A Hundred Fires in Cuba by John Thorndike + Interview

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I would first like to thank the author, John Thorndike for the opportunity to review his book A Hundred Fires in Cuba!

John takes us to Cuba in the 1950’s into the mind of Claire, a photojournalist who finds herself in a love triangle between a Cuban business man and the father of her child, Camilo Cienfuegos, who also happens to be one of Castro’s head commanders.  Claire met Camilo while he was in New York working as a cook and fell instantly in love.  Not long after, Camilo is deported back to Cuba and Claire never hears from him again.  Her fear is that he has died in Fidel’s invasion of the island.  Claire also discovers she is pregnant with the child of a man she thinks she will never see again.

Claire marries a wealthy Cuban businessman and moves to Havana with her two-year-old daughter, only to discover that her first love is not only still alive, he’s now head of the Cuban Army.  She cannot believe it.  Soon Claire finds herself right in the middle of the chaos and danger, in hopes of finding him.  As the story unfolds, you will find that love never dies, even in the darkest of times.   It was interesting to read about a side of history that I may not typically be familiar with, and John Thorndike’s account of Clare and Camilo is all too real and heartbreaking at times.

This story has just enough depth to it, that I almost had to read it in one sitting but unfortunately sleep got the best of me.  It has a pinch of romance but not like what you find in other stories.  It’s a well rounded, interesting and enjoyable read.

author-interview

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John Thorndike

Tell us a little about yourself?

John: My first real job, after the Peace Corps, was farming. I started out raising chickens on a backcountry farm in Chile, then moved to Athens, Ohio and grew vegetables, which I sold at the local supermarket and farmers’ market. My house still sits beside a field that once held 2500 tomato plants, along with peppers, squash and a dozen other crops. I loved farming, but the profit was slim. Today, the organic vegetables I grew would bring a better price, but in the late seventies I actually took down my Organic Produce sign, because it made people suspicious. Full of bugs, some of them thought. Eventually I left farming behind and started building houses. I still own several of these, and rent them out.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

John:  I always wrote. I started in high school and wrote in college. (A few years ago I stumbled across a couple of my early short stories: rather embarrassing.) I wrote during the winters when I had a break from my crops, and found more free time as my son grew up: I was a single father from the time he was three. When he turned thirteen we moved to Colorado, and I stayed out West for a dozen years, first in Boulder, then in Santa Fe, NM. In those years I wrote full-time.

Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

John: My first novel, Anna Delaney’s Child, is a book about loss. My mother died early, at 57, and year after year I missed her. Then, a woman I was in love with left me, and those two miseries drove me to start a book about the worst loss I could imagine, the death of one’s child. It’s something that all parents fear, I’m sure. I made the boy in the novel nine, the same age my son was when I started making notes for the book. After a while, of course, the story went off on its own path, quite independent of my mother, my lover or my son. This is what books do, and one reason we write them.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

John: I don’t think I have a genre. I’ve published two memoirs and three novels, and the most recent of these, A Hundred Fires in Cuba, is historical fiction. “Literary fiction” might be my category—but are books in any genre non-literary? That sounds insulting, and I resist such labels. Like most authors, I write the story I want to tell, as well as I can. It’s true that I don’t toss off a book. Each one takes years, mainly because I keep rewriting until I can read every paragraph, every sentence without a hitch. Perhaps that’s my genre: Books Endlessly Revised.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

John: For my current book, the opening. But as often happens, that kept changing. The beginning was first set in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria, where Clare and Camilo meet. Though my first impulse with a manuscript is to follow a strict chronology, I don’t stay with that long. I want to come in at a moment when the tension rises, and I was drawn to the day that Clare—now married to someone else, because she believes that Camilo has died—sits alone in her husband’s car outside Havana, listening to a broadcast from Fidel Castro’s rebel station. That’s when she learns that Camilo, her first love and the father of her child, is not only still alive, he’s one of Fidel’s top comandantes. From that moment, her life must change.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

John: The division between these two seems thin to me. After all, isn’t our imagination founded on what we’ve experienced? Novels are a stew of things we’ve known and things we’ve made up. Memoirs are the same, because our memory is never exact. When I quote a conversation from thirty years ago I do my best, but I doubt that I’m recalling the words precisely. There are memoirs—I’m thinking of Mary Karr—seen from the eyes of a five-year-old, and surely that leads to a mix of fact and fiction. We try to evoke the essence of a scene, of a character, but the line between real life and imagination seems increasingly blurred to me.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

