Writer Wednesday – Elizabeth Donald

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m Elizabeth Donald, and I write stuff. By day I write for a daily newspaper on a variety of topics ranging from education to politics to crime. By night I write about monsters and zombies and things that go chomp in the night. I started writing fiction for publication a few years into my journalism career, though my fiction habit really dates all the way back to childhood. My first novel was published in 2004, and I’ve since written maybe 13 novels and novellas, depending on how you count the ebooks.

Right this moment, I’m working on a short story for an anthology about tragic love in speculative fiction. I’ve recently finished a collection of short stories titled Moonlight Sonata that I hope will see print next year, and waiting in the wings is a space adventure titled Banshee’s Run. I also have a few projects waiting in the editing queue and preparing to take my photography work to the next level. Other than that, I’m not too busy.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My mother replaced the Berenstain Bears with Nancy Drew when I was a young girl, and Nancy led me into what we would have called “young adult” fiction if that term had existed. I started falling into historical drama and mysteries as a ‘tween, but then Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered and I was a science fiction fan for life.

What are your three favorite books?
You’ve just broken me. My favorite novel is probably IT by Stephen King, whose entire bibliography ranks among my top re-reads in my ridiculous library. Peter David’s Imzadi is one of the best tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and for more recent work, I’m desperately in love with the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant, particularly the first novel, Feed.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I used to devour a book a night – up to three nights if it was a real epic, like The Stand or Gone With the Wind. Then I had a child, and I discovered the desperation of sleep deprivation. I usually read one fiction and one nonfiction book simultaneously, since they use different parts of my brain, but then I also read a copious number of blogs, articles and assorted nonsense for work. Currently I’m reading The Day She Died by Bill Garrison, and just finished Book of Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff. In nonfiction, I have a stack of books on the influenza epidemic of 1918 – research for future misbehavior.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…want to fall through the hole in the paper.

To re-read or not to re-read, that is the question.
I love re-reading. It’s territory I’ve scouted before, but if the writing is strong enough, you can fall through again and be transported to a place you really enjoyed visiting. I have this wild idea to reread Stephen King’s entire bibliography in the order he wrote them, and see what I can learn from the evolution Master of Horror. All I need is an extra three hours in the day.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely, if it’s a premise that intrigues me. I have certain authors that are an auto-buy for me, of course: Jonathan Maberry, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Gillian Flynn, Joe Hill, Julia Spencer-Fleming and of course the big names like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison – John Grisham if he’s in familiar territory, the courtroom. All of them have demonstrated the ability to send me through the hole in the paper, and that’s what I’m really after. If someone I trust recommends a book, I’ll give it a try, which is probably why my to-be-read pile is so high.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time, and try to keep up with reviews. I used to write a review column for the newspaper, and when it was canceled, I launched it as an independent blog. Unfortunately, time constraints mean I don’t post all that often, but I know the importance of good reviews for a book, and try to do so.

What do you look for in a good book?
Story and dialogue are key; if I’m not interested in the events unfolding or the people are speaking in voices I can’t really hear, I’m bored. Bored means I’m falling asleep, and I don’t get enough sleep anyway. So keep me awake with smart people and crackling dialogue, then give them something interesting to do. I don’t want extensive descriptions of his smoldering eyes and her lovely gown, and for some people that’s the kind of thing they really want. To each his or her own, as in anything this subjective.

