Interview with Elle Klass – Multi-genre Fiction

Author-CenterStage2-2

Welcome!

Highly popular multi-genre author Elle Klass is our guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on her writing experience. Elle has published titles ranging from action-adventure, mystery, suspense, ghosts, women’s fiction and maybe a couple in between. Her fiction has entertained readers through many nights!

Candi Silk: Elle, thanks for joining us and answering questions!
Elle Klass: Thanks for having me Candi. It’s an honor.

Elle Klass - Author

Elle Klass – Author

Candi: 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?

Elle: I have been writing for fun since junior high and always planned on writing a novel. The idea of an entire novel is a daunting task. About 10 years ago I went for it and wrote As Snow Falls, followed by Baby Girl. I printed out the entire ASF novel and gave to a few people to read and help me edit – my very first beta readers. Their enthusiasm with the book overwhelmed me, everybody loved it. I made corrections to the document but still didn’t publish it. I had no idea where to begin and indie publishing wasn’t real popular and was far more difficult than today so the book sat until 2 years ago.

I had it professionally edited, my talented daughter drew the image for the cover which I uploaded and suddenly I had a published book. With ASF published I decided to divide Baby Girl into short stories- easily done since Cleo changes identity for each book and published each short separately.

Candi: How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper? What were early influencers, books, people?

Elle: I began writing poetry at the ripe old age of about 12 and continued with poetry until about 10 years ago. Here is a couple samples of my cheesy and sometimes goofy poetry, circa 1990’s.
Memories
As the ocean flows, so do my thoughts of a more hectic time.
Memories in the back of my mind, the teenage years and struggles with my peers,
Always being right lead to many a fight. I’ve learned and grown, but the battle will always be known. Memories in the back of my mind.
~ Elle Klass

Little Ember
Slowly, slowly little ember,
Burning on the earth,
Dwindle, dwindle little ember,
Till only a flickers worth,
Surely, surely little ember,
You will not die alone,
Go on, go on little ember,
Make yourself be known,
Rise up, rise up little ember,
Scorch the weeds around you,
Slowly, slowly little ember,
Burning on the earth,
Nothing, nothing little ember,
Is left to tell the truth.
~ Elle Klass

I will probably never publish a poetry book but it’s always fun to look back, read, and occasionally share. My earliest influencers were Edgar Ellen Poe and V.C. Andrews. I always had my head buried reading something from one or the other. Sometimes I read poetry to my younger sister and throughout college I read my literature books for classes to my children. Always reading, always writing.

Candi: Thanks for providing your poetry sample! An almost universal recommendation for writers of any genre is the reading and writing of poetry for the mental gymnastics it can provide. Four of your titles comprise the Baby Girl series. What is behind the title Baby Girl? What are the details that led you to write and publish that particular series? Were there any particular experiences or interests that influenced your interest in the young adult/coming of age genre?

Elle: The story for Baby Girl came to me like all the others through my senses. In this case it was a picture I saw on TV, I think. My mind fashioned a distinguished lady walking up the steps to a N.Y. Brownstone, and from there the story and Cleo took on a life of their own. As of yet, readers haven’t seen the picture in my head but that’s coming in the next few months and was the first part of the book written.Baby Girl 4 cover

I had a difficult time staying within the parameters of a young adult book. Cleo’s lifestyle is beyond her age and she does things I hope young adults don’t do. The series begins when she is 12, by book 2 Moonlighting in Paris she is 16, and book 3 City by the Bay she is 18 – my sigh of relief. She isn’t fashioned to be a role model but as seen in all books she is strong, independent, and at times wise beyond her years. She is also stubborn, street smart, and savvy. In many ways she is a role model and a new adult from the time she is 12.

Candi: Having read the Baby Girl series, I have to say that you’ve developed an immensely interesting character in Cleo! So what were the challenges in writing Baby Girl series with an international setting? And do any of those settings reflect your own travels?

Elle: I loved having an international setting for the book. I haven’t travelled to Paris, New York or Aruba – I have spent time in the Caribbean. I did extensive research in each destination including airline flights. I grew up in the San Francisco/ Sacramento area and had the most fun with book 3. If the story continues beyond book 4 Bite the Big Apple…I can’t say, no spoilers.

Candi: One of the most popular fiction genres today is the thriller category. Your most recent book is Eye of The Storm, which is planned as a series. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla thriller into a mystery suspense thriller?