John: Justine, by Lawrence Durrell. My mother gave me a Faber & Faber paperback of the book—the first volume of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet—when I was nineteen, complete with her penciled notes in the margin. It was a way of confiding in me, of letting me see something of her passionate nature—which in her life with my father was pretty much kept under a cloak. The heart of Justine is an affair, set in Egypt in the nineteen thirties and forties. I read the book, and the others in the quartet, eight or nine times. I read it again last year. I think my mother wanted to show me that there’s a world beneath the daily one we live in, a world of emotion and obsession, of strange dreamers, misfits and powerful women, of people for whom sex and love are more vital than anything else.

Do you ever experience writers block?

John: Not for long. On the other hand, I have to overcome a kind of block every time I sit down to write. How hard it can be to get started in the morning—or afternoon, or at night, whenever I begin. It helps if I write every day. If I take Sunday off, it’s harder on Monday. If I take a month or two off, it can take me days to get the flywheel turning again. Then I’m fine. Almost always, I begin by reading what I wrote the day before, or the week before. Or I turn back to the beginning. I’ll go over the start of a book fifty times before I’m done. If I’m stumped, if I don’t know what comes next, I go back to the first paragraph, and slowly the flywheel starts to move. Those first few revolutions are the most difficult, but then I start to cruise. Soon the words are pouring out as I shotgun whole paragraphs, coming up with material I’ll be correcting later, over and over. I no longer fight any of this, it’s just my way.

Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

John: Yes, but he died three years ago. James Salter’s Light Years is the book of books for me. I’ve kept a copy between my mattress and headboard for twenty years. That’s another way I get the flywheel turning: I pick up Salter’s book, sometimes at random, and read a page or a chapter. As Richard Ford says, “Sentence for sentence, Salter is the master.” Light Years is written with a nostalgia that steadily grips me. “Her life was like a single, well-spent hour…. The days were cut from a quarry that would never be emptied.” Of course they will be emptied, and people will die—but not as long as I reread the book. I did try to meet Salter. My editor wrote his wife, and a friend of my father’s was close to him, but no go. He lived part of the year on Long Island, and died in Sag Harbor at 90, in the gym, working out. My mother owned a house in Sag Harbor—bought in 1961 for $8,000!—and it’s there my next book will be set. Meanwhile, I read Light Years the way I eat and drink and breathe: endlessly.

Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

John: The new one, A Hundred Fires in Cuba, is out now. Here’s the description from the back cover: “In the spring of 1956, a young American photographer falls in love with a Cuban line cook at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. They have a ten-week affair which ends when Immigration arrests and deports him, and by then Clare Miller is pregnant. Few Americans know the name Camilo Cienfuegos. All Cubans do. In real life he was the most charismatic of Fidel Castro’s commanders—until his small plane vanished only months after Fidel came to power. In A Hundred Fires in Cuba, Clare must choose between the stable Cuban businessman she has married and her first love, Camilo. Though a true revolutionary, Camilo likes to dance and drink. He likes women, and too many women like him. His courage is legendary, but when he comes to visit Clare he’s afraid of his own daughter and her moods. Clare worries that he’ll never make a good parent, but she cannot resist him.”

If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

John: Hey, I got it published! People liked it, I started going to writers’ colonies, gave up most of my magazine articles, buckled down to the next one. No, that all worked out fine.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

John: Only, I’m afraid, the same clichés you’ve read many times. But here’s the one I try to follow myself: Write the book you want to, the one that’s closest to your heart. Follow your true focus. Shakespeare’s Polonius gave us the greatest clichéd advice of all, because it’s the most vital: to thine own self be true.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

John: Aren’t books great? Don’t we love to read? We have ebooks now, and audibles, but they’re still books. My father read endlessly, my mother as well, my brother, my son—and now my grandchildren, who both love to climb into a book. Sure, they play some video games, but they’re fully engaged with books. Everyone in my family has always had it: a simple taste for reading.

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Author Interview… Jonathan Janz, author of “Wolf Land” + Giveaway

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“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author

 

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Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m a husband, dad, teacher, and writer. My wife and three kids are extraordinary, and I love both of my professions. That might be a dull answer, but it’s the truth.

