Interview with Meb Bryant – Mystery Suspense

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Highly popular mystery and romantic suspense thriller author Meb Bryant is our guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on her writing experience. Meb has published titles in mystery suspense and romantic suspense. Her fiction has entertained readers through many nights! Meb, thanks for joining us and answering questions!

Meb Bryant: Thank you, Candi, for the flattering introduction. I’m excited to share my writing experience with you and your readers on AuthorCenterStage. I wish I’d made the decision to become a writer much earlier.

Meb Bryant, Author

Meb Bryant, Author

Candi Silk: You’ve got plenty of company on “starting earlier.” I’ve gathered several frequently asked questions from readers to share with you. So, let’s begin with a couple of key questions: How did you arrive one day with pen, ink and paper in your hands as you began your first novel? What tipped the balance scales of your motivation to write the first word, the first page?

Meb: My dream of dreams from an early age was to become a writer, but I hid the idea in my heart and never shared it with anybody. After a hospital visit that ended with me in the intensive care unit, I decided to start marking items off my bucket list before it was too late. When my health returned, I sat my derriere in the chair and started typing.

Candi: So after that kick-start, what was your first novel, and what were the early challenges you faced in writing and publishing it? What were your feelings the day you published it?

Meb: My first novel, Harbinger of Evil, is set in 1963 New Orleans’ French Quarter. It’s about the murder of a wealthy businessman and the generational secrets that lead up to his death. Throw in hard drinking NYC Detective Richard Mobey, Alaskan oil, CIA operatives, the Mob, the JFK assassination, and add an erotic twist for a spicy literary gumbo.

Trust me, I’ve had several challenges, but the most difficult was learning to use a computer for something other than rudimentary functions. At the time, the learning curve almost broke my spirit, but I was determined.HarbingerOfEvil

The first time I held a printed book with my name on the cover I clutched it to my chest like a long lost friend. I think I cried. Creating a novel is like giving birth…without the anesthesia.

Candi: That’s a wonderful description of the agony and ecstasy of writing. How far back does your history go with books and reading? How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper to tell a story? What were early influencers, books, people?

Meb: I learned to read at an early age when Santa Claus brought me a record player and records with accompanying books. I would sing along and read the words. Many times during the writing process I wonder if I should’ve been an opera singer. My mother bought record player needles by the dozen.

Right after I learned to read, I decided to begin my writing career by carving MEB into my parents’ new furniture. Being an only child at the time, I was the primary suspect. After being interrogated for hours, I finally confessed to the crime with the stipulation that I not be spanked. They weren’t pleased with my first autograph but they sure bragged about it.

Candi: Ahh, now I understand how your crime scenes are written with the voice of experience. LOL! Currently you have 5 published titles listed on your Amazon Author Page. What are the details that led you to write and publish in the mystery suspense thriller and romantic suspense genres? Do you have a favorite genre?

Meb: I love to read in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre and appreciate a bit of sexual content thrown in for good measure. As a legal secretary, I typed almost a hundred words per minute. When I write fiction, my WPM slows down considerably, but when I write sex scenes, my fingers sail over the keys. Know what I mean, Candi?

Candi: Oh, yes; keys are permanently scorched! How many of your books are set in your home state of Texas, USA? Have you experienced any particular backlash from local citizens? (I’m thinking of Thomas Wolfe and his novel, Look Homeward Angel, that was set in his hometown, Asheville, North Carolina.) I’ve read your explosive Killing People. How does that novel figure with this question?

Meb: With the exception of Harbinger of Evil, all my works are set in Texas, particularly around Houston and The Woodlands. So far, thank goodness, nobody has complained about me bringing mayhem and death to their imaginary neighbors. Several readers have mentioned they identify with the locales I’ve written about and find it surreal when I know which direction the sun sets or what flowers are in bloom. Write what you know.

Candi: And readers are good at catching the smallest of details. One of the most popular fiction genres today is the thriller category. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla thriller into a mystery suspense or romantic suspense thriller?

Meb: I don’t usually write about blood and guts, but I do try to tap into a reader’s fear to produce a visceral reaction. For example, our society is vulnerable through our children, who are helpless and unable to defend themselves. When faced with that threat, the fear is palpable.SPELLING V_2

I’ve noticed that humans have a natural aversion to snakes and I like to tickle that terror. Several of my friends say they will not go into a dark bathroom after reading Harbinger of Evil.

Candi: No wonder Harbinger of Evil is so popular! What is a typical writing day like for you? When does it begin and end? And do you use a lot of expensive equipment or materials in writing your novels? Can you write with background noise or do you prefer quiet?

Meb: I don’t have a typical day of writing. Wish that I did. My husband and I have owned a small corporation for many years, and I work full-time at that job from my home. That said, I’m my own boss which means I can write all day if everything aligns. Though I like to write in my pajamas, our customers prefer that I dress. I can only write when my muse shows up and she’s a cranky old biddy who likes to play tennis.

I write on an HP computer with a large monitor for easier reading. With the exception of a ringing phone, I’m able to block out all noise, including a TV that sits a few feet from my desk.

Candi: Sounds like my kind of writing studio. A frequently asked question for authors is: What has been your experience with writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?