Why do you write?
I write because the voices in my head told me to. I write because it’s what I was made to do, how my mind was constructed. I write horror because the things I see in the real world are so much more awful and yet mundane that I’d rather see something fantastic and terrible. It’s cheaper than therapy. But I have been writing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and probably before, making up stories in my head to entertain myself when I’m bored and telling stories to my little sister at night to help her sleep. You might as well ask why I breathe.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine a circumstance where I wouldn’t write. If I lost my job and my publishing career, I’d write my novels and bury them in a trunk for someone to uncover someday. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d make up the stories in my head and sing them to the canaries. If I suffered an injury or illness that robbed me of my mind and my ability to create, to form words… well, I think then I’d rather be dead, but that’s rather dramatic, don’t you think?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Schenectady. There’s an idea service there that sends you a six-pack of ideas every week. That smartass answer is to be attributed to Harlan Ellison, who uses that answer every time he’s asked where his ideas come from. As he says, “Aristotle can’t answer that question.” They come from the ether, from Neverland, from the place between awake and asleep. I believe that just about everyone gets inspiration – those random creative thought-balloons that float through their minds when they’re stuck in traffic. The trick isn’t getting ideas. The trick is grabbing hold of them when they come, winding the ribbons around your hand and letting them carry you off to Neverland. When you learn how to harness ideas and turn them into stories you can share with others, you’ve become a writer.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I will never stop learning, and that I cannot ever do just one thing at a time.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband is also a writer; we met first through a mutual friend twelve years ago, and later re-met when he published his first book and began the tour circuit. It is a wonderful blessing to share my life with someone who understands the insanity. My son is wholly unimpressed, since he’s grown up hanging out at book signings and helping to carry boxes of books. I think the rest of my family is waiting for me to set aside these vampires and zombies and write something in the real world!

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
No. We’re all poverty-stricken, insecure drunkards. Well, at least it helps… In all seriousness, just about every stereotype has a writer or five who confirm the stereotype. Probably the only real misconception is the one perpetuated by Richard Castle: being a novelist means you’re a gazillionaire. Unless you’re James Patterson or John Grisham, you’ll be lucky to make a living. And when I say “make a living,” well… the last statistic I read said that fewer than 3 percent of authors make $10,000 a year or more on their books. So “poverty-stricken” is pretty much assured, as is the day job and/or the spouse who works for a living and has health insurance. As for insecurity and alcohol… let’s just say I’ve poured drinks for most of the small-press authors in the Midwest and the South.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Their biggest challenge is internal: impatience. The ability to toss a book out onto the internet the instant you type THE END has given a lot of aspiring writers a fast-forward button, and the temptation to skip all that bothersome editing, submission and working with a publisher is very real. The problem is that most aspiring writers have a lot to learn, and they learn a great deal from that process, including rejection and wrestling with a recalcitrant editor over a comma. Skipping that process is the biggest mistake they can make, and so many of them do. Patience, grasshopper. Good writing eventually finds a home, and at the end of the marathon, it’s going to be a book you’ll be proud to call your own and a launch to a writing career.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
If I’d known how wildly popular my zombie novella The Cold Ones would be, I wouldn’t have killed off so many characters! I’m famous for offing people in my books – c’mon, I’m a horror writer – but I did get especially bloodthirsty in The Cold Ones, because it was supposed to be a standalone novella. Then it sold out its initial print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend I had a deal for two sequels. But even that I can’t really count as a mistake, because I count Blackfire (the sequel) as one of the finest books I’ve ever written, and I’m really looking forward to completing that trilogy.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’m already up to my eyeballs in work as it is! I’m wrapping a space adventure that’s probably the pulpiest thing I’ve ever done, and just completed another short-story collection that follows up to my first print release, Setting Suns. After that I need to finish the Blackfire series, and then there’s the continuation of the Nocturne series, and there are three other standalone novels standing in line. I don’t need new projects, I need more hours in the day.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Fans are wonderful! I am always grateful and humbled when someone tells me that my work reached them. Stephen King says in On Writing that writing is the closest we’ll ever come to telepathy: I have an image or a character in my head, and I have only this clumsy mechanism of words to share it with you. The better I am at replicating that image in your head, the better writer I have become. So when someone tells me that my work made them cry or throw the book across the room, I’m delighted.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m shy. Yes, really. I was a very shy kid, and I still have that wallflower tendency. I speak in public often and spend a great deal of time in large crowds, cocktail parties, panel discussions, and it takes a tremendous energy to overcome a natural introversion that tells me to go hide in my hotel room. But this is key: it can be overcome. It takes energy and knowing your limits. But if the girl who didn’t speak outside the house for days at a stretch can moderate a panel at Dragoncon… you can do it too. I swear.

Anything else we should know?
I run the author cooperative Literary Underworld, and several of us will be guests at Archon in St. Louis on Oct. 2-4. Guest of honor is Harlan Ellison, whom I have met once before. I hope to repeat my streak of not drooling on his shoes. If you have the means, do stop by the Literary Underworld booth and say hello!