 

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

 

I took my first crack at writing after I got into a near-fatal car crash during my senior year in high school. The book was horrid. I took my second shot at it when I was twenty-six. That book was less awful, but it still wasn’t good. About seven years ago, I got serious about writing, and though I finished the book (it was called STARLIGHT), no one wanted to publish it. That’s because even though it was better than anything I’d written at that point, it still wasn’t good. So I rewrote it seven more times. In the mean time, I wrote another book called THE SORROWS, which sold in 2011. Then, the one first one sold, as well, this time under the name HOUSE OF SKIN. Since then, things have been growing steadily.

 

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

 

THE SORROWS was a Gothic horror novel that showed both the influence of Peter Straub and Richard Laymon. Though that’s a strange combination, I think it worked really well for the book. The novel is about a pair of horror movie music composers who travel to a haunted island in the Pacific to find inspiration for the horror film they’re scoring. Readers seemed to dig it at any rate, so I wrote a sequel called CASTLE OF SORROWS of which I’m also very proud.

I also have another pseudo-series called SAVAGE SPECIES. That book is one of my most popular ones; it’s a brutal survival thriller along the lines of the film THE DESCENT. Since people enjoyed it so much, I wrote a prequel of sorts called CHILDREN OF THE DARK that’ll be published in early 2016 by Sinister Grin Press.

 

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

 

This will undoubtedly sound cheesy, but I’d say that horror chose me. I grew up between an old graveyard and a deep, dark woods, and I spent my childhood terrified of the spirits and monsters that I was convinced resided in those shadowy realms. I write in other genres, but horror will always be my favorite.

 

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

 

In my most recent novel WOLF LAND, I loved writing the werewolf transformation scenes because they were uniquely compatible with my “approach.” Essentially, I love to subside into the background and allow my characters to seize control of the story, which means the books kind of write themselves. What more natural a scene to write then, than a transformation scene in which an irresistible impulse grabs hold of a character and changes him/her into something else? As liberating as most of my writing feels, those transformation scenes flowed so rapidly out of my fingertips that I could scarcely keep up with the words. There’s one scene in particular in the bathroom of a drive-in movie theatre that exploded onto the keyboard as violently as the blood exploded onto the cinderblock walls of the bathroom. WOLF LAND was a total blast to write.

 

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

 

Tons of both. I forget who said this, but someone once called a writer “a person on whom nothing is lost.” I like to think I’m that way, watching the world closely, storing away details, and then allowing them to gush forth onto the page. At the same time, there are things I write that have no connection to anything I’ve ever done, seen, or heard. So yeah…both.

 

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

 

Stephen King’s THE TOMMYKNOCKERS made of me a reader and a writer back when I was an adolescent, so that one will always have a special place in my heart. A recent book that influenced me was Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES. I loved how bold she was and how willing she was to follow her characters into their most depraved thoughts and behaviors. She has a great deal of guts, and I deeply admire that.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

Not yet, though I’ve heard enough about it to know how real it is for some writers. Personally, my only problem is having so many ideas and so little time to write them that I get frustrated at having to place wonderful projects on the backburner.

 

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

 

Stephen King. I would kill to meet Stephen King. Okay, maybe not kill, but I’d at least maim. I’ve met many of my writing heroes, but King is the one who showed me the way and is the single most important influence on my writing life. He can have no idea how much influence he’s had on the world, nor could I ever repay the debt I owe him. But I’d still love to meet him.

 

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

 

I have three coming out in 2016 (and maybe more). The first will be CHILDREN OF THE DARK in March. I’m really jazzed about that one because it’s my first “coming of age” book, and one that I think blends tenderness and savagery really interestingly. The second is EXORCIST FALLS, which is a novel-length sequel to an extremely successful novella called EXORCIST ROAD. The third will be an updated, improved version of a novella called WITCHING HOUR THEATRE, which was the first thing I ever got published.

 

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

 

Not really, because I’m thankful for the way it has all happened. If I did go back and change anything it would be spending less time on query letters and worrying about breaking arbitrary writing rules, and spending more time on studying books the way I do now. Reading and examining a story by one of my favorite writers teaches me far more than any other method I’ve tried.

