Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interview with Puja Guha, Author of The Confluence

What made you decide to be an author? The idea for my first book is what made me start writing. I had plans to write it immediately but instead I played around with short stories for a while. A couple of years later, I finally wrote the first draft of the story and went on from there.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? When I’m writing, I can see scenes in front of me as if they’re real. I love that feeling as the story moves forward. It takes me to places that I couldn’t imagine otherwise.
The most frustrating thing about the writing process is hitting a point in a scene when you’re not sure where things should go next. One minute the words are flowing and the next you are stuck.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? Growing up I was lucky enough to live and travel all over the place. That experience has created a lot of different settings and pictures in my mind that I draw upon in my writing.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? This happens every time I write, and certainly in the creation of both Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction and The Confluence. I can’t predict a lot of what happens in my books when I start and the words just seem to appear.
You’ve written 2 novels and are working on a 3rd. What’s your favorite time management tip? My favorite time management tactic is to set a minimum goal for myself that I have to meet. Each day when I’m writing I set a minimum target of 2000 words. When the target is set, I always meet it. I’ve found that the concrete goal helps me get around all the distractions of the internet, phone, and life in general.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I’m a pantser for sure. When I start I have a vague idea of what’s going to happen in my story and that’s how I start. At the end I’m often in a completely different spot, with some characters more important than I expected and vice versa. I usually outline when I’m doing my first edit so that I can make sure that the story ties together well.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Remember that the most important thing you can do with your time is to write. Don’t give into writer’s block. Set realistic goals for yourself and stick to them. Don’t waste time being hard on yourself, just focus on attending to your goals. Remember that writer’s block is a construct. Everyone procrastinates. It’s part of human nature. I believe that writer’s block is a form of procrastination. What’s much worse about it is that we as authors have empowered it by calling it writer’s block. We’ve made it excusable. I believe the only way to get past it is to sit down at your computer (or other writing vehicle) and put in the time.
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? These days I listen to white noise when I’m writing. I used to do more music, but nowadays I often find it distracting.
Tell me more about The Confluence.
The story of an Indian family separated by extenuating circumstances that eventually finds their way back together.
In 2045, Naina Ranjeeva writes a letter to recount the journey that led to the adoption of her son Nikhil.
Decades earlier, she stumbles upon a lead on the location of her aunt, who had disappeared when Naina was just a child. After her aunt's disappearance, Naina's family also completely lost contact with her beloved younger cousin, Nitu. With her aunt's location in hand, Naina takes the first step toward locating her cousin by traveling to the Republic of East Africa to search for her aunt. Her journey eventually leads her to Calcutta where she finds her cousin Nitu and his three-year-old son Nikhil. After two decades apart, the family starts to bridge the gap caused by years of separation, within the backdrop of political turmoil and revolution in East Africa.
How about an excerpt from The Confluence?

Memories. Some of them are as distant as the day they occurred, while others reside at the forefront of our minds. I’m not sure why this occurs. I spent three years studying biology in college when I was supposed to be premed, and I never found anyone able to successfully explain the operations of the human mind. My grandfather once told me that being able to forget was humanity’s most important blessing. How else would we be able to forgive? How else could we move forward after experiencing egregious loss? Perhaps being able to forget enriches our existence. Some memories will always evoke certain emotions from our minds, hearts, and souls, but the bite that resonates can lessen over time. While I agree that being able to forget is important, every time I look at you, I have to disagree with him. There can be no disputing it—memory is humanity’s most important blessing.
No matter how many years have passed, the first time I saw you still feels like yesterday. Nikhil, you were only three at the time, sitting on your haunches stacking Lego blocks onto the back of a large green toy truck. You were so meticulous and attentive to the last detail, even then. I should have known you would go on to become a civil engineer. Nothing else would have made sense.
We never told you about the circumstances that led to that meeting. I can give you all kinds of excuses. Your father and I were worried about how much pain it might cause. We didn’t want to confuse your ideas about your heritage. Mostly, we were just afraid. Afraid that you would think that we loved you less than your sister. Afraid that you might believe that you were not really our son. Afraid that you wouldn’t know how to relate to your sister knowing that you are not blood siblings. Afraid that you would want to seek out your biological parents rather than continue to live in the home that we had built as a family.
When we finally told you that you were adopted, you didn’t seem to be too surprised. Perhaps you saw the signs. They are everywhere if you know what to look for. We never did tell you about how your adoption came to be, though. We never told you that you and I do indeed share blood, just not as your parent. We never told you who your biological father was and how much he meant to me. Nikhil, we were always family, even before your adoption.
Last week I watched you march across that stage in a cap and gown to receive your PhD. When Kanika told us that you two were expecting, we could not have been more excited. But it made me realize that you are a grown man, and you deserve the truth, especially now. As you bring your own child into the world, you should know every detail I can tell you about your entire past. So here it is, in all of its pain and glory.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Website Links:
Website: www.pujaguha.com
Twitter: @GuhaPuja