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She lives with her husband and her son in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Her latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a trilogy of vampire mysteries set in a dark alternate Memphis.

Website: http://www.elizabethdonald.com
Blog: literaryunderworld.blogspot.com
Twitter: @edonald

Book Review – Dombey and Son By Charles Dickens

Title: Dombey and Son
Author: Charles Dickens
Format: 
Paperback
Written: 
Oct.1846- April 1848
Published: 
1995 (Wordsworth Classics)

One of Dickens’ lesser known novels, Dombey and Son is the tale of the proud and wealthy merchant Dombey who puts all his hopes into his son and neglects his daughter. As with most Dickens novels there’s a large cast of secondary characters, many of which are more memorable and charming that Dombey himself. As far as I’m concerned the indomitable maid, Susan Nipper, is the real hero of the story, though I can’t quite call her the protagonist.  There is no clear single “main” character.  In contrast with Dombey’s wealth and pride is the humble and poor but happy and loving, cobbled together family of young Walter Gay, his elderly uncle, and their colorful friend Captain Cuttle.

First, some notes on how to read Dickens, since I met many people who expressed intimidation at the dense 769 page tome in my hand. Most Dickens novels were originally released in serial form over the course of several months. They are not intended to be gulped down in a few sittings but savored over an extended period of time, like a television series. And I think the best way to appreciate Dickens is by reading a chapter a week or one per night (depending on your speed), and remember this was from an age before T.V. when the author must act as set dresser and costume designer. I pressed through Dombey and Son in less than three weeks, since I’m trying to read a high number of books this year. But I think high school ruins Dickens for most people by forcing them to quickly gulp down often abridged versions of the story, and abridging Dickens is crime, since most of the humor, wit, and insight if in the subtleties of the sentences (though less so with this particular novel).

For no reason other than the title, I got it into my head that Dombey and Son would be a comedy, but it turned out to be the least funny Dickens novel I’ve read yet, which I could also say is its main failing. The humor often falls flat, being more cringe worthy than humorous. But then I don’t think it was intended to be funny, so that may be a matter of taste rather than a failing of the writing. This is not Dickens tightest writing or plotting.   The story meanders (which is rather normal for Dickens but this meandered more than most of his books), and Dickens soapboxes to excess. It struck me as more redundant than his other stories, which disappointed me.  Florence, while a delightful character, is praised to dulling excess.

At the same time, it’s also one of Dickens more sophisticated and cutting social commentaries, poking mainly at the feigned moral superiority of the wealthy/middle-class, but also examining domestic life, abuse, negligence, and the nature of family in a variety of shapes as well as taking more than a few jabs at the school system. The “Hymen” toast (Hymen is the Greek god of marriage, btw) was pretty edgy, particularly for the time period. Even as a modern reader, I was glad not to be drinking when I read it.

Dombey and Son rips your heart out, steps on it, kicks it around for a bit, then restores it to it’s proper place and condition.

Ultimately, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 for general quality, sophistication of theme, and wrapping up all the loose ends, but with the condition that while I would recommend this to many, it’s a terrible starter novel if you haven’t read Dickens before. If you love Dickens, don’t skip this one. You see the early development of themes and characters played out more tightly in later novels, but they are in some ways more satisfying here. If you haven’t read Dickens, I suggest cutting your teeth on Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, or A Christmas Carol, and then working up to Great Expectations and Bleak House before moving on to David Copperfield and then onto something like Dombey and Son.

Book Review–The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher

Title: The Shell Seekers

Author: Rosamund Pilcher

Format: Electronic

Written: 1984

Published: 2013 [Date of Kindle release]

 

This is a classic book; it invariably shows up on Top 100 lists and if you mention it to a woman who is older than 35 you’ll likely get a breathlessly enthusiastic recommendation.   “Oh! The Shell Seekers! That’s one of my favourites!”

When it was released for Kindle earlier this month I decided I’d download it and give it a re-read.   I’d read it in the distant past and didn’t remember much about it at all.  I DID know that I’d given it one star on GoodReads but had no written review.  I decided to see what I had so disliked previously and if I still disliked it now.

