Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New interview with thriller novelist Stephen Clark

Novelist Stephen Clark joins me today to chat about his new crime thriller, Hands Up.

Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son.

Hands Up will be released on September 28th and is now available for pre-order at a special discount.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell us about your newest release.
Hands Up follows three people who are on a collision course after a deadly police shooting spins their lives into chaos. Officer Ryan Quinn, who was on the fast track to detective until he shot an unarmed black male, embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to choose between conscience and silence. Jade Wakefield, an emotionally damaged college student who lives in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, wants to find the truth and get revenge after learning that there’s more to her brother’s death than the official police account. Kelly Randolph, who returns to his hometown broke and broken after abandoning his family 10 years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But when he is thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.    

What inspired you to write this book?
After a series of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black people in recent years, I wanted to examine race relations in America in a fresh way. A way that illuminated persistent challenges and evasive solutions. But instead of offering another tearjerker, fiery sermon or racial morality tale, I set out to create a unique story with unbearable suspense and memorable characters for an unforgettable experience.

Excerpt from Hands Up:

I’m not a murderer.
I’m not a murderer.
I’m. Not. A. Murderer.
Oh, who was I kidding? No matter how many times or ways I said that to myself in the bathroom mirror, it didn’t change the fact that I had just killed someone. A teenager. An unarmed black teenager. Yet everyone kept telling me not to worry: My partner. My superiors. The lawyer I just met. They all said it was a justified shooting. But truth be told, I wasn’t so sure about that. I wasn’t so sure about anything anymore – especially whether I’d get away with it.
I splashed some cold water on my face and studied my reflection in the grimy mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and my face paler than I had ever seen it. I looked like shit. Even worse, if I held my head at a certain angle, I resembled a mugshot of a deranged suspect I recently collared. I smoothed my close-cropped brown hair and tried to pull myself together, but my mind was still in a fog. I needed to snap out of it – and fast. Internal Affairs would arrive at my station any minute now.
As I wandered back to the interrogation room, adrenaline was still burning through my veins like a raging wildfire. I should’ve never agreed to do an interview so soon after the shooting. My partner convinced me I would be able to remember all the details better if I gave a statement right away. But I didn’t realize I would get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions after the numbness of the initial shock wore off. I tried to buy myself some time by telling the lawyer for the police union that I needed a few days before I’d be ready to answer questions. But Harrison Clyne advised me against delaying the interview because he thought it would look suspicious. Although I had just met him, I had complete confidence in Mr. Clyne. Maybe it was his graying temples, professorial glasses or formal manner of speech. Whatever it might have been that inspired confidence, it definitely wasn’t his shabby off-the-rack suit.
I hated the interrogation room we were waiting in. It reeked of body odor, stale cigarette smoke and burnt coffee. I looked around the poorly lit, windowless room and saw cigarette butts scattered on the floor. Even if I was a potential suspect in a criminal investigation, they didn’t have to treat me like a criminal. It was bad enough when my supervising sergeant took my .45 caliber Glock after escorting me back to the station. They could’ve held this interview in the carpeted conference room with the fancy swivel chairs that overlooked the parking lot. I suspected my bosses wanted to send me a message: I wasn’t going to get special treatment.
Finally, a man in a charcoal suit walked into the room and introduced himself as Nate Wiley, the internal affairs detective. My insides froze as soon as I saw that he was black. With supreme confidence and an unmistakable intensity, the detective took a seat in one of the metal folding chairs across from me and Harrison. Dark-skinned and bald with a vaguely sinister mustache, he appeared to be in his early 40s. He was articulate and polite, but I still didn’t trust him. There was no way he’d let me slide if I hesitated, even for the briefest second, in my recollection.

What’s the next writing project?
A missing girl thriller set in the Deep South with a deaf female protagonist.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
The biggest challenge in writing Hands Up was depicting the harsh realities of policing and living in a high-crime neighborhood without perpetuating racial stereotypes or glorifying violence. Adding to that challenge was trying to navigate this current cultural minefield of extreme political correctness. In fact, my initial editor split with me over creative differences after taking offense to how some of the black characters spoke and were portrayed. This editor wanted everyone to speak the King’s English, but that’s not the world I recognize or want to portray. I believe as artists, we should strive for authenticity, no matter how controversial the subject matter.     