Buy Links:
The Confluence Amazon: http://bit.ly/ConfluenceIntl
Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction Amazon: http://bit.ly/ahriman

Puja Guha, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Lisa Mannetti, Author of THE BOX JUMPER

What made you decide to be an author? I always wanted to be a writer—from early childhood, honestly. Starting about the time I read Jane Eyre (age 8--in an attempt to keep up with a very dear older cousin) I was completely smitten with the written word and lost in the world of books. I taught myself to type for the first novel I wrote (age 10); it involved twins (a lifelong obsession) who were detectives and it was 64 chapters (also 64 pages). I’m thrilled to say it’s disappeared along with its title, since even at that age I knew it wasn’t any good. That experience taught me to fearlessly let go of mediocre work; it also fueled my enthusiasm to keep writing and to strive for excellence.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? I love the experience of creating something that never existed before, and the sense of being so caught up in what I’m writing, that time—as minute by minute reality—literally vanishes. It’s a great antidote to the aging process. I’m kidding, of course, but I do believe I feel “most alive” while I write.
I dislike all the public relations work one has to do in order to promote one’s work. I find it awkward and worrisome and it frequently cuts into my writing time. It looms larger than life (in my imagination, at least) and it often feels as though it’s literally hanging over my head—an ugly chore like going to the dentist or standing in line at the DMV: it must be done, but it makes you feel a little resentful--especially if you start thinking of all the truly pleasant (by comparison) things—like laundry or weeding the garden--you could be doing…. Book signings, for example, are enjoyable, but calling book stores to set them up is not—oh well, you get what I mean.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? Well, my mother was an operating room nurse and later, a public health director, so there are always a lot of medical “issues” in my work because her true life stories both terrified and fascinated me. On a personal level, going for my graduate degree in 18th and 19th century English literature taught me a great deal about research, which I really enjoy.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Yes, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and HUCK FINN seemed to write itself—it was also the most fun to write, partly because I’m an animal lover and the premise of this light-hearted book is that twin cats (Tom and Huck) are reincarnated as the familiars to a witch.
You’ve written 4 books and numerous short stories, and are working on a 5th novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? Be pleasant (but firm) about it, and turn off the phone—once your friends and family get used to speaking with you when you’re finished writing for the day or evening, you’ll find without those interruptions you get a lot more done! People may be well-intentioned, but unless they’re writers, they seldom realize that a five second interruption can cost you an hour trying to get back to where you were when your train of thought was derailed. (And while you’re at it, turn off your cell phone, email and social networks—“visit” with your near and dear only when you’re taking a break.)
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I definitely don’t outline in the standard way we’re all taught, but I do make notes (both before I begin and while working) and I generally see where the book is heading long before the halfway mark. My process works best when the element of surprise (for the reader, but also for me as the writer) is a factor—and by being open to the characters and the book, I’ve gotten some really wonderful material that might not have otherwise been there if I’d proceeded in a step-by-step logical fashion. My mother claims I worked that way even as a kid—that when she called me up after a school I’d tell her, “I have to hang up now, because I’m writing a story and I can’t wait to see how it ends.”
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Don’t underestimate the importance of doing research. Over time I’ve discovered that research can be one of your strongest allies—both in terms of character development and plot points you may not have thought of.  Don’t be afraid to research on the fly—I’ve had to look things up even as I was writing the last sentence of some works, and if you need to know something small details can help mightily when it comes to creating verisimilitude: the wonderful made-up world you want your readers to enter completely.
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? I might listen to music before I start the day’s work, but I never listen while I’m actually writing because I “hear” what’s happening first, and then I see it. Noise of any kind distracts me and, in fact, can drive me crazy—especially when the leaf blower/lawn mower brigade shows up and takes over the neighborhood. It’s a form of torture for me that makes me actually welcome blizzards—right up to the second they stop, and people haul out their snow blowers…..