A Rosamund Pilcher book is famously hard to describe simply because nothing very earth shattering ever happens.  You watch people go about their lives in a plodding manner.   Cozy cottages and delicious meals are described in detail and tiny conversations happen throughout.   A true Rosamund Pilcher book is somewhat like being dropped wholly clothed but invisible into the everyday lives of a group of British people.

The folk at the center of this story are the family and friends of Penelope Keeling, a woman who is just released from the hospital after suffering a heart attack when the book opens.    Penelope is the daughter of noted painter Lawrence Stern and has inherited a few works of his that have gone up in value considerably.   The book takes its title from his last and most personal painting, The Shell Seekers.

The story itself covers the whole of Penelope’s life in a time-shifting narrative structure that illuminates her life for the reader.   It focuses primarily on the idyll of Britain between the two world wars, the changing life in Britain during the late 1970s/early 1980s and the evolution of life in Britain during World War II.   Pilcher’s style of story-telling makes these eras and the people in them come alive.

My difficulty as a reviewer is in giving the book a particular score.   If I evaluate the story purely on its technical merits there is little doubt that I’d have to give it at least a 4.5.   I found myself unable to put the book down, always wanting to know what happens next to Penelope and her family.   The fact is, however, that Penelope and her family are some of the most unpleasant people I’ve ever met in a work of fiction, and that includes a body of reading which covers a lot of books with serial killers, spies, dark wizards and tyrants.   As loathsome as Voldemort, Ed Gein and Hitler are they really have nothing on the general disgustingness of Penelope and her children.    All of them are materialistic to a fault, valuing things either for their monetary worth or their bohemian cache.  Penelope dislikes her children and fobs her eldest daughter off on a housemate to raise yet characterises that same daughter as selfish and materialistic.

The bulk of the book’s driving action is of this family as it schemes and plots to get the valuable artworks sold and divvy up the money.   So it’s a technically brilliant story focusing on an absolutely horrible group of people.

How does one rate a book like that?    In the past I’d rated it one star.  On reflection I think that I have to herein give this novel a rating of 4.   It’s a trick, I think, for an author to be able to tell a story so compelling that I read it in spite of the characters involved.   It’s an even greater trick for an author to have used a time-shifting narrative to get her reader to understand how her characters evolved into the people they became.  The fact that I ended the book with tears in my eyes speaks to Pilcher’s fantastic skill as an author.   Still and all, I can’t give this one a 5 just because those hateful people really detract.

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Book Review–The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Daylight War
Author: 
Peter V. Brett
Format:  
Electronic–.mobi
Published: 2013

It is probably very appropriate that this third book in the fantastic Demon Trilogy Cycle ends with a cliffhanger.  The entire experience of reading the book was something like falling off a cliff.  For the first few moments you’re soaring at top speed.  Then you realise that you are falling–plummeting, actually–and then ::SPLAT:: you hit the ground and are shattered.   Yep, that’s what reading The Daylight War is definitely like.

The first two books in this series are fully incredible in ways that are hard to express without sounding like someone on speed.  “They’re soooo good! Really! Awesome! You have to read them!”   Whenever people ask me for my recommendations on Epic Fantasy the third spot on the list has always been held by Peter V. Brett.    After this book it will be Peter V. Brett (with an asterisk).  This book is, I’m hoping, the asterisk of the series.  The “go ahead and read the series but you could probably skim book three or even skip it as long as you read the last chapter” novel that many good series have.

I’ve said elsewhere that this book feels like it happened because HBO and Fifty Shades of Gray have made erotica and erotic sublpots in Epic Fantasy a new trend.   I say that because the first two books (The Warded Man; The Desert Spear) are about travelling deep into this awesome world where demons rule the night and man’s only hope lies in defensive runes inked on fences and doors to keep out the monsters.    Brett’s world is compellingly real and the magic system that drives the tension is magnificent.

Then you get to this book.  It opens with a mother and her two children weaving baskets and joking about the son’s attendance at a gay orgy later in the day. The boy’s younger sister turns out to be Inevera, a minor character from the other two books and the primary character of much of The Daylight War.   Because we clearly know from earlier books where Inevera’s path takes her, the end result of her long backstory is not in question.   Brett decided to spice up the story with a lot of lesbians, nearly-naked beautiful girls and a male sex toy eunuch.   The other two plotlines focus on the romantic and sexual exploits of The Warded Man and his lieutenants Rojer and Leesha.

I don’ t have enough words to stress to you how very dull all of this gets, and quickly.   It gets especially bad when the Warded Man–the badass hero of the first two books–gets into a long infatuation with what is possibly the worst character in Fantasy since Jar Jar Binks.

It makes me sad that a book I waited so long for and that I actually pre-ordered turned into such a mess.    I’m giving it two bookworms but I’m afraid that maybe the second one is mostly for nostalgia’s sake.

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Book Review–Self-Published Book By Any Author

Title: The Doctor’s Dilemma
Author: Victoria M. Johnson
Format: Electronic
Written: 2012
Published: 2012

 

This started out as a review for the 1-star book I read this week, but given the high number of self-published authors out there, I figured I’d make this one special.  This is a review not primarily for the readers of the world but for the people who hope to earn their readership.

The last two books I reviewed here were so knock-it-out-of-the-park awesome that I figured I had to show the the cloud from both sides now.

I bought Ms. Johnson’s novel because I’ve been doing a lot of heavy reading and was looking for a snack; a light, predictable romance that was fun and escapist.   Lest you think I’m one of those fusty literary snobs I need you to understand that there are few things I enjoy more than a light snack read where you can escape into a world of money, love, intrigue.  I was weaned on Jane Eyre and that has programmed me for life when it comes to loving romantic stories.   There’s no way I’m going to give every romance novel–category romance or general market–a low rating for being “just romance”.

I went into this book wanting to love it.  I am nutso for stories about doctors and nurses and hospital goings-on.  This had it all; a doctor and a nurse in an exotic locale falling in love.   Then we get to the  Cantina Scene, which is where Johnson blew it.   The monster in her Cantina wasn’t some ugly fellow with a death sentence in 12 systems.  It’s worse:  horrific editing.

The couple walk into the local cantina where the owner Carmen takes their order.  Both the doctor and nurse ask for Chicken Enchildas, then they sit down and start in on an expository conversation.  A few paragraphs later, Carmen brings out flour tortillas and fajita toppings.  A couple of paragraphs after that the nurse takes a bite of her burrito.

Either this book wasn’t edited or the person who did the editing  was as drunk as a fiddler’s bitch when  he or she read through the manuscript.   Those are the only reasons that people in a story would order one thing, have another food brought to their table instead and then eat yet a third thing that was neither what they ordered nor what was brought to their table.

I love self-published books.  My favourite books of the last 6 months were self-published. (Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song and the Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan)  Just so we’re clear on that.

But here’s the thing: If you’re self-publishing a novel–as Ms. Johnson did–getting readers is going to be more difficult because you’ve got to put all the marketing work in by yourself that publishers do for the books they acquire.  It’s a lot of work getting someone convinced to pay for and then read your work.  If you don’t have the novel professionally edited, you will squander huge opportunities.   Had Ms. Johnson put the work into having this book properly edited, chances are I would have enjoyed it enough to read the next thing she publishes.   Instead, she’s lost me on not only this book but anything else she ever produces. 

A poorly edited work will punish all the books in your career.  As cliche as it sounds, you only have one chance to make a first impression on your readers.  So if you’re writing a book you want to self-publish, if you’re shopping a self-published book now, if you have one already available take the time and financial investment to have your work edited.

At this point it’s likely  obvious that I give The Doctor’s Dilemma   only 1 bookworm.   But more than that I want everyone out there to please take these words to heart.

Editing is essential to the success of any self-published work.   Or ,to borrow a saying from my father’s profession, any writer that has himself as his editor has a fool for a client.  bookworm

Book Review–After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey

Title: After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story
Author: Michael Hainey
Format: Electronic
Written: 2012
Published: 2013

 

One early morning while Michael Hainey dressed for Kindergarten, his uncle Dick showed up at their modest Chicago home to tell Michael’s mother that her husband, a respected journalist,  had died in the wee small hours of that same morning.   Years later Michael read his father’s obituaries for a report and was struck by a few  things that just  seemed…off.    For more than a decade the persistent ghost of his father was joined by the haunting feeling that Michael, his mother and his older brother hadn’t been told the truth.     They knew Robert Hainey had an aneurysm burst as he was coming home from his night shift on the copy edit desk of the Chicago Sun Times.   Yet the obituaries in Hainey’s own paper said that he’d died after visiting friends…

on the other side of Chicago.