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
Research plays a never-ending role in my novels. From conception to outlining to writing and rewriting to final edits, I am constantly researching, among other things, the jobs my characters hold, the cities they live in and the specific incidents they’re involved in. For example, in Hands Up, I needed to learn everything I could about the administrative process for cops after they’re involved in controversial police shootings. My research aided me in every stage of the writing process and affected the events of the book from the very first chapter.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
It’s been said that a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, and a messy desk is a sign of genius. So I’m happy to say that my writing space resembles a disaster area. In my house, I have a den all to myself for writing. But I’m not sure the isolation and relative silence is the best place for me to invoke my muse. I believe I was more inspired when I had to write my first novel and most of my second one amid chaos in a crowded living room of my apartment in the Bronx.     

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
My good friend Jonathan Abrams recently released his second book, “All The Pieces Matter,” an oral history of The Wire, an HBO drama rightfully considered one of the best shows ever.  

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog again and giving authors a platform to discuss their books. I hope to continue this discussion with readers on social media.  

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Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!

Don't forget! Hands Up will be released on September 28th and is now available for pre-order at a special discount.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Interview with contemporary romance author Katie Mettner

Contemporary romance author Katie Mettner joins me today to chat about her new novel, The Secrets Between Us.

During her virtual book tour, Katie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Katie Mettner writes small-town romantic tales filled with epic love stories and happily-ever-afters. She proudly wears the title of, 'only person to lose her leg after falling down the bunny hill,' and loves decorating her prosthetic with the latest fashion trends. She lives in Northern Wisconsin with her own happily-ever-after and three mini-me’s. Katie has a massive addiction to coffee and Twitter, and a lessening aversion to Pinterest— now that she’s quit trying to make the things she pins.

Welcome, Katie. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The Secrets Between Us is a story that I actually wrote based on a writing prompt. A rich guy goes off and hides in a place that would be totally out of character for him. For some reason, I just saw a billionaire CEO wearing a trapper hat and hiding out in a fishing camp in North Dakota. Go figure, right? I absolutely loved writing this book. Mercy is damaged, a real black widow she believes, but she’s still trying to succeed in life. She’s been knocked down so many times most people would have given up. While she hasn’t given up, she also isn’t participating in life outside her little camp. It isn’t until Hayes arrives that she starts to see she might be missing out on a lot in life by hiding. Unfortunately, her past has left permanent scars on her body and mind, and Hayes is in no way equipped to help heal her. At least he doesn’t think he is. He definitely starts out the book as the guy you love to hate, but slowly, you start to see what’s resting on his shoulders and how that has changed who he is. Mercy, in all her brokenness, is the one to offer him the mercy he needs to move on in life. I ended up falling for these two and their stories and I hope the reader does too!

Excerpt from The Secrets Between Us:
The woman was magnetizing and she didn’t even know it. She was this tiny, beguiling, alluring vision of the woman who belonged in my bed, under me, and around me every night for the rest of my life. A jolt ran through me and then a shudder.
No, Hayes, you know how that will end. You have enough commitments with work alone. You don’t have the time or energy to keep a woman happy, loved, and in Mercy’s case, protected. You’ll fail at all of those, miserably, so don’t even attempt it. She’s not like all the other women who throw themselves at your feet.
She’s different.
She’s afraid.
She’s broken.
She’s strong
She’s damaged.
She’s fierce.
She’s lonely.
She’s independent.
She wears her past every day.
She hates her past.
She hates him.
She hates what he did to her.
She hates what she did to him.
She knows who she is and she accepts she will never be anyone else.
She has more depth in her little finger than you’ll ever find in this life.
She is more in this one place than you’ll ever be running the multibillion-dollar company that holds your name.
You are weak compared to her.
Get up, walk out the door, and don’t look back.
I shook the inner voice off. I wasn’t going to walk away. I was going to stay here and spend the rest of the night with her first. Then I’d walk out of her life and she’d be all the better for it.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am always writing a story! I just finished one that I am going to submit to Harlequin, so I can’t get too vocal about it yet. I will say my next release is the third book in The Bells Pass Series, which is my Christmas Series. If you’re reading along you want to start with Meatloaf & Mistletoe, Hotcakes & Holly, and this year’s release will be on November 1st and titled Jam & Jingle Bells. It’s a fun, contemporary romance series that takes place in Michigan. You don’t want to miss it if you love Christmas romances!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always loved to read and write, but I don’t think I really considered myself a writer until I had published a few books and had a few people who read them every time. Honestly, I still don’t think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as a writer-in-training. I suppose after 42 books I can probably drop the trainee part, but the way I look at it, it keeps me striving to always do better. To reach deeper and do more to give the reader a story they will never forget. I am pretty sure I will still feel that way when I hit 100 books, 200 books, or 300 books. I will always be in training because there is always something to learn.

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?
I don’t write full-time. I’m disabled, so I write when I feel well physically. It helps that I use voice recognition software to write. I can get a lot of words down at once and that saves my hands from all the typing. Then, once the story is told, I go back through and fix what needs to be fixed in edits. I usually write early in the morning, since that’s when I’m the most rested and when my house is quiet (I have three teenagers!) I also love writing when it’s dark and the coffee is fresh. There is just something about that combination that really gets my writer’s heart going all pitter-patter.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Probably that I don’t use a desk. I sit in a recliner with my laptop on my lap in my living room. I’m disabled, so it is the only way I can find a comfortable place to write.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It depended on the day? LOL While that wasn’t untrue, the one thing I always wanted to be was a mother, and I am, three times over, so I guess that part came true!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you for hosting me today! I appreciate what you do for us as authors to help us tell the tales and get them into the hands of readers. I have over 36 published novels on my Amazon dashboard and they are all part of the Kindle Unlimited program. They range from contemporary romance to romantic suspense in various series and stand-alones, so please, feel free to check them out! I love reader feedback and interaction, so feel free to follow me on Twitter (I’m there WAY too much), join my author group on Facebook, or sign up for my newsletter. Thank you!


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Interview with romantic suspense author Sylvie Kurtz

Romantic Suspense author Sylvie Kurtz joins me today as she starts relaunching her books. Today’s focus is on the novel One Texas Night.

Sylvie Kurtz writes stories that explore the complexity of the human mind and the thrill of suspense. She likes dark chocolate, knitting with soft wool, and movies that require a box of tissues.

Please tell us about your current release.
I've had great fun revising old friends—giving them new covers, sprucing up the insides, especially refreshing the technology. I love that the digital revolution allows me to keep sharing my books with new readers.

One Texas Night is the first contemporary romantic suspense novel I wrote and it contains one of my favorite types of story conflict—amnesia. In Melinda's case, seeing her neighbor murdered triggered memories of a past trauma, making her want to run away. But to have a chance at life—and love—she has to finally face what happened when she was a little girl. She won't be alone. She'll have the handsome Grady by her side as she navigates the twisted corridors of her past.

What inspired you to write this book?
The way the mind works fascinates me. A lot of the reading I do is non-fiction and a good chunk of that is psychology related. Amnesia invites so many possibilities to use in stories that it stirs up the creative juices. Humans are primed for survival and the brain will use any means it can—even making you forget something traumatic.

Excerpt from One Texas Night:
Murder didn't happen in this slice of Texas. In the twelve years since Grady Sloan had served as an officer in the Fargate Police Department, the department hadn't handled a single homicide. Now, less than twenty-four hours into his tenure as interim police chief, Angela Petersen lay dead in the Tarrant County morgue awaiting an autopsy.
As he'd inspected the small brick home on the edge of town, no bold clues had jumped up at him saying, "I did it!" Only blood—a lot of it—splattered over the lace curtains, ruffled pillows, and feminine frills strewn about the living room. No muddy footprints had marred any of the pink carpeting. No bloody knife had lain close by with accusing fingerprints on its handle. No signs of forced entry had marked any of the doors or windows.
Nothing, except the strange woman. And the undecipherable drawing she'd held.
He'd have to use every ounce of his resourcefulness to crack the case.
A lot of fun that would be with the critical town council breathing down his back and watching his every move. After his fiasco with Jamie—his otherwise spotless record notwithstanding—they'd expect mistakes, and be more than ready to point fingers.
In three weeks, Fargate would host their annual Fall Festival. The council had planned Seth Mullins' retirement celebration and the announcement of his replacement as their crowning event.
That didn't leave Grady much time to prove the town council wrong. Or to get answers from the woman who claimed not to remember her name.
His office door blustered open.
"What took you so long?" Grady snapped at his sister. Tension had him strung tighter than sun-dried leather.
"Well, hello to you, too." Desiree Sloan dumped her briefcase and large leather purse on top of his desk, ignoring the pile of papers she scrambled in the process. Flyaway wisps of light brown hair escaped from the French braid that couldn't be more than half an hour old. While she removed the jacket of her bright red business suit, she juggled a cup of take-out coffee between her hands, sloshing drops onto the carpet. Good thing it was the color of industrial grime.
His sister was a brilliant psychologist, but grace wasn't one of her attributes. She plowed through life like a scatterbrained bull in a china shop, but when it came to business, she focused single-mindedly as if facing a matador's cape in a ring. No one garnered more professional respect than Dr. Des. Which was why he'd sought her opinion this morning.
"I got here as fast as I could." She plopped into a chair, popped the loose cover from her cup of coffee and blew on the hot liquid. "You know I'm not a morning person." She leaned back into the chair and crossed one leg over the other. "So, what windmill's got your shorts in a torque this morning, brother dear? Vigilante cow-tipper? Mad donut snatcher at Mamie's?" She slapped one hand on the chair's armrest. Her blue-gray eyes twinkled. "No, don't tell me! Some low-down snake took off with the high school's royal-blue street sign again."

What exciting story are you working on next?
This work-in-progress is a little different. No romance. I tried putting it aside several times, but the characters keep haunting me. It's a mother/daughter story. Grief over the loss of their husband/father has driven a chasm between them and, when an arsonist starts burning down their small town, they have to find a way to heal before there's nothing left but ashes.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It took a long time. I've always loved by words, books, stories, but never thought I could actually be a writer. Even after I sold my first book, I kept waiting for the phone call telling me they'd made a mistake. Over the years, I was finally able to say out loud that I'm a writer.

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?
I don't write full time, but I do try to make those butt-on-chair hours regular. I teach yoga part time and take care of my grandson part time.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have to have the right name for my main characters before I can start writing their story. I also need quiet so I can hear the characters come to life. I always wanted to write in a café, but I never get anything done when I try.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
So many things. An Olympic dressage rider. A horse vet. An RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), but only to participate in the musical ride. A pilot. I was a chicken, but still had a taste for adventure.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
One Texas Night is set for free at all your favorite e-book retailers for a limited time.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Interview with award-winning novelist p.m.terrell

Novelist p.m.terrell joins me today. We’re chatting about her new romantic suspense ghost story, April in the Back of Beyond.

During her virtual book tour, p.m. will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

p.m.terrell is the pen name for Patricia McClelland Terrell, the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 23 books in multiple genres, including contemporary suspense, historical suspense, computer instructional, non-fiction and children’s books.

Prior to writing full-time, she founded two computer companies in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area: McClelland Enterprises, Inc. and Continental Software Development Corporation. Among her clients were the Central Intelligence Agency, United States Secret Service, U.S. Information Agency, and Department of Defense. Her specialties were in the detection of white collar computer crimes and computer intelligence.

A full-time author since 2002, Black Swamp Mysteries was her first series, inspired by the success of Exit 22, released in 2008. Vicki’s Key was a top five finalist in the 2012 International Book Awards and 2012 USA Book Awards nominee, and The Pendulum Files was a national finalist for the Best Cover of the Year in 2014. Her second series, Ryan O’Clery Suspense, is also award-winning. The Tempest Murders (Book 1) was one of four finalists in the 2013 International Book Awards, cross-genre category. Her historical suspense, River Passage, was a 2010 Best Fiction and Drama Winner. It was determined to be so historically accurate that a copy of the book resides at the Nashville Government Metropolitan Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. Songbirds are Free is her bestselling book to date; it is inspired by the true story of Mary Neely, who was captured in 1780 by Shawnee warriors near Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, TN).

She was the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation, an organization committed to raising public awareness of the correlation between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. She was the founder of Book ‘Em North Carolina, an annual event held in the town of Lumberton, North Carolina, to raise funds to increase literacy and reduce crime and served as its chairperson and organizer for its first four years. She also served on the boards of the Friends of the Robeson County (NC) Public Library, the Robeson County (NC) Arts Council, Virginia Crime Stoppers and became the first female president of the Chesterfield County-Colonial Heights Crime Solvers in Virginia.