 

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

 

Yes. While talent matters, and while there are a great many factors involved in writing, nothing is as important as persistence. I met F. Paul Wilson this summer, and one thing he said really resonated with me. He had a great quote about it, but rather than butchering it, I’ll just paraphrase him: “Everybody wants to succeed, but most writers don’t have the discipline to actually do it and stick to it.” I think that’s the biggest divider; there are tens of thousands—maybe even millions—of people with the talent to write. But the vast majority of those will never succeed because they simply don’t have the discipline, the humility, and the stomach to do it. If I could give any advice, I’d say to disabuse yourself of the notion that you’re owed anything by editors, agents, or readers and that you have to work your tail off consistently for a long time to earn your success. That might not be sexy advice, but I believe it’s true, and knowing that, you can buckle down and do the work. For me, it’s a reassuring thought because I love working for what I get. It makes success that much more rewarding.

 

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

 

Jonathan: I am truly grateful for your support, and it means the world to me that you take the time to read my books. I work tirelessly to craft the best stories I can, but that effort wouldn’t matter without readers. So thank you. I deeply appreciate you!

Wolf Land tour graphic

Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Land-Jonathan-Janz/dp/1619231166

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolf-land-jonathan-janz/1122266491

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5624/wolf-land

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Giveaway!!!

Enter to win ONE (1) print copy signed by Jonathan Janz of WOLF LAND! Click the link to enter. There are several things you can do to get multiple entries each day. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI2/?

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Click on the book to see my review!

Wolf Land by Jonathan Janz + Giveaway

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“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, this should please readers who appreciate a good haunting.”
—The Library Journal

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I love how authors are bringing back the classic shapeshifer characters.  This book is full of suspense along with your gore and of course a werewolf crisis!

There is a predator on the loose in the small town of Lakeview, which actually brings some excitement to the inhabitants.  All is well until a high school reunion brings together more than just old classmates, along with comes an ancient evil that no one is prepared for.

There’s an attack that doesn’t kill everyone…leaving a few survivors from the group.  Unfortunately we all know what happens when you survive a werewolf attack……the victims are changing and having unimaginable cravings.  Soon the town becomes a wolfland wasteland.

Perfect writing that will have you craving more from this author.  The plot was suspenseful and had me on the edge of my seat.  I was dreaming of werewolves in my sleep!  Highly recommend read!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Land-Jonathan-Janz/dp/1619231166

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolf-land-jonathan-janz/1122266491

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5624/wolf-land

giveaway banner

Giveaway!!!

Enter to win ONE (1) print copy signed by Jonathan Janz of WOLF LAND! Click the link to enter. There are several things you can do to get multiple entries each day. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI2/?

 

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk + Giveaway

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The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a new, fresh and exciting story ready for you to devour!  Brian Kirk’s writing is amazing to say the least.  In “We Are Monsters”, something dark has been released into the halls of the Sugar Hill mental asylum……although they do not have sharp teeth or claws, what you will unravel as you read will have you mind blown.

An extremely paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side has just been admitted to Sugar Hill.  Dr. Eli Alpert is smitten as he has been working on a cure of schizophrenia and a drug that returns patients to their former selves.  Or so they think….the drug is unapproved and the Dr.’s test subjects are living just inside his reach.

Due to some unforeseen side effects of the drug, the monsters inside the patients start seeping out in a dark, inky goo of inner demons.  Leaving Sugar Hill an extremely dangerous place.

This is a very original tale that will keep you enthralled though out the entire book.  A thought provoking and somewhat horrifying novel delivered to us by author Brian Kirk, served on a sterile medial platter for us to enjoy!  Great work, I look forward to reading more from this author!

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Praise for We Are Monsters

“Keep an eye on Brian Kirk. His ambitious debut, We Are Monsters, is a high-voltage thrill, like watching Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor and Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners on split screens. ” — Jonathan Moore, Bram Stoker Award nominated author of Redheads

We Are Monsters is fantastic — a frightening and intense thriller and one hell of a debut novel. I was blown away. Brian Kirk is exactly what readers need — a talented new voice with original, awe-inspiring ideas that can push the genre forward.”
-Brian Keene, best-selling author of Ghoul and The Rising

“Brian Kirk’s debut We Are Monsters is a smart, elaborate novel that weaves together the best and worst of us. Complex, terrifying, and still humane, this book moved me to both horror and compassion, and that’s a difficult thing indeed. Easily the best book I’ve read this year.” (Mercedes M. Yardley, author of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy.)