Tell me more about The Box Jumper.
 “Magic is the operative word for this moody novella. The magic of Harry Houdini serves as an overriding backdrop here, but another kind of magic permeates these pages – the magic of fine writing....Read The Box Jumper and share the magic.” --William F. Nolan (author of Logan’s Run and screenwriter, Burnt Offerings)
“Lisa Mannetti's blend of meticulous research and melodic prose brings gut-wrenching reality to The Box Jumper, a tale of deceit, madness, and murder. As believable as it is incredible, Mannetti's historical fiction will leave you breathless and wanting more." –Patrick Freivald, Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author of Jade Sky
"Seamless delving into the minutia of the period, a compelling main character, and a fine love story in a surround of trickery, fakery and darkness."  -- Jack Ketchum, author of  Off Season
How about an excerpt from THE BOX JUMPER?

It was the children who brought Houdini back. The ones who were dead or missing. He never had any of his own, but he loved children—made sure there were always free performances at hospitals and orphanages. Once, in Edinburgh, he saw so many kids running barefoot through the streets he even bought 300 pairs of shoes for them and fitted them up at his benefit show at the Lyceum. That’s the kind of man he was. He was magical all right—so much so, I think I loved him before I ever met him—back when I was just a kid myself.
He was always in the headlines, but the day I’m thinking of—when I first fell in love with him—was bitterly cold here, one day past the ides of March, not even the barest hint of spring in the air. Houdini had just become the first aviator in Australia. My father, like half the men in America and Europe, was fascinated by flying. But Harry wasn’t content to read about aeronautics or merely watch newsreels. He bought a Voisin and hired a mechanic and an instructor, essentially taught himself in a matter of weeks then took to the skies. I can still hear my father gushing over the morning newspaper, “Imagine that. Here’s the guy—world famous—the king of handcuffs, the greatest escape artist of all time, and he just plunks down some money, gets him a bi-plane and zoom! He’s airborne. It’s unbelievable. What a man!” He smacked the newspaper with the back of his hand for emphasis, folded over the page so I could read it. I could hear the wind gusting outside through the thin panes of glass in the kitchen windows, smelled snow on the air. I kept thinking about swirling updrafts and cross currents on the trackless field near Melbourne.
Then my father, slightly chagrined, finished lacing his heavy boots, stood to down the last of the cheap coffee-milk that was his breakfast, swiped at his dripping mustache with a frazzled sleeve, and shouted he was late for work at the factory.
Still, I never forgot that note of joy and exaltation in his voice, the brilliant gleam in his eyes. For one brief moment, he was a boy again; a boy who still had dreams of flight and freedom. I knew he’d never be rich or famous, but I was glad he wasn’t bitter, glad he could find a tiny sparkling bit of magic by reading about his hero. My hero, from then on, too.
I’d been born with the turn of the century and back in those days, those of us who led narrow trapped lives often filled the hollows created by the grind of poverty with imagination, with care-wrought scrapbooks and news clippings, glimpses of other more colorful worlds on painted posters and lithographs. I dreamed about travelling magic shows, spangled girls and top-hatted men who wore black capes and vanished amid purple vapors and gouts of yellow flame. Dreamt about conjurors’ mysteries till, wandering one day past Martinka’s on Sixth Avenue, I saw the sign in the window: Help Wanted.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Website Links:
Website:    http://lisamannetti.com

Lisa, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Night Owl Reviews Winter Wonderland and Scavenger Hunt 2015

Ready for the winter and to win prizes? I'm one of the sponsors of the Night Owl Reviews Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunt.
During this event I'm going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check my featured title, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, out along the way.
The grand prize is a $100 Amazon Gift Card. The total prize pool is $1,300.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Interview with Joanne Guidoccio

What made you decide to be an author? From an early age, I loved curling up with a book and losing myself in the stories. In high school, I looked forward to English class and dreamed of writing the great Canadian novel. Instead, I followed the conventional advice of the times and pursued a career in teaching. In my heart of hearts, I knew that someday I would resurrect that writing dream. When I took advantage of early retirement in 2008, I decided to devote my second act to writing.

What do you like best about being a writer? After spending over three decades in a very structured environment, I welcomed the opportunity to set “flexible” creative goals and experiment with different genres. Right now, I’m alternating between cozy mysteries and paranormal romance. I also have a collection of angel stories and a cancer memoir on the back burner.

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? While undergoing cancer treatments, I gravitated toward cozy mysteries. After devouring over fifty books in that genre, I imagined the following scenarios: What if a brunette lottery winner moves back to her hometown and finds herself involved in a murder investigation? And what if all the victims are blondes? I put pen to paper and started the first draft of A Season for Killing Blondes.

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Partway through the first draft of Between Land and Sea (Book 1 of The Mediterranean Trilogy), I struggled with the storyline. The protagonist was in a bind and needed help from someone outside her immediate circle. I didn’t want to introduce a new character or change the circumstances. After several frustrating days, I put the draft aside and waited for inspiration. It came one evening in a dream. A secondary character appeared and provided the solution. When I returned to the draft, I could feel her presence as I wrote. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I think of myself as a linear pantser. Once I get the spark of an idea, I let it percolate. While driving or doing routine tasks, I imagine characters and come up with a title. Before starting to write, I plan the first three chapters and the ending. As for the rest of the storyline, I let it flow as I write.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Experiment until you find your own unique voice and a warm, supportive environment where your words can flow freely. Sign up for creative writing courses—online or offline—that expose you to short stories, children’s and adult writing, creative nonfiction, and poetry. And, most important of all, enjoy the journey.

Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? While ideas were percolating, I happened to hear one of my favorite oldie goldies: Turn! Turn! Turn! As I sang along, I recalled that the lyrics had been taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The constant repetition of “Season” resonated with me and provided a title for the yet-to-be-written cozy: A Season for Killing Blondes.
Tell me more about A Season for Killing Blondes. Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.
How about an excerpt from A Season for Killing Blondes?

Three thousand euros worth of pastries. Can you believe it?

When I agreed to import the pastries, I had no idea I would be subsidizing the failing Italian economy and helping Silvio Berlusconi stay in power for a few weeks longer. Left to my own devices, I would have gone down the street to Regency Bakery, picked up some pastries and just walked them over. But my mother and Aunt Amelia were adamant. The open house for my new career counseling office needed a proper launch, one that could only be achieved with pastries from a Sicilian bakery.

To be fair, both of them were horrified when they saw that final four-figure amount on the invoice and swore me to secrecy. While conspicuous consumption is valued in the Italian community, being taken for a ride is not, and we would never hear the end of it from Uncle Paolo who is still complaining about the ten cents he has to pay for a shopping bag at No Frills.

I watched my mother rearrange the amaretto cookies, stuffed figs, biscotti, and other delicacies that had arrived yesterday. She and Aunt Amelia had brought in their best silver trays and carts and spent hours—according to Uncle Paolo—creating a colorful Italian corner.

“Everything is perfect. Maybe too perfect.” My mother made the sign of the cross and mumbled a Hail Mary.

“Relax, Ma. I’ve got everything under control. Nothing bad will happen.”

“Things have been going too well, Gilda. The lottery win. Your new career. This beautiful office. I’ve had one of my dreams, and you know what that means.”
Trailer: https://youtu.be/QURgFbybQVw?t=2

Bio In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.
Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?