Elle: A twisted mind. It takes a special kind of imagination to create a mystery suspense thriller. My goal was to keep readers guessing until the end. From the reviews I’ve read I accomplished that. My ingredients were to throw suspicion and doubt on every character, have a unique idea that hasn’t been done in the past, and give small tidbits to the reader throughout the course of the book. I left a huge tidbit in the epilogue for the next book in the trilogy, Calm Before the Storm Evan’s Sins. Eye of the Storm is only a taste of this wickedly thrilling series.

Candi: 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?

Elle: A typical writing day for me is waking up in the morning, brewing a pot of Starbucks, turning on my laptop, and pulling up whichever manuscript I’m currently working on. I prepare my coffee with spoons of sugar and chocolate, or French vanilla creamer, go back to my computer and plug away. The day goes quick when I’m uninterrupted and I may type from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. before I notice how late the day is getting. Most days I get interrupted. I work all day on and off taking breaks when I want. I forget to eat – no I hate to cook – unlike Baby Girl character Cleo, so I snack. I don’t like noise when I write but can tune the world out. I’m guilty of tuning everything out except the story in my head, on occasion I like rock or pop music when I write.

My equipment was a computer running Windows XP. I loved that operating system I think it’s the best one Microsoft has put out. Why change a good thing? Who knows but they did and I started having problems – no updates. I invested in a new computer with Windows 8.1 touchscreen. Love it almost as much as XP. I’m stubborn about computers and refused to buy Windows 7- I loathe it. My new computer runs Microsoft Word 2013. I’m sure I will continue using this computer until it dies or the operating system is null. I spent NaNoWriMo 2014 typing on my tablet. No, I don’t need anything expensive so long as it works and I can type.

Candi: A frequently asked question for authors is: Have you experienced writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?

Elle: If I get to a point the words don’t flow it means one of three things.
1. I’m tired and need to go to bed.
2. Go for a walk or do something else until the words flow again.
3. Erase and go back. The direction the story is heading is all wrong. I’m not listening to my characters.

My biggest problem is shutting off my computer and going to bed. I never want to. I feel guilty and hate leaving them in conspicuous situations.

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?

Elle: I think of my stories more as soap operas – characters develop, leave and come back when least expected. Characters add depth to a story through their humanity. My characters are flawed and face realistic problems. They aren’t perfect and share their struggles through life. At times they make corny decisions and put themselves in conspicuous situations. Characters, lovable or hateable give the reader a connection to the story, a reason to continue reading and buying books. I think that’s why series are so popular. We get connected, our curiosity drives us, we want to know what’s going to happen next. Cleo from Baby Girl is a popular character. The book written and released in short stories has a growing following because people feel for her. They’ve seen her go from a 12 year old abandoned child to a 20 year old who faces her demons searching for family ties and makes familial friendships along the way.51GyEPPU1nL._AA160_

As a writer I love writing various types of individuals and when a reader tells me I hated… or asks will Cleo ever…? Tells me my characters have depth. In volume 2 Ruthless Storm Trilogy Calm Before the Storm readers will be introduced to the most despicable, vile character my mind has devised and I’m having a blast writing the book allowing this character free reign to complete his immoral acts and fight his internal demons.

Candi: How do you conceptualize or layout the plan or your approach of 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 challenges does an author face when doing research in writing the book?

Elle: My books begin with a simple plot that blossoms over months or even years in my head. I make notes on my tablet as the story develops. When I’m ready I type a rough draft, let it sit and ferment then go back when I’m ready and begin the process of purging, adding and tweaking. The fermenting, tweaking, adding, purging process happens several times before I’m ready to consider publishing. For the past 2 years I have completed NaNoWriMo and used the contest as an opportunity both years to tweak a rough draft. In 2013 I wrote Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy. When I started the initial rough draft was a few thousand words by the time I finished the manuscript reached over 50,000 words. The plot is mine but I give my characters a lot of room and allow them to develop and take the plot in directions I never planned.ETS Latest

I’d say my biggest challenge with research is not being able to take off on a whim and travel to the various places I’m researching. Instead I google everything and talk with people who have spent time there. In researching Eye of the Storm Sunshine sees a hypnotherapist. I watched Youtube videos of actual hypnotherapy sessions to make her experience life like. Where there is a will there is a way. If I need to know something for a book I don’t stop until I find it.