“A tightly woven tale from an author who has a heart, and that makes me excited to see what else Kirk has in store for us. The whole story will have you examining the human race as never before.” (Ginger Nuts of Horror)

“Brian Kirk’s debut novel We Are Monsters is a sure bet. A hippy-trippy jaunt that goes deep into the baser things we keep bottled up… and what happens when they’re freed. Highly recommended!” (John F.D. Taff, Bram Stoker nominated author of The End In All Beginnings.)

“A disturbing, gets-under-your-skin debut novel. I expect to read much more from Kirk in the future.” (Robert Ford, author of The Compound and Samson and Denial.)

“Cleverly told. Psychologically complex.” (Scarlet’s Web)
“A gorgeous display of conceivable terror that resonates long after reading.” (Ranked as one of the Top Ten Horror Novels of 2015 by Best-Horror-Movies.net)

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Monsters-Brian-Kirk/dp/1619229803/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/we-are-monsters-brian-kirk/1121694935?ean=9781619229808

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5494/we-are-monsters

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Giveaway!!!

Click the rafflecopter link below and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Brian Kirk! You can perform several tasks for entering each day here or at each stop that posts the giveaway link. Best of luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI1/?

We Are Monsters tour graphic (1)

 

 

Author Interview…Brian Kirk, author of “We Are Monsters” + Giveaway

brian kirk

Well, aside from writing fiction, I’m a father of five-year-old identical twin boys: the rarest form of human offspring (a very technical term for kids). Only fraternal twins are hereditary; identical twins are a random anomaly. So it came as quite a surprise. In fact, the first thing I did when I found out was Google search the phrase, “The best thing about having twins.” I needed a pep talk.

Actually, it turns out I didn’t. We were blessed with wonderful boys. Raising them has been a special privilege.

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author-interview

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

 

Reading and writing have been the two things I’ve enjoyed above all else for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’d say that learning how to read is one of my favorite memories. I’ll never forget begging my teacher to let me take my lesson book home to show my parents what I had learned. What I had unlocked. Because that’s how it felt, as though I had broken some kind of seal. One that allowed me access to all the stories in the world.

 

And I realized I had somewhat of a talent for telling stories early on, as students started looking forward to hearing my stories read aloud in class. My English teachers all encouraged my writing, and I won a poetry contest in 5th grade from a homework assignment that my teacher submitted on my behalf.

I took a brief detour after college when I set out to start my “big career” in advertising. But the urge to tell stories never left, and I soon returned to writing in the evenings and weekends, or whenever the bosses weren’t around. At some point I started submitting my work for publication and, after accruing a massive stack of rejections, finally sold one. Then another. After a while I decided to quit my full time job at the ad agency to work freelance and write a book. That’s how We Are Monsters came about.

 

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

 

We Are Monsters is a story about a brilliant, yet troubled psychiatrist named Alex Drexler who is working to create a cure for schizophrenia. At first, the drug he creates shows great promise in alleviating his patient’s symptoms. It appears to return schizophrenics to their former selves. But (as one may expect) something goes wrong. Unforeseen side effects begin to emerge, forcing prior traumas to the surface, setting inner demons free. His medicine may help heal the schizophrenic mind, but it also expands it, and the monsters it releases could be more dangerous than the disease.

 

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

 

I’d say it chose me. Since as early as I can remember, my imagination has always veered into dark places. Which is strange, as I’m generally a cheerful and optimistic person. In fact, most authors of dark fiction are. Conversely, many comedians tend to be somber and depressive. There seems to be some counterbalancing agent at play. Maybe we’re so cheerful because we exorcise our demons, and comedians are depressive because they export all their joy.

 

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

 

My favorite part was writing, “The End.” I’m not sure anything beats that feeling. My favorite chapter was probably the first chapter, which I actually wrote last. This was my first novel-length work of fiction, and I was intimidated by the scope of the project heading into chapter one. Despite having already written and published several short stories, I found that I had inflated the importance of writing a book so much that it suddenly seemed insurmountable. I had made it a seminal moment in my life, setting the nonexistent stakes unreasonably high. And so I started out tentatively, on shaky knees that were threatening to buckle under the weight of such a heavy load.