Meb: I’ve lived in writer’s block my entire life and try not to panic when the creative juices get dehydrated. I’ve learned to accept my limitations, realizing I can write only when I’m in a creative mood. Of course, I’m more creative when my behind is at my desk and not on a tennis court, but I need the exercise to keep the muse happy. If the muse ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Candi: To what extent do your story characters shape your novels? What do they add? Isn’t it enough to just tell the story sort of like a newspaper article? You know, just lay the facts out? What distinctions do characters bring to a story?MONSTER SPRAY Amazon html_BC82CFAA_1

Meb: We’re told that stories are either character driven or plot driven. I find my stories are a hybrid since my characters drive the plot, especially the flawed characters. When you ask about the facts, I think of the old TV show Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” I believe ‘just the facts’ works for true crime, but not so much for genre fiction.

My characters drag their human frailties around like a ball and chain. It’s my job as the writer to set them free to succeed or fail. Bad guys don’t always do bad things and good guys don’t always do the right thing.

Candi: You just described the mosaic of humanity. How do you conceptualize or layout the plan or your approach to the plot for a novel you’re about to write? What’s the time sequence like? Is it scribbled on a napkin over a cup of coffee or over a period of days or weeks? And what are the particular challenges of the process of solidifying and nailing down the plot? What are the challenges facing an author when doing research for writing the book?

Meb: Writers fall into two categories: plotters or pantsers. Plotters plot a story from beginning to end before writing the first word. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants and create as the muse unfolds. I once plotted an entire novel on a board with color-coded notes and pens. It’s a lovely piece of art, but I can’t find the creativity to finish the piece. I fear my muse took offense to the plotting concept. I’ll finish that piece when my muse goes on vacation.

After completion of a project, I move on to a new idea and imagine the story’s start and ending, like I’m watching a motion picture. Then, I set the muse free to help me connect the dots. I’m unable to remember creative thoughts when I’m away from my desk, and will write on anything so as not to lose an idea. I try to keep a pen and scratch pad in my purse, car, den and bedroom. After the ideas are typed on a Word document, I trash the bits and pieces of paper (and napkins).

When I read a book for entertainment, I also want to learn a few facts. I love to do research and share what I’ve learned with my reader, but find it challenging not to write an info dump. If you find that I have, please forgive me.

Candi: I believe you’ve had experience with writers’ groups. Is that something you would recommend to beginning writers and why?

Meb: Definitely. I’m a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America. Of the three, I think RWA provides an excellent source of information for the mature writer as well as the new writer. Even though I don’t write romance novels, I try to include a strong romantic element or sexual content in each story.

Candi: Your writing is seasoned just right! How long does it take you to write and publish a book, from start to finish? It must be easy and simple with all the advanced technology available today. Are there any major ups and downs during that process?

Meb: From the time I start writing a book to the day I publish is usually about a year, provided the muse cooperates and life doesn’t get in the way. Novellas and short stories are quicker. With today’s technology, there’s really no reason not to write a story if a writer has the talent.

For me, trying to land a literary agent was an exercise in futility and frustration. With the introduction of e-readers, sales of printed material has dropped drastically. I believe thirty-three percent of book sales are now electronic. Literary agents are feeling the pinch. Once I abandoned the querying process, I set my sites on starting my own publishing company and haven’t looked back, although I find discoverability a major challenge.

Candi: So you’re saying writing and publishing is not 100% easy. So, what advice do you have for a person, let’s say my neighbor down the street, who says she wants to write a book? She’s got this great idea for a bestselling novel. Should she enroll in the nearest college writing class, buy 10 books on writing, or what?

Meb: I don’t think I know the correct answer for anybody who wants to write a book. Just write the story. Research the Internet and read everything you can find on how to write, how to query, how to indie publish.Doubles-Match-022814_kindle

Personally, I feel writing is a God-given talent that needs constant exercise. No matter how long I stay in writing, I plan to continue sharpening my skills through workshops, reading material on writing, and attending conferences with knowledgeable speakers. Keep learning your craft.

Candi: Great advice! Okay, time for a challenge question: You’ve just been notified that you’ll be teaching a university course entitled: Writing Your First Romantic Suspense Thriller. What 3-4 points or pillars would you consider essential to the course?

Meb: Goal, motivation, conflict. The two love interests should have a goal, motivating factors, and conflicts hindering the success of this goal. Placing one or both parties in peril contributes to the novel’s suspense. A multi-layered antagonist intent on doing harm sharpens the suspense. It’s imperative that the story concludes with an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

Candi: Let me know where you’re teaching; I’ll register right away! You’ve pulled me in with the HEA. So, what are the biggest challenges facing new writers today? Sources vary, however it’s been reported that Amazon has over ten million titles (books) listed on their website.

Meb: Due to the volume of e-books on the market, I find the biggest challenge for writers, except for big name authors, is discoverability.

Candi: What are the challenges for readers in selecting “good reads” from that many choices? What’s your best advice for readers on how to choose an entertaining/interesting book?

Meb: When I’m looking for a good read, I rely on word of mouth or search the Kindle Store categories. When I find a book that looks interesting, I read a sample before purchasing.

Candi: That sample can be a determining factor. If you could start your writing career over what two or three things would you do differently and why?

Meb: If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have spent a year searching for an agent. I would have started a mailing list earlier.

Candi: That seems to be a frequent discovery and realization. Okay, isn’t it enough for a writer to simply have all the facts for her story and just write it and publish, or to what extent does the writer’s imagination play a part in crafting a page-turning novel?

Meb: A writer’s imagination is the source for the writer’s voice. Unique.

Candi: Some have said writing is not an end result, but a journey that never ends. Do you agree or disagree with that and why?

