writing fiction. It’s always fun to toss these concepts around with an inciteful author who’s immersed herself in the craft of writing.
N: FIRE AND ASH has won quite a number of awards (a 4 star review from Romantic Times; ‘Best Book’ review from LASR; ‘Top Pick’ and a 5 star review from Night Owl Reviews; Winner of LRC’s ‘Best Suspense/Thriller 2010’; LASR ‘Best Book of 2010’ Nominee; The Romance Reviews ‘Best Book of 2010’ Nominee). How does it feel as an author to get that kind of validation?

A: Of course it feels wonderful, a dream come true. Every writer hopes people will enjoy their stories so when they do and they tell you about it, it makes all the hard work and effort you put into it so much more sweeter.

N: The novel has also been seen by some who have read it as being able to cross over to a secular readership, to those who may not typically read Christian fiction. Do you feel FIRE AND ASH would be enjoyable to many readers in the general market? Do you feel that perhaps some of these lines that are drawn in publishing are arbitrary?

A: I certainly hope so. You can tell a good story and still glorify God. Aside from my heroine grappling with her faith, the only difference between FIRE AND ASH and a secular book is bad language and sex. For me, adding the faith element creates depth to my characters as well as the story. Like real people, they struggle with life decisions, but they find strength and hope in God. FIRE AND ASH has several layers to it including, inspiration, romance and suspense. I want to thrill people and inspire them, but I don’t want to preach to them. My books have Christian messages weaved into them, revealed through the lives of my characters.

And yes, some of the lines are arbitrary. One of the things I like best about being published by small, independent publishers is that they don’t try and box you in by some neat little formula.

N: How did you go about developing the characters of Sadie McGregor, your heroine, and Sheriff Quinn Harrington, your hero?

A: When creating my characters I always use charts that include their backgrounds, ambitions, traits, what motivates them, etc. While developing Sadie’s character I asked myself what would drive her to be a fire investigator. It had to be more than just her uncle’s influence so I made her a fire survivor. Since one of my characters is usually struggling spiritually, she had to be responsible for the fire that killed her family. I then threw in some other obstacles that over the course of her life, has caused her to doubt God’s love for her and her inability to forgive herself for the fire. In order for Quinn to reach Sadie and prove to her that God does indeed love her, he had to experience loss too. Only the loss of his wife has made his faith stronger.

N: It seems that in addition to writing award winning novels it would seem you’re an avid reader and also like to write book reviews. Is your favorite genre suspense?

A: I am an avid reader but I’m a horrible book reviewer. I know how hard it is to sit down and pour your soul into a story and I just can’t bring myself to rate someone else’s work. And yes, suspense is my favorite genre! I do like an occasional thriller too.

N: Ultimately, what would you like your readers to take away from FIRE AND ASH?

A: I think, or at least hope, my two strongest messages are how God sometimes allows bad things to happen in our life so we can use our experiences to help others, and how. He places people in our lives to help us on our journey.

Thank you for the interview, Nike. You asked some tough questions but I enjoyed it.

FIRE AND ASH can be purchased at Desert Breeze Publishing.

And on Amazon.

C.J. Darlington’s Novel View of Rare Books and Suspense

Nobody combines the world of rare book with murder better than C.J. Darlington. That’s why I’m so thrilled to have C.J. here today for this interview. What a treat. Now, on to the questions…

Nike: BOUND BY GUILT has a rare book subtheme, just like your first book, THICKER THAN BLOOD. I’m interested to find out how rare books got to be a passion of yours.

C.J.: For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to read. One of my favorite pastimes was going to the library. So it only made sense I’d start to haunt used bookstores as I got older. There is this amazing bookstore in West Chester, Pennsylvania called Baldwin’s Book Barn. It’s five stories tall and contains over 300,000 used and rare books. You can literally get lost in it. One day I was perusing the shelves and saw a book for $20 or $30, and something clicked. I’d seen the book before. Only it was $1 or $2 at a different used bookstore down the road from us. My sister and I asked ourselves, could we buy the cheaper book, sell it to them wholesale and make a profit? It all started from there. We were seventeen years old, and we didn’t know our little idea was called book scouting. Soon we were scouting for several bookstores in our area and turning a small profit. But it was a lot of work. Within a year we realized we needed to cut out the middle man and sell the books directly to consumers ourselves. The internet was just taking off for used book dealers, and we jumped into the foray with both feet and started our own online bookstore. We began traveling to used book sales all across the country, and the business quickly grew into something we couldn’t handle on our own. Mom was the first to join us, and then our dad followed suit. Now that little book business started by two ambitious teenagers is our entire family’s business. I was able to incorporate a lot of what I learned about rare books and the book business in my novels.

Nike: And you wound the action around the rare books theme. You have a murder take place in a rare books store. How do you decide where to start the suspense? Are you a seat of your pants writer, or do you have a detailed outline you write by?