Candi: There’s no doubt NaNoWriMo continues to be a crucible of creativity for writers! But I hear you saying writing and publishing are 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?

Elle: Writing and publishing a quality book isn’t simple. Indie authors have to find editors, beta readers, cover designers. Once the book is published we have to figure out how to market and sell it. All this we do on our own. Small press authors face the same challenges. On the flip side there is a ton of support amongst indie and small press authors.

It’s interesting you ask what I would say to advise a neighbor or friend who wants to publish. A friend sent a young teen my way when she learned the teen wanted to publish a poetry book. I talked with her and gave her a few resources to check out – Createspace and Smashwords. I scribbled the websites down for her. She talked with her parents and with their support has begun the publishing process. She keeps me updated. She entered a poem into a contest and received a letter stating she is a finalist! I’m excited for her and can’t wait to purchase her book.

I have met other people who feed me great ideas for stories then ask if I’ll write it. My advice is it’s your story to write not mine start simple write a rough draft, talk and record your ideas, scribble down notes. The story doesn’t have to begin sequentially nor does it need to be perfect. The perfecting process happens later and may take months or years to develop. I’m always happy to assist as a beta reader and give my ideas on a stories strengths and weaknesses.

Candi: Great example of how you inspired a young teen to write and publish! 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?

Elle: I taught junior high for 12 years this should be easy right? Wrong, I taught science. The idea of teaching a writing course is a challenge. Here goes:
STOB
1. Suspicious characters – no character should be innocent and all characters should cast a shadow of doubt
2. Twists – a good mystery needs a few twists in the plot to keep the readers on the edge of their seat.
3. Observations – drop clues throughout the story to build suspense. Never give away too much at one time.
4. Build- use the element of the known to create suspense

I think Poe and Hitchcock are true masters of the genre and I’d have my students reading through their stories with a fine toothed comb looking for these elements before beginning their writing process.

Candi: LOL! Sounds like a tough writing course! 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?

Elle: I’d say the biggest challenge of publishing in our digital world is so many people are doing it. Any person can create a story and publish a quality book. There are freelance cover designers, editors, beta readers, and ghost writers available to assist a writer in creating a fantastic story. The challenge is marketing. For a writer to be successful they have to create a solid marketing plan to get their book into the public eye. The author has to find a hook that makes their book stand out from the rest. The good news is the digital world has opened up publishing on an international scale more than ever before. There are potentially billions of readers worldwide for each and every book in the wide varieties of genres available.

Candi: As Snow Falls is categorized as women’s fiction and family relationships. I read that book first. Truly enjoyed it! What were the challenges in writing that novel? What were your feelings the day you published it?new cover 2

Elle: The challenges in writing that book was publishing it. When I first wrote it the indie world was fresh, new, and frowned upon more than today. The publishing resources available were knocking on the door of potentially thousands of literary agents’ doors until finding one to take the book under their wing or a vanity press. Neither option appealed to me so the book sat until 2 years ago when I researched publishing again and saw how drastically the options had changed. I can’t express in words the excitement, fear, and self-doubt I felt when I first published the book. Over time all that eased as reviews started coming in stating how much people enjoyed the story. Every once in a while a reader picks it up and doesn’t enjoy it leaving an unfavorable review. When I first published it, that would have torn me up. A year and a half later I shrug and think it wasn’t for them. I move on and continue writing keeping in mind not everybody will be a fan. That’s an important point new writers need to remember not every reader will like your book and even the most accomplished USA Today and New York Times Bestsellers have negative reviews.

Candi: 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?

Elle: That’s a tough question. Each reader has varied tastes on writing styles and genre choices. Some readers choose purely indie books while others want only traditional published books. My advice is if the book sounds intriguing go for it. Ebook prices make it possible to find new authors without breaking the bank. You won’t enjoy every book but you will broaden your horizons and find new authors. Subscribing to review blogs is a great way to find new books to check out. Social media such as Twitter or Facebook and Google+ groups are a great way to hear about new authors and find new genres. When searching Amazon for a book look for daily deals and Kindle countdowns and don’t limit your reading to Amazon. Places like Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, Scribd, Flipkart, and others have the same and sometimes a wider variety of books to choose from.

For a lover of reading there are far more options available today than ever before. Readers can even sign up with popular websites to review books. Reviewing is a great way to let the author know how much their book was enjoyed. When finding an enjoyable book share, share, and share. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about an author or book.