Meb: For me, writing is my way of leaving a footprint behind after I’m dead. A baring of my soul. When I finished my first novel, I handed the typed pages over to my grown daughter, an English major. She took the pages and promised to carefully read every word. Moments later, we were both surprised when I snatched the pages back. For some reason, I couldn’t bear to part with my work. We did this back and forth a few times until I finally felt comfortable giving my baby away.

Candi: Your writing has your fingerprints and impressions from your heart all over it! From what I gather, many years ago (think post early printing presses) authors and readers rarely connected or communicated. A reader was lucky to just read the written book. But today the Internet is one huge gathering place where authors and readers communicate freely. How do you feel about those dynamics and how do both authors and readers benefit from that kind of environment? How do you enjoy making and keeping in contact with your readers?

Meb: I draw energy from my readers’ enthusiasm. I’m always surprised when they discover something in my characters that I didn’t. I get excited when they love, or hate, the characters I’ve built with a blank page and a keyboard. I love my readers, especially the reader who takes the time and energy to write a review or send me an email.

Candi: What are the advantages of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader devices? Isn’t there something to be said about a real paper and ink book in hand as one sits by the fireside of home and reads?

Meb: I’ve been a reader a lot longer than a writer, and reading a paper book is a sensual act for me. I love the feel of the page, the smell of the ink, the sight of the words on the paper. That said, I can’t afford to purchase too many print books. I’m a voracious reader and appreciate the affordability of e-books. Cheaper prices mean I can buy more reading material.

Candi: Meb, you apparently have a varied background and one rich with many experiences, including the business world. How has that contributed to your writing?

Meb: As a child, I had the privilege of being exposed to many adventures while living across the Deep South and Alaska. As an adult, I enjoyed employment as a legal secretary and real estate agent until my husband drug me off the tennis court to start his own company. Dealing with the public is fodder for writing fiction.Killing-People-092713_kindle

Candi: Another challenge question: According to various surveys the average American reads fewer than 10 books per year. Which of your books would you recommend they read next, and why that book?

Meb: If the reader knows where they were when JFK was assassinated, I think they’d enjoy Harbinger of Evil set during the ten days surrounding his death. If the reader enjoys a more contemporary read about vigilantism and snipers, Killing People might be a good choice. I’ve written short stories and novellas for the reader with limited time.

Candi: Both of those themes tap into current day popular tastes in books. Now for the big question: What can readers look forward to from the writing studio of Meb Bryant in the next 12 months?

Meb: The muse and I are pounding away on the sequel to Killing People. The bad guy is scaring my critique group and me. The printed book and e-book should be completed by the fall.

Candi: Since I enjoyed your novel, Killing People, I look forward to reading the sequel! Meb, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and giving us an inside look at your fascinating writing world.

Meb: Candi, I’m flattered you invited me to AuthorCenterStage, and hope I’ve given a morsel of information to your readers and future writers. Thank you for having me.

Candi: Here’s how you can experience the entertaining writing of Meb Bryant, author of mystery suspense, and romantic suspense thrillers:

Meb’s Online Links:

Website: http://www.mebbryant.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MebBryant
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meb.bryant
Google+: https://plus.google.com/111887894189711102924/posts?cfem=1

Interview with Michael W. Smart – Mystery, Suspense Thrillers

Author-CenterStage2-2Welcome!

Highly popular mystery suspense thriller author Michael W. Smart is my guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on his writing experience. Michael’s published novels are: Dead Reckoning, Deadeye, and Deadlight. All are full-length, stand-alone thrillers that have kept readers up all night! Michael, thanks for joining us and answering questions!

Michael: My pleasure Candi. Your erotica novels enticed me into a genre I don’t read much, so being your guest here to talk writing is a real pleasure.

Candi: I’ve gathered some frequently asked questions from readers to share with you. So, let’s begin with a couple of key questions: How did you arrive one day with pen, ink and paper in your hands as you began your first novel, Dead Reckoning? What tipped the balance scales of your motivation to write the first word, the first page?Michael Smart

Michael: Well first of all, I’ve been writing since my early teens, mostly as a hobby, my form of artistic expression I guess. And the first novel I actually completed, at age sixteen, is the science fiction story I’m releasing this summer, after a massive year long rewriting of course. It wasn’t until five years ago, as I contemplated returning to the Caribbean, that Dead Reckoning materialized. I knew returning to live in the Grenadines wouldn’t be the same, some things I wouldn’t be able to still do. Climbing to the top of a mainmast for example, was out of the question. Too much time had passed, my perspective and my body had changed. And so had the island. I wondered what it’d be like living there again in middle age. As I pondered those questions the character Nicholas Gage developed, and also the themes. Gage arrives in the Grenadines with an entirely new perspective than in his past life, and he has to cope with reinventing himself at an older stage in life. I started scribbling notes about him, and by the time I looked up, Dead Reckoning had taken form. I decided later to make it a series.

Candi: It is a terrific series! How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper to tell a story? What were early influencers, books, people?

Michael: Thirteen I think. My early influences and inspiration were the authors on whom I cut my reading teeth. Pioneers of the mystery and science fiction genres like Dashiel Hammett, Spillane, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Leslie Charteris, John Creasey, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Verne, H.G Wells, to name a few. I wanted to write and tell stories the way they did, making my readers disappear into the pages as I did when reading these authors.