C.J.: Yes, and a rare first edition of The Great Gatsby takes center stage! I am definitely a seat of the pants writer. I do like to know a little bit about a story before I start writing, but I find that for me if I worry too much about plot too early in the process it has the potential to get me stuck. I usually know my main characters, a few key scenes and hopefully the ending, but sometimes I know less than this. And it works. My rough drafts often require many rewrites, but I’m often discovering the story I want to tell as I write that initial draft.

Nike: It seems you like to put your characters through harrowing experiences, but then you always lead them toward God’s grace. Isn’t it right that your characters also learn lessons in human forgiveness, not only God’s forgiveness?

C.J.: Totally. Forgiveness is a big part of the story in BOUND BY GUILT, both human and Divine. There are characters in the story who desperately need to forgive, and there are those who desperately need to receive forgiveness, both from God and their fellow man.

Nike: My husband and I were foster parents and then much later adopted children out of the foster care system. We’ve seen how these children have had their childhoods ripped from them. You show the reality of a child who comes from this system, a child. Was it hard to write about a child who had been so disillusioned?

C.J.: Roxi’s story is definitely a sad one, but I think it’s important to shine the light on this issue. It’s so easy to forget there are hurting kids like her all around us. Through this story I hope to show, rather than tell, what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ. There were definitely times during the writing where I felt Roxi’s sadness and the desperation of her plight. For me, to write about a character effectively I have to put myself in their shoes, and that’s hard when they’ve faced so many troubles at such a young age. But by truly experiencing her pain, it enables us to truly experience the emotion she feels when someone reaches out to her with genuine love.

Nike: What is it you would like your readers to get out of this book?

C.J.: I hope they’ll be challenged to look past outward appearances and see people, especially teens, the way God sees them. Love them for who they are with no strings attached. Love them even when they make mistakes. Love truly does cover over a multitude of wrongs.

BOUND BY GUILT can be purchased at Tyndale House.

And at Amazon.

P. I. Barrington ~ Fast Paced Futuristic Suspense

Wow, what a thrill!!! Today P.I. Barrington is interviewing here. She pens futuristic suspense guaranteed to keep readers turning pages. Now on to the questions…

Nike: Would you say that your Future Imperfect series is also the Payce Halligan/Gavin McAllister series? How does the relationship of these two Las Vegas detectives grow throughout the series?

PI: You know I’d love to delve deeper into their future relationship, I’d like to see how they continue to develop and deal with both their future and their pasts and how that would interface with their professional partnership—would they become closer and closer or would the stress of police work cause fractures in their relationship that need to be mended or would it fall apart? I like to think that they would weather future ups and downs personally and professionally. In Future Imperfect, they go from tentative attraction to dealing with their personal traumas and guilt to realizing they mean more to each other than they wanted to admit, even to themselves. I’d love to take that series farther maybe some time in the future.

Nike: Book #2 Miraculous Deception and book #3 Final Deceit involve creepy and scary religious cults in the story line. What was it like writing about cults? Did you have to do any type of research into the activity of cults to write these two books?

PI: I really didn’t do that much research on cults themselves mainly due to time constraints of getting the books out on deadlines but also because I just wanted this huge, ominous entity looming over the story. I wanted something that would provide people who could be easily manipulated into doing things for this shadowy leader, and then being driven mad due to their endless justification as to why they were doing bad things or perhaps not bad but underhanded, shady. In the end that madness would actually make them do something bad—murder. I kind of melded lots of religious and philosophical lingo because I wanted a group concept that would attract all types of people seeking meaning in their lives—again because El Jefe the head of The New Creation was selling a bill of goods in a way. So the cult never really had a creed or any tangible belief system, it was all just a mishmash of generic feel good patter.

Nike: You don’t shy away from things terrifying. In Crucifying Angel your killer is pretty maniacal, wouldn’t you say? Really malevolent?

PI: Ralphie K. Teon, (whose last name actually means “someone who harms others” I kid you not and that’s why I picked it) is a sociopath with no conscience that’s for sure, but he’s also a tortured soul from years of emotional and mental abuse by someone who should have been the ultimate nurturer, so he’s angry and twisted, and he sort of wants to justify his behavior by killing women who he feels are “evil” and “whores” because a number of things are going on in his head: he wants to gain, albeit too late, approval from his maternal figure, he wants to make his twisted actions okay in a sense, and mostly, he wants—needs—to vent all that pent-up, sick anger that’s so big and overwhelming it manifests itself in insanely violent and destructive behavior. El Jefe learns how to manipulate Ralphie’s sickness and homicidal tendencies. Ralphie is non-descript on the outside but a tornado of hate and anger and lunacy inside. He really is out of touch with reality in the extreme.

Nike: Have you always written futuristic stories?