Rather than give in to this early desperation, however, I just kept going. I was struggling with the first chapter, so I skipped it, and started writing the second one. This one began to flow better. My word count increased, and I fell into a rhythm as the story started to take form. By the time I finished the first draft, I had a clear idea of the story I was trying to write and was able to return to the beginning and write the first chapter with the confidence that eluded me when I started out.

 

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

 

We Are Monsters takes a close look at the world of mental illness. This is not only a subject I find fascinating, it’s an issue I personally face, having dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) my whole life, a condition that, for me, produces chronic anxiety, physical tics, negative thought loops, and bouts of depression.

While I conducted a great deal of research to understand the mindset of someone suffering from a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, I was able to pull from my personal experience in dealing with panic attacks and so forth when describing what certain characters were going through.

Nice to turn those delirious nights where you irrationally think you’re going to die into something positive!

 

 

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

 

While I read broadly, and have been inspired by a spectrum of authors, the biggest influence has been Stephen King, who I was fortunate to meet a few years ago. I literally ran into him at the entrance of a hotel in Atlanta. I was so stunned that, without thinking, I reached out, took his hand and said, “Mr. King.” Equally stunned, he shook it. If I were thinking clearly I would have left it at that. But I wasn’t, so I started to blab, “I’m an aspiring horror writer who has published a few short stories and just started writing my first novel. I owe all my inspiration to you.” More gratuitous praise followed, I’m sure.

He received the praise graciously, untangled himself from my grasp, and started to stroll away before a crowd could form (it was just the two of us). Then he stopped and turned. “Hey,” he said, catching my eye. “Good luck with your work.”

Not story, not book. But work. That was a fine moment.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

I’ve experienced times when I felt like it was more difficult to write than others, and/or that my writing was not as fluid or precise. I feel like there are ebbs and flows in all things. The best pitcher in the major leagues can throw a no-hitter one day and not find the strike zone the next. That’s why showing up every day whether you feel like it or not is so important. You never know when you’ll have your best stuff.

When I’m blocked for longer than a week or so I find that it’s usually because I’m trying too hard, or because I’ve allowed for my inner critic to become too loud. Trace it back, and the blockage is often caused by fear. The best remedy for that, in my opinion, is to try and express whatever it is you’re trying to say as plainly as possible, without worrying about the outcome or quality of prose. Turn your mind off and open your heart and sooner or later the blockage breaks and the words begin to flow.

 

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

 

While I enjoyed meeting Stephen King, as described a couple of questions ago, I prefer to let an author speak through their work. We often paint a picture of what we think a certain person is like, especially someone we idolize, when the reality may be quite different, which can be disappointing. I’d hate to have an unpleasant encounter with an author taint the way I view his or her work.

I think it would be cool to meet Helen Keller, though. Writing can be so hard with all of today’s modern conveniences. I’d love to hear her talk about overcoming obstacles and the power of perseverance.

 

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

 

I have a new short story titled Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave coming out in the anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, alongside two of my idols: Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. When one of the editors, Doug Murano, announced the story he said, “This is the kind of story that starts book burning parties,” which leads me to believe the story works. I’m honored to be part of this project, and can’t wait for the anthology to come out.

In addition, I am currently working on the second book in a trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers. The first book is complete and currently in the hands of a literary agent whom I’ve recently signed with. We are putting the final touches on the book and plan to submit it to publishers early next year.

 

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Ah, hindsight…

No, to be honest I’m pleased with the way things have gone so far, and feel very fortunate for the opportunities afforded me. I’m happy to have worked with one of the legendary horror editors in the industry, Don D’Auria. I’m blown away by the praise the book has received from authors whom I’ve long admired like Brian Keene, Mercedes M. Yardley, Jonathan Moore, and John F.D. Taff. And I’m thrilled by the generous reviews and kind feedback I’ve received from readers.

While there may be some structural changes I’d make to the book through the lens of additional experience, that would negate the clumsy rawness that comes with a debut novel.

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

 

First, don’t listen to me, as I don’t know shit. But, if forced, I’d say the following:

Never settle for something that feels safe. Always strive to surprise yourself. Try and make yourself laugh, gross yourself out, make yourself mad. Write stuff you’d never want your parents to read, then send it out. Write what you fear is way too strange or personal to be published and then make it as good as it can be. Know that everyone secretly believes their work sucks but they keep doing it anyway. Rebel against your inner critic.