Candi: I knew nothing of your writing background while reading your novels, but I recall thinking of MacDonald and Spillane. So you keep good company, Michael. Your three titles comprise the series, The Bequia Mysteries. What is behind the name Bequia? What are the details that led you to write and publish mystery suspense thrillers? Were there any particular experiences or interests that influenced your interest in the suspense thriller genre?

Michael: Bequia is a small island, only nine square miles, in a group of islands comprising the island nation St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the eastern Caribbean. Though the stories in the series move among other islands in the Grenadines, the Caribbean, and even the U.S, the main setting is Bequia. It’s where the main characters live. After college, in my mid-twenties, I retired from the work-a-day world to travel the world. I spent eightbotanical-gardens-sr-vincent-210x210 years sailing around the Caribbean and living in the Grenadines. As I mentioned, Dead Reckoning materialized at a time I was contemplating an early second retirement, and returning to the Grenadines. I set the series in the Grenadines as a means to write about my adventures when I lived and sailed there. As for the mystery-suspense-thriller genre, that’s the genre I cut my reading teeth on, and enjoy reading the most. I guess it’s natural for me to also write in that genre.

Candi: The maps you included in the series were of great help. As I read, I could follow your characters. Since the setting for The Bequia Mysteries is the exotic Bequia Island, and you having lived in that area, has there been any particular reactions or repercussions from local citizens? I’m reminded of Thomas Wolfe who wrote Look Homeward, Angel, and the backlash he experienced from his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.

Michael: The few who are familiar with the novels have been very receptive and supportive. They want me to get actual physical books into the local bookstores and souvenir shops. But the most gratifying reaction I’ve received was from a UK couple, who while researching where to vacation in the Caribbean, discovered the Bequia Mysteries, and enjoyed them so much they decided to vacation on Bequia. They wrote me the most wonderful email about reading the books during their vacation on Bequia, visiting the locations featured in the novels, and even looked up some friends for me. They had a wonderful time thanks to the Bequia Mysteries.

Candi: One of the most popular fiction genres today is the thriller category. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla thriller into a mystery suspense thriller?

Michael: I’ve actually been wrestling with this whole genre question recently, because I also write science fiction, my other favorite genre. It seems to me the question of genre has become more complicated and convoluted than it needs to be. Perhaps the tendency in our polarizing society to constantly classify, categorize, and pigeonhole things into separate little boxes. I look at mystery and thriller as two distinct genres. The thriller is usually plot driven and fast paced. Mystery, while also well plotted, is mostly character driven. Both, or any genre for that matter, can include suspense, which I view as a literary ingredient similar to drama, rather than a separate genre or subgenre. Personally I enjoy novels with elements of multiple genres.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]

Candi: Readers want to know what an author does with her/his time. What is a typical writing day like for you? When does it begin and end? And do you use a lot of expensive equipment or materials in writing your novels? Can you write with background noise or do you prefer quiet?

Michael: A typical writing day for me begins around one or two in the afternoon, depending on when I awake and get out of bed. I’m usually writing until three or four in the morning. Many times I pull all nighters. If the juices are flowing and my eyelids aren’t drooping I’ll just keep going. If I get into bed with too many scenes, action, dialogue, or story notes running around my brain I can’t sleep anyway. Rather than toss and turn, I simply get up and continue writing. Usually the first thing I do is go through my email, check my social sites, browse any blogs which were shared and the ones I follow, make comments and respond to emails, check the day’s headlines, make notes on what I need to follow up on, including any marketing I need to do for that day, all over a cup or two of coffee. That usually takes about two hours. Then I shower and dress and get ready as though I’m going to the office, which I am. I settle into a favorite nook, reopen my laptop, and I’m there for the next ten to twelve hours with breaks for food or drink or to stretch my legs. Sometimes I’ll write to music, sometimes I want complete quiet. Depends on my mood, or what I’m writing. When I write to music it’s usually a classical piece or movie soundtrack. Debussy’s La Mer, and soundtrack composers like Lisa Gerrard, Hans Zimmer, and Trevor Jones, are on that writing playlist.

Candi: Well stated—writing is not a precise time-clock activity. A popular question for authors is: Have you experienced writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?

Michael: I don’t experience what is typically termed writer’s block. I’m never at a complete loss for something to write. And on days when I can’t conjure a new passage or chapter, I’ll work on revising passages or chapters I’ve already written. On occasion I do get stuck at a particular point in a story where I’m not sure where to go next, or how to proceed with the plot. I’ve learned after five novels to take a step back and allow the work to sit for a while, because I now know even if nothing is happening on the page, it’s happening in my head. My characters are constantly speaking and interacting with me. They’re wrangling the problem and trying to figure out what to do next. It also helps when writing a series, because I’m dealing with the same characters, and I’m more familiar with them as the different stories unfold. Usually after this break, I’ll wake up one day to discover the solution fully formed in my head.

Candi: To what extent do your story characters shape your novels? What do they add? Isn’t it enough to just tell the story sort of like a newspaper article? You know, just the facts? What distinctions do characters bring to a story?