PI: I think I kind of always have, except when I’m writing fantasy which has its own time usually harkening back to medieval or early Renaissance eras on Earth or at least resembling them—alternate history and all that. I love techie stuff, genetics and DNA, that particular field but I also like weaponry—future militaristic weaponry—and I love future militaristic genre’. I think the best portrayal of that was the Alien series of films with Sigourney Weaver—I’d normally say Star Wars but that was really an action-adventure set in space—though I do love everything about SW. Aliens combined research, military, space travel and a massive villain and all in a believable, almost understated way. The technology was there, but it wasn’t the star of the show, it was taken for granted and utilized for what it was. In other words, the ship itself wasn’t a star, as in SW where the ships were just as important and glamorous as The Force. My only problem is that I wasn’t literally raised in a computer enabled world so I’m constantly trying to learn real life tech and keep up with or hopefully keep a step ahead of it.

Nike: What would you like your readers to get out of these novels?

PI: I’m all about entertainment and escapism for people. I like to engage them and shock them for entertainment value, I try not to make any big moral statements other than pointing out what’s right and wrong and I want to involve people in the stories to the point where they can empathize or sympathize with the characters. I want them to be both horrified and yet have a certain sense of pity for the villain, why he or she does what he/she does. And that goes for the baggage of the characters, main and non-main, too. I want my readers to be able to imagine how it would feel to be responsible for a loved one’s death, how big and torturous that guilt would be and how it would color their own life. But then, I do it all for entertainment. I want people to put down the book(s) and go, “Wow, I really went through something with that book!” People need that release from stress and that catharsis. At least I hope that’s what happens! I want to show people a good time for their money!

P.I. Barrington’s novels can be found at the Desert Breeze Publishing website.

And on Amazon:

Melanie Atkins, a Suspense Author Extraordinaire!!!

I’m so excited to have fellow Desert Breeze author Melanie Atkins here with me today. She writes suspense and as everyone knows, that’s what I’m all about.

Nike: In book one of your New Orleans Detectives series, CHERISHED WITNESS, lawman J.T. Romano betrays your heroine Kelly Watson who is in the witness protection program hiding from the mob. Wanting to trap the man who murdered his wife and unborn child, he helps the mob find her and uses her as bait. Talk about a woman having serious trust issues with a man…how did you think up this scenario?

Melanie: I’m not a plotter, so the premise for this book didn’t come to me whole cloth. The first idea that came to me was the setting: Romano’s Italian Eatery, a restaurant I modeled after one on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that struck my fancy. The handsome chef came out of the kitchen and I thought… oh, boy. I turned him into a cop, and he became J.T. Romano, who was running the restaurant for his injured brother. The rest of the story unfolded as I wrote it.

Nike: Then in book four of that series, BELOVED CAPTIVE you open with detective Kevin Jacobs, who is stabbed and bleeding, deciding that since he looks like the man who just killed a judge, he must take a beautiful physician, Dr. Rebecca Daniels, hostage until he can prove his innocence. You like to open your novels by throwing your main characters into desperate situations. Why is that?

Melanie: I’m trying to hook the reader on page one… and please my 8th grade English teacher, who taught me to begin stories in medias res, or “in the middle of things”. That lesson has served me well ever since I started writing.

Nike: In book five, UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE, Marcy Moretti’s a deranged husband, has killed a man and now is after his wife. Her detective brother-in-law, still emotionally reeling after the death of his wife, is the only one she can turn to. The tension drips off these pages. Do you outline and plan it that way, or are you a seat of your pants writer?

Melanie: I don’t outline. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work for me. I just start writing and let the story unfold as I go. So I guess you’d say I’m definitely a pantser.

Nike: You’ve attended The Writer’s Police Academy set in a criminal justice community college in North Carolina. I understand you plan to go again this year. I’d very much like to attend that conference/workshop this September. I hope it’s going to be possible for me. I hear it’s terrific. What’s so great about it? And what did you get out of it?
Melanie: The WPA has great instructors who help us “get it right” so we won’t cheat our readers. We also get hands on training with the FATS training and Driving Simulator. FATS training, a chance to walk in a police officer’s shoes, is such a blast. I shot a fence and almost a baby, too, last year (not for real! Don’t freak out! It was just a simulator. lol) I also did some good things, too, and I learned a lot. I hope to do better this year. I’ve already signed up and booked my hotel room. Cannot. Wait.

Nike: Lastly, what would you like your readers to take away from your books?
Melanie: My books are pure escapism for my readers, even if they are justice-themed, but I do seek to put a heroic face on the law enforcement community. Cops have a tough job – they risk their lives for us day in and day out — and I admire them for what they do. My kudos to all the men and women in blue out there. Thank you!

Thanks also for this opportunity, Nike. Please look for my new series, the Keller County Cops, that begins with MARKED FOR MURDER, my April book at Desert Breeze, and the sixth and final book in my New Orleans Detective series, PERFECT PARTNER, that comes out in June. Also, FLASH BANG, my new single title suspense, will come out at Whiskey Creek Press on March 15th.

***Melanie’s novels can be found at the Desert Breeze Publishing website.

And at Amazon: