Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interview with suspense novelist George A Bernstein

Today’s guest is suspense novelist George A Bernstein. He’s chatting a bit about his novel, Trapped, and letting us in a bit on some other fun stuff.

Welcome, George. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m what I consider a youthful seventy-six-year-old, with a B.A. from Northwestern University, now living in south Florida, and the retired president of a publicly-held Chicago company. My main interest is as a serious novelist. I’ve attended numerous writers’ conferences and seminars, including that of famous fiction agent, Donald Maass, and I also worked with independent editor, Dave King, all with the goal of improving his craft.

I’m also considered a “World-Class” fly-fisherman, and have held a dozen various IGFA World records. In my life before writing, I operated Outdoor Safaris, a worldwide fishing & hunting tour operator, working with airlines and travel agencies promoting premier sporting trips. I’ve also published the definitive book on fly-fishing for pike & musky, Toothy Critters Love Flies. All my efforts now, however, are with my suspense novels, of which I’ve written four.

Please tell us about your current release.
My first novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers, after being a finalist in their Next Great American Novel contest. Dee Burks and her staff really love the story, and her revision suggestions help me make Trapped the best it can be. Trapped was also a finalist at the 2012 Florida Writers Association RPLA fiction contest in 2012. Trapped has received nearly 30 reviews on Amazon, virtually all 5-Star, with the most common comment, “I couldn’t put it down.”

Here’s an abbreviated “pitch” from the back cover copy:
A tragic surgical accident, resulting from an auto crash, leaves beautiful, vibrant Jackee Maren in “Locked-in Syndrome,” completely paralyzed, able to move only her eyes. Jackee’s physical therapist, Kevin, seems more invested in her well-being than her husband, Phil, and teaches her to communicate by blinking her eyes.
            Soon she discovers she can sense others thoughts, but hides this talent from everyone but her young sons, not knowing whom she can trust. Then she discovers both her car and surgical accidents were not accidents, and vows to expose the person who wants her dead before they get a second chance.
Exercising her new psychic ability, Jackee finally learns who masterminded the accidents but feels helpless to stop them from trying to kill her again.
She doggedly embarks on a psychic plan to not only ensure her boys have a safe future, but to exact retribution on her would-be murderer. Jackee vows not to rest until this villain understands what it is to be TRAPPED! But she must hurry. Her psychic manipulations of the players in her “skit” of revenge are sapping her meager reserves, leaving her with only months to live.

What inspired you to write this book?
In 1990, when I was able to “semi-retire” at a pretty young age, my wife said, “You need something to keep busy, and you don’t want to play golf every day. You always loved to write. Why don’t you write a novel?”
So my wife and I began brainstorming for a subject, and Dolores thought of a neighbor, when we lived in north suburban Chicago, who became comatose after an anesthetic accident during plastic surgery. I took her condition, but imagined that, while trapped in a dead shell of a body, her mind was still active, and I gave her the ability to use her eyes. And Trapped became the obvious title. I only learned many years later that “Locked-in Syndrome” is a real condition.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on the final edits of my second novel, A 3rd Time to Die, which could probably be called a Romantic Suspense. It will be published sometime in 2013. The novel deals with past lives.

Here’s a short pitch:
Two souls struggle to fulfill their destiny together. Twice, just as they discover the magic of their love, first, during a fox hunt in 17th Century southern England, and then again in 19th Century Philadelphia, their lives are snuffed out by brutal murder. Reborn for the third time, in the 21st Century, their love of jumping horses brings them together again…and their ancient killer may be still stalking them!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There’s a difference between when I STARTED writing, and when I considered myself a REAL writer. I loved writing and imagining stories, even as early as my pre-teens. My compositions in various English classes were usually the ones read to the class. And after I wrote Trapped, some people thought I was pretty talented. But it’s taken a lot of work to polish my craft and learn what makes really GOOD writing. It’s only now that I’m getting all these 5-Star reviews, and comments from professional reviewers on how “strong” my writing is, that I really consider myself a writer. I finally feel truly validated.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Writing my novels…and dealing with their promotion…is my main focus right now, but I do “wear many hats.” I like to write in the morning, after breakfast, and usually spend several hours at the computer…whether creating new prose, editing, or revising. Then some time is spent in the afternoons or early evenings on Promotional work: writing on my blogs, responding to other blogs, seeking interviews and appearances, etc. Publishers do little of this for you, and it’s time consuming, if you want to succeed.

When I need a break, I may go into my woodworking shop and build some cabinets or furniture. Or I may sit down and tie some flies for an upcoming fishing trip. I usually go to northern USA or Canada every summer to fly-fish for pike and/or smallmouth bass.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I find myself fully immersed in my characters. I actually feel what they “feel,” and I can get very emotional when traumatic or happy things occur in their lives. Even though they are created from my imagination, they become very real to me, and I can find myself laughing or crying with them. I guess that’s how I can make them so real.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had conflicting desires: to become an engineer and work with my father in our manufacturing business…or become a professional fisherman or guide. The latter seemed pretty unrealistic, but who knew then that one could eventually win as much as $150,000 in a single BassMaster tournament!

So I went into Dad’s business, decided I’d rather hire an engineer than be one, and concentrated on business management instead. Whatever I do, I do it with total commitment.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
To become a really good writer takes more than natural talent. With the advent of e-books…that anyone can publish…there’s a lot of poorly written stuff out there. One need to put in the time and effort to learn what makes fine writing. I did that by attending writers conference classes and writing seminars. Ted Williams (my hero, whom I had a chance to fish with once), probably the World’s greatest hitter in baseball, was graced with exceptional natural talent and suburb eyesight. Yet no one worked harder on his hitting, studying the mechanics of a great swing, and putting in the time every day. Few others had that dedication. Becoming the best writer YOU can be takes no less effort.

Thanks, George!

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