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?

Elle: Imagination has everything to do with it. Stephen King wouldn’t be popular if he wrote dry books that didn’t pique the readers’ interest. His imagination has no limits. I use King because in my opinion he doesn’t write perfect books sometimes they get a bit boring but his wild imagination and suspense building capabilities keeps me on the edge. He may be the most accomplished author in today’s world. His imagination keeps me reading his books along with billions of other readers worldwide. I pale in comparison to him and can only hope to one day have a small percentage of the readers and fans he’s accumulated. What I do have is a vivid imagination that comes out in my books which improve with the publication of each one.

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?

Elle: Absolutely! Writing is addicting. I can’t stop and look forward daily to spending time with my characters and writing their worlds. Every so often a writer publishes one book, best seller or not, and stops. Do they quit writing? I don’t know. Most authors writing journey starts many years before publishing and many writers never publish. With each story a writer’s skills improve. Practice makes perfect. As a writer I’m always researching and finding resources to improve. It’s a learning process that doesn’t stop with writing alone; reading is a great way for a writer to increase their skills. I read a wide variety of genres, and can’t help but mentally compare and critique their words. This doesn’t stop me from enjoying the story but does help me see strengths and weakness in their styles and critique my own books in a similar way.

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?

Elle: Social media is a smorgasbord for readers and authors. As an author I enjoy connecting to readers and discussing elements of my books and characters, to congratulating them on their new grand-baby. I enjoy meeting people internationally and finding commonalities in our personalities and lives. I love when readers contact me and ask about my books or tell me how much they enjoyed a particular story or hate or love a specific character.

As a reader I enjoy connecting with authors of my favorite books on a personal level. I find myself more apt to buy books from authors I’ve met and speak with frequently than those I don’t. For example I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey but have purchased 4 Candi Silk titles and read 3 so far. Loved them all. I have never read Hunger Games but have watched all the movies when they came available at Redbox, and enjoyed them. When I meet a new author and like them as a person I buy their book. If I enjoy it I tell the world. My reader is never empty and contains a wide variety of authors and genres.

Candi: Okay, I’d better get busy and write more books. LOL! What are your thoughts on 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?

Elle: An advantage to e-readers is the ability to take hundreds of books on vacation without packing hundreds of books in a suitcase. When I fly or go for a road trip my tablet and hours of entertainment come with me. My 8 inch tablet fits into my purse and comes with me almost everywhere.

I do enjoy paperback books and have a small collection of my favorites including a few autographed books. Paperbacks are a precious commodity. When I get an autographed one I have a hard time reading it because I don’t want to bend the pages or ruin the cover. I also have a hard time autographing books because I feel as though I’m defacing them. As an author signing is a part of life so I’m getting used to it and rarely cringe anymore.
Both types of books have their purpose but I reserve paperbacks for my favorite authors because of the room they take up. I’m a friend to the library where I can borrow a paperback or hardback and give it back so I don’t run out of shelf space in my own home.

Candi: Elle, you have a varied professional background and one rich with many experiences. How has that contributed to your writing?

Elle: Yes, my experiences in life come across in my writing. Not so much my careers as my experiences with other people and peculiar predicaments I get myself into. I’m famous among my friends for making odd choices such as walking several miles home, getting stopped for walking by the police who kept their chuckling under control until they dropped me at home. That experience gave me the cool and frightening opportunity of riding in the back of a police car. And I can say there’s no way to get out unless a person is Houdini. For the record I didn’t break the law. They pulled me over to give me a ride because they didn’t like the idea of a woman walking alone at night. The silliest part—I was 2 blocks from home. My life is littered with strange occurrences and I find I write stuff that comes true months or years later. Eerie!

Candi: Another challenge question: Your Baby Girl series covers approximately 8 years of your protagonist, Cleo? What were the dynamics as you developed her on paper?41ONZaNXByL._SS300_

Elle: In order to make her realistic I had to consider her age and predicament in life through each book. At ages 12 – 16 during In the Beginning she is alone, scared, and more mature than in later books. But she’s still a child. In later books her situation in life is more comfortable and her inner child breaks out. In Bite the Big Apple, the last book in the series, she is faced with answers to questions that have plagued her for 8 years. She’s overwhelmed, relieved, and forced to reflect on her inner journey.

Candi: What can readers look forward to from the writing studio of Elle Klass in the next 12 months?

Elle: My big surprise and unofficial announcement the four Baby Girl books are currently undergoing editing and will be formatted into a box set available in paperback and ebook formats. I’ve been keeping this under wraps but the date of its launch is drawing near. The boxset will include never read before prologue, epilogue, and scenes. The idea came from Baby Girl readers who love the series and continue to ask, ‘Will Baby Girl ever be available in paperback?’ I value readers’ opinions and ideas. Having said that, Cleo’s journey is only beginning so readers can expect more Baby Girl shorts and possible box sets in the future. I enjoy writing her character and hope throughout the course of Cleo’s journey to answer all its readers’ questions.

Calm Before the Storm Evan’s Sins Vol. 2 Ruthless Storm Trilogy is my next project. My goal is to have it available for preorder by late fall for release in early 2016. I’m not saying much about this yet except Vol. 2 is a prequel, read Vol. 1 Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy within the next several months in preparation and expect an increase in suspense.

Candi: Elle, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and giving us an inside look at your fascinating writing world.

Elle: Thank you I enjoyed the opportunity to share and hope your readers will take the chance and check out my books.
Candi: Here’s how you can experience the entertaining writing of Elle Klass, author of multi-genres.

Elle Klass’s Online Links:

Social Media Links:
http://thetroubledoyster.blogspot.com/
http://elleklass.weebly.com/
https://twitter.com/ElleKlass
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7216745.Elle_Klass
https://www.facebook.com/ElleKlass
Sign up for newsletter here- http://elleklass.weebly.com/contact-mailing-list.html
Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy Youtube review Erik Nelson- https://youtu.be/nEKTKJHMwQI
Book Trailer Baby Girl by Double Decker Books- https://youtu.be/KfcsSdhZjDg
As Snow Falls Trailer- https://youtu.be/wJxAcy3R2dg
Get to know and interact with my characters:
Sunshine’s Pinterest Board- http://www.pinterest.com/elleklass/sunshine/
Eilida’s Pinterest Board-http://www.pinterest.com/elleklass/eilida/
Cleo’s Pinterest Board- https://www.pinterest.com/elleklass/cleos-favorites/
Buy links:
Amazon author page- http://www.amazon.com/Elle-Klass/e/B00F2Y48C0/
Amazon author U.K.- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Elle-Klass/e/B00F2Y48C0/
Barnes and Noble- http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/elle-klass
Kobo- https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/search?query=Elle%20Klass&fcsearchfield=Author&fclanguages=all
Smashwords- https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Elle30
iBooks- https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/elle-klass/id686139376
Google Play (books discounted here)- https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=Elle%20Klass&hl=en
Reader’s Favorite review (feel free to post your own)- https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/eye-of-the-storm

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 captivating, striking, and resonating thriller!

In The Second Captive, author Maggie James weaves an intriguing psychological thriller based upon the psychology of the Stockholm syndrome which was highlighted during a real event that took place in Stockholm, Sweden in August, 1973. However, James’s fine-tuned fingers of fiction tap out an absorbing account of much more than a rehash of a journalistic or historical rendition of a harrowing real life event. The author seems to have a fondness for taking the reader further than simple reality. And that she does with The Second Captive.TSC 23565397

James puts a modern day spin on her novel, and broadens it with deep layers of twisting suspense that ripple beyond the central character of Beth Sutton. The author cleverly coaxes the reader into a believable scenario of the “syndrome” becoming a harsh reality to an ordinary person. It is that possibility painted by the pen of James that puts the reader on the edge of one’s seat as well as the edge of reality. Scary, but that’s the rush that comes from anything James writes.

Protagonist Beth Sutton could easily be your family member, or even you, as you will discover when reading The Second Captive. James is masterful in crisscrossing the emotions and agendas of the protagonist, and antagonist, Dominic Perdue, as her novel proceeds. And Dominic wants something far beyond one’s imagination. What seems unthinkable and most unlikely, suddenly becomes all too real for all of James’s characters. And that alone peels back another layer of human relations, revealing the underlying fragility. James has a way of presenting her characters in full dimension, reflecting easily the connection between characters and reader. And that’s the point where a story becomes real, believable.