Michael: The stories in my novels, whether mystery or science fiction, are all character driven. My characters don’t merely exist in the story, they’re essential to shaping and narrating the story. Neglecting this is a shortcoming I see in too many indie-published, and even some traditionally published novels, where telling the story takes precedence over the craft, and writing creatively doesn’t seem to matter. Personally, I can only get through a novel if the story is well crafted, with compelling characterizations, and writing which engages me on a visceral, emotional level. For me, that’s where the joy of reading comes from. Otherwise I lose interest, no matter how imaginative and intriguing the story may be. I work extremely hard to avoid this in my own writing and storytelling. I want my readers to enjoy reading the words and get so lost in the page, they don’t see me, the author, on the page, or notice being swept along by the story. I’m not there yet. But I’m constantly working at it, every day.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]

Candi: You nailed it; remove characters who can emotionalize the reader, and the book disappears. So how to you fit characters and all the other pieces together? How do you conceptualize or layout the plan of your approach to the plot for a novel you’re about to write? What’s the time sequence like? Is it finished over a cup of coffee or over a period of days or weeks? And what are the particular challenges of the process of solidifying and nailing down the plot? What challenges does an author face when doing research in writing the book?

Michael: I do have a concept of the plot and story before I begin writing. I do outline to a certain extent, but I don’t require a complete or detailed outline to begin writing. It’s more like an abbreviated storyboard, I know what the story is about and where I want to take it. Once the idea is crystallized in my head, I can usually knock out those notes in a couple of hours. Then I work on what I call casting, which is a longer process, usually a day’s work. I already know my characters in a general sense, where they’re from, what they look like, any particular features I want them to have, enough characteristics to begin fleshing them out, what they’ll be doing, and the situations and internal struggles they’ll have to face. I search online for an image closely resembling my character, and I have that image on the screen as I’m writing, allowing me to have a constant visual reference to their physical features. This is also an aid to prevent me from giving the character brown eyes, dark hair, and a scar in one chapter, and blue eyes, blond hair and no scar in another. I also conduct extensive research for my stories. This is the lengthiest process, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months, depending on the story. I spent days at a firing range for Dead Reckoning. And I’ll usually need to do more research on a particular detail as I’m writing. Thank goodness for the internet, or I’d be spending a fortune travelling to libraries and universities. I also conduct phone interviews for my research. Before and during the writing, I’m constantly making notes on the current project, but also future projects whenever my research inspires future plot ideas.

Candi: There’s a ton of work embedded in your answer. So how long does it take you to write and publish a book, from start to finish? It must be easy and simple with all the advanced technology available today. Are there any major ups and downs during that process?

Michael: Dead Reckoning took me two years to complete and publish. I spent almost a year researching and studying indie-publishing before making the decision to go that route. And even though I indie-publish, every once in a while I’ll send out a query to a literary agent, but now I’m able to do so at my leisure, and I have the leverage in accepting any offers. Subsequent Bequia Mysteries titles take about four months once I understand the plot, because I’m more familiar with the characters now, what they’ll do and how they’ll respond. And I know what’s going on in their lives and relationships. Although every once in a while one of them will throw me a surprise just to keep me on my toes. My other novels take between six months to a year depending on the amount of research I need to do. And I don’t publish immediately. I want at least six to eight months, perhaps a year, between the release of new titles. That’s sufficient time for the previous release to garner notice, begin to sell, and reinforce the brand. And it allows me time to have future titles completed and in the pipeline.

Candi: So you’re saying writing and publishing is not 100% easy. So, what advice do you have for a person, let’s say my neighbor down the street, who says she wants to write a book? She’s got this great idea for a bestseller novel. Should she enroll in the nearest college writing class, buy 10 books on writing, or what?

Michael: The first thing to understand is writing is hard work. It requires discipline, dedication, and commitment. The reason so many who say they want to write a book never do. The second thing, if you want to write really well, you have to learn and practice the craft. You can have all the elements of a great story, the characters, plot, etc. You can make the time, and pour your soul into writing, but if the craft is missing in the writing, then even the best ingredients, and the time spent, won’t matter. This is a ghostwriter’s bread and butter. Learning how to manipulate words and language is vital to writing, because what’s going on in one’s imagination doesn’t necessarily get translated to the written page. And it doesn’t happen by itself or by accident, no matter how ingenious the story. That doesn’t mean you need to take writing courses or get a degree in creative writing, there are other ways to learn the craft. One of the best ways is reading, especially in the genre you enjoy and want to create in. But do more than simply follow the story. Ask and answer what is it about the writing, the language, that engaged you, captivated you, enthralled you. How did the author’s choice of words, or turn of phrase, or scene setting, or character pathos, produce the emotions and imagery you experienced from reading the words on the page. Why couldn’t you put that book down until you’d read the last page, the last word.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]

Candi: Your novels reflect that you practice what you preach. Okay, time for a challenge question: You’ve just been notified that you’ll be teaching a university course entitled: Writing Your First Mystery Suspense Thriller. What 3-4 points or pillars would you consider essential to the course?

Michael: First, define the genre. Is it a mystery, or a thriller? What are the essential characteristics of each? Is it a thriller encompassing a mystery in the plot? Or a mystery with elements of a thriller? Second, the story or plot. What the heck is happening? What is the ‘Magoffin’ driving the plot and everyone’s actions? What are the stakes? Third, the characters, and this applies to protagonists, antagonists, and secondary characters. Who are they? Where are they from? What is their backgrounds and history? How did they become involved in this situation, this plot? What motivates them? What obstacles, internal and external, must they overcome?

Candi: I see the lines forming for those wanting to take a class taught by you, Michael. Since the advent of digital capabilities and technology related to publishing and the rapid changes within the publishing arena, what do you see as the top two or three challenges facing writers today, and how are they to overcome them? What are the biggest challenges facing new writers today?

Michael: I think the biggest challenge, especially for new writers, is recognizing that writing involves a learned craft. I sincerely believe the changes in publishing, particularly the advent of digital self-publishing, is a beneficial windfall for both authors and readers. But it has spawned readers and writers who are unaware of, or pay little attention to, the craft and quality of writing. I don’t need to go down the quality-in-self-publishing rabbit hole here, or ever, since I believe given time and maturity of the industry, the issue of quality willVincy-Mas-210x210 work itself out in the marketplace. The challenge now, is recognizing that the easy ability to put together a story and upload it is not a substitute for the craft, or a license to neglect creative use of language to mould characters, stage scenes, narrate a compelling story, and evoke emotional responses. In interviews I often say words are merely the raw materials, how we as authors choose them, and string them together, is our art.

Candi: Your answer is worthy of being read each day! It’s been reported that Amazon has over ten million titles (books) listed on their website. What are the challenges for readers in selecting “goodreads” from that many choices? What’s your best advice for readers on how to choose an entertaining/interesting book?

Michael: I think for readers, having that many choices is great, fantastic. Readers will naturally gravitate to the books and authors they’ve enjoyed in the past, and like me, may even discover a new author or genre they haven’t tried before. The real challenge is for authors, how do we differentiate our work and get noticed in such a vast crowd.

Candi: If you could start your writing career over what two or three things would you do differently and why?

Michael: Another interviewer once asked me this question, my answer was, nothing. I wouldn’t do a thing differently. Everything happened in the manner and time it was supposed to for me to get where I am now. I could’ve decided to pursue serious writing and publishing earlier. But I wouldn’t have possessed the level of craft I do now, or had the life experiences which shapes my writing. Changes in the publishing industry and the opportunity to publish outside the traditional route would not have existed. I believe my perspective and my writing is right on target now.

Candi: Isn’t it enough for a writer to simply have all the facts for his story and just write it and publish, or to what extent does the writer’s imagination play a part in crafting a page-turning novel?

Michael: If I were writing a news article or essay, maybe. But fiction by its very nature requires imagination. The page-turning, non-stop-read part comes from how an author wields the language to create characters, scenes, atmosphere, suspense, drama, all the other elements. The craft I keep mentioning.

Candi: Some have said writing is not an end result, but a journey that never ends. Do you agree or disagree with that and why?Rogue-wave-1-210x210

Michael: I personally agree with that. It comes down to what you want to accomplish with your writing, what it means to you in your daily life. For me, it’s the writing itself, wrangling the language, constructing a great sentence or phrase, setting a vibrant scene with words, giving life to a character by the words and manner I use to describe him or her, continually learning and improving my craft, that’s a journey I can’t see ending anytime soon.

Candi: From what I gather, many years ago (think post early printing presses) authors and readers rarely connected or communicated. A reader was lucky to just read the written book. But today the Internet is one huge gathering place where authors and readers communicate freely. How do you feel about those dynamics and how do both authors and readers benefit from that kind of environment? How do you enjoy making and keeping in contact with your readers?

Michael: I think it’s great. Which is not a judgment on how things were in the past, or to say the technology we have today is inherently better. You adapt and exist in the time you’re born and live in. That is the history of humankind. There are advantages and disadvantages to having instant communication and feedback, and being constantly connected. But for the most part I enjoy connecting with and interacting with my audience, whether it’s online digitally or in person.

Candi: What are the advantages of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader devices? Isn’t there something to be said about a real paper and ink book in hand as one sits by the fireside of home and reads?

Michael: You know, every so often I see this discussion popping up on social media and blogs, and I just don’t get it. Personally, I don’t see the choice as either, or, some sort of zero sum equation. I enjoy the convenience of a digital reader when I’m at an airport, or waiting in line. But I can never give up the contentment of lying in a hammock reading a printed novel, having real pages to turn and the smell and feel of a real book in my hands. It’s why all my novels are also available in print format. I also don’t get the fixation of having a Kindle, Nook, or whatever, unless it’s the only digital device you own. But most people have a smart phone, or Ipad, or some other device, multiple devices usually. With ebook applications on my phone, laptop, and tablet capable of reading any ebook format, including the Kindle application, why do I need another devise dedicated solely to reading that particular eformat?

Candi: Refreshing answer! You have a varied professional background and one rich with travel experiences. How has that contributed to your writing? What can readers look forward to from the pen of Michael W. Smart in the next year?Bequia Mysteries 1

Michael: My life and adventures in the Caribbean definitely inspired and influenced the Bequia Mysteries. You’ve probably also noticed many of my characters share my passion for sailing and flying. In my novels I’ll continue to use settings I’ve travelled to or places I’ve lived, and I intend to return to some of those locations to reabsorb their atmosphere as I decide where to set future novels. For the remainder of this year, look for my science fiction title Davidia’s Seed, due this summer, and next year the fourth novel in the Bequia Mysteries series. I’m also working on another mystery with a sci-fi twist, which will be in the pipeline for 2016 or 17.

Candi: I’m looking forward to your entry into science fiction! Here’s another challenge question: Which of your three novels reveals most about your lead character, Nicholas Gage? What were the dynamics as you developed him on paper?

Michael: As you know from reading all three novels Candi, I use a unique point of view in each novel, a device I personally haven’t seen before in a series. I don’t want to give too much away, your readers will have to purchase the novels to find out for themselves. LOL. So you already know Dead Reckoning, the first novel in the series, reveals the most, but not everything, about the Gage character. The reader learns more about him in the next two novels, and will learn something totally surprising about him in the fourth novel. I touched on the dynamics of his creation in an earlier question. I’d been contemplating returning to the Grenadines but knew the experience wouldn’t be the same as when I’d lived there. That’s how Gage was conceived, as a person who arrives in the Grenadines and on Bequia with an entirely new perspective than he had in his past life, and has to reinvent himself at an older stage in life. The title Dead Reckoning, is also a metaphor for his journey. But the help he finds to accomplish this journey is pretty awesome, don’t you think?

Candi: You have demonstrated your craft well by surrounding Nicholas Gage with interesting characters and the element of yet-to-be-told mystery. I look forward to the surprising element you have in store regarding Gage. Michael, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and give us an inside look at your fascinating writing world.

Michael: It’s been my pleasure Candi, and thank you so much for inviting me to share. You asked really fascinating questions, and I had fun thinking about and answering them. I haven’t contemplated interviews on my own blog Sea Quill, http://www.bequiamysteries.com/blog/ but you know I’ve reviewed your hot and steamy “Thrill Driven”, http://www.bequiamysteries.com/blog/reviews/book-review-thrill-driven-by-candi-silk/ and I may decide to include author interviews in the future. Anytime you want to do a guest post or contribute a few choice thoughts on writing, you have an open invitation, and you’re always more than welcome to drop by Candi.

Candi: Your website is inviting and I gladly accept your offer. Tell Nicholas Gage my naughty female characters will be looking for him! LOL!

Candi: Here’s how you can experience the entertaining writing of Michael W. Smart, author of mystery suspense thrillers:

Michael’s Online Links: Connect with Michael!

EMAIL: michaelwsmart@hotmail.com; michaelwsmart@bequiamysteries.com
WEBSITE: http://www.bequiamysteries.com/
BLOG: http://www.bequiamysteries.com/blog/
AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IYXAH8A
AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00IYXAH8A
SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/michaelwsmart
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7870921.Michael_W_Smart
GOOGLE+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113754433649367271314/about
LINKED IN: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-smart/a3/395/282
PINTEREST: http://www.pinterest.com/michaelwsmart/
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-W-Smart/560971790701349
ABOUT ME: http://about.me/michaelwsmart/

 

A tempting tangle of psychological thrills!

Psychological thriller fans will be in their comfort zone when reading Sister, Psychopath, a mind-stretching novel by author Maggie James.

Initially the author introduces the reader to some seemingly ordinary polite individuals. That lasts for a few pages, and then things become a little off-center. As James’s characters unleash their personal agendas driven by deep-seated motivations, the reader is very likely to hug the edge of their seat, maybe even gnaw a couple fingernails to the quick. Remember Sister, Psychopath is a psychological thriller. It’ll mess with your mind, and I loved it!

Maggie James

James has mastered the craft of developing stand-out characters, whether the likable heroines or the despised villains. The author has a way of letting her characters tell the story to the reader in such a way that the full force of those characters comes alive on the pages of her books. Her characters could easily be the reader’s next door neighbor or in the case of Sister, Psychopath, the characters could be the reader’s family members, or one of the characters could easily be the reader. Yes, you! But that’s the chilling backbone of a psychological thriller, realizing there are no boundaries when it comes to thoughts and motivations of the human being.

Sister, Psychopath is a perfect example of short-circuiting motivations that seem to be plentiful with James’s characters. No one has a corner on deceit, and no one has a monopoly on revenge. Neither does one individual have a lock on greed or scheming. But most important no one owns the process of rationalization which is rampant and rife in Maggie James’s novels. It’s that full-throttle quality that is an enjoyable hallmark of her books. Her characters generate maximum conflict and tension from their rationalizing, thus providing a harvest of psychological thrills for her readers.

When I finished Sister, Psychopath I was tempted to book an appointment with the therapist down the street, just to get my head straight. But I decided against that idea; thought I’d wait until I read Maggie James’s next psychological thriller, The Second Captive, according to James’s website. Then I’ll be ready for some serious mind-straightening therapy.

It only takes a little rationalization for me to give a Five-Star rating for Sister, Psychopath. A mind-bending read and hours of entertainment! I’ve cleared more space on my reading shelf for another Maggie James novel. Well done, Ms. James!

Maggie James’s Amazon Author Page.

Full of mystery, suspense, and thrills!

Author Michael W. Smart gives readers a fresh voice as he delivers a fully developed story with Dead Reckoning, his debut novel. Descriptions so graphic you’ll feel the sea breezes of the Caribbean, taste the flavors of the local foods, and feel the sensations of earth, ocean, and sky. Mother Nature at her best! But that’s just the beginning. Most of all you’ll meet real-life characters that will take you deep into the unfolding drama of Dead Reckoning.Michael Smart

Smart fills his writing with edge-of-seat mystery, and since he gives his characters a wide berth, their behavior creates conflict and tension page after page. But Smart allows tidbits of humor to add flavor and realism to his plot.

The author has developed a winning character in Nicholas Gage who takes the lead, and has a history that arouses the reader’s curiosity and imagination of who he really is. The author unravels enough details to lay a thread to Deadeye, the second novel in the Bequia mystery series. Nicholas Gage is in a peer group that includes Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, John MacDonald’s Travis McGee, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.

I wouldn’t dare spoil your read of Dead Reckoning by telling secrets of Nicholas Gage, but I’ll pass this one along. Gage has two love interests that divide his attentions, except when he can intimately enjoy both together. However one is a part of his soul, calming him, and the other stirs his emotions as she is out to claim his soul. Should I mention heart-felt drama at this point?Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]

As if that isn’t enough drama, Smart lets the undercurrents of the underworld shatter the tranquility of the restful resort world of the Caribbean Islands, with deadly mischief, raising the threat level for everyone, and especially for Nicholas Gage and who and what he treasures the most.

If you love the tranquility, and also the excitement of sailing the seas, then you’ll enjoy that extra bonus and thrill when you settle down to read Dead Reckoning, and Deadeye. Both hit the target of Five-Star reading entertainment.

Keep your writing pen filled with more mystery, suspense, and thrills, Mr. Smart. Give us more Gage!

Michael W. Smart’s Author Page.

A challenging read from the mystical realm!

Author Elle Klass takes a bold step into the mystical and paranormal genre with her Eye of the Storm. The title itself is open-ended, as readers will discover, and Klass leaves readers with the notion that the storm is not over, its effects spreading widely into a world of shadows and unknowns.41wa5Q1bmbL._UY250_

Klass apparently has a streak of playful wit as she sets up her story for her readers. Be sure you read every word of her book carefully or you’ll miss it. I did, until a fellow reader explained. Klass plants her challenge, and buries deep other nuances for the reader to figure out. After all, you’ve now entered Elle Klass’s mystical world.

Fans of the paranormal genre will welcome Eye of the Storm to their reading shelf. It’s a fresh take on the off-center, the off-kilter, and the unexplainable world without the clear-cut boundaries of reality.

But Klass is not content to deliver a neat little cookie-cutter story for her readers. Instead the ending is the beginning of yet another mystery with an edge as sharp and penetrating as a precision scalpel, and yet as murky as the mystical twilight zone.

Writing about things or an “existence” that reeks with the unexplainable must be difficult and a challenge for a writer. I tip my eReader to Klass’s debut entry into the paranormal genre and give her Five Stars for Eye of the Storm.

Elle Klass’s Author Page.

Michael W. Smart – Five-Star Author

An addictive suspense-filled mystery!

Deadeye by Michael W. Smart is a clear cut mystery led by a strong woman sleuth, and loaded with escalating suspense. Deadeye is “smart” writing filled with excellent narration, meaningful dialogue, and a delightful and detailed setting to carry the fast-moving plot.

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But just as the reader is lulled into thinking things are going to get cozy and comfortable in the laid-back Caribbean setting, the tentacles of mystery reach through, pulling you deeper into international intrigue as a couple of seemingly isolated crimes lead to the major involvement of parties in high places, rattling alliances and allegiances along the way.
Smart demonstrates his writing talent through well-crafted characters immersed in maturity and plenty of mystery. Characters whose lives are tossed about in the stormy sea of humanity and human behavior. For instance, the mysterious unknowns of Nicholas Gage speak as loudly as the knowns. There is a hidden mystique about him. No wonder the female protagonist, Jo or JJ, has such a burning desire for him. Their intimate relationship is delicately balanced with fervor and class, by the author. Superintendent Johanssen of the CID, affectionately JJ, and Gage’s relationship is mature and reliable as the seas they sail.

Michael Smart
The reader will find a bit of humor along the way but nothing silly, just good sharp wit. If you’ve never visited the Caribbean Islands or the Grenadines, don’t worry. After reading Deadeye, you’ll feel like you’ve been there. Smart is that good in painting and flavoring the setting and story with his selected word choice. The author even includes a couple of maps in the front of his book. That sure beats looking for the proverbial landmarks such as the weathered barn or the creaking wharf in finding your way through Deadeye.

Overall Deadeye gives the reader the feeling of being immersed in a realistic, grownup world, but surrounded by this impending spine-chilling mystery that won’t go away until solved.
Deadeye has earned its place on my bookshelf, and stands tall among the Chandlers, MacDonalds, Flemings, and others. It’s no mystery to me how easily Michael W. Smart’s Deadeye gets a Five Star review from me. A terrific read, Mr. Smart!

Michael W. Smart’s Amazon Author Page.

Maggie James – Five-Star Author

A riveting psychological suspense thriller!

If you’ve ever tried to separate the variety of flavors swirling together in a fully-loaded ice cream sundae, dripping with succulent tastes, you know the impossibility. Well, Maggie James does something equally impossible with Guilty Innocence, her psychological suspense, in which she separates an intricate mosaic of the human psyche. And she succeeds.

James serves the reader a shocking event in the first few pages of her novel. But rather than leave you with a simplistic journalistic version, she meticulously peels off the layers of complex psychological connections between and among the characters. The author gives the reader plenty of time to know the full dimensions of her intriguing characters.

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The story of Guilty Innocence slowly wraps the characters in a web of emotion and deliberation that catches the reader off guard. Keeping the reader guessing is a hallmark of Maggie James as she comfortably exposes her story, while stripping the psychological cover-ups from the souls of her characters. Yes, you’ll see everything, up close, as if sitting in the jury box of a courtroom.

Be prepared to find yourself in a dilemma, as you deliberate the deeper meaning of Guilty Innocence. The author gives the reader all the pieces, but as judge and jury you’ll still be pondering the “what ifs” long after you turn the last page. That’s what I enjoy about Maggie James’s books, her stories continue to resonate.

With that in mind, as a reader, I’m “guilty” of enjoying Guilty Innocence, but I innocently award it Five Gold Stars. Another splendid piece of writing, Ms. James!

Maggie James’s Author Page.