 

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

 

To anyone who has read, or is considering reading my debut novel, We Are Monsters, I would love to say, “Thank You!” I hope it was, or will be, a great ride.

In addition, I would love to connect with folks through one of the following channels. Don’t worry. I only kill my characters.

Brian Kirk

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

We Are Monsters tour graphic (1)

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Click the rafflecopter link below and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Brian Kirk! You can perform several tasks for entering each day here or at each stop that posts the giveaway link. Best of luck!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

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Author Interview…Jason Parent, author of “Seeing Evil”

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There’s not much to tell, really. I work, I read, I write, I go to the gym, and I dream of eating IHOP pancakes. I wish I could tell you I also work for the CIA cracking encoded messages while racing Lamborghinis down narrow mountain roads to lavish villas where I host the world’s biggest shuffleboard tournaments where losing could mean your life. Well, I could tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true. My real life just isn’t that interesting. I have a dog. And I suck at shuffleboard.

 

author-interview

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

 

Jason:  I first started writing in middle school, but none of that could be taking seriously. I tried again in college, and that couldn’t be taken seriously either. Then came law school, where I wrote an as yet unpublished novel on summer vacations (and during boring classes). Hopefully, someday, that will be taken somewhat seriously. Ah, life’s too short to take me too seriously. I tried that once. Didn’t work out.

 

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

 

Jason:  To date, I’ve written five novels, I’m deep into my sixth, and I have several novellas and novelettes in my possession. I have only published two of those novels at this time and am in no rush to publish the rest (though two are out for consideration). I start with that because although I have not written any series, my first novel (written, unpublished), my second novel (What Hides Within), and my fourth novel (Seeing Evil) feature a recurring character. They are all completely stand-alone books and are genre mashers in different way. Whereas What Hides Within is a horror/mystery/dark comedy mix, Seeing Evil is more horror/psychological/supernatural thriller mix. I think my readers have come to expect one thing from me at least: what I write will be dark and, I hope, always enjoyable.

 

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

 

Jason:  I don’t. I kind of let the story and characters decide for me. For example, Seeing Evil definitely as some horror elements to it, but primarily we have a detective, a killer, and two kids stuck in the middle. To me, that screams for action, for dangerous situations, for kids in trouble, and (if I’ve done my job right) for readers needing to turn the page to see if they get out of it. Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Then again, most of my horror works also thrillers, so maybe I am defining my genre after all. Horror-thriller, with a reasonable helping of mystery and dark comedy.

Oh yeah… and then there’s the science fiction…

 

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

 

Jason:  For Seeing Evil, the ending. It contains a sentiment not often found in my work, but somehow seemed fitting here. Other than that, I thought the third chapter worked, a particularly horrendous bullying scene told from the victim’s perspective. It was horrible, but I think holds a mirror to society. I hope I manage to shock readers with the action depicted, but more so with its susceptibility to reenactment.

 

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

 

Jason:  Yes, what happens to Jimmy in the above-mentioned scene happen to someone I went to school with. Seeing Evil also addresses the issue of gun violence in schools, a topic that unfortunately appears in the news all-too-often these days. Little scenes here and there, bits of dialogue, etc. sometimes are pulled from personal experiences.

 

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

 

Jason:  On one novelette, I straight out tried to emulate Poe. I want people to say it sounds like Poe, to have sort of a fond recollection of their times spent reading Poe when they read my story. I am no Poe and don’t claim to rival his greatness or even his last bowel movement’s greatness, but he has influenced me in my desire to write, and I hope to honor his memory by paying homage to him.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

Jason:  On a story, yes. Usually at the halfway mark. But there is always another work to work on or a later scene to address. I never have the sort of writer’s block where I have nothing to write.

 

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

 

Jason:  Well, Poe would have been nice. Meeting him now would be creepy, like something out of his stories. King would also be amazing to meet. I grew up reading his books, so he pretty much defined modern horror for me. The body of work he has produced is just unbelievable – hit after hit after hit. He’s definitely the King.

 

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

 

Jason:  I should have a new novelette coming out very soon. It is a horror/dark fantasy tale that deals with Scottish folklore, but turns it into something completely Jason Parent. I can’t wait for my readers to get their hands on this one!