Maggie James, Author

 

My reviews never divulge story elements, but I’m more than glad to let potential readers know you won’t be disappointed with The Second Captive. James does not allow her story to drag, and neither does she fill it with fluff. Every chapter is saturated with substance. Her word choice, and plot pacing will keep your pulse pumping, as you pant and fret along with her characters, begging for some kind of resolution and relief. Proof again that the excitement James spreads with ink is felt within the emotions of readers. You don’t just read a book by Maggie James, you experience it, emotionally!

Rather than hold my gold stars captive another moment, I gladly award 5-Stars for The Second Captive! Keep writing winners for your readers, 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.

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.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]
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.

John Tucker – Five-Star Author

An explosive novel packed with dynamite drama!

A refreshing voice of fiction sounds across the Deep South’s landscape; that of multi-genre author, John Tucker.

I didn’t know who the heck John Tucker was, until I stumbled across his books on Amazon. But that’s part of the fun in discovering new authors, scavenging around through the different genres. The title, Splits in the Skin, caught my eye, and after reading the preview pages, I was hooked by the author’s style and the content of his story.

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It’s true what they say about the glitz of Georgia and the allure of Atlanta, but when John Tucker peeled back the outer skin, some hidden truths of Georgia broke out, beginning on page one of Splits in the Skin.

As a reader I soon found myself riding in the car of bounty hunter, Ellis Hardigree, going somewhere unknown to me. Heck, I wasn’t even sure the bounty hunter knew where we were going. I had the distinct impression that he was the kind of guy who acted first and planned later. That should have been fair warning of the gaggle of characters I would soon be meeting.

As the skyline of Atlanta began to shrink in the passenger’s side view mirror, I turned and looked at the stretch of road ahead, lined with smaller houses, interspersed with out-of-date trailers, and a couple of tar-papered “churches” along the way. A step back in time. Throw in a few roadside stands selling peaches, pecans, and peanuts and you’ve got another authentic side of Georgia. With an environment like that, surely nothing good could become of this story. But the author knows what to do with those ingredients and more.

Tucker has bundled together characters flawed to hell and back, but they all had one thing in common, an agenda. Different agendas. Burning agendas driven by their own individual wants. And that is an explosive mixture. The kind I enjoy as a reader. His characters remind me of the quirkiness of characters from Justified, the ever-popular TV series based on the work of the late Elmore Leonard. Yes, I think Tucker is that good. He deftly places his characters in position and the thrills spill forth.

The author balances the unfolding drama in such a manner that you’re never sure which way the story will swing next. I tried a number of times out-guessing the storyline, but couldn’t. I like for an author to keep me guessing until the last few pages of a novel. And Tucker does that.

With over a million words in the English language, Tucker has mastered word choice like an artist selecting paints for her canvas. With Tucker’s word selection, as a reader, you’ll taste the bubblegum-flavored kiss the bounty hunter stole from that sexy blonde “Georgia peach.” And you’ll feel the heated passion in the kisses he shared in the dark of night with another cuddly “peach.” That was one thing the bounty hunter had a plan for. A bounty hunter who could distinguish between prey and booty.

As a reader I could “feel” and “sense” the emotional drama unfolding, through the honed words of the author, as the agendas continued to swirl and coalesce in an explosive mix of energy. I found Tucker’s writing more arousing than any five-hour energy drink on the market. Splits in the Skin will keep you awake non-stop.

And Tucker’s pacing of Splits in the Skin was just right. Sometimes it was as fast and risky as an ole fashion Georgia red-clay race track on a sweaty Saturday night. Other times the flow was like a spring breeze across the Georgia hills. Just long enough for the reader to catch one’s breath, before all hell breaks loose again.

There is another touchy element of Tucker’s drama/thriller that paws and growls for attention. It’s a taboo topic, which I won’t mention, and some writer’s avoid it, but not this author. Another reason for me to like Tucker’s work. He’s bold. He handles the taboo issue skillfully, letting it boil and fester through the actions and thoughts of his characters, giving equal exposure to opposing forces and feelings, letting the merits and resilience of ideas and beliefs seek resolution and redemption in the market place of good and evil. Ultimately, as the reader, I was left with a rich story to ponder and wonder about.

When I finished Splits in the Skin, I slipped my copy onto my bookshelf alongside Margaret Mitchell, Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons. Yes, I enjoyed Tucker that much. Great entertainment and worthy of Five-Stars and more. Your “brand” of Georgia will be on my mind for a long time to come. Keep writing Mr. Tucker! My entertainment depends upon it.

Here is Tucker’s Author Page.