Welcome, p.m. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Writer Hayley Hunter has arrived in Ireland to complete a book on Irish history. When she discovers the old carriage house she is renting is haunted, she is determined to uncover the truth behind the burned ruins of a nearby manor house and the abandoned British barracks it overlooks. With the assistance of Shay Macgregor, an Irish historian, her quest will take her to 1919 and the Irish War for Independence, exposing the murders of two young men and why their mother, April Crutchley, refuses to leave the back of beyond even in death. With a budding romance and the opportunity to begin life anew, Hayley finds her own life is now in jeopardy as she gets closer to a truth the villagers have long sought to bury.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired when I came across the true story of two murdered brothers in 1919 Ireland. Their mother, in particular, captured my imagination. She had been present and had tried to save their lives but failed, and it affected her for the rest of her life. I changed the location, names and certain facts surrounding the event as I wrote April in the Back of Beyond, because descendants of both the killers and the victims are still alive. When writer Hayley Hunter arrives in Ireland, it is early April. She soon discovers the carriage house she has rented is haunted by the ghost of April Crutchley, whose spirit will not leave the back of beyond—a remote area of Ireland—even in death. She is determined to discover what happened in the ruins beside the cottage, ruins that overlook abandoned British barracks. But the past and the present will collide when she uncovers things the villagers have long sought to keep hidden.

Excerpt from April in the Back of Beyond:
I could not hear the cattle though we continued to approach. I saw a head dodge this way or that, could envision their mouths opening in snorts or grunts. Two dogs came into the picture as though there were curtains on either side, appearing from behind the veils to join the cattle on center stage. They ducked and darted, their heads held low, ever on the watch for a strayed cow and yet the yips and barks I should have heard were lost in the winds that blew through here a hundred years ago.

The road stopped and yet Shay continued to press forward, the terrain becoming steeper and rockier as we drew ever closer. I was panting now and my forehead was covered in perspiration and yet I knew I could not turn back. I had to remain with Shay. I longed to ask why we were moving steadily toward the ruins, or what he hoped we could possibly accomplish there, but the words were frozen on my lips.

The air grew icy but there was no wind, as if time itself was suspended.

Then the herd parted to reveal two young men, boys really; and they were looking at us.

Shay stopped and I was so mesmerized that I started past him but he reached out to grab my arm. I have no idea what amount of force he might have used because in that instant, I barely registered his hand upon me. I only knew my feet had stopped and I was staring uphill at two boys that stared back at me.

Their baggy pants were dark, their shirts light, but I could see the giant tree that stood behind them. My brain slowly registered that I could see it because I was looking through them; the combination of their light and dark clothing was casting the tree into curious shadows. I knew they were looking at us though I could not see their facial features, but rather judged their stance from the position of their bodies. Their faces glowed eerily, the outlines blurry. They grew even hazier as I realized they were beginning to run.

In an instant the cattle dispersed in a panic, rushing down the hill toward the pasture from whence they’d come while the two boys raced upward in the opposite direction toward the house. They reached the open doorway almost at the same time, catapulting over the threshold. As they stepped inside the walls, everything vanished: the boys, the dogs and the cattle were gone. All that was left were the skeletal ruins, dark and forbidding against a sky filled with ominous clouds.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am writing The Struggle for Independence, about a woman named Independence Mather who comes to the conclusion that she has created the perfect life with the wrong man. It is 1916 in Ireland, rebellion is brewing, and she is caught between the British loyalist she is married to and the Irish rebel she truly loves.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Though I began writing novels around 1967, I first began to think of myself as a writer in 1984 when I was asked by a publisher, Scott-Foresman, to write computer textbooks. It would take almost 20 more years for my first novel to be published, but I hope I’ve made up for being a late bloomer in the books that have been published since.

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?
I find that I write best if I begin early in the day, and by early afternoon I’ve written much of my daily quota. I am a slow writer by design; I like to have the scenes marinate in my mind so all five senses are engaged. I can almost always tell when a writer has rushed through a book because scenes are more superficial and less immersing. I work on my manuscript six days a week, researching, writing and editing until it’s polished enough to send to the publisher. Then their editors make their recommendations for additional edits.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I dream everything I write. I trained myself years ago to think of my main characters and the point in the story I am currently writing just before I fall asleep, and when I awaken I almost always have the next scene in my mind as though I have been there and lived it. Then it’s a matter of getting it all down before I lose it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had two vocations in mind: a teacher and a writer. When I was younger, I enjoyed pretending I was a teacher, with a child-size chalkboard and my dolls lined up as students. As I grew older and discovered the joys of writing, I wanted more than anything to be a published author. My life took a series of twists and turns as I first fell into the computer field, founded and operated two computer corporations, but I eventually returned to my love of stories.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Reviews are extremely important to authors. Just as I go to online retailers like amazon to research items I buy, many readers turn to reviews before making the decision to purchase a book. Whoever you are reading, whatever book it is, you can do a world of good by placing a review on amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble or other online retailers.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me!

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