 

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

 

Jason:  Yes. I think I would like to re-cover What Hides Within and fix some minor pesky issues that have bothered me since publication. Reviews of the book are many and have mostly been great, and I thank all reviewers (good and bad) for them. I lucked out in that the book has achieved success despite those minor issues, but for my own perfectionist peace of mind, I want them fixed and plan to fix them.

 

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

 

Jason:  Find a support group of editors, proofreaders, beta readers, critical reviewers, etc, that you trust. Rely on them. Be there for them too, so they may rely on you. There are good and bad people in all walks of life. Find the good ones. Be a good one.

 

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

 

Jason:  Yes. I may not have the most readers, but I certainly have the best. Those who have followed me since the beginning and those who have joined since, I value your feedback and criticism and will do my best never to publish anything that does not meet (and hopefully exceed) your expectations. I thank you for your support and hope that you will always feel free to contact me for any reason you wish at any of my social media sites.

And thank you, Sierra, for including me on A Simple Taste for Reading! I hope your fans have found this entertaining.

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Click on the book to read my review!

 

 

Author Interview…Glenn Rolfe, author of “Blood & Rain” + Giveaway!

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I ‘m a father of 3, loving husband, and a horror writer with a rock-n-roll heart. When I’m not busy giving readers the creeps, I like to make people laugh. I have a hard time being serious and this makes my wife all the more amazing for putting up with me.

author-interview

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Glenn: I started writing in May of 2011. I finished that story (which was the original draft of Blood and Rain) in late August of that year. It was an amazing feeling. It feels good each time you get to write THE END.

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Glenn: Blood and Rain is about a small town Maine sheriff, Joe Fischer, who runs into a bunch of wild killings at the hands of a beast. He quickly realizes that it’s a monster and is successful in putting an end to it—or so he thought! Seven years later, more killings done in the same grisly manner happen under a full moon. Sheriff Fischer’s worst nightmare is happening. He’s held secrets from those who trust him most, now he must decide what is best for the town and his teenage daughter.

One Night can–and will–change it all

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Glenn: I’ve always enjoyed spooky stories over anything else. When I was a kid, my favorites were the Bunnicula stories.  As an adult, I fell for the Leisure Book Horror line and Rice and King. When I started writing, that’s what I wanted to do.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Glenn: I really enjoyed the werewolf attacks. Maybe that makes me strange, but I made sure to go for it.

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Glenn: I’ve thrown in names and pieces of all sorts of places and people I’m familiar with. As a writer, that just happens. There’s probably a little bit of me in each of these characters.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Glenn: Reading King is always a lesson in how good storytelling should be done. He makes everything seem interesting. That part also tends to kill new writers who try to copy it. Not everyone can write interesting backgrounds and side treks.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Glenn: Not yet. I have too many crazy thoughts.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Glenn: That’s a funny one. I interact quite often online with two of them, but I’d love to chill out and hang with Ronald Malfi and Brian Moreland.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Glenn: The next project is a novella called, Things We Fear. It is supposed to be out in March of 2016.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Glenn: No. I like where I am and that wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t walk the path I chose.

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Glenn: Take your story one line at a time. Have faith that the story will tell you where it wants to go (and who it wants to kill). Take your time between drafts. Let the story percolate a bit. Know that not everyone is going to love your story, so make sure that YOU do. I’d avoid self-publishing unless you already have an audience. Once you land with a publisher, don’t be afraid to try to land more work with a different publisher. It’s never safe to have all of your eggs in one basket.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Glenn: Thanks for reading my work. Thanks for telling your friends. And thanks for being honest with me when something doesn’t work for you. I appreciate your time and your voice.

Stay tuned for much more of my madness!

bood and rain

Click on the book cover to read my review!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Rain-Glenn-Rolfe/dp/1619229854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443335652&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+and+rain

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-and-rain-glenn-rolfe/1122198363?ean=9781619229853#productInfoTabs

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5587/blood-and-rain

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Giveaway!!!

For a chance to win a print copy of Glenn Rolfe’s short story collection, Slush, or a chance to win your choice of any of his titles in e-book format, go to the link below for the Rafflecopter sign-up. Good luck! The print copy is only good for those in the United States. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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