Why was Robert Hainey “visiting friends” at 4:00am?  What friends–if they were indeed friends at all–lived over there?    And why had Richard Hainey felt the need to lie to the family yet print the truth in his newspaper?

I’d read a write-up on the book in Entertainment Weekly; friends told me there was also a story on NPR.  The more I heard the more I was torn between curiosity and skepticism.   I desperately wanted to know the truth about that mysterious death, but I also just really hate “Daddy Issues” stories.    After five years of watching Jack Shepherd whinge about it on LOST and decades of characters in novels wittering on about it, there was also a pretty deep mystery about whether or not I would have the patience for yet another story about fathers and sons who don’t connect.

Curiosity won out, and I splurged eleven dollars on the Kindle Version once it wasn’t available at the library.  (Silly me, expecting the Nashville Public Library to buy a book that didn’t have naked people embracing on the cover.)   That was late Friday night, and I joked with Mandi that I wasn’t sure I’d have the review done since I had just downloaded the book.

I clicked the file open on my trusty Kindle Paperwhite and did not come up for air for three and a half hours.

I have been very fortunate in the last six months to have found many good books.  My ratio of good reads to mediocre/bad reads has been much better lately, thanks in large part to a vast network of recommenders who are honest and enthusiastic about sharing exciting titles.   So I can’t say I’ve had many bad reads.

The problem with that is that when I try to tell you how good this book is–no, how FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC this book is–I’m afraid I’ll come off like someone who just rates everything super high all the time.   (“Oh, look! Kath’s turning into Harriet Klausner!”)   After all, my review last week was a five-worm book.   It was also “the most entertaining, thrilling, and captivating read of the last six months.” 

So what superlatives are left?  And will you believe that they are earnest reactions and not bandwagon hype?     I honestly hope you will because this book was amazing.   In searching for answers to who his father was and how and why he really died, Hainey takes us on a journey through the lost world of pre-Watergate journalism and mid-century newspapers, crisscrossing the Midwest as he hunts down leads.   He takes us through his personal history, but he also serves as a docent to  the history of journalism, railroads, Chicago and the Dust Bowl.   Halfway through the novel you realise that Hainey has become a latter-day Virgil, taking the reader through the concentric circles of life as it spirals to the inevitable end.   There is literally not one paragraph of the book that is dull or uninteresting or pointless or showy.   Every word fits together as if it were made specifically to tell this story.

If you love mysteries, history, journalism, memoirs, then this is a book you will enjoy.   If you’ve ever found yourself questioning God about why you are here, or found yourself wondering exactly how and why your life turned out this way, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in Hainey.

It goes without saying that this book is a five-bookworm read, but I’d also say that it’s one of the rare books I’d rate as “Beyond Five”.

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Beyond Five!

Beyond Five!

 

Writer Wednesday – Natasha Troop

Natasha grew up in Southern California and received her Bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Comparative Literature. She also holds Masters Degrees in both Secondary Education and Creative Writing. Natasha currently lives in the Phoenix area with her spouse, son, daughter and menagerie of pets, including a Basset named Moose and a very overprotective collie dog. Aside from writing and teaching high school students to love theatre.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Natasha Troop…basically.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
Briefly, I live in Glendale, AZ with my spouse, my son and daughter, our five cats, two dog and a guinea pig. I make money teaching high school Theatre Arts and English where I get to practice my other art form, making plays. I have degrees in Comparative Literature, Teaching, Creative Writing and am working on one in Educational Information and Technology. I’m originally from Southern California and was originally considered to be male by some doctor but have recently corrected that perception.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I used to write lots and lots of little plays. Then I wrote some screenplays including a vampire flick that Lions Gate Films picked up, played with and then put on the shelf before giving it back to me and it is now being adapted into a graphic novel. I’ve published two novels, Lakebridge: Spring and Lakebridge: Summer. There are no vampires in either of them, but people tell me they are scary, so I’ll go with that as a reasonable descriptor. I think they are rather funny myself, but I laugh in the face of fear. “Ha! Fear! I laugh at thee!” Or something like that…

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m working on Lakebridge: Autumn at the moment. It’s my goal to finish the cycle, meaning Lakebridge: Winter will complete the story of Stansbury as I want to tell it. I do hope I become famous and beloved enough that other people will write Stansbury stories, too. Maybe some Stansbury “ship” or slash or whatever. I’d like to read it, but not write it. When I’m done in Stansbury, I’m gonna build me a pyramid in the Arizona desert.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Two. When I was very young, I read a book called Supership (which I have just looked up on Amazon to discover was not a thriller as I imagined in retrospect that it might be but actually a history of oil tankers…I now want to write a thriller called Supership…damned you Neil Mostert!), reading for words and not understanding, apparently. I also remember reading a book called Fire Sale which had a character named Captain Fuck. Seriously. I wrote a book report on it and talked about how Captain Fuck was my favorite character and, needless to say, meetings were held between my teacher and mother regarding my reading material.

What are your three favorite books?
Can anyone actually answer this? Okay. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Foucault’s Pendulum and Tir Na n’Og by Marni Troop.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Usually I’m stuck in four or five. Right now, I’m reading The Master and Margarita, Oath of Fealty, The Book of Paul, and the second book in the Tir Na n’Og saga.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Sadly fall asleep…I used to have greater endurance as a reader. Getting older, you know.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read! People should re-read my books all the time. They shouldn’t read anything else. Just my books. Over and over. I wish I had more time to re-read the books I love and read all the new books I want to love.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Depends who is recommending it and how much they pressure me to read it.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very! Read Tir Na n’Og Book One. Book two is coming soon. Also, read the Riser Saga by Becca Smith. Anything by Robert Fleet, too.

What do you look for in a good book?
A fine collection of well placed words. Seriously, I read a lot of different things, but it always comes down to the quality of the writing. The best story, told poorly, is wasted on me.

Why do you write?
To make millions of dollars and be worshipped by fans and have them write ship or slash fiction about my…okay, maybe not that. It’s something I’m actually good at doing and so to not do it would leave me with little that I’m actually good at doing.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A professional fire watcher. I really wish this was something I could be, actually.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My life, the world around me…my crazy little cat who runs into walls. I see things and read things and it occurs to me to include them in my stories.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I can actually sit down and not only write novels, but finish them. It’s an endurance thing, really. I never thought I could make it through one and now I’m plowing through the third.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
People tend to be impressed when they’ve discovered you’ve published a novel. They then proceed to tell you about the ones that they are working on. So it seems to me people in my life view my writing career as license to talk about the writing careers they would like to have. I’m their excuse for wistful self-reflection.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Perhaps that we live to listen to others wistfully self-reflect about their own desires to be a writer?

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Grammar.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Yes! I optioned a script to Lions Gate Films and didn’t immediately knock on every lit agent’s door and instead let that opportunity just fly away…it was a mistake at the time, too. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I would love to be involved in a television series based on my novels. More than anything, I would love that.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I make sweet love to them. Seriously, if you are my fan, I will send you cookies. I love my fans.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
My fans would be surprised to know nothing about me. I am the least surprising person because I will tell you or them anything they want to know.

Anything else we should know?
Should know? My blood is now 50% coffee, meaning that if any of my fans are also vampires (I do hope I have some vampire fans…and that they look like Eric Northman), my blood is caffeinated.

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Links you may be interested in:

Lakebridge: Summer

Paperback link: http://www.amazon.com/Lakebridge-Summer-Natasha-Troop/dp/1475124120

eBook link: http://www.amazon.com/Lakebridge-Summer-ebook/dp/B007QOS5D2

Lakebridge: Spring

Paperback link:  http://www.amazon.com/Lakebridge-Spring-Natasha-Troop/dp/1461122503

eBook link:  http://www.amazon.com/Lakebridge-Supernatural-Literary-Fiction-ebook/dp/B005067PJS

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